The writer of the present study in the teachings and evidences of the Esoteric Tradition, is as well aware as any other one may or may not be of the fact that it is quite customary in Occidental countries strongly to question, if not to deny outright, the existence of a Universal or Esoteric Wisdom upon which repose as upon a foundation the various and different and differing great religions and great philosophies of the ancient world. It has always seemed that this opinion is more arbitrary than substantial; arising rather in Occidental prejudice and scientific skepticism than as the fruit of years of searching study of the evidences of the existence of such a fundamental Esoteric Wisdom -- which latter, indeed, to the philosophically researching student seem to be as plainly apparent as are the various phenomena of the physical universe surrounding us, or, more accurately perhaps, as are the evidences of a kinship in human aspiration, thought, and mystical feeling, the world over.
This skepticism concerning the existence of a fundamental body of esoteric and mystical teaching as the religious and philosophical basis of each and every one of the great religions of the globe, seems to run particularly strong in the cases of the great schools of Buddhistic thought which Gautama-Sakyamuni was the founder of. There would seem off-hand to be as little proof that this skepticism is well based in this case as it is equally unfounded in the cases of Christianity, or Judaism, or the various branches of Hinduism; and it is to be supposed, in lieu of stronger support for this skepticism, that its sole foundation is the obvious fact that such esoteric background is not openly announced and elaborated in the exoteric literature of the two main forms or schools of Buddhism, respectively, the Hinayana and the Mahayana -- although even this statement must be qualified by the well-known fact that the various forms of the Mahayana, and probably not excepting a single instance, do indeed claim in their theological elaborations of the teachings found in the canonical Mahayana scriptures, that the Buddha-Gautama did in very truth teach a deeper or secret doctrine to the selected circle of his Arhats, who in their turn passed it on.
These claims, however, as is notoriously the case, are usually rejected bodily as well as singly and individually by virtually every Occidental scholar or Orientalist; but one searches in vain for any sufficient cause for this rejection, outside of the one which the student of ancient literatures has learned to expect, to wit, prejudice, preconception, insufficient understanding of the philosophical and religious import of the canonical Buddhist scriptures themselves.
In consequence, and because basis for such skepticism seems entirely lacking, outside of the very fallacious and shaky arguments based on prejudice, the present writer in common with most other students of the Esoteric Tradition takes the path of common sense and scholarly good taste by simply ignoring airy and unfounded charges which have not been proved, and, probably, are not susceptible of proof.
The present and the succeeding chapter will be an attempt to elaborate the thesis that essential Buddhism, in common with the essential or fundamental teaching of all the other great world-religions or indeed world-philosophies, contains as its substance or core the identic Esoteric Tradition that is found universally elsewhere. This chapter is no attempt at a complete and inclusive proof of the foregoing statement, because obviously the limits of this volume would be themselves too small to imbody a complete and formal statement of the facts. We shall here treat the matter more as a sketch, and as an outline, which, it is hoped, will point the way to others having more time at their disposal for this work than the present writer has.
The burthen of proof, the onus probandi, in this case rests wholly on the shoulders of the skeptics; for, when one remembers and weighs impartially the facts as they are: the notorious reluctance of the ancient Hindu and even of his modern descendant to uncover the deeper secrets of their religions and philosophies; when one remembers the jealous religious reserve for which India has in all ages been famous; when one considers and duly weighs the notorious inclination, both ancient and modern, to secret mystical thought, secret or esoteric religious schools, and the virtually innumerable references to initiations and hid doctrines with which all Hindu religious and philosophical literature is replete -- remembering and properly considering these various facts, it is something that would require lengthy and positive proof to aver that Buddhism alone, itself an Indian Religion-Philosophy, is exempt from a universal custom, amundial habit, stronger in India than perhaps elsewhere. The burthen of proof finally, as stated, rests on those who deny rather than on those who affirm a well-established, universal, and in India national, custom dating from immemorial antiquity.
It is important to remember in this connexion, that it is absurd to assume that the titan intellects of the human race who are at the same time great ethical and religious Teachers of men, fall into either one or the other of two categories: first, that they are deliberate deceivers of human hearts, instigated by human ambition, vaulting or paltry as the case may be, and that the esoteric schools which they invariably instituted, each one in his time and to his own race, were products of an abominable desire for personal supremacy or for the gaining of other advantage; or, second, that they were unbalanced if not mentally deranged egoists who began these respective schools from motives arising in ignorant self-deception and because of an unregulated fanatical desire to domineer over others and to sway them. To allege either of these hypotheses, to wit, either selfish ambition or fanatic ignorance, wanders so wide of the facts and of the lofty spiritual and intellectual standard of teaching and work which each such World-Teacher exemplified, and for which posterity has invariably revered him, that it would seem sufficient thus baldly to state facts, to uncover the entire lack of substantial ground of reason on which the above-mentioned skeptics in virtually every case have placed their structure of indefinable theory.
Then, again, neither of the foregoing hypotheses, to wit, either fanatic ignorance, or selfish personal ambition, is capable of explaining what all students of the Esoteric Tradition know: the universality of the fundamental substantial identity of the background of esoteric thought forming the body of Teaching which, as delivered from time to time through these Great Teachers, has taken the form of the Esoteric Tradition of which the present book treats.
There are two ways of reaching Truth, two methods of penetrating into the arcana of the mysteries of the Universe, from its spiritual parts down to its physical; and these two ways or methods are, first, by means of Man's spiritual-intellectual nature itself which is rooted in the very substance of the spiritual world, and indeed is an integral part thereof. For any normal human being whose constitution has not been undermined by vice, nor weakened by some wasting disease, can, if he will lead the life proper thereto, come into sympathetic unity or oneness with spiritual Nature through his own inner being's cognising its essential unity with the Universe, and thus becoming the recipient, as a channel or canal, through which the higher energies of the Universe may flow and become manifest as thoughts, intuitions, intimations of truth, in the chela's or disciple's mind.
The other way or method is that of training and initiation, which is not different from the former method, but is the former method elaborated into systematic procedures; because such initiatory training and final success are but a quickening of or hastening over the evolutionary progress that all human beings undergo through the cycling ages. In other words, initiation is but quickened evolution.
These Great World-Teachers combine both these ways or methods during a brief period of lives on earth. Beginning as chelas or disciples of some teacher selected by each individual of them, with which teacher such chela finds intuitive and instinctive links of sympathy and understanding, he undergoes training, i. e., quickened evolution, under the watchful eye of the teacher chosen by him; and bending every energy and all the faculties of his being towards success, he passes from life to life through this brief period of reincarnations, advancing steadily higher in each such life, until finally he himself blossoms out as a Master, a Mahatman, in his turn now ready to carry his portion of the labor, pitiful, compassionate, of the Great Brotherhood. Then his turn comes to be sent forth among his fellow-men of less evolutionary degree of advancement, to become unto them a Teacher, a Guide, an Inspirer, delivering unto them in ideas and language appropriate to the age the new instalment of universal truth which it thus becomes his sublime destiny to give. Thus a new great Religion is founded, a new and possibly world-shaking Philosophy of Life is inaugurated; yet, mark it well, each and every one of this long line of Sages and Seers, each one of the World-Teachers, imbodies in his new instalment of teaching the same fundamental verities, the identic truths, albeit delivered in new garments, which all his Predecessors had given, each one in his turn. It is thus that the Esoteric Tradition is carried on and renewed from age to age, and given to man in those periods of spiritual and intellectual somnolence, which Plato called epochs of spiritual barrenness.
Such a one in the long line of Successors was Sakyamuni, the Buddha-Gautama. It is true that in his case, and because of a certain Mystery which it would be improper openly to set forth even by sketch in a published work, he was of a spiritual and intellectual stature exceeding many, possibly most, of those who had preceded him in the same World-Order in recorded human history; but even in his case the rule of successorship was the same as in that of all his Predecessors, and he but exemplifies, more brilliantly than most, the natural Law of Periodicity which governs the cyclical unveiling or revealing of the Esoteric Tradition to the human species.
Let us now turn to the more particular topic of the present chapter:
"I take my refuge in the Buddha; I take my refuge in the Light of his teachings (or Law); I take my refuge in the company of the Holy Ones." This slight paraphrase of the Sanskrit three-stanzaed 'Confession of Faith' so called, contains the substantial core of what the modern Buddhist, equally with the ancient Buddhist, considers to be the true Buddhist's outlook as a believer in the teachings of the Tathagata, i. e., he who came as his forerunners came, as his Predecessors came, in order to bring salvation into the world -- salvation to gods and men, salvation to the greatest and to the humblest; and this 'salvation' as the Lord Buddha taught, was not salvation from any outside power, not something entering into human minds and hearts from outside, and thus 'saving' them, as is the vain belief of so many Occidentals: but was an interior change, a true reformation, in the very spiritual, intellectual, and psychical, structure of the man himself." For, as the mystical Buddhism of the North taught, and still teaches with fervid devotion: There is in every entity, not only in man but in the gods and in the beings beneath man, a threefold essence -- or perhaps more accurately three interblending essences, nevertheless having a common identic substance, which they describe as, (a) a Celestial or Dhyani-Buddha; (b) a Bodhisattva, 'son' of the Celestial or Dhyani-Buddha; and (c) a Manushya-Buddha or human Buddha; and it was in order to awaken this living threefold Buddhic consciousness in the constitution of every human being, that the Buddha taught his noble Law, his majestic Philosophy, which perhaps has held, during the course of its existence, more human minds in fealty and devotion than any other religio-philosophic system known to the human race.
Buddhism has always been greatly misunderstood in the Occident, and this misunderstanding has arisen almost wholly because Occidental scholars themselves have misapprehended a large number of the most important teachings of the religio-philosophy of Gautama; and because these Occidental scholars imbodied their misapprehensions in their studies in and of Buddhism, and because such studies were printed and published, the reading Occidental public followed suit as was only to be expected; and thus it is that there is perhaps no single world-religion known today which has suffered so greatly in this respect as Buddhism has.
It has at times been called a religion of pessimism, simply because Occidentals have not understood its profound intellectual reaches nor its proper placing of the values of the material side of life. In the Occidental view, to teach that a man is an impermanent composite of elements of varying ethereality, and that when he dies this composite is dissolved, and that its component parts then enter into their respective realms or kingdoms or spheres of Nature: all this signifies to the Occidental mind that such a doctrine teaches utter annihilation of the compounded entity as an entity; for, consciously or unconsciously, such Occidental critics ignore the unifying and binding root of being of every such entity which brings at periodical intervals this compound together again out of the identic life-atoms that composed it in former existences.
Occidental scholars so think, or they think that they so think, because they do not understand that this very 'root,' or element, or subtil bond -- call it what you like -- i. e., the individualizing energy which brought these samskaras or compounds or composites together, is, when all is said and done in argument, a unifying and therefore individualizing force; and that this unifying or individualizing force, no matter what we may call it, remains after the dissolution of the compound, and likewise has its own cosmic reservoir or kingdom or realm to which it returns; nor do they understand that this unifying or individualizing force the Lord Gautama in his great wisdom called the 'Buddha,' the inner originant, for which an equivalent term in the Mahayana of Northern Asia is Dhyani-Buddha.
It is quite true that from certain Occidental philosophical standpoints, the teaching of Gautama the Buddha may formally be considered 'pessimistic'; but only so if one judge it by Occidental philosophical standards alone, and ignore the intrinsic meaning of the Buddha himself; and is this either wise or fair? Ignoring a factor in a problem is not solving the problem properly. Can it, one asks, then be rightly done? How can we judge something which arose in the Orient and became the Law of the more civilized Oriental world for its own time-period, and successfully passed the examination of the keenest minds and the most astute intellects of ages, by the changing and therefore biased standards of Occidental scientific speculations, with a vague background of European philosophy, which speculations themselves are only some three hundred or more years old in their origin, and probably not more than seventy-five years old, or less, in their present form?
There was a time, not so long ago, when one teaching of the Buddha, that of the Nirvana, was considered by Occidental scholars to mean that the Lord Gautama taught that annihilation, utter, complete, was the end of every living conscious being, when that being had attained unto the stage of inner growth where it entered into this nirvanic state; and they pointed, naturally enough, to the Sanskrit meaning of this compound word: nir, 'out' or 'off,' and vana, the past participle passive of the root va, 'to blow': hence 'to blow out.' As they sagely and logically enough said: "Nirvana means 'blown out,' as a candle-flame is 'blown out' by the breath!" Ay, so it does. But what is it that is 'blown out'? What is it that ceases to exist? Is it the unifying spiritual force which brings this compound entity into being anew in a serial line of succession which has no known beginning, and which the Buddhist teaching itself shows to be something which reproduces itself in this series of illusory, because compounded, vehicles? This is impossible, because if this individualizing or unifying energy were 'blown out,' i. e., annihilated, it obviously could not continue to reproduce itself as the inspiriting energy of newly compounded bodies due to its own working. Therefore obviously enough what is blown out is the samskaras, the compounds, resulting from, i.e., born or produced by, the karman of the individual. This karman, therefore, and speaking with strict logical sequence of thought, which the doctrine imbodies, is the individual himself or itself; because the Buddhist teaching is that what is reproduced is the karman of the preceding individual, i. e., that any composite entity changes from instant to instant, and that at each new instant, the change is the resultant or effect or consequence of the preceding instant of change. Thus, then, the individual is his own karman at any instant in time, because that karman is the totality of what he is himself. When a man's composite parts are 'blown out,' i. e., 'enter Nirvana,' i. e., are 'extinguished,' rendered extinct, as the just previously existing compound, then all the rest of the being, that deathless center of unifying and individualizing spiritual force around which these composites or samskaras periodically gather -- lives as a Buddha.
This is exactly and as far as it goes (because there is much more that might be said), the teaching of Esoteric Theosophy, of the Esoteric Tradition. All the evil and lower part of us must be wiped out, extinguished, 'annihilated' if you like; in other words the karman that produced these illusory composites must be caused to cease; and new composites, nobler ones -- the products or effects or resultants of the preceding composites -- those henceforth joined to the Buddhic essence of the being, that spiritual force which is the inner Buddha, will then continue and on its own high plane live, because no longer controlled by the veils of the world of Maya, Illusion -- the worlds of impermanent structural composites. The being thus become a Buddha because of its delivery from enshrouding veils, has now reached the state and condition of passing out of the impermanence of all manifested existence into the utter permanence of cosmic Reality.
The matter of the real meaning of the Nirvana has thus been elaborated, albeit in somewhat sketchy fashion, in order to show that the supposition of many Westerners that the teaching of the Nirvana is a pessimistic doctrine because meaning utter extinction into the abyss of non-entity, is baseless. Hence, far from being pessimistic, the doctrine of the Nirvana is one of extraordinary hope. The word 'optimism' is not here used, because it is as subject to adverse critical comment as is its antonym 'pessimism.'
Far from being a religion of pessimism, when properly understood the religion of the Buddha is a religion -- not of optimism indeed, but of wisdom. These words are used advisedly, because it is certain that unthinking optimism is as foolish in its way as is unthinking pessimism. Neither is wise, because each is an extreme. The teaching of the Buddha was so wisely given by that Great Sage that it showed to men a pathway which went neither to the right -- to one extreme -- nor to the left -- to the other extreme; but chose the Middle Way, the way of Truth, avoiding the falling into the extremes of either side. All extremes are unreal, no matter what they may be, because unphilosophical; and it is the great subtilty of the Tathagata's teaching which has rendered it so difficult for Occidentals to understand. One often reads essays printed in the Occident by Westerners who have become Buddhists; and one may admire them for the courage with which they work in their new field; but, with no wish to hurt anyone's feelings, it is difficult to avoid being grieved by their usual lack of understanding of what is after all the heart, the core, of the great Buddha's teaching. The letter indeed of the Buddhist scriptures has been grasped -- more or less; but the spirit, i. e., the Buddha's 'heart,' is rarely or never understood. The Eye-Doctrine, in other words, is comprehended to a certain extent; but the Heart-Doctrine, the hid part, the esoteric part, is not seized, or only grasped intuitively and to a certain extent only at the rarest intervals.
Ay, there is such a thing as esoteric Buddhism , despite the denials of this fact by very eminent Occidental Buddhist scholars. After all, what value is there in following the more or less unconsciously biased deductions of our Occidental scholars in Buddhistic lore, who, taking merely the letter of that great religious and philosophical Law, translate, and, in combination with their own more or less biased reflexions, thereby render, as they think, the truth of the doctrine? What value, indeed, when studies with the background of illumination furnished by the teachings of the Esoteric Tradition show to the Theosophical student that there is verily an esoteric teaching or foundation of both a philosophical and a religious character which the Buddha evidently must have taught to his Arhats, or disciples most favored for their spiritual and intellectual abilities to understand his meaning. When these skeptical Occidental scholars are asked: Did the Buddha have an Esoteric School, -- or does his Law contain an esoteric teaching? they almost invariably say Nay, and point with emphatic finger to a statement by the Buddha himself, which they believe proves their allegation that he himself denied it. This statement is found in the teaching of the Maha-Parinibbana-Sutta, or the teaching of the 'Great and Ultimate Nirvana'; which title we may perhaps otherwise render as meaning the 'Great Passing.' Before going on farther with the present argument, it may be useful to examine just what this supposedly conclusive statement of the Lord Buddha really was:
Now very soon after the Blessed One began to recover; when he had quite got rid of the sickness, he went out from the monastery, and sat down behind the monastery on a seat spread out there. And the venerable Ananda went to the place where the Blessed One was, and saluted him, and took a seat respectfully on one side, and addressed the Blessed One, and said: 'I have beheld, Lord, how the Blessed One was in health, and I have beheld how the Blessed One had to suffer. And though at the sight of the sickness of the Blessed One my body became weak as a creeper, and the horizon became dim to me, and my faculties were no longer clear, yet notwithstanding I took some little comfort from the thought that the Blessed One would not pass away from existence until at least he had left instructions as touching the order.'
'What, then, Ananda? Does the order expect that of me? I have preached the truth without making any distinction between exoteric and esoteric doctrine: for in respect of the truths, Ananda, the Tathagata has no such thing as the closed fist of a teacher, who keeps some things back. Surely, Ananda, should there be any one who harbours the thought, "It is I who will lead the brotherhood," or, "The order is dependent upon me," it is he who should lay down instructions in any matter concerning the order. Now the Tathagata, Ananda, thinks not that it is he who should lead the brotherhood, or that the order is dependent upon him. Why then should he leave instructions in any matter concerning the order? I too, O Ananda, am now grown old, and full of years, my journey is drawing to its close, I have reached my sum of days, I am turning eighty years of age; and just as a worn-out cart, Ananda, can only with much additional care be made to move along, so, methinks, the body of the Tathagata can only be kept going with much additional care. . . .
'Therefore, O Ananda, be ye lamps unto yourselves. Be ye a refuge to yourselves. Betake yourselves to no external refuge. Hold fast to the truth as a lamp. Hold fast as a refuge to the truth. . . .'
i. e., to the Celestial Buddha abiding in secret within every human heart, in the core or spiritual center of every human being, 'the inner god.'
Lest this citation be taken to mean that the Buddha taught no need of any teachers following him in his Brotherhood or Association, it is well to look even at the pragmatical Buddhism of the South, and more particularly to consider that of the mystical School of the North, where there were during later ages millions of human beings who, without any exception whatsoever, as far as one recollects at the moment, followed the different schools, each one of them founded by a more or less great man whose rights to teach were scarcely ever challenged, simply because of the greatness of these individual teachers each in his own especial line of pragmatical or of mystical Buddhism. In all these cases, whether of the South or of the North, the existence of legitimate successors of the Buddha following each other in century after century was universally recognised, although obviously none was ever considered to be equal to the great Master himself. His unique standing as Teacher is indeed one of the fundamental teachings of Buddhism, which states that Buddhas appear only at long intervals and in periods governed by cyclic time, thus re-echoing the Bramanical teaching of a succession of Doctors of the Law which Krishna alludes to in the Bhagavad-Gita in the words: 'Whenever there is a decline of righteousness in the world, etc., then I reproduce myself.'
This succession or serial line of teachers is technically called the Guru-parampara in Brahmanism. It is a good phrase or title for the Teachers coming in serial order, because it is both descriptive and exact. It has had of course varied and different meanings in different ages, but the substantial idea inherent in the thought is the same everywhere; and whether certain Buddhist scholars like to admit it or not, the fact remains that historical Buddhism shows to us teacher succeeding teacher in the annals of the great Buddhist faith: these teachers sometimes separated by fairly long periods of time, and in other cases of more mystical and restricted schools, teacher succeeding teacher when the predecessor dies and the successor assumes his office.
Even the simplest examination of the historical facts will show the student that minor sages and seers have sprung up from time to time in the Buddhism of history, such as Nagarjuna and Aryasamgha, founding schools, or taking them over from their predecessors; teaching, if you like, each one a new version of the Ancient Buddhist Wisdom, yet all faithful followers of the Lord Buddha; and whatever their differences as individuals may have been, all these various schools look to the great Master as the fountain-head of their respective and more or less differing wisdoms.
It would be preposterous to attempt to aver that so enlightened a spirit, so profound an intellect, so wise and far-reaching a mind, as found in the Buddha, could have been ignorant of one of the elementary facts of human psychology in religious matters, to wit, that it was a foregone conclusion, human nature being what it is, that teachers would arise in the Order after his death; nor can one for an instant agree with those who would attempt to show that most, if not all, of these later teachers in Buddhistic philosophy were more or less ambitious upstarts, craving personal prominence and seeking a personal following. This opinion, which seems to be so widespread in the Occident, as regards religious matters, discovers to public view what is really a deplorably pessimistic opinion of human nature. Indeed, the view of the present writer runs directly counter to this opinion, for he looks upon most, if not all, of the great men who succeeded the Buddha as heads of the different Buddhist Schools, as being genuine initiates, profound, thoughtful, and high-minded men, who, because of their own spiritual and intellectual and psychical degree of evolution, developed in their respective logical fields the teachings of the Buddha-Gautama dealing with different parts of the widely inclusive range of Buddhist philosophy.
To return to the quotation cited above: At first reading, it does indeed sound as if the Lord Buddha declared to his disciples that he had no esoteric doctrine, reserved of necessity for the more spiritually and intellectually advanced of his chelas or disciples. Is this, however, what he actually said? It most certainly is not. Ananda's plea was: "Leave us instructions, Lord, as to the conduct of the Order, before thou passest on"; and the Buddha refused, saying: "I have told you all that is necessary for the conduct of the Order, and I have kept naught back. I am not like a teacher who tells you some things as to your own conduct and the conduct of the Brotherhood, and secretly hides other things in his 'closed fist.' I have told you all that is necessary for the conduct of the Order that will bring you success in the saving of man; but should there be anyone who arises in the Order and who points out what is required for its proper care and leading, then it is he who should lay down instructions in any such emergency concerning the Order. You will soon find out in such case whether he be a true teacher or a false; for the rules that I myself have given unto you are the fundamental rules for guidance and conduct both of yourselves and of the Order, and they are sufficient. I have spoken."
There is no small number of passages in the different Buddhist Scriptures of both the two great Schools, which, both by direct statement and by indirection in statement, declare plainly that the Buddha had not revealed, nor would he reveal, all the truths that he knew.
Two instances briefly designated should suffice in illustration, both of the Hinayana School. The first states that Sakyamuni took a handful of the leaves of the Sinsapa, and pointing to them, explained that just as this bunch of leaves in his hand, so few in number, were not all the leaves of the tree from which they were taken, just so in exactly similar fashion the truths that he himself as Teacher had announced were not by any means all that he knew. The figure is both graphic and strong, and highly significant.
The other instance, also in a Scripture belonging to the Hinayana-system, is one in which the Great Teacher explains his refusal to describe whether a Buddha lives after death or not. Both illustrations are declarations of the fact of the reserve in teaching, and reticence in delivery thereof, which are so universally characteristic of the transmitters of the Esoteric Tradition.
"I go to the Buddha as my refuge." "I go to the Dharma or the Law as my refuge. I go to the Order of Holy Ones as my refuge."
This so-called 'Confession of Faith,' although undoubtedly accepted in the spirit as well as in the letter in Northern Asia, is perhaps especially the teaching comprising the substance of the scriptures of the Hinayana. The compound word Hinayana, descriptive of the spirit of Buddhism of Southern Asia, as contrasted with the Mahayana, descriptive of the Buddhism of the North of Asia, means the 'defective' vehicle, the 'inferior' or 'imperfect' vehicle, i. e., that part of the Lord Gautama's teaching which did not contain in explicit formulation the whole of the doctrine which he taught -- a fact which itself declares the existence of another part not herein contained. The name itself declares the fact: hina, i. e., defection, imperfection, incompleteness; and yana, vehicle.
Now this statement of incompleteness or imperfection does not signify, as might readily be supposed from these words, inaccuracy, falsity, or error; the meaning of the compound Hinayana is that this system, virtually exclusively popular in Southern Asia, gives the formal intellectual teaching of the Buddha -- or what has been called the 'Eye-Doctrine,' that which emanated from the Buddha's mind as a categorical framework of his thought; the Mahayana, contrariwise, is stated to contain the more secret -- as well as the outer or public -- and therefore more difficult aspects of the Buddha-Gautama's teaching, and consequently has often been called the 'Heart-Doctrine.'
The teaching of the Buddha's heart, i. e., the esoteric Wisdom which he kept hid in his 'heart' and delivered solely to those ready to receive it, is, as just stated, called the Mahayana; and it runs back in its origin to a date at least equal in time to that of the beginning of the Hinayana, which, as stated above, is the body of teaching which he delivered openly, visible to the eye so to speak. Both systems, therefore, are truth, i. e., both the Hinayana and the Mahayana are true; but one must combine the teaching of the 'eye' with the teaching of the 'heart': one must combine the exoteric teaching of the Hinayana with the esoteric of the Mahayana -- combine the North and the South, so to speak -- if one desire to receive the full message of the Tathagata as he delivered it in its relative fulness to his chelas or disciples.
From which of these two systems have our Western Orientalists drawn the far greater part of the Buddhist material which they have subjected to the really conscientious and thorough examination and study which one gladly recognises they have given? Mostly, if not wholly, they have gathered this material out of the scriptures of the Hinayana, the 'defective' vehicle, a system held by some twenty millions of human beings more or less. Of the teachings of the Mahayana of the North and Center of Asia, the esoteric teachings, the 'heart' of the Buddha, they have intimate knowledge as yet of only a few scriptures. It is well known that a vast amount of Mahayana-material still awaits examination and study, but all this material is as yet more or less an unworked field of thought.
As examples of the Mahayana-material already studied, may be mentioned the Saddharma-Pundarika as one; the Lalita-Vistara is another Northern Buddhistic work which has received some small attention from European Orientalists. There are a few other works belonging to the Northern School which have received passing but quite inadequate attention in Europe; and it is doubtful if more than this can be truthfully claimed.
Consequently, it certainly would seem that the opinion of Occidental scholars as to whether there is or is not an esoteric teaching which the Buddha taught or left behind him, is based almost solely upon their studies of the hitherto available scriptures of the Hinayana of the South, the 'defective,' 'imperfect,' because, as said, incomplete, vehicle or system. It is a strange thing indeed to suppose that the Buddha-Gautama is the sole historical instance of a Sage and Seer who was at the same time a religious and philosophical Preceptor, who has left behind him no teachings of a more recondite or secret character than those which he openly proclaimed in his wanderings over Indian mountain and plain. The exception would be so remarkable that it would require particular explanation.
Let us turn now for a few moments to another one of the Sutras or religio-philosophical scriptures, held in utmost reverence by something like 400 millions of human beings, all followers, more or less, of the Mahayana-teaching, which, mark you, is as much Buddhism, and genuinely 'orthodox' as is the Hinayana of the South; and the bulk of the testimony as to the value of the teaching certainly remains in the scriptures of the North. Remembering these 400 millions of the North as compared with the twenty millions more or less of the adherents of the Hinayana of the South, this is what is found in the scripture to be quoted from; and it is beyond doubt that many more similar passages could be found, with adequate study, of an even more emphatic tenor.
You are astonished, Kasyapa, that you cannot fathom the mystery expounded by the Tathagata. It is, Kasyapa, because the mystery expounded by the Tathagatas, the Arhats, etc. is difficult to be understood.
And on that occasion, the more fully to explain the same subject, the Lord uttered the following stanzas:
1. I am the Dharmaraja, born in the world as the destroyer of existence.
Now it is the philosophical teaching of Buddhism, when this teaching is properly understood, that the entire world around us is impermanent, illusory, mayavi; but that all existences are founded upon and builded around something inner, secret, esoteric, hid, fundamental, which the Northern Schools, collected under the great Mahayana-teaching, call the Sunyata, i. e., the 'Void,' the Unmanifest as the Theosophist would say. To continue with this quotation from the Saddharma-Pundarika:
I declare the law to all beings after discriminating [examining] their dispositions.
A selective teaching, mark you!
2. Superior men of wise understanding guard the word, guard the mystery, and do not reveal it to living beings.
Yet obviously, the Lord Buddha taught it and revealed it to living beings, to all who were prepared to hear and to understand it. It is pertinent here to ask: What is the meaning of these phrases imbodying the expressions 'word,' 'guarding the mystery,' if the significance is not that of a teaching too difficult for the ordinary man to receive in its fulness, which is therefore kept only for those who, after discriminate examination, have been tested and found to be worthy and well qualified to receive it? Obviously, we have here a distinct reference to a restraint in the delivery of the Secret Doctrine or Esoteric Tradition, which is not revealed indiscriminately to all and sundry because it is a 'mystery' which must be guarded; and yet 'superior men of wise understanding' have received this mystery, for they are enjoined not to deliver it nor to reveal it to 'living beings' unless, indeed, such be fit for the reception.
2. That science is difficult to be understood; the simple, if hearing it on a sudden, would be perplexed; they would in their ignorance fall out of the way and go astray.
Mark you, did the Buddha teach in order to lead people astray? Is such the declaration of the body of Buddhist teaching, and is such an absurdity the burthen of Buddhist belief? Cannot one see the immediate and necessary deduction as just cited? There is, clearly, an inner Teaching which is given only to those who have been examined and found fit to receive it, and examined in order that they may not be led astray by receiving a teaching too comprehensive for them to grasp, and therefore certain to be misunderstood by them. One is well aware of the fact that the Saddharma-Pundarika is alleged by Western scholars to be the product of a later date, one of the works of a mystical school which became very popular in the North of Asia some centuries after the Buddha had passed on. This may very well be the fact, and it was to be expected; but the fact does not invalidate the main point that such teaching of restriction or of withholding could not have arisen nor have been so widely accepted, had there not been current throughout the Northern Buddhism the strong flow of esoteric thought and suggestion which it therefore becomes only proper to trace back doubtless even to the days of the Buddha himself and to his Arhats. Otherwise, the high probability is that any mere later invention or mere mystical speculations of a later date would have been found highly unacceptable, and would have been peremptorily rejected, when the first attempts were made to promulgate them. The history of mystical thought in all other great systems shows clearly enough, and in every case that is remembered by the writer at the moment, that the esotericism of the respective founder of each of these great systems gradually faded out with the passage of time ensuing after his death, and its place was taken by mere orthodoxy, in which the traditional or written scriptures as received became sacrosanct, untouchable, and often clothed with an atmosphere of holiness which forbade any adding or substantial change. This is clearly shown, for instance, in the literature and mystical history of Christianity.
3. I speak according to their reach and faculty; by means of various meanings [i. e., by means of permutable meanings or parables] I accommodate my view (or the theory).
Is this the supposititious 'closed fist' of the Great Teacher, Gautama the Buddha? When one recollects that the main or fundamental teachings of the Buddha were recognised in both the Northern and the Southern Schools, and that the very phrase 'closed fist' must have been current in both schools as one of the graphic expressions of the great Master himself, it is difficult to avoid the conclusion that the 'closed fist' argument, so often cited by European scholars as against the fact of an esoteric teaching in Buddhism, must be understood as it has been attempted in this present chapter to explain it, i.e., as referring solely to the government of the Order after the Buddha's passing; for indeed, the passage in which the 'closed fist' expression occurs, refers solely to matters of government in the Order after the Buddha's death. The words of this passage state this unequivocally, and it is merely distorting the scripture itself to read into it something that the scripture does not say.
All that the Lord Buddha taught was true in essentials, but he most certainly did not teach everything to all men. He taught all that was needed for the promulgation of the philosophic and religious doctrine which he delivered; identically so as concerns the government of the Order to prevail during his life-time and for its direction after his demise, and did not hold anything back in a 'closed fist'; and the 'closed fist' passage says nothing but that. Hence, the deductions drawn by Westerners from the 'closed fist' phrase, that the Lord Buddha had no esoteric teaching to deliver and he delivered none, and that no esoteric School or Body of disciples existed during and after his lifetime, seem to be simply a preposterous inversion of the historical record; and in addition one must submit the entire history of the life-drama of the Lord Buddha as strong witness, testimony, to the contrary. The whole system of the Mahayana of the North as existing in its different varieties in all its various schools, such as that of Nagarjuna, of Aryasamgha, and of others, every one of them teaching an esoteric doctrine, every one of them hinting at a Wisdom which is not given to all and sundry, provides excellent and to every reasonable mind convincing proof that an esotericism or an Esoteric Doctrine, or Esoteric Tradition, existed in Buddhism from the earliest times, and by the logic of history and the well-known traits of human nature must be traced back to the great Founder himself.
If we are to take one Buddhist scripture of the South, the Maha-Parinibbana-Sutta, hereinbefore quoted from, as being the words of the Lord Buddha -- and this one is perfectly willing to do with certain natural and necessary reservations depending upon the difficulties of accurate transmission and delivery through the centuries, and having due regard also to the literary formulation of his teachings in scriptural structure -- then here on the other side, we have a Northern scripture alleging to be the equally authentic words of the Master, which it seems unreasonable to set aside on grounds of theory or merely literary prejudice, this Northern work stating that the Doctrine is to be delivered with prudence and care, and not to all men, and that the Wise guard it and reveal it not, except, as the preceding sloka or verse says, with discriminating judgment to minds which differ in 'their disposition.' Indeed, and speaking generally, one knows not a single great religious philosophy or philosophical religion, which has not, or which has not had in its origins, an esoteric doctrine. The mere fact that such esoteric doctrine is not properly understood and perhaps even not recognised by all, and possibly again, forgotten in this or some other religion, argues nothing to the contrary, and is certainly not a proof that such esoteric School or Doctrine did not once exist therein.
The objections alleged against the existence, or possibility of the existence, of an esoteric School or body of doctrine in Buddhism, limp painfully because running directly counter to human psychology in such matters; and therefore objections of this character should be scrutinized with meticulous and jealous care. Nor should the religio-philosophical works presently existing in the world and alleging to give the teachings or doctrines of mystical or so-called esoteric or quasi-esoteric schools, be accepted at the face-value of their averments or statements; because virtually all such mystical works are written in veiled fashion, and when read, often repel by the unconscionable exaggerations and often apparently ridiculous distortions of natural fact which they occasionally if not frequently imbody. Such luxuriance in statement and pageantry of metaphor themselves prove that these scriptures are written in the common and usual esoteric cipher, and can be properly construed and understood only by those who possess the keys thereto. It is clear enough that if a doctrine is intended to be esoteric, of necessity, when delivered to the public, its teachings must be hid under veil and allegory; and it is absurd to take veils and allegories, parables or metaphors, tropes or figures of speech, as statements of plain, unvarnished, pragmatical fact. It seems indeed high time that our Western scholars should use ordinary sense in these matters, and if they do not understand and are repelled by the highly figurative language of Oriental or other mystical works, this is no reason for condemning these scriptures as not being what they are alleged to be, or themselves purport to be.
If our Occidental scholars, our European Orientalists -- and the writer craves pardon if his language here seem a bit unkind -- would use their human common sense and intuitions a little more, i. e., would allow them a freer play in their work and criticism, they would themselves see what the ordinary man who reads these scriptures easily sees for himself; and, furthermore, they would probably realize that taking one half of the scriptures of Buddhism, i. e., those of the Hinayana only, or very nearly 'only,' and drawing deductions from this one half, is not only inadequate and therefore imperfect study, but is likewise distinctly reprehensible work in scholarship. It is, as it were, taking the teaching of the Roman Catholic Church, or of the Church of Martin Luther, or of the Church founded by Calvin, and thereupon saying: Here, this is Christianity; it teaches so-and-so; and thus-and-thus; and although other phases of Christian thought may be found in other branches of the Christian Church General, nevertheless the phase of it that we have been studying seems to contain the most ancient ideas and therefore probably the most accurate presentation of the thought and will of the great Founder.
Now, such one-sided study is more or less precisely what too many of our Occidental Orientalists have done -- and continue to do. The present writer states, without fear of any consequences arising from contradiction, that there is and always has been as much esoteric teaching in Buddhism -- i. e., that there is in fact an esoteric Buddhism, an Esoteric Tradition in it -- as there was a very early esoteric or secret side under the Christian doctrinal scriptural tradition; there was as much esotericism in early Buddhism, and it still lives and flourishes in certain places, as there was esotericism in the religions and philosophies and the Mysteries of ancient Greece and of Rome and of Egypt and elsewhere; and that there is and always has been an equally esoteric or secret doctrine in Brahmanism.
In the succeeding chapter reference will be made in fuller explication to the frequent charge brought against the Buddhist system and the teachings of its great Founder by Western scholars and indeed by many Oriental Buddhists themselves, that when all is said and done Gautama the Buddha taught a species of philosophical nihilism as concerns the non-existence of any spiritual or continuous self-hood in the compound aggregate making the constitution of a man or of any other conscious entity. This idea is so far from the truth, indeed wanders so widely from the whole tenor or significance even of the various Buddhist scriptures themselves, that one can only wonder how this totally erroneous idea could have arisen both in the minds of Occidental students and in the consciousness of Buddhists themselves. It is to be explained, the present writer believes, solely on the ground that the key unlocking the inner meaning of the Buddha's teaching has been forgotten -- has vanished out of the consciousness of Buddhists themselves even of a fairly early date; so that the mere words of the scriptures were taken and understood literally and their inner significance was not grasped.
It is, however, unquestionably true, that Sakyamuni taught the non-reality, the non-existence of a static, continuous, 'soul' or minor self such as is taught in Christianity and in certain other religions or religious philosophies of similar type. This last fact, or rather averment, is true and admits of no contradiction; but instead of being, as it is so wrongly misunderstood to be, the mark of philosophical and religious imperfection, or as signifying a lack of penetrating sagacity into human psychology, it would be easy to show that precisely the contrary of this is the case; and that, indeed, this teaching of the Buddha, as more or less imbodied in the scriptures of the Mahayana and Hinayana, and especially in the latter, is one of the greatest glories of the great Master's doctrine, and is, furthermore, most curiously and suggestively parallel with the best in modern scientific and philosophical speculation in the West.
As above stated, these thoughts will be elaborated in the succeeding chapter. Here let it suffice to point to one or two highly significant and pregnant passages in ancient Buddhist scriptural lore, the importance of which is consistently passed over because misunderstood. In the Dhammapada, dealing in general with the matter of the Self or the intrinsic selfhood of beings and entities around which the 'compound aggregates' are builded as vehicles, we find the following very interesting and certainly highly suggestive thoughts:
The Self is the master of self -- for who else could be its lord? With the self [the lower self, or 'compound aggregate'] thoroughly controlled, the man finds a Master [or Guide] such as cannot elsewhere be found.
Here is a pointed and emphatic statement of the existence in the human constitution of the governing, controlling, Root-Self which lives and manifests its transcendent powers in and through the lower self or 'soul,' the latter being naught but the 'compound aggregate' of elements, which is the man in his ordinary being. When it is remembered that the Dhammapada is one of the most authoritative and respected scriptures of the Hinayana or Southern School, one can appreciate the force of this statement, the more so as it is found in the cycle of scriptures of the Hinayana which far more than the Northern or Mahayana is always cited as the Buddhist School teaching the supposed, but wrongly supposed, nihilism so often brought against Buddhism in support of its being a pessimistic system without spiritual basis or import.
Here we have a direct reference to the emphatic existence of the essential Atman or fundamental Self, or Self-hood, in the human constitution.
One more instance, drawn this time from the Mahayana, and due to one who in Buddhism itself has always been recognised as being a Bodhisattva -- Nagarjuna. This true mystic Sage and Initiate-Teacher, and one of the most devoted of the Buddha-Gautama's later followers who faithfully carried on the Esoteric Tradition, in his commentary on the Sutra or scripture of the famous Buddhist work Prajna-Paramita, states the following:
Sometimes the Tathagata [the Buddha] taught that the Atman verily exists, and yet at other times he taught that the Atman does not exist.
Just so. Are we then to suppose that the Buddha-Gautama taught, and deliberately taught, contradictions in order to befuddle and to mystify his hearers? Hardly, for the idea is ludicrous. What has already been said, and will in this work later be said, about the compound constitution of man, through which the eternal Self or Atman, i. e., in this case the Dhyani-Buddha, works through its erring, wayward 'lower self' or vehicle, or 'soul,' should sufficiently explain that the various meanings of 'self' were as keenly recognised in ancient Buddhist thought and by the great Master himself as they are recognised today. The meaning of the Buddha was obvious enough, that the Atman as the essential Self, or the Dhyani-Buddha in the human constitution, exists and evolves perennially, is ever-enduring; but that the 'lower self' or inferior selfhood of a man is merely the feeble reflexion of it, and is what the Europeans call 'soul,' and hence does not 'exist' as an enduring entity. The same play, for this is what it really is, upon the word 'self' is distinctly perceptible in the citation from the Dhammapada just previously made where the Self as Master is the lord of the lower self as mere man. The present writer is well aware of the many passages in Buddhist scriptures concerning the non-existence of the Atman as the human self or soul -- the doctrine of Anatta, in the Pali writings -- and fully concurs, for the truth is obvious enough; but these passages cannot be considered alone and apart from other teachings distinctly stating the Atman is: constantly in the Mahayana, and in the Hinayana as in the above citation from the Dhammapada. In any case, the Atman is most certainly not the transitory and impermanent human 'soul'; and it is thus that the Buddha's true thought and doctrine should be construed. It reconciles all the difficulties.
[Selections from the material of this chapter and from the material of the succeeding one were extracted and formed into a brief essay for publication in the pages of The London Forum (The Occult Review). This essay, divided into three instalments, appeared in the above magazine in the first part of 1935. The first instalment was printed in the March, 1935, issue of that periodical.]
This threefold Buddhist formula is likewise known under the title Tri-ratna, or 'Three Gems'; or Tri-saranam, or 'Three Refuges.' As stated in the text of this chapter, this formula of devotion or allegiance, accepted by both the Northern and the Southern Schools of Buddhism, is universally taken, or nearly so, by the entire Buddhist world in a rather pragmatical or matter-of-fact manner, following the literal meaning of the words, to wit: 'I take refuge in the Buddha; I take refuge in the Dharma or Law; I take refuge in the Company or Congregation' -- the 'Company' or 'Congregation' thus signifying the Buddhist priesthood, or in a still larger sense, the entire body of professing and faithful Buddhists.
Yet this literal meaning, in the opinion of the present writer, is but an exoteric form of what was originally intended by the esoteric Initiates who drew up this formula or composed it. In other words, the formula suffered the same deterioration in meaning that has happened in all similar cases in all great religions: the words originally having a highly mystical and philosophical significance finally lose it and are accepted or taken at their mere face-meaning.
The original sense of this formula was extremely profound and beautiful, and conveyed a threefold teaching -- or a teaching referring to three aspects of the Esoteric Philosophy -- somewhat as follows: The 'Buddha' has reference to Adi-Buddha, which we may call the First or Unmanifest Logos, or Primeval Spirit in the Universe, manifesting throughout the Universe in a sublime Hierarchy of spiritual beings emanating from itself. These spiritual beings extend from the highest even to the human spheres, and frequently are called in the Esoteric Philosophy, the Hierarchy of Compassion, or sometimes the Sons of Light. It is the Hierarchy of Compassion, or the Sons of Light composing it, and ranging from the Dhyani-Buddhas downwards through intermediate grades to the Manushya-Buddhas, which form the Samgha or Company, or Congregation, this being the Third of the Refuges. The Wisdom that is taught by them on the different planes of the Universe and to the different ranges of world-spheres, and mystically and traditionally handed down from the highest Dhyani-Buddhas to human disciples is the second Refuge, called in this formula, the Dharma.
We have thus, when this formula is properly understood, an outline, albeit briefly sketched, of the structural framework of all the teaching of the Wisdom of the Gods, today in its public delivery called Theosophy. In other words, and summarizing briefly, we have under the one term 'Buddha' the entire line of spiritual beings, reaching from the Cosmic Spirit through all intermediate ranges of the Universe down to the Manushya-Buddhas or human Buddhas and their human disciples, who in their aggregate form the so-called 'Congregation'; and all teaching the Divine Wisdom sprung forth in its origin from the highest gods themselves, and of which every Buddha on earth is an exponent.
Corresponding to the same threefold division of the 'Buddhas,' their 'Law,' and their 'Hierarchy,' we have the three forms of Vestures or Appearances in which this Hierarchy of Beings express themselves, to wit: first and highest, the Dharmakaya, that of the highest cosmic spirits or Dhyani-Buddhas; second, the Sambhogakaya, the vesture, thus summarized, of the intermediate grades of spiritual beings in this Hierarchy; and finally, the Nirmanakaya, the vesture of those spiritual beings and Great Adepts who are closest to and therefore, de facto, are the Guardians of, mankind and all beings on Earth.
Corresponding with these three Vestures again, we have the third general division above alluded to: the Arupa-dhatu, or so-called 'Formless' World or Worlds, the mystical abode of the Dhyani-Buddhas or Chohans, etc.; second, the Rupa-dhatu, or so-called Manifested or Form-World or Worlds, the abode of the beings living in the Sambhogakaya Vesture or condition; and third, the Kama-dhatu, or so-called 'World of Desire,' or Worlds wherein reside beings still heavily involved in the attractions and conditions of material existence.
The matter is so important in its immense bearing on the esoteric heart of the Buddha's teaching that it was felt both useful and needed to explain it, however briefly, in the present footnote, for those who can understand it.
Psycho-mental attributes forming a portion of the intermediate constitution of man. . With regard to the statement in the text of this chapter, that the great Hindu Reformer and Initiate, known to the world as Gautama the Buddha, had indeed a Secret Doctrine, or Esoteric Tradition, which he himself had received from and in initiation, and which he kept for those worthy and qualified to receive it among his own chelas or disciples, and quite outside of a conviction to that effect born in the minds of students who have given the matter sufficient study to understand it, the reader is referred to certain statements made by H. P. Blavatsky, the Great Theosophist, in her The Secret Doctrine and elsewhere, pointing to the same fact. As an example, she writes in her The Secret Doctrine, 'Introductory,' Volume I, pages xx-xxi, as follows:
"Indeed, the secret portions of the 'Dan' or 'Jan-na' ('Dhyan') of Gautama's metaphysics -- grand as they appear to one unacquainted with the tenets of the Wisdom Religion of antiquity -- are but a very small portion of the whole. The Hindu Reformer limited his public teachings to the purely moral and physiological aspect of the Wisdom-Religion, to Ethics and MAN alone. Things 'unseen and incorporeal,' the mystery of Being outside our terrestrial sphere, the great Teacher left entirely untouched in his public lectures, reserving the hidden Truths for a select circle of his Arhats. The latter received their Initiation at the famous Saptaparna cave. . . .
"Thus the reader is asked to bear in mind the very important difference between orthodox Buddhism -- i. e., the public teachings of Gautama the Buddha, and his esoteric Budhism. His Secret Doctrine, however, differed in no wise from that of the initiated Brahmins of his day. . . . His teachings, therefore, could not be different from their doctrines, for the whole Buddhist reform merely consisted in giving out a portion of that which had been kept secret from every man outside of the 'enchanted' circle of Temple-Initiates and ascetics. Unable to teach all that had been imparted to him -- owing to his pledges -- though he taught a philosophy built upon the ground-work of the true esoteric knowledge, the Buddha gave to the world only its outward material body and kept its soul for his Elect. . . . Many Chinese scholars among Orientalists have heard of the 'Soul Doctrine.' None seem to have understood its real meaning and importance."
. Ananda was the god-son of the Lord, and his favorite disciple, somewhat it may be as legend says John was the favorite disciple of Jesus the Syrian Avatara.
Probably the main reason for the widespread misunderstanding of the essential nature of Buddhistic teaching as first delivered to his Arhats or disciples by Gautama the Buddha, and leaving aside for the moment the later development of Buddhistic philosophy due to the labors of monkish philosophers and exegetes, or expounders, is the almost total lack on the part of Western scholars of the past to see that what the Buddha aimed at more than anything else was the bringing to men of a greater light, a larger hope, and a wider spiritual vision. The truth was that he threw open some of the hitherto fast-closed doors of Brahman philosophy, and instantly gained the opposition and ill-will of the larger part of the Brahmanas of his time. The objective of the great Teacher's Wisdom was the improving, or better still unfolding, of human intellectual faculty and spiritual power, as demonstrated by his insistence, emphatic, reiterated and unceasing, on what one may term the Doctrine of Becoming. In the eyes of the Buddha-Gautama, man is a Pilgrim, Child of the Universe, who at times is blinded by Maha-maya or the Great Illusion of cosmic existence, and at such times therefore needs to be shown the Way or Law, called the Dharma, pointing to a realization of the fact that only by becoming rather than by mere being could man become the Greater Man which he is in his essential constitution.
It is with genuine pleasure that one may point to a wider and deeper view of the Buddhistic philosophy than has hitherto prevailed in Western countries; and that such wider and therefore wiser visioning of the essential meaning of Buddhism is now coming to the fore, is proved by the very recent appearance of books treating the Buddha and his life-work and religion-philosophy from a more sympathetic viewpoint than has hitherto been customary in the West. Such a work, just off the press (1935), is the booklet entitled Indian Religion and Survival by Mrs. Rhys Davids. In her extremely interesting little work, this brilliant Buddhist scholar, so well known for her labors in the Pali scriptures and translations therefrom, writes as follows, in showing just what the Buddha had in mind in his work:
[The Buddha] sought to show each and every man a More which lay in his nature, his life, his destiny. This was, that to become, to grow spiritually was of the essence of his nature, as spirit or very-man; that to become 'in the right way' he had to exert will, choice; that in him moved and worked Deity in man's inner sense-of-right, of the 'ought,' known as dharma.
Mrs. Rhys Davids is unquestionably right in the ascription to Buddhism of the substance of the great Teacher's message which she sees and briefly refers to in the extract just given. Yet the suggestion that the Buddha taught of a 'Deity' in the manner so commonly understood in the West, even by thus proclaiming the divine immanence, is to wander from what the entire testimony of the Buddhist thought so strongly avers; although indeed if Mrs. Rhys Davids means merely the implication that the 'Deity' here spoken of is the abstract or neuter Divine -- as contrasted with the masculine God -- this being slightly if at all different from the essential abstract divinity of the Upanishads, then one can only question the propriety of the usage of the word Deity, and agree.
The main thing to note in all this is that the substantial burthen of the Great Teacher's Message, outside of many other important matters, was the emphasis placed upon his doctrine of Becoming, i.e., evolving, growing, unfolding, unwrapping what is within, by all entities whatsoever, man included, through and by means of that ineluctable and wonderful operation of the Universe which the Buddha in common with his predecessors called Karman: the doctrine of inescapable consequences for every thought, act, emotion, or feeling, undergone passively, or initiated actively, by every individual being or entity. It was precisely this union of willing and doing on the part of every entity which brought about its Ever-Becoming, in other words, its constant growth, or, mayhap, in minor stages its periods of retrogression, likewise instances of 'becoming.'
In this really sublime teaching one finds the philosophical structure of Buddhism both exoteric and, as Theosophists claim, esoteric. By his 'becoming,' i. e., by his progress from stage to stage in evolutionary changes which are continuous and uninterrupted, a man, among other beings, may raise himself as high as the highest gods, or may debase himself through his willing and doing to the low and dread levels of the beings in the so-called hells of which so much is found in Buddhistic literature.
In this teaching of Becoming, just as the same is found in esoteric Theosophy, in the Esoteric Tradition, we find both the reason and the rationale of the many statements both in Buddhism and indeed elsewhere that every man has it within his power, by appropriate spiritual, intellectual, psychical, and ethical willing and doing, himself in the course of ages to become a Buddha -- a doctrine which, as Mrs. Rhys Davids properly hints, is expressly taught in the Buddhism of Northern and Central Asia. As she truly says:
That not this Bodhisattva only, [the Buddha-Gautama in a former existence] but every man has it in him eventually to realize Buddhahood: this was brought to the front by Mahayana Buddhism.
This is admirable; but it is to be regretted that this able and conscientious Pali scholar should labor under the impression that the Buddhism of Southern Asia should have "neglected to show it as equally applicable to every man."
The reason for Mrs. Rhys Davids' belief that this teaching is lacking in the Pali Scriptures seems to lie in the fact that it is not expressly stated as a doctrine; and yet to the present writer the Hinayana-system contains, both by numerous hints in the various scriptures which imbody its teachings, and in rarer instances by direct allusion, the same doctrine of becoming and the same pointing to the results of such becoming that the Mahayana does, albeit in the latter system the doctrine is explicit and fairly well elaborated.
It may be as well before passing on to the main subject of this chapter to refer once more to Mrs. Rhys Davids' clever and very readable little book if only in order to show that modern Western Buddhistic Scholarship is veering markedly away from the Occidental and quasi-Christian prejudices and pre-conceptions that so strongly and injuriously colored the work of virtually all former Occidental Buddhist studies. She speaks at length of the doctrine of 'survival,' around which so much useless controversy has raged in the past as to whether Buddhism does or does not, did or did not, teach the utter annihilation of the human compound at death. Most Western Buddhist scholars of former days, if not all of them, seem to have united in a common opinion to the effect that one proof of the so-called 'Pessimism' of Buddhism was the fact that it taught that with the dissolution of the human compound entity, i.e., at death, the entity vanished, disappeared utterly, was completely annihilated: this in the face of the iterated and reiterated statements of the Buddhist scriptures themselves, even of the Hinayana, that what survived dissolution of the compound entity was its Karman, i. e., the results, consequences, of what the compound entity itself was at the moment of dissolution. It would seem evident to the merest tyro in philosophical thought that the word Karman thus used must have a technical substantial significance, because it is obvious that results or consequences cannot survive the death of their originator, for the reason that if results or consequences do not inhere in some thing or in some entity -- i. e., if they are not parts or portions of an entity -- they have no existence in themselves. An 'act' cannot survive, nor can a 'consequence' survive, except in the modern Western scientific sense of impressions made on surrounding material, and this is not the meaning of the Buddha's teaching because the scriptures of both the Mahayana and the Hinayana are replete with instances of entities, 'compound aggregates,' which nevertheless after death and after a certain period of other existence in other worlds are reborn as men on earth.
The stories about the Buddha himself are both emphatic and luminous illustrations to the point, as exemplified in the famous Jataka-stories, meaning rebirth-stories. These 550 or more rebirth-stories describe the alleged repeated reincarnations or rebirths of the Buddha, and show him rising from lower stages to higher; and if the 'compound aggregate' is utterly annihilated at its death or dissolution, how, obviously, can such a non-existing entity be reborn in an unending series of reappearances of such entity's intrinsic karman? Is it not obvious that Western Scholars have failed to grasp the subtility and profound meaning of the Buddha's teaching? The riddle is solved -- although indeed it is no riddle at all -- by remembering the teaching of Theosophy, of the Esoteric Tradition, to the effect that man, equally with every other being or entity or thing, is his own karman: his karman is himself, for he himself is the results, the consequences, the fruitage, the production, of every preceding thought, feeling, emotion, or act in the virtually unending series of past rebirths, each such birth automatically reproducing itself as changed or modified by its own willing and doing -- to wit, the consciousness acting upon the 'compound aggregate' thus producing karman, or modifications, or changes, in the substance of the man himself. Thus verily a man is his own karman; he is his own child, the offspring of what he formerly willed and made himself now to be; just as at present, in his actual compound constitution he is willing and making himself, through results or consequences produced upon his constitution, to be what in the future he will become.
Just here, again, we see the tremendous force and philosophical power of the Buddha's doctrine of Becoming.
Turning now to the promised citation from Mrs. Rhys Davids' booklet, we find:
That it was, in original Buddhism, a given man or woman who survives, who lives on, after death of the body, is always referred to as a truth to be accepted and understood.
And again, wherein she culls a passage from one of the Jatakas:
'Now it may seem to you, Ananda, that at that time Jotipala was a different person, but you should not look upon it like that. I at that time was Jotipala.' Could emphasis further go? I say this, because later Buddhism came to deny the passing over of the identical person, came to deny there was any personal survivor.
Now these citations from Mrs. Rhys Davids certainly prove that something survives the dissolution of the compound aggregate, following Buddhist thought, when death comes upon this aggregate; but it should be pointed out that this is wholly admitted and emphatically stated in the Buddhist writings themselves, which employ no small emphasis in this ascription of continuity to the x-factor in the compound aggregate which has repeated existences or reincarnations on earth as well as in other worlds. The Buddhist scriptures, as has been stated above, declare that this x-factor is the karman of the entity; Mrs. Rhys Davids seems to rebel at this abstract philosophical statement and believes that she finds in what she calls original Buddhism teaching to the effect that there is an actual person who survives physical dissolution or death. Just so, the present writer is wholly at one with her in this, but he is likewise wholly at one with the statement of the Buddhist scriptures themselves, for he has in preceding paragraphs shown with sufficient clarity although sketchily, he believes, that this surviving 'person' is the karmic entity or karman of the preceding entity which died and which thus survives.
What is a 'person,' after all, except a mask, a vehicle, a veil, composed of compounded or aggregate elements drawn from the surrounding nature through which works and lives the spiritual force alluded to in preceding paragraphs, and which, traced to its source, is seen to be the inner Buddha, the Dhyani-Buddha, the inner god? This, the Buddha himself taught, as so well outlined in the Mahayana-system, man could again become by so living and striving as to bring it into karmic relationship or existence even here on earth.
Mrs. Rhys Davids unfortunately seems to ascribe the teaching of the Pali Buddhist scriptures of the survival of the karman as the entity itself, to the monkish elucubrations of Buddhist anchorites who sought to flee from the world, and who thus craved utter annihilation of their essence in preference to its continued existence in conscious rebirths. The present writer is positive that Mrs. Rhys Davids has here completely misunderstood the subtil philosophical sense of this entire matter; and he believes that Buddhist scholarship in the future will trace back the essential teaching on this matter of the Hinayana Pali scriptures to declarations of Buddha-Gautama himself. Time will show.
Yet one can only desire to render due meed of respect to this courageous student and scholar who, apparently alone, at the present time, is unafraid to face the current of misconception and prejudice which previous Western Buddhistic scholarship has so strongly set in movement.
Turning now to a more particular examination of metaphysical and religio-philosophical ideas imbodied in Buddhism, one would like to ask a very pertinent question: What indeed are the doctrines -- some of the more important of them at least -- that the Buddha-Gautama taught? Or again: What is the fundamental teaching of Buddhism? One will find this question constantly asked and answered by Occidental Orientalists; but the present writer has always wondered, in his study of Buddhism which has extended over some thirty years, why these really learned and scholarly men of the Occident, so earnest and devoted in their studies, so industrious indeed, invariably seem to hunt for, and to insist that Buddhism must have, one fundamental doctrine. To tell the truth, the present writer does not know what this one fundamental doctrine is. It is easy to know what many if not most European scholars have to say about it; but yet the writer of these lines has searched for thirty years more or less to find the 'one fundamental doctrine' in Buddhism, and instead of one he has found a hundred or more.
What are some of these? The impermanence of all manifested existence or existences; that in consequence of the impermanence and illusory nature of all manifested beings and things, pain, suffering, sorrow, are native to all beings who live in this illusion, or maya; yet there is a Way leading to the cessation of all this sorrow, of all this pain, and of all individual illusions about them; and this Way is eightfold in character. It is commonly called in Europe 'the Noble Eightfold Path,' based upon Four Fundamental Truths or Verities. What are, first, these Four Noble Truths:
The noble truth about sorrow and pain;
The noble truth about the cause of sorrow and pain;
The noble truth about the cessation of sorrow and pain;
The noble truth about the path that leads to this cessation.
These four truths may be somewhat paraphrased as follows:
1. Suffering and sorrow exist in all manifested beings.
2. There is a cause for the suffering and the sorrow that exist.
3. There is a way to render extinct the causes of the suffering and sorrow that exist.
4. There is a path, by following which the causes of the suffering and sorrow that exist are rendered extinct. This path consists in a continuous changing to betterment of the factors or samskaras of our consciousness. These factors are eight and comprise the Noble Eightfold Path.
THE NOBLE EIGHTFOLD PATH
1. Recognition of the truth of the preceding four verities.
2. Holding the objective to be attained clearly in the mind, holding it firm, with discrimination.
3. Right words, or controlled and governed speech at a times and in all places.
4. Controlled and governed action at all times and in all places.
5. Appropriate and honorable means of livelihood.
6. An inflexible will to achieve the objective visioned.
7. An eager intellect, always open for a greater truth, and ready to learn; and the cultivation of a strong and retentive memory.
8. An unveiled spiritual perception, combined with great care in thinking, which is the keynote of all the preceding items, and which expressed in other words means right meditation with a tranquil mind into which wisdom thus enters.
In addition to this 'Noble Eightfold Path,' based on the Four Verities, which those especially who follow the Hinayana love, and rightly love, there are the six, seven, or indeed ten, Paramitas or Sublime Virtues studied and followed, let us hope, by the disciples of the Schools of the North -- they who believe that they have received and that they have developed the teaching of the Lord Buddha's heart, and who, likewise, accept at least in their principles the teachings of his brain, the 'Eye-Doctrine' of the Hinayana.
What are these Paramitas? They are stated below, and given largely in the words of H. P. Blavatsky, as found in her noble little handbook The Voice of the Silence. Although a Theosophist first and foremost, she was likewise a formal Buddhist, having at one time when in Ceylon taken Pansil or the Five exoteric Vows; thus she was well qualified to speak about the doctrines of him whom she loved because she understood him far better than the rather stiff-minded European Orientalists, governed to a large extent as they have been by the psychological atmosphere of a now moribund anthropological science, combined with a mind more or less swayed by equally moribund Christian theology. These, then, are the famous Paramitas, the first seven given more or less in the words of H. P. Blavatsky:
1. The key of charity and immortal love.
2. Harmony in word and act, thus cutting at the roots of the making of future evil karman.
3. Patience, that naught can ruffle.
4. Indifference to pleasure and pain, by which illusion is conquered and truth is perceived.
5. Dauntless energy or fortitude, that finds its way to the supernal truth out of the mire of lies.
6. Spiritual meditation, a golden gate which once opened leads the chela or neophyte to the realm of eternal verity and ceaseless contemplation of it.
7. Wisdom combined with discriminating intelligence, which makes of a man a god, creating him a Bodhisattva, a son of the Dhyanis.
In addition to these Seven, the following three are also frequently mentioned in Buddhist literature; and they are of equal importance with the former, although they are here enumerated out of their usual order as they are commonly found in the exoteric books:
8. Proper method or discipline in following the Path.
9. The urgent wish to achieve success for the sake of being an impersonal beneficent energy in the world.
10. A continuous exercise of the intellect in study of self, of others, and incidentally of the great religious literatures and philosophies of the world.
Mind you, these ten are among the most widely accepted mystical teachings of the Northern School of Buddhism which is followed more or less faithfully by some 400 million human beings -- at least let us hope so.
It has often been said by those who understand but little, one fears, of the essential teaching of the Tathagata, of Gautama the Buddha, that he taught that when a man dies, then finis, complete and utter, is his fate or destiny. The man is; he dies; he now is not! This is a monstrous perversion of the Buddha's own teaching. It has often been said by those who have studied but have misunderstood the Buddha-Gautama's teachings, that his doctrine was that there is no reincarnating or reimbodying entity, as an entity; and yet the teachings of the Buddhist scriptures, both of South and of North, are filled with the stories of what it is popular to miscall the 'metempsychosis' of individuals.
Take the Jataka-Tales, already alluded to, the birth-tales supposed by the multitude of unthinking to be stories of the former imbodiments of Sakyamuni himself, dealing with events that were said to have taken place in these past imbodiments of his on Earth -- take these as instances; and one will find in these curiously interesting and sometimes profound tales, for they are largely mystical and metaphorical, that the existences of the Buddha began, as it were, in the very beginning of this present world-period, as one of the lowest and humblest of creatures, and that he slowly evolved through repetitive imbodiments developing and growing in each, until finally he attained Buddhahood as Sakyamuni.
Question: If there be no surviving entity, what was it that passed from birth to birth in those numerous stories, which, whatever one may think of them, proclaim the common acceptance by the multitude of Buddhists of there being some kind of x-factor in the complex of skandhas forming the human being which passes from life to life? Or how about the many instances in canonical Buddhist scriptures themselves, which place in the mouth of the Great Teacher himself observations, remarks, parables, references, to the preceding births of such or such other individuals? If Buddhism taught no such continuity through repeated imbodiments of something, why all this allusion to reincarnating beings?
In the preceding chapter the matter has been treated at some length with due reference made to the theory of the man being his own karman or skandhic aggregate which as a compound is recollected or gathered together anew in order to produce a new person or man for each successive imbodiment or reincarnation.
Buddhism teaches an evolution or development of this x-factor of consciousness and will slowly followed through many rebirths, through repeated imbodiments, bringing about constantly increasing faculty and power, until finally the entity whose evolving destiny is thus traced, becomes a man; and after becoming a man finally becomes a Bodhisattva -- one filled with the spirit of the inner Buddha, or rather of the Buddhic principle, the Bodhi, the principle and fountain-head of utter wisdom. Furthermore, that taking the Buddha-Gautama as an example or illustration of such an evolving entity, in his last incarnation on earth, he was born the human Bodhisattva-Siddhartha, later called Sakyamuni, in the year 643 B. C., and that when he was eighty years of age, after having passed through manifold experiences and trials, and after he had gathered together and taught his disciples and had sent them abroad in order to proclaim the Good Law, he then entered the Nirvana, with an entering which left naught behind save his Dharma -- the Law, i.e., the Truth that he taught.
Now, let one ask: What is it that thus passes from the humblest of beings through the many and varied gatis or 'ways' of existence, through repeated and incessant rebirth, until that Something, that x-quantity, hereinbefore called the x-factor, becomes a Buddha? What is it, one asks? The scriptures of the South of Asia, of the Hinayana, will say that it was results, consequences, i. e., karman. Precisely! What then is this karman? The word itself means action, signifying results, consequences, effects. But is it thinkable that the noblest Sage of historic times, the titan-intellect of the human race, perhaps the loftiest spiritual genius of his kind known to the human species for scores of thousands of years past, taught that bare consequences, naked composites, sheer effects, technically called samskaras or mere collections (one may properly ask, collections of what?) can and do pass in entitative fashion from life to life, re-collect themselves -- re-collect themselves after being time after time dispersed as atomic aggregates into the various realms of Nature from which they were originally drawn? The answer depends entirely upon the meaning that we give to this term samskaras, and to the term skandhas. If these are mere aggregates of atoms existing on the psycho-emotional as well as on the physical plane, and without any internal bond of spiritual-psychological union, thus voicing the merely and completely materialistic idea: then we must infer that this titan-intellect taught an impossibility, which the merest tyro in philosophical and scientific thought would reject with impatience as being words without meaning, thoughts without content, ideas void of sense or foundation. Or if, on the other hand, we understand, as we should understand, samskaras to mean psycho-magnetic and material aggregates of life-atoms attracted to each other because of their intrinsic magnetic vital power, and unified and governed by the repetitive action of the same spiritual and intellectual forces, previously described, which formerly held them in union as an aggregated vehicle, then indeed we have a reasonable and logical teaching consistent with what we know ourselves of the intricate and unitary yet compounded character of our constitution, and likewise thoroughly consistent not only with all the teaching of the Hindu philosophy of the day, but with all the remainder of the Buddha's own sublimely comprehensive and profound philosophy.
The following observations, therefore, give the undoubted meaning and inner content of the Gautama-Buddha's Doctrine; and it is likewise precisely the meaning and content of the 'heart' of his teaching as found in the Mahayana-Schools of the North, and taught today by Theosophy. One may add that it is also the meaning and content of the Hinayana-School, although in this last school the inner content is less easily uncovered, though seen to be as much a part of it when thus uncovered as it is an essential part of the great Mahayana-Systems.
While it is perfectly true that the lower parts, or inferior portions, of every entity, of a human being for instance, form a compound or 'complex,' and therefore are a compounded aggregate, and consequently because of this combination mortal and perishable as such compound, being what in Buddhism are called the samskaras, or the body of composites, nevertheless, there is something of a spiritual, intellectual, and psychological character, previously called the x-factor, around which this aggregated compound re-gathers or re-collects itself at each new rebirth; and it is this something by which the compound is re-assembled and during life is held together as an entity, thus forming a man -- or indeed any similar being. There is here no such teaching as that of the imperishable, immortal soul in the Christian sense, static through eternity in unchanging essential characteristics, as is obvious enough; and this deduction of no such imperishable immortal soul in the human being as drawn from the teachings of the Buddha himself, and as found in the many and various scriptures, is perfectly correct, for such a soul, to be immortal, must not and cannot essentially change, which likewise would mean that it cannot evolve or grow, because if it did so grow, so evolve -- which means changing to something different and better -- it then no longer is what it was before. It is something different because it is changed; and therefore, not being what it formerly was, it obviously cannot be 'immortal' in the Christian sense. This is a subtil and profound thought which, once grasped, unveils the inner meaning of Sakyamuni's teaching in this respect, and one's sense of logical consistency is aroused to admiration by it.
Consequently this x-quantity, call it what you like, call it karman if you will -- and if you understand the proper meaning of the word karman as signifying consequences, or results, of whatever kind, spiritual, intellectual, psychical, physical or what not, it is as good a word as any -- is that vital-psychological something which insures the re-collecting of the samskaras together for the new life, thus reproducing the new man, as the fruitage or results of his past life. It all is simply a continuance in existence of this x-quantity in life after life by means of the karmic consequences or results of the life and of all the lives which have preceded any new appearance or imbodiment or incarnation of the peregrinating entity.
Let us try to illustrate this very mystical doctrine, so difficult for Occidentals to understand. Consider a child. The child is born from an infinitesimal and invisible human life-germ, and yet in a few years it grows to be a six-foot man. Now then, in order to become a six-foot man from the little child that it was, it must pass through many and differing stages of growth, of evolution which means development, unfolding. First it is the microscopic germ, developing into the embryo, then born as an infant, then growing into the lad, the lad changing into the young man, the young man becoming the man in the maturity and plenitude of his powers, and finally, the man after the maturity and plenitude of his powers enters upon the phase of senescence, decay, decrepitude and death. Now every one of these phases is a change from the preceding one, and is based and founded upon the preceding one. Each such new phase is the karman of the next preceding phase and all preceding phases. Yet the man is the same through all the changes, although the man himself changes because growing likewise.
The boy of six is not the boy of ten; the boy of ten is not the lad of fifteen; and the young man of twenty-five is not the man of forty; and the man of forty is different from the man of fifty-five when he is at his prime -- or should be; and the man of eighty, usually weak and tired, worn with toil and labor, soon going to his rest and peace for a while, is not the new-born child -- yet the entity is the same from the beginning of the cyclic series unto its end; because there is an uninterrupted series of steps or stages of change signifying growth, which means development or evolution.
In this example, simple as it is, you have the key to the Buddhist thought. Precisely as it is with the birth and development and growth of a child into a human adult, so is it with the passage of the karman of an entity from body to body through the different life-stages of rebirth, through the different ages: the passing from low to high of that x-quantity which the Theosophists call 'the reincarnating ego,' and the mystical Buddhists speak of as the shining ray from the Buddha within, and which the Hinayana of the South, the defective vehicle, the exoteric teaching of the Lord Buddha, spoke of as the 'karman' of the man growing continuously nobler, better, grander, greater, more evolved, until the man through these karmic changes or changings of karman finally becomes a Bodhisattva; the Bodhisattva then becomes a Buddha, finally entering the Nirvana.
It may as well be said here that this 'something,' this x-factor, is what in Theosophy is called the Monad which, imperishable in essence, and the fountain-head of all consciousness and will, passes from age to age throughout the Manvantara and reproduces itself by means of rays from its essence in the various reimbodiments or reincarnations which it thus brings about. In mystical Buddhism, especially of the North, this Monad is identic with the Dhyani-Buddha or inner spiritual 'Buddha of Meditation' which is the heart or core of every reimbodying being. Just as in Esoteric Theosophy or the Esoteric Tradition each and every monad is a droplet, or ray, to change the figure of speech, of and from the cosmic Mahabuddhi, just so in mystical Buddhism, every Dhyani-Buddha is a ray from Amitabha-Buddha, a form or manifestation of Alaya or the Cosmic Spirit.
When one hears that Buddhism teaches the final ending, signifying the thorough-going transmuting, wholly complete, of that intangible and vague entity which Christians miscall 'soul,' and which the Buddhists of the South call the 'karman' of a man -- the sum-total of all that a man is, all his feelings, thoughts, yearnings, energies, forces (in short everything that the man is, for everything is his karman), passing ever to greater and greater things -- then it should be remembered that while this statement is true when properly understood, nevertheless the Northern School of Buddhism which is incomparably more mystical than that of the South, still retains, however imperfectly, the more explicit and lucid teaching emanating from the Buddha's 'heart,' to wit: That there is a ray from the celestial Buddha within the composite entity called man builded of the samskaras, and that it is the influence of this ray which first brought the samskaras together, which ray persists throughout the ages, and re-collects the same samskaras together anew, thus reproducing through repetitive imbodiments on Earth the same karmic entity who or which formerly existed. Try to understand the essential meaning of this karman-doctrine as taught by the great Master and as more or less faithfully imbodied in the Buddhist scriptures, and the fact will be grasped that the karman of the man is the man himself; and that just because the man himself is continually changing because continually growing, thus the karman of the man which is himself is obviously likewise continually changing for the better. The teaching of the South, of the Hinayana, is true, when it states that what remains of a man after his death is his karman, because as just shown this karman is the man himself.
With all that has been said in this and the preceding chapter, the theme has been little more than sketched, yet with sufficient outline, it is hoped, to develop forth its inner sense. He whom his followers and whom the West know under various titles, such as Gautama the Buddha, Sakyamuni or the Sakya-Sage, or by his personal name Siddhartha -- which means 'one who has achieved his objective' -- was born in the Spring, at or about the time of the Spring-Equinox, in the waxing moon, and in the year 643 B. C., reckoning according to Christian chronology, in a North Indian town which is now thought to have been in the foot-hills of the Himalaya-mountains. His father was Suddhodana which our very pragmatical Occidentalists say means 'pure rice,' or 'pure food,' apparently forgetting that it is virtually impossible that this could be the translation because it would be a violation of Sanskrit grammar, and the original of such translation would have to be spelled Suddhaudana -- which it is not. The word means 'pure water' or 'pure flow,' and is obviously in connexion with the fact that his mother was called Maya or Mayadevi, meaning Illusion, or Illusion the goddess, a mystic name referring to the Buddhist teaching itself that his origin was divine, from the Celestial Buddha, from whom flowed a pure ray of the spirit which, passing through the realms of Illusion the mother, mystically gave birth to the Buddha. Remember also that the name of his wife was Yasodhara, which can be translated as 'holder of glory' or perhaps better 'possessor of glory,' pointing to the fact of his possession as the other 'half' of himself of spiritual qualities and powers through which and in connexion with which he lived and worked.
It is unnecessary here to relate anew the world-famed story of the Buddha's life, as it is so well known not only to scholars but to every student of the life of the great Master. Those who are even today so strangely and strongly fascinated by the various forms of the lower Indian Yoga, as this has been proclaimed abroad in Western lands by itinerant thinkers from the Indian Peninsula, and who imagine that the pathway to initiation and interior development is the mortification or, even worse, the mutilation of the physical frame, should take serious counsel of the fact the Buddha, so the story of his life runs, after trying these various means of interior development through yoga, cast them all aside, renounced them as virtually useless for his sublime purpose. Iconography and pictorial art generally in Buddhism show the various phases of the different events in his life before he attained utter illumination or Buddhahood under the Bodhi-tree, so called in commemoration of this great Event; and the most informative of these representations are they which show the Buddha in one of the various postures of spiritual meditation, interior re-collection; but equally significant are those which represent him in the pre-Buddha state as a veritable image of skin and bones, what the Germans call a Hautskelet. The pathway to the Temple of Wisdom and of interior illumination is not the pathway of mortification of the flesh, but the control of the will, the living of the life, combined with intellectual awakening -- i. e., the path of interior development, and the becoming at one with the superior elements of the human constitution which are at one and the same time divine in their highest parts, spiritual in the next lower range and intellectual in their third.
The term 'Buddha' itself means awakened, from the verbal root budh, signifying 'to observe,' 'to recover consciousness,' and therefore, to 'awaken' -- i. e., a Buddha is one who is fully awake and active in all the parts or ranges of his septempartite constitution, and is therefore a full, complete, and relatively speaking a perfectly evolved human being.
The esoteric Theosophical teaching is here likewise passed over in relative slightness, which teaching contains the statement that the Buddha did indeed 'die' to all human affairs at the age of eighty years, because then the higher parts of him entered the Nirvana, and no Nirvani can be called a living man if he has attained the seventh degree of this range of Nirvana as the Buddha did; yet the esoteric Theosophical teaching likewise states that in all the remainder of his constitution, in those parts of him beneath the range of the Dhyani-Buddha within him, he remained alive on Earth for twenty years more after this date, teaching his Arhats and chosen disciples in secret, giving to them the nobler 'doctrines of the heart,' as obviously he had publicly taught 'the doctrines of his brain,' i. e., the eye-doctrine; and that finally, in the hundredth year of his physical age, Gautama-Sakyamuni, the Buddha, cast his physical body aside and thereafter has lived in the inner realms of being as a Nirmanakaya.
This chapter relates briefly only and with extreme succinctness what is indeed a fascinating theme of study, but it would make the present portion of this book intolerably long were one to embark upon a more extended analysis of the noble topic which hereinbefore is briefly discussed. Yet one must say a little more about a phase of the Buddha's teaching which exoteric Buddhism, whether of North or South, does not openly tell of. There is a Wisdom, the Secret Wisdom of the Buddha-Gautama, his esoteric dharma -- and the present writer does not hesitate to state this openly, and he ventures to say that it may be found, although more or less veiled in the teaching of the books of the great Mahayana-School of Northern and Central Asia. Furthermore, this dharma, this Secret Wisdom, this Gupta-Vidya, can verily be taught. Among its doctrines, likewise found in the teaching of the Northern School, is the statement that every man is a manifestation on this earth of a Buddhic principle belonging to his constitution and manifesting in three degrees or phases: (a) as a Celestial or Dhyani-Buddha, (b) as a Dhyani-Bodhisattva, (c) as a Manushya-Buddha; and that all human faculties and powers are, like rays from a spiritual sun, derivatives from this wondrous interior compound Buddhic entity. It is the core of the core of all our being. Union with this 'heart' of us is the aim of all initiation, for it is the union, the becoming at one, with the Buddhi-principle within us, the seat of abstract Bodhi; and when this union is achieved, then a man becomes a Buddha.
This is the fundamental thought, in the writer's considered opinion, of all the teaching of the Buddha-Gautama; and even the very last words which popular legend ascribes to the Master on his death-bed, 'Seek out your own perfection,' imbody the same fundamental thought of the human being as an imperfect manifestation of the celestial or Dhyani-Buddha within himself -- the man ever striving, consciously or unconsciously, to attain union with this divinity within. This is the yoga of Buddhism, although one readily grants that we hear little of it; yet it is averred that it is likewise the real yoga, and the only yoga worth anything, in the various systems of Hindu yoga-teaching likewise.
We have in these thoughts, drawn from the recorded teachings of the Buddha himself, exactly the same sublime adhortation or injunction that all the great Sages and Seers of all the ages have taught, to wit, that the way to the unutterable Wisdom and Peace of the Divine is found within oneself. All the great spiritual and intellectual human Titans, whose vast minds have been the luminaries of the human race in all past times, were precisely they who had developed more or less of this Buddha-principle within themselves; and the value, philosophic, religious, and ethical, of this teaching lies in the fact that every human being may follow the same path that these great Masters have followed, because every human being has in his constitution the same identical cosmic elements that the Great Ones have.
Even the School of Southern Asia, the Hinayana, gives as the unquestioned teaching of the Tathagata that a man can attain union with Brahman, as is evidenced by a number of passages in the Pali scriptures. Now, what is the path by which this union may be achieved? In answer, consider the following citation from one of the 'orthodox' scriptures of the Hinayana-School, and thus the reader will have the Buddhist scriptures' own words before him. This teaching of the Buddha-Gautama concerning the gaining of union with Brahma will be familiar to him as likewise being the teaching of orthodox Brahmanism. Thus, then, from the Tevijja-Sutta:
'That the Bhikkhu who is free . . . should after death, when the body is dissolved, become united with Brahma, who is the same -- such a condition of things is every way possible!
'In sooth, . . . the Bhikkhu who is free from anger, free from malice, pure in mind, and master of himself should after death, when the body is dissolved, become united with Brahma, who is the same -- such a condition of things is every way possible!'
'For Brahma, I know, . . . and the world of Brahma, and the path which leadeth unto it. Yea, I know it even as one who has entered the Brahma world, and has been born within it!'
'And he lets his mind pervade one quarter of the world with thoughts of Love, of pity, sympathy, and equanimity, and so the second, and so the third, and so the fourth. And thus the whole wide world, above, below, around, and everywhere, does he continue to pervade with heart of Love, with heart of pity, sympathy, and equanimity, far-reaching, grown great, and beyond measure.
'Verily this . . . is the way to a state of union with Brahma.'
In what stronger words could a more emphatic and clear-cut statement be made than the above, of the fact that there is something of a spiritual-intellectual character which works through the compound aggregate of the skandhas that form the 'mere man,' and which spiritual substance or entity -- called by the Theosophist the spiritual Monad -- can and finally must attain union with the Cosmic Spirit here called Brahma, or, in other words, what the Esoteric Philosophy or the Esoteric Tradition frequently calls the Logos, in this instance the Third or so-called 'Creative' Logos. We have here the essence or substance, in almost identic formulation, of the teaching of the Vedanta of India, that the essence or the substantial root of all beings and things, man therefore included, is the cosmic Brahman or Cosmic Spirit, of which all beings and entities are the offsprings, and reunion with which is, in the long course of ages, finally inevitable; and that there exists a Way or Path by which such reunion may be attained, by which Way the aeons'-long evolutionary pilgrimage may be vastly shortened.
Now then, after the conclusive paragraphs just cited above from the Tevijja-Sutta, one of the standard scriptures of the Southern School of Buddhism, in which the x-quantity, that Something, is emphatically and plainly stated herein as being capable of attaining 'a state of union with Brahma,' it becomes necessary to point with emphatic finger to one of the most pregnant and important teachings of the Great Master which shows that the Buddha-Gautama by no means considered such a state of union with Brahman as the ultimate or ending of the existence of the fortunate Jivanmukta or freed Monad. Indeed, his teaching ran directly contrary to such erroneous idea; for both implicitly and explicitly, as may be found in the scriptures of both the North and the South, there is the reiterated statement that even beyond the 'world of Brahma,' i. e., beyond Brahman, there are realms of consciousness and being still higher than this 'world of Brahma,' in which reside the roots, so to speak, of the Cosmic Tree and therefore the Root of every human being, the offspring of such mystical Cosmic Tree. What is this Mystic Root, this that is higher even than Brahma? It is the individualized Adi-Buddha, the Cosmic 'Creative' Logos of Adi-Bodhi, or Alaya, the Cosmic Originant; for even a 'world of Brahma' is a manifested world; and, therefore, however high it may be by comparison with our material world, is yet a relatively imperfect sphere of life and lives. In consequence, the teaching runs that higher even than Brahma there is something Else, the rootless Root, reaching back and within, cosmically speaking, into Parabrahmic Infinitude. One who is a Buddha, i. e., one who has become allied in his inmost essence with the cosmic Bodhi, thus can enter not only the 'world of Brahma,' but pass out of it and above it and beyond it, yea, higher and higher still to those cosmic reaches of life-consciousness-substance towards which human imagination may aspire and indeed always does aspire, however feebly; but which, unless we are Buddhas in fact, i. e., more or less straitly in self-conscious union with the Dhyani-Buddha, the spiritual Monad within us, we cannot understand otherwise than to be an adumbration of ineffable Nature.
These citations, and the more or less necessarily condensed arguments that have been drawn from them, and more especially and somewhat more widely from the general teaching of Esoteric Theosophy, the Esoteric Tradition, should prove to any really thoughtful and impartial mind that there was something more, and indeed vastly more, in the great Master's teaching than the sketchy scriptural records, and the all too often prejudiced and distorted outline of it drawn by the willing and sincere but unskilled hands of most European Orientalists. A Secret Doctrine, an Esoteric Wisdom, a prehistoric Esoteric Tradition, is seen to be a necessary component part -- indeed the best part because the entire background -- of the teaching of the Buddha; for towards such background every one of his public teachings points, and when considered collectively rather than distributively, when synthesized after analysis, the impartial student reaches the conclusion which seems to be irresistible, that such an Esoteric Doctrine or Tradition was in very truth the 'heart' and foundation of the great Master's teaching and life-work.