The Buddhas of Compassion and the Pratyeka Buddhas
. . . 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 . . .
Every human being is an unexpressed Buddha. Even now, within you and above you, it is your Higher Self; 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 the 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 with the unutterable sublimity of the Buddhas of Compassion . . . .
It is a wonderful paradox that is found in the case of the Pratyeka-Buddha. The 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 lives the spiritual life, unless he cultivates his spiritual nature, but when 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. The consciousness then 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.
Which path will you then take, the path of the Buddhas of Compassion, or the path of Pratyeka-Buddhas? . . .
- Extracts from Golden Precepts
(Eclectic Theosophist, No. 56)