The Dalai Lama has dedicated his life to the practice and spreading of Buddhist teachings: how wonderful! And he’s become a media star, filling large venues and appearing on talk shows*. Victor Chan, his Canadian promoter, refers to him and others (including Desmond Tutu and Eckhart Tolle) as the “spiritual dream team.”
Tickets for October’s two-hour public audience in Toronto (Tibetan language only) sold at $50; the following day’s “empowerment” was priced at $100 (general) and $200 (premium). The small print states that “a reasonable fee structure has been implemented … to defray the cost of organizing these auspicious teachings and ceremonies” and the less-than-wealthy were asked to submit a Financial Hardship Form for case-by-case consideration.
A recent organizer‘s website explains that “His Holiness the Dalai Lama does not accept a speaking fee ….” Then who, I wonder, is profiting from the Buddha’s teachings?
Gautama Shakyamuni (who became known as Buddha, “the awakened one”) spent forty years walking around India teaching his basic message of suffering and liberation. We’re told that anyone could attend such outdoor gatherings; anyone could step up, ask questions of the man, and receive careful and repeated explanation. Kings, scholars, householders, nuns, beggars — anyone! No charge. No premium seating. No financial hardship application.
Ken Wilber is a scholar and author on developmental psychology, philosophy, ecology, and spiritual practices. On the topic of money and dharma (the Buddha’s teachings as transmitted from teacher to student for 2500 years), he writes:
The dharma is free. No one should charge money for the teaching or transmission of Dharma. Dharma that touches money is no Dharma at all. Selling the Dharma — there is the root of all evil. The Dharma offered freely and without charge to all who seek it: there is purity, nobility, an honorable disposition. And so goes the strange antagonism between Dharma and dollars.
What are your thoughts on this?
* I mean no disrespect for the Dalai Lama — he’s simply the most visible among pricy dharma teachers; others include Pema Chödrön, Thich Nath Hanh, and such heavy borrowers as Eckhart Tolle. image credit: http://woodsbrothersconsulting.com