Buddhahood is a long-term goal and requires long-term thinking. When temporary benefits override long-term sustainability, this hinders our goal. Hindrances to sustainable Dharma are systemic whenever temporary goals, especially those benefiting mostly one group of people, override striving to empower community at large and on the long run. One can strive for Dharma sustainability on a personal level, which is beneficial, or on systemic level, which is even better, but much harder as it involves challenging the existing structures.
Traditionally Buddhist countries already have structures and systems that preserve the Dharma in their environments, for example monastic universities in Tibetan Buddhism, but this is not the case in the west. So, we can ask ourselves how to contribute to the sustainability of the dharma in our own environment, too.
We can analyze how we are spending our time, money, and energy. Or how do dharma organizations use their resources but let us start with ourselves. Let's say that we save our money for dharma tourism and spend it once per year for traveling to some exotic or nearby destination, spend a couple of days on teaching, leave hundreds of dollars also there, and then return, letting the excitement of the holiday fade away and make us yearn again for a new dharma holiday reset. Whom will it benefit financially? Travel agency, hotel, airplane, train and bus companies, owner of the venue, the organizer, and other companies. Hundreds, often thousands of dollars can be spent to finance primarily samsaric companies. If this money was spent on enabling Buddhism in the west, it would quickly accumulate to more opportunities for more people. Let us say that a single person spends $1000/year for dharma tourism and 100 people – a fraction of the visitors of big dharma festivals – decide to invest in dharma in their country instead. This can quickly evolve in monasteries and nunneries, Buddhist educational institutions, more monks and nuns of various nationalities and flourishing dharma in the west. In numbers: 100 × $1000 × 2 = $200,000 every second year, or even more if this was invested. This is a price of a house in USA.
Second question that one can ask oneself is, how many people does it benefit? In the first scenario, one person receives dharma for a couple of days. In the second scenario, many people receive dharma throughout the whole year, for decades. If the institution is based on personality worship, the time span lasts until the person’s death, but if the focus is on study, like in monastic universities, it does not depend on individual personality and lasts for many generations, as long as people value the study of dharma wisdom.
The third question that one can ask oneself is, how do I spend my energy. Many people, Dharma tourists included, wait for the whole year for the excitement of that single week of holiday when they can escape from everyday life and get a feeling of something different or special or important, whatever they yearn for. This makes the majority of the year bleak in comparison to the weak of elevated feelings excitement, and the worst thing is that the elevated feeling fades away quickly after returning to everyday life, which is to be expected whenever elevated feelings are based on external conditions and emotions. External conditions are transient, and emotions are by nature unstable fleeing events, opposite to reason and mental states based on rational evaluations, which tend to be significantly more sustainable. The first scenario does not sound like a well-used energy for me. The second scenario would be to engage ourselves in study of dharma throughout the whole year. This would imply constant influx of new material for our progress in dharma and train us in sustainable rational, well validated views and decisions for guiding our lives.
Simple questions like, how do I spend my money, time and energy, whom does it benefit, how many people does it benefit and how much does it benefit time-wise can make a big difference in sustainability of dharma and its absence. We can avoid contributing to systemic hindrances that arise from shortsighted, individualistic mindsets. It is remarkably similar to ecology and also here the choice depends on each person individually. Nevertheless, my experience is that rational thinking, wider and long-term perspective lead to more fulfilling life and more happiness, not just for us, but also to those whom our choices benefited.