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Second point: The road toward any pantheistic promiscuity, any naturalisfic mysticism, any confusion with the universe, any variety of immanency, must be resolutely barred. The aim of this further test of the noble spirit is to set it definitely at a distance from the confused spiritual world that is characteristic of many Western minds, decayed from all that is classical, clear, Doric, virile. It is a singular fact that, in the modern world, this pantheistic disintegration, this return of man to a state of mind confused by total reality or by "Life," is habitually considered to be a characteristic of the Eastern mentality, particularly of the Hindu. The fact of the existence and diffusion in the East of the Buddhist Doctrine of Awakening is sufficient to con­fute this opinion. Even if in pre-Buddhist India-and particularly with the later speculation on the Brahman-this false development was to a certain degree prevalent (and it occurs again, later, in some popular forms of Hinduism)--yet it is to be considered as an anomaly, against which Buddhism together with Sāmkhya afforded a salutary reaction. Similar phenomena occur, moreover, in the ancient Mediterra­nean world with the decline of the earlier Olympian and heroic traditions. This is a general phenomenon, and talk of "Oriental pantheism" should he left either to the uninstructed or to people of had faith.

Therefore: antipantheisrn. "To take nature as nature, to think nature, to think of nature, to think `nature is mine"' is to exult in it: to take unity or multiplicity, this or that cosmic or elemental force. and finally to take all as all, to think all, to think of all, to think "all is mine" is to exult in it-this pantheistic identification is, for Buddhism,




  1. Ibid., 64.

  2. Samyutt., 22.45.

  3. Majjh., 64.

  4. Ibid., 44.

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yet another sign of "ignorance," a mark of one who "has known nothing," of one who is "a common man, without understanding for the doctrine of the Ariya, inaccessible by the doctrine of the Ariya.""

On this basis we can say more generally that the Buddhist Doctrine of Awaken­ing demands an antimystical vocation. It is true that the tern mystikos-from μυηιν, "to close," "to lock" (in particular, the lips)-originally referred to the Mysteries and alluded to what is secret, hidden, not to be spoken. The current sense of the term is, however, quite different: today mysticism is used for the tendency toward confused identifications, with emphasis on the moment of feeling and with none on the ele­ment of "knowledge" and "clarity"; "experience" is certainly accentuated (usually in the face of dogma and tradition), but here it is prevalently an experience in which the sidereal and absolute nucleus in the being is dissolved, submerged, or "trans-ported." For this reason, mystical ineffability, far from being connected with a really transcendental knowledge, is of those who-to use Schelling's apt expression in fheir confused identification with one state or another, not only do not explain expe­rience, but become themselves subjects in need of explanation. Thus, the mystical element, rather than being superrational, is often subrational. We are in the play-ground of the spiritual adventures that take place on the borders either of the devo­tional religions or of pantheistic evasions, whose manner is the opposite of that of a strict ascesis and of the path of awakening of the Ariya.

Third point: n the modem world, those who fight the doctrines of immanence and who conceive themselves "defenders of the West" against "Oriental pantheism," normally take "transcendency" as their point of reference and as their watch-word, Their transcendency is, however, very relative, as it proceeds from the pre-dominant theological-theistic concept. Even in this Buddhism finds a touchstone for the vocations. We have already seen that Prince Siddhattha was induced to divulge his knowledge after recognizing that, side by side with common beings, there are nobler ones and "many who consider that enthusiasm for other worlds is bad." The Doctrine of Awakening is presented as a doctrine that teaches men to make them-selves free not only of the material "I," but also of the immaterial and spiritual "I."38 Any form of moral conduct and any practice or rite whose motive is hope in a posthu­mous continuation of the personality is considered to be another of the lower fetters.39 Thus, beyond a rabble of faint-hearted, restless, obtuse, and unvirile penitents,40 the texts speak of ascetics and priests who "through fear of existence, through hate of existence, go round and round existence, almost as a dog, tied with a leash to




  1. Majjh, 1.

  2. Digha. 9.41-43.

  3. Majjh., 16.

  4. Ibid., 107.

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a solid column or attached to a post, goes round and round this column or post."41 The words become stronger when they deal with rhose ascetics or priests who "profess attachment to the hereafter" and who think: "Thus shall we be after death, thus shall we not be after death," just as a merchant, going to market, thinks: "From this 1 shall get that, with this I shall gain that."42 Plotinus, speaking against moralistic concept, said: "Not to be a good man, but to become a god-this is the aim,''43 but the Doctrine of Awakening goes still further.

Beyond the human bond is the divine bond, attachment to this or that state, to a state that is no longer human, corporeal, or terrestrial, but that is still conditioned existence. These states in the Hindu tradition are personified in the various gods and in their seats; they are equivalent to the seraphic and angelic hierarchies of Judeo-Christian theology, therefore. to what, in a more popular concept, is called "para­dise." The Doctrine of Awakening aims at surmounting these states: it tests the vocations by asking at what point one can apprehend that these very states are inad­equate in the face of a will for fhe unconditioned, and that to have them as the extreme point of reference and as the supreme justification of existence is still a bond, an insufficiency, a thirst, a mania. Thus, in the canon, these words appear: "You should feel shame and indignation if ascetics of other schools ask you if it is in order to arise in a divine world that ascetic life is practiced under the ascetic Gotama."44

Nor is this all. The very notion of "existence" is attacked, the stronghold of all theistic theology. Here, as we have said, Buddhism is no more than faithful to the purely metaphysical, superreligious teachings of the preceding lndo-Aryan tradi­tion. In this, the personal god, as pure existence, himself belongs to manifestation and cannot therefore be called absolutely unconditioned. Existence has as its cor­relative nonexistence. For this reason only that which is beyond both existence and nonexistence, which is above and outside these two transcendental categories, can be understood as really unconditioned. So also for Buddhism this is the extreme point of reference, not the belief in existence, not the belief in nonexistence. Attach­ment to one or other of these is a bond, a limitation. "By contemplating, according to reality, the origination and cessation of both of these" one must be capable of over-coming both." Even "universal consciousness" belongs, in the Buddhist teaching, to the samsāric world; it is a variety of samsāric consciousness.

This view is well illustrated in the texts by means of various similes. There is, for example, the story of one who, wishing to know where the elements are com-


  1. Ibid.. 102.

  2. Ibid.

  3. Plotinus, Enneads. 1.2.4, 7.

  4. Angutt., 3.15.

  5. Majjh., 1 I.

pletely annihilated, goes to the gods and passes from one hierarchy to another, fi­nally reaching the world of the great Brahma, the supreme god of being. But it is not in the power of Brahmā to answer him. He sends the ascetic to the Buddha, telling him, in addition, that he has done ill to have left the Sublime One and to have asked this knowledge of another, It is the Buddha and not Brahmā who gives the answer. He indicates the spiritual state of the arahant, invisible, endless, resplendent: here the elements have nowhere to plant their roots, here "name-and-form" ceases with-out leaving residue.46 But there is a much more striking story, molded with the power of a Michelangelo. t is called the "visit to Brahmā."47 The Buddha arrives in the kingdom of Brahmā, of which it is said: "Here is the eternal, here is the persistent, here is the everlasting, here is indissolubility and immutability: here there is no birth nor old age, nor death, nor passing away and reappearance: and another, higher liberation than this there is not." To Brahmā, who affirms this, the Buddha says that Brahma himself is the victim of illusion and infatuation. But here Mara the malign, the god of craving and of death, intervenes; he enters into one of the celestial beings in Brahmā's retinue and from here speaks to the Buddha:

0 monk, beware of him. He is Brahma, the omniporent, the invincible, the all-seeing, rhe sovereign, the lord, the creator, the preserver, the father of all that has been and of all that will he. Long before you there were in the world ascetics and priesrs who were enemies of the ele­ments, of nature, of the gods, of the lord of generation, of Brahma; rhese, at the dissolution of the body, when their vital strengrh was ex­hausted, came ro abject forms of exisrence. And therefore I counsel you, 0 ascetic: beware, O worthy one! Whar Brahmā has said to you, accept it, lesr you contradict the word of Brahma. Should you, 0 as­cetic, contradict the word of Brahma, it would he as though a man were to approach a rock and beat on it with a stick, or as though a man, 0 ascetic. were to fall into an infernal abyss and to seek ro grasp the earth with his hands and feet: rhus, 0 monk, would it befall you.
And Brahmā joins with Mara the malign, repeating:

1, 0 worrhy one, hold as eternal that which is truly eternal, as persistent, as perennial, as indissoluble, as immutable that which is truly so; and where there is no birth and decay, nor death, nor passing away and reappearance, of rhis I say: here truly there is no birrh, nor decay and dearh, nor passing away and reappearance; and since there is no other,




  1. Digha, 11.67-85.

  2. Majjh.. 49; cf. atso Samyutt , t.4.

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higher liberation, therefore I say: there is no other, higher liberation. Therefore, 0 monk, speak if you will: you will certainly not discover another, higher liberation, try as you wilf. If you take the earth, if you take the elements as your standpoint, then you have taken me as your standpoint, you have taken me as your basis, you must obey me, you must yield to me; if you take, 0 monk, nature, the gods, the lord of generation as your standpoinr. then you have taken me as your stand-point, you have taken me as your basis, you must obey me, you must yield to me; if you take, 0 monk, Brahma as your standpoint, then you have raken me as your standpoint, you have taken me as your basis, you must obey me, you must yield to inc.
At this point the antitheses build up to a cosmic and titanic grandeur ending with the most paradoxical reversal of the point of view that is prevalent in Western reli­gions. In fact, while the desire of surpassing the very Lord of creation, from this point of view, appears as something diabolical, the Buddha, instead, finds a diabolical plot in the exact opposite, that is in the attempt to stop him in the region of being, to make this region an insuperable limit, beyond which it is both absurd and mad to seek a higher liberation, Here it is the Malign One in person who urges the belief that the personal God, the God of being, is the supreme reality, and who threatens the Bud-dim with the damnation that is supposed already to have claimed other ascetics. And in another text48 his temptation consists of inducing the Buddha to confine himself to the path of good works, rites and sacrifices-to the path of theistic religions. But the Buddha discovers the plot, and speaks thus to Māra: "Well I know you, Malign One, abandon your hope: 'He knows me not'; you are Mara, the Malign. Arid this Brahma here, 0 Malign One, these gods of Brahma: they are all in your hand, they are all in your power, You. O Malign One, certainly think: 'He also must he in my hand, in my power!' I, however, 0 Malign One, am not in your hand, I am not in your power."

There follows a symbolical test. The personal God, the Hebraic "I am that I am," the God of being, whose essence is his existence, as such, cannot not be, that is, he is bound to being, he is passive with respect to being. He has not the power to go beyond being. It is here that the test occurs. Who can "disappear'? That is, who is lord both of being and of nonbeing? Who rests neither on the one nor on the other? Brahmā cannot disappear. Instead, the Buddha disappears. All the world of Brahmā is amazed and recognizes "the high power, the high might of the ascetic Gotama." Limitation is removed. The dignity of the atideva, of one who goes beyond the world of existence itself, not to mention the "celestial" worlds, is demonstrated. t is only



  1. Suttanipata, 3.2.3-4.

  2. Majjh.. 49.

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left to Mara the malign to try in vain to dissuade the Buddha from spreading the doctrine 49

Here, then, is one of the extreme points in the test of the vocations: not to crave even the highest of all lives"-not only to pass from this shore to the other, but to apprehend that which lies beyond both.50 The words of the Awakened One are: "Na­ture, the gods, the lord of generation, Brahmā, the Resplendent Ones, the Powerful Ones, the Ultrapowerful Ones, all things, I have known, how unsatisfying are all things: this have I recognized and 1 have renounced all things, abdicated from all things. detached myself from all things, forsworn all things, disdained all things. And in this. 0 Brahma, not only am I your equal in knowledge, not only am I not less than you. but I am far greater than you,"51 And the words: "This is not mine, This am I not, this is not my self" must be said by the "noble son" for the whole of that world too.52 It is still "samsāra."

Is a higher limit than this conceivable? For the Ariya it is conceivable. Attach­ment, dependence, and enjoyment are to be eradicated also in respect of the supreme goal of the Buddhist ascesis, that is to say, of extinction. Here is the final temptation and the final victory. Here the will for the unconditioned approaches the paradoxical. The ultimate truth of the series is this: he who thinks extinction, he who thinks of ex­tinction, he who thinks "extinction is mine" and who rejoices in extinction-this man does not know extinction, does not know the path, is not to be counted among the "noble disciples."53 Even in this region to feel desire and attachment-it maybe a sublimated one-means not to realize the place and signification of real liberation.

At the instant of understanding this one apprehends and intuits supermundane safety and the end of anguish. One who thinks no longer either of existence or of nonexistence and thus who is not attached to anything beyond, now trembles no more but reaches the supermundane and supreme "security of calm."' He does not tremble and so does not crave-"not trembling, why should he crave?"55 This sum­mit must be apprehended by the "noble son," it must be his purpose. The strength and sureness of those who know no more anguish or fear is described as something that has a vertiginous and fearful effect on others, both human and superhuman; when they are faced by those who have conquered, and when they hear their truth, they become aware of their own unsuspected contingency, and the primordial anguish bursts forth unchecked. They see the abyss.

50. Dhammapada, 383-85.

51. Majjh., 49.

52. Ibid., 22.

53. Ibid., 1; 102.

54. Ibid., 140.

55. Ibid.
87

When a man is capable of experiencing all these meanings, then his vocation is proved, he is on the road of personal revolution, he can attempt to follow the path that was rediscovered by Prince Siddhattha. But in this connection there must be no illusion, particularly in modem man. This point must be quite clear: development in accordance with the Doctrine of Awakening implies something akin to a rupture or a halt. The symbolism we have discussed should be remembered: as long as one "goes" it is impossible to reach the point where "the world ends." One must stop oneself dead. In some way an extra-samsāric element, called in Buddhism panna (Skt.: prajnā), the opposite to avijja, must manifest itself. This element, with its presence, arrests the "current," in the same way as the element avijja, unawareness, the state of mania and of "intoxication," confirmed it. At this point already there occurs it pannatial or virtual suspension of all the elements influenced by a vii-I; it is not only a matter of a suspension, but also of an inversion of the current: the flux or vortex that had generated the common man starts to generate a superior being, uttamapurisa: pannā becomes the central element that transforms and purifies all the constituent forces of the personality, removing and destroying in them the element avijja" and the influence of the āsava.56 For this reason, the texts speak also of a special strength beyond knowledge, of a "superior and powerful energy" (viriya), which differs from the normal human energies and which alone works the miracle of "liberation of the will by means of the will";57 it provides the strength for endurance and allows of advance toward supreme liberations.58

One of the aspects of Mahāyana Buddhism that represents a decline from the original is the supposition that this element pannā (prajnā) is present in everyone; it considers each individual as a potential bodhisatta (Skt.: bodhisattva), that is, as a being capable of becoming a Buddha. Whatever from the standpoint of the doctrine may be said about it, this view cannot in practice be said to be at all "in conformity with reality" (yatha-bhutam). The manifestation of this knowledge and of this strength, particularly in modern Western man, can rightly be called a kind of a "grace," in view of its marked discontinuity when compared to all faculties and forms of con­sciousness, not only in normal individuals but even in the most gifted of our contem­poraries. The example of Prince Siddhattha-that is to say, the fact that he had no need of masters, transmitted doctrines, or initiations, to open the way to liberation, since the direct reaction of a noble spirit confronted with the spectacle of the contin­gency and burning of the world was enough for the purpose-this example should lead no one to repeat the adventure of Baron Munchhausen when he attempted to raise himself in the air by pulling himself upwards by his hair. n one way or another


  1. Cf .Stcherbatsky, Centrat Conception, pp. 50, 73-74.

  2. ,Samyutt, vot. 5, p. 272 (Pali Texr Society cdn.).

  3. Mahāparinirv.. 16.

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something must happen: a kind of profound crisis or break, or the receiving "grace," such as to provide a positive opportunity and a base for a "new life." It cannot he repeated often enough that the man of today, constitutionally, is profoundly different from the man of the ancient Aryan civilizations of the East. Views, such as that of Mahayana Buddhism already mentioned, are better ignored if we do not wish to deceive ourselves or others.

In Buddhism, the importance of the moment is stressed in every way. "Knowl­edge," in a text, is likened to a flash of lightning. One is exhorted to "rise and awaken" when one perceives one's own passiveness, one's own indolence, "with-out letting the moment pass"-if rhe right moment is allowed to pass, that mo­ment when one would have been able to overcome the force to which both men and gods are subject, the demon of death will reassert his power.59 "Battle must be joined to-day---to-morrow we may he no more. There is no truce for us with the great army of death. Only one who lives thus, struggling untiringly day and night, achieves beatitude and is called a blessed sage."60 The following simile is used to illustrate this state of mind: what would a king do, to whom it was an­nounced that the mountains were crumbling and moving and overthrowing all before them, closing in on his kingdom from the east, from the west, from the south, and from the north, and who knew clearly how difficult it is to achieve the human state of existence?61

To conclude this section, we shall refer again to the attitude of the Doctrine of Awakening toward the form of ascesis that is unilaterally connected with practices of mortification and penance.

Buddhism opposes all forms of painful ascesis. Having considered the "many kinds of intensive, painful bodily disciplines," Buddhism maintains that those who practice them, "at the dissolution of the body after death, go down by evil paths to suffering and perdition," since this is a "mode of living which brings present ill and future ill."62 The methods of "painful self-mortification," according to the doctrine of the Buddha, are useless, not only for the purpose of "extinction," but also for one who aspires to achieve some form of "celestial" existence.63 There are striking sketches of types of ascetics and of monks not unlike those who are found in Western asceticism and monasticism: "Shrivelled, arid, ugly, pallid. emaciated [men], who present no attractions to the eye that sees them." They are afflicted by the "disease of constraint," since they lead this life, in point of fact, against their will, through a

59. Suttanipata. 2.10.t-3.
60. Majjh., 131.

61 Samyutt., 3.3.



62. Majjh„ 45.

63. Ibid., 71.

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false vocation, lacking the support of a higher consciousness 64 Fasting, mortifica­tion, sacrifices, prayers, and oblations, none of these purifies a mortal who has not conquered doubt and who has not overcome desire.65 Two extremes are avoided by those who detach themselves from the world: "the pleasure of desire, low, vulgar, unworthy of the nature of the Ariya, harmful; self mortification, painful, unworthy of the nature of the Ariya, harmful. Avoiding these two extremes, the middle way has been discovered by the Accomplished One, the way which gives insight, which gives wisdom, which leads to calm, to supernormal consciousness, to illumination, to ex­tinction-'""6 In distinguishing what is praiseworthy from what is worthy of reproof, even in cases where saintly knowledge has been attained, the fact of having attained it by means of self-torment is declared to be reprehensible.°

The texts often give some account of the life led by Prince Siddhattha before his perfect awakening. He too, ""before the perfect awakening, as yet imperfectly awak­ened, still only striving towards awakening," had had the thought: "Pleasure cannot be conquered by pleasure: pleasure can be conquered by pain."68 And thus, having abandoned his home against the wishes of his family, still "radiant, with black hair, in the flush of joyous youth, in the flower of manhood," unsatisfied by the truths taught by the various teachers of asceticism to whom he had in the first instance turned (these appear to have been followers of Sāmkhya), he devoted himself to extreme forms of painful mortification. Having bent his will in all ways, "as a strong man, seizing another weaker man by the head or by the shoulders, compels him, crushes him, throws him down," he began with the body and practiced suspension of the breath until he came near to suffocation.69 Finding that this led nowhere, he practiced fasting, until he grew so thin that his arms and legs resembled dry sticks, his spine a string of beads, with the vertebrae sticking out: his hair fell off, his eyes sank in, and his pupils shrank almost away, "like reflections in a deep well." He thus arrived at this thought: "All that ascetics or priests in the past have ever experienced in the way of painful, burning, hitter sensations, or that they may be experiencing in the present or that they will experience in the future is no more than this; further one cannot go. And yet with all (his bitter ascesis of pain I have not attained the supermundane, the blessed riches of wisdom." There arose in him the conviction: There must be another path to awakening, And it was a memory that allowed him to find it: the memory of a day when, still in the midst of his people, seated in the cool

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