Rules for Vedanta Teachers
It so happens that ShiningWorld has become a successful voice for non-dual Vedanta because it is a powerful tool for transforming one’s life in harmony with the Truth. We appreciate the need of those who have received this precious teaching to communicate it to others and lend support to them, assuming they don’t mix Vedanta with other liberation, quasi liberation, or dualistic teachings...Christianity, Buddhism, Neo-Advaita, Yoga, etc. and that they they don’t monetize the teachings. At the same time there are certain expenses associated with the dissemination of the teachings which can be defrayed by the concept of ‘donations.’
Donations fall under the category of visesa dharma, situational ethics. They are adharmic or dharmic depending on the state of mind of both the giver and the receiver. Only you know if your gift is conditional or unconditional and only you know if the gift you receive is used for the intended purpose so there is room for problems. The rules for charity are discussed in the 17th Chapter of the Bhagavad Gita. It is not wrong if a teacher who has given value uses your donation to support him or herself, although financial insecurity often tests a teacher’s integrity, as do other factors, desire for recognition, power, etc. So those individuals whom we support need to be very clear concerning their motivations for teaching.
As one of the senior lineage holders in the Vedanta sampradaya, it is my duty, along with my wife, Sundari, to avoid even the appearance of impropriety, so we expect people who represent it to stick to the spirit and the letter of the rules. At the same time, we can't monitor the behavior of the people we endorse...Vedanta should never be thought of as a career. It is a sacrifice. Swamiji’s teaching was called The Sacrifice of Knowledge, Gita gyana yagna.
Apart from the teaching itself, ShiningWorld is successful because we have not monetized the teaching. I have occasionally solicited donations for a particular publishing project but never for personal financial reasons, as I have a small inheritance and friends who contribute to our living expenses. We finance the website, books and videos and our travel expenses...which are considerable...from donations for the teaching. The books and videos, which involve considerable work and expense, make virtually no profit. However, we continue because the purpose of ShiningWorld is to disseminate Vedanta. ShiningWorld is not a business, although I pay taxes on donations and the sale of books and videos.
We have been extremely generous with the young men we endorsed over the years and they have benefitted by their association with ShiningWorld...We have helped them establish themselves as Vedanta teachers and we know they have people who benefit from their teaching who can support them if they see fit. We encourage anyone who has benefitted from their teachings to continue doing so.
We will continue to encourage and assist people who want to teach, who have assimilated the teachings and have the right attitude, but we will not promote anyone henceforth who does not have an independent means of support and does not adhere strictly to the spirit of the teaching. It is very difficult teaching Vedanta in the West because materialism has infected every institution in society. People actually often tell us that we are fools for teaching on a donation basis. But this is a sacred holy teaching and we cannot stand to see it contaminated by even the appearance of worldliness.
Ram and Sundari