This a talk on the topic of Right Livelihood, given at Madhyamaloka, Birmingham, in April 2010.
A question that often arises for people when they study the Noble Eightfold Path is - why did the Buddha, or whoever compiled the list, include right livelihood. Surely all the considerations of ethics with regard to livelihood are already covered in the other sections of the eightfold path -- such as right speech and right action. Why does livelihood need its own stage? One answer to this is that it was a particular issue at the time of the Buddha - trade was expanding and this brought with it particular challenges. Another answer is that it was the only aspect of social life that needed to be addressed -- because citizenship was not meaningful then and domestic life was well regulated. Another possible explanation, one that I find very plausible indeed, is that the Buddha wanted to criticise the caste system. One of the things determined by caste is one's livelihood, but the Buddha is saying no - it is not caste but ethics that should determine your livelihood.
What strikes me about Right Livelihood as a stage of the Eightfold Path is that it is concerned primarily with activity and secondarily with mental states, whereas all the other seven stages seem to me to be primarily concerned with mental states and secondarily with activity - even the stage of Right Action. The implication of this for me is that from the beginning there was an ethics of intention and an ethics of consequences. In other words, it is important what mental state you are in before you act and what is skilful or unskillful is determined by that mental state. Greed, hatred and delusion give rise to unskilfullness and generosity, love and wisdom give rise to skillfulness. This is the ethics of intention, the mental state determines whether an action is skilful or not.
However there are certain actions which are always unskillful. This is what the stage of right livelihood is saying. This is ethics determined by consequences. In other words, some actions have such disastrous consequences that it doesn't matter what the mental state of the perpetrator is -- they are just unskillful or to put it another way, some actions imply negative mental states. Under the heading of right livelihood the Buddha mentions trading in living beings, trading in poisons, trading in meat, intoxicants and weapons. These are to be avoided. And further to that, monks are to refrain from using divination and fortune-telling as a means of livelihood. So the implication here is that all of these activities are wrong in themselves. They are harmful to living beings and there is no way to perform these activities from a positive mental state. They can never be an expression of Metta or generosity or wisdom.
This is important because sometimes Buddhists are in danger of elevating the subjective and ignoring the objective. Sometimes we can talk and act as if meditation or mindfulness is the whole of Buddhism. But this limb of the eightfold path is reminding us that however mindful we are, however much bliss and rapture we experience in meditation, there are some things which are just plain wrong and cannot be purified from the inside out, so to speak.
The Noble Eightfold Path is a specific application of the more fundamental principle of pratitya samutpada (variously translated as dependent arising, conditioned co-production, the law of conditionality) - everything arises in dependence upon conditions. The Eightfold Path is pointing to the conditions which give rise to Insight and the mental states and ways of life which give expression to Insight, when it has arisen. The mundane Eightfold Path is indicating the conditions that give rise to knowledge and vision of things as they really are (yathabhutajnanadarshan) and the transcendental Eightfold Path gives expression to that Knowledge and Vision.
So right livelihood is part of the conditions for making spiritual progress. I think we could make the definition of right livelihood very wide indeed. The division that we take for granted between work as an activity separate from other activities is an artificial division that has grown up in money-based economies. We have come to see some of our activities as concerned with acquiring money and other activities as concerned with leisure etc. This division is not inherent in the nature of reality -- it is socially conditioned.
The notion that we have an economic life or a work life that is somehow separate from the rest of our life is a delusion. Just as the notion that we have a spiritual life is a delusion. Everything we do in our life has economic implications. When we have a shower in the morning - the shower gel, the shampoo, the water, the shower hose, all have economic implications. The toothpaste, the toothbrush, the towel, the hair dryer, the light bulb, the electricity - all of these are being consumed by us and produced and delivered by others. This web of activity has vast implications - economic, as well as environmental, political, spiritual, domestic and so on. Our livelihood involves us in earning and consuming.
Work came to be seen as separate from the rest of life when some members of a society were able to gather a surplus of requisites for themselves and force others to work on their behalf. In primitive societies the main concern was with survival and everything was geared towards that, including religious ritual, the sculpting of fertility figures or the painting of animal images in caves. Interestingly when some of the first European settlers encountered the Native Americans they thought they were very idle because all they did was hunt and fish. "While Indian women generally gathered plants and tilled fields, native men "for the most part live idlely, they doe nothing but hunt and fish," observed one New England minister. William Byrd II, the scion of a wealthy Virginia family, added that Indian men "are quite idle or at most employ'd only in the Gentlemanly Diversions of Hunting and Fishing." As these quotes suggest, in England hunting and fishing were considered recreational and were generally reserved for members of the gentry. They were vital, however, to the subsistence of native peoples. (Taken from Internet article)
The ancient Hebrews viewed work as a "curse devised by God explicitly to punish the disobedience and ingratitude of Adam and Eve" (Rose, 1985, p. 28) The ancient Greeks considered all work with contempt and saw it as a hindrance to the cultivation of the mind. The Greek word for work was 'ponos' which comes for the same root as 'pain'. The Romans carried on the attitudes of the Greeks and this was also an influence on early Christian monasticism. It wasn't until Martin Luther and the Reformation that attitudes to work began to change. Calvinism brought about the greatest change and gave birth to what has come to be known as the 'Protestant work ethic'. The Calvinists believed that only a select few - the Elect - were destined to be saved and one of the few ways of telling who was favoured by God was to note who was prosperous. If you were prosperous it was because God favoured you and therefore you were probably one of the Elect. To become prosperous you had to work hard.
By the 20th century work had become a commodity under the influence of industrialisation. There were some, from the 18th century onwards, who hearkened back to some Golden age when there was no separation between work and leisure and sought to recreate their fantasy of a primitive paradise. The majority had to head for the factories, mills and mines. Nowadays we are likely to hear people talk about the importance of the work/life balance. Work is one thing, life is another and the two must be balanced. This is an idea which seems to undermine itself.
I think we as Buddhists need to take a more holistic approach than the ancient Greeks and Romans with their dependence on slaves or the modern work/life balance gurus with their dependence on a dichotomy which is strengthened by any attempts to balance it.
Work is an activity that constitutes part of the economic aspect of life and no part of life is without an economic aspect. Whether we are earning or consuming, economics is involved. Economics is basically about energy. We are either expending our energy, saving our energy or using other people’s energy and all of that has a value, a monetary value.
So, for instance if I visit an Art Gallery here in Birmingham, it doesn't cost me anything. No monetary transaction takes place. But it would be foolish to think that my visit to the gallery somehow falls outside the economic realm. It all costs a lot of money, a huge expenditure of energy and it is my presence there that justifies that expenditure. Or, to take another example, if I sit down to meditate - the place where I am sitting, the cushions and mats I am sitting on, the shrine, the candles, the heating and so on, all represent a vast expenditure of energy. The fact that I am not too hungry or sick to meditate also has huge economic implications.
Our life is an economic activity from cradle to grave, from morning to night and indeed all through the night. And it has always been so. The Buddha and his followers were not engaged in earning, but they did consume and were dependent on others for their subsistence. Their lives were not divorced from economics because economics is about energy and every life involves the expenditure and consumption of energy in one form or other.
Coming back to livelihood and Right livelihood. Livelihood focuses on the expenditure of energy in the production and delivery of goods and services. Right Livelihood is a use of energy in this way that causes no harm to oneself or others. But, of course, the production and delivery of goods and services cannot be divorced from the consumption of goods and services. So, I would like to extend the meaning of Right Livelihood to cover both sides of this equation - production and delivery on one side and consumption on the other. So Right Livelihood then becomes the production, delivery and consumption of goods and services in such a manner that no harm is caused to oneself or others. The Pali term for Right Livelihood is Samyak Ajiva. The dictionary translates ajiva as 'livelihood' and also as 'mode of living'. So Samyak ajiva could be translated as Right Mode of Living or perhaps even Right Lifestyle. One could take this further and say that Right Livelihood as a stage of the Noble eightfold Path represents all altruistic activity or at least the attempt to make all activity altruistic and as such it is the beginnings of the Bodhisattva ideal. This is why I think Right Livelihood is part of the Eightfold Path. It is there because the Dharma is inherently compassionate and that compassion extends into all areas of life. Right Livelihood makes explicit the need for compassion in all our dealings with others and especially in this area of life that involves the production, delivery and consumption of goods and services. This area of life isn't really an area at all. It permeates into every detail of every moment of our lives. As we sit here we are consuming and therefore creating a demand for production. We are affecting the lives of people all over the world - the people who make our clothes, or the dye in those clothes, the washing powder we use, people who service buildings, work on oil platforms, in carpet factories and furniture factories and so on.
I am saying all this to make it obvious why Livelihood has to be included in spiritual practice and also to indicate that it is perhaps not as simple as it could at first seem from a glance at the Pali canon. A spiritual practice that ignores livelihood is like a mathematician ignoring equations.
The Buddha and his followers didn't work in the ordinary sense of the word. They expended their energy in meditation, Dharma discussion and teaching and they kept their needs to a minimum. They were valued by the society around them and given support to meet their basic needs for food, shelter, clothing and medicine. In 1968 when Bhante gave his lectures on the Eightfold Path, he encouraged his disciples to work as little as possible and to live simple lives with few needs. This was in keeping with the Buddhist tradition. It is worth noting that the consumption side of the equation was not ignored by the Buddha or Bhante. Having few needs or living a simple life means consuming less and this is an intrinsic part of any discussion about Right Livelihood.
Fourteen years later in 1982, Bhante said he would encourage those working in Team Based Right Livelihood situations to ‘work as much as possible or at least ‘as well as possible’. This is because with the development of co-ops, which later became Team Based Right Livelihood businesses, what was being developed was a new way of putting Buddhism into practice very fully, on a daily and hourly basis, in our western context. This was part of a new vision of what it meant to be a full time practitioner of the Dharma, which superseded the traditional Bhikkhu / laity split, which in much of the Buddhist world was no longer of much genuine spiritual benefit to either the Bhikkhus or the laity. It was also a development that gave women an equal opportunity to practice fully and engage in creating the conditions for the spiritual development of as many people as possible.
Team Based Right Livelihood businesses were to be ‘Right’ in the traditional sense of avoiding activities that caused harm. They were to be ‘businesses’ so that they could generate a surplus which was then used to make the Dharma available. They were to be ‘Team Based’ in the sense that the people in them would see themselves co-operating on a common project for the benefit of themselves and others.They were 'livelihood' in the sense of meeting the basic needs of those working in them.
So in principle a Team Based Right Livelihood venture was seen as a practice of exemplifying Metta, generosity and spiritual community. Each of these could be taken further. The ethics of Right Livelihood could be looked into more thoroughly and updated for our modern age. The aspect of generosity could be furthered by individuals deciding to take only enough money to meet their basic needs, leaving the rest to be given away. The spiritual community aspect, which is encompassed by the phrase ‘Team Based’, could be taken further through practices such as spiritual friendship, confession, telling life stories, taking on personal precepts and endeavouring to co-operate. In a sense their is no limit to the practice, because if taken seriously it continuously confronts egotism and encourages self-transcendence and selfless activity. Team Based right Livelihood has the potential to bring about the transformation of the individual practitioner and, by a process of exemplification and influence, to contribute to the transformation of the wider society.
That is the vision and the theory. What about the practice? What has happened in our Movement? Team Based Right Livelihood is listed by Bhante as one of the six distinctive emphases of the Movement. How have we got on with it? Do we practice it?
The short answer, at first glance, is that we haven’t got on very well and that not many of us do practise it. The longer answer is perhaps more complex. My own view at present is that Team Based Right Livelihood businesses may not survive in our Movement. As far as I can judge the evidence seems to be saying that Team Based Right Livelihood businesses are unlikely to survive. It may be that this particular practice, as recommended by Bhante, will have to be revived by a later generation or in a different culture. I think there may be more hope for Team based Right Livelihood to survive in the non-profit making sector ( i.e. Buddhist Centres, Retreat centres etc.,) although even here I think the practice in it’s purest form, of being on ‘support’ and living a simple life, rather than taking a wage or salary may have declined too. Although I am not currently optimistic about the survival of the practice of Team Based Right Livelihood businesses in our Movement, I am committed to the practice, because I believe it to be of crucial importance to the embedding of the Dharma in our western industrialised cultures, as well as being a very effective context to help individuals to progress spiritually.
Some years ago Subhuti gave a talk entitled Bodhisattvas in the Market Place, in which he takes a very thorough look at the whole topic of Right Livelihood. That talk was published in 2003 in a booklet entitled Roads to Freedom. I would recommend it to anyone interested in this topic. In his talk Subhuti, very skillfully and clearly draws out six different ways of practising Right Livelihood, from simply engaging in ethical work at one end of the spectrum to the Team Based Right Livelihood enterprise at the other end. I think Subhuti’s approach is very helpful and I hope many more people will read and study his lecture, which shines a light on this important area of practice.
I am making a different distinction here, a distinction between two different kinds of Team Based Right Livelihood. That is the distinction between a profit making enterprise and a non- profit making enterprise, or more simply the distinction between a business and a charity. I think we have sometimes failed to be clear about this distinction in the Movement – or at least some people have been unclear about it. I have heard of the twin absurdities of some people thinking that a business should not be trying to make a profit and others thinking that a charity should be trying to make a profit. This kind of unclarity can only be detrimental. It can lead to confusion about the nature of the practice and how to practice. If you don’t have a commonly held view of what you are trying to achieve, then it is not possible to co-operate in achieving it.
This is just one issue that has been problematic in our attempts to practice Team Based Right Livelihood. There are I think a number of other issues which I will just touch on, before finishing with a few thoughts about what I think would need to happen if the practice of Team Based Right Livelihood business is to be rescued and developed in our Movement.
Another issue that comes to mind is to do with what I consider to be a certain amount of confusion about what a team is and how it should function. This confusion may stem from some things Bhante has said over the years about co-ops and co-operation. Here is an example from a Question and Answer session in Baker St., Buddhist centre in 1983.
“When you are working in a co-operative you are working together. As for ‘working’ everybody knows what that is, but ‘together’ is not me telling you what to do or you telling me what to do: in a co-operative you are all working together. To do anything together is very difficult indeed. Usually one person is the ‘leader’, the other the ‘follower’. One person takes the initiative and the other person allows them to take the initiative. One person is ‘active’, the other ‘passive’ – with or without unconscious, or semi-conscious or semi-unconscious, resentment or resistance. Whether between two people. Or three, four or a larger number of people, this is the usual situation. You very rarely get actual co-operation.
Co-operation means you all put your cards on the table. You consider what is to be done, and what is the best way of doing it. You consider this person’s suggestion and that person’s suggestion, and having discussed the matter in this way and agreed on a certain line of action you all pool your energies and your ideas, your abilities and your skills and, because you have a common objective, you all work together. No-one is trying to order anyone around. No-one is shirking his or her share of responsibility. No-one is having to take more responsibility than they really should. This is a co-operative situation. In such a situation you are very aware of other people. You make no attempt to impose yourself upon them. There is no question of ‘power’. A co-operative of any kind functions entirely in accordance with the love mode – and that isn’t easy. In a genuine co-op situation you abdicate the power mode absolutely. Only the love mode is ‘allowed’ to operate, or to have effect. If you are working in this way, or relating to others in this way, there is a sort of abnegation of your individualism, your egoism. “
This seems to me to be a strong statement of the ideal at which we are aiming, with everybody equally committed and continuously effectively Going for Refuge to the Three Jewels. It’s a statement about the self-transcendence that can come from confronting egotism and co-operating to achieve an objective goal. I don’t take it to be a statement about business management techniques or the best way to distribute responsibility and tasks.
However this kind of statement from Bhante has sometimes been taken to mean that everybody must be involved in making every decision and in discussing every aspect of a business. It has sometimes been taken to mean that no-one should manage a business. At it’s worst this can lead to endless discussions about trivialities and the stultifying of initiative or entrepreneurial flair. That is a recipe for failure in the world of business, which is pretty unforgiving of inefficiency. I have seen some of our businesses limp from week to week under this kind of levelling ideology.
Another misunderstanding that has arisen over the years arises from one of the aims of Team Based Right Livelihood being described as “ to provide a situation within which the workers can experience spiritual friendship in a way that will conduce to their spiritual growth” or Team Based Right Livelihood being spoken of as a “supportive context” for spiritual practice. Some people have interpreted this to mean that they will and should receive a certain amount of spiritual friendship, in the way that the chick in the nest receives food from it’s mother. In other words a certain amount of passivity entered into Team Based right Livelihood businesses with some people joining in the expectation that something spiritual would be given to them, provided for them, without them having to do anything. This often led to the phenomenon of someone not pulling their weight and being shocked and disappointed when it became clear that others had expectations of them.
Another issue that has arisen over the years is that people have been recruited into Team Based Right Livelihood on the basis that they identified themselves as Buddhists and regardless of whether they had any aptitude or ability for the work. This was identified as an issue by Bhante back in 1980. Here is a quote from a seminar he did with some women on the Ethics and manners section of the Jewel Ornament of Liberation :
“One of the biggest lessons of the last year or so is that, in order to establish the New Society, though you cannot do it without individuals, you cannot do it simply with individuals who are lacking in competence in certain areas. That is, in a way, quite a sobering thought. Individuality is indispensible: that is the foundation of the whole thing; but, by itself, in certain respects in isn’t enough. It is enough to take a meditation class. It’s enough for the sake of your own spiritual practice. But it’s not enough when it comes to setting up something which must function objectively and successfully in the world. You have got to have, then, in addition to individuality, know how, and practical experience, and certain abilities and capacities. This has become more evident to us than it was before.” However, although this was evident to Bhante and others thirty years ago, for various reasons it wasn’t possible to fully act on it. I think it was only about five or six years ago that this problem was fully recognised in Windhorse and I think it probably hasn’t been recognised yet in some situations. This led to many unfortunate situations, with some people taking on more responsibility than they were capable of and becoming very stressed as a result, and some teams becoming very dysfunctional.
Related to this is another issue, also probably the result of a misunderstanding – a misunderstanding of Metta and compassion. This is the issue of allowing untenable situations to carry on for far too long. Asking someone to leave a situation would be seen as unkind or exercising the power mode or risking conflict. I have known of communities where everybody else would rather leave than ask the difficult person to go.
Another problem that has sometimes arisen in Team Based Right Livelihood is a tension between work relationships and spiritual relationships. A Kalyana Mitra might feel the need to say something as Kalyana Mitra which might have a detrimental effect on a working relationship or they might feel the need to say something as a work colleague that might have a bad effect on the friendship. This kind of issue can be amplified when a management structure is in place.
Another issue that has dogged Team Based Right Livelihood businesses over the years is a lack of entrepreneurial spirit or business sense – sometimes leading to lacklustre businesses or poor decision making and an inability to look outwards to see trends and opportunities.
Then there has been the issue of not enough Order Members engaging with the practice of Team Based right Livelihood, with the result that too much was expected of relatively new people. The complete practice of Team Based Right Livelihood and community living – give what you can take what you need, co-operation, idealism etc., demands high levels of inspiration and committment.
Another drawback has been that people would frequently have a positive response to working with other Buddhists but no feeling of interest in the particular business. Allied to this is the perennial difficulty of staying in touch with the bigger vision and the spiritual aspirations that are the motivating force.
And sometimes the semi-monastic lifestyle was given a bad reputation by a certain harshness and regimentation that crept into some situations.
The phrase ‘give what you can, take what what you need’, has also been very problematic at times. The little word ‘need’ can cause all sorts of difficulties and be interpreted in wide variety of ways.
Given all these issues and problems ( and there may be others I haven’t thought of) it is a wonder that we have managed to create any Team Based Right Livelihood enterprises at all.
I think we have been more successful with the non-profit making enterprises such as Buddhist Centres and Retreat Centres, than with businesses - the notable exception being Windhorse:Evolution.
Three reasons for this that come to mind are:
In running a Buddhist Centre it is probably easier to stay in touch with the spiritual aspiration and spiritual vision that motivates the work. Secondly, Order Members and especially senior and experienced Order Members are more likely to be involved in Centres and thirdly, you can probably get by with less business acumen – indeed, business acumen might even be a hindrance at times.
It could be, then, that the future of Team Based Right Livelihood is more likely to evolve in non-profit making enterprises; Buddhist Centres, Retreat Centres and other charities. The main problem that I see with this is that it would be in danger of perpetuating the traditional split between full-timers who can’t make a living without the financial support of a wider community and that wider community who rely on the full-timers to do too much on their behalf. Team Based Right Livelihood businesses overcome that split because Buddhists are both practising together and generating wealth.
If we are to rescue and develop the practice of Team Based Right Livelihood businesses, then I think we have a lot of work to do as a Movement.
Here is what I think needs to happen:
Firstly, Many more Order Members, who are effectively Going for Refuge, would need to be motivated to practice within the semi-monastic framework recommended by Bhante, i.e. working in Team Based Right Livelihood on a ‘give what you can, take what you need’ basis, living a simple life in terms of comsumption of resources and living in single-sex communities. This is the bedrock on which the practice of team Based Right Livelihood rests. There is of course plenty of room for others to live alone or with partners or families, but the foundation of the semi-monastic lifestyle is essential. The emphasis here is on simplicity of lifestyle.
Secondly, the practices of semi-monasticism and Team Based Right Livelihood would need to be valued within the Order and Movement as a valid Insight practice. They would need to be valued in the same way that other practices are valued – such as Dharma teaching, going on retreat, meditating, studying or doing rituals. As Bhante puts it “ Insight can arise if you are working in the right sort of way. If you function, patiently and persistently, in accordance with the love mode, - if you refuse to invoke the power mode- if you are continually transcending your narrow individualism - if you really are co-operating, - if you’re sensitive to the other person’s needs and abilities, - if you really have a common aim, - if you really see through your individualistic narrowness.”
Thirdly, I think it needs to be widely recognised that the quality of our Order is dependent on the quality of relationships between people. The depth of those relationships is influenced by how much time people spend together and how many different situations they experience each other in. If our knowledge of each other comes from a weekly meeting for a chat that will lead to a particular experience. If we always meet someone on retreat that will lead to another very particular experience of them. If we generally meet someone at a class at the Centre that is another very defined experience. If we live with someone we see much more of them and we see them at their best and their worst – we get a fuller picture of them and they get a fuller picture of us. If we not only live with someone but also work with them, we get an even more complete view of them. We experience not only how they relate to us but also how they relate to others. We experience not only their conversation but also their actions. My experience is that working with others is a more intense and demanding practice than community living and consequently, for those who engage with it fully a very rewarding practice. It concerns me that we are increasingly accepting people into the Order who have never lived or worked with their Kalyana Mitras or Preceptors. It is my view that at least some experience of the semi-monastic life should be part of everyone’s preparation for ordination and part of everyone’s Order life, in the same way that going on retreat is. Even it was only for a few months or a year.
Fourthly, I believe that the practice of Team Based Right Livelihood business needs to be elucidated in more detail by those with the ability to communicate. One issue here is that often those doing it don’t have the time to talk about it. There is a body of knowledge and practice that is not being fully shared in the Movement. In recent years we have had some very articulate expositions of the practices of meditation and mindfulness coming out of the Order. We need an equally lucid and attractive exposition of the semi-monastic life and of team Based Right Livelihood in particular. Some of the areas that need more detailed elucidation are: what is meant by a team in this context? What is the role of leadership? What is the place of consensus decision making? How does a Team Based Right Livelihood business interact with legal and commercial requirements? What does ‘give what you can, take what you need’ really mean in practice? and so on. I tried to address some of these issues myself in a talk I gave in 1998, entitled The Spiritual Significance of Team Based Right Livelihood, which was published in a booklet and which is now available on the Internet (http://www.angelfire.com/wizard/ratnaghosa/index.html ) (http://ratnaghosha.blogspot.com/ )
In his book Living Ethically, Bhante says Right Livelihood is “ work you would do regardless of how much or how little you were paid for it”. (p. 56) This is to set a very high standard. It is a standard that has been seriously challenged as people in the Order have grown older and become more concerned about issues of financial security and well-being. It has also been seriously challenged by the consumerist values of the wider society, which are so all pervasive and so persuasive. However the Order is still in it’s infancy, historically speaking, and there will inevitably be major changes in the wider society over the coming century, which may make the the practice of semi-monasticism – communal living and ethical working – seem much more normal and sensible and obvious than is currently the case.
Our Movement is unique in it’s teachings on the New Society. As Robert Bluck says in his book British Buddhism “No other [British Buddhist] tradition, has developed such a distinctive social organisation, with its single-sex communities, Right Livelihood businesses and a new Buddhist Order which is neither monastic nor lay”
I believe the practice of semi-monasticism and Team Based Right Livelihood is of obvious benefit to individuals and to society. I believe these practices do constitute a sensible norm and other more conventional frameworks are deeply flawed. I believe that the practice of Team Based Right livelihood in the context of a business is particularly helpful in avoiding any split between full-time and part-time Buddhists and in embedding the Dharma in industrialised cultures. It is because I believe this that I have willingly dedicated my life to this vision.
So I have talked about Right livelihood in a general way and said that Samyak Ajiva could be seen to include both the production and consumption of goods and services. This could be supported by the secondary translation of ajiva as ‘mode of living’. I outlined what I think have been various issues and problems for Team Based Right Livelihood businesses and I have mentioned four things I think will need to be in place if the practice of Team Based Right Livelihood in business is to be rescued and developed.
Finally, I have not said anything about The Tantric Guru, which was the title Dhammaloka gave me. I will finish with a quote from Bhante, from a seminar he gave in 1979 on Advice to the Three Fortunate Women. I’ll leave you to draw your own conclusions about how it relates to Team Based Right Livelihood and why Bhante on another occasion referred to work in team based right livelihood businesses as the Tantric Guru.
“ mental, philosophical, ethical, rational teaching, doesn’t really penetrate down to quite deep levels of the psyche where there are very powerful energies which can be represented or symbolised in terms of gods and demons and so on. That mode of teaching just doesn’t penetrate deeply enough. So Padmasambhava (the Tantric Guru)has to be called in. His kind of teaching, his approach is able to do this. The Four Noble Truths, Noble Eightfold Path – that is all very good, it’s all very beautiful, it certainly has a great effect. People follow it. But on a broader front, even though individuals may gain liberation through following that teaching, in the world all sorts of deeper forces and energies are churned up and come into opposition. It’s as though the initial promulgation of a teaching, in the course of it’s very success, stirs up or churns up very basic energies in human beings, not just indibidfually but perhaps socially speaking, which later on have to be brought under control by some more radical presentation of the teaching. Padmasambhava, (the Tantric Guru,) represents that. “
Is the Tantric Guru, as Bhante uses the term in relation to team based Right Livelihood, dead or alive? Will the Tantric Guru live or die in our Movement? It depends on us. I don't believe it depends on what we think, I don't believe it depends on what we feel, I don't believe it depends on what we want, I believe it depends on what we do.