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Precious Garland - Unchecked

DISCLAIMER - This transcript has not been checked by Sangharakshita, and may contain mistakes and mishearings. Checked and reprinted copies of all seminars will be available as part of the Complete Works Project.

by Sangharakshita

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FRIENDS OF THE WESTERN BUDDHIST ORDER

Seminar: The Precious Garland
Day 1.
Compiler’s Note: As you will soon see the scan of this seminar is very poor. The original that
it was scanned from was just a carbon copy (the only remaining ‘original’) of the seminar.
Much of what follows will, I predict, be totally incomprehensible!)
Silabhadra July 2004S. All right, let's start from the introduction. We can just read a para- graph at a time, just
going round the circle from left to right. You start off...
? Nagarj na was an Indian pandit from Vidarbha in south India who lived approximately
four hundred years after Buddha's death. At that time the Mahayana teaching had
diminished, and nagarj na assumed the task of reviving it by founding the Madhyamika
school of tenets. Here, in his 'precious Gar- land', he clarifies the Buddha's exposition of
emptiness based on the Perfection
of Wisdom Su~tras (Prajnaparamita).
He presents the ten Bodhisattva stages
leading to Buddahood based on the Sutra on the Ten Stages (Dasabhumika).
He
details a Bodhisattva's collections of merit and wisdom based on the Su~tra Set forth by
Aksayamati (Aksayamatinirdesa). The Precious Garland was intended primarily for the
Indian king 'Satavah~ana, therefore, Nagarjuna includes specific advice on ruling a kingdom.
(The section on the undesir- ability of the body is written with reference to the female body
simply because the king was a male. As Nagarjuna says, the advice should be taken as
apply- ing to both males and females.) Along his works, the 'Precious Garland' is renowned
for extensively describing both the profound emptinesses and the ext- ensive Bodhisattva
deeds of compassion.
S. Mmm. Carry on round0 ? The translation is based on an oral transmission and explanation of the text received from
His Holiness Tenzin Gyatso, the Fourteenth Dalal Lama, in Dharmasala, India in May of
1972. The text was translated in accordance with the commentary by Tsong-ka-pa's disciple
Gyel-tsap whose guide has been included here to facilitate reading. The work was translated
by JeffreyHopkins
2.
Hopkins, who orally retranslated the English into Tibetan for verification and correction by
ati Rimpoche and then worked with Ann ~(?) to improve the presentation in English.
S. Mmm. So this little introduction gives us really all the facts that we need before we
actually start studying the text. Is there annthing that isn't
clear to anybody? Is it quite clear who Nagarjuna was, very generally speaking? the history
of what he did, what his importance is in Buddhist thought and Buddhist spiritual
tradition?
?
that Nagarjuna assumed the task of reviving .
S.
Mmm.
? I think that Nagarjuna was more or less responsible for bringing the teaching out rather
than rev......
S.Er, yes, well this reflects the difference between what we may describe as the Western
scholarly point of view and the traditional Buddhist point of view. That's not to say that one
is right and the other is wrong, but there is a difference of standpoint here. The traditional
Buddhist and traditional Tibetan point of view as expressed here is that the Bud~dha himself
had taught the Mahayana, but the Mahayana Sutras were delivered by the Buddha exactly as
they've come down to us. But that by the time of Nagarjuna they'd sunk into decline and
Nagarjuna revived them, even rediscovered sorne of them. ~The Western scholarly point of
view would be that the Buddha had not taught the Mahayana Sutras, certainly not in the form
in which they've come down to us. Maybe certain things that the Buddha actually said,
certain teachings that the Buddha actually gave, contains the seed that later on developed into
the Mahayana, so that the Western scholar would regard Nagarjuna as developing those
seeds, not as reviving something which had already blossomed. So there is a definite
difference of
3.
viewpoint here.
?
That could be a Hi~nayana point of view
F~naya~a's the
o~A,q4A
~~ of ~ teaching, and Nahaya~na came later
~.
Yes, this is very mucii the Hinayana point of view, or Theravada point of
view, rather than....
t
? The correct point of
view, as you say, would be the Mahayana of all... ~ndian and
S.
This is what, this is the~Tibetan point of view. Probably, if we locked follow at it
quite objectively, we can't really ~ either point of view explicitly
I think we can' t acctpt that the Nahayana Su~ras were tsught by the Buddha
exactly as they have come down to us, but we can accept that they certainly reflect the spirit
of the Buddha, the spiri~f the Buddha's teaching, recast in - you know - another form at a later
time. We can certainly see in the Pali
text even, not only the seeds but the quite definite statements of teachings later on that come
out more fully~in the Mahay~-na tradition. So probably we just have
to follow a sort of middle way here, and give a certain amount of weight to the traditional
point of view and a certain amc~rnt of weight to modern scholarly opinion, but not regarding
either as ~xclusively right, or either as exclii ively wrong. ~iid then we find this sort of
difficulty , you know, when we're deal
ing with Buddhist Sutras very often. And to what extent can they be regarded later as
actually the words of the Buddha? to what extent are thay sort of reshapings
of His original message? and it may well be that , you know, we can't alway~ be absolutely
certain that the Buddha said these particular things in that part- icular way. Probably texts
like the Udana texts, like the Sutta- Nipata, bring us back as near to what the Buddha said in
the way that He said it, as anything else in the ~~ole of the Buddhist Canon. But that doesn't
mean that works tkat originat~ later as regards- their literary forms, don't very faithfully
reflect the spirit of the Buddha's teaching, even though the form may be different, you
know,from the form that Ne gave the teaching. So it's a question of a very was fine balance
between the spirit and the letter. So here, whoever ~ responsible
for the introduction, is reflecting the traditional Tibetan point of view,
4.
Buddhist which again reflects the original Indian point of view that Nagarjuna revived
the Mahayana teaching, that that teaching had been given in its fullness exactly ~qA~ as
contained in the Nahayana Sutras by the Buddha, eMiL that by the time of
Nagarjui~ this had ~unk into decline and been revived. And where as I said the Western
scholar would be more inclined to reg~d Nagarjuna as developing some- thing which wasn't
fully existing before his time.
Would ~ the king have scribes that this would' be an oral...?
S.
Mmiii?
transcripted? Would this have been transmitted oraly and the king....?
S.
N0~ as far as we can see Nage~juna wrote. By the time of Nagarjuna writing was in
quite common use and he clearly ~ wrote this as an actual letter, or maybe a little sort of work
on BuddhisL in the form of a letter.
?
This would be about the same time as the Prajnaparamjta texts, the only ones that
were written down?
is
S.
Yes, yes... That about 400 years after the Buddha. You notice
it says the translation is based on an oral transmission and explanation. I mean this draws
~ttention to the fact that, you know, even when works were written down the teacher who
wrote them explained tI,~m to the disciples, and 9-
they explained to t~eir disciples. Usually in Tibet you don't just read a text
by y~urself, you go to a guru teacher who's heard the explanation
from his teacher and so on. In the case of quite ~lementary works this isn't
- 'so ii~portant, but if it's something quite abstruse and difficult, well ob- vio-~sly it does
become more and more important to have the correct interpretation. And sometimes the
correct int~rpretation may even be lost, you kno~';, if that continuity is interrupted, and one
m~y have to search it out again. So usually along with the text you get the oral explanation
of the bringin~ out of the meaning of the text in full. And most people~hat have
been on study
5.
retreats have found that they get
far more out of the text in that way. If you very often
just go through it by yourself,
? it doesn't mean very much, but if
you actually go through it in this sort of way, then you see far more meaning in it than you
would have done otherwise. Much more is brought out.
? Nn¶.
W~~~nIty~~ asked out when you.... before your ordination,
er, what books you'd re~
S.
That's right..
?
And by that they meant what books you'd read with a teacher~
S.
Yes~ yes, thaft's right.
That was in the context of the Therav&d~. That was
the same tradition there.
~~at you've read by yourself in a sense
doesn't count...... t~e-~ it's p~~~~&t~7 Tim?
Tim (?)
It's £ood to keep a
~C'~~~ ~~tudy retreats ohculdb
st~.
S.
You'~ ~e4&ee ~ all the
anyway........ All flght, let's go
on to Chapter One
and read a verse at
a time, going round the circle
and
t4~l
-
~
)
Chapter One
I bow down to theA i~~a;-2+. fre~from all defects, ...

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