...Buddhism for Urban America
Urban Dharma Newsletter... December 10, 2002
An Excerpt From Small Is Beautiful
...By E.F. Schumacher
2. Protestant versus Buddhist Economics ...by John Dwyer
3. The Economy of Gifts ...Thanissaro Bhikkhu
4. Two New Articles on Buddhism and Economics @ www.UrbanDharma.org
6. Book Review: Building a Business
the Buddhist Way: A Practitioner's Guide
7. Temple/Center of the Week: The
Arrow River Community Center
An Excerpt From Small Is Beautiful: Economics as If People
Mattered ...By E.F. Schumacher
is universal agreement that a fundamental source of wealth is
human labour. Now, the modern economist has been brought up
to consider "labour" or work as little more than a
necessary evil. From the point of view of the employer, it is
in any case simply an item of cost, to be reduced to a minimum
if it cannot be eliminated altogether, say, by automation. From
the point of view from the workman, it is a "disutility";
to work is to make a sacrifice of one's leisure and comfort,
and wages are a kind of compensation for the sacrifice. Hence
the ideal from the point of view of the employer is to have
output without employees, and the ideal from the point of view
from the employee is to have income without employment.
consequences of these attitudes both in theory and in practice
are, of course, extremely far-reaching. If the ideal with regard
to work is to get rid of it, every method that "reduces
the work load" is a good thing. The most potent method,
short of automation, is the so-called "division of labour"
and the classical example is the pin factory eulogised in Adam
Smith's Wealth of Nations. Here it is not a matter of ordinary
specialisation, which mankind has practised from time immemorial,
but of dividing up every complete process of production into
minute parts, so that the final product can be produced at great
speed without anyone having had to contribute more than a totally
insignificant and, in most cases, unskilled movement of his
Buddhist point of view takes the function of work to be at least
threefold: to give man a chance to utilise and develop his faculties;
to enable him to overcome his ego-centredness by joining with
other people in a common task; and to bring forth goods and
services needed for a becoming existence. Again, the consequences
that flow from this view are endless. To organise work in such
a manner that it becomes meaningless, boring, stultifying, or
nerve-racking for the worker would be little short of criminal;
it would indicate a greater concern with goods than with people,
an evil lack of compassion and a soul-destroying degree of attachment
to the most primitive side of this worldy existence. Equally,
to strive for leisure as an alternative to work would be considered
a complete misunderstanding of one of the basic truths of human
existence, namely that work and leisure are complementary parts
of the same living process and cannot be separated without destroying
the joy of work and the bliss of leisure.
the Buddhist point of view, there are therefore two types of
mechanisation which must be clearly distinguished: one that
enhances a man's skill and power and one that turns the work
of man over to a mechanical slave, leaving man in a position
of having to serve the slave. How to tell one from the other?
"The craftsman himself," says Ananda Coomaraswamy,
a man equally competent to talk about the modern west as the
ancient east, "can always, if allowed to, draw the delicate
distinction between the machine and the tool. The carpet loom
is a tool, a contrivance for holding warp threads at a stretch
for the pile to be woven round them by the craftsmen's fingers;
but the power loom is a machine, and its significance as a destroyer
of culture lies in the fact that it does the essentially human
part of the work." It is clear, therefore, that Buddhist
economics must be very different from the economics of modern
materialism, since the Buddhist sees the essence of civilisation
not in a multiplication of wants but in the purification of
human character. Character, at the same time, is formed primarily
by man's work. And work, properly conducted in conditions of
human dignity and freedom, blesses those who do it and equally
their products. The Indian philosopher and economist J.C. Kumarappa
sums the matter up as follows:
the nature of the work is properly appreciated and applied,
it will stand in the same relation to the higher faculties as
food is to the physical body. It nourishes and enlivens the
higher man and urges him to produce the best he is capable of.
It directs his free will along the proper course and disciplines
the animal in him into progressive channels. It furnishes an
excellent background for man to display his scale of values
and develop his personality.
a man has no chance of obtaining work he is in a desperate position,
not simply because he lacks an income but because he lacks this
nourishing and enlivening factor of disciplined work which nothing
can replace. A modern economist may engage in highly sophisticated
calculations on whether full employment "pays" or
whether it might be more "economic" to run an economy
at less than full employment so as to ensure a greater mobility
of labour, a better stability of wages, and so forth. His fundamental
criterion of success is simply the total quantity of goods produced
during a given period of time. "If the marginal urgency
of goods is low," says professor Galbraith in The Affluent
Society, "then so is the urgency of employing the last
man or the last million men in the labour foce." And again:
"If...we can afford some unemployment in the interest of
stability--a proposition, incidentally, of impeccably conservative
antecedents--then we can afford to give those who are unemployed
the goods that enable them to sustain their accustomed standard
a Buddhist point of view, this is standing the truth on its
head by considering goods as more important than people and
consumption as more important than creative activity. It means
shifting an emphasis from the worker to the product of work,
that is, from the human to the subhuman, a surrender to the
forces of evil.
the materialist is mainly interested in goods, the Buddhist
is mainly interested in liberation. But Buddhism is "The
Middle Way" and therefore in no way antagonistic to physical
well-being. It is not wealth that stands in the way of liberation
but the attachment to wealth; not the enjoyment of pleasurable
things but the craving for them. The keynote of Buddhist economics,
therefore, is simplicity and non-violence. From an economist's
point of view, the marvel of the Buddhist way of life is the
utter rationality of its pattern--amazingly small means leading
to extraordinarily satisfactory results.
the modern economist this is very difficult to understand. He
is used to measuring the "standard of living" by the
amount of annual consumption, assuming all the time that a man
who consumes more is "better off" than a man who consumes
less. A Buddhist economist would consider this approach excessively
irrational: since consumption is merely a means to human well-being,
the aim should be to obtain the maximum well-being with the
minimum of consumption....The ownership and the consumption
of goods is a means to an end, and Buddhist economics is the
systematic study of how to attain given ends with the minimum
economics, on the other hand, considers consumption to be the
sole end and purpose of all economic activity, tasking the factors
of production--land, labour, and capital--as the means. The
former, in short, tries to maximize human satisfactions by the
optimal patten of consumption, while the latter tries to maximize
consumption by the optimal pattern of productive effort. It
is easy to see that the effort needed to sustain a way of life
which seeks to attain the optimal pattern of consumption is
likely to be much smaller than the effort needed to sustain
a drive for maximum consumption. We need not be surprised, therefore,
that the pressure and strain of living is very much less in,
say, Burma than it is in the United States, in spite of the
fact that the amount of labour-saving machinery used in the
former country is only a minute fraction of the amount used
in the latter.
and non-violence are obviously closely related. The optimal
pattern of consumption, producing a high degree of human satisfaction
by means of a relatively low rate of consumption, allows people
to live without great pressure and strain and to fulfil the
primary injunction of Buddhist teaching: "Cease to do evil;
try to do good." As physical resources are everywhere limited,
people satisfying their needs by means of a modest use of resources
are obviously less likely to be at each other's throats than
people depending upon a high rate of use. Equally, people who
live in highly self-sufficient local communities are less likely
to get involved in large-scale violence than people whose existence
depends on world-wide systems of trade.
the point of view of Buddhist economics, therefore, production
from local resources for local needs is the most rational way
of economic life, while dependence on imports from afar and
the consequent need to produce for export to unknown and distant
peoples is highly uneconomic and justifiable only in exceptional
cases, and on a small scale. Just as the modern economist would
admit that a high rate of consumption of transport services
between a man's home and his place of work signifies a misfortune
and not a high standard of life, so the Buddhist economist would
hold that to satisfy human wants from faraway sources rather
than from sources nearby signifies failure rather than success.
The former tends to statistics showing an increase in the number
of ton/miles per head of the population carried by a country's
transport system as proof of economic pro-gress, while to the
latter--the Buddhist economist--the same statistics would indicate
a highly undesirable deterioration in the pattern of consumption.
striking difference between modern economics and Buddhist economics
arises over the use of natural resources. Bertrand de Jouvenel,
the eminent French political philosopher, has characterised
"western man" in words which may be taken as a fair
description of the modern economist:
tends to count nothing as an expenditure, other than human effort;
he does not seem to mind how much mineral mater he wastes and,
far worse, how much living matter he destroys. He does not seem
to realise at all that human life is a dependent part of an
ecosystem of many different forms of life. As the world is ruled
from towns where men are cut off from any form of life other
than human, the feeling of belonging to an ecosystem is not
revived. This results in a harsh and improvident treatment of
things upon which we ultimately depend, such as water and trees.
teaching of the Buddha, on the other hand, enjoins a reverent
and non-violent attitude not only to all sentient beings but
also, with great emphasis, to trees. Every follower of the Budha
ought to plant a tree every few years and look after it until
it is safely established, and the Buddhist economist can demonstrate
without difficulty that the universal observation of this rule
would result in a high rate of genuine economic development
independent of any foreign aid. Much of the economic decay of
south-east Asia (as of many other parts of the world) is undoubtedly
due to a heedless and shameful neglect of trees.
economics does not distinguish between renewable and non-renewable
materials, as its very method is to equalise and quantify everything
by means of a money price. Thus, taking various alternative
fuels, like coal, oil, wood, or water-power: the only difference
between them recognised by modern economics is relative cost
per equivalent unit. The cheapest is automatically the one to
be preferred, as to do otherwise would be irrational and "uneconomic."
From a Buddhist point of view, of course, this will not do;
the essential difference between non-renewable fuels like coal
and oil on the one hand and renewable fuels like wood and water-power
on the other cannot be simply overlooked. Non-renewable goods
must be used only if they are indispensable, and then only with
the greatest care and the most meticulous concern for conservation.
To use them heedlessly or extravagantly is an act of violence,
and while complete non-violence may not be attainable on this
earth, there is nontheless an ineluctable duty on man to aim
at the ideal of non-violence in all he does.
as a modern European economist would not consider it a great
economic achievement if all European art treasures were sold
to America at attractive prices, so the Buddhist economicst
would insist that a population basing its economic life on non-renewable
fuels is living parasitically, on capital instead of income.
Such a way of life could have no permanence and could therefore
be justified only as a purely temporary expedient. As the world's
resources of non-renewable fuels--coal, oil and natural gas--are
exceedingly unevenly distributed over the globe and undoubtedly
limited in quantity, it is clear that their exploitation at
an ever-increasing rate is an act of violence against nature
which must almost inevitably lead to violence between men.
fact alone might give food for thought even to those people
in Buddhist countries who care nothing for the religious heritage
and ardently desire to embrace materialism of modern economics
at the fastest possible speed. Before they dismiss Buddhist
economics as nothing better than a nostalgic dream, they might
wish to consider whether the path of economic development outlined
by modern economics is likely to lead them to places they really
want to be. Towards the end of his courageous book The Challenge
of Man's Future, Professor Harrison Brown of the California
Institute of Technology gives the following appraisal:
we see that, just as industrial society is fundamentally unstable
and subject to reversion to agrarian existence, so within it
the conditions which offer individual freedom are unstable in
their ability to avoid the conditions which impose rigid organisation
and totalitarian control. Indeed, when we examine all of the
foreseeable difficulties which threaten the survival of industrial
civilisation, it is difficult to see how the achievement of
stability and the maintenance of individual liberty can be made
if this were dismissed as a long-term view there is the immediate
question of whether "modernisation," as currently
practised without regard to religious and spiritual values,
is actually producing agreeable results. As far as the masses
are concerned, the results appear to be disastrous--a collapse
of the rural economy, a rising tide of unemployment in town
and country, and the growth of a city proletariat without nourishment
for either body or soul.
is in the light of both immediate experience and long-term prospects
that the study of Buddhist economics could be recommended even
to those who believe that economic growth is more important
than any spiritual or religious values. For it is not a question
of choosing between "modern growth" and "traditional
stagnation." It is a question of finding the right
path of development, the Middle Way between materialist heedlessness
and traditional immobility, in short, of finding "Right
Protestant versus Buddhist Economics
...by John Dwyer
his essay "Can Technology Be Humane", Paul Goodman
makes an interesting claim about the nature of modern science
and technology. Basically, he argues that there is nothing intrinsically
wrong with a technological civilization but rather that
the problem lies in the way that it has been dominated by government
bureaucrats, self-interested corporations, and a bloated educational
system. The fundamental failure of modern civilization is that
it has become over-technologized.
believes that the twin western emphasis on rationalism and the
scientific way of life is a good thing. These concepts
reflect not only our culture but also encompass our moral
core. They have been prostituted to the extent that mechanical
systems of production and the bureaucratic emphases on centralization
and specialization are destroying personal relationships and
community values. The term destruction is highly appropriate
because modern science and technology:
No longer can claim to be improving the quality of life
of the inhabitants of the advanced countries.
Are wasteful, not only in the production of entirely unnecessary
goods and gadgets but also in the duplication of efforts.
Treat human beings as things rather than serve their
Create incredibly complex systems that can no longer solve local
or community problems effectively.
Result in ecological breakdown.
Reward triviality, corruption, and phoniness.
of these problems is inherent in science and technology itself,
argues Goodman. They are the effect of moral corruption. Science
and technology have fallen willingly under the dominion of money
attempt to solve this problem is partial and traditional.
For example, he claims that a moral reformation must
occur that puts technology and science back into its rightful
place. In other words, he advocates a return to the moral
values of the Western (i.e. largely Protestant) past without
being able to say exactly what shape that reformation will take.
But he does provide some guidelines by suggesting that the new
reformation will involve considerable decentralization and
localization of the funding for scientific and technological
research. Moreover, there will need to be a new emphasis on
the more prudent development of technology to serve human
needs. Finally, future technological development will need to
be more ecologically sound, meaning that researchers
will need to focus onthe appropriateness of technology
to the physical and human environments where it will be applied.
agenda means a return to a more pure and ethically sound form
of the scientific way of life. Despite the fact that
Goodman believes that communal decisions are too important to
leave to scientists and technicians; and despite his interest
in the development of scientifically knowledgeable citizens;
Goodman has a special role for those engaged in the scientific
and technological professions. He wants to revive scientific
and technological attitudes that existed in the past:
three hundred years, science and scientific technology had an
unblemished and justified reputation as a wonderful adventure,
pouring out practical benefits, and liberating the spirit from
the errors of superstition and traditional fail. During this
century they have finally been the only generally credited system
of explanation and problem solving.
key to reformation is to develop scientific and technological
professionals with character and moral fibre. They should
be trained not only in their specialization, but also in the
"social sciences, law, the fine arts, and medicine, as
well as relevant natural sciences."
new kind of scientific and technological professional - the
technologist - will be an individual who accepts responsibility
for his/her actions; stands up to "the front office and
urban politicians"; and belongs to a professional organization
that supports this new ethic of responsibility. Thus, Goodman
is able to get around the major problem facing those who believe
in the power of technology when wisely used - the fact that
it gives those engaged in science and technology considerable
power in wider society.
there are lots of problems in Goodman's reformation scenario.
While he suggests that modern technology society is a highly
complex and interlocked system, he appears to believe
that we can still return to the more simple values of the past.
While he decries the modern educational system - with its specializations
endless "catechism of tests" - he still believes that
the education of scientists and technicians can somehow be reformed
and made more ethically meaningful. Goodman puts his faith in
a spiritual revival that he sees developing all around
him as people begin to question the loss of meaning in modern
life in affluent societies.
emphasis is on a spiritual revival. He thinks that the "present
difficulty is religious and historical". Simply to try
to eliminate corruption or change institutions would not be
sufficient for Goodman. What is really necessary is "to
alter the entire relationship of science, technology, and social
needs both in men's minds and in fact." He thinks that
it is because the spiritual, or moral focus if you will,
has been lost, that we have got ourselves into a serious problem.
He thinks that problem is evidenced in modern culture. As he
says: "Without moral philosophy, people have nothing but
sentiments." We can see those inchoate sentiments displayed
on talk shows like Oprah every day, when people without any
clear philosophy of life clap whenever they hear a sentiment
with which they can agree.
emphasis on spiritual revival is intrinsically western, i.e.
Protestant. Goodman doesn't really define this Protestant mind
set very well, but clearly it involves a certain set of values
A commitment to western rationalism and, in particular, scientific
Faith in the freedom and power of the individual.
A desire to investigate God?s nature and discover (not manufacture)
A firm belief in the power of science and technology to improve
the human condition.
you tease out some of these western values, however,
you might want to ask yourself whether they are not part of
the problem rather than the solution. The emphasis on logic
and reason tends to lead towards excessive rationalism and the
loss of a spiritual core. The hegemony of the individual leads,
if not towards selfishness, at least towards self-centeredness.
The attempt to discover nature's secrets implies scientific
complexity and the kind of specialization that givens science
and technology a hegemonic position. The belief in the power
of science and technology elevates those activities even further
until they become a substitute for spirituality.
criticisms are especially valid if one stops to look at the
structure of Goodman's argument. The article hinges on spirituality,
but there is nothing especially spiritual about Goodman's argument.
If this is a "Protestant" analysis, then why is there
no discussion of heaven or the relationship between heaven and
earth. Goodman appears to want to define his spirituality
in terms of moral philosophy, but that only begs the question.
How can a moral philosophy be spiritual without a deeper religious
core? If moral philosophy replaces religion doesn't that pave
the way for making any kind of spiritual argument irrelevant.
What Goodman mentions but doesn't show us is the way that Western
rationalism (particularly Protestantism) evolved into a special
combination of materialism with bureaucratic rationalism that
made science and technology less humane.
the fact that Western rationalism has led to greater materialism
and less spirituality, it is not surprising that many of those
who seek to reassert an element of spirituality into our modern
technology have looked to other spiritual systems. One of the
most influential religious systems that are transforming our
way of looking at science and technology is Buddhism. In "Buddhist
Economics", for example, E.F. Schumacher tries to show
us that Buddhism offers an alternative spiritual approach that
could help not only the advanced nations but also those nations
that are confronting scientific and technological development
in an effort to improve the conditions of life in poor regions.
was a German born, British practicing, economist. His understanding
of Buddhism is limited largely to a few basic principles such
as: right livelihood, the middle way, non-violence and
the eight-fold path. He applies these principles rather crudely
in his own philosophy of appropriate or intermediate
technology. Before discussing his argument, therefore, we
might want to say a few things about Buddhism and its spiritual
is sometimes describes as religion without a God. There is no
God in Buddhism because spirituality revolves around a personal
awakening. That awakening, usually achieved through meditation,
allows the individual to realize that there is no such thing
as the self and that all life is interconnected. The
spiritual core of Buddhism is self-annihilation or nothing.
Once the interconnectedness of life is understood there is no
thing that anyone can cling to. Liberation is achieved through
letting go of all attachments. The full process of liberation
can take a long time, since Buddhists believe in reincarnation.
life is interconnected and even inert materials like rocks are
at some level animate for the Buddhist. The unnecessary destruction
of any living thing is a consequence of believing that all things
are on a spiritual path towards awakening. To perform unnecessary
violence on any living thing, especially the higher forms of
mammals, is morally wrong for Buddhists, who practice the principle
of non-violence. Some monks will even try to stay as still as
humanly possible so as not to disturb even the microscopic forms
of life around them.
some stricter forms of Buddhism, the practical consequences
of this position can be quite extreme. The individual focuses
totally on the awakening process and gives up everything that
is not necessary to support life. The Buddhist monk carries
a begging bowl and receives food from others, who benefit spiritual
by supporting those who are on a more direct path to
enlightenment. The monk gives up all craving for material objects,
living as simply as possible so as not to be deflected from
his/her goal. In strict monastic societies, almost all forms
of technology are considered useless since they do not
further one?s spiritual journey.
is usually the less strict forms of Buddhism that interest Western
critics of science and technology. These forms of Buddhism,
including Zen, are not monkish, at least not in the traditional
sense. Practitioners believe that spirituality is not only for
austere monks but that the average person can achieve an awakening.
The average individual, of course, has to live and work in the
material world. In order to make a living, individuals will
need to utilize the different forms of technology that are available.
Living and working in the material world is often referred to
as the "Middle Way" to spiritual development. It means
being able to live and work in the world but without clinging
to worldly things.
is a difficult concept to translate. But basically it involves
appreciating the things of this life - love, sex, food, clothing,
shelter, and cultural trappings - for what they are and nothing
more. One can enjoy the things of this life even more as a Buddhist
because one isn't so attached to them as to crave them. Craving
things means objectifying and deifying objects. It implies
greed and possessiveness. It involves violence
in trying to control things and competitiveness with
others to get one?s share of them.
Middle Way involves moderation. A Buddhist can take what
they need from the material world, but they lose their spiritual
center whenever the things of this world take over their minds.
Also, since everything is connected, any abuse of the things
of this world, through over consumption or waste, means committing
violence on nature. Nature, of course, means both human
nature and the physical world since there is not the same distinction
that exists in Christianity. Whereas in Christianity, man is
given dominance over nature, in Buddhist mankind and nature
are one. Any harm done to nature is the same as doing harm to
in the material world is doable for the moderate Buddhist but
only on his/her own terms. In any society, there will exist
a range of occupations or ways of making a living. Many of these
are harmful or wasteful occupations that any self-respecting
Buddhist would naturally shun. As for those occupations that
are not intrinsically wrong, a moderate Buddhist would tend
to choose ones that "nourished and enlivened the higher
man and urged him to produce the best he is capable of."
In other words, one's occupation should be more than simply
a way of making a living, it should encourage the development
of one's spiritual personality.
is an important term in moderate Buddhism. It is important not
to get it confused with the Christian, specifically Protestant,
concept of work. In Protestant theology, work is a way of disciplining
ourselves and keeping our bodies and ourselves obedient. We
discover fulfillment through the pursuit of our vocation,
which we are supposed to do to the best of our ability. But,
as fulfilling as work is, it still remains a punishment for
our sins. In the moderate forms of Buddhism, whatever one does,
particularly one's work, is part of one's spiritual path. Labour,
particularly labour that is of benefit to others, is fundamentally
Protestantism, it doesn't matter what one does for a living,
provided it is not evil. The point is individual discipline
and self-control. The emphasis is on the self-development of
the worker. In Buddhism, the relationship is much more complex,
the kind of work that one does really matters and the entire
point of labour is the maximization of selflessness. Whatever
one does, one does it to the best degree possible, not out of
a desire for individual creativity or achievement, but out of
a selfless desire to contribute to the well being of others.
key work in the moderate Buddhist paradigm, and one that is
strangely missing from Schumacher's essay is compassion.
Material life is a painful journey for every living being. The
natural response is to feel compassion. By feeling compassion
for others, one feels less for oneself. That's why it is important
to pick an occupation - a right livelihood - where one is doing
good for others. That's also why it is important, however insignificant
one's task, that one do it as selflessly as possible.
tends to mix up Protestant and Buddhist principles when he talks
about the "nourishing and enlivening factor of disciplined
work". His view of the importance of labour and full-employment
is inherently Western. To put it bluntly, a Buddhist doesn't
need a job, occupation or craft to achieve personal dignity
or "to display his scale of values and develop his personality."
A Buddhist can practice right-livelihood as a monk, as a wife,
or in any kind of labour that contributes to the human weal.
Moreover, it is misleading to talk about terms like personal
dignity and the development of a personality through work. Spirituality
comes from within; spirituality is what forms personality; and
spirituality needs no scale on which to display itself.
focus on these differences? Well, they are important. A good
Protestant needs work to define and nourish himself or herself.
A good Buddhist doesn't define himself or herself by their work.
A good Protestant needs a job and a respectable position in
society much more than a good Buddhist does. A good Buddhist
is much more discriminating about what they will and will not
do to secure a right livelihood. This makes the Buddhist
much freer to choose in a modern economy than someone with a
Christian background. The Buddhist's dignity is not tied to
occupational respectability. A Buddhist would prefer to do a
job that is trivial and demeaning than one that is personally
nourishing and enlivening, if the latter is in any way harmful.
that we've got a handle on the principle behind "Right-Livelihood",
let's unpack its economic implications. A great many occupations
in affluent and technologically advanced societies involve one
or more of the following:
An excessive use of natural resources.
Direct or indirect harm to other living beings or the natural
The exploitation of people for selfish ends.
The manufacture and manipulation of artificial needs (i.e. cravings)
The wasteful consumption of resources.
a nutshell, Buddhism is anti-materialistic and directly opposed
to the ethic of consumerism. While not directly anti-scientific
or anti-technological, moderate Buddhism opposes the use of
science and technology whenever these promote materialism or
consumerism. To the extent that technology has distracted human
beings from their spiritual mission, and increased their materialist
cravings, Buddhists are very effective critics on religious
moderate Buddhism is doubly effective as a critique of technological
society but it incorporates a healthy dose of common sense.
Buddhists were among the first to offer an analysis of the globe
as an interconnected ecosystem that could be irreparably damaged
through wasteful consumption. They were among the first to advocate
the moderate use of resources and to point out the dangers of
a selfish, egotistical and possessive approach to the products
of nature. Because of their emphasis on fairness and compassion
to all living creatures, they were also among the first to defend
the weak against the aggression of the rich and powerful elements
is important to remember that Buddhist common sense comes from
a particular approach to living in the material world. The teachings
of Buddha are obviously common sensical in their emphasis on
a "reverent and nonviolent attitude" not only to sentient
beings, but all living things. This attitude is fundamentally
different from the more rationalist ethic described by Paul
Goodman that arguably led to the nonsensical destruction
of the planet through the aid of science and technology. In
Schumacher's terms, Buddhist common sense leads its followers
to making important distinctions about what constitutes "the
most rational way of economic life."
making some of these distinctions, Schumacher often reads his
own biases into Buddhism. In particular, he transforms Buddhists
into the defenders of alternative or appropriate technologies
that emphasize "simplicity, individual self-worth and self-reliance,
labour intensiveness rather than capital intensiveness, minimum
energy use, consistency with environmental quality, and decentralization
rather than centralization." While Schumacher's emphasis
on the self is completely alien to Buddhist philosophy,
he is quite right about some of these things. For example, all
Buddhists regard it as important to conserve as much energy
as possible. All Buddhists would agree that it is important
to live a simple life, and to provide for basic human needs
on the small and modest scale rather than to produce large quantities
of disposable goods. Buddhism remains one of the most effective
critiques of a consumer society, driven by constant cravings
rather than genuine needs, in our age. As for the environment,
suffice it to say that the North American environmental movement
adopted Buddhist concepts from its infancy. In fact, the author
of the America's first recognizably environmental work, David
Thoreau in Walden, was obviously influenced by eastern
problem with Schumacher is that he makes Buddhists sound like
technological reactionaries and even rural primitives. Nothing
could be further from the truth Buddhists were among the first
to embrace the computer and information revolution, and for
spiritual reasons. The Internet conforms to the Buddhist notion
of an interlinked global network that transcends physical space.
It also provides opportunities for greater understanding and
communication between cultures. Greater understanding leads
to greater identification, and greater identification leads
moderate Buddhist emphasis on justice and compassion means that
modern communications technologies must be used to promote
a more global community. Just because these global technologies
also advance a corporate and consumerist agenda, that doesn't
mean that they shouldn't be used for other purposes. Moderate
Buddhists are more than willing to embrace new technologies
whenever and wherever they can serve a human and an ecological
economics, as Schumacher invented it, is not one that would
necessarily prefer a local or small-scale perspective to a global
one. In some situations, the local viewpoint is common-sensical
and most conservative of scarce resources. But in some cases,
problems and solutions must be dealt with on a global basis.
Buddhists are among the most active advocates of a global political
community. A global political community in some ways implies
a global economy. Moreover, only a globally based economy based
on technology can improve the conditions of life of the poorest
regions of the globe. The Buddhist imperative of compassion
means that we need to use technology to improve the global community.
course, using technology as a tool doesn't mean becoming obsessed
by it or craving the useless products that can be manufactured
by modern technological systems. Centralization in some respects
does not deny decentralization, and the preservation of local
cultures, in others. The point is that Buddhism, at least in
its moderate forms, is not anti-technological. It does, however,
appear to have the spiritual capacity for subsuming and
restraining technological and economic progress within certain
bounds. There is no given appropriate technology for
Buddhists; what Buddhism appears to have is a clear idea of
the appropriate path that economics and technology should
take. What is particularly interesting about Buddhism, as opposed
to Western religious systems, is the confidence, vitality and
flexibility of Buddhism in the face of technological progress.
appears equally revealing, Goodman's plea for a new Protestant
reformation notwithstanding is the powerlessness of unreformed
Christianity to direct, or stem the tide, of technological progress
that no longer contributes to the quality of life. Perhaps Western
religion is paralyzed because it sowed many of the seeds of
rationalism and materialism that now confront us. It is fascinating
that the most clear examples of a Christian reformation expressly
designed to meet modern challenges is borrowing heavily from
non-Western religious traditions such as North American native
society and Buddhism that described a very different kind of
relationship between nature, man and the divine.
The Economy of Gifts ...Thanissaro
Bhikkhu ...Copyright © Thanissaro Bhikkhu
to the Buddhist monastic code, monks and nuns are not allowed
to accept money or even to engage in barter or trade with lay
people. They live entirely in an economy of gifts. Lay supporters
provide gifts of material requisites for the monastics, while
the monastics provide their supporters with the gift of the
teaching. Ideally -- and to a great extent in actual practice
-- this is an exchange that comes from the heart, something
totally voluntary. There are many stories in the texts that
emphasize the point that returns in this economy -- it might
also be called an economy of merit -- depend not on the material
value of the object given, but on the purity of heart of the
donor and recipient. You give what is appropriate to the occasion
and to your means, when and wherever your heart feels inspired.
For the monastics, this means that you teach, out of compassion,
what should be taught, regardless of whether it will sell. For
the laity, this means that you give what you have to spare and
feel inclined to share. There is no price for the teachings,
nor even a "suggested donation." Anyone who regards
the act of teaching or the act of giving requisites as a repayment
for a particular favor is ridiculed as mercenary. Instead, you
give because giving is good for the heart and because the survival
of the Dhamma as a living principle depends on daily acts of
primary symbol of this economy is the alms bowl. If you are
a monastic, it represents your dependence on others, your need
to accept generosity no matter what form it takes. You may not
get what you want in the bowl, but you realize that you always
get what you need, even if it's a hard-earned lesson in doing
without. One of my students in Thailand once went to the mountains
in the northern part of the country to practice in solitude.
His hillside shack was an ideal place to meditate, but he had
to depend on a nearby hilltribe village for alms, and the diet
was mostly plain rice with some occasional boiled vegetables.
After two months on this diet, his meditation theme became the
conflict in his mind over whether he should go or stay. One
rainy morning, as he was on his alms round, he came to a shack
just as the morning rice was ready. The wife of the house called
out, asking him to wait while she got some rice from the pot.
As he was waiting there in the pouring rain, he couldn't help
grumbling inwardly about the fact that there would be nothing
to go with the rice. It so happened that the woman had an infant
son who was sitting near the kitchen fire, crying from hunger.
So as she scooped some rice out of the pot, she stuck a small
lump of rice in his mouth. Immediately, the boy stopped crying
and began to grin. My student saw this, and it was like a light
bulb turning on in his head. "Here you are, complaining
about what people are giving you for free," he told himself.
"You're no match for a little kid. If he can be happy with
just a lump of rice, why can't you?" As a result, the lesson
that came with his scoop of rice that day gave my student the
strength he needed to stay on in the mountains for another three
a monastic the bowl also represents the opportunity you give
others to practice the Dhamma in accordance with their means.
In Thailand, this is reflected in one of the idioms used to
describe going for alms: proad sat, doing a favor for living
beings. There were times on my alms round in rural Thailand
when, as I walked past a tiny grass shack, someone would come
running out to put rice in my bowl. Years earlier, as lay person,
my reaction on seeing such a bare, tiny shack would have been
to want to give monetary help to them. But now I was on the
receiving end of their generosity. In my new position I may
have been doing less for them in material terms than I could
have done as a lay person, but at least I was giving them the
opportunity to have the dignity that comes with being a donor.
the donors, the monk's alms bowl becomes a symbol of the good
they have done. On several occasions in Thailand people would
tell me that they had dreamed of a monk standing before them,
opening the lid to his bowl. The details would differ as to
what the dreamer saw in the bowl, but in each case the interpretation
of the dream was the same: the dreamer's merit was about to
bear fruit in an especially positive way.
alms round itself is also a gift that goes both ways. On the
one hand, daily contact with lay donors reminds the monastics
that their practice is not just an individual matter, but a
concern of the entire community. They are indebted to others
for the right and opportunity to practice, and should do their
best to practice diligently as a way of repaying that debt.
At the same time, the opportunity to walk through a village
early in the morning, passing by the houses of the rich and
poor, the happy and unhappy, gives plenty of opportunities to
reflect on the human condition and the need to find a way out
of the grinding cycle of death and rebirth.
the donors, the alms round is a reminder that the monetary economy
is not the only way to happiness. It helps to keep a society
sane when there are monastics infiltrating the towns every morning,
embodying an ethos very different from the dominant monetary
economy. The gently subversive quality of this custom helps
people to keep their values straight.
all, the economy of gifts symbolized by the alms bowl and the
alms round allows for specialization, a division of labor, from
which both sides benefit. Those who are willing can give up
many of the privileges of home life and in return receive the
free time, the basic support, and the communal training needed
to devote themselves fully to Dhamma practice. Those who stay
at home can benefit from having full-time Dhamma practitioners
around on a daily basis. I have always found it ironic that
the modern world honors specialization in almost every area
-- even in things like running, jumping, and throwing a ball
-- but not in the Dhamma, where it is denounced as "dualism,"
"elitism," or worse. The Buddha began the monastic
order on the first day of his teaching career because he saw
the benefits that come with specialization. Without it, the
practice tends to become limited and diluted, negotiated into
the demands of the monetary economy. The Dhamma becomes limited
to what will sell and what will fit into a schedule dictated
by the demands of family and job. In this sort of situation,
everyone ends up poorer in things of the heart.
fact that tangible goods run only one way in the economy of
gifts means that the exchange is open to all sorts of abuses.
This is why there are so many rules in the monastic code to
keep the monastics from taking unfair advantage of the generosity
of lay donors. There are rules against asking for donations
in inappropriate circumstances, from making claims as to one's
spiritual attainments, and even from covering up the good foods
in one's bowl with rice, in hopes that donors will then feel
inclined to provide something more substantial. Most of the
rules, in fact, were instituted at the request of lay supporters
or in response to their complaints. They had made their investment
in the merit economy and were interested in protecting their
investment. This observation applies not only to ancient India,
but also to the modern-day West. On their first contact with
the Sangha, most people tend to see little reason for the disciplinary
rules, and regard them as quaint holdovers from ancient Indian
prejudices. When, however, they come to see the rules in the
context of the economy of gifts and begin to participate in
that economy themselves, they also tend to become avid advocates
of the rules and active protectors of "their" monastics.
The arrangement may limit the freedom of the monastics in certain
ways, but it means that the lay supporters take an active interest
not only in what the monastic teaches, but also in how the monastic
lives -- a useful safeguard to make sure that teachers walk
their talk. This, again, insures that the practice remains a
communal concern. As the Buddha said,
householders are very helpful to you, as they provide you with
the requisites of robes, almsfood, lodgings, and medicine. And
you, monks, are very helpful to householders, as you teach them
the Dhamma admirable in the beginning, admirable in the middle,
and admirable in the end, as you expound the holy life both
in its particulars and in its essence, entirely complete, surpassingly
pure. In this way the holy life is lived in mutual dependence,
for the purpose of crossing over the flood, for making a right
end to suffering and stress. -- Iti 107
throughout the history of Buddhism, the economy of gifts has
broken down, usually when one side or the other gets fixated
on the tangible side of the exchange and forgets the qualities
of the heart that are its reason for being. And periodically
it has been revived when people are sensitive to its rewards
in terms of the living Dhamma. By its very nature, the economy
of gifts is something of a hothouse creation that requires careful
nurture and a sensitive discernment of its benefits. I find
it amazing that such an economy has lasted for more than 2,600
years. It will never be more than an alternative to the dominant
monetary economy, largely because its rewards are so intangible
and require so much patience, trust, and discipline in order
to be appreciated. Those who demand immediate return for specific
services and goods will always require a monetary system. Sincere
Buddhist lay people, however, have the chance to play an amphibious
role, engaging in the monetary economy in order to maintain
their livelihood, and contributing to the economy of gifts whenever
they feel so inclined. In this way they can maintain direct
contact with teachers, insuring the best possible instruction
for their own practice, in an atmosphere where mutual compassion
and concern are the medium of exchange; and purity of heart,
the bottom line.
Two New Articles on Buddhism and Economics @ http://www.UrbanDharma.org
ECONOMICS ...by Phrabhavanaviriyakhun (Phadet Dattajeevo)
often tend to disregard economics completely, because the monastic
way of life idealized by Buddhism is economically very minimalist.
Such neglect of comment concerning economic values is not warranted,
however, because the Buddhist scriptures are in fact rich with
advice from the Buddha regarding sound economic values -- and
they are applicable to monastic and lay lifestyles alike.
Buddhist Way to Economic Stability ...Ven. M. Pannasha Maha
in the case of legal administration of the Sangha, no single
discourse of the Buddha deals fully on any one of the above
factors of social progress. Yet reading through the numerous
discourses (or Suttas) it is possible to develop a fully consistent
and complete view-point of the Buddha's stand on each of the
above topics drawn from the various discourses of the Buddha.
A socio-economic system based on Buddhist principles and practices
could easily be formulated to suit today's modern progressive
Building a Business the Buddhist Way: A Practitioner's Guide
...by Geraldine A. Larkin, Geri Larkin
Right Way to Build a Life and a Business, May 14, 1999-
Reviewer: Walter Di Mantova (email@example.com) from Ann
Arbor, Michigan... Buy this book. Read it now, especially if
you want to start a business which is meaningful and valuable,
whether if you are a Buddhist or not. I was among the members
of the first class that Geri taught on this topic -- which forms
the backbone of the book. It changed my life as an entrepreneur
and has changed those of others. I can not recommend it more
highly -- it is written in a frank and practical and funny style
AND it tells you the real truth about creating your own business
using Buddhist ideas. The Budhist component is not overwhelming:
this is not a "Zen and the Art of Lucre". It is a
truly useable and profound look at the way we can live our lives
through our livelihood.
let the title scare you away, December 16, 1999- Reviewer:
Amy Shellhase (see more about me) from Indiana, USA... Don't
let the title fool you. What may sound like a hippy-dippy, touchy-feely,
new age book for the Birkenstock crowd is actually a serious,
fact-filled planning tool.
you believe that your business can be successful and still be
built on principles then this book will not only reinforce that
belief, but walk you through how to go about setting it up that
way from the beginning. If you're already in business, you can
still use this information to change your direction and refocus
Larkin's book grew from her own business career, her experiences
as a Buddhist seminarian, and as a trainer.
the idea here is that your values merge with your work. That
you strike a balance between having a business and having a
life. The steps are easy: 1) simplify your life; 2) make money
honestly; and 3) work is one of the most powerful spiritual
practices. If you run your business by your own principles,
success will naturally follow.
if you are not a Buddhist, the planning tools alone are extremely
useful. Yes, there are sections about setting your goals and
discovering what you want out of your life and business. But
it's much more. This is essentially a workbook. It's full of
checklists, worksheets, charts, and formulas.
will find this book most useful, but don't dismiss it if you're
already in business. There are entire chapters devoted to cash
flow calculations, setting up a marketing plan, and writing
a business plan. You know. A business plan. We ALL have one,
did remember balance sheets and income statements, but I sure
had forgotten how to do a cash flow analysis, how to figure
mark-ups, and how useful a budget can be.
is a book best read with a pencil in hand and a calculator close
what I was looking for, June 7, 2000- Reviewer: czegers
from Atlanta, GA... In the first few pages I knew that my desire
to open a business I could feel really good about was not some
fantasy. The more I read the more I realized that my dream is
more feasible than I really thought. I read it through once
(quick and easy read), loved it, now I will read it again and
go through all the exercises. If it does not prove to be helpful
I'll write another review but she gives many other sources for
information and guidance that I can't imagine, with the right
amount of passion, it can't be done!
The Arrow River Community Center
Arrow River Community Center
2, RR 7, Site 7
Arrow River Community Center is a Theravadin Buddhist monastery
and meditation center located in Northern Ontario, fifty miles
southwest of Thunder Bay. We have 92 acres of land in a beautiful
mixed forest. There are presently five all-weather dwelling
places on the property as well as a meditation-hall and kitchen,
and a well-equipped workshop.
resident bhikkhu is Ven. Punnadhammo who has been studying and
practicing Buddhism since 1979 and was ordained in Thailand
in the forest tradition of Ajahn Chah in 1990. Between 1990
and 1995 he was based at Wat Pah Nanachat, Thailand. Punnadhammo
is a Canadian, born Michael Dominskyj in Toronto in 1955. He
began studying the Dhamma under Kema Ananda, the founder
and first teacher at the Arrow River Center.
people are welcome to visit the Center and short or long term
retreats can be arranged. We require the ongoing presence of
at least one lay person to act as monastery steward. This can
be a rewarding experience for the right person.
of the Center
Arrow River Community Center was founded by Kema Ananda, formerly
Eric James Bell, in 1975. Kema Ananda was a student of Ven.
Ananda Bodhi (later Namgyal Rinpoche.) Kema had been ordained
as a Samanera (novice) but opted to disrobe and teach and practice
as a layman after one year in robes. He was an expert in the
Burmese Insight method of Mahasi Sayadaw and passed these teachings
on to Ven. Punnadhammo.
'75 through the late eighties the Center was run as a lay meditation
center with the hope that it would become self-supporting. To
this end a furniture manufacturing operation was begun and we
produced many fine pieces of craftsmanship under the label "Artisans
of Devon." This project began to unravel after a disastrous
fire destroyed our shop.
this period many individuals benefited from the facilities and
teachings of the Center by doing short or long term retreats.
Two-week group retreats were held annually as well as individual
sessions ranging from three-months to three-years. Kema Ananda
himself did a three-year retreat in 1983-86 after which the
focus of his teachings began to shift. More of the traditional
practices such as loving-kindness and mindfulness of breathing
began to be taught as well as a heightened emphasis on morality.
Punnadhammo began at the Center in 1979 and did a one-year solitary
retreat in 1988-89. After this he went to Thailand to seek ordination.
During this period Kema Ananda continued to teach in partnership
with his wife Woon. In 1995 Kema Ananda contracted lung cancer
and anticipating his imminent death he asked Ven. Punnadhammo
to return to Canada and to assume management of the Center.
Punnadhammo returned with the blessing of his seniors in the
order in Nov. of that year and was able to spend some time with
his beloved teacher before his death.
Center Today and Future Plans
Center is now a monastery but it is our intention to continue
the fine tradition established by Kema Ananda. We still offer
the opportunity for serious students to pursue the practice
of Dhamma in a quiet forest setting. Both men and women yogis
are welcome without discrimination. We are ideally set-up for
long term retreats and welcome serious enquiries. From the beginning
of the Arrow River Center, Kema Ananda emphasized the principle
of not charging for the Dhamma and although this policy has
sometimes been difficult to maintain in the face of the financial
reality we have always adhered to it as guaranteeing the purity
of the teaching. We will continue to honour this principle in
the future and the Arrow River Center will operate with what
is freely given This is the time-honoured Buddhist principle
the foreseeable future we will try to have two or three monks
and two or three lay people staying here most of the time. More
can stay in the summer months if they are willing to "rough
it". Eventually we hope to build additional kutis (dwellings)
as resources become available through donation.
also are willing to consider invitations for monks to travel
elsewhere in North America to give teachings on a short-term
the long term it was Kema Ananda's dream that this Dhamma Center
would be an establishment that would outlast him and would be
a focal point of light and spiritual truth for centuries. May
his dream come true!
karmic circumstances that allow a being to take human form are
rare indeed. It was said by the Buddha that for a being in the
lower realms to take human birth is as difficult as for a blind
tortoise swimming in the great ocean and surfacing for breath
once every hundred years to put his head through a yoke floating
at random upon the surface. As rare as this is, rarer yet is
the opportunity to pursue the ultimate human experience of transcendental
liberation. If a being has the ability and opportunity to practice
meditation he would be foolish indeed to let it pass, not knowing
how many lifetimes will pass before conditions are again ripe.
with the fortunate karmic conditions to find time and energy
to practice long retreats in solitude are rare and blessed.
The experience of exploring the deep aspects of mind is not
easy to obtain. We hope to continue the service of providing
space for serious retreatants. There is no fixed charge for
doing retreats here, we operate entirely on what is freely given
and never refuse anyone because of economic hardship. Your support
makes this possible.
interested in exploring this route to liberation can write us
here at Arrow River. Before attempting a retreat of three-months
or longer you should have some experience with shorter sessions
preferably in a group.
to the vinaya for monks we are not allowed to store our food
from day-to-day or to handle any form of money. We can only
eat food that is offered to us that day by a lay person. This
maintains our dependency on the lay community. In forest monasteries
in non-buddhist countries this means that we need at least one
lay person living with us at the monastery at all times fulfilling
the functions of monastic steward. This is an on-going situation
and we hope to keep it happening by having individuals stay
for a period of several months. This is a great opportunity
for anyone interested in simple country living and learning
about traditional Buddhism. We offer only room and board by
way of material support and it would be a big asset if you had
your own vehicle. The duties are not onerous. Cooking for the
monks is easy because we eat only once a day and take whatever
is offered. Besides that there is the purchasing of supplies
and some general maintenance chores. There is plenty of time
for practice or study. Anyone interested in staying here as
a steward for at least three months at any time in the future
should email or write to us at the Center. For more information
go to the Arrow River visitor's section of this web-site.
of the Center
Arrow River Center as a traditional monastery is entirely dependent
on the donations of the laity. The principle of Dana or generosity
is the first of the paramitas (perfections.) To support an endeavour
such as this, the establishment of a traditional forest monastery
in the Canadian woods, is to make incalculable merit. We have
ongoing expenses especially food and fuel and occasionally needs
such as building projects. Anyone helping out is making merit
that will be of great benefit to the establishment of the Dhamma
in the West (land of the outer barbarians!) and this will contribute
to their own well-being and happiness for many lifetimes to
people certainly do not go to heaven. Fools for sure do not
praise generosity, but the wise man who takes pleasure in giving
is thereby happy hereafter.(Dhp 177)
the truth, don't get angry, and always give, even if only a
little, when you are asked. By these three principles you can
come into the company of the devas.(Dhp 224)
noble disciple by giving food gives four things, what four?
She gives long-life, beauty, happiness and strength. And by
giving long-life, she is herself endowed with long life, human
or divine. By giving beauty, she is herself endowed with beauty,
human or divine. By giving happiness, she is herself endowed
with happiness, human or divine. By giving strength, she is
herself endowed with strength, human or divine.(Ang IV, 57)
the monks the rules of discipline (vinaya) require that we be
totally dependent on the gifts of the laity. We may not hold
money or property of our own and are not allowed to grow or
store our own food. This dependency, so strange to North American
ideals of self-reliance, was wisely established by the Buddha
to keep the monks in contact with the laity; and to keep us
humble and honest.
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