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Our text archive has over 17 million words!
Sanghajivini, Newcastle, UK
Candradasa, FBA Team
Nagabodhi, London, UK
Buddhasiha, Ipswich, UK
Mary, FBA Team
Nagabodhi, London, UK
Kamalashila, Catalunya, Spain
Sangharakshita, Birmingham, UK
... sentence or
two by way of further explanation. All such explanatory additions have been included in the
text of the discussion within square brackets. Even so, involving as it did the writing out by
hand of a MS. of some 125,000 words, the work of editing the transcript was sufficiently
demanding, and having moreover to be completed in the midst of other work it has taken
nearly two years to complete. After being started in Helsinki in May 1975, and continued at
Castle Acre in Norfolk in 1976, it was finished on the Isle of Arran, Scotland, only in March
1977. My grateful thanks are due to all those friends who, directly and indirectly, have helped
me to bring to a successful conclusion and put in circulation this response to êŒntideva*s
presentation of the Bodhisattva Ideal. In particular I would like to thank Upasaka Devamitra,
one of the original participants in the retreat, who despite other commitments found time to
type out the whole transcript twice, once in edited and one in unedited form.
‘Padmaloka*, Surlingham, Norfolk.
August 18th 1977(30th Anniversary of ‘Going Forth*)
Author’s Note to the Second Edition
The Endlessly Fascinating Cry appeared in 1978 in a limited, cyclostyled edition, and has
been out of print for many years. There has continued to be a small but steady demand for it,
however, and I am glad that Dharmachari S´labhadra is now bringing out a new edition of the
work under the Transcriptions imprint. Since 1973, the year the seminar on which the book is
based was held, the FWBO has continued to expand and changes have continued to take
place. One such change relates to nomenclature. Since 1985 members of the Western
Buddhist Order have not been known as Upasakas (m.) And Upasikas (f.) etc., but simply as
Dharmacharis (m.) and Dharmacharinis (f.).
In 1973 only one complete English translation of êŒntideva’s BodhicaryŒvatŒra was
available, i.e. the one by Marion Matics which we studied. Now three more translations are
available: Geshe Kelsang Gyatso’s Meaningful to Behold (Tharpa 1980) and Stephen
Batchelor’s A Guide to the Bodhisattva’s Way of Life (Library of Tibetan Works and Archives
1979), both of them translations of the Tibetan version of êŒntideva’s work, and Kate
Crosby’s and Andrew Skilton’s (Dharmachari Sthiramati) The BodhicaryŒvatŒra (O.U.P.
1995) The last of these which like Matics’ translation is based on the original Sanskrit text,
contains a substantial introduction and many useful notes. Mention may also be made of the
fact that an edited transcript of the Ratnagunasamcayagatha the study of which subsequently
made up for the omission of the chapter on Perfect Wisdom from the BodhicaryŒvatŒra
seminar, appeared in Wisdom Beyond Words (Windhorse Publications 1993) along with other
material relating to the Perfection of Wisdom.
Madhyamaloka, Birmingham, England
September 2001 PRAISING THE THOUGHT OF ENLIGHTENMENT
PRAISING THE THOUGHT OF ENLIGHTENMENT
p.31êŒntideva’s primary subject is the Bodhisattva,
“The Enlightenment Being,” the ultimate saint
of MahŒyŒna Buddhism.
Sangharakshita: There’s quite a lengthy discussion of the meaning of the word
‘Bodhisattva’ in Har Dayal’s The Bodhisattva Doctrine ln Buddhist Sanskrit Literature
(London 1932). One meaning is ‘Enlightenment Being’ [as translated by Dr. Matics] but
there is another meaning as well. The Pali form of the word, which came before the Sanskrit
one, is Bodhisatta, and when this is Sanskritised it can become either Bodhisattva or
Bodhisakta. Bodhisakta means one who is energising for Enlightenment, one who is making
an effort for Enlightenment, not a Being of Enlightenment, and some scholars think that the
term Bodhisattva would be more correctly understood in this sense, i.e. as one bent on
Enlightenment, not as a Being of Enlightenment.
Dayal’s book is a very scholarly work containing lots of useful information on the subject,
but in parts it is terribly unsympathetic to Buddhism. It’s a very good book to make use of,
but not be guided by. Like Waddell’s The Buddhism of Tibet, or Lamaism it is useful for its
information provided you disregard the spirit in which it is written. [Laughter] Though it’s
not so bad as Waddell, I must say.
p.31-32In contrast to the ideal of Southern Buddhism, the type of
holy man called an Arhat, who aims primarily at personal
escape from the round of suffering which is common to all
living creatures, the MahŒyŒna hero, the Bodhisattva, is a
universal Saviour of all beings.
S: As I have said before, this is really an artificial antithesis. You can’t really separate the
paths of the Bodhisattva and the Arhant, i.e. the paths of altruism and self-salvation.
p.32 He hovers benignly between being and non-being ...
S: That’s very good, but ‘upon a plateau of pure thought’, that could be misunderstood. ‘Pure
thought’ sounds quite abstract and conceptual, whereas it isn’t at all like that. It’s a plateau of
higher spiritual realisation, one could say.
p.32... and from that vantage point reaches deep into the mire and
muck of phenomenality ....
S: Mire and muck of phenomenality! The Bodhisattva doesn’t really see it like that, because
since he’s above these extremes of being and non-being, sa×sŒra and NirvŒna, for him
everything is transfigured, and at the higher stages of his experience his whole life and
activities and Bodhisattva deeds become a sort of play, a sort of spontaneous manifestation.
It’s the other people who see the mire and the muck, not the Bodhisattva. He doesn’t see the
mire and muck as mire and muck, so to speak. This shows that it’s quite difficult to get into
the Bodhisattva’s mind, his inner experience - his heart, as it were - that this text, the
BodhicaryŒvatŒra, is all about; but one can’t have much more than a glimpse of it.
p.32Only when that virtually unimaginable moment
occurs - when concepts of being and nonbeing
no longer can delude, and when even Pure
thought must be left behind as a sham and
illusion - then, and then only, will the
Enlightened Being, in all of his compassionate
majesty step forth-from the plateau of thought
to the Inconceivable.
S: Even pure thought! I think pure thought is left behind quite a lot sooner than this.
p.32At some point in existence, buffeted by storms
of Karma, the Thought of Enlightenment arises
and the Bodhisattva vow is taken. The
magnitude of this vow - that one will not cease
in continued striving on behalf of others, and
yet refrain from passing beyond the
phenomenal world into the ultimate state of
Buddhahood, determines an obligation of
cosmic proportions, for the vow is to be in
effect throughout all succeeding incarnations
and will not be completely fulfilled until every
living creature achieves Enlightenment along
with the Bodhisattva who has taken the vow ...
S: This passage gives the impression that the Thought of Enlightenment is a sort of individual
experience and that it’s you as an individual in the empirical sense who decides as it were to
save all beings, which of course is an unthinkable task. But it isn’t really like that. I’ve
touched on this before in connection with the Bodhisattva Ordination, when I’ve said that it
isn’t really an individual affair, and in the same way the Bodhichitta, or the arising of the
Bodhichitta, isn’t an individual affair. This is quite clearly brought out in Nagarjuna’s little
work on the Transcendentality of the Bodhichitta which is quoted at length in Suzuki’s
Outlines of MahŒyŒna Buddhism (Chapter XI). Here the Bodhichitta, which is usually
translated as ‘Thought of Enlightenment’, is said to be ‘not included in the categories of the
five skandhas, the twelve ayatanas, and the eighteen dhatus,’ so clearly it isn’t the thought
that arises in somebody’s mind. You may, of course, have a thought of the Bodhichitta, or a
thought of Enlightenment, but that is not Bodhichitta in this sense. I usually render it ‘Will to
Enlightenment’, which is a bit better, but even this isn’t free from misunderstanding, because
it isn’t anybody’s personal will. The Bodhichitta is much more like a sort of higher power -
the power of Enlightenment, if you like - which works through you when you are open and
receptive. It’s not ‘yours’ in the ordinary sense - not your thought, your idea, your will. In a
sense - though even this can be misunderstood - it’s something that takes you over when you
are sufficiently ready for that or sufficiently open to that and which as it were works through
you: this is the Bodhichitta. In one of my lectures I compared, - though such comparisons
have many weaknesses and are unsatisfactory in other ways, - I compared the rising of the
Bodhichitta to a Christian parallel, to the descent of the Holy Ghost on the Apostles. It’s more
something of that sort. It’s not the thought of some pious Buddhist who thinks, ‘Oh how
wonderful! I’d like to become a Buddha and help all those poor people.’ Such an aspiration
can be quite genuine, but ...