Expenses

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Expenses

Postby Monsoon » Wed May 15, 2013 10:11 pm

Greetings,

As a relative newcomer to the practice and theory of buddhism I have, perhaps naturally, indulged in some wild and unstructured interweb searching for anything and everything connected with the subject - as one does!

Anywho, I have a totally materialistic question: why are the trappings of buddhism so damned expensive?

For clarifiaction I will add that I currently reside in New Zealand - a country not known for its eclectic marketplace. Zafu/zabuton sets are a good example - priced 'in-country' at over NZ$110 despite being made of the cheapest and least durable cotton fabric. Buying online bumps this price to over NZ$200 because of the enforced need to ship stuff in. Considering that if you have the pattern you can stitch one together for about 20 bucks + filling... yeah, go figure. Statuary is another major issue. There are plenty of really nice wooden buddhas that come out of Bali (for instance) - these are often available at source for no more than a few dollars. By the time they are available in NZ the price has skyrocketed, often in excess of $300. It's even more expensive if one wants a statue of Guanyin.

I get that the common market wil exploit what it sees as a relative niche area, but this over-pricing is rampant in in temples and other 'legitimate' outlets too. Robes are another thing. A koromo, for example, will typically set you back at least US$175 via online sellers. It is a comparatively simple garment that commands ridiculous prices (and in actuality I cannot even find a free pattern for a koromo - which is a little odd).

While I did find all this frustrating at one time, and then just disappointing, I am aware that I need none of this for actual practice. My disappointment stems more from the fact of what seems targetted exploitation coupled with the denial of choice.

Anyone else noticed this?

Thanks for attending to my ramblings.

Monsoon
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Re: Expenses

Postby shel » Wed May 15, 2013 10:16 pm

I made my own sitting cushion, figuring it would be less expensive, but it ended up costing around $90 for materials. :thinking:
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Re: Expenses

Postby Johnny Dangerous » Wed May 15, 2013 10:44 pm

You can find every material trapping you'd need from thrift stores if that's what you want.

I can only imagine that you if you look hard enough you can find an inexpensive statue, cushion etc. For me personally that's more meaningful too, the act of finding it meaning more than the act of simply paying for it.
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is not born in the hearts of disciples in whom the moisture of attachment has dried up. It grows instead in the hearts of ordinary sentient beings who possess in full the fetters of bondage." -Se Chilbu Choki Gyaltsen
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Re: Expenses

Postby Jikan » Wed May 15, 2013 10:58 pm

Johnny Dangerous wrote:You can find every material trapping you'd need from thrift stores if that's what you want.

I can only imagine that you if you look hard enough you can find an inexpensive statue, cushion etc. For me personally that's more meaningful too, the act of finding it meaning more than the act of simply paying for it.

:good:

And for a basic practice set-up, it doesn't really take too much. The point of all this stuff is to support practice. It's helpful and useful insofar as it supports practice. Otherwise, you're better off saving your money so you can travel for teachings and retreat.
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Re: Expenses

Postby Hickersonia » Wed May 15, 2013 10:59 pm

I have definitely noticed some absurd pricing... at least absurd when put into relation with my budget.

I use an old couch cushion instead of a Zafu and my statuary were both purchased for under US$25, one via Buddhagroove and the other at a home and garden store. I even purchased a singing bowl on Amazon for about US$40, and the table my shrine lives on is a US$20 coffee table.

Most of the things you mention really can be done without or had at a reasonable price (at least in the U.S.) if you don't mind it not being touted as "hand crafted."

I hope you find the things you are looking for at a price you can be happy with, but failing that, maybe realize that you don't really need the things too bad to begin with. :anjali:
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Re: Expenses

Postby Ramon1920 » Wed May 15, 2013 11:05 pm

I think most people who identify themselves as Buddhist in traditionally non Buddhist regions are accustomed to buying things to fit what they identify themselves as; be it malas, cushions, bumper stickers, coffee mugs, or whatever novelty. Eventually competition will bring down prices, but why should we care; most of that stuff is useless anyways.
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Re: Expenses

Postby Karma Dorje » Wed May 15, 2013 11:07 pm

For making your own cushions, look for high density foam like what is used in gym mats or motorcycle seats. You can find local materials and simply sew your own cover.

http://www.dunlopfoam.co.nz/Distributor ... ists-Foam/

For statues, I would look carefully on Ebay. You can find deals and even with shipping it will be much cheaper than local.

Good luck!
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Re: Expenses

Postby dzogchungpa » Wed May 15, 2013 11:10 pm

I got my meditation cushion at a Salvation Army store for exactly 1 US dollar. Before that, I used a folded up towel.
ཨོཾ་མ་ཧཱ་ཤུནྱ་ཏཱ་ཛྙཱ་ན་བཛྲ་སྭཱ་བྷཱ་བ་ཨཱཏྨ་ཀོ་྅ཧཾ༔

The thousands of lines of the Prajnaparamita can be summed up in the following two sentences:
1) One should become a Bodhisattva (or, Buddha-to-be), i.e. one who is content with nothing less than all-knowledge attained through the perfection of wisdom for the sake of all beings.
2) There is no such thing as a Bodhisattva, or as all-knowledge, or as a ‘being’, or as the perfection of wisdom, or as an attainment.
To accept both these contradictory facts is to be perfect.
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Re: Expenses

Postby Konchog1 » Wed May 15, 2013 11:13 pm

I haven't noticed the prices too much, but I do notice people who like to buy clothes and toys and play pretend. I have a neighbor who litters her house with Buddhas and Mandala Sets. She once boasted that she took the Bodhisattva vows from HHDL. Feigning ignorance I asked what the Bodhisattva vows are. She said she didn't know. When I pointed out that breaking the vows is negative karma she angrily replied "that's not my Buddhism". lol ok
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Re: Expenses

Postby KeithBC » Wed May 15, 2013 11:25 pm

The pricing is a skillful means to illustrate the Second Noble Truth: that desire causes suffering. :D

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Re: Expenses

Postby Johnny Dangerous » Thu May 16, 2013 12:10 am

Konchog1 wrote:I haven't noticed the prices too much, but I do notice people who like to buy clothes and toys and play pretend. I have a neighbor who litters her house with Buddhas and Mandala Sets. She once boasted that she took the Bodhisattva vows from HHDL. Feigning ignorance I asked what the Bodhisattva vows are. She said she didn't know. When I pointed out that breaking the vows is negative karma she angrily replied "that's not my Buddhism". lol ok



Lol, my Buddhism doesn't have like, responsibility and all that, it's just about peace and happiness, man.

On the OP, seriously though..just stack some soft stuff under your butt until your tailbone is supported, you can make your own meditation belt too out of old martial arts belts for long sittings. I have a nice looking altar with a bunch of Buddhas..minus my thangka (pricy gift from wife) I imagine that over the years I have spent maybe 50 bucks on stuff, and that is a high estimate.

Anything you need physically can be not only procured for cheap, sometimes it's also making use of the excesses of throwaway culture. Think about it, someone just dumped off these Buddhas at the local Goodwill, and it was your Karma to dust em off and give them the respect the deserve. Sounds silly I know, but really, money is not an issue so much if you don't feel the need for "official" stuff. A Buddha that was someone's lawn ornament from the 60's (that's where a big one I have came from lol) deserves the same respect as one that someone spent hundreds of dollars on.

On the issue of why stuff is so expensive, well, alot of the market for these things I suspect aren't even Buddhists, there is an herb store/one stop shop for anything to make you look spiritual in my town that sells ridiculously expensive Buddhas to people who likely won't give a second thought to what the images are, but probably love the image it projects to own one! To me it's another minor reason to simply hunt down used images that someone bought and then ditched.
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is not born in the hearts of disciples in whom the moisture of attachment has dried up. It grows instead in the hearts of ordinary sentient beings who possess in full the fetters of bondage." -Se Chilbu Choki Gyaltsen
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Re: Expenses

Postby Monsoon » Thu May 16, 2013 1:44 am

Erm... okay, lots of posts about doing things on the cheap.

I'm not in the market for this stuff - I make do with things that already abide in my house - rather I was simply noting the marketing approach.

It's funny. :smile: it seems that when you look around, the more healthy (physically, mentally, or spiritually) a practice is, the more expensive the perceived (and largely unneccessary) accessories tend to be.

However, at some point in my life I would probably quite like to invite a suitable external representation of Buddha into my home - by suitable I mean one that appeals to my sense of the aesthetic (I obviously have a very long way to go to drop all this baggage I suspect).

Of course, the irony of it all is that the only thing required is the intention to follow the dharma. Temples, monks wearing funny clothes, imagery, special cushions, and all the rest are not required and yet still exist. Not just for buddhism either.
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Re: Expenses

Postby Indrajala » Thu May 16, 2013 3:22 am

Monsoon wrote:Anywho, I have a totally materialistic question: why are the trappings of buddhism so damned expensive?


Because Buddhism has become commodified. It is a new lifestyle of sorts that is sold, complete with an identity you can customize and show off to the world. It isn't enough to just have a bag. It has to be a "Dharma bag". It isn't enough to have incense. They need to be handmade by Tibetan refugees in India just because anything else wouldn't be legit enough and you feel connected to the Tibetan cause. It is like buying "organic" or "fair trade" coffee. It gives you the feeling of "doing your part".

Here in India you can really see the height of this in places like Dharamsala. Over in Kathmandu it is the same. The locals capitalize on the spiritual tourism and make a killing. You can find luxury guest houses strategically placed near holy sites like Namo Buddha. Most locals could never afford to stay in such a place, so that tells you something about the intentions of the owners.

This actually ruins a lot of places because the cost of being a pilgrim multiplies.

When I was in Sarnath I went to one guest house. I asked how much. The guy looked at me for a few moments sizing me up and trying to calculate how much he could rip me off.

"600 rupees."

I said I'd give him 300. No deal. However, the Tibetan temple gave me a room for 150 rupees / night. Still, though, that's quite high given the fact the locals earn that amount in a day. Maybe Tibetans and the few Indians who want a room pay less than foreigners.

In Bodhgaya and elsewhere, too, the merchants all try to suck as much money from pilgrims. The tour agencies rip everyone off. There are seldom fixed prices on anything from rooms to malas. If they can get more money from you, they'll try.

So, basically the spiritual expenses problem is found here as well. You can't ignore it either because at the major sites the swindlers will come to you if you look foreign (and not just white folks, Japanese and Koreans get harassed as well).


Zafu/zabuton sets are a good example - priced 'in-country' at over NZ$110 despite being made of the cheapest and least durable cotton fabric.


You can make your own as others have suggested.

I once made a cushion by folding a towel and then covering it in cloth tightly. It worked quite well.



My disappointment stems more from the fact of what seems targetted exploitation coupled with the denial of choice.

Anyone else noticed this?


Religion is good business.
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Re: Expenses

Postby greentara » Thu May 16, 2013 4:08 am

Years ago a close family member did the 8 day return trek to Muktinath. It cost him $250- The delightful guide Babu Ram got a tiny portion while the tour operator creamed off the bulk. Today there is a sealed road with heaps of traffic, dust and commotion.... it would be at least 4 times the price. Who would want to travel there now?
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Re: Expenses

Postby PadmaVonSamba » Thu May 16, 2013 4:18 am

I made a cushion by stuffing towels into a pillow case. It's great. Everything else is pretty much scrapped together, although I have very nice things to, given to me by teachers and friends.

That being said, I also manufacture stuff for the Buddhist (mainly Kagyu) market and operate a web page where people can purchase malas and other items at rather high prices. The reason why the prices are high is that 100% of the proceeds benefits a gompa (nunnery) for girls and young women in India, many who have no family or means of income and would likely be forced into some horrible life otherwise. They were in essentially a barn before, and it was destroyed by a mud slide. But a beautiful place was donated where a new temple, school room and living quarters has been built. You can see pictures here:
http://artclix.com/vajra/slideshow/anistory00.html
So, a lot of the time the money is going to worthwhile causes. But not always.
I used to have a dear friend from Nepal, who always had something to sell. I used to call him a Used Yak salesman.
"I need to sell this to feed my starving mother! Give you really good deal!"

But the things I manufacture, not only does the sale of them support the nuns, but they can be purchased in bulk quantities so that dharma groups can sell them and fund raise for themselves.

As far as robes and shrine things, etc. there is a huge industry of all kinds of expensive buddhist stuff. It's rather mind-boggling. Whole department stores full of it in many Asian countries. A lot of really tacky junk that comes out of China, that is sold to people who are looking for a way to happiness through non-attachment. What irony!

When something is manufactured, the final retail price has to be at least 4 times the initial cost to manufacture it. So, if something has a price tag of 100, it costs the person who made it 25, he sold it to the store for 50, and the store sells it to the customer for 100. For this type of item If your investment isn't doubled, you can't stay in business.

Many people psychologically need a lot of crap. Then gradually, they let go of it.
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Re: Expenses

Postby randomseb » Thu May 16, 2013 5:17 am

It was suggested to me that a set of tibetan robes would be significantly cheaper if I asked a tibetan monk to pick one up in India at one of the street vendors, for super cheap, and bring it over to Canada during his visit here

:rolling:
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Re: Expenses

Postby Monsoon » Thu May 16, 2013 6:02 am

Thanks to all for the replies.

If the money for sales goes to fund something worthwhile, that's one thing. If it represents a fair value for an item and goes to the artisan, that's another, but I will always try to avoid assuaging someone else's greed. I use a mala both to practice and as a reminder to practice. I bought mine from an online seller (cost about $10). Was it good value? Was for me, might be cheaper at source, but then the price was low anyway. And it serves its purpose.

I'm not terribly attached to these things. However, if someone has invested a lot of time and energy into creating something wonderful I cannot help but appreciate it. Is that wrong, considering it is just a thing?

Ven. Indrajala, nice to make your acquaintance, and thanks for your input on what must surely be a trivial issue! :bow:

Monsoon
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Re: Expenses

Postby Sherab Dorje » Thu May 16, 2013 10:50 am

You can find really nice, cheap statues on ebay. That's where I get most of mine from.
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One will be like a blind man who has no eyes."
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Re: Expenses

Postby Simon E. » Thu May 16, 2013 11:49 am

I started with a posh zafu that I couldn't afford at the time as a student, made even more expensive by having it imported from the U.S.... :crazy:
Eventually I graduated to an old sofa cushion covered with a throw...

It does the job.
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Re: Expenses

Postby yegyal » Thu May 16, 2013 12:57 pm

"Targeted exploitation" sounds a little over the top to me, but perhaps you're looking in strange places. In my experience it's the cheap junk where you find the big mark-up in price and where the people that sell this stuff actually make their money. It's pretty common to see something that costs a dollar in Nepal being sold for twenty in America. The actual quality stuff isn't made to exploit, but rather for a discerning market that has high standards in terms of craftsmanship, materials, authenticity of design etc. There are certain parts of Kathmandu that have been famous for these kinds of Dharma materials for centuries and rightly so, because they're very good at what they do. But this isn't tourist junk that get's touted from little stalls or by guys that follow you around saying, "hello, something?" Or, sold on the internet or ebay by people trying to finance their annual trip to Asia. The good stuff is made for the big monasteries or for households where the silverware that gets passed down from generation to generation is stuff that goes in the shrine room, not the dining room.

Of course, if you're just looking for something to stick under your butt, quality may not be your top priority. Unfortunately, if you want Japanese stuff you may just have to accept the fact its going to be expensive.
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