Page images

existence in a pain-full world, he is touched by pain-full things. But while touched by pain-full things, he experiences pain-full sensations and extremest woe, like the beings in hell. This, ye monks, is called bad action, which bears bad fruits.

"But what, ye monks, is good action, which bears good fruits? There, ye monks, a certain man practises pain-free action in deeds, in words and in thoughts. Practising painfree action in deeds, in words and in thoughts, he comes back to existence in a pain-free world. Having come back to existence in a pain-free world, he is touched by painfree things. But while touched by pain-free things, he experiences pain-free sensations and highest bliss, like the brightly shining gods. This, ye monks, is called good action, that bears good fruits.

"But what, ye monks, is action partly good and partly bad, which bears fruits partly good and partly bad?

"There, ye monks, a certain man practises action partly pain-full and partly pain-free in deeds, in words and in thoughts. Practising action partly pain-full and partly painfree in deeds, in words and in thoughts, he comes back to existence in a world partly pain-full and partly pain-free. Having come back to existence in a world partly pain-full and partly pain-free, he is touched by things partly pain-full and partly pain-free. But while touched partly by pain-full and partly by pain-free things, he experiences sensations partly pain-full and partly pain-free, changing weal and woe, like men, certain spirits, and certain rejected beings. This, ye monks, is called action partly good and partly bad, which bears fruits partly good and partly bad." 167

Now the outstanding feature of the pain-laden worlds, hell and the animal Kingdom, is that the creatures in them recognise in themselves no limit to the thirst for existence and wellbeing which animates them, and in its coarsest form. On the contrary, they so completely identify themselves with

this thirst in its two main manifestations, namely, desire for everything corresponding to it, and hatred of everything opposed to it, that in order to satisfy it, they without further ado encroach upon the sphere of other creatures' interests. In correspondence with this, the inhabitants of the joyful worlds, the heavens-the higher, the more joyful-are free from such desire and such hate, especially in their coarser forms. Above all, they do not satisfy their desires at the expense of other creatures, but on the contrary, they include these beings with an ever more comprehensive love in their own thirst for wellbeing, which thus in them takes a new direction. The reason for this is that in these realms the delusion in which all living beings are caught, namely, that our essence is identical with our personality, and that our thirst for wellbeing ought therefore to be concentrated upon it, is partly overcome, and thereby the partition-wall between ourselves and the other creatures is partly thrown down.** According to this, desire, hatred and delusion appear as the characteristics of the lower and woeful worlds; while, as those of the higher worlds, upon the path of an ever more expanding love, there is an increasing approximation to desirelessness, freedom from hatred, and right insight. Between both stands what is specifically human. Since we have seen that our present entrance into one of these worlds is determined according to which of our own qualities of character, of our own deepest aspirations, are most closely conformed, related to it, it follows that desire (lobha), hate (dosa) and delusion (moha) are unwholesome or bad for us, and that desirelessness (alobha), freedom from hatred (adosa) and non-delusion (amoha) are wholesome or good for us. In these fundamental qualities all virtues and vices are embraced.

* That creatures in hell find no objects corresponding to their desires, but only such as rouse their abhorrence, makes their state all the more woeful.

** About this, more will be said in the last chapter.



In what has gone before we have seen that our existence is conditioned through the thirst for existence which animates us, and that the shaping of the outer conditions of this existence may be traced back to the character of this thirst. We are in the world because we thirsted for it; and we are just in such a world as ours is, because we had a thirst which, according to the eternal laws, had to lead us just into this world. Thereby it Thereby it might seem as if the problem of the arising of suffering were solved, as far as it is necessary for the practical purpose of the annihilation of suffering; and this alone had any interest for the Buddha. For we need only annihilate this thirst within ourselves, in order to prevent any future rebirth, and so, with our next approaching death, depart out of the world for ever. From the standpoint which we now occupy, however, such a conclusion would be somewhat over-hasty. For to the thinking man another question at once arises: Am I at all able to annihilate this thirst for existence within myself? Is it not rather a manifestation of my essence itself, and for that very reason just as little to be annihilated as this? Certainly the Master has already told us about this thirst also that it is not our self, since in it also can be observed an arising and a passing away.* But this criterion for the recognition of the sphere of anattā, of non-ego, cannot be accepted at once. For thirst for existence and wellbeing fills us from the first moment of our existence, yea, through all our repeated existences, so unceasingly and so powerfully, that even the great Schopenhauer came to the conclusion that in will, that is, in thirst, no arising and passing away was to be observed. Rather, as the thing in itself, thirst was

* See above, p. 125.

without cause or condition, and could never be the cause of anything else; everything besides it, more especially, our own personality, was not its effect but rather its phenomenon. In short, thirst he considered to be the immediate manifestation of our essence itself which in it became apparent. Or, in the language of the Buddha, thirst was our veritable, actual and true self, of which it held good that "This am I, this belongs to me, this is my self," a standpoint also practically taken up by mankind in its entirety from all times. But from this it is clear of what decisive importance in the doctrine of the Buddha is the proof that this thirst also is nothing metaphysical, but subject in every respect to causality, therefore conditioned, and therefore something purely physical, that is, anatta, not-the-I.* For if it were not so, if thirst really were the essence of man, and thereby our self, then through all eternity no deliverance from it and thereby from suffering would be possible, since no one can annihilate himself, jump out of his own skin,** a consequence, which was actually drawn by Schopenhauer to this extent, that according to him, our intelligible character is unchangeable, and at bottom we can contribute nothing towards our deliverance.*** But if this were the case, then the doctrine of the Buddha would become meaningless from the outset, since its very heart consists precisely in pointing out a way to deliverance that may be trodden at all times and speedily lead to the goal, if the necessary intensity is applied to its treading. Accordingly, it is not at all, as is thought by some, against the spirit of his doctrine, when in it the reason why this thirst maintains itself in existence is definitely laid down; but on the contrary, the doctrine

* One sees that anatta and things physical are identical conceptions.

** See above pp. 119, 124.

*** Schopenhauer only leaves open the possibility that some time or other in the course of endless time our will may perhaps of itself and without our assistance, turn and renounce.

of the Buddha would in itself be absurd, if this were not so. And, as a matter of fact, it is so: "If, Ananda, the question were put: 'Is thirst dependent on anything?' then it ought to be replied: 'Yes, it is dependent.'"

The question therefore now is: On what is this thirst for existence dependent, this thirst which shows itself chiefly at the moment of death, ever and again bringing about a grasping of a new germ? What fundamental antecedent condition must there be, that it is able to rise, to spring up in us?* The Buddha tells us this in the following words: "If it should be asked: 'On what is thirst dependent?' then it ought to be answered: 'In dependence on sensation arises thirst.'" This too is clear without further explanation. Without the stimulus of sensation there is no desire. When every sensation has vanished completely and for ever, then all willing, all thirst, of every kind, also is gone for ever. A man who is quite without sensation wills nothing more, has no kind of thirst for anything any more. And if he has become without sensation for ever, then this phenomenon of thirst can no longer show itself within him through all eternity. "I have said: 'In dependence on sensation arises thirst.' And this, Ananda, that thirst arises in dependence on sensation, must be understood in the following sense. Suppose, Ananda, that nowhere and nowise there occurred any sensation of anything, that is to say, no sensation resulting from eye-contact, no sensation resulting from earcontact, no sensation resulting from nose-contact, no sensation resulting from tongue-contact, no sensation resulting from

* Precisely the same as with the other links of the chain it was not a question with the Buddha in the case of Thirst also, of firmly fixing its absolute general cause, but only of discovering the cause of the occasion that enables thirst to appear and to become evident. This finds expression in the very form in which the question is put: "On what is thirst dependent?" Here the Buddha completely shares the standpoint of Schopenhauer: "Every natural cause is only an occasional cause, nothing within the world having an absolute cause for its existence."

« PreviousContinue »