Working With The Mind.

Materialism, in its many forms, is closely associated with logic as developed within the Western tradition.  In many ways its manipulation of the material world has been perceived as superior to religious thinking, and the advancements in science and medicine appears very much to prove this point.  Materialism (and its associative logic) is very useful for humanity’s development.  Although very much presented as ‘anti-religious’, this stance is simply a matter of philosophical bias re-enforced through a very narrow view of the world.  Materialism is not, and should not be the enemy of the spiritual world.  The dichotomy between material and spiritual existence is simply the product of mind play.  Indeed, when freed from the shackles of this partial view, materialism becomes very much a useful tool in the spiritual arsenal.  Materialism, that is a logic that manipulates matter in the service of humanity, is the hard-edge of spiritual endeavour.  This type of materialism should not be confused with the strictures of pure greed, as this (grasping at matter) is the enemy of both a clear logic and an effective spirituality.  The immediacy of the present moment is most apparent through the senses and the mind itself, which may also be considered a distinct sensory organ – in as much as it senses thoughts, but more than this, this organ or attribute creates the very essence of perception itself and a lack of this ability would render the other senses inoperable.  Perception is not merely an individual exercise, but is rather an attribute of the entire human species, and any life form that thinks, feels, understands and reacts to its environment in any imaginable manner.  Perception is a universal activity.  Ordinary consciousness perceives a world that everyone more or less agrees is there in principle, even if the definition of what is perceived is open to debate.  Perception and interpretative diversity occur hand in hand.  This being the case, an agreed universality is not equate with a lack of choice or freedom, on the contrary, it ensures both because the perceiving mind contains no real boundaries that would prevent the scope of its imaginations, brilliance and achievements.  Reality is more than it appears to the bare senses – although this kind of reality is functional and remains the reality understood by science and transcended by conventional religions.  True reality is beyond this ordinary reality, but it also includes ordinary reality.  In the ordinary mind a thin veil separates the perception of what lays ‘other there’.  When this flimsy veil is pushed apart, many worlds unite and integrate into a giant, functioning whole free of ignorance and limiting understanding.  The material world can be reasonably understood because it is limited by the senses to the perception.  Material logic, itself very clever and creative is nevertheless only one-side of the universe.  It understands what is in front of it, and does this with a great accuracy (or ignorance) depending upon circumstance.  The material world offers many great treasures and is something to be cherished and cultivated.  However, it can be immeasurable enhance by seeing clearly the worlds that lay just beyond its manifestation.  It is only through the mind that these other present worlds are perceived.  Many worlds exist ‘here and now’, but are filtered out by a limited the intellect operating in conjunction with the usual five senses.  It does its job – nothing more.  When the mind is ‘opened’ through receiving the correct or requisite stimulus, an entire multiplicity becomes apparent.  It is as real as an object on the material plane.  The other planes are not limited to this plane – the plane that is most often the most evident to the senses, but represent a broadness of vision that sees more than what is directly in front of it at any one time.  Although religion is often viewed as a collection of imaginations, this judgement should be encouraged and embraced, as it states a blatant truth.  Imagination is a real world that enters this world – reflecting a certain truth that lies just beyond the horizon.  Imagination demonstrates to a humanity that is perceptually ‘stuck’ within the material plane that the worlds that lies beyond the trap are free, malleable and are able to enter into this world to modify and transform it for the better.  Nothing is certain because reality in its absolute scope outgrows the words used to describe it.  Each plane – and there are many – can interact with one another without hindrance or friction.  The rules of the material plane are torn asunder to reveal a three dimensional web that links everything together in a highly communal and yet completely private manner.  Perception of the obvious, material realm grounds the perceiver and serves to focus energy in the correct direction.  Material form is not an error, it is the springboard from which all human spiritual work progresses.  Humanity can not exist without the material world from which it manifests.  Indeed, the word ‘material’ derives from the Latin ‘mater’, which literally translates as ‘mother’.  Humanity is comprised of matter which originates from the world it inhabits.  The world of matter has to be spiritualised away from its most limited interpretation, and expanded into other dimensions and planes.  Technology in the present can explore outer space, and look into micro space – revealing surprising visions as it does so, but as of yet, this kind of travel is spiritually limited.  Space travel is in its infancy, although electron-microscopes can see a world of quite wonderful import.  One day this kind of space travel may well develop into the external exploration of other dimensions, including travelling in time.  However, every human being possesses the ability to travel unhindered in space and time using the mind as the conduit.  This is not the rather limited space and time travel very much en vogue through the medium of science fiction – which oddly remains very one-dimensional in scope, but rather the travel associated with non-linear space and time.  The mind consciousness permeates all of space, through all of time, but does not just exist through these attributes – the mind exists beyond space and time.  From the world of matter the mind can be developed to see this reality, but it takes time and discipline.  The mind must be gathered together and its collected energy – i.e. concentration – needs to be used in the breaking through of the obscuring veil.  The ancient Indians (and others) knew this very well.  Yoga of the mind, whatever the method, is designed to dissolve the barrier that isolates this material plane from the other planes that exist all around.  Great works of art, literature, philosophy and science often reach into another realm and bring something back from the observation experience.  Great work of this type allow the observer to see something of the ‘transcendent’ in the work itself, and the human creator as a kind of transmitter of heightened awareness.  Such work need not exist in these established forms, but exist in any activity within the human world including such apparent mundane interactions as smiling or waving at others, as well as reacting with silence, when silence is the best response.  Human greatness is not the domain of the rich or socially powerful, but the property of any person who decides to exercise it.  This immediacy of greatness is accessible through the power of the human mind.  Negative emotion keeps humanity anchored on this plane.  This suffering however, can be used as a positive force to move beyond the trap of painful materialism.  Being trapped in the material world is to be trapped in a world of limited perception.  The suffering can be immense; this is true, and the pain unbearable.  It is also true that this intense experience has often led to the greatest of spiritual breakthroughs.  Whilst immersed in the most terrible of human suffering, simply let go of this plane.  Do not hold on to that which causes so much suffering, transform its perception and change its existence.  Despair is a matter of the mind thinking that what it thinks and feels in relation to the material plane, is independently ‘real’.  If the physical or emotional pain becomes so intense, the attachment to the physical world will break quite naturally.  The point is not to allow distress and suffering to dictate the spacious capacity of the mind.  Suffering is very important – it will set the mind free into a universe of unlimited possibilities.  The material plane allows for an exploration of existence (through the mind) that contemporary science is only beginning to tentatively comprehend.  Everything is interconnected and nothing is excluded.  Even within the most densest of matter perception, the mind contains the imperative to move toward that which is higher.  In reality, the higher and lower are not mutually exclusive, but instead representative of an integrative whole.  Existence continues because it can not be limited to starting and finishing.  The universe (or multiverse) functions beyond its own definition, which is limited to the measurement of the material world.  This kind of measurement, although useful to build a technologically sophisticated world, is unable to be applied to an existent reality that does not conform to such a specific criterion.  For the mind to see into the other realms and experience the essence of multiplicity, the surface thoughts and feelings must first be ‘stilled’.  Yogic knowledge can be used to achieve this result.  This is a science peculiar to the mind and the product of thousands of years of ‘looking within’.  Yoga consists of pathways derived from the internal mapping of the mind’s terrain.  From this knowledge the right direction of travel is ascertained and applied.  Understanding the physical world is achieved through the mind – it too is a kind of siddhi – or yogic power.  It is very powerful attribute.  Inner yoga, although often lacking obvious power on the physical plane, particularly in its initial stages, nevertheless has the potential to develop into siddhis that go beyond the simple measuring and manipulation of physical matter.  Universal awareness can be quantified, but it can be experienced.  All that can be realistically claimed about this experience Is that it is not limited to the observation of the physical plane, but all yoga begins with the physical plane and then diversifies into various distinct pathways.  In this sense, even transcendental yogic pathways begin by measuring matter, working out how the body should be situated and the kind of existence it should need.  This is physical measurement in the service of inner yoga; it sets the outer world in order so that the inner journey can be undertaken.  In this model the outer world is left behind as the inner journey begins.  With conventional science, however, the outer world is the subject of measurement and observation, with the attention remaining solely upon external phenomena.  This is the yoga of the external world and is limited in explorational scope.  For the yogic method to be successful the outer world must be brought into a natural order and the attention diverted from externals toward the inner terrain that is to be travelled.  The ordinary mind is the access point to untold worlds.  More than this, however, but this kind of exploration does require a rocket-type landing on a new planet.  Rather the fabric of existence – which is beyond conventional time and space – is entwined with conscious awareness itself, free from self-limitation and imbued with an expansive perception that is objectless because it includes all things simultaneously.   The paranormal and the supernatural is the ordinary human mind trapped on the material plane that is receiving inklings of what lies beyond its confinement.  Unusual phenomena on this plane, tends to be an echo from another dimension.  In reality all planes contain the content of one another – even the human material plane, but materialist philosophy and education tends to serve as a filter that blinds the perceiver from seeing the interconnectedness and over-lapping nature of existence.  Occasionally the forces of interaction build to such an extent that the filter is momentarily lifted and an unusual experience is had.  This includes all kinds of phenomena such as ghosts, UFO’s, strange creatures, fairies and every other odd manifestation that can be imagined.  The multiplicity of creation, however, is not set on rigid form.  Forms can be created and changed through the mind itself with the correct training.  This is not to say that this is an obvious power within the material plane as the group manifestation on this plane solidly coalesces around the immovable and the changeless.  Although things do change on the material plane, the change itself is slow in nature, giving the existential impression of permanency – the point of this permanency is that it can be measured and its change predicted and therefore controlled.  The emphasis upon the material plane is to not go beyond the apparent realism of the world as conveyed through the senses.  All religions are correct and equally incorrect.  There is no right or wrong, only that which is appropriate according to the context of need.  Although categories of preferred behaviour, opinions and thought can be devised, their nature remains purely arbitrary even though many spend their lives adhering to their strictures.  Moving in all directions at once renders all categories obsolete.   Creativity is awareness without the constraint of arbitrary barriers either generated within the mind itself, or existent within the environment.  One way or another, it always comes back to the mind and its ability to create and manipulate conscious and physical matter.  Magic, in its most ordinary manifestation, is a distant memory of a plane where the magical is quite real and by and large not that extraordinary – that which is common loses its appeal to that part of the mind that revels in the extraordinary.  On the human material plane, the intellect has created a world obsessed with matter.  When viewed from another plane, this obsession with matter is seen as quite astounding, as is the science created from it.  Being attached to matter is the defining aspect of this plane, and is viewed as being of an extraordinary nature – the ordinary here is perceived as the extraordinary, over there.  The multiverse of existence is both relative and absolute with no contradiction existing in any place.  This does not make logical sense in a material world, although the cutting edge of science, such as quantum physics for instance, is beginning to reveal a different world to that directly perceived by the senses, and Mandlebrot’s Set reveals that within this diversity without end, there exists an ever replicating pattern.  This pattern is stationary and yet continuously moving.  It holds its shape eternally, but is continuously changing.  The human mind is a doorway that is able to create and destroy what it connects together.  This is not a violent act, but rather indicative of a process of a continuous movement that is still, or a stillness that never stops moving.  Even this material plane with its apparent solidity and predictable behaviour is a manifestation of the mind itself.  It is not an illusion, nor is it real.  Language and concept break down when the mind reaches beyond its innate conditioning.  What is seen (or perceived) is reported through the limitation of human language, which is itself the product of living within a material world.  It is not designed to formulate concepts that lay beyond its normal cognitive reach.  This explains why advanced science, insightful philosophy and transcendental religion appear to be expressing truth in a nonsense language that appears incomplete and often irrational.  To explain that which lies just beyond the senses stretches conventional language to its limit.  Logic dictates that such descriptions can not be soundly provided and that to stay true to the originating perception, the descriptions provided must be open ended – as if the open end in the logic is in fact a map pointing the way toward the truth.  The material plane assumes a completeness and totality for itself that is blatantly not true.  The logic based upon the observation and measurement of matter, likewise also assumes a completeness that is incorrect from the position of the multiverse.  Of course, closed systems of logic are complete within their respective operational boundaries, but this completeness is highly localised and not indicative in any way of a possession of higher knowledge or wisdom.  The use of enclosed (local) logic systems to explain the entirety of what exists outside of itself – is itself an error in philosophical speculation.  Rigid thought patterns are reflective of the rigid material forms that they measure.  The multiverse is neither rigid nor flexible and it can not be assessed or limited to a set of binary opposites, or conceptual dichotomies.  Patterns spread outward and inward beyond cycles of prediction and understanding based upon specific intellectual markers.  If the mind is made ‘blank’ through meditation, it simply reflects the neutral nature of banal matter.  This is becoming the matter of the material world as held in the materialist vision of reality.  It is a vision that has no expansion and which has made non-perception its ultimate aim only to realise that to perceive ‘blankness’ is still an act of perception.  This is not enlightenment but rather endarkenment.  The mind is placed in an isolating stupor and can not see beyond even this closed world.  In a very real sense this is a form nihilism, but even this is really real.  The yogic method, if it is to be effective has to take the mind beyond the limitation of its imprisoning conditioning.  The error is to conform so totally to the limitations of the material world that even the latitude usually inherent within its condition is abandoned as delusion.  Matter stares at itself for no reason, performing no function.  This is the betrayal of spirituality.  Ordinary human freedom is the ability to stare at matter in an unquestioning manner, and presume a certain freedom in doing so.  The so-called free mind within this context moves its attention from one superficial material form to another, but never sees the essence of total matter itself.  Limiting the mind’s attention to the essence of matter is to face a blank wall of unexpression.  This is an illusion within an illusion.  Matter reduced to its varying appearance, or its unvarying essence, is the act of compounding error upon error.  Although the mind can be used in this manner it is not true yoga, if yoga is defined as a system or method for breaking free of perceptual limitation.  Staring at the essence of matter is to fall into a tiger trap, only realise that there is no tiger, or trap.  The notion of ‘god’ within this context is simply the product a vague perception that there may be something beyond the material world.  God becomes the apparent immensity of matter – as if matter were all pervasive – whilst at the same time exiting upon the brink of transcendence without ever making the transition to some thing different and more obviously and directly fulfilling.  God and matter become identical through a promise of transcendence that can never be achieved.  Matter, on the material human plane is conceived in such away – by the unenlightened mind – so as to make it appear as if it is a broad expanse of solidness, without end or any other property.  Modern physics has demonstrated that matter does not really exist in this manner, but only appears to exist as it does due to the limitation of human perception in general, which is facilitated through the senses and support a priori by the intellect.  It is true that the intellect has developed insight into the nature of matter beyond that of ordinary awareness, but this is not, as yet considered common knowledge, or a mode of vision readily accessible to the masses.  The general human consensus is that the physical world is solid – possibly for the needs of survival – but this viewpoint actually creates the situation where survival is required.  This is not to say that danger does not exist, but rather that whatever danger there is, is invariably the result of conditions created in the mind, acted out through the body and manifest in the environment.  The inability to perceive this reality leads to a situation whereby physical occurrences appear to be happening ‘outside’ of the mind and body that is actually experiencing them.  Often the response to being trapped in a material world is a religious contrivance based upon the perception of the totality of matter as being the manifestation of a superior, all-embracing being that possesses power beyond that of the ordinary human, and as a consequence is able to perform actions of an uncommon nature.  The point here is not that this is not possible, but rather that an attachment to the entirety of matter is not the true representation of the spiritual.  Spiritual power of all kinds does exist – but it exists beyond the material boundary that is created by the human mind and solidified through human thinking patterns and cultural practice.  This can best be summed-up by the concept of ‘ritual’.  This is the practice of rites that is believed to contain an inherent power over the physical world, but in reality is the actual codified act of the worship of physical matter.  The divine is promised through the repetition of exact and correct procedure, but the fact that transcendence is never actualised is used as a ‘proof’ that the ritual itself is powerful.  It is so powerful, that the benefits acquired through its practice become too subtle for the ordinary perception to behold.  Only the keepers of the ritual – the priests – are able to truly ‘see’ the positive effects of the ritual, even though no proof exists to prove their assertions.  Human beings lock their minds into generational habits of limitation and oppression.  No one single being can perceive the multiverse on the behalf of others.  Those with true vision can inspire and point the way, but are unable to transfer their personal expansive vision to another as an act of blind faith.  Yogic pathways can be devised to bring human beings into ‘vision’, but each individual must make the effort themselves so that might become free from years of conditioning.  As the inner existence and the outer existence is essentially the same thing, it is true that conditions on the outer plane can make the inner journey either easier or harder.  Although easier is preferable for humanity, the reality is that the trap of matter – regardless of its hue – has to be transcended regardless of the condition of the outer world.  Some times a severe or despicable outer climate can serve as the stimulus for the practice of the most effective inner yoga; after all, many yogic practitioners voluntarily take on an austere physical life style full of pain and suffering.  It is the nature of a contrivance that it will change – this instability is linked to suffering as situations that are liked eventually disappear, and situations that would rather not be experienced, manifest.  Breaking through the barrier of material imprisonment is to break through the barrier of suffering.  The multiverse is wondrous by default.  Everything takes it proper place within human perception, free from bias and misunderstanding.  Things are not what they seem because they are more than what they seem.  The world of matter is more or less misrepresented by a limited mind-set shared by all.  Material limitation is the lowest common denominator.  The human plane may appear to be a closed off environment but this is merely a product of a distorted perception.  This conspires to create the separation between this plane that weighs down existence and prevents expansive awareness, and the multiverse of continuous and ongoing multiplicity of three dimensional perceptions.  What is out there is ‘here’ in the present, clean and pure.  It is a matter of psychological and spiritual maturity – which is in reality an adjustment of frequency.  Energy through perception and awareness dictates the world as it presents itself to the senses – change the frequency and the perception changes accordingly.  Humanity is in complete control of the world it inhabits, regardless of the nature of that world or the circumstance the individual happens to exist within.  All can be transformed by an act of will.  Wealth is not the possession of material objects, it is the possession of expansive insight, and this is why it is referred to as ‘noble’ (or ‘ariyan’ in Sanskrit)   The entity that is the human will, mediates the frequency of the mind’s perception and effects how the world is perceived and conceived.  The mind does not create out of nothing, the multitude of physical objects existent within the physical multiverse.  The physical objects themselves are not objects existing externally to the mind that perceives them, but are rather psychological or mental constructs.  The multitude of objects existing in the multiverse are actually ideas of psychic substance misinterpreted as physical objects comprised of independent matter and existing on a plane separate from the mind that is aware of their presence.  This concretised vision of a separate and distinct world existing independently from the mind that perceives it is the basis of the materialist vision of the world, and the root cause dissatisfaction amongst human beings who may sense that things are not really what they are made to appear to be.  The material world is in fact half of the human psyche alienated from itself; cut off completely to such an extent that the other half  of the psyche believes itself to be separate and distinct from the half it has lost direct implicit contact with, and views what it perceives from the other (alienated) half as appearing some where else, but not within the conscious fabric.  The conscious mind knows no bounds and exists and non-exists equally, and in all directions without limit.  Time and space are products of the alienated psyche that appears as the material world.  Whole conscious existence is often judged in principle from the alienated half of the psyche.  It is this limited viewpoint – that weighs and measures phenomena – that can not fully appreciate its own predicament as this would be the equivalent of admitting that the material world, and the logic predicated upon it, is in perpetual error irrespective of how clever this kind of logic appears to be.  The alienated half of the psyche that forms the material human plane assumes its own existential superiority – here and now.  It does not assume that it is methodologically inadequate, but rather is of the opinion that any direct knowledge it lacks can be acquired over time through experimentation – or the manipulation of matter.  Awareness of reality being mind produced is reduced to an incomplete assessment based upon the material imperative and dismissed as illogical or inadequate.  Limited material knowledge, regardless of how clever it can be is designed to retain humanity in a one-sided existence that favours the idea that the material plane is all there is or all that is ‘knowable’.  Transcendence of the barrier re-instates the total awareness of the complete mind.  This is a multiversal mind able to manifest anything any where.  By way of contrast, the intellectual mind in its normal (limited) state is only able to build ideas around sensory input – that is to say that without sensing an apparently ‘real’ external world existing separate to its self, it can not create structures or situations other than those of ‘interpretation’ more commonly called ‘ideas’ about things.  The intellect reflects disparate facts and is able to organise these facts into a pattern that appears ‘correct’ and ‘logical’.  This is the practice of reshuffling sensory data into patterns or categorisations of acknowledged order.  This can be a powerful method but it falls short of the total mind experience which expansive and beyond objectification.  The alienated mind can not know its true essence without first being developed beyond its limited base through yoga and direct experience.  When total consciousness is achieved and the full scope of existence comprehended and integrated within, the intellect, as a very small but powerful part of the entire psyche can still be used to assess and categorise, but this time it does not conspire to limit the human awareness merely to the parameters of its own awareness.  The link between the illusions of a permanent, external world is broken so as to allow the consciousness to fully deploy.  In reality consciousness has always been expansive but it is human awareness in relation to it, that has made it appear as if it is limited in scope.  When the limitation is dissolved and made redundant, the false barrier preventing consciousness from being experienced as whole is removed.  Expansive awareness is the normal condition of existence, whilst the human delusion of a material plane is merely an aberration, a temporary obscuration that in its delusiveness appear to be eternal and for all time.  Yoga – whatever method this may allude to – is a means not of creating a state in the present that did not originally exist in the past, but rather is a method of medicine that removes the disease.  This process removes the surface defilement within perception and in so doing creates the condition whereby total consciousness can be directly perceived beyond the old dichotomy of subject – object.  Words are of course, a purely arbitrary representation of the multiverse.  Letters are strung together to make words – already a pattern is forming.  Sentences are comprised of strings of words, and depending upon the placement of those words within the sentence, meaning is created within the sentence that is dependent upon the existence of a decoding ability existing within the mind of those who encounter these sentences.  An assumed meaning may not be transferable within a sentence if those encountering the particular string of words are unable to decode or interpret them accordingly.  Many meanings may be present within the mind of the creator of the sentence, as well as within the mind of the perceiver, reality is often a moveable standard perceived as permanent and a product of an agreed definition of what reality could be.  This definition is often the product of those who possess social power, and is inflicted upon those who do not possess the social power to prevent such a definition.  Although reality can be honestly expressed through human language, its experience has nothing to do with the language used to express it.  Language is a reflection of experience, and a person does not have to be literate to experience the totality of the multiverse.  Intellectualism is a formula written on paper – it has nothing to do with what lies beyond itself.  The important point is that absolutely any one is able to directly access their true nature regardless of their physical or psychological state.  Conventional notions of respectability are of no spiritual use whatsoever.  Looking within and looking without end eventually in the same place, but this place is not, and can not be defined by time, space or circumstance.  Humanity exists primarily within prism of perspective that enhances the trap in one way (science), and diminishes perspective in another (multiversism).  There is a way through the middle of this quandary with the answer of complete awareness enveloping all that it underlies.   Mysticism is the term the intellect uses to describe the aspect of it that is alienated.   In reality, the multiverse is a mystery but only in the sense that its true nature is knowable here and now – not by the ignoring of the intellect (by some how bypassing it with theological constructs), but rather by fully activating and engaging the intellect beyond the limitation of the personality and hindrances implicit in cultural milieus.  Personal identity must not be allowed to interfere in the dynamic process of conscious expansion – personality disorders are crinkles in the psychic substance that need ironing by whichever method is the most appropriate.  Personality, although interesting, does not ultimately matter.  Personal psychology can be the product of innate tendencies or a product of the environment (i.e. the world of matter).  This kind of psychology is an inner imprint of an outer limitation that is philosophically incorrect in as much as it does not represent the highest position of truth.  Although others can assist in the ironing out process, the personal mind should also be took control of by the owner.  The personality must be carefully led through the mine field of material constructs and patterns of behaviour and thought.  It must be gently disentangled beyond its own limitation so that its very nature is re-defined and its old self correctly dissolved into a greater entity.  The inherent power of the intellect can assist or hinder this most crucial of enterprises.

The Mahayana Transformation.

The Mahayana (महायान) school of Buddhist philosophy represents a great transformation of Buddhist thinking and practice.  In this regard it is also referred to as ‘developed’ and ‘later’ Buddhism so as to distinguish it from the early Buddhism conveyed within the Pali Canon and the Sanskrit Agamas.  A further distinct often encountered is the referral to the Mahayana as ‘northern’ Buddhism, and the Theravada (the conservative descendent of early Buddhism), the ‘southern’ school.  This geographical categorisation denotes the eventual dominance of the Mahayana in northern India, and the spread of Theravada Buddhism to southern India and beyond.   However, as a body of distinct spiritual work it is not entirely disconnected from its early Buddhistic foundations.  Although the Mahayanic manifestation may appear at odds with the more austere Theravada counter-part at times, in fact the Mahayana system accepts fully the Pali Canon and makes no distinction, despite itself developing what might be described as a more elaborate and involved interpretation of fundamental Buddhist philosophy.  The premise of the Mahayana school is that the Buddha taught people of differing spiritual potentialities, by using a variety of expedient means (upaya), and that as a consequence, no single interpretation of the Buddha’s teachings represent the entirety of the his method.  The Theravada, when assessed through this perspective, becomes a valid school embodying a specific interpretation of the Buddha’s teaching, but that in this interpretation a certain boundary of limitation exists, which results in the conveyance of Buddhist philosophy through a particular orientation and expression.  Of course, from the Theravada perspective, the religion its preserves and teaches is complete in itself and an accurate recording of the Buddha’s actual words and doctrine.  There is no conflict present unless a certain attitude of (mistaken) comparison is adopted and used.  The Theravada is not the antithesis of the Mahayana and should not, therefore be viewed as its ‘hinayana’ counter-part.  The Mahayana represents what might be interpreted as the ‘great path’ that accepts every single sentient being and pursues a universal ideal of enlightenment based upon self-less self-sacrifice.  Those drawn to a more narrow path, that is those who pursue only their own enlightenment free of the encumbrances of a ‘universalist’ perspective, are often referred to as being upon a ‘hinayanic’, or ‘narrow path’ of Buddhist practice.  Hinayanic practice, however, need not necessarily represent a particular or specific school of Buddhist philosophy; it does convey a certain attitude toward the use of the Buddha’s teachings themselves.  Whereas the term ‘Mahayana’ does represent a distinct, but albeit vast school of Buddhist thought, the term ‘hinayana’ represents only a limited view toward the scope that the Buddha’s teachings can be applied.  This is an important distinction as a Mahayana practitioner might utilise a ‘hinayanic’ mind-set, and a Theravada practitioner may well exhibit a ‘universalism’ that is common in the Mahayana school.  As a purely descriptive term, ‘mahayana’ might well be applied to relatively conservative schools of Buddhism – such as those Theravada Buddhist temples in Sri Lanka – that recognise the importance of Hindu deities, not because their Buddhism has become polluted by outside philosophical influences, but rather becomes a great many local lay people living around the temple are of the Hindu religion.  Using the temple for both Hindu and Buddhist activities (which are facilitated by Buddhist monks), is actually a living expression of ‘expedient means’ (upaya) and a deep act of pragmatic ‘compassion’ (karuna).  There are many other examples of mahayana-type activities existing within Theravada schools.  Whatever the Mahayana school represents it is historically incorrect to assume that it is the opposite of the Theravada school of Buddhism.  Having established this fact it is important not to unnecessarily negate the many differences that exist between the two modes of Buddhist expression, but these differences need not be fatal and used as a means to permanently separate the two schools in a philosophical manner that would appear unbridgeable.  Both schools have emerged from exactly the same Buddha who lived in ancientIndia, regardless of the specific interpretations assigned to those teachings.

Collectively, the schools of early Buddhism are often historically referred to as ‘Hinayana’ so as to distinguish them from the emergence of the Mahayana.  Whereas the Mahayana becomes historically recognisable around the 1st century CE in India, the Hinayana schools are seen to decline around four centuries later – in the 5th century CE.  This demonstrates that both types of Buddhism coexisted for hundreds of years (inIndia) and there are records of monasteries containing monks who adhered to either tradition – living and practicing side by side.  The emergence of the Mahayana created the conditions for earlier Buddhism to be viewed as ‘narrow’ and in some way ‘incomplete’.  As the Mahayana interpretation represents a substantial expansion and elaboration of the teachings contained within earlier Buddhism, this sets the agenda for the historical interpretation of history with regard to what may be described as the ‘perceived’ developmental history of Buddhism as a distinct academic entity.  In other words, what seems to have developed later serves as the prism through which the earlier Buddhist tradition is viewed.  It is only through the reflection of Mahayanic thinking that the earlier schools appear to be ‘narrow’, and ‘lacking’ in creativity.  These are certainly not conditions and attributes that would have been recognised within these earlier schools themselves.  On the other hand it is also true that those schools which adhered to the earlier teachings, such as those found in the Pali Canon, would have no scriptural guidance that mentions a ‘Mahayanic’ presence contained within the Buddha’s original teachings, if these early teachings do indeed represent an accurate picture of the Buddha’s thought.  That is to say that as the early teachings contain no reference to a Mahayanic teaching – the Mahayana, from the early scriptural viewpoint – does not actually ‘exist’ as an authentic utterance of the Lord Buddha himself.  This situation is exactly the same with regards to the modern Theravada school – with its preserved Pali Canon – as it was for the early Buddhist schools.  For these representations of early Buddhism no other manifestation of Buddhism is recognised.  These schools, following the Buddha’s advice that self-sufficiency is the way, practice a self-contained Buddhism that is not dependent upon the ever changing outer circumstance of the world.  This introverted perspective prepares the mind for detachment from the outer world and secures an inner strength which can be used in the spiritual practice itself.  Furthermore, such a detached inner strength ensures that the teachings as they exist in tradition are preserved in the present time, for the use of future generations.  As a complete school, early Buddhism (or the Theravada) has no reason to acknowledge or recognise the presence of the Mahayana; as such an act could be construed as being based upon a movement of mind that may be interpreted as ‘egotistical’ in nature.  Such recognition is philosophically unnecessary if the point of the Buddha’s teachings is to bring enlightenment as an antidote to the condition of human suffering.  A certain essential ‘sameness’ unites the early and later Buddhisms.  They only exist as ‘early’ and ‘later’ when an objective over-view looks back through history and picks out certain key, observable events.  A singular and complete Buddhism is divided into historical epochs by the unenlightened intellectual mind because it is rational to do so.  This allows Buddhism to be viewed as a distinct academic subject that has ascribed to it the usual observational categories, markers, assessments, interpretations and understandings, etc.  Therefore, in the present time Buddhism is rationally presented as ‘early’ and ‘late’, ‘primitive’ and ‘developed’, ‘Hinayana’ and ‘Mahayana’, amongst other dichotomies.  It is not necessarily incorrect to view Buddhism in this way, as long as the ‘assessing’ process is understood and not just accepted on face value.  All things are comprised of conditions, as is the historical academic presentation of Buddhism.  It is objectively useful but within its effective application its limitations must be understood.  The view from within Buddhism might not be exactly the same as the objective view ascribed to it by an outside discipline.

Buddhism has historically developed primarily through the filter of inner experience and outer circumstance.  Even if the world is forsaken for this or that practice, the outer circumstances themselves create the conditions that shape the ordinary minds of the people.  It is the contemporary situation that the mind is withdrawn and detached from.  The essential message of the Buddha is one of gaining master over outer circumstance by disciplining the human mind so that through concentration the mind becomes stronger than the circumstance that surround it.  Perhaps the differences in the manifestation of early and later Buddhism is to do more with the changing outer circumstance, rather than due to any perceived doctrinal dispute or re-interpretation of the Buddha’s teachings.  This ‘centre out’ view, although different from the premise of observational history, can nevertheless be useful when coupled with the external record of historical events.  From this position it is clear that the Mahayana existed within the mind of the Buddha himself, as the enlightened mind exists outside of time and space.  In this pristine mind all things exist in a state of emptiness (sunyata).  The teachings of the Buddha, once verbally uttered enter into ‘time’, and their effects unravel as time progresses.  This gives the external, observable impression that ‘early’ Buddhism came before ‘later’ Buddhism.  This is logical and rational but misses the other crucial element; namely that of the effect of the enlightened mind upon the world itself.  It is this effect that is by far the most important, but that is hardly ever acknowledged within the historical process itself as it can not be readily perceived with the unenlightened mind.  That which can not be seen is believed not to exist.  The Buddha’s enlightened mind contained the essence of all Buddhist expressions, be it Hinayana, Mahayana or Vajrayana – it still does.  The ripples of Dharma extend outward through conventional time, but do not in essence exist in time (or space).  Indeed, so powerful has been this effect of transformed being that it is still being discussed, even by those who do not necessarily subscribe to its views.  The ‘great path’ is of course the ‘broad’ path.  It is not ‘great’ in any hierarchical sense.  The description is not intended to be a statement of status, or indicative of an altogether ‘superior’ ideology or dogma.  The Mahayana is ‘great’ because of its recognition of that which represents the truly ‘universal’ amongst human beings.  It is a ‘path’ or ‘vehicle’ because it offers a coherent framework (or structure) for the traversing mind.  Its commentaries (and understanding) based upon the early teachings, and its unique sutras (not obviously found within the literature of the early collections), offer an intricate map of the inner terrain of the mind as encountered and experienced by the yogi or spiritual practitioner.  Its broad path allows for a variety of access points that lead the seeker from the world of multitudinous phenomenal toward the apparent ‘oneness’ of the noumenal.  This is achieved through the elevation of the concept of ‘emptiness’ or ‘sunyata’ to that of the prime factor of existence and non-existence.  Early Buddhism presents emptiness as an open physical space, and a certain experience within the mind itself, particularly in relation to the uprooting and removal of the taints of greed, hatred and delusion, as well as any notions of a permanent self.  An enlightened being becomes quite literally ‘empty’ of these things and as a result attains to a state of complete freedom from suffering.  However the implication of early Buddhist philosophy is that this emptiness only applies to the mind itself and is not a statement about the real nature of the physical, material world.  Although this world is comprised of material elements (dharmas) that are subject to continuous change, the elements themselves are ‘existent’ and therefore considered real.  Enlightenment within this model comprises of a mental freedom from the effects of a continuously changing (real) outer world, whilst living out the natural remaining life-span of the physical body the enlightened practitioner happens to occupy. Nirvana is the great extinction of the mentally created (delusive) attributes that tie a human being to a physical existence within a physical world, and the apparent karmic habit of re-birth within a physical world following the death of each occupied body.  Delusion is abandoned and freedom from re-birth attained, but the ‘real’ physical world continues to exist, even when enlightenment is achieved.  In early Buddhism the enlightened being is considered an ‘arahant’, or ‘noble one’.  Presumably upon the death of the arahant’s body, the final link with the gross physical world ends and the conditions for re-birth, that is the creation of a body within a new set of physical circumstance, do not arise again.  This is an elaborate and very logical set of teachings that result in a very definite end.  The Mahayana philosophers (and their predecessors) examined the notion of ‘emptiness’ within the Buddha’s teachings and saw that it contained certain logical extensions that when thoroughly examined, altered this notion to a position of new prominence within Buddhist thinking.  Sunyata is the distinguishing Mahayana concept that defines the school and distinguishes it from the teachings and interpretations associated with early Buddhism.

The movement known as Mahayana, although distinctive in many ways from its Theravada counter-part is not a new form of Buddhism.  Its existence is the product of a snap-shot of history in relation to the development and maturity of Buddhist interpretive thought.  The Mahayana development does not invalidate the teachings of early Buddhism, but rather confirms them.  The teachings regarding emptiness are as much present in the early suttas as they are in the later sutras.  The difference lies in emphasis and interpretation.  The Mahayana thinkers grant a certain enhanced ‘weight’ to the concept, but this must be compared to the Buddha’s own use of the term in early Buddhism.  At the time of the Buddha’s existence, his teachings were questioned, examined adopted and abandoned.  If a practitioner suffered from doubt, or did not understand the Buddha’s teaching, the Buddha could be approached and the question asked.  In this way, the practitioner could clarify the teachings and expel doubt.  The Buddha continuously advised that all teachings – including his own – should be scrutinised and not taken on face value.  All should be thoroughly examined before being declared useful or effective.  Indeed, it is precisely through this procedure that the original eighteen schools of Buddhism developed and it may be assumed that the Mahayana’s treatment of the concept of ‘emptiness’ developed through exactly the same process.  The procedure of wise assessment is a distinctly Buddhist practice – and through its recommendation – the Buddha risked the lose of his students and the knowledge that his system was unique and effective.  However, despite the risk contained within this process the Buddha’s teachings thrived and their influence spread far and ride.  Assessment and examination have always been part of the Buddhist path and is probably the single most important factor that has contributed toward the development of distinctive Buddhist schools.  Whenviewed is this way, even early Buddhism and its assumed hinayanic perspective was designed to evolve and grow through the very methods the Buddha put into place at the very beginning of his teaching mission.  Buddhism is an organic philosophy created to grow and adapt and it seems very unlikely that it was ever the intention of its founder that it should stay a static and dogmatic body of work.  As Buddhism is not a static process, it is true to say that the so-called hinayanic, mahayanic and vajrayanic tendencies considered by objective history to have existed and dominated Buddhism at certain time periods in its history, have also ebbed and flowed at other different times in its history and should not be limited to the usual static historical dates.  Although these influences have arisen at certain points in time, it is also correct to say that these influences have not remained static but have continued to direct Buddhism in unique and crucial ways.  Each particular path has not existed in isolation, but has always contained the influences – either directly or indirectly – of the other paths.  As soon as the Buddha turned the Dharma Wheel these paths were existent.

Sunyata offers a ‘universalism’ free of qualifying characteristics.  A practitioner does not necessarily have to ordain as a monastic – as laity in the Mahayana sutras is considered as able to realise enlightenment – nor does a practitioner have to consider himself limited to the role of a lay-person.  The truly free-state is beyond exact categorisation.  The elevation of the early Buddhist notion of ‘sunnata’, to that of the later Buddhist ‘sunyata’ effectively altered the way that Buddhism is applied to the individual and to society.  The early Buddhist model is not free from contradictions, but exists today within the Theravada school itself.  The laity is generally considered to be at a disadvantage to that of the cloistered monastic, and therefore unlikely to achieve enlightenment in this life-time.  Although this is not necessarily the ‘strict’ interpretation of the Pali suttas – (within which stories abound of lay men and women achieving enlightenment during the Buddha’s life-time) – nevertheless this attitude has solidified over time.  The laity is given a more or less simplistic practice to generate good karmic fruits for future incarnations where they may be re-born in conditions that allow them to ordain as a monastic.  Included in this attitude is the notion that a man is more likely to achieve enlightenment than woman.  This belief stems from a statement that is supposed to have originated from the Buddha, but the scripture containing it has been academically proven to be a much later ‘insertion’, and therefore a falsity.  The Theravada school as an ideology has risen the status of the monastic above that of the lay-person, this is a distinction that is unlikely to have existed during the time of the Buddha, and contradicts the Pali Canon which clearly records the Buddha as stating that there is ‘no difference’ between a monk and a lay-person:

‘I proclaim there is absolutely no difference between a layperson with a mind (citta) which is liberated and a bhikkhu which has been liberated for a century.”   SN5.410 

‘The layperson Tapassa, because of hearing the Tathagata, has gone to supreme transcendence…and has his being in the enlightenment of the immortal itself.’  AN3.451

This may indicate that even within the realm of early Buddhist interpretation, schools diverted away from the letter of the Buddha’s teachings and created commentaries that represented these diversions as ‘insight’.  It is an interesting speculation to consider that perhaps the Mahayana development, itself a culmination of many aspects of Buddhist historical and philosophical development, might well, in certain aspects, be nearer in essence to the Buddha’s original teachings, than those early schools which claim a lineage that is apparently ‘less altered’ than that of the Mahayanic movement.  The teaching of emptiness has always existed within Buddhism, but the physical world, although insubstantial and fleeting, is viewed as real within early Buddhism, but unreal within the Mahayana.  The development of later Buddhism is unlikely to have occurred without reference to meditational experience, which in-turn has been used to shed light upon the scriptural Buddhist sources.  The development of a wise insight through meditation has served as the basis for a subtle transformation of Buddhist philosophy from the pluralism of early Buddhism to the monism of the Mahayana.  Within the Mahayana, the concept of ‘sunyata’ has been expanded from representing an empty mind within a head and body, to incorporating the entire physical universe.  To realise emptiness in the Mahayana, is to realise the dissolving of greed, hatred and delusion, and the mistaken belief in a ‘permanent self’, as well as the fundamental ‘empty’ nature of all phenomena.  Sunyata is an empty state that contains all things.  Phenomena arise and pass away within an all-embracing emptiness that is ‘empty’ of emptiness itself.  It is a state of realisation that is neither nihilistic nor eternalistic, and which realised ‘through’ a mind that has been developed through yogic technique.  The empty essence of the mind is exactly the same empty essence as that underlying the universe – with no distinction between the two.  As time and space lose their distinctiveness and meaning in the enlightened state, the mind and the universe can be described as becoming one, without an attachment to the state of one-ness itself.  This realisation is nothing other than the development through practice of the early Buddhist concept of ‘sunnata’, a realisation that eventually paved the way for the establishment of both the Mahayana and the Tantrayana.

The question remains; what exactly is the Mahayana school?  Within early Buddhism, enlightenment signified the ending of consciousness through meditation with the arahant simply occupying a living body and patiently waiting for that body to naturally cease the biological process of living.  By way of contrast, the Mahayana bodhisattva (enlightened being), also utilising the yogic method of meditation, puts an end to a certain stream (of deluded) consciousness – by establishing a pure conscious flow.  Whereas the arahant enters and remains in a quietest state of withdrawal from the world, the bodhisattva – or ‘enlightened being’ – realises the ‘stilling’ of the mind and the breaking of the cycle of greed, hatred and delusion, as well as the abandoning of the false perception of a permanent self, but does not view this state as the highest attainment and does not remain within it.  The bodhisattva undergoes a further development whereby the delusive ‘form’ aspect of the world is fully integrated with the enlightened ‘empty’ aspect, resulting in a re-engagement of the ordinary world of the senses, only this time with no accompanying delusive activity of the mind.  The mind does not remain in a ‘still’ state but develops beyond this required attainment.  The mind, in its enlightened, integrated manifestation ceases being a representation of a mere individual (locked within a single brain), and expands to embrace and reflect the entirety of existence, a state that is both individualistic and universal, but which is never ‘static’ or unnecessary retained in a ‘still’ state.  The differences between early and later Buddhism stem from the differing conceptions of what it is to be ‘enlightened’, and the minutiae of the resultant theories that have coalesced around the experience of enlightenment itself.  Indeed, as these system draw authority from the Buddha’s enlightenment, and from those holy beings who have followed in his footsteps, it is important to consider how the actual experience of this state (of enlightenment) has altered and transformed the understanding of the earliest of Buddhist teachings, which were compiled within a background of disagreement about the actual ‘meaning’ contained within the words.  Buddhism appears to be a practical philosophy that is designed to give the practitioner a means to train the mind so that its ‘essence’ is realised.  Enlightenment from the suffering contained within the world is the entire edifice upon which the Buddha builds his explanatory system.  Buddhism, therefore, can not be a religion of dogma that encourages attachment to ‘meaningless’ words.  For it to be relevant it must be dynamic and successful in its purpose.  As the generations went by, (following the Buddha’s physical passing) presumably many human beings attained to the state of enlightenment.  This experience, no doubt, facilitated the expression of wisdom with relation to the suttas themselves and the commentaries traditionally associated with them.  This process, which is fully in accordance with the Buddha’s instruction not to accept statements on face value, eventually led to a clarification of the teachings as they existed.  In this regard, this process can not be truly viewed as a radical departure from a dogmatic Buddhist tradition, but rather the continuation of the Buddha’s mission upon earth, through the existences of those who followed in his footsteps.  The Mahayana is the product of the accumulation of generations of enlightened wisdom applied to scripture and its interpretation.  This wisdom has been gathered by male and female practitioners, both monastic and lay.  As Buddhism spread to the outer fringes ofIndia, it came into contact with Greeks, Persians and other peoples.  These differences also had their positive effects upon Buddhism, as it started to ‘outgrow’ its regional identity and develop into a ‘broad path’ – the definition of the Mahayana.  Within this school the monastic path is still viewed as valid and useful.  However, within this recognition it is made clear that complete enlightenment can not, and must not be limited to a particular set of physical circumstance.  To limit the access of enlightenment to a narrow set of physical requirements is the antithesis of the Mahayanic school.  Entry into the enlightened state is by definition, extensive and inclusive in the Mahayana.  The lay path is as valid as the monastic path in this model.  Circumstance is not allowed to be used as a barrier to the entry of the enlightenment state.  In the Vimalakirti Nirdesa sutra, the enlightened layman Vimalakirti criticises certain disciples of the Buddha for their one-sided attachment to the state of monasticism, and the arrogance associated with such an attachment, particularly when these disciples had not yet reached the state of complete ‘Mahayana’ enlightenment, but instead continued to cling to an empty mind (of hinayana inspiration) as if it where the ultimate spiritual achievement, and that nothing realisable lay beyond it.

The Mahayana practical expands the access point through which the enlightened state can be realised, and concomitantly also expands the theoretical definition of that state.  Indeed, the former is entirely dependent upon the later and vice versa.  Everything else within the Mahayana tradition has developed around (and conformed to) this new understanding.  The Mahayana is a distinctive movement within Buddhism that is the consequence of the pulling together of a doctrine around a decisive spiritual experience.  The doctrine already existed, but was open to interpretation – as the development of the eighteen schools demonstrates.  Of course, from the perspective of linear history, the Mahayana is the product of a shift in doctrinal interpretation due primarily to the influences of non-Buddhist religions and their quite different (and distinct) theologies and philosophies.  Early Buddhism is depicted as morphing into intermediary schools such as the Sautrantika – and from there into the Mahayana.  Curiously, despite these observable changes in history, there has always remained a representative of the early Buddhist tradition – namely the Theravada.  This seems to have survived by successfully transplanting itself outside of geographicalIndia, at a time when the Mahayana began to flourish withinIndia.  The philological study of the early Pali Canon shows that over-time layers of interpretation built up even within the Theravada tradition itself that developed certain aspects of early Buddhism away from the original recorded teaching.  For instance, the Buddha is not omniscient in the earliest layers, but omniscient in the later layers and a definite and recognisable personality is ascribed to the Buddha in his previous incarnations, despite the fact that no such entity is observable in the Buddha’s own explanation of the re-birth process.  Of course, it is also clear that the Buddhist suttas were not all collected together at the same time, but rather accrued over-time, developing eventually into a coherent body of philosophical literature.  In this time, understanding and interpretation changed, and these developments were integrated into the system itself.  The Theravada’s great commentary work – the Abbidhamma – is comprised of many commentaries on the Buddhist teachings written by cloistered monastics.  Furthermore, as a distinct body of work, it is also designed to define and justify the Theravada view itself, a view which ascribes to itself the singular accolade of being the ‘Teachings of the Elders’, and assigning to itself the label of Buddhist ‘orthodoxy’.  The truth of the matter is that there is no objective evidence for validity of either claim.  However, sectarian rhetoric aside, the Theravada school is a sound construct that carries out the great service of preserving the Pali Canon (for humanity) within the confines of an ancient early Buddhist school.  Indeed, this school records a dispute between the followers of the Buddha during the years following his death.  This dispute – the details of which are preserved in the Theravada teachings (see the Kathavatthu), appear to be an attempt to present a certain sect’s viewpoint amongst the Buddha’s followers, as solely representing the ‘true’ interpretation of the Dharma itself, and in so doing establishing the historical narrative of doctrinal primacy.  The Theravada, or the ‘Teaching of the Elders’ is portrayed (within its own history), as originating directly from the Buddha’s key monastic disciples.  The Theravada’s propagated premise is that it alone has correctly remembered the Buddha’s teachings and in so doing has faithfully preserved and interpreted those teachings down through the ages.  There is no objective evidence to substantiate this claim, as the Theravada creates its own history.  Indeed, even at the first so-called council – an entirely local affair, attended only by a relatively small group of monks – held by the Theravada at Rajagaha, (believed to have been convened shortly after the Buddha’s passing) where the Buddhist teachings were apparently gathered and structured into a recognisable doctrine (Dharma and Vinaya), there was not an agreement regarding the Buddha’s teachings.  When asked by the elderly Bhikkhus whether he would submit to and accept the interpretation of the teachings as remembered and conveyed by them, the venerable Purana – who had been a disciple of the living Buddha – replied that although the elderly Bhikkhus (i.e. the Theravada) had indeed rehearsed the Dharma very well, he – Purana – preferred to follow the teachings as he had received them directly from the mouth of the Buddha himself.  Although this incident does not seem to have resulted in a schism between the Buddha’s followers at this time, it does, however, demonstrate that there were other interpretations of the Buddha’s teachings – even at the first council.  A hundred years later a second council was called (at Paṭaliputra) to decide issues of monastic discipline.   At this council, it is reported that the Theravada (also known as the ‘Sthaviras’) attempted to add various rules to the vinaya and that the majority of those present at this council refused to accept them.  Other disputes arose concerning the nature of an arahant as compared to that of a bodhisattva, and the place of the laity in the scheme of enlightenment attainment.  The majority of those who rejected the Theravada perspective became known as the Mahasangika, or the ‘Great Community’.  This movement represented a form of Buddhism believed to be nearer the ‘original’ intention of the Buddha, and exercised a tolerance that granted a certain equality to monastic and lay practitioners.  Certainly the teachings as preserved within the Mahasangika are believed to represent a version older than that preserved within the Theravada tradition.  The Mahasangika – as a school that looks back to the Buddha himself for inspiration is considered to be the doctrinal foundation for the development of the Mahayana school itself.  The majority of the Mahasangikas accepted the Mahayana sutras as being the word of the Buddha and in so doing enabled the Mahayana tradition to survive and flourish.  It is very probable that the Mahasangika is the forerunner to the Mahayana movement itself, and as such proves that although the Mahayana may appear to be a movement developed in the first century CE, it is in reality a representation of the authentic teachings of the Buddha as remembered and conveyed, originating within the enlightened utterances of the Lord Buddha himself.  It is not a later development that represents a movement away from the conservative Theravada tradition, but rather a complete and reliable method that predates the Theravada, designed to transform all those who come into contact with it, such is the Dharmic power of its teachings on ‘emptiness’.

Tantra: Enlightenment Through The Ordinary.

Tantric sexual union.

Tantric Harmony.

Tantra is a concept of philosophical totality.  It is a teaching of deep spiritual profundity and a vehicle that facilitates enlightenment here and now regardless of circumstance, status, gender or understanding.  The ordinary experience of everyday life is transformed into the enlightened expression of the mind.  The world that presents itself to the senses is not in error at anytime regardless of the nature of its manifestation.  All is useful.  Enlightenment is not dependent upon the changing of circumstance, but rather upon the penetration of phenomena with the developed wisdom of a mind freed of the tyranny of dualistic thinking.  Whereas early Buddhism presents spiritual development in terms of ‘leaving’ the familiar for the unfamiliar, tantra emphasises that it is exactly through the ‘familiar’ that enlightenment is attained.  What initiates this transformation of the ordinary into enlightenment is a chosen sadhana, or ‘spiritual method’, one which can consist of virtually any method whatsoever, relevant to the karma of the practitioner.  The method serves to focus the mind through developed Buddhist concepts but in such away that offers a dynamic opening of the mind to the true empty nature of phenomena.  The difficulty of the chosen method acts as the spiritual force that breaks through the haze of the deluded mind.  As the true nature of phenomena is empty – there is not a single place or circumstance that is not a representation of the enlightened state.  Delusion separates the practitioner from the direct realisation of this truth.  Reality – as emptiness – can be accessed from anywhere in phenomenal existence.  Position in this context is of no consequence.  It is the method – sadhana – which will vary in definition and content from practitioner to practitioner according to individual karmic requirements.  The sadhana takes the practitioner through the apparent delusive mind to the empty essence beyond.  Although these sadhana can be very elaborate and consist of layers of explanation, these explanations themselves exist within the world of dualistic thinking.  Sadhana can be very direct and to the point and consist of little unnecessary intellectual verbage.  The tantric movement appears very much to be a development from Mahayana Buddhist thought, which is itself an elaboration of Buddhist philosophy as found in the Pali Canon and the Sanskrit Agama.  A careful examination of key Buddhist texts suggests that tantra, as a distinct aspect of Buddhist practice, is the product of the development of philosophy and spiritual experience over-time, and that despite how different its outer appearance may seem – when compared with other, more conservative Buddhist schools – it is in fact in many ways a logical consequence of the extension of the concept of ‘sunyata’.  The school of tantra – i.e. ‘Tanrayana’ – represents a culmination of creativity within Buddhism that began with the Lord Buddha himself.  The acknowledgement of the importance of the ‘depth on interpretation’ of the Buddha’s teaching is very important.  Tantra is note a later distortion of Buddhist thinking and practice, but rather a sublime manifestation of the karmic consequences of the Buddha’s Turning of the Dharma Wheel in ancientIndia.  The ripples emanate outwards throughout time bringing the teachings to innumerable beings afresh with each new generation.  Tantra is the consequence of the Buddha’s compassionate teachings, whereby people of different mentalities and abilities were taught the Dharma according to their existential need.  This process did not change the Dharma or nullify its timeless, universal truth, but rather demonstrates that wherever wisdom of this kind manifests – compassion must always be its companion and that although practice can occur in isolation, it can also occur within spiritual partnerships.  Whatever the case, it is true that at the very least, the individual must acquire the teachings in one way or another that is dependent upon the efforts of other – even if those efforts appear indirect and of no obvious import.  A book, for instance, must be written, published, sold and acquired, thus creating a long list of contributory stages and individuals who fulfil the work itself.  A teacher must be educated – this simple requirement enlists the help of many, many others, before knowledge can be truly said to ‘belong’ to the teacher.  A student who retires from the world does so because his economic and social circumstances allow him such a choice of action.  Often, the practice of tantra obviously involves either the direct or indirect assistance of others and is not a movement away from the familiar structures of early Buddhism.

Tantra (तन्त्र) is a Sanskrit term that translates literally as ‘weave’ – but more specifically refers to the ‘weft’ of a loom, or the horizontal threads that are ‘weaved’ through the lengthwise warp threads.  Indeed, the Sanskrit term ‘tantravaya’ refers to a ‘weaver’.  The term ‘tantra’ can also be used to refer the ‘thread’ that is actually ‘weaved’, and is related to the Sanskrit term ‘tanti’ (तन्ति) which translates as a ‘cord’ traditionally used to tether calves.  Furthermore, the verbal root ‘tan’ is defined as to ‘stretch’, ‘expand’ and ‘extend’.  This description of a practical handicraft has become adapted to describe a specific practice that links the practitioner to his teacher, to the Buddha, and to the goal of enlightenment.  There is a common ‘thread’ that weaves its way through time and space, and which also links the practitioner as existing in the deluded sphere, to that of the unconditioned enlightened sphere.  Tantra as a method appears to be an elaboration of the Mahayana teaching that suggests that ‘samsara’ – the deluded world – is identical to ‘nirvana – the enlightened world.  Enlightenment is immanent ‘here and now’, and that by necessity all things exist within enlightenment itself.  The world is a function of enlightenment and being so is a positive manifestation even in its deluded aspect.  Through the use of a spiritual method – sadhana – the practitioner can realise enlightenment and truly understand the real nature of the universe.  The method (or sadhana) varies according to each practitioner, but generally speaking each distinct exercise is designed to take the spiritual seeker on an inner journey from ‘here’, to ‘there’.  There can be no mistakes.  The deluded physical world and its activities can not be mistaken as being representative of the enlightened world and its multitudinous functions.  Delusion is delusion, and enlightenment is enlightenment.  The practitioner must thoroughly examine, understand and disregard his way through the journey, sometimes in isolation, other times under the strict guidance of a teacher (guru).  The tantric method weaves samsara with nirvana together through the practitioner’s mind and body.  Good guidance and honesty have to go hand in hand.  Tantric methods might involve any method whatsoever, and these methods may not necessarily be considered typical of the usual methods common within Theravada or Mahayana Buddhism.  The pathway towards enlightenment may not conform to the Four Noble Truths or the Noble Eightfold Path.  This is because the Buddha’s teachings envelope beings of many and varied spiritual capacities – the tantika – or tantric practitioner approaches the quest for enlightenment with a noble and heroic mind that strives for nothing less than complete and total enlightenment – here and now.  As all phenomena is essentially empty and without substance, it follows that all phenomena is equally useful for the ‘breaking through’ process.  Where the tantric practitioner begins the quest is dependent upon their particular karma and state of mind.  Nirvana in early and developed Buddhism is often described as being attained through a particular and precise pathway that is ‘not here’ in the everyday experience.  Things have to be ‘given up’, behaviour has to be modified and a strict policy applied to worldly interaction.  This still happens within tantric practice, with some practitioners living a life very much akin to that of a bhikkhu in the Theravada tradition.  It is also true that due to the understanding that enlightenment underlies all phenomena, pathways that are not so one-side, particular or exclusive may be engaged.  The Buddha taught that desire is the root cause of suffering and should be avoided – but it can be avoided not necessarily by abandoning the outer forms, but by instantly removing the inner conditions that give rise to it.  As this is not the most efficient way to deal with desire, a careful guidance must be applied every step of the way.  Outer forms of desire can be abandoned so that the mind can disengage from them and become detached, but it is conceivably possible to uproot the ‘desiring’ conditions without changing the outer circumstance themselves.

The Chinese characters chosen to represent the Sanskrit term ‘tantra’ are ‘密宗’ (mi4zong1).  The ideogram ‘密’ (mi4) contains the upper particle of ‘宓’ (mi4) which represents something hidden or obscured under a roof or within a building, and the lower particle ‘山’ (shan1) represents a mount.  Therefore the ideogram ‘密’ (mi4) carries the meaning of ‘hidden’ or ‘secret’ – literally something is doubly hidden, once in the mountains, as well as under an obscuring roof.  What is hidden is not easy to see or to find, it is intended to remain secret.  The ideogram ‘宗’ (zong1) is comprised of the particle ‘宀’ (mian2), which is a roof, and the particle ‘示’ (shi4) which is a shrine or altar.  The ideogram ‘宗’ (zong1) represents an altar in a building such as a shrine or temple, and is used within this context to mean a ‘religion’, ‘sect’, or ‘spiritual school’, etc.  The Chinese sages and the Indian saints chose to translate the Sanskrit term ‘tantra’ as ‘密宗’ (mi4zong1).  This refers specifically to a ‘secret religion’, or ‘hidden practice’.  These are teachings that are considered to be of the deepest spirituality, but within the context of Buddhism in general, which emphasises compassion toward all beings, the tantric practice, by way of contrast, although no less compassionate, offers practices which are considered ‘not of the ordinary’, the specifics of which might be misunderstood by those who are not yet prepared.  Tantric practices are not for the ordinary people, but only for those considered karmically ‘ready’.  Tantra is the hidden religion that teaches enlightenment in the exact present.  The Buddha, when advising about tantric practice often teaches that moral purity is very important and should be attained before any undertaking of the higher tantric practices.  Although there may eventually be meat eating, alcohol drinking and sexual participation, these acts themselves are ‘purified’ before they are practiced, so that when these kind of manifestations occur to the yogi, there is no greed, hatred or delusion present.

The ‘thread’ of doctrine which links early Buddhism to tantric Buddhism is the teaching of ‘sunyata’, or ‘emptiness’.  This notion exists in the Pali and Agama Canons, is developed by Nagarjuna to an extraordinary degree within the Mahayana, and may be viewed being as brought to fruition within Tantrayana.  This allows for the concept of nirvana within early Buddhism, (which is viewed as separate and distinct from the deluded world of samsara), to be viewed within the Mahayana as being ‘identical’ with no distinction whatsoever in reality, (other than its realisation) – to being fully applied and explored within Tantrayana as an ultimate truth.  Early Buddhism appears to extol a narrow path of escape from plane of existence to another, whilst developed Buddhism expands the path considerably by equating the delusive state with the enlightened state.  Of course this is not just a random (and convenient) re-adjustment of Buddhist thinking, but rather a very sophisticated re-statement of Buddhist philosophy.  It is often argued that the premise of developed Buddhism, far from being an intellectual re-invention, is in fact present within early Buddhism but I obscured by many other considerations, least of all is the doctrinal dispute that eventually ended in the formation of eighteen distinct Buddhist schools.  From this it can be seen that there has always been a certain interpretive latitude within Buddhist thinking.  Buddhism however, has never just consisted of a set of teachings that must be blindly followed.  Coupled with the Buddha’s enlightened statements, there is the issue of experience with regard to the putting into practice what might be better defined as the ‘implications’ of these statements.  There exists Buddhist teachings, and there exists the recorded experiences of those who have put these teachings into practice.  When compared these two aspects – one theoretical, the other practical – have fed off of one another and created necessary interpretative developments.  Within the tantric movement it is recognised that enlightenment is not solely dependent upon a narrow path, although this path is certainly valid.  Emptiness is equally the underlying nature of both the ‘narrow’ and the ‘broad’ paths.  Once this is acknowledged and understood – that is philosophically accepted as valid – then it is a logical assumption to believe that any spiritual training method, providing it has the enlightened guidance of a guru – or one who has already trodden the path – can convey the practitioner from the state of delusion to that of enlightenment.  The subtle interpretation of the term ‘tantra’ confers the meaning that all is ‘weaved’ together into an all-embracing totality.  The physical world of the senses, far from being a negative and hindering construct, is re-interpreted as being a highly positive vehicle for enlightened expression.  The physical world is not left behind, but rather fully embraced as being existentially spiritually valuable.  Through the spiritual method, (or ‘sadhana’), the reality of ‘sunyata’, (or ‘emptiness’) is directly realised.  Tantra describes both the ‘method’ to the goal, and the ‘goal’ itself.  In this regard, the methods employed within tantra, although extensive, are validated through a certain concept known as ‘sadhana’, and it is to this concept that we now turn.

With a teaching that routinely equates the ‘here and nowness’ of samsara with the sublime heights of nirvanic bliss, there is the ever present danger of the ego assuming an insight it does not possess.  That is, once the deluded intellect learns that the ordinary state of things is in fact representative of the deepest enlightened wisdom, it assumes that it already knows this and is, as a consequence, fully enlightened.  From a purely intellectual position, the tantric assertion seems to be a watered down version of the immense effort associated with other Buddhist paths.  What is the point of striving and making intense effort if the reality of enlightenment is considered to be the ‘ordinariness’ of everyday life?  Of course, although the danger of such an assumption is always present, it is generally countered within tantra, through the insistence upon the use of a ‘sadhana’, or spiritual ‘method’.  This method often takes years to perfect.  Indeed, within the tantric writings, often it is the case that the time period is around twelve years, although some times it can be even longer.  The Sanskrit term ‘sadhana’ (साधन) translates as ‘directing to the goal’.  It also has connections to ‘conjuring’, and ‘magic’ ritual.  Through its effective application spiritual powers can be attained (siddhis), but these should only be viewed as by-products of the movement toward complete enlightenment and never achievements in themselves.  However, as the tantric practitioner is on the compassionate path of the bodhisattva, these various magic powers (siddhis) are often employed for the betterment of humanity.  Sadhana is designed to weave emptiness and form together into one all-embracing ‘whole’.  Ritual, yoga and meditation are practices utilised within sadhana, and although more or less orthodox Buddhist practices can be employed, it is also true that meat eating, alcohol consumption and sexual practice is also used.  The practitioner is initiated into the sadhana method by a guru.  The guru thoroughly understands the student and is able to provide a sadhana suitable to the mentality.  It is never an ad hoc affair.  Timing (and insight) is crucial if the practice is to be effective and the transmission pristine and pure.  The guru has to be enlightened, as this fact empowers the sadhana.  Nothing is taboo in this system.  If emptiness is the underlying reality of the universe, then there is no activity or state of mind that does not have it as its essence.  The sadhana method assists the tantric practitioner to re-move the veil of delusion that usually prevents the immediate observation of the empty essence.  Once removed, emptiness is revealed.  The transmission has to be strong enough for the usual habits of mind to be uprooted through practice whilst living within the midst of the ordinary world.  The ego can not be allowed to exist in its deluded state.  Dualism should not persist.  The power of the sadhana should enable the practitioner to put a hold on the delusive qualities of the mind, whilst building insight and concentration through practice.  When the inner potential reaches a critical impasse the ego is thoroughly transcended and the mind becomes identical with its empty nature.  At this stage the structure of the sadhana has achieved its objective and is dissolved into the emptiness itself.

Tantric practice is the manifestation of Buddhist tolerance and understanding taken to complete fulfilment.  It offers hope to all beings as it does not operate any restrictive or exclusive measures.  Although it is often the case that a guru is required in presence, it is also correct to say that many great tantrikas developed their insight and compassion whilst living in isolation on the tops of mountains or deep inside caves.  Sometimes the connection with a guru is transferred from a past existence into the presence, with no requirement for a guru to exist in physical form.  Other times, a practitioner might meet a guru only once in a lifetime, but spend the next twenty years applying the fruit of that spiritual encounter.  Tantrism is a unique and radical philosophical development that does not allow one-sided notions of spiritual development to take centre stage.  Enlightenment lies within the heart of the present moment, and all that is needed (from the tantric perspective) is the immediate perception of this truth.  Enlightenment, even if it appears a ‘sudden’ event, usually is the product of many years of spiritual preparation and intense effort.  The tantric method resolves insight, compassion and emptiness into the eternal present moment.

Perhaps the most distinctive characteristic of tantric practice is not its generally unorthodox approach toward Buddhist practice, but rather its inclusion – as a valid spiritual practice – of the use of sexual imagery and sexual practice.  Whereas within early Buddhism, any action originating from the taint of ‘desire’, such as a sexual thought or a physical, sexual act, is viewed as a delusive obscuration in the mind, within the tantric tradition, such practices are viewed as legitimate pathways toward enlightenment.  Tantric art often depicts the male tantrika (daka) involved in the sexual embrace of his female tantrika partner (dakini).  It is not the usual kind of sexual embrace.  It generally does not feature physical sexual positions that would be recognisable as part of ordinary sexual relations, but invariable features the male sat in the buddhasana – or the full or half lotus, with the female sat on his lap with her arms and legs embracing his body – belly to belly.  The penis is usually depicted as being erect and inserted within the vagina.  However, despite the rather obvious use of sexual imagery, and the presentation of an almost ritualised sexual act, it is difficult to declare that this is a sexual act of the ‘ordinary’ kind.  This practice and depiction can not be viewed in any way, as being the participation in a one-sided sexual act that is the product of delusion thought.  The symbolism of the depiction declares a unity of nature through its distinctive constituents.  Although a man and a woman can retire (separately) from the world and dedicate themselves to an isolatory practice to realise the ‘one’, tantra offers an interesting alternative.  The Buddha teaches many people the path of isolated practice, but it is obvious that this is not the only path.  Even within early Buddhism, lay people – male and female – realised enlightenment within the lifetime of the Buddha.  These people were not monastics and did not practice in an isolatory fashion.  It may be presumed that within the context of their everyday lives sexuality played a part, either within the mind, the body or both.  Working upon the premise that developed Buddhism firmly has its roots within early Buddhism, it is possible that distinct lineages (unrecorded, for obvious reasons as actual teachings within the early record) survived in principle and practice until circumstances permitted their development into a fully fledged system – circa 8th to 12th century India – with regard to the eighty four Mahasiddhis, etc.  There is also discussion about tantra being the product of Mahayana Buddhism influenced by Brahmanic (Hindu) practices on the grounds that Hinduism has a fully functioning tantric system, or on the contrary that it was a pure Buddhist tantra that influenced Hindu practice.  Whatever the case, tantric teaching is a distinct body of knowledge and wisdom.  Its sexual imagery is neither excessive nor deficient, human desire is simply considered a fact of life that can be used as a means to spiritual development.  The united sexual organs of the male and female denote the unity of creation and its essence, of samsara and nirvana.  In this ecstatic yoga gender loses its definitional boundary all merges into an all embracing void that contains all things.  This unity displayed in sexual union is exactly the same united realised by the holy person who practices in isolation.  The difference is that the latter views sexuality as a hindrance to spiritual development, whilst the former acknowledges that all phenomena – including sexuality – is ‘empty’ and a manifestation of the enlightened mind.  The destination is exactly the same even if there are differences of opinion regarding the direction of the path to take.

Moral purity (sila) is a key requisite for tantric practitioners.  Moral purity may be viewed as containing two distinct aspects; one being the modification of behaviour, the other of eradicating the taints of greed, hatred and delusion from the within mind.  In the Chinese Buddhist school of Ch’an, the masters often say that what exists ‘beyond’ the attainment of enlightenment – that is life after the experience of enlightenment – is never to be spoken about with those not yet existing within this advanced state that is beyond all duality.  This ‘advanced state’ is exactly the domain that the tantric teachings represent.  Although tantra contains Hinayana, Mahayana and Vajrayana aspects, and as a consequence can convey a practitioner from this shore to the other shore, nevertheless, its crowning glory and greatest philosophical achievement lies in its full embracing of the activities of ordinary life, and presenting these activities as a clean and pristine function of the enlightened mind.  Every phenomenon is experienced afresh through tantric eyes.  Although the Dharma is based upon discipline, there is nothing that does not exist in the enlightened state.  As a consequence the world is transformed (through the experience of enlightenment) out of the duality that causes human suffering.

Sunyata: The Beautiful Emptiness.

The mind creates the illusion of a ‘subjective’ (inner) world and an ‘objective’ (outer) world.  Idealists tend to deny the validity of the ‘objective’, in favour of the ‘subjective’, whilst materialists deny the validity of the ‘subjective’ and emphasis the (exclusive) reality of the ‘objective’.  Each position favours one part of the mind and excludes the other part as an illusion.  The proponents of these philosophic positions live in a partial world mistaken as a totality of being.  Although the philosophy of the Buddhist school of Yogacara can be considered ‘idealist’, in reality this categorisation can not apply, as the Yogacarin philosophy does not acknowledge the validity of the universe being divided into a distinct (and separate) inner world of psychic events, juxtaposed with a separate (material) outer world of physical stuff. – all is ‘mind’, and the mind is essentially ‘empty’ (sunya) of any entity that might be considered ‘permanent’ in any way.  An expedient mind – i.e. personal ego and limited intellect – arises and passes away every single second – and to the unenlightened appears unchanging and eternal.  The expedient mind does not arise in a vacuum, but due to karmic fruits manifests spontaneously with the simultaneous arising of the various attributes (dharmas) that comprise the apparent ‘outer’ world.  The physical world, the expedient (deluded) mind, and the physical body arise together due to conditioned causes.  The outer world arises and passes away as the expedient mind arises and passes away – no difference can be found.  The material philosopher does not see that the outer world is a manifestation of the mind, and that the outer world is not static in reality, but only appears to be so when developed insight (prajna) is lacking.  The inner and outer worlds are two-halves of a conditioning ‘whole’ that is only realised with the attainment of full enlightenment.  Until that time the expedient intellect creates numerous (limited) philosophical perspectives about existence and the physical universe.  These systems, by their very natures are limited by the boundaries that define their respective – usually mutually excluding – theories.  As these theories are incomplete, this sets the stage for each to compete with the others by extolling self-defined ‘truths’ and rejecting any other ‘truth’ that does not agree, or is not in accordance.  This kind of thinking is presented in the earlier and later Buddhist teachings as the theories of the unenlightened philosophers.  Yogacara sees all as ‘mind’, with mind being ultimately ‘empty’ (sunya) of any permanent, underlying entity – the Mādhyamaka (or ‘Sunyavada’) school agrees with its Mahayana rival that all is indeed ‘empty’ (sunya), but in so doing stresses that even the mind that sees this is equally ‘empty’.  Despite differences in interpretation it is agreed that ‘emptiness’ (sunyata) is the true essence of reality.  The mind, the physical world and its perception, conception, and consciousness, etc, is one entire and complete conditioning event that is mistakenly perceived as a separate inner mind receiving information from a distinct external world, mediated by the physical body that is occupied during a life time of existence.  Implicit within this mistaken view is that a physical, material world ‘pre-exists’ an individual life time, and continues to exist after the physical demise of the individual – as if independent of the mind that creates and perceives it.  However, as even this mind is ultimately non-existent, there can not be a distinct mind sat in opposition to a material world, and therefore the Buddhist view of ‘sunyata’ (emptiness) as the true nature of reality can not truly be described as ‘idealism’, even though it ascribes a unique philosophical function to the what is described as the ‘mind’ (citta) itself.  Mind is an agency through which the reality of ‘non-mind’ is realised.  The world as it appears to exist is merely the product of a karmic fruit (vipaka) consensus whereby the illusion of individual exist within a more or less permanent outer world, is created a priori through the common deluded state of humanity, which predicates existence as being of a greedy, hateful and deluded nature.  In other words the tyranny of physical matter being externally real is exactly how the base human delusion works.  Humanity, in this limited manifestation appears hemmed in by a physical world that never feels or thinks – it just dominates through its unquestioned presence.  There appears, within the delusion a pre-existing history of the world within which the individual is born.  There also appears to be a post-existing world, as it is clear that others have lived and died, and the physical world is seen to have continued.  This is to be expected and a certain logic can be premised upon the observation of this state – but enlightenment can not be through it, as it stands.  The mind, whether ultimately existent or not, remains the Buddhist agency for the application and focus of transformational training – it is the mind that ‘sees’ that must be changed so that it views existence as it actually is, rather than how the limited mind and the ordinary senses interpret it to be.  The mind is transformed beyond any dualistic notions and can not be assumed to be pure ‘idealism’ as a consequence.

What is clear is that the mind and the world are not as they appear to be.  This disparity between how things appear to be and how things actually are is the basis for suffering as defined through Buddhist philosophy.  The illusion of ‘separation’ between subject and object is (created) and fuelled by greed, hatred and delusion.  Emptiness, as a concept is as central to early Buddhist philosophy as it is to the later, developed Buddhist thinking, although it is within the latter that we see its full development.  In Pali it is written as ‘sunna’ (or ‘empty’), or ‘sunnata’ (or ‘emptiness’).  In the early suttas the Buddha often talks of the necessity for a monk to find an isolated spot so as to practice meditation.  This can be a remote place far from settled communities.  It can be at a root of tree, with legs crossed and back straight, with the mind’s attention fixed toward the front (literally in front of the chest).  These appropriate places are termed ‘sunnagara’ – or an ‘empty places’, but this need not be in the wilderness as sometimes the term ‘sunnageha’ to signify an empty building or room.  These are not the only places, as caves, cemeteries, grottos, hill, mountains and general open spaces are considered remote and lonely enough to cultivate mindfulness.  Furthermore, the Buddha teaches that those who meditate in empty spaces create the inner conditions for the development of the realisation ‘attasunnato’, or ‘emptiness of self’.  The presence of physical and isolatory space around the practitioner’s body is eventually mirrored by the realisation of inner space during the practice of effective meditation.  All states that arise in the mind during meditation are conditioned and ‘empty’ of any permanency.  These states must be abandoned – that is rendered ‘empty’ through insight – so that development into the unconditioned state (of nirvana) can be eventually achieved.  This ‘sunnata-vihara’, (or ‘abode of emptiness’) is considered a very worthy state as it is free of greed, hatred and delusion.  This state of emptiness, although acquired in isolated meditation must be maintained even if the practitioner wonders into built-up areas in seek of alms.  That is to say that once the outer remote conditions (conducive to effective meditation) have fulfilled their function, the inner state of ‘emptiness’ is fully manifest, becoming stable and constant.  The practitioner is able to retain this empty state regardless of whether outer circumstance is peaceful or disruptive.  It is a level of development that is beyond the pull of the material world.  The early Buddhist suttas teach that the world is ‘empty’ (sunna-loka), but this must be qualified.  The world is empty of ‘self’ and anything pertaining to a ‘permanent self’ it is not considered ‘empty’ in and of itself.  The world conditioned (i.e. created) by greed, hatred and delusion, and perpetuated by a sense of a permanent self, is realised to be ‘empty’ of these things, and as a consequence of this realisation, the practitioner is able to abandon attachment to it – therefore it is said the world is truly ‘empty’ of anything that would make it attractive to the senses and inspire desire.  Early Buddhism views all physical things (dharmas) as impermanent, continuously changing, and free of any real substance and separate self.  Although the realised mind is ‘empty’ of greed, hatred and delusion, as well as a permanent self, the stuff constituting the outer world is not viewed as being part of this ‘emptiness’ of mind.  In the enlightened state the ‘empty’ mind stands in (a non-competitive) opposition to a continuously changing physical world – a world that does not share in the mind’s state of emptiness.  The mind is free from attachment to the world and this is considered philosophically adequate as a means of explanation for the enlightened state as conveyed within early Buddhism.

Of course, even with is early conception, an enlightened being could be described as abiding in emptiness, and to have thoroughly penetrated (through insight) to the empty nature of the mind and of matter.  The physical world is a creation of karmic fruit (vipaka), and as such is transitory.  The force of willed (cetana) karma creates the four elements (earth, fire, water, and air) and pulls them into a world of appearance that is suitable for the manifestation of the karmic fruits.  The physical world in general, and the circumstance of a particular life, are both the result of personal karma created through greed, hatred and delusion, and the belief in a false, permanent self.  Early Buddhism views this karmic world as being insubstantial, but otherwise real in its momentariness.  Moment by moment the power of karmic fruit creates a dualistic world that appears permanent and unchanging to the unenlightened mind.  It is the nature of phenomena that it is created, exists and then passes away from one moment to the next and that the illusion of continuation is really nothing more than the product of a karmic theme, playing out the illusion of a specific individual existence.  The world appears similar from many different individual perspectives, as humanity shares a certain underlying karmic cause.  There is a consensus of delusive manifestation.  The arahant of early Buddhism, the noble conqueror has freed him from this gross delusion and continues to live in the physical world no longer creating any karmic fruit, but living out the dramatically reduced effects of past karmic fruit, the very least of which consist in the continuation of a functioning (living) body.  This karma is used up at the point of physical death and the arahant enters the ‘parinirvana’, or the ‘beyond nirvanic’ state where delusive existence is no more.  Developed Buddhism, on the other hand, logically extends the ‘emptiness’ (sunyata) argument to its implied conclusion.  It is not a ‘new’ argument that is entering Buddhism, nor is it a conceptual pollution from an outside source, but rather a process of the ‘bringing out’ of that which is already present in the oldest layers of the Buddhist teachings.

To understand this developmental process, an assessment of ‘emptiness’ (sunyata) must be undertaken.  It is clear that in early Buddhism emptiness refers to the lack of the presence of greed, hatred and delusion, as well the abandonment of the notion of a permanent self.  It is an emptiness that marks the absence of delusion.  Delusion is no longer present in the mind or perceived in the environment (in relation to the mind).  The mind does not create the conditions that lead to the desire of external entities or attachment to those entities.  It is true that no further karma is produced but that the karma relating to the world and the physical body continues until it is fully burnt off (at the point of death), and there is no more re-birth.  The nirvanic state has present within it certain powers of the mind, and perfected knowledge.  This concept of nirvana exists as an escape from the physical world of samsara.  It is viewed very much as an antidote to the suffering experienced within ordinary life.  The practitioner gradually disentangles himself from attachments to the world, thus withdrawing the mind from deliberate interaction with physical things.  The process signifies a ‘withdrawal’ away from samsara and into nirvana, with one state being left for the preference of the other.  The idea of a ‘self’ leads to investment in the physical world – when such a concept is seen to be an illusion – the notion of the world being empty of self manifests.  The development of the Mahayana expands the notion of emptiness to include not only the nature of the enlightened mind, but also the phenomena of the physical world.  In this view, nirvana is not a state that exists outside of and separate to samsara, but rather consists of the realisation that the nature of the entirety of existence is ‘empty’.  The physical world is no longer only ‘empty’ of self, but is rather inherently empty of any intrinsic substantiality whatsoever.  Through meditative study and behaviour modification, the true and empty nature of the mind and the world is seen clear to be empty, with all phenomena appearing to arise and pass away within a great void.  The ‘all is mind’ teaching of the Yogacara is further clarified by the Madhyamaka teaching that ‘all is empty’.  The mind does not separately exist within a physical world, and the physical world does not independently exist outside of the mind.  Both mind and matter are viewed to be of the same intrinsic essence that is in reality ‘empty’ of any substantiality.  The essence of samsara (delusion) is emptiness which interprets the state of nirvana as being ‘imminent’.  Seeing through to the essence of samsara is to realise nirvana and enlightenment.  Within Mahayana it is the bodhisattva that takes president other the arahant, the latter of which is view as being only relatively enlightened.  The arahant has only realised emptiness of mind (becoming attached to this state, misinterpreting it to be the final nirvana), but has not realised the profound emptiness of all phenomena.  The bodhisattva, by comparison, following the example of the Buddha in the Jataka Tales – (the stories of his various incarnations) – develops his mind slowly but surely toward the realisation of enlightenment, cultivating wisdom (prajna) and compassion (karuna) in equal measure.  Although he may attain to nirvana, he does so by not entering fully into it, but instead delays his final passing until he has freed all living beings from suffering.  This is the attainment of nirvana with remaining residue.  Painful re-births are willing accepted so that the Dharma may be brought to suffering beings.  The final parinirvana (or final extinction) can be delayed for immeasurable time periods, but when a particular bodhisattva has carried-out all the karmic tasks required of him, his last link with the physical world is broken and he enters the great peace of the nirvanic state.

In both early and later Buddhism the Pali-Sanskrit term ‘sunya’ (शून्य), is used to convey a very definite sense of ‘something lacking’, or ‘not being present’, when the world is perceived through the prism of the enlightened mind.  This must not be confused with the idea that ‘sunya’ is denoting a negative, pessimistic out-look, far from it – what is defined as ‘missing’ is nothing other than the delusion that Is the root of human suffering.  It is this lack of the presence of distorting ignorance and desire that ‘sunya’ is conveying.  In early Buddhism, it is only the enlightened individual that is considered truly ‘empty’ of delusion, whilst in later Buddhism it is the enlightened individual and all phenomena that are ‘empty’.  The lack of presence of a deluded state is actually positive in reality, even when the idea of ‘positive’ and ‘negative’ has no further meaning in the enlightened state.  In accordance with the Buddha’s method which explains enlightenment through reference to ‘what it is not’, ‘sunya’, or ‘emptiness’ removes that which is not required so that the true enlightened mind can be manifest.  From the perspective of the enlightened mind – there is neither ‘emptiness’ nor ‘fullness’, as such dichotomies exist only in the realm of dualistic thought. However, ‘sunya’ does convey something of the enlightened state by contextualising perception away from the apparent substance and stability the deluded mind regularly presents as ‘reality’.  In this regard, it must be distinguished from the third absorption of the arupa-jhana levels of meditation, which is described by the Pali term ‘akincanna’, which translates as ‘no-thingness’.  This denotes a state of mind free from the creation of consciousness itself.  This is not ‘sunya’, and has been alternatively described elsewhere as a state of ‘not-somethingness’.  As a state, it immediately precedes the attainment of neither perception nor non-perception.  Interestingly, even the first arupa-jhana – anantakasa – which translates as ‘infinite space’ is not considered ‘sunya’, even though the Buddha (in the early teachings) often refers to the perception of open spaces (in the environment) as ‘sunna’ or ‘sunya’.  From this observation it can be ascertained that the state of ‘sunya’ is not a negation or a nihilistic statement.  It is not, at the point of the realisation of enlightenment, the reducing of all things to a state of ‘no-thingness’.  Emptiness is certainly an attribute of the enlightened state, but one which must be carefully and clearly analysed and presented.  Through the training delusion is uprooted and its habit abandoned – never to arise again.  The mind must undergo a complete ‘turning about’ at its deepest levels before the state of sunyata can be realised.  As language is conditioned by the deluded mind that has created it, it has to be taken into account that any description of ‘sunyata’ from ‘outside’ the enlightened experience – as it were – can not fully convey a concept that is the product of a mind without boundaries.  What can be achieved is an adequate description that does not (in the processing of conveying meaning), unnecessarily reduce the concept to an unrecognisable ‘ism’.

The Sanskrit term ‘sunya’ has an interesting etymology.  Its interpretation is non-specific according to extant knowledge which suggests its full meaning has either been lost through time, or not as yet fully understood.  Be that as it may, the root word for ‘sunya’ is ‘svi’, which denotes a ‘swelling’, a ‘hollowness’ and the act of ‘expansion’.  It also carries the meaning of ‘void’ and ‘nothing’ due primarily to its use within Indian mathematics.  However, within the Mahayana interpretation, not only does this term mean ‘emptiness’, it also carries the further meaning of ‘fullness’. The Mahayana enlightenment experience, especially within the Chinese Ch’an School has described this state as being one of an all-embracing void that contains all things. This presents the apparent logical paradox that describes a state of ‘void’, that due to it containing all things, is not ‘actually’ only ‘void’.  It is a state that is void-like, but that can not be limited to the description of ‘voidness’.  It is a ‘full’ void that is essentially ‘empty’ as a defining factor.  More than this, however, but it appears that as an experience to the practitioner, the enlightenment event is experienced as an expansion of awareness.  This is to say that whatever state of mind precedes the enlightenment experience itself, the mind undergoes a thorough transformation process that is described through the use of the word ‘sunya’.  As an experience it can not be limited to the definitional boundaries of the ordinary mind that experiences it.  Even within mathematics, the notion of ‘zero’ rarely means ‘nothing’ in an absolute sense, but rather refers to an exact mid-point between plus one and minus one (i.e. -1, 0, 1+), and is rather representative of a ‘middle’ position that embraces (i.e. ‘joins’) two extreme positions.  Enlightened might be envisaged as a three dimensional experience of what a two dimensional mathematical theory strives to represent.  This is probably exactly the same experience as recorded in early Buddhism, but with a movement away from merely explaining what enlightenment ‘is not’, toward a position of providing a positive clue as to what the experience might be like.  Obviously there will be infinite space, infinite consciousness, neither perception nor non-perception and beyond.  All these jhanic states, although ultimately ‘transcended’ during the training contribute toward the enlightenment experience itself.  Such an experience contains a special jnanic knowledge that allows for the direct understanding of all phenomena.  In the Mahayana the practice of dhyana leads to prajna.  Time and space are drastically altered in the essential experience of sunya.  On the mundane level, time and space appear normal, but in reality the relative nature of these two crucial human activities is transformed through insight.  Nothing is the same, and yet everything is just as it was before the experience.  Sunya – as ‘emptiness’ acts as an antidote to the attachment to form.  The fact that the emptiness is in fact ‘full’ – of all things – acts as an antidote to any nihilistic tendencies.  Sunya has many interpretations depending upon the angle of philosophical approach.  Although sometimes described as the ‘void’, certain academics have stressed that it should be viewed as meaning ‘devoid’, as they emphasis that which is not there, rather than what is present in experience.  This approach is valid in one sense, but incomplete in another, as it ignores the true import of the implication of sunya as used within Buddhist thought.  What is important to understand is that life as it is usually viewed is not the reality of existence – and the use of the term ‘sunya’ emphasises this important insight.  Sunya can not be easily reduced to a simple formula of ‘intellectual’ interpretation, and therefore remains, due to its innate ‘vagueness’, free from any quick and mistaken view of advanced Buddhist thinking.  Whatever interpretation the unenlightened intellect assigns to the term ‘sunya’, it is certain that it is partial and incomplete.  The Chinese term used to translate ‘sunya’ is ‘空’ (kong1).  This ideogram is comprised of the particle’穴’ (xue2) which denotes a ‘cave’.  The particle ‘工’ (gong1) represents a dirt tamper.  The ideogram ‘空’ (kong1) carries the meaning of ‘empty’, ‘hollow’, ‘void’ and ‘unreal’.  It can also mean the ‘sky’ and refer to ‘space’.  Through hard work – ‘工’ (gong1) – the empty void – 穴’ (xue2) – is realised.  When translating the Buddhist Sanskrit term of ‘sunya’, the Indian and Chinese scholars agreed upon the Chinese ideogram ‘空’.  It may be assumed that this translation of a very important and central aspect of Buddhist thought conveys an exact and precise interpretation of ‘sunya’, and as such be used to shed light on the original and intended meaning of the term.  The Mahayana teachings make it clear that conditioned reality is ‘empty’ of any permanent or ultimate meaning – implying that the unconditioned state (that nirvana represents) – is the true underlying reality, and that to understand this, ‘emptiness’ as a one-sided concept, must itself be made empty.  Sunya is applied to all things – including itself.  Sunya applies to sunya and as such is sometimes described as ‘relativity’.  Everything is ‘empty’ of permanency in relation to all over things.  Even the dualistic impression that the ‘conditioned’ world exists in conjunction with an ‘unconditioned’ world is subjected to ‘sunya’.  The negation is negated.  Sunya describes the path to its realisation through the abandonment of greed, hatred and delusion and the idea of a permanent self.  It also describes the objective of the path – the end product, so to speak –as a concept it serves both these functions simultaneously.  It is a concept that negates itself and creates a positive, much like -1 – 0 – 1+, but which does not become stuck in either positive or negative, fullness or emptiness.  It represents the entirety of minus one, zero and plus one, without limitation.  Of course, the actual realisation of sunya is not limited to a mathematical principle but is representative of a true and organic psycho-physical transformative experience.  Words can not explain the state exactly, but can approximate a working hypothesis.  The expansion of consciousness does appear to be implicated in the sunya concept.  It expands and includes all things which are empty in as much as all things appear to manifest within the void and pass away moment to moment.  The void that is not empty is the universal mind.  The ‘void’ that is empty of ‘voidness’ contains a multiplicity of phenomena that are ‘empty’ of ‘emptiness’.  From this analysis sunya can be defined as meaning void, devoid, emptiness and relativity, depending upon the particular aspect of Buddhist philosophy that is under discussion.  The definition of ‘relativity’ is one that best suits the academic assessment of Buddhist philosophy by those who do not necessarily practice Buddhism.  The descriptions of ‘void’ and ‘emptiness’ are more useful and practical to those already engaged upon the spiritual developmental path.  Such labels are clues to the direction to take.  Working with these definitions the negation (i.e. ‘devoiding’) of ‘emptiness’ can be achieved.  At no time does the sunya concept allow for a fall into eternalism or nihilism.

Enlightenment is an experience that occurs through the discipline and direction of the mind but one which is not limited to the mind itself.  It is a complete experience beyond the limiting boundaries of the intellect.  The intellect can look at the experience in a second-hand manner surveying the reports of others, but it can not truly grasp the essence of the experience itself.  Sunya is a term created by the ordinary human mind – it is not particularly divine or mystical.  It denotes a term of expanding hollowness that describes a spiritual state, but appears to be incomplete with regards to its exact etymology, although it appears to share a similar etymology with the Sanskrit term ‘Brahman’ (ब्रह्मन्), which is comprised of the root ‘brh’ – and which means to ‘swell’ and ‘grow’.  These terms may well refer to a common experience of the expansion of consciousness (and the associated developed wisdom) attained through spiritual practice (yoga).  Within early Buddhism, this wisdom sees the mind and world as being ‘empty’ of a permanent self, greed, hatred and delusion, with the physical world (dharmas), being insubstantial but otherwise ‘real’.  The wisdom of later Buddhism agrees with virtually all of this assessment but extends the nature of ‘emptiness’ to include the physical world itself, thus removing any notions of pluralism or duality.  Whereas earlier Buddhism escapes samsara (the physical world) and leaves it behind by entering the separate and distinct state of nirvana – later Buddhism however, views samsara as being identical with nirvana and subject to ‘sunyata’, or ‘emptiness’.  Nirvana is realised ‘here and now’ in the midst of samsara and not some where else at a different time.  The implication of the extension of the notion of ‘sunyata’ transforms the world into an all-embracing void that contains all things.  Only the fully realised understand the nature of this state and teach that from a developmental perspective, the mistaken idea that the physical world and self are substantial and real is countered by the application of ‘sunyata’, or ‘emptiness’ as a meditative method.  Through the reading of the Prajnaparamitra Sutra and various other Mahayana teachings, the wisdom of ‘sunyata’ permeates the practitioner’s mind, transforming the world he inhabits through the application of wisdom and expedient means.  The teaching of ‘emptiness’ breaks up the delusion of ‘substantiality’ and allows for the establishment of ‘compassion’ (karuna) in the world from the premise of the acknowledgement that ‘substantiality’ is the essence of human suffering.  Emptiness, by its very nature, embodies the extension of compassion throughout the mind and universe.  Substantiality blocks the manifestation of wisdom and compassion by separating the living beings of the world into competing individuals, motivated by distinct interests.  Humanity clambers to acquire and stabilise a ‘substantiality’ that does not exist within the world illusion emanating from the mind.  Each person exists within a presumed ‘isolation’ that is affected by the circumstances of life, as if separate from those experiences.  The teaching of ‘sunyata’ allows for the dissolving of the illusion of individuality and with it the state of the non-arising of the conditions (that lead to suffering) is firmly established.  Sunyata allows hints of some thing that recedes just beyond the boundaries of logic that exist within the ordinary, unenlightened mind.  This mind can only speculated as to its true meaning, and apply labels that might, or might not adequately describe the actual experience of the state itself, which through necessity must remain free of any definitional attempts to pigeon-hole it into a convenient category or sound-bite.  Sunyata, although definitely present as an advanced developmental state, is nevertheless immune from any exact definition as everything that can be said about it as a state is made immediately redundant by the very nature of sunyata itself.  An emptiness that is full – appears always to contain its opposite in definition, but furthermore, also retains the ability to immediately dissolve into ‘meaninglessness’ any notion that attempts to secure a transferable meaning to it.  Sunyata can not be limited to any one meaning, because it contains every possible meaning, including its own negation.  It is, as a realisable state, a beautiful transformative experience achieved within existence that transcends all duality.

Buddhism Through The Capitalist Filter.

The arrival of Buddhism in the West, (and the travelling of Westerners in the East), has set in motion a cascade of interaction that is unpredictable nature and chaotic in practice.  Buddhism has had to undergo two distinct orientation exercises; one with the religion of Christianity – the prevailing religion of the West – and the economic imperative of Capitalist endeavour, which began in Italyin the 14th century.  Even a cursory familiarisation of the Buddhist teachings in any of their respective manifestations, will notice that the Buddha, his monks and spiritual descendents were not motivated for the profit of money, but rather inspired by the effects of suffering as experienced by ordinary humanity.  The requirement to find an answer to suffering involved a tremendous amount of self-effort, or ‘work’, but a work that attracted the wages of spiritual insight rather than those of material wealth.  It is remarkable to survey the spiritual teachings of the world and realise that ‘money’ was never part of the original interaction between sage and student.  Indeed, even modern Christianity with its modern embracing of the so-called ‘work ethic’ obscures the reality that Jesus Christ was thoroughly opposed to both the accumulating of money and the requirement for humanity to partake in soul-destroying physical labour.  The Buddha, in a similar vein, purposefully left his life of physical pleasure and psychological stimulation, so that he may divert his attention toward the essence of his mind, rather than be pre-occupied with the trivia of sensory gratification.  His spiritual journey was taken outside of the bounds of conventional life – the forest rather than the town – and whilst exploring the many facets of Indian yoga discovered a middle path that led to his full emancipation from suffering and complete enlightenment.  A manifestation of this enlightenment is the hundreds of Buddhist Suttas, or scriptures that provide written evidence of the depth of his understanding.  These teachings were passed on for around a hundred years by an oral tradition before eventually being written down.  The male members of the monastic community are termed ‘bhikkhu’, (the females ‘bhikkhuni’), a term that literally means ‘beggar’.  These spiritual seekers renounced money, (indeed, the ‘vinaya’, or rules of the monastic community forbids the handling of money), instead living a life of existing on waste food and drink donated by the lay community.  The Buddha taught openly and in response to spiritual need, never asking for or demanding payment of any kind.  The laity provides food, drink and material (for robes) because it is spiritually right to do so.  Although throughout the world, this original anti-material attitude can still be found practiced by Buddhists, it is also true that wherever Capitalism has spread, it has taken the temptation to ‘exploit’ with it, and a product of this imperative has been the distortion of the ‘not for money’ aspect of Buddhist in some of its manifestations.

For many, modern living carries the necessity for mutual exploitation of one another either within, or in the case of crime, outside a moderating legal system.  Profit has to exist for the system to function, and with this profit, there must be inequality.  The Buddha lived in a society that privileged his caste and his social rank – his father was a chief or king (raja).  Social inequality was as prominent in ancientIndiaas it is today across the world.  As a spiritual statement, the Buddha gave up his life of luxury, his wife and his child.  He turned his back on a life of sensual pleasure and headed into the wilderness to rid his mind of attachment.  He identified the mental aspects of greed, hatred and delusion as the three taints that caused human suffering and ensured the continuous round of re-birth.  What he demanded from his followers was a deep sense of commitment, honesty and insight.  Monetary capability had no part in the spiritual process of the acquisition of the enlightened state in the early teachings, and this attitude is maintained in the teachings od developed Buddhism without exception.  There is no Buddhist sutta that teaches that ‘money’ should be given by a practitioner to the Buddha before spiritual instruction is imparted.  No such teaching exists in a wisdom tradition that demands an ‘exact’ attention to the details of spiritual instruction.  As all Buddhist traditions claim a direct lineage back to the historical Buddha, it is interesting to note the intrusion of the Capitalist imperative into certain Buddhist schools and the social institutions they inspire or support.  This phenomenon may be viewed as an active ‘contamination’ of the original Buddhist teachings, and a sullying of the pristine intention of the Buddha.  It is a complex situation which includes wealthy (and not so wealthy) patrons donating money as ‘dana’, or Buddhist charity – which is a legitimate Buddhist practice.  Although instruction should be ‘free’ at the point of dispense, many Buddhist organisations and institutions demand a payment of money before instruction can be given.  A practitioner with no access to money is not instructed – this is completely opposite to the Buddhist teaching.  Money – the product of the world of delusion – does not and can purchase enlightenment.  The exchange of money reduces the conveying of the Buddha’s wisdom to a mere act of commerce – as if the contemporary Buddhist teacher ‘owns’ the Buddha’s wisdom, and is selling it to the highest bidder.  This interaction amounts to a distortion of Buddhist teachings and attracts the kind of karma associated with the deliberate misrepresenting the Buddha’s wisdom.  Sometimes a very wealthy patron financially sponsors the physical existence and running costs of a temple (or other Buddhist centre) and in so doing maintains the principle of free instruction at the point of contact.  In this instance the interaction between Buddhist teacher and student is not reduced to a commercial activity, even though the temple or centre might exist within a Capitalist economic structure.  Giving wealth to improve and maintain the practice of Buddhist teaching is very much in accordance with generosity and compassion, providing the teaching of the Dharma is not mediated through an exchange of money.

However, considering that the Buddhist suttas belong to no single person – and by implication belong to the whole of humanity – it is interesting to observe that it is a habit of culture to create publications (as books and journals, etc) and sell them on the open market.  The Buddha’s teachings, when interpreted and presented by a single person (within the covers of a book), are presumed to be the property of the owner of the copyright (related to the work in question), even though the essence of the work is not the intellectual property of the author concerned.  This assumption of ‘ownership’ of the Buddhist teachings is the distinguishing factor of the Buddha’s teachings as manifest within Capitalist society.  The purchaser of the book may own the book, but does not possess the intellectual content – by purchasing the book, the owner simply pays to possess a ‘private’ copy of the work in question – but the work in question always remains the property of some one else (the author), regardless of the ‘price’ of the book, and can never be owned by the purchaser, regardless of the amount of money that changes hands.  In this way knowledge is passed around society, and its essential ownership maintained and ensured.  The intellectual content of the book is the ‘private property’ of the author.  Capitalist society is premised upon the ownership of private property, be it a book or a building.  Those who own property socially and economically dominate those who do not.  A private space that is used for the practice of Buddhist meditation has within it the legal potential to ‘sell’ the Buddhist teaches as if they were part and parcel of the private property itself.  The associated dominance of ownership allows for any thing to be exploited for profit – including spiritual teachings.  The fact that through the procurement of spiritual teachings for money – that is, in this instance, through Buddhist teachings treated as a commodity that can be bought and sold – an individual might, through the study of the acquired teachings, derive a certain developmental benefit, does not detract from the fact of the perversion (of the context) of the original teachings themselves.  Indeed, in such a distorted context any derived benefit must be viewed as purely coincidental and the product of the good and honest intentions of the purchaser.  The established Buddhist tradition teaches according to need.  The numerous Buddhist suttas often convey the same message in many different a diverse formats.  These formats arise due to the difference in mentality and ability of those being taught – the Buddha, through his wisdom, carefully provided a relevant context for his teachings to the differing people who came and asked for instruction.  Teachings were never given in a written format – without explanation or specific guidance – but were always verbally manifest.  Later, after these teachings had been written down, the teachings themselves would be studied and guidance offered by qualified teachers.  Buddhism, in whatever guise it may be encountered, is essentially a ‘wisdom’ tradition.  The teachings on their own – encountered with no contextual instruction or guidance – become so many dry words.  In the Chinese Ch’an tradition, for instance, often scripture learning is dispensed with completely, and the inherent wisdom conveyed from master to student without the reliance upon words and letters.  Purchasing the written teachings without guidance creates a form of limited private property – the purchaser owns the book, but does not own the content – and by-passes the traditional ‘teacher-student’ interaction.

In the case of meditation centres that ‘sell’ the Buddha-Dharma, an interesting sequence of events unfolds.  As soon as Buddhist teachings become a commodity to be bought and sold as the whim dictates, automatically an economic barrier descends that effectively separates those who can afford the teachings, from those who can not.  This contravenes the most basic of Buddhist tenants, namely that anyone can attempt the Buddhist path which is essentially an anti-material endeavour.  Indeed, within the Buddha’s lifetime, those who followed his path as monks and nuns were effectively penniless not only as monastics, but prior to entering the order were from the lowest (and poorest) social strata.  If the Buddha had insisted upon the economic imperative as a means to ‘filter’ those who wished to be his followers, it is doubtful that Buddhism as a distinct philosophical path would have survived, as the people who achieved the highest states and conveyed the purest teachings would not have been selected at all.  In the modern context access to money secures entry to meditation centres and to the horded teaches they possess.  Notice here, however, that the possession of the correct amount of ‘access’ money only allows for a brief association with the teachings themselves, it does not, and it can not assure any developmental benefit as a consequence of the economic interaction.  In this context, compassion is replaced by commercial considerations, and the spiritual well-being of the student relegated to an ‘ability to pay’.  This situation requires Buddhism as a distinct social and cultural entity to succumb to the forces of the economic imperative and adopt an attitude of commerciality, whereby its practitioners occupy a surreal and apparent spiritual dimension that is predicated solely upon the ability to sell itself.  The Buddha originally left the world as dictated by wealth and lived a natural existence free of the need to own or accumulate wealth – which may be juxtaposed with the modern meditation centre which although apparently offering an alternative to the material world of wealth and profit, is in fact a product of that very world.  The modern meditation centre exists not because it is a product of ascetics who have left society, or who possess independence means, but rather as a deliberate exercise in profit making, but one which hides behind a thin veneer of spirituality.  This charade is so intense that many who participate within it are convinced that the ‘lie’ is the ‘truth’, and that the modern mythology they perpetuate is in accordance with the Buddha’s life example and the teachings he produced.  Of course, this an ideal breeding ground for the development of Buddhist ‘cults’, who, upon the assumption that they ‘own’ the Buddhist teaches that they have purchased, build a structure of access to those teachings based upon a flawed ideology coupled with a need to further exploit through the acquisition of profit.  Many of these cults refer to themselves as ‘Western’, and whilst wearing saffron robes, shaving the head and accepting Sanskrit names, nevertheless, propagate the insanity that Asian culture has no relevancy to Buddhism or the West!  Invariably, these cults abound with accusations of misconduct, ranging from the financial to the sexual, thus perpetuating the greed, hatred and delusion, the presence of which the Buddhist teaching explicitly warns against.  This distortion is really nothing more than the profit motive taken to its absurd bounds.  Misrepresentation is only limited by a lack of imagination.  Indeed, one well-known Western movement, having suffered for years through the sexual misconduct of its founder, has recently ‘re-branded’ itself so as to make its ‘product’ more desirable to the consumer.

The intellectual by-product of Buddhism being reduced to an economic commodity is one that believes it is thinking deep and profound thoughts about the ‘need’ for Buddhism to adapt to its Western surroundings, as if it where a new plant or unusual breed of animal.  This kind of pseudo-intellectualism has no grounding in reason and is the culmination of one misunderstanding heaped upon another.  It assesses ‘a priori’ that the Capitalist system of exploitation is correct and necessary and that philosophies that have developed in different psycho-physical climates should lose their cultural distinctiveness by conforming to the rigours of market forces.  This kind of argument suggests that any perceived incoming and ‘foreign’ entity lacks the cultural markers that make it appear logical and exploitable.  The answer is to reduce it to a non-descript commodity that might sell due to its exotic origination – like an ornate table or distinctive chair.  This, in part, arises due to the assumption that that which is different is a threat to stability.  It is a threat culturally, (Buddhism threatens the assumed superiority of Christianity in the West), and due to its ‘other worldly’ attitude, a threat to the relentless search for profit.  Buddhism as a distinct entity from a different place is usurped by those who believe themselves to be the upholders of its tradition.  In the process its inherent structures are dismantled and re-defined in such away so that its originating uniqueness is never seen again.  Buddhism is destroyed by the very forces that would preserve it in a new climate.  Obviously, a Buddhist path such distorted can no longer perform its spiritually enlightening function and becomes merely another aspect of oriental paraphernalia – an usual object to be collected and horded.  All difference must be attacked into oblivion.  This includes those who would follow and preserve the original form of Buddhism essentially unchanged.  Asians are viewed as ‘clannish’, and ‘unwilling’ to mix, and their Buddhism ‘illogical’, ‘barbaric’ and the product of a ‘backward’ culture.  It must be transformed through its encounter with the West into the exact opposite of eurocentrically defined ‘civility’.  Of course, this kind of social force is exactly the force that helped carry Western imperialism to spread to all sides of the world and is racist in nature.  Racism is historically associated with the spread of Capitalist free market forces.  So strong is its association that even in a country such as theUK– where racism is considered incorrect – it still abounds as an active social force, and is routinely expressed in such newspapers as The Sun, The Daily Express, The Daily Mail and The Telegraph, not to mention the medium of satellite television and the internet, etc.  This implicit and explicit attitude of intolerance assumes that the perceived ‘other’ is an inferior threat to the survival of Western culture, when in fact the real reason is because philosophies such as Buddhism offer a clear alternative to the economic exploitation of the masses.  As Buddhism strengthens the mind, the forces of exploitation are kept at bay and the structures of the philosophy kept intact.  Even within exploitative societies Buddhism can retain its inherent identity and preserve its intended enlightening function.

The Buddha’s Enlightenment.

Essentially the ultimate validation of any system, school, academy, lineage, science or mode of understanding, is the inevitable process the literature and its own peculiar (and lurking) form of ‘anti-matter’ – known as the disintegration of the logical underpinnings that hold it all together.  This is not a negation, but rather an acknowledgement that all that is brought together by the human mind, can not remain as an artificial construct indefinitely.  Bundles of ideas can be conveyed from one generation to the next, but in the process, the acknowledged accumulated wisdom is not only ‘conveyed’, but also ‘replicated’ in the act of remembrance through study.  Things that are passed on are really disparate in nature, consisting of many strands of knowledge held together by a central premise.  In its natural environment, (and left to its own devices), all knowledge bundles atrophy into non-awareness and return to an unconstituted state.  Knowledge is awareness aimed at a particular subject (or object), with the experience stored as ‘memory’ in the human mind.  This gathering of knowledge is inherently linked to the ‘re-call’ of ‘facts’ stored as memories.  This gathering of experience is passed on as knowledge so that the benefit of its value may be experienced by another.  This knowledge-value is added to and taken away from as the gathering and passing-on process requires.  There are many types of knowledge bundles with criterion that vary according to the nature of those bundles, such as science, philosophy, or religion, etc.  This memory of experience is obviously affected by geography, climate and change.  What is ‘known’ is gathered from reasoning and reflection entwined with physical experience.  Different knowledge bundles define the various cultures existent around the world.  The differences in knowledge bundles represent the disparate nature of human existence, and although this ‘difference’ can be seen within distinct nations of peoples, it can also be viewed as existing between family groupings and individuals.  This kind of knowledge is the product of the apparent interaction of ‘mind’ and ‘matter’, with the caveat that what may appear to be ‘separate’ and ‘different’ in the everyday manifestation, may not in fact be so in ‘reality’, if reality is defined as ‘not existing in the everyday’.  Of course, this is not to say that reality is non-existent in the everyday, but that through the prism of ordinary cognition, the world appears to manifest in a certain manner that is at odds with the description of the world as perceived and understood by those who have undergone a transformation process of the mind, through a specific regime of mind development.  This implies that ordinary perception, regardless of its clarity and insight, is nevertheless ‘impaired’ in some way, and is therefore unable to perceive reality as it actually is, rather than through the perceptual limitation of its usual and normal functioning.  In this regard, the notion of ‘common sense’ denotes a certain collective knowledge that is functional in the everyday world, but is in fact no more than a collection of focused deluded thoughts assumed to be important within a certain context.  The ordinary mind, passed on from birth between parents and off-spring is exactly the entity that is believed to be transformed through the spiritually enlightening process.  This is not a process that exists beyond the world, but rather the activation of a higher mind state already existent but existentially obscured by confusion of thought and conflicting feelings.  This inner array of unfocused ordinariness is compounded and affirmed by the physical conditions and characteristics that form the material life of the individual.  Matter and mind work within an intricate matrix of thought, feeling and outer experience that conspires to retain the ordinary state of mind for as long as possible, creating the assumption that it is the only mind-state that can manifest within the world itself.  Mind and matter mutually condition one another so that no other state of being can be realised as possible in theory or practice.

Humanity is trapped in two ways.  It is trapped by its necessity to immediately adapt to the often harsh circumstances that are part of a physical existence in the world.  Physical existence, although viewed as extremely valuable within Buddhist philosophy, contains within the potential to be incredibly brutal and short.  Material conditions create an immediate sense of urgency in the mind (and body) of every human being and living thing.  Without meeting this urgency directly, the physical existence of the individual is threatened.  Environmental pressure to survive within a hostile material circumstance dictates the kind of mind-set that is developed.  Before the development of human culture and the disparity between people within a society, the common experience of life was one of immense difficulty as there existing little cultural security, medicine or technology of any kind.  The human mind internalises these inadequacies so as create the taints of greed, hatred and delusion, and the environment encourages and supports the creation of these taints.  In developed societies, these conditions are still prevalent but hidden.  Modern society encourages competitiveness between individuals whereby an ample collective wealth is fought over through the auspices of commerce, and the restrictive mind-sets of those who possess much, to the detriment of those who possess little.  Fear permeates even the most affluent life-style, (i.e. fear of he loss of wealth), and the most deprived, for obvious reasons.  The urgency of the need to secure (and retain) physical security is the same in contemporary societies as it was for primitive societies.  The presentation may have changed, but the underlying material pressure remains exactly the same.  Knowledge must be generated and gathered quickly.  In old social groupings this required an apparent and functioning knowledge that appeared to work within a limited context.  As societies developed, the ability to gather knowledge became conditioned by one’s social circumstance and economic position within a society.  Those with access to the educational facilities obviously had the ability to gather knowledge with a far greater range of depth and applicability, as opposed to those who existed in the lower strata of society who were limited in their knowledge gathering (i.e. excluded from the higher education establishments) to a more or less existential model.  Here there is a developed disparity in the quality of knowledge that is gathered and consequently generated.  On the premise of old knowledge, new knowledge is built, providing the knowledge base is vibrant and the product of the intellectual cutting-edge of the society in general.  Not only is old knowledge preserved from generation to generation, it is also improved upon as understanding develops.  Knowledge that is not vibrant tends to be preserved in a state of arrested development.  This knowledge suffers from a lack of intellectual vibrancy, as it is not preserved within the strata of society that encourages such an endeavour.  The lower classes are not encouraged to ‘think’, as are the upper classes.  The lower classes simply exist as a foundation to the more developed strata of their particular societies.  The quality of deluded knowledge, therefore, is itself riddled with contradictions and inadequacies.  It is functional and can be developed to an extraordinary degree, and it can be intellectually redundant and of a non-developing nature.  The Buddha teaches that regardless of the kind of knowledge one happens to encounter within a particular birth, it is all, without exception, of a completely deluded nature.  Even superior knowledge held in a developed society is not spiritually valid, and may even constitute a greater developmental trap than an existence as a more humble human being.  Whatever the case of the origination of the knowledge in question, the act of storing and recording of it, (so that it can be passed on), does not constitute a spiritual act of liberation.  Regardless of the quality of the of kind knowledge cultivated, the mind in its potential totality is not developed in any way beyond that of the requirement to reflect the physical world it inhabits, and think profound thoughts based upon those perceived reflections.  Worldly reason ensures that the propagator remains trapped in the world he inhabits, and that the habits of mind associated with this state of being maintain the working illusion of ‘mind’ separated from ‘matter’.  This is the ‘subject-object’ dichotomy that serves as the basis for developed logic, and which is viewed as the foundation for ‘common sense’.  It is believed to be ‘self-evident’ that the human mind exists within the physical organ of the brain, (and nowhere else), and that the physical body lives within a world of (separate) matter.

This perspective is ingrained in the human mind and seems natural a priori position.  To question the fundamental reliability of such a view is considered illogical if the questioning of its ultimate truth content transcends the barriers of mere theoretical speculation.  As a thought exercise, the modus operandi of conventional society may be questioned to a certain degree that is designed not to create any real change in the outer world, but to assist a developing intellect make sense of the world it inhabits through the education system it encounters.  Indeed, so powerful is the pull of the world motivated by greed, hatred and delusion, that even religions that where once founded upon a mode of mental-spiritual transcendence (of the world of physical matter), over-time find themselves conforming to these ‘taints’ and distorting their own spiritual teachings so as to give the impression that the material view of the world is fully supported by a philosophy (or theology) that was once viewed as radical and revolutionary.  The Lord Buddha (563-483BCE) was born into a society in northernIndiathat exhibited a society based upon the requirements of greed, hatred and delusion.  In this respect it was a society just like any other, but manifesting its own peculiar physical characteristics based upon its unique historical and economic development.  According to what is known about his life, the Buddha was born the son of a chief or king, in the prominent Sakya clan that was believed to comprise of warriors and kings (Kshatriya caste).  Although no comparison can be made with the development of post-industrial cities and states, nevertheless, the Buddha’s physical surroundings, due primarily to the rank of his father, were considered luxurious for the time.  His father ruled by consensus and continued to do so for many years, thus ensuring the social status of his family.  This story, which is interesting in itself, reveals that every pleasant experience was available to the mind and body of the Buddha and that to the extent that was possible, the more or less normal painful experiences of everyday life were kept to a minimum.  This existence that emphasises the ‘pleasant’ over the ‘painful’, sets the stage for what is about to happen.  The Buddha occupied the highest strata of his society.  His up-brining was such that he was surrounded only by the trappings of his social superiority.  Even a context of the appreciation of how other, not so fortune people existed was denied to him as a young man.  Indeed, from his social conditioning and life of privilege there is no reason whatsoever for him to question either the validity or morality of the society he lived within.  Opulence breeds appreciation for its existence and the urge to maintain the ‘sweetness’ of its manifestation.  Knowledge as encountered within this context is of a binding nature, the premise of which is difficult to uproot, or even identify.  The state of delusion serves to obscure reality in a very profound manner.  When the needs of the body are met, the mind is content – when a content mind is trained to believe that its idyllic material condition is due to an inherent physical and mental superiority of some kind, that mind does not critically ‘question’ the essence of that which continuously re-enforces the very nature of the opulence it experiences.  Good, positive and pleasant sensations are experienced and always expected to continue in a never ending chain of comfortable living.  The Indian spiritual mind had already formulated much philosophical thought upon the nature of freedom.  Although complex and diverse, this thinking at the time of the Buddha did allow for a leaving of developed society for a life in a wild place, or at a foot of a tree in a forest, etc.  The story that the Buddha, having not been allowed to leave the security of his home, is enhanced by the fact that when he did finally encounter the outside world, the shock of the reality of life for those not as socially privileged as he, came as a spiritually profound shock.  This shock triggered his leaving of the world as he had known it, and led to a spiritual journey that is still remembered and discussed today.  Through austerity and meditation, and after leaving the world of plenty, the Buddha roamed from place to place with only his begging bowl and robe as possessions.  After practicing austerity, he rejected this method as not being able to reach the highest enlightenment.  He trained in, and fully mastered the meditative methods of his day, and despite achieving the highest state, rejected these paths as not going far enough toward the ultimate enlightenment.  Having abandoned the conventional spiritual teachings, he embarked upon his own meditative practice, a practice that would eventually lead to a full and profound inner metamorphosis, more commonly known in English as ‘enlightenment’.

What exactly is the nature of the Buddha’s enlightenment?  The state is often described as ‘nirvana’ (Sanskrit: निर्वाण), or ‘nibanna’ (Pali: निब्बान).  Although a path of spiritual purification is followed, coupled with a requisite generation of spiritual wisdom, that seeds greed, hatred and delusion thoroughly uprooted through meditative effort, nevertheless, the state of nirvana is described as being ‘unconditioned’.  It is the non-presence of greed, hatred and delusion that allows for the realisation of the state of nirvana, but nirvana as a distinct state is not dependent upon the achievements and attainments of the path that leads the practitioner to its realisation.  In reality the state is not ‘achieved’ at all, but rather manifest when the mental obscurations of habit are set aside.  Nirvana is entered, but its entering is only perceptual, the state of nirvana, (as it is unconditioned) can neither ‘entered’ or ‘left’.  It can be permanently ‘revealed’ (through wisdom), or it can be permanently obscured (through delusion) – but it is not dependent upon either.  It is a state of freedom from greed, hatred and delusion.  One in such a state no longer creates any new karma, and is believed not to be subject to the endless rounds of re-birth.  However, this state, as the ‘revealed’ objective of a physical path is not just characterised by the ‘extinction’ of greed, hatred and delusion – the literal meaning of ‘nirvana’, but also of the possession of a profound insightful wisdom.  It is clear that in the oldest layers of the early Buddhist suttas the Buddha does not claim omniscience, but rather states that whatever his mind comes into contact with, this he thoroughly understands.  The nirvanic state, being free of the ‘taints’ is able to fully penetrate the true and profound meaning of phenomena as and when it appears within the perceptual field of the enlightened mind itself.  Of course, this power is enhanced by the various telepathic and paranormal attributes also associated with this state.  The term ‘nirvana’ emphasises the aspect of enlightenment that stresses the eradication of the causes that give rise to the conditions that lead to the manifestation of greed, hatred and delusion.  As the conditions that give rise to greed, hatred and delusion are no longer present; the state of nirvana is described as being ‘unconditioned’.  The mind is ‘quiet’ in as much as there is no longer any activity involving the ‘taints’, but vibrant in the sense of manifesting a pristine understanding of the nature of the universe that does not arbitrarily separate perception into the dualism of ‘subject-object’.  In this respect, the Buddha is sometimes referred to (in the suttas) as being a ‘Jnana-vadin’ (Pali: ‘nana-vado).  In the Brahmanic interpretation (of this concept) this term is applied to those ascetics who have ‘seen’ the truth contained within the teachings known as the ‘Vedas’.  Within the Buddhist context this term is used to describe the Buddha’s attainment of the ‘seeing’ of the reality of the ‘Four Noble Truths’.  The context differs, but the notion of a higher knowledge attained through ‘seeing’ (in meditation), remains the same.  Therefore, a ‘Jnana-vadin’ may be interpreted as referring to ‘One who sees the teachings’.  This is not an ordinary ‘seeing’ by ay means, but rather the term Sanskrit ‘jnana’ (ज्ञान) refers (with Buddhism) to state of pure awareness free of any defiling obscuration or characteristic.  It is comprised of the verbal root ‘jna’ that although can be used to refer to knowledge in general, in this context is used to exclusively to convey the idea of a spiritual knowledge that fully illuminates the laws of all phenomena, and thoroughly understands (naturally) how these laws work and how they should be applied.  It is the thorough and complete (mental) penetration to the heart of the essence of reality, and the understanding gained there from.  It is intimately linked to the Sanskrit concept of ‘prajna’ (प्राज्ञ) – (Pali: ‘Panna’), which denotes an intellect that has been fully developed to the level of (supreme) wisdom, which is beyond the grasp of the mundane, or undeveloped mind.  With the ending (nirodha- निरोध) of the creating of the conditions that give rise to greed, hatred and delusion, the state of nirvana is evident.  Within this is a state of pure awareness (jhana) that sheds light on the reality of phenomena, which is expressed in the manifestation (i.e. ‘function’) of wisdom (prajna).

The Buddha became enlightened through is own effort.  Although he may have been conversant with the Brahmanic Upanishadic teachings, and despite the fact that the Buddhist teachings record that he trained with various ascetic teachers, (and was definitely aware of other teachings prevalent in the India of his day), experience taught him that these spiritual paths did not go far enough – to complete liberation – and as a consequence could not be used as methods to achieve complete enlightenment.  Having tried and rejected known methods of development (yoga) he focused his awareness inward and kept up a steady concentration (in the mind) until all defilements were torn asunder and the true essence of the mind made clear.  This is referred to as the attainment of the state of ‘samyak-sambodhi’ (Sanskrit:सम्यक्सम्बोधि).  This translates as ‘samyak’ meaning ‘complete perfection’ (as achieved in following the correct path and using ‘right effort’), whilst ‘sambodhi’ refers to the state of ‘complete perfect enlightenment’.  Bodhi is linked to the term ‘Buddha’ and translates as ‘awakening’.  This ‘awakening’ pertains to ‘perceiving’ in its pristine state.  The Sanskrit term ‘sam’ (सम्) is used twice in quick succession.  As well as signifying a state of completion, it also implies ‘truth’,  Taken as a complete concept, the term samyak-sambodhi conveys a very definite sense of an awakening beyond any other conceived of, or imagined notion of what ‘awakening’ might mean.  It is the supreme expelling of the darkness of ignorance and the ushering in of the pure light of awareness that is untainted by defiled obscurations in the mind.   Nirvana describes the path that leads to enlightenment,(i.e. the extinguishing of the taints), whilst samyak-sambodhi is the explanation given to the unconditioned (i.e. ‘uncaused’) manifestation of the fruit of that effort.  Once attained, one may be called a ‘Jnana-vadin’, or indeed a ‘Buddha’ (Sanskrit: बुद्ध), who is awake and aware in away that that manifests perfect knowledge without defilement.  The state of nirvana, with its extinct desires, contains an innate and complete wisdom that when applied to the phenomenon of the world is able to fully comprehend and understand without error or confusion.  Laws of operation are seen clearly and their systems cognised immediately without recourse to a base or mundane intellectual function.  Although the many hundreds of Buddhist suttas are varied and diverse, the central message implicit in every single one is that delusion (in its multiplicity) must be uprooted and desire extinguished so that the pristine state of understanding can be manifest.  This is the ‘pristine’ teaching of the Buddha and it may be assumed that any divergence from this (original) intention must be considered a later development in interpretation of the teachings themselves, with such divergence amounting to new and unwanted obscurations, being the product of ordinary intellect that has not yet realised the freedom as advocated by the Buddha.  This is not a criticism of the different schools of Buddhism par se, but rather the acknowledgement that even the earliest written sources pertaining to Buddhism have often undergone an interpretative process, such as the Buddha denying ‘omniscience’, to the commentarial tradition that asserts that the Buddha is indeed ‘omniscient’.  The assessment of the enlightenment itself can shed an important definitional light about exactly what it is that the Buddha is conveying.  The state of nirvana may be empty of desire, but it is not just this aspect that defines enlightenment.  Empty of desire is also full of awareness, and yet this awareness sees clearly into the ‘empty’ (sunyata) nature of the universe which is very different to, and beyond the notion of an ‘absence’ of an object.  The emptiness of the presence of desire is not the emptiness of sunyata – therefore the definition of ‘nirvana’ as representing an ‘extinction’ can not be taken as a description of enlightenment itself, but rather only one particular (developmental) quality of that state.  Through the extinction of desire, one enters the state of enlightenment, but the state of enlightenment is not dependent upon the extinction of desire.  Buddhist enlightenment is ‘uncaused’ and can not be said to be dependent upon any attribute.  Enlightenment is not even dependent upon the path that is believed to lead to it.  As it is a state free of karma and its fruits (vipaka), it is free from the shackles of cause and effect.  It is true that the propagation of a path of positive karmic effects leads to the attainment of enlightenment – the actual state of enlightenment itself is not dependent upon karmic fruits, positive or otherwise.  With the cessation of the root causes that give rise to greed, hatred and delusion, the karma creating imperative is destroyed and over-come.  Freedom, in this sense, is freedom from defiling desire and karma creating potential.  A mind thus freed is able to (naturally) manifest a perfect and complete knowledge of awareness.  From this knowledge (jnana) and wisdom (prajna) the Buddha formulated a system that when applied correctly, has the potential to lead humanity from the state of conditioned delusion, to that of an unconditioned enlightenment.  In the (later) Ch’an school of China, the direct connection between delusion and enlightenment was re-discovered and re-emphasised, with the Ch’an masters, (through their odd and peculiar behaviour) advocating the immediate perception of the unconditioned ‘true mind’, and moving away from attachment to the conditioned path of expediency.  The Buddha’s path is designed as a temporary abode, through which one passes on the way toward enlightenment.  However, following the passing of the Buddha, schools and factions felt compelled to assert the legitimacy of their respective paths.  This in-turn led to the development of attachment to the ‘path’ itself, with the aim of emphasising ‘difference’ in the physical world, rather than the actual transcendence of conditioned reality itself.

Within Chinese Buddhism the very important Sanskrit ‘nirvana’ is represented as’涅槃’ (nie4pan2).  Although it is often the case that upon translation from the Indian language to the Chinese – a sophisticated understanding is demonstrated by the selection of ideograms chosen to convey meaning, it is also true that on occasion a term remains ‘untranslated’, and Chinese ideograms are chosen not for their actual or intended meaning, but solely for the phonetic (sound) they represent.  Nirvana translated as涅槃 (nie4pan2) appears to be one of these occasions.  Nie2 ‘涅’ actually means ‘to blacken’, and pan2 ‘槃’ refers to a bowl or a tray of some kind.  As the cessation of greed, hatred and delusion leads to the bright knowledge of jhana – it may be concluded that the process is one of a development of a clarifying light rather than an obscuration that ‘blackens’.  However, ‘jhana’ is represented by the ideogram ‘慧’ (hui4).  This is comprised of the particle ‘心’ (xin1), which although depicting a human heart, actually refers, in this context to the human mind.  As a particle, it represents ‘intelligence’ and ‘wisdom’.  It is also comprised of彗 (hui4), which shows a hand holding up a plant (with branches) toward the light.  This adds to the over-all meaning (of the ideogram) the attribute of ‘brightness’.  Therefore, ‘jnana’ as represented by the Chinese character ‘慧’ (hui4) carries the meaning of a ‘bright wisdom’.  It is a wisdom that not only ‘knows’, but in so doing brings forth both ‘clarity’ and ‘understanding’.  Through the brightness of the sun, the darkness of night is banished.  The state of jnana lights up the world.  With ‘prajna’ (supreme wisdom), the following ideograms are used; 般 (bo1) 若 (re3).  Again, these appear chosen for their sounds rather than their literal meaning.  Bo1 ‘般’ is written to suggest a boat that is steered through the correct application of force (literally ‘hitting’), whilst re3 ‘若’ shows a picture of a woman running her fingers through her hair and can mean ‘like’, or ‘suppose’, etc.  In situations such as these, the original Indian meaning of the term is associated with the borrowed Chinese sounds – even though the ideogrammatic meanings tend to have no bearing whatsoever.  Within Chinese Buddhism it is usually the case that the state of ‘enlightenment’ is recorded from the Sanskrit as ‘anuttara-samyak-sambodhi’, with the word ‘anuttara’ meaning ‘unrivalled’ or ‘supreme’.  This phrase is represented in Chinese as ‘得阿耨多羅三藐三菩提’.  This may be translated as follows, but again other than the borrowing of Chinese sounds, the meanings have little relevance, other than perhaps菩 (pu2), which is also used to refer to the ‘bodhi tree’, under which the Buddha is believed to have attained enlightenment.  The Chinese sounds are approximate, but when used are believed to convey something of the rhythm of the original concept, even though the sounds themselves may not be recognised as accurate:

得 (dei3) = ‘to obtain’.

阿 (e1) = ‘to assent’.

耨 (nou4) = ‘hoe’.

多 (che3) = ‘many’.

羅 (luo2) = ‘net’.

三 (san1) = ‘three’.

藐 (miao3) = ‘belittle’.

三 (san1) = ‘three’.

菩 (pu2) = ‘fragrant herb’.

提 (ti2) = ‘control’.

The concept and personage of the Buddha is represented by the ideogram ‘佛’ (fo2), and contains the particle ‘亻’ (ren2), which means ‘a person’, and the particle ‘弗’ (fu2), which is a picture of ‘arrows’ wrapped together – to make them ‘stronger’.  Therefore ‘佛’ (fo2) means ‘a strong person’.

This state of supreme wisdom has passed through all the apparently existing stages before finding the conditionless state.  This state of profound emptiness (has been interpreted) within early Buddhism to suggest a personal enlightenment in the face of an independently existing material world, whereas in later Buddhism the implication of ‘emptiness’ (sunyata) has profound ramifications for the material world itself, effectively rending the apparent ‘subject-object’ dichotomy redundant and meaningless.  Indeed, as later Buddhism (so called), agrees with the early suttas, it can be surmised that all developments have their origination within these texts.  Indeed, the early texts are radical in their own way as can be seen from the following list of ‘mind powers’ associated with an enlightened being;

1)     Iddhividhu = Psychokinesis (levitation, etc).

2)     Dibbasotadhatu = Clairaudience.

3)     Cetopariyanana = Telepathy (reading minds).

4)     Pubbenivasanussatinana = Knowledge of previous births.

5)     Dibbacakkhu

(or Cutupapatanana) = Clairvoyance-knowledge of the survival or decease of beings.

6)     Asavakkhayanana = Knowledge of the destruction of asavas.

The enlightened state of the Buddha exudes meaning that can not be limited to any particular description of the enlightened state itself.  As the Buddha experienced, so can all those who follow his path.  The suttas contain many layers of meaning locked into them on the day the Buddha used his voice to give them life.  The surface meaning is only an access point that should be moved beyond as soon as its message is understood.  The idea is not to get delayed in the words or phrases, but rather to move on, leaving delusion behind and striving forward toward enlightenment.  The wisdom contained within the suttas is designed to ‘push’ the aspirant toward the goal of mind transformation – through the use of words – the reliance upon words is continuously transcended.  The teachings should not ensnare, but rather set practitioner (and the world) free of the fetters that bind to the cycle of suffering and delusion.  The ripples of the Buddha’s enlightenment are still permeating out from ancient India, and their vibrations can be perceived in every word of the suttas – including the numerous ‘silences’ of the Buddha himself.  Do as the Buddha did – throw-off the restraints of convention and realise the essence of the mind ‘here and now’.

Buddhist Saddha Distorted As ‘Faith’.

When concepts move from one distinct culture to another, historical forces meet and clash.  This is not necessarily a violent encounter to any great extent, but within the realms of spirituality, philosophy and religion, the requirements of translation demand that the unfamiliar ‘in-coming’ concept is made generally understandable to the receiving the culture.  As a historical process, the transmigration of one set of human thoughts from one culture into another is often representative of the general climate of existent global interaction.  For instance, today it is considered important that translations of different modes of thinking and methods of believing are not only translated appropriately, but that in the process of the transference of innate meaning, a near as perfect ‘transliteration’ is achieved in the process.  Generally speaking, the sum total of contemporary educational efficiency in the world allows for an enlightened academic approach in the act of translation that contains correct and precise information regarding the distinct and unique historical forces that contributed to the development of the concept that is being analysed.  This method is very much an exercise in the comprehension and appreciation that different (and unfamiliar) formative concepts are the product of disparate social forces not necessarily relevant or directly understandable to the receiving culture.  First principles must be attained based upon a firm theoretical foundation.  How an in-coming concept is initially viewed (and understood) will set the entire interpretive agenda for decades to follow.  Despite the relatively high standard of Western academia today, it is important to make clear that such a situation has not always been the case, and that as a consequence, an interpretive battle has ensued (down the ages) that posits a wrong or incomplete understanding, against that of a correct or complete understanding, the former comprised of Western scholarly misunderstanding, and the latter comprised of scholars representing the correct meaning, some Western (initially swimming against the tide), and others perhaps the (indigenous) product of the education system from which the in-coming concept has emerged.

One of the major historical problems confronting Western academia has been the bias associated with an intellectually destructive imperial presence around the globe over the last two to three hundred years, that exported the Christian religion as a spiritual ‘cure all’, and a form of Western science that viewed everything ‘non-Western’ that it encountered, as an inferior ‘error’ that was to be either stamped out, or thoroughly reformed beyond recognition.[1]  Whilst advocating a material (and ruthless) logic as a method of demeaning and invalidating indigenous culture, the inherently illogical theology of Christianity was enforced upon the minds and bodies of people who had no historical connection with it, thus producing a rupture between the culturally irrelevant ‘new’, and the culturally relevant ‘old’.  The inconsistencies of this approach are obvious.  It creates a totalitarian situation (and attitude) that demeans the perpetuator and the recipient in equal measure.[2]  The Western academic tradition – originating in ancient Greece – is potentially far greater than this historical manifestation would suggest, and the other cultures of the world, far from being inferior or irrelevant, all contain the measure of their own unique historical greatness.  This historical process around the globe has led to many and varied adaptations of human ingenuity and inventiveness.  Disparate environment and regional experience has created a multitude of human endeavours and systems of thought.  Viewed from the perspective of human endeavour, a certain creative equality emerges that has produced numerous effects within the world, and regardless of the inherit merit or otherwise of these systems, it is correct to assume that all human populations have moved through many stages of cultural development, with some groups experiencing stages earlier than others.  The point is to acknowledge that groups of humanity have historically passed through similar stages at different times and that no single group has the moral right to assume that due to its historical development, it can arbitrarily persecute and abuse the unique cultures of other groups.  Development is a world-wide phenomenon and there is no reason to suggest, even in the great ‘evening out’ of this current postmodern era, that humanity will not move in a different direction to anything previously experienced.  Today, due to the asymmetric encountering of one another’s culture during the epoch of Western imperial expansion, a knowledge base (of one another’s culture) has been built and improved.  This has led to a great wave of academic revisionism in the West, whereby previously mistranslated and misunderstood in-coming concepts have undergone a thorough re-examination and been given an entirely new and correct interpretation.  This is a necessary ongoing educational trend is governed entirely by the academic requirement to be ‘correct’, so that reliable and authentic knowledge is attained and preserved.  In this respect, such re-examination can be a haphazard affair, occurring as and when an error is noticed and the collective will exists to do something about it.  Of course, these are historical errors that need correcting.  New academic studies are premised upon contemporary knowledge and usually do not repeat the errors of the past, but this is not always the case.  If a concept was mistranslated a two hundred years ago, often the mistranslation become the de facto ‘official’ meaning of the concept concerned, with no contemporary reference to any indigenous scholarship from the country the concept originally emerged.  In some cases, even if there has been revisionism resulting in a correction, older definitions in previous books still circulate throughout society as a whole, thus maintaining the previous, incorrect definition.  In the case of spiritual and religious thought, many concepts were ‘Christianised’ as a means of creating a common meaning.  This error has led to a situation of more or less permanent misinterpretation and false scholarship in the minds of the ordinary people, even within a secularised world, if ‘secularism’ is defined as a modern irreligious state that has developed out of Christianity, and whilst perpetuating implicit Christian thinking, denies any obvious physical Christian presence in the ruling, political sense.  Misconceptions, when wedded to the powerful ideology of a world dominating religion become very difficult to uproot – even with the use of demonstrable knowledge and logic.  This has been the case with regard to the Buddhist Pali concept of ‘saddha’[3] (Sanskrit: ‘sraddha’ – श्राद्ध), which has, in the past, been continuously and erroneously interpreted as carrying exactly the same meaning as the Christian term ‘faith’.

he English word ‘faith’ carries the meaning of ‘fulfilling one’s trust’, further suggesting ‘belief’, ‘confidence’ and ‘reliance’.  In the theological sense, the English word ‘faith’ is used to translate the Greek word ‘pistis’ (Πίστις), and in this sense denotes the unquestioning belief and acceptance of a theistic entity.[4]  The Greek ‘pistis’ is in fact the name of a spirit within Greek mythology who is believed to personify faith, trust and reliability.[5]  Christian New Testament theology uses this Greek term in a specific manner, whereby pistis can be interpreted in a number of ways relevant to religious thought.  Scientific thought, by comparison, makes use of the empiricist method of measurement through observation.  A phenomenon exists because it can be seen and quantified.  In this form of materialism, that which can be clearly seen with the eyes (or observed through the other senses) is believed to truly exist.  If a theoretical phenomenon is not observed and therefore recorded,  it is categorised as unproven and/or non-existent.  It is important to understand the materialist conception of ‘proof’ of existence, before analysing the Christian interpretation of ‘pistis’ as ‘faith’.  From the strict scientific perspective, that which is not evident to the senses is unlikely to exist.  Obviously this has certain draw backs in the sense that certain objects exist that are not visible to the naked eye – they are known to exist through the use of technology that reveals their presence, or through mathematical equations that suggest something is present.  The concept of god has not been scientifically proven to exist as no technology or mathematical formula has revealed the existence of such an entity.  As a result no scientific method has been based upon the existence of a theistic entity.  The scientific method therefore, implicitly assumes that god is non-existent (until proven otherwise), and that the theology based upon his assumed presence is merely a product of human imagination.  This mind-set reduces existence to observable cause and effect in the physical environment, with miracles being misunderstood natural phenomena, or the contrivances of the charlatan.  To choose to believe in god despite there being no scientific evidence, suggests to the scientifically minded that this kind of faith must be blind, because there is no evidence to support it.[6]

Although it may be true that amongst the masses that comprise the Christian populace, ‘faith’ is presented by the priest as a simple and unquestioned belief in a divine entity (and the teachings associated with such an entity), the developed theological viewpoint is not quite so simple.  From the privileged position of the educated Christian priest, who has attended theological university, ‘faith’ or ‘pistis’ is far more sophisticated.  For instance, Christian theologians do not accept the notion that faith – as they practice it – is ‘blind’, but rather approach the matter from the idea that as god is an infallible.  Infallibility is associated with truth, and means that faith in god (in this context), is not ‘blind’, but rather ‘correct’.  As god is both ‘correct’ and ‘true’, even the mysteries that he unfolds are equally ‘true’, whilst remaining mysterious.  Despite not being sensed or quantified in the scientific manner, the theology – as a history of god’s interaction with the physical world – is deemed ‘true’ due to its assumed spiritual infallibility.  Obviously this kind of reasoning places theology above science in the minds of those who adhere to it.  Scientific thinking is really a method of thought organisation that has nothing to say about the spiritual world, because it’s assumed boundaries and parameters do not allow it to speculate about that which it does not know.  From the scientific mind set, religion has no relevance in its method of objective investigation.  As a consequence, ‘faith’ does not exist as a viable operating method in the gathering of hard evidence (data).  Something that is not as yet accepted by the scientific community must be proven to be correct through the application of the agreed scientific method of gathering evidence and providing proof.  From the scientific perspective, Christian faith is the assumption of the existence of a theistic entity – with the requirement of ‘proof’ replaced by that of ‘belief’.  Evidence gathered to support theological argument is often speculative and general, and lacks the ‘exactness’ and direct relevancy of that gathered by scientific investigation.[7]  Nevertheless, Christian theology does assume that it has gathered enough evidence to support a belief in a theistic entity, despite this entities presence not being directly observable by those who do not believe in it.  This may be compared with medicinal compounds that have been artificially manufactured by, scientists, which have the same (or similar) healing effects upon people’s bodies throughout the world, regardless of their respective cultures or beliefs.  The religious conditioning that might inspire a stain on a wall to appear to be a vision of the Virgin Mary may not appear as anything but a stain to someone who does not share the Christian faith.  This might serve to demonstrate that although there is nothing particularly ‘wrong’ with faith in itself, the ‘universal’ nature that Christian theology assumes for its own belief, (that is a privileged position in comparison to other ways of interpreting the world), is in fact unwarranted and even within the context of religious thought, logically untenable.  Faith within its own context is a useful human construct.  The problems arise when this ‘faith’ is assumed to have some kind of intellectual merit that is used as a universal marker of progression and superiority, when in fact as a belief, theology is actually a method for exploring Middle Eastern history circa 2000 years ago.  Theology is a method for viewing the past and as such, always clashes with the present.  The idea that god is always correct, makes these clashes appear to be ‘god’s will’, rather than a product of incompatible thought structures.  The psychology that has developed around theology is one that pre-supposes that there is no higher knowledge – beyond that of theology, and that theology can not be intellectually proven incorrect.  This is the dogmatic interpretation of ‘faith’ (pistis) that the Christian religion has developed.  Obviously, the English term ‘faith’, with its inherent impregnation with Christian theological notions, should not, and can be used to adequately describe the Buddhist philosophical notion of ‘saddha’ or ‘sraddha’.

The etymology (and composition) of the Sanskrit word ‘sraddha’ (श्राद्ध) is as follows:

1)     Verbal root = ‘srat’.  This means ‘to be trustful’, ‘steadfast’, ‘confident’, and ‘to have conviction’.

2)     Suffix = ‘dha’.  ‘to support’, ‘uphold’, and to ‘sustain’.[8]

Within Chinese Buddhism ‘sraddha’ is translated as ‘信’ (xin4).  This ideogram is written as a ‘person’ (亻-ren2), who ‘speaks’ (言-yan2).  It is suggestive of a person who speaks with honesty and therefore can be trusted, (or believed), with confidence.  The correctness of the Buddha’s teaching is defined as being worthy of study and that this conviction should not be doubted.  A person presents his case in public and he speaks without hiding or holding anything back from those who listen.  Because he is ‘correct’, they is no danger in listening to, and believing in, the message he conveys.  It does not upset the prevailing sense of social order, but rather adds to it by being honest.  All who come into contact with the teaching, therefore, are enhanced as a consequence, and develop a firm conviction in it.[9]  Interestingly, within the Hindu religion, ‘sraddha’ is a term used to denote an act of filial respect, in relation to the religious rituals surrounding the cremation of deceased relatives.  For the Hindu, it is an act of intense sincerity and respect, which is sustained through the generations by male descendents for the spiritual welling-being of their ancestors.[10]  Respect for a Brahmanic ritual has been transformed into the new meaning of the attitude ‘respect’ for the Buddha’s teaching in both theory and practice.  To clarify exactly how ‘sraddha’ is used within Buddhist philosophy, it is helpful to assess two other Sanskrit terms that carry similar meanings, and that are found within the Buddhist teachings.  These terms are ‘prasada’ (Pali: ‘pasada’) and ‘adhimukti’ (Pali: ‘adhimutti’).

The etymology (and composition) of the Sanskrit word ‘prasada’ (प्रासाद) is as follows:

1) Prefix = ‘pra’ – (‘before, in front, forward’)[11]

2)     Verbal root = ‘sad’ – to ‘sink down’, or ‘firmly root’

According to this interpretation, the term ‘prasada’ means that a follower of the Buddha is ‘firmly rooted’ in his teachings.[12]  The Sanskrit dictionary defines the term ‘prasada’ as carrying many related meanings such as ‘clearness’, ‘brightness’, ‘radiance’, ‘calmness of mind’, ‘serenity’ and ‘cheerfulness’, as well as others.[13]  It can also refer to a gift of food to a deity, and in a broader sense, refer to the general spiritual principle of granting the gift of ‘help’ and ‘aid’ to other beings.[14]  Not only is there the implication of a calm and serene mind, but also that of a clear voice and pure countenance.  The Hindu usage suggests a free giving of food (as offerings) to holy men, and on altars and shrines, intended for deities.  Food offered on altars, although directed toward a god, is not actually ‘physically’ eaten, but is assumed to have been ‘spiritually’ touched by the god in question.  This ‘touching’ imbues the food with spiritual qualities that are taken into the human body, through the act of ingesting.  A similar situation exists for food offered to holy men who bless the food (and give it back uneaten), or who partake in some of the food, before giving it back.  For this ritual to work there must be a belief (i.e. ‘faith’) that a spiritual power is being conveyed (and shared) during the interaction.  Obviously, the Buddhist use of the term ‘prasada’ does not recognise, or take into account this physical Brahmanic ritual, or the psychology associated with it.  Instead, the notions of clarity of thought and tranquillity of mind are emphasised, with no sense of ‘faith’ advocating a belief in unseen processes operating ‘behind the scenes’, as it where.   This definition is supported by the Chinese translation of the Sanskrit term ‘prasada’, which is ‘淨信’ (jing4xin4).  The term used to translate ‘sraddha’ (信xin4), is again present in this translation of the term ‘prasada’, accept here it is prefixed by the ideogram ‘淨’ (jing4).  The ideogram ‘jing’ (淨) translates as ‘pure’, ‘to cleanse’, and ‘to purify’.  It is comprised of the particle ‘氵’ (shui3), which represents water, and the particle ‘爭’ (zheng1),  which represents ‘struggle’ and is depicted by a piece of string pulled from [15]both ends.[16]  The meaning is clear – through the participation required within the structure of a correct struggle, clarity of mind is attained.  Through correct struggle, or right effort, the mind is purified and made clear.  Such a person might be described as speaking with honesty, and therefore considered trustworthy, so that others might believe, and have confidence in what is said – ‘信’ (xin4).  Literally, ‘prasada’ translates into Chinese as ‘淨信’ (jing4xin4), and carries the direct meaning of ‘purified conviction’.  This appears to suggest that through meditative training, that is, through applying the Buddha’s teaching on the purification of the mind, a firm conviction based upon a ‘clarity’ of experience is attained.

The etymology (and composition) of the word ‘adhimukti’ (अधिमुक्ति) is as follows:

1)     Prefix = ‘adhi’ – (‘above, over’)[17]

2)     Verbal root = muc – ‘to liberate’, ‘to release’, ‘to be free’.

Adhimukti is used within Buddhist philosophy to refer to a state of ‘trust’ and ‘confidence’.[18]  Considering the literal meaning of the term implies a release from a state that encumbers, it would appear to suggest that ‘adhimukti’ is the result of experience.  That is to say that knowledge of a curative technique, (and the putting into practice the technique itself), has reaped the reward of freedom from the ailment.  There is trust in the medicine, (i.e. the Buddha’s technique), and confidence is the inevitable result.  It is a striving toward the final liberation (‘mukti’, or ‘moksa’), which within Buddhism is viewed as the breaking of the cycle of samsara and the ending of transmigration through the realisation of nirvana, achieved through the ending of greed, hatred and delusion, via the meditative technique.  Hinduism broadly shares the same definition of the escape from transmigration, but in Hindu teaching, such emancipation is achieved through the personal union with a divine concept, or a similar knowledge of ultimate reality.[19]  Adhimukti is translated into Chinese as ‘信解’ (xin4jie3).  As with ‘sraddha’ and ‘prasada’, the Chinese rendering of ‘adhimukti’ again makes use of the term ‘信’ (xin4) – meaning ‘honesty’ and ‘openness’ whilst speaking.  The second ideogram of ‘解’[20] (jie3) is comprised of the particle ‘角’ (jiao3), which means ‘horn’, the particle 刀 (dao1) signifying a knife, and the particle ‘牜’ (niu2), which represents a ‘cow’.  The literal interpretation for this ideogram ‘解’ (jie3) is that of solving difficult problems and the developing of understanding.  Concepts and physical objects can be assessed by the mind that observes them, through the act of deconstruction.  This is achieved through the analysis of the constituent parts that comprise a ‘whole’.  By taking apart a concept or an object, an understanding of how it fits together is gained.  ‘解’ (jie3) refers to the cutting-up of a (slaughtered) cow, and the understanding of the anatomy that is gained as a consequence.  The Sanskrit term adhimukti is translated into Chinese as ‘信解’ (xin4jie3) which suggests a meaning of an ‘open’ and ‘honest’ attitude that leads to an important attainment of a fundamental ‘understanding’ of the nature of reality, a knowledge that is so penetrating that it frees the recipient from the cycles of becoming and human suffering.  Knowledge that truly ‘understands’, that sees through to the profound nature of the universe, is a knowledge that can be ‘trusted’.  Confidence is a result of this trust.

From the assessment of (the Pali) and Sanskrit terms ‘sraddha’, ‘prasada’, and ‘adhimukti’, as used within Buddhist philosophy, (both early and late), together with a cross-referencing of the translation terms used to render these notions into written Chinese, it is clear that these terms can not be interpreted through the lens of a Christian concept of ‘faith’.  Buddhist philosophy is an example of the product of pristine ‘logical’ thought that is dependent upon personal experience and spiritual experimentation.  The Buddha’s system is simple in essence – over-come greed, hatred and delusion, and suffering will stop – but extraordinarily extensive in presentation.  Each expressed idea and concept fits neatly into every other idea and concept.  It is precise, exact and constant in its original form, and a simple idea, (the product of a profound enlightenment), requires literally hundreds of sutras to express its totality.  Whereas St   Augustinedescribes Christian faith as coming before knowledge, the Buddha’s message is exactly the opposite – it is the presence of exact and profound knowledge – that generates a confidence and a therefore a ‘qualified’ belief in it.  Although it is true that ‘faith’ In a deity is a Hindu belief, and that the Buddhist terms are also used within Hinduism, nevertheless, the Buddhist usage is of a specific type that alters considerably, the original Hindu meanings, which are dependent upon a belief in a deity, (or divine concept) for salvation.  It could be argued that there is perhaps a certain similarity between a Hindu faith, (dependent upon the existence of a god concept), with that of the Christian belief in the same theistic entity.  Perhaps it has been this similarity that has led certain academics to confuse notions of Buddhist and Hindu ‘faith’, (mistaking the latter for the former), and then equating this misunderstanding with the concept of a Christian faith.  The problem is that the Buddha completely, and without hesitation, rejected a belief in a deity as a means to spiritual salvation.  As a consequence, Buddhist philosophical terms that suggest ‘conviction’ in the teachings, can not be designed (or interpreted) as meaning a belief in a deity that can not be seen, experienced, or otherwise known.  There is a complication here, however.  Although the Buddha taught a path of self-effort toward liberation from human suffering, a logical path with no reliance upon a deity, he did say that gods did exist but were unable to free humanity from the experience of daily suffering.  The Buddha acknowledged the existence of gods, but denied their usefulness on the spiritual path.  Faith in these (Hindu) gods was, therefore, not required and not apart of his teaching.  This unenthusiastic approach to theism is further compounded by the Buddha’s denial of the existence of a permanent ‘self’ or ‘soul’ (anatta).  A soul is a central premise for Christianity and much of Hinduism.  The Buddha teaches that there is no soul, and therefore a non-existent soul can not unite with a god concept.  Nowhere in the Buddha’s teaching is there room for a faith that precedes knowledge.[21]  Indeed, within the sutras a distinction is made between ‘rational faith’ (akaravati saddha), and ‘baseless faith’ (amulika saddha), the latter of which (the Buddha teaches), is applied to the Hindu Vedas by the Brahmins.[22] Truth within Buddhism must stem from the Buddha’s teaching, (Dharma), the validity of which is derived from the enlightenment experience itself.  The Buddha is not a god (deva),[23] and never claims to be.  Instead he is referred to in the earliest Buddhist teachings as ‘Sattha Deva-Manussanam’, that is the ‘Teacher of gods and men’.  Following the enlightenment – the Buddha is no longer an ordinary human being, but is referred to as a ‘uttama-puriso’,[24] which is often translated as ‘superman’, but can also be rendered as the ‘utmost, or ‘greatest’ of ‘puriso’[25], or ‘men’.  The accomplishment of enlightenment lifts the Buddha beyond the definition of an ordinary being as such a being is, by definition, still adrift in samsara.  It is important to note in passing that the gods as defined within Buddhist philosophy are not immortal theistic entities, but rather karma creating beings, also stuck (like those on the human plane) in the endless cycles of samsara.  As the Buddha intends to ‘free’ all beings from the cycle of suffering, his teachings are directed to all beings in the 31 planes of Buddhist existence, without exception.[26]  To clearly perceive the innate spiritual worth contained within the Buddha’s teachings, is an act of clarity of mind, based upon a thorough examination of the teachings with the intellect.  The Kalama Sutta specifies in no uncertain terms that teachings are not to be accepted through authority of any kind, but rather closely scrutinised for their spiritual worth.  An incisive mind considers the content without either initially accepting or rejecting the teachings.  Following this impartial assessment, the teachings can be judged to be either ‘useful’ or ‘not useful’ on the spiritual path and treated accordingly.  In this way, and through this method, a state of ‘cetaso pasada’ or ‘mental clarity’ is achieved.  This is the attainment of an intellectual insight into the teaching that is profound and satisfying.  It is a sense of appreciation based solely upon the reasoning process.  However, having established the grounds for a ‘non-faith’ approach to securing confidence in the Buddha’s teachings, it is interesting to consider that neither saddha, adhimukti or pasada are considered attributes of an arahant, or mentioned as requirements pertaining to the effective following of the Noble Eightfold Path.[27]

The enlightenment experience is not dependent in its achievement upon sraddha, prasada or adhimukti.  These developmental attributes have to be considered as being of an expedient nature, that once achieved are destined to fall away as just so much movement of the mind.  Conviction, clarity and trust are positive mind constructs associated with the propagation of good (kusala) karmic fruit (vipaka).  The cultivation of these attributes sets forth the good psychological and environmental conditions conducive to the cultivation of the Dharma.  Positive circumstance are preferable to negative ones, and although not ending suffering in its essential sense, nevertheless can be used for beneficial achievements.  Conviction, clarity and trust do not achieve, in themselves the uprooting of greed, hatred and delusion, and do not bind the practitioner in any way to the physical presence of the Buddha, or to his expressed teachings.  Even if sraddha, prasada and adhimukti were defined as ‘faith’ in the theistic sense, it would be a pointless exercise – as Buddhism advocates the breaking of ties (i.e. ‘attachments’) with the world, and this also applies to the abandoning of all contrived mental state.  This requirement may be seen in the accomplishment of the rupavacara (fine-material) jhanic states, where ‘reasoning’ and ‘reflection’ are present in the 1st absorption (together with ‘joy’ and ‘happiness’), but are abandoned in the 2nd level of absorption.[28]  As reasoning and reflection are abandoned in the 2nd jhanic state of 8 – it is obvious that any mental constructs originating in reason and reflection, (with reason and reflection acting as their base), are abandoned along with their conditioning originators.  As attitudes of mind based upon reason and reflection, sraddha, prasada and adhimukti are necessarily abandoned at the attainment of the 2nd (rupa) jhanic stage.  Beyond this point of meditative attainment, sraddha, prasada and adhimukti have no means of existence within the Buddha’s scheme of mind development.  As ‘stilling’ the mind is central to all forms of Buddhism, and considering that even the Buddha describes his teaching as a raft that must be abandoned once the other shore is reached, the presence of ‘faith’ is not required, needed or of any use whatsoever.  No amount of ‘believing’ in the achieving of enlightenment will move the practitioner any nearer to that state, without the actual training of the mind being put into practice.  Confidence, clarity and trust, however, are useful as steps on the path, but even these must be given up, as the Buddha teaches in the Atthinukhopariyāya Sutta.[29]  In this sutta, the Buddha advocates a ‘wise realisation through experience’, rather than the reliance upon sraddha (and other thought organising strategies), as a means of directly knowing that greed, hatred and delusion have been uprooted and the state of nirvana attained.  When encountering the Dharma for the first time, conviction, clarity and trust never precede the verification of the Buddha’s teaching.  Only when the Buddha has explained (i.e. ‘instructed’), his explanation put into practice (and the results experienced), can a reliable opinion be formed that leads to the formation of conviction, clarity and trust.

The use of ‘faith’ to grant an approximate translation of sraddha, prasada and adhimukti is highly problematic due to the connotations that this word carries, which are inherited from the Christian religion.  Faith in a theistic god is an end in and of itself.  God may grant ‘grace’ to a faithful heart, that is make his presence known, but equally he may not.  Christian monks often spend decades in pious and humble [30]meditation and activity, keeping their minds and bodies free of evil tendencies, and remaining pure in intent – usually through following a monastic rule.  The outer physical life is highly regulated by the rules and regulations of such Rules, and the mind is calmed through disconnecting with the ordinary world and committing its full attention toward god.  The mind is further developed as a vehicle for god’s presence through scripture study, contemplation and meditation.  The Christian laity strives to manifest god’s will within ordinary society, manifesting the teachings of Jesus Christ within the context of everyday life.  This practice is focused and enhanced through the attendance of church and the study of the Bible itself.  Christian faith (Greek: ‘pistis’) begins with the physical presence of Jesus Christ upon the earth.  His radical form of Judaism eventually evolved into a separate and distinct religion named after the Greek translation for the Hebrew word ‘messiah’ (meaning ‘anointed one’) – namely that of ‘khristos’ (Χριστός) – which was re-interpreted by St Paul into the Christianity known today.  It is through this interpretation that ‘pistis’ became solidified as the kind of ‘faith’ associated with contemporary Christian theology.  This definition of faith clearly differentiates between an intellectual acceptance of truth (which it rejects), and the ‘embracing’ of god and his son Jesus Christ, which it fully endorses.[31]  This is termed ‘the faith that saves’ and it is defined as not being dependent upon intellectual knowledge.  This kind of faith is considered a ‘gift’ enshrined in love that allows a life to be lived according to ‘spirit’ and away from the world of flesh.  This love emanates from Christ and enters the individual, creating the conditions for love, (and many other attributes such as charity, peace, kindness, self control, etc), to be inwardly created, which counter states such as immorality, impurity, licentiousness, idolatry, sorcery, etc.  Christian faith as it is defined and practiced today originates from the outside of the individual and appears to be a spiritual ‘gift’ manifesting from god, through his son, Jesus Christ.  This faith, once manifest in the world is reflected in the minds and hearts of all those touched by its presence – and is enhanced (and shared) through pure character and spiritual action.

The Christian concept of ‘faith’ can not be suitably compared with any other (similar) spiritual notion originating outside of its own definitional boundaries.  To associate it with essentially alien concepts create a situation where either Christian faith will be modified or altered by the new concept, or Christian faith completely dominates and subsumes the unfamiliar concept, as has been the case with the previous expansion of European imperialism across the world.  Concepts rarely move in a vacuum, and are associated with politics and social engineering.  The structure of Pauline theology does not allow for Christian dogma to altered by any ‘outside’ forces, but it does allow for the destruction of non-Christian concepts through the conversion (to Christianity) by those who follow them.  This is viewed as a compassionate act that sees so-called ‘pagan’ followers brought on to the righteous path of god’s love.  Obviously this is a highly subjective, self-justifying perspective.  Christian faith – as it is not dependent upon the logical ascertaining of the worth of a concept, would be considered ‘rootless’ (amulika saddha) by the Buddha.  The term ‘pistis’ is used within Greek philosophy to indicate the act of persuasion, whereby an opinion or a viewpoint is formulated in expression, so as to convince others of the validity of the opinion itself.  In this respect it is inherently linked to the practice of rhetoric and is used to ‘convince’ different listeners of an argument’s coherency.  This attempt to ‘persuade’ is often achieved through the use of different and distinct rhetorical styles or modes of delivery.  The presentation might change from one audience to the next, (as an adaptation to local conditions), but the underlying message remains the same.  The ability to convince others of the merit of a philosophical theory or construct was very important in ancient Greeceand the requirement of virtually all philosophers from that period.  This ability to convince demonstrates a certain assurance in the areas of logic and reasoning.  An argument in its bare essentials had to be conveyed to the populace through written and verbal constructs that clearly demonstrated the philosopher’s grasp of the minds of others, and to adjust and adapt his teachings accordingly.  Although these persuasive activities cultivated ‘belief’ (pistis), the philosophical concepts themselves were always considered to be logically constructed, regardless of the ultimate conclusions of said concepts.  An acceptance of an argument, based purely upon an incomplete presentation of evidence or information, was unheard of.  A presentation of a chain of logical thoughts, correctly conveyed to an audience, culminated in an understanding that allowed for both belief and acceptance of an idea or concept.  Equally, a well presented argument may be rejected due to its logical construct, and belief withheld.  As can be clearly seen, the Greek philosophical concept of pistis denotes a state of belief created in the mind of another, through the use of the logical presentation of an argument.  The origin of this belief is external to the holder – that is, it is caused by the effective rhetoric of the philosopher.  This state of inner belief is created through conditions external to the ‘believer’, and is dependent upon ‘proof’.  The Christian use of pistis borrows the idea of a ‘belief’ triggered by an external cause, but in the New Testament sense, the external cause is a monotheistic ‘god’.  God bestows pistis into the mind and heart of the believer, irrespective of proof or argument.  The grace of god is not defined by or limited to what maybe described as ‘clever’ or ‘logical’ arguments.  Here, ‘belief’ is bestowed upon the ‘believer’, without the believer being able to create the state of belief (in god) through self-effort.  Greek pistis is self-generated, whilst Christian pistis is other-generated.[32]  Furthermore, it is interesting to observe that the Greek term ‘pistis’ is a translation of the Hebrew word ‘emunah’, and that there are a number of Hebrew terms that denote ‘faith’, ‘trust’ and ‘belief’ (such as ‘emet’, and ‘amen’). [33]  Emunah, however, derives from a term denoting a craftsman who is firm in his profession.  It is not necessarily ‘faith’ in god’s existence, but rather represents the idea that a person stands firm in the presence of god’s will.  Emunah dos not represent the choice between ‘believing’, or ‘disbelieving’ in god’s existence, and therefore can not be correctly be interpreted as ‘belief’ (pistis).  The concept of emunah assumes a priori that god exists and his presence in the world is obvious and self-evident – that which is self-evident does not require ‘belief’, or ‘faith’.  Emunah represents a determined action, as opposed to a passive acceptance.  The Greek philosophical concept of ‘pistis’, (and its Christian re-interpretation) do not adequately describe the Hebrew notion of ‘emunah’, and yet the Christian ‘pistis’ claims a theological link to the Hebrew ‘emunah’.  In reality it appears that the Christian notion of ‘faith’ (pistis) is premised upon a re-definition of the ancient Greek philosophical term ‘pistis’, and a movement away from the requirement of the necessity of a convincing argument based upon the presence a self-evident logic.  Belief is divorced from the necessity of the presence of reason.

Sraddha, prasada and adhimukti all represent the notion of belief as contained within Buddhist philosophy, as being dependent upon the presence of a reasoned argument.  In this respect, ‘belief’ as defined in Buddhist thought has more in common with the ancient Greek concept of ‘pistis’, than it does with the Christian re-interpretation of the same concept.  If a ‘divine presence’ is substituted with that of the ‘presence of Dharma’, then the Hebrew concept of ‘emunah’, (defined as standing firm in the presence of god’s will), could be interpreted as standing firm in the face of the Buddha’s teachings, and applying them with vigour to one’s life.  Although ‘reaching’ in many respects, this reasoning demonstrates that Buddhist belief has more in common (potentially) with Hebrew thought, than it does with Pauline Christianity.  Therefore the use of the Christian notion of ‘faith’ (pistis) to transliterate the Buddhist philosophical terms of sraddha, prasada and adhimukti, is both inadequate and misleading.  Buddhism is not a theistic construct and does not rely upon the faith, or belief in an abstract concept, the presence of which is neither provable nor non-provable within the realms of logical thought.  Buddhism, like Greek philosophical thought, attempts to use the human mind to build an explanatory model of the universe which explains human existence through the concept of ‘life’.  Belief in what is not there, or self-evident is not required.  The Buddha chose neither to affirm nor deny such questions of a metaphysical nature, the answers to which he thought were unprofitable upon the spiritual path of deliverance.  In other words, such speculations, and ‘faith’ in them, are deemed as unworthy and unnecessary.  When all these considerations are taken into account, it is obvious that the term ‘faith’ does not correctly translate the Buddhist terms it is associated with, and that other terms should be used in its place.


[1] Brookes,Martin, Extreme Measures – Dark Visions Bright Ideas – Francis Galton, (Bloomsbury) 2004.  Francis Galton (1822-1911), the cousin of Charles Darwin, was very much in favour of the notion of eugenics and through his work envisioned a future world inhabited by super-humans, the presence of which constituted a superior race of beings.  Galton viewed Western Europeans as inherently superior to other ethnic groups in the world, a viewpoint that was very common at the time, and which served as the (mistaken) scientific foundation for racism.  See also:

Bakunin, Michael. God and the State, (Dover) 1970 – page 66 footnote:

‘The idealists, all those who believe in the immateriality and immortality of the human soul, must be excessively embarrassed by the difference in intelligence existing between races, people and individuals.’

[2] Livingston, RW (Editor), The Legacy of Greece, (Oxford-Clarendon), 1921 – page 58:

‘…there is no evidence that philosophy has ever come into existence anywhere except under Greek influences.  In particular, mystical speculation based on religious experience is not itself philosophy, though it has often influenced philosophy profoundly, and for this reason the pantheism of the Upanishads cannot be called philosophical.’  The author – J Burnet – Professor of St Andrews University then goes on to say that whatever philosophy the ancient Indians may have developed – it was probably the result of contact with the Greeks, rather than an independent indigenous creation.  In his analysis, the author, although aware of Hinduism, appears completely ignorant of Buddhism, or the fact that Buddhist philosophy existed hundreds of years before the invasion of Alexander the Great.  AncientChina, of course, is completely ignored.  For an interesting modern analysis of certain aspects of the philosophy contained within the Upanishads see:

Jayatilleke, KN, Early Buddhist Theory of Knowledge (Motilal), 2004), pages 32, 221, 222, 223, & 406.

[3] Saddha Sutta – Accessed 27.1.12.  The title ‘Saddha’ translates as ‘Conviction’.

[4] See: ‘faith’ Online Etymology Dictionary – – Accessed 27.1.12.

[5] Pistis, – Accessed 27.1.12 – explains that Pistis was a female spiritual entity (daimona), who upon escaping Pandora’s Box, fled to the Olympos, abandoning humanity to its own devices.

[6] The author is speaking in a general manner so as to present a straight forward argument.  Of course, in today’s world many scientists, whilst pursuing the scientific method in their academic lives, nevertheless profess a sincere faith in the divine in their private life.

[7] Christian Faith – The Early Record, – Accessed 27.1.12‘Although the Christian faith is not based purely on evidence, it is definitely supported by evidence.’

[8] Park, Sung Bae, Buddhist Faith and Sudden Enlightenment, (SriSatguru), 1983 – page 15 for a very interesting and comprehensive discussion about ‘sraddha’ and other Buddhist Sanskrit terms that are translated as ‘faith’ in English.  Professor Sung also mentions that the Christian St Augustine explained ‘faith’ (pistis) as always preceding reason.

[9] Sears, Richard, Chinese Etymology <> Accessed 27.1.12 – ideogram信 (xin4).

[10] See: ‘sraddha’ <> – Accessed 28.1.12.  Only a certain kind of (male) ascetic is exempt from this important Hindu religious and social duty.  The ‘trust’, ‘respect’ and ‘sustaining’ attributes associated with this Brahmanic ritual have been preserved within Buddhism, but instead of being directed toward the memory and spiritual well-being of deceased relatives, ‘sraddha’ is aimed exclusively toward the Buddha’s teaching (Dharma), and by implication, toward the spiritual concept ‘truth’ that the Buddha represents in word, deed and thought.  The Brahmanic conviction that ritual assisted the dead, has become the conviction that the Buddha is fully enlightened, and therefore ‘knows’ the truth of the matter.

[11]Gradinarov, Plamen, Indo-Pacific Journal of Phenomenology, (Volume 5, Edition 1 April 2005)

<> – Accessed 29.1.12 – page 2: ‘The Sanskrit prefix pra- can be traced to the Latin prae- and the Slavic pra- with the meaning of something preceding.’  See also:, <> – Accessed 29.1.12 – ‘pra’ – ‘before

forward, in front, on, forth ( mostly in connection with a verb, esp. with a verb of motion which is often to be supplied.’ 

[12] Park, Sung Bae, Buddhist Faith and Sudden Enlightenment, (SriSatguru), 1983 – page 15. ProfessorPark also defines the term ‘prasada’ as ‘to grow clear and bright’, and ‘to become placid and tranquil.

[13] See: ‘sraddha’ A Practical Sanskrit Dictionary <> – Accessed 28.1.12.

[14] See: ‘prasada’, The Rider Encyclopaedia of Eastern Philosophy and Religion (Rider), 1999 – page 276: ‘Prasada: 1) the favour or benevolence of god. 2) clarity, purity, peace of mind. 3) food sacrifices that are presented to a divinity and then distributed to the worshippers, or food sampled by holy men.  Such prasada is said to contain spiritual powers.’

[15] Feuerstein, Georg, The Philosophy of Classical Yoga, (Inner Traditions International), 1996 – page 92-93.  Whilst discussing the (Patanjali) yogic concept of ‘gnostic illumination’ (Sanskrit: ‘nirvicara-samapati’), Feuerstein describes this state by using the Sanskrit term ‘vaisaradya’, and points out that the Pali equivalent term is ‘vesarajji’, which refers (within Buddhism) to the ‘four unshakable  confidences’ of a Tathagata (i.e. perfect enlightment, all impurities destroyed, all obstacles over-come, and the cycle of rebirth finished).  Within the Patanjali system, however, ‘vaisaradya’ refers to ‘mastery’ (i.e. the attainment to ‘lucidity’ and ‘brightness’).  This illumined state is described as possessing ‘prasada’, which Feuerstein translates as ‘clarity’.

[16] Sears, Richard, Chinese Etymology Accessed 28.1.12 – ideogram淨 (jing4).

[17] (Prefixes) <> – Accessed 29.1,12 –‘adhi’ – ‘अधि – ‘above, over’.

[18] Park, Sung Bae, Buddhist Faith and Sudden Enlightenment, (SriSatguru), 1983 – page 15-16.  Professor Park further defines this term as ‘abiding with confidence in a state of freedom.’

[19] See: ‘prasada’, The Rider Encyclopaedia of Eastern Philosophy and Religion (Rider), 1999 – page 229-230: ‘the final liberation and release from all worldly bonds, from karma and the cycle of life and death (samsara) through union with God or knowledge of the ultimate reality…’

[20] Sears, Richard, Chinese Etymology Accessed 29.1.12 – ideogram 解 (jie3)

[21] Skilton, Andrew, A Concise History of Buddhism, (Windhorse) 1994, page 26: ‘It is important to remember that the three prajnas form a series of graded levels of wisdom, which means that the Buddhist tradition regards understanding through thinking as superior to that which has merely been heard from another.  (This suggests that “faith”, in the sense of a passive belief of received – or revealed – dogma, is alien to the Buddhist outlook, and that when we come upon references to “faith” in a Buddhist context, as we frequently do, it must carry some meaning other than that familiar to those with a theistic background.)’  See also:

Choong, Mun-Kat, The Notion of Emptiness in Early Buddhism, (Motilal), 1999, Page vii/viii – ‘‘Another topic discussed in the early Buddhist texts is the teaching of faith, confidence (P. saddha, Skt. avetya prasada). For example, definite faith is equated with the faculty of faith (saddha-indriya), which is one of the five faculties (P. Skt. panca-indriyanic: faith, effort, mindfulness, concentration, and wisdom). Faith in early Buddhist texts is not passionate, fanatical, or blind faith, but is closely related to wisdom. “Calmed faith” (P. pasada, Skt. Prasada), cultivated in daily devotion to Buddha-Dhamma-Sangha, leads to confidence in and practice of the five moralities (panca-sila), in which the stream-enterer (sotapanna) should abide. The verbal form of pasada is pasidati, which means not only “to have faith”, but also “to be clear and calm; to become of peaceful heart; to be purified, reconciled or pleased”. Faith, in early Buddhism, is essentially governed and stabilised by “individual understanding”.

[22]Jayatilleke, KN, Early Buddhist Theory of Knowledge, (Motilal), 2004), page 393.  Jayatilleke, while expertly assessing the nature of ‘saddha’ within early Buddhism considers it ‘strange’ that scholars have not drawn attention to this clear distinction when discussing the notion of faith within Buddhism, when comparing such a notion with that found in theistic religion.  See also:

MN 95 Canki Sutta, Vipassana Fellowship -Accessed 30.1.12.

[23] Pali: ‘Shining One’.

[24] This can also be rendered as ‘maha purisa’.

[25] The Pali Text Society’s Pali-English Dictionary <> Accessed 30.1.12 – ‘puriso’ – ‘Prk. form puliśa (Māgadhī) we get pulla] man (as representative of the male sex, contrasted to itthi woman,’

[26] Story, Francis, Gods and the Universe In Buddhist Cosmology, (Buddhist Publication Society), 1983.  Those with good karmic fruits (vipaka), create the conditions for re-birth in the higher planes, this can include accomplished meditation practitioners who have gained access into the four arupavacara jhanic stages of attainment, which correspond to the four highest planes of Buddhist cosmology – planes 28, 29, 30 and 31.  Even this lofty attainment is not free of samsara.

[27] Jayatilleke, KN, Early Buddhist Theory of Knowledge, (Motilal), 2004), page 384 – ‘Faith likewise is not a characteristic of an Arahant.  It has no place in the Noble Eightfold Path: “if saddha had been regarded as essential to the attaining of Nibbana, it certainly would have found its way into the Noble Eightfold Path”’  Jayatilleke is quoting from the eminent work of BC Law (Faith in Buddhism), and Dr Gyomroi-Ludowyk.

[28] Rahula, Walpola, Zen & The Taming of the Bull Towards the Definition of Buddhist Thought, (Gordon Fraser), 1978, page 101-109.  Rahula stresses that one-pointed concentration (ekaggata) is only really present in its pure form in the 2nd (rupa) jhanic state, and that this is achieved only after the mind has been ‘stilled’ and ‘reason’ and ‘reflection’ abandoned.

[29]Atthinukhopariyāya Sutta> –    Accessed 30.1.12 – SN 35.152 – Translated by Maurice O’Connell Walshe.  The name ‘Atthinukhopariyāy’ is translated as meaning ‘Is there a criterion?’.  In his ‘Vision of Dharma’, (pages 140-141) Nyanaponika Thera translates the title of this sutta as ‘Beyond Faith’.

[30] Gruber E & Kersten E, The Original Jesus The Buddhist Sources of Christianity, (Element), 1995 – page 9 – ‘William Nestle, a historian of religion, expresses that as follows: “Christianity is the religion found by Paul, which replaces Jesus’s Gospel with a Gospel about Jesus – a religion that should rather be called Paulism.”’

[31] Sehgers, Jimmy, St Paul and Faith,  – Accessed 30.1.12 – ‘The faith that saves is never a mere intellectual acquiesce to truth, but the embrace of the God-man, Jesus Christ in the gift of faith. It is this dynamic communion with Christ, who is Love, which empowers us to live according to the Spirit (Gal 5:22-26), and not according to the flesh (Gal 5:19-21). True faith in Christ creates a life lived in charity.’

[32] Gier, N. F, God, Reason, and the Evangelicals (University Press of America), 1987, chapter two – The Temptation of Belief> – Accessed 1.2.12.  ‘The term “fideism” is usually taken to mean that faith and reason exclude each other, and this is the meaning I wish to ascribe to radical fideists like Tertullian and Kierkegaard. Nevertheless, insofar as the Bible clearly establishes faith in God as superior to human understanding, and insofar as orthodox Christianity has generally accepted this doctrine, then I contend, against all forms of Christian rationalism, that “fideism” is the only term that properly describes the Christian religion. The radical fideist makes the mistake of totally divorcing faith from reason–exhorting us to make leaps in the dark and celebrating the absurdity of Christian doctrines–but Christian tradition has always affirmed the absolute primacy of faith and ultimately rejected the self-sufficient reason of natural theology.’

[33]Benner, Jeff, A, Ancient Hebrew Word Meanings Faith ~ Emunah –> – Accessed 1.2.12.  Benner explains the original meaning of ‘emunah’ and how its meaning may not actually convey the concept of ‘faith’.  ‘The Hebrew root aman means firm, something that is supported or secure. This word is used in Isaiah 22:23 for a nail that is fastened to a “secure” place. Derived from this root is the word emun meaning a craftsman. A craftsman is one who is firm and secure in his talent. Also derived from aman is the word emunah meaning firmness, something or someone that is firm in their actions. When the Hebrew word emunah is translated as faith misconceptions of its meaning occur. Faith is usually perceived as a knowing while the Hebrew emunah is a firm action. To have faith in God is not knowing that God exists or knowing that he will act, rather it is that the one with emunah will act with firmness toward God’s will.’

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