The Creed of Buddha, by Edmond Holmes

That's French for "the ancient system," as in the ancient system of feudal privileges and the exercise of autocratic power over the peasants. The ancien regime never goes away, like vampires and dinosaur bones they are always hidden in the earth, exercising a mysterious influence. It is not paranoia to believe that the elites scheme against the common man. Inform yourself about their schemes here.

Re: The Creed of Buddha, by Edmond Holmes

Postby admin » Mon Oct 21, 2019 7:55 am

Part 1 of 2

CHAPTER VII. THE SECRET OF BUDDHA

THE creed which I am trying to interpret is that of Buddha himself. With the creed of the Buddhist world, with the creed of this or that Buddhist Church, I have no direct concern. Dr Paul Carus is gratified because the South Buddhist Church has sent him a certificate of orthodoxy. Would it give him equal pleasure to know that his interpretation of the creed of Christ (let us say) had been officially endorsed by some Presbyterian Synod, or even by the Vatican? I doubt it. Distance may lend enchantment to the "dogmatics" of a Buddhist church; but when one looks nearer home one begins to see things in their true proportions. It is not in the doctrine of any church or sect that the spirit of the Master's teaching is to be found. For good or for evil, churches and sects are under the control of the average man. On the one hand, they owe their existence to the secret demands of his better nature. On the other hand, they reflect in their theology his secret weaknesses,--his spiritual indolence, his intellectual timidity, his lack of imagination, the essential vulgarity of his thought. Hence it is that the faith which has been officially formulated is as salt which has lost its savour. If we are to hold intercourse with the soul of a great teacher, and so renew in our own souls the springs of his spiritual life, we must be prepared to go far behind and far beyond the formularies of the religion that calls itself by his name.

It follows--to revert to the case of Buddha and Buddhism--that in considering the meaning of this or that passage in the Buddhist "Scriptures," one must have recourse to the general impression of Buddha--the man, the thinker, and the teacher--which has been generated by careful study of all the available sources of evidence, including (as perhaps the most important of all) the spiritual atmosphere of the age in which he lived, rather than to the particular interpretation of the passage in question which has conic to be regarded as "orthodox" by the Buddhist world. Even the fact that there was an apparent agreement with regard to the meaning of the passage between Eastern "dogmatics" and Western scholarship, would count for little in one's eyes, in the event of the given interpretation conflicting with one's general impression of the spirit of Buddha's teaching; for, in the first place, the agreement between Eastern and Western thought would probably prove to be wholly superficial; and, in the second place, scholarship, as such, is debarred by its own aims and interests and by the special preparation which it presupposes, from making that wide survey and that deep and sympathetic study of all the available evidence, which would be needed if the inner meaning of the passage was to be wrested from it.

I have convinced myself that faith in the ideal identity of the individual with the Universal Soul was the hidden fountain head of Buddha's practical teaching. I will now test the worth of this conclusion by applying it, as a provisional hypothesis, to the solution of some of the many problems that perplex the student of Buddhism. The best way to handle those problems is to consider the grave charges which have been brought against Buddha and Buddhism,--charges which have been so often reiterated that they are now openly endorsed by the "man in the street."

Five of these are of capital importance.

We are told that Buddha denied the Soul or Ego; in other words, that his teaching was materialistic.

We are told that there was no place for God in his system of thought; in other words, that his teaching was atheistic.

We are told that he regarded all existence as intrinsically evil; in other words, that his teaching was pessimistic.

We are told that he taught men to think only of themselves and their personal welfare; in other words, that his scheme of life was egoistic.

We are told that after Nirvâna--the inward state of him who has lifted the last veil of illusion--comes annihilation; in other words (since what is behind the last veil of illusion is ex hypothesi supremely real), that Buddha regarded Nothing as the Supreme Reality, and that therefore his teaching was nihilistic.

Can these charges be substantiated? If they can, we are confronted by the most perplexing of all problems. How comes it that a religion which has such vital defects has had such a successful career? That Buddha won to his will the "deepest heart" of the Far East is undeniable. Was it by preaching the gospel of materialism, of atheism, of pessimism, of egoism, of nihilism, that he achieved this signal triumph? This is the problem into which all the other problems that beset the path of the student of Buddhism must ultimately be resolved."

Let us now consider, by the light of the hypothesis which I am seeking to verify, each of the capital charges that have been brought against Buddha.

(1) The materialism of Buddha.

Let us assume that, far from denying the Ego, Buddha believed in it, in his heart of hearts,--believed in it with the depth and subtlety of belief which are characteristic of Indian idealism,--believed in it as the "unbeholden essence" of all things, as the all-generating, all-sustaining life which individualizes itself in every human breast, yet is what it really is at the heart of the Universe, and nowhere else. What would be the attitude of one who so conceived of the Ego towards the popular belief--popular, one may safely conjecture, in Buddha's day as in ours--in the intrinsic reality of the individualized Ego, or individual soul? That the Ego is not real, in the fullest sense of the word, till it has become one with the Universal Soul, is the postulate on which all his philosophy, both as a whole and under each of its aspects, would be hinged. On its way to the goal of union with the Divine, the individual soul must needs pass through many stages of unreality. So long as it retains its sense of isolation, its mistaken sense of I-ness, it is, comparatively speaking, unreal. What is real in it is its potential universality. What is unreal is what it regards as of its very essence,--its individuality, its sense of separateness from all other things. Had Buddha looked at the problem of selfhood from the standpoint of Indian idealism, he would have seen that the popular belief in the intrinsic value of the individual Soul is fundamentally false, not on the plane of metaphysical speculation only, but on every plane of human life; and he would have set himself to combat it in each of its many forms. Of the many forms that it takes I need not speak at length. The materialism of him who identifies his soul (his "self") with his body, or who conceives of it as the "totality" of his own sensations, perceptions, or other states of consciousness; the semi-materialism of him who (like the pious Christian) regards the soul as "something which flies out away from the body at death," or as one of many parts or organs of a complex being; the sentimental clinging to individuality; the metaphysical clinging to individuality;--these may be mentioned as typical forms of that reluctance to regard the Universal Soul as the only true self, which is so characteristic of popular thought in all the stages of its development, and against which Buddha, if I have not misread his philosophy, must have waged a relentless war. If I am asked why Buddha, who eschewed metaphysical controversy, should have thought it necessary to combat a belief which seems to be primarily metaphysical, my answer is that the belief is not primarily metaphysical, that on the contrary it is the reflection in consciousness of a deep-seated instinct which has vital ethical consequences--the instinct to affirm the ordinary self, to accept it, minister to it, magnify it, rest in it--in a word, the egoistic instinct, the hidden root of every form of spiritual evil, and the first and last of moral defects. As the suppression of egoism was the very end and aim of Buddha's scheme of life, and as in this matter the distinction between theory on the one hand and sentiment, desire, and impulse on the other, is hard to draw and easy to efface, it was but natural that Buddha should wage war against the egoistic instinct even when it disguised itself as a semi-philosophical theory. But he waged that war, as he did everything else that he took in hand, within the limits prescribed by his own "sweet reasonableness" and exalted common-sense. Leaving it to the metaphysical experts to wrangle over the more abstract aspects of the problem of selfhood, he contented himself with combating on quasi-popular grounds the popular delusion that the individual Ego is real, permanent, self-contained.

Let us assume this much; and we shall see a new meaning in each of the many passages on which Western criticism has based its theory that denial of the Ego was the cardinal article of Buddha's creed. We shall see that, whenever he seems to be denying existence to the Ego as such, what he is really doing is to deny reality to the individual Ego, to the ordinary surface self.

Let us first consider a dialogue in which the principal speaker is the venerable Sâriputta, but in which the arguments advanced may well have been devised by Buddha himself, coinciding as they do with arguments which he is reported to have used in one of his early discourses. A monk, named Yamaka, had convinced himself, as many modern interpreters of Buddhism have done, that the "doctrine taught by the Blessed One "amounted to this, "that on the dissolution of the body the monk who has lost all depravity is annihilated, perishes, and does not exist after death." His fellow-monks urged him to abandon what they regarded as a "wicked heresy," but to no purpose. At last they besought the venerable Sâriputta to "draw near" to Yamaka and try to convert him to a truer view of the Blessed One's teaching.

"And the venerable Sâriputta consented by his silence. Then the venerable Sâriputta in the evening of the day arose from meditation, and drew near to where the venerable Yamaka was; and having drawn near he greeted the venerable Yamaka, and having passed the compliments of friendship and civility, he sat down respectfully on one side. And seated respectfully at one side, the venerable Sâriputta spoke to the venerable Yamaka as follows: 'Is the report true, brother Yamaka, that the following wicked heresy has sprung up in your mind: Thus do I understand the doctrine taught by the Blessed One, that on the dissolution of the body the monk who has lost all depravity is annihilated, perishes, and does not exist after death?'

"'Even so, brother, do I understand the doctrine taught by the Blessed One, that on the dissolution of the body the monk who has lost all depravity is annihilated, perishes, and does not exist after death.'

"'What think you, brother Yamaka? Is form permanent, or transitory?"

"'It is transitory, brother.'

"'And that which is transitory--is it evil, or is it good?'

"'It is evil, brother.'

"'And that which is transitory, evil, and liable to change--is it possible to say of it: This is mine--this am I--this is my Ego?'

"'Nay, verily, brother.'

"'Is sensation . . . perception . . . the predispositions . . . consciousness, permanent, or transitory?'

"'It is transitory, brother.'

"'And that which is transitory--is it evil, or is it good?'

"'It is evil, brother.'

"'And that which is transitory, evil, and liable to change--is it possible to say of it: This is mine; this am I; this is my Ego?'

"'Nay, verily, brother Yamaka.'

"'Accordingly, brother Yamaka, as respects all form whatsoever--as respects all sensation whatsoever--as respects all perception whatsoever--as respects all predispositions whatsoever--as respects all consciousness whatsoever, past, future or present, be it subjective or existing outside, gross or subtle, mean or exalted, far or near, the correct view in the light of the highest knowledge is as follows: This is not mine; this am I not; this is not my Ego.

"'Perceiving this, brother Yamaka, the learned and noble disciple conceives an aversion for form, conceives an aversion for sensation, conceives an aversion for perception, conceives an aversion for the predispositions, conceives an aversion for consciousness. And in conceiving this aversion he becomes divested of passion, and by the absence of passion he becomes free, and when he is free he becomes aware that he is free; and he knows that rebirth is exhausted, that he has lived the holy life, that he has done what it behooved him to do, and that he is no more for the world.

"'What think you, brother Yamaka? Do you consider form as the Saint?'

"'Nay, verily, brother.'

"'Do you consider sensation . . . perception . . . the predispositions . . . consciousness as the Saint?'

"'Nay, verily, brother.'

"'What think you, brother Yamaka? Do you consider the Saint as comprised in form?'

"'Nay, verily, brother.'

"'Do you consider the Saint as distinct from form?'

"'Nay, verily, brother.'

"'Do you consider the Saint as comprised in sensation? . . . as distinct from sensation? . . . as comprised in perception? . . . as distinct from perception? . . . as comprised in the predispositions? . . . as distinct from the predispositions? . . . as comprised in consciousness? . . . as distinct from consciousness?'

"'Nay, verily, brother.'

"'What think you, brother Yamaka? Are form, sensation, perception, the predispositions and consciousness united the Saint?'

"'Nay, verily, brother.'

"'What think you, brother Yamaka? Do you consider the Saint as a something having no form, sensation, perception, predispositions or consciousness?'

"'Nay, verily, brother.'

"'Considering now, brother Yamaka, that you fail to make out and establish the existence of the Saint in the present life, is it reasonable for you to say: Thus do I understand the doctrine taught by the Blessed One, that on the dissolution of the body the monk who has lost all depravity is annihilated, perishes, and does not exist after death?"

"'Brother Sâriputta, it was because of my ignorance that I held this wicked heresy; but now that I have listened to the doctrinal instruction of the venerable Sâriputta, I have abandoned that wicked heresy and acquired the true doctrine.'"

Mr H. C. Warren, from whose translation of the dialogue in his learned work, "Buddhism in Translation," I have made this extract, heads each page in the dialogue with the significant words, "There is no Ego." That is how he interprets the teaching of Sâriputta. But surely what Sâriputta intended to teach was the exact opposite of this. The monk Yamaka believed that at the death of the "Saint"--at the moment when his cycle of earth-lives had come to an end--he ceased to be. This belief, we are expressly told, was regarded as a "wicked heresy"; and Sâriputta disabused Yamaka's mind of it by showing him that it was as difficult for him to "make out and establish" the existence of the "Saint" in the present life as in the life beyond death (and beyond rebirth). He reminds him, in words which, according to tradition, had been used by Buddha himself, that the Ego is not to be identified with form, with sensation, with perception, with the "predispositions," with consciousness, since each of these is transitory and therefore evil, and "of that which is transitory, evil and liable to change it is not possible to say 'This is mine; this am I; this is my Ego.'" "The ignorant unconverted man . . . considers form in the light of an Ego, considers sensation . . . perception . . . the predispositions . . . consciousness in the light of an Ego," and therefore clings to those apparent "selves" though they are all transitory and evil. "The learned and noble disciple does not consider form, sensation, etc., in the light of an Ego," and he therefore detaches himself from each of those delusive "selves." Not a word is said, in any part of the discourse, in disproof of the existence of the Ego. The point of the argument is that each of the apparent Egos--the Ego of form, the Ego of sensation, and the rest--is unreal; and that the man who regards the Ego of the "Saint" as non-existent after death, because it will then be finally detached from form, sensation, etc., is bound by the logic of his own delusion to regard the Ego of the "Saint" as non-existent while on earth, since, if the "Saint" has indeed won deliverance, he will have finally detached himself, even while on earth, from each of those phantom Egos, and in doing so will have found his true self.

From this point it is possible to advance to two conclusions. As disbelief in the after-death existence of the "Saint" is a "wicked heresy," it stands to reason that it is also a "wicked heresy" to regard the "Saint"--the true Ego--as non-existent now. This is the first conclusion, which the Western critic who seeks to father upon Buddha his own denial of the Ego will do well to bear in mind. The second seems to have been tacitly drawn by both Sâriputta and Yamaka, and to have carried conviction to the latter's mind. As it is obviously absurd to say that the "Saint" is non-existent now, it stands to reason that it is also absurd to say--as Yamaka had said--that the "Saint" will cease to be after death. The whole discourse is directed nominally against Yamaka's "wicked heresy," but really against the erroneous belief that the individual Ego, the Ego which is associated with form, with sensation, and the rest, is the true Ego,--a belief which had generated in Yamaka's mind the "wicked heresy" that "on the dissolution of the body" the Saint "is annihilated, perishes, and does not exist." Indeed it is no exaggeration to say that in this discourse disbelief in the reality of the Ego--the true Ego which transcends the limits of the transitory, and therefore passes beyond the reach of thought and language--is authoritatively condemned.

Dr Rhys Davids lays great stress on a discourse in which various attempts to conceive of the existence of the Ego after death are condemned as heresies. Here, as in the dialogue which has just been considered, the Ego is that of the man who has won deliverance while still living on earth, and whose cycle of earth-lives is therefore coming to an end. The prying attempt to follow the liberated Ego into the life beyond death, into the unimaginable bliss of Nirvâna, is repelled as impertinent and delusive, and every form that it takes is condemned as a "heresy." The discourse ends with these words: "Mendicants [Monks], that which binds the Teacher [1] [the Saint, the Perfect One] to existence is cut off; but his body still remains. While his body shall remain he will be seen by gods and men, but after the dissolution of the body, neither gods [2] nor men will see him." "Would it be possible," asks Dr Rhys Davids, "in a more complete and categorical manner to deny that there is any soul--anything of any kind, which continues to exist, in any manner, after death?" This criticism (so characteristically Western) is as wide of the mark as is Mr Warren's headline comment on the dialogue between Sâriputta and Yamaka. What the preacher is trying to enforce is what Sâriputta had impressed upon Yamaka, that the Ego of the "Saint"--the true Ego, for the "Saint" is one who has found his true self does not exist after death in any form or mode which is comprehensible by human thought. Far from denying the existence of the Ego, the preacher is insisting on its transcendent reality. "Neither gods nor men" will see the "Saint" after death, not because he will then be non-existent, but because his being will have out-soared all the categories of human thought.

In these and other such discourses Buddha falls into line with the thinkers of the Upanishads, who described by a series of negations what they regarded as the true Ego,--the Divine in man. The coincidences between his teaching and theirs are so significant that the only way to account for them is to assume that his faith--the deepest faith of his heart--was in its essence identical with theirs. If the account that he gave of the Ego was purely negative, if he abstained from positive statements (even in that paradoxical form which was dear to the thinkers of the Upanishads), the reason was that he wished men to find out for themselves, by following the Path of soul-expansion, what the Ego really is. He said to them, in thought if not in words: "The Ego is not this thing or that; it is not any of the things with which you are used to identify it. If you wish to know what it is, enter the Path and follow it to the end. Your question will then be answered, for it will have transformed itself into a burning thirst for the ideal and the divine; and in the bliss of Nirvâna that thirst will be eternally slaked and eternally renewed."

Dr Rhys Davids is confirmed in his belief that Buddha denied the Ego, by the fact that the "heresy of individuality" is one of the three "Fetters" which have to be broken on the very threshold of the new life. But here, as elsewhere, Buddha is denying the reality, not of the Ego as such, but of the individual Ego; in other words, he is condemning by implication the blindness of him who regards the limitations which his individuality imposes upon him as the essential conditions of his existence. So, too, when he names among the fetters which have to be broken in the later stages of the Eight-fold Path, the desire for life in the worlds of form, and the desire for life in the formless worlds, he is thinking, not of the desire for life as such but of the desire for separate life, for the continuance of individuality,--the hydra-headed desire which is ever tending to counteract the centripetal energy of love.

There is one set of discourses on which those who regard Buddha as a negative dogmatist lay great stress,--the so-called Milinda dialogues, or conversations between the Greek King, Menanda, of Baktria, and Nâgasena, the Buddhist teacher. Nâgasena seems to have been an acute controversialist who loved argument for its own sake almost as much as Buddha disliked it, and who, had he lived in Europe in the Middle Ages, would probably have nailed theological or metaphysical theses to church-doors. That he had caught the deeper spirit of the Master's teaching is, to say the least, improbable; but that his discourses present to us an interpretation of that teaching, which had gained currency in his day, can scarcely be doubted. I have elsewhere allowed, for argument's sake, that he may have had an academic antipathy to the Ego. If he had, his discourses do less than justice to their theme. The arguments by which a merely academic belief (or disbelief) is sustained are in the nature of things ineffective. The spiritual atmosphere of his age, the words that he finds himself compelled to use, even his own subconscious convictions--are all against the thinker. In the well known Chariot dialogue, Nâgasena is supposed to have proved conclusively that "there is no Ego." I cannot see that he has done this, and I am by no means sure that he has attempted to do it. What he has proved is that, just as the name chariot belongs to the vehicle as a whole and not to any of its parts, so the name Nâgasena belongs to the living being as a whole and not to any of his organs or faculties. If the dialogue is directed against anything, it is directed against the vulgar belief that the Soul is a quasi-material something (like the babe of vapour in mediaeval art) which can be separated from the rest of the man, just as a wheel can be separated from the rest of the chariot; or again that the soul is one among many faculties which go to make up the whole man. The flame simile, which is also supposed to be directed against the soul-theory of the Brahmanic philosophy, is one which that theory, far from rejecting, would accept as singularly apt. For just as fire uses up fuel, and in doing so manifests itself as flame (that is, as burning fuel), so the Soul, in its journey through the earth-life, continually uses up physical matter, and in doing so manifests itself as a living body (that is, as physical matter fused and vitalized by the Soul-fire). When the Soul retires from the physical plane, the body, deprived of its vitalizing influence, disintegrates into dust, just as fuel, when its fire is extinct, turns to ashes; but the Soul itself (if we may follow its progress through the intervening stages of existence) continues to use up matter, though, as the matter used is now impalpable, the Soul-flame becomes invisible till the time comes for it to feed again on the fuel of physical nature,--in other words, to appear again on earth. Even when Nâgasena's hostility to the Ego is unmistakable, his belief in re-incarnation causes his arguments to miscarry. He may flatter himself that he has disproved the identity between A (who is living now) and B (the future inheritor of his Karma); but, as a believer in re-incarnation, he must needs take pains to prove that B will justly be held responsible for what A has done or left undone; and in his attempt to make good this point he has to admit (or rather insist) that the relation between A and B is exactly analogous to that between a "young girl" and the same girl "when grown-up and marriageable." [3]

Dr Rhys Davids has truly said that Buddha's "whole training was Brahmanism; and that he probably deemed himself to be the most correct exponent of the spirit as distinct from the letter of the ancient faith." If this is a true statement of Buddha's attitude towards Brahmanism, it surely behoves the student of Buddhism to seek initiation into the deeper mysteries of the "ancient faith," before he attempts to interpret the creed of one who, while breaking with the letter of that faith, "deemed himself to be the most correct exponent of its spirit." This, however, is what the Western critic, with his instinctive contempt for alien modes of thought, is extremely reluctant to do. What he does, in nine cases out of ten, is to carry with him to the study of Buddhism the prejudices and prepossessions of Western thought--foremost among which is the assumption that nothing exists, in the order of nature, except what is perceptible by man's bodily senses--and to insist that the teaching of Buddha shall conform to these, and be measured by their standards. Hence arise misconceptions and misunderstandings which might have been avoided. If Buddhism seems to our Western minds to abound in errors and anomalies, the reason is that we insist on looking at it through a distorting medium. One who had steeped himself in the spirit of the Brahmanic philosophy before he began his study of Buddhism, would see that wherever Buddha seems to be denying existence to the Ego, what he is really doing is to deny reality to the apparent Ego or superficial Self, so that he may thereby clear the way for the exposition, not in words but in the unwritten language of conduct, character, and life, of the profound conception which is the very quintessence of the "ancient faith,"--the conception "that Brahma and the Self--the true Self--are one."

(2) The Atheism of Buddha.

The Christian critics of Buddhism call Buddha an atheist, nominally because he said nothing about God, really because his conception of God differs from their own.

I have already attempted to show that the silence of Buddha about God--the Supreme Reality--was quite compatible with a sublimely spiritual conception of God and a deeply spiritual faith in him. I have shown that such a conception and such a faith were in the air that Buddha breathed, and that, if he had accepted them and made them his own, the very reverence which they would have generated would have bound him to silence in the presence of his audience,--the rank and file of mankind. I have shown that his own ethical teaching was the practical exposition of this unformulated theology,--the revelation of it, not as a theology but as a scheme of life, to those who would have been bewildered by it, and who would therefore have misunderstood and misapplied it, had any attempt been made to expound it to them in words, I have inferred from this that Buddha did believe in God, not as the West believes in him, but as the Far East, at the highest level of its imaginative thinking, has ever believed in him,--as the Supreme Reality which is at the heart of the Universe, and which is at once the life and soul of Nature and the true self of Man.

But the fact remains that Buddha, though he preached the gospel of deliverance, said nothing about God. To us, with the Jehovah-virus in our veins, to us who for many centuries have been content to believe that the Universe is under the direct rule of that national deity whose sayings and doings are recorded in the Hebrew Scriptures, it seems the height of impiety to keep silence about God. It is well for us to remind ourselves that in the Far East, in the days of India's spiritual greatness, it was deemed the height of impiety to talk freely about God. We call the silence of the East atheistic. The sages of India, though they would have thought it discourteous to say so, would have regarded our loquacity as profane. To unveil to the mind of the average man ideas which are in the nature of things so large, so deep, and so subtle that, without mental power of a very high order, it is impossible to grasp their initial--let alone their final--meaning, is to expose the most sacred of all truths to the risk (the certainty, one might almost say) of being misinterpreted and misused. From such a risk the sages of India shrank as from blasphemy against the Divine. It may be difficult for us to enter into this feeling, but it is well that we should know that it did (and does) exist.
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Re: The Creed of Buddha, by Edmond Holmes

Postby admin » Mon Oct 21, 2019 7:55 am

Part 2 of 2

The silence of the Far East has another aspect, and one which is equally repugnant to the "orthodox" thought of the West. In itself, in the eloquence of its dumbness, it is an abiding protest, not merely against the profane loquacity of Western dogmatism, but also against its deadly despotism. To tell men that they must, under pain of eternal damnation, believe such and such things about God--or rather accept as divinely true such and such theological formulæ, whether they see any meaning in them or not--is to quench in their breasts that spark of spiritual freedom which is also the germ of spiritual life. It is true that the symbolical presentation of religious truth, which official Brahmanism adopted in preference to the doctrinal, may develop, as it certainly did in India, into a ceremonial despotism as oppressive as any that the creeds of the West have ever exerted. But Buddha's own silence was agnostic, in the deeper sense of the word, to the very core. We could imagine him saying to his disciples: "I have given you my reasons for urging you to enter the Path. If those reasons commend themselves to you, enter the Path and see to what goal it will lead you. But do not ask me to explain my own explanation. Do not ask me for deeper reasons than those which I have given you. Do not ask me to tell you what I, for one, believe about the greatest of all great matters. The words that make sense to me would ring as nonsense in your ears. The thoughts that bring light to me would dazzle you to the verge of blindness. And I should but deepen your perplexity if I tried to give you the guidance that you seek. But the Path itself will enlighten you if you will trust yourself to it; and when you have followed it far enough you will be wise with a wisdom beyond that of the wisest sage." The idea which underlies the whole of Buddha's teaching--underlying what he said and also what he left unsaid--the idea that knowledge of divine truth must be evolved from within, instead of being imposed from without, is the direct negation of that idea of a supernatural revelation, which underlies all the creeds of the West.

After all, it is not so much the silence of Buddha that the West regards as atheistic, as the creed which that silence hints at and seems, in a sense, to shadow forth,--a creed which seals the lips of those who see deepest into the heart of its hidden truth. The orthodox Christian, who believes that to give assent to a series of formulæ is to enter into possession of divine truth, and who therefore regards intolerance as a virtue and self-assertion as a sacred duty, feels instinctively that a creed which will not suffer itself to be formulated, and which therefore makes no attempt to impose its yoke upon human thought, is the hereditary enemy of his faith. His instinct has not misled him. Between the "Higher Pantheism" of India and the Supernaturalism of the Western World there is, in the region of ideas, a truceless war. Had Buddha tried to expound the creed of his heart, it would assuredly have been branded as atheistic by those who now apply that epithet to his silence. "Such divinity," said the late Canon Liddon, "as Pantheism can ascribe to Christ is, in point of fact, no divinity at all. God is Nature, and Nature is God; everything indeed is Divine, but also nothing is Divine; and Christ shares this phantom divinity with the universe,--nay with the agencies of moral evil itself. In truth, our God does not exist in the apprehension of Pantheistic thinkers; since, when such truths as creation and personality are denied, the very idea of God is fundamentally sapped, and . . . the broad practical result is in reality neither more nor less than Atheism." The writer of this passage proves nothing by his arguments but his fundamental inability to understand a creed which belongs to a plane of thought on which his mind has never learned to move: and, having misrepresented that creed beyond recognition, he brands it with a title which he regards as in the highest degree opprobrious and offensive. "Men become personal," says Dr Newman, "when logic fails; it is their mode of appealing to their own primary elements of thought and their own illative sense, against the principles and the judgment of another." When A calls B an atheist, he does not necessarily mean that B denies the existence of God. What he does mean is that B's conception of God differs fundamentally from his own, and that he cannot by any effort of thought place himself at B's point of view.

On the whole, then, I incline to the opinion that Christianity calls the teaching of Buddha atheistic, chiefly because it suspects that behind his scheme of life and at the heart of his silence dwells a rival conception of God. If this is so, Christianity has misplaced its censure; for if trust is of the essence of faith, there is no conception of God to which the term atheistic is so strangely inappropriate as to that which sealed the lips of Buddha. Curiosity and doubt are the foster-mothers of theology; but he who has once convinced himself, as Buddha must have done, that light and love are at the heart of the Universe, ceases to be curious about God. In the glow of his radiant and all-embracing optimism the petty theories by which man seeks to justify to himself the ways of God and his own timid faith in God, are seen to be worthless and vain. The sceptics who pride themselves on their "orthodoxy" are startled and alarmed by his silence. But out of its depths comes forth, whenever one listens for it, a message, not of atheistic denial but of whole-hearted trust in God,--trust so full, so firmly rooted, and so sure of itself, that silence alone can measure its strength and its serenity.

"And I say to mankind, Be not curious about God,
For I who am curious about each am not curious about God,
(No array of terms can say how much I am at peace about God and about death)."


(3) The Pessimism of Buddha.

In each of the charges that it brings against the teaching of Buddha, the West delimits with precision the range of its own thought. When it attempts to prove that Buddha denied the Ego, what it succeeds in proving is that its own conception of the Ego is as narrow and commonplace as that of the materialists and semi-materialists of Buddha's day. For the only reason that it gives for ascribing to Buddha denial of the Ego is that he refused to identify it with any of the things--form, sensation, and the like--of which the "ignorant, unconverted man" says, "This is mine; this am I."

So, too, when the West accuses Buddha of atheism, it tells us, by implication, how crudely anthropomorphic is its own conception of God. Buddha, who refused to individualize the Ego, would have been false to his deepest convictions had he allowed himself, in any respect or degree, to individualize the Supreme Reality. But because he kept silence about God rather than use words which might seem (however figuratively) to individualize him, he is held to have "denied the Divine." This means that if the West may not worship the Jewish Jehovah or some kindred deity, it will reject as untenable the whole idea of God.

Let us now consider the charge of pessimism which is so often brought against Buddha. In formulating this charge, the West defines with precision the limits of its own conceptions, first of happiness and then of the Universe. The true pessimist--who is also the true atheist--is he who sees darkness, and darkness only, at the heart of the Universe. Was Buddha a pessimist in this sense of the word? That he regarded the earth life as full of sorrow is undeniable. Does this convict him of pessimism? Not unless the earth-life is the only life, and the visible world the "all of being."

The impermanence of everything earthly seems to have impressed itself deeply on Indian thought. In the West we live, and are content to live, from year to year, and even from day to day; and we regard as permanent things that will last unchanged for a few generations, or even for a few years. But the far-sighted Indian mind, looking backward and forward through vast stretches of time, saw that sooner or later everything outward, however secure of life it might seem to be, must change and fade and pass away. To the Brahmanic thinkers the impermanence of things was a proof of their unreality. But Buddha, who made his appeal, first and foremost, to the "general heart of man," saw that impermanence reveals itself to the many, not as unreality but as sorrow. He saw also that the connection between impermanence and sorrow is the outcome of the widespread tendency to mistake the impermanent for the real. Men cling to shadows and lean on reeds. The shadows fail them, and so cause disappointment and disillusionment. The reeds "pierce their bosoms," "and then they bleed." Seeing that this was so and must be so, Buddha did what he could to make men realize that this life, as they conceived it, was full of suffering. But he did this, not because he despaired of Nature, but because he had unbounded trust in her. Far from teaching men that life was intrinsically evil, he taught them that the evil in it, the suffering which seemed to be of its essence, was in large measure the result of their own ignorance--their "ignorance of the true being and the true value of the Universe"--and that those who could detach themselves from whatever was impermanent and changeable might, even while on earth, enjoy a happiness higher and purer than any that the soul of man could consciously desire. So far was he from being a pessimist, in the deeper and darker sense of the word, that at the heart of Nature he could see nothing but light. If that light dazzled his eyes and blinded him to the lesser light that plays over the surface of life, his blindness was a proof, not of the despair of his soul, but of the very excess of its optimistic faith.

There are passages in the "Imitation of Christ" which might have been written by the Sages of the Upanishads. Such are "Amor ex Deo natus est; nec potest nisi in Deo requiescere." "Fili, ego debeo esse finis tuus supremus et ultimus, si vere desideras esse beatus." "Omnia vanitas præter amare Deum et isti soli servire." If Indian idealism is pessimistic, so is the outlook on earth and on life which finds expression in these inspired aphorisms. But surely it is not pessimism but abounding optimism which makes a man pitch his standard of happiness immeasurably high, and yet believe that the resources of the Universe are more than equal to any demand that the aspiring heart may make upon them. He who could say to his followers: "What you deem happiness is unworthy of the name. There are better things than this in store for you. There are treasures of happiness in store for you,--pure, perfect, imperishable, real. These will be given to you freely if you will but win them for yourselves":--he who could say this (or the equivalent of this) had reached the highest conceivable level of optimism. To accuse him of pessimism is to make confession of one's own lack of imagination, of insight, and of faith. Those who believe that the surface life is the only life and that its pleasures are the beginning and end of happiness, and who assume that Buddha's faith coincided with their own, may well regard him, when they learn that he saw nothing but sorrow and suffering in the surface life and its pleasures, as the gloomiest and most uncompromising of pessimists. But the charge that they bring against him recoils upon themselves. If the surface life is the only life, and if its pleasures are the beginning and end of happiness, then indeed there is darkness--the darkness of death--at the heart of the Universe. But Buddha's conception of life, if he was true, as he believed himself to be, to "the spirit of the ancient faith," was the exact opposite of this; and what he saw at the heart of the Universe was, not the darkness of death, but the glory of Nirvâna.

(4) The Egoism of Buddha.

On this point the Western critics of Buddhism are divided. Some of them, including Dr Rhys Davids, Dr Paul Carus, and other enemies of the Ego, contend that Buddha's teaching was ultra-stoical, in that he bade men do right for right's sake only, the sole reward which the doer was allowed to look forward to being the enjoyment of inward peace during that twilight hour which should precede the final extinction of his life. [4] Others, including the critics who seek to depreciate Buddhism in the supposed interest of Christianity, contend that Buddha was an egoistic hedonist, who taught each man in turn to think of himself and his own welfare only, and whose conception of happiness had so little in it of idealism or aspiration that it scarcely rose above the level of providing for humanity an early escape from sorrow and pain.

The answer to those who regard Buddha as ultra-stoical is that, as a matter of plain historical fact, what he set before men, when he bade them enter the Path, was the prospect, not of doing right for right's sake (he would probably have seen no meaning in those words) but of winning release from suffering--the suffering of those who struggle in the whirlpool of rebirth,--and of entering into bliss--the bliss of those who will return to earth no more.

In giving this answer I may seem to justify the critics who brand Buddha's scheme of life as egoistic. But no. Buddha's scheme of life was as far from being egoistic as from being ultra-stoical. It is the word self that misleads us. With the doubtful exception of the word Nature, there is no word in which there are so many pitfalls. When we ask whether a given scheme of life is egoistic or not, our answer will entirely depend on the range of the self for which the scheme in question makes provision. To get away from self is impossible; but it may be possible to widen self till it loses its individuality and becomes wholly selfless. Long before that ideal point has been reached, long before the individual has become one with the Universal Self, the word egoistic will have lost its accepted meaning.

That Buddha's teaching was entirely free from the cant of altruism may be admitted without hesitation. Accepting as a fact, which can neither be gainsaid nor ignored, that every man naturally and instinctively seeks his own happiness, and that therefore in the last resort the desire for happiness is the only motive to which the moralist can appeal, Buddha took upon himself to teach men to distinguish the semblance of happiness from the reality, to detach themselves from the former and to win their way to the latter. "Tous les hommes," says Pascal, "recherchent d’être heureux: cela est sans exception. Quelques differents moyens qu’ils y emploient, ils tendent tous à ce but. C’est le motif de toutes les actions de tous les hommes, jusqu’à ceux qui vont se pendre." It is impossible for me to prefer my neighbour's happiness to my own; for if I am asked why I take such pains to make him happy, I can but answer (in the last resort) that it makes me happy to do so.

Buddha's teaching is equally free from the cant of Stoicism. To bid men do right for right's sake "in the scorn of consequence," is as though a doctor should order his patients to eat the right sort of food for the sake of its rightness, and without regard to its effect on the health of the eater. What is it that constitutes rightness in food,--and in conduct? The right food (from a doctor's point of view) is presumably the food that ministers most effectively to the health of the patient; and it is in the interest of his health, and not of any abstract conception of rightness, that the patient is advised to eat it. It is the same, mutatis mutandis, with right conduct. The exhortation to do right for right's sake is saved from being meaningless only by the tacit assumption that right doing makes, on the whole and in the long run, for the happiness of the doer. Indeed, it is because such and such courses of action make for the true happiness of him who follows them, and for no other reason, that we call them right. In other words, the epithet right, as applied to conduct, withholds its meaning from us until we define it in terms of happiness. That being so, it is surely better that the moralist should make his appeal (as Buddha openly did) to man's unquenchable desire for happiness than to a motive which would be utterly ineffective were it not that its air of sublime disinterestedness is, in the nature of things, a hollow sham.

But, while Buddha steered clear of the quick-sands of altruism and pseudo-stoicism, he took care not to wreck his scheme of life on the less dangerous, because more plainly visible, rock of egoism. It is when we begin to study the details of the scheme, that we see how little it deserves to be called egoistic. Based as it is on the conviction that the Ego--the real self--is not to be identified with "form," with "sensation," with "perception," or with anything else that is impermanent and changeable, it keeps one aim steadily in view,--to detach man, by a course of self-discipline which may last through many lives, from each of his apparent or lower selves, and to help him to find his true self. As it is attachment to the apparent or lower self--that tendency to identify oneself with what is impermanent and changeable, which makes one say of this thing and of that, "This is mine: this am I: this is my Ego"--as it is this clinging, grasping, self-asserting frame of mind which is the root of all selfishness (to use a homelier word than egoism), it is clear that Buddha's scheme of life, far from, being egoistic or self-regarding, was in its essence a scheme for the extirpation of "self."

Buddha did not say to his disciples, what the altruist professes to say, "Thou shalt love thy neighbour better than thyself." He did not even say to them in so many words, "Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself." But he bade them enter a path which, if faithfully followed, would lead each man at last to love all men as himself. For if one is to escape from the impermanent, one must take refuge in the Eternal; and the Eternal and the Universal are the same fundamental reality looked at from different points of view. Every precept that Buddha gave has one positive aim in view,--to help the soul to expand its life or, in a word, to grow. But to the process of soul-growth there are no assignable limits. The soul has not attained to maturity, has not fulfilled its destiny, has not found its true self, until (according to the sublime conception which is at the heart of the "ancient faith") it has become one with the Universal Self, and in becoming one with it has become one with all men and all things. When that stage has been reached, when the Ego has become all-embracing, the last trace of "egoism" will have vanished, and the precept, "Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself" (the real meaning of which will not till then have been apprehended) will at last have been fulfilled. So, too, will the desire of the heart for happiness.

It is by the Christian, the professed follower of Christ, that the charge of egoism is most frequently brought against the teaching of Buddha. It is strange that such a charge should come from such a quarter. Will the Christian consent to brand as egoistic the teaching of his own Master? The conception of life which underlies Christ's searching question: "What is a man profited if he shall gain the whole world and lose his own soul?" is, according to the view that we are able to take of it, either ignobly selfish or sublimely self-forgetful. On this point opinions may differ. What is certain is that the gospel of Buddha is neither more nor less "egoistic" than the Gospel of Christ. For at the heart of each gospel is the same overmastering conviction that it is better for a man to find "his own soul"--his own true self--than to "gain the whole world."

In conclusion. The desire for unreal happiness--the Protean desire which Buddha sought to extinguish--leads us into all the highways and byways of selfishness, and into every haunt of error and delusion; and the phantom which is ever flitting before us ends by eluding our grasp. But the desire for real happiness--the desire which Buddha at once appealed to and strove to foster--is the desire (self-justifying and self-fulfilling) for oneness with the All; nor will that "egoistic" desire have found final fulfilment till it has provided an escape for the soul from the prison-house of "self" into the boundless ether of love.

(5) The Nihilism of Buddha.

The supreme end of Buddhist endeavour, the last term in its ascending "series," is Nirvâna. When the Path has been followed to its goal, when the victory over self has been fully won, when the prize of victory has been fully earned, the emancipated soul (if I may use that word "without prejudice") passes away from earth, passes beyond the vision of "Gods and men" and enters the bliss of Nirvâna. What does this mean? The "Perfect One" has disappeared from the eye of thought behind the veil of human experience. What is there behind that veil? What is there behind the last of the many veils which life (as we who are living on earth understand the word) hangs before our eyes? The question as to the destiny of the Perfect One and the question as to the real life of those who are now on earth are (as Sâriputta saw clearly) one and the same. What is the answer to them?

The answer which the learned criticism of the West ordinarily gives, and which the popular criticism of the West faithfully echoes, is, in a word, Nothing. "Tout se réunit," says Barthélemy Saint-Hilaire, "pour démontrer que le Nirvâna n’est au fond que l’anéantissement définitif et absolu de tous les éléments qui composent l’existence." According to Eugène Burnouf, "Le Nirvâna est l’anéantissement complet, non seulement des éléments matériels de l’existence, mais de plus et surtout du principe pensant." These statements are typical, and I need not add to them.

The word Nirvâna means "going out" or "extinction." But, as Dr Rhys Davids explains with force and clearness, what is extinguished, when Nirvâna is won, is not existence but passion and desire. In support of this thesis Dr Rhys Davids appeals to some verses in one of the Sacred Books of Buddhism, in which "we have an argument based on the logical assumption that if a positive exists its negative must also exist; if there is heat, there must be cold; and so on. In one of these pairs we find existence opposed, not to Nirvâna, but to non-existence; whilst in another the three fires [of lust, hatred and delusion] are opposed to Nirvâna." But, though Dr Rhys Davids is careful to distinguish Nirvâna from annihilation, he is bound by his own assumption, that Buddha denied the Ego, denied "that there is anything of any kind which continues to exist, in any manner, after death," to regard Nirvâna as the prelude to annihilation. For him, then, and for those who think with him, Nirvâna, on which the Buddhist writings have ever "lavished" "awe-struck and ecstatic praise," is the twilight hour that precedes the night of Nothingness,--an hour in which the "Perfect One," having at last extinguished the fires of lust, hatred and delusion, enjoys the bliss of perfect peace. "Death, utter death, with no new life to follow, is a result of but it is not Nirvâna."

It matters little whether Nirvâna is itself the night of Nothingness, or the twilight hour which precedes that night. The goal of the Path is, in either case, the premature annihilation of him who walks in it. When the Perfect One has lifted the last veil of illusion and passed behind it into the reality which it hides from thought, he becomes absorbed into Nothing. It follows that the self-existent Reality which underlies all appearances and which is therefore at the very heart of the Universe is, in a word, Nothing.

Did Buddha really believe this? Was it in the strength of this supreme negation that he devoted his life to the enlightenment and emancipation of his fellow-men, and won to his will the hearts of all who listened to his teaching? The hypothesis which we are invited to accept as an established conclusion, is so wildly improbable, that we have a right to ask those who formulate it to bring forward strong documentary evidence in support of it. As it happens, no such evidence is forthcoming. On the one hand, the passages in the Buddhist Scriptures on which the hypothesis has been based all admit of an entirely different interpretation,--namely, that after the death of the body the Perfect One ceases to exist, not absolutely, but only in the sense which "the ignorant, unconverted man" attaches to the word existence. On the other hand, there are passages in the Buddhist Scriptures in which the hypothesis is directly or indirectly traversed; such as the dialogue between Yamaka and Sâriputta, in which the belief that "on the dissolution of the body the monk who has lost all depravity is annihilated" is first condemned as a wicked heresy and then conclusively refuted; or, again, as the dialogue between King Pasenadi and the nun Khemâ, in which the question as to the existence of the Perfect One after death is shown to be unanswerable, not because the Perfect One will then have ceased to be, but because he will have passed beyond the reach of human thought.

It is worthy of note (though the point seems to have escaped the notice of the Western students of Buddhism) that the question "What becomes of the ordinary, unemancipated man when he dies?" is never asked in any Buddhist dialogue. Why is this? Evidently because the doctrine of re-incarnation is the accepted answer to the question. What interests King Pasenadi, the monk Yamaka, and others is not the general question "What comes after death?" but the particular question, "What becomes of the Perfect One when he finally passes away from earth?" The answer to this question is always the same. "Do not ask. The question is unanswerable. The Perfect One passes, when he dies, beyond the remotest horizon of human thought; and when thought fails, words can do nothing but perplex and mislead."

The truth is that here, as elsewhere, when the West seems to be passing judgment on Buddhism, it is really delimiting the range of its own thought. To the consideration of the problem of the Perfect One's final state, as of all kindred problems, Western thought carries with it the metaphysical assumption which has obsessed it for two thousand years,--the assumption that nothing exists, in the order of Nature, except what is perceptible by man's bodily senses. The religious thought of the West has always taken refuge from the consequences of this assumption in the dream-world of the Supernatural. But the dualism of Nature and the Supernatural was (and is) entirely foreign to Indian thought. Seeing, then, that Buddha transported the Perfect One beyond the vision of Gods and men, and yet provided no asylum for him in any Supernatural heaven, the Western exponents of Buddhism find themselves driven to conclude, with the monk Yamaka, that "on the dissolution of his body" the Perfect One "is annihilated, perishes, and does not exist after death." But it is Western, not Indian, thought which creates the vacuum that receives the Perfect One's emancipated soul. When Dr Rhys Davids, after quoting Buddha's words, "While his body shall remain he will be seen by Gods and men, but after the termination of life, upon the dissolution of the body, neither Gods nor men will see him," asks: "Would it be possible in a more complete or categorical manner to deny that there is any soul--anything of any kind which continues to exist, in any manner, after death?" there is an obvious answer to his triumphant challenge. It is by assuming that Buddha, too, believed in the intrinsic reality of what is perceptible and the non-existence of what is imperceptible, that he proves his point. But has he any right to make that assumption? Is not Buddha's attitude towards the problem of reality the very question which is really (though not ostensibly) in dispute? And inasmuch as Buddha devoted his life to teaching men that the perceptible is the unreal, is it not rash, to say the least, to assume offhand that his mind was ruled by the fundamental postulate of Western thought? Yet, unless his mind was ruled by that postulate, the words on which Dr Rhys Davids lays so much stress can be shown to have another meaning than that which he ascribes to them, and the conclusion--that Buddha regarded death as the end of life--instead of being obviously true, becomes demonstrably false. What Buddha meant (if we may argue from the general tenor of his teaching) when he said that, upon the dissolution of the Perfect One's body, neither Gods nor men would see him, was not that the Perfect One would then pass into non-existence, but rather that then at last he would attain to absolute reality. For the perceptible world, as Buddha conceived of it, is the world of dreams and shadows; and it is therefore clear that, until the Perfect One has passed, wholly and irrevocably, beyond the horizon of perception, [5] he has not found rest in the Real.

Let us now attempt, in defiance of Buddha's express prohibition, to penetrate the mystery of Nirvâna. The mystery is, in a sense, final. The Path ends--for good and all--in Nirvâna. The Western hypothesis that Nirvâna is not the final state of the Perfect One, but the prelude to that state, is wholly gratuitous. Not a word is said in any of the passages with which the students of Buddhism have made us familiar, which might seem to suggest that the Nirvânic state ends with the death of the Perfect One's body, or that there is any state of existence (or non-existence) beyond it. [6] That Buddha, who turned the prying mind back on the hither brink of Nirvâna, should have looked beyond Nirvâna and told men what was awaiting them on its farther shore, is in the highest degree improbable. The progress of the Perfect One is followed till Nirvâna begins:

"But there sight fails. No heart may know
The bliss when life is done."


The question, then, which we have to ask ourselves is this: What goal would he be likely to reach who followed the Path to the end? This question suggests a second: What is the Path supposed to do for him who walks in it? The answer to this question is embodied in Buddha's scheme of life. The Path detaches him who walks in it from the impermanent, the changeable, the phenomenal. But it does this, not by the ascetic curtailment of the range of his life, but by the progressive expansion of his consciousness. It will be remembered that Buddha told his disciples in the earliest of his discourses that they were to steer a middle course between the "unworthy and unreal" paths of pleasure on the one side, and mortification on the other. It will also be remembered that the precepts which he gave them aimed, to make a general statement, at the cultivation of two faculties,--self-control and sympathy. The function of self-control is, on the one hand, to train the will for the task that awaits it,--the task of directing the process of soul-growth; and, on the other hand, to prevent the lower and narrower self from becoming so aggressive as to arrest the outgrowth of the higher and larger self. And the function of sympathy, which carries a man out of himself into the lives of others, is to promote the outgrowth of the higher and larger self, by raising the level and widening the range of one's life. Thus the Path detaches men from the phenomenal, not by cutting it out of their lives or otherwise blinding them to its existence, but by giving them the power (through the expansion of their consciousness) of seeing it in its true proportions and its true light. It is possible for one who walks in the Path to take an interest and a pleasure in the ephemeral concerns of life, and yet to hold on to them by the very lightest of threads. There is nothing of Puritanical gloom or sourness in the teaching of Buddha. The foreglow of Nirvâna falls on the Path and throws its rays on either side of it, till those who walk in it learn at last to take an innocent delight even in the things which they know to be phantasmal.

Now the goal of the Path is the natural consummation of it,--not a reward which will be given by an omnipotent onlooker to those who have kept to the Path and obeyed its commandments, but the end to which the Path naturally and inevitably leads; an end which is not merely pre-figured by the Path, even in its earlier stages, but is also, in some sort, present in promise and potency in those earlier (and all subsequent) stages, just as the full-grown oak is present in promise and potency in the acorn and the sapling, or the ripened peach in the fruit-bud and the blossom. And inasmuch as the function of the Path is to detach men from the phenomenal by expanding their consciousness, and to expand their consciousness by fostering the growth of their souls, it seems to follow that the goal of the Path will be the ideal perfection of him who walks in it, and that when this ideal state has been reached the consciousness of the Perfect One (as we may now call him) will have become all-embracing, and his detachment from the phenomenal complete. We are now in a position to give this tentative and provisional answer to the question, What is Nirvâna? Nirvâna is a state of ideal spiritual perfection, in which the soul, having completely detached itself--by the force of its own natural expansion--from what is individual, impermanent, and phenomenal, embraces and becomes one with the Universal, the Eternal, and the Real. In other words, the essence of Nirvâna is the finding of the ideal self, in and through the attainment to oneness--living, conscious oneness--with the All and the Divine.

It is true that Buddha spoke of consciousness as one of the five things from which the "learned and noble disciple" must strive to detach himself; but he obviously meant by consciousness what his audience, composed for the most part of ordinary unenlightened men, would have understood the word to mean,--that sense of selfhood which is based on the sense of difference from other things, In the Nirvânic consciousness the sense of selfhood is based on the sense of oneness with other things, or rather of oneness with the vital essence of all things,--with the living Whole. 'When we predicate consciousness of him who has passed into Nirvâna, what we mean is that the Nirvânic state of being is on the farther, not on the hither, side of consciousness; that it enormously transcends what we, with our limited range of perception and thought, understand by consciousness, but that it is reached by the continuance of the same process of growth by which consciousness itself has been evolved. The Western mind, which is dominated, even in its seasons of speculative activity, by mathematical and mechanical conceptions, understands by oneness with the Divine a quasi-material absorption into the Whole, which involves the complete extinction of consciousness in him who

"Slips into the shining sea."


The Indian conception of oneness with the Divine is the polar opposite of this. If soul is to mingle with soul it must do so as soul, preserving, yet raising to an infinite power, all the characteristics of soul life,--its freedom and self-compulsion (which it now realizes as infinite energy), its thought (which it now realizes as infinite wisdom), its desire (which it now realizes as infinite love).

Such, in shadowy outline, is the conception of Nirvâna which my study of Buddha's teaching, from the standpoint of Indian idealism, has forced upon my mind. That I carried the conception with me is undeniable, and that I should eventually work round to it was no doubt pre-ordained. But the curve of thought which I have completed has helped me to enrich and deepen the conception, for it has enabled me to trace the steps by which the genius and practical wisdom of one gifted Teacher could transform a philosophical idea into a master principle of action, and so make it available for the daily needs of mankind. To the Sages of the Upanishads re-union with the Divine was the goal of meditative aspiration,--a goal which few could hope to reach, for the path to it was one which few could find and fewer still could follow. Buddha saw that it was also the goal of spiritual growth, and that as such it could be reached--in the fullness of time--by the lowliest and most ignorant of men. But he saw also that, as the goal of spiritual growth (and therefore of spiritual endeavour), it must be pursued unconsciously; that the path to it must be clearly defined, but that of the goal itself nothing was to be predicated except that it was the home of happiness and peace.

Dr Oldenberg complains that Buddha's teaching is a "fragment of a circle to complete which and to find the centre of which is forbidden by the Thinker." But if we place at the centre of the circle the sovereign dogma of Indian idealism, if we assume that Nirvâna, the admitted end of Buddhist desire and endeavour, is a state of self-realization through union with the Divine or Universal Soul, the circle will complete itself: for we shall see a meaning in every precept that Buddha gave, and in every argument that he used; we shall see a meaning in every discourse and dialogue which Western thought has (on this hypothesis) misunderstood; we shall see a meaning in the Western misunderstanding of Buddha's teaching; we shall see a meaning in Buddha's mysterious silence; and we shall see that his scheme of life was a "perfect round,"--a coherent and consistent whole. Nor are we making a random guess when we fix that particular centre for Buddha's circle of thought. "Of all plane figures the circle alone has the same curvature at every point." If Buddha's ethical teaching was indeed a fragment of a circle, then it is possible for those who care to do so, both to complete the circle and to find its centre. But we must be allowed to assume, before we undertake this task, that the fragment which is before us is part of a circle and not of any less perfect curve. The conception which Western critics, in their desire to claim Buddha as of their own school of thought, place at the centre of his philosophy, has the grave demerit of turning what is supposed to be the fragment of a circle into a fragment, or series of fragments, of one of the wildest and most lawless of curves. But if we assume that Buddha's scheme of life, as it existed in his mind, was a "perfect round," and that what he chose to formulate was a fragment of that "perfect round," we shall find that there is only one possible centre to it,--the conception which history, psychology, and common-sense unite in suggesting to us as central,--the conception that the Universal Self is the true self of each one of us, and that to realize the true self is the destiny and the duty of man.

_______________

Notes:

1 The Pâli word "Tathâgata" is translated by Dr Oldenberg as "The Perfect One," by Dr Rhys Davids as "The Teacher," and by Mr H. C. Warren (in the dialogue between Yamaka and Sâriputta) as "The Saint." The derivation of the word is, I believe, doubtful; but its meaning is clear. The Tathâgata is one who has followed the Path to its goal, and has thus won deliverance from earth and found his true self.

2 The "gods" of Indian belief are beings who dwell on a higher plane than man and have reached a higher level of spiritual development, but they are not divine in the deeper sense of the word. The gods themselves envy the man who has attained to Nirvâna.

3 See footnote to p. 142.

4 An event which his own right-doing would have greatly accelerated.

5 It is scarcely necessary for me to say that throughout this book such words as perception, consciousness, thought and the like are used in the sense which popular usage has fixed and sanctioned. The Perfect One is imperceptible, in the sense which the word ordinarily bears, but he is no doubt perceptible, even in Nirvâna,--by his peers.

6 I do not wish to suggest that Buddha himself regarded p. 197 the Nirvânic state as final. That there are heights beyond the loftiest and remotest heights that man can dream of winning, will be taken for granted by every one who is able to assimilate the idea of spiritual development; and that there were heights even beyond the sublime skyline of Nirvâna was doubtless taken for granted by the far-seeing and daringly imaginative mind of Buddha. But having to address himself to ordinary men and not to "adepts," he was content to direct the eyes of his disciples to the infinitely distant goal of Nirvânic bliss and peace, and to keep absolute silence as to what might lie beyond that horizon.
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Re: The Creed of Buddha, by Edmond Holmes

Postby admin » Mon Oct 21, 2019 8:01 am

CHAPTER VIII. THE BANKRUPTCY OF WESTERN THOUGHT

THE higher thought of the West is bankrupt, in the sense that it can no longer meet its obligations. When I say this I do not merely mean that its liquid assets are less than its liabilities. It is desirable that the liabilities of thought should at all times far exceed its liquid assets, and it would point to a lamentable lack of speculative enterprise if they did not. What I do mean is that the liabilities which Western thought has incurred are greatly in excess of its resources,--of its realizable as well as its liquid assets.

Let us see how this has come to pass. The function of high thinking is to provide working capital for the speculative enterprises of the soul. The speculative enterprises of the soul take the form of spiritual desires. The working capital which thought provides takes the form of philosophical ideas,--tentative and provisional theories of things. As it seldom happens, in the commercial world, that an enterprise which is thoroughly successful does not ask, from time to time, for fresh capital in order that, without departing from its original aim, it may widen the field of its operations and reach a yet higher level of success,--so in the inner life of man, whenever the desires of the heart receive genuine satisfaction, the proof of this lies in the fact that, in response to a fresh influx of ideas, new desires arise which are really new developments of the old, or, in other words, that the old desires, stimulated and modified by thought, become deepened, widened, purified, and otherwise transformed.

Sometimes, however, it happens that the "ideals" which thought provides, in response to the demands of spiritual desire, become stereotyped into systems of "dogma," and as such are accepted by the heart as fully and finally true. When this happens the development of spiritual desire ceases, or, in the language of commerce, the soul becomes so unenterprising that its liabilities, now brought within a very narrow compass, are fully met by its liquid assets. In this state of ignoble solvency, the soul, having ceased to grow--for its desires are its growing pains--has begun to degenerate and to turn its face towards death. Then comes the inevitable reaction. The expansive energies of Nature, which triumphant dogmatism had long held in check, force at last a new outlet for themselves, and in doing so stimulate the deeper desires of the heart into new activity and direct them into new channels. In such an epoch the need of the soul for fresh capital--for new ideas--is stronger than it has ever been, but the difficulty of finding it is greater. For as the soul has long since closed its capital account, the sources of supply, which are fed by the very demands that are made upon them, will have long since ceased to flow. The old stereotyped ideas have satisfied the soul for so many years that the organs of spiritual thought, atrophied by disuse, have at last become incapable of supplying new ideas,--the negative dogmas which man formulates in his season of reaction and revolt being, if anything, narrower and more rigid than the positive dogmas of the churches and sects. What happens, then, when the old order changes, is that the soul, carried by its outburst of speculative enterprise far beyond the limits of the ideas which had so long sufficed for its needs, takes upon itself obligations for which its working capital--its spiritual philosophy--is wholly inadequate. The end of this is that it drifts into a state of insolvency, in which it pays the penalty of having so long been ignobly solvent. Or, rather, it is the thought of the age which goes bankrupt, for thought is under a permanent obligation to supply the soul, in its adventurous moods, with the capital which it needs for its enterprises.

This is what has happened in the West. And if we ask ourselves why this has happened, we can but answer that Western thought has, from the beginning of things, allowed itself to be dominated by the ideas of the "average man." The philosophy of the average man is simplicity itself. He begins, as all men necessarily do, with the apparent antithesis of himself and the outward world. While his philosophy is in its sub-conscious stage, he is content to ascribe reality to both the terms of the antithesis. But when he begins to reflect, in his crude way, on "great matters," his standpoint changes. Utterly incapable of subtle thinking, his mind instinctively relapses into the vulgar dualism of the existent and the non-existent. The aphorism, "Seeing is believing," dominates his thought; and the naïvely egoistic assumption that what the Universe seems to be to his bodily senses that it is in itself, and that therefore nothing exists, in the order of Nature, except what is perceptible by the bodily senses, becomes the cardinal article of his faith. But the consequences of this materialistic assumption are repugnant to his heart. And so, in response to the demands of his heart, his mind devises a supplementary theory of things,--the conception of a world above Nature in which the higher realities of which his bodily senses can take no cognizance, may find an asylum. Foremost among these higher realities are those towards which his religious instincts direct themselves,--supreme, or, as he calls it, divine goodness, divine wisdom, divine power.

Thus instead of one Universe the average man must needs have two,--Nature and the Supernatural World; and between these two a great gulf is fixed in his thought, a gulf of nothingness which makes natural intercourse between the two worlds impossible. But, as always happens in a dualism, the intervening gulf of nothingness drains into itself the reality of both worlds; draining away from Nature her inwardness, her spirituality, and, in the last resort, her life; draining away from the world above Nature its substance, its actuality, and all of it that is convincingly real.

The fatal influence of this dualistic cosmology will make itself felt long after the idea of the Supernatural has lost its hold upon human thought. Meanwhile, the ascendency of the idea is fraught with serious danger to the spiritual development of mankind. It is not enough that a supernatural world should be evolved by thought in response to the demands of the heart. Intercourse with that world must somehow or other be opened up and carried on. And as natural intercourse between the two worlds is impossible, supernatural inter-course must take its place. The gulf cannot be passed by man; but God, who dwells beyond it, can pass it at his own good pleasure and in his own good time. Hence comes the general idea of supernatural revelation, with all its sub-ideas,--the idea of divinely selected peoples, of divinely commissioned teachers, of divinely inspired scriptures, of divinely guided churches, and the rest. We need not follow the idea into all these details, but we shall do well to follow it into some of its inevitable consequences. What is revealed to man from the supernatural world, by whatever means the intercourse between the two worlds may be carried on, is obviously "the Truth." As such, if it is to be made available for man's needs, it must admit of being formulated and. taught. In other words, the dogmatic [1] standpoint and the dogmatic temper are necessary corollaries to the general idea that the truth of things can be revealed to man by the Supernatural God. Between dogmatism and free-thought there is, in the nature of things, a truceless war. The conception of truth as an un-attainable ideal, the quest of which is "its own exceeding great reward," is wholly incompatible with the dogmatic standpoint. The exercise of speculative thought is indeed permitted by dogmatism, but under conditions which make the concession a mockery. Not only must its enterprises be carried on within narrow and strictly defined limits, but they must also lead it to pre-ordained conclusions. This means that "high thinking," the thought which makes what is defined and accepted the starting-point of its enterprises, is not merely discountenanced by dogmatism, but rigorously repressed. But the repression (or restriction) of speculative thought means the repression (or restriction) of spiritual desire. For thought both indicates the general direction in which desire is to operate, and provides it with the working capital for its bolder ventures. It follows that, when the working capital which thought is allowed to provide is strictly limited in amount, and when that limited amount is accepted by desire as entirely adequate to its needs, desire itself is bringing its speculative operations to a standstill. In other words, dogmatism limits the scope of desire in the very act of limiting the sphere of thought; and so far as it is successful in imposing those limits, it tends to arrest the growth of the soul.

These are general conceptions. Let us return to the history of Western thought. It is to the genius of one small nation that the West owes, for good or for evil, its spiritual standpoint. Jehovah, the God of Israel, is accepted as the Lord Paramount of the Universe by the greater part of the Western World, those who are in rebellion against his authority being unable to find any rival claimant to his throne. Whatever may be one's own attitude towards the ideas which Israel evolved and formulated, one cannot but admire the strenuousness and force of character which enabled a small, remote, and politically feeble nation to force its conception of God and Man and Nature upon the thought and the conscience of the Græco-Roman world. But admiration of Israel's character and achievements must not blind us to the fact that his astonishing success as a propagandist was due to his weakness, not less than to his strength. The genius of Israel was essentially practical. In his seasons of spiritual expansion it became poetical; and his poetry, which reflected the intensity as well as the narrowness of his nature, was (at its highest level), in the fullest sense of the word, sublime. But he easily fell, as we all do, below the level of poetic rapture; and when he began to fall, he dropped to ignominious depths. For he had no philosophy, in the deeper sense of the word, to sustain him. Singularly destitute of "ideas," he was incapable of effective self-criticism (though abundantly capable both of self-exaltation and self-depreciation); and he followed his quasi-commercial conception of religious duty into the most meticulous details of legalism, fully believing that in doing so he was working the will of God. For intellectual meditation, for sustained and concentrated reflection, for the depths and the subtleties of thought, he had no turn whatever. His philosophy was that of the average man, and his triumph has been, in part at least, the triumph of the average man's ideas. Addressing himself to ordinary people--the people who believe that the visible world is the real world, and yet are unwilling to accept the logical consequences of that belief--he won their whole-hearted support by meeting them on their own intellectual level, by speaking to them in their own language, by expounding to them their own theory of things. His explanation of the Universe, with all its subsidiary conceptions: the conception of a personal and supernatural God, made in the image of Man; of the creation of the visible world by the fiat of God's will; of the disobedience of Man to God's commandments, and his consequent fall from innocence and bliss; of the selection of a certain people as the depository of the truths which God chose to reveal to fallen Man; of the formulation of God's will in a code of law; of the promise of God's favour to those who should obey that law, and of his wrath to those who should disobey it;--all this, as far as it goes, is just such an explanation as the average man, if his curiosity was thoroughly awakened, would, in his attempt to account for the more striking facts of existence and at the same time to give satisfaction to the master desires of his heart, be likely to evolve for himself. What wonder that when, through the magnetic influence of Christ's gracious and commanding personality and through the self-sacrificing devotion of the high-souled Jews who transmitted that influence to the Gentiles, the Jewish scriptures became known far and wide, the Jewish scheme of things--crowned and completed by the conception of Christ as the mediator between God and Man and the redeemer of fallen Humanity, and so made available for all believers, irrespective of race--should have been accepted as an authoritative explanation of all the mysteries of existence?

It is true that, along with his own philosophy, systematized and dramatized for him by Israel, the average man received some fragments of the spiritual teaching of Christ. But he accepted that teaching, not for its own sake, not for the sake of the philosophy that was behind it--of that he knew nothing, and had it been revealed to him he would have shrunk from it with suspicion and alarm--but for the sake and on the authority of Christ. His own interpretation of it was, as might have been expected, at best one-sided and inadequate, at worst literal and mechanical; and so disquieting were its precepts, owing to his inability to enter into their spirit, that an instinctive regard for his own mental balance and sanity led him in nine cases out of ten to ignore them completely. But the fact remains that, in a sense and in a manner, he did receive the spiritual teaching of Christ, and that from then till now the ferment of it has been at work in his heart. As, however, it was through the example rather than the words of his Master that the spiritual ideas which have been the leaven of his inner life were transmitted to him, it is not to be wondered at that his reception of them has been in the main a subconscious process, and that they have not materially modified the movement of his conscious thought. [2] For many centuries, indeed, his acceptance of his own philosophy was complete. Those who offered to shake his faith in it--Gnostics, Arians, Albigenses, and the like--fared ill at his hands. Through his Agent-General, the Pope, and in the Councils which were dominated by his "collective wisdom," he waged relentless war against heretics and schismatics; and at last things came to such a pass that whoever sent even a faint ripple of doubt over the stagnant lagoon of his (so-called) faith, whoever said or did anything which might conceivably give him the trouble of turning over in his orthodox slumber, was liable to be burned at the stake.

This triumph, in the region of speculative thought, of the average over the exceptional man, was a misfortune for the human race. For it involved the suppression of high-thinking, which is in its very essence a departure from the commonplace and the average; and the suppression of high-thinking involves, in the last resort, the suppression of spiritual desire. Not, indeed, that it is possible for spiritual desire to be finally suppressed. The expansive forces of Nature, the expression of which in man's inner life constitutes his spiritual desire, may be dammed back for centuries, but sooner or later they will find a new outlet for themselves. This is what happened in the West. The revival of classical learning, the invention of printing, the discoveries of distant lands, and other influences which need not here be considered, all working in unison with the secret leaven of Christ's spiritual teaching, combined to generate a new life in the soul of man. Long heralded and long delayed, the day of liberation dawned at last. In the age (or ages) of the Renascence there was a remarkable lateral expansion of desire. In the age (or ages) of the Reformation there was an equally remarkable purification and elevation of desire. The triumph of the average man had been too complete, and its inevitable Nemesis had duly come. The soul of man, which had long lain in a comatose slumber and which had made many abortive efforts to arouse itself, was now at last alive and awake, and ready for new speculative ventures. Full of energy and enterprise, it turned to thought for the working capital that it needed,--for the help and guidance which large ideas alone can supply.

But there was no response to its appeal.

Before the Western mind could begin to think, it had to vindicate its right to think. In other words, it had to fight for freedom. That fight is still in progress, and the end of it is not yet in sight. Meanwhile, the speculative achievements of Western thought have been, in the nature of things, inconsiderable. Of its triumphant success in the sphere of physical science I need not speak. Physical science is not philosophy. Nor need I pause to consider that metaphysical movement which is supposed to have been initiated by Descartes. The successive idealistic ventures which have been one of the distinguishing features of that movement, have all been "apparent failures." The truth is that high-thinking had been so long and so rigorously suppressed that, even in the efforts which the Western mind has made to free itself from bondage to the average man's ideas, it has shown at every turn the baneful effect of his ascendency. It is a mistake to suppose that the struggle for freedom which has been in progress for five centuries has been wholly, or even in large measure, conducted by men of exceptional mental gifts. It was pre-ordained, one might almost say, that the average man should himself take a leading part in it. Whenever the average man is allowed, as he has been in the West, to control the larger movements of thought, however carefully his philosophy may be formulated by the theologians and guarded by the Churches, the day will surely come when, in his individual capacity, he will rise in revolt against himself in his corporate capacity, and range himself, in his attempt to vindicate the right of private judgment, by the side of the exceptional men whom, in his corporate capacity, he is only too ready to burn. But, in entering into this anomalous alliance, he illogically claims, and half-unconsciously exercises, the right to impose the fundamental assumption of his philosophy on the minds of his allies. And though he is at one with them in their demand for freedom of conscience, he leaves them, and leaves himself, but little room for the exercise of that sacred right.

This is one among many reasons why the average man's fundamental assumption--that the physical plane is the whole of Nature--still dominates Western thought. In the deadly shade of that assumption his spiritual ideas wither almost as soon as they are born. In his own philosophy materialism is still modified by supernaturalism. But, in rejecting the old theologies which formulated and systematized his belief in the Supernatural, and the old organizations which guarded it from criticism, he has exposed it to the danger of being undermined by speculative thought. Indeed, it is no exaggeration to say that the one solid achievement of critical thought in the West, in recent years, has been to undermine the belief in the Supernatural and to discredit the whole theory of things which was built on that insecure foundation. The immediate consequences of this achievement have been and will long be disastrous. Take away from the philosophy of the average man the conception of the Supernatural,--and materialism, pure and simple, remains. [3]

It is sometimes said that in the present age there is a feud, with regard to "great matters," between the "heart" and the "head." The feud is also, though less correctly, spoken of as one between Religion and Science. Strictly speaking, the parties to the quarrel are two rival theories of things--Supernaturalism, which seems, for the time being, to satisfy the "heart," and Materialism, which seems, for the time being, to satisfy the "head." To identify religion with supernaturalism is as unfair as to hold science responsible for materialism. The religious instinct invented supernaturalism, as an antidote to the materialism of popular thought; and the spread of scientific habits of thought discredited supernaturalism, and so re-habilitated materialism as the philosophy of the average man in his seasons of "free-thought." But the hypothesis of a world above Nature is as little of the essence of religion, as is the materialistic degradation of Nature of the essence of science.

That there is, in the present age, a feud between the "head" and the "heart"--between "reason" and "faith"--is, I think, undeniable. The churches and sects denounce "rationalism" as vehemently as the Free-thinkers and Agnostics (to give them the titles which they have appropriated, but to which they have no claim) denounce "superstition." The very platform on which the head and the heart meet in their controversy, is the tacit assumption that their respective philosophies are the only possible solutions of the problem of the Universe. "Quit the fold of the Church," says the votary of "faith," "and you will sink deeper and deeper into the quagmire of materialism, till you end by denying God, denying the soul, denying the life beyond the grave." "Cease to believe in God," says the "Free-thinker," "cease to believe in the soul, cease to dream of a life beyond the grave, or you will find yourself committed to all the assumptions of supernaturalism, and, sinking deeper and deeper into the quagmire of superstition, you will end by surrendering your conscience to the casuist and your freedom to the priest." It is a significant fact that in France, where the average man is more logical and clear-headed than in any other country, there are (when all is said and done) two parties and two only,--Catholics and "Free-thinkers." Between these two there is a deep-seated and far-reaching feud. It might almost be said that every Frenchman is bound to range himself on one side or the other in that deadly quarrel, bound to subscribe to all the positive dogmas of Catholic theology or, failing that, to all the negative dogmas of what miscalls itself "Free-thought,"--a creed which centres in the dogmatic denunciation of "the deplorable superstition of a life after death." Between ecclesiastical supernaturalism and secularistic materialism there seems to be no middle term. But if in France every man is either a Catholic or a "Free-thinker," in other countries, where men are less logical, it not unfrequently happens that the same person passes and re-passes between the two hostile camps. Again and again one sees the young man who has been nurtured in the ancient faith, reject supernaturalism as an irrational hypothesis, and go forth, exulting in his freedom, in quest of a truer and deeper philosophy; and sometimes one sees the same man, weary of a creed which authoritatively tells him, while the shadows are lengthening on his path, that death is the end of life, creep back in his old age to the fold which he had quitted in his youth, and justify himself for his second apostacy by arguing that, as an interpreter of the deeper mysteries of existence, the heart is, in all probability, more to be trusted than the head.

Assuming that there is a feud between the head and the heart, let us ask ourselves how the feud has originated, what it indicates, and how it is to be healed. We mean by the "heart" the headquarters of desire,--by the "head" the headquarters of thought. The function of the head is to supply the heart with the working-capital that it needs for its speculative enterprises, in other words, with the "ideas" that it needs for the due evolution of its spiritual desires. It sometimes happens that the heart goes to the head for ideas, and is sent empty away. But these are exceptional cases. As a rule, when there is a complete dearth of ideas, the reason is that there has been no demand for them, the soul having become so un-enterprising that the unexpended balance of its original capital proves to be more than sufficient for its needs. But Nemesis waits, as we have seen, on this ignoble solvency. Sooner or later the soul will awake from its orthodox slumber, and make itself ready for new speculative ventures. Then there will be an immense expansion of desire, and a corresponding need for new ideas. For a time, indeed, that need will not be acutely felt. A sustained attempt will be made to pour the new wine into the old bottles, to finance the new enterprises with the old capital. But after a time the inadequacy of the old ideas will be realized; and the heart will go to the head for the new ideas that its expanding desires imperatively demand. But the head, having had no call made upon it, will have long since ceased to enlarge its own capital; and when the heart goes to it, it must either confess itself insolvent, or try to dissuade the heart from committing itself to enterprises which it (the head) is unable to finance. In self-defence it will take the latter course. It will say to the heart: "These enterprises for which you ask financial help are mad and impossible, and will end in your utter ruin. Abandon them, one and all, and limit your desires to what is measurable and attainable. For that I will provide you with the limited amount of capital that you will need, but on one condition,--that I am allowed to become a partner in your business."

How will the heart receive this advice? The new desires for which it needs working capital are not revolutionary ventures, but natural and necessary developments of its old desires. To tell it that these new desires are mad and impossible enterprises is to tell it, by implication, that the whole of its business is unsound. Both the head and the heart will feel instinctively that the former's response to the latter's demand for ideas amounts to this. Were it possible for the head to say, in response to the heart's appeal: "Your business has contracted and otherwise deteriorated owing to your having, through indolence and timidity, neglected to expand it: but the business itself--the fundamental desires which you seek to exploit--is sound enough; all that is needed is that you should enlarge your capital and develop your business in new directions and on a bolder scale":--were it possible for this stimulating answer to be given to the expectant heart, the inner life of man would be quickened into new activity, and a new season of soul-growth would be begun. But it is not possible. Were the head to tell the heart that what the latter needs, above all things, is fresh capital, it would thereby make open confession of the emptiness of its own coffers. What it will find itself driven to do is to discountenance the enterprises of the heart,--not its new ventures only, but the spirit of enterprise which is and has ever been the breath of its life; to tell the heart that spiritual desire--the desire which directs itself towards the far-off and mysterious--is in the nature of things a vanity and a delusion; in fine, to invite it to wind up the business which it lives to transact, and to embark on a new career which bears the same relation to the old that the till of a village grocer bears to the counting-house of a merchant prince. What will happen when the heart, in its hour of expansive energy, receives this chilling rebuff? Who shall blame it if it resolves hence-forth to forswear its alliance with the head; if it abandons its dream of finding new ideas to match the new desires that had begun to renew its life; if it recoils from the new desires, as from phantoms which are luring it to destruction; if it goes back at last to the old discredited ideas and the old devitalized desires, determined at whatever cost to patch up its dwindling business and carry it on as best it may?

That I may make my meaning clear, let me trace in outline the history of one of the master desires of the heart,--the desire for immortality. I select this desire for consideration because, of all spiritual desires, it is at once the most popular and the most profound; and I call it a spiritual desire because it unquestionably directs itself towards the far-off and the mysterious. When it was still in its infancy, the crude conceptions of supernaturalism were sufficient for its needs. The pious Christian was content to believe that on a certain day in a not very distant future his body, which he found it difficult to distinguish from his real self, would rise again from the dead; that he would then appear before the judgment-seat of Christ; that if he had lived well while on earth he would be rewarded with eternal happiness; that if he had lived ill he would be punished with eternal misery. This theory of things was provided by the head in response to the demands of the heart; but when once the theory had been accepted and formulated by the Christian Church, the head was forbidden to criticize it, forbidden to modify it except in unessential details, forbidden even to think about it except within the clearly defined limits which Catholic theology had marked out. The consequence was that thought (in the deeper sense of the word) got out of touch with the idea of survival, lost all interest in it, held entirely aloof from it. For a time the desire for immortality was satisfied with the doctrines of a bodily resurrection and a future judgment; but satisfaction is the grave of desire; and as the heart, like the head, was forbidden to speculate (in its own way) about the destiny of the departed spirit, it too lost interest in the problem, and instead of moving onward, as desire should always do, it began to oscillate between two ignoble feelings,--callous indifference and superstitious fear. When the tyranny of dogmatism was relaxed, and some measure of freedom was restored both to the head and to the heart, the former began to criticize the current eschatology and to turn away from it as irrational, while the latter began to turn away from it as ignoble and inadequate.

So far, so good. Had it then been possible for the head to supply the heart with larger and deeper conceptions of what is vulgarly called "the future life," the heart would have begun to discover new depths and new developments in its desire for immortality; and, in its attempt to interpret these, the head would have begun to discover new depths and new developments in its theory of immortality; and in this way man's whole conception of Nature would have been expanded and enriched. But 1,000 years of forced inaction had atrophied the constructive energies of thought, and its critical power alone remained. Even the critical power of thought, which cannot be dissociated from the constructive, had suffered from the despotism which confined it, so far as any freedom was allowed it, to the study of physical phenomena, and forbade it to meddle with "spiritual things." For criticism, in the truer and deeper sense of the word, it had no capacity. Its growing power of analytical criticism enabled it to under-mine the foundations of supernaturalism. But when it had done this work, it had gone as far as it was possible for it to go. The dreamland of the Supernatural had vanished, and "Nature" remained. But it was the Nature of the average man. The philosophy of the average man, with its central assumption that the outward and visible world is the whole of Nature, was still in the ascendant; and now that the corrective influence of supernaturalism had been withdrawn, the latent materialism of that commonplace philosophy began to resume its sway. To free itself from that sway was beyond the power of thought. Incapable of constructive criticism, it could do nothing but bow its neck to the yoke of the very assumption which the heart had instinctively rejected as intolerable, and in its effort to free itself from which it had, in conjunction with the head, devised the theory of the Supernatural. To expose the unsoundness of that provisional theory was (and is) within the power of thought. To devise a better theory was (and is) beyond its power and, for the time being, beyond its aim.

What will happen, then, when the heart, no longer able to rest in the old doctrines of Resurrection and Judgment, of Heaven and Hell, but still cherishing the desire for immortality, goes to the head for light and guidance? It will be told that not only are the old ideas about immortality false and hollow, but that there are no ideas which can take their place. It will be told that the desire for immortality is itself a delusion--the primary delusion, of which the fables of the theologians are a fitting interpretation,--and that it must be surrendered if the heart is to find peace. And if the head is asked to justify these sweeping negations, it will give reasons for them which strike at the root, not of this desire only but of spiritual desire as such. That it may the better prove how entirely it is under the control of the average man, it will appeal to his primary assumption--that the visible world is the only world--as to a self-evident truth; and if the authority of its favourite axiom is questioned, it will support it with many arguments, each of which is a mere re-statement of the axiom under a more or less transparent disguise; and, having thus established its authority, it will draw inferences from it which prove, as it contends, that not the idea of immortality only, but the idea of spiritual life, the idea of spiritual freedom, the whole "soul-theory" (as it contemptuously calls it), is baseless as a dream. And that it may the better prove how incapable it is of interpreting a genuinely spiritual desire, such as the longing for immortality, it will take upon itself to scold the heart for cherishing a desire which, besides being demonstrably delusive, is base, selfish, and unmanly,--a "lust for positive happiness," which poisons morality at its fountain-head.

The desire for immortality may or may not be delusive--demonstrably delusive it certainly is not--hut it is the very cant of pseudo-stoicism to say that it is base and selfish. For, after all, what is the desire for immortality? Is it not the desire, which man shares with all other living things, to grow--to continue to grow--to ripen--to move towards the goal of natural perfection?

"We feel that we are greater than we know."


We feel that the scale of our life and the scope of our work are great beyond measure, and that it would be as reasonable to expect an oak tree to make the full measure of its possible growth in a single season as for the soul to make the full measure of its possible growth in a single life. It is the soul's belief in itself which makes it desire immortality, just as it is the oak tree's belief in itself which makes it wait expectantly for the warmth and moisture of another spring; but the soul's desire for continued growth is entirely redeemed from selfishness by the fact that, in the higher stages of its development, the soul can continue to grow only by becoming selfless. It is true that in the quasi-concrete forms which the desire takes, in the pictures which man makes for himself of the "future life," he shows the limitations of his undeveloped nature,--the materialism of his unimaginative mind, the selfishness of his unexpanded heart. But the desire itself is unselfish, with all the unselfishness of a cosmic force.

Rebuffed and rebuked by the head, the heart recoils upon itself; and as the head cannot provide it with the illuminating ideas about immortality for which it asks, and as it cannot surrender a desire which is a part of its very life, it has no choice but to revert to the old ideas, to accept these as of Divine authority, and to confine the desire (which had struggled in vain for freedom and expansion) within the narrow channel which they provide. This means that, owing to lack of working capital, its speculative enterprise has failed; and this again means that thought, which is bound by its charter to supply the heart with "ideas," is unable to meet its obligations, and is therefore, in a word, bankrupt.

Neither the head nor the heart is to be blamed for this fiasco. The scale of the catastrophe is so large, and the forces which have combined to produce it are so complex and have been so long in operation, that it is impossible to say where the responsibility for it is to be laid. Also, it may be admitted that for the heart to be at open feud with the head is better than for the two to work together, as they have sometimes done, in chains. To that extent one may regard the quarrel between them with something of fatalistic complacency. But it is a mistake to say, as is sometimes said, that the quarrel is a necessity of. Nature, and to suggest that there are two kinds of truth--truth for the head and truth for the heart--and that these have nothing in common. Truth, like Nature, is in the last resort one and indivisible. So is the soul. The division of the soul into the head and the heart may be a necessity of thought, so far as thought comes under the control of its instrument, language; but it is not a necessity of Nature. If the distinction between the two is to be maintained, it must be on the understanding that one of the most vital functions of each is to co-operate with the other, and that neither can do its own special work effectively except in alliance with the other.

The heart is like a woman. Its intuitions are sound, but its attempts to justify them are fallacious and inconclusive. "Le cœur," says Pascal, "a ses raisons que le raison ne connaît pas: on le sait en mille choses." This is quite true; but the heart, left to itself, will not only fail to discover its hidden reasons, but will insist on giving other reasons--quite wrong reasons--for its fundamentally right conclusions. For if the heart takes upon itself to interpret some strong and true desire which possesses it, the chances are that it will fall a victim, in its search for an explanation, to the first commonplace theory that comes in its way, or, failing this, will revert to some old worn-out theory which in its own secret recesses it has already discarded; with the result, in either case, that the evolution of the desire will be arrested, and its pent-up energies put to some baser use. In other words, the right conclusions of the heart, being obscured by wrong reasons, will recede into the background; and the heart will end by substituting for these its own misinterpretations of them,--misinterpretations which are wholly due to its perverse attempt to understand and explain what it sees and feels.

It is true that in the medium of poetry--which never argues, never apologizes, never explains itself--the conclusions which the heart reaches by the divination of instinctive desire, may find a safe retreat. But to sustain life in that fluid medium, in which no problem is ever solved but all reasons and all conclusions are held in solution, is to the full as difficult as to breathe the rarefied air of abstract thought. Reasons for its intuitive conclusions, ideas to justify and direct its spiritual desires, the heart must have: but to discover those reasons, even if they be locked up in the heart itself, to discover the meaning, the function, and the purpose of the heart's desire is, after all, the business of thought; and the home of thought is what we call the head.

Here we come to a paradox from which there seems to be no escape. If we ask in what court the case between the head and the heart is to be tried, we can but answer: In the court of reason, the court which is presided over by the head. This shows how fundamentally fallacious--how unreal and unnatural--is the dispute in question. When the heart takes upon itself to anticipate or reverse the ruling of the head, it violently usurps the function of the latter, and gives a verdict in its own favour in a court whose authority it has refused to recognize. The heart should go into the court of reason, not as a suitor against the head--that feud is, I repeat, fundamentally fallacious--still less as a judge, but as a witness who is deeply interested in a case which is ever on trial, and whose evidence deserves to be received and weighed. When the head refuses to accept the depositions of the heart, and then makes light of the heart's protest, it is, in its judicial capacity, deliberately ignoring evidence which bears directly on the matter in dispute. In thus ceasing to be impartial, it abdicates its judicial functions, and takes a side in the very case which it has undertaken to try. This is equivalent to closing its court; and when the court of reason is closed, a state of chaos ensues, in which there is not even the semblance of order, until might becomes right and cuts the knots which cannot otherwise be loosed.

In the West, then, we have the strange spectacle of the head, which ought to be judicial and impartial, playing in its own court the rôle of a partisan and an advocate; while the heart, which is and ought to be an interested witness, finding that the Presiding Judge refuses to accept its evidence, takes forcible possession of the judicial bench and gives judgment on the case in dispute, using arguments the insufficiency of which it had fully recognized in the very act of entering the court. For it is this, and nothing less than this, which happens when reason gives judgment against "faith," having from the outset refused to listen to its evidence; and when "faith," in revenge, claims, on rational grounds, the right to reverse the rulings of reason.

The feud between the head and the heart is at once an abiding proof of the ascendency of dualism in Western thought, and a practical example of the working of that fatal fallacy. Spirit or matter, life or machinery, inward or outward, faith or reason, the heart or the head,--again and again we are invited to make our choice between what are supposed to be mutually exclusive alternatives, though they are really aspects--at once antithetical and correlative--of the same fundamental reality. In the order of Nature there is no abiding feud between the head and the heart. When we say that there is such a feud, what we mean is that for the time being the head and the heart--thought and desire--are unable to co-operate, the result of this being that neither is fulfilling its true function, and that the whole machinery of the inner life is deranged. The readiness of the Western mind to accept this state of things as normal, shows how deep-seated is the evil and how urgent is the need for a remedy. It is also equivalent to an admission that the title of this chapter is justified, and that Western thought is no longer solvent. When thought is solvent, when it is able to supply the ideas that desire needs, not for its ignoble satisfaction but for its expansion and development, the head and the heart cease to be enemies, and become what Nature intends them to be,--fellow-workers and friends.

_______________

Notes:

1 I mean by dogmatism, not the uncompromising expression of opinion, but the claim to have formulated and expounded supernaturally communicated truth. The formulation of opinion, however uncompromising or even discourteous it may be, does not constitute dogmatism in this--the theological--sense of the word. There is a vital distinction, which the apologists for "dogma" are apt to ignore, between speaking for oneself and speaking in the name of the Supernatural God.

2 It is a significant fact that the pious Christian's recognition of the divinity of the Holy Spirit, or, in other words, of the immanence of God in his own life, is, as a rule, a pure formality.

3 For eighteen centuries, more or less, the belief that the God of the Jews is the God of the Universe, and that the Jewish Scriptures are the "Word of God," has lain like an incubus on the thought and conscience of the West. The time has come for criticism to say plainly that until this incubus has been finally exorcized, the higher thought of the West will not be able to awake from its long and troubled sleep. The Jewish conception of a God who is at once national and universal, is a remarkable, and, as far as it goes, a valuable contribution to the religious development of Humanity. But, standing as it does midway between a frankly national and a genuinely universal conception of God, it is obviously a resting-place for religious p. 216 thought and aspiration, rather than an abiding home. The Scriptures which record the sayings and doings of this hybrid Deity, hold a place in the esteem and affection of Christendom which makes criticism difficult and praise impertinent. But the time has come to say of them that they have all the defects and limitations of their Deity, and that to call them, in all seriousness, the "Word of God" is to emphasize the narrowness and shallowness of one's own conception of the Divine. What one cannot insist on too forcibly is that the cramping and warping influence of Jewish ideas and ideals makes itself felt by the revolutionary, quite as strongly as by the reactionary, school of thought. The "free-thinkers" who reject supernaturalism are with few exceptions, as narrow-minded, as unimaginative, and as dogmatic as the "orthodox" whom they affect to despise. The best that they can do for us, when we turn to them for help and guidance, is to substitute a negative for a positive dogmatism, secularism for superstition, disbelief for unwarranted belief, despair for illusive hope. Meanwhile, the West, with its old ideals discredited, with its old virtues at a discount, with its old faith slowly dying, devotes itself with feverish energy to the pursuit of riches and pleasure.
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Re: The Creed of Buddha, by Edmond Holmes

Postby admin » Mon Oct 21, 2019 8:06 am

CHAPTER IX. LIGHT FROM THE EAST

UNABLE to meet its obligations, unable to supply the soul with the ideas that it needs for the due interpretation and evolution of its desires, Western thought can save itself from hopeless insolvency only by borrowing ideas from some other source. If it will condescend to do this, and if, having enriched its treasury with these new ideas, it will put them to a profitable use, by bringing them into harmony with what is true and of lasting value in its own theory of things, it will not only extricate itself from its embarrassments, but will be able in due course to pay back its debt with more than compound interest.

But the ideas that are borrowed must be those which the soul really needs. Now the soul needs, above all things, to be allowed to believe in itself. Belief in oneself is the supreme motive force in Nature, the power which is behind every desire, every enterprise, every effort, to grow, every "instinct to live." What we call the feud between the heart and the head is really the soul's indignant protest, on the plane of instinct and desire, against a theory which satisfies it, for the time being, on the plane of conscious thought,--the theory that the material world is the whole world, that all phenomena, up to and including the spiritual life of man, admit of being stated and explained in terms of physical force and physical law, and that therefore the soul itself is not a reality but an empty name. In other words, the heart's revolt against the head is the soul's protest against its own disparagement of itself. The first, and in a sense the last, desire of the soul is to be allowed to believe in itself; for all faith, all hope, all joy, all that makes life worth living, is present in embryo in that one belief.

The soul, then, must be allowed to believe in itself; and if this, its fundamental act of faith, is to be really effective, if it is to give the soul the stimulus and the guidance that it needs, if it is to make an end of the intestine strife that tears the soul asunder, it must be free from any suspicion of doubt. This means that no attempt should be made to prove the reality of the soul. For if its reality were provable, it would obviously not be final or complete. Proof implies the unprovable. To prove reality is to build, in the last resort, on the rock of what is unprovably real. How do I know, for example, that the outward and visible world is real, in any sense or degree? Because my senses and my reason assure me (provisionally and within limits) of its reality. But what is the value of this assurance if I, whose reality is unprovable, am other than real? And because my reality is unprovable, it stands to reason that, just so far as the reality of the outward world is provable, it is to that extent provisional and incomplete. It is my secret doubt as to the intrinsic reality of the outward world, which makes me attempt to prove it; and when the process of proof has reached its conclusion, its very conclusiveness becomes the measure of its failure; for it is only by postulating a higher and more intrinsic reality (in myself) that I am able to prove that the outward world is real in any sense or degree. For most men, indeed, the proof of the reality of the outward world is a process which gives satisfaction long before it has reached its final term,--in other words, long before the appeal to the soul's guarantee has become necessary. From this we may infer, if we please, that the average man's instinctive and sub-conscious belief in the solvency of the guarantor is complete, though he is incapable of the sustained effort of thought which might enable him to realize the significance of this belief, or even to become conscious of its existence. But what distinguishes the soul from all other objects of speculative thought, is that any attempt which may be made to prove its reality is, in the nature of things, foredoomed to miscarry at the very outset. This fact is deeply significant; but it is on its vital rather than its metaphysical significance that I wish to dwell. Belief in its own reality is the very root of the soul's life: to prove or attempt to prove its reality is to undermine and otherwise weaken its roothold; and to weaken its roothold is to retard the process of its growth.

But to allow the soul to believe in itself is to make faith, instead of reason, the basis of one's philosophy of life. The answer to this possible protest is that the highest function of reason (as the word is understood by those who oppose it to faith) is to prove; and that, inasmuch as proof implies the unprovable, the philosophy that is based on reason hangs in mid-air instead of resting on the solid earth. This means that no philosophy is or can be based on reason, and that every philosophy, including materialism itself, is based on an act of faith. But as every act of faith resolves itself into faith in the source of all faith, the soul (even the materialist's belief in the intrinsic reality of the outward world being resolvable, in the last resort, into belief in his own self as the guarantor of its reality), it seems to follow that the soul's belief in itself is the only belief which is self-sanctioned, and therefore the only philosophical postulate which allows the thinker to proceed at once on his way.

If the soul is to believe in itself, it must break away, finally and completely, from Western standards of reality, or rather--for the Western mind does not think in the category of the real and the unreal [1] --from Western criteria of existence. While it is engaged in freeing itself from these fetters, its conception of Nature will undergo a profound and far-reaching change. Vast possibilities will begin to dawn upon its vision. No longer bound by the crude assumption that the palpable is the real and the impalpable the non-existent, it will begin to use its long-pinioned wings; and as it ascends from height to height, and discovers horizon beyond horizon, it will begin to suspect that, after all, the normal limits of human vision may not be the limits of the Universe. It will begin to wonder whether there may not, after all, be other worlds than that which the bodily senses reveal to us; other planes of being than the physical; other senses in man than those which he shares with the lower animals; other forces than those of material Nature. In the light of this dawning conception, the postulate of a supernatural order of things, which has done so much to narrow and debase man's conception of Nature, will become finally discredited by being justified and explained. The idea of the Supernatural cannot be wholly illusory. However erroneous, however mischievous may be its mode of expressing itself, we must needs believe that at the bottom of an idea which has ruled the lives and swayed the hearts of men in many lands and many ages, there is a real experience and a real desire. The supernatural world is the impalpable side of Nature, including all that is "inward and spiritual," expressed in a semi-materialistic notation. It follows that, when the soul is allowed to believe in itself, the supernatural world will be re-absorbed into Nature by a quasi-spontaneous process, for the inward side of Nature will then be seen to be the real side,--the substance of which the outward world is the shadow, the vital essence of which the outward world is the expression and the form. Nor is it only the soul's conception of Nature which will expand indefinitely when the conventional criterion of existence becomes discredited. It is also the soul's conception of itself. Allow the soul to believe in itself, and it will try to discover what its self really is. This means that it will wander far and wide, wander to the uttermost ends of the world, in quest of its own boundaries; and as these will never be discovered, it will not rest till it has absorbed all things into itself. In other words, it will not rest till it has spiritualized Nature,--spiritualized her so completely that the very things which it once regarded as the only substantial realities will begin to pass before it as moving shadows, and the material world, which it once regarded as the Alpha and Omega of Nature, will begin to melt into a dream.

Two things, then, will happen when the soul has learned to believe in itself. Its conception of Nature, freed from the limits which the popular criterion of existence imposed upon it, will be raised to an infinite power. So will its conception of itself. And these two parallel conceptions, meeting at last "at infinity," will become one.

Thus the first idea that the soul needs, if it is to be restored to a state of spiritual solvency--the idea that the soul itself is real--will give an immense stimulus to its flagging vitality, will rekindle the flame and widen beyond measure the range of its desire, will revive its dormant spirit of enterprise, will dispose it for new and daring ad-ventures. But if these adventures are to be properly equipped and directed, further ideas will be needed; and these, too, must be provided by thought. The general idea of the soul's intrinsic reality must be supplemented by speculative ideas of large import,--ideas as to the law of' the soul's life, as to its inward standard of reality, as to its origin and its destiny, as to the relation between its individual and its universal self. In evolving these ideas, thought will half lead and half follow desire, and will thus both guide and stimulate it. But if the ideas are to be effective, they must remain ideas, and not be allowed to degenerate into formulæ. To go far into detail, to map out a complete chart for the soul on the eve of its voyage of discovery, would stultify its spirit of enterprise; and to stultify its spirit of enterprise is to damp down the very flame of its life. If the chart which thought provides is both complete and correct in all its details, it must needs be that the far-off world of mystery which draws to itself the soul's desires has already been fully explored and surveyed, and that there is nothing left in it to discover. It is by desire, even more than by thought, that the blighting influence of dogmatism makes itself felt; and desire is the soul's instinctive effort to grow. The very basis of dogmatism is the false assumption that ultimate truth is communicable from without--as "theological information"--instead of being the inmost life of the soul, a life which the soul must win--or rather, evolve--in and for itself. When the soul realizes that it is real--and, if real at all, then supremely real--it will also realize that truth, which is the subjective counterpart of reality, is intimately its own; and it will instinctively reject all teaching which does, or pretends to do, for it what it ought to do and must do for itself. Thus the primary idea that the soul is real will automatically protect the soul from the cramping and warping pressure of dogmatism, and, while disposing it to welcome all sub-ideas which give it stimulus and guidance, will strengthen it to reject the teaching that is merely formal, and that does not reveal to it what is and has ever been its own.

This leads me to say again that, whatever spiritual ideas the thought of the West may borrow from whatever quarter, it must be able to assimilate these, if they are to rescue it from its present state of insolvency, and make them its own. I mean by this, first, that it must learn at last to recognize them as belonging to that inner life of the soul which it is the function of thought to interpret; and, next, that as they come to it--nominally from without, but really from within--it must meet them along its own line of approach, and give them the particular expression which is in keeping with its own criticism of life. For just as the individual soul, in the course of its development, should prove its individuality by universalizing itself in its own particular way, so if the soul of the West is to make the ideas which it borrows really productive, it must transform them by processes of its own till it has made them available, first for the special needs of the West, and then for the more general needs of Humanity. In this, and in no other way, will it be able to pay them back in due season, enriched and expanded by the use that it has made of them.

Four things, then, are needed if the bankruptcy of Western thought is to come to an end. In the first place, the idea that the soul is ultimately real--an idea which the heart imperatively needs, but which the head is unable to supply--must be borrowed from some other source. In the second place, the idea must be accepted on its own evidence, and therefore without any shadow of reserve or doubt. This means that the source from which the idea is borrowed must be one in which, having always been regarded as demonstrably indemonstrable, it has the force and authority of an axiom,--not of a mere assumption, still less of a logical conclusion. In the third place, with this master idea the soul must borrow the subsidiary ideas by which it has been interpreted and otherwise supported in the land of its origin; but it must take care that these subsidiary ideas, while giving it stimulus and guidance, do not in any way cramp or deaden its life, or impede the free play of its thought and its desire. In the fourth place, it must make the ideas that it borrows its very own; for until it has done this it will not be able to trade with them to advantage; and it is only by trading with them to advantage that it can hope to pay them back, with the generous interest which is due for so timely a loan.

In asking the West to adopt this heroic remedy, I can appeal to a precedent which Christendom at least will regard as authoritative,--to the example of Christ. Nearly 2000 years ago, when the ideals of Paganism had exhausted their influence, and when, as a consequence of this, the soul of the West was sinking deep into the mire of materialism--a materialism of thought as well as of desire--Christ renewed its failing strength, and drew it back to firm ground, by borrowing from the Far East the master idea of the soul's intrinsic reality and the derivative ideas that revolve round this central orb, and by making these his own. As regards the source to which he went, the ideas that he borrowed, and the use that he made of them, we who revere Christ as our Lord and Master, shall do well to follow his lead.

To the pious Christian, who believes that Christ brought his ideas--or shall I say, his store of "theological information"?--down to earth from the supernatural Heaven, the suggestion that he borrowed ideas from India, or any other terrestrial land, may possibly seem profane. Yet Theology itself admits, or rather insists, that Christ was (and is) "very man" as well as "very God"; and if he was "very man," if he was open to all human influences, we may surely take for granted that his pure and exalted nature was peculiarly sensitive to the spiritual ideas of his age. That Christ had come under the influence of the spiritual ideas of the Far East is a hypothesis which explains many things, and for which therefore there are many things to be said. To attempt to prove in detail the indebtedness of the "Gospel" to the "Ancient Wisdom" would carry me far beyond the limits which the aim of this work has imposed upon me. But I would ask anyone who can approach the question with a genuinely open mind to make the following simple experiment. Let him first saturate himself with the spiritual thought of India,--with the speculative philosophy, half metaphysical, half poetical, of the Upanishads, and with the ethical philosophy of Buddha. Let him then study the sayings of Christ, making due allowance for the distorting medium (of Jewish prejudice and Messianic expectation) through which his teaching has been transmitted to us. He will probably end by convincing himself, as I have done, that the spiritual standpoints of the Sages of the Upanishads, of Buddha, and of Christ were, in the very last resort, identical.

With this hypothesis to guide us, let us study some of the more characteristic sayings of Christ. What is the "Sermon on the Mount" but a systematic and strenuous attempt to revolutionize human life by giving men a new ideal and a new standpoint,--by substituting, in accordance with the central trend of Indian thought, an entirely inward for an entirely outward standard of moral worth? The sayings in it which seem to be violent and paradoxical, when we interpret them literally, disclose their meaning and their purpose directly the light of this conception is turned upon them. To say that "every one that looketh upon a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart" is, one would think, to disparage by implication the self-control which arrests lawless desire on the threshold of lawless action; but the words had to be spoken in order that the reality of the inward standard might be emphasized, and the hollowness of formal rules, when divorced from the spiritual principles that are behind them, might be brought home to his hearers. The words, "if thy right eye cause thee to stumble pluck it out and cast it from thee" are, as they stand, a hard saying. But when he spoke them, Christ was but expressing in his own language the profound truth which Indian thought had long insisted upon,--that the outward self (form, sensation, perception and the rest) is unreal and valueless, in comparison with the overwhelming reality and incalculable value of the inward life. His stern and terrible command is in its essence the echo of what Buddha had said, centuries before, in quite other words: "The material form is not the self: the sensations are not the self: the perceptions are not the self: the conformations [predispositions] are not the self: the consciousness is not the self." [2]

The "Kingdom of Heaven," which figures so prominently in Christ's discourses, is obviously the kingdom of soul-life;--a kingdom which is ever at hand, ever in the midst of us; which immingles itself with "the world," or kingdom of the surface life, as the eternal immingles itself with the transitory, the real with the phantasmal, truth with illusion, light with darkness; or, again, which waits with divine patience at the heart of "the world," as "perfect peace" waits at the heart of fever and strife. To enter this inward Kingdom is to enter "the Path" into which Buddha led his disciples. To become (in the fullest sense of the words) a naturalized citizen of the Kingdom is to pass into Nirvâna. When Christ says, "Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon the earth, where moth and rust doth consume, and where thieves break through and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth consume and where thieves do not break through nor steal; for where thy treasure is there will thy heart be also," he is but harping on the theme, so familiar to Indian thought, of the impermanence of outward things and the permanence of the inward life. When he likens the kingdom of heaven to the "hidden treasure" or the "pearl of great price," to win which a man will sell all that he has, he is but echoing the teaching of the Indian sages that the Self within the self is alone real, and that all the things which we prize must be surrendered in order that He may be won.

Even the words which Christ is reported to have used about his own kinship to and oneness with "the Father"--words on which all the fantastic structures of Christian theology have been based--are but the expression, in a new notation, of the sublime Indian doctrine that "He is the true self of every creature,"--that "Brahma and the self are one."

Lastly, the great question in which the whole of Christ's spiritual teaching is summed up and typified--"What shall it profit a man if he gain the whole world and lose his own soul; or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul? with its implicit assumption that the soul is greater and more precious than "the whole world," is the very question which India had again and again asked herself, and in which all her meditations on great matters had centred.

The ideas which dominated Christ's teaching, and which, according to my hypothesis, had come to him from the Far East, were not wholly new to the Græco-Roman world of his day. Xenophanes, Parmenides, Pythagoras and (above all) Plato had expounded them, each from his own point of view and in his own language, to esoteric circles of disciples. But no popular exposition of them had been attempted in the West till Christ came ender their influence and was captivated by their truth and beauty. Whether they were consciously or unconsciously adopted by Christ matters little. The broad fact confronts us that the ideas which he expounded coincide, at every vital point, with ideas which were current in India many centuries before the Christian era. Had India, through all those centuries, been entirely walled off from Western Asia and Southeastern Europe, the coincidences between the teaching of Christ and the teaching of Buddha and his forerunners might conceivably be regarded as purely fortuitous. But never, before the establishment of British rule in India, had the opportunities for intercourse between East and West been so numerous or so favourable as in the centuries which immediately preceded the birth of Christ. For during a part, at least, of that period a chain of partially Hellenized kingdoms stretched from India to the Mediterranean, forming a broad highway along which the spiritual ideas of India travelled, slowly but surely; Westward. We need not lay much stress on the inscription which records the intention of the Buddhist Emperor, Asoka, to send missionaries from India to Syria, Egypt, and other Hellenized lands, in order to preach the gospel of deliverance; for we have no evidence that those missionaries were ever sent. But the migration of a spiritual idea is not dependent, wholly or even mainly, on the labours of its accredited agents. The decadence of religion and philosophy in the Græco-Roman world during the centuries which intervened between the death of Alexander and the birth of Christ, had created a spiritual vacuum which was waiting to be filled; and the westward set of the current of Indian ideas was as natural a movement as that of the Trade Winds or the Gulf Stream.

But if we may not say that Christ originated the ideas which he expounded, we may--and must--say that he was grandly original in the use that he made of them. The inspired teacher is not he who invents new ideas--for great ideas are never invented--but he who having received them, from whatever quarter, is able to assimilate them and make them his own. It is because he did this to the largest and most luminous ideas that have yet dawned upon the human spirit, that Christ must take rank with Buddha as one of the foremost teachers of mankind. What Buddha had done to the ideas of the Upanishads, Christ did to the same ideas when they had come to him, as they probably did, through the medium of Buddha's ethical teaching, he made them available for the daily needs of ordinary men.

But the method by which Christ worked was entirely his own. To graft the spiritual idealism of India on the stem of Hebrew poetry, and so to bring it home to the heart, rather than to the mind or the conscience, was the work of his life. Leaving it to thinkers, like Plato, to develop the idea of soul-growth through the medium of abstract thought,--leaving it to moralists, like Buddha, to develop it through the medium of a scheme of life,--Christ was content to develop it through the medium of poetic emotion. Out of the rival conceptions of God which were symbolized by Brahma and Jehovah respectively, he devised a third--the "resultant" of their respective forces--the idea of the All-Father who loves and is loved by his children, men. Setting before men, as Plato and Buddha had done, the finding of the soul or true self as the goal of their life's endeavour, he neither gave them reasons for pursuing that goal (as Plato had done) nor directions for pursuing it (as Buddha had done), but he gave them instead of these a motive for pursuing it--of all motives the strongest and the purest--the quasi-personal love of the All-loving God. Where Plato and where Buddha were strong, each in his own way, Christ was by comparison weak; but he had a strength which was all his own. Plato reasoned about God. Buddha kept silence about God. Christ made him the theme of his poetry. Each of these modes of dealing with the idea of the Divine has its own merits and its own defects. The defects of Christ's treatment of the idea are obvious. The teacher who tries to popularize spiritual truth by formulating it in terms of poetry, may almost be said to invite men to literalize and despiritualize his teaching. Christ took this risk and paid the penalty of his daring. But though the penalty was a heavy one, yet when he had paid it in full there was a substantial balance in his favour. As a speculative thinker he does not compete with Plato. As a systematic teacher he does not compete with Buddha. But as a source of spiritual inspiration he has no rival.

With Christ's example before us, we need not hesitate to go for spiritual ideas to the only land in which they have ever (as far as we know) been indigenous,--to Ancient India. In the India which gave birth to the Upanishads, belief in the soul grew on its own stock and sprang from its own roots. No attempt was made to prove the reality of the soul, or to apologize for the belief in it. So far as any reason was given for the "soul-theory," it was a reason which proved--if I may be allowed the paradox--that the reality of the soul is unprovable.

"Only by soul itself
Ts soul perceived.--when the Soul wills it so!
There shines no light save its own light to show
Itself unto itself." [3]


The idealistic ventures of the West have all suffered shipwreck on the rock of the average man's "common-sense,"--an euphemistic title for his spiritual indolence, his lack of imagination, and his inability to think clearly or coherently. But the spiritual thought of India, in the days when her soul was awake and active, was, at its highest level, strictly esoteric. In the teaching of Buddha we have the nearest approach to popularizing it that was ever made; but what Buddha submitted to the average man were, not the conclusions of Indian idealism, not the reasons for those conclusions, but their practical consequences. That the average man was deeply interested in the soundness of Buddha's scheme of life, was no reason (so its author seems to have thought) for allowing him to examine the philosophical conceptions that underlay it. The average man is deeply interested in the stability of the Forth Bridge; but had the engineers of that structure invited him to handle the profound mathematical problems which had to be solved before their designs could be completed, they would justly have been deemed insane. Not less insane would it have seemed to the Master Thinkers of India to allow the average man to handle the problem of reality, or any kindred problem.

It is true that to ignore the average man in the region of high thinking is a loss to the life of a nation as well as a gain; and that India has paid heavily for having ignored him. But the gain to her thought, while her spiritual life was at or near its zenith, was immense. Serenely indifferent to the verdict of the market place, Indian idealism never explains itself, never gives account of itself, never even for a moment distrusts itself. This means that under its ægis the soul's belief in itself is complete. And this again means that the soul is not curious about itself, or about .the worlds of which it is at once the centre and the circumference; that it is content with ideas and impatient of formulæ; that high thinking is neither the master nor the servant of spiritual desire, but its peer and its other self; that the head is ready to give the heart the guidance that it really needs,--the guidance that stimulates to fresh endeavour, not the guidance that blinds the vision and paralyzes the will.

It is to India then--the India of the Upanishads and of Buddha--that the West must go for the ideas, both central and subordinate, which shall rescue it from its embarrassments and restore it to a state of spiritual solvency. The central idea for which it is waiting is that of the reality of the soul. Of the sub-ideas to which this idea is central it must select those which it will find most easy to assimilate. For if it is to put the ideas that it borrows to a profitable use, it must make them its own; it must, in a manner, re-create them by bringing them into harmony with the highest achievements of its own thought. Now the highest achievements of the Western mind are and have long been scientific. It is in the sphere of physical science that its most successful work has been done, and that its most characteristic qualities have been developed. There are obvious reasons--in the West, where for centuries men have been authoritatively taught to identify the impalpable with the supernatural, there are special reasons--why the physical or palpable side of Nature should have been the first for Science to explore. But there is no reason why Science should confine her operations to that particular sphere. To be immersed in physical matter is not of the essence of Science. What is of her essence is the secret faith which is the mainspring of all her energies,--the faith of the soul of man in the intrinsic unity of Nature, its latent belief that the Universe is "not an aggregate but a whole." The aim of science--an aim which is not the less real because it is seldom consciously realized--is to discover one all-pervading substance, one all-controlling force, one all-regulating law. Subordinate to, but vitally connected with, the belief in the unity of Nature is the belief in law,--the belief of the soul in the veracity of Nature, in the stability and self-identity of the Universe. These two beliefs (if we are to call them two) constitute the true creed of Science. They are beliefs, be it observed, not disbeliefs. Each of them has its counterpart in what I may call a cosmic desire,--in the instinctive response of the soul to a message from the heart of the Universe. What passes in certain quarters for the creed of Science is a series of dogmatic negations or disbeliefs. But the true creed is a faith, a hope, and an aspiration; and, sooner or later, it will find expression for itself in action, in conduct, in life.

Such being, in its essence, the creed or secret faith of Science, it is a shock to the scientific thought of the West, when it asks philosophy to give it the ground plan of the Universe, to find itself face to face with the dualism of popular thought. The very raison d'être of Science is to prove that the Universe is an organic whole; and it is therefore an insult and a mockery to the mind which has long been living in an atmosphere of scientific effort and achievement, to be told that there are two worlds or spheres of being in the Universe, not one; that these two worlds are parted by an unfathomable abyss of nothingness which makes natural intercourse between them impossible; and that the Supreme Power which is supposed to have fashioned the world of Nature, and which now dwells apart from it in the supernatural Heaven, reveals itself at its own good pleasure to the dwellers in Nature by suspending the laws which are (one must believe) the expression of its own being,--in other words, by stultifying its own work and thwarting its own will. What wonder that the Western mind, in the violence of its re-action from so irrational a philosophy, should surrender itself to a theory of things which it regards as the only possible alternative for dualism,--to a materialistic monism in which unity is achieved by suppressing the impalpable, and therefore by despiritualizing and devitalizing the Universe? And what wonder that it should be unable to realize, owing to the poison of dualism being still in its veins, that a monism which is based on a comprehensive negation is not an alternative for dualism, but a new version of it;--the attempt to escape from dualism, by suppressing one of the terms of a given antithesis, leading one of logical necessity into the toils of a deadlier fallacy,--the fundamental dualism of the existent and the non-existent?

If the "advanced" thought of the West desires, in general, to convince itself of the unity of the Universe, it desires, more particularly, to bring the life of the soul--to bring the moral and spiritual worlds in which the life of the soul expresses itself--under the reign of natural law. This desire, which is 'both legitimate and salutary, is systematically thwarted by the dogmatic teaching of those who pose as the champions of the soul. For twenty centuries the "soul-theory" has been presented to the consciousness of the West in the notation of the Supernatural. As so presented, it outrages at every turn man's sense of law and his cognate (and virtually identical) sense of justice. To teach man that sin entered the world because his "first parents" violated an arbitrary command of the supernatural God; that because of this one original act of disobedience the whole human race stands condemned to eternal death; that the death of Christ on the cross has made it possible for men to escape from the terrible consequences of Adam's sin; that this one brief earth-life decides for all time the destiny of each individual soul; that either eternal salvation or eternal damnation awaits the departed spirit; that grace (the higher life of the soul) is a supernaturally communicated gift, a water of healing which (as some contend) is "laid on" at every priest-served altar, or (as others contend) takes possession of the "elect" in a sudden and irresistible stream,--to teach man such things as these is to make open mockery of his sense of law and order and justice, and to warn him at the outset that there can be no science of the inner life. To this mockery and this warning the scientific thought of the West has begun to reply with open defiance. Forbidden by supernaturalism to bring the life of the soul under the sway of natural law, it is being led by the secret logic of its faith (for it cannot but cling to its intuitive conviction that the realm of natural law is co-terminous with the Universe) to disbelieve in the life of the soul, to ask for proofs of its existence, and at last to relegate the whole "soul-theory" to the limbo of exploded superstitions. In thus abandoning the "soul-theory," the advanced thinkers of the West imagine that they are undoing the demoralizing work of supernaturalism. But in this matter, as in their treatment of the general problem of dualism, the remedy that they offer is worse than the disease. The West has never realized--so faulty has been its ethical training--that the inward consequences of moral action are regulated by one of Nature's most just and most inexorable laws; and the normal attitude of the average man towards the problem of moral responsibility is that, apart from legal and social considerations, it matters little how one acts. He still feels, however, that it matters some-thing; for the general idea that moral goodness makes for the well-being of the soul has always been formally countenanced by supernaturalism, and is still, in some degree, a restraining, if not an inspiring, influence in his life. But let him be fully convinced that he has no inward life, and that therefore his conduct can have no inward consequences,--and it will not be long before he feels his way to the logical conclusion that (again apart from legal and social considerations) it matters nothing how one acts.

We see, then, that the advanced thought of the West has, unknown to itself, a true and deep philosophy of its own,--a philosophy which centres in recognition of the essential unity of Nature and of the all-pervading supremacy of natural law. In virtue of this unformulated philosophy, it is the sworn enemy of dualism in general and of supernaturalism in particular; but it cannot yet realize what its hostility to dualism means, or where it is to find the remedy for the evil which it dimly discerns. The remedy for dualism is not the monism (if one must call it so) which suppresses one of the terms of a world-embracing antithesis, but the higher monism which recognizes that each term is the complement and correlate of the other; nay, that there is a reciprocal relation between the two in virtue of which each in turn owes to the other its meaning, its purpose, and (in the last resort) its very right to exist;--which recognizes, for example, that silence "implies sound," that failure is "a triumph's evidence," that the supernatural world is at the heart of Nature, that form is as truly the expression of spirit, as spirit is the soul and life of form. [4]

Such a monism was once taught in the Far East. The Indian doctrine of the fundamental identity of the individual and the universal life, and, more especially, of the ideal identity of the individual with the Universal Soul, makes an end, once and for all, of the false dualism of the human and the Divine, [5] and provides for the return of the Lord and Giver of Life from his exile in the supernatural dreamland to his home at the heart of Nature. If Western thought will accept this doctrine as a provisional theory of things, and try to master its meaning, it will be able to extend the conception of natural law to the inner life of man and to all the worlds--moral, æsthetic, poetic, religious, and the rest--which the ferment of that life has generated; it will be able, in due course, to take in hand the task for which its special bent and special training are even now equipping it, the task of building up the science of the soul.

When it takes that task in hand, it will find that Buddha has anticipated it, to the extent of indicating the main lines on which it will have to work. An attempt has been made by some of the Western exponents of Buddhism to show that the teaching of Buddha falls into line with the anti-idealistic theories of the dominant school of Western thought. The attempt has not been successful; for it can be shown, I think, that Buddha based his scheme of life, not on rejection of the "soul-theory," but on whole-hearted acceptance of it. But those who contend that Buddha's philosophy is modern and Western, have come within a little of stumbling upon an important truth. Though he belonged to a far-off age and a far-off land, the founder of Buddhism was akin to us in the scientific bent of his mind, in his grasp of the idea of law. His teaching does not fall into line with our thought, for in truth he was far more "advanced" than we are; but it is possible that our thought, as it develops, will come into line with his teaching.

The scientific achievements of the West, so far as they have any philosophical significance, fall under two main heads, the discovery (if I may use the word), on the physical plane, that the Kingdom of Nature is under the reign of law (a conception of Nature which Science must have unconsciously brought with her to her work of investigation, and which has made that work possible); and the further discovery that all laws of Nature are subordinate to the master law of development or growth. [6] Both these discoveries were anticipated by Buddha; but they were made by him--or by the thinkers who sowed what he reaped--not on the physical plane, but on the spiritual, on the plane of man's inner life. Buddha realized, as no man before (or since) had ever done, that the soul is a living thing, and that, as such, it comes under the all-pervading, all-controlling law of growth. And he realized the practical bearing of this conception.

Physical science says to the husbandman, "Do such and such things, and your crops (taking one season with another) will be abundant: neglect to do them, and your crops will be poor;" or, in other words, "Bring your husbandry into harmony with certain laws of physical Nature, and you will fare well. Disregard those laws, and you will fare ill." What the science of the West is doing for the growth (and the development) of wheat and barley, Buddha did for the growth of the soul. He taught men that, if they would bring their lives into harmony with certain fundamental laws of Nature, their souls would grow--as well-tended crops grow--vigorously and healthily; and that the sense of well-being which accompanies successful growth, and which, when consciously realized, is true happiness, would be theirs. He taught them this; and, in teaching it, he made that appeal to their will-power which is his chief contribution to the edification, as distinguished from the instruction, of the soul. The husbandman must take thought for his plants if their lives are to be brought into harmony with the appropriate laws of Nature; but the plant which we call the soul must take thought for itself. Penetrated with the conviction that what a man does re-acts, naturally and necessarily, on what he is, and so affects for all time the growth of the soul and its consequent well-being; penetrated with the conviction that conduct moulds character, and that character is destiny,--Buddha called upon each man in turn to take his life into his own hands, and himself to direct the process of his growth.

This message was his legacy to the ages. It is for Western thought to take it up and repeat it, developing in its own way the mighty ideas that are behind it. Dr Rhys Davids seems to think that it is "unmanly" [7] to take thought for one's soul; and it is possible that care for the soul has at times taken forms which are open to this reproach. But when the idea of soul-growth is interpreted in the light of the idea of inexorable law, it loses the sickly savour which clings, in some slight measure, to the ideal of saintliness, and one begins to realize that to take oneself in hand and to make one's soul grow, by the constant exercise of initiative and self-control, is to rise to an even loftier level than that of manliness (which, after all, is but the virtue of a sex), to the level of true manhood. The scheme of life in which Buddha embodied his science of the soul is in the highest degree bracing and stimulating; and one of the chief sources of its tonic influence is the sternness with which it insists on the merciless majesty of Nature's laws. Just as physical science warns us that, if we drink polluted water (let us say), our health will suffer, and the elimination of the poison from our bodies will be a long and painful process, so Buddha warns men that wrong-doing is not less certain to work itself out of the soul as sorrow and suffering than is right-doing to work itself into the soul as health, and therefore as happiness and peace. That nothing can come between conduct and its inward consequences--between what we do and what we are and shall be--is the conviction on which the whole of his teaching is hinged. The ideas about God and Man and the Universe which have made possible the Christian belief in the forgiveness of sins, belong to a quarter of thought in which his mind never moved. Unlike Jehovah, who is angry and then repents and forgives, the power which is at the heart of Nature

"Knows not wrath nor pardon."


If we sow the seed of wheat we shall reap wheat, and reap it, if we have been wise husbandmen, in abundant measure. But if we sow the seed of thistles, we must know for certain that our crop will be thistles, not wheat.

These ideas are eminently congenial to the scientific tone of Western thought; and the day will come (I venture to predict) when the conception of life which they embody will be accepted in the West as the sanest and truest conception that the mind of man has yet devised, and as the only stable foundation on which to build--what will surely be the fittest monument to Buddha's greatness--the science of the soul. The task of building that monument, of interpreting in the light of modern experiences and adapting to modern needs the spiritual ideas of ancient India, will probably devolve upon the West (which is unconsciously preparing itself for the task by its arduous work in the field of physical science), rather than upon the East. Should that be so, and should the West rise to the level of its opportunity, it would at last find itself in a position to pay back the loan that had saved its credit; for it would have traded with its borrowed ideas to the best advantage, and would have duly enriched them with its own thought, its own labour, and its own life.

Before these things can come to pass one practical difficulty will have to be overcome. It is possible that the sentimental thought of the West will offer as strong an opposition to the idea of the life and destiny of the soul being regulated by inexorable law, as is now offered by the intellectual thought of the West to the root-idea of soul-life. But the advanced thinker of that distant day will be able to re-assure his weaker brethren. For he will remind them that the Universal Soul, which is the true self of each of us, and which the process of soul-growth will therefore enable each of us to realize, is the same for all men; and he will ask them to infer from this that the most inexorable of all Nature's laws is the law to which even the master law of growth is in a sense subordinate,--the law which makes the Universe one living whole, the law of centripetal tendency, the law of Love.

THE END

_______________

Notes:

1 Its favourite category is a hybrid one,--that of the real and the not-existent. But by the real it obviously means the existent. The idea that there are degrees of reality lies beyond the horizon of its thought.

2 Compare Sâriputta's words in his dialogue with Yamaka: "As regards all form . . . all sensation . . . all perception . . . all predispositions . . . all consciousness . . . the correct view in the light of the highest knowledge, is as follows: 'This is not mine: this am I not: this is not my Ego.'" Can it be that the beautiful story of Kunâla [the son of the great Buddhist Emperor, Asoka], whose eyes were "plucked out" by order of his wicked stepmother, had made its way to Galilee?

3 "The Secret of Death," by Sir Edwin Arnold.

4 The initial mistake of modern materialism is to assume that there can be no form except what is discernible, directly or indirectly, by man's bodily senses,--a naïvely egotistic assumption which has nothing to say for itself except that it seems a truism to a certain type of mind.

5 I am sometimes told that, if I do not believe in the supernatural Divinity of Christ, I have no choice but to regard him as a "mere man." What is a "mere man"? I have not the faintest conception. What is "mere" Nature? What is "mere" beauty? What is "mere" life? When a noun has an unfathomable depth of meaning, "mere," in the limiting sense of the word, is surely the last adjective to apply to it.

6 We speak of the growth of an individual organism; of the development of a type. As the soul is both individual and universal, either term may be applied to it.

7 "The ancient Aryans were far too manly and free to be troubled much about their own souls, either before or after the death of the body."--"American Lectures on Buddha," p.17.
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