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Buddha-s Law Among the Birds - The - Part 3

by Sangharakshita

The Buddha's Law Among the Birds Seminar
Tape 7Prasannasiddhi: It can sound a bit colder. With pema you've got the kind of attachments within
families but at least there are strong emotions involved, but with metta perhaps...
S: Well it is simply that when people, even if they have sort of given up affection or given up
pema to some extent they find it difficult to develop metta to any degree of intensity. In the
Ittivutaka in that passage which was read out a few weeks ago in one of the pujas, the Buddha
says of metta, 'It burns and shines and blazes forth.' That isn't actually the way one usually thinks
of metta, you think of affection or passion as having a sort of bright red glow; but metta is a bit
sort of, a bit like moonlight - yes, it's very pure, it's quite bright but there's not much warmth in
it. But really one shouldn't think of it like that.
Prasannasiddhi: So it's as if there can be a field of metta, quite a different... well people think that
with metta you shouldn't get close to other people.
S: Yes it seems to be a bit cold, a bit detached.
Prasannasiddhi: Yes.
S: A bit weak.
Prasannasiddhi: Metta (unclear)
S: Well I suppose it isn't easy to transform one's emotions. It isn't easy to get rid of the negativity
in all the emotions, develop more positive spiritual emotions and also to develop them to a
sufficient degree of strength. And just as, to go back to what we were talking about a little while
ago angels often appear weak and lacking in energy whereas devils are always strong and
vigorous and full of life. (pause)
But again as I said one must be careful not to fall between two stools, one must make a definite
effort to achieve metta and actually achieve it. If one doesn't, well, one will be much more likely
to try to fall back into affection and to the comfortable, 'homely' sort of situation and to bring
one's spiritual community even into line with that. (pause)
It's quite interesting visiting sometimes women's spiritual communities and comparing them with
those of men. In the case of the women they definitely made an attempt to, well to make their
communities homely. I know there are... however sort of short-lived the community, however
short-lived the property, up would go the curtains and out would come the little mats and pictures
of friends and relations in the little frames by the bedside and all that sort of thing. Potted plants,
drapes over... always carefully hiding damp stains and holes and things like that. (laughter)
Everything would look very homely, very, in a way, inviting, always. Very few women didn't
arrange things in this way I found. I think also... there is this current tendency - to dwell on this
question of homeliness - of smaller communities. I'm not satisfied that this is purely spiritual;
people do say that they... that they're interested in a smaller community in the interests of closer
spiritual communication, but it does seem to one that in some case at least there's a move in the
direction of a sort of family almost. It's the small, homely, cosy situation that some people at least
- more so among the women but even among the men to some extent - seem to want. So I think
one has to watch this.(long pause)
Prasannasiddhi: Maybe, I don't know, but maybe it's almost, it's quite a jump for some people to
go from the normal worldly relationships that you're being conditioned to adopt. All your
mannerisms have been conditioned into adopting in certain relationships.
121 The Buddha's Law Among the Birds Seminar
S: Yes.
Prasannasiddhi: And we're trying to stick with something that's quite different. The relationships
are quite different. Well in a way it might be a bit too much to expect people to jump all the way
in to large communities, and people and everything working really well. Perhaps in a way then
the smaller community is kind of a recognition that...
S: Well that might be alright if you've got in the small communities people who know what they
are doing and who are leading people forward and upward, but not encouraging a sort of settling
down on a lower level. Do you see what I mean? One does become a bit concerned, not to say
alarmed, when one sees so many people leaving the bigger communities and settling down in
very small communities. That seems to be the current tendency. Almost a retrogressive
movement, hmm? Where in the case of new people, new Friends and new mitras, well clearly
you have to go step by step, but on the other hand as I said there needs to be people in those small
situations, more home-like situations who do understand something about the spiritual
community and who are trying to lead that small community in the direction of becoming a real
spiritual community; whether small or big. It's the sort of settling down that I'm not too happy
Prasannasiddhi: I suppose it could be a tendency with smaller communities among men, they
could just sort of turn into the situation you get in the world with just a few blokes flatting
S: Yes.
Prasannasiddhi: And going out into town Fridays and Saturdays and earning money during the
week and spending it...
S: Anyway, we've spent quite a bit of time over that line. No doubt it was useful. Let's have our
tea and then do the remaining two lines.
"Without a good character one would do without companions." What is this? Why is this? What
is a good character anyway? What is meant by companions?
Aryamitra: It couldn't mean 'companion' in the ordinary sense..
S: No.
Aryamitra: Because...
S: A good character means, presumably, an ethical character. Why can one not have companions
unless one has an ethical character?
Ratnaketu: Because they won't want to associate with them if they're... if they're spiritual
S: Well one element of the ethical character is trustworthiness. You must be able to rely upon
someone in order to be a companion to him... or him to be a companion to you. Aristotle in his
'Ethics' discusses the question of whether it's possible to have friendship between people who are
not virtuous, and you come to the conclusion that friendship is possible only between the
virtuous. In other words friendship itself represents an ethical relationship. So you can have an
ethical relationship only between ethical persons. What do you have to say about the well known
saying 'fellowship between thieves', say? What about, 'partners in crime'? Can you not be friends
122 The Buddha's Law Among the Birds Seminar
with them?
Aryamitra: You've got a common interest. (laughter)
S: Hmm. A common interest, yes, but Aristotle makes the point that common interest in the
worldly sense is not sufficient as a basis for friendship. In the case of say thieves, well thieves
do fall out, their interests may coincide for the time being about one particular job, but then their
interests may diverge and even come into conflict.
Ratnaketu: Maybe they sort of respect each other in the sense that they're not going to tread on
each others toes.
S: Are they maybe afraid of one another? So can there be real friendship?
Silabhadra: It's more sort of a functional approach.
S: Yes.
Aryamitra:Also if friendship needs metta, how can you have metta and be (unclear)
S: So without a good character one must do without companions. So if you want companions you
must make yourself the sort of person that people would like to associate with. What do you
think are the qualities that most attract people? In a positive sense, qualities in a companion.
(two voices speak simultaneously)
S: I mean what qualities... supposing you were looking for a companion. Well what sort of
qualities would you like to find ideally?
Ratnaketu: I would like a companion who wasn't idiosyncratic.
S: Mmm. What do you mean by that?
Ratnaketu: Well they didn't have a very sort of definite way of what they were going to, you
know, definite opinions about... always sort of awkward - some people are always awkward, they
always find something wrong with (unclear) and they're never satisfied.(pause)
S: Well that's not exactly 'idiosyncratic', it's more like 'difficult to please'.
Khemananda: I think what I find attractive is someone who is happy with themselves, basically
happy with themselves, who is quite light.
S: Without being silly, presumably?
Khemananda: Without being silly, yes.
S: Has anybody else got any ideas?
Aryamitra: Strong, patient, good-looking. (laughter)
Ratnaketu: Affectionate.
Aryamitra: A strong patience.
123 The Buddha's Law Among the Birds Seminar
S: He would presumably have a lot to put up with.
Aryamitra: Yes. (laughter) Yes, happy with himself as well.(pause)
S: Presumably someone you don't have to keep 'boiling-up'?
(murmurs of agreement)
Khemananda: They could be quite exuberant, and light and open and expansive.
Silabhadra: Quite independent as well, not relying on you for getting them on a higher level
S: Well, without psychological problems. (pause) Well an ideal companion of that sort is really
difficult to find obviously, so you'll probably have to make do with whatever you can get!
(laughter) I think reliability is very important. Responsibility is very important. I think the
Buddha somewhere makes the point that one of the characteristics ...

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