Page images
PDF
EPUB

this means, again, that another kind of grasping, chemical action, now lays irresistible claim to this matter. Now let the metallic calcium thus produced be combined with an acid: a salt is produced; crystals shoot out; they are the phenomena of another kind of grasping, again quite inscrutable in itself, whereas the taking place of this phenomenon is dependent on conditions which aetiology is able to state. The crystals weather away and mingle with other substances, and a vegetation arises out of them: a new kind of grasping— and thus we might track the same persistent matter into the infinite... how now this, now that, species of grasping gains the right to it, and inevitably seizes it in order to show itself."

To be sure, the Buddha does not expressly teach that all Becoming in the vegetable kingdom and in the domain of inorganic matter also is conditioned by grasping; but not because this is wrong, but because here as everywhere with unequalled logical consequence he holds to his principle of dealing with nothing which does not serve to establish a truly holy life, but is only of use to satisfy our mere lust for knowledge. But Becoming in the vegetable kingdom and in the domain of the inorganic does not here concern us any further, at least as regards the original direction of our enquiries, since it can never become of practical consequence to us, inasmuch as we can never slip back again into these domains. If upon this account the Buddha does not expressly speak about the causes of Becoming in these realms, nevertheless, as we shall see later on, he assumes as selfevident that there also this cause always consists in some kind of grasping.

In the passage quoted above we also find a classification of the possible kinds of grasping, in so far as it may relate to sensual pleasure, to views, to ritual observances and to thoughts about the I. This classification also at first seems

somewhat strange to us, as we should prefer to see this grasping classified according to the external objects to which it relates. But here again also we are influenced by our wonted objective standpoint which always wants, off-hand, to take the external world as its measure. But if we bear in mind the subjective standpoint of the Buddha, namely, that our inscrutable essence as something alien is opposed to the world which we only grasp, then it will become clear that this grasping ultimately has to do with sensual enjoyments, then with the views arising within us in regard to the world and our relation to it, then with the religious ceremonies through which we think we must effect our deliverance, as for example the worship of a personal god, but in particular, with the false idea that our essence is a positive quantity belonging to this world. Nevertheless, this classification is not the fundamental one. There appears another one, intelligible without further ado also to us, and known to us before. Its direct theme are the elements constituting our personality, within which, because in the latter we experience the whole world, all our grasping is summed up, to wit, body, sensation, perception, activities of the mind and consciousness, which, as the totality of everything which we can grasp, the Buddha calls the five groups of grasping, pañcupādānakkhandḥā. The process of birth consists just in the working out, that is, in the Becoming of these five groups with the corporeal organism as their basis, which, accordingly, have the principal grasping as their antecedent condition. But before we look closer at this kind of grasping, it will be best first to make ourselves acquainted with the immediate condition of all grasping.

For grasping also is causally conditioned. Indeed, the essence of all aetiology, as we have seen above, consists in calling attention to those conditions under which grasping exists, and the nature and manner of its expression. Cer

tainly, as we already know, aetiology, correspondent with its objective standpoint, is satisfied with the discovery of these external conditions, whereas from the Buddha we may again expect the inner reason, which he actually gives as follows: "If, Ananda, the question were put: 'Is grasping dependent on anything?' then reply should be made: 'Yes, it is dependent.' And if it were asked: 'On what is grasping dependent?' then reply should be made: 'In dependence upon thirst arises grasping.""

What this means, the Buddha himself explains to us: "I have said: 'In dependence upon thirst arises grasping.' And this, Ānanda, that in dependence upon thirst arises grasping, must be understood in the following sense. Suppose, Ananda, that nowhere and nowise any thirst of any being for anything existed, that is to say, no thirst for forms, no thirst for sounds, no thirst for odours, no thirst for tastes, no thirst for objects of touch, no thirst for ideas,—if thirst thus were entirely wanting, if thirst were completely annihilated, would then any kind of grasping be perceived?" "Certainly not, Lord."

"Here then, Ananda, is the cause, origin, arising, dependence of grasping, namely, thirst."

According to this, by thirst, tanhã, is to be understood every kind of desire or craving for anything whatever within the world, which, as we already know, is summed up in the objects of the six senses, from the slightest desire that arises within us to the most deeply rooted, apparently ineradicable passion. It is only the expression thirst which here is unfamiliar to us. Later on, we shall return to it, especially in its relation to the will. Here it is enough to say that it comprises within itself conscious as well as unconscious volition.

As soon as this thirst, this desire for some sensual object, arises within us, the natural, necessary consequence is, that a grasping also arises within us. To illustrate this, we need

only go back to our examples given above. What was the cause of my grasping of the representation of the girl I met on the street, of my attachment to her with the result that this grasping itself in turn determined the Becoming that followed upon it, and therewith my whole life's fate? Unquestionably, the desire that arose in me to possess the girl. If this desire, this thirst had not arisen in me, then I should not have grasped, in mind, her form; I should not have become attached to it; and in turn all the effects of this grasping itself would have remained absent. And what is the cause of a man overcoming with iron energy every obstacle opposing itself to his plan to become a merchant, an official, an officer, an artist? What is the cause of his grasping with such force at these plans and ideas? Certainly his intense desire, his ardent thirst, his inflexible will to win this life-position. If he had no such desire, no such interest, which again, in itself, is nothing but a mode of thirst, then he would not grasp such thoughts and still less the means of their realization, and thereby nothing of all this would become. If I have no desire for food, no thirst for drinks that might make me ill, then I do not grasp them, I do not take them, and precisely thereby avoid becoming ill. And if, finally, I have not the least desire for my body and thereby no sort of wish to maintain it any longer, if, besides this, I am free from all desire to satisfy the hunger and thirst which announce their presence; in short, if I am entirely without any desire of any kind, then I grasp nothing and can behold with equanimity how this my body, through want of necessary food, declines and decays, until at last, together with the organs of sense, it entirely perishes. Thereby in immediate ocular evidence, I can confirm in myself how for me all Becoming little by little comes to rest. All this is so clear that it needs no further proof; nay, at bottom, is even incapable of such a thing. That all

grasping, all attachment, and thereby all Becoming is conditioned by thirst, by willing, is without further words, self-evident in itself to everyone who only once has understood the statement. It only remains to test it by practically trying on ourselves how, by the gradual killing out of the will, Becoming becomes ever less and less. And this dictum holds good not only for ourselves and those phenomena that are similar to us, the animals, but "continued reflection will lead men to recognize also the force-or to speak in the language of the Buddha, the grasping-that impels and vegetates within the plant, yea, even the force by which the crystal shoots forth, by which the magnet turns towards the north pole, the influence which strikes it from the contact of heterogeneous metals, that which appears in the elective affinities of substances as repulsion and attraction, separating and uniting, lastly, even gravity, which strives so powerfully within all matter, pulling the stone to the earth, and earth towards the sun," 49-to recognize all these kinds of grasping as conditioned by that cause which, there where it appears most clearly and unmistakably, in man, is called tanhã, thirst, will. "No body is without craving and desire" says Schopenhauer in the spirit of Jacob Boehme as he expresses himself, and as we may venture to add, after what we have seen, not less in the spirit of the Buddha. To come back once more to our simile of the fire. We have seen that the mysterious force that appears as fire, if a match is rubbed against a corresponding frictional surface, lies in wait, so to say, for these conditions of its becoming visible, ever ready, regardless of any restrictions of time or space, to lay hold of them with violence. Who will not recognize in this ever watching and waiting desire to grasp adequate conditions and thus to arrive at Becoming-as fire-the same tanhã, thirst, notwithstanding the gradually increasing distance of this kind of existence from our own?

« PreviousContinue »