I've spent a good deal of my time in India over the last several decades. There's a common saying in India that if a teacher charges money for "the dharma" (loosely translated, "teachings about the truth") he or she will go to a special section of hell set aside for spiritual entrepreneurs, an area cornered off and designed to be much nastier than the areas for axe murderers, rapists, and the like.
My primary teacher in India, H.W.L. Poonja, never asked anyone for money for anything. There was no donation basket in the back of the room.
At the same time, there is another, equally well-established tradition in India, called "dana." You never go to a teacher empty-handed. If you want the blessings of the teacher, you should come equipped with baskets of fruit, cloth, and all other kinds of goodies.
In the last several decades, there have also been some immensely successful teachers making huge contributions to millions of people working from exactly the opposite mentality. A good example is Harry Palmer, the creator of the Avatar training. He is a genuinely deep and awake guy, highly motivated to help people experience freedom. "People will only actually integrate insights that they have come to regard as valuable", he stated back in the early '90′s. "And the way that people create value in Western society is by paying money." Consequently, a couple weekends with an Avatar trainer would cost $2,000. The Avatar training was immensely successful for a long time. Other similar examples of huge, culture-charging movements that have charged high fees are EST, Tony Robbins Seminars and the Sedona Method.
Then there's the middle ground: the frequently muddy area of donations. "If you thought you got value, pay any amount that feels right to you."
As a result of these widely divergent points of view around spirituality and money, there is a widely divergent group of teachers all over the world who have ended up in very different positions. Bill Harris, for example, started out with nothing more than a simple love of meditation and a desire to spread it. After some time acquainting himself with the methods of Brother Charles (at that time a student of Muktananda, now known as Master Charles) Bill Harris developed his own system of Holosync. He's made literally hundreds of millions of dollars from the worldwide success of Holosync, and flies his own private jet. There are other teachers with immense gifts but little or no financial security who have devoted decades of their life in unwavering service to planetary awakening.
Many people claim to have the final word on this, but the truth is that there are so many different points of view that for most people it's just plain confusing.
So what's your take on it? Should the truth always be given away for free, and anyone who violates that rule is doomed to damnation? Or do we live in a culture where people only value what they pay for? I'd love to hear your comments.
Please also join me for an free interactive tele-seminar this Thursday at 6 pm, where I'll share with you how to recognize some of the strong conditioning we have around spirituality and money, as well as how to dissolve those ideas and come to a clarity and integrity which is your own. Beyond just talking about spiritual teaching, we'll discuss in a broader sense the relationship between being of service and making money.
See you then!