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The Moral Order and its Upholders

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by Sangharakshita

Lecture 130: The Mo ral Order and its Upholders - Page 1 __________________________________________________________________________________________________ Lecture 130: The Moral Order and its Upholders

Most of you know, I think, that I returned to England from the East in 1964. At that time, at the invitation of Buddhists in London, I came on a short visit. I came, in fact, on a four-months' visit, but the weeks went by, the months went by, and eventually even the years went by, and it so happened, it so transpired, that I stayed for two whole years and a little more.

After a sort of farewell visit to India, I returned finally to this country in 1967: to be precise, I returned at the end of March in that year, and at the beginning of April we started up the FWBO, the Friends of the Western Buddhist Order.

So this means, among other things, that I happen to have spent more than half my whole adult life in the East, and mainly in India, though I did also spend some time in Ceylon, in Malaysia, in Nepal and in Sikkim; but mainly, during that period, I was in India. Now India, as I hardly need tell you - even those who haven't gone there will know this - India is a very different sort of place from England, and especially the old India, the India of tradition, is a very different sort of place. And it was, of course, in this India, the old India, that I was mainly interested. So that, having spent the greater part of those 20 years in India, in the old India, almost I might say immersed in the old India, I couldn't help noticing when I returned to England quite a lot of difference, quite a lot of difference between the respective ways of life and so on in the two countries, India, especially the old India, on the one hand, and England, or Britain, modern Britain, on the other. And not only did I notice differences, but I even felt differences. After all, in the course of those nearly 20 years in India, I had become, one might say, a bit of an Indian myself.

Now one of the things that I noticed was this, one of the differences I noticed was this. In India, one always seems to have so much more time. Things seemed to be done always, or nearly always, at a much more leisurely pace. People weren't so concerned, not so much concerned, about things like punctuality. Some of my Indian friends, I remember, used to make a sort of joke of this, they used to joke about what they called English time and Indian time. If, for instance, I asked them to meet me at two o'clock, they would ask, `Do you mean two o'clock English time or two o'clock Indian time?' So two o'clock English time meant two o'clock; and two o'clock Indian time meant any time between two and four or even five or six.

Sometimes in India even the trains used to run by Indian time rather than by English time. But, strange to say, from our point of view, no one seemed to mind very much. They'd just go on sitting there on the platform, with all their trunks and boxes and bags and sacks around them, eating various things, various refreshments, drinking tea, talking, chatting, passing the time quite happily, quite contentedly, until the train in its own good Indian time came along.

Now I understand from friends, from Indian friends who have just returned from India, that Mrs. Gandhi, capable woman, has changed all that now. The trains, I am told, now run according to English time; Indian time has become English time. And, when I hear this, I don't know whether to be pleased or whether to be sorry.

Now the fact that one had time in India meant that one could do things, could do the things that one wanted to do, in a different way, and this of course also applied to Buddhist activities. It wasn't simply a question of being able to do things at a much more leisurely pace. One could also do things much more spontaneously; that is to say, one could do things as and when one felt like it. One didn't have to think and plan and arrange very far ahead. For instance, I used to have the experience, quite often, of people coming along in the morning, maybe 10 or 11 o'clock in the morning, and asking me to give a lecture in the evening. People used not to ask you well in advance, because they knew that almost certainly you'd be free that evening anyway, so they didn't ask you until the morning of that same day. If you weren't free, if it did so happen, well, there were plenty of other speakers around who would be free; or, if they particularly wanted you, they'd just postpone the meeting until the next day. After all, people would be just as free to attend it tomorrow as they were today.

So I need not tell you that things are very different here in England. Here, when people ask you to give a lecture, they sometimes want to fix the date a whole year in advance. Now why is this? Well, they have to hire the hall, and halls are sometimes very difficult to get, especially, it seems, here in London. You have to book well in advance. For some of the best-known halls, so I am told, you have to book two or three years in advance. And then, of course, there is the advance publicity for your lecture or lectures; the designers and the printers - they want plenty of notice, because they are booked up with other work, other orders, perhaps even for months ahead.

Lecture 130: The Mo ral Order and its Upholders - Page 2 __________________________________________________________________________________________________ So what does all this mean? It means that you, the speaker, have to give the title or the titles of your lecture or lectures well in advance. In other words, you have to think what you are going to say about six months before you actually say it. It's not enough to tell the organisers that you're going to talk about Buddhism, about the Dharma. You must give your title or titles, and these titles must give a fairly clear indication of what you are going to say, so that people can know whether they want to attend and listen to you or not.

Now something of this sort happened in the case of the present series of lectures. I don't think, at least so far as I know, I don't think there was too much trouble about booking the hall, or even about the advance publicity, by English standards, but there was certainly a little difficulty about giving the titles of the lectures, at least from my point of view, at least by Indian standards, the Indian standards to which I was accustomed for so many years. For several years, the Sutra of Golden Light had been very much in my mind. I'd been reading it and turning it over, reflecting upon it, for quite a long time, and gradually I came to feel very much like speaking on this sutra. And eventually I had a pretty clear idea of what I wanted to say, at least in outline. But I certainly didn't know exactly how I was going to say it. I was quite content to leave that till just a few days before each lecture. However, this was not possible. The titles of the lectures were needed, at least three or four months in advance; so this meant that I had to know at that time just how the material was going to be arranged, how it was going to be distributed, which topics would be dealt with in which lecture, and so on, and how they would be dealt with; because only then would it be possible to decide on the titles. Not only that, but all this had to be done while I was in the midst of conducting study retreats, while I was quite deeply immersed in various other aspects of the Dharma.

So what was the result? The result was that the titles of the lectures in this series aren't quite so specific as they might have been. I wanted, I must confess, to leave myself a little room for movement when the time came, not to say a little room for manoeuvre. Some titles, indeed, seem to be rather more like labels than titles, and one or two might even be considered a bit misleading. This applies, perhaps, to the title of tonight's lecture, which is `The Moral Order and its Upholders'. Now some people might be under the impression that I am going to talk about the Festival of Light, about Lord Longford and Mrs. Mary Whitehouse. If so, then I'm afraid they are going to be disappointed, because I don't regard these two worthy people as being in any way the upholders of the kind of moral order with which I am concerned and with which the Sutra of Golden Light is concerned.

The basic theme of the present series is, of course, transformation: transformation of life, that is to say of the individual self, and transformation of world, that is to say transformation of the human world, the world to which we belong. Transformation of self and world by the Golden Light, which is the light of Truth, the light of Reality, the light of the Buddha, the light which is in fact Truth, is Reality, is the Buddha. And life is transformed when one becomes receptive to the Golden Light, when one allows oneself to be permeated by the Golden Light, when one becomes as it were transparent to the Golden Light.

More specifically, life is transformed when one transcends one's problems, when one dies to the old life, the old self, and when one vomits up all the evil which is within one, when one confesses. The world also is transformed when it becomes receptive to the Golden Light, when the various human activities of which it consists place themselves at the service of the Golden Light, that is to say when the people engaged in these activities carry them on in such a way that they conduce to the spiritual development of the individual.

Now in the Sutra of Golden Light, as we have seen, this idea finds expression in the motif, as we may call it, of protection. Various gods and goddesses come forward. These gods and goddesses represent different kinds of energy, represent different departments of human life and activity. The Four Great Kings, for instance, represent the lowest level of ...

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