Jean Varenne on the Reactions to Julius Evola on Buddhism || From ‘Introduction’ to The Doctrine of Awakening

“Let us leave modern men to their ‘truths’ and let us only be concerned about one thing: to keep standing amid a world of ruins.”

JULIUS EVOLA

“Man conquers the world by conquering himself.”

JEAN VARENNE’S INTRODUCTION ON JULIUS EVOLA AND BUDDHISM

The Doctrine of Awakening: The Attainment of Self-Mastery According to the Earliest Buddhist Texts.

—♦—

“This reaction to the work was obviously a misunderstanding. It ignores the fact that the future Buddha was also of noble origins, that he was the son of a king and heir to the throne and had been raised with the expectation that one day he would inherit the crown. He had been taught martial arts and the art of government, and having reached the right age, he had married and had a son. All of these things would be more typical of the physical and mental formation of a future samurai than of a seminarian ready to take holy orders. A man like Julius Evola was particularly suitable to dispel such a misconception.

He did so on two fronts in his Doctrine: on the one hand, he did not cease to recall the origins of the Buddha, Prince Siddhartha, who was destined to the throne of Kapilavastu: on the other hand, he attempted to demonstrate that Buddhist asceticism is not a cowardly resignation before life’s vicissitudes, but rather a struggle of a spiritual kind, which is not any less heroic than the struggle of a knight on the battlefield. As Buddha himself said (Mahavagga, 2.15): ‘It is better to die fighting than to live as one vanquished.’ This resolution is in accord with Evola’s ideal of overcoming natural resistances in order to achieve the Awakening through meditation; it should be noted, however, that the warrior terminology is contained in the oldest writings of Buddhism, which are those that best reflect the living teaching of the master. Evola works tirelessly in his book to erase the Western view of a languid and dull doctrine that in fact was originally regarded as aristocratic and reserved for real ‘champions.’

After Schopenhauer, the unfounded idea arose in Western culture that Buddhism involved a renunciation of the world and the adoption of a passive attitude: ‘Let things go their way; who cares anyway.’ Since in this inferior world ‘everything is evil,’ the wise person is the one who, like Simeon the Stylite, withdraws, if not to the top of a pillar; at least to an isolated place of meditation. Moreover, the most widespread view of Buddhists is that of monks dressed in orange robes, begging for their food; people suppose that the only activity these monks are devoted to is reciting memorized texts, since they shun prayers; thus, their religion appears to an outsider as a form of atheism.

Evola successfully demonstrates that this view is profoundly distorted by a series of prejudices. Passivity? Inaction? On the contrary, Buddha never tired of exhorting his disciples to ‘work toward victory’; he himself, at the end of his life, said with pride: katam karaniyam, ‘done is what needed to be done!’ Pessimism? It is true that Buddha, picking up a formula of Brahmanism, the religion in which he had been raised prior to his departure from Kapilavastu, affirmed that everything on earth is ‘suffering.’ But he also clarified for us that this is the case because we are always yearning to reap concrete benefits from our actions. For example, warriors risk their lives because they long for the pleasure of victory and for the spoils, and yet in the end they are always disappointed: the pillaging is never enough and what has been gained is quickly squandered. Also, the taste of victory soon fades away. But if one becomes aware of this state of affairs (this is one aspect of the Awakening), the pessimism is dispelled since reality is what it is, neither good nor bad in itself; reality is inscribed in Becoming, which cannot be interrupted. Thus, one must live and act with the awareness that the only thing that matters is each and every moment. Thus, duty (dhamma) is claimed to be the only valid reference point: ‘Do your duty,’ that is, ‘let your every action be totally disinterested.”

—♦—

“The phrase spiritual warrior seems a paradox, for how can a warrior be spiritual? And yet when we consider how warriors fight and often sacrifice their lives to preserve what they believe is right and to protect their family and country, we can understand why those who would advance spiritually are often portrayed as warriors.”

ELOISE HART, THE PATH OF A SPIRITUAL WARRIOR

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