Thus only by the recognition of the sorrow of the world, by the conquest of all desires, and by the exercise of kindliness to all that breathe this life of misery, is that Path to be trodden of which the fourth stage enters Nirvana’s peace. Thus only can we escape from this repulsive carcass—“this bag of skin with carrion filled,” as one of the Sisters called it—and so be merged into the element of calm, just as the space inside a bowl is merged into the element of space when at last the bowl is broken and will never need scrubbing more.
It is thought that Gautama, the great Buddha, whose effigy in the calm of contemplation is the noblest work of Indian art, fondly believed that all mankind would seek deliverance along the path he pointed out, and that so, within a few generations, the human race, together, perhaps, with every living thing that breathes beneath the law of Karma, would pass from sorrow into nothingness. Mankind has not fulfilled his expectation. The task of expiation is not yet completed, and, in the midst of anguish, corruption, and the flux of all material things, the human race goes swarming on. I suppose it is about as numerous as ever, and, though something like half of it accepts the teaching of the Buddha as divine, they seem in no more hurry to fulfil its precepts than are the followers of other Founders. We cannot say that mankind has gone very far along the Fourfold Path, for there are still many of us who would rather be a mouse than nothing; yet it remains an accepted truth of the Buddhistic doctrine, that above this fleeting and variegated world there abides the element of calm. As the final Chorus “Mysticus” of Faust proclaims: “All things transitory are but a symbol,” and if any politician during the storm of worldly desires has for a moment lost sight of truth’s eternal stars that guide his way, let him now turn to the “Psalms of the Sisters.” Even if he has been successful in his ambition, he will there find peace, discovering in Nirvana the quiet Chiltern Hundreds of the soul.
“THE KING OF TERRORS”
Skulls may not affright us, nor present fashion ordain cross-bones upon our sepulchres; but still in the face of death the commonplaces of comfort shrivel, and philosophy’s consolations strike cold as the symbolism of the tomb. All that lives must die; we know it, but that death is common does not assuage particular grief, nor can the contemplation of prehistoric ruins soften regret for one baby’s smile. Man’s dogma has proved vain as his philosophy. Age after age has composed some vision of continued life, and sought to allay its fear or sorrow with suitable imaginations. Mummies of death outlive their granite; vermilion and the scalping-knife lie ready for the happy hunting grounds; beside the royal carcass two score of concubines and warriors are buried quick; Walhalla rings with clashing swords