A Very Grimm Matter


Surprisingly little is written about the German Pali scholar, Dr. George Grimm (1868-1945), yet his contribution to analyzing the ātman/anātman dichotomy is unsurpassed. His writings, in particular his monumental “Doctrine of the Buddha: The Religion of Reason and Meditation”, finely nuances the True Self as a radiant bliss, “Our I or self, rid of all transient and sorrowful attributes, is eternal, complete in itself, and full of bliss.” The Zennist writes that for most modern Buddhists “Grimm’s words are a hard slap,” indeed a slap in the face of those who have “lost the ability to distinguish the psychophysical organism from himself because there is no self for him—he is all organism.” When the Self clings to what it is not, the “psychophysical organism” becomes dominant, a much misaligned characteristic that triggers perpetual re-genesis of the skandhic hosts. The modern Buddhist is so enamored with the anātman (or the great No-Self) that he refuses to acknowledge the actual teaching on the great dichotomy as reported by Grimm:

“Further, ancient Buddhist tradition reports that the Buddha addressed,shortly after the Sermon of Benares, a second discourse to his first five followers which is also preserved and is called the discourse of the characteristics of the not-self. In it he first of all broadly explains that the five groups of grasping are not to be considered as the self. He then puts to his disciples the question: ‘What think you, monks, is corporeality changeable or unchangeable?’ ‘Changeable, Lord’ is the reply. ‘But that which is changeable, is it suffering or joy?’ ‘Suffering, Lord.’ ‘Now that which is variable, full of sorrow, and subject to change, can we say, if we consider it: this is mine, this am I, this is my Self?’ ‘This we cannot say, Lord.’ The same questions are put and then answered in reference to the other four groups. And then the Buddha adds: ‘Therefore, monks, whatever there has been, will be, and is of corporeality, sensation, consciousness, forms, and knowledge, no matter whether in us or in the world outside, whether coarse or fine, low or high, far or near; all this corporeality, sensation, consciousness, these forms, and this knowledge are not mine, are not-I, are not my Self ; so must every one really see it who possesses right Knowledge. 

Therefore, monks, the man who sees it is a noble hearer with experiencewho turns away from corporeality, sensation, consciousness, forms, and Knowledge. By thus turning from them, he becomes free from craving. Through the cessation of craving he obtains salvation.” (Grimm: Doctrine of the Buddha)

More than saying what consists of the nature of True Self, the Buddha stressed that one must not regard it as what “it is not”. In clinging to the no-self beast one condemns themselves to the great “entanglement of the cycle of beings”, forever lost in the void of nihilism and eternalism; from the Zennist:

Worldlings (including secular Buddhists), i.e., prithagjanas, often mistake the Buddha’s condemnation of eternalism with a categorical denial of self or atman (P., attā). But eternalism is quite a different species from the Buddha’s notion of self which he tirelessly points out transcends the Five Aggregate domain of form, feeling, perception, volitional formations, and sensory consciousness.

A careful consideration of the Nikayas show that the Buddha never once equated his self with any aggregate. Referring to each aggregate, the common refrain throughout the Nikayas is: this is not mine, this I am not, this is not my self. From this we must understand that the Buddha, while teaching through the Five Aggregate apparatus, was not of them. Said again, the Buddha’s self transcended the aggregate sphere.

Most, though, just don’t get it. They want to confine the Buddha’s teachings exclusively to the “anatta heresy”, a most negative approach at the expense of the great via positiva acclamation of authentic Selfhood Atman/Absolute features that are the very hallmark of the Dharmakaya Itself. They choose instead to wallow in dukkha and celebrate it as some form of “warped emptiness notion” that leads one to the brink of self-annihilation. Their emptiness is the emptiness of the tomb and not the bright splendor of Dharmakayic-emptiness that empties itself of everything it is not. Once the shroud is removed, the freed True-Self soars like a nuclear-bird above the vast emptiness of samsara’s wasteland. Grimm declares, “I can again rid myself, in order then, as a “Perfect One, deep, immeasurable, and unfathomable as the great ocean,” to plunge into absolute reality, into Nibbāna, in which everything knowable is extinguished, “in imperishable bliss;” “full of peace is this state, exalted and sublime is this state.” Grimm highly nuances Nirvana itself as not some kind of lapse into the void, but a negation of the fluctuating oscillations of pluralized obstructions that prevents a positive return of the Self to Itself. This, then, is the great Mind-quest:

“Know thyself!” runs the inscription on the temple of the Pythia…
Ordinary man can easily be led astray into regarding his earthly personality as his true self (ātmā, P. atta). This leads him to attach a particular value to this self and to everything connected therewith. In this way craving and thirst awake. He clings to it, he grasps it (upādānam), as Buddhism says, and thus creates conditions which fetter him to this existence, and lead him from rebirth to rebirth to a new becoming (bhavah). If, on the other hand, he recognizes that all this is not his true self, and in reality does not touch him, then craving is extinguished, he turns away from everything earthly, the fetters binding him to existence are broken, and he attains salvation. For the man who recognizes this true self, will turn away from everything else, and thus become detached from everything earthly. (Grimm, ibid)

The Doctrine of the Buddha is akin to Ecclesiastes’ “Vanity—all is vanity”; the Buddha’s prevailing stance states all this dukkha is according to the “prevalent law of transitoriness.” All is passing/changing to the tempo of Dependent Origination. Those who can uphold this Doctrine of the Buddha requires those who are stouthearted and true Noble Ones (Ariya):

Thus the doctrine of the Buddha, having for its organ the most exact of all methods, that of natural science, in experimentally realizing truth, requires true men, “no hypocrites, nor dissemblers, unassuming, resolute, stout-hearted, possessing insight, clear-headed, steadfast, of collected and unified mind, wise and intelligent,” who alone are capable of applying the experimental method. With them, “the noble ones, knowing the doctrine of the noble ones, inclined towards the doctrine of the noble ones,” he has communication, as with the true aristocrats of mankind, “to whom this world is too mean,” who therefore wish to grow out of it. (Grimm, ibid)

This communication with the “true aristocrats of mankind” entails communion with the Ariyan Mind and Spirit. The Noble Shining Ones are never satisfied with the defiled temporal order of existence and are determined to transcend it at all costs. It may very well be that it is only those Noble few whose spirit is predestined to do so. After innumerable lifetimes since time immemorial, the spirit is now called upon to relinquish the no-self beast altogether and don the Light-Body and True Self of the Tathagatas. In order to prime this primordial Self-Actualization, Grimm’s other work, Buddhist Wisdom, is a kind of meditation-manual for the Self—empowering IT to distinguish Itself from the suffering no-self position:

“It is necessary clearly to realize, i.e. to see that the corporeal organism is something entirely different from me. If I really comprehend this, I shall as a consequence realize that the beginning and the end of this organism are not the beginning and the end of myself, but merely of this very organism. The question arises, how it comes that I possess the latter. The answer is rather simple: I am in connection with my organism merely through my will. It is only this will which procures me me an organism, and it does so in the same and only way in which I procure whatever I want to possess, namely by grasping it: because I have the will for a corporeal organism I grasp the germ prepared by my parent, I cling to it for building up a corporeal organism. This process I repeat from time immemorial and I shall, if necessary, repeat perpetually; that is, as long as I have a will for a new organism when at the moment of death my actual body is snatched away from me” (Grimm, Buddhist Wisdom).

The Aware-Self, through these meditations, will soon realize that IT is “beyond the impermanent.” It gains with absolute-certainty that all “phenomenal attributes” (such as the skandhic personality) are NOT Itself and thus anymore desire-filled “willing” to activate the sensate-self is permanently forestalled and deactivated. Grimm refers to this as being in “the abode of the vanished Awakened Ones, who have overcome the cycle of rebirths.” What remains is a marvelous “Noble Silence”. This all entails the Self as Noble Witness to Its own Absolute Stature. Grimm states that this is such an intimate encounter with the Actual-Self, that the Buddha once solemnly asked his young monks, “What is better, young men, to look for the woman or to look for your own self?” Of course, instilled with the proper Buddha-gnosis that emanated from the Dharma-Lord’s lips, they saw the wisdom of choosing the Supreme Source for their proper lover. It appears obvious from his riveting scholarly expositions that Grimm, too, became so enamored with the Gnosis of Self that all else paled in comparison; he developed a robust community of devoted followers who remained loyal to the teachings until his death in 1945.

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