INSIGHTAotearoa is the monthly newsletter of New Zealand’s insight meditation practitioners and communities. Editor Deborah White interviewed the ABET trustees for the October 2009 newsletter. Seeing as we are spread geographically – Vivien is on Auckland’s North Shore, Ramsey is in Wellington, Brigid in Nelson and Christine in Port Levy – she interviewed us by email.
IA: What was the origin of this charitable trust? How did you work together creating this project?
ABET: The idea of a charitable trust arose out of conversations among a number of insight meditation practitioners who were concerned about the affordability of retreats that were coming up which are to be led by overseas teachers. Starting with our desire that as many people as possible might be able to benefit from these teachings, we talked about the fact that those individuals and communities who organise retreats need to be fiscally responsible, which means to at least break even, and wondered how we might help in the process. When Stephen and Martine Batchelor came to New Zealand in 2004, there was a big fundraising effort through your newsletter. This lowered the cost of their Otaki retreat and allowed free entry to the public talk Stephen gave in Wellington, but it didn’t help towards the Christchurch retreat, and in hindsight this was unfair to South Islanders. So the question arose: how can we raise money in a coordinated, national way to bring teachers over? The answer was a charitable trust which appealed for funds through a website from those who know the benefits of these teachings and who appreciated that this was a way to help others discover those benefits.
A: Why just fundraise for their travel costs?
ABET: Good question. What could we appeal for, we wondered? Well, the first thing to go for is a teacher’s travel costs, as it’s a huge part of the cost of a retreat. If we are wildly successful and more than cover their air fares, the cost of the retreat goes down even further for everyone. If we don’t raise enough, then the trust has a general fund which can be used to top up what has been donated for a particular teacher. Another, major, thread of our conversation was about generosity; how this develops in Asia through the culture, but which we as westerners need to cultivate, and how this charitable trust might be part of a practice of generosity. Following on from these conversations and wanting this to be a national initiative rather than one which simply came out of Wellington’s insight meditation community, Ramsey took the initiative and, with agreement from Brigid, Christine and Vivien to be trustees, got to work and set up Aotearoa Buddhist Education Trust.
IA: How will you let people know about this wonderful initiative?
ABET: This newsletter, INSIGHTAotearoa, is the most important way that people will learn about Aotearoa Buddhist Education Trust. We have a website at http://www.abet.nz, which we encourage everyone to take a look at, and of course there’s there will be links and mentions on insightmeditation.org.nz and www.insightaotearoa.org. We also ask that people share info on the trust with their sangha and friends. If anyone wishes to do a fundraising activity themselves, ABET has registered with givealittle.co.nz and this means that people can set up their own fundraising page for the trust there. Already there’s a teenager who may do a sponsored run for one of the teachers, and there’s even talk of a sponsored weekend sit! With three writers and an artist as trustees, the website text is an object lesson in plain English. Bruce Staples has built a beautiful website, and Adam Shand is taking care of the hosting. We are very grateful to Bruce and Adam. There was a piece on our intention to form the trust in the July INSIGHTAotearoa. Following this, we were offered a significant donation, which we gratefully used to open a bank account at SBS Bank in Nelson.
IA: How will teachers be selected to come to New Zealand, and who qualifies for funding?
ABET: We’ve started off raising funds for those teachers we have invited to come here: Gregory Kramer, Stephen and Martine Batchelor, and Eric Kolvig; as well as a teacher that one of us wants to bring here: Pracha Hutanuwatr. Should a community or an individual want to bring over an insight meditation teacher they should contact us with the name of the teacher, some information about them, their website, and so on. If ABET is to raise funds for a teacher, we will all have to agree to this happening. Could we say that we’re keen to support teachers who are predominantly from, or who have worked with the insight meditation tradition, at least in the first couple of years, rather than spread ourselves too thinly.
IA: How do we donate?
ABET: Okay, now we are officially launching Aotearoa Buddhist Education Trust to the world! The flags are flying and the fireworks will be going off after dark. We ask readers to visit www.abet.nz and we hold out our bowl for your dana. You can contribute by cheque, using online banking and by credit or debit card, and your donation can go towards a particular teacher, or into the general fund. As we are a registered charity you can make what they give even larger by claiming tax relief on their donation if you pay New Zealand tax. We are encouraging people to claim that tax and then give that also to Aotearoa Buddhist Education Trust.
– from the October 2009 INSIGHTAotearoa newsletter