Making free retreat centers.

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Making free retreat centers.

Postby Indrajala » Thu Jan 31, 2013 9:15 am

Here I don't want to discuss whether it is justified or not to charge people to participate in retreats, but simply how an organization might go about making it free to participate while still accepting donations.

I'll propose a few ideas.

    -No electricity. That means no costs associated with lighting, appliances, phone, internet and so on. Less distractions, too.

    -Wood fired ovens for heating and cooking. If located in a rural area with the right to collect firewood, heating would be basically free.

    -No running water. Use outhouses and buckets of water from a well or water pump. No worry about plumbing expenses.

    -Communal sauna for bathing. Easily assembled and repaired if made of bricks and plywood.

    -Large kitchen garden for vegetables. Staple carbohydrates like rice and flour in bulk are cheap enough.

I was thinking how my mother grew up in rural Saskatchewan, Canada without any electricity or running water until the late 50s. I've lived close to this standard of living before and thought it was fine (I had electricity for maybe six hours a day though). It would really just be going back to the standard of living from an earlier time.
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Re: Making free retreat centers.

Postby muni » Thu Jan 31, 2013 10:16 am

I think this is an useful tread. We also have to reach the place of retreat. As far as possible, some can offer a seat in their car for fellows.

Not to forget the disabled ones, I am not talking about those in wheelchairs only.
Bring some chairs to place behind the cushions, leave some room along the walls if possible for our fellows with less flexible bodies. Free is not only about money.

People can open a library and bring books for all to read, back home. The Master can check them, if they are useful for the students or discuss from before what books can be offered in the library.

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Re: Making free retreat centers.

Postby Seishin » Thu Jan 31, 2013 10:49 am

Tents in the back yard, so there's no need to rent out a venue.
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Re: Making free retreat centers.

Postby Indrajala » Thu Jan 31, 2013 2:50 pm

Seishin wrote:Tents in the back yard, so there's no need to rent out a venue.


That's actually not a bad idea, either.

To find a quieter place you might get everyone into a van and setup camp out in the bush somewhere.

My concern is really that a lot of poor people are priced out of retreats. They have to charge money for various reasons because without it, it won't happen. However, going back to dirt poor conditions of old would probably allow for free retreats. If you had to chop firewood, then another pair of hands is always welcome.
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Re: Making free retreat centers.

Postby pemachophel » Thu Jan 31, 2013 4:53 pm

Huseng,

What do you mean by retreats?

1. Teaching weekends/weeks

2. Drubchen/drubcho

3. Intensive practice sessions (three days or longer) with or without boundaries

In the West, we've come to use the word "retreat" fairly loosely.
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Re: Making free retreat centers.

Postby Jikan » Thu Jan 31, 2013 6:23 pm

Huseng wrote:Here I don't want to discuss whether it is justified or not to charge people to participate in retreats, but simply how an organization might go about making it free to participate while still accepting donations.

I'll propose a few ideas.

    -No electricity. That means no costs associated with lighting, appliances, phone, internet and so on. Less distractions, too.

    -Wood fired ovens for heating and cooking. If located in a rural area with the right to collect firewood, heating would be basically free.

    -No running water. Use outhouses and buckets of water from a well or water pump. No worry about plumbing expenses.

    -Communal sauna for bathing. Easily assembled and repaired if made of bricks and plywood.

    -Large kitchen garden for vegetables. Staple carbohydrates like rice and flour in bulk are cheap enough.

I was thinking how my mother grew up in rural Saskatchewan, Canada without any electricity or running water until the late 50s. I've lived close to this standard of living before and thought it was fine (I had electricity for maybe six hours a day though). It would really just be going back to the standard of living from an earlier time.


The most expensive thing would probably be insurance (if you're in the US, that is)
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Re: Making free retreat centers.

Postby Yudron » Thu Jan 31, 2013 6:45 pm

Nice, for those who have the body and will for it. But long term camps are regulated here in California and inspected, because of a history of abuse of migrant workers. So, this would not meet health codes here.

The gardening thing works in a Chan or Zen tradition. Having done a group retreat in the Tibetan tradition I can say it would detract from the experience because gardening and cooking from scratch in addition to chopping wood, maintaining the camp, and so forth, would cut into formal session times... which take up 10 or 12 hours a day.

Loppon Jigme Rinpoche is starting a three year retreat facility in Mexico to bring the expenses down. He did two three year retreats under the kind of rugged circumstances you are talking about, but it was extremely cold, too. It will be interesting to see how rugged he makes the facility for his own students.

Most of us here in the U.S. are not accustomed to austerities and would get depressed under prolonged rough circumstances.
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Re: Making free retreat centers.

Postby Johnny Dangerous » Thu Jan 31, 2013 6:56 pm

Aren't the Goenka retreats free?

I don't know how exactly the model works, but if so i'm surprised that more don't do it.
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is not born in the hearts of disciples in whom the moisture of attachment has dried up. It grows instead in the hearts of ordinary sentient beings who possess in full the fetters of bondage." -Se Chilbu Choki Gyaltsen
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Re: Making free retreat centers.

Postby Clarence » Thu Jan 31, 2013 6:56 pm

I like the idea. Would be nice to see if it is possible to it out on paper. I think the bhavana society in W-Virginia is a good model.

That said, PemaChophel asked a good question. What kind of retreat are we talking about here. Also, if there are teachers, which there probably should be, unless only experienced can apply, who will pay for their transport, etc? Will they also have to stay in a tent?

Finally, besides some of the things you already mentioned, what does one effectively need? And, once that is established, how will that be paid for? When there are no retreat, who will live there to do the upkeep?
Also, I think it is important to realize that for people living in the west, staying at such a rugged place will be much harder than for people living in Asia. What about restrooms/showers, etc? Who will pay for that water and heating?

Many questions, to which I wish I had an answer because I really like the idea and have been toying with it myself for some time now. There are many campings in France or Italy which I think would be perfect for such retreats. But, it would not be totally free.
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Re: Making free retreat centers.

Postby Clarence » Thu Jan 31, 2013 7:03 pm

Good post Yudron.

Yes, Goenka retreat are free. But teachers don't get paid a dime from what I remember. That is wholly different in the Tibetan tradition where a lot of monasteries in Asia run on western money (though these days more Taiwanese money) but that is off-topic. I like it though. I have run two retreats at home some time ago. I paid for the plane tickets, the Rinpoche stayed at my house, etc. Donations all went straight to the Rinpoche. But, that was small and affordable. Still people complained I didn't have the tea ready when they arrived. Also, the Rinpoche turned out weird so I stopped doing it but on a small scale it is possible when people don't have to sleep over. Which, in the end, is not really a retreat of course.
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Re: Making free retreat centers.

Postby muni » Fri Feb 01, 2013 8:27 am

By the basis that practice is genuinely for the sake of everyone, organizers can see what must be done in accordance with place, climat and so on.

Since usually in whatever organisation or event, there are many ways to gain money for "the sake of all who can offer it" and for the smoothly run of everything.

Buddhist teachings comes from 'the heart' and are therefore for the sake of all.
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Re: Making free retreat centers.

Postby Indrajala » Fri Feb 01, 2013 8:39 am

Yudron wrote:Most of us here in the U.S. are not accustomed to austerities and would get depressed under prolonged rough circumstances.


That is part of the process -- remedying sensory cravings and creature comforts.

Actually, that just goes to show you how addicted we generally are to these things compared to people a few generations ago (or elsewhere in the world). If we can't have a hot shower daily we start feeling uneasy. In Ladakh I went several weeks without bathing during the winter and had to eventually boil water to wash as I couldn't tolerate myself. :smile:

But then Ladakhis like Tibetans never really developed a bathing culture. It is all quite subjective really.

So, you have to remedy habituated cravings for contemporary comforts and the more basic cravings. We're at a disadvantage. If you come from rural Nepal you might only have to deal with the latter, but not the former. If you've never had 24/7 access to hot showers, you'll presumably not feel uneasy not having access to it. The same goes for having no access to electricity, internet, phone and so on.
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Re: Making free retreat centers.

Postby Indrajala » Fri Feb 01, 2013 8:40 am

pemachophel wrote:Huseng,

What do you mean by retreats?

1. Teaching weekends/weeks

2. Drubchen/drubcho

3. Intensive practice sessions (three days or longer) with or without boundaries

In the West, we've come to use the word "retreat" fairly loosely.



I mean a communal facility for living long-term with the express intent of doing personal practice at minimal financial cost.
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Re: Making free retreat centers.

Postby oushi » Fri Feb 01, 2013 9:48 am

You may find this TED talk useful
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Re: Making free retreat centers.

Postby Thrasymachus » Fri Feb 08, 2013 3:21 pm

Those are good suggestions to just live better, retreat or not. Coincidentally they are also cheaper. Technology and modern comforts make you comfortable, complacent and mentally and physically weak since you don't need to have discipline to plan ahead or deal with adversity.

-- Starches are not just the cheapest, but also the healthiest way to eat. Dr. John McDougall actually advocates a starch based diet to overcome most chronic care issues like type 2 diabetes, obesity, high blood pressure, ischemia, etc. So you will also pay less for medical services, but actually be healthier, since you deal with the underlying diet based causes.
McDougall Newsletter wrote:Cutting Food Costs in These Times of Economic Downturn

...

Eat for Less than $3 a Day on The McDougall Diet

The McDougall Diet is based on starches—potatoes, grains, and legumes. These plant foods, which provide for the bulk of your calories, cut expenses in several important ways. Starches are inherently inexpensive—a full days supply of calories from starches will cost less than $1.50. You can stockpile grains, potatoes and legumes, cutting costs of transportation to the market. These foods are easily stored for long periods of time without the energy costs associated with refrigeration. Since they do not easily spoil there is little wastage. Clean up after plant-based, low-fat meals is easy and cheap because there is no grease requiring expensive, environmentally toxic, cleansers. A simple rinse will often do.

The McDougall diet also includes some perishable fruits and green and yellow vegetables. These items are more expensive than starches; but they are consumed in small amounts; thus, adding relatively little to the food bill. Focusing on fruits and vegetables that are in season will also help keep your food budget affordable. With the starch component costing less than $1.50 daily, this leaves an additional $1.50 to spend on fruits and green and yellow vegetables; keeping the total food costs at $3 a day per person on the McDougall Diet.

Mary provides several of our favorite inexpensive meals in her recipe section this month. For example, the ingredients for her Stove Top Stew cost $1.40 (fills up four adults) and the Pea Soup ingredients cost $1.80 (fills up 6 adults).

...

On his forum, some people who follow the McDougall plan actually have contests to see who can eat the cheapest, and they are eating healthier while doing it. Alot of them get down to $2 a day or sometimes less. If you buy at wholesale prices and stock up, you can pay even less.

-- Outhouses are disgusting and unsanitary. Years ago I read a book that presented a better alternative called the The Humanure Handbook which is available for free online. The author advocates that people put organic material like sawdust, dried grass, dirt, etc. into the bottom of a bucket. Then you defecate or urinate into it. Afterwards you put more organic matter ontop to trap in the odor. You can build a wooden enclosure for the bucket modeled after a Western toilet, but that is not vital. The author also recommends you build two wooden enclosures outside to compost the humanure and organic materials. When the bucket is full you dump the contents into one enclosure for a year. After that year you fill the next enclosure. After 2 years the author Joseph Jenkins says that the thermophilic action of the composting will totally destroy all parasites, bacteria and viruses that could have been present and it is safe to use as compost for farming.

-- Solar and heating: There are alternative ways to construct houses and buildings like Earthships which use solar for electricity, and thermal mass so they don't heating or cooling and it recycles waste and grey water. However it does cost more upfront, but saves in the long-term, however it is not for every climate. There is also architect Chris Benedict who constructs buildings in New York City that cost the same as a regular apartment complex, but only use a fraction of the energy.

But yeah, no power is beneficial and really helps clear your mind. I hope another adverse weather event comes to my region soon, so I can go without power and clear my head out again. I am overdo.
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Re: Making free retreat centers.

Postby Karma Dorje » Fri Feb 08, 2013 4:43 pm

While full-scale gardening is quite a lot of work to sustain, permaculture is a nearly perfect fit once established because you aren't constantly tending to single crops and have food all year around.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NSB8yxgCmU0

Beyond this, there has been a huge amount of recent experience with sustainable building methods. It's worth researching cob houses, straw bale, earthships, etc. One still needs land to build on, but the actual building methods are very cheap and rely much more heavily on labour than capital. You can do a lot with passive solar heating, building underground, etc.

For example, see:

http://www.undergroundhousing.com/primer.html

http://growtest.org/resources/undergrou ... se-manual/

This work is a big part of why I think small sustainable communities are the best way to enable people to practice quickly and inexpensively, without undue hardship.
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Re: Making free retreat centers.

Postby byamspa » Fri Feb 08, 2013 5:01 pm

Why do things need to be *free*?

Seriously, I'm disturbed by this crazy idea that everything should be 'free'. No one will be willing to support their teachers or sangha if everyone has this attitude. TAANSTAFL as they put it, everything has a cost, either in transportation, or food, or venue or texts or whatever.

I can see some discrepancy in pricing for those who are needy, but in general, if one can pay, one should pay and not expect anything for free.
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Re: Making free retreat centers.

Postby Karma Dorje » Fri Feb 08, 2013 5:20 pm

byamspa wrote:Why do things need to be *free*?

Seriously, I'm disturbed by this crazy idea that everything should be 'free'. No one will be willing to support their teachers or sangha if everyone has this attitude. TAANSTAFL as they put it, everything has a cost, either in transportation, or food, or venue or texts or whatever.

I can see some discrepancy in pricing for those who are needy, but in general, if one can pay, one should pay and not expect anything for free.


I think the point is, how can we get the cost of long term practice down to the point that one can immerse oneself in the practice without being either homeless or independently wealthy?

Most Westerners don't do long term retreat and this is absolutely crucial to the traditions surviving here.
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Re: Making free retreat centers.

Postby byamspa » Fri Feb 08, 2013 5:32 pm

A more practical approach might be to set up a foundation to help with that kind of funding, those who wish to help those who can't afford it can give money that could be given out as grants for the requestee.

Sort of like a retreat scholarship program.

But we should really shed this idea that everything needs to be 'free'. 'Free' isn't the solution because It doesn't exist.
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Re: Making free retreat centers.

Postby Karma Dorje » Fri Feb 08, 2013 5:40 pm

byamspa wrote:A more practical approach might be to set up a foundation to help with that kind of funding, those who wish to help those who can't afford it can give money that could be given out as grants for the requestee.

Sort of like a retreat scholarship program.

But we should really shed this idea that everything needs to be 'free'. 'Free' isn't the solution because It doesn't exist.


It's hard enough to get Western students to give enough money to even support their teachers, let alone for others to do retreat.

IMHO it is a lot more realistic to look for sustainable, low cost methods to build meditation communities. We have the technology.
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