The case against costly retreats

Pamela Ayo Yatunde writes,

“Buddhism was never intended to be a prosperity-conscious religion. Yet Buddhism today must face the reality that millions of people face serious economic challenges to surviving and thriving within economic systems that maintain class structures and racial divisions; in doing so, we have an opportunity to end the replication of those same divisions in our sanghas. How? Dialogue is one way. Many Western Buddhists come from religious backgrounds such as Catholicism, Judaism, and Islam, where liberation, empowerment, and charity for poor people are religious imperatives; we can bring those imperatives into conversation with the dharma. Nichiren Buddhists can share how Nichiren was inspired to craft a dharma for people economically excluded from the dharma.”


This is a great perspective. Buddhism in its origin was cost aversive. When Siddhartha first went out to realise his Nirvana to the path of Buddhahood, he practically had forsaken everything and he was a wandering mendicant. There was no question of money, and if you read his life stories, it would seem that you could go and meditate with him. That would be the primordial Sangha and the retreat where you would sit beneath the Bodhi tree and meditate.

Where do we see the emergence of expensive retreats and do we need them? Can we recreate retreats within our own homes with all the technology we have with us? There is a case to cut the costs and be free.

Associate Professor of Epidemiology and Environmental Health at the University of Canterbury, New Zealand. Also in:

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