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We provide transcribed talks by 35 different speakers
Sravaniya, Boston, USA
Sheila Groonell, Aryaloka, USA
Samudradaka, FBA Team
Coleen, FBA Team
Ratnavyuha, Auckland, NZ
Kamalashila, Catalunya, Spain
Viriyalila, FBA Team
Padmavajri, East Sussex
... out of
Clive: In the story about Milarepa building the towers is the tower actually a material tower or
S: As far as we can tell from the life of Milarepa the tower was certainly a material tower - he
built more than one tower - because he had to  build it with stones that he carried himself
and he had to carry some of those big, heavy stones on his back and he got sores on his back.
So as far as we know it was very definitely a material tower even though of course there are
symbolical overtones. The building of that tower so far as he was concerned was not just the
building of something material. It has a different significance and a different kind of effect
and that brings us to the whole question of this symbolism of the house here in this particular
passage. They are building a house, a material house. He has built a house, a house which as
we shall see is non-material, but how can one take this, this whole question of building a
: Is it like a refuge?
S: Yes, it's like a refuge, but before you start building a house what do you have?
S: Yes but the foundations are part of the house so before you have the house at all in any
sense what do you have.
Voices: [Various inaudible suggestions]
S: Yes well put it in Aristotelian terms you've got the material cause, you've got the efficient
cause but what else is there? Well there's the formal cause and the final cause. That is to say
you've got the idea of the house and the purpose for which you build the house in your mind.
You've got a plan, an idea in your mind, this is really what comes first. Isn't it. You have an
idea, you have a picture, you have a need which the building of the house would fulfil. So
first of all you have something in your mind, an idea, something abstract, whether it's in the
case of those people or in the case of Milarepa, and then you sort of body it forth in the
material world. So doesn't this suggest anything to you as it were. Does it suggest anything at
about the nature of life itself as we live it.
: the material in the world could be an expression of the symbolical.
S: Yes, everything that you do in a way is symbolical. At least it's expressive because whether
you are conscious of it or not or whether the idea in your mind is very clearly formulated or
not you are all the time giving expression to something within yourself. Supposing you do
actually build a house, supposing you do decide to build a house, supposing you need a house
and you decide to build it yourself and supposing you've got the land and you've got the
money for materials and you accumulate the materials - you'll start building the house in a 
certain way and this will not be governed only by strictly utilitarian considerations. Suppose
you decide to have red bricks instead of grey bricks or suppose you decide to have square
windows or circular windows, will this not tell something about you? So it's as though one
can look on one's life in terms of its being a sort of working out in material terms of not just
your ideas but in a way the idea which is you. And it is also significant that the process of
rebirth, the process of taking birth itself is likened to the building of a house. The Buddha
does this in some famous verses in the Dhammapada where he says addressing ignorance, his
own ignorance, that "housebuilder I have seen you now" I have seen what it is that causes this
whole process of birth and death and then rebirth to be repeated over and over again. I have
seen what it is that causes the house of this worldly life to be built again and again and again.
So it's as though here in this particular passage, in this particular section, we have much the
same sort of symbolism, this sort of bodying forth in material terms of something that is
within you as an idea, as a tendency, as an impulse, but back of all these ideas, back of all
these tendencies, back of all these impulses there is, in a manner of speaking, you and
essentially it is that which you are bodying forth. So if one uses the language of the house,
this is sort of three dimensional. One can also use two dimensional language and speak of the
creation of one's own mandala. It's as though here you are with all sorts of raw materials. So
far as you are concerned the world is just a collection of raw materials and here are you sort
of giving your form as it were to a certain part of the world, to a certain amount of the
material which the world contains, as a means of expressing what you are. We are doing this
all the time and creating or setting up a certain kind of pattern, a certain kind of structure
which is good or bad, positive or negative, skilful or unskilful according to the state of mind
with which or out of which, or state of being with which or out of which, we create it.
Mandalas also can be three dimensional, not just houses but palaces.
So it's as though there are overtones of this sort of thing in this particular passage. The
householders are not just building a house, they're giving expression to a particular kind of
attitude and this is why Milarepa says "Your worldly houses are delusions, mere prisons for
Kulananda: They're involved in a reactive process.
S: Yes or that they are the expression of a reactive process. They build a house as a place of
security, a place of refuge. Maybe a place in which or upon which they can carry on all sorts
of unskilful activities. That's what a house means to them. It's not just putting up four walls.
There's far more to it than that.
: In a way those forces that govern these ideas are they like the unconquered dakinis and
S: What ideas are you speaking of?
: The ones out of which you act out... Your desire to build a particular house...
S: Yes, because you can look upon your building materials as it were which are not only
outside you in the world but also again in another sense inside you, depending on what you
are building. You can look at them in two ways. You can look at them as it were as
completely passive, for instance material things are completely passive relatively speaking.
You use stone, that's passive. If you use wood it's passive in the sense that it doesn't put up
any active resistance. But your materials may in another sense be human beings. You may be
trying to do something with or create something with human beings. That's a very different
matter because they can put up active resistance. Stone or wood can put up passive resistance
because it has a certain weight, it has a certain quality which you have to respect, which you
can't violate but human beings can put up active resistance and then your own mental forces,
your own impulses, when they become the material so to speak, the raw material, of a more
subtle kind of house building, a more subtle kind of creation well they can put up a very
violent resistance indeed, and it's that perhaps which is symbolized or suggested by the nagas
and dakinis because of that sort of thing. They have to be won over before you can do
anything with them. You can't approach them violently. Well in a manner of speaking you
can, in a manner of speaking you can't. You have to approach them like Padmasambhava and
bring them under control by one means or another before you can do anything with them or
create anything with them. You have to tap them. You have to be in contact with them of
course and that's important.
So it's as though there's a sort of not only contrast but a clash between their worldly building,
first of all they're building a house in the quite literal sense, they're using materials, using
stones, clay and so on and they're building that house for a certain purpose, with a certain
idea. But Milarepa has built a house of a quite different kind. First of all it isn't a material
house at all. He's been building his house in a sense with himself, with his own faults, his
own emotions, his own inner energies and he's been building it with a quite different motive
from what these people have been building their house. So their building of their house is a
completely reactive process, his building of his house is a completely creative process, so
how can he possibly join in the building or their building of their house? How can you be
creative and reactive at the same time? How can you be reactive and creative at the same
time. The  two don't really overlap. You can't really be engaged in the two processes at one
and the same time. So when they invite him to join in the building of their house, they're
really inviting him to participate in the reactive process, which he cannot do. In a sense he
doesn't have that freedom. The nearest he can get is to approach them for alms. By
approaching them for alms he is giving them in a way the opportunity of just being a tiny bit
creative. They refuse that. The nexus between them which he gave them the opportunity of
establishing was that nexus of dana, the first of the Paramitas. He gave them the opportunity
of taking that first step and establishing a link between the reactive process and the creative
process. They were not able to take that opportunity, they were not able to forge that link.
So then he had to draw their attention to the fact that their reactivity and his creativity were
completely antithetical, that there's no question of him helping them to build their house. He
just refused to join ...