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Bodhisattva Ideal - Questions and Answers Tuscany 1984 Part 10 - Unchecked

by Sangharakshita

DISCLAIMER - This transcript has not been checked, and may contain mistakes and mishearings.

thinking aware of itself as thinking. And this introduces of course an ekement of clarity. You're using,
then, thinking, and thinking is not using you. Usually of course thinking uses you, just as your
emotions use
� ou. People are not familiar with the idea of your thoughts using you, theyvre
reasonably familiar with the idea of your emotions using you, your emotions possessing you and taking
you over. They're not so familiar with this idea of your thoughts using you, your thoughts taking you
over. So that you cannot (sort of) stand out- side yourself and look at your thoughts. That is critical
But how far can one distinguish between thoughts and emotions?
S: Well, one can distinguish, they aren't altogether seperable in practice and experience, but one might
say there is a sort of spectrum where you've got say emotion without any admixture of thought here,
and thought without any admixture of emotion there, and then they merge towards the middle (as it
were) and you can hardly (sort of) distinguish thought which is imbued with emotion from emotion
which is suffused by thought. Which is in a way the more truly human state. But anyway we're getting
a little bit away from the main point with which perhaps we should conclude, because I think it's
probably time.
The main point being, just to reiterate, that we do need to try to achieve a greater
clarity of thought, because that does have an important part to play, one might even say an essential
part to play in ones whole process of spiritual development. One should be very careful to understand
what is actually meant my that, not to confuse it with intellectuality in the modern sense, or with
knowledge in the ordinary sense, knowledge in the sense of accumulation of information, or with
education, or even with literacy. And don't forget that the Buddha himself was illiterate and hadn't read
a book, and neither had even Sariputta, despite being the founder of the Abhidharma tradition, he'd
never read a book. So perhaps we should conclude there.
BI Q&A l1/lZ! - -182-
Jonathan Brazier: I was going to say something rather down to earth: You pointed out that eating takes
up a good deal of our lives. So I wondered since you join us for our meals, whether you had any
observat- ions on how we should make our mealtimes here more of a spiritual activity
S.: This is something to which I have given some thought, not so much here but perhaps more on
previous occasions, previous Tuscany's as well as at Padmaloka. One of the things I've noticed is that
people often get very abso~ed in their food. Well, I suppose absorption is a good thing; (Laughter) but
sometimes they seem to be - and I'm not espec- ially commenting on this course - over-absorbed in
their food to the exclusion of all other considerations, for instance, their neighbours requirements and
so on. So that's certainly one of the things that I've noticed. Since it is a down to earth question,
perhaps I am expected to give a down to earth reply. Sometimes people are quite noisy in their eating.
I must say this is something I noticed in one respect at least, at Padmaloka quite a bit recently that there
seemed to be a lot of scrap- ing of chairs. I mean if somebody came to the table or got up from the
table, there would be a tremendous scraping of chairs, very noisily and I couldn't help wondering why
this should be so, why this should be necessary? It seemd that you just lifted your chair and put it
down in another place. You didn't sort of drag it along the floor which is what often seemed to happen.
This seemed rather strange to me. And also I noticed people sort of hanging things down on the table
and making a lot of noise in that sort of way. Of course, some people they sort of chomp a lot
(Laughter). It's really quite audible, and I sometimes find this quite unpleasant if the chomper in
question is seated immediately next to me because sometimes on certain occasions at Padmaloka, T've
found this really quite deafening. (Laughter) It certainly doesn't encourage conversation.
mean the Buddhist scriptures, the Vinaya itself - has something to say about this. I think I1ve
mentioned that the Buddha recommended to the Bhikkhus that they shouldn't eat in the noisy sort of
way that the brahmins ate, and he mentions I think, six different kinds of noises that the brahmins
make while eating. I can't remember all of them but there's a sort of (makes a noisy chomping sound).
And then there's a sort of sucking noise and all those sort of noises the well-trained Bhikkhu, the
shaven headed person (Laughter) should do well to avoid.
But sometimes people ta1k~ with their
mouths full, which isn't very pleasant and sometimes of course, they open their mouths wide while
their mouths are full of semi-masticated food. Again that isn't very pleasant. Or they put their finger
right into their mouths or they clatter with their knives and forks or again they sit hunched up over
their plates, over their meals. Not exactly grimly contemplating, but in a rather odd sort of way.
So these are just some of the things I've noticed at mealtimes. Another objectionable feature
which is perhaps unavoidable at a place like Padmaloka, is people having to jump up in the middle of
the meal and answer the telephone. I think we really have to try to train our friends to ring us at
seasonable hours. Some people in the movement seem to be under the impress ion that if you want to
contact someone at Padmaloka, the best time to do it is mealtimes, because they are sure to be there.
So sure enough, between six and six thirty, so many phone calls, both phones busily ringing.
Sometimes Subhuti's jumping up, sometimes there's Ve~ntara jumping up and Devamitra jumping up,
you know, when he's there. (Laughter) Sometimes they just stand firm as it were, and they refuse to
asnwer the phone. They say that, or they give a message to the effect that the person phoning should
leave a message or phone again later on. But even for that to happen, someone has had to get up and
answer the phone. So that's another sort of
BI Q$A 11/2-183-
unpleasant and quite unnecessary perhaps, feature of meai~~times. Of course, not here but at
padmaloka. I'm sure if I was to put my mind to it, I would go on talking for a couple of hours about all
the not so very pleasant things I've noticed on once occasion or another at meal- times. I must say also,
I don't like people appearing at meals in sing- lets or even less. Because sometimes if they've been
exercising and if one's olfactory nerves are a little sensitive then that too isn't very pleasant.
So we
really do get down to earth with this down to earth question. So perhaps that's enough for you to be
getting on with for the moment. Enough for you just to digest. (Laughter) Mentally digest, I mean, not
physically. I think that this is quite important certainly in Buddhist tradition it is regarded as important,
because -you are eating - I was going to say all the time - but that isn'tttue You're eating not usu- ally
more than three times a day. Well you do spend quite a substantial amount of your time eating, it is
admittedly, perhaps unfortunately, a necessary activity. But if one is not aware at that particular time
and if one is not aware when one is engaged in that particular activity, it means that there's quite a large
part of your time, quite a large section of your time during which you're not in fact aware of what
you're doing and that must in one way or another, hold you back. Apart from the fact that, sometimes
through your unaware, unmindful behaviour, at the meal table, you re causing a certain amount of,
perhaps, - admittedly minor - distress to other people. So that's the first one.
Vessantara: A question from Mike who's ill this evening - about mindfulness in everyday activity. Out
of your years of practice of mindfulness, are there any specific techniques to help, that you've found
S.: Well, actually there aren't any techniques, I would say, because in order to apply the technique you
would have to remember to apply it. And you know, remembrance, recollection, is a form of
So the paradox is that you can't practise mindfulness, unless you are mindful of the
need to practise it. So probably the best sort of outside help that you could have is spiritual friends
more aware, nore mindful than yourself, who will draw your attention to any lapse from mindfulness.
Who will just point out to you that you are being a little unmindful on this or that occasion. Because
even if you sort of frame rules for yourself, you still have to remember to apply those rules. You still
have to be aware of the need to apply them in a particular Situation and if you can be aware of the need
to apply a rule that will help you to be mindful in a particular situation, well, then you can be aware -
you can be mindful. You don't need to go about it in that roundabout fashion. Otherwise, we find
ourselves involved in a regress- ion to infinity.
You perhaps think up what you consider to be a
technique to help you with your mindfulness but then you have to mindful and remember that
technique. Then you have to be mindful to be mindful and remember it and so on. So I think the best
thing is to have around you people who are more mindful than you and who can point out to you from
time to time, your own lapses, your own failures to be mindful. I suppose - this is something that just
occurs ...

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