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thought for which no substantial equivalent can be found. All this we may do. In fact, I may prove whatever I like: the reality of myself is not in the least affected thereby, and I will pass over all these proofs with a smile, even if I acknowledge their validity. For I cannot argue away my own existence even with the help of the deepest-going analysis; and if somebody should try to prove to me that I am really nothing, then I should answer, if I thought it worth while to answer at all: "But, my good friend, if I do not exist, why do you trouble yourself at all to prove to me that I don't? In all your arguments you always presuppose me as the person to whom you address them, in the same way that you presuppose yourself in setting them forth. For how could you undertake to prove that we do not exist, if you had not existed in advance to give this proof?" Indeed, it is really ridiculous to raise the question at all as to whether I am. Everybody feels at once, without further words, that such questions as "Am I?" or "Am I not?" do not in truth cast any doubt upon the actuality of my self, but only seek to express that perhaps I may not be what I think myself to be, that even the predicate "am" may not be applicable to my essence. But in this case an unprejudiced man will only give this answer: "Very well! Then I am not what up to now I thought myself to be. Perhaps I am something that neither you nor any other man is able to find out, but in spite of all, I am; in this case, I am something inscrutable."
All this is so clear that, as said above, it cannot be proved, but only made clear by words. It is so clear that the contrary, namely, that I am not, in any sense at all, may be "tongued" but cannot be "brained," it can be said in words, but it cannot be thought. Therefore the fact of his reality is self-evident for every man, self-evident for the unprejudiced normal man as well as for the greatest geniuses, self-evident
especially for our great philosophers, for all great founders of religions and, of course, for the Buddha too.
For them it is the fundamental fact which they do not even discuss, and for the greatest of them the "Ego" is the first cause of things:
"What is the first cause, what is Brahman-(here a general name for "principle")-? Whence are we? Through what do we exist, and upon founded?
what are we
Governed by whom, ye wise ones, do we move
Of these be thought of as the primal cause?
Thus says the Cvetaçvatara-Upanishad, expressing thereby the belief that all the principles enumerated here cannot be thought as existing for themselves alone, but only as determinants of the Ego-Atman-which, therefore, when everything is taken into account, is the first cause.
If, however, proof is required for this fundamental fact, that I am, then the Buddha provides such proof, and, in accordance with the self-evident nature of the fact to be proved, it is the most striking that could possibly be given: "You are, because you suffer,"- a statement the truth of which is experienced immediately every moment we live. But why at this point is this self-evident fact, that I am, thus urged? Simply because self-evident facts are precisely those that are only too easily overlooked, and on that account, curiously enough, ourselves also. Later on, shall have occasion to find this amply confirmed.
Because our I is thus the fundamental fact with which every one is confronted, the fundamental question of all philosophy is not, as is generally assumed: "What is the
world?" but "What am I?"* To deal with this fundamental question the Buddha also was led. For precisely because man is a being exposed to suffering, for him who had set before himself the goal of bringing this suffering to an end, the question arose: "What am I?" If he wished to find a successful issue to his great task, he necessarily had to get clear ideas as to this question, at least in so far as he could state this with certainty: "Is the necessity of suffering grounded in our own essence, suffering thus being merely an emanation of the same? Or is it something that reaches us only as an alien element?" Only in the latter case is there a possibility of freeing ourselves from it; whilst in the former case, every effort to escape it must be in vain from the very outset. For from my own essence, which just means, from myself, I can as little flee as the hand can throw itself away. No one can jump out of his own skin: "What thinkest thou, Aggivessana: Whoso clings to suffering, gives himself to suffering, holds by suffering with the view: 'This is mine, this am I, this is myself' can such an one comprehend suffering or keep clear of suffering?"-"How might that be? That he cannot, honoured Gotama!" 9
Thus also the Buddha, precisely through his problem of the annihilation of suffering, found himself confronted by the great question: What is the proper essence of man? Or, what amounts to the same thing: What is his true I? Indeed, according to him, the importance of this question is so great that he has placed the answer to it in the very heart of his doctrine, as also is evident from the answer he gave to thirty Brahmin youths who asked him as to the whereabouts of a runaway woman: "Which is of greater
* This incorrect formulation of the cardinal problem is largely responsible for the sterility of Western philosophy, since, in defining the problem as a question of what the world is, it is assumed as self-evident that I myself belong to this world. But precisely thus the possibility of understanding myself as extra-mundane is shut off from the very outset.
importance, O youths, to search for this woman or to search for your I?" 92
This question as to our true essence may be approached from two sides: We may try to answer it directly or indirectly, namely, by determining what I am not, at all events. Which way is the better, cannot be decided beforehand. Nevertheless, without further words this much is clear, that the indirect way is certainly the safer one. What I am not, can be determined with certainty, at all events; but a positive answer to the question as to what I am, may easily raise doubts as to whether I actually am that wherein the answer asserts my essence to consist, as is amply proved
by our divers philosophical systems. Therefore it must, from the outset, inspire us with confidence in the Buddha that he prefers the safer indirect way. For the characteristic mark of his doctrine consists in pointing out to us, step by step, so that we can safely and comfortably follow him, what in any case, we are not, the Buddha summing up the result each time in the great formula: "This belongs not to me; This am I not; This is not myself." To this path he was already led by the manner in which he put his problem as to whether the elements of suffering form a constituent part of the essence of a human being.
Besides, this indirect method of solving the problem is also the natural one. For the contrast between I and not-I dominates the whole world and every individual being. It is merely a matter of drawing the boundary-line between I and not-I correctly, and making the cut which divides them, in the proper place. The Buddha has drawn this dividing line between atta and anattā, between I and not-I, with great exactness. He invites all to examine if he has determined the boundary in the right manner. accept his invitation.
First, of course, we must discuss the criterion according
to which the Buddha distinguishes between attā and anattā. It is clear that this criterion, in correspondence with the tremendous importance of the question that by its help is to be answered, must be put beyond all doubt, so beyond all doubt that we may be able resolutely to stake our whole destiny upon the consequences resulting from it. The Buddha, of course, does not leave us in the dark as to this criterion. It may be gathered from nearly all his discourses, and is expressly formulated in the 148 th Discourse of the Majjhima Nikaya in the following words: "The eye is the ľ, such a statement is inadmissible. We perceive the originating and perishing of the eye. But if originating and perishing are perceived, the result would follow: My I is originating and perishing. Therefore it is inadmissible to assert the eye to be the I. Consequently the eye is not the I." Accordingly the Buddha makes the following formula, the criterion for determining the boundary between I and not-I: What we perceive originating and perishing, that cannot be assumed to be my Self, cannot be my I. This formula must become quite clear to us, in order that we may be able, despite its extraordinary simplicity, to penetrate it in all its depth and inner obviousness. Note especially that the Buddha does not say: What originates and perishes, is not my I, not my Self. This sentence might be disputed; as it might not be clear at once, why not even something transient might not constitute my essence. But the Buddha says: "What I perceive originating and perishing, that cannot be my I, my Ego;" and this statement will certainly not be doubted by any thinking creature. For what I perceive to originate and to perish must, with logical consequence, be something different from me. If a thing passes before my physical eye, then it is irrefutably certain that it cannot be identical with my eye; and if with my ear I hear a sound begin and die away, not even a fool would assert that it was his ear