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Treasures of Buddhism
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Treasures of Buddhism
Treasures of Buddhism
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Author(s): 
Subjects(s): 
Buddhism
Comparative Religion
Eastern Religion
Metaphysics

Price:  $12.00

ISBN:  0-941532-15-1
Book Size:  5 1/2" x 8 1/2"
# of Pages:  210
Language:  English



Description
The current interest in Zen and the popularity of Buddhism in the West are an understandable reaction to the artificiality and ugliness prevalent in the world today, and also to various concepts nowadays judged rightly or wrongly as inoperative. Those seeking an antidote to new-age materialism and the empty claims of pseudo-spirituality will find it in Schuon's incisive discernment of the intrinsic orthodoxy of Buddhism. Far from discounting the providential "mythology" of the person of the Buddha, the author relates its historical—and sometimes contradictory—phenomena to their celestial roots in the Divine Qualities and to the human virtues that form the necessary framework for a spiritual life. Notions crucial to Buddhism such as suffering and its cessation, void-form, nirvana-samsara are elucidated in the light of the Vedantic distinction Atma-Maya, providing an important key to understanding the differences between Western philosophical "individualism" and the serenity of Eastern metaphysics. Here is a perspective that stands above sectarian factionalism while at the same opening unique insights into the multi-faceted spiritual universe that is Buddhism.

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Detailed Description of Treasures of Buddhism

The current interest in Zen and the popularity of Buddhism in the West are an understandable reaction to the artificiality and ugliness prevalent in the world today, and also to various concepts nowadays judged rightly or wrongly as inoperative. Those seeking an antidote to new-age materialism and the empty claims of pseudo-spirituality will find it in Schuon's incisive discernment of the intrinsic orthodoxy of Buddhism. Far from discounting the providential "mythology" of the person of the Buddha, the author relates its historical—and sometimes contradictory—phenomena to their celestial roots in the Divine Qualities and to the human virtues that form the necessary framework for a spiritual life. Notions crucial to Buddhism such as suffering and its cessation, void-form, nirvana-samsara are elucidated in the light of the Vedantic distinction Atma-Maya, providing an important key to understanding the differences between Western philosophical "individualism" and the serenity of Eastern metaphysics. Here is a perspective that stands above sectarian factionalism while at the same opening unique insights into the multi-faceted spiritual universe that is Buddhism.

"Like a magnet, the beauty of the Buddha draws all the contradictions of the world and transmutes them into radiant silence; the image deriving therefrom appears as a drop of the nectar of immortality fallen into the chilly world of forms and crystallized into a human form, a form accessible to men."



About the Author(s)

Frithjof Schuon

Frithjof Schuon (1907-1998) is best known as the foremost spokesman of the “Traditionalist” or “Perennialist” school and as a philosopher in the metaphysical current of Shankara and Plato. He wrote more than two dozen books on metaphysical, spiritual, artistic, and ethnic themes and was a regular contributor to journals on comparative religion in both Europe and America. Schuon’s writings have been consistently featured and reviewed in a wide range of scholarly and philosophical publications around the world, respected by both scholars and spiritual authorities. Besides his prose writings, Schuon was also a prolific poet (see a listing of Schuon's poetry books) and a gifted painter of images that always portrayed the beauty and power of the divine, and the nobility and virtue of primordial humanity.

World Wisdom features a series titled "The Writings of Frithjof Schuon", which includes many new editions of classic books by Schuon in new translations and with additional materials. Our online Library contains many articles and poems written by Frithjof Schuon, allowing readers to see a representative sample of his remarkable body of work.

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Reviews of Treasures of Buddhism


"Schuon is well respected as an authority on comparative religion and as a spokesperson for the philosophia perrenis , a point of view that attempts to illuminate a metaphysical truth underlying all religions. This book, while centered on Buddhism, moves freely among Christian, Islamic, Hindu, and Chinese religious concepts and employs the vocabulary of the Western philosophical tradition. Following the chapters on Buddhism, there is a short section on Shinto... For scholars of religion or followers of the work of Schuon, Coomaraswamy, or Guenon, it offers some interesting points, and Schuon is particularly entertaining when he examines the limitations of science. Recommended for academic collections with an interest in comparative religion."
Library Journal



"A major work on Buddhism."
Harry Oldmeadow, La Trobe University, Bendigo, Australia


Table of Contents for Treasures of Buddhism

CONTENTS
    Publisher's Preface

    Part One: Treasures of Buddhism
  • Treasures of Buddhism
  • Originality of Buddhism
  • Message and Messenger
  • The Question of Illusion
  • Cosmological and Eschatological Viewpoints
  • A Defense of Zen
  • Remarks on the Enigma of the Koan
  • Nirvana
  • Christianity and Buddhism
  • Mystery of the Bodhisattva
  • Synthesis of the Paramitas
  • The Feminine Element in Mahayana
  • Dharmakara's Vow

    Part Two: Buddhism 's Ally in Japan: Shinto
  • Initial Remarks
  • The Meaning of Ancestors
  • Mythology of Shinto
  • Virtues and Symbols of Shinto



Excerpts from Treasures of Buddhism

The following excerpt is taken from the beginning of the first chapter of
Treasures of Buddhism
by Frithjof Schuon
:

Treasures of Buddhism

       When we contemplate a landscape, we absorb its main features without being distracted by details which, if they were too near, would imprison us as it were in their own special nature; in the same way, when we consider one of the great spiritual traditions in order to obtain a general understanding of its fundamental characteristics, none of its essential features escapes us and none hides the others from our notice.
       Thus, when we come to contemplate the spiritual system (1) that is Buddhism, we may discern at its base a message of renunciation and at its summit a message of mystery; in another, so to speak "horizontal," dimension we see a message of peace and one of mercy.
       The message of renunciation is like a framework for all the other messages; it is seen to be the very body of Buddhism, while the element of mystery is its heart; the latter element has found its most direct expression in the Tibetan, Chinese and Japanese forms of the original Dhyâna teaching. As for the message of peace, it pervades the whole Buddhist tradition; its central and culminating crystallization is the sacred image of the Buddha, which is found in the Buddhism of the South as well as in that of the North and, within the setting of the latter, in Tibetan as well as in Sino Japanese Buddhism. As for the message of mercy, it finds general expression through the doctrine of the Bodhisattvas, and a particular and quintessential expression in the doctrine of the Buddha Amitabha; (2) this is the message of "the faith that saves," and it provides a complement of fervor or intensity which harmoniously rejoins the serene detachment that Buddhism propounds in the first place; opposition exists in appearance only, for all spiritual realities are united in their common root.
       Because modern men live almost entirely for the things of the senses and from that very fact remain ignorant of the human condition in its totality and in its ultimate purpose, it is difficult for them to comprehend the meaning of an attitude seemingly as negative and senseless as that of renunciation; they will regard it merely as a wholly unnatural superstition. In reality it can easily be seen that renunciation is not self explanatory; far from being an end in itself, it only supplies provisional support for the development of an awareness infinitely greater than our ego. Renunciation would be purposeless were it not a case of grasping with our whole being — and not with the mind alone — what we really are, and above all of understanding what total Reality is, that "something" by virtue of which we exist, and from which we cannot for a moment escape. Renunciation aims at preventing man from becoming imprisoned in an ephemeral illusion, from identifying himself with it and finally perishing with it; it aims at helping him to free himself from the tyranny of dreams that leave no outlet. A sage never loses sight of the universal context of life; he does not give himself up to fragments of consciousness such as events agreeable or disagreeable, joyful or sad, for he is perpetually conscious of the whole, so much so that in the end the question of "renunciation" does not even exist for him any longer; he has ceased to be involved in fragmentary experience, he is not bound by it, he does not identify himself with it, nor is he consumed by it. Here it might be objected that man, being alive, cannot avoid psychic or sensual experience; the answer is that in spiritual "alchemy" there always is, and must be, a sufficient margin for "the consolations of the senses," and this in two ways or for two reasons. Firstly, all life and therefore all effort is subject to rhythm; everything proceeds in waves, by repetition, alternation and compensation, in the soul as in the world; no way can afford to be too negative, for an overstrung bow will snap. Secondly, when a certain degree of awareness of total Reality or of the "Void" (3) has been reached, things themselves will allow that Reality to shine through them, despite themselves. The "consolations of the senses" can conceal Truth and lure us away from it, but they may equally well reveal it and draw us nearer to it, and they cannot help but do so in proportion to the spiritual quality of our perception. This is true, not only of the beauties of nature or of sacred or even simply traditional art, which speak for themselves, (4) but also of bodily satisfactions, insofar as they remain in balance with regard to Heaven and the Dharma.
       To the mentality predominating today the idea of peace — of peace interior and transcendent — is no more accessible than that of renunciation. The message of peace refers metaphysically to Pure Being, of which we are as the foam; It is the Substance, we are the accidents. (5) The canonical figure of the Buddha shows us "That which is" and that which we "should be," or even that which we "are" in our eternal reality: for the visible Buddha is what his invisible essence is, he is in conformity with the nature of things. He is active, since his hands speak, but this activity is essentially "being"; he has an exteriority, since he has a body, but it is "interior"; he is manifest since he exists, but he is "manifestation of the Void" (shûnyamûrti). He personifies the Impersonal at the same time as the transcendent or divine Personality of men. (6) Once the veil is torn, the soul returns to its eternal Buddha nature, just as light refracted by a crystal, returns to undifferentiated unity when no object is any longer there to disperse its rays. In each grain of dust there is Pure Existence and it is in this sense that it can be said that a buddha, or the Buddha, is to be found in it.
       That which dwells at the heart of things is peace and beauty. Things as such remain "outside themselves"; if they could dwell completely "within themselves" they would be identified with the Buddha, in the sense that they would be immutable and blessed Substance; immutable because escaping all opposition, all causal constraint, all becoming, and blessed because enjoying the essence of every conceivable beauty and every happiness. The natural symbol of the Buddha is the lotus, this contemplative flower open to the sky and resting on water unruffled by any breath of wind.
       He who says peace says beauty. Beauty is like the sun: it acts without detours, without dialectical intermediaries, its ways are free, direct, incalculable; like love, to which it is closely connected, it can heal, unloose, appease, unite or deliver through its simple radiance. The image of the Buddha is like a drop of the nectar of immortality fallen into the world of forms, or like the sound of that celestial music which could charm a rose tree into flowering amid the snow; such was Shakyamuni — for it is said that the Buddhas bring salvation not only through their teaching but also through their superhuman beauty — and such is his sacramental image. (7) The image of the Messenger is also that of the Message; there is no essential difference between the Buddha, Buddhism and universal Buddhanature. Thus, the image indicates the way, or more exactly its goal, or the human setting for that goal, that is, it displays to us that "holy sleep" which is watchfulness and clarity within; by its profound and wondrous "presence" it suggests "the stilling of mental agitation and the supreme appeasement," to quote the words of Shankara.
       Such was Shakyamuni, we said. Two opinions are indeed unacceptable: to pretend that the life of the Buddha is merely a solar myth, (8) and to pretend that knowledge of the historical Buddha is without importance; in both cases, this is tantamount to admitting that there can be effects without a cause. Historically, the life of Shakyamuni is too recent and is much too important to be dismissed as mere legend; its points of resemblance with more ancient symbolisms serve only to confirm its sacred character. The fact that the Hindus themselves regard the Buddha as an avatâra of Vishnu is additional evidence of his transcendent nature, without which there could be no question of the efficacy of his Law or of the saving power of his Name. Traditions emerge from the Infinite like flowers; they can no more be fabricated than can the sacred art which is their witness and their proof.
       He who says peace says beauty; the image of the Tathâgata — together with his metaphysical and cosmic derivatives and concomitants — shows that beauty, in its root or essence, is compounded of serenity and mercy; formal harmony appeals to us because it bespeaks profound goodness and inexhaustible wealth, appeasement and plenitude.
       Like a magnet, the beauty of the Buddha draws all the contradictions of the world and transmutes them into radiant silence; the image deriving therefrom appears as a drop of the dew of immortality fallen into the chilly world of forms and crystallized into a human form, a form accessible to men.



1.   We mean this word, not in the sense of an elaboration or coordination which is purely logical and thus completely outward and profane, but in that of a homogeneous ensemble of spiritual precepts, ordered in virtue of a metaphysical perspective. A traditional doctrine is never narrowly systematic, but it nonetheless constitutes a system, like every living organism or like the universe.

2.   Amida in Japanese.

3.   According to Asanga, the Nagarjunian "Void" is pure "consciousness" (vijnâna); to say consciousness is "pure" means that it is situated beyond the polarity "subject object," that it is "thusness" (tathatâ).

4.   Traditional profane art never loses all contact with the sacred; in the prints of a Hokusai or an Utamaro, there exists something contemplative and rigorous which makes one think of Zen and Taoism; the same holds true — a fortiori perhaps — for tools, clothing, houses, where the sacred and profane are often intimately linked. The primitive tool is often a revelation and a symbol and thus also a "spiritual instrument."

5.   But with the difference that in the macrocosmic order the accidents do not in any way affect the Substance.

6.   In their esoteric meaning, the words "God," "divine," "Divinity" signify none other than the terms Shûnya and Nirvâna, even though they can also refer to the Buddha and the Bodhisattva. That the Buddhist Absolute is not "nothingness" pure and simple is self evident: "For some, Nirvana is a state in which there could be no memory of the past and present, it would thus be comparable to a lamp whose oil is used up or to a kernel of grain that one burns or a fire that has gone out, for in these cases there is a cessation of all substrata. . . . But this is not Nirvana, for Nirvana is not simply destruction and emptiness." (Lankâvatâra Sûtra, XIII.)

7.   If there are no known statues of the Buddha older than those of Gandhara, it is because the first effigies of Shakyamuni were of wood, and for this reason could not be conserved like later stone statues of Hellenizing style. Indeed, according to tradition, King Prasenajit of Sharasvati — or King Udayana of Kausambi — had a statue of the Buddha made of sandalwood, during the very lifetime of the Master.

8.   A solar myth is surely no small thing, but its function is other than that of a founder of religion. A myth is a doctrinal content and not a concrete spiritual force, a "saving emanation."


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