Regarding Jewel Heart Membership

From Garrison Fall Retreat 2010

I have been looking at what we have done for the past 20 years at Jewel Heart. I tried to benefit you people and future generations, along with increasing the longevity of Buddha’s teaching (and thereby benefitting every living beings so that they may have some joy). When I look back, I remember what I did first about 20 years ago. I did Lam Rim teachings (which I hope to do at the 2011 Summer Retreat). I did that for over a year or so and then afterwards I did so many different teachings and initiations. I tried to open the mandalas for you so that the opportunity would be available. For some people I offered wrathful mandalas and for others the peaceful mandala. And for most people I offered both. All that is the best way to serve you.

At the beginning it was easy, or at least not so difficult. At first it was only a matter of the teachings, and then later came the organization. Then with the organization came the baggage – that is, expenses. Then comes the place, which is necessary. Diana and Jonathan have provided us a place to meet in New York luckily. Otherwise we wouldn’t be able to afford anything. We have a place in Ann Arbor, which is not for the Michigan people only, since we have our winter and summer retreats there and all our administration is done there. The store is there and everything is functioning from there. And the building doesn’t come free. It comes with baggage: mortgage, utilities and all the other expenses.

To make the story shorter, Jewel Heart’s budget is (give or take) about a million dollars per year. One thing I tell you, until now we have never been in the red except for two years. We are always in the black, never in the red – but we are a true non-profit. There is probably not a penny left once the year is over; no cushion; nothing. And there is always a struggle paying the mortgage and all that.

For the last two years we have had a shortage. Still, we have not been in the red. Last year we had the Ensuring the Future campaign because our shortage was about $100,000 and all of you very kind people very generously donated and somehow we managed for last year. We have the same shortage repeated this year. So again we have appealed and very kindly people have donated and I think it is almost halfway met.

So then I have been thinking – not only me but everybody – and my solution is that Jewel Heart’s budget should be able to be paid by membership. Honestly, because it is a membership organization. The work is nothing else but providing the service. We have a lot of other projects but we’re holding them back because we can’t pay our own bills. I am almost 71 years old and if we keep on holding back all the projects and struggling to pay all the bills ever year that’s not going to work. Something is going to suffer. For individual projects we can find sponsors, but we are not meeting Jewel Heart expenses. My thought is we need about 2,500 members who pay a minimum membership of $480 per year, or $40/month (you can donate more).

If you look at other Tibetan Buddhist organizations, the membership is in the thousands. Ours is around 300. That is really the reality because we never emphasize membership. This is my feeling: we made a mistake. The mistake we made is that when we introduced membership, we introduced it in terms of business: you become a member we will give you this. But I would prefer that you become a member because you want to support our work and what we do and because you care about benefitting yourself, future generations, mankind and Tibetan Buddhism. I can really tell you here – all of you have benefited. Otherwise, there would be no reason why you are here year after year, occasion after occasion. So that is what you are supporting. You are not supporting yourself getting discounts at retreat. That is how we went wrong way. We now want to change it to supporting for our own benefit now and in the future.

If you think carefully, it is to mankind’s benefit. Tibetan Buddhism is a dying species. It is dying not because it’s not good but because it is too good. It is too good, really. There is no business approach, no entertainment approach. It is simple, straightforward, and it is benefitting all of us. So that is why I am making
this important request to all of you. Please try to become a member of Jewel Heart and you also may have friends who are interested.

In one way $40 is a lot of money, but on the other hand – people smoke four puffs $40 goes in the air. Or a couple of cans of coke, you open pzzzzzt, $40 gone; or a couple of movies per month. I am sure everybody can afford it. It is a matter of priority. Some of you are extremely generous whether you have it or not. Some of you think about this and think if I increase my membership or get a friend to come, what do I get? This is dharma work. We talk about benefitting all mother sentient beings every morning [during our daily prayers or in teachings and retreats].

If you are a member thank you so much. If not yet, please try to join. And also persuade a couple of friends. They don’t have to come and be Buddhist and listen to an old man. But the work we do to support that, that’s what I would like to request you to consider.

And also from the account point of view it is absolutely clear and audited by two accountants and our board members are great. Our executive board has put in hours and hours to try to sort out the previous mistakes and to try to guide us in the future. Normally I don’t talk about this very much. Asking money is the worst thing for me – odd, very odd. Fortunately or unfortunately, I was born in a good family and begging is the last thing we do but sometimes you have to so here you are.

Whatever you do, have kindness and compassion as a principle in your life. If you have that, whatever you do, it will be beneficial not only for you but for a lot of people and your work will be successful. If you don’t have it, even if you have success it might not be worth it.

Thank you so much.

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