Gautama Buddha (563 - 483 BC) (Siddhartha)General Information
Buddha was a Hindu born in northern India. He formed a school of religious thought that was primarily designed to reform Brahmanism (Hinduism) and especially to overthrow the caste system.
Siddhartha Gautama was born the son of a prince. He grew up in wealth and luxury and married happily. Meditating about the evils of the world led him to abandon his wife, his children, and his wealth and to wander about India as a beggar in search of truth. After many years of wandering and meditation, he found what he thought was truth. The people who followed him called him Buddha, which means the Enlightened One. They later wrote down his sayings and established a canon.
Buddhism appealed especially to the poor and unlettered who could not comprehend the scholarly teachings of Confucius. It taught that life was suffering, that suffering was caused by desire, and that one must overcome desire to gain peace and happiness. It taught mercy and patience and kindness to all. The extreme importance of close ties to family caused nearly all Buddhists to remain in their birth town all their lives.
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The northern school (Great Wheel) regarded Buddha as a god; The southern school (Little Wheel) regarded him as a teacher.
The northern school (of India) was the source of the Buddhism which became China's greatest religion (where he was considered a god.) The other (text) entries which follow are from the northern school. Their texts include 'Lotus of True Laws', 'Book of Exploits', 'Lives of Buddha.'
The southern school used different texts in their 'Tripitaka.' It included the 'History of Buddhism', 'Questions of King Milinda', 'Commentaries of Buddhaghosa.'
Buddhism does not believe in an immortal self. Karma tells that the acts of a previous existence determines the value of the present existence (the value of reincarnation).
Buddhism, one of the major religions of the world, was founded by Siddhartha Gautama, the Buddha, who lived in northern India from c. 560 to c. 480 BC. The time of the Buddha was one of social and religious change, marked by the further advance of Aryan civilization into the Ganges Plain, the development of trade and cities, the breakdown of old tribal structures, and the rise of a whole spectrum of new religious movements that responded to the demands of the times. These movements were derived from the Brahmanic tradition of Hinduism but were also reactions against it. Of the new sects, Buddhism was the most successful and eventually spread throughout India and most of Asia.
Today it is common to divide Buddhism into two main branches. The Theravada, or "Way of the Elders," is the more conservative of the two; it is dominant in Sri Lanka, Burma, and Thailand. The Mahayana, or "Great Vehicle," is more diverse and liberal; it is found mainly in Taiwan, Korea, and Japan, and among Tibetan peoples, where it is distinguished by its emphasis on the Buddhist Tantras. In recent times both branches, as well as Tibetan Buddhism, have gained followers in the West.
It is virtually impossible to tell what the Buddhist population of the world is today; statistics are difficult to obtain because persons might have Buddhist beliefs and engage in Buddhist rites while maintaining folk or other (Shinto, Confucian, Taoist, Hindu) religions. Such persons might or might not call themselves or be counted as Buddhists. Nevertheless, the number of Buddhists worldwide is frequently estimated at more than 300 million.
Samsara and karma are not doctrines specific to Buddhism. The Buddha, however, specified that samsara is characterized by three marks: suffering, impermanence, and no - self (anatman). Individuals not only suffer in a constantly changing world, but what appears to be the "self," the "soul," has no independent reality apart from its many separable elements.
The second Noble Truth is that suffering itself has a cause. At the simplest level, this may be said to be desire; but the theory was fully worked out in the complex doctrine of "dependent origination" (pratityasamutpada), which explains the interrelationship of all reality in terms of an unbroken chain of causation.
The third Noble Truth, however, is that this chain can be broken - that suffering can cease. The Buddhists called this end of suffering Nirvana and conceived of it as a cessation of rebirth, an escape from samsara.
Finally, the fourth Noble Truth is that a way exists through which this cessation can be brought about: the practice of the noble Eightfold Path. This combines ethical and disciplinary practices, training in concentration and meditation, and the development of enlightened wisdom, all thought to be necessary.
For the monks, the notion of offering extends also to the giving of the Dharma in the form of sermons, to the chanting of scriptures in rituals (which may also be thought of as magically protective and salutary), and to the recitation of sutras for the dead.
All of these acts of offering are intimately involved in the concept of merit making. By performing them, individuals, through the working of karma, can seek to assure themselves rebirth in one of the heavens or a better station in life, from which they may be able to attain the goal of enlightenment.
On the other hand, those Buddhists who had become monks and nuns undertook the gathering and preservation of their departed master's teachings (the dharma). According to tradition (the historicity of which many scholars have contested), a great council of 500 enlightened monks was held at Rajagrha, immediately after the Buddha's death, and all the Buddha's sermons (the sutras) and the rules of the discipline (vinaya) were remembered and recited.
In the years that followed, the monks gradually consolidated their communal life. Originally, like many other wandering mendicants of their time, they had tended to be constantly on the move, congregating only once a year for the three months of the monsoon. Gradually, these rain - retreats grew into more structured year round monastic settlements. As new monastic communities developed, it was inevitable that some differences in their understanding of both the Buddha's teaching (dharma) and of the rules of the order (vinaya) should arise. Within 100 years of the Buddha's death, a second council took place at Vaisali, during which the advocates of certain relaxations in the vinaya rules were condemned. Then, c. 250 BC, the great Buddhist emperor Asoka is said to have held a third council at Pataliputra to settle certain doctrinal controversies.
It is clear from the accounts of these and other Buddhist councils that whatever the unity of early Buddhism may have been, it was rapidly split into various sectarian divisions. One of the earliest and most important of these divisions was that between the Sthavira (Elder) and the Mahasamghika (Great Council) schools. Within the former developed such important sects as the Sarvastivada (whose canon was in Sanskrit) and the Theravadins, whose canon is in Pali and who today are the only surviving representatives of the whole of the Hinayana, or "Lesser Vehicle," of Buddhism.
The Mahasamghika, also a Hinayanist sect, died out completely, but it is important because it represents one of the forerunners of the Mahayana doctrines. These doctrines were to include a different understanding of the nature of the Buddha, an emphasis on the figure of the Bodhisattva, and on the practice of the perfections (paramitas).
In addition, within the Mahayana, a number of great thinkers were to add some new doctrinal dimensions to Buddhism. One of these was Nagarjuna, the 2d century AD founder of the Madhyamika school. Using subtle and thoroughgoing analyses, Nagarjuna took the theory of dependent origination (pratityasamutpada) to its logical limits, showing that the absolute relativity of everything means finally the emptiness (sunyata) of all things.
Another important Mahayana school arose in the 4th century AD when the brothers Asanga and Vasubandhu sought to establish the doctrine of Vijnanavada - that the mind alone exists and that objects have no reality external to it. This idealist doctrine and Nagarjuna's emptiness were to play important roles in the further developments of Buddhist thought outside of India. Within India itself, they paved the way for yet another stage in the elaboration of the religion: the development of Buddhist tantra.
Tantric Buddhism, which is sometimes separated from the Mahayana as a distinct "Thunderbolt - Vehicle" (Vajrayana), became especially important in Tibet, where it was introduced starting in the 7th century. It was, however, the last phase of Buddhism in India, where the religion - partly by reabsorption into the Hindu tradition, partly by persecution by the Muslim invaders - ceased to exist by the 13th century.
Also, tradition has it that another son of Asoka established a Buddhist kingdom in central Asia. Whether or not this is true, it is clear that in subsequent centuries more missionaries (especially Mahayanists) followed the established trade routes west and north to this region, preaching the dharma as they went.
Buddhism in China also saw the rise of new sects, many of which were later transmitted to Japan. In the 6th century, the monk Chih - i consolidated the T'ien - t'ai school, which sought to order all Buddhist teachings into a set hierarchy culminating in the text known as the Lotus Sutra. During the T'ang dynasty (618 - 907), the so called golden age of Chinese Buddhism, the Hua - yen school (based on the teachings of the Avatamsaka sutra), the Fa - hsiang school (which taught Vijnanavada doctrines and was promoted by the great pilgrim and scholar Hsuan - Tsang), and the Ch'an school (better known in Japan as Zen Buddhism) all prospered. At the same time, Pure Land Buddhism became increasingly popular.
By 845, however, the sangha had grown so large and rich that its tax exempt status now made it a severe drain on the empire's economy. For this and other reasons it became the object of a brief but effective imperial persecution. Many temples were destroyed, thousands of monks and nuns were laicized, and the vast landholdings of monasteries were confiscated. Buddhism, especially the Ch'an school, did recover, but it never regained its former prestige in Chinese life.
During the Heian period, in the early 9th century, two monks, Saicho and Kukai, traveled to China and on their return introduced to Japan the Tendai (or Chinese, T'ien - t'ai) sect and the Shingon sect, which was a form of Chinese Tantric Buddhism. Both of these esoteric sects were to take part in the mixing of Buddhism with various Japanese Shinto folk, ascetic, and magical practices.
The Tendai sect, moreover, became a fountainhead of several later popular Japanese Buddhist movements. One of the Tendai's traits was the worship of the Buddha Amida and the belief in his Pure Land. With Honen (1133 - 1212) and Shinran (1173 - 1262), these Pure Land beliefs were systematized and made the exclusive focus of two new, popular sects, the Jodo and the Jodo Shin. Another Tendai trait was emphasis on the teachings of the Lotus Sutra. In the 13th century, the monk Nichiren founded a dynamic and nationalistic sect that made the Lotus its sole basis of worship. Finally, it was also in this same period that two schools of Zen Buddhism were introduced from China.
Under the feudal Tokugawa regime (1603 - 1867), all these sects became tools of the government; temples and priests were means of registering, educating, and controlling the populace. In the Meiji era (1868 - 1912), this Buddhist structure was disestablished in favor of Shinto. Finally, during the 20th century, new religious movements within Buddhism, such as the Soka - Gakkai and the Risshokosei - kai, have arisen in response to the problems of the modern age.
To some extent this pattern was extended to the laity as well. Everywhere, Buddhist monastic communities tended to depend on the laity for food and material support. Although in some places the sangha as a whole became well - to - do and the controller of vast monastic estates, traditionally monks were beggars and, in Southeast Asian countries, they still go on daily alms rounds.
Traditionally also, Buddhist monks have been celibate. Thus they depend on the faithful not only for food and financial support but for new recruits. Often children will enter a monastery and spend a number of years as novices, studying, learning, and doing chores. Then, following ordination, they become full members of the community, vowing to uphold its discipline. Henceforth their days will be taken up in ritual, devotions, meditation, study, teaching, and preaching. Twice a month, all the monks in a given monastery will gather for the recitation of the rules of the order (the pratimoksha) and the confession of any violation of those rules.
One of the pivotal concepts behind the rites and festivals of Buddhist laity and monks is that of offering (dana). This includes, for the laity, not just the giving of food and (in special ceremonies at the end of the rainy seasons) of new robes to the monks, but also the offering of flowers, incense, and praise to the image of the Buddha, stupas, bodhi trees, or, especially in Mahayanist countries, to other members of the Buddhist pantheon such as bodhisattvas.
For the monks, the notion of offering extends also to the giving of the dharma in the form of sermons, to the chanting of scriptures in rituals (which may also be thought of as magically protective and salutary), and to the recitation of sutras for the dead.
All of these acts of offering are intimately involved in the concept of merit making. By performing them, individuals, through the working of karma, can seek to assure themselves rebirth in one of the heavens or a better station in life, from which they may be able to attain the goal of enlightenment.
In more recent years, however, some of the Buddhist leaders have lost their influence, and some of their nations have lost their Buddhism. Vietnam, Laos, and Kampuchea (Cambodia) have joined China, Mongolia, Tibet, and North Korea as once Buddhistic but now Communist nations. Even as Western ideology (whether in the form of communism or secular capitalism) has advanced into Asia, however, Buddhism has begun to spread in the West. Tibetan, Theravada, and Japanese sects especially have firm toeholds in America and Western Europe, and, in the face of further uncertainties in Asia, a few Buddhist leaders have even come to think that the future of their religion lies there.
Joseph M Kitagawa and John S Strong
H Bechert and R Gombrich, eds., The World of Buddhism (1984); K K K S Ch'en, Buddhism in China (1964); E Conze, Buddhism: Its Essence and Development (1959); P Denwood and A Piatiagrosky, eds., Buddhist Studies (1982); H Dumoulin, ed., Buddhism in the Modern World (1976); C Eliot, Hinduism and Buddhism (1921) and Japanese Buddhism (1935); A L Herman, An Introduction to Buddhist Thought (1984); C Humphreys, Buddhism (1962); D Ikeda, The Flower of Japanese Buddhism (1986); T Ling, A Dictionary of Buddhism (1981); R Robinson and W Johnson, The Buddhist Religion (1982); N Ross, Buddhism (1980); D Snellgrove, Indo Tibetan Buddhism (1986); E Zurcher, Buddhism: Its Origin and Spread in Words, Maps, and Pictures (1962).
Pure Land Buddhism is one of the most influential forms of Mahayana Buddhism. According to some Mahayana schools, the cosmos contains many Pure Lands in each of which dwells one Buddha. The most popular of these is Sukhavati, the Land of Bliss of Amitabha, located in the West; it is on Sukhavati that Pure Land Buddhism focuses. Through devotion to Amitabha, it is claimed, Buddhists can be reborn and saved in his paradise.
Although the cult of Amitabha had its roots in India, it was developed and flourished in China and Japan. Hui Yuan founded the cult in 402 AD, calling it the White Lotus sect. From the 5th century on, a succession of Chinese Pure Land masters, Shan - tao (613 - 81) foremost among them, attracted followers from all social strata. Gradually their emphasis shifted from devout contemplation or visualization of Amitabha and his Pure Land to a doctrine of salvation through faith and the devout recitation of Amitabha's name (Amit'o fo in Chinese; Amida in Japanese). This recitation is called the nembutsu in Japanese (nien - fo in Chinese) and consists of repeating the formula "Namo Amida Batsu" (in Japanese; "Nanmo Amit'o fo" in Chinese), meaning "Salutation to the Buddha Amida."
These Pure Land doctrines were first introduced to Japan within the Tendai sect. Honen (1133 - 1212), emphasizing them exclusively, broke with Tendai and founded the independent Jodo (Pure Land) sect. His disciple Shinran (1173 - 1262) founded the more popularly oriented Jodo Shin (True Pure Land) sect. Both emphasized the practice of the nembutsu and the primacy of faith in Amida, but whereas Honen saw faith as the means of achieving rebirth in the Pure Land of the West (called Gokuraku in Japanese), Shinran viewed it as an expression of gratitude for Amida's saving grace.
Joseph M Kitagawa And John S Strong
R H Robinson and W A Johnson, The Buddhist Religion (1982); E Steinilber - Oberlin, The Buddhist Sects of Japan (1938); D T Suzuki, Japanese Spirituality (1972); L G Thompson, Chinese Religion: An Introduction (1969); P Williams, Mahayana Buddhism (1989).
As long as the absolutely true knowledge and insight as regards these Four Noble Truths was not quite clear in me, so long was I not sure, whether I had won that supreme Enlightenment which is unsurpassed in all the world with its heavenly beings, evil spirits and gods, amongst all the hosts of ascetics and priests, heavenly beings and men. But as soon as the absolutely true knowledge and insight as regards these Four Noble Truths had become perfectly clear in me, there arose in me the assurance that I had won that supreme Enlightenment unsurpassed.
And I discovered that profound truth, so difficult to perceive, difficult to understand, tranquilizing and sublime, which is not to be gained by mere reasoning, and is visible only to the wise.
The world, however, is given to pleasure, delighted with pleasure, enchanted with pleasure. Verily, such beings will hardly understand the law of conditionality, the Dependent Origination of every thing; incomprehensible to them will also be the end of all formations, the forsaking of every substratum of rebirth, the fading away of craving; detachment, extinction, Nirvana.
Yet there are beings whose eyes are only a little covered with dust: they will understand the truth.
What, now, is Birth? The birth of beings belonging to this or that order of beings, their being born, their conception and springing into existence, the manifestation of the groups of existence, the arising of sense activity - this is called Birth.
And what is Decay? The decay of beings belonging to this or that order of beings; their getting aged, frail, grey, and wrinkled; the failing of their vital force, the wearing out of the senses - this is called Decay.
And what is Death? The parting and vanishing of beings out of this or that order of beings, their destruction, disappearance, death, the completion of their life period, dissolution of the groups of existence, the discarding of the body - this is called Death.
And what is Sorrow? The sorrow arising through this or that loss or misfortune which one encounters, the worrying oneself, the state of being alarmed, inward sorrow, inward woe - this is called Sorrow.
And what is Lamentation? Whatsoever, through this or that loss or misfortune which befalls one, is wail and lament, wailing and lamenting, the state of woe and lamentation this is called Lamentation.
And what is Pain? The bodily pain and unpleasantness, the painful and unpleasant feeling produced by bodily contact - this is called Pain.
And what is Grief? The mental pain and unpleasantness, the painful and unpleasant feeling produced by mental contact - this is called Grief.
And what is Despair? Distress and despair arising through this or that loss or misfortune which one encounters, distressfulness, and desperation - this is called Despair.
And what is the "suffering of not getting what one desires?" To beings subject to birth there comes the desire: "O that we were not subject to birth! O that no new birth was before us!" Subject to decay, disease, death, sorrow, lamentation, pain, grief, and despair, the desire comes to them: "O that we were not subject to these things! O that these things were not before us!" But this cannot be got by mere desiring; and not to get what one desires, is suffering.
Any corporeal phenomenon, whether one's own or external, gross or subtle, lofty or low, far or near, belongs to the Group of Corporeality; any feeling belongs to the Group of Feeling; any perception belongs to the Group of Perception; any mental formation belongs to the Group of Formations; all consciousness belongs to the Group of Consciousness.
(Our so called individual existence is in reality nothing but a mere process of these "bodily and mental" phenomena, which since immemorial times was going on before one's apparent birth, and which also after death will continue for immemorial periods of time. In the following, we shall see that these five Groups, or Khandhas - either taken separately, or combined - in no way constitute any real "Ego - entity," and that no Ego - entity exists apart from them, and hence that the belief in an Ego - entity is merely an illusion. Just as that which we designate by the name of "chariot," has no existence apart from axle, wheels, shaft, and so forth: or as the word "house" is merely a convenient designation for various materials put together after a certain fashion so as to enclose a portion of space, and there is no separate house - entity in existence: - in exactly the same way, that which we call a "being," or an "individual," or a "person," or by the name is nothing but a changing combination of physical and psychical phenomena, and has no real existence in itself.)
And what are the four primary elements? They are the Solid Element, the Fluid Element, the Heating Element, the Vibrating Element.
(The four elements, or - to speak more correctly - the four elementary qualities of matter, may be rendered in English as: Inertia, Cohesion, Radiation, and Vibration.
The twenty four corporeal phenomena which depend upon them are, according to the Abhidharma: eye, ear, nose, tongue, body, visible form, sound, odor, taste, masculinity, femininity, vitality, organ of thinking, gesture, speech, space (cavities of ear, nose, etc.), agility, elasticity, adaptability, growth, duration, decay, variability, change of substance.)
1. What, now, is the Solid Element? The solid element may be one's own, or it may be external. And what is one's own solid element? The dependent properties, which on one's own person and body are hard and solid, as the hairs of head and body, nails, teeth, skin, flesh, sinews, bones, marrow, kidneys, heart, liver, diaphragm, spleen, lungs, stomach, bowels, mesentery, excrement, or whatever other dependent properties which on one's own person and body are hard and solid - this is called one's own solid element. Now, whether it be one's own solid element, or whether it be the external solid element, they are both only the solid element. And one should understand, according to reality, and true wisdom: "This does not belong to me; this am I not; this is not my Ego."
2. What, now, is the Fluid Element? The fluid element may be one's own, or it may be external. And what is one own fluid element? The dependent properties, which on one's own person and body are watery or cohesive, as bile, phlegm, pus, blood, sweat, lymph, tears, semen, spit, nasal mucus, oil of the joints, urine or whatever other dependent properties which on one own person and body are watery or cohesive - this is called one's own fluid element. Now, whether it be one's own fluid element, or whether it be the external fluid element, they are both only the fluid element. And one should understand, according to reality, and true wisdom: "This does not belong to me; this am I not; this is not my Ego."
3. What, now, is the Heating Element? The heating element may be one own, or it may be external. And what is one's own heating element? The dependent properties, which on one's own person and body are heating and radiating, as that whereby one is heated, consumed, scorched, whereby that which has been eaten, drunk, chewed, or tasted, is fully digested; or whatever other dependent properties, which on one's own person and body are heating and radiating this is called one's own heating element. Now, whether it be one's own heating element, or whether it be the external heating element, they are both only the heating element. And one should understand, according to reality, and true wisdom: "This does not belong to me; this am I not; this is not my Ego."
4. What, now, is the Vibrating Element? The vibrating element may be one's own, or it may be external. And what is one's own vibrating element? The dependent properties, which on one's own person and body are mobile and gaseous, as the upward - going and downward - going winds; the winds of stomach and intestines; in - breathing and out - breathing; or whatever other dependent properties, which on one's own person and body are mobile and gaseous - this is called one's own vibrating element. Now, whether it be one's own vibrating element, or whether it be the external vibrating element, they are both only the vibrating element.
And one should understand, according to reality, and true wisdom: "This does not belong to me; this am I not; this is not my Ego." Just as one calls "hut" the circumscribed space which comes to be by means of wood and rushes, reeds, and clay, even so we call "body" the circumscribed space that comes to be by means of bones and sinews, flesh and skin.
Hence, I say: the arising of consciousness is dependent upon conditions; and without these conditions, no consciousness arises. And upon whatsoever conditions the arising of consciousness is dependent, after these it is called.
Consciousness whose arising depends on the eye and forms, is called "eye - consciousness."
Consciousness whose arising depends on the ear and sound, is called "ear - consciousness."
Consciousness whose arising depends on the olfactory organ and odors, is called "nose - consciousness."
Consciousness whose arising depends on the tongue and taste, is called "tongue - consciousness."
Consciousness whose arising depends on the body and bodily contacts, is called "body - consciousness."
Consciousness whose arising depends on the mind and ideas, is called "mind - consciousness."
Whatsoever there is of "corporeality" in the consciousness thus arisen, that belongs to the Group of Corporeality. there is of "feeling" - bodily ease, pain, joy, sadness, or indifferent feeling - belongs to the Group of Feeling. Whatsoever there is of "perception" - visual objects, sounds, odors, tastes, bodily impressions, or mind objects - belongs to the Group of Perception. Whatsoever there are of mental "formations" impression, volition, etc. - belong to the Group of mental Formations. Whatsoever there is of "consciousness" therein, belongs to the Group of Consciousness.
And it is impossible that any one can explain the passing out of one existence, and the entering into a new existence, or the growth, increase, and development of consciousness, independent of corporeality, feeling, perception, and mental formations.
And that which is transient, is subject to suffering; and of that which is transient, and subject to suffering and change, one cannot rightly say: "This belongs to me; this am I; this is my Ego."
Therefore, whatever there be of corporeality, of feeling, perception, mental formations, or consciousness, whether one's own or external, whether gross or subtle, lofty or low, far or near, one should understand, according to reality, and true wisdom: "This does not belong to me; this am I not; this is not my Ego."
Suppose, a man who is not blind, were to behold the many bubbles on the Ganges as they are driving along; and he should watch them, and carefully examine them. After carefully examining them, they will appear to him empty, unreal, and unsubstantial. In exactly the same way, does the monk behold all the corporeal phenomena, feelings, perceptions, mental formations, and states of consciousness - whether they be of the past, or the present, or the future, far, or near. And he watches them, and examines them carefully; and, after carefully examining them, they appear to him empty, void, and without an Ego
Whoso delights in corporeality, or feeling, or perception, or mental formations, or consciousness, he delights in suffering; and whoso delights in suffering, will not be freed from suffering. Thus I say
How can you find delight and mirth,
Where there is burning without end?
In deepest darkness you are wrapped!
Why do you not seek for the light?
Look at this puppet here, well rigged,
A heap of many sores, piled up,
Diseased, and full of greediness,
Unstable, and impermanent!
Devoured by old age is this frame,
A prey of sickness, weak and frail;
To pieces breaks this putrid body,
All life must truly end in death.
Did you never see in the world a man, or a woman, who being sick, afflicted, and grievously ill, and wallowing in his own filth, was lifted up by some people, and put to bed by others? And did the thought never come to you that also you are subject to disease, that also you cannot escape it?
Did you never see in the world the corpse of a man, or a woman, one, or two, or three days after death, swollen up, blue - black in color, and full of corruption? And did the thought never come to you that also you are subject to death, that also you cannot escape it?
(continues . . . )
The Buddha, our Lord, brings comfort to the weary and sorrow - laden; he restores peace to those who are broken down under the burden of life. He gives courage to the weak when they would fain give up self reliance and hope. You who suffer from the tribulations of life, you who have to struggle and endure, you who yearn for a life of truth, rejoice at the glad tidings! There is balm for the wounded, and there is bread for the hungry. There is water for the thirsty, and there is hope for the despairing. There is light for those in darkness, and there is inexhaustible blessing for the upright.
Heal your wounds, you wounded, and eat your fill, you hungry. Rest, you weary, and you who are thirsty quench your thirst. Look up to the light, you who sit in darkness; be full of good cheer, you who are forlorn.
Trust in truth, You who love the truth, for the kingdom of righteousness is founded upon earth. The darkness of error is dispelled by the light of truth. We can see our way and take firm and certain steps. The Buddha, our Lord, has revealed the truth. The truth cures our diseases and redeems us from perdition; the truth strengthens us in life and in death; the truth alone can conquer the evils of error. Rejoice at the glad tidings!
Wherever you look, there is a rushing and a struggling, and an eager pursuit of pleasure. There is a panic flight from pain and death, and hot are the flames of burning desires. The world is Vanity Fair, full of changes and transformations. All is Samsara, the turning Wheel of Existence.
Is there nothing permanent in the world? Is there in the universal turmoil no resting place where our troubled heart can find peace? Is there nothing everlasting? Oh, that we could have cessation of anxiety, that our burning desires would be extinguished! When shall the mind become tranquil and composed?
The Buddha, our Lord, was grieved at the ills of life. He saw the vanity of worldly happiness and sought salvation in the one thing that will not fade or perish, but will abide for ever and ever.
You who long for life, learn that immortality is hidden in transiency. You who wish for happiness without the sting of regret, lead a life of righteousness. You who yearn for riches, receive treasures that are eternal. Truth is wealth, and a life of truth is happiness.
All compounds will be dissolved again, but the verities which determine all combinations and separations as laws of nature endure for ever and aye. Bodies fall to dust, but the truths of the mind will not be destroyed.
Truth knows neither birth nor death; it has no beginning and no end. Welcome the truth. The truth is the immortal part of mind. Establish the truth in your mind, for the truth is the image of the eternal; it portrays the immutable; it reveals the everlasting; the truth gives unto mortals the boon of immortality.
The Buddha has proclaimed the truth; let the truth of the Buddha dwell in your hearts. Extinguish in yourselves every desire that antagonizes the Buddha, and in the perfection of your spiritual growth you will become like unto him. That of your heart which cannot or will not develop into Buddha must perish, for it is mere illusion and unreal; it is the source of your error; it is the cause of your misery.
You attain to immortality by filling your minds with truth. Therefore, become like unto vessels fit to receive the Master's words. Cleanse yourselves of evil and sanctify your lives. There is no other way of reaching truth.
Learn to distinguish between Self and Truth. Self is the cause of selfishness and the source of evil; truth cleaves to no self; it is universal and leads to justice and righteousness. Self, that which seems to those who love their self as their being, is not the eternal, the everlasting, the imperishable. Seek not self, but seek the truth.
If we liberate our souls from our petty selves, wish no ill to others, and become clear as a crystal diamond reflecting the light of truth, what a radiant picture will appear in us mirroring things as they are, without the admixture of burning desires, without the distortion of erroneous illusion, without the agitation of clinging and unrest.
Yet you love self and will not abandon self love. So be it, but then, verily, you should learn to distinguish between the false self and the true self. The ego with all its egotism is the false self. It is an unreal illusion and a perishable combination. He only who identifies his self with the truth will attain Nirvana; and he who has entered Nirvana has attained Buddhahood; he has acquired the highest good; he has become eternal and immortal.
All compound things shall be dissolved again, worlds will break to pieces and our individualities will be scattered; but the words of Buddha will remain for ever.
The extinction of self is salvation; the annihilation of self is the condition of enlightenment; the blotting out of self is Nirvana.
Happy is he who has ceased to live for pleasure and rests in the truth. Verily his composure and tranquility of mind are the highest bliss.
Let us take our refuge in the Buddha, for he has found the everlasting in the transient. Let us take our refuge in that which is the immutable in the changes of existence. Let us take our refuge in the truth that is established through the enlightenment of the Buddha. Let us take our refuge in the community of those who seek the truth and endeavor to live in the truth.
But in the changing things there is a constancy of law, and when the law is seen there is truth. The truth lies hidden in Samsara as the permanent in its changes.
Truth desires to appear; truth longs to become conscious; truth strives to know itself.
There is truth in the stone, for the stone is here; and no power in the world, no god, no man, no demon, can destroy its existence. But the stone has no consciousness. There is truth in the plant and its life can expand; the plant grows and blossoms and bears fruit. Its beauty is marvelous, but it has no consciousness. There is truth in the animal; it moves about and perceives its surroundings; it distinguishes and learns to choose. There is consciousness, but it is not yet the consciousness of Truth. It is a consciousness of self only.
The consciousness of self dims the eyes of the mind and hides the truth. It is the origin of error, it is the source of illusion, it is the germ of evil. Self begets selfishness. There is no evil but what flows from self. There is no wrong but what is done by the assertion of self. Self is the beginning of all hatred, of iniquity and slander, of impudence and indecency, of theft and robbery, of oppression and bloodshed. Self is Mara, the tempter, the evil doer, the creator of mischief. Self entices with pleasures. Self promises a fairy's paradise. Self is the veil of Maya, the enchanter. But the pleasures of self are unreal, its paradisian labyrinth is the road to misery, and its fading beauty kindles the flames of desires that never can be satisfied.
Who shall deliver us from the power of self? Who shall save us from misery? Who shall restore us to a life of blessedness?
There is misery in the world of Samsara; there is much misery and pain. But greater than all the misery is the bliss of truth. Truth gives peace to the yearning mind; it conquers error; it quenches the flames of desires; it leads to Nirvana. Blessed is he who has found the peace of Nirvana. He is at rest in the struggles and tribulations of life; he is above all changes; he is above birth and death; he remains unaffected by the evils of life.
Blessed is he who has found enlightenment. He conquers, although he may be wounded; he is glorious and happy, although he may suffer; he is strong, although he may break down under the burden of his work; he is immortal, although he will die. The essence of his being is purity and goodness.
Blessed is he who has attained the sacred state of Buddhahood, for he is fit to work out the salvation of his fellow beings. The truth has taken its abode in him. Perfect wisdom illumines his understanding, and righteousness ensouls the purpose of all his actions. The truth is a living power for good, indestructible and invincible! Work the truth out in your mind, and spread it among mankind, for truth alone is the savior from evil and misery. The Buddha has found the truth and the truth has been proclaimed by the Buddha! Blessed be the Buddha!
The king, her husband, honored her in her holiness, and the spirit of truth, glorious and strong in his wisdom like unto a white elephant, descended upon her. When she knew that the hour of motherhood was near, she asked the king to send her home to her parents; and Suddhodana, anxious about his wife and the child she would bear him, willingly granted her request.
At Lumbini there is a beautiful grove, and when Mayadevi passed through it the trees were one mass of fragrant flowers and many birds were warbling in their branches. The Queen, wishing to stroll through the shady walks, left her golden palanquin, and, when she reached the giant sala tree in the midst of the grove, felt that her hour had come. She took hold of a branch. Her attendants hung a curtain about her and retired. When the pain of travail came upon her, four pure minded angels of the great Brahma held out a golden net to receive the babe, who came forth from her right side like the rising sun bright and perfect.
The Brahma - angels took the child and placing him before the mother said: "Rejoice, O queen, a mighty son has been born unto thee."
At her couch stood an aged woman imploring the heavens to bless the child. All the worlds were flooded with light. The blind received their sight by longing to see the coming glory of the Lord; the deaf and dumb spoke with one another of the good omens indicating the birth of the Buddha to be. The crooked became straight; the lame walked. All prisoners were freed from their chains and the fires of all the hells were extinguished.
No clouds gathered in the skies and the polluted streams became clear, whilst celestial music rang through the air and the angels rejoiced with gladness. With no selfish or partial joy but for the sake of the law they rejoiced, for creation engulfed in the ocean of pain was now to obtain release. The cries of beasts were hushed; all malevolent beings received a loving heart, and peace reigned on earth. Mara, the evil one, alone was grieved and rejoiced not.
The Naga kings, earnestly desiring to show their reverence for most excellent law, as they had paid honor to former Buddhas, now went to greet the Bodhisattva. They scattered before him mandara flowers, rejoicing with heartfelt joy to pay their religious homage.
The royal father, pondering the meaning of these signs, was now full of joy and now sore distressed. The queen mother, beholding her child and the commotion which his birth created, felt in her timorous heart the pangs of doubt.
Now there was at that time in a grove near Lumbini Asita, a rishi, leading the life of a hermit. He was a Brahman of dignified mien, famed not only for wisdom and scholarship, but also for his skill in the interpretation of signs. And the king invited him to see the royal babe.
The seer, beholding the prince, wept and sighed deeply. And when the king saw the tears of Asita he became alarmed and asked: "Why has the sight of my son caused thee grief and pain?"
But Asita's heart rejoiced, and, knowing the king's mind to be perplexed, he addressed him, saying: "The king, like the moon when full, should feel great joy, for he has begotten a wondrously noble son. I do not worship Brahma, but I worship this child; and the gods in the temples will descend from their places of honor to adore him. Banish all anxiety and doubt. The spiritual omens manifested indicate that the child now born will bring deliverance to the whole world.
"Recollecting that I myself am old, on that account I could not hold my tears; for now my end is coming on and I shall not see the glory of this babe. For this son of thine will rule the world. The wheel of empire will come to him. He will either be a king of kings to govern all the lands of the earth, or verily will become a Buddha. He is born for the sake of everything that lives. His pure teaching will be like the shore that receives the shipwrecked. His power of meditation will be like a cool lake; and all creatures parched with the drought of lust may freely drink thereof. On the fire of covetousness he will cause the cloud of his mercy to rise, so that the rain of the law may extinguish it. The heavy gates of despondency will he open, and give deliverance to all creatures ensnared in the self entwined meshes of folly and ignorance. The king of the law has come forth to rescue from bondage all the poor, the miserable, the helpless."
When the royal parents heard Asita's words they rejoiced in their hearts and named their newborn infant Siddhattha, that is he who has accomplished his purpose."
And the queen said to her sister, Pajapati: "A mother who has borne a future Buddha will never give birth to another child. I shall soon leave this world, my husband, the king, and Siddhattha, my child. When I am gone, be thou a mother to him." And Pajapati wept and promised.
When the queen had departed from the living, Pajapati took the boy Siddhattha and reared him. And as the light of the moon increases little by little, so the royal child grew from day to day in mind and in body; and truthfulness and love resided in his heart. When a year had passed Suddhodana the king made Pajapati his queen and there was never a better stepmother than she.
But the kinsfolk replied and said: "The prince is young and delicate; nor has he learned any of the sciences. He would not be able to maintain our daughter, and should there be war he would be unable to cope with the enemy."
The prince was not boisterous, but pensive in his nature. He loved to stay under the great jambu tree in the garden of his father, and, observing the ways of the world, gave himself up to meditation. And the prince said to his father: "Invite our kinsfolk that they may see me and put my strength to the test." And his father did as his son bade him.
When the kinsfolk came, and the people of the city Kapilavatthu had assembled to test the prowess and scholarship of the prince, he proved himself manly in all the exercises both of the body and of the mind, and there was no rival among the youths and men of India who could surpass him in any test, bodily or mental. He replied to all the
(continues . . . )
The religious, monastic system, founded c. 500 B.C. on the basis of pantheistic Brahminism. The speculations of the Vedanta school of religious thought, in the eighth and following centuries, B.C., gave rise to several rival schemes of salvation. These movements started with the same morbid view that conscious life is a burden and not worth the living, and that true happiness is to be had only in a state like dreamless sleep free from all desires, free from conscious action. They took for granted the Upanishad doctrine of the endless chain of births, but they differed from pantheistic Brahminism both in their attitude towards the Vedas and in their plan for securing freedom from rebirth and from conscious existence. In their absolute rejection of Vedic rites, they stamped themselves as heresies. Of these the one destined to win greatest renown was Buddhism.
I. THE FOUNDER
Of Buddha, the founder of this great movement, legendary tradition has much to say, but very little of historical worth is known. His father seems to have been a petty raja, ruling over a small community on the southern border of the district now known as Nepal. Buddha's family name was Gotama (Sanskrit Gautama), and it was probably by this name that he was known in life. In all likelihood it was after his death that his disciples bestowed on him a number of laudatory names, the most common being Buddha, i.e. "the enlightened". Like the newborn youths of his day, he must have spent some time in the study of the sacred Vedas. After the immemorial custom of the East, he married at an early age, and, if tradition may be trusted, exercised a prince's privilege of maintaining a harem. His principal wife bore him a son. His heart was not at rest. The pleasures of the world soon palled upon him, and abandoning his home he retired to the forest, where as a hermit he spent several years in austere self-discipline, studying doubtless, the way of salvaion as taught in the Upanishads. Even this did not bring peace to his mind. He gave up the rigorous fasts and mortifications, which nearly cost him his life, and devoted himself in his own way to long and earnest meditation, the fruit of which was his firm belief that he had discovered the only true method of escaping from the misery of rebirth and of attaining to Nirvana. He then set out to preach his gospel of deliverance, beginning at Benares. His magnetic personality and his earnest, impressive eloquence soon won over to his cause a number of the warrior caste. Brahmins, too, felt the persuasiveness of his words, and it was not long before he was surrounded by a band of enthusiastic disciples, in whose company he went from place to place, by making converts by his preaching. These soon became very numerous and were formed into a great brotherhood of monks. Such was the work to which Buddha gave himself with unsparing zeal for over forty years. At length, worn out by his long life of activity, he fell sick after a meal of dried boar's flesh, and died in the eightieth year of his age. The approximate date of his death is 480 B.C. It is noteworthy that Buddha was a contemporary of two other famous religious philosophers, Pythagoras and Confucius.
In the sacred books of later times Buddha is depicted as a character without flaw, adorned with every grace of mind and heart. There may be some hesitation in taking the highly coloured portrait of Buddhist tradition as the exact representation of the original, but Buddha may be credited with the qualities of a great and good man. The records depict him moving about from place to place, regardless of personal comfort, calm and fearless, mild and compassionate, considerate towards poor and rich alike, absorbed with the one idea of freeing all men from the bonds of misery, and irresistible in his manner of setting forth the way of deliverance. In his mildness, his readiness to overlook insults, his zeal, chastity, and simplicity of life, he reminds one not a little of St. Francis of Assisi. In all pagan antiquity no character has been depicted as so noble and attractive.
II. BUDDHIST TEXTS
The chief sources for early Buddhism are the sacred books comprised in the first two divisions of the Ti-pitaka (triple-basket), the threefold Bible of the Southern School of Buddhists. In India, today, the Buddhists are found only in the North, in Nepal, and in the extreme South, in the island of Ceylon. They represent two different schools of thought, the Northern worshipping Buddha as supreme personal deity though at the same time adopting most of the degrading superstitions of Hinduism, the Southern adhering in great measure to the original teachings of Buddha. Each school has a canon of sacred books. The Northern canon is in Sanskrit, the Southern in Pali, a softer tongue, into which Sanskrit was transformed by the people of the South. The Southern canon, Ti-pitaka, which reflects more faithfully the teachings of Buddha and his early disciples, embraces
the Vinaya-pitaka, a collection of books on the disciplinary rules of the order,
the Sutta-pitaka, didactic tracts consisting in part of alleged discourses of Buddha; and
the Abhidhamma-pitaka, comprising more detailed treatises on doctrinal subjects.
Most of the Vinavas and some of the Suttas have been made accessible to English readers in the "Sacred Books of the East". The Ti-pitaka seems to date back to the second and third centuries B.C., but a few additions were made even after it was committed to writing in the early part of the first century of the Christian Era. While there may be doctrinal and disciplinary parts from the time of Buddha none of the twenty-nine books comprised in the Ti-pitaka can be proved to be older than 300 B.C. These books stripped of their tiresome repetitions, would be about equal in size to the Bible, though on the whole they are vastly inferior to the Sacred Scripture in spirituality, depth of thought, variety of subject, and richness of expression.
There are also a few extra-canonical books, likewise in Pali on which the Southern Buddhists set great value, the Dipavansa and Mahavansa, which give an uncritical history of Buddhism down to about A.D. 300, the "Commentaries of Buddhagosa", and the Milinda Panha, ably translated by Rhys Davids under the title "The Questions of King Milinda". These works belong to the fourth and following centuries of our era. In the Tri-pitaka of the Northern School are included the well-known Saddharma-pundarika (Lotus of the True Law), and the legendary biographies of Buddha, the Buddha Charita, and the Lalita Vistara (Book of Exploits), which are generally assigned to the last quarter of the first century A.D. Besides the Tri-pitaka, the Northern Buddhists reckon as canonical several writings of more recent times adapted from the abominable Hindu Tantras.
III. PRIMITIVE BUDDHISM
Buddhism was by no means entirely original. It had much in common with the pantheistic Vedanta teaching, from which it sprang belief in karma, whereby the character of the present life is the net product of the good and evil acts of a previous existence; belief in a constant series of rebirths for all who set their heart on preserving their individual existence; the pessimistic view that life at its best is misery and not worth living. And so the great end for which Buddha toiled was the very one which gave colour to the pantheistic scheme of salvation propounded by the Brahmin ascetics, namely, the liberation of men from misery by setting them free from attachment to conscious existence. It was in their conception of the final state of the saved, and of the method by which it was to be attained that they differed. The pantheistic Brahmin said:
Recognize your identity with the great impersonal god, Brahma, you thereby cease to be a creature of desires; you are no longer held fast in the chain of rebirths; at death you lose your individuality, your conscious existence, to become absorbed in the all-god Brahma.
In Buddha's system, the all-god Brahma was entirely ignored. Buddha put abstruse speculation in the background, and, while not ignoring the value of right knowledge, insisted on the saving part of the will as the one thing needful. To obtain deliverance from birth, all forms of desire must be absolutely quenched, not only very wicked craving, but also the desire of such pleasures and comforts as are deemed innocent and lawful, the desire even to preserve one's conscious existence. It was through this extinction of every desire that cessation of misery was to be obtained. This state of absence of desire and pain was known as Nirvana (Nibbana). This word was not coined by Buddha, but in his teaching, it assumed a new shade of meaning. Nirvana means primarily a "blowing out", and hence the extinction of the fire of desire, ill-will, delusion, of all, in short, that binds the individual to rebirth and misery. It was in the living Buddhist saint a state of calm repose, of indifference to life and death, to pleasure and pain, a state of imperturbable tranquility, where the sense of freedom from the bonds of rebirth caused the discomforts as well as the joys of life to sink into insignance. But it was not till after death that Nirvana was realized in its completeness. Some scholars have so thought. And, indeed, if the psychological speculations found in the sacred books are part of Buddha's personal teaching, it is hard to see how he could have held anything else as the final end of man. But logical consistency is not to be looked for in an Indian mystic. If we may trust the sacred books, he expressly refused on several occasions to pronounce either on the existence or the non-existence of those who had entered into Nirvana, on the ground that it was irrelevant, not conducive to peace and enlightenment. His intimate disciples held the same view. A monk who interpreted Nirvana to mean annihilation was taken to task by an older monk, and convinced that he had no right to hold such an opinion, since the subject was wrapped in impenetrable mystery. The learned nun Khema gave a similar answer to the King of Kosala, who asked if the deceased Buddha was still in existence. Whether the Perfect One exists after death, whether he does not exist after death, whether he exists and at the same time does not exist after death, whether he neither exists nor does not exist after death, has not been revealed by Buddha. Since, then, the nature of Nirvana was too mysterious to be grasped by the Hindu mind, too subtle to be expressed in terms either of existence or of non-existence, it would be idle to attempt a positive solution of the question. It suffices to know that it meant a state of unconscious repose, an eternal sleep which knew no awakening. In this respect it was practically one with the ideal of the pantheistic Brahmin.
In the Buddhist conception of Nirvana no account was taken of the all-god Brahma. And as prayers and offerings to the traditional gods were held to be of no avail for the attainment of this negative state of bliss, Buddha, with greater consistency than was shown in pantheistic Brahminism, rejected both the Vedas and the Vedic rites. It was this attitude which stamped Buddhism as a heresy. For this reason, too, Buddha has been set down by some as an atheist. Buddha, however, was not an atheist in the sense that he denied the existence of the gods. To him the gods were living realities. In his alleged sayings, as in the Buddhist scriptures generally, the gods are often mentioned, and always with respect. But like the pantheistic Brahmin, Buddha did not acknowledge his dependence on them. They were like men, subject to decay and rebirth. The god of today might be reborn in the future in some inferior condition, while a man of great virtue might succeed in raising himself in his next birth to the rank of a god in heaven. The very gods, then, no less than men, had need of that perfect wisdom that leads to Nirvana, and hence it was idle to pray or sacrifice to them in the hope of obtaining the boon which they themselves did not possess. They were inferior to Buddha, since he had already attained to Nirvana. In like manner, they who followed Buddha's footsteps had no need of worshipping the gods by prayers and offerings. Worship of the gods was tolerated, however, in the Buddhist layman who still clung to the delusion of individual existence, and preferred the household to the homeless state. Moreover, Buddha's system conveniently provided for those who accepted in theory the teaching that Nirvana alone was the true end of man but who still lacked the courage to quench all desires. The various heavens of Brahminic theology, with their positive, even sensual, delights were retained as the reward of virtuous souls not yet ripe for Nirvana. To aspire after such rewards was permitted to the lukewarm monk; it was commended to the layman. Hence the frequent reference, even in the earliest Buddhist writings to heaven and its positive delights as an encouragement to right conduct. Sufficient prominence is not generally given to this more popular side of Buddha's teaching, without which his followers would have been limited to an insignificant and short-lived band of heroic souls. It was this element, so prominent in the inscriptions of Asoka, that tempered the severity of Buddha's doctrine of Nirvana and made his system acceptable to the masses. In order to secure that extinction of desire which alone could lead to Nirvana, Buddha prescribed for his followers a life of detachment from the comforts, pleasures, and occupations of the common run of men. To secure this end, he adopted for himself and his disciples the quiet, secluded, contemplative life of the Brahmin ascetics. It was foreign to his plan that his followers should engage in any form of industrial pursuits, lest they might thereby be entangled in worldly cares and desires. Their means of subsistence was alms; hence the name commonly applied to Buddhist monks was bhikkus, beggars. Detachment from family life was absolutely necessary. Married life was to be avoided as a pit of hot coals, for it was incompatible with the quenching of desire and the extinction of individual existence. In like manner, worldly possessions and worldly power had to be renounced-everything that might minister to pride, greed, or self-indulgence. Yet in exacting of his followers a life of severe simplicity, Buddha did not go to the extremes of fanaticism that characterized so many of the Brahmin ascetics. He chose the middle path of moderate asceticism which he compared to a lute, which gives forth the proper tones only when the strings are neither too tight nor too slack. Each member was allowed but one set of garments, of yellowish colour and of cheap quality. These, together with his sleeping mat, razor, needle, water-strainer, and alms bowl, constituted the sum of his earthly possessions. His single meal, which had to be taken before noon, consisted chiefly of bread, rice, and curry, which he gathered daily in his alms-bowl by begging. Water or rice-milk was his customary drink, wine and other intoxicants being rigorously forbidden, even as medicine. Meat, fish, and delicacies were rarely eaten except in sickness or when the monk dined by invitation with some patron. The use of perfumes, flowers, ointments, and participation in worldly amusements fell also into the class of things prohibited. In theory, the moral code of Buddhism was little more than a copy of that of Brahminism. Like the latter, it extended to thoughts and desires, no less than to words and deeds. Unchastity in all its forms, drunkenness, lying, stealing, envy, pride, harshness are fittingly condemned. But what, perhaps, brings Buddhism most strikingly in contact with Christianity is its spirit of gentleness and forgiveness of injuries. To cultivate benevolence towards men of all classes, to avoid anger and physical violence, to be patient under insult, to return good for evil &151; all this was inculated in Buddhism and helped to make it one of the gentlest of religions. To such an extent was this carried that the Buddhist monk, like the Brahmin ascetic, had to avoid with the greatest care the destruction of any form of animal life.
In course of time, Buddha extended his monastic system to include women. Communities of nuns while living near the monks, were entirely secluded from them. They had to conform to the same rule of life, to subsist on alms, and spend their days in retirement and contemplation. They were never as numerous as the monks, and later became a very insignificant factor in Buddhism. In thus opening up to his fellow men and women what he felt to be the true path of salvation, Buddha made no discrimination in social condition. Herein lay one of the most striking contrasts between the old religion and the new. Brahminism was inextricably intertwined with caste-distinctions. It was a privilege of birth, from which the Sudras and members of still lower classes were absolutely excluded. Buddha, on the contrary, welcomed men of low as well as high birth and station. Virtue, not blood, was declared to be the test of superiority. In the brotherhood which he built around him, all caste-distinctions were put aside. The despised Sudra stood on a footing of equality with the high-born Brahmin. In this religious democracy of Buddhism lay, doubtless, one of its strongest influences for conversion among the masses. But in thus putting his followers on a plane of equal consideration, Buddha had no intention of acting the part of a social reformer. Not a few scholars have attributed to him the purpose of breaking down caste-distinctions in society and of introducing more democratic conditions. Buddha had no more intention of abolishing caste than he had of abolishing marriage. It was only within the limits of his own order that he insisted on social equality just as he did on celibacy. Wherever Buddhism has prevailed, the caste-system has remained untouched.
Strictly speaking, Buddha's order was composed only of those who renounced the world to live a life of contemplation as monks and nuns. The very character of their life, however, made them dependent on the charity of men and women who preferred to live in the world and to enjoy the comforts of the household state. Those who thus sympathized with the order and contributed to its support, formed the lay element in Buddhism. Through this friendly association with the order, they could look to a happy reward after death, not Nirvana but the temporary de!ights of heaven, with the additional prospect of being able at some future birth to attain to Nirvana, if they so desired. The majority, however, did not share the enthusiasm of the Buddhist Arhat or saint for Nirvana, being quite content to hope for a life of positive, though impermanent, bliss in heaven.
IV. LATER DEVELOPMENTS AND SPREAD OF BUDDHISM
The lack of all religious rites in Buddhism was not keenly felt during the lifetime of its founder. Personal devotion to him took the place of religious fervour. But he was not long dead when this very devotion to him began to assume the form of religious worship. His reputed relics, consisting of his bones, teeth, alms-bowl, cremation-vessel, and ashes from his funeral pyre, were enclosed in dome-shaped mounds called Dagobas, or Topes, or Stupas, and were honoured with offerings of lights, flowers, and incense. Pictures and statues of Buddha were multiplied on every side, and similarly honoured, being carried about on festal days in solemn procession. The places, too, associated with his birth, enlightenment, first preaching, and death were accounted especially sacred, and became the objects of pilgrimage and the occasion of recurring festivals. But as Buddha had entered into Nirvana and could not be sensible of these religious honours, the need was felt of a living personality to whom the people could pray. The later speculations of Buddhist monks brought such a personality to light in Metteyya (Maitreya), the loving one, now happily reigning in heaven as a bodhisattva, a divine being destined in the remote future to become a Buddha, again to set in motion the wheel of the law. To this Metteyya the Buddhists turned as the living object of worship of which they had so long felt the need, and they paid him religious homage as the future saviour of the world.
The emergence of the Northern School
Such was the character of the religious worship observed by those who departed the least from Buddha's teachings. It is what is found today in the so-called Southern Buddhism, held by the inhabitants of Ceylon, Burma, and Siam. Towards the end of first century A.D., however, a far more radical change took place in the religious views of the great mass of Buddhists in Northern India. Owing, doubtless, to the ever growing popularity of the cults of Vishnu and Siva, Buddhism was so modified as to allow the worship of an eternal, supreme deity, Adi-Buddha, of whom the historic Buddha was declared to have been an incarnation, an avatar. Around this supreme Buddha dwelling in highest heaven, were grouped a countless number of bodhisattvas, destined in future ages to become human Buddhas for the sake of erring man. To raise oneself to the rank of bodhisattva by meritorious works was the ideal now held out to pious souls. In place of Nirvana, Sukhavati became the object of pious longing, the heaven of sensuous pleasures, where Amitabha, an emanation of the eternal Buddha, reigned. For the attainment of Sukhavati, the necessity of virtuous conduct was not altogether forgotten, but an extravagant importance was attached to the worship of relics and statues, pilgrimages, and, above all, to the reciting of sacred names and magic formulas. Many other gross forms of Hindu superstition were also adopted. This innovation, completely subversive of the teaching of Buddha, supplanted the older system in the North. It was known as the Mahayana, or Great Vehicle, in distinction to the other and earlier form of Buddhism contemptuously styled the Hinayana or Little Vehicle, which held its own in the South. It is only by the few millions of Southern Buddhists that the teachings of Buddha have been substantially preserved.
Buddha's order seems to have grown rapidly, and through the good will of rulers, whose inferior origin debarred them from Brahmin privileges, to have become in the next two centuries a formidable rival of the older religion. The interesting rock-edicts of Asoka-a royal convert to Buddhism who in the second quarter of the third century B.C. held dominion over the greater part of India &151; give evidence that Buddhism was in a most flourishing condition, while a tolerant and kindly spirit was displayed towards other forms of religion. Under his auspices missionaries were sent to evangelize Ceylon in the South, and in the North, Kashmer, Kandahar, and the so-called Yavana country, identified by most scholars with the Greek settlements in the Kabul valley and vicinity, and later known as Bactria. In all these places Buddhism quickly took root and flourished, though in the Northern countries the religion became later on corrupted and transformed into the Mahayana form of worship.
Buddhism in China
In the first century of the Christian Era, the knowledge of Buddha made its way to China. At the invitation of the Emperor Ming-ti, Buddhist monks came in A.D. 67 with sacred books, pictures, and relics. Conversions multiplied, and during the next few centuries the religious communications between the two countries were very close. Not only did Buddhist missionaries from India labour in China, but many Chinese monks showed their zeal for the newly adopted religion by making pilgrimages to the holy places in India. A few of them wrote interesting accounts, still extant, of what they saw and heard in their travels. Of these pilgrims the most noted are Fahien, who travelled in India and Ceylon in the years A.D. 399-414, and Hiouen-Tsang who made extensive travels in India two centuries later (A.D. 629-645). The supplanting of the earlier form of Buddhism in the northern countries of India in the second century led to a corresponding change in the Buddhism of China. The later missionaries, being mostly from the North of India, brought with them the new doctrine, and in a short time the Mahayana or Northern Buddhism prevailed. Two of the bodhisattvas of Mahayana theology became the favourite objects of worship with the Chinese &151; Amitabha, lord of the Sukhavati paradise, and Avalokitesvara, extravagantly praised in the "Lotus of the True Law" as ready to extricate from every sort of danger those who think of him or cherish his name. The latter, known as Fousa Kwanyin, is worshipped, now as a male deity, again as the goddess of mercy, who comes to the relief of the faithful. Amitabha goes by the Chinese name Amita, or Mito. Offerings of flowers and incense made before his statues and the frequent repetition, of his name are believed to ensure a future life of bliss in his distant Western paradise. An excessive devotion to statues and relics, the employment of magic arts to keep off evil spirits, and the observance of many of the gross superstitions of Taoism, complete the picture of Buddhism in China, a sorry representation of what Buddha made known to men. Chinese Buddhism was introduced into Korea in the fourth century, and from there taken to Japan two centuries later. The Buddhism of these countries is in the main like that of China, with the addition of a number of local superstitions. Annam was also evangelized by Chinese Buddhists at an early period.
Tibetan Buddhiism (Lamaism)
Buddhism was first introduced into Tibet in the latter part of the seventh century, but it did not begin to thrive till the ninth century. In 1260, the Buddhist conqueror of Tibet, Kublai Khan, raised the head lama, a monk of the great Sakja monastery, to the position of spiritual and temporal ruler. His modern successors have the title of Dalai Lama. Lamaism is based on the Northern Buddhism of India, after it had become saturated with the disgusting elements of Siva worship. Its deities are innumerable, its idolatry unlimited. It is also much given to the use of magic formulas and to the endless repetition of sacred names. Its favourite formula is, Om mani padme hum (O jewel in the lotus, Amen), which, written on streamers exposed to the wind, and multiplied on paper slips turned by hand or wind or water, in the so-called prayer-wheels, is thought to secure for the agent unspeakable merit. The Dalai Lama, residing in the great monastery at Lhasa, passes for the incarnation of Amitabha, the Buddha of the Sukhavati paradise. Nine months after his death, a newly born babe is selected by divination as the reincarnate Buddha.
Catholic missionaries to Tibet in the early part of the last century were struck by the outward resemblances to Catholic liturgy and discipline that were presented by Lamaism-its infallible head, grades of clergy corresponding to bishop and priest, the cross, mitre, dalmatic, cope, censer, holy water, etc. At once voices were raised proclaiming the Lamaistic origin of Catholic rites and practices. Unfortunately for this shallow theory, the Catholic Church was shown to have possessed these features in common with the Christian Oriental churches long before Lamaism was in existence. The wide propagation of Nestorianism over Central and Eastern Asia as early as A.D. 635 offers a natural explanation for such resemblances as are accretions on Indian Buddhism. The missionary zeal of Tibetan lamas led to the extension of their religion to Tatary in the twelfth and following centuries. While Northern Buddhism was thus exerting a widespread influence over Central and Eastern Asia, the earlier form of Buddhism was making peaceful conquests of the countries and islands in the South. In the fifth century missionaries from Ceylon evangelized Burma. Within the next two centuries, it spread to Siam, Cambodia, Java, and adjacent islands.
The number of Buddhists throughout the world is commonly estimated at about four hundred and fifty millions, that is, about one-third of the human race. But on this estimate the error is made of classing an the Chinese and Japanese as Buddhists. Professor Legge, whose years of experience in China give special weight to his judgment, declares that the Buddhists in the whole world are not more than, one hundred millions, being far outnumbered not only by Christians, but also by the adherents of Confucianism and Hinduism. Professor Monier Williams holds the same views. Even if Buddhism, however, outranked Christianity in the number of adherents, it would be a mistake to attribute to the religion of Buddha, as some do, a more successful propagandism than to the religion of Christ. The latter has made its immense conquests, not by compromising with error and superstition, but by winning souls to the exclusive acceptance of its saving truths. Wherever it has spread, it has maintained its individuality. On the other hand, the vast majority of the adherents of Buddhism cling to forms of creed and worship that Buddha, if alive, would reprobate. Northern Buddhism became the very opposite of what Buddha taught to men, and in spreading to foreign lands accommodated itself to the degrading superstitions of the peoples it sought to win. It is only the Southern Buddhists of Ceylon, Burma, and Siam who deserve to be identified with the order founded by Buddha. They number at most but thirty millions of souls.
V. BUDDHISM AND CHRISTIANITY
Between Buddhism and Christianity there are a number of resemblances, at first sight striking.
The Buddhist order of monks and nuns offers points of similarity with Christian monastic systems, particularly the mendicant orders. There are moral aphorisms ascribed to Buddha that are not unlike some of the sayings of Christ.
Most of all, in the legendary life of Buddha, which in its complete form is the outcome of many centuries of accretion, there are many parallelisms, some more, some less striking, to the Gospel stories of Christ.
A few third-rate scholars taking for granted that all these resemblances are pre-Christian, and led by the fallacious principle that resemblance always implies dependence, have vainly tried to show that Christian monasticism is of Buddhist origin, and that Buddhist thought and legend have been freely incorporated into the Gospels. To give greater speciousness to their theory, they have not scrupled to press into service, besides the few bona fide resemblances many others that were either grossly exaggerated, or fictitious, or drawn from Buddhist sources less ancient than the Gospels. If, from this vast array of alleged Buddhist infiltrations, all these exaggerations, fictions, and anachronisms are eliminated, the points of resemblance that remain are, with perhaps one exception, such as may be explained on the ground of independent origin.
The exception is the story of Buddha's conversion from the worldly life of a prince to the life of an ascetic, which was transformed by some Oriental Christian of the seventh century into the popular medieval tale of "Barlaam and Josaphat". Here is historic evidence of the turning of a Buddhist into a Christian legend just as, on the other hand, the fifth-century sculptures of Gospel scenes on the ruined Buddhist monasteries of Jamalgiri, in Northern Panjab, described in the scholarly work of Fergusson and Burgess, "The Cave Temples of India", offer reliable evidence that the Buddhists of that time did not scruple to embellish the Buddha legend with adaptations from Christian sources.
But is there any historical basis for the assertion that Buddhist influence was a factor in the formation of Christianity and of the Christian Gospels? The advocates of this theory pretend that the rock-inscriptions of Asoka bear witness to the spread of Buddhism over the Greek-speaking world as early as the third century B.C., since they mention the flourishing existence of Buddhism among the Yavanas, i.e. Greeks within the dominion of Antiochus. But in the unanimous judgment of first-rate scholars, the Yavanas here mentioned mean simply and solely the Greek-speaking peoples on the extreme frontier next to India, namely, Bactria and the Kabul valley. Again the statement in the late Buddhist chronicle, Mahavansa, that among the Buddhists who came to the dedication of a great Stupa in Ceylon in the second century B.C., "were over thirty thousand monks from the vicinity of Alassada, the capital of the Yona country" is taken to prove that long before the time of Christ, Alexandria in Egypt was the centre of flourishing Buddhist communities. It is true that Alassada is the Pali for Alexandria; but the best scholars are agreed that the city here meant is not the ancient capital of Egypt, but as the text indicates, the chief city of the Yona country, the Yavana country of the rock-inscriptions, namely, Bactria and vicinity. And so, the city referred to is most likely Alexandria ad Caucasum.
In short, there is nothing in Buddhist records that may be taken as reliable evidence for the spread of Buddhism westward to the Greek world as early as the foundation of the Christian religion. That Buddhist institutions were at that time unknown in the West may be safely inferred from the fact that Buddhism is absolutely ignored in the literary and archaeological remains of Palestine, Egypt, and Greece. There is not a single remains of Buddhist monastery or stupa in any of these countries; not a single Greek translation of a Buddhist book; not a single reference in all Greek literature to the existence of a Buddhist community in the Greek world. The very name of Buddha is mentioned for the first time only in the writings of Clement of Alexandria (second century). To explain the resemblances in Christianity to a number of pre-Christian features of Buddhism, there is no need of resorting to the hypothesis that they were borrowed. Nothing is more common in the study of comparative ethnology and religion than to find similar social and religious customs practised by peoples too remote to have had any communication with one another. How easily the principle of ascetic detachment from the world may lead to a community life in which celibacy as observed, may be seen in the monastic systems that have prevailed not only among Buddhists, Essenes, and Christians, but also among the early Aztecs and Incas in the New World. Nor is this so strange when it is recalled that men everywhere have, to a large extent, the same daily experiences, the same feelings, the desires. As the laws of human thought are every here the same, it lies in the very nature of things that men, in so far as they have the same experiences, or face the same religious needs, will think the same thoughts, and give expression to them in sayings and customs that strike the unreflecting old server by their similarity. It is only by losing sight of this fundamental truth that one can unwittingly fall into the error of assuming that resemblance always implies dependence.
It is chiefly the legendary features of Buddha's life, many of which are found for the first time only in works of later date than the Gospels, that furnish the most striking resemblances to certain incidents related of Christ in the Gospels, resemblances which might with greater show of reason be traced to a common historic origin. If there has been any borrowing here, it is plainly on the side of Buddhism. That Christianity made its way to Northern India in the first two centuries is not only a matter of respectable tradition, but is supported by weighty archaeological evidence. Scholars of recognized ability beyond the suspicion of undue bias in favour of Christianity - Weber, Goblet d'Alviella, and others-think it very likely that the Gospel stories of Christ circulated by these early Christian communities in India were used by the Buddhists to enrich the Buddha legend, just as the Vishnuites built up the legend of Krishna on many striking incidents in the life of Christ. The fundamental tenets of Buddhism are marked by grave defects that not only betray its inadequacy to become a religion of enlightened humanity, but also bring into bold relief its inferiority to the religion of Jesus Christ. In the first place, the very foundation on which Buddhism rests-the doctrine of karma with its implied transmigrations-is gratuitous and false. This pretended law of nature, by which the myriads of gods, demons, men, and animals are but the transient forms of rational beings essentially the same, but forced to this diversity in consequence of varying degrees of merit and demerit in former lives, is a huge superstition in flat contradiction to the recognized laws of nature, and hence ignored by men of science. Another basic defect in primitive Buddhism is its failure to recognize man's dependence on a supreme God. By ignoring God and by making salvation rest solely on personal effort, Buddha substituted for the Brahmin religion a cold and colourless system of philosophy. It is entirely lacking in those powerful motives to right conduct, particularly the motive of love, that spring from the consecration of religious men and women to the dependence on a personal all-loving God. Hence it is that Buddhist morality is in the last analysis a selfish utilitarianism. There is no sense of duty, as in the religion of Christ, prompted by reverence for a supreme Lawgiver, by love for a merciful Father, by personal allegiance to a Redeemer. Karma, the basis of Buddhist morality, is like any other law of nature, the observance of which is prompted by prudential considerations. Not infrequently one meets the assertion that Buddha surpassed Jesus in holding out to struggling humanity an end utterly unselfish. This is a mistake. Not to speak of the popular Swarga, or heaven, with its positive, even sensual delights the fact that Nirvana is a negative ideal of bliss does not make it the less an object of interested desire. Far from being an unselfish end, Nirvana is based wholly on the motive of self-love. It thus stands on a much lower level than the Christian ideal, which, being primarily and essentially a union of friendship with God in heaven, appeals to motives of disinterested as well as interested love. Another fatal defect of Buddhism is its false pessimism. A strong and healthy mind revolts against the morbid view that life is not worth living, that every form of conscious existence is an evil. Buddhism stands condemned by the voice of nature the dominant tone of which is hope and joy. It is a protest against nature for possessing the perfection of rational life. The highest ambition of Buddhism is to destroy that perfection by bringing all living beings to the unconscious repose of Nirvana. Buddhism is thus guilty of a capital crime against nature, and in consequence does injustice to the individual. All legitimate desires must be repressed. Innocent recreations are condemned. The cultivation of music is forbidden. Researches in natural science are discountenanced. The development of the mind is limited to the memorizing of Buddhist texts and the study of Buddhist metaphysics, only a minimum of which is of any value. The Buddhist ideal on earth is a state of passive indifference to everything. How different is the teaching of Him who came that men might have life and have it more abundantly. Again Buddhist pessimism is unjust to the family. Marriage is held in contempt and even abhorrence as leading to the procreation of life. In thus branding marriage as a state unworthy of man, Buddhism betrays its inferiority to Christianity, which recommends virginity but at the same time teaches that marriage is a sacred union and a source of sanctification. Buddhist pessimism likewise does injustice to society. It has set the seal of approval on the Brahmin prejudice against manual labor. Since life is not worth living, to labour for the comforts and refinements of civilized life is a delusion. The perfect man is to subsist not by the labour of his hands but on the alms of inferior men. In the religion of Christ, "the carpenter's son", a healthier view prevails. The dignity of labour is upheld, and every form of industry is encouraged that tends to promote man's welfare. Buddhism has accomplished but little for the uplifting of humanity in comparison with Christianity. One of its most attractive features, which, unfortunately, has become wellnigh obsolete, was its practice of benevolence towards the sick and needy. Between Buddhists and Brahmins there was a commendable rivalry in maintaining dispensaries of food and medicine. But this charity did not, like the Christian form, extend to the prolonged nursing of unfortunates stricken with contagious and incurable diseases, to the protection of foundlings, to the bringing up of orphans, to the rescue of fallen women, to the care of the aged and insane. Asylums and hospitals in this sense are unknown to Buddhism. The consecration of religious men and women to the lifelong service of afflicted humanity is foreign to dreamy Buddhist monasticism. Again, the wonderful efficacy displayed by the religion of Christ in purifying the morals of pagan Europe has no parallel in Buddhist annals. Wherever the religion of Buddha has prevailed, it has proved singularly inefficient to lift society to a high standard of morality. It has not weaned the people of Tibet and Mongolia from the custom of abandoning the aged, nor the Chinese from the practice of infanticide. Outside the establishment of the order of nuns, it has done next to nothing to raise woman from her state of degradation in Oriental lands. It has shown itself utterly helpless to cope with the moral plagues of humanity. The consentient testimony of witnesses above the suspicion of prejudice establishes the fact that at the present day Buddhist monks are everywhere strikingly deficient in that moral earnestness and exemplary conduct which distinguished the early followers of Buddha. In short, Buddhism is all but dead. In its huge organism the faint pulsations of life are still discernible, but its power of activity is gone. The spread of European civilization over the East will inevitably bring about its extinction.
Publication information Written by Charles F. Aiken. Transcribed by Joseph P. Thomas. The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume III. Published 1908. New York: Robert Appleton Company. Nihil Obstat, November 1, 1908. Remy Lafort, S.T.D., Censor. Imprimatur. +John Cardinal Farley, Archbishop of New York
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