Usually, when you ask someone ‘where should a gift be given?’, they will say ‘where there is most merit, that is where it should be given.’
The purpose of giving
But the Buddha says no. There is a distinction between these things. Where there is most merit doesn’t necessarily mean where a gift should be given. He says it is wherever you feel inspired; wherever you feel incline (towards); wherever you feel motivated; wherever you feel like you’ve calmed down; wherever you feel compassion; wherever you feel your mind is elevated by the act of giving, that is where you should give. This shows the purpose is to inspire us, it is to feel joy, because these are the emotions that bring us forward on the Buddhist path. These are the things that enable meditation practice down the track. Ultimately, enabling awakening itself.
So this is why it (giving) matters so much.
And when you feel inspired through the act of giving, you will give again because you know the beauty of giving.
But if you give in a calculating way, it’s not going to work out. There’s no inspiration there. You’re not going to get the feeling that you want to give again in the future.
You don’t always have to give to a Buddhist cause
And when you learn the joy of giving, the power of giving, that is when this whole process starts to unfold. And it rolls onwards, and eventually moves you in the right direction all the way towards the end of the path itself.
And what that means is that you don’t always have to give to a Buddhist cause. It’s about giving where you feel like giving. Sometimes, you may feel that your heart inclines towards giving to somebody because they are poor; because they are in difficulties; because suddenly, you just feel a sense of compassion towards someone. That is the time to give.
Because if you have a natural feel of compassion and sympathy for somebody, that is when your heart opens up to the world. And this opens up the idea of generosity, to become a large field of possibilities.
Whenever you see somebody whom you think might be worthy of your act of generosity, it could really be at anywhere, at anytime. You take that opportunity because you know that this is really building up that generosity inside as you do that. So, take those opportunities. Don’t think it has to be towards anyone specific or anyone in general.
The impact of that giving is going to be very, very powerful as a consequence.
He who gives a gift with the thought, 'This is an ornament for the mind, a support for the mind.' bears great fruit and great benefits. - Learnings from Dana Sutta, AN7.49
This video is a summarised version of a talk given by Ajahn Brahmali’s talk in 2021. Recorded at Dhammaloka Buddhist Centre, Perth, Western Australia.