I originally thought to place this post in the "Pls introduce me to Dzogchen" thread, but it belongs here.
asunthatneversets wrote:You don't need to donate anything. If you want to that's great but spending money isn't a requirement. The community isn't there to get money out of people. You don't even necessarily have to be a member of the community, it's just nice because it has it's perks with access to archived teachings and you can also have access to restricted webcasts. But it's not necessary, I'm not a member of the community... But I have friends nearby who are so I have the option to go to their spots to catch closed teachings. If I didn't have that option I'd probably become a member, but I choose to give back by purchasing rinpoche's books from my local ling. Either way just know that spending money isn't a requirement and if you stumble into a community where they're trying to charge you money for every little thing and for teachings tell them to f*ck off. There's a lot of scammers out there who prey on people's devotion to the dharma, and they're the lowest of the low.
Even in circumstances where it seems unavoidable like attending a retreat in person, retreats can cost money. But most reasonable teachers will have a sliding scale for their retreats, if you can't afford it then they'll ask what you're comfortable spending, or they'll simply ask for a donation of whatever size you feel is appropriate for your circumstances. There's also the option of volunteering to help set up or clean up and that usually gets you in for free. I'll say this: if a community or teacher turns you away because you can't pay the full amount then they don't have your best interest in mind and they're looking out for their pockets. A true teacher will work with your financial circumstances, because bottom line... They want you to become realized so you can benefit beings.
But I think maybe it is better not to say f*uck off to anyone. There are many wolves in Dharma coats and you don't want to disturb them. If you don't disturb them, they allow you to attend and get the Teachings. If you are seen as any threat to their wolfy power trip, maybe they will eat you for lunch, if they have the opportunity, without burping. There are also innocent lambs who are just acting out their instructions, and are not to be blamed.
The key point is to be able to get the Teachings that you need to advance your practice. How you get them doesn't matter so much. Some Lamas charge $10,000 for Togal. If the Togal gained in this way works, or not, is a separate question. Some Dzogchen Masters happily accept whatever you give in donation to teach Togal: same Togal. Again, whether it works, or not, depends on many secondary causes.
Hopefully determining what you need to advance your practice, comes from the advice of your root Teacher. If you don't have a root Teacher, then you do your best, adapting to your circumstances as required. You have to be a like a honey bee and get the nectar without disturbing the flower. It is always good to give back and help share responsibility for the costs of a Dharma Center, retreat costs and materials and translation costs. These are real costs that someone has to pay for. It is natural to support a Dharma scene and a Teacher who is helping you. We all owe a great thank you to the noble sponsors, and Masters, who support, and make possible, the precious Dharma teachings, both historically and now.
The Dzogchen Community is a special case because it is an evolving social / business structure under the guidance of an enlightened Master, ChNNR. ChNNR is a WIsh Fullfilling Gem of Dharma and he has tirelessly traveled around the world giving more than 500 Dzogchen retreats.
He has made the precious Dzogchen Teachings available to thousands, whom would not have received them otherwise. This is much more rare than a star seen during the day. It is the truly exceptional case of finding a real Buddha, teaching on your computer screen, in your living room, or teaching in person, a few hours drive from your house.
This is pretty amazing, and his collected works, of a profound original Dzogchen Terma transmission, are like an evolving World Heritage Site.
ChNNR gives a lot of freedom to the normal people who work for him and so there is a wide range of accessibility to the precious Teachings, which has in the past, varied from time to time and place to place, depending on the "view" of the "people responsible." As the "people responsible" practice and change for the better, the access improves.
It is very sad because many people leave the Dzogchen Community because of its apparent lack of kindness. It is not an issue of whether the Dzogchen Community is Buddhist or not. It is an issue as to the style in which the teachings are given. In the Pacceka Buddha style, only those who pay get the Teachings. In the past this is how the DC sometimes behaved. There is the story of the fellow who hitched hiked from Poland to Merigar and was prevented. Last time ChNNR was in NYC, many were turned away and one serious young lady practitioner from Bhutan, who couldn't afford to attend, was said to have gone home and cried for three days. Or the story of the 500 Euro, catered, Yantra yoga retreat, that was for the rich only, poor people needn't attend, and damned be you if you accidentally took a watermelon slice from the rich peoples bowl, by accident. These "kindness" disasters have to do with the mind set of those who are made, "responsible", not with ChNNR or his Teachings.
Sometimes it is for the best to be turned away. One time, when I was turned away from a retreat at Merigar, I wound up passing my time in the garden of the "Yellow house." I put my ski cap over my eyes so I could look at the specular reflections of the sun light on the strands of wool. When I removed my cap, the sky, which a few minutes before had been clear, now had a checker board cloud pattern exactly like the warp and woof of the threads in my cap. Many rainbows then appeared over the Gompa where ChNNR was teaching. The rainbows were seen by many people. A beautiful French woman, who had been through the three year retreat, and who also had been prevented from attending the teachings, came over to me and said, "I know what you are doing." I said, "Noooo, noooo, noooo, (trying to mimic her French English) it's from Rinpoche."
So the key point is that even if you are apparently prevented from getting the teachings, you can still get the teachings in another way, but maybe not in the way you thought you were going to get them, and maybe what you get is for the best.
Unkindness, while sad for the poor who were turned away, is devastating to the Dzogchen Community because normal people who are pursuing precious Dharma in the conventional sense, which includes kindness as a fundamental construct, take one look at the apparent lack of kindness and leave without looking back.
It is sad because I really believe that the people who are "responsible" think they are creating the best system for the financial success of the DC, but the numbers prove different. In the US, sometimes there are very efficiently run Dharma events where the only attendees are the "Team Leaders", and sometimes only one of them. This occurred in New York recently when the Dharma Event was an exploration of the "Purification of the 6 Lokas" practice. This is a really wonderful and effective Dzogchen experiential practice which should be of interest to, and helpful to anyone in the human condition, if it were presented in an accessible way.
In the face of unkindness, everyone but the Team Leaders, (who are paid with power and access) heads for the hills, until Rinpoche shows up again. Then people come to get the personal contact with a realized Master, and then head for the hills again.
In the Mahayana style, the Teachings are posted in a way allowing low cost / no cost access, for example, open web casts, with supporting pictures and written material, that are available to all without membership requirements. Effective transmission is given on line - and no one is turned away.
In the Tantrayana style, Dzogchen Teachings are given at the appropriate level of the practitioner and according to the prevailing customs. This is working with circumstances, both for the practitioner and the Master.
In Dzogchen style Dzogchen, Rinpoche is constantly giving teachings without any characteristic what-so-ever, and there is nothing to be done to "get" the precious Teachings. This is the fruition of the great treasury of Dzogchen in the person of a realized Dzogchen Master. Dzogchen Masters are always "Teaching" for free without intention or limit. Goes with the territory.
In the Dzogchen style of Teaching, it is also completely correct for a Master to go into retreat (Ayu Khandro) and not come out much. All "teaching - benefit for others," is done "on the wind" and there is no immediate contact with others. Perhaps this is why the stars shine: a joke but maybe there is an analogy to this. When a Dzogchen Master passes on, it is said that he / she has the capacity to take all the individuals whom he /she has had contact with into the Natural State (hopefully you are not driving on a freeway at the time.) Dzogchen Masters are not obliged to teach in public.
So the DC contains the evolving swirl of all of these styles of Teachings. Things are getting better and now there are disclaimers that anyone who cannot afford full price can contact those responsible to work things out. If anyone finds a Teaching of the Dzogchen Community that does not allow for poor people to contact the "people responsible" to work something out, please bring it to the attention of the Person Responsible.
So, in the past, you may have seen the DC acting as if unkind, if you were looking at a Pacceka Buddha framework presentation in which people were turned away because of lack of funds.
This is now changed.
Easy access to the Teachings will overcome these issues.
Kindness matters to those of us belonging to the fundamentalist Buddha Seed Low Seat school (don't Google - it doesn't exist.)
May this be of use to someone!
Long life to the Dzogchen Masters, in good health and with success in all things.