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Buddha-s Law Among the Birds - The - Part 4

by Sangharakshita

The Buddha's Law Among the Birds Seminar
tape ten
tape starts in mid-sentence
S: And as to die I leave my love alone. (laughter) Or you could say that they wanted to try and
have greater kalyana mitrata. (laughter)
Ratnaketu: What was that after 'art make tongue-tied by authority'?
S: 'Folly, doctor-like, controlling skill', doctor as I said, is a learned man. Not in the sense of a
physician - as when we speak of the doctor of philosophy. Anyway read the whole sonnet. It's
a quite instructive and quite inspiring subject. You might even appreciate the last line.
'So leave behind the admonitions when you have not learned to listen! Leave behind these angry
brawls unworthy of even wild bears!' Well, that's in a way pretty obvious isn't it.
One certainly you shouldn't have any such thing within the spiritual community. Unfortunately
one occasionally has had, but this is quite incompatible with life in the spiritual community.
Aryamitra: I just kept getting these pictures of angry wolves , you know (unclear)
Amoghacitta: The suggestion is that not only is there no matter involved, but also that it's
mindless.
S: It's wild, undisciplined, ferocious, animal, bestial. Perhaps wild bears are especially ferocious
in Tibet. (pause)
Anyway, that's pretty obvious (unclear) 'Leave behind those religious acts which are mere
hypocrisy!' If you don't really believe in what you're doing you might just as well not do it.
I was reading a little incident in a story not so very long ago, I forget when the scene was... it
must have been some time during the Victorian period. Anyway, there were some characters in
the story who regularly used to go to church, but they went to church just for the sake of setting
a good example for other people, they didn't really have any interest in going, they didn't really
believe in it, they though church was a good social institution. They just went to church to set a
good example. But in the course of the story, it gradually transpires that everybody going to
church, was going to church for the sake of setting a good example to other people. But this
reminds me of something that did occur to me a little while ago in connection with another
saying, but it's a bit appropriate here too. That is to say, I think I mentioned it before, this saying
of Kierkegaard, the famous Danish existentialist philosopher, supposedly the first of the
existentialists. He says that people think that god is a fool - he spoke within a theistic Christian
context. He said people think that god is a fool, they really do think that, because here they are,
they go along to church, they listen to the preacher, the preacher is exhorting them to do things
that he knows perfectly well they have no intention of doing, turn the other cheek, love your
neighbour as yourself, forgive your enemies. He is trotting out all these fine sayings, and he
knows to a degree, that the people to whom he is preaching have no intention of even trying to
live up to these exhortations and they all know that he knows that. Now why does he continue
to preach and they continue to listen? He continues to preach as though they were taking him
seriously, and they continue to listen as though they didn't know that he didn't expect them to
listen at all seriously. So in this way they really think God is a fool. (pause)
So what is the point of it? If you don't really want to do it, Don't do it - you're just wasting your
time. That is distinct of course from a sort of initial reluctance that you feel or a bit of laziness
that you recognise as laziness and generally want to overcome, that is another matter. But if you
really don't want to do something, you really don't believe in it, well why on earth should you?
183 The Buddha's Law Among the Birds Seminar
Why act hypocritically? To leave behind those religious acts which are mere hypocrisy! They're
just a waste of time. From a religious point of view anyway.
Silaratna: It seems to point very much to those first three fetters about the rites and rituals.
S: It's a matter of being honest with yourself, what you really want to do. Maybe you find the puja
dull and boring. Well, if you genuinely are convinced intellectually that you ought not to find it
dull and boring and you're willing to make an effort so that you do enjoy the puja more, well, fair
enough, continue, as it were, to go through the motions for the time being. But if you not only
find the puja dull and boring but you can't even see intellectually what the point of the exercise
might be, then probably it is better that you drop it all together rather than just go through the
motions. If you are neither emotionally moved nor intellectual convinced, well you're probably
better off without it, or it's better off without you.
"In short how plentiful indeed this world's activities which one should leave behind." There are
plenty of things to leave behind, no shortage of things to leave behind, no shortage of things to
give up. But speaking about leaving behind in general it's not easy to leave behind. People find
it quite difficult to leave things behind, to leave the past, to leave the old self, very difficult to
make a fresh start. This is why it is quite useful sometimes just to go away, literally. I talked
about this last year, and I don't know whether I talked about it this year on any occasion, but
perhaps it is worth mentioning that having been here, say, at Il Convento for three months doing
things which we don't usually do, at least not so consistently or so regularly, whether you may
have noticed it or not you've changed quite a bit, you're probably to some extent different from
what you were a few weeks or a few months ago. Maybe you had started changing even before,
but people hadn't really recognised that or hadn't accepted that, especially, say, people that you
were in contact with before you came into contact with the FWBO, you know, people like your
relations and your ordinary friends. So once one has been away, once one has made this sort of
break, it's a good opportunity when one goes back to put things on a different footing and, as it
were, in a sense compel people to recognise that you are different, you are changing and that they
have got to adjust themselves to that. In a sense they've got to change to, they've got to treat you
differently, they've got to treat you as you are now, not as you were five or ten years ago. Do you
see what I mean? So the fact one has been away and now comes back gives one the opportunity
to put things on a different footing as regards those people who knew you before you started
changing. Do you see what I mean?
Amoghacitta: You've got an excellent opportunity for that within the communities, because we
are going back to people who even expect us to have changed to some degree.
S: Yes, well if you live in a community one shouldn't really have that sort of difficulty. You may
have changed even in so far as members of the community. They may not have expected you to
have changed in quite the way that you have. Maybe they are accustomed to think of you as a
meek little mitra, sort of creeping around. But you come back roaring like a lion, a newly
ordained Order member. So they have got to adjust to that - you don't creep around any longer,
you actually open your mouth and speak, you actually express your opinion in front of Order
Members! You actually dare to disagree with them sometimes. They've got to get used to that,
they've got to accept the new self, as it were.
So the fact that you've been away gives you an opportunity when you get back to put things on
a new footing. You could even insist on having a new room, or a room to yourself or, if you
haven't shared before, insist on sharing, if that's what you always wanted to do. Or even to change
your breakfast food if you want to. People really get into a sort of way of expecting you to behave
in a certain way. For instance, I remember there was a woman I used to go and visit and (unclear)
and years ago. I used to drink much more tea than I drink now, I'd often drink four cups at a
sitting. So anyway, at one point I decided to cut this down - I'd never drink more than two cups.
184 The Buddha's Law Among the Birds Seminar
So anyway, I went to see this woman and had tea with her. So I had my second cup of tea, then
she started pouring out my third. 'No thankyou, I don't want any more tea.' So she became quite
indignant and said, 'Oh, but you always have more tea, you always have more than two cups', as
though, you know, since I'd always had more than two cups I wasn't allowed to change, I had to
go on having more than two cups. She was quite, what shall I say, well, indignant almost, that
I'd ventured to change in that respect.
So if you've been away for a while it does give you the opportunity to introduce these little
changes, that we insist on them, and insist that people take notice of the fact that you have
changed, you're different from before, that they have therefore got to relate to you in a somewhat
different way.
Ratnaketu: It's good having a new name for them.
S: Yes indeed, yes. They are no longer Tom, Dick or Harry.
Ratnaketu: It's interesting, I notice that with some people when I got ordained they were quite
happy and they were quite quick to change from calling me by my old name to my new name,
yet other people, even years later, ...

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