This is one of the oldest quandaries of true spiritual students who understand a lot about spirituality. Why does that spiritual teacher sell his wares if that knowledge or understanding was supposedly given to him [by God or whatever]? Shouldn’t he share that which he was given for free… for free to his students?
Spiritual teachers have historically had tough decisions to make regarding how much to ask for… or even if they should ask for anything… in return for sharing their understanding of universal spirituality… that may or MAY NOT help students along their path.
Back in the day (and even today), the Buddhist monks and other faiths’ monastic teachers often taught/teach for “love offerings”… whatever the students could afford. If that happened to be zero… the Master starved for the day, and hoped for more the next day. Many ancient teachers would spend the day begging for food in their empty bowls, then go to homes or temples to teach at night and sleep there. Many cultures solved this problem by taking it as a responsibility to food and clothe and house their spiritual masters.
And so today we see the other side of the story… the others who through the power of media try to monetize the crap out of their teachings, amassing millions of dollars for opulent buildings, big houses, large organizations, fancy cars, etc.
Where is the line drawn? Should a Master have to beg for food in a society that requires money for trade for even the bare necessities… food, water, shelter, etc.? In many municipalities it is even illegal to collect your own rain water so as to reduce your water bill. So how then should a spiritual teacher eat and feed his family?
On the one side there’s the capitalist argument; It takes money to produce books, and provide the logistics for retreats, and pay the travel costs for seminars… and then there’s the whole free market economy… if Wayne Dyer spoke everywhere for free (I think he’s charging over $100k per appearance now)… everyone would take him up on it, and he would kill himself fulfilling all the requests. Is his time and talent not worth something?
Then there’s the spirituality side; Spirituality / God is free, and should be taught to anyone who wants to know. And not to mention… often the people who need spiritual coaching the most… are often the ones who can’t pay for it. That said… even with my free podcast (soon to be multiple free podcasts), there’s a barrier to entry that you have a computer and internet connection, if not also some fancy iPod or smart phone. And doesn’t someone who goes to church need to pay for the gas to get there, even if they don’t tithe?
So where is the line drawn? I think that’s an answer that each spiritual teacher must answer for himself/herself. Should they get paid something for their knowledge or wisdom that can help people? Sure. There’s some value there for some folks, and if they’re willing to pay, why not let them? Should that payment be over the top? If the market can bear it, again… why not? There are only so many truly enlightened teachers to choose from. Personally, I would question why a spiritual teacher would need all that money… but if they can get it, it’s there right to do so. I do know Wayne Dyer is only going to leave some of his vast fortune to his kids, and plans to give the rest away (and does so regularly in smaller increments – big supporter of PBS)… so does that then make it all okay?
I think the real litmus test is if the teacher is still willing to teach those who cannot pay… if they are wiling to give freely to those who wish to know the teachings but cannot afford the teachings… then that is a spiritual teacher I would offer my stamp of approval to as genuine. I know Wayne Dyer has been stopped in the airport and shopping malls and has given his private time away for free. I do not know if E.T. is that kind of person or has done similar, although I do know he used to give talks for $5 per head when he wasn’t famous.
So… all that so say this… I guess I don’t know the answer to the question. Here is the strategy I plan to implement: My podcasts are going to be free forever. Period. I want people to get the information first and foremost so they can learn to reduce their pain and suffering, as pass that on to future generations. There will ALWAYS be a way to get to me for “free”, and I will always do my best to help people who want my help but who can’t afford it. But that said… besides that… maybe I put out a book to sell to people who want the convenience of consuming my teachings via text? Maybe I try to monetize the opportunity to provide artificial intelligence algorithms for machine emotions (for robots, etc.) for industry? Maybe I pay to have a mobile app developed to give the option to help people deal with their emotions, bring better understanding into their lives, and to reduce pain and suffering… through the convenience of their smart phone or tablet?
Will I charge for speaking engagements? Yes. I have some scheduled for Summer and Fall. WIll I charge for private time? Yes (right now I’m giving phone coaching away for free, but I will eventually charge for it when demand picks up – I only have so many minutes in a week). Will I facilitate or be involved in retreats? Maybe. If I do I will charge for them as demand supports it. But again… can you also get everything I teach for free at iTunes and YouTube on my website? Yes. And you will always be able to. Do I answer all the tough emails myself? Yes. You will not find one person who has ever sent me an email who has not gotten a personal reply.
I haven’t figured it all out yet. What I do know is that I WILL eventually need to figure out a way to feed my family in this unit trading economy (my wife’s job is paying our bills and bandwidth). But at the same time… any money I make over the top at that time is going to go to educating those who need it the most… and who probably can’t pay for it. Because inner peace and world peace should be free. Convenience should be the only thing ever charged for.
In regard to other teachers who are building huge empires… although I could professionally manage a large organization… I’m not really sure that approach is for me. But it’s also not for me to judge it to be wrong that they do it that way. In defense of Eckhart Tolle, he also has free channels to some of his teachings, although it could be argued they are more marketing mechanisms than true teachings channels. Maybe I will change my mind some day and go on [whoever replaces] Oprah if I figure out a way to start teaching grade school kids emotional balance so we can eradicate bullying and teen suicide. World peace is going to come through the inner peace of our children and grandchildren, and always will.
I hope this provides some illumination on my thoughts on the matter. What are yours? Do you think I’m smoking crack and totally off base? Would you like to see more free offerings from the spiritual “Masters”?
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