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

DISCLAIMER - This transcript has not been checked by Sangharakshita, and may contain mistakes and mishearings. Checked and reprinted copies of all seminars will be available as part of the Complete Works Project.

by Sangharakshita

... just
occurs to me - you could put up little slogans or little notices all over the place. You could say, well,
you'd have to remember to look at them, but you could put them in large bold letters so that they hit
you in the eye. For instance, over your shaving mirror, you could put up a little notice: 'Please
remember to be mindful today' or something of that sort.
Sussidhi: You can have trigger words. Some words that sort of remind you - you know, like owrds
like mindfulness for instance. If someone introduces it into conversation it reminds you. You can
extend the number of trigger words you've got.
BI Q&A 11/3-184-
S~: Then again you'd have to have a friend in your environment pre- sumably who was accustomed to
using that word. I remember in this connection in Aldous Huxley's 'Island', don't thay have birds of
some kind that repeat 11Attend! Attend'~ You could perhaps have a parrot (Laughter) that you train to
say, "Be mindful" It's not impossible. I've often mentioned Dhardo Rimpoche has or had a mynah bird
that he taught to say (imitates) 'Om Mani Padme Hum' (Laughter) So instead of having in our
communities a dog or cats, we could perhaps have these trained parrots, who would perhaps say
(chants) 'Be mindful' (Loud Laughter) Perhaps that would be a quite helpful sort of technique. Perhaps
you could have for instance, a sort of tape recorded saying which automatically switched on at sort of
20 or 30 minute intervals exhorting you to be mindful. I'm sure that some of the more technic- ally
minded among you could rig up something of this sort.
Sussidhi: I was wondering whether just one of these watches which goes 'beep' (Laughter)
S.: But the difficulty is you see you get used to these things that the 'beep' would go and you wouldn't
take any notice of it. And you might even have this recording apparatus or whatever it was, exhorting
you to be mindful. But you just hear the sound, but you wouldn't really wouldn'tpay any attention to
the meaning of the words. So this again perhaos reinforces what I was saying, and perhaps I have to
withdraw my withdrawal that~there's no substitute for mindfulness, just mindfulness.
You've got to want to be mindful.
S.: Yes. You ve also got to obviously to want to be mindful, to make ~effort. But perhaps again as
I've said, it's the reminders from your spiritual friends, are the most helpful method of improving your
Periods of silence are perhaps good for this.
S.: Yes, but again, there S no infallible technique or method, because a lot of people I suspect, during
periods of silence just go wool-gath- ering, (Laughter) and they're not really aware, not really mindful
what thoughts are passing through their minds. This particular topic is rather in my own mind at
present because this afternoon I was editing the lec- ture on Perfect Awareness, in the Eight-fold Path
series and I was talk- ing in that lecture - the bit I was editing was about this awareness or mindfulness
of thoughts, and I think this is something that happens quite a lot, that people aren't aware of what they
are thinking.
So that the fact that you observe silence doesn't necessarily ensure increased
mindfulness~ because you may simply be having the usual unmind- ful flow of thoughts; perhaps it's
to an even greater extent because you don't have the relief of actually giving them utterance. So no
technique, no method really seems to help very much here. As I've said, there's no substitute for
Another question arising out of our discussion on food:
Phil Shaun: In the text you were emphasizing very strongly the import- ance of vegetarianism. It's
common knowledge that most Tibetan Buddhists living in India, eat meat when it's no longer necessary
for them, so: 1. Do you think this could be confusing for people in the West and there- fore set a bad
example? 2. And if so, do you think it would be a good idea to make some form of protest?
BI Q&A 11/4-185-
S.: Yes. The answer to the first question is definitely yes! I think it's quite unfortunate. I remember
that when the Dalai and Panchen Lamas came to India for the first time in, I think it was the end of
1956 - in connection with the 2,500 Buddha Jayanti celebrations in India - many Indians, that is to say,
mainly Hindus, were deeply dismayed to learn that the Dalai and the Panchen Lamas were both non-
vegetarians. And I learned from my personal experience, my personal contact with friendly Hindus
who are interested in and even sympathetic to Buddhism, that their faith in the Dali and Panchen
Lamas, which had originally been very, very great indeed, dramatically slumped after they read about
this in the newpapers.
Subsequently, of course, the Dalai Lama himself has become aware of this
and to the best of my knowledge he is now a vegetarian. But again, to the best of my knowledge, the
~ast majority of Tibetan Lamas and monks and lay people in Tibet and in other parts of the world have
not followed his example. So it does~ constitute a sort of stumbling block, I think, especially for
people who.. non-Buddhists who start becoming interested in Buddhism, but become disillusioned
when they find that professing Buddhists, do not practise what would seem to be a quite obvious and
simple appplication of a basic Buddhist teaching.
But we mustn't, I'm afraid, single out the Tibetans
here, because the Thais and the Burmese are if anyghing, even greater meat eaters than are the
Tibetans. And the Majority of Sinhalese monks and laymen are non-vegetarian. Perhaps the Tibetans
have less excuse when they are in a country like India where it's very easy to be vegetarian, because
they are ostensibly Mahayanists, and therefore pledged to the principle of C~mpassion in particular.
And then again, there is the sort of famous meat-eating chapter in the Lankavatara Sutra, which is a
Mahayana sutra. They don't seem to take that very seriously. I'm afraid also in this connection, that
Tantric teachings, perhaps not properly understood, do play a part here because I have been told by
Tibetan Lamas and other that when an animal is slaughtered, if certain matras are recited over it, it's
consciousness is at once released and goes to a sort of heaven.
Some Lamas will say that the
fact that the flesh of an animal passes through their system ensures the salvation of that animal. I'm not
prepared absolutely to dispute that in principle, ultimately, but I'm quite sure that it doesn't... that
nothing like that happens in the vast majority of cases. So that really it represents just a rationaliz-
ation. But certainly, I mean, quite a large part of the Buddhist world doesn't, unfortunately, set a very
good example in this way and it must be confusing to people who start looking into Buddhism and
inquiring about it.
Whether we should make any actual protest, that's very difficult to say. My
own experience in the East, with not so much Tibetan Lamas or Tibetan monks but with Thai bhikkhus
and Burmese bhikkhus, to a lesser extent with Sinhalese bhikkhus, was that they were very, very
resistant to any suggestion that they should change or any suggestion that what they were doing was in
any way Wrong. They thought it was just an ex- ample of your Western narrow-mindedness and
intolerance. For instance, the Thai bhikkhus in particular used to say to, - well they used to say several
things to me - but one was that the lay people gave them meat and therefore they couldn't refuse it - so
it was just dropped into their bowls. So my reply to that was, the lay people were after all Buddhists
and they'd been Buddhists for hundreds of years and the bhikkhus had taught them to do all osrts of
things. The bhikkhus for instance, had taught them female Thai Buddhists to offer, to make offering
to them, the monks in all sorts of elaborate ways, you know. Making use of pieces of cloth,
handkerchiefs and so on and so forth so as not to ocme into physical contact with the bhikkhus. So I
made the point if they could teach them all these things, then why could they not have taught them not
to offer them meat. And in any case, who were their teachers? Were the bhikkhus the teachers of the
lay people
BI Q&A 11/5-186-
or were lay people the reachers of the monks? Could the monks not explain to the lay people what it
was proper to offer? Because after all, they were able to explain that certain kinds of meat were pro-
hibited and should not be offered according to the Theravada Vinaya. Thatis to say, human flesh and
tiger's flesh and so on. Well, could they not ask them not offer any flesh at all? So to these arguments
my Tahi friends usually have nothing to say.
Another favorite argument of theirs was, knowing
that I was a vegetarian, they would say: 110h, your mind is very strong. Our minds are very weak!"
(Laughter) So I would say, "nonsense11 - because I was brought up as a non-vegetarian. I was
accustomed to taking meat. I was conditioned into taking meat. My system was used to meat but I
gave it up as soon as it was pointed out to me it was inconsistent for a Buddhist to take meat. And I
said, "I've adapted without any diffic- ulty. I'm quote sure you could do the same". But they said, "Oh
no! I don't think we could!". (Laughter)
I noticed staying iwth some of my Thai bhikkhus friends
especially at Bodhgaya of all places in the new Thai ...

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