Dana means giving or charity. There are two types of dana, namely, (i) cetana-dana and (ii) vatthu-dana. Offerings of goods, robes, monasteries, etc., are classified as vatthu (material) dana, while the good will in these charitable act is called cetana (volition). It is this cetana that produces beneficial results here and in the next existences, not the material things that are offered. This mental attitude which is projected onto the offerings produces the good results in future existences. If the offerings are good and noble, so also is the cetana.
A Further Explanation: If, during an offering of alms-food to the Samgha, a donor has as his object of awareness the food he offers and the Samgha he is offering to, then a continuous stream of cetana (volition) occurs incessantly in his mind-continuum.
That cetana arises and disappears in very rapid succession, but does not disappear totally. The forces created by the cetanas (the forces of kamma) just lie dormant to produce corresponding results later.
Taking into consideration that more than one trillion units of consciousness can occur and disappear within the snap of fingers, one might imagine the magnitude of cetana that occurred during an alms-giving rite which lasts, say, three hours.
Offerings and Recipient Promote Keen Cetana
Although offerings such as alms-food and recipients of offerings cannot follow the donor to the next life and bring benevolence, they certainly help to promote a keen cetana in the donors. For example, offering specially prepared alms-food to the Samgha incites a vigorous cetana whilst offering ordinary alms-food incites a somewhat feeble cetana. Again, charity given to worthy recipients incite strong cetana whereas charity given to nominal recipients incite a frail cetana. In this way, offerings donated and the persons receiving the charity promote a keen cetana in the mind of the donors.
The Quantity of Offerings
The respective efforts exerted to offer different amounts of offerings may differ accordingly. For the zealous efforts in procuring a large quantity of offerings, there will arise a strong cetana. Procuring only a small quantity of offerings will naturally call for less effort and the corresponding cetana will be relatively less. In preparing for a large amount of offerings, the pubba-cetana (volition before the moment of giving) will accordingly be immerse. Therefore when the cetanas in dana of large and small quantity are compared, it is obvious that the cetana in dana of large amount is superior. So danas of large and small amount differ in effects because of the duration of cetana in each case.
If the dana be grand and lavish so also is the cetana. During the time of dana, the munca-cetana (volition at the moment of giving) will also be in proportion to the dana. After the charity has been made, apara-cetana (volition after the moment of giving) will also be of equal scale whenever you think of this dana again and again. Such states of mind are of common occurrence.
Lavish Dana But Meagre Cetana
Some donors offer alms-food, buildings, clothes, ritually or perfunctorily. If so, even though dana may be lavish and grand, their cetana is not match to it; they do not feel appreciative joy because the good deed was done with little volition. Therefore, quantity or quality of offerings alone cannot determine the generosity of a donor. When King Dutthagamani Abhaya was on his death-bed, he did not feel much joy in his merit of building the great Mahaceti Pagoda, instead he felt great joy in recalling his small merit of offering one meal to a monk in the forest. Due to this great cetana he was reborn in the celestial abode of Tusita devas. Therefore, kept in mind that cetana only will determine your destiny, not the quantity or value of gifts you have offered. Cetana is more important than the lavishness of your charity.
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Title- Volition At The Three Stages of The Good Deeds & The Characteristics of Dana
Title- Charity is Analogous to Sowing Seeds