Transcribing the oral tradition...
Jinamitra, Welwyn, UK
Vajradarshini, Valderrobres, Spain
Coleen, FBA Team
Nagabodhi, London, UK
Eric, FBA Team
Suvarnagarbha, Cambridge, UK
Candradasa, FBA Team
Coleen, FBA Team
... the world, and this is 'nisarana'. It's not just aversion but it's withdrawal,
But on the other hand the Great Compassion. The first is supposed to represent the Hinayana attitude, the
second is supposed to represent the Mahayana attitude, and both of these are exemplified in a work of Tsong
Kha Pa. There are some famous verses here which we did on a study retreat. I'll read these two verses. One
represents the 'nisarana' and the other represents the Great Compassion.
Tsong Kha Pa says,
"When you do not for an instant wish the pleasures of samsara, and day and night remain intent
on liberation, you have then produced renunciation."
Here it's translated renunciation - aversion, nisarana. It's a bit like in the positive nidanas, nibbida, the nivrid,
the disentanglement, the disengagement, the withdrawal. Then.
"Renunciation, without pure Bodhi mind does not bring forth the perfect bliss of unsurpassed
Enlightenment. Therefore bodhisattvas generate excellent Bodhi mind."
In other words bodhicitta.
So both are necessary according to Tsong Kha Pa. The disengagement from samsara and the commitment to
the ultimate, enlightenment, not for one's own sake only but for the sake of all, i.e. out of compassion. So on
the one hand there must be renunciation, on the other hand there must be compassion. There must be
disengagement, there must be compassionate commitment. So what are the two dangers if you try to have the
one without the other. Supposing you try to cultivate nisarana or even do cultivate it but without cultivating
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compassion, what is likely to be the result?
__________: You dry up.
S: You may just have a cynical attitude towards the world. You may actually hate the world and hate people,
which means of course you're still bound by them. Suppose you try to develop a Great Compassion without
disentangling yourself from the world, then what is likely to happen? Well you're just cultivating attachment
and calling it Great Compassion.
Devamitra: Presumably it's like someone who's merely a mundane philanthropist.
S: Right that too, yes. So both of these are very important. This is a basic feature of Tibetan Buddhist teaching,
especially the teaching of the Gelugpas and Tsong Kha Pa. The need to develop this attitude of 'nisarana', of
not going for refuge to worldly things, and the attitude of Great Compassion. You notice it said Great
Compassion and not compassion. What's the difference?
Sagaramati: One has Sunyata....
S: Yes, it's a.....
__________: Does it refer to the Bodhicitta?
S: It does in a way, yes. The compassion which is a component of the Bodhicitta is the Great Compassion. That
is to say the compassion which is born of the initial realisation of voidness.
Vajradaka: (unclear) compassion (unclear) of the Four Brahma Viharas.
S: Right! Yes, exactly, which is the compassion of the positive, mundane mental attitude.
__________: Could you just say a bit more. I've never heard that distinction before.
S: Ah. In the course of the four Brahma Viharas you develop Mett and then you develop Karun . Here your
state is positive but it's mundane in the sense it is not conjoined with wisdom and therefore can be lost. But in
the case of the Great Compassion of the Bodhisattva, his compassion springs from his realisation of voidness,
and it's a sort of emotional aspect of his transcendental experience. It can't be lost because it's grounded in
wisdom. So this is the difference between Karun and Mah Karun . Mr.Chen used to say that Mah Karun
is that Karun which has been purified in the fires of Sunyat . That used to be his expression.
__________: Would the move from the Brahma Viharas to the Great Compassion be the arising of the
S: Well you could make the transition by developing wisdom, by developing vipassana. If for instance you
were to do the meditation on death or the meditation on the twelve nidanas, and to the extent that you develop
wisdom or insight, your mett and karun are transformed in Mah Maitri and Mah Karuna. In other words
it's the distinction between the kindness of a basically egoistic person and the kindness of a non-egoistic person.
You can be, as it were, kind as a result of your attachment and your desire to get on well with people or your
fear of hurting them, you'll be kind. But when you have the Great Compassion you are kind, as it were, because
you no longer feel - at least don't feel so strongly - the difference between yourself and others. [Pause]
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__________: Before we go on Bhante, can I just go back a bit to this thing about bestowal of science. Is this
a bestowal of science and what exactly does that involve?
S: Yes you could take this explanation itself as a bestowal of science, though when we actually do it and one
is actually led through the practice, then this is a bestowal of science in a more effective sort of way.
Sagaramati: What you said about the mett , I've always had a bit of difficulty with that in the sense you're
developing mett but it's almost in the back of your mind I'm aware that this is quite mundane, it's not real mett .
I thought that normal human kindness, you could say, ego-based human kindness, wasn't mett
, it was just
kindness. But mett was something quite distinct from normal human kindness.
S: I think it is distinct, but it still isn't transcendental. It's much more highly developed, it's much purer. There
is attachment there but it isn't a gross attachment. Especially if say there's no sexual attachment there, but it can
still be mundane even though the sexual element is not there because sexual distinction doesn't operate in the
Brahmalokas or the higher dhyanas, but they're still quite mundane. One could, if one wanted to be
metaphysical, say that in the heart even of mundane mett , there is a spark of non egoity, inasmuch as all being
are fundamentally Buddhas, but I think it would be very unwise from a purely pragmatic point of view, to stress
that too much, because people are only too ready to see their quite mundane attitudes and emotions as spiritual,
even transcendental things. [Pause]
Anyway we'll just do this little introductory paragraph and then we'll pause for a cup of tea or coffee.
This in turn,
that is to say the devotion, the sadhana,
comprises preparation, main matter, conclusion, [defined respectively, for
practices so arranged, as cittotp da,
that is to say the development of the Chitta, the development of the Bodhicitta.
which means support. The main practice being your support,
And parin ma].
or the turning over. The dedication of merits. So we'll be going through these one by one in a few minutes' time.
Subhuti: What about Srijnana Gunaphala?
S: I don't know anything about him. I assume that the stuti was composed by an Indian teacher called Srijnana
Gunaphala and that that stuti was incorporated in, or arranged as, a sadhana, by the Tibetan teacher rDo-rje
mTshon-cha. This is my assumption, but I've not been able to find out anything about either of these. On the
other hand Srijnana Gunaphala may not be the name of an original Indian teacher but simply the title of the
stuti, and the stuti might have been actually composed by that Tibetan teacher. That is possible, but certainly
the material is thoroughly traditional.
Vajradaka: Is it part of systematic teaching? (unclear) for when you receive the Vidya. Is it systematically
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after the attainment... For example did you have that prior to going through the stuti with the teacher, is it all
S: No, it isn't very systematic in that sort of way, no. One of the features of Tantric practice, in a way, though
only in a way, isn't systematic. You don't necessarily get a higher initiation because you're more highly
developed or a lower one because you're less developed. You may get a higher initiation because you're less
developed and you need an extra charge, as it were. The Tantra doesn't work in the way that maybe the
Hinayana and the Mahayana work. You could say it tends to follow the path of irregular steps quite a lot. I'll
check whether I have among my notes any details about the lineage of this practice. I might have.
[Tea Break and end of tape one]
Vajradaka: One feels that (unclear) Buddhas, could you say that it means that subjectively you have a good
S: Yes you could very much, yes, but a good conscience in, as it were, the objective sense, not merely that
you're keeping your super-ego happy.
__________: Could you give examples of the difference?
S: Well I distinguish say sometimes between subjective guilt or neurotic guilt and objective guilt. There's been
a bit of misunderstanding in the movement vis a vis this distinction because we have, quite rightly, criticised
the feelings of guilt with which people have been left on account of their Christian upbringing, but some people
have misunderstood that to mean, misunderstood that critique to mean, that you shouldn't ever feel guilty, but
in fact that is not so at all ...