« PreviousContinue »
of us sees for himself the realization of this whole process of the world.
Further, it follows from this point of view, how wise it was of the Buddha to furnish the proof of the great universal law of transitoriness and therewith of suffering, especially by means of the five groups constituting personality. For if we recognize all the five groups of personality as transient, then everything is known as transient, and full of suffering, because for us everything consists only in and through our personality.
To this proof we may therefore now return.
THE WORLD OF SUFFERING
'he whole world, its beginning as well as its continuing and its end, is for us connected with our personality. The five groups constituting personality are causally conditioned in this manner that the corporeal group represents the basis of the four other groups, sensation, perception, mentation and consciousness,* and even through the activity of the organs of sense, at first of all, produces them. The body itself is a product of the substances comprised within the four chief elements; it is "built up of the four chief elements," and is therefore itself conditioned by these. Our personality, and thereby our whole world, ultimately share the fate of the four chief elements, they are transient like these.
These are axioms which everybody who once has understood them, perceives without more ado; they have become self-evident for him. Just this self-evidence is what the Buddha wants us to comprehend. Ultimately, he only works
* Consciousness, according to Indian custom, is put at the end as being the most important.
with self-evident ideas, what is ocularly recognized, being always self-evident.
First then, it is in question for the Buddha to illustrate the transitoriness of the four chief elements, as plainly to our sight as possible:
"A time will come, when the external watery element will rise in fury, and when that happens, the external earthy element will disappear. In that day this great external earthy element will unmistakably reveal itself as transient, will show itself subject to ruin, destruction and all vicissitude.
"A time will come when the external watery element will rise in fury and sweep away village and town and city and province and kingdom. Yea, there will come a time when the waters of the great ocean will be hundreds of miles deep, many hundreds of miles deep. And a time will come when the waters in the great ocean will stand no more then seven palm-tree's height in depth, then six, then five, four, three, two and, at last, only one palm-tree's height in depth. There will come a time when the water in the great ocean will stand only seven men's height in depth, then only six, then five, four, three, two, and finally, only one man's height in depth. And a time will be when the water in the great ocean will only come up to a man's middle, then to his loins, then to his knee, then only to his ancle. Yea, there will come a time when there will be no more water left in the great ocean than will cover one joint of the finger. In that day this great external watery element will unmistakably reveal itself as transient, will show itself subject to ruin, destruction and all vicissitude.
"A time will come when the fiery element will rage furiously and devour village and town and city and province and kingdom, and, spreading over meadows and pastures, jungle and plain and pleasure-grove, will only cease when there is naught to devour. And there will come a time when men
will seek to preserve fire with a fan made out of a fowl's wing, or from scraps of hide. In that day this great external fiery element will unmistakably reveal itself as transient, will show itself subject to ruin, destruction and all vicissitude.
"A time will come when the external airy element will rage in fury and carry away village and town and city and province and kingdom, and there will also come a time when, in the last month of the hot season, not a blade of grass stirring in the water-courses, men will seek to make a little wind with a fan made from a palm-stalk. In that day this great external airy element will unmistakably reveal itself as transient, will show itself subject to ruin, destruction and all vicissitude." 74
If thus all matter comprised under the heading of the four chief elements shows itself subject to the great law of transitoriness, the same is of course the case with all things formed by it, especially with our body. Therefore the Buddha, immediately after having described the incessant vicissitude of all material things, proceeds thus: "What, then, of this fathom-long body? Is there aught here of which may rightly be said 'I' or 'Mine' or 'Am?' Nay, verily, nothing whatsoever"-that means, also our body is "subject to ruin, destruction and all vicissitude." Accordingly then also the transitoriness of the remaining components of our personality is self-evident, being based upon the body, including its organs:
"The corporeal form, O monks, is transient, and what underlies the arising of the corporeal form, what conditions it, that too is transient. Corporeal form arisen from that which is transient, how could it be permanent?
"Sensation is transient, and what underlies the arising of sensation, what conditions it, that too is transient. Sensation arisen from that which is transient, how could it be perma
"Perception is transient, and what underlies the arising of perception, what conditions it, that, too, is transient. Perception arisen from that which is transient, how could it be permanent?
"The activities of the mind are transient, and what underlies the arising of the activities of the mind, what conditions them, that, too, is transient. The activities of the mind arisen from that which is transient, how could they be permanent?
"Consciousness is transient, and what underlies the arising of consciousness, what conditions it, that, too, is transient. Consciousness arisen from that which is transient, how could it be permanent?" 75
Accordingly in regard to all the five groups of personality upon which all our volition is concentrated-the Buddha calling them therefore the five groups of grasping-as well as to all external objects of will, included in the five groups, the saying holds good: "Arising shows itself, passing away shows itself, during existence vicissitude shows itself." 76
But thereby it is also established that the whole personality, thereby also the whole world made accessible to us through this, is painful. For "whatever is transient, that is painful:"
"What think ye, monks? Is body permanent or is it transient?"
"It is transient, O Lord."
"But that which is transient-is it painful or is it pleasant?" "It is painful, Lord."
"What think, ye, monks? Is sensation, is perception, are the activities of the mind, is consciousness permanent or transient?"
"They are transient, Lord."
"But what is transient-is it painful or pleasant?" "It is painful, Lord." "
This painfulness in consequence of transitoriness shows itself in the body as "decay, death," in the four other groups as "pain, sorrow, grief and despair."
Thus, at last, there remains of every satisfaction of will, nothing but suffering caused by its loss. Only with this final effect, as we have shown, can it be entered up in the book of life. The latter, therefore, at last, must show nothing but negative entries. In other words: the Buddha is right in valuing everything ultimately as suffering.
To the average man this generally only becomes clear when this book is definitively closed, when death comes near. Then, with the complete breakdown of all willing, when he sees everything torn from him, his prosperity, his dearest relations, even his own body in the pangs with which he is writhing, and together with these, the whole of the rest of the world, then also for him only an ocean of misery remains, and this ocean of suffering only will then be real. Let us only stop and consider: What, to us, to-day, is yesterday with all its pleasures? Nothing but a mere shadow. But to-morrow, to-day will be just such another shadow; and the day after to-morrow, to-morrow will be the same: and at last, face to face with death, our entire life will be all a mere shadow. All its comforts are then over, definitively over, and nothing will remain but suffering, nameless suffering. Whoso wishes fully to experience this, and thus wishes to pass a competent judgment on the first of the four excellent truths of the Buddha, let him betake himself to some deathbed and carry out his contemplation there, and best of all, to the death-bed of some sensualist. Does not this sensualist resemble a merchant who, after having started his business with a million, has revelled in a life of pleasure, until he has squandered all he had and finds himself face