Living in a Good Spirit
Spirituality refers primarily to the spirit in which people live and do things. It as as though we are always possessed by one spirit or another. There is always a spiritual dimension. When we speak of a spiritual community, we are talking about a community with a good spirit. In a materialist enterprise there will still be spirit. It might be a different spirit. it might be a spirit of greed or pride or fear even. There is always spirit of one sort or another and this has to do with the way that people are inspired. There is spirit in a gang of thieves and they are inspired by particular heroes, models and implicit ideology. So a spiritual community is one that attempts life in a better spirit.
In the modern world there is a tendency to assume that spirit will look after itself and that the important thing is the structure of the situation. Structure is important, but it does not substitute for spirit. Spirit is the content. Thus, in modern society there is much talk about freedom, but what is meant is such things as consumer choice and free elections. We are not talking about spiritual freedom. A person who is spiritually free is still free if you lock them up in prison. However, in our modern society, the more freedom there is the more conformity appears. The more talk there is of individualism, the more uniform people become. In fact, there was probably much more eccentricity in our society in Victorian times when the social rules were much more formal and strict. That society had a different spirit. it was more confident then our modern world. there was a down side to that confidence as well as advantages. Progress is not linear and not inevitable.
One of the major expressions of spirituality is the generation of community. A community is different from an enterprise or a society. It is closer to being a family. In the Dharmic Community, there are no wages. The basic communistic dictum “from each according to his ability, to each according to his need” applies. Such a dictum only can work in a spiritual community. Without the right spirit it is a recipe for disaster. Here the purpose of being together is not materialistic, so materialistic matters, while still important, are secondary. We are not aiming to be exceptionally efficient or profitable. On the other hand, we do confront material realities and aim to be viable. Things do get done. People see what needs doing and do it. In a system of formal communism, people revert to idleness. Once they are confident that they cannot be dismissed, they tend to stop working or only work very slowly. A spirit of cynicism grows up. In a spiritual community. people work with the same or more vigour because they have the right spirit. They are not cynical.
There is a reciprocality about this. Not only is it the case that the spiritual community works because of the spirit of love, generosity, compassion and understanding that prevails. It is also the case that being in such a community inculcates such a spirit. That is a major part of the raison d’etre. The community exports its spirit. People who visit such a community absorb something more than the information that they receive. It is not just that they do a practice that trains them. They are infected by the spirit and they take it away with them back into the world. The sheer fact of the existence of such communities has an effect on the world. Through such spiritual means the spirit of a Pure Land is generated and spread.
Thank you George - it is love that makes the world go round :-)