Dana

Definition - What does Dana mean?

Dana is a Sanskrit word that means “donation,” “gift” or “giving away as charity.” In some schools of yoga and Hinduism, it is one of the duties or moral observances known as the niyamas.

Dana is a form of generous giving that expects nothing in return. Such giving includes donation of food, clothing or money to the needy, but it also includes offering gifts to family, friends and neighbors as an act of generosity — again, with no expectation that the recipient will reciprocate.

Yogapedia explains Dana

The practice of dana also includes giving to temples, one's guru and ashrams, as well as tithing.

Western yogis may be more familiar with the five niyamas that comprise the second of Patanjali's eight limbs of yoga, but other sources describe more. The "Hatha Yoga Pradipika," the "Shandilya Upanishad" and the "Varuha Upanishad," for example, list 10. Dana is included in these expanded lists of niyamas.

In addition to dana, the niyamas may include:

  • Santosa — contentment and accepting one's circumstances
  • Svadhyaya — self-study
  • Tapa — austerity, penance or perseverance
  • Astikya — faith in the higher Self or supreme being
  • Isvarapujana — worshiping the supreme being
  • Siddhanta sravana — studying scriptures
  • Mati — willpower or spiritual intelligence
  • Japa — reciting mantras or incantation
  • Hri — humility, shame or modesty
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