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Precepts of the Gurus - 2nd Seminar Part 1

by Sangharakshita

necessary for us in the course of our development which may sometimes involve doing
something which we don't particularly like doing, or even something that we're not
particularly good at. Sometimes, that is the thing that we need to do for the sake of our own
development. On the other hand, we don't want people who are responsible for getting things
done over-using this argument! Do you see what I mean? It requires a very fine balance, a
very, sort of, developed awareness of the person involved, the situation, and quite a deep
understanding of things, a quite fair, objective attitude. Otherwise on the one hand, someone
will use the argument; "Oh, it isn't in accordance with my development", as a means of
getting out of doing something he doesn't like doing; on the other hand, the person who's
responsible for getting the job done, will use the argument, "Ah well, if you don't like doing
it, well, probably it's a very good thing that you should do it". You can use that as an
argument for getting the job done because that is what he is more concerned about. So you
have both the person doing it, and the person getting done have to try to do justice to both
sides of the situation.

Manjuvajra: How would you set about finding out which were the thing that you needed to

S: I think you can't really decide in the abstract. I think you can only get some light on the
matter by actually doing something, and then discovering in actual experience what sort of
effect it has on you. I don't think you can sit down and sort of think it out, though obviously,
you'll give some prior consideration before taking something up, but you don't really know

very well. I mean, sometimes people take up things that they think they are not at all suited
for; they hadn't really thought of taking up that particular thing but circumstances have
pushed them into it; and then they find that they like doing it, it's doing them good, etc, etc.
So I think, with due caution, or maybe, in accordance with the advice of spiritual friends, you
actually take up something, and then see where it is leading you, what sort of effect it has on
you. I don't think you can always know in advance. I think you should be prepared to take up
something that does represent quite unfamiliar territory, sometimes. But I think in a way
more basic is one's understanding of oneself. I think, more often than not, we've got
completely wrong ideas about ourselves, our nature, temperament, what we're suited for,
what we're good at, etc. We're not at all the sort of people that we think we are, more often
than not. I said to someone yesterday evening that one of the things that happens, sort of, if
you keep an eye on yourself as you enter, well, not exactly middle age, but as you enter upon
the years of maturity, let's say, that very often you realise that what you have been thinking of
as your virtues were, in fact, your vices, or at least your weaknesses; and you have to sort of
revise the way in which you look at yourself.

Devaraja: Can you say any more about what you mean by virtues?

S: Well, yes; supposing somebody thought that they were very good-natured, very tolerant,
very easy-going, very understanding, it could have been just that they were afraid to disagree
with people; they didn't like to upset people; their security was vested in the fact that they got
on well with people, and that people liked them; they didn't want, at any cost, to disturb that;
that was a weakness, it wasn't a virtue. Do you see what I mean? It was almost a vice. But
they thought of themselves as so nice, so kind, so tolerant; they were simply afraid of
disagreement, afraid of the insecurity that disagreement would threaten them with.

Mangala: Do you think that perhaps, let's say one's spiritual friends would have a clearer
idea of what you'd be good at, than you yourself?

S: Well, I think if your spiritual friend had known you, and known you well over a period of
several years, very likely they would be able to give you some useful advice. But I don't
think even your spiritual friends would have a sort of intuitive knowledge of what was good
for you after only a relatively short, relatively superficial acquaintance, say, even of a year or
so, however good their intentions, however much they liked you and wished you well. Now
I've really noticed in the case of quite a few of our friends that it's taken them four, five, even
six or more years to sort out, after ordination, what they were really good at, and good for, in
the fullest sense, within the context of the Movement. So I think, in a way, one must be
prepared for this: let's take it that you come into the FWBO in the normal sort of way, let's
say when you're in your early twenties and you're ordained, say, within a couple of years:
let's say, for the sake of argument, you're ordained by the time you're twenty five, though
maybe that is a bit late on the whole, but anyway, let's say by the time you're twenty five, I
think you won't really know what you're good at and what you could best do in the interests
of your own development and the good of the Movement until you're about thirty, if not thirty
one or two. I think it's partly getting to know yourself, partly undoing previous
conditionings, partly exploring the opportunities quite objectively; opportunities may not
exist at the particular time that you happened to begin being around, or at the centre that
you're around - because we're still quite small and limited in many ways.

So I don't think that we should think in terms of, that we necessarily know, or know very
well, or can find out very quickly what we're best at, or best for, or what our capabilities in
the true sense really are. In the case of those who come into the Movement pretty late in life,
say when they're over forty or over fifty, they might have to face the rather frightening fact
that the greater part of their life has been a false start; they may be on the wrong track; they
may have been pursuing some line in connection with, say, their lay or professional life that

was just really not very good or not very suitable for them, and have to make a completely
fresh start after getting involved with the Friends, and thinking in terms of their individual
spiritual development.

This is not just to say that what you're not suited for is necessarily going to be something that
you're not very good at; you may be very good at it, and do it quite successfully but it still
may not be the thing that you should really be doing, I mean in the wider interests of your
own development; and I think it's very important, as the years go by, that people should more
and more proximate to what they really want to do, and what is really good for them to be
doing in objective terms, because only then will they be able to put themselves into it, heart
and soul, so to speak, completely. Otherwise there'll be some need within themselves, as it
were, unsatisfied. So therefore it's very important on the subjective side that people contact,
assuming their commitment to start with, assuming their spiritual commitment, what, within
that frame of commitment, they really want to do, and they just have to do that, and be
allowed to do that and encouraged to do that, whether it's meditating, administering, painting,
taking classes, raising funds, they must in the deepest and best sense, do what they want to
do. Well of course, it's not easy to find out what you want to do in that full, 100% sense. It's
the most difficult thing in the world in a way to do what you want to do, or to know what you
want to do. What you want to do is not just some passing fancy or whim; it's something
much deeper than that, something really deeply in accordance with you nature.

Mangala: Would you say it's something that you actually need as for you to develop it, then?

S: I think you need to do what you want to do.

Mangala: But I mean, what you want to do, does that have to be something quite clearly
defined, and specific, almost?

S: I think it does.

Mangala: I was going to say you could, in a sense, not do anything in particular, if that's

S: I think you could, but that would be a very definite thing; in some ways that's the most
difficult of all, that you are just around and you're just as it were living your life without any
particular work, responsibility, duty, function, but I think very few people could do that, or
would do that or would want to do that. I think most people want, and need, to be occupied,
so to speak, have a definite job to do, of one kind or another.

Mangala: ...

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