Volume 5, 1998
Working in the Right Spirit: The Application of Buddhist Right Livelihood in the Friends of the Western Buddhist Order
University of Hannover
This paper shall concentrate on adaptive forms with regard to the interpretation of Buddhist economic ethics in the West as presented by Western Buddhists. A brief outline of ethics in Buddhist teachings will be followed by a presentation of Weber’s image of the “world withdrawn Buddhist,” allegedly not involved in any social and economic activities. Buddhist ethics, as portrayed by Weber, nowhere promotes socio-political engagement and entrepreneurial activities. Contrary to Weber’s stereotyped view, which was widely accepted but rarely questioned, members of The Friends of the Western Buddhist Order have started to develop businesses and cooperatives, thus combining Buddhist teachings and involvement in the world. Their team-based Right Livelihood endeavors already have created a Buddhist economy on a small scale; their ultimate aim is to bring about a transformation of Western society. Thus, supposedly “world withdrawn Buddhists” have become socio-economically active in the Western world.