Page images

the scene as a reforming Essene ascetic, calling on men to deny the flesh and the world in order to cultivate their relations with God. He entered his protest against scribes and Pharisees ; his faith led on to break down the exclusiveness of the Jewish creed, and to make a free way of acceptance before God, equally for all nations ; his followers spread widely around, and called themselves after his name; his teachings were simple, directed to the moral guidance of mankind, free of abstruse theory or dogma, and did not require to be recorded. After his death elaborations and additions were made, which led to incessant questionings and discord. Then, also at an interval of about three hundred years after the alleged death of the founder, came the intervention of the secular authority, and through the means of the council of Nicca (A.D. 325,) Constantine sought to put down what was viewed as heresy, and establish the true faith.

Primitive Buddhism was “absorbed by one thought—the vanity of finite existence, the priceless value of the one condition of Eternal Rest.” It was “a revulsion from a degraded and unsatisfying ceremonial worship to a moral conviction that life and its pleasures are insufficient to satisfy the cravings of the heart'; and that virtue is the only road to happiness.” The abandonment of worldly goods, and the vow of mendicancy, was the way enjoined to promote virtue. Meditation was considered effectual in uniting man to the Divinity (the Rev. S. Beal, A Catena of Buddhist scriptures from the Chinese, 143-146, 150). Such was also, in its essentials, primitive Christianity.

The Dhammapada, or Path of Virtue, which is a chief Buddhist authority, has the following descriptive precepts :“The man who is free from credulity, but knows the Uncreated, who has cut all ties, removed all temptations, renounced all desires, he is the greatest of men.” “Let us live happily then, not hating those who hate us! Let us dwell free from hatred among men who hate !” “Let us live happily then, though we call nothing our own! We shall be like the bright gods, feeding on happiness !” “He who calls nothing his own, whether it be before, behind, or between, who is poor, and free from the love of the world, him I call indeed a Brahmana.” Then we get an exhibition of the ultimate aims of the faith.

esires, he is the ties, removed culity, but kn

“He who knows his former abodes, who sees heaven and hell, has reached the end of births, is perfect in knowledge and a sage; he whose perfections are all-perfect, who has overcome this world, him I call indeed a Brahmana” (Max Müller, on Capt. Rogers' Translation of Buddhaghosha's Parables; Bunsen, God in History, I. 347, 353, 354).

It has been unjustly imputed to the great Hindú reformer that, whatever his merits as a teacher of godliness, he had no better aim to put before mankind, as the ultimate end of all his aspirations, than the attainment of Nirvana, understood to mean the extinction of his entity. Professor Max Müller has discoursed copiously on this theme, but has now come to see that the word Nirvana bears a very different construction. Mr Colebroke, a great Sanscritist, appears always to have held that it implies merely “profound calm” (Beal, 172). Baron Bunsen has also kept clear of the erroneous interpretation of the term. Nirvána, he says, is “the annihilation of our desires, not of our perceptions;" it is “not that which befalls the wise and righteous man after death, but that which is to be the aim of his effort for this life and in this life, viz., the absence of desire, or, in other words, inward peace” (God in History, I. 338, 348, note). Max Müller, in his later view of the subject, says that he agrees with Burnouf that Buddha did not teach extinction as the ultimate end of man. Nirvana, he observes, certainly means a blowing out or passing away, but it occurs in Brahmanic writings as synonymous with Moksha, Nirvriti, &c., meaning the highest stage of spirit-liberty and bliss, but not annihilation. Nirvana is applicable to the extinction of selfishness, desire, and sin. Moreover, Buddha was still on earth after he had seen Nirvana, and appeared to his disciples after death (Intr. to Buddhaghosha's Parables, xl., xli.).

The Khuddaka Patha, a Páli text, treats of this subject. “Nirvána,” it is said, is “sin-destroying, passionless, immortal, transcendant. There is nought like this doctrine.” “They have entered on the way of Nirvana, they have bought it without price, they enjoy perfect tranquillity, they have obtained the greatest gain.” “He who is blest with the knowledge of Nirvána, and has cast off these three sins, vanity, and doubt, and the practice of vain ceremonies, the same is delivered from the four states of punishment, and cannot commit the six deadly sins.” “Concealment of sin is declared to be evil in one who has gained a knowledge of Nirvána.” “As the tree tops bloom in grove and forest in the first hot month of summer, so did Buddha preach, for the chief good of men, his glorious doctrine that leads to Nirvana.” Then the treatise proceeds to show that the Buddhist is taught to look forward to the joys of a heavenly home when he leaves this life. “The spirits of the departed are declared to be around us.” “The hidden treasure” to be desired is “a treasure of charity, piety, temperance, soberness;" " a treasure secure, impregnable, that cannot pass away. When a man leaves the floating riches of this world, this he takes with him after death.” “A treasure unshared with others, a treasure that no thief can steal.“ All human prosperity, every pleasure in celestial abodes, the full attainment of Nirvana, all these this treasure can procure.” “This is what should be done by him who is wise in seeking his own good, who has gained a knowledge of the tranquil lot of Nirvana. Let him be diligent, upright, and conscientious, meek, gentle, not vain-glorious.” Then follow a number of ethical rules to make a man harmless and benevolent in this life (R. C. Childers, in Jour. of As. Soc., New Series, IV. 315-325).

Professor Max Müller observes that it is clear that extinction is not taught in the Dhammapada. Buddha is therein described as calling reflection the path to immortality. Nirvana is termed “ the highest happiness," and is contrasted with destruction. “Some people,” says Buddha, “are born again (on earth); evil-doers go to hell; righteous people go to heaven ; those who are free from all worldly desires enter Nirvana. Buddha speaks of the uncreated and eternal, synonymously with Nirvana. “When you have understood the destruction of all that was made, you will understand that which was not made," by which, the Professor points out, “Buddha spoke of what is imperishable and eternal” (Intro. to Buddhaghosha's Parables, xli. xliv.).

Buddhism, it is apparent, has nothing to learn from Christianity in the cultivation of those thoughts which lead men out of themselves to God. It regulates with the utmost care the course they should take to keep out of evil in this life, and presents them with the highest hopes in the futurity. Prof.

Max Müller cites in Bishop Bigandet, the Vicar Apostolic of Ava and Pegu, an unwilling witness to the strong similarity of the Buddhist precepts to those of the Christian scriptures. “The Christian system,” the Bishop observes, in his Life of Buddha, “and the Buddhistic one, though differing from each other in their respective objects and ends as much as truth from error, have, it must be confessed, many striking features of an astonishing resemblance. There are many moral precepts equally commanded and enforced in common by both creeds. It will not be considered rash to assert that most of the moral truths prescribed by the gospel are to be met with in the Buddbistic scriptures(Intro. to Buddhaghosha's Parables, xxv.).

In the passages quoted by me from Buddhist texts have occurred various sentiments which the Christian student will recognize as embellishing his scriptures. These I have distinguished in their places by italics, and will now repeat. “Not hating those that hate us ;” “ though we call nothing our own ;” being “poor and free from the love of the world;" able to “overcome this world ;" “ bought without price ;" having “a treasure secure, impregnable, that cannot pass away,” and which “no thief can steal ;" one who is “born again.” “Evil-doers,” it is said, "go to hell; righteous people go to heaven," so that the conditions for the just and unjust, apparent in the Christian scheme, were equally before in the Bhuddist. “Between the language of Buddha and his disciples,” observes Max Müller, "and the language of Christ and his apostles, there are strange coincidences. Even some of the Buddhist legends and parables sound as if taken from the New Testament, though we know that many of them existed before the beginning of the Christian era. Thus, one day Ananda, the disciple of Buddha, after a long walk in the country, meets with Mátangé, a woman of the low caste of Kándálas, near a well, and asks her for some water. She tells him what she is, and that she must not come near him. But he replies, “My sister, I ask not for thy caste or family, I ask only for a draught of water.” She afterwards becomes herself a disciple of Buddha” (Science of Rel., 243, citing Burnouf). Buddha, it was said, performed miracles, and spoke in parables (Beal, 135, 136). In the sculptures of the cave temples of Ajunta, he is seen “healing the sick and giving sight to the

blind" (Prof. Wilson in Jour. of As. Soc., XIII., 209). But, in singular parallelism with what is stated of Christ and his alleged miracles, while these performances are ascribed to him, he is said, when “ challenged by the multitudes, who required a sign that they might believe,” to have interdicted the exhibition ; that is, he must have refused to give the sign (Max Müller, Science of Rel., 27).

“It may be said,” remarks Bishop Bigandet,“ in favour of Buddhism, that no philosophico-religious system has ever upheld, to an equal degree, the notions of a Saviour and deliverer, and the necessity of his mission for procuring the salvation, in a Buddhist sense, of man, The role of Buddha, from beginning to end, is that of a deliverer, who preaches a law designed to procure to men the deliverance from all the miseries he is labouring under” (Max Müller, Intro. to Buddhaghosha's Parables, xxv., xxvi.). He laid open a.“ way of salvation ” to all men, and called himself comforter and saviour, and his writings are designated “Holy Scriptures”. (Rowland Williams, Christianity and Hinduism, 27-35).

The personal history of Buddha resembles that of Christ so closely as to leave room for no other conclusion than that the incidents of the one life have been used to illustrate the other. Buddha's career long preceded that ascribed to Jesus, and the recognized history of his life, entitled the Lalita Vistara, is considered to have seen the light about B.C. 150. The particulars have been often recounted. The great reformer was called Sakya Muni, denoting, as it is thought, that he was a Scythian by extraction. The Scythians invaded Western Asia about B.C. 625, which corresponds with the era alleged for the birth of Buddha. The Buddhist topes or stúpas are considered to be Scythian in character, and the reformer's instructions for the disposal of his remains after death are said to have been in conformity with the Scythian rites. This origin may account for his independence of Brahmanism, and for the zeal and spirit with which his reforms were instituted. It was the invasion of the established faith from a fresh and foreign source as when Greek Gentilism in Christianity overthrew Hebrew Judaism. Buddha, like Christ, had a pre-existence in heaven before he condescended to be born on earth. “By the constraining power of his great love ” he made this advent for the

« PreviousContinue »