What can you afford?

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What can you afford?

Postby justsit » Tue Mar 01, 2011 6:49 pm

A recent topic mentioned that someone couldn't "afford" to purchase an item. That got me thinking, as the subject has been lurking in my mind for a while, and I would be interested in hearing others' views. That is, what does it mean to say that one cannot "afford" a particular financial expenditure? In American society, many people have credit cards, savings accounts, IRA's, 401K's, equity in a house, etc, all manner of financial resources. So, does "can't afford" mean - maxxed out on the credit card, flat broke and living on the street, don't want to dip into savings, can't make rent unless I skip Starbucks, or ??? This often comes to mind, too, in relation to attending dharma events, where it may be noted that no one is turned away for financial reasons - what does that mean?? How do you determine if you "can afford" a particular expense?

Please note, this discussion pertains to money only, not time, emotional energy, repercussions at home, etc.

Thanks in advance for your input.
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Re: What can you afford?

Postby Jikan » Tue Mar 01, 2011 7:26 pm

It's true that some have investments, equity in a home... even gainful employment!

Others are saddled with debt (from education or attempts at home ownership or "retail therapy," all imperatives in our culture), a mortgage you'll never live in.

Others have nothing and are nothing, and get by however they can.

And a very small select few have become so fantastically wealthy since the Reagan years that they own yachts with deployable submarines on them.

For the middle two categories, it's very very difficult to scrape together enough to attend a retreat. Time is stretched very thin, because the amount of time it takes to earn enough to cover expenses overlaps with the time it takes to properly parent... you see where this goes...

***

For myself, it takes a lot of careful planning to make sure I can cover retreats and gyo (training at the Tendai Buddhist Institute), and some sacrifices that many in North America would not want to make (clothes for instance, or entertainment stuff... "necessary" spectacle that is totally unnecessary)
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Re: What can you afford?

Postby Blue Garuda » Tue Mar 01, 2011 9:11 pm

I guess we all prioritise, if we are fortunate enough to have choices.

I feel that this should come from within, with due consideration.

I have experienced situations where disciples have felt unworthy because they didn't place the value of attending sect events over paying the rent and feeding their family. This has been either overtly suggested as more meritorious by their teacher, or has been pressure from fellow disciples. Give away all you have (to us) and place trust in the Buddhas and Protector X to look after you. Giving will create wealth in future lives. Eek!

I support my Sangha and Guru as best I can, but won't spend money needed for my family.

I distinguish between 'needs' and 'wants'.

I guess I could sell the house, car, possessions etc. but I think cherishing my family forms part of my practice, and in any case if I deliberately impoverished myself I would reduce the potential to help others.

I'm sure at times that I am too attached, too greedy and too hypocritical - which is why I'm grateful to Buddhism for reducing, and in due course eliminating, such desires.

We start from where we are, hopefully with some vision of where we wish to be.
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Re: What can you afford?

Postby Pero » Tue Mar 01, 2011 11:02 pm

I agree with posts above and here are my thoughts on it too.

There are exceptions but in general for me it means not being able to afford it without going broke to the extent of not being able to sustain one's basic needs (and perhaps those not so basic but important due to circumstances) and/or going into debt because of it. Though for the latter I have done so twice to receive teachings, but it was with my mother which IMO is not the same as a going into debt with a bank haha. Credit cards and stuff like that were invented by the devil so buyer beware...

As for savings accounts.. I don't have one but I do have a few shares of a successful company. Though I have used them in the past for other things (one of which coincidentally lead me to Tibetan Buddhism) I don't intend to use them to go receive teachings unless it's something really really important to me (I think I've been fortunate that I have received a great many teachings already so it would've have to be something pretty special I guess) because they're kind of like a dire need thing for me and my family, which is not an impossiblity in my circumstances.
Although many individuals in this age appear to be merely indulging their worldly desires, one does not have the capacity to judge them, so it is best to train in pure vision.
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Re: What can you afford?

Postby Chaz » Wed Mar 02, 2011 4:38 am

justsit wrote:A recent topic mentioned that someone couldn't "afford" to purchase an item. That got me thinking, as the subject has been lurking in my mind for a while, and I would be interested in hearing others' views. That is, what does it mean to say that one cannot "afford" a particular financial expenditure? In American society, many people have credit cards, savings accounts, IRA's, 401K's, equity in a house, etc, all manner of financial resources. So, does "can't afford" mean - maxxed out on the credit card, flat broke and living on the street, don't want to dip into savings, can't make rent unless I skip Starbucks, or ??? This often comes to mind, too, in relation to attending dharma events, where it may be noted that no one is turned away for financial reasons - what does that mean?? How do you determine if you "can afford" a particular expense?

Please note, this discussion pertains to money only, not time, emotional energy, repercussions at home, etc.

Thanks in advance for your input.



In my case, some things simply stretch the budget a bit too much and alternatives need to be entertained.

For instance, I'll need a couple Mandala plates pretty soon. Two will set me back about $50 with shipping. Now, because I'm a thrifty sort, and more importantly, my wife is a thrifty sort, I have to ask myself, "Should I save up my sheckles and buy a couple purpose-made pans for $50 or might I save a bit of money on something ( a circular cake pan) that will do the job even though it wasn't made for it and spend less than what one purpose-built plate would cost. You don't have to be a rocket scientist to figure out those mathematics.

A simple brass mandala plate stamped out in a factory in Nepal somewhere where material and labor doesn't come to a dollar is selling for $25 or more here in the states. Quite frankly, I don't care who's making it or why. The money I spend on the pan isn't going to house nuns, get robes for monks or educate orphans. It's makeing sombody wealthy with unreasonable and unfair markup. If someone can make and sell a pro-grade aluminum cake pan for $6, how in the hell is a smaller, poorly made brass unit worth four times as much?

To buy such things for practice, in a way, seems unskillful. I'm asked to pay way more than the thing is actually worth. I'm being asked to pay a premium price based almost soley on the cachet of it being made in a farway land by some mythical hard-working craftsman.

Because of the needs of my practice relative to my living situation, I'm currently converting a storeroom into a shrine room. I'll have to spend a couple hundred bucks to make the room useable (paint, carpet shampoo, etc.). I have bills to pay, a mortgage, a dozen birds and two dogs to feed, Sangha dues, I'm saving for a short retreat in late april, my wife's birthday is six weeks out, I've got a CT scan to figure out if my cancer is growing I'll have to pay part of in May, and blah, blah, blah.

Now, if I need $50 for something related to my practice, I'll have it, but I need to give some thought to perhaps finding something suitable at a lower price. If an item is simply not worth the money being asked, I can't afford the luxury of over-priced practice supplies.
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Re: What can you afford?

Postby Pema Rigdzin » Wed Mar 02, 2011 9:10 am

Chaz wrote:
In my case, some things simply stretch the budget a bit too much and alternatives need to be entertained.

For instance, I'll need a couple Mandala plates pretty soon. Two will set me back about $50 with shipping. Now, because I'm a thrifty sort, and more importantly, my wife is a thrifty sort, I have to ask myself, "Should I save up my sheckles and buy a couple purpose-made pans for $50 or might I save a bit of money on something ( a circular cake pan) that will do the job even though it wasn't made for it and spend less than what one purpose-built plate would cost. You don't have to be a rocket scientist to figure out those mathematics.

A simple brass mandala plate stamped out in a factory in Nepal somewhere where material and labor doesn't come to a dollar is selling for $25 or more here in the states. Quite frankly, I don't care who's making it or why. The money I spend on the pan isn't going to house nuns, get robes for monks or educate orphans. It's makeing sombody wealthy with unreasonable and unfair markup. If someone can make and sell a pro-grade aluminum cake pan for $6, how in the hell is a smaller, poorly made brass unit worth four times as much?

To buy such things for practice, in a way, seems unskillful. I'm asked to pay way more than the thing is actually worth. I'm being asked to pay a premium price based almost soley on the cachet of it being made in a farway land by some mythical hard-working craftsman.

Because of the needs of my practice relative to my living situation, I'm currently converting a storeroom into a shrine room. I'll have to spend a couple hundred bucks to make the room useable (paint, carpet shampoo, etc.). I have bills to pay, a mortgage, a dozen birds and two dogs to feed, Sangha dues, I'm saving for a short retreat in late april, my wife's birthday is six weeks out, I've got a CT scan to figure out if my cancer is growing I'll have to pay part of in May, and blah, blah, blah.

Now, if I need $50 for something related to my practice, I'll have it, but I need to give some thought to perhaps finding something suitable at a lower price. If an item is simply not worth the money being asked, I can't afford the luxury of over-priced practice supplies.


In light of what you've said above, I'd think that spending your "extra" money on the forms of offering and charity you've mentioned is probably worth more as part of your mandala offering than some fancy yet cheaply made and unfairly marked-up mandala set from Nepal. Maybe you should continue doing what you're doing, consider that part of your mandala offering, and follow another poster's advice from the other thread and find something to use that is special and meaningful to you whether it's spendy or not.

Only thing, I dunno how a cake pan will work though, unless your tradition has different instructions than mine. In mine, we place a bit of saffron water in the center of the pan and then wipe the pan in a clockwise direction with the inside of the wrist to clean it before placing the rice, etc on it. This symbolizes the "cleansing" of the obscurations and negativities from the alaya and represents enriching the offerings. That would be tough with the sides of the cake pan in the way. However, maybe your instructions are different. Also, the instructions I received were to take the very same pan I use for practice and assemble it into a mandala and place it on the shrine when my mandala offering session is done. Are you sure you have to get two separate pans/sets?
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Re: What can you afford?

Postby justsit » Fri Mar 04, 2011 1:38 am

Thanks to all for your thoughtful replies. Very helpful.
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Re: What can you afford?

Postby kirtu » Fri Mar 04, 2011 5:40 pm

justsit wrote: In American society, many people have credit cards, savings accounts, IRA's, 401K's, equity in a house, etc, all manner of financial resources.


The US is a poverty based society with many people living far beyond their means. Other people were just getting by or had some resources and then lost their employment in the 2008 Depression. Those people (myself included) can't pay their mortgage, have lost or are in serious danger of losing their home (loss of shelter), have no real access to health care (no health insurance and no access to health insurance since health care is rationed by money in the US), may have difficulty finding food (yes, even in the US), and many more devastations. A person is a person in the US if and only if they aren't poor. Otherwise they cannot buy access to the society.

That's what it means and that is the reality for some 17% of the US population (myself included). BTW - I was a software engineer most of my working life (still going on) and prematurely started my own company, then went into teaching to help students learn computer science and was one of the 1000 people fired in DC over the past four years. I have an MS in computer science with some PhD work. But guess what - 3 years teaching computer science in a DC high school + being > 45 means I'm unemployable.

Generally being fired in the US is the Mafia kiss of death.

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