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With a view to laying up a store of religious merit, they repeat many prayers, and make many genuflexions before images; for the due performance of which the priests give them sealed certificates, varying in price, according to circumstances. These certificates are placed in a box, which is sealed up when the person dies, and is carried to the funeral with much ceremony. They call it Lou-in, which signifies a passport for travelling from one world to another.
They annually publish astronomical calculations of the motions of the planets, for every hour and minute of the year. They consider it important to be very exact, because the hours, and even the minutes, are lucky or unlucky, according to the aspect of the stars. Some days are considered peculiarly fortunate for marrying, or beginning to build a house; and the gods are better pleased with sacrifice offered at certain hours, than they are with the same ceremony performed at other times.
The doctrines of Fo, and the ritual of his worship, are contained in an old book, called Kio, which his numerous followers receive as sacred. An immense number of commentaries have been written upon it. It is said there is likewise a very ancient book in China, called Yekim, attributed to Fo himself; but it is written in hieroglyphics, and cannot be deciphered. All their holy books, and religious formulas, are written in a sacred language, called Pali, bearing a very close resemblance to the Sanscrit.
It is supposed to have been about four hundred years after the Christian era, that a holy hermit went from India and established himself on a mountain in Central Thibet, thenceforth called Bouddha La, which signifies the Mountain of Bouddha. He soon attracted numerous disciples, who listened reverently to his teachings. Such was his reputation for holiness, that after his death the belief prevailed that he was Bouddha himself, who had again descended from Paradise, and assumed the form of a pious
anchorite, in order to effect the salvation of the people of Thibet. He taught them their forms of prayer, and left them a book called, " The Body of Doctrine," ascribed to Bouddha, and also some works of his own, which are held in great veneration. These, and all the other Sacred Books of Eastern Asia, are written in a modification of Sanscrit.
The worship of Bouddha remained confined to the region about Bouddha La until six hundred and twentynine years after Christ, when prince Srong Dsan Gambo, the founder of Thibetian greatness, married a princess of China, and a princess of Nepal, both educated in that religion. They brought with them images of Fo, Sacred Books and relics, and caused a great number of temples and buildings for devotees to be erected. The king established himself on the sacred mountain, called Bouddha La, around which soon grew up the city of Lassa, the present capital of Thibet. This popular prince, who had achieved so much for the prosperity of his country, was believed to be the identical old saint, who more than two hundred years before had taught on Bouddha La, and who had now come back again into a human body, to establish his religion permanently in Thibet. Sects arose in opposition to the new doctrines, either from attachment to some older form of faith, or from jealousy of the priestly power. Once the new religion was nearly overturned in a civil war between two rival brothers, contending for the throne, one in favour of Buddhism, and the other opposed to it. It suffered various vicissitudes until the close of our eleventh century, when a son of the reigning monarch became a devotee of that religion, and his father made him Superior of a monastery built for him. He afterward succeeded i the throne, and was the first one in that country who united in himself the offices of High Priest and King. He also was declared to be the renowned old hermit of Bouddha La, who had reappeared on earth yet again to govern his beloved Thibet.
This was the origin of that form of Buddhism called
Lamaism. Lama means Pastor of Souls, and is the name applied to all the priests. Dalai Lama, or Grand Lama, means the Great Pastor, the Supreme Pontiff, who is at the head of all ecclesiastical and civil affairs in Thibet. The highest object of worship is Shigemooni, which is their variation of the name of Bouddha Sakia Mouni. The next is his disciple, the famous old hermit of Bouddha La, whose soul is supposed to be regularly transmitted through the succeeding Grand Lamas of Thibet, to watch over the people, whom he loved so well that he left Paradise to instruct them in the true religion. When the Grand Lama dies, it is necessary to ascertain into what body his soul has passed. This can be done only by other Lamas, who fast and pray, and perform various ceremonies, to be guided aright. Those who think there are signs of his having appeared in their family, give information of it to the proper ecclesiastical authorities. The names of the candidates are written on little golden fish, which are shaken in an urn, and the first one taken out is proclaimed Grand Lama. He is carried to Lassa in triumphal procession, all the people prostrating themselves before him as he passes along. Disputes have sometimes arisen concerning the succession, and in some cases there have been bloody wars, causing the destruction of whole villages. But the belief remains deeply rooted that the immortal head of the church, by miraculous transmission of his soul, is always visibly present in the person of the Grand Lama, who is both pope and king. He is regarded as the vicegerent of God, with power to dispense divine blessings on whomsoever he will, either directly, or through the medium of subordinate Lamas. It is said fountains will flow at his command, even in the most parched deserts; that flowers spring up wherever his feet have passed, and that his person exhales celestial fragrance. He is supposed to see and know everything, even in the deepest recesses of the heart, so that he never has occasion to inquire on any subject. He is called, “The Immaculate," "The active Creator and Governor of the present World," "He who has clairvoyant eyes,” “The Word which produced the World." Thibet, China, the Mongols, and the Calmuck Tartars, acknowledge his sway. Crowds of pilgrims come with offerings from all quarters, to pay him homage, and obtain his blessing. Princes make the same prostrations and perform the same ceremonies as pilgrims of the meanest rank. He receives them seated on a splendid divan, in the attitude of the sacred images. He treats no one with more respect than another. He never rises, or uncovers his head, or salutes any one; but merely lays his hand on the head of the worshipper, who believes he has thereby obtained pardon for his sins. He sometimes distributes little pieces of consecrated dough, which are used for amulets to charm away Evil Spirits. At stated seasons he visits some of the great theological establishments, to expound the Sacred Books, and his expositions are received as divine authority. On state occasions, he wears a yellow mitre, and a purple silk mantle fastened on the breast with a clasp. In his hand he carries a long staff in the form of a cross. Though Thibet is politically subject to China, the Chinese emperor is subject to the Grand Lama in all ecclesiastical matters.
There are two other Lamas in Eastern Asia, believed to be incarnations of Bouddha, receiving his soul, or portions of it, by a similar process of transmission from generation to generation; but their holiness is of inferior degree, and they are in all respects subordinate to the Grand Lama at Lassa. It is a very common thing for persons belonging to the religious orders to be regarded as resuscitations of deceased saints. These are distinguished by the epithet "twice born," or "thrice born."
The powerful bierarchy, of which the Grand Lama is the head, consists of various ranks and classes. A High Lama is sent as nuncio to the Court of China, and supported there. There is an order called Spiritual Princes of the Law, and Masters of the Kingdom; these are the confidential advisers of the emperors. There are many large theological establishments called Lamaseries, exceedingly similar to the monasteries in Europe. The origin and growth of these associations may be briefly stated. It has already been said that in very ancient times Hindoo devotees, in order to attain perfect holiness, withdrew from the world, and vowed themselves to chastity and poverty. The fame of their sanctity attracted disciples, many of whom lived in grottoes or cells, in the vicinity of their teacher, thus forming a brotherhood of saints. When a distinct order of priests grew out of this beginning, young men and boys were sent into the forest to be educated by them for the priesthood. These were temporary associations, which dispersed with change of circumstances. But the followers of Bouddha, being placed in opposition to the orthodox Hindoo religion, and relentlessly persecuted by its priests, naturally sought support and consolation by living together in congregations. As they were all devotees in the beginning, they naturally adopted a regular routine of prayers and ceremonies, as their models, the Hindoo hermits, had done. Afterward, when whole nations adopted their faith, the worldly gave up the entire management of religious affairs to them. Thus they became a new order of priests, whose appropriate business it was to educate successors to the offices they held. Bouddha's greatest offence against the orthodox Bramins was that he opened the religious life to all castes and all nations. He is represented as saying: “All men are equal; and my doctrines are a favour and grace to all mankind.” This was a fruitful source of reproach with the Bramins, who were wont to say, contemptuously : “He and his followers teach even mean and criminal men, and receive them most improperly into a state of grace.” Wherever his doctrines prevail, there is no hereditary priesthood, and the only distinctions are those which arise from difference of character. Women, also, were included in his unpopular doctrines of emancipation from the laws of caste. His followers could not overcome the prejudices of their native country in this respect, but in China and Thibet there are many associations of devout women, governed by the same laws