Taoist teaching & money
Should teaching taoist deep knowledge be available for all and for free?
Should one teach spiritual taoist matters for free and to everyone?
Is it opposing to taoist philosophy to ask a fee for teaching? Why is every job payed for – and paying a spiritual teacher, who has crafted unique and special knowledge and skills an issue? Would you work for free? Do you agree a spiritual teacher should not ask for payment, nor have a decent life style? Shall we take a look at it?
It sounds so romantic, those old taoist sages wandering around all their life teaching, healing people, or clearing a land for free. Why would anyone like the old masters being at service for others 24/7 and without anything in return – which would come down to self-sacrifice and running out of energy? Is that maybe a ‘christian’ ideal, to associate doing well for others with self sacrifice? Isn’t taoism about longevity, balance, harmony? Or can one be part-time taoist?
I had struggles with asking money
Not with paying money. At contrary, I was always keen to pay, for not being in debt. Isn’t that a funny twist? I told myself, that money does not have much meaning to me in general. But, was that true? And how was that related to teaching? Since than I have given it much thought and taken time to listen into myself.
One of the main principles of taoism is the constant change
Everything is energy, and energy is not static, it is moving and changing all the time. Keeping stillness in that motion, recognizing the change, bending like bamboo, having fun with it, letting go of attachments and going with the flow, – instead of opposing it -, is what many old taoist stories illustrate. Times sure have changed, so how can teaching stay the same?
In the old times, how dit the old masters work?
The old taoist wizards, where living mostly in remote areas, on the mountains, in fresh air and rich nature, spent most of their time cultivating themselves and their arts. They mostly avoided going into villages, so they could fully dedicate their time and energy to developing and cultivating their skills. And if they did, they sometimes helped someone (or a village) in need with a treatment. For that the villagers offered them shelter, food and sometimes clothes or whatever was needed. They did not teach their arts in public at all, let alone to who ever wanted it.
One carefully selected disciple
Some took in one very carefully selected disciple, living and learning with them for long periods (for years and sometimes decennia). That student took over the daily tasks like: cooking, getting firewood, repairing the shelter and so on to enable the master doing his work. Few masters teached several apprentices. Teaching did not mean 24/7, at contrary, the masters would often be off to the mountains for long periodes, minding their own tasks and studies, recharging the battery, meanwhile the disciple would continue the practices.
In taoist temples, locals could come and receive treatments, or rituals, which they payed for with whatever they had. Undergoing rituals does not mean they where teached the secret arts. Only a tiny bit can be transmitted in words. The rest and most important teachings, like the internal, spiritual, energy arts, they need years of training and guidance, and need internal changes to take place first, before they can be understood, developed and integrated. Once the student has reached a more cultivated level, transmissions do not take place in words, but often in meditation, in spirit. So the master had to invest a serious amount of time and energy for one disciple. They choose that person carefully and tested the person severely before starting to teach.
Material necessities of the old taoist masters
Those where basically water, food, shelter, firewood, clothes. Nature offered most of that, and if they came to the villages, local people often provided for them. As sometimes there was less food in the mountains, taoist developed the way to live on air and light (what we call nowadays being a ‘breatharian”). Those techniques can only be practiced effectively in fresh, clean air, and seeing the sunrise / sunset.
Learning the arts has never been for free
Those masters where once teached by their masters, there was probably not always money involved, but sure a lot given in exchange: a sacrifice in many ways, time, energy and dedication: they had to be away from family and relationships, from material wealth and comfort, from their environment of birth and lived in the same circumstances like their masters. They did many tasks to support their masters and maybe even a payment was made. In those old stories, the wise masters, mastered the art of getting very old in good health and in a good shape. Where they taken care of at old age for free?
Times have changed so much from than
Wanting to keep up the old ways in a changed time, is not very taoistic. Taoism is very down to earth and practical, it is about adapting to change. The essence of taoist teachings, the ways of energy, remain treasures. However the outer form, how we live in our society and times has changed a lot. I live in a society that has decided to pay for life necessities in money. Housing and food are expensive, traveling is, and being taken care of at old age needs a lot of money. Learning from masters is costy, it takes a big sacrifice.
By now, with a low income, I have managed to invest in decades of training by sacrificing a lot, and I feel passionate about learning more. I am spending lots of time, money and energy on tasks the old taoist masters never had to do: administration, tax declarations, marketing, looking for and renting rooms for a workshop, running after my students who forgot to pay. It is too much time and energy spent, without time to recharge my batteries to be sustainable on the long run. Most important: it is time not spent on the arts I love so much. In the old days I would have had students taking over all those tasks and like my own masters probably have a family or partner to support me in my work. For me that is not in place, I wish to hire people for some tasks, and use a program for efficiency – both require being paid with money.
So, let’s talk about money
I have always accommodated students with very little income in the past: in every course I teached, there where 1-2 place for free. I organized funding for my classes for the elderly in such a way, that the participants did not have to pay, at all. I kept prices as low as possible. Getting that in place, took much of my energy, time and effort. As did preparing, organizing workshops and retreats. It is very time-consuming to teach 100+ people, coming and going and adjust and develop workshops to what can be teached at that time. That asks a very different amount of energy compared to teaching one single student that you see every day!
Did it work for me?
No. Not at all. I love to share. I am happy to be there for my students. I look forward to share future overflow. But creating it, was impossible with my old system. Neither was there a selection in who is coming and how much commitment pupils have. Where the old masters had no cost for teaching, I do. I have to pay rent, websites, administration, taxes, marketing. To generate a modest income, 100+ weekly students where not enough. On average one fifth of my students at any time where experiencing life issues, looking for guidance. I spend countless hours trying to be there for all my students, for free. No matter how much I wanted to – it’s impossible to be there for everybody, if you have 100 students.
No surprise that teaching so many and being involved basically 24/7 took a lot of my energy, at the cost of selfcare, and time for my own training, development, family, social life and earthly tasks. It is not a sustainable system. This realization gave me the giggles: wait a minute – isn’t taoism about long therm sustainability (=harmony)? A very practical art to adapt to constant change?
What to do?
In the city I live in, the air is too polluted to be a ‘breatharian’, I still need money to pay for housing, water, electricity, food, studies, for my old days. I would love hire a professional to help with bookkeeping and administration and many other things.
So is it time to let go of the ideas about money? About teaching spirituality to everybody? What if money just is another way to expres the amount of dedication, the energy and work being put into earning it? How would than the price of a workshop of secret and essential teachings, that deeply influence your being, compare to the price of let’s say, a pair of jeans? Do you know the enormous amount of energy and effort the disciple of an old tao master had to invest? They had to invest years and work hard. How to translate that into modern times?
So how to match modern times with old teachings?
The first lesson in taoist teachings is having fun, being in harmony, good health and energy, doing well for others and adapting to changing times. So I closed my school for a time-out, to recharge, think about it, develop my arts, and find my way, translate the way to modern times. I am happy that I can communicate soon, how I will do that.
Lots of love and greetings, Cosima
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