What do you think about charging money for spiritual teachings?

I am OK with it.  I understand that there is a long tradition in the East (like India) that says you should not charge for spiritual teachings.  However, they also have had a cultural tradition of taking care of the needs of spiritual teachers.  For some spiritual teachers, sponsors and donors give land, give food, pay for publishing books, pay for expenses and upkeep of buildings, and more.

In the West (like in the USA), we do not have such a tradition.  And so if you want to devote your life to being a spiritual teacher (as they do in India), then you may have to charge because no one will else will be paying your rent, paying your bills, and buying your meals.  It is just not a part of our culture.

Furthermore, it is difficult to get free space…especially in big cities.  So between renting space and any marketing costs to get the word out, one would have to charge something just to break even.  Most churches and religious organizations ask for tithes and regular donations.  Money is simply needed to have a building or space in a building.

You must remember supply and demand (basic economics) also plays a factor.  If a spiritual teacher/speaker has been around for a while and has become famous, then prices are surely going to rise to reduce demand for the events.  If it was free, thousands may show up and where would they all go?  Fire codes would not allow it, if all you had was a small building.  Prices go up to reduce the numbers of people who can show up.  Simple supply and demand in relation to price.

I think there is far too much stigma attached to “no one should charge money for spiritual teachings.”  Also, there is too much belief in the “virtue” of spiritual teachers being poor.  If a spiritual teacher makes millions, I don’t fault him or her for it.  When I was a seeker, there were many I would have liked to gone and seen…but I simply could not afford it.  Guess what…there are other teachers out there who charge less or nothing at all…many wishing more would show interest in what they have to offer.  An interesting question would be…would you have been just as interested in meeting the spiritual teacher when he or she was starting out, not well-known, charged nothing, and/or had few attendees to events?

Also, in the West (like the USA), what is given away for free is not really valued or respected.  There was the case of Joshua Bell.  He is a famous violin player…one of the nation’s greatest musicians.  He played a Stradivarius violin in the subway of Washington D.C.  You would normally pay hundreds to hear him play (in concert), but when there for all to hear for free…few stop to listen.

Why?  Unrecognized; and primarily unrecognized because he was not in concert charging hundreds of dollars a seat.  The sound of his music was the same either way…perhaps better on the Stradivarius.  In the West, we equate how good people are with how much they charge.  Think about it…if you needed a doctor and one said she would charge ten thousand dollars and the other said she would do it for free…who would you trust more?  Who do you have more confidence in?  What if another doctor said she would do the procedure based on “love offering” – you can donate as little or as much as you want?  Would this bring more confidence or make it less trustworthy?  The one charging ten thousand could be the worst doctor, but we suspect what is offered for free or by donation as not worth much.  As the old saying goes…you get what you pay for.  A deeply conditioned belief in the US.

The same psychology carries over to spiritual teachings, but we have conflicting standards.  We don’t think spiritual teachers should charge or make money, but we also don’t really trust or value what is offered for free or by donation.

In my opinion, it does not matter what is charged for spiritual events or teachings – or if they are free. Some seekers go to many expensive events (for example, Eckhart Tolle) and have not yet awakened…but they still love going to the events. Some teachers offer great teachings and insights and pointers for free…and find no one is interested…or few are interested.

However, there are always costs and expenses; and someone has to pick up the tab.  For example, running a simple blog does require paying a web host.  Also, you have to buy a domain name.  There are the electricity and internet access charges and a computer is needed to keep posting to the blog.  I don’t charge anything for this blog, but I have been absorbing the costs.

As a kind of experiment, how about donating $5 to me for the blog right now (seriously – click the link).  In asking for money, do you now think of me better or worse than before?  In asking for money, is the value of the blog more or less than before?  Pay attention to your own internal reactions.  Investigate them…delve into them…understand them.  These are the illusions of the mind.  Nothing has changed…the blog and its content is the same before as after.

I have come to understand that it does not matter….charging or not charging.  The real question is, have the pointers helped?  Has some ignorance been dispelled, has some suffering decreased or ceased, etc.?

Many years ago, when I first started studying the martial arts, I found that the seminars and books were very expensive and I was a poor college student.  I remember my sensei (teacher) telling me once, if you gained even one thing from a seminar or book…then it was worth the price you paid.

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Modern-day house-holder yogi and lover of what-is; living in peace, contentment, and joy.

3 thoughts on “What do you think about charging money for spiritual teachings?”

  1. Yeah I agree a spiritual teacher may need monetary support and he or she may well justify there charge, however so much abuse exist and so many charlatans trying to support themselves and profit from followers. The arena of religion, politics and spirituality are intersecting objective concepts where much debate is still going on,
    I don’t consider myself attached to my money but I would rather burn it than give it to a charlatan. Reminds me of a joke I heard the other night a man gained a small fortune by gambling he asked his priest what he should do with it since he had gained it unlawfully and sinfully, the priest recommended giving it to the Church since he claimed the Devil had had it long enough.

    1. I would suggest worrying less about whether the person is a charlatan or not, and focusing on the value received. Even charlatans could give out nuggets of truth, inspiration, etc….and the truth is the truth…regardless of the source.

      For example, I was at a spiritual expo this afternoon and listened to a psychic/medium give messages from loved ones who died and angelic guides. Sounded like cold reads to me (guessing with the odds on limited info and letting the other person fill in the blanks). She very well could have been a charlatan. However, she put people’s minds at ease and helped several over emotional hangups they still had. Even if she was a charlatan, there was value received and I don’t begrudge her any money she makes helping others in this way.

  2. I wish to thank Vivek S., Lacy S., and James C. for each donating $5 to Engaged Nonduality. Your support is greatly appreciated.

    In conclusion of one aspect of the experiment, let me say that $15 covers one month of the $14 a month cost to run this blog (domain name and web host fees).

    This is another reason why I can not fault anyone who makes money charging for spiritual teachings…because it is not easy to make money in the area of spirituality. So if someone like Eckhart Tolle can make lots of money due to his popularity in teaching spirituality…kudos to him.

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