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Bodhisattva Ideal - Questions and Answers Tuscany 1984 Part 4 - Unchecked

by Sangharakshita

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

Universe as being alive rather than dead, one is thinking of Brahma, say, rather than the Bodhisattva.
Perhaps the Bodhisattva is also conscious of the Universe as a sort of Transcendental awareness of the
Universe, but that consciousness doesn't, say, belong to the Universe, doesn't pertain to the Universe, in
the same sort of way that the consciousness of Brahma does. Do you see the point? I'm not quite sure
how ?0U would go about relating the two. The image that occurs to me is of say the ocean, which is
more like 3rahma's consciousness but within that ocean there springs up a spring of water which is not
salt, which is fresh, and that is more like the Bodhicitta's consciousness - it's a stream, as it were, within
that ocean, rather t~an conterminous with the ocean. Though at the same time, you could say,
contradictorily, you have to find some way of expressing the fact that the Bodhisattva is at the s~~ time
con- scious of the Universe. Perhaps one could say that Brahma is conscious of the universe but is not
conscious of himself whereas the Bodhisattva is not only conscious of the universe, he is conscious
also of Branma as within that Universe. In other words the Bodhicitta represents an even higher level,
in this case a Transcendental level. You could say, to pursue this a little further, that a mundane
consciousness, even like that of Brahma, constitute in a way the life of an organism, the life of the
world, the life of the Universe, but the Bodhisattva's consciousness, even though it is conscious of say
the universe, is not its consciousness in the sense of not contributing to keep it alive, but if anything
rather the opposite, as constituting a way of deliverance from, do you see what I mean? It's not a life
principle. Brahma's consciousness you might say represents a sort of cosmic life principle, whereas the
Bodhic-itta'~ or the Bodhi- sattva's consciousness is not a life principle in that sort of way, it's rather a
liberation principle, liberation from that kind of conditioned life. So the Bodnisattva's consciousness is
not constituative of the Universe, in the way that Branma's apparently is.
� ~0ul&,~in your lecture, the Bodhisattva Principle, you speak of the, if I can -
remember this right, as
in the Bodhisattva, the lower Evolution becomes conscious, in the sense of
this sort of urge, this upward urge,to Enlighteriment.
Would then evolution be that stream of
fresh water within a wider ... ?
Yes, one could look at it in that way certainly, yes. I think the difficulty is in using language
which appears to suggest that one thing has come out of another in the sense of being nothing but that,
so that it's reduced to ti~t other. So that you then become guilty of a form of what's
2h%~ 61 -
called 'reductionism', and this is why in Buddhism we use the formula "in d~~eh~d~~ce upon A, B
arises" so one might say that in dependence upon the Lower Evolution, the Wigher Evolution arises.
We do not say
therefore, that the Higher Evolution is entirely the product of khe Lower
Evolution in the sense of being reducible to the Lower Evolution. It's not simply a more refined form
of it, or a~~th~h~g like that. Not that it's completely different from it, that's the other extreme, because
it has arisen in dependence upon it. So it's neither the same, nor different. ~o there's no reductionism
and there's no also, the opposite of reductionism (whatever that is, if there's a word for it ) either. Do'
you see what I mean? I mean, for instance, if you say that the Higher Bvol ution emerges from the
Lower Evolution, it's as though you are suggesting that the Higher Evolution was contained Within the
Lower Evolution, rather like something being contained within a box, and you sort of pull it out at
some stage, you produce it from the box. But it's not really like that at all, in terms of Buddhist
thought. So therefore one needs to ponder very seriously this formula "in dependence upon A, B
arises", the two are not identical and at the same time they are not completely different.
PrasarQsiddhi: So ~~hde~~~hd~~ce on the Universe, on Br?hhhma'5 consciousness, ohhr the thiverse'
S consciousness, the ~odhisattva conscious- ness arises?
S: No I don't think one could s~hh~ that, because the Bodhicitta arises in dependence upon the
consciousness of the True Individual. If one defined flrahma as a True Individual, well yes, one might
say that Brahma, ~~ a Brahma, could aspire to Bodhisattvahood, but one is getting perhaps then a little
beyond the limits of traditional Buddhism. Brahma is more of a sort of cosmic principle, though yes,
appearing in buddhist texts as an individual in the sense of a sort of supernatural being almost.
Obviously its npt easy tQ exoress experiences and ~~~l~t~e5h pertaining to a higher level of existence,
in te m
� s of concepts derived from another level of existence.~But I think one has to beware of too
literalistic an approach and therefore try to understand terms like Rodhici~ta, Bodhisattva and so on,
in sort of poetic and imaginative terms, rather than sort of stri$~ly literal or scientific terms,
O~h~t~ictly scient~fic
manner. (Pause.) Tn other words in terms of myth rather than ihn
- 62 -
terms of history. Otherwise one finds oneself almost in the position of being forced against one's will
of giving a sort of scientific explatnation of a poem. Or is there a scientific reason why-a-sonnet has
fourteen lines, not twelve?
Mike Shaw: I think you've partially answered this one. Tt's about the fact that you said that the
bodhicitta is more likely to arise within a group of people working together, and also that you said the
Bodhicitta is the other-regarding aspect of the same experience as described by Stream-Entry etc. I
was wondering how the ' subjective experience' inverted commas) of an individual in whom the
Bodhicitta has arisen compares with that of an individual for whom it has arisen collectively, with
other people? In other words,would the irreversibility of Stream Entry apply to that individual or
would that be sort of shared collectively within the group
S: Well, one thinks of an experience as bort of be~nh~ h multi- faceted, say Stream Entry being one of
the facets, the arising of the Bodhicitta being another, and it is, no doubt,a question of passing from one
facet, or one aspect, to another, in accord- ance with whichever facet or aspect constitutes one's starting
point. So that for somebody, the aspect of Stream Entry might be the aspect with which they hfirst
make contact. That I5 to say, the first aspect of the total experience. They work their way round,
gradually, to the other aspects;. Somebody else might start with, say, the arising of the Bodhicitta
taken as a sep experience , that is to say, as a particular specific aspect of that total experience, and
they might, as it were, work their way around to Stream Entry. rou get much the same sort of question
when you think in terms of Stream Entry itself and consider breaking the fettera and developing
Insight. S0meti~h people ask 'well which comes first?' Do you break the fetters, and because you've
broken the fetters develop Insight, or do you develop Insight and because you've developed Insight,
then break the fetters'h? Well the two are different aspects of the same thing. So you may as it were go
from Insight to breaking the fetters, or you may go from breaking the fetters to developing Insight,
depending on which aspect you, so to speak, give attention to rather. So one is concerned with, as I
said, a multi- faceted e~perience, around which you gradually make
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your way. You're having to reduce something which is, s~y, three-dimensional, to two dimensions, as
when you try to produce a two-dimensional map of a three~dimensiOflal globe. You have to do it bit
by bit. You have to unroll it or unfold it bit by bit. So you may start unfolding here, and somebody
else might start unfolding there, so there may be, to begin with, some difference, some apparent
difference, in your experiences, but when you've both unfolded or unrolled all those different aspects
you will have, so to speak, the shame map before you. (Pau se.) It's like in the case of the human
individual and the development of his different aspects. Shomeoflehmay be working more on the
development of Faith, but
sooner or later he will have to work on the development of
Wisaom.Someone may be working on the development of Wisdom, but sooner or later he will have to
work on the development of Faith. So one who has developed Faith to a great extent, but not Wisdom,
may appear very different from someone who has developed Wisdom to a great extent but not Faith.
They may even seem to be on a different path. But eventually they both develop both.h And when
they've both developed Faith and Wisdom, Wisdom aj~ Faith, then it will become more obvious that
they are in fact both on the same path. Rut until th~y do that it might seem that they're on almost
different paths - one is a Doctrine follower, one is a Faith follower, and that they're following different,
even though perhaps parallel, paths. Rut that isn't really the case. So also one has to be quite careful
comparing oneself with others, or comparing different people. ~omparing, say, somebody's strength
with somebody else's weakness, or somebody's weakness with somebody else's strength. And one also
must be careful not to attach too much importance ...

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