Monday, December 17, 2012

The supreme greatness of Buddha and the Eightfold Path

Rudolf Steiner:
"Men must gradually reacquire that ascendancy of the soul-and-spirit over the material which they were obliged to lose. It was being slowly lost from the time of ancient Indian culture until well into the Graeco-Latin epoch. But during the latter epoch there were always human beings in whom as a heritage from olden times the etheric body was still loosened to a certain extent and whose whole organism was amenable to psychic and spiritual influences. It was in that age, therefore, that Christ Jesus appeared. Had He come in our epoch He would not have been able to work as He did at that time or become the great Example for mankind. In our epoch He would have encountered human organisms far more deeply sunk in physical matter. He Himself would have had to descend into a physical organism in which the powerful effects produced by the soul-and-spirit upon the physical would not have been possible as they were at the time of His coming.

This applies not only to Christ Jesus but to others as well, and the evolution of humanity can be understood only in the light of what has been said. It applies, for example, to Buddha and his mission on the Earth. He was the first to proclaim and establish the great teaching of compassion and love and everything connected with that teaching as expressed in the precepts of the Eightfold Path. Do you imagine that if Buddha were to appear today he would be able to achieve what he achieved in India? Indeed he would not, for a physical organism in which he was able to reach that stage of development could not exist today. Man's physical organism has undergone continual changes in the course of the ages. Buddha was obliged to descend at exactly the point of time when it was possible for him to use an organism enabling him to accomplish the mighty deed of inaugurating the Eightfold Path. Strange as it may seem, it is nevertheless true that all the philosophical and moral teachings since produced by humanity are no more than a feeble beginning of what was established by Buddha. However greatly people may admire different philosophies, however fervent their enthusiasm may be for Kantian thought and other such systems — everything is elementary compared with the all-embracing principles of the Eightfold Path. Humanity can only slowly reach the stage of understanding what lies behind the words of this teaching. At the right moment something of the kind is established in the world for the first time; from this point evolution advances and humanity acquires, but only after long ages, what was first exemplified in a mighty deed. Thus in his day Buddha brought to the world the teaching of love and compassion as a token for coming generations of human beings who must gradually acquire the capacity to recognize and understand from within themselves the principles of the Eightfold Path. In the sixth post-Atlantean epoch of civilization a considerable number of human beings will be capable of this. But a long path has to be trodden before men say to themselves: We can now acquire out of our own souls what Buddha established five or six centuries before our era; we have now become like Buddha in our own souls."

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