‘Re-Imagining The Buddha’ - by Sangharakshita and Subhuti
On Sat, 2 June, 2012 - 10:33
‘Imagining the Buddha’ was probably chosen as the theme of the 2012 Triratna International Retreat thanks to the influence of a paper entitled ‘Re-Imagining The Buddha’ jointly published by Sangharakshita and Subhuti some 18 months ago. Since then it’s become a theme widely studied and debated throughout Triratna. Sangharakshita introduces it like this:
“Towards the end of August, 2010, Subhuti and I had a series of discussions centred on the topic of the imagination. I had long wanted to talk to Subhuti on this topic because I had a few new ideas which I wished to communicate. Subhuti managed to make himself available for a few days and we had the discussions in question at my Madhyamaloka flat. Our starting point was the subject of animism, on which I had been reflecting. In fact I reminded Subhuti that many years ago, when I was still living in Kalimpong, I had written a poem with the title ‘Animist’. From animism we branched out first to empathy, then to ethics and aesthetics, and finally to the imagination or imaginal faculty. This lead us to a quite wide ranging exploration of the spiritual life, including meditation, and faith in, and devotion to, the historical Buddha. Our discussion was not at all systematic, especially as I kept remembering things I wanted to say, and as Subhuti did his best to draw me out on certain points. I am therefore extremely grateful to Subhuti for not just writing up our discussions but for presenting them in a more organised and systematic manner. The title he has given to this article, ‘Re-imagining the Buddha’, very well encapsulates the overall thrust of our discussion. I very much hope that this article will be a source of inspiration to all Order members and have the effect of clarifying the place of the imagination in the spiritual life”.
And the paper itself begins:
“To live the Buddhist life, to become like the Buddha, we must imagine the Buddha. The goal must be embodied in our imaginations, our deepest energies gathered in an image of what we are trying to move towards”.