Commodification of Buddhism: a threat to its real value

I am pro Mc Mindfulness than cultural buddhism which hoodwink poor, innocent and uneducated people in “buddhist” countries. Then again this is my view. :pray:t4:


It is very unfortunate when exploitation occurs, I agree.

I also appreciated that you qualified your comment with saying this is your view; I understood this as “this is something I have seen or experienced (and my opinion about it.)”. Is that fair representation of your meaning?


I’m a bit conflicted on this issue. My goal in the practice is enlightenment described by the Buddha. Capitol E Elightenment :slight_smile: But as a firefighter, Ive seen and heard so much benefit from people practicing mindfulness as a stress aid, to maintain a healthier mental outlook on the face of trauma, to relieve PTSD symptoms, etc. Same for veterans. It’s hard to see this trend as a net negative, even if it has created more confusion about the true purpose and potential of Buddhism as a fully liberating practice.


You are correct. As our views/opinions are usually based on our experience. When we say one view is right and the other is wrong we have to justify it. But usually views can be justified by experience or by whether they are beneficial or unbeneficial. Since I don’t have data for the latter I will go with my experience.

Added: also I am not saying that the view of the original post is wrong. :smiley:

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I think one of the concerns around so-called secular mindfulness is that it can be used to prop up a harmful, neo-liberal agenda that places the burden of stress management solely on the individual.

Rather than implement workplace reforms that aim to make life happier and less stressful for employees, some companies would rather maintain a staus quo and effectively tell their workers: ‘if you feel overly pressured by your work, that’s your problem and you should learn to regulate your stress levels better with some McMindfulness’.

That aside, Buddhism has always been co-opted for political ends and yet the Dhamma has survived 2500 years with a pretty intact core. Its decline is inevitable, but personally I don’t see secular mindfulness practices as particularly threatening.

Edit: apologies to Eraka_B: I didn’t intend to reply to you in particular :pray:


I am confused about this matter, to be honest.
Whenever, I bring this issue up, it is often met with much resistance.
I grew up in the US, so this “live and let live” philosophy has always been the norm even in my own mind.
But after I have come across early Buddhism in particular (as opposed to say, pop culture Buddhism), I have begun to question it.

One on hand, I totally agree with pitfalls and downsides of totalitarian regimes. Even here in Sri Lanka, which is supposed to be a “Buddhist country,” this imposition of what the government or majority thinks is “Buddhism” on others doesn’t exactly seem welcome - for example the pirith chanting blaring on the loud speakers for the whole village to hear as I type this. What about all the non-Buddhists who live here that don’t consent to it? Imagine how much worse a totalitarian regime could get!

Even minor traces problems associated with these seems quite easy for a westerner to detect and often meet it with a swift rejection - as a group, I think we are trained to be sensitive to it.

However, it seems a lot more difficult for westerners to similarly detect the dangers of positing the “each their own philosophy.” Though it seems on the surface to be not clinging to any views, one is still positing a view of what they think is right and correct - I think the official name of of such a philosophy in our modern day era is “relativism.”

After coming across Buddhism, this philosophy itself seems like a view, just like any of the various other views possible. Though it seems like a “tolerant” philosophy (often found in Hinduism, which posits an “all paths lead to God” philosophy in order to tolerate their various diverse sects and traditions), it has begun seeming to me that “dogmatic relativism” is also possible, whereby any view that challenges the “relativist philosophy” is swiftly condemned and rejected - i.e. not tolerated.

My concern is that a liberal political philosophy and other such western notions of “tolerance” seem to be portrayed as “endorsed by the Buddha.”

But is this actually the case?

Take this discourse for instance:

When, however, the bhikkhus see his offense, they know him as a corruption among ascetics, just chaff and trash among ascetics. Then they expel him. For what reason? So that he doesn’t corrupt the good bhikkhus.”

By living together with him, know him as
an angry person with evil desires;
a denigrator, obstinate, and insolent,
envious, miserly, and deceptive.

He speaks to people just like an ascetic,
addressing them with a calm voice,
but secretly he does evil deeds,
holds pernicious views, and lacks respect.

Though he is devious, a speaker of lies,
you should know him as he truly is;
then you should all meet in harmony
and firmly drive him away.

Get rid of the trash!
Remove the depraved fellows!
Sweep the chaff away, non-ascetics
think themselves ascetics!

Having banished those of evil desires,
of bad conduct and resort,
dwell in communion, ever mindful,
the pure with the pure;
then, in harmony, alert,
you will make an end of suffering.

Notice the part about holding wrong views among other qualities. (Different sects have different often contradictory views. Logically, all the sects simply cannot be equally right when their views are sometimes diametrically opposite.)

The Buddha may seem, perhaps by modern western standards of tolerance, “quite harsh.”

But regardless of sect, regarding those beings that dwell in the Sangha that seem to be viewing and acting contrary to the Dhamma-Vinaya - it seems that they should not merely be “respected and tolerated” to do as the wish, but to be, based on careful consideration, promptly expelled from the Sangha.

The Buddha did not seem to look at a fragmented and divided Sangha in a positive way the same way western culture seems to extol diversity indiscriminately (as opposed to in a careful and wise way).

So I am wondering, why do “Buddhists” tolerate such a fragmented, divided Sangha based on a relativist view of “to each their own,” rather that gathering all the harmless, beneficial Bhikkhus and based on careful consideration and in accordance with the Dhamma-Vinaya, and promptly expelling each and every Bhikkhu/Bhikkhuni who are not and refuse to view and act in accordance with the Dhamma-Vinaya - so that they may live together in even greater unity and harmony?

For what reason? “So that they don’t corrupt the good bhikkhus.”

The Buddha himself seems to have endorsed this way of handling the situation, which seems to go contrary to the western notion of “relativism and tolerance to some degree.”

(“Views and actions contrary to Dhamma-Vinaya” as opposed to “external diversity of race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, nationality, etc.” - it seems important to treat these two kinds of “diversity” as distinct and not conflate the two).

One danger I seem to sense from from neglecting this issue under the guise of tolerance is that those Bhikkhus who hold wrong views and act contrary to Dhamma-Vinaya, may defend themselves saying “my sect said this, your sect says something else, to each their own!”
Then they may proceed to ordain many unwise beings who agree with their views and actions that are contrary to DV. Since their standards would likely be lower than Dhamma-Vinaya, they may actually be able to ordain other Bhikkhus at a much faster rate because unwise beings are more plentiful.

Then, like in AN 2.39, the harmful Bhikkhus may become more in number and more powerful and drive out the beneficial Bhikkhus:

Bhikkhus, at a time when robbers are strong, kings become weak and live unpleasantly not able to go to or come from the bordering states to get any work done there. The brahmin householders too at such times live unpleasantly not able to go to or come in to find some external work.

Bhikkhus, in the same manner, when unvirtuous bhikkhus become strong the good bhikkhus become weak and they get to the bordering states. Bhikkhus, it is for the harm, suffering, and unhappiness of many gods and men.

(for some reason this website, which I found through SC, doesn’t have the latter half of the discourse: 2.4 Samacitta Vaggo - English)

It seems that such problems should not be underestimated. The same way a fire may start out small…if it is allowed to spiral out of control, it could burn an entire forest down.

Disclaimer: I am not a monastic, so I have no authority to do anything about this at this time. I am just pointing out that the Buddha seems to teach something quite contrary to “western notions of tolerance and relativism” - which is still a view just like other views, one that seems quite heavily ingrained in the minds of those of us growing up in the west - for the better or worse.

My major question is:

What is the Buddha’s perspective of this issue of "relativism/tolerance/“to each their own”/etc. - especially as it relates to the various “sects” and “traditions” extant today?


Thanks! :pray:t3: I found it!

:thinking: Good point! I think when someone says something like “to each their own” - it seems like evidence of pan-sectarianism. “All sects are allowed and able to do as they wish. What they think is right, is right for them, what we think is right is right for us.” To me, it basically seems like an implicit bias in favor of sects, as opposed to say to the Dhamma-Vinaya as a standard for the sects (i.e. sects are not allowed to do what is contrary to Dhamma-Vinaya even if they think “our sect thinks this is right for us”).

This contrasts both with sectarianism (“my sect is right, your sects is wrong”), which I also flat out reject as the other perhaps worse(?) extreme, as well as non-sectarianism (“a sect is wrong to the extent that it is contrary to the Dhamma-Vinaya and is right to the extent that it is in accordance with the Dhamma-Vinaya”) - which is what I think is the correct and right view in this case. I openly acknowledge that this is the view that I am holding and currently seems to me to be the the correct view. This doesn’t imply that all other views are false - but to the degree that they are contrary to the standard of Dhamma-Vinaya, I do think they would be false. But again, I acknowledge this would be my assessment, and my assessments may be wrong or off, as they often are. I don’t think the mistakes I make in the process of assessing means I should stop trying to assess though.

Hmm, no, I don’t think so. All other beings are free to think and act as they wish.
We all reap what we each sow.
I can only control my own views and actions.
I don’t think I have a desire to “correct people” by “making them think and act like me.”
I certainly do not wish for other beings to take up all my own false views and harmful actions - so no, I don’t think it’s based on a desire to make them similar to me.

I am often perceived this way by others - initially, I thought it was my fault. Now I simply think that if person X is allowed to this A is true, person Y is allowed to think B if false.
If someone thinks all sects should be allowed to do as they wish, another person should be allowed to think all sects should be not allowed to do as they wish. Or else, the former view is being respected while the latter is not.

Those who do not tolerate and respect my objections to “absolute relativism” (which I think was definitively not supported by the Buddha himself), pretty much demonstrate a sort of hypocrisy - they tolerate all views, except for the view that challenges that all views should be tolerated. I don’t think the Buddha “tolerated” all views - he seemed to (suitably) criticize the false ones - I don’t think he would have made a distinction between Buddhists and nonBuddhists on this count.

Buddhism does allow people to preserve their faith by saying “I believe X, I think Y, I feel Z.” But when people overshoot, saying “XYZ is the case” - they open themselves up to criticism.
For example, one person can say “I believe/think/feel that each person or sect should be allowed to do whatever they wish as they see fit.”
They are speaking what is true and not otherwise, that “they think/feel/believe…XYZ.”
But as soon as they say “each person or sect should be allowed to do whatever they wish as they see fit” - now they have made a truth claim.
They have opened themselves up to criticism and censure by the wise.
Then one may counter-question, should each person be able to “kill, steal, lie, etc.” as they see fit or should each sect be allowed to teach Adhamma-Avinaya in part or in full as the wish or see fit?

Though I think your phrasing is a bit stronger than how I intended it to be, I acknowledge that I set up a scenario that would make it difficult for a false views to hold up under those conditions. It was designed to be a way to put a view to test.
The purpose was to show that the relativist view would not hold up unconditionally.
When all the sects are actually in accordance with the Dhamma-Vinaya, if they view and act differently in terms of their specifics, then this view would hold up quite alright!
But is that actually what’s really happening? We cannot assume one way or the other.
In such an example, it simply exposes the limitation of such a relativistic view.

A view like “sects are wrong to the extent that they are contrary to DV and right to the extent that they are in accordance with DV” would fare quite okay even in such an extreme case: a sect that is 100% contrary to Dhamma-Vinaya should be completely and utterly expelled from the Sangha.
There is no such tension faced even in such a scenario.

Obviously, the reality is that all the sects fall on a sort of spectrum, and evaluating each of them is not straightforward - it might be wiser to evaluate each individual as individuals regardless of the sect.

So yes, the “worst case scenario” was set up as a sort of “grinded axe” (not sure if I’m using your metaphor correctly lol) expose the limitation of a relativistic view, which yes, I do not currently hold, but I did hold at one time.

Counter-criticizing the person who set up the scenario as opposed to acknowledging the limitation of the relativistic view seems evasive.

In case my position on this issue is not clear, I shall try to spell it out clearly and explicitly:

I think that I am relatively unwise. If I wasn’t, I wouldn’t have thought and done many of the foolish things that I thought and did prior to coming across Buddhism.

Acknowledging the limitation in my own understanding, I sought an individual or group who, according to my own assessment seemed wiser than me. Because why trust someone who is even more foolish than I am?

This is my attempt at an objective assessment at who I think is the foremost in terms of understanding (among other good qualities) in the universe:
Individual: Buddha
Group: Sangha

Unfortunately, the Buddha passed away. In his place, he seems to have appointed the Dhamma-Vinaya as the teacher and guide (DN 16).

What is the Dhamma-Vinaya?

I am not entirely sure, to be honest.

But one thing I am sure about is that those who say “it’s impossible to know what the Dhamma-Vinaya taught by the Buddha is” - they don’t even make an effort to figure it out. Laziness? Complacency? Intimidated? Perhaps for many reasons that stem from such a view.

Instead of making an effort, what do they often do instead?

They take what the people at large or what is popularly known as Dhamma-Vinaya, and they simply teach that because it is easier to do. Though they admit they don’t what Dhamma-Vinaya is, they still proceed to teach “it”! “Buddha said…”

When criticized about something that was not likely spoken by the Buddha by a long-shot, they often get upset, evasive, and counter, “who are you to say what Dhamma-Vinaya is and isn’t?” or “it is impossible to know what Dhamma-Vinaya is, so let me teach whatever I want as I see fit!”

“To the extent that one acknowledges their ignorance, to that extent they are wise.” I agree. But the task is not yet complete. They would still have to put in the effort to develop their wisdom, they can’t just think “I acknowledged that I am ignorant - thus, I am now wise.” lol

Instead, I think beings understand what the Dhamma-Vinaya is to varying degrees.

To say “to each their own” is falsely equalizing the relative level of understanding of the Dhamma-Vinaya of everyone. It’s implying that those whose level of understanding is lower should be treated equally to those whose level of understanding is higher. This seems “equal,” but unfair.

When the Buddha set up the Sangha, it was not a free-for-all. It wasn’t to each their own. The Buddha and then the Dhamma-Vinaya seemed to be the authority in some sense. If one did not agree, they were free to leave - not free to change and modify things as they saw fit regardless of whether it accords with DV or not. So why has it become like that now?

Those who joined the Sangha, did so with an implicit (prior to Vinaya rules being formulated) or explicit (after Vinaya rules were formulated) agreement that the would abide by the Dhamma-Vinaya.

There is was/is one Buddha and one Sangha. The Buddha seems be under the “authority” of the Dhamma, and the Sangha seems to under the authority of the Dhamma-Vinaya. I was under the impression that the entire Sangha is still under the authority of the that which the Buddha taught was the Dhamma-Vinaya - anything that moves out of this boundary delineated by the Buddha…is simply not okay. No sects is allowed to do as they wish and see fit if it transgresses that boundary. This is my primary objection to the relativist view, which I think does not acknowledge or perhaps foresee this very real problem.

This relates to the OP’s question because, as sincere student-practitioners of Buddhism, the goal doesn’t seem to be to merely to share our own opinions on issues and then “tolerate” each others views as “without evaluating one’s own views and the views of other against the reference of the Dhamma-Vinaya.” Otherwise, where is the progress? We would all simply be in standstill holding on to our own views and telling others to hold on to their own views.
In fact, I think doing so would be contrary to the Dhamma-Vinaya actually. In a discourse in the Anguttara Nikaya book of twos, the Buddha describes that a good assembly is one where the members try to persuade each other and allow themselves to be persuaded (by the Dhamma-Vinaya, I assume, not by wrong views lol).

In another, he says:

That you can neither convince each other nor be convinced by others, that you can neither persuade each other nor be persuaded by others? Misguided men, that will lead to your harm and suffering for a long time.

The goal seems to be to address each and every issue that raised by referencing the Dhamma-Vinaya, including perceived ambiguities in the Dhamma-Vinaya, and try to persuade each other with the Dhamma-Vinaya and allow ourselves to be persuaded by the Dhamma-Vinaya.

Otherwise, we would all simply come to a forum, express and hold/cling to our own views, let others express and hold/cling to our own views, while disallowing any attempts at to persuade others nor allowing ourselves to be persuaded. “To each their own.”

The end result is, we would just all come and go holding our own views, perhaps picking up bits and pieces that others might have said by others, but never really have any sort of meaningful exchange where such mutually beneficial persuasion is allowed beyond simply express our own views and let others express theirs.

One reason that I write such a long and full explanations of my own views on public forums is because I try to see “views” and “actions” as impersonal things that could be harmful or beneficial - both “my own” views as well as that of others.
By putting it out there, others can publicly examine and critique it, and hopefully, return it to me in better shape than it was before in my mind.

Mendicants, three things are conveyed under cover, not in the open. What three?
Wrong view is conveyed under cover[/in secret], not in the open.

I think this helps bring any and all of my views to the surface as much as possible with the hope that the “wrong views” would gradually evaporate over time.

Anyway, all of this relates to the OP’s post in the following way:

I have seen a lot by the way of opinions derived from personal experience, but not a whole lot in terms of referencing sources of the Dhamma-Vinaya to actually shed some light on the problem, which is why I assume the OP posted the issue.

Some of the comments even seem downplay the OP’s concerns.

The means by which this seems to be done is saying “each person and sect has their own way of doing things - to each their own.”

This is tantamount to telling the OP that they seem to be making a big deal out of nothing. “Let everyone do as they wish. Don’t make such a big deal out of the commodification of Buddhism. That is unnecessarily harsh and rigid.”

When I challenge the relativist view which is being used to downplay the OP’s concerns, the goal is to find a real and constructive answer given by the Dhamma-Vinaya on the issue.

I asked the series of questions in the beginning because I had a similar discussion like this before with another person, and realized that I had never come across a discourse which forbid say laypeople from outright selling the Dhamma-Vinaya and perhaps even getting rich in the process.

I was and am curious of what the early Buddhist perspective on this issue is.

If someone thinks all sects/traditions should do as they wish, I am curious to see what the early Buddhist perspective is on allowing each sect to do as they wish in terms of commodifying Buddhism.

Saying all sects and people do things their own way and should be allowed to, to me, sounds like, “I am unwilling or unable to reference the Dhamma-Vinaya to actually find a constructive perspective and perhaps solution to this issue.”

Furthermore, if the Dhamma-Vinaya actually forbids anyone from doing many of the things that the OP has raised concerns about - those who posit the each sect to their own way would actually be speaking contrary to the Dhamma-Vinaya and not in accordance with it.

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Considering the danger that I think that you rightly warned about, is there anything at all that anyone can do to remedy this problem?

Also, could allowing all sects and traditions do whatever they want be a slippery slope the same way an attempt to remedy it can be?

So as a layperson, am I allowed by the Buddha to start a business where I sell the Dhamma-Vinaya in exchange for money in order to earn my livelihood? :thinking:

I ask this seriously, because if it is allowable/harmless/beneficial for a layperson to do this, then I think I would at least consider this option professionally.

Would “selling the Dhamma-Vinaya for money as a layperson” still fall under the category of right livelihood?

:rofl: Touche.
How about anti-both? Assuming McMindfulness means the actually selling of mindfulness in exchange for money?

Based on my experience living in such “majority Buddhist” country, I agree with their assessment to some degree regarding potential exploitation.
But based on my experience living in country where McMindfulness is common, I am not favorable to McMindfulness either.

But is it sold in exchange for money? Or is like mindfulness lessons that are freely provided?
I think that might be the difference that the OP is trying to highlight, not merely taking it out of its context, which may be problematic, but does not necessarily seem to imply commoditization.

Very good point! I hadn’t thought of it like that :thinking:

Also a good, subtle point!

There really doesn’t seem to be. I think a ‘live and let live’ approach is about it. Unless people are being physically/emotionally harmed or there is criminality going on, such as fraud, there is little that can be done without a heavy hand of authoritarian oppression and the easy potential for abuse in that approach is huge.

Definitely. In the Pali suttas this is addressed rather explicitly by Buddha Gotama.



It seems to me that my sandbox for practice is my own mind and the current human (and thus inherently social) life I am living. In focussing attention on that, it seems that everything can be sorted out, though time is limited.


What should be done in these cases? What would be the proper remedy in these cases?

So to re-phrase the question: is there any way to remedy this problem…without resorting to heavy-handed authoritarianism or any other such harmful/unbeneficial means?

So then do the Pali suttas also convey how exactly Buddha Gotama advised that this problem should be addressed? Did he endorse the “live and let live” approach to this problem?

Just to be clear, I acknowledge and agree that there is a clear danger here.

But I also wanted to highlight a similar case where the opposite policy also proved problematic.

When the US was going through the Great Depression, President Hoover, I think, took a laissez faire (French: lit. ‘let do’) approach where his view was that by simply leaving the economy alone would allow the economy to fix itself. If I remember correctly, the analogy was given of letting an animal lick its wound and not interfere.

The result? The economy became even worse, to the point where even till this day there hasn’t been a worse economic period in the entire US history.

President FDR took the opposite approach - where he was thoroughly involved with both economic regulation and development. He is credited with leading the US out of the Great Depression, and he won four terms of presidencies in the process of using this more hands-on approach to both regulation and development.

For clarity’s sake, it makes me wonder if there are 4 possibilities here:
harmful inaction
harmful action
beneficial inaction
beneficial action

Are there any beneficial actions that can be done to remedy this problem of commoditizing Buddhism?

Whatever the legal recourse is in the jurisdiction where it happens.

Don’t see how, IMO

Gonna have to disagree on your example. FDR’s heavy handedness didn’t work at all. The Glass–Steagall Act of 1932 predated FDR’s election, even though he signed the bill(Clinton signed its repeal in 1999 and caused the 2008 crash). The vast majority of his New Deal Legislation was over turned by the Supreme Court and the worst year of the Great Depression, 1935, was in the middle of his first term. Hiring temporary construction workers and building the Empire State Building, which didn’t become profitable until the 1980’s, did nothing for the economy. It wasn’t until 1942 when the US was forced into a war-time economy that the “recovery” even began and despite the federal gold reserves increasing the crippling debt from the war bonds lasted until the 1950’s and stifled new investments.

Outside of public safety and welfare heavy handedness from government is typically bad news. Government mandating religious doctrine, teachings, practices or tradition is medieval, IMO

This is a very worldly concern. Best to just shrug it off and worry about your own practice. There is no central custodian of the dhamma for a reason, just practitioners and anyone whom feels the need to take on that task is misguided and potentially dangerous, IMO.

If people are offended by others presumably “commoditizing Buddhism,” they should possibly examine why it is that they are internalizing other’s action as an affront to their own identity. If their sense of self wasn’t wrapped up in their religion there would be no offense to be taken.


I think the issue that concerns me most is not whether or not anyone is making a living (or perhaps even enriching themselves) with Buddhism, it’s whether or not people are achieving right view. Right view is a requirement of enlightenment according to the Buddha, not a particular meditation technique.

I think that in the West where meditation is a foreign practice, people (especially non-Buddhists) fall into the misconception that meditation and mindfulness techniques are the secret sauce of Buddhism and other eastern traditions. The reality was that the Buddha was in a society in which all sorts of traditions were meditating and not realizing liberation.

So, to me the core problem with these trends is the decoupling of right view and philosophy in general from meditation exercises and presenting them as though simply performing x, y, z activities is the solution to the suffering of the unenlightened life.


Well, I won’t stop you! And it’s probably a better livelihood than many.

But I wouldn’t encourage it. The dhamma is for your own liberation, not for teaching.

It would be like a man with a horrible disease coming across the cure and, being so blinded by his greed and excitement, decided to sell that medicine. In no time, would that man not experience debilitating pain and suffering? And, having sold the cure, would he not soon die from his disease, a painful, wracking death?

And, in future lives, whenever such a man comes across the Dhamma, his habit will be to think: “wow! This Dhamma is excellent! What if I were to sell it?” And, so habitually focused on selling, so blind to his own need for it, he may never gain its benefit, despite having been so fortunate as to come across the Dhamma in even multiple human lives.

But, that said, the Dhamma is quite miraculous. Who knows! Perhaps, like Susīma (or Nanda), you’ll get something out of your encounter with Buddhism despite your initial wrong intention. And at least a “thief of the dhamma” recognizes it as something valuable! To be honest, that’s already a better reaction than most.


Well, isn’t it great that one can learn to train the monkey mind to be calm at least for a moment by paying money? :monkey: The karma of exploitation will be on the greedy teachers but gullible people will at least learn that a calm mind is the start of something beautiful. I would say “Take my money!!!” :money_mouth_face:

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It seems to me that part of the beauty of the system that the Buddha set up was that as between the monastics and the lay folk, the relationship was a positive, healthy symbiotic one. If the monastics lived Vinaya lives and taught the true Dhamma, the lay people would support them with alms and requisites. It’s a simple, minimalist formula that is just so perfect in its execution.

We can see in modern lay life the effects of monetization of “Buddhism.” The Dhamma is nearly nonexistent on most Buddhist forums. Many teachers and practitioners live non-renunciate lives, and amass personal wealth and personality cult followings. We see with the “McMindfulness movement” any number of mindfulness trainings and for profit programs, to the point where the word “mindfulness” has almost 100 meanings, or no meaning at all.

Once the Dhamma becomes commodified, we can see all around us what happens. It is human nature to distort, to bend, to reinvent, to sugar coat, and to denature almost anything of purity, in order to draw a vulnerable audience, and to induce them to part with their money for a teaching that is easy, comfortable, and fashionable. And so, the Buddha established a teaching and a system that is not always so easy, not always comfortable, and not fashionable in an otherwise consumerist Coca-Cola and Armani world. Coca Cola is an artificially colored, high fructose rubbish drink. It’s terrible for one’s health to drink. Yet: 15 Facts About Coca-Cola That Will Blow Your Mind - Business Insider

So, in the face of a global society like this, the Dhamma is a hard sell. But, as the Buddha realized from Day One, there might be a few with little dust in their eyes. Sutta Central is an amazing fountain, with pure spring water. We can only hope that more people can find it, and draw from it.


Even selling of Buddha statues cannot be justified because no one can find Buddha in a statue. If Buddha was in the somatic body, why did he ask Bhikku Vakkali to go away? That Bhikku got ordained only to look at the enlightened one and thus followed Buddha like a shadow where ever Buddha was or where ever he went. The pure truth is only those who realise Dhamma can see Buddha, “Yo Dhamman passathi so man passathi” One who realise Dhamma see Buddha.
That is why no one can see Budha under the Bodhi Tree. The Ficus tree for pariyaththi purposes is termed Bo Tree. The truth is that it was under that tree Buddha contemplated the base of realisation, and then on the 7th day of first week after enlightenment uttered the three peons of joy (in Bodhi vagga). That base of Bodhi is the principle of co-dependent arising, “when this is there this is there, when this is born, this is born”. In middle watch he saw, “when this is not there, this is not there, when this is stopped, this is stopped” In the early watch he saw both together as only a Buddha can see that and then uttered the three peons of joy.
I also agree with venerable thero that in the west today meditation is a business with huge sums being levied for retreats. Then again when you listen to what those gurus are saying you realise how they are misinterpreting the Dhamma. But this is to be expected as Buddha has told this to Bhikkus in the three discourses titled Future Fears.

I can’t tell if this is from the early sources or later sources, but I came across this in the 16 dreams supposedly relayed by Pasenadi to the Buddha. The way it is spoken seems to indicate that it might be from a later source; can anyone verify? I include it because if it is from an early source, it seems relevant:

The King then related his next dream.

“Sir, I saw sour buttermilk bartered for precious sandalwood worth 100,000 pieces of money. What shall come of it?”

The Buddha replied:

“Here too Sire, this dream will not affect your reign. In the future the Dharma will wane. This is because shameless brethren (monks) shall arise who for their bellies’ sake shall preach the very words I preached against. Their preaching will not lead to Nubbin. Nay, their only thought as they preach by fine words and sweet voices shall be to induce men to give them costly raiment and gifts. Others, seated in the highways, at street corners, at the doors of kings’ palaces, shall stoop to preach for money as they barter away for food, raiment or gifts, the doctrine the worth whereof is Nibbana. They shall be as those who barter away precious sandalwood worth 100,000 pieces of money for sour buttermilk.”
The Sixteen Dreams of King Pasenadi Kosol - Saraniya Dhamma Meditation Centre

Is a business that sells the Dhamma-Vinaya for money a harmless, beneficial, and suitable livelihood for laypeople to engage in? Is that why you wouldn’t stop or warn me?
I am confused because quite a few people seem to be suggesting that outright selling the Dhamma-Vinaya, or parts of it, as a layperson may not be harmful, unbeneficial, and unsuitable for a layperson to earn their livelihood from. :thinking:
Or rather, it seems many are shying away from condemning it unequivocally lol.
It’s confusing. Is this really controversial or does the Buddha have a clear-cut answer for this?

Can you explain the relevance of this discourse?
It seems to criticize a monastic who joins the Sangha for material gain.
I seem to be in relatively complete agreement on this count regarding monastics.
It doesn’t seem to address the issue of whether it is okay for laypeople to outright sell it.
Are you aware of any similar discourses regarding whether or not it is okay for laypeople to sell the Dhamma-Vinaya?

So would be harmful even for laypeople to sell the Dhamma-Vinaya or parts of it?

Makes a lot of sense! Something to carefully consider and keep in mind.

lol Until you seemed to suggest that it might be okay for a layperson to sell the Dhamma-Vinaya, I was under the impression that selling the Dhamma-Vinaya, either as a layperson or a monastic, was unequivocally harmful.
If the Buddha himself says that selling the Dhamma-Vinaya for money is harmless and beneficial for a layperson to do…then why not? Like you said, “it’s probably a better livelihood than many.”
But my question still remains…what did the Buddha actually say regarding laypeople selling the Dhamma-Vinaya or parts of it?
It seems pretty clear to me, for example from the sutta you generously shared, that it would not be appropriate or proper for a monastic to do so - so that much I agree.
Some one pointed out the Dhamma never forbids laypeople from doing it - and I also don’t remember coming across any discourse that did - hence my confusion!


Have you come across any early textual basis for the claim that laypeople who sell the Dhamma-Vinaya would reap harm as a result of their selling?

Come to think of it, I just remembered one possible reference! It doesn’t seem to specify laypeople though.

"It’s not easy to teach the Dhamma to others, Ananda. The Dhamma should be taught to others only when five qualities are established within the person teaching. Which five?

"[1] The Dhamma should be taught with the thought, ‘I will speak step-by-step.’

"[2] The Dhamma should be taught with the thought, ‘I will speak explaining the sequence [of cause and effect].’

"[3] The Dhamma should be taught with the thought, ‘I will speak out of compassion.’

"[4] The Dhamma should be taught with the thought, 'I will speak not for the purpose of material reward.'

"[5] The Dhamma should be taught with the thought, ‘I will speak without hurting myself or others.’

“It’s not easy to teach the Dhamma to others, Ananda. The Dhamma should be taught to others only when these five qualities are established within the person teaching.”


It seems this way to me too! It doesn’t seem proper for government to have authority over religion - except like you mentioned, in extremely basic cases, like killing, etc.
In Buddhism, it seems that even religion claims no authority over government either, nor the secular world.
It is outside of society (yet dependent on for them material support) in solitude where the monastics are to be living, unconcerned with government and political affairs of the state.

I noticed that you did not disagree with the part of about the “live and let live” approach being an utter disaster for President Hoover though. :thinking: This was actually my main point - I agreed that heavy-handed misguided authoritarianism is dangerous - but I brought up a counter example of the opposite extreme which do you didn’t seem to defend or disagree with. Can I assume we agree at least on “live and let live” also being potentially dangerous on a policy level similar to your Bangladesh example?

Regarding FDR, I have never heard about anyone so thorough refute and dismiss his accomplishments the way that you just did! The way you made it seem is that aside from the signature of that act, he didn’t achieve anything.

It made me wonder we both have our own political biases - since it seems like you are from Texas and I grew up in the Northeast lol. Texans/conservatives/Republicans/Libertarians/etc. often seem to harp on the dangers of “big,” “intervening” government (which I agree with to some degree - for example, now when they themselves have taken over it lol) - so I wonder if your perspective could be influenced by that as opposed to by early Buddhism on this topic?

I’m not convinced by the way you seemed to thoroughly dismiss the accomplishments of FDR (since it seems like a bias propagated by those who belong to the opposite party out of envy of his achievements), but I will let this go because I am neither willing nor able to research this topic. Furthermore, I acknowledge that I may still have political biases growing up in a largely liberal population (though it should be noted I was born in the south) which may make me inclined to overestimate the accomplishments of FDR without sufficient grounds for it.

Instead, from an early Buddhist perspective, the ideal governor/government seems to be a beneficial monarchy:

'Six times, Ananda, I recall discarding the body in this place, and at the seventh time, I discarded it as a wheel- turning monarch, a righteous king who had conquered the four quarters and established a firm rule, and who possessed the seven treasures. -DN 17

If I’m not wrong, he conquered the entire earth.
“Establish a firm rule” can appear to many as “heavy-handed authoritarianism.”

'And those kings who faced him in the eastern region came and said: “Come, Your Majesty, welcome! We are yours, Your Majesty. Rule us, Your Majesty!”
And the King said:
“Do not take life.
Do not take what is not given.
Do not commit sexual misconduct.
Do not tell lies.
Do not drink strong drink.
Be moderate in eating.”
And those who had faced him in the eastern region became his subjects. -DN 17

He definitely seems to have enforced these “rules” in a way that many would would disagree with him might perceived as “authoritarian”!

If I were to say the government should impose the 5 precepts as laws of the land - surely, it it might appear to at least some others as heavy-handed authoritarianism!

To be fair, it was done with the consent of those whom he conquered. Not a hostile takeover, but a friendly takeover, if you will. So “heavy-handedness” might not be fitting, but he did seem to establish a firm rule based on the authority of the Dhamma.

This seems quite reasonable! Outside of public safety (protection) and public welfare (support), what else is the government’s responsibility?
So your assessment does seem correct, that if they were to overstep these boundaries, they may be overreaching beyond their appropriate domain and sphere of authority.

The Sangha? :thinking:

Agreed. There is definitely a danger in doing it in a misguided way, even if well-intentioned. It would still be harmful.

I totally agree with your criticism of “identifying as Buddhist” or “identifying with Buddhism” - which seems contrary to the Dhamma-Vinaya.
Yet, I would like to offer another perspective on this.
It may not always be about “taking offense.”
For example, misrepresentation of the Buddha and Dhamma-Vinaya could cause the harm of many gods and humans - so perhaps it could be out of compassion and concern for the welfare of others?
If commoditization of Buddhism does indeed lead to the decline of Buddhism, perhaps some are concerned about sustaining Buddhism so that it doesn’t not prematurely decline due to such a problem?
I’m not sure about the latter one especially. But I just wanted to bring up alternative explanations for why one might eschew the “live and let live” view and be concerned about issues like this.
Ultimately, I agree with you, that the study and practice of the Dhamma-Vinaya is of primary and fundamental importance.
The question is, according to the Dhamma-Vinaya, are addressing problems like these a part of that process or not?
The Buddha did take great care to firmly establish the Dhamma-Vinaya - and he did identify conditions which would lead to the decline of Dhamma-Vinaya (such as the arising of Adhamma-Avinaya). He interacted with other religions and kings and laypeople to ensure this. Would it be a part of the practice to address these adverse conditions that may lead to the decline of the Dhamma-Vinaya?

Do these necessarily have to be either-or/mutually exclusive?
Could one acknowledge both as potential problems?

I totally agree.
One that is often overlooked in pop culture misrepresentations of Buddhism!

Lol, but aren’t the jhanas also necessary just like right view is?
Isn’t both the first and last factors of the eightfold path both necessary?

Another really good point!

I totally agree with you here.
I’m just wondering: is this mutually exclusive with acknowledging the commoditization as a problem as well? Can’t they both be acknowledged as problems independently - even though this de-coupling could be a more grave one?

I agree to some degree - I find this to be true to some extent from my own experience.
What I hear in Buddhist meditation circles is often quite different both in content and emphasis than the Dhamma-Vinaya (for example, Burmese emphasis on Abhidhamma).
The excuse for misrepresentation or partially-correct representation is often: “this is more secular and scientific.”

Can you please cite the source or sutta reference number for this?
I tried to find this but I was unable to locate such a reference in the early sources.
Thank you in advance, this would be helpful.


So true, so astute! Sharp assessment and insight! :thinking:




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