Sujato’s back

Greetings to all inhabitants of the internet. Vassa is over for another year (insert sad face icon here) and life starts another round. I’ll get back into posting and curating this blog on a more regular basis. Meanwhile, as usual I say ‘no’ to almost all requests in the vassa, which means there’s a lot of ‘yessing’ to catch up with. For your information, here’s a list of my upcoming events. I hope I can see some of you there! These notes are very brief, please just ask if you want more info on any details. The first two events have already happened, so if you weren’t there you’ve missed out, unless you’re a neutrino or a Sarvastivadin.


Multi-faith Forum on Environmental Ethics

Sunday 9/10/2011

University of Western Sydney, Parramatta Campus

University of Sydney Interfaith week, Women and Religion panel.

Tuesday 11/10/2011


The Good Life – Buddhist meditation and teachings

Friday, October 14, 7.30pm

Well-Aware-Ness Center, 14 Ridge St, North Sydney (weekly).

Kagyu Mon Lam Opening Ceremony.

Saturday October 15, 9-11am.

Badgery Pavillion, Sydney Olympic Park, Homebush.

Dhamma Talk and Meditation.

Saturday October 15, 7-9pm.

Girl Guides Centre, Crestwood Reserve, Peel Road (near the corner of Leumeah St.) Baulkham Hills.

Dana and talk at Indonesian Buddhist Society.

Sunday October 16.


Dhamma talk at Blue Gum Sangha.

Tuesday October 18, 7pm.

Well-Aware-Ness Center, 14 Ridge St, North Sydney.

Australian Association of Buddhist Studies seminar: The Insatiable Desires of Women. An unexpected twist on a story-telling trope in Buddhist Jataka stories.

Wednesday October 19, 5-7.30pm.

University of Sydney – Wooley Common Room.


The Good Life – Buddhist meditation and teachings

Friday, October 21, 7.30pm

Well-Aware-Ness Center, 14 Ridge St, North Sydney (weekly).

Metta Meditation.

Saturday October 22, 4-6pm.

Gloria Jeans, 103 George Street (corner Charles Street), Parramatta.

Faith Ecology Network Enrichment day. A day of bushwalking and interfaith dialogue at Santi FM.

Sunday, October 23, 9am – 3pm.


The Good Life – Buddhist meditation and teachings,

Friday, October 28, 7.30pm

Well-Aware-Ness Center, 14 Ridge St, North Sydney (weekly).

Kathina at Santi FM. Annual end-of-vassa robe and requisite offering ceremony.

Sunday October 30, The kathina ceremony will be held after the 11am dana.

7 thoughts on “Sujato’s back

  1. Welcome back, Bhante! I hope you had a nice and insightful rains retreat. Unfortunately for me, Denmark’s not exactly around the corner, otherwise I would very much have liked to participate in some of these events. Are talks like “The Insatiable Desires of Women” being recorded (or at least transcribed)? That one sounds particularly interesting.

    With metta,

    • Hi Dennis,

      Denmark’s not too far away, surely – it’s just a question of motivation!

      The talk on “The Insatiable Desires of Women” will essentially be drawn from chapters 37-39 of White Bones Red Rot Black Snakes. It was also the topic of a number of talks I’ve given over the last couple of years, including a series on the Jatakas that I gave here at Santi this time last year. I’m not sure if this is available on, but you could check there. I don’t think the talk next week will be recorded.

      I’ve been to a few AABS events recently. They are sponsoring Karen Lang as a visiting professor, and she’s given a number of interesting talks.

    • I’d be interested in others’ take on this:
      Geoff this is such a great question below:

      Sujato when are you going to get around answering this question of Geoff’s?

      Bhante says in the preamble above:

      “For myself, I learned that this idea of ‘enlightenment’ as a process, rather than a completed state, is central to the secular Buddhist perspective. I had heard the idea before, but didn’t realize how significant it was……….

      The word ‘Buddha’ means ‘Awakened’. It is a past participle, denoting a completed or perfected state. The finality of the Buddha’s Awakening is fundamental to the whole Buddhist literature and is, for example, a major theme of the Dhammacakkappavattana Sutta. To say ‘the Buddha is not Awakened’ is an oxymoron. “

      In contrast Glenn Wallis says (in an earlier exchange with Bhante on this blog):

      “Have my views changed over time. Of course they have! Haven’t yours? Do you not believe, furthermore, that the Buddha’s–or Gotama’s–views changed over time, even after his “awakening”? Does anicca apply to everything in the universe but the Buddha’s cognition? “

      That last sentence is very interesting. I’d be interested in the answers to this question.



  2. Sujato,

    I just noticed you haven’t included anything on secular buddhism… when are you going to re-open this debate?

    Also I think Glen and Peter have some questions you haven’t answered from before the Rains retreat


  3. So great to have you back–end of Vassa not a tragedy for your faithful listeners!

    What I want to know is how Sarvastivadans endorse time travel. I thought they weren’t distinguished by view but by Vinaya lineage. But I know very little.

    • Hi DK,

      Sorry for not answering this question earlier, I just noticed it.

      I don’t really know if the Sarvastivadins endorsed time-travel, although their view of the world certainly invites the speculation.

      Their basic doctrine was that all dhammas, past, present, and future, ‘exist’. That is to say, ‘existence’ is a category outside of time. The purpose of this argument was to explain causality: how can events of past lives influence the present, if they do not still in some sense ‘exist’? The school developed several explanations for how this actually worked, but the most popular idea seems to have been that the present moment was not distinguished by ‘existing’, but by being ‘effective’. Each moment is always ‘existing’, but only the present moment is ‘active’: like, say, the links present on a web page: they are all there, but only the one your cursor is hovering above is ‘active’. Or, more to the point, like the pages of a book: they all ‘exist’, but only the open page is ‘active’. (I suspect that this doctrine in fact emerged side by side with the use of writing for Buddhist texts: a written text ‘exists’ in a way that memorized texts don’t.)

      So time travel – why not? The past is always there…

      As for sectarian differences, in this case the school is distinguished by doctrine. In ancient India there were many schools, but in most cases they are hardly distinguishable by doctrine. There were four main groups of docrinal schools: Sarvastivada (who belived that ‘all exists’), the Puggalavada (who believed in a ‘person’ outside the five khandhas). the Mahasanghika (who believed in the transcendental nature of the Buddha), and the Vibhajjavada (who rejected all the above views).

      None of these schools, it would seem, arose originally because of a schism or split in Vinaya lineage. The primary motivation was simply geographical separation, followed by doctrinal disputes. Presumably there would have been personal issues at stake, too, but these are not recorded. As the schools became more firmly established with their own identities, they came to be conceived of as distinct Vinaya lineages.

      What you may have been referring to was the present day situation. Today, the Central Asian Sangha (including Tibet) follow the Mulasarvastivada Vinaya (a branch of the Sarvastivada), East Asians (China, etc.) follow the Dharmagupta (one of the Vibhajjavada schools), and the Theravadins follow the Mahavihara Vinaya (in Pali; another of the Vibhajjavada schools). So in the present day these regions are distinguished by these basic Vinaya differences (as well, of course, as countless sectarian differences within each country.)

      This is quite separate from their doctrinal affiliations. The Central and East Asian schools, obviously, follow primarily Mahayana doctrines. They do often study the teachings of the early schools, but this is not connected with the affiliation of their specific Vinaya lineage.

      So for example, if a Tibetan monk studies Abhidharma, he does not do so as a ‘Mulasarvastivadin’ monk. He does so (usually) as a Mahayana monk (philosophically Prasangika Madhyamaka and practically Vajrayana) who studies the teachings of the earlier schools as a basic grounding to understand better his own school’s ideas. As the Vinayas are not philosophical texts, there are no doctrinally significant differences to cause problems with such a syncretic approach.

    • Such a crystal clear explanation, as usual. It makes sense that the schools would have been only geographically removed initially, developed doctrinal divergences that made them more distinct, and then developed independent lineages of Vinaya rules. Those rules could then be passed down without strong regard to philosophy.

      Really can’t get my head around the Sarvastivadan view, though. Too much exposure to Nagarjuna I guess.

      I really appreciate your time spent here shining lights into dark corners.

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