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Dhanakosa Opening 1993 - Questions and Answers

by Sangharakshita

... that, well, don't rush from an absorbed
concentrated state straight into doing something else. Give yourself time. Have a little break, as it
were. Just sit on just for a few minutes before you get up from your seat and carry on with whatever
else it is that you have to carry on with. Is this clear? I mean this is a practical point. (Pause)


"Many of your taped lectures are twenty or so years old". Some are more than that! "In terms
of your own development, how far have you found that you have modified or extended the
ideas and interpretations expressed there? I'm thinking, for example, of your attitude to paid
work". I have dealt with that, haven't I, already. "Are there any major changes that it would
be helpful for us to consider in our own Dharma study?"

I gave some thought to this. I don't think there have been any major changes but I've certainly
developed my thinking I may say over the years and I think one example which you may care to give
attention to, is the way which I've developed the conception, the traditional conception of Going For
Refuge. And certainly one of the developments in the course of the last twenty years has been to see
the arising of the Bodhicitta as representing the positive, the altruistic dimension of the Going for
Refuge itself. Perhaps I should say a bit about how I came to think in this sort of way. If you read
the Mahayana sutras you encounter beings called Bodhisattvas. I'm sure you're familiar with those.
And Bodhisattvas take vows. And, for instance, a Bodhisattva may vow that he wishes to deliver all
sentient beings and he says something like , in some cases, in some sutras, he says something like
"I'm quite ready to go to hell and suffer for a million ages if that can save, even a single sentient
being, from one minute's suffering". So I said to myself, well is this realistic? [Laughter] Is it really
possible for any of us to take that sort of vow? Is it? Well, this is what the Mahayana sutras say the
Bodhisattva does.

So is it possible for any individual to take that vow? Can you imagine even a highly developed

spiritual being to really taking that vow? Can you imagine it? Well, I can't. Your imagination may be
better than mine but I can't. So what does it mean? What does it represent? This was the question I
asked myself. So I came to the conclusion that the Bodhisattva was not an individual in the ordinary
sense. That the figure of the Bodhisattva represented something vast, something cosmic, as it were.
Some sort of cosmic tendency. Some tendency, some supra-individual tendency at work in the whole
universe but which might be reflected in the aspirations, dimly and distantly reflected in the
aspirations of individual human beings in that altruistic aspirations, and I saw that this other-
regarding altruistic aspiration was a dimension of our own Going for Refuge. That Going for Refuge
can't be an individualistic affair. You can't just Go for Refuge for the sake of your own
enlightenment. Well, partly because there is no "own" because there is no "self" in the absolute sort
of separative sense. You can't really separate yourself from others.

So if you Go for Refuge to the Buddha, the Dharma, the Sangha, for the sake of gaining
Enlightenment, that has implications for others. That has a bearing on others because you have a
bearing on others, you are in relation to others. So your Going for Refuge has an altruistic dimension
and the arising of the bodhicitta represents that altruistic dimension. So the bodhisattva represents,
well, something, as I've said, cosmic - I've really no other word for it - something universal,
something present in the universe, working for the good of all. You in your small way just try to
reflect that, try to embody that. Try, if you like, to incarnate that, and that is the altruistic dimension
of your act of Going for Refuge.

So this represents, I'll give you this as an example, an illustration, this represents something, a way of
thinking that I've developed over the last twenty years, this is one example. It all makes sense of
those statements in the Mahayana sutras. So the aspirations of the Bodhisattva are not just to be
taken on by us, they are not to be taken on by any individual. They're something that transcend the
individual. But the individual can certainly mirror them in his or her own life to the extent that he or
she can, as he or she Goes for Refuge. (Pause)

So there's another question from the same person.

"You have suggested that hate has an affinity for wisdom and that people with hot or bad
tempers often have a highly developed intellectual faculty".

This is not just my suggestion, this is actually a Buddhist tradition. You find it in Buddhagosha's
Visuddhimagga and Dr. Conze has written on this, some interesting essays. There's an essay by him
called "Hate, Love and Perfect Wisdom". Anyway,
"A few years ago you also said that people connected with the FWBO were 'too nice' to be
great scholars. Is this still the case?" [Laughter]

I don't remember saying this but I'm told by people who are doing transcription work that there is
some eighteen million words of mine [Laughter] in seminar, most of which I believe have now been
transcribed, so I don't remember all the things I've said but I'm quite willing to accept, yes, I did say
this or that. [Laughter] I really don't like this word "nice" and I would even go so far as to say that if
you're too nice, not only can you not be a great scholar, you can't even be a good Buddhist. I
suppose you understand what I mean by "too nice". Good, but in a rather weak, pusillanimous sort
of way. A good Buddhist is really a heroic sort of person who isn't afraid of danger, isn't afraid of
taking risks. And I won't say is someone who is bad-tempered who is certainly not afraid to speak
his or her own mind, not afraid of standing up to challenges, not afraid to stick up for the Dharma. I

think, not only in the FWBO, but perhaps in the Western Buddhist world, not enough people are
prepared to stick up for the Dharma and perhaps this brings me to a more general point.

I think we're living in very dangerous times. I think a lot of us thought once the Cold War was over
we'd have really a nice peaceful world, a relatively peaceful world. Actually things seem to have got
quite a bit worse. And I think we don't always realise it living in this little corner of Europe, living in
Britain and being relatively undisturbed and relatively happy. I think we don't always realise how
bad things are in some other parts of the world and how that could affect us sooner or later. I really
wouldn't like to predict what might happen, even in this country in the course of the next twenty
years, perhaps even the next fifteen, perhaps even the next ten years. I don't know. But I certainly
think that the Dharma is going to be under threat, at least indirectly. I'm not suggesting that anyone
is going to start deliberately persecuting the Dharma as the Dharma, but it could be that in a few
years time, or few decades time, our living conditions in this country do become so difficult for one
reason or another, perhaps even due to war, that it isn't easy for us to practice the Dharma and it will
require real heroism for us to do so. I think that we should that as a serious possibility and be
mentally, emotionally, psychology prepared for that.

There are many forces in the world today which are really quite inimical to the Dharma. Some of
them openly so, some of them not so openly. Not that they think in terms necessarily of attacking
Buddhism as such but that they certainly don't think in terms that we think. I think even in terms
which could result in a serious upset in the world in all sorts of ways. So we've had it in this country
so far really - I mean Buddhists - really quite easy. We haven't had any sort of persecution, any real
difficulties but it may not always be like that.

[End of side one side two]

So Buddhists need to be heroic and all the more so because we can't respond to violence with
violence. We have to respond to violence with non-violence and that isn't easy. So these are some of
the thoughts that I've been having recently. We can't afford to be too nice in that weak and negative
sense. I've sometimes even said that, well, it would be a good thing if people thought twice about
crossing the path of Buddhists. I think at present they don't think twice about it at all. They wouldn't
hesitate because they've nothing to fear. Not that people should be afraid of Buddhists, but certainly ...

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