We currently have two types of pricing for our retreats and courses.
The ‘Dāna’ model provides a course fee, which covers only the costs of hosting and administering the retreat (e.g. room / retreat rental, food and accommodation if included). Teachers are not paid from this money, but instead participants are asked to donate or give Dāna at the end of the course, which remunerates the teachers for their time. This means that the amount teachers receive varies and is not guaranteed.
The other pricing model is a fixed fee. This is an all-inclusive fee, which covers all the costs of the retreat, including the teaching. This overall cost is clearly displayed when booking. Participants are not asked to donate at the end of the course to remunerate teachers.
Having used the Dāna model exclusively until recently, we are now offering a mixture of both Dāna and fixed fee courses in our yearly programme.
Dāna is the Pali and Sanskrit word for generosity. Following the example of the historical Buddha, the teachings of the dharma are given freely without any sense of their having a monetary value. With the intention of making the dharma available to as many people as possible, we rely on this type of payment for many of our courses. However, a fixed fee will be asked for our weekend courses in continental Europe, as we believe this is a better fit for this educational model.
The giving of Dāna instead of payment works well in a monastic setting, as it was originally designed for. The monastery takes care of the monks’ and nuns’ needs such as food and shelter and healthcare; a large number of supporters maintain the monastery and the monastics’ existence and so the teachers are not reliant on Dāna being given for their specific teaching activities. In comparison, when you attend a retreat with a non-ordained Buddhist teacher, your Dāna is given to the teacher themselves, not to Bodhi College or the institution they work for. This fundamentally changes the nature of the Dāna economy. For while the monastic will be taken care of by the monastery irrespective of how much Dāna was put in the bowl, the lay teacher is dependent on the Dāna received to buy food, pay bills, fix the car and so on.
Another consequence of the Dāna system is that it tends to work better for larger courses. As non-monastic teachers neither receive a fixed payment nor are supported by an institution, they may need a larger number of students in order to receive enough Dāna to live on. On larger courses, there could be less opportunity to engage with students on an individual basis and fewer smaller group discussions etc. which are a highlight of our courses for many.
With these considerations in mind, it has become clear that our educational approach does not always fit well with the Dāna model. For now, we believe our mixed model of Dāna-based and fee-based courses to be the fairest and most transparent way for both participants and teachers. How we price our courses, and sustain ourselves as a college is an evolving process, and it is important to us that we are transparent with our community as we navigate this.
For now, each course will clearly display whether they are fixed fee or Dāna based, so participants know at the time of booking.
We continue to be dedicated to the importance of our courses being accessible to people from all backgrounds, and we offer bursary places for all our courses. We believe that by making these changes now we are also ensuring the sustainability of our courses far into the future, so that the work of exploring the early Buddhist teachings for the modern day will continue to reach the widest possible audience whatever their circumstances might be.
For the Thinking Out Loud sessions run in 2020 and 2021, any Dāna offered to Bodhi College is split evenly between the College and the Bursary Fund.
To read more about this, please see this article written by Bodhi College Co-Founder Stephen Batchelor.