Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Endless donations

Sometimes I do admire the determination and faith of people of other religions. They can cycle and go into the deepest parts of rural area, such as in Sarawak to “help” the indigenous people there and slowly, eventually bring them into their faith. But their faith is also quite simple. Not complicated like Buddhism, especially Tibetan Buddhism. Our religion also seems to cost a lot of money nowadays. A phowa initiation and teaching costs RM300 and a dzogchen ngondro teaching costs SGD200. Do they have such things? Do they charge for their sermons? I doubt.  And someone just commented to me today that Buddhism nowadays seems to have endless fundraising and asking for this donation and that donation every now and then. It seems very difficult to support a centre or temple in these modern times. She also said that in the Buddha's time, he just wandered about from place to place. He did not asked for money at all, but just food and shelter. Things were very much simpler then and easier for the lay people to support.

Her comments make me reflect deeply. Do people convert to other religions because they find it easier and simpler? I wonder. But I suppose too that it is not entirely the fault of Buddhists. The world, for example, has generally become more materialistic compared to the Buddha's time. The world appears now to be about making money and if you don't have money, it's going to be tough surviving in this materialistic world. As monks and nuns do not have a constant source of income, it is difficult for Buddhist temples and centers to raise donations to support them. But if you look at the life of Master Hsu Yun, he advocated a simple life for monks and monastic self-reliance. He and his monks would plant vegetables in the available land at his temples. He did not want to burden his benefactors if possible. Even though I am not suggesting temples to plant their vegetables, we can learn from this attitude and reduce our reliance on monetary support. I admit, though, I do not have a concrete and complete solution to this issue other than implementing financial prudence and governance in temples/centers. Master Hsu Yun was certainly like those Theravadian forest monks. They just live a simple life. I am saying grandiosity is bad. It has its good points too. But in seeking grandiosity, we must not over-burden our financial benefactors. At least that's how I feel. You must work out your costs properly and not simply make a wild guest or simply put a larger figure. You must have your costing sheet to support your suggested donation amounts. But costing sheet works both ways. It could also reveal that we are not charging enough to cover the incurred expenses for that event. And if you do not charge enough, you will have to seek another donation drive again. That's what I am saying and that's what I mean by "endless donations". If you choose to get angry or agitated over the point I am trying to raise here, then I am afraid you have missed the point.
I have no intention of stirring things up but merely food for your thoughts.

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