The story told in Shoes Outside The Door may help readers understand the institutional concept that has evolved on this blog. The concept of an interest-free bank and a more integrated way of living has many parallels with Zen.
Selected excerpts and how they relate to the concept currently being described as MindfulWorldBank.org:
...'At my age, coming to this country, I [Suzuki-Roshi] need a disciple who is already well prepared. I think an understanding of Western Transcendentalism would be good preparation,'... [p.62]
I believe that a basic understanding of all "isms" is necessary before anyone starts devoting a great deal of time to any practice or devotion. As I've said before in many different forms, a universal education has to be the foundation of right living.
"To this day," says Gary [Snyder], "I'm sure the Japanese are mind-boggled by the historical accident that American bohemians became the caretakers of Zen in the West." [p.64]
It should be noted that the bohemian phase was short-lived. If one had to describe those individuals featured most prominently in the book, entrepreneurial comes to mind. They have had remarkable success in writing -- and selling -- books and ideas or establishing their own Zen Centers.
"But I [David Padwa] am skeptical about the overall value or enduring effect of Buddhism on American life," he says. "America does not seem to me a more compassionate, kinder, safer place because of it." [p.118]
"At Zen Center, people spend ninety percent of their time dealing with community issues and not Zen practice. I think it is not a healthy environment. Maybe a few generations down the line, if we have worked out how to live together in a communal way, the teaching will be able to come through that." Steve [Allen] is basically describing a cart-before-the-horse problem. By 1972, there were three crowded residential carts that composed the Zen Center community -- but there was no sangha, no horsepower. "And today? Even at this point," says Steve, "I really do believe most of the energy is going into issues of how to live together and not issues of how to transcend the dualistic framework in which we find ourselves in ordinary society. And that is what I understand practice is about -- nondualistic experience and liberation from the normal limitations of social programming." [p.144]
I'm always thinking about how to jump-start the institution that has evolved on this blog. Perhaps a Zen relationship is one way. The goals are very similar and I address the "issues of how to live together" through a set of rules -- including abandoning the extremely destructive practice of usury.
"There are two sides, and they are often at odds," says Norman Fisher, the sixth Abbot of Zen Center from 1995 to 2000. "On the one hand, Zen Center's mission is a long-term training center for Zen Buddhist priests; on the other hand, we are this very wide and expansive community, where all sorts of people come and go with all points of view, and the community's agenda is just to benefit the world widely -- forget about Zen Buddhism. This makes it complicated, and it creates conflicts, and this makes it wonderful." [p.145]
I think that with the right set of rules we can reduce the complications and the conflicts. However, we have to help people understand the complexity that is inherent in our living system. We live in an age when -- maybe more so than at any other time -- people have a tendency to be attracted to simple ideologies such as fundamentalist religions (my book is the right book), technology (will save us from our profligate ways), and economic systems (free markets, Keynesian economics, or an oligarchy-directed combination of the two).
"Richard [Baker] told me [Peter Rudnick] flat out that I would never get ahead at Zen Center, that I would never hold a position of responsibility if I didn't show up in zendo every day. I've always believed the farm work is practice." [p.154]
In the upcoming energy descent, it will be important to make hands-on gardening/farming practice.
"It's gotten all tangled up with role, position, and hierarchy here. Who does that serve?" [Wendy Johnson speaking, p.156]
The answer is no one. Any healthy institution, in my opinion, has to be comprised of independent agents operating under a set of rules that are explicitly understood.
Life on the farm is not a dream; the farm is the repository for a dream. It preserves a view of an integrated life -- a safer, slower, simpler way than most Americans can afford, a way most people do not choose when it is available. It [Green Gulch Farm] is to Zen Center what Zen Center is to the wider society -- it doesn't pay its share of taxes, and it requires a lot of generosity from people who do not seem to receive the most generous share of the benefits. But for many people, giving up on Green Gulch, like giving up on Zen Center, would mean giving up. [p.270]
By integrating the farm with the university, a much more vibrant institution is created. The structure of MindfulWorldBank.org would allow patrons to store their wealth rather than donating it. However, this is an institution that has the capability to be far more productive than the non-profits that currently compete for excess wealth.
Those who want to preserve their wealth should understand that current investments -- almost all that exist -- based on the premise (or promise) of unlimited growth are destined to fail.