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Auckland Questions and Answers - May 1979

by Sangharakshita

...
with whom you have your ten precepts in common, as well as your actual commitment to the Three
Jewels. So this is something which should be made quite clear; is something, I believe, which
appears on the back cover of the Newsletter - that life style is secondary. There are many different
people following different life-styles within the FWBO, but they are secondary, commitment comes
first.


Tom: I was thinking more about joint action.

S: Yes?

Tom: The intention to act, to do something within the context of the Friends. There is a certain
number of activities....... now in point of fact, say, one isn't really drawn to any of them, but one is
still drawn to the Friends?

S: Well, one can still be an Order Member and not be drawn to any particular kind of activity. Well,
there are some Order Members who are not involved with the activities of any centre.

Tom: And one is quite free to do that?

S: Well, of course! Well, of course! Who compels you to do anything else? I don't. If one is involved
in a centre, whether as an Order member or as a mitra, one is there at one's own free will.

Tom: Well, I think that as long...........

S: Well, if one isn't involved it's at one's own free will.

Tom: As long as all the Order Members are capable of not comparing their action with others. As
long as everybody involved is capable of not comparing their actions with others ....

S: I'm not sure what you mean by - 'not comparing one's actions with others'?

Tom: Take for example - how much is done for the movement.

S: Yes?

Tom: Comparatively speaking - does this person do much for the movement? does that person do
much for the movement? Now does that............... ?

S: One may compare. There is no harm in comparing.

Tom: (Inaudible)

S: Pardon?

Tom: But does that leave a person free?

S: Oh yes! Well, a person might be sitting alone in his cave somewhere up in Scotland, as it
occasionally happens, and he might be just thinking things over, or he might be thinking - "There's
my old friend so-and-so running such-and-such a centre - there's my old friend so-and-so who's
collecting funds for Dhardo Rimpoche's school", or he might be thinking and turning over in his
mind what these different people are doing, he might even come to a conclusion as to which is doing
most. He might even think he's doing most for the movement, just sitting there in that cave
meditating.

Tom: Yes.


S: He's quite free to do that.

Tom: But that's only when he's got his structure of values already worked out.

S: Oh yes. Everybody does, whether implicit or explicit. There is no harm in making these
comparisons if one wishes.

Voice: But Bhante.......

S: Just as we say, with regard to the higher stages of the path; The 'stream-entrant' is, so to speak,
compared to the 'once-returner', the 'once-returner' is compared with the 'non-returner'. One has
broken so many fetters, another has broken so many fetters. In that sense, we compare them. There is
nothing wrong in comparing, but one shouldn't make comparisons the basis of likes and dislikes.
Does that answer your question?

Tom: I'm thinking more of actions.

S: In what sort of way?

Tom: Well action that is conducive to the growth and developments of the Centre, and saying -
'There is only this kind of action that is conducive and not other'. Now, if people are at the level
where they are capable of discerning this - that would be alright, but I question this. I question that
people have that capability.

S: Well the aim and object of all centres is to provide, so far as it's humanly possible, the widest
range of activities so as to get across to as many people as possible. This is why, for instance, we
have, not only the meditation classes; not only lectures; not only study groups; we also have things
like yoga classes; we also have things like poetry reading; we even have things like drama groups
and we have film shows. This is so that we can get across to the largest possible range of people. But
in any given centre, you may not have, so to speak, a ministry of all the talents. Your talents may be
rather limited, so you may not be able to do very much. Just like here, there is no Yoga class simply
because there is no yoga teacher available. If there was a Yoga teacher available I'm sure there would
be yoga classes. So the idea is to have at every centre, a full complement of activities; as many as we
possibly can. Here, I believe, you've got Tai-Chi Chuan. We don't have that in all our centres. With
that, you're a bit lucky. But the idea should be as wide a range of activities as possible, depending on
local conditions; on what talent is available. But everybody just has to do what they can. Some of
you might feel like taking yoga classes. Somebody else who, though he perhaps knows yoga, might
not feel like doing it.

Tom: Would you mind me asking if, in England, there is very much of the tendency for people to
rather - um - ask the same....... a tendency to make prejudgments of their decisions about the spiritual
progress of other individuals in the Movement?

S: But if one knows other people intimately one can't help wondering about this. In fact, it is one of
the things that people talk about between themselves. It's one of the things that people are most
interested in. But on the other hand, you should not be too concerned, either about the exact degrees
of the spiritual development of other people or about your own. In fact it's even more important not
to be concerned about your own spiritual development, than not to be concerned about others,
because there are some people who sort of measure themselves up against the wall, so to speak,
periodically. This is just hopeless! One must go ahead; carry on with the spiritual practice, carry on
with the meditation, and not bother too much as to where you actually are. So if you are doing

meditation, don't bother too much as to whether you've got up to the second or third dhyana; don't
bother too much whether you're a stream-entrant or not. Certainly try to understand deeply what it
means to be a stream-entrant; try very hard to be a stream-entrant, but at the same time,
paradoxically, don't bother too much trying to find out whether you are or not; or whether someone
else is or not. Of course the thought will cross your mind. If you see a very committed Buddhist, if
he's a close friend of yours, of course it may cross your mind "Maybe he's a stream-entrant". You are
not sort of judging him or trying to value him, but sometimes you can't help thinking like that; or just
wondering. Alright! just wonder! But don't let it become too serious a preoccupation. Just let that
little thought pass through your mind.

Tom: I just wonder how often competitive conditioning runs over into this sort of activity.

S: Well, competitive conditioning is very strong, and there will always be the tendency for any
worldly conditioning to spill over into spiritual life; so one has to be fully prepared for this, and one
has to be fully prepared to resist. But it will always happen, one can be sure of that! (Pause)

Judith: Could I ask a question about attitudes to other people's behaviour? I mean other Buddhists?

S: Yes. Right.

Judith: You know, having been brought up a Christian, the concept of forgiveness is a central
concept, in so far as one is taught that one can't forgive a person often enough, in a sense. And I just
wonder where.......... I'm not quite sure, in the Movement, where we stand on this, in terms of making
judgments about other people's behaviour, and thereby, at some point, writing them off as a person
for example, or putting them beyond the pale, or, you know........ Is the concept of forgiveness in this
sense I am talking about, about acceptance and compassion towards another person, accepted by the
Buddhist, as I imagine it is, or am I wrong?

S: Forgiveness in the Christian sense I would say is just not found in Buddhism at all. Because, in
Christians, forgiveness is essentially a forgiveness of sins, while in Buddhism there are no sins in this
sense you see, so how shall there be forgiveness of sins?, even though that concept is very important
in Christianity. I think, looking into Buddhist literature; looking into Buddhist thought; this whole
question, in a way, is quite foreign to that. Because, first of all, Buddhism traditionally does have the
idea of karma and rebirth. It has the idea, of a whole series of lives, so you can think someone can be
very wicked in one life, and might be very good in another life. So Buddhists don't tend to think that
someone is wholly bad, or essentially bad, or even wholly and essentially good, just because that is
how they appear to be in this life. So therefore, I'd say, as a general rule, or a general principle,
Buddhists ...

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