No Livelihood in Zen

It’s been very interesting to include you all in Hondo and my discussion of a small issue – whether we should move this blog to an ad-supported platform – that touches larger ones, like:

  • What is the “value” of the Dharma?
  • How do we make our way through capitalist consumer culture as so-called “spiritual people”?
  • How do we understand money and purity?
  • What is independence or freedom from the world or the marketplace, and what is engagement in it?
  • In what sense do we ask for our practice to support us? And what modes of support are we comfortable asking of each other?
  • What is renunciation? Barring old-school monastic home-leaving, aren’t we necessarily applying it selectively? What is our basis when we do so? (For instance, renunciation includes having a family but shouldn’t include buying Coca-cola? Or should include buying a coke now and then but shouldn’t include advertising coke?)

All of the comments on the original post and elsewhere have been very interesting to me, and genuinely helpful as I reflect on both the small and large questions. A majority preference for staying ad-and-revenue-free is clearly shaping up from our readers, and I appreciate it and am certainly disposed to honor it, but I do have a question or maybe a gripe.

Naturally, readers are expressing their Dharma position as readers (totally exerting themselves nondually in it, even?!). An overarching question for me, though, feels largely unaddressed in the more aesthetic or anti-consumerist lines of thought: does this kind of work have material value, and, if mainstream internet advertising revenue is not an appropriate mode for reflecting that value, what is?

More bluntly, I’ve heard a lot of feedback that advertising isn’t the way to go, but I haven’t exactly been overwhelmed by pledges or other ideas to support No Zen to stay ad-free! The feeling I’m getting (though it certainly doesn’t do justice to the nuances of the many comments, and though I can totally relate to it from my own “reader” position) is more like:  it’s better that the blog stay ad-free than that it produce any income for its authors.

If this blog should be clean and free, which of course it should be, just as our temples should be, just as our water should be, then how is a livelihood to be wrenched from Dharma teaching? And if there is no livelihood to be wrenched from the Dharma, what does that mean for the future of the Dharma?

A friend recently complained to me that he felt turned away at local centers because he wasn’t able to produce the apparently mandatory optional dana.  I was outraged, of course.  The Dharma is free and clean.  No ads in the zendo, no charge for sesshin, no big pressure to donate – but then what?  Who or what steps into that unfunded space?

It’s easy in a way to say that Zen shouldn’t have anything to do with livelihood. I’m tempted to say that, and I’ve certainly heard it from others. But where does that leave Zen teachers and Zen temples? Certainly one would be on solid ground to suggest that Zen shouldn’t be anything like a livelihood for anyone, but what then happens to the lineage stream, what happens to the forms, ceremonies, and doctrinal styles that depend on being single-mindedly turned to keep their life?

Much of my concern is naked self-interest, of course, but it’s also tied to the fate of Zen and Buddhism in our capitalist economy. A friend of Hondo and mine, Bryan, chimed in on the question on a quora.com post, and hit some of the themes entailed. For me, it’s the lack – real or perceived – of a dana culture that has driven centers like mine (San Francisco Zen Center) into a network of capitalist involvements, a whole slew of money-making schemes to supposedly maintain our financial viability. This move is self-fulfilling, though: the more a place is involved in for-profit ventures, the less motive there is for anyone to offer dana. At the moment we assert our intention to work towards financial independence, we take some steam (if not the whole engine) out from our nods at our dependence on dana.

In a small and unflattering way, I feel some resonance between this current blog platform issue and this larger question of the entrepenuerial Zen model. I hear clear and sound encouragement to not bring this one Dharma venue into the realm of consumerist profiteering, but what I don’t hear or feel behind it is much assurance that there is any mode of support apart from that.

So it ends up sounding like a mixed message – don’t work towards independence, but don’t assume there is support.

Again, I don’t say I’m sold on that admittedly petty version of things, or that it accurately expresses the comments we’ve received here and the conversations we’ve had elsewhere, but it’s enough of a itch, and one that points to a rich enough field, that it seems worth raising even if it’s a little humiliating.

What do you think?

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22 Responses to No Livelihood in Zen

  1. jennifer says:

    I feel this is going to get people screaming, but I’m going to say it anyway:

    I you want money then go and get a job. There is absolutely no reason why you can’t take the Dharma into any workplace situation.

    This is my vision of Zen in the West.

  2. Amy says:

    What kind of support do you want? What do you mean by support? Do you mean money? Do you need money? How much money do you need? Are money and support interchangeable?If so, why? Is being read and responded to insufficient support? Why does dharma need to generate income? If you have food, clothing, shelter, and sangha, why isn’t it sustaining to offer teaching freely, to give the teaching as dana and trust that returns will be made and support given, though not necessarily through paypal? Can I offer buddhas sand if I don’t have currency to spread around? If only cash counts as support,does everything of value, even dharma then become, (like nutritious food, clean water, etc,) a luxury–available only to people who accumulate capital? Must people who have limited resources be resigned to being shut out, or learn to just put up with shitty environments (including streaming banners, flashing pop ups, etc?)

    If I lived in your proximity I could offer my time, effort and attention; bow or offer tea or do something to express gratitude and generosity. Because I don’t, I can’t do those things. What I can do, and which actually happens, is that after reading some of these words, I come away refreshed in my intentions, full of curiosity and more willing to engage with the people around me. That benefit doesn’t necessarily get back to you, but benefit is passed along.

    But I say go with the ads in the spirit of inquiry. You might as well experiment and see what happens. Does anything change? Is format important? Is emptiness format and format emptiness? Will that income stream bring benefits? I have no doubt that whatever choice the two of you make, you will turn it to account.

  3. Jeff says:

    Zen began as a means to livelihood: Chan monks created their mythical lineage and immediate awakening rhetoric as a way of out-maneuvering their competition in the struggle for Chinese patronage. In Japan, Zen has been a livelihood since day one and at all points up to this very day, as anyone familiar with its history or contemporary practice can attest. The Zen monastery that lives on pure dana alone is a fiction that never existed: they have always eagerly pursued revenue, including from their slaves’ labor, their land holdings, their various capitalistic ventures (such as medicine peddling, the funeral business, and even sake brewing), etc. Just go to Eiheiji and note the massive business in lucky charms and protection amulets. It is only in the West that we have projections about not earning money in this fashion, which are rooted not in Buddhist historical practice but in ideas derived from Christianity (never mind that Christian monasteries rarely lived up to such standards either). My point is that it is unrealistic (i.e. a fantasy, a projection onto the truth of things as they are) to believe that Zen isn’t regularly involved in commerce and that it is possible to make it on pure dana in America OR Japan. It hasn’t happened, and it doesn’t happen. So people are trying to hold you to a standard that no one else fulfills and that the tradition itself has never demanded. Now, that doesn’t mean that ad revenue via blogging is necessarily right livelihood for a Zen monk–that’s something that requires a second process of investigation. If the objection is that it means selling the Dharma in some sense, that is easily countered, since sutras and talks by masters have always been sold by monasteries (and continue to be) to interested consumers. If the objection is to the advertising industry, an argument can be made that it panders to desire, though the root of the objection is Western romantic notions, not any actual Buddhist tradition of opposition to advertising. It probably will have to come down to a personal choice: are YOU comfortable with the situation? Either way, it seems that you’re genuinely concerned about doing the right thing, so I would tend to have confidence in whatever choice you make. Good luck!

  4. Marianne Jago-Bassingthwaighte says:

    Hi Both, I’d like to see your labours providing you with a livelihood for yourselves and families, as i’m sure most readers would. In many cultures there is some kind of exchange required when we receive (eg the careful insights of conscious practitioners) – I think this is the point of dana. I’d expect the advertising you would allow to have the bodhisatva vow in mind, otherwise I congratulate you for seeking to live off your wits. If not ads, then what? Other blogs ask for a membership or subscription – I’m not sure that’s much different from selling your own wares: and if you can sell yours, why not someone else’s? If your advertising builds community then I would say go for it. Thanks for your efforts, they are important.

  5. Mike Haitch says:

    1. I _personally_ fall into the school that feels Zen should be taught freely. If the methods of teaching don’t allow them then change te methods. The reason for this is because of the impact it has on the _teacher_. When you think you have something of value to teach you are still attatched to personal realisation and a sense of specialness. Charging for dharma can feed that hungy ghost and lead you into the world of Dennis and Ken and the book “The Guru Papers”. It’s hard to stress enough that the idea of value and charging falls away naturally.

    2. The original dana path was one of subsistence with no Plan B. Monks who took this path might starve or not. Either way they were trusting in the world to provide. Abbots of course often had benefactors.

    3. I personally do give dana to monks who have taken the dana route.

    4. Why do you think that I should go out to work so that you don’t have to? To live by dana is honourable. To work for a living is honourable. To seek dana to support a lifestyle and comfort level of your choosing is on a more dubious footing traditionally. “A day without work is a day without food” was talking about farming, not talking. If I don’t work, I don’t get paid. i live accordingly.

    5. In the west we seem to have this attitude “I want to be a monk but I also want to have a big TV and a big car and……” which is not far from “I want to be a famous writer one day so I’ll live at home with my parents who will care for me whilst I sit in my room agonizing over the next sentence for my blockbuster”.

    6. Zen becomes who you are. How you interact with people in life is the teaching, there’s nothing else much to say. “I’d like a tall skimmed latte and $1000 because you met me”. Work is a good place for this – lots of people!

    7. jiryu, for god’s sake stop whining! If there is “no zen in the west” then as a monk it’s your vow to ix it, not look to some-one else. Man up!

    8. Jiryu, first and foremost you are a man, a father and a husband. It’s _your_ job to put food on the table. If you cannot do that now get a job that allows you to. It might actually be a wonderful learning experience for you with lots of opportunity for practice and compassion!!!

    9. Is what I write here valuable? Where should I send the invoice?

    10. If you choose to have a donate button I can choose to support you. Roles naturally appear.

    Breakfast over, time for work!

    • Austin says:

      He’ll go get a job right after he gets out of his coveralls, covered in god knows what, after he just offered practice discussion (freely, to me, a veritable stranger), after he just prepared and taught a class on Buddha nature, right before he walks into the work circle with baby boy on the shoulders, and most recently, working to make sure the residents have some water to drink.

      Why not walk away and get a job? Because we study dharma everyday and maybe we embody the teaching, maybe we don’t, but I’ve been on both sides, and there’s something that works about full time practice. It’s warm hand to warm hand, vessel to vessel. Working full-time and preserving the forms isn’t easy, if at all possible.

      Why subscribe to the forms? Because we don’t know what else might work. Maybe Shikantaza doesn’t even exist, but if I wasn’t told that it did in the beginning, would I have even tried? If we throw some forms away (i.e get full time jobs and just maintain the forms we can) will we shorten the threshold of this open door of dharma?

      And just walk away now? This place, with Jiryu inspiring practice from within it, has given more to me in the short time I’ve been here than I’ll ever be able to repay. I can’t speak for Jiryu, but I couldn’t see “going to get a job” as an easy decision.

  6. The problem with many of we western Buddhists is that we have no experience of what it means to live in a dana culture. We expect the Dharma for free. We are entitled to the Dharma for free! Few of us realise that this was never a traditional model within Buddhism. Its not the case today in Asia and it wasn’t the case even with Buddha himself. Quite simply the relationship between monks and laypeople is a social contract. Monks provide dharma teaching, counsel and a living example of the way. Laypeople in return provide food and money. The contract is two way. If the laypeople don’t cough up the monk moves on to others who do. If the monk is no good the laypeople donate to a different monk/monastery instead. Here in the West where we do not have a dana culture we still expect the monks to fulfill their half of the contract but as laypeople we expect our attendance, our participation to be a substitute for our half of the contract. But attending is not providing. So in the traditional model the monk moves on to laypeople who will provide. What does that mean in the cyber world. Well I guess it could mean that if people are saying we dont want to support you financially because you owe us the Dharma for free, and we dont want adverts because they somehow sully the Dharma (really?) then you may have to decide that the social contract is not being fulfilled… So put the adverts up. Make sure you are provided for so that you can continue to share the Dharma. If people don’t like it there are plenty of other blogs out there. I read quite a few with adverts and to be honest the brain kind of just filters them out anyway. Or you could listen to us all telling you that every breath you take is zen and working at mcdonalds is zen and you should go do that instead of trying to fulfill your half of the contract. Its an option I suppose.

  7. Max E says:

    What a beautiful and honest investigation of this sensitive subject. Great comments too.

    I’ve seen the dana model and the fee-for-service model both work well in dharma centers but I hadn’t considered how it could best translate to blogs. They each have advantages and disadvantages, of course.

    (Personally, I favor a system of dana through micro-payments, automated sort of like EZ pass on the bridge, where if you like content, you can easily donate a small amount to the author of a blog, or even the commenters. The problem is, most people really don’t like doing this—they feel “nickeled and dimed”—thus the ad model of “indirect” support.)

    Was your initial post meant to be a request for some kind of financial support for the blog? If that’s so, it might have been too indirect… at least for me.

    I had the impression that the potential move to Patheos represented a bigger platform, larger exposure, and somewhat incidentally, a token revenue stream from ads. The sense I got was more about recognition and “feeling valued” as opposed to “we need to figure out a way to support this venture financially.” So I wonder which it is.. (or maybe both)..

    You asked an overarching question, “does this (dharma) work have material value?” I’m not sure that’s a very useful question, only because nearly anything can have a material value (sometimes quite a high one) if put in that context. The breast milk that my wife feeds my daughter would have a huge material value to me if I had to pay her (or someone else) for it each time. I won’t even get into the value of sex in the marketplace (and no, I am not comparing ad-supported sites to prostitution!)

    But I think in the dharma realm, there’s a meaningful difference, which you’ve alluded to, between “getting the market value for this service” vs. “getting material support to continue this service.” Everyone’s very sensitive to this difference. My attorney charges $400 an hour. If my teacher tried to charge me that for dokusan (which is of infinitely more “value” to me), I would run the other way!

    So it’s a great question of how to let money flow freely in support of the dharma without reducing it to a commodity.

    About this blog, my feeling is if you can clearly communicate the level of financial support you need and/or want to offer this forum, and the context for that, it might be the most helpful starting point.

    For example,

    – Do you want to quit your job and blog full-time, expanding this forum as widely and as deeply as it can go?

    – Or, do you simply want to riff on interesting dharma topics as a “hobby” and get paid for it?

    (if so, to Mike’s point, you might find that each commenter wants a cut, but that’s how it works in the service industry!)

    – Or, do you want the blog to be self-sustaining financially, getting support for the tech side as well as the “opportunity cost” of other paying projects that you give up so you can have time to produce the blog?

    Once this is clear, then perhaps you could try out the dana model and see how it goes. (it would also be interesting to find out how much cash the blogs of James Ford and Dosho Port throw off each week).

    Whether you choose dana, ads, or something else, I hope you both find a way that works for you to continue the blog because it is meeting a need in the community.

  8. Mike Haitch says:

    In geek culture the ethos is something like “knowledge is free, time is billable”. Google provide lots of tools for free and get revenue from ads. Sites like http://stackoverflow.com/ allow geeks to exchange knowledge and earn recognition for adding value and helping others. In learning a new skill it’s been a teaching source for me.

    The tools I use for work and the documents I use were free but the Mac that they live on was not! Apple sell hardware, give away knowledge and tools and take a cut of anything I sell with those tools. Microsoft sell tools, give away knowledge and sometimes expect a cut on things I might sell.

    The bulk of the world’s websites run on software that was given to the world for free. Google might not exist without Linux and Apache and Venture capital and…

    I have a knowledge website supported by ads and my free time. I refuse sponsors and commercial deals that might detract from content and just let google serve it ads. It makes less money by focussing on content more than ads but by doing so sends out different messages…

    Choose the world you want to live in and then create it.

  9. Catherine says:

    Maybe we all need to study a little Charles Eisenstein? even though in a few statements here he does not seem to know that the idea is not new…

  10. Cathy says:

    Sometimes the only thing I can give to another is my non-judgemental understanding and then a heart felt “thank you” for helping me to see that I have a “dogmatic critic of an eye” which will lead me to give the same to myself…

    Thank you

  11. Renshin Bunce says:

    I find reading long pieces online difficult — if something intrigues me, I print it out so i can give it my full attention — and the sites with flashing ads lose me entirely. I can’t even read the Huffington Post. I don’t think anyone supports themselves fully by blogging. But you two are obviously putting such time into your posts that it’s reasonable you should get some financial return for your time. Please put out a dana bowl (donate button) and see what happens.

    IMC in Redwood City is an example of a dharma center that survives entirely on dana. No membership dues, no membership drives, no fees for classes or workshops. And it’s huge and appears to affluent. So it can be done. But it’s a long way from a blog to a dharma center.

    Thanks for all you do, Jiryu and Hondo. Yours is the only blog I read.

  12. (By way of explaining my perspective, I am writing as an “old-style monastic home-leaver,” but also former Zen priest, so I have looked at some of these issues from all sides.)

    Not many Western Buddhists realize that the traditional model of the Buddhist community is an “economy of gifts,” that the Buddha in fact set it up this way, and that for the most part Buddhist communities work this way in Asia, with the exception of modern Japan. Catherine, thanks for this little film, because I think it explains very well the value of this, which I think the Buddha understood well.

    Monastics, who traditionally form the inner core of Buddhist communities are not allowed to have ANY livelihood, according to the original rules laid down in the Vinaya. They are also not allowed to ASK for anything for themselves, except in emergencies. In other words, they are much like house pets, except they are not even allowed to catch their own mice or scrounge around in the neighbor’s garbage, but are however just as loyal. And also unlike house pets they are not even allowed to endear themselves to laypeople with the intention of better offerings. They are also not allowed to engage in any exchange, for instance Dharma talks for food.

    Although these constraints are imposed on monastics, not on laypeople, they have immediate consequences for the Buddhist community. First, monastics are completely dependent on the spontaneous generosity of laypeople, they are completely outside of any exchange economy. (This is an ideal practice environment for developing selflessness because any self-serving behavior is prohibited and self-serving thoughts are useless.)

    Second, lay people in their intercourse with monastics are also outside the exchange economy, and in fact monasteries, where lay people are often more numerous than the monastics, tend to form a kind of bubble outside the exchange economy, where much of what is offered monastics, such as housing and food during retreats, is available also to lay people at no cost. And in fact this bubble tends to expand out to the culture at large.

    Third, laypeople and monastics both participate in gift-giving, and neither is obligated to participate. It is often described in Western terms as monastics giving the gift of teaching and lay people giving support in return, but this would be an exchange. Monastics often are good teachers of Dharma, some just meditate, others are organizers and get involved in social work or pastoral care; it’s up to them as long as they are not making a livelihood out of it.

    Fourth, since monastics are renunciates (they are not trying to put a kid through college or maintain a power boat or bartender) Buddhists end up in effect with the world’s cheapest clergy, though they sometimes end up being a large clergy as well.

    This is an ideal, that historically has not always been lived up to, as Jeff points out. But there is a tendency to return to the ideal because monastics all over Asia (except Japan) almost always have a list of the common original monastic rules on their bookshelves. I have spend some time in Burma where Buddhist community is in a very healthy state and where the entire culture is infused with generosity. I have to say, this kind of Buddhist community feels quite a bit different from Western Buddhist communities.

    Now, if this is the kind of ideal we wish to develop in this country, the question is, How do we get there from here? In the Buddha’s day the pump was already primed: Although he rethought the monastic tradition, generosity to ascetics was already a common practice. It is not here, so we need to prime the pump. Also, whether modern Buddhist teachers, who generally have families and dogs and are not renunciates, can gain a livelihood out of this model is an open question. To make some reference to the original issue of this post, it certainly seems that the intrusion of corporate advertising would be a taint on the purity of Buddhist intercourse.

    There are relatively few examples in America of a Western implementation of the economy of gifts model except for communities that have a monastic core. An example of a Western community with a monastic core that survives entirely on a dana model is Abhayagiri Monastery, which houses many lay people as well as monastics. The one example I know of of a Western non-monastic Buddhist center that is entirely dana-based is Gils Fronsdal’s Insight Meditation Center in California. This is an example worth studying because Gils made a transition from a for-pay center that supported him and his family to a dana-based center and discovered that (1) the center ended up with more money in the bank rather than less, and (2) the feeling of the community changed with people feeling more an integral part of the community than before.

    Generosity has been the lifeblood of the Buddhist community throughout history, and I hope we can realize that in America. The pump needs to be primed, and Americans so used to thinking in exchange terms need to make a bit of effort to get their minds around the idea of an economy of gifts, but I am confident it can be done here.

  13. Hi Jiryu, thanks for this. I’d be ok with ads, especially because I wouldn’t see them. (I browse with AdBlock installed — am I stealing from the Internet?) I completely understand your hesitation, and others’ objections, to teaching Zen beneath a billboard. But for Zen in the West, it might be easier to learn how to make money teaching Zen than it would be to create the kind of dana culture necessary to support monks comfortably.

    I have a friend practicing at a Chinese monastery in Berkeley, part of the Dharma Realm order. He lives in a tiny room, has no income or health insurance, and eats one meal a day that’s provided by the lay community. His room, his health care, his clothing is all donated to him. I’d like to investigate further, but my intuition is that this is possible for Dharma Realm, and not for American Zen groups, because of Dharma Realm’s connection with large Chinese immigrant communities that are in the habit of being very generous to monks. And perhaps Dharma Realm sets a very low bar for how comfortable a monk can expect to be. They expect less and receive more than Zen monks do in the West.

    Our American Zen lineages have a different character than this. I’m not a monk, so I can’t speak with authority, but I don’t think the Zen monks I know are willing to eat one meal a day, to be celibate for the rest of their lives (and all future lives), to only wear second-hand clothes. Nor am I willing to give enough to the Zendo to support a bunch of monks. Our monks are a little dirtier than Chan monks: they eat, they drink, they marry, they put ads on their blogs.

  14. Hondo Dave says:

    Hi, all.

    I find myself really appreciating the comments–this experience of turning a complex series of Dharma issues together is exciting, and demonstrates for me the “value” of this blog. Some of the commenters I know; some I don’t–all are all helping me clarify my own thinking and practice. Really great stuff.

    I definitely want to make clear, though, that the original seed that sprouted this whole exchange is quite small. The amount of money that patheos would pay us every month in exchange for hosting No Zen there is trivial, really just a symbolic amount. It would be enough to buy us lunch at the burrito place across the street and not much more. That doesn’t diminish the importance of the issues that we’re all turning together, of course, but I wanted to be sure we weren’t giving the wrong impression. The ad revenue from patheos is orders of magnitude away from being able to support either one of us (or anybody!) It does serve as an entry point, though, into this much larger conversation about Dharma, money, gifts, livelihood, practice, community . . .

    I have much more to say, and will try to post about all of this in the next few days. Thank you all for your thoughts–may the conversation continue!

  15. Elliot says:

    This is a very important conversation with many implications for Zen in the West. I would first like to distinguish between two distinct questions. The first is whether a Priest can charge money for dharma instruction and the second is whether supporting advertising is unwholesome conduct.
    A previous blogger mentioned that Zen priests have traditionally requested money for their services. This is an “is” statement and we cannot derive any “ought” statement from it. Put differently Zen buddhists may have erred in demanding money for their services. I’m not clear on whether Dharma teachers should receive money, but it does strike me as odd that we would pay hundreds of dollars for shoes and be unwilling to cough up cheddar for guidance on the path to the relief of all suffering and the attainment of the highest happiness. I think the argument against mixing capitalism with the Dharma must be grounded in the incompatibility of the two. To address this problem we can simply assert that there are no differences between profitable Dharma centers and dana-based Dharma centers. Now is this true? In my experience it is false. Money changes the monks, they lay folk, and their respective relationships. For this reason I think reliance on dana is a necessary condition for trustworthy Buddhism. An important clarification is that profit-driven Dharma centers can still have great practitioners and teaching, it just contaminates some things. Buddhist teaching, in my view, is not priceless but rather, the kind of thing that is reduced in value when given a price.
    A second problem that arises is that of supporting oneself in a capitalist economy as a Zen priest. The solution offered by another blogger was for Jiryu to get a job in the marketplace. I fail to see how supporting greed, hate, and delusion through a traditional job is superior to supporting the greed of advertising through a Buddhist blog. How many jobs are not directly or indirectly supporting the excesses of capitalism? Why should we be more concerned with people buying an unnecessary product than the sharp increase of readers of “No Zen in the West,” by moving to Patheos. Doesn’t the happiness accrued by Dharma discussion offset the the suffering of people buying too many widgets? This introduces a difficult ethical puzzle; can we do evil to bring about good? Can we bomb civilians to reduce the casualties of wars? Can we help contribute to the excesses of capitalism if that will in turn save some beings? I don’t know. I will end my post by saying I have more trust in the absolutists, in the people who stick to their vows to do no evil, I’m simply not sure they have the right answer.

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  17. Marci says:

    Some people do actually support themselves off of advertising from their blogs, at least for a while.

    Jiryu, from reading the comments on the original post, it sounded like many were saying that they didn’t like the frenetic feel of the proposed website (I haven’t looked at it) but were not necessarily against having any ads on the blog site. I agree with that – if the ads were appropriate content for the site, and not intruding much on the content, I’d be fine with that. (I long ago filtered internet ads out of my reality anyway.) So maybe there is a way to do the ads in a way that feels in harmony with the blog. I don’t know how the numbers add up, but I assume that the more readership you get, the more income the ads would bring. Promote the site through other blogs and online publications and get more readership.

    I know that you love the dharma and love teaching the dharma; I’d like to see you and Hondo be encouraged and supported in that. Personally I greatly appreciate your offerings here and haven’t seen anything else like it.
    However, it seems like even if you don’t make any $ from the blog, your work here might feed into other things like magazine or online articles, another book, even papers for grad school.

  18. Abbywords says:

    1. Teach freely.
    2. Make it really, really easy to donate. But please don’t make it mandatory.
    3. Blogs, right now, are written for free, unless you’re blogging for someone else, like a company or a famous person. Unfortunately that’s the way it is.
    4. Americans understand the nonprofit model more than the dana model.
    5. Starting a religious site is a really, really good idea, but its different from the blog.
    6. Benefactors are your friends.

    • Abbywords says:

      Commentary:

      1. Teach freely.

      Promote the economy of gifts. If anything needs our promotional help, it is this.

      2. Make it really, really easy to donate. But please don’t make it mandatory.

      So many things are “revenue generating.” Providing a respite from that is a kind and wise gift at a time in which many of us struggle to make ends meet. In this way we can meet the dharma free of distraction.

      3. Blogs, right now, are written for free, unless you’re blogging for someone else, like a company or a famous person. Unfortunately that’s the way it is.

      I appreciate the sentiment that good writers would want to be paid for their work. However, the idea that writers should get paid on commission based on how many eyeballs they deliver to advertisers is not without peril. I would argue that this lowers the value of good writing, and makes it difficult for those of us who do make our living this way to survive.

      4. Americans understand the nonprofit model more than the dana model.

      I am very inspired by the fearlessness with which Gil Fronsdal has created IMC. This gift of fearlessness is precisely the kind of teaching that I believe will help westerners better understand the perfection of generosity. At the same time, we have existing models in the form of non-profit organizations, which encourage the practice of giving.

      5. Starting a religious site is a really, really good idea, but it’s different from the blog.

      The more I think about this one, the more I realize “No Zen” is not just a blog, it’s a community. It’s a place where we discuss important issues like this one. As such, we have a responsibility to maintain it. If you cannot continue this work without our help, maybe we need to do a fundraising drive.

      6. Benefactors are your friends.

      I think westerners really are ready to practice generosity, and some of us wish we were in a position to do more. Some of us can do more, and will, if given the opportunity. I think it’s important to look at the ways in which all of us can help, and go from there. As they say, Rome wasn’t built in a day. Let’s not settle for the Embarcadero.

  19. Mumon says:

    I had to put my 2 cents in here…hope it isn’t too jarring.

  20. Donations- Dana

    To liberate ourselves and others from the cycles of suffering we have to depend on someone who has already attained liberation. This is why we take the Buddha as our guide. He is like a mapmaker who has traveled to the place we want to go and has shown us how to reach our destination.

    The Dharma, the Buddha’s teachings on how to get there, is the map. Those who have maintained these teachings in an unbroken lineage, the Sangha, are our compaions on this journey. They support us as we go, protect us and prevent us from going the wrong way. Our friends in the Sangha facilitate our connection with the dharma and our practice until we attain the great Awakening, Enlightenment.

    Because spiritually, we all start out as toddlers upon the path to Awakening, our practice legs are extremely wobbly. As toddlers we look to the Zen Master walking effortlessly and think we can do it too, but we often stumble and fall. It helps us to hold onto a hand that is more sure than our own.

    At our own Zen Temple, Aspen Gold Dharma Zen Center (AGDC) relies upon its members for the donations of materials such as office supplies, flowers, incense, and candles. Monetary contributions are needed to cover the costs of general expenses, such as overhead, capital expenditures, the support of Rev. Thompson, and other administrative costs.

    Dedicated contributions may also be made to specific needs such as the Teacher’s Fund (additional dana distributed quarterly to the teacher), the Retreat Scholarship Fund (for those who cannot afford registration fees for the AGDC retreats), and the AGDC library.

    A portion of the dana received and revenues generated by AGDC events will be donated at the end of each fiscal year to various charities approved by the AGDC’s board of directors.

    FINANCIAL CONTRIBUTIONS
    Aware of its value, those who have begun the practice of Zen also give financial support. Those who use the services of the Zen center customarily make offerings in approximately the following amounts:

    Group meditation services- $5.00
    Private meditation (Dokusan)- $20.00
    Initiation Ceremony (Tokudo)- $100.00
    Lecture- $50.00
    Wedding ceremony- $200.00
    Priesthood (Discipleship) ceremony- $100.00

    Reverend Thompson is also available for outside engagements in the conducting of meditation and lectures on Zen- by appointment only. Please support Reverend Thompson propagate the Buddha dharma in our local community with your tax-deductible financial contributions and or monthly pledges to our Zen center.

    The Aspen Gold Dharma Center is establishing itself as a 501 (c ) (3) non-profit organization. Checks can be made payable directly to the Aspen Gold Dharma Center.

    The generosity of the Sangha and other people who are interested in the teachings and activities of the Zen Center. Please be generous in your giving. We accept PayPal payments from your bank account or credit card. It is free for donors to use PayPal to donate – you will not incur any service charges.

    If you have a PayPal account (or start one today) you can either donate by transfering funds from your bank/credit union account, or you can use a major credit card after you log in to PayPal. If you do not have a PayPal account, you can use the link to donate with a major credit card. Because PayPal deducts a service fee from each transaction, please consider donating few extra dollars per transaction to help the Temple offset the PayPal fees. Thank you! You will receive an emailed receipt from PayPal

    Click on the “Donate” button below to make your donation. http://aspengold.org/donations.html

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