illustration (attribution, if any possible, is at the end of the article)
Every time I ask for donations, some person or another comes back with "the dharma should be given freely", so blinded by their clinging to what they consider their 'own', that they cannot even see that it is given freely!
It was free before I asked for donations late August, it still is free today: all posts are 'public', their frequency is unchanged…
Calling for donations is simply not the same as charging people when spreading the buddhadharma.
I previously answered questions vis-à-vis my 'intentions' and the changing circumstances (gplus.wallez.name/UUb7oSn8xDR). I won't address it again.
What's interesting to me is that arguments differ, right after "the dharma should be given freely", depending on which tradition one comes from or calls upon.
Some Theravādins are prone to ignoring contradictions with the Canon, and to forgetting that living on donations is advocated in the Canon for a purpose.
The Canon is very clear that when people wanted to hear the Dharma, they would invite part of the Buddhist community for lunch… hence creating the opportunity for the Dharma to be taught. This is different from being 'charged' a lunch for the Teachings, because there were no prerequisite (e.g. in terms of quantity or quality) or predefined 'rate'; but it's still an active participation (instead of simply waiting there and demanding for others to give teachings for free)!
Moreover, the reason why monastics live on donations is not because they're monastics and 'deserve' to be taken care of by the community… This is not some kind of reward for their past karma, or for their life choices. The projection of 'superiority' on monastics just due to a social status (or associated specific rules) is not granted by the Teachings. The monastics are taken care of by the community at large because they provide value to the said community, and because not having to earn a living in traditional ways helps them to provide the said value. Their contribution may be in preserving and spreading the teachings, and/or it may be in various charitable causes e.g. helping with the elderly and the sick. The point is: without donations, the value for the community is lost because, whether the monastics disrobe or die of starvation or illness (and all three happened many times throughout history), there's no one left to manifest the said value. "The dharma should be given freely" doesn't magically feed the providers, provide medicine or put a roof over their heads. Begging for monastics is not about a social status; it is about the most efficient way for society to support members who support society! It simply happens that a commercial exchange (characterised by 'predefined' rates: "this much of this for that much of that") is not appropriate for all exchanges.
Some Zen practitioners are prone to mention Dōgen and quote that « studying the Buddha way is studying oneself. Studying oneself is forgetting oneself. »
This is self-serving (by telling 'others' to forget themselves, while one clings to one's wealth) and it is the classic mistake of using the precepts to judge others instead of using them as a guidance for oneself!
More importantly, it's forgetting that Dōgen lived on donations, a fact which suggests that either the quote indicates that Dōgen was a liar, or… the quote is not about preventing teachers from being both dedicated and humble enough to ask for help (so they can continue spreading the teachings)!
Some Vipassana enthusiasts will mention that "Goenka never charged", but the description online associated to the Goenka Vipassana retreats is clear: « There are no charges for the courses - not even to cover the cost of food and accommodation. All expenses are met by donations from people who (…) wish to give others the opportunity to also benefit. » Calling for donations is simply not the same as charging people, we agree; but that precisely makes Goenka a confirmation of the legitimacy of my call for donations, rather than a criticism.
One may put blinders on, and pretend that all 'charities' should perform their function for free. Whether their object is against poverty, for human rights, for medicine, for education, most causes 'should' morally be responded to, infinitely, for free… but this is the real world, and Buddhism strongly suggests to look at reality "as it is", with electricity bills and food to pay!
What the Teachings are clear about is that every one bears the moral responsibility of helping others any way one can! One's circumstances may only allow to contribute to the world by signing free petitions online, another's may allow to cover the bill for the server, the electricity, the webdesigner, etc. Some people will contribute by working on the project rather than giving money. The common point of those taking their ethical responsibility seriously is that they contribute (to their specific ability) rather than criticise.
« Doing one's best » (gplus.wallez.name/Tnx1pJdhsvv) is very practical.
« To avoid all evil, to cultivate good, and to cleanse one's mind — this is the teaching of the Buddhas » (Dhammapada, 183).
Generosity (dāna) is the first 'quality' which is 'skilful' to cultivate selflessness and to tread the Path.
Building narratives (gplus.wallez.name/bj1t16Z5LqD), inconsistent with one's tradition and solely argued in order to "opt out", is not.
Please, help me continue spreading the buddhadharma, to the extent your circumstances permit: koan.mu/donate.htm
Image from en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Komuso