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Sutra of Forty - two Sections - Padmaloka Unchecked

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by Sangharakshita

... from, maybe Pali, maybe Sanskrit, maybe Prakrit, maybe
Ab~~raMi~~ (7), we don't really know. And it's been translated and translated from Han,-
Dynasty Chinese at that, into modern English. So we have to be a bit careful about the
translation. We mustn't take the words of the English translation too literally, as though they
were precise technical terms. For instance, this word 'desire , 'to abandon desire'. Now this at
once raises a very important point. Does Buddhism, in fact, teach us to abandon desire? Are
you clear on this point? Anyone got any ideas? I mean, are you trying to get rid of desire or
not? Have you made up your minds about it one way or the other? What is the position?
What does Buddhism say about desire, abandoning desire?
Eve .
It is more your reaction to desire rather than abandoning it.
. Desire itself is a reaction surely? It's a volitional state. So are you meant to just get
rid of it?
. No, it's more a case of actually using that and actually transforming it rather than
trying to destroy it.
: Mm. But desire itself?
Well, it's a condition of human life, isn't it? Craving.
S . Craving. Is craving the same thing as desire? No.
S : No? What's the distinction then?
Marlene :
Craving arises after the desire.
. So first you get desire, then you get craving? So you never get craving without
desire having been there first? Could you say that?
Could you repeat that again?
: Does one not get desire, or rather does one not get craving without desire having
come there first? Is there always desire, then craving? I mean, there is a distinction, but is it
quite like that?
I think desire is more conscious.
Des ire is more
conscious~ p~r A~~s
More specific.
specific, perhaps. Or is it? Is it more specific?
Vaj ragita
Des ire is not so
attached as craving.
S of
425 Dl Tl
55 S
Ah, we're getting a bit on the right track. It's not
quite so attached
as craving. Can you have such a
thing as a good desire?
Yes. S .
Can you have a good craving?
Ah. So it would seem that craving is necessarily
unskilful. Desire
not necessarily so. I mean, I
dwell upon thiA~~Al~~ttle because sometimes people
with reference to so~t of trick questions. For instance, tJicj
does Buddhism teach the cessation of desire? Does
Buddhism advise you to
abandon desire, because this is
what it says. To abandon desire. Alright, what
desire for Nirvana? This is a favourite question.
Doesn't Buddhism
contradict itself, people may ask. So
how can you explain that?
Only by making a distinction between desire and craving.
Desire may be skilful.
Yes, you can speak of desire for
Nirvana. You can speak of desire for Samsara.
That is
unskilful. That is equivalent to craving. So desire is
more general term and can be either skilful or
unskilful. Craving is essentially
One might say unskilful desire in Buddhism is called
craving. In Pali the more general term corresponding
to our 'desire' is
(c-"anda?) . There is a Pali term
('kam~acanda?) . That means desire for
experience. This is unskilful. But there is ('dhamma-
cr-~,.anda'?), desire for the Dha~~a itself or desire for
the Dharma. This, of
course, is skilful. But then
there is the term 'tanha' or 'trsna'. Craving. This is
never skilful. This is always unskilful. So, one must
make this sort of
distinction and not be misled by
terms in English which translate maybe Chinese,
Sanskrit, maybe Pali terms.
So, "To abandon desire" - to
abandon craving we should
say - "and rest in perfect quietude is the greatest of
victories." Now, again, this quietude, what does one
mean by
Being undistracted.
Being undistracted. But just undistracted? Does it, would it mean just
distracted for a short time?
Elsie :
More like contentment.
More like contentment, yes. It's a state of permanent
non-distraction. It's not quietude in the sense' of just
keeping quiet. Quietude
as opposed to activity. It's
quietude in a deeper sense than that.
quietude as an English word is not really very
appropriate. It's a state of calm,
of content, of
balance, of tranquillity. It's not just the sort of
state you
get into when you go away and spend the week-
end at your country cottage.
So it's almost as if we have to recast the language of
the translation. tTo
abandon craving and rest in perfect
tranquilli~y~, probably would be better, Si8 the
of victories-. A victory over what? Or over whom, one
could say. Well, victory over craving. Victory over
S of 42 5 Dl Tl
66 S(ctd) :
oneself. So, "To remain in a state of complete abstraction is to overcome the
ways of all the evil ones." Well, again~ this word 'abstraction'. I mean, is it really a very
adequate word? One can get some feeling of what the text is getting at, but this English word
'abstraction'? What does abstraction usually mean? What does it usually refer to?
: Sort of. Yes. But abstraction is when you are a bit absent, a bit distant, you're
thinking of something else. It's not exactly a negative term, but it's not very positive either.
But here it seems to mean a sort of sCAt£ o~ positive aloofness from unskilful things. "To
remain in a state of complete abstraction is to overcome the ways of all the evil ones." So the
language of the translation here, translating from Chinese into English isn't really very happy
in a way, is it? Isn't really very fortunate, very appropriate. It's as though it needs to be
re-cast. But anyway, one has the picture. One is given the impression '~ the Buddha, having
become Enlightened, sitting beneath the Bodhi tree, presumably, having abandoned craving,
in a state of perfect tranquillity, having overcome ignorance, having overcome himself, and
being at rest, so to speak, in a state of, well, one can't say complete abstraction, but in the
transcendental, one might say. That would probably be better. Or, to use, in a way, more
up-to--date language, in a state of the highest conceivable irreversible creativity. Rather than
being in a s-tate of reactivity.
-~ Ttien in the text there's a sort of li,ttle jump. He's
become Enlightened. He gained Enlightenment at Buddhagaya. And then it goes straight on
to say: "In the Royal Deer Park, he expo~nded the Doctrine of the Four Nob-le Truths,
converting Kaundinya and four others, and thus manifesting the fruit of the Way." That didn't
happen i-mmediately, of course; immediately after the Enlightenment. It happened after
some weeks. The Deer Park was about a hundred miles away from Buddha- gaya. But do you
notice anything about these two sentences? First of all, you've got the Buddha ab~andoning
craving and resting in tranquillity etc. etc. And then you've got him suddenly, as it were, in
the Deer Park expounding the doctrine. So what do you notice here?
Vajragita :
He had to walk a hundred miles.
. He had to walk a hundred miles, yes. But there's some- thing else, not just
something, as it were, on the physical plane, but something on another plane. There's another
He's established a method of teaching.
: He's established a method of teaching, yes, but something even more general than
It's as though they're proving the truth of what he says by saying, well, this manifested
the fruit of the Way. It gives- ?7i,m' credibility to what goes before.
S of 425 Dl Tl
77 S
So when someone expounds the Doctrine in this way,
and so on and manifesting the fruit of the
Way, what does that suggest? What does
it suggest is
present in him? What particular quality?
Marje :
Understanding. S
Understanding, yes, but more than that.
He must want to teach it as well.
He must want to teach. So what's the word for that in
Compassion. So this second sentence implies Compassion.
was there any mention of Compassion in that first
sentence? No. There's no
reference to it at all. In
the first sentence the emphasis seems to be on Prajna,
one might say, Wisdom. But in the second sentence there
is the
emphasis, at least by way of implication, on
where the little jump comes in. It's not really
a jump because Compassion and
Wisdom are inseparable,
but there's no hint of that in the first s~&M~.But any-
way, it's as though that first sentence is necessary.
That gives the
background, so to speak; Wisdom is there
and then when Wisdom manifests,
Compassion is there, a
teaching is given.
So, "In the Royal Deer
Park, he expounded the Doctrine of
the Four Noble Truths, converting Kaundinya
and ...

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