A teisho is a talk by a sanctioned teacher, usually given during an intensive meditation retreat known as a sesshin. The teacher faces the Buddha altar during a teisho.
For today’s teisho, I will present a famous case from The Sound of the Invisible Hand, the main koan collection used by our Order of Transintegral Zen.
It’s called “Stupidity is the Path”, and it goes like this:
A young entrepreneur asked Master Chade-Meng Tan: “No matter what I do, my business won’t take off. What do I do wrong?”
The Master answered: “When all thoughts cease, wealth appears in the palm of your hand.”
Like all koans, this short dialogue points to the Absolute. The timeless, yet dynamic Free Market that is nothing but your own, true Self. Some of you have realized this non-dual identity of Market and Mind and know how liberating this experience is. Finally you’re able to see with your own eyes what all the sages throughout the ages have said: The Free Market is whole and complete, just as it is. There is no need to change anything and endless opportunities present themselves.
You’re enlightened. You have closed the deal and there is nothing more to do, right?
There are two sides to the Great Matter. “Mind and Market are one”, that is the Absolute. But there is also the Relative side, and that’s what I’m going to talk about today.
I will use my own financial situation as an example. If any of the following sounds like complaining, you’ll have missed the point. I am not complaining and I have complete faith in the power of the free market. But I feel like a lot of people I interact with ought to know a few things about the realities a Teacher has to confront.
I like my life. It’s good. I have a lot of freedom. I have a decent income. I have people all over the world who like what I do and help me do it. I love my job as a spiritual teacher.
Since I came out of my long retreat I’ve also got many, many invitations to come and give workshops and lead retreats. Google, Microsoft, Amazon, Spotify, The Vatican, Integral Institute … You have no idea how much these places pay for a workshop.
But then there are loads of “spiritual” groups and individuals, some of them even calling themselves Transintegralists, who appear to believe that I should do this stuff for free. “The dharma should be given freely”, they say. My response is that the Dharma should be sold at a decent price, but these people want to steal it.
Stealing the Dharma. From a hard-working Teacher. Can you imagine?
I can’t tell you how degrading this is, both for the Teachings and myself.
But let’s not get lost in abstractions. How about a little story to illustrate what’s involved in what I do?
A few years ago, back when I was first starting out, a meditation center asked me to come and give a Dharma talk or something. I told them how much money I’d like to receive. The figure I quoted was based on how much I thought it would cost to go there, spend the necessary nights at a hotel, feed myself, and come home with something to put toward my rent.
And, believe me, this was just a fraction of what guys like Genpo Merzel or Marc Gafni or Andy Cohen would get. (Kudos to them, by the way. I’ve really learned a lot from the Integrals on how to pitch the Teachings and bed the chicks.)
Anyway, the people at the meditation center seemed aghast that I would ask for such an outrageous amount for an hour of promoting my new book, especially as I would pass around my trusted dana bowl at the end. So I said I could do it for half that amount as long as this would be an under-the-table deal. I said this knowing I would be screwed by these misers, but what could I do? I was a just a young, struggling Sensei at the time … Sure enough, it was still too much for those guys.
Actually, the folks from the center acted as if I was the worst sort of money-grubbing fake-ass guru in the world for even suggesting I get paid at all. In the end, I didn’t go there. I never heard from those guys again.
The Dharma is priceless, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t have a price. Right?
Another story. Once I stayed with this guy in a city in Europe. I’d been giving a talk at his temple and afterwards we went out for dinner at this really great restaurant. As I ordered some foie gras and a half-bottle of Sauternes, the guy stared at me in disgust and said, “I am politically opposed to that kind of food.”
I don’t think you can imagine how stressful it is, having to listen to that kind of horseshit. Which is something else that’s a factor. I can’t possibly do this kind of work 5 days a week, 50 weeks a year like a normal job. It would kill me, having to deal with these uptight, politically correct, tofu eating losers all the time.
So whatever you think is a fair hourly wage isn’t really relevant for the kind of work I do.
That’s all for today, folks. Let’s stop here and collect your donations before we recite the Four Vows.