No Secret Doctrine


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Vol. 1, No. 3, 19 53

        A famous publisher once said that the words" hidden" and "secret" in the title of a book were magic charms to produce enormous sales.

       Certain it is that the mind of man quests always in search of some secret talisman to make him more powerful than his fellows and pander to his overweening vanity.

        It is the glory of the Buddha's Teaching of realism that it shows both the puerility of this attitude and the way to master this surviving remnant of the primitive mind.

       For in Buddhism there is no Secret Doctrine ".

       Nevertheless, to the Western world, Buddhism was presented as being exactly the opposite of what it is in this respect by a few Theosophist writers of the latter years of last century and the early years of this. Unfortunately these rather pretentious folk had the merest smattering of Buddhist literature and thy Buddhist Teachings and have misled some of the equally ignorant Western writers even up to the present day, so that they, blindly following the blind, have fallen into the same ditch of error

        The Buddha gave a clear, realistic picture of the universe since He taught Truth itself, and the only esotericism of this Teaching is the intellectual esotericism created by the hearer himself ; by his inability to tinder- stand the Truth. Truth itself is simple, it is the mind of man that, subtle, creates subtlety.


        The Buddha termed His Doctrine Ehi passiko " . . " That which invites investigation ', and we Theravadins, who follow the Pali Canon (the Teachings of the Buddha handed down by successive groups of" Reciters" (Bhanakas) who daily repeated aloud and preserved these Teachings until they were written down) take note not of one single phrase but of a hundred important utterances to the effect that nothing that is conducive to salvation has been withheld by the Buddha.

        Not the least of these utterances is in the parable of the Simsapa leaves, from the Samyutta Nikaya, an integral part of the Pali Canon.

        "At one time the Lord dwelt at Kosambi in the simsapa-grove. Then the Lord took a few simsapa leaves in his hand and addressed the brethren, " What do you think, brethren, which are the more, the few sirnsapa leaves I have taken in my hand, or those that are in the simsapa-grove ?" "Small in number, Lord, and few are the leaves that the Lord has taken in his hand those are far more that are in the simsapa grove ". "Even so, brethren, that is much more which I have realised and have not declared to you ; and but little have I declared.

        "And why, brethren, have I not declared it ? Because it is not profitable, does not belong to the beginning of the religious life, and does not tend to revulsion, absence of passion, cessation, calm, higher knowledge, enlightenment, Nibbana. Therefore have I not declared it.

        And what, brethren, have I declared ? This is pain, I have declared ; this is the cause of pain, I have declared ; this is the cessation of pain, I have declared this is the Way leading to the cessation of pain, I have declared. And why, brethren, have I declared it ? Because it is profitable, it belongs to the beginning of the religious life, and tends to revulsion, absence of passion, cessation, calm, higher knowledge, enlightenment, Nibbana. Therefore have I declared it.

        "Therefore, brethren, to this you must be devoted this is pain, this is the cause of pain, this is the cessation of pain, this is the Way leading to the cessation of pain."

(Samyutta, v, 437)

       From this, quoted in full as it is here, it is apparent that the only truths "withheld" were those that would not tend to the higher knowledge but would on the other hand, tend to bind one the more to those delusive states of intellectual argument" from which as Omar Khayyam said :" I evermore, came out by the same door as in I went ". All that does tend to the higher knowledge, to the attainment of all Truth, the Buddha taught.


        So lucid and unequivocal is the Buddha dhamma that it would seem almost impossible for mystery-mongers even to attempt to ply their craft under the guise of Buddhism. Yet, taking advantage of the ignorance of Buddhist Teachings in the West and, one must be charitable, due to their own lack of know ledge, one still finds a few who prate of "the esoteric" and "secret transmission" in the name of Buddhism.

        Yet it was the Buddha Himself who said: Secrecy is characteristic of three things; women who are in love seek secrecy and shun publicity ; so also do priests who claim to be in possession of special revelations, and so do all those who stray from the path of truth. Three things shine before the world and may not be hidden. They are the moon, the sun and the truth proclaimed by the Tathagata. There is no secrecy about them ".

        As we are taught in the great" Mahaparinibbana Sutta ", the Buddha's personal attendant, Ananda, who, and this is significant, had not yet attained Arahatship, hinted that the Buddha would, ere he passed away leave some instructions as touching the Order ". The Buddha replied

        I have preached the truth without making any distinction between exoteric and esoteric doctrine ; for in respect of the truths, Ananda, the Tathagata has no such thing as the closed fist of a teacher who keeps something back."

        In this Sutta also we read that the Buddha asked Ananda to 'assemble in the Service Hall such of the brethren as reside in the neighbourhood" and to them said:

        "O brethren ye to whom the truths I have perceived have been made known by me— having thoroughly made yourselves masters of them, practise them, meditate upon them, and spread them abroad in order that pure religion may last long and be perpetuated, in order that it may continue to be for the good and happiness of the great multitudes, out of pity for the world, to the good and the gain and the weal of gods and of men ".

        Here, indeed, is a Teaching of the open hand and not of the closed fist, and only one woefully ignorant of the sublime Doctrine could think of "something withheld" by the Buddha. One may well quote the Buddha's own words :" Now, Sunnakkhatta, would a Tathagata utter any speech that was ambiguous ?"

       It was to these brethren that the Buddha delivered his final injunction. This was some time after Ananda had expressed the wish that the Buddha would not depart without teaching everything.

       To the great assembly of brethren the Buddha asked whether any doubts existed "as to the Buddha, or the doctrine, or the path, or the method." The brethren were silent and Ananda then expressed his faith and belief.

        "And the venerable Ananda said to the Exalted One:—' How wonderful a thing is it, Lord, and how marvellous ! Verily, I believe that in this whole assembly of the brethren there is not one brother who has any doubt or misgiving as to the Buddha, or the doctrine, or the path, or the method

        "It is out of the fullness of faith that thou hast spoken, Ananda ! But, Ananda, the Tathagata knows for certain that in this whole assembly' of the brethren there is not one brother who has any doubt or misgiving as to the Buddha, or the doctrine, or the path, or the method ! For even the most backward. Ananda, of all these five hundred brethren has become converted, is no longer liable to be born in a state of suffering, and is assured of hereafter attaining to the Enlightenment of Arahantship."

       Then the Exalted One addressed the brethren, and said :—' Behold now, brethren, I exhort you, saying:—" Decay is inherent in all component things ! Work out your salvation with diligence."

        This was the last word of the Tathagata !" (Maha Parinibbana Suttanta D.ii. 154)

        Here, then, is the Teaching that is conducive to full knowledge; the Buddha taught to all men who can perceive it the full truth leading to enlightenment. He did not teach those part truths which lead but to interminable arguments.

       Much that He knew, certainly He did not teach in so many words, for the words did not exist, do not exist now and cannot, in the nature of things, exist. He did teach the method by which one may train oneself to perceive ultimate Truth. That method lives to-day and here in Burma we have many teachers at our more than 500 approved Meditation Centres. We are prepared to welcome earnest seekers and "holding nothing back "to help them, in their search. Already from America, Australia, England, Holland, India, Italy, from all the world, have come those who have practised the method, and profited thereby.

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