03 August 2010

The Clown Act

Yesterday I performed my first public act as a priest: conducting a memorial service at a local funeral home. I loaded up the car with altar, figure, incense, candles, flowers, fruit, cloth, kesu, mat, and all the rest, headed over, set things up, disappeared for a while, then came back to do the service. Afterward I gratefully accepted the dana, joked around with the funeral home owners, packed it all back up, and headed home.

My name has now been added to the clergy-on-demand list at the funeral home, but I'm not expecting to fill my calendar with requests. The one owner asked about my fee, and I explained that in Buddhism we don't charge for the Dharma, so he put down "free will offering." I asked what the Presbyterian gets. He said the Presbyterian minister and the Catholic priest each fetch between $150 and $200. The rabbi's fee starts at $450. I kidded that he should be sure to mention the Buddhists between the Catholics and the Jews, just to see what that would bring in!

All joking aside, I became convinced yesterday of the utter rightness of not putting a price on the Dharma and how important it is to simply respond as best I can to requests made of my time and energy. I hate to admit it, but going into the funeral home at noon my thoughts about the service were about me and what I could bring to it. Leaving the funeral home at 3, I knew that the service was about something much more subtle and profound and that I was just a bit player in the whole thing. If my work on behalf of the Dharma brings such gifts as this insight in its wake, it would be a shame to insist on adding cash to them as well.

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