Buddhadharma: The Practitioner's Quarterly

Philanthropy: The New Dana

TRADITIONALLY, Buddhist monasteries, universities, and initiatives have benefited from longstanding infrastructures of support from patrons and donors. The Indian emperor Ashoka (263–232 BCE) established temples, funded the construction of stupas, and supported the ordination of monks. In sixth-century Japan, Buddhism was embraced as a religious and political tool to create centralized governance; as a result, temples became cultural hubs and were even used as hospitals, schools, and orphanages. Today in Thailand, Buddhism is still supported by the state, and kings are considered both religious and secular leaders.

Other Asian countries have an engrained system of mutual dependence between lay and monastic communities. It is not uncommon for laypeople to provide monastics with the finances and labor necessary to construct buildings, supply food, pay bills, and so forth, in exchange for spiritual support.

Today in the West, there is a level of outreach, networking, and fundraising required of monasteries, practitioners, and organizations to survive—let alone thrive. Yet Buddhist practitioners and organizations operate without these kinds of financial scaffolding.

It is here that the influential role of foundations comes into play. While individual donors are significant—the practice of dana remains fundamental to Buddhist practice—various foundations have also taken up an important role and may offer part of the solution. Whether it is sponsoring long-term contemplative study or showcasing never-before-seen Tibetan art, foundations such as the ones profiled below propel the integration of Buddhism in the West forward.

BDK AMERICA

Taking advantage of Japan’s rapid expansion of manufacturing during the mid-twentieth century, Rev. Dr. Yehan Numata returned to his home country after studying in California to start a profitable business that specialized in crafting measuring instruments, such as calipers and micrometers. He named his company the Mitutoyo Corporation, “mitutoyo” meaning “three abundances,” which refers to Buddhism’s three jewels: buddha, dharma, and sangha.

In December 1965, having firmly established Mitutoyo Corporation, Numata undertook his lifelong dream

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