Enriching Vimala’s Mission Through Interdependence
Each time a purchase is made at Vimala’s bookstore or online dharma store, a precious interdependence is created. All proceeds from sales go directly to supporting Vimala’s activities of preserving and spreading the dharma—richness enriching richness. This method of creating interdependence between Vimala and its supporters follows in the spirit of the example set by Buddha Shakyamuni.
Originally, Buddha Shakyamuni and his followers carried begging bowls, into which food and other offerings would be placed. The bowl was where a precious interdependent connection took place: food or other worldly richness was offered to the practitioner, but on a deeper level the offering was being made to the dharma itself, in recognition of its priceless qualities; and the one making the offering was connecting to the richness of the dharma and the wealth of virtue of the one practicing it. In this way, it was worldy richness offered to dharma richness, further enriching both.
In a similar vein, when what was originally just called the Archives—Vimala in its first incarnation—was founded by Venerable Gyatrul Rinpoche, he instructed those he had charged with its creation to publish its materials and sell them so that the organization could support itself. Over the years, he has again and again confirmed that this is how he sees the Archives as enduring and flourishing—by reproducing and disseminating its precious contents for a fair price.
Over the years, Rinpoche has many times fielded protests both from students and from other lamas who felt that the focus should be to provide dharma materials for free. Rinpoche has been quick to point out that we all naturally place far more value on what we have to pay for than what we are given. It is no bad thing to be thus reminded of the preciousness of the dharma that we are connecting with, he has said, and in addition it helps us recognize and appreciate the time and effort required to produce these materials. Besides, he has added rather pointedly, it keeps us from being stingy! “If it was free,” he was once heard to ask a student, “would you think to make even such small offerings whenever you used it?” Long before the notion of non-profit was widely recognized, Rinpoche was already pointing out, both publicly and in private, that the proceeds from these sales are “not going into anyone’s pocket,” to use his phrase, but are used to fund the further preservation and distribution of the dharma.
Rinpoche has also pointed out that, here in the West, there is neither the cultural context nor strong traditions of sponsorship for dharma as there was in Tibet. If there were, then of course it would be wonderful to offer all practice materials and supports for free! But since that is not the case, he has encouraged Vimala not to make finding sponsors or fundraising a primary focus, but instead to emphasize Vimala’s original purpose of preserving the dharma and making it available, looking to the sale of dharma items and materials as the ‘sponsor’ to provide financial stability and support for the organization.
Even so, Vimala is also very happy to be able to offer a series of teachings and practices as free downloads. Please visit our Free Materials page to access these offerings. And please visit our Online Dharma Shop to see the rest of the dharma materials currently available.
Making the Dharma Accessible to All
Rinpoche has also instructed those running the organization to always keep prices as low as possible in order to be easily affordable, so they are available to all without obstacle. We are constantly looking for ways to reduce prices. As one small example, our tireless team who fill online orders keep an eye out for opportunities to reduce the automatically-calculated shipping prices given at checkout, and those savings are passed along to customers. We also routinely discount books, pechas, and other items to make them more affordable for students. We also work with students in financial difficulty in various ways, and in general do all we can to ensure that lack of funds is not an obstacle to accessing the materials in our care. In addition, the vast majority of Vimala’s work is done by volunteers—also very much in keeping with Rinpoche’s advice–and this further keeps our overhead low and reduces our prices.
Following Rinpoche’s instructions, advice, and example, what is now Vimala has indeed been able to sustain itself in this way over the years and through several organizational iterations. We are so grateful to the thousands of students and practitioners who have supported us in so many ways and whom the material that Rinpoche has placed in our care has been able to benefit in turn. We pray such auspicious connections might allow Rinpoche’s intention of Vimala being “a vehicle through which the Dharma remains present in our world” to continue to be fulfilled long into the future, just as he has both aspired and predicted is possible. May the begging bowl continue for many generations to provide the auspicious connection of richness enhancing richness, for the benefit of all!
To read Rinpoche’s aspirations and vision for this organization, please see the Vimala’s Future page: