Buddha’s Nirvana and Christian Gnosis Part 1

Towards the unity in everything

Buddha’s Nirvana and Christian Gnosis Part 1

At first glance, whenever one observes the faiths of these two inner paths, one sees many points of divergence. The way they manifest is very different. Not only are the places of worship (temple or stupa) different, but also the way of life and the methods of practicing are different in both religions. Also, the linguistic suggestion of the target evokes different feelings because the Gnostic Christian Path of Salvation is a process of increasingly merging the Divine Spark in the seeker with the Divine Love Fire, while the Buddhist’s path leads to the progressive extinction of the flame of personal life into the nameless, which is often interpreted as nothing (Sanskrit: Nirvana). Nevertheless, on closer examination, in the midst of these differences, the fundamental unity and the great similarities of these two spiritual paths can be recognized.

For Gnostic Christendom as represented by the Golden Rosycross, temples are spiritual meeting points where special events take place. Silence is an essential feature, as well as the Cross and the Rose, as symbols of the Life of the Cosmic Christ, the Light that always fills everything and that is the only Good. These temples are special centers of spiritual power, places of healing and renewal of the Soul, and thus of the whole human being.

Self-Initiation and Love

The Path of Initiation within a Spiritual School essentially develops via self-initiation through various stages of cognizance and inner insight, so that the level of consciousness continually changes. It is about consolidated, crystalized structures of the ego, and patterns and doctrines of belief, about which one can become conscious via the perception of the self, and thus can dissolve these structures. It is a process that takes place when being focussed on the Divine Spark within. This path of initiation is embedded in spiritual support but it still remains a personal action, a life in self-awareness. Through the process of cognizance that develops step by step, wisdom, finally, encompasses not only the old personality, but also the powers that work in the whole of mankind. Self-knowledge becomes cognition of the all. The Love that is patient, kind, and endures, believes, hopes and withstands everything, comes forth from true compassion and true love for all.[1]

The other form of love, the divisive-personal love which goes along with self-maintenance, claims to power, demarcations, and fears, gradually transforms to give room to an impersonal love, Gnosis, of which the main characteristic is the experience of the infinite, the unity of all opposites. There, we find the source of the only truth that alone is “real”, sublime, and, above all, that unites everything and therefore is all.

New conduct of life and transformation

The transformation, the transfiguration, recreates man. His natural soul, which knows all passions, changes progressively through many discernments and insights. And that gives room for the development of a new soul, the spiritual soul, with its own intelligence, whose means of knowledge is true intuition.

The Buddhist path is also a path of continuously becoming conscious. As in the Spiritual School of the Golden Rosycross – this path can be walked by men and women alike. Buddha himself founded monasteries for nuns after his enlightenment.

The method of meditation is essential for salvation. This primary method of salvation is found in both forms of Buddhism, in the Theravāda (“Hīnayāna“), the oldest form of Buddhism, as well as in the Mahāyāna and its schools, as for example the Vajrayāna. In the Christian tradition, meditation is known as “spiritual practice”, as “object-free view” and it has been used especially by mystics. Meditation, as a spiritual method, is independent of culture, but the way it is performed varies sharply. For example, even though the goal of immersing in silence or “nothingness” is the same, the Buddhist Vipassana meditation is something other than the “clear directedness” addressed in the Golden Rosycross.

The Theravadin rely exclusively on Buddha’s discourses found in the Pāli Canon (Tipitaka) and recorded in the 3rd. Century BC. The later Mahāyāna Buddhism also uses other scriptures, such as the Heart Sūtra, the Lotus Sūtra, the Diamond Sūtra, and the Sūtras of the Pure Land.

Buddha proclaimed “The Four Noble Truths” about the reality of suffering, its causes, its future avoidance, and the attainment of happiness by practicing the “Noble Eightfold Path.” With regard to the basic way of life, the Buddhist doctrine bears much resemblance to the Gnostic-Christian way of salvation. The co-founder of the Spiritual School, Jan van Rijckenborgh, emphasizes that not only a way of thinking, a “certain morality”, or a certain belief are sufficient, but that the path encompasses all three aspects and also the consequences thereof.[2] In a practical sense, this means to avoid animal food, tobacco, alcohol and other narcotics, not to mention certain moral and spiritual guidelines that become self-evident in the course of progress on the path.

Buddha explicitly recommended the observance of the five “sīlas“, that is, not to kill, not to steal, not to break the marriage, not to lie and not to drink intoxicating beverages. In addition, the monks and nuns were committed to complete chastity and almost complete poverty.[3]


According to Buddha’s teachings, as well as according to the Universal Philosophy of the Golden Rosycross, the starting point of the path is the recognition of the fundamental error in which ordinary man finds himself in his everyday life. Without any effort towards an awakening, all that remains is illusion, disappointment, multiple suffering, disease, and finally, death. The recognition of the endless revolutions of the wheel, or Sasāra (the cycle of uninterrupted growth and decay) or the futile attachment to the world of dialectics, which is consistently determined by causality, automated repetition and habits, is shared by both teachings. And all of it is about salvation. The great philosopher of Mahāyāna, Nāgārjuna (2nd century AD)[4], declared that this world was completely empty. He goes on saying that only the eternal truth is real. Only deep knowledge (Gnosis) is real, the Nibbāna (Nirvāna). Real is where there is no longer any illusion, only perfect clarity, perfect Light, as the Gnostic would say, a light that is not the light we know. Nibbāna (Nirvāna) is not a place, not paradise, not the yonderside, not heaven, it is not “nothing”, it is the “ultimate”. It is without cause (animitta), without differentiation (ekalakane).

Everyday thinking cannot answer the question of whether the divine-spiritual world of Christian Gnosis and nibbana are the same. Speculation is always possible. The starting point, however, is the same in both teachings, namely, the longing for liberation from earthly suffering, combined with the idea that this is possible.

Nāgārjuna emphasizes that actual insight is nonverbal. The skepticism towards language in regard to the ability to state anything about the Ultimate, or, in Gnostic terms, the „Rose“, the Christ light, again is shared by the two spiritual paths. The highest, absolute truth cannot be uttered; one can only point to it with the help of “the relative truth of our world”. The doctrine of the two truths already contained in the Pāli Canon is also found in the teachings of the Golden Rosycross. Clearly, a distinction is made between the knowledge of the mind and the knowledge that is “born of the heart”, the knowledge of the “coming new man”.[5]

Only true intuition recognizes the truth, as Zen Buddhism puts it: “The finger that points at the moon is not the moon.”

In the heart-sūtra of Mahāyāna Buddhism, a mantra of deepest insight, is quoted:

tadyathā gate gate pāragate pārasamgate bodhi svāhā! (gone, gone, gone to the other river bank, having reached the other side – AWAKENING – aaaah!)[6]

When a Buddhist monk or nun find himself/herself in the constant “observer posture” during meditation, then detachment takes place, the “moment of fruition” (Maggaphala). It creates a “break-away from the world”. Exactly the same happens on the Gnostic-Christian path of initiation. The gnostic remains in the world, but he/she is no longer of the world. Due to the increasing change in consciousness, his/her relationship with the world and fellow human beings changes.

(to be continued in part 2)


[1] 1 Cor. 13: 4, 7

[2]  Jan von Rijckenborgh: Elementary philosophy of the modern Rosycross, chapter 18, Haarlem (NL) 1984

[3]  Helmuth von Glasenapp: Einleitung, in: Reden des Buddha, Aus dem Palikanon übersetzt von Ilse-Lore Gunsser, Stuttgart 1976, S. 4

[4] https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nagarjuna

[5] Jan van Rijckenborgh: The coming new man,, Haarlem, part 1, chapter 1-3

[6] https://de.wikisource.org/wiki/Herz-Sutra

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Date: October 2, 2018
Author: Jutta Valent (Germany)
Photo: Pixabay CCO

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