Friday, December 29, 2017

The Eightfold Path of Buddha and the Way of Christ

"I am the way, the truth, and the life."

Rudolf Steiner:

Knowing that the great teaching of compassion and love brought by Buddha is given expression in the Eightfold Path, we may ask ourselves: What is the aim of this Eightfold Path? What does a man attain when from the depths of his soul he adopts it as his life's ideal, never losing sight of the goal and asking continually: How can I reach the greatest perfection? How can I purify my ego most completely? What must I do to enable my ego to fulfill its function in the world as perfectly as possible? — Such a man will say to himself: If I obey every precept of the Eightfold Path my ego will reach the greatest perfection that it is possible to conceive. Everything is a matter of the purification and ennoblement of the ego; everything that can stream from this wonderful Eightfold Path must penetrate into us. The point of importance is that it is work carried out by the ego, for its own perfecting. If, therefore, men were to develop to further stages in themselves that which Buddha set in motion as the ‘Wheel of the Law’ (that is the technical term), their egos would gradually become possessed of wisdom at a high level — wisdom in the form of thought — and they 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, we shall possess the requisite knowledge of the laws expressed in its 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. That is the all-important point.
Nineteen centuries and roughly five more have now elapsed since the great Buddha lived on the Earth; in about three thousand years from now — this we learn from occultism — a considerable number of human beings will have reached the stage of being able to evolve the wisdom of the Buddha, the Eightfold Path, out of their own moral nature, out of their own heart and soul. Buddha had once to be on Earth, and the power that mankind will develop little by little as the wisdom of the Eightfold Path proceeded from him; after about three thousand years from now men will be able to unfold its teaching from within themselves; it will then be their own possession and they will no longer be obliged to receive it from outside. Then they will be able to say: This Eightfold Path springs from our very selves as the wisdom of compassion and love.
Even if nothing else had happened than the setting in motion of the Wheel of the Law by the great Buddha, in three thousand years from now humanity would have become capable of knowing the doctrine of compassion and love. But it is a different matter also to have acquired the faculty to embody it in very life. Not only to know about compassion and love, but under the influence of an individuality to unfold it as living power — there lies the difference. This faculty proceeded from Christ. He poured love itself into men, and it will grow from strength to strength. When men have reached the end of their evolution, wisdom will have revealed to them the content of the doctrine of compassion and love; this they will owe to Buddha. But at the same time they will possess the faculty  of letting the love stream out from the ego over mankind; this they will owe to Christ.
Thus Buddha and Christ worked in cooperation, and the exposition given has been necessary in order that the Gospel of St. Luke may be properly understood. We realize this at once when we know how to interpret correctly the words used in the Gospel. (Luke 2:13–14.) The great proclamation is to be made to the shepherds. Above them is the ‘heavenly host’ — this is the spiritual, imaginative expression for the Nirmanakaya of the Buddha. What is it that is proclaimed to the shepherds from on high? The ‘manifestation (or revelation) of the wisdom-filled God from the Heights!’ This is the proclamation made to the shepherds by the Nirmanakaya of Buddha, pictured as the ‘heavenly host’ hovering over the Nathan Jesus child. But something else is added: ‘And peace be to men on the Earth below who are filled with a good will’ — that is, men in whom the living power of love is germinating. It is this that must gradually become reality on Earth through the new impulse given by Christ. To the ‘revelation from the Heights’ He added the living power, bringing into every human heart and into every human soul something that can fill the soul to overflowing. He gave the soul not merely a teaching that could be received in the form of thought and idea, but a power that can stream forth from it. The Christ-bestowed power that can fill the human soul to overflowing is called in the Gospel of St. Luke, and in the other Gospels too, the power of faith. This is what the Gospels mean by Faith. A man who receives Christ into himself so that Christ lives in him, a man whose ego is not an empty vessel but is filled to overflowing with love — such a man has faith.