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Diamond Sutra - Part 3 Unchecked

DISCLAIMER - This transcript has not been checked by Sangharakshita, and may contain mistakes and mishearings. Checked and reprinted copies of all seminars will be available as part of the Complete Works Project.

by Sangharakshita

... depths of his being, everything sort of comes,
comes from the vow.
S: Yes, yes, it's a spontaneous expression of it. He's just living his life. He's just doing
what is natural for him to do, doing what he likes to do, doing what he wants to do. From his
point of view there is nothing special about it.
Vessantra:
So in a way, when he's on that level there's no need of a vow.
S:
In a sense there's no need for a vow, not in the sense in which people who have not
taken the vow understand the vow.
V:
Could you see the vow as just being, as being a starting point?
S: Well it is certainly a starting point, though it is a starting point that continues throughout
the Bodhisattvas whole career, it's not something he leaves behind, in the way that a literal
starting point is left behind. It's a thread that runs through the whole of the career, through all
the different stages.
V:
But what I mean a starting point is that actually defines a Bodhisattva?
S: No, it's the arising of Bodhicitta which defines a Bodhisattva, and then the bodhicitta
finds expression in the taking of the vow and in the practice of the 6 paramitas. I've explained
all this in The Three Jewels. There's and there's (?v~~~~~c'~~. The being represented by the
vow and \~\~~~~~as~a~~~~~being represented by the practice of the 6 paramitas.
V:
Does that mean his vow is spontaneous? He doesn't decide to vow, he just...
S:
This brings up questions like those we encountered the other day, in connection with
insight, when does insight
514,
become insight. Although in as much as he starts off as a non- Bodhisattva presumab1y he
has to think quite consciously, quite deliberately about taking the vow. That's not to say that
the actual taking of it is deliberate in that sort of way. He s sort of thinking about taking it,
you might say, prepares the ground for its actual, its spontaneous arising.
V:
The vow would be the natural expression of the arising of the Bodhicitta?
S:
Yes, along with the determination to practise the 6 paramitas. But as I have said more
than once, it becomes increasingly difficult to think of the arising of the Bodhicitta and the
vow and so on as an individual act in the ordinary sense. I mean the Bodhisattva thinks in
terms of all these beings, and if you take the expression 'all beings' literally , it seems to be
taken literally, that's an awful lot of beings, beings of the past, the present and the future~
~eings of the whole universe, beings of all kinds on all levels of all degrees, that's -a n awful
lot of beings! So if you take a vow to lead all those beings to, to Nirvana, well you're taking
on a tremendous responsibility, so I wonder whether it can really be regarded as an individual
act or an individual responsibility. In any case you've got lots of Bodhisattvas, they're all
engaged in the same task, so in a sense can they be regarded as separate? Otherwise it's as
though one Bodhisattva gets in the way of another (chuckle), Stultifies the vow of another,
because if you, as a Bodhisattva~vow to lead all beings to Nirvana, well how can you
t{1~n~sa¾ll £~~e~ o&~~r;£3o0Q-hbso~tvas let you do i~~ unless they're - not
Bodhisattvas. So for it to be possible for any Bodhisattva to fulfil his vow, there cannot be
any other Bodhisattvas, do you see what I mean? Because he is vowing that he will do it, so
how can he do it if there are many others trying to do the same thing. So it does seem that the
notion of a single Bodhisattva, taking on this whole responsibility on his own shoulders, is
logically, at least, self contradictory. Do you see what I mean?
V:
Isn't it taking it a little bit literally there?
S:
Why shouldn't one not take it literally-4 it is expressed
755. in those terms. Doesn't ~~say that he vows to do this? It's a vow which
is1Lvery serious matter. There's no, sort of interpreting a vow sort of, metaphorically - that's
almost like explaining it away. If you take a solemn vow that you are going to lead all beings
to enlightenment, that you are going to do this, then surely that is to be taken literally. You
don't take the vow " I will collaborate with all Bodhisattvas, with other Bodhisattvas in
leading all beings to ~nlightenment" That is not what you vow.
Vessantra:
Well is i~ not like the private ordination when you're prepared if need be to go
it alone, then you discover that there are other beings who'~e also commited them- selves and
therefore you work with them.
S:
But then this is ....
Vessantra:
You're prepared to go it alone.
S: No, a Bodhisattva is on a much higher level presumably than an ordinary
Upasaka(chuckle) so I think, one can't take the individual vow, therefore even the individual
-Bodhisattva too literally. It's as though the Bodhisattva sees, well he doesn't even see, he
tries to imagine, or the would.be Bodhisattva tries to see or to imagine, you know the totality
of beings, and he sees~is total ity of beings as all in need of enlightenment. He sees quite
clearly that, you know, this is the best thing for them, this is the best thing for everybody, that
they should all gain enlightenment. So it is as if he sees this, this need of theirs for
enlightenment, so clearly and feels it so strongly that he cannot but identify himself with it.
He cannot but identify hi~self with that need of theirs to such an extent that he devotes all his
energies to helping~ to helping to actualise it. It's not literally, I would say, that he himself as
an individual, as a person takes the responsibility for that. He identifies himself with the
fulfilment of that need, as do others.
(Pause)
Vessantra:
I'm not quite sure of the distinction between identifying with the need and
taking responsibility.
S: Well he doesn't take sort of personal responsibilty in the sense of thinking that he will do
it. But he, as it were, throws himself into that task, you know, wholeheartedly, completely,
for~etting himself, er, not thinking in terms of 'I will do this'. The task, as it were, the
magnitude of the task compels him to dedicate himself to it, but not that he is thinking that he
will do it. It is as though you are present at some terrible accident, you see that there are a lot
of people injured, a lot of eople needing help. You just throw yourself in, you don'tk ~I~ll
take the responsibility I'll help them', no you just throw yourself in to do whatever you can,
you identify yourself with their needs. (pause)
You see the need so clearly that you cannot but devote yourself to the satisfaction of that
need, but you know, you devote yourself to it so wholeheartedly that you are not really able to
think in terms of you being the one who is devoting himself, to satisfy that need. You've no
sort of energ~left over, so to speak, to think in those sort of terms, you just throw yourself in.
V:
Is it useful to see it. really see it as taking a vow, because that would imply, you know,
a kind of 'I will do it'.
S:
Well what does a vow mean? What does(prani~~ana)mean~ This raises quite a big
question, what is a vow?
Co~r It's setting yourself a particular course of action.
S:
But then, in what sense does a vow differ from a decision or a resolve?
_
Well, the vow is external as well, you can make a decision, but other people are not
really aware of it,
if you actually take a vow then it also involves people.
S:
Yes but you can make a solemn promise~~~'i&~~ other
7 people presumably, or does that
amount to a vow.
~~~.
V:
Sometimes it can be a natural expression of(e~~~desire to do something, so strong
and quite explicit, you know
S:
Yes, a vow does have the connotation of binding yourself, commiting yourself, in a
particularly strong and solemn kind of way. Sometimes the Bodhisattvas vow is represented
as a promise given to all beings, an undertaking given to all beings.
V
I c~~ 't honestly separate that from promise, in~~1 sensea~a\~j both can be broken,
but if you're saying that a vow is so solemn that it can't be broken, then there's no ne~for the
vow in the first place.
S:
Well not necessarily, because the fact that it cannot be broken could spring from the
fact that it has been made public. You can't break it because you've made it.
V:
Presumably with the Bodhisattvas it just can't be broken A because it comes from the
bodhicitta?
S:
Mmrnm
V:
So perhaps~it's not a vow, in that sense, that can be broken.
S:
Yes, it is represented as an expression of the Bodhicitta, quite clearly. But then, the
Bodhichitta itself is not, is not, what shall I say, is not indestructjble, because the Bodhisattva
becomes irrevers~ble only from the 8th Bhumi. So what does irreversjble mean? It means
that he can give up being a Bodhisattva; that means give up the Bodhicitta; presumably~
~hat means give up the Bodhisattva vow. So, the vow becomes unbreakable, according to
tradition, appar~ntly, only from the 8th Bhumi onwards1 When the Bodhicitta becomes
irrevers'ble~ oA the Bodhisattva himself becomes irreversible from full en lighten- ment for
the sake of all. So, the vow from the first Bhumi cannot be broken without giving up the
~o~\&icitta ...

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