Caste of the Few Illuminated Ascetics &

Lay Followers who took Refuge in the Doctrine & the Order

United by Strict yet Free Style of Life

(from "The Doctrine of Awakening")




Since our aim has been to give the original Doctrine of Awakening as it appears from a study of the Pali texts, we have no need to deal in detail with the changes and transformations of Buddhism in later epochs: besides, this would be more in the province of history than in that of doctrine. We shall confine ourselves, then, to a few short notes.

We have already said that Buddhism, in its true essence, is of an eminently aristocratic nature. At the beginning, Buddhism was the truth understood by those few, who alone had really achieved illumination and who appeared as bhikkhu or wandering ascetics. Then, around these, the upāsaka, lay followers, collected and increased and who, according to the canonical formula, had taken refuge in the Buddha, the doctrine, and the order. The order, however, did not resemble a church and the doctrine still less a religion. Women were originally excluded. The unity of the order was essentially due to a strict style of life. It was only later, and with a decadence fully recognized as such by the ancient texts, that precepts and rules multiplied.

The decadence of Buddhism was inevitable once it began to spread: for the Ariya Doctrine of Awakening is closer than any other to a path of initiation that may be understood and trodden only by the few in whom, together with exceptional strength, there is present a lively aspiration for the unconditioned. And even racial and caste influences played their part: not for nothing have we insisted on the "Aryan" quality of the doctrine under discussion. Frontiers to comprehension exist in the normal way, and they are conditioned by the race of spirit and, in part, by the body itself. As soon as Buddhism was adopted by the masses and not only passed to levels where foreign influences survived or were rearoused, but spread even to peoples of notably different stock, changes and alterations became inevitable.





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