Charging money for teaching time seems like it goes against the spirit of the dharma. I’m asking because I was looking for a teacher and came across one that did charge money.

10 Answers 10


It's not OK.

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

“The Dhamma should be taught with the thought, ‘I will speak step-by-step.’

“The Dhamma should be taught with the thought, ‘I will speak explaining the sequence (of cause & effect).’

“The Dhamma should be taught with the thought, ‘I will speak out of compassion.’

“The Dhamma should be taught with the thought, ‘I will speak not for the purpose of material reward.

“The Dhamma should be taught with the thought, ‘I will speak without hurting myself or others.’ (AN 5:159)



should not make an effort everywhere,

should not be another’s hireling,

should not live dependent on another,

should not go about

as a trader in the Dhamma. (Ud 6:2)


The Buddha taught the Dhamma is a "gift". A "gift" is something given free of charge.

The best of gifts is the gift of the teaching.

Etadaggaṃ, bhikkhave, dānānaṃ yadidaṃ dhammadānaṃ.

The best sort of kindly speech is to teach the Dhamma again and again to someone who is engaged and who lends an ear.

Etadaggaṃ, bhikkhave, peyyavajjānaṃ yadidaṃ atthikassa ohitasotassa punappunaṃ dhammaṃ deseti.

AN 9.5



What exactly will this person be teaching you? Buddhist philosophy? Proper sitting posture? Some special 'technique'? Most buddhist things you can learn for free from other teachers, so in what way are this person's teachings special or unique, so that you'd be willing to fork out an hourly rate?

Don't get me wrong, I'm not against the idea of charging money for certain kinds of training. But it's a tricky issue. It's one thing to attach a monetary value to your time as a teacher; that's almost a necessity in our debased commercial world, at least if you want to teach full-time. But it's quite a different thing to attach a monetary value to Buddhism itself. The practice is how we establish value in our lives, and so it can't really be reduced to other forms of value. If someone is trying to sell h'er insights because s'he believes h'er insights are superior, well... hm.

This reminds me of a joke I made up once: Olympic competitive meditation events. Is that really where we want to go?

  • I once paid for relationship counselling, for example, though that wasn't Buddhist. The counsellor was trained, and it was his only work, so payed him, his rates were reasonable and he acted like a good friend. I'm not sure what equivalent role there might be in a Buddhist context -- for lay people? And the OP is in a fairly remote part of the USA, there might be no traditional Sangha there. That experience of mine was for individual counselling, though (not only paying to listen to a lecture, or to sit in a hall).
    – ChrisW
    Commented Dec 8, 2019 at 16:21
  • 1
    The teacher I found was for learning meditation and the dharma. I agree it is a tricky issue. She doesn’t believe her insights are superior but she is a lay person who has been given permission to teach by her teachers. @ChrisW I wouldn’t say I am in a remote part of the USA but I am a homebody. The teacher is not too far from me. We would be doing most of our meetings by video conferencing and meeting quarterly in person.
    – pmagunia
    Commented Dec 8, 2019 at 16:43
  • @Parag I wouldn’t say I am in a remote part of the USA Ah, you're close to Philadelphia -- my mistake, I should have zoomed out on the map a little more to see the bigger picture. It's that I used to have family in Clearfield PA, and driving there seemed relatively remote, compared to the Golden Horseshoe that I came from (where, there are Buddhists).
    – ChrisW
    Commented Dec 8, 2019 at 17:41
  • Seems honest enough to me... 🙂 Commented Dec 8, 2019 at 18:09
  • @ChrisW yeah PA can be pretty rural in the central part of the state. I do have a meditation center that is about 25 minutes away. I have been there several times. They don’t have resident teacher though. I know some people mentioned SN Goenka’s center. We have one in Delaware which is not too far away. I don’t know if I can wake up every morning at 4:30 though.
    – pmagunia
    Commented Dec 8, 2019 at 23:27

If you are teaching someone to pass an exam on Buddhism, it's ok to accept a payment. Because the student is just trying to gain some qualification required for his or her career. But if it is someone who is genuinely trying to attain enlightenment or someone seeking counselling for his or her misery, it's immoral to ask for a payment. Donations can be accepted.

In simple terms, it's immoral to ask a payment from those who seek refuge in the Dhamma.

  • I don't disagree. But many or even most medical doctors are paid though, aren't they, and they "counsel people for their misery" -- their doing that isn't immoral, or, is it?
    – ChrisW
    Commented Dec 8, 2019 at 9:36
  • 3
    @ChrisW these days becoming a doctor requires you to spend a fortune up to the point you pass out from medical college. Also, curing a sickness require making of medicine and sometimes doing complex surgeries which require the use of expensive technologies and resources. The whole system is dependent on money whereas the Dhamma comes from the Buddha himself free of charge and taught by the Sangha themselves free of charge. So there is a considerable difference between the two. Commented Dec 8, 2019 at 12:45

In my opinion, it is OK for a layperson to charge money as a teacher if the student prepares to pay for it. I can't recall Buddha saying that his Dhamma should be taught free of charge. However, Buddhist monks are not allowed to handle money according to the Vinaya. It is great to see some people are prepared to pay money to learn Dhamma!


In Mahayana, Dharma is considered precious, as precious as gold and diamonds, to put it very mildly.

Because of this, it's not unheard of in Mahayana for a student to offer something valuable, or indeed expensive, to one's prospective teacher as a gesture of respect for the value of the teaching as well as a sign of one's serious intentions.


I myself teach Dhamma and never charge for that. After class, students may leave a donation, which I share by half with the owner of the place where we sit. That's a best solution, because I don't feel as selling something, but giving a gift. And that makes me really happy. On the other hand, students also practice generosity, which makes them happy. That way, at the end of the class we all part happy. If there would be some price set, maybe I would think the price is low for the effort invested and they would feel maybe the price is too high for what they got. So we would all part unhappy.

Of course, this is all possible, since I am financially independent and teaching is not source of my income, but of my joy of sharing something really precious. Other teachers are maybe in different situation and I can understand that. But, on the other hand, nobody force them to be teachers and they can find maybe some other, less morally conflicting source of income. Besides, as mentioned, if it is about longer retreat, where place should be rented and food provided, of course some fee is a must. But again, I think, only to cover the costs and not the paycheck for the teacher.


As someone once remarked: The Dharma is free. The lights, the heat, and the rent, however, are not.

Moreover, why wouldn't you be willing to "pay" for something as precious as the Dharma?


It is not uncommon to see a donation box in a Sri Lankan temple,

It is not uncommon for a senior monk to ask tourists for a donation for work on the temple.

It is not uncommon to make a donation after a meditation event, especially if food and lodging is provide.

In Sri Lanka it is standard practice for a tutor to charge a fixed price to a student studying for a religion exam, the same as with any other exam.

This person would prefer to learn dharma from a person teaching for merit rather than cash.


It depends on intention.

“The Dhamma should be taught with the thought, ‘I will speak not for the purpose of material reward.’

Payment could cover costs of hiring a space, of travel or materials. Asking for these doesn't mean it is taught without thought, the teacher may well not actually profit, financially, from it at all.

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