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Precepts of the Gurus - 2nd Seminar Part 1

by Sangharakshita


SANGHARAKSHITA IN SEMINAR


THE PRECEPTS OF THE GURUS - SECOND SEMINAR

[Study based on the Chapter entitled:
'The Supreme Path, The Rosary of Precious Gems'
found in
"A BUDDHIST BIBLE", edited by Dwight Goddard,
1970 edition, Beacon Press, Boston, USA.
(ISBN 0-8070-5951-X)]


Held at:Padmaloka

Date:August 1979
Those Present:The Venerable Sangharakshita, Nagabodhi, Mangala, Devaraja, Manjuvajra,
Padmaraja, Kamalasila, Dhammamati, Colin (from Glasgow), Derek Goodman (now
Sasanaratna), Owen French (from Norwich), Campbell McEwan (now Jinavamsa).

S: All right then, so we're going to be studying the text called the Supreme Path of
Discipleship, the Precepts of the Gurus: we're going to be starting from Section Two, because
Section One, "The Ten Causes of Regret" was done, I believe it was by the chairmen in the
course of a whole weekend; they spent a whole weekend over those ten causes of regret.
We're going to start from "The Ten Requirements", and we're just going to spend as much
time on them as we need. We're in no hurry to finish the text because, almost certainly, some
part of it will be left, and we'll be carrying on with it at the next study retreat in three weeks
time. So, can we read the Ten Requirements one by one: that is to say, going round in a
circle, read one and then discuss it thoroughly, as much as need be.


II. The Ten Requirements

(1). Having estimated one's capabilities, one requireth a sure line of action".

S: There's quite a lot contained here, actually; you could probably spend the whole of the rest
of the day discussing this particular precept; the first point that occurs is that you can't really
decide upon the sure line of action unless you have properly estimated your own capabilities.
Knowing, as it were, what you are capable of doing, and knowing what line of action you
should take, are two very closely related things. Perhaps I could start the ball rolling by one
or two remarks of a general

nature; for instance I've noticed, in the context of the Friends, that after someone is ordained,
they take up various things; they get involved with various things, quite often of an active,
even organisational nature, but the thing that they first get involved with is not necessarily the
best thing for them, or the right line of action for them, and quite often, people make a false
start, I've noticed: and this is usually because they've wrongly estimated their own
capabilities, not just capabilities in a narrow sort of technical sense, but their own nature;
they've wrongly understood their own nature; they haven't really understood what their strong
points or weak points are, and so they've sometimes got into something which was not the
best thing for them to get into, even if not actually the worst. So it isn't so easy to estimate
one's own capabilities; it isn't so easy to understand oneself, and then to take up the sure line
of action that you require; these are two quite difficult things to do. You may be, in principle,
a very committed person; you may be very concerned with the whole process of your
personal development and higher evolution, but that does not necessarily mean that you'll
find it very easy to decide upon exactly the right line of concrete action that you need to
follow; you may make several almost false starts before you really hit upon that line of action
which is right for you in the fullest possible sense. That is not to say you won't do quite a
number of things well, successfully. They may not be false starts in the sense of objective
failure; you may do those things perfectly well to everybody's satisfaction but they may not
necessarily therefore constitute the sure line of action which you require in your own best
interests in the fullest and deepest sense. To discover that, to hit upon that, even if you are a
committed individual, is not easy to do. So perhaps we could talk around this for a bit, and
explore this a bit; it's a very important issue. If it confronts the committed person, how much
more in a sense does it affect the not-committed, or not-quite-so-committed person? In fact,
for the non-committed person, you could say a sure line of action in the real sense, well, that
question just doesn't arise.

Mangala: Perhaps it's almost inevitable then that....people maybe come around the centre
and start getting into things. So they want to do something so they see the place needs
somebody to buy the vegetables or do certain things so they say "Right, I'll do that".

S: Well, that's on a sort of ad hoc basis. I mean you don't sort of ever think you're going to
go on buying vegetables for the rest of your life, even though it is for the FWBO.

Mangala: It could also be something a bit more, let's say, important, say, I could be treasurer
or secretary; that's really what I meant.

S: The fact that it is a sort of job that needs doing at present, and that you're quite able and
quite happy to do it, and do it successfully for a while, doesn't necessarily mean that it is the
sure line of action which you require because it's as though two things have got to, in a way,
perfectly coincide, or as perfectly as possible: your, so to speak, subjective requirements and
the objective needs of the actual situation; it may not be always easy to fit those two together.

Mangala: Would you say that it's inevitable that you must make some false start.

S: I don't say that it's inevitable; it may not always happen, but I think it does happen quite a
lot.

Nagabodhi: But when you talk about making false starts, doing things to which you're
maybe not suited, I think something that has often been at the back of my mind is that I ought
to be prepared or capable of doing anything. So where, for example, do talents, personality
traits come in to this?

S: Yes. Well, there's also the question of one's own capabilities. There is the fact that we are
able to do certain things as it were, naturally, better than others. Other factors being equal it

would seem a pity if those talents were not put at the service of the Movement. Again, there
are talents and talents. You might be able to do something, having been trained to do it which
is not really in your best interests to do, even though you can do it efficiently and even
though it is a useful thing from the point of view of the Movement. So therefore, you
sometimes have to dig very deeply into yourself; it's more a question of getting in touch with
natural aptitudes which have got almost a necessary connection with the sort of person you
are, rather than a question of superficial skills and talents, or relatively superficial skills and
talents which you've acquired, or which represent, simply, things that you can do, but which
don't have any real connection with yourself as an individual, or with the process of your
individual development.

So you can see how closely related these two things are: estimating one's own capabilities,
and deciding upon the sure line of action which you require.

Derek: If you find yourself in that kind of situation where you're doing something, and you
are able to do it quite efficiently, and it is useful for the Movement, but at the same time
you're quite sure it's not best suited to your own needs and capabilities, should you just stick
with it for a while?

S: Sometimes it's very difficult to decide because one has as it were to weigh one thing
against another; for instance, if you're doing a particular thing that, let's say for the sake of
argument, isn't particularly good that you should do, well, how much harm, as it were, does
the doing of that thing do you and how much good as it were, does it do the Movement?
Sometimes you may have to balance a little or even quite a bit of say inconvenience for
yourself against quite a bit of convenience for the Movement. But then, on the other hand, if
what you are doing is having a long-term bad effect on you, even though it may be very
useful for the Movement, it's certainly not something you should go on doing indefinitely
because your connection with the Movement is basically, or essentially based on the fact of
your own need to develop, your own desire to develop.

On the other hand, there's another factor to be considered; we mustn't be too precious about
what we like to do; it isn't a question of liking this or not liking that but of what is really ...

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