Study & Determination

SEARCH     Home     Site Map    Symbolism    Calendar     Karmapa     News    DONATE

Chapter Twelve: Determination

The Moon of the Ikshvaku turned in towards the forest hermitage of Sage Harada, gracing the place with his beauty.  The kinsman of Kalama saw him from afar and loudly hailed him with 'Welcome' as he drew nearer.   Politely asking after each other's health, they sat down in a clean place on two proper wooden seats.

That champion sage, having seen the prince properly seated, drank in the sight of him with eyes wide in admiration, and addressed him:  "I know, gentle youth, how you left your home severing the bonds of affection like a wild elephant its tether.  Your mind is determined and wise in every way, for you come here after abandoning royal luxury as if it were a vine with poisonous fruit.

"It is no wonder that kings retire to the forest when they reach old age, having left their glory to their children like some discarded garland.  But it is indeed a wonder that you, set in the midst of a marketplace of the world's enjoyments, have come here still fresh and in life's prime before having even tasted what there is to offer.

"You are certainly a worthy vessel for this highest religious doctrine.  Once you've mastered it completely, you will surely cross at once over the sea of misery.  Though the doctrine is generally effective only after a student has been thoroughly tested, from the depth of your character and determination it is easy for me to examine [and pass] you."

The prince on hearing those words of Arada's, replied with great pleasure, "'The extreme kindliness which you show me so calmly and unemotionally makes it seem, imperfect though I am, as if I have already attained perfection.  At the sight of you I feel like someone who is longing to see and finds a light, or like someone wishing to journey who finds a guide, or like someone wishing to cross [the water], a boat.  So would you then deign to tell me that secret, if you think it should be told, how I, your servant,  may be saved from old age, death and disease?"

Arada, was moved by the prince's noble nature, and he stated in concise form the tenets of his doctrine:  "O Best of Hearers, listen to our theory of how mortal existence arises, and how it is and how it revolves.  We refer to those three things in terms of evolution  ("evolvent" and "evolute") and call whatever arises, Reality.  Listen to our words, Steadfast One.

"But know, Investigator, that the five elements plus ego, intellect, and essence ["the unmanifest"] are called the "evolvents."  The "evolutes" consist of:  awareness, external objects, the senses, and the hands, feet, voice, anus and genitals, and also the consciousness.

"There is also something called kshetr-agna, or aura [ 'fire'-body] -- that which those who investigate the soul also call kshetragna.

[Understanding how that all works] is how Kapila and his disciple became enlightened; that's the tradition.  ( The latter is here along with his son, Prajapati.)

"That which is born, ages, is bound [in the body] and then dies, is called "manifested."   "Unmanifested" refers to whatever is opposite to that.

"Ignorance, karmic merit or demerit, and desire are understood as the causes of mundane existence.  Anyone caught in that Triad does not attain truth because of: error, egoism, confusion, fluctuation, indiscrimination, wrong means, inordinate attachment, and gravitation.

Now "error" means both doing the wrong thing and thinking the wrong way, and "egoism" means the attitude that there is an "I" that is present, as in "I know," "I go," "I am,"  Ego-free One.

Someone who thinks that things of a similar nature [having characteristics incommon] may all be lumped together like a glob of clay is in a state of "confusion," Unconfused One.  And  "fluctuation" refers to the notion that mind, the intellect, and their activity are the same thing as the "I."

"Indiscrimination," Discriminator, is someone who thinks we are all the same whether illuminated or unwise, and that the various evolvents are, too.

"Wrong or false means [artha]" refers to uttering supplicating mantras such as nama and vashat, and to the sprinkling of water upon sacrifices and such like, either with or without the recital of Vedic hymns," Siddhartha [Skilled-in-proper-means.]

And "inordinate attachment," is what keeps the fool entangled in external objects by means of his mind, speech, actions, and thoughts, Free-of-attachment.

"Gravitation," refers to that misery which bears a person down into new births and is due to  ideas such as "This is mine," or "I am connected with this." 

So that ignorance, Wise One, is of this five-fold character that impels us towards torpor, delusion, the 'great delusion,' [like the Maras and Mara] and the 'two kinds of darkness.'

Indolence [laziness] is known as " torpor;" death and birth are "delusion," and be it clearly understood, Un-deluded One, that desire is the "great delusion."  That is because even the higher beings [such as devas] are deluded in that way.

The two darknesses are:  anger, Angerless One, and (despair or) despondency which is called the "blind darkness,"  Un-despondent One, 

Any child entangled in this Five-fold Ignorance experiences his various rebirths into a world abounding in misery.  He wanders about in the world of embodied existence (samsara,) [incorrectly] believing that 'I am the seer,' or the hearer, the thinker; the effect and the cause.

" It is through these causes, Wise Prince, that the stream of inertia is set in motion; and please consider that without cause there is no effect.

"Let the wise person with correct views also know about the Four Things [states,] One-Desiring-Liberation, they are:  the illuminated and the un-illuminated, and the manifested and the un-manifested.

"Once the soul has learned to distinguish these four properly, if it abandons any notion of straightness or quickness, it attains the immortal sphere.

That is why the brahmins of this world discuss the supreme Brahman, and practice a rigorous course of sacred study and let others like them that live with them follow it, too."

The prince heard the sage's lesson, then asked about the means and the end:  "Would you please explain to me how, how far, and where this life of sacred study can be led, and the limit of this course of life?"

Then Arada, according to his doctrine, explained that course of life clearly and succinctly: "The devotee in the beginning, having left his house and assumed the signs of the mendicant, goes on his way following a rule of conduct which extends to his whole life.  By cultivating absolute contentment with any alms from any person, he carries out his solitary life indifferent to all feelings, meditating on the holy books, and satisfied in himself.

"Then having seen how fear arises from passion, and bliss from the absence of passion, he strives by restraining all the senses, to attain tranquility of mind.  Thus he reaches the first stage of meditation which is separated from desires, evil intentions and the like, and arises from discrimination involving thought.

"Having obtained this ecstatic contemplation, and reasoning on various objects, the childish mind is carried away by the possession of the new unfamiliar ecstasy.  With tranquility of this kind which disdains desire or dislike, he reaches the world of Brahma, deceived by the delight.

"But the wise man, knowing that these mental activities can bewilder the mind, reaches a (second) stage of contemplation separate from that one with its own type of pleasure and ecstasy.  And carried away by that pleasure, the meditator sees no further distinction, thus obtaining a dwelling full of light for he is now among the Subh-ashura deities.

"One who separates his mind from that [second] pleasure and ecstasy, reaches the third stage of contemplation that is ecstatic but without pleasure.  Some teachers stop at this stage thinking that it is indeed liberation, since pleasure and pain have been left behind and there is no use of the intellect.  But the person who is immersed in that ecstasy [and satisfied,] striving for no further distinction, obtains an ecstasy like that of Subha-kritsna deities.

"But one who, having attained that bliss but does not cling to it but despises it, obtains the fourth stage of contemplation which is separate from all pleasure or pain.  The fruit of this contemplation is equal to the Brihatpala deities, and so those who investigate the Great Wisdom call it Vrihatphala  (Great Fruition.)

"But rising beyond this contemplation, having seen the imperfections of all embodied souls, the wise man climbs to a yet higher wisdom in order to abolish all body.  Then, having abandoned that state and resolved to find a further distinction, he becomes as disgusted with form itself as one who knows the Real is with pleasures.

"First he makes use of all the apertures of his body; and next he exerts his will to experience a feeling of empty space even in the solid parts.

"But another wise man, having contracted his soul which by its nature extends everywhere like the ether, as he gazes ever farther, detects a yet higher distinction.

"Another one profoundly versed in the Supreme Self, having abolished himself by himself, sees that nothing exists and is called a Nihilist.

"Then like a murigu-reed's stalk from its sheath, or a bird from its cage, the soul now escaped from the body, is declared "liberated."

"That is that supreme Brahman (constant, eternal, and without distinctive signs) which the wise who know Reality declare to be Liberation.

"So now that I have shown you the means and the nature of liberation, if you have understood and approved, can act accordingly.

"Gaigishavya and Ganaka, and the aged Parasara, by following that path were liberated, and so were others who sought liberation.'

The prince, not having accepted those words but having considered them, filled with the force of his former arguments gave this answer:

"I have listened to your teaching of a doctrine that is both subtle and eminently auspicious, but I maintain that it cannot be final because it does not teach us how to abandon the soul that is in the various bodies.

"For I consider that the embodied soul, though freed from 'evolutes' and the 'evolvents,' is still subject to the conditions of birth and is like a sort of seed.

"Even though the pure soul is declared "liberated," yet as long as it still exists, there can be no absolute abandoning of it.

"If we abandon, one after the other, these three components we still perceive "distinction" and so as long as the soul itself continues, that triad continues albeit in a subtle form.

"Some might call that liberation because the "imperfections" [kleshas] have become so attenuated [or refined] and mental processes may have stopped, but that just prolongs a term of existence.

"But as for any supposed abandonment of the principle of egoism, as long as the soul continues on, there is no genuine abandonment of egoism.

"The soul does not become free from 'qualities' as long as it is not released from number and the rest, and as long as there is no freedom from the 'qualities,' we cannot declare there is any liberation. 

"Anyway, there is no real separation of qualities from the subject; fire cannot be conceived  of without the qualities of form and heat.

"Before the body [comes into existence,] there is nothing embodied and [conversely,] before the qualities there is no subject.  So how, if it were originally free [as by definition of its nature you have said it is,] could the soul ever become bound [in a body?]

"The body-knower [soul] which is un-embodied, must be either knowing or unknowing.  If it is knowing, there must be something for it to know, and if there is, then it is [obviously] not liberated.

"Or if the soul is declared to be unknowing, then what use is this imagined soul?  And even without such a soul, the existence of ignorance is as notorious [in a body] as in a log of wood or a wall.

"And [as we progress through the various steps of your doctrine] each stage of abandonment is accompanied by qualities.  Hence, I maintain that the absolute attainment of our [mutually desirable] end can only be found in the abandonment of everything."

That was how he felt after he had heard the doctrine of Arada -- unsatisfied; so having judged it to be incomplete, he left.


[Still] seeking to know the details [true distinction,] he went to the hermitage of Udraka, but he gained no clear understanding from that sage's discussion of the nature of the soul.

For the sage Udraka, having learned the inherent imperfections of the 'name [nama ] and the thing named,' found refuge in an ultra-nihilist theory which maintained that phenomena consist [merely of the aspects] name and non-name.

Since even a name and a non-name were substrata, though subtle ones, he pondered [considered and thought] even further still and settled on the idea that there is no 'named and un-named.'  Since that was his conclusion [there was need for further analysis --] it became very subtle, and there was no such category as "un-named" nor as "named."

But because, even when the mind has reached this goal it still returns again to the world,  the Bodhisattva, seeking something more [useful than philosophy] left Udraka.

Having quit Udraka's hermitage, completely dedicated to his purpose and in search of final bliss, he next visited the ashram -- a city, that of the royal sage, Gaya.

Then on the pure bank of the Naranjana, the Saint whose every effort was pure, established his dwelling as he was intent on living alone.  [However, ] Five mendicants desiring liberation approached when they saw him there, just as objects of the senses are drawn towards the percipient with wealth and health through prior merit.  And he was honoured by the meritorious group of disciples, as they bowed reverentially and with humility, just as the mind is done honour by the restless senses.

With the idea that it might be the means of abolishing birth and death, he immediately undertook a series of difficult austerities by fasting.  For six years, vainly trying to attain merit, he practiced self- mortification by performing many rules of abstinence that are hard for a man to carry out.

At mealtimes, longing to cross the world whose farther shore is so difficult to reach, he  broke his fast with a single jujube fruit, or sesame seed, or grain of rice.  But the emaciation produced by that asceticism was fat with glory.  And though thin, his radiance and beauty were unimpaired as he caused joy to those who saw him, just as the waxing autumn moon gladdens the lotuses.

He may have been diminished in size -- only skin and bones; his fat, flesh and blood entirely wasted -- but he still shone with undiminished grandeur, like the ocean.

Then the Sage, his body obviously emaciated to no useful purpose by the cruel self- mortification, yet still in dread of continued existence, reflected on his longing for Buddhahood.   "This is not the way to passionless- ness, nor to perfect knowledge, nor to liberation.  The true way was the one I found while at the root of the Gambu tree, but that cannot be attained by one who has lost his strength."

So resuming his care for his body, he next pondered how best to increase his strength: "Weakened by hunger, thirst, and fatigue with a mind no longer self-possessed because of that, how should one who is not perfectly calm reach the objective which can only be attained by means of the mind?"

"True calm is properly obtained by constant satisfaction of the senses, for the mind's self-possession can only be gotten through the senses' perfect satisfaction. True meditation is produced in one whose mind is self-possessed and at rest, and to one whose thoughts are engaged in meditation, the exercise of perfect contemplation is immediate.

"By means of meditation we obtain the conditions through which we eventually gain that supreme calm, undecaying, immortal state so hard to reach."

Having decided that to do any of that was based on his eating [some] food, the Sage of Limitless Wisdom, made up his mind to accept the continuance of life.  Thin as he was, he bathed and [then] slowly came back up the river bank supported by the trees on the shore which lent a hand as they bent down their branch-tips in adoration.

Now right then Nandabala, daughter of the chief herdsman, impelled by the gods and with a sudden joy rising in her heart, had just arrived.  She was dressed in dark blue wool, and with her arm encircled gaily with a ring of white shell, she was like the river Yamuna with its dark blue water bordered in white foam.  Her joy was increased by her faith, and with her lotus-like eyes opened wide, she bowed down before him and persuaded him to take some milk.

[That encounter with] His partaking of that food fulfilled her karma and lent meaning and reward to her birth, for [because of it] he became capable of gaining the highest knowledge, since now all his six senses were satisfied.  His body was now fully restored along with his glorious reputation; the beauty and majesty of both spread evenly with the glory of the ocean and the moon.

However, thinking he had [abandoned his quest and] returned to the world, the five ascetics abandoned him like the five elements [at the  moment when] the wise soul is liberated [ie. at death.]  So with only his determination for companionship and with his mind on the attainment of perfect knowledge, he went to the root of an Ashvattha tree where the ground was covered in young grass.

Then Kalash, the best of serpents, regal as the lord of elephants, awakened to the unparalleled sound of his footsteps.  Certain that the point of attaining perfect knowledge was imminent, he uttered this praise of the [Maharishi] Great Sage: "Since the earth rings with the drumming of your feet, O Sage, and since your glory shines like the sun's then today is the day you will reach your goal.  Since the flight lines of birds in the sky are reverential offerings of salutation, O Lotus-eyed, and since gentle breezes waft [in your honour] it is certain that today you become the Buddha."

Assured by the praises of the naga-champion, and with special grass from a [passing] grass-cutter, and having made his resolution, he sat down at the foot of the great holy tree to attain Perfect Knowledge. 

He sat down with his thighs in the immovably firm [vajra] posture with his knees spread like a sleeping serpent's hood, and exclaimed, " I will not rise from this position on the ground until I have obtained my highest goal."

Then the heaven-dwellers [gods and ashuras] burst into unequalled joy, but the herds of beasts and flocks of birds uttered not a single cry.  The trees moving in the wind made not one sound as the Holy One took his seat, firm in his resolve.

NEXT:  Chapter 13:  Encountering Mara.


The Hindu teachings as presented by the words of Harada of the Kalamas  are similar to those of the The Chhandogya Upanishad as developed in the Brahma Sutra

  •  For more about that orthodox Hindu view. < Note and link is not  to any Buddhist view.  They are included to shed light on the reasons for a Buddhist's rejection of them.  

Home ] Shudhodhana's Advisors ] Good-Byes ] At Rajgriha ] Under the Tree ]  < to go back a chapter

[Acts of the Buddha contents] < see where you are.  

[Storytime ] [Buddhism] < some other segments in the web

Scroll up to see Contents of the MAIN MENU to your left. <<< 


Copyright 1998-2018 Khandro.Net All rights reserved. This Web site is designed with Firefox as browser but should be accessible to others. However,  if you eliminate underlining in your Preferences you could miss some of our links.