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TOPIC: Learning about money

RE: Learning about money 17 May 2010 02:12 #59311

I think it's important to keep in mind that this is a genuine discussion, and no one outcome is being heralded. There is no intention to turn away those who can't pay because of their station in life. I believe, and I think others would agree with me that that is a model that is rife with issues. But it's also clear that often people who do have the means aren't willing to pay 'market value' for something that is offered as 'on a donation basis.' The system should work that those with the means to, pay a little more and that covers the unders from those who need to pay a little less.It would be interesting to do some blind experiments on dana in different situations and see what folks offer. I think we'd find people give a lot to support high profile tragedies, animals and in a few other situations, but when it comes to goods and services it's much lower.
  • gsteinb
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RE: Learning about money 17 May 2010 02:31 #59312


Yes.

  • cmarti
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RE: Learning about money 17 May 2010 03:33 #59313

folks are willing to pay $150 a month for their triple play cable/phone/internet. $25 a month to get their lawn mowed. $75 for a bi-yearly tooth cleaning. Yoga class is 12-15 a session. I pay 65 an hour for my son's music lesson once a week. When I belonged to to local synagogue so my son could get religious lessons it was 3-4k a year. True story. So if I offer a curriculum of sutta study, or someone like Kenneth offers meditation instruction....both which take real world time to research, create and maintain, why should that be given away free or at a rate that is less than what I need to pay to have my own lawn mowed?
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RE: Learning about money 17 May 2010 04:32 #59314

I find it interesting that although discussions of morality are generally avoided on this site, a lot of moral judgements are infusing this discussion. I think its important to remember that traditional teachings about dana always occurred in a context of training in morality and not just meditation instruction. Dana is an aspect of the practice of generosity, and an opportunity to look at our own attacments and aspirations. This discussion is an extraordinary practice opportunity for us all.

And I just want to note that money isn't the only elephant in the room. Whether we like it or not and whether we acknowledge it or not, the big hairy issue of morality and ethics is part of this conversation.

Thanks to you all for the gift of this discussion. Naomi
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RE: Learning about money 17 May 2010 04:57 #59316

"Vince: What else did the Buddha teach about money? Do you recall any other of his teachings on it?

Diana: Yeah, there's a lot. Probably the most classic one that he taught is from a sutta called the Dighajanu Sutta in which he talks about the conditions of welfare. He was asked by a householder '“ so let me just preface this by saying that so many of the teachings that we have inherited as Vipassana practitioners in the West are teachings that went to the monks so we don't hear a lot of these householder teachings and they're small; they're a small amount in relation to the rest of the canon '“ but, in this particular sutta, he's asked what conditions lead to a householder's happiness, and the Buddha answers: persistent effort, and that means not being lazy. In other words whatever work you do don't be lazy, whether it's, and of course he uses a lot of agrarian examples, like where you're rearing cattle or farming or trading and so forth And then he says the second one is watchfulness; and, what he means by watchfulness is actually being careful about your property so that kings would not seize it, thieves would not steal it, and fire would not burn it. So you actually need to kind of protect your property. And then the third one he says is good friendship, and the fourth is '“ this is the one I was just talking about '“ balanced livelihood. He says knowing his income and expenses he leads a balanced life, neither extravagant nor miserly, knowing that his income will stand in excess of his expenses, but not his expenses in excess of his income. In other words, I don't think the Buddha would have wanted people to have credit cards'¦"

So there are explicit teachings about money even in the Pali Canon. It seems to me that if we want the propagation of the dharma to continue, it needs to be (financially) supported.

This discussion is excellent. A lot of shadow stuff coming out. Transparency is key.

Metta.
Andrew
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RE: Learning about money 17 May 2010 04:57 #59315

"folks are willing to pay $150 a month for their triple play cable/phone/internet. $25 a month to get their lawn mowed. $75 for a bi-yearly tooth cleaning...So if I offer a curriculum of sutta study, or someone like Kenneth offers meditation instruction....both which take real world time to research, create and maintain, why should that be given away free or at a rate that is less than what I need to pay to have my own lawn mowed? "

This is the crux of the issue for me.

We are talking about propagation of a teaching outside of traditional structures. There is an ultimate/relative aspect to this. On the ultimate level, the teachings are priceless. On the relative level, as human beings we need food/shelter/clothing/medicine.

The going rates for analytical psychiatric counseling is around ~$150-200/hr for most middle of the road therapists. Why should any personal attention be valued so much less?

Vince interviewed Diana Winston in episode 115:
www.buddhistgeeks.com/2009/03/bg-115-the...-have-a-credit-card/

[cont]
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RE: Learning about money 17 May 2010 05:18 #59317

This discussion is very important, as other folks have noted, and it has been carried out in a generally amicable spirit, which is essential. I'd like to add a few words about how I run our Zen Center of Las Cruces.

My (low-)paying job is college assistant professor of English. My salary is lower now than it was 11 years ago when I worked as a technical writer in industry. But I enjoy teaching, and I am surviving, so I accept the trade off between lower income and higher job satisfaction.

Our Zen Cener of Las Cruces (New Mexico) runs on donations. Our landlady charges us below-market rent. The cost of utilities is low, because our usage is low. We do not have a telephone. I and other members often make in-kind donations of food, incense and so forth.

I spend an average of 8-10 hours per week in my functional role as Zen priest. I do not take any financial compensation because I can live without it right now. However, if there were more money coming into the Zen Center, I would accept some remuneration. And if I could earn a living teaching Zen, I would have even more time and money to devote to it.

Kenneth is self-employed. Unlike me, he does not get a regular paycheck, with health insurance, and a retirement plan. I wish he had all those things, and had them as remuneration for teaching meditation and Awakening full-time. The benefit to those he teaches -- including students and mere passers-by who happen upon his communications -- would be worth far more than any amount he could be paid. He could even afford to have more "no pay" students if he had enough income from the students who could pay.

Final point. In my opinion, Kenneth Folk is the rarest of the rare -- an Awakened teacher with complete knowledge of all the concentration states and of non-dual consciousness. AND he is humble and approachable. Don't shortchange him. And don't let the opportunity to learn from him pass you by.

  • Gozen
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RE: Learning about money 17 May 2010 05:24 #59318

" So if I offer a curriculum of sutta study, or someone like Kenneth offers meditation instruction....both which take real world time to research, create and maintain, why should that be given away free or at a rate that is less than what I need to pay to have my own lawn mowed? "

I can imagine situations involving valid, legitimate reasons for offering teachings and training for free. As far as I'm concerned $1 million dollars is not too much nor is free too little. The financial approach taken should be flexible, situationally-appropriate, and guided by wise discernment.

For me, personally, it's much less about a dollar value associated with either dharma or teaching. It's much more about supporting the teacher. And not only supporting the teacher as a 'source of dharma', but also supporting the teacher as a citizen, and member of society.

There is a kind of technologically-driven cultural trend of 'democratization' going on these days; involving a movement from large-scale bureaucratic institutions to more mobile, small-scale change engines. (Internet, Web-cams, youtube, etc., make this possible).

The upshot is a new economic context within which there is not always a Big Institution (e.g., church, publishing house, recording company, grant etc.,) that is supporting the cultural water sources we're drinking from. Hence the need for new models.

  • NigelThompson
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"Dana" by Rohan [part 1] 17 May 2010 05:26 #59319

Here is something on point. It's from the blog of a British Buddhist of Sri Lankan heritage. The topic is Dana. I'll post Rohan's essay in parts:

www.21awake.com/?tag=dana

Is the Buddha's business model broken?
by Rohan

There is a quiet crisis in the insight meditation scene. But since we're all so awfully polite I have a concern that it's not enough of a public conversation and one which boils down to this simple sentence: free is not sustainable.

The Buddha said that all of his teachings were of one taste, that of sweet sweet freedom. And in the mendicant monastic tradition that he found himself in in ancient India and in and that he propagated through the Vinaya '“ the business model through which that teaching was expressed and thought was quite simple '“ the Dhamma was spread for free and was '“ and remains to be '“ heavily dependent on financial donations and the in-kind generosity of lay supporters.

So with one foot in an agrarian subsistence economy of pre-Asokhan India, let's fast forward the best part of three millennia and we place our other foot into the capitalist market economy of the twenty-first century Western world and somehow expect the business model to still be valid. I wonder'¦

This business model may still thrive in the modern monastic traditions such as the Amaravati stable due to it being sufficiently inspiring '“ where supporting this infrastructure allows a rich ex-patriate Asian supporter base to connect back to this beautiful, romantic and transformative tradition. But what of the new breed '“ the Western lay teachers?
[cont'd]
  • Gozen
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RE: "Dana" by Rohan [part 2] 17 May 2010 05:27 #59320

As Western lay practitioners we have inherited this noble practice of offering teachings freely as part of the package and my view '“ which many no doubt share '“ is that we live in different times. And especially in Europe where donation culture is tiny in comparison to North America '“ the word we must be shouting from the roof-tops with regards the transmission of the teachings of our times is not that they should be free, but that they should be sustainable.

And that may well mean business models which are a little more flexible than the costs-only, teachers-dependent-on-donation model. If the Dhamma is so valuable, and some of our best teachers are lay people '“ then it's my personal opinion that they should be full time teachers '“ as a monastic is '“ but with a model that matches the economic realities of their lives.

I spend much of my day job working with arts & cultural organisations in the UK which historically '“ due to a dependency on state-led grant finance '“ and therefore find themselves in a similar situation. But this type of money is now exceedingly scarce so organisations are having to be get cleverer. This either means redefining themselves within a wider context '“ typically the social sector or creative industries rather than the cultural sector, or looking to move past grant finance and adopt more commercial forms of finance where appropriate. I think there's a very rich comparison to be made between the arts and the meditation scene re: organisational sustainability and I look forward to getting into that a little more soon.

But for now, I know that many people are uncomfortable with even the talk of business models in a spiritual context. But I make no apologies and instead point steadfastly to this idea of sustainability as the key metric, not cost to access.
[con't]
  • Gozen
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RE: "Dana" by Rohan [part 3 = last] 17 May 2010 05:28 #59321

There is a cultural problem in Dharmic circles in relationship to money '“ with many seeing it as impure '“ again I'd argue a pathological aspect of our monastic heritage. This issue was well explored in Diana Winston's most recent Buddhist Geeks interview and it's exactly analogous to the issues faced in any mission-led organisation '“ spiritual, cultural or social enterprise.

My ongoing experience with working with all of these types of organisation is that we just have to see money as another currency rather than as a pathology '“ and have economic value as important as spiritual, artistic or social value. Otherwise we'll just fail the sustainability test and it'll have happened on our watch.

Leading marketing expert Seth Godin recently spoke to this issue rather elegantly in his post The problem with non '“ where he speaks of the ways ingrained mindsets are holding back non-profit organisations from undergoing the changes they need to survive and I think much of this is spot on for us too.

And the reason that this is on my mind is that I am exploring what a 21st century spiritual enterprise looks like '“ a business which generates as much spiritual value as it does economic value. It's a question that I find so tremendously exciting, and I know the challenge will be ensuring that authentic transformative Dhamma remains at its core.
  • Gozen
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RE: Learning about money 17 May 2010 06:40 #59322

is there a wholesome mental state that arises when you pay your cable bill?

can we also see that there is the personal element at work here (my spiritual practice of generosity and the wearing away of selfishness and clinging) as well as an interpersonal component (supporting another, fair trade, seeing the continuation of good dhamma teachers by seeing they are supported).
  • gsteinb
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RE: Learning about money 17 May 2010 14:28 #59323


Yes, there is a wholesome mental state that arises when I pay my cable bill. I use their products and services, which I know damned well aren't offered up for free. So to take those things for free is immoral. It's stealing. When I pay that bill, however begrudgingly, it's the right thing to do. Thus a wholesome state arises.

  • cmarti
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RE: Learning about money 17 May 2010 15:01 #59324

"vjhorn said:

b) Why in the world would you think that "someone advanced in the dharma should be free of suffering"? Where did you get that belief? Is that your experience? If not, could that be a projection of an ideal you have? I'm advanced in the dharma and my experience is that I'm more human than ever, and issues of money, sexuality, and power are as relevant as they've ever been. Enlightenment doesn't give you a free card to not having to deal with the world... Anyone who thinks otherwise is full of it, or lying to themselves.
"

Well, I got this from the Buddha. In fact, the Buddha stated that he "only teaches dukkha (suffering) and the end of dukkha (suffering)." If this isn't the core measure of our practice, then it sounds like what is being practiced is different from what the Buddha taught.

Has my suffering decreased, pursuant to the teachings of the 4 Noble Truths and the path of the Buddha? Undoubtedly yes. If it had not, I would probably not be a Buddhist. Previously, a message like yours would have sent me into fits of agitation, anger, defensiveness and suffering for weeks. Not now. Now I see that my inner face and your inner face are the same face. After an initial shock, I can read your message and respond to it more properly.

Anger is a good one, because anger that used to last for weeks, consume and control me now lasts for minutes without loss of control on my part. This is not because I suppress my anger, quite the opposite. I accept it, study it, understand it, and through this process, it loses its power.

No one said enlightenment meant that you didn't have to deal with the world. Enlightenment means to be awake, not in a permanent state of bliss. But part of that wakefulness is an acceptance of the world, no matter what arises. Material wealth comes and goes-- understanding this, why crave the temporary?
  • msj123
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RE: Learning about money 17 May 2010 15:17 #59325

my kid needs braces. to fit into the structure of society he'll need a college degree. I need health insurance for myself and my family. life insurance as well should I pass untimely. If I don't save enough to live through my retirement years someone will need to support me.

who will do these things for me and is it dependent on the depth of my enlightenment?

my kid needs braces whether I am a stream winner or an arahant. how do i know? the dentist and his mom say so. what to do? and are we really going to brush these sort of basic needs that the monastic sangha had supplied by the societal structural in place (clothing, shelter, medicine) as the 'craving material wealth?'
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RE: Learning about money 17 May 2010 15:22 #59326

...
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RE: Learning about money 17 May 2010 15:39 #59327

...
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RE: Learning about money 17 May 2010 15:46 #59328


"Kenneth Folk is the rarest of the rare -- an Awakened teacher with complete knowledge of all the concentration states and of non-dual consciousness. AND he is humble and approachable. Don't shortchange him. And don't let the opportunity to learn from him pass you by."

I want to second Gozen's comment, as heartily as it can be seconded. Not only is Kenneth Awakened and approachable, he's also a master of communication. He listens. He supplies amazingly cogent teaching aimed squarely at your needs, either as you express them or as he is able to diagnose them. This is exceedingly rare and valuable.

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RE: Learning about money 17 May 2010 16:01 #59329

"The pre-suppositions in this post are a great place to start investigating the concepts one might be embedded in."

So what of the presuppositions of what Kenneth or someone else needs within the parameter of the discussion of the dharma supporting a middle class lifestyle? Or perhaps we're able to step back and accept that what I was presenting was an example.
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RE: Learning about money 17 May 2010 16:44 #59330

...
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RE: Learning about money 17 May 2010 19:14 #59331

"Well, I got this from the Buddha. In fact, the Buddha stated that he "only teaches dukkha (suffering) and the end of dukkha (suffering)." If this isn't the core measure of our practice, then it sounds like what is being practiced is different from what the Buddha taught.

No one said enlightenment meant that you didn't have to deal with the world. Enlightenment means to be awake, not in a permanent state of bliss. But part of that wakefulness is an acceptance of the world, no matter what arises. Material wealth comes and goes-- understanding this, why crave the temporary?
"

Acting in a certain manner for a desired outcome is not the same as non acceptance. Typically in western society even the very basics our meals and shelter do not just appear when needed, there is planning and execution for an outcome. This is a game we play, to objectify and attach outcomes and plans is non acceptance. Functioning will happen and only stops in death, to act on an idealogy that confuses functioning as an attachment will suck the life out of the living.
The fact that Kenneth is functioning with plans and strategies ( to speak of the specifics of this thread ), that which we all do, does not or need not demonstrate a non acceptance of the world. At least in english, the word suffering seems to have too broad a meaning for that which I believe the Buddha is saying.


  • garyrh
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RE: Learning about money 18 May 2010 08:49 #59332

As a teacher of meditation and other spirtitual practices for years,mostly in the Jewish tradition , here is what I think. I would describe what I have done to be similar to the roles of mother, father, friend, lover, brother, sister, guide, teacher, mentor, priest, minister, rabbi, doctor, nurse, therapist and healer. Some of these roles are easy to pay for or to recieve money for and some of those roles are inappropriate to direct money transfers. Perhaps that is why it is such a complex subject to address. Paying the teacher for a class feels fine. Paying my friend for a hug would be weird.
We have dealt with the money issue by teaching retreats for dana. It has always paid as well as the years we charged tuition for the retreats. Because of the real need for ongoing connections in such a transformational process as meditation is we ran many two year programs that were limited to 24 people that we worked with regularly and they all paid a sliding scale fee for that and it covered a lot of our basic yearly expenses. So when any one of our students whether they were in the program or not needed anything we just provided it. Often it was help in a meditation query but just as often it was more like being available as their spiritual friend. Never was each and every exchange involved with a money transfer. That would have altered the potential range and depth of the relationships and even in some cases the possibility of a relationship. Very much appreciating this discussion. Sincerely Shoshana
  • sokyu
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RE: Learning about money 18 May 2010 09:22 #59333

"No, you didn't get this from the Buddha. You got it from somebody who wrote it down centuries after the Buddha lived (assuming that there was an actual historical Buddha). And unless you can read the original (but suspect Pali) - you got someone's translation.

The truth isn't in some questionable, ancient sutra. It's right there in front of you all the time. You don't need someone to translate it for you. It is what is."

Leaving aside whether or not there was a Buddha and if there was one what he actually said, clearly the basic tenents of the Buddhist religion are the four noble truths which is about the truth of suffering and how to end it.
So, give the guy a break, it is more than reasonable for a person practicing buddhism to think that such a practice will relieve one's suffering.
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RE: Learning about money 18 May 2010 10:02 #59334

"We have dealt with the money issue by teaching retreats for dana... Because of the real need for ongoing connections in such a transformational process as meditation is we ran many two year programs that were limited to 24 people that we worked with regularly and they all paid a sliding scale fee for that and it covered a lot of our basic yearly expenses. So when any one of our students whether they were in the program or not needed anything we just provided it. Often it was help in a meditation query but just as often it was more like being available as their spiritual friend. Never was each and every exchange involved with a money transfer. That would have altered the potential range and depth of the relationships and even in some cases the possibility of a relationship."-sokyu

Thanks, Shoshana, your experience is very relevant here since the question under discussion is how to make dharma (in general and my own teaching in particular) self-sustaining. It sounds like the model you've described (occasional retreats in addition to a core program for those who want ongoing, personal support) has worked for you and may be one that other teachers could successfully adopt. Were there any disadvantages to this system that you would address if you were starting now from scratch? Were you able to meet all of your financial needs, including health care and planning for retirement, or did you have to supplement your income through other means or rely on savings?

Thanks for helping,

Kenneth
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RE: Learning about money 18 May 2010 11:42 #59335

I have not found there to be any disadvantages to the system of 1)several yearly weeklong retreats and 2) core programs for those that works for and 3) individual work with pay or not as we decide for those who have wanted that. There are several others in the Jewish Renewal model who follow this framework and are able to manage financially. We know one who is living in the multiple six figure range, two who are in the already to begin with wealthy category and who are able to provide a lot of scholarships for those who need them and one who makes a modest living solely using this model. Each uses a different set of values to determine the cost of what they offer. Some just want to make a lot of money and to spend it and they have the charisma to charge a high price and receive it. The one with the modest living is a woman rabbi who is often considered counter-culture so reaches out to many and charges very little but it works in the long run for her. She is in her 50's and just now realizing that retirement is going to be an issue for her so will tithe a percentage of her already small (about $40,000) income to prepare more for that time. She and her husband do have health insurance. She joined up with other peripatetic teachers so they could get a group plan insurance wise. Her husband is on disability and they live very inexpensively in a rural area in the west. I believe you know Michael Freeman and the dana model he lives with in New Mexico.
We , my husband and I only worked 1/4 to 1/2 time as we also wanted a lot of time for our own practice. So we only earned less than half our living from teaching. Both of us have had our "day jobs" in the past and from that work we built retirement plans, bought and sold a few homes during the last 30 years of ever-rising real estate and now live in retirement very simply off of those earnings.
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