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Is It Right for the Guru to Charge?
Roland: Hello, Sundari. I really hope you can help me out with the situation I am in.
I have a guru in the Netherlands, and he charges 12 euros per satsang, and when you want a private meeting it cost 60 euros.
A year ago I asked him why he charges so much, and he said, for example, in India they have a donation system but in Holland there is none. And he said he has a family, children and a house to pay for and cannot work by donation because he has no trust that people will pay enough for him to pay his bills. So at that time I let it go but now it feels not right again. When I am in the car with him on the way to a satsang (I live in the same village, so I can drive with him and his wife) and someone didn’t pay he is not amused and asks his wife to go after them.
So my question is: Is this situation telling me that I am not free in this and I must take a very good look inside to see and feel what is not free about this money subject in me? For me is it a mirror or must I listen to this feeling and stop the relationship with my guru because this doesn’t fit and is not in line with how I feel about it. I imagined myself being a guru, and I have the feeling that I would work by donation and trust how the people would come to me. But I don’t know because that is only imagination.
I really hope you can write me back, and hope you have a feeling about this situation.
Thank you in advance, all good to you.
~ With love, Roland
Sundari: Hello, Roland. This is a difficult situation which does not have a simple yes-or-no answer. In the tradition of Vedanta the knowledge is always offered freely because self-knowledge belongs to everyone; most Vedanta teachers, or gurus, take the vow of poverty. Ram did not take the vow of poverty but he has never charged because he trusts that all his needs will be met, which they have been. He has always adjusted his needs to his means because he accepts what Isvara brings to him. He also supported himself by hard physical work rather than ask money for the teaching. I have the same values and have done the same in my life. We call Isvara’s beneficence “God’s Trust Fund.”
The qualifications for being a teacher of Vedanta differ from all others as the “guru” does not see himself or herself as different from the student because they see that there is only one student and one guru and that is the self, awareness. A Vedanta teacher teaches the self, not the ego, or person. The word “guru” means “the one who dispels the darkness,” or in other words, removes the ignorance of your true nature as whole and complete, non-dual awareness. A Vedanta teacher, or guru, wields a valid means of knowledge, which is independent of them, for those Isvara brings to them as a friend and an equal. Money does not come into the equation.
Nonetheless, it is understandable that those with less trust or self-knowledge would feel that it is their right to have their needs met. It is not for us to say whether your guru is correct in this or not. He may be an honest man who really is trying to be of service to others. The questions you to answer are these:
Does your guru see “others”’ as equals or does he set himself apart from them or above them? Are you benefitting from this guru in that his teaching helped to set you free from bondage to objects, most importantly, free from the guru? Does your guru have a valid, independent means of knowledge that has nothing to do with him or is he encouraging you to be dependent on him? Does he claim that what he teaches is his teaching, in other words, is he identified with what he teaches? Do you see anyone else benefitting from his teaching?
If you are growing, and your guru seems to be truly helping you, then you have decide if it is worth it for you to pay for his teaching; otherwise find another guru who does not charge for teaching.
I hope this helps.
~ Om and prem, Sundari