Dharma is Free But It Will Cost You
I always laugh when people tell me that spiritual teachings should be free. They are the most important thing in the universe, so of course “they should be free” … but who will support the teacher to do that? No one wants to volunteer on that side of the equation, which shows how much people really value them.
When I hear people say spiritual teachingsshould be free, I know the secret psychology hidden in their mind. Try asking them the following question and you’ll fathom it: “If they are so valuable to mankind and worth so much to others or you, what are YOU doing to support their existence other than to say they should be free? How much have you given to support and preserve them? What have you done?” When you get the answer, in most cases you’ll laugh because you’ll have figured out what’s going on.
“I want, I want, I want.” Okay, so what are you going to do to make it POSSIBLE? What are YOU doing to make it possible for others? Once I mentioned the work of the TUE QUANG WISDOM LIGHT FOUNDATION http://www.daitangvietnam.com/index_en.htm for translating sutras. Did you contribute any money, even ten bucks? Did you even contribute $25 to kiva.org and fund some struggling entrepreneur making $1 a day to help them have a better life? Do you know what life is like on $1 per day? What have YOU done to make it possible for someone to have a better life that you pray for one or say you deserve it? Everything comes from karma. If you just take your present state of fortune for granted, your merit will run out. It always runs down unless you replenish it.
Now let’s stay on the main topic and consider NEEDS versus WANTS in life to get a handle on some clear thinking, for we all “want” spiritual teachings but what we “need” to survive is food, clothing, medicine and so forth. [Yes, yes -- we "need" spiritual teachings too but I'm making a point.]
I NEED food to survive, but I can’t find any restaurant or supermarket that will give it to me for free simply because I need it. I NEED a lawyer if someone sues me, but what lawyer will represent me for free? I NEED medicine when I’m sick, but it’s rare that people can find a free doctor or get the medicine or operation they need for free either.Maybe it’s possible in this country but certainly not in most of the world. Think about it. So what I need I must pay for.
People seem perfectly agreeable to the fact that must pay for what they need, and seem to understand that what they want has costs, but their heads go loopy when they say some things should be free and what they WANT should be free. Well, PBS (public broadcasting) is free only if you support it. What are you doing to support it? Are you saying it doesn’t have costs, or are you saying the costs should be borne by someone else? If so, who ... and why them but not you? Did you pass the buck? So you want to enjoy it but not pay for it … Maybe the system is set up today so you can get away with that, but in a future life the system you experience will be entirely different, and so will these results you now take for granted. If you don’t support worthwhile things now, you won’t have the equivalent in the future, and the future WILL come.
If you say there’s no cost to hearing the dharma, you are greatly greatly mistaken. If you think there is no cost to cultivation accomplishment, and it’s as easy as presto-1-2-3 “attraction magic the universe will provide,” you’re mistaken again. Enlightenment wins you freedom from the Triple Realm, from birth and death within an endless round of ceaseless incarnations up and down, through weal and woe, pain and suffering. You might not be suffering right now, but look at 90% of the people in the world and you’ll see poverty everywhere. There’s a cost to escaping in terms of effort and supporting the dharma, and you don’t want to pay anything to become free. Fine by me.
People also think a merit this great that you escape should represent an easy task. Let me tell you something frankly — IT ISN’T. Monks give up their lives, homes, family and friends to cultivate, and few achieve it. Don’t think spiritual progress is so easy like the TV movies make things out to be. Don’t be so ignorant. The road is open to everyone, it’s perfectly free that way, but only great ones can achieve it. What are you doing to assist them to help make that happen so that they can help you, or others? If you practice charity you won’t cling to wealth, and thus can maintain morality and ethics, but are you practicing charity in this regard?
Think about this … what is actually going on inside someone’s head when they make demands that you should give them things for free? And what is their merit? Do they deserve it? What have they done to deserve teachings? In Tibet you have to serve a master for twenty or so years to prove yourself before you’ll get the good stuff. You think high dharma should be freely given to you? Why are you so qualified? What did you do for the dharma to merit it? You're lucky if you get it because most of the world doesn't get it, and you're lucky to get it because someone is supporting the source of that offering.
But not you, ... you want it for free.
In almost every genuine spiritual school or tradition I know, you have to ask and even sometimes beg the master for teachings. What makes you think the real dharma comes so easily that it’s tossed about like candy? Go ahead and look for it in the world or the internet, in churches and synagogues and temples and see if you can find it. You’ll spend a tremendous amount of time and money and resources and in all likelihood come up empty handed. You have to think deeply about this. You'll contribute money to all these organizations and institutions and yet you want people to give it to you for free.
People will spend outrageous sums for business ventures, money making schemes, for vacations, cars, X-boxes, computer games, music tickets, clothes, for eating out at restaurants and electronic toys and so forth but if dharma is so important to them, why aren’t they willing to support THAT but are willing to buy these other things? Most people support religion that does nothing, except social work and ceremonies, but don’t want to support the dharma. They won't even buy a book on amazon.com but look for the free bootleg download from someone else. That’s why they are where they are, plain and simple, without any dharma at all. No wisdom either. Some religions, as a condition of membership, even require tithing or that you spend a year as a missionary to get more converts. That’s their cost, but do you think that gets you enlightenment brownie points? Ridiculous. So think, what is free? Think carefully.
The dharma actually is free. You don’t need any teachings to know the Self. Just know it. But if you desire, you can go to any library and you can get all sorts of teachings for free. Meditation is free, easy to learn in three minutes, and easy to practice. Yeah, three minutes.
But ... to have a teacher skillful enough to get you a far distance down that road is more rare than a wish fulfilling gem. What have you done to make the existence of those gems possible in the world, so that the dharma thrives, is protected, transmitted and maintained, and so that others might succeed and thereby teach you as a karmic reward? Nothing, I bet. You just want everything for free. Are you supporting a teacher in his or her ability to tramit the dharma? Are you protecting them in any way? Are you marketing for them? Many enlightened masters are persecuted or killed, if you check the history books, and you want someone with the real dharma to sacrifice everything for little old you who wants everything for free. I don't think it's going to happen with that attitude.
I laugh when I hear this. I have spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on learning the dharma and in trying to offer as much wherever possible, the free site articles being one such example, and still it is not enough. Not even close that I can consider having gained even a drop of merit enough to deserve the dharma. And you want it for free? My teacher would laugh. He has spent way more than me. He wants to offer it for free everywhere (even though that often has the drawback that people don’t respect it), but that costs money. Where does the money come from if you want everything from free? Oh, the money comes from somewhere else… where? from whom? Oh, they should be paying for YOU? Is that your moeaning, because someone has to support the teacher, the offering, everything...
I remember the story of the textile manufacturer in India who supported Gandhi and laughed when people spoke of Gandhi’s poverty. “It costs me a lot of money,” he said, “to keep Gandhi in poverty.”
Who do you think paid for Gandhi’s housing, food, trips and entourage? A millinaire supported Gandhi, and that's how Gandhi was able to stay poor, support his inner circle, and still be able to travel and accomplish all the things he did. It took money.
People just don’t think nowadays. Do you know why we are heading for a big recession? Because the government and bankers did not want regulation but more profits, and did not THINK ahead to see that regulation would protect the whole system from excesses — they just wanted to make money by selling more and more loans they didn’t want to keep themselves, and so the quality of loans progressively declined and now look at the mess. I mentioned this years ago to people and turned out to be 100% correct in predicting what happened. It was a moral problem - Mr. Banker executive thinks silently to himself, "If I'm not going to keep these loans on our books I'll start making bad loans and then just sell them off, we'll make more profits that way and my bonus will be bigger." This is exactly what happened. Everyone was in it for the money on down the line. So think, think, think. Don’t demand. Think.
You can go to almost any church, temple or mosque without ever making a donation and hear some sort of dharma, though not the type that will liberate you. People support those institutions for offering watered down milk, and yet they want the REAL dharma for free. Strange paradox that they think THOSE institutions should be supported, but not the dharma or real dharma teachers and their efforts. Dharma does not mean religious teachings. It means any teachings within or outside of a religious framework that lead to enlightenment or cultivation progress, other than dogmas and “religious teachings.” So Christianity has some dharma teachings within it, so does Islam, Hinduism, Taoism, yoga, Buddhism and so forth. They all have a tiny, minor sprinkling of it within their religious notions.
Most such teachings if you can ever find them only lead you to samadhi. The Great ones lead to enlightenment. What are you doing to find them, support them or maintain them? Oh that’s right, you want them for free. So how's that going to work for you if they die out for lack of support?
The true enlightenment dharma teachings are the important ones, because it’s easy to cultivate mundane samadhi. It takes a Buddha or fully enlightened one to come along and transmit full enlightenment awakening teachings. Since Shakyamuni’s time, perhaps only a half dozen individuals have been able to achieve the full measure of enlightenment and then teach the Path. It doesn’t matter what religion or school or sect or nation or race they teach in/from/to, because what’s important is that they transmit the dharma, without which you are only privy to regular religious teachings that only win you minor merit and better rebirths for a short while. Then your good karma runs out. Do you really think in your infinite series of past lives you’ve used up all your hell karma that’s due, animal karma that’s due, suffering that’s due, ghostly karma that’s due, illness karma that’s due, ignorance karma that’s due? Think again and worry, worry enough to do something because even Shakyamuni demonstrated that as a Buddha, bad karma must still be paid. He just doesn’t attach to it and accepts what happens, but always works to change it, to transform it into something better. Can you be so noble and advanced?
I’m tired of the lazy thinking so I have to speak. What are YOU doing to support the dharma other than to buy a few books on amazon.com for yourself? That’s benefiting you, not others. An author makes about $1-2 on a book he sells that way, and you think he’s getting rich or his activities are being supported that way. Ridiculous. How do you expect the good stuff to come to you if you’re not making an effort to offer it to others or make it available to them?
Now if you go to amazon.com or a local bookstore and buy a book on dharma then you can get it that way for relatively free, too. Some may say that the Gideon Bibles you find in hotels are totally “free,” but who pays for those Bibles? Someone obviously does. The printing company charges a religious press just as much for paper and printing as it does a commercial venture. There are costs to be paid. The printing company may or may not admire the religious publisher’s motives but it has to cover its own costs to survive. It has to make money to survive or it cannot perform its business function and print anything at all. So who is ultimately paying for that “free” Bible? Is it really free? Not to someone…
Someone is supporting that publishing firm with a donation, or it is itself making money and donating it all back to the people. Wow, if the world was like that in all dimensions of what we want and need, it would be a better place, but for the world to become like that it must start with you, so what are YOU doing along those lines? What are you doing to start things along those lines? Don’t ask what you can get for free, ask what are you doing to make things FREE, easy or available to others? If nothing, then what can you complain about? It’s your karma.
Are you supporting medical charities (ex. Doctors Without Borders), or poverty initiatives (kiva.org), or clean water (haitiwater.org)? Look around you — you’re okay now (you have a computer to be able to read this) but you are a minority in the world. Do you really think you will have enough merit in the future to have access to medicine, prosperity and so forth when you need it, or are you burning up your good fortune as a consumer rather than producer? Don’t be so complacent. Plenty of sages of countless religions warn you not to be so complacent. A human life is rare, to be born with all your limbs and sense faculties intact is rare, to be born into a rich country is rare, and to be born into a place that has the dharma is the rarest of all. Look around you and you’ll see that practically NO ONE in your country has the dharma….and you think next life it will be easier for you? Not if you don’t support it, but that's right ... you want it for free. Look at the clean air and water going away. What’s polluted cannot be reversed, you can only stem the tide of the new pollution.
HaitiWater.org is one of my favorite charities that I urge you to contribute to… if you want to purify the water element of your body in this life, or set it up for next life, how much easier it will be by a millionfold billionfold if you made charitable offerings in that direction of offering clean water to thousands of people made possible by only a few bucks. Think of the gigantic karmic return. If through HaitiWater.org you donate money for one chlorinator for a city or town (Costs about $350, which is the same cost as one leg for an amputee or one cleft palate operation), you will be providing from 3,000-10,000 people clean water times 365 days per year times about 20 years, because that’s how long the chlorinators last. Do the math! I cannot find a better Reward to cost ratio for any of the charities I support. This is the biggest bang for the buck I can find that is true micro public health that changes the world. You ARE saving the world, making it a better place for only $350-500. But any amount of contribution will do, as it all earns you merit in that direction; it’s the thought that counts when your means are limited, so even $25 will help. Just get off your tookus and accumulate some merit. You already know that the foundational stage of all religious paths is accumulating merit, and this one gives you the greatest bang for the buck I can yet find, which also helps in cultivation as well.
The kids stop getting sick, people can drink clean water, lives change permanently and YOU did it. Contribute to something like that (HaitiWater.org) and then you can say clean water should be free and bank on being able to enjoy it in the future as the world gets more and more polluted and you return time and again, because you WILL return. Water should be free, but who’s going to support that? It has to be you if you want clean water in the future. If you ever want to become a Buddha who has the power to give water to people dying of thirst, this is how you develop that meritorious ability. It’s by donating to an effort like this, and then donating the merit toward enlightenment. You don’t just get superpowers upon enlightenment. If you cultivated merit in a certain direction, you can draw upon it. If you cultivated merit like this, then it’s yours to give when you want it. That’s how it works. If you have no merit accumulated in a certain direction, you cannot enjoy it for all you try, no matter how close to your grasp it seems.
Are you a force for good in the world, or just a consumer? After you consume the extent of your good fortune, without creating any new good karma in return, down you come again. Up and down you bob through life after life, incarnation after incarnation. Now you have it pretty good, but if you don’t replenish your stores of merit, it is inevitable that the good fortune will die out and down you will come again. Look at the stock market — what goes up, in time, goes down with unbelievable swiftness that’s unpredicted. So is your fortune due to dwindling stocks of merit. So you better do something in life to become a force for good, for change rather than just a consumer. Small things count! Knowing the state of the world, what are you actually doing along those lines other than just comment on the bad you see and then buying another X-box game or seeing another movie? If you write a check for $25, at least then you can say you did something or have a right to complain. If you expect someone else to do it, then support them. If not, you get what you deserve because you did not act.
I am literally greedy to accumulate merit, so I always contribute to HaitiWater.org (you should too or to Pur or other water charities) as a way to ensure that each time around it becomes easier and easier to purify the water element in my own body. [You should always be looking for things like this, and this one's a gem]. Your merit is never enough, never think that. But how simple it is with just a check to make merit and get jobs like this done. Or you can donate to Heifer International to give a cow or ducks or other animals to a family or community that will keep providing for generation after generation if you so choose to make life easier for others through that avenue.
Once a blind Buddhist monk called out asking if someone around him wanted to accumulate merit by threading a needle for him so he could repair his garment. Shakyamuni Buddha answered and said he would do it. The blind man was shocked, thinking the Buddha didn’t need the merit. Shakyamuni explained that all Buddhas need to make merit, and the merit you make is never enough. In fact, I would venture to say there are only three things that matter in this universe, and thus for your life: (1) cultivation (2) accumulating/making merit (3) perfecting your conduct/behavior/skills.
If you say that others should be giving something to you for free, you’re saying someone should be voluntarily spending money on you. Who are you that I or anyone else should be spending money on you for your benefit? What have you done for us that any of us owe you? Tell me, how often do YOU give to others for free to help them, rather than to entertain them or win them as some sort of investment looking for a future return? Who are you that I should slave away to do something for you for free, out of my own time, resources, energies, finances? Yes, who are you? If there is an enlightened teacher around, you should be supporting them and not be focused on yourself! Unlike a church or organization, they can lead you to liberation and will follow you life after life with help until you awaken. What are you doing to make living easier for them?
Please consider the true costs of the dharma. In ancient China and India, monks would give up money, marriage and family to learn and pursue the dharma. They'd live on the merest of rations and live in the most desolute places. You can’t say there was no cost to the dharma if they had to give up a normal life to learn it. And they had to adopt rules and regulations and disciplines they might not like to be qualified to enjoy the “free” dharma. it actually is free, perfectly free, but there is a cost to learning the Tao.
That there is a cost to pursuing the dharma is a definite fact. And we’re also forgetting that the monastery had to be supported somehow, perhaps by sponsors or by the labor of the monks. That’s not the point. The point is that nothing is free… tell me where the free is? About the only free things I can easily find on the dharma are various sutra translations that publishers have put up on the web from Hinduism, Buddhism, Taoism, Confucianism, Christianity, Judaism, Islam and so forth. But who paid for those translations to make them available? Did you play any part in that? Someone sacrificed their time and money and efforts. I already told you how to help. How will you pay those people back if you use what they offer?
In fact, the actual cost for dharma in terms of all you gave up in ancient times was TREMENDOUS. So I laugh when people say dharma should be free. Of course it already is, but it is also not respected. Such people are therefore ignoramuses. My teacher spent hundreds of thousands of dollars going here, going there, learning this, learning that, sponsoring this, sponsoring that. The cost you must pay to learn the dharma is tremendous. That is what it is worth. In fact, you cannot buy the dharma, for you have to deserve it by merit. Yes, you cannot BUY the dharma.
If you want something that will give you liberation, and take you out of the realm of reincarnation that you’ve been stuck in for endless time, that will give you control over birth and death, or win you samadhi states and rebirth states far better than anything the richest man in the world can ever possibly enjoy, and if you want that but you’re not willing to give up anything for it or sponsor teachings, you’re just an ignoramus. Yes, the word is “ignoramus.” You certainly don’t know how the universe works. It works on cause and effect, and in cause and effect, nothing is free. You ONLY get what you deserve, so what did you do to deserve it? There is a causal cost to everything even if you don’t see it. It’s just your own good fortune this life of plenty that’s blinding you from the realization of these facts. Go travel through Africa or South America and third world countries and experience the poverty that has been there for thousands of years, and then you’ll wake up a bit and see …
The real question then is, what are you willing to pay to achieve the dharma?
The Second Zen Patriarch Huiko spent years studying Buddhism as a monk, and then cut off his arm for the dharma. The Sixth Patriarch had to run for his life after getting the dharma, and was pursued for many years. Jesus was killed for teaching the dharma, Socrates was killed, Confucius was destitute. Would you have supported any of these people or their teachings? People always lack wisdom and give to the church, mosque, temple or synagouge instead. Milarepa was poisoned and so was Bodhidharma. Al-Hallaj was killed, too. And so on it goes ... but you want an ebook for free….
Marpa would gather gold to make offerings for the esoteric teachings, even though some of his teachers threw it away (showing they were indifferent to wealth), still everything that needed to be done had to be done. It is the right way. His travels cost money — the food, lodging, transportation, the offerings he made for teachings — there were costs to learn the dharma and bring it from one area to another. Many would risk life and limb to do so …. so who said the dharma is free? It certainly cost some people a lot. People don’t know the history of people in all sorts of religions who struggled for the dharma and what they bore to achieve it. If you want it easy, you have to contribute.
Can you say these ancient people are the stupid ones, or that you are a lucky one? Or should we say you are just being presumptuous to ask that “spiritual teachings should be free”? Where are your efforts in that direction? One time my own teacher arose out of his meditation and told the two of us students present that he had just been taught a new mantra from Di Tsang Wang which the Hell Buddha had discovered could quickly help transform your body. He didn’t teach us the mantra but laughed at the thought, saying “What makes you guys think you have the merit for such teachings?” If I had given him a million or ten million or billion dollars right then and there, he would still not teach you or me or anyone what we don’t merit. You CANNOT buy the dharma … and you think it should be free. I just laugh. I’m sure you didn’t know this, but it is the way it is — the dharma must be supported, but it cannot be bought. You need a lot of merit to even come in contact with it. Otherwise, all you come in contact with is crap.
Ha! - who said the dharma is free? Who said you deserve it? Look at the world — 99.999999999% is in ignorance of the dharma. You have to earn it to receive it. You have to support it in order for it to come back to you. In the sutras Buddha explains that even rebuilding a stupa or republishing old sutras or translating them to make the enlightenment teachings alive and available again brings uncountable rewards and blessings, the type that will bring you the dharma your next life … you think your next life will be as easy as this one, and that you’ll get the dharma again? How so if it is dying out and you make no efforts to preserve it? Think again. You’re stuck in this world for many more lives, and it’s only going to get worse. You think it’s going to get better? Why? What are YOU and your friends doing to make that happen? Did you pass the buck again just assuming it would be that way? If you don’t plant the seeds of merit, you cannot, absolutely cannot enjoy the fruits.
You have to merit the dharma to receive it and you do so by practicing it, by maintaining it, by respecting it and by supporting it. Even by reciting sutras or mantras for ghosts and spirits, the dharma will come back to you for the effort you made on their behalf that they cannot repay. The level of teachings you get is the level you deserve. If you want more, you have to earn it. Is this not a cost?
“So what are you willing to do for the dharma’s sake?” That’s the question you must consider.
But this brings up another question. Recently I received a comment from someone saying they would pay me a million dollars to experience samadhi. Well, countless dharma methods are available. They’re free. The dharma is free. What’s your problem? Silly person, just practice.
The first samadhi is so ordinary you wouldn’t think it anything special. Did you ever wake up one day after a night’s wonderful restful sleep, and felt so peaceful and calm and refreshed that you forgot your body for a moment? The first dhyana is just like that. What did you expect, bells and whistles or images of the universe with stars and rockets or psychedelic images? It’s just so peaceful, calm and ordinary. Did you think it was like a drug trip or being drunk? Did you think you’d be blissed out so you couldn’t function? That’s only an effect from the transformation of the chi channels and your body’s hormones (the water element previously mentioned). That’s not dhyana. The angels or devas are happy because they are in that calm state and forget their body all the time from moment to moment. But that's’s just samadhi, it’s not the Tao. It’s not enlightenment. The higher you go in samadhi-dhayna, the more equanimous your mind becomes. It’s all just ordinary, empty and ordinary. You bump into samadhi every day without knowing it because then you cover it over with clinging and attachments, fascinations and transfixations and distractions. The first time I experienced “ordinary mind” my teacher made me bow to the first Zen master Bodhidharma, saying, “You can search the universe for countless eons for all sorts of special states and you’ll never find anything other than this.”
Dhyana-samadhi is totally within reach. You just have to cultivate it. But are you cultivating? Do you know the dharma, the principles of practice? (Hey, where are you going to find it if you don’t support it?) And are using a correct proven meditation technique? And are you practicing it correctly? And are you doing it consistently (daily effort) and with intensity (more than just twenty minutes a day)? Can you even find these rudimentary teachings and principles in Church, in the synagogue or in a mosque or temple? Ha, people are so lost!
Why pay for something within reach? You have to experience it to yourself by letting go of what’s ailing you, as no one can give it to you. No being can save you. The Buddha cannot save you. If he could have he would have, but he cannot. None of the enlightened beings can or they would have already done so. You have to liberate yourself by your own cultivation efforts. Rituals, ceremonies and study won’t do it either. From countless religions we have men and women who achieve something substantial in their spiritual efforts and then who bother to tell us that.
The idea that someone can save you or liberate you comes from someone’s created false theology. Your karma is yours, not someone else’s karma, so it’s up to you to practice to change it. No one can take on the sins of another — check all the sages across the Eastern schools and you’ll never find this to be said. Ridiculous. You must liberate yourself because it’s your mind that is clinging to ignorance, and you’re the one who must learn how to let go to experience the pure bright original nature that runs through everything. In fact, to liberate yourself you need two things — practice and merit. We’ve already spoken about the need for merit. Now you need to study the principles of cultivation and practice. Hey guess what, you can find hundreds of pages of material on our site for free. No cost to you at all — the real dharma.
If you put in the time and energy you’ll get gong-fu. If you don’t then you won’t. To learn ice skating you need to practice, and to get gong-fu it’s the same thing. Don’t expect it to be anything different, free or not.
That’s it. You need merit and practice to succeed. What are the principles of practice? Emptiness all the way. Mindfulness of emptiness to the end. Just let go, with attachment or clinging to states/thoughts/consciousness that arise(s). Additionally, all meditation methods are built on the principles of cessation-watching, so employ them in practice.
If you need more teachings, you’ll find them on our site or in our books. Yes, we’re a publisher that publishes books and tries to recover our costs. We never seem to be able to do that, but that’s our problem. Stop complaining that ebooks aren’t free or that books on the dharma should be free. Their production entails most all the same costs as regular books except the dollar or two for printing. Other than that, why would the costs be any different to make them available? Think it through. If you want to succeed in cultivation you have to think.
And contribute to Haitwater.org for a start to gain some merit… I’ve found the biggest Merit Bang for the Buck I possibly can in telling you about it. And it is the new way, by funding micro projects, to change the world.
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