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Bodhisattva Ideal - Questions and Answers Tuscany 1984 Part 8 - Unchecked

by Sangharakshita

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

treated in a sort of mythical way. So it is not as though a concept is playing a part in the creation
0f,myth~ which your question seems to suggest, or to.. Because, just as you could look at punya in,sort
of,rational terms~ you could also look atSambhogakaya in rational terms, but when one normally
speaks of, envisages,
has any feeling for the Sambhogakaya, well, clearly it is myth, And when
one says that that Sambhogakaya has come into existence, you know, due to punya, well, punya, too, is
part of the myth. And then?
Padmavajra: Er, well, if there are any connection~ would they help us to a truer and better way of
understanding what merit is?
S: What questions are these?
Padmavajra: This is the last clause of the question: If there are any connections...
S: Ah, connections..
Padmavajra: .. between myth and merit, would they help us to a truer and better way of understanding
what merit is?
S: Well, the only thing I can say here is that it would suggest that merit
is not to be taken just as a sort of rational concept. Merit seems to have a sort of, well, creative power.
If merit of sufficient potency can b~ing into existence the Sambhogakaya, then clearly merit isn't the
sort of thing that you have in mind when you speak for insance of the merit marks that you gain in
class, or something like that. You have invested the whole, well, idea - to use that term - of merit
with additional significance. Does that answer the question?
Vessantara There's still one or two questions
Devamitra had a follow-up question on obedience (laughter)
Devarnitra: This was just for the sake of completeness and to get it on record, as it were. Last night at
the suppertable, you said it was important to distinguish between submissiveness and obedience, and I
just wondered if you could explain why.
S: Before I do that, perhaps I had better say that one can not only have a follow-up question, one can
have a follow-up answer, yes? I was giving further thought to this question of obedience - in
particular to the question of whether obedience could be considered as an additional quality of the True
Individual in the way, say, that awareness is, that emotional positivity is, that imagination is, that
responsibility is, that co-operativeness is - I came to the conclusion that obedience cannot be
considered as a quality of the True Individual in the way that those qualities are considered qualities of
the True Individual for this reason: I felt that obedience could be either skilful or unskilful
- 141 -
so that therefore you could say that obedience to the good, you know, was a quality of the True
Individual, but you could not say that obedience per se was a quality of, you know, the True
Individual. You can say that awareness per se is such a quality, you can say that imagination per se is a
quality, responsibility, yes, none of those qualities requires any qualification but the quality or
of obedience certainly does, because you can obey, you know, a command which is gopd, and you can
obey a command which is evil. So you would have to qualify obedience and say that if it was to be
considered as a quality of the True Individual, it could
only be obedience to the good which could be so considered.
To come back to what Devamitra asked about the distinction between submissiveness and
obedience, I thtnk of submissiveness as sort of giving in, giving way, knuckling under, complying, in a
weak, knoek-kneed, pusilanimous, cowardly, spineless sort of fashion, if you see what I mean,
whereas obedience I see as a much more positive and much more heroic, a much more manly sort of
quality. You don't obey because you are afraid to disobey, you don't obey out of weakness, you are
glad to obey and you obey out of strength. In fact your obedience is - one might even say - an
expression of your strength. Of course, here I'm definitely talking of obedience to the good. So I did
go on to say, I think yesterday at the suppertable, that submissiveness bore to obedience the same sort
of relation as passivity bears to receptivity. It isn't quite a near-enemy as distinct from a far-enemy,
though perhaps one could look at it in that way to some extent, but certainly it is not the same thing.
One could even go further than that and say that submissiveness has reference to the power mode, you
submit to power, but you obey - in the sense of obeying the good - out of love, so that the two are
very different. In that sense, you could say that submissiveness was even the far-enemy, as distinct
from the near-enemy, of obedience. But anyway, I must say that whatever thoughts I have had on the
subject of obedience are of a suggestive rather than a definitive character because it is only fairly
recently that I have been thinking on this topic at all. But I think I'm certainly pretty clear that
disobedience is not necessarily a virtue.
Now we come onto questions arising out of the lecture we have been studying for the
last three days. (Altruism &Individualism in the Spiritual Life) Firstly, Mike had a question on the
Bodhisattva as a living contradiction.
- 142 -
~ i
� ke Shaw: (a few words unclear).. The Bodhisattva as a living contradiction or a living union of
opposites, and earlier on, on one of the earlier question and answer sessions, you also referred to the...
you talked about the idea of dialectical synthesis,which seems to be a sort of a thread running through
this series of lectures,and in ~his lecture, you appear to be presenting Dana and Sila as a sort of thesis
and antithesis. So I was wonderingif it is possible to give an intellectual expression to the synthesis of
these premises or whether the only valid synthesis is the life of a Bodbisattva?
S: Yes, I think that is the real answer that the Bodhisattva himself is the living synthesis, so to speak,
and perhaps you cannot produce the synthesis to intellectual terms. One can look at it even more, a it
were, radically than that. One can say that the Bodhisattva represents the synthesis - a living
synthesis - of Nirvana and Samsara, but what common term do you really have, what common
conceptual term do you really have for Samsara and Nirvana, the Conditioned and the Unconditioned,
you don't really have one. You could say, well, there is Sunyata, you know, there is the Void, but that is
in a way more of the nature of Nirvana, even though you do speak of the Voidness of, you know, the
Samsara or the Conditioned, so it seems as though you have a situation in which so long as you think
in conceptual terms you will always have a contradiction. If you try to resolve that contradiction
intellectually, or rather, conceptually, that would give rise to a concept which has, which will have its
own opposite and hence that you will need a further synthesis, so that the only real synthesis is to be
found not in concepts at all but in living experience, which by definition transcends the contradictions
inherent in certain pairs of concepts, because it transcends the conception, or rational level itself,
altogether. So the Bodhisattva himself is the living synthesis of the various contradictions inherent in
the path, say, as between Dana and Sila, or even the various contradictions apparently inherent in the
so-called goal, as between, say, Wisdom and Compassion, similarly as between Samsara and Nirvana.
Of course, you mustn't make the Bodhisattva, you know, a concept.
otherwise you'll get
the Bodhisattva as opposed to the Arahant and then you'll need a further, you
know, concept tounite them or another spiritual ideal to unite them. But yes, one might say that there
is no final conceptual synthesis possible for concepts which are contradictory,
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13j A
no final synthesis. A final synthesis can only be in the life, you know, of the individual for whom
those concepts have meaning0 Life transcends logic - it's as simple as that.
Prassannasiddhi: But you can have a sort of refinement of concepts...
S: Yes, you can have a refinement of concepts and therefore a refinement of syntheses.
Prasannasiddhi: Wouldn't that be a
step forwards to that sort of silence
S: It could be, it could be, but it mustn't
be a silence which supervenes upon, as it were, the
exhaustion of concepts, it must be a silence which, you know, supervenes of the sheer richness, as it
were, of the life itself.
Vessantara: There's some questions arising out of the perfection of giving
Mike had one... (pause). If you can hear me under the headphones?
Mike Shaw:
Sorry, have I got a question. which one was it?
About giving.
Mike Shaw:
Ah here it is. Yes, in the lecture you described the giving
of fearlessness as a more sort of psychological
help and it occurred to me there might be other
psychological qualities which could also be given, perhaps the qualities of True Individual...?
S: Er, yes, the term 'given' is not to be taken too literally, it's more like, sort of, sparked off. You can
give fearlessness, you can spark off
- in the same way you can give or spark off emotional
Sometimes you can even induce somebody to be emotionally positive against his
will! (laughter) If your own emotional positivity, you know, is sufficiently strong. You can give
inspiration, you can give all sorts of qualities in this kind of way.
Mike Shaw:
The question I particularly wanted to ask was: I ...

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