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A Vision of Human Existence

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by Sangharakshita

Lecture 132: A Vision of Human Existence

Urgyen Sangharakshita Mr. Chairman and friends: In this present short series of lectures we're concerned with the four things, the four great things, we may say, which the Friends of the Western Buddhist Order has to offer. Four things that the modern man or the modern woman very deeply and genuinely needs. In the last lecture which was the first in the series, we dealt with `a method of personal development'. We tried, to begin with, to understand what exactly personal development is and how meditation in particular can be a method, even the method of personal development. We saw in some detail the way in which the higher meditative consciousness, the dhyana consciousness, differs from our ordinary everyday consciousness, We surveyed, even, the various states of higher consciousness, of dhyana consciousness, and we spoke at some length of the stages of, in plain English, integration, inspiration, permeation, and radiation, and we saw further how the development of universal friendliness - one of the most widespread and popular of all the different methods of Buddhist meditation - is actually practised. In other words, we may say that our emphasis last week, or rather in the last lecture, was predominantly of a practical nature. We were concerned more with the practical side of things, the practical side of the spiritual life, but tonight's lecture is going to be, we may say, somewhat more theoretical. Nevertheless, don't be alarmed by this word, 'theoretical'. We may say that the theoretical is practical in its own way. How is this? If we look around, we see that there are all sorts of people existing in the world, people of different types, people of different temperaments; and these types, these temperaments, have been spoken of, have been classified, in various ways. We have, for instance, the classification - the very well known classification - into the introvert and the extrovert. Buddhism has its own classifications of psychological types, in fact, it has several of them. Perhaps one of the oldest and most primitive is the division, the classification of people, especially people on the spiritual path or beginning to be on the spiritual path, into what are called the 'faith followers' and what are called the 'doctrine followers'.

Now what do we mean by these two terms? How do these two kinds of followers differ from each other? The faith follower, as the very name suggests, is guided much more by feeling; if you like, by emotion.

Is moved by feeling, is moved by emotion, responds, more often than not, very quickly. If, for instance, you tell someone who is a faith follower by temperament or by inclination, about meditation, then more often than not, without further ado, he or she will take up the practice and they'll take up the practice simply because it appeals to them. They like the sound of meditation. They like the feeling of meditation and that is, as it were, quite enough for them. They take it up at once, they practise it, they get into it, they don't ask too many questions, they don't want to know the why and the wherefore of it all and very often people of this sort of temperament, the faith follower, will be attracted not simply by the meditation, by the idea of meditation, spontaneously attracted, but will be attracted also by the person teaching the meditation. The faith follower attaches great importance not only to feeling, not only to emotion, but also to people; is very much influenced by people and drawn to people. The doctrine follower is of quite another type. The doctrine follower, as perhaps his name also suggests, is guided much more by thought, is guided much more by reflection, by sometimes even prolonged and detailed consideration, and the doctrine follower is unlikely to take up any particular practice including the practice of meditation unless he or she has first of all understood quite thoroughly what it is all about and how exactly it works, even why it works. The doctrine follower will usually want to know what are the general principles involved, what are the general principles of which the practice - in this case the practice of meditation - is a particular application or particular exemplification. The doctrine follower, in other words; the person of that sort of temperament; wants to know the philosophy behind the practice, the philosophy underlying the practice, the philosophy that gives, in his view, meaning to the practice which constitutes a reason for practising whatever has been explained, and only when he has understood that, only when he knows the philosophy, will he take up the particular practice, whether meditation or anything else, and follow it.

So we may say that the last lecture, the first in the series, was addressed rather more to the first kind of person, addressed rather more to the faith follower and this one, tonight's lecture, will be addressed rather more to the second kind of person, in other words to the doctrine follower. However, at the same time, we mustn't conclude, we mustn't assume, that the two types - the faith follower and the doctrine follower - are necessarily mutually exclusive. The two temperaments or rather the two attitudes may indeed even at times alternate in one and the same person. Sometimes we ourselves may be more like one, at other times more like the other. So today, tonight, we are dealing with the second great thing that the Friends Lecture 132: A Vision of Human Existence Page 1 of the Western Buddhist Order has to offer, the second great thing that people need, today perhaps more desperately than ever, which is `A Vision of Human Existence', and clearly from its very title, one can understand that this lecture is addressed more to the doctrine follower than it is to the faith follower, or rather perhaps to those who happen to be, at least tonight, in a thoughtful and reflective, rather than in an emotional or devotional mood. Now you may wonder to begin with, you may wonder having heard the title of the lecture, why one speaks of a vision of human existence, why this word 'vision'? Why is this word being used? Why not speak, for instance, of a philosophy of human existence? Surely that would have been more intelligible, more understandable, even more appealing, more appropriate. I have, as a matter of fact, already spoken of someone wanting to know the philosophy behind the practice of, say, meditation, but that usage was simply provisional. One may as well come straight to the point and say that in Buddhism, in the Buddhist tradition, there's no such thing as philosophy. This may come as rather a surprise to some of you at least. You might have thought that there was such a thing as Buddhist philosophy, but actually in Buddhism we find there is no such thing as philosophy.

In fact, in the Indian languages, including the languages of the Indian Buddhist scriptures, that is to say Sanskrit and Pali, there's no word for philosophy, there's no word corresponding to philosophy, either literally or even metaphorically. There is indeed a word in Sanskrit, a word in Pali which is often - or at least used to be often - translated as `philosophy', but in fact it does not mean that at all. It means something quite different from that. So what is that word, that word which is or at least was translated from the Sanskrit, from the Pali, as 'philosophy'? That word is Dassana (Pali) Darshana (Sanskrit). So what does Dassana mean? Dassana comes from a word meaning 'to see' and Dassana means: 'that which is seen'. It means a sight, a view, a perspective, even a vision. So this clearly is not by any means the same thing as 'philosophy'. The word 'philosophy', as we all know, as we were all told at school practically, literally means 'love of wisdom', but more generally it is understood to mean a 'system of abstract ideas'.

[It] suggests something thought rather than seen. But Dassana however is very much a matter of direct experience and direct perception. Dassana represents not something mediated by concepts. Those of you who have read a little in Indian traditions, in Indian spiritual literature, may have heard of the 'Sat Dassana'. 'Sat' means simply 'six'. 'Sat Dassana' is usually translated as 'the six systems of Indian philosophy'. Really it should be Hindu philosophy. But these are not six systems of abstract ideas. If we were to understand them in this way, we should misunderstand them very seriously indeed. The Sat Dassana, 'the six systems', as they are usually translated, are in fact six different ways of looking at life or six different ways of looking at existence. We may say, six sights or six views, six perspectives, or even six visions. The mode of expression may be conceptual in both Hinduism and Buddhism; it very often is: but the content of the expression is not conceptual at all. The content is a direct perception of things. The content is a vision.

Now in Buddhism the term is not 'Dassana', the term is 'Drshti', 'Drshti'(Sanskrit), and this term 'Drshti' also comes from a root meaning simply 'to see', so Drshti also means a sight, a view, a perspective, a vision, and Buddhism traditionally distinguishes two kinds of view, two kinds of vision. Let's forget all about the Indian terms, the Sanskrit and Pali terms, and call them from now onwards, 'wrong view' and 'right view'. So Buddhism distinguishes - and it's a very important distinction - between these two: 'wrong view' and 'right view'. So what is the difference between the two, wrong view and right view? In order to understand this, in order to get some glimpse of this, let us look at the question of sight; sight in the literal sense; because a view, whether wrong or right, is after all a kind of seeing, metaphorically speaking. So let's look at this question of sight in the literal sense. We may say that there are two kinds ...

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