In the beginning of the Tao Te Ching, Lao Tzu famously said “The Tao that can be spoke of is not the true Tao.” A Zen saying states that “"If you open your mouth, you are wrong. If you give rise to a single thought, you are in error." More recently Nisargadatta Maharaj said “The moment you start talking you create a verbal universe, a universe of words, ideas, concepts and abstractions, interwoven and interdependent, most wonderfully generating, supporting and explaining each other and yet all without essence or substance, mere creations of the mind. Words create words, reality is silent.”
They all agree that the truth cannot be spoken and whatever is spoken becomes a concept, i.e. a lie.
The question then becomes, what price a lie?
Unfortunately, the papyrus scrolls that listed what Lao Tzu and the Buddha charged for weeklong retreats in Costa Rica and Skype sessions haven’t survived into modernity. We do have information on Nisargadatta though, and Timothy Conway, in the book Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj (Mahârâj, 1897-1981)—Life & Teachings of Bombay's Fiery Sage of Liberating Wisdom stated that ”Maharaj did not have to do this work, but spontaneously and most generously he did: letting folks invade his private space, which he had turned into a low-key, semi-public center for nondual awakening, therein to tirelessly teach, guide and awaken us with endless graciousness, never charging a single paisa (cent) for all his generous bounty. And he asked for no service or gifts from devotees.”
Those who support spiritual teachings will argue that while the words may not be the truth they are still “fingers pointing to the moon” which can guide seekers to the truth. They argue that teachings are expedient means which can bring the seeker to a satori, Awakening, or the big prize, full Enlightenment. The rationale is that listening to lies long enough will bring a person to the truth.
It appears that spiritual teachers of old were reticent to charge for their teachings. As we can see below, though, modern teachers aren’t reticent to even charge for their reticence; silent retreats also have a premium price.
Here is a list of some modern teachers and their rates for their lies:
Jeff Foster: A 5-day immersive retreat in Colorado in April of 2015 will cost you $495, not including room and board.
Bentinho Massaro: an upcoming 8-day retreat in Hawaii runs from $2,000-$3,000 depending on the level of lodging that you choose.
Mooji : A silent weeklong retreat in Portugal which includes the satsang fee and lodging is from a high of $1,196 to a low of $735 (camping with your own tent.)
Scott Kiloby: A weeklong retreat held in Jan-Feb 2014 was $1,395 not including room and board
Fred Davis: Skype sessions about $150 hour (per Fred’s note: If this feels like too much money, please don’t book a session.There are plenty of people online who will talk with you for less money. I charge per hour what my accountant charges me, which seems fair.) [Fred seems to be under the assumption that a self-proclaimed Awakened being with no training, education, or certification deserves to be paid the same as a professional accountant.]
The Tao that can’t be spoken of certainly demands a premium price these days. Those with a modicum of shame would be reluctant to charge hundreds and thousands of dollars to seekers of the truth, considering that all they have to offer is concepts.
Luckily for the modern seeker the modern spiritual guru has no such qualms.