“Now bend thy head and listen well, O Bodhisattva – Compassion speaks and saith: Can there be bliss when all that lives must suffer? Shalt thou be saved and hear the whole world cry?”The Voice of Silence, H. P. Blavatsky
The question of Rudolf Steiner’s relationship to Buddha is too big to tackle in a short article because his indications about Buddhism are copious and far-reaching. I do provide many selections of remarks Rudolf Steiner made about Buddha and Buddhism at the end of this article. Some of the indications of Steiner about spiritual aspects of Buddha’s life and mission are almost too incredible to imagine. The Bodhisattva, who became the Gautama Buddha, has a profoundly diverse spiritual expression that seems to have no end and sounds more like a legend or myth rather than a human being. From Siddhartha Gautama’s past work on the planet Mercury, to his work currently on the planet Mars, Buddha’s manifestations are at the heart of human development and hold a key to countless mysteries which work into our modern age.
Buddha’s three turnings of the Wheel of Dharma in Sixth Century B. C. Northern India created 84,000 spiritual pathways into the teaching of enlightenment. This body of work, and its commentaries on the refined points of mental training, has created a many traditions that are almost impossible to comprehend throughout the many schools of practice, languages, and traditions. Gautama Buddha has led the other Bodhisattvas, like: Skythianos, Zarathustra, Manes, Christian Rosenkreutz, and Elijah through the dark times of Kali Yuga and into the new age of light called Satya Yuga. Buddha taught and inspired Saint Francis and together they now work in the realm of Mars to bring peace and harmony to the beings who live there. Buddha over-lighted Saint John the Baptist and the Twelve Apostles and he donated his perfected astral body to Jesus of Nazareth in the manger. Buddha teaches us the path of the Bodhisattva to Buddhahood through his life, and illuminates the mission of his successor, the Maitreya Buddha, who is now a Bodhisattva continuing the Christian work of Gautama Buddha.
One might think that we are inflating the influence of Buddhism on Steiner’s path of spiritual development but a careful examination of the Tibetan Buddhist’s spiritual path to enlightenment, called the Lamrim, show many similarities with the paths to enlightenment described in Steiner’s Knowledge of the Higher Worlds and Its Attainment. Some of the content is similar and the overall tenor of the two paths highlight the same wisdom. That is not to say that Steiner copied it; but suffice it to say, there seems to have been an extreme focus on the teachings and influence of Buddha and his path to enlightenment. Steiner is so impressed with elements of Buddha’s teachings that he tells us: “It is a remarkable discovery of spiritual investigation that the most penetrating, most significant thoughts conceived in our present epoch have proceeded from Gautama Buddha.” This statement came from one of the leading Christologists of history who revealed the cosmic nature of Christ and filled in pieces to the “missing years” of Jesus of Nazareth in his Fifth Gospel.
This frame of reference uniting Tibetan Buddhism and Anthroposophy may seem odd and out-of-place but the influences of Vedic, Hindu, Buddhist, and other Eastern schools of thought deeply affected the atmosphere of the Theosophical Society that Rudolf Steiner began his spiritual work within. He was the appointed leader for all questions on Christianity in the International Theosophical milieu, while Annie Besant and others were the official representatives of Eastern thought. This foundational difference in the two schools of thought in Theosophy forced Steiner to have to withdraw from Theosophy and create Anthroposophy. But this did not end Steiner’s ties with Eastern terms and Buddhist principles. Steiner went so far as to say: “And if we look at the whole of spiritual development in its progressive stages, we see that the Buddha who sacrificed himself in the fire of love is the inspirer of our Spiritual Science.” This phrase may seem heretical to Anthroposophists, but there is no doubt Steiner wanted his followers to understand a great deal of Eastern wisdom as part of his spiritual science.
In the selections about Buddhism from Steiner’s works that we have provided below, Steiner doesn’t hesitate to spell out the limitations of Buddhism for our time as well as amazing marvels that tie Christianity and Buddhism together in most unusual ways. Steiner brings these two seemingly different paths together when he indicates that Buddha’s mission was to teach compassion and love, but Christ’s mission was to be that love — to incarnate wisdom and love into one being. Steiner tells us: “To bring the wisdom of love was the mission of the Bodhisattvas and of the Buddha; to bring to mankind the power of love was the mission of Christ.”
Though the two paths, Anthroposophy and Buddhism, are both brilliant mind training systems, Steiner considers Buddhism as a religion, belief, and practice to be inappropriate for modern times. The limitation of Buddha’s way is that Gautama taught that only liberation from recurrent earth lives can lead humanity to the realization of perfect freedom – essentially enlightenment or what he calls Nirvana. This fallacy clearly overlooks the truth, beauty, and goodness found in the material world and the eternal aspects of love that do not deny “Maya” is an illusion but also see the world as a garden to redeem – paradise regained. Christianity brings hope by conquering the fear and power of death, subsequently conquering Buddha’s sorrows of illness, suffering, old age, and death. Christ’s incarnation of love and wisdom was the fulfillment of Gautama’s Buddhahood. Christ and Buddha still work together at this time in a most wonderful way because Buddha keeps evolving over time and does not stay tied and bound to the dogma and doctrine that was created from his teaching since he is no longer bound by repeated physical incarnations. Steiner makes that distinction in his comparison between the two paths: “The Buddha gave heavenly enlightenment to his pupils; Christ in His parables gave earthly enlightenment to the crowd.”
The working together of Christianity and Buddhism seems to have taken hold strongly in the West, especially in America where many high lamas have come to live and teach. Buddhism, especially its ideas of karma and reincarnation have become American “house-hold words” and mix with Christians quite easily. It is commonly assumed that most young people in America believe in reincarnation and many other aspects of Eastern schools of thought. It is becoming commonly known that Buddhism is a sort of first stage to Christianity. Meditate and get focused and then Christianity might have a chance to lead the next steps of spiritual development. Without Buddha’s good work, Christ would have had a more difficult time with his message of love and forgiveness. As Steiner once said: “Why could Christ work effectively? Because Buddha has spoken the truth.”
Buddhism in the Light of Anthroposophy
Any comprehensive examination of Rudolf Steiner’s views on Buddhism should include what the expert in Buddhism, Hermann Beckh, a student of Steiner’s and one of the original Christian Community Priests trained by Dr. Steiner, has to say on the matter. Hermann Beckh, in From Buddha to Christ says of Buddha:“In Buddha, everything has an atmosphere of ending, in Christ, everything begins anew.” This summarizes the decades of work I personally invested in understanding Steiner’s remarks about Buddha and Buddhism. If Tibetan Buddhist lamas are clairvoyant, then they should see Christ appearing in the etheric body of the Earth and the human being, but they don’t. Buddhism is waning in the area of current, direct perception of hierarchical beings who bring the newest revelations from the spiritual world. Buddhism is a living lineage, one that is old and unbroken but not timely with moral inspiration that brings love, freedom, and courage to modern ethical considerations. Buddhism is frozen in time and basically “not Christian”, denying the efficacy of Christ’s active presence in the etheric realm, which is observable by highly developed initiates and clairvoyants.
It was this question about Christ’s current whereabouts that I often presented to the many Buddhist teachers I studied under in three of the five schools of Tibetan Buddhism. I have been honored to call some of the highest lamas my dear friends. I asked lamas the same question repeatedly: “Where does the active nature of the Etheric Christ fit into your cosmological system? Which deity represents Christ?” In general, they all denied Christ but then told me about Vishnu, Avalokiteshvara, Chenrezig, Tvashtar, Vishvakarma, Brahma, Vajrayogini, Kali, and many others who have “similar characteristics.” The same questions would be asked of Hindus, Krishnas, Jains, Bonpos, and others with the answers also denying Christ but then telling of some solar hero who is the son the highest god and goddess who came down to earth to conquer death or a dragon or walk the path to the underworld and return alive. The Harvest King and Queen, the alchemical mysterious conjunction, the offering of the Grail Maidens, or the descent of New Jerusalem to meet the holy Bride are all allusions to the revelation of Christ, the Lamb who marries the Bride in New Jerusalem where the two trees intertwine and the spring of life rushes down in the four rivers of paradise.
Buddha’s message is that he transcended the “thirst for existence” and attained Nirvana – the development of the Spirit Self through the Manasic principle of moral, higher thinking. But the higher “I Am” of the unified being of the Life Spirit realm through the Buddhic principle develops even more refined forces of moral inspiration. This is Buddha’s Paranirvana.
Concerning my own integration of Steiner’s frequent references to Buddha and Buddhism’s aspects of “mind-training”, I found it helpful to go back to Steiner’s basic books on initiation and the stages of self-development. In these lectures and books I often found similar content that is found in most Buddhist practices. Steiner and Buddha’s paths of spiritual development both lead to realization, liberation, and enlightenment and systematically give advice, steps, prerequisites to the path, and the content of initiation rites leading to spiritual and moral development. Steiner obviously arrived at the same conclusions that Buddha had arrived at, or perhaps Steiner kept up with the Eastern teachers of Theosophy who were spreading esoteric Buddhism devoid of Christianity. Blavatsky’s Secret Doctrine was taken from secret Tibetan texts she claims came from the Panchen Lama of Tibet. Steiner was completely conversant in all of these teachings of Blavatsky and addressed refined points of difference between his beliefs and those of the Eastern school of Theosophy. Nevertheless, he was fully aware of the Tibetan Buddhist references in Blavatsky’s works and especially the basic practice of Lamrim which was similar to the Tibetan Lamrim practices of Mahayana Buddhism.
Eventually in my own progression, I carefully compared the Tibetan Lamrim seven-limb practice and the basic Buddhist practices of taking refuge with Knowledge of the Higher Worlds. This book of Steiner’s brought the union of Christianity and Buddhism that he had indicated would have to happen in the future. My personal decades of working with the Lamrim practice merged with the decades of work studying Steiner, Waldorf education, Anthroposophy, and all of its fields of newly enlivened work. Buddhism became for me a wisdom path of understanding, compassion, and love. But only Christianity could meet the needs of our time as the second coming of Christ in the etheric realm is happening before our eyes. Ancient Buddhist texts may be correct in describing the path to free yourself from the Wheel of Life, but often the Christian path consciously chooses to work in the Wheel of Life until the “big-boat” (Mahayana) carrying many people can come along in the process of ascension. Compassion and love lead the initiate into accomplishing even more loving deeds that are given out of freedom — not the release from karma and repeated human incarnations.
Steiner’s familiarity with Blavatsky’s claim that the Stanzas of Dzyan came from a Tibetan text entitled The Book of Golden Precepts, would have been a given. And the praise from the Panchen Lama about Blavatsky’s book, The Voice of Silence would also be very familiar to Steiner. One can easily see that the Lamrim, The Voice of Silence, and Knowledge of Higher Worlds all have many similarities. Later in this article, we shall share examples of both the Lamrim practice and the Path of Enlightenment of Steiner from Knowledge of the Higher Worlds and Its Attainment. These two paths are often coincident.
Helena P. Blavatsky and the Teachings of the Tibetan Panchen Lama
H. P. Blavatsky’s teachings in The Voice of Silence are equivalent to the teachings on enlightenment found in the Tibetan Lamrim practices of the Panchen Lama. It is a path of initiation into higher knowledge. In The Voice of the Silence Blavatsky takes the spiritual seeker through the Three Halls of the Probationary Path and a choice between the Two Paths – Open and Secret, the Secret being the path of the highest altruism of a Bodhisattva – and then on through the Seven Portals, which are the Paramitas or Perfections of Mahayana Buddhism.
The Seven Portals of The Voice of Silence are the gateways of virtue leading to the path of highest altruism and compassion. As Blavatsky says: “To live to benefit mankind is the first step. To practice the six glorious virtues (Six Perfections) is the second.
According to Blavatsky her book, The Voice of the Silence comes from The Book of the Golden Precepts, which forms part of the same series as that from which the Stanzas of the Book of Dzyan were taken, on which her book The Secret Doctrine is based. She says that the Book of the Golden Precepts contains about ninety distinct treatises, three of these she translated into English for us in The Voice of the Silence.
In Mahayana Buddhism we find works that serve as guides for our own training in the same noble ethics and compassion that Blavatsky urged us to practice in The Voice of the Silence. As Blavatsky says, “Thou canst not travel on the Path before thou hast become that Path itself.”
The first installment of teachings said to be brought out from the secret commentaries was given by Blavatsky in The Secret Doctrine. She had made contact with teachers associated with a secret school, said by her to be “attached to the private retreat of the Teshu-Lama,” i.e., the Panchen Lama.
Blavatsky wrote in a letter to her sister: “The Voice of the Silence, tiny book though it is, is simply becoming the Theosophists’ bible.” It has come to us as a translation of a secret work, unknown to the public. The Voice of the Silence was originally published in 1889 at about the same time, the original Sanskrit text of the Bodhicaryavatara was also first published.
Blavatsky’s Secret Doctrine is based upon The Book of Dzyan which is the first volume of the commentaries upon the seven secret folios of Kiu-te. Thirty-five volumes of Kiu-te for exoteric purposes and the use of the laymen may be found in the possession of the Tibetan Gelugpa Lamas in the library of any of their monasteries; and also fourteen books of commentaries and annotations on the same by the initiated Teachers. These fourteen volumes of commentaries are said to be “in the charge of the Teshu-Lama of Shigatse,” i.e., the Panchen Lama. Blavatsky tells us in her Collected Writings: “Strictly speaking, those thirty-five books ought to be termed ‘The Popularized Version’ of the Secret Doctrine, which were taken from the Book of the Secret Wisdom of the World – containing a digest of all the occult sciences. These, it appears, are kept secret and apart, in the charge of the Teshu-Lama of Shigatse.”
The known Books of Kiu-te, i.e., rgyud-sde, are the Buddhist tantras. It is further said that these “must be read with a key to their meaning, and that key can only be found in the Commentaries.” The first volume of the known Books of Kiu-te contains the Kālacakra-tantra. The existence of the original Stanzas of Dzyan, the first volume of secret Senzar commentaries, was for many years denied by academic scholars and said to be only exist as a figment of Mme Blavatsky’s imagination. They are most likely to be part of the lost Mula Kalachakra tantra texts.
The Ninth Panchen Lama of Tibet (1883-1937) officially endorsed The Voice of the Silence in 1927, pointing out that it comprises a part of the teachings of the Eastern Esoteric School and called it “the only true exposition in English of the Heart Doctrine of the Mahayana and its noble ideal of self-sacrifice for humanity.” He also commented how important an esoteric Buddhist text it was and that “Madame Blavatsky had a profound knowledge of Buddhist philosophy.”
In commenting on the 1989 centenary verbatim edition the present Fourteenth Dalai Lama believes the Voice of the Silence “has strongly influenced many sincere seekers and aspirants to the wisdom and compassion of the Bodhisattva Path.”
Buddha the Crown Jewel of Indian
It isn’t hard to realize that Gautama Buddha was the crown jewel of both Vedic and Yogic wisdom rolled into a new understanding of the meaning of Brahman and the human Atman. The greater cosmic “I Am” and the perfected human “I Am” comes together in Buddha’s new interpretation of ancient philosophy and spiritual practice. Undoubtedly what Steiner tells us: “It is a remarkable discovery of spiritual investigation that the most penetrating, most significant, thoughts conceived in our present epoch have proceeded from Gautama Buddha.”
In Esoteric Christianity, The Christ Impulse in Historical Development, Lecture II, Locarno, September 21, 1911, GA 130, Steiner states that the most mature intellectual thinkers in Christianity were inspired directly by Buddha, mentioning Leibniz, Schelling, and Solovjiev as examples. This theme was taken up again in The Sphere of the Bodhisattvas, Milan, 1911-09-19 GA 130. Buddha’s influence continued to manifest fruit even 500 years after his enlightenment under the fig tree when the second and third turning of the Wheel of Dharma provided new materials to advance his teachings.
Buddha was no mere philosopher or an ordinary religious founder but the esoteric teacher of the path of meditation and knowledge, and he placed openly before the world the path of meditation, which until then had been practiced in closed Yoga groups. Buddha himself emphasized the primary importance of this path in as much as the Sermon of Benares first proclaimed the noble “Eightfold Path” and only then the simple truth of suffering, which in the fourth of its stages again includes the “Eightfold Path.” Rudolf Steiner also recognized this fact in the way he worked the scheme of the Eightfold Path with a specific reference in his presentation of the path of knowledge in Knowledge of the Higher Worlds and Its Attainment, although the many other things in this presentation are not exhausted in the scheme of the Eightfold Path.
The disciple of the Buddha longs to enter again into the pure cosmic light and leave the Earth to the darkness. Christ, and whoever follows Him, goes right through the darkness in order that one day not only He, but with Him the Earth and the humanity of the Earth can be given back to the cosmic light, to the primordial light. Buddha and the path of Buddha achieves only one part of the great task: it unites with the etheric element and leaves the Earth to the earthly element, to death. Consequently, he does not find the “I” that can only be found in connection with the earthly element. The etheric element knows only the dissolution into the cosmic element.
The path of Buddha does not follow the Christian path in this Mystery of metamorphosis and resurrection. With Buddha we find miracles narrated of the super-earthly, spiritual accomplishments of the Perfected One, of iddhi and ‘miracles of the Risen One’, but what the disciples experienced with the Risen Christ was much more. Buddha’s path leads only to nirvana, to dissolution in the cosmic ether, not to resurrection and change of the earthly element. Nevertheless, we can learn from Buddha the tremendous thoughts of de-personalization, of the cosmic experience. Here lies the greatness of Buddhism. This super-personal, this cosmic feeling, we then incorporate into that striving which not only reckons with personal destiny, but with the Earth and the future of the Earth. In such a way, secrets of ancient Mysteries will become something much more powerful and grandiose, if in the light of Christ they find their renewal.
How the mystery of the Christian path is in a certain way contained in the Gospels was already known in the Middles Ages. It was recognized how the whole earthly life and suffering of Christ was not only a physical event, but at the same time a picture for what in the depths of the Mysteries was always experienced on the path of initiation in the spiritual-etheric realm. Through the Washing of the Feet, Scourging, Crowning with Thorns, Crucifixion, Burial, all this was recognized and spiritually lived through, yet making its effect right into the physical, leads to resurrection. The Christian stages of suffering have become the stages of initiation and they do not find any correspondence in Buddha’s path. What was not yet contained in Buddha’s nirvana, the renewal and transformed Earth itself first achieved through Golgotha, lies in the picture of New Jerusalem, the great aim of the future of the Earth itself.
It is only in the light of Christianity that the nature of the impulse given by Buddha appears in its full depth and truth. It is Christianity that first sets up the balance between the downward-driving and the upward-leading forces. The Buddha-forces as yet unpermeated by the Christ-forces are, in themselves, an urge to escape from the world, to turn away from the world. But when they are permeated with the Christ Impulse they can be united with those forces which lead man down too insistently and too deeply to earth – the forces connected with the Fall into Sin. Christ unites the downward-driving and the loosening, the hardening and the ascending forces in such a way that they intermingle and are mutually purified. And so the true substance is first given by Christianity. Buddha brought to mankind the teaching of compassion and love, Christ, the actual power of love. Buddha left his teaching to the human race; Christ – a Deed. Buddha was a Master of the Word; in his words the rhythms of the cosmic process resound in wonderful harmony. But Christ was the Word; His whole life and Being, not merely His words, were an expression of cosmic harmonies.
The Tibetan Lamrim Practice
The Lamrim practice is a Tibetan Buddhist textual form for presenting the stages in the complete path to enlightenment as taught by Buddha. All versions of the Lamrim are elaborations of Atiśa’s 11th-century root text A Lamp for the Path to Enlightenment. Atiśa’s presentation of the doctrine later became known as the Kadampa tradition in Tibet. Tibetan Buddhists believe that the teachings of the Lamrim are based on the sutras that the Buddha taught and therefore contains the essential points of all sutra teachings in their logical order for practice.
The Lamrim was the first Tibetan text translated into a European language by Ippolito Desideri, a Jesuit missionary, who visited Tibet and made an extensive study of Tibetan Buddhism from 1716–1721. Desideri studied the Lam Rim Chen Mo of Tsongkhapa, and his manuscript describing Tibet was one of the most extensive and accurate accounts of Buddhist philosophy until the twentieth century.
The Lamrim in Tibet is the backbone of Kadampa Buddhism. Lamrim is a special set of instructions that include all the essential teachings of Buddha Shakyamuni arranged in such a way that all his Hinayana and Mahayana teachings can be put into practice in a single meditation session. Many great Kadampa Teachers have said that it is far more important to gain experience of Lamrim than it is to attain clairvoyance, miracle powers, or high social status. If we gain deep experience of Lamrim there will be no basis for these problems; we shall become completely free of suffering, attain the unchanging peace and happiness of enlightenment.
An Example of the Tibetan Seven Limb Practice – Lamrim
By the 14th Dalai Lama, (Tenzin Gyatso, a living Bodhisattva emanation of Avalokiteśvara and leader of the Gelug school of Tibetan Buddhism):
Taking Refuge to Buddha, Dharma, Sangha
“May I be a guard for those who need protection
A guide for those on the path
A boat, a raft, a bridge for those who wish to cross the flood
May I be a lamp in the darkness
A resting place for the weary
A healing medicine for all who are sick
A vase of plenty, a tree of miracles
And for the boundless multitudes of living beings
May I bring sustenance and awakening
Enduring like the earth and sky
Until all beings are freed from sorrow
And all are awakened.”
Buddha’s Individual Stages of the Path
1) Faith (saddha)
2) Meditation (samadhi)
3) Realization (panna)
4) Liberation (vimutti)
Buddha’s Four Noble Truths:
1) The truth of suffering
2) The truth of the causes of suffering
3) The truth of cessation of suffering
4) The truth of paths to attain this state free of suffering through practicing ethics, concentration and wisdom.
Buddha’s Eightfold Path:
1) Right knowledge
2) Right intention
3) Right speech
4) Right action
5) Right earning
6) Right exercise
7) Right mindfulness
8) Right meditation
Developing the mind of enlightenment (Bodhicitta) through the Lamrim entails:
1) The wish to become a buddha for the welfare of all sentient beings,
2) Knowing the advantages of the mind of enlightenment,
3) The way to develop the mind of enlightenment,
4) The seven-point (seven limb) instruction in seeing all sentient beings as your mother,
5) Instruction on how to exchange your self-interest for others’ interest,
6) Training your mind after developing the mind of enlightenment using the six perfections.
Lamrim practice is the Bodhisattva-path, training the Six Perfections:
The Buddhist’s Series of Causal Links – Must be Overcome One at a Time
2) Power forming existence
3) Sentient consciousness
4) Name and form
5) The six senses
7) The feelings
8) Thirsting desire
9) Laying hold of sensory existence
10) Becoming in sensory existence
12) Old age, death, sorrow, lamentation, suffering, sadness, despair
The Twenty-one Lamrim Meditations
There are twenty-one Lamrim meditations, which are usually practiced in a three-week cycle
as a daily meditation practice:
- Our precious human life
- Death and impermanence
- The danger of lower rebirth
- Refuge practice
- Actions and their effects
- Developing renunciation for samsara
- Developing equanimity
- Recognizing that all living beings are our mothers
- Remembering the kindness of living beings
- Equalizing self and others
- The disadvantages of self-cherishing
- The advantages of cherishing others
- Exchanging self with others
- Great compassion
- Wishing love
- Tranquil abiding
- Superior seeing
- Relying upon a Spiritual Guide
Rudolf Steiner’s Path to Higher Worlds
All quotations are taken from: Knowledge of the Higher Worlds and Its Attainment, by Rudolf Steiner (GA 10), unless otherwise noted.
This System of Training has Always Existed
“As long as the human race has existed there has always been a method of training, in the course of which individuals possessing these higher faculties gave instruction to others who were in search of them. Such a training is called occult (esoteric) training, and the instruction received therefrom is called occult (esoteric) teaching, or spiritual science.
These practical rules have no arbitrary origin. They rest upon ancient experience and ancient wisdom, and are given out in the same manner, wheresoever the ways to higher knowledge are indicated. All true teachers of the spiritual life are in agreement as to the substance of these rules, even though they do not always clothe them in the same words. As long as the human race has existed there has always been a method of training, in the course of which individuals possessing these higher faculties gave instruction to others who were in search of them.
The methods by which a student is prepared for the reception of higher knowledge are minutely prescribed. The direction he is to take is traced with unfading, everlasting letters in the worlds of the spirit where the initiates guard the higher secrets.
In ancient times, anterior to our history, the temples of the spirit were also outwardly visible; today, because our life has become so unspiritual, they are not to be found in the world visible to external sight; yet they are present spiritually everywhere, and all who seek may find them.
Whoever seeks higher knowledge must create it for himself. He must instill it into his soul. It cannot be done by study; it can only be done through life.
Now man himself forms these higher senses through the exercises indicated by spiritual science.
The latter include concentration, in which the attention is directed to certain definite ideas and concepts connected with the secrets of the universe; and meditation, which is a life in such ideas, a complete submersion in them, in the right way. By concentration and meditation the student works upon his soul and develops within it the soul-organs of perception.
A teacher of spiritual science who gives advice or instruction will, at the same time, always explain to those striving for higher knowledge the effects produced on body, soul, and spirit, if his advice and instructions be followed. The one who devotes himself to the study of spiritual science should do so with full consciousness; he should attempt nothing and practice nothing without knowledge of the effect produced.
Students will recognize in the conditions attached to the development of the sixteen-petalled lotus the instructions given by the Buddha to his disciples for the Path. Yet there is no question here of teaching Buddhism, but of describing conditions governing development which are the natural outcome of spiritual science. The fact that these conditions correspond with certain teachings of the Buddha is no reason for not finding them true in themselves.
The many repetitions in the sayings of the Buddha are not comprehensible to people of our present evolutionary stage. For the esoteric student, however, they become a force on which he gladly lets his inner senses rest, for they correspond with certain movements in the etheric body.
Devotional surrender to them, with perfect inner peace, creates an inner harmony with these movements; and because the latter are an image of certain cosmic rhythms which also at certain points repeat themselves and revert to former modes, the student listening to the wisdom of the Buddha unites his life with that of the cosmic mysteries.”
Knowledge of Higher Worlds Preliminaries
The Four Fundamental Attitudes of Soul Necessary for Higher Knowledge
1) the path of veneration – reverence, religious awe, worship, adoration, homage
2) the path of devotion – inner life, humility
3) the path of knowledge – self-education, respect, thought-life
4) the path of truth – selfless, respect, vivid inner-life, spiritual life
The Three Stages
Spiritual Science gives the means of developing the spiritual ears and eyes, and of kindling the spiritual light, and this method of spiritual training:
1) Preparation; this develops the spiritual senses
2) Enlightenment; this kindles the spiritual light
3) Initiation; this establishes intercourse with the higher spiritual beings
The Four Inner Habits
1) Discrimination between truth and appearance
2) Correct estimation of the affairs of daily life
3) Practice of the six qualities
Control of actions
4) Longing for liberation
The Four Noble Laws
1) All knowledge pursued merely for the enrichment of personal learning and the accumulation of personal treasure leads you away from the path; all knowledge pursued for growth to ripeness within the process of human ennoblement and cosmic development brings you a step forward.
2) Every idea which does not become your ideal slays a force in your soul; every idea which becomes your ideal creates within you life-forces.
3) Adapt each one of your actions, and frame each one of your words in such a way that you infringe upon no one’s free-will.
4) Provide for yourself moments of inner tranquility, and in these moments learn to distinguish between the essential and the non-essential.
The Six Subsidiary Exercises from: Guidance in Esoteric Training from the Esoteric School, Rudolf Steiner, 1904-1914, GA 245
1) Control of thought aims to gain control over what you think
2) Control of will aims to gain control over your actions
3) Equanimity – the exercise of feeling – aims to be aware of your feelings, to weaken strong feelings and strengthen weak ones and to balance them
4) Positivity aims to see the positive in addition to the bad and the ugly as thinking and feeling are combined
5) Open-mindedness aims to be always open to new experiences as feeling and willing are combined
6) Inner harmony: the sixth, in which the previous exercises need to be practiced in order to create harmony between thinking, feeling, and willing
The Six Basic Exercises
4) Joyful Effort
The Six Required Attributes
1) Control of thought
2) Control of actions
3) Control of actions
The Eightfold Path
1) Right opinion – Saturday – Pay attention to your thoughts – Discover living thinking through mindfulness
2) Right judgment – Sunday – Decide with care – Weigh thoughts carefully and gain inner security
3) Right speech – Monday – Mindful speech – Speak words thoughtfully, with warmth and meaning
4) Right deed – Tuesday – Care-filled deeds – Interest and compassion – Follow the forces of the heart
5) Right standpoint – Wednesday – Careful composition of life – Live naturally and spiritually
6) Right striving – Thursday – Serving your surroundings – Become responsive and create coherent relationships
7) Right memory – Friday – Learning from life – Becoming strong through devotion to life
8) Right mindfulness – Every day – Becoming one – Live meditatively – Become essential
The Six Conditions for Initiation
1) The student should pay heed to the advancement of bodily and spiritual health.
2) The student should feel himself coordinated as a link in the whole of life.
3) The student must work his way upward to the realization that his thoughts and feelings are as important for the world as his actions.
4) The student must acquire the conviction that the real being of man does not lie in his exterior but in his interior.
5) The student must display steadfastness in carrying out a resolution.
6) The student must develop of a feeling of thankfulness for everything with which man is favored.
7) To student must regard life unceasingly in the manner demanded by these conditions.
The Four Insights of Development
1) Insight into his higher self
2) Insight into the doctrine of the incarnation of this higher being in a lower
3) Insight into the laws of karma
4) Insight into the existence of the great initiates
The Three Alternating States of Consciousness:
2) Dreaming sleep
3) Dreamless sleep
The Ten Negative Qualities to Conquer
9) Mania for imparting information
10) Making false judgments about others
New Sight and Hearing Organs in your Soul and Spirit
1) Persevere in silent inner seclusion
2) Close the senses to all that they brought you before your training
3) Reduce to absolute immobility all the thoughts which surge within you
4) Become quite still and silent within, wait in patience
The Practical Rules
[Buddha’s ‘truth of Suffering’] Inner Tranquility
[Buddha’s ‘cause of Suffering’] The student must set aside a small part of his daily life in which to concern himself with something quite different from the objects of his daily occupation.
[Buddha’s ‘stopping suffering’] During these periods the student should wrest himself entirely free from his work-a-day life. His joys and sorrows, his cares, experiences, and actions must pass in review before his soul; and he must adopt such a position that he may regard all his sundry experiences from a higher point of view. Our aim in these moments of seclusion must be so to contemplate and judge our own actions and experiences as though they applied not to ourselves but to some other person.
[Buddha’s ‘understanding the cause of suffering’] Thought after thought, each fraught with advantage to his whole life, flows into the student’s out-look. They take the place of those that had a hampering, weakening effect. He begins to steer his own ship on a secure course through the waves of life – this calm and serenity react on the whole being. They assist the growth of the inner being which lead to higher knowledge. For it is by his progress in this direction that the student gradually reaches the point where he himself determines the manner in which the impressions of the outer world shall affect him.
[Spiritual Soul / Consciousness Soul] No outward forces can supply space to the inner man. It can only be supplied by the inner calm which man himself gives to his soul. Outward circumstances can only alter the course of his outward life; they can never awaken the inner spiritual man. The student must himself give birth to a new and higher man within himself. This higher man now becomes the inner ruler who directs the circumstances of the outer man with sure guidance. The student must develop the faculty of letting the impressions of the outer world approach one only in the way in which they determine; then only does the aspirant become the serious student. And only in as far as the student earnestly seeks this power can he reach the goal.
[Buddha’s Nirvana-Manas / Spirit Self-Higher Self] An inner light is shed over the whole external world, and a second life begins for him. Through his being there pours a divine stream from a world of divine rapture. This life of the soul in thought, which gradually widens into a life in spiritual being is called by Spiritual Science, “Meditation” (contemplative reflection). This meditation is the means to supersensible knowledge.
[Buddha’s Paranirvana-Buddhi / Life Spirit-Christened Self] When, by means of meditation, a man rises to union with the spirit, he brings to life the eternal in him, which is limited by neither birth nor death. Thus meditation is the way which also leads man to the knowledge, to the contemplation of his eternal, indestructible, essential being; and it is only through meditation that man can attain to such knowledge. Gnosis and Spiritual Science tell of the eternal nature of this being and of its reincarnation.
[Buddha’s Mahaparanirvana-Atman / Spirit Man-Cosmic Christ] In right meditation the path is opened. This alone can revive the memory of experiences beyond the border of life and death. Everyone can attain this knowledge; in each one of us lies the faculty of recognizing and contemplating for ourselves what genuine Mysticism, Spiritual Science, Anthroposophy, and Gnosis teach. Only the right means must be chosen.
33 Steps in Esoteric Training
- There slumber in every human being faculties by means of which he can acquire for himself a knowledge of higher worlds.
- Man has it in his power to perfect himself and, in time, completely to transform himself.
- But he can rise to this higher training if he has previously undergone a rigorous training in devotion.
- Reverence awakens in the soul a sympathetic power through which we attract qualities in the beings around us, which would otherwise remain concealed.
- One person sails across the ocean, and only a few inward experiences pass through his soul; another will hear the eternal language of the cosmic spirit; for him are unveiled the mysterious riddles of existence. We must learn to remain in touch with our own feelings and ideas if we wish to develop any intimate relationship with the outer world. The outer world with all its phenomena is filled with splendor, but we must have experienced the divine within ourselves before we can hope to discover it in our environment.
- In spiritual science everything depends upon energy, inward truthfulness, and uncompromising sincerity with which we confront our own selves, with all our deeds and actions, as a complete stranger.
- Through her resounding tones, the whole of nature begins to whisper her secrets to the student.
- What was hitherto merely incomprehensible noise to his soul becomes by this means a coherent language of nature. And whereas hitherto he only heard sound from the so-called inanimate objects, he now is aware of a new language of the soul. Should he advance further in this inner culture, he will soon learn that he can hear what hitherto he did not even surmise. He begins to hear with the soul.
- When these exercises are practiced in connection with the others already given, dealing with the sounds of nature, the soul develops a new sense of hearing. She is now able to perceive manifestations from the spiritual world which do not find their expression in sounds perceptible to the physical ear. The perception of the “inner word” awakens. Gradually truths reveal themselves to the student from the spiritual world. He hears speech uttered to him in a spiritual way.
- It is necessary that the student should lose none of his qualities as a good and noble man, or his receptivity for all physical reality. Indeed, throughout his training he must continually increase his moral strength, his inner purity, and his power of observation.
- During the elementary exercises on enlightenment, the student must take care always to enlarge his sympathy for the animal and the human worlds, and his sense for the beauty of nature.
- How enlightenment proceeds if the student rises, in the sense of the foregoing exercises, from the stone, the plant, and the animal, up to man, and how, after enlightenment, under all circumstances the union of the soul with the spiritual world is affected, leading to initiation – with these things the following chapters will deal, in as far as they can and may do so.
- In my own world of thought and feeling the deepest mysteries lie hidden, only hitherto I have been unable to perceive them.
- Anyone having reached this point of spiritual vision is the richer by a great deal, for he can perceive things not only in their present state of being but also in their process of growth and decay. He begins to see in all things the spirit, of which physical eyes can know nothing.
- And therewith he has taken the first step toward the gradual solution, through personal vision, of the secret of birth and death. For the outer senses a being comes into existence through birth, and passes away through death. This, however, is only because these senses cannot perceive the concealed spirit of the being. For the spirit, birth and death are merely a transformation, just as the unfolding of the flower from the bud is a transformation enacted before our physical eyes.
- This golden rule is as follows: For every one step that you take in the pursuit of higher knowledge, take three steps in the perfection of your own character.
- Here again is another important rule for the student: Know how to observe silence concerning your spiritual experiences.
- By following this path the student approaches closer and closer to the moment when he can effectively take the first steps of initiation. But before these can be taken, one thing more is necessary, though at first its need will be least of all apparent; later on, however, the student will be convinced of it. The would-be initiate must bring with him a certain measure of courage and fearlessness. He must positively go out of his way to find opportunities for developing these virtues.
- The seer is to behold the working of these forces and the march of destiny. The veil enshrouding the spiritual eyes in ordinary life is to be removed. But man is interwoven with these forces and with this destiny. His own nature harbors destructive and constructive forces. He must not lose strength in the face of this self-knowledge; but strength will fail him unless he brings a surplus on which to draw. For this purpose he must learn to maintain inner calm and steadiness in the face of difficult circumstances; he must cultivate a strong trust in the beneficent powers of existence.
- The higher we climb the ladder of knowledge, the more do we require the faculty of listening with quiet devotion.
- Now, when the student begins his exercises, the lotus flowers become more luminous; later on they begin to revolve. When this occurs, clairvoyance begins. For these flowers are the sense-organs of the soul, and their revolutions express the fact that the clairvoyant perceives supersensibly. No one can perceive the supersensible until he has developed his astral senses in this way.
- The functions of the body, the inclinations and passions of the soul, the thoughts and ideas of the spirit must be tuned to perfect unison. The body must be so ennobled and purified that its organs incite to nothing that is not in the service of soul and spirit. The soul must not be impelled through the body to lusts and passions which are antagonistic to pure and noble thought.
- The development of the lotus flowers alone does not assure sufficient security in these higher worlds; still higher organs are necessary.
- Thus a preliminary center is formed for the currents of the etheric body. This center is not yet in the region of the heart but in the head, and it appears to the clairvoyant as the point of departure for movements and currents. No esoteric training can be successful which does not first create this center.
- The object of this development is the formation of a kind of center in the region of the physical heart, from which radiate currents and movements in the greatest possible variety of colors and forms. The center is in reality not a mere point, but a most complicated structure, a most wonderful organ. It glows and shimmers with every shade of color and displays forms of great symmetry, capable of rapid transformation. Other forms and streams of color radiate from this organ to the other parts of the body, and beyond it to the astral body, completely penetrating and illuminating it.
- The center in the head, once duly fixed, is then moved lower down, to the region of the larynx. This is effected by further exercises in concentration. Then the currents of the etheric body radiate from this point and illumine the astral space surrounding the individual.
- All things now acquire a new significance for him. They become as it were spiritually audible in their innermost self, and speak to him of their essential being. The currents described above place him in touch with the inner being of the world to which he belongs. He begins to mingle his life with the life of his environment and can let it reverberate in the movements of his lotus flowers. At this point the spiritual world is entered.
- His lower self is before him as a mirrored image; but from within this image there appears the true reality of his higher self. Out of the picture of his lower personality the form of the spiritual ego becomes visible. Then threads are spun from the latter to other and higher spiritual realities.
- The esoteric knowledge must first be studied, so that this study becomes a preparation for clairvoyance.
- At this stage of his esoteric development the student realizes, through personal inward experience, all that had previously appealed to his sense of truth, to his intellect, and reason.
- He has now direct knowledge of his higher self. He learns how his higher self is connected with exalted spiritual beings and forms with them a united whole. He sees how the lower self originates in a higher world, and it is revealed to him how his higher nature outlasts his lower.
- He can now distinguish the imperishable in himself from the perishable; that is, he learns through personal insight to understand the doctrine of the incarnation of the higher self in the lower. He learns to recognize the law of his life, his karma.
- Now, the ego which creates this organ of perception does not dwell within, but outside the physical body, as already shown. The heart organ is only the spot where the individual man kindles, from without, this spiritual light organ. It is precisely through the heart organ that the higher ego governs the physical self, making it into its instrument. This founding of a spiritual home is called in the language of occult science the building of the hut.
Steiner’s Ideas Concerning Buddha
Metamorphoses of the Soul, Paths of Experience, Buddha and Christ, Vol. 1, Rudolf Steiner, Berlin, December 2, 1909. GA 58 (Also: appears as lecture 2 of 5 in the lecture series: From Buddha to Christ)
“The Spiritual Science Movement has often, since its inception, been confused with various other tendencies in existence at the present time. It has been accused, in particular, of desiring to implant one or another of the Oriental spiritual influences – for example the Buddhistic – into western culture. For this reason, the subject of to-day’s lecture should have a special interest for spiritual research, for it will present certain observations concerning the respective significance of Buddhism and Christianity from the standpoint of Spiritual Science.
Anyone who has made himself in some degree acquainted with the nature of Buddhism, will be aware how its Founder, Gautama Buddha, evaded all questions concerning the evolution of the world, and the foundations of human existence. He would not speak of these. He would speak only of the means by which mankind could enter into a form of existence that was satisfying in itself.
The Buddha-legend describes clearly enough, even though in pictorial fashion, what the Founder of Buddhism intended. We are told that Gautama Buddha was born the son of King Suddhodana, and that he was brought up in a royal palace where he was surrounded by everything that could possibly serve to ennoble human life. During his early years he was not allowed to know anything at all of human sorrow (suffering) and pain, but he lived in the midst of happiness, and joy, and distractions of all kinds. Then we are told how one day, when he was twenty-nine years of age, he left the palace, and for the first time in his life was confronted by sorrow and pain and all the dark shadows of existence. It is described how he met an old, old man whose life was ebbing away, and above all how he saw a corpse. And it dawned upon him that life must after all be utterly different from all that he had experienced in the palace, where he had known nothing but joy, where disease and death had never come near him, and where he had learned to believe that life could never ebb away nor cease. And now he discovered that life embraced both pain and sorrow. Heavily indeed, did this discovery weigh upon the great soul of Buddha! Life contained pain, sorrow, and death. He had seen it for himself in the sick man, the aged man, and the corpse. ‘What is the value of life?’ he cried to himself, ‘if it bears sickness, old age, and death within it!’ And out of that cry there arose at last the monumental teaching of Buddha on the Sorrow of Life, which he gathered together in these words: ‘Birth is sorrow! Old age is sorrow! Sickness is sorrow! Death is sorrow! All existence is filled with sorrow!’ And as he later elaborated this theme still further: – ‘That we cannot always be united with those we love, that is sorrow. That we must be joined to that which we love not, is sorrow. That we cannot obtain, in every circumstance of life, what we desire, is sorrow.’
Sorrow is everywhere, no matter whither we turn our gaze. And if Buddha’s use of the word ‘sorrow’ has not quite the meaning that is imparted to it to-day, still it is intended to express that man is everywhere, and at all times, a prey to everything that comes against him, that assaults him from without, and that he is unable to unfold any active forces to meet it. ‘Life is sorrow,’ said Buddha, ‘therefore we must seek the causes of sorrow.’
According to the teaching of Buddha, men can learn to unfold within themselves the so-called ‘Eight-fold Path,’ which, so it is generally said, consists of right judgment, right discrimination, right speech, right deed, right living, right aspiration, right thinking, right contemplation.
Thus through the right attitude towards life, according to the great Buddha, there arises by degrees within men’s souls something which destroys the passionate longing for existence, something which brings them so far that at last they are no longer compelled to descend into physical incarnation, but are liberated from an existence which is overwhelmed by sorrow.
These things, according to Buddha, constitute the Four Noble Truths: the knowledge of sorrow; the knowledge of the causes of sorrow; the knowledge of the necessity for liberation from sorrow; and, lastly, the knowledge of the means of liberation from sorrow.
These are the Four Holy Truths which Buddha, after his enlightenment under the Bodhi-tree, gave out in the great sermon at Benares, about the fifth or sixth century before Christ.
Liberation from the pain of existence! That is what stands in the forefront of Buddhism, and it is that which makes it possible to describe the religion of Buddha as a ‘religion of redemption’ in the highest sense of the words; a religion of redemption from suffering; and since all existence is bound up with suffering, a redemption above all, from the continuance of rebirth.
If we place Christianity in its correct relation to Buddhism, we can speak of it as a religion of re-birth – a religion of the resurrection of the Best that we have experienced; a religion wherein no single thing that is round about us is a ‘nothingness,’ but wherein all things are building stones for the completion of a great edifice that is to arise through the gathering together of everything spiritual from out of the world of the senses.
Buddhism is a religion of liberation from existence; while Christianity is the opposite, a religion of Rebirth upon a more spiritual level.
The noble Buddha saw a corpse – and he turned from the material world with the judgment that all death is sorrow; while those men of simple nature who beheld the Cross and its dead burden did not turn away, but gazed upon it because they found in it a witness of the everlasting life that streams from the earthly death!
We have shown how mankind once possessed a primeval wisdom, and how in the course of many incarnations, this wisdom gradually declined. The appearance of Buddha marked the close of the old development; it was a mighty world-historical indication that the ancient archetypal wisdom was lost. In the historical sense this explains the ‘turning away’ from life. Whereas Christ marks the commencement of a new development which sees this life as the source of the eternal.
The Christ Impulse and the Development of the Ego-Consciousness, The Sphere of the Bodhisattvas, Rudolf Steiner, Lecture I, Berlin, October 25, 1909, GA 116
“Gautama Buddha was a Being who had always been able to incarnate in the earthly bodies of the various periods of civilization, without having had to use everything in this human organization. It had not been necessary for this Being to go through real human incarnations. Now, however, came an important turning-point for the Bodhisattva; it now became necessary for him to make himself acquainted with all the destinies of the human organization within an earthly body which he was to enter.
In his incarnation as Gautama Buddha he saw, in advance, the first germ of what was to arise in man as conscience, which will become greater and greater as time goes on. He was therefore able to re-ascend into the spiritual world directly after that incarnation; there was no need for him to go through another. What man will, in a certain sphere evolve out of himself during future cycles, Buddha was able to give in this one incarnation, as a great directing force. This came about through the event which has been described as the “sitting under the Bodhi-tree.” He then gave forth – in accordance with his special mission – the teaching of compassion and love contained in the eightfold path. This great Ethic of humanity which men will acquire as their own during the civilizations yet to come, was laid down as a basic force in the mind of the Buddha who descended at that time, and from Bodhisattva became Buddha, which means that he really rose a stage higher, for he learnt through his descent. When this Bodhisattva, who had never really incarnated, was 29 years of age, his individuality fully entered the son of Suddhodana. He then experienced the great human teaching of compassion and love.
When the consciousness, or spiritual-soul has been fully developed, man will, by its means, gradually become sufficiently ripe to recognize of himself the great impetus given by Buddha. At a time when man had only developed the intellectual soul, it was necessary that Buddha should already have developed the spiritual soul. He had so to use the physical instrument of the brain that he was complete master of.
Buddha had the task of introducing the spiritual-soul into the organization of man by bringing to man the doctrine of Compassion and Love. It was no part of Buddha’s mission to build up thoughts, to add one clear thought to another. His task was to form and establish that which leads man of his own accord to find the eight-fold path.
The impulse for logical thinking had to be given before the Buddha gave the impulse for Conscience. Conscience was to be organized into man in the fourth epoch; conscious, pure thinking was to develop in the consciousness- or spiritual-soul in the fifth epoch, but had to be laid down in the third epoch of civilization, as the germ for what we are evolving now.”
The Gospel of St. Mark, Buddha, Rudolf Steiner, Lecture IV, September 18, 1912, GA 139
“The Buddha has the task of preserving the culture of the sentient soul from the previous, the third epoch, into the fourth. What the Buddha announces and his pupils take up into their hearts, is something destined to shine over from the third post-Atlantean period – the period of the sentient soul – into the era of the intellectual soul. In this way the era of the intellectual soul, the fourth post-Atlantean cultural period, could be warmed through by the glow and the light of the teachings of Buddha, by what was brought forth by the sentient soul, permeated as it was by clairvoyance. The Buddha gave heavenly enlightenment to his pupils; Christ in His parables gave earthly enlightenment to the crowd.”
Excursus on the Gospel According to St. Mark, Rudolf Steiner, Lecture III, March, 1911, GA 124
“We must realize that the entrance into that state which Buddha and Buddhism describe as being ‘under the Bodhi tree,’ is a symbolic expression for a certain mystic enhancement of consciousness, and opens a path by which the human ego can enter into its own Being, its own deeper nature. This path, blazed by Buddha in such an outstanding way, is a descent of the ego into the abyss of its own human nature.
The Gospel of Matthew describes this quite differently, it describes what we perceive to be somewhat like a repetition of the temptation of Buddha; this means the form temptation assumes at the descent of a man into his own being, when all those temptations and seductions approach to which the human soul is liable. The Mystic path, the path of Buddha, leads a man so far within his own inner being that breaking through this inner being he enters the Spiritual World.”
The Gospel of St. Luke, The Nirmanakaya of Buddha and the Nathan Jesus-child, The Reincarnation of Zarathustra in the Solomon Jesus-child, Rudolf Steiner, Lecture IV, 1909, GA 114
“In the fifth-sixth century before our era there lived in India the great Bodhisattva whose mission it was to bring to humanity truths that were gradually to arise in humanity itself. He gave the impulse for this and thereby became Buddha. Hence he does not again appear in an earthly body; he appears in the Nirmanakaya, the ‘Body of Transformation’, but only as far as the etheric-astral world. The shepherds, being for the moment clairvoyant, see him in the form of the angelic host, for they are meant to behold in vision what is being announced to them. In his Nirmanakaya the Buddha inclines over the child born to Joseph and Mary of the Nathan line – for a very special purpose.
What the Buddha had been able to bring to humanity needed to be present in a mature form; it was difficult to understand for it came from great spiritual heights. If what Buddha had achieved hitherto was to become universally fruitful, it was necessary for an entirely fresh and youthful force to flow into it. He had to draw this force from the Earth by inclining over a human child from whom he could receive all the youthful forces from the astral sheath when it was detached. Such a child had been born from the line of generations – a child whose lineage the one who best understood it could trace back to the ancestor of humanity, back to the young soul of humanity during the Lemurian age, a child to whom he (St. Luke) could point as the reincarnated ‘new Adam.’ This child, whose soul was the mother-soul of humanity – a soul kept young through the ages – lived in such a way that all his youthful forces rayed into the astral body, and when the astral sheath was detached it rose upwards and united with the Nirmanakaya of Buddha.”
1) Nirmāṇakāya, “transformation body” – the physical manifestation of a Buddha in time and space. In Vajrayāna it is described as “the dimension of ceaseless manifestation.”
2) Sambhogakāya, “enjoyment-body”, “rainbow body”, “emanation body”, – this mind-made body is how Gautama Buddha and arhats are able to travel into heavenly realms using the continuum of the mindstream. It also explains the miracles, emanating countless other bodies, projecting an infinite variety of forms in different realms simultaneously. Sambhogakaya-realms are known as Buddha-fields or Pure Lands.
3) Dharmakāya, “dharma-body”, “reality body”, “inconceivable” – the ātman (true self) of the Buddha present within all beings. It constitutes the unmanifested aspect of a buddha out of which buddhas arise and to which they return after their dissolution.
Buddha and Christianity
From Jesus to Christ, The Two Jesus Children, Zoroaster and Buddha, Rudolf Steiner, October 12, 1911, Lecture VIII, GA 131
“We know also that active in the astral body of this child were the forces which had once been acquired by that Bodhisattva who became Gautama Buddha. We know indeed – and in this respect the oriental tradition is absolutely correct, for it can be confirmed by occult science – that the Bodhisattva, who on becoming Buddha five centuries before our era no longer needed to incarnate further on earth, worked from the spiritual world upon all those who devoted themselves to his teachings. It is characteristic of such an individuality, who rises to heights from which he need no longer incarnate in a body of flesh, that he can then take part in the affairs and destiny of our earth existence from out of the spiritual worlds. This can happen in the most manifold ways. In fact, the Bodhisattva who went through his last incarnation on the earth as Gautama Buddha has taken an essential part in the further evolution of humanity. Our human spiritual world stands continually in connection with all the rest of the spiritual world. The human being not only eats and drinks and so takes into himself the substance of the physical earth; he continually receives soul-spiritual nourishment from the spiritual world. In the most varied ways forces continually flow into physical earthly-existence from out of the spiritual world. Such an in-flow of the forces which Buddha had gained for himself came into the wider stream of humanity through the fact that the Buddha forces permeated the astral body of the Nathan Jesus-child.
Thus we see the Buddha forces working further in the stream of earth-existence which took its start from the Events of Palestine. For a long time these Buddha forces have been working from the spiritual worlds, particularly upon everything in Western civilization which is unthinkable without the specific influence of Christianity. All those philosophical streams which have developed during recent centuries up to the nineteenth century, in so far as they are Western spiritual currents, are permeated by the Christ-Impulse, but the Buddha has always been working into them from out of the spiritual worlds. Hence the most important thing that European humanity can receive from Buddha today does not depend on the handing down of the teaching that Buddha gave to men about 500 years before the Christian era, but on what he has become since that time. For he has not remained at a standstill; he has progressed; and it is through this progress, as a spiritual being in the spiritual worlds, that he has in the highest sense been able to take part in the further evolution of Western civilization. For we know that the same individuality who appeared as Gautama Buddha in the East had previously worked in the West, and that certain legends and traditions connected with the name of Buddha or Wotan have to do with this same individuality, just as Buddhism has with Gautama Buddha in the East; hence the same field of action in human evolution which had been prepared earlier by the same individuality has again been occupied in a certain sense. Thus are interlaced the ways taken by the spiritual currents within the evolution of humanity.
Today the most important thing for us is to establish that in the astral body of the Jesus-child described by Luke we have the Buddha forces at work. And when this Nathan Jesus-child was twelve years old, the Zarathustra individuality passed over into his three-fold being.”
The Gospel of St. Luke, The Teaching of Buddha – The Eightfold Path, Rudolf Steiner, Lecture III, September 17, 1909, GA 114
“The Buddhistic world-conception, with everything it was able to give to mankind, flowed into the Gospel of St. Luke. It may truly be said that Buddhism radiates from this Gospel, but in a special form, comprehensible to the simplest and most unsophisticated mind. Not only are the spiritual attainments of Buddhism presented to us through this Gospel; they come before us in an even nobler form, as though raised to a level higher than when they were a gift to humanity in India some six hundred years before our era.
In the lecture yesterday we spoke of Buddhism as the purest teaching of compassion and love; from the place in the world where Buddha worked a gospel of love and compassion streamed into the whole spiritual evolution of the Earth. The gospel of love and compassion lives in the true Buddhist when his own heart feels the suffering confronting him in the outer world from all living creatures. Compassion in the highest sense of the word is the ideal of the Buddhist; the aim of one who lives according to the message of the Gospel of St. Luke is to unfold love that acts.
In the first place, it must be remembered that the Buddha had been a Bodhisattva, that is to say, a very lofty Being able to gaze deeply into the mysteries of existence. As a Bodhisattva, the Buddha had participated in the evolution of humanity throughout the ages. When in the epoch following Atlantis the first post-Atlantean civilization was established and promoted, Buddha was already present as Bodhisattva and, acting as an intermediary, conveyed to man from the spiritual worlds the teachings indicated in the lecture yesterday. He had been present in Atlantean and even in Lemurian times. And because he had reached such a high stage of development, he was also able, during the twenty-nine years of his final existence as Bodhisattva, from his birth to the moment when he became Buddha, to recollect stage by stage all the communities in which he had lived before incarnating for the last time in India.
At the age of twelve the astral sheath was cast off [of Jesus] but did not dissolve in the universal astral world. Just as it was, as the protective astral sheath of the young boy, with all the vitalizing forces that had streamed into it between the change of teeth and puberty, it now united with the Nirmanakaya of Buddha. The spiritual body that had once appeared to the shepherds as the radiant angelic host united with the astral sheath released from the twelve-year-old Jesus, united with all the forces through which the freshness of youth is maintained during the period between the second dentition and puberty. The Nirmanakaya which shone upon the Nathan Jesus-child from birth onwards united with the astral sheath detached from this child at puberty; it became one with this sheath and was thereby rejuvenated. Through this rejuvenation, what Buddha had formerly given to the world could be manifest again in the Jesus-child. Hence the boy was able to speak with all the simplicity of childhood about the lofty teachings of compassion and love to which we have referred to-day. When Jesus was found in the temple he was speaking in a way that astonished those around him, because he was enveloped by the Nirmanakaya of Buddha, refreshed as from a fountain of youth by the boy’s astral sheath.”
The Gospel of St. Luke, Buddha’s Teaching of Compassion and Love, Rudolf Steiner, Lecture IX, September 25, 1909, GA 114
“When Buddha set in motion the ‘Wheel of the Law’ the Ego would gradually become possessed of wisdom at a high level – wisdom in the form of thought – and the aspirant would recognize the signs of perfection. Buddha brought to humanity the wisdom of love and compassion, and when we succeed in making the whole astral body a product of the Eightfold Path [Right Understanding, Right Thought, Right Speech, Right Action, Right Livelihood, Right Effort, Right Mindfulness and Right Concentration], we shall possess the requisite knowledge of the laws expressed in his teachings.
But there is a difference between wisdom in the form of thought and wisdom as living power; there is a difference between knowing what the Ego must become and allowing the living power to flow into our very being so that it may stream forth again from the Ego into all the world as it streamed from Christ, working upon the astral, etheric, and physical bodies of those around Him. The impulse given by the great Buddha enabled humanity to have knowledge of the teaching of compassion and love. What Christ brought is first and foremost a living power, not a teaching. He sacrificed His very Self, He descended in order to flow not merely into the astral bodies of men but into the Ego, so that the Ego itself should have the power to ray out love as substantiality. Christ brought to the Earth the substantiality, the living essence of love, not merely the wisdom-filled content of love. To bring the wisdom of love was the mission of the Bodhisattvas and of the Buddha; to bring to mankind the power of love was the mission of Christ.”
The Reappearance of Christ in the Etheric, Buddhism and Pauline Christianity, Rudolf Steiner, Lecture III, GA 118
“There is a great distinction between the spiritual stream that came from Buddha and the one that arose from the Christ impulse. Both streams must unite in the future, and Christianity must be fructified by spiritual science. For a time, Christianity had to set aside the teaching of reincarnation. It was included in the esoteric teaching but could not be received in exoteric Christianity for certain universal pedagogical reasons. In contrast, reincarnation was a fundamental principle of Buddhism. There it was bound up with the teaching of suffering, which is exactly what Christianity is intended to overcome. Once we have recognized the purposes and missions of both streams, we will also be able to distinguish clearly between them.
Gautama Buddha came to knowledge through his enlightenment under the Bodhi tree; he then taught that this world is maya. It cannot be considered real, because therein lies maya, the great illusion, that one believes it to be real. Man must strive to be released from the realm of the elements; then he comes into a realm, Nirvana, where neither names nor things exist. Only then is man freed from illusion. The realm of maya is suffering. Birth, death, sickness, and age are suffering. It is the thirst for existence that brings man into this realm. Once he has freed himself from this thirst, he no longer needs to incarnate.
Even in this century, and increasingly throughout the next 2,500 years, human beings will become able to behold Christ in His etheric form. They will behold the etheric earth from which the plant world springs up. They will also be able to see, however, that inner goodness works differently on the environment from evil. He who possesses this science in the highest degree is the Maitreya Buddha, who will come in approximately 3,000 years. “Maitreya Buddha” means the “Buddha of right-mindedness.” He is the one who will make clear for human beings the significance of right-mindedness. This will all lead human beings to know in which direction they must go. You must undertake to transform abstract ideals into concrete ideals in order to contribute to an evolution that moves forward. If we do not succeed in this, the earth will sink into materialism, and humanity will have to begin again, either on the earth, after a great catastrophe, or on the next planet.”
Dyhani-Buddha, Bodhisattva, Buddha
The Spiritual Hierarchies, Rudolf Steiner, Lecture VII, April 16, 1909, GA 110
“It is certainly true that, as a general principle, Spirits of Personality did speak through human entities in the Lemurian times, Archangels in the Atlantean, and Angels in the post-Atlantean times. But such beings arose, also even in the post Atlantean times, who were penetrated by a Spirit of Personality down to their physical body, who, therefore, were in the same position, although they lived in the post Atlantean times, as were those beings through whom in Lemuria the Spirits of Personality spoke. Thus it was possible to have men also in the post-Atlantean times, who bore externally all the characteristics of their nation, but who, because humanity still needed such great leaders, carried within them a Spirit of Personality – and who were the external incarnation of such a Spirit. Then there were also men in the post Atlantean times who had an Archangel, a Spirit of Mercury, within them, who ensouled their physical and etheric bodies. And lastly, a third category of men was ensouled, inspired in their physical, etheric, and astral bodies by an Angel Being, one through whom an Angel spoke. In the spirit of the Eastern Teaching such personalities received particular names. Thus a personality who outwardly resembles a man of our post-Atlantean times, but who really is the bearer of a Spirit of Personality, who is ensouled by that Spirit down to his physical body, is called Dhyani-Buddha in the Eastern Teaching. Dhyani-Buddha is a generic name for human individualities in whom the Spirits of Personality are active, even as far as their physical body.
Those personalities who are ensouled down to their etheric body, who were bearers of Archangels in the post-Atlantean times, are called Bodhi-Sattva and those who are the bearers of an Angel, who are, therefore, ensouled in their physical, etheric, and astral bodies, are called human Buddhas.
Thus we have three degrees: that of the Dhyani-Buddha, the Bodhi-Sattva, and the human Buddha. This is the true teaching of the Buddhas, of the classes and categories of Buddhas, which we have to recognize in connection with the whole manner and means by which the Hierarchies fulfil their ends. This is the marvel which meets us, when we look back to earlier undeveloped men, that among these men we find those, through whom the Hierarchies speak. The great Hierarchies speak out of the Cosmos downwards into the Planets, and only by degrees do these Spirits of the higher Hierarchies, who were active before the appearance of our earth, emancipate the planetary men who live down here, when they have reached the necessary degree of ripeness. Here we gaze into unfathomable depths of wisdom. And what is of extraordinary importance is, that we understand this wisdom exactly as it was taught in all the ages, when primeval wisdom was taught to men.
Thus, when you hear of the Buddhas, for they do not speak of the one Buddha only in the Eastern teaching, but of many, among whom there are naturally different grades of perfection – give attention to the fact: a Buddha walks on earth, but behind the Buddha, was the Bodhi-Sattva and even the Dhyani-Buddha.
Matters, however, might be so, that the Dhyani-Buddha or the Bodhi-Sattva did not reach so far as to ensoul the physical body, but that the Bodhi-Sattva descended only as far as to be able to ensoul the etheric body, so that you can imagine a Being who does not reach so far as to ensoul and inspire the man’s physical body, but only the etheric body. It can, however, happen when such a Bodhi-Sattva is not physically visible (for when he appears only in an etheric body he is not physically visible, and there were such Bodhi-Sattva who were physically invisible) that he can, as a higher Being, inspire quite exceptionally the human Buddha. So that we have the human Buddha, who is already inspired by an Angelic Being, being further inspired in his etheric body by an Archangel Being. It is essential that we should look into this wonderful complexity of the human nature. Many Individualities to whom we look back into former times can only be understood, when we accept them as the meeting point of different higher Beings, who proclaim and express themselves through the man. Sometimes one single personality has to be ensouled by different individualities of the higher Hierarchies. And sometimes it is not only the inhabitants of Mercury who speak with us, when we have a certain personality standing before us, but the inhabitants of Venus also.”
1) A Spirit of Personality enters the Physical and the entity is called a Dyani-Buddha in Post-Atlantis.
2) An Archangel enters the Physical and Etheric and the entity is called a Bodhi-Sattva in Post-Atlantis.
3) An Angel enters the Physical, Etheric and Astral and the entity is called a human Buddha in Post-Atlantis.
The Nature of Buddha
Turning Points, Buddha, and Christianity (Also: Buddha), Rudolf Steiner, Lecture III, Berlin, March 2, 1911, GA 60
“In these days there is much discussion concerning The Buddha and the Buddhist Creed; and this fact is the more interesting to all who follow the course of human evolution, because a knowledge of the true character of the Buddhist religion, or perhaps more correctly, the longing felt by many for its comprehension has only recently entered into the spiritual life of the Western nations.
It is a remarkable fact that most people still persist in associating Buddhism, primarily, with the idea of recurrent earth lives, to which concept we have often referred in these lectures. Such an assumption is, however, found to be unwarranted when we have regard to the essential character of the Buddhist belief. Hence, we must regard as the essential moving principle underlying the whole trend of Buddhist spiritual thought that principle which operates in the direction of freedom, that is, redemption from repeated rebirth, or liberation from reincarnation which it accepts as an established and unquestionable fact; in this concept is expressed the true and vital essence of Buddhism.
Even from a superficial glance at the history of Western spiritual life, we learn that the idea of repeated earthly existence is quite independent of an understanding of Buddhism, and vice versa; for during the course of our Occidental spiritual development we find ourselves confronted with a conception of reincarnation, presented in a manner both lofty and sublime, by a personality who most certainly had remained untouched by Buddhist views and trend of thought. This personality was Lessing, who in his treatise on The Education of Mankind, which is regarded as the most matured and mellow of his works, closes with the confession that he himself was a believer in the Doctrine of Reincarnation.
I have persistently endeavored to make it clear that the idea of reincarnation, both with regard to Spiritual Science and Theosophy, was not derived from any one of the ancient traditions, not even from Buddhism; it has in fact thrust itself upon us during our time, as a result of independent observation and reflection concerning life in connection with spiritual investigation.
According to ancient Indian philosophy, as each period of decline was ended there arose a certain outstanding figure whose personality was known as a ‘Buddha‘; the last of these was incarnated as the son of King Suddhodana, and called Gautama Buddha.
Since those olden times, when humanity was still directly united with the Spirit-World, there have arisen a number of such Buddhas, five having appeared subsequent to the last fall. The advent of the Buddhas was a sign that mankind shall not sink into illusion — into Maya — but that again and again there shall come into men’s lives something of the ancient primal wisdom, to succor and to aid humanity. This primordial knowledge, however, because of man’s constant downward trend, fades from time to time; but in order that it shall be renewed there arises periodically a new Buddha, and as we have stated, the last of these was Gautama Buddha.
Before such great teachers could advance, through repeated earth lives, to the dignity of Buddhahood, if we may so express it, they must have already been exalted and attained the lofty standing of a Bodhisattva. According to the Indian philosophical outlook, Gautama Buddha, up to his twenty-ninth year, was not regarded as a Buddha, but as a Bodhisattva. It was therefore as a Bodhisattva that he was born into the royal house of Suddhodana; and because his life was ever devoted to toil and to striving, he was at last blessed with that inner illumination, symbolically portrayed in the words, ‘Sitting under the Bodhi tree‘; and that glorious enlightenment which flowed in upon him found expression in the ‘Sermon at Benares.’
Thus did Gautama Buddha rise to the full dignity of Buddhahood in his twenty-ninth year, and from that time on, he was empowered to revive once again a last remnant of by-gone primeval wisdom; which, however, in the light of Indian conceptions, would be destined to fall into decadence during the centuries to come. But according to these same concepts, when man has sunk so low, that the wisdom and the knowledge which this last Buddha brought, shall have waned, then will yet another Bodhisattva rise to Buddhahood, the Buddha of the Future — the Maitreya Buddha; who’s coming the Indian surely awaits, for it is foretold in his philosophy.
Gautama taught: “Only liberation from recurrent earth life can lead humanity to the realization of perfect freedom; for earthly wisdom, even that of the highest learning, cannot save us from grief and anguish.”
What then, is the nature of this state — this World of Nirvana — which man shall enter when he has so advanced in his earthly life that ‘The Thirst for Existence’ has passed, and he no more desires to be reborn? Nirvana is a condition that can only be characterized in the Buddhist sense. According to this conception, it is a world of redemption and of bliss that can never be expressed in terms of things which may be apprehended in the material state in which we have our being. There is nothing in this physical world, nor in the wide expanse of the cosmos, which can awaken in mankind a realization of the sublime truth underlying such redemption.
Hence it is that during the world’s development we find nothing in Christianity corresponding to successive Buddha-epochs coming one after another, as one might say, un-historically, each Buddha proclaiming a like doctrine. Christianity brings forward but one single glorious event during the whole of man’s earthly progress. In the same way as the Buddhist pictures the Buddha, seated isolated and alone under the Bodhi tree, at the moment when he was exalted and the great illumination came to him; so does the Christian visualize Jesus of Nazareth at that time when there descended upon Him the all-inspiring Spirit of the cosmos. The baptism of Christ by John, as described in the Bible, is as vivid and clear a picture as is the Buddhist’s conception of the Illumination of the Buddha. Thus we have, in the first case, the Buddha seated under the Bodhi tree, concerned only with his own soul; in the second, Jesus of Nazareth, standing in the Jordan, while there descended upon Him that cosmic essence, that Spirit, symbolically represented as a dove, which entered into His innermost being.”
Joshaphat and Buddhism
Buddha and Christ, The Sphere of the Bodhisattvas, (Moses and Christ), Rudolf Steiner, Milan, September 21st, 1911, GA 130
“The powers and forces which draw man upwards again to the spiritual world fall into two categories: those which draw him upwards on the path of Wisdom, and those which draw him upwards on the path of Morality. The forces to which intellectual progress is mainly due all proceed from the impulse given by a great Individuality of the fourth post-Atlantean epoch who is known to you all, namely Gautama Buddha. It is a remarkable discovery of spiritual investigation that the most penetrating, most significant, thoughts conceived in our present epoch have proceeded from Gautama Buddha.
Consciousness of this truth was demonstrated in a beautiful legend written down by John of Damascus in the eighth century and well known throughout Europe in the Middle Ages. It is the legend of Barlaam and Joshaphat, which relates how he who had become the successor of Buddha (Joshaphat is a phonetic variation of ‘Bodhisattva’) received teaching from Barlaam about the Christ Impulse. The legend, which was subsequently forgotten, tells us that the Bodhisattva who succeeded Gautama Buddha was instructed by Barlaam and his soul was fired by the Christian Impulse. This was the second impulse which, in addition to that of Buddha, continues to work in the evolution of humanity. It is the Christ Impulse and is connected with the future ascent of humanity to Morality. Although Buddha’s teaching is in a particular sense moral teaching, the Christ Impulse is not teaching but actual power which works as such and to an increasing degree imbues mankind with moral strength.
Before the Event of Golgotha the Bodhisattva, who was the successor of Buddha, was present on the Earth in order to prepare for that event and give teaching to those around him. He incarnated in the personality of Jeshu ben Pandira one century before the birth of Jesus of Nazareth. Thus we must distinguish between the Jeshu ben Pandira-incarnation of the Bodhisattva who was the successor of Gautama Buddha, and the incarnation at the beginning of our era of Jesus of Nazareth who for three years of his life was permeated by the cosmic Being we call the Christ.
The Bodhisattva who incarnated in Jeshu ben Pandira and in other personalities too, returns again and again, until in about three thousand years from now, he will attain Buddha-hood and as Maitreya Buddha live through his final incarnation. The Christ-Individuality was on the Earth in the body of Jesus of Nazareth for three years only and does not come again in a physical body; in the fifth post-Atlantean epoch He comes in an etheric body, in the sixth epoch in an astral body, and in the seventh in a mighty Cosmic Ego that is like a great Group-Soul of humanity.
What are we doing when we teach Spiritual Science to-day? We are teaching what Oriental wisdom so clearly proclaimed when the Bodhisattva who was then the son of King Suddhodana, attained Buddha-hood. In those Oriental teachings was expressed the realization that it was the task of the next Bodhisattva – who would eventually become a Buddha – to spread over the Earth the knowledge that would reveal Christ to men in the true light. Thus the Bodhisattva, who incarnated in Jeshu ben Pandira and again and again in others, became the great Teacher of the Christ Impulse. This is indicated very clearly in the legend of Barlaam and Joshaphat, which tells how Joshaphat (i.e. the Bodhisattva) is instructed by Barlaam, the Christian teacher. The Oriental occult teachings call this Bodhisattva the ‘Bringer of the Good’ – Maitreya Buddha. And we know from occult investigations that in this Maitreya Buddha the power of the Word will be present in a degree of which men of the present time can as yet have no conception. It is possible to-day through higher clairvoyant perception of the process of world-evolution to discover how the, Maitreya Buddha will teach after three thousand years have passed. Much of his teaching can also be expressed in symbolic forms. But to-day – because mankind is insufficiently mature – it is not yet possible to utter words such as those that will come from the lips of the Maitreya Buddha.
In the Eightfold Path, Gautama Buddha gave the great intellectual teachings of right speech, right thinking, right action, and so on. The words uttered by the Maitreya Buddha will contain a magic power that will become moral impulses in the men who hear them. And if there should be a gospel telling of the Maitreya Buddha, the writer of it would have to use words differing from those used of Christ in the Gospel of St. John: “And the Word was made Flesh.” The evangelist of the Maitreya Buddha would have to testify: “And the Flesh was made Word.”
The utterances of the Maitreya Buddha will be permeated in a miraculous way with the power of Christ. Occult investigations show us to-day that in a certain respect even the external life of the Maitreya Buddha will be patterned on the life of Christ. What happens is that when this human being has reached a certain age, his ego is taken out of his bodily sheaths and a different ego passes into his body. The greatest example of this is Christ Jesus Himself, of whom in his thirtieth year the Christ-Individuality had taken possession. All the incarnations of the Bodhisattva who will become the Maitreya Buddha have shown that in this sense his life will resemble that of Christ.
In none of the incarnations of the Bodhisattva is it known, either in his childhood or youth, that he will become a Bodhisattva. Whenever the Bodhisattva becomes Buddha there is evidence that at the age of 30 or 31, another individuality takes possession of his body. The Bodhisattva will never reveal himself as such in his early youth, but in his thirtieth or thirty-first year he will manifest quite different qualities, because another Being takes possession of his body.
In our period of evolution, two streams of spiritual life are at work; one of them is the stream of Wisdom, or the Buddha-stream, containing the most sublime teaching of wisdom, goodness of heart and peace on Earth. To enable this teaching of Buddha to permeate the hearts of all men, the Christ Impulse is indispensable. The second stream is the Christ-stream itself which will lead humanity from intellectuality, by way of aesthetic feeling and insight, to morality. And the greatest Teacher of the Christ Impulse will in all ages be the successor of that Bodhisattva who incarnates again and again and who, in three thousand years from now, will become the Maitreya Buddha. For the statement contained in Oriental chronicles is true: that exactly five thousand years after Gautama Buddha attained Enlightenment under the Bodhi tree, the Maitreya Buddha will incarnate on Earth for the last time.
The succession of Bodhisattvas and Buddhas has no relation as such to the cosmic Being we call Christ; it was a Bodhisattva – not the Christ – who incarnated in the body of Jeshu ben Pandira. Christ incarnated in a physical body once, and once only, for a period of three years. The Bodhisattva appears in every century until his existence as Maitreya Buddha.
The mission of Anthroposophy to-day is to be a synthesis of religions. We can conceive of one form of religion being comprised in Buddhism, another form in Christianity, and as evolution proceeds the more closely do the different religions unite – in the way that Buddha and Christ themselves are united in our hearts.”
The Being of Elijah and the Astral-body of Buddha
The Gospel of St. Luke, Elijah and John the Baptist, Rudolf Steiner, September 20, 1909, Lecture VI, GA 114
“Thus it was the Nirmanakaya [astral body] of Buddha which now stirred the I-force of John into activity, had the same effect as spiritual forces that had formerly worked upon Elijah. Now again a spiritual force was present: the Nirmanakaya of Buddha hovering above the head of the Nathan Jesus. This force now worked upon Elisabeth when John was to be born, stimulated within her the embryo of John in the sixth month of pregnancy, and wakened the I.
But being nearer to the Earth this force now worked as more than an inspiration; it had an actual formative effect upon the I of John. Under the influence of the visit of her who is there called ‘Mary’, the I of John the Baptist awoke into activity. The Nirmanakaya of Buddha was here working upon the I of the former Elijah – now the I of John the Baptist – wakening it and penetrating right into the physical substance.
The Nirmanakaya of Buddha worked as an inspiration into the I of John the Baptist. That which manifested itself to the shepherds and hovered above the head of the Nathan Jesus extended its power into John the Baptist, whose preaching was primarily the re-awakened preaching of Buddha. The Buddha, in his Nirmanakaya, shed his radiance upon the Nathan Jesus-child and continued his preaching inasmuch as he let the words resound from the mouth of John the Baptist.
Five to six hundred years before our era, Buddha preached the Sermon at Benares, but his voice has not been silenced. He speaks, although no longer incarnated, when he inspires through the Nirmanakaya. From the mouth of John the Baptist we hear what the Buddha had to say six hundred years after he had lived in a physical body.”
Black Sea Schooling
The Spiritual Foundation of Morality, Rudolf Steiner, Lecture II, May 29, 1912, GA 155
“People, who to begin with had external teachers in the physical world, came together there [Black Sea]. They were instructed in the doctrines and principles which had proceeded from Buddhism, but these were permeated by the impulses which came into the world through Christianity. Then, after the pupils had been sufficiently prepared, they were brought to where the deeper forces lying within them, the deeper forces of wisdom could be brought forth, so that they were led to clairvoyant vision of the spiritual world and were able to see into the spiritual worlds. The first thing attained by the pupils of this occult school, was, for example, the recognition of those who no longer descended to the physical plane. But this they could only do after they had been accustomed to it by the teachers incarnated in the physical body. In this way they came to know Buddha. Thus, these occult pupils learned to know Buddha face to face if one may so speak of his spiritual being. In this way he continued to work spiritually in the occult pupils and thus his power worked down to the physical plane, although he himself no longer descended to physical embodiment in the physical world.
Now the pupils in this occult school were grouped according to their maturity into two unequal divisions, and only the more advanced were chosen for the smaller division. Most of these pupils were able to become so clairvoyant that they came in touch with a being who strove with all his might to bring his impulses through to the physical world, and although he himself did not descend into this world they learned all the secrets of Buddha and all that he wished to have accomplished. Most of these pupils remained as such, clairvoyants, but there were some who, in addition to the qualities of knowledge and of psychic clairvoyance, had developed the spiritual element to a remarkable degree, which cannot be separated from a certain humility, a certain highly evolved capacity for devotion. These, then, attained to where they could receive the Christ-impulse in an advanced degree precisely in this occult school. They could also become clairvoyant in such a way that they became the specially chosen followers of Saint Paul and received the Christ-impulse directly in life.
Thus from this school proceeded two groups, as it were, one group which possessed the impulse to carry the teaching of Buddha everywhere, although his name was not mentioned in connection with it, and a second group which, in addition, received the Christ-impulse. Now the difference between these two kinds did not appear very strongly in that particular incarnation, it only appeared in the next. The pupils who had not received the Christ-impulse but who had only gained the Buddha-impulse, became the teachers of the equality and brotherhood of man; on the other hand the pupils who had also received the Christ-impulse, in the next incarnation were such that this Christ-impulse worked up further so that not only could they teach (and they did not consider this their chief task) but they worked more especially through their moral power.
One such pupil of the occult school on the Black Sea, was born in his next incarnation as Francis of Assisi. No wonder, then, that in him there was the wisdom which he had received, the knowledge of the brotherhood of mankind, of the equality of all men, of the necessity to love all men equally, no wonder that this teaching pulsated through his soul and also that his soul was permeated and strengthened by the Christ-impulse.”
Buddha as Wotan
Egyptian Myths and Mysteries, Old Myths as Pictures of Cosmic Facts, Rudolf Steiner, Lecture X, September 12, 1908, GA 106
“When we are familiar with this phenomenon, we shall not regard incarnation as such a simple matter. There can perfectly well be a person who is the reincarnation of an earlier man, who has developed himself so far and purified his three bodies to such an extent that he is now a vessel for a higher being. Buddha became such a vessel for Wotan. The same being who was called Wotan in the Germanic myths, appeared again as Buddha. Buddha and Wotan are even related linguistically.
So we can say that much of what was in the mysteries of the Atlantean time continued in what the Buddha was able to announce. This is in harmony with the fact that what the Buddha experienced is something that the gods had experienced in those spiritual spheres, and that men also had experienced when they were still in those spheres. As the teaching of Wotan thus appeared again, it was a doctrine that paid little attention to the physical plane, emphasizing that the physical plane is a place of woe, and that redemption from it is important. Much of the Wotan-being spoke in the Buddha. Hence it is that stragglers from Atlantis have shown the deepest understanding for the Buddha-teaching. Among the Asiatic population there are races that have remained at the Atlantean level, although externally they must, of course, move ahead with the earth evolution. Among the Mongolian peoples much of Atlantis has remained. They are stragglers from the old population of Atlantis. The stationary character in the Mongolian population is a heritage from Atlantis. Therefore the teachings of the Buddha are especially serviceable to such peoples, and Buddhism has made great strides among them.
The world moves onward, following its course. One who can look deeply into the evolution of the world does not make choices, does not say that he has more inclination for this or that. He says that what religion a people has is a spiritual necessity. The European population, because it has ensnared itself in the physical world, finds it impossible to feel its way into Buddhism, to identify itself with the innermost teachings of the Buddha. Buddhism could never become a religion for all of humanity. For him who can see, there is no sympathy or antipathy here, but only a judgment in accordance with the facts. It would be an error to wish to spread Christianity from a center in Asia, where other peoples are still settled, and Buddhism would be equally false for the European population. No religious view is right if it is not suited to the innermost needs of the time, and such a view will never be able to give a cultural impulse. These are things that we must grasp if we want to understand all the real connections.
But one should not believe that the historical appearance of the Buddha immediately reveals all that lies within it. If I were to expound all this, I would need several hours. As yet we are far from having unraveled the complications of the historical Buddha. Something still lived in the Buddha. This is not only a being who came over out of the Atlantean time and incarnated in him who incidentally was also a human Buddha. In addition to this something else was contained in him, something of which he could say, “I cannot yet comprehend this. It is something that ensouls me, but I only participate in it.” This is the Christ-being. This had already ensouled the great prophets. It was a well-known being in the more ancient mysteries, and everywhere and always men had pointed to him who was to come.”
Christian Rosenkreutz Sends Buddha to Mars
Esoteric Christianity and the Mission of Christian Rosenkreutz, The Mission of Gautama Buddha on Mars, Neuchatel, December 18, 1912, Lecture VII, GA
“The occultists of the East rightly believe – for they know it to be the truth – that the Buddha who in his twenty-ninth year rose from the rank of Bodhisattva to that of Buddha, had incarnated then for the last time in a physical body. It is absolutely true that when the individuality of a Bodhisattva becomes a Buddha, he no longer appears on the Earth in physical incarnation. But this does not mean that he ceases to be active in the affairs of the Earth. The Buddha continues to work for the Earth, although he is never again present in a physical body but sends down his influence from the spiritual world. The “Gloria” heard by the Shepherds in the fields proclaimed from the spiritual world that the forces of Buddha were streaming into the astral body of the Child Jesus described in St. Luke’s Gospel. The words of the Gloria came from Buddha who was working in the astral body of the Child Jesus. This wonderful message of Peace and Love is an integral part of Buddha’s contribution to Christianity. But later on too, the Buddha works into the deeds of men – not physically but from the spiritual world – and he has co-operated in measures that have been necessary for the sake of progress in the evolution of humanity.
In the seventh and eighth centuries, for example, there was a very important center of Initiation in the neighborhood of the Black Sea, in which the Buddha taught, in his spirit-body. In such Schools there are teachers who live in the physical body; but it is also possible for the more advanced pupils to receive instruction from one who teaches in an ether-body only. Among the pupils of the Buddha at that time was one who incarnated again a few centuries later. We are speaking, therefore, of a physical personality who centuries later lived again in a physical body and is known to us as St. Francis of Assisi. The quality characteristic of Francis of Assisi and of the life of his monks – which has so much similarity with that of the disciples of Buddha – is due to the fact that Francis of Assisi himself was a pupil of Buddha.
A Conference of the greatest and most advanced Individualities was called together by Christian Rosenkreutz. His most intimate pupil and friend, the great teacher Buddha, participated in these counsels and in the decisions reached. At that spiritual Conference it was resolved that henceforward Buddha would dwell on Mars and there unfold his influence and activity. Buddha transferred his work to Mars in the year 1604. And on Mars he performed a deed similar to that performed by Christ on the Earth in the Mystery of Golgotha. Christian Rosenkreutz had known what the work of Buddha on Mars would signify for the whole Cosmos, what his teachings of Nirvana, of liberation from the Earth would signify on Mars. The teaching of Nirvana was unsuited to a form of culture directed primarily to practical life. Buddha’s pupil, Francis of Assisi, was an example of the fact that this teaching produces in its adepts complete remoteness from the world and its affairs. But the content of Buddhism which was not adapted to the practical life of man between birth and death was of high importance for the soul between death and a new birth. Christian Rosenkreutz realized that for a certain purification needed on Mars, the teachings of Buddha were pre-eminently suitable. The Christ Being, the Essence of Divine Love, had once come down to the Earth to a people in many respects alien, and in the seventeenth century, Buddha, the Prince of Peace, went to Mars – the planet of war and conflict – to execute his mission there. The souls on Mars were warlike, torn with strife. Thus Buddha performed a deed of sacrifice similar to the deed performed in the Mystery of Golgotha by the Bearer of the Essence of Divine Love. To dwell on Mars as Buddha was a deed of sacrifice offered to the Cosmos. He was as it were the lamb offered up in sacrifice on Mars and to accept this environment of strife was for him a kind of crucifixion. Buddha performed this deed on Mars in the service of Christian Rosenkreutz. Thus do the great Beings who guide the world work together, not only on the Earth but from one planet to another.
Since the Mystery of Mars was consummated by Gautama Buddha, human beings have been able to receive different forces from Mars during the corresponding period between death and a new birth. Not only does a man bring with him into a new birth quite different forces from Mars, but because of the influence exercised by the spiritual deed of Buddha, forces also stream from Mars into men who practice meditation as a means for reaching the spiritual world. When the modern pupil of Spiritual Science meditates in the sense indicated by Christian Rosenkreutz, forces sent to the Earth by Buddha as the Redeemer of Mars, stream to him.
Christian Rosenkreutz is thus revealed to us as the great Servant of Christ Jesus; but what Buddha, as the emissary of Christian Rosenkreutz, was destined to contribute to the work of Christ Jesus – this had also to come to the help of the work performed by Christian Rosenkreutz in the service of Christ Jesus. The soul of Gautama Buddha has not again been in physical incarnation on the Earth but is utterly dedicated to the work of the Christ Impulse. What was the word of Peace sent forth from the Buddha to the Child Jesus described in the Gospel of St. Luke? “Glory in the Heights and on the Earth – Peace!” And this word of Peace, issuing mysteriously from Buddha, resounds from the planet of war and conflict to the soul of men on the Earth. Because all these things had transpired, it was possible to avert the division of human beings into the two distinct classes – consisting on the one hand of men of the type of Francis of Assisi and on the other, men who live wholly in materialism.”
Earthly and Cosmic Man, Form-creating Forces, Rudolf Steiner, Lecture IX, June 18th, 1912, GA 296
“The lectures in Christiania drew attention to the fact that a very special mission in the universe devolves upon an individuality as sublime as the Buddha. The individuality who became the Buddha had been sent from the hosts of Christ on the Sun to the “Venus men” before they came to the Earth; the individuality of the Buddha, therefore, had been sent forth by Christ from the Sun to Venus, as His emissary. This Individuality came to the Earth with the “Venus men” and had thus reached such an advanced stage of development that through the Atlantean, on into the Post-Atlantean era, he was able to attain to the rank of Buddhahood before the coming of Christ. He was in very truth a “Christian” before the time of Christ. We know, too, that later on he revealed himself in the astral body of the Jesus-Child of St. Luke’s Gospel — since he need no longer return in a body of flesh. United as he is with the Christ Stream, a different task devolves upon him for the times to come. The Buddha need not incarnate again in a body of flesh. It fell to him to fulfil a certain Deed on Mars – a Deed not identical with the Mystery of Golgotha but to be thought of as a parallel namely, the Redemption of the people of Mars. There is, of course, no question here of a Crucifixion as in the Mystery of Golgotha, for as may be read in Occult Science, the people of Mars are quite differently constituted from human beings on Earth. These things, of course, are the results of occult observation and can only be discovered through clairvoyant investigation.
Now let us think of this fact – that the Buddha was an emissary of the Christ and had lived on Venus. Then think of the uniqueness of the Buddha-life, of its fundamental character, and proceed as I did myself. First, there came to me the occult knowledge: Buddha goes from Venus to Mars in order there to accomplish a Deed of Redemption for the beings of Mars. And now take the life of Buddha, and observe how strikingly it differs from the lives of all the other founders of religion in that period. The teachings of all the others tend in the direction of concealing the doctrine of reincarnation; Buddha teaches reincarnation and founds a community based essentially upon piety, upon a kind of remoteness from the world. Ask yourselves whether there are beings for whom this quality would be of fundamental significance – beings whose redemption could be wrought by all that the Buddha had lived through and made his own? If it were possible, now, to say more about the constitution of the Mars beings, you would see that the Buddha-life was a kind of preparation for a higher mission; that it occurred in Earth-existence as a kind of culmination and can have no direct continuation. You may compare much in the Buddha-life with the indications given by occultism and then you will be able to form some real judgment of matters with such far-reaching cosmic connections. To discover them – that will still be beyond you; but you will be able to examine and study them with the help of all the material at your disposal, and you will find agreement and conformity among the indications given. That Buddha is connected with Venus was known, also, to H. P. Blavatsky. In her Secret Doctrine, she writes: “Buddha = Mercury” – “Mercury,” because in earlier times the names for Venus and Mercury were confused and reversed. “Buddha = Venus” would be the proper form. A knowledge possessed by occultists today is already hinted at in H. P. Blavatsky’s Secret Doctrine – but it must be understood correctly.
These things are connected with the whole process of advancing evolution. The evolution of man must be studied in connection with the whole universe; man must be thought of as a microcosm within the macrocosm. The fact that Beings do actually mediate between the several planets is entirely in line with these concatenations of cosmic existence, so that a being like the Buddha can actually be regarded as a mediator between planets.”
The Mani, Skythianos, Zarathustra, Buddha Meeting
The East in the Light of the West, Rudolf Steiner, Chapter IX, Munich , 1909, GA 113
“The three great spiritual Beings and individualities known to us under the names of Zarathustra, Gautama Buddha and Skythianos are, as it were, incarnations of Bodhisattvas. That which lived in them was not the Christ.
There is a fourth individuality named in history behind whom for those who have the proper comprehension, much lies hidden – an individuality still higher and more powerful than Skythianos, than Buddha or than Zarathustra. This individuality is Manes, and those who see more in Manichaeism than is usually the case know him to be a very high messenger of Christ. It is said that a few centuries after Christ had lived on the earth, there was held one of the greatest assemblies of the spiritual world connected with the earth that ever took place, and that there Manes gathered round him three mighty personalities of the fourth century after Christ. In this figurative description a most significant fact in connection with spiritual development is expressed. Manes called these persons together to consult with them as to the means of reintroducing the wisdom that had lived throughout the changing times of the post Atlantean age and of causing it to unfold more and more gloriously in the future. He called together the personality in whom Skythianos lived at that time, and also the physical reflection of the Buddha who had then appeared again, and the erstwhile Zarathustra who was wearing a physical body at that time. Around Manes was this council, himself in the center and around him Skythianos, Buddha and Zarathustra. And in that council a plan was agreed upon for causing all the wisdom of the Bodhisattvas of the post-Atlantean time to flow more and more strongly into the future of mankind; and the plan of the future evolution of the civilizations of the earth then decided upon was adhered to and carried over into the European mysteries of the Rosy Cross. These particular mysteries have always been connected with the individualities of Skythianos, of Buddha, and of Zarathustra. They were the teachers in the schools of the Rosy Cross; teachers who gave their wisdom to the earth as a gift, in order that through it the Christ Being might be understood. Hence in all spiritual Rosicrucian schools the deepest reverence is paid to these old initiates who preserved the primeval wisdom of Atlantis; to the re-incarnated Skythianos, in whom was seen the great and honored Bodhisattva of the West; to the temporarily incarnated reflection of the Buddha, who also was honored as one of the Bodhisattvas; and finally to Zarathustra, the reincarnated Zarathustra. These were looked up to as the great Teachers of the European Initiates. Such presentations must not be taken in the sense of external history, although they elucidate the historical course of events better than any external description could do.
Let me illustrate this statement by saying that there is hardly to be found a single country in the Middle Ages in which a certain legend was not everywhere current, though at that time no one in Europe knew anything of Gautama Buddha, and the tradition of Gautama Buddha had been completely lost. Yet the following story was related (it is to be found in many books of the Middle Ages and is one of the widely disseminated stories of that period): Once upon a time there was a King in India to whom a son was born called Josaphat. Extraordinary things were prophesied about this child when he was born. His father therefore especially guarded him; he was only to know what was most precious, he was to dwell in perfect happiness, he was not to become acquainted with pain and sorrow or with the misfortunes of life. He was protected from everything of that sort. It happened, however, that Josaphat one day went out of the palace and passed in succession a sick man, a leper, an aged man, and a corpse – so runs the tale. He returned deeply moved into the king’s palace and chanced upon a man whose soul was filled with the secrets of Christianity and whose name was Balaam; Balaam converted Josaphat, and this Josaphat who had experienced all this, became a Christian.
It is not necessary to bring the Akashic records to our aid in order to interpret this legend, since ordinary philology suffices to reveal the origin of the name Josaphat. Josaphat is derived from an old word Josaphat; Josaphat again from Joadosaph; Joadosaph from Juadosaph which is identical with Budhasaph – both these last forms are Arabic – and Budhasaph is the same name as Bodhisattva. So the European occult teaching not only knows the Bodhisattva, it also knows, if it can decipher the name of Josaphat, the meaning of that word. This cultivation of occult knowledge in the West by means of legends contained the fact that there was a time when the being who lived in Gautama Buddha became a Christian. Whether this be a matter of knowledge or no, it is none the less true. Just as belated traditions may exist, as men may believe today that which was believed thousands of years ago, and which has been propagated by means of tradition – so they may also believe that it accords with the laws of the higher worlds for Gautama Buddha to have remained the same as he was six hundred years before our era. But it is not so. He has ascended, he has evolved and in the true Rosicrucian teachings the knowledge of this fact has been preserved in the form of the above legend.
Within the spiritual life of Europe we find him who was the bearer of the Christ, Zarathas or Nazarathos – the original Zarathustra – appearing again from time to time; in the same way we meet with Skythianos again and the third great pupil of Manes, Buddha, as he was after he had taken part in the experiences of later ages.
Thus the European who had some knowledge of initiation looked into the changing ages and kept his gaze fixed on the true figures of the Great Teachers. He knew of Zarathas, of Buddha, of Skythianos – he knew that through them wisdom was pouring into the civilization of the future-wisdom which had always proceeded from the Bodhisattvas and which must be used in order to promote understanding of the greatest treasure of all comprehension, the Christ, Who is fundamentally a completely different Being from the Bodhisattvas and Whom we can understand only by gathering together all the wisdom of the Bodhisattvas. Therefore in the spiritual wisdom of Europe there is a synthesis of all the teachings that have been given to the world through the three great pupils of Manes and by Manes himself. Even though men may not have understood Manes, a time will come when European civilization will take such form that there will be a feeling for what is connected with the names of Skythianos, Buddha, and Zarathustra. They give to mankind the material whose study will teach us to understand Christ, and through them our understanding of Him will grow more and more complete.
From Buddha, Christianity had to learn the teachings of reincarnation and of Karma, but in the older religion they are to be found in an ancient guise, unsuited to modern times. Why are the teachings of reincarnation and of Karma flowing into Christianity today? Because the initiates have learned to understand them in a modern sense, just as Buddha himself after his fashion understood them – and Buddha was the great Teacher of reincarnation. In the same way we shall attain to an understanding of Skythianos, whose teaching deals not only with the reincarnation of men but with the powers which rule from eternity to eternity. So shall the central Being of the world, the Christ, be ever more and more understood. In this way the teachings of the initiates gradually flow into humanity. We make a beginning by teaching the elementary truths of our earth evolution, by seeking that which we owe originally to Skythianos, Zarathustra and Buddha and by accepting it as they teach it in our age, in the form they themselves know it, their evolution having progressed to our present age. We have reached a point in civilization now where the elementary teachings of initiation are beginning to be disclosed.”