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Donating Money to Teachers with Jobs

ScottPenScottPen Maryland Veteran

I feel odd giving money to Buddhist teachers that have a separate career. The local Insight Meditation Community recommends a $10 donation be given at each meetup, and the cost of the retreats that they run state that a portion of the cost is dana for the teachers.

This seems like it's not quite in the spirit of the concept when these teachers have full-time gigs doing other things.

Suggesting a donation is one thing, but incorporating it into the cost of a retreat?

I'd rather practice dana by giving money to an animal shelter.

What are your thoughts?

Comments

  • personperson Don't believe everything you think 'Merica! Veteran

    Doing the inner and outer work needed to be a skilled teacher does take time and effort, not to mention the costs involved in running a center.

    On the one hand making sure these things are paid for allows them to continue and be of high quality. On the other hand dana is meant to be freely offered and given to foster a spirit of generosity.

    The community I'm involved with offers everything freely and the teacher asks that opportunities be taken as a gift. Offerings given back should be done likewise, that the giving be done not out of obligation for services received but out of gratitude and a motivation to have them continue. The main teacher is full time, the center has paid office staff and they are even developing a retreat property based on donations.

    The center is large enough and judging by some of the cars in the lots, has some wealthy members, so that it can run that way. Probably not all places have the membership to run like that?

    Is the teacher driving a luxury car? Are they investing their time in improving their quality? Is money being reinvested in the center and programs? How do they talk about money? Are they treating recommended donations truly that way or is there a sense of pressure to give? Can people not give or give what they feel comfortable with and still participate?

    ShoshinJeffrey
  • ScottPenScottPen Maryland Veteran

    @person said:

    Is the teacher driving a luxury car? Are they investing their time in improving their quality? Is money being reinvested in the center and programs? How do they talk about money? Are they treating recommended donations truly that way or is there a sense of pressure to give? Can people not give or give what they feel comfortable with and still participate?

    I've only been twice. The main location is in a different city so the meetup is held at a yoga studio near me. The main organization, Insight Meditation Community of Washington, appears to be a well-established, respectable organization. I believe I trust them. The donations are only a suggestion at the meetups, and I assume partially go toward rental of the space, but of course I don't know anything about their accounting. I don't have an aversion to providing a donation out of gratitude. I guess what I feel strange about it the fact that it's included in the cost of the retreats.

    I appreciate your implication that I ask some questions and think about this stuff. I certainly don't want to be stingy, but I live check to check and I want to make sure that my gas money is going to the right place.

  • personperson Don't believe everything you think 'Merica! Veteran

    @ScottPen said:
    I guess what I feel strange about it the fact that it's included in the cost of the retreats.

    I would recommend trying to dig down and get at what exactly about this bothers you. Is it that the teachers that have jobs don't need the money, and you want your donations to go where needed? Do you feel like there is some sort of corruption, that they are skimming off the top of money given for something else? Or maybe both or some other factors?

  • lobsterlobster Veteran

    The local Insight Meditation Community recommends a $10 donation be given at each meetup

    Does not seem enough to me. Try and get them to give you a dana donation of $20 for turning up. :o

    My Paccekabuddha teacher used to pay all expenses, it was embarrassing. Very occasionly I would be allowed to pay for some small expense. I could have brought a gift I suppose but those were just left on a shelf and never used ...

    ScottPen
  • JasonJason God Emperor Arrakis Moderator
    edited May 31

    On the one hand, I lean towards the side of the Dhamma being freely given and teachers/centers being dana-based. On the other, we live in a capitalist society, where money is king. Centers require money to operate, and teachers have bills to pay. My thoughts are, if you don't like the idea or don't think it's worth the money, don't go and meditate on your own. Your breath is free, and there's plenty of free teachings online to help supplement your practice. But if you have the money to spare and you think there's value in what they're offering, there are worse things you could spend it on.

    lobsterpersonScottPenKundo
  • KaydeekayKaydeekay Explorer

    Hmm I think that donation's are reasonable as long as it's not implied that YOU HAVE to pay. Like some people seriously can't even afford that and it's embarrassing and stressful to have to pay, if it's pressured. But, I think $10.00 is reasonable if it goes towards the centre and a teacher has certain expertise. Didn't the Buddha say that we shouldn't charge for dharma though?

  • ScottPenScottPen Maryland Veteran

    @person: the surface issue that I have is that the website states that all teachings are dana-based, but the cost of the retreats has it included. It's clearly listed that part of the price goes to the teacher, but that isn't an optional donation so it feels like calling it a donation is duplicitous.
    The deeper issue, after a little reflection, is that I am suspicious of people and organizations whose purpose and positioning could easily facilitate manipulation and nefarious intentions. Combine that with the fact that my only experience with religious organizations has been socially conservative Christian churches and youth groups, and I end up with baggage.

    I don't mind showing generosity. I donate to animal shelters regularly. But I buy them supplies instead of giving them money. People do dumb and bad stuff with money all the time, but dog food and cat litter are pretty tough to misuse.

    Maybe I have some trust issues to work on.

  • ScottPenScottPen Maryland Veteran

    @Jason, I think you 're right... If I go, it's pretty stingy to not donate and I can hear Dharma talks and practice at home. Honestly I'm looking for the Sangha more than the teacher. But I do have you guys, right?

  • ScottPenScottPen Maryland Veteran

    @Kaydeekay, they don't require a donation for the Meetup. After thinking about it I think I have some unrelated hangups to work through.

  • personperson Don't believe everything you think 'Merica! Veteran

    @ScottPen said:
    @person: the surface issue that I have is that the website states that all teachings are dana-based, but the cost of the retreats has it included. It's clearly listed that part of the price goes to the teacher, but that isn't an optional donation so it feels like calling it a donation is duplicitous.
    The deeper issue, after a little reflection, is that I am suspicious of people and organizations whose purpose and positioning could easily facilitate manipulation and nefarious intentions. Combine that with the fact that my only experience with religious organizations has been socially conservative Christian churches and youth groups, and I end up with baggage.

    I don't mind showing generosity. I donate to animal shelters regularly. But I buy them supplies instead of giving them money. People do dumb and bad stuff with money all the time, but dog food and cat litter are pretty tough to misuse.

    Maybe I have some trust issues to work on.

    I think those are all legitimate concerns and worth paying attention to. I'm glad you're aware of your own predilections to project certain attitudes on the situation that might not be there in reality.

    Sanghas and teachers are never perfect. I too go to my place in search of community but have to deal with my own trust issues on areas I don't see eye to eye with them on. I worry about them and can get critical in my thinking about it, but I still go because on the whole I recognize that a lot of the "problems" have to do with things going on in my own head and I get more out of it than those disagreements cost me.

    federica
  • 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

    I must confess, I do not donate any money to any charity, unless I know exactly where it's going. There have been too many scandals emerging regarding charities, of late, and I am mistrustful of the upper hierarchies and their comings and goings.
    I prefer to act in a direct and concrete manner.

    I don't think it's necessarily a hang-up, @ScottPen . It may be a gut instinct based on experience, and sometimes, our guts are right.

    "If it feels good, do it.
    When in doubt - don't."

    Is a personal favourite adage of mine which can apply to any or all situations.

    Kaydeekaykando
  • ScottPenScottPen Maryland Veteran

    @federica said:
    "If it feels good, do it.
    When in doubt - don't."

    @federica, you're makin me pine for the good ole days of hedonism in my 20's.

  • seeker242seeker242 Zen Florida, USA Veteran
    edited June 1

    @ScottPen said:
    but incorporating it into the cost of a retreat?

    Is perfectly fine when the money is used to buy you food and provide you electricity, water, rent or mortgage for the center buildings, administrative staff, etc. Some people think retreats should be free. I've never understood that! Why do people think they should be entitled to eat 3 meals a day for free and have a free place to stay, simply because they are doing a retreat? I don't get it!

    Kundo
  • 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

    @ScottPen said:

    @federica said:
    "If it feels good, do it.
    When in doubt - don't."

    @federica, you're makin me pine for the good ole days of hedonism in my 20's.

    And how did that work for you...?

    image

    When I say 'feels good' it's a question of thinking 'beneficial and benevolent'.

    When I say 'doubt' I mean one should consider the ramifications - not only for one's self, but, following the ripples on the pond, what the effects would be on others....

    Hedonism may be the ultimate in self-gratification.
    But is it healthy?
    And doesn't the aspect of "Suffering" rear its ugly head, sooner or later....? ;)

    Vastmind
  • ScottPenScottPen Maryland Veteran

    OK since a few people were kind enough to provide their input, I'd like to provide an update.

    I decided to investigate a couple of things. The first was my own motivation for why I was feeling discomfort. As I stated in a previous post, I think I have some legitimate concerns and some old baggage. I found that both were worth investigating more. The old baggage is going to take some mindful reflection and observant attention to my reactions as I move along the path.
    My legitimate concerns warranted another look at the website, www.imcw.org. I actually couldn't find a single instance of a retreat or workshop listing a price with the dana included and required. I have no idea where I got that, and I'm relieved that I can feel a bit more comfortable with the organization that I've been most interested in. The next step is working through my distrust of authority figures (I seem to lump therapists, teachers, mentors, and religious leaders all into this).

    I gotta say, this forum has already helped me work through a couple of issues. That's why I joined and I'm grateful.

    person
  • ScottPenScottPen Maryland Veteran

    @federica said:

    @ScottPen said:

    @federica said:
    "If it feels good, do it.
    When in doubt - don't."

    @federica, you're makin me pine for the good ole days of hedonism in my 20's.

    And how did that work for you...?

    image

    When I say 'feels good' it's a question of thinking 'beneficial and benevolent'.

    When I say 'doubt' I mean one should consider the ramifications - not only for one's self, but, following the ripples on the pond, what the effects would be on others....

    Hedonism may be the ultimate in self-gratification.
    But is it healthy?
    And doesn't the aspect of "Suffering" rear its ugly head, sooner or later....? ;)

    @federica, this is a subject that I have thought about an awful lot over the last 23 years or so. I don't think this thread is the right place for all of that, but I will say this: the current version of my 5 aggregates is 90% on board with thinking "beneficial and benevolent," and that's why I've started on the path. With patience, intention, exploration, and meditation, maybe the other 10% will fall in line. <3

    federicapersonVastmindlobster
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