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Vinehall Mitra Event 1 - Questions and Answers 1981

by Sangharakshita



SANGHARAKSHITA IN SEMINAR


QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS - VINEHALL MEN'S ORDER/MITRA EVENT 1981

(VINEHALL 1)


SANGHARAKSHITA: This week we've had lectures, we've had symposia, tonight is question, and
hopefully, (Laughter) answer night. As everybody knows, I've invited questions and I've invited
them in writing. I've invited them in writing for two reasons. First of all, so that you can frame your
questions more precisely than you might have framed them had you done so verbatim; and secondly,
so that, if I had all the questions in writing before me I could sort of sort them out into groups, and
deal with them in groups, because some of the questions do overlap and are related, or are
interrelated.

For instance, I've got a whole group of questions on the positive group, as we may call it. I've got
another group on the FWBO, the Movement. I've got another group of questions on men and
women, and their evolutionary process in general. I've got another couple of questions on problems
of practical life. A couple of questions about two of my own kalyana mitras. A question about
communication. A question about stream entry. A question about meditation. A question about
Desert Island Discs. (Uproarious laughter). I must say, I rather liked the idea of that desert island,
in some moods anyway. I'm not quite sure where to start but I'd better sort of play safe and start with
the questions on different aspects of the positive group, though that serves as a very approximate
description. For instance, the first questions says:

"So far, the emphasis in the Friends has been towards people living a full-time spiritual life
by involvement in communities and co-operatives. At this stage in the development of the
FWBO, would it now be appropriate to clarify and strengthen the role of those individuals
who are unable or unwilling to live a full-time spiritual life?"

And in the same way another question is:

"Please comment on the family with special reference to children and their religious influence
in relation to the Friends. What is the place of the family in the Ideal Society?"

and"Please say something about the centripetal aspect of a community or communities around
the same Centre. How a community housing co-operative fits into the pattern of the new society, as
this has aspects of both a co-op and community."

So quite an interrelationship of questions there. First of all, the first one I read. "So far, a strong
emphasis within the Friends has been towards people leading a full time spiritual life by involvement
in communities and co-operatives. At this stage in the development of the FWBO, would it now be
appropriate to clarify and strengthen the role of those individuals who are unable or unwilling to live
a full-time spiritual life."

This obviously raises the question at the very beginning; what does one mean by a full time spiritual
life? The questioner seems to assume that you can lead a full time spiritual life by involvement in

communities and co-operatives, but there seems to be some doubt in the questioner's mind whether
you can live or lead a full time spiritual life if you're not involved in communities or co-operatives.
Well, in a sense of course you can because you can live a full time spiritual life if you're away on
solitary retreat. You're not involved then in either a community or a co-operative. If you are
meditating and studying the Dharma, I think few people would disagree that you were living a full
time spiritual life, even though you weren't part of a co-op or part of a community.

I think though that probably what the questioner has in mind is the position of someone who is living
at home, with family, job, and so on. Is it possible for such a person to lead a full time spiritual life?
Well, again, that raises the question, what does one mean by a full time spiritual life? Supposing
you're living in a community, a spiritual community, all right, you're leading a spiritual life
presumably when you meditate, that is, if you meditate successfully. You're presumably leading a
spiritual life when you study the Dharma in your spiritual community. But supposing you're
cooking, are you leading a spiritual life? Well, perhaps you are, perhaps you are not. If you're
cooking mindfully, if you're cooking with awareness, if you're cooking with love for those for whom
you are cooking, yes, that cooking activity can be included in your spiritual life.

So, I don't think one can think of the full time spiritual life quite in terms of a life occupied with
certain specific activities only. To some extent, at least, it depends upon your attitude to those
activities. So I think one should think rather in terms of making the best use of whatever
opportunities you have. Probably no one really leads a full time spiritual life, even in a co-op. All
right, you're leading a spiritual life if you're in a co-op to the extent that you're practising Right
Livelihood, but are you every minute practising Right Livelihood? Supposing for instance you're
selling beans over the counter, well presumably that's Right Livelihood. But supposing in the course
of your communication in the course a co-op meeting you get a bit annoyed and you swear at
somebody, are you leading at that moment a spiritual life? Presumably you are lapsing from it.
So I don't think there's any situation which if you're in it absolutely guarantees that you're leading a
full time spiritual life nor any situation short of a downright unethical or criminal one, that
guarantees that if you're in it you're not leading a spiritual life. You must make the best use of your
opportunities, and not think of the spiritual life too much in terms of the specific form that it takes.
We know very well from our study of Buddhism, unfortunately, in the East, there can be very
worldly, pseudo-spiritual, or rather, perhaps, religious or ecclesiastical life, which has the trappings
of spirituality but not the reality. And in the same way one can sometimes find in the East also,
someone who is leading an apparently worldly life, but, at the same time, making full use of spiritual
opportunities and making spiritual progress.

So, perhaps that is as much, at the moment, as can usefully be said on that particular topic, in answer
to that particular question.

All right, to be more specific, to come to another question, What about the family?

"What is the place of the family in the Ideal Society?"

I'd say, in a sense, no place at all. There's no room in the Ideal Society for the family. By which I
mean of course the nuclear family, with which we are - some of us so painfully - acquainted. I hope
that in the Ideal Society the family as we know it will disappear altogether. Of course, even in the
Ideal Society there'll be men and women and children. So, what'll you do with them, especially what
will you do with the children? Well my sort of plan or my ideal, if you like, goes something like this.

The children, whether boys or girls, will remain with their mothers for the first few years of their
lives. The mothers will be living in women's communities, in this case living with other women who
have, or are thinking of having, in some cases at least, children of their own. So the children stay
with the mothers, until in the case of the boys, they're about 7 or 8 years of age at the most, and they
then happily transfer to a men's community.

The men's community should be a special kind of men's community, that is to say, specially oriented
to the needs of the boys, with some men sort of full time fathers and uncles, providing at the same
time, education. So that the boys would be living in, or would be based on, because contact with
members of the opposite sex would not be excluded, but would be based on a men's community cum
school, cum playground, cum playgroup, it would be something quite delightful for which we don't
even have a term or a name at present. And, they would as it were, graduate from that men's
community and take up whatever line of life, work, responsibility, vocation, that they cared to, either
within the FWBO structure or, if they so wished, in the outside world. They should be perfectly free
to make their own choice, whatever their choice may be, they make it as a relatively independent,
responsible, emotionally positive, young individual.

"Please comment on the family with special reference to children and their religious
influences in relation to the Friends."

Well, I've partially answered that question already but ...

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