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The Message of Dhardo Rimpoche

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by Sangharakshita

... romantic infatuation, which we can also call projected love, because in this case, in this kind of love, we project onto the loved person qualities which he or she does not really possess, or certainly not in the degree that we think they possess them. This is what we call, in case you haven't tumbled to it, being in love. Finally there is altruistic or sacrificial love. We don't, I'm afraid, have a proper word for this in English, though the authorized version of the Bible does refer to this when it says, `Greater love hath no man than this, that he lay down his life for his friend.' So it's important to distinguish the different meanings of the word love, otherwise there will be confusion in our thinking and probably confusion in our personal life as well.

As I've said, by love Rimpoche means metta, or maitri in Sanskrit. So when he says, `Radiate love', he means radiate metta, or radiate metta and karuna. And of course this word metta, love, friendly love, in Pali, is cognate with mitta, or mitra in Sanskrit; and mitta, or mitra, means simply `a friend' or `friend', as I think almost everybody knows.

Metta is thus the intense, non-sexual, altruistic, delighted affection that you feel for a friend. And it's love in this sense that Rimpoche is asking us to radiate. In other words, Rimpoche is asking us to radiate friendliness. He's asking us to develop an attitude of spiritual friendship.

The importance of friendship, especially spiritual friendship, is, I'm sure you will agree, well understood in the FWBO. It constitutes one of the cornerstones of our movement.

Just a few months ago I was in the United States. And in the course of my visit there I had talks, personal talks, with about fifty different people connected with the movement there, connected with the FWBO there. And I was naturally interested to know what it was that had drawn them to the FWBO, especially as some of them at least had been connected with other Buddhist groups, in some cases for a number of years. Not surprisingly, there were several things that had drawn them to the FWBO, but there was one thing, I found, that everybody mentioned. In fact two thirds of the people I spoke with put it at the very top of their list - two thirds of them. What had drawn them to the FWBO, they said, was its friendliness, its sense of Sangha, its sense of community, of spiritual community. It wasn't just that members of the FWBO happened to be friendly sort of people, friendly sort of men and women. It was more that the FWBO actually believed in friendship, it had faith in friendship, it valued friendship. It actually encouraged people to become, to be, friends. And in some other Buddhist groups, I gathered, apparently friendship was not exactly encouraged. In a few cases it even seemed to be discouraged. What was encouraged was faith in the guru, even I'm afraid blind faith in the guru.

So yes, the importance of friendship is well understood in the FWBO. People do make an effort to practise it, to be friends, real friends, true friends, good friends, to one another.

But obviously our practice of friendship is not perfect. There's a lot of room, a great deal of room, for improvement. It's not easy to be a real friend to anybody. There are so many obstacles to friendship, perhaps now more than ever. In his talk on going for refuge and friendship, Subhuti some time ago enumerated certain obstacles to friendship; and in case you've forgotten, these were 1) passivity 2) impatience 3) a romantic view of friendship 4) lack of commitment 5) sexual relationships 6) faction 7) lack of forgiveness.

And again, in his talk `Have we friendship in the Order?' Subhuti speaks of four areas to which we need to pay positive attention if there is to be depth in friendship. What are these four areas? He enumerates them as 1) immaturity 2) lack of trust and competitiveness 3) superficiality in our conception of friendship and 4) sexual relationships. I don't have time to discuss these obstacles and these areas this evening, so I'll just refer you to Subhuti's two lectures, as well as to Subhuti's other lectures on the theme of friendship. I hope in fact that one day, in the not too far distant future, will be able to write a book on friendship.

I want to make just one comment. Subhuti has spoken of depth of friendship. I don't remember whether he spoke of what he meant by depth in this connection. I want to give my own interpretation, with which I hope Subhuti won't disagree too much. Friendship, I would say, is deep to the extent to which it incorporates the transcendental; or perhaps I should say it is deep to the extent that it is itself incorporated in the transcendental. It is deep to the extent that it is altruistic. It is deep to the extent that it is egoless. Somewhere or other, I do seem to remember, I've spoken of communication as mutual awareness leading to mutual self-transcendence. Deep friendship can be spoken of in similar terms.

We can really radiate love only to the extent that we live united. True friendship, we may say, is the efflorescence of egolessness.

One more word. Rimpoche speaks of radiating love. But what does `radiate' mean? To radiate means, according to the dictionary, `to emit from a centre'. But what is the centre? I won't get too philosophical here, but the centre is the middle point. I'm sorry I have to ask another question, but what is a point? I'm afraid this is just one of my little habits - but what is a point? A point is defined as that which has position without magnitude. We can radiate love only from the middle point of our being. We can radiate love only from egolessness, from sunyata. We can radiate love only from that point within ourselves - single inverted commas - which has position without magnitude.

So, `Cherish the doctrine, live united, radiate love' is Rimpoche's message. This is the message he gave in the school motto to his students. This is the message that he gave, that he still gives, to each and every one, to all of us. It's the message, moreover, that he gave not just in words but in deeds, a message that he gave through the medium of his own life. Rimpoche himself indeed cherished the doctrine. The doctrine was very dear to him. He studied it intensively, especially during the earlier part of his life. Rimpoche practised the doctrine. He observed the ethics of a Bodhisattva. He cultivated the paramitas. Moreover, for practically seventy years he lived the life of a monk.

Rimpoche also propagated the doctrine, especially towards the end of his life. He taught the students of his own school. He cooperated with visiting Buddhist scholars, especially those from the West. He gave advice, he gave inspiration, to visiting members of the Western Buddhist Order, as well as to visiting Mitras and Friends. Indeed, he once said that he regarded Sangharakshita's disciples as his own disciples. And Rimpoche could say this because he himself lived united. He lived united with other real Buddhists. He was free, totally free, from competitiveness and jealousy. On more than one occasion, as I knew myself, as I saw myself during my time in Kalimpong, he had to suffer, really suffer, at the hands of bigots. But he didn't bear a grudge. He was always willing to forgive. And he could do this because he was not the victim of egotism.

And finally, Rimpoche radiated love, radiated metta and karuna, radiated friendliness. All those who came in contact with Rimpoche, even for a short time, as we heard this afternoon, could see, could experience this for themselves. This is why we remember Rimpoche today, and this is why we're celebrating the anniversary of his death. We're celebrating it because Rimpoche was the embodiment of his own message, because he himself cherished the doctrine, he lived united and radiated love. In other words, we are celebrating the anniversary of Rimpoche's death because of the quality, the supreme quality, of his life. We are celebrating the anniversary of his death because his life is worth remembering, worth bearing in mind, reflecting upon, deriving and gaining inspiration from. We're celebrating the anniversary of his death because we want to make his life a permanent part of the heritage of the FWBO.

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