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Buddhist Dawn in the West

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by Sangharakshita

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... more and more support was able to be given to those who were having difficulties with their spiritual lives difficulties in following the spiritual path. So effective ordination is ordination which, or effective going for refuge is going for refuge which though utterly sincere at the time is nonetheless not permanent inasmuch as Insight has not arisen. Transcendental experience has not arisen, you can still slip back. Obviously most order members are still in that position, most order members therefore need to be very careful, not to speak of mitras and you know friends who are just beginning to set their foot upon the path.

But real going for refuge Is that going for refuge which you experience after you have entered the stream. I am not going to say anything about entering the stream, it*s a subject on which I*ve touched many times before; if anyone Is especially interested well there is my lecture now published as a booklet on Going for Refuge where I distinguish in fact four different levels of going for refuge. But once one has gone for refuge effectively, one*s main object must be to go for refuge in what I call the real sense, that is to say the sense in which you can no longer not go for refuge, because Insight has arisen into the true nature of existence and you can no longer fall back, you can only go forward.

You*ve passed what we call the point of no return. So though we don*t have anymore grades of ordination we*ve only got one ordination, the ordination for everybody, and though we attach supreme importance and significance to that, there are these different levels of going for refuge and there*s especially the level of effective going for refuge from which you can fall back or fall away and real going for refuge, away from which you cannot possibly fall. But we don't really have grades of ordination in the Order anymore though we've just got this one ordination, what we call now the Dharmachari ordination, or in the case of women dharmacharini ordination; there is still one might say some trace of these grades in an informal sort of way. We sometimes speak of senior and responsible order members. In fact we might even say we've had three or four senior and responsible order members on the platform this afternoon; then one might say very roughly corresponds to the maha upasikas and maha upasakas, but not in any sort of formal way or formal sense. And then of course we've got anagarikas. Those who change one of the precepts, one of the ten precepts taken by all Dharmacharis and dharmacharinis, change it from abstention from sexual misconduct to abstention from non-celibacy. In other words they take a precept of chastity, there aren*t many of those in the order but I hope that before long there will be a few more. So they one might say in a sense correspond to bhikkshus and bhikkshunis. But then what about the other ordination I mentioned, the traditional Buddhist ordination - the Bodhisattva ordination? Well this isn*t really and shouldn*t really be considered as a separate ordination at all. The bodhisattva ordination really represents the altruistic aspect of `the going for refuge itself. You go for refuge, not just for your own sake, but for `the sake of all. You go for refuge, you seek to attain enlightenment not for the sake of a personal gratification, for yourself, but so that you can be of greater service, of greater use `to other people; in fact more than that you see that you cant really separate your own personal development from that of other people. One cant really adopt a purely self regarding attitude to the spiritual life; there is a self regarding attitude or aspect but there*s also an other regarding aspect and `these two have to be combined in the Buddhist spiritual life.

You are trying to develop yourself but you're trying to develop in association, in contact with other people, you can*t really separate yourself and devote yourself exclusively `to your own spiritual development and welfare; the other regarding and the self regarding aspects go together. So one might regard the going for refuge to use that nomenclature as representing the self regarding aspect, but one might say that the bodhisattva ordination, the bodhisattva vow represent the other regarding aspect or even the other regarding aspect of the going for refuge itself; this may be a little obscure but this is also spelled out in the booklet which I mentioned earlier, so I cab perhaps refer you to that.

So as well as being the friends of the western Buddhist order and the friends of the western Buddhist Order it is also the Friends of the Western Buddhist Order. There is an emphasis on western. At least there was initially or is still initially. Yes, in the order we are committed to the Buddha, the Dharma and the sangha. But were committed to them under what conditions? In what situation? well under `the conditions of, in the situation as represented by modern western life. We cant pretend that were ancient Indians, not living in fifth century BC Magadha. Were not even living in 20 century Ceylon.

Were not living in mediaeval India. Were not living in Japan, not living in Tibet. Were living here in the west, were living here In Britain, here in England and `the conditions in which we `try `to go for refuge, `the conditions under which we practice Buddhism and `try to follow the spiritual path are rather different from `those under which people have `tried to follow that same path in the East and especially in recent times. So we have top be aware of this fact. We cant escape the recognition of this fact that we are trying `to practice the dharma, admittedly `the same dharma under very different conditions under which people practiced It in the Buddha*s `time, and very different from the conditions under which*they practiced it in many parts of the Buddhist east even today. So this Is why we call ourselves the friends of `the western Buddhist order. Its not that were following a particular kind of Buddhism called western Buddhism. Its not that were even trying to adapt Buddhism itself `to any particular western point of view, no. We commit ourselves `to `the dharma, the same dharma which all `true Buddhists have committed `themselves `through the ages but we have `to practice `that dharma that same dharma under very different conditions and `this is what we mean, this is what we indicate by using this term western.

Of course more recently the FWBO has spread `to `the east, which is rather interesting because `the east one might say is being Invaded by `the west. Even the east has been westernized. There are many people in eastern Buddhist countries whose outlook is quite western and as I indicated earlier on well some of `those people at least are very intrigued or even attracted by `the particular way in which we `try to present Buddhism and try to live Buddhism because the conditions under which were trying to do that in the west are to some extent duplicated in at least some parts of `the traditional Buddhist east. All right there's a lot more I could say on `this score but perhaps Id better not because we seem to be going on at rather some length, and after all Im not reading a paper Im giving a `talk. So its not only Buddhist, not only and order not only western. There's also friends - friends of the western Buddhist order so what does this signify? Well what this signifies is we don*t have an ordinary formal membership, that is to say you can*t join the FWBO just by giving a subscription. You can get our new Buddhist magazine regularly by paying a subscription but you can*t join `the FWBO much less still the western Buddhist order in that way `though I can remember years ago I think `this was in 1952 I attended a meeting at Sanchi and I found that an Indian gentleman had established newly established an order of his own - a Buddhist order. And he was going round propagating this order enrolling members and he was really doing it a grand style, he'd equipped himself in a beautiful saffron suit of satin - saffron trousers, saffron jacket; don*t laugh we may be wearing these things ourself one day and he was going round enrolling members of his sangha he `tried enroll me, he told me there were four classes of membership, and of course `the higher the grade of membership the larger `the subscription you'd have to pay-. There were stream entrant members, `there were non-returner members, there were once returner members and there of course were arahant members. If you wanted `to be an arahant member `then it was five hundred rupees you'd have `to pay in order to join. Well some people may do things in `that sort of way but what I felt very strongly was you can*t really join a Buddhist movement in `that way, you might be able to join a society devoted `to the study of Buddhism in that way; but you couldn*t join a real live Buddhist movement in `that way, you could only join a real live Buddhist movement by being actually involved in it. And there were different degrees or levels of involvement; so therefore we find the FWBO is made up of are members only so to speak in an informal sense in a spiritual sense if you like. First of all there's the order members as we sometimes call them the Dharmacharis and dharmacharinis `they are the committed people they have committed themselves wholeheartedly, body speech and mind to the Buddha the dharma and the sangha. And `then we've got the friends, with a capital f Who are people who are not committed just interested, `they just come along sometimes perhaps they come along only once a year `to Wesak or to the anniversary of `the friends of the western Buddhist order but `they're also part and parcel of the movement, so on the one hand you've got the order members the committed, and on `the other hand you've got the interested, the friends, in the middle you've got `the mitras; we could call `them `the involved, they're ...

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