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Auckland Questions and Answers - May 1979

by Sangharakshita

The Venerable Sangharakshita

Question and Answer Evening in Auckland, New Zealand, May 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: I think most people know that I shall be leaving New Zealand early on Friday
morning, after, I think it's two and a half, quite busy and quite pleasant months in New Zealand. So,
apart from tomorrow night, when we have the third lecture; the third talk; in the series on "A New
Buddhist Movement", this will be my last opportunity, I think, here tonight, to see most of you. So I
thought it might be a good idea if we used an hour or so of our time, possibly, to clear up any out-
standing questions; because quite a few of you, I imagine, won't have the opportunity of asking them,
at least not asking me, for a little while to come. So, if in the course of the last few weeks, any
question from the last meeting - any question that has occurred to anybody - anything that has been
bothering you, about, maybe, your meditation, or about the Dharma generally, or even any doctrinal
or historical problems connected with Buddhism; well, perhaps, this is the time to bring it up.
Perhaps we can try to sort it out and maybe that will lead on to something dharmic, and this no
doubt, will occupy our time till our-cup-of-tea time. So, who's going to lead Off? (Pause) Maybe as
soon as you can get your minds working again.- (Laughter.)

Judith: Bhante, I'd like to ask a question about the function of ordination. Given that an individual
is committed, or feels committed, and decides........ or who has asked for ordination, can he hope or
expect to grow more effectively therefrom, rather than if he were not ordained? In other words - Is
one of the functions of ordination to promote further growth?

S: Oh yes! Certainly.

Judith: More rapid growth.

S: Oh yes! certainly! No doubt!

Judith: So that in fact, it is to the advantage of an individual to be ordained as soon as they can?

S: Yes. In the sense that the more committed you are the more committed you can become. I shall be
dealing with this at quite some length in the course of my talk tomorrow night; because tomorrow
night will be concerned with commitment and the Spiritual Community, and will be concerned with
commitment in the sense of ordination. So I will be going into it quite extensively tomorrow night.

Bernie: Then the situation as a mitra to an Order Member...... the Order Member would be in a better
situation to develop.

S: You mustn't think of the Order Member being in an external situation. This is why I said "the
more committed you are, the more committed you can become". It isn't a sort of external "thing"
with which you are provided and which makes things easier for you. Do you see what I mean?

Bernie: Yeah.

S: Eh?

Bernie: Yeah.

S: As a mitra you have certain facilities, and as a mitra you can make the best possible use of those
facilities. You don't necessarily have more facilities as an Order member because the mitra, for
instance, goes on retreat, so does the Order Member, the mitra goes to meditation classes. The
biggest facility that the Order Member has is his own commitment. And in the same way, the
association with others who are committed. The facility of associating with others less committed
associating with the committed, just by virtue of the fact of his own lesser commitment, so to speak.
But what we have to avoid doing, is to think of ordination as something external. There is an external
aspect as you know, which consists in something concrete, something formal, so to speak, but
essentially it's one's own inner attitude. (Pause) So as I said, your biggest facility as an Order
Member is the fact that you're an Order Member: you are committed. Your biggest facility as a mitra
is the fact that you're a mitra; because being a mitra represents a certain degree of involvement and
that certain degree of involvement is your biggest facility, your best facility. In a way the other things
like retreats and classes are secondary. But you might conceivably be in a place where there are no
retreats, where there are no classes, where there are no Order members, where there are no other
Mitras even, and you are still left with the fact that you are a mitra, and that is your biggest facility.

Sadhumati: Isn't it possible, though, Bhante, that a mitra, or even a friend, could be racing along the
Spiritual path even faster than an Ordained Member?

S: It depends what you mean by 'racing along'? (Laughter.)

Sadhumati: On the way towards the goal.......

S: No, that isn't.....

Sadhumati: Progressing.......

S: No, that isn't.....

Sadhumati:- more spiritually

S: No, that isn't as clear - isn't as easy - isn't as obvious as it sounds. It is very difficult to estimate
people's rates of progress; because, first of all you have to think in terms of where they start from.
And then, again, what does one mean by 'a rate of progress'? Some, for instance, can go through all
the four dhyanas in five minutes, but they also slip out of them in five minutes. In what sense have
you progressed? Have you progressed more quickly, say, than someone who gets into a dhyana state
very very slowly, stays in there, say, for a few days, and then goes on to the next one? So what is
quick progress? What is it "to race along"? it's not nearly so clear as it might appear.

Sadhumati: What I'm trying to say is - I can't see how a person is a more spiritual person just
because he wears a kesa.

S: There is no such thing as 'just wearing a kesa'. if you are 'just wearing a kesa', take it off! Because
it's meaningless. That's what I'd say.

Sadhumati: Ah -. well .... I..... It's .. ah ...

S: If someone wears a kesa it means something.

Sadhumati: Yes ... I..... I ....

S: If it doesn't mean anything the person shouldn't be wearing it. There are plenty of people in the
Buddhist world who wear yellow robes who shouldn't be wearing them. Plenty of people calling
themselves 'Rimpoches' who shouldn't be calling themselves 'Rimpoche'! We don't want anything of
that in the FWBO. If there is anything of that sort, then we'll just have to get rid of it.

Sadhumati: You see, it does seem to me in Judith's case, that she seems to think - though I can't be
sure about this - that a brake could be put on to her.

S: It is impossible to put a brake on anybody from the outside. That's what, in fact, I was saying.

Sadhumati: (unclear)

S: it is not possible! But there is no reason to try to estimate relative speeds of progress. It's quite
impossible to estimate this, because people go forward for a while, then they go back for a while. If
you watch someone over a period four years, five years, eight years, ten years, you can see them
having all sorts of ups-and-downs. Sometimes the tortoise overtakes the hare. So who is going
faster? This is why I've said so many times in England, to people, "It's the plodders who get there".
So it's very difficult to estimate speed - whether somebody is progressing faster or not. I might be
able to say something along these lines, about somebody, after knowing them for ten years, but not

Tom: If one associates with (inaudible). I say associates' as between belonging or (inaudible)..... I
wish you would explain because I can't.......... Nevertheless.....

S: Associates with Bhikkhus did you say?

Tom: No, with the Movement.

S: Yeh?

Tom: Because I don't like saying "you can't associate therefore you can't communicate". It seems to
me though, that the commitment is often commitment to a kind of behaviour. Can you distinguish
between an inner commitment and a commitment to the behaviour of the group?

S: This is something I'm going into tomorrow, but I will say this, this evening - As a committed
person, as an Upasaka or Upasika, one is certainly committed to a certain type of behaviour, among
other things, and that is represented by one's ten precepts; because, at the time of Upasaka/Upasika
ordination, you take upon yourself ten precepts, so you are certainly committed - to the observance
of those ten precepts, but you are not committed to any particular style of life. That is to say, you are
not committed to live as a monk, you are not committed to live as a layman, you are not committed
to living with a family, you are not committed to living without a family. You are committed to your
own spiritual development in harmonious, free association with other people primarily committed, ...

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