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Diamond Sutra - Part 5 Unchecked

by Sangharakshita

DISCLAIMER - This transcript has not been checked, and may contain mistakes and mishearings.

81S(cont) : what is there, copies itjbUt a great artist might come and look at that same
landscape and treat it in a completely different way, he doesn't allow himself to be
determined, to~imited by it, when he paints a picture of it, in a way he sees something which
isn't given, he brings something of himself into the picture in a way that the photograph
cannot. In the same way the Bodhisattva is not limited by the data of experience.
the oppositeL'sign~which is also identified with thet~ign~e~~~~~~~~\~~~~the
Absolute, which is
indeed unrecognizable when met, how can you recognise it when there is no sign, there is
nothing by which to recognise it. So if you t~nk you recognise it, "Ah, this is nirvana", it
cannot be nirvana, because if it was you wouldn't be able to recognise it because it is hui as it
is said, it is unique, of its own kind, there is no sign which can give you any idea at all w~ it
is like. So you cannot recognise it when you meet it. If you do it isn't it, if you don't it
probably is. So of course it is indescribable. (pause)
What about this notion of merit. I have discussed this several times, several years ago;
at least three times quite fully but what about this notion of merit in this context ? Merit as
Dr. Conze says, is not to be despised. merit' is the indispensable condition for all further
spiritual progress". What is merit then ? In simple "
down to earth terms ? ~. Conze says it is attached to good deeds as
their fruit. Well one thinks within a traditional Buddhist context of good deeds performed in
former lives, but suppose you don't take that sort of context, suppose you t~'~nk in terms of
good deeds performed in this life, well then what would merit be, what Would merit represent
: The appreciation of oneself.
S : No, I wouldn't say that, it represents more the positive emotional experience that comes to
you as a result of living a thoroughly skil- ful life, and clearly this is an indispensable
condition for all further
spiritual progress. One might say~the Mahayana or Buddhism generally C
attachs great importance toerit and great importance therefore&this
positive emotional state that one finds onest\~ in as a resu~~ of liv- ing skilfully~ living in
accordance with the precepts. An~ this is the basis on which one builds, so to speak ~ell
people find it within them- selves; ~ollow a certain way of life, observe precetts, practiSe
medit ation, put yourself in a more skilful mental state, well you feel quite different.
_______________ : Is merit not usually interpreted also as providing objective consequences
S Oh yes in ones physical body even in terms of merit arising as a result of skilful actions
performed in previous lives yes, in terms of even the type of body you have~the type of
appearance, the effect you have on other people, your complexion, your beauty, all this is the
result of or expression of merit according to traditional t~~~~ing~ or the fact that
things~~come to you easily, people are kind to you, generous to you~this is all the result of
your merits. Some people whenever they set foot outside the dooor they get knocked down by
something, by a bus, or by a car or bicycle (laughter) other people it just never happens. This
is explained tr ditionally to be due to merit or demerit as the case may be, but doesn't one find
This is why it is a traditional Buddhist belief that if things seem to be going
wrong,well clearly its a sig~ of a deficiency in merit somewhere, Os one should build up a
store of merit, usually by making offerings to the monks, feeding them, perhaps overfeeding
them, offfering them robes, performing pu3as. Maybe if you feel your are very deficient in
merit, constructiong monastries, and things like that, building stupas. I suppose it could even
subjectively, even psyc~logically,make a big difference to your attitude if after doing all these
things you actually felt now you had a pretty good stock of merit in you account and it
perhaps could give you increased self- confidence and ~~able you to surmount whatever
obstacles and diffic- ulties you were having to face. ...
End of side one
S : Again, bringing things down to a very practical almost commonsense level, if one was
trying to be a bodhisattva,trying to practiSe the
dana paramita,as distinct from just giving danat~ how should one do that, how should
one give a gift in such a way that one is not supported by a thing Is it enough to speak as
Conze does in terms of disinter- ested ness, unselfishness, or is something more required than
that ? It is almost as though the dana to dana paramita, this is putting it in very sort of basic
terms, has to be an expression of your inner- most nature not something that ~0~~a5 it
wert~5elf~c0n5ci0~5l~ do. (Pause)
So you would almost be suprised if you performed some action and somebody came
back and said "that1s something really that you did" ?
S : Yes in a sense almost suprise to you because you weren~ L thinking
S3. S(cont) : in those terms, you were just (so to speak) being yourself. It is as though
someone was to come up to you after lunch and say, "thank you for passing the salt", what is
remarkable about that ?, you just passed the salt, isn't that the thing to do ?, you don't think in
terms of practi~ing the paramita dana. to you see ? Becasue in the case of a real Bodhisattva
if someone might ocme up to him, "thank you for sacrificing yourlife and limbs", you know
when you have been brought back to life and you would be just really suprised that h
,e~~the~ed to mention it. You would say," didn't really sort of feel iv, just did what was
needed, didn't really do anything in particular". It does point to the fact, this whole teaching,
bringing it down f~om this very lofty Indian altitude, that virtue mustn't be too self-conscious
mustn't be too deliberate. Neitzche has someting to say to this effect doesn't he, talking about
chastity in Zarathustra, does anyone remember? I think there is a passage where he says, "Be
chaste if you want to practice chastity , if you want to, but don't make too much of it". "Well
this is just a fancy I have at the moment to practice chastity" But don't emphasise it too
much. You don't have to call the whole world to witness when you give a halfpenny, some
people almost do this you find this among Hindus quite a lot, I am afraid you find this
amongst Buddhist ~it, you find it among Christians1philanthropy and Charity, I remember
Christian missi6naries in India doing this among the Tibetans, they'd stand there with Tibetan
refugees waiting in front of them and the'd be doling out flour or rice from a sack by
the spoonful and the Tibetans would be standing there with their bags r
and blankets and things-,' just waiting for this spoonful to be dro~d
in~ and the missionary would be there with his spoon stretched out saying : "recieve this rice
or flour, do you know who sent you this, do you know who had given this you ,~Jesus. Jesus
is sending you this, so you have got to be grateful to Jesus and Jesus is sending it to you
through us, so don't forget it is all coming from Jesus, and we are giving it to you, you have
got to be grateful to Jesus, you have got to be a Christian, do you realise that, Jesus is giving
you this"
Well only then do they give the poor refugee the spoonful of flour - or rice or
whatever it is, . I saw them doing this, making too much
of a song and dance about it, as we say. I mean the gospel itself, in
one of the gospels, Jesus himself says, "when you give alms give it I'
privately, let not your left hand jknow what your right hand is doing
They certainly weren't practicing that.
CO~~ : There is the parable of the rich man and the poor man. The rich man was
right up to the front saying all the gifts he give
DS4 ~4.
and the poor man just at the back.
S:there mustn't be too much, any ideally, self-consciousness in the spiritual life &in the moral
life. its more basic terms this is what it is getting at: you should be moral, you~should be
spiritual much as a flower blooms, not that you're unconscious, not that you are unaware, but
you aren't too self-conscious about it, you are just being yourself, no being especially
virtuous, as though virtue was something str~e out of
the way of of our usual - -
. So perhaps at the end of this
chapter the Buddha does answer Subhuti's question - I' t~~~swh,Subhut:, those who have set
out in the Bodhisattva-vehicle" Subhuti has asked about th , "should give gifts, without
being supported by the notion of a sign". It is as though if you want to start being a
Bodhisattva, if you want to embark on this Bodhisattva path, this is what you've got to do
practi~e dana, but practi~e dana-paramita, give without being supported by the notion of a
sign, give disinterestedly, give naturally, give spont- aneously, give freely. Only a sort of
naturally generous~hearted sort of person can even think in terms of being a Bodhisattva. If
you are mean, grasping, selfish and so on you cannot think in terms of being a Bodhisattva.
_________________ Can you make clearer the connection between "being supported by the
notion of a sign" and this giving ...

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