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17 million words and counting!
Suvarnagarbha, Cambridge, UK
Coleen, FBA Team
Sangharakshita, Birmingham, UK
Colum, London, UK
Sangharakshita, Birmingham, UK
Eric, FBA Team
Nagabodhi, London, UK
Viveka, San Francisco, USA
Dayamegha: .. that somewhere that has been the thing perhaps we have all lost
sight of the most, in a sense. (Pause)
S: In a way the question is wrongly put: "Does the structure of centres,
co-operatives and communities as defined in "Buddhism for Today" still fit in with
our vision of the New Society?" Well, first of all comes the vision, and then there's
the way of implementing the vision, and that implementation of the vision is
represented by the structure of centres, co-operatives and communities. (Pause) It's
like a three-legged stool. (Chuckling) Well, if you remove one leg, well, it's not
really a stool any more, you can't really sit on it. (Pause)
Anyway, question three - you're talking about your own experience and maybe we
can get more to grips with it.
"From our own experience within co-ops, our ability to communicate and
co-operate are the two areas/aspects, of ourselves which are challenged
most directly; by not choosing to work in co-ops does this indicate people
are avoiding this sort of confrontation? What does this imply?"
Well, first of all of course, one really needs to ask the people concerned. They
might not admit that they were avoiding this sort of confrontation, but by cross
examining them one might be able to find out. If they are in fact avoiding this sort
of confrontation it means that they are not so sincere in their determination to
develop, as one might have thought, or as they themselves had supposed. (Pause)
You say here from your own experience within co-ops our ability to communicate
and co-operate are the two areas/aspects of ourselves which are challenged most
directly so that you seem to be quite sure about.
S: It is therefore quite possible that by not choosing to work in co-ops this
indicates people are avoiding this sort of confrontation. Well, you know the people
better than I do. I mean, what do you all think? Those who work or have worked
in co-ops. Are people choosing not to work in co-ops because they are avoiding
the sort of confrontation that working in - what does it say? ... "Because it
challenges their ability to co-operate and communicate". (Pause) Do you think this
or have you actually found this? Have you reasons to suppose that?
Punyamegha: One of the things we thought was that very often people aren't
possibly ready to cope with it, and either the support isn't there to help one through
it, or the support is there but you're not even ready to be open to receive it.
Punyamegha: To work in that situation seems to need quite a high level of
Punyamegha: ... and the structure itself hasn't ... there hasn't been enough, maybe,
individuals, in it to help through the people who aren't quite ready to take up the
S: I think what I did say, years and years ago was I thought that probably, only
Order members should work in co-ops. (Laughter) Yes! Because what I said and
what I still think is well, what does a ... taking the word 'co-op' - taking the co-op
structure in the narrow sense, and some of our Right Livelihood or team-based
Right Livelihood businesses are no longer based on a co-op structure in a technical
sense or a legal sense, but nonetheless they are co-operative in a broader sense. If
you have a co-op you've got a group of people who have equal responsibility in
principle, that doesn't mean they've got equal skills, or that they're interchangeable
in terms of skills, but they have equal responsibility, so that there are no employers
and no employees regardless of the specific functions the individual members of
the co-op are performing. So you've got a situation in which people all accept
responsibility, and that isn't easy, because what one usually finds within a group
of people working together, some, for one reason or another, accept less
responsibility, take on less responsibility, which means that the others have to take
on a bit more responsibility to take up the slack. So therefore there is at once a
polarisation of those taking on more responsibility and those taking on less
responsibility. Usually those who take on more responsibility are in the minority,
those who take on less responsibility are in the minority (sic). Then those who take
on less responsibility for the same reason that they take on less responsibility are
resentful that (chuckling) other people have taken on more responsibility ...
Voices: (Murmurs of agreement)
S: Even though it's the fact that they've taken on less responsibility that obliges
the others to take on more to keep the whole show going. In this way resentment
develops, all sorts of criticism develops and so on. So you need really, to have a
co-op at all, a group of really mature and responsible people. But you can't really
expect that degree of responsibility which implies commitment from people who
are just becoming involved with the FWBO, or perhaps who have even joined the
co-op directly with very little experience of the FWBO at all. I know that there've
been cases where people have joined a co-op, in the sense of beginning to work
for a co-op, or in a co-op, without having any real understanding of what a co-op
is all about.
Punyamegha: Yeah. I think that is true: our expectations have been unrealistic in
Punyamegha: We haven't known (exactly what to do?)
Ratnavandana: What about the other way around? I mean, we often have people
who say that some people are overly responsible and in a sense, don't leave any
room for some of the other people, and often that's a kind of excuse people use...
S: Yes, that may sometimes happen because there are some people who are
over-ready to take on responsibility, but I think the other type of situation where
other people, at least by default don't exercise their full responsibility, that's much
more common. (Pause)
Dayamegha: I think perhaps it's also partly that we've learnt as we went along
exactly what it meant to work co-operatively.
S: Also, perhaps, it's not without significance that the two most successful
businesses, namely the one in Croydon and the one in Cambridge have an
unusually high percentage of Order members working in them: this is probably no
S: Also in some situations in the past in some co-ops, there has been a tendency
where there's been very few Order members. Supposing there's been one, as soon
as a second Order member is ordained within that situation, or joins, the first one
tends to leave.
S: So you never get the opportunity of building up a high proportion of Order
members within that particular business which is what we really need to do. I
mean, when there's, say, more than fifty per cent Order members in the business,
well, then perhaps the one who's been there the longest can leave, but not as soon
as one other one joins; this has happened time and time again in certain businesses,
both men's and women's (Pause)
Dayamegha: It does seem strange. (Pause)
S: But it is certainly a difficult situation and perhaps for some people it is too
difficult. But if it's for Order members, well, how can you expect that degree of
commitment from mitras! (Chuckling) If Order members find it too tough, well,
what about the others? I'm surprised at the extent to which some mitras have
carried on. It's certainly very much to their credit that they have.
Ratnamegha: I think we often undervalue that aspect actually - that it requires a
high degree of commitment and responsibility. I feel we often, I think in the
"Cherry Orchard" talk about hard work, the physical demands of the job, but we
don't actually see that other aspect, actually, because sometimes we get blase - but
I think we just ah, ... well ... perhaps we just lose touch with it. I don't know.
S: Also, what shall I say, responsibility within a co-op doesn't just mean
responsibility for your little job - your little function, it means at the same time,
keeping an eye on the co-op as a whole, and being concerned about and concerned
for, the co-op as a whole, caring for the co-op as a whole. It means that too.
(Pause) Maybe that's difficult perhaps for a part-time member of a co-op, but all
full-time members should have that sort of concern and care for the whole
Ratnavandana: I think it does take quite a while actually, just to be able to take
S: Mm. Mm.
Ratnavandana: It's quite different to any usual work situation.
S: Yes. Quite.
Ratnavandana: It does demand a high degree of awareness, really.
S: But you have got to induct people gradually, as with the Centre. Someone was
saying some time ago that when people come along to a public Centre you've got
to get them to feel it's their centre. Well, in a sense, yes, in a sense no. It's their
Centre in the sense that they're welcome there and it exists for their sake, but you
can't expect people just starting to come along to a Centre to take on part of the
responsibility of running it and financing it, because I mean, they don't even know
whether they want to involve themselves in that way. So it's the same with people