In today’s talk, Doug ‘Qapel’ Duncan and Catherine Pawasarat Sensei explore the topic of ‘Spiritual Energy Traders’ in more detail. (Season 3 Episode 22 introduces this material.) They look at the unwholesome aspects of capitalism and how it reinforces negative patterns both in our individual lives and in our collectives: our communities, countries and corporations. They outline suggestions for how we can shift our attitudes and behaviors to transform our world into a place where we are motivated by exploration, compassion and a vision for humanity that is much bigger than ourselves.

Today’s episode covers ideas that Qapel and Sensei explore in detail in their bestselling book, Wasteland to Pureland. The third section of the book is entitled Crazy Wisdom and covers a wide variety of topics, including The Shadow, Tantra, and Money, Sex & Power. Podcast listeners can download a free chapter from this section of the book by visiting

Note: the extended version of this recording, with 5 extra minutes of material, is available to our supporters on Patreon at

Podcast Transcription:

HOST:  Welcome to Dharma If You Dare. I’m Christopher Lawley,  a Planet Dharma team member and producer of the podcast. In the last episode of season three, we heard Doug Qapel Duncan and Catherine Pawasarat Sensei speak about the ideas they lay out in their reflection entitled Spiritual Energy Traders from their book Wasteland to Pureland. If you haven’t heard that talk yet, you can find it in the podcast episode list. It’s entitled  An Economic Revolution: Untangling Ourselves From Capitalism.

In today’s talk, we hear them go into this topic in more detail. They look at the unwholesome aspects of capitalism and how it reinforces negative patterns both in our individual lives and in our collectives – our communities, countries, and corporations. They outline suggestions for how we can shift our attitudes and behaviors to transform our world into a place where we are motivated by exploration, compassion, and a vision for humanity that is much bigger than ourselves.

At the beginning of the talk, you’ll hear Catherine Sensei mention the term “spiritual sustainability”, which is one part of the quadruple bottom line. Each of these four aspects is explained in detail later on in the talk. Sensei and Qapel also briefly discuss the paramis. For more about the paramis, check out season three, episode four, entitled Become a Work of Art: Understanding the Six Paramis. 

Finally, just a reminder that our Patreon account has a growing selection of extended versions of episode recordings. The unedited version of this talk has an extra five minutes of material included in it. You can find it on our account at And now, here’s today’s recording.



Q: We’d like to suggest that there are three approaches to make life way more interesting for yourself than it is under the capitalist model. First of all, you need to introduce spaciousness into everything you do every time you do it. In everything you do, everything you say, you have to contact that empty, spacious mind of quietness. This means it is almost more important, if not more important, than the business of your activities.

CS:  That’s the spiritual sustainability.

Q: This is the core of dharma. This is the cart of dharma. It is the spacious, empty, silent mind.

CS: And a meditation retreat is absolutely indispensable for cultivating that. That’s why meditation is so important. I don’t think it’s possible to get that without meditation. Do you think? 

Q: No, probably not, in some form or other. 

The second part of it is, we need a sense of discovery. We need a sense of exploration. Well, right now the most exciting thing out there in terms of exploration is space because the rest of the world has been explored. We’ve sort of done everything. We’ve been to the bottom of the ocean, we’ve been to the top of the mountains. Mount Everest is a traffic jam. Humanity needs a vision that takes it beyond itself, outside itself, beyond just taking care of the house. While taking care of the Earth is really important, it’s not a big enough vision for humanity. We need to take care of space. We need to go to the stars.

CS:  I love the connection of the need for contact with spaciousness with the need to explore space. 

Q: It gives us, I think, a goal that’s so far beyond ourselves! We don’t have time to keep bitching at each other or bastarding at each other. 

CS: It does give a good perspective, doesn’t it? 



Q: And then the third one, in some ways the most difficult I think, the third thing that the planet really needs is non-definitional terms of relationship. We need to drop terms like husband, wife, boss, employee, white, black, brown, female, male, daughter, son. Have I missed any? Yeah, millions. We need to drop all these terms and just talk to Karen or Cara or David or Duncan or Maureen just as they are without all these labels of identification and separation and isolation.

CS:  Also it really ties to ownership. You are my partner or you are my friend.

Q:  My child, my money, my car, my house, my partner. These are isolatory and they are capitalist. And if we want a revolution that changes the planet we just meet the consciousness that appears in front of us as is and drop the labels. Drop the defining characteristics – I’m with you. I’m not with you. Your friend, your enemy.  You’re on my side, you’re against me. I’m with you, I’m opposed to you. That has got to go!

CS:  That links so well with the spaciousness also, right? Because it just introduces a kind of fluidity. You’re the namaste, the deity that’s appearing before me at this moment. 

Q: And what would that do for loneliness? Because you couldn’t go, “I’m me” either. That’s the last hook on adopting non-referential relationship non-terms. I`ve got to work this one out better in terms of presenting it. Because you can no longer say “I’m me and you’re you”. 

CS: And that’s the teaching of non-duality. 

Q: And that’s non-duality and that’s the end of capitalism. 



CS: I mentioned earlier, we’re big fans of trusting in the universe and tying up your camel. So circling back around, capitalism really thrives with a scarcity mindset. We only feel we need to get more if we’re afraid of having less. If you feel like you have enough then you’re not driven by this pathological need to accumulate. That said, financial maturity entails looking after the details and making sure one’s ducks are in a row, for sure. We’re big fans of that too. 

Q: So, to address the elephant in the room, we are not suggesting that we make the teaching and the teachers a mere monetary exchange. But since money is a measure of our current value, right, in society, shouldn’t we apply it to that which is the most precious on our planet? So obviously, things like environmental health, refuges for different species, like the game reserves of Africa, or limits on the human population. Look, we can’t afford 7 or 10 or 20 billion people on the planet. These kinds of ecology, these kinds of environmental and social responsibility are in the best interests of everybody. But fundamentally, the awakening of beings is what we’re on about. The number one reason for being human is to awaken. And in order to awaken a revolution needs to occur in your own mind. And that revolution is –  you’re not in it on your own, you are not by yourself, you are not an isolate, you’re part of a seven-billion-limbed organism. And we’re going to have to start acting like it, not just the 100 people who live in your valley or the million people who live in your city.

So we’ve expressed it in our bottom lines, our quadruple bottom line. We think we’ve covered most of it. 



CS: Spiritual, environmental, financial and social sustainability. Or we like to say generativeness, being generative in all those areas. 

Q: So, environmentally, that’s the planet but it’s also your backyard. The economic is ways of earning money that supports each other so that we can work together to create a livelihood and occupation and careers that aren’t just reliant on you – so that if you get sick, you’re done for. That you have a group of people who are working in the same area and field as you so that your economics isn’t all weighted down on you. Like the Hutterites or the Mennonites or Clear Sky. Social responsibility –  that idea that we’re in it together, working together. So again, you’re not in isolation. And then the spiritual sustainability or spiritual generativeness. And that speaks to – when we do the first three, the fourth is almost automatic. It’s almost a natural progression. 

We often feel we can’t devote as much time to spiritual life as we`d like, because we’re too busy making money or we’re too busy paying the bills or we have responsibilities with our families that are somehow separate from our spiritual life. And what we’re arguing is that if you had those three together, the spiritual sustainability – generativeness – would be much easier. 

Now, in that sense, we’re neo socialists, we’re new socialists, not socialists a la labor unions and communism and the early 20th century, but new age socialism in the sense of not having unions versus the management. Because socialism arose within the confines of capitalism. And we’re saying, no, no, socialism as a completely other system than capitalism, not fighting against capitalism, but a kind of replacement value. The people who stepped into socialism were basically fighting against capitalism or fighting for their part in capitalism. And we’re actually saying no. For socialists, we`re actually building something “for”. 

CS: That’s right, That’s a really good point, not fighting against something, but fighting for something, building something positive.

So currently, a great breakthrough would be if a lot of this were done willingly by all of us, that we just decide that we’re going to do it, and this is happening. And one super example that some of you may be familiar with is the Wholefoods story, when it was still an independent company. They got bought by Amazon and we were just talking about how terrible Amazon is. So I’m not sure what’s going to happen with that. But in 2004, the average Fortune 500 CEO received a salary that was 431 times larger than their average employee. That was 2004. However, the CEO of Wholefoods at the time, received a salary that was only 14 times larger and that was done voluntarily and he set up the rules for that. He decided, “this is how we’re going to do it”.

Then in 2007, he figured he had earned enough money both with his salary and his stocks, which were similarly capped so that his stocks were in proportion to the stocks of the average employee. So in 2007, he began taking a salary of $1 a year because he said “I’ve got enough money” and “I’m just having a good time being in charge of this awesome company”. He did inspire some other CEOs to do the same. There are at least nine CEOs that have $1 annual salaries out of the big Fortune 500 companies. So that’s cool and let`s celebrate that. And we also still need to –  this is the `tie up the camel` part – we need to have our discernment because while the other nine CEOs only get $1 a year in salary, they do have huge amounts in stock options that are not commensurate with their $1 annual salary.

Q: And there’s the energy trader principle again. The idea that I’m going to get a bit more or a lot more than the next person. But, the point is it can be done. 

CS: The point is it can be done and we need to be smart about this and pay attention to the details and not be bamboozled by smoke and mirrors. 



Q: Okay, so we started this out at some point tonight with I, me and we. Therefore, our curative prescription needs to address this I-we apparent dichotomy. We have some ideas. How do we get to a more egalitarian society? The me and the we – it sounds like a song. Let’s start with the individual. First the me, the I. Well, one of the quickest ways you can develop a more egalitarian society is with the practice of dana. It’s the first parami and it’s the first parami for a reason. Cultivate a life of dana practice. Support growth and unfoldment, over accumulation. Think about it. 

CS: I’d like to just add another word about dana. Dana is the first of six virtues or perfections also known as parami. And we’re teaching a course on those next month called Becoming a Work of Art, the classic Buddhist foundation. And the reason that dana is the first parami is that if we can perfect this virtue, the other ones just follow like little ducklings or like dominos. If we can perfect dana, all the other ones will fall into place. That’s why the dana practice is so important and so profound. Have you ever really thought about “how can I be generous in this situation?” 

Q: Yeah, too true. And in terms of practical speaking, you’re not going to perfect dana before you work on all the others. So you have to work on developing the others. But once you perfect dana the other five fall into place. So you have to work on patience and energy and concentration and so on. So dana practice. 

Then teach environmental and social skills early. How to take care of the environment. I think they’re doing that now in public schools with the lower grades. They’re taking them out on nature walks and doing things like this. But when I was a kid there was no representation of nature at all except in biology or something, right? Maybe botany. But it was more by way of business than it was by way of the environment. But  I think that’s changing. So that’s good.

And social skills. Do we teach social skills in school yet? Or do we just teach people how to behave? Do we teach them social skills or do we just teach them how to hold their aggression or frustration and not get angry? The interesting thing is that Harvard  decided that in order to get into their Masters of Business Administration (MBA) program, the number one skill they need is social skills, everything else can be taught. So it’s catching on. It’s not like what we’re saying is off the wall. Harvard is agreeing with us that social skills are the number one important ingredient for doing business. 

CS: If I can flesh that out a little bit; I think they said they were finding that their most successful graduates were people who came from the nonprofit sector because those people arrived with well-developed social skills and they found that the curriculum couldn’t really teach those. It wasn’t about how high your test scores were or how great your grades were. 

Can we talk more about our recommendations?



CS: Okay, so environmental and social skills. We are big fans of encouraging non-nuclear relationships. It’s just not kind to put all of our emotional and psychological needs onto one other person or to keep it contained within a small nuclear family. 

Q: We call it ghettoizing your human relationships, putting them in a little small neighborhood, in a little small box.

CS:  That’s the power of community, where we can have our emotional, social and psychological needs met by a group. Hopefully a diverse group of people. 

Q: It will certainly decrease the number of fights. You’ll be too busy fighting with a whole bunch of other people than just your one partner. You have to share your fighting around.

CS:  Children can have a lot of different role models, for example. 

Q: Another one is, appreciate the talent of others. Mudita! Start enjoying other people’s abilities rather than feeling competitive or as competition for you. Do you support each other’s talents or do you try to get the top hand? To be the smarter, the more together?  

CS: And then having the discernment and the humility to listen to the clearest and most compassionate voice in the room.

Q:  How do you know who has the clearest and most compassionate voice in the room? The one with the most spaciousness in the mandala. The person with the most spaciousness in the situation has probably the clearest voice. We’re back to it. 

Okay, so at the society or communal level, what kind of things would we do? 

CS: Prioritize education, as well as social and environmental responsibility. Really, the foundational building blocks of any culture or society.

Q:  Make education collaborative and cooperative rather than competitive. I was told that every kid in grade three knows very clearly that school is a competition and you’re either winning or losing or somewhere in the middle. Let’s change that one. 

CS: Supporting a culture that appreciates voluntary limits on wealth accumulation, and that’s the Wholefoods example. 

Q: I think even beyond this or to extend it – it’s voluntary limits on your idea of wealth. How much time do you need for you? How many resources do you need for you? How much `for me, for me, for me`, need go on in a day? How much `me time` do you need? How much `me doing my thing` do you need? 

CS: And who’s subsidizing that? Because somebody is! Particularly in developed countries supporting a culture that voluntarily limits our population. In developed countries we consume more than our fair share of resources per capita and we have the social systems to support us that they may not have in developing countries. The family provides that function in a lot of developing countries.



Q: Another big one for the `we` is human population limits. We do have to embrace the idea that humanity does not have the right to cause the extinction of any other species. The more we grow, the only animals left on the planet are going to be the ones we eat or use. And kittens and dogs judging by the number of Facebook likes. We don’t have the right to eliminate species. Nobody gave us that right.

And by extension, birth control in America was illegal in 1920. It was against the law. You know, abortion or the birth control pill were against the law. Contraception was against the law. Women were enslaved, 6, 7 kids, worn out! So, population control. 

CS: We`re strong supporters of developing biomimicry. Nature is really the ultimate designer. Think of all the awesome things that nature does with minimal inputs.

Q: And the other two, I think we’ve mentioned – more flexibly defined human relationships and exploring space. 

HOST: We hope you enjoyed this episode. Please rate and review Dharma If You Dare on your favorite podcast app to help more people find and benefit from these teachings. And don’t forget to subscribe to get episodes and bonus content sent directly to your device. Today’s episode covers ideas that Qapel and Sensei explore in detail in their best-selling book, Wasteland to Pureland. The third section of the book is entitled “Crazy Wisdom” and covers a wide variety of topics, including the shadow, tantra, and money, sex, and power. Podcast listeners can download a free chapter from this section of the book by visiting See you next time and may our efforts benefit all beings.