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Three Jewels - Chapters 12 and 14 Unchecked

by Sangharakshita

Womens Order Convention 1985.

General Question and answer session.
Questions and Answers on
Chapters 12 (The Human Situation) of the Three Jewels
begins on page 74 of the page numbering
given within this document
Chapter 14 (The Goal) begins on page 156
WOQ/A 1 - 1 Those Present:- The Venerable Sangharakshita.
Dharmacarinis : -Dharnmadinna
Vidyasri, Malini , Megha, Sanghadevi, Sridevi, Varabhadri, Sarvabhadri, Gunabhadri,
Ashokasri, Padmasuri, Vajrasuri, Vajrapushpa, Vajragita, Jayapushpa,Jayaprabha
Ratnadakini, Ratnavandana, Ratnasuri, Punyavati, Padmavati, Parami, Vimala, Samata,
Sobhana, Anoma, Srimala, Mallika, Marichi, Gunavati, Bodhisri.
S:
First come some Dharma questions, actually there are only three Dharma questions,
the rest are about other subjects.
The first one is about study. 'Do you have any
suggestion as to how to formulate questions on a text so that it gives new dimensions to the
study?'
There is no, as it were, special technique here. I think what is important is that one
should think. That one should be actually interested in the questions discussed in the text.
They should be questions that concern you quite independently of your actual study of the
text. That is to say, they are not questions that you think about just when you are studying the
text and as soon as the study time is finished you promptly forget all about that particular
subject. You have got, as it were, to carry that subject, that topic, in your mind and it has got
to engage your interest to such an extent that you actually think about it. You are interested in
thinking about it, you are inte- rested in understanding it, interested in fathoming it. If that
happens questions will arise from, so to speak, a deeper level, out of that deeper interest. I
think that is the main point. (Pause) So I think when you actually study a text you should try
to relate what you study to these deeper interests that you have developed as a result
WOQ/A 85 1 - 22 of your thinking. It occurs to me that in a way this is analogous to meditation, in a way it is
analagous to the practice of mindfulness. Mindfulness is not something that is to be confined
to the shrine room, mindfulness is not something that you practice for forty or fifty minutes
each morning. Mindfulness is something that you try to carry through all of the day. So in
the same way, it isn't that you are concerned about the nature of Sunyata just every Thursday
evening for an hour and a half, or whatever it may be. It should be something that you are
inte- rested in anyway, that you are thinking about. So that when you do come to study a
text, you see the subject matter of the text in a much broader context, within the context of
your own broader and deeper, more genuine, more comprehensive, as it were, philosophical
interests in the Dharma. Do you see what I am getting at? But I think this is really the
answer to the question. There is no technique, no spe-cial method. You have just got to
cultivate that deeper, more general interest in the more fundamental topics that are dealt with
in the texts. that one studies.
'Could you kindly suggest any books one could read which place the following
Mahayana works in the cultural or in the historical contexts from which they sprang. The
Vimala Kirti Nirdesa, Sutra of Golden Light, Saddharma Pundarika Sutra, The Tibetan Book
of the Dead?'
S I am afraid there are no such books. There is a reason for that, Indian history is full of
gaps, very often it seems as though Indian history consists of gaps. We know so little, in
detail, about Indian history, so little about the history of Indian Buddhism. This was borne on
me recently, for instance, everybody knows that I gave a talk in Tuscany last year, called 'St.
Jerome Revisited'. I was following up that little line of interest, recently, and I got hold of a
volume of select letters of St. Jerome and also a life of St. Jerome and it was really
astonishing the amount of information that we have about St. Jerome. We can follow his life
sometimes day by day. Because he wrote so many letters that have survived.
We know
him very, very well indeed, from first hand literary sources, it's probably hardly an
exageration to say that we know St. Jerome from his own writings and the writings of other
people, as well as we know someone like Dr. Johnson. Even though he lived roughly three
hundred A.D., that's more than sixteen hundred years ago. What is interesting is, an almost
exact contemporary of St. Jerome is Nagarjuna. But what do we know about Nagarjuna?
Nothing. We know the exact dates, the very exact date, the day of the month on which St.
Jerome did this or wrote that or spoke to somebody, or started on a journey, or arrived
somewhere, or visited a certain church. But we don't have anything like that with regard to
Nagarjuna.
We have got one or two epistles which are attributed to him, but they don't tell
us anything about Nagarjuna. We have absolutely no information of that sort about
Nagarjuna. So in the case of India, and Indian Buddhism, very often we have got these
wonderful works but they seem to float in the void. We don't have the actual historical and
cultural context. I am sure this, to some extent, hinders and hampers our understanding of
them. The Indians, with the exception of the Buddhists, Indian Buddhists to some extent,
were remarkably ahistorica11y minded. They didn't seem to have any interest in history. The
Chinese did, so that when Buddhism goes to China we have a very full and detailed record, in
many resepcts, of the history and progress of Chinese Buddhism j~ a way that we don't
w~Q/A 85 1 - 33 have for Indian Buddhism. Similarly for Tibetan Buddhism, the Tibetans too were great
historians, though not to the extent of people in Europe.
So unfortunately, there are no
books which can give us the cultural, historical, and spiritual setting of these works.
Sometimes we are not even sure exactly when they arose. I go through these things, to some
extent, in my book on the Canonical literature. There are one or two partial exceptions.
There is a book by Lal Mani Joshi I can't quite remember its title but it is on the period
covered roughly by Shantideva, or of which Shanti-deva is the centre. That is to say, roughly
seventh, eight, ninth century A.D. Do you remember the title? It's something culture.
V:
It's something like, pre...., I can't remember now.
S: It's the something culture of India, isn't it. Not ** pre-Buddhist of course. But anyway I
have got it in the Order Library, I read it some time ago, it is a fairly new book. It is very, very
readable. It does fill you in very well indeed, better than any other book on the cultural and
historical back- ground of that particular period, when Shantideva was flourishing and
Nalanda University was flourishing. But it is subsequent to, by several hundred years, the
period when these Mahayana sutras arose, certainly the first three. The Saddharma Pundarika
is in a separate catagory. So I suggest that if anyone is interested in exploring the cultural
background, the cultural and historical background of late Mahayana, in India, they should
read this book, which is very readable. It is very well writen and very interesting, and full of
information. So I would like to see this book stocked.
Jayaprabha:
I have ordered some from India.
S:
As well as his later work on the Buddha, called Discerning Thhe Buddha.
Jayaprabha:
That's the other one I've....
S:
These are very good books indeed, and as I have said, very readable.
V:
What did you say his name was?
S:
Lal Mani Joshi, he is an Indian scholar. Unfortunately he died just some months ago,
but he was in touch with us, he was a great admirer of the FWBO. He was an Indian, a
Punjabi, who taught in a University in the Punjab and a Unive- rsity in America. A very fine
Sanskrit scholar, Brahmin by birth but completely converted to Buddhism and in contact with
us. Has written to us several times, written to me several times, but as I say, unfortunately, he
died, he was only fifty six or fifty seven.
He produced these two excellent books, which I
think we should regularly stock, I think you should read if you possibly can.
**
Studies in the Buddhist~Culture of India
WOQ/A 85 1 - 44 Alright, here's a poser:-
'Can you please define intuition? What is the place of
intuition in relation to ones spiritual development?'
Intuition~is a word I try to avoid using, have you noticed that? I use imagination, I use
insight, I hardly ever use the word intuition. So in a way I don't feel too happy with this
question. Intuition is used very loosely, this is ones of the reasons I avoid it, but where it is
defined at all clearly, it is usually defined as a direct understanding, -an immediate
understanding of something, or perception of something, which doesn't go through any logical
process. Do you see what I mean? So it has, in that respect, a ~imilarity to insight but often
it is used just for a sort of feeling, or a hunch, or even a prejudice. So it isn't really a very
satisfactory word. But where it does have a definite meaning it is more of the nature of a
direct perception, ...

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