Buddhism in the context of Aryan Tradition

“Accordingly, in the original cycle of Aryan civilizations, both Eastern and Western, there is not the smallest trace of divine figures being so concerned with mankind as to come near to pursuing them in order to gain their adherence and to “save” them. An Aryan mind has too much respect for other people, and its sense of its own dignity is too pronounced to allow it to impose its own ideas upon others, even when it knows that its ideas are correct.”


The spiritual doctrine of Buddhism can be traced back to Nepal, circa 5th century BC, pioneered by Gautama Buddha, a man born in the Sātiya caste, an Aryan warrior aristocracy. Buddha’s ancestors were of Indo-European origin and Julius Evola briefly expounds aspects of Buddhist teachings which align the doctrine with the Aryan character. The qualities of Buddhism, apart from merely its creator’s descent, that are identified as Aryan qualities are thus:

1. Spiritual eliteism; unwillingness to convert others, rather to be sought out not to seek disciples as Christians do.

2. The 32 major physical qualities and 80 minor qualities of the Buddha that determine his eligibility for Buddhahood, demonstrating his high-born traits.

3. Appeasement to the warrior instinct. Buddha is described as a “raging bull” and with a mind of a warrior. Buddha belonged to the warrior caste of early Aryan society.

4. Anti-egalitarian, refusal to expound Siddhas (miracles) to ordinary people.

5. Essentially non-theistic; Nietzschean and meritocratic doctrine.

The Aryan-ness of the Doctrine of Awakening, Julius Evola


We have yet to say something of the “Aryan-ness” of the Buddhist doctrine. Our use of the term Aryan in connection with this doctrine is primarily justified by direct reference to the texts. The term ariya (Skt.: ārya), which in fact means “Aryan,” recurs throughout the canon. The path of awakening is called Aryan-ariya magga: the four fundamental truths are Aryan ariya-saccāni; the mode of knowledge is Aryan-ariya-naya; the teaching is called Aryan (particularly that which considers the contingency of the world’) and is, in turn, addressed to the āriyā; the doctrine is spoken of as accessible and intelligible, not to the common crowd, but only to the ariya. The term ariya has sometimes been translated as “saint.” This, however, is an incomplete translation; it is even discordant when we consider the notable divergence between what is concerned and all that “saintliness” means to a Western man. Nor is the translation of ariya as “noble” or “sublime” any more satisfactory. They are all later meanings of the word, and they do not convey the fullness of the original nor the spiritual, aristocratic, and racial significance that, nevertheless, is largely preserved in Buddhism. This is why Orientalists, such as Rhys Davids and Woodward, have maintained that it is better not to translate the term at all, and they have left ariya wherever it occurs in the texts, either as an adjective or as a noun meaning a certain class of individuals. In the texts of the canon the ariya are the Awakened Ones, those who have achieved Liberation and those who are united to them since they understand, accept, and follow the ariya Doctrine of Awakening: It is necessary, however, that we should emphasize the Aryan-ness of the Buddhist doctrine for various reasons, In the first place, we must anticipate those who will put forward the argument of Asiatic exclusiveness, saying that Buddhism is remote from “our” traditions and “our” races. We have to remember that behind the various caprices of modern historical theories, and as a more profound and primordial reality, there stands the unity of blood and spirit of the white races who created the greatest civilizations both of the East and West, the Iranian and Hindu as well as the ancient Greek and Roman and the Germanic. Buddhism has the right to call itself Aryan both because it reflects in great measure the spirit of common origins and since it has preserved important parts of a heritage that, as we have already said, Western man has little by little forgotten, not only by reason of involved processes of intermarriage, but also since he himself-to a far greater extent than the Eastern Aryans-has come under foreign influences. particularly in the religious field. As we have pointed out, Buddhist asceticism, when certain supplementary elements have been removed, is truly “classical” in its clarity, realism, precision, and firm and articulate structure; we may say it reflects the noblest style of the ancient Aryo-Mediterranean world. Furthermore, it is not only a question of form. The ascesis proclaimed by Prince Siddhattha is suffused throughout with an intimate congeniality and with an accentuation of the intellectual and Olympian element that is the mark of Platonism, Neoplatonism, and Roman Stoicism. Other points of contact are to be found where Christianity has been rectified by a transfusion of Aryan blood that had remained comparatively pure-that is to say, in what we know as German mysticism: there is Meister Eckhart’s sermon on detachment, on Abgeschiedenheit, and his theory of the “noble mind,” and we must not forget Tauter and Silesius, To insist here, as in every other field of thought, on the antithesis between East and West is pure dilettantism. The real contrast exists in the first place between concepts of a modern kind and those of a traditional kind, whether the latter are Eastern or Western; and secondly, between the real creations of the Aryan spirit and blood and those which, in East and West alike, have resulted from the admixture of non-Aryan influences. As Dahlke has justly said, “Among the principal ways of thought in ancient times, Buddhism can best claim to be of pure Aryan origin.”‘ This is true also more specifically. Although we can apply the term Aryan as a generalization to the mass of Indo-European races as regards their common origin (the original homeland of such races, the ariyānem-vaējō, according to the memory consciously preserved in the ancient Iranian tradition, was a hyperborean region or, more generally, northwestern),’ yet, later, it became a designation of caste. Ārya stood essentially for an aristocracy opposed, both in mind and body, not only to obscure, bastard, “demoniacal” races among which must be included the Kosalian and Dravidian strains found by the Hyperboreans in the Asiatic lands they conquered, but also, more generally, to that substratum that corresponds to what we would probably call today the proletarian and plebeian masses born in the normal way to serve, and that in India as in Rome were excluded from the bright cults characteristic of the higher patrician, warrior, and priestly castes. Buddhism can claim to be called Aryan in this more particular social sense also, notwithstanding the attitude, of which we shall have more to say later, that it adopted toward the castes of those times. The man who was later known as the Awakened One, that is, the Buddha, was the Prince Siddhattha. According to some, he was the son of a king; according to others, at least of the most ancient warrior nobility of the Sākiya race, proverbial for its pride: there was a saying, “Proud as a Sākiya.”5 This race claimed descent, like the most illustrious and ancient Hindu dynasties, from the so-called solar race-sūrya vamsa-and from the very ancient king Ikśvāku.6 “He, of the solar race,” one reads of the Buddha.’ He says so himself: “I am descended from the solar dynasty and I was born a Sākiya,”8 and by becoming an ascetic who has renounced the world he vindicates his royal dignity, the dignity of an Aryan king.” Tradition has it that his person appeared as “a form adorned with all the signs of beauty and surrounded by a radiant aureole.”10 To a sovereign who meets him and does not know who he is, he immediately gives the impression of an equal: “Thou hast a perfect body, thou art resplendent, well born, of noble aspect, thou hast a golden colour and white teeth, thou art strong. All the signs that thou art of noble birth are in thy form, all the marks of a superior man.”11 The most fearsome bandit, meeting him, asks himself in amazement who might be “this ascetic who comes alone with no companions, like a conqueror.” – And not only do we find in his body and hearing the characteristics of a khattiya, of a noble warrior of high lineage, but tradition has it that he was endowed with the “thirty-two attributes” that according to an ancient brahmanical doc trine were the mark of the “superior man”-mahāpurisa-lakkhana-for whom “exist only two possibilities, without a third”: either, to remain in the world and to become a cakkavatti, that is, a king of kings, a “universal sovereign,” the Aryan prototype of the “Lord of the Earth,” or else to renounce the world and to become perfectly awakened, the Sambuddha, “one who has removed the veil.'” Legend tells us that in a prophetic vision of a whirling wheel an imperial destiny was foretold for Prince Siddhattha; a destiny that, however, he rejected in favor of the other path.14 It is equally significant that, according to tradition, the Buddha directed that his funeral rite should not be that of an ascetic, but of an imperial sovereign, a cakkavatti.15 In spite of the attitude of Buddhism toward the caste problem, it was generally held that the bodhisatta, those who may one day become awakened, are never horn into a peasant or servile caste but into a warrior or Brāhman caste, that is to say, into the two purest and highest of the Aryan castes: indeed, in the conditions then prevailing, the warrior caste, the khattiya, was said to be the more favoured.’ This Aryan nobility and this warrior spirit are reflected in the Doctrine of Awakening itself. Analogies between the Buddhist ascesis and war, between the qualities of an ascetic and the virtues of a warrior and of a hero recur frequently in the canonical texts: “a struggling ascetic with fighting breast,” “an advance with a fighter’s steps,” “hero, victor of the battle,” “supreme triumph of the battle,” “favorable con ditions for the combat,” qualifies of “a warrior becoming to a king, well worthy of a king, attributes of a king,” etc.”-and in such maxims as: “to die in battle is better than to live defeated.” As for “nobility,” it is bound up here with aspiration toward superhumanly inspired liberty. “As a bull, I have broken every bond”-says Prince Siddhattha.19 “Having laid aside the burden, he has destroyed the bonds of existence”: this is a theme that continually recurs in the texts, and refers to one who follows the path they indicate. As “summits hard to climb, like solitary lions” the enlightened are described.2° The Awakened One is “a proud saint who has climbed the most sublime mountain peaks, who has penetrated the remotest forests, who has descended into profound abysses.”21 He himself said, “I serve no man, l have no need to serve any man”;22 an idea that recalls the “autonomous and immaterial race,” the race “without a king” (αβασίλεντος)-being itself kingly-a race that is also mentioned in the West 23 He is “ascetic, pure, the knower, free, sovereign.” These, which are frequent even in the oldest texts, are some of the attributes. not only of the Buddha, but also of those who travel along the same path. The natural exaggeration of some of these attributes does not alter their significance at least as symbols and indications of the nature of the path and ideal indicated by Prince Siddhattha, and of his spiritual race. The Buddha is an outstanding example of a royal ascetic; his natural counterpart in dignity is a sovereign who, like a Caesar, could claim that his race comprehended the majesty of kings as well as the sacred ness of the gods who hold even the rulers of men in their power 2 We have seen that the ancient tradition has this precise significance when it speaks of the essential nature of individuals who can only be either imperial or perfectly awakened. We are close to the summits of the Aryan spiritual world. A particular characteristic of the Aryan-ness of the original Buddhist teaching is the absence of those proselytizing manias that exist, almost without exception, in direct proportion to the plebeian and anti-aristocratic character of a belief. An Aryan mind has too much respect for other people, and its sense of its own dignity is too pronounced to allow it to impose its own ideas upon others, even when it knows that its ideas are correct. Accordingly, in the original cycle of Aryan civilizations, both Eastern and Western, there is not the smallest trace of divine figures being so con cerned with mankind as to come near to pursuing them in order to gain their adherence and to “save” them. The so-called salvationist religions-the Erlösungsreligionen, in German-make their appearance both in Europe and Asia at a later date, together with a lessening of the preceding spiritual tension, with a fall from Olympian consciousness and, not least, with influxes of inferior ethnic and social elements. That the divinities can do little for men, that man is fundamentally the artificer of his own destiny, even of his development beyond this world-this characteristic view held by original Buddhism demonstrates its difference from some later forms, especially of the Mahāyāna schools, into which infiltrated the idea of a power from on high busying itself with mankind in order to lead each individual to salvation. In point of method and teaching, in the original texts we see that the Buddha expounds the truth as he has discovered it, without imposing himself on anyone and without employing outside means to persuade or “convert.” “He who has eyes will see”-is a much repeated saying of the texts. “Let an intelligent man come to me”-we read26-“a man without a tortuous mind, without hypocrisy, an upright man: I will instruct him, I will expound the doctrine. If he follows the instruction, after a short while he himself will recognize, he himself will see, that thus indeed one liberates oneself from the bonds, the bonds, that is, of ignorance.” Here follows a simile of an infant freeing itself gradually from its early limitations; this image exactly corresponds to the Platonic simile of the expert midwife and the art of aiding births. Again: “I will not force you, as the potter his raw clay. By reproving I will instruct, and by urging you. He who is sound will endure.”27′ Besides, the original intention of Prince Siddhattha was, having once achieved his knowledge of truth, to communicate it to no one, not from ill-mindedness, but because he realized its profundity and foresaw that few would understand it. Having then recognized the existence of a few individuals of a nobler nature with clearer vision, he expounded the doctrine out of com passion, maintaining, however, his distance, his detachment, and his dignity. Whether disciples come to him or not, whether or not they follow his ascetic precepts, “always he remains the same.”28 This is his manner: “Know persuasion and know dissuasion; knowing persuasion and knowing dissuasion do not persuade and do not dissuade: expound only reality. “It is wonderful”-says another text30-“it is astonishing that no one exalts his own teaching and no one despises the teaching of another in an order where there are so many guides to show the doctrine.” This, too, is typically Aryan. It is true that the spiritual power that the Buddha possessed could not but show itself sometimes almost automatically, demanding immediate recognition. We read, for example, of the incident described as “the first footprint of the elephant,” where wise men and expert dialecticians wait for the Buddha at a ford seeking an opportunity to defeat him with their arguments, but when they see him they ask only to hear the doctrine;” or of another where, when the Buddha enters a discussion, his words destroy all opposition “like a furious elephant or a blazing fire.”32 There is the account of his former companions who, believing him to have left the road of asceticism, propose among themselves not to greet him, but who when immediately they see him go to meet him; and there is the story of the fierce bandit Angulimāla who is awed by the Buddha’s majestic figure. In any case, it is certain that the Buddha, in his Aryan superiority, always abstained from using indirect methods of persuasion and, in particular, never used any that appealed to the irrational, sentimental, or emotional element in a human being. This rule too is definite: “You must not, 0 disciples, show to laymen the miracle of the super-normal powers. He who does this is guilty of an offence of wrongdoing.” The individual is put on one side: “In truth, the noble sons declare their higher knowledge in such a manner, that they state the truth without any reference whatsoever to their own person.”’34 “Why is this?”-says the Buddha to one who has eagerly waited for a long time to see him–“He who sees the law sees me and he who sees me sees the law. In truth, by seeing the law I am seen and by seeing me the law is seen.”35 Being himself awakened. the Buddha wishes only to encourage an awakening in those who are capable of it: an awakening, in the first place, of a sense of dignity and of vocation, and in the second, of intellectual intuition. A man who is incapable of intuition, it is said, cannot approve.36 The noble miracle “conforming to the Aryan nature” (ariya-iddhi) as opposed to prodigies based on extranormal phenomena, and considered to be non-Aryan (anariya-iddhi) is concerned with this very point. The “miracle of the teaching” stirs the faculty of discernment and furnishes a new and accurate measure of all values;” the most typical of the canonical expressions for this is: ‘”There is this’-he understands-‘There is the common and there is the excellent, and there is a higher escape beyond this perception of the senses. “’38 Here is a characteristic passage describing the awakening of intuition: “His the disciple’s] heart suddenly feels pervaded with sacred enthusiasm and his whole mind is revealed pure, clear, shining as the luminous disc of the moon: and the truth appears to him in its completeness.'” This is the foundation of the only “faith,” of the only “right confidence” considered by the order of the Aryans, “an active confidence, rooted in insight, firm”; a confidence that “no penitent or priest, no god or devil, no angel nor anyone else in the world can destroy.”41’ Perhaps it is worth briefly discussing a final point. The fact that the Buddha, normally, does not appear in the Pāli texts as a supernatural being descended to earth to broadcast a “revelation,” but as a man who expounds a truth that he himself has seen and who indicates a path that he himself has trodden, as a man who, having himself crossed by his own unaided efforts” to the other bank of the river, helps others to cross over42-this fact must not lead us to make the figure of the Buddha too human. Even if we omit the Bodhisatta theory that so often suffers from infiltration of fabulous elements and that only came into being at a later period, the concept in the early texts of what is known as kolankola makes us seek in the Buddha the re-emergence of a luminous principle already kindled in preceding generations: this is an idea that agrees perfectly with what we are about to say on the historical significance of the Buddhist Doctrine of Awakening. In any ease, whatever his antecedents, it is extremely difficult to draw a line between what is human and what is not, when we are dealing with a being who has inwardly attained deathlessness (amata) and who is presented as the living incarnation of a law hound up with that which is transcendental and that can be “confined” by nothing-apariyā-panna. The question of race comes in here, too. If a being feels himself remote from metaphysical reality, then he will imagine any strength that he may acquire as a “grace,” knowledge will appear as “revelation” in its accepted meaning in the West since the time of the Hebrew prophets, and the announcer of a law may assume for him “di-vine” proportions rather than be justly regarded as one who has destroyed ignorance and who has become “awakened.” This separation from metaphysical reality masks the dignity and the spiritual level of a teaching and wraps the person of the teacher himself in an impenetrable fog. One thing is certain: ideas of “revelations” and of men-gods can only sound foreign to an Aryan spirit and to a “noble son” (kula-putta), particularly in periods when the mind of humanity had not yet entirely lost the memory of its own origins. This introduces us to the next chapter, where we shall say some-thing of the meaning and of the function of the doctrine of Prince Siddhattha in the general setting of the ancient Indo-Aryan world.




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