Of Free Lunches and Offerings

Just had a counselling session with a mother and daughter.  At the end of the session, the daughter awkwardly offered an angbao to me.  I asked what it was for, and she managed to repeat what her mom had taught her, that it was an offering, a dana.

I told her that she can do dana after she has done the exercises I gave her for a month (offering a cup of water to her parents daily, wash her own plates, doing some house chores at home etc).

Her mom took out hers and offered to me.

This is what I shared with the daughter and her mom (paraphrased somewhat ‘cos we were conversing in Mandarin haha).

In this world, we are conditioned with this mindset.  When you want a drink or bread, you pay for it, you buy it.  When you take a cab, you pay for it.  It seems that you can solve everything with money, or as the saying goes, “whatever can be solved with money is not a problem”.  But there are somethings that cannot be bought with money.  There are some people who don’t do things for money.

Your mother (and father) care for you not for a payment.  They love you not for some reward.  They give you things not because of what you can give them, and sometimes they don’t give you things not because they do not love or care for you.  But precisely because they do.

Likewise, shifu is not here, spending time to talk to you as a service for payment.

You give money to the driver as payment, so it is not an offering, and there is no merit in it.  When we do something with payment as our end goal, then that’s what we get.

(Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing wrong with an upright livelihood.  But there are certain things in life that goes beyond a business transaction.)

So don’t give dana because I am here talking to you.  Don’t give dana that way.

Dana is given voluntarily to support the Sangha, just as we voluntarily serve others in whatever ways we can.


As imperfect as I am, may this life be dedicated to service of all sentient beings in whatever ways possible till my last moment.

May all experience the peace and awakening that was discovered and attained by the Buddha 2607 years ago.

The peace and awakening that is open to all, regardless of race, language or religion.

Happy Vesak to all. 🙂