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Combined Convention 1991 - Questions and Answers

by Sangharakshita

... think that young people are just
behaving in a very eccentric and unreasonable way because the chances are you behaved in that way.

I remember one Order member. She might even be present, I can't see her, but if she is present she
mustn't mind my telling this little story which she told me once. Apparently she was quite worried
about I think it was her son, or might have been her daughter, going off on the back of motorbikes at
a very early age and always worrying about it. Then she realised, she told herself, well when I was
that age I was doing that all the time! [Laughter] So you can forget. So I think old people have to
make allowances for young people and young people similarly have to make allowances for old
people. There has to be that mutual tolerance and sympathy, and there as to be a sort of recognition,
especially on the part of the old person, that it's not easy to put yourself in the shoes of someone who
is much older or much younger than you.

__________: When I sent my mother on holiday in the Spring it was a real practice to try and walk
at a different pace so we were walking side by side, and as we talked about it I remembered that at
one point in my life I used to say to my mother, 'Can you slow down!' [Laughter] The roles were now
reversed and I found it really difficult - she's quite arthritic - going at her pace. It was a practice for
me and I did find myself striding out ahead.

S: Because it involves mindfulness, consideration, imagination, patience. [Pause] Shakespeare has a
little song. He says 'youth and crabbed age cannot live together'. I forget the rest of it but he
elaborates that.

__________: I've also noticed. My father's eighty nine now but I remember when I was a child that
I used to relate to the very old people when you're very very young and you see these sort of hassled
mothers too busy and my father goes and sort of talks to this little toddler or this little baby and in a
way they are in the same time span because I think when you're very very young you've got a
different time span again haven't you?

S: Yes. It's often been noticed that grandparents and grandchildren get on well together very often.

So have I answered the question? Sort of haven't I. At least we've ventilated it. Perhaps we'll grow
older a bit more gracefully and thoughtfully.

What else did we have? Yes something a bit different.
"If one Order member is blocking consensus consistently in an FWBO Council, is there a
point at which that person should be overruled so that the total situation can move forwards
positively?"

As a provisional answer I would say well yes sometimes unfortunately that has to happen.
Otherwise one person just holds up everything. But consensus is definitely best and consensus must
definitely be aimed for where all important decisions are concerned. But then the question says 'One
Order member is blocking consensus consistently'. If that happens then it's not just a question of
overruling that person on one particular occasion, much wider issues are involved. How is it that

that one particular Order member - I'm just taking the question as it's been given - is consistently
blocking? If that happened you can't help suspecting that that particular Order member is out of tune
or out of harmony with all the other Council members, and then the question arises well why is that,
how is that? Is it that that person is the only one in step as they say? Are all the others out of step?
That is always a possibility! But then again different people have different ways of doing things and
looking at things, and I would say that if one Order member, whether right or wrong, consistently
blocks consensus in a Council meeting, then it should be seriously considered whether that particular
Order member shouldn't leave that Council and work with other more like minded people. It's not
necessarily that that one person is wrong. They may be right. Of course they may be wrong also,
but they may be right. But even if they're right, well it isn't a very positive situation if they are
continually, or consistently as the questioner says, blocking consensus.

So I think this should then be put to that particular person, that look maybe you have got good ideas,
maybe your suggestions are OK but they're not in line with what the rest of us think. Maybe you
should find like minded Order members and work with them, or even if you want to work on your
own. Do you see what I mean?. It also depends upon how important the issues are in connection
with which the consensus is being consistently......... if they're important issues then clearly there are
important differences between the rest of the Council members and that one person. Perhaps one can
be patient for a few months but you can't really hold up the whole running of an FWBO indefinitely
because one person is consistently blocking a consensus, blocking decisions. If that person was
always right and everybody else was always wrong, well once they do leave it'll be obvious, or it'll
be obvious that yes it was just a question of different ways of doing things, different approaches, and
the persons concerned are better functioning independently.

Any comments on this. I don't know how many of you have had experience of this sort of thing.
Maybe it happens in most Councils occasionally but that can obviously be accepted.

__________: To what extent can we (extend?) that to Order situations and Chapter situations?

S: In what way?

__________: We had a Chapter Convenors' meeting yesterday and we were talking about the
possibility in the future of Chapter Convenors making more decisions on behalf of their Chapters.
That wouldn't always necessarily be a decision made with the actual considered consensus of
everyone in the Chapter.

S: I must say I haven't really thought about this before. One thing that does occur to me is that
Chapters as such are not called upon to make organisational decisions in the way that Council
meetings are. Because we have had - you may not know this, it may have happened before you were
ordained - but there have been quite extensive discussions throughout the Order within Chapters on
two or three issues where it was just not possible to come to an agreement, and we just dropped the
matter. Because well it could be dropped. It wasn't as it were an organisational matter. One
particular matter I remember being discussed in Chapters was this question of robes. Whether Order
members should have robes. Well fifty percent of Order members were in favour and well I think
fifty percent weren't with maybe just a few perhaps not bothering much either way. So it was just
dropped. But when a practical question arises in a Council meeting you can't do that. If for instance
if in a Council meeting shall we celebrate Wesak on the Sunday or shall we celebrate it on the
Saturday? Well you've got to decide to celebrate it on one day or the other. If you just go on talking

and talking well Wesak doesn't get celebrated! [Laughter] But when it is a question more of matters
of principle, the sort of matters that are more likely to arise within a Chapter, well yes you can go on
discussing them and discussing them if that's what you want to do, because no immediate action is
called for necessarily. In fact you may agree about practice but you may differ about interpretations
of the principles involved, and you can go on talking and discussing about those things.

So I would say [end of side one side two] that the situation within Chapters is rather different from
the situation within Councils, but you did mention this question of Chapter Convenors representing?
Does that have any bearing on the matter?

__________: Taking decisions. I suppose actually that is more of an organisational nature possibly.
I mean like for instance planning say conventions, that sort of thing.

S: I suppose there there would have to be a consensus achieved before a certain date, because if the
discussion was about when to have the convention well I suppose you couldn't really do on
discussing indefinitely, because then you might not have a convention that year. On the other hand
it's quite open to you to decide that well yes even in this issue it's more important to have a
consensus than to have a convention - it's up to you! But if you decide that it's more important to
have a convention than to have a consensus well then you will have to overrule the minority, and the
minority presumably will have to gracefully accept that in a democratic spirit because that's how
democracy works, not that a spiritual group or organisation needs to be democratic, but I suppose it's
the best solution in those sort of circumstances. ...

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