I’m continuing this program with talks on some of the fundamental ideas of oriental philosophy. But before going on, I want to refer back to something that I said in the last programme in which I was talking about Hinduism which may possibly have been misunderstood. At the end of the programme, I was referring to certain trends in modern Hinduism which I described as being of a somewhat namby-pamby nature. Perhaps that wasn’t quite the right phrase because that suggests weakness what I really wanted to suggest was bloodlessness lack of earthiness, or excessive spirituality. And I think this arises in certain schools of thought. From a wrong interpretation. Of the great commentator Shankara. Shankara and Ramanewja, probably the two of the greatest medieval Indian commentators on the will punish obs. And. The traditional scriptures. And the way some people interpret this is somewhat as follows. That. There is but one reality which is Brahman. Which is without form. Without any quality that the mind can imagine following the usual method of description by negation. And that this, being so, it excludes there being any reality whatsoever to the seeming multiplicity of the physical world. And other words the physical world that we perceive with our senses is in reality simply not of there. And there is even no cause within reality for it seeming to be that and this is rather like the Christian Science doctrine of mortal mind, producing the era of suffering and physical existence. That it has no reality at all, and our seeing of it. Its seeming to be real again has no basis within the divine reality which is the sole thing that exists now this is an interpretation of Shankara which I believe to be fundamentally wrong. I don’t believe that Shankara can correctly be interpreted as saying that the world of sensory experience which this to my mind a wrong interpretation of his school identifies with Maya. I don’t believe that this is the way he ought to be understood.
Maya, I can think of passages in Shankar where my yard is given a much more positive sense where the world is not to be considered. Identical with Brahman in the sense that it’s not really there and Brahman is the only reality which exists. But rather, that the world is Maya is illusory only in the sense that we do not see it to be one with Brahman just as it is. The seeing of its one this with Brahman does not involve its disappearance and if it does then we’ve got not a non-dualistic doctrine a tall we’ve got an extremely dualistic doctrine. Because after all if there is the seeing of an illusion. Supposing you say what you see I. The illusion isn’t really there but you can’t deny the fact that you see it. And then if that seeing off it has no basis in reality if that in turn is an illusion and the illusion that one sees an illusion is an illusion then you’ve got a principle that is fundamentally distinct from the Supreme Reality, and in a way stands against it is not explained by it is not grounded in it and therefore this is a highly dualistic form of thought. And as a result all fundamental dualism is lead to. Consequences in feeling and in conduct which are world beating. And this is seems to me why there are trends in modern Hinduism to be excessively spiritual, to regard all sense knowledge as basically evil, in the sense of being fundamentally. And I mean fundamentally unreal.
And this in other words is what I want to educate about these trends in modern Hinduism which I do not feel are representative at all of either Shankaar’s doctrine or the doctrine of the punishments upon which the whole tradition of Hinduism is based. Now then today I want to go on to the subject of Buddhism. Buddhism originates in India, somewhere between six and five hundred B.C.. There is always some conjecture about the exact dating of individuals at this time. But it was during this period that there lived a man called Gautama. And Guatama was the son of a king or perhaps tribal chief. Who lived very close to modern Nepal in the north of India. And Buddha is a title given to this man wasn’t his proper name just as Christ is not as it were the son name of Jesus as when we say Jesus Christ we should correctly say Jesus the Christ Jesus the anointed one and in the same way one should say not Gautama Buddha but Gautama the but her for blood means an awakened one. A man who woke up. Who In other words, you must understand this term within the whole Hindu tradition a man who is no longer spellbound by Maya, by the seeming separateness of all the things in this world. That’s one of the forms of my yard. And so it would have is not a unique historical character. That can be and it is supposed that there have been, innumerable Buddhas.
But, the idea of it is related to the Hindu idea of an avatar. Which means an incarnation of the Godhead in human form. But is don’t think of it as an incarnation of the Godhead. Because, they, although not rejecting the idea of a god or gods, relegate all gods to the world of my yard to the world of relative reality. And in this sense, it is felt in some way to be superior even to the gods let’s put it in this way perhaps I’m a. You have seen what is a sort of fundamental illustration of the principles of Buddhism a diagram or map like thing called the wheel of life. And into death and versions of the wheel of life you will notice that the wheel is divided into six realms. And these six realms include human beings, gods or perhaps angels would be a better term for Devas. Spirits of Wrath called asuras, personifications of the destructive forces of nature. Animals. Then what are called naraka, or Purgatories. Preta, or tormented frustrated spirits with tiny mouths and immense that is having in other words immense appetite but very little means of satisfying it and then again humans. And the basic idea of Buddhism is that awakening Buddhahood can be attained only from the human state. Deliverance from the vicious circle which the wheel represents. Life considered as a vicious cycle. The gods are too powerful and too happy to concern themselves to be delivered. At the opposite extreme the people in the knockers the tormented souls in purgatory as it were are too miserable at the animals too damn they are sure those too angry the predators too frustrated. You can take this wheel as a matter of fact not as referring to any actual worlds other than ours of ghosts. All gods and Purgatories. But you can take these six realms as representing states of the human mind. And the human state as representing even mindedness what is called in Sanskrit the picture I can imitate. Now when it is said then that one can become a Buddha only from a human state it means you see that it brought us downs about the gods as being released from the wheel. In a very popular but as I’m of costs as in popular Hinduism. The idea of the wheel is taken rather literally it is in other words believed. That the individual passes from life to life. And is rather funny if that although Buddhism actually denies the existence of an individual soul as an enduring reality Nevertheless in Buddhist countries it is popularly believed that some sort of equivalent of the soul passes from life to life and that if your present life is miserable it is a result of foolish actions in the former life but if in this life you act wisely your birth in the next life is to be more fortunate and you may get up of cost to the heaven world of the world of the gods.
But human birth is the thing that is always regarded as most fortunate. Because you can be tied to the wheel not only by chains of iron, and that is to say by acting wrongly You can also be bound by chains of gold. That is by acting wisely so as to inherit good fruit. Now, of course very sophisticated Buddhists not only in modern times but in engine Times did not take this idea of reincarnation literally. They looked upon it in quite a different way. And just as they regarded the six worlds as states of the human mind so they regarded reincarnation as something happening in this life. Those of you who’ve read T.S. Eliot’s Four Quartets will remember the passage perhaps where he says. That those who have just left the platform of the station on a railway train are not those who will arrive at any destination. Those who in other words, walked in at the door of the Roman are now sitting down in chairs are not the same people as those who stepped in at the dog. We are in other words, constantly changing. Just as we know physiologically speaking, that our bodies are, in all their molecular structure completely changed every seven years or so so that we are as it were not enduring entities but rather something like a university where the faculty in the students and the very buildings themselves may change completely within a span of years and yet somehow the university or something by way of a pattern, goes on.
And so in this sense, freedom from reincarnation would be by very sophisticated Buddhists interpreted as freedom from the illusion that the person who came in at the door is the same one now sitting in the chair. And that in its turn signifies freedom from an emotional habit the habit of grasping at one’s own life. At seeking for continuity. And you see the idea of continuity in Buddhist philosophy is that we desire continuity in order to perpetuate our past. In our past in other words, we have accumulated various things experiences material goods knowledge but use power, so on. The desire for continuity is the desire for the perpetuation of a past self or string of selves with which we identify ourselves. And, Buddhist insight involves the recognition that the past is perpetually vanishing. There really is no past to continue. And therefore to cling to it to identify oneself with it is to perpetuate an illusion resulting in incessant frustration resulting indeed in that very vicious circle which the symbol of the wheel represents.
Now Guatama made it very easy to summarize his teaching. He was really quite an addict in what we call name on ix in putting things in simple form so that they could easily be remembered. And he summed up the whole of his doctrine and what is called The Fourth noble truths. And although it becomes sometimes awfully boring to read fundamental. Text on but isn’t much you just go over these things again and again I think it’s only boring if one goes over them in a very formal way that these texts adopt really it’s a very skilful outline of the nature of but as I’m and it’s based on an old medical formula in ancient India, as in almost all ancient cultures. Every activity was ceremonial lives and when a physician came to pay his call he gave his diagnosis in a ceremonial way he made for pronouncements. The first pronouncement was the name of the disease. The second, the cause of the disease. The third, the curability of the deed to the disease. Can it be cured yes or no? And if it can be cured the fourth pronouncement is the giving of the prescription. And that’s exactly the form of go to most summary of his doctrine. He said in other words the first principle is that mankind and indeed all forms of life suffer from a disease which is called in Sanskrit Dukha. And the most general translation of that word is suffering. To come in suffering in all its forms. Moral physical spiritual. But Western interpreters of Buddhism have sometimes represented him as saying that life is suffering period. In other words of enunciating a highly pessimistic and world hating doctrine that to be alive is to suffer and that in other words the amount of joy of positive pleasure in life. It is after all so negligible that the game is not worth the candle. Now, if one study is the method of teaching of sages in ancient India, you have to realize that one of their fundamental pedagogical gambits. Is. To arrive at their point of view they wish to inculcate. By is exact method, when we walk you know we put down maybe first the left foot then we shift to the right foot then the left foot then the right foot and in this way we go along neither to the left not of the right but straight ahead. And you find to that in thought. That the human mind tends to go from position to position but it always when it settles on any fixed position we can always point out that that position is an extreme. For example, in scholastic philosophy in the Middle Ages whence and Thomas Aquinas fastened on the idea that God is fundamentally of being, a Buddhist philosophy would point out that he had settled upon an extreme that has an opposite nonbeing. And that therefore his position needs to be corrected by the opposite position somebody else will get up and say No no God is not being God is nonbeing. And from this facing of opposites with each other, we arrive at what Buddhism is sometimes called the middle way doesn’t mean the compromise position. The middle way is the doctrine of relativity. Of showing that all positions or experiences which we can formulate, must always be perceived on known. By contrast with opposites.
So in other words, Buddhist doctrine that life is fundamentally do cause of suffering. Is an antithesis. Directed towards those people who believe that the object of life is to attain sukha, or sweetness, pleasure. He is saying in other words. You cannot experience pleasure except in reference to non pleasure. And therefore the more you pursue pleasure the more non pleasure will arise to frustrate you. The more you pursue permanence the more you will feel the empowerment of things. And so it is for after all when we are bent on enjoying ourselves we become at that very moment curiously aware of how rapidly time is slipping by when on the other hand we are not enjoying ourselves we become curiously aware of how time is dragging. So then Dukha, arising from an exaggerated pursuit of sukha, its opposite, becomes the basic characteristic of life. And he goes on to say in his second principle that the cause of this. Is Krishna or grasping sometimes translated desire and indeed I believe the word Trishna does underlie Etymologically the English word thirst. But Trishna is not quite desire for example one’s appetite when your haven’t eaten for some time and you get hungry this is not Trishna. It’s a perfectly natural occurrence. Trishna is based in turn on. Which means unwisdom. Which is the way the Tibetan scholars around here Alex women like to translate it. It’s good translation and wisdom of. A simple lack of insight, lack of consciousness, lack of well a special sense of ignorance not the ordinary sense of ignorance of not being informed but ignoring us. Action based on ignoring something. And ignorance is not realizing the relativity of experience is not realizing the inseparability of pleasure and pain existence and non existence life and death up and down good and bad. So that as a result of such ignorance, or unwisdom, people try to separate these opposites from each other. To corral, to gain the good ones and to exclude and I have laid the bad ones. And as a result of that because these opposites are exist mutually. They go around in circles and that mutual existence of these opposites is a really seems to me the basic meaning of the doctrine of karma which is involved in Buddhism the doctrine of conditioned action. Which put a miser in the phrase this arises that becomes. In other words, without this on the one hand this on the one hand always implies that on the other good on the one hand implies bad on the other and so on example. And so, if a person a person becomes involved in karma involved in conditioned action leading to a vicious circle if he is ignored of the into dependence of all states of experience.
So then the third truth the cure of this do cause. Suffering is the truth about Nirvana. Nirvana is most grossly mistranslated word in all foreign languages it’s probably. Because we early scholars of Buddhism translated as annihilation and nowadays Nirvana means the state of being doped up to most people popularly used as being. In ecstasy in a kind of dreamy bliss. And your vomit doesn’t mean not at all it’s a state of being very, very wide awake. State of being completely aware. But the etymology of the word is disputed. There are several etymologies that you can offer and so I just choose the one I like. And that stew blowout. As when, having tried to hold one’s breath you discover that you can’t hold it you lose your breath by holding it therefore you expire you D. spy rate. And so you he have a sigh of relief. And so only advantage is the side of relief the expiration or despiration. In other words, the giving up of the attempt to clutch at life. To hold it in a fixed form to resist change to separate the good side of things from the bad side and I hate the bad side it is the giving up of that fundamentally contradictory self contradictory kind of conduct.
And so then in the fourth truth there is, set up the Noble Eightfold Path. But as prescription for to cause. And the Noble Eightfold Path is really in three divisions one of which concerns itself with understanding might almost say intellectual understanding of the doctrine. That one is concerned with conduct. And the third part of it is concerned with the state of consciousness or meditation. Now, to summarize them briefly one of the first stages of the path as a right view. Or I prefer to translate the word samyak, not so much as right. But as perfect in the Greek sense as telos or complete. And, thus, to have a complete view, is a view which does not take sides, which takes the middle path. Which in other words, does not go off to extremes. And so, on the part of the eightfold path that is concerned with conduct of Buddhism is often represented as having a very exalted ethical system and this is true in a way it does. But also one must recognize the difference between Buddhism and Christianity as any rate as Christianity is ordinarily taught is that these ethical ideas are not commandments. They are really, forms of expedient conduct. The Buddha counseled his followers to take upon themselves sudden obligations they have not killing not stealing, and not exploiting the senses of not getting drunk or intoxicated with poisons, not lying. Because, not because these were against the will of God or against the fundamental laws of the universe but the. As they are inexpedient forms of conduct for a person who wants to wake up call if you get thought only doped up you’re not liable to be very wide awake.
And then finally, the end of the path the last stages of it are concerned with one state of consciousness. With the being…the with the process of what is sometimes called meditation. Or of bringing one’s mind to its maximum awareness through clear recollection. And then finally the attainment of what is called somebody which means integrated consciousness consciousness no longer under the influence of avidya. No longer bamboozled and fooled by the apparent separateness of things which are really inseparably interlinked. And thus samadhi could be called Integrated a unified consciousness in which it is seen that the subject of the now is inseparable from the object the known that man is inseparable from the totality of life and so on and so forth so that somebody at the end of the eightfold path might be described as being the entry to all realization the making real of the state of nirvana, which constitutes in time being a Buddha.