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Buddha by Trevor Ling - The - Part 3

by Sangharakshita

[Tape 8]

There's nothing negative, but it's human beings just like horses and cows. They smell like
horses and cows. (Laughter) They are contented, grossly content, like horses and cows, like
well fed animals, where they happen to be well fed. Just like that. It's a really animal

Ratnaguna: I'm still confused about the individual, how he becomes an individual. You say
that it's a lot of practice combining?

S: Not necessarily a lot of practice combining. It could be two or three which are of decisive
importance in any individual case.

Ratnaguna: Is there a point where the individual realises that he's individual, where
someone realises that they are an individual.

S: I think that point would be when he realises that he's on his own, and that he is aware of
others but they're not aware of him. I think, if there is any point of realisation, I'd say it was

Ratnaguna: Is that sort of absolute? Is he then an individual or is he still....

S: No, I wouldn't describe this as full individuality. There can be degrees of this sort of
realisation even. You also might come to understand or come to see that you think differently
from others, and that you'd see that they were not thinking as you were thinking, or rather you
would see that you were not thinking as they were thinking, and you'd see this and understand
it, but you'd also see that they couldn't understand why you were wanting to be different.
They would be thinking that there's something wrong with you. Maybe you were ill, maybe
you'd gone mad or maybe you were possessed by an evil spirit or maybe you were just being
perverse, or maybe they just couldn't understand it. Well why is he different? Why does he
want to do things in a different way? Why does he think differently from everybody else?
They can't sort of see into his mind, as it were, but he can see, at least to some extent, into
theirs. And he realises that they not only don't see what I see, but they don't see me, they
don't see why I think and feel this. Maybe in the very early stages, this is very sort of dim
and vague and embryonic and more like a feeling than a conscious thought, but it grows and
develops and becomes more sort of clear and more conscious, more self-conscious. Just as in
our own case when we grew up. There are all sorts of factors contributing to our realisation
that we are, as it were, independent individuals. It may have been a very gradual sort of
incrementation or process or it might have been quite sudden and dramatic and connected
with very definite incidents and experiences.

Anyway, "The monarchy, the city and individualism" - maybe we need not say anything more
than that, and in the afternoon we go onto "The Religious and Ideological Environment"
which will probably more simple and straightforward.

S: "The Religious and Ideological Environment". I think here Trevor Ling will be giving us
just a summary of what is sort of generally known. There probably won't be anything very
controversial. We can try and get through it quite quickly and then when we come onto part
three we'll be into the central portion of the book really. We can spend more time on that.

It was suggested at the outset that we merely prejudice our understanding of the Buddha's
historical significance if we think of him as the founder of a religion in the customary modern

sense of the term. A more useful way of approaching the matter is to examine the nature of the
early Buddhist community - its principles, its purposes, and its social implications - and then
to consider whether it is not more appropriate to regard the Buddha as the founder, in effect,
of something more approaching a type of civilization.”

S: In other words it seems he isn't going to consider the Sangha as a spiritual community or
pay any attention to the question of individuality in the true sense. Anyway we'll just note
that and pass on.

Text “We shall not, therefore, begin by regarding the Buddha as one who was consciously a
religious reformer or innovator. It is possible that his role is better understood as that of the
opponent or critic of religion, who had no intention of founding yet another example of what
he criticized.”

S: There's no example or no instance of the Buddha criticizing any such thing as religion,
even in inverted commas. He criticized certain practices, he criticized certain observances,
certain beliefs, but one cannot really regard him as criticizing religion as such. In any case
religion in that sense wasn't known at all in his day. So I don't think Trevor Ling can get
around that by just putting religion in inverted commas. Anyway let's go on.

Text“This is, of course, to assume that 'religions' may be seen as surviving elements of
civilizations which tend to seek re-embodiment in some new, integrated system. This is,
broadly, how the situation in the Buddha's day may be interpreted. The old Vedic society of
the Aryans was in a state of dissolution as a consequence of the movement of Aryan peoples
into a new geographical environment (that of the middle Gangetic plain), and as a result of
their having settled into a new kind of economy, one which was predominantly agricultural
rather than pastoral and nomadic. The brahman priests had merged as a distinct social class
and were, consciously or unconsciously, engaged in redefining their own position in society,
and the position of other classes in relation to their own. The reconstituted civilization which
was centred on kingship. brahmanically consecrated and legitimized, was only just beginning
to emerge. Religion, as a phenomenon of the transitional period of flux between one
civilization and another, a vestigial remnant of the old which had not yet been re-integrated
in a new, emerging culture, seems to have existed in the Buddha's day in a number of
characteristic forms.”

S: So he seems to regard religion "as a phenomenon of the transitional period of flux
between one civilization and another". What do you think of that? You see what he means,
don't you? Where does he go wrong do you think, as regards Buddhism?

__________: Well Buddhism hasn't got anything to do with group values.

S: He misses out the spiritual community, he misses out the individual completely. It's a
rather odd way of regarding religion. Is this a common sociological view these days?

__________: It sounds a bit like Toynbee's idea. Religions starting out as new sets of ideas
which establish new civilizations.

S: But perhaps they do, but is that really their aim and object? That is the real point isn't it?

Siddhiratna: Is he actually saying that religion is as a phenomena of a transitional period.
Does he mean that there wasn't any religion before and there probably won't be any religion
after, once it becomes established?

S: Ah, yes. Religion as something sort of split off from the civilization. He began the book

by identifying religion really as civilization, and when the civilization sort of breaks down,
then religion is just left occupying a few nooks and corners. So then a new sort of
civilization arises which seems to be connected with the previous civilization and to be
reconstituted on a higher level, and simply connected by the vestiges of religion which were
left in between. This seems to be his view. But it isn't really very clear, but you get the
general picture as he sees it. The Aryan society, the Aryan civilization has broken down.
There are some vestiges of it surviving in the Buddha's day. The new civilization presumably
inaugurated by the Buddha, hasn't yet emerged, but those vestiges of the old civilization
exiting now as religion, are sort of taken up by the Buddha and sort of reshaped into a new

Siddhiratna: Can you infer from that then that his view is that civilizations cause religions,
as it were. That without civilization there would be no religion.

S: Without a civilization there would be no religion. As the sort of underlying principles of
the civilization sort of cease to control the civilization, the civilization becomes controlled by
other principles and other factors, then the principles are just sort of relegated to private life.
So you get a sort of intermediate period where vestiges of civilization exist in a non public
form, in a private form predominantly, which is ...

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