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Diamond Sutra - Part 9 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

... it could occur to
me
that I have attained Arhatship, then the Tathagata would
not have declared of me
that 'Subhuti, this son of good
family, who is the foremost of those who dwell in
Peace,
does not dwell anywhere; that is why he is called "a
dweller in Peace, a
dweller in Peace
The division of the supramundane path into four stages, each marked by a distinctive
type of Saint, is a venerable ingredient of the whole Buddhist tradition. At present we look at
these dwellers in the transcendental realms from such a distance, that they all may seem pretty
much the same to us. It will nevertheless help us to understand the meaning of the text if we
attend to the standard definitions of the four types of Saints: A 'Streamwinner'is one who
forsakes three fetters, i.e. the view of individuality, the contagion by mere rule and ritual, and
doubt, or perplexity. A 'Once-Returner' is one who 'attenuates' sensuous greed and ill-will,
while a 'Never-Returner' manages to get quite rid of them. An 'Arhat' finally forsakes the five
'higher' fetters, i.e. greed for the world of form, greed for the formless world, excitedness,
conceit and ignorance.
In 9i~ this lore is confronted with the dharmic facts, and found wanting. The word
dharma here means 'a really existing thing'. ~ then refers to a famous passage in the Scriptures
of all Hinayana schools, where the Buddha enumerates his eighty chief disciples as being, -
each 9ne, the foremost in some distinctive spiritual achievement. Sariputra there is the one
foremost in 'wisdom', meaning Abhidharrna analysis (see p. 8i). In the Sutras on the
'Perfection of Wisdom', it is, however, Subhuti, a secondary figure in Theravadin and
Sarvastivadin writings, who is held to be most qualified to expound 'perfect wisdom' and
'emptiness' (A xvi 306, xxvii ~54). AngutLara Nikaya (1 24) names him as the disciple who
won Arhatship on the basis of meditation on friendliness and who, teaching the dharma
without distinction and limitations, is the 'chief of those who live remote and in peace'.
What then is this dwelling in Peace in which Subhuti is said to excel? The Sanskrit
a-ran a, is one of those words with mani- fold meanings in which these Sutras abound. The
word may denote freedom from strife, battle, or fighting, i.e. harmlessness; or freedom from
passion and any kind of defflement, i.e. purity; or it may also mean that Subhuti lived in
solitude, retired from the world, in a remote forest, in quietude and peace. A man is 'peaceful'
if he has inward peace of mind and if he behaves peacefully towards others. Subhuti's deep
insight is the fine flower of his friendly behaviour.
'I am an Arhat free from greed.' It was customary for Arhats to testify to the fact that
they had achieved Arhatship. so we read in Th';yavadana (p. 424) that, 'when the Ven.
Vitasoka had attained Arhatship, he experienced the happiness and joy of emancipation, and
he thought to hsmself, "I am indeed an Arhat"'. Likewise, Ashvaghosha in his beautiful poem
on Saundarananda describes how Nanda the Fair 'related to the Buddha his success in
attaining his object', and said (xviii 10): 'My births are now extinct. I live, as one should do,
from practice of true Dharma. My tasks are all accomplished. What had to be done I have
done. Still in the world I am, no longer can the world affect me!'
~S9I ~~
S:
This chapter seems very concerned with self-consciousness or over
self-consciousness, with regard to one's spiritual attainments - putting it simply. I'm
reminded that there is a passage which reflects this sort of atitude in the Pali canon itself. I
think I've quoted it somewhere - it might even have been in the 'Survey' - but there's a little
incident, a little episode where Moggallana meets Sariputra. Sariputra has been spending the
whole day in the forest meditating, and Moggallana remarks that Sariputra's face is bright and
shining, and Sariputra says in explanation that he had spent the whole day meditating and
abiding in, I think it was second dhyana. And he says that, 'though I spent the day abiding in
second dhyanathere never came to me the thought that I am abiding in second dhyana'. Do
you see what I mean ? There's a sort of parallel. It's as though one must not be
self-conscious or over self-conscious with regard to the spiritual states that one has attained.
If you grasp too strongly at a spiri ual state, what you're grasping at is not a spiritual state at
all. And by grasping at it you show that you haven't attained it. Or by insisting on your
attainment too strongly you make it clear that in fact you haven't attained it. It's not that in a
way the Arahant d?esn't know that he's an Arahant because Subhuti says:" 'An Ar hant am
I~~free from greed'. ... If, 0 Lord, it could occur to me that I have attained Arha£ship, then the
Tathagata would not have detlared of me ... ~' etc etc. On the one hand he is aware that he is
an Arahant, but we could introduce a distinction an4say that though he is aware of it, he isn't
conscious of it. Do you see what I mean ? It's not that he's ignorant of what he's attained,
but he doesn't insist upon it, he doesn't make it an object of grasping, for it isn't an object, he
doesn't see it as an object. If he has to express it, if he has to talk about it, he has to present it
to other people as though it was an object which he has attained, but he's only onforming to
linguistic usage, he doesn't really think or feel, himself, that he has attained to anything in that
way - that's why he's attained it. (pause) So, bringing the whole thing down to a much more
ordinary everyday level, how would one look at this ?
: Could you ...
S:
There is a principle here which is valid, I think, at every level of spiritual life, so what
would that be ?
-( ~,--,, I was going to say, could you use the sort of analogy
of physical fitness again ? you know, like if you do exercise you can't really think in terms of
possessing fitness, but you know that you are fit.
S:
Well, perhaps you could say you devote yourself to developing your health and
strength (I mean) you don't actually become a (?phallic) narcissist. You'll know what I mean
if you've read your (?Reich).
:
You're not doing it for t~self. You're not result-orientated really.
S:
It's even more than that because you should be result-orientated. If you're doing
physical exercises you're out to produce a certain result in the form of increased fitness. But
what should, what
should your
not be nonetheless ?
: You shouldn't settle down.
S:
But does that mean you should carry on your physical training indefinitely ? Try to
become fitter and fitter, and get bigger and bigger muscles ?
You don't see it as an end in itself. ~S:~S~you don't see it as an end in itself
Subhuti: You're not sort of appropriating it
S:
You don't pride yourself in it. You don't sort of stalk around sticking out your chest
and anything of that. You're not over-conscious of yourself having a better physical
development than-~ certain other people. You're not full of yourself, in that sort
of way.
(long pause) There is
Dharma pride.
S: U~vA .
Not exactly Dharma-pride, there is a Vajrayanic term Budd
>How would this differ ? (pause) Is it pride in the literal sense ? If not, well, what is
it ?
Could be the natural expression of er, (what's achieved)
S:
In a way, but not quite.
Subhuti: Buddha-pride doesn't involve egotism at all does it ? It's a bit like being an Order
member and thinking that because you're
~s9~ '~.
Subhuti:
(cont.) an Order Member a certain standard of behaviour is, sort of
expected, well is expected
S:
Except at that level there's no sort of conflict at all. You cannot but think that you
belong to the Buddha family and therefore you should, well not that you should, because
there's no conflict of what you would rather do/what you should do - that is how you are just
going to behave. That is the natural and appropriate behaviour. Your Buddha-pride is not
pride in yourself, it's pride in the family to which you belong, so to speak. And since you are
a member of that family you cannot let that family down. you can only behave in a way that is
appropriate to a member of that family. But again, as I've said, at that level there's no
conflict between what you'd like to let the family do~wn occa sionally, and you know~
what you~should do ,i.t. not let the family down, no, there's no conflict.
Subhuti: You say, 'at that level', but er, Buddha-pride, sort of as~it were, technically pertains
to what level ?
S:
Well, quite an advanced level inasmuch as it is a Vajrayanic concept, and inasmuch as
the Vajrayana presupposes the Mahayana, so you should be a fully-fledged Bodhisattva. In
fact, I mean technically, according to tradition the whole of the Va~rayana takes place
within the tenth of the bhumis of the Bodhisattva. This is tradition. So that is quite an
exalted ½ - level. Therefore I think I'm justified in speaking of'that level'; in saying it's on
that level.
Subhuti: Yes.
S:
I don't know if anybody has ever heard of 'Holy Willie's prayer' ?
No ?T~(laughter) Scot's have. Well, 'Holy ...

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