The completion of lecture 3 of 10 of The Gospel of Luke.
Rudolf Steiner, Basel, September 17, 1909:
...This expresses the great truth of the Bodhisattva becoming Buddha and sacrificing the substance of his very being to mankind for nourishment, so that his forces now ray out into the world from the hearts of men.
Of a being such as the Bodhisattva who became Buddha, we said — and this is the teaching of all who know: When a being passes through this stage he has had his last incarnation on the Earth, for his whole nature is contained within a human body. Such a being never again incarnates in this sense. Hence when the Buddha became aware of the significance of his present existence he could say: ‘This is my last incarnation; I shall not again incarnate on the Earth!’ — It would however be erroneous to think that such a being then withdraws altogether from Earth existence. True, he does not enter directly into a physical body, but he assumes another body — of an astral or etheric nature — and so continues to send his influences into the world. The way in which such a being who has passed through the last incarnation belonging to his own destiny continues to work in the world may be understood by thinking of the following facts.
An ordinary human being, consisting of physical body, etheric body, astral body, and ego, can be permeated by such a being. It is possible for a being of this rank, who no longer descends into a physical body but still has an astral body, to be membered into the astral body of another human being. This man may well become a personality of importance, for the forces of a being who has already passed through his last incarnation on the Earth are now working in him. Thus an astral being unites with the astral nature of some individual on the Earth. Such a union may take place in a most complicated way. When the Buddha appeared to the shepherds in the picture of the ‘heavenly host’ he was not in a physical body but in an astral body. He had assumed a body in which he could still send his influences to the Earth. Thus in the case of a being who has become a Buddha we distinguish three bodies:
1. The body he has before he attains Buddhahood, when he is still working from above as a Bodhisattva; it is a body that does not contain in itself all the powers at his command; he still lives in spiritual heights and is linked with his earlier mission, as was the Bodhisattva before his mission became the Buddha's mission. As long as such a being is living in a body of this nature, his body is called a ‘Dharmakaya’;2. The body which such a being builds as his own and through which he brings to expression, in the physical body, everything he has within him. This body is called the ‘body of perfection’, ‘Sambhogakaya’.3. The body which such a being assumes after he has passed through the stage of perfection and can work from above in the way described. This body is called a Nirmanakaya’. [ 1 ]
We can therefore say that the Nirmanakaya of Buddha appeared to the shepherds in the picture of the angelic host. Buddha appeared in the radiance of his Nirmanakaya and revealed himself in this way to the shepherds. But he was to find further ways of working into the events in Palestine at this crucial point of time.
To understand this we must briefly recall what is known to us from other lectures about the nature of man. Spiritual science speaks of several ‘births’. At what is called ‘physical birth’ the human being strips off, as it were, the maternal physical sheath; at the seventh year he strips off the etheric sheath which envelops him until the change of teeth just as the maternal physical sheath enveloped him until physical birth. At puberty — about the fourteenth or fifteenth year in the modern epoch — the human being strips off the astral sheath that is around him until then. It is not until the seventh year that the human etheric body is born outwardly as a free body; the astral body is born at puberty, when the outer astral sheath is cast off.
Let us now consider what it is that is discarded at puberty. In Palestine and the neighboring regions this point of time occurs normally at about the twelfth year — rather earlier than in lands farther to the West. In the ordinary way, this protective astral sheath is cast off and given over to the outer astral world. In the case of the child who descended from the priestly line of the House of David, however, something different happened. At the age of twelve the astral sheath was cast off 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 today. 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.
These are facts which can become known to the spiritual investigator and which the writer of the Gospel of St. Luke has indicated in the remarkable scene when a sudden change came over the twelve-year-old Jesus in the temple. We must grasp what it was that had happened and then we shall understand why the boy no longer spoke as he had formerly been wont to speak. It so happened that at this very time, King Kanisha of Tibet summoned a Synod in India and proclaimed ancient Buddhism to be the orthodox religion. But in the meantime Buddha himself had advanced! He had absorbed the forces of the protective astral sheath of the Jesus child and was thereby able to speak in a new way to the hearts and souls of men.
The Gospel of St. Luke contains Buddhism in a new form, as though springing from a fountain of youth; hence it expresses the religion of compassion and love in a form comprehensible to the simplest souls. We can read what the writer of the Gospel of St. Luke has woven into the text of his Gospel, but still more is contained in its depths. Only part of what appertains to the scene of Jesus in the temple could be described today,and even greater depths of this mystery have still to be explained. Light will then be shed upon the earlier as well as upon the later years of the life of Jesus of Nazareth.
Notes:1. Also referred to in Buddhist literature as ‘the Body of Transformation’.
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