Three Myths, Eight Talks

A special series of talks, given as part of a wider retreat, in which Jnanavaca and Maitreyabandhu explore what it means to gain insight within our tradition. Through talks and ritual they investigate Samadhi and Prajna in the context of the three myths of self-development, self-discovery, and self-surrender. The talks assume a basic understanding of the Three Myths as expressed by Subhuti in his article in Madhyamavani. Each talk is followed by a ritual.

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Jnanavaca gives an overview of the Three Myths, and sets the scene for what will follow over the series.

Maitreyabandhu explores the front and ‘back’ of the myth of self-development or self-transcendence, looking at the advantage of having something to do with our will on the one hand (particularly when relatively new to the spiritual life), and the dangers of infinitely extending samadhi and prajna away from ourselves while we perfect sila.

Jnanavaca concludes the section on the myth of self-development or self-transcendence with this talk, looking at other ‘back’ sides to the myth, and sharing his concerns for how those may manifest in the movement.

Maitreyabandhu gives an inspiring talk about the unconditioned reaching into the conditioned, symboliesed by Tara (the quick one) on the shrine. He also looks at how views create the context in which we live out our lives, the front and back of the myth of self-surrender, and the secular and the divine, of which Buddhism is neither. The talk is followed by a seven-fold puja.

Continuing to investigate the ‘front’ and ‘back’ of the myth of self-surrender, Jnanavaca talks of the myth of his own ordination, of faith and meaning. He talks of the myth of the vajraguru, of making your life an offering, and the fear of betrayal or losing oneself.

In this confessional talk, Maitreyabandhu reflects on his meditation history in the light of the myth of self discovery. He looks at the ‘front’ of this myth; its direct and experiential approach that tells us that liberation is possible for us right now, and at the ‘back’, that it can undermine the path (and therefore dispense with the need for sangha and changing the world), lead to claims of attainments, and result in demands of others to suspend their critical faculties in relation to ones experience.

Jnanavaca begins this talk on the fourth myth, emergence, by sharing some of his own meditative experiences and gratitude for the people he has been able to talk to about them. Continuing to emphasise the experiential benefit of this myth, he then nevertheless expresses reservations; the dangers of calibrating our experience and therefore fixing it, of non-effort undermining the path and of reifying experience. He then also reflects on how humanism influences our Sangha, and ends by expressing his belief that Order Members have a duty and an obligation to look at how their experiences fit within Bhante’s system of practice.

A brief summary concludes the series. This was given from the Urgyen House, where Bhante Sangharakshita spent his final years.