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The Next Twenty Years

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by Sangharakshita

... conflict and turmoil that younger people are sometimes subject to, these anagarikas and anagarikaas will form a sort of solid body right in the middle, holding the balance between these two wings.

So I don't want, in a sense I don't want to encourage people to become anagarikas, I don't want to urge them, because it is something you must not do prematurely. You mustn't take this vow, if you like to call it that, of celibacy prematurely. You must really be ready for it and I doubt very much whether very young people are usually ready for it.

I feel personally much more comfortable with rather older people who've been through as it were all that, through perhaps their family life, and have then come out at the other end and dedicated themselves to celibacy. I hope to see, well as I mentioned of course in the past once or twice an age of forty. I think I'd better revise that! Let's make it forty- five! But by the time you come to forty-five, and especially if you've been an Order Member, that gives some of you five more years' grace - or disgrace! - by the time you come, say, to the age of forty-five (sighs of relief all round!) you will be prepared seriously to consider celibacy. But you'll start naturally (not because you think, well Bhante said once upon a time, you know years ago, in that particular lecture!) that you start feeling naturally that way. Your energy starts quite naturally employing all of you along purely cultural and spiritual channels. You're naturally sublimating your let us say lower instincts or impulses and around that time you start at least giving serious thought to the question of living a celibate life and becoming an anagarika.

That of course leads on to something quite closely connected and that is the precepts.

You all know that I gave or rather I read this paper a few years ago on the Ten Pillars of Buddhism. I don't know the extent to which people, I mean Order Members especially, studied this paper, but clearly the ten precepts are absolutely basic. The observance of the ten precepts as I've said before represents a natural continuation, an application to every aspect of one's life, of one's original going for refuge.

So I think I'd like to see in the course of the next twenty years people taking the precepts more seriously than they sometimes have done in the past. And as it were scrutinising their own behaviour, their own faults, their own words, in the light of those ten precepts, those ten ethical principles. And perhaps I could draw special attention to the speech precepts. I think I have spoken about this before but it's a very important topic, because we're talking so much of the time, we're speaking, we're communicating verbally so much of the time and it's so easy to commit a mistake in this particular area, it's so easy to break or at least fracture let us say ever so slightly one or other of the speech precepts.

And I think in particular people need to pay attention to the question of rough or harsh speech. I must say, I must admit I'm sometimes surprised by the rather rough sort of way in which Order Members even do sometimes address one another. I think we ought to make a much greater, a much more constant effort to speak gently, kindly, thoughtfully, at the right time, in the right manner, not in a rough or a gruff, or an abrupt, or rude manner. There's still, I'm afraid, even within the Order, and especially perhaps I should say within the men's wing of the Order a very great deal of room for improvement in this particular respect.

I'd also like to see more mindfulness. I believe that the book by a Vietnamese monk, a Vietnamese teacher, which is very popular at the moment on - is it The Way of Mindfulness? Does anyone remember what it is called? I think you know the one I'm referring to? - The Miracle of Mindfulness. Ah, now why do you think he calls it a miracle? Probably because mindfulness is very rare. It's like walking on the water or, you know, changing all the stones into fishes, or whatever it was! Or the water into wine.

So you know if you practise mindfulness it's a real miracle. It's so extraordinary. It's so unusual, it's so unprecedented. It just doesn't happen all that often. So yes, it's a very appropriate title that, Miracle of Mindfulness, so please practise that miracle, please become well versed in that miracle. As Buddhists we're not supposed to perform miracles in the little sense, but let me assure you, we are allowed to perform the miracle of mindfulness! So don't be shy of it, don't hesitate, and probably the more people read that little book on the miracle of mindfulness, the better.

It's not so much that you have to strain and struggle to be mindful while you're meditating or while you're in the shrine room, you need to be mindful all the time, aware all the time, conscious all the time, in the fullest sense, and also maintain your continuity of purpose, because we can get so easily diverted and distracted, now doing this and now doing that, and forgetting what we're really supposed to be doing, in even the most ordinary sense. I've given all sorts of illustrations of this before, twelve, fifteen years ago in my lectures, but still it seems that mindfulness is a very difficult lesson for us to learn. But I would like to see in the course of the next twenty years an increase in the practice of mindfulness in ordinary everyday life within the Movement, within the Order.

And I'd like to see - and this is also a connected point - I'd like to see an improvement in people's manner. Some people think that manners are very sort of well, middle class, they're very Victorian, so if you're rude and ill-mannered you just show how free and spontaneous you are, how individual you are. Well I'm afraid that isn't really the case at all. If you're ill-mannered you just show how crude and uncultured you are and how lacking in sensitivity to other people and their feelings. So I would like to see an improvement in the course of the next twenty years in manners within the Order.

I'm not suggesting that manners should become very, very formal. I'm not suggesting that when a gentleman meets a lady as a Polish officer I remember used to do during the war and won the heart of many a British maiden in that way, with his smart clicks of the heel and the little bow from the waist: it really bowled them over! I can remember it very well. Some of my English friends tried to imitate it but they just couldn't do it like the Poles, especially when the Poles you know were quite handsome, had little moustaches that they could twirl at the same time...(?)....but I'm not speaking of manners in that sort of sense, manners in the sense of genuine politeness, when you hear a ring at the door you just go to answer it. You open the door, you don't say "Uuur".

I've found it! I've seen it! I've heard people answering the phone "Yes". These are not good manners, so if our mothers didn't teach us, if our fathers didn't teach us, we've got to teach ourselves, because it (?)the way of social intercourse, and friendly communication, not only among ourselves but with the outside world at all, and we must never forget that we may be the first Buddhists that someone has ever met. Again I've talked about this before. So let not people think because they've met you that Buddhists are rude or ill-mannered or thoughtless or anything of that sort. This is all very basic stuff. I mean, Ananda's spoken of the sort of magical mystery tour of the future, but I'm afraid I'm simply reminding you of some very basic things and expressing my hope that the basic things will be given greater attention in the course of the next twenty years.

And connected with this question of better manners is the question of what I sometimes call mutual kindness. I must say, I've been rather surprised sometimes to see that Order Members aren't always very kind to one another. They don't always, not only speak kindly to one another, they don't always treat one another very kindly or very considerately. And I'd really like to see a great improvement in this area too in the course of the next twenty years.

And I'd also like to see more vision. I'd like to see more imagination, I'd like to see people taking a broader view. I know that's difficult if you're somehow bogged down in the day to day work of running a co-op, or if you've got classes to take every day, it's easy if you're not careful to lose your wider vision of Buddhism and the Movement and the spiritual life, but we must retain that vision, retain that imagination, retain even that transcendental insight and make it illumine everything that we do.

And here we come rather to a mixture of fear and hope for the future, for the next twenty years. I hope that we can keep the Dharma, I hope we can keep the Buddhist teaching free from non-Buddhist admixtures. There's always temptations to mix the Buddha's teaching up with something else, or interpret it in a way which is not in accordance with, well, that teaching itself.

Let me give you an example of the sort of thing I mean. We do talk quite a lot about development, and we quite rightly talk about development, our development as human beings, our spiritual development, our emotional development, our development from a lower to a higher level of consciousness. We quite rightly and quite truthfully talk in that sort of way, but if we're not careful we can introduce a subtle sort of misunderstanding and we start looking at things in terms of whether they're good for our development in a very narrow sort of way, almost a precious sort of way. We think, Oh no, I don't think I can do that, I don't think it'll be good for my development. Someone may ask you to work in a co-op and you say, Well, I'm feeling a bit ...

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