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Buddhist Publication Society
Kandy • Sri Lanka
First Edition 1964
Second Printing 1984
BPS Online Edition © (2008)
Digital Transcription Source: BPS Transcription Project
For free distribution. This work may be republished, reformatted, reprinted and redistributed in any medium. However, any such republication and redistribution is to be made available to the public on a free and unrestricted basis, and translations and other derivative works are to be clearly marked as such.
Schopenhauer and Buddhism by Max Ladner
Character by Paul Dahlke
What is Interesting? by Paul Dahlke
The Buddhist’s Attitude Towards Christians by Georg Grimm
The Buddha’s Code of Conduct by Georg Grimm
The Path for the Buddhist Lay Follower by Georg Grimm
Three Kinds of People by Dr. Karl Seidenstücker
Sotāpatti and Sotāpanna by Dr. Karl Seidenstücker
Thoughts on the Buddha’s “Fire-Discourse” by Dr. Anton Kropatsch
Professor Paley’s Famous Clock-Argument by Max Ladner
Void is the World by Kurt Schmidt
The Root of Intuitive Perceptions by Lionel Stützer
Of Cats and Monkeys by Paul Debes
The Way to Peace and Harmony by Hellmuth Hecker
Next to the English, it was in the German language, that outstanding writers have made large contributions to the spreading of Buddhism in the West. German philosophers and orientalists were early attracted to the message of the Buddha. And the German mind, so well adapted for painstaking research, delved deeply into the texts of the ancient Pali Canon producing translations of exemplary clarity. Again there were others who pondered over the teachings, interpreted them, lectured on them, wrote essays and books, published periodicals, organized societies, all for the sole purpose of disseminating knowledge and acquainting German speaking people with the Buddha’s Doctrine. In this short anthology of German Buddhist writers it was not possible to do justice to all of them. Notable writers have been mentioned only by name without the inclusion of articles of theirs. This does not signify that their writings are of lesser importance and value. These omissions are caused primarily by limitations of space; in some cases suitable essays were not available, or because other exterior reasons prevented inclusion. Hence this anthology does not claim completeness or even a fully representative collection. It is hoped, however, that, in spite of these shortcomings, this book will succeed in giving a fairly comprehensive idea of the depth and insight matched equally with their love for the Buddha’s Teaching of which German Buddhist writers give so convincing evidence. It is the aim of this anthology to present a roster of prominent names of active workers, scholars and writers in this field, with short biographical notes on the major ones and translations of some typical examples of their work. The scope of this book is not confined to German nationals alone but includes writers from countries where German is spoken, such as Austria and Switzerland. We begin with one great German philosopher, Arthur Schopenhauer, whose work has been a major influence in the growth of German Buddhism. Then we shall follow with the names of early scholars and writers on Buddhism in approximately chronological order.
* * *
Arthur Schopenhauer (1788–1860) had access only to the very earliest and scanty publications on Buddhism based chiefly on Mahāyāna sources. But his genius enabled him to understand the essentials of the Doctrine and he was well pleased to find that they corresponded fundamentally with his own ideas. While Schopenhauer is not in a strict sense a “Buddhist” writer, his many laudatory references in The World as Will and Idea to the person and the Doctrine of the Buddha encouraged many a young student and admirer to the further study of Buddhism. It was in this way that he did—and still does—help the spread of the Buddha’s Teaching in the Western world.
Friedrich Spiegel (1820–1905) was among the first editors and translators of Pali texts. His Anecdota Palica were printed in 1845. It contained in Devanāgari script the Pali text of the Uraga Sutta with extracts from the Commentary, and also an extract from the Rasavāhinī, a collection of stories written in Ceylon.
Albrecht Weber (1825–1901) made the first translation of the Dhammapada in a living Western tongue. It was printed in German in the Zeitschrift der Morgenländischen Gesellschaft, Leipzig 1860. He published numerous papers, books and translations in the field of Indology.
Hermann Oldenberg (1854–1920) was an outstanding figure among the Indologists of the last century. He edited the entire Vinaya Piṭaka of which his learned introduction brought the Rule and Discipline of the Sangha to the forefront and thus opened up a new field for the study of Buddhist monasticism. His chief work: Buddha, sein Leben und seine Gemeinde (1881), was the first comprehensive exposition of Buddhism in Europe based on first-hand Pali sources. The book was translated into English by Hoeg in 1882: The Buddha, his Life and his Order of Monks.
Wilhelm Geiger (1856–1953) was the great German pioneer of Sinhalese philology. One of his chief works was the complete and scientific edition of the Mahāvaṃsa, an ancient chronicle of Ceylon written in Pali, which he also translated into English. He translated into German the first two volumes of the Saṃyutta Nikāya (1925–1930) and edited from 1921–1926 the scholarly German periodical Zeitschrift fur Buddhismus.
Karl Eugen Neumann (1865–1915) was one of the foremost translators of Buddhist Pali texts. His work had been facilitated by the establishment of the Pali Text Society (London), although some of his translations were based on oriental texts. In 1892 appeared his first book, Buddhistische Anthologie, followed by a long list of German translations of important Pali texts. The beauty of his language through which he tried to reproduce the rhythm and force of the Pali original, his wide reading in the field of world-literature and mysticism, embodied in his notes, attracted many of the prominent personalities of his day to the Buddha’s Teaching. Of all the printed texts already existing in Germany, Neumann’s rendition had the widest public appeal for his erudition and mastery of the German tongue. George Bernard Shaw, who admired him greatly, declared that only Martin Luther whose genius gave the Germans their Bible can compare with him. Neumann translated the Majjhima Nikāya in its entirety, further Dīgha Nikāya, Thera- and Therī-gāthā, Suttanipāta and Dhammapada. With the Majjhima Nikāya he opened up the heart of Buddhist Canonical Literature. For this reason alone German Buddhism owes him a debt of undying gratitude. Neumann has sometimes sacrificed literalness to beauty of language, yet his translations will continue to be treasured and remain a masterwork of German literature.
Friedrich Zimmermann (1852–1917), another great pioneer of the Dhamma in Germany, died in 1917, two years after Dr. Neumann’s passing. He became known throughout Europe as the author of a Buddhist Catechism which he published under the pseudonym of “Subhadra Bhikshu.” This Catechism, a masterpiece of doctrinal precision and clarity of style, saw nine editions in Germany alone and was translated into more than ten languages, including Japanese.
Paul Dahlke (1865–1928) is another name of distinction in the German Buddhist movement. Early in his life he was attracted to the Buddha’s Teaching and later travelled in the East. He was a Doctor of Medicine and a herbalist of note. In Ceylon he received Pali lessons from scholarly monks and translated parts of the Sutta Piṭaka. This he followed up with the publication of several books on Buddhism and from 1918 onward with two periodicals, the Neubuddhistische Zeitschrift, “New-Buddhist Journal,” and later Die Brockensammlung, “Odds and Ends,” for which he wrote many erudite articles. Returning from his travels in the East, he conceived the idea to establish a Buddhist Community Centre in the environs of Berlin. “We Buddhists have no churches, do not want them, do not need them, but we need places where, after the burden of daily life, one can rest the spirit in tranquillity. Particularly must we try and establish such places in large cities.” At the time he was already in poor health yet he proceeded with his project in 1924. The Centre was built in Berlin-Frohnau on a 75 acre estate and included, among others, a large main building with a temple-like auditorium. The grounds were beautifully terraced and landscaped. This place, which is a showplace in all Europe, was acquired in the 1950s by a Buddhist Society of Ceylon, the German Dhammaduta Society of Colombo. It is now inhabited by Sri Lankan monks and open for those who come to inquire, to meditate and to receive instruction in the Buddha’s Teaching. Some of his books were translated into English and became quite popular under the titles “Buddhist Essays” and “Buddhism and Science.” Also his last and philosophically most mature book appeared in English under the title “Buddhism in the Intellectual Life of Mankind.”
Georg Grimm (1868–1945) became widely known in Germany and abroad through his main work, The Doctrine of the Buddha, The Religion of Reason and Meditation, the 14th impression of which was translated into English by Bhikkhu Sīlācāra. Destined to become a Catholic priest, he completed his theological studies; however, he left the seminary before receiving holy orders, on grounds of conscience, chose jurisprudence and became a judge. Amongst his colleagues on the bench he was known as “the most benevolent judge in Bavaria.” His deep interest in philosophical problems soon induced him to bestow his intensive attention upon the study of Arthur Schopenhauer’s scriptures. It was the influence of Schopenhauer that led him to Indological studies, particularly to the study of the Pali language. Therewith he came more and more into the attractive force of the Buddha’s Teaching. In the year 1923 he caused himself to be pensioned as a Counsel of Provincial Court of Appeal in Munich. Georg Grimm wrote his books from an attitude acquired by his own practical realization of the Dhamma. He was writing them, as he often said, for himself. The last twelve years of his life he spent in the rural stillness on the shore of Lake Ammer in Southern Bavaria. With the well-known Indologist and philosopher Paul Deussen (1845–1919)—the early friend of Nietzsche—he was connected by a lasting friendship until death. It was together with the Indologist Dr. Karl Seidenstücker that Georg Grimm founded the “Old Buddhist Community” in Utting am Ammersee. This community which is headed now by Frau Maya Keller-Grimm, the daughter of the founder, with the able assistance of Max Hoppe, issues a monthly magazine, Yāna.
Dr. Karl Seidenstücker (1876–1936), a prominent Indologist and a pupil of Professor Windisch, is to be credited with being the founder of the first Buddhist Society in Germany (1903) dedicated to the establishment of a Buddhist Mission. In 1905 he published the first Buddhist magazine in Germany, Der Buddhist, which lasted up to the first World War. In 1919 he joined George Grimm as publisher and co-editor of the magazine Buddhistischer Weltspiegel, “Buddhist World-Mirror.” Dr. Karl Seidenstücker was a prolific writer and translator of Pali texts. He published a number of books; among them the first German translation of the Udāna (1920) and Itivuttaka (1922), and also an elementary grammar of the Pali language.
Nyanatiloka Mahāthera (1878–1957) had the honour of being the first ordained Bhikkhu of German origin and also the first from continental Europe. Early he became attracted to Buddhist philosophy and this moved him to come to Ceylon in 1903. He was ordained in Burma in 1904, and soon after returned to Ceylon. From there on practically his entire life was spent in the East. He became a thorough student and renowned scholar of Pali and the Dhamma and wrote many books both in English and German. In 1911 he established the “Island Hermitage” near Dodanduwa in Ceylon, which became famous all over the Buddhist world. During the first and second World War his activities were interrupted, as both times he was interned by the British on account of his German citizenship. During these periods the Mahāthera’s life was rather difficult, but in spite of the handicaps his literary output is impressively large. His first publication in German as well as in English was the Word of the Buddha (1906) which still is today a classic in Buddhist literature; other English publications were the Guide through the Abhidhamma Piṭaka and the Buddhist Dictionary. However the larger part of his work was done in the German language. Among many publications were the translation of the Milinda-pañhā and his most voluminous work, the complete translation of the Aṅguttara Nikāya (5 vols. of 2000 pages). In 1950 his German translation of the Visuddhimagga was printed. This work alone would be enough to place the Mahāthera in the first ranks of Buddhist scholarship.
The worldwide fame and his noble example drew many Western Buddhists into the ranks of the Sangha. Among his German pupils were: Ven. Sumano Sāmaṇera (ordained 1905; died 1910 in Ceylon), a saintly character whose posthumous essay “Pabbajjā” (Wheel, No. 27/28) had inspired many German Buddhists. Ven. Vappo Mahāthera (1874–1960), ordained in 1911 (see Bodhi Leaves 3); Ven. Nyanaponika Mahāthera (1901–1993), ordained 1936, Editor, Buddhist Publication Society. German publications: Kompendium der Dingwelt (German translation of Dhammasaṅgaṇī), Satipaṭṭhāna, 1950; Suttanipāta (trans.), 1955; Der Einzige Weg (Sati: Anthology) 1956; Geistestraining durch Achtsamkeit, 1970.
Kurt Schmidt (1879–1975), graduated as Doctor of Law in 1901 from the University of Rostock. He went first into journalism and became a newspaper editor. Hereafter he engaged in Buddhist studies, learned Pali, Sanskrit and Chinese. Apart from numerous essays, he published several books on Buddhism, among them introductions to the Doctrine, biographies of Buddhist Saints, two anthologies from the Pali scriptures, a short popular Pali Grammar, and a condensed translation of the Majjhima Nikāya.
Helmuth von Glasnapp (1891–1963). Professor of Indology in Königsberg and Tübingen. Some of his numerous publications on Buddhism: Der Buddhismus in Indien und im Fernen Osten (“Buddhism in India and the Far East”), 1936; Die Weisheit des Buddha (The Wisdom of the Buddha), 1946; Vedanta und Buddhismus, 1950 (English trans. Wheel No. 2); Buddhismus und Christentum, 1949 (Engl. trans. Wheel No. 16); Der Buddhismus und Die Gottesidee, (“Buddhism and the God-idea”), 1954; Der Pfad zur Erleuchtung, Grundtexte der Buddhistischen Heilslehre (“The Path to Enlightenment, Basic texts of Buddhism”), 1956.
Martin Steinke—Tao Chuen (1882–1966). Founded in 1922 the “Gemeinde um Buddha” (“Fellowship around Buddha”) which issued a periodical up to 1932. Extensive activity in public lecturing, doctrinal courses, etc. In 1933, he received Mahāyāna Ordination in China. Among his published works is his latest: Das Lebensgesetz (“The Law of Life”), 1962.
Kurt Fischer (1892–1942). Friend and secretary of Dr. Paul Dahlke. After the latter’s death he continued lecturing and teaching and conducting the Uposatha celebrations. He edited a Buddhist quarterly, Buddhistisches Leben und Denken (“Buddhist Life and Thought”) (1930–1942).
Max Ladner (1890–1963). He was the editor of Die Einsicht which became the leading Theravada monthly for all German-speaking countries. He wrote two important books: Wirklichkeit und Erlösung, “Reality and Deliverance,” and Gotama Buddha. Max Ladner was a writer of great literary charm combined with profound philosophical acumen.
Lionel Stützer (1901–1991) joined the “Fellowship around Buddha” in 1922. After the prohibition of all Buddhist Societies in 1942 by the Nazi regime, and after the end of the second World War, he founded in 1946 the Buddhistische Gemeinde (Buddhist Community) in Berlin. which continues up to this day. In 1952 he was initiated into the Western Branch of the Order Ariya-Maitreya Mandala. He lectured extensively to both groups.
Dr. Anton Kropatsch, Wien (1897–1971), Dermatologist. Retired Chief Physician of the Leprosy Hospital, Vienna. Apart from medical writings, he wrote numerous Buddhist essays in Indische Welt, (The Mahā Bodhi). He published books in German; Die Letzte Freiheit des Menschen (“Man’s Last Freedom”, on Anattā), 1957. Wiedergeburt und Erlösung in der Lehre des Buddha (“Rebirth and Deliverance in the Buddha’s Doctrine”), 1903.
Paul Debes (1906–2004) was a widely known lecturer and writer in the northwestern parts of Germany. He wrote: Meisterung der Existenz durch die Lehre des Buddha (“Mastery of Human Existence through the Doctrine of the Buddha”), 1982. Paul Debes has been conducting Seminars for beginners and advanced students of the Buddha’s Teaching. He is the founder of Buddhistisches Seminar für Seinskunde, situated near Hamburg, which issues a monthly magazine, Wissen und Wandel (“Knowledge and Conduct”).
Dr. Hellmuth Hecker (born 1923) is an international jurist and Buddhist scholar. He wrote numerous scholarly articles for the magazine Die Einsicht, and published Die Ethik des Buddha (“Buddhist Ethics”), 1976.
* * *
Finally, mention must be made that Buddhism in Germany of to-day has become a living force and is fast outgrowing the narrow academic circles of merely scholarly interests. A recent survey, done in 1963, reveals that an intensive activity is carried on in eighteen Buddhist Societies and study groups, to which have to be added three Buddhist shrines and teaching centres.
In preparing this Wheel issue for printing, the Buddhist Publication Society wishes to acknowledge with thanks its appreciation of Mr. W. A. Koster’s share in the work. He not only gladly accepted the request of the Society to assist in the issue of the present anthology, but in addition carried the heavy burden of numerous draft translations and furnished biographical data about the authors, which proved very helpful in the preparation of the final revision. The Buddhist Publication Society plans, in the future to issue more essays and articles by noted German Buddhist writers which will supplement the present anthology.
Ven. Nyanaponika Thera, BPS Editor [Top]
There can be hardly any doubt that it was Schopenhauer’s philosophy which paved the way for Buddhism in Europe. For in its basic propositions there exists a complete agreement with the first of the Four Noble Truths, i.e. that Life is not only subject to, but inherently, suffering. One may be inclined to brand such a world-view as the blackest pessimism, but a closer look reveals that it has nothing in common with sentimental Weltschmerz (world-weariness) nor with pessimism as commonly understood. It is simply a statement of fact and quite obvious to anyone who realises the impermanence and transitoriness of all existence and in this transitoriness recognises the root cause of ever recurring suffering. This need not plunge us into a state of despondency; on the contrary, it can lead to an even loftier concept of life, culminating in an equanimity of heart and mind in which peace and harmony reign, in comparison with which all the running and rushing after an imagined “happiness” looks like the wasted labours of Sisyphus.
About 150 years ago, when Schopenhauer wrote his book The World as Will and Idea, he had already gained a wide knowledge of the Buddha’s teachings. He obtained this knowledge from the meagre sources, extant at that time, such as Upham’s Doctrine of Buddhism, Spence Hardy’s Manual of Buddhism, Köppen’s Religion des Buddha, as well as Burnouf’s Introduction à L’histoire du Bouddhisme, and the Dhammapada edited by Fausböll. Schopenhauer’s profound grasp of the essentials of the Dhamma is truly astounding. Thus, for instance, in the 41st chapter of vol. 2 of his main work, which deals with death in relation to the indestructibility of our being in-itself, Schopenhauer states clearly that the Buddha’s teachings on rebirth are unquestionably based on palingenesis and not on metamorphosis. Furthermore, he states that Buddhism keeps itself free of all exaggerated forms of asceticism, and if Nirvāna is defined as “nothing” this only means the absence of a single element in saṃsāra, which could serve as a definition of Nirvāna. It was a great satisfaction for him to have found that his own philosophy was essentially in accord with the Doctrine of the Buddha reached already 500 years before the beginning of the Christian era. And this explains the readiness and open-mindedness on the part of Schopenhauer’s as mirrors for Buddhist thought, which was not strange to the German mind but in principle familiar. To which must be added that generations of scholars up to this day have progressed far beyond Schopenhauer in the interpretation and practical application of the Buddha’s Teaching.
Excerpt from an article “Buddhistische Mission in Europa” by Max Ladner, 1960/1. [Top]
Someone confessed to me recently: “I would not mind becoming a better man if I only knew how to go about it.” To which I replied: all of us have the same difficulty and for all of us there is only one way out of it—by simply making a start. We must make that start, and if failures and shortcomings seem to overwhelm us, don’t give up, just start all over again. There is no other way and we must all tread this path with patience and humility. Every evening, when going to bed and every morning when awaking, one should examine one’s conscience:
“There, now I have done this and that again! This bad habit of mine, again I have lost control over it!” If we have to admit this our heart should not be heavy, we just keep trying again and again to do better next time. This is the secret of the good, that in the attempt itself there lies the remedy and blessing. Here even the attempt itself is already a step forward. There is no proof, no logical method by which I can make myself better or lift myself from a lower to a higher state and thus become a better man. A person who waits for such a method by which he could guide himself is like a man, reading on a sign-post which says: “To … in 1 hour,” but he remains standing there. When the hour has lapsed he complains: “This sign-post is worthless. The hour has passed and I am still here!” There is no proof, no logic that can take him to his destination but only his actually starting to walk to that place.
The same applies to us who groan under the weight of passions and ignorance: there is no other way thatn to start immediately to overcome our weaknesses and improve our character. The only question that arises is whether one should strive in solitude or in company with others similarly inclined. It appears to me that sometimes, and for some, moral effort undertaken along with others, may bring better results. It creates an atmosphere of the good by which everyone will be benefited; and in the race for the goal the individual will bring out his best, in noble competition. However, for some to strive alone may be better. It may be that for one and the same person striving alone and, at other times, in company is preferable.
The present writer owes to solitude all his knowledge (vijjā) but very little for his progress in conduct (caraṇa). This was the main reason that prompted him to undertake the venture of the Buddhist House.
None among us should be discouraged, not even he who is most dissatisfied with himself. The most precious gift of the Word of the Buddha consists in the fact that it does not make the improvement of character dependent on laws and institutions, violence and coercion, or on divine grace. The Buddha’s message teaches us that individual existence is not rooted in any metaphysical entity, and accordingly, it is not the result of divine decree or predestination. Nor is man’s existence a purely physical process, and, consequently, it cannot be explained as being merely the result of other, external physical processes (such as those of the parents). Buddhism teaches that the so-called individuality is entirely “Kamma” (action) and, at any given moment, it is the outcome of its own “Kamma.” Furthermore, the individual is neither unconditioned (faith) nor conditioned (science) but is conditioning itself in every new mental and physical “conception,” i.e. acts of grasping physically and mentally. Thus concepts, ideas, consciousness in general are not the handles with which I “handle” the Cup of Life, nor the means of playing with Life by way of proof through logical inference. Neither are they the springboard from which I try to get a hold on Life, but consciousness, a conceiving (grasping) and conceptualizing force is Life in the act of ever anew experiencing (conceiving) itself, in the process of living. And in this the secret of reality stands revealed: Life is the pathway which opens up by going on it and it is the going itself. Through this very fact it may be possible that I can become thoroughly susceptible, amenable, and malleable. Thereby it further happens that the very attempt to do good is already a form of good, and every move to become better constitutes the first step on the path. “Therefore, Cunda, should you think thus: though others be violent we shall instead be gentle,” etc. and, “even as there is, Cunda, a rough way and another smooth way to circumvent the rough way, so also for the violent man there is gentleness to circumvent violence. Just as all bad actions lead downwards, so all good actions lead upwards. So also for the violent man there is gentleness to reach higher states of being.” (MN 8)
Our only action is to give up, to loosen the grip. This is so and is also the other secret of reality. It was this kind of action that moved the future Buddha Gotama, when, as a Bodhisatta, in his birth as King Sudassana, he resolved: “Be gone, thou impulse of lust! Be gone, thou impulse of ill-will! Be gone, thou impulse of violence!” (DN 17)!” When the clouds retreat, the blue sky appears. This is the secret of reality: if we let go of violence, gentleness appears; if we let go of ill-will, then good-will appears; if we let go of sensuality, chastity appears. Every step toward the goal is a form of the goal. And the path opens up by going on it and is the going itself. Therefore the violent man should not despair of becoming gentle, nor the liar of becoming truthful, nor the sensuous of becoming chaste, nor the glutton of becoming moderate. If he sets his mind and heart to the task and makes a start, all this will eventually be his.
Let therefore no one counter this by saying: “That’s just what I am unable to do: to make a start!” Life itself is a continuous beginning and in life only does potentiality become potency. In other words: Life is growth. One does not go from violence to gentleness, from sensuality to chastity, from fear to fearlessness with the help of logic or the jugglery of proofs. By logic and proof no coward ever turned into a brave man, no sensuous person chaste; no timid soul self-confident. But one grows out of these weaknesses. And one day, upon him who has done evil deeds before, the realisation dawns he would never commit them again; neither logic nor proof forced him into it: he simply grew above them; he is unable to do evil deeds any more. This was brought about through real thinking, i. e. about reality and its ability to cease, to be given up, and by the ever renewed attempt to give up, i.e. by trying over and over again to bring thought and action into harmony.
Therefore the Buddha said of Himself: “As he says so he does, as he does so he says.” Hence we should earnestly strive to gain right understanding. If a person follows this path then he will experience it by himself that the only worthwhile action is that of “giving up,” and he will always strive to achieve it.
To overcome a beginningless habit is difficult indeed. But there is also the possibility of ceasing, of giving up and letting go. I experience this myself when thoughts of lust, violence and ill-will, that have entered my mind, vanish like a drop of water on a red-hot plate, like the morning mist before the rising sun. And surely, the start will not be fruitless nor the energy spent on it.
This is the glad news that awaits us, this is the last hope that smiles upon us all: this last possibility resulting from this mind-form which is god and creature in one. What is God and what would he be if he were not omnipotent? And what is omnipotence? What should it be if not a power that can master itself? Helpless is God as pure mind! All-powerful is man as mind-form, because this mind-form is capable of self-mastery and thus of attaining its complete end.
Homage, to Him, the Teacher.
(Source Unknown.) [Top]
It is well known how we were overfed with interesting news in the last war (1914–1918), and even to this day there is no end to new news. Recently, while crossing the street Unter den Linden, a newspaper vendor at the corner was calling out the news about Tuthankamon and how his tomb was discovered. At other times, I hear the news of some great man’s assassination, about an earth-quake somewhere, of a certain crowned head losing his throne, of the sudden death of the richest man on earth, caused most probably by calling too many doctors to his bedside.
Thus on every corner, over and over again, news flashes up and keeps us worried about everything, except those things we ought to worry about. We are drawn to the “news” like moths to the light.
What, after all, is it we ought to worry about? About the interesting, of course. Only “interesting” is something other than people think. The word interesting is derived from the Latin word interesse which means “to be in the midst of it.” That of which I am a part of is interesting. And whereof am I a part? If any urge to violence, sensuality or ill-will arises within me, like unto a flame shooting forth by the friction of two sticks of wood; and then insight rushes in to extinguish the fire with the all-quenching water-jet of the thought of anattā (not-self), now with success and now with less success, some other time without any success—that is interesting, there I am in the midst of it, and that ought to be above all our concern, as the most important item in the whole business.
But worldly wisdom is not easily confounded. Such a wise one interjects: “Whatever happens at the other end of the earth is of vital concern for me too. Not only, as in the poem of Horace, when the neighbour’s wall is on fire is the mea res agitur (“this is business of mine”) valid, but in the last analysis, for everything that goes on in the world. Our economic and political organism, today, has become so highly sensitive that I am affected in some way or another when there is a change of President in the United States, or there is a wheat crop failure in Canada, or Ireland gets Home-Rule, or the franc is devaluated, or in India the Swaraj-movement spreads, or new coal deposits are discovered in Spitzbergen, or the Dalai Lama dies in Tibet, etc.”
To which I reply: “Indeed, I am affected by all this. And what’s more, the radius of my being affected reaches not only to the Ganges and the North Pole and into the heart of Inner Asia, but up to Sirius and to the farthest nebular constellation in the starry heavens. Astrology, which teaches our “interest” in the stars, is not at all entire foolishness. Besides, I should like to know what on earth constitutes pure foolishness? Even nonsense is—after some fashion—a form of sense. The pure wise man does exist, that is, as a Tathāgata, the Perfect One; whereas the pure fool does not exist, except in myth and legend, just as pure chaos does not exist.”
To live implies the capacity for keeping alive which means to be related to all and everything. It simmers down to feeding, be it physically or mentally. We all eat out of one large trough, called Universe. A Buddhist would be the last person to deny possibilities here present; the essence of Buddhism in its Kamma Doctrine is basically a view of the Universe as interplay of ever-ready potentiality versus potency (Kamma), in which time and space are seen neither as rigidly existing in themselves, according to the Biblical view and accepted even by Newton, nor as mere relations to which science, in a relentless melting-down process, had reduced them (as in Einstein’s theory). In Buddhism time and space become moral destiny in which, as the case may be, weal or woe turn the balance. Viññāṇa (consciousness) from the moment of its clinging to the new womb defies time, defies space: For it experiences itself as both time and space.
The Time-Space-Doctrine of Buddhism, i.e. of reality, is yet to be written. As Buddhism takes its stand over and above faith and science, so stands its Time-Space-Doctrine over the doctrine of absolute time and absolute space, on the one hand (faith), and above relative time and relative space (science) on the other. These allusions may suffice.
Certainly, I am not only interested in objects and events of this earth alone, but in the ongoings of the whole universe. But I am interested in it like unto one’s interest in his fodder-trough out of which he gets his food. This fodder-trough is inexhaustible, and so is interest, as long as the insatiable feeding urge prevails. What really counts is not my presence in all this, but whether or not I actively participate and permit myself to be a participant; and that again depends on where I stand and the clarity of my insight. There is a standpoint from which all this is seen as a whole, i.e. the standpoint of “feeder and fodder-trough”; may this standpoint be elaborated after the fashion of faith or after the fashion of science; in the first case the whole will be seen as the incomprehensibility of divine creation, in the latter it is to become comprehensibility, without residue, in the form of scientific law.
Yet there exists another standpoint from whence this whole, called universe, is recognised in its total incompleteness and inadequacy; whereupon cognition, leaving behind both the beginningless incomprehensibility of faith and the endless comprehensibility of science, focuses itself on this whole, which alone is real, comprehending itself over and again in experience, just as the flame comprehends itself over and again in the very act of burning.
“The whole, Bhikkhus, I will teach you. Listen! Be intent! I shall speak. What then is the whole? The eye and the forms, the ear and the sounds, the nose and the smells, the tongue and the savours, the body and the touch, thinking and the things. All these are called the whole.” (SN 35:23)
This is the truly “interesting” at which each single person is not only an interested bystander and more or less a participant, but exactly that of which each single individual consists. This is the most soul-shaking news because it leads to an ego-shattering renewal of the personality itself. Whosoever in this new insight comprehends that which is most interesting, for him this super-fodder-trough, the world, ceases to be of interest; nor will he be afraid of the ensuing consequences: that of having to abstain from the big meal. After all, what is there to be afraid of for one who is always ready to suffer? [Top]
The outstanding character of modern civilisation is materialism in the realm of thought and ruthless egotism in all walks of practical every day life. It seems that humanity as a whole is totally immersed in materialism. None but a relative few are left that are still deeply religious in their outlook and conscious of the fact that there is more to existence than just this short lifespan between the cradle and the grave; and who feel concerned about a future life for which they prepare themselves through moral conduct. Among these few are members of various Christian churches which they have come to regard as the only guardians of religion. These people are still capable of believing wholeheartedly in the tenets of their respective faiths. May they continue to find shelter under the protective wings of their churches! No man in his right conscience, let alone a Buddhist, could wish to take away from them the moral support they have found in their beliefs.
However, aside from these, there are some deeply religious individuals who have completely lost faith in dogmatic religion but who would rather follow the dictates of their conscience as the only authority to guide them. This type of people can be counted upon as prospective hearers of the Buddha Word to which they feel attracted, and to them primarily the Doctrine of Deliverance should be presented. These people are ready for it. The faithful Christian believers should be left strictly alone and undisturbed. Should it not be possible, one might ask, to enlist the sympathy of even the leaders of the different Christian churches to this form of Buddhist propaganda? To whom, after all, would this “propaganda” be directed if not to those who are lost to the faith, anyhow, who have become unbelievers? Should it not rather be an occasion for rejoicing in the heart of every religious person to see how people, unbelievers, though not irreligious, are still kept and nourished in a religious atmosphere? And more important still: that all religious people, inside or outside the churches, are joining hands in fighting the enemy of all religion: materialism?
This is how at least a Buddhist views the situation: He respects and honours every sincerely religious person no matter what religion he confesses or church he belongs to. He sees in him a fellow pilgrim, a brother on the road, voyaging towards the same home, although the other may find in the rest-house on the way already the abode he thinks he is looking for.
From: Buddhistischer Weltspiegel, 1919, Vol. 1, p. 94. [Top]
It is of prime importance to ask oneself the question: how does the Buddha justify the promulgation of his code of conduct known as the five precepts or sīlas? Are they merely “commandments” resting completely on the will of the Buddha, somewhat similar to the Christian commandments, which are really nothing more than the manifestation of the will of a personal God? In this case the sīlas would be seen as not binding at all, without any sanction whatsoever. There are no threats of punishment uttered for disobeying, nor any tangible rewards offered for obeying them. In fact, the sīlas are no decrees of the Buddha’s will but rather the expression of the Buddha’s transcendental insight into the nature of reality itself. In other words, the sīlas represent the practical application of the Buddha’s fully enlightened consciousness with regard to those cosmic laws, which govern the results of every individual act. Were we to verbalize these cosmic laws they would communicate to us as follows: “If you behave according to us, you may expect a greatly desirable, delightful harvest. If, however, you do not act according to us, placing yourself in contradiction with “reality,” then the outcome will be a definitely undesired, undesirable and unhappy harvest.”
But how does reality present itself to the supreme cognition of the All-Enlightened-One so that the sīlas follow therefrom? Whatever we may be, however we may choose to doubt, one principle is irrefutable, for this principle is absolutely established and experienced by each and every one of us, namely: “We are creatures who desire well-being and abhor pain.” This “we” includes everything that “lives and breathes,” every animal, indeed every plant. All of these are living beings which desire well-being and abhor pain.
This is the very first and the last principle at which cognition arrives in its striving to find out what makes “the world go round.” In the same way, the “world” itself, being nothing but the sum total of all individual lives, desires in each of them well-being and abhorrence in them of pain. Therefore this urge for well-being and the abhorrence of pain is equally justified in every living being, from the microbe to the noblest Brahmin. For they are all parts of the “world,” of the one reality, which wells up in them. From this follows the right of everything alive to well-being and immunity from pain. It stands to reason then that the promotion of well-being in its widest sense must be the main-spring of every human act.
We call behaviour in accordance with this principle: Kindness. This is the highest ethical imperative, to be kind towards everything that lives and breathes. It is the guiding star from which all human behaviour takes its direction, and from which all morality takes its ultimate justification. Every act in accordance with it we call ethical. And conversely, any act in conflict with this highest imperative, we call immoral. Whenever collisions arise between the highest imperative and any particular ethical rule, the conflict ought to be resolved in favour of kindness. Kindness is, as it were, the Queen on the Throne of Morality, and the particular rules are her executive agencies. All this is likewise true of the five precepts (sīlas) of the Buddha. Even they are only the messengers of kindness, and are supposed to support their ruler.
Yet the penetrating insight of the Buddha-eye brings forth another all-inclusive truth: in the phenomenal world, the satisfaction of our desire for well-being and avoidance of pain is absolutely impossible. For everything in the world is transitory. No well-being perseveres: it is always suffering that triumphs in the end, the very suffering of transitoriness. And not only that. Each form of life in this world can maintain itself only at the expense of other forms of life.
Obviously, these life-forms can only exist by incorporating matter into their own constitution. And every speck of matter is already owned, as it were, by others, similarly constituted. There is a continuous snatching going on, an appropriation and destruction of lives, which brings in its wake concomitant suffering: Thus every form of existence transgresses the highest law of morality, kindness. From this state of affairs the Buddha could draw only one conclusion: everything which militates against the highest moral imperative, namely kindness, ought not to exist, ought to be done away with. As we have seen, every form of existence transgresses against kindness. Consequently the entire phenomenal world is something which ought not to be. In practice this great and universal law of kindness assumes this imperative: “You shall not desire!” And this explains why all true morality presents itself in negative form, enjoining omissions. Thus we find that all specific commandments prescribe omissions. The five precepts (sīla) of he Buddha do exactly the same. This notwithstanding, positive actions can also be commanded for the realization of kindness, but even these lead back, in final analysis, to the negative, to omission, to endurance, to universal renunciation.
To this highest position we are led by the liberating insight of the Buddha. And because it was the Buddha’s supreme insight, which led to the discovery of kindness as a cosmic principle, carrying it over into the sīlas, the latter are on this account the most perfect expression of kindness. They are neither in need nor capable of further improvement. They are valid even for one who has fully realized them, who has become kindness himself, who has become completely holy. Indeed, for such a holy person the question whether the sīlas could be abrogated in any specific case is simply utter nonsense. The Holy One has become kindness itself, and is on this very account, the embodiment of the sīlas. He is therefore absolutely incapable of “sinning” against them. He can no longer conceive the very thoughts which lead to transgression. No conflict can arise for him with regard to any situation confronting him. By way of illustration let us suppose the following case. Amongst peoples in which revenge for homicide is still practiced, a shepherd by the name of Essa is falsely accused of the sex murder of a woman. He flees from the revenge of the husband and comes to a hermit who is known as a holy man. The latter gives him temporary shelter in his hut. Presently the husband of the murdered woman, who had followed Essa’s trail, comes to the hut and asks the hermit whether Essa is inside it. The hermit knows with certainty that if he tells the truth, and even if he says nothing, the man will without further ado force his way into the hut and kill Essa there, without listening to any advice. In addition let us suppose the circumstances to be such, that if Essa’s life can be spared for just one more day, his innocence will be revealed. How then would the Holy Man answer the husband’s question as to whether Essa is in the hut? As already shown, even this dilemma can present no problem to the Holy Man. It is inconceivable of him to resolve it by means of a lie. Such attitude is as foreign to him as in a man deprived of both his arms the gesture would be of helping some one fallen up to his feet again. Just as the armless man, in spite of overflowing kindness, lacks the possibility of helping the fallen friend, so the hermit in the case of Essa has no other way out than to say nothing. In doing this he has done what was possible for him to do. As water cannot burn, a Holy Man cannot lie. Indeed, a Holy Man, in the Buddhist sense, has finally become incapable of all karma-producing volitions. He cannot engage in competitive-strife for a livelihood. Consequently he becomes dependent for his sustenance on alms given by his faithful supporters. Although in the world, he has ceased to be of the world (as it says in the Suttanipāta); and it is exactly for these reasons that he withdraws completely from it. In the Aṅguttara Nikāya (AN 9:7), the Buddha speaks thus:
“Previously, Sutava, I maintained as I do now: A monk imbued with holiness, a conqueror over desire, who has run the path, has thrown away his burden, worked out his own deliverance, freed himself from the fetters of becoming, is anchored in true wisdom, is incapable of doing the following nine things: He is incapable of taking the life of any living being; incapable of taking anything which is not given to him; incapable of performing sexual acts; incapable of speaking knowingly untruth; incapable of hoarding and enjoying treasures; incapable of walking in the path of greed; incapable of walking in the path of hate; incapable of walking in the path of delusion; incapable of walking in the path of fear.”
Thus, for one who has attained to the highest spiritual understanding, a conflict between kindness, of which he is the embodiment, and the sīlas is no longer possible. Wherever such a conflict does arise, it is an infallible proof that one is still capable of stealing, of killing, of practising forbidden sexual intercourse, of lying. In other words, he is potentially able to do all this. However, in so far as one is still capable of doing all this, and therefore a conflict becomes a possibility, the conflict must always be resolved in favour of kindness. One may even have to kill, to take what is not one’s own, or may have to tell a lie. But let it be understood that the aforesaid acts are (humanly speaking) excusable only, if one in observance of a sīla would be unkind, unloving or even cruel to his neighbour. The sīlas have, let this be said again, no independent status but derive their justification exclusively as expressions of kindness.
Let us explain this seeming paradox further. Every person, even the kindest, would probably save a child by killing the vermin with which this child is infested. Or let me introduce a personal experience that happened during our stay in Spain. A miserable, mutilated kitten ran up to us—my daughter and me—its body covered with lice and ants burrowed deeply in its tongue. My daughter freed the kitten from its attackers, although she was forced to squeeze the ants, one by one, from its tongue. The kitten itself lived a long time and displayed a touching tenderness and gratitude. Naturally my daughter did the right thing. She acted out of kindness toward the kitten, preventing much greater suffering by means of a lesser one. Likewise in the case of the shepherd Essa, a person would have to deny that Essa is in the hut. Out of kindness he would have to lie or else he would be excessively cruel and unkind. It would be ignorance in the sense of spiritual blindness if a person, who is still able to violate the sīlas, tries to observe them tenaciously to the point of being actually cruel. He is blind because he does not know that even ethical observances have no spiritual value in themselves. His error consists in holding the sīlas to be the unconditional decrees of a personal God, instead of recognizing them to be merely the means of expressing kindness. This Teaching is difficult to grasp and open to misunderstanding. As an example let us quote one famous passage from the Dhammapada:
“Even for the sake of the greatest happiness of another, do not ever give up your own salvation.”
If this isolated passage is taken up literally, and out of context, an ignorant person would not only be doing harm to the well-being of another, but also to his own, just because of being unkind. For in the last analysis his own salvation is dependent upon the cultivation of kindness, which under no circumstances can ever be harmful.
That the Enlightened One denounced lying, particularly because it causes suffering to others, follows from Verse 408 of the Dhammapada:
“He who utters gentle, instructive and true words, not insulting anyone—him do I call Brāhmaṇa.“
Moreover, if the sīlas are violated solely out of kindness, then the urge and the craving for the “world” will in no way be encouraged. Whosoever takes his nourishment without attachment, just for his sustenance, has, according to the Buddha, prevailed over the nourishment, although he did take it. And whosoever transgresses one of the sīlas only so that he may not be unkind has overcome the desire to transgress them. Although he is still doing it in a particular case, such a transgression does not at all prevent him from becoming ever more perfect as time goes on. Until in the end he reaches a state of complete inability to violate them, and therewith to be removed from every possibility of an ethical conflict.
Because a transgression of the sīlas can be indicated only out of kindness, every violation of them from selfish motives is immoral. It goes without saying that selfishness begets injustice, an infringement of our neighbour’s rights, and therewith acts of unkindness.
Fortunately, the cases in which one is compelled to violate one of the sīlas are generally rare. If they occur at all it is if the well-being of another person is at stake, never in the case of one’s own. In the great majority of cases one will, if the well-being of another is in question, be able to promote it, without violating the sīlas. This can be done only if the basic requirement of all action is carefully observed, namely mindfulness. The case in which one must lie out of pure kindness can almost always be avoided. Yes, even in the most difficult situation, where one dare not say the truth for fear of being unkind, a question can be met with silence or an evasion. Such an evasion, provided it is not patently untrue, is not formally a lie, and therefore, is no transgression of the fourth sīla. And for this reason alone can the above outlined practice be placed in closest proximity to the Buddha’s silence.
In the light of the foregoing exposition the conflict between duty and observance of the sīlas can be resolved without difficulty. Either the concrete behaviour, as being called for by duty, is in conformity with the demands of loving-kindness and then no problem exists. If, however, the call of duty is not mitigated by loving-kindness, and, what would be even worse, implies at the same time a violation of the sīlas, then only one answer can be given: abandon any such activity as being unwholesome and not leading to liberation. [Top]
The Buddha realised that most people are incapable of understanding the nature of Nibbāna. But as He was “filled with kindness and compassion towards all living beings,” He showed a path and furnished a guide for lay followers, so that they too can pass through the numberless existences of Life with maximum happiness and minimum suffering. This guide consists of the five sīlas: Not to kill or injure any living being; not to take what is not given; not to indulge in illicit lusts; not to tell an untruth; not to partake of intoxicants and narcotics.
A life in harmony with the sīlas brings happiness and peace; transgression of the sīlas results in suffering and misfortune. The truth of this can readily be observed during one’s lifetime, but the effect on one’s after-life is less easily seen. To gain a better understanding, the lay follower should be well acquainted with the fundamentals of the Buddha’s teachings. He should be familiar with the working of the Law of Kamma and the process of rebirth. He should develop sufficient insight to have confidence in the teaching and know in his innermost heart that it represents the truth.
What progress one makes along these lines depends entirely on the effort one expends on the study of the teaching. A sincere lay follower should spend at least one hour daily, either in the morning before going to work, or after work in the evening, on the study of Buddhist texts of a kind that will benefit his progress. This also provides an excellent opportunity for the practice of concentration. The knowledge acquired in this manner should be applied in daily life and should permeate all of one’s activities. Eventually a refinement of mind takes place that renders one incapable of inflicting harm to any living being.
Whenever one violates the sīlas one can be sure that at that moment the teaching has been forgotten and has slipped from one’s mind. To strengthen its hold on the mind, it is advisable to acquire the habit of reciting mornings and evenings some verses of Buddhist thought. In the morning one may begin with the Tisaraṇa like this:
“Namo Tassa Bhagavato Arahato Sammāsambuddhassa.
Buddhaṃ saraṇaṃ gacchāmi
Dhammaṃ saraṇaṃ gacchāmī
Saṅghaṃ saraṇaṃ gacchāmi.”
“Another day calls for my new endeavour, on this my journey through the world; I will follow the Buddha’s teaching for mine and other’s best welfare. Through me no being pain shall suffer; kindness will I show to all, who breathe as man, as beast or plant; blessed be all that lives on earth. So will I use this day of living to gain in peace and happiness, and as the Master recommended, build up good deeds for future life.”
“I observe the precept to abstain from destruction of life and injury.
I observe the precept to abstain from taking what is not given.
I observe the precept to abstain from illicit lusts.
I observe the precept to abstain from lies and deceit.
I observe the precept to abstain from intoxicants and narcotics.
In the evening one may recite the Tisaraṇa again and then follow up with the verse:
“Another day has come to end, and again I am nearer to my death.
What good or bad I have performed on that my future life depends.
May thou Jewel, Holy Teaching, of the Greatest ever born,
Whom I honour as the Buddha give me confidence and strength.
Tomorrow I shall try again to make more progress on the path,
and in the course of time to come I shall attain the highest goal.”
To the Namo Buddhāya morning and evening recital one may also add the extended Tisaraṇa which is the creed formula for every Buddhist:
In the Buddha I will put my trust: He is the Exalted One, the Arahat, Fully Awakened, perfect in Knowledge and Conduct, who reached the end of the Path, who knows all the worlds, the Highest, the Teacher of Gods and Men, the Awakened, the Exalted One.
In the Dhamma I will put my trust: Well taught by the Exalted One, crystal clear, not tied to any age, it means “come and see for yourself,” it leads to Liberation, the wise recognise it in their inner self.
In the Sangha I will put my trust: in correct and straight conduct live the disciples, worthy of the gifts, worthy of the alms, worthy of lifting one’s hands before them in reverence. The best seedbed for happiness-producing charity.
Furthermore, a devout lay follower will not forget to recite before each meal a suitable text to create the proper atmosphere for the partaking of food. Too often this occasion only stimulates the lower appetites. For this purpose he may quote the example of the Exalted One from the Brahmāyu Sutta, MN 91:
“Offering the rice bowl, he does not turn it upward nor downward, nor sidewards. He accepts the right amount, not too little, not too much. Any sauce or relish he accepts only as such and dips each morsel only as much as necessary. He chews each bite thoroughly, two to three times before swallowing, so that no unchewed food remains in his mouth. Only then does he take the next bite. He feels the sensation of tasting the food but derives no pleasure from it. By eight ways is marked the food eaten by the Exalted One: He eats not for pleasure, nor for comfort, nor to become handsome, nor to become stout, but to maintain his body, to keep it alive, to prevent damage to his system and to be able to lead a pure life. Thereby he thinks: thus the results of my previous life will be worn away and no new results will arise. My life will be kept pure, and I shall feel well.”
After the meal one may occupy one’s mind with the thought:
“Concluding the meal, the Exalted One remains seated in silence for a while. But not for long. He is satisfied with what He has eaten. He does not complain about the food nor ask for any other kind, rather He cheers His table companions with instructive and encouraging talk which they accept with gratitude and joy.”
In addition to those regular periods of devotion, a good Buddhist will, during working hours, when the occasion lends itself, turn his mind inward and concentrate on the Three Characteristics of Existence: anicca, dukkha, anattā or any other beneficial thought from which he can draw new strength for daily life. Also from time to time he should search his conscience and take inventory of any weaknesses and cravings still in existence.
Who can doubt that even a lay follower living in this manner will gradually be pervaded by the spirit of the Buddha’s teaching? His mind will be purified, he shuns crude pleasures and enjoys the spotless serenity and joyfulness arising from a clear conscience and from profound loving-kindness. And even this is not the full path that a lay follower can pursue. He who wants to be very devout should, if his living conditions permit, also observe the Buddhist Sabbath or Uposatha. This is done by being particularly careful on this day to keep the sīlas. Further, one should wear no jewellery, nor flowers and use no cosmetics; should not indulge in amusements like visiting shows, etc.* No solid food should be taken after the noon meal until next morning. The night should be spent on bedding spread on the ground.* On that day the third sīla enjoins complete chastity.
If he leads such a life, then he is a true and perfect, worthy lay follower of the Buddha. After death he will join the world of the “shining Gods.”
(From: The Buddha-Way for you)
* Additions by the editor. [Top]
There are three kinds of people. Who are these three? Those who enjoy the world, those who abhor the world, and those who overcome the world.
Those who enjoy the world’s pleasures are the ones who with imperturbable optimism gorge themselves. They may be compared with the ox before the filled manger, disregarding the approaching butcher and persisting in full enjoyment of the food, until suddenly the butcher’s hand descends on his neck.
Those who abhor the world are the inveterate pessimists. They can be likened unto a man who sits down to the table hungry, filled with eagerness and appetite for the dainty food he expects. But when he uncovers the dish he sees carrion in it, ordure and loathsome vermin. His appetite changes into aversion, repugnance and disgust. Those who overcome the world are the ones who dwell in serene equanimity, those who have recognized that:
“The profane exists and the exalted exists. And there is a refuge beyond the world of the senses.”
They are like the soaring eagle, leaving behind the dreary plains, flying up into the endless sky, toward the stillness of its fathomless immensity.
Relatively speaking, aversion to the world ranges higher than worldly pleasure, but far higher stands the overcoming of the world in Holy Wisdom, Holy Conduct, Holy Equanimity.
Aversion to the world running counter against worldly pleasure can be good and wholesome if exercised in a period of transition and of short duration. As a permanent state of mind it is undesirable, leading nowhere.
The one who indulges in worldly pleasures sees reality through rose-coloured glasses. He who overcomes the world sees reality for what it is.
Pleasure and desire are Rati and Raga, the enchanting daughters of Māra, the king of death. He has a third, whose name is Arati, i. e. aversion or disgust. Beware against all three of them!
The so-called pessimists imagine that they have overcome the world. But the very loathing of the world, which fills them, proves that this is not true. For aversion, which is desire turned into its opposite, indicates that the one ridden with it expected to find something else, something better than he did find. Therefore the craving is still there, only hidden and suppressed. The former positive attraction has now become negative repulsion, but as passion it is by no means extinguished. The renunciation of such a person is not an overcoming; it does not lead to liberation, it is only the painfully and frustratingly felt necessity to abstain.
Now we come to those who say: “The world is a garden of delight. It must be fully enjoyed, there is nothing wrong in sensual pleasures.” They fall into one extreme, while those who declare the world to be loathsome fall into the other extreme. Here the Buddha proclaims the Middle Way, avoiding both these extremes and from which, in keeping with reality, the disciple visualizes:
“All the factors of existence, be they our own, or those of others, near or far away, of coarse or fine nature, are transitory, and what is transitory is a womb of pain. What is painful is anattā, what is anattā is not mine, this am I not, this is not my self.”
“Penetrating to the depth of this realization, the high-minded disciple will become weary of the six senses and their objects, which is the World. In becoming weary of them, he detaches himself from passion and in doing so, he becomes free. Having thus become free, he is fully awakened and exclaims: “the painful round of birth and death is exhausted, the Holy Life is lived, this world is no longer for me.”
This is the Middle Way, which avoids both the extremes of worldly pleasure and world-disgust. This is the overcoming of the world as taught by the Buddha. This is Holy Equanimity, a state of mind that keeps itself free from blinding passion, be it attractive or repulsive, positive or negative. Again, the disciple who is calm, collected and mindful can proclaim: “I neither desire World and Life nor do I abhor World and Life. However, I do know one thing with certainty: this whole world together with my organism, and this many-fold panorama called Life,—I am not this; this does not belong to me; this is not my self. Just as little as the dry leaves swept away by the scavenger belong to me and might be called myself.”
This is the state of the Enlightened Man; the world does not touch him any more; its weight does not crush him any more, because he has seen through it and found it empty.
Three kinds of people there are, it has been told: those who enjoy the world, those who abhor the world, and those who overcome the world. Would that every earnest seeker put this question to himself: “To which of these three classes of people do I belong?” [Top]
The following comprises the bulk of the third chapter of Die Vier Gruppen des Heilspfades (“The Four Stages of the Path of Deliverance”), an unpublished work by Dr. Karl Seidenstücker. The two previous chapters are entitled: Massenmensch und Ariya (“The ordinary man and the Ariya”), and Die Gemeinde der Ariya (“The Community of the Noble Ones”).
Sotāpatti means “entry into the stream,” and sotāpanna “one who has entered the stream.” ”Stream” in this context is a designation of the Noble Eightfold Path (SN 55:55), so that the meaning of sotāpanna comes to be “one who has entered upon the Noble Path.” Thus sotāpanna is even defined in one place as “one who is equipped with the Noble Eightfold Path,” that is, one in whom the eight constituents of the Path (right view, right aspiration, etc.) have become active factors (SN 55:55). Right and firm confidence in the Buddha as the teacher of the minds and guide of the stubborn hearts of men; firm confidence in the Teaching, comprehensible, in no long time, to the wise, each for himself, that invites one to come and see, and leads to the goal; confidence in the Noble Community of Monks (that community which walks uprightly according to vows taken upon), and faithful adherence to the rules of moral conduct, cherished by the Noble Ones, these are the four characteristic signs that indicate the one who has entered the Stream. They are, at the same time, the “mirror of truth,” in possession and with the help of which a noble monk may know himself and proclaim of himself: “Exhausted for me is the state of torment, the animal state, the region of ghosts, the abyss and evil wanderings, the world of pain; I have entered the Stream; to the states of suffering I am no more liable; I am certain of attaining to the full Awakening.” (DN 16.2.9; 33.1.11; AN 4:52; 5:179; 9:12; SN 12:41. In AN 5:15, the four signs quoted bear the name of sotāpattiyaṅgāni, constituents of the Stream-Entry.)
Of the sotāpannas who after death are reborn as devas in one of the six lesser heavens of the sensual world-spheres, only those who possess this four-fold “mirror of truth” know that they have no more bad rebirths to expect; the others do not know this (AN 6:34). Still, independently of that statement, the certainty of one who has entered the Stream, that he is no more liable to rebirth in miserable states, and that he will finally attain to Enlightenment, is also brought into prominence as a special characteristic of the sotāpanna. (DN 16.2.7; MN 22, 34, 68; AN 4:88; Ud 5.3).
One must at some time become earnestly absorbed in the meaning of this statement, or promise, or whatever one likes to call it, in order to understand what good tidings—in the true sense of the words—it must have been for the age. In the Buddha’s life-time, the belief in the ripening of deeds (kamma) and the course of rebirths (saṃsāra) had already become common property, and with it the belief in rebirth in worlds or conditions of gruesome torture. Considered in this light, the full significance of verse 178 of the Dhammapada becomes clear, a passage that may be called a triumphal song on the fruit of the entry into the Stream: “Better than supremacy over the earth, or entry into a heaven, (even) than dominion over all the worlds, is the goal of entry into the Stream.”
In order to realise this definite aim of entering the Stream, and as far as possible to accelerate it, four means of help are recommended: (1) association with good people, (2) the hearing of the teachings, (3) wise attention, and (4) a way of living that is in conformity with the Teaching. The first point coincides with the frequently mentioned “salutary friendship” (or friendship with people morally good, kalyāṇamittatā). How this, particularly, was considered as promoting the spiritual life is evident in many places in the Canon. (See especially: Ud 4.1; AN 9:3; It 17). It is a valuable exterior aid for the religious, whilst its internal and equally precious concomitant, is “wise attention” (It 16, 17). The hearing of the teachings cannot be too highly valued, for, particularly in olden times, it constituted the chief means of impressing the most important discourses and maxims on the memory. As regards the way of life, which should conform in every respect to the teachings, this is only a shorter rendering of the demand made in the pattern of the Noble Way:
“He is pure in morals, and lives restrained within the restrictions which are binding for a monk (pātimokkha); in conduct and deportment he is dignified, sees danger in the smallest things he should avoid, and exercises himself in the rules which he has taken upon himself to observe” (DN 11, 42; MN 53; 107; 125; Ud 4.1; AN 9:3).
This holds for the case in which the sotāpanna is a monk; if he is a lay—follower (upāsaka), in place of the above demands he is required to show his mastery and self-control by means of faithful and exact observance of the five general precepts: not to take life, not to pursue immorality, not to speak falsehood, and not to indulge in intoxicating drinks and narcotics (AN 5:179). Naturally, there is also required of the lay sotāpanna unshakable confidence in the Buddha, the Dhamma and the Sangha in addition to holding firmly to the main principles of a moral life.
After what has been said, it follows as a matter of course that the actual entry into the Stream must itself have a beneficial effect for the follower of the Path, and this is brought into particular prominence in the Canon. The stream-entrant has to expect what are called the six benefits: “He becomes firm and sure in the Dhamma; he is not liable to back-sliding; if he presses on perseveringly to the end of his way, he is free from suffering (in so far as he is no more exposed to any bad rebirth); he becomes possessed of a knowledge beyond the ordinary; he penetrates into the causal connexion of all things” (AN 6:37).
It was said repeatedly that the sotāpanna, as all sekhas,  is no longer liable to a bad rebirth in one of the realms of misery. How do the Canonical texts pronounce on future rebirths of those who have entered the Stream? “Those who understand the Four Noble Truths set forth with profound wisdom by the Teacher, however negligent they may be, they do not reach, an eighth existence” (Sn 230; Khp 11.9). “Insofar as that person understands the Noble Truths in right wisdom, after having been reborn at most seven times, through the destruction of all the fetters (as Arahat) he makes an end to suffering” (It 24). These statements, if taken in conjunction with other texts, point necessarily to the “stream-entrant.” Thus the sotāpanna will be reborn at most seven times, until he has entirely forced his way out of the entanglement; this is, by the way, a good example of the extension of the Path which reaches far beyond the short span of a single life-time. Where do the prospective rebirths take place? The texts say that they do so in the lowest of the three world-spheres, i.e. in the kāma-loka. Since the person who has entered the Stream can no more be reborn in the realms of misery (hell, the animal states, and the realm of ghosts), there are available for him the world of men and the six lesser heavens of the kāma-loka, the so-called deva-loka. And the texts state expressly “consequent upon full destruction of the three fetters he becomes “one who is reborn at most seven times, wandering through seven rebirths amongst gods and men, he will make an end to suffering”(AN 3:86; 87; 9, 12; 10:63. Concerning the rebirth of a sotāpanna in a deva-heaven, compare the story contained in Udāna 5.3).
The texts emphasize that the sotāpanna will be reborn at most seven times, whence follows that, in certain circumstances, even less than seven embodiments may await him. And for this there is ample corroboration in the texts. He can be reborn two or three times exclusively in the human world under favourable circumstances, before attaining the final goal; he is then “one who goes from one noble clan to another” (kolaṅkola). Indeed, it is even possible that a stream-entrant as “one who germinates only once more” (ekabījin), has only one more rebirth to expect, and that in the human world (AN 3:86; 87; 9:12; 10:63). But it is very questionable whether this three-fold division was known in the early days of Buddhism. Older in comparison with it is the teaching that the sotāpanna, after he has laid aside the three fetters and has won a deep insight into the Four Noble Truths, has escaped from the worlds of suffering and will enter the worlds of becoming at most seven times (MN 6; 22; 34; 68. Sn 230. It 24).
In general, the sotāpanna ranks as a religious aspirant who, although firm in moral discipline (sīla), has not yet fully but only partially reached perfection in the two other sections of the teaching of the path: mind-development and higher wisdom (A III 85, 86; 9, 12). To this mastery in the moral discipline (sīla) corresponds then rebirth in a lesser deva-heaven or in the human world under favourable circumstances. And in so far as moral discipline (sīla) forms the essential preliminary condition for the right unfolding of samādhi and of the higher wisdom (DN 16:1; 2.4; 2.20; 4.2–4. AN 5:22), sotāpannahood is, in fact, the first step, the first stage, on the road to Arahantship.
The first “three fetters” which are brought to dissolution on the way to entry into the Stream, particularly through deep meditation on the Fourfold Truth of Suffering (MN 2) are: 1. the belief in personality, i.e. in a persisting ego-entity, 2. sceptical doubt, 3. belief in the efficacy of customs and ritual acts. The disciple who achieves the dissolution of these three fetters is characterised by the stereotyped formula: “As a result of having burst the three fetters, as one who has entered the stream, is exempt from rebirth in states of woe; he is assured of attaining to full enlightenment” (DN 16: 16.2.7. MN 6; 22; 34; 68; 118. Ud V 3).
The first of the three fetters is the belief in personality, sakkāya-diṭṭhi. It concerns a diṭṭhi, a view, a belief, which today is still the overruling view of the mass of mankind. The Pali word translated here as “personality” is a compound formed from sat and kāya (sakkāya = satkāya). Sakkāya comprises the “five groups of clinging to existence” (upādānakkhandha). “These five groups of clinging the Exalted One has called personality (sakkāya), i.e., the group of corporeality, of feeling, of perception, of mental formations (saṅkhāra) and consciousness (MN 44).” It is this personality in which the worldly-minded person fancies himself to consist, in that he regards the transitory five-fold clinging-complex as sat, that is as the essential and ultimately real. Sakkāyadiṭṭhi is, then, the view (diṭṭhi) that the five-fold clinging-complex is the truly existing, the true nature or essence. This erroneous view, taking the transitory and evanescent organic processes for the permanent and unchangeable core of a living being is therefore that belief in personality, which the Suttas describe in this way: “An ordinary, untaught man regards the corporeal form as the self, or the self as with form, or he sees the corporeal form in the self, or the self in the corporeal form; he regards feeling as the self, or the self as endowed with feeling, or he sees feeling in the self or the self in feeling; … perception; … the mental functions; … or the self in consciousness. So arises the belief in personality ” (M 44; 109). To state the matter in another way, the belief in personality—known in this aspect as the attavāda (positive) teaching of the self—is described as follows: “An ordinary man, untaught, considers the corporeal form, feeling, perception, mental formations, and what there is seen, heard, thought, recognised, attained, and weighed in, the mind (i.e. consciousness) in this way: that is mine, that am I that is my self” (MN 22.8). This erroneous notion of consisting essentially in these five khandhas—aggregates—the sotāpanna must overcome, working himself out of it, incorporating himself, as it were, in the Buddha’s standpoint. The point of view taken by the Buddha, diametrically opposed to this personality-belief, is that the experienced noble disciple no longer regards any of the five groups of clinging as the self, or the self as equipped with them (as essential qualities), that he does not see in them the self, nor the five khandhas, individually or collectively, as dwelling in the self (MN 44; 109). Rather, “Whatever there is of corporeal form, feeling, perception, mental formations, consciousness, past, future or present, as belonging to one’s self or as foreign to the self, coarse or fine, ugly or beautiful, far or near, all this he must regard with right insight, according to reality: “That is not mine, I am not that, that is not myself’” (MN 22, 8; especially MV 2.6; 38 ff.). All that he is capable of laying hold of with his mind and senses, presents itself to him as a sum of changing, transitory processes external to himself which are experienced as dukkha (suffering), as a condition of misfortune and as bondage. And it is a matter of importance in Buddhism, for just this step by step progress of alienation from the personality and the world of appearances constitutes already a considerable measure of deliverance. It is thus entirely logical that under the ten fetters to be broken sakkāyadiṭṭhi is named in the first place.
As the second fetter appears sceptical doubt (vicikicchā). Its opposite is the belief, the strong confidence (saddhā), in the Buddha, in the Dharma he declared, and in the community of the Sangha. Engaging in a matter with insufficient confidence, or with no confidence at all, will not lead to the desired goal. Shortly before his parinibbāna, the Buddha drew special attention to the fact that no one of the monks present would again be disturbed by any doubt or wavering whatever with regard to the Buddha, the Dhamma, the Sangha, the Way, and progression along the Way. Even the straggler would enter the Stream, exhaust the states of woe, and surely attain to full Enlightenment (DN 16.6.6).
The third and last fetter which will be torn away on the path of sotāpatti bears the name sīlabbata-parāmāsa. This term is to be understood as “to depend on external and ceremonial acts, prepossessed with ritual,”  in the belief that the practice of certain prescribed moral customs and ceremonies are conducive and necessary to salvation (see Dhp 271). The Pali Canon gives us an abundance of examples of what the Buddhists call sīlabbata and of what they reject for themselves.
By the widespread ascetic endeavours of the Buddha’s time, we are led to recognise how strong in the India of that day was the interest in religious questions, how deep the longing induced throughout the general population for deliverance from rebirths and successive deaths. In spite of this, we encounter continuously inflexible holding to certain customs and ritual actions within and without the ascetic and Brahmanical groups. We find in the Pali Canon long lists of such “moral customs” (sīlāni) and ritual acts (vattāni) that were observed and practised by numerous ascetics. The basic position of the Buddha on the question of asceticism and religious practices generally is shown in the Canonical formula to be as follows: All kinds of asceticism and devout works during the practice of which bad qualities increase and good qualities diminish are not only worthless but are definitely harmful. Conversely, any kind of religious activity by the practice of which bad qualities vanish and good qualities grow and increase is valuable and salutary (AN 3:78; 10:94; compare also DN 8:15 ff., where it is shown that the rigorous and painstaking asceticism of a cultivated man, in the case that he is not schooled in moral discipline, is alienated from true asceticism, but that if he surrenders himself entirely to inner purification he deserves rightfully the name of “ascetic”). In the appraisal of ascetic practices, Buddhism at all times lays the main stress on the motive and sentiment on which the asceticism is practised.
In addition to the ascetic extravagances rejected by the Buddha, there is also a whole range of usages, ritual or ceremonial, which, in wide circles, were considered as very important, partly even as necessary, to purification. In the first place stands sacrifice, particularly the blood sacrifice of animals, which played such a great part in Brahmanism and which the Buddha opposed with the greatest resolution in the first sīla (not to destroy life). In the Canon this sacrifice is often mentioned with allusion to its useless and pernicious nature. He who offers a fire sacrifice and erects the sacrificial pile already draws, even before the sacrifice is carried out, three evil swords to create suffering and pain: a sword of the thought, a sword of speech, and a sword of deed; for thereby he contemplates how many animal sacrifices shall be offered; he gives the order to the slaughter, and then he himself lays his hands to complete the bloody work (AN 8:44). Once when a Brahman asked the Buddha whether he approved of sacrifice, the Buddha answered that he did not approve of every sacrifice but that he also did not disapprove of every sacrifice. He approved of a sacrifice not of the sort in which many kind animals were destroyed but of that which is untiring giving; the latter is truly productive of merit. Such a sacrifice finds full approval by the Venerable Ones and by those who have trodden the way to deliverance (AN 4:39–40). For the monk who in fulfilment of his renunciation of the world has disposed of all earthly possessions, the sacrifice of giving consists in the offering and spreading of the Dhamma. And this gift of the Dhamma, it is stated, is greater than all other gifts (Dhp 354).
Besides the sacramental sacrifice in its manifold gradations, there were in India of the olden days many customs, ritual in character, which likewise come within the Buddhist conception of sīlabbata. There existed a kind of baptismal ceremony, a ritualistic bathing and cleansing, especially in certain waters considered to be holy. The subject of sīlabbata deserves our full attention and consideration because it informs us of the position taken by the Buddha concerning religious activities in general. We see here his basic rejection of rigid ritual insofar as one understands that expression to mean a holding to the belief that the practice of certain customs, rites and ceremonies further one’s true deliverance. We see, further, his unconditional rejection of every matter of cult which stands in opposition to the law of morality as taught by him, especially in animal sacrifice, and many ascetic practices which are not conductive to corporeal well-being. But we also become aware of the tendency springing up in Buddhism to spiritualise certain ritual and ceremonial actions, to fill their form with new purport, to give them a deeper significance, as though to raise them to a higher sphere. The sacrifice of animals is replaced by the sacrifice of giving, sharing and charity; in place of the ritual washings in waters we have the inner cleansing of the Dhamma, and so on. If we add to this the fact that the Buddha’s teaching opened the doors to persons of all castes, races, classes, and standing, we have indeed a great reforming movement which in its cultural aspect can hardly be overestimated.
But the first stage of the Path consists in the accomplishment and exact observance of moral discipline. Yet when moral discipline is earnestly practised, whether by monks or in lay circles, the individual man becomes more refined, nobler, more reflective; from such men is built a noble community, a highly moral family, a spiritually healthy population in village, town, and nation. A strongly moral man is more mature, thinks more clearly, sees more keenly; of that which he formerly sought he will recognise much as worthless or harmful and will lay it aside. That Buddhism in India was defeated by Brahman reaction has for its basic reason not a weakness of the system as contrasted with its older rival, but its complete degeneration, its falling away from the original ideal. [Top]
In his celebrated “Fire-Discourse,” the Buddha says:
“Everything, O monks, burns. And what, O monks, is this “everything” that burns? The eye burns, the corporeal forms burn, the sight-consciousness burns, the sight-contact of the eye with the objects burns, the sensation released through contact, whether of pleasure, displeasure, neither-pleasure nor-displeasure, this also burns. The ear and the sounds, the nose and the scents, the tongue and the tastes, the body and the things of touch, thought and the objects of thought burn; the ear-consciousness, the smell-consciousness, the taste-consciousness, the touch-consciousness, the thought-consciousness burn; the contact of the ear, nose, tongue, body, thought and their objects burn; the sensations released by contact, whether pleasant, unpleasant or neutral, these also burn. And why do they burn? I say: They burn because of the fire of greed, because of the fire of hatred, because of the fire of delusion; they burn because of birth, old age and death, tribulation, sorrow and pain, through grief and despair.”
For the Buddha, all being and happening in the world, universally, without differentiating between subject and object, dissolves into an uninterrupted and persisting activity. For this unceasing, ever-enduring operation he chooses the apt description: It burns, it goes on burning. But does this not set the animate in relation to the inanimate in an unreal manner—in a manner not in agreement with practical reality? Can one, then, equate the living expressions of the organism with the inorganic process of burning; indeed, can one compare them with each other at all? Can the gulf which stretches between animate and inanimate material be so easily closed; are we not, in this attempt, subject to a deception which results from a similarity existing only in our own minds?
Opinions against this, as well as those in favour of it, seem to have their justification. Against the Buddha’s comparison—assuming that behind his words there lay no more than a comparison—experience tells that, in the domain of the animate, laws pertain which are quite different from those in the realm of the inanimate. The processes of nutrition, change of matter, and growth, the most important biological processes, obey not only physical laws, as for example those of gravitation, but they belong to a domain of laws peculiar to themselves which seems to remove them sharply from the realm of inorganic material. Not only biologists, but also philosophers, like Nicolai Hartmann, will have nothing to do with a setting aside of the enclosing boundaries.
Yet on the opposite side, such a distinguished modern research scientist as C. F. von Weizsäcker says: “In the characterization of the animate, the concept of the individual complies with a specific form of the totality. Thus a crystal can grow without limit and a part of it is still a crystal; the butterfly has neither attribute. In this connection, one recalls processes like growth, assimilation, and propagation by which constantly new material develops to bearers of the same form with the same associated function. Yet, one can also point to every single phenomenon of this kind in physical types. By way of example, a “simple” candle-flame has the aforementioned characteristics of individuality such as assimilation and the possibility of propagation.” With these words von Weizsäcker really goes further than the Buddha; he not only compares, but he equates—a proceeding which cannot follow absolutely from the Buddha’s Discourse. In modern materialism, which can, perhaps, best be described by the term “Dynamic Materialism,” and which the Russian biologist Oparin advocates, life does not originate fortuitously from inorganic material, as seemed to the materialism of past centuries the most probable case, but the simplest living organisms are to be apprehended as a “definite stage of the universal historical development of the material.” Thereby interior and exterior factors have been responsible for the origin of life on the earth. The principal effective interior factor is to be found in the activity of catalysators, identical with ferments. These ferments alter, especially accelerating, the chemico-physical relations peculiar to the inorganic material, in such a way that they become “life-processes.” The transitions are demonstrated in the colloidal reactions of the albumen. The decisive external factor is Darwin’s “Natural Selection,” probably in conjunction with mutations: “The fastest reaction wins the race.”
But of this there can be no doubt: however much one exerts oneself to bring together macrophysics and macrobiology, to induce the latter from the former and to show it as the natural continuation, the forging of the chain of evidence has always something artificial; it is due more to the spasmodic effort of a single investigator with a biased conception of the world than to a natural penetration of Reality. This took a new turn when Microphysics and Microbiology, to an ever-increasing extent, came into the purview of research. One recognises now, or at least one thinks one recognises, that the connecting band between inanimate material and living organisms must be sought in strata of reality which formerly, in the days of classical Physics and Biology, were closed to the investigator’s eye. Thus has modern Physics, as the first, led over from the static world-picture of classical times with its material particles and energies motivating them, to a dynamical picture in which Plank’s “Quanta of Action” play the decisive role. From now on, the emphasis of physical knowledge is shifted from macrophysics to the microphysical events of the “physical underworld,” as Pascual Jordan names the realm of microphysics. Modern Biology follows the new trend; for this new Biology the mutations, the sudden transitions within the heritage-content of the embryo, gain an ever-increasing significance. In the case of the important mutations arising from exterior influence, particularly the “ray-induced” mutations, only one quantum of action is already able to influence a gene, the elementary unit of the reproductive event, so that, as a result of its alteration, macrobiological effects make their appearance. The afore-mentioned physicist Pascual Jordan, who has become famous by his studies dedicated to the borderline territory between microphysics and microbiology, says:
“The rooting in the microphysical and the emerging into the macrophysical may be characteristic and essential to life in equal measure.” For Jean Gebser, “the teaching of the mutations follows the Planck theory, by which is established that the development is not continuous (constant and in a straight line) but occurs by means of “quanta” (with interruptions).” Physics and Biology obey similar laws. For here, as there, according to Heisenberg the “quantum of action” is the “intrinsic and final elementary particle of nature” which is split into an organic and an inorganic realm for our minds only. Jordan says: “The aspect of the Quantum Physics laws of reaction forces on us, in a distinction hardly to be avoided, the impression of certain traces of the living-state”; and: “The unity and totality of an organism, that is, its individuality, in which form alone all life in this world always occurs, must in the last instance signify nothing other than the centralised steering of its reactions.” But according to the same investigator this steering proceeds on microphysical lines.
The more knowledge of microphysics and microbiology progresses, the more that which in macrophysics and macrobiology is still hypothesis and debatable theory advances to a passage by verified experiment, between living and dead material for which Planck’s “quanta,” as the final elementary particles, are common basic and building material, in so far as one may apply to an essentially dynamical event, the concepts end descriptions of substantiality such as these. Does not the Buddha avoid just such an error in description when He speaks of a “burning,” when for Him the dynamic basic structure of reality, which Whitehead calls a “network of events,” is an activity without an activator? But can we carry over the imagery of the flame and the burning, which we employ for the characterizing of the physical processes of the living organism, to the mental processes also? Are these not separated from the physiological processes of the material body by a greater distance than is the material body from the inanimate material? Not for the Buddha, and not for modern psychology. A dualistic opinion is foreign to both; for both, physical and psychical processes stand in close connection. They have one and the same dynamic basic character, which reduces the more or less artificial boundaries between Physiology and Psychology to vanishing point; their common ground of origin, the “saṅkhāras” of Buddhist terminology, engages the latest research of Rhine in the territory of the Body-Soul problem.
In the Buddha’s teaching, at the centre of all psychical events stands “taṇhā,” thirst, will. It is the intrinsic motive agency of life which, from the first moment of our being onwards, fills us with rudimentary power and lies at the base of all psychical phenomena. The Buddha says: “It is thirst that creates man”; the biologist Driesch: “We know that there is at least an elementary basic factor, our own will”; the psychologist Rohracher: “The will to live is the strongest and most direct psychical fact”; and finally, most clearly, the religious philosopher Drews: “In the analysis of the content of our consciousness, the final principle we strike is the will. It lies at the base of all the content of consciousness as its essential foundation and bearer.—In the content of our consciousness there is no activity of a mental nature, no movement, no change which is not introduced through will and which would not be consummated through its agency.—Accordingly, the will is indeed the principle of mental activity, the basic attribute of all the life of our consciousness, so far as this is really a life. Every individual is, in point of fact, a being of will or impulse, a bundle of impulse, wishes and strivings, which are held together in him by a concealed power, but a power which we have to understand again as a will.” The Buddhist Dahlke says similarly when he comments on the Buddhist “thirst” as follows: “Thirst is the power through which a living being constantly arises new.” Thus one can say: “I am thirst, in the sense that nothing remains of me but this thirst, this burning.” If then the thirst ceases, there remains no being deprived of thirst, but the whole play of being ceases, is extinguished, as the flame is extinguished when it ceases to burn. It is throughout nothing more than this burning. Even so is ’I’ nothing more than this thirst.”
With these words of Dahlke we come again to the utterance of the Buddha’s “Fire Discourse.” The world around us, we ourselves in our physical and psychical expressions of life, are no other than an activity, an event without a nucleus, without the quiescent pole of a self in the flux of phenomena. Everything is an activity, an operation, a burning. Indeed this latter description forces itself on us directly, if we are led by the Buddha and by modern Natural Science to a new consideration of Reality. [Top]
About 150 years ago, W. Paley, Professor of Theology at Cambridge, presented in one of his books the famous “clock” argument, which he intended to be irrefutable proof of the existence of a Creator—God. It runs as follows:
“Wherever we find orderliness and meaningful arrangement, made to serve definite purpose, we can be reasonably certain that these owe their origin to the workings of an intelligent being. Supposing we look at a clock. From its ingenious mechanism we are led to the conclusion that it must have been put together by a master of his craft, who knew its purpose and constructed the mechanism accordingly. The different parts of the clock could not have come into being by themselves nor could they have assembled themselves. And if we assume that the clock has been so ingeniously constructed that it could even reproduce its own kind,—our admiration for the craftsman’s skill would be boundless. The world we live in is far more ingeniously constructed than a mere clock. It stands to reason, therefore, it must have had a creator.” 
What is to be said of this argument’? Does it actually present cogent proof for the existence of a creator? We shall see.
A clock may be of excellent workmanship and run accurately, or it may be poorly constructed and not at all dependable. The clock-maker who produces a time-piece of the highest order deserves praise for his handiwork, whereas the less skilled mechanic lays himself open to criticism and ridicule; it would have been better had he kept his hands off his work altogether.
This world of ours is certainly wonderfully constructed and it seems—at first sight, at least—that every part in it manifests order and purpose. But to call this world perfect is open to serious doubt. When we look at MAN, the apex and crown of creation, on every side we see him exposed to ruin and destruction. Of this there is further an abundance of horrible examples in nature: plants and trees in their struggle for air and light are choked to death by parasitical growths. Animals feed on animals, stalking and devouring each other. Human beings are suffering from incurable diseases, insanity, pain, misery, famine and inescapable death. There is enmity, hatred, bloodshed and war. There are epidemics, earthquakes, and volcanic eruptions. To speak of a “perfect” world in the face of this catalogue of horrors betrays only lack of insight and an immature mind.
And how are we to explain the riddle of an all-knowing Creator whose very essence is said to be Love, to have brought forth so much suffering and cruelty, such palpable imperfections, incongruities and shortcomings? To which only one answer can be given: either he could not do it any other way or he did not want to. In the first case he is powerless, in the second he must be held responsible for the untold miseries his own creatures have to endure. As the creator of such a world he must be condemned; as the originator of human and animal suffering he bears the distinctive mark of an evil demon.
Paley’s argument, in fact, is a classical example of false reasoning. To build a clock a clock-maker needs a great variety of materials. He cannot make the clock out of nothing. Therefore a world-creator could not have fashioned the universe without pre-existing matter. The material elements, called solids, liquids, fiery and gaseous, how were they created? Out of nothing? Or by magic? And who created primeval matter? Another creator?—and from what? -
A second theory of creation has been proposed, which appears in a philosophical garb and has been called the Doctrine of Emanation. The exponents of this theory consider the universe as having issued from the essence of God whereby the unfathomable essence of God remained unchanged. Aside from the fact that such an assumption is quite gratuitous and arbitrary, the question of the purpose and the meaning of such an emanation remains unanswered. Still more, what were the reasons or motives behind such an out-flowing? Of this we cannot have any knowledge. Any argument advanced to support the emanation theory lacks a sound foundation in fact and is not verifiable.
Can we imagine the same clock-maker who—as in a dream—conjures up the steel for the spindles, the silver or gold for the casing—out of nothing? Such an incredible feat of magic not even Professor Paley could have been able to conceive. And what he never would credit a clockmaker with, that he expects of a being he does not even know and of which he cannot have the slightest conception. By way of analogy, taking his and the clock-maker’s existence as a starting point, he draws from it the inference that, like the clock, man and the world, too, must have a maker.
It goes without saying that to construct a perfect clock requires above all—apart from technical skill—a clear mind and consciousness. Consciousness, however, does not function without a bodily organism; a free—floating consciousness, without some kind of physical substratum, is unthinkable. Furthermore, consciousness implies purposive thinking or planning. Consequently, the assumed world-creator must be endowed with a consciousness to plan and to execute his ideas. In other words, he would have to be thought of as being equipped with a kind of bodily organism through which alone his consciousness could function.
This leads again to the question about the nature and origin of the physical substance through which the creator’s consciousness functions, and further to the question who the creator of the creator is, and so on ad infinitum. Whence it follows how poorly Professor Paley’s argument has been thought-out, which was demonstrated by following it through to its absurd consequences.
There is a tendency in human beings to interpret each and everything according to one’s own needs; it is no easy task to disabuse oneself of the mistaken idea that every single event must have a “meaning” and a “purpose.” In human life situations arise sometimes that create the impression of a higher power at work, or of an intelligence superior to our own. This leads to the mistaken idea of a super-human agency, or some mysterious, divine guiding—power behind the scene, leading everything to its preordained destination. Hereby one fundamental fact is almost always overlooked, that man finds himself, like any other living being, in a set of circumstances to which he adapts himself. And likewise, in accordance to which his behaviour patterns develop. The decisive factor here is anything but the wisdom and understanding of a world creator. This is a specific human situation with its problems and challenges; and it remains the noble task of serious research to find order in the tangled web of human volitions.
Man instinctively rebels against the idea that life has no meaning or purpose whatsoever. But as so often, here too, man overlooks the obvious, i.e. that it is only man’s prerogative to endow his acts with meaning and purpose. In this respect man always undervalues himself when, instead of facing the inevitable, he tries to find comfort in a divine intelligence. There is no single fact in nature to support such a belief. Besides, nature cares nothing about man’s happiness or misery. Thus the endless quest for the why’s and wherefore’s of existence continues. This is a far cry from Prof. Paley’s way of thinking. The solution has been found: it can be gained from the teaching of the Exalted One, from the Doctrine of the Buddha, who, two and one half thousand years ago, found Enlightenment under the Bodhi-tree.
Einsicht, Vol. 7 No. 9. [Top]
Thus spoke the Exalted One:
“Regard the world as void, Mogharāja, and be always mindful: thus will you be able to overcome death! Who regards the world thus, the King of Death sees him not.” (Sn 1119).
This also was said by the Blessed One:
“In this body of six foot height with its perceiving and its consciousness, is contained the world, the arising of the world, the end of the world, and the way that leads to the end of the world.” (AN 4:45)
And again the Exalted One has spoken thus:
“When, O Monk, for some reason or other, various perceptions of world-expansion enter into a man’s awareness (papañca-saññā-saṅkhā) and he takes neither delight nor gratification in them, nor clings to them—this is the end of both lusting- and anger-propensities; the end of opinionative-, doubting-, and conceit-propensities; the end of craving-propensities toward renewed existence; the end of nescience-propensities; this is the end of fights and wars, of contentions, strife, discord, slander and lies. It is here that those unwholesome things cease.”
After these words the Exalted One rose from his seat and went to his room inside the monastery. Thereupon, the Bhikkhus who were present, requested the venerable Mahā-Kaccāna to explain the Buddha’s utterance. Kaccāna first advised them to address the Buddha himself, but when the Bhikkhus insisted that he should give them his explanation, the venerable Mahā-Kaccāna spoke thus:
“When eyes and visual objects are present, visual-consciousness arises; from the conjunction of the three, contact (sense-impression). Through contact sensation (feeling) arises. What one senses (feels) that is perceived. What one perceives is worked upon by the mind into concepts. Whereof the mind has formed concepts that is expanded as the external world (papañceti). What one expands as the external world is nothing but those manifold perceptions of the external world that enter into a man’s awareness by way of visible forms, be they past, future, or present.
“When ears and sounds are present, consciousness of hearing arises …when nose and odours are present, consciousness of smelling … when tongue and flavours are present, consciousness of taste arises … when body and tangible objects are present, body-consciousness (touch) arises … when mind (the organ of thought) and ideas are present mind-consciousness arises; from the conjunction of the three a contact (impression) arises. Contact (impression) being present sensation (feeling) arises. What one senses (feels) that is perceived. What one perceives is worked upon by the mind into concepts. The concepts so formed are expanded into the external world; what is thus expanded as the external world is nothing but these manifold perceptions of the external world that enter into man’s awareness in the form of ideas, be they past, future or present.”
And the venerable Kaccāna said further:
“When the eyes are present, visual objects are present, and visual consciousness is present, then it is possible that what is called contact (sense impression) will occur. When contact (impression) is present, then it is possible that what is called sensation will occur. When sensation is present, then it is possible that what is called perception will occur. When perception is present, it is possible that what is called the forming of concepts will occur. When forming of concepts is present, that what is called the affecting of the mind by perceptions of the outside world of plurality will occur.”
In the same words the occurrence of the other five perceptions is explained. Then follows the negative statement:
“When eyes, visual objects and visual consciousness are absent, there is no possibility that what is called impression (contact) will occur. When contact (impression) is absent, there is no possibility that what is called sensation will occur. When sensation is absent, there is no possibility that what is called perception will occur. When perception is absent, there is no possibility that what is called forming of concepts will occur. When concepts are absent, that what is called the manifold perceptions of the external world have no possibility of entering the mind.”
And again, the same is said about the other five senses.
Then the venerable Mahā-Kaccāna continues:
“This, friends, as I understand it, is the meaning in full of the Blessed One’s brief utterance, but if the venerable Bhikkhus so wish, they may go and inquire from the Exalted One himself, and as he answers, thus you may bear it in mind.” (Majjhima Nikāya 18)
The Bhikkhus did so and the Exalted One replied: “Capable and wise is Mahā-Kaccāna, O Bhikkhus. If you had questioned me about this matter, I would have explained it to you in the same way. This is the very meaning of it and thus you may preserve it.”
This utterance of the Buddha as explained by Mahā-Kaccāna is a genuine sutta (Sanskrit: sūtra), that is a basic “thread” of thought, a concise maxim, a collection of key-words to be memorized, elaborated and explained orally. It was in the form of such pithy sayings that in ancient India the doctrines of the sages were committed to memory and passed on from teacher to pupil. Along with these suttas or concise sayings, a more or less free commentary to them was handed down at the same time, as in the case of many passages of the Pali Canon; moreover the venerable Kaccāna added even a second commentary which we have quoted above beginning with the words: “And the venerable Kaccāna said further …” The wording of these two commentaries is as firmly established as that of the Master’s own words found in that Sutta. Within the community of monks these commentaries themselves will have been further expounded, and this, in some case, doubtlessly also in free speech. Also for us, in present times, such further explanation is necessary.
If one contemplates the Buddha’s utterance by itself, the emphasis seems to be on the ethical aspect. If one frees oneself from attachment to worldly things, one will overcome all evil states of mind and attain to final peace. The Buddha doubtlessly felt the necessity to hold forth to his disciples in an especially impressive way on this essential doctrine so frequently expounded by him. But trained Bhikkhus, though familiar with that doctrine, noticed immediately that this time the Buddha wanted to convey something special and new which they had not yet heard from him. This special viewpoint was rightly traced by them to the word papañca which obviously is here the key word requiring attention and explanation.
This word was rarely used and, in addition, it carried several meanings; therefore the Bhikkhus asked the venerable Mahā-Kaccāna, known to be learned and wise, for an elucidation. Also Kaccāna noticed immediately that everything hinged on the word papañca and he also knew the significance hidden “behind” the term. He therefore ignored the ethical content of the Buddha-word as being well known and engaged exclusively in a detailed explanation of the word papañca.
According to the Pali dictionaries, this word means: diffuseness, copiousness; delay, procrastination, obstacle and, in the religious sense, any evil state that hinders the spiritual progress of man. The Sanskrit equivalent prapañca means also the visible universe. Obviously it is in this philosophical meaning that the Buddha had used the word. This was unusual and the disciples desired an explanation. Kaccāna told them that it had that philosophical meaning and the Buddha confirmed it afterward.
But that brief saying of the Buddha has still further implications. “When for some reason or another various perceptions of ’papañca,’ the external world, enter into a man’s awareness … ,” he said, and an explanation was required of its meaning. How do in fact the various perceptions of the papañca enter the human mind? In philosophical language this means: “How does cognition of the world come about in man?” Or, as Kant expressed it: How is cognition possible? This is the basic problem of the Theory of Knowledge, that Kant, as the first philosopher in the West solved in his Critique of Pure Reason. But from the 18th Sutta or the Majjhima-Nikāya, we learn that, long before Kant, the Buddha had seen the problem and solved it, and that Kaccāna knew the solution and was able to explain it in accordance with the Buddha’s insight. Although the wording of that solution as expressed by these two great thinkers differs—quite understandably, since they lived more than 2000 years apart —yet the meaning is the same. And necessarily so, inasmuch as to the problem there can be only one correct solution. Kaccāna starts his exposition, first of all, with the activity of the six senses. These are the five external senses, familiar to all of us, and as the sixth, the inner sense, the receptivity for external mental phenomena. As to the eye, the organ of vision, correspond visible things (rūpa), so to the organ of the inner sense, manas, correspond non-corporeal mental things (dhamma). Hence manas is to be understood as an organ having the capacity to receive impressions from the outside which are not conveyed by the five external senses. In other words: manas is either the organ for perceiving the ideas and concepts formed in the subconscious by the saṅkhāras, or the organ of telepathy, spatial clairvoyance, thought-reading and similar phenomena. Which of the two meanings the word manas may have in this context has to be left undecided. At any rate, it must signify the organ that receives nonmaterial stimuli affecting man’s psyche from outside, otherwise manas would not be analogous to eye, ear, nose, tongue and body-sensitivity.
Included in the fifth sense, the body-sensitivity (kāya), are several receptivity-types: apart from the tactile sense, proper, which distinguishes hard and soft, solid and liquid, also the muscular sensations belong to it, which provide the basis for such concepts as motion and rest, long, broad, high, etc., i.e. extension in space, and also the sense for temperature and other qualitative sensations.
The receptivity of the senses, i.e. the capacity to register impressions or, according to Kant, “to be affected by objects,” constitutes what Kant calls “sensibility” (Sinnlichkeit). Let us now compare the first part of Kaccāna’s exposition with the beginning of Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason, chapter 1:
“In whatever manner and by whatever means a mode of knowledge may relate to objects, sense perception is that through which all thought as a means is directed. This again is only possible to man at least, in so far as the mind is affected in a certain way. The capacity (receptivity) for receiving representations through the mode in which we are affected by objects is called sensibility.”
Objects are given to us by means of sensibility, and it alone yields us perceptions; they are thought through the intellect and from the intellect arise concepts. But all thought must, directly or indirectly, by way of certain characters, relate ultimately to sense perception and therefore with us to sensibility, because in no other way can an object be given to us. “The effect of an object upon the faculty of representation so far as we are affected by it, is sensation. By means of an outer sense, a property of our mind, we represent to ourselves objects as outside us, and all without exception in space. In space their shape, magnitude, and relation to one another are determined or determinable.” So for Kant is not the meaning exactly, almost sentence after sentence, the same as that expounded by Kaccāna? Let us summarize it once more: If there is sense receptivity (Kant’s “Sensibility”), contact with the sense objects can take place; we can be “affected” by them. Through contact a sensation can arise. Sensation is something non-material, psychical. It is non-spatial and does not contain anything spatial. But at least for the five-fold sense perception, sensation has also no duration but is strictly tied to the present moment. The present moment is nothing more than a point between past and future. Just as a spatial point has no extension, a point or instant in time has no duration either.
But here we must make a reservation: the statement that a point has no extension holds good only for pure mathematics, which deals with thought-constructs. In nature there are no mathematical points, hence there are also no mathematical time-instants in reality whose duration would equal zero; and the present, being the time between past and future, is not zero but is only of unnoticeably and immeasurably brief duration. If the present were equal to zero, so would also be sensation; hence never could any perception originate from a sensation, whatever number of sensations may be added to each other. The duration of a single sensation is so brief that, for our ordinary perception, it almost equals zero. In the very moment of a sensation’s arising it has already vanished. The sensation is not perceived, it is not yet a perception; but it must be there as the basis of all perceptions. It is not a single sensation that can be perceived but only the synthesis of a sequence of sensations; and this synthesizing is performed by the mind (or intellect: Verstand).
This was also known to Dharmakirti, a great Buddhist philosopher of the 7th century AC, who wrote about this as follows:
“The single moments are united in our consciousness into a series; the unity represented by that series exists only by virtue of our consciousness that unites the single moments to a series. Only the serial processes of united moments are clearly cognized by our consciousness. The single moment is entirely inaccessible to consciousness.” (According to T. Stcherbatsky, Buddhist Logic).
While sensation is instantaneous and does not register in consciousness, perception takes place within time; it requires a definite, though very brief, duration and always combines in itself many single moments which already belong to the past. What we perceive is never what is actually present, but only that what has been, what has already vanished.
In ordinary life we do not notice this fact, because the interval between contact (first impression), sensation and perception is very brief.  But we can easily see that there is actually a difference in time between the state of the object that is to be perceived and the act of perceiving; if we think of the velocity of light and the time it needs to reach us from the sun or a star which are no longer at the position in which we see them. In the case of sound it is still easier to observe the time difference: when we hear the fall of a bomb, it has already exploded and done its damage. In these examples, however, the major part of the time-difference lies between the occurrence of the object and the sensation, and not between sensation and perception. But there is surely also a brief time interval between sensation and perception; and perception itself, unlike sensation, has a measurable duration in time, for which reason it can only relate to something past and gone.
Kaccāna says: “What one perceives of that one forms concepts” ; Kant says the same in these words:
“If we give the name of “sensibility” to the receptivity of our mind to receive representations (percepts) when affected in some way, then the faculty to produce by itself representations or the spontaneity of cognition, is the “Intellect” (Verstand). It is inherent in our nature that sense perception (Anschauung) can never be anything else than sensuous, i.e. in exactly the same mode by which objects affect us. Whereas the faculty of turning the object over in one’s mind is the intellect. None of these properties is preferable to the other. Without sensibility no object can be perceived, and without intellect no thinking about it can take place. Concepts without percepts are empty; percepts without concepts are blind. The intellect cannot perceive and the senses cannot conceive. From their union only can knowledge be produced.” (Kant, Elementarlehre, II.1 )
Kaccāna continues: “Of what one has formed concepts that is expanded as the external world.” Kant expresses the same idea as follows: “In order that certain sensations can he related to something outside myself, and likewise to be able to conceive them as extraneous to each other, and in juxtaposition, hence not only as different, but also as being at different places, antecedent to all that, the idea of space must be innate in us. Consequently the idea of space is not something abstracted from perceptual data, but, rather in and contributed by our minds, without which spatial conception would be impossible.” (Critique of Pure Reason, I 2.)
The solution of the problem is thus the same: the expanse of the external world or the knowledge of the spatial world is produced by two factors of which both must be present. One factor is the receptivity of the senses, the “sensibility,” due to which the senses come into contact with, or are affected by, anything outside the cognizing subject. The other factor is the mental activity of the same subject, the intellect, due to which the sensory data are summarized and integrated into the space-concept so that concepts of bodies can arise. The cooperation of the two factors is an unconscious one, and only the result of that cooperation comes into consciousness as the spreading-out, the expansion, of the external world. The nature of that “something” that comes into contact with the senses or affects the senses—Kant calls it the “thing-in-itself”—can never be known because it lies beyond the cognitive process. What we know as external world, is only the product of the impressions received from the senses and of the intellect. One example may illustrate this. The following is being perceived: with the eye something red in various shades and something green; with the nose. It’s peculiar, lovely scent; with the touching finger a painful prick. These perceptions do not occur separately or by chance, but always in the same combination when attention is directed thereto. Then one will say: There is a thing that has the qualities perceived: it is red, below and close-by it is green, it smells lovely and pricks if touched. Such a thing is called a rose with stalk, leaves and thorns. The concepts “thing” and “rose” are formed by the intellect, and when it has formed them, it attributes to them as qualities the perceptions produced by the senses. What it is that causes the sensations from which the perceptions arise, we can never know. But this we can know that “thing” and “rose” are concepts formed by the intellect. The intellect is induced, and even compelled to do so by the regular concourse of the various perceptions, but nevertheless it creates these concepts by its own activity. As with all things, also the rose is a product of the mind, a thought construction; and so are our body, our personality, the whole world nothing but thought constructions. Hence that what we call the “world” is comprised in this body of six foot height, with its perceiving and its consciousness, as well as the arising of the world, the end of the world and the way leading to its end. And if we understand that the expansion, or diffuseness of the world comes to be in such a manner, then we shall regard the world as void. But if, on account of this knowledge, we regard the world as void, then all attachment to the world ceases and Death has lost its terror for us; he can no longer touch us: “The King of Death sees us not.”
(Source unknown.) [Top]
The human personality, according to the Buddha’s teaching, is a combination of five “khandhas” or, better, the result of an interplay of five “aggregates of grasping”: corporeality, feeling, perception, (mental) formations, and consciousness. This is a fact of existence and applies to every human being without exception. A being becomes human in contrast to other forms of existence, due to this interplay of his personality-components. In this essay an attempt will be made to show how the human personality experiences itself in relation to the external world, in other words, how he arrives at a Weltanschauung or a philosophical world-view. The world-view of a materialistic philosopher postulates that life in general, including mental phenomena, takes its rise from matter, i.e. through physical-chemical causes and processes, which again depend on antecedent causes of the same nature, and so on ad infinitum. Or, some of them assume a hypothetical beginning to which they attach quite gratuitously the labels of “primordial slime” and “primeval cosmic dust”. All possible events are based on materiality; mental and psychological phenomena are reduced to cerebral processes, and the latter derive from metabolism. “As the liver secrets bile so the brain exudes thoughts.” Consequently, the individual, defining himself in experience as a unit of material processes, will point to his body and exclaim: “This is I—my body!”
The Buddha teaches: “The body is not the self.”
In contrast to the materialistic outlook based on the physical only, the religions of faith exhibit a distinctly emotional bias, centred mainly on feeling and sensation. The believer has no material proof for the existence of his “soul” but he “feels” it. He “senses” the presence of God, in his “soul.” He “feels” himself as a child of God, as a wretched sinner, as one who is saved. The firm believer will never be convinced—the most flawless logical propositions notwithstanding—that only matter constitutes ultimate reality; for an “inner voice” is louder and drowns out all mere denials of the soul’s existence. Whosoever identifies his personality with his feelings is a believing person, not yet imbued with knowledge, still dreaming.
The Buddha teaches: “Feeling and sensation are not the self.”
There is another human type who is athirst for “knowledge.” This one says: “Seeing is believing. “ He is not satisfied with hypotheses nor with naive assumptions. He strains his perceptive faculties to the utmost and strives relentlessly towards a deeper understanding of events and their causal nexus. The scientist wants to substantiate, to prove, to demonstrate. Cause and effect in the world of form is being explored by chemical analysis and experiments in physics. Through the use of the microscope the invisible becomes visible; through the use of the telescope the farthest cosmic bodies are brought within the range of vision. Physics investigates the intangible world of energy, tracing its impact on the more tangible realms of experience. Science is neither materialistic nor spiritualistic, it can furnish “evidential proof” to both. To exalt perception and to define the essence of human personality by it, constitutes the scientific world-view.
The Buddha teaches: “Perception is not the self.”
Again other people say: “Neither materialism which explains the phenomena of mind as an adventitious by-product of material events, nor religious faith, unable to prove its dogmas, nor science dissecting everything, yet incapable of finding the life-giving element, can satisfy the thinking mind. Only philosophy, the love of wisdom, that derives its power and reason for its existence from the faculties of the mind, is able to provide the seeker after truth with substantial nourishment.” To erect one’s own thought structures, to tear down those of others, to assemble and rend asunder word-images and concepts, to search for cognitive meanings through the organon of thought—that is how philosophy is understood by the great schools. He who builds his personality image on the basis of pure thought and identifies himself with his power of reasoning, synthetically or analytically, works on a philosophical world view which is as shifting and fluctuating as are the very thoughts themselves.
The Buddha teaches: “Mind is not the self.”
But there are some who recognize: “The material world is one mode of nutrition, the world of feeling is another, and both are interwoven in the same fashion as perception, which digests material seized upon by sensation. Thinking, too, is a mode of nutrition, is grasping, digesting and eliminating of concepts. All food—intake, all grasping, takes its rise from craving, hunger, desire and volition. And desire, craving, spring from the roots of nescience, i.e. lack of insight into the three characteristics of all phenomena: impermanence, suffering and insubstantiality. It is through consciousness that these truths are revealed.
He who in clear consciousness realizes the true nature of things, has outgrown hypotheses and beliefs, speculations and vain imaginings. He intuits the interrelatedness of the psycho-somatic process and discovers the conditioned co-production of all phenomena. One who seeks in consciousness a clear insight into the nature of things as they are—is a Buddhist.
The Buddha teaches: “Consciousness is not the self.”
These five aggregates of clinging constitute the transitory personality that enters the world at birth and passes away at death. This personality is the result of previous actions, just as one’s present actions develop those tendencies which go into the making of a new personality in the next birth. This is not mere belief nor can it be objectively demonstrated. It is rather a conscious, immediately felt awareness of reality—not of the intellect, but the result of profound meditative absorption. This state can be achieved only by purifying the mind of all defilements. The Eightfold Noble Path leads to this purification by cultivating right views, right resolve, and through moral conduct. Evil tendencies should not be repressed but gradually weakened. Thus cleansed and prepared, the mind is freed of obstacles and ready for meditation. In meditation, anattā (non-ego) becomes fully realized; it ceases to be a debatable item in Buddhist theory with its pros and cons. Anattā (non-ego) is now the at-one-ment with the principle of Buddhahood, the state of being fully illuminated where the fetter of personality—belief has been done away with once and for all.
The Doctrine and the Norm of the Buddha is clear and well defined, its framework not difficult to comprehend. But behind its basic principles profound insights are hidden offering rich rewards for the true seeker only. “This is the Doctrine of the Exalted-One, well defined, timeless, stimulating, inviting, self-explanatory; the wise ones discover it in their innermost selves.”
Die Einsicht, xi, 3/4 [Top]
Animal behaviour is amongst the most fascinating sights to watch. We call the world of animals dumb because of their lack of speech, but they make up for this deficiency by the extraordinary care they take of their small and helpless young. Take the mother-cat for an example: at the slightest warning of danger, either from a hawk in the sky or a vicious dog on the ground, she will grab her kitten by the nape of its neck and swiftly carry it to a place of safety. It is an amusing spectacle to behold the helpless kitten, limp and fluffy like a powder-puff, hanging from the mouth of its mother. A mother-monkey and her young behaves quite differently. When danger threatens she does not take it in her mouth, it is the baby-monkey who clings to the mother’s belly, and holding tightly on to her body, is carried by its mother up to the highest branches of a tree and out of danger.
From the habits of cats and monkeys the beginner on the Path to Enlightenment has much to learn. Although the Buddha himself did not use the term explicitly, the whole trend of His Noble Doctrine shows clearly that the “Way of the Monkey” is to be preferred to the “Way of the Cat.” For the Exalted One teaches that a person aiming at Enlightenment cannot attain the goal without exerting his own will-power and vigorous effort. Which calls to mind the baby-monkey’s holding on firmly to his mother’s belly. And to carry the analogy a little further: just as it is the mother-monkey alone who senses the danger and not her baby—so the great Buddhas of all times have intuited the misery of all existence while untold generations of humans were totally blind of the fact of their being chained to the endless cycle of necessity with its ever-recurring rounds of birth and death. This blindness is the inevitable result of a mode of thinking enmeshed in worldly cares and weakened by the lures of sense gratification. Again we watch the baby-monkey who thoroughly frightened and by sheer animal instinct clings to his mother’s belly where there is safety and security from danger. In the same way is the beginner on the Path shaken out of his false sense of security and becomes aware of the Misery that chains him to existence. Seriously he studies the Word of the Buddha and realises that only by clinging to His message a way to safety and complete security can be found. And just as the mother-monkey with her experience and strength leads all those young ones who trustingly cling to her, from danger to safety, so Right Views as expounded by the Buddha help those who hold on to them over obstacles, from present danger to perfect liberation.
And just as the baby-monkey, now clinging to his mother, will grow up in time and become alert to danger and the ways of escape, so will the disciple of the Buddha by practising Right Views gain more and more with every advancing step. He will gain in freedom from fear and misery; his life will be enriched; he will acquire peace and well-being. His mere belief in the efficacy and wholesomeness of Right Views will grow into knowledge and firm conviction.
Among some dedicated followers of the Buddha the thought may arise that confident clinging to Right Views alone might not be enough, that the disciple ought to strive with greater force, forging ahead in relentless battle until final victory is won. Those, however, who have progressed on the Path know from experience that every inch of advance depends on nothing else so much as to the steadfast clinging to Right Views. With these in mind and heart it is well-nigh impossible to give in to evil in thought, word or action. And yet, in spite of the fact that—as a residue from old habits—evil tendencies do still exist, if the disciple clings tenaciously to Right Views, he will in time free himself from unwholesome inclinations and move towards full Enlightenment.
Let therefore no one deceive himself that the Path can be travelled in the manner of cats. The very thought of it arises from weakness, begets more weakness, and leads nowhere. Rather let the Path be travelled in the manner of monkeys but with sufficient self—exertion and mindfulness.
Wissen und Wandel, 1962, No. 1. [Top]
This is a Way, helpful and agreeable, which leads to Peace and Harmony. What is this Way? It is fourfold and consists of: Giving, Kind Words, Helpfulness, and Self-forgetfulness.
Here a person is fond of sharing: he gives, makes presents, is generous, hospitable, magnanimous. Wherever he meets need and suffering he is ready to help. Wherever he can bring joy with a gift to someone, he gives it. His motive for giving is to alleviate want and to bring happiness. Giving makes him glad, makes him happy, fills his heart with joy. He is free from envy, ill-temper and avarice. People like him, enjoy his company. He is of good repute, his bearing invites confidence, his mind is serene and calm. He earns for himself merit and strength—even for a future life. He manages his affairs wisely, never becoming a burden unto others. He does not give blindly, he always considers time and circumstances when help is called for. The more his mind is filled with the spirit of giving, the more unselfish he becomes. Thus by caring for his fellow men he reaps the benefits of his own welfare. But soon he notices that this is not yet the perfect way to Peace and Harmony. And why is this? Because he discovers that, by giving alone, it is not always possible to make people happy. Strange to say, he finds himself at times with full hands -- empty-handed and with all his ardent endeavour to help—standing helpless. And what seems to be more disconcerting, he realizes that in a less generous mood, with a single harsh word he destroys the atmosphere of Peace and Harmony, which his gifts have helped to build up.
Thus the Way of Giving stimulates him to strive for deeper understanding of the plight of others, to be watchful over himself, to correct his own shortcomings.
Here a person speaks kind words, is mild-mannered, gentle and sincere. What comes from the bottom of his heart touches other hearts. He will never hurt the feelings of anybody but rather try to remove misunderstandings and tensions among people. Kind words gladden him; harshness, cynicism and sarcasm he abhors. He knows that to relieve mental strain, kind words may prove more effective than gifts. An indifferent donor, even if not motivated by kindness, can be of great material help, but sweet words spoken without genuine feeling are nothing but empty sounds. And why is this? Because words spoken with true kindness reach beyond and go deeper than the ordinary range of words; they awaken response and understanding. To place oneself in the other’s position one must discard anger, irritation, and arrogance. The more the heart is filled with the spirit of kindness the more unselfish one becomes. Thus with a heart reaching out for the benefit of others he benefits his own welfare.
But soon he notices that this too is not the perfect way which leads to Peace and Harmony. And why is this? Because he finds that it is not always possible to make others happy by merely saying words of kindness and understanding. Or that any gain they bring is only of short duration. Furthermore he discovers that, in a less favourable mood, he destroys the Peace and Harmony of others by his impetuosity and thoughtlessness. Thus, the Way of Kind Words arouses an earnest longing in him to strive for deeper understanding of the plight of others and to correct his own shortcomings.
Here one helps others by giving good advice and counsel, well thought out, wise and useful, to the advantage and well-being of one’s fellow man. Whatever he speaks about is well considered. He warns others of paths leading to destruction and guides them to paths leading to happiness. He advises others how to avoid strife, idle gossip, vain arguments and noisy quarrels. He helps them to become self—reliant and less dependent on someone else’s assistance. The more he knows of things which lead to trouble and sorrow, the more he avoids them and the more convincingly he can talk to others. Thus he benefits his own welfare and the welfare of others. But soon he realizes that this is not yet the perfect way to Peace and Harmony. And why is this? Because he discovers that not even the best advice is followed and that one can only help in a limited way. Furthermore, he finds himself at times listless and cold, indifferent to the welfare of others. His manner becomes condescending and thus hurts the pride and self-esteem of others. As a result even his good counsel is not heeded, Peace and Harmony are shattered. Thus the Way of Helpfulness stimulates him to strive for deeper understanding of the afflictions of others and correct his own shortcomings.
Here a person gives up all his thoughts about: “This is I, there are the others.” More and more he gives up pride, conceit and self-esteem. He does not think of himself as better than others but considers himself their equal. In thought, speech and action he serves in a kindly manner; open-minded, without reservation. He is ever ready to listen to the problems of others, is at their disposal, has time for them. He is not self-centred, he does not insist having his own way. In all his actions he manifests inner strength, modesty and humility. A better way, more helpful and agreeable, which leads to Peace and Harmony does not exist.
Wissen und Wandel, 8, No. 7 [Top]
This translation, and the explanation that follows, is too narrow. Sīla refers to moral, virtuous practices, or precepts. For example, it is said of the stream-enterer that “he keeps the five precepts (sīla) unbroken, … without grasping them, (but as a means) conducive to concentration.” (SN 40.1: sīlehi samannāgato hoti akhaṇḍehi … aparāmaṭṭhehi samādhisaṃvattanikehi.) This indicates that sīla includes the Buddhist precepts itself. The sotāpanna keeps the precepts strictly, but does not see them as the essence of the path, only as means (upanisā) to attain the concentration necessary to attain Nibbāna. The word vata literally means “duty” or “vow” and the term includes practices such as the “dog-vow” (MN 57).
The Mahāniddesa (Nid I 66–67, on Sn 782) gives a useful description of sīlabbata: “‘Precepts and vows’: There is sīla (precept) and there is vata (vow), and there is vata but not sīla. How is there sīla and vata? ‘Here, a bhikkhu is virtuous: he dwells restrained with the restraint of the Disciplinary Code (Pātimokkha), … he trains undertaking the training-rules (MN 6)’—the self-control, restraint, non-transgression: this is sīla. Whatever is undertaken (samādāna) is vata. How is there vata but not sīla? ‘(There are) eight factors of removing [defilements] (dhutaṅga): the factor of forest-dwelling, … (Nid I 66).' This is called vata but not sīla. The undertaking of effort is vata. ‘May only skin, tendons, and bones remain, may the flesh and blood in the body dry up: until having attained whatever (i.e., Nibbāna) can be attained by personal strength and power, there shall be no abating of effort (MN 70),’ (thus) he exerts and exercises his mind. Such undertaking of effort: this is called vata but not sīla.” See also the note on sīlabbata in Connected Discourses of the Buddha, p. 726. (BPS editor; 2008) [Back]