Making free retreat centers.

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Re: Making free retreat centers.

Postby byamspa » Fri Feb 08, 2013 5:52 pm

Its not any easier than setting up a foundation imo, the chances of success are probably the same if i bothered to assign statistical weights and calculate the probability.

Not all westerners are stingy scrooges, and if we think like that, well, we tend to create the reality outside thats inside our heads. A lot of us have ongoing sponsorship activity in one way or another. We need to learn the value of our own monastics and yogis.

Low cost housing vs foundation reveals basically the same basic problem, are we a community of practitioners or aren't we?

Is dharma actually worth enough to part with a few dineros over?
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Re: Making free retreat centers.

Postby Karma Dorje » Fri Feb 08, 2013 6:17 pm

byamspa wrote:Its not any easier than setting up a foundation imo, the chances of success are probably the same if i bothered to assign statistical weights and calculate the probability.

Not all westerners are stingy scrooges, and if we think like that, well, we tend to create the reality outside thats inside our heads. A lot of us have ongoing sponsorship activity in one way or another. We need to learn the value of our own monastics and yogis.

Low cost housing vs foundation reveals basically the same basic problem, are we a community of practitioners or aren't we?

Is dharma actually worth enough to part with a few dineros over?


I have spent a lot of money on supporting foundations over the last 20+ years. I personally have no problem with parting with money for dharma. However, by and large this model has not worked for large scale communities of practitioners because few of these have been built sustainably. Typically there are large mortgages, no source of food other than ongoing donations, large utility bills, etc. Practitioners then have their own mortgages, utility bills, expenses on top of this. It's neither efficient nor particularly successful to date. Almost every large scale non-residential community I know is constantly struggling for money.

Particularly in America, the whole society is heavily slanted to consumption. We need to adjust our tactics and cost models so that we don't waste practitioners lives in pointless expenses. Even Thoreau could see that almost 200 years ago.
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Re: Making free retreat centers.

Postby shel » Fri Feb 08, 2013 6:29 pm

Huseng wrote:Here I don't want to discuss whether it is justified or not to charge people to participate in retreats, but simply how an organization might go about making it free to participate while still accepting donations.

I'll propose a few ideas.

    -No electricity. That means no costs associated with lighting, appliances, phone, internet and so on. Less distractions, too.

    -Wood fired ovens for heating and cooking. If located in a rural area with the right to collect firewood, heating would be basically free.

    -No running water. Use outhouses and buckets of water from a well or water pump. No worry about plumbing expenses.

    -Communal sauna for bathing. Easily assembled and repaired if made of bricks and plywood.

    -Large kitchen garden for vegetables. Staple carbohydrates like rice and flour in bulk are cheap enough.

I was thinking how my mother grew up in rural Saskatchewan, Canada without any electricity or running water until the late 50s. I've lived close to this standard of living before and thought it was fine (I had electricity for maybe six hours a day though). It would really just be going back to the standard of living from an earlier time.


Don't have anything to add other than the opinion that it's a great idea.
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Re: Making free retreat centers.

Postby Indrajala » Sat Feb 09, 2013 3:03 am

byamspa wrote:Why do things need to be *free*?


If you built a facility that required minimal cash inputs and produced much of its own food through simple hardy vegetables like potatoes plus generated heat through locally cut wood, then anyone participating would be a useful addition rather than strictly a cost.


Seriously, I'm disturbed by this crazy idea that everything should be 'free'.



Buddhadharma is not a commodity. If you believe it is and should be bought and sold, you've missed the point. The Buddha didn't have any money and he didn't get paid to teach.

Yes, times are different and we live in a cash economy, but that doesn't necessitate charging fees for retreats and teachings that for many people, myself included, would be simply unaffordable.


No one will be willing to support their teachers or sangha if everyone has this attitude.



That's not really true. If you have a capable teacher and you're offering Dharma, then donations and support inevitably come. I've seen this work back home. If students and teachers form a bond, then they support them. If they don't form a bond, then they won't stick around anyways.



TAANSTAFL as they put it, everything has a cost, either in transportation, or food, or venue or texts or whatever.



Yes, but costs can be minimized. This is what I've been trying to get at here.




I can see some discrepancy in pricing for those who are needy, but in general, if one can pay, one should pay and not expect anything for free.


The commodification of Buddhism continues...
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Re: Making free retreat centers.

Postby Indrajala » Sat Feb 09, 2013 3:15 am

Karma Dorje wrote:However, by and large this model has not worked for large scale communities of practitioners because few of these have been built sustainably. Typically there are large mortgages, no source of food other than ongoing donations, large utility bills, etc.



Is the assumption that if they don't built modern and comfortable facilities, then nobody will come?

A lot of the gonpas out in India and Nepal are just cement buildings. No carpeting or hardwood floors. They paint them and that's about it. The shrine hall might be nice, but everything else is just spartan.

I don't see why something equivalent couldn't be built in a western country, especially if the weather wasn't brutal.

If food costs were kept to a minimum and a large part of it grown on the land, then the cost would be reduced considerably.
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Re: Making free retreat centers.

Postby Karma Dorje » Sat Feb 09, 2013 5:45 am

Huseng wrote:
Karma Dorje wrote:However, by and large this model has not worked for large scale communities of practitioners because few of these have been built sustainably. Typically there are large mortgages, no source of food other than ongoing donations, large utility bills, etc.



Is the assumption that if they don't built modern and comfortable facilities, then nobody will come?

A lot of the gonpas out in India and Nepal are just cement buildings. No carpeting or hardwood floors. They paint them and that's about it. The shrine hall might be nice, but everything else is just spartan.

I don't see why something equivalent couldn't be built in a western country, especially if the weather wasn't brutal.

If food costs were kept to a minimum and a large part of it grown on the land, then the cost would be reduced considerably.


It costs less to build sustainably using rammed earth or cob than it does to use cinder block, plus these methods comply with earthquake codes. Cinder block design is a deathtrap in an earthquake (see Haiti 2010). If you pay attention to water management like earthships do, you can have comfortable plumbing off grid. Adobe floors are durable and very cheap.

Peramculture gives you sustainable crops year after year with minimal cultivation.

The point is, one can live simply yet comfortably in safe structures by applying methods that are long on labour but very short on expense.
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Re: Making free retreat centers.

Postby David N. Snyder » Sat Feb 09, 2013 6:33 am

Huseng wrote:-Large kitchen garden for vegetables. Staple carbohydrates like rice and flour in bulk are cheap enough.


Good ideas. It wouldn't make it completely free, but might reduce costs quite a bit. It could never be completely free by the ideas in the OP alone because land would still have to be bought and paid for, perhaps mortgages or a land lease. The costs for the land would have to be paid by someone, either practitioners or some donors.
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Re: Making free retreat centers.

Postby David N. Snyder » Sat Feb 09, 2013 6:36 am

The Goenka vipassana retreats model using something similar to the "pay it forward" model. First time participants go on a 10 day retreat for free; no room, board, no costs for instruction or anything. After completing the 10 day retreat they are eligible to make donations for someone else to go in the future. I like this model and people are only asked to donate whatever amount they can afford. There is no set amount requirement for any donation, but by doing so, you are basically paying it forward, for someone else to go for free at a future time.
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Re: Making free retreat centers.

Postby David N. Snyder » Sat Feb 09, 2013 7:19 pm

Another model I like which could make most, if not all Dharma activities free of charge is to have the center own several houses on one lot. The temple / retreat center would be in one house and the other houses would be rented out to Buddhists or even non-Buddhists who pay rent to the organization. The funds are used for the upkeep and maintenance of all buildings, including the temple and any net profits are put back into the treasury of the center. Participants could give voluntary donations, but even in the event that no one gives, the center can survive off the rental incomes.

Lay people in the organization could handle the funds related to collecting rents and securing repairs. However, with this model, much capital would be needed upfront to secure such a place. It has worked in at least two places that I know of -- Dharmavijaya in Los Angeles and also International Buddhist Meditation Center, also in Los Angeles.
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Re: Making free retreat centers.

Postby Indrajala » Sun Feb 10, 2013 3:11 am

David N. Snyder wrote:Another model I like which could make most, if not all Dharma activities free of charge is to have the center own several houses on one lot. The temple / retreat center would be in one house and the other houses would be rented out to Buddhists or even non-Buddhists who pay rent to the organization. The funds are used for the upkeep and maintenance of all buildings, including the temple and any net profits are put back into the treasury of the center. Participants could give voluntary donations, but even in the event that no one gives, the center can survive off the rental incomes.

Lay people in the organization could handle the funds related to collecting rents and securing repairs. However, with this model, much capital would be needed upfront to secure such a place. It has worked in at least two places that I know of -- Dharmavijaya in Los Angeles and also International Buddhist Meditation Center, also in Los Angeles.



That's actually an age old model.

In the old days in many Buddhist cultures the monasteries owned a lot of land with tenet farmers who paid a portion of their harvests as rent.

Actually in Nepal and India there are Buddhist organizations which run guest houses to generate income (they might even be more profitable than renting out flats on a monthly basis).
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Re: Making free retreat centers.

Postby David N. Snyder » Sun Feb 10, 2013 5:27 am

Huseng wrote:In the old days in many Buddhist cultures the monasteries owned a lot of land with tenet farmers who paid a portion of their harvests as rent.

Actually in Nepal and India there are Buddhist organizations which run guest houses to generate income (they might even be more profitable than renting out flats on a monthly basis).


:thumbsup:
When I was in India, I was only there for a short time, but I did hear that many temples have guest houses for pilgrims. I stayed at Lotus Nikko in Bodh Gaya (hotel).

Huseng wrote:That's actually an age old model.


Excellent! Then we should use this proven model in the West too (in my opinion).
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Re: Making free retreat centers.

Postby Sara H » Wed Feb 13, 2013 8:12 am

Huseng wrote:Here I don't want to discuss whether it is justified or not to charge people to participate in retreats, but simply how an organization might go about making it free to participate while still accepting donations.


Actually, the latter, is the answer to the former.

You can make it free by having the monks live entirely on dana, the generosity of the Sangha and donations.

The OBC offers retreats for free.

They live entirely on donations, and, it makes their practice better, because it teaches them gratitude on very deep level.

I've seen more than one monk moved to tears by the donations they received for their practice.

This humility, in turn, makes them better teachers, and more compassionate.

So the laity get better Dharma talks.

It's a nice circle.

Even the smallest temples live on donations.

You might look to them to see how they set this up, for ideas and examples of how to do it.

Actually, Huseng, some of your ideas you proposed, they do actually use.

For instance, at Shasta Abbey, the guesthouse, has a wood fired boiler that a monk long ago who was a boiler expert in his lay life built.

It works great. They also make extensive use of gardens in the summer, and jar leftover produce. One temple that I know of makes it's own yogurt, they make their own vegetarian protein from ingredients bought in bulk, they recycle everything that can be reused, or send it to traditional recycling facilities, for instance, all of their "tupperware" is reused Smart Ballance and other margarine containers.

When they first built the monastery, they sometimes would volunteer to go places to take down old buildings, keeping and re-using the wood and supplies right down to the nails. A lot of the old monks laugh fondly about old working meditations where they would take hammers and re-bend nails straight to use them again. "they never want to go in straight again!"

They are very mindful about their use of electricity, but there's no avoiding it in the modern world to keep computers on and phones running, though I do believe many temples have some small solar cells as the project funding was donated.

Some of the best pancakes I've ever had were topped with homemade monk blackberry jam with fresh homemade yogurt. Yum! : )

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Re: Making free retreat centers.

Postby Yudron » Wed Feb 13, 2013 8:58 am

David N. Snyder wrote:
Huseng wrote:In the old days in many Buddhist cultures the monasteries owned a lot of land with tenet farmers who paid a portion of their harvests as rent.

Actually in Nepal and India there are Buddhist organizations which run guest houses to generate income (they might even be more profitable than renting out flats on a monthly basis).


:thumbsup:
When I was in India, I was only there for a short time, but I did hear that many temples have guest houses for pilgrims. I stayed at Lotus Nikko in Bodh Gaya (hotel).

Huseng wrote:That's actually an age old model.


Excellent! Then we should use this proven model in the West too (in my opinion).


The retreat center I am associated with frequently rents out its facilities to outside groups, especially weddings. They also earn money by providing food services for those events.
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