Question from reader:
Should a teacher (Guru, Swami, Master) charge his disciples a fee for the spiritual teachings that he/she teaches? Isn’t this in conflict with Aparigraha (non-possession)? I am not saying about the cost of books, room rentals, mailing, etc. I am saying about fees charged on top of all these normal expenses. (They say: “The truth will set you free”, but they charge the followers for the privilege).
You ask, ‘Isn’t this in conflict with Aparigraha (non-possession)?’
If you are practicing Aparigraha (non-possession) as an absolute concept, then you may be right, if a teacher charges money for his teaching you can see it as possessing BUT in the same breath you as a student are now possessing the knowledge, the dharma, the teaching as well as, potentially, even realization itself. Since possession is possession, no matter what, which one is more ‘right’ ?
Conflicts arise when we try to have a black and white approach; opinions, solutions, expectations etc.
Teaching is an exchange, like everything else in existence; breathing, eating, loving. You receive knowledge; you return love, energy, and support. So holding back on your own money at the time of a teaching exchange is not less of a possession then receiving the money for giving the teaching.
In the old days students/disciples/followers used to make sure that their teachers were being taken care of. They took care of their food, shelter and other needs. Often in the past and still to this day it even reached to the extreme, when disciples actually gave everything they had to the ashram that belonged to the teacher. Depending on the location and circumstances, teachers were sponsored by an entire village or even a king with all of their needs taken care of as a way of showing gratitude and to make sure that the teacher was free to simply be, practice and share valuable knowledge with others.
The tradition of disciples or students supporting their students is slowly disappearing as the world becomes faster paced, materialistic and overwhelming for most people. As a result, everyone is now looking after themselves, trying to do their best to survive.
So teaching becomes part of the everyday business world.
How can one see a teacher making a living in this materialistic world when the main source for food is the nearest supermarket and the possibility of finding a cave for free accommodation is zero?
How can one expect a full time teacher to make a living in this world with no money?
As a nourished students, where is one’s concern for the one that nourishes them?
As I said earlier, everything in life has two sides. A spiritual teacher doesn’t invent his teaching. The teaching is universal, always was and always will be. Teachers are just a vehicle for the teaching. This is why they cannot hold onto it, or own it, or manipulate it. I agree that money should never be a reason for the teaching; it should flow to where it is needed. I agree that sometimes teachers may take advantage of their status like everyone else.
On the other side, as a teacher I can see how often people will not hesitate to spend a fortune on a new sofa or a car or even a fancy meal in a restaurant but when it comes to spiritual teaching they expect it to be give away for free.
I remember an example from a few years ago when one of my students was complaining that she didn’t have the funds to come and join me on a meditation retreat which was really important to her. Even though the retreat was sold on a cost only basis, I agreed to have her join us for free.
2 weeks after the course I received a postcard from her saying how much she had enjoyed the retreat. The postcard was written from the Caribbean cruise she was on.
If there are excess funds available they can be used wisely and meaningfully. Odds are, a person with a higher consciousness will spend their excess funds more conscientiously which is why it is so important for spiritual people to master the art of manifesting the material world so they can turn around and create powerful change in the world around them.
I myself as a teacher prefer to be on the provider, rather than the needy side and one of the ways to get there is to charge for my services.
For further understanding of my response to you, you may want to read ‘Money and Spirituality’ which has been posted on this blog site.