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charging money

May 26, 1997 06:02 PM
by Eldon B. Tucker

I'm not sure I could contribute much to this debate. It
seems as though battle lines are drawn and most of the
possible arguments fired across the line, trying to shoot
down the opponents.

As a truism, "don't charge money for spiritual things"
sits alongside "thou shalt never kill" or "never tell a
lie". Life doesn't exist in a vacuum, though. Whenever
we're faced with a decision, we're required to skillfully
balance conflicting morals, responsibilities, etc. and
can never make a totally perfect decision.

The Dalai Lama will be speaking near the Los Angeles
area. The charge is $200 for good seats and $100 for seats
that aren't as good. Can I judge him as wrong for giving
a program that charges money? Was it unfair that members
of the local Tibetan group could get the $200 tickets for
$100, a special offer that was not available to the
general public?

As I'm reading the discussion over charging money for
theosophical programs, I wonder why there's so much reaction
over such a little thing. One group charges a few dollars,
another doesn't. So what? One group may have books for sale
and another may have some to give away for free.

While I certainly have my own style and approach to
"theosophical work", I recognize that other people each have
their own approaches, and I won't question their motives, pass
judgement on them, find them guilty of transgressing my favorite
moral truisms, and condemn them.

Practicing "universal brotherhood" certainly includes allowing
people to think differently. That includes not just ideas that
we consider "theories", subject to debate -- it also includes
our core beliefs, those that form our world view, those we
consider so true that they are "beyond question". This includes
not just theosophical doctrines, but also political, social,
and economic theories that we've been exposed to all our lives,
including various theories of racism, sexism, social engineering,
political organization -- nearly any subject we may have learned
in college or from books, the media, and our own personal studies.

In order to approach the *timeless* philosophy, it's necessary
to step aside from the learning and conditioning that we're
subject to. That conditioning is different in different cultures,
but it's there, something standing in our way. That includes on
one side the philosophical mind-traps, like a Christian using the
question "do you believe in God?" as a litmus test of someone's
spirituality. It also includes political and social snap
judgements, like "he used the 'N' word, and is an evil racist!"

What's important, I think, is that we each engage in an
individual quest after the truth. That involves questioning and
continually reexamining our cherished beliefs. It also involves
lightening up on our condemning of others and turning that energy
towards critical self-examination. In that light, a statement like
"here's how I overcame this problem in my life" is much more
helpful to ourselves and others than a statement like "you're
a rotten theosophist because you've violated this holy, sacrosanct
principle of behavior that I know to be true."

-- Eldon

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