illustration (attribution, if any possible, is at the end of the article)
Given the culture of ‘free’ on the internet (the medium I use to reach out), many people visibly find hard to seriously consider supporting a teacher (even one whose writings they appreciate), for themselves or for the saṅgha at large.
Following (gplus.wallez.name/6AYF3WQe7qL) my first call for donations, two major misconceptions have come to my attention over the past week, which I will address as transparently as possible!
First misconception: the delusion of "it's easy with 36,120 followers"
There is general, impersonal, mistrust.
I don't take it personally, but it doesn't help.
It may take the form of « if I hear you drive a rolls-royce, I may lose my mindfulness and come burn it to the ground » (said more or less 'jokingly'), combined with assumptions such as « with all the funds pouring in, you may be tempted. »
It might also take the form of general 'accusations' against all spiritual teachers such as « Sincerely hope all you 'spiritual' people or people of spirit, do all that you do for the benefit of this world and not for the profit of your pockets… it is so disheartening to meet so many 'gurus' focused intently on making money while telling others how to live life… »
On a personal level, and for the sake of transparency, here are a few facts:
Based on my first call for donations recently, 20 people supported me and 2 more committed to help at a later date. Most donations were one-off and most of them were 'small' (3 one-off donations make up for half the total proceeds… all others for the other half).
It is easy to assume that with 36,120 followers, "money will pour in" but it simply doesn't!
I announced I needed help in order to live 'frugally'; of course, we might debate what 'frugal' means.
If I consider being funded at the minimum legal salary per hour, donations so far do provide for 94 hours.
I can confidently state that on average I spend more than 47 hours a week supporting the saṅgha… so the donations received cover 2 weeks of life, on the minimum legal salary, with many unpaid extra hours.
If I assume living off 50% of the local average weekly earnings (this is one of the usual thresholds to define the "poverty line"), the donations also cover roughly 2 weeks…
I would assume both of these views are reasonably close to 'frugality', but even if you want to stretch it, I'm sure you can see that I'll visibly need to call for more donations.
I am extremely thankful to the 20 people who currently support me, but this leaves quite a few others who could make a donation (small or big), notably among those who have followed me for a while.
So if your narrative is that my pockets are 'probably' full of cash, let me assure you that this is not the case!
Second misconception: consumerism applies!
The second main reason for people not to give seems to be a mix of ideas about "getting a good deal" and the "infinite availability on the internet"… Basically: consumerism at its worst.
"Getting a good deal" is based on counting on others to pay for what you get: « surely, with 36,120 followers, there will be enough supporters for me not to have to give? »
You get a teacher available for all (including you) for free? Good deal!
Obviously the fallacy is that, when most people think this way, the teacher is not actually funded.
Most of us live in modern 'consumer' societies. Supposedly this is 'progress', but the "good deal" fallacy is just 'greed' at a societal scale.
Ask yourself « can I possibly give away the value of 2 coffees a month? Are these teachings possibly worth this much (to me or to others)? More? A meal a month maybe? Should I necessarily prefer to "buy an app", or rent a film, or have one more drink on my next night out, than pay for such support? »
Let's be clear: I know for sure that some people cannot spare £4 a month! And I wouldn't want them to lose access to what I teach because of their circumstances. But I also know that, statistically, very few people on g+ are in such a difficult situation, so… societal greed is at play. Everyone can look at their (g+) neighbour, but I'm afraid waiting for the next person is not the same as taking responsibility yourself.
The "infinite availability on the internet" is based on the delusion that anything can be built in the long run without funding.
Can you endlessly find new teachers appearing on the internet? Yes!
Every day, you can find a new enthusiast beginner starting a new blog on Buddhism… After a few posts about the four noble truths or a few basic instructions on meditation, the extremely vast majority of such blogs will stop though.
Yes, there is infinite availability of the same teachings, for beginners, by beginners, over and again on the internet. But this doesn't support your path. You can only build if you can stay with a source long enough to receive support beyond 'introductory' Buddhism.
A few enthusiasts are very well read, and might know more than some 'professional' teachers. Some teachers specialise in supporting beginners exclusively, and do an amazing job at it! To progress you might one day need, individually, to leave them and reach to another teacher (but hopefully, by then, you're also able to appreciate the value they bring to the world, and you can understand the importance of continuously funding them)! The key points is that people who support you in the long run on the arduous path toward Liberation are few and far between.
Given the non-beginner nature of my posts and active support, if your narrative for not giving is the "infinite availability on the internet", you're falling for a delusion.
Having hopefully debunked two common misconceptions, I'm asking again for you to review what it means to be generous.
Please donate at koan.mu/donate.htm
photo: Stupa and buddha, Ellora (cave), India © D. Wallez, 2008