Commodification of Buddhism: a threat to its real value

Buddhism is a religion which teaches the way to end the suffering. Therefore, it has an unchanged method to attain nibbana. The cessation of desire, leads to nibbana. Consumerism is the exact opposite. It is based on the idea that material well-being is the highest goal. Ex: Positive thinking and law of attraction

Selling statues and Buddhist elements for commercial purposes could be justified, but commercializing meditation techniques and practice instructions cannot.

Using meditation techniques for purposes like relieving chronic pain, reducing stress, etc is valuable. However, with the successful results of the meditation practices, the listeners tend to study insights of Buddhism. These people become victims of so called teachers who deliver false information and instructions making their ultimate goals unreachable.

Ex: McMindfulness
The commodified, commercialised versions of mindfulness is known as McMindfulness.
Mindfulness has become a fashionable and marketable commodity where it lacks an ethical and moral framework.
In addition, selling books (Original versions of old books for a higher price) is also questionable.

Your ideas about the commodification of Buddhism??

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Are you suggesting that it should be forbidden, unlawful? Will you be the one who will decide what is ‘true buddhism’ and who can or cannot teach it? Sounds a bit like the Brahman caste in ancient india (just being a bit provocative :wink: )

Positive thinking and law of attraction is not always for material gains by the way. On the other side, traditional Buddhism is also used for material gains.

I had the same feeling as you before, but now I feel like this is not coming from a good place. I’m now more into let other people do whatever they want (unless it harms other beings e.g. fraud, stealing, harm etc) and focus on my own growth and associate with same minded people without trying to defend my vision of things.


Thank you for bringing this topic up. I wanted to add a couple more questions related to this that I myself am curious about, especially related to the topic of:

“The Dhamma-Vinaya is not to be sold in exchange for money.”

Are lay people allowed to sell the Dhamma-Vinaya in exchange for money?
(Someone may argue that lay people are not bound by Vinaya rules.)

Are “parts of the Dhamma-Vinaya” allowed to be sold in exchange for money?
(For example in the ways you described such as for stress-reduction.)


Of cause not. Dhamma should be delivered through out the world, but correct dhmma in a right way.

“Bhikkus, the teaching and discipline declared by the Tathāgata shines when manifest and not when covered.”
(Anguththra Nikaya, Bharanddu Vagga)

I am not making judgments here, but critiques. Deciding what is true is up to the person who seeks dhamma. There are people with less knowladge, who need a proper guidance to practice the path. They deserve true dhamma and vinaya. Commodifying and teaching is two different things. Can you value dhamma with money? I am pretty certain you cannot.

I agree, we have nothing to do with other peoples business. We cannot heal others without healing ourselves. However, commodification is something that misleads people, making them believe buddhism is no different from other religions. In fact, some, who spread so called meditation methods have no idea what meditation is. Some doesn’t know what mindfulness is, where Hinduism and Yoga, teaches mindfulness as a practice to see the atman. There are many other misunderstandings about dhamma. Some popular venerables who teach meditation, explains miner results in meditation as nibbana.


What does this mean?

Buddhism should be taught by well-read teachers. That is the proper way to teach true dhamma.

Ok, exploring a little farther: what is this?

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Sir, they speak of a ‘Dhamma speaker’. How is a Dhamma speaker defined?”
“Mendicant, if a mendicant teaches Dhamma for disillusionment, dispassion, and cessation regarding form, they’re qualified to be called a ‘mendicant who speaks on Dhamma’.
If they practice for disillusionment, dispassion, and cessation regarding form, they’re qualified to be called a ‘mendicant who practices in line with the teaching’.

If they’re freed by not grasping by disillusionment, dispassion, and cessation regarding form, they’re qualified to be called a ‘mendicant who has attained extinguishment in this very life’ (SN 22.115).

There are four types of dhammakathikas. Two of them can be considered better.

One Dhamma speaker speaks little but stays on topic. And their assembly can tell what’s on topic and what’s off topic. Such an assembly regards such a Dhamma speaker simply as a Dhamma speaker.

One Dhamma speaker speaks much and stays on topic. And their assembly can tell what’s on topic and what’s off topic. Such an assembly regards such a Dhamma speaker simply as a Dhamma speaker.
(AN 4.139)


I’m not clear exactly what you’re objecting to here.
Is it Buddhist teachers and groups charging a fee for classes and retreats?
Is it people using practices like mindfulness outside of a Buddhist context?
Or is it some Buddhist teachers not teaching “proper” authentic Dhamma in your view?

I don’t think this is straightforward topic, particularly given that Buddhism is a diverse and pluralistic tradition, with many different schools, methods and assumptions.


:slight_smile: As usual, Buddha defines it best.

Thank you for sharing these words.


“According to the Buddha,” is it unallowable or allowable for:

  1. monastics to charge money for teaching Dhamma-Vinaya or some part of it?
  2. laypeople to charge money for teaching Dhamma-Vinaya or some part of it?
  3. laypeople to charge money for teaching Buddhist classes?
  4. laypeople to charge money for teaching meditation retreats?
  5. laypeople and monastics from diverse and pluralistic tradition, with many different schools, methods and assumptions to teach Dhamma-Vinaya however they see fit?
  6. laypeople to charge money for teaching practices like mindfulness outside of the Buddhist context (e.g. Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction)?

What is considered appropriate will vary across different Buddhist schools.


Take this hypothetical example for the pan-sect view that you seem to be holding to be the most suitable position to take on this:

Suppose I were to take the entire Dhamma-Vinaya and go point by point and take the opposite position on each and every single point.

Once I have done that, I essentially create Adhamma-Avinaya in its entirety.

And suppose I were to do this not intentionally, but because I sincerely believed this point-by-point doctrine that I come up with was actually spoken by the Buddha.

Then I proceed to form a “Buddhist school” with a certain name.

Now I teach this version of the doctrine that is literally 100% contrary to the Dhamma-Vinaya in a way that is literally 100% contrary to the Dhamma-Vinaya.

How does your advice of “what is considered appropriate will vary across different Buddhist schools,” apply in this case?

I understand where you’re coming from, but any attempt at a remedy for such a concern would become a slippery slope ultimately abused by those greasing it whom stand to benefit from it’s enforcement.

A good example is the blasphemy law in Bangladesh, a Muslim majority country, which are mainly focused on Islam, yet these laws(some held over from British rule) are applied to all religions including Buddhism. Never go against the established “normative,” whatever that means. In the past this has caused not only attacks on individuals whom have offered alternative interpretations etc, but resulted in them actually being imprisoned.

The issue is that without tangible punishment and enforcement there is nothing preventing arrant misuse of teachings, practices or traditions and at its core any anti-blasphemy enforcement vehemently goes against the contemporary Western values of freedom of religion and expression. The even larger problem is that only a sotapanna would be rightly in a position to establish the guidelines from which real world enforcement could stem, since two puthujjana could very easily interpret the same passages irreconcilably. This is itself a quagmire :yum:


I would say to you, don’t do this thing; this is likely to harm you, and others, and action does have effect.
But this is not, I think, how different Buddhist schools developed.
I think @Martin was making an observation in response to “according to Buddhism”, not an endorsement. I don’t know that he has a “pan-sect view” from his words in this thread or those I can easily recall at this moment. I do know however that some have aversion to such a view. So I would use it carefully and impersonally, if at all.
I try to avoid defining anyone as having an identity, because to do so often seems to function as a form of reinforcement of a contrasting identity as “mine”. I don’t really care (or at least, I try not to care too much) about or for sides, there’s imo way too much work to do moving forward as best one can towards liberation.
@SeriousFun136 you asked specific questions; I don’t know the specific answers at this time. But I’m a little concerned as they sound like they might come from an axe to grind, or a desire to correct people whose practice differs from yours of this moment. That imo is likely to be a fruitless endeavor, because people change in understanding and view, including depth of view…

Misunderstandings can happen. :slight_smile: Hopefully I do not contribute to any!


That is definitely a good point.

I’m not saying that I have an answer to this problem - it seems like a tricky issue.

But just letting all the sects do what they want seems to be the other extreme of dogmatic control.

Perhaps there is a middle way?

Don’t do what thing? :thinking:

Noted! I just learned it recently lol, so I don’t know what it is associated with.

I think I was careful to refer to the view as opposed to the person.

In which comment?

Everyone has their own row to hoe. If someone from a tradition different from mine chooses to engage me in discussion and it should come about that my opinion is requested regarding a matter, I’ll offer it. Until then, I’m focusing on my own row. :woman_farmer: My conversation partner may be in the best row for them. Who am I to tell them different?


If a comment is linked to a previous post, there’s a little icon at top right which takes one to it. Mine has it, that will answer several of your questions.

I think I was careful to refer to the view as opposed to the person.

Re your carefulness, I was reacting to and questioning the phrase “view that you seem to be holding”. I had not seen the other participant explicitly identify with that (or any other) view in his own words. So your statement seems to me to be interpretive or extrapolated, without evidence I see.

edited, cause my original draft was a mess; distant wifi

The only precepts that apply to laypeople are the five or eight: whatever they voluntarily took on themselves.

Or the Buddhist ecclesiastical hierarchies which wield vast amounts of (social, political, financial, territorial, or human) capital in e.g. Thailand or Tibet.

That’s correct. The opposite of controlling is letting go.


sorry, your specific questions from here (see upper right link icon) were the ones to whch I referred.

My previous post was a mess, please refresh to see cleaned-up readable version.