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Ten Pillars of Buddhism - Tuscany 1984 Unchecked

by Sangharakshita

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


Session 1 20th October 1984 The Venerable Sangharakshita, Vessantara, Devamitra, Susiddhi, Prasa~nnasiddhi,
Sarvamitra, Kama1a~s'i1a, Padmavajra, _ Lalitavajra, Dipankara, Abhaya, Aryacitta,
Aryadaka, Ratnabodhi, Indrabodhi, Dharmabandhu, Dharmamudra, Satyara~ja) Satyananda,
Satya~loka, Shantavira, Jnanavira, Bala~ditya, Kuladitya, Manjuna~tha, Vajran~atha.
So, there are one or two quick requests to start with. Ratnabodhi?
Ratnabodhi: Can you just tell me the origin of the phrase you use on page seven that "You
must love them before they seem worthy of you love."?
Ah yes, this comes from one of Wordsworth's poems. Now which one is that? "And
you must love him ere to you he will seem worthy of your love." It must be one of those
'Matthew' poems. Do you remember? I won't be certain of this but it's certainly Wordsworth.
Ah... now just a moment... is it "The Statist"? The 'Statist' means politician or statesman. I
think it's that one. ~ "The Statist". No... just a moment. No... he refers to The Statist. Isn't it
his poem on a poet's grave ? Do you know that one? It's a famous one (~ter). I'll try to think
of it, but one, it is definitely by Wordswotth and, yes, I think it occurs in that poem where he
is writing about, I th~ink about the death of a poet, but I won't be certain of that. If anyone has
a collected Wordsworth here I'll find it for you.
I was wondering if you could tell us more about these mysterious sixteen
There are various legends about them. I think some of the legends occur in the
Divyavadana, a Sanskrit work. As far as I remember the sixteen arahants lived (and their
legend appears in Tibetan Buddhism, perhaps in an elaborated form) at a time in India when
Buddhism was being persecuted. I think it was shortly after the time of As'oka. And on
account of the persecution which I think has some historical basis, they decided to go
elsewhere. And there are various accounts of where they went.
According to one account,
they went up to the mountains of Kashmir, and according to another account they went across
the sea to China. Therefore in Tibetan Buddhist art, the sixteen arahants are represented in
two different ways: they are represented among mountains, and they are represented as
travelling on the sea -sometimes with all sorts of dragons and strange beasts for vehicles, and
some~ times they are represented as flying through the air. I think that when they are
represented as going up into the mountains, they are represented as flying through the air,
and when represented as going over to China - over the sea - they are represented as flying on
the backs of these strange beasts.
It's a popular theme in Tibetan art, I'm not sure in
Chinese art. In Chinese art of course they have the five hundred lohans or five hundred
arahants ~ that's very popular, especially for sculpture.
But the story goes ~ about the
sixteen arahants, that they live forever. No... not forever, that's an exaggeration. They don't
live forever, but they are very, very long lived and I think that they live, if not till the end of
the present kalpa, at least until the coming of Maitreya. They (as it were) fill the gap between
Shakyamuni and Maitreya. They are a sort of Earthly link between Shakyamuni and Maitreya.
There are a few other stories about individual arahants. There's one about Kashyapa: He's
immersed in meditation in a mountain cave somewhere in south India and he will rise from
his medi- tation at the time of Maitreya Buddha.
In the case of the Mahayana there is the
idea that a particular Bodhisattva links the - what shall I say - links the dispensation of one
historical Buddha with the dispensation of another historical Buddha, and sort of functions
during the interregnum as it were. But within the more Hinayanistic context (and these
traditions about the sixteen arahants seem to have originated amongst the Sarvastivadins)
speak of actual Enlightened human beings as providing that sort of link. So they are rather
mysterious figures. In other traditions you have these sort of mysterious figures which in
human terms live forever and who appear from time to time when they are needed. They are
not other powers, they are not anything of that sort. They are human beings who have gained
Enlightenment and wander over the Earth. In the Islamic and Sufi tradition there is the very
strange and mysterious figure of Khidr - the 'green man . He is identified by the Sufis or
Muslims themselves with Elijah of the Old Testament. But it has sometimes occurred to me
that there might be here echoes of Buddhist ideas. They do appear in Sufism quite frequently,
but that's quite another topic. But you get this idea: Khidr appears and he plays an
important role in the loves of various Sufi masters. He appears and they meet, and he
disappears and they perhaps never see him again. He's always around.
So the sixteen
arahants represent this kind of principle in, you know, mythological form. But it's a quite
interesting conception as it were. Through them there's a kind of living link with Shakyamuni
You might remember I met in South India that strange person, the Alahanka
Swami and I sort of wondered or speculated whether he couldn't be Aryadeva or somebody
like that. But it was a very strange experience certainly.
Padmavajra: What happened to Aryadeva?
Well, I suppose he's still around. Not necessarily there, but still around.
This Maitreya is supposed to appear on this planet?
Well, Buddhist tradition doesn't think in terms of planets Tn the modern Western
geographical/astronomical sense, you know. But certainly Maitreya is due to appear on
Jambudvipa which is the same dvipa or 'continent' (if you like) or island' or 'world' (you
know) where Shakyamuni himself appeared. Not in any other world.
prasann~asiddhi: That's not equated with India?
Well, some modern scholars equate it with India. They believe that Jambudvipa (you
know) really represents the world as known to ancient India. I must say I think that's rather
Doubtful because...?
Well, doubtful because Jambudvipa - it's described as flanked by two large islands.
Well, where are those two large islands? You could say that Ceylon was one of them, but
Ceylon's only one large island. The tradition very definitely speaks of two large islands
flanking Jambudvipa.
prasannasiddhi: Africa possibly?
No. They are represented as being quite close and similar Tn shape. Anyway, let's
carry on.
I was wondering about the term 'Coing for Refuge It's not used in any other
religion as far as I know - Eastern or Western. And I wondered whether it belonged to the
language of ancient India or whether it was invented by the Buddha?
It would seem that the term 'Going Forth', that is 'Sarana', was well known in the
Buddha's day. That was a common term. You commonly 'went forth' (you know). The
Buddha himself went forth before there was any question of Buddhim. But this idea of 'Going
For Refuge' would seem to be distinctively - well - aha! - Wait a moment. I was going to say
distinctively Buddhistic, but no. The Jains have Refuges. So perhaps it might be more
accurate to say that it was a Sramanic rather than a Brahmanic concept.
The Jains have
four Refuges. I don't think I can remember what they are, but they don't quite correspond to
the Buddhist ones. They have a Refuge in dharma, as understood by themselves, and I think
'truth' also, and I think in their community, and I think another one... I can look this up
because I have a book here. The Jains do have four Saranas, as they are called.
Subsequently the idea of Sarana was to some extent adopted by the Hindhus, for instance the
word appears in the Bhagavad Gita. In the Bhagavad Gita Krishna is represented as saying to
Arjuna "Sarva dharma paratiyaga mam ekam saranam pratya"(?) Which means: "Sarva
dharma" - all dharmas; "parati- yaga" - giving up; "mam" - to or in me; "ekam" - alone;
"saranam" - refuge; "pratya" - take. Many scholars believe nowadays that there is a strong
Buddhistic element in the Bhagavad Gita . Many believe that the author of the Bhagavad~
Gita was attempting to incorporate elements from Buddhism to weaken Buddhism and
strengthen Hinduism. Some believe that the work was composed for this very purpose -
which may be the
3case. But certainly you may say that the concept of 'sarana' or 'Going for Refuge' is
characteristic of Buddhism in a way that it is not characteristic of Hinduism. Though one
must admit that it is similar, to an extent, to Jainism. I'm not so sure 'doctrinally' whether the
concept of 'Going For Refuge' is so important or so pervasive for Jainism as it is for
Buddhism. I would have to check up on that. But certainly the Jains are familiar with the
In Hinduism, you get very widely the concept of surrendering to the guru or to
the divinity, but Refuge in the Buddhist sense - I would say no.
Abhaya: Following on from that you seem to have favoured in the FWBO the term
'commitment'. You seem to have ...

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