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25. Maim.. 75.

26. John 4:13-14.

27.Dahlke, Buddhismus als Weltanschauung. pp. 50-57 [Buddhism and Science, pp. 47 -561; Buddhismus als Religion and Moral. pp. 102 ff.


dies down and smolders among the ashes when the supply of material grows short yet ready to blaze forth at every fresh contact, The process of samsāric life is thought of as a flame attached to burning material or rather as a flame that is itself its own material. The contacts develop through attachment, upādāna.. This occurs above all in the fivefold stem that makes up the person in general: materiality, feeling, percep­tion, formations, individuated consciousness. Burning potentially in this stem, thirst develops in each one of its five parts through the series of contacts furnished by the outside world; the world itself appears to the will to burn and to be burning as a kind of varied fuel, a fuel that incites greater combustion in proportion to the delusive satisfaction it affords this will. The theory of anattā, of "not-I," thus has this meaning: the "I" does not exist outside the process of burning, it is this very process-were a halt really made, the "I," the illusion of being "I" would collapse. Here, then, is the reason for the anguish and for the primordial "agitation" of which we have already spoken, here is the profound source of the "triple fire of sensuality, hate, and delu­sion" and of the will that "causes the search for other worlds." The samsāric "I" has its foundation in craving, without which it would collapse. Even in suffering and in pain there works a variety of this profound fire, of the will of conditioned beings for existence, which involves a fundamental abdication.

On this basis the Buddhist theory of samsāra has been able to develop as far as the theory of "instantaneousness" or "instantaneous existence," khana. If existence and the sense of "I" are conditioned by contacts, this existence must resolve itself into the point series of these same contacts. In this sense, strictly speaking, life is instantaneous, just as, in the Buddhist image of the wheel of a wagon whose move­ment is continuous, but which, moving or at rest, touches the ground at only one point. "In the same way the life of beings has only the duration of a thought: the being of the past moment has lived, but does not live and will not live; the being of the future moment will live, but does not live and has not lived; the being of the present moment lives, but has not lived and will not live."29

This is the coup de grace delivered to the Brahmanical theory of ātmā. And even if we ignore the later and more extreme expressions of the theory of "instantaneous existence." however coherent, this way of thinking is enough to destroy the theory of reincarnation that we considered to be largely in Hinduism the effect of foreign influences. In fact, we have already seen that the preoccupation with knowledge of what one was and of what one will be beyond this life is considered by fhe Buddha to be an opining and a rambling that is a disease, a thorn, a sore. a forest, a tumor, a labyrinth. In any case, the idea that "this consciousness persists

  1. Thus in Angutt., 5.69 he who desrroys tanhā, craving. is called "he who destroys the support."

  2. Visuddhi-magga. 8 (W., 150).



unchangeable through the cycle of changing existences" is expressly stated to he "false opinion, not spoken of by the Buddha," the idea of' "a fool,"30 a judgment in which the order of disciples, after questioning by Prince Siddhattha, agrees' The fundamental argument here is that it is impossible in practice to refer the possibility of having already existed to any evidence of consciousness," and in the second place. that "the nature of consciousness is conditioned"33---conditioned above all by "name-and-form"; a real continuity of consciousness is inconceivable where "name-and-form" is liable to change, where new khandha. new and different psychophysical aggregates may he produced in the current. in fact, "it is not the same name-and-form that re-arises."34 When, with the cessation of a life, "name-and-form," that is to say individuality, ceases, it does not go on to exist elsewhere as the same aggregate. We must imagine it, tattier, as the sound of a lute that comes into being without ever having existed elsewhere and that does not pass on to another place when the musician has ceased playing." A continuity does indeed exist, but it is impersonal, it is the continuity of craving, of the "current," of the will to hum in order to he; when this force has exhausted, like fuel, one life it leaps like a flame to attach itself to another stem and to blaze forth in it. According to one text,36 it remains in the intermediate stages as a flame that consumes itself, that is, as pure calorific potential. Strictly speaking we should here refer to a continuum from which both absolute diversity and absolute identity are excluded. A simile used in this connection is that of the flames of the three watches of the night: the torch of the first watch, which, when it is about to die out, lights another torch, and this in its turn, lights a third. These three flames cannot be called either the same or different. One has lighted another, one has the fire of another, but they are all different from each other, and the flame is in each case the flame (life, consciousness) of a different torch. Another simile is that of milk that turns into curd and then into butter and then into cheese. We are dealing with the same substance, but any change of state makes the use of the same name improper, and we cannot say that curd is milk or that butter is curd.'' In changing the

  1. 30. Majjh., 38.

  2. ibid.

  3. Ibid., 101.

  4. Ibid.. 38.

  5. Milindapanha, 46.

  6. Visuddhi-magga, 20 (W., 186), Tantric Buddhism (majra-yana), a bell and a scepter are the two sym­bolic objects used in magicat operations. The bell (ghantā) is the symbol of "knowtedge" of the phenom­enal world, where every reality, as the sound of a bell. is perceptible bu13 evanescent; the scepter, on the other hand. symbotises the mule principle of the vajra, of the diamond-lightning. of which the spirit of every "Awakened One" is composed.

  7. Samyut., 44.9. The text, in fact, says this: "as fuel is necessary for rhe ftame, so a new existence needs a

substance." It is asked, however, what is 13he substance when 13he flame us carried by the wind. The Buddha's

reply in due wind itsetf. It is then asked: when a being leaves one body and arises in another. what is the

fuel indieated by the Lord Gotama? The reply is: "In this case, in tru13h. the fuel is the craving itself."

  1. Miliadapanha, 40-41.


state--in having a different "name-and-form" (philosophically we might say: a dif­ferent principium individuationis)-it is well to change also the denomination.

The only real continuity is a causal connection, a kind of impersonal heredity, The flame that, in a given being, is the life of that being, assumes in the course of that life a certain quality, a certain ha hit us that will last and manifest itself in successive combustions. From this we derive the notion of what are called the sankhārā (the formations) that correspond to the directions adopted by desire and that constitute one of the five groups of the personality; while for the genera] determining law whereby this fundamental force gathers together its particular group of dhamma, or the elements, when manifesting itself, the Upanisad term karma (Pāli: kamma) is used, especially in later Buddhist texts. Thus kamma is spoken of as a "matrix of beings"-kammayoni-and the principle is formulated that "according to the ac­tions of a being, there arises fresh becoming; what one does causes one to become again. Re-become, contacts touch one [that is, the new process of combustion is started]. Beings, then. are the heirs of actions."38 From this kind of concept, however, we must not again presume the continuity of an individual substratum, of an "I"; we should bear in mind, rather, the idea of a flame that moves from one branch (of a tree) to another, and we should take into special account only the particular quality assumed by the tire in the one combustion that transfers itself to the next. This is why there is no answer in the texts to the quesrion: Is it the same individual who feels the effects of a preceding existence or is it another individual? The only answer we can give is to refer to "conditioned genesis," that is, to the process that, in general, leads to samsāric consciousness.39 To the question: Is it the same name-and-form that arises in a new existence'? the answer is: "t is not the same name-and-form that arises in the next existence; but with this name-and-form good or bad actions are done, by means of which a new name-and-form arises in a future existence."40 The text con­cludes: "The effects arise in a series from which both absolute identity and absolute diversity are excluded, whence one cannot say if they are created by the same being or by something different:"41 More radically, we could give the illustration of the billiard ball that moves after receiving both force and direction from another billiard ball, distinct, of course, from the first one-had not this same animated world of ours already provided us with a perfect analogy in the phenomenon of generation and biological heredity: for although distinct from his parent, in the new animal we find the life, the tendencies, the instincts, and often even the blemishes of his forebears.

38. Majjh., 57

  1. Sarhyuti., 12.17.24.

  2. Milindapadha, 46.6-9. Also in Samyutt., 1237, where it is said that this body is considered neither as one's own, nor as someone etse's, hut as derermined by a preceding action, That is, by the energy pro­duced by preceding actions, either mental or physical.

  3. Milindapanha. 46--49; Visuddhr-magga, 17 (W. 238-40).


However, we deem that one should think less of a linear continuity of individual existences, than of so many appearances of a single stem of craving. This, while in the process of combustion, is every single life, every single individual; it is the desire that composes that life, that individual, but that at the same time transcends it and, after returning to a latent state, moves on to emerge elsewhere and to establish itself mainly according to the force and the direction that it has already given itself in its preceding life (or lives).

With this doctrine the compromise inherent in the Upanisadic concept-oscil­lating between truth relative to ātmā consciousness and truth relative to samsaric consciousness-is overcome, and at the same time a severely realistic point of view is established, void of "idealisms" and attenuations. The result is certainly not a consoling view. The Buddha, in a manner of speaking, by speeding up the rhythm has set forth what amounts to the limiting-form of the fall or regression, because it is only in this way that a total reaction can be provoked and the necessity for the ascesis demanded by the path of Awakening undetstood.

Here it will he well to add the following consideration. We have already said that the first two truths of the Ariya, with particular reference to the doctrine of thirst and of fire, may not be directly evident to modem man. He may be able to under-stand them fully only in special or critical moments, because the life he normally leads is as if outside himself; half sleepwalking, he moves between psychological reflexes and images that hide from him the deepest and most fearful substance of existence. Only in particular circumstances is the veil of what is, fundamentally, a providential illusion torn aside. For example, in all moments of sudden danger, on the point of being threatened either by the vanishing of ground from under one's feet through the opening of a chasm or glacier crevasse, or in touching inadvertently a glowing coal or an electrified object, an instantaneous reaction takes place. This reaction does not proceed from the "will," consciousness, nor from the "1." since this part follows only after the initial reaction is complete; in the flrst moment it is pre-ceded by something more profound, more rapid, and more absolute. During extreme hunger. panic, fear, sensual craving, or extreme pain and terror the same force again shows itself-and he who can comprehend it directly in these moments likewise creates for himself the faculty of perceiving it gradually as the invisible substratum of all waking life. The subterranean roots of inclinations, faiths, atavisms, of invin­cible and irrational convictions, habits, and character, all that lives as animality, as biological race, all the urges of the body-all this goes hack to the same principle. Compared with it, rhe "will of the 'I"' has, normally, a liberty equivalent to that of a dog tied to a fairly long chain that he does not notice until he has passed a certain limit. If one goes beyond that limit, the profound force is not slow to awaken, either to supplant the "I" or to mislead it, making it believe that it wills that which, in fact,


the force itself wills. The wild force of imagination and of suggestion takes us to the same point: to that where according to the so-called law of "converse effort," one does something the more strongly the more one "wills" against it-as sleep eludes one the more one "wills" it, or as the suggestion that one will fall into an abyss will certainly cause one to fall if one "wills" against it.

This force, which is connected with the emotive and irrational energies, gradu­ally identifies itself as the very force that rules the profound functions of physical life, over which the "will," the "mind," and the "I" have very little influence, to which they arc external and on which they live parasitically, extracting the essential fluids yet without having to go down for them into the heart of the trunk. Thus one must ask oneself: What, of this "my" body, can be justifiably thought of as subject to "my" will? Do "I" will "my'' breath or the mixtures of the digestive juices by which food is digested? Do "I" will my form, my flesh, or my being this man who is condi­tioned thus and nof otherwise? Can he who asks himself this not go on even further and ask himself: My "will" itself, my consciousness, my "I"-do I will these, or simply is it that they are?

We shall see that the Doctrine of Awakening actually asks questions of this kind. And he who is strong enough to force himself, in this sense, to go beyond illusion, cannot help arriving at this disconcefting conclusion: "You are not life in yourself. You do not exist. You cannot say 'mine' of anything. You do not possess life-it is life that possesses you. You suffer it. And the possibility of immortal sur­vival of this phantom 'I' at the dissolution of the body is only a mirage, since every-thing tells you that its correlation with this body is essential to you and a trauma, an indisposition, a fainting fit, or any kind of accident has a definite influence over all its faculties, however 'spiritual' and 'superior' they may be."

There are some who, at certain moments, are able to become detached from themselves, get beneath the surface, down into the dark depths of the force that rules their body, and where this force loses name and identity. They have the sensation of this force expanding and including "1" and "not-I." pervading all nature, substantiat­ing time, supporting myriad beings as if they were drunk or hallucinated, reestablish­ing itself in a thousand forms, irresistible, untamed, inexhaustible, ceaseless, limit-less, burning with eternal insufftciency and hunger. He who reaches this fearful per­ception, like an abyss suddenly opening, grasps the mystery of samsara and of samsāric consciousness and understands and fully lives anatta, the doctrine of nonaseity, of "not-I." The passage from purely individual consciousness to this samsāric conscious­ness that includes indefinite possibilities of existence, both "infernal" and celes­tial-this, fundamentally, is the basis of the whole Doctrine of Awakening. We are not dealing here with a "philosophy" hut with an experience that, to tell the truth, is not the sole property of Buddhism. Traces and echoes of it are also to he found in


other traditions, both Eastern and Wesrern: in the West, particularly in terms of se­cret knowledge and of initiatory experience. The theory of universal pain, of life as pain, does not represent, in this respect, anything other than something completely external and, as we have already said, profane. Where it has been widely diffused it refers only to the forms of a popular exposition.

From the point of view of Western mentality, as a general outlook, two forms or degrees of existence and samsāric consciousness can be distinguished: one is truly samsāric, the other is limited to the time and the space of a single individual exist­ence. The consciousness prevalent in the modern West is this second one. But this only represents a part, a section of a consciousness or a samsāric existence that stretches out across time, and that, as we have just poinfed out, may also include states free from the temporal law that we know. In the ancient Eastern world there still existed, in great measure, this much vaster samsāric consciousness. And the initiatory-ascetic path considered as an essential first phase the passage from the particular consciousness that is hound to a single life and defined by the illusion of the individual "I" to truly samsāric consciousness: a concept to which the notion of santāna, of the "1" as flux, current or indefinite series of insubstantial states deter-mined by dukkha, also corresponds, Only after mastering this phase can a passage be found to what is really unconditioned and extra-samsaric. But, as we shall soon see when we speak of the vocations, it is very rare in the West to find anyone who does not confuse the unconditioned, the absolute, with what are only higher states of samsāric consciousness.



Conditioned Genesis

The problem of "origin," corresponding to the second truth of the Ariya, is investi­gated more deeply in what is known as doctrine of dependent origination or "condi­tioned genesis" (paticca-samuppada), which makes a separate study of the stages and states by which conditioned existence is arrived at. "Profound, hard to perceive, hard to understand, peaceful, elevated, not reducible to discursive thought, subtle, accessible (only) to the wise" this doctrine is called.' It seems that it may have been due to the common man's difficulties in understanding it. that Prince Siddhattha at first hesitated to reveal it: "a doctrine that leads on against the current, internal and profound, it will he invisible to those who are ensnared by craving, wrapped up in the shadow of ignorance."2 This should be borne in mind by all who, in this matter, like to advance a "caveat against reading profound metaphysical concepts into this old series."3 Indeed, we are dealing here with the results of a transcendental investiga­tion, realized-according to tradition-in states of consciousness corresponding to the three watches of the night, during which Prince Siddhattha's spiritual activity brought him to superrational illumination, to bodhi.4 We must therefore also antici­pate the objection that this discourse on transcendental states, in spite of the declared ostracism of all speculation, is based on simple philosophical hypotheses. Buddhism belongs to a civilization that accepted as a principle the possibility of insight "with which not only this world but also the world beyond is seen"5 and thence the possibil­ity of discovering in certain conditions, both the states that precede the appearance

1. Samyutt., 6.1.

2 Majjh., 2h.

  1. C. A. F. Rhys Davids in (he introduction to Kindred Sayings (the translation of Samyutta-nikaya London. 19221), vol. 2, p. 6.

  2. Mahavagga (Vin.). 1.1.2; Majjh., 4.

  3. Digha, 19. I5: Majjh., 34.


of a man in a bodily existence and those that occur when this form of manifestation is exhausted.' The horizons of our contemporaries are naturally very different, and for this reason the impression that we are dealing here simply with theories cannot he entirely eliminated.

However, in one way or another, it is still necessary to penetrate this knowl­edge, since it is fundamental both for the doctrinal and the practical part of the Bud­dhist teaching. "He who sees conditioned genesis"-it is said'-"sees the truth (dhamma) and he who sees the truth sees conditioned genesis." And again: "Of all things which proceed from cause, the Accomplished One has explained the cause and also its destruction. This is the doctrine of the great ascetic."8 It serves as the immediate basis for practical action, and it is the generator of "tranquillity" (the opposite state to dukkha), because its meaning is this: "If that is, this comes of it; with the origin of that this originates; if that is not, this does not come of it; with the end of that this ends."' By knowing what are the causes in virtue of which we come to a stale of samsāric existence, we also know that their removal also removes this same state of samsāric existence. For this reason the doctrine of paticca-samuppada con­stirutes the premise for the two remaining truths of the Ariya: namely, the third truth concerning nirodha, that is, the possibility of the destruction of the state marked by dukkha; and the fourth truth concerning magga, or the methods to be followed in order to achieve such a destruction.

The paticca-samuppāda-which literally means "conditioned genesis" or "for­mation"-considers a series of twelve conditioned states. The term used is paccaya, condition, and not hew, cause: it is a question of conditionality and not of true causal­ity. We may here return to the simile of a substance that, in being transformed. passes through various states, each of which contains the potentiality of giving place, in appropriate circumstances, to the next, or, if neutralized, of suspending the next. On what Ievel does this causal series develop?

Oriental commentators and, naturally, still more, European Orientalists have often held discordant opinions on this point. This is due to their not having realized that the same series is susceptible of two different interpretations, neither of which excludes or contradicts the other since each refers to a distinct plane. According to the first interpretation-followed unanimously by those on guard against "metaphysics"-the entire series develops on the plane of samsāric existence and provides a

  1. For this second form of knowledge, cf. Bantu Thodol (The Tibetan Bonk of the Dead). trans W. Y. Evans-'Wentz [London, 1927]. Cf. also Majjh., t36, where ir is said that tbrough cetosamadhi the ascetic per­ceives the posthumous destiny of beings.

  2. Majjh., 28.

  3. Mahavegga (Vin.), 1.23.10

  4. Samyutt., 12.21.41.


detailed account of the process, which is one developing in time-let us say: in a horizontal direction. Accordingly, a single finite existence is determined by others preceding it, while it, in its turn. determines a successive existence or a number of successive existences. It is thus at the same time an effect in one respect and a cause in another.

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