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Padmasambhava Day

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by Sangharakshita

... I*m going to say first of all something about what is known as the Manu, then I*m going to say something about the Buddha, and then I*m going to say something about the Guru, and then I*m going to say something about the Terton, whatever that may be, you*ll discover in a few moments if you don*t already know.

So first of all let me say a few words about the Manu. We*re here as it were preparing the ground. What does one mean by the Manu? I don*t know how many of you have heard this word or this term before, the Manu M-A-N-U. It*s of course a Sanskrit word. Let me get into it, let me try to explain it, in this way. Let me go back to my days in India with the ex-untouchable Buddhists. Most of you know that I spent quite a bit of time amongst these ex-untouchable Buddhists in India, and it was shortly after the mass conversion of these people to Buddhism under the leadership of Dr. B .R. Ambedkar. He died of course six weeks after that mass conversion ceremony, and I spent a lot of time going from village to village trying to teach these people, or some of them at least, the Dharma, inasmuch as they did now call themselves Buddhists, so I took the view that they might as well know what Buddhism actually was since they called themselves Buddhists, and some effort to practise it.

So I was going around from village to village and town to town and city to city, sometimes for the whole of the winter period, giving lectures, giving initiations, performing ceremonies of various kinds and especially wedding ceremonies which were in great demand, people wanted to have real, genuine, one hundred per cent Buddhist weddings, so in this way I spent a lot of time each winter.

And I used to go among other places to Bombay. And in Bombay I had not only lots of ex-untouchable Buddhist friends, I had other friends of various communities and in particular I had a friend who was originally from Poland, he was a Pole. By birth he was a Polish Jew and he was a little old man, just like a gnome. He was only about four feet six high, he was about sixty five at that time, he had a little bald head and though he*d been born as a Jew, he*d become a Catholic, he*d become a Jesuit priest. But eventually he*d given it all up, he*d come to India and he*d become a follower of Mahatma Gandhi, he was very much into Kadhi (?) He wore very thick white homespun and he eventually became a follower of Krishnamurti and he was a great friend of mine.

And he had rather a caustic tongue and he used to be very fond of giving me good advice. At that time I was still in my early and middle thirties, he was about sixty five and therefore he considered himself fully qualified and in fact entitled to give me as much good advice as I needed. So I was actually one day in Bombay staying with him in his very beautiful flat which he shared with a Parsee lady even more eccentric than himself, who was aged then about eighty, aged about eighty, who was also a follower of Krishnamurti.

So I came there and I spent a few days and I was a bit tired. I was a bit tired after all these journeyings from village to village and all these lectures I*d been giving. So Maurice, his name was Maurice, Maurice, as soon as I*d been given a cup of tea, Maurice said in his usual fatherly way, he said, "Sangharakshita, you*re wasting your time!" He said, "You*re wasting your time trying to teach Buddhism to these people." So he couldn*t resist the temptation to be a little caustic, as it were, he said, "In fact you*re wasting your time trying to be a Buddha for these people, and teach them Buddhism." He said, "What they really need is Manu." What is a Manu? Well I didn*t need to ask Maurice what a Manu was because I knew very well what a Manu was. I knew exactly what he meant. I mean, I must say after thinking it over I inclined to agree with him. But of course some of you will be wondering, those of you who haven*t been properly brought up, you*ll be wondering what a Manu is. I mean, is it some kind of India sweetmeat, or is it a musical instrument, or what it is.

So let me just explain. A Manu is a primeval law-giver. According to Hindu, or perhaps I should say according to general Indian cosmological cosmo genetical belief, at the beginning of each world period, when the human race as it were reappears (they don*t quite believe in Darwinian evolution you*ll gather from this), but when the human race reappears, there reappears with the human race, at the very dawn of what we would call history, thousands and thousands of years ago, a great law-giver who lays down the basis of society, and he is called a Manu. Manu is supposed to be connected etymologically with manus which means mind, which is also connected with manutia (?) which is human being, so these are all interconnected. A manutia, a human being, is one endowed with mind and a manu is similarly one who is archetypically human, he is the archetypal human being so to speak, the one archetypally endowed with mind, the law-giver who guides the whole of society, who lays the basis for a positive social life, who lays the basis we may say of the positive group.

So you have the Manu right at the beginning. So why is this? Why does the Manu come right at the beginning according to general Indian belief*? Well, he comes right at the beginning for a very good, for a very important reason which is that humanity needs him. Humanity needs society. Humanity needs social organization, but that social organization must be on the basis of certain not just social but moral, ethical, ultimately spiritual principles, in other words the whole of social life, social life in all its aspects, must be so organized as to make the spiritual life possible, or even to prepare people for the spiritual life.

So this is the function of the Manu. He is the law-giver.

So what my friend was really meaning, and what I really agreed with, was until you*ve got society organized in such a way that it reflects at least ethical values, until society can prepare the individual human being ethically, there*s not much point in preaching so to speak very lofty, purely spiritual, even transcendental ideals. You need the positive group so to speak, to use our own terminology, before you can have the spiritual community. You need the FWBO before you can have the WBO, at least historically if not in principle. This is what he was getting at and with this that I was very much inclined to agree. In fact it had so happened that I was in fact doing this to a certain extent in the course of my work with these ex-untouchables, I was in a sense acting as a sort of law-giver, because I spoke about weddings, and they used to come to me and ask, well how should we perform the Buddhist wedding ceremony? So I used to say, well don*t do this and don*t do that, but do this and do that, so in a way I was acting as a sort of law-giver. It had nothing to do with the spiritual path directly, it had nothing to do with the attainment of enlightenment, far from it, but that was as it were a necessary basis in society, in social life, in even family life preparing the way for the emergence of the sort of positive, happy, healthy, human being who could then as an individual direct himself to the spiritual life and the spiritual path.

So this is the function of the Manu. So one has, according to the Indian belief, the Indian tradition, at the very beginning of things this Manu, this law-giver emerging, and laying down the laws governing society from the ethical point of view, laws which will make it possible for society, for human beings as members of a positive group, to live in such a way that later on, when a higher, transcendental teaching is proclaimed, they are able to understand it and to follow it.

So first comes the Manu. The Manu, according to this sort of teaching, prepares the way for the Buddha.

lf we read the Pali scriptures, which are in a sense the oldest scriptures, the oldest Buddhist scriptures, which give us the best picture of what it was actually like in the Buddha*s day, in India, when the Buddha lived and preached, or taught, one of the things which we notice is what a high standard of social and cultural life there was at that time, how harmonious their social life seems to be, how dignified their religious life was, how courteous people were, with what courtesy they discussed and argued even when they differed very, very drastically about their religious opinions.

So one has the impression that there was a very high, a very noble degree of social organization, a very pure, a very noble cultural life, and it was because the way had been prepared, the basis had been laid, that the Buddha was able to gain such a ready hearing. If the Buddha had appeared amidst, say, a tribe of savages, he would not have gained a very ready hearing. His teaching was very subtle. It presupposed a great social and cultural development. So the Manu, so to speak, prepares the way for the Buddha. So this is what we mean by the Manu, and as I said, he prepares the way for the Buddha.

So what do we mean by the Buddha? This is much more easy for us to understand - I need not spend so much time about this. As I said a little earlier on, the Buddha is the one who shows the way. Society may be very happy, it may be very healthy, it may be very human, but the path to the transcendental may still not be known, it may still have to be opened up, it may still have to be discovered, and that is the work of the Buddha. lt*s a very difficult work in a way because sometimes the social and cultural development is so high, so refined, that people think that they*ve got it all. They don*t realize that there is something far beyond, there is something purely transcendental, something transcending the social, transcending the cultural, transcending the religious, transcending the philosophical, and this is ...

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