The ‘dana’ principle behind Buddhist economics is the exact opposite of what’s found in the world in that it springs from generosity rather than greed and self-interest. Buddha taught, from generosity comes wealth. Wealth obtained through greed and exploitation generates a destructive backlash. Wealth stemming from generosity is something to celebrate, and share for the benefit of others.
In a culture of generosity, giving is normalised. The deep cause-and-effect relationship between our actions (karma) and their results is the ethical aspect of interdependence, the nature of everything. The buddhist approach to all activity is intrinsically ethical.
The Land of Joy business model is founded on generosity as the driving force for everything we do. Instead of asking What can I get from Land of Joy?, everyone – donors, board members, staff, volunteers, retreatants and supporters – is encouraged to ask What can I give to Land of Joy?
Consequently all activity connected to Land of Joy is a form of offering. This might be material – such as money or goods; Dharma – either spiritual practice such as reciting mantras, or teachings such as leading a retreat; protection – such as working at or outside the centre to ensure that it succeeds; or love, – meaning to practise loving kindness towards others.
In return the Land of Joy retreat community will become a place of inner realisations, themselves a source of joy for self and others.
Everyone living and working at Land of Joy is a volunteer, receiving accommodation and food for free. We will never charge for teachings. It is hoped we will be able to fund all activities through donations alone.
This is known as a ‘pay forward’ (as opposed to the usual ‘pay back’) system whereby an entire retreat is offered for free, and retreatants are invited to offer payment for someone to attend a future retreat. This enables both the centre and the participants to practice generosity and experience its positive effects.
Generosity-based business models already exist elsewhere in the FPMT. For example Kadampa Centre in North Carolina, founded 20 years ago, has never charged for teachings and around 250 people attend every weekend. Their entire operation is funded through donations. At Istituto Lama Tsong Khapa in Italy, the centre moved from the red to the black after charges for teachings were dropped, the numbers doubled, and those paying for accommodation and food increased. At Vajrapani Institute in California the pay forward system was used effectively for the Kopan West retreat in 2013.
The model is also acquiring momentum in various secular social enterprises where it is driven by green ethical values. Our dominant economic model, based on greed and selfishness, is leading to social and environmental collapse. This is pushing humanity to seek new models. In this sense, Land of Joy offers everyone an example of a positive future.