http://www.UrbanDharma.org ...Buddhism for Urban America


The Urban Dharma Newsletter... December 10, 2002


In This Issue:

1. 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


1. An Excerpt From Small Is Beautiful: Economics as If People Mattered ...By E.F. Schumacher

* http://members.aol.com/_ht_a/tma68/schumacher.htm

There 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.

The 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 limbs.

The 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.

From 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:

If 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.

If 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 of living."

From 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.

While 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.

For 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 means.

Modern 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.

Simplicity 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.

From 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.

Another 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:

He 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.

The 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.

Modern 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.

Just 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.

This 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:

Thus 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 compatible.

Even 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.

It 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 Livelihood."

2. Protestant versus Buddhist Economics ...by John Dwyer

* http://www.mind-force.net/library/02/01_21_5.shtm

Protestant Economics

In 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.

Goodman 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:

1. No longer can claim to be improving the quality of life of the inhabitants of the advanced countries.

2. Are wasteful, not only in the production of entirely unnecessary goods and gadgets but also in the duplication of efforts.

3. Treat human beings as things rather than serve their needs.

4. Create incredibly complex systems that can no longer solve local or community problems effectively.

5. Result in ecological breakdown.

6. Reward triviality, corruption, and phoniness.

None 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 and power.

Goodman's 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.

This 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:

For 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.

The 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."

This 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.

Clearly, 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.

Goodman's 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.

Goodman's 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 that include:

1. A commitment to western rationalism and, in particular, scientific logic.

2. Faith in the freedom and power of the individual.

3. A desire to investigate God?s nature and discover (not manufacture) useful knowledge.

4. A firm belief in the power of science and technology to improve the human condition.

When 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.

These 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.

Buddhist Economics

Given 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.

Schumacher 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 core.

Buddhism 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.

All 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.

In 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.

It 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.

This 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.

The 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 oneself.

Living 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.

"Right-livelihood" 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 religious.

In 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.

A 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.

Schumacher 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.

Why 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.

Now 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:

1. An excessive use of natural resources.

2. Direct or indirect harm to other living beings or the natural environment.

3. The exploitation of people for selfish ends.

4. The manufacture and manipulation of artificial needs (i.e. cravings)

5. The wasteful consumption of resources.

In 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 grounds.

But 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 in society.

It 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."

In 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 religion.

The 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 to compassion.

The 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 purpose.

Buddhist 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.


Of 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.

What 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.

3. The Economy of Gifts ...Thanissaro Bhikkhu ...Copyright © Thanissaro Bhikkhu

* http://www.buddhismtoday.com/english/economics/002-gift.htm

According 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 generosity.

The 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 years.

For 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.

For 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.

The 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.

For 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.

Above 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.

The 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,

Monks, 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

Periodically, 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.

4. Two New Articles on Buddhism and Economics @ http://www.UrbanDharma.org

BUDDHIST ECONOMICS ...by Phrabhavanaviriyakhun (Phadet Dattajeevo)

* http://www.urbandharma.org/udharma5/buddhisteco.html

Buddhists 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.

The Buddhist Way to Economic Stability ...Ven. M. Pannasha Maha Nayaka Thera

* http://www.urbandharma.org/udharma5/ecostability.html

Except 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 society.

5. Building a Business the Buddhist Way: A Practitioner's Guide ...by Geraldine A. Larkin, Geri Larkin


A Right Way to Build a Life and a Business, May 14, 1999- Reviewer: Walter Di Mantova (ditova1@juno.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.

Don't 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.

If 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 your goals.

Geri Larkin's book grew from her own business career, her experiences as a Buddhist seminarian, and as a trainer.

Basically, 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.

Even 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.

Beginners 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, don't we?

I 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.

This is a book best read with a pencil in hand and a calculator close by.

Just 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!

7. The Arrow River Community Center


The Arrow River Community Center

Box 2, RR 7, Site 7

Thunder Bay, Ont.

P7C 5V5, Canada

The Center

The 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.

The 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.

Lay 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.

History of the Center

The 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.

From '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.

Throughout 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.

Ven. 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.

The Center Today and Future Plans

The 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 of Dana.

For 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.

We also are willing to consider invitations for monks to travel elsewhere in North America to give teachings on a short-term basis.

In 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!

Long Term Retreats

The 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.

Those 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.

Anyone 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.

Monastic Steward

According 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.

Support of the Center

The 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 come.

Miserly 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)

Speak 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)

A 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)

For 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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