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Yesterday my colleague Sam posted a blog that quickly prompted a thoughtful response from a practitioner in Scotland. At the the end of his post he writes,
There is one thing about Buddhism that I find disturbing. Why is it so damned expensive? I have missed teachings because I just cannot afford the fees. I'm not surprised that Buddhists do tend to be middle class, they are the people than can actually afford it.
It is true, many dharma programs are expensive, which can be frustrating. I have been frustrated myself.
As dharma communities find their way in a highly materialistic culture, problems and issues around money (isn't the dharma free? but don't sanghas have to pay the bills?), are things we all struggle with. Here are two recommendations that have helped me.
1- Regarding Buddhists programs and teachings, inquire about scholarships, sliding-scale pricing, and work-study programs. Many dharma centers offer these. Such centers, despite tight budgets, WANT you to attend their programs and will be happy to work with you to find a way to make attending possible. If you are intimidated by the price of a program, don't just give up. Reach out. If there is no workable option available, make your desire for one known. Doing so provides a great service to others that find themselves in the same situation.
2-Explore free and low-cost ways to support your practice. Most centers offer free teachings and group-meditation practice. There are also many excellent free resources online. Tricycle, for example, offers free Basic Membership, which, amoing other things, includes our "daily dharma," a free daily quote and free articles from our Wisdom Collection. I personally spend a lot of time on sites like Access to Insight, Himalayan Art Resources, and Sweeping Zen, to name just a few. Do you have any you would like recommend? Feel free to post!
Regarding low cost options, support your local library! Libraries are too wonderful to be as neglected as they are. Recently, in our ongoing community discussion, What Led You to Buddhism? I was very happy to see that not one, but several commenters reported discovering the dharma at a library. Think your local library won't have any good Buddhist resources? Put it to the test. You may be pleasantly surprised.
I feel I also need to mention the work we are doing here at tricycle.com. For Sustaining and Supporting members, ($30 and $25, respectively), we offer a year of weekly video teachings and discussions with great Buddhist teachers and scholars. This averages out to $2.50 a month or less to learn from renowned teachers, not to mention our magazine and free offerings like daily dharma, community discussions, our blog, the Tricycle Gallery, The Tricycle Community site on NING, and so on.
If you have any thoughts on the relationship between Buddhism and money or any advice for those of us who struggle with it (which is probably most of us), share your thoughts.
Image by ianqui (Flickr)