It is the Great Ones, the masters of life, whose light illumines the pathway, even at its commencement, and grows brighter with each step. Their light shines continuously; and it is only the dark clouds in the minds of men that shut it out. These are the Buddhas of Compassion.
A Buddha is one who has ascended the rungs of the evolutionary ladder of life, rung by rung, one after the other, and who thus has attained Buddhahood, which means human plenitude of spiritual and intellectual glory, and who has done all this by his own self-devised and self-directed exertions along the far past evolutionary pathway. He is an "Awakened One," one who manifests the divinity which is the very core of the core of his own being.
The Buddhas of Compassion are the noblest flowers of the human race. They are men who have raised themselves from humanity into quasi-divinity; and this is done by letting the light imprisoned within, the light of the inner god, pour forth and manifest itself through the humanity of the man, through the human soul of the man. Through sacrifice and abandoning of all that is mean and wrong, ignoble and paltry and selfish; through opening up the inner nature so that the god within may shine forth; in other words, through self-directed evolution, they have raised themselves from mere manhood into becoming god-men, man-gods -- human divinity.
Every human being is a Buddha unmanifest. Every human being has, in his inner constitution, not only the Celestial Buddha, the Dhyani-Buddha, which is his inner god, but his higher ego, which when expressing itself on earth as a man, is the Manushya-Buddha or Human Buddha. Ordinary men cannot fully and wholly manifest the powers of their higher spiritual will or ego, because ordinary men are too gross; they as vehicles are not yet sufficiently etherealized. They live too much in the planes of material being. They are passional; they are personal, consequently circumscribed, limited.
Every human being is an unexpressed Buddha. Even now, within you and above you, it is your higher self, and your higher self is it; and as the ages pass and as you conquer the self in order to become the greater self, you approach with every step nearer and nearer to the "sleeping" Buddha within you. And yet truly it is not the Buddha which is "asleep"; it is you who are sleeping on the bed of matter, dreaming evil dreams, brought about by your passions, by your false views, by your egoisms, by your selfishness-making thick and heavy veils of personality wrapping around the Buddha within.
For here is the secret: the Buddha within you is watching you. Your own inner Buddha has his eye, mystically speaking, on you. His hand is reached compassionately downward toward you, so to speak, but you must reach up and clasp that hand by your own unaided will and aspiration -- you, the human part of you -- and take the hand of the Buddha within you.
A strange figure of speech? Consider then what a human being is: a god in the heart of him, a Buddha enshrining that god, a spiritual soul enshrining the Buddha, a human soul enshrining the spiritual soul, an animal soul enshrining the human soul, and a body enshrining the animal soul. So that man is at the same time one, and many more than one.
When a human being has learned all that earth can teach him, he is then godlike and returns to earth no more -- except those whose hearts are so filled with the holy flame of compassion that they remain in the schoolroom of earth that they have long since advanced beyond and where they themselves can learn nothing more, in order to help their younger, less evolved brothers. These exceptions are the Buddhas of Compassion.
There are, on the other hand, very great men, very holy men, very pure men in every way, whose knowledge is wide and vast and deep, whose spiritual stature is great; but when they reach Buddhahood, instead of feeling the call of almighty love to return and help those who have gone less far, they go ahead into the supernal light -- pass onwards and enter the unspeakable bliss of nirvana -- and leave mankind behind. Such are the Pratyeka Buddhas. Though exalted, nevertheless they do not rank in unutterable sublimity with the Buddhas of Compassion.
The Pratyeka Buddha, he who achieves Buddhahood for himself, does not do it selfishly, however; does not do it merely in order to gratify self, and he does no harm to others; if he did he could never reach even his solitary Buddhahood. But he does it and achieves nirvana automatically, so to speak, following the lofty impulses of his being. Nevertheless he leaves the world behind enslaved in the chains of matter and forgotten by him.
The Pratyeka Buddha concentrates on the one thing -- self-advancement for spiritual ends. It is a noble path in a way, but although it is a more rapid path, nevertheless being essentially a selfish path, the karmic records will show deeper lines ultimately to be wiped out than will those of the other striver after the spiritual life who follows the path of complete self-renunciation, and who even gives up all hope of self-advancement. The latter is of course by far the nobler path, but for a time it is very much slower, and much more difficult to follow. The objective, the end, is more difficult to obtain; but when obtained, then the guerdon, the reward, the recompense, are ineffably sublime. For a time it is a slower path, but a perfect path.
It is a wonderful paradox that is found in the case of the Pratyeka Buddha -- this name pratyeka means "each for himself." But this spirit of "each for himself" is just the opposite of the spirit governing the Order of the Buddhas of Compassion, because in the Order of Compassion the spirit is: give up thy life for all that lives.
The "Solitary One" knows that he cannot advance to spiritual glory unless he live the spiritual life, unless he cultivates his spiritual nature, but as he does this solely in order to win spiritual rewards, spiritual life, for himself alone, he is a Pratyeka Buddha. He is for himself, in the last analysis. There is a personal eagerness, a personal wish, to forge ahead, to attain at any cost; whereas he who belongs to the Order of the Buddhas of Compassion has his eyes set on the same distant objective, but he trains himself from the very beginning to become utterly self-forgetful. This obviously is an enormously greater labor, and of course the rewards are correspondingly great.
The time comes when the Pratyeka Buddha, holy as he is, noble in effort and in ideal as he is, reaches a state of development where he can go no farther on that path. But, contrariwise, the one who allies himself from the very beginning with all nature, and with nature's heart, has a constantly expanding field of work, as his consciousness expands and fills that field; and this expanding field is simply illimitable, because it is boundless nature herself. He becomes utterly at one with the spiritual universe; whereas the Pratyeka Buddha becomes at one with only a particular line or stream of evolution in the universe.
The Pratyeka Buddha raises himself to the spiritual realm of his own inner being, enwraps himself therein and, so to speak, goes to sleep. The Buddha of Compassion raises himself, as does the Pratyeka Buddha, to the spiritual realms of his own inner being, but does not stop there, because he expands continuously, becomes one with All, or tries to, and in fact does so in time.
The Buddha of Compassion is one who having won all, gained all, gained the right to cosmic peace and bliss, renounces it so that he may go back as a Son of Light in order to help humanity, and indeed all that is. The Pratyeka Buddha passes onwards and enters the unspeakable bliss of nirvana, and there he remains for an aeon or a million of aeons as the case may be; whereas the Buddha of Compassion, who has renounced all for compassion's sake, because his heart is so filled with love, continues evolving. Thus the time comes when the Buddha of Compassion, although having renounced everything, will have advanced far beyond the state that the Pratyeka Buddha has reached; and when the Pratyeka Buddha in due course emerges from the nirvanic state in order to take up his evolutionary journey again, he will find himself far in the rear of the Buddha of Compassion.
Self, selfhood, self-seeking, is the very thing that the Buddhas of Compassion strive to forget, to overcome, to live beyond. The self personal must blend into the self individual, which then must lose itself in the self universal.
They are called Buddhas of Compassion because they feel their unity with all that is, and more and more so as they evolve, until finally their consciousness blends with the universe and lives eternally and immortally, because it is at one with the universe. The dewdrop slips into the shining sea -- its origin.
Feeling the urge of almighty love in their hearts, the Buddhas of Compassion advance forever steadily towards still greater heights of spiritual achievement; and the reason is that they have become the vehicles of universal love. As impersonal love is universal, their whole nature expands consequently with the universal powers that are working through them.
Strive not to become holy for yourself. Strive to become holy as others strive to become holy, but only that you can forget yourself for others. Love never seeks self for self. Love always seeks to give. Love is the first step on the upward way. It is all intermediate steps and it is the last, if indeed there be a last. Love is also the last and highest initiation on earth -- impersonal love, for such love is divine.
The Mahatmas are not yet Buddhas. A Buddha is a Mahatma of the highest grade. A Mahatma is one who has become self-consciously alive in the spiritual part of his constitution, whereas a Buddha is one who has become self-consciously living in the divine-spiritual part of his constitution.
The Masters are human beings, although lofty ones, and it is this that makes them so near and dear to us. They occupy the step immediately superior to ordinary humanity. They are soul-men in human bodies, feeling as men feel, understanding human woes and human sorrows, capable of cognizing what human failings and human sin are, and therefore having human hearts moved with tender compassion and pity. They know also the need, when occasion arises, of the strong and directing hand. They are brothers, tender-hearted men, great-hearted men, of magnificent spiritual and intellectual powers and faculties.
"Diamond-heart" is the term used when speaking of the Mahatma; and it has its symbolic meaning, signifying the crystal-clear consciousness reflecting the misery of the world, receiving and reflecting the call for help, reflecting the Buddhic splendor in the heart of every struggling soul on earth; but yet as hard as the diamond for all calls of the personality, the self-personality, and first of all of the Mahatma's own personal nature.
Should the Mahatma abandon his physical body and live in his other principles, he becomes de facto a Nirmanakaya, living in the auric atmosphere of the earth and working for mankind invisibly, thus becoming one of the living stones in the Guardian Wall.
The Nirmanakaya is a complete man possessing all the principles of his constitution, except the linga-sarira, and its accompanying physical body. He lives on the plane of being next superior to the physical plane, and his purpose in so doing is to save men from themselves by being with them, and by continuously instilling thoughts of self-sacrifice, of self-forgetfulness, of spiritual and moral beauty, of mutual help, of compassion, of pity. Thus it is that he forms one of the stones in the Guardian Wall invisibly surrounding mankind.
Most Mahatmas prepare to become Buddhas of Compassion, and therefore to renounce a nirvanic state.
The real Buddha of Compassion renounces nirvana for himself in order to help the world, for he is compassion incarnate. He lives through aeons, working for all that is, advancing steadily by self-devised efforts, by self-directed evolution, towards divinity, towards godhood; and it is this utter self-sacrifice of the human being, of the most sublime and lofty type conceivable to men, which makes of a Buddha so holy and exalted a being.
The Buddha stands higher even than an Avatara, for the Buddha is a self-chosen incarnation of wisdom and compassion, pity, love, self-forgetfulness. Sons of the Sun, the Buddhas enlighten wherever they go. They abide through the ages and form a Guardian Wall around mankind, protecting it against cosmic perils, of which perils none but high initiates know. The Lords Buddha are the holiest ones.
In the distinction between the Pratyeka Buddha and the Buddha of Compassion there enters the element of a deliberate choice which each one must someday make.
Which path will you then take, the path of the Buddhas of Compassion, or the path of the Pratyeka Buddhas? Either is noble; both lead to heights of spiritual sublimity -- one the path of compassion, the path divine; the other, the path of personal rest, utter peace, bliss, and living in the divine. Someday you must make that choice. But the results of making that choice, of choosing the road of self-forgetfulness and pity and impersonal love for all others, for all things, while temporarily holding you in the realms of illusion, of matter, will ultimately lead you by a road, straighter than any other, to the very core of the core of the universal heart; for you shall have obeyed the impersonal commands of cosmic love, and that means allying yourself consciously with divinity.
Nirvana if chosen for oneself can be looked upon as a species of sublimated spiritual selfishness: for the attempt of trying to gain nirvana for oneself alone is a solely individual yearning to free oneself from manifested life, to stand apart in utter peace and utter bliss, in pure consciousness, and without regard for anything else.
How different from this is the teaching of the Lord Buddha: "Can I remain in utter bliss when one single human heart beats in pain?" Give me rather, is the thought, the suffering of personal existence, so that I may help and comfort others instead of attaining the purely selfish bliss of individual paranishpanna.
Where is the sun of compassion and pity and self-forgetfulness and peace? Do not compassion and pity sway the soul? Compassion is rooted in love. And harmony and love are fundamentally the same. Its very nature, the very structure of it, is that every part feels what every other part undergoes; and this, in its higher reaches and when expressing itself in human hearts, men call compassion.
Compassion is the very nature and fabric of the structure of the universe itself, the characteristic of its being, for compassion means "feeling with," and the universe is an organism, a vast and mighty organism, an organism seemingly without bounds, which might otherwise be called universal life-consciousness.
Compassion is the fundamental law of nature's own heart. It means becoming at one with the divine universe, with the universal life and consciousness. It means harmony; it means peace; it means bliss; it means impersonal love.
Having this vision sublime, do not shut your eyes to the misery of others, but devote your life like the Buddhas of Compassion to help all things, first by raising yourself -- impersonally, not personally -- so that you may help others to see the light divine.
Is there anything so beautiful, so high, so noble, as bringing comfort to broken hearts, light to obscure minds, the teaching of men how to love, how to love and to forgive?
To bring peace to men, to give them hope, to give them light, to show them the way out of the intricate maze of material existence, to bring back to one's fellow men the knowledge of their own essential divinity as a reality -- is not that a sublime work?