review of e. baptist’s pamphlet
the Suttas all four brahmavihåras are treated in the same way; and if we insist that mettå can be sent out in rays (which is perhaps conceivable by a stretch of imagination) then we must allow the same of upekhå (and a ‘ray of indifference’ is not conceivable), for the same word, pharati, is used of both. The Visuddhi Magga defines pharati as ‘to make an object of’: and in fact the word really means no more than ‘to think about’. In other words, instead of flashing all-embracing rays of love (or indifference, as the case may be) to the six points of space, we simply think about beings in these various directions and say to ourselves, ‘May they be well’. It should be noted that Mr. Baptist confines indifference to ‘indifference towards all evil beings’. This is a curious limitation, without any apparent justification, and the Visuddhi Magga (quoting the Vibhanga) says: ‘As, on seeing a person neither lovable nor unlovable, he would be even-minded, so he considers (pharati) all beings with even-mindedness’. Indifference is to be practised towards all beings, good or evil. Without our going into further detail, it may be said that the purpose of the brahmavihåra meditation is not to benefit or improve other people by directing our mettå and so forth toward them (though some such effect is possible in certain cases) but, in the first place, to rid ourselves of illwill, cruelty, envy, and partiality, and in the second, to develop concentration so that insight may be successfully practised. So much for the brahmavihåras. What about Mr. Baptist and ånåpånasati? The Foreword (not written by Mr. Baptist) states that ånåpånasati ‘entails a primary basis of an ascetical moral make-up’ and ‘involves absolute mindfulness and control of breathing (our italics).’ Mr. Baptist himself says not only that it is elaborate and tedious and exacts a great deal of time and energy (points we have already touched upon) but that ‘it is not easy to practise as it involves the leading of a very pure, celibate life, free from stress and strife’. And in a letter to the Ceylon Observer (4th June 1955) he says: ‘To meditate, following the ånåpånasati system, one should be a brahmachariya—this is what elementary yoga teaches. Laymen can hardly be expected to lead brahmachari lives. Can they then be expected to practise this difficult form of meditation without grave danger to their health?’ This is largely nonsense. Ånåpånasati does not involve control of breathing; it is no more elaborate or tedious than any other form of meditation (and probably less so); and though indeed some degree of s⁄la is necessary—as for all meditation—, it is not true that one must be a brahmachari to practise it—there are many laymen, married and single, who have long practised ånåpånasati and have derived much benefit from it without in any way injuring their health. Mr. Baptist takes elementary yoga as his authority;
Published on Jun 26, 2013
Part B includes two early essays (Nibbana and Anatta and Sketch for a Proof of Rebirth) as well as notes from a Commonplace Book and Margina...