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Extending the Hand of Fellowship

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by Sangharakshita

You searched for SANGHARAKSHITA

... and `His Eminences', not all of them necessarily either holy or spiritually eminent. Originally, it seems, only the Dalai Lama was accorded the style of `His Holiness' in international diplomatic usage, on the grounds that like the Pope he was both head of state and head of religion. The Panchen Lama was styled `His Eminence', presumably because his position was analogous to that of a cardinal. In 1956, when the Indian government invited the two Grand Lamas to visit India, the Chinese insisted, as a condition of their allowing the visit to take place, that the same protocol should be observed for both and the Panchen Lama, too, be accorded the style of `His Holiness'. The motive for this insistence on the part of the Chinese was, of course, purely political. Subsequently, the Karmapa started styling himself `His Holiness', with the result that such self-promotion soon became widespread, with more and more Buddhist teachers - not all of them Tibetan - calling themselves either `His Holiness' or `His Eminence'. Labels can also take the form of more traditional styles and titles such as `Sangharaja' and `Nayaka Maha Thera', and these too can be misleading; nor must we forget that not everyone styling himself a `meditation teacher' meditates and that a `forest monk' may not actually live in the forest. Whatever the label may be, in relating to other Buddhists an Order member should do his (or her) best to relate not to the label but to the person behind the label, to relate on the basis of the Going for Refuge common to all Buddhists, and to relate on the deepest possible level of that Going for Refuge. Not that labels can be ignored completely, even if only because other people take them seriously; but if they cannot be ignored, they should at least not be allowed to mislead.

So much, then, for my Three Points. So much for the relation of the Order to the rest of the Buddhist world. Though issues already dealt with elsewhere have not been touched on, in this paper I have covered a good deal of ground. We saw that since I spoke on the History of My Going for Refuge, eight years ago, the Order has grown not only numerically but in `collective' maturity and experience, while the FWBO's activities have expanded and diversified. I have therefore been able to hand on many of my responsibilities as founder and head of the Order, and hope soon to have handed them all on. In connection with what I called the Principle of Ecumenicity we saw that instead of one Buddhist world there are a number of sectarian Buddhist worlds, and that for all practical purposes the Order has separate relations with the Theravada, the Jodo Shinshu, Zen, and Tibetan Buddhism. Each of these schools has its own general characteristics and its own scriptures, from all of which we in the Order derive inspiration and guidance. We also saw, in connection with this principle, that during the last fifty years the portion of the earth's surface traditionally covered by Buddhism has shrunk dramatically, so that despite important accessions in India and the West Buddhism was now the smallest and in certain respects the least influential of the three great world religions. The Principle of Orthodoxy enabled me, incidentally, to connect my earlier with my later teaching. An orthodox Buddhist, we saw, was one for whom Going for Refuge was primary, observance of the precepts (and practice of meditation etc.) secondary, and lifestyle tertiary. The Theravada was not orthodox because of its emphasis on monasticism, the Jodo Shinshu because of its emphasis on the laical lifestyle, Zen because of its emphasis on meditation, and Tibetan Buddhism because of its emphasis on Tantric initiation. Nonetheless, as we also saw, all these schools were based on scriptures and other works in which the centrality of the act of Going for Refuge is made sufficiently clear. In connection with the Principle of Personal Contact we saw that those of us who have the responsibility for liaising with `other' Buddhist groups do so in our capacity as individuals, and that while our deepest friendships may be with those who, like us, go for Refuge to the Three Jewels, in principle we extend the hand of fellowship to all. I also had Three Points for Order Members Relating to the Rest of the Buddhist World: Do not allow yourself to be put in a false position; Look for the deepest common ground; and, Do not be misled by labels. These points having been made, I have now finished sharing with you my current thinking about the relation of the Order to the rest of the Buddhist world. The promise of eight years ago has been redeemed.

References 1 Sangharakshita, A Survey of Buddhism, 7th edition, Windhorse 1993, p.325 et seq.

2 Tricycle: The Buddhist Review Vol.V, no.2 (Winter 1995), p.53 3 Simon Midgeley and Philip Sherwell, The Daily Telegraph, Monday 15 January 1996, pp.1-2 4 Keith Dowman, `Himalayan Intrigue: The Search for the new Karmapa', Tricycle: The Buddhist Review vol.II, no.2 (Winter 1992), pp.29-34 5 Reginald A. Ray, Buddhist Saints in India: A Study in Buddhist Values and Orientations, Oxford University Press 1994, p.62 6 Urgyen Sangharakshita, review of Buddhist Saints in India, in The Times Higher Education Supplement, 17 February 1995 7 I.B. Horner, The Middle Way, vol.32, no.1 (May 1957), p.13 8 Sangharakshita, The Meaning of Orthodoxy in Buddhism: A Protest, Windhorse Publications, Glasgow, pp.15-21 9 Abbot Tenshin Anderson, `Speaking the Unspoken' Talk One, Shambhala Sun, (June 1993), p.31 10 Life with a Capital `L'. An interview with Philip Kapleau Roshi. Tricycle: The Buddhist Review, (Summer 1993), pp.55-56 11 Abbot Tenshin Anderson, `Speaking the Unspoken' Talk One, Shambhala Sun (June 1993), p.31 12 Thrangu Rinpoche, King of Samadhi: Commentaries on The Samadhi Raja Sutra & The Song of Lodro Thaye, Rangjung Yeshe Publications, Hong Kong, Boudhnath & Arhus, 1994, p.39

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