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Stability of Societies - New Zealand 1979

by Sangharakshita

Sangharakshita In Seminar


[Weekend study in 1979 in Wellington - New Zealand]

Those Present: Keith Downer (now Dharmadhara) Udaya, Purna, Achala, Megha, Jennine, Geoff
Byng, Ian Allen (two others, not identified)

Sangharakshita: Ready? Alright then we'll be doing the section on 'Conditions of Communal
Stability', which is quite an important one. And we'll do what we usually do: we'll go round the
circle, taking it in turns to read a paragraph, and then talk about the paragraph, talk about any
particular points which arise.

Here you will notice that this first section - 'Conditions of Communal Stability' - is sort of
introductory, so we can just read through that, and add a few explanatory comments, and then we can
go straight on to the section proper, which deals with the 'Conditions for the Stability of the Order.
So can someone start on the left, and read `The Conditions of Communal Stability'.

[TEXT from "Some Sayings of the Buddha" P.68
(Oxford University Press Paperback edition)]
Now at that time the venerable Ananda was standing behind the
Exalted One and fanning him. And the Exalted One said to the
venerable Ananda:
'How now, Ananda? Have you ever beard that the Vajjians repeatedly
assemble together and in large numbers?'
'I have beard so, Lord.'
'Well, Ananda, so long as the Vajjians shall assemble repeatedly and
in large numbers, just so long may the prosperity of the Vajjian's be
looked for and not their decay.
. . . So long, Ananda, as the Vajjians assemble in harmony and
disperse in harmony: so long as they do their business in harmony: so
long as they introduce no revolutionary ordinance, or break up no
established ordinance, but abide by the old-time Vajjian Norm, as
ordained: so long as they honour, reverence, esteem, and worship the
elders among the Vajjians and deem them worthy of listening to: so
long, as the women and maidens of the families dwell without being
forced or abducted: so long as they honour, revere, esteem, and

worship the Vajjian shrines, both the inner and the outer: so long as
they allow not the customary offerings, given and performed, to he
neglected: so long as the customary watch and ward over the Arahants
that are among them is well kept, so that they may have free access to
the realm and having entered may dwell pleasantly therein: just so
long as they do these things, Ananda, may the prosperity of the Vajjians
be looked for and not their decay.'
Digha Nikaya ii. 73

S: Alright. First of all a few words about the Vajjians. Does everyone know who these Vajjians were?

Purna: Were they the tribal kingdom in the delta between the Jumna and the main Ganges?

S: I don't know if they were. They were tribal, but they weren't a kingdom. They had a republican
form of government. It is important to remember that, in the Buddha's day, politically, India was
divided into kingdoms and republics, and there were a number of kingdoms and a number of
republics at that time. And the important fact of the reign of the time of the Buddha, (unclear)
speaking, was that the kingdoms were increasing and swallowing up the republics. And in particular
the kingdom of Magadha was swallowing up the republic. And at that time the king of Magadha, the
ruler of Magadha, was Ajattasatru (unclear). was thinking of incorporating the Vajjian republic into
the kingdom of Magadha. So he sent one of his ministers to call upon the Buddha, and to try to find
out indirectly whether the Buddha thought the enterprise would be successful. But the Buddha did
not reply directly, and he made, to Ananda, the remarks which are given here, which suggested to the
king, Ajattasatru, that perhaps the king would not be successful. Later on, unfortunately, the king was
successful, I think, after the Buddha's death, after the Parinirvana, and the kingdom of Magadha
continued to expand, until, of course, the time of Ashoka, when the kingdom of Magadha was
practically coterminous with the (unclear) of India.

But anyway all that was in the future. So the Buddha was laying down, in this particular passage,
what the translator calls `conditions of communal stability.' So the Buddha, having laid down those
conditions of communal stability, having indicated the conditions under which the Vajjis (?) were
likely to retain their independence, went on to develop the theme and apply it to the Sangha; to apply
it to the Order; to apply it to the Spiritual community, in a sort of parallel fashion. So this suggests
that there is a sort of parallel, if you like, up to a point, between what we sometimes call the `positive
group' and what we call the 'spiritual community'. Do you see what I'm getting at?

The Vajjis, the tribal republic of the Vajjis, represent a sort of positive group, and the Buddha is
talking about the conditions of communal stability (i.e. of the stability of positive groups), but then
he goes on to talk about conditions of the stability of the Order (i.e. of spiritual communities). So
there is a parallel between the two, but only up to a point.

So this weekend we are concerned more about the conditions of the stability of the Order, that is to
say : the spiritual community, and not so much with conditions of communal stability (i.e. stability of
the positive group). But it is important to notice the parallel between the two, and also to understand
the difference between the two. This is, perhaps, vitally important. So maybe we can talk about
that for a little bit before we go on to conditions of stability of the Order, and also, maybe, make a
few comments on some particular points mentioned by the Buddha as conducive to communal
But first of all this difference, or distinction between the positive group and the spiritual community :
It is very, very important to understand this within the context of the FWBO, otherwise there

can be lots of misunderstanding and confusion.

So what do you think is the main difference between the positive group and the spiritual community?

Ian Allen: The word `spiritual'.

S: The word `spiritual'. What (unclear) understand by that?

Ian A: The positive group is not necessarily spiritual, although they might be positive.

S: What exactly does one mean by `positive'?

Ian A: Ah .......

S: Positive what?

Purna: Setting up conditions that are in fact `breeding' people for - individuals for - the spiritual life.

S: Mm. Or even if not `breeding' at least permitting - at least permitting. In a way the positive group
cannot `breed' individuals; cannot `breed' the spiritual community, because the positive group as
such doesn't know anything about the spiritual community; but at least it can be open to some sort of
development or possibility beyond itself; and this is, in fact, made provision for by the Buddha. He
says : "So long as the customary watch and ward over the Arahants that are among them is well-
kept, so that they may have free access to the realm and having entered may dwell pleasantly therein
: just so long as they do these things, Ananda, may the prosperity of the Vajjians be looked for and
not their decay."

One mustn't take the term `Arahant' here, too literally. `Arahants' means `the spiritually worthy ones',
the True Individuals you might say. So the positive group has got to be aware at least, of the
existence of `Individuals', let's say, and make arrangements for them. In other words, make it
possible for them to live as Individuals. Do you see what I'm getting at?

So, even though the group cannot make any arrangements to `breed' Individuals, it can, at least,
permit them to live; at least permit them to move about when they've succeeded in making
themselves Individuals, with the help of their spiritual friends.

So the positive group must be open-ended with regard to the possibility of Individuals, and the
possibility of the spiritual community. It must permit the spiritual community to exist. So it does this
by not claiming to possess the Individual totally, which is, of course, the tendency in modern times
: for the corporate state to claim to possess the Individual more and more - his time, his energy, his
money, his everything! So you can hardly get away from the stranglehold of the corporate state.

So the Buddha is saying here, that the group, even the `positive group', must permit the Individual as
such to exist. This is what it really means : A `positive group' is not really a `positive group' unless it
permits the Individual as such, to exist. This is putting it in more general terms. If the positive group
to which you belong ...

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