Wayism and Sautrāntika Buddhism in the 1st centuries BC and AD

Much of the information for this article was gleaned from the book, Universal Gateway of Enlightenment: The 2nd coming of Jesus as World Savior in c78AD, by Jean du Plessis.

Wayism was never intended to establish a new religion. It was always a new way of thinking aimed at reforming religious traditions and as that, it was and is hugely successful the world over. Wayism was first transmitted in the 1st century by the divine teacher Iesous (Jesus in Latin).

Three Wise Men From the East

Iesous was born in a Roman province (Judea), but shortly after birth he was whisked away by his protectors, several “Wise Men from the East”. These so-called Wise Men were representatives of the three major religions in the East, Daoism, Buddhism and the Hindu (Shaivism). Iesous learned philosophy and languages in Alexandria, in Egypt, as a child. As a teenager, his family moved to the bustling metropolis of Sepphoris in Galilee, where he mingled with traders who brought their goods and cultures to the West along the Silk Route. Iesous spend about three years in Galilee as a teen before his benefactors moved him to learn and teach at the various schools of the East. Almost twenty years later, Iesous would return to Galilee to transmit the teaching of The Way not as a new religion but as a new approach to religious thinking, spurring reformations in religious schools of the day. From this injection of the Wayist approach, a reformation movement within Judaism resulted in the founding of the Christian Church. The Gnostic movement and several other movements, the Essene among other, also had reformations and schisms. These reformations resulted from only three years of work in the eastern part of the Roman Empire.

Iesous (Jesus) in the East

Iesous spent most of his life in the East. It was here where he first transmitted the teaching of The Way in Buddhist and Hindu schools of the various traditions. His work spurred on and brought to a head many of the reformation movements in Gandhara and India. Apart from reformations in Shaivism, Iesous’ work also laid foundations for new reformation movements that came to blossom several decades after he had departed from the area: The Bhakti movement is a case in point. It is interesting to note that the seeds for the Bhakti movement were sown in in the 1st century in northern India but it came to fruition and blossomed in southern India from where it spread north. At the same time, awareness of the celestial presence of Iesous as the World Savior, the Avalokiteshvara, also blossomed in southern India at the same time when a resurgence in Shaivism started in Tamil Nadu and Kerala.

On the Buddhist front, during the 1st century, the Way of Iesous was particularly effective in empowering and informing senior Buddhist scholars working on reformation. Wayism, not being a religion but an awareness, must have been popular in many schools of thought. We say this because of the final outcome of the 1st century Buddhist reformation. The Mahayana group of schools emerged from the 78CE having added more than a handful of central tenets from Iesous’ influence. The greater vehicle of Buddhism embraced and incorporated the new ideas of Amitabha Buddha as our Father, of Avalokiteshvara (the spiritual being who is the “2nd coming” celestial form of Iesous) as the “son of the Father”. The emphasis of the Buddhist path moved from seeking the highest virtue Knowledge for individual enlightenment, to practicing the highest virtue Lovingkindness (compassion) seeking enlightenment for all sentient beings (animals, insects, spirits, souls, etc.). This was more than a major shift in Buddhism. It was in fact a massive remake of the religion, the impact of which has eluded academics up to now. The teaching of Iesous’ Way also includes individual existence and a distinct difference between soul beings and spiritual beings—and in the renewed Buddhism, we see how several schools break with the old mold to go down that road.

The awareness that informs one’s thought processes and spiritual growth, the Wayism of the Lord, can be clearly seen in Buddhism. One example, that of the Sautrāntika School of thought is convenient to discuss because they got some good and bad press at the time and was much discussed. The media of the time was in the hands of the philosophers and their rich sponsors. Transmission of news happened mostly in public debates and then ran the route of the rumor mill into the market square. The fires of reformation were fueled from on High. Northern India was, during the 1st century, an absolute hive of religious renewal activity. Schools of translation of Scriptures, from all languages into Sanskrit, could be found all over the North from Nepal to Punjab to Gilgit in the Himalaya. The royal family of the Gondophares clan supported Iesous’ ministry and they funded several such schools of reformation. With their influence, later kings like Kanishka also supported the work. So much so, that King Kanishka and his western neighbors sponsored the 2nd 4th Buddhist Council in Kashmir to formalize the reformation, the final split which brought about the compassionate schools grouped under the banner of “the larger vehicle” or Mahayana. The various schools that today make up the Mahayana are by far the larger and most popular versions of Buddhism in the world. Theravada, which stands apart from the Mahayana is popular only in southern Asia and still does not give women equal access to enlightenment and wisdom, they still focus on knowledge and individual salvation of monks. Mahayana heeded the call of the Way and focus on Compassion and include not only women but all sentient beings in the Way to perfection.

Iesous teaching is and was simple and straight forward. Compared to the high philosophy that enamored Buddhist scholars, who created more than a hundred thousand high philosophy treatise to try and explain what Buddhists believe, the Way came in simple, clear and humble. Iesous taught that we are soul beings, and souls do exist. Souls incarnate and soul-minds (chakras) carry with them the growth, development, karma and resultant dharma duty. We have to be reborn, born again, as soul beings (metamorphosed) in order to gain perfection. That rebirth happens when we awake (budhi) and set foot on the Way. One day, as we become perfected in Wisdom from living full and authentic lives (not necessarily as monks) we will be reborn as caterpillars metamorphose into butterflies. When we become spiritual beings because of our wisdom (budhi), we become Buddhas. There are millions of Buddhas in the heavens. The most powerful Buddha known to us is the King, the Father of Heaven, Lord Amitabha (from amita Resplendent and abha Light). Iesous would pray to his Abha Father, teaching that we too have the Buddha seed in our hearts (literally implanted in the heart chakra) and when the love in the heart chakra is sufficient, the seed geminates and the process of transformation starts.

Sautrāntika Buddhism School

The Sautrāntika School of Buddhism reflected its Wayist mindset prominently as it carried forward the teaching of the Way. Sautrāntika broke with many important teachings that were once thought to be essential to Buddhism. These once-pivotal doctrines of the Buddhisms of the day were redefined and some were discarded outright. Many of the Sautrāntika that made headlines in the media reflected the teaching of the Way as we know it today.

Sautrāntika denied (or redefined) the authority of the multitude of texts (Abhidharma) that were created after Gautama. For them, initial teaching of the Buddha was sufficient. Critics pointed out that the initial teaching of the Buddha was very limited and had to be expanded, how would Sautrāntika make do with so little? Their answer was that it is not with body-mind where we search for wisdom, it is in soul-mind, and human words are sufficient to enlighten body-mind. Sautrāntikas explained that they do not agree with the other schools of Buddhism, that human words cannot easily explain deep Wisdom. They said even simple human words, in parables, can convey everything a person needs. Only parables—and that was the manner of teaching of Iesous, that was the supreme upaya, the skillful means of the Master. Iesous taught that upaya is compassion. We need to teach in a way that allows all beings to benefit. Spiritual growth is not the domain only of the educated, philosophers and scholars, the rich and those fortunate enough to live as monks. Compassion and upaya goes hand in hand. This tool was the teaching that inspired the Bhakti movement in Hinduism—bringing worship, mysticism and yoga with the Divine to the individual notwithstanding financial ability, race, caste or gender.

Sautrāntika disagreed with the other schools about the soul. Following the Wayist teaching of Iesous, for them, the jiva (soul) is an entity, a person. It reincarnates and carries with it, in its soul mind (chakras) its development of wisdom and its karma and dharma. Buddhist do not agree, because they teach that the soul forms part of the universal storehouse, it is not an entity–and then they need many other philosophical dialectic treatises to explain how karma remains with a person from one incarnation to the next, how the soul does not exist because nothing exists but actually it does exist but only in your mind which is soul that does not exist.

Sautrāntika also broke with another axiom of Buddhism, that of the three realities. Buddhism believes that past, future and present exist in continuum, in parallel, but also does not exist at all. If it were at all possible to penetrate the complexity of that ontology it will take many lifetimes. Sautrāntika discarded that tenet in favor of the Wayist teaching that only the moment exists. As soon as the moment starts, it starts to go away. Life is a series of moments and that is our reality. We live out our lives and our salvation, our dharma from one moment to the next. The decisions we make in every moment is where we live out our dharma (duty) and where we perform in term of karma. The sacrament of the moment is where we live when we live correctly.

Sautrāntika, sharing the Sarvāstivāda Wayist notion that all things do in fact exist because we can sense it, also broke with mainstream Buddhism. The phenomenal world which most Buddhists say exists only in our minds, according to Sautrāntika and Sarvāstivāda actually do exists, because we sense it. Whatever we sense, and subsequently label or somehow assigns meaning to in our minds, is what exists for us. If we cannot sense it, it seems to not exist. As the arrogant scientist who cannot fathom the idea of an atom, because he cannot sense it, for him it does not exit and it won’t exist until one day he finally senses it with whatever equipment he must use to do so—and then it becomes the gospel truth and anyone who disagrees with him is disparaged as a simpleton. Almost every other Buddhist school today hold to the “mind only” concept of sunyata. In Wayist fashion Sautrāntika too broke with that concept and redefined it in various ways; mainly in the manner that Avalokiteshvara taught of the Prajnaparamita that all material things are empty of meaning in terms of ultimate reality which is timeless existence in spiritual form. Buddhists generally take the concept of sunyata further, stating that nothing exists, but in our minds.

Sautrāntikas and Sarvāstivāda conceived of atoms and sub-atomic matter. For them, all things are in flux, never at rest and never concrete—an idea that is only lately becoming popular in western science. They explained the atom in rather interesting detail. Breaking with mainstream Buddhist and some Hindu thought at the time, they explained that matter is compiled of individual atoms and that behind the atoms lie an energy or intelligence that has the seed, idea, or concept of creation (and that is ultimate reality, not the temporary creation). The first level of atom which they discerned may seem indivisible, and cannot be combined the one with the other. The second level of understanding of atoms at the time was of subatomic matter. They sensed that the atom can be divided into four aspects and these subatomic matters are the finest and smallest building blocks of the universes. The bulk of the atom however contains energy that orders, structures and holds all things together.

Sautrāntika believed in the Wayist notion of the primacy of humility, simplicity and compassion in the quest for spiritual perfection. Breaking with Theravada and others, Sautrāntika embraced the ideal of the Bodhisattva. Iesous’ teaching that Love is the primary frequency that we need to cultivate in the heart chakra to germinate the inherent Buddhaseed is expressed in the Bodhisattva ideal. Wayists believe the Buddhaseed is in effect placed in the heart chakra of the human soul and that is our inherent Buddha nature which will germinate and develop only because and when we have acquired sufficient Wisdom gained from living Love (humility, simplicity and compassion). Philosophically, the Buddhaseed concept has roots in Platonic schools and Indian philosophy.

For Wayists, and Sautrāntika Buddhism at the time, spiritual life is much less complicated than was postulated by the hundred thousand scriptures. It is easy, live the life of a bodhisattva in the making and enlightenment and its wisdom will come to us. We set foot on the Way, and perfected Bodhisattvas, angels, gods, dakini, devas and devata will be there for us when we need them; for teaching and helping us through the lessons in the school of life. Those beings have a vested interest in all sentient beings, they will not go to heaven to take up their rightful estates there until all sentient beings are perfected. From this understanding, several other Buddhist schools of thought developed and are still in existence today. Chinese Pure Land Buddhism and several schools in Japan know that the best we can do on earth is to live the Bodhisattva Path in lovingkindness and gratitude, and then when we are reborn in Sukhavati Heaven as spiritual beings, we will learn the higher philosophy not with fallible body brain minds but with the purity of spiritual minds.

In the 3rd/4th century, Sautrāntika had a philosopher fan, the highly revered Buddhist scholar Vasubandhu who paved the way for the dominance of Mahayana Buddhism all over the world. Vasubandhu often posited Sautrāntika’s system again the doctrines of other schools. He expanded and developed the Yogacarya system based on Sautrāntika tenets and as you know, that forms the basis of Tibetan Buddhism.

Sautrāntika, like Wayism, showed influences or parallels to Platonic schools and some Neo-Platonist ideas. Any number of travelling scholars could have influenced them in this way but we believe that again, we see Iesous’ influence. Iesous learned under Philo of Alexandria and others as a child in Egypt where he studied philosophy and language. This is not the place to explain Plato’s theory of Ideas, but suffice it to say that Sautrāntika posited their theory of the Seed in such a way that one cannot but read many parallels between east and west in their philosophy.

Not only did western concepts make their way to India via Wayism, but also did eastern Wayist notions make their way west. It is not surprising at all. However, what is surprising is that the Roman Catholic Church denies any Wayist influence but their extra-biblical practice and doctrines are clearly from eastern Wayism. From regalia to rite, the Trinity, to forms of worship and doctrines, eastern Wayism is very noticeable.  Numerous stories, like that of Iesous’ descending to hell to save the beings there, and much more are paralleled in early eastern Wayist forms of worship. Even today, many parallels exist between Pure Land Buddhism and the Roman Catholic and Orthodox Churches.

Iesous’ Wayism influenced not only Buddhism, Judaism, Gnosticism and Hinduism as mentioned earlier but also, and importantly, the way that women were viewed in the spiritual quest. Buddhists did not (and Theravada still does not) allow women the same place as men in the quest for spiritual growth. For Iesous, the rights of women, widows and children was a major issue. Iesous chose the slave girl Mari, from the area of Magadha in India, as his foremost disciple. He set her in charge of the Wayist communities in Decapolis after he ascended to heaven. She wrote the fourth Gospel for her community of Wayists (later taken up into the Bible, and edited, as the Gospel According to John). Peter, a western apostle in Galilee had much to complain about the ubiquitous presence of Mari, and her elevated position in Wayism. Later, Peter joined the Jewish movement called the Christians, who continued the patriarchal subjection of women, and enshrined it in their Scriptures.

Wayism was not a new religion but a new way of thinking in religions. It brought about reformations in the world’s most important religions of the time and it was hugely successful at that. Sautrāntika, for one, did not develop their own Scriptures and in typical Wayist fashion had no need for separate and distinct rites. Wayists studied alongside scholars of other traditions. Even a thousand years later, Wayist influence is clearly seen in Cambodia during the reign of King Jayavarman VII who was a Wayist Buddhist embracing Hindu religion. At times when Theravada ruled, they found it necessary to remove Avalokiteshvara and Wayist memories from the Temples because the notions of equality of women and the focus on compassion rather than knowledge does not suit their organization and beliefs. The destruction of thousands of Avalokiteshvara images in the Temples of the ancient Angkor Empire is glaringly evident.

At the 2nd coming of Iesous in c.75CE in Kashmir (most Wayists pin the event down to 78CE), a new era was started in India in honor of the New Awareness. The house of King Salivāhana who started the new era continued for many years and produced some of the best Wayist scholars the world had come to know: Nagarjuna, Shantideva and probably Bodhidharma (the founder of Shen and Zen Buddhism) among other. Buddhism had been transformed to a new awareness of the spiritual heaven, Sukhavati, and the spiritual being god our Father in Heaven, Amitabha, and about Buddha Avalokiteshvara who vowed out of exemplary Compassion to not again take his seat in Sukhavati as a Buddha but to exist in the Earth Realm as a Perfected Bodhisattva to help all sentient beings gain enlightenment before he returns. As Savior of the World, Avalokiteshvara gathers around him numerous perfected beings who also follow his Bodhisattva Ideal and deny themselves Buddhahood to work alongside the Lord as bodhisattvas for our sake until we are all ready to be shepherded into Buddhahood. All Northern Buddhist schools, as they are sometimes called, those in Japan, China, Europe and the Americas venerate Avalokiteshvara and the Compassionate Path of the Bodhisattva. By far the larger group of Buddhists and Hindus in the world venerate the Lord Avalokiteshvara.

Today, Wayism is surfacing as a Path more than an awareness. Although many Christian and New Age movements are still influenced by the Wayist awareness, the time had come for Wayism to be an alternative Path. This awakening occurs as millions of people are leaving their religions because religions are too slow to adapt, or they are unwilling to change. People leave their religions and raise the new generation of children without spiritual guidance. Early in the 21st century, awareness of Wayism as a Path stepped in to fill the void in East and West.

Written by Jean du Plessis. Jean is an author and teacher of Wayist spirituality. He teaches in Siem Reap, Cambodia and in North America at PranjaParamita School of Pneumatherapy and Wayist Centers. Jean also does online counselling and pneumatherapy.

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