I.

In the first two Gospels, there is a story of gentle irony at the expense of the non-discerning disciples. The Master had entered into a ship, to sail across the Sea of Galilee. The disciples had forgotten to take bread, neither had they in the ship with them more than one loaf. And the Master charged them, saying, Take heed, beware of the leaven of the Pharisees. And the disciples reasoned among themselves, saying, It is because we have no bread.

One wonders which of them first saw the point of this delightful and yet pathetic incident; to whom do we owe its recording for posterity, to teach us not to be too literal minded? A like problem arises regarding the discourse of the Buddha with which we are concerned, and which also warns against the leaven of the Pharisees: against those who pay tithe of mint and anise and cumin, and omit the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy and faith; who love salutations in the marketplaces, and for a pretense make long prayers.

In the story to be narrated, it is not certain to whose excellent memory and fine sense of humour we owe the record of the Buddha’s words. Tradition, in this matter wholly to be relied on, tells us that, at the first great Council of his disciples, shortly after his bodily death, the great disciples recalled and recorded his discourses, while on the beloved disciple Ananda was laid the duty of putting each discourse in its proper setting, restoring the circumstances under which it was delivered, with the names and characters of those who were present or took part in the conversation of which the Buddha’s teaching was a part. This choice of the beloved Ananda shows that his fellow disciples believed that he possessed a vivid pictorial memory, keen powers of observation, and a loving attention to his great Master’s doings, which would be certain to note and retain the image of the persons and events at each of the Master’s discourses; a shrewd insight into character also, and, we are justified by the records in adding, a lively and charming sense of humour.

In the discourse with which we are concerned, it is not recorded that the beloved Ananda is present. The Buddha is depicted as going alone to visit a group of self-mortifying ascetics, who evidently filled a conspicuous place in the India of twenty-five centuries ago, as they do in the India of today; the most sensational of these self-tortures, lying on a bed of spikes, was evidently fashionable then, as it is now. But the fine character drawing and the keen humour of this story are exactly those that we find in others, of which Ananda may well have been the recorder, and we may conjecture either that the beloved disciple accompanied his Master or that the Buddha himself told the story on his return to his disciples, with Ananda as a delighted auditor.

Once upon a time, says the story, the Master was living at Rajagriha, on Vulture Peak. At that time it befell that a certain mendicant pilgrim, Nigrodha by name, that is, Banyan Tree, was residing in the park of the devout Queen Udumbarika, whose name was taken from an Indian fig tree; with him were many mendicant pilgrims, in all three thousand pilgrims. Now it happened that there was in Rajagriha a pious householder, whose name was Sandhana, that is, Bond, who ardently desired to see the Buddha. And this came into the mind of Bond, the householder:

“This is not a fitting time to see the Master, for the Master is in retirement; nor is it a good time to visit his disciples, who are disciplining their minds and hearts, for they also are in retirement. What if I were to go to Queen Fig Tree’s park, to visit the pilgrim Banyan, who is dwelling there?”

Thus the narrator finds a motive for his story, and incidentally draws an outline portrait of the householder Bond, who, as he tells us, forthwith set out for the park, to pay his visit to the pilgrim Banyan. Then follows one of those set passages, keenly observed and delightfully framed, whose stately repetition gives a peculiar charm to the Buddhist discourses. We are told that the self-mortifying pilgrims, gathered in the wide rest-house of the Queen’s park, were not, as we might expect, engaged in debate concerning righteousness and the law; but, instead, with a roaring, with a shrill and mighty noise, they were relating many kinds of common tales, such, for example, as talk of kings, talk of robbers, talk of ministers, talk of armies, talk of terror, talk of war, talk of food and drink and garments and couches, talk of garlands and perfumes, talk of kinships and cars, of villages and towns and countries, talk of women and men and heroes, talk of the street and of the village well, talk of the dead, all kinds of stories, traditions of the forming of lands and oceans, discussions of being and non-being.

It is exactly like the mental medley of things wise and foolish that fill the columns of a modern newspaper, and the list recurs a little later, in identical terms, with the fine rhythmical effect of the orchestral enumeration in the story of the burning fiery furnace, in that compendium of magnificent stories, the Book of Daniel.

The pilgrim Banyan, who seems to have been somewhat better than his mendicant companions, saw Bond, the householder, approaching from afar, and tried to quiet the noisy crew:

“Gentlemen!” he said, “Gentlemen, be less noisy! Make less noise, for here is one of the ascetic Gotama’s adherents coming, the householder Bond. White-robed adherents of the ascetic Gotama dwell at Rajagriha, and this householder Bond is one of them. And these worthies delight in freedom from noise, they are well bred in their quietude, they speak in praise of quietude; perhaps, if he saw that our assembly was free from noise, it might occur to him to pay us a visit.”

Whether from shame, or merely through curiosity, the mendicant pilgrims consented to be silent.

Then indeed the householder Bond came up to where the pilgrim Banyan was, and, coming up to the pilgrim Banyan, he saluted him with courtesy and politeness, and sat down beside him. Seating himself beside the pilgrim Banyan, the householder Bond spoke thus:

“Far different is the manner in which these sectarian gentlemen comport themselves when they are assembled together, roaring with shrill and mighty noise, relating many kinds of common tales, such, for example, as talk of kings, robbers and ministers,” and so on, through the whole imposing list of themes, “far different is this indeed from the practice of our Master, who abides in the forest, seated in meditation, seeking quietude and silence, pondering wisdom, with heart intent on hidden things, devoted to retirement.”

Nettled by this mild reproof, the pilgrim Banyan said:

“Go to, householder! Knowest thou with whom the ascetic Gotama confers? With whom does he hold converse? With whom does he clarify his understanding? The understanding of the ascetic Gotama is injured by this habit of solitude, the ascetic Gotama does not know how to conduct a meeting, he cannot carry on a debate, he is really not in the current of things. Your ascetic Gotama, with his habit of solitude, his ignorance of meetings and debates, his limited outlook, is like a cow going round in circles! Look you, householder, if the ascetic Gotama should come to this assembly, we should shut him up with a single question, we should bowl him over like an empty water-jar!”

So the pilgrim Banyan warmed himself up with intemperate speech. And one may doubt whether in the whole cycle of Buddhist scriptures, there is a finer touch of humour than this. For this passage, like all these records, is to be recited aloud by devoted disciples, whose reverence for the Buddha knows no limits. Consider with what a twinkle of the heart they would describe their august Master walking in circles like a cow, and then consider the fine dramatic irony of the sequel.

For we are told that the Master, through the principle of divine hearing, pure and surpassing that of men, heard this edifying talk of the pilgrim Banyan and the householder Bond, and that, hearing, he straightway descended from Vulture Peak and came to the bank of the lotus pond where the peacocks were fed, and walked to and fro, taking the air on the lawn of the peacocks. Then the pilgrim Banyan beheld the Master taking the air on the lawn of the peacocks, beside the lotus pond, and, seeing him, thus addressed his company:

“Gentlemen, be less noisy! Gentlemen, make less noise! There is the ascetic Gotama, walking to and fro, taking the air, on the lawn of the peacocks beside the lotus pond. And that worthy delights in freedom from noise, he speaks in praise of quietude; should he see how imbued with quietude is this our assembly, he might think well to come and pay us a visit. And should the ascetic Gotama come to our assembly, we should ask him this question:—What, worthy Master, is the Law of Righteousness which the Master teaches to his adherents, trained in which the Master’s adherents win serenity, recognizing this Law as the firm foundation of their spiritual life?”

We are told that the pilgrims became silent; perhaps they cherished a delighted hope of seeing the Buddha walking in circles like a cow, or bowled over like an empty water-jar.

Straightway the Master came over to where the pilgrim Banyan was. And the pilgrim Banyan said this to the Master:

“Let the worthy Master come! Welcome is the worthy Master! The worthy Master has been a long time making up his mind to come to us! Let the worthy Master be seated; this seat is prepared for him!”

The Master seated himself on the seat that was prepared. The pilgrim also seated himself on a low seat beside him. Then the Master said to the pilgrim Banyan, seated by him:

“On what topic, Banyan, were you engaged here? What was the theme that was interrupted?”

The pilgrim Banyan, saying nothing whatever about a cow walking in circles, or a rolling water-jar, thus answered the Master:

“We saw the Master walking to and fro on the lawn of the peacocks beside the lotus pond, taking the air, and, seeing him, we said, Should the Master visit this our assembly, we should ask him this question:—What, worthy Master, is the Law of Righteousness which the Master teaches to his adherents, trained in which the Master’s adherents win serenity, recognizing this Law as the firm foundation of their spiritual life? This is the topic that was interrupted when the Master arrived.”

“It is difficult, Banyan, for one of other views, for one of other practices, of other purposes, of other mental habits, for one following other teachers, to understand the discipline which I give to my adherents, the discipline through which my adherents are established in serenity, recognizing it as the firm foundation of their spiritual life. But come, Banyan, ask me a question concerning your own teaching of extreme self-mortification: in what conditions is this self-mortification perfected, and in what conditions is it not perfected?” The Buddha turned aside the question regarding his own teaching by saying that it was difficult to understand. Without doubt he realized that, while there was a spark of genuine spirituality in Banyan, the great mass of mendicant pilgrims with him were full of cavilling, stony ground on which no precious seed should be sown. But there was a still more definite reason, a rule framed by the Buddha himself, which he formulates in another discourse: “Whoever has been an adherent of another sect, and wishes to enter the discipline of this Law of Righteousness, desiring admission to the first degree, and afterwards to the second degree, must first remain on probation for four months, after which the disciples of strenuous heart will admit him to membership in the first degree, and afterwards to membership in the second degree of the Order of disciples. But even in such a case, the difference between individuals is taken into account.” It was not a favourable moment to explain this wise rule to Banyan; but, if his desire for light was genuine and strong, he would presently find it out. So, for the time, the Buddha parried the premature question, and introduced the whole subject of self-mortification, thus finding a motive for the special theme of this discourse.

How unfavourable the occasion was for expounding the Law of Righteousness, the narrative reveals; for when the Buddha had answered Banyan as just recorded, the swarm of mendicant pilgrims began to shout with exceeding great noise, “Marvellous, Sir, wonderful, Sir, is the superhuman gift and power of the ascetic Gotama in holding back any pronouncement regarding his own teaching, and turning the conversation to the teaching of others!”

To the credit of the pilgrim Banyan, we are told that he imposed silence on these ironical mendicants, and spoke thus to the Master:

“We, Sire, are believers in penitential self-mortification, we hold that penitential self-mortification is essential, we practise penitential self-mortification. In what conditions, Sire, is this penitential self-mortification perfected, and in what condition is it not perfected?”

In reply, the Buddha enumerates a long series of practices, which may with advantage be condensed. There is, first, a certain anarchism in manners, often characteristic of youthful radicals even in our own enlightened age, beginning with curt speech and culminating in a scrupulous abstinence from the use of water, whether internally or externally. It is worth noting that one finds the same abstinence among the hermits of the Egyptian desert, in the third and fourth centuries of our era. Next come scruples regarding food, the refusal to eat cooked food, precise rules as to accepting gifts of food, a punctilious spacing of the times of eating, whether once a day, once in three days, or once a week, and so forth; practices also found, carried to extreme exaggeration among the Egyptian solitaries. Indeed, one may suppose that this drift to meticulous formalism in the Egyptian desert may well have frustrated a spiritual movement originally of the greatest promise, so that it was necessary for Benedict to frame a new rule, on spiritual principles. Then come self-mortifying postures, such as standing bareheaded in burning sunshine, or lying on a bed of thorns or spikes. There is a quaint note on this kind of practice in the records of the Egyptian hermits, exactly in line with the Buddha’s teaching: “The brother went to his cell, and fell on his face upon the ground, and for three whole days and nights he wept before God. And after these things, when his thoughts were saying unto him, ‘Thou art now an exalted person, and thou hast become a great man,’ he used to contradict them, and set before his eyes his former shortcomings, and say, ‘Thus were all my offences.’”

After enumerating many penitential self-mortifications, the Buddha said, “What thinkest thou, Banyan? If they be thus carried out, is penitential self-mortification perfected, or is it not perfected?”

Banyan replied that, in his view, self-mortification was in fact perfected by these practices. But the Buddha said:

“Even when these self-mortifications are perfectly carried out, I say that they are subject to certain impurities.”

“In what way, Master, when these self-mortifications are perfectly carried out, are they subject to impurities?” The opening of the pilgrim’s mind and the softening of his self-righteous heart are indicated by his addressing the Buddha as Master, in contrast to the rather abrupt “ascetic Gotama”, used by the other mendicants. The Buddha’s reply introduces the essence of the discourse, which is in principle Closely akin to the criticism of the Pharisees:

“An ascetic, Banyan, enters on a penitential exercise. Because of this penitential exercise he is delighted with himself, filled full with self-satisfaction. When this so happens, Banyan, it is an impurity. Again, Banyan, an ascetic enters on a penitential exercise. Because of this penitential exercise he exalts himself and despises another. When this so happens, Banyan, it is an impurity. Once again, Banyan, an ascetic enters on a penitential exercise. Because of this penitential exercise he becomes infatuated, he becomes intoxicated and falls into negligence. When this so happens, Banyan, it is an impurity. Once more, Banyan, an ascetic enters on a penitential exercise. Because of this penitential exercise, he receives gifts and gains honour and fame. And because he receives gifts and gains honour and fame, he becomes greatly pleased with himself. When an ascetic, thus gaining gifts, honour and fame, is greatly pleased with himself, this, Banyan, is an impurity. Once more, Banyan, an ascetic enters on a penitential exercise. Because of this penitential exercise, he receives gifts and gains honour and fame. And because he receives gifts and honour and fame, he exalts himself and despises another. When this so happens, Banyan, it is an impurity. Once more, Banyan, an ascetic enters on a penitential exercise. Making a distinction of foods, he says, ‘This commends itself to me; this does not commend itself to me.’ That which commends itself not to him, he steadily rejects, but that which commends itself to him, he eats greedily, becoming infatuated with it, not recognizing the sin and danger in this gluttony. This, Banyan, is an impurity. Once more, Banyan, an ascetic enters on a penitential exercise, his motive being a desire for gifts, honour and fame, with the thought that kings and courtiers, nobles, priests and householders will pay him honour. This, Banyan, is an impurity. Once more, Banyan, an ascetic grows jealous of some ascetic or Brahman, saying, ‘That fellow lives lavishly; he eats every kind of thing, that is, things grown from roots, things grown from shoots, things grown from fruit, things grown from sprouts, things grown from seeds; he grinds them all together with his thunderous jaws!’ This, Banyan, is an impurity. Once more, Banyan, an ascetic sees some other ascetic or Brahman honoured, esteemed, highly regarded, respected among those whom he visits for alms. And, seeing this, he thinks, ‘People honour, esteem, regard and respect this fellow who lives lavishly; but they do not honour, esteem, regard, nor respect me, a true ascetic, living a life of austerity!’ So he nourishes ill-will and resentment against those who give alms. This, Banyan, is an impurity. Once more, Banyan, an ascetic seats himself in some place where he will be seen of men. This, Banyan, is an impurity. Once more, Banyan, an ascetic slinks about among those who give alms, thinking to himself, ‘This is a part of my penance! This is a part of my penance!’ This, Banyan, is an impurity. Once more, Banyan, an ascetic practices secretiveness. Should an ascetic ask him, ‘Does this commend itself to thee?’—even though disapproving, he says, ‘It does commend itself!’ And, even when he approves, he answers, ‘It does not commend itself!’ Thus he becomes a deliberate liar. This, Banyan, is an impurity. Once more, Banyan, when the Tathagata or an adherent of the Tathagata, teaching the Law of Righteousness, follows a method worthy of approval, he does not accept it. This, Banyan, is an impurity. Once more, Banyan, a self-mortifying ascetic may nourish wrath and enmity; he may nourish hypocrisy and deceit; he may nourish avarice and envy; he may be crafty and full of guile; he may be obstinate and conceited; he may entertain sinful wishes and fall under their sway; he may entertain false views, he may become addicted to delusive opinions, he may grow worldly minded, grasping after riches, turning away from renunciation. These, Banyan, are impurities. What thinkest thou, Banyan, are these things impurities, when they exist in him who practices self-mortification, or are they not impurities?”

“They are impurities, Sire; they are not free from impurity. It is indeed the truth, Sire, that one who practices self-mortifying penances may be tainted with all these impurities, and much more, that he may be guilty of any one of them.”

“Very good, Banyan. But let there be an ascetic who enters on a penitential exercise. He is not delighted with himself, nor is he full of self-satisfaction because of his penitential exercise. In so far as he is not delighted with himself nor full of self-satisfaction, in that measure is he purified. He exalts not himself, nor despises another. In that measure is he purified. He is not infatuated nor intoxicated. In that measure is he purified. Should he, because of his penitential exercise, receive gifts and honour and fame, he is not delighted with himself, nor filled with self-satisfaction because of this. In that measure is he purified. Nor does he on that account exalt himself and despise another. In that measure is he purified. Nor, should he receive gifts and honour and fame, is he thereby infatuated and intoxicated, falling into negligence. In that measure is he purified. Nor does he fall into making distinctions in foods, saying, ‘This commends itself to me; this does not commend itself to me.’ Nor, saying this, does he steadily reject that which does not commend itself to him, nor does he eat greedily that which commends itself to him, becoming infatuated with it, not recognizing the sin and danger in this gluttony. In that measure is he purified. Nor does he enter on a penitential exercise moved by a desire for gifts, honour and fame, with the thought that kings, courtiers, nobles, priests and householders will pay him honour. In that measure is he purified. Nor does he grow jealous of some ascetic or Brahman, saying, ‘That fellow lives lavishly; he eats every kind of food, grinding them all together with his thunderous jaws!’ In that measure is he purified. Nor, seeing some other ascetic or Brahman honoured, esteemed, highly regarded, respected among those whom he visits for alms, does he think, ‘People honour, esteem, regard and respect this fellow who lives lavishly; but they do no honour, esteem, regard, nor respect me, a true ascetic, living a life of austerity!’ Nor does he nourish ill-will and resentment against those who give alms. In that measure is he purified. Nor does he seat himself in some place where he will be seen of men, nor slink about among those who give alms, thinking to himself, ‘This is a part of my penance!’ Nor does he practise secretiveness, dissembling his views, and thus falling into deliberate lying. In that measure is he purified. Nor, when the Tathagata or an adherent of the Tathagata, teaching the Law of Righteousness, follows a method worthy of approval, does he reject it. In that measure is he purified. Nor does he nourish wrath or enmity, hypocrisy or deceit, avarice or envy, craft or guile; nor is he obstinate or conceited; nor does he entertain sinful wishes, falling under their sway; nor does he hold false views, becoming addicted to delusive opinions, nor grow worldly minded, grasping after riches and turning away from renunciation. In that measure is he purified.

“What thinkest thou then, Banyan? If this be so, is self-mortification purified or not purified?”

“Truly, Sire, if this be so, self-mortification is purified, it fails not of purification. It has reached the summit; it has penetrated to the inmost core!”

“Not so, Banyan! Not yet has self-mortification reached the summit nor penetrated to the inmost core; rather it has only touched the outermost bark.”

“How then, Sire, may self-mortification reach the summit and penetrate to the inmost core?”

It is a wise question, showing something of the grace of humility. We shall on a future occasion consider the Buddha’s wise and gracious answer.

II.

In relating the story of the Buddha’s discourse concerning penitential self-mortification, its fruit and its danger, reference was made to a period in the West when like penitential practices were intensively followed, the period of the monastic communities and the great solitaries in the Egyptian desert. It may be worth while to show the likeness of these self-mortifying exercises in the Egypt of the fourth century of our era to those of the Ganges valley in the Buddha’s day, and in particular that the fruits and dangers were the same in these two sacred lands.

In that forceful and detailed record of the Egyptian solitaries which is called The Paradise of the Fathers, the author records an experience which he personally noted. There was a certain man in Scete, he says, whose name was Stephana, who had dwelt in the desert for twenty-nine years; his apparel was made of palm leaves, and he lived in such a strict self-denial, and persisted to such a degree in ascetic abstinence, that he never had the least inclination for the meats which are usually desired, and which are pleasant to the taste; and he greatly condemned those who, because of sickness, either ate cooked food or drank cream. Now the gift of healing had been given to him to such a degree that he could cast out devils by a word. And it came to pass that on one occasion a man in whom was an unclean spirit came to Scete, and wished to be healed, and when the monk saw that he was sorely vexed by the devil he made a prayer and healed him. So much for the fruit of abstinence and self-discipline.

But there was danger also. For, says the narrator, this monk was rejected by Divine Providence because of his immeasurable arrogance and haughtiness, for he imagined himself to be more excellent in his life and works than the other fathers. First of all, he separated himself from the brotherhood, and then he went and became archimandrite in one of the monasteries of Alexandria, “For,” he said in his pride, “am I to be in subjection to Macarius? Are not my life and works better than his?” And this man arrived at such a state of madness that he went to the city, and gave himself up to gluttony, and drunkenness, and to the eating of more flesh than rational beings are wont to eat, and finally he fell and settled down into the pit of unclean living. He gratified his unclean desires without shame, and became a laughing-stock to all who knew him. But he excused himself, saying, “The law was not made for the perfect.” The narrator goes on to say that strong efforts were made to redeem this man and bring him to repentance. But he remained arrogant and obdurate, and came to a miserable death.

The Buddha spoke also of self-mortifying ascetics who sought praise of men and thereby forfeited the fruit of discipline. The same Macarius already mentioned is recorded as saying, “I hate the love of praise of young men who toil, and who lose their reward beause they expect the adulation of the children of men.” Then, we are told, another well-known ancient said to Macarius, “And it is not greatly acceptable unto me, but it is better that they should work for praise rather than that they should despise it, for it always constraineth those who love praise to lead lives of abstinence, and to keep vigil, and to live in nakedness for the sake of vainglory, and to bear afflictions for the sake of praise.” Then after these things the Grace of God came to them and spake, saying, “Wherefore do ye not toil for My sake? And why do ye toil for the sake of the children of men?” And they were convinced that they must not expect the praise of men but that of God.

We shall see in what terms the Buddha brings out the same antithesis. It will be remembered that, in the discourse between the Master and the Brahman Banyan, the Brahman had expressed the conviction that self-mortification which is purged of all self-seeking and vanity has reached the summit, has penetrated to the inmost core. But the Master replied that self-mortification, even though it be thus purged, has only touched the outermost bark. Self-mortification, in the Buddha’s view, was not an end but a means. The problem to be considered now is, to what end is it a means? What is the true purpose of self-mortification? What corresponds in the Buddha’s teaching to “the praise of God”?

Banyan logically asks, “In what way, Sire, does self-mortification reach the summit and penetrate to the core?” Then he shows that he is more than a skilful reasoner, that he is a practical disciple; for he continues, “It would be a happy thing for me, if the Master should bring my self-mortification to the summit, and should make it penetrate to the core!”

The Master replied, “A self-mortifying ascetic, here in the world, is restrained by the restraint of the fourfold watch. In what way, Banyan, is a self-mortifying ascetic restrained by the restraint of the fourfold watch? First, Banyan, such an ascetic injures no life, causes no life to be injured, nor approves of the injuring of any life; second, he takes not what is not given, nor causes what is not given to be taken, nor approves of the taking of what is not given; third, he speaks not falsely, nor causes anything to be spoken falsely, nor approves of any false speech; fourth, he longs for no self-satisfaction, nor causes anyone to long for self-satisfaction, nor approves of any longing for self-satisfaction. In this way, Banyan, an ascetic is restrained by the restraint of the fourfold watch. When, Banyan, the ascetic is thus restrained, such an ascetic goes forward, he turns not back to lower things. He seeks out for himself a place of meditation, in the forest, at the root of some great tree, among the mountains, in a glen or a cavern in the mountains, or even in a place for the burning of bodies, or a dwelling in the woods, or simply a heap of straw in a clearing. Then, after he has gone forth to receive alms of rice in his bowl, and has eaten what has been freely given, returning to his retreat, he takes his seat in the position of meditation, holding his body upright, with heart and mind intent on recollection. Ridding himself of covetous desire for the things of the world, he dwells with heart free from covetous desire, he purifies his thoughts of covetous desire; ridding himself of the sin of malevolence, he dwells with heart free from malevolence, seeking the welfare of all living beings, he purifies his thoughts of malevolence; ridding himself of sloth and torpor, he dwells free from sloth and torpor, seeing the light, recollected, with consciousness alert, he purifies his mind of malevolence; ridding himself of vanity and fretfulness, he dwells not inflated by vanity, with heart inwardly serene, he purifies his thoughts of vanity and fretfulness; ridding himself of doubting, he dwells on the farther shore beyond doubt, no longer anxiously questioning concerning what is right and good, he purifies his thoughts of doubting.

“Through spiritual awakening he rids himself of these five obscurities which rob the heart of power; he dwells irradiating one quarter of the world with heart enkindled with love, and so also the second quarter, so also the third, so also the fourth. Thus he dwells, irradiating the whole world, upward, downward, through and through, altogether, in all ways, with heart enkindled with love. He dwells, irradiating the whole world, upward, downward, through and through, altogether, in all ways, with heart enkindled with compassion; he dwells, irradiating the whole world, upward, downward, through and through, altogether, in all ways, with heart enkindled with even-balanced serenity, abounding, magnanimous, free from enmity, free from ill will. What think you, Banyan? If it be thus, is such self-mortification perfected, or is it not perfected?”

“Of a surety, Sire, self-mortification such as this has reached the summit, has penetrated to the inmost core!”

“Nay, not so, Banyan! Far from reaching the summit and penetrating to the inmost core, such self-mortification has but touched the skin, the outer bark.” That declaration is likely to astonish us as greatly as it astonished good Banyan. Is not the radiant love described the utmost possible fulfillment of the law of righteousness? Of what more can we conceive?

We may anticipate the answer of the Buddha by asking a question: How is it possible for the aspirant, even after he has cleansed his heart of envy, anger, vacillation, sloth and unbelief, the “five obscurities,” even after he has torn out the root of egotism, even after he has made the complete sacrifice of worldliness symbolized by the alms bowl and the cave,—how is it possible for him to create this splendour of love in his clean heart? The answer is, that he has no need to create what is, as a potentiality, already there. It is the treasure of gold buried in the field, to be brought to the light when the earth and stones are removed; it is the true desire of the heart, to be fully revealed when false desires have been purged away; it is the true Light which lighteth every man that cometh into the world, the Light of the Logos itself, the universal spiritual consciousness which underlies and gives life to every individual consciousness. But in the heart of unregenerate man that spiritual consciousness has been hidden and buried under a multitude of mental, passional and psychic obscurities, so that the Light can no longer shine through. With the removal of this accumulation of obscurities real life can begin. It is not too much to say that the whole system of self-denial, purification and asceticism imposed by the Buddha on his ardent disciples had no other aim than this: the removal of the heaped up obscurities which impede that Light. And this is true of every genuine religious teacher.

The cleansing of the inner nature, mind and heart and soul, so that the Light may shine, is, therefore, not the end of the way, but its beginning; it is the entrance to the royal road. But, we may be inclined to ask with the ascetic Banyan, what can possibly remain to be undertaken or accomplished, after so much has been already done?

The answer is really implicit in what has been said. The disciple, with fiery energy cleansing and purifying his inner life, has given access to the Light of the Logos. This, which would be otherwise altogether beyond his power, is possible for the simple reason that the Light is already there: is, indeed, the inner essence of his life. In the wise words of the Upanishad, he is That. But, if one may use such a term for the undivided All, he is as yet only a minute fragment of the Logos, only the end of one small ray. His tremendous destiny is, to enter into and become one with all of that infinite Life, or, to speak more truly, to realize that he has been one with that Life, through innumerable ages. Beginning with the dim, divine star that gleams in his cleansed heart, he is to grow and expand until he knows himself one with the infinite Light. So great, so limitless is the path before him.

Therefore this is indeed not the end, but the beginning of the true, divine way. If the ardent disciple travel farther on that way, what should be the fruit of his journey? Let us for a moment consider. He is, step by step, to enter into the Logos; not as a part, but as the All. But the Logos is from eternity. Therefore, as he rises, the disciple will transcend Time, the great illusion which divides Being into a past which has disappeared, an evanescent present, a still imaginary future. The Logos is not omniscient, but omniscience, for the All, as consciousness, must be conscious of all things, whether in the heavens above, or on the earth beneath, or in the regions beneath the earth. And, since oneness of Being is the very essence of the Logos, he who enters into that divine consciousness, thereby enters into that perfect love which the Buddha has already described, a love abounding, magnanimous, compassionate. The ardent disciple, with heart and mind purified, is to enter into, and to share, that conquest of Time, that omniscience and love, which are, not so much properties of the Logos, as its essential being. So we come back to the dialogue between the Master and the ascetic Banyan.

Banyan had affirmed that the illumination of the heart by love was the very perfection and consummation of self-mortification, reaching to the summit, penetrating to the inmost core. But the Buddha had replied that, far from penetrating to the core, this illumination only touched the skin, the outer bark. Recovering from his astonishment at a statement so perplexing, yet promising so much more, Banyan thereupon asked, with fine logical perseverance:

“In what way, then, Sire, does self-mortification reach the summit and penetrate to the core? It would be a happy thing for me, if the Master should bring my self-mortification to the summit, and should make it penetrate to the core!”

“Practising self-mortification, Banyan, the ascetic restrains himself by the restraint of the fourfold watch, and so goes forward, turning not back to lower things. Establishing for himself a quiet refuge for meditation, he irradiates the world with heart enkindled with love. Thereafter he calls to memory many a dwelling of his in by-gone times, that is to say, one former birth, or two births, or three births, or four births, or five births, or ten births, or twenty births, or thirty births, or forty births, or fifty births, or a hundred births, or a thousand births, or a hundred thousand births, many involutions of a world period, many evolutions of a world period, many involutions and evolutions of a world period, so as to say, ‘There I was of such a name, of such a family, of such a colour, with such a livelihood, experiencing certain joys and sorrows, completing such a span of life. Departing thence, I became manifest in such a place. There, I was of such a name, of such a family, of such a colour, with such a livelihood, experiencing certain joys and sorrows, completing such a life span. Departing thence, I became manifest here;’ thus he remembers many a dwelling of his in by-gone times, with all details and particulars.

“What think you, Banyan? If it be thus, is such self-mortification perfected, or is it not perfected?”

“Of a surety, Sire, self-mortification such as this has reached the summit, has penetrated to the inmost core!”

“Nay, not so, Banyan! Far from reaching the summit and penetrating to the inmost core, such self-mortification has only reached the fibre beneath the bark.”

“In what way, then, Sire, does self-mortification reach the summit and penetrate to the core? It would be a happy thing for me, if the Master should bring my self-mortification to the summit, and should make it penetrate to the core!”

“Practising self-mortification, Banyan, the ascetic restrains himself by the restraint of the fourfold watch, and so goes forward, turning not back to lower things. Establishing for himself a quiet refuge for meditation, he irradiates the world with heart enkindled with love. Thereafter he calls to memory many a dwelling of his in by-gone times, one birth, two, three, up to a hundred thousand births, with all details and particulars. So with divine vision, pure, surpassing that of the sons of men, he sees beings departing and coming into manifestation, debased or excellent, fair or foul, righteous or evil; he sees these beings faring according to their works, so as to say, ‘These personages, of a truth, persisting in evil deeds, persisting in evil words, persisting in evil thoughts, speaking ill of the noble, holding lying opinions, are incurring the fruit of lying opinions. They, separated from the body after death, have fallen into misery, suffering, retribution, punishment. But, on the other hand, these personages, persisting in good deeds, persisting in good words, persisting in good thoughts, speaking well of the noble, holding true views, are enjoying the fruit of true views. They, separated from the body after death, have entered into a realm of happy manifestation.’ Thus, with divine vision, pure, surpassing that of the sons of men, he sees beings departing and coming into manifestation, debased or excellent, fair or foul, righteous or evil; he sees these beings faring according to their works.

“What think you, Banyan? If this be thus, is such self-mortification perfected, or is it not perfected?”

“Of a surety, Sire, self-mortification such as this has reached the summit, has penetrated to the inmost core!”

“Truly so, Banyan! Such self-mortification has reached the summit and has penetrated to the inmost core. So, Banyan, when you said to me in the beginning, ‘What, worthy Master, is the Law of Righteousness which the Master teaches to his adherents, trained in which the Master’s adherents win serenity, recognizing this Law as the firm foundation of their spiritual life?’—this, Banyan, is the higher and more excellent discipline which I give to my adherents, through which my adherents are established in serenity, recognizing it as the firm foundation of their spiritual life.”

So far, all has gone well with the Master and his earnest hearer, Banyan, who, because of his candid spirit and willing heart, has gained the great boon which at the outset was refused. But what of the others? What of the householder Bond, and the obstreperous pilgrims? Have they been forgotten? In the answer, we shall see the happy humour and the perfect skill of the recorders of old time, who so faithfully preserved these discourses. For the record goes on to say that, when this had been said, the pilgrims burst forth in an uproar and a mighty noise, saying, “We are thus brought to naught, with our preceptors, for we know nothing better and higher than what they have taught us!”

Meanwhile, the householder Bond had been thinking, “Even though these pilgrims hold other principles, yet they are listening to what the Master says, they are giving heed to what they hear, they are entering into a better understanding.” So he spoke to the pilgrim Banyan:

“Did you not say to me, good Banyan, ‘Go to, householder! Knowest thou with whom the ascetic Gotama confers? With whom does he hold converse? With whom does he clarify his understanding? The understanding of the ascetic Gotama is injured by this habit of solitude, the ascetic Gotama does not know how to conduct a meeting, he cannot carry on a debate, he is really not in the current of things. Your ascetic Gotama, with his habit of solitude, his ignorance of meetings and debates, his limited outlook, is like a cow going round in circles! Look you, householder, if the ascetic Gotama should come to this assembly, we should shut him up with a single question, we should roll him along like an empty jar!’ Now, therefore, that the excellent Master has come, he who is perfectly awakened, a perfect Buddha, do you show that he is ignorant of meetings, that he is like a cow going round in circles, do you shut him up with a single question, and roll him along like an empty water-jar!”

Surely a situation dramatically conceived! Are we to hold that the householder Bond, for all his virtues, has fallen short of perfect tact? Or, really resentful of Banyan’s peppery phrase, is the householder Bond seizing the opportunity to avenge himself? The venerable commentator, Buddha Ghosa, suggests a third explanation, which does credit to his resourceful heart: the householder Bond is really inspired by the most excellent motives; he has brought the ticklish matter up in order to give Banyan a chance to repent, to confess and be forgiven. The recorder says that, when the householder Bond had thus spoken, the pilgrim Banyan was speechless, irritated, with drooping shoulders, chap-fallen, his mind full of confusion. Every word of this vivid description we can readily believe. The recorder does not say so, but pilgrim Banyan was in fact rolled along like an empty water-jar. The story goes serenely forward:

So when the Master saw that the pilgrim Banyan was speechless, irritated, with drooping shoulders, chap-fallen, his mind full of confusion, he spoke thus to the pilgrim Banyan:

“Is it true, Banyan, that this was spoken by you?”

“It is true, Sire, that this was spoken by me, like an idiot, like a fool, like a wrong-doer!”

“Then what think you, Banyan? Have you heard pilgrims who were old and full of years saying, ‘Those who were Arhats in the far distant past, perfect Buddhas, these Masters came together in such assemblies, they raised their voices, boisterous and noisy, relating many kinds of common tales, such, for example, as talk of kings, talk of robbers, talk of ministers, talk of women and men and heroes, talk of the street and of the village well, all kinds of stories, traditions of lands and oceans, discussions of being and non-being, like you and these preceptors a little while ago?’ Or, on the contrary, did they say that the Masters of the far distant past sought rather the forest and the verges of the woods, making for themselves refuges there, where there is little tumult, little noise, where breezes blow through the solitudes concealed from the sons of men, in refuges fitted for meditation, even as I do now?”

“Sire, I have heard pilgrims who were old and full of years saying, ‘Those who were Arhats in the far distant past, perfect Buddhas, these Masters did not come together in such assemblies, nor did they raise their voices, boisterous and noisy, relating many kinds of common tales.’ But they said that the Masters of the far distant past sought rather the forest and the verges of the woods, making for themselves refuges there, where there is little tumult, little noise, where breezes blow through the solitudes concealed from the sons of men, in refuges fitted for meditation, even as you, Master.”

“Though you are an intelligent man, Banyan, and full of years, you did not say, ‘The Master is a Buddha, teaching the righteous law of wisdom, the Master is self-ruled, teaching the righteous law of self-mastery, the Master is serene, teaching the righteous law of serenity, the Master has crossed the ocean of delusion and teaches the righteous law whereby others may cross over, the Master has attained supreme Nirvana and teaches the righteous law whereby others may attain Nirvana.’”

When the Master had spoken thus, the pilgrim Banyan thus addressed the Master:

“A transgression overtook me, Sire, like an idiot, like a fool, like a wrong-doer, so that I thus spoke of the Master. May the Master accept my confession that a transgression overtook me, so that I may obtain the victory over it!”

“Of a truth, Banyan, a transgression overtook you today. But as you acknowledge your transgression honestly, we accept your confession. For this is the rule of the noble one, that he who, overtaken by a transgression, acknowledges and confesses it, making amends, thereby gains the mastery over that fault.

“So, Banyan, I say this: Let an intelligent man come to me, one who is without guile and free from delusion, upright in life, I will teach him and show him the law of righteousness. So practicing as he has been taught, and recognizing as the most excellent spiritual way and the supreme goal the doctrine and discipline for whose sake the sons of families come forth from the household life to the homeless life, he will attain to insight and full realization in seven years. But not to speak of seven years, Banyan, if he practise as he has been taught, he will attain in six years; nay, in five years, in four, in three, in two, in a single year; nay, even in seven months, in six, in five, in four, in three, in two, in one month; nay, in a fortnight, in seven days.”