Some non-Buddhists in India follow asceticism strictly, forsaking food, clothes, bath, etc. They believe liberation can be attained through physical austerity. Others suggest that practitioners must jump into five fires—fires in the four directions plus the sun—to attain liberation after the body has been burned down. In Hetuvidya,1 the view of a non- Buddhist school was mentioned, which posited that both physical and mental phenomena are the causes of samsara. When one of them is destroyed, freedom from samsara may then be possible.

We must be clear that all these views are wrong.

Buddhism holds that the cause of our cyclic existence is nothing physical but karmic force. As long as karmic forces remain, physical body will continue to manifest no matter how many times it has perished. Once the habitual tendency accumulated in the alaya consciousness has reached a maturing point, physical body may manifest at any given time. It can also be said that the physical world, the universe and the body of sentient beings are the work of alaya consciousness, not unlike what the materialists suggest that mental phenomena are something manufactured by the brain. The fact is that it would be totally useless to torture the body to attain enlightenment so long as karmic forces remain in the alaya consciousness. That is why the Buddha asked the followers not to live in hardship deliberately because it will not bring anyone any closer to liberation, only suffering upon oneself. Naturally, it would be a different matter altogether if being poor was due to a lack of merit. The Buddha did not say that Buddhists cannot be poor, must be wealthy, or that the poor and those having a hard life cannot attain liberation. He only advised that there is no need to go to extremes to be poor.

~ Depicted from THE RIGHT VIEW: A Buddhist’s Mode of Life