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Aspects of Buddhist Psychology - Unchecked

by Sangharakshita

DISCLAIMER - This transcript has not been checked, and may contain mistakes and mishearings.


Padmaloka, 1 - 8.9.86Present: Sarvamitra, Tejananda, Susiddhi, Virananda, Saddhaloka,
Dharmapriya, Tejamitra, Kuladeva, Ruchiraketu, Kulamitra,
Suvajra, Ratnaguna, Abhaya, Surata, Dhammaloka, Mahamati,
Prakasha, Satyaraia, Dharmadhara (recorder)
Abhaya: Well, Bhante, we've got 18 questions on this first lecture, 'Analytical Psychology of
the Abhidharma', and the first question is from Tejananda, on areas of knowledge outside of
religion in ancient India.
Tejananda: This is about the general introduction to the series at the beginning of the lecture,
where you speak of the Western tendency to see Buddhism in terms of the isolation of aspects
from the whole: hence Buddhist
psycholosy, Buddhist epistemology, Buddhist art and so on. This led our group on to a
discussion of when and how this tendency developed in the West. and also whether there was
any such tendency in ancient India.
For instance: Were there any developments towards areas of knowledge outside of the sphere
of reliqious life in the broadest sense, in ancient India?
Sangharakshita: By 'ancient India' presumably one means pre-Buddhist India?
Tejananda: Pre-Buddhist or contemporary with Buddhism.
S: Let's deal with pre-Buddhist India first. That will be simpler and more straightforward.
Pre-Buddhist India is, of course, one might say, Vedic India, and the centre of relyious studies
was, of course, the Vedas - the four Vedas or, actually, originally, the three Vedas. But there
were also various sciences which were considered to be ancillary to the Vedas. For instance,
there was grammar, there was phonetics, there was prosody, there was etymology; you might
even say geometry, mathematics. A modern Indian scholar has written a quite important book
on Vedic mathematics. So there were all these various branches of knowledge which were
related, in one way or another, to the Vedas. It is quite clear tnat, in order to understand the
meaning of the words of the Vedas, you needed to have some knowledse of etymology,
grammar, and so on. In order to be able to pronounce the words of the Vedas properly, you
needed to have a knowledge of phonetics. And
.0Q & A ABP I/1/2 2in order to be able to construct the various altars for sacrifices which were conducted to the
accompaniment of Vedic mantras, you needed to have some knowledge of arithmetic andeven
mathematics, as well as geometry. So one sees that around the Vedas there sprang up all these
subsidiary studies. But, of course, as they got more specialised as time went on, they tended
to become a bit detached from their moorings, as it were, in the Vedas. The connection was
never entirely lost, by any means; but if you specialise in any subject you tend to lose sight of
its connections with other subjects, or even with the big subject from which it orisinally
sprang, or of which it was origin211y a branch. So one can say that, in the pre-Vedic period,
brahminical knowledge, at least, brahminical scholarship, brahminical studies, were very
much organised around the Vedas; but perhaps, as time went on and as the different ancillary
subjects became more intensively studied, the connections with the Vedas became looser.
We can see much the same sort of thing nappening in the case of Buddhism in
traditional Buddhist countries. You can see it in Tibet. Art, for instance,is thoroughly
integrated with religion. It meets the requirements of religion. It provides for or helps in the
practice of religion - even dance; dance is integrated in the form of the lama dances. And, in
much the same way as grammar and prosody are required for the elucidation of the Vedas, so
they are required for the elucidation of the Buddhist Scriptures.
So you find this sort of pattern, one might say, in all traditional civilisations. But in
modern times in the West, that is progressively in the course of the last 50G years, all the
different arts and sciences have lost their moorings, one might say, in religion. They have
become increasingly independent - in fact in modern time completely independent - of
religion. This is especially, of course, the case with science, to use that rather abstract term,
which goes its own way regardless of any ethical or religious considerations. This is one of
the great problems of our time, that we have no body of, as it were, unified knowledge. I don't
mean unified in the scientific sense, but organically unified. It is well known that the arts are
quite independent of any unifying principle.
It is therefore interesting to find that there are at least some people who feel that once
again all the differenX branches of the arts, for instance, need to re-establish their ancient
religious connections. But usually this is sought to be done in a rather backward-looking way.
I am not so sure that we can do it in that way. For instance, some of you may have seen the
magazine TerEnos. This is especially interested in exploring and hope
Q & A ABP I/1/3fully reviving the spiritual connections of all the arts: the visual arts of various kinds -
painting, architecture, sculpture, as well as music and, of course, poetry and literature
generally. So that magazine represents a quite interesting development in this respect. So far
there has not been much room for Buddhisms Buddhism is usually the odd religion out, as it
were. But of course it certainly isn't going to be easy to unify all knowledge around spiritual
principles again, because knowledge has become very, very diverse. Many fields are covered
which weren't even thought about
Perhaps, on the other hand, one ought to be aware of the fact that, in former times,
perhaps, people - some people at least - did know things that aren't generally known today,
that they weren't complete fools, so to speak.
But to go back to Buddhism; even in the case of Buddhism, we see, for instance, logic
getting a little out ofhand. Logic was originally studied,
7it would seem, more by members of the Yogacara vl jnanaaada school; but eventually logical
studies got a bit detached from Buddhism. So it is not easy to see what we can do about this
problem, which we undoubtedly have; but perhaos we can at least get the problem clearly into
view - the fact that different branches of knowledge are pursued by their respective specialists
without reference to any unifying principle. And that must make a tremendous difference,
really,to our whole outlook on lire. In other words, we don't any longer feel ourselves,
intellectually and culturally speaking, to be inhabiting a cosmos of knowledge and
experience, but something more like a chaos. And that is reflected in the arts, very often.
Is this the sort of thing you were thinking about, the sort of thing you were discussing?
Tejananda: Yes.
Ratnaguna: Bhante, you said a few minutes ago that some people have tried to bring a
unifying principle to the arts and sciences but in a backwardlooking way. What did you mean
by that?
5: I was thinking of some of the contributors, say, to Ta7Enos, who seem to suggest that in
former times the arts and sciences were unified around religion, whether around Christianity
or around Islam - those are usually the two religions they are most concerned with - and that
one has, as it were, to go back. They don't explicitly say that you have to unknow whatever
you know now, but sometimes it seems a little bit like that, so it seems
Q & A ABP I/1/4to me that they want to go back to a synthesis which perhaps was very good in principle but
which isn't, in view of the vast diversity of modern knowledge, any longer sufficiently
comprehensive. I may be misrepresenting them, but this is certainly the impression I get - that
they are backward-looking in this particular way. It is as though we need a much more
comprehensive synthesis even than was possible then.
But it is more than just a synthesis. It is probably not the right time to go into it, but it
is as though there have been some untoward developments which we can't exactly undo, but
which we have to find some means of dealing with. There are some developments which are
analogous to the multiplication of cancer cells in the human body, one miyht say. You don't
restore the body to health by integrating those cancer cells into a new state of health; you just
have to get rid of them. So it would seem that some branches of our knowledge are like that:
they are too unhealthy to be integrated. But is it going to be possible to get rid of them? This
is the question that arises. To integrate them, in a way, is to abolish them. Supposing you
integrate all our present-day knowledge of atomic physics, with all its practical implications
and applications, into a body of spiritual knowledge or spiritual principles. Well, to integrate,
in a sense, will be to abolish, because the moral imperatives of that spiritual-cum-intellectual
synthesis will require you not to apply that knowledge - in a sense, therefore, not to have that
knowledge. You can't apply it and, at the same time, accept the ethical and spiritual principles
which constitute the basis of the synthesis. But, as I said, how we are osing to get around that
one I really don't know. So at present we live in a state of sort of cultural fragmentation.
But it must have been very simple ...

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