Single-sex community as assault on existing social set-up

This page provides a fuller context for the following quotes cited in The FWBO Files:
that families are 'a really massive source of conditioning' (Files note 33)
2. 'the single-sex community is probably our most powerful means of frontal assault on the existing social set-up' (note 38),
3. 'If you set up communities,... you abolish the family at a stroke' (note 39)

These quotes are from the transcript of a seminar with Sangharakshita, and have been highlighted below in bold for ease of reference.

Vijja (Sanskrit vidya) = knowledge or science or lore
Carana = practise or conduct

It is a very important point, this keeping your vijja and your carana more or less equal. Otherwise, if you have too much vijja, or pseudo-vijja, and very little carana, you become what they call 'dragon's head and snake's body'. We touched upon this in a seminar not so long ago. Nowadays it is possible to read so many books: Buddhist texts, Hindu texts, and so on. You can have a fair intellectual understanding of these things, but your life can remain completely unchanged: you live just like everybody else. This seems to be happening - especially in Buddhist circles - in the United States. People go along to Buddhist groups, belong to Buddhist groups, - go along to gompas and so on. They read all about these things. Perhaps they even write books about them, or maybe even translate texts from the Tibetan. But their way of life remains the same as that of any other middle-class professional American. They live like an American lawyer or doctor or psycho-analyst or -therapist: there's no difference. That's because there's very little carana. The Buddha, therefore, is fully endowed with both vijja and carana on the highest possible level - though you could say that no carana fully expresses your vijja because your carana exists within a very limited situation, a very limited context, whereas your vijja may be unlimited. But even so, your vijja should find the fullest possible expression that the objective nature of your circumstances permits.

It's a funny kind of understanding that doesn't have any practical application, isn't it? I mean, when you're talking about people who understand something and don't practice, they haven't really understood.

They haven't really understood. Their understanding needs to be deepened, and also to be balanced by practical application. That's one of the reasons I think it's so important that, in the FWBO there must be a new lifestyle set up. That's why I attach great importance to the communities - especially the men's communities. Because unless you've got something like that, - unless you've got something that breaks up the existing social set-up, the existing social order, - your involvement in Buddhism remains academic, virtually, or just pietistic. But if you set up communities, particularly men's communities and women's communities, then there's a different sort of social set-up immediately. You abolish the family at a stroke - and everything that that implies. The whole family-based way of life is just abolished, just broken down, and that's a very, very big thing to have done: a really massive source of conditioning is removed. Unless one does something like this there's no real carana: it's all quite empty pseudo-vijja. With the possible exception of team-based Right Livelihood, which we have yet to develop properly, the single-sex community is probably our most powerful means of frontal assault on the existing social set-up. Because it changes so many things. It changes your whole pattern of domestic life; it changes your whole pattern of work; it changes the whcle rhythm of your day-today existence. It changes your psychological attitude, changes your emotional attitude; corrects your emotional dependence [on the opposite sex]; gives you a completely different sort of environment and context within which to function. Suppose each one of you were to project yourself into a situation where you had a full-time job, 9 to 5, where you had a wife, and one or two children (Laughter.)

Now what do you think your state of mind would be like? What do you think your prospects would be like? They'd be very, very different! And what do you think you'd make of your Buddhism - what do you think you'd do with it? With luck you'd get in a short meditation before you went to work, or in the evening when you came back home, - if you weren't too tired, and if the wife didn't want you to do something, - and with luck you'd get along to a class once or twice a week. With luck. Even that would become more and more difficult as your life at home became more and more demanding, especially if you had more children. It would be difficult to go away for retreats because you have to take the family on holiday, and you couldn't do both, perhaps. Well, it doesn't really bear thinking about, does it?

From ‘Salutation to the Three Jewels, A Seminar on the TIRATANA-VANDANA’, pages 17-19. Transcribed by Upasaka Kulananda, Edited by Ven. Sangharakshita. Pub Ola Leaves 1978. Words within square brackets [ ] are explanatory additions by the editor, Ven. Sangharakshita.