Sunday, August 21, 2016

Where there is growth there is life

Buddhism was a matter of spiritual experience, and spiritual experience was something that could be put into words only to a very limited extent. The Buddha had, therefore, confined himself to showing his disciples how they might experience the Dharma for themselves. he had not laid down a system of philosophy, for this would have been to create a dogma and thus prevent individual development. No formulation of the Buddhas doctrine was final. He himself had been obliged to have recourse to the 'language' of his day, and had he lived later would doubtless have expressed himself different. To cling to outmoded forms of spiritual life and thoughts were disastrous. Spiritual things could not be 'fixed'. Where there was growth there was life, and spiritual growth depended upon our rediscovering spiritual truths for ourselves instead of trying simply to 'take over' the existing conceptual formulations of these truths. Through this process of spiritual growth the individual would become a link between the past and the present; history would become part of life, rather than an object of scholarly trust or blind religious revelation.
That pliant interpretation of the Buddha's teachings contrasts sharply with the restrictive dogmatism of other great faiths, and indeed contrasts sharply with the Gelugpa tradition of Tibetan Buddhism which is fast becoming a spiritual theme park. The quotation comes from Facing Mount Kanchenjunga by the English Buddhist teacher and writer Sangharakshita (formerly Dennis Lingwood) who founded the revisionist Triratna Buddhist community. The principle of where there is growth there is life finds expression in the recent redevelopment by architects Walter & Cohen of the Triratna community's Vajrasana retreat centre at Walsham-le-Willows, Suffolk; see photo above* and articles via this and this link. Composer Edmund Rubbra had a life-long interest in comparative religion and metaphysics, and briefly practiced Buddhism before returning to Catholicism. In 1947 Arnold Bax's brother Clifford wrote the BBC radio play The Buddha for which Rubbra provided the incidental music, which became his Suite, The Buddha, Op. 64 - see recording below.

* Header photo is by Dennis Gilbert and comes via the linked Guardian article. Any copyrighted material is included as "fair use" for critical analysis only, and will be removed at the request of copyright owner(s). No comps involved in this post. Also on Facebook and Twitter.

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