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 Post subject: Re: Selling the Dharma
PostPosted: Sat Jan 19, 2013 6:17 pm 
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Knotty Veneer wrote:
The arrival of Dharma in the West since the ‘60s has seen the creation of a new animal – the “Professional Buddhist”. Previously, the only professional Buddhists were monks or nuns or yogis. Now day we’ve got all sorts of people who make a living (or some of their living) by writing about Buddhism, teaching meditation (or more latterly “mindfulness”) as well as selling Buddhist artefacts.



Here in Taiwan various Buddhist organizations engage in active marketing. You visit their temples and there are gift shops complete with customized merchandise and products. It isn't just books on Dharma, but attire, statues, incense and so on. You'll see donation boxes strategically placed in clear view. The brochures and booklets are glossy and professionally designed. There are a few Buddhist television stations, too. Each of the major organizations has their flavour and image which they present to the world. Unlike the west, they got a lot of money. In the name of propagating the Dharma they build big.

Foguangshan recently finished construction of their Buddha Memorial Center. I visited recently:

Image

At the front gate there is, by Taiwanese standards, a sizeable indoor shopping mall complete with Starbucks and gourmet chocolate shop. They have any number of nuns staffing information desks and answering questions. You can have your photo taken and have Master Xingyun digitally inserted into the photo. You pay for that of course.

As your proceed through the mall and out the stupa there is the above scene. Inside the stupa there is marble flooring. A gift shop on the left is in clear view. They have a special chamber in the back for the Buddha tooth relic, which the whole complex was built for.

Everything in the facility is new, glossy and sharp. The staff all have uniforms. It houses some special exhibitions, too. It looks like a western museum inside.

Here in Taiwan this is the natural result of capital intensive religion. Taiwanese Buddhism is sponsored by industrialists and businessmen, both from Taiwan and elsewhere. Acquiring vast sums of wealth is not seen in a negative light. It is seen as just karmic reward for having done good in the world.

So, what you see in the west is small fish. Taiwanese Buddhist organizations have adapted themselves to the consumer culture. They're all aware people might criticize them for it, but they've gone ahead with it nevertheless. The idea, it seems, is that it is just an appropriate modern adaptation. If you need to run a website or gift shop selling people Buddhist related items or build tourist attractions, then so be it. They feel merit will still be generated and people will make a connection to the Dharma (just what is supposed to happen afterwards other than blessings remains unclear to me).

One downside, though, is that when this concern becomes overriding, the traditional notion of practice is disregarded. Hence in Taiwanese Buddhism you often hear "work is practice". The idea of sitting in a meditation hall for several years comes to be seen as selfish and unnecessary. Sitting in an office doing the administrative work necessary to keep a huge organization running, or manning a station to help visitors, is simply seen as more important.

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 Post subject: Re: Selling the Dharma
PostPosted: Sat Jan 19, 2013 6:42 pm 
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plwk wrote:
Can Dharma organisations learn from businesses and its values? Why not? Vice versa too...


Well, the purpose of Buddhadharma is liberation from this horrible nightmare called saṃsāra, and not to sell commodities to a consumer market.

In the face of suffering and death, we'll understand what's really important in life.

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 Post subject: Re: Selling the Dharma
PostPosted: Sat Jan 19, 2013 6:46 pm 
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Huseng, is the Buddha Memorial Center akin to some of the Xtian theme parks that have developed in the US? What I'm suggesting is that Buddhism in Taiwan may be the same psychological and/or cultural 'hook' that businesses use as the Xtians here use to create theme parks and Xtian businesses. Now, most o these Xtian ventures have crashed and burned, in part because their promoters were fraudsters.

One one hand, I like the idea of the Buddha Memorial mall if it does keep the Dharma somehow in the lives of the people of Taiwan. Do you feel it serves that purpose, or is the venture really more about making money?


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 Post subject: Re: Selling the Dharma
PostPosted: Sat Jan 19, 2013 7:03 pm 
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BuddhaSoup wrote:
Huseng, is the Buddha Memorial Center akin to some of the Xtian theme parks that have developed in the US? What I'm suggesting is that Buddhism in Taiwan may be the same psychological and/or cultural 'hook' that businesses use as the Xtians here use to create theme parks and Xtian businesses. Now, most o these Xtian ventures have crashed and burned, in part because their promoters were fraudsters.


Foguangshan is quite sincere with their projects. There are no scandals with their monastics. Most of the FGS people I've met have been kind and generous to me. I think Ven. Xingyun holds some reprehensible opinions and as a public Buddhist figure he should be called on them, but he's just one man. I don't think there is anything devious about this Buddha Memorial Center.


Quote:
One one hand, I like the idea of the Buddha Memorial mall if it does keep the Dharma somehow in the lives of the people of Taiwan. Do you feel it serves that purpose, or is the venture really more about making money?


I don't think it'll make a lasting impression on the country or the region for that matter. Most Taiwanese who visit it will just go once and probably not return for many many years, if not ever again. There are tour buses that might stop by, but in a few years it'll be old news.

As to its purpose, perhaps it fulfils multiple functions. On one hand, the Starbucks and gift shops give the impression it is built with the intent of generating revenue, even if only to maintain it (but then it begs the question why it needed to be so large and glossy anyway). Still, there are plenty of nuns who are working in the complex presumably full-time and quite dedicated to the project. I have no reason to doubt their sincerity.

A project like this presumably serves multiple functions, many of which the public wouldn't be aware of.

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 Post subject: Re: Selling the Dharma
PostPosted: Mon Jan 21, 2013 5:44 pm 
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Buddha gave authentic Dharma and did not sell it. Yes, the best shit in life indeed is free. If it costs you money, the shit might not be authentic as the heart/mind of the seller is not authentic enough. If he/she is authentic enough, he/she would be wearing rags and still be giving Dharma.

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 Post subject: Re: Selling the Dharma
PostPosted: Mon Jan 21, 2013 5:53 pm 
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LastLegend wrote:
Buddha gave authentic Dharma and did not sell it. Yes, the best shit in life indeed is free. If it costs you money, the shit might not be authentic as the heart/mind of the seller is not authentic enough. If he/she is authentic enough, he/she would be wearing rags and still be giving Dharma.


Except that in this society, even having the ability to teach in a way where you can actually reach people (unfortunately) requires money and some buildup. Modern westerners just don't listen to homeless mendicants, though it would sure be nice if we did!

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 Post subject: Re: Selling the Dharma
PostPosted: Mon Jan 21, 2013 6:01 pm 
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What I am used to see in Vietnamese Buddhism is monks are the teachers. These monks have been monks since they were young and have been trained.

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 Post subject: Re: Selling the Dharma
PostPosted: Tue Jan 22, 2013 1:07 am 
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You haven't the feet
for this path --
why struggle?
You've no idea where
the idol's to be found --
what's all this
mystic chat?
What can be done
with quarrelsome
fellow travelers,
boastful
marketplace
morons?
If you were really a lover
you'd see that faith and infidelity
are one...
Oh, what's the use?
nit-picking
about such things
is a hobby for
numb brains.
You are pure spirit.

Hakim Sanai


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 Post subject: Re: Selling the Dharma
PostPosted: Tue Jan 22, 2013 1:23 am 
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Johnny Dangerous wrote:
Except that in this society, even having the ability to teach in a way where you can actually reach people (unfortunately) requires money and some buildup. Modern westerners just don't listen to homeless mendicants, though it would sure be nice if we did!


How many homeless mendicants have you met?

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 Post subject: Re: Selling the Dharma
PostPosted: Tue Jan 22, 2013 2:00 am 
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The Vow of Now. This is what happens when Silcon Valley finds Buddhism.

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 Post subject: Re: Selling the Dharma
PostPosted: Tue Jan 22, 2013 2:16 am 
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Huseng wrote:
Johnny Dangerous wrote:
Except that in this society, even having the ability to teach in a way where you can actually reach people (unfortunately) requires money and some buildup. Modern westerners just don't listen to homeless mendicants, though it would sure be nice if we did!


How many homeless mendicants have you met?


Personally i've met none, I have met no one in my own corners of modern society doing this as a religious observation other than people who are kind of..well, faking it to be honest. Are there some out there? I've known some who live this for what I guess you could call political or social reasons, and predictably they are ostracized and mocked by most people as just being lazy - which is absolutely hilarious when you think about it.

My only point is, if we had them here i'd expect the typical American response for example to be "Get a job ya bum", sad as that is...look at how our society treats the homeless, imagine how most would act towards some groups doing it visibly and willingly. Not arguing for commercial Dharma by any means, just an observation.

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 Post subject: Re: Selling the Dharma
PostPosted: Tue Jan 22, 2013 2:28 am 
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Johnny Dangerous wrote:
My only point is, if we had them here i'd expect the typical American response to be "Get a job ya bum", sad as that is...look at how our society treats the homeless, imagine how most would act towards some groups doing it visibly and willingly. Not arguing for commercial Dharma by any means, just an observation.


Elsewhere in the world it is common. Thailand, India and Nepal for example. However, if you live in a climate where it gets to minus 45 'c, then winters might prove problematic for being homeless.

As a first step really perhaps what we need are lodges for monastics. Simple and stoic, but liveable. The shoe string budget gompas in India are worth emulating.

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 Post subject: Re: Selling the Dharma
PostPosted: Tue Jan 22, 2013 2:58 am 
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Huseng wrote:
Elsewhere in the world it is common. Thailand, India and Nepal for example. However, if you live in a climate where it gets to minus 45 'c, then winters might prove problematic for being homeless.

As a first step really perhaps what we need are lodges for monastics. Simple and stoic, but liveable. The shoe string budget gompas in India are worth emulating.


I'm not certain if it is still so, but as recently as the late 1990s it was possible to lead a nomadic lifestyle in North America, doing the "freegan" thing mostly and working a circuit: Austin or New Orleans in the winter, Portland or Seattle in the summer, and back again. This is very different, of course, from the all-too-common situation of homelessness due to mental illness, economic issues, and so on.

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 Post subject: Re: Selling the Dharma
PostPosted: Thu Jan 24, 2013 1:19 am 
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Merchants go when the truth appears,
for the truth needs no merchanting.
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 Post subject: Re: Selling the Dharma
PostPosted: Thu Jan 24, 2013 5:23 pm 
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LastLegend wrote:
Buddha gave authentic Dharma and did not sell it. Yes, the best shit in life indeed is free. If it costs you money, the shit might not be authentic as the heart/mind of the seller is not authentic enough. If he/she is authentic enough, he/she would be wearing rags and still be giving Dharma.

Food is also dharma.


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 Post subject: Re: Selling the Dharma
PostPosted: Thu Jan 24, 2013 5:46 pm 
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 Post subject: Re: Selling the Dharma
PostPosted: Thu Jan 24, 2013 7:13 pm 
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:namaste:

It is sort of like you get what you pay for ---

I am not saying this in the usual sense that the more you pay, the MORE something is valued, or in the usual sense, that UNLESS you pay for something, it is not valued, but as in the sense that the media is the message.

When you pay for Dharma you are tacitly entering into an agreement, or understanding, that something that someone else has, has more value than what you have, and that you are paying to gain that something.

This can be stated from the seller's point of view as, "I've got it, you want it, and I'm not going to give it to you, UNLESS, you pay me what I am asking." Payment can take many forms.

This creates an instant hierarchy between the haves and the have-nots, and the need / imperative for secrecy, to preserve livelihood for the haves. Have-nots become haves and the cycle continues.

Hierarchy is completely counter to the principle that all equally possess the Buddha seed, which has the capacity to ripen, quite spontaneously, on its own.

Hierarchy is completely contrary to the principle of "pure from the beginning."

Perhaps "I"ve got it and you can't have it unless you pay me," is a little different than having the motivation of rescuing people from a burning house.

There is room on the alter for a lot of shoes on, shoes off, gestures, and it is VERY hard to judge another's motivation, but it sure seems as if a lot of Dharma Teaching that could be freely helpful to many people, is being turned into, and sold as, pizza.

What to say? I think that most normal people, confronted by the apparent gap between kindness and the Teachings, take one look at this and go somewhere else.

Dharma is pizza. :smile:

Dharma is not pizza. :smile:

How to move beyond these issues and help all people (who want to), to freely have the direct experience of Dharma?

Who would have thought, 20 years ago, that today we would have the wonderful opening access to Dharma that we have, with DW being a prime example.

Slowly I think that Dharma is evolving, and we will have a DW, or a part of this DW, made available for practice and practices, for vetted practitioners. Of course both lineal transmission and access to lineage holders needs to be respected and preserved, where necessarily appropriate. And yes, secrecy still is appropriate, too, because you don't want children (of any age) harming themselves or others. Secrecy can be linked to the completion of a series of studies / practices, without being linked to payment.

Of course everything said above, does NOT apply to the activities of enlightened Masters such as ChNNR, nor his SMS course of practice and study, (which has been described as the shortest path to enlightenment) because enlightened Masters can do whatever they want, and should not, and cannot, be judged by ordinary people, such as ourselves.

Perhaps everything is perfect, as it is, and needs no correction.

Long life to the Masters. May they live long, in good health, and with success in all things.

:smile:


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 Post subject: Re: Selling the Dharma
PostPosted: Fri Jan 25, 2013 1:35 pm 
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The man when freed from all vehicles remains in his own natural state. Having no vested interest there's nothing to gain, nothing to sell, certainly no one 'out there' to convince.
Teachers selling the dharma are making a project out of it. They want to become a somebody 'they want to grow and self actualize' they certainly don't want to be ignored.


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 Post subject: Re: Selling the Dharma
PostPosted: Fri Jan 25, 2013 4:40 pm 
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:namaste:

It is suggested that a two-tier KINDLY system be adopted for teaching Dharma. The base level is low cost / no cost / no frills, and the high level is high end-of-range, peer-level, pricing, with first rate packaging and production values, like the well attended, haute cuisine catered, 500 Euro, few day, chod course that was held at Merigar.

Many approaches can successfully, and peacefully, co-exist.

Everyone can get what they want and prosper. The Teachings can be perfectly preserved with proper respect for the lineages. Money is available to support the Teachers, translators, publishing and operating expenses. The success of this two tier system is based on the premise that those who can afford it, will still prefer a high level presentation, and will not give up their higher priced, extra comforts and benefits.

What do you think?

Lord Buddha :buddha1: taught 84,000 different teachings so that there would be something for everyone. :meditate: Perhaps He never charged for the Teachings. :group:

Perhaps there is no harm in charging for the Teachings, if they are also made available for free. If the Teachings are more easily available for the wealthy, you are just making a rich peoples club, and this is not the most ideal way to present the Dharma. (Unless you are a rich person) :smile:

Perhaps if we can ask the Masters to collaborate a little, and share the Teachings more openly, maybe more people can get the benefit.

Perhaps in 100 years, we will all have no interest, vested or otherwise. Recognizing this, maybe it is time to make access to the Teachings, universally available.

Perhaps you can bring this to the attention of your Teacher.

What do you think?

:smile:

oldbob


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 Post subject: Re: Selling the Dharma
PostPosted: Fri Jan 25, 2013 11:33 pm 
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oldbob, You say "Perhaps the Lord Buddha never charged for the Teachings" perhaps.....!! Do you understand the purity, the spirit, the depth of the teaching?


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