Notes on the final part of Thurman’s lecture series on Buddhism.
The Sangha – The Community
American Buddhists don’t, as of yet, really have the view of infinite rationality which is we are here now, having been infinitely connected, and will continue to be infinitely connected.
Western belief, instead, is that death leads to nothing and all our sins are absolved when we die.
Also, there are no monastic Songha’s in America yet. Begging is not Kosher because of the Protestantization of America. (Protestantism being the demonastacization of the West.) True monasticism, as practiced in Buddhism and Catholicism, was first invented by the Buddha.
In Buddhism, there is no indivisible thing – no individual. If you keep peeling away the layers of reality, eventually you will land upon emptiness. So if Buddhists believe that after all the layers are peeled away we are emptiness, how can the Buddhist tradition likewise contain individualism? Buddhism teaches a social individualism.
If there was an individual that was the real you, not only would you not be individualistic, you wouldn’t even be there because in order to be there you have to be related. But if there was a part of you that was non-relational, then you couldn’t relate to other individuals. You couldn’t exist.
Only because you are infinitely divisible are you nothing more than your infinite connections. The part of the interconnectedness that you can deal with yourself – you have to take responsibility for that.
Buddha broke away from his duty as a son, as a warrior, as a husband, as a prince. Thurman claims The Bhagavad Gita is an effort to keep duty (ie the war effort) going in the face of Buddha’s teaching. In The Bhagavad Gita, Arjuna wants to pull out of his duties. But they make him get back in. (The Bhagavad Gita was written 800 years after Buddha). The Vedic society was collective. The King can’t do what he wants because he has to do what the people want.
If you are interconnected ultimately, then relatively, you are the one responsible for your separate self. It is oppressive to merge this self into a general will. If we are an individualistic society, then the highest purpose of the collective is the individual purpose of all of us. Society’s purpose is to bring each of us to our highest potential.
Collectivism is where everyone is supposed to support everybody else, but no other person is supposed to be fulfilled.
Collectivism – you serve the whole but in the whole there is no one person.
Individual – Every individual is the supreme purpose of the life of the whole. In that way the whole flourishes individual by individual.
Sangha is the community founded as an alternative world to collectivism and collective coercion and the oppression of separateness.
Buddha forbade his monastics to become priests. He didn’t want to create a priestly caste, and by not competing with the Brahmin, he kept himself from being executed. (Social principal of not competing).
He was trained to be a king so was an excellent sociologist.
In an enlightened experience you do feel others as yourself and yourself as others. But this is not enlightenment and is often mistaken by mystics to mean that the enlightened person believes everyone is obliterated and yet you are all one, but none of you exist. This is based upon the pre-trans fallacy which gets confused with trans-egoic insight. With the pre-egoic lack of having developed any sense of seperateness or self-responsibility or definition.
The sense of oneness in enlightenment is balanced/coordinated non-dualistically with a responsible sense of non-differenitiation. There is an oceanic state (like the mystics claim), but it is non-dual from the differentiated state.
The reason that “other” is such a problem to us in our unelightened state is that we think the self is a real thing and that other people are different from us.
There are three progressions:
- self and others (you and the other are different and I am the center of the universe)
- no self and others (you and the other are the same)
- self and others (you and the other are different but believe you are equally you as I am me. I am not the center of the universe.)
Buddha’s message is that we can understand reality sufficiently to have happiness and everyone can know it. We can become completely different human beings without selfish drives at all. In that way, we will be truly happy. I want you to do that and you want me to do that. This is the awakening within the Jewel Community.
The problem with anthropology is that it has no room for concepts of transcendence. Anthropologists define religion as pattern maintaining systems of belief and ritual. The purpose of religion is also pattern transcending. In terms of Tibet, anthropologists have agreed with the Marxist condemnation of Tibet as a Feudal Theocracy. From their point of view, the nuns and monks just sit around while the people slave and toil. But this is completely false, the people love the monks and nuns. It is not an oppressive arrangement.
There are 8 verses for training the mind.
“By thinking of sentient beings as even better than the wish granting jen for accomplishing the highest AIM, may I always consider them precious.”
By more individualism and more education of people to seek the highest goal for themselves in life, the society became much more supportive of this even in the lay sector.
This is Mahayana – seeking enlightenment of the mind as a freedom of the mind, but you are also seeking a higher embodiment. Enlightenment of the mind is Wisdom. Enlightenment of the body is Compassion. Compassion is expressed in the body through interaction with others. You can’t be compassionate without another person.
“Wherever I go with whomever I go, may I see myself as less than all others and from the depth of my heart may I consider them supremely precious.”
Self Cherishing – is the constant worry about how I am, how am I here, and how am I. It is the evaluation of “how we are”. Compassion training is the replacement of self-cherishing with other-cherishing. It is exchange of one for the other. You see the other as equal to yourself. Equally existent.
The mystic state is a semblance of voidness. It is a pleasant state and it is releasing. But it is a falsely constructed void if taken in itself apart from everything that is empty. This state couldn’t be disconnected because we experience it. We enter it and we leave it. It’s a good experience because it dissolves the rigidity of the self-absolutization and the “other absolutization”.
It is the squeezing together of the sky-like equipoised experience and the dreamlike differentiating experience where the differences of self and other return but are like a dream. In the dreamlike thing, your there-ness is equal to my there-ness. It requires no leap of mental faith.
Your relations with others are always spoiled by 1 of 3 things. You evaluate others in a few minutes and locate them as either inferior in some way, you decide you are equal in some way, or you locate them as superior in some way. The minute you locate someone as your inferior, you condescend to them (even if only slightly). If you perceive them as your superior, you are immediately envious (conditioning ego-habit). And likewise, because we all pick up on one another’s vibes, whoever we feel envious of will immediately feel condescending toward us. If we are condescending toward someone, they are jealous of us. And round and round it goes.
If you shift your view just slightly, you begin to see yourself from the eyes of jealousy, contempt, and competitiveness. If you don’t want them to feel about you in these ways, then you have to quit feeling about them in these ways.
“May I examine my mind in all actions and as soon as a negative state occurs, since it endangers myself and others, may I firmly replace and avert it. When I see beings oppressed by negativity or pain, may I as if finding a treasure, consider them precious, for they are rarely met.”
There are three major virtues to develop the body of compassion of Buddhhoood.
The third one is hard because in order to have tolerance you have to have beings who injure you. The person who gives you a really hard time is a real treasure.
If we are equally each other but have long lived in a state of mutual conflict and in tension because we have long been laboring under the delusion that we are more than you, then the more we make you more than me, the more we are approximating the condition of our total mutual enlightenment. When we will be all, in all, to all of each other. That is community. Let them have the victory – that is the victory. This is as in Christianity – the mystical body of Christ. We are all limbs of the same body.
Everyone brought up in a materialistic society has the habit of thinking, even though we may not be aware of it, that we really don’t exist. With this belief, it is easy to make the jump to give of yourself, especially when you think of it like falling asleep. That’s easy. But! To give the victory to someone when you are arguing with them or they have given you trouble, when you think “you are righteous, they are wrong” completely changes the dynamic of our interconnection.
There are three levels within the Jewel Community:
- Revolutionary (in the inner sense)
- Evolutionary (in the education sense)
- Fruitional or Millennial