Transcribing the oral tradition...

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Jewel Ornament of Liberation - Meeting Spiritual Friends - 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


TRANSCRIBED BY: Viramati & Anne Rowlands.Desmond FitzGerald
Sangharakshita: All right, then. We' 11 start off with 'Meeting Spiritual Friends'
which is, of course, a chapter from sGam.po.pa's 'The Jewel Ornament of Liberation' and you
can probably understand for yourselves without any explanation from me why we're starting
off with this particular chapter, this particular subject, in fact. It is obviously because on
retreat we are very much meeting with spiritual friends, the retreat is very much about that. I
thought it would be a good idea to start off very much striking this particular note, the
meeting with spiritual friends, which is exactly what we are doing in one way and another for
15 whole days.
You'll also notice as we go on through the study periods that we are covering quite a
bit of ground. 'Meeting Spiritual Friends' is, of course, from a Tibetan text, by one of the
great Kagyupa gurus, a disciple of Milarepa, which is therefore more Mahayana cum
Vajrayana, especially Vajrayanic. And we shall also be studying a couple of chapters from
the 'Perfection of Wisdom' which is, of course, from the Sanskrit Mahayana tradition. As
well as that we'll be studying something from the Pali, a Sutra from the Majjhima- Nikaya,
and some songs of Milarepa.
So we're covering material from Pali, from Sanskrit and material from Tibetan. You
will also notice as we go on that the material deals more or less with the Buddha, the Dharma
and the Sangha
2The (Aryapariesana?) Sutra, which is the Sutra we're taking from the
Majjhima-Nikaya, is a sort of autobiographical discourse by the Buddha himself, describing
his early struggles and eventual attainment of Enlightenment, and the 'Perfection of Wisdom'
is, of course, the Dharma proper, as it were. The Perfection of Wisdom is the sixth of the
Perfections: in a sense it is the only Perfection. So Wisdom is the Dharma, one can say.
Prajna is the Dharma, so if we learn about the Perfection of Wisdom we are very much
learning about the Dharma. We could hardly know more about the Dharma than if we were
to know about the Perfection of Wisdom.
Then, of course, Sangha. Well Sangha, we've got Spiritual Friends which we are
going to talk about today and also we're going to have some songs of Milarepa which
illustrate his relationship with one of his disciples, but that also sheds light on our subject or
our question of Sangha.
So this is how we will be proceeding, covering this material from Tibetan, Pali and
Sanskrit, traversing not only the three 'yanas' but also the Three Jewels, the Buddha, the
Dharma and the Sangha. So this study should give us a fairly comprehensive picture though
still highly selective of Buddhist spiritual literature and give us glimpses from different points
of view into all of the three Jewels, all of the three yanas.
So what we're going to do, what we usually do, we'll start reading the text, we'll go
round the circle, each person reading a paragraph at a time, and then we'll just stop and deal
with any points in that paragraph that needs some kind of explanation or comment or
discussion and if there is anything that isn't clear to anybody, please do ask. Also, I do
suggest that when you make your question or comment you speak up. There are two
microphones and if you whisper they won't pick your voice up even between them. When
people come
3to transcribe tapes it's rather tantalising to hear people's voices just fading away, murmering
something which you can't quite catch. So please do speak up when you do have something to
(Text, p.30) 'Meeting Spiritual Friends1 'The Contributar cause are s iritual friends'.
'This means that although you may possess the most perfect working basis but are not ur ed
on b s iritual friends as a contributar cause, it is difficult to set out on the path towards
enlightenment, because of the power of inveterate propensities due to evil deeds committed
repeatedly in former times. Therefore you have to meet spiritual friends. this necessity is
outlined in the following index:
Five headings refer to the meeting with spiritual friends:
Reason, classification,
Primary characteristics of each group,
The method of meeting them and the benefits.'
S: So, let's go into that. The heading, 'The contributary cause are spiritual friends'
refers us back, as the note says, to
Chapter One, page 2. So I have a copy of the whole text here. I'll
just look back and see
what that says.
It's the chapter, of course,
on the working basis: the working basis being the most precious human body. (Pause) If we
go right back to the first chapter we find sGam.po.pa saying: 'The motive is the
Tathagatagarbha; the working basis is the most precious human body; the contributary cause
are spiritual friends . . . (p.2)
'The motive is the Tathagatagarbha' means that one's motive for making an effort in
the direction of Enlightenment ultimately consists simply in the fact that you are capable of
attaining that Enlightenment. The seed of Enlightenment is already there within you. This
is what's meant by the Tathagatagarbha, the womb, or if
4you like, the matrix of the Buddha, i.e. of the Enlightenment experience. So that is the
motive. I;t is that which deeply motivates you: the fact that you are able to attain that, the
fact that, in a sense, on another level, in another dimension, as it were, you are that; in
eternity, as it were, you are that. Within time you are in process of becoming that. So the
motive is the
T athagatagarbha.
And the working basis is the most precious human body:
body is your instrument.
This is why the Tantric tradition
especially, the body is highly esteemed, the body is highly regarded,
because the body it is which is the vessel of Enlightenment.
It is
with your psycho-physical, even with your psycho-physical cum spiritual organism that you
realise the truth of Enlightenment. So in the Vajrayana, the body is never depreciated, is
never despised. it is the working basis, the well endowed human body equipped with the
senses, all in perfect working order, equipped with a mind and intelligence, living at the right
time, in the right place, in a suitable environment. So the human body is the working basis
for the attainment of Enlightenment and 'the contributary cause are spiritual friends'.
So this is where we've come up to in the 'Jewel Ornament of Liberation'. I'm not
going to go into those first two points. I will only mention them just to lead up to this third
one: 'the contributary cause are spiritual friends'. You may have the potential for
Enlightenment. You may have all the necessary equipment in the form of the well endowed
human body, but unless you meet spiritual friends that potentiality for Enlightenment will
never be actualised and your working basis will not be utilised, it will remain useless, and this
is in fact what sGam.po.pa says. He says: 'This means that although you may possess the
most perfect
5working basis, but are not urged on by spiritual friends as a contributary cause, it is difficult
to set out on the path towards Enlightenment~'.
This is the first thing that we have to realise. We may possess the most perfect
working basis, we may be healthy, we may be intelligent, we may have leisure, we may have
all sorts of facilities but if we're not urged on by spiritual friends as a contributary cause, it is
difficult to set out on the path towards Enlightenment.
The spiritual friends may, of course, speak to us through a book. It isn't necessary
that we meet them personally in the flesh, but the book of course was written by a human
being and through the book we meet a human being. If it's a book about the Dharma, then
through that book we meet a spiritual friend, and it's difficult to set out on the path towards
Enlightenment without being urged on by spiritual friends as a contributary cause 'because of
the power of inveterate propensities due to evil deeds committed repeatedly in former times'.
If one didn't want to refer to the doctrine of Karma or to former lives how do you
think one could phrase this or how do you think one could express this point?
PETER COWEN: Bad genes.
S: Bad genes, yes: bad genes expressing themselves in what sort of way?
PETER COWEN: You wouldn't have a perfect working basis, would you? You
wouldn't have a . . . .
S: Ah, no. The point here that sGam.po.pa is making is that you have the perfect
working basis, your genes have been functioning well in that respect, but even if you have
that perfect working basis, if you're not urged on by spiritual friends as a contributary cause 'it
is difficult to set out on the path towards
6Enlightenment because of the power of inveterate propensities due to evil deeds'. So in a
sense the genes have been looked after by the proper working basis. The good genes have
given you a healthy body. They've given you intelligence but there is still something lacking,
or rather there is still something present which the Spiritual Friends of the contributary cause
will have to overcome before you can set out on the Spiritual Path. So what is that
Voice: Your conditioning. ...

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