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Bodhisattva Ideal - Questions and Answers Tuscany 1984 Part 16 - Unchecked

by Sangharakshita

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

don't have
children perhaps, there's a tendency to settle down and just to be comfortable and to
follow a steady routine and have everything pretty well laid on, pretty well sorted out, pretty well
Not necessarily your carpet slippers in front of the fire and all that sort of thing, but
you know what I mean. And you don't necessarily as I've said escape this automatically simply because
you don't have a wife and family. In fact you can~e so sure that you are escaping that, actually it really
does overtake you without your knowing it. So one needs to remain much on the alert, otherwise I get
the impression that if we are not careful we'll almost no longer be an expanding movement, we'll be a
movement that is sort of consolidating,~perhaps even hardening a little more and more around the core
as it were , or the cores, in the form of the existing well established centres or communities. Especially
I would say that if your whole FWBO career (for instance) had been within a particular centre or
particular community or in connection with a particular centre or as part of a particualr community,
then having gone back wherever you came from, and having sort of established yourself as an Order
member, then you should start quite seriously thinking in terms of at least seeing something of some
other centre or community for quite a while, so that you don't identify the whole movement just with
your particular centre or your particualr community.
This is especially important for an Order
member. You can understand a mitra being identified with a particular centre. But in the case of an
Order member he's ordained into the whole Order, and
the whole Order could exist without any
centres, or even pernaps without any communities at all, certainly any centres. So inasmuch as one is
ordained into the Order, well one belongs primarily to the Order. As an Order member one does not
really, when it comes to the point, belong to a centre, you belong to the Order. And you function in
connection with this centre, or as part of that community, in accordance with the needs of the situation.
Not because you exclusively identify yourself with this particular centre or that particular community,
but human nature being what it is there is bound to be a tendency of this sort. So if one's whole
FWBO life has been lived out in connection with a particualr centre or community you need to
counteract that tendency by moving away from it - after a reasonable period after ordination.
What would you call a reasonable period? Or would that vary?
S: It would vary. But give yourself a year, I would say. I'm not suggesting that you then
go and
start up a centre anywhere but move on, move around if you like,
to another centre or another
community. I mean have a bit more experience, a broader experience of the movement. And you won't
do that just by paying the odd visit or reading about other centres and communities in the Newsletter.
Sometimes I'm surprised by the extent to which Order members and mitras belonging to one particualr
centre are ignorant of what is going on in other centres and communities. It's really sometimes quite
surprising. Maybe not quite so much in the case of mitras but certainly in the case of Order members.
Sometimes I've been really surprised in this connection. In the case of some people it was almost as
though other centres and other communities didn't exist. They just didn't know anything about them at
all, about what was actually going on. Anyway were there any further questions?
BI 11 19302Vessantara:
About three.
S: What sort of questions? And what is the time?
It'~ five past nine.
S: Well perhaps then we should stop, because we don't seem to be getting quite so many questions as
before. I don't remember quite how many sessions we've got left.
We've got one more.
S: One main session, yes. All right, let's see, well if we don't get through them all then, we can have an
additional session. Anyway, that seemed a good note to end on so let's end there.
BIQ/A Tusc 85 l8~- 1303 Vessantara:
So this evening is our last session on the Bodhisattva Ideal series. We will deal with
the last lecture but there are a few questions left over from previous lectures so we will start with those.
We'll start with Phil.
Phill Shann:
In your talk "Journey to 11 Convento" you were talking about the way archetypal
images manifest in different ways to suit cultural and personal needs. I was thinking about the way in
which the depiction of Buddhas and Bodhisattvas became very strictly depicted on a matrix and was
wondering whether this indicated a degeneration?
S: By the matric you mean the sort of mathematical grid~ Thhil: Yes) I must say that I've had my
personal doubts about this grid system for some time. I remember discussing the matter with
Chintamani at some length quite a number of years ago. And I think I can say that in the way that that
principle has been applied in Tibet, at least in recent times, has been productive of some rather strange
results, aesthetically speaking.
Clearly, the aesthetic criterion is not the ultimate one, but
nonetheless one must not find the image offensive or odd, or grotesque, especially the proportions of
the figure, grotesque. And one certainly does if that matrix principle is applied, at least in some cases.
Having said that I must also say, I I must at least also refer to something I am aware of but I haven't
actually been able to investigate it, and that is the significance of certain proportions. Let us say, even
the spiritual significance of certain arithmetical or mathematical proportions. There has been a certain
amount of research done in this field. In the West it is associated especially with Neo-Platanism, and
Neo-Pythagoreanism. But I can't say that I've studied this, though I am aware of the subject and aware
of the literature. So one would have to bear that in mind too, that it was certainly not impossible that
there actually was a definite mathematical relationship between the different parts of a two dimensional
or three dimensional image or icon. But it would seem, again judging by results and judging quite
impirically and intuitively, the Tibetans hadn't, so to speak, hit upon the right proportions.
is aware that those sort of scales are used generally in art. For instance the ancient Greek sculptors had
a rule of thumb propofton, didn't they. I think it was the school of.., who was it? Polyclitus?, had a
proportion that the head was one seventh of the proportion of the length of the body. Others thought it
was one fifth and so on. So yes, what I actually see of Tibetan thankas and images leads me to
wonder whether they are on the right track with their matrix or their grid system. But does that not
necessarily lead me to repudiate the general principle involved, but perhaps only that particular
application, or even in a sense, misappli- cation.
Phil Shann:
You don't think it was a reflection of the whole thing becbming more rigid?
That would depend how they derived. Supposing, for instance Wust for the sake of argument,
there were certain admired images or thankas and suppose someone had simply tried to work out a
system of proportions quite impirically by looking at them.
BIQ/A Tusc 84 l8~- 2 304So as to make it easy for people to reproduce that sort of pattern. I think that would indicate a
degeneration. But if one was to deduce one's proportions correctly from certain philosophical
principles, well that would not represent a degeneration.
Abhaya: No additional Bodhisattva forms have emerged from spiritual practice, as far as I know, since
the flourishing of the Mahayana and Vajrayana. Do you think this is because spiritual practice has
never reached that peak since? That's~the first part1 and the second is:- Is it true that other Bodhisattva
forms could emerge from, say, our spiritual practice or the practice of the Western Buddhist Order or
Buddhism at large?
I would say in principle, decidedly, yes. But I must say That your question probably needs a
bit of qualification. Because the Vajrayana tradition does continue down to our own day and it would
seem that new, as it were, Bodhisattva forms, or at least new Dharmapala forms or Dakini forms have
emerged comparatively late within that tradition. Usually, of course, I think they are affiliated with one
or another of the existing widely recognised Bodhisattvas, recognised as a special form of him, of her.
Also, one finds in Japan there was an interesting develop- ment because indigenous Japanese
deities were identified with Bodhisattvas, and the Bodhisattvas were represented, so to speak, with the
features of the indigenous divinities, and that lead in a sense almost to the emergence of new
Bodhisattva forms. For instance there was Hakyman, I think that is how you pronounce it, an
indigenous Japanese divinity apparantly having originally some phallic significance. But anyway he
was absorbed into the Japanese Buddhist pantheon and he came to be regarded as a Bodhisattva figure,
1 am not quite sure what his exact affiliation was. He might for instance have been regarded as a form
of Avalokiteshvara, but that would be simply to give him an official place, an official connection, but
really it represents the emergence within Japanese Mahayana Buddhism of a quite distinctive
Bodhisattva ...

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