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Women-s Ordination Retreat - Questions and Answers February 1988

by Sangharakshita

...
S: Do you feel that you're competitive, or that people compete with you?

Rosy: Well, I think in myself I can see that my competitiveness comes from insecurity, which I
feel also when I'm in the power mode, that comes from insecurity in myself. So I suppose I don't
trust it very much. It's interesting to know, because I suppose if you've got energy tied up you don't
want to compete back, just - because if ..... results ..... it's got ..... heavier. (?)

S: Some people, of course, won't compete because they're afraid of losing. (Agreement.) So for
them to be competitive would be a step forward. Sometimes they'll spiritualise it: 'Oh, I never
compete, I don't believe in these rough games' sort of thing.

Vidyasri: So do you think that then, if that's how you feel, that actually you may have to go

through being competitive, come out with it?

S: Yes, in the healthy, positive classical Greek manner.

Dayamegha: Playing 'Trivial Pursuit'.

S: What's that?

Dayamegha: Oh, Bhante! You'd be very good at it, I think. [Laughter] It's a general knowledge
game.

S: Oh! Ah.

Rosy: Which kind of brings out the worst in people. [Laughter] Some people.

S: Someone once said that when one has the courage to baptise the worst in oneself as the best, it
makes an epoch in one's life. I think Nietzsche said that.

Anyway, let's pass on. Enough of competitiveness. This one's about death.

Our attitude to death affects the way we live, i.e. we fear death. Could you say
something about why the arahants did not cry when the Buddha died? I've heard a
story of an Enlightened Zen master who wept inconsolably when his young son died
-

what's an Enlightened Zen master doing having young sons anyway? Anyway -

- to the confusion of his disciples. Are these two responses incompatible?

I would have thought it was obvious why the arahants did not cry when the Buddha died. What is it
that makes one cry when somebody dies?
Anoma: Attachment.

S: Attachment, or - why is there the attachment? [Pause] Well, you've lost something, haven't
you? But when the Buddha died, had the arahants lost anything? The arahants were Enlightened
beings. So far as we can tell from the earliest parts of the Pali scriptures as they seem to be, the
arahants were Enlightened just the Buddha himself was Enlightened. So when the Buddha died,
had they lost anything, really?

Dayamegha: Just his physical presence.

S: They'd lost his physical presence. And was that of any importance to them? Presumably it was
of no importance whatever. So they had lost nothing, therefore they had no cause for grief; they
had no attachment. In any case, whatever the Buddha possessed they possessed, so what cause for
grief? As for the Enlightened Zen master, I haven't heard about this Zen master who wept
inconsolably when his young son died. He couldn't have been an Enlightened Zen master in the
original sense of Enlightenment; the only possibility is that he was trying to test his disciples,
because the question says that 'who wept inconsolably when his young son died, to the confusion of
his disciples'. So why were the disciples confused? They were confused, presumably, because
before they had thought a Enlightened person wouldn't have cried; and they believed that their

teacher was an Enlightened person. But when his own son died, he cried 'inconsolably'; so what
does that tell you about the disciples?

__________: That they weren't Enlightened.

S: They weren't Enlightened. They didn't know what Enlightenment was. They were depending
for their conception or understanding of Enlightenment on the teacher, so the fact that they became
confused when the teacher behaved in a way that they had been led to understand was inconsistent
with Enlightenment pointed to the fact that they did not themselves have any experience of
Enlightenment. And perhaps the teacher's action was meant to awaken them to that fact. Perhaps
they were under the impression that not only that the teacher was Enlightened but that they knew
themselves what Enlightenment was all about, and knew how to recognise an Enlightened person,
they knew how an Enlightened person would behave, etc.; knew that he wouldn't weep even if his
son died. So they were confused as to whether their teacher was Enlightened or not, but they could
not possibly be confused about that if they themselves were Enlightened; there would be no
question of confusion, they would know either that the teacher was Enlightened or that he wasn't.
So perhaps it was the teacher's skilful means. We don't know.

Vidyasri: Would you not feel sadness if one was Enlightened - would one not feel sadness in that?

S: Presumably not. Not as we experience it, anyway. You can feel compassion, you could say
there's an element of sadness in compassion when you see the sufferings of others. But there isn't
perhaps the sort of identification that we would normally experience with the suffering person. I
quote sometimes that phrase of Tennyson's: 'a painless sympathy with pain'.

Vidyasri: Is that different to missing? Because doesn't it say in the Pali scriptures that the Buddha
missed - was it Mogallana or Sariputra, when one of his disciples died, that he missed them?

S: I don't recollect that he missed them. I'd need to check that and see what the original Pali word
was. He might have missed them in a practical way, inasmuch as they were teaching and training
disciples, possibly. He was getting old, after all. I think we probably find it difficult to conceive of
an Enlightened person as being as it were from our point of view 'devoid of human feeling'. I think
this is what it is; because we perhaps have very little sense of what one might call the supra-human
feeling. We have very little sense of what a Buddha's maitri or a Buddha's karuna might be. We
don't have much of an inkling of that, even. So if there's no grief we tend to think there's no
positive human feeling, either. Not realising that any grief or possibility of grief is swallowed up in
the maha-maitri and maha-karuna - which are highly positive states, the most highly positive states
that we can imagine. It's probably easier to envisage the Buddha's wisdom than his maitri or his
karuna. Some people who go to the Buddhist scriptures, especially the Pali scriptures, say, from
Christianity, find the Buddha as a personality rather cold, or at least a bit cool, a bit sober, not
carried away.

Parami: I think it's also from our point of view very difficult to understand an identification with a
person, or a relationship with a person which isn't based very much on personality and rupa.

S: Yes, indeed.

Parami: There's quite a bit of confusion. ...... What is it that they still had after the Buddha's body
and personality went? What did they continue to have? You said the Buddha didn't have anything
which they didn't have; but how did they have it when they didn't have him? I think it's very hard

to comprehend.

Rosy: It just feels like a very big shift in perspective.

S: Right.

Rosy: I think I can get a feel for letting go of different kinds of attachment, different kinds of
dependency in some way, which is quite hard to imagine being free of.

S: Yes, you usually think in terms of getting rid of attachment and not loving people any more,
rather than thinking in terms of getting rid of attachment and loving them more than ever; because
the attachment represents a limitation.

Parami: Because it's self referential.

S:As the Puja becomes an increasingly important part of our practice, do you envisage an
extended use of ritual in the FWBO?

I hope so; we've been talking about this quite a bit in the Order, and I believe some people are
exploring possibilities. It's quite a notable feature of some retreats, especially of the Il Convento
and Guhyaloka retreats, that very elaborate and lengthy Pujas are part of the proceedings. I think
that is also the case among the women, isn't it, on occasions?

__________: Yes.

S: It's just another of those areas that we have to develop. I believe there's a sort of working party
within the Order, isn't there? - or was on the Convention - dealing with these sort of matters or
putting forward suggestions.

Parami: Yes, there was a workshop ...

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