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Pali Canon - Sutta Nipata - Great Chapter part 2

by Sangharakshita

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... you give it a much more transcendental flavour, it becomes Sukhavati - the happy land,
the land of bliss, which is not a world situated at the other end of the universe - although it is
described as such in some of the Mahayana suttas - but it is this world itself seen under a new
aspect, or seen with a different kind of mind.
It's like Hakuin says in his song of meditation, "and this very earth is the lotus land of purity."
And this is also said to be the ultimate aim, at least from a certain point of view, of the whole of
the Vajrayana, the whole of the Tantric method of practice. To see or to experience the world in
the midst of which you live as a great mandala complete with various divinities, Buddhas,
Bodhisattvas, and dakinis and so on. You see the whole universe transformed into a vast mandala
and everything that you hear, all sounds that you hear, are heard as the sounds of mantras. And
you yourself are a Buddha or a Bodhisattva sitting in the midst of it all along with other Buddhas
and Bodhisattvas. This is your ultimate experience according to the Vajrayana.
Voice: You can experience that if you are in a really good state. All the noises that if you were in
a bad state might annoy you, you can find those ...[586]
S: But clearly you need a little Sukhavati in a more mundane sense, as it were, to get away from
the world that you can't yet see as Sukhavati, so you can develop that sort of vision which will
enable you to look at the world in that new way and eventually live in it in that new way.
Voice: A bit different from the way that ...
S: One sees all those things too, but one sees something else at the same time, as it were,
interpenetrating all those things. You don't sort of bluff yourself, you don't fool yourself, you
don't put your head in the sand as it were. Everything becomes, as it were, transparent, and you
see at the same time that you see the world in ordinary state, you see the world in another kind of
state altogether, at the same time.
Voice: On another level?
S: Yes, on another level. Anyway, the principle message of this sutta, positively put, seems to be
the importance of rejoicing in merit. It's perhaps better not to linger too much on the negative
side. Better to think in terms of rejoicing in merit rather than avoiding slander. But slander is
really a very pernicious thing, so much harm, so much mutual misunderstanding, is created in
this way. It doesn't have to be anything serious and dramatic but just little sort of sly comments
and things of this sort.
Voice: It can really grow.
S: And also positively appreciate all the time. I mean some people seem to be so afraid of
overlooking someone's negative side. They see the bright side, see the positive qualities, and say,
well, we mustn't blind ourselves to the negative qualities, we have got to see them as they are.
They seem much more anxious to do justice to the negative side than to do justice to the positive
side, for some strange reason.
Voice: I think it has to be a bit of a practice, to make oneself see the positive side and make
oneself ignore the negative side of people.
S: Hmm, and very often the negative in a certain context, from a certain point of view or in
relation to someone or something usually oneself.
Voice: It's certainly a circle, if you don't react [587] that it will probably just vanish.
S: Yes, right. And often we over-generalize; someone gets angry with us just once and we say, oh
dear, he's a very bad tempered person. They might have got angry just once, and we forget all the
times when he didn't become angry even though we might have provoked him very much. We
don't say he's a very patient person, remembering all the times he didn't react. We say he's a very
angry person, a very quick-tempered person, remembering the one time he did react.
I think also one of the difficulties in this connection is, well, it ties up with what we have been
discussing on several seminars about formality and informality. We have, as it were, no generally
recognized way of expressing our appreciation. Do you see what I mean? I mentioned sometimes
that when I was in India among the ex-Untouchables, whenever I was in a meeting or a lecture
they would be very careful to express their appreciation of anyone who had helped in any way. It
was always done verbally and publicly. First of all most people were illiterate anyway and it
seemed necessary to do it because often these meetings were held in villages or particular
localities where all these people lived together and had to go on living together and needed to be
on friendly terms with one another. They just couldn't afford misunderstandings. So at the end of
the meeting sometimes there would be what they called the danyabas, which meant the
thanksgiving, or vote of thanks we'd say. And they usually let the village humorist, the village
wit, who would give this vote of thanks. And believe it or not sometimes as many as forty or fifty
people received individual votes of thanks, they didn't leave anybody out. And everybody had to
come forward and be garlanded. So they would start by saying we are very, very grateful to our
bhikshu Sangharakshita for coming and giving this lecture and then there would be a few words
about that and then I'd be garlanded and claps and cheers. Then: we're very, very grateful to Mr
Santa who has come all the way from Bombay to translate his lecture: a few humorous words
about that particular young man - he had to come forward and be garlanded. Then: we're very
happy to receive so-and-so and so-and-so who came along with our bhikshu, very glad to see
them here. They'd all have to come forward and be garlanded. Then our old friend so-and-so who
helped to put up the stage for this meeting, they'd come forward and be garlanded and again claps
and cheers. Mr so-and-so, even though he is not a member of our community, anyway he has lent
us [588] this that and the other and we are very grateful to him and they'd bring him forward and
garland him. In this way they'd go down the list and it would often take a whole hour to thank
everybody in this way, garland them. It's a recognized part of the proceedings, no one is ever
forgotten however small the contribution that they've made, it's never forgotten.
Voice: And the people probably go on chatting.
S: Oh yes, everybody enjoys it thoroughly. This is why the village wit is elected to do this
because he makes a few humorous remarks in a good-natured spirit. But if there has been any
misunderstanding or little quarrel or exchange of hot words, that's also smoothed out or
smoothed over on this occasion. For instance, someone had promised to supply some chairs and
hadn't done so and there had been a bit of a mix up but in the end they got the chairs; anyway
they'd thank him and say anyway it was a bit of a mix up but it all came right in the end, and
they'd thank him. And then it's all finished with, you see, nothing is left over rankling in anyone's
mind. Unless there was sometimes something very serious happened which can't be smoothed
over in this way; occasionally that happens.
But all this thing lubricates the wheels of social life. Sometimes I think, even in the context of the
Friends, we don't do this enough. Lots of people do things and it's not exactly taken for granted,
they are appreciated but I think very often it needs to be openly expressed. There is not enough
open expression.
Voice: Particularly at centres, the person who keeps it clean and prepares the food and tends the
shrine and so on.
S: Yes, there should be certain occasions when we express. This is what I felt when Ananda
handed over the editorship of the Newsletter after twenty-one issues. I made that point: that we
ought to give him a little dinner or something, so about twenty-five of us gathered together at
Ashvajit's flat for dinner. Ananda was invited but he didn't know what it was for until he actually
got there and was told. In fact he was very reluctant to come because he was very busy and had
almost to be dragged there. He thought it was just another little social gathering but actually it
was in his honour and to thank him for the work he had put in editing twenty-one issues of the
Newsletter. So I think this is very necessary. You might say that people don't need to be thanked,
that they do it out of good spirit, but I think thanks needs to be expressed and it helps to create a
positive atmosphere, especially [589] when people have put in a lot work. I mean, they don't
expect thanks in a way, but on the other hand it is still good to give thanks, it is conducive to a
positive atmosphere. But unfortunately we don't always have a framework of manners and
customs within which it can be done. Obviously you don't want a formal vote of thanks, that
would be very stiff and starchy, but we haven't yet developed any other way of thanking people
and I think we ought to, or at least to think about it quite seriously.
Voice: (inaudible)
S: Also, among the ex-untouchables they acknowledge all donations in this sort of way at the end
of the meeting. Someone reads out a list and it may be very long indeed. There may be a hundred
or so donations, even if it is only two pence it is read out and acknowledged. This is a really
important psychological and spiritual principle - appreciation. There is not nearly enough
appreciation in the positive sense, not that we want to turn ourselves into a mutual admiration
society ...

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