The Ethics of Dhamma Distribution

A discussion on all aspects of Theravāda Buddhism
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karuna_murti
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Re: The Ethics of Dhamma Distribution

Post by karuna_murti » Wed Jun 10, 2009 3:37 pm

I don't mean to offend anyone. I should have put it clearly that my view is the thief is the one who takes profit from what Buddha taught. My view used to be stricter, but after Bhante Dhammanando rebuke my view on e-sangha, I gain a little respect for translators.

I remember the saying one of the greatest thief is the one who claim Buddha Dhamma as his own property. I cannot remember where the reference is, and not sure if it is Theravadin teaching.

I believe getting funding from voluntary dana and give the result for free is much better than getting funding donation from fixed price. Selling Dhamma books, even not taking any profit, is not what Buddha taught. What Buddha taught is generosity.
Perhaps selling books is not "stealing" according to modern law, but I still believe that is unskillful. Like saying Bhikkhu can take money since the time has changed, and one cannot live in modern society without money.

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kc2dpt
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Re: The Ethics of Dhamma Distribution

Post by kc2dpt » Wed Jun 10, 2009 4:51 pm

I disagree. I think of all those people who discover Buddhism from browsing at the local bookstore. The books you find in bookstores are printed using the model of "pay for the printing, recoup the costs by selling the books". The fact is, many people get their books by going to bookstores. Other people get their books by visiting temples and finding stuff given out for free. It is really skillful to ignore the first group and only focus on the second group?
- Peter

Be heedful and you will accomplish your goal.

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DNS
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Re: The Ethics of Dhamma Distribution

Post by DNS » Wed Jun 10, 2009 7:21 pm

In the case of Bhikkhu Bodhi and Thich Nhat Hanh, there clearly is not unwholesome desires or profit. Or if there is profit, they sure are not "enjoying" it. They live as monks in basically voluntary poverty, with barely a roof over their heads and a simple room with simple meals.

Just north of San Diego, California there is a monastery called Deer Park run by Thich Nhat Hanh's group. The cost of the land and structures was almost entirely paid from Thich Nhat Hanh's royalties / profits from his book sales. A brochure at the monastery showed that he made $1.1 million from all of his book sales and he used all of it (nothing left for "himself") for the opening of this monastery. This is how monks like BB and TNH live and use their funds, if any, from book sales.

Other monks and some lay teachers sell the books just for the cost of printing and shipping or they get sponsors to pay for the printing and distribute the books for free. I see nothing unwholesome in any of the above arrangements.

There are some lay teachers who do sell Dhamma books for a profit and that is a different issue. Perhaps if they did not do that, there may not be as many Dhamma books on the shelves at stores or as much information out there. The Buddha did advise against profiting off the Dhamma, so that is a more difficult issue.

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mikenz66
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Re: The Ethics of Dhamma Distribution

Post by mikenz66 » Wed Jun 10, 2009 11:05 pm

Peter wrote:I disagree. I think of all those people who discover Buddhism from browsing at the local bookstore. The books you find in bookstores are printed using the model of "pay for the printing, recoup the costs by selling the books". The fact is, many people get their books by going to bookstores. Other people get their books by visiting temples and finding stuff given out for free. It is really skillful to ignore the first group and only focus on the second group?
May I extend on this point?

I have a quite a number of Dhamma books that I got for free from temples, bookstores, and by writing to the publishers. That's great. However, some of them are not so easy to get hold of because print runs are sporadic and they are not distributed by major bookstores. Books from non-profits such as Wisdom and BPS are readily available for order from a number of on-line bookstores.

Mike

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Re: The Ethics of Dhamma Distribution

Post by Sylvester » Thu Jun 11, 2009 1:58 am

gavesako wrote:If it was done with the "bodhicitta aspiration" (helping others to attain enlightenment) then it might be justified. But in Theravada terms, there might be some problems with it, even though in the Bhikkhu Vinaya there is no such thing as "stealing intellectual property" (a modern idea).

Dear Bhante

What about the Vinaya Samukkamsa in Mv 6.40.1?

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gavesako
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Re: The Ethics of Dhamma Distribution

Post by gavesako » Thu Jun 11, 2009 5:40 am

Vinaya-samukkamsa: The Innate Principles of the Vinaya
by
Thanissaro Bhikkhu
© 1996–2009

Now at that time uncertainty arose in the monks with regard to this and that item: "Now what is allowed by the Blessed One? What is not allowed?" They told this matter to the Blessed One, (who said):

"Bhikkhus, whatever I have not objected to, saying, 'This is not allowable,' if it fits in with what is not allowable, if it goes against what is allowable, this is not allowable for you.

"Whatever I have not objected to, saying, 'This is not allowable,' if it fits in with what is allowable, if it goes against what is not allowable, this is allowable for you.

"And whatever I have not permitted, saying, 'This is allowable,' if it fits in with what is not allowable, if it goes against what is allowable, this is not allowable for you.

"And whatever I have not permitted, saying, 'This is allowable,' if it fits in with what is allowable, if it goes against what is not allowable, this is allowable for you."


--> Indeed, in the discussion about stealing copyright different monks have taken sides: It depends whether one follows the principle that stealing is removing something from its righftul owner (e.g. someone who already wanted to buy the book is told to download it for free instead), or whether we must follow worldly law (which differs from country to country, e.g. in Thailand there are few copyright restrictions).
Bhikkhu Gavesako
Kiṃkusalagavesī anuttaraṃ santivarapadaṃ pariyesamāno... (MN 26)

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gavesako
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Re: The Ethics of Dhamma Distribution

Post by gavesako » Thu Jun 11, 2009 6:18 am

Here are some relevant articles about stealing:

http://sites.google.com/site/wikivinaya ... -on-vinaya" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;
Bhikkhu Gavesako
Kiṃkusalagavesī anuttaraṃ santivarapadaṃ pariyesamāno... (MN 26)

Access to Insight - Theravada texts
Ancient Buddhist Texts - Translations and history of Pali texts
Dhammatalks.org - Sutta translations

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Re: The Ethics of Dhamma Distribution

Post by Sylvester » Thu Jun 11, 2009 8:06 am

Thank you, Bhante. I am surprised to hear that Thailand has few copyright restrictions, given its modern legal system being modelled on the Civil Law of Europe. My hazy recollection of European copyright laws is that it is certainly more "developed" than the Anglo-American systems. I wonder if Thailand is just a lax enforcer of its letters?

I suppose the Parajika question would need to be examined in the historical context of the economy from which the Vinaya sprung. I imagine the only form of "property" (ie the legal ability to exclude others from its use) recognisable by ancient Indian jurisprudence would probably have been no different from the limited types of real property and chattels that filled the universe of the feudal English legal system. Copyrights developed much later as a form of "monopoly" granted by the Crown in England, and the rest is history. Is this historical accident sufficient to sustain the argument that "property" and theft can only be applicable to tangibles, instead of intangibles such as copyrights?

If we are to assert that "property" or "rights" can only subsist in material things (rupa?), then why bother regulating and protecting human rights, mental distress in torts, privacy and confidentiality, freedom of religious belief and association etc? For that matter, debts are not material, but they can be assigned and are protected by law as property. Should we jettison the entire notion of banking based on immaterial debts, just because its cousin copyrights is also immaterial?

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Re: The Ethics of Dhamma Distribution

Post by Dmytro » Thu Jun 11, 2009 8:51 am

Hello,

Thai laws regarding intellectual property have indeed been quite simplistic for a long time, and largely did not protect the rights of the intellectual property owners, but this situation has changed:

Brief Notes on Copyright protection in Thailand
http://www.itd.or.th/th/node/427/" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;


In the times of the Buddha, Dhamma was an 'intellectual property' of the Sangha.

"4. Should any bhikkhu have an unordained person recite Dhamma line by line (with him), it is to be confessed.

This is an offense with two factors:

* 1) Effort: One gets a student to recite Dhamma line-by-line with oneself (which, as we shall see below, means to train the student to be a skilled reciter of a Pali Dhamma text).
* 2) Object: The student is neither a bhikkhu nor a bhikkhunī."

http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/auth ... h08-1.html" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;


Metta, Dmytro

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Re: The Ethics of Dhamma Distribution

Post by Sylvester » Thu Jun 11, 2009 9:30 am

I might prefer to call the Dhamma the intellectual "capital" of the Sangha, rather than intellectual "property". "Capital" because it is for the Sangha's growth, rather than "property" because that would entail too many implications of "ownership". But that's just me possessed by the Mara of legalese.

Anyway, reading Ven Thanissaro's notes on the origin story of this rule, I get the feeling that the injunction was not motivated by the Buddha trying to reserve the Dhamma and its recitation to the Sangha as its right or privilege. Rather, it was to avoid situations where the lay disciple or novice spotted a recitation error on the monk's part, and thereby losing confidence in the monk.

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kc2dpt
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Re: The Ethics of Dhamma Distribution

Post by kc2dpt » Thu Jun 11, 2009 2:32 pm

TheDhamma wrote:The Buddha did advise against profiting off the Dhamma
Could you provide a source for this statement? I am aware monks have rules regarding how they acquire requisites and how they should teach lay people, but I am not aware of any rule or teaching governing how lay people should teach each other. The teaching on right livelihood for a lay person doesn't say anything about teaching.
- Peter

Be heedful and you will accomplish your goal.

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Re: The Ethics of Dhamma Distribution

Post by Dhammanando » Thu Jun 11, 2009 3:42 pm

Peter wrote:
TheDhamma wrote:The Buddha did advise against profiting off the Dhamma
Could you provide a source for this statement?
A text sometimes cited in support of this opinion is the Jatila Sutta, though to me it seems a bit of a stretched reading to take it as implying an injunction against commercial publishing of Dhamma books etc.

http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html

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mikenz66
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Re: The Ethics of Dhamma Distribution

Post by mikenz66 » Thu Jun 11, 2009 4:16 pm

TheDhamma wrote:The Buddha did advise against profiting off the Dhamma
Since major publishers of Theravada material (PTS, BPS, Wisdom) are NON-profit organisations this is not an issue...

Mike

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kc2dpt
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Re: The Ethics of Dhamma Distribution

Post by kc2dpt » Thu Jun 11, 2009 7:34 pm

Dhammanando wrote:
Peter wrote:
TheDhamma wrote:The Buddha did advise against profiting off the Dhamma
Could you provide a source for this statement?
A text sometimes cited in support of this opinion is the Jatila Sutta, though to me it seems a bit of a stretched reading to take it as implying an injunction against commercial publishing of Dhamma books etc.

http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html
Thank you Bhante. I can see how the very last line, taken out of context, could seem to support such an injunction. But it seems to me unwise to take a line out of context like that. The way this line seems to me, when seeing it as linked to the rest of the sutta, is an injunction against making a living by imitating ascetics. :spy:
- Peter

Be heedful and you will accomplish your goal.

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Re: The Ethics of Dhamma Distribution

Post by DNS » Thu Jun 11, 2009 8:28 pm

mikenz66 wrote:
TheDhamma wrote:The Buddha did advise against profiting off the Dhamma
Since major publishers of Theravada material (PTS, BPS, Wisdom) are NON-profit organisations this is not an issue...
Hi Mike,

Correct, those publishers are non-profit, but the upasaka / upasika authors . . . well some of them make profit.

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