Sangharakshita, an English Buddhist, lived for 20 years within the East earlier than returning to Britain within the Nineteen Sixties. Sangharakshita made a return go to to India in 1984, reconnecting with former-untouchables who had been led to Buddhism by Dr. Ambedkar, himself a former untouchable who had grow to be the nation’s regulation minister. Nagabodhi describes one night of that tour.
Every evening Sangharakshita introduces a contemporary vary of teachings, and explains features of Buddhist apply, basing his commentaries on a number of conventional formulations: the 4 Noble Truths, the Eightfold Path, the Threefold Approach, the Seven Limbs of Enlightenment, the 5 Religious Schools…. His discourses are peppered with tales, jokes, anecdotes, and examples from the lifetime of the Buddha and Dr Ambedkar, or just from Indian village life. His phrases are easy and clear, and depart nobody behind.
Purna’s tape recorder hums and whirs, choosing up his phrases. Earlier than lengthy they are going to be transcribed, edited, translated, and printed within the Marathi, Gujerati, and English-medium magazines that flow into throughout the Buddhist group. Throughout the course of this go to Sangharakshita is making a legacy of teachings that can hold these publications stocked for years.
Tonight we’ve bought a person who needs to drive his bullock cart by means of the viewers.
Time and again, he returns to the theme of morality. Ambedkar as soon as mentioned, ‘Morality is Dhamma; Dhamma is Morality’. Sangharakshita distinguishes ‘typical morality’ – the morality of the group or caste – from ‘pure morality’. By way of pure morality, some actions – of physique, speech, or thoughts – categorical decrease, much less human, even animal psychological states. Others categorical really human states, categorical our distinctively human capability for knowledge, love, and unselfishness. Our first activity, subsequently, is to grow to be really human and to get past the animal realm of blind craving, blind intuition, and self-centeredness.
To be really human is to acknowledge that actions have penalties, for ourselves, for others, and for the environment – and to take full duty for our actions. The 5 Precepts assist as a result of they provide a sort of blueprint for extra really human actions and states of thoughts. These precepts don’t take their sanction from a god, or from the group, however from our innate potential to develop, and from our deep craving to take action. Because of this ‘pure’ morality is the muse of human life itself, whether or not particular person or collective. Naturally, if we stay a really moral life we will probably be free from conflicts and confusion; we’ll take to each other with others, and we’ll know how one can assist them. Our lives will probably be clear, free from fear, free from nervousness….
For some purpose, nearly each evening, at across the half-way level, there’s a main disturbance. Tonight we’ve bought a person who needs to drive his bullock cart by means of the viewers. He can’t be bothered to go the good distance spherical, and thinks he can simply trundle throughout our subject. A argument has erupted on the gate.
We predict we’re sheep when actually we’re lions. We predict we’re weak when actually we’re sturdy.
Typically, a circle of women will arrive late, and are available floating into the proceedings with their trays of lighted candles and incense, like spirits from a dream. However each evening, regardless of the place we’re, a second comes when the younger moms notice it’s time to place their little ones to mattress. As quickly as they rise up, they appear to disconnect from the occasion utterly, and enter a brand new dimension. They discuss on the tops of their voices, name throughout to one another, and berate their kids, whereas different members of the viewers shout at them, hiss, wave their arms, and attempt to calm them down. If issues get actually dangerous Sangharakshita will take just a few discrete steps again and examine his notes whereas Vimalakirti joins in from the microphone. It could actually take ten minutes for the ripples to subside.
Sangharakshita goes on to clarify how psychological and emotional freedom, the fruits of moral conduct, present the premise for meditation apply. Meditation, he says, opens the best way to the upper growth of the thoughts which Ambedkar upheld because the indispensable requirement for a good life. Ambedkar repeatedly spoke of his religion within the ‘power’, ‘enthusiasm’, and ‘inspiration’ that lie inside us. These qualities will be contacted immediately, by means of meditation. In a thoughts that’s concentrated and focussed, distractions haven’t any place, the varied ‘features’ and ‘selves’ that make up an individual are introduced into concord. The result’s that we start to really feel fairly totally different: we have now extra power as a result of none of it’s being drained by confusion or vagueness; we are able to attain down into our depths and uncover super energy, limitless enthusiasm, and a elementary degree of confidence.
He teaches the apply of anapana sati, or ‘mindfulness of respiratory’, a meditation which brings about this type of focus. Anybody who practices it is going to start to see their life extra clearly and discover out what they should do to make it higher. It’s a apply that may carry us into realms of thought, feeling, and creativeness far richer than these we expertise more often than not. That is the place the contemporary imaginative and prescient will come up, serving to us to take our lives and ambitions onto an ever greater degree.
Every time Ambedkar is talked about there may be an explosion of applause.
He additionally teaches the maitri bhavana – the ‘growth of common loving-kindness’. Feelings like love, fraternity, and compassion will be developed, he says. We are inclined to assume that they come up solely as a matter of likelihood or passing temper, however our emotional states needn’t rely upon exterior circumstances in any respect. Somebody who has labored to develop even a bit maitri can stand agency within the face of difficulties. He received’t be discouraged by the knocks he receives, he’ll be capable of assume clearly and positively – stay in state to discover a manner of beating the obstacles that confront him. If all of the members of a Buddhist locality have been to apply maitri bhavana, they might not simply take to each other with one another, they might be capable of work successfully collectively: they might be sturdy, and they’d have an incalculable impact on the localities round them.
It surprises me to see Sangharakshita educating meditation this manner. In England I’ve by no means as soon as heard him clarify how one can apply meditation at a public discuss. However right here, on this city, there is no such thing as a public middle for anybody to go to for a follow-up class, and Poona is a good distance away. Even whereas he speaks, I can sense the urgency he feels. Even when only one particular person right here manages to get someplace with meditation on account of this discuss, she or he will make an affect on the others, one other seed may have been sown.
There’s a vihara on this locality: a small, rectangular, one-roomed constructing. It has a Buddha-shrine, and is used as a lodging by visiting monks. More often than not, although, it serves as a type of social membership. Sangharakshita asks his listeners to maintain their vihara lovely and clear, and use it just for Buddhist actions:
‘A Vihara ought to be a peaceable place, a spot the place you may make a particular effort to apply the Precepts, a spot the place you’ll be able to meditate. If you happen to deal with your vihara nicely, and use it correctly, you’ll have no have to make the pricey pilgrimage to Bodh Gaya. You’ll have the Buddha proper right here in your individual neighborhood, reminding you of the true objective of life, inspiring you to make additional efforts.’
The Dhamma is no matter helps folks to develop. They might select to work on themselves first, or they could select to work in society. Both manner they are going to be rising…
Meditation, practiced efficiently and deeply, he continues, gives the muse for knowledge. On this context knowledge isn’t one thing we get from books. After all you will need to examine the Dhamma; that’s how we discover out what the Buddha truly did and mentioned, and what he suggested us to do. However even that sort of e-book studying isn’t knowledge; Knowledge is the best way we see issues when we live on a better degree. And this type of knowledge can categorical itself in a variety of methods: as fearlessness, as generosity, as persistence, and, in fact, as ‘perception’ – seeing issues as they are surely. He provides an illustration:
‘As soon as upon a time there was a lion cub who had misplaced his mother and father. In actual fact, he turned utterly separated from the opposite lions, and strayed right into a flock of sheep. He lived with the sheep for years, and grew up amongst them – pondering, after some time, that he was himself simply one other sheep.
‘Someday whereas out grazing, the sheep/lion got here throughout an enormous, wild lion. At first he was terrified, and tried to run away, however as a result of he solely knew how one can run like a sheep, the lion quickly caught up with him, and requested him why he was so frightened.
‘ “Baa!” mentioned the sheep/lion, “I’m afraid as a result of I’ve been advised that lions are harmful to us sheep. You’ll want to eat me up.”
‘ “Us sheep?” stammered the lion, “However you aren’t a sheep in any respect! You’re a lion like me.”
‘ “Baa! Oh no. I’m not a lion. I’m a sheep. Why are you attempting to confuse me?”
‘The lion had by no means encountered something like this earlier than. There was no doubting it, although: right here was a lion who thought he was a sheep! Then he had an concept, and led the sheep/lion by the scruff of the neck to a pool of clear water and compelled him to take a look at his reflection. There, the sheep/lion didn’t see a sheep in any respect — however a lion! He instantly “awakened”, and realized that for all these years he’d been residing underneath an phantasm.
Within the West, persons are extra individualistic and psychologically oriented. I subsequently have to speak in “psychological” phrases.
‘We’re like that lion cub. We predict we’re sheep when actually we’re lions. We predict we’re weak when actually we’re sturdy. We have to see for ourselves what we actually are.
‘After all, like that lion cub, we might have a good friend to return alongside and remind us about our true selves. However on this respect we’re very fortunate. We’ve got had two buddies, two lions, within the not too distant previous. First there was Gautama the Buddha. After which — much more just lately — there was Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar!’
Repeatedly, Sangharakshita embroiders his tales with references to Ambedkar, and recapitulates the person’s qualities and significance. Every time Ambedkar is talked about on this manner there may be an explosion of applause. The official cheerleader — one of many village elders — units up just a few chants; the environment is jubilant.
One evening, after a chat, I requested Sangharakshita about these continuous references. It was all so totally different to the Buddhism I used to be used to. Have been all these references, and the final preoccupation with the social dimension of issues, something greater than a ‘skillful means’?
‘What do you imply?’ Sangharakshita was perplexed.
‘Nicely, within the West, you clarify Buddhism way more by way of particular person, even psychological, growth. Isn’t that the place all this should lead in the long run, to particular person Buddhists engaged on themselves to develop Enlightened qualities?’
He laughed. ‘Nicely, within the West, persons are way more individualistic and psychologically oriented. I subsequently have to speak in these extra “psychological” phrases. Right here, persons are extra group oriented; they expertise themselves extra as members of a group or household. So right here I discuss in additional, because it have been, social phrases. However, truly, I’m utilizing a skillful means in each conditions. You should not assume that both strategy is any nearer to the elemental Dhamma than the opposite. The Dhamma is no matter helps folks to develop. They might select to work on themselves first, or they could select to work in society. Both manner they are going to be rising, and establishing the situations for their very own additional growth – and that of their society.
‘If something, you could possibly say that the language of social uplift is more practical – although each approaches have their benefits and limitations, in fact. If Enlightenment consists in overcoming the “self-other dichotomy”, we are able to progress in the direction of it by engaged on the “different” finish of issues simply as successfully as we are able to by working merely on ourselves.’
Evening after evening, he instructs, uplifts, and befriends. If there may be anybody aspect that I’ll recollect above all others, it will likely be the bond of heat and intimacy that grows between him and his viewers as every discuss progresses. No marvel there are folks right here who bear in mind his final go to, twenty years in the past. And no marvel he has by no means forgotten them.
Nagabodhi is a senior member of the Western Buddhist Order. Since 1974, when he was ordained, he has devoted his life to the event of the Triratna Buddhist Group as a Dharma trainer, writer, middle director, and fundraiser. He now lives in London together with his spouse, Vimalacitta. This passage is excerpted, with permission, from his e-book, Jai Bhim: Dispatches From a Peaceable Revolution (Free PDF obtain).