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Bodhisattva Ideal - Questions and Answers Tuscany 1984 Part 17 - 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

Why-is this? Well, I say seems to pass, but why should we not say it does pass? Clock time is
something different, why should clock time be the absolute measure of all time? All right, time does
pass more quickly, it's simply that, you know, what we might call time, or what we might call
subjective time, doesn't always exactly correlate with clock time. So, yes, one does have this
experience that time move at the same pace all the time. In the same way your experience of space can
be subjective. Sometimes you can feel very (sort of) cramped, perhaps you can feel quite expanded,
even though there hasn't been any corresponding objective change.
So it does seem that our mood,
our emotional state, has some bearing on our perception of time, at least, and very likely space as well.
You've all had the experience of five minutes seeming like several hours, especially if you were
waiting for someone to turn up and she didn-'t turn up (laughter). And also you can have the
experience of being absorbed in a fascinating book or even in the company of a fascinating person, and
the time just seems to flash past. So why should this be? Perhaps it's rather interesting to ask yourself:
what is it that causes for you time to pass, or seem to pass, most quickly? And the results might be
quite interesting. Or when does time most drag for you. Anyway let's... what is the time, by the way?
(laughter)
Vessantara:
Well, it's nearly flashed by, it's three minutes to nine.
S:
Have we any questions left?
Vessantara:
We do have, yes.
S:
So how many because...
Vessantara:
One, two, three, four, five... about half a dozen.
S:
So shall we be able to have another session?
Vessantara:
Not until after the ordinations. Tomorrow is the Vajra- sattva special day, and then we
start the ordinations the day after.
S:
So what sort of questions are they? Weighty questions or is it difficult to tell?
Vessantara:
I wouldn't have thought we'd get through them all now.
S:
I think we'd better have one more, and leave the rest for another session which we'll have as
soon as we can.
Vessantara:
We still ahve Padmavajra's question about Tathagata-garbha. Do you want to save
that for another day, or
S:
Yes, I think we'll save that for another time... (laughter)
Abhaya: I'm not as happy with it as I was, but I'll have a go. I want to try and relate something you said
in the lecture, this last lecture, with something you said in the question and answers a few (unclear)
ago. In the lecture, and I quote, you say that... you're explaining a quote from the Diamond Sutra, and
you say: "The Buddha is not rea~ly his physical body, not even his archetypal form. The Buddha is the
Dharmakaya, the Buddha is, as it were, Reality." But my question is: Couldn't you say that the
archetypal form is a meta- phor, in your sense of, and I quote: "a case of Reality being under
BI 19-I
322certain special conditions"?
S: Yes, you can certainly say that. I mean it's a question of two different ways of looking at things, or
two different approaches. Because obviously it isn't easy to express or to convey these things. For
instance let's make it a bit simple: You've got, one might say, here Reality and there non-Reality. Let's
use those terms. All right, Reality and non-Reality are quite distinct. So if you want to get to Reality
you have to leave behind unReality. But you can also look at things in another way: unReality may be
unReality, but inasmuch as you can speak of, or think of, unReality at all it has a sort of quasi-
existence. So what are you going to call that which is (as it were) Reality plus unReality? Is that a more
(as it were) total Reality than (as it were) Reality by itself? This is really the crux of the whole matter.
So one does speak of the Dharmakaya as the ultimate Reality. So that leaves , say, the
Sambhogakaya and the Nirmanakaya, or what- ever corresponds to them, as less real, to say the least.
But if one wants to think in terms of total Reality, or if one thinks of Reality as necessarily something
total, well, should not, in a manner of speaking , the Dharmakaya include the Sambhogakaya and the
Nirmanakaya? So one can look at it in those two ways: one can either regard the Ultimate Reality as
Reality distinct from non-Reality, or one can regard Ultimate Reality as Reality plus non-Reality!
Because we come (in a way) to the different degrees or levels of Sunyata where you've got (you know)
the Unconditioned, which in a sense is Ultimate Reality after all, and you've got the conditioned - but
then you've got the Maha-Sunyata, which embraces or comprises both of those. And therefore you
have a Reality which is beyond Reality itself, and Ultimate Reality which is more ultimate then
Ultimate Reality.
Here one is trying to deal with things, with Realities, which it's difficult to
deal with in terms of human speech. But it would seem that if one thinks more (as it were)
conceptually, then Ultimate Reality represents a total negation of all unReality (so to speak). But if one
thinks, say, interms of images, well then one can think in terms of, or even experience things, more
metaphorically, as I've said. That is to say the archetype, to use this language, is implicit in the image.
Ultimate Reality is implicit in lesser Reality, or even non-Reality. You see what I mean? So it's a
question of either distinguishing Ultimate Reality from (let's say) relative Reality, or regarding
Ultimate Reality as a totality of Reality and non-Reality. There are these two possible approaches.
So I think that sort of difference, that sort of distinction, underlies the question you've put. The
question really is about that difference. I'm not so sure that it's two different ways of looking at things;
it's more a question of two different modes of expression, with regards to Reality.
Abhaya: It just seemed, from what you were saying the other night, that to make such statements as
"Ultimate Reality" didn't really have any meaning, and what you were positing was the Reality and the
metaphor (sort of) overlapping...
S: Right. Yes.
Abhaya: ... in some kind of experience or other. That's where the meaning was.
BI i9-i~ 323S: But, in a manner of speaking, in order to speak about Reality, one has to abstract it, in a way1 from
things. But on the other hand, in reality, you can't do that. Reality is flot abstracted from things,
Sunyata is not different from dharmas. Not that it's the same as dharmas, but you have to speak of it as
non-different from dharmas. Not that Reality as one thing, plus dharmas as another, make up the sum
total of (so to speak) Ultimate Reality, so that sort of difficulty, that sort of mode of expression, that
sort of way of looking at things, is probably best expressed in metaphorical terms - well, perhaps that
isn't even the right way to put it. It's the metaphor more adequately reflects the true nature of the situ-
ation than does more abstract or more conceptual speech. Because of the very nature of the metaphor -
that's something we'll have to go into a bit later on.
Abhaya: So that would mean, in traditional terms the Sambhogakaya form or the Nirmanakaya is much
more healthy way of looking at things than, say, the Dharmakaya?
S: Yes. It's not that up there is the Dharmakaya, which is absolutely beyond you so you concentrate on
the Sambhogakaya - no - it's not that. In a sense, yes, the Dharmakaya is a higher Reality so in a sense
you leave behind the Sambhogakaya. But again in a sense, in a manner of speaking, you know, the
Dharmakaya is the inner dimension of the Sambhogakaya itself. So you do not find, you know, the
Dharmakaya by discarding the Sambhogakaya, but by going more deeply into the Sambhogakaya
itself. And that is a way of putting it. Not that they are three exclusive Realities, the Dharmakaya, the
Sambhogakaya, and the Nirmanakaya.
Abhaya: So what y~u' re saying is that you can't really usefully talk about the Dharmakaya, apart from,
in terms of, in some sense, the Sambhogakaya or the Nirmanakaya? It doesn't really have any meaning,
conceptual or otherwise. Do you see what I mean?
S: Mmm. You can distinguish, but it is not that the Dharmakaya is, so to speak, a seperate Reality
existing apart from the Sambhogakaya, which is not to say that the distinction is completely
meaningless.
Abhaya: What does it mean then? Or what could one say...
S: Well, meaning that the Sambhogakaya itself contains, for want of a better term, an element, which is
not expressable in terms of what we regard as the Sambhogakaya! But I think in a way the whole
problem is created by this abstracting nature of conceptual language. And the use, I think, of
metaphorical language gets round or obviates that particular difficulty. Anyway perhaps we'd better
leave it there. We've got maybe a handful of questions for a bit later on.
BIQ/A Tusc 84 20 - 1324Session 13Vessantara: These are from the Bodhisattva ideal series.
S:
How many of those questions are there?
Vessantara:
About four or five and then we have some relating to that section of the Ten Pillars
We will start with Padmavajra who has a Tathagata-garbha question.
Padmavajra:
Why do you prefer to coin the phrase 'The Bodhisattva principle', to describe the
potential for Enlightenment, rather than employ existing Buddhist terms such as Tathagata-garbha or
Tathagata-dhatu?
S: ...

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