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Padmavajri, East Sussex
Mary, FBA Team
Buddhasiha, Ipswich, UK
Sanghajivini, Newcastle, UK
Eric, FBA Team
Sheila Groonell, Aryaloka, USA
Kuladharini, Glasgow, UK
Colum, London, UK
... make up his mind - well, in a sense he doesn't have a mind to make up. Well, what can
he do? He can only say no. He's
- 123 -
BI 4 18not even thinking about it. He's in a rather sort of dreamy state perhaps. And if you put something in
front of him he'll take it. So that's what they do in the East more, they don't ask children: "Well, would
you like this Johnny? 11 or "Would you like to do that Mary?" and "How about such and such?" If you
do this to children what happens? It's confusing, and they have to develop the sort of whim in order to
respond to your particular question.
So if a child is brought up - and this was the sort of
thought I had, which I'm sort of in process of exploring, I'm not coming to any definite or very
concrete conclusions - but if a child is brought up always being asked what it wants, always being
forced to say what it wants to do, what it would like to do, what it doesn't wantTho do, what it doesnW
like, well, you1re not going to find later on that thaUchild (or even at the same time) that that child is
going to find it very easy to do what he is told. One does find this is Indian families. Again another
Indian couple came to see me, friends of mine bringing the three children, and it was really quite
noticeable, as it always is with Indian families, how obedient the children are. But it's not that the
parents are heavy, it's not that they're tyranical. There's a very great deal of warmth and affection
between the parents and the children, a quite human sort of relation. But nonetheless, when father says
"Come on, we're going now." Yes, the child is quite ready to go, he doesn't burst into tears and say
(imitates) "No, I wanna stay" (laughter) like an English or American child would do, no, he's just quite
happy to go. Do you see?
So perhaps because we bring up children (with this idea of being
able to be )? asked what they would like, and all that sort of thing, and be treated as individuals. Well,
they're obviously not individuals and not going to be so for a long time to coome, you're just creating
trouble for the child, at that time and later on, and for yourself. So perhaps this has got something to
do with the fact that we find it so difficult to obey. Sometimes I almost wish I had dozen or two
children of my own so I could carry out a few experiments (laughter). 'Cos I don't like to sort of take
things on trust from other people. (laughter continues) I'm not making suggestions but those of you
who happen already to have children you could perhaps just observe them and just see whether this is
Pete Dobson: You're always welcome to come to the farm.
S: (chuckles) Well you see, the occasional experiment is not enough you've got (laughter) ... daily
experiments over a long period, and just observe very carefully. So perhaps it~~~he best way of
treating children: always to ask them what they want or what they'd like. Just give them, just firmly
and in a natural sort of way, and they'll just get into the way, accepting, doing what they're asked to do.
I've also noticed among Indian children: they like to do what their parents ask them to do. They d~feel
it's an imposition or being ordered, no. That just is not the feeling. They're happy to do something. If
father says "Go and get such and such a thing for me" well, the child will happily just trot off and get it
just pleased to do something for father. So that's the way Indians usually, on the whole, bring up their
children. So they do have a more happy family life, and all that, than is often the case in the West. And
usually, I think, the children grow up to be more positive and happy individuals.
Jonathan Brazier: But doesn't it follow that those children would grow up unable to make decisions,
unable to take the initiative?
- 124 -
BI 4 19S: No. Because I think a time comes when~they naturally do that. And I think they're all the more able
to do it if it hasn't been forced upon them prematurely. Because if it's been forced upon them
prematurely, well, it only seems to develop a certain amount of reactivity and uncertainty which
eventually gets in the way of a genuine taking the initiative.
Padmavajra: So would it be right in thinking that one of the reasons we find ... (3 words unclear) ... is
because we have too many choices? That actually we need to reduce the number of ...
S: Ah! Yes, yes. It's as though reducing the number of choices strengthens the character. If you see
what I mean. I've talked about this sort of thing quite often in recent years in the form of commenting
on the fact that people within the FWBO often like to keep their options open. They don't like to
undertake something or promise something or commit themselves to something because if they did so
it might exclude some other possibility that might come along. So they're so concerned sometimes to
keep their options open, out of fear of missing something, or losing something even better, that they
don't actually do anything, or don't even win or achieve anything.
Pete Dobson: You never commit yourself.
S: Yes. And if you never commit yourself, what sort of character do you develop? You don't develop
any sort of character at all, you've no more character than a jellyfish. (laughter) Before you can have
character you've got to have some sort of backbone, and a jellyfish doesn't have a backbone, (laughter)
a jellyfish is just a mess (laughter) eventually, you know, it1s washed up on the beach and just stinks
(laughter), and that's all one can say about it.
So, yes, if you've too many choices and keep
your options open too much, and don't take a decision, well, how can their even be a question of
initiative? How can there be a question of commit- ment? And therefore how can there be any
character? How can there be any will? So it's as though by obeying, or having someone to obey, you
narrow the range of choices. Within a sense you've no choice at all. So that's why perhaps you develop
the strongest character of all, until the time comes when it's your turn to (so to speak) give the orders,
because then you're able to do that, you're in a position to do that, you're mature enough and wise
enough to do that. I mean obviously I (sort of) have in mind all the reservations I made the other day
about it being necessary to do all this in the love mode and not the power mode. 'Mean because the
parent doesn't want to boss the child, not if the parent himself or herself is healthy and positive to begin
with. The fact that the parent tells the child what to do doesn't mean that the parent enjoys (you know)
ordering the child around in a neurotic sort of way, that's not the situation at all. The parent is
concerned for the well being and growth of the child, and knows better than the child, very often, what
is good for the child, and what it ought to do.
Pete Dobson: They do seem to definitely need a line.People are like that also aren't they? They
actually like to know what they're doing.
S: Yes. Well, they like to know where they stand.
- 125 -
BI 4 20Padmavajra: Going back to Buddhist tradition, is there anything w~ich you could see as obedience? Is
not the term sasana related to it? In a sense ...
S: In a sense . Sasana is often translated as "message".
The Buddha sasana : the message of the
Buddha. But it's more than that, it's more like "command", or I've sometimes translated it as
"imperative". Or it's more like the promulgation. It's interesting that in modren Indian languages
"sasan-karuna" is "to govern", it's from the same root, the same word. Sometimes sasan is used for
"government". So it suggests - the word Buddha-sasana - conveys that sense of binding-ness. It is that
which is to be obeyed; you recognise it as it were of your own free will as being that which simply is to
be obeyed and that is the way in which you respond to it. You respond to it as a sort of ethical-cum-
spiritual impe~tive, which is not in the ordinary power-mode sort of sense - I think that is a point
which is very difficult to grasp. You see the situation so clearly that you just have to act in that sort of
way, it's not the situation that is compelling you to act, it is your sense, your own understanding, your
own perception of the situation that is compelling you to act in that particualar way. There might be
nobody else around at all to compel you anyway, there's only you. But none- theless you experience it
as 'a situation in which you cannot but act or behave in a certain way, you've no choice.
Devamitra: So that's the latent truth or the latent
S: Yes, one could put it in that way. This is sometimes what people say when they ask for ordination.
They say, well, T don't see I have any choice, there's just one thing to do, there's no alternative really~
They're not keeping their options open any more. They see really there's only one option. So it's a very
strange sort of state to be in, especially if you're an Order member, that of trying to keep all your
options open, even if it is only on the level of whether you should engage in this particu- lar activity or
that particular activity, or spend time with this mitra or that mitra - if you wait long enough a better or
more brilliant mitra might come along, who knows? It is like the young girl who rejects all her suitors,
because she's got this idea of Mr Right, you know, a real ...