Dear Vajra family,
As many of you may already know, our Master recently sent out a description of a way for organising teaching retreats, according to the principle of generosity. It is something he wrote some time ago, but only now for the recent Merigar West retreats did the moment arise to make it public.
He has clarified that it does not mean that all Gars should straight away try to bring in these changes for their next retreats. Rather we are all free to organise according to what is possible in any circumstances. For example, if a Gar or Ling decides to seek sponsors to cover the costs of a Teaching retreat, it may still be necessary to charge some lower registration fee if not enough sponsorship can be found.
As with any alternative system of organisation, there can be various challenges and questions. The International Gakyil (IG) is always ready and available to help explain and advise on strategy for planning future teaching retreats at the Gars as needed.
If you do decide to try the way of sponsorship, remember that the pool of financial resources for organising retreats is no different. The only real difference is in our attitude: So we can think, where did the money come from last time, and how can we get that same money this time through a principle of donation rather than a principle of fixed fee?
We have always needed to have the confidence that enough people will register for a retreat to cover its costs. Now instead we would need the confidence that enough sponsors will come forward with enough funds for the same purpose and members continue sustaining Gars and Lings with their membership fees and with donations.
Here again are the Fundamental Procedures, expressed in six essential points related to the six spaces of Samantabhadra:
- First of all the particular reason or importance of that teaching retreat has to be widely communicated to all Community members so that a clear understanding of it may arise in all those who are interested.
- Those who wish to sponsor the specific teaching retreat, either an individual donor or a group, must inform the Gakhyil in due time, and then the Gakhyil together with the sponsor should decide the place and time of the retreat, and all its necessary factors.
- The Gakhyil and the sponsor must jointly take full charge of the teaching retreat, and ensure that all the activities of the retreat will be perfectly accomplished.
- All Community members, both as a group or individuals, will only make donations and presents to the Master and to the Community according to their wishes, and no specific enrolment fee will be requested.
- It is important that the sponsors, without wishing for an immediate or karmic reward, train in the excellent behavior of the Bodhisattvas, scions of the Buddhas, and that they do not even show an air of self-importance in front of the Community for the fact that they are sponsors.
- The Master, the Gakhyil and all the members of the Community will rejoice in the merits of such sponsors, and properly express the wish that they may attain inexhaustible happiness.
Here also are some provisional answers to particular questions which have already been asked about organising retreats according to the principle of generosity:
– on membership: If it is a requirement of the local legislation for people to attending our events to be a member (or Welcome card holder), then that must still be a requirement. In general a register of those attending should still be kept. The need for membership remains, as a mark of commitment to the Teachings and the wish to sustain the community both financially and through active participation. The Welcome card (which is a kind of introductory membership) is also still relevant for the same reasons.
– on donations: donations given at the retreat are an expression of gratitude for the gift of the Teachings and are used to ensure that these precious teachings remain available into the future. The opportunity to make these offerings can be organised by the Gakyil according to what will work best in the particular circumstances.
– There is no indication that Gars will need to request particular teachings from the Master; the point is that the Gakyil needs to impress on members the importance of the teaching to be given by the Master (in whatever precise form it should be) so that the desire to sponsor the retreat and to attend it will arise
– on membership structure: it is clear that the reason for becoming a sustaining or meritorious member will no longer be related to reduced fees for retreats (since there will not necessarily be any). Instead, it may be useful to think more in terms of being a meritorious or sustaining sponsor for supporting the costs of maintaining the Gars and their activities so that the teachings remain available into the future, for the benefit of all beings in these times.
– also on membership, it is important to remember that its main purpose is to sustain the Gars and Lings. There will be still be a need for committed ongoing financial support for that purpose, only now maybe it is better to think of this also in terms of donation and sponsorship, since after all the purpose of the Gars and Lings is for making availabe the supreme gift of the Teachings.
– Fundraising during retreats remains important for supporting major development projects and also for supporting Gar operating costs.
– on SMS, Yantra Yoga and Vajra Dance courses: In order to meet the expenses of organising these courses, it is most likely still necessary to charge a registration fee as we have been doing. But we can also experiment with seeking sponsorship for these if an occasion arises, for example to provide a public course to generate interest.
– We will need to see how attendance at retreats will be affected if there is no registration fee. For this reason also it could be useful to encourage pre-registration (without any fee) simply as a means to have an idea of numbers likely to attend.
– a clear budget of the retreat costs is essential not only for planning and smoothly carrying it out, but also to understand how much sponsorship is needed.
– One suggestion is that an online registration system could include the possibility of becoming a sponsor of the event by making an online donation, with an explanation of the expected cost of organising the event, and Rinpoche’s words on the merits arising from Generosity with the Teachings.
If you have any further questions, or suggestions to make, please email to <firstname.lastname@example.org>