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Livelihood - Women-s Order Convention 1987

by Sangharakshita


[Women's Order Convention 1987]
Those Present: The Venerable Sangharakshita, Megha, Dayamegha, Ratnamegha,
Punyamegha, Dayasri, Aniketa.
S: So you've all had discussion this morning on this topic of Right Livelihood and
the Order, and the questions have been formulated as a result of the discussion.
Ratnavandana: The last three mornings.
S: The last three mornings. Ah.
Megha: Ratnavandana presented a paper based on three parts, looking at Right
Livelihood situations in the past, the present and future. A lot of it was posing
questions about Right Livelihood and taking as a basis, Subhuti's comments in
"Buddhist Vision for Today".
Voices: (Murmurs)
Megha: Is it?
Voices: Buddhism for Today.
S: Buddhism for Today.
Megha: So it's taken from there and it's our basis about Right Livelihood
S: All right, let's start off then. So question one:
"Only three Order members as a first choice signed up for the discussion
group of Right Livelihood.
Megha: Yes.
"Also increasingly fewer Order members are prepared to work in Right
Livelihood situations although the number of Order members is rising. (a)
What to you think are the reasons for this and (b) what effect do you think
this will have on Right Livelihood in the Movement?"
S: First of all, with regards to "Only three Order Members as a first choice signed
up for the discussion group of Right Livelihood - What do you think are the
reasons for this?" - I would say there's not much point asking me. It would be
better to do a little survey of the Order Members present and ask them - those who
didn't sign up for the discussion group of Right Livelihood, why it was they didn't
do so. Was it, perhaps, that the appeal of the other discussion groups was stronger,
or that they weren't interested in Right Livelihood, or didn't think it affected them,
or that they'd just had enough of it. So I would say that if one wants an answer to
this question, it's better to ask the people concerned, because I can only speculate.
Dayamegha: I don't think we were asking you why they didn't come to the group,
Bhante. It was more like information that this had been the response.
S: Well, ah, then you see, there were two statements: first of all that "only three
members as a first choice signed up" and also, "increasingly fewer Order members
are prepared to work in Right Livelihood situations", so the questions seem to
refer to both of these ...
Dayamegha: (coming in) It more refers to ...
S: ... but even what I say applies, one could say, to the second part to that
introduction, that, "increasingly fewer Order members are prepared to work in
Right Livelihood situations". Well, why ask me? Do a survey of the Order. I can
speculate. I may have some idea, but if one really wants to know I think one has
to question the people directly concerned.
Dayamegha: You were going to do a survey of people here weren't you? [to
Ratnamegha: Yes, I was actually ...
S: For instance, one of the things I was talking about with Dhammarati quite
recently, was that I felt, that with regard to the LBC, a survey should be
conducted: a survey with regard to Order members and mitras, possibly Friends
too, but certainly Order members and mitras; because I said to him that one hears
all sorts of statements about, well, the LBC this, and the LBC that, and Order
members around the LBC are such-and-such, but one doesn't really know to what
extent those statements are based on facts, so I said I thought that one of the things
the Council should do was to inaugurate a sort of survey; for instance trying to
find out, first of all how many Order members there were in the area: that was the
first thing, how many mitras; how many Order members, how many mitras live in
communities, how many work in co-ops, how many Order members support or
take classes - things of this sort. How many Order members live in single-sex
communities, how many Order members or mitras are married or in sexual
relationships, how many are celibate. How many are attending full-time courses,
or part-time courses etc. If one collects all that sort of information, well then one
has something to go by, otherwise one hears just these, well, sometimes baseless,
sometimes well-based statements. It is very difficult to assess the total situation.
So I must say I don't know in the first place, why "only three Order members as a
first choice signed up for the discussion group" and I'm not sure also why
"increasingly fewer Order members are prepared to work in Right Livelihood
situations, while the number of Order members is rising". I've got some idea, but
that may only be part of the truth, or my idea may be cancelled out by certain
factors in the situation. I don't really know. I'd like to know but that's a different
... knowing is different from speculating.
Dayamegha: What are your speculations Bhante?
S: Well, I don't know whether it's even worthwhile speculating. I know some
people are concerned about livelihood as such, and think perhaps a co-op is a
rather shaky basis. That's one thing. There are the demands of the Right
Livelihood situation: some people perhaps are not prepared to face them. But
again this is only speculation.
Dayamegha: Is it with respect to a co-op structure per se, or a business per se? ...
that the co-ops themselves as they exist are shaky, or is it the co-ops structure ...
S: No, I'm not saying that they are shaky, or that they are not. What I'm saying is
that I gather that some people feel that they are not likely to get a proper livelihood
by continuing to work within a co-op or Right Livelihood type structure; that if
they want more money, if they want, say more time to themselves, well, they have
got to acquire some other skill and work outside, not in a co-op. This is what I've
heard. How well that is based, that's another matter. But I certainly have heard
that. But then with regard to the question: "What effect do you think this trend will
have on Right Livelihood in the Movement: - well, it's quite clear (Chuckling). If
fewer and fewer Order members want to work in co-ops, and fewer and fewer
people seem interested, well in the end, there will be no Right Livelihood in that
sense, it's quite clear? But I don't think actually that is going to happen. We do
have some strong right livelihood situations. I mean, there is the situation in
Croydon where they have the co-op in the form of "Hockneys" and the shop both
flourishing, and the same with Windhorse Trading. Some of the other smaller
businesses are doing reasonably well, I think some of the gardening businesses,
but no doubt the whole question of team-based Right Livelihood needs a lot of
re-examination, and people have, perhaps, to re-examine their attitudes towards
it. But I think I must emphasise that we need to have more facts at our disposal
before we can really say very much, and I think people have to avoid trying to take
a short cut in any situation, just asking me what I think, instead of making the
appropriate survey and finding out what people think, and why they are doing
certain things rather than certain other things.
Dayamegha: We came up against that when we were discussing it. It was actually
very hard to understand what had happened - so many different influences.
S: Yes. Right. Let's see what question two has to say.
"If Order members are not choosing to work in team-based Right
Livelihood situations with a commercial basis, does the structure of centres,
co-operatives and communities as defined in "Buddhism for Today" still fit
in with our vision of a 'New Society'"?
Well, yes, it does? But it means that to some extent people are failing to work out
that vision. This is what it really means. There's nothing wrong with the vision and
there's nothing wrong with that threefold structure - Centres, co-operatives and
communities - it is important that we transform - begin to transform - the economic
life of society. But again I'm not pessimistic, not in the long-run, because we do
have some successful Right Livelihood type businesses.
Dayamegha: So it's not that there's anything intrinsically wrong with a ... well,
perhaps, intrinsically wrong with that structure of commercial based businesses?
S: Well, how can it be wrong to want to transform the economic structure of
society? But if one gives up that attempt it means one is, in a sense, just
withdrawing into a private world of religious activities, experiences, and not
thinking in terms of transforming society at all, because it's quite useless thinking
of transforming society without transforming the economic structure which is so
basic to society (Pause)
Dayamegha: When we talked about it, it seemed like perhaps that point of it being
a direct way of transforming the economic interface - how did Subhuti put it? The
social and political ...?
Voice: "Platform".
S: ...

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