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There is a lot of advice about dana and the importance of generosity and giving but is there any advice on how to receive generosity? From a western perspective it can be quite awkward to receive gifts or charity so I wondered if there is any specific Buddhist advice on how should this be done - both the actions and the appropriate mental state.

The motivation for this is this you tube video where Yuttadhammo is receiving alms. I found it very striking the manner in which they are received - without any thank you or speech. This could be a cultural phenomena within Sri-Lanka or how alms are received generally - I'm not sure. However it makes me wonder in what spirit generosity should be received from a Buddhist perspective generally.

  • Perhaps you could also ask whether it's different depending on circumstance: e.g. whether or not a lay person receiving generosity should emulate the way in which a monk receives it. – ChrisW Mar 16 '15 at 21:55
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The lay community consider it a privilege to offer Dana to monks. A monk is a special person who has given up the comforts of lay life in search of spiritual liberation. Offering Dana to such a being is very meritorious(refer to Dakkhina Vibhanga Sutta). So the monks are actually doing a favor to the laypeople by accepting it. When going on alms round, a monk may give a short blessing, but it is not compulsory. If monks are invited to a house to receive the dana, they will usually give a sermon on invitation.

From a monk's perspective, being worthy of it is the spirit of receiving generosity. In the Aggikkhandopama Sutta, lord Buddha explains what happens to the monks who are not worthy of the gifts received.

From a giver's perspective, the receiver needn't have any standards. You can even give food to an animal and expect a 100 fold gift in return, according to Dakkhina Vibhanga Sutta. The more virtuous the receiver, the greater the merit.

Generally, from a receiver's perspective, rather than just thanking as a common courtesy, it's more important to remember the favor and return the kindness as one is able when one gets the chance. SACCAṀKIRA-JĀTAKA gives a good example. Also, one can try to make the best use of the gift received to make the giver happier.

  • Is there anything you can add about lay people (or for lay people) who receive generosity? – ChrisW Mar 17 '15 at 11:37
  • Sure! Added that. – Sankha Kulathantille Mar 17 '15 at 11:48
  • Thank you but I think you were still talking about it from the point of view of the giver, saying that the giver will be rewarded 100-fold in return. (There's a Zen story with a seemingly-similar message, The Giver Should Be Thankful.) But I think the OP was asking, if you're the lay receiver of a gift of generosity, if someone gives you something, how should you do this: what actions and what mental state should accompany receiving a gift or charity, because the OP finds doing that to be quite awkward? – ChrisW Mar 17 '15 at 11:55
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    Ok, Added more details :) – Sankha Kulathantille Mar 17 '15 at 12:24
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I was reading the book "The Bhikkhus' Rules: A guide for Laypeople" by Ven. Bhikkhu Ariyesako and might have found an answer to the almsgiving-part of your question. I am here quoting from the following chapters: "How to help a Bhikkhu - Invitation" and "Receiving and Eating Food".

How to help a Bhikkhu - Invitation.

Normally a bhikkhu will not ask for things. Instead, he will wait for something to be offered. This is exemplified in the alms round where the bhikkhu makes no request, does not even look at people, although he may quietly wait to see if an offering is to be made before moving on. One way that lay people enable a bhikkhu to ask them for help is by making an invitation or pavaara.naa.

And

Receiving and Eating Food.

A whole section of the seventy-five Sekhiya Training guidelines is concerned with how a bhikkhu receives and eats his alms food. Although 'table manners' may differ from country to country, and from age to age, these Sekhiya rules still largely conform to what is considered good manners:

"I will receive alms food appreciatively." (Sekhiya 27)

"When receiving alms food, I will focus my attention on the bowl." (Sekhiya 28)

◊ This explains why the bhikkhu may not look at the donor when accepting food — he is concentrating on properly receiving it.

Lanka

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This is a very good question householder Crab Bucket because the capacity to be able to give and to be able to receive are very related.

There are some answers which are dealing with how a Monk should receive gifts and the short answer is: dignified.

It's important, how ever, that the way a monk receives gifts (presenting the optimum of debtlessess) is different from that of a "normal" person, and here the main quality is gratitude if one receives scarifies of others. A person who does not know giving (and here the talk is not on trading), is incapable to trace the goodness and would not be able to feel such as gratitude... and as just looking around, it's possible good to stop here, since people who are used to take of what they like might even perceive gifts as degradation or constraint of the validity about liberty they have.

But things are not for sure and might change when old merits begin to fade or needed can no more be found...

So my person thought to leave "just" The Lessons of Gratitude here behind...

...to continue:

Usual when a lay-person receives something from another layperson (seldom would such happen from monks directly)

Bodily: after something is visible offered, possible asked to get sure that something would be personal offered, one receives a gift with both hands, while the gesture and appearing is humble and respectful. Formal offerings between faithful lay-people would often also take place while sitting, kneeing on the floor. While the giver possible makes a declaration, or while things would be handed over, the receiver would fold his hands before the heart with slight bend head. Such a transaction would always take slowly and careful take place, neither in hurry, in between or crossing others interaction, line of view or even feets. In standing position would be similar. Good to note that a giver would also always use both hands before release. If giver or receiver would hand over an object which is "too small" for two hands, the second, empty hand would symbolic touch the giving hand or arm. The use of using both hands does not only symbolic the very conscious act, but also the full release one handed over and by it's way, wouldn't allow unrestrained, next to other deeds, action.

Usually the conventional "elder" would, even if being the receiver, given higher position. Such "battle" of giving respect, especially between devoted elders, often ends for both is a bowed down gesture having the elbows on the floor. The position, if not equal, in terms of to be respected, the higher position would be not on the side of the giver but of the conventional "inferior" (age, or amount of observed Silas, renunciation). Depending on the circumstances the wearing of shoes would be avoided to do not place one higher and either give or receive in proper attitude/gesture.

The "potential" receiver would not reach out the hands before the giver, but without letting the giver wait as he moves a gift forward, come toward the gift with his hands and at least let the giver place it so that he could take hold on it. Only once the giver has released both hands, the receiver would move hands slowly and humble backward his body. Often would a giver, while holding an object, also gives a blessing and/or verbal express the act of giving. While such is done, both are holding on the object with both hands. This is in some ways like a contract,or symbolizing the bond caused by such transaction.

If more than two people take part on giving or receiving, they would try to hold on and offer with two hands the same object. If the object or place would not allow direct contact, the hand or body of giver, receiver would be touched as symbol of taking part on the bodily action.

while giving, receiving (what's wrong here?)

Picture of parents and children. after parents having received a gift from their children.

...to continue here:

The distance while receiving should be proper. If the giver is to far away, one would not reach out, or try to assist in that way a little for one not common with giving. Also to near is not proper. This also reflects the mental aspects of proper relation.

Once a gift has been received, one puts it careful on secure place, also that it would not taken on by others, if seeming that it has left over or forgotten. One might have observed that monks often do not leave thing in front, after having been given, but put then next on side or even give someone else to store it well. That symbolices the bodily care and proper use of the gift and increases the joy of the giver that one actually sees the sacrifice.

Of course being given, having received the "product of much suffering" of others, one takes best care of the gift, uses it till no more use-able and takes it as means and support only for good undertakings, not as sensual enjoyment, not to harm others and oneself. One would share ones benefit from it with others, like-a-like or give it, if, upwardly, to people who are more advances, sublime.

It's usual to get also agreement that one accepts form another a gift by ones parents, teacher, more sublime in ones relation. Often a short view back to ones leader, to see his acceptance might be usual. A child, good introduce, would reject gifts as long the parents would not encorage. So, as a sample, also good monks would not receive if not given by the Buddha (Vinaya), or a student not as long as the preceptor has not approved. This protects ones relations from disturbances. A child, student, one in dependency, would, after receiving, give first the elders and siblings and leave it to the parents whether getting a personal share to consume it.

Gift's should not be forwarded downwardly, and if only out of compassion and after having used it for upwardly purpose. Thats for example why monks are not allowed to give thing to common and far lay people, aside of exeptions (parents, monastery assistant, trainees...)

In normal societies such would be practiced likewise. At least a giver would not be happy if his gift become food for disadvantages for him. The sharing with equal and formost more sublime , best headed toward Nibbana, supports the benefit of the giver for prosperity and release.

Verbal: be be continued...

A possible extended answer and given space for discussion and giving deeper into, can be found here: [Q&A] How should Buddhists receive generosity?.

(Note that this is not given for trade, exchange, stacks, entertainment and akusala deeds, but as a share of merits and continue such for release)

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