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Pre - ordination Course for Men Prior to Tuscany - Padmaloka 1982

by Sangharakshita


Questions And Answers Prior To The 1982 Ordination Course

Held at:



April(?) 1982
Those Present:
The Venerable Sangharakshita, Subhuti, Vessantara, Devamitra, Suvajra,
Ratnaketu, Surata, Aryamitra, Ken Chandler, Mike Quaif, Tony Wall, Adrian Macro, Graham Steven,
Robin Cooper, Alan Morrow, Robin Collett, Bernie Tisch, Greg Harman, Tony Bowall, Campbell
McEwan, Kenny MacKay, Paul Holloway, Chris Harper, Bipin Patel, Darren Dewitt, Kennett

Transcriber's note:
At times the tape quality is very poor and it is not possible to decipher what some of the participants
are asking or saying. This is also the case, on far fewer occasions, with Sangharakshita himself.

Sangharakshita: Who are the 3 question masters?

Subhuti: Well there's Robin from our group.

S: Which Robin? And who else?

Devamitra: We don't actually have a question master from our group there are 4 different people all
of whom will be giving questions.

Vessantara: My group's the same, 3 people.

S: These are all questions that you felt you hadn't fully sorted out yourselves. Unresolved questions.

Subhuti: Yes. Or ones we thought might provoke you. [Laughter]

S: Points of controversy [kappavattu]. So who's going to start? I'm not feeling easily provokable
this morning by the way.[Laughter] but you can try if you wish.[Laughter]

__________: Shall we start?

S: Give me a little background first if you like, the ground covered and under which the question

Vessantara: Most of these questions arise out of discussions of the precepts. There are a few
exceptions. Robin has a number of questions about confession.

Robin Collet/Cittapala: Listening to your tape on the spiritual importance of confession and you
said that on full moon days and new moon days traditionally the Sangha used to get together in pairs
before the usual time and confess together and I was wondering since this seemed to be so important
in the spiritual life regards confession was there not a case for that sort of thing to happen in the


S: Yes there was this tradition, there still is this tradition in many parts of the Buddhist world that the
monks, because this occurs within the context of the Vinaya for Bhikkhus, that the monks gather
together every full moon day and every new moon day. The purpose for which they originally
gathered is the subject of some discussion. I've gone into the question, I think it was in the
unpublished work on Buddhist literature, I think - this question of the [prosaddha?] the twice
monthly observance. It seems that originally in the Buddha's day or at least early in the Buddha's
day, it was a sort of what we would call Order Meeting. The Bhikkhus, the full time followers
gathered together, they meditated and they seemed to recite verses of the Dharma. Perhaps it's in 'the
Three Jewels' I have dealt with this does anyone remember? In the section on the Sangha. But
anyway this seems to have been the original practice, that the Bhikkhus gathered together and recited
those verses in which the Buddha's teaching has been codified almost for purposes of recitation and
memorisation, and also meditated together. I mean there are a number of occasions on which we
find the Bhikkhus gathered together and simply meditating on the full moon day.

We came across this a little while ago the other weekend when we studied the Samanaphala Sutta.
It's a full moon or full moon night and the King Ajatasatru wants to go and visit a teacher and
eventually decides to go and visit the Buddha on that full moon night and he finds the Buddha and all
his disciples, of whom there were quite a large number, meditating in the forest. So this seems to
have been the practice in those early days, that the monks gathered together, the Bhikkhus gathered
together and recited the verses embodying the Dharma and meditated together.

It would seem that the practice of confession was introduced into this monthly or bimonthly meeting
only somewhat later because the question of confession doesn't arise unless you've got something to
confess. And in the very early days it seems that the Bhikkhus had nothing to confess for obvious
reasons, because they were virtually Enlightened in most cases but things did change, people joined
the Order who weren't quite so spiritually advanced and there were little things that they had to
confess from time to time. So in the case of more serious offences they had to be confessed at the
meeting itself and the Order as a whole then took any necessary action to deal with the matter but
less serious matters could be dealt with as between two Bhikkhus, that is to say two members of the
sangha. One who was conscious of an offence could confess to the other and, so to speak, purify
himself, it was in fact called purification [parisudhi?], before the actual meeting.

And this is still very much the practice, except that in some parts of the Buddhist world there is in
fact no public confession. There's no confession within the context of the actual order meeting. It's
all sorted out, as it were, in private beforehand so that the order meets in harmony and in, so to
speak, purity. So this is very important and then the question is whether this sort of practice, this sort
of confession could not be introduced within the Order, the Western Buddhist Order.

I think in a way it is. Because what it means is that when you meet together as an Order you meet
together as individuals you meet together as committed persons, so if prior to the meeting, you've
done anything that detracts from your status, so to speak as an individual, which detracts from your
Going for Refuge, clearly you must put that right before you can authentically participate in a
meeting of the Order. Which means of course a meeting of committed individuals. You see what I
mean? Take for instance an extreme example. Supposing before the meeting you have committed an
offence with regard to another Order Member, supposing for instance that you hit him in anger
intending to hurt him, well clearly there's been a breach between you and that other Order Member,
so you cannot really genuinely, both of you, go along and attend that order meeting because you are

not in harmony with each other. You must put that right before you go along. Before you can validly
or even genuinely join in the order meeting.

But this sort of thing does happen. Maybe in some cases it doesn't always happen but it should
happen so that when you meet as an Order you really do meet as an Order. You meet as an Order of
individuals who are in harmony with one another. Sometimes of course it may happen that
differences are thrashed out at an Order meeting. It may not always be possible to thrash them out
beforehand, especially if they involve a number of people, but so far as possible and especially
personal breaches and maybe conflicts just between a couple of Order Members should be thrashed
out, should be put right, before they go and actually participate in the meeting otherwise there can't
be a genuine meeting. You've either got to sort things out beforehand or you've got to sort things out
within the context of the meeting itself otherwise you've got only a pretence of an Order, a pretence
of a Sangha to that extent. Do you see what I mean?

Robin Collett: Does once a month constitute a frequent enough practice?

S: That's difficult to say. It depends, I mean some Order Members might be living together in a
community. They might see one another every day, they may meet every day so life becomes, as it
were, one continuous Order Meeting which is the ideal. Sometimes you are working together,
sometimes you are meditating together, sometimes you are studying together, sometimes you are just
together but if one normally isn't in contact with other Order Members then I would say that once a
month is the absolute minimum, but perhaps one should consider meeting, as it were, formally even
more frequently than that. The principle of course being, rather than lay down a rule, the principle
being, meet together as often as you can, as genuinely as you can, as effectively as you can. If
possible be in continuous contact at least with some other Order Members.

Perhaps it should be a question of how often in the month it would be permissable for you not to be

Robin Collett: You said in the introduction to 'a case of dysentery' that you felt that the
development of men's Order weekends was an important innovation in the Movement. Vessantara
said that in another point in time you said that you felt that the Order was becoming unified in vision
but not necessarily united in activity. Could you elaborate on that?

S: The second point. Does anyone remember where or when I said that and in what context?

Vessantara: The version I heard was you said that we were a unified ...

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