PHILOSOPHY TO THE PEOPLE
Philosophical practices offered pro bono (for the common good), that is, free of charge, and/or by donation, in order to raise philosophical understanding and promote the widespread adoption of philosophical practices in the community. In my practice, at times I may offer any service pro bono, depending on the individual circumstances and conditions, but I offer these services more routinely on a pro bono basis:
(Each of these is described on its own page, hyperlinked to their titles above and below, and in the pull-down menu above.)
I venerate Socrates and other Greco-Roman philosophers who preferred to conduct philosophy practice in public, both for its own sake and for the general philosophical awakening, empowerment, and enlightenment of onlooking members of society. Socrates conducted most of his philosophical dialogues in the street, in the agora (marketplace), and other public places, with ordinary and extraordinary people. The Stoics, following their founder, Zeno of Cyprus, also inspired by socrates, were so named because they conducted their philosophical lectures, dialogues, and other philosophical practices outdoors on the "Painted Porch" (the Stoa Poikile) of the large, open-aired columnade, accessible to all in the north side of the same Athenian agora where Socrates held most of his dialogues. The discourses of the Buddha were mostly open to the general public, as were those of most of the world's philosophical wisdom teachers or sages. In keeping with this tradition, I offer many of my philosophical services in public, pro bono, but with an option derived from the Indian Buddhist and Hindu traditions, that of dana (Sanskrit: "generosity", typically through the practice of giving alms), that is, by optional donation.
In the Indian Buddhist and Hindu traditions, spiritual teachings, which include philosophical discourses and meditation instructions, are typically offered pro bono, with the intention of promoting well-being for members of the community. Buddhist teachers, for instance, traditionally receive compensation for their efforts primarily through dana, that is, donations offered voluntarily from lay Buddhists and other members of the community who appreciate receiving them, and who also view such generosity as virtue-cultivating and merit-accruing (cultivating good karma, good tendencies and dispositions, and good will). This practice is older than Buddhism in India, and some version of it occurs in most of the world's religions and spiritual traditions, where sages, prophets, holy men and women, members of the clergy, spiritual guides, gurus, swamis, shamans, medicine men, healers, oracles, and the like are generally supported by donations from their communities, thereby enabling them to focus on their spiritual development, without the added burden of acquiring some other source of sustenance, with the belief that having enlightened guides freed from these mundane aspects of life will enable them to steep themselves in their spiritual work for the common good of the community.
In India, for thousands of years and persisting to this day, members of all of the many different religions there (various forms of Hinduism, Jainism, Buddhism, Christianity, Islam, etc.) traditionally offer food, flowers, money and other gifts of support to wandering yogis, monks, nuns, spiritual seekers and teachers, the way Westerners offer money in the basket at church or tithe their income to the temple. In India, a much older economic system, still existing in some remote villages, that likely gave birth to this practice, was a communal bartering model in which the village doctor treated everyone, the village barber cut everyone's hair, the village shoe-maker fixed everyone's shoes, the village warriors protected everyone, the village farmers fed everyone, and so on, including the village sages.
As yoga and meditation became popular in the West, it is natural that teachers of these skills would have to charge fees for their services, given that we do not live in a communal bartering society. In honor of the traditions that gave rise to these life-changing techniques and the philosophies that embed them, some Western teachers of these practices, in addition to offering these services for a fee, occasionally if not routinely offer them pro bono. It is also a principle of many professional codes of ethics (legal, medical, etc.) to periodically offer some services pro bono, including the ethical code of the American Philosophical Practitioners Association, of which I am a member. In addition, the spiritual teachers who first tight me most of what I know about meditation and yoga—Ram Dass, Hilda Charlton, Ma Jaya—did not charge anything. I honor their virtues by paying it forward as often as possible.