A long time ago, people went to the temple to receive spiritual teachings, and they spent time doing work around the temple before they could receive the teaching. The rare people who had money would make donations in money, and those with more food would provide the food to the temple. Otherwise, the temple would not survive. Today, we do not handle temples, but spiritual teachers still invest their time and infrastructures to provide these teachings. Nowadays, receiving a bag of carrots, or doing someone else’s dishes, is somewhat inappropriate to our culture. Today, we use money as an exchange.
Each time someone receives a spiritual teaching, it is important to give something in exchange, to show that there is value in what you have learned. Otherwise, we discredit the teaching and take it for granted. In our tradition, teachers are expected to get retribution for their teaching by the way of donation. On the other hand, those who receive the teaching are expected to give a reasonable donation that respects their financial capacities.
What is a reasonable donation? It depends on the financial situation of the donator. Students who are still going to school and those unemployed should not give more than they can afford, while those who have a regular job should be able to give more. If giving a certain amount affects you, then it is too much. If you find it insignificant, it is not enough. It all depends on the effect it has on you. The amount should be significant for the donator and proportional to the value that the donator attributes to the teaching.
It is important to have an exchange. By doing the sacrifice of a bit of money, those receiving the teaching show that they value their spirituality and they will be rewarded for it. For each initiation, a donation should be considered, which would be symbolic in the case of someone without the means (1$, 5$...). When going thru a training that includes many various initiations, a small amount each time would suffice.
One’s spiritual path should not be hindered by their financial situation. Regardless, teachers spend lots of time to teach the many students, and their financial situation should not be hindered because they provide teachings to those who show no reconnaissance.
Lately, some teachers told me they could not continue for long on this pace, that regardless of their passion to help others, they could not continue to take on their personal time, that it was hindering their own income. Another teacher told me that her phone bill was 200$ per month more than it used to be, and that most of those who call her for guidance do not give anything in return. For my part (MahaVajra), when I was ready to teach, I have been unable to provide these teachings to the world for almost 10 years, because I had to work and write at the same time to earn a minimum of income. It is only thanks to those 10 years invested as an author that I can travel today, take time to communicate with you, and be available to you all. If I would not sell books worldwide today, I would still be financially unable to be present for you and you would never have received these teachings, not even from my ordained teachers, who would not have met me in the first place.
If you are simply downloading training material from the web, or posting on a forum, and not taking anyone’s time, a donation is irrelevant. When teachers take on their own time to help you advance on your spiritual path, you should be thankful for the teachings you received. People in poverty should never give a donation. This is why donations are to the discretion of each. Otherwise, please give to those who take the time to care about your happiness.