The Dana Group Newsletter
Committed to the Paramita of Generosity
On the whole we should regard money as mother's milk: it nourishes us and it nourishes others. That should be our attitude to money. It's not just a bank coupon that we have in our wallet. Each dollar contains a lot of past; many people worked for that particular one
dollar, one cent. They worked so hard, with their sweat and tears. So it's like mother's milk. But at the same time, mother's milk can be given away and we can produce more mother's milk. So I wouldn't hang on to it too tightly. - Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche, from Ratna Society Talks (1978-81)
Below we try to highlight some of the creative ways Shambhala Centres are working with generosity.
Registration is sliding scale. Please help us bring these teachings into the world by offering the most that you can afford. Your generosity allows us to offer these teachings to everyone regardless of their ability to pay.
We suggest offerings of $15, $20, $25 etc. all the way up to $108! We are grateful for anything you offer. Everyone is welcome as space allows.
Boston’s experience with a generosity policy
In an effort to encourage greater participation, we have adopted a pay-what-you-can policy as an option for newcomers and supporting members of the Center. Because Boston is such a large city with many different populations, the idea was to make our programs as accessible to as many people as possible. Too often, Buddhist teachings have been offered only to those with enough (read: lots of) money, and it has been our desire to make Shambhala Buddhism accessible to anyone who walks through our front doors. Money should not be an obstacle to receiving the teachings, and we have been successful with this policy, as mostly noted in the increased participation and diversity at our programs.
Over the last two years I have noticed increased diversity in ethnicity, income brackets, and age – both senior citizens and students, able to participate because of our generosity policy. It has allowed lower-income and ethnically diverse people to attend our programs on a regular basis, particularly at weekly classes and Shambhala Training Levels, but also for teacher visits. As Boston is a major college town, there are a lot of students that have been able to attend programs they would not otherwise have been able to afford, and some have offered work-study type help to contribute back to the Center in lieu of payment. We have mostly used work-study students to help poster the city for large events, but there is always a need for staff at programs, and this has been a good way to have people give back to the center, as well as developing a stronger volunteer community.
In regards to the atmosphere around registration, a recent change we have made requests registrants to alert us ahead of time as to whether they wish to take advantage of the pay-what-you-can policy. We made this change because it was becoming too chaotic and sensitive at the registration table to discuss people’s finances with them in front of others. This way, there is more confidentiality, and we can keep track of what people are offering on a regular basis, as well as making the registration process itself much smoother. Since money is always such a sensitive subject, it helps to be explicit on our publicity materials both that we have this policy and that you can take advantage of it prior to arriving at the registration table.
In conclusion, I would highly recommend this system to other centers, first and foremost because it makes the teachings more accessible to a larger range of participants, and therefore generates larger participation and diversity at programs.
This is what we list with our program descriptions:
"As with all of our public programs if you are unable to afford the stated amount pleasecontact us in advance of the program at firstname.lastname@example.org and you will be invited to attend at a reduced pay-what-you-can rate."
- Sarah Lipton
Shambhala Meditation Center of Boston
In addition to Northern California and Boston many other Shambhala Centres have adopted financial policies that aim to engage participants in a contemplation of generosity, prompting people at a registration desk to wonder “What can I give, and what value does this experience have for me?” rather than “This program is too expensive/cheap!” For some good examples visit:
Baltimore Shambhala Centre’s Fees page
Kootenay Shambhala Centre’s Generosity Policy page
Local Dana Groups
The outcome of Lodro Rinzler's visit to Berkeley was the formation of a regional Dana Group which eventually hopes to include representatives from all 6 Northern California Shambhala Centers and 5 meditation groups. That regional Dana Group met for the first time in January to identify their goals for working with generosity in the sangha. Another exciting development is that Berkeley Shambhala Center has offered to explore a processfor transitioning to a Shambhala Europe dues model. In Europe, a portion of member dues is sent to a regional office and to the international office. The Berkeley Center Director, Changchup Nyima, and Regional Director, Amy Conway plan to look carefully at this with the aspiration that perhaps Berkeley Shambhala Center could be the first center to pilot the Shambhala Europe financial model in North America.
- Amy Conway
Regional Director of Northern California
Member of Shambhala’s Dana Group
The Seattle Shambhala Centre is a beautiful example of how a dream and a vision can come true. It was only five years ago when sangha member Allan Ness organized a fundraiser that generated a chain effect of generosity, leading to a large outcome: the building currently hosting our center! The nascent Seattle Dana Group is learning how to grow from this inspiration and how to bring forward a new courage to relate to wealth. As for me, I keep in mind, “Whatever is spiritual has to be practical and vice versa.”
We hosted Lodro Rinzler for a weekend of meetings, fundraising trainings, and celebration. Personally I found Lodro’s visit a true inspiration! He guided us through a contemplation on the Shambhala teachings, the lineage, and our global mandala...it was just the icing on the cake for me. We also saw a video of President Reoch, who I have to acknowledgment for propagating dignity with humor on this topic.
Out of that visit I spontaneously set a sort of oath to this fund raising project and was asked to lead the new Seattle Dana Group. What the members of the group have in common is a strong desire to work within the sangha and support the expansion of dharma. I love our Sakyong and I love Khandro Tseyang. With all of the above being said, I am going to increase my regular monthly donation membership with faith, joy and deep gratitude.
- Cosetta Grossi
Team leader + Cheer leader
Seattle Dana Group