1. Epicureanism and Life.--There are a good many people always buoyant in spirit and mirthful in appearance as if born optimists. There are also no fewer persons constantly crestfallen and gloomy as if born pessimists. The former, however, may lose their buoyancy and sink deep in despair if they are in adverse circumstances. The latter, too, may regain their brightness and grow exultant if they are under prosperous conditions. As there is no evil however small but may cause him to groan under it, who has his heart undisciplined, so there is no calamity however great but may cause him to despair, who has his feelings in control. A laughing child would cry, a crying child would laugh, without a sufficient cause. 'It can be teased or tickled into anything.' A grown-up child is he who cannot hold sway over his passions.
He should die a slave to his heart, which is wayward and blind, if he be indulgent to it. It is of capital importance for us to discipline the heart,' otherwise it will discipline us. Passions are like legs. They should be guided by the eye of reason. No wise serpent is led by its tail, so no wise man is led by his passion. Passions that come first are often treacherous and lead us astray. We must guard ourselves against them. In order to gratify them there arise mean desires-the desires to please sight, hearing, smell, taste, and touch. These five desires are ever pursuing or,
[1. Compare Gaku-do-yo-jin-shu, chap. i., and Zen-kwan-saku shin.]
rather, driving us. We must not spend our whole lives in pursuit of those mirage-like objects which gratify our sensual desires. When we gratify one desire, we are silly enough to fancy that we have realized true happiness. But one desire gratified begets another stronger and more insatiable. Thirst allayed with salt water becomes more intense than ever.
Shakya Muni compared an Epicurean with a dog chewing a dry bone, mistaking the blood out of a wound in his mouth for that of the bone. The author of Mahaparinirvana-sutra has a parable to the following effect: 'Once upon a time a hunter skilled in catching monkeys alive went into the wood. He put something very sticky on the ground, and hid himself among the bushes. By-and-by a monkey came out to see what it was, and supposing it to be something eatable, tried to feed on it. It stuck to the poor creature's snout so firmly that he could not shake it off. Then he attempted to tear it off with both his paws, which also stuck to it. Thereupon he strove to kick it off with both his hind-legs, which were caught too. Then the hunter came out, and thrusting his stick through between the paws and hind-legs of the victim, and thus carrying it on his shoulder, went home.' In like manner an Epicurean (the monkey), allured by the objects of sense (something sticky), sticks to the five desires (the snout and the four limbs), and being caught by Temptation (the hunter), loses his life of Wisdom.
We are no more than a species of monkeys, as evolutionists hold. Not a few testify to this truth by their being caught by means of 'something eatable.' We abolished slavery and call ourselves civilized nations. Have we not, nevertheless, hundreds of life-long slaves to cigars among us? Have we not thousands of life-long slaves to spirits among us? Have we not hundreds of thousands of life-long
[1. The sutra translated by Hwui Yen and Hwui Kwan, A.D. 424-453.]
slaves to gold among us? Have we not myriads of lifelong slaves to vanity among us? These slaves are incredibly loyal to, and incessantly work for, their masters, who in turn bestow on them incurable diseases, poverty, chagrin, and disappointment.
A poor puppy with an empty can tied to his tail, Thomas Carlyle wittily observes, ran and ran on, frightened by the noise of the can. The more rapidly he ran, the more loudly it rang, and at last he fell exhausted of running. Was it not typical of a so-called great man of the world? Vanity tied an empty can of fame to his tail, the hollow noise of which drives him through life until he falls to rise no more. Miserable!
Neither these men of the world nor Buddhist ascetics can be optimists. The latter rigorously deny themselves sensual gratifications, and keep themselves aloof from all objects of pleasure. For them to be pleased is equivalent to sin, and to laugh, to be cursed. They would rather touch an adder's head than a piece of money. They would rather throw themselves into a fiery furnace than to come in contact with the other sex. Body for them is a bag full of blood and pus; life, an idle, or rather evil, dream. Vegetarianism and celibacy are their holy privileges. Life is unworthy of having; to put an end to it is their deliverance. Such a view of life is hardly worth our refutation.
2. The Errors of Philosophical Pessimists and Religious Optimists.--Philosophical pessimists maintain that there are on earth many more causes of pain than of pleasure;
[1. Such is the precept taught in the Vinaya of Hinayanists.
2 See Mahasatiptthana Suttanta, 2-13.
3 This is the logical conclusion of Hinayanism.
4 Schopenhauer, 'The World as Will and Idea' (R. B. Haldane and J. Kemp's translation, vol. iii., pp. 384-386); Hartman, 'Philosophy of the Unconsciousness' (W. C. Coupland's translation, vol. iii., pp. 12-119).]
and that pain exists positively, but pleasure is a mere absence of pain because we are conscious of sickness but not of health; of loss, but not of possession. On the contrary, religious optimists insist that there must not be any evil in God's universe, that evil has no independent nature, but simply denotes a privation of good--that is, evil is null, is nought, is silence implying sound.'
No matter what these one-sided observers' opinion may be, we are certain that we experience good as well as evil, and feel pain and pleasure as well. Neither can we alleviate the real sufferings of the sick by telling them that sickness is no other than the absence of health, nor can we make the poor a whit richer by telling them that poverty is a mere absence of riches. How could we save the dying by persuading them that death is a bare privation of life? Is it possible to dispirit the happy by telling them that happiness is unreal, or make the fortunate miserable by telling them that fortune has no objective reality, or to make one welcome evil by telling one that it is only the absence of good?
You must admit there are no definite external causes of pain nor those of pleasure, for one and the same thing causes pain at one time and pleasure at another. A cause of delight to one person turns out to be that of aversion to another. A dying miser might revive at the sight of gold, yet a Diogenes would pass without noticing it. Cigars and wine are blessed gifts of heaven to the intemperate,' but accursed poison to the temperate. Some might enjoy a long life, but others would heartily desire to curtail it. Some might groan under a slight indisposition, while others would whistle away a life of serious disease. An Epicure might be taken prisoner by poverty, yet an Epictetus would fearlessly face and vanquish him. How, then, do you distinguish the real cause of pain from that of pleasure?
[1. The author of Han Shu (Kan Sho) calls spirits the gift of Heaven.]
How do you know the causes of one are more numerous than the causes of the other?
Expose thermometers of several kinds to one and the same temperature. One will indicate, say, 60°, another as high as 100°, another as low as 15°. Expose the thermometers of human sensibilities, which are of myriads of different kinds, to one and the same temperature of environment. None of them will indicate the same degrees. In one and the same climate, which we think moderate, the Eskimo would be washed with perspiration, while the Hindu would shudder with cold. Similarly, under one and the same circumstance some might be extremely miserable and think it unbearable, yet others would be contented and happy. Therefore we may safely conclude that there are no definite external causes of pain and pleasure, and that there must be internal causes which modify the external.
3. The Law of Balance.--Nature governs the world with her law of balance. She puts things ever in pairs,' and leaves nothing in isolation. Positives stand in opposition to negatives, actives to passives, males to females, and so on. Thus we get the ebb in opposition to the flood tide; the centrifugal force to the centripetal; attraction to repulsion; growth to decay; toxin to antitoxin; light to shade; action to reaction; unity to variety; day to night; the animate to the inanimate. Look at our own bodies: the right eye is placed side by side with the left; the left shoulder with the right; the right lung with the left; the left hemisphere of the brain with that of the right; and so forth.
It holds good also in human affairs: advantage is always accompanied by disadvantage; loss by gain; convenience by inconvenience; good by evil; rise by fall; prosperity by adversity; virtue by vice; beauty by deformity; pain by
[1. Zenists call them 'pairs of opposites.']
pleasure; youth by old age; life by death. 'A handsome young lady of quality,' a parable in Mahaparinirvana-sutra tells us, 'who carries with her an immense treasure is ever accompanied by her sister, an ugly woman in rags, who destroys everything within her reach. If we win the former, we must also get the latter.' As pessimists show intense dislike towards the latter and forget the former, so optimists admire the former so much that they are indifferent to the latter.
4. Life Consists in Conflict.--Life consists in conflict. So long as man remains a social animal he cannot live in isolation. All individual hopes and aspirations depend on society. Society is reflected in the individual, and the individual in society. In spite of this, his inborn free will and love of liberty seek to break away from social ties. He is also a moral animal, and endowed with love and sympathy. He loves his fellow-beings, and would fain promote their welfare; but he must be engaged in constant struggle against them for existence. He sympathizes even with animals inferior to him, and heartily wishes to protect them; yet he is doomed to destroy their lives day and night. He has many a noble aspiration, and often soars aloft by the wings of imagination into the realm of the ideal; still his material desires drag him down to the earth. He lives on day by day to continue his life, but he is unfailingly approaching death at every moment.
The more he secures new pleasure, spiritual or material, the more he incurs pain not yet experienced. One evil removed only gives place to another; one advantage gained soon proves itself a disadvantage. His very reason is the cause of his doubt and suspicion; his intellect, with which he wants to know everything, declares itself to be incapable of knowing anything in its real state; his finer sensibility, which is the sole source of finer pleasure, has to experience finer suffering. The more he asserts himself, the more he has to sacrifice himself. These conflictions probably led Kant to call life "a trial time, wherein most succumb, and in which even the best does not rejoice in his life." "Men betake themselves," says Fichte, "to the chase after felicity. . . . But as soon as they withdraw into themselves and ask themselves, 'Am I now happy? the reply comes distinctly from the depth of their soul, ' Oh no; thou art still just as empty and destitute as before!' . . . They will in the future life just as vainly seek blessedness as they have sought it in the present life."
It is not without reason that the pessimistic minds came to conclude that 'the unrest of unceasing willing and desiring by which every creature is goaded is in itself unblessedness,' and that 'each creature is in constant danger, constant agitation, and the whole, with its restless, meaningless motion, is a tragedy of the most piteous kind.' 'A creature like the carnivorous animal, who cannot exist at all without continually destroying and tearing others, may not feel its brutality, but man, who has to prey on other sentient beings like the carnivorous, is intelligent enough, as hard fate would have it, to know and feel his own brutal living.' He must be the most miserable of all creatures, for he is most conscious of his own misery. Furthermore, 'he experiences not only the misfortunes which actually befall him, but in imagination he goes through every possibility of evil.' Therefore none, from great kings and emperors down to nameless beggars, can be free from cares and anxieties, which 'ever flit around them like ghosts.'
5. The Mystery of Life.--Thus far we have pointed out the inevitable conflictions in life in order to prepare ourselves for an insight into the depth of life. We are far from being pessimistic, for we believe that life consists in confliction, but that confliction does not end in confliction, but in a new form of harmony. Hope comes to conflict with fear, and is often threatened with losing its hold on mind; then it renews its life and takes root still deeper than before. Peace is often disturbed with wars, but then it gains a still firmer ground than ever. Happiness is driven out of mind by melancholy, then it is re-enforced by favourable conditions and returns with double strength. Spirit is dragged down by matter from its ideal heaven, then, incited by shame, it tries a higher flight. Good is opposed by evil, then it gathers more strength and vanquishes its foe. Truth is clouded by falsehood, then it issues forth with its greater light. Liberty is endangered by tyranny, then it overthrows it with a splendid success.
Manifoldness stands out boldly against unity; difference against agreement; particularity against generality; individuality against society. Manifoldness, nevertheless, instead of annihilating, enriches unity; difference, instead of destroying agreement, gives it variety; particularities, instead of putting an end to generality, increase its content; individuals, instead of breaking the harmony of society, strengthen the power of it.
Thus 'Universal Life does not swallow up manifoldness nor extinguish differences, but it is the only means of bringing to its full development the detailed content of reality; in particular, it does not abolish the great oppositions of life and world, but takes them up into itself and brings them into fruitful relations with each other.' Therefore 'our life is a mysterious blending of freedom and necessity, power and limitation, caprice and law; yet these opposites are constantly seeking and finding a mutual adjustment.'
6. Nature Favours Nothing in Particular.--There is another point of view of life, which gave the present writer no small contentment, and which he believes would cure one of pessimistic complaint. Buddha, or Universal Life conceived by Zen, is not like a capricious despot, who acts not seldom against his own laws. His manifestation as shown in the Enlightened Consciousness is lawful, impartial, and rational. Buddhists believe that even Shakya Muni himself was not free from the law of retribution, which includes, in our opinion, the law of balance and that of causation.
Now let us briefly examine how the law of balance holds its sway over life and the world. When the Cakravartin, according to an Indian legend, the universal monarch, would come to govern the earth, a wheel would also appear as one of his treasures, and go on rolling all over the world, making everything level and smooth. Buddha is the spiritual Cakravartin, whose wheel is the wheel of the law of balance, with which he governs all things equally and impartially. First let us observe the simplest cases where the law of balance holds good. Four men can finish in three days the same amount of work as is done by three men in four days. The increase in the number of men causes the decrease in that of days, the decrease in the number of men causes the increase in that of days, the result being always the same. Similarly the increase in the sharpness of a knife is always accompanied by a decrease in its durability, and the increase of durability by a decrease of sharpness. The more beautiful flowers grow, the uglier their fruits become; the prettier the fruits grow, the simpler become their flowers. 'A strong soldier is ready to die; a strong tree is easy to be broken; hard leather is easy to be torn. But the soft tongue survives the hard teeth.' Horned creatures are destitute of tusks, the sharp-tusked creatures lack horns. Winged animals are not endowed with paws, and handed animals are provided with no wings. Birds of beautiful plumage have no sweet voice, and sweet-voiced songsters no feathers of bright colours. The finer in quality, the smaller in quantity, and bulkier in size, the coarser in nature.
Nature favours nothing in particular. So everything has its advantage and disadvantage as well. What one gains on the one hand one loses on the other. The ox is competent in drawing a heavy cart, but he is absolutely incompetent in catching mice. A shovel is fit for digging, but not for ear-picking. Aeroplanes are good for aviation, but not for navigation. Silkworms feed on mulberry leaves and make silk from it, but they can do nothing with other leaves. Thus everything has its own use or a mission appointed by Nature; and if we take advantage of it, nothing is useless, but if not, all are useless. 'The neck of the crane may seem too long to some idle on-lookers, but there is no surplus in it. The limbs of the tortoise may appear too short, but there is no shortcoming in them.' The centipede, having a hundred limbs, can find no useless feet; the serpent, having no foot, feels no want.
7. The Law of Balance in Life.--It is also the case with human affairs. Social positions high or low, occupations spiritual or temporal, work rough or gentle, education perfect or imperfect, circumstances needy or opulent, each has its own advantage as well as disadvantage. The higher the position the graver the responsibilities, the lower the rank the lighter the obligation. The director of a large bank can never be so careless as his errand-boy who may stop on the street to throw a stone at a sparrow; nor can the manager of a large plantation have as good a time on a rainy day as his day-labourers who spend it in gambling. The accumulation of wealth is always accompanied by its evils; no Rothschild nor Rockefeller can be happier than a poor pedlar.
A mother of many children may be troubled by her noisy little ones and envy her sterile friend, who in turn may complain of her loneliness; but if they balance what they gain with what they lose, they will find the both sides are equal. The law of balance strictly forbids one's monopoly of happiness. It applies its scorpion whip to anyone who is given to pleasures. Joy in extremity lives next door to exceeding sorrow. "Where there is much light," says Goethe, "shadow is deep." Age, withered and disconsolate, lurks under the skirts of blooming youth. The celebration of birthday is followed by the commemoration of death. Marriage might be supposed to be the luckiest event in one's life, but the widow's tears and the orphan's sufferings also might be its outcome. But for the former the latter can never be. The death of parents is indeed the unluckiest event in the son's life, but it may result in the latter's inheritance of an estate, which is by no means unlucky. The disease of a child may cause its parents grief, but it is a matter of course that it lessens the burden of their livelihood. Life has its pleasures, but also its pains. Death has no pleasure of life, but also none of its pain. So that if we balance their smiles and tears, life and death are equal. It is not wise for us, therefore, to commit suicide while the terms of our life still remain, nor to fear death when there is no way of avoiding it.
Again, the law of balance does not allow anyone to take the lion's share of nature's gifts. Beauty in face is accompanied by deformity in character. Intelligence is often uncombined with virtue. "Fair girls are destined to be unfortunate," says a Japanese proverb, "and men of ability to be sickly." "He makes no friend who never makes a foe." "Honesty is next to idiocy." "Men of genius," says Longfellow, "are often dull and inert in society; as the blazing meteor when it descends to earth is only a stone." Honour and shame go hand in hand. Knowledge and virtue live in poverty, while ill health and disease are inmates of luxury.
Every misfortune begets some sort of fortune, while every good luck gives birth to some sort of bad luck. Every prosperity never fails to sow seeds of adversity, while every fall never fails to bring about some kind of rise. We must not, then, despair in days of frost and snow, reminding ourselves of sunshine and flowers that follow them; nor must we be thoughtless in days of youth and health, keeping in mind old age and ill health that are in the rear of them. In brief, all, from crowns and coronets down to rags and begging bowls, have their own happiness and share heavenly grace alike.
8. The Application of the Law of Causation to Morals.--Although it may be needless to state here the law of causation at any length, yet it is not equally needless to say a few words about its application to morals as the law of retribution, which is a matter of dispute even among Buddhist scholars. The kernel of the idea is very simple-like seed, like fruit; like cause, like effect; like action, like influence--nothing more. As fresh air strengthens and impure air chokes us, so good conduct brings about good consequence, and bad conduct does otherwise.
Over against these generalizations we raise no objection, but there are many cases, in practical life, of doubtful nature. An act of charity, for example, might do others some sort of damage, as is often the case with the giving of alms to the poor, which may produce the undesirable consequence of encouraging beggary. An act of love might produce an injurious effect, as the mother's love often spoils her children. Some may think these are cases of good cause and bad effect. We have, however, to
[1. Zen lays much stress on this law. See Shu-sho-gi and Ei-hei-ka-kun, by Do-gen.
2. Dr. H. Kato seems to have thought that good cause may bring out bad effect when he attacked Buddhism on this point.]
analyze these causes and effects in order to find in what relation they stand. In the first case the good action of almsgiving produces the good effect of lessening the sufferings of the poor, who should be thankful for their benefactor. The giver is rewarded in his turn by the peace and satisfaction of his conscience. The poor, however, when used to being given alms are inclined to grow lazy and live by means of begging. Therefore the real cause of the bad effect is the thoughtlessness of both the giver and the given, but not charity itself. In the second case the mother's love and kindness produce a good effect on her and her children, making them all happy, and enabling them to enjoy the pleasure of the sweet home; yet carelessness and folly on the part of the mother and ingratitude on the part of the children may bring about the bad effect.
History is full of numerous cases in which good persons were so unfortunate as to die a miserable death or to live in extreme poverty, side by side with those cases in which bad people lived in health and prosperity, enjoying a long life. Having these cases in view, some are of the opinion that there is no law of retribution as believed by the Buddhists. And even among the Buddhist scholars themselves there are some who think of the law of retribution as an ideal, and not as a law governing life. This is probably due to their misunderstanding of the historical facts. There is no reason because he is good and honourable that he should be wealthy or healthy; nor is there any reason because he is bad that he should be poor or sickly. To be good is one thing, and to be healthy or rich is another. So also to be bad is one thing, And to be poor and sick is another. The good are not necessarily the rich or the healthy, nor are the bad necessarily the sick or the poor. Health must be secured by the strict observance of hygienic rules, and not by the keeping of ethical precepts; nor can wealth ever be accumulated by bare morality, but by economical and industrial activity. The moral conduct of a good person has no responsibility for his ill health or poverty; so also the immoral action of a bad person has no concern with his wealth or health. You should not confuse the moral with the physical law, since the former belongs only to human life, while the latter to the physical world.
The good are rewarded morally, not physically; their own virtues, honours, mental peace, and satisfaction are ample compensation for their goodness. Confucius, for example, was never rich nor high in rank; he was, nevertheless, morally rewarded with his virtues, honours, and the peace of mind. The following account of him, though not strictly historical, well explains his state of mind in the days of misfortune:
"When Confucius was reduced to extreme distress between Khan and Zhai, for seven days he had no cooked meat to eat, but only some soup of coarse vegetables without any rice in it. His countenance wore the appearance of great exhaustion, and yet be kept playing on his lute and singing inside the house. Yen Hui (was outside) selecting the vegetables, while Zze Lu and Zze Kung were talking together, and said to him: 'The master has twice been driven from Lu; he had to flee from Wei; the tree beneath which he rested was cut down in Sung; he was reduced to extreme distress in Shang and Kau; he is held in a state of siege here between Khan and Zhai; anyone who kills him will be held guiltless; there is no prohibition against making him a prisoner. And yet he keeps playing and singing, thrumming his lute without ceasing. Can a superior man be without the feeling of shame to such an extent as this?' Yen Hui gave them no reply, but went in and told (their words) to Confucius, who pushed aside his
[1. The account is given by Chwang Tsz in his book, vol. xviii., p. 17.]
lute and said: 'Yu and Zhze are small men. Call them here, and I will explain the thing to them.'
"When they came in, Zze Lu said: 'Your present condition may be called one of extreme distress!' Confucius replied: 'What words are these? When the superior man has free course with his principles, that is what we call his success; when such course is denied, that is what we call his failure. Now I hold in my embrace the principles of righteousness and benevolence, and with them meet the evils of a disordered age; where is the proof of my being in extreme distress? Therefore, looking inwards and examining myself, I have no difficulties about my principles; though I encounter such difficulties (as the present), I do not lose my virtue. It is when winter's cold is come, and the hoar-frost and snow are falling, that we know the vegetative power of the pine and cypress. This distress between Khan and Zhai is fortunate for me.' He then took back his lute so that it emitted a twanging sound, and began to play and sing. (At the same time) Zze Lu hurriedly seized a shield and began to dance, while Zze Kung said: 'I did not know (before) the height of heaven nor the depth of earth!'"
Thus the good are unfailingly rewarded with their own virtue, and the wholesome consequences of their actions on society at large. And the bad are inevitably recompensed with their own vices, and the injurious effects of their actions on their fellow-beings. This is the unshaken conviction of humanity, past, present, and future. It is the pith and marrow of our moral ideal. It is the crystallization of ethical truths, distilled through long experiences from time immemorial to this day. We can safely approve Edwin Arnold, as he Bays:
"Lo I as hid seed shoots after rainless years,
So good and evil, pains and pleasures, hates
And loves, and all dead deeds come forth again,
Bearing bright leaves, or dark, sweet fruit or sour."
Longfellow also says:
"No action, whether foul or fair,
Is ever done, but it leaves somewhere
A record-as a blessing or a curse."
9. Retribution in the Past, the Present, and the Future Life.--Then a question suggests itself: If there be no soul that survives body (as shown in the preceding chapter), who will receive the retributions of our actions in the present life? To answer this question, we have to restate our conviction that life is one and the same; in other words, the human beings form one life or one self--that is to say, our ancestors in the past formed man's past life. We ourselves now form man's present life, and our posterity will form the future life. Beyond all doubt, all actions of man in the past have brought their fruits on the present conditions of man, and all actions of the present man are sure to influence the conditions of the future man. To put it in another way, we now reap the fruits of what we sowed in our past life (or when we lived as our fathers), and again shall reap the fruits of what we now sow in our future life (or when we shall live as our posterity).
There is no exception to this rigorous law of retribution, and we take it as the will of Buddha to leave no action without being retributed. Thus it is Buddha himself who kindles our inward fire to save ourselves from sin and crimes. We must purge out all the stains in our hearts, obeying Buddha's command audible in the innermost self of ours. It is the great mercy of His that, however sinful, superstitious, wayward, and thoughtless, we have still a light within us which is divine in its nature. When that light shines forth, all sorts of sin are destroyed at once. What is our sin, after all? It is nothing but illusion or
[1. The retribution cannot be explained by the doctrine of the transmigration of the soul, for it is incompatible with the fundamental doctrine of non-soul. See Abhidharmamahavibhasa-çastra, vol. cxiv.]
error originating in ignorance and folly. How true it is, as an Indian Mahayanist declares, that 'all frost and the dewdrops of sin disappear in the sunshine of wisdom!' Even if we might be imprisoned in the bottomless bell, yet let once the Light of Buddha shine upon us, it would be changed into heaven. Therefore the author of Mahakarunika-sutra Says: "When I climb the mountain planted with swords, they would break under my tread. When I sail on the sea of blood, it will be dried up. When I arrive at Hades, they will be ruined at once."
10. The Eternal Life as taught by Professor Münsterberg.--Some philosophical pessimists undervalue life simply because it is subject to limitation. They ascribe all evils to that condition, forgetting that without limitation life is a mere blank. Suppose our sight could see all things at once, then sight has no value nor use for us, because it is life's purpose to choose to see one thing or another out of many; and if all things be present at once before us through sight, it is of no purpose. The same is true of intellect, bearing, smell, touch, feeling, and will. If they be limitless, they cease to be useful for us. Individuality necessarily implies limitation, hence if there be no limitation in the world, then there is no room for individuality. Life without death is no life at all.
Professor Hugo Münsterberg finds no value, so it seems to me, in 'such life as beginning with birth and ending with death.' He says: "My life as a causal system of physical and psychological processes, which lies spread out in time between the dates of my birth and of my death, will come to an end with my last breath; to continue it, to make it go on till the earth falls into the sun, or a billion times longer, would be without any value, as that
2. Nanjo's Catalogue, No. 117.
3. 'The Eternal Life,' p. 26.]
kind of life which is nothing but the mechanical occurrence of physiological and psychological phenomena had as such no ultimate value for me or for you, or for anyone, at any time. But my real life, as a system of interrelated-will-attitudes, has nothing before or after because it is beyond time. It is independent of birth and death because it cannot be related to biological events; it is not born, and will not die; it is immortal; all possible thinkable time is enclosed in it; it is eternal."
Professor Münsterberg tries to distinguish sharply life as the causal system of physiological and psychological processes, and life as a system of interrelated-will-attitudes, and denounces the former as fleeting and valueless, in order to prize the latter as eternal and of absolute value. How could he, however, succeed in his task unless he has two or three lives, as some animals are believed to have? Is it not one and the same life that is treated on the one hand by science as a system of physiological and psychological processes, and is conceived on the other by the Professor himself as a system of interrelated-will-attitudes? It is true that science treats of life as it is observed in time, space, and causality, and it estimates it of no value, since to estimate the value of things is no business of science. The same life observed as a system of interrelated-will-attitudes is independent of time, space, and causality as he affirms. One and the same life includes both phases, the difference being in the points of view of the observers.
Life as observed only from the scientific point of view is bare abstraction; it is not concrete life; nor is life as observed only in the interrelated-will-attitude point of view the whole of life. Both are abstractions. Concrete life includes both phases. Moreover, Professor Münsterberg sees life in the relationship entirely independent-of time, space, and causality, saying: "If you agree or disagree with the latest act of the Russian Czar, the only significant relation which exists between him and you has nothing to do with the naturalistic fact that geographically 'an ocean lies between you; and if you are really a student of Plato, your only important relation to the Greek philosopher has nothing to do with the other naturalistic fact that biologically two thousand years lie between you"; and declares life (seen from that point of view) to be immortal and eternal. This is as much as to say that life, when seen in the relationship independent of time and space, is independent of time and space-that is, immortal and eternal. Is it not mere tautology? He is in the right in insisting that life can be seen from the scientific point of view as a system of physiological and psychological processes, and at the same time as a system of interrelated-will-attitudes independent of time and space. But he cannot by that means prove the existence of concrete individual life which is eternal and immortal, because that which is independent of time and space is the relationship in which he observes life, but not life itself. Therefore we have to notice that life held by Professor Münsterberg to be eternal and immortal is quite a different thing from the eternal life or immortality of soul believed by common sense.
11. Life in the Concrete.--Life in the concrete, which we are living, greatly differs from life in the abstract, which exists only in the class-room. It is not eternal; it is fleeting; it is full of anxieties, pains, struggles, brutalities, disappointments, and calamities. We love life, however, -not only for its smoothness, but for its roughness; not only for its pleasure, but for its pain; not only for its hope, but for its fear; not only for its flowers, but for its frost and snow. As Issai (Sato) has aptly put it: "Prosperity is like
[1. A noted scholar (1772-1859) and author, who belonged to the Wang School of Confucianism. See Gen-shi-roku.]
spring, in which we have green leaves and flowers wherever we go; while adversity is like winter, in which we have snow and ice. Spring, of course, pleases us; winter, too, displeases us not." Adversity is salt to our lives, as it keeps them from corruption, no matter how bitter to taste it way be. It is the best stimulus to body and mind, since it brings forth latent energy that may remain dormant but for it. Most people hunt after pleasure, look for good luck, hunger after success, and complain of pain, ill-luck, and failure. It does not occur to them that 'they who make good luck a god are all unlucky men,' as George Eliot has wisely observed. Pleasure ceases to be pleasure when we attain to it; another sort of pleasure displays itself to tempt us. It is a mirage, it beckons to us to lead us astray. When an overwhelming misfortune looks us in the face, our latent power is sure to be aroused to grapple with it. Even delicate girls exert the power of giants at the time of emergency; even robbers or murderers are found to be kind and generous when we are thrown into a common disaster. Troubles and difficulties call forth our divine force, which lies deeper than the ordinary faculties, and which we never before dreamed we possessed.
12. Difficulties are no Match for the Optimist.--How can we suppose that we, the children of Buddha, are put at the mercy of petty troubles, or intended to be crushed by obstacles? Are we not endowed with inner force to fight successfully against obstacles and difficulties, and to wrest trophies of glory from hardships? Are we to be slaves to the vicissitudes of fortune? Are we doomed to be victims for the jaws of the environment? It is not external obstacles themselves, but our inner fear and doubt that prove to be the stumbling-blocks in the path to success; not material loss, but timidity and hesitation that -ruin us for ever.
Difficulties are no match for the optimist, who does not fly from them, but welcomes them. He has a mental prism which can separate the insipid white light of existence into bright hues. He has a mental alchemy by which he can produce golden instruction out of the dross of failure. He has a spiritual magic which makes the nectar of joy out of the tears of sorrow. He has a clairvoyant eye that can perceive the existence of hope through the iron walls of despair.
Prosperity tends to make one forget the grace of Buddha, but adversity brings forth one's religious conviction. Christ on the cross was more Christ than Jesus at the table. Luther at war with the Pope was more Luther than he at peace. Nichi-ren laid the foundation of his church when sword and sceptre threatened him with death. Shin-ran and Hen-en established their respective faiths when they were exiled. When they were exiled, they complained not, resented not, regretted not, repented not, lamented not, but contentedly and joyously they met with their inevitable calamity and conquered it. Ho-nen is said to have been still more joyous and contented when be bad suffered from a serious disease, because he had the conviction that his desired end was at hand.
A Chinese monk, E Kwai by name, one day seated himself in a quiet place among hills and practised Dhyana. None was there to disturb the calm enjoyment of his meditation. The genius of the hill was so much stung by his
[1. The founder (1222-1282) of the Nichi Ren Sect, who was exiled in 1271 to the Island of Sado. For the history and doctrine of the Sect, see I A Short History of the Twelve Japanese Buddhist Sects,' by B. Nanjo, pp. 132-147.
2. The founder (1173-1262) of the Shin Sect, who was banished to the province of Eechigo in 1207. See Nanjo's 'History,' pp. 122-131.
3. The founder (1131 1212) of the Jo Do Sect, who was exiled to the Island of Tosa in 1207. See Nanjo's 'History,' pp. 104-113.]
envy that he made up his mind to break by surprise the mental serenity of the monk. Having supposed nothing ordinary would be effective, he appeared all on a sudden before the man, assuming the frightful form of a headless monster. E Kwai being disturbed not a whit, calmly eyed the monster, and observed with a smile: "Thou hast no head, monster! How happy thou shouldst be, for thou art in no danger of losing thy head, nor of suffering from headache!"
Were we born headless, should we not be happy, as we have to suffer from no headache? Were we born eyeless, should we not be happy, as we are in no danger of suffering from eye disease? Ho Ki Ichi, a great blind scholar, was one evening giving a lecture, without knowing that the light had been put out by the wind. When his pupils requested him to stop for a moment, he remarked with a smile: "Why, how inconvenient are your eyes!" Where there is contentment, there is Paradise.
13. Do Thy Best and Leave the Rest to Providence.--There is another point of view which enables us to enjoy life. It is simply this, that everything is placed in the condition best for itself, as it is the sum total of the consequences of its actions and reactions since the dawn of time. Take, for instance, the minutest grains of dirt that are regarded by us the worst, lifeless, valueless, mindless, inert matter. They are placed in their best condition, no matter how poor and worthless they may seem. They can never become a thing higher nor lower than they. To be the grains of dirt is best for them. But for these minute microcosms, which, flying in the air, reflect the sunbeams, we could have no azure sky. It is they that scatter the
[1. Hanawa (1746-1821), who published Gun-sho-rui-zu in 1782.]
sun's rays in mid-air and send them into our rooms. It is also these grains of dirt that form the nuclei of raindrops and bring seasonable rain. Thus they are not things worthless and good for nothing, but have a hidden import and purpose in their existence. Had they mind to think, heart to feel, they should be contented and happy with their present condition.
Take, for another example, the flowers of the morning glory. They bloom and smile every morning, fade and die in a few hours. How fleeting and ephemeral their lives are! But it is that short life itself that makes them frail, delicate, and lovely. They come forth all at once as bright and beautiful as a rainbow or as the Northern light, and disappear like dreams. This is the best condition for them, because, if they last for days together, the morning glory shall no longer be the morning glory. It is so with the cherry-tree that puts forth the loveliest flowers and bears bitter fruits. It is so with the apple-tree, which bears the sweetest of fruits and has ugly blossoms. It is so with animals and men. Each of them is placed in the condition best for his appointed mission.
The newly-born baby sucks, sleeps, and cries. It can do no more nor less. Is it not best for it to do so? When it attained to its boyhood, he goes to school and is admitted to the first-year class. He cannot be put in a higher nor lower class. It is best for him to be the first-year class student. When his school education is over, he may get a position in society according to his abilities, or may lead a miserable life owing to his failure of some sort or other. In any case he is in a position best for his special mission ordained by Providence or the Hum-total of the fruits of his actions and reactions since all eternity. He should be contented and happy, and do what is right with might and main. Discontent and vexation only make him more worthy of his ruin Therefore our positions, no matter. how high or low, no matter how favourable or unfavourable our environment, we are to be cheerful. "Do thy best and leave the rest to Providence," says a Chinese adage. Longfellow also says:
"Do thy best; that is best.
Leave unto thy Lord the rest."