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Bodhisattva Ideal - Questions and Answers Tuscany 1984 Part 7 - Unchecked

by Sangharakshita

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

for it to be associated with or connected with. So it can then (as it were) proceed infinitely outwards,
not finding any line of demarkation, not finding any sort of material body with which it is identified.
So in order to help this process you can (as it were)' think of your consciousness extending as far as
the other side of the universe, if you can imagine such a thing. But, you know, your consciousness
extends as far as that, it's not limited. But the essential thing is to have sort of sensation or the
experience of (sort of) indefinite or infinite expansion of your consciousness. It is not that, say, a drop
literally slips into, or merges into, the sea, shining or otherwise. Because there's a limitation, of course
the sea is horizontal, whereas here there is expansion in all directions, your not limited in that
horizontal direction in the way that the sea is. So don't take this image of the smaller consciousness
(sort of) merging inot the greater too literally - maybe drop that image altogether, thinking simply in
terms of barriers removed in the sense of lines of demarkation removed.
Prasannasiddhi: In the lecture, when you're describing that, I think you say it's unenlightened
consciousness merging with Enlightened consciousness. So is that universal consciousness - is that
S: Well, when one speaks of unenlightened consciousness merging with Enlightened clearly there's no
actual merging. It's that the line of demarkation between Lhe two has been removed.
Prasannasiddhi: So if you were to practise that practice, try to have that experience, then you would
become Enlightened?
S: Yes I wouldn't make a literal distinction between consciousness and Enlightenment. I would say the
infinite consciousness is the Enlightened state. Though of course one must also bear in mTh'nd that
that infinite consciousness, the consciousness which, as the Madhyamikas would be careful to add, was
a Void consciousness; it's not a sort of entity, it's not a thing.
Kamalas'ila: It's more an infinite consciousness in the sense of the sixth dhyana. It's more an infinite
consciousness in that sense?
S: Yes. Yes, one could say that. Although of course beyond that consciousness one has got other higher
dhyana states. I'm not sure that one should really regard those as higher states so much as unfolding
dimensions of the so-called lower of the higher dhyanas. That's something I won't go into now because
I've been having all sorts of thoughts about that recently. Something to which I've given attention for a
number of years, and I'm gradually coming to certain conclusions, but I'm not quite ready to talk about
them yet.
Vessantara: In the last stage of that practice, with the removal of barriers, would that ... doing the
practice, trying to imagine yourself into the experience, would you imagine your experience as
encompassing all kinds of dimensions of experience including the physical universe.
S: Well, the physical universe wouldn't be excluded, but it wouldn't constitute a barrier. It's as though
your consciousness would go through it, rather like mutual intersection of the beings of coloured light
that the Avatamsaka Sutra talks about. It is not
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BI 4 16that literally something isn't there that was there before, but it is no longer seen as an obstacle or as a
barrier, it becomes (as it were) transparent, so that you can go right through it. So difference is not
negated, but difference is seen as not constituting any hindrance.
Prasannasiddhi: It almost seems to contradict what I'd understood - it's like you go to the (sort of) top
of the dhyanas and you come back and you sort of look at the world...
S: Well, that is true in a manner of speaking. But as I've pointed out before, it's not that you (sort of)
literally come back in the sense of leaving that dhyana, you leave it more in the sense of a determinate
experience, it's more that you add something to it, or you use it in a certain way, to see things in a
certain way. It's not that you literally are no longer in that dhyana and no longer experience it. But it
certainly is modified by the fact that, say, mental processes start up again and you start, as it wre,
thinking. But it's as though your thinking then becomes transparent, it is no longer a sort of hindrance,
it's an aid to Enlightenment rather than an obstacle to it.
Abhaya: We usually do the stupa visualisation as a sort of warm-up practice for for the visualisation.
And in the lecture you link up stupa visualisation with the six elements, somehow. I was wondering if
one could do the stupa visualisation as a (sort of) six element practice, if one includes the sky as
consciousness, and thereby that will be a form of the six element practice...
S: That's true.
Abhaya: . ..which would be an Insight.practice. Is that possible?
S: How would it be an Insight practice then?
Abhaya: Well, I assume the six element is a vipassana practice, so you..
S: O.K. The six element practice is an Insight practice by virtue of the fact that a certain kind of
understanding is developed. That is to say that you understand that the earth, the element composing
your body, doesn't belong to you, you have to give it back, so that is a direct negation of one's usual
grasping ego- based tendency. But if you simply visualise the element earth, simply visualise that
yellow cube, there's no element of under- standing, and of Insight, in that mere - that simple -
Abhaya: So could you then possibly do the visualisation, and as a sort of stuti just repeat a (sort of)
phrase like "there is in me the element earth" while you're visualising ... "I must give back that..."
S: You could do. I mean, I don't know that that was a traditional practice, but there's no reason why one
shouldn't practice in that way. One could only try it and see whether one did in fact... found it helpful.
In that case of course the concentration on the visualised yellow cube, for instance, would help one in
developing concentration, so that one could then reflect undistractedly that
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BI 4 17the element earth, which is in my physical body, does not belong to me. But personally, I've always
found the repetition of those words sufficient, because the words are like a sort of mantra, and the
words themselves do enable you to concentrate the mind by repeating those words and really (as it
were) thinking about them you develop (it seems to me) the requisite degree of concentration. But if
that was difficult for you, and if you found visualisation easy, there's no reason why you shouldn't also
visualise the element about which you were reflecting. If you were able to do it it would be in some
ways a fuller and richer practice. And some people of course might find it too much, might find it quite
enough to actually remember those particular words and repeat them reflecting in that particualr way.
Abhaya: I was thinking for people who can't visualise, usually they might find it takes them a bit of
time to ...
S: That may well be so. Not having tried that I can't say, but some people might find it did help. In
which case there'd be no reason why one should see it in that particular way.
Vessantara: Devamitra had a follow up question from last night, about obedience.
S: Ah.
Devamitra: From what you said last night it seems clear that as virtues, obedience and the ability to
take the initiative are not necessarily mutually exclusive. However, many people who are chronically
lacking in initiative, either because they're unwilling to take the initiative or are incapable of doing so,
are possibly equally equally unwilling or unable, of doing whatever they might be told to do by
someone else. They may adopt the position that to do something that somebody else had told them to
do would inhibit their own latent capacity for taking the initiative (laughter) and it would have a
stultifying effect on their growth. Would that be justified?
S: I was thinking about this last night after the session finished and a thought which came to me was
you can only obey if you've got quite a strdng will. Hmm? (laughter) It's almost as though you've got
to have something to obey with. Another thought which occurred to me was more in the form of a
recollection, a little incident that took place not so long ago at Padmaloka - I have already talked about
it though at Padmaloka. I had some visitors, and they were from Nepal, and along with them they
brought a boy of about - how old was he? - about ten it might have been. And some- thing which was
quite interesting happened. Ratnaprabha was doing the honours - bringing tea and coffee and so on -
and he was trying to persuade this boy to have something and he was saying, "Well, would you like
some coffee?" So the boy said "Nah, nah" (a bit shy) and then "Well, would you like some tea?", no.
Ratnaprabha was trying to .... no he didn't want any tea "Well, some milk?" no, "Some orange juice?"
no. So then his uncle I think it was (he was Nepalese) said "We never ask children what they want, we
just give them". So this really struck me and I was thinking about this. A child very often just doesn't
know what it wants, yeh? If you give it a cup of tea, it'll drink the tea, or as much of it as it wants, you
give it milk it'll drink it. It's not bothered so to speak, usually, you know, a healthy child. But if you ask
him to (sort of) ...

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