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Transcribing the oral tradition...
Colum, London, UK
Sangharakshita, Birmingham, UK
Ratnaghosha, FBA Chairman
Padmatara, San Francisco, USA
Viriyalila, Portsmouth, USA
Candradasa, FBA Team
Eric, FBA Team
Viveka, San Francisco, USA
Sangharakshita in Seminar
Questions and Answers on the Chairmen's Retreat 1981
Not noted but those identified by the transcriber as well as The Venerable
Manjuvajra, Subhuti, Devamitra, Nagabodhi, Lokamitra, Prakasha, Vajradaka,
Mangala, Abhaya, Padmaraja
Sangharakshita: So what is it this morning? We're discussing those general points which emerged
from yesterday's reporting in of chairmen as such. You have a list of these points? Perhaps you could
each read them in turn.
Manjuvajra: The first thing I've got was the discussion of privacy and private life and the need for
S: Just go through them. It may be possible to do them in a natural order.
Manjuvajra: The second was what qualities are emphasised by being chairman and performing that
function. What particular qualities do we feel and which ones are excluded.
The third one was what I called Chairmen's Cold Turkey, or Chairmen's withdrawal symptoms.
The next one was patience, the development of patience and how to overcome the result related
The next one was sources of inspiration. The difference between work and the forms of meditation as
the source of inspiration.
Related to that is how do chairmen lose inspiration, how do they regain it?
How do they get out of contact with their activities as being a spiritual practice?
And the last one was working with people who you like, dislike, and the operation of teams.
S: So is there a natural starting point? Have you got anything different Subhuti?
Subhuti: Results. The need for results.
S: Ah, that's connected with patience, isn't it.
Subhuti: The temptation to question is another one. Attracting the sort of people that are like one.
The people that one attracts.
S: Yes, this is connected with working with people you like, dislike and so on, isn't it. Is there any
natural starting point, or any particular topic which stands out as the most important or as leading
into all the others?
S: Those three related points. What were they?
Manjuvajra: Basically it's:
How do chairmen lose inspiration?
How should they regain it?
What are the sources of inspiration for chairmen?
How do they get out of contact with their activities as spiritual practice?
S: Perhaps the third comes first. What are the sources of inspiration for chairmen, and then how you
lose, how you are to regain, and as a more specialised form of all that - well how is it that one's
activities cease to be spiritual practices.
So what are the sources of inspiration and how is it that they seem to dry up sometimes? I think
people should just not go round one by one but as the spirit moves them just say what they feel are
the sources of inspiration, and then perhaps we can move on to discussing how it is they can dry up.
Nagabodhi: Meditation (unclear)
Devamitra: I would have thought sources of inspiration for different people would be different.
There would be a different emphasis within maybe that area. For instance in my case I find that I
think I take my greatest inspiration from contact with other people, rather than, say, meditation or the
arts or anything else.
S: Perhaps you should first of all make it clear what you mean by 'inspiration'. There seems to be
some ambiguity here.
Manjuvajra: What I mean by it is to me inspiration is when you get something inside you which
gets motivated and you feel that you want to express that experience. You find a source of energy
inside and it just bubbles away and you just want to express it in some way. I find writing inspiring,
because when I sit down quietly and start to do some writing then the energy starts to rise when I
write and it's just a really satisfying experience to have that whole process. And I also find the actual
idea of changing the society, I really see the kind of spiritual, political aspects of that. Really going
out and making a definite change. But I really feel I'm actually doing that. The sort of circle is
Lokamitra: It's a sort of vision then isn't it, that is connected with that.
Prakasha__________: I find it's highly important if I find I can use my imagination in a creative
way through study and in that sense provide a vision. (unclear)
Manjuvajra: I find meditation good because it acts as a reminder. Sometimes you kind of forget
what you're doing it all for and it all gets to seem a bit pointless, but then all you've got to do is have
a few clear meditations and suddenly the whole thing transforms.
Nagabodhi: (unclear) for me it's retreats rather than meditations. In fact my daily meditation isn't
necessarily inspiring because my mind just isn't able to meditate very well, but if I go on a retreat I
actually can get into the practice and if it's devotional practice too which is really important. Then
that really is my central source of inspiration. [Pause]
Vajradaka: The main way that inspiration comes to me is when I verbalise the Dharma. It seems to
bring all the digested Dharma that I've sort of heard and read to the surface and then I can see
whether I've understood it correctly and when it comes up it has a kind of a freshness in a sense a bit
like a feedback. I very often just think about the life of the Buddha.
S: I remember Buddhadasa saying at the Convention he found the life of Dharmapala very inspiring.
Vajradaka: In terms of work it's just remembering why I'm there. Sometimes, when things get a bit
flat you forget, so if you just remember why...
__________: I think sometimes just reflection can bring you back to the space where you keep your
Prakasha: I find it quite important to do nothing for a while, to just sit there and do nothing and just
sort of stop everything. In that way I can get back to experiencing myself again. So often I just feel
like I've experienced myself through so many other things and that sort of takes away the experience
of myself. I'm always engaged in work or other activities and I actually need just to come back.
Kamalasila: I used to do that in West London when I was getting really flat I'd just do nothing for a
while and it would be a really quite boring thing to do but afterwards I'd find that (unclear)
Vajradaka: It's interesting because this implies that we can't produce inspiration, manufacture it.
Manjuvajra: You have to create the space for it to arise of its own accord. You can't force it. But if
you can push back the activities sufficiently just to get that space. It could be either in meditation or
just stopping and looking out of the window, then you can get an opportunity for (unclear).
S: More specifically it does seem, and here I think we come back to how Chairmen lose their
inspiration, that you mustn't allow things to get on top of you. The initiative must rest with you,
because if you allow things to get on top of you, you are having simply to respond to the situation -
perhaps respond is not quite the right word - you have to cope with the situation, instead of setting up
the situation. If you're always on the defensive and simply have to deal with things that people bring
to you to deal with, then your inspiration dries up because you've become essentially passive to
circumstances, instead of being active. I suspect that this is one of the ways in which Chairmen start
losing their inspiration. So when you say create space for yourself or even when you go and
meditate, among other things you are keeping all these pressures at bay, and you are creating the
possibility of yourself taking initiative. So it does seem very important that Chairmen shouldn't allow
circumstances and things to be done to get on top of them, so that they're functioning entirely in
accordance with the pressures that are being exerted upon them. Do you see what I'm getting at?
Because if you feel passive, which means you feel weak, well then you lose your sense of initiative,
you lose your drive, you lose your inspiration, you become resentful perhaps. You feel pressured, you
feel you're being forced to do something. Then you feel that you're just acting out of duty. Actually
you're not acting at all.
__________: You have to be quite crafty to dodge that.
S: Well crafty and firm sometimes.
Mangala: I happen to be experienced in this area. I think if you're working with perhaps let's say
five other Order ...