Transcribing the oral tradition...

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Bodhisattva Ideal - Questions and Answers Tuscany 1984 Part 14 - Unchecked

by Sangharakshita

make that assumption ? Perhaps something dreadful will come up. Perhaps
you really want something incredibly wicked. (laughter) Maybe you are a sort of Satanist at heart -
some people wouldn't think of that as nessoesstrily negative - but that's another matter. But it's
probably much more likely that what will come to the surface is some sort of harmless, inocent, rather
pathetic little want (lau~er) which you've never been able to fu lfil. If you see what I mean.
Anyway let's pass on. We seem to be in a rather psychological mood this eveningq or the
questions seem to be.
Veseantara.- We'll try Abhaya's questions then.
Abhaya.- Yes, in the lecture you talk about transition from the Dhyanas to the'3 gates of liberation',
called the Samadhis. And then in the course of that section on the Samadhis you refer to them at one
point as the 'Transendentti Dhyanas' and I've always thought you've reserved the term 'Dhyabae' for the
field of the mundane, and I thougbt in this lecture you were using it to denote the '1'ransendental, and
I find it a little bit confusing.
S. - That might have been a slip of the tongue. Because I usually sp~k of those particular virnokebs j
as 'Transendental Samadnis' ra~fler
tflan ~n 'Transendental Dhyanas', because they are almost always refered "4- ~
� %% *j9~l(~ to as Samadhis. So if I did in that context speak of them as Transendental &hyanas,
I'd probably in the course of editing that material would
change i~o Sarnadhi - Transendental Samadhi, because as I said one does Speak of thea~:~~nihita
Samadhi, for instance, in the original not as far as I know of the a~ihita jhana or ahyana.
Abhaya. - In my other question, it relates to the s~e lecture a bit later on~ where you go into the four
Sunyatas. I seem to remember, either someone telling me or~reading, that when you were talking about
your eight-fold path series, I think its the first lecture - Perfect Vision, you go into the 4 kinds of
sunyata; and I heard it said or you said that if yuu were to do the same again, the same lecture again -
t~ same material, you 'wouldn't go into the 4 sunyatas, you feel it's a bit of a, maybe waste of
time is too strong a word, but thai?s' the impression I got. I wondered if you felt the same about this
treatment in this lecture ?
S. - Well I supose it would depend on the audience. It would depend who you were speaking t0~ but I
think in a general way, people are usually in too much of a hurry. I suppose this ~s a general feature, in
a way, of Western life. In this particular context I think perhaps there are two sort of reasons. One is
that one ib a bit ambitious. One wants to scale and conquer the ~i""ghts as q~ickly as possible. Perhaps
it means that one over-estimates one's personal capacities. One over-estimates ones spiritual
And the other is that we have, so to sp a
� k~ an exoesively, again I
don't like to use this word 'intellectual' which ii a good word that we're misusing nowadays, but we
have an excesively theoretical approach to an
understanding of things. For ins~ance I have mentioned before that in ancient India when spiritual
teaching was not to be found in books (there were no books) when it was entirely a matter of oral
transmission, you were given exactly what you needed at the time. For instance you weren't able to sit
down and read a bock describing all the stage. of the path right up to Enlightenment. You would be
completely ignorant of those things.- Maybe you'd be completely ignorane of the very idea of
But you'd go along to a teacher and he'd say, perhaps after talking to you or looking
� u, 'Well, do this. Go nay and do this. 'And you might go away and doit for several years, and
when you'd mastered that thouroughly, you'd come back or he'd call you back anfl he'd give you some
further teaching and then you'd practise that.
Do you see ? You wouldn't have a sort of'theorectical preview', but we constantly being given
these theoreotioal prewiewa. So we know the path, we know all about the different stages, we know all
about Prajna, -we know all about Sunyata, all about the different deglees and lewd. of Sunyata, and
because we arq so fam~liar with this material, theorettoaly,
263or mentally, in an abstraot s~t of way, we're quite unable to make the distinction between really
knowing it* really experiencing it, and simply being aquainted with it in this theoretical way. We think
that we know. So therefore we think that we're quite ready to talk about, to discuss,the four Sunyatas,
ask questions about th~m~ even to practise them. And in most cases that is simply not so. But it seems
that there's nothing that Wi can do about it~ because y~u can't stop people reading book.. They've
usually read all the books, or
� er~ often read all the books, the right ones and the wrong ones, and
they've us ally read the right ones in the wrong sort of way, before they come along to the ?WBO.
So they come along with their Diamond Sutras in their hand and say,
�L.t'. etudy the Diamond Sutra. I really like the Diamond Sutra." (Lau~ht er) ~'Like"the Diamond
Sutra ?~The Diamond Sutra. ~r - one doesn't quite
know what to make of it, one isn't quite sure how to proceed. Because if you tell them that you don't
think they're ready to study the Diamond Sutra, the chances are that they will be deeply offended.
They'll think that you're unwilling"to teach them, or you underestimate them* you underestimate their
intelligence, their devotion,and their spiritual capabilities generally. And they just go away. I remember
in this coneotion, there was a woman cotning along to the FWBO yeqrs and years ago, and I don't
know whether it was the Diamond Sutra, but a Sutra of that sort, it might have been the Heart Sutra,
and she wanted to study it with me. And as tactfully as I could I sort of said that I wasn't willing to
study it with her, or she should study it fl"~th me, She was quite offended and she went away. I think
she l:~t the FWBO foi a while, but after a few weeks she came back. And in the course of a class she
said, or she anounced,loufldly and sont of triumphantly,
'Ah Bhante, Lama so-and~ao has agreed to study such-and-such Sutra with me. lie thinks I'm
very ready for it.'
So what could one sa~ ? So~this does create a sort of difficulty. So sometimes we have to
unknow what we know and unlearn what we learn, and recognise the distinction betveen really
knowing something
� n our own -
264~~ lit
experience and deeper understanlLLn4 and simply hearing about something, or reading about
something. So I don't know whether I would talk about
the 4 Sunyatas now. I wouldn't like to make any sort of hard and fast desision, I don't want to sort of
prohibit myself from talking about them in future absolutely,but I must say sometimes~my heart does
sink when people ask for explanations of abstuse teachings that they, frankly, havn't even ~ to
understand - they havn't got a glimmering of an idea about and have not nade any conection with in
their own experience. They manage to frame questions, but questions are actually purely verbal
questions. Very often they don't realise this because since you've got words at your disposal and you
can arrange those words into sentences in various ways you can actually fram~ question, but that's not
a real question - a real questicn is something that springs out of your own experience, or even conflicts
which you experience in your own experience. Then you can give birth to a question. But a purely
verbal, purely conceptual question isn't very stimulating and one isn't sort of encouraged to pursue the
matter furtbe~. One is sometimes inclined either not to say anything at all or at the most to vouchsafe a
sort of non-comital grunt (laughter). If you know the person quite well, and you ~ne"1 "they're not
going to be offended, well then you oan cay, 'Well frankly, I think we'll just leave that for the time
being if you don't mind'.
This also ties upwith what I have being saying not only resently, but even before, about 'more
and more of less and less' an~ getting back to basics. Of course, perhaps the situation being what it is,
modern mind being what it is, Buddhism in the west being what it is, you can't altogether eschewa sort
of rapid survey of the whole field. But I think having made that rapid survey you should get back, as
soon as possible to where you actually are and praoti~e and study accordingly.
It's really a sad thing sometimes to see people in the West, especially say in America, who
become interested in, or snvolved in
Buddhis:n, just going straight for the most or what they think are the most esoteric Tantric teachings -
they seem to feel that they're really
ready, they're really qualified for just those teaohings - no doubt in almost all case they're just the last
teachings that they should
consider. It's no less sad to see some. Lamas, apparantly at least to outward appearances, sort of
handing out these teachings which one CM see just have no relevance whatever for the people that
they're handing them out to, and could even, or very likely do them quite a bit of harm.
Anyway we won't dwell on that painful subject. Vessantara. - Will had a question about
Will Spens.- For an Order Member working in a oo-op~and helping to run a centre ...

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