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  1. Ibid., 89.

  2. Suttanipata, 2.2.1 I: Dhammapada, 14t.

66. Mahavagge (Vin.) 1.6.17; Samyutt., 42.t2: Majjh.. 139.

67. Samyutt., 52.12.

68. Majjh.,85.

69, We must note that here is meant obviously forms of breath retention emptoyed purety as ascetic practices, not of those special hatha-yoga practices. with initiatory aims, or which we have spoken in our book, The Yoga of Power (Rochester, Vt., 1992),


shade of a rose-apple tree, he had felt himself in a state of calm, clarity, balance, peace, far from desire, far from disturbing things. Then there arose in him "con­sciousness in conformity with knowledge: 'This is the way.'

This manner of the Buddha's ascesis is significant: it clearly shows the features of an ascesis that is Aryan, "classical," clear, balanced, free from "sin" complexes and from "bad conscience," free from spiritualized and sanctified masochism. In this connection it is worth noting that one of the maxims of Buddhism is that one who, being without imperfection does not recognize, in conformity with truth: "In me there is no imperfection," is far worse than one who, on the other hand, knows: "In me there is no imperfection." And a simile follows: a polished and shining bronze vessel that is not used or cleaned would, after a time become dirty and stained; similarly. one who is not aware of his own uprightness is much more exposed to confusions and deviations of every kind than one who is so aware.71 There is no question, here, in any way, of pride and self-conceit; it is a question of a process of purification through a just and dignified consciousness. This attitude should put in their place those who, through feeling themselves to he hermits, penitents, poor, clothed in rags or through observing the most elementary forms of morality, exalt themselves and believe that they are entitled to despise others." The Ariyan ascesis is as void of vanity and stupid pride (which. as uddhacca, is considered as a bond), as it is permeated with dignity and calm self-knowledge.

This does not mean, however, that we should he under any illusion and believe rhat exceptional inward energies are unnecessary in Buddhism and that the most severe self-discipline should not be imposed. He who realized that the way of pain­ful asceticism was not the right one, was yet capable of satisfying himself that he was able to follow it to its extreme limit. Thus, at the moment in which the vocation is determined and one has the sensation of the emergence of the element panna , one musr also have the strength to make an absolute and inflexible resolution. In the forest of Gosinga, on a clear moonlit night, when the trees were in full blossom and gave the impression that celestial scents were being wafted around, various dis­ciples of the Buddha asked each other what type of ascetic could adorn such a forest, and discussed this or that discipline and this or that power achieved. When the Buddha was asked, he said: "An ascetic who, after the meal, seats himself with his legs crossed, his body erect and resolves: `I will not rise from here until my mind is without attachment and free from any mania: Such a monk can adorn the forest of Gosinga."" In the canonical texts something similar to a "vow" is often mentioned in these terms: "In the confident disciple, who energetically trains himself in the order

70 Cf.. e.g.. Majjh.. 12, 36.

  1. 'bid , 5.

  2. Ibid., 113.

  3. Ibid., .32.


of the Master, there arises this notion: 'Willingly may there remain of my body only skin and tendons and bones, and let my flesh and my blood dry up: but until that which can be obtained with human vigour, human strength, human valour has been obtained, l shall continue to strive."74 Yet another text speaks of the desperate strength with which a man would struggle against a current, knowing that otherwise he would be carried into waters full of whirlpools and voracious creatures." Struggle, effort, absolute action, iron determination, all these are essential-but in a special "style." 11 is-let us again repeat-the style of one who maintains his self-knowledge, who exerts his strength where it should he exerted, with clear knowledge of cause and effect, paralyzing the irrational movements of the mind, his fears and hopes and who never loses the calm and composed consciousness of his nobility and of his superior­ity. t is in such terms that the Doctrine of Awakening is offered and recommended to those who "still remain steadfast"

74, Samyutt.. 12.22; Angutt., 8.13; 5 Majjh.,70. 75. Itivuttaka. 109.





The Qualities of

the Combatant and the "Departure"

The training or development (bhāvanā) presents in the Buddhist doctrine two stages. In the first place, there are the kinds of discipline that, not being carried beyond a cer­tain point, serve only for this life; they are distinguished from those that are considered as "wisdom" and that relate to a more than human experience (uttari-manussa-dhamma).1 More important and more general, however, is the division of the whole ascesis into three sections: the preparatory section of "right conduct" (sila); the section of spiritual concentration and contemplation (samadhi); and finally, the section of "wisdorn" or transcendental knowledge and spiritual illumination (panna); (Skt.: prajnā).2

In what follows we propose to arrange the disciplines referred to in the texts into one or other of these three sections in the manner most satisfactory for the reader. Our aim is not purely informative; we hope to provide also, for anyone who may he interested, some practical guidance. The exposition, then, will he accompanied, where necessary, by an interpretation based on what can be considered as "constant" in a careful comparison of the various traditions.

Before we discuss the instruments of the ascesis we must make some general observations on the preliminary conditions required of the individual, apart from what has already been said about the determination of the vocations.

The first point is that in order to aspire to awakening one must be a human being. The possibility of achieving absolute liberation is offered primarily, accord­ing to Buddhism. only to one who is born a man. Not only those who are in lower conditions of existence than the human, but also those who are in higher conditions, such as the devil, the celestial or "angelical" beings, do not have this opportunity. While, on the one hand, the human condition is considered to be one of fundamental
1. Majjh., 53; Samyutt., 41.9 2. Cf. Digha, 10. passim.


contingency and infirmity, on the other it is thought of as a privileged state, obtain-able only with grear difficulty-"it is a hard thing to be born a man."' The supermundane destiny of beings is decided upon earth: the theory of the bodhisattva even considers the possibility of "descents" to earth of beings who have already achieved very high, "divine" states of consciousness, in order to complete the work, As we shall see, liberation can occur also in posthumous states: but even in these cases it is thought of as the consequence or development of a realization or of a "knowledge" already achieved on earth. Man's privilege, as conceived by Buddhism along such lines, would seem to he one that is connected with a fundamental liberty. From this point of' view man is potentially an atideva, he is of a higher nature than the "gods," for the same reason as is found in the hermetic tradition;4 that is, since he contains in himself, not only divine nature to which angels and gods are tied, but also mortal nature, not only existence but also nonexistence: whence he has the opportu­nity of arriving at the supertheistic summit that we have discussed, and which is in fact the "great liberation."

Those who desired to enter the order created by Prince Siddhattha were specifi­cally asked: Are you really a man?5 It is taken as a premise in this case that not all those who appear to be human are really "men." The views, widespread in ancient ndia as elsewhere, that in some men anima] beings were reincarnated-or vice versa: that some men would be "reborn" in this or that "animal womb"-may be understood symbolically:6 they refer, that is, to human existences whose central ele­ment is guided entirely by one of those elemental forces that externally manifest themselves in the normal way in one or other animal species. We have, moreover, already spoken of the limitations arising out of the various "races of the spirit."

A third point is that an original condition imposed by the canon for admission into the order was that of being of male sex. Eunuchs, hermaphrodites, and women were not accepted.' The Ariyan road of awakening was considered as substantially and essentially manly. "It is impossible, it cannot be"-says a canonical text8-"that a woman should arrive at the full enlightenment of a Buddha, or become a universal sovereign [cakkavatti]"; likewise it is impossible for her to "conquer heaven, nature, and the universe," to "dominate celestial spirits.'"' The Buddha considered women insatiable in respect of Iwo things: sex and motherhood; so insatiable that they can-

  1. Dhammapada. 182.

  2. Cf. Corpus Hermeticum. 9.4: 10.24-25.

  3. Mahavagsa (Vin.), 1.76.1.

  4. Cf. Bardo Thodol, p. 54

  5. Mahavagga (Vin.). 1.76.1; 2.22.4. It may he observed that the same limitations are considered for the ordination of Catholic priests.

  6. Majjh., 115.

9. Ibid.; Angutt, 1.20.

not free themselves from these cravings before death.10 He repeatedly opposed the entry of women into the order: when he finally admitted them he declared that, as a flourishing field of rice prospers no longer when a parasitical grass invades and spreads in the field, so the saintly life in an order does not prosper if it allows women to renounce the world-and he tried to limit the danger by promulgating opportune rules." Later, however, less intransigent views became widespread: even in the ca­nonical texts-in spite of these words of the Buddha-there figure women who have entered into the current of awakening and who expound the doctrine of the Ariya, until in the texts of the prajnaparamita, instead of the simple mode of address "noble sons," there appears, without further ceremony, "noble sons and noble daughters"-a sign, among others, of the easing of the spiritual tension of original Buddhism.

We have now to discuss what are known as the five qualities of rhe combatant that are required in the disciple;12 these involve both internal and external condi­tions. The first is the strength conferred by confidence (saddhabala): confidence, if we refer to historical Buddhism, in the fact that its founder was perfectly awakened and in the truth of its doctrine; or, more generally, that there are beings who "have reached the summit, the perfection; that they themselves, with their supramundane power, have apprehended both this world and the other and are capable of promul­gating their knowledge."13 In a simile of an "unconquerable frontier citadel," this confidence of the noble son is likened to the central tower of the stronghold that, with its deep foundations, gives protection against enemies and strangers_"

Besides confidence, the "combatant" must he endowed with that "knowledge" and wisdom of the Ariya that "perceives rise and fall." Of this we have already spoken at length. Let us remember that, in an entirely general sense, by bodhisatta is meant one who, by means of this very knowledge, is already inwardly transformed, whose core is already composed of bodhi or pannnā instead of samsaric forces.

Third, one must be genuine, not false, and one must be able to make oneself known according to truth for what one is to the Master or to one's intelligent codisciples. To have a pure bean, a free ductile mind-to be, symbolically, like a perfectly white cloth that can easily be dyed the desire., color without showing blemishes or imperfections."

t0. Angutt., 2.6.10.

1 I. Ibid., 8.51; Calla vagga (Vin.). 10.1. Other Buddhist expressions about women: "seducers and astute, they destroy the noble tife" (Jataka, 263). "They are sensual, had, common. hate. , . Women arc continuatty in the power of the senses. Saturated with an impure and inexorable burning, they resemble fire which consumes all" (Jataka. 61). And again: "The country dominated by a woman is to be despised. And so to he despised is rhe being who becomes dominated by the power of a woman" (Jataka, 13). The original doctrine of the Ariya was firmty antigynaecocratic.

  1. Majjh., 90.

  2. Cf. Samyutt, 42.13.

  3. Angutt., 7.63.

15. Majjh., 7; 56, etc.


Fourth we have viriya-bala, or virile energy (the root of viriya is the same as that of the Latin term vie, man in the particular sense, as opposed to homo), a strength of will, which here shows itself as the power of repelling unhealthy tendencies and states and of promoting the appearance of healthy ones. Above all, one must rely on this strength to replace delight in craving (kama-sukham) by delight in heroism (vira-sukham);16 a substitution that is a basic point of the whole ascetic development: one must fundamentally change one's attitude in such a way that the heroic pleasure becomes the highest and most intense pleasure that the mind enjoys. Buddhism teaches: "Each man is master of himself-there is no other master: by ruling your-self you will find a rare and precious master,"17 and again: "Not by others can one be purified";18 "alone you are in the world, and without help."19 Here again the viriya-bala provides the strength for standing firm in face of all this, n Buddhism, there are no masters in the true sense of the word guru; there are only those who can point out the road that has to be followed entirely by one's own efforts: "t is for you your-selves to carry out the work: the Buddhas (only) instruct."20

The fifth quality of the Ariyan combatant: he "is firm, vigorous, well set up, neither depressed nor exated, balanced, fit to win the battle." The presence of blindness, deafness, or any incurable disease was, in the canon, a reason for nonadmission to the order.21 To be old, ill, or needy are "unfavourable conditions for the battle.' "Manias to overcome by avoidance" is the heading given to those unfavorable states that arise in one who does not look after his own health and who does not take necessary measures to avoid physical disturbances and troubles caused by surroundings.23 The loss of one's strength through excessive abstinence is considered as one of the possible causes-to be avoided-of the loss of tranquillity of spirit, and of eventually falling a victim in one of the many pastures sown with bait by the Malign One.24 We have already spoken of the negative attitude of Buddhism toward the path of "mortification": training in privation and pain is salutary, but only up to a certain point; in the same way, a craftsman heats an arrow between two fires in order to make it flexible and straight, but he ceases when his purpose has been achieved." Both excessive tension and excessive slackness must be avoided: "the strings must be neither too

  1. Cf. ibid., 139.

  2. Dhammapada. 160

15. ibid.. 165.

t9. Majjh., 82.

  1. Dhammapada. 276.

  2. Mahavagga (Vin). 1.76.1.

  3. Angutt., 5.54.

  1. Majjh,. 2.

  2. Ibid., 25.

2.5. Ibid., t01.


slack nor too taut." One's energies must be balanced.26 The mania of self-exalta­tion must be overcome, just as the mania of self-humiliation, of self-vilification, must be overcome 2' Even-minded, fully conscious, one must consider oneself as neither equal, inferior, nor superior to others, one must not place oneself among the middle people, nor among the lower people, nor among the higher people."

In speaking of the point of departure, therefore, we can talk of a state of "inward neutrality": "Do not let your own imperturbable mind be troubled by pain, and do not reject a just pleasure, persist in it without auachment.''29 "Craving does ill and aver­sion does ill; and there is a middle way by which to avoid craving and by which to avoid aversion: a way which gives sight and vision, which conduces to calm, which leads to clear vision."'" We often meet with the term satisarn-pajanna, which refers to the state of one who maintains perfect awareness by the strength of his clear vision. Let us remember what has been said on the recurrent theme: "to see in con­formity with reality, with perfect wisdom."

Already in connection with the elementary stages the destruction of vain imaginings, past or future, is taughf. "What is before you put to one side. Behind you leave nothing. To what lies in between do not become attached. And in this calm you will progress." One who would tread the path of awakening must cultivate such a simplicity in his mind. An end must be made to the whole world of psychological complications, of "subjectivity," of hopes and of remorse-in the same way as the demon of dialectics is silenced. Become used to interior concentration: "the insight which is varied and is based on variety, this one renounces; the insight which is single and based on unity, wherein every attachment to worldly enticements is com­pletely vanished, this insight one cultivates."32 Here are some expressions that occur in the canonical texts and that deal with what the symbolism of the alchemists would call the "process of fire"-that is, the manner or rhythm of the interior effort: "To persevere steadfastly without wavering, the mind clear and unbewildered, the senses tranquil and undisturbed, consciousness concentrated and unified." "With tireless and unremitting energy. with knowledge present and unshakable, with serene, un­troubled body, with consciousness concentrated and unified."'33 "To persist alone, detached, tireless, strenuous, with fervid. intimate earnestness"-this is the general formula used in the texts for the discipline of those who, having understood the

  1. Angell., 6.55.

  2. Ibid., 4.106.

  3. Cf., e.g., ibid., 6.49; Suttanipāta, 4.10.8; 4.15.20,

  4. Majjh., 101.

  5. Ibid., 3.

31. Cf. Ibid.. 106; Dhammapada, 385.

32. Majjh., 54.

33. Majjh.. 4; Angutt.. 3.40, Majjh., 19.


doctrine, go on to achieve its supreme end. We are dealing here with predispositions, with qualities and at the same time with achievements-we shall see that among these qualities there are some which, in their turn, are the aim of particular ascetic practices to achieve.

As we have discussed the quality of objective vision, we should also mention-in passing-the style in which many of the oldest Buddhist texts are set out, a style that has been called "quite intolerable" because of its continued repetitions. What is the purpose of these repetitions? The usual interpretation of the Orientalists, that they are a mnemonic aid, is the most superficial. There are other reasons. In the first place, some ideas have been given a particular rhythm so that they are not arrested at the level of simple discursive intellect, but can reach a deeper and more subtle zone of the human being and there stir corresponding impulses. This agrees with the more general aim, explicitly stated in the texts, of permeating the entire body with certain states of consciousness, so as to cause certain forms of knowledge or certain visions to be experienced "bodily." Rhythm-both mental and, more important, that connected with breathing-is one of the most effective methods of achieving this. The modern intellectual, only interested in grasping an idea or a "theory" as quickly as possible in the form of a schematic and cerebral concept will entirely miss the point of the repetitions of the Buddhist texts-and it is natural for him to judge this as "fhe most intolerable of all styles."

But the repetitions-at least a certain class of them, particularly those in the Majjhima-nikaya-have also another aim: that of encouraginng a certain degree of' objective, impersonal, and strictly realistic thought. It is, in fact, easy to see that the repetitions form connected series in which the reality or fact, the thought that is formulated in grasping it, or the thought that is aroused from hearing them, the verbal expression of this thought or the exposition of the fact, are found in exact logical sequence. This is how the structure of the repetitions is built up: first of all the text describes the fact (objective phase); next, there appears the person who takes note of it and who comments on it, using the same words as those in which it was given in the first place by the text (subjective phase): thirdly, the person may refer the fact to others, in the same words once again, as a pure reflection of a thought conforming to reality. It may also happen that a second person normally, the Buddha himself-asks others if the fact referred to is true, and we meet the same words for the fourth time. Stylistically, this is an absurdly tedious process. Spiritually, it is a rhythm of Sachbezogenheit, as one would say in German: it is the pure transparent passage of the same element from reality to thought, from objectivity to subjectivity, and from one subjectivity to another without any alterations. We must understand the attitude and the purpose with which texts of this kind are read. A patient reading of them can be a discipline: they give an example of impersonality and of crystallinity of thought


that may themselves work formatively on the spirit of the reader, giving him much more than simple "concepts."

The first major action on the ascetic path is indicated by the term pabbajja, meaning literally "departure." According to the scheme of the texts, one who hears the doctrine and discovers its deeper significance, and who thus arrives at "confi­dence," acquires a conviction expressed by this formula: "Home is a prison, a dusty place. The life of a hermit is in the open. One cannot, by remaining at home, fulfil point by point the completely purified, completely illumined ascesis." Comprehend­ing this, the "noble son" after short time shakes off attachment to things and persons, leaves home and devotes himself to the life of a wandering ascetic.

We have translated the term bhikkhu, which designated the followers of the Buddha by "wandering ascetic," although it literally means a "mendicant," one who begs. Originally the bhikkhus were a kind of wandering and begging monks: the semiconventual nature of the Buddhist organizations only appeared at a later period. The term we have used possibly allows of fewer misunderstandings. For example, when we speak of "begging" it must be borne in mind that the circumstances in­cluded a society in which the acceptance-by an ascetic or a Brāhman--of some-thing from an ordinary man was not a humiliation but a kind of grace. It was thought that an ascetic-by acting as a point of contact between the visible and the invisible-fultilled a supremely useful, if intangible, function, a benefit even to those taking part in normal life. Giving--dāna-in these circumstances was conceived as an action that would produce benefits of the same kind as "right conduct" and con­templative development.' Thus-a thing that seems paradoxical today-as a sign of contempt or as a penalty, Buddhist assemblies in solemn conclave would indicate families or individuals from which the bhikkhu should refuse to accept anything, by symbolically reversing the receptacle or bowl he carried with him.35

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