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On Visualisation - Order Convention 1978

by Sangharakshita


1978 Order Convention Questions and Answers - Visualisation

Tape 1 Side 1

Subhuti: Tonight Bhante is going answer a great stack of questions in a question and answer period.

Sangharakshita: Have a good look at them first. I think I'll stand up. A few of you might have wondered why I wanted the questions written down. Well, there are three quite good reasons for that. First of all to get you to do most of your own thinking for yourselves because if you formulate your question clearly it's already half answered and only too often people don't even bother to formulate their questions clearly and that happens especially if you get up on your feet and start stammering out the question. If you work on it and write it down it's much clearer and maybe once you've got it down you won't even ask it because the answer will also be there. Secondly, if the questions are the written form then I can read them out first into the microphone and in that way they get played on to the tape otherwise it's very difficult to tape-record questions of people speaking from the different parts of the room. And of course if you get people speaking from different parts of the room asking questions sometimes there's a little confusion, even with Order Members. So let's see what we do have. I did notice - those questions I have received earlier on - that quite a few of them relate to practise, especially meditation practice, visualisation practice which is a good thing. Well let's start of then with something very simple perhaps. Yes. Here's one. This is very simple. Not all the questions are very simple I suspect. But this one says:

"The word visualisation has a meaning to everyone of us in the Order. What in your own words, as it were, is the meaning (Loud Laughter), is the meaning for you?"

Well, visualisation, visualisation means making to be seen. You visualise. You create something in visual terms before or in front of your own inner vision in your own, as it were, inner space. In that inner space through your creative imagination, or with the help of your creative imagination, you build up either little by little or all at once, or if you're especially good at it, I was going to say a picture, but that isn't really quite the right word. It's more like an image or, if you like, an icon of a buddha or a bodhisattva, even a daka, dakini, dharmapala, and this is what visualisation means to me. In technical terms this is what is called the samaya sattva. Samaya means 'conventional '. It's the conventional form buddha or bodhisattva which you, as it were, build up out of your, again as it were, own mind stuff. When you, as it were, stretch out a bit of yourself, a part of yourself, part of
your own mindstuff, stretch it out and mould it into a buddha or bodhisattva form and see that in front of you as vividly as you see another person. Well, that is the samaya sattva. The conventional visualised form.

But there's a stage further than that to which also the term visualisation applies. We're all familiar with the idea that enlightenment has so many different aspects. We're familiar with the idea that those different aspects can be again, as it were, personified by different buddhas and bodhisattvas and so on. So your samaya sattva, your conventional visualised form acts as a sort of basis for the descent or the manifestation of what we may describe as the - there's really no word for it in English -sort of transcendental cum archetypal form which is an aspect of enlightenment or buddhahood itself. The two are, as it were, in correspondence or alignment. And when you build up that form in your own mind, or with your own mindstuff, since it has a sort of analogical relationship with the aspect of enlightenment to which it pertains, that aspect of enlightenment can again, as it were, descend into or manifest through it and then through that samaya sattva you're in touch or in contact with what is called the Jnana Sattva which means the 'awareness being'.

So through the conventional visualised being, visualised by your own mental creative imagination you come into contact with the Jnana Sattva which is actually an aspect, you could even say, of the Absolute. So this very broadly speaking is what the word visualisation means to me which is again broadly and roughly speaking the traditional signification of the term. Perhaps it's not possible to say anything more than that in just a few words again it would really need a whole lecture.

"Would you please tell us more about your teacher Dhardo Rimpoche"?

Well, there is a connection between this question and the previous one, because it was from Dhardo Rimpoche that I did receive a number of visualisation practices, especially the White Tara practice. I don't know that anybody has this actually. It's a quite lengthy complex practice which has been fully translated. I do have the full text translated. This was the last thing I did in India before I left. I was going along to Dhardo Rimpoche for several weeks, almost every day, we were working on this text. So I've got it all in English but so far this hasn't been actually imparted to anybody. It is though quite an important practice. 

Well a few words about Dhardo Rimpoche which I may say I speak with pleasure. Dhardo Rimpoche is a Tibetan incarnate lama. He's not really strictly speaking Tibetan. He's known as a Tibetan lama. He was educated as a Tibetan lama in one of the three great monastic universities of Lhasa but actually he's mainly Chinese. His father was pure Chinese and his mother was partly Chinese. He only has a little Tibetan blood in him actually though that probably rather strong. And he comes from a place, he was born in a place called Dhartsendo which is sort of in between Tibet and China, though now of course part of China though the writ of Lhasa didn't exactly run there, neither did that of that of the Chinese government there were all sorts of little local kingdoms, principalities, now of course broken up. It's now all ruled by China. So he was born in Dhartsendo of merchant parents, his parents were engaged in trade. His mother, by-the-way, I did know as quite an old lady, she lived with him in Kalimpong and she became a nun. She had rather a hot temper I'm sorry to say. She's was always getting into scrapes and caused Rimpoche no end of trouble sometimes. That's another story. [Laughter] But anyway he was identified as an incarnate lama, to use that term, as a Tulku, when he was about four and he was taken away to Lhasa a few years later to be educated. There's a story which I heard from Rimpoche himself about recollections of previous lives. I'm just pausing mainly to think because I've not thought about these things for quite a few years, it's about fifteen, sixteen years since I actually heard them. Rimpoche told me I think more than once that up to the age of seven he remembered his previous lives, at least some of them and in particular his last one, but that when he was seven or eight the memory of all these things started fading away and that he remembered remembering but that he could not directly remember any more. He just remembered remembering, and he told me one particular instance. He said that when he was very small, maybe five or six after he'd been identified as an incarnate lama but while he was still at home, a very devoted lady of the locality used to come and see him and she kept pressing him -he was, as I said, only five or six then- to accept an invitation to her house for a formal food offering, a dana and he always refused. So the lady became a bit upset and she said -I'm just trying to remember the exact details, exactly as it was told to me- but she said something like "Oh Rimpoche, how is it that you don't like to come to my house?" And he said to her "Why should I not come to your house, after all I've been there many times before". And she had been the devoted disciple of his predecessor in incarnations who had actually had food at her house many, many a time. And he said this is what he said. He did remember going there but she had as it were been speaking to him as he was just now, that he had never been there before which in that body he hadn't. So when he said 'But why should I mind going to your house, you know, I've been there many a time before' the five or six year old boy who hadn't, by the way, been told that he'd ever gone to this house, was remembering his previous visits. So this little story he told me himself, just by way of illustration. And he said up to the age of seven or eight he did have these recollections. 

Anyway he was taken off to one of the three great monastic universities, taken off to Drepung in Lhasa and he remained there for many, many years, and he told me -this came up in an interesting context - he told me that his predecessors, in incarnation, as it were, had all been, well until the last one, had been Nyingmapa lamas. How this came up was this. I had myself a number of initiations from the Nyingmapa lamas at different times. From Jamyang Khentse Rimpoche, Dilgo Khentse Rimpoche, from Chetul Sangye Dorje, from Kachu Rimpoche, these were the main ones. And I happened to say to Dhardo Rimpoche rather jokingly "You're the only Gelugpa teacher that I have and he said jokingly "Ah, but I'm not really a Gelugpa!" (Laughter) And I said "Well, then Rimpoche, what are you?" He said, "Well, really I'm supposed to be a Nyingmapa." So I asked "Well, how was that?" and then he explained that the monastery of which he had been head in Dhartsendo, the monastery of which the line, his line, he was the eighth by-the way, the eighth reincarnation, as it were, had been heads, had originally ...

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