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A particular characteristic of the Aryan-ness of the original Buddhist teaching is the absence of those proselytizing manias that exist, almost without exception, in direct proportion to the plebeian and anti-aristocratic character of a belief. An Aryan mind has too much respect for other people, and its sense of its own dignity is too pronounced to allow it to impose its own ideas upon others, even when it knows that its ideas are correct. Accordingly, in the original cycle of Aryan civilizations, both Eastern and Western, there is not the smallest trace of divine figures being so con­cerned with mankind as to come near to pursuing them in order to gain their adher­ence and to "save" them. The so-called salvationist religions-the Erlösungsreligionen, in German-make their appearance both in Europe and Asia at a later date, together with a lessening of the preceding spiritual tension, with a fall from Olympian consciousness and, not least, with influxes of inferior ethnic and social elements. That the divinities can do little for men, that man is fundamentally the artificer of his own destiny, even of his development beyond this world-this char­acteristic view held by original Buddhism demonstrates its difference from some later forms, especially of the Mahāyāna schools, into which infiltrated the idea of a



  1. Majjh., 50.

  2. Suttanipāta, 1.2.8,

  3. Zosimus, text in Berthelot, Collection des alchimistes grecques (Paris. 1887). vol. 2. p. 2I3

  4. Majjh., 39.

  5. Suetonius, De vita Caesarum. 6, The equivalence of the two types is indicated, for exampite. by Angul13. (2.44), where it is said that two beings appear in the world fot the heaitth of many. for the good of gods and men: the perfect Awakened One and the cakkavatti or "universal sovereign."

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power from on high busying itself with mankind in order to lead each individual to salvation.

In point of method and teaching, in the original texts we see that the Buddha expounds the truth as he has discovered it, without imposing himself on anyone and without employing outside means to persuade or "convert." "He who has eyes will see"-is a much repeated saying of the texts. "Let an intelligent man come to me"-we read26-"a man without a tortuous mind, without hhypocrisy, an upright man: I will instruct him, I will expound the doctrine. If he follows the instruction, after a short while he himself will recognize, he himself will see, that thus indeed one liberates oneself from the bonds, the bonds, that is, of ignorance." Here follows a simile of an infant freeing itself gradually from its early limitations; this image exactly corre­sponds to the Platonic simile of the expert midwife and the art of aiding births. Again: "I will not force you, as the potter his raw clay. By reproving I will instruct, and by urging you. He who is sound will endure."27' Besides, the original intention of Prince Siddhattha was, having once achieved his knowledge of truth, to communicate it to no one, not from ill-mindedness, but because he realized its profundity and foresaw that few would understand it. Having then recognized the existence of a few indi­viduals of a nobler nature with clearer vision, he expounded the doctrine out of com­passion, maintaining, however, his distance, his detachment, and his dignity. Whether disciples come to him or not, whether or not they follow his ascetic precepts, "always he remains the same."28 This is his manner: "Know persuasion and know dissuasion; knowing persuasion and knowing dissuasion do not persuade and do not dissuade: expound only reality."29 "It is wonderful"-says another text30-"it is astonishing that no one exalts his own teaching and no one despises the teaching of another in an order where there are so many guides to show the doctrine."

This, too, is typically Aryan. It is true that the spiritual power that the Buddha possessed could not but show itself sometimes almost automatically, demanding immediate recognition. We read, for example, of the incident described as "the first footprint of the elephant," where wise men and expert dialecticians wait for fhe Buddha at a ford seeking an opportunity to defeat him with their arguments, but when they see him they ask only to hear the doctrine;" or of another where, when the Buddha enters a discussion, his words destroy all opposition "like a furious el­ephant or a blazing fire."32 There is the account of his former companions who, be-



  1. Majjh., 80.

  2. Ibid., 122.

  3. Ibid.. 49; 137.

  4. Ibid., i39,

  5. Ibid., 76, I. Ibid.. 27. 32. Ibid., 35.

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lieving him to have left the road of asceticism, propose among themselves not to greet him, but who when immediately they see him go to meet him; and there is the story of the fierce bandit Angulimāla who is awed by the Buddha's majestic figure. In any case, it is certain that the Buddha, in his Aryan superiority, always abstained from using indirect methods of persuasion and, in particular, never used any that appealed to the irrational, sentimental, or emotional element in a human being. This rule too is definite: "You must not, 0 disciples, show to laymen the miracle of the super-normal powers. He who does this is guilty of an offence of wrongdoing." The individual is put on one side: "In truth, the noble sons declare their higher knowledge in such a manner, that they state the truth without any reference whatsoever to their own person."'34 "Why is this?"-says the Buddha to one who has eagerly waited for a long time to see him--"He who sees the law sees me and he who sees me sees the law. In truth, by seeing the law I am seen and by seeing me the law is seen."35 Being himself awakened. the Buddha wishes only to encourage an awakening in those who are capable of it: an awakening, in the first place, of a sense of dignity and of vocation, and in the second, of intellectual intuition. A man who is incapable of intuition, it is said, cannot approve.36 The noble miracle "conforming to the Aryan nature" (ariya-iddhi) as opposed to prodigies based on extranormal phenomena, and considered to be non-Aryan (anariya-iddhi) is concerned with this very point. The "miracle of the teaching" stirs the faculty of discernment and furnishes a new and accurate measure of all values;" the most typical of the canonical expressions for this is: '"There is this'-he understands-'There is the common and there is the excellent, and there is a higher escape beyond this perception of the senses. "'38 Here is a characteristic passage describing the awakening of intuition: "His the disciple's] heart suddenly feels pervaded with sacred enthusiasm and his whole mind is re­vealed pure, clear, shining as the luminous disc of the moon: and the truth appears to him in its completeness.'" This is the foundation of the only "faith," of the only "right confidence" considered by the order of the Aryans, "an active confidence, rooted in insight, firm"; a confidence that "no penitent or priest, no god or devil, no angel nor anyone else in the world can destroy."41'

Perhaps it is worth briefly discussing a final point. The fact that the Buddha, normally, does not appear in the Pāli texts as a supernatural being descended to
33 Vinaya.2.112.


  1. Angutt., 6.49.

  2. Samyatt., 22.87.

  3. Majjh., 95.

  4. Digha, 113-S.

  5. Majjh., 7.

  6. Mahāparinirv., 52-56.

  7. Majjh.. 47.

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earth to broadcast a "revelation," but as a man who expounds a truth that he himself has seen and who indicates a path that he himself has trodden, as a man who, having himself crossed by his own unaided efforts" to the other bank of the river, helps others fo cross over42-this fact must not lead us to make the figure of the Buddha too human. Even if we omit the Bodhisatta theory that so often suffers from infiltra­tion of fabulous elements and that only came into being at a later period, the concept in the early texts of what is known as kolankola makes us seek in the Buddha the reemergence of a luminous principle already kindled in preceding generations: this is an idea that agrees perfectly with what we are about to say on the historical sig­nificance of the Buddhist Doctrine of Awakening. In any ease, whatever his ante­cedents, it is extremely difficult to draw a line between what is human and what is not, when we are dealing with a being who has inwardly attained deathlessness (amata) and who is presented as the living incarnation of a law hound up with that which is transcendental and that can be "confined" by nothing-apariyā-panna. The question of race comes in heree, too. If a being feels himself remote from metaphysi­cal reality, then he will imagine any strength that he may acquire as a "grace," knowledge will appear as "revelation" in its accepted meaning in the West since the time of the Hebrew prophets, and the announcer of a law may assume for him "di-vine" proportions rather than be justly regarded as one who has destroyed ignorance and who has become "awakened." This separation from metaphysical reality masks the dignity and the spiritual level of a teaching and wraps the person of the teacher himself in an impenetrable fog. One thing is certain: ideas of "revelations" and of men-gods can only sound foreign to an Aryan sspirit and fo a "noble son" (kula-putta), particularly in periods when the mind of humanity had not yet entirely lost the memory of its own origins. This introduces us to the next chapter, where we shall say some-thing of the meaning and of the function of the doctrine of Prince Siddhattha in the general setting of the ancient Indo-Aryan world.



  1. Ibid . 26.

  2. Suttanipātā. 3, 6.

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3

The Historical Context


of the Doctrine of Awakening

First. a word about method. From the "traditional" point of view fhat we follow in this work, the great historical traditions are to be considered neither as "original" nor as arbitrary. In every tradition worthy of the name, elements are always present, in one form or another, of a "knowledge" that, being rooted in a superindividual reality, is objective. Furthermore, each tradition contains its own special mode of interpreta­tion and cannot be considered as arbitrary or as proceeding from extrinsic or purely human factors. This particular element tends to vary with the prevailing historical and spiritual climate; and we can find in it the reason for the existence of certain formulations, adaptations, or limitations of the one knowledge-and the nonexist­ence of others. No one individual, suddenly, and as if inspired haphazardly by some outside agency, ever proclaimed the theory of the ātmā, for example, or invented nirvāna or the Islamic theories. On the contrary, all traditions or doctrines obey, even without seeming to do so, a profound logic--discoverable by means of an adequate metaphysical interpretation of history. Accordingly, this shall be our standpoint when we deal with these aspects of Buddhism: this is also why we consider that critic to be fundamentally mistaken who tries at all costs to pin the label "original" on Buddhism or, indeed, on any great tradition. and who argues that "otherwise" such a tradition would in no way differ from others. A difference there is, as there is also an element in common with what has gone before; but both are determined-as we have said-by objective reasons, even though they may not always have been seen clearly by the individual exponents of particular historical trends.

Having said this, we must go back to the pre-Buddhist Indo-Aryan traditions in
order to find the precise implications of the Buddhist doctrine, and in them we must
distinguish between two fundamental phases: the Vedic and the Brāhmana Upanisad.
With regard to the Vedas. which constitute the essential foundation of the entire

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tradition in question, it would not be correct to talk either of "religion" or of "philoso­phy." To begin with, the term veda-from the root vid, which is equivalent to the, Greek id (whence we have, for example. cant) and which means "I see," "I have seen"-refers to a doctrine based not on faith or "revelation," but on a higher knowl­edge attained through a process of seeing. The Vedas were "seen": they were seen by the rshi, by the "seers" of the earliest times. Throughout the tradition their es­sence has never been regarded as a "faith" but rather as a "sacred science."



Thus it is frivolous to see in the Vedas, as many people do, the expression of a "purely naturalistic religion." As in other great systems, impurities may be present, particularly where foreign matter has crept in, and very noticeably, for example, in the Atharva Vedā. But what the essential and most ancient part of the Vedas reflects is a cosmic stage of the Indo-Aryan spirit. t is not a question of theories or of theolo­gies, but of hymns containing a magnificent reflection of a consciousness that is still so harnessed to the cosmos and to metaphysical reality that the various "gods" of the Vedas are more than religious images; they are projections of the experience of significances and forces directly perceived in man, in nature, or beyond through a cosmic, heroic, and "sacrificial" concept, freely and almost "triumphantly.'

Although they were written considerably later. the fundamental thought con­tained in such epic poems as the Mahābhārata goes back to the same epoch. Men, heroes, and divine figures appear side by side; and as Kerényi said when referring to the Olympian-Homeric phase of the Aryo-Hellenic tradition, men could "see the gods and be seen by them," and could "stand with them in the original state of exist­ence."' The Olympian clement is reflected also in a typical group of Vedic divini­ties: in Dyaus (from div, "to shine"-a root that is also found in Zeus and Deus), for example, lord of the heavenly light, the origin of splendor, strength, and knowledge; in Varuna, also a symbol of celestial and regal power, and connected with the idea of pā, that is to say, of the cosmos, of a cosmic order, of a natural and supernatural law; while in Mitra there is, in addition, the idea of a god of the specifically Aryan virtues, truth and fidelity. We also have Surya, the flaming sun from whom, as from the Olympian νονς, nothing is hidden, who destroys every infirmity and who, in the form of Savitar, is the light that is exalted in the first daily rite of all the Aryan castes as the principle of awakening and intellectual animation: or there is Usas, the dawn, eternally young, who opens the way for the sun, who gives life and who is the "token of immortality." In lndra we find the incarnation of the heroic and metaphysical impulse of the first Hyperborean conquerors: lndra is "he, without whom men cannot win," he is the "son of force," the lightning god of war, valor, and victory, the annihi-



  1. To some extent we can here refer to what K. Kerényi has written on the "sense of festivity" in La religione antica nelle sue linee fondamentali (Boitogna. 1940). chap. 2.

  2. Cf. ibid., chaps. 4 and 5.

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lator of the enemies of the Aryans. of the black Dasyu, and, consequently, of all the tortuous and titanic forces that "attempt to climb the heavens"; while at the same time he appears as the consolidator, as "he who has consolidated the world." The same spirit is reflected, in varying degrees, in minor Vedic divinities, even in those tied to the most conditioned forms of existence.

In the Vedas we find that this cosmic experience is evoked through the agency of sacrificial action. The sacrifice rite extends human experience into the non-human, and provokes and establishes communion between the two worlds in such a manner that the sacrificer, a figure as austere and majestic as the Roman lamen dialis, assumes the traits of a god on earth (bhū-deva, bhū-sura). As for life after death, the Vedic solution is fully consonant with the oldest Aryo-Hellenic spirit: im­ages of obscure hells are almost entirely absent from the most ancient parts of the Vedas; the crisis of death is hardly noticed as such-in the Atharva Veda it is even considered as the effect of a hostile and demoniacal force that, with suitable rites, can be repulsed. The dead pass into an existence of splendor that is also a "return," and in which they once again take up their form: "Having laid aside all defects, return home: full of splendour unite thyself to [thy] form"3-and again: "We drank the soma [symbol of a sacred enthusiasm], we became immortal, we reached the light."4 The symbolic Vedic rite of "wiping out the tracks," so that the dead will not return among the living, well shows how the idea of reincarnation was almost totally absent in this period; such a possibility was ignored in the light of the high degree of heroical, sacrificial, and metaphysical tension belonging to that epoch. There is no trace in the Vedas of the later significance of Yama as god of death and hell; rather, he retains the outlines of his Irano-Aryan equivalent, Yima, sun king of the primor­dial age: son of the "Sun." Yama is the first of the mortals and he "who first found the road [to the hereafter]";5 thus, broadly speaking, the Vedic "hereafter" is bound up in great measure with the idea of a reintegration of the primordial state.

About the tenth century B.C. new developments began: they found expression in the Brāhmana texts on the one hand, and on the other in the Upanisad texts. Both go hack to the tradition of the Vedas: yet there is a noteworthy change of perspective. We are slowly approaching "philosophy" and "theology."

The speculation of the Brāhmana texts rests chiefly on that part of the Vedas that refers to ritual and sacrificial action. Ritual, in all the traditional civilizations, was conceived neither as an empty ceremony nor as a sentimental and, at the same time, formal act of praising and supplicating a God, but rather as an operation with real effects, as a process capable not only of establishing contacts with the


  1. Rg Veda. 10.t4.8.

  2. Ibid., 8.48.3.

  3. Ibid.. 10.14.2.

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rranscendent world, but of imposing itself upon supersensible forces and, through their mediation, eventually influencing even the natural forces. As such, ritual pre-supposes not only knowledge of certain laws, but also, and more essentially, the existence of a power. The term brahman (in the neuter, not to be confused with Brahmā in die masculine, which designates the theistically conceived divinity) origi­nally signified this particular energy, this kind of magic power, this fluid or life force, upon which the ritual rests.

In the Brāhmana texts this ritual aspect of the Vedic tradition was enlarged and formalized. Ritual became the center of everything and the object of a fastidious science that often became a formalism destitute of any vital content. Oldenberg, referring to the period of Prince Siddhattha, talks in this connection of "an idiotic science knows everything and explains everything, and sits enthroned, satisfied, amongst its extravagant creations.'"' This judgment is excessive, but it is not entirely unjustified. In the Buddha's time there existed a caste of theologi philosophantes who administered the remnants of the ancient tradition, trying with all the means in their power to establish a prestige that did not always correspond to their human qualifications or to their race-if not their physical race. which was well eared for by the caste system, at least their spiritual race. We have used the word "theologists" since the concept of brahman in these circles gradually became generalized and, in a manner of speaking, substantialized, to such an extent that the brahman finally no longer signified the mysterious force that, fundamentally, only made sense in terms of ritual and magic experience; it came to mean the soul of the world, the supreme force-substance of the universe, the substratum, indeterminate in itself, of every be­ing and of every phenomenon. It thus became an almost theological concept.

The Upanisads, on the other hand, concentrated mainly on the doctrine of the ātmā, which largely reflected the original cosmic and solar sentiment of the earliest Aryan consciousness, insofar as it stressed the reality of the "I" as the superindi­vidual, unchanging, and immortal principle of the personality, as opposed to the multiple variety of the phenomena and forces of nature. The ātmā is defined by neti netj ("not so, not so"), that is to say, by the idea that it does not belong to nature or, more generally, to the conditioned world.

In India the speculative current of the Brāhmana and that of the Upanisads gradu­ally converged; this convergence resulted in the identification of the brahman with the ātmā: the "I," in its superindividual aspect, and the force-substance of the cosmos be-came one and the same thing. This was a turning point of the greatest importance in the spiritual history of the lndo-Aryan civilization. The doctrine of the identity of the ātmā with the brahman did, in fact, constitute a metaphysical achievement but, at the

6. Oldenburg, Buddha. p. 21

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same time, it initiated a process of breaking up and of spiritual dissolution. This pro­cess was bound to take place as shadows began to cloud the luminosity of the original heroic and cosmic experience of Vedic man and as foreign influences gained ground.



Originally the doctrine of the Upanisads was considered as "secret," as a knowl­edge to be transmitted only to the few-the term Upānisad itself conveyed this idea. But in point of fact the philosophical and speculative tendencies became uppermost. This resulted in divergencies of opinion even in the oldest Upanisad-the Chāndogya-and the Brhadāranyāka Upānisad-as to the plane of consciousness to be used as the reference point for the doctrine. Is the ātmā object of immediate experience or is it not? t is both one and the other at the same time. Its substantial identity with the "I" of the individual is affirmed but, at the same time, we often see the unity of the individual with the ātmā-brahman postponed till after death; and not only this, but conditions are postulated under which it will happen. and the case is considered in which the "1," or rather the elements of the person. may not leave the cycle of finite and mortal existences. n the ancient Upanisads, in fact, no precise solution is ever reached of the problem of the actual relationship existing between the individual "1" of which everyone can talk, and the ātmā-brahman. We do not consider that this was accidental: it was a circumstance that corresponded to an al-ready uncertain state of consciousness, to the fact that, while for the adepts of the "secret doctrine" the "I" could be equated effectively with the ātmā, for the general consciousness the ātmā was becoming a simple speculative concept, an almost theo­logical assumption, since the original spiritual level was beginning to be lost.

Furthermore, the danger of pantheistic confusions showed itself. This danger did not exist in theory since, in the Upanisads, following the Vedic concept, the supreme principle was not only conceived as the substance of the world and of all beings, but also as that which transcends them "by three quarters," existing as "the immortal in the heavens."' n the same Upanisads, however, prominence is also given to the identity of the ātmā-brahman with elements of all kinds in the naturalis­tic world, so that the practical possibility of a pantheistic deviation encouraged by the assimilation of the ātmā with the brahman was real: particularly so. if we take into account the process of man's gradual regression, of which we can find evidence in the teaching of all traditions, including the ndo-Aryan, where the theory of the four yuga corresponds exactly to the classical theory of the four ages and of man's descent to the last of them, the Iron Age, equivalent to the "Dark Age" (kāli-yuga) of the Indo-Aryans. If, during the period of these speculations, the original cosmic and uranic consciousness of the Vedic origins had already suffered in this way a certain overclouding, then the formulation of the theory of the identity of the ātmā with the

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