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Precepts of the Gurus - 1st Seminar

by Sangharakshita

Sangharakshita in Seminar

Section One: The Ten Causes of Regret

[Text to be found in ‛A Buddhist Bible’ edited by Dwight Goddard,
published by Harrap, London, 1956 (Also published by Beacon Press, 1970.]

Held in: September 1978
Those Present: The Venerable Sangharakshita, Sagaramati, Sona, Kamalasila, Vajradaka, Mangala,
Ajita, Anoma, Devamitra, Kulamitra, Siddhiratna, Subhuti, Manjuvajra

Tape 1

S: Alright then. So - 'The Precepts of the Gurus.' [Pause] I have chosen this particular text, partly
because of it's length and partly because of the way in which it's arranged, and as we'll be probably
having these seminars for Chairmen indefinitely, that's to say, I hope, every, say three or four months,
we'll be able just to carry on with the text, doing perhaps two or three chapters; discussing the verses
in some detail, some depth, every time we meet for a week-end or three days.

So let's just start straight off, with somebody reading. Read the little Foreword, somebody, and then
maybe the verses we can read just going round the circle. I think read the whole chapter through;
then we ll discuss each verse individually and then discuss general considerations arising out of the

Mangala: About the Introduction - I don t know if that s in the ‘Buddhist Bible or not - it s an
Introduction in the ‘Tibetan Yoga book.

S: No, there isn t an Introduction here. No, I think we ll just plunge straight into the Precepts
themselves - not take too much notice of what Dr. Evans-
Wentz has said - though obviously you can go through that separately if you want to.

__________: Page 600, isn t it?

S: This is page 600.


‘Obeisance to the Honoured Guru!
[The Foreword]
Let him who desireth deliverance from the fearful and difficult-
to-traverse Sea of Successive Existences, by means of the precepts taught by the inspired Kargyutpa
Sages, render due homage to these Teachers, whose glory is immaculate, whose virtues are as
inexhaustible as the ocean, and whose infinite benevolence embraceth all beings, past, present, and
future, throughout the Universe.

For the use of those who share in the quest for Divine Wisdom there follow, recorded in writing, the
most highly esteemed precepts, called The Supreme Path, the Rosary of Precious Gems, transmitted
to Gampopa, either directly or indirectly, through that Inspired Dynasty of Gurus, out of their love
for him.
S: I take it everybody knows what the Kargyutpa School is. And who Gampopa is - Gampopa being,
of course, the author of ‘The Jewel Ornament of Liberation and, in a sense, the leading disciple of
Milarepa. These Precepts, or aphorisms, seem to have been collected from various sources but
handed down, as it were, through Gampopa.

All right then, let s go on to the first chapter.


1. The Ten Causes of Regret.
The devotee seeking Liberation and the Omniscience of Buddhahood should first meditate upon these
ten things which are causes of regret:
(1) Having obtained the difficult-to-obtain, free and endowed human body, it would be a cause of
regret to fritter life away.
(2) Having obtained this pure and difficult-to-obtain, free, and endowed human body, it would be a
cause of regret to die an irreligious and worldly man.'

S: Let us read a verse - going round.

'(3) This human life in the Kali-Yuga (or Age of Darkness) being so brief and uncertain, it would be a
cause of regret to spend it in worldly aims and pursuits.

(4) One's own mind being of the nature of the Dharmakaya, it would be a cause of regret to let it be
swallowed up in the morass of the world's illusions.

(5) The holy guru being the guide on the path, it would be a cause of regret to be separated from him
before attaining Enlightenment.

(6) Religious faith and vows being the vessel which conveyeth one to Emancipation, it would be a
cause of regret were they to be shattered by the force of uncontrolled passions.
(7) The Perfect Wisdom having been found within oneself in virtue of the guru's grace, it would be a
cause of regret to dissipate it amidst the jungle of worldliness.
(8) To sell like so much merchandise the Sublime Doctrine of the Sages would be a cause of regret.
(9) Inasmuch as all beings are our kindly parents, it would be a cause of regret to have aversion for
and thus disown or abandon any of them.

(10) The prime of youth being the period of development of the body, speech, and mind, it would be a
cause of regret to waste it in vulgar indifference.

S: So, ‘The Ten Causes of Regret.' ‘The devotee seeking Liberation and the Omniscience of
Buddhahood should first meditate upon these ten things which are causes of regret.' So, ‘Having
obtained the difficult-to obtain, free, and endowed human body, it would be a cause of regret to
fritter life away.' So, does anyone have a very clear idea as to what is meant by this ‘difficult-to-
obtain, free, and endowed human body'? What about it being ‘difficult-to-
obtain'? How is that generally understood?

Kamalasila: Well there are so many other possibilities of rebirth.

__________: [Inaudible]

S: Right, yes. What about ‘free and endowed.'? Free from what - endowed with what?

__________: Free from the lower realms.

S: Yes. I'm going to read now a Tibetan exposition of the traditional listing of the freedoms and
endowments and then we can discuss those in detail where necessary. So, what are the Eight
Freedoms? These Eight Freedoms are divided into two groups of four each. There are four Freedoms
from fetters within human existence - that is to say, conditions which prevent the practise of the
Dharma. So, freedom from ‘Firmly holding wrong views, such as,‘ - I'm giving the translation here
as it stands - ‘Atheism, Nihilism, or disbelief in the law of cause and effect. (2) Birth in a totally non-
religious or barbaric land. (3) Birth in a land where no Buddhist Dharma is taught. Birth as a
demented or mute person.

Then there are the Four Freedoms from non-human types of birth - birth in a hell, a birth in a preta
realm, birth as an animal lacking the power to discriminate between virtuous and non-virtuous
action, and birth as a long-life Deva with so much pleasure that there is no motivation to practise the

So these are the Eight Freedoms. And then, the Ten Endowments - five personal endowments and
five circumstantial ones. The personal ones are - Birth as a human being, which gives one the
potential to obtain Liberation. (2) Birth where the Dharma flourishes, or in a central land - we'll see
what this means in a minute - (3) Birth with a body having all five sense intact. (4) Birth into life free
from the five heinous crimes. (5) Having respect for the Three Baskets of the Dharma, which include
the Vinaya or moral discipline, the Sutras or Discourses, and the Abhidharma or the Wisdom
Teaching of the Buddha.

Then the Five Circumstantial Enjoyments - the presence of a Buddha during the time in which one
lives; the presence of the Dharma of the Lord Buddha; the flourishing of the practise of the Dharma;
then (4) the existence of the Monastic Order, and (5) being under the care of the compassionate
person or patron or teacher who looks after one in one's practice.

So, - I think we'd better go through these one by one - in this way we'll get quite a clear idea, quite a
detailed idea of what is meant by ‘the difficult-to-
obtain, free, and endowed human body,' the assumption being that having set off on the Path one in
fact has this ‘difficult-to-obtain, free, and endowed human body.' So, free from what, first of all?
There are Eight Freedoms - that is to say, freedom from eight particular things - eight fetters, which
make it difficult, even impossible, for one to evolve.

‘Firmly holding wrong views, such as atheism, nihilism, or disbelief in the law of cause and effect.'
This is the first thing from which one has to be free, if one wishes to seek after Liberation, and the
Omniscience of Buddhahood.

Mangala: Would you just repeat those four again, Bhante? Atheism, Nihilism....

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