Hello friends. Thank you for joining our study We will look at authoritative texts. Of course, any comments are my personal interpretation. For any official or authoritative Baha’i teachings, please visit bahai.org I’d like to thank the Baha’i Administration as well as all of those working for peace. In the description below, you’ll find timestamps of the various sections in this video, so you can jump to those sections if you like. There’s also a link to download an audio form of this presentation, as well as a PDF with all of the quotes. So today we’re going to be looking at a topic on Ultimate Reality in Buddhism. The quotes and texts that we’re actually going to be studying come from what is called the “Pali Canon” This is the central Buddhist Texts which give the foundation for what’s called Theravadan in Buddhism. They are the most ancient texts we have from Buddhism. There are others that were revealed in Sanskrit and some we have in Tibetan and Chinese, which come from the Mahayana tradition. This is a quick synopsis. Whereas this is in the Pali language, and is generally seen to be some of the most ancient authoritative texts of Buddhism. One of the things that’s going to come up a lot for some readers or some viewers is how different this perspective of Buddhism might be from what they’ve heard or been told by friends, colleagues, and in general media within the West. Because oftentimes we, I believe, see a Buddhism that has been culled. Meaning, parts of it have actually been chopped off in its presentation to Western audiences. So we often hear that “Buddhism is a mere philosophical system”, “It’s not a religion” or “it’s a system of meditation”. Even to the point where some people say that “a person can be Buddhist and Christian”. That “because it’s actually non-religious itself it’s more of a practice or a philosophical system. They can actually blend”. Another aspect we often see is many of the rules and regulations and moral and ritualistic precepts of Buddhism also get removed; so for example, the Vinaya, which is actually the rules and codes of conduct for monks and nuns of Buddhism. We often also have presented to us a Buddhism that is devoid of judgment. No conceptions of Heaven.
No conceptions of Hell. And bold as it might seem to say I would suggest that These are actually distortions of the actual Buddhist scripture. And at times I think very unintentionally at times, and this is actually how its presented in the West To make it more palatable to the Western audience. What we don’t often hear of in the West, some of the fundamental tenets that I see within the actual Buddhist scriptures themselves, are for example the Divine status of the Buddha, the necessity of Faith and love and even worship of the Buddha, the existence of gods. This is about an Ultimate Reality in Buddhism. Basically that there are many topics that we don’t see often in the West in common culture that are actually within the Buddhist tradition itself. One of the things we have to do is to place Buddhism in its evolutionary context; to really look at it as part of the Indian religious tradition. Oftentimes people will say “we have to look at Buddhism on its own terms; in its own evolutionary context”. But what you end up I have experienced what you end up seeing is this culled version of Buddhism. So I would suggest that it truly is best to actually look at Buddhism within the Hindu and especially Upanishadic context, to see what the Buddha is responding to, what he is correcting, what he is answering, and thereby be able to actually understand the Buddha’s claim more clearly. One facet of how Buddhism can be portrayed at times and again especially within the West, is the claim that Buddhism is non-theistic. This is a to me a very peculiar claim, that buddhism is a non-theistic, not atheistic not theistic, but non-theistic. In the sense that it doesn’t speak of divine beings. Why this is so strange is because if Buddhism is non-theistic, then I would have to say that Greek mythology is non-theistic, that Roman religion was non-theistic, Sumerian, or Egyptian religions were non-theistic. Why? Because Roman, Sumerian, Egyptian, and Greek mythology, or Norse Mythology for that matter, has many Divine beings and so does Buddhism. When we actually look within the Pali Canon, we encounter the Divine beings that come out of the Hindu Vedic tradition. Meaning, the tradition that comes from the Vedas, the holy scriptures of Hinduism. So to place a phrase like “non-theistic” on Buddhism, if I’m going to be just and honest, I’m actually gonna have to say well, if it’s non-theistic because these people think that there’s no ultimate Divine one God, but then I would actually have to call Greek mythology and Egyptian mythology non-theistic. So I really do believe that placing this term on Buddhism is itself just a distortion of actually what Buddhism is saying. So at the very least we would say that Buddhism is actually polytheistic, meaning it has many many gods; because in actual fact, as I think we will see Buddhism has more gods than Greek mythology, more gods than Sumerian mythology, and in some sense I would even suggest more divine beings than even Hinduism itself. And of course we’re looking at Ultimate Reality within Buddhism and again it may seem striking but we will be seeing that there is, I believe a very clear conception of an Ultimate within the Buddhist tradition, and we’ll see what that looks like. So before going into some of the Buddhist scriptures themselves, I believe there’s a series of philosophical problems with presenting Buddhism as a non-theistic or atheistic tradition. One of those things is sort of related to The Western conception of Deism, the idea that well there might be an Ultimate Reality, but that Ultimate Reality is not concerned with human existence, is actually not an intervening Being, not a Being that relates to its creation in any direct way. More like if you will “the Grand Architect” or “the Mathematical Being” that is behind the laws of the universe and rationality. Why I find this untenable is because first of all just like the problem with deism itself, the question arises, well is there a Moral Code? Are there virtues or qualities that we refer to as virtues that actually have to be manifested, and if you will, exemplify within a human life, in order to ascend towards this Being, or to be of a greater fulfillment of our life? And I think the answer, both for the deists in the early modern philosophical era as well as within Buddhism, the answer is, yes. That we’re supposed to see people as ends not as means, we’re supposed to be just and honest and compassionate, we’re supposed to see truth and duty and responsibility and sacrifice for the good of all. All these are represented with Buddhism and within a lot of deistic writings. But all those things have to do with how we treat each other; all those things have to do with how we relate to each other as human beings so that we can be in accord or congruent with the reality that we’re supposed to be. Which means that the laws that we’re looking at are directly related to human beings themselves. There are truths about human beings and how we should act within this world and these derive from, if you will, deism or in Buddhism from the Dharma. So if we are in any way beholden to the teachings of virtue and sacrifice then we have, what I would call like, an ontological ethic, something outside of us that we are actually beholden to, which seems to cause, I would suggest, very large philosophical problems for a complete “absentee landlord” conception of a say, law-like our mathematical principle behind the universe. This is what I would call “the problem of the Dharma” itself. Another aspect that comes up with relationship to Buddhism is the concept of a Bodhisattva. A Bodhisattva which does appear from the pages of the Pali Canon is a being who under the teachings of the Buddha, has ascended through a purification of themselves, of a disentanglement with this world, that an embodying of the principles of compassion and non-attachment. They reach a place where they are able to actually pass into the realm of Nirvana. They can finally leave the world of what’s called Samsara, the realm of birth and rebirth of death and suffering, but they choose not to. And when they choose not to, they do so out of compassion for all other human beings, in fact all living things. Their entire focus is actually to ensure that they stay within the realm of suffering and within the realm of trials, in order to sacrifice themselves for the raising up of all beings and bringing them towards a true understanding of the Dharma. The Buddha Himself does this at the beginning of His mission. He is able immediately to pass into Nirvana, but He actually stays for the sake of those who might see. So the question would be I think, do the Bodhisattvas, who choose not to enter the realm of Nirvana, but rather to stay in this world and sacrifice out of love and compassion, do this in accord with what the Dharma really says? And I think when we look at the Buddhist scriptures, we have to agree that they do. That the Buddha, when He actually chooses to actually remain in this world although He can leave the realm of Samsara of aging sickness death and trial and suffering, He chooses to stay, in contrast to what Mara, this figure Mara tells Him to do which is to release Himself from suffering because no one will listen, that Mara really is the figure of, if you will Satan within the Buddhist Writings, because Mara tempts the Buddha telling Him not to stay, not to follow His compassion His sense of justice and love but rather to either pass into Nirvana to death in a sense, or to actually take money wealth and power. It’s very much like the testing of Jesus by Satan in the Wilderness. So this section is a look at the Buddhist scriptures, and other scriptures, in the context of Baha’i texts. So looking at what say Abdul-Baha, Baha’u’llah, Shoghi Effendi, or the World Center might say, and taking a look at what is the nature and validity of the Buddhist scriptures? Oftentimes I have met friends of mine who actually think that the Buddhist scriptures are corrupted, or inauthentic, or unreliable, and we really want to take a look at this to examine some principles from the Baha’i Scriptures themselves. So this first scripture, or this first quotation is from Abdul-Baha. So just quickly several different scriptures are actually mentioned here. One of them being the books of the Buddha. That actually there are prophecies and foretellings and glad-tidings of a Day in these holy books, again one of them being the books of the Buddha. Secondly Shoghi Effendi So in the discussion of the Guardian Shoghi Effendi is having with an individual he’s suggesting that someone look out sorry, seek out commentaries on the Buddhist scriptures. Ostensibly to actually help them understand what these scriptures say. Once again because they are a holy receptacle of writings. This is from the work One Common Faith, commissioned by the Universal House of Justice. So we actually have four dispensations actually represented here. The first is the Psalms which is from the Old Testament the Jewish scriptures, the Upanishads which we will be looking at in this study, but as well the words of Jesus and Buddha. That anyone who poses a question to Heaven to understand and to commune with their Creator can hear an answer from within the Upanishads, the Torah, the Buddhist scriptures, or the New Testament. So this next quote is actually from Baha’u’llah. Now it doesn’t speak directly of Buddhist scriptures But it puts forward a principle, if you will, a covenantal principle, that we have to consider when assessing the validity of these former Holy books. This quote is responding to a claim we sometimes hear from the Islamic community, that the New Testament the Gospel itself is not in the hands of the Christians. That when Jesus Christ ascended up to Heaven, well His message ascended with him, and we have only faint and corrupted echoes of that message. Bahá’u’lláh here is saying this could not be, because this would imply that a secession of the grace of the source of all grace would have happened, and that the people of that day could not be held accountable for their acceptance or rejection of the message of the Prophet Muhammad. Now this a principle being put forward about the authenticity of the New Testament, because of its necessary authenticity of it. So that a person could find their Beloved in the person of the Prophet Muhammad. But this principle can be carried over. Are we to say that actually the teachings of the Buddha Himself actually were completely obscured, and we have lost them completely? Because I’ve heard this again in some conversations where, because there is a passage where Abdul-Baha says the teachings of the Buddha have been lost. But is there a different way to understand this that would not imply a cessation of Grace, that the promise made in these holy books as we saw previously of the glad tidings of the coming of the Buddha “the Great Buddha to come” could actually carry humanity within the Buddhist tradition to where they could recognize even for example Jesus or the Prophet Muhammad or the Báb and Baha’u’llah themselves. This next quote shed some light upon this question of the teachings being lost. This is from Abdul-Baha This is only the beginning of the quote but here it sounds, ok well, they originally came. Now Confucius is different, he renewed ancient customs and moral conduct, but the Buddha Himself brought a message to humanity, but that His teachings were lost His original precepts forgotten. Now if we consider the very next paragraph Abdul-Bahá says It’s actually applied to Christianity, but that it’s actually that these observances these original precepts have been lost among the people. And again, this is the paragraph immediately following He continues So here while the beginning it sounds as if well the original precepts of the Buddha were actually forgotten, it’s immediately paralleled with the loss of the original spirit and the original teachings that were brought by Jesus Christ. It’s not speaking of the scriptures themselves. It’s saying that one, doctrinal innovations came in, that many of the ethical teachings themselves were actually forgotten, that we began to focus on rituals and even at times, go directly against some of the injunctions of the original message, to such a point where the Divine Gardener because this tree is no longer bearing fruit has planted a tree of the same kind within that garden, to once again bring fruit to humanity. So this next section is to actually address, an idea that is very prevalent often within Western Buddhism. Some people refer to as “the indeterminable”. It is a real belief that the Buddha Himself wasn’t interested in or eschewed or brushed-off discussions about the nature of Reality, or what’s beyond this world, or the nature of the Buddha Himself or what He’s like after death. The most famous one of these is actually a story about an arrow, where this individual gets actually shot with a poisoned arrow and someone comes up to actually pull it out and the individual says “well first I want to know like who what kind of poison it was and where the poison came from and who actually shot it and what was he like and what was his character?..” and the Buddha actually, and this is actually in in the Buddhist scriptures, says that this is really, folly. Because you just actually want the poison out because it’s killing you, right. And this is taken generally to be a presentation that the Buddha had no interest in what was beyond, about different Realms of gods and other things. came from But I’m going to actually read a different passage that some of the more common ones used. So we’re going to look at a quote from the Pali Canon itself on this topic. So here it seems that actually the Buddha is coming out against, on the surface, any speculations about the nature of the Tathagata, the Buddha after death, the nature of the self, where the world came from. But rather is giving the ff you will the noble truths, right. That life is suffering and that suffering can be ended. And the way to end suffering. And giving the four foundations of mindfulness. In addition there is another problem of we’ll see that will come up shortly. But before this I wanted to read one passage from One Common Faith, work commissioned by the Universal House of Justice. But what honors them is the souls unconditioned surrender of its will to the transformative influence They mediate. This is what the Buddha is saying. Right above he’s saying, in the end you have all these people wrangling within the Brahmin class derive from the thoughts birthed out of the Upanishads. They’re all having these rancorous debates which He actually mentions, amongst themselves. And He says to them I have come here for the eradication of suffering. I have come here for the elevation of humanity for equanimity for peace for the development their transformative will, and He’s saying in the end, it is for people to recognize that this is actually the medicine of the Divine Physician. This is the cultivation of the Divine Gardener, to embody it in their lives. so we don’t disagree on this aspect which is an often called the indeterminables. At the same time when we actually look at the passage itself which seems to eschew and push off any of these kinds of speculations, one thing is He actually states that He holds different opinions on such matters. He has a higher exposition. That His conceptions are superior. And we’re going to see this actually come up in the future, because He actually accuses many of these religious teachers of not knowing the True Path to the Divine, because they, in contrast to Him, have never been there. So if He’s saying His views are a higher exposition, that they are superior, then He has these views. Then the problem of taking these kinds of quotes the way they generally are taken is because they make a serious problem for actual Buddhist scripture. Because the Buddha does talk about these things He actually does talk about what it is beyond this domain. He does talk about realms of divinity, about the passage through if you will, super-sensory realms. So we would have to.. To assume that this is all He means is just to put aside all these conversations. Those are religious conceptions. We’re just here for the you know upliftment of humanity, and a simple philosophical concept, would be almost to put on blinders and refuse to look at vast tracts of a Buddhist scripture itself. There is another aspect of this that we can look at within the context of the Pali Canon, so we’ll read it now. This is a very enigmatic passage because it sounds like the monk himself, one who has actually achieved his fullest state of liberation in this life and has achieved nirvana, himself doesn’t know the answers to these questions. But at the very end of the passes he says To say that the monk does not know and does not see would be a wrong view and incorrect. In the middle is the answer because it says, as far as language in the range of language reaches, as far as understanding in the range of understanding reaches, that we’re dealing with a worldview where the limits of human language understanding cannot express the real Reality of what the Buddha is after death, or what the real Reality of the soul is in the worlds beyond. Yet at the same time the Buddhist scriptures tell us of them. So what can we gather from this? This is very much like a talk by Abdul-Baha in Some Answer Questions, where He talks about intangible and tangible realities, where we cannot describe things that are so lofty and non-physical. So we put them if you will into symbol and metaphor and parable. So it’s from such symbols and metaphors that we have to gain if you will a glimpse of really what is going on within the Buddhist scriptures. And we actually note here in verses 38 and 39 of the passage quoted on determinables. The Buddha says, I do not admit their claims. Why not? Because different beings hold different opinions on such matters, nor do I consider such theories equal to my own, still less superior than His. So He in numerous places explains this Reality that is not born of speculation, the speculation of the Brahmin, or priestly caste. So this contrasts to what the Brahmins themselves are doing, which are like the passages above, putting invented human dogmas and in a sense by their wrangling and debating are actually losing the original precepts of the religion. Important to this concept is a doctrine within the Buddhist Writings that again is often misrepresented in the West. We often hear that the Buddha Himself was just a philosopher who sat down and figured this out, and then He shared what He figured out with the rest of the world. I want to read two quotes quickly from the Buddhist Writings, both from the Pali Canon Sariputta is actually a chief disciple of the Buddha The second quote again addressing Sariputta It’s really the identical quote. There are many of these within the Buddhist scripture where the Buddha comes out very very very clearly and tells His followers in the world that it would be a grievous wrong to say of the Buddha that He had simply philosophically reasoned this out. So much so, again a different topic, that the individual would end up in Hell. Another aspect of Buddhism we often don’t hear in the West. But here we have that the Buddha, contrary to the perspective as presented by the Brahmin or priestly class of Hinduism, in their speculative reasoning and arguing and debate, the Buddha is saying, No, He is not coming here with a speculative philosophical inquiry. He knows this by direct Knowledge. Not through the faculty of reason. We see this part clearly because the Buddha says again to one of his disciples So does the Buddha understand by hammering out His doctrine by reasoning? No, we’re told here that He understands it through direct knowledge. Of course He says that He teaches it in a convincing manner, that which is hammered out through reasoning, to help other people understand it. But is not how He has actually gained the knowledge that he shared. So this next section I called Gods Abound ,meaning there are gods everywhere. Again the peculiarity of calling Buddhism a non-theistic religion will really really come out here. Why? Generally because I don’t know of many religions that have any more gods than Buddhism. If you will, the cosmology, the layers of reality and the divine beings that make it up, is extremely extensive in Buddhism, and often times so extensive it’s very difficult to keep a handle on. We also have several of the passages that you’ll see within this study where there are Divine figures and Beings that even the commentators and the translators of these texts don’t even know who the Buddha is talking about. So they expand even Beyond if you will, Divine Beings and Realities that we can sort of trace within the Hindu Pantheon itself. So here we go We will actually see that there are different Realms. or bases, as they’re called within the Hindu cosmology. Called the Base of Infinite Space. Or the Base of Infinite Consciousness These are often called the Janas. And the fourth Jana, that when an individual has reached this place, he dwells with Deities. Gods, and actually converses with them. And that’s an entirely pleasant world in and of itself. Simple point being, there’s lots of Deities. This next quote I called an endless refrain of homage. Because this is actually throughout the Pali Canon really occurs hundreds of times. It is a declaration of or eulogy of the person of the Buddha, and it reads Constant unity. A refrain that we hear in Sutra after Sutra after Sutra of the Pali Canon whenever the beauty of the Blessed One The Lord Buddha, is actually declared. And it says He is a teacher of Gods and humans. He declares this world with Gods Maras and Brahmas. These are different classes of divine Beings. The Mara itself being of a negative quality. But these are beings that are Deities, that are Gods. So to say that there are is no Gods within Buddhism would be a very very peculiar notion. But He also says in here that He has realized again with that direct knowledge we just saw, all the realities of this world in the state of it, as if a Divine Physician in Himself. From that, reveals a holy life perfect and pure for this time. This next quote I just termed multiple exhaustive God realms, because we here begin to see really how full the actual Buddhist cosmological picture of Divine Beings is. And I will apologize from here on forward for my inappropriate pronunciation of Hindu terms or Pali terms. So in this quote Sariputta, which is the chief disciple of the Buddha is showing a Brahmin, a member of the priestly caste of the Hindu Faith, the way to Brahma. He knows that he can actually bring him further than the realm of Brahma. But he tells them that he himself can communicate to a the Brahmin Daninjani how he can achieve his highest goal. Which is union with Brahma in the Brahma world. Hence there is a Brahma. Because the Buddha then says The Brahmin Daninjani has verily appeared in the Brahma world. But also prior to that, we see all of these different Gods in ascending order. We had the four great Kings, the Gods of the Thirty-three, the Yama Gods, the Gods of the tusita heaven, the Gods who delight in creating, the Gods who will power over others’ creations, and then the world of Brahma. So in this sense, we actually have an extremely full Cosmology. An extremely full Pantheon of Divine Beings. But Sariputta here could have led him higher. He did not teach him everything. But even the path that actually Sariputta gives to the Brahim Daninjani is about creating with him an all-pervading feeling and consciousness of loving-kindness and compassion for everything in the world. This again is the Dharma. This is the Dharma that the Buddha has come to action communicate to humanity. This is what in order for a person to ascend into Nirvana they actually have to do. This to at least get past the Brahma world. Hence once again, we have this “problem of the Dharma” being loving-kindness, its laws in this cosmos are loving-kindness and compassion, and if we look at the Buddhist ethic honesty and justice and humility and forgiveness and detachment. This next passage relates to the seven stations of consciousness, and their Devas. This is here where we’ll begin to see the Bases come in. We’re gonna have two texts on the Bases which is the highest, most of the highest orders of the Buddhist cosmology. And we’ll see here in that there are Entities in them. It quotes. Again Ananda is one of the chief disciples of the Buddha So what we see, as enigmatic as some of these structures might seem to those not familiar with Buddhist scripture, what we see is there are all of these Realms which come up to these different Spheres. The Spheres of Infinite space, the Sphere of Infinite Consciousness, the Sphere of Nothingness, and the Sphere of Neither Perception nor Non-perception. But that within these there are Beings, Entities that abide within those Realms. And remember these are all above Those who’ve united with Brahma who have attained the first Jana, the first of these four Bases itself. Another quick text on the bases itself Again the Buddha speaking to Udayin So here again, we encounter the different bases, the base of infinite space consciousness, the base of nothingness, the base of neither perception nor non perception, and then again this complete cessation Nirvana. But in each of these cases the individual themselves enters and abides within this Realm. These realms which are all above the other Realms that we’ve looked at, and themselves come to be increasingly more imperceptible and difficult to talk about. And this is what the Buddha is actually sharing with if you will the Upanishadic world, the Vedantic Philosophical world, the Hindu world that he’s actually coming to. In each of these realms, He’s actually placing as Above the Vedic Pantheon, above the Beings that the average Hindu would actually see as being the Realities that they’re actually praising, eulogizing, one of which is Brahma. So we see that actually the if you will the world of Buddhism is actually highly populated by Divine Beings. We’ll now see actually how each and every one of these beings is within the Pali canon now going to be subordinated to the Buddha Himself. Buddha in essence is above the Gods. So here almost the entire cosmology of the Buddhist world including the Vedic Gods, a point I haven’t mentioned, usually it’s understood that the Gods of the 33 are actually the Gods named within the Vedas themselves. These Gods with many other Gods above Them are all praising the joy and the honor of the people of the Vajya, this area this city, because the Buddha and three of His disciples are among them. We again will see another highly populated cosmology, all subordinate to the Buddha. We again have this extremely filled Cosmos. Brahmas of five thousand worlds, or ten thousand worlds. And I actually jumped one section of it that continues to list greater degrees of Divine Beings And then continues through another ascending arc to it again reaches the base of infinite space of infinite consciousness of nothingness of neither perception nor non-perception All of these are the strivings of all entities within the realms of being. And it’s only one that actually reaches to the path of Nirvana that the Buddha has actually brought, where truly it is the reality of the Buddha that resides that one can finally be free. But this is above not only the Vedic Gods but if any imaginably known mention divine being all subordinate to the Reality and Truth of the Buddha Himself. This here is another longer quote from the Pali Canon So in this passage we have so many aspects of Buddhism come to the fore that we often don’t see within the West. And I think it’s important to say that at this point the rumor that “the Buddha was agnostic” should just be permanently laid to rest. There are endless Divine Beings and there are endless Divine Realms and some which are so super-sensible inaccessible, because of the limits of language, the limits of human thought, that we can only get a better sketch of them. Yet in this passage we actually have the Buddha descending. That He was not born here as a man, but He actually descended from the realms above. In addition to descending from the realms above, His splendor His radiance and His light exceeds all the other Gods in totality. Not only this, but when He descends into this world He is born actually immaculately, is actually born of a virgin birth. In addition to that, when He enters this world the light of His radiance the light of Dharma shining out from Him fills all of the realms of darkness the gloomy and abysmal and dark realms, and fills them with light. The place where no other light can reach so that people can finally see that they’re not alone in these realms. We see this again actually in further Sutras of the Pali Canon where the Buddha then actually proclaims His message to the world and the same image is actually used. Where all the ten thousandfold World systems, all of creation is filled with light. Far beyond that of any of the God-Denizens of this entire realm. He declares Himself to be the best, the foremost among all beings, the highest and the summation of creation, the Lord of the Dharma. Really, whatever conceptions of Divinity that could be found within the Hindu Vedic Pantheon, within the philosophical systems of Upanishadic and Brahmanic thought are here transcended by one figure, The Buddha. This next quote is about thousands of Deities and they attained to an immaculate vision of the Dharma. We find this theme actually arise again in many many Sutras of the Pali Canon where not only does the radiance of the Buddha actually eclipse the radiance of all these Divine Beings, but they actually want to know what He has to teach. They come if you will unseen by those of us in this world to listen to the proclamation and the exposition of the Dharma to His disciples; and they themselves learn from the Buddha. Another quote This is often, Sokka’s often seen as Indra So what do we have in this picture? We have a monk who is seeking to understand where in a sense, materiality comes to an end or the experience of body, the experience of spatial dimensions etc, comes to an end. And in the story he again ascends through all of these domains asking and asking each of the denizens of these realms, where this comes to an end. Finally he comes to the realm of Brahma the highest realm that he can find and think of, and he comes before Brahma and asks Him this question, and it’s here we get sort of a sense of how difficult Buddhism would have been for a Hindu mind. Why? Because when the monk asks Brahma, which we’ve seen many of the Brahmins are trying to attain this world, which the Buddha already puts worlds and worlds and worlds beyond, and says basically that He Himself is infinitely superior to Brahma. Brahma then actually answers that He knows everything, is all-seeing, has created everything, and the monk four times asks Him the same question. Brahman then kind of tucks him away over to the side and confides in him that He doesn’t know, that He wanted to save face in front of His retinue, and that the monk had made a horrible mistake. Because he left the company of the Buddha, when of course the Buddha knows what he does not. So the apex of a Hindu cosmology, because we’ve already passed Sokka who is Indra, he passed the 33 Gods which would be like Varuna Agni, Vayu all these Divine Beings, we’ve surrounded all of them and Buddhism puts this one figure Brahma the Creator at the pinnacle and says even He can actually Himself have an ego, and can actually in order to save face hide His ignorance from His followers and He knows that there is a Being in this domain of all the world systems of reality Who is His superior, who knows what He does not know, and that is the Buddha. We have to note that as extremely populated and seemingly polytheistic that Buddhism is, and Hinduism itself seems to be, on the surface, immediately we can actually see that there is a hierarchy. And in some sense for the Western mind these are more Angelic Entities. Beings who inhabit realms or worlds beyond this one. But even they actually have a hierarchy that seems to slowly come to a point. That in reality we, to this point we see there is one Entity, that actually stands above them all and that is the King of the Dharma, the Buddha. This is why as well that we see as I mentioned that Buddhism could have been so difficult for a Hindu mind. Because it seems to have actually de-elevated if you will, lowered the rank and standing of their Divine Beings by placing the Buddha above. We see similar themes in actually Christianity’s relationship to Judaism, or Islam to Christianity. Where on the surface it seems to have reduced. We will see however, because we’re going to look at some Hindu texts, that I believe very much, that the Buddha is actually making a claim to what He is, that a Hindu from their own scriptures could fully understand. Another quote In this story from the Mahaparinirvana Sutra is actually just before the Buddha dies, before He leaves His earthly frame. And we see that the entire domain, anything you could possibly see from the vision of the Buddha is jam-packed with Divine Beings, all coming to just actually capture a glimpse of the Buddha. Some of them with lesser understanding are actually tearing their clothes, throwing themselves on the ground, crying and moaning and groaning and just because they want to see the Buddha Before he leaves the world systems where all the elements abide. Because He is released here in this Sutra itself, He will be released from His dispensation within this world. And all of these are actually just trying to see the Lord before He actually leaves. Again all of the Divine Beings, below the Buddha. So I’m here going to read in quite long passage and this passage shows that really all Divine Beings, including all of the Vedic Entities themselves adore the Buddha, worship the Buddha, praise the Buddha, and come to see Him. And there are many Entities in here, as I’ve alluded to previously, that actually we’ve never even heard of. We don’t even know who they are. The general gist being, that all of the Divine realm, all of the world systems, come to praise the Buddha. So in part, I apologized for the length of this quote. It’s a very long part of a Buddhist Sutra, the mighty gathering, it’s called. I chose it specifically because it so profoundly illustrates how the Pali Canon, the most ancient Buddhist scriptures we know, represent the reality and the nature of the Buddha. In this mighty gathering, every God comes. Even those mythical Beings who fight, under the Buddha’s words obtain a peace. Warring factions come and they’re united in their loving adoration of the Buddha. In this Pantheon we see Brahma, Vishnu Vayu, Indra. We see the main chief Vedic Gods, and Beings far surpassing them all, coming to the Buddha just so they get to see Him. Because His appearance, or if you will the light that appears in the lamp that He is at this time, comes so rarely to the world. That it is the great joy, ultimate joy of any of these Beings to be present when the Buddha is here. We also see nearing the end of the story, that actually Mara, if you will clearly the Buddhist ‘Satan’, comes rushing forth with all his armies to actually conquer, because he’s got all the Divine Beings, all of reality, that have come here to see the Buddha. And if you noted multiple times even just to get to see His monks, the ones who have actually truly embodied His teachings, they even want to see just them. Mara rushes forward to conquer them with ego, with lust, and pride. But is suddenly thwarted as he’s coming up. By who? By the light of the Buddha. They are protected by the Dharma, the Buddha’s teachings. Really in essence, who the Buddha is. There is I think if we really look at this quote and again many other quotes within the Pali Canon, there is one Supreme Ruler of all of the cosmos, in any way shape or form, that we could ever know, and it’s the Buddha. There is a question as to what the Buddha is, I do want to read one quote here. In this passage, the Buddha clearly states when He has actually appeared in any of the realms of creation all the way up to the realm of Brahma’s retinue and any of the domains of these world systems, He appears as if He is one of the denizens of that domain. So that they don’t know if He is one like them a man, or a Deva above them. Because even in the case of Him being in the realm of Brahma. They’re asking is he a man or a Deva? From their frame of reference being, is this figure one of us or is He something beyond? And in the case that we’re seeing here, in each case, He is revealing to them truth. He is obviously their superior. Buddha is Dharma the deathless the all-knowing. This quote is saying very clearly the Buddha is not just revealing the Dharma. He is the dharma. He is the door to the deathless, a refrain we find within the Pali scriptures. That it is His very Self that is actually revealing that deathless reality, that ever abiding ever living entity, that actually is beyond. That it is in the approach towards, that we actually reach Nirvana. That He is said to be the sayer, the proclaimer, the elucidater of all meaning. In essence the Buddha is the Dharma. He is the Word. He is the expression of Truth, the voicing of the deathless, the ever abiding one. He is really and truly “the Word made flesh” that we see in the beginning of the Gospel of John. Even the previous quote where we’re actually looking at the question of whether He was a Deva or a man, even in the highest of realms It is like within the Qur’an it says, “were We would to have sent you an Angel, We would have made him appear as a man.” This concept of the Divine Being, the deathless the other abiding, the Dharma, the truth is that which reveals itself into humankind in the forms of theBbeings that He comes to while His form is itself An embodiment of their form, so they can have this question of, is He one of us or is He something much greater, is the vehicle of the Dharma. Thus He is the King of the Dharma. So a further quote The Buddha here is saying He is the knower of all, the One that is truly pure, that no one like Him exists in all of the worlds with all of his gods. That He has no person who is His counterpart, was not taught by anyone, and that He is the teacher supreme, who goes to beat the drum of the deathless again. Once again reading this we see that the Buddha is explicitly placing Himself above all other entities. That He is the pinnacle of creation. And that there is no one else like Him, and no other teacher that can truly teach. And this demonstrates once again, the station the Buddha is claiming, as well as, if you will, the exclusivist nature of Buddhism, which we will look at in another video. So the Buddha here is saying that all things of the past, all things that are factual, things that are advantageous to humanity, all things that are virtuous, He actually has full awareness of. And that He Himself above all Devas, all Mara’s, all Entities, He actually stands, again, at the very pinnacle of this. We also see as well that He’s saying that He is the ruler of all, and the seer, and knower of all, that is basically a principle of ultimate sovereignty of ultimate power and omniscient; able to know all things that are factual, all related to ‘the good’, ‘the true’, and ‘the beautiful’. And again the same refrain Here the Buddha’s actually extolling Sariputta, but what does He tell us about the nature of Sariputta and his relationship to the Buddha? We hear that he is the Son of the Buddha, obviously not the physical son. That he is born of His mouth, and born of His Dharma, created by the Dharma, that the reality that really truly is Sariputta is coming from the Buddha Himself. That it’s the Dharma that has given birth to Sariputta, and the Dharma we’ve just recently seen, is actually equated identically with the Buddha Himself. He is the Dharma. He is knowledge. And he is a child of the Buddha. Again a conception very very close to notions that we actually see within the New Testament. He is born of the Word, right, himself. That this Being that we’re seeing within the Buddhist scriptures is so extremely distant from the notion of just being “a philosopher”, or someone who hammered out by reason the realities of truth. This is a Being that stands superior to all of the Devas, Brahmas, and any Radiant Being that can be seen within reality. This figure Sariputta, within the Pali Canon is very reminiscent of Abdul-Bahá, one who is the full reflection and the full expression of the law of the Buddha Himself, of His Dharma. Just as we know that Abdul-Bahá is the perfect exemplar, and is really “born out of the Ocean of pre-existence, begotten by Baha” or Baha’u’llah. Right all those that have actually followed the Dharma, the law and the teachings of the Buddha can claim to be his true sons. That they have been born or if you will born-again through the Dharma, and in essence are created by the Dharma, that they themselves can say this. Why? Because the Buddha is actually saying here, because the Tathagata the Buddha Himself is the body of the Dharma. He is the body of Brahma, here it says. And even within the Pali notes, it stated that this is being presented because He is the highest that anything in creation can encounter. Not Brahma of the Vedic scriptures or the pantheon itself, but rather He Himself is the greatest embodiment of what someone sees within the concept of Brahma. This term “the body of the Dharma” actually again within the notes within the Pali Canon is referencing a concept of the Trikaya doctrine, the three bodies of the Buddha. Where the Buddha Himself what we see here on Earth is His physical form or His Rupakaya, literally His material body. But that Being that we know of as the Buddha, actually has a celestial body which is itself if you will, the lamp that carries the light of the Dharma, the Dharmakaya or the body of the Dharma. The concept of the Buddha within the Pali Scriptures and the Mahayana Scriptures is represented as a Being who comes, if you will, in the station of servant, of messenger, and of if you will, the Word, the Logos or the concept of Lahut, the true Manifestation of God. This concept sounds, when one really begins to look at it, identical to what you would read within the New Testament, and is actually referenced within the Baha’i Writings on “the different voices of the manifestation of God”. Another quote An individual who is saying that we must be willing to travel the expanse of the Earth to actually find the blessed Buddha Himself. And since He is in Nirvana or Nibana in the Pali scriptures, that he is willing to travel all the way through all the realms of God, all the way through the four gate great Kings, the the Gods of the Thirty-three, the Yama Gods. All the way up through these hierarchies to actually find the Buddha Himself. And he’s expressing that in this world as taking refuge in that Celestial Buddha. This figure which contrary to what many people will often say, who is still the refuge and still the goal of the follower themselves, even though he is in Nirvana. So at this time we’re actually going to move into some of the Upanishads, which are part of the Hindu scriptures. The reason why, is because I want to look with you at some texts from the Upanishads to see what was the cultural milieu in which the Buddha was speaking, and see how that actually relates to what the Buddha is saying in all of the quotes that we’ve seen above. And that take stock of how they relate to each other. So this first quote is actually from the Kena Upanishad. The Upanishads, a section of Hindu Scripture that are highly philosophical in some cases, but exquisitely beautiful. Though enigmatic this should make sense, if we actually look at Buddhist scripture, as well as Baha’i scripture. That really when it comes to truly describing or truly understanding the reality of God, or the Divine Beings, that we have reached the limits of knowledge, the limits of understanding. So there’s an aspect where an individual has to admit that they cannot possibly describe this accurately. Here at the beginning of this Upanishad, it’s saying it is only by recognizing the limits of our own knowledge, that we can come to truly know what it is. This sounds very Buddhist, because so much so many of the Buddhist scriptures, when they try to talk about Nirvana, or the Dharma or even the Buddha, they express that we’re crashing against the limits of language, and the limits of our own understanding. At the same time we’ll read the Upanishad, it continues. So in this story the Gods, here we’ve met Agni one of the Gods of the Vedas of the traditional scriptures of Hinduism. They actually believe that they have obtained some victory, but it was actually Brahman that obtained the victory. Now what happens is as Brahman appears to these Gods, and the God of fire from the Vedas Agni actually approaches Brahman because they want to know who this figure is, because they can’t actually understand who this figure is. In the story, Brahman puts down, asks him who he is, Agni says I am the God of fire. What power do you have? I can burn away all things. And he puts a straw down and says well then burn this. But Agni is suddenly impotent in front of Brahman, and he rushes back and tells the other Gods, “I have no idea what that being is okay”, and this theme is going to repeat several times. They’re trying to figure out what this Being is, this being we know to be Brahman, Who is behind the victory they believed they had achieved. Many things come out of this passage. One we see that contrary to what many people might say, Brahman is a personal Entity. This is a Being that can manifest in this world, and when He manifests here, these Gods of Hinduism don’t actually know who this Figure is. They can’t really figure Him out. That’s why they each approach in turn, but when they each approach in turn, they are completely impotent. Even in their own domain of power. It’s really that We know that there is a personal Figure or personal Manifestation of Brahman that can appear to beings generally, and that this Figure is the Ultimate Reality manifested within this plane. Basically when someone actually looks at the Pali Canon from within the perspective of the Upanishadic and Vedic thought, we see the Buddha Himself claiming to be something, the giver of the Dharma the Lord of the Dharma, He who is the gate to the deathless, the one who knows all, who sees all, and then that figure the Buddha is actually placed above and beyond every known Vedic God. But He Himself speaks and talks and teaches all the Divine Beings. And I think very strongly when we actually look at the Kena Upanishad and see this figure who manifests to the Gods, who they don’t know who this figure is, we see the figure of the Buddha and the Buddha Himself, if we look at the Kena Upanishad, and then we look at how the Buddha represents Himself, these figures are one. So that if someone was to be, which many would have been, familiar with the Kena Upanishad that Brotman Himself can manifest personally and is above all the Gods. They could have heard if you will the echo of this claim within the claim of the Buddha. Even the fact that they don’t know who brought men is here. We just recently read a passage where we hear that the Buddha when he appears to the great assemblies, be it Mara’s or Brahmas or Yama Gods, or the Gods of the Thirty-three, He actually appears in such a way that those Beings in whatever tier of existence they are actually when He leaves don’t know if He is what? A Deva or one like them. One ascendant or one equal unto them. This is actually what the Buddha says within the Pali Canon. In the previous passage from the Pali Canon there was a very, it’s the longest passage we’ve looked at, was a very long list of Divine Beings right? And at the end of that list, what occurs? Mara the Evil one approaches this grand assembly of all of the Gods who have come to witness the passing away of the Buddha, and it’s actually the Buddha that prevents Mara from destroying them. He gained or obtained a victory for the Gods. But the only ones that really see this are the true disciples of the Buddha at the end of that passage. Once again this should ring very clear to someone who is familiar with the Kena Upanishad, because that’s how the story of Brahman begins. For our own self, justice is a quick throw there, it’s interesting as well that when Indra rushes towards Brahman, He actually disappears, and in his place is suddenly a Divine Female, the “Maid of Heaven”. The next passage from the Kata Upanishad and is about a figure called the Purusha. In this passage just a pause for a moment, we see at the beginning The Asvata Tree, this ultimate Tree in which all the worlds hang, and itself is called “the bright” or another translations “the glory”. It is if you will, for the Baha’is the Sadrat’ul Muntaha, the image of the Manifestation of God. The whole universe itself is in some sense contained within it and vibrates and resonates with what has come forth from Brahman. The quote continues So not only are we seeing that that alone is the one that alone is the immortal, that Indra and Vayu flee from this Divine Being, that Brahman, but also we see the notion that death itself flees from Brahman, this actual Divine Tree, this Cosmic Tree, that is the true One. Once again if we look at the Buddhist scriptures that we’ve been passing through over and over again, we’re told that the Buddha Himself is the door to the deathless, to immortality from the cessation of all clinging. So beyond all the aspects of the human being, the body, the mind, the intellect and even the great Atman is actually this unmanifest there’s some unmanifest nature, but even beyond that is the Person, the Purusha, which is a really a Personality, it is not actually just an immaterial sort of abstract concept, as we saw within the Kena Upanishad, because this being can actually appear in our world and appear to Gods. But we also have it that, no one can actually truly see this Figure. No one can truly know Him, except when He has revealed through meditation and as we all see prayer. Again this is much like what the Pali Canon is saying about the ineffability, the inability to actually truly describe the Dharma, but that it can actually become personal in the sense of the Dharmakaya, the body of the Dharma, embodying here in the person of the Buddha. This is the final quote from the Upanishads. It’s from the Mundaka Upanishad. So this Brahman is the light of lights, that which shines first into the dark places, and is the radiance of all else. Once again within the Pali Canon, we saw the Buddha Himself at His birth and declaration His radiance eclipsed all the radiance of all the Gods. But together and His shining His radiance His glory fills even the darkest realms of creation. For some individuals, a question might have arisen Throughout this study, because we’ve only been looking at the Pali Canon, which is the Theravadan texts. And there are other denominations of Buddhism who recognize other scriptures. We chose this collection the Pali Canon primarily again as I said at the beginning, because it itself forms the most ancient texts that we know of the Buddha. So we will now look at, for those who are interested, some of the quotes from the Mahayana Scriptures themselves. This first one here is from the Lotus Sutra, very very prominent Sutra in Mahayana Buddhism. from the Lankavatara Sutra So the Buddha Himself is unfathomable, higher than all Heavenly Beings. Again this is exactly the notion we see within the Kena Upanishad. And the Absolute Truth, the Dharmadatu, that body of the Dharma that is represented in the Buddha in the world of creation, abides forever. Whether or not the Thatagata appears. So this Entity whatever it is, this Absolute Truth is Ultimate Reality. Exists in some way whether or not it is manifested in this world, clearly a corollary with the concept of the “Manifestation of God” within the Baha’i Writings. The next quote is from Lotus Sutra again We saw this in the Pali texts when the Buddha gives the example of the great assemblies, the Mara’s, the Brahmas, the Yama Gods, the Nimurati Gods. That He Himself will actually present Himself to these Beings in the form that they are, so that He can bring, and in this context, salvation unto them. This concept of the Dharmadatu, the Ultimate Reality the Absolute Truth itself manifesting in the form of whatever form those who He’s teaching to really echos in a part of the Bhagavad Gita that we will look at a different time. Where Arjuna in the Hindu text of Bhagavad Gita asks Krishna to show Arjuna His true form. And when He does there is this like unbelievable image of like numerous mouths, unending faces, ears, eyes, and hands. It’s this expression in my understanding of the text that Krishna who is the embodiment of Brahman, as Vishnu Manifests in so many different ways in so many different forms of so many different times that when Arjuna sees His true form all he sees are the rolling faces and Manifestations of that Absolute Reality, which the Buddha Himself again tells us He does here. The next is from “the perfection of wisdom and eight thousand lines” Echoing the Baha’i scriptures that Sun of Reality is beyond “descent and ascent” really beyond any description itself, and that here the Buddha is saying that the reality limit that which is the Essence, is itself the Buddha. Now from the Lion’s Roar of Queen Srimala This is such a fascinating quote because actually we see that Nirvana itself is the Dharma body of the Tathagata. The real Essence and True Reality of what the Person of the Buddha in our time really is. That there is no difference because the Tathagata the Buddha Himself is identical with the Dharma body which is unlimited and unceasing. This being the Buddha is not limited by time His compassion is not limited against this relational love and compassion towards the creation which He reveals Himself to, and He is the inexhaustible refuge of all reality or Brahman. Now from the Garland Sutra In the first section of this quote We have to really look past beyond if you will the veil of names, and see what the Buddha is expressing Himself to be. Infinite unobstructed, the Ultimate Realm of reality, Ultimate Reality itself. That He is without birth or death, the Alpha and Omega, He who is ever abiding and He does not cease and He does not abandon all beings. Within this non-abandoning, it says He appears to sentient beings according to the time sustained by past vows. the concept of the Eternal Covenant within the Baha’i Scriptures. These past promises, these past vows are what actually sustain the continuing return of the Buddha, the Everlasting Covenant. Just as we are told within the Baha’i scriptures that all of reality is in a sense a reflection of the Divine Being and His attributes can be seen everywhere. Here we are told that the Buddha is “the Buddha is omnipresent” and that He, that Dharmakaya that body of the Dharma manifests a body for the sake of sentient beings. Again a direct parallel to the concept of the “Manifestation of God” within Baha’i writings and within the Upanishads itself. Once again to the Lotus Sutra The Buddha here in the Lotus Sutra manifests as a great cloud, a great cloud rising up like the Torah. In this same notion we also see the concept of Jesus “coming with the clouds of Heaven” that He actually comes to all these different worlds and all these Divine Realms, be they low or high Out of His desire to release all. When He does so He appears in a way and teaches in a way that the denizens of that realm, whatever it may be, can truly understand, because He actually sees the reality of the world in which He is, He is a Divine Physician Who diagnoses the cosmos in which He manifests, and then teaches His law to those people in accordance with where they are at, the concept of “Progressive Revelation” in this world and beyond. We’re now gonna look at two final quotes. The first one is from the Brahma Net Sutra, another Mahayana It is rather long, but we will actually do our best to try and keep track of the imagery that is actually being expressed here. This is the Buddha beginning to speak This is the tree under which the Buddha received enlightenment So in this image we get from the Brahma Net Sutra, there is a supreme singular Buddha. That Buddha which is the source of all the teachings of all the physical Buddhas in the form bodies that appear in all these different worlds is the inspiration of the revelation of the Dharma into all these cosmoses. This Varokana Buddha is the source of all the rays of light, like the Sun of Truth that we find with Baha’i Writings. That itself is the inspiration of all the Manifestations that we see in the physical form within all the worlds of God, and are here known as the Buddha Himself, As Krishna, as Muhammad, as Jesus, the Bab, and Baha’u’llah. This Entity known as the Logos or the “Primal Will” or the “Manifestation of God” is the ultimate Source of all these Reflections if you will, these Fractals, these Manifestations within the world. And this is totally in accord with a concept of “the Word taking on flesh” that Original Entity Who is the Perfect Reflection of the Divine Father Manifested in the world. We’ve come to the end of this study. I’d suggest, what have we actually learned? Right from the get-go, philosophically, because Buddhism itself teaches unto humanity principles of honesty and justice and compassion and truth and right view and right effort and meditation and in this case eulogizing homage and prayer, right from the get-go, Buddhism actually seems to be monotheistic. We couldn’t possibly at any time, have called in my opinion Buddhism non-theistic, because the actual Buddhist scriptures themselves really actually represent within them endless layers of actual Divine Beings. If anything with a cursory knowledge of Buddhism, we would have called it polytheistic, or a concept of many Gods. But we find out that actually the Buddha Himself who was the reality limit, the knower of all, the seer of all, the one true stainless one, is actually at the very top of Reality, and eternally is the refuge of all. That whether or not this Being manifests in the world, which this being does in accordance with the capacity of the people He’s teaching, that Ultimate Reality that Dharmadatu, the body of the Dharma is itself ever abiding fully conscious. And it is our job in life to find the Reflection of that Ultimate Reality that Dharma as manifested within our world, and follow His law, and draw close to Him through His teachings. Put in this way and really looked at from the Buddhist scriptures itself we see really the concept of actually, whether it’s the Logos and the Father and the Manifestation of Jesus Christ or the different natures of the Manifestation of God embodied within the Baha’i Scriptures. I think it’s really fair to say that the idea that Buddhism is a philosophical system, it is not really interested in Transcendent Realities, that is really just a means of actual psychology, can be completely laid to rest. And that the idea that the Buddha was agnostic about Ultimate Reality too can be laid to rest. We are dealing with a Religion that is actually truly placed within its own cultural milieu, and is responding to issues that we can find within the Vedas and the Upanishads. And actually is echoing or reflecting concepts we find even within the Bhagavad Gita, that there is an Ultimate Reality that actually manifests Itself for the raising up of sentient beings, when unrighteousness has come to prevail. That Being is actually a form-body chosen by this Ultimate Reality in order that It can actually communicate to Its patient as a Divine Physician in accord with that being’s needs. This is the concept of “Progressive Revelation” fully expressed. So I think in the end here, can we say that Buddhism itself has an Ultimate Reality? Yes. Is that Entity itself personal, like the Brahmin in the Kena Upanishad? Yes. Is it the Refuge that we have to seek out, have faith in, love, and approach? Yes. It is, in the end, God