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Transcribing the oral tradition...

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Precepts of the Gurus - 4th Seminar

by Sangharakshita


[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: 23-24 February 1980Those Present: The Venerable Sangharakshita, Clive Pomfret (now Kevala), Susiddhi, Will
Spens (now Satyaraja), Mike Keogh (now Indrabhuti), Devaraja, Brian Duff (now
Dharmavira), Tony Bowall (now Silabhadra), Andy Friends (now Subhadra), Derek
Goodman (now Sasanaratna), Alan Morrow (now Chakkhupala), Steve Webster (now
Dharmabandhu), Roger Jones (now Vajradipa)
[Tape 1, side 1] Session 1S: We're going to be going through some of the Precepts of the Gurus. We've got here copies
of three chapters, that is to say chapter XI - starting from chapter XI, then chapter XII, chapter
XIII. We may or we may not be able to get through all three chapters. I'd be rather surprised if
we were able. Usually, in the
course of a weekend, we get through one chapter or one section, because we prefer to go quite
thoroughly into each precept and look at it from as many different points of view as possible
without being afraid even of the odd digression. So maybe we could go round the circle
reading a precept at a time, and then going into it as deeply as we can.
XI. The Ten Resemblances Wherein One May Err.
(1) Desire may be mistaken for faith.
S: Perhaps I should just mention, before we go into that, that we are starting on XI because
the previous ten sections have been dealt with in the course of other seminars, so this is a sort
of collective effort, going through this particular text with different sections being done in
different seminars with different groups of people.
So 'Desire may be mistaken for faith'. Here we are concerned, as the chapter heading says,
with 'Resemblances wherein one may err'; in other words, it's very easy to mistake one thing
for another just because it looks like it when superficially considered or superficially
examined. So there are ten resemblances wherein one may err, particularly, and the first one
is 'Desire may be mistaken for faith'. But how is that? How can desire be mistaken for faith?
What is desire? What is faith? These are the sort of questions that are raised here.
Has anyone got any idea, to begin with, how desire may be mistaken for faith? Perhaps we
should look at it, first of all, by asking in what way is desire similar to faith? In what way
does desire resemble faith, actually?
Roger: They're quite strong feelings.
S: They're quite strong feelings. Well, desire is always a strong feeling, or usually a strong
feeling. Faith ideally is a strong feeling. Only too often it's rather weak, admittedly, but it
should be strong. Yes, desire and faith are both strong feelings. Any other resemblance?
Mike: They're both a belief in something.
S: They're both a belief in something - is desire a belief in something?
Mike: You have to believe in it to desire it.
S: Necessarily? For instance if by belief one means that one has got a sort of clearly defined
idea of the object of the desire? Desire can be as it were instinctual can't it with a not very
clear idea of its appropriate object - can be quite blind? In fact, desire sometimes is
notoriously blind, one could say. A desire with regard to which you have a clear idea of what
it is that you desire is what we might call rational desire. There is such a thing. But also there
is such a thing as irrational desire, which just goes blundering along with no very clear idea of
its object at all. So one couldn't speak of desire in general and faith in general as resembling
each other inasmuch as they have clear ideas of their respective objects always.
So any other resemblance?
Roger: They do pertain to oneself.
S: They pertain to oneself, what, in the sense that they originate from oneself?
Roger: Mm, and they seem to be each very much concerned with oneself.
S: Mm, one's desire or one's faith is very personal to oneself, as it were; is that what you're
saying? Well, yes, one could say, in some cases. In certain respects desire, if one is especially
thinking in terms of the more irrational desire, is common to many people. In fact, one could
say that the less rational the more common. But it's personal in the sense of being subjective.
Roger: That is more what I was trying to say, yes.
S: But what does that suggest by way of a resemblance, in a very general way?
Steve: You think that both of them are going to make you happy.
S: You think that both are going to make you happy. You may think, in the case of desire, if
you get around to thinking at all - which you may not necessarily do - you may just assume ...
I'm trying to get to what seems to be the biggest resemblance of all, in a way.
Devaraja: Is it a feeling of wanting to make something outside of yourself or something other
than yourself part of yourself?
S: Possibly; possibly. Though very often one doesn't actually have that idea, when you go
after something which you desire. You don't necessarily have the idea of making it part of
yourself. You may sort of act in that way, but if you were asked, and if you were to think, to
the extent that you could think, you wouldn't necessarily say that you were trying to make it
part of yourself.
Roger: Because they are strong, they are really very overpowering.
S: We're getting there: they're strong, they're overpowering, but they are strong what?
Tony: Emotions.
S: Emotions, yes! They're emotions. So this is probably the greatest resemblance that they
have: that desire and faith are both emotions, or both feelings, and this is the reason, of
course, why they are so strong: it's because the emotions generally are strong, especially basic
ones of this sort.
So all right, they resemble each other in being emotions. So that would suggest that it's on
account of their both being emotions and actually generally resembling each other in that
respect - it's on that account that one can be mistaken for the other. So that raises the question
of what is the difference, what makes the difference, between desire, which is an emotion,
and faith, which is an emotion? How do they differ?
Devaraja: In faith there's an element of confidence. There's a feeling of confidence that arises
out of it. With desire it doesn't seem to have that basis.
S: Not necessarily. I would say in both cases it depends upon the extent of your previous
acquaintance, or on the extent of your previous experience. In the case of faith - yes, faith can
be, or can develop into, confidence, but only as a result of experience. For instance, you have
faith in a person, so until you really know them, until you have some real experience of them,
your faith is blind faith, virtually - blind in the sense of not being confirmed by your
experience of them. You may, for instance, enter into some kind of business dealings with
somebody; you may have faith that they are going to act honestly. But that, until you actually
know them and have experience of them, is pure faith, based perhaps upon superficial
impressions, their reputation, their appearance. But if you deal with them regularly for years
together, and you find that they are always honest, always reliable, then your faith becomes
In the same way with desire: you may have a desire for a certain [4] thing, but to begin with
your desire may be a blind desire because you don't know whether any particular given object
is going to satisfy your desire or not. But with experience you learn, or you come to learn,
what actually does satisfy your desire, at least for the time being. So the question of
confidence arising out of experience or acquaintance arises in both cases; so that cannot be
taken as a differentiating factor.
Roger: Faith does seem to be much more outward-looking, whereas desire is just purely ...
subjective, and there's real quite a difference in feel to it, isn't there?
S: Yes. Yes. So in the case of faith, in a sense it's more than a sort of outwardgoingness. It's
not even an outwardgoingness, it's having an outward reference, because desire is also
outwardgoing, towards the object of desire, but the ultimate reference is to the subject.
Because the outwardgoingness is for the sake of the satisfaction of the desire of the subject,
but in the case of faith it doesn't quite happen like that, doesn't quite work like that; there's an
outwardgoingness for the sake of the object. It's almost as though you give yourself to the
object. Whereas in the case of desire you give the object to yourself.
So you could say that desire represents a sort of appropriating outwardgoingness or
outwardgoingness for the sake of appropriation, whereas faith, to the extent that one speaks of
outwardgoingness at all, represents an outwardgoingness for the sake of the object in order to
place yourself at the service of the object, or at the disposal of the object, or under the
influence of the object. So you begin to approach some sense of the difference between the
two things.
So how may desire be mistaken for faith? You may think that you believe in something and
want to give yourself to something when you only want to appropriate something and use it
for ...

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