Hui-Hai, when asked how one might enter the gate of his school, says, “by means of giving,” literally dana paramita. when asked to clarify he says something startling that might be translated as, “giving means giving up,” or perhaps “giving over,” and adds that all the other practices that make up the Bodhisattva Path are realized through dana. this giving over is what it actually means to be free from suffering in this moment – “naked and free in the midst of the bustling marketplace”. without it even the most diligent practice is just spiritual athleticism and the most meticulous study is empty Zenology. it is what allows us to draw sustenance from the fabric and shape of everyday life and, even at the most difficult of times, find space to turn around.
in any encounter, even the most straightforward, the self-construct stakes out a position because that’s how its works. but, if we pay close attention, it’s easy to see that this act of staking out a position, drawing up categories and making up stories about them is exactly the thing that impoverishes our experience causing us to suffer and bring suffering to others. it’s the source of what the Buddha called “self clinging”. the most intimate request of practice, whether we’re sitting quietly in the Zendo or out wandering around in the World trying not to bump into things, is to relinquish our precious position and move into the very center of the encounter. to stand as close as possible, neither grasping or turning away. this is the essence of dana and, through it, practice is fulfilled.