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The Comodification of Spirit

Last post 07-12-2006, 2:03 PM by balder. 16 replies.
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  •  06-26-2006, 3:08 PM 505

    The Comodification of Spirit

    JasonD wrote the following post at 26 Jun 2006 7:02 PM: Hey bud.

     I highly recomend the Life Practice Kit. the Big mind DVD contained within is much longer then anything that will be posted to ISC or IN. And more importantly the video quality will be much much better on a TV then your computer.  The kit also has many discs and booklets that can be studied over the course of months or shared with friends.

    The comodification of spirit is an interesting topic.  In the time of the buddha, monks were supported by donations to temples or begging.  In the west a beggar has no influence. and therefore can not spread the dharma much past the dumpsters. Our spiritual leaders must make a living through writing  or workshops... and some become very wealthy this way. Is this kosher? Is this spiritual?

    righto,
    Jason


    I thought I'd move it here as it's an important discussion to be had and I didn't want it getting lost in the bigmind posts

    hope that's cool

    \/



    "May the sufferings and negativites of living beings ripen upon me,
    And may my happiness and virtue ripen upon them" - Nagarjuna
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  •  06-26-2006, 3:21 PM 510 in reply to 505

    Re: The Comodification of Spirit

    Jason you make an excellent point.

    I personally had to deal with this issue when I was living, and working, in a dharma centre. We charged for classes and it was interesting to see people's reaction. We kinda had a secret policy that no one would be turned away due to lack of funds but that it was equally important to charge for dharma. Some people, volunteers, were not happy handling money at all.

    People use money as a way of coding value, its a simple numerical system that everyone can grasp. Ultimately money is empty (unless you grasp at it and then it is horribly horribly real and a source of attachment, pain, misery, hatred, and so on) but its a useful way to judge 'value'. I think a lot of people are re-assured that there is a price on a yoga/meditation class rather than being suspicious that people are charging for dharma we are at the opposite extreme, with some people mistrusting 'free' meditations. 'What's the catch?', 'It must be a cult' and so forth.

    It's interesting to watch our minds over all of this. I like giving money for teachings now, it's dana, a gift, practicing generosity... and... a dharma realisation is priceless. There is a story of a Tibetan king who gave 1000 gold coins for one verse of dharma, another story where someone sells their flesh! And, yet another where a king gives his life so that dharma my flourish in Tibet.

    All these things, and so much more, help me see beyond the simplistic argument that 'someone must be making a mint out of all of this'... maybe... but maybe they are giving us more that we could possibly dream of... it is... after all...about perspectives



    \/






    "May the sufferings and negativites of living beings ripen upon me,
    And may my happiness and virtue ripen upon them" - Nagarjuna
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  •  06-26-2006, 3:26 PM 512 in reply to 505

    Re: The Comodification of Spirit

    Great topic. And I would begin by drawing a distinction between the commodification of Spirit and exchanging spiritual teachings, resources, supports for a fee.

    The OED defines commodity as
    commodity |kəˈmäditē| noun ( pl. -ties) a raw material or primary agricultural product that can be bought and sold, such as copper or coffee. • a useful or valuable thing, such as water or time. ORIGIN late Middle English : from Old French commodite or Latin commoditas, from commodus (see commodious ).

    In contemporary business usage, commodities are either unprocessed/raw materials or products and services that are marketed and sold on the basis of simple utility rather than their refinements. The marketplace "commofies" a product or service when it uses price as the primary mechanism for deciding to buy, with the lowest price the winner.

    There are many things: fine diamonds, business coaching (!), rare orchids, top notch sex workers, BMWs that are not sold as commodities but as specialties. In these instances, price is to be correlated with tangible and intangible value added by virtue of specialization, cachet, workmanship, wisdom, etc. The marketplace evaluates specialties on the basis of perceived value. The relationship between price and the cost of labor and materials is minimal.

    This begs the question, what are we willing to pay for spiritual growth? In what manner whall we make this payment? I'm reminded of the Zen story about the aspirant who waits in the snow all winter and cuts off his arm in an effort to convince the Zen master of his sincerity. Perhaps, in addition to being mindful of the economic implications and consequences of pricing producst and services related to Spirit, we might look at our individual and collective expectations with respect to COST. In this regard, it occurs to me that a marketplace that expects to attain by expenditure of money what its members are not willing to attain by practice, forces a commodification on Spirit. But, of course, Spirit, precedes and endures and even holds in its infinite embrace those of us (and I do mean me) who seek enlightenment as a cheap or even expensive fix.



    Molly Gordon, MCC
    Shaboom Inc., Life could be a dream...
    Blog

    "I want God to play in my bloodstream like sunlight amuses itself on water." Elizabeth Gilbert
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  •  06-26-2006, 3:43 PM 514 in reply to 512

    Re: The Comodification of Spirit


    "Through giving comes wealth" - Buddha

    Are we convinced that if we freely give everything away we'll get an even greater return?

    I'm reminded now of Geshe Langri Tangpa, he gave everything away, at the end of each day he only kept his begging bowl and his robes.

    He would always be given offerings for his sublime teachings and he always gave them away, keeping nothing for himself.

    A thief attempted to steel his cooking pot, but Langri Tangpa came home and the startled thief fled the scene. Langri Tangpa chased after the thief, with the pot in his hands... shouting 'please stop. take the pot... you must need it more than I!'.

    When Geshe Langri Tangpa died (c.1100 CE) he was able to support over 1,000 monks, just by always giving away what people gave to him.

    Buddhist economics... the more you give the more you receive to give give and give again.


    Are we convinced?


    \/









    "May the sufferings and negativites of living beings ripen upon me,
    And may my happiness and virtue ripen upon them" - Nagarjuna
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  •  06-27-2006, 12:25 PM 552 in reply to 505

    (TM) on a "Spiritual" Practice (Was Re: The Comodification of Spirit)

    vajrayogini:
    JasonD wrote the following post at 26 Jun 2006 7:02 PM: Hey bud.
    ...
    The comodification of spirit is an interesting topic.  In the time of the buddha, monks were supported by donations to temples or begging.  In the west a beggar has no influence. and therefore can not spread the dharma much past the dumpsters. Our spiritual leaders must make a living through writing  or workshops... and some become very wealthy this way. Is this kosher? Is this spiritual?
    righto,
    Jason

    I thought I'd move it here as it's an important discussion to be had and I didn't want it getting lost in the bigmind posts
    hope that's cool
    \/

    Hi, y'all!

    I confess!  It is my fault that this discussion has started.  When I posted in the "Big Mind: The Controller" thread, and asked about the usefulness of getting the ILP starter kit, I also asked (tongue-in-cheek) the following...

    [And I am wondering, had the Buddha lived in the 20th/21st century, would we have the following?Wink [;)]
    (1) The Four Noble Truths(tm)
    (2) The Noble Eightfold Paths(tm)]

    My hypothetical question is concerned with another line of thought. It is not so much as the paying/donating for some "spiritual seminar/help" that I was thinking of, but rather on what (tm) entails.  

    If Buddhism is only of recent occurence, would it have spread far and wide faster than the the way it did (within the last 2,500 years) or would the Theravadans be suing Mahayanans in the court of law in trying to prevent the divergence from the "true" teaching? And who would be considered the "true" teachers -- the one paying a %-age or franchise fee to the (tm) owner?  Or would the Mahayanans simply wait it out for the (tm) to expire or become genericized and the information becomes public domain? And, then, let fate unfold as it may for the next 2,500 years?

    My earlier  interest in the movie "What the (Bleep!) Do We Know?" (a Ramtha-influenced & -connected movie project) led me to an old news item that striked me as ridiculous and funny.  This one was about how JZ Knight had sued a certain pyschic named Judith Ravell of Berlin who claim to also channel Ramtha.  JZ Knight won the court case in Europe and was granted the Ramtha "copyright", making her as the one and only legal medium of Ramtha, worldwide. Anyone who would allow him/herself to be a channel for Ramtha will be taken to the cleaners! Surprise [:O] Not really... Judith Ravell of Berlin was asked to pay a paltry $800 for disturbing JZ Knight's spiritual channel. Smile [:)]

    --- Not that I am equating Ramtha-channeling with this whole Integral Life Practice practices (as contained in the Starter Kit).  Honestly, I don't.  Angel [A]

    It is just that whenever I see something that is claimed to be spiritual -- whether it is an activity, a method, what have you -- and it is trademarked, my skin simply crawls up on me. (OK, skin... Down skin... down... sit!)  My zany mind simply runs ahead of me and starts thinking of all the ridicuous ways that we can get ourselves into, whenever we start putting (tm)s on what are claimed to be "spiritual practices".

    Why can't there be un-(tm) for spiritual stuff like there is un-copyright or open license agreement for gnu or linux?

    But don't mind me. I am just being ridiculous.  I think, I just need to sit down and bring my mind back in the here and now. 

    Also, I like the direction that this "comodification of spirit" discussion is going.

    ... Will be back after "37 minutes of meditation"(tm)... Smile [:)]

    towers1209
    杜 偉 德
    -------------------
    "Caminante, no hay camino, se hace camino al andar..."
    [Traveller, there is no path, you create the path as you move forward...]
    Antonio Machado (1875-1939)
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  •  06-28-2006, 3:03 AM 571 in reply to 505

    Re: The Comodification of Spirit

    vajrayogini:
    JasonD wrote the following post at 26 Jun 2006 7:02 PM:

    The comodification of spirit is an interesting topic.  In the time of the buddha, monks were supported by donations to temples or begging.  In the west a beggar has no influence. and therefore can not spread the dharma much past the dumpsters. Our spiritual leaders must make a living through writing  or workshops... and some become very wealthy this way. Is this kosher? Is this spiritual?



    Why would money always be the root of all evil? If that would be really true, than giving your money to somebody else would be a horrible thing to do!

    What if you earn money by helping others? Getting rich than simply means that you helped a lot of people. All that matters is your intentions (you don't want to rip people off, for instance) and that you don't get attached to your wealth. You can always give some of it away. Sounds to me like a genuine spiritual path, which can work for some people.

    Donating just my $0.02

    Peter

    "All nations should be like Amsterdam" -- Ken Wilber
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  •  06-28-2006, 5:17 AM 573 in reply to 571

    Re: The Comodification of Spirit

    I agree with Peter 100%

    Warren Buffet (the US's 2nd-Richest Man) has just given $37bn to charity.

    He'll do more good with that cash than I've done in ALL my previous countless lives!!! :)

    See charlie_rose_interview if you want to find out more.

    The point is attachment and intention, for sure.

    That said I do still squirm a little when I see (tm) but in AQAL's case I'm quite happy that some boundaries have been applied so that only certified (or at least vaguely trained) people can use it and apply it, the law is there to protect and serve us all, why not use the complete toolbox? Why is something non-spiritual when money is involved? Why do we think "(tm)" changes anything - it might be challenging our prejudices, but that's up to us to sort out for ourselves.

    Interesting idea about the Mahayana having to pay royalties to the Theravadans. :) You made my giggle Towers1209. But it is interesting to ponder. I think (tm) is a short-term necessary measure... the real value will prove itself over generations. Will people be quoting Ken's work? Or Vissers? Or Yours? Time, of course, will tell.

    \\\  ///
      \\//



    "May the sufferings and negativites of living beings ripen upon me,
    And may my happiness and virtue ripen upon them" - Nagarjuna
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  •  06-30-2006, 10:04 PM 699 in reply to 573

    Re: The Comodification of Spirit

    You all got me thinking.  So what quadrant is money in LL and LR?  Are economic exchanges part of the LR, and the meaning or value in the market place part of the LL?

    And wouldn't our relationship with it depend on what level of development we were in?  So for someone in an orange meme, maybe money could by spirituality, and maybe they would use their teachings to get rich and buy beemers and piles of cocaine?  And yet if philanthropy is a status symbol, then maybe it is part of orange too. 

    I'm trying to learn how to suss all this stuff out...go between the territories and the maps.  Any clarification would be vunderbar!

    Best,
    Kelly

    It's ALL soul. Junior Wells
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  •  06-30-2006, 10:30 PM 701 in reply to 505

    • geomo is not online. Last active: 03-14-2007, 1:33 PM geomo
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    Re: The Comodification of Spirit

    Glad to be on this forum.  Nice way to start abundantly;-)

    Money can be a spiritual practice.

    Overtipping can be a kind of transmission. A big tip may just get the receiver in a receptive mode, which may allow the transmission of higher intent of loving service to ride along on the carrier wave of the tip.

    I have spent a fair amount on my teacher over the last year and a half, but not for the teaching.  That I get for free as often as I ask for it.  When I do have the money, I give it so my teacher can live in this pricey economy.  In God we Trust;-)

    I also enjoy having the opportunity to sponsor other students who might not have the means to attend a retreat, either by sharing a hotel room or donating a scholarship.  I consider it a great honor to be able to give in such a way.

    In spiritual practice, it's never about the receiving...at least that's what I've been taught and that's what I have also experienced.  Receiving does happen, but seemingly surrender "happens first" (pardong the cause-and-effect dualism).  Of course, in spiritual practice, there is also discernment.  Wise giving, or surrender to Truth, is the key.  Foolish giving isn't spiritual, it's vanity.

    Peace.

    Keith


    Peace. It does not mean to be in a place where there is no noise, trouble or hard work. It means to be in the midst of those things and still be calm in your heart. -unknown
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  •  06-30-2006, 11:27 PM 704 in reply to 701

    • erichg is not online. Last active: 10-09-2007, 8:44 PM erichg
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    Re: The Comodification of Spirit

    I think the comodification of spirit is great. As we are all here to be Aqal, it's important to remember that spending and curency and spirituality fall into all the quadrants.

    In watching the video posts, it's funny when Ken said that spirituality needs a marketing agent from NewYork to get the word out.

    I'm also reminded of a disscusion in which the president of Whole Foods John Mckay was telling Ken about how incredibly fast the Markey place can shift strides.

    I think it's important to remember that we need to use the free market place integrally with spirituality, so that we can produce better I, We, and It(s).
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  •  07-01-2006, 2:11 AM 708 in reply to 701

    Re: The Comodification of Spirit

    Hi,

    I see money itself as neutral. Greed and charity are related to money, but not inside the money, they're inside people. Money is just economic currency, whereas you could say that there is spiritual currency which is known as karma. There is no exchange rate between the two. You can't buy Love.

    You can give money out of Love, or lovingly receive money. Maybe it is important for you to learn how to share, and do you get rich because of that. A Christmas Carol kind of thing.

    But you cannot give Love away, can you?


    Love (and a bit of money),

    Peter

    "All nations should be like Amsterdam" -- Ken Wilber
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  •  07-01-2006, 11:23 AM 719 in reply to 708

    Cool [H] Re: The Comodification of Spirit

    Hi All,

    I'll throw in my .02 on this one.... (jeez - what a cheap-ass!) O.K. I'll throw in my $10,000 - a nice "round number".... I've been involved in some form of religious practice and "Spirituality" for most of my life and all of that experience almost always involved and involves "money" - at the "organizational" level.

    The obvious first: It takes money to create and sustain organizations - whether they be involved in distributing food, medicine, technology, entertainment.... Name it - it involves money.... Many people mis-quote the "scriptural text"; saying - "Money is the root of all evil" when the actual text is "The LOVE of money is the root of all evil" - And it's plain enough to see that GREED is one of the most pernicious and obvious contributors to the misery in this world....

    Everyone of us here at I-I pay a monthly fee for our membership and that membership status is "graded" - we receive a package of benefits/services based on what we are willing or able to pay - is there something "wrong" with that? I think it's perfectly understandable/acceptable from a "business" perspective, but what do you think the mean variety of "green" says?

    Regardless, for my part, I view my own capacities as a "center of distribution" to be evolving.... I want to make more money so that I can contribute to the TOTALITY of my "relational nest", extending to the entire world... By the way - I want my freaking coffe cup! Big Smile [:D]Beer [B]

     Best Regards,

    Justin


    "Life is like stepping onto a boat that is about to sail out to sea and sink".

    SHUNRYU SUZUKI
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  •  07-01-2006, 5:18 PM 726 in reply to 719

    Re: The Comodification of Spirit

    Re-reading this thread I'm reminded of my first "realisation" of Buddhist economics and the benefits of giving:

    My first Kadampa festival involved driving a beaten up VW van to the Lake District in England. Full of zeal and really keen on this 'Buddhism thing' that I had discovered I for those two weeks I felt like I was a friend of the entire world.

    For two weeks I was immersed in wonderful teachings, blessings and beings and my van became a hang-out for a few friends I had met along the way. It quickly became the place to get a cup of herbal tea, my van had a stove and I was more than happy to boil water for others; I was making myself a cup why not offer hot water and teabags to others? Easy, no hassle, it felt good to offer, a gesture of friendship and yes, an act of giving, perhaps even some merit there.

    On it went, for two weeks, I didn't really think about it, it seemed natural to offer tea to others.

    On the last night of the festival we all took part in a special 'offering puja'. We all, thousands of us, took food to offer to Buddha. At the end of the evening the offerings were taken down and, as is tradition, people take offerings off the shrine to give the their friends and family. I can't remember what I offered that evening... perhaps an apple pie (but that may have been earlier in the festival)... but what I do remember of that evening was returning to my van to see the front windscreen of my van COVERED in offerings. I had 8 packs of tea (various flavours), 2 packets of biscuits and some sweets.

    I can only surmise that all this stuff came from the beings whom I had given tea. The total horde was WAY MORE than I had offered, but I'm sure all of those who gave these gifts to me thought it was nothing to offer me something in return.

    In the end I ended up giving most of the offerings away, once again giving away to others... and on it goes... a few simple acts... adding up to lots giving... which leads to more giving... and more giving.

    It's not much of a story but I hope it illustrates the point that (the mind of) giving leads to (actual) wealth.

    I think Bill Gates and Warren Buffet are amazing people. Not only have they generated abundance out of primordial emptiness but they've created the cause to be even more wealthy in future lives.


    be happy

    \/



    "May the sufferings and negativites of living beings ripen upon me,
    And may my happiness and virtue ripen upon them" - Nagarjuna
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  •  07-04-2006, 11:21 AM 906 in reply to 552

    Re: (TM) on a "Spiritual" Practice (Was Re: The Comodification of Spirit)

    [And I am wondering, had the Buddha lived in the 20th/21st century, would we have the following?Wink <img src=">
    (1) The Four Noble Truths(tm)
    (2) The Noble Eightfold Paths(tm)]

    Thank you for restating this in terms of the copyright/trademark designations. I don't know where that may lead, and it's a good thing to reflect on.

    Some initial thoughts/questions:
    • What is the functionality (in theory and in practice) of registering a trademark or servicemark, and how is that related to the free exchange of spiritual knowledge and practice? (Free exchange does not mean "free of charge," for money is one medium of exchange.)
    • Does trademarking or servicemarking restrict the spread of knowledge and practice? (Comparisons such as Windows vs. Linux, Cable vs. network TV, Hollywood vs. Indie films  seem to suggest that the spread of trademarked/patented goods and services is not hampered however the quality may be constrained... which loops back to the notion of commodification. Maybe the concept of "intelletcual property" does tend to commodify (i.e. reduce to a common demonimator) the spiritual... Higher education might be seen as a commodification of thought to the detriment of wisdom and insight...
    • Assuming that intellectual property laws and markets are largely a function of first tier memes (win-lose; right-wrong; finite supply; meritocracy; bureaucracy; order; profit...), it would appear that (at least in a capitalist economic system) they are a necessary piece of infrastructure for any economic entity/interaction at second tier. That is, second tier values and skillful means will (I suppose) give rise to a more sophisticated infrastructure, however until that infrastructure emerges, we must rely on the artifacts of first tier or complexity devolves into chaos. Or something.
    • Which leads me to ask: What are the injunctions that we might practice in the employment of first tier structures for the promulgation of second tier memes and the emergence of second tier markets including (but not limited to) the free exchange of "spiritual" goods and services?
    • And lastly, does this conversation suggest that we regard Spirituality as something essentially other than and alien to the marketplace? If so, that last ox-herding picture has got to go. ;-)


    Molly Gordon, MCC
    Shaboom Inc., Life could be a dream...
    Blog

    "I want God to play in my bloodstream like sunlight amuses itself on water." Elizabeth Gilbert
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  •  07-04-2006, 12:14 PM 912 in reply to 906

    Re: (TM) on a "Spiritual" Practice (Was Re: The Comodification of Spirit)

    There was a fairly lengthy discussion of the trademarking question on Integral Naked a number of months ago.  I think one of the threads dedicated to it was entitled, "Trademarking AQAL?"  In my opinion, the most cogent concern raised in that discussion was whether trademarking AQAL would hamper its acceptance by the academic community.  If AQAL is an idea, at its root, then trademarking it may discourage healthy debate of it in academia because it has already been fixed, also, as a "commercial product," with all that entails.  The question then becomes whether this really matters -- whether "acceptance by academia" is even a concern.
    May the boundless knowledge that time presents and space allows illuminate the native perspectives of your original face.

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