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My Eight Main Teachers

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by Sangharakshita

... stories about the laity to illustrate their attitude, and he said one day that he was going for alms, he was begging you know with his begging bowl, and he was quite a new monk, a new b, and couldn't keep his robe up, it kept slipping down. And if you've worn the robe for about 5 or 6 years, it always keeps slipping down, but in some sort of miraculous way when you've been in the robes for 5 or 6 years, the robe just stays up. And believe it or not, this is my own experience, if you are a monk of some experience, of some standing, you can actually do a prostration and your robe won't fall off. Well, if I had my robes with me here in America I could demonstrate. But anyway, Kasyapa found his robes slipping down. So what did he do? He had his begging bowl in his hand, so he just put it to one side on the ground while he adjusted his robe. An old woman saw him doing this, and at once started screaming 'what sort of a b is this here, who doesn't even know how to respect his bowl, he's ignorant of the vinaya' - because there is an obscure vinaya rule which says bhikkhus mustn't put their begging bowl on the ground. So the old woman knew that somehow, and she was screaming at him and abusing him for being a bad b. Something about a bad b earlier on.

Anyway, this was Kasyapa's experience, or some of his experience, of Sri Lanka. Anyway he left Sri Lanka and for a while he was in Penang, with Chinese b, staying in a Chinese Buddhist temple and he was of course a Theravadin, he was deeply versed in the pali scriptures and a con??? Theravadin, not a narrow-minded one, quite a liberal-minded one, but nonetheless at this time - which was about 15 years before I met him - he wasn't quite so liberal-minded, this is ??? as he afterwards became. And what happened with this? and this is a story he related to me personally.

He used to visit Chinese Buddhist temples, that is to say, Mahayana Buddhist temples with his Chinese friends, and they used to bow down to the Buddha image, bow down to Kuan Yin that is to say Avalokitesvara, bow down to all the other bodhisattvas, Kasyapa however being a good Theravadin he only bowed down to the Buddha, and not the bodhisattvas. So his friend, who accompanied him to the temples, didn't say anything. But that day, when they got back to the house, and lunch was served, Kasyapa found he'd only been given rice. So he didn't really like to say anything, but nonetheless he looked to his friend and after a while he said 'where is the curry?' so the friend said 'well, the rice is the main course.' He said it's just like that with the buddhas and bodhisattvas. Admittedly, yes the Buddha is the main thing, but the bodhisattvas are also necessary.

So, yes rice is the main thing, curries are also necessary. So Kasyapa said he learnt his lesson because he was someone who could take a point, whenever he went to the Mahayana temples thereafter he bowed down to the bodhisattvas too.

Thereafter he came back to India and when I came to know him which was in 1949, he was professor of pali and buddhist philosophy at the Benares Hindu University, I've written about this in The 1000-petalled Lotus. He'd been professor of pali & buddhist philosophy for 12 years, but he was feeling very frustrated because he had very few students, I think only 4 or 5. And why was this? Benares Hindu University had been founded mainly by orthodox hindus, and they were very keen on sanskrit, they weren't very keen on pali. They only reason why they had the department of pali was that one of their very great benefactors, whom they didn't wish to offend, had insisted on there being a department of pali and had offered to pay all the expenses of that department. He happened to be a patron of Kasyapa's, the ??? of Western India. But what they did was this - I don't know how many of you are familiar with the academic goings on... I'm sorry Alan Sponberg isn't here to hear about them today- but they made, the university made a rule that yes, you could study pali if you wanted to, but you couldn't take pali unless you also took sanskrit. So very few people were so eager to learn pali that they were willing to learn sanskrit, which is much more difficult, at the same time. So in this way, Kasyapa came to have very few students, and when I met him, and started staying with him and studying with him, he was always very frustrated for that reason. I personally found him to be an excellent teacher, again I've written about this in The 1000-petalled Lotus. He was not only extremely well-versed in the subjects that I studied with him, that is to say logic, both buddhist and western, abhidhamma, and pali. He often knew the texts by heart. And I stayed with him probably nearly a year. After that he wanted a bit of change, he took me on pilgrimmage in Bihar to places like Nalanda and Rajgir and he took me up to Kalimpong which I'd never heard of before, and to cut a long story short he left me there with the parting injunction 'stay here and work for the good of Buddhism', which I tried to do. I was then 24. Subsequently Kasyapa left the Benares Hindu University, and he founded the Nalanda Pali Institute in the vincinity of the ancient Nalanda mahavihara or monastic university. And the NPI I believe has been raised to university status by the government of Bihar. He also edited in devanagri characters the entire tipitika, writing prefaces in English to every volume and summaries of all the suttas.

I remember that while I was with him in Benares at the university, he told me he'd gone through the entire tipitika so many times in pali that he felt that he had it right here in the palm of his hands.

And it was then his intention to write a tipitaka ???, that is a book in pali because he spoke as well as wrote pali and sanskrit - I heard him give sanskrit lectures - a work in pali of the tipitaka sara??, or essence of the tipitika, which would just give you the essence of the Buddha teaching as recorded in the pali scriptures. I'm afraid he never actually got around to it, but that was his original intention. XXX Thereafter I did see him from time to time. The last time I saw him was in 1966 at Nalanda, at the Nalanda Pali Institute which was then flourishing and I took some pictures of him - I had a picture of him feeding his peacocks; he was very fond of these peacocks. He used to come out of his residence every morning with some grain, and these peacocks would come flying through the air and he'd feed. So that's my last memory of Kasyapa. He died some years ago. But his work I'm delighted to say, his work for the pali language and literature is being continued by his nephew ???, who is also a scholar in pali and buddhism, specializing in new ??mismatics??. And I was very interested to learn that Alan Sponberg had been one of his students. ??? is now retired, living in India in Sarnath, he was formerly teaching in the States and has founded an institute of pali & buddhist studies in memory of his uncle Jagdish Kasyap, and has invited the cooperation of the FWBO, which obviously we will be very glad to give. Perhaps I should just give a few personal details: Kasyapa was of medium height, very dark in complexion, and very very fat. He told me shortly after I'd met him that had I come a year earlier he would have been unable to go out with me, go for a walk, because he was unable to walk he was so fat, he used to go everywhere by cycle rickshaw, he used to give the rickshaw wallah double the fare. He was very humble, very unassuming, despite his vast learning he never arrogated anything to himself. He was in some ways quite a childlike sort of person, very simple, very simple in his way of life with regards to dress, to accommodation. I also remember that he was a terrific worker, he could work day and night without food, without sleep. But if he had no work, he'd simply lie on his bed, well you can't really call it a bed, it's what we call in India a charquoy??, and he used to lie there and sleep, hour after hour. If there was no ??????. If there's no work to do, why not just sleep? I used to be studying in the next room and if I had a problem, if I'd come to some knotty point of grammar or logic or abhidhamma, I'd just go into his - the door was always open - he'd just open one eye so, when I put ??? my question, he'd (sound of yawning) answer. And he knew exactly where that verse or that passage came in a text, he wouldn't need to look, and he could explain it without opening more than one eye. So clear, so much to the point. 'Thank you Bhante', close his eye... so that was what he was like. So that was Jagdish Kasyap, and obviously I have very fond memories indeed. Perhaps I should also add that I very much regarded him as my teacher, well he was, he always used to say that I was his friend. And he learnt a lot from me, which I very much appreciated even though I didn't really agree with him.

So from bhikksu Jagadish Kasyap to Dhardo Rimpoche whose name may possibly be familiar to at least some of you. He was called Dhardo Rimpoche because he was born in ?????, he's a Rimpoche incarnate lama of Dalsen Dor ???. Dalsen Dor is a town on the border between eastern Tibet, I think it must be Kham I'm not quite sure, and China. It's right on the border. And R actually was only half Tibetan. His father was Chinese, his mother was Tibetan. I knew his mother by the way, she lived with him in Kalimpong, and died at quite a ??? age. I'm afraid she gave R quite a lot of trouble, she was a very hot-tempered old lady. But anyway that's another story.

He was born in 1918 and as I said he was a tulku, or incarnate lama. Once I asked him if he remembered any of his previous lives, and what he said was very interesting. He said remembered remembering, he could no longer remember. He just remembered remembering. He said up to the age of 7 he did have some recollection of his previous life, and he further ...

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