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Patronage of Buddhism in the west

personperson Where is my mind?'Merica! Veteran

The Buddhist population is too small usually to support local teachers and there is no potential for support from the Government as was often done in the past. If Buddhism is to take hold in the west it will almost certainly need to find a way to support itself.

Genpo Roshi holds these 5 day retreats for 5 people charging $50,000 a piece, the proceeds of which supposedly go to support his other education efforts and he says he doesn't take any of it for himself. Is this a legitimate way to support his teaching or is this sort of thing going too far in commercializing something that should be offered freely?

He talks about it in this interview: http://www.buddhistgeeks.com/2009/12/bg-152-returning-to-the-marketplace/

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Comments

  • NirvanaNirvana aka BUBBA   `     `     ` `     ` Outa Range Fridays thru Sundays South Carolina, USA Veteran
    edited April 2016

    Well, until I read the article (Listening was too slow.) I was more than a bit skeptical.

    A good read. Wonderful fundraising methods!

    I think it's the various schools of the Dharma that need to be patronized, as Buddhism in itself cannot do anything but grow in the West. That is primarily because Christianity and Islam are so darned medieval in scope. Ye Gads, nobody in the modern world subscribes intellectually to the dualism explicit in the belief in a real Devil and a real [Fairy] God[father who maketh every good thing good and without which nothing can be good]. Is the dualism often alluded to in the article some kind of offshoot of medieval Abrahamic thinking?

    person
  • It's an odd saying that the teachings should be offered freely. For example if a teacher rents a building and pays for materials (papers etc) and then offers freely then that teacher would have to actually be donating his/her own money. So either the the teacher pays or the students pay. It makes more sense for the students to pay because presumably they spend most of their time at their job whereas the teacher may or may not have another job. Also there are more students than the 1 teacher so if many of them make donations it goes further. If there are things in the sangha that cost money then that money has to come from somewhere. I am saying it's impossible for teachings to be free unless there is no building, papers, etc.

    Nirvana
  • My browser blocked the link to the site as potentially unsafe ...
    Seems the browser has more integrity than Gonzo Reshti :p
    http://opcoa.st/0qC2y

    Swaroopdhammachick
  • howhow Veteran

    We would hold meditation retreats and charge entrance fees that would cover the building rental fees/ transportation and a small stipend for the different teachers we would bring in. When we developed more permanent Priories/temples, they were funded by the monthly donations from the laity so all the functions therecould be free to the public but living in one of the most land expensive cities around meant that for many years we were always one or two months away from being broke.
    We also came from a tradition that warned its adherents about keeping an arms distant relationship with government, politicians and the affluent so as not to find oneself unduly controlled by those purse strings.

    lobster
  • karastikarasti Breathing Minnesota Veteran

    Our sangha has one teacher who is based in Minneapolis, and there are 3 "satellite sanghas farther away. Our teacher is entirely supported by donations, his apartment, his medical bills, even his travel (he spend 6 months of the year in Asia). People donate and volunteer freely, and people are never turned away from retreats or teachings because they cannot pay. All of the sangha volunteers have full time regular jobs and then spend a lot of time helping with everything else. It's very rare there is need for something extra, but if there is, those in the sangha who do the finances will ask, and it is always received graciously. On my first retreat, I found out last minute and couldn't afford the fee. They have a scholarship fund that helps to cover them, and I was grateful to be able to use that. Many times since then I have given a double retreat fee so that someone else can attend if they cannot afford. It works out quite nicely.

    Teachers have done a whole lot of work in their lives to understand the dharma the way they do, and to take the leap (and it is quite a leap of faith to come to another country to teach!) to bring it to others is a big thing. They deserve support. But I think some (just in my opinion) are so cost prohibitive that it allows only high spenders to attend, and I think that is really unfortunate. Our local sangha hosts other teachers from around the world and the price is always very reasonable considering the cost of the retreat includes the travel costs for the teachers. Keith Dowman (Dzogchen teacher) will be in my town for a retreat for several days in May and I think it's $100 for 4 days which I find pretty reasonable. I won't be able to go, as that is the weekend I have to collect my kid from college.

    Jeffreylobster
  • DakiniDakini Veteran

    The Buddha faced the same problem in financing his communities. He was constantly fund-raising, approaching wealthy benefactors. He didn't demand money of his monks, students or other humble beneficiaries of his teachings, though.

    Some teachers in the West are fortunate to be sponsored by Buddhist non-profit organizations. I'm not sure who finances the Zen centers around the US, does anyone know? The San Francisco Zen Center, and other well-known ones?

    I've paid for teachings. Sometimes teachings on special texts are offered by a visiting lama, or one that commutes to a regional city from his own center; if enough students sign up and agree to pay the fee, then the Bodhisattva Way Of Life, or some other text, the Lam Rim, or whatever, can be presented as a special course. The fees are always quite reasonable. Sometimes a person gets a grant to bring a teacher to the US for 6 months or a year, to teach a special course.

    Ii don't think that students at a sangha should be pressured to constantly donate, donate, donate. Ethical issues can arise in such a situation. But the donation basket is always by the door, and people can be asked to give what they can, just as they do in any church.

    dhammachick
  • personperson Where is my mind? 'Merica! Veteran
    edited April 2016

    From what I know of Buddhism in the olden days, masters would often give the royalty private consultations and even write whole texts for them, so seemingly courting the wealthy to support Dharmic efforts may have a long tradition.

    Here's another one of Judith Simmer-Brown talking about the trouble and importance of financial support in propagating the Dharma.

    http://www.buddhistgeeks.com/2009/11/bg-146-investing-in-the-future-of-american-buddhism/

  • DakiniDakini Veteran

    I'm not aware of teachers who have to use the market, aggressively shilling products, to support themselves. What I've come across are centers that are supported by grants, or by wealthy donors gifting a home to a teacher, centers supported by generous donations, as karasti described, and so forth. Some earn money renting themselves out for retreats or weekend teaching sessions to paying participants, one in my town has a little gift shop, but that's not its main source of income. The community donated money to build a stupa that has a prayer/assembly hall inside it, and the property came with a building that houses the teacher with a couple of extra rooms for assistants.

    Some of the lamas who leave Sakya Monastery in Seattle to strike out on their own get academic degrees in job fields that will support them, and teach in their spare time, and set up their own centers in a converted garage at home, or a rented space. One got academic credit for his Buddhist studies at the monastery, and parlayed his monk experience into credits toward a psychologist/therapist degree.

    This issue of how to support teachers takes me by surprise. I hadn't realized there was a problem. All the centers I'm aware of in several states are doing fine. I wonder if to some extent this is an issue of more Asians wanting to live in the West, so they have to create a vehicle for themselves to achieve that....?

  • Tara1978Tara1978 UK Veteran
    edited April 2016

    I've come across some very expensive (to me) teachings in the past, but I'm not sure if that is my lack of understanding. I was told by the Abbot that if it was my destiny to receive the teaching then the money would manifest.

  • federicafederica seeker of the clear blue sky Its better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to speak out and remove all doubt Moderator

    Some people will do anything for money. I would almost guarantee that you can get teachings' for absolutely nothing by reading a lot, and speaking to fellow Buddhists. Like, on here for example.... ;)

    lobsterTara1978DavidDakini
  • Want teachings, retreat, journey/pilgrimage expenses, course help?
    http://opcoa.st/0qKMx

    New excuses always available?

  • cazcaz Veteran

    @person said:
    The Buddhist population is too small usually to support local teachers and there is no potential for support from the Government as was often done in the past. If Buddhism is to take hold in the west it will almost certainly need to find a way to support itself.

    Genpo Roshi holds these 5 day retreats for 5 people charging $50,000 a piece, the proceeds of which supposedly go to support his other education efforts and he says he doesn't take any of it for himself. Is this a legitimate way to support his teaching or is this sort of thing going too far in commercializing something that should be offered freely?

    He talks about it in this interview: http://www.buddhistgeeks.com/2009/12/bg-152-returning-to-the-marketplace/

    Being ripped of there.

  • Tara1978Tara1978 UK Veteran

    @lobster said:
    Want teachings, retreat, journey/pilgrimage expenses, course help?
    http://opcoa.st/0qKMx

    New excuses always available?

    Sorry, could you explain the comment about excuses please?

  • Interesting article. It's funny how in traditional Buddhist history patronage was a given and the reality of how the Sangha survived. Since those countries were mostly monarchies, the patronage came from the royalty and upper class, of course. You think those people didn't expect and get individual attention?

    I'm not one of those who has a knee-jerk reaction to Teachers and groups wanting to charge enough to meet expenses and allow the Teacher to survive. I am sensitive to the history of televangelists and gurus owning private planes and driving luxury cars, though.

    My concern would not be that rich people are getting personal attention. I'd only get upset if he's taking the money from people who could not afford it, and it seems he's not.

  • personperson Where is my mind? 'Merica! Veteran

    In the OP, what Genpo Roshi is offering is more akin to a charity auction, where wealthy people are overpaying for something as a charitable donation, which they can write off, rather than him selling himself for profit. He then uses the money gained to support his other efforts.

    I guess also baked into the OP is how do we envision the future of Buddhism in the west? Are there full time teachers with centers offering free classes and programs, something akin to Christian churches maybe? If so is the western Buddhist population large enough to support that based on donations? Or is western Buddhism going to be more like like-minded individuals finding each other and gathering either online or in someone's living room to have group discussions and meditations? If so will that be enough to develop the deeper, transcendent aspects of the path, or does that even matter or exist?

    I'd say that learning about and knowing the path are different than walking the path. That qualified teachers aren't only exchanging information but have insight into our minds and direct our steps in a helpful way. I think it is important for a teacher to be qualified that they can devote themselves to their own practice and if they have to hold down a job, fundraise, and run a center they aren't left with sufficient time to develop themselves to be able to lead others in that way.

    Cinorjer
  • karastikarasti Breathing Minnesota Veteran

    Here, we do both. Most Buddhist teachings and retreats in Minneapolis happen at the Tergar center, and that is common in a lot of areas, from what I understand. Even though it is obviously Buddhist-based, and regular Buddhist teachings have priority, they also host other events and teachers as well. But our sangha meetings and local retreats are held either at our leader's house (he has a large house and can comfortably house 40 people or so) or longer retreats are held at a nearby camp that gets very little in return because the retreats are held at a time the camp is normally close for the season. So we get use of a lovely camp for little money and can then host week long "residential" retreats where people stay in cabins and spend only a couple hundred dollars for the whole week, including the cost of the teacher's travel and teaching resources, etc.

    I think we'll see a lot of both, it just depends on the area and the population. We do what we do because our town has a population of 3000. But our retreats attract people from all over the upper midwest. I don't know how people even find out about them, our last one we had 4 women who drove all night from Michigan to attend just for one day. They have since started their own local sangha. Which is how ours came to be as well, basically. Largely population centers have the ability to have things like the Tergar centers and other meditation and teaching centers that rural populations can't support. Both are needed.

    Most of the time, in my experience fundraising and center running is done in the name of the teacher, but the teacher has little to do with the direct running. Just like any type of leader-everything is delegated out so the teacher can focus on what is most important-teaching. Major decisions are decided by a board that includes the teacher. But most often they are pretty hands off, especially as financial dealings are concerned.

    Cinorjerperson
  • DakiniDakini Veteran
    edited April 2016

    @ Or is western Buddhism going to be more like like-minded individuals finding each other and gathering either online or in someone's living room to have group discussions and meditations? If so will that be enough to develop the deeper, transcendent aspects of the path, or does that even matter or exist?

    I'd say that learning about and knowing the path are different than walking the path. That qualified teachers aren't only exchanging information but have insight into our minds and direct our steps in a helpful way. I think it is important for a teacher to be qualified that they can devote themselves to their own practice and if they have to hold down a job, fundraise, and run a center they aren't left with sufficient time to develop themselves to be able to lead others in that way.

    Western Buddhism already is, in part, like people gathering in a living room to discuss and learn. Several of the Buddhist centers in Seattle are in people's homes. Elsewhere in western Washington, lamas with secular careers have created centers in a converted garage or basement, or an outbuilding on their property. Why wouldn't a teacher be able to devote themselves to their practice while also fitting in a flexible work schedule, such as counseling, university teaching, or the like? It's a good example of how to balance a lay life with a practitioner's devotion.

    As for having insight into our minds and directing our steps constructively, I've never encountered a teacher who had that kind of insight. Many are reading the teachings from texts and expounding tried-and-true formulas as elaboration on the texts and in response to typical questions; it's fairly mechanical. Many teachers project cliché motives onto students where they aren't relevant or warranted ("jealousy" "ego", etc.). It would take an exceptional personality to know sangha members well enough and to be perceptive enough to have insights into their character.

    Most of these guys have been through the generic monk mill, memorizing endless texts, absorbing ancient commentaries to texts, without much genuine human contact with life outside the monastery walls, or opportunity for true analysis of the teachings and their application to the secular lives of students and the sometimes challenging circumstances they grew up in or live in. Even the ritualized debates are said to be pretty formulaic. It's a style of training that isn't conducive to acquainting oneself with real-life human psychology and the diversity of individual circumstances and mental conditions. Opportunities to apply Buddhist psychology to help students get overlooked. Instead, some teachers lash out at students, and pass it off as a "teaching", and the crowd usually goes along with that, believing they've just witnessed an example of "crazy wisdom", when in fact what they saw was the teacher's failure to connect with the student on a human level.
    Monasteries can be harsh environments full of power-plays and resulting jealousies, jockeying for power in desperate attempts to improve one's position from servant class to abbot's pet and higher responsibility or to a coveted job in the Dalai Lama's office, and require an adjustment that can be traumatic for little boys who miss their mothers and suffer abuses of various sorts. Some teachers don't come through the experience unscathed, themselves; Chogyam Trungpa being a prime example. The environment isn't always conducive to cultivating insight and loving-kindness.

    A good and wise teacher is a rare gem, as the Lam Rim says. But one doesn't need an exceptional teacher in order to learn about Buddhism, study the texts, and become a practitioner. Any standard lecture with Q & A, the usual format, will do.

    I think using commercialism to support a teacher sends irreconcilably conflicting messages; we're supposed to develop non-attachment and leave materialism behind, but we're supposed to buy-buy-buy in order to support the teacher? That always struck me as very strange, when reading Dharma magazines full of advertising for trinkets, art, and furnishings, alongside articles on spiritual values. There must be more creative ways to raise money. Perhaps the sort of fundraiser-dinner (or retreat) approach in the OP isn't a bad one. It's just another way of giving "dana"--donations, patronage.

    Cinorjerpersonkarasti
  • @Tara1978 said:
    Sorry, could you explain the comment about excuses please?

    Yes indeed.

    People often state they can not afford the time or the price of attending retreats and teachings. Financial help is available. When we know how to meditate and practice, we sometimes don't.

    Then [spoiler alert] dukkha happens and ... we wonder why not practicing makes dukkha hard ...

    We always have reasons/excuses for not practicing. It is human nature. However dharma comes too us as we move towards it ...

    Tara1978karasti
  • personperson Where is my mind? 'Merica! Veteran

    @Dakini said:
    Why wouldn't a teacher be able to devote themselves to their practice while also fitting in a flexible work schedule, such as counseling, university teaching, or the like? It's a good example of how to balance a lay life with a practitioner's devotion.

    As for having insight into our minds and directing our steps constructively, I've never encountered a teacher who had that kind of insight. Many are reading the teachings from texts and expounding tried-and-true formulas as elaboration on the texts and in response to typical questions; it's fairly mechanical. Many teachers project cliché motives onto students where they aren't relevant or warranted ("jealousy" "ego", etc.). It would take an exceptional personality to know sangha members well enough and to be perceptive enough to have insights into their character.

    Maybe I'm setting my expectations too high, I have met a few of these high quality teachers but they are indeed few and far between. My thinking was that someone would need to devote themselves fully to practice and teaching to be like that.

    One monastery near me, a local professor Roger Jackson teaches once a month instead of the Rinpoche, he usually takes on more philosophical and intellectual texts and does a great job. But avoids giving out practice or life advice because he admittedly hasn't developed his own personal qualities of wisdom and so forth to do so skillfully.

    Also, holding down a job as well as conducting teacher duties is a lot for someone to take on which could scare some people away from pursuing a "career" in teaching. But maybe that is a good thing, ferreting out those who aren't fully committed?

    Most of these guys have been through the generic monk mill, memorizing endless texts, absorbing ancient commentaries to texts, without much genuine human contact with life outside the monastery walls, or opportunity for true analysis of the teachings and their application to the secular lives of students and the sometimes challenging circumstances they grew up in or live in. Even the ritualized debates are said to be pretty formulaic. It's a style of training that isn't conducive to acquainting oneself with real-life human psychology and the diversity of individual circumstances and mental conditions. Opportunities to apply Buddhist psychology to help students get overlooked. Instead, some teachers lash out at students, and pass it off as a "teaching", and the crowd usually goes along with that, believing they've just witnessed an example of "crazy wisdom", when in fact what they saw was the teacher's failure to connect with the student on a human level.
    Monasteries can be harsh environments full of power-plays and resulting jealousies, jockeying for power in desperate attempts to improve one's position from servant class to abbot's pet and higher responsibility or to a coveted job in the Dalai Lama's office, and require an adjustment that can be traumatic for little boys who miss their mothers and suffer abuses of various sorts. Some teachers don't come through the experience unscathed, themselves; Chogyam Trungpa being a prime example. The environment isn't always conducive to cultivating insight and loving-kindness.

    All good points :thumbsup

    A good and wise teacher is a rare gem, as the Lam Rim says. But one doesn't need an exceptional teacher in order to learn about Buddhism, study the texts, and become a practitioner.** Any standard lecture with Q & A, the usual format, will do.**

    I guess I partially disagree with the last sentence. Its fine for most of us looking for some wisdom in our daily life but I'm not sure it is sufficient to really establish the deep, contemplative version that Buddhism seems to hold as an ideal.

    I think using commercialism to support a teacher sends irreconcilably conflicting messages; we're supposed to develop non-attachment and leave materialism behind, but we're supposed to buy-buy-buy in order to support the teacher? That always struck me as very strange, when reading Dharma magazines full of advertising for trinkets, art, and furnishings, alongside articles on spiritual values. There must be more creative ways to raise money. Perhaps the sort of fundraiser-dinner (or retreat) approach in the OP isn't a bad one. It's just another way of giving "dana"--donations, patronage.

    Yeah, neither interview I linked advocated for that type of commercial trinket Buddhism. From what I've heard here and there the Buddhist magazines aren't getting all exited about raking in the money from advertising, rather they are struggling for ways to cover their costs and advertising is a necessary evil.

    At any rate, how to pay for services and buildings, etc. is an issue that the people offering teachings have to deal with so its something worth our consideration as well.

    Cinorjer
  • DakiniDakini Veteran

    @genkaku said:
    When asked about financial charges, one good teacher in my Zen neighborhood laughed: "Oh yes!" he said, "Charge them a lot. That way they will think the Dharma is worth something!"

    And it is interesting how many people will shy away from a free teaching they claim to long for. How could the teaching be any good if it didn't break the bank, whether literal or metaphorical? A buddy of mine who teaches martial arts had to start asking for small monthly donations after the quality of his teaching was thrown into question because he didn't -- like so many others -- charge anything.

    Free stuff is more expensive than expensive stuff.

    This is sad.

  • DakiniDakini Veteran

    @person I remember some of your comments about your teacher/s in the past. and I think you've been very fortunate. You've had the opportunity to bond with the teacher. A situation like that is ideal, and highly conducive to advancing one's practice exponentially, probably. But that's pretty rare. I've heard about the Minneapolis sangha, too; it sounds like they've lucked into a good teacher, too. And going by what karasti has posted here, the sangha really appreciates him, and expresses their gratitude by supporting him generously. Win-win! :)

    lobsterkarasti
  • SwaroopSwaroop India Veteran

    The Buddha faced the same problem in financing his communities. He was constantly fund-raising, approaching wealthy benefactors. He didn't demand money of his monks, students or other humble beneficiaries of his teachings, though.

    I don't think the Buddha was ever into ''fund raising ''. He and his disciples lived by begging on the streets. It was made compulsory. The word Bikshu literally means one who begs. There were wealthy patrons who contributed on their own volition so.
    I personally feel that the Damma should be available free to any seeker.

    person
  • lobsterlobster Veteran
    edited April 2016

    Buddhism or Buddha's Teaching should never be for sale

    but

    asking to cover the cost (of retreat) is reasonable

    That is fair enough. My teacher exerted a high price, he insisted on paying my expenses. That was not an easy price.

    @genkaku said:

    Free stuff is more expensive than expensive stuff.

    Indeed. Charity from the pious always reeks of moral expectation and sanctimonious virtue.

    The 'Real Bodhisattvas' expect nothing and often take peoples impatience, forced-out-of-stone-heart-charity, ill will and other useless qualities. It is a hard job but someone with the compassion, can and has to do it.

    Honest trading works like this:

    Student: I wish to learn!
    Teacher: Can you pay the price?
    Student: I am only a poor student.
    Teacher: Come back when you have less.

    o:)

    SwaroopDakini
  • namarupanamarupa Veteran
    edited April 2016

    Can't argue with what methods works for some. Mindfulness and meditation are as abundant as the air we breathe. If someone tried to sell me that, I will just laugh and keep walking.

    DakiniTara1978
  • karastikarasti Breathing Minnesota Veteran

    I am not sure how I feel about teachings not being for sale. The information is out there should you wish to study it yourself. But so are teachings on calculus and quantum physics. But I personally have a very hard time learning it without a teacher who understands it. I can read and logically understand. But I cannot truly grasp it without the help of someone who is so well versed in it that it is second nature for them to talk about it. That is how I feel about having a teacher. Do I NEED a teacher? Should I have to pay for teachings of Buddha? Perhaps not. But he has spent his entire life learning it, and he knows and understands the Dharma on a level I do not and cannot learn just from reading sutras myself. Information might be free, but someone dedicating their life to understanding that information and being willing to share it with you, perhaps, should not be free. They understand the backdrop and related history and culture and interrelated sutras and the background of how, when and to whom the teaching/sutra was given. That is really important for truly understanding the context, I think.

    It also benefits the teacher to have students. Not only from a teacher-student relationship level, but it helps to cement their understanding as well, as students often ask questions the teacher might not have considered. It is a give and take relationship, and both benefit and learn.

    personsilver
  • personperson Where is my mind? 'Merica! Veteran

    @Dakini said:
    @person I remember some of your comments about your teacher/s in the past. and I think you've been very fortunate. You've had the opportunity to bond with the teacher. A situation like that is ideal, and highly conducive to advancing one's practice exponentially, probably. But that's pretty rare. I've heard about the Minneapolis sangha, too; it sounds like they've lucked into a good teacher, too. And going by what karasti has posted here, the sangha really appreciates him, and expresses their gratitude by supporting him generously. Win-win! :)

    With a large Tibetan population here in Minnesota we do have an abundance of resources. @Karasti and I aren't even talking about the same centers, hers is Dzogchen and the one I'm talking about is Gelug. I believe there are also a couple Kagyu centers, not to mention the long running Zen center and many others.

  • personperson Where is my mind? 'Merica! Veteran

    @upekka said:
    Buddhism or Buddha's Teaching should never be for sale

    but

    asking to cover the cost (of retreat) is reasonable

    This is an open post and not specifically directed at you.

    I'm sure we all agree that Buddhism shouldn't be a product sold to enrich someone like mayonnaise or coffee.

    But suppose a teacher of a retreat spends most of their days in study and meditation, would it be alright to charge more than retreat expenses to cover their living expenses? Presumably that type of effort would make them a better teacher and might have a value retreatants would be willing to pay for. Or should a teacher only depend on dana like is traditional?

    Or what about something Dharma related that a retreatant doesn't benefit from? Like say the teacher has a fund to support western monastics. Could they charge more for other things like that even if they made it explicit in the fees that people would be paying, or should things like that be funded separately?

    silver
  • karastikarasti Breathing Minnesota Veteran

    @person my teacher is Vajrayana Nyingma so Dzogchen is part of that but is not a focus for us as a sangha because most of us aren't there yet. We do some vajrayana practices, but most of us are working on mahayana stuff at the moment. Our local sangha leader has been practicing for decades, and he is very into the dzogchen end of things so he hosts on his own other teachers. Our Mpls teacher will work with wherever people are along their path, but few are focused on Dzogchen at the moment.

    Anyhow, yes, Minnesota has like the second largest Tibetan population in the US so the metro area has quite a lot of options. I think a bit farther south there is a Shambhala center as well. To my knowledge, my teacher is the only one that comes up here to the northern hinterlands.

  • personperson Where is my mind? 'Merica! Veteran

    @karasti said:
    @person my teacher is Vajrayana Nyingma so Dzogchen is part of that but is not a focus for us as a sangha because most of us aren't there yet. We do some vajrayana practices, but most of us are working on mahayana stuff at the moment. Our local sangha leader has been practicing for decades, and he is very into the dzogchen end of things so he hosts on his own other teachers. Our Mpls teacher will work with wherever people are along their path, but few are focused on Dzogchen at the moment.

    Anyhow, yes, Minnesota has like the second largest Tibetan population in the US so the metro area has quite a lot of options. I think a bit farther south there is a Shambhala center as well. To my knowledge, my teacher is the only one that comes up here to the northern hinterlands.

    Yeah, Nyingma. I think the word just escaped me at the moment, like calling Kagyu Mahamudra.

  • DakiniDakini Veteran

    @Swaroop said:
    The Buddha faced the same problem in financing his communities. He was constantly fund-raising, approaching wealthy benefactors. He didn't demand money of his monks, students or other humble beneficiaries of his teachings, though.

    I don't think the Buddha was ever into ''fund raising ''. He and his disciples lived by begging on the streets. It was made compulsory. The word Bikshu literally means one who begs. There were wealthy patrons who contributed on their own volition so.
    I personally feel that the Damma should be available free to any seeker.

    The Buddha had to be into fundraising; begging alone wouldn't bring in enough resources to support his communities. He solicited sponsors from among regional kings and other wealthy benefactors, and won them over with his teachings. I'm not sure; I think some of that history is in the sutras, somewhere.

  • federicafederica seeker of the clear blue sky Its better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to speak out and remove all doubt Moderator

    @genkaku said:
    When asked about financial charges, one good teacher in my Zen neighborhood laughed: "Oh yes!" he said, "Charge them a lot. That way they will think the Dharma is worth something!"

    And it is interesting how many people will shy away from a free teaching they claim to long for. How could the teaching be any good if it didn't break the bank, whether literal or metaphorical? A buddy of mine who teaches martial arts had to start asking for small monthly donations after the quality of his teaching was thrown into question because he didn't -- like so many others -- charge anything.

    Free stuff is more expensive than expensive stuff.

    You're so right. Aren't people odd...? I had a passiflora climber which bore fruit, and I potted up the seeds. There were hundreds of them, in just two fruits, and I put them on a wallpaper-pasting table, in the front garden, by the gate, with a notice stating what they were, and to "please take what you want."

    Nothing shifted for 2 days.

    So I put a jar outside, with some loose change in it, and changed the notice.
    "Passiflora caerulea seedlings. 10p each. Help yourselves."

    They were gone in a day, and give or take 5 pots or so, the money was pretty spot-on.

    personsilver
  • ShoshinShoshin No one in particular Nowhere Special Veteran
    edited April 2016

    We on the island are fortunate enough to have a teacher visit once a month, for around 9 months of the year, every year, and has been doing so since 2001...

    The teachings are "free" to a good home "mind" :) , but a koha/donation of a gold coin (one or two dollar coins) or more, (normally a $5 $10 or $20 note) is most welcome, but not compulsory...

    I'm all for pay as you go Buddhism (it helps to maintain the upkeep of the Buddhist centres) but on a sliding scale like how many psychotherapists/counsellors work...

    There are a group of us hardcore Dharma junkies who meet once a week (Monday evenings) at some friends house to discuss the Dharma, drink tea and eat cake...This has been going on for almost as long as Geshe-la has been coming to the island...

    I think when one finds oneself in the fortunate position to receive the Dharma from a reputable teacher, this is all down to the big "K" 'karma'...

    lobster
  • techietechie India Veteran

    I really hope and pray that the buddhists don't go the way of other religions. In India, most buddhist retreats are free, but some of the 'yoga' classes charge as high as $8000 per week. I kid you not. But since most people feel more money = more value, these classes are popular. If buddhists also start rationalizing (and consequently charge more and more), they will lose respect. In fact, they will not be buddhists anymore. They will be just like the others.

    So I really hope that buddhists only seek voluntary donations and nothing else.

  • lobsterlobster Veteran
    edited April 2016

    It is a balancing act @techie

    Capitalist-Dharma
    'Your enlightenment is our business'
    will emerge :3

    BUT in the dark temples, the poor corners, simple integrity will also be available ...

  • Tara1978Tara1978 UK Veteran
    edited April 2016

    @lobster said:
    However dharma comes too us as we move towards it ...

    I like that, a lot =)

  • personperson Where is my mind? 'Merica! Veteran
    edited April 2016

    @techie said:
    I really hope and pray that the buddhists don't go the way of other religions. In India, most buddhist retreats are free, but some of the 'yoga' classes charge as high as $8000 per week. I kid you not. But since most people feel more money = more value, these classes are popular. If buddhists also start rationalizing (and consequently charge more and more), they will lose respect. In fact, they will not be buddhists anymore. They will be just like the others.

    So I really hope that buddhists only seek voluntary donations and nothing else.

    It's a good point about avoiding profiteering and exorbitant fees. Is there someplace in between voluntary donations and $8,000 a week that you would feel comfortable with or are you thinking that once you go down the road of charging even a little its a slippery slope that will lead to corruption?

    Also, right now often monastics living in the west need to work a job in order to support themselves and can find it too difficult so they give up their vows. If centers and teachers aren't able to exist without charging fees is it better to close up shop than taint the product?

    It's just that from what I hear most people who offer the Dharma want to give it freely but struggle with the costs of doing so. I think it would be good if we tried to put ourselves in the shoes of those trying to cover costs and imagine what we would do if voluntary donations aren't sufficient, which is often the case. Or how about this, someone make the argument why it is better to close up shop and not offer Buddhism than it is to charge for it.

  • SwaroopSwaroop India Veteran

    Damma that is sold ceases to be the Damma

    Shoshin
  • howhow Veteran
    edited April 2016

    While I like the idea of free Dharma, it's delusional to think that any Dharma comes without a cost, even if that cost is only of ones ignorance.

    Saying that no Dharma remains as Dharma when paid for
    simply speaks of
    an attachment still treasured to be more important than any Dharma.

    Feel free to remit the burden of said attachment to my PO box at your earliest convenience.

    lobsterpersonKerome
  • karastikarasti Breathing Minnesota Veteran

    It's not really the Dharma you pay for, it's the experience and education of the teacher who is teaching it to you in a different way. Most information is free. But most people cannot pick up algebra, physics, or economics just by reading about it. Auto-didactism isn't that common. Most people need to be taught by someone who knows the subject well, even if the information is freely available in other forms. Because learning information is one thing, and using experience to learn is another. And if you don't have experience, then you have to use someone else's who knows enough about the subject to answer all the inevitable questions. That is what you are paying for when you learn anything. Believe me, if my son could learn algebra, engineering, and business without taking thousands in loans to do so, we'd be going that route instead, lol.

    person
  • techietechie India Veteran

    Spiritual education is diff. from secular education. For engineering, we not only need books but labs, equipment, etc. Costs multiply. Even otherwise, vipasana centers have survived through donations alone. I am sure there are others like it. Point is, once we start rationalizing there is no going back.

  • personperson Where is my mind? 'Merica! Veteran
    edited April 2016

    @techie said:
    Spiritual education is diff. from secular education. For engineering, we not only need books but labs, equipment, etc. Costs multiply. Even otherwise, vipasana centers have survived through donations alone. I am sure there are others like it. Point is, once we start rationalizing there is no going back.

    Definitely there are centers, teachers, monastics, translators, etc. making it off of donations alone and I'd agree that that model is ideal. I don't think the real world always works like that though and sometimes tough choices have to be made. Sticking to donations alone will certainly lead to some places not being able to continue with offering the Dharma.

    I'm not convinced that people can't find a way to "enter the marketplace" without eventually succumbing to profiteering. If we think about it in terms of choices and tradeoffs, maybe some people would sell Dharma to enrich themselves but not everyone, so how many profiteers would be acceptable if it meant more people could keep their Dharma doors open? 1 profiteer for every 4 authentic teachers? 1 in 10, 1 in a 100? Or is it actually zero?

  • SwaroopSwaroop India Veteran

    @person said:

    @techie said:
    Spiritual education is diff. from secular education. For engineering, we not only need books but labs, equipment, etc. Costs multiply. Even otherwise, vipasana centers have survived through donations alone. I am sure there are others like it. Point is, once we start rationalizing there is no going back.

    Definitely there are centers, teachers, monastics, translators, etc. making it off of donations alone and I'd agree that that model is ideal. I don't think the real world always works like that though and sometimes tough choices have to be made. Sticking to donations alone will certainly lead to some places not being able to continue with offering the Dharma.

    I'm not convinced that people can't find a way to "enter the marketplace" without eventually succumbing to profiteering. If we think about it in terms of choices and tradeoffs, maybe some people would sell Dharma to enrich themselves but not everyone, so how many profiteers would be acceptable if it meant more people could keep their Dharma doors open? 1 profiteer for every 4 authentic teachers? 1 in 10, 1 in a 100? Or is it actually zero?

    The education that we get to earn a living is not the same as spiritual instruction.

  • personperson Where is my mind? 'Merica! Veteran

    @Swaroop said:

    @person said:

    @techie said:
    Spiritual education is diff. from secular education. For engineering, we not only need books but labs, equipment, etc. Costs multiply. Even otherwise, vipasana centers have survived through donations alone. I am sure there are others like it. Point is, once we start rationalizing there is no going back.

    Definitely there are centers, teachers, monastics, translators, etc. making it off of donations alone and I'd agree that that model is ideal. I don't think the real world always works like that though and sometimes tough choices have to be made. Sticking to donations alone will certainly lead to some places not being able to continue with offering the Dharma.

    I'm not convinced that people can't find a way to "enter the marketplace" without eventually succumbing to profiteering. If we think about it in terms of choices and tradeoffs, maybe some people would sell Dharma to enrich themselves but not everyone, so how many profiteers would be acceptable if it meant more people could keep their Dharma doors open? 1 profiteer for every 4 authentic teachers? 1 in 10, 1 in a 100? Or is it actually zero?

    The education that we get to earn a living is not the same as spiritual instruction.

    Could you elaborate and explain how you see your point relating to the specific topic.

  • SwaroopSwaroop India Veteran

    @person my point is that there shouldn't be a seller - buyer relationship in the transmission of the spiritual instruction.

    personTara1978
  • SwaroopSwaroop India Veteran

    I think the people in the west have some difficulty comprehending how the Guru -Shishya relationship works.

  • KeromeKerome Did I fall in the forest? Europe Veteran

    If a portion of the price of every Buddha statue were to go to funding the Buddhist centres, I suspect the problem would be solved.

    The historical practices of the Catholic Church in gathering wealth in Europe were one extreme which I hope will never be repeated. The Buddhist approach was historically very different I believe. Correct me if I am wrong, but was it not originally a tradition of wandering monks and teachers? What would such a tradition look like today?

    I very much like the sound of Bernie Glassman's Zen Peacemakers street retreats...

  • personperson Where is my mind? 'Merica! Veteran

    @Swaroop said:
    @person my point is that there shouldn't be a seller - buyer relationship in the transmission of the spiritual instruction.

    That's a very good point, its worth fleshing out as to the downsides of such a relationship and the benefits of dana.

    @Swaroop said:
    I think the people in the west have some difficulty comprehending how the Guru -Shishya relationship works.

    It isn't all that helpful to just say we don't get it. Maybe you could explain it or post some links to some webpages that do.

  • DakiniDakini Veteran
    edited April 2016

    @Swaroop said:
    @person my point is that there shouldn't be a seller - buyer relationship in the transmission of the spiritual instruction.

    I tend to agree, but the reality of life in the West these days is that some centers have to sell lessons in order to pay rent or property taxes and maintenance, etc. I recall one Buddhist center in California that was started by a lama who was one of the early ones to arrive in the West. When I went up there to check out the center, I was surprised that they were organized into mainly Western teachers and courses, almost like university classes, with significant fees. There were evening classes, and also weekend retreats, and week-long retreats now and then through the year. At the time, I was only a few years out of university, and I couldn't afford any of it.

    I wondered if they had weekly prayer sessions, like other centers, that were free, but I never found out. Their literature didn't mention it. Now that seems odd; I suppose that to pay for the high San Francisco Bay Area rents or real estate mortgage, or whatever, it could be justified to pay for special courses, but there was no actual sangha and weekly prayer and teaching session. That doesn't seem right.

    I wonder how the San Francisco Zen Center paid for its operating expenses and building purchase? Does anyone know? It was founded back in the late 60's or early 70's, I think. And they somehow acquired rural land for meditation retreats, as well. Those centers are still going strong.

    It's easy for us to say that money shouldn't be involved in the transmission of the Dharma, but somebody has to cover the costs. What ends up happening is that a lot of us think it should be someone else who makes the big donations that establish the centers. But we all should do our part, whatever that amounts to be. The West is not conducive to supporting wandering ascetics who can spontaneously give teachings. Reality is what it is.

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