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Transcribing the oral tradition...
Viriyalila, FBA Team
Mary, FBA Team
Vidyamala, Manchester, UK
Kalyanavaca, London, UK
Buddhasiha, Ipswich, UK
Jinamitra, Welwyn, UK
Viveka, San Francisco, USA
Nagabodhi, London, UK
You can also listen to this talk.
Lecture 134: A Blueprint for a New World
Urgyen Sangharakshita Mr. Chairman and Friends, Some years ago - in fact it was quite a few years ago, not so very long after I returned from India as related the day before yesterday - some years ago I had a friend, quite a good friend, who was in the publishing business, and the firm to which he belonged, the firm for which he worked, had specialised in the publication of popular books; in fact whole series of popular books; on the wisdom of the East, the various oriental spiritual traditions. And, of course, one of his great preoccupations was finding and publishing books that would sell. As sometimes publishers, like other business men, admit in their more candid moments, they're not in it for thee good of their health [Laughter], so my friend's preoccupation also was making sure his books would sell. And he told me one day that if he wanted to make quite sure, if he wasn't particularly happy about a certain book that he was going to bring out, well, there were various ways, various methods, not to say technical tricks of the trade, to make sure, to make quite sure, that the book would sell. And one of those ways, he told me in a confidential mood one evening, was to insert the word 'secret' or 'secrets' into the title, because if you did that, if it was 'The secret of this' or 'The secrets of that', people would be sure to buy that particular volume; it would sell, and sell well. Perhaps this word 'secret' or 'secrets' appeals to our natural curiosity.
I had at about the same time, perhaps a little later, another friend; another friend in the world; and this friend was in the world of advertising, and he let me into a few trade secrets too. And he said that when advertising a product he tried, as often as he possibly could, to introduce the word 'new' because this was a word, he said, which people seemed to find really fascinating. If you can say that a product is new, that's quite sufficient; you don't need to say that it's better than the previous product or some other product; people assume that if it's new it must be better. This friend, incidentally specialised in advertising motor vehicles, especially large trucks. [Laughter] Well, we are also concerned with what is new. In the last lecture, which was, you may remember, really a talk, I spoke about 'The Nucleus of the New Society', and we saw that that nucleus is a spiritual community, is an Order, which is to say, a fellowship, a spiritual fellowship of spiritually committed people, spiritually committed individuals. And in the course of that talk I described how and why I came to start the Western Buddhist Order and the Friends of the Western Buddhist Order. I gave a description of what they are and tried to explain, tried to make clear, in what way they are the nucleus of a new society.
Tonight we are also concerned with the new: we are concerned with 'A Blueprint for a New World', which is the fourth and the last of the four things that the FWBO has to offer the modern man and the modern woman.
You may remember - those of you who've been attending all these lectures - you may remember that the first thing that the FWBO has to offer was 'A Method of Personal Development'; the second: ' A Vision of Human Existence', and the third, as I've already reminded you, 'The Nucleus of a New Society'. And all these things, these three things - the method of personal development; the vision of human existence; the nucleus of a new society - all these things have something in common, which is that they all actually exist. We have them here and now. There is a method of personal development; in fact, there's a whole family of such methods, and people are actually using them, having recourse to them, actually benefiting from them; people find that they do work, that one can, that one does, develop. And similarly there is a vision of human existence; a vision seen by the Buddha and his Enlightened disciples; a vision of which even ordinary people can have, do have from time to time, a glimpse. And as for the nucleus of the new society; that exists very concretely indeed. We may say that a part of it, at least, a small part of it, is here in this hall, tonight! But what about the new world? What about the blueprint of the new world? Does that exist in the same way? Do we have it here and now? Well, we have to admit it doesn't exist in the same way. If it exists at all, it exists only in imagination, exists only as a dream; and tonight's lecture, therefore, differs very much from the three previous lectures. In those three lectures the FWBO offered something which actually exists, but in tonight's lecture it'll be offering something which does not exist, or offering something which, if it exists at all, exists only in the future. So tonight I shall be, as it were, using my imagination, not so say dreaming. But of course the imagination has its uses. Even dreaming has its uses.
What we imagine today we may execute tomorrow, and the dream of the night may become the reality of the morning. So let me imagine, let me dream, and we may find that we are closer to waking, closer to reality, than we had thought.
So; a blueprint for a new world. There is something rather fascinating in these words, especially perhaps in this word 'new'. A new world. But why should we find the idea of a new world so fascinating? Why should we find it so attractive? Presumably it's for the same reason that we find the idea of a new car fascinating; the idea of a new model: it's because we are not really satisfied with the old one. But when we say that we are dissatisfied with the old world, what exactly do we mean? What is it, exactly, that we're dissatisfied with? We're not dissatisfied with the world of nature, we're not dissatisfied with the sun, or with the moon or with the stars. We're not dissatisfied with the earth, with the flowers, or with the trees. I suppose that we'll never be dissatisfied with them. But with what are we dissatisfied? When we say that we're dissatisfied with the world we generally mean that we're dissatisfied with certain aspects of corporate human existence, dissatisfied with certain social, economic and political arrangements; dissatisfied even with the quality of human life.
But usually the dissatisfaction that we feel with the world does not go nearly deep enough. We are not nearly dissatisfied enough! Our dissatisfaction with the world only too often is rather like the motorist's dissatisfaction with his car. The motorist would like, perhaps, a slightly wider steering wheel, or a somewhat more comfortable seat, or perhaps a few more gadgets; the latest gadgets; and of course the motorist always would like to be able to go even faster. But he's not dissatisfied with that particular mode of transport as such. He's not dissatisfied with having to use up irreplaceable natural resources in the form of fuel. He's not dissatisfied with polluting the air with his exhaust fumes wherever he goes. And he's not dissatisfied, usually, with the way of life which obliges him to spend hours hunched over the wheel instead of walking. That would be dissatisfaction indeed! So our dissatisfaction with the world is of much the same kind. We are dissatisfied, perhaps, with the amount of money that we earn, but we are not dissatisfied with the very idea of working for a wage, for a salary, at all. We are dissatisfied, perhaps, with our personal relationships, but we are not dissatisfied with the state of emotional dependence on which those relationships are usually based. If we are at all politically minded, if we are at all what is called patriotic, we are dissatisfied, perhaps, with the position of our own nation in world affairs, but we are not dissatisfied with nationalism. We are not dissatisfied with the whole concept, the whole ideology, of the sovereign national state. And of course, we are dissatisfied with wars and rumours of wars and conflict in all quarters of the globe, but we are not so dissatisfied with those things for the sake of which people go to war, for the sake of which they fight.
So usually we don't really want a new world at all; we only want an improved version - even a slightly improved version - of the old world. But the world of which we are dreaming tonight is a really new world; a world radically different from the old. So in what way is it different? Let me go to the very root of the matter at once, and put it in as few words as I possibly can. The new world is, the new world will be, a world of individuals; a world in which people relate to one another as individuals; a world in which one is, a world in which one will be, free to develop to the utmost of one's potential, and in which all the social, the economic and even political arrangements will help one to do that, to develop, to grow. The new world, therefore, is what we call a spiritual community, a spiritual community writ large; and our aim therefore must be to transform this world, the present world, the old world, into a spiritual community, because this is the only new world which is worth having, the only new world that is worth working for.
But how is one to do this? How is one to transform the present world into a spiritual community? How is one even to begin? Now before I go into this, I must deal with a possible objection, or at least must make certain things clear. There are quite a lot of people who are dissatisfied with the world, in one way or another, for one reason or another; dissatisfied with the way things are. There are quite a lot of people who would like to change them. Whether their dissatisfaction with the way things are is always deep enough I don't propose to enquire this evening. But they differ among themselves as regards the way in which things can be changed. ...