Varieties of Ascesis

In ‘The Doctrine of Awakening’, « Julius Evola sets himself the task of bringing to light the true nature of Buddhism in its original form, from which it was to undergo incredible alterations subsequently, when, owing to its dissemination and diffusion, it became more or less a religion. In reality, the essential core of the teaching had a metaphysical and initiatory character. The interpretation of Buddhism as simply a moral system, based on compassion, humanitarianism, and the craving to flee from life because « life is pain », is highly external, secular and superficial. Buddhism actually derived, on the contrary, from a will to the unconditioned, which asserted itself most radically in the search for what is beyond death, as well as beyond life. What has to be overcome is not so much « pain » as the agitation and contingency of all conditioned existence, whose origin, base, and substratum is desire – a thirst which, by its very nature, will never be able to satisfied by ordinary life ; an intoxication or ‘mania’ ; an ‘ignorance’ ; the confusion which drives one to a hopeless, crazed and insatiable identification of the ‘I’ with one form or another of the ephemeral world, in the eternal current of becoming, the ‘samsâra’. » (Jean Varenne)

Completed at the end of 1942, ‘La dottrina del risveglio’ was printed by Laterza, after long procrastinations, in September 1943, in the darkest and most democratic hours of European history. Julius Evola received a copy of the book only after the war. Since then, ‘La dottrina del risveglio’ has gone through three more editions : the second edition, revised, was published in 1965 by Scheiwiller – All’insegna del Pesce d’Oro ; the third, unchanged from the second, was issued by the same publisher in 1973 ; the fourth, a corrected edition, was brought out in 1995 by Edizioni Mediterranee.

In 1951, an English translation of ‘La dottrina del risveglio – saggio sull’ascesi buddhista’ was published in London by Luzac, under the title ‘The Doctrine of Awakening – A Study on the Buddhist Ascesis’. It was translated by H. E. Musson (1920-1965), from the first edition of ‘La dottrina del risveglio’. Here, we offer a translation of the first chapter of the fourth edition.


The word ‘ascesi’ – from ‘askésis’, ‘to train’ – originally meant only ‘training’ and, in the Roman sense, ‘discipline’. The corresponding Indo-Aryan is ‘tapas’ (‘tapa’ or ‘tapo’ in Pâli) and means the same except that, because of the root, ‘tap’, which means ‘to be hot’ or ‘to glow’, it also contains the idea of an intensive concentration, of glowing, almost of fire.

With the development of Western civilisation, however, the word ‘ascesis’ has, as is well known, taken on a particular meaning which differs from the original. Not only it has assumed an exclusively religious sense, but, because of the general tone of the faith which has come to predominate among Western peoples, asceticism has become connected to ideas of mortification of the flesh and of painful renunciation of the world : thus, it has come to indicate the path that this faith thinks the most suitable for ‘salvation’, and the reconciliation of the creature, corrupted by original sin, with his Creator. As early as the beginnings of Christianity the word ‘ascesis’ was applied to those who practised exercises of mortification such as auto-flagellation.

Asceticism in this sense became the object of clear aversion with the growth of specifically modern civilisation. If even Luther, with the resentment of one who was unable to understand or to tolerate monastic discipline, disowned the necessity, the value, and the usefulness of any ascesis, to oppose to it an exaltation of pure faith, then humanism, immanentism, and the new cult of life were brought from their standpoint to bring discredit and scorn upon asceticism, which those tendencies associated more or less with ‘medieval obscurantism’ and with the aberrations of ‘historically outdated ages’. And when asceticism was not explained away purely and simply as a pathological manifestation, a transposed form of auto-sadism, all sorts of incompatibilities and oppositions to ‘our way of life’ were claimed for it. The best known and the oldest of these is the antithesis supposed to exist between the ascetic, renouncing, static East, hostile to the world, and the active, assertive, heroic and creative Western civilisation.

Unfortunate prejudices such as these succeeded in gaining a foothold in minds such as that of Friedrich Nietzsche, who sometimes believed seriously that asceticism was merely something for the « pallid enemies of life », the weak and disinherited, and those who, in their hatred of themselves and the world, had undermined with their ideas the civilisations created by a higher humanity. Lately, ‘climatic’ interpretations of asceticism have even been tried. Thus, according to Günther, when the Indo-Germans found a enervating climate in the Asiatic lands they had conquered, to which they were not accustomed, they gradually became inclined to consider the world as suffering and to turn their originally life-affirming energies towards the pursuit, by means of various ascetic disciplines, of ‘liberation’. It is not worth discussing the level to which asceticism has been brought by the new ‘psycho-analytic’ interpretations.

A tight net of misunderstanding and prejudice has thus been drawn around asceticism in the West. The one-sided meaning given to asceticism in Christianity, and the fact that it is often associated therein with actually deviated forms of spiritual life, has produced reactions which bring out – not without a certain anti-traditional and profane animus – only the negative effect of this particular sort of asceticism on the modern spirit.

However, our contemporaries, by a sort of inversion, have again taken up expressions of the previous terminology, though adapting them to the entirely materialistic plane which is peculiar to them. Thus, they speak of a « mystique of progress », a « mystique of science », a « mystique of labour » and so on, and likewise of an « ascesis of sport », an « ascesis of social service », and even of an « ascesis of capitalism ». In spite of the confusion of ideas, here a certain return to the original of the word ‘ascesis’ reveals itself : this modern use of this word actually implies the simple idea of training, of intensive application of forces, not without a certain impersonality, a neutralisation of the purely individual and hedonistic element.

However, it is appropriate that nowadays the most qualified minds should be enabled to understand once again what asceticism means in more comprehensive terms, and what it can mean within a framework of hierarchically organised planes, independently of both the merely religious conceptions of the Christian type and the modern desecrations ; with reference, instead, to more original traditions, and to the highest conception of the world and of life peculiar to other Indo-European civilisations. As we wish to discuss asceticism in this sense, we asked ourselves : what historical expression can furnish the most suitable basis for the exposition of a comprehensive and objective system of asceticism, clear, unattenuated, in tested and well-structured forms, true to the spirit of Aryan man, and yet capable of relation to the conditions of modern times?

The answer to this question at which we finally arrived is the following : more than any other, the ‘Doctrine of Awakening’, in its original form, satisfies all these conditions. The ‘Doctrine of Awakening’ is the real signification of what is commonly called Buddhism. The word ‘Buddhism’ is derived from the Pâli designation ‘Buddha’ (Sanskrit ‘Buddha’) given to its founder, which, however, is not so much a name as a title. ‘Buddho’, from the root ‘budh’, ‘to awaken’, means the ‘Awakened One’ ; it is thus a designation applied to one who has reached this spiritual realisation – assimilated by analogy to an ‘arousing’ or ‘awakening’ – which was pointed out by Prince Siddharta. It is thus Buddhism in its original form – so-called ‘Pâli Buddhism’ – which shows as very few other doctrines do the required characteristics ; that is, (1) it contains a complete ascetic system ; (2) this system is objective and realistic ; (3) it is purely Aryan in spirit ; (4) it is practicable within the general conditions of the particular historical cycle of which the present humanity is part.

We have spoken of various meanings which asceticism considered as a whole can have within a framework of hierarchically organised planes. In itself, that is as ‘exercise’, as discipline, asceticism aims to subject all the forces of the human being to a central principle. In this respect we can speak of a true technique, which has in common with that of the present mechanical achievements the features of objectivity and impersonality. Thus, eyes trained to separate the accessory from the essential will easily manage to recognise a ‘constant’ beyond the multiple variety of ascetic forms adopted by this or that tradition.

In the first place, all the religious conceptions or ethical interpretations with which asceticism is associated in very many cases can be regarded as accessory. Leaving these aside, we can conceive of and systematically describe asceticism, so to speak, in a pure state, that is to say, as an ensemble of methods aimed at the production of an inner force, whose use, in principle, remains completely undetermined, like the use of the arms and the machines created by modern technique. Thus, if ‘ascetic’ reinforcement of the personality is the premise of every transcendental realisation, whether the latter is determined by one or another historical tradition, it can likewise be of great value on the plane of those temporal realisations and struggles which completely absorb modern Western man. Furthermore, we could even conceive an ‘ascesis of evil’, since the technical conditions, as we may call them, needed to achieve important results in the direction of ‘evil’ are no different from those which must be realised by those who strive instead to reach for instance ‘sainthood’. Did not Nietzsche himself , who, as we have said, partly shared the prejudice against asceticism widespread in many modern circles, take into account disciplines and forms of self-control which, basically, have an ascetic character, when forming the concepts of the ‘superman’ and the ‘will to power’? Thus, at least within certain limits, the saying of an old medieval tradition might be quoted : « One the art, one the material, one the crucible ».

We find specifically in the ‘doctrine of awakening’, that is, in Buddhism, as in few other great historical traditions, the possibility of isolating clearly the elements of ascesis in the pure state. It has been quite accurately said that, in it, the problems of asceticism « have been posed and resolved so clearly and, one could almost say, so logically, that, in comparison, other mysticisms appear incomplete, fragmentary and inconclusive, and that, as opposed to any obtrusive emotional and sentimental element, a style of intellectual clarity, rigour and objectivity predominates, which reminds one of the modern scientific mentality » (1). We want to bring out two points specifically.

First, the Buddhist ascesis is conscious, in the sense that in many forms of asceticism – and in the Christian ones almost without exception – the accessory is inextricably interwoven with the essential, and ascetic realisations are, so to speak, indirect, because they result from impulses and movements of the soul determined by suggestions or by religious raptures, while in Buddhism they result from direct action, based on a knowledge which is conscious of its aim and develops itself through controlled processes from beginning to end. « Just as a practised turner or turner’s apprentice, when turning quickly, knows ‘I am turning quickly’, and when turning slowly, knows ‘I am turning slowly' ». And « as a practised butcher or butcher’s apprentice who butchers a cow, takes it to the market-place and dissects it piece by piece ; he knows these parts, he looks at them and examines them well and then sits down » – here, two efficacious similes, among many others, are typical of the style of consciousness of all of the ascetic and contemplative procedures in the doctrine of awakening (2). Another is that of clear and transparent water, through which everything lying on the bottom can be seen : the symbol of a soul which has eliminated all unrest and confusion (3). And it will be seen that this style is reasserted everywhere, on every plane of Buddhist discipline. This is why it has been stated rightly that « this path through consciousness and awakening is as clearly described as a road on an accurate map, along which every tree, every bridge and every house is marked » (4).

In the second place, the collusions between asceticism and morality are avoided in few other systems as in Buddhism, and one is thus made conscious of the purely instrumental value of the latter for the former. Any ethical precept is regarded here solely according to the consideration of the positive ‘ascetic’ effects which result from following it or not doing so. It can thus be said that here not only all religious mythology, but also all ethical mythology, are left behind. In Buddhism, the elements of sîla, that is, of « right conduct », are considered purely as « instruments of the soul » (5) : it is not a question of ‘values’, but rather of ‘instruments’, instruments of a virtus, not in the moralistic sense, but in the ancient sense of virile energy. Hence the well-known simile of the raft : the one who, having built a raft to cross a dangerous river, would be a fool if, to go further, he were to put it on his shoulders. Buddhism  teaches this also of what is good or evil, just or unjust, according to purely ethical views (6).

Thus it can be affirmed with good reason that in Buddhism – as in Yoga – asceticism is raised to the dignity and impersonality of a science : what is elsewhere fragment here becomes system ; what is elsewhere impulse or transport becomes conscious technique ; the spiritual labyrinth of souls which attain only through ‘grace’ (since it is only by means of suggestions, fears, hopes, and raptures, that they are led accidentally onto the right way) is replaced by a calm and even light which prevails even in abysmal depths, and by a method which does not need external supports.

All this, however, refers only to the first aspect of asceticism, the most elementary in the hierarchical order. Once ascesis is understood as a technique for the conscious production of a force which can be applied, in principle, to any level, the disciplines considered in the doctrine of awakening appear to us with a degree of crystalline independence which is hard to surpass. However, a distinction between the disciplines which ‘apply to life’ and those which apply to what is beyond life is encountered within the system itself. The use which is made of ascetic achievements in Buddhism is essentially an ‘upward’ one. Here is how the canon gives the sense of such achievements : « And he reaches the admirable path discovered by the intensity, the constancy, and the concentration of the will, the admirable path discovered by the intensity, the constancy, and the concentration of the energy, the admirable path discovered by the intensity, the constancy, and the concentration of the soul, the admirable path discovered by the intensity, the constancy, and the concentration of the investigation – with a heroic spirit as the fifth. » And it adds : « And thus attaining these fifteen heroic qualities, he is able, O disciples, to achieve liberation, to achieve awakening, to attain the incomparable sureness. » (8). Two possibilities are considered in this connection in another text : « Either certainty in life, or no return after death. » (9). If, in an eminent manner, ‘sureness’ is linked with the state of ‘awakening’, then, referring to a more relative plane, the alternative can be more mundane, and can be thought of as a sureness in life, created by a first group of ascetic disciplines and able to give proof of itself in any field, but which, however, is regarded essentially as a presupposition for an ascesis of a transcendent character. Thus, the tradition speaks of an « intensive application », conceived of as keystone of the whole system, which, « developed and often practised, leads to two-fold health, health in the present and health in the future. » (10). ‘Sureness’ in ascetic development – bhâvanâ – is connected with unshakeable calm – samatha – which can be considered as the highest aim of a ‘neutral’ discipline, and which can be pursued even by one who yet remains, in the essence, a « son of the world » – putthujjana. Beyond this there is the unshakeable calm – samatha – which, associated with knowledge – vipassanâ – leads to the « Great Liberation » (11).

Here we have, then, a new concept of ascesis, hierarchically superior to the previous one, which takes us to the supra-sensual and supra-individual order ; and, at the same time, the reason why, in this higher order also, Buddhism gives positive points of reference, as few other traditions do, becomes clear. The fact is that Buddhism in its original form is distinguished from all mere ‘religion’, all mysticism in the most widespread sense of the word, all systems of ‘faith’ or devotion, and all dogmatic rigidity. And even when dealing with what is no longer of this life, what is ‘more-than-life’, Buddhism, the ‘Doctrine of Awakening’, appears to us to possess those features of severity and unadornedness which characterise all that is monumental, the atmosphere of clarity and strength which is peculiar to what can be called, in general, ‘classical’, and a virility and courage which could seem Promethean were it not essentially Olympian. But, to be able to realise all this, various additional prejudices must be removed. Once again, there are two points to be made.

Some have claimed that Buddhism, in its essence and in its original form – leaving aside, thus, the later popular Buddhism characterised by the deification of its founder – is not a religion. This is true. However, we must be quite clear as to what we consider this assertion to imply on the plane of values.

From a general point of view, Western peoples are so accustomed to the religion which has come to predominate in their own countries that they regard it as a kind of unit of measure and model for every other religion. If the result of this has been that the most ancient Western traditions – to start with the Hellenic and the Roman – were no longer understood in their real significance or their effective value (12), it is easy to imagine what was to happen to older and often more remote traditions, such as those created by Indo-European races in Asia. Really, however, this attitude must be reversed : as ‘modern’ civilisation represents an anomaly when compared with previous civilisations of a traditional type (13), the significance and the value of the Christian religion should be measured according to what might subsist in it from a vaster, clearer, more primordial and less human conception of the supernal.

Without dwelling on this point, which we have already dealt with in other occasions, we will only indicate the arbitrariness of the identification of religion in general with theistic religion based on faith (14). The term ‘exoterism’ can well be applied to this type of religion, and if one considers the sentimental, sub-intellectual, irrational and passive elements in it, which no scholastic systematisation will ever manage to resolve fully, and which are rarely absent even from the rarest mystical attainments, it may well seem the height of presumption to claim for this system the character of a higher religion, and even of the ultimate religion (15).

It is certainly to be acknowledged that in some cases such religious forms are necessary ; the East itself has known them, in later times, in, for instance, the way of devotion, or bhakti-mârga (from ‘bhaj’, ‘to adore’), of Râmânuja, certain forms of the Shakti cult, and an altered form of Buddhism itself, Amidism (16). But in any normal and complete civilisation these devotional forms will be conceived solely for the mass, and other points of reference, other paths, will be indicated for those who have a different vocation and qualification. Such is the case of Buddhism, and it is in this sense, and only in this sense, that it can be said that – as long as it remains in the original and authentic form, to which our treatment and our interpretation will be limited – it is not a ‘religion’.

In this respect, it should be noted that the central concept of Buddhism, that of ‘awakening’, has a metaphysical rather than religious character, which maintains an extremely precise difference from everything which is ‘religious’ in the narrow, devotional, and, especially, Christian sense. We are in front of a doctrine for which the human condition is something to be overcome, and is not in any way the effect of a ‘sin’, of a transgression – this is the fundamental motive of religion – to be redressed by ‘repentance’ and waiting for, or praying for, gratuitous ‘grace’ or ‘salvation’. Buddhism is part of the central tradition of Hindu metaphysics, in that it considers the average human condition to be the result of ‘ignorance’, of not-knowing, not of ‘sin’. A darkening or oblivion arisen in the being (here, it is needless to examine its causes and its modalities) determine the human condition in its caducity and contingency. The aim is solely to destroy this ignorance, this oblivion, sleep, or blackout, it being given that one does not accept the state of existence in which one finds himself. Likewise, the Hellenic initiate drinks from the fountain of memory in order to recover his original nature, similar to that of the gods. Any moral mythology is thus excluded on this path. An attitude of the centrality of the subject persists in it. The ‘sinful’ creature, placed in front of the theistic divinity or ‘saviour’, has no part in it. This is a typical feature, which can be considered to be among those which define ‘Aryanity’, i.e., the aristocratic nature of the doctrine preached by Prince Siddhartha.

This suffices to cover the first point. The second point does not concern the orientation of the individual, but the place which, doctrinally, must be ascribed to theism, or to theistically-based religion. Here however the situation is analogous. The theistic conception corresponds to an incomplete vision of the world, because it is devoid of its supreme hierarchical apex.

Metaphysically, the conception of being in the terms of a personal god is not such that, beyond it, there is no longer anything of which one can gain knowledge. To conceive of what lies beyond both such being and its opposite, non-being, as the supreme summit, is peculiar to a spirituality of a higher type, and to those ‘internal doctrines’ which, in any complete tradition, rise beyond the cult of the masses. These latter do not deny the theistic point of view but, recognising its right hierarchical place, subordinate it to a really transcendent conception.

This conception, on the other hand, was not unknown to the West itself. Leaving aside the Platonic ‘hen’, placed beyond the ‘on’, a certain mysticism, concerned with so-called « negative theology » can be mentioned, and so can Dionysius the Areopagite and, to a certain extent, Scotus Origenus ; one can refer to the abysmal and shapeless divinity, the Gottheit in the neuter, above the theistic Gott of German mysticism (which corresponds to the neuter Brahman, above Brahmâ, or Ishvara, the personal god, of Hindu speculation). However, the doctrine of the Christianised West was far from according to this transcendence its proper dignity and its proper hierarchical place. It had little or no effect on the essentially ‘religious’ orientation of the Western soul ; its only effect has been to carry a few men, via confused attempts and scattered intuitions or transports, beyond the frontiers of ‘orthodoxy’.

This is the clarification which it is necessary to make when one finds a doctrine accused of not being a religion, if not bluntly being accused of being an atheism, because it is not a theistic religion. The considerations which we have just offered apply to a wide range of instances, and with exactitude to the original Buddhism. An absolutely unique example is to be seen in it. Basically, the ground most conducive to metaphysical conceptions and to such an inner orientation as we have just described is that of an ‘esotericism’, an internal doctrine reserved for a limited circle of initiates. In Buddhism we find the same considerations, instead, at the origin of a great historical tradition, with unmistakable features, in spite of the fatal alteration which, like many teachings, they were to undergo in subsequent forms, both philosophical or popular.

To amplify the last point we have examined, the recognition of that which is « beyond both being and non-being » opens to ascetic realisation possibilities unknown to the world of theism. The perception of this apex, in which the distinction between ‘creator’ and ‘creature’ becomes metaphysically meaningless, allows the creation of a whole system of spiritual realisations which turn out to be difficult to understand on the basis of ‘religious’ categories ; and, above all, it permits what, in mountaineering jargon, one would call a direct ascent, that is, an ascent up the bare mountainside, without supports, without deviations to one side or another. This is exactly the meaning of Buddhist ascesis, no longer seen as a mere discipline generating strength, sureness, and unshakeable calm, but as a system of spiritual realisation. Buddhism – and this too we shall see clearly later – carries the will for the unconditioned to limits which are almost beyond the imagination of the modern West. And in this ascent alongside the abyss it rejects any ‘mythology’, it proceeds by means of pure strength, it drives away any mirage, it rids itself of any residual human weakness, it maintains the style of pure knowledge. This is why the Awakened, buddho, the Victor, jina, could be called he whose way is unknown to men, angels, and to Brahmâ – which is the Sanskrit name for the theistic god, equivalent to Ishvara – himself. Certainly, this path is not without dangers, yet it is the one which suits the virile soul – viriya-magga. The texts say very clearly that the doctrine is meant « for the wise man, the expert, not for the ignorant, the inexpert » (17). The simile of the cutting grass is used : « As kusa grass when wrongly grasped cuts the hand, so the ascetic life wrongly practised leads to infernal torments » (18). The simile of the serpent is used ; « As a man who wants serpents goes out for serpents, looks for serpents, and finding a powerful serpent grasps it by the body or by the tail ; and the serpent striking at him bites his hand or arm or other part so that he suffers death or mortal anguish – and why is this? Because he wrongly grasped the serpent – so there are men who are harmed by the doctrines. And why is this? because they wrongly grasped the doctrines » (19).

It must thus be quite clear that the doctrine of awakening as such is not opposed as one particular religion to other religions. Even in the world in which it was born, it respected the various divinities and the popular cults of religious character which were linked with them. It understood the value of ‘works’. Virtuous and devout men go to ‘heaven’ – but the path taken by the Awakened Ones differs from theirs (20). They go beyond as « a fire which, little by little, consumes every bond » (21), both human and divine. And it is basically the innate style of a superior soul which brings it about that, in the texts, no sign of abandon, no sentimentalism, and no devout effusion, no private conversation with a god, so to speak, is found, although everything gives the feeling of a strength inexorably directed toward the unconditioned.

We have thus clarified the first three reasons why Buddhism in particular is recommended as the basis for the exposition of a complete system of ascesis. Summing up, the first reason consists in the possibility of extracting easily from Buddhism the elements of an ascesis as objective technique for the achievement of a calm, a strength and a detached superiority, each one capable in itself of use in any direction. The second reason lies in the fact that in Buddhism the concept of ascesis can at once develop into that of a path of spiritual realisation completely free from any ‘mythology’, whether religious, theological, or ethical. The third reason, finally, is that the ultimate term of such a path corresponds to the Supreme of a truly metaphysical conception of the universe, to a transcendence asserted well beyond the simply theistic conception. Thus, while the Buddha considers the tendency to dogmatise to be a bond, and opposes the empty self-sufficiency of those who proclaim : « Only this is truth, foolishness is the rest » (22), he still maintains firmly the awareness of his own dignity : « perhaps you may wish, disciples, thus knowing, thus understanding, to return for your salvation to the rites and the fantasies of the ordinary penitent or priest? » – « No, indeed » is the answer – « Is it thus then, disciples : that you speak only of that on which you yourselves have meditated, which you yourselves have known, which you yourselves have understood, » – « Even so, Master. » – « This is well, disciples. Remain, then, endowed with this doctrine, which is visible in this life, timeless, inviting, leading onward, intelligible to all intelligent men. If this has been said, for this reason has it been said » (23). And again : « There are penitents and priests who exalt liberation. They speak in various manners glorifying liberation. But as for that which concerns the most noble, the highest liberation, I know that none equals me, let alone that I may be surpassed » (24). This has been called, in tradition, « the lion’s roar ».

Julius EVOLA

* In the foreword to ‘The Doctrine of Awakening’, written in 1948, H.E. Musson stated : « Of the many books published in Italy and Germany by J. Evola, this is the first to be translated into English. The book needs no apology ; the subject – Buddhism – is sufficient guarantee of that. But the author has, it seems to me, recaptured the spirit of Buddhism in its original form, and his schematic and uncompromising approach will have rendered an inestimable service even if it does no more than clear away some of the woolly ideas that have gathered around the central figure, Prince Siddhartha, and the doctrine that he disclosed.

« The real significance of the book, however, lies not in its value as a weapon in a dusty battle between scholars, but in its encouragement of a practical application of the doctrine it discusses. The author has not only examined the principles on which Buddhism was originally based, but he has also described in some detail the actual process of « ascesis » or self-training that was practised by the early Buddhists. This study, moreover, does not stop there ; it maintains that the entire doctrine of the Buddha is capable of application, even to-day, by any Western man who really has the vocation. But the undertaking was never easy, and the number who, in this modern world, will succeed in pursuing it to its conclusion is not likely to be large ».

H. E. Musson, who had converted to Buddhism in the meantime and taken the name Ñânavîra Thera, expressed « considerable reservations » about the book in a letter dated the 21st February 1964, in which he definitely sounded more ‘detached’ : « I have just received a letter from London. It is from a man who has read my translation of Evola’s book, The Doctrine of Awakening (which, however, I cannot now recommend to you without considerable reservations). Since he seems to have a certain liking for samatha bhâvanâ I encouraged him to go on with it – I think it will do him more good than harm, and it is an excellent way of occupying the later years of his life (he is now past sixty, I think). How many people promise themselves that they will spend their retirements profitably, and then find that it is too late to start something new! »

More on H. E. Musson’s work, and life, at

(1) B. Jansink, ‘La mistica del buddismo’, Bocca, Turin, 1925, p. 304.

(2) Majjhima-nikâya, 10.

(3) Cf., e.g., Jâtaka, 185.

(4) E. Reinhold, in the introduction to the works of K.E. Neumann quoted by G. De Lorenzo, ‘I discorsi di Buddho’, Laterza, Bari, 1925, vol. 2, p. 15.

(5) Majjhima-nikâya, 53.

(6) Ibid., 22.

(7) Cf., e.g., Majjhima-nikâya, 53.

(8) Majjhima-nikâya, 16.

(9) Ibid., 10.

(10) Anguttara-nikâya, 3.65 ; 10.15. Cf. Samyutta-nikâya, 35.198, where the disciplines are stated to be valid for this life since, in it, they create self-possession, while building a solid base for the destruction of the âsava, that is, for the transcendent goal.

(11) In Anguttara-nikâya, 4.170, it is said that the bonds vanish and the path opens when samatha is combined with vipassanâ.

(12) Cf. W.F. Otto, ‘Die Götter Griechenlands’, 1935, 1, 2 and passim.

(13) Cf. R. Guénon, ‘Orient et Occident’, Paris, 1924 ; ‘La Crise du monde moderne’, Paris, 1925.

(14) P. Dahlke, ‘Buddhismus als Religion und Moral’, Munich-Neubiberg, 1923, p.11.

(15) Cf. J. Evola, ‘L’arco et la clava’, Edizioni Mediterranee, Rome, 1995, chap.4 (N.d.E.).

(16) Cf. J. Evola, ‘Lo yoga della potenza’ (1949), Edizioni Mediterranee, Rome, chap. 15 (N.d.E.).

(17) Majjhima-nikâya, 2.

(18) Dhammapada, 311.

(19) Majjhima-nikâya, 22.

(20) Dhammapada, 126.

(21) Dhammapada, 31.

(22) Cf., e.g., Suttanipâta, 4.12 ; 13.17-19.

(23) Majjhima-nikâya, 38.

(24) Dîgha-nikâya, 8.21