Discover more from Christopher Titmuss - The Buddha Wallah
What Happens to the Donations We Give You? How will you get by without teaching residential retreats?
I thought I would write a detailed blog (1200 words) on where your generous donations (dana) goes. I don’t recall writing such a piece before, except for a few lines for a laminated sheet of paper.
As with plenty of Dharma teachers worldwide, I offer my residential retreats on a donation basis.
Including six years as a Buddhist monk in Thailand and India, 2020 marks 50 years living on dana through the kindness of people worldwide.
We receive the dana on the understanding that we use the donations mindfully and carefully out of respect for every pound, euro, dollar and shekel that we receive. The Dharma-dana tradition of Buddhism in Thailand and elsewhere inspired some of us to stay as close to such precious teachings as possible.
Your dana covers household expenses, support for the family (Nshorna, my daughter, is a single mum with four children, aged 4, 10, 13 and 19 years. Three boys and a girl. She founded last year www.mindfulnesssupportservice.org for troubled families and public servants working tirelessly to support those in major need.
Office expenses include all the usual from a desktop/laptop computer, printers, scanners, phone, line rental, router, hourly payments for IT work, monthly standing orders and cost of four weeks a year of personal retreat in a room in Cornwall, two hours on the train from Totnes.
I gave up car ownership at the very beginning of the new millennium. I do not fly anywhere for a holiday. Besides, I live in a corner of the Garden of Eden.
Along with other Dharma friends worldwide, we support our Prajna Vihar School (School Abiding in Wisdom) in Bodh Gaya, the small town in India of the place of the Buddha’s awakening. We cover the costs enabling 600 children a year to receive a wonderful, free education for children of all faiths and secular background. Our beloved teachers offer the usual subjects, plus classical and modern dance, drama, the arts and mindfulness in stillness/movement and inter-religious understanding.
There is immense amount of Dharma service outside of retreats. The updating of six websites, the blog, responding to 3000 emails a year, writing of books, transcriptions from the audio talks/inquiry, essays, comments/additions for social media, such as Facebook Public Figure, Facebook Friends, Twitter, Linkedin and more.
I support charitable organisations and engage in protest about the corrupt political/corporate/financial system that we live under from conception to death.
Yes, I still have time to sleep. eat, bike, gym, read, write poems, walks in the nature, dance, laugh and take holy communion (oat latte), currently at home.
I am sure you would agree that your dana goes a long way. I still find it amazing. I have lived in the same house for 37 years. The mortgage ended 10 years ago but the usual household expenses continue. The Buddha listed four priorities for dana – food, clothing, shelter and medicine.
Mindfulness of the Future
On Earth Day (April 22, 2020), I will be 76 years old. It is a fervent wish to witness the collapse of consumerism and its pervasive destruction of life on earth for people, creatures and the environment.
Blessed with four amazing grandchildren, I find extra energy to support a future for them and everybody else, where happiness, friendship and contentment takes priority over the addiction to the blind pursuit of sense gratification and fear of pain.
We have never been as close to the collapse of consumerism as we are now. The early wave of the pandemic forces us to stay at home with an opportunity to reflect on life. We must develop a different way of life. Non-violence, non-exploitation, modesty and kindness confirm wisdom in daily life. There are shoots of kindness among strangers already emerging alongside increases in domestic violence and stress. Countless millions already live mindful lives.
Dharma offers tools, techniques, tips and practices to help bring about person, social and institutional change. Our voice is needed.
Sadly, there is a culture of greed and power among a minority to make as much money/status as possible in the secular, scientific, spiritual and religious/including Buddhism. There is the endless need to promote self-identity through power, self-promotion and followers. Leaders and their organisations will charge as much as the market allows.
These same selfish people tell us that people only value something if they pay more. This confirms a justification of greed and a low opinion of the kindness and generosity of people.
Dana expresses a protest such a corrupt and warped belief system.
Your donations support other teachers as well
Your generosity enables me to teach with other teachers, seasoned and new teachers, who also receive a share of the donations offered at the end of an event.
Often, I teach alongside a single teacher but over the years I have taught alongside four teachers on retreats, Yatras and with 10 teachers in Dharma Gatherings in India and Australia. I would usually receive between 25% to 40% or more of the dana, due to the insistence of my co-teaches or assistant teachers.
We do not make a charge per day or per hour for our teachings. This keeps the daily rate much lower enabling people with modest incomes to attend. They pay for food, lodging and contribute to travel expenses of up to four teachers.
I decline invitations to teach in centres with an expensive daily rate or to teach mindfulness workshops to corporations occupied with efficiency, productivity and profit at the expense of the low paid, safety conditions and the environment. Invitations come from time to time from the USA to teach there.
Around 10 or 12 years ago, I decided to reduce my global travels from four continents a year to three continents. The large retreats in the USA provided a much welcome dana twice a year. I listened to the heart and continued teaching in Asia (India, Israel and Palestine) with the trust that finances would work out. Often in their 20s and 30s, participants in Israel, young travelers in India and Indian citizens dug deep into their pockets to offer dana at the end of the retreats. Palestinians offered me immense Muslim hospitality in my workshops with them addressing their suffering.
I make four trips a year to Germany. Dharma practitioners and centres give immense support year and year out. For the past two years, Ulla Koenig from near Stuttgart and I work together on a range of Dharma projects including retreats, Dharma Yatra, online teachings, book writing/editing, computer projects and more. She shares the same commitment to service with primary reliance on dana for herself and her two young children. Other precious teaches offer retreats on dana and receive payment payment for services. We must all listen deeply within and see what works best for us. It is a matter of preference.
Dana enables those with low income to participate in retreats while those who can afford often give a more generous dana.
The Closing of the Doors of Retreat Centres
Due to this contagious virus, most retreat centres around the world also have closed their doors.
A shift to making the teachings accessible online now takes priority for as long as necessary. There is a trust that donations will continue to come in through online teachings.
After 50 years, this is a new form to offer teachings as a weekly priority. I now have a monthly debit with Zoom.
I prefer the real world with the direct meeting with the experience and down-to-earth atmosphere of a retreat. The online retreat/meeting/sharing form has much to offer. I will write about it in a few months when I have enough experience. I will give you an update on online dana as well. I am probably more curious than you!
Please continue to offer the dana. Dharma service continues regardless of a pandemic.
Paypal address is:
Christopher George Titmuss
Nat West Bank
Account Number 84831456
Branch Sort Code 60-21-48
BIC: NWBK GB 2L
IBAN GB97 NWBK 6021 4884 8314 56