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DHARMA - Budismo Zen

El segundo Patriarca Zen

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THE DHARMA

Or The Religion Of Enlightenment - an Exposition Of Buddhism

PAUL CARUS - 1896

 

 

 

THE DHARMA

OR THE RELIGION OF ENLIGHTENMENT
AN EXPOSITION OF BUDDHISM

BY DR. PAUL CARUS

[THIRD EDITION, ENLARGED] CHICAGO - THE OPEN COURT PUBLISHING COMPANY
(London: 17 Johnson's Court, Fleet Street, E. C.) - 1896


CONTENTS

I. The Four Noble Truths

II. Preach the Doctrine that is Glorious

III. The Ten Commandments

IV. The Seven Jewels of the Law

V. The Abhidharma Outlined

Karma - Samskâra - The Anâtman

Transiency and Permanence - The Soul

Reincarnation not Soul Transmigration

Selfhood and Enlightenment - Nirvâna

VI. A Summary of the Tenets of Buddhism

VII. Explanations

 

I. THE FOUR NOBLE TRUTHS

DHARMA means truth, especially religious truth, or briefly, religion.

The Dharma taught by the Buddha (the Enlightened One) and held by the Sangha (the Buddhist Brotherhood) is formulated in four statements, called "the four noble truths."

The first noble truth is on the existence of suffering.

Birth is suffering, old age is suffering, disease is suffering, and death is suffering. Sad it is to be joined with that which we abhor. Sad is the separation from that which we love, and sad is the craving for that which cannot be obtained.

The second noble truth is on the origin of suffering.

The origin of suffering is desire. It is that lust of becoming which, leading from incarnation to incarnation, begets the illusion of self. It is that thirst for pleasure which finds delight here and there and is constantly clamoring for satisfaction. It is the craving for the gratification of the senses, the clinging to life for the sake of self; the longing for self-destruction for the sake of escape; or, briefly, all cleaving to self and selfishness.

The third noble truth is on the emancipation from suffering.

The emancipation from suffering is accomplished by the utter cessation of lust, of craving, of thirst. He who abandons all lust, all craving, all thirst, will be free from passions and cut himself off from all thought of self. Thus he will be emancipated from the origin of suffering.

The fourth noble truth is on the eightfold path that leads to the emancipation from suffering.

The eightfold path is (1) right comprehension; (2) right aspirations; (3) right speech; (4) right conduct; (5) right living; (6) right endeavor; (7) right self-discipline; and (8) the attainment of the right bliss.

There is salvation for him whose self disappears before Truth, whose will is bent upon what he ought to do, whose sole desire is the performance of his duty. His interest is in that which endures, not in that which is transient. He lives, but does not cling to life, and thus, when he dies, death does not touch him.

He who is wise will enter the path and make an end of suffering.

 

*      *      *

The formula in which those take refuge who accept the four noble truths as their norm of life, reads as follows:

"I take my refuge in the Buddha.

"I take my refuge in the Dharma.

"I take my refuge in the Sangha."

 

 

II. PREACH THE DOCTRINE THAT IS GLORIOUS

WE READ in the Mahâvagga (I, II) that the Tathâgata, the Blessed One, the Holy Buddha, said to his disciples:

"Go ye now, O disciples, and wander forth for the benefit of the many, for the welfare of mankind, out of compassion for the world. Preach the doctrine which is glorious in the beginning, glorious in the middle, and glorious in the end, in the spirit as well as in the letter. There are beings whose eyes are scarcely covered with dust, but if the doctrine is not preached to them they cannot attain salvation. Proclaim to them a life of holiness. They will understand the doctrine and accept it."

 

III. THE TEN COMMANDMENTS

BY TEN THINGS all acts of living creatures become bad, and by avoiding ten things they become good. There are three sins of the body, four sins of the tongue, and three sins of the mind.

The sins of the body are murder, theft, and adultery; of the tongue, lying, slander, abuse, and gossip; of the mind, envy, hatred, and error.

These are the commandments:

I. Kill not, but have regard for life.

II. Steal not, neither rob; but help everybody to be master of the fruits of his labor.

III. Abstain from impurity, and lead a life of chastity.

IV. Lie not, but be truthful. Speak the truth with discretion, fearlessly and with a loving heart.

V. Invent not evil reports, nor repeat them. Carp not, but look for the good sides of your fellow-beings, so that you may with sincerity defend them against their enemies.

VI. Swear not, but speak with propriety and dignity.

VII. Waste not your time in gossip, but speak to the purpose or keep silence.

VIII. Covet not, nor envy, but rejoice at the good fortune of others.

IX. Cleanse your heart of malice and cherish no hatred, not even against your enemies; but embrace all living beings with impartial and unlimited kindness.

X. Free your mind from ignorance and seek to learn the truth, especially in the one thing that is needful, lest you fall a prey either to scepticism or to errors. Scepticism will make you indifferent, and errors will lead you astray so that you shall not find the noble path that leads to emancipation.

 

IV. THE SEVEN JEWELS OF THE LAW

SEVEN are the jewels of the law which when united form the bright diadem of Nirvana:

(1) Purity; (2) calmness; (3) comprehension; (4) bliss; (5) wisdom; (6) perfection; and (7) enlightenment.

They manifest themselves in seven ways.

(1) In earnest meditation; (2) in the great struggle against sin; (3) in the aspiration for saintship; (4) in moral power; (5) in producing the organs of spiritual sense; (6) in wisdom; (7) in righteousness.

I. There are four earnest meditations on impermanence: (1) The meditation on the body; (2) the meditation on sensation; (3) the meditation on ideas; and (4) the meditation on the nature of things.

The four earnest meditations are practised to teach the emptiness of all individual existence. All forms of individual existence considered as individuals, are transient, the body, the sensations, the mind, and the factors of being; none of them constitutes a permanent self; in none of them can be sought the purpose and aim of life. When considered in themselves we find them impermanent, impure, and disgusting.

Hence the four earnest meditations teach us: (1) bodily impurity; (2) the dangers that lurk in sensuality; (3) the illusions of the mind; and (4) the instability of all compound things. Salvation consists not in clinging to any of these four things, but in devoting life to the attainment of enlightenment.

II. There is a fourfold great struggle against sin: (1) The struggle to prevent sin from arising; (2) the struggle to put away sin that has arisen; (3) the struggle to produce goodness that does not as yet exist; and (4) the struggle to increase the goodness that exists.

III. There are four roads to saintship which must be united to earnest meditation and to the struggle against sin. They are: (1) the will to acquire saintship; (2) the necessary exertion; (3) a thorough preparation of the heart; and (4) self-discipline.

IV. There are five moral powers: (1) self-reliance; (2) indefatigableness; (3) watchfulness; (4) concentration; and (5) self-control.

V. To the five moral powers, as the functions of the soul, correspond the five organs of spiritual sense. They are: (1) faithfulness; (2) activity; (3) thoughtfulness; (4) attention; and (5) discretion.(1)

VI. There are seven kinds of wisdom: (1) energy; (2) thought; (3) contemplation; (4) investigation; (5) cheerfulness; (6) repose; and (7) serenity.

VII. Righteousness is attained by entering the eightfold path that leads to the cessation of suffering, consisting (as stated above) in: (1) right comprehension; (2) right aspirations; (3) right speech; (4) right conduct; (5) right living; (6) right endeavor; (7) right self-discipline: and (8) the attainment of the right bliss.

 

V. THE ABHIDHARMA OUTLINED

ABHIDHARMA is the Buddhist philosophy which explains the nature of existence and especially of the soul. Its cardinal tenet has been called "the law of Karma."

Karma

Karma (Pâli, kamma) means deed, and every deed is a definite form of activity.

Mr. Warren(2) says, "the word 'Karma' covers two distinct ideas, namely, the deed itself and the effects of that deed in modifying the subsequent character and fortunes of the doer."

While the doing of a deed is transient, its form is permanent. The sight of an object, the thinking of a thought, the performance of an act, all these things pass away, but they leave traces which endure. The products of a man's work in the outside world are of great importance, but more important still are the traces that remain in his mind. They are called in Sanskrit samskâras, in Pâli sankhâras, words which mean "memory-structures, dispositions, soul-forms."

The character of a man consists of his samskâras, which are the product of his Karma.(3)

All beings originate through Karma; they are inheritors of a peculiar Karma, belong to the race of their special Karma, and are kin to it. Each being is determined by its own Karma. It is Karma which produces all differences and divisions.(4)

Huxley expresses the same truth as follows:

"Everyday experience familiarizes us with the facts which are grouped under the name of heredity. Every one of us bears upon him obvious marks of his parentage, perhaps of remoter relationships. More particularly, the sum of tendencies to act in a certain way, which we call 'character,' is often to be traced through a long series of progenitors and collaterals. So we may justly say that this 'Character' —this moral and intellectual essence of a man— does veritably pass over from one fleshly tabernacle to another and does really transmigrate from generation to generation. In the new-born infant, the character of the stock lies latent and the Ego is little more than a bundle of potentialities. But, very early, these become actualities; from childhood to age they manifest themselves in dulness or brightness, weakness or strength, viciousness or uprightness; and with each feature modified by confluence with another character, if by nothing else, the character passes on to its incarnation in new bodies.

"The Indian philosophers called character, as thus defined, 'karma.' It is this karma which passed from life to life and linked them in the chain of transmigrations; and they held that it is modified in each life, not merely by confluence of parentage, but by its own acts.

"In the theory of evolution, the tendency of a germ to develop according to a certain specific type, e. g., of the kidney-bean seed to grow into a plant having all the characters of Phaseolus vulgaris is its 'Karma.' It is the 'last inheritor and the last result' of all the conditions that have affected a line of ancestry which goes back for many millions of years to the time when life first appeared on the earth...  The snowdrop is a snowdrop and not an oak, and just that kind of a snowdrop, because it is the outcome of the Karma of an endless series of past existences." (Hibbert Lectures, p. 114.)

Samskâra

A few quotations will render the term samskâra clear.

Prof. Richard Garbe says (Mondschein der Sâmkhya Wahrheit, p. 14):

"With the Sâmkhyas the term samskâra means "disposition," the existence of which is explained as being due to the impressions which experiences, perceptions, sensations, etc., of the present and of former existences produce in the inner organ... It is that which makes that which exists such as it is."

Professor Oldenberg says (English translation of his Buddha, p. 242):

"The word Sankhâra [Sanskrit samskâra] is derived from a verb which signifies to arrange, adorn, prepare. Sankhâra is both the act of preparation and that which is prepared; but these two coincide in Buddhist conceptions much more than in ours, for to the Buddhist mind the made has existence only and solely in the process of being made; whatever is, is not so much a something which is, as the process rather of a self-generating and self-again-consuming being."

Considering the fact that samskara is a term which has reference to organized life alone and not to formations of inorganic substances, the Buddhistic usage of identifying a function with that which functions is quite legitimate, for the eye is the organ of sight and as such it is the activity of seeing. The eye is a product of the inherited habit of seeing. It consists in sight-dispositions. It is the function of seeing incarnated in the organ of seeing.

Oldenberg translates samskâra (sankhâra) in German by Gestaltung, in English by confection or conformation. We prefer the translation forms or formations. If there is any need of rendering the term more distinct, it may be translated by deed-forms or soul-forms.

The Anâtman

The Vedânta teaches that man's self, (the âtman) is his soul; and the âtman is characterized as an absolute being, immutable and eternal, which is invested with the various faculties of man's existence. The self of the Vedanta philosopher is what Kant would call "the thing-in-itself" of man's soul. It is a mysterious being which is erroneously identified with the ego-idea that finds expression in such phrases as "I am," and "This is mine." This theory, frequently called metaphysicism, would make us believe all beings and objects are things-in-themselves possessed of various qualities and performing certain actions. Thus there would be tables-in-themselves, having the form of tables, and possessing properties of color, weight, materiality, etc.; there would be rivers-in-themselves possessed of water and making the water flow; there would be "the wind-in-itself" performing the act of blowing; there would be the self of a man endowed with certain qualities of mind and body and performing certain deeds, etc., etc. This dualistic view is rejected in Buddhism. Things and beings are regarded as the compounds of their qualities, and the terms actor and agent are considered as mere modes of speech designating certain aspects of actions. A table consists of its form and material, and the wind does not blow but is the blowing of air. In Jâtaka (Birth-story, 244) the following question is put to Bodhisattva:

"What is the Ganges? Is the sand the Ganges? Is the water the Ganges? Is the hither bank the Ganges? Is the further bank the Ganges?"

Bodhisattva replied:

"If you except the water, the sand, the hither bank, and the further bank, where can you find any Ganges? "

Buddhism rejects the theory that there are "things-in-themselves" and teaches the doctrine of anâtman or the non-existence of an âtman. It denies the assumption that there is "a self-in-itself," a separate individuality that is distinct from the character of a man, a permanent ego-entity which remains immutable as the thing-in-itself of metaphysical philosophers.

Buddhism further insists on the sorrow which is inherent in all individuality; and salvation consists in overcoming the illusion of a separate selfhood.

Since the word âtman is frequently translated by "soul," the doctrine of the anâtman has been misinterpreted as meaning a denial of the existence of the soul. But Buddhism does not deny the existence of the soul; it rejects only the theory of a soul-in-itself. Buddhism does not deny individuality, not the ego but the independent existence of an ego; not the self but the idea of an absolute self. Buddhism denies the duality of things; there is not (1) the atman and (2) the karma; it declares that there is one thing, which is karma or deed; and what is called âtman is the karma as it presents itself at a given moment. Indeed the word "self" (âtman), where it cannot be misinterpreted in the sense of an "absolute self," is frequently used in Buddhist scriptures. We read in the Samyutta Nikâya: "Let a man who holds self dear keep that self free from wickedness." And the Dhammapada devotes a whole chapter (xii.) to the contemplation of "self." Concerning the non-existence of a separate self-individuality according to the tenets of Buddhism, Rhys Davids says:

"We may put a new and deeper meaning into the words of the poet:

"'Our deeds follow us from afar;
      And what we have been makes us what we are.'

                                                                (P. 131).

"There is no such thing as an individuality which is permanent; —even were a permanent individuality to be possible, it would not be desirable, for it is not desirable to be separate. The effort to keep oneself separate may succeed indeed for a time; but so long as it is successful it involves limitation, and therefore ignorance, and therefore pain. "No! it is not separateness you should hope and long for," says the Buddhist, "it is union —the sense of oneness with all that now is, that has ever been, that can ever be— the sense that shall enlarge the horizon of your being to the limits of the universe, to the boundaries of time and space, that shall lift you up into a new plane far beyond, outside all mean and miserable care for self. Why stand shrinking there? Give up the fool's paradise of 'This is I,' and 'This is mine.' It is a real fact —the greatest of realities— that you are asked to grasp. Leap forward without fear! You shall find yourself in the ambrosial waters of Nirvana, and sport with the Arhats who have conquered birth and death!

"So long as a man harbors any of these delusions of self which are the heritage of the thoughtless, so long is it impossible for him even to enter upon the path. So long as a man does not realize the identity of himself with those incalculable causes in the past, which have produced his present temporary fleeting individuality, so long as he considers himself to be a permanent being, and is accustomed to use the expressions  'This is I' and 'This is mine,' without a full knowledge of the limitations which the actual facts of existence impose upon their meaning, so long is it impossible for him to make any progress along the line of Buddhist self-culture and self-control. Until he has become fully conscious of the sorrow that is inherent in individuality, it will be impossible for him to begin to walk along the path which is the destruction of sorrow, and the end whereof is peace."

Incidentally it may be remarked that Buddhism sheds a new light on Christian doctrines. Thus the continuity in the evolution of life, which does away with a wrong conception of a separate self, explains and justifies the Christian idea of original sin (or as it ought to be called "inherited sin "), for men inherit not only the curse of their ancestors' sins, but actually consist of their sinful dispositions; every man is a reincarnation of previous deeds, and represents, for good and for evil, their legitimate continuation. Thus it is that (as we read in the Dhammapada, verse 127),

"Neither in the sky, nor in the midst of the sea, nor if we enter into the clefts of the mountains is there known a spot in the whole world where a man might be freed from an evil deed."

Yet at the same time it is true also that nothing perishes that is good.

"As kinsmen, friends, and lovers salute a man who has been long away, and returns safe from afar, in like manner his good works receive him who has done good, and has gone from this world to the other:—as kinsmen receive a friend on his return" (Dhammapada, verses 219-220).

Transiency and Permanence

As there is no âtman, there is no âtman that dies; or in other words, life, death and rebirth are simultaneous and continuous. Every event that happens passes forever away while it happens; it dies yet it continues for all eternity in the effect it produces.

Life is fleeting but life's work which is the essential feature of life, its form and formative faculty, remains. This is true of the whole life of any being as well as of every single moment, as we read in the Visuddhi-Magga (Chap. VIII.):

"Strictly speaking, the duration of the life of a living being is exceedingly brief, lasting only while a thought lasts. Just as a chariot-wheel in rolling rolls only at one point of the tire and in resting rests only at one point; in exactly the same way, the life of a living being lasts only for the period of one thought. As soon as that thought has ceased the being is said to have ceased. As it has been said:—

"'The being of a past moment of thought has lived, but does not live, nor will it live.

"'The being of a future moment of thought will live, but has not lived, nor does it live.

"'The being of the present moment of thought does live, but has not lived nor will it live.'"

Nâgasęna, the Buddhist saint and philospher, explains the problem of transiency and permanence by the illustration of a man who during the night wants to send a letter. He calls his clerk, has a lamp lit and dictates the letter. That being done, he ceases dictating, the clerk ceases writing and the lamp is extinguished. Though the lamp is put out, the letter remains. Thus reasoning ceases but wisdom persists. The deeds of life are transient, but the traces which they leave and the forms which they mould are permanent. (Questions of King Milinda, p. 67.)

There is a constant change taking place in the world, yet there is a preservation of the character of all the events that happen and of all the deeds that are done. The preservation of the soul-forms of all former Karmas makes rebirth possible and constitutes the immortality of the soul and its evolution to ever higher planes of being.

Continuity and Evolution

The boy that goes to school is a different person from the young man who has completed his education; and yet in a certain sense we are justified in speaking of him as being one and the same. For there is a continuity such as obtains between sowing and harvesting. In the same way a criminal who commits a crime is different from and the same as the convict who receives punishment at the hands of the hangman. (Q. of K. M., p. 63.) If a man sitting in a garret carelessly allows an open lamp to blaze up and set fire to the thatch, the fire is different from the flame of the lamp; and yet it is the flame of the lamp which burns down the house. (lb., p. 73.) Every deed has its consequences, and the consequences are called its fruit.

Reincarnations appear as new individuals, yet they are the same as the former incarnations from which they spring, according to the law of Karma. The soul-forms (samskâras) originate in a process of evolution (id., pp. 84, 85). Nothing springs into being without a gradual becoming (ib., p. 84). Deeds, good or evil, are done by a certain person, and another person, inheriting their fruits, is born (ib., p. 73). One comes into being, another passes away (ib., p. 65). There is a continuity of deeds and reincarnations, as milk turns to curds, and curds to butter (ib., p. 64).

The Soul

By soul-activities (such as seeing, hearing, feeling, tasting, etc.) soul-forms are established; soul-forms constitute soul-groups, such as the senses and the other organs of the body; the interaction of the senses (viz., thinking) produces mind as the organ of thought. The various actions of life harden into habits, and habits into character. Sensations, thoughts, and words are deeds or karma; and deeds immortalize themselves in deed-forms or samskâras. They produce man's personality by gradual growth.

The senses are not united indiscriminately one to another; they combine according to cause and effect as the sensations are brought into play. There is not an atman, not a self-in-itself, that sees, but the eye sees. First is sight, then thought. First sensation, then mind. Thought arises from sense-activity by a natural slope, by habit, by association. As rain runs down hill, so all that happens takes its course through natural slope.(5) Thus thought arises where sight is, because of habit. And thought grows by the association that is established, just as a beginner in the art of writing is at first awkward, but with attention and practice in time becomes an expert.(6)

There is thought, but not a thought-entity; there is soul, but not a soul-substance; there is mind, but no mind-stuff; there is personality, but no atman.

Just as a chariot is not the axle, nor the wheels, nor the framework, nor the ropes, nor the yoke, nor all of these things severally, but a peculiar combination of them, so a person is not the body, nor the sense-organs, nor the thoughts, nor his words, nor his deeds, nor his several soul-forms, but a definite co-operation of all of them (pp. 40-45). As there is no chariot-in-itself, so there is no individual person-in-itself. Nevertheless, persons are not for that reason less real than chariots.

Reincarnation not Soul-Transmigration

As there is no soul-substance, there can be no soul-transmigration; yet there is rebirth and reincarnation; there is a continuance of soul-forms beyond the dissolution of the individual in death. When a lamp is lit at a burning lamp, there is a kindling of the wick, but no transmigration of the flame. And when a boy learns a verse from his teacher, the verse is incarnated in the boy's mind, but there is no transmigration of the verse in the proper sense of transmigration. The verse is impressed into the boy's mind, but there is no material transfer. Not a single element of being passes over from a previous existence into the present existence, nor hence into the next existence; and yet the soul is reborn. Thus, the features of a face do not pass into the glass, and nevertheless the image of the face reappears (Visuddhi Magga, XIX.) The reappearance of the soul depends upon Karma and is analogous to the repetition of words in an echo and to the impression of seals in sealing wax (ib. Chap. XVII.). Thus, the character of a person does not migrate, and yet it is reproduced by impression: it continues by heredity and education, and is reborn (that is to say, it reappears) in new incarnations.

Rebirth (i. e.,) reincarnation, is the reappearance of the same character, but it is no transmigration, either in the sense of a transfer of any soul-substance or physiological conditions. Always we have a preservation of form impressed through the Karma (or actions) of the prior life according to the law of causation. Says Buddhagosha in the Visuddhi-Magga (7):

"As illustrations of how consciousness does not come over from the last existence into the present, and how it springs up by means of causes belonging to the former existence, here may serve echoes, light, the impression of a seal, and reflections in a mirror. For as echoes, light, the impressions of a seal, and shadows have sound, etc., for their causes, and exist without having come from elsewhere, just so is it with this mind."

A modern Buddhist can add other illustrations such as the transfer of a speech to a phonograph, the reproduction of pictures on the photographer's plate, the reprint of new editions of books, and so forth. All these similes are illustrations of the way in which the mind of a man is reproduced (i. e., reincarnated) in the minds of others.

Death is dissolution, but the man who dies continues to live and is reincarnated according to his deeds. The same character of deeds reappears wherever his deeds have impressed themselves in other minds. In explanation of death as mere dissolution, and rebirth as the reappearance of the same groups of elements of existence, Buddhagosha says (8):

"He, then, that has no clear idea of death and does not master the fact that death everywhere consists in the dissolution of the Groups, he comes to a variety of conclusions, such as, 'A living entity dies and transmigrates into another body.'

"He that has no clear idea of rebirth and does not master the fact that the appearance of the Groups everywhere constitutes rebirth, he comes to a variety of conclusions, such as, 'A living entity is born and has obtained a new body.'''

Every state of existence is the summarized result of all the various activities of its past, which the present has the power of adding to and modifying, and so it will continue in the future.

Selfhood and Enlightenment

When the illusion of selfhood is dispelled, the state of Nirvana is attained; and it can be attained in this life.

Mâra, the personification of evil, says in the Samyutta-Nikâya:

"Of what, 'tis said 'this is of me'

Of what, 'tis said, 'These are the I,'

If thou inclin'st thy mind to them,

Then monk, thou shalt not me escape."
                                        TransI. by Warren.

But he who has overcome the error of selfhood exhibits a disposition of heart in which the thoughts, /, me, mine, have disappeared. He says:

"Not so with me; naught is of me;

Not so with me; they're (9) not the I:

Thus, Wicked One, declare I thee

The path I tread thou ne'er canst find."
                                       Transl. by Warren.

But the annihilation of selfhood (sakkâya) does not imply an annihilation of personality. A follower of the Enlightened One regards his property as property, but not as his; he regards his body as body, but not as his; he regards his sensations as sensations, but not as his; he regards his thoughts as thoughts, but not as his; he regards his sentiments as sentiments, but not as his. For all these things are transient, and he knows there is no truth in the ideas, " this is mine, or I am this and that, or I have all these things." Bearing in mind the fruit of deeds, he abstains from all passions, from hatred, and ill-will, but energetically and untiringly performs all those deeds which tend toward enlightenment. He endeavors to attain the truth and spreads it; and his life is in good deeds. If there is anything that man can call his own, it is not what he possesses, but what he does. What he does constitutes his character, what he does lives after him, what he does is the reality of his existence that endures. This truth was expressed by the Blessed One in these verses: (10)

"Not grain, nor wealth, nor store of gold,

Not one amongst his family,

Not wife, nor daughters, nor his sons,

Nor any one that eats his bread,

Can follow him who leaves this life,

For all things must be left behind.

But every deed a man performs,

With body, or with voice, or mind,

'Tis this that he can call his own,

This with him take as he goes hence,

This is what follows after him,

And like a shadow ne'er departs.

Let all, then, noble deeds perform,

A treasure-store for future weal;

For merit gained this life within

Will yield a blessing in the next."

Nirvâna

"Wherein does Nirvana consist?"

"And to him, whose mind was already-averse to passion, the answer came: 'When the fire of lust is extinct, that is Nirvâna; when the fires of hatred and infatuation are extinct, that is Nirvana; when pride, false belief, and all other passions and torments are extinct, that is Nirvâna.' " —quoted from the Jataka.

He who has attained Nirvâna, lives no longer a life of selfhood limited to individual purposes, but he becomes one with all good and noble aspirations without discriminating between one individuality and the other.

We read in the Maha-Nidâna-Sutta (256, 21) of the Digha-Nikâya that he who surrenders the error of self "ceases to attach himself to anything in the world, and being free from attachment, he is never agitated, and being never agitated, he attains to Nirvana in his own person."

He who has entered Nirvana is not annihilated, on the contrary, he has attained the Deathless and continues to live. He lives but does not cling; he is energetic but free from passion; he aspires but is not ambitious or vainglorious. Says Nâgasena (Q. of K. M.):

"He that is not free from passion experiences both the taste of food, and also passion due to that taste, while he who is free from passion experiences the taste of food, but no passion due to that taste."

Salvation does not consist in going to Heaven or in attaining individual bliss of any kind: it is simply and solely the deliverance from error, especially from the illusion of selfhood with all the sin attached to it. The legend goes that when friends tried to comfort a dying Buddhist with the thought of his entering now upon a state of rest and bliss, the saint rallied his strength and said: "No, never, so long as there is misery in the world, shall I enter upon a state of bliss and rest. I will be reborn where the suffering is greatest and the need of salvation most needed. I wish to be reborn in the deepest depths of Hell. That is the place to enlighten the world, to rescue those who have gone astray, and to point out the path that leads to deliverance."

His sympathy is universal, his love goes out for all beings. His selfhood has passed away by that passing-away in which nothing remains which could tend to the formation of another individual selfhood, and yet he continues to exist; he exists as a flame that is united to a great body of blazing fire. He exists in all life, manifesting himself in the sympathy for suffering. As a mother, even at the risk of her own life, protects her son, her only son: so he who has recognized the truth, cultivates good-will without measure among all beings. He cultivates good-will without measure toward the whole world, above, below, around, unstinted, unmixed with any feeling of making distinctions or of showing preferences.

Thus, the Buddha has passed away in that passing-away in which nothing remains that would tend to the formation of another individual selfhood. Nevertheless, the Buddha lives still, although it is impossible to point out that he in his complete individuality is here or there. He can be found in the doctrine which he has revealed {Questions of King Milinda, p. 114). And whosoever comprehends the truth of his doctrine, he sees the Blessed One, for the truth was preached by the Blessed One (ib., p. 110).

 

VI. A SUMMARY OF THE TENETS OF BUDDHISM

1. BUDDHISM is the religion of deliverance from evil by enlightenment.

2. Enlightenment means recognition of the truth affecting one's whole personality; it illumines the head, warms the heart, and guides the hand.

3. The truth that imparts enlightenment can be gained only through energetic effort; it must be acquired by personal experience, through trials in the emotional life of the soul, and by a close investigation of the facts of existence.

4. Enlightenment teaches that the law of cause and effect is irrefragable in the moral world not less than in the physical world, that every evil deed has its evil effects and every good deed its good effects.

5. By enlightenment we learn that the main evil, indeed the sole absolute evil, is moral badness, and that its cause is selfhood.

6. Selfhood consists in the notion that there is an independent and separate self, and that the welfare of self is the main purpose of existence.

7. There is no self in itself, no atman in the sense of a separate ego-entity, the true self of a man is the combination of his whole personality, which is name and form, consisting mainly of the character of a man, his mind, his aspirations and modes of thought.

8. Every being in its present existence is the exact product of all its deeds in former existences; and according to its deeds it will continue in future existences.

9. Selfhood is an illusion but the illusion is dispelled by enlightenment.

10. Enlightenment recognizing the interconnection of all life, imparts an all-comprehensive kindness towards all living beings and a deep compassion with every creature that suffers.

11. Enlightenment is more than knowledge, more than morality, more than goodness. It is wisdom, virtue, and an all-comprehensive love in one. It is truth manifesting itself in motor ideas as power. Enlightenment is perfect only when it dominates our thoughts, stimulates our sentiments, and regulates our conduct.

12. Thus truth is like a lamp. It reveals the good law and points out the noble path of righteousness, leading to Nirvana.

13. Nirvâna is a state of mind in which the limitations of individuality disappear, and the eternity of truth is contemplated. It renders one's own individuality as much objective as other individualities. Individual existence as a purpose ceases, and one's existence, one's self and soul, is identified with the truths of which it consists; and these truths are that something which would remain even though the whole world should break to pieces. In brief, Nirvâna is the entire surrender of selfhood to truth. It is deliverance from evil and ihe highest bliss attainable.

14. He who has attained to perfect enlightenment so as to be a teacher of mankind, is called a Buddha, which means the Enlightened One.

15. Buddhists revere Gautama Siddhartha as the Buddha, for he for the first time most clearly pointed out the truth which proved an unspeakable blessing to many hundreds of millions of suffering beings.

 

VII. EXPLANATIONS

THE following explanations will serve to remove some of the most important misconceptions:

1. Buddhism has no dogmas and is not based upon a revelation in the sense in which the words "dogma" and "revelation" are commonly used. Every Buddhist is free to investigate for himself the facts from which the Buddhist doctrines have been derived. Buddha had no other revelation than the experience which every human being is confronted with; however, he had a deeper insight into the nature of things than any other man, and could, therefore, trace the cause of evil and propose a remedy.

2. A conflict between religion and science is impossible in Buddhism. According to Buddha's injunctions we must accept all propositions which have been proved to be true by careful scientific investigation. Buddha taught only those truths which are necessary for salvation; yet it is noteworthy that modern psychology, as worked out by the most advanced western scientists who have heard little of Buddha, confirm Buddha's doctrines of the soul.

3. Buddhism is commonly said to deny the existence of the soul. This statement is correct or incorrect according to the sense in which the word soul is used. Buddhism denies the reality of the selfhood of the soul. It denies the existence of a soul-substratum, of a metaphysical soul-entity behind the soul; but not of the feeling, thinking, aspiring soul, such as from experience we know ourselves to be. To deny the existence of the soul in the latter sense would be a denial of the surest facts of the existence of which we have the most direct and most reliable knowledge.

4. Buddhism does not propose the doctrine of the annihilation of the soul in death, but teaches the continuance of the soul in reincarnations according to the deeds done during life, which is called the law of Karma.

Enlightenment is the cessation of ignorance, not of thinking; the suppression of lust, not of love; the quiescence of passion, not of life.

Nirvâna is not self-annihilation, but the extinction of sin; it is not non-existence, but the destruction of selfishness; it is not dissolution into nothing, but the attainment of truth; it is not resignation, but bliss.

5. Buddhism is commonly said to deny the existence of God. This, too, is true or not true, according to the definition of God. While Buddhists do not believe that God is an individual being like ourselves they recognize that the Christian God-idea contains an important truth, which, however, is differently expressed in Buddhism. Buddhism teaches that Bôdhi, or Sambôdhi, or Amitâbha,(11) i. e., that which gives enlightenment, or, in other words those verities the recognition of which is Nirvana (constituting Buddhahood), is omnipresent and eternal. Bôdhi is that which conditions the cosmic order of the world and the uniformities of reality. Bôdhi is the everlasting prototype of truth, partial aspects of which are formulated by scientists in the various laws of nature. Above all, Bôdhi is the basis of the Dharma; it is the foundation of religion; it is the objective reality in the constitution of being from which the good law of righteousness is derived; it is the ultimate authority for moral conduct.

6. Buddhism is not pessimism. Buddhism, it is true, boldly and squarely faces the problem of evil, and recognizes the existence of evil; but it does so in order to show to mankind the way of escape. Buddhism does not preach annihilation, but salvation; it does not teach death, but life. Buddhism would abolish lust, not love; it does not enjoin asceticism or self-mortification, but preaches the right way of living; its aim is Nirvâna, the abandonment of selfhood and the leading of a life of truth, which is attainable here upon earth in this life of ours.

7. Buddhists do not believe that they alone are in possession of truth, and hail truth and purity wherever they find it, be it in the prophets of Israel, in the New Testament, or in the Dharmapada. We read in the twelfth edict of Ashoka: "There ought to be reverence for one's own faith and no reviling of that of others." (12)

8. While Buddhists would not accept dogmas which stand in contradiction to science, they gladly recognize many remarkable resemblances of their own faith with other religions; especially the ethics of Christ are truly elevating and remind Buddhists of the noble injunctions of Buddha.

9. Buddhists are all those who, like Buddha, seek salvation in enlightenment. There are Buddhists who officially join the Buddhist brotherhood by voluntarily taking the vows with the purpose of leading a life of perfect holiness. There are others who by a solemn pronunciation of the refuge-formula join the Buddhist Church as lay-members, and lay members may, equally with those who have taken the vows, attain the bliss of salvation. In addition there are unconscious followers of Buddha who without any external connection with Buddhist communities accept the truths of Buddhism, and walk in the noble eightfold path.

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(1) Although the fourth and fifth of the jewels are distinguished as "the five moral powers" and "the five organs of spiritual sense," their names in Pâli are in both cases the same. Our translation gives our interpretation. The fifth jewel consists of the faculties that correspond to analogous activities enumerated under the heading of the fourth jewel.

(2) Buddhism in Translations, Harvard Oriental Series, Vol. III.

(3) The same truth in terms of western science is expressed in a brilliant and concise exposition by Prof. E. Hering in his essay "On Memory." (Published by The Open Court Publishing Co., in the Religion of Science Library, No. 16.)

(4) Questions of King Milinda, Sacred Books of the East, XXXV., p. 101.

(5) Modern philosophers speak of the path of least resistance in a similar sense.

(6) This paragraph is condensed from the Questions of King Milinda. pp. 86-89. The other quotations are from the same source.

(7) See Warren, ibid., p. 239.

(8) Warren, ibid., p. 241.

(9) "They" signifies all the various constituents of being.

(10) Quoted from Warren, Buddhism in Translations, p. 228.

(11) Bôdhi (wisdom), Sambôdhi (perfect wisdom), Amitâbha (infinite light), remind one of the Christian term Logos, word: and the Chinese Tao, word, path, reason.

(12) See Sir M. M. William's Buddhism, p. 90.

 

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