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Fifteen Points for Old and New Order Members

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by Sangharakshita

Tape 180: Fifteen Points for Old (And New ) Order Mem bers - Edited Version

I will not be giving you a lecture today. I think I was at my peak, as regards giving lectures, between twenty and thirty years ago. That is unfortunate for those of you who came along afterwards, but some of those lectures are on tape for you to hear if you want. So there will not be any spectacular verbal pyrotechnics on this occasion. I am just going to present to you, in a plain and straight-forward manner, from a list of more than forty points I jotted down recently, fifteen points which I have selected as being of relevance to most Order Members. I mention this just so that no-one is disappointed and feels like saying afterwards, "W ell, Bhante*s not quite on form this morning." I did hear remarks of this sort on a recent visit to India, after I had given a short series of talks. I was told that some of our Indian Order Members had said: "They*re not quite so good as the lectures Bhante used to give." When I heard this I was quite pleased, because I thought that they did know the difference between a good and a really good lecture. This reminds me of a story I heard about a famous opera singer. She had just come to the end of the last act of her current opera, and after tumultuous applause she was presented with twenty or thirty bouquets, just like I used to get in India. And someone said to her, "Well, of course you must be very pleased." But she said: "No I*m not". And w hen they asked her why, she said: "I got the same applause, yes, but I wasn*t quite so good tonight, actually." What she meant was that the audience did not really appreciate her. They did not know when she was not quite on form and when she was. I am not saying I am not quite on form, but that this is not going to be a lecture; I am just going to present you with a series of points. Of course we already have our `Fifteen Points for New - and Old - Order Members' but this time I have reversed the title and I am going to call it `Fifteen Points for Old - and N ew - Order Members.' My first point, or aphorism, is something relatively simple and straightforward: reduce input. I do not know anything about computers, so this point is not intended to have anything to do with them. But it often strikes me that we are subject to an enormous input through our senses and our mind. So much impinges on us every day and even every hour. First of all, there are people impinging on us, not just the people with whom we are in close contact, but people whom we merely pass in the street. There are the people we see on the tube, or in other casual ways, and they all have an effect on us. We are not completely unaware of their existence and of their mental states. In the tube, for instance, you can become very aware of the fact that the people sitting in the same carriage as you are sometimes in quite strange mental states. I see people talking to themselves, or nodding their heads, or in a sort of stupor, very tired after the day*s work, or even before the day*s work begins. So because one cannot help noticing people, they have an effect on one, contributing their input all the time.

And then there is the input from traffic, especially if you live in London. My little flat at Sukhavati in Bethnal Green is relatively quiet, but even there I hear the sound of the traffic. I can also see, through the window of my study, planes coming and going every few minutes. I can hear police, ambulance and fire engine sirens. I can hear glass being broken, and all sorts of goings-on. In the distance, sometimes, I can hear drilling, and people shouting slogans. It is not very loud, but when you go out, it does of course become very much louder, especially if you go right into the heart of the city. So, the sound of traffic and so on is impinging on us all the time. And then there are the sounds of radios and TV s. Lots of people watch TV ; someone even told me recently that when they went home, they discovered that their parents had both the TV and the radio on all day, all the time. There are also the things we read. We may pick up a newspaper, so facts from that impinge upon us. If we are regular newspaper readers, we are being impinged on all the time by them. Often we are not conscious of this impingement; it registers subliminally, but it affects us. I think we probably do not realise the great effect that it has on us. So the point that I am making first is: reduce input.

We may not be able to shut out all the input all the time, but we can be much more careful, much more selective, about what we choose to let in. What gets in can often have a negative rather than a positive effect on us. I am not thinking so much of the radio, but we do need to make an effort to be more selective with our reading matter, with the TV, and even with the sort of contact we have with our friends. We deliberately tune in to different channels on the radio and TV, so we should apply that sort of principle to everything that impinges on us. We are a sort of receiving station all the time, but w e do not have to allow all these different outside factors and influences to play on us constantly without any sort of control or restriction. So reduce input, be more selective and try to make sure that the influences that are impinging on you are positive rather than negative.

One of the ways in which we can reduce input drastically is by going on solitary retreat from time to time. When we do manage to get away on such a retreat we are very careful not to take too many things with us. We do not take too many books with us, not even Dharma books, and we do not go away to a place where we are likely to find a TV set or even a radio. We need to be very careful about that, because these things are very seductive. An Order Member wrote to me some time ago and said, "When I was on my solitary retreat I didn*t watch too much TV." He seemed to think it a not unusual or unacceptable thing to spend two or three hours a day watching it. Maybe for him it did represent a drastic reduction of input, but really, we should try to reduce our input much, much, more than that. W e should have no contact with people, or with the outside world at all, as far as is possible. We do of course have a sort of daily solitary retreat when we meditate. Almost the first thing we do on these occasions is reduce input: we close our eyes. We try to meditate in a quiet place for the same reason, because if you are surrounded by noise you can hardly meditate. The things that impinge on us come mainly from the outside world, so first of all you reduce the external input. Then you can become more aware of the internal input, the wandering thoughts, fancies, ideas, reflections and worries. So then you work on reducing them, and it is only when you have done all this, that you really start meditating. Only then can you have contact with any deeper or higher levels within yourself. I think the artist has to do the same sort of thing. I certainly know that the writer has to do something similar. So this is my first point, a relatively simple, straightforward one, not always very easy in practice: reduce input.

Point number two is: think clearly. This is an old chestnut which w ill, I think, bear bringing to your notice yet again. Framed in rather more traditional terms, it is not so much `think clearly', but: `cherish Right View.' You notice I do not say `cherish Perfect Vision'. That would be rather premature, because there is no Perfect Vision without Right View. Right View is the mundane form of Perfect Vision, and Perfect Vision is the transcendental form or counterpart of Right View. Unless you have Right View, you have very little chance of achieving Perfect Vision. That is why Right View is so very important. The Buddha has all sorts of things to say about Right View. He did not distinguish linguistically betw een Right View and Perfect Vision, but spoke in terms of sam ma ditthi (Pali), samyag drsti (Skt.). But it is quite clear from the context whether he is talking about mundane `right view' or about transcendental `perfect vision'. Right View is important because wrong view leads downward. There is a Pali term niraya, which means `downward', or `downward path'. If you entertain, and especially if you cling to and insist upon wrong view, you are very definitely on the downward path, you are in decline. So Right View is of very great importance. As I have said: no Right View, no Perfect Vision. If there is no Perfect Vision, there is no liberation, no Enlightenment, no Nirvana, no real spiritual progress.

In order to cherish Right View we have to learn to think, that is to say, to reason.

Sometimes I am surprised how difficult people seem to find it just to think. I am not even speaking of thinking clearly. So often we are just under the influence of our emotions, very often swayed by our rather negative emotions, and we are not aware of this. We are not aware that we are not really thinking. But to cherish Right View we have to learn to think clearly, to reason correctly. Some time ago Subhuti arranged and led a series of `logical weekends' for the study and practice of logic. I believe that those who attended them found them very useful. It was a pity that they could not be continued. I am not of course blaming Subhuti here, but perhaps others who know a little about logic could restart them. We could have whole weekends devoted to how to think, how to reason. There is not much point in studying the Dharma if you cannot think clearly, and especially if you cannot even think. So I think that, logically and psychologically, really must come first. Perhaps we should have, at Vajrakuta or elsewhere, weekends devoted to how to think, how to reason correctly. We have arts weekends, and arts events, and even arts retreats, which is fine. But ...

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