Amanda Palmer – The Art of Asking

Musician and artist Amanda Palmer believes we should create a new relationship between artists and their fans, one based on generosity and trust. Watch her TED talk and be prepared to melt in wonder at her audacity. Marvellous!

‘I firmly believe in music being as free as possible. Unlocked. Shared and spread. In order for artists to survive and create, their audiences need to step up and directly support them.’

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The importance of giving

Giving needs to be practiced and developed because our underlying tendency toward attachment, aversion, and confusion so often interferes with a truly selfless act of generosity. An act of giving is of most benefit when one gives something of value, carefully, with one’s own hand, while showing respect, and with a view that something wholesome will come of it. The same is true when one gives out of faith, respectfully, at the right time, with a generous heart, and without causing denigration.

– Andrew Olendzki, ‘Dana: The Practice of Giving’

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Slow take off but the journey’s a long one

Launched in September 2009, Aotearoa Buddhist Education Trust has received donations from a small number of people in the first three months, but the extent of the generosity has been both truly heart warming and surprising. We’re aware it will take time for the wider dharma community to become aware of the fact that ABET exists, to see value in the work of the trust, and decide to support it. What has been given, though, has taken the trustees by surprise.

Here’s how things stand with each of the four appeals:

Gregory Kramer (coming to teach in March and April 2010) $80.00
Martine & Stephen Batchelor (coming to teach in November 2010) $50.00
Eric Kolvig (coming to teach in April 2011) $50.00
General fund $1,959.44

There are two further donations on their way through Givealittle which are visible on the website but not included in the above. When discussing the notion of a charity to pay the travel costs of overseas insight meditation teachers, what we heard was that people wanted a way to help bring a specific teacher here which is why there are separate bank accounts for each teacher.

The wonderful surprise we’ve had is that there are those who are keen to to see the buddhadharma develop in New Zealand, who are prepared to give substantial amounts to do so, and they realise that ABET is an avenue for this. We weren’t expecting to get large donations into the general fund right away but we’re really glad we have, of course.

Tricycle community
Those familiar with the excellent magazine Tricycle may not be aware they’ve started an online community at The publishers’ intention being to create an online sangha, their main attraction is the large number of groups and discussions. It also contains audio and video dharma resources, blogs, photos and even live chat. When you join this community you’ll see there is a group associated with ABET – Aotearoa Buddhist Education Project.

Please join this group and help us talk up the work of the trust. Find it at

The practice of generosity is very much more developed among US buddhist communities, so it would be no surprise to find a small number of overseas practitioners welcoming a way of helping to make the practices and principles of insight meditation more easily available to folk in other countries. Your help with this would be of great value.

Payroll giving
From 7 January 2010, a new government initiative encourages charitable donation directly from your salary, in such a way that you receive an immediate tax credit. How much you give, and how often you do it, is up to you.

Assuming you are paid monthly and wish to give $100 each month to ABET. Doing so, you’d receive an immediate tax credit of $33.33. This means your wages would be just $67.77 lower than previously as your employer remits $100 to ABET in your name.

Previously, an individual could only claim back one third of qualifying donations up to a maximum of $630. The amount you can now claim back has gone up to the level of your taxable income.

When you tell your employer you’d like to make a donation from your pay to Aotearoa Buddhist Education Trust, give them the ABET bank account number your donation should go to [found elsewhere on this site] and point out that they can find us on the IRD’s list of approved donee organisations.

We thank all those who have given, whatever your intention and whatever you’ve given, and we encourage anyone who is considering developing your practice of generosity to take a look around this website. You are invited to get in touch in you have any questions.

– from the December 2009 INSIGHTAotearoa newsletter

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Creating opportunities for generosity

To embrace dukkha is to fully embrace the suffering of the world. When the Buddha talks of the path, the whole business beginning with fully knowing dukkha, it’s also an injunction to compassion. When we begin to be more attuned to the tragic nature of our own existence, when we begin to wear down the rigidity of our selfcentredness, that has the effect of making us more empathetically open to the far, far greater suffering that is going on all around us; in others, in the environment.

– Stephen Batchelor, from ‘The Secular Buddha’ a talk given at a London Insight Meditation retreat, September 2008

WHEN people begin to explore the practice of meditation, more often than not it’s because they feel there’s something unsatisfactory in their lives: they believe there’s something wrong with ‘me’, with what’s going on in ‘my life’ and they want to find out if meditation will help.

If then they attend an insight meditation session or retreat, they find they’re encouraged to be generous; that while there may be a charge to attend the retreat, in addition they are asked to make a donation – give dana – to the teacher for the teachings they have received.

This could seem like they’re being asked to pay for something twice. That it’s part of a tradition, well whoopeedoo, what a cool tradition, and they reach into their pockets or their purses and pull out a coin or two or a bill with a picture of Sir Ed to put into the dana bowl.

The brave among them will ask for guidance. Consider what a night out in the city costs, they may be advised, with film tickets, popcorn and a latte, and give accordingly, or they might be asked to compare an evening with a meditation teacher to a yoga session.

Generosity of spirit is rarely instilled in westerners as we grow up. While well-off Victorians had the practice of charity as a way of easing their conscience about the injustices around them, generations X and Y learn with some difficulty sometimes that there is a world beyond themselves.

For our part, we need to be patient, using these opportunities to assist them develop generosity as an important and integral part of the way of meditation, supporting them as they work with their dis-ease.

So, following the injunctions of the four ennobling truths, as we embrace suffering, let go of grasping, experience stopping and create a path, this we do in the hope of curing ourselves of this sense of dissatisfaction.

Those who persist with the practice of meditation discover that this sense of dissatisfaction, or dukkha, is more about ‘us’ rather than ‘me’. We become hugely more aware of the suffering of others, that our own suffering is so tiny by contrast with the suffering of the world, and that there is a direct and very real connection between the world and ourselves. And that’s the point that generosity becomes a significant part of the path.

As repeatedly our heart goes out to all beings in metta practice, it becomes a felt sense rather than repetition by rote and, surprise, we come full circle. We discover the joy that arises out of generosity, from being there for other people, and for other beings.

And from that generosity the ‘me’ actually grows and gains so much. As practitioners, how can we enable others to become aware of this process? As well as the injunction to practice, those of us committed to a buddhist path need to ensure that our communities offer newbies a number of opportunities to practice generosity.

With this in mind, four dharma buddies from around the country have come together and started a charitable trust, Aotearoa Buddhist Education Trust, the object of which will be to raise funds to bring overseas insight meditation teachers to this country.

Our initial aim will be to ask Aotearoa’s insight meditation communities to help us to at least cover a teacher’s air fares. New Zealanders would then be able to taste of Buddha’s teachings more affordably, leaving more in their pockets and purses to offer as dana.

When the results can be seen clearly, we hope that enough of you will feel the value in donating to the trust, and we would hope to be able to cover more of the cost of running retreats. Perhaps all? We would hope so.

– from the July 2009 INSIGHTAotearoa newsletter

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