The issue of a teacher asking remuneration for teaching is a hot-button issue in the spiritual community. There are many who feel that an authentic teaching is debased by any intersection with money, and there are teachers who charge many hundreds or even thousands of dollars for a teaching or a training program, effectively rendering it an elitist pursuit and shutting-out many who could benefit greatly from it.
Speaking as an authorized spiritual teacher in a very ancient lineage and tradition…
I broke my heart and busted my ass to get the chops necessary to do what I do. I gave my life for it, and continue to do so, and my life has been transformed beyond recognition by the process. The authorization to teach as a representative of a consecrated Order and the fancy-ass title to go with it are a token of recognition by my own elders — to whom I remain accountable — that I have something real to offer.
Along the way, I paid tuitions — money that I had prioritized just for this purpose — to my elders for the privilege of being present when an authentic teaching was given. I also paid my own travel and room-and-board expenses to participate. This in no way debased the value of what was given; it was neither not-enough nor too-much. The money I put out was just what it cost, just as it cost me dearly in surrendering the contrivances and rigidities of my own ego to undertake the transformation that was asked of me. It’s part of the “return flow,” giving something-of-value/receiving something-of-value, that is part of the law-of-reciprocity that underlies the structure of 3-D/4-D reality.
For me to continue to live in this society, to pay travel expenses to other locales to teach, to rent teaching space, and to continue my own inner work, my “continuing education” in the form of retreats and further training, I must be remuneratively compensated somehow, and the easiest and most-appropriate way is through asking money in exchange for my time. My love and my skill are free, and sometimes the teachings themselves — but when giving a teaching in a public setting, I ask a reasonable tuition (and give generous scholarships to those who cannot pay, but they have to ask).
**Here’s The Thing**:
From a purely spiritual perspective, the *value* of the soul is absolute and it is intrinsic. We can not “deserve” it nor can this intrinsic, absolute Value be taken from us. There is no “original sin,” there only “original blessing.”
But we have deep, deep, often-agonizing wounds around this particular relationship to the Divine Ground of Being by how we socialize children in this society, and these wounds distort our relationship to Intrinsic Value in all kinds of ways. One of the ways this shows up is the insistence by some that a spiritual teaching is debased by asking an exchange of money.
But what I’ve found, over and over, is that the same people who complain the loudest that it should be free are the ones who, when given a free admission, arrive late, don’t pay attention, and make small disruptions in the atmosphere of the teaching. Trite but true: they basically don’t value what I offer because they have paid so much less for it than I did…. heedless of the fact that in the East, where so much of this teaching originated, one N E V E R goes before a teacher without an offering. But as a culture, we’re so new at this spiritual stuff and basically so spiritually-ignorant that we don’t know how to properly hold the process in its true alignment.
I do give certain teachings for free in accordance with my obligation to my Order. In my public seminars, I offer tuition breaks to those who need them, but everyone pays SOMETHING, and we negotiate that so that there’s contact and exchange from the start, because a teaching is first-of-all *relational*.
I don’t see that art is any different, really…. but we’ve become so materially-oriented — and “art” itself has become so egoic and lacking in essential substance — that we don’t appreciate how beauty supports the soul.
And just as the traditional teacher-student/guru-chela model is undergoing evolution, I think the traditional model of the teacher or adept as living a socially-detached life in material poverty is also undergoing an evolution. This is implicit in my views in The “Engaged Mystic”, because an Engaged Mystic must have resources to enter the social and political spheres.
And the bottom line is that my teachers have told me directly, in public, to charge for my time.
What do you think?