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Transcribing the oral tradition...

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Buddha-s Law Among the Birds - The - Part 6

by Sangharakshita

The Buddha's Law Among the Birds Seminar
tape 16S: (unclear) Well, what does this suggest? Why should such a state of affairs come about? Why
should some people be so concerned to keep up a respectable appearance that they lead, in the
end sometimes, virtually a double life; a life which other people are allowed to see or that people
of their own social circle are allowed to see, and another life which they are not allowed to see?
Aryamitra: They're sort of caught up in a restricted group, aren't they?
S: Yes.
Aryamitra: With particular group values.
Ratnaketu: They don't have, sort of individual confidence in themselves - it's got to be related to
other people.
S: But it must also be recognised that in some societies it's very difficult not to live up to
appearances because, sometimes, the penalties for doing a comparatively innocent thing are so
terrible. I remember last year I read a novel by Anthony Trollope. It was quite a well written
novel, nothing special about it, but, from a social point of view, it was quite interesting. Much
of the story - the greater part of the story - revolved upon the fact that a young woman, a perfectly
respectable young woman, had been seen talking to a perfectly respectable young man in a field
somewhere, just for a few minutes, and that endangered her reputation in this small town where
she lived. In other words, if you live in a small town like that, and if you were a young woman
well, in a sense you had to keep up appearances. You couldn't afford to be actually seen talking
to a young man even for a few minutes. It might spoil your chances of marriage and so on. Do
you see what I mean? So it's quite easy for us to talk in terms of well defying society and not
bothering about appearances. It's not as easy as that sometimes. The pressure of society is very
great, very terrible and, if you clash with society, if you challenge society's values, society many
destroy you. It's not a small thing that you're up against. So I shouldn't take it lightly and maybe
shouldn't ridicule too easily people who are concerned with keeping up at least a certain kind of
appearance. Do you see what I mean? (pause) Because most human beings desperately want or
desperately need to belong to a group. It's almost a psychological necessity; they're not
individuals so they dare not challenge the values of the group. Do you see what I mean? They
dare not - whatever they may privately feel or think about them, however much they may conflict
with their own needs, their own emotions, their own desires, their own instincts, they don't dare
to challenge the patterns of the group. Because, where else have they to go?
Aryamitra: Maybe that's why, say, minority groups - for want of another word - they do form a
group of their own. Think of, say, Gay Liberation who are sometimes a bit fanatical or so forth,
it's because they have to belong, you know, to another group.
S: If you're own group, so to speak, won't accept you, well, you either have to remain on your
own - which hardly anybody can do - or you have to find some other group, or some other people
who are similar to yourself and form a sort of group within the group with them. Crete a
sub-culture with them as, for instance, black people sometimes do. (pause)
Prasannasiddhi: Or even the FWBO...
S: But that is rather different because that's a case of, you know, one creates a spiritual
community within the group. But one can even understand people creating a group within a
group because the larger group does not satisfy their genuine needs.
What is unfortunate though, something in a rather different category, is people keep up
appearances in a silly, trivial sort of way. (pause) When you read, for instance, that people
303 The Buddha's Law Among the Birds Seminar
pretend to go away on holiday so that the neighbours won't think that they haven't got enough
money to go abroad, or something like that, they just go around the corner, not very far away, and
stay with some relations and pretend that they've been away on holiday - one reads of things like
that happening - because they'll be looked down upon if people think they haven't been away on
holiday like everyone else.
Aryamitra: it is odd, isn't it. It would be so simple to say, you know, I couldn't afford a holiday.
S: But anyway, 'The eight worldly dharmas and a respectable appearance'. Do they put the heart
at ease, even if you've got it? Does it really put one's heart at ease to keep up with the Jones'?
And, 'the jealousies of bad neighbours, - do they put the heart at ease?' They very clearly don't.
It's as though the text suggests that if you live in the world having bad neighbours who are
jealous of you is almost inevitable. 'The jealousies of bad neighbours, - do they put the heart at
ease?', as if you're bound to have them, you can't get away from them (unclear) Maybe this is not
strictly true, but if one does have bad neighbours, if they are jealous, well certainly then they
don't put one's heart at ease. (long pause)
And then, 'The evil thoughts of unharmonious companions, - do they put the heart at ease?' It's
as though he's saying, well, if your companions are not harmonious, if they have evil thoughts
and if they don't put the heart at ease, what's the use of having such companions. (pause)
Aryamitra: I didn't always realise what it's like in the world, so to speak, when you talk about
neighbours. I do know a lot of friends who've had really terrible lives because of their
neighbours. Yet we don't really experience that at all if we live in the communities.
S: Yes, a bad neighbour can really make your life a misery. Someone who's very noisy, or always
fighting and quarrelling, gives you sour looks every time he sees you, bangs on the wall
unnecessarily, or plays a musical instrument loudly, or turns up his radio or record player, parks
his car outside your gate. Bad neighbours can do all sorts of things; lets his dog scratch up your
plants. (pause) It must be very difficult to live in the world. (long pause)
The, 'Mistaken views of bad pupils, - do they put the heart at ease?' I suppose one could look at
this from the point of view both of the teacher and the bad pupils themselves. Mistaken views
certainly don't put the heart at ease. (long pause)
The owlet concludes by saying 'Each one seeks his own peace, - but rarely does he find it.' It may
be on account of all these unpleasant experiences that come, or one is even bound to encounter
in this world. (pause)
Well, let's go onto what the partridge says.
"Thereupon the partridge rose, made his salutations and said: spros bral
yin, spros bral yin, which means, it must fail you, it must fail you.
"When you dwell in this samsaric world, happiness must fail you.
When no longer you are active, wealth must fail you.
In bad company your yearning for friendship must fail you.
When you have evil thoughts, your salvation must fail you.
With those possessed by hate, your compassion must fail you.
Caught in the rush of life, your ability to meditate must fail you.
With the impious your faith must fail you.
304 The Buddha's Law Among the Birds Seminar
If the supreme Dharma does not guide you, everything you do must fail
S: So, 'When you dwell in this samsaric world, happiness must fail you'. Presumably, this means
that if you seek for it in worldly things. It is possible to live happily in the samsaric world, but
only if one is not dependent for ones happiness on worldly things. The Buddha lived happily and
his disciples lived happily - as the Dhammapada says. (pause)
'When no longer you are active, wealth must fail you.' What does this imply? If one says that one
is no longer active, then this suggests that you have been active. So why should you cease to be
Buddhapalita: Old age.
S: Old age probably, yes. Perhaps (unclear) businesses are so short (unclear) they can no longer
support you in your old age, maybe your children even won't - if you have any - no social
security, no pension, nothing of that sort. So, 'when no longer you are active, wealth must fail
you'; you may end up a beggar.
And then, 'In bad company, your yearning for friendship must fail you'. What does this mean?
(pause) Bad company presumably means bad friends. So if you are associating constantly with
bad company, with people who are not good friends, with people who are bad friends, you
eventually give up the idea of being able to find any friends altogether. You may despair of
friendship, your yearning for friendship must fail you - you'll think that it just is impossible, one
can't find real friends in this world. You can't find anybody, can't believe anybody, can't get close
to anybody, can't communicate with anybody. This is one of the reasons that, perhaps, one should
avoid bad company. If one has too much of it one loses one's faith in the possibility of friendship.
You may become cynical, or hardened, or bitter.
Prasannasiddhi: It's as if the ideas of friendship just sort of leave your mind and you're not even
aware that such a thing can exist.
S: Because you have never encountered it, you never experience it - ...

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