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But thereby tanhã, thirst, will, is shown to be the ultimate ground of all being, or-to speak in the enlightened mode of the Buddha who acknowledges in this world no Being but only an eternal Becoming,*-of all Becoming: "Where is craving of will, there is grasping.' "In dependence upon grasping arises Becoming." 15
Our expositions thus far yield us this result: Our birth, as a part, that is, as the first stage of Becoming, in common with this latter, has the same fundamental cause, grasping. But all grasping is rooted in thirst, in willing. Thus the search for the cause of our ever repeated rebirth led the Buddha to the discovery of the fundamental cause of all Becoming, that is, in the language of ordinary speech, of all being. On the other side, however, precisely through this, the process that brings about our ever repeated rebirth is flooded with brightest light. How it presents itself in this light will now be the subject of our discourse.
THE PROCESS OF REBIRTH
THE LAW OF KARMA
ur true essence lies beyond our personality and its components, even beyond the world. But we do not allow ourselves to be satisfied with it. We have a longing, a thirst for something else, entirely alien to our innermost essence, namely, for the world, a world of forms, of sounds,
*Here again one has to complain of the inexactness of many translations from the Canon, which, instead of leading us to the height of insight attained by the Buddha, from which no Being is to be found in the world but only Becoming, and of purifying thus our own shallow views, do exactly the reverse. Contrary to the language of the original text, they force the clear insight of the Buddha into modes of expression current among ourselves, and thus degrade and obscure it, when they translate bhava, Becoming, always by Being or Existence.
of odours, of sapids and of things tangible. And because we long and thirst for it, we always eagerly seize any opportunity of coming into contact with it. But this is not directly possible. To bring about a contact with form, an eye is needed; for contact with sounds, an ear; for contact with odours, with sapids, with things tangible, a nose, a tongue, a body are necessary; but a brain is always needed as a central organ. In short: to obtain the contact with the world which we so eagerly strive for, we need the corporeal organism, the "body endowed with six senses," as the six senses-machine. And so great is our thirst for the world of forms, of sounds, of odours, of sapids and of things tangible, that we imagine this thirst to be the immediate manifestation of our own essence, and therefore "the corporeal organism together with consciousness" the present appearance of this our essence, which objectifies itself therein. Hence also our unexampled clinging to this organism so long as we possess it, and our boundless thirst for a new one the moment we lose it, thus at the moment of death, a thirst which then actually leads to the formation of a new organism of the same kind, of a new six senses-machine. The process of this formation, as given in the teaching of the Buddha, is as follows:
We now know that every kind of Becoming presupposes two things: first, that conditions are set up for its taking place, and secondly, that these conditions are attached to, that they are grasped. Let us bear in mind the simile of the fire. The rubbing of the match on the frictional surface constitutes the condition at which grasping occurs. Or, since this grasping, this attachment, follows out of apparent nothingness, so that is impossible to define it more closely in any way, more especially not as the action of a subject, we may still better and more briefly express it thus: The match in consequence of friction becomes the object of grasping.
From these two factors there results this new Becoming also which sets in with conception, or, keeping to the language of the Buddha, with birth. The two parents, by uniting in copulation the male sperm with the female ovum-a process analogous to the rubbing of the match on its frictional surface in the production of fire-provide the condition, or, what is the same thing, the object of grasping, in consequence of which the object grasped, that is, the ovum thus fertilized, becomes an embryo, and the Becoming of a new corporeal organism sets in. But this grasping was that which the thirst of a dying creature, unallayed notwithstanding all sickness and death agony, had produced for a new six senses-machine, as for the only possibility of remaining in contact with, and enjoying the world of forms, sounds, odours, sapids and tangibles. To speak concretely: Let us imagine ourselves beside the sick-bed of some man, for example, a mighty prince, who is about to meet with what we call death. This means, that he is forced to give up the foreign elements he retained till now in his body endowed with six senses which alone made him visible for others; and who, on that very account once more as so often before in the course of time, has again to experience the sensation of dying. The thirst for the world is not yet dead within him; but where is thirst, there is grasping. This grasping shows itself as long as life has not fled from the body, in this present body itself. But in the same moment when the body, after the faculty of life has vanished, ceases to be an object that may be used for this grasping-only a body possessed of life sufficing for the satisfaction of the thirst for life-the former body is abandoned and a new life-informed germ is laid hold of, and grasping made at it. And this germ is the same that has just been generated in a strange bed by a man and woman, perhaps by a couple of rough working people, in voluptous paroxysm, by uniting
their sperm and ovum. And consciousness descends upon the germ thus seized upon in a maternal womb: the germ develops into an embryo, the fruit is born-and that once powerful prince finds himself in the light of this consciousness back again as a child of these working people, though without remembrance of his former existence. In consequence he is only insufficiently nourished, badly treated, often heartlessly maltreated, and in later years forced by his father to beg, in order to provide him the means of satisfying his craving for drink. The former prince has become a miserable beggar. But this is not yet the worst. In another man at the moment of death, grasping at a new germ, conditioned through thirst for new Becoming or existence, is realized in some animal body or it may be even in some hell-world, the deceased man finding himself back as a beast or even as a devil. On the other hand, it may happen that when the present body is abandoned, grasping may take place in a world of light, a heaven, so that he in whom this process of dying has run its course, sees himself changed to "a god or a divine being."
With this the question as to the "causal connection between my former death and the fruitfulness of an alien marriagebed" is solved, the bridge between the fresh existence of a new-born creature and that of a perished one is shown: "Where, monks, three are found in combination, there is a seed of life planted. Thus, if a father and mother come together, but it is not the mother's period and the being to be born is not present, then no seed of life is planted. Or, if father and mother come together, and it is the mother's period, but the being to be born is not present, then again no seed of life is planted. But when, monks, a father and mother come together, and it is the mother's period and the being to be born is also present, then by the combined agency of these three, a seed of life is planted." 152 Since
the Buddha teaches re-birth, any one can see at once that "the being to be born" must depart from somewhere.
Thus death and conception reveal themselves as two sides of the one same process: Every conception is only possible through the simultaneous death of another creature in one or another realm of Samsara. What disappears here, reappears there. To the paroxysms of lust in the moment of coition thus stand opposed the pangs of death of the creature just conceived.
In this whole matter we must, of course, proceed from this, that, for a dying creature's thirst for existence leading to new grasping of a new germ, the laws of space and of time at that moment do not exist. All the germs in the world are therefore equally near to it. For thirst at this moment is without any substratum, since its former body, upon which it had concentrated itself, has been snatched from it.* It is in just the same condition as that other kind of thirst which we see manifesting itself as fire. As we know, it lies in wait in ghostly omnipresence for the conditions of its entry and seizes upon them with eagerness, no matter whether they are given here upon our own earth or upon Sirius.**
If the problem of rebirth is thus solved in the simplest imaginable manner, none the less this solution is not yet an exhaustive one. For the question-of such an immense
* At this moment, free from its former restrictions, it flames up out of the "Nothing," that is, out of our innermost essence, which is as boundless as the universe, as we shall see in the last chapter.
** In the "Milindapañha" this idea is expressed as follows:
"The king said: 'Master Nagasena, if somebody dies here and is reborn in the world of Brahma, and another one who dies here is reborn in Kashmir, which of them would arrive first?'
'They would arrive at the same time, O King.'
'Give me a simile.'
'In which town were you born, O King?'