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The Concept of the Way in Buddhism

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By Phiroz Mehta

A talk given in Cambridge on 21st October 1955. This talk was not recorded

Scattered through the various scriptures of the world are affirmations of a great realization. The poet-seer Pragātha sings in the Ṛg-Veda (VIII. 48. 3), “We have drunk Soma and become immortal; we have attained the light, the gods discovered.” Aspiration to this discovery of the gods, this attainment of light and the realization of immortality is expressed by another Ṛṣi, Kasyapa the son of Marichi, in the Ṛg-Veda (IX. 113), “O Pavamāna, place me in that deathless undecaying world wherein the light of heaven is set and everlasting lustre shines. Make me immortal in that realm where dwells the king, Vivasvan’s son, where is the secret shrine of heaven… Make me immortal in that realm where they move even as they list. In the third sphere of inmost heaven where lucid worlds are full of light.” The Ṛṣi Bṛhaddiva the son of Atharvan declares in the Ṛg-Veda (X. 120), “Bṛhaddiva, the foremost of light-winners, repeats these holy prayers, this strength to Indra. He rules the great self-luminous fold of cattle, and all the doors of light hath he thrown open. Thus hath Bṛhaddiva the great Atharvan spoken to Indra as himself in person.”

In the Avesta, Zarathushtra affirms (Yasha 43. 11), “Then did I realize Thee as the Most Bountiful One, O Mazdā Ahurā, when the Good Mind encircled me completely. When I first became enlightened through Thy Words…” And in Yasha 45. 8, “Knowing through Asha of the Good Spirit in word and deed, I can now see Mazdā Ahurā Himself…”

Genesis. V. 24, states, “And Enoch walked with God: and he was not for God took him.” 2 Kings. II. 11 says, “And it came to pass, as they still went on, and talked, that, behold, there appeared a chariot of fire, and horses of fire, and parted them both asunder; and Elijah went up by a whirlwind into heaven.” In the Fourth Gospel, John puts these words into the mouth of Jesus: “I and my Father are one (X. 30); Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father in me (XIV. 11); And now I am no more in the world… and I come to Thee (XVII. 11)”

We are told in Acts I. 9, “And when he (Jesus) had spoken these things, while they beheld, he was taken up; and a cloud received him out of sight.” And in the centuries older Aitareya Upaniṣad (V. 4) it is stated that the Ṛṣi Vāmadeva, “having ascended aloft from this world by means of the Intelligent Self … became immortal, yea, became immortal.” The Kaṭha Upaniṣad ends thus: “Then Naciketas having gained this knowledge declared by Death and the whole rule of Yoga, attained Brahman and became freed from death. And so may any other who knows this in regard to the Ātman.”

Repeatedly in the Upaniṣads we meet with affirmations by various seers of realizing the Ātman, of knowing Brahman. Śvetāśvatara, Śākāyanya, Sanatkumāra, Satyakāma Jābāla, King Pravāhana Jaivali, Ajātaśatru king of Kāśī (Benares), Pippalāda, Yājñavalkya the prince of yogis, and many others, had experienced union with God, or, to use that remarkable Upaniṣadic phrase, had become Brahman. And repeatedly in the Upaniṣads it is unequivocally declared that such union with God, such Brahman-becoming, spells the realization of immortality here-now by the seer. The Kaushitaki Upaniṣad says (II. 14), “Having reached That, he becomes immortal.” The Kena says (12), “When known by an awakening. It is conceived of. Truly it is immortality one finds.”

The greatest of the Upaniṣads, the Bṛhadāraṇyaka, says (IV. 4. 14), “Verily, while we are here we may know this. If you have known it not, great is the loss. Those who know this become immortal. But others go only to sorrow.” The Adhyātma Upaniṣad ends thus: “This knowledge was imparted to Apāntaratama who gave it to Brahmā. Brahmā gave it to Ghora Angiras who gave it to Raikva who gave it to Rāma… This is the teaching of Nirvāna, and this is the teaching of the Vedas, yea, this is the teaching of the Vedas.” And the Muṇḍaka Upaniṣad gave the assurance (III. 2. 9), “He, verily, who knows that supreme Brahman becomes very Brahman… He crosses over sorrow. He crosses over sin. Liberated from the knots of the heart he becomes immortal.”

Let us particularly note these words: ‘He crosses over sin, and sorrow’. In the seventh chapter of the Chāndogya Upaniṣad, we find that the saintly sage Nārada approaches his teacher Sanatkumāra with the words, “It has been heard by me from those who are like you, sir, that he who knows the Ātman crosses over sorrow. Such a sorrowing one am I, sir. Do you, sir, cause me to cross over to the other side of sorrow?” In this context, as in all similar contexts, sorrow or suffering means the not-knowing of the Ātman, non-consummation of union with God, not realizing immortality here-now.

What, then, is the meaning of knowing the Ātman or Brahman? Of union with God? What can be the meaning of realizing immortality here-now?

From our earliest days, our sense impressions, our desires, thoughts and actions are categorized for us in that system of symbolical sounds called words. Our ordinary awareness of existence is formulated in words. All objects and all our experiences have specific forms. To distinguish each form, it is given a name or a verbal description. Discrete awareness or recognition is in terms of name-form. And so throughout our waking life there is a continuous flow of words, a flow made up of the audible speech of ordinary conversation, and, when we are not talking aloud, of the silent speech of thought-feeling. All discursive thought is simply a ceaseless flow of silent chatter. This flow is largely unbidden and uncontrollable, and constitutes the major part of mental life.

Speech-thought is the formal expression of our awareness of the process which is our daily life. All speech-thought has its roots in, and emerges out of, our experience of the substantial universe. The manifestation of the eternal that-which-is, as apprehended by us, is represented by speech-thought as a space-time universe.

Ordinary awareness is characterized by succession. For in the usual way we are aware of every experience, thought or mood as something which begins, proceeds, and comes to an end. Uprising-proceeding-ending, or birth-death in constant succession, distinguishes the nature of our ordinary awareness of our whole existence. In other words, we may say that, as we are at present constituted, we are usually conscious in the mode of mortality of a space-time world. This constant, unbidden uprising-proceeding-ending, this endless, uncontrollable stream of births and deaths which flows on as our own day to day consciousness during the single lifetime of our own psycho-physical organism, is the real meaning of the Indian doctrine of rebirth, a doctrine so misconceived all over the world. The Maitri Upaniṣad says (VI. 34), “ Saṃsāra is just one’s own thought.” As long as all that makes up our existence is apprehended by us in the mode of mortality, we regard the whole process as saṃsāra.

But now, through the ages, there have always been those who were in anguish because of this mortality, even when the forms of mortality were what we call the great, the beautiful, the noble and the worthy things of life. For does not even the finest art or the sublimest system of philosophy, the most wonderful science, or the profoundest theology, although darkly holding within itself that creative source which is eternal and immortal, remain the product of finite and mortal sense-functioning and discursive thought? Is it not doomed to the unidirectional process of beginning and ending, of birth and death, in our own consciousness?

Therefore, those men of old, stirred to the depths by a divine discontent, chafed at this infuriatingly restrictive, this seemingly meaningless round of births and deaths. Moreover, their spirits were tormented with questions: What was the origin and nature of man? What was the purpose of his existence — and if there was one, how best could it be fulfilled? What was the goal in view? What, or Who, was the author of his being — and if there was one, what was man’s true relationship to his creator? And so, these men felt passionately, that if only they could break the thorny bounds of ignorance, fling away the fetters of mortality and triumph over the Lord of Death, they would assuredly win the beatific experience of the Immortal, and realize here-now that freedom and serenity which is ineffable bliss. This would indeed be fulfilment.

Through frequent communion with nature, and the intense yearning for proximity, even more, for a direct, living relationship with the creative source of things, these men experienced a changed awareness of existence as the tumult of the sense-life and discursive thought quietened down. They discovered that moral and mental discipline were indispensable pre-requisites before they could consciously experience the profounder levels of being, and be able to focus their whole attention upon that spiritual Mystery which they longed to approach and realize.

Now, as one enters the profounder states of consciousness, if the next succeeding stage cannot be successfully reached, the practisant may return to ordinary consciousness as most beginners do. If he is already in one of the deeper states of consciousness, and cannot deliberately go deeper, he may fall asleep, as did the disciples of Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane. The experience of certain states is translated afterwards as having seen a vision or heard a voice giving a message, or as having had a visitation from the angel of the Lord, or Christ, or Kṛṣṇa, or Gabriel, or whoever it might be. Sometimes, one may deliberately enter into a deep trance, in which an integrative process taken place. On returning to ordinary consciousness the fruit of such a trance may find expression.

In none of these states does one directly experience immortality in full consciousness. Even in those moments of carefree rapture when the devotee or lover is blissfully oblivious of duality, or in those exalted moods when the poet or musician is rapt beyond the senses into creative play with the eternal, he is still confined within the bounds of the Loges, the sabda Brahman. Though he may seem to pierce the midmost heaven, or to gong the depth of profundity, his consciousness undergoes a birth-death process, and he does not transcend a Thou-and-I duality. So he sighs his way back to this too, too solid state of unlove, to this distracting cacophony of the ‘sane’ life of speaking-thinking creatureliness; and he falls away from the precarious poise of closest proximity which he has attained in his movement towards the divine, like the falling apart of two love birds in mid-air.

Just as Adam falls from grace according to the Judaeo-Christian tradition, so too Yima falls according to the Iranian tradition. But in the Ṛg-Vedic tradition about Yama, there is no fall. Yama, it is said, chooses death, abandons his body, passes to the other world, and is given lordship over the highest of the three heavens. Yama becomes the Lord or Master of Death, not to be confused with Mṛtyu or Māra the death dealer. Yama chooses death — that is, he frees himself from all bondage to the sense-life and worldly values. He grows to understand that the cycle of births and deaths is the stream of saṃsāra in his own moment-to-moment consciousness, the stream which flows unbidden. He learns, through discipline, to master the unbidden flow of discursive thought, and, in meditation or prayer, to enter and abide in the profounder states of consciousness. At last he is able, in full self-possession, to die altogether to worldly consciousness, that is, whilst fully awake, to completely stop the flow of feeling and of discursive thought.

This is the meaning of Yama abandoning his body and passing to the inner world. This inner world is not the world of exalted feelings or of discursive thought, however profound, nor the world of trances, nor of any of the visions and ecstasies of the saints. All these belong to the sphere of mortality, for in all of them one is aware in the mode of uprising-proceeding-dying. But when, fully awake, the flow of discursive thought is deliberately stopped, then there is no uprising-proceeding-dying in one’s consciousness. There upon there is Superconsciousness, which functions in terms of “As it was in the beginning is now and ever shall be”, all in simultaneity in wholeness. And this, wherein all discursive thought is completely stilled, and all birth and death is overleaped, is the full experience and meaning of immortality.

Time and space, the precondition for bodily being, pain and pleasure, the touchstone of our psycho-physical life, and good and evil as we know them here, are all transcended, and you eat the fruit of the Tree of Life which stands in the self-same garden in which is the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.

This attainment of Superconsciousness is the meaning of Yama being granted lordship over the highest of the three heavens, and his becoming the Lord of Death.

This Superconsciousness, which is itself the realization here-now of immortality, is the meaning of knowing Brahman or realizing the Ātman; of Enoch being taken by God; of Elijah being transported to heaven by a whirlwind; of that saying of Jesus, “And now I am no more in the world… and I come to thee”, and of his other saying, “I and my Father are one”, which the Hindus of old expressed as “Pratyagātman and Paramātman are one”; of Zarathushtra’s “When the Good Mind encircled me completely”, and “I can now see Mazdā Ahurā Himself”. It is the meaning of the Ascension; of what Porphyry witnessed happening four times to Plotinus; of the Ṛṣi Vāmadeva ascending aloft and becoming immortal; of crossing beyond sin and sorrow, and of several similar affirmations by the mystic-seers of the Vedas and the Upaniṣads. The word Ṛṣi means a singer. The Ṛṣis were the singers of the sacred song of eternal life.

Whoso attains Superconsciousness is a true fount and source of religion. The realization of Superconsciousness, which is the experience of the Silence, the Void, the Plenum, the Dark Desert of the Godhead, the Infinite, the Absolute, is the source-experience from which have emerged the teachings embodied in such words as Brahman, Ātman, Godhead, Īśvara, God, Eternity, Immortality, the Kingdom of Heaven, etc.

This realization of Superconsciousness, of immortality here-now, is the central event, the very heart of the Enlightenment of the Buddha. It is the supreme meaning of Nirvāna. This enlightenment and Nirvāna meant no other than Brahmā-becoming. In the Madhupindika Sutta (M. I. 111). Kaccāna the Great declares, “The Lord has become vision, become knowledge, become dhamma, become Brahmā”. And the Buddha himself affirms in the Agganna Sutta (D. III. 84), “Vāseṭṭha, these are names tantamount to Tathāgata belonging to the dhamma, belonging to Brahmā; and again, dhamma -become, and again, Brahmā-become”. The very name which the Buddha gives to the Way which he himself trod and taught is the brahmacariya walking to Brahmā, a walking in, a subsisting in Brahmā.

The son of the first gentleman of the Sakya clan, sensitive, was touched to the quick with what he saw around him as he grew to manhood. He saw treason and stratagem, war and its misery disfiguring the political scene. He saw destitution breaking him who struggled hopelessly against poverty. He saw the cruelty of caste prejudice and intolerance, the tragic deception and the oppressive burden of superstitious rites and vain beliefs rotting the relationship between priest and layman. He saw pain, disease, old age and death. He grieved.

But his grief was not merely the noble anguish of a prince with a social conscience, or an exalted sentiment born of a deeply sympathetic nature. He grieved not only on account of physical and mental suffering, but especially on account of the extremity of spiritual unfulfilment. And this is irrefutably evidenced by the fact that the solution he sought and found was not a political system, not a social welfare scheme, not an educational method, not a wishful utopia of the spinner of intellectual cobwebs, not a pious ritual or an impressive ceremony to gratify a religious emotion, but a way of complete deliverance which touched the very summit of the immortal, and established in eternity here-now the felicity of life everlasting.

It was Ālāra Kālāma, a brāhman, to whom Siddhattha Gotama went for instruction. This venerable teacher took him to the plane of no-thing — not nothing, but no-thing. And the next venerable teacher, Uddaka Rāmaputta, also a brāhman, took him a stage further to the plane of neither-consciousness-nor-unconsciousness. But Gotama sought the supreme state. He had to attain this by his own effort. Out of this effort there emerged that which is called the Paṭicca-samuppāda, and also the Noble Eightfold Way. As a result of this effort he found the Way of Deliverance from Suffering — that same suffering which sent Nārada to Sanatkumāra, attained full enlightenment, and realized Nirvāna.

In the Mahā-Nidāna Sutta, the Buddha speaks to Ānanda of the Eight Deliverances. These are progressively deeper levels of consciousness entered in meditation, of which the level to which Ālāra Kālāma took Gotama was the sixth, and the level of Uddaka Rāmaputta the seventh. Gotama himself, on the night of the Enlightenment reached the eighth and final stage which he called “the stopping of perception and feeling”. In many a discourse the Buddha details these modes of awareness culminating in Superconsciousness which is Nirvāna, which is identical with the asaṃprajnāta samādhi of the Hindus.

The Way to Superconsciousness entails physical, moral, mental and spiritual discipline. The main purpose of the physical discipline is to attain such control that the body not only does not interfere with or interrupt continuous meditation, but actually facilitates the process of entering deeper levels of consciousness. (The old sages understood the proper nature of the psycho-physical organism). Not unnaturally, there was a temptation to resort too strenuously to the methods of this haṭha or physical yoga. This causes extreme bodily distress. The Buddha denounced such methods as the dead-end of self-torture, in his first sermon.

Even if a deeper level of consciousness was reached as the result of extreme haṭha yoga, it could not be maintained with ease for as long as one pleased. Nor could one make a smooth transition to other levels. Worst of all, one could not, on the inevitable return to the ordinary state of consciousness, suffuse this condition here with the purifying and exalted influences of the profounder levels of being. Even from such a height as that trod by Uddaka, one could fall back into the morass of mortality.

What is the cause of this fall? The secondary cause is the bundle of predispositions and complexes, the saṃkārā as they are called, which distort the mind. What is the root of the saṃkārā? What is the principle binding agent? It is taṇhā, which is the lust for sensation, possessions, power, becoming this or that kind of person, and, most terrible and evil of all, the lust for becoming a Saviour or Messiah or Buddha, the lust for union with God, or vibbava taṇhā.

The longing for union with God is a lust, if, and as long as, it is tainted by egoism. But when the misconceived “I am” is purged out of us, then only the true I AM, which is the one and only I AM of all existence, the Ātman, is realized in us as individuals; and thus the Son of Man is transformed into the Son of God, the Brahmaputra. Until then, the saṃkārā are the ruts of mortality within which we are miserably constrained to move by the power of our attachments and egoism, delusion and ignorance. Taṇhā, which is the positive lusting, together with the negative binding attachment to all that makes up the life of the senses and discursive thought, is the central bastion of the citadel of dukkha. It was against this central bastion that the Buddha hurled his thunderbolt.

Taṇhā and saṃkārā are two of the twelve terms composing the paṭicca-samuppāda (Dependent Origination, or Conditioned Genesis as Miss I. B. Horner translates it), which is the Buddha’s lucid explanation of the uprising of the whole aggregate of Ill or Suffering, and of its extinction. It is stated in shorter or longer forms in various discourses. In the Mahā-vagga, it is stated in full in this fashion:

Conditioned by ignorance (avijjā) are the habitual tendencies (saṃkārā); conditioned by the habitual tendencies is consciousness (viññāna); conditioned by consciousness is name-form (nāma-rūpa, that is, the psycho-physical organism);… and so on through the remainder of the series, viz. the six sense-fields (salāyatana), contact (phassa), feeling (vedanā), craving (taṇhā), grasping (upādāna), becoming (bhava), birth (jāti). Old age and dying (jarāmaraṇa), grief, sorrow and lamentation, suffering, dejection and despair.

Such is the uprising of this entire mass of Ill or Suffering (dukkha).

But from the utter fading away and stopping, or extinction of this very avijjā comes the stopping of saṃkārā; from the stopping of saṃkārā comes the stopping of viññāna, from the stopping of viññāna comes the stopping of nāma-rūpa … old age and dying, grief, sorrow and lamentation, suffering, dejection and despair are stopped.

Such is the stopping, or extinction, of this entire mass of Ill.

But now, let us critically consider this extinction process as literally presented, and let me apply it to myself: By the extinction of my ignorance comes the extinction of my habitual tendencies; by the extinction of my habitual tendencies comes the extinction of my consciousness; by the extinction of my consciousness comes the extinction of my name-form. But if my consciousness and psycho-physical manifestation are extinguished, I am deprived of the opportunity to proceed further. We must, therefore, seek the true meaning of the Buddha’s teaching.

The first meaning of dukkha, for the Buddha, is a state of mind alien to or not suffused by the light and peace of Nirvāna. Only secondarily does it mean disease, pain, grief and death. Dukkha has to be got rid of and Nirvāna has to be found here and now. “Verily, whilst we are here we may know this”, as Yājñavalkya said. The twelve terms of the paṭicca-samuppāda, are concerned, therefore, with the present, and refer fundamentally to the process in one’s own mind in the course of daily life.

Consequently, we must understand these terms in an appropriate manner, and regard the paṭicca-samuppada in some such way as this: Because of ignorance (avijjā) there is a predisposition (saṃkhārā) to that kind of awareness (viññāna) of any experience or object (nāma-rūpa), which (awareness) operating through the appropriate sense-field(s) (salāyatana) leads to those contacts (phassa) and sensations (vedanā), out of which arises that craving (taṇhā) which impels one to grasp (upadānā) at the coveted object, thus giving rise to the formative processes (bhava) which culminates in either frustration or in obtaining the desired object (jāti), which in time necessarily undergoes decrepitude and dissolution or death (jarāmaraṇa), leaving one lamenting. But if ignorance is extinguished, then there is no predisposition to that kind of awareness of any experience or object… which would leave one lamenting.

Avijjā was expounded by Sāriputta as ignorance of the Four Noble Truths. It means the unawakened state, the unenlightened condition. When avijjā is extinguished there is vijjā, which means not merely a scholarly head-knowledge of the above, but the knowledge which is the actual attainment, superconsciously, of Brahman realization.

The Buddha always laid the primary emphasis upon freedom from taṇhā, for craving is the power which, in association with the predispositions and complexes, keeps us in a condition of mortal sin and frustrates our God-communion.

If now, one becomes free from this craving, from these complexes in the mind and predispositions to worldliness, free from this condition of mortal sin, then indeed one would realize the supreme worthiness, Arhantship. Then could one be wedded to the Immortal. And then truly one would manifest in ordinary everyday life the full fruit of that supremely holy state. (This is a factual meaning of the words of Jesus: “Believe me I am in the Father, and the Father in me”). The brahmacar i ya of the Buddha is the way to this freedom and beatitude. And herein lies the precise purpose, function and significance of the Eightfold Way.

The Buddha called it the aryan way. Aryan means noble. It means the best. The best is the term which the devotees of each of the great faiths apply to the way which was trod, and taught, by their own Teacher. The eight elements of the Buddha’s best way are each prefixed by the word sammā, usually translated into English as ‘right’. But sammā also means ‘perfect’. To one with discernment, ‘perfect’ is the correct word in this context. Perfect action and the perfect mode of living covered the pilgrim’s physical life; perfect views and perfect aspirations his mental life; perfect speech and endeavour, and perfect mindfulness, his psychophysical life; and perfect communion his spiritual and transcendent life.

Perfect mindfulness, like Jesus’ admonition to watch, was of the utmost importance. It led to self-knowledge. This was associated with the detailed process of purifying oneself of all lust for sensation, possession, power, personal growth and egoistic attainment, of all malevolence, hatred and anger, of all sloth and torpor, restlessness and worry, of all perplexity, delusion and ignorance. Further, there was the training in the right use of the senses, and in the freeing of the mind from all prejudices, assumptions, bias and preconceptions, A complete healing was effected by a perfect psycho-therapy carried out by oneself upon oneself. The end was the realization of the state of sinlessness, and of the perfected character.

Two broad elements concerned the spiritual and transcendent life: the discipline of the brahma-vihāras, and the deliberate entering and abiding in progressively profounder states of consciousness culminating in Superconsciousness. The discipline of the brahma-vihāras is the discipline of love, of transcendent love for which the discipline of the minor rules of morality and of the casting out of all malevolence and anger, repressed resentments and fear, laid the preliminary foundations. Such, broadly, was the Perfect Way of the Buddha.

This brahmacariya holds in delicate poise the Way of the Mystic and the Way of the Yogi. Devotion and love must needs be in balance with wisdom and power, joined by the beam of goodness, of good works. The Buddha explicitly laid down the continual doing of good.

We can now appreciate the nice distinction between the heart of Religion on the one hand, and philosophy and science on the other. Functioning within the sphere of sense activity and discursive thought, restless, probing intellect poses many questions. These questions as well as their answers lie within the realm of speech-thought. All philosophy and science is a speech-thought product of the effort by man as he is, viz. a person capable of being conscious in the mode of mortality only, to comprehend what he wishes to comprehend.

In contrast to this, the heart of Religion is concerned with changing the comprehender. It is concerned with perfecting his character, so that he plumbs the depth of self-less-ness and stands on the height of sinlessness. It is concerned with enabling him to realize God-communion, to become Brahman. And so, the heart of Religion enables a man to transform his mortal awareness of a space-time world into the immortal Superconsciousness of eternal existence. How wonderful it is that, although the roots of the tree of life are mortality itself, the flower of that tree is immortality. Immortality is essentially the mode of functioning of Superconsciousness. Any idea of continued existence as a particular entity in endless time is a misconception of immortality.

The Buddha was profoundly concerned with the heart of Religion. Shortly before his death he said (Mahā-parinibbana Sutta, D. II. 119), “Therefore, bhikkhus, ye who have been taught by me the dhamma which I have fully understood, having thoroughly made yourselves masters of them, meditate upon them, and spread them abroad in order that Brahma-faring may last long and be perpetuated, in order that it may continue to be for the good and happiness of the great multitudes, out of compassion for the world, and for the good and gain and happiness of gods and men.”

This good and gain and happiness, at its peak, was none other than the winning of the deathless. Practically the first words he addressed after his enlightenment to the famous Five at Isipatana were these (Mahā-vagga, I. 6. 14), “Give ear… the deathless has been found. I instruct, I teach dhamma. Going along in accordance with what has been enjoined, having soon realized here and now by your own super-knowledge that supreme goal of the Brahma-faring… you will abide in it.”

One of the unique elements of the Buddha’s teaching is that there is no presentation of God as a personal transcendent being, a wholly other than the creature, man. There are those who say that the Transcendent is absent. What a strange saying! Bearing in mind what was said earlier, namely that the experience of Superconsciousness is the source-experience out of which have merged the teachings embodied in words like God, Isvara, etc., let us hear the Buddha’s affirmation:

There are, O bhikkhus, things profound, difficult to realize, hard to understand, tranquillizing, sweet, not to be grasped by mere logic, subtle, comprehensible by the wise. These things the Tathāgata hath set forth, having himself realized them by his own super-knowing.

Brahmajāla Sutta, D. I. 12

And again:

It is, O bhikkhus, when a bhikkhu understands as they really are, the origin and the end, the attraction, the danger, and the escape from the six realms of contact, that he comes to know what is above, beyond them all.

And the weightiest of the affirmations of the Transcendent:

Bhikkhus, there exists that plane of consciousness wherein is neither earth nor water nor fire nor air; wherein is neither the sphere of infinite ākāśa, nor of infinite consciousness, nor of nothingness, nor of neither-consciousness-nor-unconsciousness; where there is neither this world nor a world beyond, nor both together, nor moon-and-sun. Thence, bhikkhus, I declare, is no coming to birth: thither, is no going; therein is no duration; thence is no falling; there is no arising. It is not something fixed, it moves not on, it is not based on anything. That indeed is the end of Ill.

Udāna, VIII

The Buddha’s Perfect Way is austere in supreme measure. It has been criticized by some as monkish, as a retreat from the world, as a selfish or egocentric pursuit of personal salvation. The Buddha’s whole teaching has been dubbed pessimistic. Yet the truth is that, exactly like Jesus, Yama, Parameṣṭhin, Zarathushtra, Kṛṣṇa and several others, the Buddha was concerned, among other things, with one supreme objective, viz., that the religious purpose of existence for man should be fulfilled. That purpose is that man shall realize here-now his sonship of God, realize that he is the Brahma-putra. One practical attainment characterizing this is the winning of the deathless, which cannot come without becoming the Perfected Man, the Sinless One.

He who realizes immortality is himself the Way, the Truth, and the Life, is himself the living embodiment of the Supreme. In him there is no lust, no ego, no delusion, no hate; no helpless reaction to anything whatsoever; no non-acceptance of anything that is. He has no fantasy life in his waking, no dreams in his sleeping. He is free of complexes and conditioning. He has complete understanding and full acceptance — acceptance of sinner and saint alike — for only when there is full acceptance, the transmutative alchemy of divine love proceeds unhindered. He is never unaware of the wholeness of existence, of the Presence of God. Thus he has ‘escaped’ from evil, which means precisely that he is no longer a producer of evil and suffering and frustration but is a creator of whatever is well throughout his daily life. Welfare for him is God-faring, or brahmacariya; well-being is some other than his God-realization expressed in terms of the unitive life.

Because the Great Teachers wore concerned with such an objective they showed man the way to reach it. If a man is interested in healing the sick, becoming a concert artist, or in research in atomic physics, then he sets about it in the appropriate way. Many beautiful lives are lived within the sphere of sense-functioning and discursive thought. Religious living in a deep sense and high peaks of inspiration are certainly touched within the compass of mortality. The Great Teachers levelled no criticism, against all that. In fact their teaching is most conducive to such living.

But if it is immortality which is the all-absorbing objective, if it is nothing less than the kingdom of heaven, Nirvāna itself, which will spell heart’s ease and creatively shape everyday life into the lovely expression of the absolute good, then follow the way of the Great Teachers right to the very end, and let the mortal awareness of a space-time world be transformed into the immortal Superconsciousness of eternal existence.

Every force that emanates from us, be it action, words, thought or feeling, moulds our world as well as our own lives. Every imperfection in us produces evil, every perfection establishes heaven on earth. Therefore, the Great Teachers wasted no time or effort upon supporting the works and enterprises of imperfection. They, and they alone, are the truly practical people, for they bent every energy upon utterly transcending mortality and evil, sorrow and sin. And so, where the Way to this transcendent sphere of the deathless immortal which is the heart of Religion is concerned, all criticism, all applications of all the values of the world of imperfection, such as pessimistic or optimistic, yea-saying or nay-saying to life, are invalid, for mortality can fashion no yardstick to measure the immortal.

It is well to remember, here, the wisdom of Lao-Tze:

The greatest virtue is in simply following Tao, the intangible, the inscrutable.
Inscrutable, intangible, and yet containing all forms.
Intangible, inscrutable, and yet containing all things.
Profound and obscure, but having an essence, a veriessence in which is consistence.
From eternity until now its nature has remained unchanged.
It inheres in all things from their beginnings.
How do I know of the origin of things? I know by Tao.

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