The Three Wheels: Giver, Receiver, and Gift

As we enter our Spring Practice Period, we as a sangha are taking a long look at the practice of dana, or, “generosity.” In that spirit, several of our teachers have volunteered to write reflections on being a giver or receiver in our community, and in their own life and practice.

What is dana? How does it relate to our lives? In what ways can it become part of our spiritual practice? These are the kinds of questions and conversations we are openly, joyfully, and curiously engaging in together.

We hope that these posts will support your own practice of dana, whether you give to the community through:

As guiding teacher Sosan Flynn shared in her most recent dharma talk, the discussion of money can be uncomfortable. She encouraged us to feel into our bodies, to notice what giving feels like when it feels good and when it feels…not so good. She referenced Lyn Twist’s The Soul Of Money, a wonderful text for skillfully and heatfully navigating the topic of money from a spiritual perspective. You can listen to that dharma talk here.

Thank you for your presence and dana-

With a deep bow,

Heather Fehst

Blog Editor / Development Committee Member

:: The following post was submitted by Myoshin Diane Benjamin ::

During sesshin (or meditation retreats) at Clouds in Water, we recite a chant before our meals, part of which goes, “May we realize the emptiness of the three wheels: giver, receiver, and gift.” With these words, we are encouraged to consider the vast and unknowable connections between these three seemingly separate things. In our conventional way of thinking, these are three separate things that occur as part of a linear process. For example, I (the giver) give you (the receiver) something (the gift). In the dharma teaching of the chant, however, things are not so tidy.

Giver, receiver, and gift are described as wheels. These wheels turn each other, circling and transforming. Perhaps part of my sesshin payment purchased the food. Perhaps I have helped to prepare, serve, or clean up from the meal. By receiving the food from the server with gratitude, I am also offering back a gift of gratitude. The food itself transforms inside my body to the energy that will sustain my practice during the day. 

Because we are eating silently with attention, our conventional understandings have a chance to soften. The ritual of these meals becomes a dance of generosity. When we look deeply, we can see this easily.

You may want to realize this right now, as you’re reading this blog post. Breathe in a deep breath. Let your awareness touch the infinite amount of vegetation throughout millions and millions of years that created the atmosphere that sustains your life. Breathe out and know that you are effortlessly offering life back to trees, grasses, flowers, and plants through the carbon dioxide in your out-breath. How can you say you are either the giver or the receiver? How can you say you are separate from the gift? It is always this way. 

Myoshin Diane Benjamin is a lay teacher at Clouds in Water. She began practicing Buddhism in 1996 and received initiation as a lay dharma teacher-in-training in the fall of 2017 from Sosan Flynn. She taught for over a decade in the children’s program at Clouds in Water, and has practiced at Hokyoji and Ryumonji monasteries. She has worked for many years in the nonprofit and philanthropic sectors, and is also a musician. She lives in Minneapolis with her wife and daughter. She is available to meet with students. E:

Clouds in Water Zen Center is a vibrant urban community in the heart of Saint Paul, Minnesota. We practice in the Soto Zen Buddhist tradition, dedicated to awakening the heart of great wisdom and compassion. We welcome people of all backgrounds and faiths.

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Our sincere intention is that each post is a Dharma gate that members and the wider community can pass through on their journey to wholeness and well-being.