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Keter and Nibbana

JasonJason God EmperorArrakis Moderator
edited September 2005 in Faith & Religion
These are from some teachings of Kabbalah from around the 1600-1700's. Now in the end they have the connection with the divine as it's ultimate goal, the "knowing" of Yaweh through the practices of the tree of life or the ten Sefirot, but it is interesting how some of their ideas and meditations closely resemble the Buddhist teachings.

The word for knowledge, da'ath, has a technical meaning. When the Bible was translated into Greek, the word da'ath was translated as gnosis. Da'ath has a very peculiar status in Kabbalah, being a kind of non-existent, a nothingness. In modern Hermetic Kabbalah it is sometimes represented a hole or gate into an abyss of consciousness. (This can almost sound like the pali suññatā and it is interesting that the word for knowledge is associated with emptiness.)

Da'ath has a dual aspect; on one hand it is our knowledge of the world of appearance, the body of facts which constitute our beliefs and prop up the illusion of identity and ego and separateness. On the other hand it is revelation, objective knowledge, what is often referred to as gnosis. The transition between the knowledge of the world of appearance and revelation entails the experience of the abyss, the abolition of the sense of ego, the negation of identity. From within the abyss any identity is possible. It is chaos, unformed. It contains, as it were, the seeds of identity. It is from this point that an infinity of gates open, each one a gateway to a mode of being. (Sounds like realization of anatta and the attainment of no-mind or the point before we become a personality/ego/self.)

Now I am not entirely confident in my knowledge of Kabbalah and Jewish mysticism, I have only briefly studied it, but much of what I did learn closely paraleled much of what the Buddha taught. I wonder if his teachings found their way to the Jewish people and were incorporated into their evolving religion, or perhaps their discoveries of the mind mirrored what the Buddha found. Since the Jews hold deeply to their God, maybe they used Him as the archtype for the things they found in the mind. Do you think that the attainment of Keter (crown, God, supreme consciousness) could be the Buddha's Nibbana? There are a lot of other things involved in Kabbalah that do not resemble anything the Buddha taught, but the really important, key teachings do. I am always surprised by the similarities between them. If anyone has any other information on this please feel free to share it.


  • SimonthepilgrimSimonthepilgrim Veteran
    edited June 2005
    The similarities are striking, even though I admit to very sketchy knowledge of Kabbalah. And I think you will find many another similarity with the mystical expression of all religions. Christianity has the notion of kenosis, the self-emptying of God. The very name of God, in Islam, can mean "the emptiness".

    At the heart of all the busy-ness and the theories and the descriptions lies the un-described, whichever direction you may approach from!
  • JasonJason God Emperor Arrakis Moderator
    edited June 2005
    Another point I have been pondering is the Klippoth. The Klippoth seems to be the material shell that contains the spirit. It is in essence our bodies. The more we "sin" or break the laws of the Torah we strengthen the hold the Klippoth has on our true nature.

    "Consequently, the sinner excellerates the power of the "Klippoth" by virtue of the sinner selling out his "Neshamah" (his own Soul) to the "Klippoth", and, in additon, ths sinner is also drawing, by means of his sins, the Holy Name, that is, the "Shechinah" (Divinity) into the "Klippoth", where She becomes enmeshed within the body of the "Klippoth"."

    This to me reflects the Buddha's stressing of morality. He tells us that we cannot practice, cannot even gain the basic fruits of concentration, until we conduct ourselves morally. We need virtue or the absence of evil to be the foundation of our practice. This is like the two paths of the Kabbalah: "Emet" (Truth) and "Sheker" (Falsehood). To follow the Emet we must behave morally to release the hold of the Klippoth. The path of Sheker just strengthens the Klippoth's grip, keeping us entangled in the material world. Sin is not so much a thing to damn you to hell as it is a net that traps you in the material world/"samsara". It could corolate to the idea of Mara I suppose. Together these two paths seem profoundly similar even though one is monotheistic and the other is without theism at all: Through virtue and concentration you free yourself of Mara/Klippoth placing you on the path of Emet/Dhamma to reach Ein-sof/Nibbana through wisdom/keter which in both cases has sunnata/emptiness as it's substance. To me this is very deep. The old Gnostic sects of Christianity also had teachings that were similar. I just wanted to share some of my thoughts and ideas with you on this becasue I find it very exciting. I'm sorry if it makes no sense to anybody unfamiliar with Jewish mysticism.
  • SabineSabine Veteran
    edited June 2005
    I'm not too good with Judaism myself, but I have a few Jewish classmates. I really should start having more discussions with them. :o
    Anyway, Kabbalah does seem very close to Buddhism, in the respects that you mentioned. It's just amazing how (almost) every religion/belief influences each other, somehow.
  • SimonthepilgrimSimonthepilgrim Veteran
    edited June 2005
    Jewish communities existed throughout the Egyptian Empire, as the remains at Elephantine demonstrate (all the way up the Nile at the First Cataract). There were many Jews in Alexandria.

    Alexander the Great met Buddhist monks when his armies arrived in the sub-continent.

    Buddhist monks are great travellers and it is likely that they would have got to the wisdom centre of the Western world, Alexandria, again!
  • edited August 2005
    I always had wanted to learn Judaism, as I did with all the other major religions in the world, but found that Hebrew was a barrier for me.
  • SimonthepilgrimSimonthepilgrim Veteran
    edited August 2005
    I think that you make an important point, Ajani. Hebrew is, indeed, the gateway to understanding Judaism, just as Arabic in the understanding of Islam. Interesting that the Christian nations have abandoned the teaching of the foundation languages.
  • JasonJason God Emperor Arrakis Moderator
    edited August 2005
    Very true. It helps to understand the language, or at least parts of it, that a teaching is based upon.

    Some words do not have quite the same meanings when translated. Some words themselves cannot even be properly translated. Comparing the two is always necassary in the study of anything that has been taken beyond its 'foundation'.

    In Buddhism we have that problem with Pali and Sanskrit. In the study of Judaism and Kabbalah we have Hebrew. The Gospels are a mix of Greek, Hebrew, and Aramaic. Taoism and Confucianism come from the roots of Chinese.

    In many things, to truly understand them, we need to have a decent grasp of where they originated from. I don't think it should become a barrier, however. With enough reading and studying you can have a working knowledge of the words and ideas needed to gain insight into any subject.

    In my opinion kowledge is never a waste of time.
  • edited August 2005
    Well I tried Arabic before... Even my Malay friends who are born Muslims have trouble understanding it... Most are satisfied just knowing to read, but for me my purpose is far more greater. I am not to worship but to research and verify... So I must say that I'm glad that reliable translations are around for the Qur'an, though some words were untranslated and had to be explained to a great extent.
  • federicafederica Seeker of the clear blue sky... Its better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to speak out and remove all doubt Moderator
    edited September 2005
    According to Moslems any translation of the Koran (Qu'ran, whatever you will...) is merely an interpretation. The only true Koran is one written in Arabic. And if you were to pick up a copy of one that is 500 years old, the 'modern' version would be EXACTLY the same, right down to the final full-stop. Any mistakes result in the offending Koran being destroyed. It would not then be the true word of Allah.
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