the ethics of lay teachers who charge money

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the ethics of lay teachers who charge money

Postby marc108 » Fri Mar 02, 2012 9:11 pm

I'm interested to hear what everyone thinks, both personally and from a Canonical standpoint, about the ethics of lay teachers who charge money for meditation instruction. I'm referring more to one-on-one instruction, not to retreat centers as those obviously are extremely expensive to buy and maintain. I was downloading some Dhamma talks by lay teachers who teach under the flag of a very well respected Bhikkhu and found that they are charging 75-150$ per hour of meditation instruction! :jawdrop: Not Dana but charging outright.

Am I incorrect in thinking this is extremely unwholesome? Were it not for the teachers I have had instruction from teaching me completely on a Dana basis, which for a poor student like myself equates to completely free, I would be more or less left to fend for myself.
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Re: the ethics of lay teachers who charge money

Postby mikenz66 » Fri Mar 02, 2012 9:39 pm

Hi Marc,

Interesting question. Excuse the ramble..

A clarification here:
marc108 wrote: I'm referring more to one-on-one instruction, not to retreat centers as those obviously are extremely expensive to buy and maintain.

It seems common for such lay retreat centres to charge to cover costs. They pay for the building, food, and costs associated with getting the teachers to the retreat. But the only cash the teachers get is dana from the participants. However, there are clearly other models out there. For most monasteries, and some lay organisations, such as Goenka's, there is enough support that there is no need for an up-front charge.

Now, back to your question:

I presume you are talking about teachers such as Tina Rasmussen and Stephen Snyder:
http://www.buddhistgeeks.com/2010/02/bg ... he-jhanas/
http://www.buddhistgeeks.com/2010/02/bg ... entration/

http://www.jhanasadvice.com/id4.html
If you have very simple questions, we may be able to respond to these briefly by email.

For more extended or ongoing inquiries, we offer individual spiritual guidance / coaching sessions to dharma practitioners by phone. The focus of these calls is your dharma practice and how it informs your worldly life. Because we are also both professional coaches, we can also offer you tools with which you can further understand your personality structure and how it both supports your practice, and also manifests as hindrances. If you are interested in spiritual guidance, you can choose which one of us you wish to work with, or you can alternate between us. If you choose to work with one of us, we may occasionally also suggest that you do a session with the other teacher to balance your practice and understanding.

Spiritual guidance is offerred via phone calls of either 30 minutes or 1 hour, either as needed or on a regularly scheduled basis. Regularly scheduled calls can be every two weeks or monthly. One-on-one sessions are offered on a sliding scale of $75 to $150 per hour. For half an hour, the fee is $45 to $70. Payment is made in advance via PayPal, using the button below. Please enter the amount appropriate for your session.

I think that the relevant question might be whether this is a useful service for someone who wants such advice. I know that I could stay for free at a Pa Auk monastery in Malaysia (I have a Chinese-Malaysian friend who does just that from time to time), or Myanmar, but of course I'd have to get there first, which would not be free, not to mention taking time off work...

Personally, I prefer to seek out local or visiting teachers, but that might not be possible...

Depending on circumstances, a couple of half-hour phone calls per month might be extremely helpful, if one had done retreats with them, for example.

Note that they do say they will respond to email. Clearly any teacher has to ration his/her time in some way.

This is a bit of a ramble, but, in summary, I don't really like second guessing any teacher, lay or monastic, who is doing things that are legal and not against any vows they claim to be adhering to.

:anjali:
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Re: the ethics of lay teachers who charge money

Postby Goofaholix » Fri Mar 02, 2012 10:07 pm

Teachers have to eat, pay their bills etc just like us, as long as they aren't showing ostentatious signs of wealth then they need to make ends meet just like you ands me.

If somebody is offering quality one to one time to help you then it's time they can't use to make money by other means. You wouldn't expect to meet one on one with a psychotherapist or doctor on a dana basis.

I think it's really encouraging that so many teachers in our tradition can survive on a dana model, but maybe not all can.

I don't think it's unethical but it is really up to you to choose whether to employ their services or not, people are more likely to trust teachers who operate on a dana basis I think.
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Re: the ethics of lay teachers who charge money

Postby Cittasanto » Fri Mar 02, 2012 11:17 pm

marc108 wrote:Am I incorrect in thinking this is extremely unwholesome? Were it not for the teachers I have had instruction from teaching me completely on a Dana basis, which for a poor student like myself equates to completely free, I would be more or less left to fend for myself.


I think it is against the Dhamma, but understand why!
I think it worse when they bombard you with "I AM A MASTER WITH A TITLE" or "I NEED SUPPORTED" (caps to differentiate) attitude.
I have been to a teachers 'teachingg' where it was including book £35 at the time that would of been nearly $65, and all I heard was I am a master.

I have been to a monks reception where their charities were mentioned but it was after prompting by someone who didn't know them, and it was completely free.

I got so much out of that it ended up with me translating the satipatthana sutta

I have no problem with retreat centers charging, or lay teachers charging through them what I have a problem with is lay teachers being a money market!
they either aren't good or need to get out their more, if they have to advertise and charge for a second it is bad news for dhamma!
This offering maybe right, or wrong, but it is one, the other, both, or neither!
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Re: the ethics of lay teachers who charge money

Postby Bankei » Fri Mar 02, 2012 11:27 pm

I think it is acceptable to charge - but cannot understand why would anyone be willing to pay>>

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Re: the ethics of lay teachers who charge money

Postby Kim OHara » Sat Mar 03, 2012 5:24 am

We're negotiating our way through a meeting of cultures (I was going to say 'clash' but it's not that bad).
In (most) traditionally-Buddhist countries, the sangha were overwhelmingly the source of dhamma (and wider education and medical services) and were supported by donations from nearly everyone in the community, so it was unnecessary and unfair for them to ask for payment from individuals for any of their services.
In the west, there are multiple sources of religious teaching, education, medical services, etc, and none of them is supported by more than a minority of the population they serve, so asking for payment is both necessary and fair.

I doubt that the traditionally-Buddhist system will ever replace the western system in the west, so we are going to have to get used to different ways of supporting our teachers, lay and ordained. And I suspect we will be working them out on a case-by-case basis, as we are here.

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Re: the ethics of lay teachers who charge money

Postby retrofuturist » Sat Mar 03, 2012 5:40 am

Greetings,

If someone wants to make Dhamma their livelihood, why not ordain?

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Whatever various forms of unease there are in the world, They originate founded in encumbering accumulation. (Pārāyanavagga)


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One who is such, calmed and ever mindful, He has no sorrows! -- Udana IV, 7


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Re: the ethics of lay teachers who charge money

Postby nameless » Sat Mar 03, 2012 5:56 am

I don't think the action itself is unethical unless they are cheating people or lying about what they know. Though on the other hand, if they are operating as a business they are probably promoting themselves in some way while intentionally or unintentionally hiding the fact that this kind of thing is available for free/dana.

So I think if people know that they have a choice between paying to train under a lay teacher or giving dana to train under an ordained monk, and choose the former anyway it's their choice. Making them pay without letting them know that such a choice exists doesn't seem nice.
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Re: the ethics of lay teachers who charge money

Postby Goofaholix » Sat Mar 03, 2012 5:56 am

retrofuturist wrote:If someone wants to make Dhamma their livelihood, why not ordain?


Perhaps they are married, perhaps they have children, perhaps they have debts, perhaps they are female... there are potentially a whole host of reasons. I'm sure you know what I'm talking about.

I would have said most lay teachers have made Dhamma their vocation, but they do also need a livelihood as well. I understand many who were ordained and disrobed did so because they believed being a lay teacher means less barriers between teacher and student.
"Proper effort is not the effort to make something particular happen. It is the effort to be aware and awake each moment." - Ajahn Chah
"When we see beyond self, we no longer cling to happiness. When we stop clinging, we can begin to be happy." - Ajahn Chah
"Know and watch your heart. It’s pure but emotions come to colour it." — Ajahn Chah
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Re: the ethics of lay teachers who charge money

Postby mikenz66 » Sat Mar 03, 2012 6:27 am

The lay/ordained thing is certainly a related issue. As Goofaholix says, some feel they can be more effective as lay teachers, and sometimes being ordained is not practical. I know some teachers who have "day jobs" in counselling. As Kim says, the development of genuine home-grown, home-supported, Buddhism in Western countries will most likely involve some creative decisions...

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Re: the ethics of lay teachers who charge money

Postby Zom » Sat Mar 03, 2012 8:07 am

Am I incorrect in thinking this is extremely unwholesome?


I see it this way too.

Buddha said that one should not make Dhamma a trade (http://www.dhammawiki.com/index.php?tit ... tila_Sutta)

Also he said that "Dhamma is the highest gift":

This was said by the Blessed One, said by the Arahant, so I have heard: "There are these two kinds of gifts: a gift of material things & a gift of the Dhamma. Of the two, this is supreme: a gift of the Dhamma. There are these two kinds of sharing: sharing of material things & sharing of the Dhamma. Of the two, this is supreme: sharing of the Dhamma. There are these two kinds of assistance: assistance with material things & assistance with the Dhamma. Of the two, this is supreme: help with the Dhamma."
(Iti 3.49)
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Re: the ethics of lay teachers who charge money

Postby pilgrim » Sat Mar 03, 2012 8:53 am

If a teacher holds back teaching Dhamma unless he is paid, then the motivation is wrong. Once the motivation is wrong , most of what follows will be wrong.
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Re: the ethics of lay teachers who charge money

Postby Kim OHara » Sat Mar 03, 2012 11:51 am

Zom, Pilgrim,
Idealism doesn't fill bellies.
If a teacher starves, he can no longer teach.

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Re: the ethics of lay teachers who charge money

Postby pilgrim » Sat Mar 03, 2012 2:10 pm

Kim O'Hara wrote:Zom, Pilgrim,
Idealism doesn't fill bellies.
If a teacher starves, he can no longer teach.

:namaste:
Kim

If the desire of a "teacher" is to enrich himself with the sale of his services rather than to assist others in reducing dukkha, then obviously his teachings to reduce greed and aversion did not work for him.
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Re: the ethics of lay teachers who charge money

Postby marc108 » Sat Mar 03, 2012 6:31 pm

pilgrim wrote:If a teacher holds back teaching Dhamma unless he is paid


right, here exactly is my issue. I have less of an issue with teachers receiving money, because as was mentioned, teachers need to eat too and if they can spend more time teaching by being paid then its probably better. the issue is holding back the Dhamma or turning away a sincere seeker because they cant pay, which is poor ethics of the highest caliber imo... and I'm not saying they do that, because I don't know for sure, but it sure seems implied that you will not receive teachings if you cant pay..
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Re: the ethics of lay teachers who charge money

Postby Goofaholix » Sat Mar 03, 2012 7:26 pm

marc108 wrote:right, here exactly is my issue. I have less of an issue with teachers receiving money, because as was mentioned, teachers need to eat too and if they can spend more time teaching by being paid then its probably better. the issue is holding back the Dhamma or turning away a sincere seeker because they cant pay, which is poor ethics of the highest caliber imo... and I'm not saying they do that, because I don't know for sure, but it sure seems implied that you will not receive teachings if you cant pay..


There are plenty of teachers around who teach on a dana basis so if a teacher is charging a fee one can vote with your feet and go to somebody else.

I guess it's only a problem if you live somewhere where you have little choice.

One thing to bear in mind is that charging a fee does make a teacher more acceptable to a different audience. Some people won't engage your services if you don't charge a fee because you're not considered professional enough, or they are scared you are just interested in proselytising religion.

An example is that most Theravadin Dhamma books are given away free, if you go to a "spiritual" bookshop you'll find almost all are Mahayana so that's a potential audience lost, lets face it a "spiritual" bookshop is often the first place people start looking into Buddhism. For this reason the forest sangha publish a book for sale through normal channels from time to time, because that way they will reach a different audience.
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Re: the ethics of lay teachers who charge money

Postby Kim OHara » Sat Mar 03, 2012 11:19 pm

pilgrim wrote:
Kim O'Hara wrote:Zom, Pilgrim,
Idealism doesn't fill bellies.
If a teacher starves, he can no longer teach.

:namaste:
Kim

If the desire of a "teacher" is to enrich himself with the sale of his services rather than to assist others in reducing dukkha, then obviously his teachings to reduce greed and aversion did not work for him.

True, but not relevant to my point.
I'm talking about plain ordinary hunger. Sleeping under bridges because he can't afford accommodation.

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Re: the ethics of lay teachers who charge money

Postby danieLion » Sat Mar 03, 2012 11:39 pm

This is only a dilemma for those who believe they need a teacher; but even then, there are plenty of good free ones. IMO, ordained teachers are more trustworthy because they don't charge. So, if you feel you can't live without a teacher, find an ordained one and prevent the issue of payment from even arising.
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Re: the ethics of lay teachers who charge money

Postby David N. Snyder » Sun Mar 04, 2012 12:05 am

Here is Ven. Dhammika's opinion, which I agree with:

During the Buddha’s time people knew that teachers of other religions charged a fee (ācariyadhana) but that those teaching Dhamma expected nothing more from their students than respect and attentiveness (A.V,347). There is nothing wrong with charging for the food, accommodation etc. used during a meditation course. Nor is it improper for a teacher to accept donations. But to charge a fee, even if it is called ‘sponsorship’or to announce that a ‘donation’ of a certain amount is expected, contradicts the most basic ethics and ideals of Buddhism. Those who teach the Dhamma should see what they do as a rare and wonderful privilege and an act of kindness, not a means of livelihood.


from: Charging for Dhamma
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Re: the ethics of lay teachers who charge money

Postby thaijeppe » Sun Mar 04, 2012 3:29 am

If you have very simple questions, we may be able to respond to these briefly by email.

For more extended or ongoing inquiries, we offer individual spiritual guidance / coaching sessions to dharma practitioners by phone. The focus of these calls is your dharma practice and how it informs your worldly life. Because we are also both professional coaches, we can also offer you tools with which you can further understand your personality structure and how it both supports your practice, and also manifests as hindrances. If you are interested in spiritual guidance, you can choose which one of us you wish to work with, or you can alternate between us. If you choose to work with one of us, we may occasionally also suggest that you do a session with the other teacher to balance your practice and understanding.

Spiritual guidance is offerred via phone calls of either 30 minutes or 1 hour, either as needed or on a regularly scheduled basis. Regularly scheduled calls can be every two weeks or monthly. One-on-one sessions are offered on a sliding scale of $75 to $150 per hour. For half an hour, the fee is $45 to $70. Payment is made in advance via PayPal, using the button below. Please enter the amount appropriate for your session.


As much as I understand all your postings that people need to earn money for a living, and there is nothing wrong with that.

But Lord Buddhas Dhamma are free and should continue to be so.

Above you have the advertisment we are talking about, and the problem is in the bold words "Dhamma".
If you take "Dhamma" out of the context, then we ar talking about counseling, and of cause anyone can charge whatever they want for counseling
if anyone is ready to pay, but when you are talking about Dhamma practice, it is not correct to charge according to The Dhamma.

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