Selling the dharma

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Selling the dharma

Postby padma norbu » Sat Sep 14, 2013 7:06 pm

I have recently begun considering a career change. I have found that all my knowledge of computer programming is nothing compared to the profit to be made from giving hot stone massages and teaching yoga, pranayama and meditation. Seriously. It's got to be the most relaxing lifestyle choice possible. I was under the impression that profiting off the dharma is considered bad form, which is why everything is "suggested donation" and "nobody will be turned away due to lack of funds," but I have discovered over the past several years that this is more or less just something people say. I have also noticed that the line about "nobody turned away due to lack of funds" is disappearing from many teaching and retreat announcements. For curiosity's sake, I contacted one group about a retreat I really wanted to attend but could not afford. The only option I was given was a payment plan. It was basically a way of saying, "cash, grass or ass, nobody rides for free." No discount offered and not even a hint of the suggestion that "nobody turned away due to lack of funds."

I have recently discovered that some dharma organizations I thought were really struggling are doing a very profitable business.

Considering all this, I find it funny that people always say to donate your dharma books rather than sell them. For the merit, you see. But, what if you could really use the money? Well... people still don't think you should sell them. Good merit is always better than a couple bucks in your pocket, right? Once I heard Pema Chodron say that some texts say if you sell the dharma, that's a ticket straight to hell and then she smiled and said, "if that's true, there's a whole lot of people who are going to hell."

So what do you think? Should the dharma be sold? Should dharma organizations be million dollar enterprises? Should a tent on a lawn cost a few hundred bucks during a retreat? Should poor people be offered a payment plan to pay for these tents?

I was always under the impression that dharma organizations are struggling to get by, which is why I always donated more than I could afford. Learning this high profitability has raised a new issue within me: am I being selfish for not wanting to spend a few hundred for a weekend class so some teacher can make a cool grand in about 8 hours? Seems preposterous considering a gym membership for a full month is $70 or less, which includes several different kinds of classes.
"Use what seems like poison as medicine. We can use our personal suffering as the path to compassion for all beings." Pema Chodron
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Re: Selling the dharma

Postby Konchog1 » Sat Sep 14, 2013 7:21 pm

Same as anything else. If it's too pricy, look elsewhere and find the same thing for less or free.

I've never have and never will pay more than $50 for any class.
Equanimity is the ground. Love is the moisture. Compassion is the seed. Bodhicitta is the result.

-Paraphrase of Khensur Rinpoche Lobsang Tsephel citing the Guhyasamaja Tantra

"All memories and thoughts are the union of emptiness and knowing, the Mind.
Without attachment, self-liberating, like a snake in a knot.
Through the qualities of meditating in that way,
Mental obscurations are purified and the dharmakaya is attained."

-Ra Lotsawa, All-pervading Melodious Drumbeats
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Re: Selling the dharma

Postby padma norbu » Sat Sep 14, 2013 7:30 pm

Konchog1 wrote:Same as anything else. If it's too pricy, look elsewhere and find the same thing for less or free.

I've never have and never will pay more than $50 for any class.


Sounds good. Who is your teacher and what is your lineage?
"Use what seems like poison as medicine. We can use our personal suffering as the path to compassion for all beings." Pema Chodron
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Re: Selling the dharma

Postby Konchog1 » Sat Sep 14, 2013 7:47 pm

padma norbu wrote:
Konchog1 wrote:Same as anything else. If it's too pricy, look elsewhere and find the same thing for less or free.

I've never have and never will pay more than $50 for any class.


Sounds good. Who is your teacher and what is your lineage?
Gelugpa. Khensur Rinpoche Lobsang Tsephel.

I also receive teachings from Garchen Rinpoche who is Drikungpa.

Personally, I'm suspicious of anyone who charges a lot for teachings.
Equanimity is the ground. Love is the moisture. Compassion is the seed. Bodhicitta is the result.

-Paraphrase of Khensur Rinpoche Lobsang Tsephel citing the Guhyasamaja Tantra

"All memories and thoughts are the union of emptiness and knowing, the Mind.
Without attachment, self-liberating, like a snake in a knot.
Through the qualities of meditating in that way,
Mental obscurations are purified and the dharmakaya is attained."

-Ra Lotsawa, All-pervading Melodious Drumbeats
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Re: Selling the dharma

Postby padma norbu » Sat Sep 14, 2013 7:57 pm

Konchog1 wrote:Gelugpa. Khensur Rinpoche Lobsang Tsephel.

I also receive teachings from Garchen Rinpoche who is Drikungpa.

Personally, I'm suspicious of anyone who charges a lot for teachings.


Yup, me too. No reason you should make a thousand bucks or more for 8 hours of work teaching dharma.
"Use what seems like poison as medicine. We can use our personal suffering as the path to compassion for all beings." Pema Chodron
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Re: Selling the dharma

Postby ReasonAndRhyme » Sat Sep 14, 2013 8:07 pm

Some years ago I lost my job during an economic crisis and I made lots and lots and lots of negative experiences of this kind. It goes without saying that I have always offered to work for the center in exchange for the classes. But still I was turned down, more than once in a very arrogant manner.

Since then I have some very strict principles: (1.) If I don't get teachings because I don't have enough money, it's not Dharma. (2.) If people close me out because I don't have money, they're not practising Buddhism, i.e. I don't need them.

As to the books, well, books don't print themselves. I think selling them for a reasonable price is justified. Very often you see that books which are currently out of print are offered for hundreds of dollars at amazon's. That is definitely a sin. But if you sell a used dharma book that was originally 20$ for a tenner I don't see what's wrong with it? It's good for you, it's good for the buyer. Otherwise we would have to expect publishing houses like SnowLion to give us all of their books for free. Not that I would mind - but how are they supposed to do that? :shrug:
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Re: Selling the dharma

Postby padma norbu » Sun Sep 15, 2013 12:29 am

Reasonandrhyme, I see a lot of reason in what you've said here, but could use a little more rhyming. ;) Seriously, though, what you've said makes a lot of sense. Something for me to think about for sure.
"Use what seems like poison as medicine. We can use our personal suffering as the path to compassion for all beings." Pema Chodron
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Re: Selling the dharma

Postby TattedCodeMonkey » Sat Nov 30, 2013 5:24 pm

What are the thoughts on Buddhist Centers charging an explicit membership fee? In my area there are very few physical resources and I found there is a small Buddhist center. But it struck me odd that they list explicit membership prices.

I'm pretty new to all this. I've been interested for awhile but just starting to get serious with a practice and following the path. Which is what drew me to finding a place with teachers.
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Re: Selling the dharma

Postby Adamantine » Sat Nov 30, 2013 5:45 pm

padma norbu wrote:
Konchog1 wrote:Gelugpa. Khensur Rinpoche Lobsang Tsephel.

I also receive teachings from Garchen Rinpoche who is Drikungpa.

Personally, I'm suspicious of anyone who charges a lot for teachings.


Yup, me too. No reason you should make a thousand bucks or more for 8 hours of work teaching dharma.


In modern times there are two big expenses for most significant Dharma teachers: if they are touring, to teach to groups in different locations then there is the cost of their airplane, or trains, and those of their attendant, translator, etc. also their accommodations, food, etc. Often they are also trying to raise some funds for a) their resident Dharma center b) their monastery or gompa in India or Nepal, etc. or c) some meritorious project like building a stupa.

Then, there is the resident local Lama, who has the ongoing expense of their Dharma center: property taxes, mortgage or rent, utility bills, food, etc.

If no one donated for teachings, soon there would be no one around teaching the Dharma. SImple fact. Because many people choose to not pay if it seems to be optional, or pay hardly anything if it is sliding scale, then Dharma teachers and centers have had to adapt for survival and be firm about required donations. If you know of some center that is cashing in on great profits, that is not quite normal here in the USA. Certainly, this can be done more easily with tours of Tawain, etc. where giving big sums is inherent in the culture. I know some very elaborate Gompas in Kathmandhu that were funded soley on Tawainese donations. It's not so easy like that in the USA.
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Re: Selling the dharma

Postby padma norbu » Sat Nov 30, 2013 6:05 pm

Have you been privy to the inner workings of the majority of dharma centers in the west? I don't think that's possible.
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Re: Selling the dharma

Postby dude » Sat Nov 30, 2013 6:32 pm

I think it violates the spirit of offering, which should be freely given out of a sense of appreciation, not obligation, much less to think of the dharma as someone's personal possession to be offered for a price.
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Re: Selling the dharma

Postby KonchokZoepa » Sat Nov 30, 2013 8:51 pm

you are missing the point, there are costs to bring the dharma to people.
If the thought of demons
Never rises in your mind,
You need not fear the demon hosts around you.
It is most important to tame your mind within....

In so far as the Ultimate, or the true nature of being is concerned,
there are neither buddhas or demons.
He who frees himself from fear and hope, evil and virtue,
will realize the insubstantial and groundless nature of confusion.
Samsara will then appear as the mahamudra itself….

-Milarepa

OMMANIPADMEHUNG

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Re: Selling the dharma

Postby dude » Sat Nov 30, 2013 9:31 pm

That's why we should present offerings without being asked or required to.
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Re: Selling the dharma

Postby Adamantine » Sat Nov 30, 2013 9:48 pm

dude wrote:That's why we should present offerings without being asked or required to.


I totally agree with this ideal, however, the selfish ethic of capitalism which currently dominates the world culture does not agree with you, in that most people are stingy about giving, but will not hesitate to pay a fee. This is why Dharma teachers and centers have had to adapt.
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Re: Selling the dharma

Postby Adamantine » Sat Nov 30, 2013 9:49 pm

padma norbu wrote:Have you been privy to the inner workings of the majority of dharma centers in the west? I don't think that's possible.


I have been privy to enough to have a sense for the complexity of the issue, yes.
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Re: Selling the dharma

Postby Malcolm » Sat Nov 30, 2013 11:31 pm

dude wrote:That's why we should present offerings without being asked or required to.


That works fine for sutrayāna teachings, but it is a nonstarter in Vajrayāna where empowerment fees and so on are stipulated in the tantras.
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Re: Selling the dharma

Postby dude » Sat Nov 30, 2013 11:39 pm

Adamantine wrote:
dude wrote:That's why we should present offerings without being asked or required to.


I totally agree with this ideal, however, the selfish ethic of capitalism which currently dominates the world culture does not agree with you, in that most people are stingy about giving, but will not hesitate to pay a fee. This is why Dharma teachers and centers have had to adapt.


If they're that stingy, how can they practice Buddhism, even if taught correctly?
If it's that easy for them to come up with the money, how much do they really value it or are likely to put it into practice?
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Re: Selling the dharma

Postby Sherab Dorje » Sat Nov 30, 2013 11:54 pm

Drukpa Kunley had to pay 50 gold pieces just to chat with Je Tsongkhapa.
Ushered into the Presence [of Je Tsongkhapa], he proceeded to prostrate to
the box of gold intoning these words:
'I bow to the Illuminator of our Darkness,
The Crown ofTibetan Sages, Tsongkhapa!
I bow to the inviolate Keeper of the Three Vows,
Bearer of the White Lotus who was prophesied by Atisha
I bow to teacher, debater and composer,
Bearer of the Sword on the Utpala Lotus!
I bow to the saviour of the poor, he who relieves poverty,
Possessor of divine charisma, covered by a web of gold!
I bow to the lover of wealth and comfort-
May this offering of gold bring joy to his heart!
I bow to him whose eyes turned from a poor and lowly votary
When I visited you last year with no offering!'

Tsongkhapa gave him a blessing cord as a gesture of recognition of Drukpa Kunleys capacities.
'Look! Look!' he shouted. 'If you have fifty pieces of gold
you can gain audience with the Buddha Tsongkhapa
himself. He may even give you one of these!' And he waved his
member with the thread around it in the air.
"When one is not in accord with the true view
Meditation and conduct become delusion,
One will not attain the real result
One will be like a blind man who has no eyes."
Naropa - Summary of the View from The Eight Doha Treasures
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Re: Selling the dharma

Postby Adamantine » Sun Dec 01, 2013 12:02 am

dude wrote:
Adamantine wrote:
dude wrote:That's why we should present offerings without being asked or required to.


I totally agree with this ideal, however, the selfish ethic of capitalism which currently dominates the world culture does not agree with you, in that most people are stingy about giving, but will not hesitate to pay a fee. This is why Dharma teachers and centers have had to adapt.


If they're that stingy, how can they practice Buddhism, even if taught correctly?
If it's that easy for them to come up with the money, how much do they really value it or are likely to put it into practice?


You are missing the point: people can't practice the Dharma until they are taught it. If they came from a Dharma culture, that's one thing, but most people don't. Especially in the Western countries. That means, that according to the culture of capitalism within which they were raised and are accustomed, if there is a way to avoid paying for something, and retaining more money for their own selfish needs or for their own necessities, they will choose to avoid paying. There is also a cultural ethic of Church and State being separate, of Jesus casting out the money changers from the temple, and so on. So we have a bias against spirituality costing money, other than the anonymous basket being passed around at church.

So in this context, left the choice of NOT paying anything, and giving the "suggested donation", a majority may only offer the smallest of sums. Since they need to learn the Dharma before they appreciate the merit of generosity, and of making offerings to the Three Jewels, etc., to expect people who are not already deeply experienced practitioners to voluntarily give substantial offerings is really unrealistic.

Therefore, for basic practical reasons, in order for any Dharma teachers to be able to live in these countries and to teach, and maintain centers, etc. it has become necessary to simply charge flat fees. Often times there are scholarship options, however.

Also, as Malcolm has pointed out, --in the context of Vajrayana, it has always been the custom to demand offerings, historically of gold.. we are lucky that gold is not required now because the cost of even a tiny piece of gold is generally more than most fees for teachings these days.

I know that Lama Dawa still requires a gold coin offering for his Vajra Armor retreats, because it is very specific in the original text that this is a requirement. So the history is certainly there.
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Re: Selling the dharma

Postby Konchog1 » Sun Dec 01, 2013 12:44 am

Sherab Dorje wrote:
'Look! Look!' he shouted. 'If you have fifty pieces of gold
you can gain audience with the Buddha Tsongkhapa
himself. He may even give you one of these!' And he waved his
member with the thread around it in the air.
Oh Kunley...
Equanimity is the ground. Love is the moisture. Compassion is the seed. Bodhicitta is the result.

-Paraphrase of Khensur Rinpoche Lobsang Tsephel citing the Guhyasamaja Tantra

"All memories and thoughts are the union of emptiness and knowing, the Mind.
Without attachment, self-liberating, like a snake in a knot.
Through the qualities of meditating in that way,
Mental obscurations are purified and the dharmakaya is attained."

-Ra Lotsawa, All-pervading Melodious Drumbeats
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