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TOPIC: Learning about money

RE: Learning about money 16 May 2010 05:52 #59286


I think we have a great working model. It's this web site. You can get to know what Kenneth is all about, get to know Kenneth by interacting with him online, and know what it is you are getting thereby.

I don' think becoming grandiose and/or otherwise manipulative is built in but if it is, the "bust" part of your cycle is a good thing, right?

  • cmarti
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RE: Learning about money 16 May 2010 06:05 #59287


By the way, I'm being very loose in my use of the term "market" here. I'm using the word to mean any area in which there are people who offer something of value to other people. This "dharma market" is not like the market for stocks and bonds, or for jeans for that matter, where there is a lot of structure and the ways in which the buyers and sellers interact are limited by laws and regulations. Obviously, we have no such structure in place, no regulations, no authority that grants licenses or who monitors our activities, and so on.

  • cmarti
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RE: Learning about money 16 May 2010 06:55 #59288

Actually, I think there are two questions floating in this thread:

1. Should there be a charge for teaching events? This goes to the material question--- paying for food, shelter, time, organization, etc. This is the dana/charging scheme question. Should dharma be free?

2. Who should profit off of this charge? I heard BG interview Genpo Roshi who said he has a special retreat with 10 spots for $50,000. It seemed wrong until he said that all of this money went right back into his center (i.e. is recycled to further dharma teachings). This is a far different question than if Genpo Roshi kept the money for himself. This is the where does the money go question. Should dharma charges be used to subsidize a teachers house, plasma TV, or a nice new car?
  • msj123
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RE: Learning about money 16 May 2010 07:30 #59289

"Q: Can I get personalized meditation instruction with Kenneth?

A: Yes! Working one-on-one with real people is my favorite thing to do. We can talk by Skype or telephone. Please contact me via the private message system of this site to arrange private instruction. (You must log in to use the private message system.)

Q: Do you charge for your time?

A: No, but I do earn my living from the donations I receive. This is called dana (the traditional Buddhist system of providing a livelihood for dharma teachers by offering donations).

Q: Is there a suggested donation?

A: Yes. We are working on the 'pay it forward' plan. I am able to spend time with you today because of the donation someone made yesterday. I will be able to spend time with another yogi tomorrow because of the donation you make today.

This teaching will be self-sustaining when I can average $70 for each hour (or $35 for each half-hour) I spend working one-on-one with a student.* When you donate more than that, you are a benefactor student; you are helping a student who donates less. When you donate less than $70 an hour, you are a scholarship student; you are being helped by a student who donated more.

It's up to you to choose an amount that works for you; no one will be turned away. "

If you really look at what Kenneth posted, it's so innocuous! And yet look what comes up. Here I am dropping references to the Maharishi! LOL. The money issue clearly is a biggie. What Kenneth has done here is just spell out an amount for a requested donation. Is that what sparked all the discussion, or was it his disclosure of his target annual income and the fact that he'd like to do this full-time? Is the unspoken idea that teachers should be either "untainted" monastics (i.e. separate from us and special) or regular guys like us (i.e. people who hold down a day job)? If so, is that OK? Realistic? Fair?
  • jgroove
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RE: Learning about money 16 May 2010 07:44 #59290


I need a therapist. I think I'll use the one who's a stockbroker. She charges less because she makes her real living buying and selling stocks.

;-)

  • cmarti
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RE: Learning about money 16 May 2010 08:13 #59291

"
I need a therapist. I think I'll use the one who's a stockbroker. She charges less because she makes her real living buying and selling stocks.

;-)

"

Dharma practice, unlike stockbroking, is an inclusive, lifetime practice. There is no point at which the dharma cannot be practiced. It is difficult to trade stocks or administer therapy while driving a car, playing with your kids, or eating breakfast. True practice is all inclusive, a way of life. It is not the content that is important, so much as the ground.
  • msj123
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RE: Learning about money 16 May 2010 08:42 #59292

msj123, there is a moralistic undercurrent to your posts that I find unsettling. Let's level the playing field. I have disclosed to you. Will you disclose to me?

What do you do for a living? Do you bill by the hour? What is your rate?

Is your time more valuable than mine? If so, why? Is the service that you are rendering more valuable than the service I render? If so, why?

Is it appropriate for you to earn a middle class living doing what you do? Is it appropriate for me to do the same? If not, why not?

Please be clear. So far, I'm not sure I understand your point. There seems to be an undercurrent of disapproval, and, frankly, self-riteousness. But I may be misunderstanding your position and would like more clarity about what you are really saying.

By the way, this invitation goes out to anyone who feels judgmental about dharma teachers earning a middle class income by teaching dharma: what is your personal situation and why would you begrudge a dharma teacher the same right to be compensated for his time that you enjoy?

Let's get it all out into the light of day; in my opinion, only good can come from transparency and disclosure.

  • kennethfolk
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RE: Learning about money 16 May 2010 10:17 #59293

If you feel a moralistic, righteous undercurrent, is that because of what is coming from me, or what is coming from you? I'm tossing out a point of view, one I tend to agree with. This is not to say it is an absolute point--- like all points, it is limited and incomplete. Why is it striking such a chord here? It's just more content arising in awareness.

I am a lawyer. I don't bill by the hour because I've chosen to work for the government. Is my time more valuable than yours? No. Is it more appropriate for me to earn a middle class income? No. I wish everyone could earn a MC income. Keep in mind, tomorrow my whole life might change. I might be crippled, brain dead, sick or dying. I may have it nice today, and be on the bottom tomorrow. If so, I hope I can face it with something more than bitterness and resentment.

So why am I against making a middle class income off of dharma?

Some reasons: first, money has a corrupting influence. As the man said, we cannot serve both God and money.

Second, in my view, some one who has reached a high level of practice shouldn't be concerned with a middle class income. Some one who wants a MC income says to me: they may have a family to support, or they may have a lot of craving. Personally, I have both. But some one advanced in the dharma should be free (to some extent) of suffering whether rich or poor, so why the fixation on a middle class income? And if its for others, if you have to choose between keeping the dharma true or putting food on the table for your family, which will we choose? No doubt, the family.

Third, there is something very wrong in my mind for charging for the priceless teachings of the dharma. This makes it a commodity. But it isn't. It is far more precious than anything on this earth. How can we sell it like a box of cereal or a crate of eggs?

Just some thoughts.
  • msj123
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RE: Learning about money 16 May 2010 11:39 #59294

msj: I think the following question is quite relevant to the discussion: How did your practice begin, and continue? (tradition, teachers, etc)
  • yadidb
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RE: Learning about money 16 May 2010 11:53 #59295

"So why am I against making a middle class income off of dharma?

Some reasons: first, money has a corrupting influence. As the man said, we cannot serve both God and money.

Second, in my view, some one who has reached a high level of practice shouldn't be concerned with a middle class income. Some one who wants a MC income says to me: they may have a family to support, or they may have a lot of craving. Personally, I have both. But some one advanced in the dharma should be free (to some extent) of suffering whether rich or poor, so why the fixation on a middle class income? And if its for others, if you have to choose between keeping the dharma true or putting food on the table for your family, which will we choose? No doubt, the family.

Third, there is something very wrong in my mind for charging for the priceless teachings of the dharma. This makes it a commodity. But it isn't. It is far more precious than anything on this earth. How can we sell it like a box of cereal or a crate of eggs?
"

Money does not corrupt, it is an attachement for money that does. I see Kenneth wants a middle class life style, take your wife out for dinner sometimes, that sort of thing. I also do not see Kenneth putting a price on the dharma. He wants to teach the the dharma full-time and is trying to figure how he can do this and live comfortably. This is not the same as specifically charging for the dharma, if Kenneth had his MC income now the dharma would still be taught. An example to illustrate a if Kenneth gets an inheritance from his rich uncle in my opinion it is only a shallow observation to say the dharma is now free, it is not the dharma being traded here.
In summary and to be blunt Kenneth is only saying I want a to live with certain level of comfort. Does wanting this have anything to do with Enlightenment? Maybe Kenneth could respond to this question.

  • garyrh
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RE: Learning about money 16 May 2010 12:03 #59297

I don't want to belabor my background right now as I'm recovering from surgery and using the computer hurts, but I've been running online dharma programs since the early 90s. The other side to msj's quote above is that, particularly in an online environment, people want things to be free. So that priceless gift of the dharma that teachers are willing to give away isn't being reciprocated with dana. Why is that? Largely it's cultural. We simply don't have a system that corresponds in the west. We also have a bias that things that are free tend to be cheap, so we value them less. In our online programs we started to get a much more serious participation commitment from people when they were paying to enter. So while it may be less than desirable to charge for the dharma, I think it's even more less than desirable to take for free (or overly cheaply) that which is being given freely. It can certainly be construed as taking advantage of another.

If Kenneth or others are teaching middle classers should the teachers really need to be impoverished, live hand to mouth, or worry about the care and maintenance of the body? I've supported well my teachers over the years, and I've given back to the dharma by devoting my life to it. It's a choice I've made. But it's a choice that only makes sense in so far as I'm not harming my family or myself. Not having benefits or being able to pay bills should I become infirm is not a sign of my wisdom, but simply of poor planning. I could simply practice for myself. Study with individual teachers as they can help me over hurdles and largely stay in the cave of my own making not sharing my experiences. That's a valid choice, obviously, but it's also one that doesn't sow many seeds.

I hope my first post here isn't too disjointed. It's been an interesting read, and an ongoing topic of exploration in my own life.
  • gsteinb
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RE: Learning about money 16 May 2010 12:03 #59296


"Dharma practice, unlike stockbroking, is an inclusive, lifetime practice. There is no point at which the dharma cannot be practiced. It is difficult to trade stocks or administer therapy while driving a car, playing with your kids, or eating breakfast. True practice is all inclusive, a way of life. It is not the content that is important, so much as the ground. "

I agree with this as it applies to the way I practice... and it IS the way I practice. But we're not talking about my practice or your practice or anyone else's practice in this discussion. We're talking about the teaching of the dharma and how people might be able to pursue that as an avocation while making a decent living. So, msj123, how would you construct the teaching of the dharma? How should a dharma teacher make a go of it? Or should they not be able to?

  • cmarti
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RE: Learning about money 16 May 2010 12:09 #59298


That's a great comment, gsteinb, and welcome to this place. The very first teaching of the dharma I ever received from anyone was from Andrew Quernmore and it was online. I paid for his three month online vipassana course. Andrew is still teaching that same course, still online: www.vipassana.com.

  • cmarti
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RE: Learning about money 16 May 2010 13:10 #59299

Back in the day when the Buddha walked, renunciates like himself were commonly supported by donations of food, clothing and shelter. Kings and commoners both were supportive of spiritual teachers.

Today in the modern West, anyone who lived and taught in the manner of the ancient Buddha would probably be deemed a bum, a homeless shirker who should be out there, nose to the grindstone, earning a decent living like a good, hardworking joe, while giving away his priceless teaching in his spare time, as if it were a hobby like building ships in a bottle.

What's wrong with this picture?
  • Gozen
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RE: Learning about money 16 May 2010 14:08 #59300

funny enough my fiance's dad makes a living off his hobby of building ships in a bottle.
  • gsteinb
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RE: Learning about money 16 May 2010 14:18 #59301

"
I value Kenneth's teaching.

Organized religion is a very lucrative enterprise. Very, very lucrative. I see a material distinction between giving 10% of my income to an organized religious organization and giving Kenneth Folk $XX per hour for personalized instruction. I think this issue is really very simple at its core: how does a dharma teacher live so that they can spread the dharma full time? It's easy, and as Nathan has discovered entertaining, to consider all the deeper philosophical ramifications of this. But that won't put food on the table.

Written from the Pinnacle of Human Civilization ;-D
"

Sorry cmarti, but to be honest I haven't noted any deep philosophical ramifications. I don't have a dog in this fight, blanched or otherwise. I find most of what I have read online about this and related subjects very humorous and that is about all. I went overseas to see for myself what was going on in buddhist countries and they certainly have no problem commodifying dharma over there. The Dhammakaya temples have a whole list of devatta realms and how much you need to donate to get into them. Based on that Kenneth should be easily justified in setting up a table with jhanas, nanas, fruitions and a price list. I don't have a problem with it regardless of what he does. I offered to pay just for the laughs I've gotten from looking into this topic. What more do you want? One time a monk walked up to me in Bangkok with a huge wad of large bills pressed between his hands and he stared at me waiting for me to add to his stack. I suppose I should have paid up for having the privilege of him standing there intimidating me but I guess I was out of my philosophical depth because I just stared back at him like he was from mars. -posted from the wilderness.
  • triplethink
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RE: Learning about money 16 May 2010 14:26 #59302

"funny enough my fiance's dad makes a living off his hobby of building ships in a bottle. "

Hey, I had no idea that making ships in a bottle could be so lucrative! Of course, he is selling them, not giving them away.

So teaching the Dharma ought to be compensated at least as well.
  • Gozen
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RE: Learning about money 16 May 2010 14:28 #59303

I think if we can disassocaite with Buddhism and religion for a moment and think that Kenneth is teaching Meditation (which I believe he is actully doing), now where does the you shouldnt charge for the dharma come into it. There are plenty of yoga, qigong, Tai Chi, martial arts, health practitioners, meditation (all meditation teachers) out there that form a living from teaching for money are they all wrong for what they are doing.
  • jeffgrove
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RE: Learning about money 16 May 2010 15:11 #59304

"I think if we can disassocaite with Buddhism and religion for a moment and think that Kenneth is teaching Meditation (which I believe he is actully doing), now where does the you shouldnt charge for the dharma come into it. There are plenty of yoga, qigong, Tai Chi, martial arts, health practitioners, meditation (all meditation teachers) out there that form a living from teaching for money are they all wrong for what they are doing."

For me this helps a lot. Kenne.th is teaching meditation/enlightenment and he refers to his students as "yogis."
clearly, a LOT of yoga teachers make a very good living and I think this is only limited by their talents and skills and ambitions. So maybe over time Kenneth and others could start to follow a model adopted from the hatha yoga world.
I think there is a Daniel Ingram essay in which he envisions a world in which yogis practicing techniques that lead to enlightenment is just a normal thing. Such a world could include "yoga studios" run by people like Kenneth who also write books,
create DVDs, have workshops, retreats, camps. Just look at a yoga journal magazine to see all the possibilities.
I've thought a lot about the american zen world during this discussion. There is a sort of career path there that has worked better for some than others when it comes to making a decent income. But, this is a religious-oriented model that is affiliated with an actual religious organization. so, while related, it doesn't really apply I guess.
and, I still think that shinzen young's model should be looked at closely as a sort of "best practices" example. I could be wrong, but I bet he makes a living teaching full time.
  • telecaster
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RE: Learning about money 16 May 2010 15:23 #59305

"I think if we can disassocaite with Buddhism and religion for a moment and think that Kenneth is teaching Meditation (which I believe he is actully doing), now where does the you shouldnt charge for the dharma come into it. There are plenty of yoga, qigong, Tai Chi, martial arts, health practitioners, meditation (all meditation teachers) out there that form a living from teaching for money are they all wrong for what they are doing."

I can speak to that from experience but not from any philosophical depths because I have that kind of experience but I don't have philosophical depths. In my teens I found a tai chi teacher, old Chinese guy, very legit, high in the Yang lineage, excellent instructor, he gave teachings of the kind people describe as priceless. I mentioned before that he charged because otherwise no one would come. When he realized how into it I was he refused to take my money any more. I learned a ton of stuff from him and he has my highest respect. Work and life took me away from that town and I went to all kinds of tai chi classes in a lot of places and the more they charged the less they knew. A philosopher might conclude that there was some kind of universal principal involved. I doubt it but that was my experience with that. People in general had an emotional investment in their teacher and what they were learning that was clearly related to how much they paid as well such that the more it cost them the more important they felt their teacher and what they learned was. That sentiment had no relation to what they actually knew or not but a lot to do with their investments of time and money. I have the impression that the money distorted their perceptions of what was actually going on quite a lot. I'm offering the observations just for general consideration, not because I have an angle on this stuff. I like Kenneth, I like the discussion, I'm open to new experiences, sometimes experience is costly and sometimes its free. That's life.
  • triplethink
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RE: Learning about money 16 May 2010 17:41 #59306

msj123, I find your thinking extremely faulty, riddled with unrealistic and seemingly untested ideals, and frankly very inhuman. The spirituality you describe is one I have very little interest in. That said, I think it's important to respond to your points, as unfortunately, all to many people buy into these arguments.

a) A good sign of a person's overall maturity has to do with the way they deal with money. Money, in my experience, isn't necessarily corrupting. Power can be corrupting, but only when it's repressed and then it comes out in strange ways. Otherwise power can be used in very good ways, and money can be used in very good ways. I've met philanthropists who are some of the most beneficial people on the planet, and they clearly don't shy away from money.

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.

c) What's with all the reactivity with charging for something? Charging for something and commodifying it (in the sense that you speak of) are actually different things. And frankly my time, when I guide people in the dharma, is a commodity. It's not abundant, it's valuable, and I offer it only under certain circustances (and money does play into this). People respect that, because they understand that I value my time and skill. Awakening itself isn't a commodity, but the time and skill used to support people in that process is. Get over it dude.
  • vjhorn
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RE: Learning about money 16 May 2010 18:08 #59307

I reckon before people start getting "really" heated about this tricky subject, I'll quote Kenneth at the beginning of this thread.

"I just want to make one suggestion, as a kind of pre-emptive strike: as this issue continues to heat up in this thread, please be kind to those you disagree with. So far, it's been great. Thanks!" Kenneth
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RE: Learning about money 16 May 2010 22:31 #59308

From "The Buddha as astute businessman, economist, lawyer" in UCLA Today magazine:

"The Buddha's life is a reminder that poverty, not money, is the root of all evil. In fact, modern research is making it increasingly clear that monks everywhere were overwhelmingly middle-class, and in early India, said Schopen, 'the predominant ideology was not, in spite of representations in bad movies, particularly ascetic, and certainly not averse to the accumulation of wealth.''

www.today.ucla.edu/portal/ut/two-cheers-...ha-astute-85231.aspx

Maybe Gregory Schopen, one of the preeminent Buddhist scholars of our time is full of it. On the other hand, maybe he's not.

If our most cherished beliefs turn out to be nonsense...
where will we stand?

(We will have no choice but to grow up. Oh, happy day.)
  • kennethfolk
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RE: Learning about money 16 May 2010 22:42 #59309

When people are wary of money, there are often valid conditions that they have in mind. While any tool can be used for good or ill, the fact is that dominant cultures do arise around various emotionally-charged tools and objects.

As do all cultures, commercial cultures enforce social conventions of meaning and practice. My sense is that people who warn about money are wary of some of the powerful social conventions that commonly exist around the culture of commercialism.

These include:
Profanity (not in the sense of verbal expletives, but in the sense of remoteness from that which is sacred or refined)
Anonymity
The valorization and idealization of '˜Commodity' and '˜Commerce' as highest goods in and of themselves and, as a result,
An excessive focus on the superficial over values and content

Because we are so accustomed to associating these and similar conventions with cultures of commercialism, we may come to equate them with money itself. Money then becomes, in our minds, the agent of profanity.

Two responses to the issue:
1) Stop dealing with money. Accept the cultural projection of money as profane. Stop dealing with it, thereby restricting your exposure to the '˜agent of profanity'.

2) Deal with money and accept a label of yourself as '˜dirtied' or '˜profaned' because of that contact.

A whole range of alternative responses, however, involve challenging not money, but the negative aspects of the culture that often surrounds it'”whether within your own mind or out in society.

This is just one reason why the openness and transparency of this discussion is probably much more important than whatever financial structure Kenneth finally chooses. (That'll probably keep evolving anyway.)
  • NigelThompson
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RE: Learning about money 17 May 2010 01:16 #59310

Well I have stayed out of this discussion but whatever, i'll throw my hat into the ring. I think this discussion is very important. I will be honest in a sense it makes me uncomfortable for a spiritual teacher to bring up money. I think for me that is rooted in some (non-financial) ways people in spiritual authority have taken/tried to take advantage of me. Its hard for me not to be vary around people in spiritual authority. The fact that Kenneth is having this discussion out in the open instead of hinting around it shows commendable maturity around the issue...

It also hit home for me because, well I have no source of income. As a student in Singapore it is illegal for me to work. And this summer when I move back to the US will be in a apprenticeship position where I will get room and board and no pay. So for me, the insistence on donating (from a few members here) tends to make me uncomfortable... because at this moment in my life I am not in a position to help... It makes me feel awkward because these circumstances have no bearing on how much I value the dharma, which is certainly the most important thing in my life right now...

On the flip side. I do believe Kenneth has every right to attempt to gain a middle class income from his teaching. He is very skilled at what he does, open, and human.
  • ClaytonL
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