How to Live in Harmony

These are the notes from a talk given on 26th April 2014.  I wanted to share some advice the Buddha gave to those living in lay communities, and in spiritual communities. This advice comes from the Mahaparanibanna Sutta, and as with much of the Buddha’s teaching appears as lists of virtues.

In the first part of the talk I made some preliminary remarks about how as Pureland Buddhists we can relate to these lists of virtues, and then went on to share the Buddha’s advice for successful communities.

You can listen to the talk here: Listen/download (mp3)


Primary practice: Nembutsu
Auxiliary practices: Other spiritual practices which support the nembutsu & our spiritual life.

Secondary facilities: “Your knowledge and skills and accumulated experience, as tools for helping all sentient beings.”

  • The gap between the ideal and the actual can be understood as a measure of complete faith. Faith and selfishness are at opposite ends of the spectrum.
  • Two different ways of working with the gap between the ideal and the actual:
    • Positive: practice the ideal, fake it until you make it. Either our minds are conditioned by conscious practice, or the resistance to practicing the ideal shows us our rough edges (selfishness) more clearly.
    • Negative: Investigate the specific nature of our selfishness and defensiveness, expose them to Amida, we feel accepted and our faith increases.

As we continually bring ourselves closer to the Buddha the process of our faith increasing will happen naturally and somewhat unconsciously; our lived life will become closer to the preceptual life. At the same time secondary practices can help deepen our experience of nembutsu (showing our bonbu nature, for example).

Whilst the Buddha is the best dancer in town, and can make us better dance partners just through spending time on the dance-floor with him, I believe we can also make some effort to be a better dance partner.

Precepts are a specific manifestation of love. Different objects of love require loving differently therefore we have many different sets of precepts.

The lists below can be considered precepts in this way, they are given in a specific context, but all in the spirit of love. The spirit of love is always worth cultivating, and the specific way in which these lists below suggest we manifest that love has relevance to how we build community today.

Conditions of a nation’s welfare

From the Maha-paranibanna Sutta 4.

  • Do the Vajjis have frequent gatherings, and are their meetings well attended?
  • Do the Vajjis assemble and disperse peacefully and attend to their affairs in concord?
  • Do the Vajjis neither enact new decrees nor abolish existing ones, but proceed in accordance with their ancient constitutions?
  • Do the Vajjis show respect, honor, esteem, and veneration towards their elders and think it worthwhile to listen to them?
  • Do the Vajjis refrain from abducting women and maidens of good families and from detaining them?
  • Do the Vajjis show respect, honor, esteem, and veneration towards their shrines, both those within the city and those outside it, and do not deprive them of the due offerings as given and made to them formerly?”
  • Do the Vajjis duly protect and guard the arahats, so that those who have not come to the realm yet might do so, and those who have already come might live there in peace?

“So long, Ananda, as these are the case, the growth of the Vajjis is to be expected, not their decline.”

Welfare of the Bikkhus (MPNS. 6)

The growth of the bhikkhus is to be expected, not their decline, bhikkhus, so long as they:

  1. Assemble frequently and in large numbers.
  2. Meet and disperse peacefully and attend to the affairs of the Sangha in concord.
  3. Appoint no new rules, and do not abolish the existing ones, but proceed in accordance with the code of training laid down.
  4. Show respect, honor, esteem, and veneration towards the elder bhikkhus, those of long standing, long gone forth, the fathers and leaders of the Sangha, and think it worthwhile to listen to them.
  5. Do not come under the power of the craving that leads to fresh becoming;.
  6. Cherish the forest depths for their dwellings.
  7. Establish themselves in mindfulness, so that virtuous brethren of the Order who have not come yet might do so, and those already come might live in peace.

Being a Sangha member

From ‘Being a Sangha member’ in Not Everything Is Impermanent, page 269:

The goal is to be able to live a fully human life in a noble manner.

  • A Sangha member holds practice dear.
  • A Sangha member is a disciple.
  • A Sangha member values, celebrates and contributes to the life of the Sangha.

From ‘Getting Real as A Sanga’ Ibid pg 304:

  1. face up to and admit one’s bonbu nature – and feel the relief in doing so;
  2. start to think of the collective good rather than merely individual interest;
  3. take refuge; and
  4. do the practice