Dhamma Publishing Question

I am wondering the exact process of Ajahn Brahm and Shambala’s Publishing. I have not seen any other Thai forest teacher distribute dhamma with a price tag. My assumption is that there had to be someone to publish his work, and those companies charge a fee of some sort to the author or sangha. I’ve really never gotten a clear answer on these questions. I don’t see why I have to pay to read Bhikkhu Bodhi, Ajahn Brahm, Bhante G (his monastery has all of his books for free distribution with optional donation nonetheless), and Bhikkhu Analayo among others.

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Well, for starters, the books on display at Bhavana Society are not just given to the monastery free of charge. The books are ordered by the monastery from Wisdom Publications and then distributed to anyone who wants one, which is what the book donations go towards, ordering more books. :slight_smile:

I don’t completely know the answer to your question, but from what I understand the Thai Forest Tradition has a tremendous amount of resources to be able to create their own small publishing companies. Small monasteries like Bhavana or individual monks like Bhikkhus Bodhi and Analayo don’t necessarily have the same resources, so they resort to larger Buddhist publication companies like Shambhala and Wisdom.

And I don’t think it’s a bad thing that larger publication companies distribute Dhamma for a profit, at the very least buying their books supports the accessibility of Dhamma for others throughout the world. And also, if you don’t want to pay, there are these things called libraries. :books:


Hello @Westbury08,

Not sure if a direct answer to this is worth, so let’s go side ways :smiley: .

Would you practice more and better if you had free access to everything you need or want?

Personally I can afford to buy any books I want, but my library is limited to the 4 nikayas, 3 Ajhan Brahms books, and a few more (Wisdom publishing) titles.

So what is stopping me from buying more books? Not wanting, to start with :wink: . But simply realising that buying more books is not going to buy me more widown or better daily practice.

Books aren’t the solution. But they aren’t a problem either.


I understand, Dhamma is always the highest gift to the world and I’m glad it reaches large amounts of people through large publishers, but wouldn’t it be much better for Amaravati or other free distribution publishers to accept other renunciates and have extra lay support for any finances/labor they’d like to freely provide? There’s always other means out there. I don’t feel right that a person is making a profit off of a bhikkhu who doesn’t handle money. It never seemed right to me, whether from YouTube subscribers, page visits or buying a book (sorry idk much about online money making). Also do these funds go towards making money for the monastery itself?

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a question regarding book publication on an online forum has very little to do with the subject of wisdom and practice, that’s not what I’m here for. I guess what I’m trying to ask is about Vinaya itself. I am very grateful of all the teachers I have spoken about and I don’t mean to criticize, I only wish for a clear understanding of what the Vinaya would say regarding these matters of outside sources of money coming into a monastery potentially and profit being made off of Dhamma from the lay people’s stance.

Hi @Westbury08,

I am sorry if I didn’t read that question in your intial post.

I made a comment to a statement you put in there. Whether that was want you wanted, I guess I got your view on this :smiley: .


Yeah, that would be really cool. But I don’t see them doing it. They only publish ‘Ajahn Chah lineage’ materials in accordance with their own sangha.

I don’t know. @Bhikkhu_Jayasara might know whether some the profits of Bhante G’s book sales go towards the monastery.


I can’t speak to this specific case, but generally speaking, when monastics’ books are sold, the royalties—maybe 10% of the cover price—go to the monastery or to some other charity that they indicate. But unless you’re Ajahn Brahm or the Dalai Lama, the royalties probably won’t add up to all that much.


Regarding paying for reading: one always pays, even if another one pays the material costs in trees, processing, ink, binding, cutting, distribution, storage, …

One pays time. One pays attention. One might even double down with investing effort. And these are priceless.

I very much appreciated @sukha 's questions and comments; but I won’t steal them, just share them. :slight_smile:


Bhan[quote=“sujato, post:8, topic:8539”]
I can’t speak to this specific case, but generally speaking, when monastics’ books are sold, the royalties—maybe 10% of the cover price—go to the monastery or to some other charity that they indicate. But unless you’re Ajahn Brahm or the Dalai Lama, the royalties probably won’t add up to all that much.

Bhante Sujato, I’m very happy your books are for free distribution or at least freely on the internet. It will be such a blessing to have a full translations of the suttas without a cost. Yes, the cost was something from your heart and took time and many resources but my feeling is that you expect not even a penny or a pat on the back in return for it. That is the spirit I like to uphold of Dhamma. I am indebted in many ways to this sangha and I hope to practice to fulfill the instructions in this life. Sadhu!


As many may know when it comes to publishing groups, the author usually only gets a fairly small percentage, something like 10% of what the book earns, due to the costs of business.

With Bhante G, all the “author” proceeds go directly to Bhavana.

and as Brenna says, yes actually Bhavana has to BUY Bhante G’s books that are given away freely here, and we never come close to breaking even with book donations, and honestly that is perfectly fine with both Bhante G and myself, Dhamma should be free.

regarding dhamma books and price tags, I am a fairly hard liner when it comes to the belief that Dhamma should be free. At the very least the suttas themselves should be free, but as someone who owned a business himself, I understand the costs and overhead that a publisher has in creation, marketing, and distribution.

In Asia you will have dana organizations that will pay for the publishing of such and such thousand copies of a book from this or that teaching, I’ve not heard of any such organization in the west.

I’m much less worried about books from various teachers and monastics being free, then I am the actual nikayas being free. the Suttas should be as easily distributed as the bible as far as I’m concerned, which is why I was happy to hear of Bhante Sujato’s project of a digitial hyperlinked Nikayas.


This is an interesting and somewhat vexed issue. To me, the ideal solution is what BPS did with their reissue of the Visuddhimagga - you can download a PDF or you can buy a nicely bound version. Bhikkhu Analayo seems to have deals with his publishers that electronic versions of his books become available after a few years. Having them published means that they can be purchased by libraries, and that they can be referenced in other books and papers.

It’s nice that the Ajahn Chah lineage books and Dhamma books from other monastics are given away, and available as PDF, but unless you are close to one of their monasteries, it’s not trivial to get hold of hard copies, so I don’t see that as a particularly useful model for distributing the Dhamma outside the “club”.

I do hope that hard copies of any books produced from the SC site will be available for purchase. I’m very happy to pay for nicely-bound hard copies, and I feel that this option makes the Dhamma more, rather than less, available.


By the 1980s in America and UK, computers were starting to show their potential for individuals. I think some significant resources of the west went to preserving resources via microfiche, photography, audio recordings, investment in some of the educational or library capabilities of Buddhists in Asia especially Tibetan or Zen… And now digitized access seems in some ways an excellent addituon to paper or other preservation, now that oral preservation seems to be fading as primary preservatuon method.

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It’s a very fair point, but if hard copy production by donation will work, wouldn’t that be all the better? I mean I’m guessing most people who’d be very happy to buy would also be very happy to give a comparable amount. In this way, those of greater and lesser means would also be able to either give an incredible gift and/or make use of a hard copy where they might otherwise not.

I hope the ideas Bhante Sujato outlined a couple of years ago are still under consideration:


Yep, this is still on the roadmap.


Yes, sure. My main point is that I’d like to see the option of ordering a book directly, rather than rely on Dhamma distribution channels. Having them available to order might also help to ensure that libraries recognised them as “real” books, and were prepared to buy them or accept donated copies, and that they would be cited in academic articles.


That is true about most dhamma books by most monks in Thailand, including the Thai version of Ajahn Brahm’s books. It’s a real pity.

The disciples of a former famous Japanese monk in Ajahn Chah’s tradition had a different innovative approach. They sold this monk’s books at a restaurant chain that a disciple owned. The books were thus affordable as well as widely available. The idea rendered a great success.

Our team is planning to sell a book by a great monk on Amazon at the cheapest price possible on Amazon just to make the book available worldwide. We just have to wait and see how things go. For the time being, we have some free e-books for you to read and/or download: http://wisdomandwonders.org/about/

Coming back to the original question, I would say from a first-hand experience that publishing and distributing a book for free requires loads of money. So, either you are rich or you have rich friends who are happy to donate tons of money.

Another reason is psychology. Very few people appreciate and value and cherish ‘freebies’. :wink:

If the second reason didn’t play an important part, we then would see more ‘free’ books become popular worldwide. Perhaps this will be a challenge that some of us would like to take? :wink:

Just my two cents.



Indeed, and we hope to make that a reality. It’s easy to set this up as print-on-demand, so we might do this at some point, then see about getting a “sponsored” large scale quality printing later on.

I still can’t get my head around the idea that there is any standard whatsoever for academic citation other than the quality of the content.

Quite agree! This is such a good point. :slight_smile:

I quite agree here, too. At the same time, I guess I might liken the principle to Firefox addons. I more or less have abandoned installing addons that don’t have at least 3, maybe even 4 stars (although it’s not quite a perfect comparison, because I will consider new addons that have no stars).

I know that this is a popular notion, but I haven’t seen any evidence (and there have been lots of studies) that this is in fact the case. What we seem to find instead (when experiments are run) is that it doesn’t matter how someone got a particular item, either free or paid for, they use it just the same. And those who get it for free tend to be more inclined to buy in the future. This is how discounting/offers/coupons work in retail environments.

Having said that, there may be an argument for selling the item, but giving away free discount vouchers to maximise uptake and engagement - just like coca-cola did in 1887 onwards to their considerable benefit.