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Precepts of the Gurus - 2nd Seminar Part 1

by Sangharakshita

... What about the possibility of somebody, I think you said this, perhaps before, a
bit like maybe somebody, like say they'd be a treasurer for five years, and do really good and
then they decide, well, I'm fed up with that now, now I want to go and write books or
something. I mean, do you think that one can renew what one really wants to do, every so
often?

S: I Think it can change; I mean, what you really want to do, what you would really like to
do is to have a full, rounded experience of life, of the Movement and not being able to do
everything at the same time, so to speak, you'd like to go from one thing to another in a
systematic way, adding to your experience and insight.

Mangala: But for the time being, that's what you really want to do? One particular thing?

S: Right, yes because you can't do a number of things at the same time literally, can you?


Kamalasila: Do you think everybody has got one particular thing that they really want to
do?

S: Well, I would say this: it's not necessarily one specific thing; you may not necessarily,
say, want to paint thangkas every day of your life, all throughout your life. There may, in a
sense, be a number of things but they'll be connected by a sort of inner thread so that what
appear to be a number of different things are really different aspects of one and the same
thing, one and the same interest, one and the same commitment.

Kamalasila: Do you think everybody has got this sort of inner thread?

S: I mentioned earlier on, within the framework of your individual commitment. If you
haven't got that individual commitment, that commitment to your own development as an
individual, well all that can hold you together is some worldly interest or (Kamalasila: Yes
there must be some integration), yes, something of that sort.

Manjuvajra: It's a bit like, I mean, your commitment is the content and then what you do is
like the form of the expression of your commitment.

S: You could say that, yes.

Manjuvajra: Then you're saying that that expression can change?

S: Well, yes.

Manjuvajra: Supposing one of the things you're interested in was writing, I mean should
one be thinking in terms of like developing that particular way of functioning so that
eventually, over the years, you would develop your skills and so on, so that eventually that
becomes your sole method of functioning?

S: I don't think you necessarily have to think like that. One of the things I've noticed is,
there are two kinds of people, in a way, and also even two kinds of a spiritual ideal. One is
the intense person, if you like, the deep and intense person, and there is the broad person who
is not necessarily the superficial person any more than the intense person is necessarily the
narrow person; you get that even in the field of say literature; you can get say the poet who is
nothing but a poet, who has got no interest except in poetry all through his career; but you've
also got the man who writes poetry, plays, novels, takes part in political activities, gives
speeches etc, etc. He might have all sorts of other interests too. It's as though this is a
temperamental thing, so maybe this is one of the things that you have to decide about
yourself, whether you are one of these hermit-like people who concentrate absolutely on one
quite narrow field, very intensely, or whether you're one of these people who have lots of
interests all interrelated, but turning now to this and now to that, a bit like William Morris
who'd work for a couple of hours writing an epic poem and he'd get a bit tired of that, and
he'd do a bit of type-setting and design a few borders for his books and then he'd get tired of
that and design a few curtains and then he'd write two or three lyric poems and then he'd paint
a picture, and he'd spend the whole day like this, very happily every day; this is how his life
was.

But someone else would be brooding over his poems, day after day after day, and never even
think of anything else. Look at Balzac writing his novels, shutting himself up in his garret,
almost literally, and putting on a monastic dress with a cowl; he regarded himself as the
monk, as it were, of novel writing; he was completely dedicated to this, just like a monk
would be to his cell and his meditations; he'd just spend the greater part of the twenty four
hours with strong brews of coffee, and just writing his novels. He wrote - I forget what the

number was - it must have been about two hundred in the end.

You see these two different types? And then again, I mention two different kinds of spiritual
ideal in this respect; this is something I've noticed in the past; I noticed this in India: you can
have the purest spiritual ideal, that is to say, your interest is nothing except meditation,
asceticism, the strict life; every turn, you ask yourself, well. what effect does this have on my
spiritual development, even on my meditation? Does it help it or not? If it doesn't help it, all
right, give it up; you really strip things down. Milarepa's a very good example of this kind of
thing. On the other hand you've got the spiritual person or the spiritual ideal which is an ideal
of many-sidedness, that you should be able to teach and give talks, you should be able to
write, you should be able to meditate, you should be able to perform feats of magic; it's the
many-sided spiritual ideal. You see the two kinds?

So again, one has to decide whether one is more of this type or more inclined towards that
type. Again it's the intense person and the broad person. I don't know what this works out as
in terms of Buddhism and the character types, but this is what I've noticed myself.

Devaraja: Can you give an example of the second?

S: Well, Padmasambhava; Milarepa and Padmasambhava are very good examples within the
Tibetan tradition; so in the Japanese tradition, Kobodashi seems a pretty good example of the
second, who again, significantly was a Tantric teacher, the founder of the Shingon School in
Japan, "Kukai", he's also called.

Nagabodhi: Obviously, the implication is that whichever ideal you subscribe to, whichever
kind of person you are, you are sufficiently integrated and concentrated as a person not for
the broadness to just be a scatteredness.

S: Right, yes; nor for the concentratedness and intensity to be a narrowness or an
impoverishment.

Mangala: I feel perhaps, a danger in, even maybe in a way thinking like this, is that I go
away or people could get hold of this kind of material, and then try to sort of think it all out,
go around thinking; I mean (words unclear) what I've been doing and -

S: Well, you know you should give some thought to it but as I've said, you can only really
discover in terms of action and experience; you should actually do something, and then
maybe consider, after a year or two, what effect it's had on you, and where it's got you, and
what effect it probably would have if you continued in it.

Kamalasila: Would there be any thing wrong in thinking about what you'd experienced?

S: Well, you should reflect, in advance, what would be the likely effect upon you but you
can't really know unless you get into it; unless you have a certain amount of self-knowledge
to begin with, and yes, you definitely know that this would not be good, or that would be
good, to some extent. I mean that sort of knowledge from experience presumably should
accumulate as you go on.

Kamalasila: I find the personalities of both Milarepa and Padmasambhava appeal equally,
so does that mean I'm quite confused?

S: No, it just means you're very, very many-sided. That is also something that does happen;
one is attracted by contradictory ideals, or one wants to do contradictory things. For instance,
this is not an unusual thing, I would say that, for instance, you feel like being sociable and

also feel like being solitary at the same time, and both appeal equally to you, and that does
make life a bit difficult. You can only alternate them, because obviously you can't do both at
the same time except on a very high, transcendental level. (Pause)

But one of the things that I regard as quite important - I've mentioned it already, or touched
upon it already, but I touch upon it again - which is that after various trials, experiments,
maybe failures and false starts, you should end up - I'm assuming that you're a sincerely
committed person to begin with - ...

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