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Nagabodhi, London, UK
Buddhasiha, Ipswich, UK
Padmatara, San Francisco, USA
Candradasa, FBA Team
Eric, FBA Team
Aileen, Shetland Islands
Viriyalila, Portsmouth, USA
Mary, FBA Team
... was nothing to do with you personally in that
sense; it wasn't one of your needs in a personal sense. It was some FWBO matter under the
jurisdiction of the Norwich Centre, of which Devamitra was chairman at the time, which
either you had brought up with him or he had brought up with you; and, within that situation,
he saw someone else as having specific responsibility for it. think it is a case in point, just
because, as I understand you in the lecture, you say that someone out of their love can make
another person a loving person; and I take it that someone also out of their understanding can
make another person an understanding person. But if you end up in a position where you don't
understand  why it's required of you you just know that the higher authority has said 'You
must do it' then I take that as representing you in the sense that you use the word in the
lecture. Does that make it clearer?
S: But then also one could say that the question of faith comes in, faith in a quite reasonable
sense; because there isn't always time to explain everything. Some things need more
explanation than others. In principle, of course, if one is asking someone to do something, or
if you as an Order Member are trying to explain to somebody, say a Mitra, that Bhante thinks
such-and-such ought to be done, then clearly it isn't enough just to say that Bhante thinks
such-and-such ought to be done. One also needs to explain Bhante's thinking. That may
involve explaining something about the Dharma itself, making clear some fundamental
principle of the Dharma on account of which Bhante thinks such-and-such; and because
Bhante thinks that, it follows that such-and-such ought to be done. Sometimes ideally, always
this needs to be fully spelled out. But there may not always be time, depending on the
situation. The situation may be one of some urgency, when things need to be done quite
quickly, so there are, I am sure, situations in which people have to accept, let's say, an
abbreviated explanation out of their confidence (perhaps we should say, rather than faith) not
only in me but in the person who is communicating my particular point of view. Otherwise it
might sometimes occur that the explanations and the discussions just go on and on and on,
and nothing gets done. Sometimes it becomes even, I have found, an excuse for not getting
around to actually doing anything at all, because you go on asking for more and more and
more explanations. But certainly, in principle, if you ask someone to do something if you ask
yourself or if you say that I would like something done, or I think something ought to be done
an explanation should be given. But I must say, partly from my own experience, that I have
sometimes found that people in a way are unreasonable in the amount of explanation they
require or profess to require in view of the practical situation everybody is in. Do you see
what I mean?
Kulamitra: Yes, I do see what you are saying
S: So that there needs to be a sort of middle way between giving a reasonable explanation and
being expected to go into things in quite inappropriate detail. But there is quite a bit more, I
think, involved in the question than that, because you say: 'Are you aware that, by claiming to
represent you, Order Members can turn a genuine spiritual hierarchy into a power structure?'
There is this question of representing, which I have gone into; because, if it is a question of a
genuine spiritual hierarchy, clearly it is based on the love mode and not the power mode, and,
as I have said, love can't be represented. That doesn't mean to say it can't be communicated.
An example that occurred to me, thinking about this question, was one that is mentioned in
the scriptures that is of one light, one lamp, lighting another, or one candle lighting another.
You can light your candle from somebody else's candle, so that the flame is transmitted. The
original flame is still there, but you have got a flame too. But that flame you are having to
nourish, even though you have taken it from the first flame, on your own oil or on your own
wax, as it were. So sometimes or very often, I hope that can be done by an Order Member.
That is not representing. That Order Member may catch, as it were, something from me or
from another Order Member or from a book, and can communicate that to somebody else. He
catches it, as it were. But here there isn't any question of representing. So this an Order
Member can quite legitimately do, and should do. But I don't see quite how an Order Member
can claim to represent me, in  the sense that I have spoken of representing in the lecture
itself. How would that happen?
Atula: Certainly I have experienced such things happening, where seemingly what has
happened is perhaps in a situation a certain kind of view is held by a group of people, perhaps
you have considered or a person coming down has been asked or directed to check out a
situation, and my experience is sometimes the people get uneasy themselves about
communicating so they tend to resort to: 'This is the way it's got to be', rather than easing into
a situation of encouraging a discussion and trying to bring up, you know
S: But where do I come in here, or where does representing come in?
Atula: Well, because I think sometimes your view has been represented in a situation well,
what it actually ends up is
S: But can you represent a view? Just as, say, love can't be represented, can you represent a
Atula: Well, in my experience a lot of times what actually happens is the whole situation goes
very badly wrong. I suppose that's what I'm trying to communicate.
S: I must say it isn't very clear to me what you think is happening or does happen, in the
context of the question.
Atula: The way I understand Kulamitra's question is to deal with the way information is
actually conveyed, and sometimes it is not conveyed in a way
S: But the conveying of information is quite different from representing.
Vessantara: What I think I sometimes see happen is people invoking what you've said, from
the point of view of you as an authority in the same way as when the Theravadin monk says
to someone, 'This is the word of the Buddha,' people are not really being invited to consider
what the Buddha is saying; they are supposed to simply follow it because it is the word of the
Buddha. I think sometimes what has happened in the past is that an Order Member has simply
said: 'Bhante has said such-and-such,' and it hasn't been an invitation to people to learn more
about what you have said and go along with it; it is meant to end the discussion. People
invoke you as an authority not that you have said it from the power mode, but people use it as
if it had been said in the power mode, or they try to use you as an authority.
S: Do you think that that is necessarily the case, even if I am quoted in that way that 'Bhante
Vessantara: Well, I think one has to go very much by the attitude with which such things are
said. In certain cases, they may simply be passing on what you have said, and people are free
to take it or not. In certain cases one feels that one is being or an attempt is being made to
coerce you by the fact that 'Bhante has said such a thing', so that should end the discussion.
S: It also occurs to me because, yes, I do know that that sort of thing does sometimes happen;
but I also know that sometimes people are oversensitive. For instance, the person
reproducing, let us say, my view, may simply be reminding people of a principle which
everybody in the Order in principle does accept. For  instance, supposing someone says
something like 'Bhante has said so many times that commitment is primary and lifestyle is
secondary.' So this would simply be reminding someone of something that everybody really
accepted, but which perhaps in the heat of discussion had been overlooked. And so, in a way,
that should end the discussion, if the discussion questions something which is quite basic to
the Order as such. Do you see what I mean? So there can be a justification, in a way, for
ending a discussion by quoting something that I have said, not because I have said it but by
way of reminding people that this is something absolutely basic to the Movement, to the
Order, which you can't really seriously question without ceasing to be a Member of the Order,
as in the instance I quoted. So I think sometimes that sort of thing happens. But if you feel
that someone is quoting me as an authority, well, you have to do two things: first of all find
out if I actually did say or write that particular thing, and then simply discuss the view on its
own merits, bearing in mind that in certain areas I may well be more experienced than you. I
say 'certain areas' because I am quite well aware of my own limitations. If it is a discussion
about cars, I would hardly venture an opinion at all; but, in certain other areas, well, you
could probably more or less take what I had said at its face value without too much
discussion, assuming, of course, that you had understood for yourself what had actually been
Atula: What I am trying to [say] is not so much the information conveyed [where] you can
quite easily enter into an understanding, but what I am getting at is where there is an
atmosphere of fear engendered. I think that's
S: I really find that quite extraordinary, certainly if it's speaking to Order Members, that