Going Forth (Pabbajja)
A Call to Buddhist Monkhood
An Essay, and Letters on Buddhism
by Sumana Samanera
* Going Forth (Pabbajja)
* Five Letters About Buddhism
o I. Reminiscences of Sumano, by Dr. Ph. Derval
o II. From a Letter by the German Bhikkhu Kondañño
The essay that forms the first part of this booklet, bears in its German
original the title Pabbajja which, in Pali, the language of the Buddhist
texts, means Going forth, namely from the household life to the homelessness
of a Buddhist monk. The Pali word Pabbajja is also the term for the first
ordination bestowed for entry into the Buddhist monastic Order (Sangha) by
which the candidate becomes a Novice or Samanera like the author of the
writings presented here, whose illness and premature death deprived him of
taking higher ordination.
Fritze Stange, the lay name of our author, was a German by birth, and
received his novice ordination in 1906 at Matara (Ceylon), under the nestor
of the German Buddhist monks the Venerable Nyanatiloka Thera (d 1957).
Together with Sumano, a Dutchman, called Bergendahl, was ordained as the
Samanera Suñño. They were the first two pupils of the Venerable Nyanatiloka
who, on his part, had received novice ordination in 1903 and higher
ordination in 1904, both in Burma. As related in the Appendix of this
booklet, illness obliged Sumano to go back to Germany, but in the same year
he returned again to Ceylon, together with the Venerable Nyanatiloka who had
paid a short visit to Germany. He took ordination again and then lived in
the undulating, grassy hillocks of Bandarawela, in Ceylon's up-country -- a
landscape of ascetical bareness, breathing seclusion and quietude. There he
died and was cremated in January 1910. A spout just by the spot where he
lived, still bears in the Sinhala language the name "German Phihilla"
Sumano was held in great reverence by the people for his deep piety. He was
of an unassuming nature; but his bearing emanated an atmosphere of
saintliness and detachment, of maturity and gentle firmness which obviously
must have set him apart from the multitude.
The same atmosphere of the true ascetic's sincere and forceful simplicity
radiates from the pages of his little book Pabbajja. It's first publication
in Germany, in the year 1910, deeply impressed and inspired the members of
the small circles of German Buddhists. An English version by Bhikkhu
Silacara appeared in Ceylon the same year. This has been fully revised for
the present edition, after comparison with the German original.
Sumano's letters appeared in print in a German Buddhist magazine, "Die
Buddhistische Warte," and are published here for the first time in an
English version prepared by the Venerable Nyanaponika Thera.
Both, essays and letters, served first to justify and explain Sumano's
unusual step of entering Buddhist monkhood in the East. There is, however,
nothing apologetic in his words, no diffident defense; they are rather a
stirring call to kindred minds for proceeding on that hard but incomparably
rewarding road towards the "unshakable deliverance of mind." In the same
spirit they are offered here to the reader, as a companion to another
booklet in this series of Buddhist publications, The Ascetic Ideal by Ronald
Fussell (The Wheel Publication No 23).
Buddhist Publication Society
"He is beside himself"
"Marvelous is it, O Lord, extraordinary is it, O Lord, how the
Exalted One has so clearly pointed out the Four Satipatthana,
which lead to the purification of beings, to the overcoming of
sorrow and lamentation, to the cessation of pain and grief, to the
attainment of the path, to the realization of Nibbana! For we
also, Lord, as householders, have from time to time fixed our
minds upon the Four Satipatthana." -- "Whilst we thus dwell with
earnest minds, eager, unweariedly, the memories of household
things pass from us; and as they so pass, the heart grows ever
more steady, becomes quieted and unified, finds peace."
The more frequently a man thus dwells all the more perceptibly does the
alienation increase, does the world die away from him, for ever more clearly
does the true nature of the world reveal itself to the mind through the
persistent contemplation of this truth founded in experience:
Thus is form; thus it arises; thus it passes away.
Thus is feeling; thus it arises; thus it passes away.
Thus is perception; thus it arises, thus it passes away.
Thus are the mental formations, thus they arise, thus they pass
Thus is consciousness; thus it arises, thus it passes away.
Always the same law, always the same song:
Anicca vata sankhara uppada-vaya-dhammino;
Uppajjitva nirujjhanti, tesam vupasamo sukho'ti:
"Transient are all compounded things;
To rise to fall, their nature is.
Having become, they pass away;
Their final rest is highest bliss."
"I know not, Ananda, even of a single form whereby pleasure and satisfaction
in form does not pass into sorrow and lamentation, pain, grief, despair,
since it is transient and changeable" -- and so with feeling, and so with
perception, and so with the mental formations, and so with consciousness.
"This world, however, seeks pleasure, loves pleasure, prizes pleasure. Only
a few beings are stirred by things that are truly stirring, in comparison
with the greater number who remain unstirred by truly stirring things. And
again, there are only a few who, being stirred, earnestly strive, in
comparison with the greater number who, being stirred, yet do not earnestly
Unrestrained by the perception of the hollowness of things, flows on the hot
stream of foolish desire: "O, that no birth lay before us, no old age, no
death, no sorrow, no lamentation, no pain, no grief, no despair! -- but this
is not to be obtained by mere desiring; and not to get what one desires is
suffering." Ah! if only our parents would remain alive; Ah! if only our
loved one would not die,... Ah! the misery of this law of nature! How many
millions daily sob and weep over graves! The misery of this law of nature!
"What dear to one brings sorrow and lamentation, pain, grief, and despair:
attachment is the root of suffering." Hence the uprooting of suffering is
non-attachment, the way of escape from all this wretchedness is
non-attachment, denial, renunciation. "Whoso cleaves to woe, follows after
woe, is bound up with woe, and thus considers: 'That belongs to me, that I
am, that is my self (atta, self, soul) -- can such one really comprehend
woe, can such a one avoid the woe that encompasses him?' But he who
withdraws himself from attachment and learns to renounce, to deny, and to
turn away, deprives the heart's pain of its nourishment, and by degrees
brings about its extinction. "The turning away of the will vanquishes all
This turning away comes into operation where there is an understanding of
suffering, of the arising of suffering, of the cessation of suffering, and
of the path that leads to the cessation of suffering. Before understanding
these truths, man hastens from birth to death in the sea of existence
(samsara), without deriving therefrom any true gain for his deliverance --
worn out for naught, the body perishes." "It is through lack of
understanding and insight into the Four Holy Truths, ye disciples, that we
had travel so long the weary round of Samsara -- both you and I. What think
ye: which is greater -- the floods of tears which, weeping and wailing, ye
have shed on this long journey, ever and again hastening towards new birth
and new death, united to the undesired, sundered from the desired -- this or
the waters of the four great seas? For long have ye experienced the death of
a mother, for long the death of a father, for long the death of a son, for
long the death of a daughter, for long the death of brothers and sisters;
for long ye were harassed by disease; and whilst experiencing the death of
mother, of father, of son, of daughter, of brothers and sisters, the loss of
property, the torment of disease, whilst being united with the undesired and
sundered from the desired, thus hastening from birth to death and from death
to birth ye have verily shed more tears on this long journey, than all the
waters that are held in the four great seas! But how is that possible?
Without beginning and without end is this Samsara, unknowable is the
beginning of beings sunk in ignorance (avijja) who, seized by craving
(tanha), ever and again are brought to renewed birth, and so hastened
through the endless round of rebirths. Thus, for long have ye experienced
suffering, experienced torment, experienced misery, and filled the
graveyards -- long enough truly to have become dissatisfied with all
existence, long enough to turn away from all being, long enough to seek
release from it all."
Who take this exhortation to themselves? Those whose minds are stirred by
these thoughts. And being stirred they will learn to understand, and will
earnestly strive. "For them delight and pleasure in the world gradually
passes away, they perceive the coarse as well as the subtle lures of Mara;
wearied are they of intoxication, of self-deception; no longer do they
shrink from the inevitable struggle for the overcoming of the world; yea, to
this or that one, the widespread misery in the world reveals itself to his
mind so nakedly, so powerfully, that the cry for the end of it drowns every
other voice: "Forth, forth, forth to the other shore!" "Sunk am I in birth,
in old age and death, in sorrow, lamentation and pain, in grief and despair,
sunk in suffering, lost in suffering! O that it were possible to make an end
of all this mass of suffering!" To such a comprehension, to such a longing,
the meaning of asceticism becomes evident as that manner of living which
really makes possible single-minded devotion to that most difficult of all
tasks -- the task of becoming perfectly good or pure or holy, and thereby,
free from suffering and rebirth!
"If I truly understand the doctrine declared by the Exalted One, it is not
easy for one who remains in household life to fulfill point by point the
wholly stainless, wholly purified ascetic life." "Whoso lives in the house
is busy over-much, is much occupied, anxious about many things, disturbed
about many things; he is not always entirely devoted to truthfulness; not
always and entirely zealous in self control, chaste, recollected, given to
"Man falls as falls the fruit from the tree,
Unripe or mayhap ripe, with sudden crash:
and so, O king, a beggar I become,
For, the sure pilgrim-life me seems the best."
"There has never been a householder, Vaccha, who without forsaking
household-ties, has, at the dissolution of the body, made an end to
Therefore, whoso resolutely seeks the end, "After a time will leave behind a
small property, or leave behind a large property; he forsakes a small circle
of acquaintances, or he forsakes a large circle of acquaintances, and goes
forth from home to homelessness" -- pabbajja.
But father and mother, wife and children, love and duty? The sense of duty
depends on understanding. Once a duty has been understood as the higher one,
it sets aside the lower conception of duty held formerly.
For years a man may have devoted himself to the care of wife and child,
prizing nothing higher than his family's welfare. Then war comes to his
country. The course of events stirs him profoundly; he is affected by new
ideas, another view of things gain strength within him. "Sweet it is to die
for the fatherland!" The feeling overpowers him: "What care I for wife, what
care I for child!" Of his own free will he goes forth to meet the foes of
the fatherland. The duty to his country now seems to him higher than the
duty to his wife and children.
Another man has in former days, with full conviction, solemnly vowed
faithfully to stand by his country even to death. Later on, in consequence
of higher comprehension he gains a higher standpoint, a wider outlook;
envisages politics as a citizen of the world, thinks in universal terms:
"This Frenchman is a fellow human being, is a fellow sufferer. This Russian
is a fellow human being, is a fellow sufferer. Life is a sacred thing,
frightful, barbaric is this wholesale killing, called war -- the visible
aggravation of suffering." No longer can he slay his fellow-men. In case of
a call to arms he willingly allows himself to be shot by his own countrymen.
The duty "Thou shalt not kill!" stands higher in his eyes than any duty
towards his fatherland.
Yet another, as pastor, for many a year enjoyed a secure living with his
family. By degrees his views undergo a change. He finds himself unable any
longer to give his assent to dogmas, to the doctrines of Revelation, of
Grace, or of Forgiveness of Sins, or Vicarious Atonement; he can no longer
believe in that deplorable and absurd doctrine of "eternal damnation for the
deeds of a brief spell of thirty years." A higher knowledge has come to
fruition within him. Clear and evident to him has become the universally
ruling law, the unchangeable, equable relation of cause and effect, the
unfailingly just recompensations of right or wrong action (kamma). He
burdens his mind neither with thoughts about the unfathomable, nor with
useless discussions: he go on preaching as before? He will follow his
altered convictions, give up his position as pastor -- come what may!
Whoso acts according to his deepest understanding is always straight and
candid, ever acts in accordance with truth -- at least relatively so: for a
man's truth is his degree of understanding.
"This above all: to thine own self be true,
And it must follow as the night the day;
Thou canst not then be false to any man:
Be true to the highest within you!"
To a man now, who has clearly perceived the pitiable condition of all beings
that share a common existence, what higher, holier, or more urgent task can
there be than to become perfectly kind, perfectly good or holy and thereby
to get himself cured of this being born, growing old and dying, of this
sorrow, lamentation, pain, grief, and despair? Hence if he has truly
recognized the significance and value of asceticism for the fulfillment of
this highest duty, and experienced the impossibility of its perfect
realization in household life, there follows the going forth into
homelessness (Pabbajja) as necessarily as the fall of the drop that is full.
"No man can serve two masters" -- fully well. The man who devotedly strives
for the fulfillment of the Doctrine experiences intensely the
unsatisfactoriness of divided allegiance. Hence after a time, he gives it
up, for the blessing of himself as well as of his family; an inward law of
development that is beyond dispute. Only a mother knows the pangs of
childbirth, and only a mother knows the succeeding joys of motherhood. Only
he who has left home knows the relief of relinquishing accustomed bonds;
only he who has left home, knows the happiness of being free: an inward
experience -- indisputable! "The joys of the family life and the joys of the
homeless life -- these are two different joys: and the nobler of the two is
the joy the homeless life."
If millions of honest men in worldly life find Pabbajja, the Going Forth,
obnoxious; if they condemn the incomprehensible act as wrong, as unnatural,
or deplore it as a mental aberration, they are quite right from their own
standpoint; no intelligent man will contradict them. They act in accordance
with their conception of duty, and are "great, great in their place" if,
before all things they care for beloved parents, for wife and children, and
strive to fulfill the manifold important duties laid upon them by their life
in the world. Also the few who have a bent for the ascetic life and honestly
long for it, but feel themselves bound one way or another to their wanted
way of life and therefore remain in its bondage -- they also are right from
their own standpoint. So also are those individuals right who go forth,
being no longer bound inwardly. It is not the outward circumstances that
bind a man; by himself is man really bound, by himself is he really free.
Having left parents, son and wife,
Relations, wealth and land,
And all desires of sense,
Let him wander alone like the rhinoceros.
By logic, by reasoning or by eloquent words alone that act of going forth
into homelessness can certainly not be argued or explained. But whoso sees
this law, whoso sees this truth, no longer asks for proof. Quietly and with
confidence he acts. What the world says about it, leaves him unconcerned.
"There are two goals, the holy goal and the unholy goal. But what
is the unholy goal? One, himself subject to birth, seeks what also
is subject to birth; himself subject to old age, to sickness, to
death, to pain, to defilement seeks what also is subject to old
age, to sickness, to death, to pain, to defilement. But what is
subject to birth, old age, sickness, death, pain and defilement?
Wife and child are subject to birth, old age, sickness, death,
pain and defilement; servant and maid, lamb and goat...gold and
silver are subject to birth, old age, sickness, death, pain and
defilement. Subject to birth, old age, sickness, death, pain, to
defilement are these things. And allured, blinded, enchanted a man
himself subject to birth, to old age, to sickness, to death, to
pain to defilement seeks what also is subject to birth, old age,
sickness, death, to pain, to defilement! This is the unholy goal.
But what is the holy goal?
"One himself subject to birth, perceiving the misery of this law
of nature, seeks that which is free from birth: the incomparable
surety of Nibbana; subject to old age, to sickness, to death, to
pain, to defilement perceiving the misery of this law of nature,
seeks that which is free from old age, sickness, death, pain and
defilement the incomparable surety of Nibbana. This is the holy
"Formerly, when but a Bodhisatta, myself subject to birth, I
sought what also was subject to birth; myself subject to old age,
sickness, death, pain, defilement, sought what also was subject to
old age, sickness, death, pain, defilement. And it occurred to me
as follows: 'Why, myself subject to birth, old age, sickness,
death, pain, defilement, do I seek what also is subject to birth,
old age, sickness, death, pain, defilement? What, if now, myself
subject to birth, perceiving the misery of this law of nature, I
were to seek the incomparable surety of Nibbana free from birth:
myself subject to old age, sickness, death, pain defilement
perceiving the misery of this law of nature, I were to seek the
incomparable surety of Nibbana free from old age, sickness, death,
pain, defilement? And after a time while still young, with
coal-black hair, possessed of radiant youth, in the prime of my
life, against the wish of my weeping and wailing parents, I had my
hair and beard shaved off, put on the yellow robe, and went forth
from the household life to the houseless one..."
Whoso well in time sees the holy goal with penetrating clearness, he can no
longer tie matrimonial bonds.
Who dwells alone and seeks not any mate,
Though young in years yet bides not anywhere,
Averted, turned away from contract's transports:
Him the wise well and truly call a sage.
Whether, however, a man be old or young, whether he be married or not -- at
whatever period of his life, the urge in him for the ascetic life asserts
itself, then along with the other bonds binding to the worldly life, the
bonds of blood- relationship also lose their force. The mother has become an
elder sister; the father has become a brother; the wife has become a sister;
the son has become a brother... fellow beings, fellow sufferers. Attachment,
longing have died away, alienation has set in. Such a one has no longer a
place and use in the family. "Another law works in the members," a wider
love. In love the ascetic goes forth from the family, out of love he leaves
it. Truly difficult to understand is the love in genuine ascetic mind, yet
relatives also learn to understand it. "And if the families out of which
those noble men have gone forth from home into homelessness, think of these
noble men with love, for long will it make for their weal and happiness."
Just as a man, who out of true feelings gives alms at the same time makes
richer his family, though to outward appearance that family may suffer some
loss in goods or money: so truly bestows a householder a rich treasure to an
understanding family, if in a right frame of mind, moved by the highest of
duties, he renounces the worldly life, even though that family may lose its
external support. This loss which not seldom is brought about by premature
death, can be made good and is unessential; but essential is: awakening from
the slumber, thoughtfulness, insight, the perspective of Anatta (not-self),
turning away, detachment -- that is what matters.
"Naught is the loss of relatives, riches and honor; but the loss
of insight is the heaviest loss. Naught is the gain of relatives,
riches and honor; but the gain of insight -- that is the highest
gain. Wherefore let your endeavour be: Insight will be gain! Let
this be your endeavour!"
"And the former wife of the venerable Sangamaji had heard it said:
'The monk Sangamaji has arrived in Savatthi.' Then she took her
child and went to the monastery at the Jeta Grove, near Savatthi.
At that time, however, the venerable Sangamaji sat at the foot of
a tree to spend the afternoon there, devoted to meditation. Then
the former wife of the venerable Sangamaji betook herself thither
and spoke to the venerable Sangamaji: Look at thy little son here,
O ascetic! Give me food!' But to these words the venerable
Sangamaji maintained silence. A second and a third time the former
wife of the venerable Sangamaji so spoke: 'Look at thy little son
here! Give me food!' And a second and a third time did the
venerable Sangamaji preserve silence. Then the wife of the
venerable Sangamaji laid the child down in front of the venerable
Sangamaji and went away, saying: 'There is thy son, O ascetic;
give him food!' The venerable Sangamaji however, neither looked at
the child nor uttered a word. Now when the former wife of the
venerable Sangamaji having gone some distance turned round, she
saw that the venerable Sangamaji neither looked at the child nor
said anything. Then she thought 'This ascetic cares not even for
his child,' turned back, took up the child and went away."
"If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and
wife and children, and brethren and sisters, yea, and his own life
also, he cannot be my disciple. Whosoever he be of you that
forsaketh not all that he hath, he cannot be my disciple."
-- Luke XIV.26 and 33
"Think not that I come to send peace on peace: I came not to send
peace, but a sword. For I am come to set a man at variance against
his father and the daughter against her mother, and the
daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. And a man's foes shall
be they of his own household. He that loveth father and mother
more than me is not worthy of me; and he that loveth son or
daughter more than me is not worthy of me."
-- Matthew X.34-37
"Let the dead bury their dead."
-- Luke IX.60
"My kingdom is not of this world."
-- John XVIII. 36
Apart from the differences existing between the teachings of the Buddha and
of the Christ, all these sayings have these ideas in common:
1. Void throughout is this world.
2. Whoso "hungers and thirsts" to overcome this world, will loosen
all earthly bonds, count them but dirt. Commentators and scribes
there are in abundance but "whoso has eyes will see."
Day after day, twenty-four hours older, a hundred thousand heart beats
nearer to the grave inevitably! "O, put all wishes aside save the desire to
know truth; recognize the truth and tell it, come what may!" Whoso does not
act in that way, deceives himself and others. Whoso shrinks from the
decision that truth demands, puts obstacles in the way of himself and others
though it may not always be obvious.
From life departing man no refuge finds,
Nor friend, nor loved one, boon companions none.
The heirs, with strife, divide the heritage,
Himself fares forth according to his deeds.
"Put not thy trust in friends or relatives, and put not off thy
salvation till the future, for man will forget thee sooner than
thou thinkest. It is better to provide now in time and do the
right, than to trust to help of another. If thou art not
solicitous for thee in the future? Now is the time very precious,
now is the day of salvation...!"
-- Thomas a Kempis
None can do for another what is needed for deliverance. Here each has to
rely on himself alone.
Self alone is the lord of self.
What higher master can there be?
By self alone is evil done, by self one is defiled;
By self is evil left undone; by self alone one is purified,
Pure and impure on self alone depend;
No one can make another pure.
Hence give not up thine own best weal
For others' weal however great.
Once thou hast seen thine own best weal,
Pursue it keenly for thyself.
Concern for oneself, in that sense, is far from being reprehensible egotism.
It has nothing to do with the oppression or exploitation of others, with
harshness towards others.
"Once, Lord, in an hour of solitude and retirement the following
thoughts came to me: 'To whom is one's self dear, to whom is it
not dear?' And this, Lord, occurred to me: Those who do, and
speak, and think evilly, to these their self is not dear. And even
though they say: 'We love ourselves,' yet they do not love
themselves. And why not? Whatsoever unlovely thing they do to one
unbeloved that they do to their own selves. Therefore is it that
their self is not dear to them. Those, however, who act, and
speak, and think rightly, to them their self is dear. And even
though they may say: 'We love not ourselves,' yet they do love
themselves. And why? Whatsoever lovely thing they do to one
beloved that they do to their own selves. Therefore is it that
their self is dear to them." -- "That is so, great king."
Not only is such true care for oneself unreprehensible, but it is the only
way to become hale and holy oneself and to help others to become likewise.
"A man may do ever so much good and take upon himself ever so many
abnegations, and yet as long as he does not know himself he will not reach
deliverance." -- "The only limitations he imposes upon himself, are those
arising from not knowing himself. In the degree, however, that he knows
himself, he is able to do greatest service a man can render for another,
namely: to help him to help himself; to bring him to a true knowledge of
himself, of his own inner power." Hence, the more ardently a man devotes
himself to the work of his own deliverance, all the sooner and more
effectively can he become a blessing to others; for all the sooner can he
learn and experience what will help himself and others to win true
deliverance; the laws for it are the same for all. Any other helpful action,
however meritorious it may be, is concerned with things external, not with
the world within. "Can the blind lead the blind? Shall they not both fall
into the ditch?" Whoso has ever offered to others "bread for stones," has
first of all labored within himself, "lonely, apart, untiringly, ardent and
The inward worker who has lived the truth, speaks from experience, with the
assurance of an "expert": "So it is," he says, and not, "So it may be."
Therefore his words produce in susceptible minds an inner crisis never
experienced before, a crisis severe but wholesome: "The word of the wise
heals." As is the speech of the inwards worker, so is his outward behavior:
true, straight and firm, serene, aloof, uncommon. Such venerable ones are
the greatest benefactors of their fellow men, the best physicians; visible
witnesses of the fact that detachment from the world is possible; by their
very lives they point to the way by which that what continually produces and
feeds new suffering can be eliminated. Therefore, whether householder or
monk -- above all, win to a true vision for thyself! "Know thyself!" -- "Be
ever mindful of thyself."
The wise upon the path of truth
He first establishes himself:
Then only can he others teach.
Who thus, as he to others tells,
Can conquer and subdue himself,
May haply turn them to the true;
But hard it is to rule oneself.
"That, Cunda, one himself sunk into the mire should pull out of
the mire another sunk therein -- this cannot be. But that one,
himself not sunk in the mire, can lift out of the mire another
sunk therein -- that may be. And that one, himself not subdued,
not disciplined, not attained to the extinction of delusion,
should lead others to become subdued and disciplined to attain to
the extinction of delusion -- this cannot be. But that one who
himself is subdued and disciplined, and has attained to the
extinction of delusion, should lead others also to become subdued
and disciplined and to attain to the extinction of delusion --
this may well be."
The most likely possibility of escape from the mire of ignorance (avijja) is
offered by the life of a tree monk (bhikkhu). Though the Buddha's Teaching
has been described as "running counter to the common current, profound,
subtle and hard to realize," there are those in the world who, on hearing
that Teaching, feel irresistibly attracted to the monk life. There are those
who, once they become aware of the general misery of life and of the way of
the speediest release from it, lay everything else aside and, without delay,
go forth into the homeless life -- "their insight needed only to be roused."
Others again are able after a severe struggle, to break up all bridges
behind them. Deep-rooted desires and ideas, coarse or subtle, so strongly
ingrained in ordinary life, may obstruct for long an appreciation of the
ascetic life; hence people are not in a hurry to turn to it, and the
strength of character needed for renunciation, is lacking.
"Even that state of mind, Mahanama, still exists in thee and
causes thy heart to be overpowered at times by impulses of desire,
by impulses of anger, by impulses of delusion. For, Mahanama, if
that state of mind no longer had any place in thee, thou wouldst
not remain in the home life, in the enjoyment of desires."
It is quite true that noble characters can be found everywhere in society,
also in family life; it is true that not a few householders die more
ennobled in mind than many a monk; it is true that an earnest, devoted
disciple, by virtue of an unusually developed character, due to his good
Kamma of the past, may, without abandoning household ties, attain to almost
all stages of holiness, that is up to the stage of the Non-returner
(anagami). But no one who knows will maintain that he who is determined to
make an end of suffering, may to the same effect remain in the household
life as lead the life of a monk. On the contrary, "the wisest of all times"
teach that such a man will choose a mode of life detached from all worldly
bonds: he will go the road that offers the least resistance to his
Even as the peacock, the blue-necked bird of the parks,
In its aerial flight never can rival the swan,
So the dweller in house can never equal the monk --
Him the thinker withdrawn, in forest abiding.
Separation, isolation, again and again, is necessary for bringing suffering
to an end. Just as the steam which is asleep in the water and awakened by
fire, does not develop its giant strength, does not become a concentrated
power, unless it is shut in, likewise man's inner potentialities for lack of
seclusion, for lack of isolation, cannot develop, cannot be converted into
higher powers. "Many live far below their possibilities because they
continually surrender their individualities to others." In the worldly life,
full self-recollectedness, full devotion to the goal, do not come easily.
The chaotic mass of uncontrolled impressions will divert and distract again
and again, and will lead astray. Sadly great is the sum of energy daily
expended to no profit. In home life, too much nutriment gross or subtle is
supplied by the world of the five senses, and this will ever and again
disturb those thoughts that in the noble-minded are naturally directed
towards higher things; hence there is only very slow progress in discarding
and uprooting obstructing qualities and evil propensities of the mind.
Quite different is it in the homeless state, in a life of solitude. There
man is, as it were, forsaken by all the world, and thrown back entirely upon
himself, without palliatives and self-deceptions. There he learns to be
profoundly ashamed of all that is base, and feels himself impelled to strive
for progress; mindfully he breathes in, mindfully he breathes out, and he
wins to the insight that frees from suffering. In secluded places -- in the
depth of the forest, in a lonely cottage, a mountain cave, a cemetery -- the
five senses, in the absence of their usual objects of craving, are, as it
were, put out of action; and the sixth sense, the mind, alone, detached,
undisturbed, effectively collected, can do its work, can understand the
workings of greed, hatred and delusion, can reject them. "What are the
characteristics of those venerable ones, what is so special to them that
people should say of them, 'Truly, these venerable ones have lost greed and
hatred and delusion, or are on the way to overcome them'? This question may
be answered thus: 'Those venerable ones seek out lonely places in the depth
of the forest: There are not to be found any forms entering the field of
vision, that can be looked at and craved for; no sounds entering the field
of hearing, to be listened to and craved for; no odors entering the field of
smell, to be smelled and craved for; no flavors entering the field of taste,
that can be tasted and craved for; no bodily contacts entering the field of
touch, that can be felt and craved for."
Bodily isolation (kaya-viveka) in secluded places facilitates isolation
(citta-viveka) from craving and other hindrances. At the start, this
purification and concentration of mind comes only temporarily, during
specific meditative exercises; but later on, strengthened by these very
exercises, that pure and concentrated state of mind can be maintained for an
increasingly longer time, and will make possible a deep and penetrative
insight (pañña vipassana) into the true nature of things. And that vision,
when completely cleansed of delusion will finally bring about ultimate
isolation, the freedom of every kind of attachment (upadhi-viveka =
nibbana). In other words: to a disciple tirelessly meditating in solitude,
the transient, painful and unsubstantial nature of all constituents of
existence will become apparent with an increasing clarity and certainty. To
the degree, however, that ignorance and delusion (avijja, moha) about this
world disappear, also desire (raga) for anything in it, and hate or anger
(dosa) against anything in it, will die away: they will lose their objects,
their foothold, their basis, their sanction. Thus, with the withdrawal of
the fuel, this terrible conflagration of suffering is brought to extinction,
sooner or later, according to previous action-force (kamma) and present
True holiness is never born without solitude; never is it perfected without
struggle with the passions within. Yet, the untiring activity of Gotama, the
Buddha and of many of his disciples demonstrate that solitude and the
happiness of seclusion are not, as many think, the aim and end of the
ascetic life, but they are an essential means to the end, and are an
incomparable mine of strength and inspiration to him who resolutely strives
for the goal.
"Ye should know that those people practice the most useful
practices. Know ye that the kingdom is blessed where man is
inwardly one. They produce more eternal gain in one moment than
all works ever wrought outwardly."
-- Meister Eckehart
By a wrong view of life all ascetic endeavour will naturally be considered
as egotism pure and simple; but right understanding will never regard it
like that. The true ascetic who has wholeheartedly taken up the training
knows that, in the absolute sense, there is no ego nor anything belonging to
it, neither I nor mine. Neither corporeality nor feeling, perception,
formations and consciousness contain any abiding substance, because they are
transient, painful, subject to change. Therefore, no longer can one who has
entered the path where deliverance is assured (the sekha) bestir himself for
the sake of the ego; his striving aims at the final cessation of the
conditioned personality (kamma, khandha), by the gradual elimination of all
its roots. But during his more or less protracted struggle for final
emancipation the Sekha is not yet entirely cured of all self-affirmation, of
all impulses connected with I and Mine; still the old Kamma clings to him.
Only in the Arahant, the Holy One, is the truth of Anatta fully realized,
and therewith all and every form of self-affirmation is done away; "through
the cessation, rejection, removal, denial and relinquishment of all notions
of I and Mine, and all biases of self-conceit, he has won perfect
deliverance." In other words:
Much ignorance (and craving): Much self-affirmation (and
Little ignorance (and craving): Little self-affirmation (and
Free from ignorance (and craving): Free from self- affirmation
"Ignorance is the root of all self-affirmation."
It is this very truth that none in this world period has as perfectly
penetrated, as perfectly taught as the Buddha. The entire hard struggle for
deliverance was called by the Enlightened One briefly "The liberation from
the fetter of ignorance" that is, from self-illusion. "Hence, Sariputta,
thus should you train yourself: 'Concerning this body endowed with
consciousness, there shall not arise any notions and biases shall not arise!
And we shall abide in the attainment of this deliverance of the heart, this
deliverance by wisdom through which all these notions and biases cease.'
Thus, Sariputta, should you train yourself. And in so far, Sariputta, as a
monk attains to this deliverance of the heart, this deliverance by wisdom,
he is called one who has cut off craving, removed the fetters of existence,
has made an end of suffering by the full elimination of self-conceit."
The more devotedly one strives towards this goal, the more selfless he
becomes, and the earlier will he make an end of all egotism:
Sangham saranam gacchami:
"I take refuge in the Order of Monks."
But, to be sure, mere outward asceticism is of no avail. "Whether one
remains in the household life or whether one goes forth from it to the
homeless state, if one lives wrongly I do not praise it. For, whosoever
either remains at home or departs from home, if he lives wrongly, on account
of that wrong way of life he can gain nothing on the good path of the
Dhamma." -- "I do not ascribe asceticism to a robe wearer just because he
wears a monk's robe. I do not ascribe asceticism to a forest hermit just
because he lives in the forest. I do not ascribe asceticism to a knower of
text just because he knows many texts... Not because a man wears a robe,
dwells in the forest, knows the texts, speaks much about the Doctrine, can
he get rid of craving propensities, can he get rid of hating propensities,
can he get rid of delusive propensities."
"There are people who, void of faith, go forth from home into homelessness,
hypocrites, dissemblers, sham-ascetics, conceited men, busy talkers and
chatterers, bad guardians of the doors of the senses, without moderation at
meals, not devoted to wakefulness, indifferent to asceticism, without
respect for the training, fond of luxury, importunate, preferring what is
detrimental, shunning solitude as a heavy burden, lazy, without energy,
heedless and uncomprehending; uncontrolled and distracted minds of small
understanding, and stupid. Such a monk's asceticism appears to me, O monks,
like a murderous weapon, meant for slaughter, doubled edged, well sharpened,
covered band wrapped round with a robe. A knife taken up by the blade,
wounds the hand: misused asceticism drags one the downward path."
"In error ye wander, O monks of Assaji, upon a false path ye wander, O monks
of Assaji. How far apart have they strayed, the foolish, from this Doctrine
and Discipline!" "Hard it is to serve the Exalted One, very hard it is to
serve the Exalted One!" -- meeting with this experience many a weak
disciple, discouraged or displeased, has given up asceticism (see Majjhima
Nikaya No. 67, 77).
Only to him who knows suffering, only to one who true to the Doctrine,
earnestly works within, fighting purposefully and persistently against Mara
-- to such a one only, will the external circumstances of asceticism prove
to be what actually they ought to be according to Buddha's declaration: The
most suitable conditions which the world can offer for the complete
overcoming of the world. Again and again did the Master place before his
disciples the hollowness and futility of half-hearted asceticism, as well as
the seriousness and difficulties of the true monk's life. Never did he
attempt to persuade anyone to become his disciple or to lead the ascetic
life under him. "He lays the Doctrine before the people, does not persuade
them, does not dissuade them." "He shows the nature of this world after he
himself has understood and penetrated it. The doctrine, excellent in the
beginning, excellent in the middle, excellent in its consummation, does he
proclaim, both in the spirit and in the letter; he sets forth the holy life
in its fullness and purity." Now, if the nature and purpose of this ascetic
life becomes overwhelmingly clear to a householder or a householder's son,
he will become as ascetic of his own free will, following his inner urge.
"Sunken I am in birth, in old age and death, in distress, lamentation and
pain, in grief and despair; sunken in suffering, lost in suffering! Oh! that
it might be possible to make an end of this whole mass of misery!" In such a
state of mind, filled with confidence, he renounces the worldly life, and
such a renunciation is called in the texts "right-minded renunciation"
With such a true renunciation, such a true Pabbajja (Going Forth), "has he
arrived in a clearing (of life's jungle)" -- but no further. "Whoso, as a
noble son, has thus renounced, what has he to do? Whoso finds no detachment
from desires, from evil states of mind, whoso finds no joy and happiness or
other still better gain, his heart will be seized and bound by lust; will be
seized and bound by ill-will; will be seized and bound by sloth and torpor;
will be seized and bound by restlessness and worry; will be seized and bound
by doubt, will be seized and bound by dissatisfaction, will be seized and
bound by attachment. But whoso finds detachment from desires, from evil
states of mind, and finds joy and happiness and other states of mind, and
finds joy and happiness and other still better gain- his heart will not be
seized and bound by lust, will not be seized and bound by ill-will, by sloth
and torpor, restlessness and worry, by doubt, dissatisfaction and
attachment." But this nobility of mind, how is it acquired? Only through
meditation and again meditation (Satipatthana): "Here trees invite; there,
lonely cottages. Go, meditate! Be not slothful, lest later ye repent!"
True asceticism is an obstinate, mute struggle. Mighty is Mara! Fearfully
deep-embedded is delusion! "Dying and becoming! Dying and becoming!" No
standing still should be permitted; no satisfaction with what has been
attained! "Ever more strong must ye become to reach what is still unreached,
to attain what is still unattained, to realize what is still unrealized!" "I
declare unto you, O monks, I call upon you to give heed, ye that aspire to
the goal of asceticism: see that the goal does not elude you while there is
more to accomplish!"
Dying and becoming, again and again -- until nothing can any more become,
and hence there is nothing that can die! No rest, no stopping before Nibbana
is reached! "Also to the world beyond I shall not cleave, nor shall my
consciousness be bound to that world. All nutriment is misery, heavenly food
as well. To be conscious is to be suffering." An ascetic thus minded "has
found and finds ever greater and loftier results; he is well satisfied with
the ascetic life, does not give up the noble effort." "It is called 'death'
in the Order of the Holy One, when a person gives up asceticism and turns
back to the common life of the world" -- this he now appreciates, depending
upon none in that experience. "As the moth that has caught sight of the
light does not turn back to the darkness, and as the ant dies on the sugar
heap, so he turns not back to the worldly way of life but devotes himself
fully to the noble training, so that he may reach the highest state,
Nibbana, the extinction of delusion."
"And so he becomes fit to eradicate the taints (asava), and to
attain, in this very life time, to the taint-free deliverance of
the heart, the deliverance by wisdom."
"Whoso, monks, practices the four Foundations of Mindfulness
(Satipatthana) for seven years, may expect one of the two results:
the Highest Knowledge (of Sainthood), in his present life time,
or, if there is a remainder of clinging left, the state of
Non-return (to this world; anagamita). Setting aside seven years,
whoso, monks, thus practices the four Foundations of Mindfulness
for six years, five years, four years, three years, two years, one
year -- nay, setting aside one year: whoso practices the four
Foundations of Mindfulness for seven months, may expect one of the
two results: the Highest Knowledge, in his present life time, or,
if there is a remainder of clinging, the state of Non-return.
Setting aside seven months, whoso, monks, practices these four
Foundations of Mindfulness for six months, five months, four
months, three months, two months, one month, or half a month --
nay, setting aside half a month: whoso practices these four
Foundations of Mindfulness for seven days, may expect one of these
two results: the Highest Knowledge, in his present life time, or
if there is a remainder of clinging, the state of Non-return."
If weak men only knew themselves! The hero, verily, slumbers in many a one!
Striving, have many won the deathless,
And still to-day by striving men can win
If they with wise endeavour persevere.
But none can do it who does shun the fight.
Five Letters About Buddhism
Translated from the German by Nyanaponika Thera
From your letter I hear the cry for deliverance. "Deliverance is born of
knowledge." For attaining to that liberating knowledge, I can, from my own
experience, only give the advice to you who are otherwise fairly well
prepared, to imbibe for a period of years the spirit of the Discourses of
the Buddha, and to set to work accordingly. There will then be no need for
you to believe (as you write) that a system of thought can do justice to the
world (i.e., reality), but you will know it. Buddhism does justice to the
world even to such a degree that it leads to the overcoming of it. It is an
unspeakably vast task to struggle through and beyond all apparent
contradictions, and to struggle free, from the most subtle fetters (tanha).
Gotama, the Buddha says expressly: "Profound is this doctrine, hard to
understand, hard to perceive, tranquil, sublime, beyond the realm of logic,
intelligible only to the wise. You will hardly understand it without
patience, devotion, guidance and effort." But, "there are beings whose eyes
are only little covered by dust. Not hearing the truth, they will be lost.
It is they who will understand the Dhamma." For it has been said that there
are "two conditions of right understanding: the voice of others (be it
orally or in writing) and wise reflection" (Majjh. 43). Furthermore: "Also
in this doctrine and discipline is it possible to show a gradual training
practice, gradual progress" (Majjh. 107). Gradually one will come to acquire
a wise understanding of the teachings proclaimed by the Exalted One, and
then "lofty results will gradually be experienced."
You write that the spirit of Buddhism is repugnant to you owing to its
rationalistic penetration of the world. I too had formerly that opinion; but
it disappears with a more exact knowledge about man's composite nature and
his way of development as taught by the Master. Meditation (bhavana, the
four Satipatthana, Samadhi) rests upon the fact that mind is the forerunner
in evolution (thoughts, words and deeds: kamma or sankhara within the
Dependent Origination, paticca-samuppada). In brief, what man thinks,
that he becomes. Meditation, in the Buddhist sense includes what we, in
Christian lands, call feeling, heart, love, and so on. What commonly is
called "feeling" or "emotion," is, in fact, only a "clinging," low or noble;
it is but ties and fetters, gross or subtle. For me, for instance, music was
formerly such an important factor that, when listening particularly to
Beethoven's symphonies, I was clearly possessed by them, ravished, shaken.
Even four or five years ago I busied myself with writing music and
composition. My judgment of musical performances was generally appreciated.
But art is just a means to lead us on to the comprehending of suffering, and
not only to an emotional experience of it; it takes us from the "particular"
to the "general" (aspect of suffering). But more subtle devices (than art)
await us. All of them, however, are, as the entire Teaching, meant "for
letting go, not for keeping a hold on them" (Majjh. 22).
You say that you have suffered much, and yet you think that this world of
suffering is a glorious place! But if you progress from the emotional
experience of suffering to an understanding of life's general nature as ill,
then there will come a turning point in your ideas. You will come to reflect
deeply upon the fact that the entire existence, being something originated,
is bound up with impermanence (sabbe sankhara anicca). Everything originated
(body, feelings, perceptions, mental formations and consciousness) is
anicca. What ceases is woe, is suffering and not-self, unsubstantial
dukkham, anatta. Among these three related characteristics of existence,
the most tangible one, dukkha, has been taken out, fully stated and defined
in the First Truth of suffering; in the second, its cause: in the third its
cessation; and in the fourth, the practical path of deliverance. He who has
eyes, will perceive these things. The better one understands and practices
the Eightfold Path, the less one will be assailed by suffering.
Tanha (Craving), that 108-headed hydra, will gradually die away -- beginning
with the grossest, and ending with the most subtle craving which one notices
only later. Then "done is, what ought to be done." Suffering is transcended,
and thereby the world or life (= suffering), are transcended. "Ceased has
rebirth, lived to its end is the holy life, the work is done, nothing more
beyond this -- thus he knows" (Majjh. 94). To him who wishes to inquire
further, the following texts are recommended for thorough reflection: the
63rd and 72nd Discourse of the Majjhima Nikaya, and further the discourses
2, 22, 38, 140; and it is advisable to think slowly and carefully about
causality (Dependent Origination).
Enough for to-day. Though Buddhism, as you say, is for you partly still
unpalatable, yet in the first words of your letter, you admit the strict
consistency and inner strength of my own way of action. I have understood
Buddha's logic and love: "the shortest way between two points (i.e. the
present stage of development, and deliverance) is the straight line."
The study of Pali will permit you as much quicker penetration of the
teaching, since all translations are makeshifts (even the sound ones by
Neumann); our words (concepts) are insufficient, and often they lead astray.
...If, in addition, you will learn by heart the most important Discourses,
fully or partly, then you will have a solid foundation, inwardly and with
regard to your linguistic studies.
-- Letter of 9-8-1906
* * *
One who has understood the universality of suffering and the importance of
the ascetic life for the speediest elimination of that suffering, such a one
will certainly sympathize with you. According to your valuable and frank
confession you have "strong sensuality." You may know that asceticism or the
"holy life" is mostly called brahmacariyam (the chaste life). It is
significant that the same term is used in the third sila (Precept) of the
monk. "Having abandoned unchastity, he lives a life of chastity; he keeps
aloof and abstains from that vulgar practice, sexual intercourse." "He keeps
aloof," that is, he observes a prudent distance from women, lest he lend a
hand to Mara, because he is still weak, and in the process of growth.
For the millions of those who live a worldly life, sexual intercourse within
the limits indicated in Majjh. 41, is not regarded as akusala
(unwholesome); but for the disciple proper who wishes "to bring suffering
to an end," it is always akusala: unwholesome, wrong, and conducive to
suffering. How could he gain a deeper, truly penetrating insight, as long as
that powerful affirmation of life vibrates through his organism, and
paralyzes his mind? Therefore, kammachanda or kamaraga (sense-desire,
sensual lust) is the first Hindrance, Fetter and Defilement; and its
opposite nekkhamma, "renunciation," is the first help and aid in gaining
samma- samadhi, "right concentration," which is required for the pure vision
of truth (vipassana). Though the entire realm of kama, i.e., the five sense
objects, are a hindrance of samadhi (concentration), yet one has to
recognize the sexual sphere as the most portentous in the realm of
sensuality. One knows what an enormous amount of energy is expended here. He
who is infatuated, will be aware of it only faintly; but later when fighting
and subduing his passion, it will become clear to him that he was formerly
but a miserable specimen of humanity, a slave of Mara; he will then
appreciate that a mind kept in a violent tremor by strong emotions, cannot
possibly see reality as it is.
The teaching that goes against the current,
that is deep, subtle and hidden --
invisible it remains to those infatuated by lust.
The Buddha-Dhamma is said to go against the current. The crowd goes along
with the current: life-affirmation, lust, hatred, self-delusion. The true
disciple goes against that stream; he negates it, because he wishes to
transcend the world get rid of it.
"The turning away of the will vanquishes all woe." Our blind fellow-beings,
however, who float along with the current will say: "But sexual desire is
something natural!" It is that very fact which a perspicuous Buddhist knows,
and therefore turns away:
This world, the other world as well
the Knowing One has clearly shown:
the realm of nature and its law,
and freedom ending all that woe.
-- Majjh. 34
He who understands that, has achieved much.
Also he who has strong sensual inclination, can live brahmacariya, the
chaste life. "There is one who is by nature lustful, yet he preserves his
chastity, even if passion often makes him feel pain and torment; but he is
able, though with pain and torment, to live the noble, pure life of chastity
(brahmacariya)" (Majjh. 45)
A disciple who has made himself familiar with the Buddha's instruction, is
able to fight the passions with quite different weapons than other folk, but
knowledge without application is dead. How, then, can a tendency be
gradually expelled from one's nature, for instance that to sensuality? By
displacing, eliminating and replacing. You may have observed how thoughts
are placed in the sequence of time, how they follow each other, and how only
one thought at one time can be present to consciousness, if ever so briefly.
Make a start now, and take matters into your own hand! Instead of allowing
your thoughts to roam about aimlessly, in a confused way and impelled by
emotions -- you should first select a time of the day, a short half an hour,
in which to give to your thought-processes a definite direction by choosing
a suitable subject of meditation. By doing so, gradually a counter-tendency
is developed, because during the 30 minutes of asubha-bhavana (contemplation
of the body's foulness), lust has simply dropped out. If you now return to
your routine life, the tendency developed during your practice will produce
an after-effect which will grow more and more beneficial in proportion to
the intensity and duration of the practice. Gradually, with strengthened
mindfulness (sati), that noble tendency will permeate almost whole
thought-process, always ready to step in with its beneficial effect whenever
Mara wishes to intrude. Most of our fellow-beings "believe that they push
while they are pushed themselves." But the true disciple actually pushes
matters himself, because he has grasped "the law of elimination by disuse,"
and thus he displaces and eliminates, so that passions die away; until at
the end there is nothing more to die away.
First a Buddhist should suffuse and saturate himself with the Master's words
like those in (the "Revelation of the Body"), in the Sutta Nipata (v.
193ff), the Theragatha; Suttas like Majjhima Nikaya No. 82; then, if he has
noble aspirations the powerful sexual urge will be reduced noticeably.
Look how this puppet is decked out,
that skin-enveloped skeleton!
Fools are deluded by that sight;
Not those who seek the shore beyond.
According to the Master's injunction (Majjh. 75), after listening (or
reading) there should be thorough reflection about it (yoniso manasikara),
to be done best at a quiet place. You should contemplate and analyze this
body as it is described (so simply but ever so true) in Majjhima Nikaya 10
(Satipatthana Sutta): "He contemplates this body from the sole of the feet
upwards, and from the crown of the head downward, covered by the skin,
filled with many impurities." He understands it as a putrifying corpse, food
for worms, as a skeleton and as decaying bones: "My body, too, is of that
nature, will become like that, and cannot escape it."
After such thorough contemplation (asubha-bhavana), actual realization will
unfailingly follow. If he now sees women, he is no longer dominated by the
animal urge of carnal desire, but he sees through it; he sees them as
skeletons. Looking ahead he, already now, perceives the flesh now, after
death, it will be devoured by worms; and, then his prevailing feeling will
be compassion: "Soon these bodies will perish and will add to the charnel
field. May beings awake from their frenzy, so that it may no longer be said
of them: 'Worn out in vain, the body dies away,' but may their Kamma come
gradually to rest!"
For him who is moved by such compassion, will it be possible to use a being
for satisfying his lust? Only selfishness will be able to do so, even if it
hides behind greatest learning. The Master has taught his disciples -- of
whom none was a eunuch -- how to regulate that desire, and how to bring it
to rest. If you make substantial progress in that respect, you will have
achieved much. May you remain mindful of the fact that you do it for your
own sake, for other's sake, and for the cause (of the truth).
Him who as sage from mating keeps aloof,
Who, young in years, nowhere ensnares himself,
From heedless rapture free, detached,
Him as a sage the wise ones rightly hold.
-- Sutta Nipata v. 218
* * *
Not many details can be told about your first question. I became aware of
the fact: "I am afflicted by birth, old-age and death, sunken into sorrow,
lamentation, pain, grief and despair submerged by suffering lost in
suffering! Oh, that it might be possible to make an end of that whole mass
of suffering!" (With regard to your question) consider "evolution" in its
widest sense. I mean to say: Beings understand and follow the teaching of
the Blessed One according to the degree of their own development. "He who
has eyes, will see."
Let us assume: there is an "intelligent person," "a man of understanding."
He perceives clearly (a) the impermanency of all that is originated, and he
understands (b) the conclusion: what is impermanent that is liable to
suffering (dukkha) and it is not-self (anatta). Through both, (a) and (b),
he will understand the equation: life=suffering; and now, awake from his
slumber, he works with increasing intensity to make an end of suffering, and
thereby, of life.
But how? "Deliverance results from knowledge." That liberating knowledge
(=Right Understanding) is (and according to the above, cannot be anything
else): 1. to know suffering; 2. to know the origin of suffering; 3. to know
the cessation of suffering; 4. to know the path leading to suffering's
cessation. This is "the teaching particular to Enlightened Ones." "This only
do I teach, now as before: suffering and the cessation of suffering." Any
doubt as to whether that knowledge is actually the only one needful to us
now, will disappear if one reflects carefully on the 63rd Discourse of
From experience I may give the assurance that man will grow in his
detachment, and that suffering will touch him less and less, the more
mindfully and energetically he walks the path. Tanha (Craving), the direct
cause of suffering (2nd Truth and of renewed existence (Paticca-samuppada
link 8, 9, 10; Majjhima Discourses, 9,39) is gradually brought to
extinction. First its gross form dies away, and later the more subtle one
that is imperceptible at the start (this Tanha-hydra has 108 heads).
Though, as a rule, only the genuine bhikkhu will be able to walk the path
perfectly, yet the opinion which one sometimes finds expressed, that only
the bhikkhu can do it at all, is erroneous. Everyone who leads the home life
-- more especially if living alone -- can tread the Path and progress on it
very far, "according to the nature of his actions." Everyone who has become
a bhikkhu with the clear awareness of what he is doing, has once lived the
worldly life before, but has prepared himself before he chose to lead the
ascetic life that is so beneficial. Gotama Buddha, in the 43rd Discourse
(Majjhima Nikaya) addressed to the citizens of Sala, has given very valuable
instructions for right conduct in thoughts, words and deeds. Adherence to
that conduct will, to the degree of one's success in doing so, contribute
considerably to the overcoming of suffering. Without having fully understood
the importance of a virtuous life (sila) for purification and for mental
concentration, it will be premature if the disciple desires to attain the
meditative absorptions (jhana). If you consider very carefully the following
you will see clearly in that matter.
We find in the texts the following threefold division of the Path:
I. Sila (virtue):
3. samma-vaca, Right Speech
4. samma-kammanta, Right Action
5. samma-ajiva, Right Livelihood
II. Samadhi (concentration)
6. samma-vayama, Right Effort
7. samma-sati, Right Mindfulness
8. samma-samadhi, Right Concentration
III. Pañña (wisdom)
1. samma-ditthi, Right Understanding
2. samma-sankappa, Right Thought
Usually the factors numbered (1) and (2) are mentioned first, because the
Path cannot be trodden without a degree of Right Understanding and Right
Thought. In their perfected form, however, they constitute pañña, the
Virtue comes first (being perfected later, by concentration and wisdom).
Then follows Concentration, comprising the 6th, 7th and 8th factor of the
Path Among them, Right Effort consists of the Four Endeavors (Discourse
141); and these four are also called "implements of concentration." The four
"Foundations of Mindfulness" (satipatthana), which according to Discourse
141, form the seventh Path factor, are "the objects of concentration"; and
Concentration proper, the 8th factor, is explained by the four meditative
In other words, firstly strong energy (6th factor) has to be developed, and
untiringly one should work, that is meditate, in accordance with the four
Foundations of Mindfulness, for providing the inner training required for
the entry into the First Absorption.
How then, can such mighty energy be developed? "If he sees with his eyes a
visible object, he does not take up its general features nor its details.
Because lust and grief, unwholesome and evil thoughts may overwhelm him who
dwells with his sense of sight unrestrained, he practices that restraint,
guards his sense of sight and watches over it." The same holds good for the
other four physical senses and mind as the sixth.
| I | II | III | IV | V | VI
1 | Eye | ear | nose | tongue | body | mind
2 | Forms | sounds | smells | tastes | tactile| mental
| | | | | objects| objects
Through the six senses (the subjective side of reality; see the first line
in the sketch) we communicate with the outer world (the objective side of
reality; see the 2nd line). From this is seen the immense importance of
controlling that apparatus (salayatana, the 5th link of the Nidana-chain,
Paticcasamuppada) for the specific purpose of gaining mental concentration,
and for the general purpose of eliminating suffering. "He who does not know
and understand according to reality, the eye (ear, etc.), visual (etc.)
objects visual (etc.), consciousness, visual (etc.), impression, the
feelings produced by visual (etc.) impression -- he will be delighted in the
eye; being delighted in it and attached to it, he will allow himself to be
allured by it, looking always for the enjoyment provided by it. To him the
life process consisting of the five Groups (khandha) will continue to
accumulate, and craving that leads to renewed existence, finding delight
here and there, will continue to grow.... But he who knows and understands
according to reality, the eye..., will not be delighted in the eye...,
seeing always the danger in it. To him the five Groups will decrease, and
craving... will vanish."
"The concentration of one who has achieved that, is Right Concentration."
"He who sees the Dependent Origination, sees the Dhamma; he who sees the
Dhamma, sees the Dependent Origination."
This spiritual struggle will lead to victory chiefly through constant
mindfulness and thought concerning the fact of origination (arising), in
other words, impermanence. For instance: "Now this unpleasant feeling has
arisen in me (e.g., by insult) produced by auditory impression (see
Paticcasamuppada 5,6), and it is conditioned, not unconditioned. Conditioned
by what? By sense impression. And he knows: impression is impermanent; he
knows: feeling is impermanent... Then his mind, thus discerning the
elements, becomes gladdened, serene, strong and steady" (similarly with I,
III-VI of the above sketch).
So far about Energy or Right Effort (the 6th path factor), being the
implement by which to attain concentration (meditative absorption).
Information about the Four Foundations of Mindfulness will be found in
Majjh. 10 (Satipatthana-sutta), 118 ("Mindfulness on Breathing"), 119
("Mindfulness on the Body"), 62 ("Admonition to Rahula"). Then, "while he
thus dwells earnest, ardent and mindful, the memories bound up with home
life will vanish in him."
I have experienced myself how important it is to meditate upon the four
Foundations of Mindfulness (Satipatthana- sutta). I have learned that
Discourse by heart, in Pali, and daily I repeat one seventh part of it in my
meditation; every week has brought new revelations (sati). But one must work
for it. "He who does not work, cannot follow the truth." "It is not
possible, thus I teach, to obtain assurance at once, at the start; but
gradually fighting, progressing step by step, one will obtain assurance....
And because he makes determined effort, he realizes for himself the highest
truth and visualizes it by wise penetration." He who attends to the
preparatory work, as indicated, will avoid the illusions of "wrong
concentration" (miccha-samadhi), and will steer straight towards Right
Concentration, because cultivation of samadhi means the cultivation of, and
the training in just these things, i.e., Energy and Mindfulness.
The fact that also householders (lay followers) can practice mindfulness, is
mentioned in Discourse 51: "We too, O lord, being householders, have from
time to time established our mind in the four Foundations of Mindfulness;
and we dwell, O Lord, contemplating the body in the body, ardent, clearly
comprehending, mindful, having overcome covetousness and grief regarding the
If you now read a Discourse like the 27th, where the Master gives a
connected summary, you will have confirmation of that sequence of practice
mentioned above: first sila (virtue; but here more comprehensive, being
intended for monks); then the control of the senses (i.e., energy) and
mindfulness (the passage on Clear Comprehension from Discourse 10). Also the
five Hindrances which have to be overcome before one can enter the first
Absorption, are found in the 10th Discourse, at the beginning of the fourth
Foundation of Mindfulness. How difficult it is, generally, to gain the
Absorptions, is shown by the Buddha's statements in the 128th Discourse;
there, profoundly, and step by step, the hindrances and their overcoming are
shown... But the difficulties mentioned there, will not deter an earnest
disciple. He knows that evolution does not proceed at a bound, but that, by
an indefatigable application of the appropriate means, progress undreamt of,
may be achieved in a short time... However, the fact cannot be concealed:
"Profound is this teaching, difficult to grasp... you will hardly understand
it without patience, devotion, effort and guidance"; and "there are fools
who study the teaching; but though they have studied it, they do not wisely
examine the meaning of the teachings; without wisely examining the teachings
their contemplation will not yield satisfaction; ...they do not grasp the
purpose for which they have studied the teaching. To them, their wrong grasp
of the teaching will bring them harm and suffering for a long time."
Yet it has been said that the teaching is intelligible to every person of
understanding, and that it grows in clarity for the earnest disciple. "There
are no ascetics who know and understand everything at once. That is
impossible." It is by training, by indefatigable training, that everything
is nursed to maturity. "What a monk considers and reflects upon for a long
time, to that his mind will incline."
If once the fundamental truths have been thoroughly grasped and experienced,
and, through a faithful devotion to the inner work, "the gradual perception
of a great result" has appeared, then from such a soil a beneficial and
powerful saddha (confidence) concerning the future work ("the achieving of
the unachieved") will grow. This is the first of the five "qualities of
spiritual striving" (Padhananga), by the help of which the disciple may
achieve his aim quickly.
I am filled with an unshakable Saddha (confidence). A confidence rooted in
understanding and experience surmounts difficulties met by one who is given
to speculative thinking, a hair-splitter, or a petty critic. Though the way
of expression (in the Discourses) may sometimes be difficult or strange
(particularly in translations), and though, in some instances, the teachings
given there, may remain unintelligible for some time, let us have Saddha!
"Enlightened Ones do not speak imperfectly." "Work, Work!" as we have
stressed above -- that is the key word. Then the Dhamma will be realized,
experienced and no longer requires proof or guidance, not even by a Buddha.
"In the Liberated One is the knowledge of Liberation." "Equal to me will be
those victorious ones who have destroyed craving."
Namo Tassa Bhagavato Arahato Samma-sabuddhassa!
* * *
28th April 1909
Dear Mr. N.,
If you attach great significance to "Mindfulness of Breathing"
(anapana-sati) you have perceived an important fact. As the four Foundations
of Mindfulness (satipatthana) may be called the heart of the doctrine, so is
"Mindfulness of Breathing," if rightly understood, the heart of the heart.
"Mindfulness of Breathing if developed well and regularly practiced, brings
to perfection the four Foundations of Mindfulness," thus it is said in the
118th Discourse. He who knows these means of deliverance, and applies them,
will experience by himself that restlessness, desire, anger,
misapprehensions and thereby all deep sorrows, will vanish, and will
reappear only and always, when that mindfulness (sati) is absent. While our
other fellow-beings, millions of them -- go on living without any
substantial gain in liberation ("worn out in vain, this body dies away"), he
who knows the laws of deliverance can purposefully take into his hands the
work of their unfolding; he can loosen, and finally break, the chains of
First of all, three things are required here: 1. persistence; 2.
persistence; 3. persistence. Without great devotion, without extraordinary
patience even one who is otherwise gifted, will not be able to make
progress. It is important that the beginner betakes himself to a quiet
place, as secluded as possible, so that the habitual tanha -- nourishment
for the five senses (see end of Majjh. 150) -- is reduced, and the numerous
sounds, voices and noises which, particularly at the beginning, hinder so
much any deeper concentration, do not constantly interfere. You will not
have missed the fact that it is expressly stated in the Discourses 10, 62,
118 and 27, that the disciple should resort to the forest, an empty room,
etc. Thus, whenever bonds of profession or family do not fetter you, you
should make haste to go out of your town, like one who seeks hidden
treasure, and should choose a suitable spot in forest environment. Then you
should sit down there in a posture that allows you the longest time of
sitting immovably. "Mindfully he breathes in, mindfully he breathes out" --
that is the general practice of Anapana-sati, introducing the subsequent 16
specific exercises, and forming the transition from ordinary confused
thinking to concentrated meditation focused upon a definite mental object.
The former kind of thinking, ordinary reflection, is called vitakka, i.e.,
"discursive thinking." By Mindfulness of Breathing that discursive thinking
is suspended and silenced. Anapanasati bhavetabba vitakk'upacchedaya:
"Mindfulness of Breathing ought to be practiced for cutting off discursive
thinking." How is it to be done?
"Breathing in long, he knows 'I breathe in long'; breathing out long, he
knows 'I breathe out long'; Breathing in short, he knows "I breathe in
short"; breathing out short, he knows "I breathe out short." Now, at one and
the same time only one single thought can be clearly present to
consciousness; thoughts follow each other, they are placed in time. All
exclusion of evil thoughts effected by meditation, rests upon that fact, is
made possible by that fact. He who thinks for one minute a thought of
kindness, has at that time no thought of hate in his mind; he who thinks of
a corpse for one minute, has no lust while doing so; he who contemplates
impermanence for one minute, will not have conceit. Whenever, and as long
as, one knows "I breathe in, and out, long or short," for that time, even if
it is only for a fraction of a second, other vitakka (discursive thoughts)
will be excluded.
You will, however, experience that, when you resolve to be strictly
watchful, the first breaths that follow, will go in and out a clear
awareness of them, but after that, habitual worldly thoughts (vitakka) will
appear again during a single breath. But if one considers that the complete
tranquilization and exclusion of discursive thoughts is tantamount to the
entry into the Second Absorption, one will, in spite of all relapses,
persist in one's practice, week by week, month by month, year by year; and
during a single session the meditator will apply mindfulness 100 times or
1000 times or more. Gradually the law of "development by use" (the inherent
power of repetition) will show itself; it works as reliably as the law of
"elimination by disuse."
In one minute, one may breathe 15 times (30 inhalations and exhalations). If
one is conscious of it, even if only at the beginning, one will have given a
definite direction to one's mind 300 times in 10 minutes. If for about 10
minutes no breath has been missed, it is certainly an achievement, though,
to a beginner, some fatigue may be noticeable. The simile of the turner
("turning long or short"), given in the 10th Discourse, shows clearly how
simply that exercise is meant (long-short, in- out; knowing). Generally
spoken, it is the most simple that is truly great and profound. From the
foregoing it will become clear how important that simple and easily
intelligible exercise is. If patiently sustained, it is bound to result in
the calmness and concentration of mind (samatha), aspired by you. The Master
teaches how to bind a second postulate, a "Must" -- mindfulness (sati) -- to
breathing which is the constant companion of man from birth to death. The
first "Must" is faithful: man must breathe constantly (except in the fourth
Absorption). The second "Must" has to be developed from it. In other words,
breathing cannot wait; if it is not to escape unnoticed (as it happens in
ordinary life), mindfulness (sati) must be present and alert. "For one of
confused mindfulness, I say, there is no Mindfulness of Breathing."
There are people endowed with outstanding gifts. As soon as they know the
method, they will practice with zeal and determination. Perhaps you too
will, even after a short time, attain genuine Absorption of mind, will
easily leave behind the Sensuous Sphere, and realize one or more stages of
meditation. Through those two exercises that degree of Samatha
(tranquillity) can be achieved only if the five Hindrances are removed, the
presence of which is incompatible with Absorption.
But even if, for a long time, the meditator cannot attain to the
absorptions, other gratifying results of Anapanasati will become evident.
Firstly, the calm and concentration of mind as effected by meditative
training in solitude, can now be maintained for increasingly longer periods
of time. Calm and concentration will gradually enter into the meditator's
innermost being, and will also manifest themselves outwardly in his daily
behavior (in the family, in professional life and towards friends), by a
calmer and more composed way of speaking (santa-vaco, "quiet of speech"),
and by calmer bodily movements (santa-kayo) in going, turning, looking,
bending and stretching of limbs. Secondly, what is incomparably more
important, there will be a keener insight (vipassana) into the nature of the
world, that is, of the five Khandhas, as impermanent, liable to suffering
and not-self. A man with keen eye sight will excel in observation.
Similarly, greater tranquillity (samatha) means deeper insight (vipassana);
and, again, strengthened insight into suffering will be an incentive to
achieve a greater power of concentration as a means to the end (insight). It
is a reciprocal process "No meditative absorption without wisdom: and no
wisdom without absorption."
Therefore, after having practiced for some time the exercises No. 1 and
2, one may go over to No. 13: "contemplating impermanence, I shall
breathe in and out" (Discourse 118 or 62). In doing so, one should keep in
mind that what is spoken of here (in the 13th exercise) are phenomena
(dhamma), objects of thought (i.e., what appears in the mind), pertaining to
the fourth Foundation of Mindfulness. The four Satipatthanas may be regarded
as stages: I. at the first stage, one learns to contemplate on the gross
material body, as it appears to simple observation (Majjh. 10); 2. in the
second Satipatthana, the feelings, likewise in their simple presentation (as
pleasant, unpleasant, etc.); 3. in the third an essential change should
follow; the knowledge, gradually prepared and matured by the first three
Satipatthanas, that the entire world of plurality is only an object for each
subject, a manifestation of thought, hanging only on a single thread:
Then the passage in Majjh. 10 -- "Thus is corporeality, thus its end," etc.
-- will appear in a different light, because the proper light has dawned
upon the meditator. "Thus is corporeality"; appearances, phenomena, arising
in consciousness with help of the likewise conditioned visual organ (colors)
the auditory disappears again, as a subjective process: appearance, anicca,
anatta. It is similar with the other Khandhas: "Thus is feeling, thus is its
origin, thus its end." Here one can learn to understand the whole of
existence as an illusion, as not-self (anatta); and the Ego-delusion will
dissolve quickly. This is so, because all wishing, longing, hating,
disliking, fearing, grieving or being excited, in brief all mental
afflictions stem from the Atta-idea ("I," "Mine," "my own," self) If that
delusion loses its hold, a decisive change takes place, a detachment, a
feeling of liberation as never experienced before. The person is now seen as
a temporary combination of ever changing Khandhas (processes of existence);
and after sometime this person will disappear from the scene; it has never
harbored an eternal self (also Karma can become exhausted).
The idea of Anatta may get strengthened in us in a way somewhat like that:
Not I (an abiding individuality) breathe, but breathing occurs;
not I go, but going occurs;
not I stand, but standing occurs;
not I sit, but sitting occurs;
not I lie down, but lying down occurs;
not I look, but looking occurs;
not I bend, but bending occurs;
not I eat, but eating occurs;
not I talk, but talking occurs;
not I feel joy or grief, but a pleasant or unpleasant feeling
not I think, but thinking occurs.
By such a contemplation, one will become selfless, all-loving, truly
detached. and the word in Majjh. 10 will become clear: "He lives
independent, and does not cling to anything in the world."
By the power of thinking sharpened and made lucid by the exercises 1 and 2
of (Anapanasati), the facts of impermanence and not-self (impersonality)
will be visualized more strongly (exercise 13). Therefore I have given here
that indication, because it is insight that lastly leads to deliverance.
Concentration (samadhi, samatha) is only the clarification of mind, which,
however, is indispensable; just as in spectacles the glasses are the
essential thing, but one can look through them only after removing from them
the dirt or moisture.
I have mentioned to-day only the exercises No. 1, 2 and 13. As you know,
talking is here of little avail; doing, practicing, is all that matters.
After some time you may communicate your experiences, and, if required, ask
for further information. You are quite right in saying that, without
explanation, one cannot do much with the 16 brief instructions (Discourse 62
or 118), particularly if the translation is unsatisfactory. But in the Canon
you will find further elucidations about the single points.
* * *
17th October 1906
A few words about giving-up. It is better not to have cigars about oneself,
on principle. Similarly, he who wishes to wean himself from alcohol, will
not carry a bottle with him. He who wants to give up desire for women, will
better not go to places where he will have to face temptation. To be sure of
one's steps is important particularly at a stage of transition. Mara is on
the look-out for any possible opening, therefore he must not be given any
chance. "Once" is not "never." He who has no cigars about himself, cannot
smoke (and so it is with drinking). No fire can flare up without fuel; for
the present, at least, indulgence has been made impossible. Gradually the
law of "elimination by disuse" will come into effect. The need and desire
for the former enjoyment will weaken and finally cease. If someone says that
he has got over smoking, etc., but he carries cigars about him for the sake
of a test, then he has not yet fully abandoned, tanha (craving). He who has
entirely abolished that craving, will no longer cherish such thoughts; in
that respect he is fully at peace, and already thinks further ahead. Thus a
disciple who has freed himself from sexual urge, will, though immune not
seek temptations. More important things have to be done. No rest before
Nibbana! Besides, if he refrains from testing his power of resistance, this
will be more profitable to others in his environment who cannot see into his
heart, but observe only his external behavior; and quite reasonably, their
confidence might be shaken by their observations, though they may not talk
Doubtlessly, the struggle against Mara (tanha, craving) is hard, because for
Mara it is actually a question of "to be or not to be," a fight of life or
death for his "kingdom of nature." For long, long times we have been his
serfs. Now this serfdom is over for us. Nevermore shall we find lasting
satisfaction anywhere in this Samsara. One who has taken the Buddha as his
guide and master, will understand the nature of "Mara's Realm" so poignantly
that he can no longer find full satisfaction in the "Realm of Nature" where
everything is impermanent. By seeing the misery of it, we are on the road of
escape from it.
What, now, is the principal task for us who already possess a good deal of
right understanding who at least have a knowledge of the doctrine, and
observe virtue (sila)? To watch, watch, watch. To be constantly on guard. In
particular: to try to remain mindful. Samadhi (concentration, meditation) is
the Buddhist practice proper. At the start of the practice the mind is not
collected at all, the capacity of concentration is weak. But, as the Master
explained, by training, by unceasing training, the little child, first
constantly falling, learns to toddle about, till finally as a grown-up man
he can walk steadily and continuously for long stretches. If a man possessed
of intelligence falls, he has not been watchful, was absent-minded. "Lax
mindfulness, produces new taints (asava) and strengthens the old ones;
unflinching mindfulness gives no room for new taints and destroys the old
ones." For instance, one has seen innumerable times that "all formations are
impermanent"; one has also agreed with the Buddha's words: "Whatever
corporeality exists, one's own or of others, beautiful or ugly, all
corporeality should, with proper understanding, be regarded as it truly is:
'It is not mine...'; thus it will be abandoned, will be rejected." Very
often the misery of corporeality has been felt most pungently, and the
misery of craving has been understood, yet this or that object will still
titillate our senses whenever watchfulness is lacking. But if one remains
mindful, and turns at once to an analysis of the perception, one will not be
enticed by any material from. One will see that the material form has been
made up into an evanescent structure of this or another kind (young, or old,
beautiful or ugly), by the karmic formations (sankhara) which are
impermanent in themselves, one will see that material form is put together
in a similar way as a potter (himself impermanent) shapes (fragile) pots.
Then "his mind, dissecting thus the elements, will become joyful, gladdened,
strong and steady."
It is doubtlessly a hard way, but gloriously safe. Truly, in that manner,
one can perceptibly detach oneself from the world.
Reminiscences of Sumano
By Dr. Ph. Derval
"Fritz Stange, student of natural sciences" -- thus my late friend, then a
newly registered freshman, was introduced to the academical association to
which I belonged. A handsome young man, with smooth, blond hair, and an
elegant mustache, with deeply blue and strikingly large eyes, a gentle voice
and a mild glance, thus he stood before us. He was a gentle person and a
keen student, who, in lonely hours, used to comfort his soul by playing the
violin; he was an ardent admirer of Richard Wagner, and, if possible, he did
not miss a single performance of Wagner's operas. If anyone had said that a
person like he would ever become a Buddhist ascetic, he would have provoked
We liked each other from the beginning. Strange became my personal freshman.
My other freshman was a great artist in the field of music, and has now
become an excellent, though little known, Sanskritist and Vedantist. The
three of us, united by bonds of closest friendship, soon met regularly at
the sessions of the Theosophical Society which everywhere has prepared the
way for the Buddhist movement. Following the wish of his father, Stange had
to give up his studies so dear to him and donned the uniform of an official
of the Postal Department. For none of us had the student life any special
attraction, and Stange himself saw in it only the karmic way by which we
came together. As an official, Stange remained a keen Theosophist, lived as
a vegetarian, and plunged deeply into the study of those teachings which
then we called Buddhism.
Besides he was unusually capable in his profession, and, personally, he was
the favorite of all who knew him. When he was a probationer for the higher
postal career ("Oberpostpraktikant") at Kassel, he began to study the
Discourses of the Buddha in Neumann's translation, under the guidance of a
friend who was an ardent Buddhist, and soon the resolution matured in him to
seek deliverance from the grievous suffering that pervades the life of all
beings. He had fully grasped the Truth of Suffering. But knowledge alone was
not sufficient for his fervent, pure, and profound heart. Thus he left, as a
true follower of the Blessed One, his home, his property and his relations,
in order to enter the Sangha (Buddhist Monkhood) in distant Asia.
"Why does one go to the countries of Buddhism?" he wrote to me once.
"Briefly spoken, because there, and particularly in Burma, all conditions
are cut out for a life in the Sangha. One is relieved of all worldly cares,
for eating, drinking, clothing, lodging, etc.; in contrast to Europe, one
can live there the holy life, first externally. How one detaches oneself
inwardly is everyone's most personal affair." Thus he came to Ceylon. "The
reception," he wrote, "was so friendly, the helpful response so strikingly
unexpected, that already a fortnight after my arrival in Ceylon, I followed
an invitation of the Bhikkhu Jinavaravamsa to stay at Chulla Lanka.
There I have spent the holiest time of my life, in meditation, study of
Pali, and conversation about the teaching. ...But this body 'that sickly
thing,' did not stand it." On medical advice, Stange decided to return to
Europe to cure his lung disease. In summer 1906, he lived first at
Wingendorf near Lauban; afterwards, following the invitation of a friendly
physician with Buddhist leanings, at Birkfield in Syria (Austria).
On the 11th of October 1906, the ship took him out again, hardly recovered.
This time he went soon to the healthy up- country of Ceylon, to Bandarawela.
Until his complete recuperation, he took, as preliminary step towards the
Sangha, the white dress of an Upasaka, but soon he donned again the yellow
robe of a Samanera (novice). His intention was to return later to Europe,
together with Nyanatiloka, for establishing the Sangha there. "The time will
come," he wrote in his letter of 7- 7-1906, "when a Sangha will be
established in Germany by thoroughly trained Bhikkhus, and thereby a firm
basis will be formed for the dissemination of the Teaching that brings such
"When illness visits thee, make mindfulness arise.
Illness has come. No time is now for negligence."
How earnest he was in his determination, is confirmed by the following words
"And even if I had not met a single good Bhikkhu, this would not
have disconcerted me "Rare are Enlightened Ones." "Small is the
number of those who are not gripped by them." These words of the
Enlightened One are of general validity. A perceptive disciple
will see in that fact an admonition to make all the quicker an end
of suffering. So strongly have I become aware of the truth of
this. Teaching and of its profundity, that, on the one hand to
swerve from that path to another one has become an impossibility;
and, on the other hand, even my walking alone on that path would
be done without hesitation or surprise."
Now his striving within this present impermanent existence has come to an
end. Just as his going forth from home was similar to that of his Lord and
Master Gotama, so it was the same illness, dysentery, which had dissolved
the body of the Perfect one, that also took away the dear heroic Samanera
Sumano. Death is indeed the lot of everything born and originated.
When Sumano started on his way to Homelessness, he pointed out to his
relatives the justification of that step in a beautifully lucid tract,
quoting in it, especially, sayings of Jesus of Nazareth. To the public he
gave the work published a few weeks ago, "Pabbajja, Going Forth into
Homelessness." Only by absorbing its contents fully, we shall be able to
measure the single-minded, pure, noble, and yet firmly rooted work for
deliverance done by our friend who is now free from the world of appearance.
From a Letter by the German Bhikkhu Kondañño
"What I have to say about Sumano's death is the following: In autumn last
year, Bhikkhu Nyanatiloka, the Burmese monk Silavamsa and myself made a
walking tour for a week through the South West of Ceylon, via Adam's Peak,
and came also to Bandarawela. First the three of us went to the small
mud-hut, hardly 3X4 meters in size, where Sumano had lived and died. The hut
is situated in a very lonely place, outside of the village, in the midst of
bare grassy hillocks, so that no sound can be heard from the village, and no
human habitation can be seen right around. It is desolate and lonely there,
as rarely anywhere else. The second hut which, when Sumano died, was
inhabited by Suñño, had already fallen into decay, and the rain had washed
away nearly every vestige of it. Afterwards we wanted also to go to the site
of the cremation, but we missed the place. Hence I went, without
Nyanatiloka, once more there, together with the Thera of the Bandarawela
Monastery, and I found there, besides some pieces of molten glass, a few
small unburned splinters of bone. I picked them up and handed them over to
Nyanatiloka who still keeps them at Dodanduwa as a token.
The site of the cremation is on the top of one of those grassy hillocks,
about 10 minutes distance from the hut. Boys planted a Bodhi tree at that
spot. A great gathering is said to have been present at the cremation,
amongst them hundreds of Christians and Mohammedans who secretly respected
the ascetic way of life led by Sumano.... After the cremation, the ashes
were distributed among the lay people, and many a Christian, Mohammedan, and
Hindu took them as gladly as a Buddhist...."
1. To those who have the opportunity of visiting Bandarawela some road
directions may be welcome. The place where Sumano lived and died, is reached
by going up the Grand Road to Uturu Kabillawela, a distance of about one and
one-half miles from the Bandarawela Town Hall, and then walking down a
little over one quarter mile on the foot path leading to Gediyarde village.
2. Nekkhamma-sankappa, "the thought of renunciation," is one of the three
kinds of Right Thought or Right Aspiration (samma-sankappa), the second
factor of the Noble Eightfold Path.
3. See "The Wheel" No. 15a/b: Dependent Origination, by Piyadassi Thera.
4. See "The Wheel" No. 20: Three Signata, by Prof. O.H. de A. Wijasekara.
5. The author's use of the Buddhist technical term akusala, i.e.,
"karmically unwholesome," is here somewhat misleading; but the meaning
intended by him is clear: For a layman, sexual intercourse in marriage is
not immoral, being not a violation of the Five Precepts binding on him. Any
form of lust (lobha), however, is karmically unwholesome, in the strict
sense of the term akusala, though "unlawful lust" (visama-lobha; e.g.,
adultery) is so in a higher degree. -- The Translator.
6. This question was, probably, about the Rev Sumano's reasons for entering
the monkhood. [Go back]
7. See "The Wheel" No. 15a/b.
8. See "The Wheel" No. 19: The Four Foundations of Mindfulness.
9. This refers to the 16 exercises given in Majjh. 118.
10. An island in the sea near the coast of Matara, a town in South Ceylon.
The Sinhalese name of the island is Galgodiyana.
The Wheel Publication No. 27/28
Copyright © 1983 Buddhist Publication Society
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