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Jewel Ornament of Liberation Chapter 21 - Buddha Activity

by Sangharakshita

The Jewel Ornament of Liberation seminar - Women's seminar held at Padmaloka in

June 1980
Chapter 21 Buddha Activity
Day 6 - Tape 1Those present: Sangharakshita, Dhammadinna, Marichi, Punyavati, Liz Bisson, Michelle
Johnson, Joan Graham, Noel Lehane, Janet Martin, Bonnie Quirk, Verne Barret, Kay Roberts,
Sue Lawson, Sulocana, Paloma and Marion Monas.
S: All right, what I thought was this: we still have two sessions left so clearly we can't do a
long chapter, so I thought we'd go through in these two sessions the shortest chapter which is
also the last, which is also, I won't say the most difficult, in principle it's the most difficult,
but Gampopa lets us off rather lightly because he explains the subject matter mainly with the
aid of beautiful similes. So I thought we'd conclude with that today and tomorrow. The
chapter is, of course, 21, Buddha Activity, so this might perhaps refresh one's vision one
might say, but we'll see, this is after all the sixth day of the study and we are beginning to
draw to an end and certainly in this morning's study group it was evident that people had
begun to, what shall I say, it seemed as though they'd begun to assimilate enough for the time
being it was becoming clear and this was a bit difficult to assimilate even just mentally, very
much more. So we'll take it easily and we won't push it and we'll aim at just getting halfway
through this chapter and if we find when we've got halfway through it that it's a little early,
well never mind, we'll just have a slightly shorter session today, especially as it is as I said,
drawing to an end - the study is drawing to an end, and perhaps we ought to sort of start, I
won't say sort of tailing off, but just gently coming down a bit, but meanwhile we are going to
stay up quite a bit too with Buddha Activity. So would someone just like to read the title and
then the whole of the introductory bit down to the capital I.
Buddha Activity
Liz: " The activity is working for the benefit of others without preconceived [2] ideas. One
should adopt an attitude towards enlightenment, then follow the path, and finally aspire to
Buddhahood solely to burn up the misery of sentient beings and help them to attain
happiness. When a man becomes a Buddha, habit-making thoughts and forced effort cease for
him. Therefore whatever is, or is thought to be, necessary for sentient being happens all the
time of its own accord, as is the case with Buddhas. How this comes about is indicated in the
The Body works for sentient beings without habit-making thoughts,
So do Speech and Mind.
These three factors outline Buddha-activity.
The working for the benefit of sentient beings by Body, Speech and Mind
without habit-making thoughts is illustrated by similes in the Utaratantra:
Like Indra, a drum, a cloud, Brahma,
The sun, a jewel,
Like an echo is the Tathagata;
Like sky and earth."
S: All right, lets go into this. "The Activity is working for the benefit of others without
preconceived ideas." The activity of course which is being described here is Buddha
activities. So a Buddha's activity, an enlightened human being's activity is working for the
benefit of others without preconceived ideas and this also suggests that to the extent that you
are enlightened you will be working for the benefit of others without preconceived ideas. To
the extent that you are on the spiritual path you will be working for the benefit of yourself and
others without preconceived ideas. So the emphasis falls on the "without preconceived ideas",
or as the verse quoted puts it, "without habit-making thoughts". So what would be another
way of expressing this "without preconceived ideas" and why do you think it is so important
and so characteristic of Buddha activity as to be without preconceived ideas?
Dhammadinna: You respond directly and spontaneously.
S: Yes, you respond to the actual need which you actually see. You don't bring any
preconceived ideas to the situation, and this is very important. I mean at all levels, a Buddha
exhibits it in its perfection, but at every stage, to the extent that one is on the spiritual path at
all, to the extent that one is trying to help oneself and help others, one must be without
preconceived ideas.
Bonnie: That's the essence of creativity.
Dhammadinna: And of communication.
S: Yes, because if there are preconceived ideas, well, it's all old and stale. There is nothing
new, therefore there cannot be any communication without freedom from preconceived ideas,
otherwise if you view through preconceived ideas, you don't see the person as they actually
are now. You don't hear what they are actually saying to you now, in the present. It's all
overlaid with ideas that you're bringing from the past, so you're not open. So openness is a
term which would be very appropriate here. To be without preconceived ideas is to be, so to
speak, intellectually open.
Bonnie: It would allow vertical communication or cognition also.
S: In the case of a Buddha, obviously there is no vertical communication, but in the case of
someone who wasn't a Buddha, this freedom from preconceived ideas would make you open
to horizontal communication, whether it was a question of communication with those more
developed than you or less developed than you. In all cases, one would be open. But does it
mean that one has no principles?
You might say that you communicate with others, say, with preconceived ideas about Going
for Refuge, preconceived ideas about the Dharma, the need to meditate, the goodness of
meditation. Are those not preconceived ideas? If someone was to raise that objection what
would you say? The fact that you call yourself a Buddhist, doesn't that mean you've got
preconceived ideas? The fact that you've Gone for Refuge, doesn't it mean you've got
preconceived ideas? In other words, what is a preconceived idea?
Dhammadinna: Doesn't it mean a fixed idea? Whereas those principles are moving as you do.
S: Yes, they are principles, they are not rules. They're not anything to be applied rigidly to the
Marichi: Yes, I mean when you're communicating with someone, you're a Buddhist, you're
not demanding they're a Buddhist. You might say that in order to do such and such I'd like
you to be a Buddhist. Then our communication could be different.
S: Well its more than that because you know, if you really are a Buddhist, and if you really
have gone for refuge and obviously if you really are a Buddha it's something which has been
assimilated by your very being, it isn't a question of ideas any longer, ideas as divorced from
being, you can't have preconceived ideas, because you don't have ideas. You are just what you
are. It need not be labelled, if you have to label it you can say well, yes, I believe in going for
refuge, I believe in meditation, but they are not just your ideas, you know, they are you. They
are what you are. If in the course of your communication you suggest meditation as possibly
beneficial for the person you're talking to, it is not because you have got preconceived ideas,
about the usefulness of meditation.
Marichi: You could also be very bourgeois to the core and that could be totally assimilated
and that's what you express. There is a difference isn't there?
S: Yes, oh yes, of course, because you are expressing what you are as one who is following
the path. Of course, on the level which is the subject matter here. You are a Buddha who is
totally at one with the path and the goal.
Marichi: So it's something which is moving.
S: So in a way when you are without preconceptions as an ordinary person, a person
committed to the spiritual life, when you are without preconceptions, without preconceived
ideas and dealing with others, you see them as you are ... sorry, you see them as they-are. You
see their needs as they are and you respond on the basis of your own true experience and
knowledge. Not in accordance with preconceived ideas.
Bonnie: Did you say "you see them as you are?"
S: Yes, as they are.
Bonnie: Yes, you corrected it.
Dhammadinna: So, if you communicate like that you are not trying to mould some body into
a preconceived idea of what the person should do.
(S: ?) Yes, because even say as a Buddhist; supposing you communicate with others. If the
communication is real communication and reaches a certain point of intensity at that time you
are not thinking of yourself as a Buddhist, you're not thinking of Buddhism, in a way you've
completely forgotten about them, it's just you. If there is anything of Buddhism around or
anything of Buddhism in you, well it's because you've assimilated it, you've become at one
with it. You don't have to think about it. You don't have to have ideas about it. You're just
concerned, you know, with the needs of the person in front of you and what ever you are just
comes into play, just comes into operation in order to meet the needs of that situation.
Joan: Sometimes in communication it's like I loose an idea of myself and I begin to see what
the other person's saying and understand what they're saying, but I end up just being aware of
then and what they're saying and how I see they're saying it and it's like I'm left with nothing
to say of [6] myself. I just end up nodding and it's like I'm agreeing, but what I'm actually
saying ...

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