26 Apr 2020
(Note: A post in the Sutta Central discussion forum described the possibility of a Dhamma-focused business organisation. This resonated with me, as I have been thinking about this for some time. I am putting my response here so that I don’t forget. The original post is here. The main idea below is an iteration of a concept that I came up with in Oct 2018 when I was on a self-retreat in Jhana Grove, as I reflected that I don’t really have a vehicle for practicing the Dhamma. In the write-up below, I’ve also added some ideas of possible digital Dhamma projects.)
To share my thoughts (apologies for the megalomanical-sounding “PJ’s vision 2030”, but that is really just the working name), they are in this blogpost: https://inquivision.com/posts/vision-2030
Pasting the post’s contents here for convenience:
“This is more to remind myself, than anything else, but the vision that I have in mind is the following.
The problem I’m trying to address, is a gap.
To dedicate your life to living as per the Dhamma, you pretty much have to ordain as a monastic. Sure, you can still live as a layperson dedicated to the principles of the Dhamma; but right now, there is still very little that is along the lines of the Sangha Vinaya, which helps to reinforce the practice of the Eightfold Path.
The danger as a layperson is that the five-sense world has a lot of distractions, and is not conducive to furthering the practice.
So the idea I have, is to create a non-profit that serves as a vehicle to promote Dhammic principles and practices: the Dhamma is for free and not for sale. And this goes beyond mindfulness alone, to focusing on the broader Eightfold Path.
To sustain this, the non-profit will then be supported by for-profit entities, which (tentatively) will focus on generating profits in an ethical sustainable way in the domains of
- work (since, I think there is a lot of suffering there!)
So in this way, this will eventually be my Dhamma vehicle: something that supports my journey on the Eightfold Path, allowing me to live a life according to the principles laid down by the Buddha, in a way more focused than a typical layperson life but still respectful of the monastic Sangha”
Related to the above, is the idea of developing digital offerings to support Dhamma practice. I’m NOT talking about digital incense sticks, online zafu marketplaces, etc. But more along the lines of
- a Dhamma-equivalent to the Bible app (arguably Sutta central is already doing that!) or
- a geo-location reminder that pings an alert when you’re near a bar or pub, or
- an app that helps you keep track of your good and bad acts like Upagupta’s black stones and white stones
- a solution that helps you let go of anger more easily, maybe by showing your angry-face
I think Headspace pointed the way, but it is still very much captured by the capitalistic systemic forces that are funding it. So the above concepts could be developed by the non-profit entity I have in mind, in order to help bring the Dhamma’s tools to a wider audience, in order to relieve suffering and increase happiness.
In terms of sequence, I think it will have to be the for-profit entities that are developed first, before the non-profit is established (and maybe the ownership can be gifted to the non-profit). This is simply because of the need for funding in the five-sense world.
Now, you might be wondering why haven’t I done anything yet along those lines? There are a few reasons:
- Timing. I literally just thought of these ideas at the end of a retreat in 2018, then I went off to study interaction design. Now I have to serve a two year bond to the Singapore government. I am thinking about trying this after my two year bond is up, but there are other considerations (below).
- A lot of the above ideas were churned out at the end of a two-week self-retreat at Jhana Grove. Looking at my own mind, there was the restlessness that comes towards the end of a longer-retreat. Compared with the peace of samadhi, these ideas are exciting and … very much belonging to the five-sense world. So I wonder what are my true motivations for wanting to do the above, and if I’m not being delusional. Afterall, while the Buddha setup the Sangha, there has been no anagami that setup an equivalent lay-organisation. I wouldn’t claim to be wiser than the past ariyas, so this is giving me some pause.
3. There is a real danger of samsara-creep, with Buddhist societies being corrupted by the forces of samsara. I have been burned a few times by this. In university, my co-founder of the Buddhist society used his position of influence to seduce and sleep around with the attendees (I had wondered why the attendees had dwindled over time). Later, when I was in the Singapore Buddhist Fellowship executive committee, many meetings were extremely acrimonious and long (more than a whole Saturday was spent in exco meetings alone!). Another eye-opening experience was travelling to Hualien, Taiwan as a tourist; the two cab drivers that I hired over the four days spoke very badly of Tzu Chi, with one even saying that he would rather die than go into Tzu Chi’s hospital!
And I think it is also instructive that even the Sangha in the Buddha’s time wasn’t able to escape samsara-creep and its resulting suffering e.g. MN128 and the accompanying episode in the Vinaya.
Of course, these are just my concerns and considerations, and aren’t applicable to all. I’m also reminded of MN 33:
And how does a mendicant smoke out pests? It’s when a mendicant teaches others the Dhamma in detail as they learned and memorized it. That’s how a mendicant smokes out pests.
So perhaps there is some real merit to doing this thing too.
Please feel free to take the ideas and develop them as you deem fit.
With much metta,
Comments or thoughts?