Transcribing the oral tradition...

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Pali Canon - Meghiya Sutta

by Sangharakshita

... It also comes out of a feeling for the other person.
S: Yes, indeed.
Gunapala: If you feel for the other person, like the other person, there's a consideration.
S: Yes, you won't want them to be bothered, you won't want them to have to worry, or to give
them unnecessary trouble. Also it suggests forethought. It suggests mindfulness. Otherwise,
in the community, when there's perhaps a lot of people and a lot of things are happening and
there are a lot of phone calls and messages, sometimes a lot of time is wasted looking for
people who aren't on the premises; they haven't informed anybody that they'll be away. So one
can apply this not only literally, but metaphysically - let other people know what you're up to.
Do you see what I mean? Let other people know what's happening.
Gunapala: I know it applies very much on a work-site. If you don't know what the other
people are up to it somehow scatters the atmosphere, it's all confused, you're not quite sure
what everyone else is doing. It's quite confusing, especially if someone's trying to organize
everyone! (Laughter)
S: Well, one could say that the principle applies to the order as a whole, leaving aside other
people, because one might say that the order as a whole is a sort of work-site, in a Dharmic
sense, and that's why we have the reporting in, when we have Order weekends, so that
everybody knows what everybody else is doing, at least to some extent. You can then perhaps
work together or take what other people are doing into consideration.
Gunapala: Yes, you know what they're doing and where they are.
S: So here we find Meghiya observing that principle and the Buddha simply saying "Do
whatever you think it is the time for, Meghiya." The Buddha has nothing to say, he has no
comment on this occasion; it's all right, he's got nothing against Meghiya going off for alms
into this village, he has no objection to that.
Prasannasiddhi: What about this thing about Meghiya asking the Buddha for permission, do
you think he actually sort of wants this permission?
S: It's not exactly asking for permission. He says "I desire"; I think the Pali is icchana, which
is "I'd like"; it might be more idiomatic to [6] say "I'd like to go to Jantu village for alms", it's
just like that. It's not as it were asking for permission, that would be perhaps taking it too far.
I sometimes tell in this connection, the story of the German Buddhist boy, who used to stay
with me in Kalimpong: I had some German Buddhist friends with whom I'm still in contact,
who were at that time living in Ahmedabad. They were followers of Lama Govinda, and they
had a son, who was also a Buddhist. So when he was about 16 or 17, he was sent to spend a
few weeks, I think it was, with me in Kalimpong and I was really very surprised, in a way, by
his behaviour, because it was so good, it was far better than the behaviour of anybody else
who'd ever stayed with me. He always asked for permission before he did anything; he'd
never do anything without coming to me and asking permission. And I came to understand, I
think, that this was quite characteristic of Germans - that they were very obedient, very
disciplined and not only always did what they were told, but they asked beforehand to be told
what to do, or if they could do something. And in his case, I would say, quite positive, but on
the other hand it threw some light for me on the rise of Nazism in Germany. Because the
whole population, it would seem, or a large part of the population was so submissive to
authority, so accustomed to taking orders and not questioning orders. I don't know whether
I'm, you know, attaching too much importance to this or not, but it certainly did shed some
light for me on that particular situation, the fact that this boy was so abnormally obedient.
So it is not that sort of abnormal obedience which is being inculcated here, because that
suggests a certain lack of self reliance, a certain lack of healthy positive independence. So it is
not that Meghiya is expected to ask the Buddha about everything and always come to the
Buddha and ask for permission; it's a question of communication, letting the Buddha know,
and therefore giving the Buddha the opportunity of saying something if he wants to say
something. He's not like a servant asking permission of the master; it's a friend keeping a
friend informed of what he is doing, and that is a different thing. Actually, people
misunderstand if you sort of "expect" that they should keep you informed they take it
sometimes to mean that you're expecting that they should ask you for permission, because
people do have this hang-up over authority and even when there's no question of authority
involved, they will fear [7] that sometimes that that is the case. So sometimes people like to
not keep you informed as a way of asserting their independence, but that is a quite false sort
of independence, to keep things a bit secret, not let anybody know where you're going or what
you're up to. You don't really show your independence or prove your independence or
experience your independence in this sort of say.
Murray: You're fundamentally reacting, aren't you?
S: Yes, you're fundamentally reacting. In other words you're reacting to something that isn't
really there, very often.
Gunapala: I think sometimes too, people don't like to be open or say what they're doing, so
that people can't come back at them.
S: Yes, because they may feel or suspect that what they are doing is not very skilful, so of
course you'll try to shield yourself from possible criticism, if you have an uneasy or
uncomfortable feeling that what you're doing is not very skilful.
But in this particular case, I mean, clearly Meghiya had no doubts presumably about what he
was going to do; it was something quite ordinary, quite straightforward, quite necessary, and
the Buddha had no objection. But even so, even though probably Meghiya knew that there'd
be no objection, or at least perhaps he had no reason to suspect that there would be, but
nonetheless he informed the Buddha, he let the Buddha know what he was about to do, what
he was thinking of doing, what he wanted to do. And the Buddha left him to his own devices.
Prasannasiddhi: It seems to imply that if you're living with people you keep closely informed
with them, you know, you actually be with them rather than sort of not be with them. It sort of
seems to imply sharing on a basic, human kind of level, just keeping people informed.
S: I've just recollected an incident; this is a bit, sort of, not exactly a diversion, but it perhaps
throws some light on this sort of area. I remember when I was in Poona on my last visit, the
question of Dhammarakshita accompanying me arose and he, of course, has a job - he works
in some sort of musical therapy set-up. It's mainly just Dhammarakshita just getting together
with people and having apparently very positive and healthy effects on them, indeed, in the
name of some sort of therapy or other! (Laughter) Really what does the trick is not what is
supposed to actually be provided, [8] but their contact with him. But anyway, he seems to
come and go as he pleases and, in fact, he's rather proud in a way over the fact that nobody
ever knows whether he's there or not; that is to say none of the authorities and officials in the
hospital, they never know where he is because he's got freedom to roam around and do a bit
of therapy here and a bit of therapy there. So he's very much his own master. So this means
that he isn't really under their control, because they don't know what he's doing. So this of
course is very much to the advantage of the FWBO, perhaps one could say that in a sense it
was quite skilful, but it does show that if you want to sort of do things on your own or off
your own bat, as it were, whether for a skilful or an unskilful reason, you know, one of the
things that you have to do to some extent is to keep other people in the dark. Do you see what
I mean? Usually, of course, people do this for unskilful reasons, and it's that sort of (word)
that we were talking about earlier on. But anyway, sometimes, very occasionally perhaps, as
in his case, it can be worked relatively skilfully. This is what you have to do with Mara, you
might say. You shouldn't let Mara know what you're up to! Sometimes you can't let the world
know what you're up to, because they will take undue advantage of you. But that certainly
doesn't apply within the spiritual community. It certainly doesn't apply where your friends are
concerned. It certainly doesn't apply within your community or work situation. There must be
complete openness and full mutual communication All right let's carry on then.
"So the Venerable Meghiya robing himself in the forenoon and taking bowl and robe, entered
Jantu Village in quest of alms food. And after questing for alms food there, returned after his
rounds and after eating his meal, went towards the bank of the river Kimikala and on reaching
it, while taking exercise by walking up and down and to and fro, he saw a lovely delightful
mango grove. At the sight of it he thought: "Truly lovely and delightful is this mango grove!
A proper place surely is this for a clansman for striving for concentration. If the Exalted One
would give me leave, I would come here to this mango grove to strive for concentration."
S: So we see what happens: "The ...

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