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This book can be purchased at This text is currently being hosted at THE DOCTRINE OF
THE ATTAINMENT OF SELF-MASTERY
THE EARLIEST BUDDHIST TEXTS
TRANSLATED FROM THE ITALIAN BY
H. E. MUSSON
Inner Traditions International One Park Street Rochester, Vermont 05767
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or utilized in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanicaΙ, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publisher.
LIBRARY OF CONGRESS CAΤALOGING-IN-PUBLICATION DATA
Evola, Julius, 1898-1974.
[La dottrina del risveglio. English]
The doctrine of awakening the attainment of sell-mastery according to the earliest Buddhist texts / Julius Evola translated by H. E. Musson. ρ, cm.
1. Spiritual life-Buddhism. 2. Buddhism-Doctrines. I. Musson, H. E. ΒQ4302.Ε96I3 I995
294.3'422-dc20 95-21532 CIP
Printed and bound in the United States
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In this work we have, apart from the two last chapters, based ourselves exclusively upon the Sutta-piţaka, which contains the most important and most ancient portion of Pāli Buddhism.
Many of the Buddhist teachings are set forth in the form of leitmotif, that is to say, of passages that recur in various texts, almost in identical form. Wherever possible we have referred to these motifs in their contexts in the Majjhima-nikāya. There was moreover a specific reason for this, namely, that there is accessible to the Italian public a really first-class translation of this text, and which is also a noteworthy work of art, made by K- E. Neumann and G. de Lorenzo (1 discorsi di Buddho [Bari, 1916--27] 3 vols.). We have done our best to make the maximum use of this translation. For the other texts we give the reader the following references should he or she wish to refer to them.
Dīghat-nikilya in Sacred Books of the Buddhists, trans. T. W. Rhys Davids (London, 1899-1910). For the sutta no. 16, which is the Mahāparinibbāna-sutta, we have also made use of the Chinese version, translated into Italian by C. Puini (Lanciano. 1919).
Samyutta-nikāya, trans. C. A. F. Rhys Davids and F. L. Woodward. Pali text edition (London, 1922-24), 4 vols,
Anguttarā-nikāyā, ed. Nyānatiloka (Die Reden des Buddhas) [Munich and Neubiberg, 1922-23].
Of the Dhāmmāpāda there exists the Italian translation by P. E. Pavolini, Lanciano, ed. Cultura dell 'anima.
The quotations from these, as from other texts, follow the paragraphing of the originals. Concerning those that have been made available by H. C. Warren, Buddhism in Translations (Cambridge, Mass.. 1909. first published 1896), we have given in brackets the letter W.
For the Vinava-piţaka, see Sacred Books of the East, vol. 13, Dhamma-sangani, trans. C- A. F, Rhys Davids (London, 1900).
Translator's Foreword ix
PART I: PRINCIPLES
Varieties of Ascesis 3
The Aryan-ness of the Doctrine of Awakening 13
The Historical Context of the Doctrine of Awakening 21
Destruction of the Demon of Dialectics 38
The Flame and Samsāric Consciousness 44
Conditioned Genesis 57
Determination of the Vocations 73
PART II: PRACTICE
The Qualities of the Combatant and the "Departure" 95
Defense and Consolidation 107
11. Sidereal Awareness: The Wounds Close 130
The Four Jhāna: The "Irradiant Contemplations" 146
The States Free from Form and the Extinction 165
Discrimination Between the "Powers" 183
Phenomenology of the Great Liberation 191
16. Signs of the Nonpareil 203
The Void: "If the Mind Does Not Break" 212
Up to Zen 220
The Ariya Are Still Gathered on the Vulture's Peak 231
Of the many books published in Italy and Germany by Julius Evola, this is the first to be translated into English. The book needs no apology; the subject-Buddhism-is sufficient guarantee of that. But the author has, it seems to me, recaptured the spirit of Buddhism in its original form, and his schematic and uncompromising approach will have rendered an inestimable service even if it does no more than clear away some of the woolly ideas that have gathered round the central figure, Prince Siddharttha, and round the doctrine that he disclosed.
The real significance of the book, however, lies not in its value as a weapon in a dusty battle between scholars, but in its encouragement of a practical application of the doctrine it discusses. The author has not only examined the principles on which Buddhism was originally based, but he has also described in some detail the actual process of "ascesis" or self-training that was practiced by the early Buddhists. This study, moreover, does not stop here; it maintains throughout that the doctrine of the Buddha is capable of application even today by any Western person who really has the vocation. But the undertaking was never easy, and the number who, in this modern world, will succeed in pursuing it to its conclusion is not likely to be large.
H. E. M. 
In his autobiography il cammino del cinabro (The Cinnabar Path), Julius Evola re-called:
"During the last years of the 1930s I devoted myself to working on two of my most important books of Eastern wisdom; I completely revised L'uomo come potenza [Man As Power], which was given a new title, Lo yoga della potenza [The Yoga of Power', and wrote a systematic work concerning primitive Buddhism entitled La dottrina del risveglio [The Doctrine of Awakening]."
The recent discovery of the correspondence between Evola and his publisher allows us to specify the sequence of events and modify it, at least in part. In a letter dated October 20. 1942, Evola wrote to Laterza with a proposal:
"It is a new book entitled La dottrina del risveglio. carrying the subtitle Saggio sull'ascesi buddista [Essay on Buddhist Asceticism]. This is a work that I have almost completed concerning the practical and virile aspect of Buddhist teachings, with particular emphasis on the striving after the Unconditioned. I believe that my book's exposition of Buddhist teachings on this basis explained in a way that everybody will understand, constitutes something original and will be of interest to more than a handful of specialized scholars.
After Laterza accepted this project, the final manuscript was mailed on November 30, 1942. It was sent to press in February 1943, and the last revisions were made during the first ten days of August. The book was finally printed in September 1943 during a period of radical political and military upheaval. The author was able to see a copy of La dottrina only after the war was over.
About his book, Evola wrote, "I have paid a debt that I had toward Buddha's doctrine," which had "a definite influence in helping me overcome the inner crisis I experienced right after World War I." He also added:
Later on, I made a practical and rewarding use of Buddhist texts, in order to strengthen a detached awareness of the principle of "being." He who was a prince of the Sākya pointed out a series of inner disciplines that I felt were very congenial to my spirit, just as I felt religious and especially Christian asceticism totally alien to me.
Evola was neither a Buddhist nor a Buddhist scholar, and always considered it a misunderstanding that some would classify him as such. Buddhism was a "way," one among other "ways" available to people who live in the last age, the Kali Yuga. In his autobiography Evola explained his need to explore and to point out to others the various spiritual paths that could be found in Eastern and Western traditions: these paths, he believed, helped one to remain steady in this "age of dissolution." After expounding the "wet path," the path "of affirmation, of the assumption, use, and transformation of immanent forces that are freed until Sakti's awakening, which is the power root of every vital energy and especially of sex" in the Yoga of Power, in The Doctrine of Awakening he indicated a "dry path," an intellectual approach of pure detachment. Some people have thought of these paths as opposites, but Evola explicitly declared them to be "equivalent, as far as the final goal is concerned, provided they are followed to the end, though one may be preferred to the other depending on the circumstances, one's own nature and inner, existential dispositions." These words need to be emphasized. They were written in 1963 and express the same point of view as twenty years earlier. Evola noted then that his hook was:
The counterpart to some of my previous works in which I have popularized doctrines that have indicated different ways to achieve the same goal, namely, the deconditioning of the human being, enlightened awakening, and the initiatory opening of one's consciousness.
This is the underlying theme of Evola's multiform and apparently contradictory (to a superficial reader) literary production; to indicate paths of inner salvation available to those who live in the fourth age. Evola wrote:
If, on the one hand, this civilization is harvesting more victims than any other known pagan idol, on the other hand, its nature is such that in it, even heroism, sacrifice, and struggle display, almost without exception, a lightless, "elementary," and merely earthly character, due precisely to the lack of any transcendent reference point.
In these desperate times, Evola has indicated a number of "transcendent reference points" for us through his works, each one different from the others and adaptable to different personalities. The techniques of spiritual realization that are part of Western Hermeticism are discussed in The Hermetic Tradition (1931; English translation, 1995); the "initiatory content" of the symbolism of medieval knightly literature is covered in The Mystery of the Grail (1937; translation forthcoming); the "esotericism" present in Taoism is discussed in his introductions to the Tao-te-ching (1923 and 1959), which essays have been published in English under the title Taoism: The Magic, theMysticism (1995); the "path of magic" is the subject of his contributions to Introduzione alla magia (1955); and finally, the "path of sex" is discussed in Eros and the Mysteries of Love: The Metāphysics of Sex (1958; translation 1983). To these one could add "political" versions of the "wet path" in his Giluomini e le rovine (1953; [Men amid Ruins]) and the "dry path" in Cāvālcāre la tigre (1961; [Riding the Tiger]). These can be seen as Evola's attempts, at times on the external plane, at other times on the inner plane, to promote a change in the mentality of the Italian man, whom he stereotypes as a mandolin-playing, macaroni-eating fellow who is all pizza, mafia, and church. Evola proposed both the path of action and the path of meditation as the means to effect this change. During both the fascist and democratic regimes this intent always informed his work, though he also knew he was addressing a country of Catholics. This helps to explain why he introduced the Buddhist "Doctrine of Awakening," since as a system or technique it could be grafted onto any religion without coming into conflict with any specific doctrines.
In The Doctrine of Awakening Evola wove together several traditions. For example, in the Fulfilled or Awakened One whom he describes we find an echo of the inner and outer characteristics of his understanding of the "Roman style"; moreover, in primitive Buddhism he finds again the traits of a nontheistic spirituality (that has nothing to do with morality): of self-mastery; and of the achievement of a degree of spirituality that is closer to the divine. According to Evola, Tantrism and primitive Buddhism are like two faces of the same coin and indicate a "detached path of asceticism that is almost 'Olympian.'"
Moreover, the identification of primitive Buddhism and Tantrism as methods, systems, or paths available to modern Westerners is owing to the fact that, according to Evola, they belong to the "cycle in which modern humanity happens to live." More exactly, "primitive Buddhism has been formulated in view of an existential condition of man that, though distant from that of Western materialism and the correlative eclipse of every living traditional wisdom, nevertheless already possessed its warning signs and seeds." Thus, primitive Buddhism presents itself as a "complete and virile system of asceticism formulated during the cycle to which moderm man belongs." In modern man, whose life is "almost external to himself, semi-somnambulistic, moving between psychological reflexes and images that hide from him the deepest and purest substance of life," we can see a shift from a purely individual consciousness to a samsāric consciousness that assumes indefinite possibilities of existence or rebirths (gati).
In regard to the practical actualization of an "ascetic" doctrine that seems to have been conceived for a concrete lifestyle very different from that of the modern Westerner, the problems can be overcome precisely through the apparently most difficult one, namely, "detachment from the world." Evola explains that the Pāli texts indicate three types of detachment; physical, mental, and physical-mental Today the second type isthe most viable one:
Once detachment, viveka, is interpreted mainly in this internal sense, it appears perhaps easier to achieve it today than in a more normal and traditional civilization. One who is still an "Aryan" spirit in a large European or American city, with its skyscrapers and asphalt, with its politics and sport, with its crowds who dance and shout, with its exponents of secular culture and of soulless science and so on-among all this he may feel himself more alone and detached and nomad than he would have done in the rime of the Buddha, in conditions of physical isolation and of actual wandering. The greatest difficulty, in this respect, lies in giving this sense of internal isolation, which today may occur to many almost spontaneously, a positive, full, simple, and transparent character, with elimination of all traces of aridity, melancholy, discord, or anxiety. Solitude should not he a burden, something that is suffered, that is borne involuntarily, or in which refuge is taken by force of circumstances, but rather, a natural, simple, and free disposition, in a text we read: "Solitude is called wisdom [ekattam monam akkhatarin], he who is alone will find that he is happy"; it is an accentuated version of "beata solitudo, sofa beatitudo." (see p. 103)
This is a theme that Evola will develop in his Cavalcare In tigre, a book conceived and partially written in the early 1950s and published in the 1960s. Cavalcare latigre points out an "existential path" that, like the "Doctrine of Awakening," is meant for "a very restricted circle of people who are endowed with a not too common inner strength." At the center of that work, as in Doctrine, there is the problem of the "inviolability of being" vis à vis the devouring Becoming that surrounds us. The themes of "he who stays by going and goes by staying"; of kaftan karaniyam, "done is what needed to be done," or "the work has been completed because it had to be, without reasons why or benefits"; of surviving death, which "can logically be conceived only for those few who, as human beings, were able to realize themselves as more than mere human beings"; of "everybody is lord unto himself, there is no other lord, and by dominating yourself you will have a master the like of whom it is hard to find" (as is written in the Dhammapāda) are all taken up, developed, and adapted to the theses of Cavalcāre la tigre.
The Prince Siddhartha whom Evola describes is certainly not the one depicted by Hermann Hesse in his novel, which has become a sort of livre de chevet to many contemporary readers, especially the young ones. The historical Siddhartha was a prince of the Sākya, a kşatriya (belonging to the warrior caste), an "ascetic fighter" who opened a path by himself with his own strength. Thus Evola emphasizes the "aristocratic" character of primitive Buddhism, which he defines as having the "presence in it of a virile and warrior strength (the lion's roar is a designation of Buddha's proclamation) that is applied to a nonmaterial and atemporal plane...since it transcends such a plane, leaving it behind." The "essential nucleus of Buddhism is therefore metaphysical and initiatory." he wrote, while its interpretation "as a mere moral code based on compassion, humanitarianism, and escape from life because life is `suffering,' is absolutely extrinsic, profane, and superficial."
Thus, we can understand the number of polemics this "essay on Buddhist asceticism" generated among the representatives of different interpretations of Buddhism. who accused Evola of "arbitrariness." Despite their disapproval, a number of British and French Buddhist centers and international scholars of Buddhism have expressed their esteem for Evola's work.
Evola published his Doctrine of Awakening (La dottrina del risveglio) in 1943, a time when history took a tragic turn, particularly in Italy where the outbreak of a most cruel civil war occurred in the context of a world conflict that seemed to sentence European civilization to death. Entire cities, turned into ashes, had ceased to exist, and this was just the prelude to the imminent apocalypse. In this tragic atmosphere, in which intellectuals were expected to assume a fighting attitude based on the values of action, courage, and heroism, Evola wrote a book on Buddhism for his readers! Keeping in mind the image that the West had formed of Eastern traditions, and more specifically, of the teachings of Sākyamuni, one can see how in Italy, among the numerous potential readers of such an unexpected work, there were some who saw in this "essay on Buddhist asceticism" a sort of provocation. This was especially so considering that Evola's aristocratic origins did not seem particularly to predispose him to be interested in a religion in which monks, alienated from the world, played a predominant role.
This reaction to the work was obviously a misunderstanding. It ignores the fact that the future Buddha was also of noble origins, that he was the son of a king and heir to the throne and had been raised with the expectation that one day he would inherit the crown. He had been taught martial arts and the art of government, and having reached the right age, he had married and had a son. All of these things would be more typical of the physical and mental formation of a future samurai than of a seminarian ready to take holy orders. A man like Julius Evola was particularly suitable to dispel such a misconception.
He did so on two fronts in his Doctrine: on the one hand, he did not cease to recall the origins of the Buddha, Prince Siddhartha, who was destined to the throne of Kapilavastu: on the other hand, he attempted to demonstrate that Buddhist asceticism is not a cowardly resignation before life's vicissitudes, but rather a struggle of a spiritual kind, which is not any less heroic than the struggle of a knight on the battlefield. As Buddha himself said (Mahavagga, 2.15): "It is better to die fighting than to live as one vanquished." This resolution is in accord with Evola's ideal of overcoming natural resistances in order to achieve the Awakening through meditation; it should he noted, however, that the warrior terminology is contained in the oldest writings of Buddhism, which are those that best reflect the living teaching of the master. Evola works tirelessly in his hook to erase the Western view of a languid and dull doctrine that in fact was originally regarded as aristocratic and reserved for real "champions."
After Schopenhauer, the unfounded idea arose in Western culture that Buddhism involved a renunciation of the world and the adoption of a passive attitude: "Let things go their way; who cares anyway." Since in this inferior world "everything is evil," the wise person is the one who, like Simeon the Stylite, withdraws, if not to the top of a pillar; at least to an isolated place of meditation. Moreover, the most widespread view of Buddhists is that of monks dressed in orange robes, begging for their food; people suppose that the only activity these monks are devoted to is reciting memorized texts, since they shun prayers; thus, their religion appears to an outsider as a form of atheism.
Evola successfully demonstrates that this view is profoundly distorted by a series of prejudices. Passivity? Inaction? On the contrary, Buddha never tired of exhorting his disciples to "work toward victory"; he himself, at the end of his life, said with pride: katam karaniyam, "done is what needed to he done!" Pessimism?