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17 million words and counting!
Samudradaka, FBA Team
Ratnaghosha, FBA Chairman
Nagabodhi, London, UK
Eric, FBA Team
Ratnachuda, South London, UK
Viveka, San Francisco, USA
Viryaja, Toowoomba, Australia
Sanghajivini, Newcastle, UK
... so fundamentalistically-minded.
But there might be another follower of Tibetan Buddhism who was quite liberal minded and
with whom one could have an intelligent discussion and sympathetic exchange of ideas. so it
does seem that this distinction between the fundamentalist approach to religion or spiritual
life, and what I have called the more liberal minded approach, is in a way quite basic. Both
can really go to extremes, and it's as though you need something of what each represents at its
Padmapani: Going back to your regular thing about writing a commentary on the structure of
Padmapani: Constitution; commentary; constitution.
S: No, the commentary was on the Precepts.
Padmapani: Yes, a constitution [for] the Order. Could you see this difficulty arising within
the Order with the constitution? On the one hand, you have people that are trying to follow
the letter of the constitution and [on the other hand] you have people who want to follow it in
a spirit of -
S: Well, I'm afraid one has that even now. Literal-mindedness is something that is with us
even at present. I've talked about this, I think, on many occasions before: that people's
approach is sometimes very literal minded, and this is the seed or the root, if you like of
fundamentalism: lack of appreciation of the spirit of a teaching; lack of imagination, even. So
I don't think this is going to wait for my passing away, but it might be exacerbated if I'm no
longer around. But it is an ever-present danger, I think. Therefore, also, I think perhaps the
fewer and the plainer the principles and the precepts and the rules that we have, the better.
Padmapani: Presumably this would [be helped by] the way you crafted your structure?
S: That's true, though I'm not quite sure what you meant by crafting it perhaps it's got a
connection with 'crafty'! (Laughter.)
Padmapani: I didn't mean in that sense at all.
S: Oh, I take craftiness as very definitely a positive quality! You can't survive without it!
Padmapani: But I didn't say 'crafty', I said 'craft'.
S: Yes, but I said 'crafty'. I don't think it's possible to formulate any teaching or principle or
precept or constitution or commentary in such a way that no one can possibly take anything
that you have said over literally. I think that is just not possible, unfortunately. So what is
really important is the communication of the spirit of the Movement, the spirit of the Order.
So long as that is alive and flourishing, people are less likely to interpret precepts and
constitutions in a literalistic way.
Jayamati: Could you enlarge on being crafty as an essential?
S: Well, I've summed it up before. I said you can't afford to be as harmless as the dove unless
you have the wisdom of the serpent not in this wicked world! Probably I could say that part of
the success of the FWBO and the Western Buddhist Order has been due not perhaps so much
to my spiritual talents as to my talent for diplomacy and craftiness! (Laughter.) because it's
not easy to survive; and it's easy to have good positive qualities and all that, but to have not
exactly worldly wisdom but to be able to understand the workings of the minds of worldly
people, without being affected by that, is quite important if one is trying to run a spiritual
movement. Well, maybe some of you have worked in coops and in centres where you have
contact with the public and local authorities; perhaps you know this. This is an essential part
of the equipment of the Bodhisattva to know his way around, so that you can safeguard the
spiritual movement, protect the spiritual movement, and ensure its survival. There's no point
in encouraging a head-on collision, so to speak, with the powers that be; very often you have
to circumvent them if you are to survive. Sometimes I am really surprised, sometimes even
shocked, [at] how incredibly naive some of our Friends and Members are. I think some of
them, without losing their spiritual innocence, have got to acquire a little bit more worldly
wisdom, not only for their own sakes but for the sake of the Movement! Do you see what I
mean? A certain type of craftiness is by no means incompatible with spirituality. (Laughter)
As I've said on other occasions, in Buddhism there is no room for the ideal of the holy fool!
There is no such thing in Buddhism at all. There is such a thing as crazy wisdom, but not holy
fool. And the best Order Members, on the whole, are those who combine spiritual talents with
Jayamati: Yes, in that connection, Bhante, I was once quite shocked when Subhuti flagrantly
announced that he thought cunning was a very useful skill for ...
S: He may well have been quoting me! But what is cunning? Cunning is well, 'kenning', isn't
it? It is from the same root as 'to know'. In the Authorized Version of the Bible, there is a
phrase about the hand not having lost its cunning* it means just its skill. So, originally, the
word cunning had quite a positive meaning in English. It is only recently that the meaning has
become debased. I believe that the word 'king' is from the same root: the king is the one who
knows, who knows more, who knows better, than other men, and therefore is qualified for
leadership. And, of course, in Scottish we've got 'ken', haven't we? 'I dinna ken'. Anyway, let's
Vessantara: We learn that before the Buddhist Sangha became very differentiated from , the
groups of the Wanderers and parivrajakas, presumably there were quite a number of practices
which were then continued by the Buddhist Sangha. Is there any suggestion anywhere that
Going for Refuge obviously not to the Buddha but to an ideal, to a teacher and to his teaching
and to the community of wanderers who followed him was something that was done by other
groups and other sanghas?
S: I don't recollect any reference to anything of this sort, though there were numerous
references to other ganas(?), as they were usually called groups of disciples around a teacher
and numerous references to six famous teachers in particular. But I nowhere recollect any
reference to anybody Going for Refuge to any of those teachers rather than to the Buddha.
There might possibly be something in the Jaina tradition, which in many ways was close to
the Buddhist tradition, but I can't recollect anything, even in the case of Jainism. Though
again just to add this all those other groups did have, in a sense, the three things. They had a
teacher, they had a teaching, and they had an organization. So in a sense they had their own
Three Jewels. None the less, I can't recollect any reference to any of them actually Going for
Refuge in so many words to their own Three Jewels. But this is something, perhaps, that
could be looked into. It could be that the Jains had something equivalent. I wouldn't like to
say categorically that they didn't. But, certainly, normally the idea of Going for Refuge is
associated with Buddhism and not with any other tradition. Though there is a verse in the
Bhagavad Gita where the expression 'going for refuge' is used. Sri Krishna says to Arjuna let
me see if I can remember it [Sanskrit quotation] you see, saranam: 'Renouncing all dharmas'
what dharmas means here is the subject of a lot of commentaries 'mam (to me) saranam
(refuge) praja(?) (take)'. 'Giving up all dharmas' is sometimes translated as 'giving up all
religions' or 'giving up all duties', 'take refuge in me alone'. Mam ekkam yes, 'in me alone'. So
that does have the idea of going for refuge, which is one might say a very general idea. But
certainly, in Hinduism, no Three Refuges.
Sanghapala: In India ... that the followers of 'Bhagwan' Rajneesh chant the Three Refuges
with him as the Buddha. I just wanted to make that point.
[footnote: If I forget thee, O Jerusalem, let my right hand forget her cunning. (Ps. 137. 5.)]
S: They do chant them. As far as I know, they've got it a bit wrong: they put the Dharma
Refuge first, then the Buddha, whom they understand as Rajneesh, and then comes Sangha.
They've taken that, of course, from Buddhism and just got it a bit wrong as he usually
manages to get a bit wrong all the various things he takes from Buddhism, including the
'Bhagwan'. (Laughter.) I don't know if it's generally known that I met him once? (Voices:
Yes.) Yes, many, many years ago long before he became famous; and at his request I gave a
lecture this was in Jabalpur in oh, the late fifties or early sixties, I can't remember which now;
probably the very early sixties. I was in Jabalpur and he was then a lecturer in philosophy at a
local college, and he had a little group; and coming to hear that I was in town, giving lectures,
he invited me to address his group. So I went along to the college and I gave a talk, believe it
or not, on mindfulness! I wish he had taken my talk more seriously than he appears to have
done! But, yes, I must say I was quite favourably impressed by him at the time. He must have
been in his late twenties, and he was a quite impressive sort of person; had this group of about
20 quite sincere, interested young men. But he had already begun to get a bit of a reputation,
so I was informed by the friend who took me along, on account of his rather unconventional
teaching, perhaps, isn't the word on the subject, believe it or not, of sex. Some of the elders of
the students he was teaching weren't very happy about what he was teaching ...