11/11/05Tapestry of One, a book on the "Axis Age," when the greatest minds in antiquity suddenly appeared together on earth: Buddha (influenced by the Upanishads), Lao Tzu and Confucius.
Copyright © 1993-2005. Mel West. All rights reserved.
The Tapestry of One (continued)
by Mel West
The Two Buddhisms
With the doctrine of Buddha being a god, or God, other precepts had to be introduced explaining firstly what happens when you die--what happened when he died--and finally, how he happens to be God. We focus on this because this is the essence of the philosophy behind God and His ideal residence: Heaven. Without the precept of the Afterlife, the idea of God becomes a mute point, having little significance. From the beginning it has always been understood that the thing which separates a god from man is that a god is immortal. So the issues involved with establishing Jesus as God also applied to the establishment of Buddha as God.
Anyone reading our work, The Tempting, and The Son of Man, a Commentary on Immanuel and the gospel of Truth, will realize an odd thing: There is no such thing as Christianity, as a universal precept. There are actually many Christian religions, many being so variant to the original precept of Christianity proposed by Jesus that they would, in comparison, be models for the study of opposites. In the above works we concluded that the Paulist sect of Christianity, which now dominates the world Christian view, is so far away from Jesus's precepts that it would require the comparison of white and black in addressing the two distinctly different precepts of Paul and Jesus. To illustrate this contrast we drew upon Saint Peter and the church formed around him and the apostles in Jerusalem. This church, possibly called the Nazarene Church, was more perfectly aligned to Jesus' precepts and was, in reality, a Jewish church which believed that Jesus was their Messiah. In opposition to this church was the church formed around Paul, the Apostle, which condemned Judaism, foremost, and abrogated the very scriptures (The Torah) upon which Jesus was built. The thing which Paul did hang on to was The Warp: the same virtues we saw in the Upanishads, Confucius, and Lao Tzu. i.e.: love one another; do unto others as you would have them do unto you; forgive your enemies, and be humble. If one is humble, certainly one is not likely to infringe upon another's rights or cause any conflict; without conflict there is no suffering; without suffering there is the foundation of Peace. All one needs to bring about Peace, then, is to add the precept of loving one another or doing unto others as you would have them do unto you; and love your enemies. So this is the Warp which we find in all the major religions; and it is the major thing which is common to Paul's version of Christianity and Peter's version founded in Jerusalem.
We mention these opposite churches of Peter and Paul as a means of comparison to better understand Buddhism. For Buddhism went through transformations which are almost identical to those of Christianity. One branch of Buddhism, the Hinayana, stayed on the conservative path, applying the precepts of Buddha just as he mentioned them and in the context in which they were mentioned. The other branch, called the Mahayana, the Greater Vehicle, went the same route as Paul with his Christianity. The Greater Vehicle decided to make the man Buddha into a god; and he became not only a god but the Only One God. The conservative vehicle, The Hinayana, called the Lesser Vehicle, never recognized Buddha as a god, so it appears. To them--as to the early Nazarenes--their Teacher was one who served the Wisdom of God who also sought to become One with the Universal, ineffable God. Both Buddha and Jesus saw themselves as men and teachers of the Way to God and Salvation; ergo, if you believe them you will achieve Salvation.
So what happens when you die?
When I first arrived in Turkey, coming from Israel in 1985, I rented a bed in a pension with several other fellows. Among the group was a young British lad of about twenty years old. In settling down in our room we first suffered a crisis. Our young friend found four bed bugs in his bed. There is, perhaps, nothing more frightening to a traveller than bed bugs. Stories were rampant among the youthful travellers, from one road to another, nation to nation, about bed bugs attacking people while they slept. One horror story mentioned that a girl had been so attacked, and when she awoke the next morning every inch of her body was nothing but oozing sores. Thus, when our friend found four bed bugs in his bed, the entire room went into an horrified frenzy, with all persons hysterically searching their beds for bed bugs! Fortunately, the British lad was the only one who had them. He quickly disposed of them, and then we all settled down for the evening. After a few moments of somewhat philosophical discussion, the lad asked, "What happens when you die?" Since I had some rather profound thoughts on the subject--I thought--I proceeded to expound on a theme concerning a rather antiquated idea of The Brain in the Jar. I proposed that if one is paralyzed and asked, "Who are you?" One would probably reply, "I'm still me; it is I". Pursuing this precept, one can conclude that a brain in a jar, given artificial stimulus of sensations: touch, smell, sight, etc., and an ability to communicate through, perhaps a computer terminal, would make the same reply, that he is the same person as before, when he was whole. The person had not really changed even though his environment might be new and his body mechanisms somewhat restricted. With technology, I proposed, we are near to the ability of tapping that energy in the brain making up the Self and transmitting it to a receiver on the moon if we wish. All seemed to agree that such a Being transmitted by laser, etc. to the moon, and given sensational input by artificial means, would still respond, "It is I". With this being the case, then, I proposed that your spirit must be that thing which can be transmitted and, therefore, does not really die, provided it enters a receptacle in which to store it. In a manner of speaking it needs a battery case in which to reside.
My Brazilian friend interrupted me early in the course of my presentation. He answered the youth by saying, "It doesn't make any difference. We have no evidence that anyone who has died has ever come back to describe what happens after you die. So without the evidence speculation is ridiculous." I continued with my presentation, not really hearing his words, but nevertheless keeping his thought in the back of my mind ever since.
Almost each of us can speak of some paranormal experience--suggesting a spiritualness apart from our body--which cannot be satisfactorily explained to the Self. Rather than dwelling upon many examples, which even the reader can probably conger up, I thought to give you an example as pertaining to my own experience, how I concluded that there is an afterlife--that your spirit need not die.
As with many children who adopt an invisible friend, I also acquired an invisible friend, whom I call The Old Man. Perhaps many of you may be able to identify with my particular experience with an invisible friend.
I was about thirty years old, sitting idly in a dusty back office of an aerospace plant. My job title was of a highly specialized nature; so specialized that I was hired for the job to fulfill a contract requirement of which no one in the plant understood; nor did they understand that it demanded little time from me. In my boredom--not being able to convince my superior to give me more duties--I sat idle at my desk behind closed doors.
I had a typewriter, and to look busy, I thought to write some poetry. The poetry as all my poetry in the past had done began to follow its own course, and I became merely the pen following the precepts evolving on the paper. But then, unlike my previous poetry which tended to be short expositions, the poem wanted to continue and soon became a book. The precepts of the book bothered me so much I later burned the book. The manuscript I through into the fireplace was about two hundred pages.
One day, doodling on a piece of paper, my pencil began to start writing. As the words began to flow I found myself wondering where they were leading, not knowing either the intent or purpose of the theme being expounded. What emanated upon the paper was a fairly long poem, badly written from my point of view, as its meter seemed to be off, but containing some rather awesome precepts. I discontinued the practice and put aside my writing for a while.
Years later I was idle again and thought to take up the paper and pencil again. On the paper was drawn a figure of an angelic being- a woman with glasses and she introduced another character who signed the work with the words "I Am, I Am, I Am." When he spoke, a great deal of wisdom came out on the paper. Stories like the Ball of String, The Goat's Milk, the Table of the Innocents, etc., were written by Him. He identified Himself as my Father who is in Heaven; He gave no further descriptions of Himself, except the signature "I Am." These parables are on Maravot's Four Parables and a Prayer.html.
Perhaps a year later, maybe less, I was prompted to read the Bible by a television minister, Pat Robertson. I first turned to Exodus and began browsing over the description of the Tabernacle; then, turning the pages, I read where God introduced Himself to Moses by the name of "I Am that I Am". We know that name as Jehovah (Hebrew YHVH). I was shocked to see that name in the Bible. And from then on I began to pay more attention to the character who was writing to me under the signature of "I Am."
In the relationship between "I Am" and me, enough was written upon paper before my very eyes to convince me of the paranormal nature of the personality. Then, and even now, I had no doubts that the voice which was speaking to me was not my voice; for it spoke of things which were far beyond my imagination. Often things which He would say would make my head swim. Over the years, feeding me information bit by bit, I came to appreciate the wealth of knowledge that flowed from the unfathomable source--my invisible friend, The Old Man who signed with the name, "I am." Since then, the books which I have written have been largely dominated by the mind of my invisible friend. As I sit at my computer, the words unceasingly flow; and they flow ever more towards more simple precepts: though simple in the end, my mind swims in trying to comprehend all the steps leading up to them.
Keying off a small poem in Gnostic Literature about a lad searching for a pearl, I thought one day to write a book focusing on the future Messiah. I called it The String of Pearls. In the book I tell the Messiah, whom I call Galahad, to find the One Pearl and with it He will discover the String of Pearls. It is a sublime message intended to show Him where His Wisdom comes from and how each precept is like a pearl on a string or a link in a chain. We mention this because we had not before remembered the Hindu Scriptures sufficiently to be aware that The String of Pearls was talking about the very same thing we highlighted in this text concerning Wisdom of the Self being like a String of Pearls. We had been unknowingly writing about something which we would later discover in the Hindu Scriptures. This kind of circumstance became a constant source of self realization, showing me that the things I was writing were leading to a greater, unknown source and conclusion. Even my precept of the Old Man I found not to be unique to me!
This book is one of several books derived through my Old Man which are to me but a mountain: an entire mountain full of precepts. Because of this mountain to which I was led by The Old Man led almost like a fool I have no doubts that He exists; nor do I have any doubts as to His Wisdom or the reality that your soul or spirit can be eternal. There is a Resurrection. We might add that Mohammed, writing his Koran, had an experience similar to that which I comprehended. In his case His Sources of His book were the Angels of God. He said, "Read my book and you will see that I could not have written it myself."
What the Buddha Said about the Afterlife:
Conversion of the Sakya Princes. The next day the master entered Kapilavatthu to beg his food, attended by the twenty thousand Arahats. When it was rumored that the young prince Siddhattah was begging from door to door, the windows of the many storied houses were opened wide, and a multitude gazed forth in amazement. And amongst these was the mother of Rahula, and she said to herself: "Is it right that my lord, who was wont to go to and from in this town in a guilded palanquin, with every sign of pomp, should now be begging his food from door to door, with shaven hair and beard, and clad in russet robes?" And she reported the matter to the king. He, instantly rising, went forth to remonstrate with his son, that thus he put the Sakya clan to shame. "Do you think it impossible," he said, "that we should provide meals for all your followers?" "It is our custom, O King!" was the reply. "Not so, Master," said the king; "not one of all our ancestors has ever begged his food." "O king," replied the Buddha, "thy descent is in the succession of kings, but mine in the succession of the Buddhas: and every one of these has begged his daily food, and lived upon alms." And standing in the middle of the street he uttered the verses:
Arise and delay not, follow after the pure life! Who follows virtue rests in bliss, alike in this world and the next.
Follow after the pure life, follow not after sin! Who follows virtue rests in bliss alike in this world and the next. (1)
Nothing in this world is permanent. Everything is temporary on earth and is subject to decay; and when one dies the Atman, or Soul, then is freed. In the teaching of the Brahmins, once the sage is versed in the Supreme Self and abolished Himself by Himself, reaching a pure state of detachment from desire, his soul escapes like a bird from a cage. The Buddha concluded, in this regard, that the liberated soul is still a soul and whatever the condition it attains, must be subject to rebirth. He then goes on to say:
...since each successive renunciation is held to be still accompanied by qualities, I maintain that the absolute attainment of our end is only to be found in the abandonment of everything. (2)
It is through the total abandonment of all desire, etc. that the enlightened sage can reach a state of Saving Truth, which is Salvation, called Arahatta. One who has attained this state is called an Arahat. When one reaches Arahatta, one has attained Nibbana or Nirvana. This state is defined as a state of Salvation where those who attain it are released from further becoming. The Soul is totally free of having to go through further rebirth. It is a state of total good and is compared to a complete Stillness, Void; nothingness. Buddha and many of his disciples made claim to have reached the state of Arahatta, calling themselves Arahats, in their own lifetimes. In the commentary to Subhadda, the Exalted One, the Buddha, declared:
And Subhadda's doubt being thus resolved, he resorted to the Exalted One, to the Law, and to the Congregation as his refuge, and he was received into the Order: and "ere long he attained to that supreme goal of the higher life (Nibbana), for the sake of which the clansmen go out from all and every household gain and comfort, to become houseless wanderers--yea, that supreme goal did he, by himself, and while yet in this visible world, bring himself to the knowledge of, and continue to realize, and to see face to face! And he became conscious that birth was at an end, that the higher life had been fulfilled, that all that should be done had been accomplished, and that after this present life there would be no beyond." Thus it was that the venerable Subhadda became yet another among the Arahats; and he was the last disciple whom the Exalted One himself converted.3
All things which are impermanent, transitory, are evil. A commentary says:
Or how think you, whether is form permanent or transitory? and whether are sensation, perception, and predispositions and consciousness permanent or transitory? "They are transitory," replied the Five. 'And that which is transitory, is it evil or good?' 'It is evil,' replied the Five. 'And that which is transitory, evil, and liable to change, can it be said that 'This is mine, this am I, this is my eternal soul?' 'Nay, verily, it cannot be so said,' replied the Five. 'Then, O Bhikkhus, it must be said of all the physical form whatsoever, past or present or to be, subjective or objective, far or near, high or low, that " This is not mine, this am I not, this is not my eternal soul."' And in like manner of all sensations, perceptions, predispositions and consciousness, it must be said, 'These are not mine, these am I not, these are not my eternal soul.' And perceiving this, O Bhikkhus, the true disciple will conceive a disgust for physical form, and for sensation, perception, predispositions and consciousness, and so will be divested of desire; and thereby he is freed, and becomes aware that he is freed; and he knows that becoming is exhausted, that he has lived the pure life, that he has done what it behoved him to do, and that he has put off mortality for ever."
Someone We believe it was Ananda, Buddha's cousin and bowl and cloak bearer (valet) asked the Buddha, "What happens next?"
When Buddha was about to die this commentary is made:
But when Ananda folded the robes and the Master wore them, the golden cloth seemed to have lost its brightness - and this was because whenever One-who-has-thus attained attains to Perfect Enlightenment, as also on the day when he passes away, the color of his skin becomes exceeding bright. (4)
Addressing the brethren in the Kutagara Hall in the Great Forest, just prior to his death, the Buddha said:
Behold, now, O Brethren, I exhort you, saying: 'All component things must grow old. Work out your salvation with diligence. The final extinction of the Tathagata (the Buddha) will take place before long. At the end of three months from this time the Tathagata will die.'5
Earlier he said:
I too, O Ananda, am now grown old, and full of years, my journey is drawing to its close, I have reached my sum of days, I am turning eighty years of age; and just as a worn-out cart, Ananda, can be kept going only with the help of thongs, so, methinks, the body of Him-who-has-thus-attained can only be kept going by bandaging it up. It is only, Ananda, when the Tathagata, by ceasing to attend to any outward thing, becomes plunged by the cessation of any separate sensation in that concentration of heart which is concerned with no material object - it is only then that the body of Him-who-has-thus-attained is at ease.
Therefore, O Ananda, be ye lamps unto yourselves. Be ye a refuge to yourselves. Betake yourselves to no external refuge. Hold fast to the Truth as a lamp. Hold fast as a refuge to the Truth. Look not for refuge to anyone besides yourselves....And whosoever, Ananda, either now or after I am dead, shall be a lamp unto themselves, shall betake themselves to no external refuge, but holding fast to the Truth as their lamp, and holding fast as their refuge to the Truth, shall look not for refuge to anyone besides themselves it is they, Ananda, among my Bhikkus (disciples) who shall reach the very topmost Height but they must be anxious to learn.(6)
Anyone can reach the state of Arahatta. The fierce robber Angulimala, too, Buddha won over to the Good Law, and notwithstanding his evil life he quickly attained to Arahatta.7 Although women were not initially admitted to the Order, Ananda pressed the Buddha into allowing women to join the brethren. Ananda asked, "Are Buddhas born into the world only for the benefit of men? Assuredly it is for the benefit of women also." And the Blessed One consented that women should make profession and enter the Order, subject to the conditions of the Eight Duties of Subordination to the Brethren. Though he consented he still voiced this reservation: "If women were not admitted to the Order, then would the Good Law endure for a thousand years, but now it will stand for five hundred years only. For just as when mildew falls upon a field of flourishing rice, that field of rice does not long endure, just so when women retire from the household to the homeless life under a Doctrine and Discipline, the norm will not long endure. And just as a large reservoir is strengthened by a strong dyke, so have I established a barrier of eight weighty regulations, not to be transgressed as long as life shall last." (8)
In the Sermon on Fire , the Buddha said:
All things, O Bhikkhus are on fire.....And with what are they on fire? I say with the fire of glamour; with birth, old age, death, sorrow, lamentation, misery and grief and despair, they are afire. And seeing this, O Bhikkhus, the true disciple conceives disgust for the eye, for forms, for eye-consciousness, for impressions received by the eye, and for the sensations arising therein; and for the ear, the nose, the tongue, and for the sense of touch, and for the mind, and for thoughts and mind-consciousness, impressions, and sensations. And so he is divested of desire, and thereby he is freed, and is aware that he is freed, and he knows that becoming is exhausted, that he has lived the pure life, that he has done what it behooved him to do, and that he has put off mortality forever. (9)
So what happens when you die? If we understand the Buddha correctly one is likely to suffer one of two fates:
1. If one is an Arahat, having achieved the state of Perfect Enlightenment, like Buddha, his Atman, or Soul (Ego) ceases to be. Like a flame on a candle which is snuffed out, the Self ceases to be. We can use another illustration drawn from the essence of butter. Before it existed butter was a component of milk. Being made into butter we now recognize a new substance: Butter. But if we apply heat to it and melt it and pour it back into the milk it ceases to be. This is how we understand the fate of one who has achieved, in his lifetime, Nirvana. And having achieved that state one is freed from having to experience a rebirth. Being freed from rebirth one is freed from Suffering. And Suffering is Hell.
2. If one has not achieved the state of Arahatta, one is condemned to being reborn over and over again. And having to live one life after another one is condemned to perpetual suffering. But this is not all, for Buddha also spoke of heavens and hell. Once the Soul leaves the body, not having yet achieved Nirvana, it is either condemned to a level of Heaven or purgatory. In this we see that the Soul has to endure two states of Suffering: In life it must suffer and in death it must continue to suffer. The wicked are condemned to purgatory or hell after death.
When the Buddha was dying, questions were posed as to how he ought to be reverenced after his death and what ought to be done with his remains. He answered:
Reverence "The place where the Tathagata (the Buddha) was born, the place where he attained Supreme Enlightenment, the place where the Kingdom of Righteousness was established, and the place where the Tathagata utterly passed away: 'And they, Ananda, who shall die while they, with believing heart, are journeying on such a pilgrimage, shall be reborn after death, when the body shall dissolve, in the happy realms of heaven.'' (10)
But Buddha was not heading for heaven: For we recall again:
All component things must grow old. Work out your salvation with diligence. The final extinction of the Tathagata will take place before long. At the end of three months from this time the Tathagata will die.
In a schism involving one of his followers, and cousin, Devadatta, we see the precept of what happens to one who has done evil but repents:
Then in terror he (Devadatta) cried aloud: "Save me, my children, I am the cousin of the Buddha. O Buddha, though I have done so much against thee, for the sake of our kinship save me!" And he repeated the formula of taking refuge in the Buddha, the norm, and the order. By this he received the help of the Three Gems at last, and in a future birth he will become the Private Buddha Sattisara, notwithstanding he now went to hell and received a body of fire. (11)
Another one who had offended the Buddha was his father-in-law, Suprabuddha:
Buddha uttered the prediction that within a week Suprabuddha would be swallowed alive by the earth. And, notwithstanding Suprabuddha spent the whole week in the tower of his palace, the earth opened and he was swallowed up in accordance with the prophecy, and he sank into the lowest Purgatory. (12)
A sister by name of Cinca accused Buddha of having relations with her. This is what is said to have happened to her:
Pursued by the indignant people, she disappeared in the midst of flames rising from the earth, and descended to the bottom of the lowest Purgatory. (13)
In these discussions we can see that he who is not an Arahat is subject to heavenly pleasures or purgatory after death. There are several levels of Heaven and also several levels of purgatory. Heaven is a happy place, presumably a place of limbo for the soul until it migrates on to rebirth and hopefully perfection of the soul through a better life to come. Still the rebirth would be with suffering. Even the Buddha, having reached the state of Nirvana in his life, suffered. Ananda was all broken up over this, having to watch his Master suffer as the Buddha lay on his side dying.
We can infer from these precepts of the Buddha that the Atman or Soul must go through at least one birth to achieve Nirvana, that is final extinction. Looking at it from the other end we can also infer that existence is dependent upon birth. If one has never occupied a body, one has never existed! In discussing this with the Advocate another realization comes into view. If one achieves the state of Arahatta (Nirvana) in his/her first birth and does it as a child, then we can conclude that though the Soul desires to exist it can fall into nonexistence in a real hurry! We can infer from this, suggests the Advocate, that this would be a contradiction to Buddhahood altogether. For the precept of the Buddha is to teach others how to realize their Buddha nature and achieve Nirvana. If a Buddha were to achieve Nirvana in his first life at the earliest possible age, he would deny others from the Salvation of his teaching. Thus, the precept of the ultimate goal of the Soul to cease to exist becomes a contradiction to the very nature of Buddhahood. This is important, because we can now reflect upon Buddha's concept of His Self, as he spoke of the twin Sala trees:
The twin Sala Trees are all one mass of bloom with flowers out of season; all over the body of Him-who-has-thus-attained, these drop and sprinkle and scatter themselves, out of reverence for the successors of the Buddhas of old. And heavenly music sounds in the sky, out of reverence for the successors of the Buddhas of old. But it is not thus, Ananda, that He-who-has-thus-attained is rightly honored, and reverenced. But the brother or the sister, the devout man or woman who continually fulfils all the greater and lesser duties, who is correct in life, walking according to the precepts--it is he who rightly honors and reverences the Tathagata. (14)
Now Savatthi was the place where all former Buddhas have exhibited their greatest miracle, and remembering this the Buddha proceeded thither with the intention of confounding his opponents. He took up his residence in the Jetavana monastery. Very soon afterwards he exhibited to the people, the six teachers, and King Prasenajit, a series of great miracles, creating a great road across the sky from East to West, and walking thereon the while he preached the Good Law. By these means the heretical teachers were overcome.
Following upon the Great Miracle, the Buddha departed to the Heaven of the Thirty-three, and there preached the Law to his mother, Maha Maya. The Buddha remained in the Heaven of the Thirty-three for three months, and during that time he created a likeness of himself, that continued the teaching of the law on earth, and went every day upon his rounds begging food. When the Buddha was about to descend from heaven, Sakka commanded Vissakamma, the divine architect, to create a triple ladder, the foot of which was set down near the town of Sankissa. And the Buddha descended at this place, attended by Brahma on the right and Sakka on the left. (15)
And again, referring to his precept of Himself being in a long line of Buddhas we have:
"Not so, Master", said the King; "not one of all our ancestors has ever begged his food." "O king," replied the Buddha, "thy descent is in the succession of kings, but mine in the succession of the Buddhas: and every one of these has begged his daily food, and lived upon alms." (16)
In the succession of Buddhas the Buddha appears to be a separate Soul or Atman. I must admit I have difficulty comprehending this precept, since the precept of The Buddha, which is He-who-has-achieved-Perfect-Enlightenment presumes an identity of Being which all Buddhas would share. It also presumes a need for the birth of a Buddha and the requirement for a continuing birth and rebirth cycle of One Self leading mankind to Perfect Enlightenment. How, then, can the Perfect Enlightenment for such a Being conceive of its own ultimate perfection as Nirvana: the extinction of the Self? We seem to have a contradiction here. Once again we note his comments as to the Salvation of the Buddha and His Eternal Soul:
That which your heart desires, may you attain
And finding for yourself deliverance, deliver all!
The Blessed Buddha--he hath prevailed!
And the Tempter is overthrown!
Through many divers births I passed
Seeking in vain the builder of the house (desire).
But O framer of houses, thou art found
Never again shalt thou fashion a house for me!
Broken are all thy beams,
The king- post shattered!
My mind has passed into the stillness of Nibbana (Nirvana)
The ending of desire has been attained at last! (17)
Unquestionably, based upon the quotations of the Buddha, he believed Himself to be in a long chain of Buddhas, to lead man to Perfect Enlightenment, which is Deliverance or Salvation. To achieve this state the Buddha Himself had to seek to free himself from all desire. From this we can infer that either the Buddha is naturally born, designated as a Becoming Buddha, or just a mortal man who achieves Buddhahood and flows into the chain of the Buddhas. We can conclude from these sayings neither an inference that the Buddha is Divine by nature nor Mortal by nature; except, we must say, he recognized his need, as a young man, to seek enlightenment. He was not born with it.
Nevertheless, by example of the sayings of the Buddha, and the descriptions of his life, He was Higher than all the other Arahats who had achieved a state of Nirvana. Is this because of his excellence in Enlightenment, which is above all others, or because of a special divine nature within him? A further question comes to mind, because he stated that any man can become a Buddha: Why is it that no others among the Order during his time, who were Arahats, were not also called The Buddha? Why is it that we must differentiate between The Buddha and the other Arahats; surely are they not all equal, having achieved the ultimate state of Perfect Enlightenment?
In reflection, it appears that The Buddha, The Master, The Blessed One, represented a state which is basically unachievable by mere mortal man. Somehow He must have a Divine Nature, being a Self which reincarnates Itself to experience Suffering once again and to lead man away from the causes of Suffering.
This, we hope, is a fair summation of the early teachings of Buddha, concerning life after death, and the considerations we have concerning the True nature of the Being which the Buddha represented. The teachings prompt questions as to the Divinity of The Buddha and point out some apparent contradictions in the whole concept of Buddhahood itself. We recognize that the Buddha is designed as a being to teach man to avoid Desire, which leads to Suffering, and achieve an ultimate state of Peace, called Nirvana, meaning Final Extinction. But the Precept of the Buddha also involves a condemnation of Himself to the very thing the Buddha is designed to lead mankind from: Birth and, with it, Suffering.
Joy and Suffering; Causes and Effects:
The Arahat achieves a perfect state of Joy:
In perfect joy we live, without enemy in this world of enmity...among sick men we dwell without sickness...among toiling men we dwell without toil...The monk who dwells in an empty abode, whose soul is full of peace, enjoys superhuman felicity, gazing solely on the truth. (18)
This state of perfect Joy, emanating in an Empty abode, or Void, says Ananda Coomarasamy, cannot be distinguished from the Brahman state of being "No Thing".19 He further says: "It is perfectly true that the more deeply we penetrate Buddhist and Brahmanical thought, the less is it possible to divide them. If, for example, we imagine the question propounded to a teacher of either persuasion, "What shall I do to be saved?' -- the same answer would be made, that salvation veritably consists in overcoming the illusion that any such ego- 'I'-- exists, and the way to this salvation would be described as the overcoming of craving."20 He further says, "The distinctions between early Buddhism and Brahmanism, however practically important, are thus merely temperamental; fundamentally there is absolute agreement that bondage consists in the thought of I and Mine, and that this bondage may be broken only for those in whom all craving is extinct". (21)
With this in mind we realize that the Buddha is really the Brahmin Sage but while the theme of Salvation by the Buddha is to escape having to live altogether, because Life means Suffering, we must also recognize that the goal of the Brahmin is to become One with the Universal Self or God. Like butter being returned to milk, the Self becomes dissolved in the Universal Oneness of Being. Again, we can recall that this is basically what Lao Tzu was saying.
Buddha's contribution to the ultimate form of Salvation did take a departure from the recognition of a Supreme Being, the Universal Self, or God to another state altogether and it has been described by Rhys Davids as Agnostic Atheism. (22)
When a man becomes annihilated from his attributes he attains to perfect subsistence, he is neither near nor far, neither stranger nor intimate, neither sober nor intoxicated, neither separated nor united; he has no name, or sign, or brand or mark.(23)
We again recall the teaching of how all things in life are like flames, creating the fire of desire which eventually wearies a man in all senses:
While he becomes wearied thereof, he becomes free from desire; free from desire, he becomes delivered; in the delivered arises the knowledge: I am delivered; rebirth is at an end, perfected is holiness, duty done; there is no more returning to this world; he knows this. (24)
How can ye be merry, how can ye indulge desire? Evermore the flames burn. Darkness surrounds you: will ye not seek the light?
Man gathers flowers; his heart is set on pleasure. Death comes upon him, like the floods of water on a village, and sweeps him away.
Man gathers flowers; his heart is set on pleasure. The Destroyer brings the man of insatiable desire within his clutch.
Neither in the region of the air, nor in the depths of the sea, nor if thou piercest into the clefts of the mountains, wilt thou find any place on this earth where the hand of death will not reach thee.
From merriment cometh sorrow: from merriment cometh fear. Whosoever is free from merriment, for him there is no sorrow: whence should fear reach him?
From love cometh sorrow: from love cometh fear: whosoever is free from love for him there is no sorrow: whence should fear reach him?
Whoso looketh down upon the world, as though he gazed on a mere bubble or a dream, him the ruler Death beholdeth not.
Whosoever hath traversed the evil, trackless path of the Samsara, who hath pushed on to the end, hath reached the shore, rich in meditation, free from desire, free from hesitancy, who, freed from being, hath found rest, him I call a true Brahman. (From the Pali Canon) (25)
Since I went forth from home to homeless life,
Never have I harbored conscious wish or plan
Un-Ariyan or linked with enmity....
With thought of death I dally not, nor yet
Delight in living. I await the hour
Like any hireling who hath done his task.
With thought of death I dally not, nor yet
Delight in living. I await the hour
With mind discerning and with heedfulness.
The Master hath my fealty and love,
And all the Buddha's bidding hath been done.
Low have I laid the heavy load I bore,
Cause for rebirth is found in me no more.
The good for which I bade the world farewell,
And left the home to lead the homeless life,
That highest good have I accomplished,
And every bond and fetter is destroyed.(26)
Now for the body care I never more,
and all my consciousness is passion-free.
Keen with unfettered zeal,
detached, calm and serene
I taste Nibbana's Peace.(27)
Whither goeth the Soul when the Body dieth? "There is no necessity for it to go anywhither."
"And again? O Subhuti, if anybody were to say that the Tathagata goes, or comes, or stands, or sits, or lies down, he, O Subhuti, does not understand the meaning of my preaching. And why? Because the word Tathagata means one who does not go to anywhere, and does not come from anywhere; and therefore he is called the Tathagata (truly come), holy and fully enlightened." (28)
After his passing, deem not thus:
'The Buddha still is here.'
He is above all contrasts,
To be and not to be.
While living, deem not thus:
'The Buddha is now here.'
He is above all contrasts,
To be and not to be.
To think 'It is' is eternalism,
To think, 'It is not,' is nihilism:
Being and none-being,
The wise cling not to either. (29)
This, then, perhaps best describes the formative school of Buddhism upon which the Lesser Vehicle, the Hayana, was founded and strives to maintain. To escape the fires that torment man to desire, Buddha contrived several rules. The first is the Eight-fold Path. He taught this in his first sermon which is called The First Turning of the Law:
There are two extremes which he who has gone forth ought not to follow - habitual devotion on the one hand to the passions, to the pleasures of sensual things, a low and pagan way (of seeking satisfaction), ignoble, unprofitable, fit only for the worldly-minded; and habitual devotion, on the other hand, to self-mortification, which is painful, ignoble, unprofitable. There is a Middle Path discovered by the Tathagata - a path which opens the eyes, and bestows understanding, which leads to peace, to insight, to the higher wisdom, to Nirvana. Verily! It is this Aryan Eightfold Path; that is to say:
l. Right Views,
2. Right Aspirations,
3. Right Speech,
4. Right Conduct,
5. Right mode of livelihood,
6. Right Effort,
7. Right Mindfulness, and
8. Right Rapture.
Now this is the Noble Truth as to suffering. Birth is attended with pain, decay is painful, disease is painful, death is painful. Union with the unpleasant is painful, painful is separation from the pleasant; and any craving unsatisfied, that, too, is painful. In brief, the five aggregates of clinging (that is, the conditions of individuality) are painful.
Now this is the Noble Truth as to the origin of suffering. Verily! It is the craving thirst that causes the renewal of becomings, that is accompanied by sensual delights, and seeks satisfaction, now here now there - that is to say, the craving for the gratification of the senses, or the craving for prosperity.
Now this is the Noble Truth as to the passing away of pain. Verily! It is the passing away so that no passion remains, the giving up, the getting rid of, the emancipation from, the harboring no longer of this craving thirst.
Now this is the Noble Truth as to the way that leads to the passing away of pain. Verily! It is this Aryan Eightfold path, that is to say, Right Views, Right Aspirations, Right Speech, conduct, and mode of livelihood, Right Effort, Right Mindfulness, and Right Rapture.(30)
When taught this a man by name of Kondanna immediately attained the fruit of the First Path.
Part and parcel to the religion was the taking of Confession:
What things soever are produced from causes,
Of these the Buddha hath revealed the cause,
And likewise how they cease to be:
'Tis this the great adept proclaims. (31)
Unlike the Brahman sages who hid themselves away in caves and forests, Buddha proclaimed the life of a Wanderer, carrying but his robe and a rice bowl. The path towards Enlightenment, then, imposes upon his disciple the requirement to be a Wanderer and beg one's food. But then, as he began to gain in notoriety, reaping converts from both poor and rich alike, he and his disciples came into wealth. Several people donated buildings and monasteries to the Order. At this point the Order became a Monastic way of life, rather than designed around the life of the Wanderer, as Buddha originally conceived it. To reconcile himself, Buddha sought to leave the protection of the monasteries and preferred to wander with his rice bowl. His disciples would catch up with him and once again bring him into the protection of the monastery.
Like early Christianity, the Order was dependent upon Charity. Buddha's life as a beggar was hinged upon the precept of Charity. He tapped into the already in practice precept of Hindu Charity, which thing always sought to fill the rice bowl of any ascetic happening to come by one's home.
Buddhism, in its early form, was thus dependent upon an exclusivity, with the view that it is designed to raise up Arahats (Buddha-like beings) for the instruction of Society. Society, as a whole, had no part to play in Buddhism except to be Charitable to its Wandering Ascetics and, of course, to offer sources of Conversion for followers joining and perpetuating the Monastic Order.
Women, we recall, were required to observe the Eight Duties of Subordination to the Brethren. Buddha also stipulated forty-one conditions of welfare for the Religious Order. These include not performing miracles (as the Buddha is reported to have done) and:
So long, O Bhikkhus...as the Brethren delight in a life of solitude,
shall not engage in, be fond of, or be connected with business,
shall not stop on their way to Nibbana because they have attained to any lesser thing,
shall exercise themselves in mental activity, search after truth, energy, joy, peace, earnest contemplation, and equanimity of mind;
shall exercise themselves in the realization of the ideas of the impermanency of all phenomena, bodily or mental, the absence of every soul;
shall live among the Arahats in the practice, both in public and in private, of those virtues which are productive of freedom and praised by the wise, and are untarnished by desire of a future life or the faith in the efficacy of outward acts;
shall live among the Arahats, cherishing, both in public and private, that noble and saving insight which leads to the complete destruction of the sorrow of him who acts according to it--so long may the Brethren be expected not to decline, but to prosper.32
The Mahayana and Deification of Buddha
In 270 B.C. Asoka Maurya succeeded to the throne of Magadha. During his reign most of West Pakistan and India were under his dominion. Eight years after his coronation he annexed the territory of Kalinga, bordering the east coast, near Orissa, at the expense of a considerable number of lives. Over 100,000 people were slaughtered and half as many were taken into captivity. Shortly after this, being disturbed over the terrible suffering he had thrown upon the peoples of Kalinga, he converted to Buddhism. And as he was converted so too was his entire realm. Buddhism became the official state religion, presiding over all others.
Without Rome taking up Christianity as its World Religion, Christianity might never have spread as it has. The same is true in the case of Buddhism. Without the Mauryan Empire Buddhism might have never spread to any length. And it was Asoka who civilized the religion, so to speak.
We say he civilized the Buddhist religion because the religion was, in its formative years and pure essence, antisocial in nature. Empire produces Civilization and Civilization is dependent upon the material aspects of life. Ascetics living in caves or the forest, or wanderers such as Buddha, do not produce Civilization. It is the cities and the towns, the merchants and the craftsmen, who produce civilization. But in their natural cause to perpetuate theirselves they produce Suffering. It is through the sages and prophets, and the enlightened of God, such as Buddha and Christ, that civilization acquires righteous conduct. Such is the case in the War with Kalinga.
The War with Kalinga might have been for reasons of commerce or pure dominion. Whatever the cause of the war, we do know that Empires produce prosperity for the few who control them, and their prosperity is dictated by the service of those over whom they secure dominion. A predecessor of Asoka, named Chandragupta, knew this process very well, having secured an empire strong enough to repel the greatest of conquerors: Alexander the Great. Chandragupta secured his empire at the advise of a small book written for him by one of his tutors. The book observed: the big fish eat the little fish. To be a big fish one must eat the little fish. The first little fish one must eat are those who are your neighbors. You eat them first because they do not suspect your intentions. Hence, you gobble up your little neighbors, ever expanding your realm; and your neighbors, in the process, become buffer zones between you and your enemy. Any fighting that is done then does not bring suffering to your homeland but only on the buffer zones. Machiavelli, advising a western prince much later, professed a similar idea. America in the 1970's and 1980's had a direct experience in this somewhat innocuous observation. The Soviet Union, in expanding its empire, which is now disintegrating, had followed the same principles: gobble up your little unsuspecting neighbors.
Asoka was an unusual emperor. And in his remorse he recorded the following message, practical as much today as it was then (note that Dhamma is another rendering of the word Dharma, Way).
Directly after the annexation of the Kalingas, began his Sacred Majesty's zealous protection of the Dhamma, his love of that Dhamma, and his giving instruction therein. Thus arose His Sacred Majesty's remorse for having conquered the Kalingas, because the conquest of a country previously unconquered involves the slaughter, death, and carrying away captive of the people. That is a matter of profound sorrow and regret to His Sacred Majesty.
Thus of all the people who were then slain, done to death, or carried away captive in the Kalingas, if the hundredth or the thousandth part were to suffer the same fate, it would now be matter of regret to His Sacred Majesty. Moreover, should any one do him wrong that too must be borne with by His Sacred Majesty, if it can possibly be borne with...His Sacred Majesty desires that all animate beings should have security, self-control, peace of mind, and joyousness...And for this purpose has this pious edict been written in order that my sons and grandsons, who may be, should not regard it as their duty to conquer a new conquest. If, perchance, they become engaged in a conquest by arms, they should take pleasure in patience and gentleness, and regard as (the only true) conquest the conquest won by piety. That avails for both is world and the next. Let all joy be in effort, because that avails for both this world and the next. (33)
Changing his point of view, as indicated, Asoka proceeded to apply Buddhist principles in an empirical way. He sent out missionaries attempting to convert the world to Buddhism, reaching as far as Syria, Egypt, Cyrene, Macedonia, Epirus and to southern India and Ceylon. His son, Mahendra, converted the King of Ceylon and 40,000 subjects. Along with his missions to Ceylon went a branch of the sacred Bodhi tree under which Buddha gained enlightenment; and it is said that that branch still lives in Anuradhapura today, it being the oldest historical tree in the world.
Although the first spread of Buddhism was towards the West, by 70 A.D. Buddhism was beginning to take root in China and by the fourth century A.D. had spread throughout Southeast Asia and, through the Silk Road of the inner Asian continent, to China proper. At about the same time we had, through the Roman Emperor, Constantine the Great, the Western World being converted to Christianity.
We shall now turn to the Buddhist Bible earlier mentioned. It comes from Japan, and one of the first observations it makes is the fact that everyone has the Buddha nature indwelling within him. But man is prevented from seeing that Buddha nature because of the distractions of desire and pleasure which produce Suffering. Thus, the mind knows its Buddha nature but is prevented from applying it because it has taken on acquisitions which distract it from the real Truth, not being able to differentiate what is important from the unimportant. Through Self-Control one can realize his Buddha nature and thereby free oneself from the bonds of Suffering and its causes.
This becomes the essence of the Mahayana doctrine as it became filtered through one culture after another, through Taoism, Confuciunism, and the myriad forms of other spirit religions through which it had to make passage.
Each culture applied Buddhist doctrine to its own set of circumstances and nature. Some focused upon a part of the doctrine and made it preside over the other parts. Zen Buddhism, for instance, placed a greater emphasis, as we understand, on the Meditative aspects of Buddhism. In Japan we see its application surfacing in a reconciliation to the Order already in Japan. Part of that Order involved the belief in a Universal Self or God.
In other realms where Buddhism penetrated there was the ever constant problem of reconciling Nirvana to the hope of an afterlife. In the pure form of Buddha's precept of Nirvana, there is no afterlife. It is rather a sublime extinction for the Enlightened Arahat. It is being freed from having to suffer future births.
In our Buddhist Bible we see Buddha taking on another form. Although he was a man who had attained enlightenment, the Buddhist Bible points out that he really has no form perceptible to man and has always existed in the world, waning and waxing by appearance like the moon, but always constant and unchanging. We think we see different forms in him, by reason of our own circumstances and point of perception, but in reality he has no recognizable form; and anyone who claims that he has finally seen the form of the Buddha has just suffered from one of the things that prevents his Buddha nature to emerge from within: Delusion.
Nevertheless, Buddha is infinite in nature, omniscient, and exists everywhere. Furthermore he has the ability to transcend time and form, manifesting himself anywhere or any time he deems appropriate for the guidance of the world. Because of his ability to manifest himself, there are many Buddhas who have entered and left the world. And by this teaching we learn that he can surface in Africa, or even some small island, to teach man the path of enlightenment and Salvation and then, like the waxing moon, disappear from our vision. In these terms, because Buddha exists in an infinite nature, omnipresent and ever abiding, even within every man's heart, he is as close to the description of the Christian Holy Spirit as any man has reached (apart from Christ). He is, for practical purposes, according to my copy of the Buddhist Bible, God. And His Purpose in existence is to lead man on the Eightfold Path of Truth and Enlightenment to the land of Amida: namely, Peace and Happiness.
Just as Buddha focused upon reconciling one's life to that of a mendicant and experiencing the Joy of Arahatta, so too does modern Buddhism focus upon the rewards of Joy and Happiness of Arahatta. But in modern Buddhism the teaching is modified, or Civilized, addressing all people in all walks of life. One does not have to be a wanderer or an ascetic to reach the land of Amida. One can be a financial giant, a magnet of industry, a farmer, or any other walk of life and reach that state. This is a happy modification to the teaching, for now it gives all people something which they can apply to their daily lives without having to renounce the material things in life altogether.
The Middle Path of which Buddha spoke becomes a convenient vehicle by which one can apply his teaching without having to go through the rigors of self-denial. While it is important to turn away from the focus of material things and material gain, one should not do it to the extent of self-mortification or self-injury. By following the Eight-fold Path, and several more rules which are introduced into Modern Buddhism, one can achieve Enlightenment, even Buddhahood, and through Meditating on the Buddha and what he represents one is facilitated into focusing on the right view, etc. Let us quote, then, some modern scripture:
The Eternal Buddha
1. Common people believe that Buddha was born a prince and learned the path to Enlightenment as a mendicant; but, in fact, there had been a long, long preparation, for Buddha has always existed in the world that is without beginning or end.
As the Eternal Buddha, He has known all people and applied all methods of relief.
There is no falsity in the Eternal Dharma Buddha taught, for He knows all things in the world as they are, and He teaches them to all people. Indeed, it is very difficult to understand the world as it truly is, for, although it seems real, it is not, and, although it seems false, it is not. Ignorant people can not know the truth concerning the world.
Buddha alone truly and fully knows the world as it is and He never says that it is real or false, or good or evil. He simply shows the world as it is.
What Buddha does teach is this: - that all people should cultivate roots of virtue according to their natures, their deeds, and their beliefs. This teaching transcends all affirmation and negation of this world.
2. Buddha teaches not only through words, but also through His life. Although His life is endless, in order to awaken people who are attached to this life with the thirst for desire, He uses the expedient of birth and death....He, too, (like a father-physician) employs the fiction of life and death to save people who are immersed in the bondage of desires.
Three Aspects of Buddha's Body
1. Do not seek to know Buddha by His form or attributes; for neither the form nor the attributes are the real Buddha. The true Buddha is Enlightenment itself. The true way to know Buddha is to realize Enlightenment...It is not possible to describe His attributes in human words.
Though we speak of His form, the Eternal Buddha has no set form, but can manifest Himself in any form. Though we describe His attributes, yet the Eternal Buddha has no set attributes, but can manifest Himself in any and all excellent attributes.
So, if one sees distinctly the form of Buddha, or perceives His attributes clearly, and yet does not become attached to His form or to His attributes, he has the capacity to see and know Buddha.
2. Buddha's body is Enlightenment itself!...It is an eternal body whose substance is Wisdom. Buddha, therefore, has neither fear nor disease; He is eternally changeless. Therefore, Buddha will never disappear as long as Enlightenment exists.
Enlightenment appears as the light of Wisdom that awakens people into a newness of life and causes them to be born into the world of Buddha.
Those who realize this become the children of Buddha; they keep His Dharma, honor His teachings and pass them on to posterity. Nothing can be more miraculous than the power of Buddha.
3. Buddha has a three-fold body. There is an aspect of Essence or Dharma-kaya; there is an aspect of Potentiality or Sambhoga-kaya; and there is an aspect of Manifestation or Nirmana-kaya.
Dharma-kaya is the substance of the Dharma; that is, it is the substance of Truth itself. As the aspect of Essence, Buddha has no shape or color, and since Buddha has no shape or color, He comes from nowhere and there is nowhere for Him to go. Like the blue sky, He arches over everything, and since He is all things, He lacks nothing....Buddha's body in this aspect fills every corner of the universe; it reaches everywhere, it exists forever, regardless of whether people believe in Him or doubt his existence.
4. Sambhoga-kaya signifies that the nature of Buddha, the merging of both Compassion and Wisdom, which is imageless spirit, manifests itself through the symbols of birth and death, through the symbols of vow-making, training and revealing His sacred name, in order to lead all people to Salvation.....Like a fire that, once kindled, never dies away until the fuel is exhausted, so the Compassion of Buddha will never falter until all worldly passions are exhausted. Just as the wind blows away the dust, so the Compassion of Buddha in this body blows away the dust of human suffering.
Nirmana-kaya signifies that, in order to complete the relief of Buddha of Potentiality, Buddha appeared in the world in bodily form and showed the people, according to their natures and capacities, the aspects of the birth, renunciation of this world and attainment of Enlightenment. In order to lead the people, Buddha in this body uses every means such as illness and death.
The form of Buddha is originally one Dharma-kaya, but as the nature of people varies, Buddha's form appears differently. Although the form of Buddha varies according to the different desires, deeds and abilities of people, Buddha is concerned only with the truth of the Dharma.
Though Buddha has a three-fold body, His spirit and purpose are one--to save all people.
The Appearance of Buddha
1. It is seldom that a Buddha appears in this world. When a Buddha does appear, He attains Enlightenment, introduces the Dharma, severs the net of suspicion, removes the lure of desire at its root, plugs the fountain of evil; completely unhindered, He walks at will over the world. There is nothing greater than to revere the Buddha.
Buddha appears in the world of suffering because He cannot desert suffering people; His only purpose is to spread the Dharma and to bless all people with its Truth. It is very difficult to introduce the Dharma into a world filled with injustice and false standards, a world that is vainly struggling with insatiable desires and discomforts. Buddha faces these difficulties because of His great love and compassion.
2. Buddha is a good friend to all in this world....Like a calf which enjoys its life with its mother, those who have heard the Buddha's teaching are afterward unwilling to leave Him because His teachings bring them happiness.
3....Buddha is precisely like the moon. In the eyes of men, Buddha may seem to change in appearance, but, in truth, Buddha does not change...Buddha is like the moon in following the people of this world in all their changing circumstances, manifesting various appearances; but in His Essence He does not change.
4. The fact that Buddha appears and disappears can be explained by causality: - namely, when the causes and conditions are propitious, Buddha appears; when causes and conditions are not propitious, Buddha seems to disappear from the world.
Whether Buddha appears or disappears, Buddhahood always remains the same. Knowing this principle, one must keep to the path of Enlightenment and attain Perfect Wisdom, undisturbed by the apparent changes in the image of Buddha, in the condition of the world, or in the fluctuations of human thought.
It has been explained that Buddha is not a physical body but is Enlightenment. A body may be thought of as a receptacle; then, if this receptacle is filled with Enlightenment, it may be called Buddha. Therefore, if anyone is attached to the physical body of Buddha and laments His disappearance, he will be unable to see the true Buddha....The true form of Buddha neither appears nor disappears.
1. Buddha receives the respect of the world because of five virtues: Superior conduct; superior point of view; perfect wisdom; superior preaching ability; and the power to lead people to the practice of His teaching.
In addition, eight other virtues enable Buddha to bestow blessings and happiness upon the people: to bring immediate benefits in the world through the practice of His teaching, to judge correctly between good and bad, right and wrong, to lead people to Enlightenment by teaching the right way, to lead all people by an equal way, to avoid pride and boasting, to do what He has spoken, to say what He has done, and, thus doing, to fulfill the vows of His compassionate heart.
By the practice of meditation, Buddha preserves a calm and peaceful spirit, radiant with mercy, compassion, happiness and even equanimity. He deals equitably with all people, cleansing their minds of defilement and bestowing happiness in a perfect singleness of spirit.
2. Buddha is both father and mother to the people of the world....Like earthly parents, Buddha first takes care of the people and then leaves them to care for themselves; He first brings things to pass according to their desires and then He brings them to a peaceful and safe shelter.
What Buddha preaches in His language, people receive and assimilate in their own language as if it were intended exclusively for them.
3. Buddha's Wisdom, being perfect, keeps away from extremes of prejudice and preserves a moderation that is beyond all words to describe. Being all-wise He knows the thoughts and feelings of all men and realizes everything in this world in a moment.
As the stars of heaven are reflected in the calm sea, so people's thoughts, feelings and circumstances are reflected in the depths of Buddha's Wisdom. This is why Buddha is called the Perfectly Enlightened One, the Omniscience.
Buddha's Wisdom refreshes the arid minds of people, enlightens them and teaches them the significance of this world, its causes and its effects, appearings and disappearings. Indeed, without the aid of Buddha's Wisdom, what aspect of the world is at all comprehensible for the people?
4. Buddha does not always appear as a Buddha. Sometimes He appears as an incarnation of evil, sometimes as a woman, a god, a king, or a statesman; sometimes He appears in a brothel or in a gambling house.
In an epidemic He appears as a healing physician and in war He preaches forbearance and mercy for the suffering people; for those who believe that things are everlasting, He preaches transiency and uncertainty; for those who are proud and egoistic, He preaches humility and self-sacrifice; for those who are entangled in the web of worldly pleasures, He reveals the misery of the world.
The work of Buddha is to manifest in all affairs and on all occasions the pure essence of Dharma-kaya (the absolute nature of Buddha); so Buddha's mercy and compassion flow out from this Dharma-kaya in endless life and boundless light, bringing salvation to mankind.
5. The world is like a burning house that is forever being destroyed and rebuilt...Buddha is a father to all the world; all human beings are the children of Buddha; Buddha is the most saintly of saints.
...Buddha saw that this world of delusion was really a burning house, so He turned from it and found refuge and peace in the quiet forest. There, out of His great compassion, he calls to us: "This world of change and suffering belongs to me; all these ignorant, heedless people are my children; I am the only one who can save them from their delusion and misery."
As Buddha is the great king of the Dharma, He can preach to all people as He wishes; so Buddha appears in the world to bless the people. To save them from suffering He preaches the Dharma, but the ears of people are dulled by greed and they are inattentive.
But those who listen to His teachings are free from the delusions and the miseries of life.
Just as Jesus proclaimed that He is the only Way to Salvation (which also included Eternal Life), so too does the Modern Buddhist Bible proclaim that Buddha is the only way to Salvation. Is one of them a liar, or are they both, in reality, representing the same thing? And if they are both representing the same thing, then are they not One with it? Let us keep this thought in mind as we now pursue the Buddhist concept of Causes:
The Dependent Origination
1. Where is the source of human grief, lamentation, pain and agony? Is it not to be found in the fact that people are generally ignorant and also willful?
They cling obstinately to lives of wealth and honor, comfort and pleasure, excitement and egoism, ignorant of the fact that the desire for these very things is the source of human suffering...But if one carefully considers all the facts, one must be convinced that at the basis of all suffering lies the principle of craving desire. If avarice can be removed, human suffering will come to an end.
Ignorance is manifested in greed that fills the human mind.
...From ignorance and greed there spring impure desires for things that are, in fact, unobtainable, but for which men restlessly and blindly search.
Because of ignorance and greed, people imagine discriminations where, in reality, there are no discriminations. Inherently, there is no discrimination of right and wrong in human behavior; but people, because of ignorance, imagine such distinctions and judge them as right or wrong.
Because of their ignorance, people are always thinking wrong thoughts and always losing the right viewpoint and, clinging to their egos, they take wrong actions. As a result, they become attached to a delusive existence.
2. In reality, therefore, it is their own mind that causes the delusions of grief, lamentation, pain and agony.
This whole world of delusion is nothing but the shadow caused by this mind. And yet, it is also from this same mind that the world of Enlightenment appears.
3. In this world there are three wrong viewpoints. If one clings to these viewpoints, then all things in the world are but to be denied.
First, some say that all human experience is based on destiny; second, some hold that everything is created by God and controlled by His will; third, some say that everything happens by chance without having any cause or condition.
If all has been decided by destiny, both good deeds and evil deeds are predetermined, weal and woe are predestined; nothing exists that has not been foreordained. Then all human plans and effort for improvement and progress would be in vain and humanity would be without hope.
The same is true of the other viewpoints, for, if everything in the last resort is in the hands of an unknowable God, or of blind chance, what hope has humanity except in submission? It is no wonder that people holding these conceptions lose hope and neglect efforts to act wisely and to avoid evil.
In fact, these three conceptions or viewpoints are all wrong:--everything is a succession of appearances whose sources is the succession of causes and conditions.
Impermanency and Egolessness
l....As the body of flesh is an aggregate of elements, it is, therefore, impermanent....Neither is the mind the ego- personality. The human mind is an aggregate of causes and conditions. It is in constant change.... nothing seems to happen exactly as its ego desires.
2. If one is asked whether impermanent existence is happiness or suffering, he will generally have to answer, "Suffering"..
It is simply the mind clouded over by impure desires, and impervious to wisdom, that obstinately persists in thinking of " me" and "mine".
Since both body and its surroundings are originated by cooperating causes and conditions, they are continually changing and never can come to an end.
The human mind, in its never- ending changes, is like the moving water of a river, or the burning flame of a candle; like an ape, it is forever jumping about, not ceasing for even a moment.
A wise man, seeing and hearing such, should break away from any attachment to body or mind, if he is ever to attain Enlightenment.
3. There are five things which no one is able to accomplish in this world: - first, to cease growing old when he is growing old; second, to cease being sick; third to cease dying; fourth, to deny dissolution when there is dissolution; fifth, to deny extinction.
All the ordinary people in the world sooner or later run into these facts, and most people suffer consequently, but those who have heard the Buddha's teaching do not suffer because they understand that these are unavoidable.
Again, there are four truths in this world--first, all living beings rise from ignorance; second, all objects of desire are impermanent, uncertain and suffering; third, all existing things are also impermanent, uncertain and suffering; fourth, there is nothing that can be called an "ego," and there is no such thing as "mine" in all the world.
The Theory of Mind-Only
1. Both delusion and Enlightenment originate within the mind, and every existence or phenomenon arises from the functions of mind, just as different things appear from the sleeve of a magician.
The activities of the mind have no limit, they form the surroundings of life. An impure mind surrounds itself with impure things, and a pure mind surrounds itself with pure things; hence, surroundings have no more limits than the activities of the mind....While the surroundings created by Buddha are pure and free from defilement, those created by ordinary men are not so.
A single picture is capable of an infinite variety of details. So the human mind fills in the surroundings of its life. There is nothing in the world that is not mind-created.
2. But the mind that creates its surroundings is never free from memories, fears or laments, not only in the past but the present and future, because they have arisen out of ignorance and greed.
It is out of ignorance and greed that the world of delusions starts, and all the vast complex of coordinating causes and conditions exists within the mind and nowhere else.
Both life and death arise from the mind and exist within the mind. Hence, when the mind that concerns itself with life and death passes on, the world of life and death passes with it.
An unenlightened and bewildered life rises out of a mind that is bewildered by its own world of delusion. As we learn that there is no world of delusions outside of the mind, the bewildered mind becomes clear; and because we cease to create impure surroundings, we attain Enlightenment.....The world of suffering is brought about by the deluded mortal mind.
3. Therefore, all things are primarily controlled and ruled by the mind, and are made up by the mind. As the wheels follow the ox that draws the cart, so suffering follows the person who speaks and acts with an impure mind.
But if a man speaks and acts with a good mind happiness follows him like his shadow. Those who act in evil are followed by the thought, "I have done wrong," and the memory of the act is stored to work out its inevitable retribution in the following lives. But those who act from good motives are made happy by the thought, "I have done good," and are made happier by the thought that the good act will bring continuing happiness in the lives to follow....if the mind is pure, the path will be smooth and the journey peaceful.
One who is to enjoy the purity of both body and mind walks the path to Buddhahood, breaking the net of selfish, impure thoughts and evil desires. He who is calm in mind acquires peacefulness and thus is able to cultivate his mind day and night with more diligence.
We may take a short rest here. So far we have seen Buddha described as a Thing: Enlightenment. This is a thing all people can acquire; more so, it is said that even the Buddha, when it is reincarnated, must attain it to fulfill Himself. So Buddhahood is a Potential available to all men and women, even to Buddha Himself.
The Buddha is described without form but with a mission to lead all men to Salvation, which is Enlightenment. By seeking that path to Enlightenment men achieve Salvation not only in their present life, by securing greater happiness, but also Salvation in future lives to come, freeing one from the ever pressing hardness of sin and suffering. Ultimately, though one may not attain Buddhahood, one can realize by following His Way a bounteous life of happiness in this life and lives to come.
The Way, which boils down to the Eightfold Path, to be discussed, allows one to take control over his own Mind, or Self. By controlling one's Mind one frees oneself from ignorance and the impurities which tend to cloud and mislead it into evil and suffering. Once in Evil one is caught in a web of guilt, requiring further revenge and exploitation of others and oneself. In a sense, one, through the impurities of mind, is constantly violating oneself, like a rapist plodding dark allies at night for an innocent young victim. Over and over one victimizes oneself.
Although the doctrine describes Buddha in terms which the God of Abraham often describes Himself, the doctrine tells you that God is, in so many words, a figment of your imagination. He neither exists nor does fate exist. We have a problem with this, because Buddha is a manifestation which can appear at its own will with the purpose of redirecting mankind towards greater good. Because He represents a manifestation designed to alter man's future, He is an Omniscience which can foretell the need for His Presence and therefore plays with mankind's future. If He can affect the future, out of the desire of His own Purpose, then some kind of fate must be acknowledged, as it relates to future happenings. We see that Buddha is as much a part of the causes and events which affect our mind as our surroundings. In fact, from the standpoint of Hope and Salvation, Buddha is like a Messiah for whom one can pray to come and set things back on the right track again, whensoever mankind tends to turn aside from the Cause of Buddha's Enjoyment. For Happy must Buddha be to lead man back to His Light and the Joy which comes with it.
Concerning this, as it relates to some kind of fate, and as concerning the Promise of doing Good in this life to enhance the good life you will inherit in a future life, man can, through his works now, affect his future fate. This suggests that there is a Judgment upon which every man's Soul depends. And if there is Judgment, then there is Something which presides over man's future lives to pronounce that Judgment. We suggest here that the tenants of Buddhism are circuitously addressing the domain of God. And Buddha is a manifestation of that Domain. It is difficult for us to speak of Buddha and the things the Buddhist Bible represents Him to be, as infinite as His Nature is, without separating Him from the Precept of God.
Enlightenment, as a State of Being, requires a Vessel in which, and through which, to manifest itself. The Buddha is described as a Vessel of Enlightenment and that Vessel can appear anywhere at anytime it chooses and in any form it chooses. By these terms we can infer that Jesus could have been a later Buddha. But to measure any manifestation of the Buddha we are reminded of the criteria which makes up the Buddha Manifestation, though, it would seem, the criteria would be a limitation on His Infinite Being. At most, the criteria could be suggestions but not fact. Who is man to put a limitation on an Infinite Being?
Our final discussion now must lead to what must be the desire of this Infinite Being of Buddhahood, and this prompts us to ask the questions, "What is its Source?"
If Enlightenment is a condition of Man's Mind produced out of causes and effects from one's environment, then Enlightenment is no more than an abstract creation of man, varying from one place to another as to its meaning, depending upon what is important to one versus important to another. If, however, there is an Eternal Truth which is Unchanging, then we have another situation altogether. For then we have an Infinite Consciousness of a Self propounding an Infinite Truth for the Purpose of Guiding Man to Salvation. This is essentially how the Buddha has been described. Again, He meets much of the Criteria of the Judao-Christian precept of the Holy Spirit. See our work Hidden Pavilions , which goes into great detail on this.
We agree that Fate, as it was described here, would leave all men without hope of improving their lot, release from suffering, etc. If we refer to the God of Abraham, we will see that Fate is discussed, in terms of Prophesy of events to come, some of which may apply to one man or his children, like Abraham, or others simply to nations. As the Bible discusses its Plans of Prophesy two things are apparent: God, through Angels or His Messiah, can intervene and change things, bringing man back onto the right path. He can also, through influencing men, cause events to happen with the purpose of fulfilling His Prophesy, whether for good or for evil. In the first Order we have a Buddha Nature Manifesting itself to lead mankind to Enlightenment. On the second Order we have the Manifestation of God imposing His Will on mankind, whether for evil or good. While we can agree that an Enlightened One can appear like the Buddha at any time or any place, we hesitate to limit the Source from whence that Nature occurred to having no other affect on Mankind.
Because Buddha has an Infinite Nature, and occupies no particular space or place in time, coming from nowhere nor going anywhere, we are compelled to ask how it is that early Buddhist teachings say that Buddha returned to Heaven for a short time whilst another had been fashioned to simulate Him upon earth for the duration that he was in Heaven. This description of His Being offers a being beyond mortality who can transcend both worlds, that of Heaven and earth, at will. The fact is, from this description we can conclude that He does occupy space and time wheresoever he chooses to become. And when He manifests Himself He Becomes something which acquires Enlightenment. Being of such a nature it infers that He manifests Himself in man as an empty vessel which He, Himself, fills. This precept is akin to the view of the Messiah, being a Vessel of God in which God manifests Himself.
But there is yet another twist to this theme, since the teachings of the Buddha speak of His Miracles and the miracle of his birth, with it being preceded, at conception, by his mother's vision of a white elephant entering her side. So the Manifestation is concomitant with Miracles or reports of Miracles. Nevertheless, we have the admonition of Buddha to his Disciples to not perform or to not put stock in Miracles. In essence, the Way to Enlightenment does not depend upon Miracles. Neither is it dependent upon fate, except we can look forward to the Omniscient One predetermining a need to intervene in our causative existence from time to time to Save us from our Selfish Desires. In which case, we can conclude that it is His Desire to Change Us from our sinful ways, and to do so He has preordained a time and place for that change i.e., He has determined, in so many words, Our Fate. We are Fated to be changed by Him. How and by what Process of events, or Manifestations, is undeterminable. Looking at the situation from the viewpoint of the God of Abraham, we see that the Manifestation can take on a terrible form; like the scattering and burning of the Jews, for instance. Because that event was prophesied by God and actually happened in a far more terrible manifestation than prophesied, we are forced to chalk it up as a manifestation of God. Though the event was caused by the minds and actions of man, it fulfilled the preordained prophesy of God. How that occurred is something no one can answer.
Buddhist doctrine says that Buddha is neither good nor evil, that there in reality is no such thing as good or evil, being but a precept of our minds. In truth, what is good to one people is evil to another; what is evil to one is good to another; and we all like to call evil good and good evil. In this context, the saying is correct. But there is a Purpose of Compassion and Goodness defined in the Buddha, to promote the Salvation of Mankind and the turning of man away from evil to good. Therefore, this being its Purpose requires us to acknowledge that from the Buddha's point of view there is a very strong distinction between Good and Evil. And He exists to make man aware of that distinction, so that man will become Good, as He has defined it. The same point can be made through the God of Abraham, who said to Moses and the children of Israel:
Deuteronomy 30.15 See, I have set before thee this day life and good, and death and evil.
30.19 I call heaven and earth to record this day against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing: therefore choose life, that thou and thy seed may live:
30.20 That thou mayest love the LORD thy God, and that thou mayest obey his voice, and that thou mayest cleave unto him: for he is thy life, and the length of thy days...
When we look at the Buddha's and Buddhism's definition of Good and Evil we are drawn to a Universal accord on the definition. For we shall see that the criteria of Good and Evil are equally reflected in the Bible, in the Koran, in even Krishna's instruction to Arjuna, in the Upanishads and other works, Lao Tzu, and Confucius. All of these ultimately focused upon Vanity as being the cause of Evil.
We can break down Vanity into its various manifestations. The desire of the Self to seek untoward pleasures, exploiting others for the pleasures of the flesh; the desire of the Self to exploit others for profit, such as greed; the desire of the Self to envy another's property or wife; the desire of the Self for honors; all these things and more, done to reward Self- esteem, or Vanity, eventually transgress others' rights and promote conflict and suffering. We can describe these effects of Vanity from many different points of view and with differing nomenclatures, but no matter what we describe, we always conclude that if we wish to avoid getting trapped in them we ought to be Humble and love one another as we love ourselves. Eventually we learn through Enlightenment, regardless of the Source, that Loving one another is the Universal Rule and in order to learn to Love One Another we must first learn to be humble. To do this, one must first learn to strip himself of all desire. The rule is foretold: a rich man is not humble; a poor man, by necessity, is. The rule says, the way to humble a man is to take his riches away. This is, we might add, the point of view of the Bible. And Buddha concurred with it. Therefore, be ye humble lest your riches be taken away.
Real State of Things
2. People grasp after things for their own imagined convenience and comfort; they grasp after wealth and treasure and honors; they cling desperately to mortal life. They make arbitrary distinctions between existence and non- existence, good and bad, right and wrong. For people, life is a succession of graspings and attachments, and then, because of this, they must assume the illusions of pain and suffering.
The Middle Way
6....If a diver is to secure pearls he must descend to the bottom of the sea, braving all dangers of jagged coral and vicious sharks. So man must face the perils of worldly passion if he is to secure the precious Pearl of Enlightenment. He must first be lost among the mountainous crags of egoism and selfishness, before there will awaken in him the desire to find a path that will lead him to Enlightenment.
The Mind of Purity
If a king is plagued by bandits, he must find out where their camp is before he can attack them. So, when a man is beset by worldly passions, he should first ascertain their origin.
When a man is in a house and opens his eyes he will first notice the interior of the room and only later will he see the view outside the windows. In like manner we cannot have the eye notice external things before there is recognition by the eye of the things in the house.
If there is a mind within the body, it ought first to know the things inside of the body; but generally people are interested in external things and seem to know or care little for the things within the body. If the mind is located outside the body, how could it keep in contact with the needs of the body?
4. Fundamentally, everyone has a pure clean mind, but it is usually covered over by the defilement and dust of worldly desires which have arisen from one's circumstances. This defiled mind is not of the essence of one's nature: something has been added, like an intruder or even a guest in a home, but not its host....The disturbances and defilements of the human mind are aroused by greed as well as by its reactions to its changing circumstances.
5....The temporary feelings of good and evil, love and hatred, that have been aroused by surroundings and changing external conditions, are only momentary reactions that have their cause in the defilement accumulated by the human mind.
Behind the desires and worldly passions which the mind entertains, there abides, clear and undefiled, the fundamental and true essence of mind.
1. We have spoken of the pure and true mind as being fundamental; it is the Buddha-nature, that is, the seed of Buddhahood....If the light of Buddha's Wisdom is concentrated upon the human mind (like a lens focusing the suns ray), its true nature, which is Buddhahood, will be kindled, and its light will illumine the minds of the people by its brightness, and will awaken faith in Buddha. He holds the lens of Wisdom before all human minds, and thus their faith may be quickened.
3. Buddha-nature is not something that comes to an end. Though wicked men should be born beasts or hungry demons, or fall into hell, they never lose their Buddha-nature.
However buried in the defilement of flesh or concealed at the root of worldly desires and forgotten it may be, the human affinity for Buddhahood is never completely extinguished.
...However unconscious people may be of the fact that everyone has within his possession this supreme nature and however degraded and ignorant they may be, Buddha never loses faith in them because He knows that even the least of them there are, potentially, all the virtues of Buddhahood.
So Buddha awakens faith in them who are deceived by ignorance and cannot see their own Buddha-nature, leads them away from their chimeras and teaches them that originally there is no difference between themselves and Buddhahood.
5. Buddha is one who has attained Buddhahood and people are those who are capable of attaining Buddhahood; that is all the difference that lies between them.
But if a man thinks that he has attained Enlightenment, he is deceiving himself, for, although he may be moving in that direction, he has not yet reached Buddhahood.
Buddha-Nature and Egolessness:
1...Attachment to an ego-personality leads people into delusions, but faith in their Buddha-nature leads them to Enlightenment.
2...Buddha-nature exists in everyone no matter how deeply it may be covered over by greed, anger and foolishness, or buried by their own deeds and retribution. Buddha-nature cannot be lost or destroyed; and when all defilements are removed, sooner or later it will reappear.
3. Buddha-nature is always pure and tranquil no matter how varied the conditions and surroundings of people may be.
4...Buddha-nature, is indeed, the most excellent characteristic of human nature. Buddha teaches that, although in human nature there may be endless varieties such as men and women, there is no discrimination with regard to Buddha-nature.
Pure gold is procured by melting ore and removing all impure substances. If people would melt the ore of their minds and remove all the impurities of worldly passion and egoism, they would all recover the same pure Buddha-nature.
In the Bible we see Ezekiel 22.22 (the prophet of God) telling the Children of Israel that they will be refined: "As silver is melted in the midst of the furnace, so shall ye be melted in the midst thereof; and ye shall know that I the LORD have poured out my fury on you." The truth of the matter is that in the holocaust (in Hebrew, meaning "burnt offering") of World War II the Jews were rounded up for the furnaces of Nazi Germany with the intention by Hitler of bringing about the extinction of the entire race.
1. There are two kinds of worldly passions that defile and cover over the purity of Buddha-nature.
The first is the passion for analysis and discussion by which people become confused in judgment. The second is the passion for emotional experience by which people's values become confused.
2. Greed rises from wrong ideas of satisfaction; anger rises from wrong ideas concerning the state of one's affairs and surroundings; foolishness rises from the inability to judge what correct conduct is.
These three--greed, anger and foolishness--are called the three fires of the world.
4. These three greed, anger and foolishness are, therefore, the sources of all human woe. To get rid of these sources of woe, one must observe the precepts, must practise concentration of mind and must have wisdom. Observance of the precepts will remove the impurities of greed; right concentration of mind will remove the impurities of anger; and wisdom will remove the impurities of foolishness.
5. Human desires are endless. It is like the thirst of a man who drinks salt water: he gets no satisfaction and his thirst is only increased. So it is with a man who seeks to gratify his desires; he only gains increased dissatisfaction and his woes are multiplied.
The gratification of desires never satisfies; it always leaves behind unrest and irritation that can never be allayed, and then, if the gratification of his desires is thwarted, it will often drive him "insane". To satisfy their desires, people will struggle and fight with each other, king against king, vassal against vassal, parent against child, brother against brother, sister against sister, friend against friend; they will fight and even kill each other to satisfy their desires.
People often ruin their lives in the attempt to satisfy desires. They will steal and cheat and commit adultery, and then, being caught, will suffer from the disgrace of it and its punishment.
They will sin with their own bodies and words, sin with their own minds, knowing perfectly well that the gratification will ultimately bring unhappiness and suffering, so imperious is desire. And then, the various sufferings in the following world, and the agonies of falling into it, follow.
6. Of all the worldly passions, lust is the most intense. All other worldly passions seem to follow in its train.
Lust seems to provide the soil in which other passions flourish.
7....If people are infected with greed, anger and foolishness, they will lie, cheat, abuse and be double-tongued, and, then, will actualize their words by killing, stealing and committing adultery.
These three evil states of mind, the four evil utterances, and the three evil acts, if added together, become the ten gross evils.
If people become accustomed to lying, they will unconsciously commit every possible wrong deed. Before they can act wickedly they must lie, and once they begin to lie they will act wickedly with unconcern.
8. From desire, action follows; from action suffering follows; desire, action and suffering are like a wheel rotating endlessly.
The rolling of this wheel has no beginning and no ending; how can people escape such reincarnation? One life follows another life according to this transmigrating cycle in endless recurrence.
If one were to pile the ashes and bones of himself burnt in this everlasting transmigration, the pile would be mountain high; if one were to collect the milk of mothers which he suckled during his transmigration, it would be deeper than the sea.
Although the nature of Buddhahood is possessed by all people, it is buried so deeply in the defilements of worldly passion that it long remains unknown. That is why suffering is so universal and why there is this endless recurrence of miserable lives.
But, just as, by yielding to greed, anger and foolishness, evil deeds are accumulated and condition rebirth, so, by following the Buddha's teaching, the evil sources will be cleared away and rebirth in the world of suffering will be ended.
Please return me to pages, Tapestry_of_One3.html
Please send me on to pages 130-166, Tapestry_of_One5.html
Please beam me back up to Maravot's_Index.html
Updated 7.19.98; 5.27.2000; 11.11.05
Copyright © 1993-2005 Maravot. All rights reserved.
Copyright © 1993-2005 Mel Copeland. All rights reserved.