Book Six, Part III—Critics of His Doctrines

1. *Critics of Open Admission to the Sangh* -- 2. *Critics of The Rule of Vows* -- 3. *Critics of the Doctrine of Ahimsa* -- 4. *Charge of Preaching Virtue and Creating Gloom* -- 5. *Critics of the Theory of Soul and Rebirth* -- 6. *Charge of being an Annihilationist*

§ 1. Critics of Open Admission to the Sangh

    1. It was open for the Sangh to admit a layman who was merely a disciple.
    2. There were persons who criticised the Lord for making the Sangh a wide-open temple for anybody to enter.
    3. They argued that under such a scheme it may well happen that after they have been admitted into the Order they give it up and return again to the lower state, and by their back-sliding the people are led to say: "Vain must be this religion of Samana Gautama, which these men have given up."
    4. The criticism was not well founded, and had altogether missed the intention of the Blessed Lord in making such a scheme.
    5. The Blessed Lord replied that in establishing his religion he had constructed a bathing tank full of the excellent waters of emancipation--the bath of good law.
    6. It was the Lord's desire that whosoever is polluted with stains of sin, he, bathing in it, can wash away all his sins.
    7. And if anyone, having gone to the bathing tank of good law, should not bathe in it, but turn back polluted as before and return again to the lower state, it is he who is to be blamed, and not the religion.
    8. "Or could I," said the Blessed Lord, "after constructing this bathing tank for enabling people to wash away their sins, say, 'Let no one who is dirty go down into this tank! Let only those whose dust and dirt have been washed away, who are purified and stainless, go down into the tank'?
    9. "On such terms, what good would have been my religion?"
    10. The critics forgot that the Blessed Lord did not wish to confine the benefit only to a few. He wanted to keep it open to all, to be tried by all.

§ 2. Critics of the Rule of Vows

    1. Why are the five precepts not enough? Why vows are felt necessary? These were the questions that were often raised,
    2. It was argued that if diseases would abate without medicine, what could be the advantage of weakening the body by emetics, by purges, and other like remedies?
    3. Just so, if laymen, living at home and enjoying the pleasures of the senses, can realize in themselves the conditions of peace, the Supreme Good, Nibbana, by taking precepts, what is the need of the bhikkhu taking upon himself these vows?
    4. The Blessed Lord devised the vows because of the virtues inherent in them.
    5. A life conditioned by vows is certain to bring with it growth in goodness; it is itself a protection against a fall.
    6. Those who take vows and keep them as self-dependents, are emancipated.
    7. The keeping of vows is the restriction of lust and of malice, of pride, [and is] the cutting of evil thoughts.
    8. Those who take vows and keep them, well guarded are they indeed, and altogether pure are they in manners and in mind.
    9. Not so with mere taking of precepts.
    10. In the case of the precepts, there is no protection against moral decline, as there is in the case of vows.
    11. A life of vows is very difficult, and a life of precepts not so. It is necessary for mankind to have some who live the life of vows. So the Blessed Lord prescribed both.

§ 3. Critics of the Doctrine of Ahimsa

    1. There were persons who objected to the doctrine of Ahimsa. They said that it involved surrender or non-resistance to evil.
    2. This is a complete misrepresentation of what the Blessed Lord taught by his doctrine of Ahimsa.
    3. The Blessed Lord has made his position clear on various occasions, so as to leave no room for ambiguity or misunderstanding.
    4. The first such occasion to which reference should be made is the occasion when he made a rule regarding the entry of a soldier in[to] the Sangh.
    5. At one time the border provinces of the kingdom of Magadha were agitated. Then the Magadha king Seniya Bimbisara gave order to the Commander of the army: 'Well now, go and ask your officers to search through the border provinces for the offenders, punish them, and restore peace." The Commander acted accordingly.
    6. On hearing the orders of the Commander the officers found themselyes placed in a dilemma. They knew that the Tathagatha taught that those who go to war and find delight in fighting, do evil and produce great demerit. On the other hand, here was the king's order to capture the offenders and to kill them. Now what shall we do, asked the officers to themselves.
    7. Then these officers thought: "If we could enter the order of the Buddha, we would be able to escape from the dilemma."
    8. Thus these officers went to the bhikkhus and asked them for ordination; the bhikkhus conferred on them the pabbajja and upasampada ordinations, and the officers disappeared from the army.
    9. The Commander of the army, .finding that the officers were not to be seen, asked the soldiers, "Why, how is it that the officers are nowhere to be seen?" "The officers, lord, have embraced religious life of the bhikkhus," replied the soldiers.
    10. Then the Commander of the army was annoyed, and became very angry: "How can the bhikkhus ordain persons in the royal army?"
    11. The Commander of the army informed the king of what had happened. And the king asked the officers of justice: "Tell me, my good sirs, what punishment does he deserve who ordains a person in the royal service?"
    12. "The Upagghaya, Your Majesty, should be beheaded; to him who recites (the Kammavaka), the tongue should be torn out; to those who form the chapter, half of their ribs should be broken."
    13. Then the king went to the place where the Blessed One was; and after obeisance, informed him of what had happened.
    14. "The Lord well knows that there are kings who are against the Dhamma. These hostile kings are ever ready to harass the bhikkhus even for trifling reasons. It is impossible to imagine the lengths to which they might go in their ill-treatment of the bhikkhus, if they find that the bhikkhus are seducing the soldiers to leave the army and join the Sangh. Pray, Lord, to do the needful to avert the disaster."
    15. The Lord replied, "It was never my intention to allow soldiers under the cloak of Ahimsa or in the name of Ahimsa to abandon their duty to the king or to their country."
    16. Accordingly the Blessed One made a rule against the admission of persons in royal service to the Sangh, and proclaimed it to the bhikkhus, saying: "Let no one, O Bhikkhus, who is in the royal service, receive the Pabbajja ordination. He who confers the Pabbajja ordination on such a person will be guilty of a dukkata offence."
    17. A second time the Blessed One was cross-examined on the subject of Ahimsa by Sinha, a General in the army, and who was a follower of Mahavir.
    18. Sinha asked, "One doubt still lurks in my mind concerning the doctrine of the Blessed One. Will the Blessed One consent to clear the cloud away, so that I may understand the Dhamma as the Blessed One teaches it?"
    19. The Tathagata having given his consent, Sinha said:   "I am a soldier, O Blessed One, and am appointed by the king to enforce his laws and to wage his wars. Does the Tathagata, who teaches kindness without end and compassion with all sufferers, permit the punishment of the criminal? And further, does the Tathagata declare that it is wrong to go to war for the protection of our homes, our wives, our children, and our property? Does the Tathagata teach the doctrine of a complete self-surrender, so that I should suffer the evil-doer to do what he pleases, and yield submissively to him who threatens to take by violence what is my own? Does the Tathagata maintain that all strifes, including such warfare as is waged for a righteous cause, should be forbidden?"
    20. The Lord replied : "The Tathagata says: 'He who deserves punishment must be punished, and he who is worthy of favour must be favoured.' Yet at the same time he teaches to do no injury to any living being, but to be full of love and kindness. These injunctions are not contradictory, for whosoever must be punished for the crimes which he has committed suffers his injury not through the ill-will of the judge, but on account of his evil-doing. His own acts have brought upon him the injury that the executor of the law inflicts. When a magistrate punishes, let him not harbour hatred in his breast; yet a murderer, when put to death, should consider that this is the fruit of his own act. As soon as he will understand that the punishment will purify his soul, he will no longer lament his fate but rejoice at it."
    21. A proper understanding of these instances would show that the Ahimsa taught by the Blessed Lord was fundamental. But it was not absolute.
    22. He taught that evil should be cured by the return of good. But he never preached that evil should be allowed to overpower good.
    23. He stood for Ahimsa. He denounced Hirnsa. But he did not deny that Hirnsa may be the last resort to save good being destroyed by evil.
    24. Thus it is not that the Blessed Lord taught a dangerous doctrine. It is the critics who failed to understand its significance and its scope.

§ 4. Charge of Preaching Virtue and Creating Gloom

(4.i) Dukkha as the Cause of Gloom

    1. Dukkha in its original sense given to it by Kapila means unrest, commotion.
    2. Initially it had a metaphysical meaning.
    3. Later on it acquired the meaning of suffering arid sorrow
    4. The two senses were not far detached. They were very close.
    5. Unrest brings sorrow and suffering.
    6. Soon it acquired the meaning of sorrow and suffering from social and economic causes.
    7. In what sense did the Buddha use the word 'sorrow and suffering'?
    8. There is a sermon on record from which it is clear that the Buddha was very much aware that poverty was a cause of sorrow.
    9. In that sermon he says: "Monks, is poverty a woeful thing for a worldly wanton?"
    10. "Surely, Lord."
    11. "And when a man is poor, needy, in straits, he gets into debt, and is that woeful too?"
    12. "Surely, Lord."
    13. "And when he gets into debt, he borrows, and is that woeful too?"
    14. "Surely, Lord."
    15. "And when the bill falls due, he pays not, and they press him; is that woeful too?"
    16. "Surely, Lord."
    17. "And when pressed, he pays not, and they beset him; is that woeful too?"
    18. "Surely, Lord."
    19. "And when beset, he pays not, and they bind him; is that woeful too?"
    20. "Surely, Lord."
    21. "Thus, monks, poverty, debt, borrowing, being pressed, beset, and bound, are all woes for the worldly wanton.
    22. "Woeful in the world is poverty and debt."
    23. Thus the Buddha's conception of Dukkha is material.

(4.ii) Impermanence as the Cause of Gloom

    1. Another ground for this accusation arises from the doctrine that everything which is compound is impermanent.
    2. Nobody questions the truth of the doctrine.
    3. 'Everything is impermanent' is admitted by all.
    4. The doctrine, if it is true, must be told, just as truth must be told, however unpleasant it may be.
    5. But why draw a pessimistic conclusion?
    6. If life is short, it is short; and one need not be gloomy about it.
    7. It is just a matter of interpretation.
    8. The Burmese interpretation is very much different.
    9. The Burmese celebrate the event of death in a family, as though it was an event of joy.
    10. On the day of death the householder gives a public feast, and the people remove the dead body to the graveyard dancing. Nobody minds the death, for it was to come.
    11. If impermanence is pessimistic, it is only because permanence was assumed to be true--although it was a false one.
    12. Buddha's preaching cannot, therefore, be charged as spreading gloom.

(4.iii) Is Buddhism Pessimistic?

    1. The Buddha's Dhamma has been accused of creating pessimism.
    2. The accusation arises from the first Aryan Truth, which says that there is Dukkha (sorrow-misery) in the world.
    3. It is rather surprising that a reference to Dukkha should give cause to [=for] such an accusation.
    4. Karl Marx also said that there is exploitation in the world, and the rich are being made richer and the poor are being made poorer.
    5. And yet nobody has said that Karl Marx's doctrine is pessimism.
    6. Why then should a different attitude be shown to the Buddha's doctrine?
    7. It may be because the Buddha is reported to have said in his first sermon, 'birth is sorrowful, old age is sorrowful, death is sorrowful', that a deeper pessimistic colouring has been given to his Dhamma.
    8. But those who know rhetoric know that this is an artifice of exaggeration, and that it is practised by skilled literary hands to produce effect.
    9. That 'birth is sorrowful' is an exaggeration by the Buddha can be proved by reference to a sermon of his in which he has preached that birth as a human being is a very precious thing.
    10. Again, if the Buddha had merely referred to Dukkha, such an accusation could be sustainable.
    11. But the Buddha's second Aryan Truth emphasises that this Dukkha must be removed. In order to emphasise the duty of removal of Dukkha, he spoke of the existence of Dukkha.
    12. To the removal of Dukkha, the Buddha attached great importance. It is because he found that Kapila merely stated that there was Dukkha, and said nothing more about it, that he felt dissatisfied and left the Ashram of Muni Alara Kalam.
    13. How can this Dhamma be called pessimistic?
    14. Surely a teacher who is anxious to remove Dukkha cannot be charged with pessimism.

§ 5. Critics of the Theory of Soul and Rebirth

    1. The Blessed Lord preached that there was no Soul. The Blessed Lord also affirmed that there was rebirth.
    2. There were not wanting people who criticised the Lord for preaching what they regarded as two such contradictory doctrines.
    3. 'How can there be rebirth if there is no Soul?' they asked.
    4. There is no contradiction. There can be rebirth even though there is no Soul.
    5. There is a mango stone. The stone gives rise to a mango tree. The mango tree produces mangoes.
    6. Here is rebirth of a mango.
    7. But there is no Soul.
    8. So there can be rebirth although there is no Soul.

§ 6. Charge of Being an Annihilationist

    1. Once when the Lord was staying at Shravasti in Jeta's grove it was reported to him that a certain bhikkhu, by name Arittha, had come to certain views about the doctrines taught by the Lord, as the views of the Lord, although they were not the views of the Lord.
    2. One of the doctrines about which Arittha was misrepresenting the Lord was whether he was an annihilationist.
    3. The Blessed Lord sent for Arittha. Arittha came. On being questioned, he sat silent and glum.
    4. The Lord then said to him, "Some recluses and Brahmins wrongly, erroneously, and falsely charge me, in defiance of facts, with being an annihilationist, and with preaching disintegration and extirpation of existing creatures.
    5. It is just what I am not, and what I do not affirm.
    6. What I have consistently preached, both in the past and today, is the existence of ill and the ending of ill.


-- main book index page -- detailed book section-map -- book sources --
-- Dr. Ambedkar's work -- fwp's main page --