Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 44.djvu/42

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.

ripples and whirlpools, which last for a while and then vanish with the causes that gave rise to them, so what seem individual existences are mere temporary associations of phenomena circling round a center, "like a dog tied to a post." In the whole universe there is nothing permanent, no eternal substance either of mind or of matter. Personality is a metaphysical fancy; and, in very truth, not only we, but all things, in the worlds without end of the cosmic phantasmagoria, are such stuff as dreams are made of.

What then becomes of karma? Karma remains untouched. As the peculiar form of energy we call magnetism may be transmitted from a loadstone to a piece of steel, from the steel to a piece of nickel, as it may be strengthened or weakened by the conditions to which it is subjected while resident in each piece, so it seems to have been conceived that karma might be transmitted from one phenomenal association to another by a sort of induction. However this may be, Gautama doubtless had a better guarantee for the abolition of transmigration, when no wrack of substance, either of Atman or of Brahma, was left behind; when, in short, a man had but to dream that he willed not to dream, to put an end to all dreaming.

This end of life's dream is Nirvana. What Nirvana is the learned do not agree. But, since the best original authorities tell us there is neither desire, nor activity, nor any possibility of phenomenal reappearance for the sage who has entered Nirvana, it may be safely said of this acme of Buddhistic philosophy the rest is silence.*


  1. According to Buddhism, the relation of one life to the next is merely that borne by the flame of one lamp to the flame of another lamp which is set alight by it. To the "Arahat" or adept "no outward form, no compound thing, no creature, no creator, no existence of any kind, must appear to be other than a temporary collocation of its component parts fated inevitably to be dissolved." (Rhys Davids, Hibbert Lectures, p. 211.)

    The self is nothing but a group of phenomena held together by the desire of life; when that desire shall have ceased "the Karma of that particular chain of lives will cease to influence any longer any distinct individual, and there will be no more birth; for birth, decay, and death, grief, lamentation, and despair will have come, so far as regards that chain of lives, forever to an end."

    The state of mind of the Arahat in which the desire of life has ceased is Nirvana. Dr. Oldenberg has very acutely and patiently considered the various interpretations which have been attached to "Nirvana" in the work to which I have referred (p. 285 et seq.). The result of his and other discussions of the question may, I think, be briefly stated thus:

    1. Logical deduction from the predicates attached to the term "Nirvana" strips it of all reality, conceivability, or perceivability, whether by gods or men. For all practical purposes, therefore, it comes to exactly the same thing as annihilation.

    2. But it is not annihilation in the ordinary sense, inasmuch as it could take place in the living Arahat or Buddha.

    8. And, since, for the faithful Buddhist, that which was abolished in the Arahat was the possibility of further pain, sorrow, or sin; and that which was attained was perfect peace;