Buddhism At Work in the WorldOn Mon, 2 July, 2018 - 14:37
Lama’s Pyjamas: More Than Just A Shop
Catherine is one of Lama’s Pyjamas’ regular customers: she comes in most days and spends about an hour and a half in the shop, chatting to staff and buying some second hand clothes and goods. She has Alzheimers and is sometimes a bit lonely. Abhayanandi, the manager of Lama’s Pyjamas, has told her she does not need to buy anything in order to spend time there but Catherine likes shopping and she enjoys a chance to connect with others. And in return the staff care about her - they worry about her if a few days go by where she hasn’t turned up and have even contacted Age Concern (a charity that assists older people in living independently) to ensure that they can support Catherine in the best way they can.
Lama’s Pyjamas is not a regular shop. It is a Team-Based Right Livelihood (TBRL) - “the charity shop of the London Buddhist Centre”.
Team Based Right Livelihood: A Blueprint for a New World
Right Livelihood is an aspect of the Noble Eightfold Path. The Buddha encouraged his followers to engage in economic activities that did not cause harm and are ethically positive. Team-Based Right Livelihood is an attempt to take this further and, working with others who share the same vision, embody a new vision of work as an active and deeply relevant Buddhist practice.
Sangharakshita has long envisaged TBRL as part of a reconsideration of societal structures that can help people grow: Read or listen to ‘A Blueprint for a New World’
Out in the World
Since the closure in 2015 of Windhorse Trading (Triratna’s largest Team-Based Right Livelihood enterprise to date) after 35 years of business selling giftware, there are not as many team-based right livelihoods around the Triratna Mandala these days. Lama’s Pyjamas is one bright star in the Triratna TBRL firmament. It was set up eight years ago by Abhayanandi and Padmalila as a women’s team, very much motivated towards helping raise money to support the Dharma. In 2017 it raised approximately £61,000 in dana, which went towards supporting the activities in the London Buddhist Centre.
The shop is situated in the East End of London in a diverse area where customers range from those with little money to hipsters to Muslims who pop in after Friday services in the Mosque next door! While the shop is clearly a Buddhist run business (as proclaimed on the sign over the door) it is open to all.
Listen to Abhayanandi talking about Right Livelihood and Lama’s Pyjamas.
There are four full-time staff, a couple of casual workers and a pool of two to three volunteers. Sarah and Nikki are part of the Lama’s team. Nikki was previously a hair dresser and Sarah has a PhD and worked in sustainable energy. Nikki was a Mitra for a number of years and while committed, felt like she had gotten a bit stuck. Due to her work at the time she was not able to make it to the London Buddhist Centre very often. Now working in Lama’s she has a strong context of spiritual friendship which has made her feel more plugged into the Sangha. She enjoys the work - particularly opening recently received donations of clothes, as it allows her to imaginatively connect with what the donor’s life must be like.
Sarah came to Lama’s Pyjamas after finishing a Dharma Life course in Adhisthana. The intense conditions for practice there over several months made her realise that “crucial situations” like these help rapid transformation; and when the course ended she looked for a similarly focussed set of conditions that would allow her to live a Dharma life, a life of service, as fully as possible.
Caught Not Taught: Working on Support
Team-based right livelihood is a dimension of the ‘New Society’ that Sangharakshita proposed and which we try to bring to life as individuals and as a community. Livelihood is clearly an important area of consideration in this as it takes up such a significant amount of daily life and most people need to engage in employment of some kind.
Staff working in Lama’s Pyjamas work on support: that is, the principle of giving what you can and taking what you need. As part of their work package they have a retreat allowance and contribution towards a pension. Despite the fact that this package is perhaps somewhat frugal by normal standards, Sarah says that she has a sense of abundance working there. She enjoys the simplicity of what she is doing and that in fact, “everything I need comes into the shop!”
Space to Create: Opportunities for Creativity
And while they are often asked about whether it is ‘boring’ to work in a shop, there is plenty of scope for creativity and to bring their own skills and talents into play. Recently Nikki was involved in the re-branding and signage project, which appealed to her creative side, and, although hard work and intensive, was an opportunity to develop. Similarly, Sarah recently had her inner project manager needs sated by the chance to create a system on Microsoft Excel!
Exploring Team-Based Right Livelihood
On the 8th July Lama’s Pyjamas are holding a workshop (on a donation basis) in the London Buddhist Centre from 10am to 5pm exploring what the Buddha says about work and Triratna’s way of translating this into practice. The event will involve personal talks, conversation cafe, and will finish with a gratitude ritual. All are welcome!
If interested contact Lamaspyjamas [at] lbc.org.uk for more information.