This is a concluding part on “The Mother and Buddhism”. Of course Buddhism as it is understood today is something very different from what the Buddha must have originally meant, a fate met by almost all spiritual beings and founders of a New Path. The Mother’s commentary on the Dhammapada however once again puts us in touch with the basics that can still help humanity progress. In this talk we share some of these thoughts on Buddhism and some of its central practices.
Words of the Mother
What Buddhism means by “impurities” is chiefly egoism and ignorance; because, from the Buddhist standpoint, the greatest of all taints is ignorance, not ignorance of external things, of the laws of Nature and of all that you learn at school, but the ignorance of the deepest truth of things, of the law of the being, of the Dharma.
It is noteworthy that the two defects insisted upon here are lack of self-control and lack of loyalty. Loyalty means here sincerity, honesty; what the Dhammapada censures most severely is hypocrisy: to pretend that you want to live the spiritual life and not to do it, to pretend that you want to seek the truth and not to do it, to display the external signs of consecration to the divine life—here symbolised by the yellow robe—but within to be concerned only with oneself, one’s selfishness and one’s own needs.
It is interesting to note the insistence of the Dhammapada on self-control, for according to the Buddhist teaching, excess in all things is bad. The Buddha always insisted on the Middle Path. You must not be too much on one side nor too much on the other, exaggerate one thing or the other. You must have measure, balance in all things, the balance of moderation.
Therefore the qualities that make you worthy of leading the spiritual life are to have an inner balance, a balance in your action, and to be moderate in everything, to be sincere, honest, loyal. Balance, moderation, loyalty, honesty: this is the subject of our meditation.
8 November 1957
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….These few words, “they pursue right desires”, are a proof that the teaching of the Buddha, in its essence, did not turn away from the realisation upon earth, but only from what is false in the conception of the world and in activities as they are carried on in the world. Thus when he teaches that one must escape from life, it is not to escape from a life that would be the expression of the truth but from the illusory life as it is ordinarily lived in the world.
6 December 1957
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One who takes refuge in the Buddha, in the Dhamma and the Sangha, with perfect knowledge, perceives the Four Noble Truths:
Suffering, the origin of suffering, the cessation of suffering and the Noble Eightfold Path which leads to cessation of suffering.
In truth, this is the sure refuge, this is the sovereign refuge. To choose this refuge is to be liberated from all suffering.
This concerns the Four Truths and the Eightfold Path that lead to the annihilation of suffering. Here are the details given in the text:
The Four Noble Truths are:
(1) Life—taken in the sense of ordinary life, the life of ignorance and falsehood—is indissolubly linked with suffering: suffering of the body and suffering of the mind.
(2) The cause of suffering is desire, which is caused by ignorance of the nature of separative life.
(3) There is a way to escape from suffering, to put an end to pain.
(4) This liberation is obtained by following the discipline of the Eightfold Path which gradually purifies the mind from the Ignorance. The fourth Truth is called the method of the Eightfold Path.
The Noble Path consists in a training in the following eight stages:
(1) Correct seeing. To see things as they are, that is to say, a pure, accurate vision, the best vision. Three conditions characterise existence: pain, impermanence, the absence of a fixed ego. So the Dhammapada says. But it is not quite that, it is rather the absence of a fixed, durable and separate personality in the psychological aggregate, the lack of a true continuity in the personal consciousness. It is for this reason that, for example, in the ordinary state one cannot remember one’s past lives nor have the sense of a conscious continuity through all one’s lives. The first point then is to see correctly, and to see correctly is to see that pain is associated with ordinary life, that all things are impermanent and that there is no continuity in the personal consciousness.
(2) Correct intention or desire. The word “desire” should be replaced by “aspiration”. “To be freed from attachments and to have kind thoughts for everything that exists.” To be constantly in a state of kindness. To wish the best for all, always.
(3) Correct speech that hurts none. Never speak uselessly and scrupulously avoid all malevolent speech.
(4) Correct behaviour—peaceful, honest, – from all points of view, not only materially, but morally, mentally. Mental honesty is one of the most difficult things to achieve.
(5) Correct way of living. Not to cause harm or danger to any creature. This is relatively easy to understand. There are people who carry this principle to the extreme, against all common sense. Those who put a handkerchief to their mouths, for example, so as not to swallow germs, who have the path in front of them swept so as not to step on an insect. This seems to me a little excessive, Because the whole of life as it is at present is made up of destruction. But if you understand the text correctly, it means that one must avoid all possibility of doing harm, one must not deliberately endanger any creature. You can include here all living creatures and if you extend this care and this kindness to everything that lives in the universe, it will be very favourable to your inner growth.
(6) Correct effort. Do not make useless efforts for useless things, rather keep all the energy of your effort to conquer ignorance and free yourself from falsehood. That you can never do too much.
(7) The seventh principle comes to confirm the sixth: correct vigilance. You must have an active and vigilant mind. Do not live in a half-somnolence, half-unconsciousness—usually in life you let yourself go, come what may! This is what everyone does. Now and then you wake up and you realise that you have wasted your time; then you make a big effort only to fall back again, a minute later, into indolence. It would be better to have something less vehement but more constant.
(8) And finally, correct contemplation. Egoless thought concentrated on the essence of things, on the inmost truth and on the goal to be attained. How often there is a kind of emptiness in the course of life, an unoccupied moment, a few minutes, sometimes more. And what do you do? Immediately you try to distract yourself, and you invent some foolishness or other to pass your time. That is a common fact. All men, from the youngest to the oldest, spend most of their time in trying not to be bored. Their pet aversion is boredom and the way to escape from boredom is to act foolishly. Well, there is a better way than that—to remember. When you have a little time, whether it is one hour or a few minutes, tell yourself, “At last, I have some time to concentrate, to collect myself, to relive the purpose of my life, to offer myself to The True and the Eternal.” If you took care to do this each time you are not harassed by outer circumstances, you would find out that you were advancing very quickly on the path. Instead of wasting your time in chattering, in doing useless things, reading things that lower the consciousness—to choose only the best cases, I am not speaking of other imbecilities which are much more serious —instead of trying to make yourself giddy, to make time, that is already so short, still shorter only to realise at the end of your life that you have lost three-quarters of your chance—then you want to put in double time, but that does not work—it is better to be moderate, balanced, patient, quiet, but never to lose an opportunity that is given to you, that is to say, to utilise for the true purpose the unoccupied moment before you.
When you have nothing to do, you become restless, you run about, you meet friends, you take a walk, to speak only of the best; I am not referring to things that are obviously not to be done. Instead of that, sit down quietly before the sky, before the sea or under trees, whatever is possible (here you have all of them) and try to realise one of these things—to understand why you live, to earn how you must live, to ponder over what you want to do and what should be done, what is the best way of escaping from the ignorance and falsehood and pain in which you live.
Such is the conclusion of the Dhammapada and if we have put into practice—to use its image—only a mustard seed of all that has been taught to us, well, we have not wasted our time.
There is one thing which is not spoken of here, in the Dhammapada: a supreme disinterestedness and a supreme liberation is to follow the discipline of self-perfection, the march of progress, not with a precise end in view as described here, the liberation of Nirvana, but because this march of progress is the profound law and the purpose of earthly life, the truth of universal existence and because you put yourself in harmony with it, spontaneously, whatever the result may be.
There is a deep trust in the divine Grace, a total surrender to the divine Will, an integral adhesion to the divine Plan which makes one do the thing to be done without concern for the result.
That is the perfect liberation.
That is truly the abolition of suffering. The consciousness is filled with an unchanging delight and each step you take reveals a marvel of splendour.
We are grateful to the Buddha for what he has brought for human progress and, as I told you at the beginning, we shall try to realise a little of all the beautiful things he has taught us, but we shall leave the goal and the result of our endeavour to the Supreme Wisdom that surpasses all understanding.
5 September 1958
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“The Lord is peaceful resignation, but the Lord is also the struggle and the Victory.
“He is the joyous acceptance of all that is; but also the constant effort towards a more total and perfect harmony.
“Perpetual movement in absolute immobility.”
This isn’t an intellectual reflection, it’s the notation of the experience: the constant, twofold movement of total acceptance of all that is, as an absolute condition to participate in all that will be, and at the same time, the perpetual effort towards a greater perfection. And this was the experience of all the cells.
The experience lasted more than an hour: the two conditions.
That’s exactly what made a sharp division in the whole spiritual thought or spiritual will of mankind. The point doesn’t seem to have been understood. Some, like Buddha and that whole line, have declared that the world is incorrigible, that the only thing to do is to get out of it, and that it can never be otherwise – it changes, but really remains the same. The result is a certain attitude of perfect acceptance. So, for them, the goal is to get out – that is, you escape: you leave the world as it is and escape. Then there are the others, who sense a perfection towards which men strive indefinitely and which is realized progressively. And I see more and more that the two movements complement each other, and not only complement each other but are almost indispensable to each other.
In other words, the change that arises from a refusal to accept the world as it is has no force, no power: what is needed is an acceptance not only total but comprehensive, joyous – to find supreme joy in things in order to have (it’s not a question of right or power) … in order to make it possible for things to change. Putting it differently, you must become the Supreme in order to help in His action, in the changing of the world; you must have the supreme Vibration in order to participate in that Movement, which I am now beginning to feel in the body’s cells – a Movement which is a sort of eternal Vibration, without beginning or end. It has no beginning,… it is … something existing from all eternity, for all eternity, and without any division of time: it’s only when it is projected onto a screen that it begins to assume the division of time. But you can’t say a “second,” or an “instant”…. It’s hard to explain…. No sooner do you begin to feel it than it’s gone: something boundless, without beginning or end, a Movement so total – total and constant, constant – that it is perceived as total immobility.
Absolutely indescribable. Yet it is the Origin and Support of the whole terrestrial evolution.
3 May 1963
Apr 1, 2015 at 09:50