[Note: page numbers cited for The Esoteric Tradition are to the 2-vol. Second Edition and do not correspond to the 1-vol. 3rd & Revised Edition.]
The Secret Doctrine of Gautama the Buddha (1)
Turning now to a more particular examination of metaphysical and religio-philosophical ideas imbodied in Buddhism, one would like to ask a very pertinent question: What indeed are the doctrines — some of the more important of them at least — that the Buddha-Gautama taught? Or again: What is the fundamental teaching of Buddhism? One will find this question constantly asked and answered by Occidental Orientalists; but the present writer has always wondered, in his study of Buddhism which has extended over some thirty years, why these really learned and scholarly men of the Occident, so earnest and devoted in their studies, so industrious indeed, invariably seem to hunt for, and to insist that Buddhism must have, one fundamental doctrine. To tell the truth, the present writer does not know what this one fundamental doctrine is. It is easy to know what many if not most European scholars have to say about it; but yet the writer of these lines has searched for thirty years more or less to find the "one fundamental doctrine" in Buddhism, and instead of one he has found a hundred or more.
What are some of these? The impermanence of all manifested existence or existences; that in consequence of the impermanence and illusory nature of all manifested beings and things, pain, suffering, sorrow, are native to all beings who live in this illusion, or maya; yet there is a Way leading to the cessation of all this sorrow, of all this pain, and of all individual illusions about them; and this Way is eightfold in character. It is commonly called in Europe "the Noble Eightfold Path," based upon Four Fundamental Truths or Verities. What are, first, these Four Noble Truths:
The noble truth about sorrow and pain;
The noble truth about the cause of sorrow and pain;
The noble truth about the cessation of sorrow and pain;
The noble truth about the path that leads to this cessation.
These four truths may be somewhat paraphrased as follows:
1. Suffering and sorrow exist in all manifested beings.
2. There is a cause for the suffering and the sorrow that exist.
3. There is a way to render extinct the causes of the suffering and sorrow that exist.
4. There is a path, by following which the causes of the suffering and sorrow that exist are rendered extinct. This path consists in a continuous changing to betterment of the factors or samskaras of our consciousness. These factors are eight and comprise the Noble Eightfold Path.
The Noble Eightfold Path
1. Recognition of the truth of the preceding four verities.
2. Holding the objective to be attained clearly in the mind, holding it firm, with discrimination.
3. Right words, or controlled and governed speech at all times and in all places.
4. Controlled and governed action at all times and in all places.
5. Appropriate and honorable means of livelihood.
6. An inflexible will to achieve the objective visioned.
7. An eager intellect, always open for a greater truth, and ready to learn; and the cultivation of a strong and retentive memory.
8. An unveiled spiritual perception, combined with great care in thinking, which is the keynote of all the preceding items, and which expressed in other words means right meditation with a tranquil mind into which wisdom thus enters.
In addition to this "Noble Eightfold Path," based on the Four Verities, which those especially who follow the Hinayana love, and rightly love, there are the six, seven, or indeed ten, paramitas or Sublime Virtues studied and followed, let us hope, by the disciples of the Schools of the North — — they who believe that they have received and that they have developed the teaching of the Lord Buddha's heart, and who, likewise, accept at least in their principles the teachings of his brain, the "Eye-Doctrine" of the Hinayana.
What are these Paramitas? They are stated below, and given largely in the words of H. P. Blavatsky, as found in her noble little handbook The Voice of the Silence(2) Although a Theosophist first and foremost, she was likewise a formal Buddhist, having at one time when in Ceylon taken Pansil or the Five exoteric Vows; thus she was well qualified to speak about the doctrines of him whom she loved because she understood him far better than the rather stiff-minded European Orientalists, governed to a large extent as they have been by the psychological atmosphere of a now moribund anthropological science, combined with a mind more or less swayed by equally moribund Christian theology. These, then, are the famous Paramitas, the first seven given more or less in the words of H. P. Blavatsky:
1. The key of charity and immortal love.
2. Harmony in word and act, thus cutting at the roots of the making of future evil karman.
3. Patience, that naught can ruffle.
4. Indifference to pleasure and pain, by which illusion is conquered and truth is perceived.
5. Dauntless energy or fortitude, that finds its way to the supernal truth out of the mire of lies.
6. Spiritual meditation, a golden gate which once opened leads the chela or neophyte to the realm of eternal verity and ceaseless contemplation of it.
7. Wisdom combined with discriminating intelligence, which makes of a man a god, creating him a Bodhisattva, a son of the Dhyanis.
In addition to these Seven, the following three are also frequently mentioned in Buddhist literature; and they are of equal importance with the former, although they are here enumerated out of their usual order as they are commonly found in the exoteric books:
8. Proper method or discipline in following the Path.
9. The urgent wish to achieve success for the sake of being an impersonal beneficent energy in the world.
10. A continuous exercise of the intellect in study of self, of others, and incidentally of the great religious literatures and philosophies of the world.
Mind you, these ten are among the most widely accepted mystical teachings of the Northern School of Buddhism which is followed more or less faithfully by some 400 million human beings — at least let us hope so.
It has often been said by those who understand but little, one fears, of the essential teaching of the Tathagata, of Gautama the Buddha, that he taught that when a man dies, then finis, complete and utter, is his fate or destiny. The man is; he dies; he now is not! This is a monstrous perversion of the Buddha's own teaching. It has often been said by those who have studied but have misunderstood the Buddha-Gautama's teachings, that his doctrine was that there is no reincarnating or reimbodying entity, as an entity; and yet the teachings of the Buddhist scriptures, both of South and of North, are filled with the stories of what it is popular to miscall the "metempsychosis" of individuals.
Take the Jataka-Tales, already alluded to, the birth-tales supposed by the multitude of unthinking to be stories of the former imbodiments of Sakyamuni himself, dealing with events that were said to have taken place in these past imbodiments of his on Earth — take these as instances; and one will find in these curiously interesting and sometimes profound tales, for they are largely mystical and metaphorical, that the existences of the Buddha began, as it were, in the very beginning of this present world-period, as one of the lowest and humblest of creatures, and that he slowly evolved through repetitive imbodiments developing and growing in each, until finally he attained Buddhahood as Sakyamuni.
Question: If there be no surviving entity, what was it that passed from birth to birth in those numerous stories, which, whatever one may think of them, proclaim the common acceptance by the multitude of Buddhists of there being some kind of x-factor in the complex of skandhas forming the human being which passes from life to life? Or how about the many instances in canonical Buddhist scriptures themselves, which place in the mouth of the Great Teacher himself observations, remarks, parables, references, to the preceding births of such or such other individuals? If Buddhism taught no such continuity through repeated imbodiments of something, why all this allusion to reincarnating beings?
Buddhism teaches an evolution or development of this x-factor of consciousness and will slowly followed through many rebirths, through repeated imbodiments, bringing about constantly increasing faculty and power, until finally the entity whose evolving destiny is thus traced, becomes a man; and after becoming a man finally becomes a Bodhisattva — one filled with the spirit of the inner Buddha, or rather of the Buddhic principle, the Bodhi, the principle and fountain-head of utter wisdom. Furthermore, that taking the Buddha-Gautama as an example or illustration of such an evolving entity, in his last incarnation on earth, he was born the human Bodhisattva-Siddhartha, later called Sakyamuni, in the year 643 b. c, and that when he was eighty years of age, after having passed through manifold experiences and trials, and after he had gathered together and taught his disciples and had sent them abroad in order to proclaim the Good Law, he then entered the Nirvana, with an entering which left naught behind save his Dharma — the Law, i. e., the Truth that he taught.
Now, let one ask: What is it that thus passes from the humblest of beings through the many and varied gatis or "ways" of existence, through repeated and incessant rebirth, until that Something, that x-quantity, hereinbefore called the x-factor, becomes a Buddha? What is it, one asks? The scriptures of the South of Asia, of the Hinayana, will say that it was results, consequences, i. e., karman. Precisely! What then is this karman? The word itself means action, signifying results, consequences, effects. But is it thinkable that the noblest Sage of historic times, the titan-intellect of the human race, perhaps the loftiest spiritual genius of his kind known to the human species for scores of thousands of years past, taught that bare consequences, naked composites, sheer effects, technically called samskaras or mere collections (one may properly ask, collections of what?) can and do pass in entitative fashion from life to life, recollect themselves — re-collect themselves after being time after time dispersed as atomic aggregates into the various realms of Nature from which they were originally drawn? The answer depends entirely upon the meaning that we give to this term samskaras, and to the term skandhas. If these are mere aggregates of atoms existing on the psycho-emotional as well as on the physical plane, and without any internal bond of spiritual-psychological union, thus voicing the merely and completely materialistic idea: then we must infer that this titan-intellect taught an impossibility, which the merest tyro in philosophical and scientific thought would reject with impatience as being words without meaning, thoughts without content, ideas void of sense or foundation. Or if, on the other hand, we understand, as we should understand, samskaras to mean psycho-magnetic and material aggregates of life-atoms attracted to each other because of their intrinsic magnetic vital power, and unified and governed by the repetitive action of the same spiritual and intellectual forces, previously described, which formerly held them in union as an aggregated vehicle, then indeed we have a reasonable and logical teaching consistent with what we know ourselves of the intricate and unitary yet compounded character of our constitution, and likewise thoroughly consistent not only with all the teaching of the Hindu philosophy of the day, but with all the remainder of the Buddha's own sublimely comprehensive and profound philosophy.
The following observations, therefore, give the undoubted meaning and inner content of the Gautama-Buddha's Doctrine; and it is likewise precisely the meaning and content of the "heart" of his teaching as found in the Mahayana-Schools of the North, and taught today by Theosophy. One may add that it is also the meaning and content of the Hinayana-School, although in this last school the inner content is less easily uncovered, though seen to be as much a part of it when thus uncovered as it is an essential part of the great Mahayana-Systems.
While it is perfectly true that the lower parts, or inferior portions, of every entity, of a human being for instance, form a compound or "complex," and therefore are a compounded aggregate, and consequently because of this combination mortal and perishable as such compound, being what in Buddhism are called the samskaras, or the body of composites, nevertheless, there is something of a spiritual, intellectual, and psychological character, previously called the x-factor, around which this aggregated compound re-gathers or recollects itself at each new rebirth; and it is this something by which the compound is re-assembled and during life is held together as an entity, thus forming a man — or indeed any similar being. There is here no such teaching as that of the imperishable, immortal soul in the Christian sense, static through eternity in unchanging essential characteristics, as is obvious enough; and this deduction of no such imperishable immortal soul in the human being as drawn from the teachings of the Buddha himself, and as found in the many and various scriptures, is perfectly correct, for such a soul, to be immortal, must not and cannot essentially change, which likewise would mean that it cannot evolve or grow, because if it did so grow, so evolve — which means changing to something different and better — it then no longer is what it was before. It is something different because it is changed; and therefore, not being what it formerly was, it obviously cannot be "immortal" in the Christian sense. This is a subtil and profound thought which, once grasped, unveils the inner meaning of Sakyamuni's teaching in this respect, and one's sense of logical consistency is aroused to admiration by it.
Consequently this x-quantity, call it what you like, call it karman if you will — and if you understand the proper meaning of the word karman as signifying consequences, or results, of whatever kind, spiritual, intellectual, psychical, physical or what not, it is as good a word as any — is that vital-psychological something which insures the re-collecting of the samskaras together for the new life, thus reproducing the new man, as the fruitage or results of his past life. It all is simply a continuance in existence of this x-quantity in life after life by means of the karmic consequences or results of the life and of all the lives which have preceded any new appearance or imbodiment or incarnation of the peregrinating entity.
Let us try to illustrate this very mystical doctrine, so difficult for Occidentals to understand. Consider a child. The child is born from an infinitesimal and invisible human life-germ, and yet in a few years it grows to be a six-foot man. Now then, in order to become a six-foot man from the little child that it was, it must pass through many and differing stages of growth, of evolution which means development, unfolding. First it is the microscopic germ, developing into the embryo, then born as an infant, then growing into the lad, the lad changing into the young man, the young man becoming the man in the maturity and plenitude of his powers, and finally, the man after the maturity and plenitude of his powers enters upon the phase of senescence, decay, decrepitude and death. Now every one of these phases is a change from the preceding one, and is based and founded upon the preceding one. Each such new phase is the karman of the next preceding phase and all preceding phases. Yet the man is the same through all the changes, although the man himself changes because growing likewise.
The boy of six is not the boy of ten; the boy of ten is not the lad of fifteen; and the young man of twenty-five is not the man of forty; and the man of forty is different from the man of fifty-five when he is at his prime — or should be; and the man of eighty, usually weak and tired, worn with toil and labor, soon going to his rest and peace for a while, is not the new-born child — yet the entity is the same from the beginning of the cyclic series unto its end; because there is an uninterrupted series of steps or stages of change signifying growth, which means development or evolution.
In this example, simple as it is, you have the key to the Buddhist thought. Precisely as it is with the birth and development and growth of a child into a human adult, so is it with the passage of the karman of an entity from body to body through the different life-stages of rebirth, through the different ages: the passing from low to high of that x-quantity which the Theosophists call "the reincarnating ego," and the mystical Buddhists speak of as the shining ray from the Buddha within, and which the Hinayana of the South, the defective vehicle, the exoteric teaching of the Lord Buddha, spoke of as the "karman" of the man growing continuously nobler, better, grander, greater, more evolved, until the man through these karmic changes or changings of karman finally becomes a Bodhisattva; the Bodhisattva then becomes a Buddha, finally entering the Nirvana.
It may as well be said here that this "something," this x-factor, is what in Theosophy is called the Monad which, imperishable in essence, and the fountain-head of all consciousness and will, passes from age to age throughout the Manvantara and reproduces itself by means of rays from its essence in the various reimbodiments or reincarnations which it thus brings about. In mystical Buddhism, especially of the North, this Monad is identic with the Dhyani-Buddha or inner spiritual "Buddha of Meditation" which is the heart or core of every reimbodying being. Just as in Esoteric Theosophy or the Esoteric Tradition each and every monad is a droplet, or ray, to change the figure of speech, of and from the cosmic Maha-buddhi, just so in mystical Buddhism, every Dhyani-Buddha is a ray from Amitabha-Buddha, a form or manifestation of Alaya or the Cosmic Spirit.
When one hears that Buddhism teaches the final ending, signifying the thorough-going transmuting, wholly complete, of that intangible and vague entity which Christians miscall "soul," and which the Buddhists of the South call the "karman" of a man — the sum-total of all that a man is, all his feelings, thoughts, yearnings, energies, forces (in short everything that the man is, for everything is his karman), passing ever to greater and greater things — then it should be remembered that while this statement is true when properly understood, nevertheless the Northern School of Buddhism which is incomparably more mystical than that of the South, still retains, however imperfectly, the more explicit and lucid teaching emanating from the Buddha's "heart," to wit: That there is a ray from the celestial Buddha within the composite entity called man builded of the samskaras, and that it is the influence of this ray which first brought the samskaras together, which ray persists throughout the ages, and re-collects the same samskaras together anew, thus reproducing through repetitive imbodiments on Earth the same karmic entity who or which formerly existed. Try to understand the essential meaning of this karman-doctrine as taught by the great Master and as more or less faithfully imbodied in the Buddhist scriptures, and the fact will be grasped that the karman of the man is the man himself; and that just because the man himself is continually changing because continually growing, thus the karman of the man which is himself is obviously likewise continually changing for the better. The teaching of the South, of the Hinayana, is true, when it states that what remains of a man after his death is his karman, because as just shown this karman is the man himself.
It is, therefore, unquestionably true, that Sakyamuni taught the non-reality, the non-existence of a static, continuous, "soul" or minor self such as is taught in Christianity and in certain other religions or religious philosophies of similar type. This last fact, or rather averment, is true and admits of no contradiction; but instead of being, as it is so wrongly misunderstood to be, the mark of philosophical and religious imperfection, or as signifying a lack of penetrating sagacity into human psychology, it would be easy to show that precisely the contrary of this is the case; and that, indeed, this teaching of the Buddha, as more or less imbodied in the scriptures of the Mahayana and Hinayana, and especially in the latter, is one of the greatest glories of the great Master's doctrine, and is, furthermore, most curiously and suggestively parallel with the best in modern scientific and philosophical speculation in the West.
There are one or two highly significant and pregnant passages in ancient Buddhist scriptural lore, the importance of which is consistently passed over because misunderstood. In the Dhammapada, dealing in general with the matter of the Self or the intrinsic selfhood of beings and entities around which the "compound aggregates" are builded as vehicles, we find the following very interesting and certainly highly suggestive thoughts:
The Self is the master of self — for who else could be its lord? With the self [the lower self, or "compound aggregate"] thoroughly controlled, the man finds a Master [or Guide] such as cannot elsewhere be found. (3)
Here is a pointed and emphatic statement of the existence in the human constitution of the governing, controlling, Root-Self which lives and manifests its transcendent powers in and through the lower self or "soul," the latter being naught but the "compound aggregate" of elements, which is the man in his ordinary being. When it is remembered that the Dhammapada is one of the most authoritative and respected scriptures of the Hinayana or Southern School, one can appreciate the force of this statement, the more so as it is found in the cycle of scriptures of the Hinayana which far more than the Northern or Mahayana is always cited as the Buddhist School teaching the supposed, but wrongly supposed, nihilism so often brought against Buddhism in support of its being a pessimistic system without spiritual basis or import.
Here we have a direct reference to the emphatic existence of the essential Atman or fundamental Self, or Self-hood, in the human constitution.
One more instance, drawn this time from the Mahayana, and due to one who in Buddhism itself has always been recognised as being a Bodhisattva — Nagarjuna. This true mystic Sage and Initiate-Teacher, and one of the most devoted of the Buddha-Gautama's later followers who faithfully carried on the Esoteric Tradition, in his commentary on the Sutra or scripture of the famous Buddhist work Prajna-Paramita, states the following:
Sometimes the Tathagata [the Buddha] taught that the Atman verily exists, and yet at other times he taught that the Atman does not exist. (4)
Just so. Are we then to suppose that the Buddha-Gautama taught, and deliberately taught, contradictions in order to befuddle and to mystify his hearers? Hardly, for the idea is ludicrous. What has already been said about the compound constitution of man, through which the eternal Self or Atman, i. e., in this case the Dhyani-Buddha, works through its erring, wayward "lower self or vehicle, or "soul," should sufficiently explain that the various meanings of "self were as keenly recognised in ancient Buddhist thought and by the great Master himself as they are recognised today. The meaning of the Buddha was obvious enough, that the Atman as the essential Self, or the Dhyani-Buddha in the human constitution, exists and evolves perennially, is ever-enduring; but that the "lower self or inferior selfhood of a man is merely the feeble reflexion of it, and is what the Europeans call "soul," and hence does not "exist" as an enduring entity. The same play, for this is what it really is, upon the word "self is distinctly perceptible in the citation from the Dhammapada just previously made where the Self as Master is the lord of the lower self as mere man. The present writer is well aware of the many passages in Buddhist scriptures concerning the non-existence of the Atman as the human self or soul — the doctrine of Anatta, in the Pali writings — and fully concurs, for the truth is obvious enough; but these passages cannot be considered alone and apart from other teachings distinctly stating the Atman is: constantly in the Mahayana, and in the Hinayana as in the above citation from the Dhammapada. In any case, the Atman is most certainly not the transitory and impermanent human "soul"; and it is thus that the Buddha's true thought and doctrine should be construed. It reconciles all the difficulties.
He whom his followers and whom the West know under various titles, such as Gautama the Buddha, Sakyamuni or the Sakya-Sage, or by his personal name Siddhartha — which means "one who has achieved his objective" — was born in the Spring, at or about the time of the Spring-Equinox, in the waxing moon, and in the year 643 b. c., reckoning according to Christian chronology, in a North Indian town which is now thought to have been in the foot-hills of the Himalaya-mountains. His father was Suddhodana which our very pragmatical Occidentalists say means "pure rice," or "pure food," apparently forgetting that it is virtually impossible that this could be the translation because it would be a violation of Sanskrit grammar, and the original of such translation would have to be spelled Suddhaudana — which it is not. The word means "pure water" or "pure flow," and is obviously in connexion with the fact that his mother was called Maya or Mayadevi, meaning Illusion, or Illusion the goddess, a mystic name referring to the Buddhist teaching itself that his origin was divine, from the Celestial Buddha, from whom flowed a pure ray of the spirit which, passing through the realms of Illusion the mother, mystically gave birth to the Buddha. Remember also that the name of his wife was Yasodhara, which can be translated as "holder of glory" or perhaps better "possessor of glory," pointing to the fact of his possession as the other "half of himself of spiritual qualities and powers through which and in connexion with which he lived and worked.
It is unnecessary here to relate anew the world-famed story of the Buddha's life, as it is so well known not only to scholars but to every student of the life of the great Master. Those who are even today so strangely and strongly fascinated by the various forms of the lower Indian Yoga, as this has been proclaimed abroad in Western lands by itinerant thinkers from the Indian Peninsula, and who imagine that the pathway to initiation and interior development is the mortification or, even worse, the mutilation of the physical frame, should take serious counsel of the fact that the Buddha, so the story of his life runs, after trying these various means of interior development through yoga, cast them all aside, renounced them as virtually useless for his sublime purpose. Iconography and pictorial art generally in Buddhism show the various phases of the different events in his life before he attained utter illumination or Buddhahood under the Bodhi-tree, so called in commemoration of this great Event; and the most informative of these representations are they which show the Buddha in one of the various postures of spiritual meditation, interior re-collection; but equally significant are those which represent him in the pre-Buddha state as a veritable image of skin and bones, what the Germans call a Hautskelet. The pathway to the Temple of Wisdom and of interior illumination is not the pathway of mortification of the flesh, but the control of the will, the living of the life, combined with intellectual awakening — i. e., the path of interior development, and the becoming at one with the superior elements of the human constitution which are at one and the same time divine in their highest parts, spiritual in the next lower range, and intellectual in their third.
The term "Buddha" itself means awakened, from the verbal root budh, signifying "to observe," "to recover consciousness," and therefore, "to awaken" — i. e., a Buddha is one who is fully awake and active in all the parts or ranges of his septempartite constitution, and is therefore a full, complete, and relatively speaking a perfectly evolved human being.
The esoteric Theosophical teaching is here likewise passed over in relative slightness, which teaching contains the statement that the Buddha did indeed "die" to all human affairs at the age of eighty years, because then the higher parts of him entered the Nirvana, and no Nirvani can be called a living man if he has attained the seventh degree of this range of Nirvana as the Buddha did; yet the esoteric Theosophical teaching likewise states that in all the remainder of his constitution, in those parts of him beneath the range of the Dhyani-Buddha within him, he remained alive on Earth for twenty years more after this date, teaching his Arhats and chosen disciples in secret, giving to them the nobler "doctrines of the heart," as obviously he had publicly taught "the doctrines of his brain," i. e., the eye-doctrine; and that finally, in the hundredth year of his physical age, Gautama-Sakyamuni, the Buddha, cast his physical body aside and thereafter has lived in the inner realms of being as a Nirmanakaya.
One must say a little more about a phase of the Buddha's teaching which exoteric Buddhism, whether of North or South, does not openly tell of. There is a Wisdom, the Secret Wisdom of the Buddha-Gautama, his esoteric dharma — and the present writer does not hesitate to state this openly, and he ventures to say that it may be found, although more or less veiled, in the teaching of the books of the great Mahayana-School of Northern and Central Asia. Furthermore, this dharma, this Secret Wisdom, this Gupta-Vidya, can verily be taught. Among its doctrines, likewise found in the teaching of the Northern School, is the statement that every man is a manifestation on this earth of a Buddhic principle belonging to his constitution and manifesting in three degrees or phases: (a) as a Celestial or Dhyani-Buddha, (b) as a Dhyani-Bodhisattva, (c) as a Manushya-Buddha; and that all human faculties and powers are, like rays from a spiritual sun, derivatives from this wondrous interior compound Buddhic entity. It is the core of the core of all our being. Union with this "heart" of us is the aim of all initiation, for it is the union, the becoming at one, with the Buddhi-principle within us, the seat of abstract Bodhi; and when this union is achieved, then a man becomes a Buddha.
This is the fundamental thought, in the writer's considered opinion, of all the teaching of the Buddha-Gautama; and even the very last words which popular legend ascribes to the Master on his death-bed, "Seek out your own perfection," imbody the same fundamental thought of the human being as an imperfect manifestation of the celestial or Dhyani-Buddha within himself — the man ever striving, consciously or unconsciously, to attain union with this divinity within. This is the yoga of Buddhism, although one readily grants that we hear little of it; yet it is averred that it is likewise the real yoga, and the only yoga worth anything, in the various systems of Hindu yoga-teaching likewise.
We have in these thoughts, drawn from the recorded teachings of the Buddha himself, exactly the same sublime adhortation or injunction that all the great Sages and Seers of all the ages have taught, to wit, that the way to the unutterable Wisdom and Peace of the Divine is found within oneself. All the great spiritual and intellectual human Titans, whose vast minds have been the luminaries of the human race in all past times, were precisely they who had developed more or less of this Buddha-principle within themselves; and the value, philosophic, religious, and ethical, of this teaching lies in the fact that every human being may follow the same path that these great Masters have followed, because every human being has in his constitution the same identical cosmic elements that the Great Ones have.
Even the School of Southern Asia, the Hinayana, gives as the unquestioned teaching of the Tathagata that a man can attain union with Brahman, as is evidenced by a number of passages in the Pali scriptures. Now, what is the path by which this union may be achieved? In answer, consider the following citation from one of the "orthodox" scriptures of the Hinayana-School, and thus the reader will have the Buddhist scriptures" own words before him. This teaching of the Buddha-Gautama concerning the gaining of union with Brahma will be familiar to him as likewise being the teaching of orthodox Brahmanism. Thus, then, from the Tevijja-Sutta:
"That the Bhikkhu who is free . . . should after death, when the body is dissolved, become united with Brahma, who is the same — such a condition of things is every way possible!
"In sooth, . . . the Bhikkhu who is free from anger, free from malice, pure in mind, and master of himself should after death, when the body is dissolved, become united with Brahma, who is the same — such a condition of things is every way possible!" (5)
"For Brahma, I know, . . . and the world of Brahma, and the path which leadeth unto it. Yea, I know it even as one who has entered the Brahma world, and has been born within it!" (6)
"And he lets his mind pervade one quarter of the world with thoughts of Love, of pity, sympathy, and equanimity, and so the second, and so the third, and so the fourth. And thus the whole wide world, above, below, around, and everywhere, does he continue to pervade with heart of Love, with heart of pity, sympathy, and equanimity, far-reaching, grown great, and beyond measure.
"Verily this . . . is the way to a state of union with Brahma." (7)
In what stronger words could a more emphatic and clear-cut statement be made than the above, of the fact that there is something of a spiritual-intellectual character which works through the compound aggregate of the skandhas that form the "mere man," and which spiritual substance or entity — called by the Theosophist the spiritual Monad — can and finally must attain union with the Cosmic Spirit here called Brahma, or, in other words, what the Esoteric Philosophy or the Esoteric Tradition frequently calls the Logos, in this instance the Third or so-called "Creative" Logos. We have here the essence or substance, in almost identic formulation, of the teaching of the Vedanta of India, that the essence or the substantial root of all beings and things, man therefore included, is the cosmic Brahman or Cosmic Spirit, of which all beings and entities are the offsprings, and reunion with which is, in the long course of ages, finally inevitable; and that there exists a Way or Path by which such reunion may be attained, by which Way the aeons'-long evolutionary pilgrimage may be vastly shortened.
Now then, after the conclusive paragraphs just cited above from the Tevijja-Sutta, one of the standard scriptures of the Southern School of Buddhism, in which the x-quantity, that Something, is emphatically and plainly stated herein as being capable of attaining "a state of union with Brahma.," it becomes necessary to point with emphatic finger to one of the most pregnant and important teachings of the Great Master which shows that the Buddha-Gautama by no means considered such a state of union with Brahman as the ultimate or ending of the existence of the fortunate Jivanmukta or freed Monad. Indeed, his teaching ran directly contrary to such erroneous idea; for both implicitly and explicitly, as may be found in the scriptures of both the North and the South, there is the reiterated statement that even beyond the "world of Brahma," i. e., beyond Brahman, there are realms of consciousness and being still higher than this "world of Brahma," in which reside the roots, so to speak, of the Cosmic Tree and therefore the Root of every human being, the offspring of such mystical Cosmic Tree. What is this Mystic Root, this that is higher even than Brahma? It is the individualized Adi-Buddha, the Cosmic "Creative" Logos of Adi-Bodhi, or Alaya, the Cosmic Originant; for even a "world of Brahma" is a manifested world; and, therefore, however high it may be by comparison with our material world, is yet a relatively imperfect sphere of life and lives. In consequence, the teaching runs that higher even than Brahma there is something Else, the rootless Root, reaching back and within, cosmically speaking, into Parabrahmic Infinitude. One who is a Buddha, i. e., one who has become allied in his inmost essence with the cosmic Bodhi, thus can enter not only the "world of Brahma," but pass out of it and above it and beyond it, yea, higher and higher still to those cosmic reaches of life-consciousness-substance towards which human imagination may aspire and indeed always does aspire, however feebly; but which, unless we are Buddhas in fact, i. e., more or less straitly in self-conscious union with the Dhyani-Buddha, the spiritual Monad within us, we cannot understand otherwise than to be an adumbration of ineffable Nature. These citations, and the more or less necessarily condensed arguments that have been drawn from them, and more especially and somewhat more widely from the general teaching of Esoteric Theosophy, the Esoteric Tradition, should prove to any really thoughtful and impartial mind that there was something more, and indeed vastly more, in the great Master's teaching than the sketchy scriptural records, and the all too often prejudiced and distorted outline of it drawn by the willing and sincere but unskilled hands of most European Orientalists. A Secret Doctrine, an Esoteric Wisdom, a prehistoric Esoteric Tradition, is seen to be a necessary component part — indeed the best part because the entire background — of the teaching of the Buddha; for towards such background every one of his public teachings points, and when considered collectively rather than distributively, when synthesized after analysis, the impartial student reaches the conclusion which seems to be irresistible, that such an Esoteric Doctrine or Tradition was in very truth the "heart" and foundation of the great Master's teaching and life-work.
1. By request THE FORUM reprints these important chapters on the Secret Doctrine of Gautama the Buddha, slightly condensed, from The Esoteric Tradition. This is the third and last instalment. (return to text)
2. Frag. Ill: "The Seven Portals," pp. 47-8 (orig. ed.); (pp. 62-3 P. L. ed.). (return to text)
3. Dhammapada, chapter xii, verse 160. (return to text)
4. From the Chinese recension of Yuan Chuang. (return to text)
5. From the Tevijja-Sutta, rendered from the Pali into English by T. W. Rhys Davids, as found in Volume XI of the Sacred Books of the East series, chapter iii, verses 7, 8. (return to text)
6. Op. cit., chapter i, verse 43. (return to text)
7. Op. cit., chapter iii, verses 1, 3, 4, combined. (return to text)
The Theosophical ForumTHEOSOPHICAL UNIVERSITY PRESS ONLINE