Impoverished Western Practitioners

Impoverished Western Practitioners

Postby Knotty Veneer » Wed Jan 09, 2013 1:09 pm

Japhy over at tinfoilushnisha blog https://tinfoilushnisha.wordpress.com/2013/01/08/welcome-to-shakedown-street-you-want-me-to-pay-for-this/ has posted an interesting post complaining about the fact that Western practitioners are not supported by often quite well-off Tibetan lineages.

Is he right? Is it more difficult to practise Dharma in the West if you have no money? Should the more well-off lineages start putting some money into Western monasteries and centers?
Everyone talks about the weather, but nobody does anything about it - Mark Twain.
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Re: Impoverished Western Practitioners

Postby Indrajala » Wed Jan 09, 2013 1:57 pm

Knotty Veneer wrote:Japhy over at tinfoilushnisha blog https://tinfoilushnisha.wordpress.com/2013/01/08/welcome-to-shakedown-street-you-want-me-to-pay-for-this/ has posted an interesting post complaining about the fact that Western practitioners are not supported by often quite well-off Tibetan lineages.

Is he right? Is it more difficult to practise Dharma in the West if you have no money? Should the more well-off lineages start putting some money into Western monasteries and centers?


Bear in mind to run a temple in India with foreign currencies is a lot cheaper than doing something equivalent in the USA. To build a giant monastery is likewise cheaper when materials, labour and such things are bought with donations of foreign currency.
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Re: Impoverished Western Practitioners

Postby Knotty Veneer » Wed Jan 09, 2013 4:56 pm

Huseng wrote:Bear in mind to run a temple in India with foreign currencies is a lot cheaper than doing something equivalent in the USA. To build a giant monastery is likewise cheaper when materials, labour and such things are bought with donations of foreign currency.


I think Japhy’s complaint was more around the cost of being a practitioner in the West (courses, retreats etc). I have certainly noticed that Western monastics and others looking to practice full-time really do have a hard time financially. It seems they are expected to pay their own way often with no help from the lineage to which they belong.
I don’t know if the major lineages are as well-off as Japhy thinks but I agree to a large extent that poor Westerners do get a raw deal.
Everyone talks about the weather, but nobody does anything about it - Mark Twain.
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Re: Impoverished Western Practitioners

Postby Yudron » Wed Jan 09, 2013 4:59 pm

Knotty Veneer wrote:Japhy over at tinfoilushnisha blog https://tinfoilushnisha.wordpress.com/2013/01/08/welcome-to-shakedown-street-you-want-me-to-pay-for-this/ has posted an interesting post complaining about the fact that Western practitioners are not supported by often quite well-off Tibetan lineages.

Is he right? Is it more difficult to practise Dharma in the West if you have no money? Should the more well-off lineages start putting some money into Western monasteries and centers?


If we can't afford to operate our own centers and support our teachers here in the U.S. then we should look at whether what we are offering has value to people. Monasteries in India are mostly supported by wealthy Asian benefactors, as I understand it, such as Taiwanese businessmen. If we want the sponsorship of such Asian businesspeople we would need cultivate a relationship with them, it would be unethical to for monasteries in India to give away money that was given to them with the understanding it would be used for their center.

The Karmapa and the Dalai Lama are unique in that nearly everyone wants to offer them money, even here in the U.S. When I have been to see the DL here in the U.S., the distribution of funds raised was transparent... split between many different causes, including support of monastics and centers in the U.S.
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Re: Impoverished Western Practitioners

Postby deepbluehum » Wed Jan 09, 2013 5:50 pm

There's a bias. It could be overcome. My teacher's 3 yr retreat was sponsored by a prominent Tibetan official along with HH. thats not going to happen for any Westerners. tibetans see westerners as a source of cash, not as an investment. Let's not forget when Tibetans went for dharma to the Mahasiddhas it required taking large amounts of gold. And there are those Wstern masters around. It all depends on the individual.
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Re: Impoverished Western Practitioners

Postby untxi » Wed Jan 09, 2013 6:03 pm

i know centers who operate on a complete "pay to play" model, and others that don't turn people away. i know people who have managed to organize their lives and make family and career choices so that they could do long retreat. i know others who have managed to do serious study and practice while doing the normal job and family thing.

this is a question of what we're building in the west re sangha.

we're all willing to support our teachers' projects and to pay money to go to teachings. we're willing to practice and study, and spend money and sacrifice other opportunities to do that. we're willing to travel to asia and spend money on texts and tangkhas and dharma toys.

but are we willing to, for example, give some of those resources so others can do the same?

for example, i support a young tibetan woman's school expenses so her mother can stay in retreat. would i do that for a woman in my sangha?

another example: i've cooked and run errands for my teachers, including some very in depth technical projects which cost me thousands in lost wages. would i do the same for a fellow student? would i take time off my job to cook and do laundry for a sangha member in retreat? would i take on extra work to send them into a formal closed retreat?

i think these are the questions to ask-- not why money kicks up instead of drips down. we have to ask about our own priorities.

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Re: Impoverished Western Practitioners

Postby Jikan » Wed Jan 09, 2013 6:12 pm

untxi wrote:i know centers who operate on a complete "pay to play" model, and others that don't turn people away. i know people who have managed to organize their lives and make family and career choices so that they could do long retreat. i know others who have managed to do serious study and practice while doing the normal job and family thing.

this is a question of what we're building in the west re sangha.

we're all willing to support our teachers' projects and to pay money to go to teachings. we're willing to practice and study, and spend money and sacrifice other opportunities to do that. we're willing to travel to asia and spend money on texts and tangkhas and dharma toys.

but are we willing to, for example, give some of those resources so others can do the same?

for example, i support a young tibetan woman's school expenses so her mother can stay in retreat. would i do that for a woman in my sangha?

another example: i've cooked and run errands for my teachers, including some very in depth technical projects which cost me thousands in lost wages. would i do the same for a fellow student? would i take time off my job to cook and do laundry for a sangha member in retreat? would i take on extra work to send them into a formal closed retreat?

i think these are the questions to ask-- not why money kicks up instead of drips down. we have to ask about our own priorities.

-u


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Re: Impoverished Western Practitioners

Postby ngodrup » Wed Jan 09, 2013 6:42 pm

deepbluehum wrote:There's a bias. It could be overcome. My teacher's 3 yr retreat was sponsored by a prominent Tibetan official along with HH. thats not going to happen for any Westerners. tibetans see westerners as a source of cash, not as an investment. Let's not forget when Tibetans went for dharma to the Mahasiddhas it required taking large amounts of gold. And there are those Wstern masters around. It all depends on the individual.



I'm not going to argue against the fact that many westerner practitioners who deserve support don't really receive it.
We need to undo several cultural biases of our own. One is that we should be poor. Two, that being a monastic or doing
long retreat amounts to laziness or a wasted life. That said, it is not true that sponsorship is not happening. Many people
doing long retreat, even medium retreats are sponsored by foundations or individuals. But I will agree that it is not widespread.
We ought to publicly rejoice in the good work of such foundations and kind individual sponsors, as well as encourage them, and
promote the idea of scholarships for westerners in shedra or retreat.

We who practice generosity need to practice our generosity at home as well as abroad.
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Re: Impoverished Western Practitioners

Postby Yudron » Wed Jan 09, 2013 7:09 pm

Both the Tsadra Foundation and the Khyentse Foundation are supporting Westerners in long term retreat. Our retreat center was revolutionized by Tsadra coming a long to fund some of the retreatants. But, it is competitive and not every one will be funded.
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Re: Impoverished Western Practitioners

Postby Knotty Veneer » Wed Jan 09, 2013 8:47 pm

I think there are several issues here. As number of people have pointed out we should be looking after our own and making a point of supporting Westerners more who want to do retreat or become monastics. I don't think the Tibetan exile community needs donations from Western practitioners as much as it might have done 30-40 years ago. Some of the money currently sent that way could be more profitably spend supporting Western students.

There is also the expense of attending courses and talks etc and we need to see ensure that Buddhism doesn't become (even more) white and middleclass. So supporting free tickets for events is also a good thing to do. And also perhaps simply refusing to support events that are just too pricey.

Many lamas do tours in the West to raise money for their projects and the people who rely on them. And while I do not suggest that (beyond a few charlatans) any do it for personal gain, a time is going to have to come when Westerners are no longer seen as "wishfulfilling cows". The financial hegemony of Europe and the US is not going to last beyond mid-century and India and China is where the money will be. While we no doubt will continue to rely on the Tibetans for teachings I hope they continue to come when the money is not there like it was.
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Re: Impoverished Western Practitioners

Postby heart » Wed Jan 09, 2013 9:24 pm

Yudron wrote:Both the Tsadra Foundation and the Khyentse Foundation are supporting Westerners in long term retreat. Our retreat center was revolutionized by Tsadra coming a long to fund some of the retreatants. But, it is competitive and not every one will be funded.


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Re: Impoverished Western Practitioners

Postby lama tsewang » Wed Jan 09, 2013 10:07 pm

what you talk about here, has been a complaint of many monks and nuns here, for years.
I used to think it was just me that was grumpy about this , and that I have strong wrong views and biases.
But then, when iI talked with other monks and nuns , I hear the same story.

How many centers still will DEMAND money from monks and nuns for attending teachings . This is awful.
How many centers will turn beings away from , a teaching who dont have enough money.

There is a very clear kind of bias among many tibetan centers against treating all monks equally. There seem to be two classses of monks Tibetans and Westerners.
This kind of caste does not exist when you go to the Chinese or Vietnamese or Cambodian temples etc. All monks are seated equally , and treated equally.

With this kind of thing happening, it is no wonder that western Teachers are not respected or supported here.
a thgree year retreat centre is only one part of whats need , its a culminationof a training thats happened for yers before, and that has to continue after . centers for giving training over long term are needed.
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Re: Impoverished Western Practitioners

Postby Challenge23 » Wed Jan 09, 2013 10:59 pm

Knotty Veneer wrote:
There is also the expense of attending courses and talks etc and we need to see ensure that Buddhism doesn't become (even more) white and middleclass. So supporting free tickets for events is also a good thing to do. And also perhaps simply refusing to support events that are just too pricey.

Many lamas do tours in the West to raise money for their projects and the people who rely on them. And while I do not suggest that (beyond a few charlatans) any do it for personal gain, a time is going to have to come when Westerners are no longer seen as "wishfulfilling cows". The financial hegemony of Europe and the US is not going to last beyond mid-century and India and China is where the money will be. While we no doubt will continue to rely on the Tibetans for teachings I hope they continue to come when the money is not there like it was.


I remember one very serious practitioner remarked, "Welcome to the Vajrayana, may I have your credit card number?"

For me when I go to the "free" teachings I end up having to pay around $100 or so for lodgings and food. If I wanted to attend any of the serious teachings it would cost me around $2000 or so, give or take(around $500 for the teaching itself and around $1500 for the lodging).

I can't say that there is anything dark or terrible about how the arrangement is, but lately I have been wondering why I am spending $60 a month for a membership and at least $100(usually more) for a summer teaching on top of my daily practice and studying.
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Re: Impoverished Western Practitioners

Postby lama tsewang » Wed Jan 09, 2013 11:14 pm

challenge?
how much of that expensive stuff was really necessary?
or a distraction?
i have to consider that myself all the time.


Apart from this though, This tradition, the Tibetan one, has a reputation for being a a bit too much into money.
Doing lots of expensive things.



i must say , though , that it feels good that lots of people here on Dharma whhel are starting to talk about these things and theyre not getting attacked etc..

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Re: Impoverished Western Practitioners

Postby Karma Dorje » Thu Jan 10, 2013 12:55 am

I'm sorry but I have to take the flip of where this discussion is going. Westerners that have no problem shelling out big bucks for university educations, yoga classes, Lululemon tights, Starbucks coffee, etc. but putting their money where their mouth is when it comes to the teachings that liberate from samsara suddenly becomes tightfisted. Where would the Kagyud be today if it had been Japhy and not Marpa that went to India to meet Naropa? Naropa demanded significant amounts of gold. Would Japhy have simply boycotted him?

The reciprocity is important! If you don't have the money but can offer your practice that's great but if you have the means it really is better to give to make a positive connection to the teaching through dana. There are too many people that I have known over the years that are just chronically without money and very few of them are that way because they are spending their entire day in samadhi. Particularly when it comes to the vajrayana teachings, there are so many methods to increase one's wealth that remaining ten or twenty years without the means to give seems to me a simple lack of focus and application.

There is no question we need to do a better job of supporting our ordained sangha here in the West. It is often extremely challenging for them and relatively few of us westerner householders have the same view that the wealthy Taiwanese businesspeople do that the ordained sangha is a field of merit.

Personally, I think we should be asking what we need to do to exert ourselves more to reach the goal rather than asking why there isn't more free stuff.
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Re: Impoverished Western Practitioners

Postby plwk » Thu Jan 10, 2013 4:32 am

Personally, I think we should be asking what we need to do to exert ourselves more to reach the goal rather than asking why there isn't more free stuff.

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Re: Impoverished Western Practitioners

Postby Lobsang Damchoi » Thu Jan 10, 2013 8:22 am

Karma Dorje wrote:I'm sorry but I have to take the flip of where this discussion is going. Westerners that have no problem shelling out big bucks for university educations, yoga classes, Lululemon tights, Starbucks coffee, etc. but putting their money where their mouth is when it comes to the teachings that liberate from samsara suddenly becomes tightfisted. ....

Personally, I think we should be asking what we need to do to exert ourselves more to reach the goal rather than asking why there isn't more free stuff.


I gave up yoga classes three years ago, I'm still paying on my student loans and Starbuck's is a once-per-week treat, if that (for a simple pastry and plain coffee). I dont even know what Lululemon tights are ... I do know that I probably wont replace my worn-out cycling shorts.

Get a grip, dear -- practitioners get laid off like everyone else. Dharma travel and long retreats are financially off-limits for many of us. Some groups make it nearly impossible for someone like me to do volunteer work to compensate for lack of funds.

I just give thanks everyday that I met my precious Gurus, and that my jewel-like local center somehow survives and still can provide free teachings, in the Los Angeles area, on sutra and tantra from a learned and compassionate Gelugpa lineage holder.

E-ma-ho. :twothumbsup:
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Re: Impoverished Western Practitioners

Postby Indrajala » Thu Jan 10, 2013 10:00 am

Karma Dorje wrote:There is no question we need to do a better job of supporting our ordained sangha here in the West. It is often extremely challenging for them and relatively few of us westerner householders have the same view that the wealthy Taiwanese businesspeople do that the ordained sangha is a field of merit.


I think what's really needed is actual monasteries. Not dharma centers. That means all monks or nuns having monastic quarters and communal living arrangements. Simple, spartan and poor. That means even if you have absolutely nothing but the robes on your back you'll still have a plank to sleep on and some rice and dal to eat.

You see this kind of arrangement in India. I don't see why it wouldn't work in western countries.

It might discourage some people, but on the other hand I think it would inspire a lot of people who are disillusioned with first world comforts.

As it stands signing up to be a monk isn't really a realistic option for most people where I come from. Tibetan Buddhists in the west could really open up new ground by having spartan monasteries that could accommodate people on a shoestring budget.
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Re: Impoverished Western Practitioners

Postby JKhedrup » Thu Jan 10, 2013 10:06 am

I think what's really needed is actual monasteries. Not dharma centers. That means all monks or nuns having monastic quarters and communal living arrangements. Simple, spartan and poor. That means even if you have absolutely nothing but the robes on your back you'll still have a plank to sleep on and some rice and dal to eat.


If you have really dedicated people they would be willing to stay in a place where the minimum necessities are covered.

What you say reminds me of the story of the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas in California. When I was doing retreat there I spoke to several of the "old-timer" monastics- Western disciples of Ven. Hsuan Hua who had been with him since at least the early 1980s and in some cases even before that. They lived in very spartan conditions- no heating, for example. One meal a day, and little comfort. Often they drove a truck to grocery stores to take out vegetables and bread that had been put out for garbage but were still edible.

How was this possible? Well, I think a charismatic teacher is a big part of it. If you have a lama who is willing to rough it along with his/her disciples, it's a huge inspiration.

It is interesting to note, though, that after Ven. Hsuan Hua passed away they lost many disciples, especially Western ones. These days the order hardly has any monks, the majority of the monastics are bhikshunis from various Chinese diaspora communities.
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Re: Impoverished Western Practitioners

Postby Karma Dorje » Thu Jan 10, 2013 10:17 am

Lobsang Damchoi wrote:Get a grip, dear -- practitioners get laid off like everyone else. Dharma travel and long retreats are financially off-limits for many of us. Some groups make it nearly impossible for someone like me to do volunteer work to compensate for lack of funds.


Everybody goes through tough times. I am not blaming those that go through them and I sincerely wish you success and a speedy turnaround to your fortune! Almost every center has provisions for those who don't have enough to pay. HH Dalai Lama's recent visit to Long Beach sponsored by Gaden Shartse Thubten Dargye Ling comes to mind, and that was a *massive* and expensive undertaking to host. Nobody was turned away for lack of money. My point is that if one spends one's entire life poor to the point one can't participate in dharma activities-- unless one is engaged in practice all day, then something else is wrong. All the bodhisattvas aspire for dharma practitioners to have the means to practice and have dedicated the fruits of their practice to it. Time and again I have seen practitioners who were poor end up with whatever they needed through the results of their practice. Not necessarily wealthy, but having what they need. How did this happen? Through throwing themselves on the practice, volunteering their time to help others (not necessarily at a dharma center, perhaps with the elderly, at hospitals, food banks, etc.), invoking the wealth deities and protectors, etc. This isn't rocket surgery. These things all work beyond expectations if you have the right motivation, they just take time and application like everything else worthwhile. To get, we *must* give.

What my comments are directed toward is a certain class of chronic complainer that always wonders why someone else isn't doing something for them. Reverse bodhisattvas. Like Ryder Japhy in the OP under discussion.
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