Austerity. Good. Or Bad ?
We usually think about austerity in the economic sense . Our wonderful post war Welfare State is being whittled away by greedy wealth, who have confused a spiritual concept to further enrich themselves .
In 1948 Britain held the first Post War Olympic Games in London , referred to as the : Austerity Games. Athletes were housed in military Nissen huts and the wonderful Canadians (who came to Britain’s defence with disproportionate effort to their population) brought over extra food for the impoverished British athletes. Watch Listen to Britain one of the masterpieces to come out of wwtwo
https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=6h8pHumyIn the country generally there was a greater shortage of food than during the war (partly because of the cut off of US war supplies, which were later made up by the Marshal Plan.
So with the shortage and rationing of food brought a wonderful spirit of giving and sharing.
On my Zycling trips I usually carry the minimum of food, so staying with Servas hosts is an extra treat.
All religions have an Austerity tradition, the willing application of restraints of the material senses and appetite gives space through fasting to explore our true identity.
So when I spent the day meditating at the monastery recently during the contemplation period of the Vassa , I was pleasantly shocked when entering the kitchen to collect breakfast; there before us was the most comprehensive spread. A Shri Lankan family had brought an offering of vegetarian sausage,croissants and fruit lassie plus every conceivable type of fruit , cereal and milk.
I remember several years back when I was preparing the breakfast , the Abbot reminded us that we should restrict what we put out as it was getting all too
Now with the growing popularity of Chithurst and some particularly generous wealthy supporters, the modest English Country house is becoming a palace.
The scruffy driveway has recently been beautifully paved which makes it easier to be swept , but makes the pigeons droppings very visible and hard to wash away.
I have also heard that senior monks are being issued with business class tickets rather than wait for the inevitable upgrade that they often get flying Thai Airlines.
So here lies the dilemma, the tradition calls for the grateful acceptance of freely given gifts by the supporters, who in the eastern tradition receive merit for their generosity.
I suppose the positive side to this development is the realisation of this corrupting influence to our own spiritual development.
I’m not suggesting that we should return to the harsh regimes of the ancient
Greek city of Sparta who gave us the Spartan philosophy, but maybe the unease that some of the supporters are beginning to feel should be taken seriously
For a very good commentary see