Over 100,000 people attend a Vipassana course every year. A lot of course participants have the same question, how much should one donate? It was not easy to decide on how much to donate, and therefore I came up with this guide.
If you liked the Vipassana meditation retreat and want to help others experience the same course, give around $200+. If you look to help one other person to participate in the course in the future and want to cover your costs, donate about $200.
Did you know that your donation pays for upcoming participants?
What Your Donation Pays For
Every donation of approximately $200 helps pay for another participant in the course. For some centers that sum is larger and for some centers it is smaller. The key is that for every donation you are helping another first-timer enjoy the benefits of Vipassana.
But did you know that you can help the center in other ways?
Volunteering – How to Help Without Donating Large Sum
When I made my first Vipassana retreat, I was studying and hadn’t much money to donate. It kind of made me sad since I benefitted from the course and wanted more people to enjoy the benefits that the course gave me. The Vipassana retreat was one of my best experiences ever, and I felt strongly about helping people attending it in the future. I decided on the course that I wanted to help more people enjoy the benefits of meditation. The lucky thing is that you can help the center in more ways than just giving money.
To serve the courses to participants, the centers are dependent upon two things, donations and volunteers. If you can’t donate much money but want to help the center, consider volunteering. It helps the center provide the courses to more members.
Volunteering on a Vipassana retreat is a lot like participating in the course yourself. On most of the centers, you can volunteer from single days to full 10-day courses. Visit your center’s webpage for more information. You help the students and also got the time to meditate yourself. Typical tasks during volunteering include helping with check-in at the beginning of each course, cooking food, and cleaning. It’s a great way to give to others and is recommended by people who tried.
My Experience from Vipassana
Back in 2017, I decided I wanted some change in my life. I experienced benefits from yoga and meditation and was curious about reaching the next level in my practice. By then, I did yoga once a week and meditated for 10 minutes every day. Since the benefits from it were so significant, I got curious about what a 10-days meditation retreat would be like. I asked around, and a former course participant recommended the Vipassana retreat.
I didn’t know a lot about Vipassana before I left for the retreat. I thought that the silent part was the toughest part of the retreat. I didn’t contemplate the meditation part. The first couple of days were a battle, but in the middle of the retreat, things got better, and some days were even enjoyable.
For me, the retreat pointed me in the direction of what is essential in life. Coffee and tobacco are not important to me as it turned out. I haven’t had a single cup of coffee or tobacco since I attended my first Vipassana retreat… yet at least.
When I came back from my retreat, the world moved at a little slower pace. I was a bit concerned that I would get back to my job and not liking it anymore. That was not the point. Positive effects for me is that I have a closer relationship with my family and some of my friends. I now know what is truly important to me in life.
On the train, back home after the retreat, I was so grateful. I had survived the 10-days silent retreat.
How Much is a Vipassana Retreat Worth?
Woah! Great question… For most people a lot, I guess.
My first Vipassana retreat was the first big donation-based event I ever attended. It’s tough putting a price tag on such an experience. The standard of the Vipassana retreat I visited in Sweden was really simple. Simple food, and we lived on an old farm. But the experience was huge! The retreat changed my perspective on a lot of things in life. I could easily see people pay thousands of dollars for an experience like that.
Checklist – What to Bring
Are you attending your first Vipassana retreat? For many people, it’s one of the most challenging journeys in their life.
- Bedsheets (some centers offer this, read more info on your local center)
- Bring layers of clothes. During meditation, your body temperature will go from cold to hot.
- Meditation cushion. Some centers offer this, but since you are going to meditate 10 hours a day, it’s nice to have a cushion that you are familiar with.
- Foam Roller or Massage Balls. Your body will hurt after sitting down 10 hours a day.
- Hoodie or other cozy clothing. Get comfortable.
- Clothing and footwear: wear comfortable clothes suited for the weather. I prefer loose clothes since you will sit down a lot.
- Read your centers dress code. They often prohibit tight, transparent or revealing clothing such as shorts, short skirts, and sleeveless or skimpy tops.
- Rubber sandals for shower and bathroom
- Toilet articles, towel, bath soap, shampoo, toothpaste, toothbrush, deodorant, shaving, and sanitary supplies
- Bottle for water
- Flashlight with extra batteries
- Alarm clock (you cant use your mobile phone as an alarm clock)
Stuf that you don’t have to bring:
- Personal food
- Mobile phone
- Tobacco or alcohol
- Musical instruments
- Religious symbols
Don’t worry if you forget and bring any of the items. If you arrive at the center with the following, the center will probably ask you to hand it to them.
How Are Vipassana Meditation Centers Financed
How come some Vipassana centers are huge if they only run on donations? Some courses are run on land and buildings that are donated to them. In this case, the centers have no mortgage, so their cost of monthly operation is much smaller than others.
Each Vipassana center is financially independent. There is no parent organization to help meditation teachers fund a center. The good thing is that centers keep 100% of their donations.
The average donation for the Vipassana meditation retreat I visited in Sweden was $200 per person for 10 days. It covered the costs of the center but didn’t help it expand. Your donation helps others getting the course.
Vipassana centers are dependent on donations since they have no other source of income. To finance a center, teachers can start courses and workshops until they have enough money in their trust to buy a center.
In some cases, the center got donations in the form of land or buildings.
Don’t worry about if you change your mind later and feel like you want to donate more money to your center. You can always donate after you come home from the retreat. Vipassana centers offer recurring donations from people who took courses.
Besides helping other students attending the course, donations often help maintain buildings or expanding the center. Each center keeps its donations and has to survive on its donations. Centers do not get money from any parent organization.
Why is Vipassana Retreats Based on Donations?
The concept behind donation in Vipassana is simple. If you feel that the course helped you and want to pass it on, you should donate so that the center can keep offer the courses and help other people. As long as people feel that the courses are beneficial, Vipassana retreats will continue to serve people.
Earlier participants already covered your expenses, so you don’t have to worry about paying for your spot. You are donating to meeting the costs of future students.
Worlds Greatest Vipassana center
Global Vipassana Pagoda in India is the largest Vipassana center in the world. The center seat 8,000 Vipassana meditators and was inaugurated by Pratibha Patil, then President of India on 8 February 2009.
The center is built on donated in memory of vipassana teacher Sayagyi U Ba Khin (1899 – 1971), who was vital in bringing the tradition of Vipassana back to India, where it all started.
- Donate around $200 if you want to help one more person after you attend the Vipassana retreat.
- You can also help the center by volunteering.