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Bodhisattva Ideal - Questions and Answers Tuscany 1984 Part 12 - Unchecked

by Sangharakshita

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

that, there's one little point I want to make, - in fact I wanted to make it the other evening, but it
somehow slipped away: We were taling about mindfulness, and Kamalsila happened just to mention
that we were discussing possible methods of ensuring greater mindfulness and Kamala- sila happened
to remark that one had to want to be mindful. I intended to take that up, but I didn't, but that was quite
an important point - that one has to want to be mindful, and if one wants to be mindful, when you are
mindful, well, you'll be just as mindful as you possibly can, so as to maintain the mindfulness for as
long as possible. So the more mindful you are, the more, as it were vigorously mindful you are, the
more deliberately mindful you are, the more likely it will be that even if you lose that mindfulness, it
will come back more quickly. So wanting to be mindful is very very important here.
And I think
also, wanting to develop any particular quality or aspect of the spiritual life, is very difficult, is very
necessary, yes? And I think alot of the difficulties that people experience in developing this quality or
that quality, is that they don't want to develop. So they ask how to develop it without actually wanting
to develop it. So they say we don't want to develop but we realize it's a good thing, so how should we
develop it? Well, the answer is that you can't develop it unless you really want to. That's the first and
most necessary thing. You've got to really want ot grow; you've got to really want to develop; you've
got to really want to develop mindful- ness; you've got to really want to develop emotional positivity
in the same way. If it's a question of celibacy, you've got to really want to be celibate, otherwise, of
course, you're not going to succeed! Especially, you know, in a relatively difficult thing like that. But
anyway, that isn't exactly the question. The question was - can we have it again?
Wade: Well, I was wondering whether a lot of the problem was really an inability or lack of desire to
really make a decision about not having families? Not having children, Behind the desire to have sex
is the fact that you want the consequences; you want the children and it's not just a matter of pleasure
S.: Well, clearly your comments were only to do with one particular type of sexual relationship.
I think some people are clear, others are not. Some people are, or seem to be quite clear.
They don't want children; they don't want to have a family; they don't want a family life. But
nonetheless they do engage in sexual activities which are likely to lead to children. I think in those
cases, they haven't always faced the issues squarely. And it may be sometimes that there is some
residual doubt in their minds and that in fact they have not taken a di finite decision not to have
children. Otherwise, if they had taken a really definite decision, not to have children, well, then they
would take steps to ensure that they didn't - and they do not always do that.
Of course, sometimes it
is just due to human error. They genuinely don't want children, but at the same time they don't always
find it possible to practise mindfulness and so on and so forth. But id do think that in this area, as in so
many others, one really needs to think things through clearly and come to a definite conclusion, know
one's own mind - what one really wants to do; what one doesn't want to do; what one wants to have;
doesn't want to have and act accordingly in a mature and systematic manner.
For instance, I'm rather
surprised, perhaps very easily surprised, because I hear for instance, of people engaging in regular
sexual activities - you know, they've got a regular sexual relationship going - one year, two years, three
years, and then one day the woman gets pregnant and they're both very surprised. But I'm naive
enough to think that it's really strange that they should be surprised,
BI 12/21222because, could they not have foreseen? I mean, they've got pocket calculators - can't they work out the
statistical possibilities? And so on. It would seem to me that you don't even need a pocket calculator.
It's amatter of simple arithmetic which you can do in your head. You would have thought they would
have anticipated that if they had a relationship going for all that time, even though they were taking, in
a sense, precautions, at least in a rough and ready fashion, at least sometimes - well, you know that was
going to happen eventually - that the woman was going to get pregnant. But they seem in some cases
completely taken by surprise, like athunderbolt from a blue sky. "Who would have thought!"
(Laughter) "Who would have thought that actions have consequences!" "How incredible!" And this
seems to be the attitude! So you know, therefore, this sort of principle that I've just mentioned, that
actions have consequences - is really something that we need to ponder and have that really in our
blood and in our bones and in all walks of life and in all areas of life and all aspects of life. Actions do
have consequences!! I mean, in this particular area of life no less than in others; perhaps more than in
others. Was that really the sort of thing that you were getting at?
Wade: It also occurred to me that in the Buddha's day, it would have been quite a clear choice: that if
you wanted to lead a spiritual life you had to give up any kind of relationship with women, because
that meant ....
S.: Yes, you'd be tied to a family...
Wade:... And I mean it's only in the past twenty years or so that I think really contraception has sort of
fudged the issue.
S.: Yes, I think you're right there. It has 'fudged the issue' to some extent. And I think people haven't
psychologically adjusted to these various sort of technical changes. Just as they haven't adjusted to
them in other cases as well. I mean, Einstein is supposed to have said: "Well, we've got an atom bomb
but we haven't got an atomic mentality". In the same way, yes, we've got a contraceptive, but we
haven't got a contraceptive type of mentality. We've just got the old fashioned sort of biological sort of
cave-man mentality still. So, one needs perhaps to think very seriously about these things and be
clearer in one's own mind. Because it does seem the contraceptives do sort of fudge the issue because
sometimes people tend to think that they're sort of infallible, when they're not. You lose sight of that
margin of error which is very definitely there all the time.
But I think that the main point here is
that, one must know one's own mind, be very clear oneself; be honest with oneself; be hones with other
people; be honest with the people with whom you do have a relationship, of one kind or another.
Especially, you know, in the case of this particular kind of relationship where consequences, in the
form of children are always possible; at least have contingency Plans for it. Otherwise, sometimes one
sees some quite unfortunate situations. There's an unforeseen pregnancy. Maybe the woman has got
no decent place to stay; maybe there are financial difficulties etc. etc. I mean, that is not the way, to
bring children into the world.
Devamitra: Would you say that the better contraceptive methods that are currently in use have
brought about or are one of those factors that have strong influence upon ethical attitudes in the way
that the nuclear bomb has?
S.: That's true. I think one can draw that sort of parallel because contractives have liberated women,
especially, to a great extent, from the fear of pregnancy. You've only got to read, say, old novels,
BI 12/22223read, you know, what happens when respectable women, unfortunately, do become pregnant without
being married - well just what that means to her and to her social... so, well, how unthinkable it is so
that very often she commits suicide. Well, that has all changed, you know, at least changed to some
extent. Or one might say to a~eat extent, due to contraceptives. But perhaps, you know, the
corresponding emotional adjustments haven't been made. I do sometimes think that in the case of
women, especially that they're not basically very happy with some of the things they do. This has all
sorts of psych- ological consequences. Perhaps men too, aren't always very happy, with certain things
that they do.
Devamitra: One observes, or at least it would seem that these contraceptive methods are a blessing,
but perhaps they're not really?
S.: I think one can't consider them by themselves. One can't even consider sexuality or sexual
relations by themselves, because they do take place between people who are embedded in a particular
social and cultural context or milieu with its different attitudes and so on. I think that very often
people do consider sexual relations 'in vacuo' as it were, almost as if they took place in a sort of
vacuum, and were not related to other factors and, you know, considerations.
Devamitra: I suppose what's on my mind is that it seems that they allow for a possibility of evading
responsibility, which previously perhaps wans't there, - responsibility for one's actions.
S. Well, if contraceptives are successful you don't evade a respon- sibility because there is no
responsibility. You can only take the opposite view if you believe, as the Catholics believe, that the
purpose of sexuality is solely and exclusively for reproduction.
Simon Turnbull: There's the responsibility of ...

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