Buddhist Biodynamics - The Josephine Porter Institute

Buddhist Biodynamics

Rudolf Steiner makes a point in a number of his works that the eightfold path is not something that is superseded by later developments. This is key for Steiner's understanding of the integral quality of all spiritual paths. 

In his commentary on the Gospel of Mark, Steiner remarks on the rather puzzling passage where Jesus curses the fig tree but the author of the Gospel of Mark specifically says it was not the time for figs. Why would you curse a fig tree for not having fruit when it wasn't the season for figs? A cryptic passage, on first glance. The simplest explanation might be that it doesn't matter if we're "ready" when we die or when the Second Coming occurs. That will not be a valid excuse. As Jesus says to the man who needs to bury his father, "Let the dead bury their own dead."

Steiner's interpretation, as usual, sees an image of a historical development. Note: when unpacking the many layers of a symbol, it is not a mere metaphor. A symbol is expansive and has virtually limitless valid analogical applications. One reading does not negate other readings and if the reader claims to do so is remaining purely within the literalistic reading. Refusing to see the analogical significance does not make it go away.

When we hear Steiner's interpretation, this does not negate other layers of meaning, nor would Steiner likely claim that it did so. He is a man, who, every day at 3pm, would stop whatever he was doing and prayer the Our Father whether he was in public or private. 

Steiner suggests that Jesus symbolically curses the fig tree because it was under the bodhi tree (ficus religiosa) that the Buddha attained his enlightenment. Incidentally, the bodhi tree is a fig tree. What is suggested here is that the wellspring that had been the Buddha was now to give way to a newer and fuller expression in Christianity. Which is almost to say: one can't be a good Christian if one isn't first a decent Buddhist (internalizing the eightfold path). In Steiner's words, "This eightfold path is: right resolve, right thinking, right speech, right action, right living, right striving, right memory, right self-immersion, or meditation." (Esoteric Development, GA53)

Is it possible to love the Lord your God with all your heart and to your neighbor as yourself without right resolve, right thinking, right speech, etc.? You shall know a tree by its fruits. As such, the soul must be stabilized, yes, like St. Peter keeping his gaze fixed on the Christ amidst the tumultuous waves of life. The idea that we can turn ourselves over to turmoil and attachment to worldly conditions and also have God is contradicted by scripture itself, which says "Man cannot have two masters. He will either love the one and hate the other." The calming of the inner animal impulses was mastered by the Buddha and is not discarded in Christian contemplation. Instead, as Valentin Tomberg says, Christian universality redeems all time, including any precursor that has sweet fruit that does not contradict the steps to regeneration.  

Another resonance here is E. F Schumacher's economic work Small is Beautiful where he posits what he calls "buddhist economics" which is about right livelihood and balanced living for everyone. In an interview, he said that he could have called it "christian economics" but no one would have taken it seriously!

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