"I don't live that near to any DC center so why would I go to a course with all the expenses (course + travel + accommodation + food = lots of money) if I can easily learn it from a book and DVD (~10 times less than combined cost of course)? This of course doesn't apply for people living near the centers."
[Now I am writing]
No monetization structure (how much the different classes of membership pay) of any retreat, of the DC, has ever addressed the issue of the HUGH COST differential for people coming from far away. I was going to 3-4 retreats per year since 1982 at a cost from $300 to $1500 per retreat. Because of my good jobs, I could happily afford this. Most people cannot. The webcasts help, but are not the same thing as attending in person.
I speak of:
"Example: For the wealthy who are meritorious members of the DC, who live within commuting distance of Conway, [for] the upcoming DC retreat there is 0 actual cost for the retreat. For a non-member, coming from Hawaii (worse case distance in the US), who has attended any DC retreat before, the actual cost is $600 plus airfare of around $800, plus bus transportation to the Conway area of $100 r/t, plus motel of $60 per night, for the 7 nights necessary to attend the retreat, so add $400. This makes a total of almost $2000.
The DC retreats have developed a reputation as a "club for the rich."
At the last Tsegyalgar retreat, the attendance dropped to 350 from the previous retreat's 650.
What is wrong with this picture?"
Sure on the website there is a disclaimer stating:
"Special Circumstances: DCA will make every effort to make this retreat financially accessible to anyone interested in the Teachings. If you have special circumstances to discuss, please email the Yellow Gakyil at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Work Study Positions: A limited number of Work Study positions are available for this retreat on a first-come first served basis. If you're interested, please email the Work Study Coordinator, Rita Kaiser at: email@example.com
I fear that many poor people are too humble, or shy, to apply for the "special circumstances."
I fear that many who would want work study are turned down because of the "limited number of positions."
The $2000, cost comparison made above, is between the actual total costs of attending the upcoming Tseygyalgar retreat, for 2 different types of DC membership. Two thousand dollars is a great deal of money.
My gut sense is that this amount of difference could easily be a show stopper, for someone of limited means, coming from far away. This would be a shame.
The Conway Mass. retreat is the only long retreat this year in the USA. It is nice that there are several, few day, retreats in the West of the US, but this is not the same experience as a week with Rinpoche. Had the far-away, non-member (in this example) been offered the same price as the normal, or reduced member, they would have an additional $300 to pay for the other expenses. Had the Conway retreat been charged for at a flat $100 for all types of membership, this would have allowed an additional $500 to be put towards the actual costs of hotel and transportation. This could easily be the tipping point between attending and not attending.
My 2 cents is that retreats should be charged for at actual cost, and not be used to raise operating funds. Operating funds should be raised by the membership fees and direct donations. I think that then, many more people would be able to attend the precious retreats of ChNNR and get the benefit. If the retreat fee was a fixed $100 for all classes of membership, then with the 350 people who attended last year, $35,000 would have been raised. I believe that this would have easily covered expenses. Of course it is also wise and prudent, to offer reduced retreat fees to the elderly, students and those on "reduced" membership. The Tseygyalgar Gakyil did NOT/NOT allow for any of these reductions in fees.
I strongly believe that fees charged, should not be a potential show stopper imposed by a Dharma organization. In recognition of this, many Dharma groups include the phrase, "no one will be turned away due to lack of funds," in their advertisements for Dharma events. The inclusion of this phrase makes the point that all are welcome.
My 2 cents is that the high prices and SHAMEFUL differentiation, between what a "meritorious" member pays and what a non member pays, is caused by the people setting these monetization policies being disconnected from the realities of ordinary people. At least 2 of the 3 members of the yellow Gakyil at Tseygyalgar are VERY wealthy (perhaps meritorious members?). They are supported in their setting the pricing by some members of the Gakyil, (local and international) who give the appearance of simply not caring if people get access to the retreats and Teachings.
I can't understand the thinking of these people at all. My 2 cents is that there must be some kind of ego reward to themselves, by feeling that they can differentiate themselves in a good way, in their own minds, between those who can afford to pay the high prices and those who can not. This is the mentality of: "I've got it, you want it, and I am not going to let you have it unless you pay me for it." This works for business. It does not apply to any Buddha Dharma, Dzogchen or otherwise. This is the opposite of open-hearted kindness, which is the essence of ALL Buddha Dharma, Dzogchen or otherwise, (as illuminated through the 3 emptys and four strayings).
The appearance, is that these self-satisfied members of the Gaykil, and their advisors, simply do not care, in a way that is helpful to everyone. Financial prosperity is not necessarily the same as open-hearted kindness. Open-hearted kindness can include great financial prosperity.
Offering "special circumstances" and "limited work study" OR a free on-line Mirror subscription, OR a Tseygyalgar blog, OR pot-luck dinners with bingo (I could not make this up), OR paper making courses (I could not make this up), OR barbecues on the land, is NOT
the same thing as open-hearted kindness: making EVERYONE feel welcome, and included, at retreats, (and with regards to equal access to all the Teachings), regardless of their financial standing.
Perhaps doing our best can be done better! Well organized, well managed, retreats are not necessarily kindly, including everyone, retreats. With open-hearted kindness, and equal access to the Teachings, everything is possible. Perhaps we need to find Gaykil members (local and international) who embody this.
This is not politics, whining, or passive aggression. It is a simple statement of the way things actually are in the DCA, in the completely sincere hope that the powers-that-be will make things easier for those with limited means. Hence my illustration of the $2000 difference, and all this blah, blah, blah.
For an old timer like myself, who is just happy to sit in the sun, I can be at the other side of the world and still get the benefit of the DI, by webcast. For newcomers, I think that it would be useful to attend retreats in person, in order to get the DI more directly, and at least until confidence in this experience is developed.
I am eternally grateful to Ven. ChNNR, and my other Ven. Dharma Teachers for sharing their precious Dharma Teachings with me. Personally, I am a very happy camper and have no complaints what-so-ever.
"We are all in the same boat."
Be the boat.