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This shows that there is no question here of equalitarian subversion under spiri­tual pretexts, but of rectification and operation of the existing hierarchy. Prince

40. Majjh., 84.

4t Suttanipatu, 1.7.2t

42 Majjh., 90.

  1. Digha.13.24-25.

  2. Ibid. 13.26, 28; Suttanipāta, 2.2.11 .

  3. Digha, 13.33 38.

  4. 46. Angutt., 5.t92.

  1. Ibid., 5.191 (vol. 3, p 22t f.).

  2. Majjh., 96.


Siddhattha has so little sympathy for the masses that in one of the oldest texts he speaks of the "common crowd" as a "heap of rubbish," where there takes place the miraculous flowering of the Awakened One.49 Beyond the ancient division into castes, Buddhism affirms another that, deeper and more intimate, mutatis mutandis, is not unlike the one that originally existed between the Aryans, those "twice-born" (dvīja) and other beings! on one side stand the Ariya and the "noble sons moved by confi­dence," to whom the Doctrine of Awakening is accessible; on the other, "the com­mon men, without understanding for what is saintly, remote from the saintly doc­trine, not accessible to the saintly doctrine; without understanding for what is noble, remote from the doctrine of the noble ones, not accessible by the doctrine of the noble ones."50 If, on the one hand, as rivers "when they reach the ocean lose their former names and are reckoned only as ocean, so the members of the four castes, when they take up the law of the Buddha, lose their fanner characteristics"-yet on the other they form a well-defined company, the `"sons of the Sākiya's son."51 We can see that the effective aim of Buddhism was to discriminate between different natures, for which the touchstone was the Doctrine of Awakening itself: a discrimi­nation that could not do other than stimulate the spiritual bases that originally had themselves been the sole justification of the Aryan hierarchy. In confirmation of this is the fact thaf the establishment and diffusion of Buddhism never in later centuries caused dissolution of the caste system-even today in Ceylon this system continues undisturbed side by side with Buddhism; while, in Japan, Buddhism lives in harmony with hierarchical, traditional, national, and warrior concepts. Only in certain West-ern misconceptions is Buddhism--considered in later and corrupted forms-presented as a doctrine of universal compassion encouraging humanitarianism and democratic equality.

The only point we must take with a grain of salt in the texts is the affirmation that in individuals of all castes all possible potentialities, both positive and negative, exist in equal measure." But the Buddhist theory of sankhāra, that is, of prenatal predispositions, is enough to rectify this point. The exclusiveness of caste, race, and tradition in a hierarchical system results in the individual possessing hereditary pre-dispositions for his development in a particular direction; (his ensures an organic and harmonious character in his development, as opposed to the cases in which an at-tempt is made to reach the same point with a kind of violence, by starting from a naturally unfavorable base. Four ways are considered in some Buddhist texts,53 in

  1. Dhammapada. 59-59.

  2. Majjh., I.

  3. Angutt, 8.t9. §I4; 10.96.

  4. Majjh., 96.

  5. .Angutt., 4.t62.


three of which either the road or the achievement of knowledge is difficult, or both are difficult; the fourth way offers an easy road and easy attainment of knowledge; this way is called the "path of the elect," and it is reserved for those who enjoy the advantages bestowed by a good birth. At least it would have been so had circum­stances been normal. But, let us repeat, Buddhism appeared in abnormal conditions in a particular traditional civilization: it is for this reason that Buddhism placed em­phasis on the aspect of action and of individual achievement; and it is also for this reason that the support offered by tradition, in its most restricted sense, was held of little account. Prince Siddhattha stated that he himself had attained knowledge through his own efforts, without a master to show him the way; so, in the original Doctrine of Awakening. each individual has to rely on himself, and on his own exertions, just as a soldier who is lost must rely on himself alone to rejoin the marching army.

Thus Buddhism, if a comparison of various traditions were being made, could legitimately take its place with the race that elsewhere we have called heroic, in the sense of the Hesiodic teaching on the "Four Ages."54 We mean a type of man in which the spirituality belonging to the primordial state is no longer taken for granted as something natural, for this tradition is no longer itself an adequate foundation. Spirituality has become an aim to him, the object of a reconquest, the final limit of a reintegration to be carried out by one's own virile efforts.

This ends our account of the historical place of Buddhism, an essential prerequi­site for understanding the meaning of its principal teachings and the reasons for their existence.

Before going on to discuss the doctrine and the practise we must return to a point we have already mentioned, that is, that Buddhism belongs to a cycle thar modem man can also comprehend.

Although in the epoch in which Prince Siddhattha lived there was already a certain clouding over of spiritual consciousness and of metaphysical vision of the world such as was possessed by ancient Indo-Aryan man, the later course of his­tory-and particularly of Western history-has produced an increasing amount of regression, materialism, and individualism together with a corresponding loss of di­rect contact with metaphysical and, generally speaking, supersensible reality. With the "modern" world we have come to a point beyond which it would be difficult to go. The object of direct knowledge for modem man is exclusively the material world, with its counterpart, the purely psychological sphere of his subjectivity. His philo­sophical speculations and his religion stand apart, the first are purely cerebral cre­ations, the second is based essentially on faith.

It is not entirely a case of Western religion, as opposed to the highest traditions
54. Cr. Revolt Against the Madam World. chap. 22.


of the most ancient time, having centered itself on faith, thereby hoping to save what yet could be saved. It is, rather, a counsel of despair: a man who has long since lost all direct contact with the metaphysical world can only adopt one possible form of religio, of reconnection, namely, that provided by belief or faith, It is in this way that we can also come to understand the real significance of Protestantism as compared with Catholicism. Protestantism took root in a period when humanism and naturalism were ushering in a phase of "secularization" of European man, a process that went much further than the normal regression of the epoch in which Christianity in general arose; and at the same time decadence and corruption appeared among the representatives of the Catholic tradition, to whom had been entrusted the task of support and mediation. These being the real circumstances and the rift having thus grown wider, the principle of the pure faith was emphasized and opposed to any hierarchical organization and mediation; a distrust of "works" (even the Christian monastic asceticism was included in this) was nourished; these are tendencies that are characteristic of Protestantism.

The present crisis of Western religions based on "belief' is known to all, and we need not point out the complefely secular, materialistic and samsāric character of the mentality predominant in our confemporaries. We are entitled to ask ourselves. un­der these circumstances, what a system. based rigorously on knowledge, free from elements of both faith and intellectualism, not tied to local organized tradition, but in reality directed toward the unconditioned, may have to offer. It is evident rhat this path is only suited to a very small minority, gifted with exceptional interior strength. Original Buddhism, in this respect, can be recommended as can few other doctrines, particularly because when it was fotmulafed the condition of mankind, although still far from the straits of Western materialism and the subsequent eclipse of any living traditional knowledge, nevertheless manifested some of these signs and symptoms. Nor must we forget that Buddhism, as we have said, is a practical and realistic adap­tation of traditional ideas, an adaptation that is mainly in the spirit of the ksātriya. of the Aryan warrior caste; it should he remembered especially since Western man's line of development has been warlike rather than a sacerdotal, while his inclination for clarity, for realism, and for exact knowledge, applied on the material plane, has produced the most typical achievements of his civilization.

Other metaphysical and ascetic systems might appear more attractive than Bud­dhism and might offer a deeper gratification for a mind anxiously trying to penetrate the mysteries of the world and of existence. Yet they tend proportionately to provide modern man with opportunities for illusions and misconceptions; the reason being that genuinely traditional systems, such as the Vedānta. if they are to be fully under-stood and realized, presuppose a degree of spirituality that has disappeared long ago


in the vast majority of men, Buddhism, on the other hand, poses a total problem, without any loopholes. As someone has rightly said, it is "no milk for babies,"55 nor does it provide metaphysical feasts for lovers of intellectual speculation.56 It states: "Man. this is what you have become and this is what your experience has become. Know it. There is a Way which leads beyond. This is its direction, these are its mile-stones, these are the means for following it. t rests with you to discover your true vocation and to measure your strength." "Do not persuade, do not dissuade: knowing persuasion, knowing dissuasion, neither persuade, nor dissuade, expound only real­ity"-we have already seen that this is the fundamental precept of the Awakened Ones.

Thus, in describing the historical place of Buddhism, we have also explained the last of the reasons we adopted to justify the choice of Buddhism as a basis for a study of a complete and virile ascesis. formulated with regard to the cycle that also includes contemporary man.

  1. [In English in the original.-Trans.].

  2. Rhys Davids, Early Buddhism (London, 1908), p. 7.




of the Demon of Dialectics

The premise from which the Buddhist Doctrine of Awakening starts is the destruc­tion of the demon of dialectics; the renunciation of the various constructions of thought and speculation, which are simply an expression of opinion, and of the profusion of theories, which are projections of a fundamental restlessness in which a mind that has not yet found in itself its own principle seeks for support.

This applies not only to cosmological speculation, but also to problems con­cerned with man, his nature and destiny, and even to any conceptual determination of the ultimate aim of asceticism. "Have I ever existed in past epochs? Or have I never existed? What was I in past epochs? And how did I come to be what I was? Shall I exist in future epochs? Or shall I not exist? What shall I be in future epochs? And how shall I become what I shall be? And even the present fills [the common man] with doubts: Do I indeed exist? Or do I not exist? What am 1? And how am I? This being here, whence has it really come? And whither will it go?" All these for Buddhism are but "vain thoughts": "This is called the blind alley of opinions, the gorge of opinions, the bramble of opinions, the thicket of opinions, the net of opin­ions," caught up and lost in which "fhe ignorant worldling cannot free himself from birth, decay and death."' And again: "'I am' is an opinion; `I am this' is an opinion; 'I shall be' is an opinion; `I shall not be' is an opinion; 'I shall he in the worlds of [pure] form' is an opinion; `I shall be in the worlds free from form' is an opinion; `Conscious, I shall be' is an opinion; `Unconscious, I shall be' is an opinion; `Neither conscious nor unconscious. I shall he' is an opinion. Opinion, O disciples, is a dis­ease; opinion is a tumour: opinion is a sore. He who has overcome all opinion, O disciples, is called a saint, one who knows."2

  1. Majjh., 2.38.

  2. Ibid., t40.


It is the same with the cosmological order: "'The world is eternal,' 'The world is not eternal,' 'The world is fmite,' 'The world is infinite,' 'The life-principle and the body are the same,' 'The life-principle is one thing, the body another,' 'The Accom­plished One is after death,' 'The Accomplished One is not after death," The Accom­plished One both is and is not after death,' 'The Accomplished One neither is nor is not after death'---this is a blind alley of opinions, a thicket of opinions, a wood of opinions, a tangle of opinions, a labyrinth of opinions, painful. desperate, tortuous, not leading to detachment, not leading to progress, not leading to vision, not leading to awakening, not leading to extinction."' The doctrine of the Accomplished Ones is described as that which "destroys to the foundations every attachment to and satis­faction in false theories, dogmas and systems" and which therefore cuts off both fear and hope.' The reply to the question asked of the Buddha: "Perhaps Lord Gotama [this is the Prince Siddhattha's family name] has some opinion?" is categorical: "Opin­ion: that is remote from the Accomplished One. The Accomplished One has seen."5

This reply indicates the fundamental point. It is not that Buddhism intended to exclude the possibility of obtaining some answer to these problems-for by doing so it would fall into contradiction, since the texts offer, where necessary, fairly precise teachings with regard to certain of them, It has, rather, wished to oppose the demon of dialectics and has rejected every "truth" that is based only on discursive intel­lect-vitakka-and that can only have the value of "opinion," of δόςα. t keeps its distance from "reasoners and disputers" for they "can reason well and reason badly, they can say thus and they can also say otherwise,"6 and they deal with theories that are only their own excogitations. And the αφηλε πάντα, the "take away all" of the Buddhist ascesis is by no means a sacrifcium intellectus in favor of faith, as in some forms of Christian mysticism. t is, rather, a preliminary catharsis, an opuspurgationis justified by a superior type or criterion of certainty, which is rooted in an actual knowledge, acquired-as in the early Vedic tradition-by immediate vision. t is a criterion of direct experience. Once "cut off from faith, from inclinations, from hear-say, from scholastic arguments, from ratiocinations and from reasoning, from plea-sure in speculation," the same criterion serves the Buddha when deciding the exist­ence or nonexistence of a thing, as it serves a man who judges the existence of pleasure, pain, or delusion on the basis of having himself experienced these states.' Besides, much knowledge, discursive knowledge that is, leaves an individual as he is: it does not contribute at all to the removal of the "triple bond" necessary to

3 Ibid.. 72.

  1. Ibid.. 22.

  2. Ihid.. 72.

  3. Ibid., 76.

  4. Samyutt, 35,152.


advance toward superior knowledge'' Already master in fact of "deep psychology," the Buddha recognized that vain speculation and the posing of numberless problems reflect a state or restlessness and anguish, that is, the very state that must first be put behind him by one going along the "path of the ariya." That is why, in the parable of the hunter,' the inclination of a disciple at a certain point in his development to set himself the usual problems concerning the soul and the world is considered as a step backward: it is one of the baits laid down by the Enemy and any man who feeds on it falls back into his power.

"To know by seeing, to become cognition, to become truth, to become vision"-this is the ideal: knowing-seeing in conformity to realty-yathā-bhtuta-nāna-dassana: direct intellectual intuition, far beyond all discussion and closely bound up with ascetic realization. "Recognizing the poverty of philosophical opinions, not adhering to any of them, seeking the truth, I saw."10 A recurring passage in the Pali canon is: "He [the Accomplished One] shows this world with its angels, its good and bad spirits, its ranks of ascetics and Brāhmans, of gods and men, after he himself has known and appre­hended it," etc_ There are even more radical expressions. "I affirm," says Prince Siddhattha," "that I can expound the law concerning this or that region in such a man­ner that he who acts in conformity therewith will recognise the existing as existing and the not-existing as nor-existing, the vulgar as vulgar and the noble as noble, the super-able as superable and the insuperable as insuperable, the possible as possible and the impossible as impossible; that he will know, understand and apprehend this exactly as it is to be known, understood and apprehended. The supreme form of knowledge is knowledge conforming to reālity. A higher and more sublime knowledge does not ex­ist. I say." And again: "'A perfect Awakened One you call yourself, it is true; but these things you have not known': that an ascetic or a Brāhman, a god or a demon, Brahma or anyone else in the world can thus accuse me justly, this possibility," says Prince Siddhattha, "does not exist:''12 The wise man, the Ariya, is not a follower of systems, he does not recognise dogmas, and having penetrated the opinions current among the people and being indifferent in face of speculation, he leaves it to others, he remains calm among the agitated, he does not take part in the verbal battles of those who main­tain: "This only is the truth," he does not consider himself equal to others, nor superior, nor inferior.13 In the canonical texts, after a description of the morass of contemporary philosophical opinions, we meet with this passage: "The Accomplished One knows other things well beyond [such speculations] and having such knowledge he dues not

  1. Majjh.. 113; cf. Suttanipāra. 5.8.2.

  2. Majjh., 25; cf. Samyutt.. 35.207.

  3. Suttanipāta, 4.92.

11. Angutt., 9.22.

  1. Ibid.. 4.8; Majjh,. 12.

  2. Suttanipāta, 4.5.4; 13.10-19


become proud, he remains impassive, he realizes in his mind the path that leads be­yond.... There are, 0 disciples, other things, profound things, things difficult to appre­hend, hard to understand, but that beget calm; joyful things, things not to be grasped simply by discursive thought, things that only the wise man can understand. These things are expounded by the Accomplished One, after he himself has known them, after he himself has seen them."14

We already know that the title Buddha, given to Prince Siddhattha and then ex-tended to all those who have followed his path, means `"awakened." t takes us to the same point, to the same criterion of certainty. The doctrine of the Ariya is called "be­yond imagination"15 and not susceptible of assimilation by any process of ratiocina­tion. The term atakkāvacara often recurs, a term that means just that which cannot be apprehended by logic. Instead the doctrine is presented in an "awakening" and as an "awakening." One can sec at once the correspondence between this mode of knowing and Plato's view of anamnesis, "reminiscence" or `recollection" overcoming the state of oblivion; exactly as Buddhism aims to overcome the state produced by the āsava, by the "intoxicants," by the manias, by the fever. These terms, "reminiscence" and "awakening," however, should not represent more than the manner in which knowl­edge appears, than recognition and appraisal of something as directly evident, like a man who remembers or who wakes and sees something. This is the reason for the recurrence in later Buddhist literature of the term sphota, which has a similar mean­ing: it is knowledge manifested as in an unveiling-as if an eye, after undergoing an operation, were to reopen and see. Dhamma-Cakkhtnna, the "eye of truth" or of "real­ity," cakkhumant, "to be gifted with the eye" are normal Buddhist expressions, just as the technical term for "conversion" is: "his eye of truth opened." Where the Buddha speaks of his own experiences we often find references to the pure presentation of knowledge, either directly or "in similes never before heard or thought of."16 Here is another leitmotiv of the texts: "As something never heard of before, vision arose in me, knowledge arose in me, intuition arose in me, wisdom arose in me, light arose in me";17 this is called "the true excellence, conforming with the ariya quality of knowledge." This recalls the qualities of the νονς, of the Olympian mind, a mind that, according to the most ancient Aryo-Hellenic tradition, is strictly related to "be­ing" and that is manifested in a "knowledge by seeing": the νονς is proof against de­ception, is "firm and tranquil as a mirror, it discovers everything without seeking, or rather, everything discovers itself in it," whereas the Titanic spirit is "restless, inven­tive and always in search of something, cunning and curious."'8 Vision conceived as

  1. Digha. 1.t.28-37.

  2. Majjh., 26.

  3. E.g., Majjh., K5.

  4. Samyutt., 36.24; 12.10.

I8. Cf. Kerenyi, La religionae antica pp. 104, 167.


"transparency" is the Buddhist ideal: "as one sees through limpid water, the sand, the gravel, and the color of the pebbles, simply by reason of its transparency, so one who seeks the path of liberation must have just such a limpid mind."19 The image that illus­trates the manner in which an ascetic apprehends the four truths of the Ariya is this: "If at the edge of an alpine lake of clear, transparent and pure water there were to stand a man with keen sight looking at the shells and shellfish, the gravel and the sand and the fish, watching how they swim and how they rest; this thought would come to him: 'This alpine lake is clear, transparent, and pure; I see the shells and shellfish, the gravel, the sand and the fish, how they swim and rest."' In this same manner an ascetic appre­hends "in conformity with truth" the supreme object of the doctrine .' The formula "in conformity with truth" or "with reality" (yathābhutam) is a recurrent theme in the texts, like the attributes, "eye of the world," or "become eye," or "become knowledge," of the Awakened Ones.

This is naturally an achievement only fhrough a gradual process. "As an ocean deepens gradually, declines gradually, shelves gradually without sudden preci­pices, so in this law and discipline there is a gradual training, a gradual action, a gradual unfolding, and no sudden apprehension of supreme knowledge."21 Again; "One cannot, I say. attain supreme knowledge all at once; only by a gradual train­ing, a gradual action, a gradual unfolding, does one attain perfect knowledge. In what manner'? A man comes, moved by confidence; having come, he joins [the order of the Ariya; having joined. he listens; listening, he receives the doctrine; having received the doctrine, he remembers it; he examines the sense of the things remembered; from examining the sense, the things are approved of; having ap­proved, desire is born; he ponders; pondering, he eagerly trains himself; and ea­gerly training himself, he mentally realizes the highest truth itself and, penetrating it by means of wisdom, he sees."22 These are the milestones of the development. It is hardly worth saying that the placing of "confidence" at the beginning of the series does not signify a falling back into "belief": in the first place, the texts always consider that confidence is prompted by the inspiring stature and the ex-ample of a master;23 in the second place, as we can see clearly from the develop­ment of the series, it is a matter of a provisional admission only; the real adherence comes when, with examination and practice, the faculty of direct apprehension, of intellectual intuition, absolutely independent of its antecedents, has become possible. Therefore it is said: "He who cannot strenuously train himself, cannot achieve truth; through strenuous training (an ascetic) achieves truth: there-

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