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We provide access to over 300 transcripts by Sangharakshita!
Padmatara, San Francisco, USA
Sangharakshita, Birmingham, UK
Nagabodhi, London, UK
Ratnaghosha, FBA Chairman
Padmavajri, East Sussex
Ratnavyuha, Auckland, NZ
Candradasa, FBA Team
Sanghajivini, Newcastle, UK
... - if the corporate state to which you belong - does not permit you to function
freely as an individual (I mean a true individual) , where it places so many restrictions on your
movements and your free exercise of your true individuality, however good, however great the
material facilities may be (the material side of living), it's not really a positive group. You're just `a
bird in a gilded cage'!
Ian A: This is the difference between a democracy and a totalitarian state.
S: Well, this is putting it weakly. [Laughter] Unfortunately the democratic state, the social
democratic state itself, these days, has many corporate features, almost totalitarian features, which,
unfortunately, we're beginning to get used to.
S: So we have to be a little bit careful here, and not assume that in states nominally democratic, there
is untrammelled, individual freedom - No! This is particularly on my mind these days, because in
England they've revised the operation of the blasphemy laws. In fact they're tightening them up! So,
in that respect, we're having less freedom than we thought we had. So we have to watch the so-
We all know that :"The price of liberty is eternal vigilance". And that should not ever be forgotten!
But it is part of the positivity of the positive group that it, as it were, `permits' the individual to be an
Individual within its framework, and does not try to take him over and control him completely. So
this is very important.
Geoffrey Byng: In the Pali scriptures where it says `Arahant', should we take that to mean the four
grades of spiritually developed person, or just anybody with (unclear)?
S: Well, yes and no. Yes and no. Because the important thing to (unclear) in the Pali scriptures a sort
of process of hardening went on with regard to a lot of the terms, which at the beginning seemed to
have been used in a rather, I wouldn't say `loose' way, but in a rather liberal way, not very
technically; but later they assumed a technical significance, a technical meaning, which became
Well, we know that the term `Arahant' was used in pre-Buddhistic times, and it simply meant
`worthy', `worshipful', much as we say in English, `His Worship the Mayor'. It was used in that sort
of way. Then it came to mean sort of `morally worthy', `ethically worthy', `spiritually worthy'; and
then it came to be used more and more for the one who had attained complete spiritual worth - was
the worthiest of all, spiritually speaking; or what you would call an Arahant with a capital `A', so to
And usage in the Pali scriptures fluctuates. For instance, there's one passage I remember where a
whole party of Bhikkhus is seen approaching the Buddha, including Devadatta, and the Buddha, as
far as I recollect, says :`Look! Here come the Arahants.' Well, Devadatta wasn't an Arahant in the
technical sense, was he? So clearly, the Buddha, (or whoever it was speaking - I think it was the
Buddha) - must have been using the word `Arahant' in a quite general way, not in the specific sense
that the term later acquired - `Look here come the worthy ones', speaking, perhaps, in a polite sort of
way. So we have to bear this in mind, as I said, that some of the terms used in the Pali scriptures have
a sort of earlier, more general sense, and a later more sort of technical sense. And it isn't always quite
clear in which sense the term is being used. Sometimes it sort of fluctuates. But in any case we must
always just try to get the spirit of what is being said, and not try to tie it down too literally, not to say
literalistically - not be too rigid.
The basic difference, of course, between the positive group and the spiritual community is that the
positive group, positive though it is, and here `positive' means mainly `emotionally positive', - the
positive group does not consist of Individuals, whereas the spiritual community does; but, at least,
the positive group permits the development and growth of Individuals and does not obstruct them in
any way. It gives them free access, so to speak. It allows them to come, and it allows them to go. So
the positive group should be open-ended with regards the spiritual community.
Achala: Do you think there is any difference in the sort of past structure of the positive group?
S: Well, it is of significance that the Vajjians were a republic. It has been suggested that the Buddha,
in a sense, almost modelled the Sangha on the republican tribes. Perhaps one shouldn't make too
much of that fact. I think, perhaps, in some cases, too much has been made of it; but still it has its
significance. The Buddha did not function in a dictatorial sort of fashion himself. At the very least
the Sangha was a limited `monarchy', not an absolute monarchy, or a constitutional monarchy - not a
spiritual dictatorship. The Buddha made this very clear.
There was certainly a sort of parallel between the structure of the positive group, - in this case the
republic - and the structure of the Sangha. In the republics every citizen had a voice in affairs;
similarly in the Sangha. Every individual monk had a voice in affairs. He had to be present for valid
decisions to be taken. But it is also significant that mention is made of the (unclear) Arahants,
because one can say, in a sense, that even though the positive group as such is not aware, really, of
the existence of the spiritual community as such - (for a group member cannot really appreciate the
significance of individuality, or, perhaps, even recognise a `true individual' fully and completely) -
the existence of the spiritual community is necessary to the existence of the positive group. Do you
see this? To have a really positive group you need to have some contact with `individuals' even
though you can't fully appreciate those `individuals'.
Achala: The positive group would appreciate them to some extent.
S: To some extent, up to a point, but not completely; or, perhaps, appreciate them theoretically, but
not have any real feeling for what it was all about - for what individuality was all about.
__________: Would they appreciate their individuality ...... appreciate them as individuals but maybe
S: Well, they would see them as very positive people at the very least. At least they'd appreciate their
extreme positivity, or extreme emotional positivity, but they might not be able to see very much
beyond that. But unless you've got a few genuine `individuals' sort of sustaining the positive group,
the positive group itself, it seems, ceases to exist. It becomes more and more an ordinary group
governed by ordinary considerations, whereas the presence within the positive group of at least a few
`individuals' keeps it relatively `open' and therefore positive.
Ian A: Keeps it alive to new ideas etc. Keeps it open.
S: Yes. Right.
Purna: That seems related to the FWBO communities: that I've often thought that the success of
communities is directly dependent on the number of Order members ......
S: Ah! Mm.
Purna: ...... and how much those Order members are aspiring individuals.
S: Yes. This is a very definite sort of parallel here. Sometimes I say the FWBO as such represents the
positive group, and the Order members the spiritual community; and the Centres are places where
they meet, - and communities - as we've seen again and again in England.
If you've just got a community simply of `Mitras', well, it may start off quite positively; or even say a
community of - 'Friends', let's make it a bit more obvious - : if you've got a community of `Friends'
with no Order members living in the community you notice that there's a gradual slipping away. That
community of `Friends' may start off very positively, but then you'll find they may start slacking off.
Maybe one or two of them stop going to the Centre. Maybe they resent this. Or one or two of them
leave, and just to fill up the community other people not connected with the FWBO at all are allowed
in, and then the whole thing starts slipping and it ceases to be a community of any sort - in any sense!
Udaya: It's a sort of progressive compromise.
S: Mm. But if there are Order members living in that community, who are in contact with other
Order members, then that is very much less likely to happen. If they are really actively committed
Order members it just won't happen. So in that sense the presence of the spiritual community is
necessary to keep even the positive group going. This is very important!
Sometimes, of course, it's felt that in communities you need a sort of balance of Order members and
`Mitras' and Friends. This is not to say you can't have communities consisting entirely of Order
members, of course you can! If you're going to have both, or if there's a number of (non?)-Order
members, it should be properly balanced. If you've got just one Order member and say eight or ten
non-Order members it may be too much of a struggle for that one Order ...