The costs of different Buddhist traditions

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The costs of different Buddhist traditions

Postby Luke » Thu Aug 08, 2013 10:27 pm

I thought it might be interesting to compare the monetary costs for the average practioner in different Buddhist traditions (and I don't mean for this to lead to value judgements such as "Oh, this school is bad because it's expensive" and "This one is so good because it's cheap").

I believe that Tibetan Buddhism is probably the most expensive Buddhist tradition to practice because of all the empowerment ceremonies.
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Re: The costs of different Buddhist traditions

Postby deff » Thu Aug 08, 2013 11:36 pm

well since generosity is a perfection in mahayana buddhism, one could argue all mahayana schools could equally be expensive if one engaged in much generosity. but i think that thinking of this in terms of a 'cost' might hinder the mindset of generosity :smile:

as far as travel costs and retreats and things go, it does seem like tibetan buddhists typically spend more on these due to the emphasis on empowerments like you said and retreat practices. but this doesn't have to be the case, one can find ways to attend even if they are short on funds, and practitioners of other schools also have costs associated with retreats if they partake in them. also, living near one's dharma centre significantly reduces costs as there's no travel expenses... things are much more expensive when one has to travel far for teachings and empowerments. :smile:

also, some people seem to seek out many different empowerments, in which case the costs go up. other practitioners receive fewer empowerments but just practice what they receive with diligence.
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Re: The costs of different Buddhist traditions

Postby JKhedrup » Fri Aug 09, 2013 1:12 am

Generally temples with an "Ethnic Buddhist" (I prefer "Born-Buddhist) populaton will not have to charge for anything because people give voluntary donations without being requested, and culture-specific ceremonies like death anniversaries and the like provide a steady source of funding. Also, the temple is often the community centre- where people socialize and bring their kids, so they give generously as it is such a big part of their lives.

WASP Buddhists, on the other hand, do not come from a culture where it is common to make large donations to religious institutions. The Dharma Centre model is seen as a place to receive education and training in the philosophy and practices of Buddhism. People are serious students in general and would not take kindly to kids running around outside during the teachings. So accordingly, these types of institutions tend to charge course fees as a way to cover the costs of providing for the teacher and in some cases translator, the venue and the administrative expenses. I find that these courses are quite expensive. But the truth is they often barely cover costs. At the centre where I work in Holland our director is working to develop a different model, where outside groups who hold seminars in our facilities for a fee cover the expenses of the Buddhist courses, so they can be offered for free. It will take awhile to get there though.

So I think it makes more sense to divide the discussion across these lines that dividing it across yanas. So for example, one of my Gelug Vajrayana teachers has mostly Viet Namese students, and there is never a charge for courses or empowerments. This is also the case at a Toronto Karma Kagyu centre where there is a large Hong Kong and Taiwanese Chinese contingent. But at Riwoche, for example, where the students are mostly Westerners, I find the programs to be quite expensive.

Zen is also an expensive proposition- including the Rinzai centre that charges fees for training weekends. The upcoming Canadian retreat with Thich Nhat Hanh costs between $700-885 plus tax for a six day event, with shared accomodations.
In order to ensure my mind never comes under the power of the self-cherishing attitude,
I must obtain control over my own mind.
Therefore, amongst all empowerments, the empowerment that gives me control over my mind is the best,
and I have received the most profound empowerment with this teaching.
-Atisha Dipamkara
brtsal ba'i bkhra drin
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Re: The costs of different Buddhist traditions

Postby plwk » Fri Aug 09, 2013 2:44 am

I guess it depends on who's the management / board of directors of the centre/temple/monastery.

If you get the type that has a 'fetish' for what I call a 'lifestyle Buddhism' where the most glam, most eye catching, most attention seeking stuff, most hip stuff are sought after rather than the Buddha Dharma, yes, it can be costly, not because the Buddha Dharma demands it so but that's the perceived way of them wanting the 'best' justified in the name of the Buddha Dharma for projecting themselves in a certain way to society and individuals and they would normally expect their members to splurge as well, regardless of whether they need it or not. Then they'll tell you that living beyond your means (i.e buying and sponsoring their stuff and events) is challenging yourself to practice Dharma, 'reducing your miserliness' and in return one gets bundles of blessings and prosperity, sounds familiar? In my part of the world, it's known as 'face saving'...but what to do? In order to keep up with the 'lifestyle', they have to constantly do endless and aggressive before and after puja or social media promotions to pay the tab for such an image...

I have been to simple Tibetan Buddhist centres where they take into account the needs of the average man in the street and not just the well heeled. Yet there are East Asian Mahayana centres and temples which also indulge in 'lifestyle Buddhism'. You should look at some of their puja event posters highlighting sponsorship for 'Diamond', 'Gold', 'Silver' or 'Buddha', 'Bodhisattva', 'Arhat' categories, mostly 10k and above. Yes, religion is 'big business', don't let anyone tell you otherwise. I haven't even gone into what the other religious paraphernalia stuff sold and their price tags are on such events, prices beyond the budgets of the average and below at times like those touristy temples.

Costly retreats and so forth, it seems to send a message to the have nots that if you don't have the dough, then you don't go, as simple as that, too bad.
I have always wondered on the need to do it in upmarket hotels and posh places versus a simple community hall to make the teachings or pujas more assessable to the mass population than just a small pool. Already, it's costly to bring in teachers, visas and the whole spectrum of event organising.
And the cost is compounded by having it at top rated places and not to mention perhaps some teachers have their 'fees' too...

So, it's not a question of which tradition but which management perhaps?
This reminds of back when I was a Christian, I was once reading on the life of Martin Luther, the German Reformer, who remarked that there was once he heard those Catholic peddlers of indulgences back in his day who sang: As soon as the coin in the coffer rings, the soul from Purgatory springs...
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Re: The costs of different Buddhist traditions

Postby lobster » Fri Aug 09, 2013 7:05 am

The dharma is priceless
but some priceless dharmas are more costly than free. :thinking:

The best environments are usually free of monetary issues. Simply because practice not bling is the environment. Most of the vajrayana schools around here offer free classes. FWBO charge for all meditational meets. Theravadin offer free classes. Ethnic schools are free but are often more community and social institutions.
Cults are free and even give you stuff . . . initially.

My teacher paid all my expenses, despite my best efforts to contribute. However that is not open to most of us :crying:

:woohoo: Dana . . .
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Re: The costs of different Buddhist traditions

Postby Astus » Fri Aug 09, 2013 11:12 am

Traditions don't have costs. Only one's practice has. If one is content with keeping some precepts, that has a low cost in terms of money and time. If you spend some time with formal practices, that has a time cost. If you go to retreats, that costs time and money. If you by books and/or go to teachings, that costs time and money, but if you do that online the costs are lower in money but not in time. If you buy Buddhist paraphernalia that costs money but not much time. And if you become a home leaver that has practically no cost in money but all your time.

It is perfectly possible to do low cost Vajrayana. A single transmission can be enough to give you all that you need for your practice.
"There is no such thing as the real mind. Ridding yourself of delusion: that's the real mind."
(Sheng-yen: Getting the Buddha Mind, p 73)

"Neither cultivation nor seated meditation — this is the pure Chan of Tathagata."
(Mazu Daoyi, X1321p3b23; tr. Jinhua Jia)

“Don’t rashly seek the true Buddha;
True Buddha can’t be found.
Does marvelous nature and spirit
Need tempering or refinement?
Mind is this mind carefree;
This face, the face at birth."

(Nanyue Mingzan: Enjoying the Way, tr. Jeff Shore; T2076p461b24-26)
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Re: The costs of different Buddhist traditions

Postby LastLegend » Fri Aug 09, 2013 5:33 pm

I have not spent a dime on Buddhist teachings. Got no paid books. Don't spend and it will not cost ya. Be cheap. :rolling:

Take care

―Listen! Those of you who devote yourselves to the Dharma
must not be afraid of losing your bodies and your lives―
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Re: The costs of different Buddhist traditions

Postby Johnny Dangerous » Fri Aug 09, 2013 8:12 pm

At my Dharma Center, i've been pleasantly surprised by the fact that there is almost no compulsory charge for anything, and even retreats and empowerment from the nearby monastery should one want them, are very affordable.

However, I am more then happy to donate my fair share per month, as well as to put in a bit of work if I can.

I don't mind paying at all, both the Sangha I have been involved with long term (first Zen and now Tibetan) did not ask for anything specific, but I think it's good to do one's bit in supporting even non-Buddhist ventures that you get something out of if possible.

There are a few places in my town that "charge" - basically compulsory donation it sounds like- something like $80-100 a month to go there. Aside from anything else, this strikes me as terrible in terms of having Dharma teaching available for different income brackets.

It seems like people can sometimes make things expensive for themselves though, needing the best handcrafted mala, the nicest statues etc...alot of stuff can be had from thrift stores, or found here and there. Empowerment can get expensive I suppose..but how many different practices does one need anyway? I hear about people sort of collecting them, but then all the authoritative statements i've heard or seen seem to say don't collect practices, pick one or a few and practice then deeply.
"We're chained to the world and we all gotta pull" -Tom Waits
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Re: The costs of different Buddhist traditions

Postby Jikan » Fri Aug 09, 2013 9:25 pm

Before you're through, you will wind up giving it all up, giving away any idea of "I" or "mine." dana-paramita!

this is true of any Buddhist tradition to the best of my knowledge. So they all cost the same: whatever you got.
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Re: The costs of different Buddhist traditions

Postby dyanaprajna2011 » Fri Aug 09, 2013 10:30 pm

Jikan wrote:Before you're through, you will wind up giving it all up, giving away any idea of "I" or "mine." dana-paramita!

this is true of any Buddhist tradition to the best of my knowledge. So they all cost the same: whatever you got.

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Re: The costs of different Buddhist traditions

Postby zerwe » Sat Aug 10, 2013 2:18 am

My center's teachings, empowerments, etc... are offered at no charge and we have 4 (sometimes 5)
ordained Sangha. We are able to operate due to the enormous generosity of our members. For retreats there has been a fairly recent
charge to cover expenses (food, etc..) and this is probably cheaper than what you would spend at home.

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Re: The costs of different Buddhist traditions

Postby lobster » Sat Aug 10, 2013 4:17 am

Supporting others, working for the sangha or in my case being able to obtain better living accommodation for my teacher is not expensive. What is costly is wasting time and money on anything but liberation. This you have been told many times for free. :popcorn:
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