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In its fluid. changeable. and inconsistent character, normal thought reflects, more-over, the general law of samsāric consciousness. This is why mental control is consid­ered as the first urgent measure to be taken by one who opposes the "current." In un­dertaking this task, however, we must not be under any illusions. The dynamis, the subtle force that determines and carries our trains of thought, works from the subcon­scious. For this reason, to attempt to dominate the thought completely by means of the will, which is bound to thought itself, would almost he like trying to cut air with a sword or to drown an echo by raising the voice. The doctrine, which declares that thought is located in the "cavern of the heart," refers, among other things, to thought considered "organically" and not to its mental and psychological offshoots. Mastery of thought cannot, therefore, be merely the object of a form of mental gymnastics: rather, one must, simultaneously, proceed to an act of conversion of the will and of the spirit; inte­rior calm must be created, and one must be pervaded by intimate, sincere earnestness.

The "fluttering" of thought mentioned in our text is more than a mere simile: it is related to the primordial anguish, to the dark substratum of samsāric life that comes out and reacts since, as soon as it feels that it is seen, it becomes aware of the danger; the condition of passivity and unconsciousness is essential for the development of samsāric being and for the establishment of its existence. This simile illustrates an experience that, in one form or another, is even encountered on the ascetic path.

The discipline of constant control of the thought, with the elimination of its automatic forms, gradually achieves what in the texts is called appamada, a term variously translated as "attention," "earnestness," "vigilance," "diligence," or "reflection." It is, in point of fact, the opposite state to that of "letting oneself think,"


it is the first form of entry into oneself, of an earnestness and of a fervid, austere concentration. When it is understood in this sense, as Max Muller has said,12- appamāda constitutes the base of every virtue-ye keel kusalā dhammā sabbe te appamādamulakā. It is also said: "This intensive earnestness is the path that leads toward the deathless, in the same way that unreflective thought leads, instead, to death. He who possesses that earnestness does not die, while those who have un­stable thought are as if already dead."13 An ascetic "who delights in appamāda-in this austere concentration-and who guards against mental laxity, will advance like a fire, burning every bond, both great and small."14 He "cannot err." And when, thanks to this energy, all negligence is gone and he is calm, from his heights of wisdom he will look down on vain and agitated beings, as one who lives on a mountaintop looks down on those who live in the plains.'

The struggle now begins, The symbolism connected with the Khattiya, the war­riors, is again used. The texts speak first of a fourfold, just striving (cattāro sammappadhāna) to be won by bringing to bear viriya-bala, the heroic force of will,16 which has already been considered as a requisite for the Ariyan disciple or combat-ant. Once the previously deserted center of the being has been reoccupied, and thought has been put under control, action must be taken against the tendencies that spring up. This is done in a fourfold manner: "Summon the will, arm the spirit, bravely struggle, tight, do battle" (1) to "prevent bad, not good things, yet unarisen, from arising"; (2) to repel them if they have arisen; (3) to encourage the arising of good things as yet unarisen; (4) to make them endure, increase, unfold, develop. and be-come perfect when they have arisen.' Understood in their fullness, these battles also concern further special phases and disciplines that will be discussed later-for example, the first and the second are related to the "watch over the senses" (cf. p. 139-40); the third is related to the "seven awakenings" (cf. p. 142); the fourth to the four contemplations.' But, at this stage, we are dealing with a general form of action, in connection with which the texts offer a series of instruments. An image or a simile is normally associated with each one of them. The reader should pay par­ticular attention to these similes- as indeed to most of those with which every an­cient Buddhist text is liberally sprinkled. Their value is not simply poetic ornament or an aid to understanding; they often have besides a magic value, By this, we mean that when they are considered in the right state of mind they can act on something

  1. Max Muller in the edition of the Dhammapada found in the Sacred Books of the East, vot. t0, p. 9.

  2. Dhammapada, 21.

  3. Ibid..31.

  4. Ibid., 26-29.
    16, Angutt., 5.15.
    t7. Ibid., 4.13-t4; Majjh., 75.

18. Angutt.. 4.14.


deeper than the mere intelligence and can produce a certain interior realization.

The first instrument is substitution. When, in conceiving a particular idea, "there arise harmful and unworthy thoughts images of craving, of aversion, of blindness" (these are-let us remember-the three principal modes of manifestation of the

āsava), then we must make this idea give place to another, beneficial idea. And in giving place to this beneficial idea it is possible that those deliberations and images will dissolve and that by this victory "the intimate spirit will be fortified, will become calm, united, and strong." Here is the simile; "Even as a skilled builder with a thin wedge is able to extract, raise up, expel a thicker one," just so, the immediate substi­tution of one image by another has the power of dispersing and dissolving the ten­dencies and the mental associations that the first was in course of determining or of arousing. What is "unworthy," in one text, is defined like this; "That, whereby fresh mania of desire sprouts and the old mania is reinforced; fresh mania of existence sprouts and the old mania is reinforced; fresh mania of error sprouts and the old mania is reinforced." We are not dealing with moralistic aspects but with what may he described as ontological or existential references. It is a matter of overcoming and obstructing samsāric nature, of neutralizing the possibilities of fresh "combus­tions" in oneself. Particular aid is given by the idea of the harmfulness of certain thoughts; upon the appearance of a "thought of ill will or cruelty," one must summon "wisdom conforming to reality" and then formulate this thought: "There is now arisen in me this thought of ill will or cruelty; it leads to my own harm, it leads to others' harm, it leads to the harm of both, it uproots wisdom, it brings vexation, it does not lead to extinction, it leads to self-limitation." If this thought is formulated and appre­hended with sufficient intensity and sincerity, the bad thought dissolves.20

This leads us immediately to the second instrument: expulsion through horror or contempt. If, in the effort of passing from one image to another as the first method proscribes, unworthy thoughts, images of craving, aversion, or blindness still arise, then the unworthiness, the irrationality, and the misery they represent must be brought to mind. This is the simile: "Just as a woman or a man, young. flourishing and charming, round whose neck were tied the carcass of a snake, or the carcass of a dog, or a human carcass, would be filled with fear, horror, and loathing," so, the perception of the un­worthy character of those images or thoughts should produce an immediate and in­stinctive act of expulsion, from which their dispersion or neutralization would follow. Whenever an affective chord is touched, then by making an effort one must be able to feel contempt, shame, and disgust for the enjoyment or dislike that has arisen!'

In order to employ this ascetic instrument of defense to its best advantage we

19. M. Majjh.. 2.
20. Ibid.. 19.
2t . Ibid.. 152.


have to presuppose in the individual an acute form of interior sensibility and a capac­ity for immediately projecting the qualities that arouse instinctive repulsion onto the image of what is to be eliminated or neutralized. Hindus have the myth of Siva, the great ascetic of the mountaintops, who with one glance of his frontal eye-the eye of knowIedge--reduced Kama, the demon of desire, to ashes when he tried to disturb his mind. hi reality, we must take account of the existence of "serpentine" processes of interior seduction-serpentine, because they develop in the subconscious and the semiconscious, trusting entirely that no one is looking, and that a particular "con-tact," which will eventually produce the thought in the mind, is riot noticed. To be able to turn round immediately arid see will paralyze these processes. But seeing implies detachment, an instinctive and ready reaction that causes immediate with­drawal as soon as the contact and the infiltration arc noticed. Other illustrations are given in the texts: as the man who inadvertently touches burning coals with his hand or with his foot immediately recoils:" or as when two or three drops of water land on a while hot iron vessel: those. drops fall slowly, but they vanish very rapidly. If this reaction is to be effective, one's experience of the intrusion of undesired inclinations and emotional formations must proceed in a similar manner.23

To discuss "cravings": when training this sensibility and instinct we must not forget the "wisdom" that measures the significance of "cravings" from the point of view of the unconditioned, of the extrasamsāric. The fundamental theme here is that "the cravings are insatiable" precisely because each satisfaction only goes to in-flame the cravings and to charge the individual with a fresh potentiality for desire. The texts provide detailed similes: cravings are like dry bones, without flesh and only with a smear of blood, and however much a dog may gnaw them they well never drive away his hunger and fatigue; they are like a flaming torch of straw carried by a man against the wind, and if he does not immediately throw it away, it will burn his hand, his arm, his body; they are like alluring dream visions that vanish when the sleeper awakes; they are like joy over a treasure amassed from things borrowed from other people who, sooner or later, will come and reclaim them; they are like the points of lances or the blades of swords that cut into and wound the inner being; and there are many more such similes." According to the degree to which this steady and lived knowledge, conforming to reality, truly pervades the mind of the man who trains himself, so the possibilities of this second instrument, and also of the others. will multiply and the defense will increase in strength.

The third instrument is dissociation. When undesired images and thoughts arise, they must remain meaningless and be ignored. The simile is: as a man with good sight,

22. Ibid., 48.

  1. Ibid., 152; 66 Samyutt., 35.203

  2. Majjh., 14; 22: 54.


who does not wish to observe what comes into his field of view at a particular moment can close his eyes or look elsewhere, When attention is resolutely withheld, the im­ages or the tendencies are again restrained. The simile we have just quoted brings out clearly what we have said about the state of passivity in which man finds himself dur­ing most of his mental and emotive life: has he, indeed, this power of looking or of withdrawing his sight at will'? Images, psychoaffective aggregates of fear, desire, hope. despair, and so on, fascinate or hypnotize his mind, subtly tying it, they "manipulate" it by their influence and feed on its energies like vampires. It is essential that this ascetic instrument not he confused with the common and simple process of "chasing away" a thought, a practice that often has the opposite effect, that is, of forcing it back, strength­ened, into the subconscious, according to the psychological law of "converse effort." t is rather a matter of destroying by not seeing, by neutralizing the disposition and by leaving the image alone. The preceding instrument, also, should be regarded in this light: it is riot repulsion by one who is struggling, but a reaction arising from a superior state of awareness and from an earnestly lived sense of the "indignity" and irrational­ity of the images and inclinations that appear.

The fourth instrument is gradual dismemberment. Make the thoughts vanish one after another successively. The relevant simile gives the idea of the technique very clearly: "Just as a man walking in haste might think: 'Why am I walking in haste? let me go more slowly' and, walking more slowly, might think: `But why am I walking at all? I wish to stand still' and, standing still, might think: 'For what reason am I standing up? I will sit down' and, sitting down, might think: 'Why must I only sit'? I wish to lie down' and might lie down: just so if harmful and unworthy thoughts, images of craving, of aversion and of blindness, again arise in an ascetic in spite of his contempt and rejection of them, he must make these thoughts successively van­ish one after another." This method of making the infatuation disappear by separat­ing its constituent parts one by one in a gradual series and considering them with a calm and objective eye one after another, provides, in the preparatory stage of the ascesis, an example of the very method of the whole process. And image corre­sponds to image. The state of one who achieves extinction is, in fact, likened to that of the man who runs parched and feverish under the scorching sun and who finally finds an alpine lake with fresh water in which he can bathe, and shade where he can relax and rest." Another simile is given by the texts, still in connection with the method of dismemberment. t speaks of the pain that a man would feel in seeing a woman he favored flirt with others. He arrives, however, at this thought: "What if I were to abandon this favoring?"-in the same spirit as he might say: "Why do I run? what if I were to walk calmly instead?" and then were to walk calmly. Having thus
25. Samyutt, 12.68. Majjh.. 40.


banished his inclination, that man can now witness the sight that pained him before with calm and indifference.26 The texts also speak of the conditioned nature of de-sire: desire is formed only because of a preoccupation of the mind that, in turn, is established only "if there is present something which we may call an obsession, a possession [papanca-sanna]."27 This is the theoretical basis of the method of neutral­ization by means of gradual dismemberment.

It is possible, however, that fhe mind in its irrationality may not be subdued even by this method. In that case one must pass to direct action, that is, one must come to grips with oneself. Whence, the last instrument: if, while making the thoughts gradu­ally disappear one after another, irrational impulses and unworthy images continue to arise, then, "with clenched teeth and tongue pressed hard against the palate, with the will you must crush, compel, heat down the mind." The simile is: "as a strong man, seizing another weaker man by the head or by the shoulders, compels him, crushes him, throws him down." Again, for real success in this direct form, of struggle one must be able to call upon the illumination, the energy, and the superiority that proceed from what is outside the simple "current." Only then is there no danger that the victory will be merely exterior and apparent, and that the enemy, instead of being destroyed, has disengaged and entrenched himself in the subconscious.28

In order to clarify the various stages of this subtle war, an author has adopted the following simile. t is not possible to avoid the appearance of images and inclinations in the mind: this occurs spontaneously and automatically until what is called void­ness, sunna, is reached. To the disciple, to the fighting ascetic, some of these images are like strange and indifferent people whom we meet on the road and who pass by without attracting our attention. Others are like people we meet who wish to stop us: but since we see no point in it, we ourselves withdraw attention and pass on. Other images, however, are like people we meet and with whom we ourselves wish to walk, in the face of all reason. In this case we have to react and assert ourselves: the tendency of our will must be opposed from the start.

In the Buddhist text to which we referred above, the result of this work of de­fense by means of dissolving rhe irrational deliberations and images that reawaken the threefold intoxicating force of the asava is invariably expressed thus: "the mind becomes inwardly firm, becomes calm, becomes united and concentrated." This is the path-it is said-along which an ascetic becomes "master of his thoughts": "What-ever thought he desires, that thought will he think, whatever thought he does not desire, that thought will he not think. He has extinguished thirst, he has shaken off the bonds.'°' These disciplines, however, can also be used in an ascesis iii a general

26. Majjh.. 10t.

  1. Digha, 21 2.

  2. All this is in Majjh., 20.

  3. Ibid.


sense, that is, independently of a supermundane end, To use them in this manner an easy adaptation of details is enough.

In terms of "fighting," one is naturally advised to take the initiative in attacking what one intends to overcome. The expression is: "renounce a tendency or a thought, drive it away, root it out, suffocate it before it grows."30 There is also the simile of the herdsman who takes good care to destroy the eggs or the young of insects and para­sites that might harm the animals entrusted to him.31 n these circumstances, the methods of the wedge and of repulsion, as if some filthy thing had been hung round one's neck, can he particularly effective.

All this naturally demands the degree of mastery of the logos in us that enables our discriminating exactly between our thoughts.32 Those that can he organized and used in the required direction should be consolidated and established, working on the principle that the mind inclines toward what has been considered and pondered for a long time.33 In this respect, however, nothing can equal the benefits that come from a sense of innate dignity, as of a special race of spirit: then a reliable instinct will act and very little uncertainty will he felt in the task of "renouncing the low impulses of the mind."34 When this sense is weak, consolidation may be effected through reaction by means of what is known as the "justification" method, which consists of awakening the sense of one's own dignity by calmly contrasting one's conduct with that of others. There is a whole series of formulae dealing with this, of which we have chosen the following: "Others may lie, we shall not"; "Others may be egotists, we shall not"; "Oth­ers may be malicious, we shall not"; "Others may he yield, we shall persist"; "The mind of others may become clouded, our mind will remain serene"; "Others may wa­ver, hut we shall he sure of our purpose"; "Others may he provoked, but we shall not he provoked"; "Others may concern themselves only with what is before their eyes, they may grasp it with both hands, they may become detached from it with difficulty, but we shall not concern ourselves only with what is before our eyes, we may not grasp it with both hands, we shall easily become detached from it," etc. What Islam calls nyya, the decision of the mind, is important and should be strengthened by the use of these formulae and of this style of thought." These instruments can naturally also be used as supports in the building up of sila. that is, of "rightness."

The overcoming of fear in all its fours deserves a special word. t is achieved by firmly maintaining the feeling of one's own rightness and detachment in face of all denials by one's imagination. There is nothing to hope, there is nothing to fear. The

  1. Ibid., 2.

  2. Angutt.. 11.18.

  3. Majjh., 19.

  4. Ibid.

  5. Ibid., 21.

  6. Ibid., 8.


heart must no longer tremble, either through fear or through hope. There is no god or demon who can instill fear in the man who is internally detached both from this world and from the other. Whence it is said: "Whatever fears may arise, they arise in the foolish man, not in the wise; whatever [sense of] danger may arise, it arises in the fool­ish man, not in the wise": only the former offers material in which the fire can start and spread.' One text speaks of a discipline against fear. The Buddha himself recalls how, after well establishing the feeling of his rightness-in Latin it would be called innocentia and vacate culpu-he chose remote and wild places where fear might come at any moment. and how he awaited these moments in order to challenge and destroy any feeling of fear. This is the method; if one is walking, continue to walk, if one is stand­ing, continue to stand. if one is sitting down, continue to sit down, if one is lying down, continue to lie down until the mind has overcome and banished the fear," These disci­plines must not be dismissed with the idea that fear only arises in children or in timid women. There are profound, organic forms of fear, forms that may almost be called transcendental since they are not confined to simple psychological states of an indi­vidual but which come from certain abysmal contacts. To he incapable of feeling fear in these cases may even he a sign of deadness or of spiritual flatness. it is said that when Prince Siddhattha was sitting under the "tree of illumination," resolved not to move until he had reached transcendental knowledge, he underwent an attack by the demoniacal forces of Māra, who was determined to move him from there, in the form of flames, whirlwinds, tempests, and fearful apparitions_ But Prince Siddhattha re­mained unshakable and all these apparitions finally vanished.' Here we can see a variant of an idea that is found, even with the same symbols (e.g., the tree), in several other traditions-but we can also see something more, something beyond a mythical and legendary revival. Anyone who is familiar with ancient literature of the mysteries will recall similar experiences that appear as so many tests for the man who wishes to reach the light. In whatever form they may appear, they still deal with the emergence of profound forces of the being rather than of simply individual or even human ones-and "destruction of fear" is possibly the best term to describe positive victory over them. When a " Yakkha spirit" makes himself "felt" by the Buddha and asks if he has fear, the reply is: "I have no fear: I merely feel you contaminating contact"-and later in the same text these words arre put into the Buddha's mouth: "I do not see, O friend, either in this world together with the world of angels, of bad and good spirits, or amongst the ranks of ascetics and priests, of gods and men, anyone who can scatter my thoughts or break my mind."39 The attainment of such unshakability calls, however, for more

  1. Ibid., 115, Angutt„ 3.1.

  2. Majjh., 4.

  3. Lalitavīstara. 19-21.

  4. Suttanipnta. 2.5, passim.


extreme states of interior discipline than those we have assumed for the present dis­cussion about fear. n this last respect a few words of emphasis may not he out of place. Where a text states that these two are not frightened at a sudden flash of lightning: one being he who has overcome mania and the other. the noble "elephant."' the commen­tary warns us that these are two quite different cases: fear gains no access in the first case because there does not exist an "I," in the second case because the "I" is extremely strong. This should eliminate any "titanic" interpretation of the discipline in question. We are not dealing with the development of almost animal strength and courage, but with elusiveness. The bond by which anguish might have arisen has been destroyed. There is nothing so rigid that it cannot he broken: but water cannot be compressed.

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