Rudolf Steiner, Basel, September 19, 1909:
Let us once again consider what Buddha gave to the world. Buddha's teaching was presented in the Eightfold Path — this being an enumeration of the qualities needed by the human soul if it is to escape the harsh effects of karma. In course of time Buddha's teaching must be developed as compassion and love by men individually, through their own feelings and sense of morality. I also told you that when the Bodhisattva became Buddha, this was a crucial turning-point in evolution. Had the full revelation of the Bodhisattva in the body of Gautama Buddha not taken place at that time, it would not have been possible for the souls of all human beings to unfold what we call ‘law-abidingness’ — dharma — which a man can only develop from his own being by expelling the content of his astral nature in order to liberate himself from all harsh effects of karma. The Buddhist legend indicates this in a wonderful way by saying that Buddha succeeded in ‘turning the Wheel of the Law’. This means that the enlightenment of the Bodhisattva and his ascent to Buddhahood enabled a force to stream through the whole of humanity as the result of which men could now evolve dharma from their own souls and gradually fathom the profundities of the Eightfold Path. This possibility began when Buddha first evolved the teaching upon which the moral sense of men on Earth was actually to be based. Such was the task of the Bodhisattva who became Buddha. We see how individual tasks are allotted to the great individualities when we find in Buddhism all that man can experience in his own soul as his great ideal. The ideal of the human soul — what man is and can become — that is the essence of Buddha's teaching and it sufficed as far as his particular mission was concerned.
Everything in Buddhism has to do with inwardness, with human nature and its inner development; genuine, original Buddhism contained no cosmology — although it was introduced later on. The essential mission of the Bodhisattva was to bring to men the teaching of the deep inwardness of their own souls. Thus in certain sermons Buddha avoids any definite reference to the cosmos. Everything is expressed in such a way that if the human soul allows itself to be influenced by Buddha's teaching, it can become more and more perfect. Man is regarded as a self-contained being apart from the great universe whence he proceeded. It is because this was connected with the special mission of the Bodhisattva that Buddha's teaching, when truly understood, has such a warming, deepening effect upon the soul; for this reason too the teaching seems to those who concern themselves with it to be permeated with such intensity of feeling and such inner warmth when it appears again, rejuvenated, in the Gospel of St. Luke.
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In what way could it be ensured that side by side with the stream represented by the great Buddha a second stream should run its course and at a later time receive what Buddha had brought to mankind? This could only be achieved by withholding from the stream known as the ancient Hebraic the possibility of producing human beings capable of developing dharma out of their own moral nature, that is to say, capable of finding the teachings of the Eightfold Path for themselves. In this stream there could be no Buddha. What Buddha brought to his spiritual stream in the form of deep inwardness the other stream had to receive from outside. As a particularly wise measure, therefore, and long before the appearance of Buddha, this people of the Near East was given the ‘Law’, not from within but from outside, in the Ten Commandments known as the Decalogue. The teaching imparted to another people as a possession of the inner life was given to the ancient Hebrew people in the Ten Commandments — a number of external laws received from outside and not yet united with the soul. Hence by reason of their childlike stage of evolution the ancient Hebrews felt that the Commandments had been given to them from heaven. The Indian people had been taught to realize that men evolve dharma, the law of the soul, from their inmost being; the Hebrew people were trained to obey the law given them from without. In this way they formed a wonderful complement to what Zarathustra had accomplished for his own civilization and for all civilizations originating from it.
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