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Preface

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Siddhartha Gautama was born in the sixth century BCE (563 BCE could fit) in what is now Nepal. He got enlightened, that is, became an "awakened one", and during the last part of his life he taught the dharma to others. He died in 483 BCE according to some, althought that date is more or less a "best shot" only.

He is also known by other names: Tathagatha means "the one who has come thus" or "thus-come-thus-gone" one, (literally:) "as if has come (or gone)." Shakyamuni means "the sage of the Shakya tribe."

Besides the three introductory and the three concluding chapters there are only a few purely original additions.

Buddhism, like Christianity, is split up into innumerable sects. The present book follows none of the sectarian doctrines, but takes an ideal position. The arrangement into a harmonious and systematic form is the main original feature of this compilation by Paul Carus.

There is sound reason to take the term "self" in the sense in which the Buddha uses it. Buddha does not deny man's mentality, his spiritual constitution, the importance of his personality, in a word, his soul. says Carus.

Anyone who does not see the positive aspect of Buddhism, will be unable to understand how it could exercise such a powerful influence on millions and millions of people.

The present book has been written to set the reader thinking on the religious problems of today too. Christians can say with F. Max Müller:

"If I do find in certain Buddhist works doctrines identically the same as in Christianity, . . . I feel delighted, for surely truth is not the less true because it is believed by the majority of the human race."

A major strength of original Buddhism lies in its philosophical character. Buddhism as we know it, resulted from an adaptation to many conditions and has accomplished much to educate many peoples better.

One is to see above Hinayana, Mahayana, and Mahasetu and smaller sides, toward what is true.

[Drawn from the preface of Paul Carus (1894)]

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Of Lasting Riches

Within are those riches and a sacred deep Mind, is the gentle teaching.

Disciple's Rejoicing

REJOICE at the glad tidings!

Trust in truth, you who love the truth, for the kingdom of righteousness is founded on earth . . . The Buddha, our Lord, has revealed the truth. The truth cures our diseases and redeems us from perdition . . . Rejoice at the glad tidings! [Much abbreviated]

Samsara and Nirvana

LET THOSE who want to, take refuge in the Enlightened one—Learn to look about, contemplate, and connect well.

Distinguish between Self and Truth if you can do that—Love self and never abandon just self-love. — But do learn to distinguish well between the false self and the true self. ◊

The truth is the immortal part of mind. Establish the truth in your mind [by diving inside and connecting thus]

THE TRUTH gives to mortals the boon of immortality, and happy is he who rests in highest bliss.—Besides, you who yearn for riches: Truth is wealth, and a life of truth is happiness [presumably]. ◊

Is there nothing permanent in the world? Is there in the universal turmoil no resting-place where various troubled heart can find peace? Is there nothing everlasting? -

THAT OF your heart which cannot or will not develop into a Buddha must perish -

You attain to immortality by filling your minds with truth and go on too - Cleanse yourselves of evil and sanctify your lives. ◊

He who identifies his self with the truth will attain Nirvana; and he who has entered Nirvana has attained Buddhahood -

You who long for life, learn that immortality is hidden in transiency, and learn to lead a life of righteousness.

[A source: the chapter "Samsara and Nirvana" in Paul Carus' work.]

How can you establish in the world the truth that there is nothing everlasting in the world? Just attain to Buddhahood and see for yourself.

Saviour Truths

THE CONSCIOUSNESS of self dims the eyes . . .

Who shall save us from misery? Things of the world and its inhabitants are combinations of elements that existed before.

There is truth in the plant and its life can expand; the plant grows and blossoms and bears fruit. Its beauty [can be] marvellous. There is truth in the animal; it moves about and perceives its surroundings; it distinguishes and learns to choose. There is consciousness, but not [much] consciousness of [abstract] Truth. ◊

Blessed is he who has found enlightenment. He conquers.

BLESSED is he who has attained the sacred state of Buddhahood, for he is fit to work out the salvation of his fellow beings. The Enlightened One has found the truth and the truth has been proclaimed! There is truth in the stone, as the stone is here. ◊

THE TRUTH lies hidden in Samsara as the permanent in its changes. Truth desires to appear; truth longs to become conscious.

There are truths surrounding us. So win the Enlightenment of Buddhahood, which truths lie embedded in, and truths found in stones and plants count a lot, believe it or not.

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How an Indian prince became enlightened

The Enlightenment

There was in Kapilavatthu a Sakya king, strong of purpose and reverenced by all men, a descendant of the Okkakas, who call themselves Gautama, and his name was Suddhodana or Pure-Rice. His wife Mayadevi was beautiful as the water-lily and pure in mind as the lotus. As the Queen of Heaven, she lived on earth, untainted by desire, and immaculate.

The king, her husband, honoured her in her holiness, and the spirit of truth, glorious and strong in his wisdom like to a white elephant, descended on her. When she knew that the hour of motherhood was near, she asked the king to send her home to her parents; and Suddhodana, anxious about his wife and the child she would bear him, willingly granted her request.

At Lumbini there is a beautiful grove, and when Mayadevi passed through it the trees were one mass of fragrant flowers and many birds were warbling in their branches. The Queen, wishing to stroll through the shady walks, left her golden palanquin, and, when she reached the giant sala tree in the midst of the grove, felt that her hour had come. She took hold of a branch. Her attendants hung a curtain about her and retired. When the pain of travail came on her, four pure-minded angels of the great Brahma held out a golden net to receive the babe, who came forth from her right side like the rising sun, bright and perfect.

The Brahma-angels took the child and placing him before the mother said: "Rejoice, queen, a mighty son has been born to you."

At her couch stood an aged woman imploring the heavens to bless the child. All the worlds were flooded with light. The blind received their sight by longing to see the coming glory of the Lord; the deaf and dumb spoke with one another of the good omens indicating the birth of the Buddha to be. The crooked became straight; the lame walked. All prisoners were freed from their chains and the fires of all the hells were extinguished.

No clouds gathered in the skies and the polluted streams became clear, while celestial music rang through the air and the angels rejoiced with gladness. With no selfish or partial joy but for the sake of the law they rejoiced, for creation engulfed in the ocean of pain was now to obtain release. The cries of beasts were hushed; all malevolent beings received a loving heart, and peace reigned on earth. Mara, the evil one, alone was grieved and rejoiced not.

The Naga kings, earnestly desiring to show their reverence for most excellent law, as they had paid honour to former Buddhas, now went to greet the Bodhisattva. They scattered before him mandara flowers, rejoicing with heartfelt joy to pay their religious homage.

The royal father, pondering the meaning of these signs, was now full of joy and now sore distressed. The queen mother, beholding her child and the commotion which his birth created, felt in her timorous heart the pangs of doubt.

Now there was at that time in a grove near Lumbini Asita, a rishi, leading the life of a hermit. He was a Brahman of dignified mien, famed not only for wisdom and scholarship, but also for his skill in the interpretation of signs. And the king invited him to see the royal babe

The seer, beholding the prince, wept and sighed deeply. And when the king saw the tears of Asita he became alarmed and asked: "Why has the sight of my son caused you grief and pain?"

But Asita's heart rejoiced, and, knowing the king's mind to be perplexed, he addressed him, saying: "The king, like the moon when full, should feel great joy, for he has begotten a wondrously noble son. I do not worship Brahma, but I worship this child; and the gods in the temples will descend from their places of honour to adore him. Banish all anxiety and doubt. The spiritual omens manifested indicate that the child now born will bring deliverance to the whole world.

"Recollecting that I myself am old, on that account I could not hold my tears; for now my end is coming on and I shall not see the glory of this babe. For this son of yours will rule the world. The wheel of empire will come to him. He will either be a king of kings to govern all the lands of the earth, or verily will become a Buddha. He is born for the sake of everything that lives. His pure teaching will be like the shore that receives the shipwrecked. His power of meditation will be like a cool lake; and all creatures parched with the drought of lust may freely drink thereof. On the fire of covetousness he will cause the cloud of his mercy to rise, so that the rain of the law may extinguish it. The heavy gates of despondency will he open, and give deliverance to all creatures ensnared in the self-entwined meshes of folly and ignorance. The king of the law has come forth to rescue from bondage all the poor, the miserable, the helpless."

When the royal parents heard Asita's words they rejoiced in their hearts and named their new-born infant Siddhartha, that is he who has accomplished his purpose."

And the queen said to her sister, Pajapati: "A mother who has borne a future Buddha will never give birth to another child. I shall soon leave this world, my husband, the king, and Siddhartha, my child. When I am gone, be you a mother to him." And Pajapati wept and promised.

When the queen had departed from the living, Pajapati took the boy Siddhartha and reared him. And as the light of the moon increases little by little, so the royal child grew from day to day in mind and in body; and truthfulness and love resided in his heart. When a year had passed Suddhodana the king made Pajapati his queen and there was never a better stepmother than she.

The Ties of Life

WHEN Siddhartha had grown to youth, his father desired to see him married, and he sent to all his kinsfolk, commanding them to bring their princesses that the prince might select one of them as his wife.

But the kinsfolk replied and said: "The prince is young and delicate; nor has he learned any of the sciences. He would not be able to maintain our daughter, and should there be war he would be unable to cope with the enemy."

The prince was not boisterous, but pensive in his nature. He loved to stay under the great jambu-tree in the garden of his father, and, observing the ways of the world, gave himself up to meditation. And the prince said to his father: "Invite our kinsfolk that they may see me and put my strength to the test." And his father did as his son bade him.

When the kinsfolk came, and the people of the city Kapilavatthu had assembled to test the prowess and scholarship of the prince, he proved himself manly in all the exercises both of the body and of the mind, and there was no rival among the youths and men of India who could surpass him in any test, bodily or mental. He replied to all the questions of the sages; but when he questioned them, even the wisest among them were silenced.

Then Siddhartha chose himself a wife. He selected his cousin Yasodhara, the gentle daughter of the king of Koli. In their wedlock was born a son whom they named Rahula which means "fetter" or "tie," and King Suddhodana, glad that an heir was born to his son, said: "The prince having begotten a son, will love him as I love the prince. This will be a strong tie to bind Siddhartha's heart to the interests of the world, and the kingdom of the Sakyas will remain under the scepter of my descendants."

With no selfish aim, but regarding his child and the people at large, Siddhartha, the prince, attended to his religious duties, bathing his body in the holy Ganges and cleansing his heart in the waters of the law. Even as men desire to give happiness to their children, so did he long to give peace to the world.

The Three Woes

THE palace which the king had given to the prince was resplendent with all the luxuries of India; for the king was anxious to see his son happy. All sorrowful sights, all misery, and all knowledge of misery were kept away from Siddhartha, for the king desired that no troubles should come nigh him; he should not know that there was evil in the world.

But as the chained elephant longs for the wilds of the jungles, so the prince was eager to see the world, and he asked his father, the king, for permission to do so. And Suddhodana ordered a jewel-fronted chariot with four stately horses to be held ready, and commanded the roads to be adorned where his son would pass.

The houses of the city were decorated with curtains and banners, and spectators arranged themselves on either side, eagerly gazing at the heir to the throne. Thus Siddhartha rode with Channa, his charioteer, through the streets of the city, and into a country watered by rivulets and covered with pleasant trees.

There by the wayside they met an old man with bent frame, wrinkled face and sorrowful brow, and the prince asked the charioteer: "Who is this? His head is white, his eyes are bleared, and his body is withered. He can barely support himself on his staff."

The charioteer, much embarrassed, hardly dared speak the truth. He said: "These are the symptoms of old age. This same man was once a suckling child, and as a youth full of sportive life; but now, as years have passed away, his beauty is gone and the strength of his life is wasted."

Siddhartha was greatly affected by the words of the charioteer, and he sighed because of the pain of old age. "What joy or pleasure can men take," he thought to himself, when they know they must soon wither and pine away!"

And lo! while they were passing on, a sick man appeared on the way-side, gasping for breath, his body disfigured, convulsed and groaning with pain. The prince asked his charioteer: "What kind of man is this?" And the charioteer replied and said: "This man is sick. The four elements of his body are confused and out of order. We are all subject to such conditions: the poor and the rich, the ignorant and the wise, all creatures that have bodies are liable to the same calamity."

And Siddhartha was still more moved. All pleasures appeared stale to him, and he loathed the joys of life.

The charioteer sped the horses on to escape the dreary sight, when suddenly they were stopped in their fiery course. Four persons passed by, carrying a corpse; and the prince, shuddering at the sight of a lifeless body, asked the charioteer: "What is this they carry? There are streamers and flower garlands; but the men that follow are overwhelmed with grief!"

The charioteer replied: "This is a dead man: his body is stark; his life is gone; his thoughts are still; his family and the friends who loved him now carry the corpse to the grave." And the prince was full of awe and terror: "Is this the only dead man, he asked, or does the world contain other instances?"

With a heavy heart the charioteer replied: "All over the world it is the same. He who begins life must end it. There is no escape from death."

With bated breath and stammering accents the prince exclaimed: "Worldly men! How fatal is your delusion! Inevitably your body will crumble to dust, yet carelessly, unheedingly, you live on." The charioteer observing the deep impression these sad sights had made on the prince, turned his horses and drove back to the city.

When they passed by the palace of the nobility, Kisa Gotami, a young princess and niece of the king, saw Siddhartha in his manliness and beauty, and, observing the thoughtfulness of his countenance, said: "Happy the father that begot you, happy the mother that nursed you, happy the wife that calls husband this lord so glorious."

The prince hearing this greeting, said: "Happy are they that have found deliverance. Longing for peace of mind, I shall seek the bliss of Nirvana."

Then asked Kisa Gotami: "How is Nirvana attained?" The prince paused, and to him whose mind was estranged from wrong the answer came: "When the fire of lust is gone out, then Nirvana is gained; when the fires of hatred and delusion are gone out, then Nirvana is gained; when the troubles of mind, arising from blind credulity, and all other evils have ceased, then Nirvana is gained!"

Siddhartha handed her his precious pearl necklace as a reward for the wisdom she had inspired in him, and having returned home looked with disdain on the treasures of his palace.

His wife welcomed him and entreated him to tell her the cause of his grief. He said: "I see everywhere the impression of change; therefore, my heart is heavy. Men grow old, sicken, and die. That is enough to take away the zest of life."

The king, his father, hearing that the prince had become estranged from pleasure, was greatly overcome with sorrow and like a sword it pierced his heart.

The Bodhisattvas Renunciation

IT was night. The prince found no rest on his soft pillow; he arose and went out into the garden. "Alas!" he cried "all the world is full of darkness and ignorance; there is no one who knows how to cure the ills of existence." And he groaned with pain.

Siddhartha sat down beneath the great jambu-tree and gave himself to thought, pondering on life and death and the evils of decay. Concentrating his mind he became free from confusion. All low desires vanished from his heart and perfect tranquility came over him.

In this state of ecstasy he saw with his mental eye all the misery and sorrow of the world; he saw the pains of pleasure and the inevitable certainty of death that hovers over every being; yet men are not awakened to the truth. And a deep compassion seized his heart.

While the prince was pondering on the problem of evil, he beheld with his mind's eye under the jambu tree a lofty figure endowed with majesty, calm and dignified. "Whence comest you, and who mayst you be asked the prince.

In reply the vision said: "I am a samana. Troubled at the thought of old age, disease, and death I have left my home to seek the path of salvation. All things hasten to decay; only the truth abideth forever. Everything changes, and there is no permanency; yet the words of the Buddhas are immutable. I long for the happiness that does not decay; the treasure that will never perish; the life that knows of no beginning and no end. Therefore, I have destroyed all worldly thought. I have retired into an unfrequented dell to live in solitude; and, begging for food, I devote myself to the one thing needful.

Siddhartha asked: "Can peace be gained in this world of unrest? I am struck with the emptiness of pleasure and have become disgusted with lust. All oppresses me, and existence itself seems intolerable."

The samana replied: "Where heat is, there is also a possibility of cold; creatures subject to pain possess the faculty of pleasure; the origin of evil indicates that good can be developed. For these things are correlatives. Thus where there is much suffering, there will be much bliss, if you but open your eyes to behold it. Just as a man who has fallen into a heap of filth ought to seek the great pond of water covered with lotuses, which is near by: even so seek you for the great deathless lake of Nirvana to wash off the defilement of wrong. If the lake is not sought, it is not the fault of the lake. Even so when there is a blessed road leading the man held fast by wrong to the salvation of Nirvana, if the road is not walked on, it is not the fault of the road, but of the person. And when a man who is oppressed with sickness, there being a physician who can heal him, does not avail himself of the physician's help, that is not the fault of the physician. Even so when a man oppressed by the malady of wrong-doing does not seek the spiritual guide of enlightenment, that is no fault of the evil-destroying guide."

The prince listened to the noble words of his visitor and said: "You bringest good tidings, for now I know that my purpose will be accomplished. My father advises me to enjoy life and to undertake worldly duties, such as will bring honour to me and to our house. He tells me that I am too young still, that my pulse beats too full to lead a religious life."

The venerable figure shook his head and replied: "You shouldst know that for seeking a religious life no time can be inopportune."

A thrill of joy passed through Siddhartha's heart. "Now is the time to seek religion," he said; "now is the time to sever all ties that would prevent me from attaining perfect enlightenment; now is the time to wander into homelessness and, leading a mendicant's life, to find the path of deliverance."

The celestial messenger heard the resolution of Siddhartha with approval. "Now, indeed he added, is the time to seek religion. Go, Siddhartha, and accomplish your purpose. For you are Bodhisatta, the Buddha-elect; you are destined to enlighten the world. You are the Tathagata, the great master, for you will fulfill all righteousness and be Dharmaraja, the king of truth. You are Bhagavat, the Blessed One, for you are called on to become the savior and redeemer of the world. Fulfill you the perfection of truth. Though the thunderbolt descend on your head, yield you never to the allurements that beguile men from the path of truth. As the sun at all seasons pursues his own course, nor ever goes on another, even so if you forsake not the straight path of righteousness, you shall become a Buddha. Persevere in your quest and you shall find what you seekest. Pursue your aim unswervingly and you shall gain the prize. Struggle earnestly and you shall conquer. The benediction of all deities, of all saints of all that seek light is on you, and heavenly wisdom guides your steps. You shall be the Buddha, our Master, and our Lord; you shall enlighten the world and save mankind from perdition.

Having thus spoken, the vision vanished, and Siddhartha's heart was filled with peace. He said to himself: "I have awakened to the truth and I am resolved to accomplish my purpose. I will sever all the ties that bind me to the world, and I will go out from my home to seek the way of salvation. The Buddhas are beings whose words cannot fail: there is no departure from truth in their speech. For as the fall of a stone thrown into the air, as the death of a mortal, as the sunrise at dawn, as the lion's roar when he leaves his lair, as the delivery of a woman with child, as all these things are sure and certain - even so the word of the Buddhas is sure and cannot fail. Verily I shall become a Buddha."

The prince returned to the bedroom of his wife to take a last farewell glance at those whom he dearly loved above all the treasures of the earth. He longed to take the infant once more into his arms and kiss him with a parting kiss. But the child lay in the arms of his mother, and the prince could not lift him without awakening both. There Siddhartha stood gazing at his beautiful wife and his beloved son, and his heart grieved. The pain of parting overcame him powerfully. Although his mind was determined, so that nothing, be it good or evil, could shake his resolution, the tears flowed freely from his eyes, and it was beyond his power to check their stream. But the prince tore himself away with a manly heart, suppressing his feelings but not extinguishing his memory.

The Bodhisattva mounted his noble steed Kanthaka, and when he left the palace, Mara stood in the gate and stopped him: "Depart not, my Lord," exclaimed Mara. "In seven days from now the wheel of empire will appear, and will make you sovereign over the four continents and the two thousand adjacent islands. Therefore, stay, my Lord."

The Bodhisattva replied: "Well do I know that the wheel of empire will appear to me; but it is not sovereignty that I desire. I will become a Buddha and make all the world shout for joy."

Thus Siddhartha, the prince, renounced power and worldly pleasures, gave up his kingdom, severed all ties, and went into homelessness. He rode out into the silent night, accompanied only by his faithful charioteer Channa. Darkness lay on the earth, but the stars shone brightly in the heavens.

King Bimbisara

SIDDHARTHA had cut his waving hair and had exchanged his royal robe for a mean dress of the colour of the ground. Having sent home Channa, the charioteer, together with the noble steed Kanthaka, to King Suddhodana to bear him the message that the prince had left the world, the Bodhisattva walked along on the highroad with a beggar's bowl in his hand.

Yet the majesty of his mind was ill-concealed under the poverty of his appearance. His erect gait betrayed his royal birth and his eyes beamed with a fervid zeal for truth. The beauty of his youth was transfigured by holiness and surrounded his head like a halo. All the people who saw this unusual sight gazed at him in wonder. Those who were in haste arrested their steps and looked back; and there was no one who did not pay him homage.

Having entered the city of Rajagaha, the prince went from house to house silently waiting till the people offered him food. Wherever the Blessed One came, the people gave him what they had; they bowed before him in humility and were filled with gratitude because he condescended to approach their homes. Old and young people were moved and said: "This is a noble muni! His approach is bliss. What a great joy for us!"

And King Bimbisara, noticing the commotion in the city, inquired the cause of it, and when he learned the news sent one of his attendants to observe the stranger. Having heard that the muni must be a Sakya and of noble family, and that he had retired to the bank of a flowing river in the woods to eat the food in his bowl, the king was moved in his heart; he donned his royal robe, placed his golden crown on his head and went out in the company of aged and wise counselors to meet his mysterious guest.

The king found the muni of the Sakya race seated under a tree. Contemplating the composure of his face and the gentleness of his deportment, Bimbisara greeted him reverently and said: "samana, your hands are fit to grasp the reins of an empire and should not hold a beggar's bowl. I am sorry to see you wasting your youth. Believing that you are of royal descent, I invite you to join me in the government of my country and share my royal power. Desire for power is becoming to the noble-minded, and wealth should not be despised. To grow rich and lose religion is not true gain. But he who possesses all three, power, wealth, and religion, enjoying them in discretion and with wisdom, him I call a great master."

The great Sakyamuni lifted his eyes and replied: "You are known, king, to be liberal and religious, and your words are prudent. A kind man who makes good use of wealth is rightly said to possess a great treasure; but the miser who hoards up his riches will have no profit. Charity is rich in returns; charity is the greatest wealth, for though it scatters, it brings no repentance.

"I have severed all ties because I seek deliverance. How is it possible for me to return to the world? He who seeks religious truth, which is the highest treasure of all, must leave behind all that can concern him or draw away his attention, and must be bent on that one goal alone. He must free his soul from covetousness and lust, and also from the desire for power.

"Indulge in lust but a little, and lust like a child will grow. Wield worldly power and you will be burdened with cares. Better than sovereignty over the earth, better than living in heaven, better than lordship over all the worlds, is the fruit of holiness. The Bodhisattva has recognized the illusory nature of wealth and will not take poison as food. Will a fish that has been baited still covet the hook, or an escaped bird love the net? Would a rabbit rescued from the serpent's mouth go back to be devoured? Would a man who has burnt his hand with a torch take up the torch after he had dropped it to the earth? Would a blind man who has recovered his sight desire to spoil his eyes again?

"The sick man suffering from fever seeks for a cooling medicine. Shall we advise him to drink that which will increase the fever? Shall we quench a fire by heaping fuel on it?

"I pray you, pity me not. Rather pity those who are burdened with the cares of royalty and the worry of great riches. They enjoy them in fear and trembling, for they are constantly threatened with a loss of those boons on whose possession their hearts are set, and when they die they cannot take along either their gold or the kingly diadem.

"My heart hankers after no vulgar profit, so I have put away my royal inheritance and prefer to be free from the burdens of life. Therefore, try not to entangle me in new relationships and duties, nor hinder me from completing the work I have begun. I regret to leave you. But I will go to the sages who can teach me religion and so find the path on which we can escape evil.

"May your country enjoy peace and prosperity, and may wisdom be shed on your rule like the brightness of the noon-day sun. May your royal power be strong and may righteousness be the scepter in your hand."

The king, clasping his hands with reverence, bowed down before Sakyamuni and said: "Mayest you obtain that which you seekest, and when you have obtained it, come back, I pray you, and receive me as your disciple." The Bodhisattva parted from the king in friendship and goodwill, and purposed in his heart to grant his request.

The Bodhisattva's Search

ALARA and Uddaka were renowned as teachers among the Brahmans, and there was no one in those days who surpassed them in learning and philosophical knowledge. The Bodhisattva went to them and sat at their feet. He listened to their doctrines of the atman or self, which is the ego of the mind and the doer of all doings. He learned their views of the transmigration of souls and of the law of karma; how the souls of bad men had to suffer by being reborn in men of low caste, in animals, or in hell, while those who purified themselves by libation, by sacrifices, and by self-mortification would become kings, or Brahmans, or devas, so as to rise higher and higher in the grades of existence. He studied their incantations and offerings and the methods by which they attained deliverance of the ego from material existence in states of ecstasy.

Alara said: "What is that self which perceives the actions of the five roots of mind, touch, smell, taste, sight, and hearing? What is that which is active in the two ways of motion, in the hands and in the feet? The problem of the soul appears in the expressions 'I say,' 'I know and perceive,' 'I come,' and 'I go' or 'I will stay here.' Your soul is not your body; it is not your eye, not your ear, not your nose, not your tongue, nor is it your mind. The I is the one who feels the touch in your body. The I is the smeller in the nose, the taster in the tongue, the seer in the eye, the hearer in the ear, and the thinker in the mind. The I moves your hands and your feet. The I is your soul. Doubt in the existence of the soul is irreligious, and without discerning this truth there is no way of salvation. Deep speculation will easily involve the mind; it leads to confusion and unbelief; but a purification of the soul leads to the way of escape. True deliverance is reached by removing from the crowd and leading a hermit's life, depending entirely on alms for food. Putting away all desire and clearly recognizing the non-existence of matter, we reach a state of perfect emptiness. Here we find the condition of immaterial life. As the munja grass when freed from its horny case, as a sword when drawn from its scabbard, or as the wild bird escaped from its prison, so the ego liberating itself from all limitations, finds perfect release. This is true deliverance, but those only who will have deep faith will learn."

The Bodhisattva found no satisfaction in these teachings. He replied: "People are in bondage, because they have not yet removed the idea of the ego. The thing and its quality are different in our thought, but not in reality. Heat is different from fire in our thought, but you cannot remove heat from fire in reality. You say that you can remove the qualities and leave the thing, but if you think your theory to the end, you will find that this is not so.

"Is not man an organism of many aggregates? Are we not composed of various attributes? Man consists of the material form, of sensation, of thought, of dispositions, and, lastly, of understanding. That which men call the ego when they say 'I am' is not an entity behind the attributes; it originates by their co-operation. There is mind; there is sensation and thought, and there is truth; and truth is mind when it walks in the path of righteousness. But there is no separate ego-soul outside or behind the thought of man. He who believes the ego is a distinct being has no correct conception. The very search for the atman is wrong; it is a wrong start and it will lead you in a false direction.

"How much confusion of thought comes from our interest in self, and from our vanity when thinking 'I am so great,' or 'I have done this wonderful deed?' The thought of yours ego stands between your rational nature and truth; banish it, and then will you see things as they are. He who thinks correctly will rid himself of ignorance and acquire wisdom. The ideas 'I am' and 'I shall be' or 'I shall not be' do not occur to a clear thinker.

"Moreover, if our ego remains, how can we attain true deliverance? If the ego is to be reborn in any of the three worlds, be it in hell, on earth, or be it even in heaven, we shall meet again and again the same inevitable doom of sorrow. We shall remain chained to the wheel of individuality and shall be implicated in egotism and wrong. All combination is subject to separation, and we cannot escape birth, disease, old age, and death. Is this a final escape?"

Said Uddaka: "Consider the unity of things. Things are not their parts, yet they exist. The members and organs of your body are not your ego, but your ego possesses all these parts. What, for instance, is the Ganges? Is the sand the Ganges? Is the water the Ganges? Is the hither bank the Ganges? Is the hither bank the Ganges? Is the farther bank the Ganges? The Ganges is a mighty river and it possesses all these several qualities. Exactly so is our ego."

But the Bodhisattva replied: "Not so, sir! If we remove the water, the sand, the hither bank and the farther bank where can we find any Ganges? In the same way I observe the activities of man in their harmonious union, but there is no ground for an ego outside its parts."

The Brahman sage, however, insisted on the existence of the ego, saying: "The ego is the doer of our deeds. How can there be karma without a self as its performer? Do we not see around us the effects of karma? What makes men different in character, station, possessions, and fate? It is their karma, and karma includes merit and demerit. The transmigration of the soul is subject to its karma. We inherit from former existences the evil effects of our evil deeds and the good effects of our good deeds. If that were not so, how could we be different?'

The Tathagata meditated deeply on the problems of transmigration and karma, and found the truth that lies in them. "The doctrine of karma, he said, is undeniable, but the theory of the ego has no foundation. Like everything else in nature, the life of man is subject to the law of cause and effect. The present reaps what the past has sown, and the future is the product of the present. But there is no evidence of the existence of an immutable ego-being, of a self which remains the same and migrates from body to body. There is rebirth but no transmigration.

"Is not this individuality of mine a combination, material as well as mental? Is it not made up of qualities that sprang into being by a gradual evolution? The five roots of sense perception in this organism have come from ancestors who performed these functions. The ideas which I think, came to me partly from others who thought them, and partly they rise from combinations of the ideas in my own mind. Those who have used the same sense-organs, and have thought the same ideas before I was composed into this individuality of mine, are my previous existences; they are my ancestors as much as the I of yesterday is the father of the I of today, and the karma of my past deeds affects the fate of my present existence.

"Supposing there were an atman that performs the actions of the senses then if the door of sight were torn down and the eye plucked out, that atman would be able to peep through the larger aperture and see the forms of its surroundings better and more clearly than before. It would be able to hear sounds better if the ears were torn away; smell better if the nose were cut off; taste better if the tongue were pulled out; and feel better if the body were destroyed.

"I observe the preservation and transmission of character; I perceive the truth of karma, but see no atman whom your doctrine makes the doer of your deeds. There is rebirth without the transmigration of a self. For this atman, this self, this ego in the 'I say' and in the 'I will' is an illusion. If this self were a reality, how could there be an escape from selfhood? The terror of hell would be infinite, and no release could be granted. The evils of existence would not be due to our ignorance and wrong-doing, but would constitute the very nature of our being."

Then the Bodhisattva went to the priests officiating in the temples. But the gentle mind of the Sakyamuni was offended at the unnecessary cruelty performed on the altars of the gods. He said: "Ignorance only can make these men prepare festivals and hold vast meetings for sacrifices. Far better to revere the truth than try to appease the gods by shedding blood. What love can a man possess who believes that the destruction of life will atone for evil deeds? Can a new wrong expiate old wrongs? And can the slaughter of an innocent victim blot out the evil deeds of mankind? This is practicing religion by the neglect of moral conduct. Purify your hearts and cease to kill; that is true religion. Rituals have no efficacy; prayers are vain repetitions; and incantations have no saving power. But to abandon covetousness and lust, to become free from evil passions, and to give up all hatred and ill-will, that is the right sacrifice and the true worship."

Uruvela, Place of Mortification

THE Bodhisattva went in search of a better system and came to a settlement of five bhikkhus in the jungle of Uruvela; and when the Blessed One saw the life of those five men, virtuously keeping in check their senses, subduing their passions, and practicing austere self-discipline, he admired their earnestness and joined their company. With holy zeal and a strong heart, the Sakyamuni gave himself up to meditative thought and a rigorous mortification of the body. Whereas the five bhikkhus were severe, the Sakyamuni was severer still, and so they revered him, their junior, as their master.

So the Bodhisattva continued for six years patiently torturing himself and suppressing the wants of nature. He trained his body and exercised his mind in the modes of the most rigorous ascetic life. At last, he ate each day one hemp grain only, seeking to cross the ocean of birth and death and to arrive at the shore of deliverance.

And when the Bodhisattva was ahungered, lo! Mara, the Evil One, approached him and said: "You are emaciated from fasts, and death is near. What good is your exertion? Deign to live, and you will be able to do good work." But the Sakyamuni made reply: "You friend of the indolent, you wicked one; for what purpose have you come? Let the flesh waste away, if but the mind becomes more tranquil and attention more steadfast. What is life in this world? Death in battle is better to me than that I should live defeated."

And Mara withdrew, saying: "For seven years I have followed the Blessed One step by step, but I have found no fault in the Tathagata."

The Bodhisattva was shrunken and attenuated, and his body was like a withered branch; but the fame of his holiness spread in the surrounding countries, and people came from great distances to see him and receive his blessing. However, the Holy One was not satisfied. Seeking true wisdom he did not find it, and he came to the conclusion that mortification would not extinguish desire nor afford enlightenment in ecstatic contemplation.

Seated beneath a jambu-tree, he considered the state of his mind and the fruits of his mortification. His body had become weaker, nor had his fasts advanced him in his search for salvation, and therefore when he saw that it was not the right path, he proposed to abandon it. He went to bathe in the Neranjara River, but when he strove to leave the water he could not rise on account of his weakness. Then espying the branch of a tree and taking hold of it, he raised himself and left the stream. But while returning to his abode, he staggered and lay as though dead.

There was a chief herdsman living near the grove whose eldest daughter was called Nanda; and Nanda happened to pass by the spot where the Blessed One had swooned, and bowing down before him she offered him rice-milk and he accepted the gift. When he had partaken of the rice-milk all his limbs were refreshed, his mind became clear again, and he was strong to receive the highest enlightenment.

After this occurrence, the Bodhisattva again took some food. His disciples, having witnessed the scene of Nanda and observing the change in his mode of living, were filled with suspicion. They feared that Siddhartha's religious zeal was flagging and that he whom they had hitherto revered as their Master had become oblivious of his high purpose.

When the Bodhisattva saw the bhikkhus turning away from him, he felt sorry for their lack of confidence, and was aware of the loneliness of his life. Suppressing his grief he wandered on alone, and his disciples said, "Siddhartha leaves us to seek a more pleasant abode."

Mara, the Evil One

THE Holy One directed his steps to that blessed Bodhitree beneath whose shade he was to accomplish his search. As he walked, the earth shook and a brilliant light transfigured the world. When he sat down the heavens resounded with joy and all living beings were filled with good cheer. Mara alone, lord of the five desires, bringer of death and enemy of truth, was grieved and rejoiced not. With his three daughters, Tanha, Raga and Arati, the tempters, and with his host of evil demons, he went to the place where the great samana sat. But Sakyamuni heeded him not. Mara uttered fear-inspiring threats and raised a whirlwind so that the skies were darkened and the ocean roared and trembled.

But the Blessed One under the Bodhi-tree remained calm and feared not. The Enlightened One knew that no harm could befall him.

The three daughters of Mara tempted the Bodhisattva, but he paid no attention to them, and when Mara saw that he could kindle no desire in the heart of the victorious samana, he ordered all the evil spirits at his command to attack him and overawe the great muni. But the Blessed One watched them as one would watch the harmless games of children. All the fierce hatred of the evil spirits was of no avail. The flames of hell became wholesome breezes of perfume, and the angry thunderbolts were changed into lotus-blossoms.

When Mara saw this, he fled away with his army from the Bodhi-tree, while from above a rain of heavenly flowers fell, and voices of good spirits were heard: "Behold the great muni! his heart unmoved by hatred. The wicked Mara's host 'gainst him did not prevail. Pure is he and wise, loving and full of mercy. As the rays of the sun drown the darkness of the world, so he who perseveres in his search will find the truth and the truth will enlighten him."

Enlightenment

THE Bodhisattva, having put Mara to flight, gave himself up to meditation. All the miseries of the world, the evils produced by evil deeds and the sufferings arising therefrom, passed before his mental eye, and he thought:

"Surely if living creatures saw the results of all their evil deeds, they would turn away from them in disgust. But selfhood blinds them, and they cling to their obnoxious desires. They crave pleasure for themselves and they cause pain to others; when death destroys their individuality, they find no peace; their thirst for existence abides and their selfhood reappears in new births. Thus they continue to move in the coil and can find no escape from the hell of their own making. And how empty are their pleasures, how vain are their endeavors! Hollow like the plantain-tree and without contents like the bubble. The world is full of evil and sorrow, because it is full of lust. Men go astray because they think that delusion is better than truth. Rather than truth they follow error, which is pleasant to look at in the beginning but in the end causes anxiety, tribulation, and misery."

And the Bodhisattva began to expound the Dharma. The Dharma is the truth. The Dharma is the sacred law. The Dharma is religion. The Dharma alone can deliver us from error, from wrong and from sorrow.

Pondering on the origin of birth and death, the Enlightened One recognized that ignorance was the root of all evil; and these are the links in the development of life, called the twelve nidanas: In the beginning there is existence blind and without knowledge; and in this sea of ignorance there are stirrings formative and organizing. From stirrings, formative and organizing, rises awareness or feelings. Feelings beget organisms that live as individual beings. These organisms develop the six fields, that is, the five senses and the mind. The six fields come in contact with things. Contact begets sensation. Sensation creates the thirst of individualized being. The thirst of being creates a cleaving to things. The cleaving produces the growth and continuation of selfhood. Selfhood continues in renewed birth. The renewed births of selfhood are the causes of sufferings, old age, sickness, and death. They produce lamentation, anxiety, and despair.

The cause of all sorrow lies at the very beginning; it is hidden in the ignorance from which life grows. Remove ignorance and you will destroy the wrong desires that rise from ignorance; destroy these desires and you will wipe out the wrong perception that rises from them. Destroy wrong perception and there is an end of errors in individualized beings. Destroy the errors in individualized beings and the illusions of the six fields will disappear. Destroy illusions and the contact with things will cease to beget misconception. Destroy misconception and you do away with thirst. Destroy thirst and you will be free of all morbid cleaving. Remove the cleaving and you destroy the selfishness of selfhood. If the selfishness of selfhood is destroyed you will be above birth, old age, disease, and death, and you will escape all suffering.

The Enlightened One saw the four noble truths which point out the path that leads to Nirvana or the extinction of self: The first noble truth is the existence of sorrow. The second noble truth is the cause of suffering. The third noble truth is the cessation of sorrow. The fourth noble truth is the eightfold path that leads to the cessation of sorrow.

This is the Dharma. This is the truth. This is religion. And the Enlightened One uttered this stanza:

"Through many births I sought in vain
The Builder of this House of Pain.
Now, Builder, You are plain to see,
And from this House at last I'm free;
I burst the rafters, roof and wall,
And dwell in the Peace beyond them all."

There is self and there is truth. Where self is, truth is not. Where truth is, self is not. Self is the fleeting error of samsara; it is individual separateness and that egotism which begets envy and hatred. Self is the yearning for pleasure and the lust after vanity. Truth is the correct comprehension of things; it is the permanent and everlasting, the real in all existence, the bliss of righteousness.

The existence of self is an illusion, and here is no wrong in this world, no vice, no evil, except what flows from the assertion of self. The attainment of truth is possible only when self is recognized as an illusion. Righteousness can be practiced only when we have freed our mind from passions of egotism. Perfect peace can dwell only where all vanity has disappeared.

Blessed is he who has understood the Dharma. Blessed is he who does no harm to his fellow-beings. Blessed is he who overcomes wrong and is free from passion. To the highest bliss has he attained who has conquered all selfishness and vanity. He has become the Buddha, the Perfect One.

The First Converts

THE Blessed One tarried in solitude seven times seven days, enjoying the bliss of emancipation. At that time Tapussa and Bhallika, two merchants, came traveling on the road near by, and when they saw the great samana, majestic and full of peace, they approached him respectfully and offered him rice cakes and honey.

This was the first food that the Enlightened One ate after he attained Buddhahood.

And the Buddha addressed them and pointed out to them the way of salvation. The two merchants, seeing the holiness of the conqueror of Mara, bowed down in reverence and said: "We take our refuge, Lord, in the Blessed One and in the Dharma." Tapussa and Bhallika were the first that became followers of the Buddha and they were lay disciples.

The Brahma's Request

THE Blessed One having attained Buddhahood while resting under the shepherd's Nigrodha tree on the banks of the river Neranjara, pronounced this solemn utterance:

"How sure his pathway in this wood,
Who follows truth's unchanging call!
How blessed, to be kind and good,
And practice self-restraint in all!
How light, from passion to be free,
And sensual joys to let go by!
And yet his greatest bliss will be
When he has quelled the pride of 'I'.

"I have recognized the deepest truth, which is sublime and peace-giving' but difficult to understand; for most men move in a sphere of worldly interests and find their delight in worldly desires. The worldling will not understand the doctrine, for to him there is happiness in selfhood only, and the bliss that lies in a complete surrender to truth is unintelligible to him. He will call resignation what to the enlightened mind is the purest joy. He will see annihilation where the perfected one finds immortality. He will regard as death what the conqueror of self knows to be life everlasting. The truth remains hidden from him who is in the bondage of hate and desire. Nirvana remains incomprehensible and mysterious to the vulgar whose minds are beclouded with worldly interests. Should I preach the doctrine and mankind not comprehend it, it would bring me only fatigue and trouble."

Mara, the Evil One, on hearing the words of the Blessed Buddha, approached and said: "Be greeted, you Holy One. You have attained the highest bliss and it is time for you to enter into the final Nirvana."

Then Brahma Sahampati descended from the heavens and, having worshiped the Blessed One, said: "Alas! the world must perish, should the Holy One, the Tathagata, decide not to teach the Dharma. Be merciful to those that struggle; have compassion on the sufferers; pity the creatures who are hopelessly entangled in the snares of sorrow. There are some beings that are almost free from the dust of worldliness. If they hear not the doctrine preached, they will be lost. But if they hear it, they will believe and be saved."

The Blessed One, full of compassion, looked with the eye of a Buddha on all sentient creatures, and he saw among them beings whose minds were but scarcely covered by the dust of worldliness, who were of good disposition and easy to instruct. He saw some who were conscious of the dangers of lust and wrong doing. And the Blessed One said to Brahma Sahampati: "Wide open be the door of immortality to all who have ears to hear. May they receive the Dharma with faith."

Then the Blessed One turned to Mara, saying: "I shall not pass into the final Nirvana, Evil One, till there be not only brethren and sisters of an Order, but also lay disciples of both sexes, who shall have become true hearers, wise, well trained, ready and learned, versed in the scriptures, fulfilling all the greater and lesser duties, correct in life, walking according to the precepts - till they, having thus themselves learned the doctrine, shall be able to give information to others concerning it, preach it, make it known, establish it, open it, minutely explain it, and make it clear - till they, when others start vain doctrines, shall be able to vanquish and refute them, and so to spread the wonderworking truth abroad. I shall not die till the pure religion of truth shall have become successful, prosperous, widespread, and popular in all its full extent - till, in a word, it shall have been well proclaimed among men!"

Then Brahma Sahampati understood that the Blessed One had granted his request and would preach the doctrine.

Collection

Life of Buddha by Paul Carus, Literature  

This is the first third of a book collated by Paul Carus:

Carus, Paul. The Gospel of Buddha: Compiled from Ancient Records. Chicago: The Open Court Publishing Company, 1984 and 1915.

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