Was Buddha spiritual

Is Buddhism Esoteric?

The Persistent Concept of "Esoteric Buddhism"

The opinion-leading magazine The mirror published the full main story on April 13, 1998 Buddhism: Faith without God, between religion and esotericism. At the front of the front page, a gently smiling golden Buddha head beckoned, inside of which a crowd of people streamed on a golden street. The sold edition of this mirror-Number was one million and 92 thousand, around 70 thousand copies higher than an average sold. Another example: The large German lexicon publisher Harenberg opened a magazine for a wide audience for the first time in September 2002 Lexicon of Religions released. The preamble to the Buddhism chapter, which was not written by the authors, but by the publisher, contained the following sentence: "In contrast to other world religions, Buddhism does not know a creator god to whom man and his salvation are subject. The focus is on liberating people from all fetters of existence on the eightfold path to nirvana. In this respect, Buddhism is a form of esotericism, which at the same time has a decisive orientation for mastering earthly existence as its content. "

Both examples show that Buddhism is associated with esotericism in large parts of the public. In both quotations mentioned, belief in God or souls is considered the characteristic of "religion". Therefore, the conclusion is that Buddhism would not be a religion. In these quotes, the non-representation of belief in God or the soul or the search for "liberation from all fetters of existence" are considered to be the characteristic of "esotericism". Therefore, the conclusion is that Buddhism would be esoteric.

The conclusion: If you or your own "salvation of the soul are subject to a creator god" and thus believe your own inherent limitation, this is considered "religious". Because the inner search for liberation is relatively unfamiliar to the cultural context or religious thinking of the West. Why? The monotheistic religions are not about liberation in life. In their original texts there is no mention of "final stages of liberation", of naturally seeing "mindfulness", according to the Buddha the source of the universal path of liberation from ethics, calm and insight or the "only path" (Ekayâno Maggo), or of "meditation" (Bhāvanā) as a methodical exercise of this mindfulness. Inner search for liberation is relatively familiar to the cultural context or religious thinking of the Orient. In a Buddhist country, the teaching of the awakened would generally not be considered esoteric.

While the term "religion" (literally "reconnection" to the highest) has a positive connotation in public perception, the opposite generally applies to "esotericism". If Buddhism were not so popular today through widely convincing masters such as the Dalai Lama and Thich Nhat Hanh or highly pragmatic movements such as the mindfulness practice Vipassanâ, for example by S. N. Goenka, some might still classify it as a sect. The Pope has already referred to the Dalai Lama as "godless". Because he is "God's representative on earth" according to church doctrine, such evaluations have a significant effect on a large number of people.

What does "esotericism" mean? Why is "esoteric" often associated with Buddhism? What is the difference between Buddha's teaching and esotericism?


What does esotericism mean?

The term "esoteric" comes from the Greek "esoteros" for "inner". Esotericism stands for "secret doctrine", which is only accessible to an "inner" circle of initiates through special practices. Today the word is an umbrella term for the "New Age", all movements that are devoted to the development of a supernatural, "transcendent" dimension "beyond" everyday experience or "outside" conventional reality. In this sense, it covers a very wide range, from theosophy, astrology and parapsychology to meditation and yoga to geomancy and shamanism, in the monotheistic world religions gnostic and mystic (Christianity), Kabbalah (Judaism) and Sufism (Islam), as well as to a large extent the Asian world religions Hinduism and Buddhism.


Why is "esoteric" often associated with Buddhism?

In esoteric research, the theosophy (literally "God's wisdom") of the partly German-born Ukrainian Helena Blavatsky (1831-1891) is considered to be the main source of all esotericism and the forerunner of the modern "New Age" movement. Theosophy only coined the expression "New Age", which it saw at the beginning of the 20th century in the emergence of National Socialism. Blavatsky appeals with her four-volume main work The secret doctrine to a "primordial knowledge of mankind" or "the primordial religion", which is supposedly common to all faiths, which was first revealed to her historically and transmitted telepathically (from Tibet).

Numerous theosophical or theosophical groups have formed around the world, e. B. the "New Acropolis" (in over 50 states with around 200 centers). New religions such as the Vietnamese "Caodaism" (five million followers) are often shaped by theosophy. Blavatsky is particularly venerated in Caodaism. "Cao Dai" is considered to be "God, the Father, the Supreme Being, the Creator, the Ultimate Reality of the Universe" (the latter expression comes from non-theistic Buddhism, which deals with the "true nature of all things" that can be directly experienced, as flowing, ultimately not sustainable or the non-self). In Caodaism, in typical theosophical manner, the basic doctrines of different religions are equated, with belief in God and soul functioning as the "doctrine of the roof". Like theosophy, Caodaism, translated "Godism", also merges the world traditions of spiritism and is based, for example, on human "media" with supposedly direct or personal contact with "Cao Dai".

Helena Blavatsky and the American Colonel Henry Olcott (1832-1907) founded the "Theosophical Society" in New York in 1875, as a non-denominational organization for the amalgamation of all wisdom and occult traditions of mankind. In 1882 the company's headquarters were relocated to India. In Sri Lanka, Blavatsky and Olcott publicly converted to Buddhism in 1880. Here Olcott founded the "Buddhist Theosophical Society" in Colombo in the same year. He wrote the Buddhist catechismwhich was also translated into German in 1887 and became influential. From 1880 Blavatsky proclaimed "Esoteric Buddhism", which was developed by the formative theosophist A. P. Sinnett with the work Esoteric Buddhism (1883) has been disseminated.

Blavatsky's unverifiable, speculative or theosophically all-synthesizing interpretation of Buddhism was far removed from the clearly distinguishing speeches of the awakened in the Pali canon. According to Blavatsky's and Sinnett's Buddhism (wish) there is no difference between the Brahmanic and Buddhist core teachings (see below). So they completely contradict the statements of the awakened one. They knew this, but everything had its explanation: The Buddha had given this "higher teaching" only in secret, to a "chosen" group of those who could understand it (like Blavatsky and Sinnett).

The representatives of "Esoteric Buddhism" are particularly interested in the practical teaching of the awakened from ultimate reality as the three characteristics of existence that can be directly experienced: "Everything flows, does not really help to pass over into the all-related non-self". Because it is incompatible with the theosophical doctrine of belief in God and soul and also with the Brahmanic "True Self" Atman (as a unit with the "world soul" Brahman). The "true self" has already been theosophically appropriated. But how should one proceed in the case of the Buddhist "not-self" of all things? Buddha's constant rejection of any view of the Supreme as a "self" (whether the conception of God, soul, true self or I) or of speculation and metaphysics is so dismissed: His answers to metaphysical questions are only for them, according to Sinnett intended to be "properly initiated". In this way all esoterically desired answers could now be ascribed to the awakened.

Blavatsky had a strong influence on the general and popular understanding of Buddhism in the West. Some Buddhist organizations in East and West also show theosophy in their origins (this is such a large and important topic that a separate article should be devoted to it). As a result, the theosophical approach also spread among Western Buddhists.

The authoritative Encyclopedia Britannica concludes her entry on theosophy as follows: "The Theosophical Society has been a catalytic force in the Asian revival of Buddhism and Hinduism in the twentieth century and a pioneering organ for greater Western knowledge of Eastern thought. It has a number in the United States influenced by religious movements, including the 'I Am Movement' (!), Rosicrucians, Liberal Catholic Church, Psychiana, Unity, and by sections of the 'New Thought' movement. "

Decades after Blavatsky (1946), for example, the multiple author and most influential Western Theravadin monk, Nyânatiloka (Anton Gueth), wrote about the Western view of karma: "It by no means means the fate of people or entire peoples, as it almost means under the influence of theosophy general view in the west is. " Buddha's doctrine of karma as "intention" (Cetana) does not include fate, in contrast to Blavatsky's theosophy and also the anthroposophy of Rudolf Steiner, who originally came from theosophy (as general secretary of its German section until 1913). Concepts taught by Blavatsky and Steiner such as the "collective karma" of a people were far removed from the awakened. Steiner teaches the broadest possible range of "human karma, earth karma, world karma" (The revelations of karma: a cycle of lectures in Hamburg, Rudolf Steiner Verlag). Blavatsky even speaks of the "worldwide extinction" of primitive peoples as a "karmic necessity". Such views justify suffering experienced or inflicted by others as inevitably "spiritual". Therefore, the awakened one has strictly limited the concept of karma to "intention".

Similarly, the popularly widespread conception of rebirth in the West is theosophical: the belief in an "I" that invariably runs through different lives and that is identical with itself over time. In Buddha's teaching, rebirth means a causal process of becoming without a continuous "self" that is "reborn"; as well as the painful or fearful process of being grasped and entangled in the world, precisely from "failed" identification with the constantly flowing, ultimately intangible phenomena as a "self" or "mine". It is precisely the "thirst" for the imagined size of the "self" that is the motor of the entire process of becoming. Liberation manifests itself in the dwindling "thirst" for this rebirth. But what is "born again" is "neither the same nor another" - just as an old person is neither physically nor mentally the same as a baby in comparison to himself as a baby. The same is true even for one moment of life in relation to the previous one. The after-death rebirth is the lawful, purely process-like or "self" -less continuation of the "cycles" inherent in life, whereby the dominant consciousness in life determines the "realm of being" (Gati) according to this.

In theosophy and anthroposophy, the spiritual ascent takes place via the ladder of the "reincarnations" of an unchangeable "soul" or the true "self", which more and more emerges from this ladder. Steiner taught that the most highly developed "I" will be reborn in the West. His conception of reincarnation thus serves an elitist concept of cultural hierarchy, with which it corresponds to a widespread occidental and Christian feeling of superiority. The old Werner Haverbeck, head of the "Reichsbund für Volkstum und Heimat" during the Nazi era, published the extensive work in 1989 Rudolf Steiner: Lawyer for Germany. For Steiner, Buddhism was just the preliminary stage to Christianity. In his autobiography My course of life he says, for example: "What a tremendous advance the Mystery of Golgotha ​​signifies compared to the Buddha event, and how the development of humanity, as it strives towards the Christ event, comes to its culmination."


What is the difference between Buddha's teaching and esotericism?

It can be clearly seen that Blavatsky and Olcott proclaimed "Esoteric Buddhism" in Sri Lanka as the refuge of early Theravada Buddhism with its Pali canon (in science the source for the "teachings of the historical Buddha"). They did this exactly at the point in time after the following had become inevitable due to Western science: That in addition to the world religions that believe in God and soul there is another one that clearly differs from their core teachings - Buddhism, especially in its earlier form, such as it with the Pali Canon in Sri Lanka is handed down. The aim of the proclamation of "Esoteric Buddhism" in Sri Lanka is to subtly obscure Buddha's other view of the Supreme through theosophy as "The Wisdom of God".

Because the colonial Occident with Christianity was practically dominant over the world at that time. "Theosophy" basically means "wisdom (for the defense of) God (, soul or self) belief". Because of this intention, "theosophy" can also be translated as "wisdom of the I", because wisdom is instrumentalized by the consciousness of "I and mine". Theosophy is the "esoteric" expression of the monotheistic claim to sole validity, which had to express itself increasingly differently under the pluralistic signs of modernity - just as a view of the essence of all wisdom teachings in a supposed belief in God, soul or true "self". Theosophy’s suggestive power is rooted in the fact that it has placed this long-unconscious and broadly internalized belief as the "umbrella doctrine" over all spiritual doctrines and religions in the world. The spirit "In the core, all religions are identical" (that for example belief in God and soul would ultimately be identical with the all-related "non-self" of the awakened), which is already each and every one, which is widespread in the spiritual scenes today, is all "integrating" or equating clearly differentiating thinking is suspect has its main root in this far-reaching, subtly effective theosophical power of consciousness.

The frequent mixing of the Hindu and Buddhist views of karma, rebirth and the "samsara" cycle of existence is also theosophical. This is a core concern of "Esoteric Buddhism" in order to weave non-theistic Buddhism into theistic Hinduism.That is why theosophy, with its headquarters in India (near Madras), has also developed considerable influence in the Indian cultural area - especially under Annie Besant (1847-1933), daughter of an English Christian clergyman, and the international president of the "Theosophical Society" from 1907 to 1933 (when many theosophical lodges also emerged in Europe and the USA). The interweaving of the Buddhism that arose in India with the older, fully ancestral Hinduism is a core concern of the Hindus and theosophical Buddhists in both East and West. In Hinduism, too, the Buddha (like Krishna or Rama) is considered to be an embodiment of the "Avatara" of God Vishnu. In this way the awakened (in contrast to his statements) is incorporated into Hinduism.

The Buddha sums up his attitude among other things. in the Parable of the serpent clear: "I see no doctrine of the self that, when grasped, does not produce misfortune, lamentation, pain, sorrow and despair." Because a doctrine of a "self" (the view that it is real in the highest sense) contradicts the true, "self" -less nature of all things. Thus it acts unconsciously as a metaphysical reassurance of the consciousness of "I and mine", in the end: What applies to the highest reality ("self" or duality) must be all the more important for it Conventional truth apply to my experience (cf. for example the theosophical basis of that American "I am movement"). The belief in God and the soul is the human belief in I and mine in its metaphysically exaggerated form, the unconsciously most powerful reinsurance project of the "self" in history.

"Modern" Buddhist teachers also comment on this topic, like the historical Buddha. The two most influential masters in the history of Thailand are Ajahn Chah (founder of the largest religious tradition in Thailand and an influential Western religious offshoot) and Ajahn Buddhadâsa (founder of the "nature method" of the mindfulness or insight practice Vipassanâ and with his extensive work that is formative for the Thai means - and upper class). Ajahn Chah teaches: "Everything you will recognize with it is the self, I, mine. Buddhism means letting go of the self, emptiness, nirvana." Ajahn Buddhadâsa emphasizes: "There is only one 'Satan': selfishness ... True practice means having gone beyond the influence of 'good' and 'bad'. For 'good' and 'bad' are merely relative truths. You are just as much a part of the flow of dependent arising as everything else. So they are ultimately not a 'self', not a 'soul', not a 'thing'. Buddhism is the religion of emptiness of self. "

Such clear distinction causes convulsions for the being of theosophy; how systematic, large-scale, and subtle Blavatsky brought her together in The secret doctrine makes, cannot be carried out in the context of this article. Some reviews of esoteric researchers suggest it. A major work is roughly: Theosophy, spearhead of occultism (Stephan Holthaus, 1989). The WDR journalists Kaarel Siniveer and Klaus Bellmund describe theosophy in their book Cults, leaders, figures of light: esotericism as a means of right-wing propaganda (Knaur, 1997) as the "vacuum cleaner of all esoteric knowledge".

This theosophical-esoteric "spirit", which shapes the spiritual scene today and partly beyond, is fundamentally different from ancient India. Here clearly differentiating seeing or thinking without polemics was the main means to clarify and make a decision about one's own life. For example, the awakened one called the "excellent view" (sammâ Ditthi) the "draft horse" of the whole path of liberation and specifically always clearly opposed "missed sight" (micchâ Ditthi). One of the most frequent expressions in the five great collections of speeches of the Buddha in the Pali canon is "ascetics and brahmins", as a collective term for all contemporary teachers. Wherever this phrase occurs in the individual speeches, a critical examination of their views or behavior follows. In the speeches of the awakened, from which the most peaceful world religion has grown, there is nowhere a statement such as "in essence all religions are identical". Conversely, esoteric research has shown that theosophy, which is "synchronized", was the foundation for occult-nationalist groups at the beginning of the 20th century (such as the "Ariosophs" around Guido von List and Lanz von Liebenfels or the "Thule Society") delivered. Later leading Nazis got the main ideas here. The core characteristic of fascism is conformity, leveling, not allowing or enduring other convictions, in whatever form this happens. Of course, this does not mean not sharing another conviction or approaching it with well-founded arguments. Open discourse and free competition of arguments are the opposite of fascism.


Esoteric forms of Buddhism in part

Esoteric forms of Buddhism only exist in post-Christian traditions and only in part. The "secret" practice rituals of Sâdhanas (means to perfection) of tantric Buddhism Vajrayâna (diamond vehicle) have esoteric features insofar as they require "initiation" by a master "guru". This also applies to the key language of "tantric literature", which is in need of inauguration. In Theravada, tantric Buddhism (also influenced by Hinduism) is not considered the teaching of the historical Buddha (6-5th century BC). Buddhist history is characterized by the fact that many traditions have developed in response to the realities of culture and time.

Zen Buddhism, which only emerged fully in China in post-Christian times, also has esoteric features. Because he elevates non-dualism to the absolute standard. In the basic Zen scripts, for example, there is hardly any clearly distinguishing or critically illuminating thinking, as is a clear main characteristic of Buddha's speeches in the Pali canon. Zen absolutely synthesizes. There is a connection to esotericism here. Zen itself is already a synthesis of the two very different schools of thought of the ancient Indian Mahâyâna of the 1) "only mind" (Yogachâra) and the 2) "emptiness" of the "middle way" (Madhayamaka), the 3) "immersion" ( Dhyâna) in Buddha's teaching, as well as the teaching of 4) "Inner Light" in Chinese Taoism. The absolutization of "non-dualism" and "enlightenment" in Zen gave it the name "The School of Enlightenment".

The "grand master" of "postmodern" esoteric theory, the American Ken Wilber, comes from Zen. Even where Christianity enters into a synthesis with Buddhism, the partner in Buddhism is Zen. This teaches (in contrast to early Buddhism Theravada) a highest, "true self".

Ken Wilber proclaims theosophically all-synthesizing (The true, beautiful, good: Spirit and culture in the 3rd millennium, Krüger Verlag) z. B .:

"The integral approach is committed to an approach encompassing all levels and quadrants, which covers the entire spectrum of consciousness not only in the ego area, but also in the we and id area and thereby art with morality and science, even with ethics and the environment , Consciousness with culture and nature, Buddha with Sangha and Dharma and the true integrated with the beautiful and the good. In the following chapters we will deal with very concrete examples of all these diverse facets of the cosmos and try to make a colorful cloth And who knows - maybe we, you and I, will come to an immediate intuition of the spirit of the eternal SPIRIT in the upper regions of the spectrum of consciousness. " The SPIRIT in big letters is the main concept of the book, for Wilber the "formless self".

From a theosophical point of view, this is ultimately about undermining the ability to distinguish clearly through a suggestively "colorful" manipulation cocktail that is fixated on the "self". In his book One button Wilber thinks something absurd, what would help to better understand Buddhist "egotism" is "the fact that I, soul and self can be present at the same time". The statement is followed by a veritable dance of homage by the "I", imploring it. For the awakened, "I" (Aham; Ego), "soul" (Jîva) and "self" (Atta) are synonymous and with his doctrine of "egotism" (Anattâ) denied as ultimately real, because in the fluid change of the phenomena nothing is really permanent or tangible. "Meditation" (Bhâvanâ) and natural "mindfulness" (sammâ Sati) are the gateway to this "true nature of all things", for freedom in seeing love.


Self and "not-self" realization, secret and not secret

The meaning of the word "Theosophy" as "God's wisdom" already makes it clear that its "original religion" always has to do with the higher, direct vision of a (however understood) "God". For Blavatsky, God is the higher, "true self" in humans (with which she openly represents the reassuring function of belief in God for the "self" conception). In this sense God is what unites all wisdom teachings in the world. This basic doctrine of theosophy becomes evident in modern esotericism from the fact that all of today's esoteric currents strive for a higher or "true self" and a specific "self-realization". Ken Wilber, for example, continues in his work cited above One button the theosophical equation of God with the ego like this: "Monumental, glorious, divine self, with contact to a deeper layer of the soul and a direct line to God."

Here lies the first major difference from the practical teaching of the awakened. Its understanding of the Supreme Truth as (summed up) "everything flows, does not really carry, in the universal non-self" means that it is not about the realization of a higher or "true self" of body and mind, but about their "not." -Self "(of emptiness as inner fullness in the ultimate intangibility of all things). The Buddha aims at the "not-self" realization, which he regards as the actual or genuine "self-realization".

Blavatsky's all-synthesizing interpretation of God as the "true self" connects the monotheistic world religions Judaism, Christianity and Islam with the philosophical core doctrine of Hinduism - the Upanishadic view of the "absolute reality" as the "true self" Atman (the unity with the "world soul "Brahman, or unity with absolutely everything). This connection of theosophy occurs in spite of the old Upanishādic understanding that the "true self" Atman is in no way identical with God.

The theosophical synthesis with Buddha's teaching was a problem because his view of the Supreme as the all-related non-self did not allow for an equation as in the case of Hinduism. A special procedure was necessary here, in two steps: 1) Blavatsky and Olcott professed themselves in Sri Lanka as the refuge of the early Buddhist sources of the Pali canon on Buddhism. 2) Then they constructed their own Buddhism, "Esoteric Buddhism". With this, all esoterically desired answers were imposed on the awakened. It didn't matter to them that they didn't appear in his speeches. Her explanation: The Buddha gave these higher answers only to the "properly initiated" in his true or "secret teaching", which is one with the teaching of the Brahmins. Sinnett: "The Brahmin philosophy embodied the same teaching centuries before the Buddha, which is now described as Esoteric Buddhism." With this basic idea, a synthesis between Buddha's teaching and the belief in God and soul of the monotheistic world religions (the "roof belief" of theosophical seduction) was constructed via Brahmanism.

The practical teaching of the awakened is nowhere a "secret teaching" which is revealed to a transcendent "from above" or spiritistically, as all the Buddha's speeches in the Pali canon as the oldest traditional source show. You are solely dedicated to the individual development of the path of liberation from ethical motivation, spiritual calm and intuitive insight from excellent mindfulness, i.e. H. the realization of the universal law Dharma (that which bears). In Buddha's practice, only the "three approaches to wisdom" (Ti-Pannâ) count as sources of "valid knowledge": 1) Understanding acquired through reflection or contemplation (Cintâ-Mayâ-Pannâ). 2) Understanding acquired through listening or recording, learning or reading (Suta-Mayâ-Pannâ). 3) Understanding acquired through meditation or intuitive understanding (Bhâvanâ-Mayâ-Pannâ). The basic requirement here is your own thinking. What connects the three approaches to wisdom is the own or individual understanding. In this basic view, "media access" to higher powers (spiritism), "divine revelation" or "holy scriptures" are not sources of valid knowledge, in contrast to theosophy or esotericism.

Also Buddha's famous Talk to the Kâlâmer makes it very clear that it alone aims at the individual powers of insight and liberation. The last words of the awakened speak explicitly against any "secret doctrine". You emphasize once again the personal responsibility or inner liberation power of people:

"I have only imparted a Dharma without dividing it into a secret and a public one. There is nothing important that I would have left undisclosed, as if it were in a closed fist. Because an awakened one does not think, 'I have to be disciples lead. She should continue to rely on me! ' So I proclaim: Be the leading light and the free place to yourself. Take the Inner Path as the leading light and the free place, nothing else. How can you be the free place yourself? Remain anchored in the physical in the physical: Determined, knowing clearly and mindfully present after craving and worrying about the world have been cast off. The same is true of sensations, states of mind and natural truths. Those who live so now or in the future will realize the highest. What I have been shown as the way and have declared, will be your teacher after my passing. Everything that has arisen is conditionally transient. Work tirelessly for liberation! "

Doesn't one have to be alienated from the potential to develop into "true human beings" (Sappurisa) in order to be able to view such teachings as "esoteric"?