I love this sort of “dana” (generosity). It makes me feel connected to the priests and monks of generations past, who received food offerings rather than money. It makes me feel connected to those priests and monks in other parts of the world, who still receive such offerings.
This type of connection is wonderful for our practice. When we chanted the Heart Sutra tonight, we discussed the fact that it’s been chanted for over a thousand years, by countless Buddhists. And that somewhere on the planet, other Buddhists were chanting it at the same time we were.
It’s the same reason I encourage people to say “we” in the Four Great Vows, even when reciting them at home by themselves. We’re never truly alone. We’re all part of the larger whole, and that never changes. So “together action” is always appropriate.
All this is part of the maha-sangha, the greater spiritual community. Even when we’re practicing by ourselves, others are practicing elsewhere. If not others in our Zen order, then other Buddhists. If not other Buddhists, then other spiritual people. We can feel that connection every time we practice, if we just remember to do so.
Don’t take my word for it; try it for yourself. The next time you meditate, chant, or read a Buddhist sutra, think about your connection to all the other people practicing at the same time. Remember all those who have practiced through the years. Feel the connection to them. Remember the interconnectedness of all beings. Then practice with the sangha.
~ Rev. Jăbō