Happiness & Hunger
Ven. Buddhadasa Bhikkhu
TREE OF THE KNOWLEDGE OF GOOD AND EVIL
Those of you who are Christians or who have read the Bible will be familiar with the story of tree of the knowledge of good and evil that appears at the beginning of Genesis. It tells how God forbade Adam and Eve to eat the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. He warned them that they would die if they did not obey. If you understand the meaning of this passage, you will understand the core of Buddhism. When there is no knowledge of good and evil, we can't attach to them, we're void and free of dukkha. Once we know about good and evil, we attach to them and must suffer dukkha. The fruit of that tree is this attachment to good and evil. This causes dukkha and dukkha is death, spiritual death.
Adam's children, down through the ages to us, carry this burden of knowing good and evil, the burden of the self that attaches to good and evil and suffers spiritual death. We identify things as good and attach to them. We identify things as bad and detach from them. We are trapped in worldly conditions by our dualistic obsession with good and bad. This is the death of which God warned. Will you heed his warning?
Now what are we who have inherited this problem going to do about it? To continue running after the satisfaction of our hunger for "the best" is simply to perpetuate this cycle of birth and death. Thus, Buddhism isn't interested in any of the realms of lokiya-sukha, of good, better, and best. The Buddhist solution is to be above good and evil --to be void.
Please understand that "the best" is not the highest thing. If you talk about God as the "supreme good." Buddhists won't be able to accept your words. To say that God, the highest thing in the universe, is the collection of everything good or the perfection of good is to limit God. The Supreme Thing, within dualistic conditions. Buddhists cannot accept this. The God of the Bible himself said that if we know good and evil we must die.
If you say, however, that God --if we choose to use this word-- is beyond good and evil, then Buddhists can agree. In Buddhism, the goal is to transcend both good and evil, and realize voidness --to be void of "I," "me," ..... "mine," and "myself." If we don't know good and evil, we can't attach to them and there is no dukkha. Or, if we know good and evil but still don't attach to them, then there is no dukkha just the same. Thus, the highest point for humanity is beyond good.
ABOVE & BEYOND GOOD
Beyond good there is nothing to hunger for and no one to hunger. Hunger stops. The "I" who hungers and all its desires disappear in voidness --the emptiness of self and soul. This voidness is the purpose of the practice of Dhamma. It is the way to transcend the endless cycles of hunger and worldly happiness. It is the Supreme Thing, the final goal of Buddhism.
The thing to observe in this matter is that it is imposible to attach to good and evil when there's no knowledge of good and evil. When there's no attachment, there's no dukkha and no problem. Once the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. What happens then? If we lack the wisdom (panna) to know that we shouldn't attach to good and evil, we'll go and attach to the good and evil of common sentient beings. Thus, there is dukkha, which brings with it all the problems of life. These are the results of eating that fruit: attachment, dukkka, and death.
Once there is this knowledge, there is no going back to a state of innocence in which good and evil aren't known. After this knowledge arises, after the fruit has been eaten, we must go on to know fully that good and evil cannot be attached to. It is our duty and responsibility to learn this. Don't attach to good and evil because they are impermanent (anicca), unsatisfactory (dukkha), and not-self (anatta). Good and evil are anicca, dukkha, anatta. When there's this correct knowledge of good and evil, there's no attachment. Then there's no death, just as with Adam and Eve before they ate the fruit. We've all eaten that fruit; we all know about good and evil. There's no going back to a state of innocence for us. Instead, we have the duty to know that good and evil should not be attached to. They must not be attached to. Please understand this matter wisely.
Don't attach to good and evil. Khow them so thoroughly that you will never attach to them. This is the heart of Buddhism and the essence of Christianity. Both religions teach this same thing, although people may interpret it in quite different ways. If you understand this, you will have the key to the genuine happiness of freedom from hanger.
You can see that if we grasp and cling to "good", we are hungry for good. If we have something better, we hunger for what is better. If we have what is the best, we hunger for the best. No matter how "best" something is, it still cause hunger. We hunger for the best best. Inevitably, this hunger is the problem that leads to dukkha. No matter what the degree of hunger, it will still cause some sort of dukkha. Coarse hunger afflicts us in a crude way, while even the most subtle hunger --so refined that it can't be seen or understood --harms us in a way too subtle to be seen. If there is hunger, there will be dukkha. Life will be troubled and disturbed, making perfect peace and perfect happiness impossible.
This is why Buddhism teaches voidness (sunnata) --the voidness of "I" and "mine" that transcends the best. If we have knowledge of beyond the best, of the voidness that is neither good nor evil, there's no problem. In sunnata there's no hunger. Even the most subtle levels of hunger disappear. Therein dukkha is quenched and true spiritual peace remains. This is the final goal. As long as there is the slightest hunger, it prevents the final goal. As soon as all hunger has been extinguished, and with it all problems and all dukkha, genuine emancipation is evident. Emancipation in Buddhism is this freedom from hunger that comes with the realization of sunnata (voidness). Please study this matter until your life is totally free of hunger.
NATURAL HUNGER & UNNECESSARY HUNGER
Let's go back and take another look at this thing we call "hunger." We ought to know that there are two levels of hunger. First, there is physical, material hunger, which is a natural process of life. The body instinctually feels hunger regarding its natural needs: clothing, food, shelter, medicine, exercise. This kind of hunger is no problem. It doesn't cause dukkha and can be satisfied without causing dukkha. Then, there is the second kind of hunger, which is mental, that we call "spiritual hunger." This is the hunger of thinking born out of attachment. Physical hunger really has no meaning, for it causes no problems. Even animals experience physical hunger, so they eat as allowed by the limits of the situation. Spiritual hungar, however, being tied up with ignorance (avijja) and attachment (upadana), destroys the coolness and calm of the mind, which is true happiness and peace, thus bringing dukkha.
The problem of human beings is that our minds have developed beyond the animal mind. The consciousness of animal has not learned how to turn physical hunger into mental hunger. They don't attach to their instinctual hunger as we do, so they are free of the dukkha caused by craving (tanha) and clinging (upadana). The human mind is more highly evolved and suffers from more highly evolved hunger. Through attachment the human mind knows spiritual hunger.
We must distinguish between these two kinds of hunger. Physical hunger can be dealt with easily. One day of work can satisfy our bodily needs for many days. With mindfulness and wisdom, physical hunger is no problem. Don't foolishly make it into dukkha. When it arises, just see it as tathata --thusness, the state of being "just like that." The body has a nervous system. When it lacks something that it needs there arises a certain activity which we call "hunger." That's all there is to it --tathata. Don't let it cook up into spiritual hunger by attaching to it as "my hunger" or the "I who hungers." That is very dangerous, for it causes a lot of dukkha. When the body is hungry, eat mindfully and wisely. Then physical hunger won't disturb the mind.
Hunger is solely a mental problem. The highly developed human mind develops hunger into the spiritual hunger that results in attachment. These are mental phenomena --tanha (craving) and upadana (grasping and clinging, attachment) --which aren't at all cool. Although we may be millionaires, with homes full of consumer products and pockets full of money, we still hunger spiritually. The more we consume, the more we hunger. However much we try to satisfy mental hunger, to that extent it will expand, grow, and disturb the mind ever more. Even billionaires are spiritually hungry.
So how are we to solve this problems? There is the Dhamma principle that stopping this foolish hunger results in peace of mind, cool happiness, freedom from disturbance.
Physical hunger doesn't bother us. It's easy to take care of, to find something to eat that satisfies the hunger. Spiritual hunger, however, is another matter. The more we eat, the more we hunger. This is the problem we're caught in --being annoyed, pestered, bothered, agitated by spiritual hunger. When nothing annoys the mind, that is true happiness. This may sound funny to you, but the absence of disturbance is genuine happiness.
We're sure that each of you is bothered by hopes and wishes. You've come here with your hopes and expectations. These hopes, wishes, and expectations are another kind of spiritual hunger, so be very careful about them. Don't let them become dangerous! Find a way to stop the expecting and hoping. Live by sati-panna (mindfulnesss and wisdom); don't live by expectations.
Usually we teach children to be full of wishes --to "make a wish." to "dream the impossible dream." This isn't correct. Why teach them to live in spiritual hunger? It torments them, even to the point of causing physical pain, illness, and death. It would be kinder to teach them to live without hunger, expecially without spiritual hunger. Live with sati-panna, do whatever must be done, but don't hope, don't dream, don't expect. Hopes are merely spiritual hunger. Teach them not to attach. No hunger, neither physically nor mentally --think about it-- what happiness that would be! There's no happiness greater than this. Can you see?
THREE KINDS OF SOLITUDE
Lastly, we'll talk about the benefits of the end of hunger. To do so, we'll ask you to learn one more Pali word. Listen carefully and remember it, for it is a most important word: viveka, in Pali; vivek, in Thai. Viveka can be translated "utmost aloneness, perfect singleness, complete solitude." Because people no longer understand this correctly, you've probably never heard of it. First, know that viveka has three levels. Physical viveka (kaya-viveka) is when nothing disturbs the physical level of life. Mental viveka (citta-viveka) is when no emotions disturb the mind, when the citta isn't troubled by things like sexual lust, hatred. fear, frustration, envy, sentimentality, and love. This mental viveka can occur even in a crowded noisy room; it isn't dependent on physical solitude. The third kind, spiritual viveka (upadhi-viveka) is when no feelings or thoughts of attachment to "I" and "mine", "soul" or "myself" disturb the mind. If all three levels happen, you are truly alone and free.
Merely being free of physical disturbances while emotions pester one isn't viveka. Many "meditators" run off into forests and caves to find solitude, but if they bring their emotions with them, they won't find what they're looking for. True happiness will elude them. If the emotions don't annoy them, but feelings of "I" and "mine" disturb and distract them, it can't be called "viveka, " either. There must be no feeling of "I" or "mine" interfering. Then, there will be no hunger of any kind disturbing and no hopes pestering. This is solitude. The mind is perfectly alone. This is the happiness that is the aim of Buddhism. It is vimutti (emancipation) on Buddhism's highest level. The final goal of Buddhism, the highest liberation, isn't a mind that is merely happy or quiet. The ultimate goal is total freedom from all attachment, from any clinging to "I" or "mine." We want you to know about these three levels of viveka.
If you are able to practice mindfulness with breathing completely and correctly through all sixteen of its steps and stages, then you will discover these three kinds of viveka. Then you will receive the happiness of never being tormented by hunger again. But if you don't like this kind of happiness, if you prefer the happiness of responding to hunger, of feeding desire, then nothing can help you. Buddhism won't be able to help you a bit. It can't help you because Buddhism aims to eliminate the kind of happiness and enjoyment that depends on things to satisfy its hunger. We want that to end. We need the kind of viveka that is undisturbed by hunger.
This is what we are afraid you may misunderstand. If you don't understood the Buddhist kind of happiness, you might expect something that Buddhism can't provide. Then you will be disappointed. You will be wasting your time here. If you want the happiness that comes from responding to hunger, we have nothing to talk about. There's nothing for us to say. But if you want the happiness born from not having any hunger at all, we have something to talk about. And we've said it already.
We hope that you will meet with success in your practice and development of mindfulness with breathing. Once you have, you will receive the genuine happiness born of the total absence of hunger.
Reproduced from "The Theosophist" August 1996 issue
The term 'The Middle Way' is found in Buddhism, that most gentle, compassionate and wise of religions. It probably referred originally to the realization by Buddha that the way to enlightenment lies neither in exaggerated asceticism nor in self-indulgence.
In striving--for the sake of humanity in its blindness and all beings in their suffering--to reach the Truth of things, Buddha is said to have lived for a time an ascetic life, starving himself, perhaps torturing his body, as was the custom for ascetics. When he was so weak as to be near death, he realized that the way to enlightenment does not lie in exaggerated asceticism. He had of course long since realized that that way does not lie either in gratifying one's every wish and leading a loose life--as is taught nowadays by some 'gurus'!
This realization is said to have come to him when a group of temple dancers passed singing a song (rendered in Sir Edwin Arnold's Light of Asia as follows):
Fair goes the dancing when the sitar's tuned;
Tune us the sitar neither low nor high,
The string o'erstretched breaks, and the music flies;
The string o'erslack is dumb, and music dies.
According to the legend, Buddha took the lesson to heart and renounced the path of excessive asceticism. Accepting nourishing food, he recovered his strength and took the final steps to Enlightenment. In his sermon in the Deer Park near Varanasi, he is said to have taught this realization to his former companions in asceticism:
These two extremes, monks, are not to be practiced by one who has gone forth from the world. What are the two? That conjoined with the passions and luxury, low, vulgar, common, ignoble, and useless; and that conjoined with self-torture, painful, ignoble, and useless. Avoiding these two extremes the Tathãgata gained the enlightenment of the Middle Path, which produces insight and knowledge, and tends to calm, to higher knowledge, enlightenment, Nirvana.
The extremes of asceticism and over-indulgence are not and never were limited to any particular period or religion. Christianity and other religions also had and still have their penitents. At an Easter Festival in the Philippines, volunteers are nailed to crosses, like Christ according to the biblical story! The Spartans indulged in frugality and hardship for other reasons. On the other hand, so-called civilizations tend, when they reach a certain affluence, to over-indulgence which often heralds their decline and fall--as in the case of the Roman Empire.
We witness, too, other types of exaggeration: excessive virtue and vice, love and hate, praise and condemnation. Often the same person indulges by turns in such extremes. Why do people exaggerate, why do they go to extremes? Why do they indulge or torture themselves, sometimes to breaking point? Why do they utterly condemn or blindly worship?...often by turns? Perhaps this is in the nature of things. Although the heart of all is Oneness, 'the Manifested Universe is', as HPB wrote, 'pervaded by duality', that is, we live in a world of duality, of extremes. It is, indeed, a world of beautiful and luxuriant diversity. But the basis of this world of infinite variety is duality, a tendency towards twoness--towards going off in one of two opposite directions.
This duality is actually what we might call polarity. If the source and the heart of all is Oneness--which is the fundamental teaching of Theosophy--then pairs of opposites have the same source and foundation. They are two poles, ends or extreme manifestations of the same thing, like the North and South Poles, or the two ends of a piece of string or elastic. They are complementary.
If we consider the origen of things as we know them, for example of our solar system, the two poles (or polar opposites) which originally emerged from the One, the Absolute, are primordial consciousness and primordial matter, which are, in the theosophical philosophy, inseparably linked. This original polarity is reflected in the many polarities or apparent opposites we know in daily life; beginning and end, light and darkness, outside and inside, hot and cold, soft and hard.
But are not those apparent opposites intimately connected, indeed dependent on each other? Could there be a beginning without an end? Would we recognize light if we had not experienced darkness? Whether we feel something is hot or cold, soft or hard and so on, is often rather a matter of attitude than of objective judgement. To the optimist the glass is half full; to the pessimist it is half empty! If one of my hands is cold and the other hot and I plunge them into lukewarm water, it will seem warm to the cold hand and cool to the hot hand--relativity in daily life!
Indeed, in a sense, hot and cold and the other polar opposites do not exist at all objectively. 'Look at your thermometer and see if you can discover where "heat" terminates and "cold" begins!' Thus none of the things around us is absolutely light or dark, hot or cold and so forth but only more or less--that is relatively so. Does not relativity indicate a relationship between things?
A visible sign of this relationship is a tendency in Nature towards a pendular movement from one of two imaginary extremes to the other. HPB calls this the 'Law of Periodicity: 'An alternation such as that of day and night, life and death, sleeping and waking, is...one of the absolutely fundamental laws of the universe. This pendular movement between two poles perhaps expresses an attempt to return to the Oneness out of which the two poles originally emerged.
Another example of this pendular movement in Nature is our own out-breathing. Examples are also to be found in the field of psychology, in human nature. The more emotionally elated we tend to be, the more we may be prone to depression. We all know of the sad clown, who can at times make others laugh with his gaiety, but at other times feels his own heart is broken. We all experience this to some extent. The further the pendulum swings in one direction, the further it will swing to the opposite direction.
And, thus, if we swing with the pendulum, we go to extremes, perhaps not extremes of asceticism and over-indulgence, but certainly extremes of joy, and depression, perhaps love and hate. There are people, too who change their allegiances to individuals or to ideologies. We have examples in the history of the Theosophical Society. Hysterical enthusiasm is quite likely to change its object. 'Gushing' should be viewed with scepticism.
What happens when we thus go to extremes? Perhaps going to extremes means treating the relative as if it were absolute. We take one extreme too seriously as if it were an absolute value. Thus people may be ready to sacrifice higher human values for an imaginary ideal. That is what fanatics do--like inquisitors perpetrating terrible cruelty in order to 'save the souls' of the condemned--or Nazis excusing their brutality by saying they were merely obeying orders, or Communists torturing and killing individuals 'for the benefit of the masses'.
It is probably a human tendency to go from one extreme to the other in the search for balance--for the Middle Way. But we should not take these extremes too seriously. To do so may lead to fanaticism, as illustrated above. These are of course extreme cases of heartless human beings. But are not similar tendencies at least dormant within us, ready to awaken under certain circumstances? There is a cruelty of the heart not expressed in deeds but perhaps in feelings of irritation or impatience to which we are all subject at times.
But if such tendencies become habitual, if we take our views and ourselves too seriously, we may become fanatical. What does fanaticism imply? Does it not lead to stagnation in ourselves and dogmatism in our treatment of others on whom we try to impose our opinions? Many people hold extreme views about health (what diet is best, what exercises one should do and so on)--or in the field of philosophy or religion.
Such extreme opinions often lead to quarrelling. But, ironically, they mostly have to do with unimportant issues. We are treating what is only relative as if it were absolute--a matter of life or death. This does not mean, however, that we should never remain firm. If we refuse on principle ever to be firm, we also exaggerate--and go to one of two extremes--far from the Middle Path! And there are certain things about which we should remain firm. As is said in At the Feet of the Master: 'Between right and wrong Occultism knows no compromise... Firm as a rock where right and wrong are concerned, yield always to others in things which do not matter'. What matters and what does not matter? It is up to us to decide for ourselves, using discrimination and without imposing our decision on others.
It has been said that, if one is in a dilemma, one should wonder 'Is it possible for me to do anything?' If not, one should accept the situation and not worry. But wisdom lies in knowing whether one can do something or not. An example: there are outer circumstances which we cannot alter. But we can always change ourselves, our attitude.
But is there no rule of thumb whereby we may distinguish between right and wrong, between the important and the unimportant? There is a rule of thumb, but its application in individual cases is up to us. The basis of all theosophical teachings is the inner Oneness in the heart of things. Out of insight into Oneness arises love, because we feel one with others, and also wisdom, because, ideally, we are one with Truth, seeing things as they really are and not just the images we make of them.
To perceive and to follow the Middle Way is perhaps the most difficult thing in the world. It requires constant discrimination. It is like walking on the razor's edge, which means being completely conscious and wide awake at every moment--being aware, not of what we think we are trying to do--but of ourselves doing it.
It may be useful to ask ourselves what the Middle Way is not: The Middle Way does not mean constantly jumping from one extreme to the other, like loving and hating someone by turns or compensating an unjust scolding to a child by giving in to that child's every wish. Nor does the Middle Way lie in trying to mix extremes--a little of this and a little of that, as in so-called love-hate, or as in bargaining or seeking compromises, although this is useful in business and political life.
Further, the Middle Way does not mean seeking the mid-most point by making a dogmatic principle of avoiding extremes at all costs! This may lead to indifference and laziness. The pendulum of life ceases to move to and fro. In opposing the love of pleasure, we may make ourselves numb--also to the suffering of others. The words in The Voice of the Silence: 'There klesa [i.e. worldly enjoyment] is destroyed for ever...' are followed by, '...Yet one word. Canst thou destroy divine compassion?...the Law of Laws...the light of everlasting right, and fitness of all things, the law of love eternal.'
Such compassion is infinitely greater than what we, in our ignorance, consider to be compassion. Though it may be seen as the source of our little personal feeling of pity, it belongs to a different dimension.
And, indeed, the Middle Way between or behind two extremes does not lie on the same level as the two extremes, but above them.
If two extremes are pictured as the two ends of a horizontal line, then the Middle Way does not lie on that horizontal line itself, somewhere between the two ends, but in a point above the horizontal line. We may imagine that point linked to the two ends of the line, to form a triangle. So out of one dimension (the line) two dimensions arise (the triangle). Thus the Middle Way signifies rising above both extremes. This would mean, for example neither personal love nor hatred but impersonal love. Impersonal love perhaps seems cool to us--but it is not cold. It is perhaps universal love--radiating towards no one object or person in particular but, like the sun, shining on everything in its path.
It is the love of the Bodhisattva, the only love which deserves that name in the highest sense, a love for which what appears to us to be self-sacrifice is simply the most natural thing in the world. It is 'like the pure snow in the mountain vales, cold and unfeeling to the touch, warm and protective to the seed that sleepeth deep beneath its bosom.'
We are certainly not capable of such love, neither of its level-headed coolness nor of its utter and perfectly natural selflessness beyond heat and cold. We still swing like the pendulum from one extreme to the other. Yet there may be moments when, forgetting ourselves, we rise above our present selves and understand a little of what is meant by Compassion and the Middle Way and of how such extremes as personal love and dislike may resolve into One. Polarity, the duality of two extremes, has its origin in Oneness and resolves again into Oneness.
The triangle formed by the two poles and their origin in a higher, overshadowing Oneness, is not something foreign to us. We ourselves are that triangle. We are its base in the outer world in which we are conscious and we are also the Divine Spark--the apex of the triangle. Thus the level of polarity--even in its ugliest forms, e.g. in fanaticism--is only one side of the coin. And it does not correspond to our True Being. When we rise, even for a moment, to that True Being which lies deeper within us, we may see clearer. We may see, in the light of Oneness, what is important and what not. Thus we shall avoid extremes. But this is no flight to Nirvana, for Samsara is also Nirvana. The Middle Way is the Oneness behind, beyond--but also inherent in--polarity. In practice, it is a matter of our attitude, also in daily life--seeing things as they are, not being blinded by taking sides.
But how does one proceed in daily life in order to seek and to follow--indeed consciously to become--the Middle Way?
Perhaps we should first be conscious of the danger of extreme, exaggerated attitudes in daily life--not in other people (which is easy) but in ourselves--though others may be holding up a mirror to us in which we condemn our own faults. When we have recognized extreme tendencies in ourselves, we can ask ourselves why. Is it due to conditioning by environment and upbringing? Is it because we accept some authority? Or is it a reaction against those?
What we do not understand and therefore perhaps reject in ourselves--be it selfish love or hate or personal desires or our fanatical opinions--torments us. What we have understood and accepted will simply drop away, like leaves in autumn. We can forget it. Then we can 'walk on...', on the Middle Way, on the razor's edge. But do we want to rise above the extremes? Is their constant influence important to us?--tickling our nerves or providing us with motivation? If so, we shall not and should not wish to change. The need for change will come in time. Perhaps we shall be like the little ant on the pendulum:
A little ant, clinging to the tip of a pendulum, was swinging giddily to and fro, just as we swing to and fro, clinging to our emotions: love and hate, joy and sadness. We identify ourselves with them, we are them. After some time the little ant tired of the ceaseless, relentless movement and discovered that he could climb further up the pendulum to a different and more restful world. If we emulate the little ant, no longer identifying ourselves with extremes, the pendulum goes on swinging but somehow we know that we are not that constant movement. We see our emotions indulgently, like the actions of a naughty child. So let us not be too hard on ourselves and others caught in the passionate pendulum game.
To summarize, the Middle Way between egocentric love and hatred is impersonal or universal love. The Middle Way between fanatical acceptance and rejection lies in wisdom, discrimination, common sense. The Middle Way between taking things and ourselves too seriously on the one hand and flippancy on the other perhaps lies in an awareness of the right proportions, expressed in a sense of humor, especially in the ability to laugh at ourselves. The Middle Way between clinging to memories and taking refuge in hopes lies in living in the here and now, that is, remaining wide awake. But is this not the very end of the way our goal? The end, however, lies in the beginning. For the Middle Way is not a way in the ordinary sense but a way of life. Like the spiritual path, it lies within us. It is us! So let us be what we are.
Miss Mary Anderson is the International Vice-President of the TS and lives at Adyar.
1. To those who choose the path that leads to Enlightenment, there are two extremes that should be carefully avoided. First, there is the extreme of indulgence in the desires of the body. Second, there is the opposite extreme of ascetic discipline, torturing one's body and mind unreasonably.
The Noble Path, that transcends these two extremes and leads to Enlightenment and wisdom and peace of mind, may be called the Middle Way. What is the Middle Way? It consists of the Eightfold Noble Path: right view, right thought, right speech, right behavior, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness, and right concentration.
As has been said, all things appear or disappear by reason of an endless series of causes. Ignorant people see life as either existence or non-existence, but wise men see beyond both existence and non-existence something that transcends them both; this is an observation of the Middle Way.
2. Suppose a log is floating in a river. If the log does not become grounded, or sink, or is not taken out by a man, or does not decay, ultimately it will reach the sea. Life is like this log caught in the current of a great river. If a person does not become attached to a life of self-indulgence, or, by renouncing life, does not become attached to a life of self-torture; if a person does not become proud of his virtues or does not become attached to his evil acts; if in his search for Enligtenment he does not become contemptuous of delusion, nor fear it, such a person is following the Middle Way.
The important thing in following the path to Enlightenment is to avoid being caught and entangled in any extreme, that is, always follow the Middle Way.
Knowing that things neither exist nor do no exist, remembering the dream-like nature of everything, one should avoid being caught by pride of personality or praise for good deeds; or caught and entangled by anything else.
If a person is to avoid being caught in the current of his desires, he must learn at the very beginning not to grasp at things lest he should become accustomed to them and attached to them. He must not become attached to existence nor to non-existence, to anything inside or outside, neither to good things nor to bad things, neither to right nor to wrong.
If he becomes attached to things, just at that moment, all at once, the life of delusion begins. The one who follows the Noble Path to Enlightenment will not maintain regrets, neither will he cherish anticipation, but with an equitable and peaceful mind, will meet what comes.
3. Enlightenment has no definite form or nature by which it can manifest itself; so in Enlightenment itself, there is nothing to be enlightened.
Enlightenment exists solely because of delusion and ignorance; if they disappear, so will Enlightenment. And the opposite is also true: there is no Enlightenment apart from delusion and ignorance; no delusion and ignorance apart from Enlightenment.
Therefore, be on guard against thinking of Enlightenment as a "thing" to be grasped at, lest it, too, should become an obstruction. When the mind that was in darkness become enlightened, it passes away, and with its passing, the thing which we Enlightenment passes also.
As long as people desire Enlightenment and grasp at it, it means that delusion is still with them; therefore those who are following the way to Enlightenment must not grasp at it, and if they reach Enlightenment they must not linger in it.
When people attain Enlightenment in this sense, it means that everything is Enlightenment itself as it is; therefore, people should follow the path to Enlightenment until in their thoughts, worldly passions and Enlightenment become identical as they are.
4. This concept of universal oneness - that things in their essential nature have no distinguishing marks - is called "Sunyata." Sunyata means non-substantiality, the un-born, having no self-nature, no duality. It is because things in themselves have no form or characteristics that we can speak of them as neither being born nor being destroyed. There is nothing about the essential nature of things that can be described in terms of discrimination; that is why things are called non-substantial.
As has been pointed out, all things appear and disappear because of causes and condition. Nothing ever exist entirely alone; everything is in relation to everything else.
Wherever there is light, there is shadow; wherever there is length, there is shortness; wherever there is white, there is black. Just like these, as the self-nature of things cannot exist alone, they are called non-substantial.
By the same reasoning, Enlightenment cannot exist apart from ignorance, nor ignorance apart from Enlightenment. Since things do not differ in their essential nature, there can be no duality.
5. People habitually think of themselves as being connected with birth and death, but in reality there are no such conceptions.
When people are able to realize this truth, they have realized the truth of the non-duality of birth and death.
It is because people cherish the idea of an ego personality that they cling to the idea of possession; but since there is no such things as an "ego," there can be no such things as possessions. When people are able to realize this truth, they will be able to realize the truth of "non-duality."
People cherish the distinction of purity and impurity; but in the nature of things, there is no such distinction, except as it rises from false and absurd images in their mind.
In like manner people make a distinction between good and evil, but good and evil does not exist separately. Those who are following the path to Enlightenment recognize no such duality, and it leads them to neither praise the good and condemn the evil, nor despise the good and condone the evil.
People naturally fear misfortune and long for good fortune; but if the distinction is carefully studied, misfortune often turns out to be good fortune and good fortune to be misfortune. The wise man learns to meet the changing circumstances of life with an equitable spirit, being neither elated by success nor depressed by failure. Thus one realizes the truth of non-duality.
Therefore, all the words that express relations of duality - such as existence and non-existence, worldly passions and true-knowledge, purity and impurity, good and evil - none of these terms of contrast in one's thinking are expressed or recognized in their true nature. When people keep free from such terms and fromm the emotions engendered by them, they realize Sunyata's universal truth.
6. Just as the pure and fragrant lotus flower grows out of the mud of a swamp rather than out of the clean loam of an upland field, so from the muck of worldly passions springs the pure Enlightenment of Buddhahood. Even the mistaken view of heretics and the delusions of worldly passions may be the seeds for Buddhahood.
If a diver is to secure pearls he must descend to the bottom of the sea, braving all dangers of jagged coral and vicious sharks. So man must face the perils of worldly passion if he is to secure the precious pearl of Enlightenment. He must first be lost among the mountainous crags of egoism and selfishness, before there will awaken in him the desire to find a path that will lead him to Enlightenment.
7. Buddha's teaching leads us to non-duality, from the discriminating concept of two conflicting points of view. It is a mistake for people to seek a thing supposed to be good and right, and to flee from another supposed to be bad and evil.
If people insist that all things are empty and transitory, it is just as great a mistake to insist that all things are real and do not change. If a person becomes attached to his ego-personality, it is a mistake because it cannot save him from dissatisfaction or suffering. If he believes there is no ego, it is also a mistake and it would be useless for him to practice the Way of Truth. If people assert that everything is suffering, it is also a mistake; if they assert that everything is happiness, that is a mistake, too. Buddha teaches the Middle Way transcending these prejudiced concepts, where duality merges into oneness.
The Middle Way is a Buddhist term with rich connotations. Most simply, it implies a balanced approach to life and the regulation of one's impulses and behavior, close to Aristotle's idea of the "golden mean," whereby "every virtue is a mean between two extremes, each of which is a vice."
While the word "middle" denotes balance, however, the Middle Way should not be confused with passivity or a kind of middle-of-the-road compromise. Rather, tread the Middle Way implies ongoing effort.
In the broadest sense, the Middle Way refers to the correct view of life that the Buddha teaches, and to the actions or attitudes that will create happiness for oneself and others. Thus, Buddhism itself is sometimes referred to as "the Middle Way," indicating a transcendence and reconciliation of the extremes of opposing views.
All these ideas are exemplified by Shakyamuni's own life, as conveyed to us by legend. Born a prince, Shakyamuni enjoyed every physical comfort and pleasure. However, dissatisfied with the pursuit of fleeting pleasures, he set out in search of a deeper, more enduring truth. He entered a period of extreme ascetic practice, depriving himself of food and sleep, bringing himself to the verge of physical collapse. Sensing the futility of this path, however, he began meditating with the profound determination to realize the truth of human existence, which had eluded him as much in a life of asceticism as in a life of luxury. It was then that Shakyamuni awakened to the true nature of life--its eternity and its deep wellspring of unbounded vitality and wisdom.
Later, to guide his followers toward this same Middle Way, he taught the eightfold path: eight principles, such as right conduct, right speech, etc., by which individuals can govern their behavior and develop true self-knowledge.
Since then, at various points in the history of Buddhism, Buddhist scholars have attempted to clarify and define the true nature of life. Around the third century, Nagarjuna's theory of the non-substantial nature of the universe (see "Emptiness") explained that there is no permanent "thing" behind the constantly changing phenomena of life, no fixed basis to reality. For Nagarjuna, this view was the Middle Way, the ultimate perspective on life.
Nagarjuna's ideas were further developed by T'ien-t'ai (Chi-i) in sixth-century China. All phenomena, he stated, are the manifestations of a single entity--life itself. This entity of life, which T'ien-t'ai called the Middle Way, exhibits two aspects--a physical aspect and a non-substantial aspect. Ignoring or emphasizing either gives us a distorted picture of life. We cannot, for example, realistically conceptualize a person lacking either a physical or a mental/spiritual aspect. T'ien-t'ai thus clarified the indivisible interrelationship between the physical and the spiritual. From this viewpoint stem the Buddhist principles of the inseparability of the body and the mind and of the self and the environment.
Nichiren (1222-1282), in turn, gave concrete, practical form to these often quite abstract arguments. Based on the teachings of the Lotus Sutra, Nichiren defined the Middle Way as Nam-myoho-renge-kyo and taught that by reciting this phrase one can harmonize and energize the physical and spiritual aspects of one's life, and awaken to the deepest truth of one's existence.
From this perspective, life--the vital energy and wisdom that permeates the cosmos and manifests as all phenomena--is an entity that transcends and harmonizes apparent contradictions between the physical and the mental, even between life and death. SGI President Daisaku Ikeda takes the same view when he states that it is life that gives rise to DNA, not the other way around.
According to Buddhism, individuals and societies as a whole have a tendency toward either a predominantly material or spiritual view of life. The negative effects of the materialism that pervades the modern industrialized world are apparent at every level of society, from environmental destruction to spiritual impoverishment. Simply rejecting materialism out of hand, however, amounts to idealism or escapism and undermines our ability to respond constructively to life's challenges.
The historian Eric Hobsbawm titled his volume on the 20th century The Age of Extremes. Indeed, the violence and grotesque imbalances of that era drive home the need to find new ways of peacefully reconciling apparent opposites. What is most essential, if humanity is to find a middle way toward a creative global society in the 21st century, is a new appreciation and reverence for the inviolable sanctity of life.
Adapted from an article in the July 2001 issue of the SGI Quarterly with permission from Soka Gakkai International Office of Public Relations.
The Voice of the Silence
By H. P. Blavatsky
BEING CHOSEN FRAGMENTS FROM THE "BOOK OF THE GOLDEN PRECEPTS."
FOR THE DAILY USE OF LANOOS (DISCIPLES).
TRANSLATED AND ANNOTATED BY "H.P.B."
FRAGMENT I. THE VOICE OF THE SILENCE (33K)
FRAGMENT II. THE TWO PATHS (29K)
FRAGMENT III. THE SEVEN PORTALS (43K)
following pages are derived from "The Book of the Golden Precepts,"
of the works put into the hands of mystic students in the East. The
knowledge of them is obligatory in that school, the teachings of which are
accepted by many Theosophists. Therefore, as I know many of these Precepts
by heart, the work of translating has been relatively an easy task for me.
is well known that, in India, the methods of psychic development differ
with the Gurus (teachers or masters), not only because of their belonging to
different schools of philosophy, of which there are six, but because every
Guru has his own system, which he generally keeps very secret. But beyond
the Himalayas the method in the Esoteric Schools does not differ, unless the
Guru is simply a Lama, but little more learned than those he teaches.
work from which I here translate forms part of the same series as that
from which the "Stanzas" of the Book of Dzyan were taken, on which the
Secret Doctrine is based. Together with the great mystic work called
Paramartha, which, the legend of Nagarjuna tells us, was delivered to the
great Arhat by the Nagas or "Serpents" (in truth a name given to the ancient
Initiates), the "Book of the Golden Precepts" claims the same origin. Yet
its maxims and ideas, however noble and original, are often found under
different forms in Sanskrit works, such as the Dnyaneshwari, that superb
mystic treatise in which Krishna describes to Arjuna in glowing colours the
condition of a fully illumined Yogi; and again in certain Upanishads. This
is but natural, since most, if not all, of the greatest Arhats, the first
followers of Gautama Buddha were Hindus and Aryans, not Mongolians,
especially those who emigrated into Tibet. The works left by Aryasanga alone
are very numerous.
original Precepts are engraved on thin oblong squares; copies very often
on discs. These discs, or plates, are generally preserved on the altars of
the temples attached to centres where the so-called "contemplative" or
Mahayana (Yogacharya) schools are established. They are written variously,
sometimes in Tibetan but mostly in ideographs. The sacerdotal language
(Senzar), besides an alphabet of its own, may be rendered in several modes
of writing in cypher characters, which partake more of the nature of
ideographs than of syllables. Another method (lug, in Tibetan) is to use the
numerals and colours, each of which corresponds to a letter of the Tibetan
alphabet (thirty simple and seventy-four compound letters) thus forming a
complete cryptographic alphabet. When the ideographs are used there is a
definite mode of reading the text; as in this case the symbols and signs
used in astrology, namely the twelve zodiacal animals and the seven primary
colours, each a triplet in shade, i.e. the light, the primary, and the dark
-- stand for the thirty-three letters of the simple alphabet, for words and
sentences. For in this method, the twelve "animals" five times repeated and
coupled with the five elements and the seven colours, furnish a whole
alphabet composed of sixty sacred letters and twelve signs. A sign placed at
the beginning of the text determines whether the reader has to spell it
according to the Indian mode, when every word is simply a Sanskrit
adaptation, or according to the Chinese principle of reading the ideographs.
The easiest way however, is that which allows the reader to use no special,
or any language he likes, as the signs and symbols were, like the Arabian
numerals or figures, common and international property among initiated
mystics and their followers. The same peculiarity is characteristic of one
of the Chinese modes of writing, which can be read with equal facility by
any one acquainted with the character: for instance, a Japanese can read it
in his own language as readily as a Chinaman in his.
of the Golden Precepts -- some of which are pre-Buddhistic while
others belong to a later date -- contains about ninety distinct little
treatises. Of these I learnt thirty-nine by heart, years ago. To translate
the rest, I should have to resort to notes scattered among a too large
number of papers and memoranda collected for the last twenty years and never
put in order, to make of it by any means an easy task. Nor could they be all
translated and given to a world too selfish and too much attached to objects
of sense to be in any way prepared to receive such exalted ethics in the
right spirit. For, unless a man perseveres seriously in the pursuit of
self-knowledge, he will never lend a willing ear to advice of this nature.
yet such ethics fill volumes upon volumes in Eastern literature,
especially in the Upanishads. "Kill out all desire of life," says Krishna to
Arjuna. That desire lingers only in the body, the vehicle of the embodied
Self, not in the SELF which is "eternal, indestructible, which kills not nor
is it killed" (Katha Upanishad). "Kill out sensation," teaches Sutta Nipata;
"look alike on pleasure and pain, gain and loss, victory and defeat." Again,
"Seek shelter in the eternal alone" (ibid). "Destroy the sense of
separateness," repeats Krishna under every form. "The Mind (Manas) which
follows the rambling senses, makes the Soul (Buddhi) as helpless as the boat
which the wind leads astray upon the waters" (Bhagavatgita II. 70).
it has been thought better to make a judicious selection only from
those treatises which will best suit the few real mystics in the
Theosophical Society, and which are sure to answer their needs. It is only
these who will appreciate these words of Krishna-Christos, the "Higher
do not grieve for the living nor the dead. Never did I not exist, nor
you, nor these rulers of men; nor will any one of us ever hereafter cease to
be." (Bhagavatgita II. 27).
this translation, I have done my best to preserve the poetical beauty of
language and imagery which characterise the original. How far this effort
has been successful, is for the reader to judge. -- "H.P.B."
Table of Contents
The Voice of the Silence by H. P. Blavatsky
THE VOICE OF THE SILENCE
are for those ignorant of the dangers of the lower IDDHI
who would hear the voice of Nada (2), "the Soundless Sound," and
comprehend it, he has to learn the nature of Dharana (3).
become indifferent to objects of perception, the pupil must seek out
the rajah of the senses, the Thought-Producer, he who awakes illusion.
The Mind is the great Slayer of the Real.
Let the Disciple slay the Slayer.
When to himself
his form appears unreal, as do on waking all the forms he
sees in dreams;
he has ceased to hear the many, he may discern the ONE -- the inner
sound which kills the outer.
only, not till then, shall he forsake the region of Asat, the false, to
come unto the realm of Sat, the true.
the soul can see, the Harmony within must be attained, and fleshly
eyes be rendered blind to all illusion.
the Soul can hear, the image (man) has to become as deaf to roarings
as to whispers, to cries of bellowing elephants as to the silvery buzzing of
the golden fire-fly.
the soul can comprehend and may remember, she must unto the Silent
Speaker be united just as the form to which the clay is modelled, is first
united with the potter's mind.
For then the soul will hear, and will remember.
And then to the inner ear will speak --
THE VOICE OF THE SILENCE
And say: --
If thy soul
smiles while bathing in the Sunlight of thy Life; if thy soul
sings within her chrysalis of flesh and matter; if thy soul weeps inside her
castle of illusion; if thy soul struggles to break the silver thread that
binds her to the MASTER (4); know, O Disciple, thy Soul is of the earth.
to the World's turmoil thy budding soul (5) lends ear; when to the
roaring voice of the great illusion thy Soul responds (6) when frightened at
the sight of the hot tears of pain, when deafened by the cries of distress,
thy soul withdraws like the shy turtle within the carapace of SELFHOOD,
learn, O Disciple, of her Silent "God," thy Soul is an unworthy shrine.
waxing stronger, thy Soul glides forth from her secure retreat: and
breaking loose from the protecting shrine, extends her silver thread and
rushes onward; when beholding her image on the waves of Space she whispers,
"This is I," -- declare, O Disciple, that thy soul is caught in the webs of
Disciple, is the Hall of Sorrow, wherein are set along the Path
of dire probations, traps to ensnare thy EGO by the delusion called "Great
earth, O ignorant Disciple, is but the dismal entrance leading to the
twilight that precedes the valley of true light -- that light which no wind
can extinguish, that light which burns without a wick or fuel.
the Great Law: -- "In order to become the KNOWER of ALL SELF (9) thou
hast first of SELF to be the knower." To reach the knowledge of that SELF,
thou hast to give up Self to Non-Self, Being to Non-Being, and then thou
canst repose between the wings of the GREAT BIRD. Aye, sweet is rest between
the wings of that which is not born, nor dies, but is the AUM (10)
throughout eternal ages (11).
Bestride the Bird of Life, if thou would'st know (12).
Give up thy life, if thou would'st live (13).
Halls, O weary pilgrim, lead to the end of toils. Three Halls, O
conqueror of Mara, will bring thee through three states (14) into the fourth
(15) and thence into the seven worlds (16), the worlds of Rest Eternal.
If thou would'st learn their names, then hearken, and remember.
The name of the first Hall is IGNORANCE -- Avidya.
is the Hall in which thou saw'st the light, in which thou livest and
shalt die (17).
of Hall the second is the Hall of Learning.* In it thy Soul will
find the blossoms of life, but under every flower a serpent coiled (18).
[*The Hall of Probationary Learning.]
name of the third Hall is Wisdom, beyond which stretch the shoreless
waters of AKSHARA, the indestructible Fount of Omniscience (19).
thou would'st cross the first Hall safely, let not thy mind mistake the
fires of lust that burn therein for the Sunlight of life.
thou would'st cross the second safely, stop not the fragrance of its
stupefying blossoms to inhale. If freed thou would'st be from the Karmic
chains, seek not for thy Guru in those Mayavic regions.
The WISE ONES tarry not in pleasure-grounds of senses.
The WISE ONES heed not the sweet-tongued voices of illusion.
for him who is to give thee birth (20), in the Hall of Wisdom, the Hall
which lies beyond, wherein all shadows are unknown, and where the light of
truth shines with unfading glory.
which is uncreate abides in thee, Disciple, as it abides in that Hall.
If thou would'st reach it and blend the two, thou must divest thyself of thy
dark garments of illusion. Stifle the voice of flesh, allow no image of the
senses to get between its light and thine that thus the twain may blend in
one. And having learnt thine own Agnyana (21), flee from the Hall of
Learning. This Hall is dangerous in its perfidious beauty, is needed but for
thy probation. Beware, Lanoo, lest dazzled by illusive radiance thy Soul
should linger and be caught in its deceptive light.
light shines from the jewel of the Great Ensnarer, (Mara) (22). The
senses it bewitches, blinds the mind, and leaves the unwary an abandoned
moth attracted to the dazzling flame of thy night-lamp is doomed to
perish in the viscid oil. The unwary Soul that fails to grapple with the
mocking demon of illusion, will return to earth the slave of Mara.
the Hosts of Souls. Watch how they hover o'er the stormy sea of human
life, and how exhausted, bleeding, broken-winged, they drop one after other
on the swelling waves. Tossed by the fierce winds, chased by the gale, they
drift into the eddies and disappear within the first great vortex.
through the Hall of Wisdom, thou would'st reach the Vale of Bliss,
Disciple, close fast thy senses against the great dire heresy of
separateness that weans thee from the rest.
not thy "Heaven-born," merged in the sea of Maya, break from the
Universal Parent (SOUL), but let the fiery power retire into the inmost
chamber, the chamber of the Heart (23) and the abode of the World's Mother
from the heart that Power shall rise into the sixth, the middle region,
the place between thine eyes, when it becomes the breath of the ONE-SOUL,
the voice which filleth all, thy Master's voice.
only then thou canst become a "Walker of the Sky" (25) who treads the
winds above the waves, whose step touches not the waters.
thou set'st thy foot upon the ladder's upper rung, the ladder of the
mystic sounds, thou hast to hear the voice of thy inner GOD* in seven
[*The Higher SELF.]
first is like the nightingale's sweet voice chanting a song of parting
to its mate.
comes as the sound of a silver cymbal of the Dhyanis, awakening
the twinkling stars.
The next is
as the plaint melodious of the ocean-sprite imprisoned in its
And this is followed by the chant of Vina (26).
The fifth like sound of bamboo-flute shrills in thine ear.
It changes next into a trumpet-blast.
The last vibrates like the dull rumbling of a thunder-cloud.
seventh swallows all the other sounds. They die, and then are heard no
the six (27) are slain and at the Master's feet are laid, then is the
pupil merged into the ONE (28), becomes that ONE and lives therein.
that path is entered, thou must destroy thy lunar body (29), cleanse
thy mind-body (30) and make clean thy heart.
life's pure waters, clear and crystal, with the monsoon tempest's
muddy torrents cannot mingle.
dew-drop glittering in the morn's first sun-beam within the bosom
of the lotus, when dropped on earth becomes a piece of clay; behold, the
pearl is now a speck of mire.
thy thoughts unclean before they overpower thee. Use them as
they will thee, for if thou sparest them and they take root and grow, know
well, these thoughts will overpower and kill thee. Beware, Disciple, suffer
not, e'en though it be their shadow, to approach. For it will grow, increase
in size and power, and then this thing of darkness will absorb thy being
before thou hast well realized the black foul monster's presence.
the "mystic Power" (31)* can make of thee a god, Lanoo, thou must
have gained the faculty to slay thy lunar form at will.
[*Kundalini, the "Serpent Power" or mystic fire.]
Self of matter and the SELF of Spirit can never meet. One of the twain
must disappear; there is no place for both.
thy Soul's mind can understand, the bud of personality must be crushed
out, the worm of sense destroyed past resurrection.
canst not travel on the Path before thou hast become that Path itself
thy Soul lend its ear to every cry of pain like as the lotus bares its
heart to drink the morning sun.
not the fierce Sun dry one tear of pain before thyself hast wiped it
from the sufferer's eye.
let each burning human tear drop on thy heart and there remain, nor ever
brush it off, until the pain that caused it is removed.
tears, O thou of heart most merciful, these are the streams that
irrigate the fields of charity immortal. 'Tis on such soil that grows the
midnight blossom of Buddha (33) more difficult to find, more rare to view
than is the flower of the Vogay tree. It is the seed of freedom from
rebirth. It isolates the Arhat both from strife and lust, it leads him
through the fields of Being unto the peace and bliss known only in the land
of Silence and Non-Being.
out desire; but if thou killest it take heed lest from the dead it
should again arise.
of life, but if thou slayest tanha (34), let this not be for
thirst of life eternal, but to replace the fleeting by the everlasting.
nothing. Chafe not at Karma, nor at Nature's changeless laws. But
struggle only with the personal, the transitory, the evanescent and the
Nature and work on with her; and Nature will regard thee as one of her
creators and make obeisance.
she will open wide before thee the portals of her secret chambers, lay
bare before thy gaze the treasures hidden in the very depths of her pure
virgin bosom. Unsullied by the hand of matter she shows her treasures only
to the eye of Spirit -- the eye which never closes, the eye for which there
is no veil in all her kingdoms.
will she show thee the means and way, the first gate and the second,
the third, up to the very seventh. And then, the goal -- beyond which lie,
bathed in the sunlight of the Spirit, glories untold, unseen by any save the
eye of Soul.
is but one road to the Path; at its very end alone the "Voice of the
Silence" can be heard. The ladder by which the candidate ascends is formed
of rungs of suffering and pain; these can be silenced only by the voice of
virtue. Woe, then, to thee, Disciple, if there is one single vice thou hast
not left behind. For then the ladder will give way and overthrow thee; its
foot rests in the deep mire of thy sins and failings, and ere thou canst
attempt to cross this wide abyss of matter thou hast to lave thy feet in
Waters of Renunciation. Beware lest thou should'st set a foot still soiled
upon the ladder's lowest rung. Woe unto him who dares pollute one rung with
miry feet. The foul and viscous mud will dry, become tenacious, then glue
his feet unto the spot, and like a bird caught in the wily fowler's lime, he
will be stayed from further progress. His vices will take shape and drag him
down. His sins will raise their voices like as the jackal's laugh and sob
after the sun goes down; his thoughts become an army, and bear him off a
thy desires, Lanoo, make thy vices impotent, ere the first step is
taken on the solemn journey.
thy sins, and make them dumb for ever, before thou dost lift one
foot to mount the ladder.
thy thoughts and fix thy whole attention on thy Master whom yet thou
dost not see, but whom thou feelest.
into one sense thy senses, if thou would'st be secure against the foe.
'Tis by that sense alone which lies concealed within the hollow of thy
brain, that the steep path which leadeth to thy Master may be disclosed
before thy Soul's dim eyes.
weary is the way before thee, O Disciple. One single thought about
the past that thou hast left behind, will drag thee down and thou wilt have
to start the climb anew.
in thyself all memory of past experiences. Look not behind or thou art
not believe that lust can ever be killed out if gratified or satiated,
for this is an abomination inspired by Mara. It is by feeding vice that it
expands and waxes strong, like to the worm that fattens on the blossom's
rose must re-become the bud born of its parent stem, before the parasite
has eaten through its heart and drunk its life-sap.
golden tree puts forth its jewel-buds before its trunk is withered by
pupil must regain the child-state he has lost ere the first sound can
fall upon his ear.
light from the ONE Master, the one unfading golden light of Spirit,
shoots its effulgent beams on the disciple from the very first. Its rays
thread through the thick dark clouds of matter.
here, now there, these rays illumine it, like sun-sparks light the earth
through the thick foliage of the jungle growth. But, O Disciple, unless the
flesh is passive, head cool, the soul as firm and pure as flaming diamond,
the radiance will not reach the chamber (23), its sunlight will not warm the
heart, nor will the mystic sounds of the Akasic heights (35) reach the ear,
however eager, at the initial stage.
Unless thou hearest, thou canst not see.
thou seest thou canst not hear. To hear and see this is the second
. . . . . .
disciple sees and hears, and when he smells and tastes, eyes
closed, ears shut, with mouth and nostrils stopped; when the four senses
blend and ready are to pass into the fifth, that of the inner touch -- then
into stage the fourth he hath passed on.
in the fifth, O slayer of thy thoughts, all these again have to be
killed beyond reanimation (36).
thy mind from all external objects, all external sights. Withhold
internal images, lest on thy Soul-light a dark shadow they should cast.
Thou art now in DHARANA (37), the sixth stage.
thou hast passed into the seventh, O happy one, thou shalt perceive no
more the sacred three (38), for thou shalt have become that three thyself.
Thyself and mind, like twins upon a line, the star which is thy goal, burns
overhead (39). The three that dwell in glory and in bliss ineffable, now in
the world of Maya have lost their names. They have become one star, the fire
that burns but scorches not, that fire which is the Upadhi (40) of the
this, O Yogi of success, is what men call Dhyana (41), the right
precursor of Samadhi (42).
now thy Self is lost in SELF, thyself unto THYSELF, merged in THAT SELF
from which thou first didst radiate.
is thy individuality, Lanoo, where the Lanoo himself? It is the spark
lost in the fire, the drop within the ocean, the ever-present Ray become the
all and the eternal radiance.
now, Lanoo, thou art the doer and the witness, the radiator and the
radiation, Light in the Sound, and the Sound in the Light.
art acquainted with the five impediments, O blessed one. Thou art their
conqueror, the Master of the sixth, deliverer of the four modes of Truth
(43). The light that falls upon them shines from thyself, O thou who wast
disciple but art Teacher now.
And of these modes of Truth: --
Hast thou not passed through knowledge of all misery -- Truth the first?
thou not conquered the Maras' King at Tsi, the portal of assembling --
truth the second? (44).
Hast thou not sin at the third gate destroyed and truth the third attained?
not thou entered Tau, "the Path" that leads to knowledge -- the fourth
And now, rest
'neath the Bodhi tree, which is perfection of all knowledge,
for, know, thou art the Master of SAMADHI -- the state of faultless vision.
thou hast become the light, thou hast become the Sound, thou art thy
Master and thy God. Thou art THYSELF the object of thy search: the VOICE
unbroken, that resounds throughout eternities, exempt from change, from sin
exempt, the seven sounds in one, the
VOICE OF THE SILENCE
Om Tat Sat
Table of Contents
GLOSSARY TO PART I
The Voice of the Silence
The Pali word Iddhi, is the synonym of the Sanskrit Siddhis, or psychic
faculties, the abnormal powers in man. There are two kinds of Siddhis. One
group which embraces the lower, coarse, psychic and mental energies; the
other is one which exacts the highest training of Spiritual powers. Says
Krishna in Shrimad Bhagavat: --
"He who is
engaged in the performance of yoga, who has subdued his senses
and who has concentrated his mind in me (Krishna), such yogis all the
Siddhis stand ready to serve."
The "Soundless Voice," or the "Voice of the Silence." Literally
this would read "Voice in the Spiritual Sound," as Nada is the equivalent
word in Sanskrit, for the Sen-sar term.
Dharana, is the intense and perfect concentration of the mind upon some
one interior object, accompanied by complete abstraction from everything
pertaining to the external Universe, or the world of the senses.
The "great Master" is the term used by lanoos or chelas to
indicate-one's "Higher Self." It is the equivalent of Avalokiteswara, and
the same as Adi-Budha with the Buddhist Occultists, ATMAN the "Self" (the
Higher Self) with the Brahmins, and CHRISTOS with the ancient Gnostics.
Soul is used here for the Human Ego or Manas, that which is referred to
in our Occult Septenary division as the "Human Soul" (Vide the Secret
Doctrine) in contradistinction to the Spiritual and Animal Souls.
(6). Maha Maya "Great Illusion," the objective Universe.
(7). Sakkayaditthi "delusion" of personality.
Attavada, the heresy of the belief in Soul or rather in the
separateness of Soul or Self from the One Universal, infinite SELF.
The Tatwagyanee is the "knower" or discriminator of the principles in
nature and in man; and Atmagyanee is the knower of ATMAN or the Universal,
Kala Hamsa, the "Bird" or Swan (Vide No. 11). Says the Nada-Bindu
Upanishad (Rig Veda) translated by the Kumbakonam Theos. Society -- "The
syllable A is considered to be its (the bird Hamsa's) right wing, u, its
left, M, its tail, and the Ardha-matra (half metre) is said to be its head."
Eternity with the Orientals has quite another signification than it
has with us. It stands generally for the 100 years or "age" of Brahma, the
duration of a Kalpa or a period of 4,320,000,000 years.
Says the same Nada-Bindu, "A Yogi who bestrides the Hamsa (thus
contemplates on Aum) is not affected by Karmic influences or crores of
(13). Give up the life of physical personality if you would live in spirit.
The three states of consciousness, which are Jagrat, the waking;
Swapna, the dreaming; and Sushupti, the deep sleeping state. These three
Yogi conditions, lead to the fourth, or --
The Turya, that beyond the dreamless state, the one above all, a state
of high spiritual consciousness.
Some Sanskrit mystics locate seven planes of being, the seven
spiritual lokas or worlds within the body of Kala Hamsa, the Swan out of
Time and Space, convertible into the Swan in Time, when it becomes Brahma
instead of Brahma (neuter).
The phenomenal World of Senses and of terrestrial consciousness --
The astral region, the Psychic World of supersensuous perceptions and
of deceptive sights -- the world of Mediums. It is the great "Astral
Serpent" of Eliphas Levi. No blossom plucked in those regions has ever yet
been brought down on earth without its serpent coiled around the stem. It is
the world of the Great Illusion.
The region of the full Spiritual Consciousness beyond which there is
no longer danger for him who has reached it.
The Initiate who leads the disciple through the Knowledge given to him
to his spiritual, or second, birth is called the Father guru or Master.
(21). Agnyana is ignorance or non-wisdom the opposite of "Knowledge" gnyana.
Mara is in exoteric religions a demon, an Asura, but in esoteric
philosophy it is personified temptation through men's vices, and translated
literally means "that which kills" the Soul. It is represented as a King (of
the Maras) with a crown in which shines a jewel of such lustre that it
blinds those who look at it, this lustre referring of course to the
fascination exercised by vice upon certain natures.
[(23) second] The inner chamber of the Heart, called in Sanskrit
Brahma poori. The "fiery power" is Kundalini.
The "Power" and the "World-mother" are names given to Kundalini
of the mystic "Yogi powers." It is Buddhi considered as an active instead of
a passive principle (which it is generally, when regarded only as the
vehicle, or casket of the Supreme Spirit ATMA). It is an electro-spiritual
force, a creative power which when aroused into action can as easily kill as
it can create.
or "sky-walker" or "goer." As explained in the 6th. Adhyaya
that king of mystic works the Dhyaneswari -- the body of the Yogi becomes as
one formed of the wind; as "a cloud from which limbs have sprouted out,"
after which -- "he (the Yogi) beholds the things beyond the seas and stars;
he hears the language of the Devas and comprehends it, and perceives what is
passing in the mind of the ant."
(26). Vina is an Indian stringed instrument like a lute.
The six principles; meaning when the lower personality is destroyed
and the inner individuality is merged into and lost in the Seventh or
(28). The disciple is one with Brahma or the ATMAN.
The astral form produced by the Kamic principle, the Kama rupa or body
Manasa rupa. The first refers to the astral or personal Self; the
second to the individuality or the reincarnating Ego whose consciousness on
our plane or the lower Manas -- has to be paralyzed.
Kundalini is called the "Serpentine" or the annular power on account
on its spiral-like working or progress in the body of the ascetic developing
the power in himself. It is an electric fiery occult or Fohatic power, the
great pristine force, which underlies all organic and inorganic matter.
This "Path" is mentioned in all the Mystic Works. As Krishna says in
the Dhyaneswari: "When this Path is beheld . . . whether one sets out to the
bloom of the east or to the chambers of the west, without moving, O holder
of the bow, is the travelling in this road. In this path, to whatever place
one would go, that place one's own self becomes." "Thou art the Path" is
said to the adept guru and by the latter to the disciple, after initiation.
"I am the way and the Path" says another MASTER.
(33). Adeptship -- the "blossom of Bodhisattva."
Tanha -- "the will to live," the fear of death and love for life, that
force or energy which causes the rebirths.
These mystic sounds or the melody heard by the ascetic at the
beginning of his cycle of meditation called Anahad-shabd by the Yogis.
This means that in the sixth stage of development which, in the occult
system is Dharana, every sense as an individual faculty has to be "killed"
(or paralyzed) on this plane, passing into and merging with the Seventh
sense, the most spiritual.
(37). See number 3.
Every stage of development in Raja Yoga is symbolised by a geometrical
figure. This one is the sacred Triangle and precedes Dharana. The [triangle]
is the sign of the high chelas, while another kind of triangle is that of
high Initiates. It is the symbol "I" discoursed upon by Buddha and used by
him as a symbol of the embodied form of Tathagata when released from the
three methods of the Prajna. Once the preliminary and lower stages passed,
the disciple sees no more the [triangle] but the -- the abbreviation of the
--, the full Septenary. Its true form is not given here, as it is almost
sure to be pounced upon by some charlatans and -- desecrated in its use for
The star that burns overhead is the "the star of initiation." The
caste-mark of Saivas, or devotees of the sect of Siva, the great patron of
all Yogins, is a black round spot, the symbol of the Sun now, perhaps, but
that of the star of initiation, in Occultism, in days of old.
The basis (upadhi)of the ever unreachable FLAME," so long as the
ascetic is still in this life.
Dhyana is the last stage before the final on this Earth unless one
becomes a full MAHATMA. As said already in this state the Raj Yogi is yet
spiritually conscious of Self, and the working of his higher principles. One
step more, and he will be on the plane beyond the Seventh (or fourth
according to some schools). These, after the practice of Pratyehara -- a
preliminary training, in order to control one's mind and thoughts -- count
Dhasena, Dhyana and Samadhi and embraces the three under the generic name of
Samadhi is the state in which the ascetic loses the consciousness of
every individuality including his own. He becomes -- the ALL.
The "four modes of truth" are, in Northern Buddhism, Ku "suffering
misery"; Tu the assembling of temptations; Mu "their destructions" and Tau,
the "path." The "five impediments" are the knowledge of misery, truth about
human frailty, oppressive restraints, and the absolute necessity of
separation from all the ties of passion and even of desires. The "Path of
Salvation" -- is the last one.
At the portal of the "assembling" the King of the Maras the Maha Mara
stands trying to blind the candidate by the radiance of his "Jewel."
This is the fourth "Path" out of the five paths of rebirth which lead
and toss all human beings into perpetual states of sorrow and joy. These
"paths" are but sub-divisions of the One, the Path followed by Karma.
The Voice of the Silence by H. P. Blavatsky
THE TWO PATHS
now, O Teacher of Compassion, point thou the way to other men. Behold,
all those who knocking for admission, await in ignorance and darkness, to
see the gate of the Sweet Law flung open!
The voice of the Candidates:
not thou, Master of thine own Mercy, reveal the Doctrine of the Heart?
(1) Shalt thou refuse to lead thy Servants unto the Path of Liberation?
Quoth the Teacher:
Paths are two; the great Perfections three; six are the Virtues that
transform the body into the Tree of Knowledge (2).
Who shall approach them?
Who shall first enter them?
shall first hear the doctrine of two Paths in one, the truth unveiled
about the Secret Heart? (3) The Law which, shunning learning, teaches
Wisdom, reveals a tale of woe.
alas, that all men should possess Alaya, be one with the great Soul,
and that possessing it, Alaya should so little avail them!
how like the moon, reflected in the tranquil waves, Alaya is
reflected by the small and by the great, is mirrored in the tiniest atoms,
yet fails to reach the heart of all. Alas, that so few men should profit by
the gift, the priceless boon of learning truth, the right perception of
existing things, the Knowledge of the non-existent!
Saith the pupil:
O Teacher, what shall I do to reach to Wisdom?
O Wise one, what, to gain perfection?
for the Paths. But, O Lanoo, be of clean heart before thou startest
on thy journey. Before thou takest thy first step learn to discern the real
from the false, the ever-fleeting from the everlasting. Learn above all to
separate Head-learning from Soul-Wisdom, the "Eye" from the "Heart"
ignorance is like unto a closed and airless vessel; the soul a bird
shut up within. It warbles not, nor can it stir a feather; but the songster
mute and torpid sits, and of exhaustion dies.
even ignorance is better than Head-learning with no Soul-wisdom to
illuminate and guide it.
seeds of Wisdom cannot sprout and grow in airless space. To live and
reap experience the mind needs breadth and depth and points to draw it
towards the Diamond Soul (4). Seek not those points in Maya's realm; but
soar beyond illusions, search the eternal and the changeless SAT (5),
mistrusting fancy's false suggestions.
mind is like a mirror; it gathers dust while it reflects (6). It needs
the gentle breezes of Soul-Wisdom to brush away the dust of our illusions.
Seek O Beginner, to blend thy Mind and Soul.
ignorance, and likewise shun illusion. Avert thy face from world
deceptions; mistrust thy senses, they are false. But within thy body -- the
shrine of thy sensations -- seek in the Impersonal for the "eternal man"
(7); and having sought him out, look inward: thou art Buddha (8).
praise, O Devotee. Praise leads to self-delusion. Thy body is not self,
thy SELF is in itself without a body, and either praise or blame affects it
O disciple, is like unto a lofty tower, up which a haughty
fool has climbed. Thereon he sits in prideful solitude and unperceived by
any but himself.
learning is rejected by the Wise, and scattered to the Winds by the
good Law. Its wheel revolves for all, the humble and the proud. The
"Doctrine of the Eye" (9) is for the crowd, the "Doctrine of the Heart," for
the elect. The first repeat in pride: "Behold, I know," the last, they who
in humbleness have garnered, low confess, "thus have I heard" (10).
"Great Sifter" is the name of the "Heart Doctrine," O disciple.
wheel of the good Law moves swiftly on. It grinds by night and day. The
worthless husks it drives from out the golden grain, the refuse from the
flour. The hand of Karma guides the wheel; the revolutions mark the beatings
of the Karmic heart.
is the flour, false learning is the husk. If thou would'st
eat the bread of Wisdom, thy flour thou hast to knead with Amrita's* clear
waters. But if thou kneadest husks with Maya's dew, thou canst create but
food for the black doves of death, the birds of birth, decay and sorrow.
thou art told that to become Arhan thou hast to cease to love all beings
-- tell them they lie.
thou art told that to gain liberation thou hast to hate thy mother and
disregard thy son; to disavow thy father and call him "householder" (11);
for man and beast all pity to renounce -- tell them their tongue is false.
Thus teach the Tirthikas, the unbelievers.*
thou art taught that sin is born of action and bliss of absolute
inaction, then tell them that they err. Non-permanence of human action;
deliverance of mind from thraldom by the cessation of sin and faults, are
not for "Deva Egos."* Thus saith the "Doctrine of the Heart."
[*The reincarnating Ego.]
Dharma of the "Eye" is the embodiment of the external, and the
Dharma of the "Heart" is the embodiment of Bodhi,* the Permanent and
[*True, divine Wisdom.]
Lamp burns bright when wick and oil are clean. To make them clean a
cleaner is required. The flame feels not the process of the cleaning. "The
branches of a tree are shaken by the wind; the trunk remains unmoved."
action and inaction may find room in thee; thy body agitated, thy mind
tranquil, thy Soul as limpid as a mountain lake.
Wouldst thou become a Yogi of "Time's Circle"? Then, O Lanoo: --
thou not that sitting in dark forests, in proud seclusion and apart
from men; believe thou not that life on roots and plants, that thirst
assuaged with snow from the great Range -- believe thou not, O Devotee, that
this will lead thee to the goal of final liberation.
not that breaking bone, that rending flesh and muscle, unites thee to
thy "silent Self" (12). Think not, that when the sins of thy gross form are
conquered, O Victim of thy Shadows (13), thy duty is accomplished by nature
and by man.
blessed ones have scorned to do so. The Lion of the Law, the Lord of
Mercy,* perceiving the true cause of human woe, immediately forsook the
sweet but selfish rest of quiet wilds. From Aranyaka (14) He became the
Teacher of mankind. After Julai (15) had entered the Nirvana, He preached on
mount and plain, and held discourses in the cities, to Devas, men and gods
acts and thou shalt reap their fruition. Inaction in a deed of
mercy becomes an action in a deadly sin.
Thus saith the Sage.
thou abstain from action? Not so shall gain thy soul her freedom. To
reach Nirvana one must reach Self-Knowledge, and Self-Knowledge is of loving
deeds the child.
Candidate, as one who fears no failure, courts no success.
Fix thy Soul's gaze upon the star whose ray thou art (17), the flaming star
that shines within the lightless depths of ever-being, the boundless fields
of the Unknown.
perseverance as one who doth for evermore endure. Thy shadows live and
vanish (18); that which in thee shall live for ever, that which in thee
knows, for it is knowledge (19), is not of fleeing life: it is the man that
was, that is, and will be, for whom the hour shall never strike.
thou would'st reap sweet peace and rest, Disciple, sow with the seeds of
merit the fields of future harvests. Accept the woes of birth.
out from sunlight into shade, to make more room for others. The tears
that water the parched soil of pain and sorrow, bring forth the blossoms and
the fruits of Karmic retribution. Out of the furnace of man's life and its
black smoke, winged flames arise, flames purified, that soaring onward,
'neath the Karmic eye, weave in the end the fabric glorified of the three
vestures of the Path (20).
vestures are: Nirmanakaya, Sambhoga-Kaya, and Dharmakaya, robe
Shangna robe (22), 'tis true, can purchase light eternal. The Shangna
robe alone gives the Nirvana of destruction; it stops rebirth, but, O Lanoo,
it also kills -- compassion. No longer can the perfect Buddhas, who don the
Dharmakaya glory, help man's salvation. Alas! shall SELVES be sacrificed to
Self; mankind, unto the weal of Units?
O beginner, this is the Open PATH, the way to selfish bliss, shunned
by the Boddhisattvas of the "Secret Heart," the Buddhas of Compassion.
live to benefit mankind is the first step. To practise the six glorious
virtues (23) is the second.
don Nirmanakaya's humble robe is to forego eternal bliss for Self, to
help on man's salvation. To reach Nirvana's bliss, but to renounce it, is
the supreme, the final step -- the highest on Renunciation's Path.
O Disciple, this is the Secret PATH, selected by the Buddhas of
Perfection, who sacrificed The SELF to weaker Selves.
if the "Doctrine of the Heart" is too high-winged for thee. If thou
need'st help thyself and fearest to offer help to others, -- then, thou of
timid heart, be warned in time: remain content with the "Eye Doctrine" of
the Law. Hope still. For if the "Secret Path" is unattainable this "day," it
is within thy reach "to-morrow." (24). Learn that no efforts, not the
smallest -- whether in right or wrong direction -- can vanish from the world
of causes. E'en wasted smoke remains not traceless. "A harsh word uttered in
past lives, is not destroyed but ever comes again."* The pepper plant will
not give birth to roses, nor the sweet jessamine's silver star to thorn or
[*Precepts of the Prasanga School.]
canst create this "day" thy chances for thy "morrow." In the
Journey," (25) causes sown each hour bear each its harvest of effects, for
rigid Justice rules the World. With mighty sweep of never erring action, it
brings to mortals lives of weal or woe, the Karmic progeny of all our former
thoughts and deeds.
then as much as merit hath in store for thee, O thou of patient heart.
Be of good cheer and rest content with fate. Such is thy Karma, the Karma of
the cycle of thy births, the destiny of those, who, in their pain and
sorrow, are born along with thee, rejoice and weep from life to life,
chained to thy previous actions.
. . . . . .
Act thou for them to "day," and they will act for thee "to morrow."
from the bud of Renunciation of the Self, that springeth the sweet
fruit of final Liberation.
perish doomed is he, who out of fear of Mara refrains from helping man,
lest he should act for Self. The pilgrim who would cool his weary limbs in
running waters, yet dares not plunge for terror of the stream, risks to
succumb from heat. Inaction based on selfish fear can bear but evil fruit.
Selfish devotee lives to no purpose. The man who does not go through his
appointed work in life -- has lived in vain.
the wheel of life; follow the wheel of duty to race and kin, to
friend and foe, and close thy mind to pleasures as to pain. Exhaust the law
of Karmic retribution. Gain Siddhis for thy future birth.
Sun thou can'st not be, then be the humble planet. Aye, if thou art
debarred from flaming like the noon-day Sun upon the snow-capped mount of
purity eternal, then choose, O Neophyte, a humbler course.
out the "Way" -- however dimly, and lost among the host -- as does the
evening star to those who tread their path in darkness.
Migmar,* as in his crimson veils his "Eye" sweeps over slumbering
Earth. Behold the fiery aura of the "Hand" of Lhagpa** extended in
protecting love over the heads of his ascetics. Both are now servants to
Nyima*** (26) left in his absence silent watchers in the night. Yet both in
Kalpas past were bright Nyimas, and may in future "Days" again become two
Suns. Such are the falls and rises of the Karmic Law in nature.
O Lanoo, like them. Give light and comfort to the toiling pilgrim, and
seek out him who knows still less than thou; who in his wretched desolation
sits starving for the bread of Wisdom and the bread which feeds the shadow,
without a Teacher, hope or consolation, and -- let him hear the Law.
him, O Candidate, that he who makes of pride and self-regard
bond-maidens to devotion; that he, who cleaving to existence, still lays his
patience and submission to the Law, as a sweet flower at the feet of
Shakya-Thub-pa,* becomes a Srotapatti (27) in this birth. The Siddhis of
perfection may loom far, far away; but the first step is taken, the stream
is entered, and he may gain the eye-sight of the mountain eagle, the hearing
of the timid doe.
O Aspirant, that true devotion may bring him back the knowledge,
that knowledge which was his in former births. The deva-sight and
deva-hearing are not obtained in one short birth.
Be humble, if thou would'st attain to Wisdom.
Be humbler still, when Wisdom thou hast mastered.
like the Ocean which receives all streams and rivers. The Ocean's mighty
calm remains unmoved; it feels them not.
Restrain by thy Divine thy lower Self.
Restrain by the Eternal the Divine.
Aye, great is he, who is the slayer of desire.
greater he, in whom the Self Divine has slain the very knowledge of
Guard thou the Lower lest it soil the Higher.
The way to final freedom is within thy SELF.
That way begins and ends outside of Self (28).
by men and humble is the mother of all Rivers, in Tirthika's proud
sight; empty the human form though filled with Amrita's sweet waters, in the
sight of fools. Withal, the birth-place of the sacred rivers is the sacred
land (29), and he who Wisdom hath, is honoured by all men.
and Sages of the boundless Vision (30) are rare as is the blossom of
the Udumbara tree. Arhans are born at midnight hour, together with the
sacred plant of nine and seven stalks (31), the holy flower that opes and
blooms in darkness, out of the pure dew and on the frozen bed of snow-capped
heights, heights that are trodden by no sinful foot.
Arhan, O Lanoo, becomes one in that birth when for the first the Soul
begins to long for final liberation. Yet, O thou anxious one, no warrior
volunteering fight in the fierce strife between the living and the dead
(32), not one recruit can ever be refused the right to enter on the Path
that leads toward the field of Battle.
For, either he shall win, or he shall fall.
if he conquers, Nirvana shall be his. Before he casts his shadow off
his mortal coil, that pregnant cause of anguish and illimitable pain -- in
him will men a great and holy Buddha honour.
if he falls, e'en then he does not fall in vain; the enemies he slew in
the last battle will not return to life in the next birth that will be his.
if thou would'st Nirvana reach, or cast the prize away (33), let not the
fruit of action and inaction be thy motive, thou of dauntless heart.
that the Bodhisattva who liberation changes for Renunciation to don the
miseries of "Secret Life," (34) is called, "thrice Honoured," O thou
candidate for woe throughout the cycles.
PATH is one, Disciple, yet in the end, twofold. Marked are its stages by
four and seven Portals. At one end -- bliss immediate, and at the other --
bliss deferred. Both are of merit the reward: the choice is thine.
One becomes the two, the Open and the Secret (35). The first one leadeth
to the goal, the second, to Self-Immolation.
to the Permanent is sacrificed the Mutable, the prize is thine: the
drop returneth whence it came. The Open PATH leads to the changeless change
-- Nirvana, the glorious state of Absoluteness, the Bliss past human
Thus, the first Path is LIBERATION.
Path the Second is -- RENUNCIATION, and therefore called the "Path of
Secret Path leads the Arhan to mental woe unspeakable; woe for the
living Dead (36), and helpless pity for the men of Karmic sorrow, the fruit
of Karma Sages dare not still.
it is written: "teach to eschew all causes; the ripple of effect, as the
great tidal wave, thou shalt let run its course."
"Open Way," no sooner hast thou reached its goal, will lead thee to
reject the Bodhisattvic body and make thee enter the thrice glorious state
of Dharmakaya (37) which is oblivion of the World and men for ever.
"Secret Way" leads also to Paranirvanic bliss -- but at the close of
Kalpas without number; Nirvanas gained and lost from boundless pity and
compassion for the world of deluded mortals.
it is said "The last shall be the greatest," Samyak Sambuddha, the
Teacher of Perfection, gave up his SELF for the salvation of the World, by
stopping at the threshold of Nirvana -- the pure state.
. . . . . .
the knowledge now concerning the two Ways. Thy time will come for
choice, O thou of eager Soul, when thou hast reached the end and passed the
seven Portals. Thy mind is clear. No more art thou entangled in delusive
thoughts, for thou hast learned all. Unveiled stands truth and looks thee
sternly in the face. She says:
are the fruits of Rest and Liberation for the sake of Self; but
sweeter still the fruits of long and bitter duty. Aye, Renunciation for the
sake of others, of suffering fellow men."
who becomes Pratyeka-Buddha (38), makes his obeisance but to his Self.
The Bodhisattva who has won the battle, who holds the prize within his palm,
yet says in his divine compassion:
others' sake this great reward I yield" -- accomplishes the greater
A SAVIOUR OF THE WORLD is he.
. . . . . .
The goal of bliss and the long Path of Woe are at the furthest end.
Thou canst choose either, O aspirant to Sorrow, throughout the coming
cycles! . . . .
OM VAJRAPANI HUM.
Table of Contents
GLOSSARY TO PART II
The Two Paths
(1). The two
schools of Buddha's doctrine, the esoteric and the exoteric,
are respectively called the "Heart" and the "Eye" Doctrine. Bodhidharma
called them in China -- from whence the names reached Tibet -- the Tsung-men
(esoteric) and Kiau-men (exoteric school). It is so named, because it is the
teaching which emanated from Gautama Buddha's heart, whereas the "Eye"
Doctrine was the work of his head or brain. The "Heart Doctrine" is also
called "the seal of truth" or the "true seal," a symbol found on the heading
of almost all esoteric works.
The "tree of knowledge" is a title given by the followers of the
Bodhidharma (Wisdom religion) to those who have attained the height of
mystic knowledge -- adepts. Nagarjuna the founder of the Madhyamika School
was called the "Dragon Tree," Dragon standing as a symbol of Wisdom and
Knowledge. The tree is honoured because it is under the Bodhi (wisdom) Tree
that Buddha received his birth and enlightenment, preached his first sermon
(3). "Secret Heart" is the esoteric doctrine.
"Diamond Soul" "Vajrasattva," a title of the supreme Buddha,
of all Mysteries," called Vajradhara and Adi-Buddha.
SAT, the one eternal and Absolute Reality and Truth, all the rest being
From Shin-Sien's Doctrine, who teaches that the human mind is like a
mirror which attracts and reflects every atom of dust, and has to be, like
that mirror, watched over and dusted every day. Shin-Sien was the sixth
Patriarch of North China who taught the esoteric doctrine of Bodhidharma.
The reincarnating EGO is called by the Northern Buddhists the "true
man," who becomes in union with his Higher-Self -- a Buddha.
(8). "Buddha" means "Enlightened."
(9). See No. 1. The exoteric Buddhism of the masses.
The usual formula that precedes the Buddhist Scriptures, meaning, that
that which follows is what has been recorded by direct oral tradition from
Buddha and the Arhats.
Rathapala the great Arhat thus addresses his father in the legend
called Rathapala Sutrasanne. But as all such legends are allegorical (e.g.
Rathapala's father has a mansion with seven doors)hence the reproof, to
those who accept them literally.
(12). The "Higher Self" the "seventh" principle.
(13). Our physical bodies are called "Shadows" in the mystic schools.
A hermit who retires to the jungles and lives in a forest, when
becoming a Yogi.
(15). Julai the Chinese name for Tathagata, a title applied to every Buddha.
All the Northern and Southern traditions agree in showing Buddha
quitting his solitude as soon as he had resolved the problem of life -- i.
e., received the inner enlightenment -- and teaching mankind publicly.
Every spiritual EGO is a ray of a "Planetary Spirit" according to
(18). "Personalities" or physical bodies called "shadows" are evanescent.
Mind (Manas)the thinking Principle or EGO in man, is referred to
"Knowledge" itself, because the human Egos are called Manasa-putras the sons
of (universal) Mind.
(20). Vide Part III. Glossary, paragraph 34 et seq.
(22). The Shangna
robe, from Shangnavesu of Rajagriha the third great Arhat
or "Patriarch" as the Orientalists call the hierarchy of the 33 Arhats who
spread Buddhism. "Shangna robe" means metaphorically, the acquirement of
Wisdom with which the Nirvana of destruction (of personality)is entered.
Literally, the "initiation robe" of the Neophytes. Edkins states that this
"grass cloth" was brought to China from Tibet in the Tong Dynasty. "When an
Arhan is born this plant is found growing in a clean spot" says the Chinese
as also the Tibetan legend.
To "practise the Paramita Path" means to become a Yogi with a view of
becoming an ascetic.
(24). "To-morrow" means the following rebirth or reincarnation.
"Great journey" or the whole complete cycle of existences, in one
Nyima, the Sun in Tibetan Astrology. Migmar or Mars is symbolized by
an "Eye," and Shagpa or Mercury by a "Hand."
Strotapatti or "he who enters in the stream" of Nirvana, unless he
reaches the goal owing to some exceptional reasons, can rarely attain
Nirvana in one birth. Usually a Chela is said to begin the ascending effort
in one life and end or reach it only in his seventh succeeding birth.
(28). Meaning the personal lower "Self."
Tirthikas are the Brahmanical Sectarians "beyond" the Himalayas called
"infidels" by the Buddhists in the sacred land, Tibet, and vice versa.
Boundless Vision or psychic, superhuman sight. An Arhan is credited
with "seeing" and knowing all at a distance as well as on the spot.
(31). Vide supra 22: Shangna plant.
The "living" is the immortal Higher Ego, and the "dead" --
(33). Vide infra Part III. par. 34.
(34). The "Secret Life" is life as a Nirmanakaya.
The "Open" and the "Secret Path" -- or the one taught to the
the exoteric and the generally accepted, and the other the Secret Path --
the nature of which is explained at initiation.
Men ignorant of the Esoteric truths and Wisdom are called "the living
(37). Vide infra, Part III. 34.
Pratyeka Buddhas are those Bodhisattvas who strive after and often
reach the Dharmakaya robe after a series of lives. Caring nothing for the
woes of mankind or to help it, but only for their own bliss, they enter
Nirvana and -- disappear from the sight and the hearts of men. In Northern
Buddhism a "Pratyeka Buddha" is a synonym of spiritual Selfishness.
The Voice of the Silence by H. P. Blavatsky
THE SEVEN PORTALS
(1), the choice is made, I thirst for Wisdom. Now hast thou rent the
veil before the secret Path and taught the greater Yana (2). Thy servant
here is ready for thy guidance."
well, Sravaka (3). Prepare thyself, for thou wilt have to travel on
alone. The Teacher can but point the way. The Path is one for all, the means
to reach the goal must vary with the Pilgrims.
wilt thou choose, O thou of dauntless heart? The Samtan (4) of "eye
Doctrine," four-fold Dhyana, or thread thy way through Paramitas (5), six in
number, noble gates of virtue leading to Bodhi and to Prajna, seventh step
rugged Path of four-fold Dhyana winds on uphill. Thrice great is he who
climbs the lofty top.
Paramita heights are crossed by a still steeper path. Thou hast to fight
thy way through portals seven, seven strongholds held by cruel crafty Powers
-- passions incarnate.
of good cheer, Disciple; bear in mind the golden rule. Once thou hast
passed the gate Srotapatti (6), "he who the stream hath entered"; once thy
foot hath pressed the bed of the Nirvanic stream in this or any future life,
thou hast but seven other births before thee, O thou of adamantine Will.
Look on. What see'st thou before thine eye, O aspirant to god-like Wisdom?
cloak of darkness is upon the deep of matter; within its folds I
struggle. Beneath my gaze it deepens, Lord; it is dispelled beneath the
waving of thy hand. A shadow moveth, creeping like the stretching serpent
coils. . . . It grows, swells out and disappears in darkness."
is the shadow of thyself outside the Path, cast on the darkness of thy
Lord; I see the PATH; its foot in mire, its summits lost in glorious
light Nirvanic. And now I see the ever narrowing Portals on the hard and
thorny way to Gnyana."*
seest well, Lanoo. These Portals lead the aspirant across the waters on
"to the other shore" (7). Each Portal hath a golden key that openeth its
gate; and these keys are: --
1. DANA, the key of charity and love immortal.
SHILA, the key of Harmony in word and act, the key that counterbalances
the cause and the effect, and leaves no further room for Karmic action.
3. KSHANTI, patience sweet, that nought can ruffle.
VIRAG, indifference to pleasure and to pain, illusion conquered, truth
the dauntless energy that fights its way to the supernal TRUTH,
out of the mire of lies terrestrial.
DHYANA, whose golden gate once opened leads the Narjol* toward the realm
of Sat eternal and its ceaseless contemplation.
[*A saint, an adept.]
PRAJNA, the key to which makes of a man a god, creating him a
Bodhisattva, son of the Dhyanis.
Such to the Portals are the golden keys.
thou canst approach the last, O weaver of thy freedom, thou hast to
master these Paramitas of perfection -- the virtues transcendental six and
ten in number -- along the weary Path.
O Disciple! Before thou wert made fit to meet thy Teacher face to face,
thy MASTER light to light, what wert thou told?
thou canst approach the foremost gate thou hast to learn to part thy
body from thy mind, to dissipate the shadow, and to live in the eternal. For
this, thou hast to live and breathe in all, as all that thou perceivest
breathes in thee; to feel thyself abiding in all things, all things in SELF.
Thou shalt not let thy senses make a playground of thy mind.
shalt not separate thy being from BEING, and the rest, but merge the
Ocean in the drop, the drop within the Ocean.
shalt thou be in full accord with all that lives; bear love to men as
though they were thy brother-pupils, disciples of one Teacher, the sons of
one sweet mother.
there are many; the MASTER-SOUL is one (8) Alaya, the Universal
Soul. Live in that MASTER as ITS ray in thee. Live in thy fellows as they
live in ITS.
thou standest on the threshold of the Path; before thou crossest the
foremost Gate, thou hast to merge the two into the One and sacrifice the
personal to SELF impersonal, and thus destroy the "path" between the two --
Thou hast to
be prepared to answer Dharma, the stern law, whose voice will
ask thee at thy first, at thy initial step:
"Hast thou complied with all the rules, O thou of lofty hopes?"
thou attuned thy heart and mind to the great mind and heart of all
mankind? For as the sacred River's roaring voice whereby all Nature-sounds
are echoed back (10), so must the heart of him 'who in the stream would
enter,' thrill in response to every sigh and thought of all that lives and
may be likened to the strings of the soul-echoing Vina; mankind,
unto its sounding board; the hand that sweeps it to the tuneful breath of
the GREAT WORLD-SOUL. The string that fails to answer 'neath the Master's
touch in dulcet harmony with all the others, breaks -- and is cast away. So
the collective minds of Lanoo-Sravakas. They have to be attuned to the
Upadya's mind -- one with the Over-Soul -- or, break away.
do the "Brothers of the Shadow" -- the murderers of their Souls, the
dread Dad-Dugpa clan (11).
Hast thou attuned thy being to Humanity's great pain, O candidate for light?
hast? . . . Thou mayest enter. Yet, ere thou settest foot upon the
dreary Path of sorrow, 'tis well thou should'st first learn the pitfalls on
with the key of Charity, of love and tender mercy, thou art secure
before the gate of Dana, the gate that standeth at the entrance of the PATH.
. . . . . .
O happy Pilgrim! The portal that faceth thee is high and wide, seems
easy of access. The road that leads therethrough is straight and smooth and
green. 'Tis like a sunny glade in the dark forest depths, a spot on earth
mirrored from Amitabha's paradise. There, nightingales of hope and birds of
radiant plumage sing perched in green bowers, chanting success to fearless
Pilgrims. They sing of Bodhisattvas' virtues five, the fivefold source of
Bodhi power, and of the seven steps in Knowledge.
Pass on! For thou hast brought the key; thou art secure.
to the second gate the way is verdant too. But it is steep and winds up
hill; yea, to its rocky top. Grey mists will over-hang its rough and stony
height, and all be dark beyond. As on he goes, the song of hope soundeth
more feeble in the pilgrim's heart. The thrill of doubt is now upon him; his
step less steady grows.
of this, O candidate! Beware of fear that spreadeth, like the black
and soundless wings of midnight bat, between the moonlight of thy Soul and
thy great goal that loometh in the distance far away.
O disciple, kills the will and stays all action. If lacking in the
Shila virtue, -- the pilgrim trips, and Karmic pebbles bruise his feet along
the rocky path.
of sure foot, O candidate. In Kshanti's* essence bathe thy Soul; for now
thou dost approach the portal of that name, the gate of fortitude and
[*Kshanti, "patience," vide supra the enumeration of the golden
thine eyes, nor lose thy sight of Dorje (12); Mara's arrows ever
smite the man who has not reached Viraga* (13).
trembling. 'Neath the breath of fear the key of Kshanti rusty
grows: the rusty key refuseth to unlock.
more thou dost advance, the more thy feet pitfalls will meet. The path
that leadeth on, is lighted by one fire -- the light of daring, burning in
the heart. The more one dares, the more he shall obtain. The more he fears,
the more that light shall pale -- and that alone can guide. For as the
lingering sunbeam, that on the top of some tall mountain shines, is followed
by black night when out it fades, so is heart-light. When out it goes, a
dark and threatening shade will fall from thine own heart upon the path, and
root thy feet in terror to the spot.
disciple, of that lethal shade. No light that shines from Spirit can
dispel the darkness of the nether Soul, unless all selfish thought has fled
therefrom, and that the pilgrim saith: "I have renounced this passing frame;
I have destroyed the cause: the shadows cast can, as effects, no longer be."
now the last great fight, the final war between the Higher and the Lower
Self, hath taken place. Behold, the very battlefield is now engulphed in the
great war, and is no more.
once that thou hast passed the gate of Kshanti, step the third is taken.
Thy body is thy slave. Now, for the fourth prepare, the Portal of
temptations which do ensnare the inner man.
thou canst near that goal, before thine hand is lifted to upraise the
fourth gate's latch, thou must have mustered all the mental changes in thy
Self and slain the army of the thought sensations that, subtle and
insidious, creep unasked within the Soul's bright shrine.
thou would'st not be slain by them, then must thou harmless make thy own
creations, the children of thy thoughts, unseen, impalpable, that swarm
round humankind, the progeny and heirs to man and his terrestrial spoils.
Thou hast to study the voidness of the seeming full, the fulness of the
seeming void. O fearless Aspirant, look deep within the well of thine own
heart, and answer. Knowest thou of Self the powers, O thou perceiver of
If thou dost not -- then art thou lost.
on Path fourth, the lightest breeze of passion or desire will stir the
steady light upon the pure white walls of Soul. The smallest wave of longing
or regret for Maya's gifts illusive, along Antaskarana -- the path that lies
between thy Spirit and thy self, the highway of sensations, the rude
arousers of Ahankara (14) -- a thought as fleeting as the lightning flash
will make thee thy three prizes forfeit -- the prizes thou hast won.
For know, that the ETERNAL knows no change.
eight dire miseries forsake for evermore. If not, to wisdom, sure, thou
can'st not come, nor yet to liberation," saith the great Lord, the Tathagata
of perfection, "he who has followed in the footsteps of his predecessors."
and exacting is the virtue of Viraga. If thou its path would'st
master, thou must keep thy mind and thy perceptions far freer than before
from killing action.
hast to saturate thyself with pure Alaya, become as one with Nature's
Soul-Thought. At one with it thou art invincible; in separation, thou
becomest the playground of Samvriti (16), origin of all the world's
is impermanent in man except the pure bright essence of Alaya. Man is
its crystal ray; a beam of light immaculate within, a form of clay material
upon the lower surface. That beam is thy life-guide and thy true Self, the
Watcher and the silent Thinker, the victim of thy lower Self. Thy Soul
cannot be hurt but through thy erring body; control and master both, and
thou art safe when crossing to the nearing "Gate of Balance."
of good cheer, O daring pilgrim "to the other shore." Heed not the
whisperings of Mara's hosts; wave off the tempters, those ill-natured
Sprites, the jealous Lhamayin (17) in endless space.
firm! Thou nearest now the middle portal, the gate of Woe, with its ten
o'er thy thoughts, O striver for perfection, if thou would'st
cross its threshold.
mastery o'er thy Soul, O seeker after truths undying, if thou would'st
reach the goal.
centre on the One Pure Light, the Light that is free from
affection, and use thy golden Key. . .
. . . . . . . . . . .
dreary task is done, thy labour well-nigh o'er. The wide abyss that
gaped to swallow thee is almost spanned. .
. . . . . . . . . . . .
hast now crossed the moat that circles round the gate of human
passions. Thou hast now conquered Mara and his furious host.
hast removed pollution from thine heart and bled it from impure desire.
But, O thou glorious combatant, thy task is not yet done. Build high, Lanoo,
the wall that shall hedge in the Holy Isle,* the dam that will protect thy
mind from pride and satisfaction at thoughts of the great feat achieved.
[*The Higher Ego, or Thinking Self.]
sense of pride would mar the work. Aye, build it strong, lest the fierce
rush of battling waves, that mount and beat its shore from out the great
World Maya's Ocean, swallow up the pilgrim and the isle -- yea, even when
the victory's achieved.
is the deer, thy thoughts the hounds that weary and pursue his
progress to the stream of Life. Woe to the deer that is o'ertaken by the
barking fiends before he reach the Vale of Refuge -- Dnyan Marga, "path of
pure knowledge" named.
Ere thou canst
settle in Dnyan Marga (18) and call it thine, thy Soul has to
become as the ripe mango fruit: as soft and sweet as its bright golden pulp
for others' woes, as hard as that fruit's stone for thine own throes and
sorrows, O Conqueror of Weal and Woe.
hard thy Soul against the snares of Self; deserve for it the name of
For, as the
diamond buried deep within the throbbing heart of earth can
never mirror back the earthly lights; so are thy mind and Soul; plunged in
Dnyan Marga, these must mirror nought of Maya's realm illusive.
thou hast reached that state, the Portals that thou hast to conquer on
the Path fling open wide their gates to let thee pass, and Nature's
strongest mights possess no power to stay thy course. Thou wilt be master of
the sevenfold Path: but not till then, O candidate for trials passing
then, a task far harder still awaits thee: thou hast to feel thyself
ALL-THOUGHT, and yet exile all thoughts from out thy Soul.
hast to reach that fixity of mind in which no breeze, however strong,
can waft an earthly thought within. Thus purified, the shrine must of all
action, sound, or earthly light be void; e'en as the butterfly, o'ertaken by
the frost, falls lifeless at the threshold -- so must all earthly thoughts
fall dead before the fane.
Behold it written:
the gold flame can burn with steady light, the lamp must stand well
guarded in a spot free from all wind."* Exposed to shifting breeze, the jet
will flicker and the quivering flame cast shades deceptive, dark and
ever-changing, on the Soul's white shrine.
then, O thou pursuer of the truth, thy Mind-Soul will become as a mad
elephant, that rages in the jungle. Mistaking forest trees for living foes,
he perishes in his attempts to kill the ever-shifting shadows dancing on the
wall of sunlit rocks.
in the care of Self thy Soul should lose her foothold on the
soil of Deva-knowledge.
lest in forgetting SELF, thy Soul lose o'er its trembling mind
control, and forfeit thus the due fruition of its conquests.
of change! For change is thy great foe. This change will fight thee
off, and throw thee back, out of the Path thou treadest, deep into viscous
swamps of doubt.
be forewarned in time. If thou hast tried and failed, O
dauntless fighter, yet lose not courage: fight on and to the charge return
again, and yet again.
fearless warrior, his precious life-blood oozing from his wide and
gaping wounds, will still attack the foe, drive him from out his stronghold,
vanquish him, ere he himself expires. Act then, all ye who fail and suffer,
act like him; and from the stronghold of your Soul, chase all your foes away
-- ambition, anger, hatred, e'en to the shadow of desire -- when even you
have failed. . .
that fightest for man's liberation (20), each failure is
success, and each sincere attempt wins its reward in time. The holy germs
that sprout and grow unseen in the disciple's soul, their stalks wax strong
at each new trial, they bend like reeds but never break, nor can they e'er
be lost. But when the hour has struck they blossom forth (21). . .
. . . . . . . . . . . .
But if thou cam'st prepare, then have no fear.
. . . . . . . . . . .
thy way is clear right through the Virya gate, the fifth one of
the Seven Portals. Thou art now on the way that leadeth to the Dhyana haven,
the sixth, the Bodhi Portal.
gate is like an alabaster vase, white and transparent; within
there burns a steady golden fire, the flame of Prajna that radiates from
Thou art that vase.
hast estranged thyself from objects of the senses, travelled on the
"Path of seeing," on the "Path of hearing," and standest in the light of
Knowledge. Thou hast now reached Titiksha state (22).
O Narjol thou art safe.
. . . . . . .
Conqueror of Sins, once that a Sowanee (23) hath cross'd the seventh
Path, all Nature thrills with joyous awe and feels subdued. The silver star
now twinkles out the news to the night-blossoms, the streamlet to the
pebbles ripples out the tale; dark ocean-waves will roar it to the rocks
surf-bound, scent-laden breezes sing it to the vales, and stately pines
mysteriously whisper: "A Master has arisen, a MASTER OF THE DAY" (24).
standeth now like a white pillar to the west, upon whose face the rising
Sun of thought eternal poureth forth its first most glorious waves. His
mind, like a becalmed and boundless ocean, spreadeth out in shoreless space.
He holdeth life and death in his strong hand.
He is mighty. The living power made free in him, that power which is
HIMSELF, can raise the tabernacle of illusion high above the gods, above
great Brahm and Indra. Now he shall surely reach his great reward!
he not use the gifts which it confers for his own rest and bliss, his
well-earn'd weal and glory -- he, the subduer of the great Delusion?
O thou candidate for Nature's hidden lore! If one would follow in the
steps of holy Tathagata, those gifts and powers are not for Self.
thou thus dam the waters born on Sumeru? (25) Shalt thou divert the
stream for thine own sake, or send it back to its prime source along the
crests of cycles?
If thou would'st
have that stream of hard-earn'd knowledge, of Wisdom
heaven-born, remain sweet running waters, thou should'st not leave it to
become a stagnant pond.
if of Amitabha, the "Boundless Age," thou would'st become co-worker,
then must thou shed the light acquired, like to the Bodhisattvas twain (26),
upon the span of all three worlds (27).
that the stream of superhuman knowledge and the Deva-Wisdom thou hast
won, must, from thyself, the channel of Alaya, be poured forth into another
O Narjol, thou of the Secret Path, its pure fresh waters must be used
to sweeter make the Ocean's bitter waves -- that mighty sea of sorrow formed
of the tears of men.
once thou hast become like the fix'd star in highest heaven, that
bright celestial orb must shine from out the spatial depths for all -- save
for itself; give light to all, but take from none.
when once thou hast become like the pure snow in mountain vales, cold
and unfeeling to the touch, warm and protective to the seed that sleepeth
deep beneath its bosom -- 'tis now that snow which must receive the biting
frost, the northern blasts, thus shielding from their sharp and cruel tooth
the earth that holds the promised harvest, the harvest that will feed the
to live through future Kalpas,* unthanked and unperceived by
man; wedged as a stone with countless other stones which form the "Guardian
Wall" (28), such is thy future if the seventh gate thou passest. Built by
the hands of many Masters of Compassion, raised by their tortures, by their
blood cemented, it shields mankind, since man is man, protecting it from
further and far greater misery and sorrow.
[*Cycles of ages.]
man sees it not, will not perceive it, nor will he heed the word of
Wisdom . . . for he knows it not.
thou hast heard it, thou knowest all, O thou of eager guileless Soul. .
. . . and thou must choose. Then hearken yet again.
Sowan's Path, O Srotapatti,* thou art secure. Aye, on that Marga,** where
nought but darkness meets the weary pilgrim, where torn by thorns the hands
drip blood, the feet are cut by sharp unyielding flints, and Mara wields his
strongest arms -- there lies a great reward immediately beyond.
[*Sowan and Srotapatti are synonymous terms.]
[**Marga -- "Path." ]
and unmoved the Pilgrim glideth up the stream that to Nirvana leads. He
knoweth that the more his feet will bleed, the whiter will himself be
washed. He knoweth well that after seven short and fleeting births Nirvana
will be his. . . .
is the Dhyana Path, the haven of the Yogi, the blessed goal that
Not so when he hath crossed and won the Aryahata Path.*
[*From the Sanscrit Arhat or Arhan.]
Klesha (29) is destroyed for ever, Tanha's (30) roots torn out. But
stay, Disciple . . . Yet, one word. Canst thou destroy divine COMPASSION?
Compassion is no attribute. It is the LAW of LAWS -- eternal Harmony,
Alaya's SELF; a shoreless universal essence, the light of everlasting Right,
an fitness of all things, the law of love eternal.
more thou dost become at one with it, thy being melted in its BEING, the
more thy Soul unites with that which IS, the more thou wilt become
COMPASSION ABSOLUTE (31).
Such is the Arya Path, Path of the Buddhas of perfection.
Withal, what mean the sacred scrolls which make thee say?
I believe it is not all the Arhats that get of the Nirvanic Path the
I believe that the Nirvana-Dharma is entered not by all the Buddhas"*
[*Thegpa Chenpoido, "Mahayana Sutra," Invocations to the Buddhas
of Confession," Part I., iv.]
on the Arya Path thou art no more Srotapatti, thou art a Bodhisattva
(33). The stream is cross'd. 'Tis true thou hast a right to Dharmakaya
vesture; but Sambogakaya is greater than a Nirvanee, and greater still is a
Nirmanakaya -- the Buddha of Compassion (34).
bend thy head and listen well, O Bodhisattva -- Compassion speaks and
saith: "Can there be bliss when all that lives must suffer? Shalt thou be
saved and hear the whole world cry?"
Now thou hast heard that which was said.
shalt attain the seventh step and cross the gate of final knowledge but
only to wed woe -- if thou would'st be Tathagata, follow upon thy
predecessor's steps, remain unselfish till the endless end.
Thou art enlightened -- Choose thy way.
. . . . . .
the mellow light that floods the Eastern sky. In signs of praise
both heaven and earth unite. And from the four-fold manifested Powers a
chant of love ariseth, both from the flaming Fire and flowing Water, and
from sweet-smelling Earth and rushing Wind.
. . . from the deep unfathomable vortex of that golden light in which
the Victor bathes, ALL NATURE'S wordless voice in thousand tones ariseth to
JOY UNTO YE, O MEN OF MYALBA (35).
A PILGRIM HATH RETURNED BACK "FROM THE OTHER SHORE."
A NEW ARHAN (36) IS BORN. . . .
Peace to all beings (37).
Table of Contents
GLOSSARY TO PART III
The Seven Portals
is a spiritual preceptor, a Guru. The Northern Buddhists choose
these generally among the "Narjol," saintly men, learned in gotrabhu-gnyana
and gnyana-dassana-suddhi teachers of the Secret Wisdom.
Yana -- vehicle: thus Mahayana is the "Great Vehicle," and Hinayana,
the "Lesser Vehicle," the names for two schools of religious and
philosophical learning in Northern Buddhism.
Sravaka -- a listener, or student who attends to the religious
instructions. From the root "Sru." When from theory they go into practice or
performance of asceticism, they become Sramanas, "exercisers," from Srama,
action. As Hardy shows, the two appellations answer to the words akoustikoi
and asketai of the Greeks.
Samtan (Tibetan), the same as the Sanskrit Dhyana, or the state of
meditation, of which there are four degrees.
Paramitas, the six transcendental virtues; for the priests there are
Srotapatti -- (lit.) "he who has entered the stream" that leads to the
Nirvanic ocean. This name indicates the first Path. The name of the second
is the Path of Sakridagamin, "he who will receive birth (only) once more."
The third is called Anagamin, "he who will be reincarnated no more," unless
he so desires in order to help mankind. The fourth Path is known as that of
Rahat or Arhat. This is the highest. An Arhat sees Nirvana during his life.
For him it is no post-mortem state, but Samadhi, during which he experiences
all Nirvanic bliss.*
one can rely upon the Orientalists for the exact
words and meaning, is instanced in the case of three "alleged"
authorities. Thus the four names just explained are given by R.
Spence Hardy as: 1. Sowan; 2. Sakradagami; 3. Anagami, and 4.
Arya. By the Rev. J. Edkins they are given as: 1. Srotapanna; 2.
Sagardagam; 3. Anaganim, and 4. Arhan. Schlagintweit again spells
them differently, each, moreover, giving another and a new
variation in the meaning of the terms.]
"Arrival at the shore" is with the Northern Buddhists synonymous with
reaching Nirvana through the exercise of the six and the ten Paramitas
The "MASTER-SOUL" is Alaya, the Universal Soul or Atman, each man
having a ray of it in him and being supposed to be able to identify himself
with and to merge himself into it.
Antaskarana is the lower Manas, the Path of communication or communion
between the personality and the higher Manas or human Soul. At death it is
destroyed as a Path or medium of communication, and its remains survive in a
form as the Kamarupa -- the "shell."
The Northern Buddhists, and all Chinamen, in fact, find in the deep
roar of some of the great and sacred rivers the key-note of Nature. Hence
the simile. It is a well-known fact in Physical Science, as well as in
Occultism, that the aggregate sound of Nature-such as heard in the roar of
great rivers, the noise produced by the waving tops of trees in large
forests, or that of a city heard at a distance -- is a definite single tone
of quite an appreciable pitch. This is shown by physicists and musicians.
Thus Prof. Rice (Chinese Music) shows that the Chinese recognized the fact
thousands of years ago by saying that "the waters of the Hoang-ho rushing
by, intoned the kung" called "the great tone" in Chinese music; and he shows
this tone corresponding with the F, "considered by modern physicists to be
the actual tonic of Nature." Professor B. Silliman mentions it, too, in his
Principles of Physics, saying that "this tone is held to be the middle F of
the piano; which may, therefore, be considered the key-note of Nature."
The Bhons or Dugpas, the sect of the "Red Caps," are regarded as the
most versed in sorcery. They inhabit Western and little Tibet and Bhutan.
They are all Tantrikas. It is quite ridiculous to find Orientalists who have
visited the borderlands of Tibet, such as Schlagintweit and others,
confusing the rites and disgusting practices of these with the religious
beliefs of the Eastern Lamas, the "Yellow Caps," and their Narjols or holy
men. The following is an instance.
Dorje is the Sanskrit Vajra, a weapon or instrument in the hands of
some gods (the Tibetan Dragshed, the Devas who protect men), and is regarded
as having the same occult power of repelling evil influences by purifying
the air as Ozone in chemistry. It is also a Mudra a gesture and posture used
in sitting for meditation. It is, in short, a symbol of power over invisible
evil influences, whether as a posture or a talisman. The Bhons or Dugpas,
however, having appropriated the symbol, misuse it for purposes of Black
Magic. With the "Yellow Caps," or Gelugpas, it is a symbol of power, as the
Cross is with the Christians, while it is in no way more "superstitious."
With the Dugpas, it is like the double triangle reversed, the sign of
Viraga is that feeling of absolute indifference to the objective
universe, to pleasure and to pain. "Disgust" does not express its meaning,
yet it is akin to it.
(14). Ahankara -- the "I" or feeling of one's personality, the "I-am-ness."
"One who walks in the steps of his predecessors" or "those who
before him," is the true meaning of the name Tathagata.
Samvriti is that one of the two truths which demonstrates the illusive
character or emptiness of all things. It is relative truth in this case. The
Mahayana school teaches the difference between these two truths --
Paramarthasatya and Samvritisatya (Satya "truth"). This is the bone of
contention between the Madhyamikas and the Yogacharyas, the former denying
and the latter affirming that every object exists owing to a previous cause
or by a concatenation. The Madhyamikas are the great Nihilists and Deniers,
for whom everything is parikalpita, an illusion and an error in the world of
thought and the subjective, as much as in the objective universe. The
Yogacharyas are the great spiritualists. Samvriti, therefore, as only
relative truth, is the origin of all illusion.
Lhamayin are elementals and evil spirits adverse to men and their
Dhyan-Marga is the "Path of Dhyana," literally; or the Path of pure
knowledge, of Paramartha or (Sanscrit) Svasamvedana "the self-evident or
Vide Glossary of Part II., Number 4. "Diamond-Soul" or Vajradhara
presides over the Dhyani-Buddhas.
This is an allusion to a well-known belief in the East (as in the
West, too, for the matter of that) that every additional Buddha or Saint is
a new soldier in the army of those who work for the liberation or salvation
of mankind. In Northern Buddhist countries, where the doctrine of
Nirmanakayas -- those Bodhisattvas who renounce well-earned Nirvana or the
Dharmakaya vesture (both of which shut them out for ever from the world of
men) in order to invisibly assist mankind and lead it finally to Paranirvana
-- is taught, every new Bodhisattva or initiated great Adept is called the
"liberator of mankind." The statement made by Schlagintweit in his "Buddhism
in Tibet" to the effect that Prulpai Ku or "Nirmanakaya" is "the body in
which the Buddhas or Bodhisattvas appear upon earth to teach men" -- is
absurdly inaccurate and explains nothing.
reference to human passions and sins which are slaughtered during
the trials of the novitiate, and serve as well-fertilized soil in which
"holy germs" or seeds of transcendental virtues may germinate. Pre-existing
or innate virtues, talents or gifts are regarded as having been acquired in
a previous birth. Genius is without exception a talent or aptitude brought
from another birth.
Titiksha is the fifth state of Raja Yoga -- one of supreme
indifference; submission, if necessary, to what is called "pleasures and
pains for all," but deriving neither pleasure nor pain from such submission
-- in short, the becoming physically, mentally, and morally indifferent and
insensible to either pleasure or pain.
is one who practices Sowan, the first path in Dhyan, a
"Day" means here a whole Manvantara, a period of incalculable
(25). Mount Meru, the sacred mountain of the Gods.
In the Northern Buddhist symbology, Amitabha or "Boundless Space"
(Parabrahm) is said to have in his paradise two Bodhisattvas -- Kwan-shi-yin
and Tashishi -- who ever radiate light over the three worlds where they
lived, including our own (vide 27), in order to help with this light (of
knowledge) in the instruction of Yogis, who will, in their turn, save men.
Their exalted position in Amitabha's realm is due to deeds of mercy
performed by the two, as such Yogis, when on earth, says the allegory.
These three worlds are the three planes of being, the terrestrial,
astral and the spiritual.
The "Guardian Wall" or the "Wall of Protection." It is taught
accumulated efforts of long generations of Yogis, Saints and Adepts,
especially of the Nirmanakayas -- have created, so to say, a wall of
protection around mankind, which wall shields mankind invisibly from still
(29). Klesha is the love of pleasure or of worldly enjoyment, evil or good.
(30). Tanha, the will to live, that which causes rebirth.
This "compassion" must not be regarded in the same light as "God,
divine love" of the Theists. Compassion stands here as an abstract,
impersonal law whose nature, being absolute Harmony, is thrown into
confusion by discord, suffering and sin.
In the Northern Buddhist phraseology all the great Arhats, Adepts and
Saints are called Buddhas.
A Bodhisattva is, in the hierarchy, less than a "perfect Buddha." In
the exoteric parlance these two are very much confused. Yet the innate and
right popular perception, owing to that self-sacrifice, has placed a
Bodhisattva higher in its reverence than a Buddha.
This same popular reverence calls "Buddhas of Compassion" those
Bodhisattvas who, having reached the rank of an Arhat (i.e., having
completed the fourth or seventh Path), refuse to pass into the Nirvanic
state or "don the Dharmakaya robe and cross to the other shore," as it would
then become beyond their power to assist men even so little as Karma
permits. They prefer to remain invisibly (in Spirit, so to speak) in the
world, and contribute toward man's salvation by influencing them to follow
the Good Law, i.e., lead them on the Path of Righteousness. It is part of
the exoteric Northern Buddhism to honour all such great characters as
Saints, and to offer even prayers to them, as the Greeks and Catholics do to
their Saints and Patrons; on the other hand, the esoteric teachings
countenance no such thing. There is a great difference between the two
teachings. The exoteric layman hardly knows the real meaning of the word
Nirmanakaya -- hence the confusion and inadequate explanations of the
Orientalists. For example Schlagintweit believes that Nirmanakaya-body,
means the physical form assumed by the Buddhas when they incarnate on earth
-- "the least sublime of their earthly encumbrances" (vide "Buddhism in
Tibet") -- and he proceeds to give an entirely false view on the subject.
The real teaching is, however, this: --
The three Buddhic bodies or forms are styled: --
is that ethereal form which one would assume when leaving his
physical he would appear in his astral body -- having in addition all the
knowledge of an Adept. The Bodhisattva develops it in himself as he proceeds
on the Path. Having reached the goal and refused its fruition, he remains on
Earth, as an Adept; and when he dies, instead of going into Nirvana, he
remains in that glorious body he has woven for himself, invisible to
uninitiated mankind, to watch over and protect it.
is the same, but with the additional lustre of "three
perfections," one of which is entire obliteration of all earthly concerns.
Dharmakaya body is that of a complete Buddha, i.e., no body at all, but
an ideal breath: Consciousness merged in the Universal Consciousness, or
Soul devoid of every attribute. Once a Dharmakaya, an Adept or Buddha leaves
behind every possible relation with, or thought for this earth. Thus, to be
enabled to help humanity, an Adept who has won the right to Nirvana,
"renounces the Dharmakaya body" in mystic parlance; keeps, of the
Sambhogakaya, only the great and complete knowledge, and remains in his
Nirmanakaya body. The esoteric school teaches that Gautama Buddha with
several of his Arhats is such a Nirmanakaya, higher than whom, on account of
the great renunciation and sacrifice to mankind there is none known.
Myalba is our earth -- pertinently called "Hell," and the greatest of
all Hells, by the esoteric school. The esoteric doctrine knows of no hell or
place of punishment other than on a man-bearing planet or earth. Avitchi is
a state and not a locality.
Meaning that a new and additional Saviour of mankind is born, who will
lead men to final Nirvana i.e., after the end of the life-cycle.
This is one of the variations of the formula that invariably follows
every treatise, invocation or Instruction. "Peace to all beings," "Blessings
on all that Lives," &c., &c.
World As Emptiness
by Alan Watts
This particular weekend seminar is devoted to Buddhism, and it should be said first that there is a sense in which Buddhism is Hinduism, stripped for export. Last week, when I discussed Hinduism, I discussed many things to do with the organization of Hindu society, because Hinduism is not merely what we call a religion, it's a whole culture. It's a legal system, it's a social system, it's a system of etiquette, and it includes everything. It includes housing, it includes food, it includes art. Because the Hindus and many other ancient peoples do not make, as we do, a division between religion and everything else. Religion is not a department of life; it is something that enters into the whole of it. But you see, when a religion and a culture are inseperable, it's very difficult to export a culture, because it comes into conflict with the established traditions, manners, and customs of other people.
So the question arises, what are the essentials of Hinduism that could be exported? And when you answer that, approximately you'll get Buddhism. As I explained, the essential of Hinduism, the real, deep root, isn't any kind of doctrine, it isn't really any special kind of discipline, although of course disciplines are involved. The center of Hinduism is an experience called _maksha[?]_, liberation, in which, through the dissipation of the illusion that each man and each woman is a separate thing in a world consisting of nothing but a collection of separate things, you discover that you are, in a way, on one level an illusion, but on another level, you are what they call 'the self,' the one self, which is all that there is. The universe is the game of the self, which plays hide and seek forever and ever. When it plays 'hide,' it plays it so well, hides so cleverly, that it pretends to be all of us, and all things whatsoever, and we don't know it because it's playing 'hide.' But when it plays 'seek,' it enters onto a path of yoga, and through following this path it wakes up, and the scales fall from one's eyes.
Now, in just the same way, the center of Buddhism, the only really important thing about Buddhism is the experience which they call 'awakening.' Buddha is a title, and not a proper name. It comes from a Sanskrit root, 'bheudh,' and that sometimes means 'to know,' but better, 'waking.' And so you get from this root 'bodhih.' That is the state of being awakened. And so 'buddha,' 'the awakened one,' 'the awakened person.' And so there can of course in Buddhist ideas, be very many buddhas. The person called THE buddha is only one of myriads. Because they, like the Hindus, are quite sure that our world is only one among billions, and that buddhas come and go in all the worlds. But sometimes, you see, there comes into the world what you might call a 'big buddha.' A very important one. And such a one is said to have been Guatama, the son of a prince living in northern India, in a part of the world we now call Nepal, living shortly after 600 BC. All dates in Indian history are vague, and so I never try to get you to remember any precise date, like 564, which some people think it was, but I give you a vague date--just after 600 BC is probably right.
Most of you, I'm sure, know the story of his life. Is there anyone who doesn't, I mean roughly? Ok. So I won't bother too much with that. But the point is, that when, in India, a man was called a buddha, or THE buddha, this is a title of a very exalted nature. It is first of all necessary for a buddha to be human. He can't be any other kind of being, whether in the Hindu scale of beings he's above the human state or below it. He is superior to all gods, because according to Indian ideas, gods or angels--angels are probably a better name for them than gods--all those exalted beings are still in the wheel of becoming, still in the chains of karma--that is action that requires more action to complete it, and goes on requiring the need for more action. They're still, according to popular ideas, going 'round the wheel from life after life after life after life, because they still have the thirst for existence, or to put it in a Hindu way: in them, the self is still playing the game of not being itself.
But the buddha's doctrine, based on his own experience of awakening, which occured after seven years of attempts to study with the various yogis of the time, all of whom used the method of extreme asceticism, fasting, doing all sort of exercises, lying on beds of nails, sleeping on broken rocks, any kind of thing to break down egocentricity, to become unselfish, to become detached, to exterminate desire for life. But buddha found that all that was futile; that was not The Way. And one day he broke is ascetic discipline and accepted a bowl of some kind of milk soup from a girl who was looking after cattle. And suddenly in this tremendous relaxation, he went and sat down under a tree, and the burden lifted. He saw, completely, that what he had been doing was on the wrong track. You can't make a silk purse out of a sow's ear. And no amount of effort will make a person who believes himself to be an ego be really unselfish. So long as you think, and feel, that you are a someone contained in your bag of skin, and that's all, there is no way whatsoever of your behaving unselfishly. Oh yes, you can imitate unselfishness. You can go through all sorts of highly refined forms of selfishness, but you're still tied to the wheel of becoming by the golden chains of your good deeds, as the obviously bad people are tied to it by the iron chains of their misbehaviors.
So, you know how people are when they get spiritually proud. They belong to some kind of a church group, or an occult group, and say 'Of course we're the ones who have the right teaching. We're the in-group, we're the elect, and everyone else outside.' It is really off the track. But then comes along someone who one-ups THEM, by saying 'Well, in our circles, we're very tolerant. We accept all religions and all ways as leading to The One.' But what they're doing is they're playing the game called 'We're More Tolerant Than You Are.' And in this way the egocentric being is always in his own trap.
So buddha saw that all his yoga exercises and ascetic disciplines had just been ways of trying to get himself out of the trap in order to save his own skin, in order to find peace for himself. And he realized that that is an impossible thing to do, because the motivation ruins the project. He found out, then, see, that there was no trap to get out of except himself. Trap and trapped are one, and when you understand that, there isn't any trap left. [Dharma Bum's note: this made me think of a bit from an Anglican hymn: 'We, by enemies distrest,/They in paradise at rest;/We the captives, they the freed,/We and they are one indeed.'] I'm going to explain that of course more carefully.
So, as a result of this experience, he formulated what is called the _dharma_, that is the Sanskrit word for 'method.' You will get a certain confusion when you read books on Buddhism, because they switch between Sanskrit and Pali words. The earliest Buddhist scriptures that we know of are written the Pali language, and Pali is a softened form of Sanskrit. So that, for example, the doctrine of the buddha is called in Sanskrit the 'dharma,' we must in pronouncing Sanskrit be aware that an 'A' is almost pronounced as we pronounce 'U' in the word 'but.' So they don't say 'darmuh,' they say 'durmuh.' And so also this double 'D' you say 'budduh' and so on. But in Pali, and in many books of Buddhism, you'll find the Buddhist doctrine described as the 'dhama.' And so the same way 'karma' in Sanskrit, in Pali becomes 'kama.' 'Buddha' remains the same. The dharma, then, is the method.
Now, the method of Buddhism, and this is absolutely important to remember, is dialectic. That is to say, it doesn't teach a doctrine. You cannot anywhere what Buddhism teaches, as you can find out what Christianity or Judaism or Islam teaches. Because all Buddhism is a discourse, and what most people suppose to be its teachings are only the opening stages of the dialog.
So the concern of the buddha as a young man--the problem he wanted to solve--was the problem of human suffering. And so he formulated his teaching in a very easy way to remember. All those Buddhist scriptures are full of what you might call mnemonic tricks, sort of numbering things in such a way that they're easy to remember. And so he summed up his teaching in what are called the Four Noble Truths. And the first one, because it was his main concern, was the truth about _duhkha_. Duhkha, 'suffering, pain, frustration, chronic dis-ease.' It is the opposite of _sukha_, which means 'sweet, pleasure, etc.'
So, insofar as the problem posed in Buddhism is duhkha, 'I don't want to suffer, and I want to find someone or something that can cure me of suffering.' That's the problem. Now if there's a person who solves the problem, a buddha, people come to him and say 'Master, how do we get out of this problem?' So what he does is to propose certain things to them. First of all, he points out that with duhkha go two other things. These are respectively called _anitya_ and _anatman_. Anitya means--'nitya' means 'permanant,' so 'impermanance.' Flux, change, is characteristic of everything whatsoever. There isn't anything at all in the whole world, in the material world, in the psychic world, in the spiritual world, there is nothing you can catch hold of and hang on to for safely. Nuttin'. Not only is there nothing you can hang on to, but by the teaching of anatman, there is no you to hang on to it. In other words, all clinging to life is an illusory hand grasping at smoke. If you can get that into your head and see that that is so, nobody needs to tell you that you ought not to grasp. Because you see, you can't.
See, Buddhism is not essentially moralistic. The moralist is the person who tells people that they ought to be unselfish, when they still feel like egos, and his efforts are always and invariably futile. Because what happens is he simply sweeps the dust under the carpet, and it all comes back again somehow. But in this case, it involves a complete realization that this is the case. So that's what the teacher puts across to begin with.
The next thing that comes up, the second of the noble truths, is about the cause of suffering, and this in Sanskrit is called _trishna_. Trishna is related to our word 'thirst.' It's very often translated 'desire.' That will do. Better, perhaps, is 'craving, clinging, grasping,' or even, to use our modern psychological word, 'blocking.' When, for example, somebody is blocked, and dithers and hesitates, and doesn't know what to do, he is in the strictest Buddhist sense attached, he's stuck. But a buddha can't be stuck, he cannot be phased. He always flows, just as water always flows, even if you dam it, the water just keeps on getting higher and higher and higher until it flows over the dam. It's unstoppable.
Now, buddha said, then, duhkha comes from trishna. You all suffer because you cling to the world, and you don't recognize that the world is anitya and anatman. So then, try, if you can, not to grasp. Well, do you see that that immediately poses a problem? Because the student who has started off this dialog with the buddha then makes various efforts to give up desire. Upon which he very rapidly discovers that he is desiring not to desire, and he takes that back to the teacher, who says 'Well, well, well.' He said, 'Of course. You are desiring not to desire, and that's of course excessive. All I want you to do is to give up desiring as much as you can. Don't want to go beyond the point of which you're capable.' And for this reason Buddhism is called the Middle Way. Not only is it the middle way between the extremes of ascetic discipline and pleasure seeking, but it's also the middle way in a very subtle sense. Don't desire to give up more desire than you can. And if you find that a problem, don't desire to be successful in giving up more desire than you can. You see what's happening? Every time he's returned to the middle way, he's moved out of an extreme situation.
Now then, we'll go on; we'll cut out what happens in the pursuit of that method until a little later. The next truth in the list is concerned with the nature of release from duhkha. And so number three is _nirvana_. Nirvana is the goal of Buddhism; it's the state of liberation corresponding to what the Hindus call _moksha_. The word means 'blow out,' and it comes from the root 'nir vritti.' Now some people think that what it means is blowing out the flame of desire. I don't believe this. I believe that it means 'breathe out,' rather than 'blow out,' because if you try to hold your breath, and in Indian thought, breath--prana--is the life principle. If you try to hold on to life, you lose it. You can't hold your breath and stay alive; it becomes extremely uncomfortable to hold onto your breath.
And so in exactly the same way, it becomes extremely uncomfortable to spend all your time holding on to your life. What the devil is the point of surviving, going on living, when it's a drag? But you see, that's what people do. They spend enormous efforts on maintaining a certain standard of living, which is a great deal of trouble. You know, you get a nice house in the suburbs, and the first thing you do is you plant a lawn. You've gotta get out and mow the damn thing all the time, and you buy expensive this-that and soon you're all involved in mortgages, and instead of being able to walk out into the garden and enjoy, you sit at your desk and look at your books, filling out this and that and the other and paying bills and answering letters. What a lot of rot! But you see, that is holding onto life. So, translated into colloquial American, nirvana is 'whew!' 'Cause if you let your breath go, it'll come back. So nirvana is not annihilation, it's not disappearance into a sort of undifferentiated void. Nirvana is the state of being let go. It is a state of consciousness, and a state of--you might call it-- being, here and now in this life.
We now come to the most complicated of all, number four: _margha[?]_. 'Margh' in Sanskrit means 'past,' and the buddha taught an eightfold path for the realization of nirvana. This always reminds me of a story about Dr Suzuki, who is a very, very great Buddhist scholar. Many years ago, he was giving a fundamental lecture on Buddhism at the University of Hawaii, and he'd been going through these four truths, and he said 'Ah, fourth Noble Truth is Noble Eightfold Path. First step of Noble Eightfold Path called _sho-ken_. Sho-ken in Japanese mean `right view.' For Buddhism, fundamentally, is right view. Right way of viewing this world. Second step of Noble Eightfold Path is--oh, I forget second step, you look it up in the book.'
Well, I'm going to do rather the same thing. What is important is this: the eightfold path has really got three divisions in it. The first are concerned with understanding, the second division is concerned with conduct, and the third division is concerned with meditation. And every step in the path is preceded with the Sanskrit word _samyak_. In which you remember we ran into _samadhi_ last week, 'sam' is the key word. And so, the first step, _samyak- drishti_, which mean--'drishti' means a view, a way of looking at things, a vision, an attitude, something like that. But this word samyak is in ordinary texts on Buddhism almost invariably translated 'right.' This is a very bad translation. The word IS used in certain contexts in Sanskrit to mean 'right, correct,' but it has other and wider meanings. 'Sam' means, like our word 'sum,' which is derived from it, 'complete, total, all-embracing.' It also has the meaning of 'middle wade,' representing as it were the fulcrum, the center, the point of balance in a totality. Middle wade way of looking at things. Middle wade way of understanding the dharma. Middle wade way of speech, of conduct, of livelihood, and so on.
Now this is particularly cogent when it comes to Buddhist ideas of behavior. Every Buddhist in all the world, practically, as a layman--he's not a monk--undertakes what are called _pantasila[?]_, the Five Good Conducts. 'Sila' is sometimes translated 'precept.' But it's not a precept because it's not a commandment. When Buddhists priests chant the precepts, you know: pranatipada[?]: 'prana (life) tipada (taking away) I promise to abstain from.' So the first is that one undertakes not to destroy life. Second, not to take what is not given. Third--this is usually translated 'not to commit adultry'. It doesn't say anything of the kind. In Sanskrit, it means 'I undertake the precept to abstain from exploiting my passions.' Buddhism has no doctrine about adultry; you may have as many wives as you like.
But the point is this: when you're feeling blue and bored, it's not a good idea to have a drink, because you may become dependant on alcohol whenever you feel unhappy. So in the same way, when you're feeling blue and bored, it's not a good idea to say 'Let's go out and get some chicks.' That's exploiting the passions. But it's not exploiting the passions, you see, when drinking, say expresses the viviality and friendship of the group sitting around the dinner table, or when sex expresses the spontaneous delight of two people in each other.
Then, the fourth precept, _musavada[?]_, 'to abstain from false speech.' It doesn't simply mean lying. It means abusing people. It means using speech in a phony way, like saying 'all niggers are thus and so.' Or 'the attitude of America to this situation is thus and thus.' See, that's phony kind of talking. Anybody who studies general semantics will be helped in avoiding musavada, false speech.
The final precept is a very complicated one, and nobody's quite sure exactly what it means. It mentions three kinds of drugs and drinks: sura, mariya[?], maja[?]. We don't know what they are. But at any rate, it's generally classed as narcotics and liquors. Now, there are two ways of translating this precept. One says to abstain from narcotics and liquors; the other liberal translation favored by the great scholar Dr [?] is 'I abstain from being intoxicated by these things.' So if you drink and don't get intoxicated, it's ok. You don't have to be a teatotaler to be a Buddhist. This is especially true in Japan and China; my goodness, how they throw it down! A scholarly Chinese once said to me, 'You know, before you start meditating, just have a couple martinis, because it increases your progress by about six months.'
Now you see these are, as I say, they are not commandments, they are vows. Buddhism has in it no idea of there being a moral law laid down by somekind of cosmic lawgiver. The reason why these precepts are undertaken is not for a sentimental reason. It is not that you're going to make you into a good person. It is that for anybody interested in the experiments necessary for liberation, these ways of life are expedient. First of all, if you go around killing, you're going to make enemies, and you're going to have to spend a lot of time defending yourself, which will distract you from your yoga. If you go around stealing, likewise, you're going to aquire a heap of stuff, and again, you're going to make enemies. If you exploit your passions, you're going to get a big thrill, but it doesn't last. When you begin to get older, you realize 'Well that was fun while we had it, but I haven't really learned very much from it, and now what?' Same with speech. Nothing is more confusing to the mind than taking words too seriously. We've seen so many examples of that. And finally, to get intoxicated or narcotized--a narcotic is anything like alcohol or opium which makes you sleepy. The word 'narcosis' in Greek, 'narc' means 'sleep.' So, if you want to pass your life seeing things through a dim haze, this is not exactly awakening.
So, so much for the conduct side of Buddhism. We come then to the final parts of the eightfold path. There are two concluding steps, which are called _samyak-smriti_ and _samyak-samadhi_. _Smriti_ means 'recollection, memory, present-mindedness.' Seems rather funny that the same word can mean 'recollection or memory' and 'present-mindedness.' But smriti is exactly what that wonderful old rascal Gurdjieff meant by 'self-awareness,' or 'self- remembering.' Smriti is to have complete presence of mind.
There is a wonderful meditation called 'The House that Jack Built Meditation,' at least that's what I call it, that the Southern Buddhists practice. He walks, and he says to himself, 'There is the lifting of the foot.' The next thing he says is 'There is a perception of the lifting of the foot.' And the next, he says 'There is a tendency towards the perception of the feeling of the lifting of the foot.' Then finally he says, 'There is a consciousness of the tendency of the perception of the feeling of the lifting of the foot.' And so, with everything that he does, he knows that he does it. He is self-aware. This is tricky. Of course, it's not easy to do. But as you practice this--I'm going to let the cat out of the bag, which I suppose I shouldn't do--but you will find that there are so many things to be aware of at any given moment in what you're doing, that at best you only ever pick out one or two of them. That's the first thing you'll find out. Ordinary conscious awareness is seeing the world with blinkers on. As we say, you can think of only one thing at a time. That's because ordinary consciousness is narrowed consciousness. It's being narrow-minded in the true sense of the word, looking at things that way. Then you find out in the course of going around being aware all of the time--what are you doing when you remember? Or when you think about the future? 'I am aware that I am remembering'? 'I am aware that I am thinking about the future'?
But you see, what eventually happens is that you discover that there isn't any way of being absent-minded. All thoughts are in the present and of the present. And when you discover that, you approach samadhi. Samadhi is the complete state, the fulfilled state of mind. And you will find many, many different ideas among the sects of Buddhists and Hindus as to what samadhi is. Some people call it a trance, some people call it a state of consciousness without anything in it, knowing with no object of knowledge. All these are varying opinions. I had a friend who was a Zen master, and he used to talk about samadhi, and he said a very fine example of samadhi is a fine horserider. When you watch a good cowboy, he is one being with the horse. So an excellent driver in a car makes the car his own body, and he absolutely is with it. So also a fine pair of dancers. They don't have to shove each other to get one to do what the other wants him to do. They have a way of understanding each other, of moving together as if they were siamese twins. That's samadhi, on the physical, ordinary, everyday level. The samadhi of which buddha speaks is the state which, as it is, the gateway to nirvana, the state in which the illusion of the ego as a separate thing disintegrates.
Now, when we get to that point in Buddhism, Buddhists do a funny thing, which is going to occupy our attention for a good deal of this seminar. They don't fall down and worship. They don't really have any name for what it is that is, really and basically. The idea of anatman, of non-self, is applied in Buddhism not only to the individual ego, but also to the notion that there is a self of the universe, a kind of impersonal or personal god, and so it is generally supposed that Buddhism is generally atheistic. It's true, depending on what you mean by atheism. Common or garden atheism is a form of belief, namely that I believe there is no god--and Hans Enkel[?] is its prophet. (I'm speaking of a famous atheist). The atheist positively denies the existence of any god. All right. Now, there is such an atheist, if you put dash between the 'a' and 'theist,' or speak about something called 'atheos'--'theos' in Greek means 'god'--but what is a non-god? A non-god is an inconceivable something or other.
I love the story about a debate in the Houses of Parliment in England, where, as you know, the Church of England is established and under control of the government, and the high eclesiastics had petitioned Parliment to let them have a new prayerbook. Somebody got up and said 'It's perfectly ridiculous that Parliment should decide on this, because as we well know, there are quite a number of atheists in these benches.' And somebody got up and said 'Oh, I don't think there are really any atheists. We all believe in some sort of something somewhere.'
Now again, of course, it isn't that Buddhism believes in some sort of something somewhere, and that is to say in vagueness. Here is the point: if you believe, if you have certain propositions that you want to assert about the ultimate reality, or what Portilli[?] calls 'the ultimate ground of being,' you are talking nonsense. Because you can't say something specific about everything. You see, supposing you wanted to say 'God has a shape.' But if god is all that there is, then God doesn't have any outside, so he can't have a shape. You have to have an outside and space outside it to have a shape. So that's why the Hebrews, too, are against people making images of God. But nonetheless, Jews and Christians persistently make images of God, not necessarily in pictures and statues, but they make images in their minds. And those are much more insidious images.
Buddhism is not saying that the Self, the great atman, or whatnot, it isn't denying that the experience which corresponds to these words is realizable. What it is saying is that if you make conceptions and doctrines about these things, your liable to become attached to them. You're liable to start believing instead of knowing. So they say in Zen Buddhism, 'The doctrine of Buddhism is a finger pointing at the moon. Do not mistake the finger for the moon.' Or so we might say in the West, the idea of God is a finger pointing at God, but what most people do is instead of following the finger, they suck it for comfort. And so buddha chopped off the finger, and undermined all metaphysical beliefs. There are many, many dialogues in the Pali scriptures where people try to corner the buddha into a metaphysical position. 'Is the world eternal?' The buddha says nothing. 'Is the world not eternal?' And he answers nuttin'. 'Is the world both eternal and not eternal?' And he don't say nuttin'. 'Is the world neither eternal nor not eternal?' And STILL he don't say nuttin'. He maintains what is called the noble silence. Sometimes called the thunder of silence, because this silence, this metaphysical silence, is not a void. It is very powerful. This silence is the open window through which you can see not concepts, not ideas, not beliefs, but the very goods. But if you say what it is that you see, you erect an image and an idol, and you misdirect people. It's better to destroy people's beliefs than to give them beliefs. I know it hurts, but it is The Way.
The World as Emptiness, Part II
You must understand as one of the fundamental points of Buddhism, the idea of the world as being in flux. I gave you this morning the Sanskrit word _anitya_ as one of the characteristics of being, emphasized by the buddha along with _anatman_, the unreality of a permanant self, and _duhkha_, the sense of frustration. Duhkha really arises from a person's failure to accept the other two characteristics: lack of permanant self and change.
You see, in Buddhism, the feeling that we have of an enduring organism--I meet you today and I see you, and then tomorrow I meet you again, and you look pretty much as you looked yesterday, and so I consider that you're the same person, but you aren't. Not really. When I watch a whirlpool in a stream, here's the stream flowing along, and there's always a whirlpool like the one at Niagra. But that whirlpool never, never really holds any water. The water is all the time rushing through it. In the same way, a university, the University of California--what is it? The students exchange at least every four years; the faculty changes at a somewhat slower rate; the building changes, they knock down old ones and put up new ones; the administration changes. So what is the University of California? It's a pattern. A doing of a particular kind. And so in just precisely that way, every one of us is a whirlpool in the tide of existence, and where every cell in our body, every every molocule, every atom is in constant flux, and nothing can be pinned down.
You know, you can put bands on pigeons, or migrating birds, and identify them and follow them, and find out where they go. But you can't tag atoms, much less electrons. They have a curious way of appearing and disappearing, and one of the great puzzles in physics is What are electons doing when we're not looking at them? Because our observation of them has to modify their behavior. We can't see an electron without putting it in an experimental situation where our examination of it in some way changes it. What we would like to know is what it is doing when we're not looking at it. Like does the light in the refrigerator really go off when we close the door?
But this is fundamental, you see, to Buddhistic philosophy. The philosophy of change. From one point of view, change is just too bad. Everything flows away, and there's a kind of sadness in that, a kind of nostalgia, and there may even be a rage. 'Go not gently into that good night, but rage, rage, at the dying of the light.'
But there's something curious--there can be a very fundamental change in one's attitude to the question of the world as fading. On the one hand resentment, and on the other delight. If you resist change--of course, you must, to some extent. When you meet another person, you don't want to be thoroughly rejected, but you love to feel a little resistance. Don't you, you know? You have a beautiful girl, and you touch her. You don't want her to go 'Blah!' But so round, so firm, so fully packed! A little bit of resistance, you see, is great. So there must always be resistance in change; otherwise there couldn't even be change. There'd just be a 'pfft!' The world would go 'pfft!' and that'd be the end of it.
But because there's always some resistance to change, there is a wonderful manifestation of form, there is a dance of life. But the human mind, as distinct from most animal minds, is terribly aware of time. And so we think a great deal about the future, and we know that every visible form is going to disappear and be replaced by so- called others. Are these others, others? Or are they the same forms returning? Of couse, that's a great puzzle. Are next year's leaves that come from a tree going to be the same as this year's leaves? What do you mean by the same? They'll be the same shape, they'll have the same botanical characteristics. But you'll be able to pick up a shriveled leaf from last autumn and say 'Look at the difference. This is last year's leaf; this is this year's leaf.' And in that sense, they're not the same.
What happens when any great musician plays a certain piece of music? He plays it today, and then he plays it again tomorrow. Is it the same piece of music, or is it another? In the Pali language, they say _naja-so, naja-ano[?]_ which means 'not the same, yet not another.' So, in this way, the Buddhist is able to speak of reincarnation of beings, without having to believe in some kind of soul entity that is reincarnated. Some kind of atman, some kind of fixed self, ego principle, soul principle that moves from one life to another. And this is as true in our lives as they go on now from moment to moment as it would be true of our lives as they appear and reappear again over millions of years. It doesn't make the slightest difference, except that there are long intervals and short intervals, high vibrations and low vibrations. When you hear a high sound, high note in the musical scale, you can't see any holes in it--it's going too fast--and it sounds completely continuous. But when you get the lowest audible notes that you can hear on an organ, you feel the shaking. You feel the vibration, you hear that music [throbbing] on and off.
So in the same way as we live now from day to day, we experience ourselves living at a high rate of vibration, and we appear to be continuous, although there is the rhythm of waking and sleeping. But the rhythym that runs from generation to generation and from life to life is much slower, and so we notice the gaps. We don't notice the gaps when the rhythym is fast. So we are living, as it were, on many, many levels of rhythym.
So this is the nature of change. If you resist it, you have duhkha, you have frustration and suffering. But on the other hand, if you understand change, you don't cling to it, and you let it flow, then it's no problem. It becomes positively beautiful, which is why in poetry, the theme of the evernescence[?] of the world is beautiful. When Shelly says,
The one remains, the many change and pass,
heaven's light forever shines, Earth's shadows fly.
Life, like a dome of many-colored glass,
stains the white radiance of eternity
until death shatters it to fragments.
Now what's beautiful in that? Is it heaven's light that shines forever? Or is it rather the dome of many-colored glass that shatters? See, it's always the image of change that really makes the poem.
Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow,
creeps on life's petty pace from day to day,
until the last syllable of recorded time.
you know, it's so well-said that it's not so bad after all. The poet has got the
intuition that things are always running out, that things are always disappearing,
has some hidden marvel in it. I was discussing with someone during the lunch intermission,
the Japanese have a word _yugen_, which has no English equivalent whatsoever.
Yugen is in a way digging change. It's described poetically, you have the feeling
of yugen when you see out in the distant water some ships hidden behind a far-off
island. You have the feeling of yugen when you watch wild geese suddenly seen
and then lost in the clouds. You have the feeling of yugen when you look across
Mt Tamapeis, and you've never been to the other side, and you see the sky beyond.
You don't go over there to look and see what's on the other side, that wouldn't
be yugen. You let the other side be the other side, and it invokes something in
your imagination, but you don't attempt to define it to pin it down. Yugen.
So in the same way, the coming and going of things in the world is marvelous. They go. Where do they go? Don't answer, because that would spoil the mystery. They vanish into the mystery. But if you try to persue them, you destroy yugen. That's a very curious thing, but that idea of yugen, which in Chinese characters means, as it were, kind of 'the deep mystery of the valley.' There's a poem in Chinese which says 'The wind drops, but the petals keep falling. The bird calls, and the mountain becomes more mysterious.' Isn't that strange? There's no wind anymore, and yet petals are dropping. And a bird in the canyon cries, and that one sound in the mountains brings out the silence with a wallop.
I remember when I was almost a child in the Pyrenees in the southwest of France. We went way up in this gorgeous silence of the mountains, but in the distance we could hear the bells on the cows clanking. And somehow those tiny sounds brought out the silence. And so in the same way, slight permanances bring out change. And they give you this very strange sense. Yugen. The mystery of change. You know, in Elliot's poem, 'The Four Quartets,' where he says 'The dark, dark, dark. They all go into the dark, distinguished families, members of the book of the director of directors, everybody, they all go into the dark.' Life IS life, you see, because, just because it's always disappearing. Supposing suddenly, by some kind of diabolical magic, I could say 'zzzip!' and every one of you would stay the same age forever. You'd be like Madam Trusseau's wax works. It'd be awful! In a thousand years from now, what beautiful hags you would be.
So, the trouble is, that we have one-sided minds, and we notice the wave of life when it is at its peak or crest. We don't notice it when it's at the trough, not in the ordinary way. It's the peaks that count. Take a buzzsaw: what seems important to us is the tips of the teeth. They do the cutting, not the valleys between the teeth. But see, you couldn't have tips of teeth without the valleys between. Therefore the saw wouldn't cut without both tips and V- shaped valleys. But we ignore that. We don't notice the valleys so much as we notice the mountains. Valleys point down, mountains point up, and we prefer things that point up, because up is good and down is bad.
But seriously, we don't blame the peaks for being high and the valleys for being low. But it is so, you see, that we ignore the valley aspect of things, and so all wisdom begins by emphasizing the valley aspect as distinct from the peak aspect. We pay plenty of attention to the peak aspect, that's what captures out attention, but we somehow screen out the valley aspect. But that makes us very uncomfortable. It seems we want and get pleasure from looking at the peaks, but actually this denies our pleasure, becuase secretly we know that every peak is followed by a valley. The valley of the shadow of death.
And we're always afraid, because we're not used to looking at valleys, because we're not used to living with them, the represent to us the strange and threatening unknown. Maybe we're afraid the principle of the valley will conquer, and the peaks will be overwhelmed. Maybe death is stronger than life, because life always seems to require an effort; death is something into which you slide effortlessly. Maybe nothing will overcome something in the end. Wouldn't that be awful? And so we resist change, ignorant of the fact that change is life, and that nothing is invariably the adverse face of something.
For such purposes, I have to give you a very elementary lesson about the properties of space. Because most people are afraid of space. They ignore it, and they think space is nothing. Space is simply, unless it happens to be filled with air, a nothingness between things. But without space, there is no energy and no motion, and it can be illustrated in this way: in this area is the whole universe, and there's only one thing in it, and that's a ball. Is it moving, or is it still? There's absolutely no way of deciding. None whatever. So it's neither moving, nor is it still, because you can't be aware of or measure motion, except in relation to something that's relatively still. All right, let's have two balls. Ball one, and ball two. Now, these balls--we suddenly notice that the distance between them increases. Which one moved? Or did they both move? there's no way of deciding. You could say the distance, ie, the space between them increased. But who started it is impossible to determine. All right, three balls. Now, we notice for example that one and three stay together, and they keep a constant distance apart. But two goes away and comes back. Now what's happening? One and three, since they stay together, constitute a group. Two recedes or approaches, or does it? Or is the group one and three receding from or approaching towards two? There's one way of deciding. One and three constitute a majority. So if they vote, they can say whether they are going towards two or going away from two. Two doesn't like this. So two decides it can lick 'em by joining them, so two comes and sits here. Now what's going to happen? Neither one and three can say to two, and two can't say to three, 'Why do you keep following me around?' Because again, because they all maintain a constant distance, they have no motion.
All right. We have the same problem on a very big scale, in what we call the expansion of the universe. All the galaxies observable seem to be getting further away from each other. Now, are they going further away from us, or are we going further away from them, or are they all all together going further away from each other? Astronomers have suggested that what is expanding is the space between them. And so we get the idea of expanding space. This isn't quite the right answer. What has been neglected in all this, if I can say either that the objects are moving away from each other, they're doing it. Or it's equally possible for me to say that it's the space they're in that's expanding. But I can't decide which one is which. The meaning of this inability to decide is that space and solid are two ways of talking about the same thing. Space-solid. You don't find space without solids; you don't find solids without space. If I say there's a universe in which there isn't anything but space, you must say 'Space between what?' Space is relationship, and it always goes together with solid, like back goes with front. But the devisive mind ignores space. And it thinks it's the solids that do the whole job, that they're the only thing that's real. That is, to put it in other words, conscious attention ignores intervals, because it thinks they're unimportant.
Let's consider music. When you hear music, most people think that what they hear is a succession of notes or tones. If all you heard when you listen to music were a succession of tones, you would hear no melody, and no harmony. You would hear nothing but a succession of noises. What you really hear when you hear melody is the interval between one tone and another. The steps as it were on the scale. If you can't hear that, you're tone-deaf and don't enjoy music at all. It's the interval that's the important thing. So in the same way, in the intervals between this year's leaves, last year's leaves, this generation of people and that generation, the interval is in some ways just as important, in some ways more important than what it's between. Actually they go together, but I say the interval is sometimes more important because we underemphasize it, so I'm going to overemphasize it as a correction. So space, night, death, darkness, not being there is an essential componant of being there. You don't have the one without the other, just as your buzzsaw has no teeth without having valleys between the tips of them. That's the way being is made up.
So then, in Buddhism, change is emphasized. First, to unsettle people who think that they can achieve permanance by hanging on to life. And it seems that the preacher is wagging his finger at them and saying 'Vanity of vanities, all is vanity.' So all the preachers together say 'Don't cling to those things.' So then, as a result of that, and now I'm going to speak in strictly Buddhist terms, the follower of the way of buddha seeks deliverance from attachment to the world of change. He seeks nirvana, the state beyond change, which the buddha called the unborn, the unoriginated, the uncreated, and the unformed. But then, you see, what he finds out is in seeking a state beyond change, seeking nirvana as something away from _samsara_, which is the name for the wheel, he is still seeking something permanant. And so, as Buddhism went on, they thought about this a great deal. And this very point was the point of division between the two great schools of Buddhism, which in the south, as I explained, were Theravada, the doctrine of the Thera, the elders, sometimes known, disrespectfully, as the Hinayana. 'Yana' means 'a vehicle, a conveyance, or a ferryboat.' This is a yana, and I live on a ferryboat because that's my job. Then there is the other school of Buddhism, called the Mahayana. 'Maha' means 'great'; 'hina,' little. The great vehicle and the little vehicle.
Now, what is this? The Mahayanas say 'You're little just get a few people who are very, very tough ascetics, and takes them across the shore to nirvana.' But the great vehicle shows people that nirvana is not different from everyday life. So that when you have reached nirvana, if you think 'Now I have attained it, now I have succeeded, now I have caught the secret of the universe, and I am at peace,' you have only a false peace. You have become a stone buddha. You have a new illusion of the changeless. So it is said that such a person is a pratyeka-buddha. That means 'private buddha.' 'I've got it all for myself.' And in contrast with this kind of pratyeka- buddha, who gains nirvana and stays there, the Mahayanas use the word _bodhisattva_. 'Sattva' means 'essential principle'; 'bodhi,' awakening. A person whose essential being is awakened. The word used to mean 'junior buddha,' someone on the way to becoming a buddha. But in the course of time, it came to mean someone who had attained buddhahood, who had reached nirvana, but who returns into everyday life to deliver everyday beings. This is the popular idea of a bodhisattva--a savior.
So, in the popular Buddhism of Tibet and China and Japan, people worship the bodhisattvas, the great bodhisattvas, as saviors. Say, the one I talked about this morning, the hermaphroditic Quan-Yin[?]. People loved Quan-Yin because she--he/she, she/he--could be a buddha, but has come back into the world to save all beings. The Japanese call he/she _Kanon[?]_, and they have in Kyoto an image of Kanon with one thousand arms, radiating like an aureole all around this great golden figure, and these thousand arms are one thousand different ways of rescuing beings from ignorance. Kanon is a funny thing. I remember one night when I suddenly realized that Kanon was incarnate in the whole city of Kyoto, that this whole city was Kanon, that the police department, the taxi drivers, the fire department, the shopkeepers, in so far as this whole city was a collaborate effort to sustain human life, however bumbling, however inefficient, however corrupt, it was still a manifestation of Kanon, with its thousand arms, all working independantly, and yet as one.
So they revere those bodhisattvas as the saviors, come back into the world to deliver all beings. But there is a more esoteric interpretation of this. The bodhisattva returns into the world. That means he has discovered that you don't have to go anywhere to find nirvana. Nirvana is where you are, provided you don't object to it. In other words, change--and everything is change; nothing can be held on to--to the degree that you go with a stream, you see, you are are still, you are flowing with it. But to the degree you resist the stream, then you notice that the current is rushing past you and fighting you. So swim with it, go with it, and you're there. You're at rest. And this is of course particularly true when it comes to those moments when life really seems to be going to take us away, and the stream of change is going to swallow us completely. The moment of death, and we think, 'Oh-oh, this is it. This is the end.' And so at death we withdraw, say 'No, no, no, not that, not yet, please.'
But, actually, the whole problem is that there really is no other problem for human beings, than to go over that waterfall when it comes. Just as you go over any other waterfall, just as you go on from day-to-day, just as you go to sleep at night. Be absolutely willing to die. Now, I'm not preaching. I'm not saying you OUGHT to be willing to die, and that you should muscle up your courage and somehow put on a good front when the terrible thing comes. That's not the idea at all. The point is that you can only die well if you understand this system of ways. If you understand that you're disappearance as the form in which you think you are you. Your disappearance as this particular organism is simply seasonal. That you are just as much the dark space beyond death as you are the light interval called life. These are just two sides of you, because YOU is the total way. You see, we can't have half a way. Nobody ever saw waves that just had crests, and no troughs. So you can't have half a human being, who is born but doesn't die. Half a thing. That would be only half a thing. But the propogation of vibrations, and life is vibration, it simply goes on an on, but its cycles are short cycles and long cycles.
Space, you see, is not just nothing. If I could magnify my hand to an enormous degree so you could see all the molocules in it, I don't know how far apart they would be, but it seems to me they would be something like tennis balls in a very, very large space, and you'd look when I move my hand, and say 'For god's sake, look at all those tennis balls, they're all going together. Crazy. And there are no strings tying them together. Isn't that queer?' No, but there's space going with them, and space is a function of, or it's an inseparable aspect of whatever solids are in the space. That is the clue, probably, to what we mean by gravity. We don't know yet. So in the same way, when those marvelous sandpipers come around here, the little ones. While they're in the air flying, they have one mind, they move all together. When they alight on the mud, they become individuals and they go pecking around for worms or whatever. But one click of the fingers and all those things go up into the air. They don't seem to have a leader, because they don't follow when they turn; they all turn together and go off in a different direction. It's amazing. But they're like the molocules in my hand.
So then, you see, here's the principle: when you don't resist change, I mean over resist. I don't mean being flabby, like I said at the beginning. When you don't resist change, you see that the changing world, which disappears like smoke, is no different from the nirvana world. Nirvana, as I said, means breathe out, let go of the breath. So in the same way, don't resist change; it's all the same principle.
So the bodhisattva saves all beings, not by preaching sermons to them, but by showing them that they are delivered, they are liberated, by the act of not being able to stop changing. You can't hang on to yourself. You don't have to try to not hang on to yourself. It can't be done, and that is salvation. That's why you may think it a grisly habit, but certain monks keep skulls on their desks, 'momentomori,' 'be mindful of death.' Gurgdjieff says in one of his books that the most important thing for anyone to realize is that you and every person you see will soon be dead. It sounds so gloomy to us, because we have devised a culture fundamentally resisting death. There is a wonderful saying that Anandakuri- Swami[?] used to quote: 'I pray that death will not come and find me still unannihilated.' In other words, that man dies happy if there is no one to die. In other words, if the ego's disappeared before death caught up to him.
But you see, the knowledge of death helps the ego to disappear, because it tells you you can't hang on. So what we need, if we're going to have a good religion around, that's one of the places where it can start: having, I suppose they'd call it The Institution For Creative Dying, something like that. You can have one department where you can have champaign and cocktail parties to die with, another department where you can have glorious religious rituals with priests and things like that, another department where you can have psychadelic drugs, another department where you can have special kinds of music, anything, you know. All these arrangements will be provided for in a hospital for delightful dying. But that's the thing, to go out with a bang instead of a whimper.
The World as Emptiness, Part III
I was talking a great deal yesterday afternoon about the Buddhist additude to change, to death, to the transience of the world, and was showing that preachers of all kinds stir people up in the beginning by alarming them about change. That's like somebody actually raising an alarm, just the same way as if I want to pay you a visit I ring the doorbell, and then we can come in and I don't need to raise an alarm anymore. So in the same way, it sounds terrible, you see, that everything is going to die and pass away, and here you are, thinking that happiness, sanity, and security consist in clinging on to things which can't be clung to, and in any case there isn't anybody to cling to them. The whole thing is a weaving of smoke.
So, that's the initial standpoint, but, as soon as you really discover this, and you stop clinging to change, then everything is quite different. It becomes amazing. Not only do all your senses become more wide awake, not only do you feel almost as if you're walking on air, but you see, finally, that there is no duality, no difference between the ordinary world and the nirvana world. They're the same world, but what makes the difference is the point of view. And of course, if you keep identifying yourself with some sort of stable entity that sits and watches the world go by, you don't acknowledge your union, your inseparatability from everything that there is. You go by with all the rest of the things, but if you insist on trying to take a permanant stand, on trying to be a permanant witness of the flux, then it grates against you, and you feel very uncomfortable.
But it is a fundamental feeling in most of us that we are such witnesses. We feel that behind the stream of our thoughts, of our feelings, of our experiences, there is something which is the thinker, the feeler, and the experiencer. Not recognizing that that is itself a thought, feeling, or experiece, and it belongs within and not outside the changing panorama of experience. It's what you call a cue signal. In other words, when you telephone, and your telephone conversation is being tape recorded, it's the law that there shall be a beep every so many seconds, and that beep cues you in to the fact that this conversation is recorded. So in a very similar way, in our everyday experience there's a beep which tells us this is a continuous experience which is mine. Beep!
In the same way, for example, it is a cue signal when a composer arranges some music, and he keeps in it a recurrent theme, but he makes many variations on it. That, or more subtle still, he keeps within it a consistent style, so you know that it's Mozart all the way along, because that sounds like Mozart. But there isn't, as it were, a constant noise going all the way through to tell you it's continuous, although, in Hindu music, they do have something called the drone. There is, behind all the drums and every kind of singing, and it always sounds the note which is the tonic of the scale being used. But in Hindu music, that drone represents the eternal self, the brahman, behind all the changing forms of nature. But that's only a symbol, and to find out what is eternal--you can't make an image of it; you can't hold on to it. And so it's psychologically more condusive to liberation to remember that the thinker, or the feeler, or the experiencer, and the experiences are all together. They're all one. But, if out of anxiety, you try to stabilize, keep permanant, the separate observer, you are in for conflict.
Of course, the separate observer, the thinker of the thoughts, is an abstraction which we create out of memory. We think of the self, the ego, rather, as a repository of memories, a kind of safety deposit box, or record, or filing cabinet place where all our experiences are stored. Now, that's not a very good idea. It's more that memory is a dynamic system, not a storage system. It's a repitition of rhythyms, and these rhythyms are all part and parcel of the ongoing flow of present experience. In other words, first of all, how do you distinguish between something known now, and a memory? Actually, you don't know anything at all until you remember it. Because if something happens that is purely instantaneous--if a light flashes, or, to be more accurate, if there is a flash, lasting only one millionth of a second, you probably wouldn't experience it, because it wouldn't give you enough time to remember it.
We say in customary speech, 'Well, it has to make an impression.' So in a way, all present knowledge is memory, because you look at something, and for a while the rods and cones in your retina respond to that, and they do their stuff--jiggle, jiggle, jiggle--and so as you look at things, they set up a series of echoes in your brain. And these echoes keep reverberating, because the brain is very complicated. But you then see--first of all, everything you know is remembered, but there is a way in which we distinguish between seeing somebody here now, and the memory of having seen somebody else who's not here now, but whom you did see in the past, and you know perfectly well, when you remember that other person's face, it's not an experience of the person being here. How is this? Because memory signals have a different cue attached to them than present time signals. They come on a different kind of vibration. Sometimes, however, the wiring gets mixed up, and present experiences come to us with a memory cue attached to them, and then we have what is called a _deja vu_ experience: we're quite sure we've experienced this thing before.
But the problem that we don't see, don't ordinarily recognize, is that although memory is a series of signals with a special kind of cue attached to them so we don't confuse them with present experience, they are actually all part of the same thing as present experience, they are all part of this constantly flowing life process, and there is no separate witness standing aside from the process, watching it go by. You're all involved in it.
Now, accepting that, you see, going with that, although at first it sounds like the knell of doom, is if you don't clutch it anymore, splended. That's why I said death should be occasion for a great celebration, that people should say 'Happy death!' to you, and always surround death with joyous rites, because this is the opportunity for the greatest of all experiences, when you can finally let go because you know there's nothing else to do.
There was a _kamikaze_ pilot who escaped because his plane that he was flying at an American aircraft carrier went wrong, and he landed in the water instead of hitting the plane, so he survived. But he said afterwards that he had the most extraordinary state of exaltation. It wasn't a kind of patriotic ecstasy, but the very though that in a moment he would cease to exist--he would just be gone--for some mysterious reason that he couldn't understand, made him feel absolutely like a god. And when I talk to a certain German sage whose name is Count Van Derkheim[?], he said that during the war this happened to people again and again and again. He said they heard the bombs screaming down over their heads, and knew this was the last moment, or that they were in a concentration camp with absolutely no hope of getting out, or that they were displaced in such a way that their whole career was shattered. He said in each of these cases, when anybody accepted the situation as totally inevitable, they suddenly got this amazing kind of enlightenment experience of freedom from ego. Well, they tried to explain it to their friends when it was over and everything had settled down again, and their friends said 'Well, you were under such pressure that you must have gone a little crazy.' But Van Derkheim said 'A great deal of my work is to reassure these people that in that moment there was a moment of truth, and they really saw how things are.'
Well then, in Buddhist philosophy, this sort of annihilation of oneself, this acceptance of change is the doctrine of the world as the void. This doctrine did not emerge very clearly, very prominantly, in Buddhism until quite a while after Guatama the buddha had lived. We begin to find this, though, becoming prominant about the year 100 BC, and by 200 AD, it had reached its peak. And this was developed by the Mahayana Buddhists, and it is the doctrine of a whole class of literature which goes by this complex name: _prajna-paramita_. Now 'prajna' means 'wisdom.' 'Paramita,' a crossing over, or going beyond, and there is a small prajna-paramita sutra, a big prajna-paramita sutra, and then there's a little short summary of the whole thing called the Heart Sutra, and that is recited by Buddhists all over Northern Asia, Tibet, China, and Japan, and it contains the saying 'that which is void is precisely the world of form, that which is form is precisely the void.' Form is emptiness, emptiness is form, and so on, and it elaborates on this theme. It's very short, but it's always chanted at important Buddhist ceremonies. And so, it is supposed by scholars of all kinds who have a missionary background that the Buddhists are nihilists, that they teach that the world is really nothing, there isn't anything, and that there seems to be something is purely an illusion. But of course this philosophy is much more subtle than that.
The main person who is responsible for developing and maturing this philosophy was Nagarjuna, and he lived about 200 AD. One of the most astonishing minds that the human race has ever produced. And the name of Nagarjuna's school of thought is _Madhyamika_, which means, really, 'the doctrine of the middle way.' But it's sometimes also called 'the doctrine of emptiness,' or _Sunyavada_, from the basic world 'sunya,' or sometimes 'sunya' has 'ta' added on the end, and that 'ta' means 'ness'--'emptiness.'
Well, then, first of all, emptiness means, essentially, 'transience,' that's the first thing it means. Nothing to grasp, nothing permanant, nothing to hold on to. But it means this with special reference to ideas of reality, ideas of god, ideas of the self, the brahman, anything you like. What it means is that reality escapes all concepts. If you say there is a god, that is a concept; if you say there is no god, that's a concept. And Nagarjuna is saying that always your concepts will prove to be attempts to catch water in a sieve, or wrap it up in a parcel. So he invented a method of teaching Buddhism which was an extention of the dialectic method that the buddha himself first used. And this became the great way of studying, especially at the University of Nalanda[?], which has been reestablished in modern times, but of course it was destroyed by the Muslims when they invaded India. The University of Nalanda, where the dialectic method of enlightenment was taught.
The dialectic method is perfectly simple; it can be done with an individual student and a teacher, or with a group of students and a teacher, and you would be amazed how effective it is when it involves precious little more than discussion. Some of you no doubt have attended tea groups, blab-blab-blabs, or whatever they're called, things of that kind, in which people are there, and they don't know quite why they're there, and there's some sort of so- called resource person to disturb them. And after a while they get the most incredible emotions. Somebody tries to dominate the discussion of the group, say, and then the group kind of goes into the question of why he's trying to dominate it, and so on and so forth. Well, these were the original blab-blabs, and they have been repeated in modern times with the most startling effects. That is to say, the teacher gradually elicits from his participant students what are their basic premises of life. What is your metaphisic, in the sense--I'm not using metaphysic in a kind of spiritual sense, but what are your basic assumptions? What real ideas do you operate on as to what is right and what is wrong, what is the good life and what is not. What arguments are you going to argue strongest? Where do you take your stand? The teacher soon finds this out, for each individual concerned, and then he demolishes it. He absolutely takes away that person's compass. And so they start getting very frightened, and say to the teacher, 'All right, I see now, of course I can't depend on this, but what should I depend on?' And unfortunately, the teacher doesn't offer any alternative suggestions, but simply goes on to examine the question, Why do you think you have to have something to depend on? Now, this is kept up over quite a period, and the only thing that keeps the students from going insane is the presence of the teacher, who seems to be perfectly happy, but isn't proposing any ideas. He's only demolishing them.
So we get, finally, but not quite finally, to the void, the sunya, and what then? Well, when you get to the void, there is an enormous and unbelievable sense of relief. That's nirvana. 'Whew!', as I gave a proper English translation of nirvana. So they are liberated, and yet, they can't quite say why or what it is they found out, so they call it the void. But Nagarjuna went on to say 'You mustn't cling to the void.' You have to void the void. And so the void of nonvoid is the great state, as it were, of Nagarjuna's Buddhism. But you must remember that all that has been voided, all that has been denied, are those concepts in which one has hither to attempted to pin down what is real.
In Zen Buddhist texts, they say 'You cannot nail a peg into the sky.' And so, to be a man of the sky, a man of the void, is also called 'a man not depending on anything.' And when you're not hung on anything, you are the only thing that isn't hung on anything, which is the universe, which doesn't hang, you see. Where would it hang? It has no place to fall on, even though it may be dropping; there will never be the crash of it landing on a concrete floor somewhere. But the reason for that is that it won't crash below because it doesn't hang above. And so there is a poem in Chinese which speaks of such a person as having above, not a tile to cover the head; below, not an inch of ground on which to stand.
And you see, this which to people like us, who are accustomed to rich imageries of the divine--the loving father in heaven, who has laid down the eternal laws, oh word of god incarnate, oh wisdom from above, oh truth unchanged unchanging, oh light of life and love. Then how does it go on? Something about he's written it all in the bible, the wisdom from which the hallowed page, a lantern for our footsteps, shines out from age to age. See, so that's very nice. We feel we know where we are, and that it's all been written down, and that in heaven the lord god resplendant with glory, with all the colors of the rainbow, with all the saints and angels around, and everything like that. So we feel that's positive, that we've got a real rip-roaring gutsy religion full of color and so on. But it doesn't work that way.
The more clear your image of god, the less powerful it is, because you're clinging to it, the more it's an idol. But voiding it completely isn't going to turn it into what you think of as void. What would you think of as void? Being lost in a fog, so that it's white all around, and you can't see in any direction. Being in the darkness. Or the color of your head as perceived by your eyes. That's probably the best illustration that we would think of as a void, because it isn't black, it isn't white, it isn't anything. But that's still not the void. Take the lesson from the head. How does your head look to your eyes? Well, I tell you, it looks like what you see out in front of you, because all that you see out in front of you is how you feel inside your head. So it's the same with this.
And so, for this reason, the great sixth patriarch, Hui-Neng, in China, said it was a great mistake for those who are practicing Buddhist meditation to try to make their minds empty. And a lot of people tried to do that. They sat down and tried to have no thoughts whatsoever in their minds. Not only no thoughts, but no sense experiences, so they'd close their eyes, they'd plug up their ears, and generally go into sensory deprivation. Well, sensory deprivation, if you know how to handle it, can be quite interesting. It'll have the same sort of results as taking LSD or something like that, and there are special labs nowdays where you can be sensorily deprived to an amazing degree.
But if you're a good yogi this doesn't bother you at all, sends some people crazy. But if you did this world, you can have a marvelous time in a sensory deprivation scene. Also, especialy, if they get you into a condition of weightlessness. Skin divers, going down below a certain number of feet--I don't know exactly how far it is--get a sense of weightlessness, and at the same time this deprives them of every sense of responsibility. They become alarmingly happy, and they have been known to simply take off their masks and offer them to a fish. And of course they then drown. So if you skin dive, you have to keep your eye on the time. You have to have a water watch or a friend who's got a string attached to you. If you go down that far, and at a certain specific time you know you have got to get back, however happy you feel, and however much inclined you feel to say 'Survival? Survival? Whatever the hell's the point of that?' And this is happening to the men who go out into space. They increasingly find that they have to have automatic controls to bring them back. Quite aside that they can't change in any way from the spaceship, because once you become weightless... Now isn't that interesting?
Can you become weightless here? I said a little while ago that the person who really accepts transience begins to feel weightless. When Suzuki was asked what was it like to have experienced satori, enlightenment, he said it's just like ordinary everyday experience, but about two inches off the ground. Juan-Za[?], the Taoist, once said 'It is easy enough to stand still, the difficulty is to walk without touching the ground.' Now why do you feel so heavy? It isn't just a matter of gravitation and weight. It is that you feel that you are carrying your body around. So there is a koan in Zen Buddhism, 'Who is it that carries this corpse around?' Common speech expresses this all of the time: 'life is a drag.' 'I feel like I'm just dragging myself around.' 'My body is a burden to me.' To whom? To whom? That's the question. When there is no body left for whom the body can be a burden, then the body isn't a burden. But so long as you fight it, it is.
So then, when there is no body left to resist the thing that we call change, which is simply another word for 'life,' and when we dispel the illusion that we think our thoughts, instead of being just a stream of thoughts, and that we feel our feelings, instead of being just feelings--it's like saying, you know, 'To feel the feelings' is a redundant expression. It's like saying 'Actually, I hear sounds,' for there ARE no sounds which are not heard. Hearing is sound. Seeing is sight. You don't see sights. Sight-seeing is a ridiculous word! You could say just either 'sighting,' or 'seeing,' one or the other, but SIGHT-seeing is nonsense!
So we keep doubling our words, and this doubling--hearing sounds, seeing sights--is comparable to occilation in an electrical system where there's too much feedback. Where, you remember, in the old-fashioned telephone, where the receiver was separate from the mouthpiece, the transmitter. If you wanted to annoy someone who was abusing you on the telephone, you could make them listen to themselves by putting the receiver to the mouthpiece. But it actually didn't have that effect; it set up occilation. It started a howl that would be very, very hard on the ears. Same way if you turn a television camera at the monitor--that is to say, the television set in the studio, the whole thing will start to jiggle. The visual picture will be of occillation. And the same thing happens here. When you get to think that you think your thoughts, the you standing aside the thoughts has the same sort of consequence as seeing double, and then you think 'Can I observe the thinker thinking the thoughts?' Or, 'I am worried, and I ought not to worry, but because I can't stop worrying, I'm worried that I worry.' And you see where that could lead to. It leads to exactly the same situation that happens in the telephone, and that is what we call anxiety, trembling.
But his discipline that we're talking about of Nagarjuna's abolishes anxiety because you discover that no amount of anxiety makes any difference to anything that's going to happen. In other words, from the first standpoint, the worst is going to happen: we're all going to die. And don't just put it off in the back of your mind and say 'I'll consider that later.' It's the most important thing to consider NOW, because it is the mercy of nature, because it's going to enable you to let go and not defend yourself all the time, waste all energies in self-defense.
So this doctrine of the void is really the basis of the whole Mahayana movement in Buddhism. It's marvelous. The void is, of course, in Buddhist imagery, symbolized by a mirror, because a mirror has no color and yet reflects all colors. When this man I talked of, Hui-Neng, said that you shouldn't just try to cultivate a blank mind, what he said was this: the void, sunyata, is like space. Now, space contains everything--the mountains, the oceans, the stars, the good people and the bad people, the plants, the animals, everything. The mind in us--the true mind--is like that. You will find that when Buddhists use the word 'mind'--they've several words for 'mind,' but I'm not going into the technicality at the moment-- they mean space. See, space is your mind. It's very difficult for us to see that because we think we're IN space, and look out at it. There are various kinds of space. There's visual space--distance-- there is audible space--silence--there is temporal space--as we say, between times--there is musical space--so-called distance between intervals, or distance between tones, rather; quite a different kind of space than temporal or visual space. There's tangible space. But all these spaces, you see, are the mind. They're the dimensions of consciousness.
And so, this great space, which every one of us aprehends from a slightly different point of view, in which the universe moves, this is the mind. So it's represented by a mirror, because although the mirror has no color, it is for that reason able to receive all the different colors. Meister Eckhardt[?] said 'In order to see color, my eye has to be free from color.' So in the same way, in order not only to see, but also to hear, to think, to feel, you have to have an empty head. And the reason why you are not aware of your brain cells--you're only aware of your brain cells if you get a tumor or something in the brain, when it gets sick--but in the ordinary way, you are totally unconscious of your brain cells; they're void. And for that reason you see everything else.
So that's the central principle of the Mahayana, and it works in such a way, you see, that it releases people from the notion that Buddhism is clinging to the void. This was very important when Buddhism went into China. The Chinese really dug this, because Chinese are a very practical people, and when they found these Hindu Buddhist monks trying to empty their minds and to sit perfectly still and not to engage in any family activities--they were celibates--Chinese thought they were crazy. Why do that? And so the Chinese reformed Buddhism, and they allowed Buddhist priests to marry. In fact, what they especially enjoyed was a sutra that came from India in which a layman was a wealthy merchant called Vimalakirti outargued all the other disciples of buddha. And of course, you know these dialectic arguments are very, very intense things. If you win the argument, everybody else has to be your disciple. So Vimalakirti the layman won the debate, even with Manjustri[?], who is the bodhisattva of supreme wisdom. They all had a contest to define the void, and all of them gave their definitions. Finally Manjustri gave his, and Vimalakirti was asked for his definition, and he said nothing, and so he won the whole argument. 'The thunderous silence.'
So Chinese and Japanese Buddhism is very strongly influenced by that trend that the void and form are the same. This is a very favorite subject for Zen masters and people who like to write. The void precisely is form. And they do this with great flourishes of caligraphy on the big sheets of paper. I'll show you some; I've got some for the seminar after next. But you see, this is not a denial of the world; it's not a putdown idea. To say that this world is diaphanous as, to use Shakespeare's phrase, an insubstantial pageant, is really to get into the heart of its glory.
The Middle Way
The path leading to the ending of suffering is called the Middle Way because it avoids the two extremes of self-indulgence and self-torment. Such extreme behavior does not lead to peace of mind. This pathway consists of cultivating virtue, meditative serenity and wisdom and is further elaborated as the Noble Eightfold Path:
1. The perfection of understanding: right view of the basic truths of existence.
2. The perfection of intention: thoughts motivated by loving-kindness, compassion and renunciation.
3. The perfection of speech: truthful, harmonious, gentle and meaningful.
4. The perfection of behavior: harmlessness, not stealing and responsible sexual conduct.
5. The perfection of employment: earning a living in a way that does not harm or exploit others or oneself.
6. The perfection of effort: cultivating and maintaining wholesome states of mind while overcoming unwholesome states and keeping them at bay.
7. The perfection of conscious awareness: mindfulness of one's body, feelings, mind and objects of mind.
8. The perfection of meditative concentration: deep unification, peace and purity of mind.
When all eight factors of the path are brought to maturity, one penetrates the true nature of existence with insight and reaps the fruit of the Buddha's teachings: perfected wisdom and unshakeable liberation.
Worldly & Hearer Doctrines Don't Qualify as Perfect Wisdom
From Nagarjuna's Treatise on the Great Perfection of Wisdom
Question: All of the worldly and common classics as well as all of the ninety-six types of monastic scriptures claim that their doctrines reflect the ultimate reality aspect of all dharmas. Additionally, the three-fold canon of the Hearer's Dharma is also held to reflect the ultimate reality aspect of all dharmas. Why are such cases as these not deemed to constitute praj~naa-paaramitaa and instead only the ultimate reality aspect of all dharmas as described in this sutra is deemed to constitute praj~naa-paaramitaa?
Response: The worldly and common classics are not reflective of ultimate reality because they are dedicated to the establishment of the state, the preservation of the family, the person, one's fate, longevity, and happiness. Because the non-Buddhist monastics fall into the dharmas of erroneous views whereby their minds are affectionately attached, their doctrines are not reflective of ultimate reality either.
Although the Dharma of the Hearers does contain the four truths and they do employ impermanence, suffering, emptiness and non-self in the contemplation of the ultimate reality aspect of all dharmas, because their wisdom is incomplete and is not acutely sharp, they are unable to act on behalf of all beings. Although they do possess actual wisdom, because it is not employed for the sake of succeeding in the dharma of Buddhahood, it is not referred to as the praj~naa-paaramitaa. For instance, Sariputra and the others have not even heard the names of the various samaadhis which the Buddha enters and exits, how much the less have they been able to know them directly. Why is this the case? When the Arhats and Pratyekabuddhas first formulated their resolve they had no great vows and they had no great loving-kindness or great compassion. They have not sought to create all forms of merit. They have not made offerings to all of the Buddhas of the three periods of time throughout the ten directions. They have not sought to know the ultimate reality aspect of all dharmas in a way which utterly plumbs the truth. This is because they have sought only to gain liberation from the sufferings of aging, sickness and death.
From the time they first formulated the resolve to obtain bodhi, the Bodhisattvas they have had vast and great vows. They have possessed the great loving-kindness and compassion, have sought to create all forms of merit, and have made offerings to all of the Buddhas of the three periods of time throughout the ten directions. They possess great sharp wisdom with which they have sought the ultimate reality aspect of all dharmas. They have been able to dispense with all of the various kinds of contemplations such as the so-called contemplation of purity, the contemplation of impurity, the contemplation of permanence, the contemplation of impermanence, the contemplation of blissfulness, the contemplation of suffering, the contemplation of emptiness, the contemplation of substantiality, the contemplation of self, and the contemplation of the absence of self. They have relinquished all such contemplations as these which are rooted in the power of the mind influenced by erroneous perceptions.
They have taken the ultimate reality aspect of external conditions as the sole object of contemplation. It is neither pure nor impure, neither permanent nor impermanent, neither blissful nor suffering, neither empty nor substantial, and neither self nor non-self. They have not become attached to any such contemplations as these because worldly, common dharmas cannot be gotten at. They do not correspond to the supreme meaning, universal pervasiveness, and purity and are not beyond being refuted or demolished. The place in which all of the Aaryas course is what is worthy to be referred to as the praj~naa-paaramitaa