Something has been said of the relation of Siddhartha the Compassionate to the Masters, according to the Suttas and more modern witnesses. A living Aryan Master speaks of the Buddha as “our great Patron,” and tells his correspondent that “when our great Buddha, the Patron of all the Adepts, reached first Nirvana on earth, he became a Planetary Spirit,” adding that from the Planetary Spirits and from the Buddha the Masters of Wisdom learn of the mysteries beyond the cosmic veil.

There would seem to be an echo of this august relation between the Buddha and the Masters in one of the Suttas, which is called the Sutta of the questions of Sakka. Sakka is the Pali form of the Sanskrit, Shakra, a title bestowed in the hymns of the Rig Veda upon Indra, the Lord of the Vedic divinities. The name is derived from a root meaning “be able, can,” and its significance is, “He who has power.”

In the Buddhist Suttas, Sakka or Shakra is the title of the Ruler of “the Radiant Ones of the Thirty-three,” this number being made up of four groups, each containing seven degrees, with one of the Four Maharajas at the head of each group, and with the Shakra, the Ruler, as the apex of the pyramidal hierarchy. But it should be borne in mind that Shakra is not the name of one individual, the same throughout all time; Shakra is rather the description of a function, the title of the great Being who, at any given period, is “Ruler of the Radiant Ones.” When one Shakra passes onward to still higher realms, a series of which are enumerated in the Suttas, his place is filled by a successor.

In the Suttas, many stories are related of one or another Shakra; through their vivid and picturesque texture the real position and character of the great Being shine, recognizable as under a translucent disguise. We are told that, when a righteous man is struggling with adversity, the fact is made known to Shakra by the glowing of his throne, as he dwells in the regions of the Radiant Ones. Thus, when King Dhannashodhaka, striving in vain to gain a knowledge of Truth, had given up his throne and entered the forest to seek a quiet refuge for meditation, through the power of his merit and aspiration the throne of Shakra glowed. Then the Ruler of the Radiant Ones thought, “Spontaneously, without will of mine, this marble throne glows; what may be the cause?” Scanning the whole world with penetrating vision, Shakra, Ruler of the Radiant Ones, perceived the Maharaja Dhannashodhaka, who had sought in vain throughout the realm of Jambudvipa, of which India is a part, for an Instructor in the righteous Law.

Thereupon Shakra descended from his throne, took the form of a Rakshasa, an ogre or demon, and, going to meet Dhannashodhaka in the forest, tested his faith and constancy by terrible trials. After the Maharaja had triumphantly withstood all temptations, Shakra once more assumed his radiant form, revealed to the valiant monarch the Truth he sought, and restored him to his kingdom and his throne, where he reigned in righteousness.

In this vivid tale of adventure, it is not difficult to recognize what we have been told concerning the perpetual obligation of Masters to respond to the awakening spirituality in the humblest human heart, to note and cherish each glimmer of light that shines in the darkness of the valley. We can also see a parable of the trials and tests which must be conquered by the aspiring disciple before he may be initiated into the wisdom and power of the Masters. The restoration of the Maharaja to his kingdom is the symbol of this victory and attainment.

There are many stories of similar character regarding Shakra, Ruler of the Radiant Ones. Some of them are interwoven in a very instructive way with a fundamental doctrine of Buddhist cosmogony, the teaching of the Chakravalas. Chakravala seems to mean “Wheel of Power”; it is represented as a circular or disk-shaped world with a Mount Meru in the centre, surrounded by seven concentric circles, with four great continents, the whole being enclosed in a ring of mountains. Chakravalas are set together in groups of three, with a triangular space in the centre, which has something of the character of a hell. In addition to the significance of this doctrine as applied to the human principles, it would seem that we have, in the Chakravala, first, a figurative description of our globe divided into climatic zones, with the great land areas grouped about the North Pole; second, of the Solar System, with the concentric orbits of the planets; and, third, a description of the seven spheres of the planetary chain, ranged on the four planes of manifestation. On the basis of the groups of three Chakravalas, we may conceive that three such planetary chains form a larger unit. Perhaps this is the solution of the enigma regarding Mercury and Mars and their relation to the Earth; the three planets may be the most material members of three interrelated planetary chains. Finally, the Suttas tell us that throughout the immensity of Space, there are infinite numbers of Chakravalas, each with its own sun and moon, and each with its Shakra, Ruler of the Radiant Ones of that world.

Nor is the office of Shakra for our own world held in perpetuity by the same individual. In one of the Jatakas, the story of an earlier birth of him who was to become the Buddha, we are told that the Shakra of that day was a holy ascetic of the Himalaya Mountains. The Shakra of the period when Siddhartha attained to Buddhahood, twenty-five centuries ago, was said to have been in a former birth the Brahman Magha, who attained to the position of Ruler of the Radiant Ones as a reward for his fervour, his holiness and his zeal for doing good. There is also a tradition, in the Buddhist Scriptures, that Siddhartha himself had been, through a series of incarnations, the Shakra, Ruler of the Radiant Ones. If he had risen above even that splendid attainment, it is easily conceivable that he should have become “the Patron of all the Adepts.” It is equally conceivable that the Shakra of his own time, who had been the Brahman Magha, and who had already visited Siddhartha when he attained to Buddhahood, should visit him again some years later, to put to him questions regarding fundamental principles of life. This is the visit recorded in the Sutta we are considering.

So it is clear that much that is of the utmost value and significance concerning the Radiant Ones, the hierarchy of Masters and their Chief, is present even in the popular Pali Scriptures. Of necessity it is veiled, and, in the present Sutta, this veiling is accomplished with a high degree of literary skill and charm.

Many of the Suttas were originally discourses addressed by the Buddha, not only to the congregation of his disciples, but also to those who were not disciples, to the inhabitants of the towns and villages he visited, in the endless peregrinations of his long mission. As discourses addressed to audiences, mixed and often casually assembled, it was essential first of all that they should be attractive; unless they held the attention of the listeners, the purpose of the august Teacher would completely fail. Therefore, we nearly always find in them an excellent story, admirably told, with elements of charm, of picturesque vividness, and that fine humour, examples of which have previously been given. The present story has all these qualities in a notable degree, and we can see that they served two purposes: the story element held the attention of the auditors, and it added just that aspect of mirage which concealed the realities from those who were not yet ready for them. So we come to the Sutta.

Once upon a time the Master was living in the Magadha country, in the cavern of Indra’s Sal tree, in the Vediyaka mountain, to the north of the Brahman village Ambasanda, which lies to the east of Rajagriha, the chief city of the Magadhas. At that time, a strong desire to see the Master came to Shakra, Ruler of the Radiant Ones. So this thought arose in the mind of Shakra, Ruler of the Radiant Ones: “Where does the Master now dwell, the Arhat, the perfectly illumined one?” Then Shakra beheld the Master dwelling in the Magadha country, in the cavern of Indra’s Sal tree, in the vediyaka mountain, to the north of the Brahman village Ambasanda, which lies to the east of Rajagriha. When he had seen, he addressed the Radiant Ones of the Thirty-three:

“Noble ones, the Master is dwelling in the Magadha country, in the cavern of Indra’s Sal tree, in the Vediyaka mountain, to the north of the Brahman village Ambasanda, which lies to the east of Rajagriha. Noble ones, what if we were to betake ourselves thither, to see the Master, the Arhat, perfectly illumined?”

“This would be excellent!” the Radiant Ones of the Thirty-three replied to Shakra, Ruler of the Radiant Ones.

So Shakra, Ruler of the Radiant Ones, addressed Five-crest, son of the Celestial Chorister:

“Dear Five-crest, the Master is dwelling in the Magadha country, in the cavern of Indra’s Sal tree, in the Vediyaka Mountain, to the north of the Brahman village Ambasanda, which lies to the east of Rajagriha. Dear Five-crest, what if we were to betake ourselves thither, to see the Master, the Arhat, perfectly illumined?”

“This would be excellent!” Five-crest, son of the Celestial Chorister, replied to Shakra, Ruler of the Radiant Ones, and, taking his lute of yellow Vilva wood, he waited on Shakra, Ruler of the Radiant Ones.

So Shakra, Ruler of the Radiant Ones, accompanied by the Radiant Ones of the Thirty-three, and preceded by Five-crest, son of the Celestial Chorister, just as a strong man might extend his indrawn arm, or draw in his arm extended, just so, vanishing from the realm of the Thirty-three, appeared in the Magadha country, and stood on the Vediyaka mountain, to the north of the Brahman village Ambasanda, which lies to the east of Rajagriha.

Then the Vediyaka mountain began to glow with a great radiance, and the Brahman village Ambasanda also, because of the presence of the Radiant Ones. So in the villages round about, men said:

“Vediyaka mountain is luminous today, Vediyaka mountain burns with splendour today, Vediyaka mountain glows today. Why does Vediyaka mountain gleam today with a great radiance, and the Brahman village Ambasanda also?” Thus they spoke, their hair standing on end with wonder.

So Shakra, Ruler of the Radiant Ones, addressed Five-crest, son of the Celestial Chorister: “Difficult to approach, dear Five-crest, is the Tathagata, He who came as his Predecessors came, when meditating, altogether concentrated in the joy of meditation. Dear Five-crest, what if you were first to win the favour of the Master, and then, after the favour of the Master has been won by you, I were to draw near, to behold the Master, the Arhat, perfectly illumined?”

“This would be excellent!” Five-crest, son of the Celestial Chorister replied to Shakra, Ruler of the Radiant Ones. Then, taking his lute of yellow Vilva wood, he drew near to the cavern of Indra’s Sal tree. Thus approaching, he thought, “At this distance the Master will not be too far from me, nor too near, so that he will hear my music.” So Five-crest, son of the Celestial Chorister, stood at a little distance and began to play on his lute of yellow Vilva wood, and sang these verses, concerning the Buddha, concerning the Law of Righteousness, concerning the Arhats, and concerning love.”

Here we may pause a moment. It would be difficult to find, in the whole range of religious literature, a more charming fancy than this, the expedient of the heavenly troubadour taking his stand at the entrance of the sacred cavern, playing on his lute, and singing a pensive love song, to entice the great Lord Buddha from profound meditation to a conversational mood. We can imagine the auditors in some village listening in delight. The song has its lyric qualities, but we need not translate it all. Five-crest began somewhat thus:

I salute thee, father of the lady Sunshine,
Father of the fair one who inspires my joy! . . .

and, after dwelling on the lady’s charms, and his own love-lorn state, ended thus:

If Shakra, Ruler of the Radiant Thirty-three,
Gave me a wish, Sunshine, I’d ask for thee!

One might suppose that even the Buddha, aroused from meditation by a strolling lute-player, might be somewhat irritated. Not at all. The perfectly illumined one showed himself at once a tolerant auditor and a keen musical critic. The Master spoke thus:

“The music of your strings, Five-crest, blends well with the music of your song, so that, Five-crest, neither does the music of the strings overcolour the music of the song, nor the music of the song, the music of the strings. On what occasion, Five-crest, did you compose these verses concerning the Buddha, concerning the Law of Righteousness, concerning the Arhats, concerning love?”

“At the time when the Master was dwelling at Uruvela, on the bank of the river Neranjara, at the foot of the fig-tree which shelters the shepherds, on the attainment of Buddhahood, at that very time, Sire, I fell in love with Sunshine, daughter of Timbaru, King of the Celestial Choristers. But the lady loved another. When I could by no means win the lady, I drew near to the dwelling of the King of the Celestial Choristers and, taking my lute of yellow Vilva wood, I sang these verses” . . . And Five-crest sang the verses again.

Then this thought came to Shakra, Ruler of the Radiant Ones: “Five-crest, son of the Celestial Chorister, is on very friendly terms with the Master, and the Master with Five-crest!” So Shakra, Ruler of the Radiant Ones, addressed Five-crest, son of the Celestial Chorister:

“Dear Five-crest, respectfully greet the Master on my behalf, saying, ‘Shakra, Ruler of the Radiant Ones, with his ministers, with his attendants, bows his head at the Master’s feet!’”

“Excellent!” replied Five-crest, son of the Celestial Chorister, and, addressing the Master, he said, “Shakra, Ruler of the Radiant Ones, with his ministers, with his attendants, bows his head at the Master’s feet!”

“May Shakra, Ruler of the Radiant Ones, be happy, Five-crest, with his ministers, with his attendants! For desirous of happiness are Radiant Ones, men, Asuras, Nagas, Celestial Choristers, and whatsoever other beings there are, in their several bodies.”

For thus do Tathagatas greet those in high authority. Shakra, Ruler of the Radiant Ones, thus greeted by the Master, entered the cavern of Indra’s Sal tree and, saluting the Master, stood at one side; and the Radiant Ones of the Thirty-three, entering the cavern of Indra’s Sal tree, saluting the Master, stood at one side.

At that time, verily, in the cavern of Indra’s Sal tree, whatever had been rough became smooth, whatever had been hemmed in became spacious, in the cavern that had been dark as night a radiance glowed, through the radiant presence of the Radiant Ones. So the Master spoke thus to Shakra, Ruler of the Radiant Ones:

“Admirable is this visit of the noble Shakra, wonderful is this visit of the noble Shakra; how has one so beset with duties, with so many tasks to perform, come to visit me?”

“For a long time, Sire, have I desired to come to see the Master, and those of the Thirty-three have also desired this, but I have not been able to come to see the Master because I was hindered by many things to be done. Once before, when the Master was dwelling at Savitri, I came to see the Master. At that time the Master had entered into one of the meditations, and Sister Bhunjati, a disciple of the Maharaja of the East, was in attendance on the Master, standing with palms pressed together reverently. So, Sire, I said to Bhunjati: ‘Sister, greet the Master for me, saying, “Sire, Shakra, Ruler of the Radiant Ones, with his ministers, with his attendants, bows his head at the Master’s feet!”’

“But Bhunjati replied, ‘It is not the time, noble one, to see the Master, for the Master is withdrawn in meditation!’

“’Then, Sister, when the Master has arisen from that meditation, greet the Master according to my word, “Sire, Shakra, Ruler of the Radiant Ones, with his ministers, with his attendants, bows his head at the Master’s feet!”’ Did the Sister greet the Master for me? Does the Master remember the Sister saying this?”

“The Sister conveyed the greeting to me, Ruler of the Radiant Ones. I remember the Sister saying this. And further, I was aroused from that meditation by the sound of my noble friend’s chariot wheels!”

Then follows a story, embellished with much melodious verse, concerning another lady, Gopika by name, a daughter of the Sakyas among whom Siddhartha was born. This lady, devoted to the Buddha, devoted to the Law of Righteousness, devoted to the Order, “putting aside the heart of a woman, taking the heart of a man, when she put off the body, entered the heavenly world and entered into the presence of the Radiant Ones of the Thirty-three, and was received as a Child of the Radiant Ones,” and became distinguished through effective admonition of certain disciples who, caught in the net of personal desires, fell short of that high attainment. It is interesting to find the title, Upasika, given to this lady of the manly heart.

Then, after these picturesque and dramatic preliminaries, we come to the heart of the matter. We are told that this thought arose in the mind of the Buddha: “For many a long day Shakra has maintained purity and holiness. Therefore, whatever question he shall ask me, purposeful and earnest, that question I shall straightway answer.”

Then, having made a radiant space about him, Shakra, Ruler of the Radiant Ones, asked the Master this first question:

“Under what yoke of compulsion, Noble One, is it that Radiant Ones, men, Asuras, Nagas, Celestial Choristers, and whatever beings there are, according to their several forms, who would fain be free from wrath, free from violence, free from rivalry, free from malevolence, are nevertheless not so, but are subject to wrath, subject to violence, subject to rivalry, subject to malevolence?”

This is the first question that Shakra, Ruler of the Radiant Ones, addressed to the Master. The Master answered the question thus:

“Under compulsion of the yoke of envy and selfishness, verily, Ruler of the Radiant Ones, it is that Radiant Ones, men, Asuras, Nagas, Celestial Choristers, and whatever beings there are, according to their several forms, who would fain be free from wrath, free from violence, free from rivalry, free from malevolence, are nevertheless not so, but are subject to wrath, subject to violence, subject to rivalry, subject to malevolence.”

Thus did the Master answer the question of Shakra, Ruler of the Radiant Ones. Shakra, Ruler of the Radiant Ones, gratified and delighted at what had been spoken by the Master, spoke, rejoicing: “This is so, Master! This is so, Welcome One! My uncertainty has passed away, my doubt is gone, hearing the Master’s answer to my question.”

So Shakra, Ruler of the Radiant Ones, gratified and delighted at what had been spoken, asked the Master a second question:

“Envy and selfishness, Noble One, are caused by what, aroused by what, brought to birth by what, evolved by what? In the existence of what are envy and selfishness present, and in the non-existence of what are envy and selfishness not present?”

“Envy and selfishness, Ruler of the Radiant Ones, are caused by the distinction between what is dear and what is not dear, aroused, brought to birth, evolved by the distinction between what is dear and what is not dear; when the distinction between what is dear and what is not dear is present, then envy and selfishness are present; when absent, these are absent.”

“This distinction between what is dear and what is not dear, Noble One, is caused by what, aroused by what, brought to birth by what, evolved by what? In the existence of what is the distinction between what is dear and what is not dear present, and in the non-existence of what 1s this distinction absent?”

“The distinction between what is dear and what is not dear, Ruler of the Radiant Ones, is caused by thirsting desire, aroused, brought to birth, evolved by thirsting desire; when thirsting desire is present, then the distinction between what is dear and what is not dear is present; when absent, it is absent.”

“What, Noble One, is the cause of thirsting desire, by what is it aroused, brought to birth, evolved? In the existence of what is thirsting desire present, and in the non-existence of what is it absent?”

“Thirsting desire, Ruler of the Radiant Ones, is caused by the mental sense of separateness, aroused, brought to birth, evolved by the mental sense of separateness; when the mental sense of separateness is present, then thirsting desire is present; when absent, it is absent.”

“What, Noble One, is the cause of the mental sense of separateness, by what is it aroused, brought to birth, evolved? In the existence of what is the mental sense of separateness present, and in the non-existence of what is it absent?”

“The mental sense of separateness, Ruler of the Radiant Ones, is caused by the dwelling of the intelligence on the consciousness of differentiation, aroused, brought to birth, evolved by the dwelling of the intelligence on the consciousness of differentiation; when this dwelling of the intelligence on the consciousness of differentiation is present, then the mental sense of separateness is present; when absent, it is absent.”

So far, so good. It is difficult to know which is most to be admired, the fine courtliness of the whole dialogue, or the logical consistency with which Shakra pursues his quarry from pillar to post. If he had asked the question which comes logically next, namely, “What, Noble One, is the cause of the consciousness of differentiation?” his enquiry would have penetrated beyond the cosmic veil; for, in all descriptions of the manifestation of the cosmos, the tendency to differentiation is taken for granted. It has to be taken for granted, since it is a problem which is insoluble by the intellect, and must so remain. It is, in fact, the question, Why is there a manifested universe? which is only less insoluble than the further question, Why is there a universe at all?

We may, perhaps, make the whole dialogue simpler by paraphrasing its substance. It is evident that evil action arises when a wrong choice is made; when the individual, in the words of cine of the Upanishads, chooses the dearer instead of the better. But this wrong choice can be made only when two objects, the better and the dearer, are distinguished, and when the desire for the dearer is present. This distinction depends on the mental and emotional perception of difference; and this again depends on the fact of differentiation. So we come back to the same starting point, What is the primal cause of differentiation?

It is characteristic of the Buddhist Scriptures, and of the method of the Buddha, that this question is not put, since there is no possible answer to it. Instead, the dialogue takes an eminently practical line; we are told how a wrong choice is to be recognized, and therefore how a right choice is to be made. The Sutta continues:

“By doing what, Noble One, does a disciple make the entry to the right path leading to the cessation of the dwelling of the intelligence on the consciousness of differentiation?”

“I teach, Ruler of the Radiant Ones, that happiness is of two kinds, that which should be followed, and that which should not be followed. I also teach that sorrow is of two kinds, that which should be followed, and that which should not be followed. I also teach that indifference is of two kinds, that which should be followed, and that which should not be followed.

“I teach, Ruler of the Radiant Ones, that happiness is of two kinds, that which should be followed, and that which should not be followed. Why do I say this, and for what reason? I may know happiness thus: If, when I follow after this happiness, bad qualities increase and good qualities decrease, then this happiness is not to be followed. I may know happiness thus: If, when I follow after that happiness, bad qualities decrease and good qualities increase, then that happiness is to be followed. And so there is happiness which is accompanied by verbal and mental analysis, and there is happiness which is above verbal and mental analysis; those states of consciousness which have risen above verbal and mental analysis are the more excellent.

“Thus, Ruler of the Radiant Ones, I teach that happiness is of two kinds, that which should be followed, and that which should not be followed, and I teach thus for this reason.

“I also teach, Ruler of the Radiant Ones, that sorrow is of two kinds, that which should be followed, and that which should not be followed. Why do I say this, and for what reason? I may know sorrow thus: If, when I follow after this sorrow, bad qualities increase and good qualities decrease, then this sorrow is not to be followed. I may know sorrow thus: If, when I follow after that sorrow, bad qualities decrease and good qualities increase, then that sorrow is to be followed. And so there is sorrow which is accompanied by verbal and mental analysis, and there is sorrow which is above verbal and mental analysis; those states of consciousness which have arisen above verbal and mental analysis are the more excellent.

“Thus, Ruler of the Radiant Ones, I teach that sorrow is of two kinds, that which should be followed, and that which should not be followed, and I teach thus for this reason.

“I also teach, Ruler of the Radiant Ones, that indifference is of two kinds, that which should be followed, and that which should not be followed. Why do I say this, and for what reason? I may know indifference thus: If, when I follow after this indifference, bad qualities increase and good qualities decrease, then this indifference is not to be followed. I may know indifference thus: If, when I follow after that indifference, bad qualities decrease and good qualities increase, then that indifference is to be followed. And so there is indifference which is accompanied by verbal and mental analysis, and there is indifference which is above verbal and mental analysis; those states of consciousness which have risen above verbal and mental analysis are the more excellent.

“Thus, Ruler of the Radiant Ones, I teach that indifference is of two kinds, that which should be followed, and that which should not be followed, and I teach thus for this reason.

“By proceeding thus, Ruler of the Radiant Ones, does a disciple make the entry to the right path leading to the cessation of the dwelling of the intelligence on the consciousness of differentiation.”

As a simple, lucid and practical guide to right conduct, this would be hard to equal. It may be valuable to illustrate. That happiness which comes from self-indulgence leads to the increase of bad qualities and the decrease of good qualities; therefore it is not to be followed. That happiness which comes from genuine service leads to the decrease of bad qualities and the increase of good qualities. Therefore it is to be followed. That sorrow which desponds, robbing us of hope and courage, is not to be followed. That sorrow of genuine repentance, which leads to purification and reparation, is to be followed. That indifference which is merely stupidity, inertness, is not to be followed. The higher indifference, which is the expression of detachment and impartiality, the “disinterestedness” which Krishna teaches, is to be followed. In each case, that which is to be followed, leads back toward spiritual unity, back toward the One.

It may be said that, in this teaching regarding “the sorrow which is to be followed” we come very close to a teaching that is characteristic of the Master Christ.

One point more. It is to be noted that, in his explanation, the Buddha leaves undefined the most vital words, “happiness,” “sorrow,” “good qualities,” “bad qualities.” This is as it should be, for, as Pascal pointed out, there is no such thing as an absolute definition; all that we can do is to refer the less known to the well known, coming back to something which is recognized by everyone, as, for example, happiness and sorrow. It is curious that our present age takes for granted that we have an innate power to distinguish between truth and what is false; the whole development of Science is based on this assumption. But there is no such general recognition that we can also distinguish between good and bad; yet this is another side of the same spiritual power, the perception of real values, which is inherent in Buddhi, for the reason that Buddhi is the manifestation of the One Reality. This higher intuitive perception has risen above verbal and mental analysis; therefore it is more excellent. This does not mean that verbal and mental analysis may be ignored; they have their right place, but, in the fulness of time, they will be transcended, with the development of intuition. This, once more, is an approach toward the One.