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Chapter 5
Hinduism and Buddhism
IN ancient India, coming from no one knows where, there was a dark-white
population, called the Dravidians. They settled in the valley of the Ganges and there
possessed a civilization. They had at this time already progressed above the older
heliolithic culture. They knew considerable about astrology, practiced magic
(psychokinesis), and believed in life after death.
Historians assert that these people never rose to the height of culture possessed by
ancient Sumeria and ancient Egypt. Certain it is that they did not possess any form of
writing, hence the assertions of the Brahman priests as to the high antiquity of the
sacred writings of India must be discounted. If they existed, they existed elsewhere
than in India.
Writing was brought into India at the time of the Aryan invasion, which was not
earlier than the time of the great king Hammurabi, 2,200 BC, who conquered the
Sumerian-Akkadian empire and founded the first Babylonian empire. About the
time the Semitic Amorites, under Hammurabi, made this conquest--the second time
the land of the Euphrates and the Tigris had been conquered by a great Semitic leader,
the first time being by Sargon I, in 2,750
BC--history tells us that an
Aryan-speaking people who then occupied North Persia and Afghanistan came
down through the passes to the northwest and conquered India.
Previous to this time India, as already mentioned, had a civilization springing from
heliolithic culture, as heliolithic monuments still standing in India attest. But this
Aryan people brought the art of writing, the Sanskrit, for instance, being an Aryan
language. Thus it is, in spite of frequent assertions to the contrary, that the first sacred
writings developed in India arc several thousand years later in point of time than the
first sacred writings known either in Sumeria or in Egypt. (See, for instance, The
Outline of History
, by H. G. Wells, page 147).
This invasion of the dominant and aggressive Aryan-speaking people also had
another, and far less beneficial, result. The invading people constituted themselves
rulers of the aboriginal population. They became priests as well as rulers, and to
maintain their ascendancy and to discourage intermarrying with the natives at least
encouraged, and probably founded, the caste system. Certain of themselves they
established as the highest caste. This caste, the Brahmans, constituted themselves the
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exclusive teachers of the people, and the history of India is the history of the success
of this caste, through sword and through the dissemination of cunningly devised
religious dogmas, in keeping the rest of the population servile to them. The Aryan
invaders of about 2,200 BC brought with them not only the art of writing, but also
traditional ideas about religion and magic (psychokinesis) and sacrificial rites and
propitiation, that when written became a literature of vast and indefinite extent,
known as the Veda. To latter Brahmans and to other Hindu castes of like belief, this
most ancient literature of India came to be regarded not as the work of man, but as
revelations in fabulously ancient times, made through semi-divine holy ones, called
Rishis.
The composition of the Veda extended over hundreds of years and probably dates
back to about 2,200 BC The oldest collection of sacred utterances are (1) the
Samhitas, including the Rig Veda, embracing hymns of praise and prayer for use at
sacrifices to the various gods; (2) the Atharva Veda, embracing the incantations used
in connection with magic rites; (3) the Yajur Veda, embracing sacrificial formulas
and litanies; and (4) the Sama Veda, embracing chants and rituals.
The priesthood later wrote extensive commentaries on the older Samhitas, and these
were included in the Veda as the Brahmanas. Then as appendices to the Brahmanas,
the Aranyakas and the Upanishads were written. These Upanishads, containing as
they do the first extensive speculative philosophy, rose to very high esteem, and
became the foundation upon which rests the varied and highly meritorious
philosophies of India.
In some of the higher philosophies it is taught that deliverance may be had by
mystical union with the Super-Intelligence of the universe. This mystical union is
through extension of consciousness to high levels, a phase of what is now called
extrasensory perception Yoga explains the practices which lead to such union.
But there is a great abyss between such philosophies and the religion of the vast
population of India. Animism abounds, and the masses commonly are ignorant
idolators, worshipping objects that once were symbols of some principle to be
venerated, but whose inner significance to them now is lost. Yet any and all of these
devotees of Hinduism, so long as they obey the rules of caste and ritual demanded by
the Brahmans, are not otherwise subject to religious coercion.
It seems that in the beginning any person was qualified to practice magic, to control
the lower spirits, and to make sacrifices to propitiate the gods. But as the rites became
more complicated and more traditional a special class of Aryans developed whose
exclusive duty it was to attend to these things. Among these a special cult devoted
itself to the offering of the sacred drink, soma; and these elaborated a ritual in which
three sacred fires were used. The Rig Veda is largely a hymn-book for use at these
three fire ceremonies, and so elaborate were the rites that only royalty and wealthy
men could afford them.
As time passed, so important became the ceremonies, that instead of the gods being
besought for favors, in the Brahmanas we find the thought that the sacrifice is able to
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compel the gods, and finally that the ritual and sacrifice is the power that grants the
desired boon. Also, by the time the Brahmanas were written the caste system was
well developed and the priests were called "gods on earth." That is, they were to be
considered the equal of gods.
Thus the priestly Brahmans came to occupy the highest caste. Next to these were the
nobles and warriors. Then all the free Aryan people not included in the two upper
classes were included in a third caste. The fourth caste embraced the dark-skinned
aboriginal population who had been enslaved and subdued. These became the
untouchables, 60 million of whom in 1947, by proclamation of the new free nation of
Hindustan, legally were relieved of their caste restrictions.
As time passed, the four original castes were split up into other castes and sub-castes.
All the while the Brahman caste imposed on the people ironbound domination to
ceremony and ritual. This state of affairs, which up to the present has made of India a
backward nation, however, cannot be laid at the door of the early Veda. It was
cunningly devised by a priesthood seeking selfish advantages. Throughout the Veda
are many high ideals and noble sentiments, and in the later works fine philosophic
conceptions.
Because the Rig Veda was devoted to the ritual for the wealthy, the Atharva Veda
furnished the material for the popular religion. There was a belief in various orders of
spiritual beings, a belief that the planets influence human life, a belief in magic, and a
belief that the soul of man exists in some other realm after death. But Hinduism, the
dominant religion of India (the 60 million of Pakistan are Mohammedans), is not a
religion of set beliefs; it is a religion of caste and ritual instituted by the priestly
Brahmans.
Hinduism, which has the fourth largest following of any religion today--about 215
million people-- as does Christianity, which has the largest following --about 600
million people embraces a large variety of cults and practices. It is the outgrowth,
branching in various directions, of the old Vedic religion. While its adherents may
give utmost precedence to this or that deity, they believe in the various gods of the
Brahman priests. At least up to the present time they have believed in the rules of
caste and the various rituals imposed upon them by the priests, and in all essential
rites, such as those associated with marriage, birth, and death, they seek the aid of the
Brahmans.
It should be understood that in India there are innumerable gods. Anything and
everything may be deified. Philosophic progress, however, gradually brought about
the recognition of one supreme Creator called the Power (Brahma). Brahma, the
Creator, also became identified with the old Father-god, and as such is recognized as
the most important god of the orthodox Brahmans. But there was still another god
who had a powerful following. This was the kindly Sun-god Vishnu who, at least
before the time of the Bhagavad Gita, was not a war god, but a god especially
worshiped by philosophers and agriculturists. In addition to these two Aryan gods,
the original Dravidian population had yet another god to whom they clung
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tenaciously. He is the terrifying deity whose worship was explained in Chapter 02,
a deity of wars and pestilence and destruction, the cruel god Siva who is
particularly attractive to the wild tribes of India.
The religious textbooks of the Brahmans give instructions for offerings to be made to
the spirits and gods of all the various sects and cults. Therefore, when the worshipers
of Vishnu became numerous, and the worshipers of Siva also grew in number, to hold
all under their dominion at least in matters of caste and ritual, the Brahmans joined
these three gods--Brahma, the creator, Vishnu, the preserver, and Siva, the
destroyer. These from that time on were taught to be the three forms of the one
all-powerful god, even as Christians also worship a Trinity.
But while these three are the powerful gods, the matter did not stop there, for
whatever god was brought to the Brahmans, instead of denying it, they said that it
was merely a form taken by one of the three powerful aspects of the one god. Thus
Vishnu, who bears the symbol of the Sun, was revered by the philosophers as Lord
Ishvara. Next he was worshiped as a clan god under the name Krishna or Vasueda.
Later, again as a clan god he was revered as Rama. Thus Vishnuism, which is popular
in India today, has branched into the Rama sects, those who worship Rama, and the
Krishnaites, those who worship Krishna, as well as into numerous lesser sects which
each has a special deity to whom it gives chief homage. But this the Vishnu sects have
in common, they are pantheistic, believing that the universe as a whole, embracing
the seen and the unseen, is God.
While the various branches and sects embraced within Hinduism have been accepted
by the Brahmans, it should not be thought that the Sankya and Vedanta religions, and
many other philosophic sects, were also the offspring of expediency. On the
contrary, they were the result of a deep longing to know the truth and concentrated
intelligent application to finding it. These philosophical religions of India have much
that is fine and true in them. They result from the strong pressure of intelligence being
brought to bear upon the old beliefs.
But while under Hinduism almost anything could be believed and anything
worshiped, the Brahmans saw to it that on one matter there was unanimous belief,
that was the matter of the caste system.
This belief naturally arises from the dogma of karma and human reincarnation. If the
station in life into which an individual is born is the just effect of his actions in past
lives, whatever the environment and circumstances, they are merited.
If one is born into luxury and power, it is something to be proud of, a well merited
reward for worthy effort in past lives. If one is born into poverty and servility, it is
something about which no complaint should be made, for it is merited punishment
for unworthy deeds in past lives. There is, therefore, no escape from poverty, misery,
disease, and oppression to be had by endeavoring to alter these obnoxious conditions
through initiative and enterprise. The way of escape from them lies in enduring them,
and in such meritorious acts as are supposed to create
good karma. The escape is not
in this life, but in some future life when sufficient good karma has been accumulated.
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Just what actions create good karma is a matter for the priest to decide, and his
decision is based on the personal advantages he will derive from the actions he
advocates.
The people are divided into numerous castes, between which there is little in
common. Each caste has its iron-bound rules of conduct. Castes do not intermarry,
may not eat together, nor touch each other Even the shadow of a low caste man,
according to the doctrines of Hinduism, defiles a high caste man if it touches him, and
if it falls on his food makes it unfit to eat.
Those of the higher caste feel little sympathy for those of low caste, as they consider
the latter are paying with their misery the just penalty for the sins of former lives. Nor
are they inclined in any manner to alleviate that suffering, as they believe that only
through great misery will the low caste person be taught to create enough good karma
that in the next life he may be born into a better caste. Should the lower caste feel
inclined to resent the oppression of their high caste neighbors, they are refrained
from aggressive action by the belief that it is their lot to endure, and if they do not
submit, it merely means greater misery and sorrow in the next life Initiative and
enterprise are thus effectively discouraged.
I shall not here discuss the unsound features of the doctrine of human reincarnation
which results in the doctrine of caste, as I have devoted Course II, Chapters 07-08 to
discussing these factors. But the best way to approach the subject is to become
familiar with the manner in which nature actually operates, and the laws that may be
observed which give this information. These are given detailed discussion in Course
19, Organic Alchemy.
It is to be hoped that the political freedom recently given the 60 million inhabitants of
India who belong to the lowest caste, the "untouchables," will in not too long a time
abolish the whole caste system; for its doctrines hold the population in a straight
jacket of iron from which there is no hope of escape to better things. The life of those
belonging to each caste is bounded by unchanging rules. It is hedged in by
innumerable restrictions. Not only is vast energy consumed in observing the
particular rituals and observances of the caste, but a tremendous amount of it is spent
in avoiding those things which the caste may not, in propriety, do. It hampers and
restricts the life of the people as effectively as once did the hobble skirt of the
Mohammedan women, or as once did the dwarfed feet of the Chinese women.
Where life is made to conform to fixed standards in so many ways there is no
opportunity for progress. The people of a caste are forced to be, in all particulars, just
what their ancestors have been. Furthermore, the system promotes the despoliation
of the lower castes by those higher. The Brahmans in particular, who as priests are the
highest caste,
are given privileges by their caste which they grossly abuse. It enables
them to live a life of ease and luxury, free from the toil of the lower castes, at the same
time keeping the latter in dense ignorance, abject poverty, and unutterable misery.
The caste system successfully thwarts progress, conduces to squalor and misery,
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promotes ignorance among the masses, and in general imposes obstacles in the path
of all worth while effort. It is a doctrine opposed to human welfare.
Buddhism
--The hopeless misery that has been the lot of the people of India from a very early
date may very well be responsible for the Four Noble Truths propounded by Buddha.
The idea had already been evolved by the Vishnuites that Vishnu at different times
descended to earth in the form of an avatar, various notable persons in the past having
been such manifestations.
Even in the Upanishads we find the Buddhistic idea that birth is sorrow" and the hope
held forth that insight and communion with the Soul of All may lead the philosopher
to become "Awakened," as later on was Buddha. And as far back as the Rig Veda we
find the faint beginning of the doctrine of karma, for one is told to "join his good
works" in heaven, and the implication that by good works merit may be so stored up
that one can get "beyond the sun and so escape recurrent birth and death."
en in its later and more popular presentation it came to be recognized that between
two successive physical lives there is an existence on a nonphysical plane where, as
the case may be, there is an adequate taste of heaven or hell.
Siddhartha Guatama, supposed to be a prince of a Sakya clan living to the north of
Benares, according to tradition was born about 562 BC Little is known about his
birth and early life, for as falls the lot of great reformers his enthusiastic followers,
under the impulse that earlier gave rise to the Hero Cult, have clothed this part of his
life with miraculous happenings. Apparently he accepted the host of gods, godlings,
spirits and demons generally believed in by his contemporaries. In this he may be
compared with Jesus, who did not contradict or overthrow the teachings of Judaism,
but accepted them, and used them as a basis for a still higher teaching. Both came not
to destroy, but to fulfill the law. In many respects the lives of the three Saviors having
the greatest following, Jesus, Mohammed and Buddha, run parallel.
This is particularly true in that their followers made claims for each that they had
themselves taken pains to deny, and that in the course of time a great mass of custom,
ritual, and doctrine from still older beliefs were adopted as if they also had been a part
of the Savior's teachings. Jesus puts to one side the imputation he is a god, stating
plainly, so it seems to me, that he is a man. Buddha rejected the notion of some of his
followers that he was the Lord of the Universe, stating plainly that he is "only a
teacher." We now hear of an Esoteric Buddhism, yet Buddha himself repeatedly
denied having any esoteric
doctrine, stating that "his hand was not the closed fist of
the teacher who keeps some things back."
The various sects of Christianity today have added a great amount of custom, ritual,
and doctrine to the simple utterances of Jesus. So also, though in each case the great
underlying doctrine of the teacher is preserved, Buddhism has split into sects and
factions, and a vast amount of ritual, custom and doctrine has been added to it. So, if
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we are to get the original doctrine in its purity-- either that propounded by Jesus or
that propounded by Buddha --we must get as close as possible to the original source.
In neither case, so it seems, did anyone who heard the discourses write them down.
One person told another, and this one handed it on to the next generation, and so on. It
was probably even longer before any of Buddha's discourses were placed in writing
than the time that elapsed after the crucifixion of Jesus before any of the Four
Gospels were written.
The first proof of written scriptures in Buddhism is the edict of King Asoka in 242
BC--240 years after Buddha's death--that the sacred books of the Law of Buddha
should be collected. In the Pitkas, or baskets of the Laws, we have the earliest and
most authoritative account of the actual teachings of Buddha, as distinct from the
teachings of later sects. Of these earlier teachings the Dhammapada undoubtedly
was compiled to give a summary of the essential principles of Buddha's doctrines to
those who were incapable of committing to memory the complete contents of the
three Pitkas. Excellent translations of some of these early works may be found in The
Sacred Books of the East.
While there are parallels in the development of Buddhism and Christianity, in
doctrine there is a constant contrast. Buddha dispenses entirely with psychokinetic
proofs, while miracles take an important part at the beginning of Christianity.
Buddha has no concern for superhuman authority, while Jesus looks constantly to the
Father in Heaven. Christianity seeks some saving grace, or blood of the Lamb, or
other form of vicarious atonement, but--which all observation of nature indicates to
be correct--Buddhism insists that each must redeem himself.
Christianity adopted the old Hebrew idea of the creation of the world, and the manner
sin came into the world; but Buddha attempted no explanation either of creation or of
sin. Christianity teaches that pain and suffering may be alleviated by prayer-- and
observation shows they often are; and that the Saviour takes upon himself the burden
of his follower's sins. Buddha does not teach that pain may thus be alleviated, and
states that each must bear the burden of his own sin, declaring that no god even, can
do for any man that work of self-emancipation and self-conquest that leads to
salvation. In the Dhammapada, 163, he says: "By oneself the evil is done, by oneself
one suffers. By oneself evil is left undone, by oneself one is purified. Purity and
impurity belong to oneself; no man can purify another."
The goal of Buddhism is Nirvana. To many western scholars this amounts to
annihilation. Yet there is a finer interpretation, which is the view of many Buddhists,
that Nirvana is a tranquil and perfect mind, thus promising security from all attacks
of the senses and lower passions in an intellectual and spiritual life. But in whatever
state of life man finds himself, Buddhism admonishes him to trust no one but himself,
to rely only on himself, and to look to no other. "Not even a god can change into
defeat the victory of a man who has vanquished himself." Dhammapada, 105.
Tradition states that Prince Guatama, driven by a sense of the vanity and misery of
human life left the palace of his father to seek enlightenment. The Brahmans he
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interviewed advised him, as was their doctrine, to seek it through self-maceration in
the heart of a savage forest. After weary years of ascetic practices he found that he
could not gain enlightenment in this manner. After adopting a more moderate way of
life--the middle way--however, enlightenment dawned on him and be became the
Buddha. He then immediately set forth teaching his gospel. He lived to be eighty
years of age, and during his forty-five years of preaching made many converts.
The foundation of his teachings is contained in the Four Noble Truths concerning
suffering, and the Noble Eight-Fold Path that leads to freedom from suffering. Other
discourses and teachings of Buddha are merely an elaboration and a commentary on
these.
To understand Buddha's viewpoint, we must recognize that along with the gods and
demons of the Brahmans he had also been indoctrinated with the conception that the
world of the senses is but an illusion, called maya. He held, then, that men are subject
to pain and evil because they are dominated by the senses, by passions, and by selfish
desires. And he taught that it is possible for man to transmute his interests from
selfishness and carnal motives to the plane of pure intellect and spirit, and thus freed
from the bonds of the senses to enter into the kingdom of Nirvana.
The view of many Buddhists, that life on earth is not worth while, that it is a painful
experience to be avoided if possible, is the view quite generally held in India and not
original with Buddha. He did, however, concretely formulate a related thought in his
Four Noble Truths somewhat thus:
1. Birth and death are grief.
2. This grief of existence is caused by desire.
3. It ends when desire ends.
4. Desire may be extinguished by following the Noble Eight-Fold Path.
The Noble Eight-Fold Path by which Nirvana is gained is as follows:
1. Right Views (free from superstition or delusion ).
2. Right Aims (worthy of intelligent man).
3. Right Speech (kindly, open, truthful).
4. Right Conduct (peaceful, honest, pure).
5. Right Livelihood (bringing hurt and danger to no living thing).
6. Right Effort (self-control).
7. Right Mindfulness (the active watchful mind)
8 Right Contemplation (on the deep mysteries of life).
Thus did Buddha teach that all the miseries and discontent of life are due to
selfishness, that suffering is due to individual craving and greedy desire. These
cravings are of three kinds; the craving to gratify the senses, the desire for personal
immortality, and the desire for prosperity.
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To attain Nirvana all these cravings must be overcome, there must be detachment
from them, and the extinction of all personal aims. One must completely forget Self.
He apparently accepted along with the opinion of his times certain ideas regarding
karma, but he repeatedly condemned the prevalent belief in reincarnation. In fact, in
one of the early well-known dialogues there is a destructive analysis of the belief in
or desire for an enduring individual soul. Having tried it fruitlessly himself, his
doctrines are firmly opposed to any form of asceticism, holding that it is merely an
attempt to win personal power by personal pain. To sum the matter up in a single
clause, Buddha taught Salvation from Oneself.
Buddha preached a very simple doctrine, and lived a very simple life; but his
followers--as did the followers of both Jesus and Mohammed--immediately after
his death began to weave a network of legend about his life. And because he took no
pains to accept or deny most of the forms of worship by which he was surrounded,
these began to creep into Buddhism as an integral part of it even as the pomp and
ritual of pagan Rome infiltrated Christianity and became an integral part of the
Christian religion. Nor is it confined to the church before the Martin Luther
reformation; for nowhere in the Bible can be found sanction for Santa Claus, a
Christmas tree, or eggs and rabbits at Easter.
Buddha did, however, deny the pernicious human reincarnation supported doctrine
of caste. This took courage. "As the four streams that flow into the Ganges lose their
names as soon as they mingle their waters in the holy river, so all who believe in
Buddha cease to be Brahmans, Kahatriyas, Vaisyas, and Sudras."
This attitude, of course, brought Buddhism eventually into conflict with the
Brahmans, even as politically removing the caste restrictions from the 60 million
"untouchables" in 1947 will bring opposition from the Brahmans, who then and now
clung tenaciously to the caste system and to the prerogative of acting as the sole
teachers of religious ritual and practice, and as the sole officials practicing sacrificial
rites. Early Buddhists were not vegetarians, but this later became part of the Buddhist
doctrine. They did, however, ignore caste, and needed no sacrificial offerings.
Under the patronage and wise leadership of King Asoka, about the middle of the third
century BC, Buddhism spread far beyond India. Eventually it
reached China, Japan,
Tibet, Burma, Manchuria and Turkestan; being the religion today of a large
following in these countries.
But in India, due to its denial of the caste system, it became the target of relentless
persecution by the Brahmans. Eventually they were successful in driving it from
India, and even while it remained there the early converts from Hinduism were
successful in introducing into it much of the Brahmanic ideas and rituals.
Buddha taught a simple doctrine and simplicity of living. But the Buddhist church in
India and elsewhere at a very early date began to adopt customs, rituals, and
metaphysics from a wide variety of sources. The simple huts in which Buddha and
his disciples lived gave place to pretentious monasteries, and later still there were
temples. In fact. the practices and worldly show that Buddha held most in contempt
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came to dominate the Buddhist church, and following the old Brahmanic doctrine of
avatars, Gautama was proclaimed as one of the numerous incarnations of the
superhuman Buddha.
To indicate how far Buddhism of today in most countries is from the simple and
spiritual doctrines taught by Buddha I can do no better than quote two paragraphs
from The Outline of History, by H. G. Wells:
"Tibet today is a Buddhist country, yet Gautama. could he return to earth, might go
from end to end of Tibet seeking his own teaching in vain. He would find that most
ancient type of human ruler, a god king, enthroned, the Dalai Lama, the `Living
Buddha.' At Lhasa he would find a huge temple filled with priests, abbots,
lamas--he whose only buildings were huts and who made no priests--and above a
high altar he would behold a huge golden idol, which he would learn was called
`Gautama Buddha.' He would hear services intoned before this divinity, and certain
precepts, which would be dimly familiar to him, murmured as responses. Bells,
incense, prostrations, would play their part in these amazing proceedings. At one
point in the service a bell would be rung and a mirror lifted up, while the whole
congregation, in an access of reverence, bowed low.
"About this Buddhist countryside he would discover a number of curious little
mechanisms, little wind-wheels and water wheels spinning, on which brief prayers
were inscribed. Every time these things spin, he would learn, it counts as a prayer.
`To whom?' he would ask. Moreover there would be a number of flagstaffs in the
land carrying beautiful flags, silk flags which bore the perplexing inscription, `Om
Mani padme hum,' `the jewel in the lotus.' Whenever the flag flaps he would learn, it
was a prayer also, very beneficial to the gentleman who paid for the flag and to the
land generally. Gangs of workmen, employed by pious persons, would be going
about the country cutting this precious formula on cliff and stone. And this, he would
realize at last, was what the world had made of his religion! Beneath this gaudy glitter
was buried the Aryan Way to serenity of soul."
In Buddhism today--which with about 140 million adherents has the fifth largest
following of any religion, although the total who believe in Animism is about the
same number--there are about as many sects as there are in Christianity. One of the
early divisions was the breaking away from the old faith about 200 BC of the School
of the Great Vehicle. This school adopted the idea that Buddha was a superhuman,
and promulgated the doctrine of avatars, and taught that Buddha's mother was a
virgin--as a few hundred years later it was taught that the mother of Jesus was a
virgin--that his birth was accompanied by flowers falling from heaven, and that at
his death the earth quaked--as a few hundred years later it was believed that there
were earthquakes when Jesus was crucified.
The Church of the Little Vehicle and the Church of the Great Vehicle are somewhat
analogous to the Greek Church and the Roman Church of Catholic Christianity. The
primitive church had three articles of faith that its members confessed: "I believe in
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Buddha as a sure guide; in the law of Buddha (Dharma); and in the Church
(Sangha)."
About 200 BC Buddhism found it way to China, and eventually through Korea to
Japan. We find in China alternating periods in which Buddhism flourished, and then,
due to new political regimes, was suppressed by persecutions. It influenced Taoism,
as for instance when in the fourth century it adopted the doctrine of future
punishment. But even to a greater extent Taoism and Confucianism influenced
Buddhism as found in China.
As early as 583 AD an image of Buddha was sent to Japan from Korea, and in 593 AD
Prince Shotoku Taishi learned from a Korean priest the Buddhist moral code; not to
lie, not to steal, not to get drunk, not to commit adultery, and not to kill. This prince,
who was virtually the ruler of the country, used all his power in behalf of Buddhism
He built 46 Buddhist temples, erected many Buddhist images, and housed 1,385
Buddhist monks and nuns.
The Buddhist priests taught the barbaric Japanese that the Sun-deity that they
worshiped was none other than the Buddha who was worshiped under the name of
the Sun of Righteousness. The Japanese before this had largely been converted by the
Koreans to ancestor worship, but the Buddhists discouraged this. They encouraged
cremation instead of burial, advised that sacrifices be confined to vegetables rather
than embrace slaughtered animals, identified the various Buddhistic gods with those
of Shintoism, taught their moral code, introduced their figures, saints and
incarnations. They effectively took over and transmuted the Shintoism and the
Taoism and the Confucianism that had by this time permeated it, so that it all came to
conform with the Buddhist doctrine. Thus from 673 to 686 Emperor Temmu made
the Buddhist ceremony obligatory in every home and strictly prohibited the eating of
meat.
Space does not permit going into the details of the belief of each Buddhist sect. Some
of these sects have much in common with Christianity. Among most of them there
has been much tolerance of the gods of their neighbors. And in may instances the
gods
and customs of their neighbors have been incorporated into Buddhism.
The Weakness of Buddhism
--From the viewpoint of The Religion of the Stars the basic premise of Buddhism
and some other Oriental doctrines-- that life is not worth while and should be
escaped as early as possible, or that it is chiefly grief to be avoided--is erroneous.
The urge behind life is to attain significance, more and more significance, through
developing more and more ability, and thus instead of seeking either oblivion or
some static condition in which effort is no longer necessary, the individual should
seek to co-operate with other constructive intelligences in building a worthwhile
civilization, and a worthwhile universe in which to live and function as a
Self-Conscious Immortal soul.
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As explained in Course XIX, to develop the qualities necessary to become a
cooperative and valuable workman in the realization of God's Evolutionary Plan, the
soul must undergo experiences. Only through learning to overcome difficulties can it
acquire ability. Only through experience can consciousness be widened. And
self-conscious immortality is possible only as the fruition of some such struggle with
environment as that which man undergoes in physical life. Human life, therefore,
instead of being a curse, as Orientals frequently imagine, is the doorway to better
things, is, in fact, the one known doorway through which man attains the highest
imaginable good.
Furthermore, now that the very initiative and enterprise that so systematically have
been suppressed in India have improved living conditions in the West, the majority
of Western people, I believe, enjoy living. That is, they glory in the struggle to
accomplish something; and the pleasure of living more than compensates for its
hardships. And the more people view life as a glorious opportunity, as something to
be thankful for, and as something to make the best of, the happier they become, and
the more they accomplish.
If we hate and despise the work we do, in this case life itself not only does the work
cause us grief, but by our discordant attitude we build inharmonies into our
thought-cells that cause them to use their psychokinetic power to bring misfortune
into our lives. Furthermore, as explained in Course V, Chapter 04, all action and
accomplishment is due to the release of energy which while under tension is called
desire. If we kill out desire, we kill out all power of accomplishment. Instead of
killing out desire, we should recondition it so that it will give us the power to get what
we want. And we should want, as all life does, greater satisfaction for the drive for
significance, the drive for nutrition and the drive for reproduction. Instead of
relinquishing life and effort, we should strive to realize these three drives not only on
earth, but progressively after life on earth is done by assisting in the work of
evolution, assisting in it by CONTRIBUTING OUR UTMOST TO UNIVERSAL
WELFARE.
The Means Orthodoxy Has
Employed to Enslave the People of
the East
--As far back as there are records certain individuals have sought power and special
privileges through being the interpreters of the will of Deity. In the West the priestly
group cunningly created an imaginary heaven and an imaginary hell, and formulated
other beliefs and usages to their own advantage. They made people believe that
anyone who used faces and reason to reach conclusions about religious matters
would be tortured, not for just a brief period, but everlastingly in hell. But those who
confessed to the beliefs held by the priesthood would forever be happy in the
imaginary heaven the priests had created.
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Thus in the West the people were kept behind an iron curtain of ignorance relative to
all inner-plane matters (see Course XII-1, Chapter 01), and held by orthodoxy in complete
mental slavery.
More is said about this in Chapter 06, but it is brought to attention here to show
both the contrast and the similarity between the methods used by the priests of the
East and the priests of the West to attain the same end; the end of retaining authority
and material advantages not possessed by most. In the West much freedom of action
is permitted; but there is slavery of thought. In the East, on the other hand, there is the
utmost freedom of thought, but iron-clad slavery of action.
The soul in its Cycle of Necessity, through the experiences it acquires in one form, is
able after the death of this body psychokinetically to attach itself to the fertilized seed
of another and more complex form and live in it during its life. But the steps, as
explained in Course 19, Organic Alchemy, are always progressive, always toward
forms higher in the scale of evolution. And when the form of man is reached, the
universe in miniature, the soul's evolution requires that it shall not return to occupy
any other life-form on earth, but shall continue its development and progress in the
high-velocity inner-plane regions.
This evolution of the soul through progressive forms was recognized by the initiates
of each of the ancient centers of civilization. And the conception was brought to India
by the early Aryan invaders, and may have been in India before they came. But to
keep their position secure, they gave it an inversive twist. To keep the people servile
they remodeled it into the doctrine of karma and human reincarnation.
The Brahman caste not only retained the position of highest social importance and
influence, but it held to itself the prerogative of teaching others precisely how they
must behave, and the prerogative of performing the rituals. But it did not attempt to
stifle thought. Nowhere has there been greater liberty in thinking than in India. It has
been the general custom there to permit people to think as they please, so long as they
do not depart in the slightest degree from the actions which eons ago were established
by the Brahmans, the priestly caste.
Mentally, the individual is free. But in his actions he is bound as in a vice, and hedged
around by a multitude of useless observances. Should he neglect any one of these he
loses caste, which is not merely a forfeiture of previous associations, but may mean
starvation.
To enforce the rules they had made, and to maintain themselves in opulence and
power, the old-time Aryan priests taught the transmigration of the soul. They taught
the people that being born into the highly favored Brahman caste was the reward of
good karma. These priests had been born into the favored position as a just reward for
living exceptionally holy lives in lower castes. Those undergoing the hardships and
suffering common to low castes, if they endured their lot with fortitude, and lived
holy lives, might look forward, not to heaven, as in western lands, but in time to being
born Brahmans. But if they transgressed the moral precepts laid down by the priests,
they might look forward to being born in the next life as some loathsome animal.
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However, the priests, the Brahman caste, were not strict and specific that the next
birth of the evil doer would be in some creature lower than man. All they insisted on
was that the person who made good karma would have a better time in the next life,
and the one who mad bad karma would suffer in the next life. And to make good
karma the individual could think as he pleased, but he must behave according to the
orthodox precepts laid down by the Brahmans.
As the Brahmans permitted freedom of belief, one after another they tended to absorb
all the multitude of sects that developed in India. The moral code of Hinduism is that
the evil received in this life is due to evil done others in a past life. Therefore, it
behooves one to act kindly and justly--provided rules of action laid down by the
Brahmans are not overstepped in such benevolent conduct--in this life, making
good karma, that one may be born to a happier lot in the next physical incarnation.
While some of the higher philosophies of India teach that deliverance may be
attained through a mystical union with Brahma (deity), that is, through attaining
divine consciousness, and some teach that the wheel of rebirth may be escaped and
nirvana attained by one who continues to live one holy life after another, and others
teach various exalted ideas, the Brahmans are content with any philosophy that
embraces karma and human reincarnation; for mostly transmigration into the bodies
of animals has now been replaced by the doctrine of repeated births in human form.
And the Brahmans, retaining as much as possible the privilege of being the teacher
caste, see to it that each and every philosophy embraces this orthodox tenet.
As the orthodoxies of the West hold their followers in slavery by fear of hell and the
promise of heaven, so the orthodoxies of the East hold their followers in slavery by
fear of being born in future lives to greater suffering, and by the promise of being
born to opulence and happiness in lives yet to come. The only real difference in the
cunning and deceptive psychology used, is that in the West the punishment
threatened or the reward promised is to be on the inner plane, while in the East the
punishment threatened or the reward promised is to be realized on earth.