The Prosperity Dharma?

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The Prosperity Dharma?

Postby Jikan » Sat Feb 02, 2013 3:06 am

The Prosperity Gospel is a version of Protestant Christianity (or perhaps an offshoot from it, depending on your perspective) that teaches, in short, that Christ wants you to be wealthy; that religious practice should involve a measure of material benefit (or that material benefit correlates or represents spiritual blessing); and so on. Here are some perspectives and resources (there are many points of view on this) for the purposes of clarity:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/sp ... ospel.html

http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/arc ... sh/307764/

http://www.rickross.com/reference/tv_pr ... ers79.html

In a conversation with a friend, it was suggested that a major Buddhist organization was effectively promoting something analogous to the Prosperity Gospel, but in Buddhist terms: a Prosperity Dharma, if you like. This is an organization that is active in Asia but increasingly in America and Europe. I can see how such a twisting of the teachings might occur (people are people, life is life), but I have a difficult time imagining such a teaching could find a welcome ground in the States. Why? Because many of those who are involved in Dharma to begin with did so out of a revulsion with the Robert Tiltons of the religious world, and found among the Buddhists a community committed to practice for the sake of practice, not devotion for the sake of dollars or whatever.

Then again: could it be that a prosperity Dharma might attract new people to the teachings--people who don't object to a Tilton-style glitz approach?
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Re: The Prosperity Dharma?

Postby plwk » Sat Feb 02, 2013 4:14 am

The Prosperity Gospel is a version of Protestant Christianity (or perhaps an offshoot from it, depending on your perspective) that teaches, in short, that Christ wants you to be wealthy; that religious practice should involve a measure of material benefit (or that material benefit correlates or represents spiritual blessing); and so on.
To be fair, Jikan, this 'Prosperity Gospel' thingy has nothing to do with being a version nor an offshoot of mainstream Christianity and in fact has been debunked and denounced as the shameless work of profiteers and opportunistic people who prey on the gullible and and desperate. From my previous days as a Christian, I recall reading and encountering tons of works from both conservative Protestant Christian theologians and prominent evangelistic circles (I won't name any of them here) who have critique and denounced it and some gone as far as naming and shaming individuals and organisations which promote such in what has been described as repackaged smuggled new age deception or some terming it as the 'Judas' Kiss' on the Gospel message of Christ...
In a conversation with a friend, it was suggested that a major Buddhist organization was effectively promoting something analogous to the Prosperity Gospel, but in Buddhist terms: a Prosperity Dharma, if you like. This is an organization that is active in Asia but increasingly in America and Europe. I can see how such a twisting of the teachings might occur (people are people, life is life), but I have a difficult time imagining such a teaching could find a welcome ground in the States. Why? Because many of those who are involved in Dharma to begin with did so out of a revulsion with the Robert Tiltons of the religious world, and found among the Buddhists a community committed to practice for the sake of practice, not devotion for the sake of dollars or whatever. Then again: could it be that a prosperity Dharma might attract new people to the teachings--people who don't object to a Tilton-style glitz approach?
This is reminds me of an elderly stock broker in a Dharma class who loudly criticised Buddhists as having an inane love affair with poverty and he finds this rather appalling that in doing so, questions the future of Buddhism in attracting the mass people if not the big temples and monasteries, statues, huge ventures, big sponsorships and sighed that we are still living in the kutis and caves of the past, hoping that some kind filthy rich Bodhisattva will spare us a penny... and thundered that Buddhists are preaching and marketing a 'poverty Gospel' as if it was a virtue yet passing on donation slips on the side which lists terms 'Grand Sponsor', 'Diamond Sponsor', exhorbitant wealth vases, amulets and empowerment sessions where some contribute amounts of no less than 50-100k and above... monastics accepting rides and stays in luxury vehicles and lodgings, sponsoring certain precious objects where one can take it home for a handsome 'suggested donation'... which he finds disgusting and hypocritical as the tongue does not seem to match what the hand is doing... :lol:

Whilst I do not entirely agree with the above but I do think that the Buddha in the various scriptures and treatises had a healthy perspective on what is prosperity (in its many facets and perspectives) and how to manage it, both for the laity and the monastics. After all, even as a renunciate, He did accept the famed Veluvana & Jetavana and can count on the rich and famous of His day as part of His alms rounds routine and audience?

But what do you think Jikan? Is there anything wrong with using some glitz as another form of upaya as long as the Buddha Dharma is not manipulated? What is the difference between a plain statue of the Buddha and one with bling blings? Nothing for a discerning one I guess but again, how many of us are that discerning?
But not everyone walks through the front door I am told...
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Re: The Prosperity Dharma?

Postby Jikan » Sat Feb 02, 2013 2:29 pm

That's an interesting take.

I don't know if it's right or wrong per se. I'd like to know if it's effective, and if it is effective, at what cost, for whom, under what circumstances, and so on.

Glitz is not something I can profess any expertise in.
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Re: The Prosperity Dharma?

Postby Sherab Dorje » Sat Feb 02, 2013 3:23 pm

I think your experience differs from what Jikan is trying to say in the sense that Prosperity Dharma attempts to draw people to the "Dharma" by promising them that they will attain wealth as a consequence of practice. Do this "Buddhist" practice and you will gain: money, chicks (or dudes, depending on your proclivity), cars, prime real estate, etc...

Now in Vajrayana there are deities that one prays to for wealth, but anybody that tells you that by praying to Dzambhala you will become a millionaire is pulling your leg. These practices are about appreciating the wealth one has, overcoming greed and grasping and about acquiring the most valuable object of wealth available, permanent freedom from suffering!
:namaste:
"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: The Prosperity Dharma?

Postby pueraeternus » Sat Feb 02, 2013 4:49 pm

The Buddha himself taught the laity on how to wisely grow, tend and apportion their wealth (Sigalovada Sutta), and how wealth of this life is attained through generosity, but yet these teachings form a very small part of the vehicle of gods and men. I think the main reason for such teachings is to enable practitioners to secure better conditions or a better rebirth so that one will have more ease in practicing the dharma and not get bogged down by making ends meet. From my experience among the Chinese, a lot of lay people also have the aspiration of having more wealth so that they can give to the sangha and other charities.

I think with the right motive and aspirations, such "Prosperity Dharma" can lead to skillful ends, but I am afraid it is easy to deceive oneself. So I prefer such dharma not be propagated or at least toned down.
When I set out to lead humanity along my Golden Path I promised a lesson their bones would remember. I know a profound pattern humans deny with words even while their actions affirm it. They say they seek security and quiet, conditions they call peace. Even as they speak, they create seeds of turmoil and violence.

- Leto II, the God Emperor
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Re: The Prosperity Dharma?

Postby Jikan » Sat Feb 02, 2013 4:58 pm

pueraeternus wrote:I think with the right motive and aspirations, such "Prosperity Dharma" can lead to skillful ends, but I am afraid it is easy to deceive oneself. So I prefer such dharma not be propagated or at least toned down.


That's my understanding too. I may be looking at this through a particular cultural lens: I grew up down the road from Rajneeshpuram, and developed a deep skepticism toward the "society of the spectacle" at an early age.
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Re: The Prosperity Dharma?

Postby plwk » Sat Feb 02, 2013 6:12 pm

I think your experience differs from what Jikan is trying to say in the sense that Prosperity Dharma attempts to draw people to the "Dharma" by promising them that they will attain wealth as a consequence of practice. Do this "Buddhist" practice and you will gain: money, chicks (or dudes, depending on your proclivity), cars, prime real estate, etc...
Yes I agree that my response scope was stretched to other areas but BUT...
Who hasn't heard that just chant XXX mantra and you get what you want? Who hasn't been to some Dharma events and got 'mobbed' by pressure and marketing people who want to sell you their wares? You want good feng shui? There you are! A special edition large sized wealth vase for only $XXX whilst stocks last and voila! You want to attract good elements, people and promotion? There you are! This or that special pendant or amulet or limited edition mala. You want blessings? Think BIG, think GENEROUS! Be a Gold or Diamond Sponsor for this plot of temple land or grand statue and voila! The first incense for the New Year? Sponsorship open now for only $XXX and you get to stand next to the Grandmaster to offer the first auspicious incense stick for the Year of the Snake! Special pujas for this or that for only $XXX per annum/month and remove that obstacle or stop people from gossipping about ya.... Be the LIGHT OF BUDDHA! Sponsor lamps to chase away the darkness of this and that... HURRY NOW! Special limited edition of Rinpoche's mug or Ajahn's toothbrush, highly blessed and auspicious!
Sounds familiar? It's quite familiar in my part of the world, even without the satire...
Now in Vajrayana there are deities that one prays to for wealth, but anybody that tells you that by praying to Dzambhala you will become a millionaire is pulling your leg. These practices are about appreciating the wealth one has, overcoming greed and grasping and about acquiring the most valuable object of wealth available, permanent freedom from suffering!
Right, we know this but how many out there do or care? I don't exactly want to blame Dharma organisations but reality is, perception and how it is marketed sells... puts the 'butts on the seats' to borrow a Sister Act term and bills paid. Who wants to hear sermons when you can get 'packaged' deals? Better yet with no strings attached?

I used to have an insurance agent once who was quite an adept at rattling mantras and had invested in lots of Buddhist 'stuff' (especially wealth and naga vases) and rites, sponsoring this and that, to cover all areas of life from meeting monthly targets and promotions to having a life partner. He was taught by some 'Buddhists' that if did all that and bought all that, he would 'guarantee' results, some fast, some now, mostly no need for commitments, just do the rote. And no, he isn't a Buddhist at all. He just wanted a method and results, quick and now, worth the invested dollar. He wasn't interested in dusty books and all that yada yada philosophy. Last time I heard from another friend, he became a Christian, not sure which sect though.

I had a part time job back then with a pharmacy and its branch manager once proudly showed me her ring and shared that she went to Thailand and consulted a famous Ajahn who had a great reputation for psychic powers and powerful amulets. And she added that she had paid a handsome price for that ring which she was told that it 'guarantees' that her job will be secure until retirement. About 2 years later, after I had moved on, the entire pharmacy chain closed down and what I heard from some is that she had to move elsewhere. Today, that pharmacy shop is an auto repair shop. Remember what Ajahn Brahm had mentioned about that Thai General and his famous half a million dollars bullet proof amulet? Looks like the amulet outlived its owner in an 'experiment'...

Is this what the masters call 'spiritual materialism'? If so, then 'prosperity dharma' is well and alive amongst 'Buddhists'...
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Re: The Prosperity Dharma?

Postby Karma Dorje » Sat Feb 02, 2013 6:41 pm

gregkavarnos wrote:Now in Vajrayana there are deities that one prays to for wealth, but anybody that tells you that by praying to Dzambhala you will become a millionaire is pulling your leg. These practices are about appreciating the wealth one has, overcoming greed and grasping and about acquiring the most valuable object of wealth available, permanent freedom from suffering!
:namaste:


They are also primarily about generosity, particularly as a route to having what you need for dharma practice. I wouldn't discount their effectiveness in providing what you need for dharma practice in a very practical way, though becoming a millionaire is a bit far-fetched. These practices, combined with genuine generosity are truly like wish-granting jewels. As you say, the most important wealth is the dharma itself. Jambhala was a very important yidam of Milarepa, yet outwardly he had almost nothing at all.
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Re: The Prosperity Dharma?

Postby Jikan » Sat Feb 02, 2013 7:06 pm

Karma Dorje wrote:
gregkavarnos wrote:Now in Vajrayana there are deities that one prays to for wealth, but anybody that tells you that by praying to Dzambhala you will become a millionaire is pulling your leg. These practices are about appreciating the wealth one has, overcoming greed and grasping and about acquiring the most valuable object of wealth available, permanent freedom from suffering!
:namaste:


They are also primarily about generosity, particularly as a route to having what you need for dharma practice. I wouldn't discount their effectiveness in providing what you need for dharma practice in a very practical way, though becoming a millionaire is a bit far-fetched. These practices, combined with genuine generosity are truly like wish-granting jewels. As you say, the most important wealth is the dharma itself. Jambhala was a very important yidam of Milarepa, yet outwardly he had almost nothing at all.


Which is to say: one would practice Jambhala in order to practice Dharma. One would not practice Jambhala in order to get a bigger house, "better" brand-name clothes, higher-prestige job, and so on. The point is not to become a better consumer, better real-estate agent, more glamorous model, or whatever.
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