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We can easily understand that in some cases such "religious" forms are neces­sary; and even the East, in later periods, has known something of the kind, for in-stance, the way of devotion-bhakti-marga (from bhaj, "to adore")-of Ramānuja and certain forms of the Sakti cult: but we must also realize that there may be some who have no need of them and who, by race and by calling, desire a way free from "religious" mythologies, a way based on clear knowledge, realization, and awaken­ing. An ascetic, whose energies are employed in this direction, achieves the highest form of ascesis; and Buddhism gives us an example of an ascesis that is outstanding of its kind-in saying "of its kind" we wish to point out that Buddhism represents a great historical tradition with texts and teachings available to all; it is not an esoteric school with its knowledge reserved for a restricted number of initiates.

In this sense we can, and indeed we must, state that Buddhism-referring al-ways to original Buddhism-is not a religion. This does not mean that it denies su­pernatural and metaphysical reality, but only that it has nothing to do with the way of

  1. Cf. W. F. Otto, Die Getter Griechenlands (1935), 1, 2, and passim.

  2. Cf. R. Guenon. Orient et Occident (Paris, 1924): La Crise du monde moderne (Paris, 1925). [English translations: East and West (London. 1941). and The Crisis of the Modern World (London, 1943)].

  3. P. Dahlkc. Buddhismus als Religion and Moral (Munich and Neubiberg, 1923), p. 11.


regarding one's relationship with this reality that we know more or less as "religion." The validity of these statements would in no way be altered were one to set out in greater detail to defend the excellence of the theistic point of view against Bud­dhism, by charging the Doctrine of Awakening with more or less declared atheism. This brings us to the second point for discussion, but which we need only touch upon here as it is dealt with at length later in this work.

We have admitted that a "religiously" conceived system can carry an individual to a certain level of spiritual realization. The fact that this system is based on a theistic concept determines this level. The theistic concept, however, is by no means either unique or even the highest "religious" relationship such as the Hindu bhakti or the predominant faiths in the Western or Arab world. Whatever one may think of it, the theistic concept represents an incomplete view of the world, since it lacks the extreme hierarchic apex. From a metaphysical and (in the higher sense) traditional point of view, the notion on which theism is based of representing "being" in a per­sonal form even when theologically sublimated, can never claim to be the ultimate ideal. The concept and the realization of the extreme apex or, in other words, of that which is beyond both such a "being" and its opposite, "nonbeing," was and is natural to the Aryan spirit. It does not deny the theistic point of view but recognizes it in its rightful hierarchic place and subordinates it to a truly transcendental concept.

It is freely admitted that things are less simple than they seem in Western theol­ogy, especially in the realm of mysticism, and more particularly where it is con­cerned with so-called "negative theology." Also in the West the notion of a personal God occasionally merges into the idea of an ineffable essence, of an abysmal divin­ity, as the έν conceived by the Neoplatonists beyond the όν, as the Gottheit in the neuter beyond the Gott, which, after Dionysius the Areopagite, appeared frequently in German mysticism and which exactly corresponds with the neuter Brahman above the theistic Brahmā of Hindu speculation. But in the West it is more a notion wrapped in a confused mystical cloud than a precise doctrinal and dogmatic definition con-forming to a comprehensive cosmic system. And this notion, in point of fact, has had little or no effect on the "religious" bias prevalent in the Western mind: its only result has been to carry a few men, confused in their occasional intuitions and visions, beyond the frontiers of "orthodoxy."

That very apex that Christian theology loses in a confused background is. in-stead, very often placed consciously in the foreground by the Aryo-Oriental tradi­tions. To talk in this respect of atheism or even of pantheism betrays ignorance, an ignorance shared by those who spend their time unearthing oppositions and anti-theses. The truth is that the traditions of the Aryans who settled in the East retain and conserve much of what the later traditions of races of the same root who settled in the West have lost or no longer understand or retain only fragmentarily. A contribut-


ing factor here is the undoubted influence on European faiths of concepts of Semitic and Asiatic-Mediterranean origin. Thus to accuse of atheism the older traditions, particularly the Doctrine of Awakening, and also other Western traditions that re­flect the same spirit, only betrays an attempt to expose and discredit a higher point of view on the part of a lower one: an attempt that, had circumstances been reversed, would have been qualified out of hand by the religious West as Satanic. And, in fact, we shall see that it was exactly thus that it appeared to the doctrine of the Buddha (cf. p. 85-86).

The recognition of that which is "beyond both 'being' and 'nonbeing'" opens to ascetic realization possibilities unknown to the world of theism. The fact of reaching the apex, in which the distinction between "Creator" and "creature" becomes meta-physically meaningless, allows of a whole system of spiritual realizations that, since it leaves behind the categories of "religious" thought, is not easily understood: and, above all, it permits a direct ascent, that is, an ascent up the bare mountainside, without support and without useless excursions to one side or another. This is the exact meaning of the Buddhist ascesis; it is no longer a system of disciplines de-signed to generate strength, sureness, and unshakable calm, but a system of spiritual realization. Buddhism-and again later we shall see this distinctly-carries the will for the unconditioned to a limit that is almost beyond the imagination of the modem Westerner. And in this ascent beside the abyss the climber rejects all "mythologies," he proceeds by means of pure strength, he ignores all mirages, he rids himself of any residual human weakness, he acts only according to pure knowledge. Thus the Awak­ened One (Buddha), the Victor (Jina) could be called he whose way was unknown to men, angels, and to Brahma himself (the Sanskrit name for the theistic god). Admit­tedly, this path is not without dangers, yet it is the path open to the virile mind-viriya-magga. The texts clearly state that the doctrine is "for the wise man, the ex-pert, not for the ignorant, the inexpert."15 The simile of the cutting grass is used: "As kusa grass when wrongly grasped cuts the hand, so the ascetic life wrongly practised leads to infernal torments."' The simile of the serpent is used: "As a man who wants serpents goes out for serpents, looks for serpents, and finding a powerful serpent grasps it by the body or by the tail; and the serpent striking at him bites his hand or arm or other part so that he suffers death or mortal anguish-and why is this? Be-cause he wrongly grasped the serpent-so there are men who are harmed by the doctrines. And why is this? Because they wrongly grasped the doctrines.'

It must be thus quite clear that the Doctrine of Awakening is not itself one par-

  1. Majjh.. 2.

  2. Dhammapada, 311.

  3. Majjh., 22.


ticular religion that is opposed to other religions. Even in the world in which it grew, it respected the various divinities and the popular cults of religious type that were attached to them. It understood the value of "works." Virtuous and devout men go to "heaven"-but a different path is taken by the Awakened Ones.' They go beyond as "a fire which, little by little, consumes every bond," both human and divine. And it is fundamentally an innate attribute of the Aryan soul that causes us never to meet in the Buddhist texts any sign of departure from consciousness, of sentimentalism or devout effusion, or of semi-intimate conversation with a God, although throughout there is a sense of strength inexorably directed toward the unconditioned.

We have now elaborated the first three reasons why Buddhism in particular is so suitable as a base for an exposition of a complete ascesis. Summing up: the first is the possibility of extracting easily from Buddhism the elements of an ascesis consid­ered as an objective technique for the achievement of calm, strength, and detached superiority, capable in themselves of being used in all directions. The second is that in Buddhism the ascesis has also the superior signification of a path of spiritual real­ization quite free from any mythology, whether religious, theological, or ethical. The third reason, finally, is that the last stretch of such a path corresponds to the Supreme in a truly metaphysical concept of the universe, to a real transcendency well beyond the purely theistic concept. Thus while the Buddha considers the tendency to dogma­tize as a bond, and opposes the empty sufficiency of those who proclaim: "Only this is truth, foolishness is the rest,"20 yet he maintains firmly the knowledge of his own dignity: "Perhaps you may wish, disciples, thus knowing, thus understanding, to re-turn for your salvation to the rites and the fantasies of the ordinary penitent or priest?" "No, indeed," is the answer. "Is it thus then, disciples: that you speak only of that on which you yourselves have meditated, which you yourselves have known, which you yourselves have understood?" "Even so, Master." "This is well, disciples. Re-main, then, endowed with this doctrine, which is visible in this life, timeless, inviting, leading onward, intelligible to all intelligent men. If this has been said, for this rea­son has it been said."21 And again: "There are penitents and priests who exalt libera­tion. They speak in various manners glorifying liberation. But as for that which con­cerns the most noble, the highest liberation, I know that none equals me, let alone that 1 may he surpassed."22 This has been called, in the tradition, "the lion's roar."

  1. Dhammapada, 126.

  2. Ibid., 31.

  3. Cf., e.g., Suttanipata, 4.12; 13.17-19.

  4. Majjh, 38.

  5. Dīgha-nikāya. 8.21.



The Aryan-ness of

the Doctrine of Awakening

We have yet to say something of the "Aryan-ness" of the Buddhist doctrine.

Our use of the term Aryan in connection with this doctrine is primarily justified by direct reference to the texts. The term ariya (Skt.: ārya), which in fact means "Aryan," recurs throughout the canon. The path of awakening is called Aryan-ariya magga: the four fundamental truths are Aryan ariya-saccāni; the mode of knowledge is Aryan-ariya-naya; the teaching is called Aryan (particularly that which considers the contingency of the world') and is, in turn, addressed to the āriyā; the doctrine is spoken of as accessible and intelligible, not to the common crowd, but only to the ariya. The term ariya has sometimes been translated as "saint." This, however, is an incomplete translation; it is even discordant when we consider the notable divergence between what is concerned and all that "saintliness" means to a Western man. Nor is the translation of ariya as "noble" or "sublime" any more satis­factory. They are all later meanings of the word, and they do not convey the fullness of the original nor the spiritual, aristocratic, and racial significance that, neverthe­less, is largely preserved in Buddhism. This is why Orientalists, such as Rhys Davids and Woodward, have maintained that it is better not to translate the term at all, and they have left ariya wherever it occurs in the texts, either as an adjective or as a noun meaning a certain class of individuals. In the texts of the canon the ariya are the Awakened Ones, those who have achieved Liberation and those who are united to them since they understand, accept, and follow the ariya Doctrine of Awakening:

It is necessary, however, that we should emphasize the Aryan-ness of the Bud­dhist doctrine for various reasons, In the first place, we must anticipate those who

  1. Cf. Samyutta-nikātya. 35,84; 42.12.

  2. The racial significance of the term ariya is clear in certain texts. e.g.. where it is considered as a difficult birth to achieve and where it is a privilege to he born in the land of the Aryans (Anguttara. 6.96).



will put forward the argument of Asiatic exclusiveness, saying that Buddhism is remote from "our" traditions and "our" races. We have to remember that behind the various caprices of modern historical theories, and as a more profound and primor­dial reality, there stands the unity of blood and spirit of the white races who created the greatest civilizations both of the East and West, the Iranian and Hindu as well as the ancient Greek and Roman and the Germanic. Buddhism has the right to call itself Aryan both because it reflects in great measure the spirit of common origins and since it has preserved important parts of a heritage that, as we have already said, Western man has little by little forgotten, not only by reason of involved processes of intermarriage, but also since he himself-to a far greater extent than the Eastern Aryans-has come under foreign influences. particularly in the religious field. As we have pointed out, Buddhist asceticism, when certain supplementary elements have been removed, is truly "classical" in its clarity, realism, precision, and firm and articulate structure; we may say it reflects the noblest style of the ancient Aryo-Mediterranean world.

Furthermore, it is not only a question of form. The ascesis proclaimed by Prince Siddhattha is suffused throughout with an intimate congeniality and with an accen­tuation of the intellectual and Olympian element that is the mark of Platonism, Neoplatonism, and Roman Stoicism. Other points of contact are to be found where Christianity has been rectified by a transfusion of Aryan blood that had remained comparatively pure-that is to say, in what we know as German mysticism: there is Meister Eckhart's sermon on detachment, on Abgeschiedenheit, and his theory of the "noble mind," and we must not forget Tauter and Silesius, To insist here, as in every other field of thought, on the antithesis between East and West is pure dilet­tantism. The real contrast exists in the first place between concepts of a modern kind and those of a traditional kind, whether the latter are Eastern or Western; and sec­ondly, between the real creations of the Aryan spirit and blood and those which, in East and West alike, have resulted from the admixture of non-Aryan influences. As Dahlke has justly said, "Among the principal ways of thought in ancient times, Bud­dhism can best claim to be of pure Aryan origin."'

This is true also more specifically. Although we can apply the term Aryan as a generalization to the mass of Indo-European races as regards their common origin (the original homeland of such races, the ariyānem-vaējō, according to the memory consciously preserved in the ancient Iranian tradition, was a hyperborean region or, more generally, northwestern),' yet, later, it became a designation of caste. Ārya

  1. P. Dahlke, Buddhismus als Weltanschauung (Munich and Neubiberg, undated). p. 35. [English transla­tion. Buddhism and Science (London. t913). p. 29.]

  2. In this connection cf. our works: Rivolta contra il mondo modem° (Milan, 1934) !English translation, Revolt Against the Modem World (Rochester. Vt., 1995)]; Sintesi di dottrina delft razza (Milan, t941).



stood essentially for an aristocracy opposed, both in mind and body, not only to ob­scure, bastard, "demoniacal" races among which must be included the Kosalian and Dravidian strains found by the Hyperboreans in the Asiatic lands they conquered, but also, more generally, to that substrafum that corresponds to what we would prob­ably call today the proletarian and plebeian masses born in the normal way to serve, and that in India as in Rome were excluded from the bright cults characteristic of the higher patrician, warrior, and priestly castes.

Buddhism can claim to be called Aryan in this more particular social sense also, notwithstanding the attitude, of which we shall have more to say later, that it adopted toward the castes of those times.

The man who was later known as the Awakened One, thaf is, the Buddha, was the Prince Siddhattha. According to some, he was the son of a king; according to ofhers, at least of the most ancient warrior nobility of the Sākiya race, proverbial for its pride: there was a saying, "Proud as a Sākiya."5 This race claimed descent, like the most illustrious and ancient Hindu dynasties, from the so-called solar race-sūrya vamsa-and from the very ancient king Ikśvāku.6 "He, of the solar race," one reads of the Buddha.' He says so himself: "I am descended from the solar dynasty and I was born a Sākiya,"8 and by becoming an ascetic who has renounced the world he vindicates his royal dignity, the dignity of an Aryan king.'' Tradition has it that his person appeared as "a form adorned with all the signs of beauty and surrounded by a radiant aureole."10 To a sovereign who meets him and does not know who he is, he immediately gives the impression of an equal: "Thou hast a perfect body, thou art resplendent, well born, of noble aspect, thou hast a golden colour and white teeth, thou art strong. All the signs that thou art of noble birfh are in thy form, all the marks of a superior man."11 The most fearsome bandit, meeting him, asks himself in amaze­ment who might be "this ascetic who comes alone with no companions, like a

  1. H. Oldenberg, Buddha (Sturtgart and Beritin. 1923). p. 1(1). Prince Siddhattha seems to retain his pride even when he is the Buddha uttering such words as these: "In the world of angels. of demons and of gods, among the ranks of ascerics and of priests, I do not see. O Brāhman. any one whom I shoutd respectfutity salute nor before whom I should rise for him ro be seated" (Anguttara-nikāya. 8.111.

  2. Suttanipāta. 3.6.31. It is worth noting that Ikśvāku was conceived as rhe son of Manu, that is. of the primordial legislator of the Indo-Aryan races, and that these references in Buddhism are significanr: in fact, the same royal and solar origin is attribured to the doctrine expounded in the Bhagavadgītā (4.1-2); a doctrine that was reveaited after a period of obtivion to a ksatriya, that is, to an exponent of warrior nobiitity, and that shows us how the path of detachment can also produce an unconditioned and irresisrible fotm of heroism; cf. Revolt Agajnst the Modern World.

  3. Samyutt., 22.95.

  4. Suttanipāta, 3.1.t9.

  5. Ibid.. 3.7.7.

  6. Jātaka, I.

11. Suttanipāta, 3.7.1-2; 5-6.



conqueror." - And not only do we find in his body and hearing the characteristics of a khattiya, of a noble warrior of high lineage, but tradition has it that he was en­dowed with the "thirty-two attributes" that according to an ancient brahmanical doc­trine were the mark of the "superior man"-mahāpurisa-lakkhana-for whom "exist only two possibilities, without a third": either, to remain in the world and to become a cakkavatti, that is, a king of kings, a "universal sovereign," the Aryan prototype of the "Lord of the Earth," or else to renounce the world and to become perfectly awak­ened, the Sambuddha, "one who has removed the veil.'" Legend tells us that in a prophetic vision of a whirling wheel an imperial destiny was foretold for Prince Siddhattha; a destiny that, however, he rejected in favor of the other path.14 It is equally significant that, according to tradition, the Buddha directed that his funeral rite should not be that of an ascetic, but of an imperial sovereign, a cakkavatti.15 In spite of the aittitude of Buddhism toward the caste problem, it was generally held that the bodhisatta, those who may one day become awakened, are never horn into a peasant or servile caste but into a warrior or Brāhman caste, that is to say, into the two purest and highest of the Aryan castes: indeed, in the conditions then prevailing, the warrior caste, the khattiya, was said to be the more favored.'

This Aryan nobility and this warrior spirit are reflected in the Doctrine of Awak­ening itself. Analogies between the Buddhist ascesis and war, between the qualities of an ascetic and the virtues of a warrior and of a hero recur frequently in the canoni­cal texts: "a struggling ascetic with fighting breast," "an advance with a fighter's steps," "hero, victor of the battle," "supreme triumph of the battle," "favorable con­ditions for the combat," qualifies of "a warrior becoming to a king, well worthy of a king, attributes of a king," etc."-and in such maxims as: "to die in battle is better than to live defeated." As for "nobility," it is bound up here with aspiration toward superhumanly inspired liberty. "As a bull, I have broken every bond"-says Prince Siddhattha.19 "Having laid aside the burden, he has destroyed the bonds of exist­ence": this is a theme that continually recurs in the texts, and refers to one who follows the path they indicate. As "summits hard to climb, like solitary lions" the enlightened are described.2° The Awakened One is "a proud saint who has climbed

  1. Ma jib., 86.

  2. Suttanipāta, 3.S; 5.1.25-28; Majjh., 91; Dīgha, 3.1,5. etc.'. Suttanipāta, 3.).16, 19. A raciait detaiit, not without interest, is thar among the disringuishing marks inctuded a dark blue color of the eyes.

  3. Jātaka, inrr. (W. 64).

15, Digha. 16.5.11; 17.1.8.

16. Jātaka, inrr. (W. 40-4 I).

7, Cf. Majjh., 53; 26; Angutt., 4.151. 196; 5.90. 73 ff.

18, Suttanipāta, 3.2.16.

9. Ibid., 1.2.12.

20. Majjh.. 92; Suttanipāta. 3.7.25.


the most sublime mountain peaks, who has penetrated the remotest forests, who has descended into profound abysses."21 He himself said, "I serve no man, l have no need to serve any man";22 an idea that recalls the "autonomous and immaterial race," the race "without a king" (αβασίλεντος)-being itself kingly-a race that is also mentioned in the West 23 He is "ascetic, pure, the knower, free, sovereign."24

These, which are frequent even in the oldest texts, are some of the attributes. not only of the Buddha, but also of those who travel along the same path. The natural exaggeration of some of these attributes does not alter their significance at least as symbols and indications of the nature of the path and ideal indicated by Prince Siddhattha, and of his spiritual race. The Buddha is an outstanding example of a royal ascetic; his natural counterpart in dignity is a sovereign who, like a Caesar, could claim that his race comprehended the majesty of kings as well as the sacred­ness of the gods who hold even the rulers of men in their power 2 We have seen that the ancient tradition has this precise significance when it speaks of the essential nature of individuals who can only be either imperial or perfectly awakened. We are close to the summits of the Aryan spiritual world.

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