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Auckland Questions and Answers - March 1979

by Sangharakshita

The Venerable Sangharakshita

Question and Answer Evening in Auckland, New Zealand
20th March 1979

Please note that this transcript is the result of copy typing from a handwritten transcript taken from
tapes which are now missing.
Rather than leaving this material unavailable it is published in this form without its having been
checked against the original recording. Silabhadra

Sangharakshita: First of all let me say how glad I am to be here at last; because it has not been
very easy getting here, and in any case I haven't been for about four years now, and even after I had
decided that I just couldn't delay any longer, and really had to come, it wasn't easy to even leave
England, There were all sorts of obstacles and difficulties to overcome, that I need not go into now,
but at last I did get away: I did manage to leave England and even then, of course, it took me a
whole month to get here. I had to pass through India, where we had quite a good programme, where I
met many of my old friends whom I hadn't seen for thirteen fourteen, fifteen, sixteen years. Then we
came through Malaysia, where I met a Chinese Buddhist with whom we had been in correspondence,
and who had been listening to tapes and lectures; and then on to Australia and Sydney, where we met
another group of friends who had also been listening to tapes and lectures. So it was only after all
that, that I was able to reach Auckland and reach this Centre. So, as I said, I am very happy to be here
at last in the midst of you all, and see what changes have taken place since I was here last time. I was
remarking to someone only a few moments ago, that just receiving written reports, one could see that
some changes had taken place, but one couldn't really feel what those changes were. But actually
coming here, and actually being here, and actually meeting people and talking to people, I could feel
those changes and that progress, and that, very tangibly indeed. So here we are again, and this
evening we are going to have, I hope, some questions - perhaps some answers. We have had,
incidentally, this sort of programme all the way from England. I remember in India we went away on
retreat - went away to an ancient hilltop fort about twenty miles out of Pune. There were thirty-three
of us - it was an Ordination retreat land we had a question and answer meeting and all sorts of
questions came up. And in the same way, when we were in Malaysia we had a question and answer
meeting in __________. This meeting was attended mainly by Chinese Buddhists, and here also all
sorts of questions came up, And again in Sydney we had a question and answer meeting at the local
Buddhist Society, and here again we had some most interesting questions, And there seemed to be a
certain pattern, a certain thread, running through them all.

So here we are in Auckland, having a question and answer meeting for Mitras and others. So let's see
what comes up here and whether there's any sort of thread running through the questions in this case
also. So I don't know whether people have been sort of accumulating questions over the last four
years whether there are any questions burning in your minds and just waiting to burst forth or
whether there might be perhaps questions which emerge just in the course of the discussion itself. I
don't know whether anyone is bothered by any particular question of Buddhist metaphysics, or
whether you are turning over in your mind questions about meditation or some other such practical
matter, or whether you want to ask what's happening in England or anywhere else in the world where
we have established ourselves. So let's see what sorts of questions come up, and what sorts of
answers, maybe, also emerge. So who's going to be first? Don't be shy. (Pause) No need to
manufacture questions of course. If there is no question, that's fine; but if there is something that
does come into your head mind, ask it by all means.

Ann D: Can I ask you to tell us something about the Order in India?

S: In India?

Ann D: Yes

S: Mmm. Right, There's not much to tell about the Order in India, but what little there is is very
good news because in the course of that ordination retreat which I mentioned a few moments ago
which we held in Pune, and which Priyananda also attended, there were two ordinations of Indian
friends, Indian Mitras, both of whom had been associated with me personally for the last twenty
years; but of course I had not been in personal touch with them, apart from letters, for about twelve
years, though they had been getting the Newsletter in between, and though Lokamitra, Anagarika
Lokamitra, who is out there running the FWBO Pune, had been in quite intensive contact with them
for about the last nine months. So one of these friends was from Arminabad. He is a Gujerati
Buddhist whom I have known, as I've said, for twenty years; and the other was a Maharastran
Buddhist whom I have also known for twenty years if not longer. He used to be my main interpreter
in the Pune/Maharashtra area. So the friend from Arminabad received the name of Bakula. In fact I
had given him that name years and years ago, but we decided to continue it and sort of reaffirm it.
And the other friend receives the name of Dharmarakshita, which he also had been given years and
years ago, but which he hadn't actually used, But anyway from now onwards he is going to use it. So
he is going to be known as Dharmarakshita and the other is Bakula.

There are quite a few Mitras when we left, I think there must have been about a couple of dozen. And
some of these Mitras are being prepared by Lokamitra, quite intensively, for possible ordination
when I go back. And some of them again, some of these Mitras, also, I have known for many years. I
have had quite close contact with them, in Pune especially when I was giving lectures in Pune many
many years ago, when I held even a Dharma course which some of these same people attended. So I
am hoping that by the time I get back to Pune and Arminabad, there will be a good crop of
ordinations waiting for me, so that by the time I leave India there should be a dozen or so Order
Members in India. That includes, of course Padmavajra, who has been helping Lokamitra since
August and also two or three other English Order Members who are there for the time being, and
who may still be there then. They are on a sort of extended visit to India. But the extraordinary and
interesting thing is, not only in connection with the Order, but also in connection with the FWBO
generally in India, is that the methods and the sort of approach that we worked out, not to say
hammered out, in England, have proved to be exactly suited to the Indian scene in a really
remarkable sort of way. If anything, even more suited to India than England. Almost as though I'd
sort of had India and the needs of the Indian situation at the back of my mind, which I hadn't had
consciously, all the time that I was working in England, So that our whole approach to Buddhism,
our whole way of organising things: our whole sort of spiritual structure seems to fit the Indian
Buddhist movement like a glove. And as you probably know, there were hundreds of thousands, in
fact millions of these people, ex-untouchable Hindus converted to Buddhism many, many years ago,
and I had quite a bit of contact with them in the few years after that conversion. But then of course, I
went back to England, and started up the FWBO there. In the meantime not much seems to have
happened in India, in Maharashtra. It's almost as though they were waiting for us, So we got a
tremendous reception when we arrived, and Lokamitra had already been doing a lot of real spade
work in the way of retreats, courses, classes, and public meetings, and all the rest of it, so that we got
a really overwhelming sort of reception when we did at last turn up, So it seems that the prospects for
the Order and the FWBO in India are very favourable indeed. What we're currently trying to do, our
priority is to establish a permanent Vihara in Pune. At present Lokamitra is functioning in a very
small place, which has been just lent to us for a few months, and we are trying to raise funds in
England and other places so that we can purchase a fairly good building in Pune, for use as a Vihara,
and from which we conduct our activities in the Pune area and beyond, In Pune city itself it is

estimated that there are 300,000 people of ex untouchable origin, who profess to be Buddhists, and
they form a third of the population, and they are distributed around about eighty or so localities
because the Untouchables formerly had to live separately from the caste Hindus, as they weren't
allowed to mix with them. So we've got this vast amount of sort of human raw material, and they are
just waiting - they just want some sort of help, some sort of instruction and so they are just flocking
along and we have really got our hands full just coping with that situation. I was really surprised that
after so many years they still remembered my lectures, and still wanted to be involved. In fact more
so than ever. So we've got a huge field of work there. There's no question of going out and getting
people interested and ...

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