The Guardian’s Article on the FWBO
II | Families and Lifestyle
Two of the selected quotes in the article concern the family, and are misused to suggest that the FWBO is against families. In developing ways of practising Buddhism in modern society, individuals in the FWBO have become aware of the limitations and constrictions often experienced in conventional nuclear families, and have sought to develop alternatives. It would be wrong to interpret this as hostility. A critique of an institution need not be accompanied by feelings of hostility.
The first quote describes the nuclear family as
a fragile and unwholesome unit. It offers little real stability and happiness and, by virtue of the clinging and delusion that it embodies, is antithetical to spiritual life.
In its original context, this statement was not meant to imply that all families are bad. It describes a tendency families can exhibit. Behind the quote lies a critique of modern society which suggests that we live in increasing isolation. Many social commentators have observed this process of atomisation. One detremental effect of this process is that our sexual partners and nuclear families can have to bear all the weight of our need for human relationships. This puts too much strain on the other parties involved. Our partner cannot be our father, mother, teacher, boss, buddy, brother, sister, companion, counsellor, guide and sexual partner all at the same time.
As a response, the FWBO encourages people to develop a range of spiritually supportive non-sexual friendships with members of their own sex. In the absence of romantic projection, and of sexual desire (in the case of heterosexuals, at least) communication is simply more straightforward. This has led to the development of single-sex communities, for those who wish to follow this lifestyle, and it is to these that Sangharakshita refers in the quote:
If you set up a community, you abolish the family at a stroke ... the single-sex community is probably one of our most powerful means of assault on the existing social set-up.
This is asserting the existence of a positive alternative to nuclear families, but not suggesting that people who cannot, or do not wish to pursue this alternative should feel obliged to do so.
In practice people involved in the FWBO follow a wide variety of lifestyles, but all try to engage in the same process of spiritual growth. Many individuals involved with the FWBO, including many Order members, live with their families, just as there are many who live in residential spiritual communities.