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Jewel Ornament of Liberation Chapter 1 - The Motive

by Sangharakshita

The Jewel Ornament of Liberation - women's seminar held at Padmaloka May 1982

The Motive and the Working Basis - chapters one and two
Present: Sangharakshita, Dhammadinna, Anjali, Vajrasuri, Vajrapushpa, Jenny Roche, Gay
Voller, Glynis Brown, Megha, Debbie Seamer, Annie Fowler, Linda Moody, Rosy Anderson,
Marion Monas, Greta Thomas, Rosie Ong, Kay Tremaine, Annie Murphy, Paula Turner,
Daphne Luce, Dawn Bouic.
Day 1 Tape 1. Side 1S: Well, as you know, we're doing the Jewel Ornament of Liberation. I hope we can get
through the first two chapters - at least the first one - but hopefully two. Some of you may
know that on the last study retreat, we did chapters from the Jewel Ornament mainly those
dealing with Metta. But it would be a good thing, perhaps, if we could go back to the
beginning and eventually, maybe in the course of several years, we'd get through the whole
volume. So we'll go through it, taking it quite steadily, trying to understand thoroughly,
everything that Gampopa says, because the text, as you probably know, is quite condensed. It
needs quite a bit of going into. So perhaps we could start with someone reading the first
section, then we'll just make sure that we understand it.
If you just read that introductory verse of salutation:
"Homage to Saintly Manjusri who was once a Prince!
Having bowed to the Victorious One, his Sons and the sublime experiences,
As well as to the Gurus who are their foundation,
In relying on Milarepa's and Atisa's grace, I write for the benefit of myself and others
This Jewel of the Noble Doctrine which is like the Wish-fulfilling Gem."
S: So this is the preliminary salutation. This is Gampopa saluting his teachers, so to speak,
and declaring the purpose with which he is undertaking to write this work. There are a
number of notes by Guenther, the translator, some of which are relevant, others perhaps, not
quite so relevant. Anyway, let's go into this opening verse: "Homage to saintly Manjusri who
was once a Prince."
'Saintly' probably translates the Tibetan equivalent of Ariya. It isn't really saintly. Ariya means
someone who has attained the transcendental paths. That is to say, someone who is not simply
emotionally positive or psychologically well-developed, or free from psychological problems
but someone who has actually [2] come within sight of the transcendental, the unconditioned
and has been transformed by that. That is to say, in Hinayana terms, anyone from a
stream-entrant onwards, and in Mahayana terms, a Bodhisattva. So, "homage to the saintly
Manjusri", Ariya Manjusri, "who was once a Prince". Guenther says here that "the Sanskrit
original of this invocation, Manjusri Kumarabhuta, is often translated 'Manjusri the Youth'.
This misses the associations the Tibetans have when they hear or read these words by which
they understand the story of the Bodhisattva Manjusri who as King Amba vowed to become a
I think personally, this is a bit beside the point. Manjusri, as you probably know, or
Manjughosa, iconographically, is represented as a sixteen year old youth, as Bodhisattva's
usually are. There's a thangka of Manjusri up there, you may notice. - It's interesting to see
that iconographically speaking, the figure of Manjusri, somewhat resembles a figure we find
in the Pali Canon the figure of Sanat Kumara. Has anyone come across this figure? Or any
reference to him? Sanat Kumara. The Brahma Sanat Kumara. He is quite important in the Pali
canon. Those of you who've read the Majjhima-Nikaya, may know that there is a sutta called
the Maha-Govinda sutta. Anyone familiar with this? No? You're familiar with the
Majjhima-Nikaya, the middle length discourses, no? Who's read the Majjhima-Nikaya?
Voices: Bits of it.
S: Bits of it. Ah! There is a copy of it, here I hope, unless somebody's taken it away.
Perhaps we'd better go back to the beginning then. The Pali canon consists of three Nikayas -
you're no doubt familiar with that. The Sutta-Pitaka, Vinaya-Pitaka, Abhidharma-Pitaka.
Sutta-Pitaka is divided into five Nikayas. The first Nikaya contains the long discourses of the
Buddha: the Digha-Nikaya. The second contains the Majjhima-Nikaya, that is to say,
discourses of medium length. There's 34 long discourses, 152 medium length discourses.
Then we come on to the Samyutta-Nikaya. Samyutta means 'collected'. In this Nikaya, in
which the sections are much shorter, extracts from the previous two Nikayas, as well as
material from independent sources, are collected and arranged in accordance with topics.
There are little groups of sayings on, say: trees, on devas, on monks, on nuns, on kings and so
on. On Mara, on Stream-entry.
Then there's the Anguttara-Nikaya . Here the arrangement is [3] as it were, numerical. You've
got a book of sayings on 'one' thing, then on 'two' things, 'three' things - for instance, the three
kinds of feeling. Then the 'four' things, right up to, I think it's eleven or twelve things. So
these are the first four out of the five Nikayas. Then the fifth Nikaya is miscellaneous. This
contains 14 different works including the Dhammapada, the Udana, Sutta Nipata, Jataka and
so on; contains some quite old material.
So the Sutta that I mentioned comes from the Majjhima-Nikaya is one of these 152 medium
length discourses and it's called the Maha-Govinda Sutta. In this Sutta, a person called Maha
Govinda, decides to spend the rainy season in retreat, and practising the, we would called it,
the Metta Phavana - Metta Bhavana and Karuna Bhavana. So he spends the whole of the
rainy season, immersed in, one might say, deeply meditative states. Immersed in the
experience of Metta and Karuna and, at the end of that period, there appears to him, the
Brahma, Sanat Kumara - the Brahma, the Eternal Youth. And Maha Govinda puts to the
Brahma Sanat Kumara, a question, a very very important question. And he says to him in Pali
- if I can remember the exact words - (Pakati Machunon Amatam Brahma-Loka) He says:
"How may a mortal attain to the immortal, the undying Brahma-Loka?" And then the Brahma
Sanat Kumara gives him a short teaching.
Now this Brahma Sanat Kumara, is sometimes known as Pancasikha. Pancasikha means 'the
of the five crests' and you see, in the case of Manjusri there are five crests. It would seem that,
iconographically speaking, the figure of the Manjusri Bodhisattva is, I won't say based on or
derived from - but has something in common with the figure of the Brahma Sanat Kumara.
Because after all, one has to explain or represent the unknown in terms of the known. So it
would seem to me that this question of Manjusri, being a Kumara the word for Kumara is
sometimes 'prince', some times 'youth' . The fact of his being described as Kumara, doesn't go
back just to some story about him becoming a prince, but goes back to the figure of
Bodhisattva Sanat Kumara - the Eternal Youth. Do you see what I mean? Bodhisattvas are
usually represented in this form. And don't forget that Manjusri is the Archetypal Bodhisattva.
Not because it represents age in the ordinary mundane sense but youth represents something
which transcends time. Something which doesn't really refer to past, present or future. The
eternal. It is symbolized by the timeless, the ever young, the ever youthful.
So one shouldn't here think in terms of youth in the literal sense, so much as of that which
transcends time; if you want to put the timeless or even the eternal into a human form, well, it
would be a young human form - at least this is what the Indian Buddhists thought - rather
than an aged human form - as perhaps the Christians in the West tended to think. So this
Manjusri, who is Kumarabhuta, who assumes the form of a youth, one may say, rather than
who was once a prince. Who is, as it were, eternal wisdom appearing [in] the form of an
eternally youthful being. If you read Jung at all, he's got quite a lot to say about the 'Puer
Eternus' - the 'eternal youth'. Is anyone familiar with this material? He's got all sorts of, as it
were, archetypal associations and resonances. So, "homage to saintly Manjusri, who was once
a Prince'"
Dhammadinna: Is the figure of Sanat Kumara, is that a Buddhist figure or is that
S: Well, Sanat Kumara appears in the Pali Canon. One could say that, yes, it's a pre-Buddhist
figure, but also one has to bear in mind that, the Buddha himself, when he was teaching,
didn't have a ready-made set of Buddhist terms to hand. He used the terms that were then
current - the terms that were then available. And one might even say that early Buddhists saw
things in contemporary terms. They thought in terms of Brahmas, and Devas. Or one might
even say, they experienced things in those terms. Or they had certain experiences to which
they affixed the terms that were then current. Do you see what I mean?
Perhaps I ought to say a few words about the sort of - what shall I say? - cosmological
background. The cosmological background in the Buddha's day was rather different from
what it is nowadays, in the West especially. The early Buddhists, like their fellow Indians
thought in terms of a sort of stratified universe. Do you know what I mean by that? A
universe of levels and layers. And it was principally sub-divided into the Kama-Loka, the
Rupa-Loka and the Arupa-Loka.
So the Kama-loka contained ...

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