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The other says: "No." Yo-shan replies: "The cloud in the sky and the water in the pitcher": that is all. Tung-shah says: "How wonderful is the tongue of the inanimate. You cannot hear it with your ears, but you can hear it with your eyes": with the unclosed eye of the mind, not through perception, not with logic, not with metaphys­ics. Another saying of Zen: "The leaves that fall, like the flowers that open, reveal for us the blessed law of the Buddha." We must, however, be very careful not to confuse all this with aestheticism sui generis. The Far Eastern simplified and par­ticularly transparent feeling for nature plays its part, as we have said. But the funda­mental point is to go up from nature, which is free from soul and is only itself, free from affects and subjectivity, to the perception where, in fact, "mountains are again mountains and waters, waters." A Zen formula, which in some ways sums up its doctrine, is: "Reflect in yourself and recognize your own face as it was before the world" (Huei-neng).

Together with the message of the inanimate, there is a manner in which signs, gestures, and symbols take the place of words. We have already mentioned the master of Zen who, before the assembly of monks collected to hear his discourse, confined himself to stretching his arms. Another simply raises his finger. Another presents a stick. It is said that Mahākassapa was chosen by the Buddha for the trans-mission of the esoteric doctrine in similar circumstances: the Buddha, in the midst of his disciples, had raised a bunch of flowers into the air; only Mahākassapa among those present had smiled and inclined his head in assent. Words limit. A sign can, however, at a suitable time, cause moments of illumination.

From these antecedents, it is not difficult to understand that Zen insists above all on a spiritual awakening, or change of inner state, that is sudden and discontinuous. The opening of the third eye. satori, illumination, is a condition that happens sud­denly, destroying all that has gone before, appearing to be without origin, without "becoming." The theme of the Vajracchedikā is echoed in Zen: the Tathāgata is so called because he does not come from anywhere and does not go anywhere. "When he appears, he comes from nowhere, and when he disappears, he goes nowhere-and this is Zen." And again: "Where there really is a coming in or a going out, there great contemplation is not. Zen, [the contemplative state, the state of illumination-awakening] in its essence, is without birth."

At one period, nevertheless, Zen became divided into two different schools: that of the south (yuga-pad) which lays greater emphasis on the discontinuity of the awak­ening: and that of the north (krama-vrittya) which, instead, allows of a certain gradu­alness. But both agree that it is essential, at a particular moment, to know how to "jump out of the 'I'," how to "vomit forth the 'F." This may be brought about also by violent sensations, even by a physical pain, by something, according to a Chinese saying, that "twists the bowels nine times and more." We have already told of the


episode of the broken arm; and there are many like it. It seems that, in some places at the present time, an operation not unlike strangulation is carried out, by means of which the disciple, who is suitably prepared, is forced forward toward a void into which he cannot but jump.

As for preparation, the methods of Zen do not differ essentially from what we have already described as Ariyan ascesis.

First, make oneself master of external objects by substituting a condition of activity for the usual one of passivity. Realize that wherever a desire pushes a man toward a thing, it is not he who has the thing, but the thing that has him. "He who takes a liquor believes that he drinks it; whereas it is the liquor that drinks him." Detach oneself. Discover and love the active principle in oneself.

Second is mastery of the body. Establish one's own authority over the entire organism. "Imagine that your body is separate from you: if it shouts, make it be silent, as a severe father does his child. If it shows temper, hold it in, as one does a curbed horse. If it is ill, administer to it what is necessary, as a doctor to his patient. If it disobeys, chastise it, as the master chastises the turbulent pupil." Temper oneself physically. Establish with oneself a "trial of endurance" by accustoming oneself, for example, to undergoing freezing cold in winter and in summer a torrid heat. And so on.

Third is the control of mental and emotive life in order to promote and consoli­date a state of equilibrium. There is the appeal to one's inner nobility: "It is ridicu­lous"-it is said in Zen-"that a being endowed with the nature of a Buddha, born to be master of every material reality, should be enslaved by little cares or frightened by phantasms that he himself has created, should let his mind he swayed by passions or dissipate his vital energy in irrelevant things." Anxieties, recriminations, or nostalgias for the past, imaginings or anticipations for the future, enmity, shame, and disturbance, all these must be put aside. One may help oneself, eventually, by means of the "idealistic" theory (cf. p. 223)-which may help one to realize the irrationality of so many of the mind's impulses, and to regaining power over one's heart. Further-more, one must simplify oneself, one must resolutely cut down the parasitical over-growth of vain and muddled thoughts. To the question: "How shall I learn the law?" a Zen master, Poh Chang, replied: "Eat when you are hungry and sleep when you are tired." Calm and equilibrium-the samatha that we have frequently mentioned-must become a habit. Here is an anecdote: When commanding an army in battle, even in his headquarters, O-yo-mei would discuss Zen doctrines. He was informed, on one occasion, that his advanced troops had been defeated; he calmly continued his discourse. Shortly after, he was told that, in the later developments of the battle he had become the victor. The commander remained as calm as before, and did not, even then, change his discourse. This is how one gradually apprehends the existence


of a principle that cannot be altered by doubt or fear any more than the light of the sun can be destroyed by fog or clouds.

Fourth: When we come to the aforesaid "throwing out of the mind" or "of the 'I';" we find that we are here faced with some sort of discontinuity, for which there is no means of preparing, because it is an actual change of state. To one who was astonished at the saying, that the world enters into the mind, a Zen master replied saying that the difficulty consists, rather, in making the mind enter into the world. It is a matter of the breaking of the shell constituted by the mind, of which a Mahāyāna text we have already quoted, speaks; only then does one have the intuition that nirvāna, when understood as one term of an opposition, is itself an illusion, a bond, the object of an imperfect knowledge.

Zen uses a twofold symbolism for the structure of its discipline: that of the "five degrees of merit" and that of the vicissitudes of the man and the hull.

The "first degree of merit" corresponds to the "conversion"-similar to pabbajjā,

the "departure" of the ancient Buddhist teaching: a man turns from the outer world toward the inner world. The illuminated, extrasamsāric "I" is here portrayed as a king to whom one declares allegiance. The second degree of merit is "service"-that is to say, faithfulness and loyalty to this inner sovereign. The third degree is "valor," what one must show when confronting and combating all opposition to the king. Then there is the "merit of him who cooperates," due to one who is not simply good at defense and fighting, but who is admitted to the positive government of the state. The final degree of merit: "beyond merit" or "merit that is not merit" (an ex­pression to be understood in the same sense as "acting without acting") is the degree of the king himself, whose nature one assumes. Here action ceases or, if you prefer, action is manifested in the form of nonaction, of spontaneity. The being and the law are here identical.

And now the second Zen symbolism, made up of ten well-known illustrations corresponding to ten episodes in the adventures of a drover and a hull. The mind-represented in the preceding allegory, by the king-or rather, "illumination," the bodhi element, is conceived as a precious stone, always fresh and pure, even when buried in dust. It has to be found as the drover seeks a bull. The first figure is. in fact, uncertain search. The second is hope: the animal has not yet been seen, but its tracks have been sighted. Third: the hull is seen in the distance, and a cautious advance toward it is made. Fourth: the animal is suddenly seized, and it tries in vain to escape. Fifth: the animal is tamed, mastered, and fed, so that finally it follows the drover as if it were his shadow. Sixth: the drover is carried home by this animal that serves him as a mount. Seventh: "the forgetting of the animal and the remembering of the man." Eighth: "the forgetting both of the bull and of the man"-the corresponding figure gives only a large empty circle: we are at the point of overcoming all dualism in the


"void," in liberated consciousness. Ninth: return to the origins and to the source-we remember the Zen saying: "rediscover your own face as it was before the world." Last figure: going into the town with the hands open; this phase should he compared with that in which, once again, "mountains are mountains and waters, waters." It is the point at which transcendency becomes the clarity of an immanence that is free from the stain of the "I"; it is the state in which there is nothing that comes or goes. that enters or leaves. Asa corollary of this, some Zen masters have declared that self-application and self-concentration and the seeking of solitary and silent places belong to the heterodox teachings. "Do not he attached to anything whatsoever: if you understand this, walking or standing, sitting or lying, you will never cease to be in the state of Zen, in the state of contemplation and of illumination."

The Zen masters teach that the blessed order of the ancient Ariya, seated round Prince Siddhattha, is even now gathered at the Vulture's Peak, that is to say, at the symbolical place where, in the Mahāyana texts, the Awakened One is supposed most frequently to have spoken and that expresses the traditional idea of the "cen­ter," the "center of the world."



The Ariya Are Still Gathered

on the Vulture's Peak

In this book we have not set out to make Buddhist propaganda but, rather, as we said, to indicate the fundamental elements of a complete system of ascesis: these ele­ments may be found in other traditions also, but they appear with particular clarity in the Buddhist teaching, which lends itself admirably to our purpose for the various reasons that we discussed at the beginning.

It now remains to suggest the significance that an ascesis of this sort may have at the present day.

We need hardly stress the fact that the modem world stands, more completely so perhaps than in any other civilization, at the opposite pole to that of an ascetic view of life. We are not talking here of the religious problem that, as we have seen, has no direct relationship to higher ascesis. We are speaking of fundamental orienta­tions of the spirit.

It would be hard to deny that "activism," the exaltation and practice of action understood as force, impetus, becoming, struggle, transformation, perennial research, or ceaseless movement, is the watchword of the modern world. The world of the "being" is drawing to its close, and this decline has for long been hailed with joy. Not only do we have today the triumph of activism, but also a philosophy sui generis at its service; a philosophy whose systematic criticism and whose speculative apparatus serve to justify it in every way while pouring contempt and heaping discredit on all other points of view. Interest in pure knowledge has become ever more displaced by interest in "living" and in "doing" or, at any rate, by interest in those departments of knowledge that can he employed in terms of action or practical and temporal real­ization. Today the nature and potentialities of pure knowledge, that is to say, knowl­edge whose peculiar object-as in the traditional ideal of all periods-is superindi­vidual and superhistorical reality is almost unknown. Our contemporaries grow ever


more accustomed to disregard the "being" aspect of things and concentrate, instead, upon their aspect as "becoming," "life," "movement," "development," or "history."

"Historicism" and "the cult of becoming" beat out the rhythm of activism, even on the cultural plane. Pragmatism, voluntarism, irrationalism, varieties of the reli­gion of "life" and "actuality," relativism, evolutionism, progressivism, Faustism, are lines of speculation that, in spite of their different guises, all spring from the same motive. And this, then, is merely the translation into terms of self-consciousness and intellectual justification of the central motive of the precipitate life of these times, with its tumult, its agitation, its fever for speed, its mechanization devoted to the shortening of all intervals of space and time, its congestive and breathless rhythm that is. particularly in the New World, carried to its limit. There the activist theme really reaches paroxysmal and almost pandemic heights and completely absorbs the whole of life, whose horizons, moreover, are thereby restricted to the dark and gloom that are natural to wholly temporal and contingent achievements.

It is too an ominous fact that forces of a collectivist and therefore subpersonal nature must gain more and more power over beings who have no real traditional support and are racked by a fundamental restlessness. The activist world is also essentially a featureless and plebeian world, ruled by the demon of collectivism: it is not only the scene of triumph of what has been called "the ideal animal," but it is also a world that is essentially "telluric," moved by forces that are hound up with the elements of "mass" and "quantity," where action, force, strife, and even heroism and sacrifice are seen to become increasingly irrational, devoid of light, "elemental," and altogether earthly.

That which the ancient Indo-Aryan wisdom had denoted by the symbol of samsāric existence, and which corresponding Western traditions had styled "the Age of Iron," can now he said to be at the height of its career; and there is no lack, either in Buddhism or in similar traditions, of texts in which such characteristics of times to come were predicted with astonishing accuracy.' We repeat, however, that the main characteristic of our times is not that life tends to exhaust itself almost exclusively on the samsāric plane, but that our civilization stimulates and exalts this kind of life, and considers it, not so much as a state of fact, but rather as something of value, as something that should be, as something that is right. It must be unique in all history that samsāra should become the object of a species of mystique or religion. The new philosophies of life, of becoming, of the elan vital, which flourish on the borders of practical activism, have just this significance and even come to exalt in human exist­ence all that is unconscious spontaneity, pure vitality, prepersonal biological sub-stratum and which is therefore, essentially prehuman and subhuman.

1. Cf. Revolt Against the Modern World. appendix.


To think that we can effectively react against such a state of affairs, taken as a whole, would be frivolous, and would mean (unless we are simply dealing with intel­lectual reactions) ignoring the remote causes that have gradually led up to it they are causes that cannot be removed in a day. But although success on a large scale, taking into account the general orientation of the modern world, is at present very remote, yet it might be achieved locally within the circle of an elite, of a certain number of qualified individuals. The only possible point of reference, here, is ascetic values, in the fullest, purest, and strictest meaning of the term. The affirmation of an ascetic vision of life is today particularly necessary in view of the unparalleled force of the "telluric" and samsāric element in the modern world.

The prejudices that have been created or encouraged by certain quite special, abnormal, and un-Aryan forms of ascesis we have already removed. Let no one, then, declare that ascesis means renunciation, flight from the world, inaction, quiet-ism, or mortification. The affirmation of a background of pure transcendency to bal­ance a world that is ever more and more the captive of immanency, is the first point and the first task. But another point, not less important, concerns that very action that lies so close to the heart of our contemporaries. Indeed, one could justly maintain that those who despise all asceticism know nothing of what action really is, and what they exalt is merely an inferior, emasculated, and passive form of action. The sort of activism that consists in fever, impulsiveness, identification, centerless vertigo, pas­sion, or agitation, far from testifying power, merely demonstrates impotence. Our own classical world knew this well: the central theme of the Ciceronian oration Pro Mar-cello is just this: there is no higher power than that of mastery over oneself. Only those who possess this mastery can know what is the true action, which shows them also to the outside world, not as those who are acted upon, but as those who truly act. We remember the illuminating Buddhist saying: he who goes, stands still-he who stands still, goes. For this very reason, in the traditions springing from the same root all movement, activity, becoming, or change was referred to the passive and female principle, while to the positive, luminous, masculine principle were attributed the particular qualities of immobility, unchangeability, and stability. We can, then, defi­nitely affirm the existence of an ascesis that in no way signifies quietism but that is, rather, the prerequisite for a higher, aristocratic ideal of activity and virility.

This ideal-let it be noted-is in no way a monopoly of the East. The basic idea with which we are dealing is traditionally Aryan, whence we can also find it among ourselves. The same idea was expressed on the metaphysical plane by Plotinus when he spoke of the becoming that is only "the flight of beings that are and that are not," or by Aristotle when he discussed the "still Mover." or, on the ethical plane. by the
2. Cf. ibid., pan 2, passim.


Roman Stoa with its emphasis on the sidereal and unchangeable element of the mind as the basis of all human effort and dignity. One who is the cause and effective master of motion does not himself move. He inspires motion and directs action, but he himself does not act, in the sense that he is not transported, he is not involved in action, he is not action, but is, on the other hand, an impassive, utterly calm and imperative superiority, from whom action proceeds and on whom it depends. As opposed to this idea of true and mastered action, which is only thinkable, however, on the basis of purification from the samsāric element, one who acts while identify­ing himself with his action, impulsively, urged by passion. by desire, by the irratio­nal, by restless need or vulgar interest, such a one does not really act, but is acted upon. However paradoxical it may sound. his is a passive action-he stands under the sign, not of virility, but of femininity. And under the sign of femininity, the whole modem "telluric" and activist world also stands.' It is only a lower, anti-aristocratic form of action that predominates here. Otherwise, it actually betrays that half-conscious desire to deafen and distract, that agitation and clamor that reveal dread of the silence, the internal isolation, the absolute being of higher nature, or it becomes a weapon employed in the revolution of man against the eternal that indeed marks the limit of the samsāric "ignorance" and intoxication of fallen beings.

All this is generally true of asceticism as a whole. More particularly, it is even possible to demonstrate historically that the ancient Oriental Aryan forms of ascesis are also capable of this application. We should not forget that. if the East, whether Indo-European or Asian, has not until now given to a modern man the impression, from certain aspects, of a civilization that is activistically practical, this is due not to a lack of strength, but to the fact of having absorbed its principal energies in the vertical direction that is beyond becoming and history; few of the well-horn in these civilizations had, or have even now, much interest in other forms of achievement. But where these achievements, through external circumstance or through the devel­opment of special vocations, have acquired a certain power of attraction over the spirit, the East has shown, on the same plane of action, what energy and will can do when they are shaped essentially by the ascetic view of life. Anyone who objects and points out, for example, the more recent political state of India, forgets that this country, quite apart from its original epics, had its own imperial cycle under Candragupta and under Asoka, a sovereign who was profoundly Buddhist. Besides, we know of no Western text in which heroism and warlike action have received a transcendental justification so precise and a transfiguration so high, as in the

3. In reality, all the ancient forms of "telluric" civilizations developed in close connection with feminine and promiscuous cults and with the naturalistic-vital substratum of existence. Cf. J. J. Bachofen. Das Mutterrecht 2nd edn. (Basel, 1897).


Bhagavadgītā;4 while on another level it is well known that of all the troops England gathered in her empire, those provided by India were the best qualified, composed as they were, not of "soldiers," but of warriors by race and vocation. And it was from warrior stock-as we have seen-that Prince Siddhattha himself came.

But a better example is offered us by Japan. It has been justly stated5 that "the Russo-Japanese War, to the great surprise of most of the European world, showed us how the supposed `emasculated Oriental immobility' could purposively and hero­ically fight, on land and sea, the so-called virile Western mobility. The heroism of the Japanese, educated for a millennium and a half by Buddhist doctrine, has shown unmistakably that Buddhism is not the opiate that everyone previously imagined." Anyone with the interests of the West at heart should indeed hope that the future will not create a change of mind in the Oriental peoples whereby they are led to apply against the West their enormous spiritual potential; that the power that has been created by a millennial ascetic vision of life, should be directed onto the temporal plane on which most of Europe, having cut itself off from its best traditions, has chosen to concentrate.

It was not entirely unintentional that, at the end of this book, we spoke of Zen Buddhism. This particularly esoteric form of the Buddhist doctrine has been the most congenial to the Japanese warrior nobility, and Zen has even been called "the reli­gion of the Samurai." According to the Japanese point of view, if a man is a man, and not an animal, he can only be a Samurai: courageous, upright, trustworthy, virile, faithful and full of controlled dignity and ready for any active sacrifice. But the precepts of virility, loyalty, courage, control of the mind, instincts, action, and disdain for a soft life and empty luxury-all these are elements of Bushido, the ethics of the Samurai warrior nobility, found in the Zen ascesis, which derived from the Buddhist Doctrine of Awakening their confirmation, integration, and likewise their transcen­dent basis."It was thus that the Japanese nobleman was capable of a quite special and unconditioned form of heroism: not "tragic" but "Olympian," the heroism of one who can give away his complete life without regrets, with a clear vision of the goal in view and with an entire disregard for his own person, because he is not life and is not person, but already partakes of the superindividual and supertemporal.

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