The great religions of the world, if they are gone into, have a mystical side which is not far removed one from the other. It is reasonable to say that in certain religions the full glory of some facet shows itself. For instance, in Christianity the full glory of service has shown itself, there is service in Buddhism but not the great Orders of service, such as the Jesuit Order which has educated half the world (including many communists). Again, it had never struck me before but a foreigner pointed out to me that many of our hospitals are named after saints: St Mary’s, St Bartholomew’s. Which shows that originally they were religious foundations. I had never noticed it before but it is true, they were, so we can say that, in Christianity, the glory of service has really shown itself.
One of the glories that has shown itself in Buddhism is detachment in action and another is the freedom, the transcendence of the limited sense of individuality, the limited ‘I’. This is not original to Buddhism, we can find it in Upanishads which are considerably before the time of the Buddha.
In the Brhadaranyaka Upanishad it says, ‘The Self is not long, not short, not big, not small’ and lists many more negations… not anything that you can imagine. . . Not Thus. . . Not So. . . whatever you say. . . no. . . no. . . no.
Again, there is a lost Upanishad; it may be very ancient, it is known from just a few quotations. You will be familiar with the situation. A man comes to the teacher and asks, ‘How can I attain freedom? The teacher says, ‘Learn to know the true Self. The mans says, ‘Teach me’. But the teacher doesn’t reply. The man says again, ‘Sir, teach me the true Self’. And the teacher still sits silent, unmoving. He says for the third time, ‘Teach me the true Self’. Then the teacher says, ‘I do teach you, but you do not understand. Silent is this Self.’
If we look at a book of koans for warriors, one of them cites an old tradition. A great Brahmin came before the Buddha, he bowed and said, ‘What do you teach? The Buddha sat in silence. The great Brahmin made a deep bow, and went away satisfied. Then Ananda said to the Buddha, ‘What did he get that he went away satisfied?’ The Buddha answered, ‘The good horse goes even at the shadow of the whip’. This was given as a kind of riddle to warriors around 1400 CE. How is it that Ananda, the attendant of the Buddha, didn’t understand? The Brahmin understood, what was it that he understood or experienced? Silent is this. There is noise, not just the external noise but the noise of our thoughts. The noise of our feelings, the noise of the unresolved karmic impulses, but silent is this. There is something beyond the noise.
© Trevor Leggett