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New Zealanders in the UK 1985 - Questions and Answers

by Sangharakshita

QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS WITH NEW ZEALANDERS - 1985Loosely based on the booklet "The Bodhisattva, Evolution and Self-Transcendence" with
additional discussion about the best conditions for visitors to the FWBO from outside the
Those Present: (names taken from 'voice print') Steven, Satyananda, Murray Wright,
Prasannasiddhi, Timothy, Matthew, Mark Dwyer, Dharmadhara, Vijaya.
Prasannasiddhi: So, the first question is a technical question, or I think it's more a technical
S: Say first of all whether the question arises out of any particular passage or text.
Satyananda: The question arises out of the Bodhisattva, Evolution and Self Transcendence.
The bottom of page 15 and it's just a technical question. You list the nidanas as faith,
tranquillity, satisfaction and delight and rapture etc., etc. I just wondered why that list is
different from ...
S: Ah. I think there's, no, I think this question was asked in Tuscany. I think it is simply a
mistake in copying or typing. (Pause) You just check it with for instance the list contained in
'The Three Jewels'. I have an idea that what happened was that delight and rapture really
represent one and the same nidana. I think that's what it is but one nidana has been, appears as
it were twice, in English. Do you see what
I mean? I think that what it is simply. There is, in fact, no difference
between the series of nidanas here and the series of nidanas anywhere else. Do you see what I
mean? Give me 'The Three Jewels' and I'll ...
Prasannasiddhi: Well, 'The Three Jewels' is faith, joy, rapture ...
S: Just a minute. Let me just get it here. (Pause) Yes, (Bhante quickly reads to himself from
the text) ... faith, yes ...
Prasannasiddhi: You've got tranquillity with joy, as the second, and then rapture.
S: Ah, yes, I think it is tranquillity and tension release. Tranquillity - calming down - is the
same thing as what Guenther calls, I've quoted his translation here and that's why I've got it in
inverted commas, [2] 'tension release'.
Satyananda: So that tranquillity should be way over after rapture.
S: Yes. Really it means that it's tension-release or tranquillity, the nidana being one nidana.
There's no difference, there's no difference intended here. It's the standard series of nidanas.
(Pause) And satisfaction, and that was all right, rapture.
Prasannasiddhi: The others are OK.
S: The others ... yes it is those two. (Pause) Yes, it should be tranquillity or tension-release.
It's representing prasrabdi.
Prasannasiddhi: The second question was to page 5. The second question is from Murray.
Murray: I'll read the relevant passage. "We're living in the midst of a great debate. It is a
debate which, in one form or another, has been going on ever since simple consciousness
evolved into reflexive consciousness or, in other words, ever since man became man. All
civilizations have been involved in this debate; all cultures and all religions. Some of the
greatest triumphs of the human spirit are the product of this debate and some of its most
terrible disasters". The question is: "Is it possible for there to be a, in inverted commas,
"triumph of the human spirit" collectively and or individually within the context of armed
conflict, for example, the Spartan defence of Greece against the Persians at Thermopolai?
S: Well, it depends what one means by triumph. Obviously there can be such a thing as a
moral triumph or a spiritual triumph in the sense of an inner as distinct from an external
triumph. So by the triumph of the human spirit one does not necessarily mean a material
triumph. One might say that this particular question is connected with the question of what is
sometimes called, in connection with the ecclesiastical affairs, and especially in connection
with the history of the Roman Catholic church triumphalism. Have you ever heard this term
before? Triumphalism. It is a term which was much used at Vatican II. For instance some
critics of the existing ecclesiastical structure were of the opinion it was characterized by too
great an extent or too great a degree by three things. That is to say: centralism;
authoritarianism; and triumphalism. And triumphalism very broadly speaking though I don't
think there's any really precise definition of the term, triumphalism very broadly speaking
means the tendency to identify the 'success', maybe single inverted commas, of a religion or
of a religious movement or a spiritual movement with external success. That is success in the
outside world, success in the secular world. So that for instance, if you've got lots of
buildings, if you're ministers with highly influential positions, if they can influence the
government, if they can influence legislation, well then you are successful. That sort of
tendency, the tendency to think that way is triumphalism. So this is really a very dangerous
tendency. So when one speaks in terms of a triumph of the human spirit, one is not thinking
in terms of triumphalism. Because there can be a triumph of the human spirit in the midst of
material disaster. In the case that you mentioned, well, if you think of it as a triumph of the
human spirit, but in so much as there's violence involved so people might question that, but
by taking it as an example of the triumph of the human spirit, it was as the same time a
military defeat. But you could say it was a moral victory. Do you see what I mean?
So it is quite important to realize that there can be a triumph of the human spirit even when to
all external appearances there is complete disaster, that you've been beaten, that you've been
defeated. Of course, there is again a danger here that you sort of try to turn failure itself into
some sort of victory. We've talked about this on a number of occasions. You attribute some
sort of value to the defeat because you are not able to accept defeat on that level. So that must
be very carefully distinguished from a genuine, as it were, spiritual victory in the midst of real
material disaster.
You're not trying to make out that the material disaster is not a material disaster and it is not
in fact a disaster on that level, you fully accept that. But at the same time, on a quite [3]
different level, on a quite different dimension, you have in fact triumphed. So this is what I'm
thinking of when I say "some of the greatest triumphs of the human spirit are the product of
this debate". I'm not thinking of, as it were, triumphalist terms. Of course, it may be that a
triumph of human spirit is accompanied by some measure of external success but it's certainly
not to be confused. We can see this in the case of some of these modern cults and religious, or
pseudo-religious ( ), they have a measure of, as it were, success, but does it represent a
triumph of the human spirit? That's quite another matter.
Prasannasiddhi: We were just wondering as to war, as in a way war seems like a sort of group
activity. We were just wondering if one could speak of the human spirit and individuality in
the context of war. That was the sort of question.
S: I think that the human spirit can't be excluded entirely from that situation. I mean, for
instance, one can read the about, say the trench warfare during the First World War. Well the
First World War was a war, and everybody who was involved in it, to that extent, was
involved in a violent activity. Was involved in acts of violence but nonetheless, even though
one was so involved, in the midst of that involvement sometimes, the human spirit in a more
positive sense did manifest itself. For instance, there were well-known occasions when there
was an unofficial armistice on Christmas Eve. I'm not sure whether it was in all years, but
certainly some years, and soldiers on both sides, both German and British crossed into
no-man's-land and fraternised and exchanged cigarettes, at least on that day. You see what I
So that you could say represented a triumph of the human spirit or if for instance in the course
of war you risked your life, as many soldiers did to drag one of your comrades out of the
reach of say machine gun fire, or something like that. So even under those unlikely
circumstances there can be a triumph of the human spirit, at least to some extent. Whatever
the sort of horrible situation your karma so to speak might have landed you in, it's always
possible that you can modify that to some extent, at least for the future, by some genuinely
human act.
Prasannasiddhi: Even if it's fighting to defend your country, actually killing people in defence
of your country?
S: I'm not saying, we must be very careful, I'm not saying that killing them can represent a
triumph of the human spirit. No, I think that can never be the case, but in that situation which
is geared to killing where you're not actually killing, because human nature is so complex you
can still, to a limited extent perform an action which does represent a triumph of the human
spirit, as for instance, when you risk your life for the sake of one of your friends, in that sort
of situation. Clearly you are accumulating or creating a very mixed karma. The fact that
you're engaged in war at all, in acts of violence, is unskilful and you will suffer for that in due
course, but the fact that in the midst of that generally unskilful situation, you are still capable
of some skilful acts, at least to some extent, ...

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