The Turning About


This reversal, this great change, this great death and rebirth, is what the Yogacara terms the paravritti, and this technical term gives us an entirely different angle on the meaning of conversion in Buddhism from those we have so far examined. Some scholars translate paravritti as `revulsion’, but this is not really satisfactory because it implies a psychological process rather than a spiritual and metaphysical one. It is much better to use the literal translation of paravritti – `turning about’.


The paravritti, the turning about, is synonymous with conversion in the very deepest and most radical sense of the term. It is the central theme of the Lankavatara Sutra, and indeed we may say that it is the central theme, the central concern, of the spiritual life itself. If the spiritual life doesn’t turn you upside-down, if you don’t feel as though you’re hanging head downwards in a void, then it isn’t the spiritual life. If you feel all safe and secure and firm and nicely going ahead, step by step, you haven’t yet begun to live the spiritual life in earnest.


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