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Samudradaka, FBA Team
Candradasa, FBA Team
Candradasa, FBA Team
Sheila Groonell, Aryaloka, USA
Suvarnagarbha, Cambridge, UK
Viryaja, Toowoomba, Australia
Vidyamala, Manchester, UK
Nagabodhi, London, UK
... So that would definitely include all Buddhist books if it includes things like
S: Well, I was aware of this even before Manjuvajra and Vajradaka and Punya went to the States.
In fact I think I warned them that Christianity in the States was more strongly established than it
is in this country. Despite there being no established religion officially in a sense - but
church-going seems much more the rule there and Fundamentalist Christianity, I think, is quite
strong. In a sense we are up against that and will be up against that - even comparatively fringe
sects like the Mormons and the Jehovah's Witnesses are very much more prominent than they are
in this country.
Dhammadinna: The 'Born-again' Christian movement is getting quite strong in  New Zealand
as well. (Megha: Yes)
S: Perhaps we have to take more militant sort of stance.
Megha: How do you mean?
S: Well, in India I had the reputation of being 'the enemy of the church' which was what the
Christian missionaries called me. So perhaps I had something to live up to there (Laughter) The
difficulty is of course, that in India, is that all the minorities tend to group together, for protection
against the Hindu majority so Christians and Muslims are quite friendly towards Buddhists in
India just because they're fellow minorities. But perhaps in this country perhaps in the States or
New Zealand one just has to be much more outspoken. I did upset quite a few people in New
Zealand, in Australia - by what they thought of as my anti-Christian attitude. Which meant that I
didn't accept Christianity and I regarded it as not being the same teaching as Buddhism and
therefore for me to accept Buddhism was not to accept Christianity. Even though, yes, in the
Bible, in the New Testament are sayings that one can accept but the system as a whole - the
whole conception of - the whole conception of salvation, one cannot possibly accept if one is a
Buddhist. And not only that, but one must reject it as actually harmful to human beings as having
exercised a very bad influence in history - very harmful even. I have found that there is quite a lot
of early Rationalist literature dealing with Christianity and so on - it's almost impossible to get
these things now. You have to hunt for them in second hand book shops. They're nearly all out of
print - they're all of them, practically all out of print and I've noticed that the sort of Christian
version of events is becoming more and more standard and more and more generally accepted in
all sort of fields. Do you see what I mean? You can buy histories of Christianity which give you
no idea, for instance of what the Inquisition did or what the Crusades were really like. It's all
glossed over - even, I tell you, the Encyclopedia Britannica - a lot of it has been re-written since -
it's now being published in the States, in Chicago, yeah? If you look up for instance the article,
the Albigensians, what the Church did is glossed over. So we are being denied access, really in
effect, to information. Our minds are being made up for us, on certain issues. In reading some of
these entries, for instance about the Albigensians, you are given the impression almost that the
Church was justified in taking the action that it did. Because the  Albigensians, because the
Cathars were threatening to subvert the whole moral order of society. They were anti-social. That
is the impression that is given. The authorities were justified in taking the action that they did
against them - that there was a bit of bloodshed, well, that was unfortunate. Too bad! That's the
I've been reading a more objective history of the Popes by an early Rationalist - he says frankly
that a certain Pope was a drunkard - an alcoholic - that does not appear in the official Catholic
histories of the (dynasties)- they remain silent about such things. They even nowadays gloss the
part they played just by Pope Pius XII, during the Great War - his well-known sympathy for the
Nazis and for Nazism - that's all glossed over.
Vajrasuri: That's history being re-written, isn't it?
S: Yes it is.
Annie F: 1984! It's started!
S: Anyway, we're going a little bit off the track. We're really talking about border countries and
the sort of areas in which one doesn't - or an Englishman would not like to be reborn in if one
wanted to keep on the Buddhist Path.
Marion: Do you think there's a tendency for barbarism to overtake civilization ...?
S: That does seem so because look at the history of the Roman Empire. Of course, it didn't
simply disintegrate - it was attacked from without, - it was attacked by the Goths but it does seem
it was put in a position where it didn't receive much resistance. It does seem there are recurrent
epochs of barbarism. The Mongols did a great deal of damage in the Middle East, you know,
when the Mongols invaded. The Middle East under Islam reached a very high standard of
civilization and culture. That was all destroyed. It never recovered - the Middle East never
recovered. When I say Middle East, I mean Persia and Syria, Iraq - as they are now - Egypt. The
Mongols wreaked such havoc; they did such devastation. Great libraries were burned. Well, the
Muslims themselves earlier on, well they created havoc in some of the areas which they
penetrated - like when they burned the great library of Alexandria.
Vajrasuri: This form of Fundamental Christianity is a form of barbarism.
S: Yes, really one feels that even culturally. I mean, you can't imagine some of those people with
an appreciation of Blake or Shakespeare or Shelley, can you? They probably would burn them
all. There was no understanding or appreciation of the arts - no sort of emotional refinement. Can
you imagine the 'Ladies of the Watchtower' reading Shelley? You saw that little painting by Beryl
Cook - I have a reproduction of it - "The Ladies of the Watchtower"
You can't imagine them reading Shelley! (Laughter) I hope I'm not doing the poor ladies an
injustice - which you really can't - I mean apart from the Watchtower itself, knitting patterns
represent their intellectual limits. One really feels that - looking at Beryl Cook's painting,
But culture I think is so important! Culture really comes midway between barbarism and
savagery on the one hand and higher spiritual culture on the other It refines one's emotions; it
helps one to be more truly human - things like music, poetry, painting, theatre, dance. These
channel and refine our crude almost animal energies. They give them meaning and significance,
greater depth. (Pause)
I have a sort of theory - maybe it's a bit more than a theory I think there are different levels and
degrees of refinement that civilization and culture (come) in the world. After spending some time
in India - many years as an adult and then coming back and spending many years in the West, I've
come to the conclusion, that people in India on the whole are more cultured than people in the
West. Huh? I mean, this has been my sort of impression - I sort of was asking myself, "well, how
has this come about?". Well, for one thing they've been cultured much longer, in many cases. In
Europe, culture goes back a very short time. If one reads, say, the history of the Franks - the
Franks were the people who took over, what amounted to Germany and France after the collapse
of the Roman Empire they were thoroughly barbaric and then of course, they adopted
Christianity, and you might say, they became more barbaric still, in some ways because they sort
of took to the Old Testament rather than to the New. That's where they found their models and
their patterns. And I think even the better side of Christianity - say, well some parts of the New
Testament exerted an influence on them only gradually. It was these people who harried
Provence where the Albigensians and the Cathars lived. These people coming down from
Northern France they were barbarians still in the thirteenth century but they were Christian
barbarians, with the blessing of the Church.
So one gets the impression that the peoples of Western Europe are basically quite barbaric in
comparison with many Eastern peoples. And this is the conclusion to which I've come.
I think Christianity in some of its forms, hasn't really helped very much. It hasn't really helped in
the civilizing process because in the Old Testament you've got a justification for violence and
bloodshed in the name of religion. Christianity is not an unambiguously peaceful religion in the
way that Buddhism is.
Marion: Which way overall do you think is the direction that the world is going in? (Laughter)
S: Oh dear - The world is a mixture, isn't it? On the one hand, in a place like Britain, yes, these
Eastern spiritual traditions have been introduced We know about Buddhism, on the other hand,
we've got the Atom Bomb. These are the things that are becoming more and more extreme.
Maybe I should have put the cat among the pigeons a little bit more - at the other end of the scale,
so to speak, at the other end of the coin - I think the Japanese are barbaric because they're very
much like the peoples of Western Europe. They've been really cultured only for quite a short
period or about the same length of time and you know, Buddhism was introduced there only
about the seventh century? It didn't spread very quickly at first. They haven't been a civilized, a