I want to start by reemphasizing the point that what are called the religions of the east the ones we’re discussing Hinduism Buddhism and Chinese Taoism are not what we in the West understand as religions. They don’t involve that you believe in anything specific. And they don’t involve any idea of obedience and to commandments from above. And they don’t involve any conformity to a specific ritual. Although they do have rituals, but their rituals vary from country to country and from time to time. Their objective is always not ideas, not doctrines, but a method a method for the transformation of consciousness.
That is to say, for a transformation of your sensation of who you are, and I emphasize the word sensation because it’s the strongest word we have for feeling directly. When you put your hand on the corner of a table, you have a very definite feeling, and when you are aware of existing, you also have a definite feeling. But in the view of these methods or disciplines, the ordinary person’s definite feeling of the way he exists and who he is is a hallucination. To feel yourself as a separate ego, a source of action and awareness that is entirely separate and independent from the rest of the world somehow locked up inside a bag of skin, is seen as a hallucination. That you are not a stranger in the earth that comes into this world either as a result of a natural fluke, or being a sort of spirit that comes from somewhere else altogether, but that you in your fundamental existence, you are the total energy that constitutes this universe, playing that it’s you. Playing that it’s this particular organism. And even playing that it’s this particular person. Because the fundamental game of the world is a game of hide and seek. That is to say that the colossal reality, the energy that is everything, that is a unitary energy, that is one, plays at being many. At manifesting itself in all these particulars that we call you and you and you and you and you and you and you and you and this and that and all around us. And it’s fundamentally a game.
And you can say that this goes really for all the systems that I’m talking about. It’s the basis of Hinduism, of Buddhism, and of Taoism, this intuition. Now today we’re going to talk about Buddhism. Buddhism is an offshoot of Hinduism. You could in a way call it a reform of Hinduism or Hinduism stripped for export. It originates in northern India, close to the area that is now in a Nepal, shortly after six hundred B.C. There was a young prince by the name of Guatama Siddharta, who became the man we call the Buddha. Now the word Buddha is not a proper name, it’s a title. And it’s based on the Sanskrit root Budh. B-U D-H.. Which means to be awake. And so you could say the Buddha is the man who woke up. From the dream. Of life as we ordinarily take it to be. And found out. Who he was, who he is. It’s curious. That this title was not something new. There was already in the whole complex of Hinduism the idea of Buddhas. OF awakened people, and curiously they are ranked higher than gods, because in the view of Hinduism even the gods, or the angels, the Devas, are still bound on the wheel of the sort of squirrel cage of going round and round and round in the pursuit of success. And the idea is that if you pursue. Something that you can call success, pleasure. Good. Virtue which originally of course means strength magical power. All these positive things. You are under illusion, because the positive cannot exist without the negative. To be, you only know what to be is, by contrast with not to be, so if we say now there is a coin in the left hand, there is no coin in the right. And from this you get the idea of to be and not to be. And you can’t have the one without the other So if you tried to pursue to gain the positive and to deny get rid of the negative it’s as if you were trying to arrange everything in this room so that it was all up and nothing was down. You can’t do it, you said just self an absolutely insoluble problem. Because the basis of life is spectrum. I’ll consider the spectrum of colors. When you think of a spectrum in what form do you think of it most people think of it as a ribbon with red at one end and purple at the other. But the spectrum is actually a circle. Because purple is the mixture of red and blue. It goes right round, and so in this way all sensation, all feeling, all experience whatsoever, is moving through spectra. You don’t only have the spectrum of color, you have a spectrum of sound. You have various complex spectra, of texture, of smell, of taste. And you’re constantly operating through all the possible variations of experience. And it implies that you can’t know one end of the spectrum without also knowing the other. So if you wanted to say your favorite color is red. And you wanted only red. And you had to exclude therefore blue and purple. Without blue and purple you can have red. Behind of course, all the various colors in the spectrum, is the white light. And behind everything that we experience, all our various sensations of sound, of color, the shape of touch, there’s the white light. And I’m using the phrase the white light rather symbolically. I don’t mean it literally.
But there is common to all sensations, what you might call the basic sense. And if you explore back into your sensations, and reduce them all to the basic sense, you are on your way to reality. To what underlies everything to what is the ground of being, the basic energy. And to the extent that you realize this and know that you are it, you transcend, you overcome, you surpass. The illusion. That you are simply. John Doe. Mary Smith. Or what have you. So then, the Buddha, as the man who woke up, is regarded as one Buddha, among a potentiality of myriads of Buddhas. Everybody can be a Buddha, everybody has in himself the capacity to wake up from the illusion. Of being simply this separate individual. The Buddha made his doctrine very easy to understand. Because in those days there wasn’t very much writing being done, and people committed things to memory, and so he put his doctrine, or method, in various formulas which were very easy to remember, and I’m going to explain it in those terms so that you can remember it just as well. He of course practiced the various disciplines that were offered in the Hinduism of his time. But he found in a certain way that they had become unsatisfactory. Because they had over emphasized asceticism. Had over emphasized putting up with as much pain as you can. There was a feeling you see that if the problem of life is pain. Let us suffer. And this is the root of the ascetics you see who lie on beds of nails who hold a hand up forever and ever and ever, who eat only one banana a day, who renounce sex, who do all these weird things because they feel that if they head right into pain, and don’t become afraid of it but suffer as much pain as possible they will by this method overcome the problem of pain. And they will set themselves free from anxiety. There’s a certain sense in that as you can obviously see.
Supposing for example you have absolutely no fear of pain, you have no anxieties, you have no hang ups. How strong you would be. Nobody could stop you. You would have ultimate courage.
But the Buddha was very subtle. He is really the first historical psychologist. The great psychologist, psychotherapist. He is very subtle, because he saw that a person who is fighting pain, who is trying to get rid of pain is still really fundamentally afraid of it. And therefore the way of asceticism is not right. Equally, the way of hedonism, of seeking pleasure, is not right. So the Buddhist doctrine is called the middle way. Which is neither ascetic nor hedonistic.
So it summed up in what are called the Four Noble Truths. And the first is called Dukha. Dukha means suffering in a very generalized sense. You could call it chronic frustration. And it is saying that life as lived by most people is Dukha. Is an attempt in other words to solve insoluble problems. Try to draw a square circle you can’t because the problem itself is meaningless. Try to arrange the things in this room so that they’re all up and none of them dumb it is meaningless such a problem cannot ever be solved. So try to have light without dark or dark without light. It can never be solved. So the attempt to solve problems that are basically insoluble and to work at it through your whole life that is Dukkha. Now he went on to analyze this that there are what we call three signs of being. The first is Dukha itself, frustration. The second is Anita. And this means the the letter A in Sanskrit at the beginning of a word is often the equivalent of our non. So nitya means permanent, anitya means impermanent, that every manifestation of life is impermanent. And therefore our quest to make things permanent, to straighten everything out, to get it fixed is an impossible and insoluble problem, and therefore we experience Dukha, or this sense of fundamental pain and frustration as a result. Ald of trying to make things permanent. And the third sign of being is called an Anatman. Now you know our from my talk on Hinduism that the word Atman means self. Are not man means therefore non-self. That there is in you no real ego.
Now I’ve explained that already I’ve explained in talking about Hinduism that the idea of the ego is a social institution. It has no physical reality. It is simply, the ego is your symbol of yourself. Just as the word water is a noise which symbolizes a certain liquid reality so the idea of the ego, the role you play, who you are, is not the same as your living organism. Your ego has absolutely nothing to do, with the way you color your eyes. Shape your body, circulate your blood. That’s the real you, but it’s certainly not your ego. Because you don’t even know how it’s done. From the standpoint of your conscious attention. So the idea of Anatman is firstly that the ego isn’t real there isn’t one.
Now then, this then as the first truth there is the situation that we have to of frustration because we are fighting the changing-ness of things, and because we don’t realize that the ego, the I, is unreal. The second of the four noble truths then called Thrishna. Thrishna is a Sanskrit word again and is the root of our word first. And it’s usually translated desire. But it is better translated clinging, grabbing. Or, there’s an excellent modern American Slangy word, a hang up. That is exactly what is the hang up. Thrisha now is clutching. As for example what we call smother love. When a mother is so afraid that her children may get into trouble that she protects them excessively. And as a result of this, prevents them from growing. Or when they when lovers cling to each other excessively and have to sign documents that they will curse and swear to love each other always they are in a state of fish not. And this is the same thing as holding on to yourself so tightly that you strangle yourself. Now the second truth then about Krishna is that the cause of Dukha is Trishna. Clinging is what makes suffering. If you don’t recognise that this whole world is a phantasmagoria. And amazing illusion. A weaving of smoke. And you try to hold on to it, you see, then you start suffering, seriously suffering. Krishna is in turn based upon. The same negative. Avidya. From the root vid means knowledge, as in the Latin video and the English vision. Avidya, therefore is ignorance. Gnosis means of course, to know, it is the same thing as good Gnosis in Greek. To know so this is not to know to ignore. To overlook. And I explained in the first talk in the series how we ignore all kinds of things because we notice only what we think noteworthy. And therefore our vision of everything is highly selective. We pick out certain things, and say that’s what’s there, just as we select and notice the figure rather than the background. Sometimes I draw this on the blackboard. Now ask the question, what have I drawn? What would you say, What have I drawn? The circle and the other suggestions all oh. Yeah you’re getting the point. I’m drawing a wall with a hole in it you see, but ordinarily–you’ve been reading my books–but ordinarily people seethe ball the circle the ring or whatever and never think of the background. Because they ignore the background. Just as one thinks that you can have pleasure without pain. You want pleasure, the figure, and don’t realize that pain is the background. So Avidya is this state of restricted consciousness, restricted attention, that moves through life unaware of the fact that, to be, implies not to be. And vice versa. So now the third noble truth is called Nirvana. This word means blow out. Nir is a negative word again like ‘a’, vanna is blowing. So it’s a kind of out blowing.