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The Past and Future of the Order Part 1 - Order Weekend 1985

by Sangharakshita

Question and Answer session on "The Order, past and future"'

Held on the Men's National Order weekend at Padmaloka
on W.B.O. day, 7th. April 1985.
Sangharakshita: Originally I was asked not to answer questions but to give a talk. To give
a talk on the early days of the WBO but it so happened that I didn't want to give a talk. I
didn't want to give a talk because I didn't want to take my mind off what I've been mainly
doing over the course of the last few weeks, even months, and that is getting on with my next
volume of memoirs. Some of you may be able to appreciate that to switch from writing
something like that to preparing a lecture is not always very easy so I thought that instead of
giving a talk of that kind and I wasn't so sure that I had all that much to say in a systematic
sort of manner about the early days of the Order - my own recollections are not always very
very clear - I thought I'd volunteer to answer questions instead. Questions not only about the
past of the Order but about the future too. So quite a number of questions have in fact come
in. I must admit I haven't had time to look at them all yet. I've looked at some of them and
Subhuti has very kindly categorised them, in his usual methodical way into groups according
to subject matter. So I'm going to go through them subject-wise, dealing mainly with those
that concern the Order and if there are any left over at the end and I suspect there will be
because there are so many, I shall simply keep them in hand and deal with them in the course
of the convention, because we shall be having similar sessions at the time of the convention.
So the first of the categories that Subhuti has divided these questions into for me is a very
traditional Buddhist category -Miscellaneous! (Laughter) So I'll deal with these first. These
may help me to get a little warmed up as it were.
The first question does in fact concern the early days, the past, of the Order. Someone asks:
I have heard it said that in the early days of the Movement you used to ordain people
straight off the streets.(Laughter) I rather doubted this but wondered how you saw the
I don't think that I ever did, as far as I recollect, ordain anybody straight off the street in the
literal sense, in the sense of not having ever seen them before except at that moment when
they just sort of passed by. Presumably I'd be lurking at 'Sakura' (Laughter) and would just
beckon them in and ordain them on the spot. Sometimes I must admit I did have rather
romantic ideas about this sort of thing happening. I used to look at people closely when I did
first see them but I never actually saw somebody so ready for ordination in those days that I
could just put a kesa round their neck on the spot. Nonetheless when I used to travel around I
usually kept a spare kesa in my suitcase, just in case, but no, nobody was ever ordained
straight off the streets.
Though of course in those days the preparation for ordination was very much less than it is
now. The people who were ordained at the very beginning were people I'd known in most
cases for about a year. Now it's more likely that I will have known them or that they will
have been known to the other order members of the Order for two years, three years, even six
or seven years, and of course we have a much more thorough preparation in every way,
especially in connection with the pre-Tuscany process.
So no, that's a bit of a myth. It's a pity it wasn't true but I'm afraid I have to admit that I did
never ordain anybody straight off the streets.
And then,
Have you had any further thoughts about the suggestion of all Order members taking
a precept to abstain totally from the consumption of alcohol?
This is a question which has come up several times in recent weeks or in recent months;
which suggests that some of you at least have been thinking about it. But I must admit I
haven't given it any further thought myself. Though I do think that on the whole it would be a
good thing if the Order as a whole moved in the direction of, let us say reducing the
consumption of alcohol. I think that would be a good thing.
It's not that I think that Order members can't be trusted to confine themselves to just a very
small quantity of alcohol on suitable occasions. What has influenced my thinking, and I think
perhaps the thinking of other people, is the growing awareness that there seems to be
nowadays, certainly in this country and perhaps some other countries, that alcoholism is
becoming an increasingly serious problem and alcoholism obviously is something that one
has got to deal with, something that one has got to discourage, something that one has got to
prevent as much as one possibly can. So some people therefore feel that if they themselves
are taking alcohol even to a quite moderate extent which does them no harm, they are as it
were - I don't like to use the expression, 'setting a bad example' but in a sense, if you can
accept that sort of phrase, that is what is happening.
So more and more people it would seem feel a little uncomfortable about setting an example
or doing something which doesn't necessarily harm them but indirectly perhaps does harm
other people, and therefore in view of those considerations, or rather in view of that particular
consideration I think it would be a good idea if the Order did try to move in that direction of
at least less or more infrequent consumption of alcohol.
If of course individual Order members want to take that extra precept just as some take the
extra precept of Brahmacharya well that would indeed be fine. But certainly at least we
should be moving in the direction of less alcohol rather than more.
So I think it would be a good idea if at least on official WBO or FWBO occasions, at least in
connection with such occasions there's no consumption of alcohol whatever. If you are
invited to a friend's wedding or something of that sort and you're offered a glass of something,
well, there's no great sin in taking it. But nonetheless let the movement, the Order as a whole,
be as I said in the direction of the reduction of alcohol rather than otherwise.
We're still on 'Miscellaneous'
I have also heard that you were not very happy with the depths of the Order
communication. Granted this was quite a few years ago could you say something
about this.
(note; this question is a paraphrase of what was said)
Well if it's a question of the depth of order communication of course I'm not satisfied with it.
I hope no Order member is satisfied with it. I hope no Order member feels that he's attained
such a depth of communication with other Order members that he doesn't have to bother
about it any more. There's always not just room for improvement but room for a very great
deal of improvement indeed. So certainly I'm not happy with the present depth of
communication within the Order. I've never been happy with the depth of communication in
the Order. I hope I never will be happy with the depth of communication within the Order, in
the sense that I hope that we will always try to make that communication deeper than it
actually is. But no doubt there has been an improvement, no doubt communication within the
Order is much much deeper than it was a few years ago - especially in more concentrated
situations like that of Tuscany. But let's not rest on our laurels or at least on the few laurel
leaves that we have collected. Let's try to deepen our communication all the time in all
possible ways.
All right this seems to be about Kalyana Mitrata which is interesting because a little bit later
on in the afternoon I've two Kalyana Mitra ceremonies. So,
Kalyana Mitrata is the whole of the spiritual life. Since it is so important could you
expand on and explain the new guidelines for Kalyana Mitras in this month's
These guidelines were shown to me before they appeared in Shabda. I must say I haven't read
them very carefully since they appeared in Shabda. I think I'd better do that before I start
expanding and explaining them. Perhaps I can do it in connection with the Convention.
What the guidelines no doubt. indicate is the fact that the relationship of Kalyana Mitrata is
being taken perhaps more seriously than before. People are going into it or taking it up or
thinking about it in a less happy-go-lucky sort of way. It's not enough for you to be just a
good sort of chap to be somebody's Kalyana Mitra, that is in the, as it were, more official sort
of sense. There are certain definite qualities you need to possess - even definite qualifications
you need to possess, and the guidelines are a means of helping you see whether or not you
possess those qualities or those qualifications if you have to be thinking in terms of accepting
someone's invitation to be their Kalyana Mitra. So perhaps I'll reserve further comment for
the time of the Convention.
This one seems to be about relationships or ship.
Many words such as alienated, relationship, objective, individual, negative, are used
as if their meaning is well known. However it does appear that rarely are they known
well i.e. that different people mean different things. How can these difficulties be
avoided within the Movement?
In some ways it's very ...

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