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Dhanakosa Opening 1993 - Questions and Answers

by Sangharakshita

Team Based Right Livelihood project.

I have sometimes said in the past that to start a public centre, an FWBO centre, is not difficult. Not
very difficult. To start a community, especially a single sex community, is rather more difficult. But
it's most difficult to start a Team Based Right Livelihood business. That's the most difficult and the
most demanding of all. But it's also perhaps the most worthwhile of all because you, well, in some
cases you not only work with other people but you live with those same people and living with them
and working with them, you can develop a very close spiritual friendship. If you're living with them
in a spiritual community, working with them in a Team Based Right Livelihood project, you can
come very, very close to them.

This just reminds me of a point that arose recently. Sometimes the question is asked whether we
should think in terms of the needs of the business or the needs of the Team? Should we work on
making the business better, more successful, or should we work on better relationships within the
Team. I would say you can't really separate the two because what is it that makes the Team? What
makes the Team is the business objective. That is what has brought you together. So it is not that
you put aside the business objective, the success or whatever of the business, in whatsoever terms, in
order to work on your relationships within the Team because you work best on your relationships
within the Team by all of you, more and more devotedly co-operating for the fulfilment of the aims
and objects of the business. The two are not really separate. You can't really distinguish. If you are
separating them, to that extent you can say, it's not fully a Team Based Right Livelihood business.
So that as it were, is by the way.

So the Team Based Right Livelihood business occupies a very, very important place in the economy
of the total movement. But, now we come to another point, what about working out in the world?
Obviously that cannot be ruled out altogether. In fact I would say, I would not like it to be ruled out
altogether. I don't think I would really like to see everybody in the FWBO working in an FWBO
Team Based Right Livelihood business. I think I would like to see some people out there in the
world. Those that can stand the world [Laughter] because well, we need, as it were, outposts. We
need points of contact. But there are certain things to bear in mind. If the work that you are doing, if
the business that you are involved in is unethical, in any serious respect, well, as a Buddhist you have
to withdraw from that. But if the business is reasonably ethical, and if it is not too demanding in the
sense it does not involve you in too much psychological wear-and-tear, so much so that you can't
meditate, and if it is doesn't throw you too much into the company of people whom you really detest
and for whom you gradually build up a real dislike, perhaps even hatred, if it doesn't do anything of
those things, well, stay in the world if you have to. Work in the world but keep up your contacts with
your spiritual friends within the movement. Keep up your meditation practice. Keep up your
Dharma study as best you can.

So in a way I see people as that is to say, people within the FWBO, as falling very roughly into three
categories. There are those who are fully occupied and supported within the FWBO, within the

Movement, doing predominantly Dharmic work. Teaching around centres, running retreats and so
on and then I see those people who are working as members of Team Based Right Livelihood FWBO
businesses and then I see those heroic souls who are working out there in the world but applying
their ethical principles to their business and working life out there in the world and keeping up their
spiritual contacts within the FWBO. Perhaps that's even more difficult than working in a Team
Based Right Livelihood business. That's why I describe them as heroic souls. And sometimes I've
read reports in Shabda of people who are working in the outside world, and I've felt so, so sorry for
them. Not so much the professionals, not the doctors and the teachers and the lawyers, not so much
those people. They have it comparatively easy. I remember the case of one young male Order
Member who was working on a building site in London with others who were, who were of course
not Buddhists. Very far from it [Laughter]. I got the impression from his reporting-in that they were
barely human. [Laughter] But I really felt so sorry for him and he was struggling so hard. Well, you
can imagine, so of you the sort of things he had to put up with and struggle against and I felt really so
sorry for that young Order Member. He stuck it for several years. Now he's doing something which
is more conducive to the sort of life he really wants to lead. But he wasn't really qualified for much
else unfortunately. He didn't have professional qualifications.

So as I said I see FWBO people falling very broadly into these three categories. I haven't of course
mentioned the housewife but I regard the housewife as, in a way, working, you might say, in a Team
Based Right Livelihood project, perhaps on a rather small scale, depending on the number of
children. But we can't forget that also. So, yes just those few words about working in the world. It
isn't easy and one does have to exercise discrimination about the sort of working you're doing. The
sort of people that you are working with and the sort of effect it has on you psychologically and
spiritually. But if you bear those in mind and take those sort of guidelines, it can be done and
sometimes it has to be done and as I say, I'd really prefer that there were at least some people out
there in the world so that the FWBO did not exist in a sort of little spiritual ghetto almost of its own.
We need these wider and broader contexts. Sometimes they can be very useful. Sometimes we can
be very useful to them. Sometimes people whom you get to know in the workplace can become
interested in yoga, can become interested in Buddhism, in meditation and some of them, at least, may
find that their way through you to the centre and into a better and happier life.

I don't think we should be precious. I don't think we should, in a sense, I don't think we should take
refuge in the retreat centre, or take refuge in, even in a Team Based Right Livelihood business just
because we can't make it out in the world. I think that is very important. I think it's quite important
that we should be the sort of person who can make it out in the world if he or she really wants to but
who chooses not to. Not simply the person who is unable to make a success of it out there. Those
are the sort of people who will make a real success of their own spiritual lives and operate whatever
it is that the FWBO is doing.

Yes, something a bit controversial. I was expecting some of you were hoping for that. [Laughter]
This question has been sent by somebody who wasn't able actually to be present with us.

"Pseudo-egalitarianism is a term that worries me. Please could you expand on the sense in
which Buddhism sees us all as equal and as not all equal. Thank you?" [Laughter]

I'm afraid I have some ideas of my own on this subject of equality and egalitarianism. And it's my
particular views which I think may be controversial. I've arrived at these views of course on the
basis of reflecting about the Dharma. I think that the concept of equality as applied to human beings
is totally beside the point. I don't think human beings are equal. I don't think human beings are

unequal either. I just think that the concept of equality is inapplicable to human beings. Now what is
this concept of equality? I would say equality is a quantitative concept. If you, well, you can say
that, let's give an example, a sort of arithmetical example. Two plus three equals five and four plus
one equals five. So there's equality. There's equality between the two plus three and the four plus
one. But you can't apply that sort of logic, that sort of concept to human beings. Do you see what
I'm getting at? Because human beings are not quantities. So human beings are, one might say,
incommensurable. You can't really compare one human being with another in the way that you can
compare one amount with another and say that, well, this amount is greater than that, or this amount
is smaller than that or this amount is equal to that.

So I would say that the concept of equality does not apply to human beings. Now what about this
concept of equality of opportunity. I think that even this is not really applicable. One doesn't have to
talk in terms of equality of opportunity with all the discussions that that gives rise to. So what
should one talk in terms of from a Buddhist point ...

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