Well, Donna (correct spelling Dana) is not a person but one of the Ten Paramitas or Ten Perfections that are to be practiced if one is to achieve enlightenment. But even if we do not reach enlightenment, the Ten Perfections are the path towards generating good kamma and a living a compassionate and peaceful life. And dana is considered the first of the ten for good reason. Dana teaches us to let go of the ego and self-importance, as well as being a benefit to others in this life.
A general explanation for the Ten Perfections includes:
- Generosity (Dana), first, because it aids the development of virtue and is easy to practise. It is common to all beings (even ordinary people give) and is the least fruitful.
- Virtue (Sila) purifies both the donor and the recipient. Generosity benefits others and virtue is a complement to that by preventing the affliction of others. Generosity will lead to wealth in future lives. Virtue will lead to favourable states of existence.
- Renunciation (Nekkhamma) is the complement to virtue as virtue means good conduct of body and speech whereas renunciation is good conduct of mind. Renunciation means abandoning the mental obsessions through concentration of the mind (Jhana). Concentration succeeds easily when virtue is pure.
- Wisdom (Panna) is next as it is possible once concentration is developed. Renunciation leads to serenity, and wisdom leads to equanimity.
- Energy (Viriya) comes next as wisdom is perfected through the arousing of energy. Energy is the basis for exertion and wisdom the basis of equanimity. Arousing energy is mentioned after the activity of careful consideration, as this approach gives excellent results.
- Patience (Khanti) is a basis for serenity and comes after the basis for exertion, for restlessness due to excessive activity is abandoned through reflective acquiescence in the Dhamma. One who is patient and free from restlessness will persevere in his work.
- Truthfulness (Sacca) is next because the determination to practice patience continues long through truthfulness.
- Determination (Adhitthana) comes next because abstinence from falsehood becomes perfect when determination is unshakeable. Non-deception in speech is complemented by unshakeable commitment to one’s word.
- Loving kindness (Metta) is next, for loving kindness perfects the determination to work for the welfare of others and the work which actually provides for others’ welfare is stated just after making the determination to do so. This undertaking will be unperturbed only when determination is unshakeable.
- Equanimity (Upekkha) purifies loving kindness. This shows the indifference that must be maintained towards the wrongs inflicted by others when providing for their welfare. This includes developing the quality of remaining impartial even towards those who wish one well.
All the perfections have as their characteristic the benefitting of others. Their function is rendering help to others, or, not vacillating. Their manifestation is the wish for the welfare of others, or, for a bodhisattva, the wish for Buddhahood. Their proximate cause is great compassion, or compassion and skillful means.
Giving from the heart, with selflessness, good-will, wisdom, loving kindness and compassion, we create a powerful foundation in the development of our freedom; the cessation of suffering, and the escape from delusion and ego.
The Four Nobles Truths explain the nature of this existence, while the Eightfold path gives us directions. But the Ten Perfections create our foundation to pursue this path.
May you be well, happy and peaceful.