The economy - debt in knowledge communities

Debt to the teacher

I make sure a student pays tuition on time. A student should not owe money to his teacher. Paying tuition makes the student-teacher system simpler, I fulfil my obligations to the student and the student fulfils his/her duties: attendance and payment.

About two months ago, a student I did not see in many years came to the Dojo and said he wanted to pay me an old debt. He is now an adult, and it has been many years since he trained, but while recently talking to his mother, he realised that when he was a child they only paid me a very small fee because his family had no money. I told him, a nominal fee, for a student who has no money, is also a fee! And so, during the years I teach, I got paid in children's paintings and once in flowers, from those who did not have any money. That's fine, symbolic payment is a good payment and a student who paid like this doesn't owe me anything later.

The reason for this economy in AKBAN is related to the inner freedom I want. If, after a student left the dojo, the teacher thinks that the student owes him, that causes big trouble for the teacher, suffering.

A relationship should allow for exhaling and inhaling. If it is not possible to release then it is impossible to put in new air. I try to let go, and succeed. That’s because I like to breathe, one of the survival secrets I teach. This is how I come to Dojo with a happy heart.

Debt to the community

Akban is not me, Yossi the teacher, AKBAN is community of human beings, in the best sense of the word, veterans who have been training together for three decades. The debt to me, to the teacher, is simple and settled, it is tuition and attendance, the debt to the community is a different matter.

Debt to the community is not a financial debt, the community has not lent us money, the community has sometimes inspired us, sometimes helped us to persevere in difficult moments. Repayment must be accordingly. Paying off debt to the community is a complex work reserved for the emotionally stable, strong people.

The Ninjutsu database, the documentation project, is me trying to repay a debt to the community that I grew up in, Bujinkan. It’s not about money - the cost to maintain the Bujinkan pool of techniques is not excessive - it’s about dedicating work, many hours invested in documenting our syllabus.

In order to repay an inspirational debt to the community, attendance is needed, it’s like gardening, like teaching, like raising children, repaying debt is a practice that requires attendance, presence.

Paying back such debt is an extra bonus, it allows us to grow as strong human beings and change roles - from a child to a parent, from a tourist to a tourist guide, from a passive person to an active one.

Examples: A veteran who specifically teaches our craft repays huge debt to our community. He continues a line of knowledge and contributes his unique perspectives and interpretation.

A veteran who keeps coming and practicing even though he is old and injured - subtly repays debt because he gives us all a better frame of reference and inspiration to keep on practicing.

A veteran who uses the knowledge he learned in AKBAN to build a business and explains how, thus inspiring others - returns debt of knowledge. For us, how to use the insights from training in completely different areas and settings.

A veteran who knows how to be a seaman, knows how to surf or sail, understands the winds, the clouds and the sea and knows how to translate his expertise to us, repays debt to the community, he increases our knowledge and enriches us all.

Every contribution makes us all in this person’s debt - we owe him. And since in our community we've been together for decades, we all owe a lot to each other, me too.

Not everyone has the luck and the power to be able to repay debt to the community, I think it's ok. At this point nobody owes me anything, but when someone repays a debt to the community it's a great feeling, just wonderful. I have accrued great debt to people and I love this very much.

If a warrior wants to pay back for all the favors he has received, and he has no one in particular to address his payment to, he can address it to the spirit of man, That's always a very small account, and whatever one puts in it is more than enough.
Carlos Castaneda