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relation to this old age and this death, therefore, nothing remained but a calm, indifferent submission to these inevitable consequences of an already given cause, as expressed in the words: "With patience I wear out my body." 143 On the other hand there appeared the possibility of protecting ourselves in our inscrutable essence against a repetition of these processes in future time, that is, in a new existence, if only we succeeded in hindering every new birth, that is to say, the formation of any future new corporeal organism. The Buddha thus found himself here confronted by the new and unheard-of problem of finding out the secret in consequence of which, through the act of conception in a maternal womb, ever and again a new body endowed with senses is formed, with the result that in the same act consciousness comes down into it. Only if the solution of this problem could be effected, only then would it be at all possible to determine if the conditions of this act—birth, in the sense used by the Buddha-were such as it might be in our power to set up or to omit. The Buddha solved this problem also, and therewith, at the same time discovered the share that we ourselves have in our conception, so that every one is in a position to determine whether he shall be reborn or not. It is precisely this power of making a future rebirth impossible, together with the unshakeable certainty of having succeeded in doing so, which is the criterion of deliverance acquired and thereby of holiness gained. For he only has for ever escaped the circle of rebirth, thereby definitively passed beyond suffering, and thus become wholly delivered and perfectly sanctified, who can say of himself: "Rebirth is exhausted, lived out the holy life, done what was to do; no more is this world for me." 144 Or, as it is said in another passage: "Unshakeable is my deliverance, this is the last birth, there is no more becoming anew."145
Thereby the only moment when it is possible to depart
out of Samsara for ever, is fixed as the same wherein a new birth takes place, namely, at the moment of death that is immediately followed by the new birth: "If one should die at this moment, he would be reborn as quickly as one throws off a load," is often said in the Canon.
THE CONDITIONS OF REBIRTH
t has already been said above, that the solution of the riddle as to how we come to be reborn again and again, shows itself to be astonishingly simple, as simple as only truth can be. Now we have reached the point of verifying that statement.
In the first place, of course, nobody can say from immediate ocular evidence how the event of his own birth takes place, though everyone has gone through it countless times. For the act of conception which led to his present birth took place, in the case of every being, in a night of the deepest unconsciousness, or, to speak in the spirit of the Buddha, in the deepest ignorance. But the idea might well occur to us of deriving the knowledge which the Buddha ascribes to himself on this point, from the second of the three great knowledges he had acquired, that is, from the faculty of cognizing "by means of the heavenly eye, the purified and supernatural, how creatures vanish and reappear." If the Buddha had really in this way arrived at establishing the conditions under which our rebirth takes place, this would be very unfortunate for us. For we, to whom this faculty of the heavenly eye is entirely wanting, would be limited to mere belief in his dictum, and thereby one of the strongest pillars of the colossal structure of his teaching, founded upon the possibility of our own immediate insight, would prove itself to be rotten. Nevertheless, this fear is unfounded,
and for a very simple reason. By means of the faculty of the heavenly eye the Buddha could only register the mere fact that the beings-in our sensual world, within a maternal womb-always appear anew; but not the cause of this fact, which is not at all accessible to immediate ocular evidThis cause he therefore had to find out in another way. And this way was as follows:
The Buddha sought to comprehend the process of becoming born as the integral part of another, more universal process, in such wise that if he discovered the conditions of the latter, then those of the former at once became clear of themselves. And this more universal process he found to be Becoming (bhava). Becoming is the most universal, nay, at bottom, the only process within the world. There is no real being in the sense of something persisting in any way, but everything is in a state of constant flow, developing from smallest beginnings, to dissolve again soon afterwards; everything is nothing but Becoming. In this manner also everything living becomes in every possible world, namely, in the world of desires, in the world of forms and in the formless world.* Thereby this Becoming, the Becoming of a new body endowed with senses, of a new corporeal organism,** happens always and exclusively in the way of being brought about by "conception, germination, becoming born." But according to this, the process described under these latter conceptions is only Becoming in its beginning itself. Therefore it is clear without further
* "These three (kinds of) Becoming exist, ye monks: Becoming in the world of desires, Becoming in the world of forms, Becoming in the formless world." 146 — By "world of forms" those heavenly realms are understood wherein objectification is reached in corporeal forms, but free from sensual desire; the "formless world" comprises the realms of infinite space, of unlimited consciousness, of Nothingness and of Neither Perception nor Non-perception. We will discuss these later on.
** The expression "bhava," Becoming, is used exclusively in this sense in the Dialogues when in relation to the Pațiccasamuppada.
words that the latter conditions of birth in the sense given above, that is, becoming conceived and born, coincide with those of Becoming in general. If I give the conditions for the conception of a being, I thereby give the condition for its Becoming; and if I annihilate the conditions of all Becoming, I thereby also annihilate those of any birth. Therefore it is only a self-evident axiom when the Buddha says: "If, Ananda, the question were put: 'Is birth dependent on something?' then it ought to be replied: "Yes, it is dependent.' And if it is asked: 'On what depends birth?' then it ought to be replied: 'In dependence on Becoming arises birth." "147 That the Buddha in this saying really only means to express what has been expounded above, follows with all the exactness one could desire from the explanation he himself gives of it:
"I have said: 'In dependence on Becoming arises birth.' And this, Ananda, that birth arises in dependence on Becoming, must be understood in the following sense: Suppose, Ananda, that there was no Becoming at all of anything and in any sense, which means, no Becoming in the world of desires, no Becoming in the world of corporeality, no Becoming in the world of non-corporeality, if Becoming thus were entirely wanting, if Becoming were annihilated, could then birth be perceived anywhere?"
"Certainly not, O Lord."
"Here, then, Ananda, is the cause, origin, arising, dependence of birth, namely, Becoming.'
Thus for the Buddha the problem of birth led over to that of Becoming in general, inasmuch as now for him the question to be answered was: What is the sufficient cause of this unresting, unceasing Becoming in which we find ourselves involved? Again through deep meditation he obtained the answer that will, without trouble, solve the question, also for us.
I am walking on the street. A girl's form appears before me. I grasp it, in mind. As a consequence of this, I fall to considering how I can approach her. Plans are made. They are externally realized. I declare my love, and marriage ensues. Children are begotten; in short, the whole chain of happy and unhappy events, such as only family life can bring about, runs its course. All this is conditioned and effected through the sole circumstance that years ago I grasped in mind that girl's form on the street. It was this Grasping which then arose within me that effected all this Becoming, reaching through many years. If it had not arisen within me, if I had remained indifferent at the first sight of that female form, she also, like thousands of others, would have disappeared unnoticed from my field of sight, even as she had entered it, perhaps never again to cross my way of life, which, perhaps, thereby might have taken a diametrically opposite course. A young man who has to choose his life's profession grasps the thought arising within him, of becoming a merchant, an official, an officer, or an artist. "This thought he cherishes and cultivates, and cleaves to." The consequence is that the thought is translated into deed; Becoming sets in and remains in action until the young man has actually become a merchant, an official, an officer or an artist. In consequence of this Grasping he has become that which he grasped. If no such grasping had stirred within him, he would not have become anything of all this. We grasp some kind of food, with the effect that we eat of it and become ill; we grasp, in mind, the thought that a certain medicine may help us, in consequence of which we partake of it and become cured. We grasp a certain thing which somebody takes away from us, in consequence of which we become angry; we grasp a merry sight, and in consequence become glad. In short: As soon as some kind of grasping rises within us, Becoming begins; not merely becoming ill,