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As in the jhāna, so also in these irradiant contemplations an interior and invin­cible force is set free and expands, once the preliminary ascesis has sufficiently barred the roads along which external contingencies might disturb the internal being. The states to be aroused and irradiated, including unchangeability, acquire the characteris­tics of absolute forces--rather than of feelings in the normal sense-which are such that they may even make themselves objectively felt at a distance," of forces that derive from a cosmic consciousness that completely dominates feeling and overcomes all suffering and all reaction of the spirit to an extent almost inconceivable. The irradiant contemplations are in this way related to the power of patientia, to the capacity for unwavering endurance of all that can come from the world of men by engulfing it in the vastness of the liberated mind. Whether people behave with love or with hate, whether their words are kind or unkind, sincere or false, whether their action tends to produce joy or suffering, the heart of the ascetic who practices the appamannā must remain undisturbed, no evil word must escape him; he must, instead, remain friendly and compassionate, his spirit must he loving and without secret malice. With a loving

38. Majjh., 7.

39. Angutt.. 4.I90.

40. G. de Lorenzo, I discorsi di Gotamo Buddho (Bari, 1916-27), footnote to Majjh., 97.



  1. Cf. Majjh., 120, where it is said that he who aims al extinction goes beyond all the divine spheres, "he dues not arise in any place, he does not arise at any point." Furthermore. the absolutely neutral state in the path of awakening stands higher than any beatitude, even celestial. When this state wanes. beatitude, formerly overcome springs up again: ibid., 102.

  2. According to Samyutt., 42.8, the irradiated forces are perceived by all beings like the sound of a trumpet, blown without effort, in the four regions.

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spirit the person who may have acted for good or ill is irradiated; starting from him, the ascetic will then irradiate the whole world with a loving spirit, with ample, profound, limitless spirit, free of impurities and rancor. And some cosmic similes are added: with spirit like the earth, like water, like the air, like fife.

"Like the earth"-says the Buddha-"practice ascesis. Just as upon the earth there is thrown the pure and the impure, excrement and urine, mucus and pus and blood, yet because of this the earth is not distressed nor saddened nor troubled: so also you, like the earth, must practice ascesis: for if you, like the earth, practice ascesis, your mind, touched by joy or suffering, will not be disturbed." And the same for water: as in water there is washed the pure and the impure, or as in the fire there is burned the pure and the impure, or as the wind blows on the pure and the impure, or as, lastly, space is not limited by anything. so must one practice ascesis, like water and fire, like wind and space: and the mind, touched by joy or suffering, will not be disturbed.43

There is a similar cycle of similes that again point out the cosmic nature of the feelings to be aroused and irradiated in such contemplations. It is said: "Should a man arrive with a hoe and a box and speak thus: 'I will clear away the earth' and should he hoe here and there. and remove the soil here and there, and throw it here and there and speak thus: 'You shall be without earth'-what think you now, dis­ciples: Could this man clear away the earth?-Surely not, Lord," is the answer. "And why not?-The earth, Lord, is very deep and vast, and could certainly not be cleared away however much that man might toil and labor." And likewise in the case of the air: if a man should come with lac and other colors, and attempt to draw figures in the sky, he would never succeed, since "the sky is formless and invisible, and a figure could certainly not he drawn there however much that man might toil and labor." Finally, in the case of water: the fool who with a bundle of lighted straw were to try to dry up the Ganges would never achieve his aim. Thus, with a mind like the earth, like the air, like water, like fire, like space, with ample, profound, unlimited mind, free of hate and rancor, should one irradiate the whole world, never letting the heart be distressed, never allowing an unkind word to escape, remaining friendly and com­passionate. The extreme example given is this: "Even if, 0 disciples, brigands and assassins with a two-handed saw were to sever your joints and limbs, one who for this reason were to become angry would not he carrying out my teaching, Therefore you must, 0 disciples, thoroughly train yourselves thus: 'Our mind must not be troubled, no evil word must escape our mouth, we shall remain friendly and compassionate, with loving mind, without hidden ill-will we shall irradiate that person; passing on from him we shall then irradiate the whole world with loving mind, with ample,


43. Majjh., 62; Angutt.. 9.11.

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profound, unlimited mind, free of hate and rancor.' Thus, 0 disciples, must you thor­oughly train yourselves."44 In the course of this text it is emphasized that the mind must be put to the test at the very moment in which we are faced by injustice: that is to say, we must neutralize and conquer our reaction also when it has most reason to exist. Naturally, we are in the field of pure ascesis, of pure discipline, and it would therefore be a great mistake to attempt to transfer this attitude to the plane of normal life. It should be further noted that there is no question at all of "forgiving"-and still less of `"forgiving" that we may he "forgiven." At a certain point, the whole matter resolves itself into an objective inability to be touched or wounded. The attacker and the unjust find themselves in exactly the same condition as the man who seriously imagined he could remove the earth with his hoe or draw figures in the air. For this reason, the nonreaction of the ascetic must be understood-to use one of Kremmerz's similes45-as the measureless goodwill of a world boxing champion toward a spin­dly youth who arrogantly challenges him to a trial of strength and skill and who hits or kicks him to provoke him. The champion knows that he could lay out his assailant with no effort at all.

This leads us to a consideration of the part that love-mettā-plays in the Doc-trine of Awakening. In tthe first place, it does not appear as an absolute value-as charitas, the theological attribute "God is love," but rather as an ascetic instrument that. at the fourth stage, gives way to impassibility, to a state of mind that is detached from all beatitude, that is "neutral" in a higher and sovereign sense. In the second place, it has nothing to do with a human "love for one's neighbor," but rather with the irradiant and almost objective power that proceeds, in a natural way, from an inte­grated and liberated mind. This is evident from the Buddhist view that of one who seeks his own health rather than that of others and the one who seeks the health of others rather than his own, the former is judged to be superior:" this takes us far indeed from "humanitarianism," but likewise from "egoism." The point is, that he who has not cannot give. Love, here, is not a matter of running after others with cures and solicitude and effusions, but is something that is based on "obtaining one's own health"-that is, one's own spiritual fulfillment until it becomes "radiant." and like the light of the sun that shines equally, irresistibly, and impersonally upon the good as upon the evil, without any special "affection," without any particular intent.

In this connection, we recall the discrimination made by Christian theology in order to explain the possibility of loving even those for whom one harbors a natural aversion and repugnance so strong that one may have to restrain oneself physically


  1. Majjh., 21.

  2. Cf. G. Kremmerz. Dialoghi sull'ermetismo (Spoleto, 192,1). pp. 53-54.

  3. Angutt., 4.95.

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from giving expression to it. Here the distinction is between natural and supernatural love, between love based on the senses and love based on will and liberty. The former is, in fact, conditioned by feeling and is not free. since it does not stir until confronted by an object corresponding to a tendency; for this reason, when the object changes or when the mind alters its outlook, the love decreases or gives place to another feeling. In this form of love the individual, in fact, only loves himself or, more correctly, it is the samsāric being in him that loves; and this is so not only with lustful love but also with sublimated forms of love and affection. This is all part of the world of dukkha. it is an alteration, a bond, a disturbance of the spirit. The Ariyan path of awakening does not recognize love in this sense, and regards it in all its forms as a limitation and an imperfection.

Different is amor intellectualis, which, though preserving the characteristics of an affective state sui generis, is based not on sensibility but, as we have said, on will and liberty. In Christian theology this is "loving all creatures in God"; which means that we here remember each individual's transcendental source, liking in him that which he is in the impersonal, metaphysical sense, and resolutely excluding any like or dislike proceeding from our particular nature. In this case liberty of spirit triumphs over the conditioned character of the senses, and love becomes the purer and the sign of higher liberty the less it depends upon particular satisfactions and attachment to single beings"

Only if we think of love in these terms can we understand that its value is simply instrumental and cathartic: in the ladder of Buddhist realizations it takes its place simply as the equivalent of the earlier jhāna, that is to say, of the contemplative simplifications designed to remove the limitation of the individual and to neutralize the "five bonds." And we can then understand another thing, which is the magical power attributed by Buddhism, in certain circumstances, to love. There corresponds to this love, that is deeply experienced in the "intellectual" sense already described, a certain removal of the I-thou relationship, not as combination with or losing oneself in the loved one, but in the sense of establishing a concord between whole and part, between creator ("father") and created ("son"), between the limitless and the lim­ited. In loving, one goes outside oneself, that is to say, beyond the state in which the other person may be "one like us," one creature facing another-one assumes, one makes one's own the being of the other person, who then finds himself facing a profundity that he himself cannot attain and consequently against which he is power-less." He loves him, as it were, himself, not finitely, however, but infinitely; it is himself with an extra dimension that is created by the very act of love. In this man-



  1. Cf. I. Le Masson. Avis spirituels et meditations (Tournai. 1911), p. 23ff.

  2. Cf. J. Evola. Fenomenologia dell'individuo assoluto (Turin, 1930), p. 247ff.

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ner, when love is developed into an objective intensity it may give rise to a magic force that is able to paralyze all unfriendly acts of which the other person may be capable. Thus it is said that one who practises and truly develops love, thereby free­ing his mind, also develops a state such that fire, and poison, and weapons have no longer power over him.49 This same idea is expressed in various Buddhist legends. By irradiating with unlimited mind, full of love and compassion, vast as the earth, Prince Siddhattha is supposed to have halted the onrush of an elephant set upon him by an enemy. On being told of the death of a disciple from snakebite, the Buddha says that this would not have happened had the disciple irradiated the world of snakes with loving mind; and here we have the confirmation of the very idea we have just discussed: love creates a defense, paralyzes hostile beings, disarms them and makes them retreat, because it arouses in them the feeling that their limited selves are facing the limitless. Thus we read, in connection with the irradiant contemplation of love: "Infinite is the Awakened One, infinite is the the doctrine-you, instead, are finite beings. I have created my protection, I have sung my hymn of defense-let all living beings retreat."50 We can see from this how ignorant of Buddhism are those who practically deny to it the dignity of a proper "religion" since they understand it as a simple ethic of "love" and "compassion" in an adulterated, equalitarian, and humanitarian sense.

Some texts advocate a combination of the irradiant contemplations with the jhāna; in which case, it is in those states of abstraction and internal transparency belonging to the jhāna that, at a later phase of the discipline, the awakenings of the "four divine states" should be practised through the successive stages of irradiation already described.51 One kind of "purification" thus raises the other to a higher power; and here we may pause to consider the possibility of the existence of beings who, according to Buddhism, from their distant, unknown solitudes, irradiate the world with influences far more efficacious and valuable than those that any visible human action can provide.

As we have said, the four irradiant contemplations are equivalent, in practise, to the four jhāna. They also lead us to the extreme limit of individuality, to the point beyond which there are the regions "free from form"-arupa-Ioka-or the "supercelestial" regions, whichever one prefers. As long as one's horizons have not been made to appear relative by the will for absolute liberation, these states of love and of universalization, up to and including the purity of the fourth "limitless" con­templation, which correspond, one might say, to the mode of pure "being," may



  1. Angutt.. 8.1.63.

  2. Cullavagga (Vin. ), 5.6; cf. Angutt.. 4.67; Jātaka, 203.

  3. Angutt.. 8.63; Dhamma-sangani, 251.

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serve as a way to liberation from the self and from finite will, and bring one as far as the unio mystica, that is to say, the brahmā-sahayatā already mentioned. We know already, however, that this is "too little" for the Ariyan vocation. The Awakened One knows the path that leads to the state of unity, which may he realized in life or after death, with the theistic divinity: he even goes so far as to say (a thing that should be noted by certain Catholic apologetics when it pronounces every kind of foolish judgment upon Buddhism), that for him to point out such a path as this is as easy as for a man who is a native of a village to point out the road leading to that village.52 The truth he proclaims is, however, that there exists "a higher liberty." The mania of "saintliness" is to be overcome, in the same way as those of desire and existences.53

Of the four brahma-vihārā, the irradiant contemplations, considered in them-selves, we must say: "this does not lead to turning away, not to cessation, not to calm, not to wisdom, not to awakening, not to extinction-but only to ascension into a world of saintliness."54


  1. Majjh., 99.

  2. Angutt., 10.20.

  3. Majjh., 83.

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13

The States Free from Form


and the Extinction

The region of the later realizations of the Ariya, up till the great liberation, corre­sponds to the arupa world. Having overcome sensible existence (kāma-lupa) having overcome the possibility of rearising in the world of pure forms (rupa-loka) one still must proceed, if one has the power, to the overcoming of existence free from form (arupa-loka) and of the "desire" of which it may be the object (arupa-rāga). By arupa-loka, we must understand the sphere in which only that which is "essence" remains, only pure possibility of manifestation, or "meaning": while the formal and mani­fested aspect, which may, among other ways, manifest itself through the phenomena of supersensory vision, entirely falls away. From the individual's point of view, this is the space that extends beyond the fourth nidāna, nāma-rupa, that is to say, beyond individuation. Dissociation from the samsāric being occurs when we enter into this higher ascetic and transcendental region, in which we still have to remove the first three nidāna of the series: firstly, vinnāna, understood as both the general possibility of a definite and dependent existence, and also the absolutely original motus that may lead to such an existence, in its double aspect of "nonwisdom" (avijjā) and of intoxicated energy, sankhāra and āsava.

In the same way that, after the phase of defense, consolidation and preliminary detachment, the ascetic was offered two nearly equivalent paths, namely, the four jhāna and the four irradiant contemplations, so, in this final development, a twofold path is again offered. The first of these is by way of completely abstract contempla­tions "without form" and is developed, in fact, in the same sense as the aforesaid jhāna; indeed, the term arupa-jhāna is often used here. The other path, on the con­trary, is made up of special illuminating visions-abhinna-and is imbued much more with the spirit of the irradiant contemplations.

Before we deal with these paths, it will he profitable to take the opportunity of



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referring to certain initial techniques and instruments that are considered by Bud­dhism as auxiliary and preparatory means-parikamma-nimitta-both for the jhāna we have yet to speak of, and for those we have already discussed. The texts speak of eight "liberations" (vimokkhā), five of which are the āyatana, that is, the contempla­tive states of the region "without form," while three are clearly contemplations pre­liminary to them. In the first of these latter contemplations one considers, in one's own being, the single element "form," and one completely concentrates one's mind upon it: this is not entirely unrelated to some methods known among ancient Medi­terranean initiations and associated with the formula: "to go out (from the body, from individual consciousness) through the skin." To feel only the "form" of one's own organism is like feeling its surface, the "skin." According to those ancient mystic teachings, to isolate this sensation of the "form" and almost to lose oneself in it can, in certain cases, be a way of "going out."' And it is a method of Tibetan yoga firstly to identify one's body with that of a divinity and then to apprehend it as empty, as if it were made only of a shining and transparent skin.' The second "liberation" con­sists of forgetting one's own form, one's own body. and absorbing oneself instead in an outside form, which alone must engage the mind and the sensibility. This is con­nected with the technique of the kasina that we are just about to discuss. The third "liberation" is connected with "splendor" and "beauty"-there are even texts that consider that these two elements only are the supports in the passage to the form-less.' There thus appears on the scene something that recalls the part played by aesthetic feeling in the Platonist and Neoplatonist mystiques, namely, a kind of en­thusiasm or rapture that acts as a vehicle for the attaining of the supersensible. The difference is that here we are not dealing with the joy of the artist or of the lover of art, but rather with a quintessential and abstract feeling that is roused, not by an image or a living creature or an aspect of nature, but simply by a pure color, light, brilliance, or fire in a mind that has already been brought to the limit of purely indi­vidual and human consciousness as the result of the ascesis we have so far described. This refers to the kasina themselves.

The term kasina means, literally, "totality." It denotes a procedure that would he described today as "hypnotic," a procedure by means of which consciousness is led to become absorbed by identification in an object, until they form together a


  1. Cf. G. Meyrink, Golem. chap. 18: "The key is found purely and simply in making oneself aware of the 'form of one's own T,' of one's own skin, I mean, sunk though one may be in sleep; in discovering the narrow crack through which consciousness finds its way between the state of wakefulness and that of the deepest sleep." It must he understood that. in the kasina. the power of concentration produces condi­tions analogous to those of sleep.

  2. Texts in W. Y. Evans-Wentz, Tibetan Yoga and Secret Doctrines (London, 1935). pp. 173-75. 190.

  3. Digha. 15.35; Angutt., 8.66; Majjh., 77.

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"wholeness," one single thing. This process of identification produces isolation of the mind not only from physical impressions but also from one's own person: the "five hindrances" being overcome, the passage to the abstract contemplations is made easier or hastened.

As to technique: one may start with a disc of some perfectly pure color, dark blue, yellow, red, or white, which is placed in front of the person who is to perform the exercise. Alternatively, a round opening can be made, through which an area of bright sky may be seen, or the same can be done in a screen placed in front of a fire in such a manner that a disc of flame is visible. In one way or another, one must arrange to have before one a regular shape occupied by a pure and even color or luminosity. The mind should be detached from all longing or worry and should warm to the thought of the truth and of the awakening of the Ariyas. Thus the mind is prepared for concentration and is pervaded by the thought that the action about to be undertaken will facilitate the grace of the mind's own liberation. After this is done, one must gaze fixedly at the luminous disc, "with eyes neither too widely open nor half-closed, as one looks at oneself in a mirror," without interruption, without blink­ing, concentrating wholly on this perception, until there is created a false image (today we would say, an hallucinatory image) of the shape. One must then continue to concentrate on this image, with the eyes both open and closed, if necessary "a hundred or a thousand times," until the mental image is established in such a way that one continues to see it even involuntarily, with the eyes closed or open and with the gaze removed from the object. The first phase of the operation is complete when the "reflex," the mental counterpart of the physical image of the disc, called uggaha-nimitta, is equally visible with the eyes open or closed. One can then stop sitting in front of the disc and pass on to the second phase of the exercise.

In this further phase the "reflex" must, in its turn, serve as the basis for concen­tration that is now, in a manner of speaking, of the second degree. It is no longer the physical eye that fixes its gaze, but the eye that has been opened by the 7na-jhāna-cakkhu. The procedure, however, is the same: one again has to identify oneself with the mental image, forgetting everything else, just as was done previously with the image provided by the senses. If this second concentration on the interior image is rightly carried out, there finally springs out from this image a new reflex of the sec­ond degree, something purely spiritual-patibhāga-nimitta-"without form, without color." This resembles the melting of a fog, or the shining of the morning star, or the appearance of the moon from behind clouds, or is like the flash of a mirror taken from its case, or of a perfectly polished gem. These terms are used to describe the appearance of the new image that "shatters" and annihilates the preceding "halluci­natory" image, and "rises, a hundred, a thousand times more clear." At the

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