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, they don’t involve that you believe in anything specific. And they don’t involve any idea obedience 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 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 Nepal, shortly after 600 Hundred B.C. there was a young prince by the name of Guatama Siddhartha, 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 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 it 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 is 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 set yourself an absolutely insoluble problem. Because the basis of life is spectrum. 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 are 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, 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’t 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, of 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’re 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 down. 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 dukha.
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 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 nuclear look or this sense of fundamental pain and frustration as a result 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. Anatman means therefore non-self. That there is in you no real ego.
Now I’ve explained that already I’ve explained in talking about Hindu ism 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 of frustration because we are fighting, the changingness of things. And because we don’t realize that the ego the I is unreal. The second of the four noble truths is then called Trishna. Trishna is a Sanskrit word again and is the root of our word thirst. And it’s usually translated desire. But it is better translated clinging, grabbing. Or there’s an excellent modern American Slang a word, hang-up. That is exactly what Trishna is, the hang-up. Trishna 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 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 Trishna. And this is the same thing as holding on to yourself so tightly that you strangle yourself.
Now or so the second truth then about Krishna is that the cause of Dukha is Trishna. Clinging is what makes suffering. If you don’t recognize that this whole world is a phantasmagoria. And in amazing illusion. A weaving of smoke. And you try to hold onto it you see, then you start suffering, seriously suffering. Trishna is in turn based upon avidya. The same negative. Vidya. From the root vid means knowledge as in the Latin video and the English vision. Therefore is ignorance. Good gnosis. Means of course, to know, knowledge 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 this 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 Oh. Yeah you’re getting the point. I’ve drawn a wall with a hole in it, you see, but ordinarily. [laughs] You’ve been reading my books.
So but ordinarily people see the 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. Now in breathing you know that breath is life. The Greek word, you may pronounce it pneauma or pneufma, is the same as spirit. And Spirit means breath in the book of Genesis when God had made the clay figurine that was later to be Adam he breathed the breath of life into its nostrils. And it became alive, because life is breath. But now, if you hold your breath, you lose it, he that would save his life will lose it. So Breathe in, Breathe in, Breathe In, get as much air as you can and Trishna cling. When you lose it.
So Nirvana means breathe out. Phew, what a relief that was. The sigh of relief, let it go. Because it will come back to you if you let it go. But if you don’t let it go, you’ll just suffocate. So a person in the state of nirvana is what we might call a blown out person. Like blow your mind. Let go, don’t cling, and then you’re in the state of nirvana. And I reemphasize the point. This is not I’m not preaching see not saying this is what you ought to do and simply pointing out a state of affairs that is so. There’s no moralism in this whatsoever, it’s simply pointing out like if you put your hand into the fire you’ll get burned. You can get burned if you want to. That’s OK but if you know the so happens that you don’t want to get burned. And you don’t put your hand in the fire. So in the same way if you don’t want to be in a state of anxiety all the time. And again I emphasize if you like to be anxious, it’s perfectly alright. See Buddhism never hurries anyone on, they say you’ve got all eternity through which to live in various forms. And therefore you don’t have just one life in which you’ve got to avoid eternal damnation. You can go running around the wheel in the rat race and play that game just as long as you want to so long as you think it’s fun. But if the comes a time when you don’t think it’s fun, you don’t have to do it.
So I wouldn’t say to anyone who disagrees with me and who says, ‘Well I think we ought to engage the forces of evil in battle and put this world to right’ and so on and so forth and arrange everything in this world so that it’s all up. Try it, please, it’s perfectly OK to go on doing that.