Paying For The Dhamma

Theravāda in the 21st century - modern applications of ancient wisdom
Jhana4
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Paying For The Dhamma

Postby Jhana4 » Wed Feb 09, 2011 6:13 pm

I recently read this article about illegal file sharing of non-free multimedia dhamma files.

It reminded me of a debate I see from time to time about how the teaching of the dhamma is paid for in the western world.

One side of the debate is that the teaching of the dhamma, whether through retreats, books, videos, etc... should not be charged for. It should be free.

Another side of the debate is that it is not a realistic option in the capitalistic western world to teach the dhamma free of charge. There are no large religious lay Buddhist communities as there are in Asia to make donations to make retreats, books, etc freely available. They will add that the teaching of the dhamma in the western world is done by secular people and secular people have bills to pay.

There may be other reasons that are valid for charging for dhamma teachings, but I don;t think this reason is valid.

As a quick aside -- I think "suggested donations" and aggressively asking for donations comes pretty close to "charging". At the very least it makes a number of western people with a limited ability to pay feel self conscious and has the potential of driving them away. I feel this is un-buddhist. It is my understanding ( correct me if I am wrong ) that one of the reasons why Theravada monks aren't vegetarian is that the Buddha wanted to avoid the situation of poor people who have only meat to give, feeling humiliated by not being able to give alms to his monks.

Back on topic, I do not agree with the idea that the nature of western society makes charging for teaching the dhamma necessary.

The Vipassana Meditation Centers as operated by S.N. Goenka have a number of thriving centers in America and Europe. I haven't been to one of their retreats since the 1990s, but they are quite subtle with how they ask for donations. My experience is that they wait until the last evening of the retreat to talk about what their expenses are and they ask people to donate once the retreat is over if they think it is something worthy of supporting. Both of the S.N. Goenka retreats I have been to have been dominated by secular, ordinary Americans.

If S.N. Goenka can run many thriving retreat centers with volunteers and donations ( and without being obnoxious in how they ask for donations ) in the United States, then the question becomes is it really true that other dhamma centers "can't" do the same?

I was a struggling student when I first became interested in meditation. I wouldn't have been able to go on a retreat if the IMS was my only option. At the time, places like Venerable Gunaratana's Bhavnna Society were not around. Places like that are still few and far between.

While I am not a fan of S.N. Goenka's retreats ( no disrespect, it is just not my cup of tea ), if it wasn't for his centers I would not have been able to have the valuable experiences of a meditation retreat...at all.

That would, almost, be true for me today as well. If I had time for a retreat I would likely be between jobs and not able to afford the costs of other retreat centers. When I went to my two retreats at S.N. Goenka's center that was the case for many people there. Instead of having that dead, useless time between jobs they were able to do some good dhamma work.

BTW, when I was a student, I was so grateful for the opportunity to go on a retreat and not be asked for donations in a humiliating way, that I scrimped for the rest of the semester in order to gladly make a donation.

What do people think?

Am I overlooking some valid points for either argument?
In reading the scriptures, there are two kinds of mistakes:
One mistake is to cling to the literal text and miss the inner principles.
The second mistake is to recognize the principles but not apply them to your own mind, so that you waste time and just make them into causes of entanglement.

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Re: Paying For The Dhamma

Postby rowyourboat » Wed Feb 09, 2011 7:06 pm

I think there is a sutta where the Buddha says that teaching the dhamma should not be done for profit. However he did not say whether it was ok to recover the costs!

The 'usual' transaction is dana (often offerings of food) in return for dhamma (teaching of the Dhamma).

I think personal profit is out of the question. Personally recovering the costs (travel costs, for example) is ok IMO. Doing it for free is also great (if you can)!

There is one advantage in selling dhamma books, for example, and that is when you get into the publishing 'system' it gets easier to advertise and make it available for more people. Also reprints etc can be traced, unlike smaller free amateur publications.

I think this is one area, we cannot afford to be dogmatic. :tongue: The gift of the dhamma outweighs other gifts. :tongue: :tongue: If we can get it out to more people, if people pay for it (and the advantages that has in it self for the person valuing the 'product' that was bought and also perhaps also by not devaluing what is free, and being more likely to use it because it was paid for), then so be it. But the internet is a great equalizer. So no one (as long as they can afford the internet) should be beyond the reach of good dhamma, even though some of it you might have to pay for.

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Re: Paying For The Dhamma

Postby Bankei » Wed Mar 23, 2011 12:56 am

You may be surprised to learn that the Dhamma is not free in the Eastern world either (generally).

Ordination as a monk in Thailand, for example, is very expensive.

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Re: Paying For The Dhamma

Postby nobody12345 » Thu Mar 24, 2011 12:46 pm

Dhamma should not be made into business.
Donation should be voluntary basis.

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Re: Paying For The Dhamma

Postby Bodhisurfer » Thu Mar 24, 2011 7:15 pm

I'm of the ' The gift of dhamma...' camp

I think it is amazing and very inspiring that people of any and no faiths can attend a vipassana retreat for example -on what is essentially a pay if you think this has been of use to you basis

and, hopefully as your practice deepens, you can come to dana yourself. And not just to a sangha but to everyone. One of the Paramis. I beleive.

Free dhamma. I think this is one of our best traditions :clap:
Sabbe dhamma nalam abhinivesaya

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Re: Paying For The Dhamma

Postby tiltbillings » Thu Mar 24, 2011 7:20 pm

Bodhisurfer wrote:Free dhamma. I think this is one of our best traditions :clap:
Like "free" Dhamma books, they are never really free. Someone has to pay for them.
This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond.
SN I, 38.

Ar scáth a chéile a mhaireas na daoine.
People live in one another’s shelter.

dheamhan a fhios agam

"We eat cold eels and think distant thoughts." -- Jack Johnson

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Re: Paying For The Dhamma

Postby Jhana4 » Thu Mar 24, 2011 7:29 pm

tiltbillings wrote:
Bodhisurfer wrote:Free dhamma. I think this is one of our best traditions :clap:
Like "free" Dhamma books, they are never really free. Someone has to pay for them.


The way things are paid for makes a lot of difference.

One thing Goenka's centers do right is that they get the message of needing donations across in a way that isn't threatening to people in our culture who may not have the ability to contribute at the moment. That is different from a group I visited a few months back that had envelopes with "suggested donations" increments on slips of paper placed on every single chair at the meeting. That was in addition to similar flyers taped up all over the place and it being mentioned several times before and after the sit.
In reading the scriptures, there are two kinds of mistakes:
One mistake is to cling to the literal text and miss the inner principles.
The second mistake is to recognize the principles but not apply them to your own mind, so that you waste time and just make them into causes of entanglement.

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Re: Paying For The Dhamma

Postby cooran » Thu Mar 24, 2011 7:41 pm

Hello all,

The Dhamma should not be sold - it is priceless. It is not a business enterprise.

Buddhanet – the largest Buddhist website in the world, and the Bodhi Tree Monastery Meditation Centre does not charge for teachings, retreats, food, or available publications.
Donations are requested, but no one checks to see if you are paying for the 10 day Retreats or not.
http://www.buddhanet.net/dana/donation_form.htm
http://www.buddhanet.net/bodhi-tree/

The Economy of the Gift
Patrick Kearrney, is a full time dharma teacher and lives on dana, or gift. In Buddhist tradition, the dharma is felt to be of such great value that it cannot be bought or sold. It is not a commodity. It can be received and transmitted only as gift. The dharma cannot be found in the economy of the market, but only in the economy of gift.

What are the implications of entering this economy? The teaching is given. How do we respond when we recognise we have received a gift? We are moved to give something in return, completing the gift. This natural response marks our entry into the economy of gift, where buying and selling are replaced by giving and receiving, and where the defining relationship is friendship.

The act of giving is a declaration of mutual respect. Giver and receiver recognise they share the same fundamental values and concerns. The gift takes us beyond the limitations of our normal self-interest and opens us to a life of mutual care, called good friendship (kalyana mittata) by the Buddha.
http://www.dharmasalon.net/page5/page5.html

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---The trouble is that you think you have time---
---Worry is the Interest, paid in advance, on a debt you may never owe---
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Bodhisurfer
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Re: Paying For The Dhamma

Postby Bodhisurfer » Fri Mar 25, 2011 9:35 am

tiltbillings wrote:
Bodhisurfer wrote:Free dhamma. I think this is one of our best traditions :clap:
Like "free" Dhamma books, they are never really free. Someone has to pay for them.



of course. and much merit do you earn :smile:

somebody somewhere pays. And in my experience those of us that can, do. And are pleased to do so. Dana or generosity is one of the 10 parami's and as I understand it we cannot acheive liberation from samsara with out it. What better way can there be to practice generosity than to provide people with the Dhamma? What greater act of love could there be?

The Buddha acheived liberation and (excuse my Cockney paraphrasing) thought 'Right. Thats it. I've sorted it. No more rebirth for me.' BUT then was persuaded to come back and start teaching the Dhamma -even though he initially had his doubts as to peoples ability to take it on. But out of compassion for us and our suffering. There was no 'Whats in it for me?' There were no 3 Noble truths and if you want the 4th its £x payable in weekly installments.

Lets all follow his example if we're able :twothumbsup:
Sabbe dhamma nalam abhinivesaya

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Re: Paying For The Dhamma

Postby Nikaya35 » Fri Mar 25, 2011 4:47 pm

The Dharma should be free

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Re: Paying For The Dhamma

Postby tiltbillings » Fri Mar 25, 2011 4:51 pm

maitreya31 wrote:The Dharma should be free
Are you willing to support it so that it is free?
This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond.
SN I, 38.

Ar scáth a chéile a mhaireas na daoine.
People live in one another’s shelter.

dheamhan a fhios agam

"We eat cold eels and think distant thoughts." -- Jack Johnson

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Re: Paying For The Dhamma

Postby cooran » Fri Mar 25, 2011 5:47 pm

Hello tilt,

Those who are committed Dhammafarers will support the Buddha’s Dhamma via salary/bank deductions or as donations to institutions or teachers, or by service.
It isn’t difficult – though the ‘service’ aspect certainly takes time, and includes mundane things like grass cutting and gardening at the Monastery, helping maintain the book borrowing library records , donating books, taking out Dana as per a roster for the monks, cleaning, transporting monks etc. I do these things.
What are you willing to do, Tilt?

With metta
Chris
---The trouble is that you think you have time---
---Worry is the Interest, paid in advance, on a debt you may never owe---
---It's not what happens to you in life that is important ~ it's what you do with it ---

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Re: Paying For The Dhamma

Postby tiltbillings » Fri Mar 25, 2011 5:55 pm

cooran wrote:What are you willing to do, Tilt?
The point is that free Dhamma is not free. Someone pays for it in some way or other, always.

What am I willing to do? A little pointy here are we? I give regualarly to a Dhamma center that in turn helps keep the teaching affordable to those who have little or no money. What do you do?
This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond.
SN I, 38.

Ar scáth a chéile a mhaireas na daoine.
People live in one another’s shelter.

dheamhan a fhios agam

"We eat cold eels and think distant thoughts." -- Jack Johnson

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cooran
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Re: Paying For The Dhamma

Postby cooran » Fri Mar 25, 2011 7:58 pm

Hello tilt,

Everything in my post above yours - service and donations(as stated already). Additionally serving on the Management Committee which involved additional meetings and the taking and disseminating of Minutes, being available for phone contact during the day for the Abbot/Committee if additional duties are required.
The financial donations here and to other buddhist organisations, at present, don’t require any time or effort – just a little budgeting and the signing of a cheque or the clicking of a button on the internet. It is the physical effort and time, out of a busy work and social schedule that requires a certain determination.

With metta
Chris
---The trouble is that you think you have time---
---Worry is the Interest, paid in advance, on a debt you may never owe---
---It's not what happens to you in life that is important ~ it's what you do with it ---

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Re: Paying For The Dhamma

Postby tiltbillings » Fri Mar 25, 2011 10:27 pm

cooran wrote:Hello tilt,

Everything in my post above yours - service and donations(as stated already). Additionally serving on the Management Committee which involved additional meetings and the taking and disseminating of Minutes, being available for phone contact during the day for the Abbot/Committee if additional duties are required.
The financial donations here and to other buddhist organisations, at present, don’t require any time or effort – just a little budgeting and the signing of a cheque or the clicking of a button on the internet. It is the physical effort and time, out of a busy work and social schedule that requires a certain determination.

With metta
Chris
Oh, no. Naughty me. I am not physically doing anything. It probably would help if there were a Buddhist center in the area that I could affiliate with, but - alas - there is not. The reality is that the money I give represents time spent working to earn it. It may not measure up to your dizzying heights of selfless activity, but it is something.

The point is, which you just neatly made, is that the Dhamma is not free. It requires support, whether one lackadaisically dashes off a check or sweats tirelessly, bending one's back, getting calluses on one's hands, exhausted at the end of day for the up-keep of a Dhamma center, the Dhamma requires support.
This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond.
SN I, 38.

Ar scáth a chéile a mhaireas na daoine.
People live in one another’s shelter.

dheamhan a fhios agam

"We eat cold eels and think distant thoughts." -- Jack Johnson

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Re: Paying For The Dhamma

Postby cooran » Fri Mar 25, 2011 10:33 pm

The sarcastic tone of your post was unnecessary Tiltbillings, and certainly inhibits conversation ¬ so, I think I’ll leave it at that.
---The trouble is that you think you have time---
---Worry is the Interest, paid in advance, on a debt you may never owe---
---It's not what happens to you in life that is important ~ it's what you do with it ---

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Re: Paying For The Dhamma

Postby tiltbillings » Fri Mar 25, 2011 10:36 pm

cooran wrote:The sarcastic tone of your post was unnecessary Tiltbillings, and certainly inhibits conversation ¬ so, I think I’ll leave it at that.
Then explain to me your implied criticism. Anybody can write a check. It does not really amount to anything. You need to get out there DO something for it to really count. The sarcasm was appropriate to a rather unfortunate response from you.
This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond.
SN I, 38.

Ar scáth a chéile a mhaireas na daoine.
People live in one another’s shelter.

dheamhan a fhios agam

"We eat cold eels and think distant thoughts." -- Jack Johnson

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Re: Paying For The Dhamma

Postby Ben » Fri Mar 25, 2011 10:37 pm

tiltbillings wrote:the Dhamma is not free. It requires support,

I agree. And I have no problem whatsoever in supporting publishers and dhamma booksellers such as Wisdom, Pariyatti and Dhamma Books. Without financially supporting these organisations by buying Dhamma books, they would not be able to bring to the world fantastic translations of the Nikayas, ancient commentarial literature and the works of modern scholars.

http://www.pariyatti.org/Publishing/tab ... fault.aspx
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Re: Paying For The Dhamma

Postby octathlon » Fri Mar 25, 2011 10:58 pm

tiltbillings wrote:
maitreya31 wrote:The Dharma should be free
Are you willing to support it so that it is free?

:strawman:

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Re: Paying For The Dhamma

Postby tiltbillings » Fri Mar 25, 2011 11:03 pm

octathlon wrote:
tiltbillings wrote:
maitreya31 wrote:The Dharma should be free
Are you willing to support it so that it is free?

:strawman:
Straw man. That does not say anything. Elaborate, please.
This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond.
SN I, 38.

Ar scáth a chéile a mhaireas na daoine.
People live in one another’s shelter.

dheamhan a fhios agam

"We eat cold eels and think distant thoughts." -- Jack Johnson


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