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saints; and the greatest of these is Bouddha Sakia Mouni, from whom they derive their name. The words Bouddha and Mouni both mean a Saint, or a holy Sage; thus his name is Sakia, and his titles are, the sage and the saint, the wise and the holy. European scholars suppose him to have been a great saint and reformer, who tried to restore the spiritual doctrines of the Vedas, and abolish distinctions of caste, including the priesthood. The popular belief is that he was an incarnation of a portion of Vishnu, and that he had previously appeared on earth, at various epochs, for the instruction and salvation of mankind. Mercury is reckoned among the beneficent planets in India, and the name given to it is Boodh, or Bouddha. The day consecrated to that luminary, corresponding to our Wednesday, is the holy day among worshippers of Bouddha. Some Hindoo writers say he was the planet Mercury, born of the Moon and the bright star Aldebaran. Perhaps this means that the presiding Spirit of Mercury was a ray from Vish. nu, and that he occasionally descended to our earth, and took a human form. The date of his last birth, in the character of Bouddha Sakia, varies among different nations that have adopted his religion. In Cashmere they say he appeared only two hundred years later than Crishna, whose advent they place more than five thousand years back. According to Mongol records, he was born two thousand one hundred and thirty-four years before the Christian era; but the Chinese say it was one thousand twenty-nine years. In Ceylon, the era from which they date is the introduction of Buddhism into that island, six hundred and thirty-eight years before Christ; and this they mistake for the date of Sakia's birth. The learned generally give their verdict in favour of the Chinese date; from which the opinion of Sir William Jones varies only twenty-nine years. That the sect prevailed extensively in India, at a very remote period, is abundantly proved by numerous gigantic temples bearing marks of great antiquity. His statues, found in such edifices, give the same indication; for they represent him as a man buried in profound meditation, with hair knotted all over his bead, after the manner of hermits in very ancient times, before the custom of sharing the head was introduced. From this peculiarity, some trarellers bare mistaken him for an African. Cole brooke, the learned Sanscrit scholar, conjectures that the Buddhists were in existence before the great sects of Siva or Crishna. That they were suficiently conspicuous to excite hostility before the Ramayana was written, is proved by the following extract from that ancient poem: “ As an atheist fallen from the path of rectitade, as a thief, so is a Buddhist.
His mother Maia is said to have been a virgin, who con. ceived him from a ray of light. As Mais was one of the names for the Goddess of Illusions this might bare merely signified that he only appeared to be living in this world; that his mortal existence was an illusion to the senses. Tradition affirms that his mother was married to a rajah; and of course her son belonged to the same royal caste that Crishna did during his existence on earth. The advent of Bouddha is thus recorded: “It was at the close of the Dwapar Yug, that he who is omnipresent and everlastingly to be contemplated, the Supreme Being, the Eternal One, the Divinity worthy to be adored, appeared in this ocean of natural beings, with a portion of his divine nature." It is said that a marvellous light shone at his birth, and the Ganges rose and fell in a remarkable manner. The moment he was born, he stood upright, walked forward seven steps, pointed one hand upward and the other downward, and distinctly said, “No one in heaven, or on earth, deserves higher adoration than I." On a silver plate, found in a cave near Islamabad, was written a curious inscrip tion concerning him. It states that a saint in the woods learned by inspiration that the ninth incarnation of Vishnu bad just appeared in the house of the rajah of Cailas. He flew through the air to the place indicated, and said, "I came hither to see the new-born child." The instant he looked at him he declared that he was an avatar, and destined to introduce a new religion into the world.
To fulfil the requisitions of the law, Sakia was married at sixteen years of age. His parents bestowed upon him a maiden named Ila, whose father was one of the seven saints saved from the universal Deluge, in the miraculous ship sent by Vishnu. As soon as a son was born to him, he renounced his princely rank, and went to live as an anchorite in a wild forest, flourishing with noble trees and fragrant flowers, but infested with lions and tigers. Many stories are told of the austerities he practised there. His spiritual teacher having one day remarked that religious instructions took no root unless accompanied by mortifications and sufferings, he covered his body with thousands of matches, which he lighted; at another time, he drove thousands of sharp nails into his flesh; at another, he went into a fiery hot furnace. Having one day encountered a tiger and her young perishing with hunger, he offered himself to them for food; but the beast being too weak to eat him, he pierced his veins, that she might strengthen herself with his blood, and afterward allowed himself to be devoured by her. Once, his soul entered a fox, which was so extremely beautiful, that the king threatened his hunters with death if they did not bring him the skin of that remarkable creature. He therefore allowed himself to be caught, on condition that they would skin him alive, to save themselves from the crime of murder. They did so, and this gave him an opportunity to gratify his benevolence by feeding swarms of hungry insects, who immediately fastened on his raw flesh. It is recorded of him that he spent six years in continual silent contemplation, resisting manifold temptations sent to try him. During this time, five Holy Scriptures descended to him, he was endowed with the gift of prophecy, and could alter the course of nature whenever he chose.
His worshippers believe that the severe austerities he practised had a higher and more benevolent object than the attainment of perfect holiness and complete absorption for himself. He was a Heavenly Spirit, dwelling in regions of light and beauty, who, of his own free grace and
mercy, left Paradise, and came down to earth, because he was filled with compassion for the sins and miseries of mankind. He sought to lead them into better paths, and he took sufferings upon himself, that he might expiate their crimes, and mitigate the punishment they must inevitably undergo. Hindoos of all sects believe that every cause has a certain effect, which must follow it by inherent necessity; thus every sin must have its exact amount of suffering; what is endured in this world will be deducted from punishment in the next; and what one voluntarily endures for another will be placed to the account of him he wishes to benefit. For these reasons, Bouddha inflicted terrible penances upon himself. So great was his tenderness, that he even descended into the hells, to teach souls in bondage there, and was willing to suffer himself, to abridge their period of torment.
The renown of Bouddha's wisdom and holiness attracted many disciples, to whom he imparted his doctrines and precepts in the silent depths of the forest. There is a tradition that he taught, as a secret doctrine, to his most confidential disciples, that all things came from nothing, and would finally return to nothing. A charge of atheism has been founded on this. But some suppose the story was fabricated by his enemies the Bramins, while in reality he merely taught their own doctrine that after an immense interval of revolving ages, all things in the universe, even Brahma himself, would be absorbed in the original Source of Being; which Buddhists name The Void.
Before his departure from this world, he intrusted his disciple Mahakaya, a Bramin of Central India, with all his precepts and doctrines. At the age of seventy-nine years, Bouddha Sakia's whole nature attained to such complete absorption in the Divine Being, that he ascended to celestial regions without dying. They show marks on the rocks of a high mountain, believed to have been the last impression of his footsteps on this earth. By prayers in his name, his followers expect to receive the rewards of Paradise, and finally to become one with him, as he became one with the Source of Life.
It is said his disciples composed five thousand volumes in honour of him. The titles bestowed upon him are innumerable; such as “Son of Maia," "The Benevolent
” “Lord of the Earth,” “Dispenser of Grace," “Saviour of all Creatures,” and “Lion of the Race of Sakia.”
There is a tradition that a celebrated sage named Amara, prime minister to the king, and called "one of the nine jewels" of his court, recognized Bouddha to be an incarnation of Vishnu, and sought to propitiate him by superior service. He lived in the forest twelve years upon roots and wild fruit, and slept on the bare ground. He committed no sin, and devoted his whole soul to pious contemplation. One night, he heard a voice saying: “Ask whatever thou wilt." He replied: "Let me see thee in a vision.” The voice answered: “How can there be visions in the Cali Yug? But the same benefit may be derived from seeing and worshipping the image of a god, that might be derived from seeing and worshipping the god himself.” A vision of the image was revealed to him. He caused a likeness of it to be made, and worshipped it with perfume and incense, accompanied by the following prayer: "Reverence be unto thee, Lord of the earth! Reverence be unto thee, thou incarnation of the Eternal One, in the form of Bouddha! Reverence be unto thee, God of Mercy, who overcometh the sins of the Cali Yug! Reverence be unto thee, possessor of all things, ruler of the faculties, bestower of salvation! Thou art he who resteth upon the face of the Milky Sea, who reposeth on the serpent Seshanaga. Thou, who art celebrated by a thousand names, and under various forms, I adore thee in the shape of Bouddha! Be propitious, O Most High God !"
An inscription to that effect was found carved on the rocks in a wild and solitary part of Behar, not far from the Ganges. Its date corresponded to nine hundred and forty-nine years after our era.