Dakshina is an offering made by a spiritual practitioner or religious supplicant, either to a guru or to the keepers of a temple. It is both practical (for the upkeep of the temple or the welfare of the guru) and symbolic (of the supplicant's spiritual intentions). The giving of dakshina represents the desire to overcome the selfish ego and benefit humanity, and as such is supposed to have a beneficial effect on a practitioner, enabling them to receive the guru's grace (spiritual transmission) more deeply. As shown in Christ's parable of The Widow's Mite, all true spiritual traditions emphasize that the size of the gift does not matter:
Give whatever you give with love, then even the tiniest pebble you offer will have a great meaning.
- Swami Chidvilasananda
The tradition of dakshina can be abused, either by an unscrupulous guru who extorts money from his followers, or by fawning religious sycophants who avoid any kind of true relationship to their religious practice by confining their generosity to what they imagine is the purchase of good karma. The Catholic Church has also been guilty of exploiting this tradition in many ways - the practice of purchasing an indulgence is now dead, but for a long time terrified relatives of the recently deceased were forced to pay large sums of money to buy their loved-ones out of years of purgatorial agony.