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Men-s Order Convention 1987

by Sangharakshita

MEN'S ORDER CONVENTION 1987 Tape one side one

Sangharakshita: I'm not sure what I think of this ugly duckling business. [Laughter] I don't
think my mother would agree at all! [Laughter] In fact I think she'd protest rather vigorously. I
think I like the swan business even less! [Laughter] Sometimes I feel more like a goose.
Which gives me a rather neat transition to my questions and answers because in India the
goose is rather a glamorous bird actually. Goose is 'Hamsa' which is very often translated as
'swan' but that's absolutely wrong. 'Hamsa' is the goose, especially the wild goose who flies to
and from the Himalayas. And this wild goose, this 'Hamsa' has one particular characteristic
which is referred to in philosophical literature, especially Vedantic literature, quite a lot. It is
said that if you give a 'Hamsa' a saucerful of milk mixed with water as he drinks it he'll
separate the milk from the water, accepting the milk and rejecting the water. So he is regarded
as symbolical of what Shankaracharya calls 'Passatviveka', that is to say the ability to
distinguish between the real and the unreal, the existent and the non-existent, and that what
I've got to do with these questions. [Laughter] They are rather a mixed bunch. I must say at
first sight, and I must emphasise at first sight, they seem a bit disappointing. In a way that's
not a bad thing I suppose because if you're able to come up with just a handful, and there
really are only a handful, of not very distinguished questions it means you've sorted out an
awful lot on your own, which obviously is a sign of progress, maturity, independent thought
and so on.
So it's not such a bad thing that we don't have what seem at first sight to be some not all that
stimulating questions. But anyway I'll do my best with them and we'll just have to see what
emerges, and we begin, one might say, with our reverential salutation to that great tantric guru
- work, because I'm first of all going to handle the questions dealing with right livelihood.
The question of right livelihood was discussed at some length on the Women's Convention.
They followed a similar pattern there. They had discussion groups and, in the case of their
discussion groups they started off with somebody reading a carefully prepared paper; they
discussed that paper and then they formulated questions for me and I dealt with those
questions in another discussion group. That sort of format seemed to work rather well, but I
don't think I'm giving anything away, I don't think I'm giving any secrets away, when I tell
you that they did have some difficulty, so I was told, in finding enough people, enough
Dharmacharinis, for the discussion group of right livelihood. I don't really know why that
was. I think they had in the end to conscript a few Dharmacharinis into this group. I pulled
their leg a little bit about it and said that probably some of them, especially those working in
co-ops, were so fed up with the whole theme of right livelihood that they just didn't want to
talk about it. They laughed but I'm not sure whether that was really the reason or not.
I don't know whether the same sort of thing happened on this convention. I don't know
whether right livelihood was one of the most popular topics but anyway I think we've got
more questions on it than on any other topic, which is perhaps significant.
The questions unfortunately are rather complicated. I don't know that I can really deal with
them very adequately in this sort of way, but I'll read them and I'll make such little comments
as I can in passing and I think that will probably have to suffice.
All right,
"It would seem from our questionnaire put round on this convention, one of the
failings of the right livelihood situations in the Movement has been the lack of clear
leadership sufficient to communicate the spiritual significance of work in our right
livelihoods...."
I think I wouldn't disagree with that, and clearly the spiritual significance of work in our right
livelihoods, or our team based right livelihood businesses, has to be communicated primarily
by Order members. This was something we talked about on the Dharmacharinis' Convention.
"In our discussion group we here all agreed upon four critical factors that constitute
a right livelihood business.
a)
That the work should be ethical."
No one will disagree with that.
"b)
That the business should generate funds for dharma projects, the other-
regarding aspect.
c)
That it should provide its workers with support."
Maybe that needs a little rephrasing. Perhaps one shouldn't simply say support, perhaps
'adequate support' or 'meet their needs, their reasonable needs', something of that sort.
And then lastly,
d)
That it provides kalyana mitrata.
That within the work situation itself communication between the workers, whether Order
members or mitras, is of such a nature that it provides kalyana mitrata, spiritual friendship,
spiritual fellowship. Obviously one accepts b,c and d as well.
There is however, a prevailing attitude that right livelihood is seen just as an
economic necessity without its spiritual value appreciated.
Well that's rather a whopping generalisation. I don't think I could accept that generalisation
without very definite evidence and that means of course a survey throughout the movement,
at least in this country. The language here is a little unclear. "A prevailing attitude that right
livelihood is seen". So are the people who have the prevailing attitude different from the
people who see right livelihood in this way or not? It's not even very clearly formulated. That
needs to be sorted out. So
Do you still consider that these four factors are suitable bases on which to set up a
right livelihood business?
Yes I've no reason to change my views on this subject at all. Perhaps there's one particular
aspect which isn't spelled out with sufficient clarity, and that is the need for adequate skills
within the right livelihood business. Perhaps that's implied by the fact that the business should
generate funds for dharma projects and also should provide its workers with support. Clearly
profit has to be made and that profit won't be made without very skilled management. So
perhaps if anything is to be added it should be something to the effect that a right livelihood
business would be one in which all the skills necessary for the success of the business were
present - managerial and other skills. Perhaps - I'm not completely sure of this, but perhaps -
that should also be added because we do know that in the past sometimes right livelihood
businesses have been set up without adequate knowledge, without adequate equipment,
without adequate managerial skills and so on, and therefore the business has not succeeded.
Or for other reasons also perhaps, not succeeded as well as it might have done. So perhaps
we should give consideration to adding a fifth factor which would embody that particular
consideration. No doubt that can be further discussed.
So with that proviso I do still consider that these four factors are a suitable basis, upon which
to set up a right livelihood business.
Would you like to add any other factors to this lot and comment upon right livelihood
in our businesses as a spiritual practice?
Well I've already suggested a possible fifth factor, but 'comment upon right livelihood in our
businesses as a spiritual practice'. I think that's pretty clear isn't it. If the work is ethical it's a
spiritual practice. If the business is generating funds for dharma projects, for dana, obviously
that's a spiritual practice. One might even say that if it's providing its workers with support,
that's a spiritual practice. It's again a form of dana. And if it provides kalyana mitrata well
certainly it's a spiritual practice. It would seem to me that this is really self evident. I don't
think I can comment any further on right livelihood businesses as a spiritual practice to any
greater extent than that. There is of course this whole question of energy. Getting your
energies going through working hard and sitting at the feet of that same great tantric guru, but
we've gone over that ground so many times before that I don't think it's really necessary for
me to do it all over again.
There is a questionnaire, or rather results of a questionnaire and there's a note at the bottom -
'would Bhante like to comment on any of these results?' Well perhaps he would. let's see. I'll
go through them.
All right: One, 'of 97 respondents', well 97 respondents, that means not the whole Order
clearly, so we can't really generalise very much from the responses to the questionnaire. We
must be very cautious. I don't think we could generalise with any degree of validity unless the
questionnaire had been extended to all Order members in Britain. So I'll make comments only
with that reservation in mind.
So 'Of 97 respondents, 18 are working in a right livelihood business.' Not all that many. But
then one must bear in mind that at least some people who at the moment are working in right
livelihood businesses would have been here had their responsibilities in those right livelihood
businesses not prevented ...

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