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Title: Hinduism and Buddhism, An Historical Sketch, Vol. 1
Author: Eliot, Charles, Sir, 1862-1931
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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In three volumes VOLUME I

ROUTLEDGE & KEGAN PAUL LTD Broadway House, 68-74 Carter Lane, London,

_First published_ 1921 _Reprinted_ 1954 _Reprinted_ 1957 _Reprinted_




The present work was begun in 1907 and was practically complete when the
war broke out, but many circumstances such as the difficulty of
returning home, unavoidable delays in printing and correcting proofs,
and political duties have deferred its publication until now. In the
interval many important books dealing with Hinduism and Buddhism have
appeared, but having been resident in the Far East (with one brief
exception) since 1912 I have found it exceedingly difficult to keep in
touch with recent literature. Much of it has reached me only in the last
few months and I have often been compelled to notice new facts and views
in footnotes only, though I should have wished to modify the text.

Besides living for some time in the Far East, I have paid many visits to
India, some of which were of considerable length, and have travelled in
all the countries of which I treat except Tibet. I have however seen
something of Lamaism near Darjeeling, in northern China and in Mongolia.
But though I have in several places described the beliefs and practices
prevalent at the present day, my object is to trace the history and
development of religion in India and elsewhere with occasional remarks
on its latest phases. I have not attempted to give a general account of
contemporary religious thought in India or China and still less to
forecast the possible result of present tendencies.

In the following pages I have occasion to transcribe words belonging to
many oriental languages in Latin characters. Unfortunately a uniform
system of transcription, applicable to all tongues, seems not to be
practical at present. It was attempted in the _Sacred Books of the
East_, but that system has fallen into disuse and is liable to be
misunderstood. It therefore seems best to use for each language the
method of transcription adopted by standard works in English dealing
with each, for French and German transcriptions, whatever their merits
may be as representations of the original sounds, are often misleading
to English readers, especially in Chinese. For Chinese I have adopted
Wade's system as used in Giles's _Dictionary_, for Tibetan the system of
Sarat Chandra Das, for Pali that of the Pali Text Society and for
Sanskrit that of Monier-Williams's _Sanskrit Dictionary,_ except that I
write ś instead of s. Indian languages however offer many difficulties:
it is often hard to decide whether Sanskrit or vernacular forms are more
suitable and in dealing with Buddhist subjects whether Sanskrit or Pali
words should be used. I have found it convenient to vary the form of
proper names according as my remarks are based on Sanskrit or on Pali
literature, but this obliges me to write the same word differently in
different places, e.g. sometimes Ajâtaśatru and sometimes Ajâtasattu,
just as in a book dealing with Greek and Latin mythology one might
employ both Herakles and Hercules. Also many Indian names such as
Ramayana, Krishna, nirvana have become Europeanized or at least are
familiar to all Europeans interested in Indian literature. It seems
pedantic to write them with their full and accurate complement of
accents and dots and my general practice is to give such words in their
accurate spelling (Râmâyana, etc.) when they are first mentioned and
also in the notes but usually to print them in their simpler and
unaccented forms. I fear however that my practice in this matter is not
entirely consistent since different parts of the book were written at
different times.

My best thanks are due to Mr R.F. Johnston (author of _Chinese
Buddhism_), to Professor W.J. Hinton of the University of Hong Kong and
to Mr H.I. Harding of H.M. Legation at Peking for reading the proofs and
correcting many errors: to Sir E. Denison Ross and Professor L. Finot
for valuable information: and especially to Professor and Mrs Rhys
Davids for much advice, though they are in no way responsible for the
views which I have expressed and perhaps do not agree with them. It is
superfluous for me to pay a tribute to these eminent scholars whose
works are well known to all who are interested in Indian religion, but
no one who has studied the early history of Buddhism or the Pali
language can refrain from acknowledging a debt of gratitude to those who
have made such researches possible by founding and maintaining during
nearly forty years the Pali Text Society and rendering many of the texts
still more accessible to Europe by their explanations and translations.



_May_, 1921.


The following are the principal abbreviations used:

Ep. Ind. Epigraphia India.

E.R.E. Encyclopedia of Religion and Ethics (edited by Hastings).

I.A. Indian Antiquary.

J.A. Journal Asiatique.

J.A.O.S. Journal of the American Oriental Society.

J.R.A.S. Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society.

P.T.S. Pali Text Society.

S.B.E. Sacred Books of the East (Clarendon Press).







4. ASOKA xxii








12. " " " " lviii

13. " " " " lxii

































1. _Influence of Indian Thought in Eastern Asia_

Probably the first thought which will occur to the reader who is
acquainted with the matters treated in this work will be that the
subject is too large. A history of Hinduism or Buddhism or even of both
within the frontiers of India may be a profitable though arduous task,
but to attempt a historical sketch of the two faiths in their whole
duration and extension over Eastern Asia is to choose a scene unsuited
to any canvas which can be prepared at the present day. Not only is the
breadth of the landscape enormous but in some places it is crowded with
details which cannot be omitted while in others the principal features
are hidden by a mist which obscures the unity and connection of the
whole composition. No one can feel these difficulties more than I do
myself or approach his work with more diffidence, yet I venture to think
that wide surveys may sometimes be useful and are needed in the present
state of oriental studies. For the reality of Indian influence in
Asia—from Japan to the frontiers of Persia, from Manchuria to Java, from
Burma to Mongolia—is undoubted and the influence is one. You cannot
separate Hinduism from Buddhism, for without it Hinduism could not have
assumed its medieval shape and some forms of Buddhism, such as Lamaism,
countenance Brahmanic deities and ceremonies, while in Java and Camboja
the two religions were avowedly combined and declared to be the same.
Neither is it convenient to separate the fortunes of Buddhism and
Hinduism outside India from their history within it, for although the
importance of Buddhism depends largely on its foreign conquests, the
forms which it assumed in its new territories can be understood only by
reference to the religious condition of India at the periods when
successive missions were despatched.

This book then is an attempt to give a sketch of Indian thought or
Indian religion—for the two terms are nearly equivalent in extent—and of
its history and influence in Asia. I will not say in the world, for that
sounds too ambitious and really adds little to the more restricted
phrase. For ideas, like empires and races, have their natural frontiers.
Thus Europe may be said to be non-Mohammedan. Although the essential
principles of Mohammedanism seem in harmony with European monotheism,
yet it has been deliberately rejected by the continent and often
repelled by force. Similarly in the regions west of India[1], Indian
religion is sporadic and exotic. I do not think that it had much
influence on ancient Egypt, Babylon and Palestine or that it should be
counted among the forces which shaped the character and teaching of
Christ, though Christian monasticism and mysticism perhaps owed
something to it. The debt of Manichaeism and various Gnostic sects is
more certain and more considerable, but these communities have not
endured and were regarded as heretical while they lasted. Among the
Neoplatonists of Alexandria and the Sufis of Arabia and Persia many seem
to have listened to the voice of Hindu mysticism but rather as
individuals than as leaders of popular movements.

But in Eastern Asia the influence of India has been notable in extent,
strength and duration. Scant justice is done to her position in the
world by those histories which recount the exploits of her invaders and
leave the impression that her own people were a feeble, dreamy folk,
sundered from the rest of mankind by their sea and mountain frontiers.
Such a picture takes no account of the intellectual conquests of the
Hindus. Even their political conquests were not contemptible and were
remarkable for the distance if not for the extent of the territory
occupied. For there were Hindu kingdoms in Java and Camboja and
settlements in Sumatra[2] and even in Borneo, an island about as far
from India as is Persia from Rome. But such military or commercial
invasions are insignificant compared with the spread of Indian thought.
The south-eastern region of Asia—both mainland and archipelago—owed its
civilization almost entirely to India. In Ceylon, Burma, Siam, Camboja,
Champa and Java, religion, art, the alphabet, literature, as well as
whatever science and political organization existed, were the direct
gift of Hindus, whether Brahmans or Buddhists, and much the same may be
said of Tibet, whence the wilder Mongols took as much Indian
civilization as they could stomach. In Java and other Malay countries
this Indian culture has been superseded by Islam, yet even in Java the
alphabet and to a large extent the customs of the people are still

In the countries mentioned Indian influence has been dominant until the
present day, or at least until the advent of Islam. In another large
area comprising China, Japan, Korea, and Annam it appears as a layer
superimposed on Chinese culture, yet not a mere veneer. In these regions
Chinese ethics, literature and art form the major part of intellectual
life and have an outward and visible sign in the Chinese written
characters which have not been ousted by an Indian alphabet[3]. But in
all, especially in Japan, the influence of Buddhism has been profound
and penetrating. None of these lands can be justly described as Buddhist
in the same sense as Burma or Siam but Buddhism gave them a creed
acceptable in different forms to superstitious, emotional and
metaphysical minds: it provided subjects and models for art, especially
for painting, and entered into popular life, thought and language.

But what are Hinduism and Buddhism? What do they teach about gods and
men and the destinies of the soul? What ideals do they hold up and is
their teaching of value or at least of interest for Europe? I will not
at once answer these questions by general statements, because such names
as Hinduism and Buddhism have different meanings in different countries
and ages, but will rather begin by briefly reviewing the development of
the two religions. I hope that the reader will forgive me if in doing so
I repeat much that is to be found in the body of this work.

One general observation about India may be made at the outset. Here more
than in any other country the national mind finds its favourite
occupation and full expression in religion. This quality is geographical
rather than racial, for it is possessed by Dravidians as much as by
Aryans. From the Raja to the peasant most Hindus have an interest in
theology and often a passion for it. Few works of art or literature are
purely secular: the intellectual and aesthetic efforts of India, long,
continuous and distinguished as they are, are monotonous inasmuch as
they are almost all the expression of some religious phase. But the
religion itself is extraordinarily full and varied. The love of
discussion and speculation creates considerable variety in practice and
almost unlimited variety in creed and theory. There are few dogmas known
to the theologies of the world which are not held by some of India's
multitudinous sects[4] and it is perhaps impossible to make a single
general statement about Hinduism, to which some sects would not prove an
exception. Any such statements in this book must be understood as
referring merely to the great majority of Hindus.

As a form of life and thought Hinduism is definite and unmistakeable. In
whatever shape it presents itself it can be recognized at once. But it
is so vast and multitudinous that only an encyclopedia could describe it
and no formula can summarize it. Essayists flounder among conflicting
propositions such as that sectarianism is the essence of Hinduism or
that no educated Hindu belongs to a sect. Either can easily be proved,
for it may be said of Hinduism, as it has been said of zoology, that you
can prove anything if you merely collect facts which support your theory
and not those which conflict with it. Hence many distinguished writers
err by overestimating the phase which specially interests them. For one
the religious life of India is fundamentally monotheistic and Vishnuite:
for another philosophic Sivaism is its crown and quintessence: a third
maintains with equal truth that all forms of Hinduism are tantric. All
these views are tenable because though Hindu life may be cut up into
castes and sects, Hindu creeds are not mutually exclusive and repellent.
They attract and colour one another.

2. _Origin and Growth of Hinduism_

The earliest product of Indian literature, the Rig Veda, contains the
songs of the Aryan invaders who were beginning to make a home in India.
Though no longer nomads, they had little local sentiment. No cities had
arisen comparable with Babylon or Thebes and we hear little of ancient
kingdoms or dynasties. Many of the gods who occupied so much of their
thoughts were personifications of natural forces such as the sun, wind
and fire, worshipped without temples or images and hence more indefinite
in form, habitation and attributes than the deities of Assyria or Egypt.
The idea of a struggle between good and evil was not prominent. In
Persia, where the original pantheon was almost the same as that of the
Veda, this idea produced monotheism: the minor deities became angels and
the chief deity a Lord of hosts who wages a successful struggle against
an independent but still inferior spirit of evil. But in India the
Spirits of Good and Evil are not thus personified. The world is regarded
less as a battlefield of principles than as a theatre for the display of
natural forces. No one god assumes lordship over the others but all are
seen to be interchangeable—mere names and aspects of something which is
greater than any god.

Indian religion is commonly regarded as the offspring of an Aryan
religion, brought into India by invaders from the north and modified by
contact with Dravidian civilization. The materials at our disposal
hardly permit us to take any other point of view, for the literature of
the Vedic Aryans is relatively ancient and full and we have no
information about the old Dravidians comparable with it. But were our
knowledge less one-sided, we might see that it would be more correct to
describe Indian religion as Dravidian religion stimulated and modified
by the ideas of Aryan invaders. For the greatest deities of Hinduism,
Siva, Krishna, Râma, Durgâ and some of its most essential doctrines such
as metempsychosis and divine incarnations, are either totally unknown to
the Veda or obscurely adumbrated in it. The chief characteristics of
mature Indian religion are characteristics of an area, not of a race,
and they are not the characteristics of religion in Persia, Greece or
other Aryan lands[5].

Some writers explain Indian religion as the worship of nature spirits,
others as the veneration of the dead. But it is a mistake to see in the
religion of any large area only one origin or impulse. The principles
which in a learned form are championed to-day by various professors
represent thoughts which were creative in early times. In ancient India
there were some whose minds turned to their ancestors and dead friends
while others saw divinity in the wonders of storm, spring and harvest.
Krishna is in the main a product of hero worship, but Śiva has no such
historical basis. He personifies the powers of birth and death, of
change, decay and rebirth—in fact all that we include in the prosaic
word nature. Assuredly both these lines of thought—the worship of nature
and of the dead—and perhaps many others existed in ancient India.

By the time of the Upanishads, that is about 600 B.C., we trace three
clear currents in Indian religion which have persisted until the present
day. The first is ritual. This became extraordinarily complicated but
retained its primitive and magical character. The object of an ancient
Indian sacrifice was partly to please the gods but still more to coerce
them by certain acts and formulae[6]. Secondly all Hindus lay stress on
asceticism and self-mortification, as a means of purifying the soul and
obtaining supernatural powers. They have a conviction that every man who
is in earnest about religion and even every student of philosophy must
follow a discipline at least to the extent of observing chastity and
eating only to support life. Severer austerities give clearer insight
into divine mysteries and control over the forces of nature. Europeans
are apt to condemn eastern asceticism as a waste of life but it has had
an important moral effect. The weakness of Hinduism, though not of
Buddhism, is that ethics have so small a place in its fundamental
conceptions. Its deities are not identified with the moral law and the
saint is above that law. But this dangerous doctrine is corrected by the
dogma, which is also a popular conviction, that a saint must be a
passionless ascetic. In India no religious teacher can expect a hearing
unless he begins by renouncing the world.

Thirdly, the deepest conviction of Hindus in all ages is that salvation
and happiness are attainable by knowledge. The corresponding phrases in
Sanskrit are perhaps less purely intellectual than our word and contain
some idea of effort and emotion. He who knows God attains to God, nay he
is God. Rites and self-denial are but necessary preliminaries to such
knowledge: he who possesses it stands above them. It is inconceivable to
the Hindus that he should care for the things of the world but he cares
equally little for creeds and ceremonies. Hence, side by side with
irksome codes, complicated ritual and elaborate theology, we find the
conviction that all these things are but vanity and weariness, fetters
to be shaken off by the free in spirit. Nor do those who hold such views
correspond to the anti-clerical and radical parties of Europe. The
ascetic sitting in the temple court often holds that the rites performed
around him are spiritually useless and the gods of the shrine mere
fanciful presentments of that which cannot be depicted or described.

Rather later, but still before the Christian era, another idea makes
itself prominent in Indian religion, namely faith or devotion to a
particular deity. This idea, which needs no explanation, is pushed on
the one hand to every extreme of theory and practice: on the other it
rarely abolishes altogether the belief in ritualism, asceticism and

Any attempt to describe Hinduism as one whole leads to startling
contrasts. The same religion enjoins self-mortification and orgies:
commands human sacrifices and yet counts it a sin to eat meat or crush
an insect: has more priests, rites and images than ancient Egypt or
medieval Rome and yet out does Quakers in rejecting all externals. These
singular features are connected with the ascendancy of the Brahman
caste. The Brahmans are an interesting social phenomenon without exact
parallel elsewhere. They are not, like the Catholic or Moslem clergy, a
priesthood pledged to support certain doctrines but an intellectual,
hereditary aristocracy who claim to direct the thought of India whatever
forms it may take. All who admit this claim and accord a nominal
recognition to the authority of the Veda are within the spacious fold or
menagerie. Neither the devil-worshipping aboriginee nor the atheistic
philosopher is excommunicated, though neither may be relished by average

Though Hinduism has no one creed, yet there are at least two doctrines
held by nearly all who call themselves Hindus. One may be described as
polytheistic pantheism. Most Hindus are apparently polytheists, that is
to say they venerate the images of several deities or spirits, yet most
are monotheists in the sense that they address their worship to one god.
But this monotheism has almost always a pantheistic tinge. The Hindu
does not say the gods of the heathen are but idols, but it is the Lord
who made the heavens: he says, My Lord (Râma, Krishna or whoever it may
be) is all the other gods. Some schools would prefer to say that no
human language applied to the Godhead can be correct and that all ideas
of a personal ruler of the world are at best but relative truths. This
ultimate ineffable Godhead is called Brahman[7].

The second doctrine is commonly known as metempsychosis, the
transmigration of souls or reincarnation, the last name being the most
correct. In detail the doctrine assumes various forms since different
views are held about the relation of soul to body. But the essence of
all is the same, namely that a life does not begin at birth or end at
death but is a link in an infinite series of lives, each of which is
conditioned and determined by the acts done in previous existences
(karma). Animal, human and divine (or at least angelic) existences may
all be links in the chain. A man's deeds, if good, may exalt him to the
heavens, if evil may degrade him to life as a beast. Since all lives,
even in heaven, must come to an end, happiness is not to be sought in
heaven or on earth. The common aspiration of the religious Indian is for
deliverance, that is release from the round of births and repose in some
changeless state called by such names as union with Brahman, nirvana and
many others.

3. _The Buddha_

As observed above, the Brahmans claim to direct the religious life and
thought of India and apart from Mohammedanism may be said to have
achieved their ambition, though at the price of tolerating much that the
majority would wish to suppress. But in earlier ages their influence was
less extensive and there were other currents of religious activity, some
hostile and some simply independent. The most formidable of these found
expression in Jainism and Buddhism both of which arose in Bihar in the
sixth century[8] B.C. This century was a time of intellectual ferment in
many countries. In China it produced Lao-tz[u] and Confucius: in Greece,
Parmenides, Empedocles, and the sophists were only a little later. In
all these regions we have the same phenomenon of restless, wandering
teachers, ready to give advice on politics, religion or philosophy, to
any one who would hear them.

At that time the influence of the Brahmans had hardly permeated Bihar,
though predominant to the west of it, and speculation there followed
lines different from those laid down in the Upanishads, but of some
antiquity, for we know that there were Buddhas before Gotama and that
Mahâvîra, the founder of Jainism, reformed the doctrine of an older
teacher called Parśva.

In Gotama's youth Bihar was full of wandering philosophers who appear to
have been atheistic and disposed to uphold the boldest paradoxes,
intellectual and moral. There must however have been constructive
elements in their doctrine, for they believed in reincarnation and the
periodic appearance of superhuman teachers and in the advantage of
following an ascetic discipline. They probably belonged chiefly to the
warrior caste as did Gotama, the Buddha known to history. The Pitakas
represent him as differing in details from contemporary teachers but as
rediscovering the truth taught by his predecessors. They imply that the
world is so constituted that there is only one way to emancipation and
that from time to time superior minds see this and announce it to
others. Still Buddhism does not in practice use such formulae as living
in harmony with the laws of nature.

Indian literature is notoriously concerned with ideas rather than facts
but the vigorous personality of the Buddha has impressed on it a
portrait more distinct than that left by any other teacher or king. His
work had a double effect. Firstly it influenced all departments of Hindu
religion and thought, even those nominally opposed to it. Secondly it
spread not only Buddhism in the strict sense but Indian art and
literature beyond the confines of India. The expansion of Hindu culture
owes much to the doctrine that the Good Law should be preached to all

The teaching of Gotama was essentially practical. This statement may
seem paradoxical to the reader who has some acquaintance with the
Buddhist scriptures and he will exclaim that of all religious books they
are the least practical and least popular: they set up an anti-social
ideal and are mainly occupied with psychological theories. But the
Buddha addressed a public such as we now find it hard even to imagine.
In those days the intellectual classes of India felt the ordinary
activities of life to be unsatisfying: they thought it natural to
renounce the world and mortify the flesh: divergent systems of ritual,
theology and self-denial promised happiness but all agreed in thinking
it normal as well as laudable that a man should devote his life to
meditation and study. Compared with this frame of mind the teaching of
the Buddha is not unsocial, unpractical and mysterious but human,
business-like and clear. We are inclined to see in the monastic life
which he recommended little but a useless sacrifice but it is evident
that in the opinion of his contemporaries his disciples had an easy
time, and that he had no intention of prescribing any cramped or
unnatural existence. He accepted the current conviction that those who
devote themselves to the things of the mind and spirit should be
released from worldly ties and abstain from luxury but he meant his
monks to live a life of sustained intellectual activity for themselves
and of benevolence for others. His teaching is formulated in severe and
technical phraseology, yet the substance of it is so simple that many
have criticized it as too obvious and jejune to be the basis of a
religion. But when he first enunciated his theses some two thousand five
hundred years ago, they were not obvious but revolutionary and little
less than paradoxical.

The principal of these propositions are as follows. The existence of
everything depends on a cause: hence if the cause of evil or suffering
can be detected and removed, evil itself will be removed. That cause is
lust and craving for pleasure[9]. Hence all sacrificial and sacramental
religions are irrelevant, for the cure which they propose has nothing to
do with the disease. The cause of evil or suffering is removed by
purifying the heart and by following the moral law which sets high value
on sympathy and social duties, but an equally high value on the
cultivation of individual character. But training and cultivation imply
the possibility of change. Hence it is a fatal mistake in the religious
life to hold a view common in India which regards the essence of man as
something unchangeable and happy in itself, if it can only be isolated
from physical trammels. On the contrary the happy mind is something to
be built up by good thoughts, good words and good deeds. In its origin
the Buddha's celebrated doctrine that there is no permanent self in
persons or things is not a speculative proposition, nor a sentimental
lament over the transitoriness of the world, but a basis for religion
and morals. You will never be happy unless you realize that you can make
and remake your own soul.

These simple principles and the absence of all dogmas as to God or
Brahman distinguish the teaching of Gotama from most Indian systems, but
he accepted the usual Indian beliefs about Karma and rebirth and with
them the usual conclusion that release from the series of rebirths is
the _summum bonum_. This deliverance he called saintship (_arahattam_)
or nirvana of which I shall say something below. In early Buddhism it is
primarily a state of happiness to be attained in this life and the
Buddha persistently refused to explain what is the nature of a saint
after death. The question is unprofitable and perhaps he would have
said, had he spoken our language, unmeaning. Later generations did not
hesitate to discuss the problem but the Buddha's own teaching is simply
that a man can attain before death to a blessed state in which he has
nothing to fear from either death or rebirth.

The Buddha attacked both the ritual and the philosophy of the Brahmans.
After his time the sacrificial system, though it did not die, never
regained its old prestige and he profoundly affected the history of
Indian metaphysics. It may be justly said that most of his philosophic
as distinguished from his practical teaching was common property before
his time, but he transmuted common ideas and gave them a currency and
significance which they did not possess before. But he was less
destructive as a religious and social reformer than many have supposed.
He did not deny the existence nor forbid the worship of the popular
gods, but such worship is not Buddhism and the gods are merely angels
who may be willing to help good Buddhists but are in no wise guides to
religion, since they need instruction themselves. And though he denied
that the Brahmans were superior by birth to others, he did not preach
against caste, partly because it then existed only in a rudimentary
form. But he taught that the road to salvation was one and open to all
who were able to walk in it[10], whether Hindus or foreigners. All may
not have the necessary qualifications of intellect and character to
become monks but all can be good laymen, for whom the religious life
means the observance of morality combined with such simple exercises as
reading the scriptures. It is clear that this lay Buddhism had much to
do with the spread of the faith. The elemental simplicity of its
principles—namely that religion is open to all and identical with
morality—made a clean sweep of Brahmanic theology and sacrifices and put
in its place something like Confucianism. But the innate Indian love for
philosophizing and ritual caused generation after generation to add more
and more supplements to the Master's teaching and it is only outside
India that it has been preserved in any purity.

4. _Asoka_

Gotama spent his life in preaching and by his personal exertions spread
his doctrines over Bihar and Oudh but for two centuries after his death
we know little of the history of Buddhism. In the reign of Asoka
(273-232 B.C.) its fortunes suddenly changed, for this great Emperor
whose dominions comprised nearly all India made it the state religion
and also engraved on rocks and pillars a long series of edicts recording
his opinions and aspirations. Buddhism is often criticized as a gloomy
and unpractical creed, suited at best to stoical and scholarly recluses.
But these are certainly not its characteristics when it first appears in
political history, just as they are not its characteristics in Burma or
Japan to-day. Both by precept and example Asoka was an ardent exponent
of the strenuous life. In his first edict he lays down the principle
"Let small and great exert themselves" and in subsequent inscriptions he
continually harps upon the necessity of energy and exertion. The Law or
Religion (Dhamma) which his edicts enjoin is merely human and civic
virtue, except that it makes respect for animal life an integral part of
morality. In one passage he summarizes it as "Little impiety, many good
deeds, compassion, liberality, truthfulness and purity." He makes no
reference to a supreme deity, but insists on the reality and importance
of the future life. Though he does not use the word _Karma_ this is
clearly the conception which dominates his philosophy: those who do good
are happy in this world and the next but those who fail in their duty
win neither heaven nor the royal favour. The king's creed is remarkable
in India for its great simplicity. He deprecates superstitious
ceremonies and says nothing of Nirvana but dwells on morality as
necessary to happiness in this life and others. This is not the whole of
Gotama's teaching but two centuries after his death a powerful and
enlightened Buddhist gives it as the gist of Buddhism for laymen.

Asoka wished to make Buddhism the creed not only of India but of the
world as known to him and he boasts that he extended his "conquests of
religion" to the Hellenistic kingdoms of the west. If the missions which
he despatched thither reached their destination, there is little
evidence that they bore any fruit, but the conversion of Ceylon and some
districts in the Himalayas seems directly due to his initiative.

5. _Extension of Buddhism and Hinduism beyond India_

This is perhaps a convenient place to review the extension of Buddhism
and Hinduism outside India. To do so at this point implies of course an
anticipation of chronology, but to delay the survey might blind the
reader to the fact that from the time of Asoka onward India was engaged
not only in creating but also in exporting new varieties of religious

The countries which have received Indian culture fall into two classes:
first those to which it came as a result of religious missions or of
peaceful international intercourse, and second those where it was
established after conquest or at least colonization. In the first class
the religion introduced was Buddhism. If, as in Tibet, it seems to us
mixed with Hinduism, yet it was a mixture which at the date of its
introduction passed in India for Buddhism. But in the second and smaller
class including Java, Camboja and Champa the immigrants brought with
them both Hinduism and Buddhism. The two systems were often declared to
be the same but the result was Hinduism mixed with some Buddhism, not
_vice versâ_.

The countries of the first class comprise Ceylon, Burma and Siam,
Central Asia, Nepal, China with Annam, Korea and Japan, Tibet with
Mongolia. The Buddhism of the first three countries[11] is a real unity
or in European language a church, for though they have no common
hierarchy they use the same sacred language, Pali, and have the same
canon. Burma and Siam have repeatedly recognized Ceylon as a sort of
metropolitan see and on the other hand when religion in Ceylon fell on
evil days the clergy were recruited from Burma and Siam. In the other
countries Buddhism presents greater differences and divisions. It had no
one sacred language and in different regions used either Sanskrit texts
or translations into Chinese, Tibetan, Mongolian and the languages of
Central Asia.

1. Ceylon. There is no reason to doubt that Buddhism was introduced
under the auspices of Asoka. Though the invasions and settlements of
Tamils have brought Hinduism into Ceylon, yet none of the later and
mixed forms of Buddhism, in spite of some attempts to gain a footing,
ever flourished there on a large scale. Sinhalese Buddhism had probably
a closer connection with southern India than the legend suggests and
Conjevaram was long a Buddhist centre which kept up intercourse with
both Ceylon and Burma.

2. Burma. The early history of Burmese Buddhism is obscure and its
origin probably complex, since at many different periods it may have
received teachers from both India and China. The present dominant type
(identical with the Buddhism of Ceylon) existed before the sixth
century[12] and tradition ascribes its introduction both to the labours
of Buddhaghosa and to the missionaries of Asoka. There was probably a
connection between Pegu and Conjevaram. In the eleventh century Burmese
Buddhism had become extremely corrupt except in Pegu but King Anawrata
conquered Pegu and spread a purer form throughout his dominions.

3. Siam. The Thai race, who starting from somewhere in the Chinese
province of Yünnan began to settle in what is now called Siam about the
beginning of the twelfth century, probably brought with them some form
of Buddhism. About 1300 the possessions of Râma Komhëng, King of Siam,
included Pegu and Pali Buddhism prevailed among his subjects. Somewhat
later, in 1361, a high ecclesiastic was summoned from Ceylon to arrange
the affairs of the church but not, it would seem, to introduce any new
doctrine. Pegu was the centre from which Pali Buddhism spread to upper
Burma in the eleventh century and it probably performed the same service
for Siam later. The modern Buddhism of Camboja is simply Siamese
Buddhism which filtered into the country from about 1250 onwards. The
older Buddhism of Camboja, for which see below, was quite different.

At the courts of Siam and Camboja, as formerly in Burma, there are
Brahmans who perform state ceremonies and act as astrologers. Though
they have little to do with the religion of the people, their presence
explains the predominance of Indian rather than Chinese influence in
these countries.

4. Tradition says that Indian colonists settled in Khotan during the
reign of Asoka, but no precise date can at present be fixed for the
introduction of Buddhism into the Tarim basin and other regions commonly
called Central Asia. But it must have been flourishing there about the
time of the Christian era, since it spread thence to China not later
than the middle of the first century. There were two schools
representing two distinct currents from India. First the Sarvâstivâdin
school, prevalent in Badakshan, Kashgar and Kucha, secondly the Mahâyâna
in Khotan and Yarkand. The spread of the former was no doubt connected
with the growth of the Kushan Empire but may be anterior to the
conversion of Kanishka, for though he gave a great impetus to the
propagation of the faith, it is probable that, like most royal converts,
he favoured an already popular religion. The Mahâyâna subsequently won
much territory from the other school.

5. As in other countries, so in China Buddhism entered by more than one
road. It came first by land from Central Asia. The official date for its
introduction by this route is 62 A.D. but it was probably known within
the Chinese frontier before that time, though not recognized by the
state. Secondly when Buddhism was established, there arose a desire for
accurate knowledge of the true Indian doctrine. Chinese pilgrims went to
India and Indian teachers came to China. After the fourth century many
of these religious journeys were made by sea and it was thus that
Bodhidharma landed at Canton in 520[13]. A third stream of Buddhism,
namely Lamaism, came into China from Tibet under the Mongol dynasty
(1280). Khubilai considered this the best religion for his Mongols and
numerous Lamaist temples and convents were established and still exist
in northern China. Lamaism has not perhaps been a great religious or
intellectual force there, but its political importance was considerable,
for the Ming and Manchu dynasties who wished to assert their rule over
the Tibetans and Mongols by peaceful methods, consistently strove to win
the goodwill of the Lamaist clergy.

The Buddhism of Korea, Japan and Annam is directly derived from the
earlier forms of Chinese Buddhism but was not affected by the later
influx of Lamaism. Buddhism passed from China into Korea in the fourth
century and thence to Japan in the sixth. In the latter country it was
stimulated by frequent contact with China and the repeated introduction
of new Chinese sects but was not appreciably influenced by direct
intercourse with Hindus or other foreign Buddhists. In the twelfth and
thirteenth centuries Japanese Buddhism showed great vitality,
transforming old sects and creating new ones.

In the south, Chinese Buddhism spread into Annam rather late: according
to native tradition in the tenth century. This region was a battlefield
of two cultures. Chinese influence descending southwards from Canton
proved predominant and, after the triumph of Annam over Champa, extended
to the borders of Camboja. But so long as the kingdom of Champa existed,
Indian culture and Hinduism maintained themselves at least as far north
as Hué.

6. The Buddhism of Tibet is a late and startling transformation of
Gotama's teaching, but the transformation is due rather to the change
and degeneration of that teaching in Bengal than to the admixture of
Tibetan ideas. Such admixture however was not absent and a series of
reformers endeavoured to bring the church back to what they considered
the true standard. The first introduction is said to have occurred in
630 but probably the arrival of Padma Sambhava from India in 747 marks
the real foundation of the Lamaist church. It was reformed by the Hindu
Atîśa in 1038 and again by the Tibetan Tsong-kha-pa about 1400.

The Grand Lama is the head of the church as reorganized by Tsong-kha-pa.
In Tibet the priesthood attained to temporal power comparable with the
Papacy. The disintegration of the government divided the whole land into
small principalities and among these the great monasteries were as
important as any temporal lord. The abbots of the Sakya monastery were
the practical rulers of Tibet for seventy years (1270-1340). Another
period of disintegration followed but after 1630 the Grand Lamas of
Lhasa were able to claim and maintain a similar position.

Mongolian Buddhism is a branch of Lamaism distinguished by no special
doctrines. The Mongols were partially converted in the time of Khubilai
and a second time and more thoroughly in 1570 by the third Grand Lama.

7. Nepal exhibits another phase of degeneration. In Tibet Indian
Buddhism passed into the hands of a vigorous national priesthood and was
not exposed to the assimilative influence of Hinduism. In Nepal it had
not the same defence. It probably existed there since the time of Asoka
and underwent the same phases of decay and corruption as in Bengal. But
whereas the last great monasteries in Bengal were shattered by the
Mohammedan invasion of 1193, the secluded valley of Nepal was protected
against such violence and Buddhism continued to exist there in name. It
has preserved a good deal of Sanskrit Buddhist literature but has become
little more than a sect of Hinduism.

Nepal ought perhaps to be classed in our second division, that is those
countries where Indian culture was introduced not by missionaries but by
the settlement of Indian conquerors or immigrants. To this class belong
the Hindu civilizations of Indo-China and the Archipelago. In all of
these Hinduism and Mahayanist Buddhism are found mixed together,
Hinduism being the stronger element. The earliest Sanskrit inscription
in these regions is that of Vochan in Champa which is apparently
Buddhist. It is not later than the third century and refers to an
earlier king, so that an Indian dynasty probably existed there about
150-200 A.D. Though the presence of Indian culture is beyond dispute, it
is not clear whether the Chams were civilized in Champa by Hindu
invaders or whether they were hinduized Malays who invaded Champa from

8. In Camboja a Hindu dynasty was founded by invaders and the Brahmans
who accompanied them established a counterpart to it in a powerful
hierarchy, Sanskrit becoming the language of religion. It is clear that
these invaders came ultimately from India but they may have halted in
Java or the Malay Peninsula for an unknown period. The Brahmanic
hierarchy began to fail about the fourteenth century and was supplanted
by Siamese Buddhism. Before that time the state religion of both Champa
and Camboja was the worship of Śiva, especially in the form called
Mukhalinga. Mahayanist Buddhism, tending to identify Buddha with Śiva,
also existed but enjoyed less of the royal patronage.

9. Religious conditions were similar in Java but politically there was
this difference, that there was no one continuous and paramount kingdom.
A considerable number of Hindus must have settled in the island to
produce such an effect on its language and architecture but the rulers
of the states known to us were hinduized Javanese rather than true
Hindus and the language of literature and of most inscriptions was Old
Javanese, not Sanskrit, though most of the works written in it were
translations or adaptations of Sanskrit originals. As in Camboja,
Śivaism and Buddhism both flourished without mutual hostility and there
was less difference in the status of the two creeds.

In all these countries religion seems to have been connected with
politics more closely than in India. The chief shrine was a national
cathedral, the living king was semi-divine and dead kings were
represented by statues bearing the attributes of their favourite gods.

6. _New Forms of Buddhism_

In the three or four centuries following Asoka a surprising change came
over Indian Buddhism, but though the facts are clear it is hard to
connect them with dates and persons. But the change was clearly
posterior to Asoka for though his edicts show a spirit of wide charity
it is not crystallized in the form of certain doctrines which
subsequently became prominent.

The first of these holds up as the moral ideal not personal perfection
or individual salvation but the happiness of all living creatures. The
good man who strives for this should boldly aspire to become a Buddha in
some future birth and such aspirants are called Bodhisattvas. Secondly
Buddhas and some Bodhisattvas come to be considered as supernatural
beings and practically deities. The human life of Gotama, though not
denied, is regarded as the manifestation of a cosmic force which also
reveals itself in countless other Buddhas who are not merely his
predecessors or destined successors but the rulers of paradises in other
worlds. Faith in a Buddha, especially in Amitâbha, can secure rebirth in
his paradise. The great Bodhisattvas, such as Avalokita and Mañjuśrî,
are splendid angels of mercy and knowledge who are theoretically
distinguished from Buddhas because they have indefinitely postponed
their entry into nirvana in order to alleviate the sufferings of the
world. These new tenets are accompanied by a remarkable development of
art and of idealist metaphysics.

This new form of Buddhism is called Mahâyâna, or the Great Vehicle, as
opposed to the Small Vehicle or Hînayâna, a somewhat contemptuous name
given to the older school. The idea underlying these phrases is that
sects are merely coaches, all travelling on the same road to salvation
though some may be quicker than others. The Mahayana did not suppress
the Hinayana but it gradually absorbed the traffic.

The causes of this transformation were two-fold, internal or Indian and
external. Buddhism was a living, that is changing, stream of thought and
the Hindus as a nation have an exceptional taste and capacity for
metaphysics. This taste was not destroyed by Gotama's dicta as to the
limits of profitable knowledge nor did new deities arouse hostility
because they were not mentioned in the ancient scriptures. The
development of Brahmanism and Buddhism was parallel: if an attractive
novelty appeared in one, something like it was soon provided by the
other. Thus the Bhagavad-gîtâ contains the ideas of the Mahayana in
substance, though in a different setting: it praises disinterested
activity and insists on faith. It is clear that at this period all
Indian thought and not merely Buddhism was vivified and transmuted by
two great currents of feeling demanding, the one a more emotional
morality the other more personal and more sympathetic deities.

I shall show in more detail below that most Mahayanist doctrines, though
apparently new, have their roots in old Indian ideas. But the presence
of foreign influences is not to be disputed and there is no difficulty
in accounting for them. Gandhara was a Persian province from 530 to 330
B.C. and in the succeeding centuries the north-western parts of India
experienced the invasions and settlements of numerous aliens, such as
Greeks from the Hellenistic kingdoms which arose after Alexander's
expedition, Parthians, Sakas and Kushans. Such immigrants, even if they
had no culture of their own, at least transported culture, just as the
Turks introduced Islam into Europe. Thus whatever ideas were prevalent
in Persia, in the Hellenistic kingdoms, or in Central Asia may also have
been prevalent in north-western India, where was situated the university
town of Taxila frequently mentioned in the Jâtakas as a seat of Buddhist
learning. The foreigners who entered India adopted Indian religions[14]
and probably Buddhism more often than Hinduism, for it was at that time
predominant and disposed to evangelize without raising difficulties as
to caste.

Foreign influences stimulated mythology and imagery. In the reliefs of
Asoka's time, the image of the Buddha never appears, and, as in the
earliest Christian art, the intention of the sculptors is to illustrate
an edifying narrative rather than to provide an object of worship. But
in the Gandharan sculptures, which are a branch of Græco-Roman art, he
is habitually represented by a figure modelled on the conventional type
of Apollo. The gods of India were not derived from Greece but they were
stereotyped under the influence of western art to this extent that
familiarity with such figures as Apollo and Pallas encouraged the Hindus
to represent their gods and heroes in human or quasi-human shapes. The
influence of Greece on Indian religion was not profound: it did not
affect the architecture or ritual of temples and still less thought or
doctrine. But when Indian religion and especially Buddhism passed into
the hands of men accustomed to Greek statuary, the inclination to
venerate definite personalities having definite shapes was

Persian influence was stronger than Greek. To it are probably due the
many radiant deities who shed their beneficent glory over the Mahayanist
pantheon, as well as the doctrine that Bodhisattvas are emanations of
Buddhas. The discoveries of Stein, Pelliot and others have shown that
this influence extended across Central Asia to China and one of the most
important turns in the fortunes of Buddhism was its association with a
Central Asian tribe analogous to the Turks and called Kushans or
Yüeh-chih, whose territories lay without as well as within the frontiers
of modern India and who borrowed much of their culture from Persia and
some from the Greeks. Their great king Kanishka is a figure in Buddhist
annals second only to Asoka. Unfortunately his date is still a matter of
discussion. The majority of scholars place his accession about 78 A.D.
but some put it rather later[16]. The evidence of numismatics and of art
indicates that he came towards the end of his dynasty rather than at the
beginning and the tradition which makes Aśvaghosha his contemporary is
compatible with the later date.

Some writers describe Kanishka as the special patron of Mahayanism. But
the description is of doubtful accuracy. The style of religious art
known as Gandharan flourished in his reign and he convened a council
which fixed the canon of the Sarvâstivâdins. This school was reckoned as
Hinayanist and though Aśvaghosha enjoys general fame in the Far East as
a Mahayanist doctor, yet his undoubted writings are not Mahayanist in
the strict sense of the word[17]. But a more ornate and mythological
form of religion was becoming prevalent and perhaps Kanishka's Council
arranged some compromise between the old and the new.

After Aśvaghosha comes Nâgârjuna who may have flourished any time
between 125 and 200 A.D. A legend which makes him live for 300 years is
not without significance, for he represents a movement and a school as
much as a personality and if he taught in the second century A.D. he
cannot have been the _founder_ of Mahayanism. Yet he seems to be the
first great name definitely connected with it and the ascription to him
of numerous later treatises, though unwarrantable, shows that his
authority was sufficient to stamp a work or a doctrine as orthodox
Mahayanism. His biographies connect him with the system of idealist or
nihilistic metaphysics expounded in the literature (for it is more than
a single work) called Prajñâpâramitâ, with magical practices (by which
the power of summoning Bodhisattvas or deities is specially meant) and
with the worship of Amitâbha. His teacher Saraha, a foreigner, is said
to have been the first who taught this worship in India. In this there
may be a kernel of truth but otherwise the extant accounts of Nâgârjuna
are too legendary to permit of historical deductions. He was perhaps the
first eminent exponent of Mahayanist metaphysics, but the train of
thought was not new: it was the result of applying to the external world
the same destructive logic which Gotama applied to the soul and the
result had considerable analogies to Śankara's version of the Vedanta.
Whether in the second century A.D. the leaders of Buddhism already
identified themselves with the sorcery which demoralized late Indian
Mahayanism may be doubted, but tradition certainly ascribes to Nâgârjuna
this corrupting mixture of metaphysics and magic.

The third century offers a strange blank in Indian history. Little can
be said except that the power of the Kushans decayed and that northern
India was probably invaded by Persians and Central Asian tribes. The
same trouble did not affect southern India and it may be that religion
and speculation flourished there and spread northwards, as certainly
happened in later times. Many of the greatest Hindu teachers were
Dravidians and at the present day it is in the Dravidian regions that
the temples are most splendid, the Brahmans strictest and most
respected. It may be that this Dravidian influence affected even
Buddhism in the third century A.D., for Aryadeva the successor of
Nâgârjuna was a southerner and the legends told of him recall certain
Dravidian myths. Bodhidharma too came from the South and imported into
China a form of Buddhism which has left no record in India.

7. _Revival of Hinduism_

In 320 a native Indian dynasty, the Guptas, came to the throne and
inaugurated a revival of Hinduism, to which religion we must now turn.
To speak of the revival of Hinduism does not mean that in the previous
period it had been dead or torpid. Indeed we know that there was a Hindu
reaction against the Buddhism of Asoka about 150 B.C. But, on the whole,
from the time of Asoka onwards Buddhism had been the principal religion
of India, and before the Gupta era there are hardly any records of
donations made to Brahmans. Yet during these centuries they were not
despised or oppressed. They produced much literature[18]: their schools
of philosophy and ritual did not decay and they gradually made good
their claim to be the priests of India's gods, whoever those gods might
be. The difference between the old religion and the new lies in this.
The Brâhmanas and Upanishads describe practices and doctrines of
considerable variety but still all the property of a privileged class in
a special region. They do not represent popular religion nor the
religion of India as a whole. But in the Gupta period Hinduism began to
do this. It is not a system like Islam or even Buddhism but a parliament
of religions, of which every Indian creed can become a member on
condition of observing some simple rules of the house, such as respect
for Brahmans and theoretical acceptance of the Veda. Nothing is
abolished: the ancient rites and texts preserve their mysterious power
and kings perform the horse-sacrifice. But side by side with this,
deities unknown to the Veda rise to the first rank and it is frankly
admitted that new revelations more suited to the age have been given to

Art too enters on a new phase. In the early Indian sculptures deities
are mostly portrayed in human form, but in about the first century of
our era there is seen a tendency to depict them with many heads and
limbs and this tendency grows stronger until in mediaeval times it is
predominant. It has its origin in symbolism. The deity is thought of as
carrying many insignia, as performing more actions than two hands can
indicate; the worshipper is taught to think of him as appearing in this
shape and the artist does not hesitate to represent it in paint and

As we have seen, the change which came over Buddhism was partly due to
foreign influences and no doubt they affected most Indian creeds. But
the prodigious amplification of Hinduism was mainly due to the
absorption of beliefs prevalent in Indian districts other than the homes
of the ancient Brahmans. Thus south Indian religion is characterized
when we first know it by its emotional tone and it resulted in the
mediaeval Sivaism of the Tamil country. In another region, probably in
the west, grew up the monotheism of the Bhâgavatas, which was the parent
of Vishnuism.

Hinduism may be said to fall into four principal divisions which are
really different religions: the Smârtas or traditionalists, the
Sivaites, the Vishnuites and the Śâktas. The first, who are still
numerous, represent the pre-buddhist Brahmans. They follow, so far as
modern circumstances permit, the ancient ritual and are apparent
polytheists while accepting pantheism as the higher truth. Vishnuites
and Sivaites however are monotheists in the sense that their minor
deities are not essentially different from the saints of Roman and
Eastern Christianity but their monotheism has a pantheistic tinge.
Neither sect denies the existence of the rival god, but each makes its
own deity God, not only in the theistic but in the pantheistic sense and
regards the other deity as merely an influential angel. From time to
time the impropriety of thus specially deifying one aspect of the
universal spirit made itself felt and then Vishnu and Śiva were adored
in a composite dual form or, with the addition of Brahmâ, as a trinity.
But this triad had not great importance and it is a mistake to compare
it with the Christian trinity. Strong as was the tendency to combine and
amalgamate deities, it was mastered in these religions by the desire to
have one definite God, personal inasmuch as he can receive and return
love, although the Indian feeling that God must be all and in all
continually causes the conceptions called Vishnu and Śiva to transcend
the limits of personality. This feeling is specially clear in the growth
of Râma and Krishna worship. Both of these deities were originally
ancient heroes, and stories of love and battle cling to them in their
later phases. Yet for their respective devotees each becomes God in
every sense, God as lover of the soul, God as ruler of the universe and
the God of pantheism who is all that exists and can exist.

For some time before and after the beginning of our era, north-western
India witnessed a great fusion of ideas and Indian, Persian and Greek
religion must have been in contact at the university town of Taxila and
many other places. Kashmir too, if somewhat too secluded to be a
meeting-place of nations, was a considerable intellectual centre. We
have not yet sufficient documents to enable us to trace the history and
especially the chronology of thought in these regions but we can say
that certain forms of Vishnuism, Śivaism and Buddhism were all evolved
there and often show features in common. Thus in all we find the idea
that the divine nature is manifested in four forms or five, if we count
the Absolute Godhead as one of them[19].

I shall consider at length below this worship of Vishnu and Śiva and
here will merely point out that it differs from the polytheism of the
Smârtas. In their higher phases all Hindu religions agree in teaching
some form of pantheism, some laying more and some less stress on the
personal aspect which the deity can assume. But whereas the pantheism of
the Smârtas grew out of the feeling that the many gods of tradition must
all be one, the pantheism of the Vishnuites was not evolved out of
pre-buddhist Brahmanism and is due to the conviction that the one God
must be everything. It is Indian but it grew up in some region outside
Brahmanic influence and was accepted by the Brahmans as a permissible
creed, but many legends in the Epics and Puranas indicate that there was
hostility between the old-fashioned Brahmans and the worshippers of
Râma, Krishna and Śiva before the alliance was made.

Śâktism[20] also was not evolved from ancient Brahmanism but is
different in tone from Vishnuism and Sivaism. Whereas they start from a
movement of thought and spiritual feeling, Śâktism has for its basis
certain ancient popular worships. With these it has combined much
philosophy and has attempted to bring its teaching into conformity with
Brahmanism, but yet remains somewhat apart. It worships a goddess of
many names and forms, who is adored with sexual rites and the sacrifice
of animals, or, when the law permits, of men. It asserts even more
plainly than Vishnuism that the teaching of the Vedas is too difficult
for these latter days and even useless, and it offers to its followers
new scriptures called Tantras and new ceremonies as all-sufficient. It
is true that many Hindus object to this sect, which may be compared with
the Mormons in America or the Skoptsy in Russia, and it is numerous only
in certain parts of India (especially Bengal and Assam) but since a
section of Brahmans patronize it, it must be reckoned as a phase of
Hinduism and even at the present day it is an important phase.

There are many cults prevalent in India, though not recognized as sects,
in which the worship of some aboriginal deity is accepted in all its
crudeness without much admixture of philosophy, the only change being
that the deity is described as a form, incarnation or servant of some
well-known god and that Brahmans are connected with this worship. This
habit of absorbing aboriginal superstitions materially lowers the
average level of creed and ritual. An educated Brahman would laugh at
the idea that village superstitions can be taken seriously as religion
but he does not condemn them and, as superstitions, he does not
disbelieve in them. It is chiefly owing to this habit that Hinduism has
spread all over India and its treatment of men and gods is curiously
parallel. Princes like the Manipuris of Assam came under Hindu influence
and were finally recognized as Kshattiyas with an imaginary pedigree,
and on the same principle their deities are recognized as forms of Siva
or Durga. And Siva and Durga themselves were built up in past ages out
of aboriginal beliefs, though the cement holding their figures together
is Indian thought and philosophy, which are able to see in grotesque
rustic godlings an expression of cosmic forces.

Though this is the principal method by which Hinduism has been
propagated, direct missionary effort has not been wanting. For instance
a large part of Assam was converted by the preaching of Vishnuite
teachers in the sixteenth century and the process still continues[21].
But on the whole the missionary spirit characterizes Buddhism rather
than Hinduism. Buddhist missionaries preached their faith, without any
political motive, wherever they could penetrate. But in such countries
as Camboja, Hinduism was primarily the religion of the foreign settlers
and when the political power of the Brahmans began to wane, the people
embraced Buddhism. Outside India it was perhaps only in Java and the
neighbouring islands that Hinduism (with an admixture of Buddhism)
became the religion of the natives.

Many features of Hinduism, its steady though slow conquest of India, its
extraordinary vitality and tenacity in resisting the attacks of
Mohammedanism, and its small power of expansion beyond the seas are
explained by the fact that it is a mode of life as much as a faith. To
be a Hindu it is not sufficient to hold the doctrine of the Upanishads
or any other scriptures: it is necessary to be a member of a Hindu caste
and observe its regulations. It is not quite correct to say that one
must be born a Hindu, since Hinduism has grown by gradually hinduizing
the wilder tribes of India and the process still continues. But a
convert cannot enter the fold by any simple ceremony like baptism. The
community to which he belongs must adopt Hindu usages and then it will
be recognized as a caste, at first of very low standing but in a few
generations it may rise in the general esteem. A Hindu is bound to his
religion by almost the same ties that bind him to his family. Hence the
strength of Hinduism in India. But such ties are hard to knit and
Hinduism has no chance of spreading abroad unless there is a large
colony of Hindus surrounded by an appreciative and imitative

In the contest between Hinduism and Buddhism the former owed the victory
which it obtained in India, though not in other lands, to this
assimilative social influence. The struggle continued from the fourth to
the ninth century, after which Buddhism was clearly defeated and
survived only in special localities. Its final disappearance was due to
the destruction of its remaining monasteries by Moslem invaders but this
blow was fatal only because Buddhism was concentrated in its monkhood.
Innumerable Hindu temples were destroyed, yet Hinduism was at no time in
danger of extinction.

The Hindu reaction against Buddhism became apparent under the Gupta
dynasty but Mahayanism in its use of Sanskrit and its worship of
Bodhisattvas shows the beginnings of the same movement. The danger for
Buddhism was not persecution but tolerance and obliteration of
differences. The Guptas were not bigots. It was probably in their time
that the oldest Puranas, the laws of Manu and the Mahabharata received
their final form. These are on the whole text-books of Smârta Hinduism
and two Gupta monarchs celebrated the horse sacrifice. But the
Mahabharata contains several episodes which justify the exclusive
worship of either Vishnu or Siva, and the architecture of the Guptas
suggests that they were Vishnuites. They also bestowed favours on
Buddhism which was not yet decadent, for Vasubandhu and Asanga, who
probably lived in the fourth century, were constructive thinkers. It is
true that their additions were of the dangerous kind which render an
edifice top-heavy but their works show vitality and had a wide
influence[23]. The very name of Asanga's philosophy—Yogâcârya—indicates
its affinity to Brahmanic thought, as do his doctrines of Alayavijñâna
and Bodhi, which permit him to express in Buddhist language the idea
that the soul may be illumined by the deity. In some cases Hinduism, in
others Buddhism, may have played the receptive part but the general
result—namely the diminution of differences between the two—was always
the same.

The Hun invasions were unfavourable to religious and intellectual
activity in the north and, just as in the time of Moslim inroads, their
ravages had more serious consequences for Buddhism than for Hinduism.
The great Emperor Harsha (†647), of whom we know something from Bâna and
Hsüan Chuang, became at the end of his life a zealous but eclectic
Buddhist. Yet it is plain from Hsiian Chuang's account that at this time
Buddhism was decadent in most districts both of the north and south.

This decadence was hastened by an unfortunate alliance with those forms
of magic and erotic mysticism which are called Śâktism[24]. It is
difficult to estimate the extent of the corruption, for the singularity
of the evil, a combination of the austere and ethical teaching of Gotama
with the most fantastic form of Hinduism, arrests attention and perhaps
European scholars have written more about it than it deserves. It did
not touch the Hinayanist churches nor appreciably infect the Buddhism of
the Far East, nor even (it would seem) Indian Buddhism outside Bengal
and Orissa. Unfortunately Magadha, which was both the home and last
asylum of the faith, was also very near the regions where Śâktism most
flourished. It is, as I have often noticed in these pages, a peculiarity
of all Indian sects that in matters of belief they are not exclusive nor
hostile to novelties. When a new idea wins converts it is the instinct
of the older sects to declare that it is compatible with their teaching
or that they have something similar and just as good. It was in this
fashion that the Buddhists of Magadha accepted Śâktist and tantric
ideas. If Hinduism could summon gods and goddesses by magical methods,
they could summon Bodhisattvas, male and female, in the same way, and
these spirits were as good as the gods. In justice it must be said that
despite distortions and monstrous accretions the real teaching of Gotama
did not entirely disappear even in Magadha and Tibet.

8. _Later Forms of Hinduism_

In the eighth and ninth centuries this degenerate Buddhism was exposed
to the attacks of the great Hindu champions Kumâriḷa and Śankara, though
it probably endured little persecution in our sense of the word. Both of
them were Smârtas or traditionalists and laboured in the cause not of
Vishnuism or Śivaism but of the ancient Brahmanic religion, amplified by
many changes which the ages had brought but holding up as the religious
ideal a manhood occupied with ritual observances, followed by an old age
devoted to philosophy. Śankara was the greater of the two and would have
a higher place among the famous names of the world had not his respect
for tradition prevented him from asserting the originality which he
undoubtedly possessed. Yet many remarkable features of his life work,
both practical and intellectual, are due to imitation of the Buddhists
and illustrate the dictum that Buddhism did not disappear from India[25]
until Hinduism had absorbed from it all the good that it had to offer.
Śankara took Buddhist institutions as his model in rearranging the
ascetic orders of Hinduism, and his philosophy, a rigorously consistent
pantheism which ascribed all apparent multiplicity and difference to
illusion, is indebted to Mahayanist speculation. It is remarkable that
his opponents stigmatized him as a Buddhist in disguise and his system,
though it is one of the most influential lines of thought among educated
Hindus, is anathematized by some theistic sects[26].

Śankara was a native of southern India. It is not easy to combine in one
picture the progress of thought in the north and south, and for the
earlier centuries our information as to the Dravidian countries is
meagre. Yet they cannot be omitted, for their influence on the whole of
India was great. Greeks, Kushans, Huns, and Mohammedans penetrated into
the north but, until after the fall of Vijayanagar in 1565, no invader
professing a foreign religion entered the country of the Tamils. Left in
peace they elaborated their own version of current theological problems
and the result spread over India. Buddhism and Jainism also flourished
in the south. The former was introduced under Asoka but apparently
ceased to be the dominant religion (if it ever was so) in the early
centuries of our era. Still even in the eleventh century monasteries
were built in Mysore. Jainism had a distinguished but chequered career
in the south. It was powerful in the seventh century but subsequently
endured considerable persecution. It still exists and possesses
remarkable monuments at Sravana Belgola and elsewhere.

But the characteristic form of Dravidian religion is an emotional
theism, running in the parallel channels of Vishnuism and Śivaism and
accompanied by humbler but vigorous popular superstitions, which reveal
the origin of its special temperament. For the frenzied ecstasies of
devil dancers (to use a current though inaccurate phrase) are a
primitive expression of the same sentiment which sees in the whole world
the exulting energy and rhythmic force of Siva. And though the most
rigid Brahmanism still flourishes in the Madras Presidency there is
audible in the Dravidian hymns a distinct note of anti-sacerdotalism and
of belief that every man by his own efforts can come into immediate
contact with the Great Being whom he worships.

The Vishnuism and Śivaism of the south go back to the early centuries of
our era, but the chronology is difficult. In both there is a line of
poet-saints followed by philosophers and teachers and in both a
considerable collection of Tamil hymns esteemed as equivalent to the
Veda. Perhaps Śivaism was dominant first and Vishnuism somewhat later
but at no epoch did either extinguish the other. It was the object of
Śankara to bring these valuable but dangerous forces, as well as much
Buddhist doctrine and practice, into harmony with Brahmanism.

Islam first entered India in 712 but it was some time before it passed
beyond the frontier provinces and for many centuries it was too hostile
and aggressive to invite imitation, but the spectacle of a strong
community pledged to the worship of a single personal God produced an
effect. In the period extending from the eighth to the twelfth
centuries, in which Buddhism practically disappeared and Islam came to
the front as a formidable though not irresistible antagonist, the
dominant form of Hinduism was that which finds expression in the older
Puranas, in the temples of Orissa and Khajarao and the Kailâsa at
Ellora. It is the worship of one god, either Siva or Vishnu, but a
monotheism adorned with a luxuriant mythology and delighting in the
manifold shapes which the one deity assumes. It freely used the
terminology of the Sânkhya but the first place in philosophy belonged to
the severe pantheism of Śankara which, in contrast to this riotous
exuberance of legend and sculpture, sees the highest truth in one Being
to whom no epithets can be applied.

In the next epoch, say the twelfth to the seventeenth centuries, Indian
thought clearly hankers after theism in the western sense and yet never
completely acquiesces in it. Mythology, if still rampant according to
our taste, at least becomes subsidiary and more detachable from the
supreme deity, and this deity, if less anthropomorphic than Allah or
Jehovah, is still a being who loves and helps souls, and these souls are
explained in varying formulae as being identical with him and yet

It can hardly be by chance that as the Hindus became more familiar with
Islam their sects grew more definite in doctrine and organization
especially among the Vishnuites who showed a greater disposition to form
sects than the Sivaites, partly because the incarnations of Vishnu offer
an obvious ground for diversity. About 1100 A.D.[27] the first great
Vaishnava sect was founded by Râmânuja. He was a native of the Madras
country and claimed to be the spiritual descendant of the early Tamil
saints. In doctrine he expressly accepted the views of the ancient
Bhâgavatas, which had been condemned by Śankara, and he affirmed the
existence of one personal deity commonly spoken of as Nârâyana or

From the time of Śankara onwards nearly all Hindu theologians of the
first rank expounded their views by writing a commentary on the Brahma
Sûtras, an authoritative but singularly enigmatic digest of the
Upanishads. Śankara's doctrine may be summarized as absolute monism
which holds that nothing really exists but Brahman and that Brahman is
identical with the soul. All apparent plurality is due to illusion. He
draws a distinction between the lower and higher Brahman which perhaps
may be rendered by God and the Godhead. In the same sense in which
individual souls and matter exist, a personal God also exists, but the
higher truth is that individuality, personality and matter are all
illusion. But the teaching of Râmânuja rejects the doctrines that the
world is an illusion and that there is a distinction between the lower
and higher Brahman and it affirms that the soul, though of the same
substance as God and emitted from him rather than created, can obtain
bliss not in absorption but in existence near him.

It is round these problems that Hindu theology turns. The innumerable
solutions lack neither boldness nor variety but they all try to satisfy
both the philosopher and the saint and none achieve both tasks. The
system of Śankara is a masterpiece of intellect, despite his
disparagement of reasoning in theology, and could inspire a fine piety,
as when on his deathbed he asked forgiveness for having frequented
temples, since by so doing he had seemed to deny that God is everywhere.
But piety of this kind is unfavourable to public worship and even to
those religious experiences in which the soul seems to have direct
contact with God in return for its tribute of faith and love. In fact
the Advaita philosophy countenances emotional theism only as an
imperfect creed and not as the highest truth. But the existence of all
sects and priesthoods depends on their power to satisfy the religious
instinct with ceremonial or some better method of putting the soul in
communication with the divine. On the other hand pantheism in India is
not a philosophical speculation, it is a habit of mind: it is not enough
for the Hindu that his God is lord of all things: he must _be_ all
things and the soul in its endeavour to reach God must obtain
deliverance from the fetters not only of matter but of individuality.
Hence Hindu theology is in a perpetual oscillation illustrated by the
discrepant statements found side by side in the Bhagavad-gîtâ and other
works. Indian temperament and Indian logic want a pantheistic God and a
soul which can transcend personality, but religious thought and practice
imply personality both in the soul and in God. All varieties of
Vishnuism show an effort to reconcile these double aspirations and
theories. The theistic view is popular, for without it what would become
of temples, worshippers and priests? But I think that the pantheistic
view is the real basis of Indian religious thought.

The qualified monism of Râmânuja (as his system is sometimes called) led
to more uncompromising treatment of the question and to the affirmation
of dualism, not the dualism of God and the Devil but the distinctness of
the soul and of matter from God. This is the doctrine of Madhva, another
southern teacher who lived about a century after Râmânuja and was
perhaps directly influenced by Islam. But though the logical outcome of
his teaching may appear to be simple theism analogous to Islam or
Judaism, it does not in practice lead to this result but rather to the
worship of Krishna. Madhva's sect is still important but even more
important is another branch of the spiritual family of Râmânuja,
starting from Râmânand who probably flourished in the fourteenth

Râmânuja, while in some ways accepting innovations, insisted on the
strict observance of caste. Râmânand abandoned this, separated from his
sect and removed to Benares. His teaching marks a turning-point in the
history of modern Hinduism. Firstly he held that caste need not prevent
a man from rightly worshipping God and he admitted even Moslims as
members of his community. To this liberality are directly traceable the
numerous sects combining Hindu with Mohammedan doctrines, among which
the Kabir Panthis and the Sikhs are the most conspicuous. But it is a
singular testimony to the tenacity of Hindu ideas that though many
teachers holding most diverse opinions have declared there is no caste
before God, yet caste has generally reasserted itself among their
followers as a social if not as a religious institution. The second
important point in Râmânand's teaching was the use of the vernacular for
religious literature. Dravidian scriptures had already been recognized
in the south but it is from this time that there begins to flow in the
north that great stream of sacred poetry in Hindi and Bengali which
waters the roots of modern popular Hinduism. Among many eminent names
which have contributed to it, the greatest is Tulsi Das who retold the
Ramayana in Hindi and thus wrote a poem which is little less than a
Bible for millions in the Ganges valley.

The sects which derive from the teaching of Râmânand mostly worship the
Supreme Being under the name of Râma. Even more numerous, especially in
the north, are those who use the name of Krishna, the other great
incarnation of Vishnu. This worship was organized and extended by the
preaching of Vallabha and Caitanya (c. 1500) in the valley of the Ganges
and Bengal, but was not new. I shall discuss in some detail below the
many elements combined in the complex figure of Krishna but in one way
or another he was connected with the earliest forms of Vishnuite
monotheism and is the chief figure in the Bhagavad-gîtâ, its earliest
text-book. Legend connects him partly with Muttra and partly with
western India but, though by no means ignored in southern India, he does
not receive there such definite and exclusive adoration as in the north.
The Krishnaite sects are emotional, and their favourite doctrine that
the relation between God and the soul is typified by passionate love has
led to dubious moral results.

This Krishnaite propaganda, which coincided with the Reformation in
Europe, was the last great religious movement in India. Since that time
there has been considerable activity of a minor kind. Protests have been
raised against abuses and existing communities have undergone changes,
such as may be seen in the growth of the Sikhs, but there has been no
general or original movement. The absence of such can be easily
explained by the persecutions of Aurungzeb and by the invasions and
internal struggles of the eighteenth century. At the end of that century
Hinduism was at its lowest but its productive power was not destroyed.
The decennial census never fails to record the rise of new sects and the
sudden growth of others which had been obscure and minute.

Any historical treatment of Hinduism inevitably makes Vishnuism seem
more prominent than other sects, for it offers more events to record.
But though Sivaism has undergone fewer changes and produced fewer great
names, it must not be thought of as lifeless or decadent. The lingam is
worshipped all over India and many of the most celebrated shrines, such
as Benares and Bhubaneshwar, are dedicated to the Lord of life and
death. The Śivaism of the Tamil country is one of the most energetic and
progressive forms of modern Hinduism, but in doctrine it hardly varies
from the ancient standard of the Tiruvacagam.

9. _European Influence and Modern Hinduism_

The small effect of European religion on Hinduism is remarkable. Islam,
though aggressively hostile, yet fused with it in some sects, for
instance the Sikhs, but such fusions of Indian religion and Christianity
as have been noted[29] are microscopic curiosities. European free
thought and Deism have not fared better, for the Brahmo Samaj which was
founded under their inspiration has only 5504 adherents[30]. In social
life there has been some change: caste restrictions, though not
abolished, are evaded by ingenious subterfuges and there is a growing
feeling against child-marriage. Yet were the laws against sati and human
sacrifice repealed, there are many districts in which such practices
would not be forbidden by popular sentiment.

It is easy to explain the insensibility of Hinduism to European contact:
even Islam had little effect on its stubborn vitality, though Islam
brought with it settlers and resident rulers, ready to make converts by
force. But the British have shown perfect toleration and are merely
sojourners in the land who spend their youth and age elsewhere. European
exclusiveness and Indian ideas about caste alike made it natural to
regard them as an isolated class charged with the business of Government
but divorced from the intellectual and religious life of other classes.
Previous experience of Moslims and other invaders disposed the Brahmans
to accept foreigners as rulers without admitting that their creeds and
customs were in the least worthy of imitation. European methods of
organization and advertisement have not however been disdained.

The last half century has witnessed a remarkable revival of Hinduism. In
the previous decades the most conspicuous force in India, although
numerically weak, was the already mentioned Brahmo Samaj, founded by Ram
Mohun Roy in 1828. But it was colourless and wanting in constructive
power. Educated opinion, at least in Bengal, seemed to be tending
towards agnosticism and social revolution. This tendency was checked by
a conservative and nationalist movement, which in all its varied phases
gave support to Indian religion and was intolerant of European ideas. It
had a political side but there was nothing disloyal in its main idea,
namely, that in the intellectual and religious sphere, where Indian life
is most intense, Indian ideas must not decay. No one who has known India
during the last thirty years can have failed to notice how many new
temples have been built and how many old ones repaired. Almost all the
principal sects have founded associations to protect and extend their
interests by such means as financial and administrative organization,
the publication of periodicals and other literature, annual conferences,
lectures and the foundation of religious houses or quasi-monastic
orders. Several societies have been founded not restricted to any
particular sect but with the avowed object of defending and promoting
strict Hinduism. Among such the most important are, first the Bharat
Dharma Mahamandala, under the distinguished presidency of the Maharaja
of Darbhanga: secondly the movement started by Ramakrishna and Swami
Vivekananda and adorned by the beautiful life and writings of Sister
Nivedita (Miss Noble) and thirdly the Theosophical Society under the
leadership of Mrs Besant. It is remarkable that Europeans, both men and
women, have played a considerable part in this revival. All these
organizations are influential: the two latter have done great service in
defending and encouraging Hinduism, but I am less sure of their success
in mingling Eastern and Western ideas or in popularizing Hinduism among

Somewhat different, but described by the Census of 1911 as "the greatest
religious movement in India of the past half century" is the Arya Samaj,
founded in 1875 by Swami Dayanand. Whereas the movements mentioned above
support Sanâtana Dharma or Orthodox Hinduism in all its shapes, the Arya
Samaj aims at reform. Its original programme was a revival of the
ancient Vedic religion but it has since been perceptibly modified and
tends towards conciliating contemporary orthodoxy, for it now prohibits
the slaughter of cattle, accords a partial recognition to caste, affirms
its belief in karma and apparently approves a form of the Yoga
philosophy. Though it is not yet accepted as a form of orthodox
Hinduism, it seems probable that concessions on both sides will produce
this result before long. It numbers at present only about a quarter of a
million but is said to be rapidly increasing, especially in the United
Provinces and Panjab, and to be remarkable for the completeness and
efficiency of its organization. It maintains missionary colleges,
orphanages and schools. Affiliated to it is a society for the
purification (shuddhi) of Mohammedans, Christians and outcasts, that is
for turning them into Hindus and giving them some kind of caste. It
would appear that those who undergo this purification do not always
become members of the Ṡamaj but are merged in the ordinary Hindu
community where they are accepted without opposition if also without

10. _Change and Permanence in Buddhism_

Thus we have a record of Indian thought for about 3000 years. It has
directly affected such distant points as Balkh, Java and Japan and it is
still living and active. But life and action mean change and such wide
extension in time and space implies variety. We talk of converting
foreign countries but the religion which is transplanted also undergoes
conversion or else it cannot enter new brains and hearts. Buddhism in
Ceylon and Japan, Christianity in Scotland and Russia are not the same,
although professing to reverence the same teachers. It is easy to argue
the other way, but it can only be done by setting aside as non-essential
differences of great practical importance. Europeans are ready enough to
admit that Buddhism is changeable and easily corrupted but it is not
singular in that respect[31]. I doubt if Lhasa and Tantrism are further
from the teaching of Gotama than the Papacy, the Inquisition, and the
religion of the German Emperor, from the teaching of Christ.

A religion is the expression of the thought of a particular age and
cannot really be permanent in other ages which have other thoughts. The
apparent permanence of Christianity is due first to the suppression of
much original teaching, such as Christ's turning the cheek to the smiter
and Paul's belief in the coming end of the world, and secondly to the
adoption of new social ideals which have no place in the New Testament,
such as the abolition of slavery and the improved status of women.

Buddhism arising out of Brahmanism suggests a comparison with
Christianity arising out of Judaism, but the comparison breaks down in
most points of detail. But there is one real resemblance, namely that
Buddhism and Christianity have both won their greatest triumphs outside
the land of their birth. The flowers of the mind, if they can be
transplanted at all, often flourish with special vigour on alien soil.
Witness the triumphs of Islam in the hands of the Turks and Mughals, the
progress of Nestorianism in Central Asia, and the spread of Manichaeism
in both the East and West outside the limits of Persia. Even so Lamaism
in Tibet and Amidism in Japan, though scholars may regard them as
singular perversions, have more vitality than any branch of Buddhism
which has existed in India since the seventh century. But even here the
parallel with Christian sects is imperfect. It would be more complete if
Palestine had been the centre from which different phases of
Christianity radiated during some twelve centuries, for this is the
relation between Indian and foreign Buddhism. Lamaism is not the
teaching of the Buddha travestied by Tibetans but a late form of Indian
Buddhism exported to Tibet and modified there in some external features
(such as ecclesiastical organization and art) but not differing greatly
in doctrine from Bengali Buddhism of the eleventh century. And even
Amidism appears to have originated not in the Far East but in Gandhara
and the adjacent lands. Thus the many varieties of Buddhism now existing
are due partly to local colour but even more to the workings of the
restless Hindu mind which during many centuries after the Christian era
continued to invent for it novelties in metaphysics and mythology.

The preservation of a very ancient form of Buddhism in Ceylon[32] is
truly remarkable, for if in many countries Buddhism has shown itself
fluid and protean, it here manifests a stability which can hardly be
paralleled except in Judaism. The Sinhalese, unlike the Hindus, had no
native propensity to speculation. They were content to classify,
summarize and expound the teaching of the Pitakas without restating it
in the light of their own imagination. Whereas the most stable form of
Christianity is the Church of Rome, which began by making considerable
additions to the doctrine of the New Testament, the most stable form of
Buddhism is neither a transformation of the old nor a protest against
innovation but simply the continuation of a very ancient sect in strange
lands[33]. This ancient Buddhism, like Islam which is also simple and
stable, is somewhat open to the charge of engaging in disputes about
trivial details[34], but alike in Ceylon, Burma and Siam, it has not
only shown remarkable persistence but has become a truly national
religion, the glory and comfort of those who profess it.

11. _Rebirth and the Nature of the Soul_

The most characteristic doctrine of Indian religion—rarely absent in
India and imported by Buddhism into all the countries which it
influenced—is that called metempsychosis, the transmigration of the soul
or reincarnation. The last of these terms best expresses Indian,
especially Buddhist, ideas but still the usual Sanskrit equivalent,
_Saṃsâra_, means migration. The body breaks up at death but something
passes on and migrates to another equally transitory tenement. Neither
Brahmans nor Buddhists seem to contemplate the possibility that the
human soul may be a temporary manifestation of the Eternal Spirit which
comes to an end at death—a leaf on a tree or a momentary ripple on the
water. It is always regarded as passing through many births, a wave
traversing the ocean.

Hindu speculation has never passed through the materialistic phase, and
the doctrine that the soul is annihilated at death is extremely rare in
India. Even rarer perhaps is the doctrine that it usually enters on a
permanent existence, happy or otherwise. The idea underlying the
transmigration theory is that every state which we call existence must
come to an end. If the soul can be isolated from all the accidents and
accessories attaching to it, then there may be a state of permanence and
peace but not a state comparable with human existence, however enlarged
and glorified. But why does not this conviction of impermanence lead to
the simpler conclusion that the end of physical life is the end of all
life? Because the Hindus have an equally strong conviction of
continuity: everything passes away and changes but it is not true to say
of anything that it arises from nothing or passes into nothing. If human
organisms (or any other organisms) are mere machines, if there is
nothing more to be said about a corpse than about a smashed watch, then
(the Hindu thinks) the universe is not continuous. Its continuity means
for him that there is something which eternally manifests itself in
perishable forms but does not perish with them any more than water when
a pitcher is broken or fire that passes from the wood it has consumed to
fresh fuel.

These metaphors suggest that the doctrine of transmigration or
reincarnation does not promise what we call personal immortality. I
confess that I cannot understand how there can be personality in the
ordinary human sense without a body. When we think of a friend, we think
of a body and a character, thoughts and feelings, all of them connected
with that body and many of them conditioned by it. But the immortal soul
is commonly esteemed to be something equally present in a new born babe,
a youth and an old man. If so, it cannot be a personality in the
ordinary sense, for no one could recognize the spirit of a departed
friend, if it is something which was present in him the day he was born
and different from all the characteristics which he acquired during
life. The belief that we shall recognize our friends in another world
assumes that these characteristics are immortal, but it is hard to
understand how they can be so, especially as it is also assumed that
there is nothing immortal in a dog, which possesses affection and
intelligence, but that there is something immortal in a new born infant
which cannot be said to possess either.

In one way metempsychosis raises insuperable difficulties to the
survival of personality, for if you become someone else, especially an
animal, you are no longer yourself according to any ordinary use of
language. But one of the principal forms taken by the doctrine in India
makes a modified survival intelligible. For it is held that a new born
child brings with it as a result of actions done in previous lives
certain predispositions and these after being developed and modified in
the course of that child's life are transmitted to its next existence.

As to the method of transmission there are various theories, for in
India the belief in reincarnation is not so much a dogma as an instinct
innate in all and only occasionally justified by philosophers, not
because it was disputed but because they felt bound to show that their
own systems were compatible with it. One explanation is that given by
the Vedânta philosophy, according to which the soul is accompanied in
its migrations by the _Sûkshmaśarîra_ or subtle body, a counterpart of
the mortal body but transparent and invisible, though material. The
truth of this theory, as of all theories respecting ghosts and spirits,
seems to me a matter for experimental verification, but the Vedânta
recognizes that in our experience a personal individual existence is
always connected with a physical substratum.

The Buddhist theory of rebirth is somewhat different, for Buddhism even
in its later divagations rarely ceased to profess belief in Gotama's
doctrine that there is no such thing as a soul—by which is meant no such
thing as a permanent unchanging self or _âtman_. Buddhists are concerned
to show that transmigration is not inconsistent with this denial of the
_âtman_. The ordinary, and indeed inevitable translation of this word by
soul leads to misunderstanding for we naturally interpret it as meaning
that there is nothing which survives the death of the body and _a
fortiori_ nothing to transmigrate. But in reality the denial of the
_âtman_ applies to the living rather than to the dead. It means that in
a living man there is no permanent, unchangeable entity but only a
series of mental states, and since human beings, although they have no
_âtman_, certainly exist in this present life, the absence of the
_âtman_ is not in itself an obstacle to belief in a similar life after
death or before birth. Infancy, youth, age and the state immediately
after death may form a series of which the last two are as intimately
connected as any other two. The Buddhist teaching is that when men die
in whom the desire for another life exists—as it exists in all except
saints—then desire, which is really the creator of the world, fashions
another being, conditioned by the character and merits of the being
which has just come to an end. Life is like fire: its very nature is to
burn its fuel. When one body dies, it is as if one piece of fuel were
burnt: the vital process passes on and recommences in another and so
long as there is desire of life, the provision of fuel fails not.
Buddhist doctors have busied themselves with the question whether two
successive lives are the same man or different men, and have illustrated
the relationship by various analogies of things which seem to be the
same and yet not the same, such as a child and an adult, milk and curds,
or fire which spreads from a lamp and burns down a village, but, like
the Brahmans, they do not discuss why the hypothesis of transmigration
is necessary. They had the same feeling for the continuity of nature,
and more than others they insisted on the principle that everything has
a cause. They held that the sexual act creates the conditions in which a
new life appears but is not an adequate cause for the new life itself.
And unless we accept a materialist explanation of human nature, this
argument is sound: unless we admit that mind is merely a function of
matter, the birth of a mind is not explicable as a mere process of cell
development: something pre-existent must act upon the cells.

Europeans in discussing such questions as the nature of the soul and
immortality are prone to concentrate their attention on death and
neglect the phenomena of birth, which surely are equally important. For
if a soul survives the death of this complex of cells which is called
the body, its origin and development must, according to all analogy, be
different from those of the perishable body. Orthodox theology deals
with the problem by saying that God creates a new soul every time a
child is born[35] but free discussion usually ignores it and taking an
adult as he is, asks what are the chances that any part of him survives
death. Yet the questions, what is destroyed at death and how and why,
are closely connected with the questions what comes into existence at
birth and how and why. This second series of questions is hard enough,
but it has this advantage over the first that whereas death abruptly
closes the road and we cannot follow the soul one inch on its journey
beyond, the portals of birth are a less absolute frontier. We know that
every child has passed through stages in which it could hardly be called
a child. The earliest phase consists of two cells, which unite and then
proceed to subdivide and grow. The mystery of the process by which they
assume a human form is not explained by scientific or theological
phrases. The complete individual is assuredly not contained in the first
germ. The microscope cannot find it there and to say that it is there
potentially, merely means that we know the germ will develop in a
certain way. To say that a force is manifesting itself in the germ and
assuming the shape which it chooses to take or must take is also merely
a phrase and metaphor, but it seems to me to fit the facts[36].

The doctrines of pre-existence and transmigration (but not, I think, of
karma which is purely Indian) are common among savages in Africa and
America, nor is their wide distribution strange. Savages commonly think
that the soul wanders during sleep and that a dead man's soul goes
somewhere: what more natural than to suppose that the soul of a new born
infant comes from somewhere? But among civilized peoples such ideas are
in most cases due to Indian influence. In India they seem indigenous to
the soil and not imported by the Aryan invaders, for they are not
clearly enunciated in the Rig Veda, nor formulated before the time of
the Upanishads[37]. They were introduced by Buddhism to the Far East and
their presence in Manichaeism, Neoplatonism, Sufiism and ultimately in
the Jewish Kabbala seems a rivulet from the same source. Recent research
discredits the theory that metempsychosis was an important feature in
the earlier religion of Egypt or among the Druids[38]. But it played a
prominent part in the philosophy of Pythagoras and in the Orphic
mysteries, which had some connection with Thrace and possibly also with
Crete. A few great European intellects[39]--notably Plato and
Virgil—have given it undying expression, but Europeans as a whole have
rejected it with that curiously crude contempt which they have shown
until recently for Oriental art and literature.

Considering how fixed is the belief in immortality among Europeans, or
at least the desire for it, the rarity of a belief in pre-existence or
transmigration is remarkable. But most people's expectation of a future
life is based on craving rather than on reasoned anticipation. I cannot
myself understand how anything that comes into being can be immortal.
Such immortality is unsupported by a single analogy nor can any instance
be quoted of a thing which is known to have had an origin and yet is
even apparently indestructible[40]. And is it possible to suppose that
the universe is capable of indefinite increase by the continual addition
of new and eternal souls? But these difficulties do not exist for
theories which regard the soul as something existing before as well as
after the body, truly immortal _a parte ante_ as well as _a parte post_
and manifesting itself in temporary homes of human or lower shape. Such
theories become very various and fall into many obscurities when they
try to define the nature of the soul and its relation to the body, but
they avoid what seems to me the contradiction of the created but
immortal soul.

The doctrine of metempsychosis is also interesting as affecting the
relations of men and animals. The popular European conception of "the
beasts which perish" weakens the arguments for human immortality. For if
the mind of a dog or chimpanzee contains no element which is immortal,
the part of the human mind on which the claim to immortality can be
based must be parlously small, since _ex hypothesi_ sensation, volition,
desire and the simpler forms of intelligence are not immortal. But in
India where men have more charity and more philosophy this distinction
is not drawn. The animating principle of men, animals and plants is
regarded as one or at least similar, and even matter which we consider
inanimate, such as water, is often considered to possess a soul. But
though there is ample warrant in both Brahmanic and Buddhist literature
for the idea that the soul may sink from a human to an animal form or
_vice versâ_ rise, and though one sometimes meets this belief in modern
life[41], yet it is not the most prominent aspect of metempsychosis in
India and the beautiful precept of ahimsâ or not injuring living things
is not, as Europeans imagine, founded on the fear of eating one's
grandparents but rather on the humane and enlightened feeling that all
life is one and that men who devour beasts are not much above the level
of the beasts who devour one another. The feeling has grown stronger
with time. In the Vedas animal sacrifices are prescribed and they are
even now used in the worship of some deities. In the Epics the eating of
meat is mentioned. But the doctrine that it is wrong to take animal life
was definitely adopted by Buddhism and gained strength with its

One obvious objection to all theories of rebirth is that we do not
remember our previous existences and that, if they are connected by no
thread of memory, they are for all practical purposes the existences of
different people. But this want of memory affects not only past
existences but the early phases of this existence. Does any one deny his
existence as an infant or embryo because he cannot remember it[42]? And
if a wrong could be done to an infant the effects of which would not be
felt for twenty years, could it be said to be no concern of the infant
because the person who will suffer in twenty years time will have no
recollection that he was that infant? And common opinion in Eastern
Asia, not without occasional confirmation from Europe, denies the
proposition that we cannot remember our former lives and asserts that
those who take any pains to sharpen their spiritual faculties can
remember them. The evidence for such recollection seems to me better
than the evidence for most spiritualistic phenomena[43].

Another objection comes from the facts of heredity. On the whole we
resemble our parents and ancestors in mind as well as in body. A child
often seems to be an obvious product of its parents and not a being come
from outside and from another life. This objection of course applies
equally to the creation theory. If the soul is created by an act of God,
there seems to be no reason why it should be like the parents, or, if he
causes it to be like them, he is made responsible for sending children
into the world with vicious natures. On the other hand if parents
literally make a child, mind as well as body, there seems to be no
reason why children should ever be unlike their parents, or brothers and
sisters unlike one another, as they undoubtedly sometimes are. An Indian
would say that a soul[44] seeking rebirth carries with it certain
potentialities of good and evil and can obtain embodiment only in a
family offering the necessary conditions. Hence to some extent it is
natural that the child should be like its parents. But the soul seeking
rebirth is not completely fixed in form and stiff: it is hampered and
limited by the results of its previous life, but in many respects it may
be flexible and free, ready to vary in response to its new environment.

But there is a psychological and temperamental objection to the doctrine
of rebirth, which goes to the root of the matter. Love of life and the
desire to find a field of activity are so strong in most Europeans that
it might be supposed that a theory offering an endless vista of new
activities and new chances would be acceptable. But as a rule Europeans
who discuss the question say that they do not relish this prospect. They
may be willing to struggle until death, but they wish for
repose—conscious repose of course—afterwards. The idea that one just
dead has not entered into his rest, but is beginning another life with
similar struggles and fleeting successes, similar sorrows and
disappointments, is not satisfying and is almost shocking[45]. We do not
like it, and not to like any particular view about the destinies of the
soul is generally, but most illogically, considered a reason for
rejecting it[46].


It must not however be supposed that Hindus like the prospect of
transmigration. On the contrary from the time of the Upanishads and the
Buddha to the present day their religious ideal corresponding to
salvation is emancipation and deliverance, deliverance from rebirth and
from the bondage of desire which brings about rebirth. Now all Indian
theories as to the nature of transmigration are in some way connected
with the idea of _Karma_, that is the power of deeds done in past
existences to condition or even to create future existences. Every deed
done, whether good or bad, affects the character of the doer for a long
while, so that to use a metaphor, the soul awaiting rebirth has a
special shape, which is of its own making, and it can find re-embodiment
only in a form into which that shape can squeeze.

These views of rebirth and karma have a moral value, for they teach that
what a man gets depends on what he is or makes himself to be, and they
avoid the difficulty of supposing that a benevolent creator can have
given his creatures only one life with such strange and unmerited
disproportion in their lots. Ordinary folk in the East hope that a life
of virtue will secure them another life as happy beings on earth or
perhaps in some heaven which, though not eternal, will still be long.
But for many the higher ideal is renunciation of the world and a life of
contemplative asceticism which will accumulate no karma so that after
death the soul will pass not to another birth but to some higher and
more mysterious state which is beyond birth and death. It is the
prevalence of views like this which has given both Hinduism and Buddhism
the reputation of being pessimistic and unpractical.

It is generally assumed that these are bad epithets, but are they not
applicable to Christian teaching? Modern and medieval Christianity—as
witness many popular hymns—regards this world as vain and transitory, a
vale of tears and tribulation, a troubled sea through whose waves we
must pass before we reach our rest. And choirs sing, though without much
conviction, that it is weary waiting here. This language seems justified
by the Gospels and Epistles. It is true that some utterances of Christ
suggest that happiness is to be found in a simple and natural life of
friendliness and love, but on the whole both he and St Paul teach that
the world is evil or at least spoiled and distorted: to become a happy
world it must be somehow remade and transfigured by the second coming of
Christ. The desires and ambitions which are the motive power of modern
Europe are, if not wrong, at least vain and do not even seek for true
peace and happiness. Like Indian teachers, the early Christians tried to
create a right temper rather than to change social institutions. They
bade masters and slaves treat one another with kindness and respect, but
they did not attempt to abolish slavery.

Indian thought does not really go much further in pessimism than
Christianity, but its pessimism is intellectual rather than emotional.
He who understands the nature of the soul and its successive lives
cannot regard any single life as of great importance in itself, though
its consequences for the future may be momentous, and though he will not
say that life is not worth living. Reiterated declarations that all
existence is suffering do, it is true, seem to destroy all prospect of
happiness and all motive for effort, but the more accurate statement is,
in the words of the Buddha himself, that all clinging to physical
existence involves suffering. The earliest Buddhist texts teach that
when this clinging and craving cease, a feeling of freedom and happiness
takes their place and later Buddhism treated itself to visions of
paradise as freely as Christianity. Many forms of Hinduism teach that
the soul released from the body can enjoy eternal bliss in the presence
of God and even those severer philosophers who do not admit that the
released soul is a personality in any human sense have no doubt of its

The opposition is not so much between Indian thought and the New
Testament, for both of them teach that bliss is attainable but not by
satisfying desire. The fundamental contrast is rather between both India
and the New Testament on the one hand and on the other the rooted
conviction of European races[47], however much Christian orthodoxy may
disguise their expression of it, that this world is all-important. This
conviction finds expression not only in the avowed pursuit of pleasure
and ambition but in such sayings as that the best religion is the one
which does most good and such ideals as self-realization or the full
development of one's nature and powers. Europeans as a rule have an
innate dislike and mistrust of the doctrine that the world is vain or
unreal. They can accord some sympathy to a dying man who sees in due
perspective the unimportance of his past life or to a poet who under the
starry heavens can make felt the smallness of man and his earth. But
such thoughts are considered permissible only as retrospects, not as
principles of life: you may say that your labour has amounted to
nothing, but not that labour is vain. Though monasteries and monks still
exist, the great majority of Europeans instinctively disbelieve in
asceticism, the contemplative life and contempt of the world: they have
no love for a philosopher who rejects the idea of progress and is not
satisfied with an ideal consisting in movement towards an unknown goal.
They demand a religion which theoretically justifies the strenuous life.
All this is a matter of temperament and the temperament is so common
that it needs no explanation. What needs explanation is rather the other
temperament which rejects this world as unsatisfactory and sets up
another ideal, another sphere, another standard of values. This ideal
and standard are not entirely peculiar to India but certainly they are
understood and honoured there more than elsewhere. They are professed,
as I have already observed, by Christianity, but even the New Testament
is not free from the idea that saints are having a bad time now but will
hereafter enjoy a triumph, parlously like the exuberance of the wicked
in this world. The Far East too has its unworldly side which, though
harmonizing with Buddhism, is native. In many ways the Chinese are as
materialistic as Europeans, but throughout the long history of their art
and literature, there has always been a school, clear-voiced if small,
which has sung and pursued the joys of the hermit, the dweller among
trees and mountains who finds nature and his own thoughts an
all-sufficient source of continual happiness. But the Indian ideal,
though it often includes the pleasures of communion with nature, differs
from most forms of the Chinese and Christian ideal inasmuch as it
assumes the reality of certain religious experiences and treats them as
the substance and occupation of the highest life. We are disposed to
describe these experiences as trances or visions, names which generally
mean something morbid or hypnotic. But in India their validity is
unquestioned and they are not considered morbid. The sensual scheming
life of the world is sick and ailing; the rapture of contemplation is
the true and healthy life of the soul. More than that it is the type and
foretaste of a higher existence compared with which this world is
worthless or rather nothing at all. This view has been held in India for
nearly three thousand years: it has been confirmed by the experience of
men whose writings testify to their intellectual power and has commanded
the respect of the masses. It must command our respect too, even if it
is contrary to our temperament, for it is the persistent ideal of a
great nation and cannot be explained away as hallucination or
charlatanism. It is allied to the experiences of European mystics of
whom St Teresa is a striking example, though less saintly persons, such
as Walt Whitman and J.A. Symonds, might also be cited. Of such mysticism
William James said "the existence of mystical states absolutely
overthrows the pretension of non-mystical states to be the sole and
ultimate dictators of what we may believe[48]."

These mystical states are commonly described as meditation but they
include not merely peaceful contemplation but ecstatic rapture. They are
sometimes explained as union with Brahman[49], the absorption of the
soul in God, or its feeling that it is one with him. But this is
certainly not the only explanation of ecstasy given in India, for it is
recognized as real and beneficent by Buddhists and Jains. The same
rapture, the same sense of omniscience and of ability to comprehend the
scheme of things, the same peace and freedom are experienced by both
theistic and non-theistic sects, just as they have also been experienced
by Christian mystics. The experiences are real but they do not depend on
the presence of any special deity, though they may be coloured by the
theological views of individual thinkers[50]. The earliest Buddhist
texts make right rapture (sammâ samâdhi) the end and crown of the
eight-fold path but offer no explanation of it. They suggest that it is
something wrought by the mind for itself and without the co-operation or
infusion of any external influence.


Indian ideas about the destiny of the soul are connected with equally
important views about its nature. I will not presume to say what is the
definition of the soul in European philosophy but in the language of
popular religion it undoubtedly means that which remains when a body is
arbitrarily abstracted from a human personality, without enquiring how
much of that personality is thinkable without a material substratum.
This popular soul includes mind, perception and desire and often no
attempt is made to distinguish it from them. But in India it is so
distinguished. The soul (âtman or purusha) _uses_ the mind and senses:
they are its instruments rather than parts of it. Sight, for instance,
serves as the spectacles of the soul, and the other senses and even the
mind (manas) which is an intellectual _organ_ are also instruments. If
we talk of a soul passing from death to another birth, this according to
most Hindus is a soul accompanied by its baggage of mind and senses, a
subtle body indeed, but still gaseous not spiritual. But what is the
soul by itself? When an English poet sings of death that it is "Only the
sleep eternal in an eternal night" or a Greek poet calls it [Greek:
atermona nêgreton hupnon] we feel that they are denying immortality. But
Indian divines maintain that deep sleep is one of the states in which
the soul approaches nearest to God: that it is a state of bliss, and is
unconscious not because consciousness is suspended but because no
objects are presented to it. Even higher than dreamless sleep is another
condition known simply as the fourth state[51], the others being waking,
dream-sleep and dreamless sleep. In this fourth state thought is one
with the object of thought and, knowledge being perfect, there exists no
contrast between knowledge and ignorance. All this sounds strange to
modern Europe. We are apt to say that dreamless sleep is simply
unconsciousness[52] and that the so-called fourth state is imaginary or
unmeaning. But to follow even popular speculation in India it is
necessary to grasp this truth, or assumption, that when discursive
thought ceases, when the mind and the senses are no longer active, the
result is not unconsciousness equivalent to non-existence but the
highest and purest state of the soul, in which, rising above thought and
feeling, it enjoys the untrammelled bliss of its own nature[53].

If these views sound mysterious and fanciful, I would ask those
Europeans who believe in the immortality of the soul what, in their
opinion, survives death. The brain, the nerves and the sense organs
obviously decay: the soul, you may say, is not a product of them, but
when they are destroyed or even injured, perceptive and intellectual
processes are inhibited and apparently rendered impossible. Must not
that which lives for ever be, as the Hindus think, independent of
thought and of sense-impressions?

I have observed in my reading that European philosophers are more ready
to talk about soul and spirit than to define them[54] and the same is
true of Indian philosophers. The word most commonly rendered by soul is
_âtman_[55] but no one definition can be given for it, for some hold
that the soul is identical with the Universal Spirit, others that it is
merely of the same nature, still others that there are innumerable souls
uncreate and eternal, while the Buddhists deny the existence of a soul
_in toto_. But most Hindus who believe in the existence of an âtman or
soul agree in thinking that it is the real self and essence of all human
beings (or for that matter of other beings): that it is eternal _a parte
ante_ and _a parte post_: that it is not subject to variation but passes
unchanged from one birth to another: that youth and age, joy and sorrow,
and all the accidents of human life are affections, not so much of the
soul as of the envelopes and limitations which surround it during its
pilgrimage: that the soul, if it can be released and disengaged from
these envelopes, is in itself knowledge and bliss, knowledge meaning the
immediate and intuitive knowledge of God. A proper comprehension of this
point of view will make us chary of labelling Indian thought as
pessimistic on the ground that it promises the soul something which we
are inclined to call unconsciousness.

In studying oriental religions sympathy and a desire to agree if
possible are the first requisites. For instance, he who says of a
certain ideal "this means annihilation and I do not like it" is on the
wrong way. The right way is to ascertain what many of our most
intelligent brothers mean by the cessation of mental activity and why it
is for them an ideal.

14. _Eastern Pessimism and Renunciation_

But the charge of pessimism against Eastern religions is so important
that we must consider other aspects of it, for though the charge is
wrong, it is wrong only because those who bring it do not use quite the
right word. And indeed it would be hard to find the right word in a
European language. The temperament and theory described as pessimism are
European. They imply an attitude of revolt, a right to judge and
grumble. Why did the Deity make something out of nothing? What was his
object? But this is not the attitude of Eastern thought: it generally
holds that we cannot imagine nothing: that the world process is without
beginning or end and that man must learn how to make the best of it.

The Far East purged Buddhism of much of its pessimism. There we see that
the First Truth about suffering is little more than an admission of the
existence of evil, which all religions and common sense admit. Evil
ceases in the saint: nirvana in this life is perfect happiness. And
though striving for the material improvement of the world is not held up
conspicuously as an ideal in the Buddhist scriptures (or for that matter
in the New Testament), yet it is never hinted that good effort is vain.
A king should be a good king.

Renunciation is a great word in the religions of both Europe and Asia,
but in Europe it is almost active. Except to advanced mystics, it means
abandoning a natural attitude and deliberately assuming another which it
is difficult to maintain. Something similar is found in India in the
legends of those ascetics who triumphed over the flesh until they become
very gods in power[56]. But it is also a common view in the East that he
who renounces ambition and passion is not struggling against the world
and the devil but simply leading a natural life. His passions indeed
obey his will and do not wander here and there according to their fancy,
but his temperament is one of acquiescence not resistance. He takes his
place among the men, beasts and plants around him and ceasing to
struggle finds that his own soul contains happiness in itself.

Most Europeans consider man as the centre and lord of the world or, if
they are very religious, as its vice-regent under God. He may kill or
otherwise maltreat animals for his pleasure or convenience: his task is
to subdue the forces of nature: nature is subservient to him and to his
destinies: without man nature is meaningless. Much the same view was
held by the ancient Greeks and in a less acute form by the Jews and
Romans. Swinburne's line

  Glory to man in the highest, for man is the master of things

is overbold for professing Christians but it expresses both the modern
scientific sentiment and the ancient Hellenic sentiment.

But such a line of poetry would I think be impossible in India or in any
country to the East of it. There man is thought of as a part of nature
not its centre or master[57]. Above him are formidable hosts of deities
and spirits, and even European engineers cannot subdue the genii of the
flood and typhoon: below but still not separated from him are the
various tribes of birds and beasts. A good man does not kill them for
pleasure nor eat flesh, and even those whose aspirations to virtue are
modest treat animals as humble brethren rather than as lower creatures
over whom they have dominion by divine command.

This attitude is illustrated by Chinese and Japanese art. In
architecture, this art makes it a principle that palaces and temples
should not dominate a landscape but fit into it and adapt their lines to
its features. For the painter, flowers and animals form a sufficient
picture by themselves and are not felt to be inadequate because man is
absent. Portraits are frequent but a common form of European
composition, namely a group of figures subordinated to a principal one,
though not unknown, is comparatively rare.

How scanty are the records of great men in India! Great buildings
attract attention but who knows the names of the architects who planned
them or the kings who paid for them? We are not quite sure of the date
of Kâlidâsa, the Indian Shakespeare, and though the doctrines of
Śankara, Kabir, and Nânak still nourish, it is with difficulty that the
antiquary collects from the meagre legends clinging to their names a few
facts for their biographies. And Kings and Emperors, a class who in
Europe can count on being remembered if not esteemed after death, fare
even worse. The laborious research of Europeans has shown that Asoka and
Harsha were great monarchs. Their own countrymen merely say "once upon a
time there was a king" and recount some trivial story.

In fact, Hindus have a very weak historical sense. In this they are not
wholly wrong, for Europeans undoubtedly exaggerate the historical
treatment of thought and art[58]. In science, most students want to know
what is certain in theory and useful in practice, not what were the
discarded hypotheses and imperfect instruments of the past. In
literature, when the actors and audience are really interested, the date
of Shakespeare and even the authorship of the play cease to be
important[59]. In the same way Hindus want to know whether doctrines and
speculations are true, whether a man can make use of them in his own
religious experiences and aspirations. They care little for the date,
authorship, unity and textual accuracy of the Bhagavad-gîtâ. They simply
ask, is it true, what can I get from it? The European critic, who
expects nothing of the sort from the work, racks his brains to know who
wrote it and when, who touched it up and why?

The Hindus are also indifferent to the past because they do not
recognize that the history of the world, the whole cosmic process, has
any meaning or value. In most departments of Indian thought, great or
small, the conception of [Greek: telos] or purpose is absent, and if the
European reader thinks this a grave lacuna, let him ask himself whether
satisfied love has any [Greek: telos]. For Hindus the world is endless
repetition not a progress towards an end. Creation has rarely the sense
which it bears for Europeans. An infinite number of times the universe
has collapsed in flaming or watery ruin, aeons of quiescence follow the
collapse and then the Deity (he has done it an infinite number of times)
emits again from himself worlds and souls of the same old kind. But
though, as I have said before, all varieties of theological opinion may
be found in India, he is usually represented as moved by some
reproductive impulse rather than as executing a plan. Śankara says
boldly that no motive can be attributed to God, because he being perfect
can desire no addition to his perfection, so that his creative activity
is mere exuberance, like the sport of young princes, who take exercise
though they are not obliged to do so.

Such views are distasteful to Europeans. Our vanity impels us to invent
explanations of the Universe which make our own existence important and
significant. Nor does European science altogether support the Indian
doctrine of periodicity. It has theories as to the probable origin of
the solar system and other similar systems, but it points to the
conclusion that the Universe as a whole is not appreciably affected by
the growth or decay of its parts, whereas Indian imagination thinks of
universal cataclysms and recurring periods of quiescence in which
nothing whatever remains except the undifferentiated divine spirit.

Western ethics generally aim at teaching a man how to act: Eastern
ethics at forming a character. A good character will no doubt act
rightly when circumstances require action, but he need not seek
occasions for action, he may even avoid them, and in India the
passionless sage is still in popular esteem superior to warriors,
statesmen and scientists.

15. _Eastern Polytheism_

Different as India and China are, they agree in this that in order not
to misapprehend their religious condition we must make our minds
familiar with a new set of relations. The relations of religion to
philosophy, to ethics, and to the state, as well as the relations of
different religions to one another, are not the same as in Europe. China
and India are pagan, a word which I deprecate if it is understood to
imply inferiority but which if used in a descriptive and respectful
sense is very useful. Christianity and Islam are organized religions.
They say (or rather their several sects say) that they each not only
possess the truth but that all other creeds and rites are wrong. But
paganism is not organized: it rarely presents anything like a church
united under one head: still more rarely does it condemn or interfere
with other religions unless attacked first. Buddhism stands between the
two classes. Like Christianity and Islam it professes to teach the only
true law, but unlike them it is exceedingly tolerant and many Buddhists
also worship Hindu or Chinese gods.

Popular religion in India and China is certainly polytheistic, yet if
one uses this word in contrast to the monotheism of Islam and of
Protestantism the antithesis is unjust, for the polytheist does not
believe in many creators and rulers of the world, in many Allahs or
Jehovahs, but he considers that there are many spiritual beings, with
different spheres and powers, to the most appropriate of whom he
addresses his petitions. Polytheism and image-worship lie under an
unmerited stigma in Europe. We generally assume that to believe in one
God is obviously better, intellectually and ethically, than to believe
in many. Yet Trinitarian religions escape being polytheistic only by
juggling with words, and if Hindus and Chinese are polytheists so are
the Roman and Oriental Churches, for there is no real distinction
between praying to the Madonna, Saints and Angels, and propitiating
minor deities. William James[60] has pointed out that polytheism is not
theoretically absurd and is practically the religion of many Europeans.
In some ways it is more intelligible and reasonable than monotheism. For
if there is only one personal God, I do not understand how anything that
can be called a person can be so expanded as to be capable of hearing
and answering the prayers of the whole world. Anything susceptible of
such extension must be more than a person. Is it not at least equally
reasonable to assume that there are many spirits, or many shapes taken
by the superpersonal world spirit, with which the soul can get into

The worship of images cannot be recommended without qualification, for
it seems to require artists capable of making a worthy representation of
the divine. And it must be confessed that many figures in Indian
temples, such as the statues of Kâlî, seem repulsive or grotesque,
though a Hindu might say that none of them are so strange in idea or so
horrible in appearance as the crucifix. But the claim of the iconoclast
from the times of the Old Testament onwards that he worships a spirit
whereas others worship wood and stone is true only of the lowest phases
of religion, if even there. Hindu theologians distinguish different
kinds of _avatâras_ or ways in which God descends into the world: among
them are incarnations like Krishna, the presence of God in the human
heart and his presence in a symbol or image (_arcâ_). It may be
difficult to decide how far the symbol and the spirit are kept separate
either in the East or in Europe, but no one can attend a great
car-festival in southern India or the feast of Durgâ in Bengal without
feeling and in some measure sharing the ecstasy and enthusiasm of the
crowd. It is an enthusiasm such as may be evoked in critical times by a
king or a flag, and as the flag may do duty for the king and all that he
stands for, so may the image do duty for the deity.

16. _The Extravagance of Hinduism_

What I have just said applies to India rather than to China and so do
the observations which follow. India is the most religious country in
the world. The percentage of people who literally make religion their
chief business, who sacrifice to it money and life itself (for religious
suicide is not extinct), is far greater than elsewhere. Russia[61]
probably comes next but the other nations fall behind by a long
interval. Matter of fact respectable people—Chinese as well as
Europeans—call this attitude extravagance and it sometimes deserves the
name, for since there is no one creed or criterion in India, all sorts
of aboriginal or decadent superstitions command the respect due to the
name of religion.

This extravagance is both intellectual and moral. No story is too
extraordinary to be told of Hindu gods. They are the magicians of the
universe who sport with the forces of nature as easily as a conjuror in
a bazaar does tricks with a handful of balls. But though the average
Hindu would be shocked to hear the Puranas described as idle tales, yet
he does not make his creed depend on their accuracy, as many in Europe
make Christianity depend on miracles. The value of truth in religion is
rated higher in India than in Europe but it is not historical truth. The
Hindu approaches his sacred literature somewhat in the spirit in which
we approach Milton and Dante. The beauty and value of such poems is
clear. The question whether they are accurate reports of facts seems
irrelevant. Hindus believe in progressive revelation. Many Tantras and
Vishnuite works profess to be better suited to the present age than the
Vedas, and innumerable treatises in the vernacular are commonly accepted
as scripture.

Scriptures in India[62] are thought of as words not writings. It is the
sacred sound not a sacred book which is venerated. They are learnt by
oral transmission and it is rare to see a book used in religious
services. Diagrams accompanied by letters and a few words are credited
with magical powers, but still tantric spells are things to be recited
rather than written. This view of scripture makes the hearer uncritical.
The ordinary layman hears parts of a sacred book recited and probably
admires what he understands, but he has no means of judging of a book as
a whole, especially of its coherency and consistency.

The moral extravagance of Hinduism is more serious. It is kept in check
by the general conviction that asceticism, or at least temperance,
charity and self-effacement are the indispensable outward signs of
religion, but still among the great religions of the world there is none
which countenances so many hysterical, immoral and cruel rites. A
literary example will illustrate the position. It is taken from the
drama Mâdhava and Mâlatî written about 730 A.D., but the incidents of
the plot might happen in any native state to-day, if European
supervision were removed. In it Mâdhava, a young Brahman, surprises a
priest of the goddess Châmundâ who is about to immolate Mâlatî. He kills
the priest and apparently the other characters consider his conduct
natural and not sacrilegious. But it is not suggested that either the
police or any ecclesiastical authority ought to prevent human
sacrifices, and the reason why Mâdhava was able to save his beloved from
death was that he had gone to the uncanny spot where such rites were
performed to make an offering of human flesh to demons.

In Buddhism religion and the moral law are identified, but not in
Hinduism. Brahmanical literature contains beautiful moral sayings,
especially about unselfishness and self-restraint, but the greatest
popular gods such as Vishnu and Śiva are not identified with the moral
law. They are super-moral and the God of philosophy, who _is_ all
things, is also above good and evil. The aim of the philosophic saint is
not so much to choose the good and eschew evil as to draw nearer to God
by rising above both.

Indian literature as a whole has a strong ethical and didactic flavour,
yet the great philosophic and religious systems concern themselves
little with ethics. They discuss the nature of the external world and
other metaphysical questions which seem to us hardly religious: they
clearly feel a peculiar interest in defining the relation of the soul to
God, but they rarely ask why should I be good or what is the sanction of
morality. They are concerned less with sin than with ignorance: virtue
is indispensable, but without knowledge it is useless.

17. _The Hindu and Buddhist Scriptures_

The history and criticism of Hindu and Buddhist scriptures naturally
occupy some space in this work, but two general remarks may be made
here. First, the oldest scriptures are almost without exception
compilations, that is collections of utterances handed down by tradition
and arranged by later generations in some form which gives them apparent
unity. Thus the Rig Veda is obviously an anthology of hymns and some
three thousand years later the Granth or sacred book of the Sikhs was
compiled on the same principle. It consists of poems by Nanak, Kabir and
many other writers but is treated with extraordinary respect as a
continuous and consistent revelation. The Brahmanas and Upanishads are
not such obvious compilations yet on careful inspection the older[63]
ones will be found to be nothing else. Thus the Brihad Aranyaka
Upanishad, though possessing considerable coherency, is not only a
collection of such philosophic views as commended themselves to the
doctors of the Taittiriya school, but is formed by the union of three
such collections. Each of the first two collections ends with a list of
the teachers who handed it down and the third is openly called a
supplement. One long passage, the dialogue between Yâjnavalkya and his
wife, is incorporated in both the first and the second collection. Thus
our text represents the period when the Taittirîyas brought their
philosophic thoughts together in a complete form, but that period was
preceded by another in which slightly different schools each had their
own collection and for some time before this the various maxims and
dialogues must have been current separately. Since the conversation
between Yajnavalkya and Maitreyi occurs in almost the same form in two
collections, it probably once existed as an independent piece.

In Buddhist literature the composite and tertiary character of the Sutta
Pitaka is equally plain. The various Nikayas are confessedly collections
of discourses. The two older ones seem dominated by the desire to bring
before the reader the image of the Buddha preaching: the Samyutta and
Anguttara emphasize the doctrine rather than the teacher and arrange
much the same matter under new headings. But it is clear that in
whatever form the various sermons, dialogues and dissertations appear,
that form is not primary but presupposes compilers dealing with an oral
tradition already stereotyped in language. For long passages such as the
tract on morality and the description of progress in the religious life
occur in several discourses and the amount of matter common to different
Suttas and Nikayas is surprising. Thus nearly the whole of the long
Sutta describing the Buddha's last days and death[64], which at first
sight seems to be a connected narrative somewhat different from other
Suttas, is found scattered in other parts of the Canon.

Thus our oldest texts whether Brahmanic or Buddhist are editions and
codifications, perhaps amplifications, of a considerably older oral
teaching. They cannot be treated as personal documents similar to the
Koran or the Epistles of Paul.

The works of middle antiquity such as the Epics, Puranas, and Mahayanist
sutras were also not produced by one author. Many of them exist in more
than one recension and they usually consist of a nucleus enveloped and
sometimes itself affected by additions which may exceed the original
matter in bulk. The Mahâbhârata and Prajñâpâramitâ are not books in the
European sense: we cannot give a date or a table of contents for the
first edition[65]: they each represent a body of literature whose
composition extended over a long period. As time goes on, history
naturally grows clearer and literary personalities become more distinct,
yet the later Puranas are not attributed to human authors and were
susceptible of interpolation even in recent times. Thus the story of
Genesis has been incorporated in the Bhavishya Purana, apparently after
Protestant missionaries had begun to preach in India.

The other point to which I would draw attention is the importance of
relatively modern works, which supersede the older scriptures,
especially in Hinduism. This phenomenon is common in many countries, for
only a few books such as the Bhagavad-gîtâ, the Gospels and the sayings
of Confucius have a portion of the eternal and universal sufficient to
outlast the wear and tear of a thousand years. Vedic literature is far
from being discredited in India, though some Tantras say openly that it
is useless. It still has a place in ritual and is appealed to by
reforming sects. But to see Hinduism in proper perspective we must
remember that from the time of the Buddha till now, the composition of
religious literature in India has been almost uninterrupted and that
almost every century has produced works accepted by some sect as
infallible scripture. For most Vishnuites the Bhagavad-gîtâ is the
beginning of sacred literature and the Nârâyaṇîya[66] is also held in
high esteem: the philosophy of each sect is usually determined by a
commentary on the Brahma Sutras: the Bhagavata Purana (perhaps in a
vernacular paraphrase) and the Ramayana of Tulsi Das are probably the
favourite reading of the laity and for devotional purposes may be
supplemented by a collection of hymns such as the Namghosha, copies of
which actually receive homage in Assam. The average man—even the average
priest—regards all these as sacred works without troubling himself with
distinctions as to _śruti_ and _smṛiti_, and the Vedas and Upanishads
are hardly within his horizon.

In respect of sacred literature Buddhism is more conservative than
Hinduism, or to put it another way, has been less productive in the last
fifteen hundred years. The Hinayanists are like those Protestant sects
which still profess not to go beyond the Bible. The monks read the
Abhidhamma and the laity the Suttas, though perhaps both are disposed to
use extracts and compendiums rather than the full ancient texts. Among
the Mahayanists the ancient Vinaya and Nikayas exist only as literary
curiosities. The former is superseded by modern manuals, the latter by
Mahayanist Sutras such as the Lotus and the Happy Land, which are
however of respectable antiquity. As in India, each sect selects rather
arbitrarily a few books for its own use, without condemning others but
also without according to them the formal recognition received by the
Old and New Testaments among Christians.

No Asiatic country possesses so large a portion of the critical spirit
as China. The educated Chinese, however much they may venerate their
classics, think of them as we think of the masterpieces of Greek
literature, aS texts which may contain wrong readings, interpolations
and lacunae, which owe whatever authority they possess to the labours of
the scholars who collected, arranged and corrected them. This attitude
is to some extent the result of the attempt made by the First Emperor
about 200 B.C. to destroy the classical literature and to its subsequent
laborious restoration. At a time when the Indians regarded the Veda as a
verbal revelation, certain and divine in every syllable, the Chinese
were painfully recovering and re-piecing their ancient chronicles and
poems from imperfect manuscripts and fallible memories. The process
obliged them to enquire at every step whether the texts which they
examined were genuine and complete: to admit that they might be
defective or paraphrases of a difficult original. Hence the Chinese have
sound principles of criticism unknown to the Hindus and in discussing
the date of an ancient work or the probability of an alleged historical
event they generally use arguments which a European scholar can accept.

Chinese literature has a strong ethical and political flavour which
tempered the extravagance of imported Indian ideas. Most Chinese systems
assert more or less plainly that right conduct is conduct in harmony
with the laws of the State and the Universe.

18. _Morality and Will_

It is dangerous to make sweeping statements about the huge mass of
Indian literature, but I think that most Buddhist and Brahmanic systems
assume that morality is merely a means of obtaining happiness[67] and is
not obedience to a categorical imperative or to the will of God.
Morality is by inference raised to the status of a cosmic law, because
evil deeds will infallibly bring evil consequences to the doer in this
life or in another. But it is not commonly spoken of as such a law. The
usual point of view is that man desires happiness and for this morality
is a necessary though insufficient preparation. But there may be higher
states which cannot be expressed in terms of happiness.

The will receives more attention in European philosophy than in Indian,
whether Buddhist or Brahmanic, which both regard it not as a separate
kind of activity but as a form of thought. As such it is not neglected
in Buddhist psychology: will, desire and struggle are recognized as good
provided their object is good, a point overlooked by those who accuse
Buddhism of preaching inaction[68].

Schopenhauer's doctrine that will is the essential fact in the universe
and in life may appear to have analogies to Indian thought: it would be
easy for instance to quote passages from the Pitakas showing that
_taṇhâ_, thirst, craving or desire, is the force which makes and remakes
the world. But such statements must be taken as generalizations
respecting the world as it is rather than as implying theories of its
origin, for though _taṇhâ_ is a link in the chain of causation, it is
not regarded as an ultimate principle more than any other link but is
made to depend on feeling. The Mâyâ of the Vedanta is not so much the
affirmation of the will to live as the illusion that we have a real
existence apart from Brahman, and the same may be said of Ahaṃkâra in
the Sânkhya philosophy. It is the principle of egoism and individuality,
but its essence is not so much self-assertion as the _mistaken_ idea
that this is _mine_, that _I_ am happy or unhappy.

There is a question much debated in European philosophy but little
argued in India, namely the freedom of the will. The active European
feeling the obligation and the difficulties of morality is perplexed by
the doubt whether he really has the power to act as he wishes. This
problem has not much troubled the Hindus and rightly, as I think. For if
the human will is not free, what does freedom mean? What example of
freedom can be quoted with which to contrast the supposed non-freedom of
the will? If in fact it is from the will that our notion of freedom is
derived, is it not unreasonable to say that the will is not free?
Absolute freedom in the sense of something regulated by no laws is
unthinkable. When a thing is conditioned by external causes it is
dependent. When it is conditioned by internal causes which are part of
its own nature, it is free. No other freedom is known. An Indian would
say that a man's nature is limited by Karma. Some minds are incapable of
the higher forms of virtue and wisdom, just as some bodies are incapable
of athletic feats. But within the limits of his own nature a human being
is free. Indian theology is not much hampered by the mad doctrine that
God has predestined some souls to damnation, nor by the idea of Fate,
except in so far as Karma is Fate. It is Fate in the sense that Karma
inherited from a previous birth is a store of rewards and punishments
which must be enjoyed or endured, but it differs from Fate because we
are all the time making our own karma and determining the character of
our next birth.

The older Upanishads hint at a doctrine analogous to that of Kant,
namely that man is bound and conditioned in so far as he is a part of
the world of phenomena but free in so far as the self within him is
identical with the divine self which is the creator of all bonds and
conditions. Thus the Kaushîtaki Upanishad says, "He it is who causes the
man whom he will lead upwards from these worlds to do good works and He
it is who causes the man whom he will lead downwards to do evil works.
He is the guardian of the world, He is the ruler of the world, He is the
Lord of the world and He is myself." Here the last words destroy the
apparent determinism of the first part of the sentence. And similarly
the Chândogya Upanishad says, "They who depart hence without having
known the Self and those true desires, for them there is no freedom in
all worlds. But they who depart hence after knowing the Self and those
true desires, for them there is freedom in all worlds[70]."

Early Buddhist literature asserts uncompromisingly that every state of
consciousness has a cause and in one of his earliest discourses the
Buddha argues that the Skandhas, including mental states, cannot be the
Self because we have not free will to make them exactly what we
choose[71]. But throughout his ethical teaching it is I think assumed
that, subject to the law of karma, conscious action is equivalent to
spontaneous action. Good mental states can be made to grow and bad
mental states to decrease until the stage is reached when the saint
knows that he is free. It may perhaps be thought that the early
Buddhists did not realize the consequences of applying their doctrine of
causation to psychology and hence never faced the possibility of
determinism. But determinism, fatalism, and the uselessness of effort
formed part of the paradoxical teaching of Makkhali Gosala reported in
the Pitakas and therefore well known. If neither the Jains nor the
Buddhists allowed themselves to be embarrassed by such denials of free
will, the inference is that in some matters at least the Hindus had
strong common sense and declined to accept any view which takes away
from man the responsibility and lordship of his own soul.

19. _The Origin of Evil_

The reader will have gathered from what precedes that Hinduism has
little room for the Devil[72]. Buddhism being essentially an ethical
system recognizes the importance of the Tempter or Mâra, but still Mâra
is not an evil spirit who has spoilt a good world. In Hinduism, whether
pantheistic or polytheistic, there is even less disposition to personify
evil in one figure, and most Indian religious systems are disposed to
think of the imperfections of the world as suffering rather than as sin.

Yet the existence of evil is the chief reason for the existence of
religion, at least of such religions as promise salvation, and the
explanation of evil is the chief problem of all religions and
philosophies, and the problem which they all alike are conspicuously
unsuccessful in solving. I can assign no reason for rejecting as
untenable the idea that the ultimate reality may be a duality—a good and
an evil spirit—or even a plurality[73], but still it is unthinkable for
me and I believe for most minds. If there are two ultimate beings,
either they must be complementary and necessary one to the other, in
which case it seems to me more correct to describe them as two aspects
of one being, or if they are quite separate, my mind postulates (but I
do not know why) a third being who is the cause of them both.

The problem of evil is not quite the same for Indian and European
pantheists. The European pantheist holds that since God is all things or
in all things, evil is only something viewed out of due perspective:
that the world would be seen to be perfect, if it could be seen as a
whole, or that evil will be eliminated in the course of development. But
he cannot explain why the partial view of the world which human beings
are obliged to take shows the existence of obvious evil. The Hindus
think that it is possible and better for the soul to leave the vain show
of the world and find peace in union with God. They are therefore not
concerned to prove that the world is good, although they cannot explain
why God allows it to exist. The Upanishads contain some myths and
parables about the introduction of evil but they do not say that a
naturally good world was spoilt[74]. They rather imply that increasing
complexity involves the increase of evil as well as of good. This is
also the ground thought of the Aggañña Sutta, the Buddhist Genesis (Dig.
Nik. XXVII.).

I think that the substance of much Indian pantheism—late Buddhist as
well as Brahmanic—is that the world, the soul and God (the three terms
being practically the same) have two modes of existence: one of repose
and bliss, the other of struggle and trouble. Of these the first mode is
the better and it is only by mistake[75] that the eternal spirit adopts
the latter. But both the mistake and the correction of it are being
eternally repeated. Such a formulation of the Advaita philosophy would
no doubt be regarded in India as wholly unorthodox. Yet orthodoxy admits
that the existence of the world is due to the coexistence of Mâyâ
(illusion) with Brahman (spirit) and also states that the task of the
soul is to pass beyond Mâyâ to Brahman. If this is so, there is either a
real duality (Brahman and Mâyâ) or else Mâyâ is an aspect of Brahman,
but an aspect which the soul should transcend and avoid, and for whose
existence no reason whatever is given. The more theistic forms of Indian
religion, whether Sivaite or Vishnuite, tend to regard individual souls
and matter as eternal. By the help of God souls can obtain release from
matter. But here again there is no explanation why the soul is
contaminated by matter or ignorance.

It is clearly illogical to condemn the Infinite as bad or a mistake.
Buddhism is perhaps sometimes open to this charge because on account of
its exceedingly cautious language about nirvana it fails to set it up as
a reality contrasted with the world of suffering. But many varieties of
Indian religion do emphatically point to the infinite reality behind and
beyond Mâyâ. It is only Mâyâ which is unsatisfactory because it is

Another attempt to make the Universe intelligible regards it as an
eternal rhythm playing and pulsing outwards from spirit to matter
(pravritti) and then backwards and inwards from matter to spirit
(nirvritti). This idea seems implied by Śankara's view that creation is
similar to the sportive impulses of exuberant youth and the
Bhagavad-gîtâ is familiar with _pravritti_ and _nirvritti_, but the
double character of the rhythm is emphasized most clearly in Śâkta
treatises. Ordinary Hinduism concentrates its attention on the process
of liberation and return to Brahman, but the Tantras recognize and
consecrate both movements, the outward throbbing stream of energy and
enjoyment (bhukti) and the calm returning flow of liberation and peace.
Both are happiness, but the wise understand that the active outward
movement is right and happy only up to a certain point and under certain

That great poet Tulsi Das hints at an explanation of the creation or of
God's expansion of himself which will perhaps commend itself to
Europeans more than most Indian ideas, namely that the bliss enjoyed by
God and the souls whom he loves is greater than the bliss of solitary

20. _Church and State_

I will now turn to another point, namely the relations of Church and
State. These are simplest in Buddhism, which teaches that the truth is
one, that all men ought to follow it and that all good kings should
honour and encourage it. This is also the Christian position but
Buddhism has almost always been tolerant and has hardly ever
countenanced the doctrine that error should be suppressed by force[77].
Buddhism does not claim to cover the whole field of religion as
understood in Europe: if people like to propitiate spirits in the hope
of obtaining wealth and crops, it permits them to do so. In Japan and
Tibet Buddhism has played a more secular role than in other countries,
analogous to the struggles of the mediaeval European church for temporal
authority. In Japan the great monasteries very nearly became the chief
military as well as the chief political power and this danger was
averted only by the destruction of Hieizan and other large
establishments in the sixteenth century. What was prevented in Japan did
actually happen in Tibet, for the monasteries became stronger than any
of the competing secular factions and the principal sect set up an
ecclesiastical government singularly like the Papacy. In southern
countries, such as Burma and Ceylon, Buddhism made no attempt to
interfere in politics. This aloofness is particularly remarkable in Siam
and Camboja, where state festivals are usually conducted by Brahmans not
by Buddhist ecclesiastics. In Siam, as formerly in Burma, the king being
a Buddhist is in some ways the head of the Church. He may reform lax
discipline or incorrect observances, but apparently not of his own
authority but merely as an executive power enforcing the opinion of the
higher clergy.

Buddhism and Hinduism both have the idea that the monk or priest is a
person who in virtue of ordination or birth lives on a higher level than
others. He may teach and do good but irrespective of that it is the duty
of the laity to support the priesthood. This doctrine is preached by
Hinduism in a stronger form than by Buddhism. The intellectual
superiority of the Brahmans as a caste was sufficiently real to ensure
its acceptance and in politics they had the good sense to rule by
serving, to be ministers and not kings. In theory and to a considerable
extent in practice, the Brahmans and their gods are not an _imperium in
imperio_ but an _imperium super imperium_. The position was possible
only because, unlike the Papacy and unlike the Lamas of Tibet, they had
no Pope and no hierarchy. They produced no à'Beckets or Hildebrands and
no Inquisition. They did not quarrel with science but monopolized it.

In India kings are expected to maintain the priesthood and the temples
yet Hinduism rarely assumes the form of a state religion[78] nor does it
admit, as state religions generally have to admit, that the secular arm
has a co-ordinate jurisdiction in ecclesiastical matters. Yet it affects
every department of social life and a Hindu who breaks with it loses his
social status. Hindu deities are rarely tribal gods like Athene of
Athens or the gods of Mr Kipling and the German Emperor. There are
thousands of shrines specially favoured by a divine presence but the
worshippers think of that presence not as the protector of a race or
city but as a special manifestation of a universal though often
invisible power. The conquests of Mohammedans and Christians are not
interpreted as meaning that the gods of Hinduism have succumbed to alien

The views prevalent in China and Japan as to the relations of Church and
State are almost the antipodes of those described. In those countries it
is the hardly dissembled theory of the official world that religion is a
department of government and that there should be regulations for gods
and worship, just as there are for ministers and etiquette. If we say
that religion is identified with the government in Tibet and forms an
_imperium super imperium_ in India, we may compare its position in the
Far East to native states under British rule. There is no interference
with creeds provided they respect ethical and social conventions:
interesting doctrines and rites are appreciated: the Government accepts
and rewards the loyal co-operation of the Buddhist and Taoist
priesthoods but maintains the right to restrict their activity should it
take a wrong political turn or should an excessive increase in the
number of monks seem a public danger. The Chinese Imperial Government
successfully claimed the strangest powers of ecclesiastical discipline,
since it promoted and degraded not only priests but deities. In both
China and Japan there has often been a strong current of feeling in the
official classes against Buddhism but on the other hand it often had the
support of both emperors and people, and princes not infrequently joined
the clergy, especially when it was desirable for them to live in
retirement. Confucianism and Shintoism, which are ethical and ceremonial
rather than doctrinal, have been in the past to some extent a law to the
governments of China and Japan, or more accurately an aspect of those
governments. But for many centuries Far Eastern statesmen have rarely
regarded Buddhism and Taoism as more than interesting and legitimate
activities, to be encouraged and regulated like educational and
scientific institutions.

21. _Public Worship and Ceremonial_

In no point does Hinduism differ from western religions more than in its
public worship and, in spite of much that is striking and interesting,
the comparison is not to the advantage of India. It is true that temple
worship is not so important for the Hindus as Church services are for
the Christian. They set more store on home ceremonies and on
contemplation. Still the temples of India are so numerous, so
conspicuous and so crowded that the religion which maintains them must
to some extent be judged by them.

At any rate they avoid the faults of public worship in the west. The
practice of arranging the congregation in seats for which they pay seems
to me more irreligious than the slovenliness of the heathen and makes
the whole performance resemble a very dull concert.

Protestant services are in the main modelled on the ritual of the
synagogue. They are meetings of the laity at which the scriptures are
read, prayers offered, sermons preached and benedictions pronounced. The
clergy play a principal but not exclusive part. The rites of the Roman
and Eastern Churches have borrowed much from pagan ceremonial but still
they have not wholly departed from the traditions of the synagogue.
These have also served as a model for Mohammedan ritual which differs
from the Jewish in little but its almost military regularity.

But with all this the ordinary ritual of Hindu temples[79] has nothing
in common. It derives from another origin and follows other lines. The
temple is regarded as the court of a prince and the daily ceremonies are
the attendance of his courtiers on him. He must be awakened, fed, amused
and finally put to bed. This conception of ritual prevailed in Egypt but
in India there is no trace of it in Vedic literature and perhaps it did
not come into fashion until Gupta times. Although the laity may be
present and salute the god, such worship cannot be called
congregational. Yet in other ways a Hindu temple may provide as much
popular worship as a Nonconformist chapel. In the corridors will
generally be found readers surrounded by an attentive crowd to whom they
recite and expound the Mahabharata or some other sacred text. At
festivals and times of pilgrimage the precincts are thronged by a crowd
of worshippers the like of which is hardly to be seen in Europe,
worshippers not only devout but fired with an enthusiasm which bursts
into a mighty chorus of welcome when the image of the god is brought
forth from the inner shrine.

The earlier forms of Buddhist ceremonial are of the synagogue type
(though in no way derived from Jewish sources) for, though there is no
prayer, they consist chiefly of confession, preaching and reading the
scriptures. But this puritanic severity could not be popular and the
veneration of images and relics was soon added to the ritual. The former
was adopted by Buddhism earlier than by the Brahmans. The latter, though
a conspicuous feature of Buddhism in all lands, is almost unknown to
Hinduism. In their later developments Buddhist and Christian ceremonies
show an extraordinary resemblance due in my opinion chiefly to
convergence, though I do not entirely exclude mutual influence. Both
Buddhism and Roman Catholicism accepted pagan ritual with some
reservations and refinements. The worship has for its object an image or
a shrine containing a relic which is placed in a conspicuous position at
the end of the hall of worship[80]. Animal sacrifices are rejected but
offerings of flowers, lights and incense are permitted, as well as the
singing of hymns. It is not altogether strange if Buddhist and Catholic
rituals starting from the same elements ended by producing similar
scenic effects.

Yet though the scenic effect may be similar, there is often a difference
in the nature of the rite. Direct invocations are not wanting in Tibetan
and Far Eastern Buddhism but many services consist not of prayers but of
the recitation of scripture by which merit is acquired. This merit is
then formally transferred by the officiants to some special object, such
as the peace of the dead or the prosperity of a living suppliant.

The later phases of both Hinduism and Buddhism are permeated by what is
called Tantrism[81], that is to say the endeavour to attain spiritual
ends by ritual acts such as gestures and the repetition of formulae.
These expedients are dangerous and may become puerile, but those who
ridicule them often forget that they may be termed sacramental with as
much propriety as magical and are in fact based on the same theory as
the sacraments of the Catholic Church. When a child is made eligible for
salvation by sprinkling with water, by the sign of the cross and by the
mantra "In the Name of the Father," etc., or when the divine spirit is
localized in bread and wine and worshipped, these rites are closely
analogous to tantric ceremonial.

The Buddhist temples of the Far East are in original intention copies of
Indian edifices and in the larger establishments there is a daily
routine of services performed by resident monks. But the management of
religious foundations in these countries has been much influenced by old
pagan usages as to temples and worship which show an interesting
resemblance to the customs of classical antiquity but have little in
common with Buddhist or Christian ideas. A Chinese municipal temple is a
public building dedicated to a spirit or departed worthy. If sacrifices
are offered in it, they are not likely to take place more than three or
four times a year. Private persons may go there to obtain luck by
burning a little incense or still more frequently to divine the future:
public meetings and theatrical performances may be held there, but
anything like a congregational service is rare. Just so in ancient Rome
a temple might be used for a meeting of the Senate or for funeral games.

22. _The Worship of the Reproductive Forces_

One aspect of Indian religions is so singular that it demands notice,
although it is difficult to discuss. I mean the worship of the
generative forces. The cult of a god, or more often of a goddess, who
personifies the reproductive and also the destructive powers of nature
(for it is not only in India that the two activities are seen to be
akin) existed in many countries. It was prominent in Babylonia and Asia
Minor, less prominent but still distinctly present in Egypt and in many
cases was accompanied by hysterical and immoral rites, by mutilations of
the body and offerings of blood. But in most countries such deities and
rites are a matter of ancient history: they decayed as civilization
grew: in China and Japan, as formerly in Greece and Rome, they are not
an important constituent of religion. It is only in India and to some
extent in Tibet, which has been influenced by India, that they have
remained unabashed until modern times.

If it is right to regard with veneration the great forces of nature,
fire, sun and water, a similar feeling towards the reproductive force
cannot be unphilosophic or immoral. Nor does the idea that the supreme
deity is a mother rather than a father, though startling, contain
anything unseemly. Yet it is an undoubted fact that all the great
religions except Hinduism, though they may admit a Goddess of
Mercy—Kuan-yin or the Madonna—agree in rejecting essentially sexual
deities. Modern Europe is probably prudish to excess, but the general
practice of mankind testifies that words and acts too nearly connected
with sexual things cannot be safely permitted in the temple. This remark
would indeed be superfluous were it not that many millions of our Hindu
fellow-citizens are of a contrary opinion.

Such practices prevail chiefly among the Śâktas in Bengal and Assam but
similar licence is permitted (though the theoretical justification and
theological setting are different) in some Vishnuite sects. Both are
reprobated by the majority of respectable Hindus, but both find educated
and able apologists. And though it may be admitted that worship of the
linga may exist without bad effects, moral or intellectual, yet I think
that these effects make themselves felt so soon as a sect becomes
distinctly erotic. Anyone who visits two such different localities as
Kamakhya in Assam and Gokul near Muttra must be struck with the total
absence in the shrines of anything that can be called beautiful, solemn
or even terrible. The general impression is of something diseased,
unclean and undignified. The figure of the Great Goddess of life and
death might have fired[82] the invention of artists but as a matter of
fact her worship has paralyzed their hands and brains.

Nor can I give much praise to the Tantras as literature[83]. It is true
that, as some authors point out, they contain fine sayings about God and
the soul. But in India such things form part of the common literary
stock and do not entitle the author to the praise which he would win
elsewhere, unless his language or thoughts show originality. Such
originality I have not found in those Tantras which are accessible. The
magical and erotic parts may have the melancholy distinction of being
unlike other works but the philosophical and theological sections could
have been produced by any Hindu who had studied these branches of Indian

23. _Hinduism in Practice_

After reviewing the characteristics of a religion it is natural to ask
what is its effect on those who profess it. Buddhism, Christianity and
Islam offer materials for answering such a question, since they are not
racial religions. In historical times they have been accepted by peoples
who did not profess them previously and we can estimate the consequences
of such changes. But Hinduism has racial or geographical limits. It
proselytizes, but hardly outside the Indian area: it is difficult to
distinguish it from Indian custom, as the gospel is distinguished from
the practice of Europe: it is superfluous to enquire what would be its
effect on other countries, since it shows no desire to impose itself on
them and they none to accept it. It is, like Shinto in Japan, not a
religion which has moulded the national character but the national
character finding expression in religion. Shinto and Hinduism are also
alike in perpetuating ancient beliefs and practices which seem
anachronisms but otherwise they are very different, for many races and
languages have contributed their thoughts and hopes to the ocean of
Hinduism and they all had an interest in speculation and mysticism
unknown to the Japanese.

The fact that Hinduism is something larger and more comprehensive than
what we call a religion is one reason why it contains much of dubious
moral value. It is analogous not to Christianity but to European
civilization which produces side by side philanthropy and the horrors of
war, or to science which has given us the blessings of surgery and the
curse of explosives. There is a deep-rooted idea in India that a man's
daily life must be accompanied by religious observances and regulated by
a religious code, by no means of universal application but still
suitable to his particular class. An immoral occupation need not be
irreligious: it simply requires gods of a special character. Hence we
find Thugs killing and robbing their victims in the name of Kali. But
though the Hindu is not at ease unless his customs are sanctioned by his
religion, yet religion in the wider sense is not bound by custom, for
the founders of many sects have declared that before God there is no
caste. A Hindu may devote himself to religion and abandon the world with
all its conventions, but if like most men he prefers to live in the
world, it is his duty to follow the customs and usages sanctioned for
his class and occupation. Thus as Sister Nivedita has shown in her
beautiful writings, cooking, washing and all the humble round of
domestic life become one long ritual of purification and prayer in which
the entertainment of a guest stands out as a great sacrifice. But though
religion may thus give beauty and holiness to common things, yet
inasmuch as it sanctifies what it finds rather than prescribes what
should be, it must bear the blame for foolish and even injurious
customs. Child marriages have nothing to do with the creed of Hinduism,
yet many Hindus, especially Hindu women, would feel it irreligious, as
well as a social disgrace, to let a daughter become adult without being

A comparison of Indian Mohammedans and Hindus suggests that the former
are more warlike and robust, the latter more intellectual and ingenious.
The fact that some Mohammedans belong to hardy tribes of invaders must
be taken into account but Islam deserves the credit of having introduced
a simple and fairly healthy rule of life which does not allow every
caste to make its own observances into a divine law. Yet it would seem
that the medical and sanitary rules of Hinduism deserve less abuse than
they generally receive. Col. King, Sanitary Commissioner of the Madras
Presidency, is quoted as saying in a lecture[84]: "The Institutes of
Vishnu and the Laws of Manu fit in excellently with the bacteriology,
parasitology and applied hygiene of the West. The hygiene of food and
water, private and public conservancy, disease suppression and
prevention, are all carefully dealt with."

Hinduism certainly has proved marvellously stimulating to the intellect
or—shall we put it the other way?--is the product of profound, acute,
and restless minds. It cannot be justly accused of being enervating or
melancholy, for many Hindu states were vigorous and warlike[85] and the
accounts of early travellers indicate that in pre-mohammedan days the
people were humane, civilized and contented. It created an original and
spiritual art, for Indian art, more than any other, is the direct
product of religion and not merely inspired by it. In ages when original
talent is rare this close relation has disadvantages for it tends to
make all art symbolic and conventional. An artist must not represent a
deity in the way that he thinks most effective: the proportions,
attitude and ornaments are all prescribed, not because they suit a
picture or statue but because they mean something.

Indian literature is also directly related to religion. Its extent is
well-nigh immeasurable. I will not alarm the reader with statistics of
the theological and metaphysical treatises which it contains. A little
of such goes a long way even when they are first-rate, but India may at
least boast of having more theological works which, if considered as
intellectual productions, must be placed in the first class than Europe.
Nor are religious writings of a more human type absent—the language of
heart to heart and of the heart to God. The Ramayana of Tulsi Das and
the Tiruvwçagam are extolled by Groâse, Grierson and Pope (all of them
Christians, I believe) as not only masterpieces of literature but as
noble expressions of pure devotion, and the poems of Kabir and Tukaram,
if less considerable as literary efforts, show the same spiritual
quality. Indian poetry, even when nominally secular, is perhaps too much
under religious influence to suit our taste and the long didactic and
philosophic harangues which interrupt the action of the Mahabharata seem
to us inartistic, yet to those who take the pains to familiarize
themselves with what at first is strange, the Mahabharata is, I think, a
greater poem than the _Iliad_. It should not be regarded as an epic
distended and interrupted by interpolated sermons but as the scripture
of the warrior caste, which sees in the soldier's life a form of

I have touched in several places on the defects of Hinduism. They are
due partly to its sanction of customs which have no necessary connection
with it and partly to its extravagance, which in the service of the gods
sees no barriers of morality or humanity. But suttee, human sacrifices
and orgies strike the imagination and assume an importance which they
have not and never had for Hinduism as a whole. If Hinduism were really
bad, so many great thoughts, so many good lives could not have grown up
in its atmosphere. More than any other religion it is a quest of truth
and not a creed, which must necessarily become antiquated: it admits the
possibility of new scriptures, new incarnations, new institutions. It
has no quarrel with knowledge or speculation: perhaps it excludes
materialists, because they have no common ground with religion, but it
tolerates even the Sânkhya philosophy which has nothing to say about God
or worship. It is truly dynamic and in the past whenever it has seemed
in danger of withering it has never failed to bud with new life and put
forth new flowers.

More than other religions, Hinduism appeals to the soul's immediate
knowledge and experience of God. It has sacred books innumerable but
they agree in little but this, that the soul can come into contact and
intimacy with its God, whatever name be given him and even if he be
superpersonal. The possibility and truth of this experience is hardly
questioned in India and the task of religion is to bring it about, not
to promote the welfare of tribes and states but to effect the
enlightenment and salvation of souls.

The love of the Hindus for every form of argument and philosophizing is
well known but it is happily counterbalanced by another tendency.
Instinct and religion both bring them into close sympathy with nature.
India is in the main an agricultural country[86] and nearly
three-quarters of the population are villagers whose life is bound up
with the welfare of plants and animals and lies at the mercy of rivers
that overflow or skies that withhold the rain. To such people
nature-myths and sacred animals appeal with a force that Europeans
rarely understand. The parrots that perch on the pinnacles of the temple
and the oxen that rest in the shade of its courts are not intruders but
humble brothers of mankind, who may also be the messengers of the gods.

24. _Buddhism in Practice_

As I said above, it is easier to estimate the effects of Buddhism than
of Hinduism, for its history is the chronicle of a great missionary
enterprise and there are abundant materials for studying the results of
its diffusion.

Even its adversaries must admit that it has many excellent qualities. It
preaches morality and charity and was the first religion to proclaim to
the world—not to a caste or country—that these are the foundation of
that Law which if kept brings happiness. It civilized many nations, for
instance the Tibetans and Mongols. It has practised toleration and true
unworldliness, if not without any exception[87], at least far more
generally than any other great religion. It has directly encouraged art
and literature and, so far as I know, has never opposed the progress of
knowledge. But two charges may be brought against it which deserve
consideration. First that its pessimistic doctrines and monastic
institutions are, if judged by ordinary standards, bad for the welfare
of a nation: second that more than any other religion it is liable to
become corrupt.

In all Buddhist lands, though good laymen are promised the blessings of
religion, the monastic and contemplative life is held up as the ideal.
In Christendom, this ideal is rejected by Protestants and for the Roman
and Oriental Churches it is only one among others. Hence every one's
judgment of Buddhism must in a large measure depend on what he thinks of
this ideal. Monks are not of this world and therefore the world hateth
them. If they keep to themselves, they are called lazy and useless. If
they take part in secular matters, they meet with even severer
criticism. Yet can any one doubt that what is most needed in the present
age is more people who have leisure and ability to think?

Whatever evil is said of Buddhist monks is also said of Mt Athos and
similar Christian establishments. I am far from saying that this
depreciation of the cloistered life is just in either case but any
impartial critic of monastic institutions must admit that their virtues
avoid publicity and their faults attract attention. In all countries a
large percentage of monks are indolent: it is the temptation which
besets all but the elect. Yet the Buddhist ideal of the man who has
renounced the world leaves no place for slackness, nor I think does the
Christian. Buddhist monks are men of higher aspirations than others:
they try to make themselves supermen by cultivating not the forceful and
domineering part of their nature but the gentle, charitable and
intelligent part. The laity treat them with the greatest respect
provided that they set an example of a life better than most men can
live. A monastic system of this kind is found in Burma. I do not mean
that it is not found in other Buddhist lands, but I cite an instance
which I have seen myself and which has impressed most observers

The Burmese monks are not far from the ideal of Gotama, yet perhaps by
adhering somewhat strictly to the letter of his law they have lost
something of the freedom which he contemplated. In his time there were
no books: the mind found exercise and knowledge in conversation. A
monastery was not a permanent residence, except during the rainy season,
but merely a halting-place for the brethren who were habitually
wanderers, continually hearing and seeing something new. Hermits and
solitary dwellers in the forests were not unknown but assuredly the
majority of the brethren had no intention of secluding themselves from
the intellectual life of the age. What would Gotama have done had he
lived some hundreds or thousands of years later? I see no reason to
doubt that he would have encouraged the study of literature and science.
He would probably have praised all art which expresses noble and
spiritual ideas, while misdoubting representations of sensuous beauty.

The second criticism—that Buddhists are prone to corrupt their faith—is
just, for their courteous acquiescence in other creeds enfeebles and
denaturalizes their own. In Annam, Korea and some parts of China though
there are temples and priests more or less deserving the name of
Buddhist, there is no idea that Buddhism is a distinct religion or mode
of life. Such statements as that the real religion of the Burmese is not
Buddhism but animism are, I think, incorrect, but even the Burmese are
dangerously tolerant.

This weakness is not due to any positive defect, since Buddhism provides
for those who lead the higher life a strenuous curriculum and for the
laity a system of morality based on rational grounds and differing
little from the standard accepted in both Europe and China, except that
it emphasizes the duties of mankind to animals. The weakness comes from
the absence of any command against superstitious rites and beliefs. When
the cardinal principles of Buddhism are held strongly these accessories
do not matter, but the time comes when the creeper which was once an
ornament grows into the walls of the shrine and splits the masonry. The
faults of western religions are mainly faults of self-assertion—such as
the Inquisition and opposition to science. The faults of Indian
religions are mainly tolerance of what does not belong to them and
sometimes of what is not only foreign to them but bad in itself.

Buddhism has been both praised and blamed as a religion which
acknowledges neither God nor the soul[88] and its acceptance in its
later phases of the supernatural has been regarded as proving the human
mind's natural need of theism. But it is rather an illustration of that
craving for personal though superhuman help which makes Roman Catholics
supplement theism with the worship of saints.

On the whole it is correct to say that Buddhism (except perhaps in very
exceptional sects) has always taken and still takes a point of view
which has little in common with European theism. The world is not
thought of as the handiwork of a divine personality nor the moral law as
his will. The fact that religion can exist without these ideas is of
capital importance[89]. But any statements implying that Buddhism
divorces morality from the doctrine of immortality may be misunderstood
for it teaches that just as an old man may suffer for the follies of his
youth, so faults committed in one life may be punished in another.
Rewards and punishments in another world were part of the creed of Asoka
and tradition represents the missionaries who converted Ceylon as using
this simple argument[90]. It would not however be true to say that
Buddhism makes the value of morality contingent on another world. The
life of an Arhat which includes the strictest morality is commended on
its own account as the best and happiest existence.

European assertions about Buddhism often imply that it sets up as an
ideal and goal either annihilation or some condition of dreamy bliss.
Modern Buddhists who mostly neglect Nirvana as something beyond their
powers, just as the ordinary Christian does not say that he hopes to
become a saint, lose much of the Master's teaching but do it less
injustice than such misrepresentations. The Buddha did not describe
Nirvana as something to be won after death, but as a state of happiness
attainable in this life by strenuous endeavour—a state of perfect peace
but compatible with energy, as his own example showed.

25. _Interest of Indian Thought for Europe_

We are now in a better position to answer the question asked at the
beginning of this introduction, Is Indian thought of value or at least
of interest for Europe?

Let me confess that I cannot share the confidence in the superiority of
Europeans and their ways which is prevalent in the west. Whatever view
we take of the rights and wrongs of the recent war, it is clearly absurd
for Europe as a whole to pose in the presence of such doings as a
qualified instructor in humanity and civilization. Many of those who are
proudest of our fancied superiority escape when the chance offers from
western civilization and seek distraction in exploration, and many who
have spent their lives among what they consider inferior races are
uneasy when they retire and settle at home. In fact European
civilization is not satisfying and Asia can still offer something more
attractive to many who are far from Asiatic in spirit. Yet though most
who have paid even a passing visit to the East feel its charm, the
history, art and literature of Asia are still treated with ignorant
indifference in cultured circles—an ignorance and indifference which are
extraordinary in Englishmen who have so close a connection with India
and devote a disproportionate part of their education to ancient Greece
and Rome. I have heard a professor of history in an English university
say that he thought the history of India began with the advent of the
British and that he did not know that China had any history at all. And
Matthew Arnold in speaking of Indian thought[91] hardly escaped meriting
his own favourite epithets of condemnation, Philistine and _saugrenu_.

Europeans sometimes mention it as an amazing and almost ridiculous
circumstance that an educated Chinese can belong to three religions,
Confucianism, Taoism and Buddhism. But I find this attitude of mind
eminently sensible. Confucianism is an admirable religion for State
ceremonies and College chapels. By attending its occasional rites one
shows a decent respect for Heaven and Providence and commits oneself to
nothing. And though a rigid Confucianist may have the contempt of a
scholar and statesman for popular ideas, yet the most devout Buddhist
and Taoist can conform to Confucianism without scruple, whereas many who
have attended an English coronation service must have wondered at the
language which they seemed to approve of by their presence. And in China
if you wish to water the aridity of Confucianism, you can find in
Buddhism or Taoism whatever you want in the way of emotion or philosophy
and you will not be accused of changing your religion because you take
this refreshment. This temper is not good for creating new and profound
religious thought, but it is good for sampling and appreciating the
"varieties of religious experience" which offer their results as guides
for this and other lives.

For religion is systematized religious experience and this experience
depends on temperament. There can therefore be no one religion in the
European sense and it is one of the Hindus' many merits that they
recognize this. Some people ask of religion forgiveness for their sins,
others communion with the divine: most want health and wealth, many
crave for an explanation of life and death. Indian religion accommodates
itself to these various needs. Nothing is more surprising than the
variety of its phases except the underlying unity.

This power of varying in sympathetic response to the needs of many minds
and growing in harmony with the outlook of successive ages, is a
contrast to the pretended _quod semper, quod ubique, quod ab
omnibus_[92] of Western Churches, for in view of their differences and
mutual hostility it can only be called a pretence. Indians recognize
that only the greatest and simplest religious questions can be asked now
in the same words that came to the lips more than two thousand years ago
and even if the questions are the same, the answers of the thoughtful
are still as widely divergent as the pronouncements of the Buddha and
the Brahmans. But nearly all the propositions contained in a European
creed involve matters of history or science which are obviously affected
by research and discovery as much as are astronomy or medicine, and not
only are the propositions out of date but they mostly refer to problems
which have lost their interest. But Indian religion eschews creeds and
will not die with the spread of knowledge. It will merely change and
enter a new phase of life in which much that is now believed and
practised will be regarded as the gods and rites of the Veda are
regarded now.

I do not think that there is much profit in comparing religions, which
generally means exalting one at the expense of the others, but rather
that it is interesting and useful to learn what others, especially those
least like ourselves, think of these matters. And in religious questions
Asia has a distinct right to be heard.

For if Europeans have any superiority over Asiatics, it lies in
practical science, finance and administration, not in thought or art. If
one were collecting views about philosophy and religion in Europe, one
would not begin by consulting financiers and engineers, and the
policeman who stands in the middle of the street and directs the traffic
to this side and that is not intellectually superior to those who obey
him as if he were something superhuman. Europeans in Asia are like such
a policeman: their gifts are authority and power to organize: in other
respects their superiority is imaginary.

I do not think that Christianity will ever make much progress in Asia,
for what is commonly known by that name is not the teaching of Christ
but a rearrangement of it made in Europe and like most European
institutions practical rather than thoughtful. And as for the teaching
of Christ himself, the Indian finds it excellent but not ample or
satisfying. There is little in it which cannot be found in some of the
many scriptures of Hinduism and it is silent on many points about which
they speak, if not with convincing authority, at least with suggestive
profundity. Neither do I think that Europe is likely to adopt Buddhist
or Brahmanic methods of thought on any large scale. Theosophical and
Buddhist societies have my sympathy but it is sympathy with lonely
workers in an unpopular cause and I am not sure that they always
understand what they try to teach. There is truth at the bottom of the
dogma that all Buddhas must be born and teach in India: Asiatic doctrine
may commend itself to European minds but it fits awkwardly into European

But this is no reason for refusing to accord to Indian religion at least
the same attention that we give to Plato and Aristotle. Every idea which
is held strongly by any large body of men is worthy of respectful
examination, although I do not think that because an opinion is
widespread it is therefore true. Thus the idea that in the remote past
there was some kind of paradise or golden age and that the span of human
life was once much longer than now is found among most nations. Yet
research and analogy suggest that it is without foundation. The fact
that about half the population of the world has come under the influence
of Hindu ideas gives Indian thought historical importance rather than
authority. The claim of India to the attention of the world is that she,
more than any other nation since history began, has devoted herself to
contemplating the ultimate mysteries of existence and, in my eyes, the
fact that Indian thought diverges widely from our own popular thought is
a positive merit. In intellectual and philosophical pursuits we want new
ideas and Indian ideas are not familiar or hackneyed in the west, though
I think that more European philosophers and mystics have arrived at
similar conclusions than is generally supposed.

Indian religions have more spirituality and a greater sense of the
Infinite than our western creeds and more liberality. They are not
merely tolerant but often hold that the different classes of mankind
have their own rules of life and suitable beliefs and that he who
follows such partial truths does no wrong to the greater and
all-inclusive truths on which his circumstances do not permit him to fix
his attention. And though some Indian religions may sanction bad
customs, sacrifice of animals and immoral rites, yet on the whole they
give the duty of kindness to animals a prominence unknown in Europe and
are more penetrated with the idea that civilization means a gentle and
enlightened temper—an idea sadly forgotten in these days of war. Their
speculative interest can hardly be denied. For instance, the idea of a
religion without a personal God may seem distasteful or absurd but the
student of human thought must take account of it and future generations
may not find it a useless notion. It is certain that in Asia we find
Buddhist Churches which preach morality and employ ritual and yet are
not theistic, and also various systems of pantheism which, though they
may use the word God, obviously use it in a sense which has nothing in
common with Christian and Mohammedan ideas.

India's greatest contribution to religion is not intellectual, as the
mass of commentaries and arguments produced by Hindus might lead us to
imagine, but the persistent and almost unchallenged belief in the
reality and bliss of certain spiritual states which involve intuition.
All Indians agree that they are real, even to the extent of offering an
alternative superior to any ordinary life of pleasure and success, but
their value for us is lessened by the variety of interpretations which
they receive and which make it hard to give a more detailed definition
than that above. For some they are the intuition of a particular god,
for others of divinity in general. For Buddhists they mean a new life of
knowledge, freedom and bliss without reference to a deity. But apart
from such high matters I believe that the mental training preliminary to
these states—what is called meditation and concentration—is well worth
the attention of Europeans. I am not recommending trances or catalepsy:
in these as in other matters the Hindus are probably prone to exaggerate
and the Buddha himself in his early quest for truth discarded trances as
an unsatisfactory method. But the reader can convince himself by
experiment that the elementary discipline which consists in suppressing
"discursive thought" and concentrating the mind on a particular
object—say a red flower—so that for some time nothing else is present to
the mind and the image of the flower is seen and realized in all its
details, is most efficacious for producing mental calm and alertness. By
such simple exercises the mind learns how to rest and refresh itself.
Its quickness of apprehension and its retentive power are considerably
increased, for words and facts imprinted on it when by the suppression
of its ordinary activities it has thus been made a _tabula rasa_ remain
fixed and clear.

Such great expressions of emotional theism as the Râmâyana of Tulsi Das
are likely to find sympathetic readers in Europe, but the most original
feature of Indian thought is that, as already mentioned, it produces
systems which can hardly be refused the name of religion and yet are
hardly theistic. The Buddha preached a creed without reference to a
supreme deity and the great Emperor Asoka, the friend of man and beast,
popularized this creed throughout India. Even at the present day the
prosperous and intelligent community of Jains follow a similar doctrine
and the Advaita philosophy diverges widely from European theism. It is
true that Buddhism invented gods for itself and became more and more
like Hinduism and that the later Vedantist and Sivaite schools have a
strong bent to monotheism. Yet all Indian theism seems to me to have a
pantheistic tinge[93] and India is certainly the classic land of
Pantheism. The difficulties of Pantheism are practical: it does not lend
itself easily to popular cries and causes and it finds it hard to
distinguish and condemn evil[94]. But it appeals to the scientific
temper and is not repulsive to many religious and emotional natures.
Indeed it may be said that in monotheistic creeds the most thoughtful
and devout minds often tend towards Pantheism, as witness the Sufis
among Moslims, the Kabbalists among the Jews and many eminent mystics in
the Christian Church. In India, the only country where the speculative
interest is stronger than the practical, it is a common form of belief
and it is of great importance for the history and criticism of religion
to see how an idea which in Europe is hardly more than philosophic
theory works on a large scale.

Later Buddhism—the so-called Mahayana—may be justly treated as one of
the many varieties of Indian religion, not more differentiated from
others than is for instance the creed of the Sikhs. The speculative side
of early Buddhism (which was however mainly a practical movement) may be
better described as an Indian critique of current Indian views. The
psychology of the Pitakas has certainly enough life to provoke
discussion still, for it receives both appreciative treatment and
uncompromising condemnation at the hands of European scholars. To set it
aside as not worth the labour spent on elucidating it, seems to me an
error of judgment. As a criticism of the doctrine developed in the
Upanishads, it is acute and interesting, even if we hold the Upanishads
to be in the right, and no serious attempt to analyze the human mind can
be without value, for though the facts are before every human being such
attempts are rare. It is singular that so many religions should
prescribe and prophecy for the soul without being able to describe its
nature. Hesitation and diffidence in defining the Deity seem proper and
natural but it is truly surprising that people are not agreed as to the
essential facts about their own consciousness, their selves, souls,
minds and spirits: whether these are the same or different: whether they
are entities or aggregations. The Buddha's answers to these questions
cannot be dismissed as ancient or outlandish, for they are practically
the conclusions arrived at by a distinguished modern psychologist,
William James, who says in his _Psychology_[95], "The states of
consciousness are all that psychology requires to do her work with.
Metaphysics or theology may prove the soul to exist, but for psychology
the hypothesis of such a substantial principle of unity is superfluous"
and again "In this book the provisional solution which we have reached
must be the final one: The thoughts themselves are the thinkers."

Equally in sympathy with Buddhist ideas is the philosophy of M. Bergson,
which holds that movement, change, becoming is everything and that there
is nothing else: no things that move and change and become[96]. Huxley
too, speaking of idealism, said "what Berkeley does not seem to have so
clearly perceived is that the non-existence of a substance of mind is
equally arguable.... It is a remarkable indication of the subtlety of
Indian speculation that Gautama should have seen deeper than the
greatest of modern idealists[97]."

Even Mr Bradley says "the soul is a particular group of psychical events
in so far as those events are taken merely as happening in time[98]."
There is a smack of the Pitakas about this, although Mr Bradley's
philosophy as a whole shows little sympathy for Buddhism but a wondrous
resemblance both in thought and language to the Vedânta. This is the
more remarkable because there is no trace in his works of Sanskrit
learning or even of Indian influence at second hand. A peculiarly
original and independent mind seems to have worked its way to many of
the doctrines of the Advaita, without entirely adopting its general
conclusions, for I doubt if Sankara would have said "the positive
relation of every appearance as an adjective to reality and the presence
of reality among its appearances in different degrees and with different
values—this double truth we have found to be the centre of philosophy."
But still this is the gist of many Vedantic utterances both early[99]
and late. Gauḍapâda states that the world of appearance is due to
_svabhâva_ or the essential nature of Brahman and I imagine that the
thought here is the same as when Mr Bradley says that the Absolute is
positively present in all appearances.

Among many coincidences both in thought and expression, I note the
following. Mr Bradley[100] says "The Perfect ... means the identity of
idea and existence, accompanied by pleasure" which is almost the verbal
equivalent of _saccidânanda_. "The universe is one reality which appears
in finite centres." "How there can be such a thing as appearance we do
not understand." In the same way Vedantists and Mahayanists can offer no
explanation of Maya or whatever is the power which makes the universe of
phenomena. Again he holds that neither our bodies nor our souls (as we
commonly understand the word) are truly real[101] and he denies the
reality of progress "For nothing perfect, nothing genuinely real can
move." And his discussion of the difficulty of reconciling the ideas of
God and the Absolute and specially the phrase "short of the Absolute,
God cannot rest and having reached that goal he is lost and religion
with him" is an epitome of the oscillations of philosophic Hinduism
which feels the difficulty far more keenly than European religion,
because ideas analogous to the Absolute are a more vital part of
religion (as distinguished from metaphysics) in India than in

Nor can Indian ideas as to Maya and the unreality of matter be dismissed
as curious dreams of mystical brains, for the most recent phases of
Physics—a science which changes its fundamental ideas as often as
philosophy—tend to regard matter as electrical charges in motion. This
theory is a phrase rather than an explanation, but it has a real
affinity to Indian phrases which say that Brahman or Śakti (which are
forces) produce the illusion of the world.

I am not venturing here on any general comparison of European and Indian
thought. My object is merely to point out that the latter contains many
ideas to which British philosophers find themselves led and from which,
when they have discovered them in their own way, they do not shrink. It
can hardly then be without interest to see how these ideas have been
elaborated, often more boldly and thoroughly, in Asia.





In this book I shall briefly sketch the condition of religion in India
prior to the rise of Buddhism and in so doing shall be naturally led to
indicate several of the fundamental ideas of Hinduism. For few old ideas
have entirely perished: new deities, new sects and new rites have arisen
but the main theories of the older Upanishads still command respect and
modern reformers try to justify their teaching from the ancient texts.

But I do not propose to discuss in detail the religion of the Vedic
hymns for, so far as it can be distinguished from later phases, it looks
backward rather than forward. It is important to students of comparative
mythology, of the origins of religion, of the Aryan race. But it
represents rather what the Aryans brought into India than what was
invented in India, and it is this latter which assumes a prominent place
in the intellectual history of the world as Hinduism and Buddhism. The
ancient nature gods of the wind and the dawn have little place in the
mental horizon of either the Buddha or Bhagavad-gîtâ and even when the
old names remain, the beings who bear them generally have new
attributes. Still, Vedic texts are used in modern worship and in many
respects there is a real continuity of thought.

In the first chapter I enquire whether there is any element common to
the religions of India and to the countries of Eastern Asia and find
that the worship of nature spirits and the veneration of ancestors
prevail throughout the whole of this vast region and have not been
suppressed by Buddhism or Brahmanism. Then coming to the purely Indian
sphere, I have thought it might not be amiss to give an epitome of such
parts of Indian history as are of importance for religion. Next I
endeavour to explain how the social institutions of India and the unique
position acquired by the Brahman aristocracy have determined the
character of Hindu religion—protean and yet unmistakeably Indian in all
its phases—and I also investigate the influence of the belief in
rebirth, which from the time of the Upanishads onwards dominates Indian
thought. In the fourth and fifth chapters I trace the survival of some
ancient ideas and show how many attributes of the Vedic gods can be
found in modern deities who are at first sight widely different and how
theories of salvation by sacrifice or asceticism or knowledge have been
similarly persistent. In the sixth chapter I attempt to give a picture
of religious life, both Brahmanic and non-Brahmanic, as it existed in
India about the time when the Buddha was born. Of the non-Brahmanic
sects which then flourished most have disappeared, but one, namely the
Jains, has survived and left a considerable record in literature and
art. I have therefore devoted a chapter to it here.

My object in this book is to discuss the characteristics of Indian
religion which are not only fundamental but ancient. Hence this is not
the place to dwell on Bhakti or relatively modern theistic sects,
however great their importance in later Hinduism may be.



The countries with which this work deals are roughly speaking India with
Ceylon; Indo-China with parts of the Malay Archipelago; Japan and China
with the neighbouring regions such as Tibet and Mongolia. All of them
have been more or less influenced by Hinduism and Buddhism and in hardly
any of them is Mohammedanism the predominant creed[103], though it may
have numerous adherents. The rest of Asia is mainly Mohammedan or
Christian and though a few Buddhists may be found even in Europe (as the
Kalmuks) still neither Hinduism nor Buddhism has met with general
acceptance west of India.

In one sense, the common element in the religion of all these countries
is the presence of Indian ideas, due in most cases to Buddhism which is
the export form of Hinduism, although Brahmanic Hinduism reached Camboja
and the Archipelago. But this is not the element on which I wish now to
insist. I would rather enquire whether apart from the diffusion of ideas
which has taken place in historical times, there is any common
substratum in the religious temperament of this area, any fund of
primitive, or at least prehistoric ideas, shared by its inhabitants.
Such common ideas will be deep-seated and not obvious, for it needs but
little first-hand acquaintance with Asia to learn that all
generalizations about the spirit of the East require careful testing and
that such words as Asiatic or oriental do not connote one type of mind.
For instance in China and Japan the control of the state over religion
is exceptionally strong: in India it is exceptionally weak. The
religious temperaments of these nations differ from one another as much
as the Mohammedan and European temperaments and the fact that many races
have adopted Buddhism and refashioned it to their liking does not
indicate that their mental texture is identical. The cause of this
superficial uniformity is rather that Buddhism in its prime had no
serious rivals in either activity or profundity, but presented itself to
the inhabitants of Eastern Asia as pre-eminently the religion of
civilized men, and was often backed by the support of princes. Yet one
cannot help thinking that its success in Eastern Asia and its failure in
the West are not due merely to politics and geography but must
correspond with some racial idiosyncrasies. Though it is hard to see
what mental features are common to the dreamy Hindus and the practical
Chinese, it may be true that throughout Eastern Asia for one reason or
another such as political despotism, want of military spirit, or on the
other hand a tendency to regard the family, the clan or the state as the
unit, the sense of individuality is weaker than in Western Asia or
Europe, so that pantheism and quietism with their doctrines of the
vanity of the world and the bliss of absorption arouse less opposition
from robust lovers of life. This is the most that can be stated and it
does not explain why there are many Buddhists in Japan but none in

But apart from Buddhism and all creeds which have received a name,
certain ideas are universal in this vast region. One of them is the
belief in nature spirits, beings who dwell in rocks, trees, streams and
other natural objects and possess in their own sphere considerable
powers of doing good or ill. The Nagas, Yakshas and Bhutas of India, the
Nats of Burma, the Peys of Siam, the Kami of Japan and the Shen of China
are a few items in a list which might be indefinitely extended. In many
countries this ghostly population is as numerous as the birds of the
forest: they haunt every retired spot and perch unseen under the eaves
of every house. Theology has not usually troubled itself to define their
status and it may even be uncertain whether respect is shown to the
spirits inhabiting streams and mountain peaks or to the peaks and
streams themselves[104].

They may be kindly (though generally requiring punctilious attention),
or mischievous, or determined enemies of mankind. But infinite as are
their variations, the ordinary Asiatic no more doubts their existence
than he doubts the existence of animals. The position which they enjoy,
like their character, is various, for in Asia deities like men have
careers which depend on luck. Many of them remain mere elves or goblins,
some become considerable local deities. But often they occupy a position
intermediate between real gods and fairies. Thus in southern India,
Burma and Ceylon may be seen humble shrines, which are not exactly
temples but the abodes of beings whom prudent people respect. They have
little concern with the destinies of the soul or the observance of the
moral law but much to do with the vagaries of rivers and weather and
with the prosperity of the village. Though these spirits may attain a
high position within a certain district (as for instance Maha Saman, the
deity of Adam's Peak in Ceylon) they are not of the same stuff as the
great gods of Asia. These latter are syntheses of many ideas, and
centuries of human thought have laboured on their gigantic figures. It
is true that the mental attitude which deifies the village stream is
fundamentally the same as that which worships the sun, but in the latter
case the magnitude of the phenomenon deified sets it even for the most
rustic mind in another plane. Also the nature gods of the Veda are not
quite the same as the nature spirits which the Indian peasants worship
to-day and worshipped, as the Pitakas tell us, in the time of the
Buddha. For the Vedic deities are such forces as fire and light, wind
and water. This is nature worship but the worship of nature generalized,
not of some bold rock or mysterious rustling tree. It may be that a
migratory life, such as the ancient Aryans at one time led, inclined
their minds to these wider views, since neither the family nor the tribe
had an abiding interest in any one place. Thus the ancestors of the
Turks in the days before Islam worshipped the spirits of the sky, earth
and water, whereas the more civilized but sedentary Chinese had genii
for every hamlet, pool and hillock.

It is difficult to say whether monotheism is a development of this
nature worship or has another origin. In Japanese religion the
monotheistic tendency is markedly absent. The sun-goddess is the
principal deity but remains simply _prima inter pares_. But in the
ancient religion of China, T'ien or Heaven, also called Shang-ti, the
supreme ruler, though somewhat shadowy and impersonal, does become an
omnipotent Providence without even approximate rivals. Other superhuman
beings are in comparison with him merely angels. Unfortunately the early
history of Chinese religion is obscure and the documents scanty. In
India however the evolution of pantheism or theism (though usually with
a pantheistic tinge) out of the worship of nature forces seems clear.
These gods or forces are seen to melt into one another and to be aspects
of one another, until the mind naturally passes on to the idea that they
are all manifestations of one force finding expression in human
consciousness as well as in physical phenomena. The animist and
pantheist represent different stages but not different methods of
thought. For the former, every natural object which impresses him is
alive; the latter concurs in this view, only he thinks the universe is
instinct with one and the same life displaying itself in infinite

One difficulty incidental to the treatment of Asiatic religions in
European languages is the necessity, or at any rate the ineradicable
habit, of using well-known words like God and soul as the equivalents of
Asiatic terms which have not precisely the same content and which often
imply a different point of view. For practical life it is wise and
charitable to minimize religious differences and emphasize points of
agreement. But this willingness to believe that others think as we do
becomes a veritable vice if we are attempting an impartial exposition of
their ideas. If the English word God means the deity of ordinary
Christianity, who is much the same as Allah or Jehovah—that is to say
the creator of the world and enforcer of the moral law—then it would be
better never to use this word in writing of the religions of India and
Eastern Asia, for the concept is almost entirely foreign to them. The
nature spirits of which we have been speaking are clearly not God: when
an Indian peasant brings offerings to the tomb of a deceased brigand or
the Emperor of China promotes some departed worthy to be a deity of a
certain class, we call the ceremony deification, but there is not the
smallest intention of identifying the person deified with the Supreme
Being, and odd as it may seem, the worship of such "gods" is compatible
with monotheism or atheism. In China, Shang-ti is less definite than
God[105] and it does not appear that he is thought of as the creator of
the world and of human souls. Even the greater Hindu deities are not
really God, for those who follow the higher life can neglect and almost
despise them, without, however, denying their existence. On the other
hand Brahman, the pantheos of India, though equal to the Christian God
in majesty, is really a different conception, for he is not a creator in
the ordinary sense: he is impersonal and though not evil, yet he
transcends both good and evil. He might seem merely a force more suited
to be the subject matter of science than of religion, were not
meditation on him the occupation, and union with him the goal, of many
devout lives. And even when Indian deities are most personal, as in the
Vishnuite sects, it will be generally found that their relations to the
world and the soul are not those of the Christian God. It is because the
conception of superhuman existence is so different in Europe and Asia
that Asiatic religions often seem contradictory or corrupt: Buddhism and
Jainism, which we describe as atheistic, and the colourless respectable
religion of educated Chinese, become in their outward manifestations
unblushingly polytheistic.

Similar difficulties and ambiguities attend the use of the word soul,
for Buddhism, which is supposed to hold that there is no soul, preaches
retribution in future existences for acts done in this, and seeks to
terrify the evil doer with the pains of hell; whereas the philosophy of
the Brahmans, which inculcates a belief in the soul, seems to teach in
some of its phases that the disembodied and immortal soul has no
consciousness in the ordinary human sense. Here language is dealing with
the same problems as those which we describe by such phrases as the
soul, immortality and continuous existence, but it is striving to
express ideas for which we have little sympathy and no adequate
terminology. They will be considered later.

But one attitude towards that which survives death is almost universal
in Eastern Asia and also easily intelligible. It finds expression in the
ceremonies known as ancestor worship. This practice has attracted
special attention in China, where it is the commonest and most
conspicuous form of religious observance, but it is equally prevalent
among the Hindus, though less prominent because it is only one among the
many rites which engage the attention of that most devout nation. It is
one of the main constituents in the religions of Indo-China and Japan,
though the best authorities think that it was not the predominant
element in the oldest form of Shinto. It is less prominent among the
Tibeto-Burmese tribes but not absent, for in Tibet there are both good
and evil ghosts who demand recognition by appropriate rites. It is
sometimes hard to distinguish it from the worship of natural forces. For
instance in China and southern India most villages have a local deity
who is often nameless. The origin of such deities may be found either in
a departed worthy or in some striking phenomenon or in the association
of the two.

The cult of ghosts may be due to either fear or affection, and both
motives are found in Eastern Asia. But though abundant examples of the
propitiation of angry spirits can be cited, respect and consideration
for the dead are the feelings which usually inspire these ceremonies at
the present day and form the chief basis of family religion. There is no
need to explain this sentiment. It is much stronger in Asia than in
Europe but some of its manifestations may be paralleled by masses and
prayers for the dead, others by the care bestowed on graves and by
notices _in memoriam_. As a rule both in China and India only the last
three generations are honoured in these ceremonies. The reason is
obvious: the more ancient ancestors have ceased to be living memories.
But it might be hard to find a theoretical justification for neglecting
them and it is remarkable that in all parts of Asia the cult of the dead
fits very awkwardly into the official creeds. It is not really
consistent with any doctrine of metempsychosis or with Buddhist teaching
as to the impermanence of the Ego. In China may be found the further
inconsistency that the spirit of a departed relative may receive the
tribute of offerings and salutations called ancestor worship, while at
the same time Buddhist services are being performed for his deliverance
from hell. But of the wide distribution, antiquity and strength of the
cult there can be no doubt. It is anterior not only to Brahmanism but to
the doctrines of transmigration and karma, and the main occupation of
Buddhist priests in China and Japan is the performance of ceremonies
supposed to benefit the dead. Even within Buddhism these practices
cannot be dismissed as a late or foreign corruption. In the
Khuddaka-pâṭha which, if not belonging to the most ancient part of the
Buddhist canon, is at least pre-Christian and purely Indian, the dead
are represented as waiting for offerings and as blessing those who give
them. It is also curious that a recent work called _Raymond_ by Sir O.
Lodge (1916) gives a view of the state after death which is
substantially that of the Chinese. For its teaching is that the dead
retain their personality, concern themselves with the things of this
world, know what is going to happen here and can to some extent render
assistance to the living[106]. Also (and this point is specially
remarkable) burning and mutilation of the body seem to inconvenience the

Early Chinese works prescribe that during the performance of ancestral
rites, the ghosts are to be represented by people known as the
personators of the dead who receive the offerings and are supposed to be
temporarily possessed by spirits and to be their mouthpieces. Possession
by ghosts or other spirits is, in popular esteem, of frequent occurrence
in India, China, Japan and Indo-China. It is one of the many factors
which have contributed to the ideas of incarnation and deification, that
is, that gods can become men and men gods. In Europe the spheres of the
human and divine are strictly separated: to pass from one to the other
is exceptional: a single incarnation is regarded as an epoch-making
event of universal importance. But in Asia the frontiers are not thus
rigidly delimitated, nor are God and man thus opposed. The ordinary dead
become powers in the spirit world and can bless or injure here: the
great dead become deities: in another order of ideas, the dead
immediately become reincarnate and reappear on earth: the gods take the
shape of men, sometimes for the space of a human life, sometimes for a
shorter apparition. Many teachers in India have been revered as partial
incarnations of Vishnu and most of the higher clergy in Tibet claim to
be Buddhas or Bodhisattvas manifest in the flesh. There is no proof that
the doctrine of metempsychosis existed in Eastern Asia independently of
Indian influence but the ready acceptance accorded to it was largely due
to the prevalent feeling that the worlds of men and spirits are divided
by no great gulf. It is quite natural to step into the spirit world and
back again into this.

It will not have escaped the reader's attention that many of the
features which I have noticed as common to the religions of Eastern
Asia—such as the worship of nature spirits and ancestors—are not
peculiar to those countries but are almost, if not quite, universal in
certain stages of religious development. They can, for instance, be
traced in Europe. But whereas they exist here as survivals discernible
only to the eye of research and even at the beginning of the Christian
era had ceased to be the obvious characteristics of European paganism,
in Asia they are still obvious. Age and logic have not impaired their
vigour, and official theology, far from persecuting them, has
accommodated its shape to theirs. This brings us to another point where
the linguistic difficulty again makes itself felt, namely, that the word
religion has not quite the same meaning in Eastern Asia as in Mohammedan
and Christian lands. I know of no definition which would cover
Christianity, Buddhism, Confucianism and the superstitions of African
savages, for the four have little community of subject matter or aim. If
any definition can be found it must I think be based on some superficial
characteristic such as ceremonial. Nor is there any objection to
refusing the title of religion to Buddhism and Confucianism, except that
an inconvenient lacuna would remain in our vocabulary, for they are not
adequately described as philosophies. A crucial instance of the
difference in the ideas prevalent in Europe and Eastern Asia is the fact
that in China many people belong to two or three religions and it would
seem that when Buddhism existed in India the common practice was
similar. Paganism and spiritual religion can co-exist in the same mind
provided their spheres are kept distinct. But Christianity and Islam
both retain the idea of a jealous God who demands not only exclusive
devotion but also exclusive belief: to believe in other Gods is not only
erroneous; it is disobedience and disloyalty. But such ideas have little
currency in Eastern Asia, especially among Buddhists. The Buddha is not
a creator or a king but rather a physician. He demands no allegiance and
for those who disobey him the only punishment is continuance of the
disease. And though Indian deities may claim personal and exclusive
devotion, yet in defining and limiting belief their priests are less
exacting than Papal or Moslim doctors. Despite sectarian formulas, the
Hindu cherishes broader ideas such as that all deities are forms and
passing shapes of one essence; that all have their proper places and
that gods, creeds and ceremonies are necessary helps in the lower stages
of the religious life but immaterial to the adept.

It does not follow from this that Hindus are lukewarm or insincere in
their convictions. On the contrary, faith is more intense and more
widely spread among them than in Europe. Nor can it be said that their
religion is something detachable from ordinary life: the burden of daily
observances prescribed and duly borne seems to us intolerable. But
Buddhism and many forms of Hinduism present themselves as methods of
salvation with a simplicity and singleness of aim which may be
paralleled in the Gospels but only rarely in the national churches of
Europe. The pious Buddhist is one who moulds his life and thoughts
according to a certain law: he is not much concerned with worshipping
the gods of the state or city, but has nothing against such worship: his
aims and procedure have nothing to do with spirits who give wealth and
children or avert misfortune. But since such matters are of great
interest to mankind, he is naturally brought into contact with them and
he has no more objection to a religious service for procuring rain than
to a scientific experiment for the same purpose. Similarly Confucians
follow a system of ethics which is sufficient for a gentleman and
accords a decorous recognition to a Supreme Being and ancestral spirits.
Much concession to superstition would be reprehensible according to this
code but if a Confucian honours some deity either for his private
objects or because it is part of his duties as a magistrate, he is not
offending Confucius. He is simply engaging in an act which has nothing
to do with Confucianism. The same distinction often applies in Indian
religion but is less clear there, because both the higher doctrine as
well as ordinary ceremonial and mythology are described under one name
as Hinduism. But if a native of southern India occasionally sacrifices a
buffalo to placate some village spirit, it does not follow that all his
religious notions are of this barbarous type.

Asiatic ideas as to the relations between religions are illustrated by
an anecdote related to me in Assam. Christianity has made many converts
among the Khasis, a non-Hindu tribe of that region, and a successful
revival meeting extending over a week was once held in a district of
professing Christians. When the week was over and the missionaries gone,
the Khasis performed a ceremony in honour of their tribal deities. Their
pastors regarded this as a woeful lapse from grace but no disbelief in
Christianity or change of faith was implied. The Khasis had embraced
Christianity in the same spirit that animated the ancient disciples of
the Buddha: it was the higher law which spoke of a new life and of the
world to come. But it was not understood that it offered to take over
the business of the local deities, to look after crops and pigs and
children, to keep smallpox, tigers and serpents in order. Nobody doubted
the existence of spirits who regulate these matters, while admitting
that ethics and the road to heaven were not in their department, and
therefore it was thought wise to supplement the Christian ceremonies by
others held in their honour and thus let them see that they were not
forgotten and run no risk of incurring their enmity.

My object in this chapter is to point out at the very beginning that in
Asia the existence of a duly labelled religion, such as Buddhism or
Confucianism, does not imply the suppression of older nameless beliefs,
especially about nature spirits and ghosts. In China and many other
countries we must not be surprised to find Buddhists honouring spirits
who have nothing to do with Buddhism. In India we must not suppose that
the doctrines of Râmânuja or any other great teacher are responsible for
the crudities of village worship, nor yet rashly assume that the
villager is ignorant of them.



It may be useful to insert here a brief sketch of Indian history, but
its aim is merely to outline the surroundings in which Hindu religion
and philosophy grew up. It, therefore, passes lightly over much which is
important from other points of view and is intended for reference rather
than for continuous reading.

An indifference to history, including biography, politics and geography,
is the great defect of Indian literature. Not only are there few
historical treatises[107] but even historical allusions are rare and
this curious vagueness is not peculiar to any age or district. It is as
noticeable among the Dravidians of the south as among the speakers of
Aryan languages in the north. It prevails from Vedic times until the
Mohammedan conquest, which produced chronicles though it did not induce
Brahmans to write them in Sanskrit. The lacuna is being slowly filled up
by the labours of European scholars who have collected numerous data
from an examination of inscriptions, monuments and coins, from the
critical study of Hindu literature, and from research in foreign,
especially Chinese, accounts of ancient India.

At first sight the history of India seems merely a record of invasions,
the annals of a land that was always receptive and fated to be
conquered. The coast is poor in ports and the nearest foreign shore
distant. The land frontiers offer more temptation to invaders than to
emigrants. The Vedic Aryans, Persians, Greeks and hordes innumerable
from Central Asia poured in century after century through the passes of
the north-western mountains and after the arrival of Vasco da Gama other
hordes came from Europe by sea. But the armies and fleets of India can
tell no similar story of foreign victories. This picture however
neglects the fact that large parts of Indo-China and the Malay
Archipelago (including Camboja, Champa, Java and even Borneo) received
not only civilization but colonists and rulers from India. In the north
too Nepal, Kashmir, Khotan and many other districts might at one time or
another be legitimately described as conquered or tributary countries.
It may indeed be justly objected that Indian literature knows nothing of
Camboja and other lands where Indian buildings have been discovered[108]
and that the people of India were unconscious of having conquered them.
But Indian literature is equally unconscious of the conquests made by
Alexander, Kanishka and many others. Poets and philosophers were little
interested in the expeditions of princes, whether native or foreign. But
if by India is meant the country bounded by the sea and northern
mountains it undoubtedly sent armies and colonists to regions far beyond
these limits, both in the south-east and the north, and if the expansion
of a country is to be measured not merely by territorial acquisition but
by the diffusion of its institutions, religion, art and literature, then
"the conquests of the Dhamma," to use Asoka's phrase, include China,
Japan, Tibet and Mongolia.

The fact that the Hindus paid no attention to these conquests and this
spread of their civilization argues a curious lack of interest in
national questions and an inability to see or utilize political
opportunities which must be the result of temperament rather than of
distracting invasions. For the long interval between the defeat of the
Huns in 526 A.D. and the raids of Mahmud of Ghazni about 1000 A.D. which
was almost entirely free from foreign inroads, seems precisely the
period when the want of political ideas and constructive capacity was
most marked. Nor were the incursions always destructive and sterile. The
invaders, though they had generally more valour than culture of their
own, often brought with them foreign art and ideas, Hellenic, Persian or
Mohammedan. Naturally the northern districts felt their violence most as
well as the new influences which they brought, whereas the south became
the focus of Hindu politics and culture which radiated thence northwards
again. Yet, on the whole, seeing how vast is the area occupied by the
Hindus, how great the differences not only of race but of language, it
is remarkable how large a measure of uniformity exists among them (of
course I exclude Mohammedans) in things religious and intellectual.
Hinduism ranges from the lowest superstition to the highest philosophy
but the stages are not distributed geographically. Pilgrims go from
Badrinath to Ramesvaram: the Vaishnavism of Trichinopoly, Muttra and
Bengal does not differ in essentials, the worship of the linga can be
seen almost anywhere. And though India has often been receptive, this
receptivity has been deliberate and discriminating. Great as was the
advance of Islam, the resistance offered to it was even more remarkable
and at the present day it cannot be said that in the things which most
interest them Indian minds are specially hospitable to British ideas.

The relative absence of political unity seems due to want of interest in
politics. It is often said that the history of India in pre-Mohammedan
times is an unintelligible or, at least, unreadable, record of the
complicated quarrels and varying frontiers of small states. Yet this is
as true of the history of the Italian as of the Indian peninsula. The
real reason why Indian history seems tedious and intricate is that large
interests are involved only in the greatest struggles, such as the
efforts to repulse the Huns or Mohammedans.

The ordinary wars, though conducted on no small scale, did not involve
such causes or principles as the strife of Roundheads with Cavaliers.
With rare exceptions, states and empires were regarded as the property
of their monarchs. Religion claimed to advise kings, like other wealthy
persons, as to their duties and opportunities, and ministers became the
practical rulers of kingdoms just as a steward may get the management of
an estate into his hands. But it rarely occurred to Hindus that other
persons in the estate had any right to a share in the government, or
that a Raja could be dispossessed by anybody but another Raja. Of that,
indeed, there was no lack. Not only had every sovereign to defend
himself against the enemies in his own house but external politics
seemed based on the maxim that it is the duty of a powerful ruler to
increase his territory by direct and unprovoked attacks on his
neighbours. There is hardly a king of eminence who did not expand his
power in this way, and the usual history of a royal house is successful
aggression followed by collapse when weaker hands were unable to hold
the inherited handful. Even moderately long intervals of peace are rare.
Yet all the while we seem to be dealing not with the expansion or
decadence of a nation, but with great nobles who add to their estates or
go bankrupt.

These features of Indian politics are illustrated by the Arthaśâstra, a
manual of state-craft attributed to Câṇakya, the minister of Candragupta
and sometimes called the Indian Macchiavelli. Its authenticity has been
disputed but it is now generally accepted by scholars as an ancient work
composed if not in the fourth century, at least some time before the
Christian era. It does not, like Manu and other Brahmanic law-books,
give regulations for an ideal kingdom but frankly describes the practice
of kings. The form of state contemplated is a small kingdom surrounded
by others like it and war is assumed to be their almost normal relation,
but due to the taste or policy of kings, not to national aspirations or
economic causes. Towards the Brahmans a king has certain moral
obligations, towards his subjects and fellow monarchs none. It is
assumed that his object is to obtain money from his subjects, conquer
his neighbours, and protect himself by espionage and severe punishments
against the attacks to which he is continually exposed, especially at
the hands of his sons. But the author does not allow his prince a life
of pleasure: he is to work hard and the first things he has to attend to
are religious matters.

The difficulty of writing historical epitomes which are either accurate
or readable is well known and to outline the events which have occurred
in the vast area called India during the last 2500 years is a specially
arduous task, for it is almost impossible to frame a narrative which
follows the fortunes of the best known Hindu kingdoms and also does
justice to the influence of southern India and Islam. It may be useful
to tabulate the principal periods, but the table is not continuous and
even when there is no gap in chronology, it often happens that only one
political area is illuminated amid the general darkness and that this
area is not the same for many centuries.

1. From about 500 to 200 B.C. Magadha (the modern Bihar) was the
principal state and the dominions of its great king Asoka were almost
the same as British India to-day.

2. In the immediately succeeding period many invaders entered from the
north-west. Some were Greeks and some Iranians but the most important
were the Kushans who ruled over an Empire embracing both north-western
India and regions beyond it in Afghanistan and Central Asia. This Empire
came to an end in the third century A.D. but the causes of its collapse
are obscure.

3. The native Hindu dynasty of the Guptas began to rule in 320 A.D. Its
dominions included nearly all northern India but it was destroyed by the
invasions of the Huns in the fifth and sixth centuries.

4. The Hindu Emperor Harsha (606-647 A.D.) practically reconstituted the
Gupta Empire but his dominions split up after his death. At the same
time another Empire which extended from Gujarat to Madras was founded by
Pulakeśin, a prince from the south, a region which though by no means
uncivilized had hitherto played a small part in the general history of

5. From 650 to 1000 A.D. India was divided among numerous independent
kingdoms. There was no central power but Bengal and the Deccan were more
prominent than previously.

6. After 1000 A.D. the conquests of Mohammedan invaders became important
and the Hindu states of northern and central India collapsed or grew
weak. But the Hindus held out in Rajputana, Orissa, and above all in

7. In 1526 came the invasion of the Mughals, who founded an Empire which
at its zenith (1556-1707) included all India except the extreme south.
In its decadence the Marathas and Sikhs became powerful and Europeans
began to intervene.

It is generally agreed that at a period which, though not fixed, was
anterior to 1000 B.C.[109] a body of invaders known as Aryans and nearly
akin to the ancient Iranians entered India through the north-western
mountains. They found there other tribes not deficient in civilization
but unable to offer any effective resistance. These tribes who retired
southwards are commonly known as Dravidians[110] and possibly represent
an earlier invasion of central-Asiatic tribes allied to the remote
ancestors of the Turks and Mongols[111]. At the time when the earlier
hymns of the Rig Veda were composed, the Aryans apparently lived in the
Panjab and did not know the sea, the Vindhya mountains or the Narbudda
river. They included several tribes, among whom five are specially
mentioned, and we hear that a great battle was fought on the Ravi, in
which a confederation of ten kings who wished to force a passage to the
east was repulsed by Sudas, chief of the Tritsus. Still the
south-eastern movement, across the modern United Provinces to the
borders of Bengal, continued and, so far as our records go, it was in
this direction rather than due south or south-west, that the Aryans
chiefly advanced[112]. When the Brâhmaṇas and earlier Upanishads were
composed (c. 800-600 B.C.) the principal political units were the
kingdoms of the Pancâlas and Kurus in the region of Delhi. The city of
Ayodhyâ (Oudh) is also credited with a very ancient but legendary

The real history of India begins with the life of the Buddha who lived
in the sixth century B.C.[113] At that time the small states of northern
India, which were apparently oligarchies or monarchies restricted by the
powers of a tribal council, were in process of being absorbed by larger
states which were absolute monarchies and this remained the normal form
of government in both Hindu and Moslim times. Thus Kosala (or Oudh)
absorbed the kingdom of Benares but was itself conquered by Magadha or
Bihar, the chief city of which was Pataliputra or Patna, destined to
become the capital of India. We also know that at this period and for
about two centuries later the Persian Empire had two satrapies within
the limits of modern India, one called "India," including the country
east of the Indus and possibly part of the Panjab, and the other called
Gândhâra (Peshawar) containing Takshaśilâ[114], a celebrated university.
The situation of this seat of learning is important, for it was
frequented by students from other districts and they must have felt
there in early times Persian and afterwards Hellenistic influence. There
are clear signs of Persian influence in India in the reign of Asoka. Of
Magadha there is little to be said for the next century and a half, but
it appears to have remained the chief state of northern India.

In 327 B.C. Alexander the Great after over-throwing the Persian Empire
invaded India, where he remained only nineteen months. He probably
intended to annex Sind and the Panjab permanently to his Empire but he
died in 323 and in the next year Candragupta, an exiled scion of the
royal house of Magadha, put an end to Macedonian authority in India and
then seized the throne of his ancestors. He founded the Maurya dynasty
under which Magadha expanded into an Empire comprising all India except
the extreme south. Seleucus Nicator, who had inherited the Asiatic
possessions of Alexander and wished to assert his authority, came into
collision with Candragupta but was completely worsted and about 303 B.C.
concluded a treaty by which he ceded the districts of Kabul, Herat and
Kandahar. Shortly afterwards he sent as his ambassador to the court of
Pataliputra a Greek named Megasthenes who resided there for a
considerable time and wrote an account of the country still extant in a
fragmentary form. The grandson of Candragupta was Asoka, the first ruler
of all India (c. 273-231 B.C.). His Empire extended from Afghanistan
almost to Madras and was governed with benevolent but somewhat
grandmotherly despotism. He was an ardent Buddhist and it is mainly
owing to his efforts, which are described in more detail below, that
Buddhism became during some centuries the dominant faith in India.
Asoka's Empire broke up soon after his death in circumstances which are
not clear, for we now enter upon one of those chaotic periods which
recur from time to time in Indian history and we have little certain
information until the fourth century A.D. Andhra, a region including
large parts of the districts now called the Northern Circars, Hyderabad
and Central Provinces, was the first to revolt from the Mauryas and a
dynasty of Andhra kings[115], who claimed to belong to the Śâtavâhana
family, ruled until 236 A.D. over varying but often extensive
territories. What remained of the Maurya throne was usurped in 184 B.C.
by the Sungas who in their turn were overthrown by the Kaṇvas. These
latter could not withstand the Andhras and collapsed before them about
27 B.C.

Alexander's invasion produced little direct effect, and no allusion to
it has been found in Indian literature. But indirectly it had a great
influence on the political, artistic and religious development of the
Hindus by preparing the way for a series of later invasions from the
north which brought with them a mixed culture containing Hellenic,
Persian and other elements. During some centuries India, as a political
region, was not delimitated on the north-western side as it is at
present and numerous principalities rose and fell which included Indian
territory as well as parts of Afghanistan.

These states were of at least three classes, Hellenistic, Persian or
Parthian, and Scythian, if that word can be properly used to include the
Sakas and Kushans.

Bactria was a Persian satrapy before Alexander's invasion but when he
passed through it on his way to India he founded twelve cities and
settled a considerable number of his soldiers in them. It formed part of
the Empire of Seleucus but declared itself independent in 250 B.C. about
the same time that the Parthians revolted and founded the Empire of the
Arsacidae. The Bactrian kings bore Greek names and in 209 Antiochus III
made peace with one of them called Euthydemus, in common cause against
the nomads who threatened Western Asia. Demetrius, the son of this
Euthydemus, appears to have conquered Kabul, the Panjab and Sind (c. 190
B.C.) but his reign was troubled by the rebellion of a certain
Eukratides and it is probable that many small and contending
frontier-states, of which we have a confused record, were ruled by the
relatives of one or other of these two princes. The most important of
them was Menander, apparently king of the Kabul valley. About 155 he
made an incursion to the east, occupied Muttra and threatened
Pataliputra itself but was repulsed. He is celebrated in Buddhist
literature as the hero of the Questions of Milinda but his coins, though
showing some Buddhist emblems, indicate that he was also a worshipper of
Pallas. Shortly after this Hellenic influence in Bactria was overwhelmed
by the invasion of the Yüeh-chih, though the Greek principalities in the
Panjab may have lasted considerably longer.

In the reign of Mithridates (c. 171-138 B.C.) the Parthian Empire was
limitrophe with India and possibly his authority extended beyond the
Indus. A little later the Parthian dependencies included two satrapies,
Aracosia and the western Panjab with capitals at Kandahar and Taxila
respectively. In the latter ruled kings or viceroys one of whom called
Gondophores (c. 20 A.D.) is celebrated on account of his legendary
connection with the Apostle Thomas.

More important for the history of India were the conquests of the Sakas
and Yüeh-chih, nomad tribes of Central Asia similar to the modern
Turkomans[116]. The former are first heard of in the basin of the river
Ili, and being dislodged by the advance of the Yüeh-chih moved
southwards reaching northwestern India about 150 B.C. Here they founded
many small principalities, the rulers of which appear to have admitted
the suzerainty of the Parthians for some time and to have borne the
title of satraps. It is clear that western India was parcelled out among
foreign princes called Sakas, Yavanas, or Pallavas whose frontiers and
mutual relations were constantly changing. The most important of these
principalities was known as the Great Satrapy which included Surashṭra
(Kathiawar) with adjacent parts of the mainland and lasted until about
395 A.D.

The Yüeh-chih started westwards from the frontiers of China about 100
B.C. and, driving the Sakas before them, settled in Bactria. Here
Kadphises, the chief of one of their tribes, called the Kushans,
succeeded in imposing his authority on the others who coalesced into one
nation henceforth known by the tribal name. The chronology of the Kushan
Empire is one of the vexed questions of Indian history and the dates
given below are stated positively only because there is no space for
adequate discussion and are given with some scepticism, that is desire
for more knowledge founded on facts. Kadphises I (c. 15-45 A.D.) after
consolidating his Empire led his armies southwards, conquering Kabul and
perhaps Kashmir. His successor Kadphises II (c. 45-78 A.D.) annexed the
whole of north-western India, including northern Sind, the Panjab and
perhaps Benares. There was a considerable trade between India and the
Roman Empire at this period and an embassy was sent to Trajan,
apparently by Kanishka (c. 78-123), the successor of Kadphises. This
monarch played a part in the later history of Buddhism comparable with
that of Asoka in earlier ages[117]. He waged war with the Parthians and
Chinese, and his Empire which had its capital at Peshawar included
Afghanistan, Bactria, Kashgar, Yarkand, Khotan[118] and Kashmir. These
dominions, which perhaps extended as far as Gaya in the east, were
retained by his successors Huvishka (123-?140 A.D.) and Vasudeva
(?140-178 A.D.), but after this period the Andhra and Kushan dynasties
both collapsed as Indian powers, although Kushan kings continued to rule
in Kabul. The reasons of their fall are unknown but may be connected
with the rise of the Sassanids in Persia. For more than a century the
political history of India is a blank and little can be said except that
the kingdom of Surashṭra continued to exist under a Saka dynasty.

Light returns with the rise of the Gupta dynasty, which roughly marks
the beginning of modern Hinduism and of a reaction against Buddhism.
Though nothing is known of the fortunes of Pataliputra, the ancient
imperial city of the Mauryas, during the first three centuries of our
era, it continued to exist. In 320 a local Raja known as Candragupta I
increased his dominions and celebrated his coronation by the institution
of the Gupta era. His son Samudra Gupta continued his conquests and in
the course of an extraordinary campaign, concluded about 340 A.D.,
appears to have received the submission of almost the whole peninsula.
He made no attempt to retain all this territory but his effective
authority was exercised in a wide district extending from the Hugli to
the rivers Jumna and Chambal in the west and from the Himalayas to the
Narbudda. His son Candragupta II or Vikramâditya added to these
possessions Malwa, Gujarat and Kathiawar and for more than half a
century the Guptas ruled undisturbed over nearly all northern India
except Rajputana and Sind. Their capital was at first Pataliputra, but
afterwards Kausambi and Ayodhya became royal residences.

The fall of the Guptas was brought about by another invasion of
barbarians known as Hûnas, Ephthalites[119] or White Huns and apparently
a branch of the Huns who invaded Europe. This branch remained behind in
Asia and occupied northern Persia. They invaded India first in 455, and
were repulsed, but returned about 490 in greater force and overthrew the
Guptas. Their kings Toramâṇa and Mihiragula were masters of northern
India till 540 and had their local capital at Sialkot in the Panjab,
though their headquarters were rather in Bamyin and Balkh. The cruelties
of Mihiragula provoked a coalition of Hindu princes. The Huns were
driven to the north and about 565 A.D. their destruction was completed
by the allied forces of the Persians and Turks. Though they founded no
permanent states their invasion was important, for many of them together
with kindred tribes such as the Gurjaras (Gujars) remained behind when
their political power broke up and, like the Sakas and Kushans before
them, contributed to form the population of north-western India,
especially the Rajput clans.

The defeat of the Huns was followed by another period of obscurity, but
at the beginning of the seventh century Harsha (606-647 A.D.), a prince
of Thanesar, founded after thirty-five years of warfare a state which
though it did not outlast his own life emulated for a time the
dimensions and prosperity of the Gupta Empire. We gather from the
account of the Chinese pilgrim Hsüan Chuang, who visited his court at
Kanauj, that the kings of Bengal, Assam and Ujjain were his vassals but
that the Panjab, Sind and Kashmir were independent. Kalinga, to the
south of Bengal, was depopulated but Harsha was not able to subdue
Pulakeśin II, the Câlukya king of the Deccan.

Let us now turn for a moment to the history of the south. It is even
more obscure both in events and chronology than that of the north, but
we must not think of the Dravidian countries as uninhabited or
barbarous. Even the classical writers of Europe had some knowledge of
them. King Pandion (Pândya) sent a mission to Augustus in 20 B.C.[120]
Pliny[121] speaks of Modura (Madura) and Ptolemy also mentions this town
with about forty others. It is said[122] that there was a temple
dedicated to Augustus at Muziris, identified with Cranganore. From an
early period the extreme south of the peninsula was divided into three
states known as the Pândya, Cera and Cola kingdoms[123]. The first
corresponded to the districts of Madura and Tinnevelly. Cera or Kerala
lay on the west coast in the modern Travancore. The Cola country
included Tanjore, Trichinopoly, Madras, with the greater part of Mysore.
From the sixth to the eighth century A.D. a fourth power was important,
namely the Pallavas, who apparently came from the north of the Madras
Presidency. They had their capital at Conjeevaram and were generally at
war with the three kingdoms. Their king, Narasimha-Varman (625-645 A.D.)
ruled over part of the Deccan and most of the Cola country but after
about 750 they declined, whereas the Colas grew stronger and Rajaraja
(985-1018) whose dominions included the Madras Presidency and Mysore
made them the paramount power in southern India, which position they
retained until the thirteenth century.

As already mentioned, the Deccan was ruled by the Andhras from 220 B.C.
to 236 A.D., but for the next three centuries nothing is known of its
history until the rise of the Câlukya dynasty at Vatapi (Badami) in
Bijapur. Pulakeśin II of this dynasty (608-642), a contemporary of
Harsha, was for some time successful in creating a rival Empire which
extended from Gujarat to Madras, and his power was so considerable that
he exchanged embassies with Khusru II, King of Persia, as is depicted in
the frescoes of Ajanta. But in 642 he was defeated and slain by the

With the death of Pulakeśin and Harsha begins what has been called the
Rajput period, extending from about 650 to 1000 A.D. and characterized
by the existence of numerous kingdoms ruled by dynasties nominally
Hindu, but often descended from northern invaders or non-Hindu
aboriginal tribes. Among them may be mentioned the following:

1. Kanauj or Pancâla. This kingdom passed through troublous times after
the death of Harsha but from about 840 to 910 A.D. under Bhoja (or
Mihira) and his son, it became the principal power in northern India,
extending from Bihar to Sind. In the twelfth century it again became
important under the Gaharwar dynasty.

2. Kanauj was often at war with the Palas of Bengal, a line of Buddhist
kings which began about 730 A.D. Dharmapala (c. 800 A.D.) was
sufficiently powerful to depose the king of Kanauj. Subsequently the
eastern portion of the Pala kingdom separated itself under a rival
dynasty known as the Senas.

3. The districts to the south of the Jumna known as Jejâkabhukti
(Bundelkhand) and Cedi (nearly equivalent to our Central Provinces) were
governed by two dynasties known as Candels and Kalacuris. The former are
thought to have been originally Gonds. They were great builders and
constructed among other monuments the temples of Khajarao. Kîrtivarman
Chandel (1049-1100) greatly extended their territories. He was a patron
of learning and the allegorical drama Prabodhacandrodaya was produced at
his court.

4. The Paramara (Pawar) dynasty of Malwa were likewise celebrated as
patrons of literature and kings Munja (974-995) and Bhoja (1018-1060)
were authors as well as successful warriors.

5. Though the Câlukyas of Vatapi were temporarily crushed by the
Pallavas their power was re-established in 655 and continued for a
century. The Eastern Câlukyas, another branch of the same family,
established themselves in Vengi between the Kistna and Godaveri. Here
they ruled from 609 to 1070 first as viceroys of the Western Câlukyas
and then as an independent power till they were absorbed by the Colas.
Yet another branch settled in Gujarat.

6. The Câlukyas of Vatapi were overthrown by the Râshṭrakûṭas who were
masters of the Deccan from about 750 to 972, and reigned first at Nasik
and then at Manyakheta (Malkhed). Krishna I of this dynasty excavated
the Kailasa temple at Ellora (c. 760) but many of his successors were
Jains. During the ninth century the Râshṭrakûṭas seem to have ruled over
most of western India from Malwa to the Tungabhadra.

7. The Râshṭrakûṭas collapsed before a revival of the Câlukya dynasty
which reappears from 993 to 1190 as the Câlukyas of Kalyani (in the
Nizam's dominions). The end of this dynasty was partly due to the
usurpation of a Jain named Bijjala in whose reign the sect of the
Lingâyats arose.

We must now turn to an event of great historical importance although its
details are not relevant to the subject of this book, namely the
Mohammedan conquest. Three periods in it may be recognized. First, the
conquest of Sind in 712 A.D. by the Arabs, who held it till the eleventh
century but without disturbing or influencing India beyond their
immediate neighbourhood. Secondly, the period of invasions and dynasties
which are commonly called Turki (c. 1000-1526 A.D.). The progress of
Islam in Central Asia coincided with the advance to the west and south
of vigorous tribes known as Turks or Mongols, and by giving them a
religious and legal discipline admirably suited to their stage of
civilization, it greatly increased their political efficiency. The
Moslim invaders of India started from principalities founded by these
tribes near the north-western frontier with a military population of
mixed blood and a veneer of Perso-Arabic civilization, and apart from
the greater invasions, there were incursions and settlements of Turkis,
Afghans and Mongols. The whole period was troublous and distracted. The
third period was more significant and relatively stable. Baber, a
Turkish prince of Fergana, captured Delhi in 1526 and founded the power
of the Mughals, which during the seventeenth century deserved the name
of the Indian Empire.

The first serious Moslim incursions were those of Mahmud of Ghazni, who
between 997 and 1030 made many raids in which he sacked Kanauj, Muttra,
Somnath and many other places but without acquiring them as permanent
possessions. Only the Panjab became a Moslim province. In 1150 the
rulers of Ghor, a vassal principality near Herat, revolted against
Ghazni and occupied its territory, whence the chieftain commonly called
Muhammad of Ghor descended on India and subdued Hindustan as well as the
Panjab (1175-1206). One of his slaves named Kutb-ud-Din Ibak became his
general and viceroy and, when Muhammad died, founded at Delhi the
dynasty known as Slave Sultans. They were succeeded by the Khilji
Sultans (1290-1318) the most celebrated of whom was the capable but
ferocious Ala-ud-Din and these again by the Tughlak dynasty. Muhammad
Adil, the second of this line, attempted to move the capital from Delhi
to Daulatabad in the Deccan. In 1398 northern India was convulsed by the
invasion of Timur who only remained a few months but sacked Delhi with
terrible carnage. Many years of confusion followed, and a dynasty known
as the Saiyids ruled in greatly diminished territories. But in 1451
arose the Lodi or Afghan dynasty which held the Panjab, Hindustan and
Bundelkhand until the advent of the Mughals. These five royal houses do
not represent successive invasions from the west. Their founders, though
of diverse origin, were all leaders engaged in the troubled politics of
northern India, and they all reigned at Delhi, round which a tradition
of Empire thus grew up. But the succession was disputed in almost every
case; out of thirty-four kings twelve came to a violent end and not one
deserved to be called Emperor of India. They were confronted by a double
array of rivals, firstly Hindu states which were at no period all
reduced to subjection, and, secondly, independent Mohammedan states, for
the governors in the more distant provinces threw off their allegiance
and proclaimed themselves sovereigns. Thus Bengal from the time of its
first conquest by Muhammad Bakhtyar had only a nominal connection with
Delhi and declared itself independent in 1338. When Timur upset the
Tughlak dynasty, the states of Jaunpur, Gujarat, Malwa and Khandesh
became separate kingdoms and remained so until the time of Akbar. In the
south one of Muhammad Adil's generals founded the Bahmani dynasty which
for about a century (1374-1482) ruled the Deccan from sea to sea. It
then split up into five sultanates with capitals at Bidar, Bijapur,
Golkonda, Ahmadnagar and Elichpur.

In the twelfth century, the Hindu states were not quite the same as
those noticed for the previous period. Kanauj and Gujarat were the most
important. The Palas and Senas ruled in Bengal, the Tomaras at Delhi,
the Chohans in Ajmer and subsequently in Delhi too. The Mohammedans
conquered all these states at the end of the twelfth century. Their
advance was naturally less rapid towards the south. In the Deccan the
old Hindu dynasties had been replaced by the Hoysalas (c. 1117-1310
A.D.) and the Yadavas (1180-1309 A.D.) with capitals at Halebid and
Daulatabad respectively. Both were destroyed by Malik Kafur, the slave
general of Sultan Ala-ud-Din, but the spirit of the Deccan was not
broken and within a few years the brothers Bukka and Harihara founded
the state of Vijayanagar, "the never-to-be-forgotten Empire" as a native
scholar has aptly termed it, which for more than two centuries was the
centre of Hindu political power. The imposing ruins of its capital may
still be seen at Hampi on the Tungabhadra and its possessions comprised
everything to the south of this, and, at times, also territory to the
north, for throughout its existence it was engaged in warfare with the
Bahmani dynasty or the five sultanates. Among its rulers the most
notable was Krishnadeva (1509-1529) but the arrogance and weakness of
his successors provoked the five Moslim Sultans to form a coalition.
They collected an immense army, defeated the troops of Vijayanagar at
the battle of Talikota and sacked the city (1565).

In two other districts the Hindus were able to retain political
independence until the time of Akbar, namely Orissa and Rajputana. In
the former the best known name is Anantavarman Colaganga (1076-1147) who
built the temple of Jagannath at Puri, established the Eastern Ganga
dynasty and ruled from the Godaveri to the Ganges. The Mohammedans never
occupied Rajputana, and though they captured the principal fortresses,
they did not retain them. The State of Mewar can even boast that it
never made any but a nominal and honourable submission to the Sultans of
Delhi. Akbar incorporated the Rajputs in his Empire and by his
considerate treatment secured their support.

The history of the Mughals may be divided into three periods. In the
first Baber acquired (1526 A.D.) the dominions of the Lodi dynasty as
well as Jaunpur, but his death was followed by a troubled interval and
it was not till the second period (1556-1707) comprising the reigns of
Akbar, Jehangir, Shah Jehan and Aurungzeb that the Empire was securely
established. Akbar made himself master of practically all India north of
the Godaveri and his liberal policy did much to conciliate his Hindu
subjects. He abolished the poll tax levied from non-Moslims and the tax
on pilgrimages. The reform of revenue administration was entrusted to an
orthodox Hindu, Todar Mall. Among the Emperor's personal friends were
Brahmans and Rajputs, and the principal Hindu states (except Mewar) sent
daughters to his harem. In religion he was eclectic and loved to hear
theological argument. Towards the end of his life he adopted many Hindu
usages and founded a new religion which held as one of its principal
tenets that Akbar was God's Viceregent. His successors, Jehangir and
Shah Jehan, were also tolerant of Hinduism, but Aurungzeb was a
fanatical Moslim and though he extended his rule over all India except
the extreme south, he alienated the affection of his Hindu subjects by
reimposing the poll tax and destroying many temples. The Rajputs, Sikhs
and Marathas all rebelled and after his death the Empire entered into
the third period in which it rapidly disintegrated. Hindu states, like
the Maratha confederacy and Rajputana, asserted themselves. Mohammedan
governors declared their independence in Oudh, Bengal, the Nizam's
dominions and elsewhere: Persians and Afghans raided the Panjab: French
and English contended for the possession of southern India.

It would be outside the purpose of this book even to outline the
establishment of British authority, but I may mention that direct
European influence began to be felt in the sixteenth century, for Vasco
da Gama arrived in Calicut in 1498 and Goa was a Portuguese possession
from 1510 onwards. Nor can we linger over the fortunes of the Marathas
who took the place of Vijayanagar as the Hindu opposition to
Mohammedanism. They are, however, important for us in so far as they
show that even in matters political the long Moslim domination had not
broken the spirit of the Hindus. About 1660 a chieftain named Sivaji,
who was not merely a successful soldier but something of a fanatic with
a belief in his divine mission, founded a kingdom in the western Ghats
and, like the Sikh leaders, almost created a nation, for it does not
appear that before his time the word Maratha (Mahârâshṭra) had any
special ethnic significance. After half a century the power of his
successors passed into the hands of their Brahman ministers, known as
Peshwas, who became the heads of a confederacy of Maratha chiefs,
including the Rajas of Gwalior, Berar and Orissa, Indore and Baroda.
About 1760 the Marathas were practically masters of India and though the
Mughal Emperor nominally ruled at Delhi, he was under their tutelage.
They had a chance of reviving the glories of Asoka and the Guptas, but,
even apart from the intervention of Europeans, they were distracted by
jealousy and quarrels.




In the first chapter we enquired whether there are any religious ideas
common to Eastern Asia as a whole and found that they amount to little
more than a background of nature worship and ancestor worship almost
universally present behind the official creeds. Also the conception of a
religious system and its relation to beliefs which do not fall within it
are not quite the same in these countries as in Europe, so that the
inhabitants sometimes follow more than one religion.

Let us now examine the characteristics common to Indian creeds. They are
numerous and striking. A prolonged study of the multitudinous sects in
which Indian religion manifests itself makes the enquirer feel the truth
of its own thesis that plurality is an illusion and only the one
substratum real. Still there are divergent lines of thought, the most
important of which are Hinduism and Buddhism. Though decadent Buddhism
differed little from the sects which surrounded it, early Buddhism did
offer a decided contrast to the Brahmanic schools in its theories as to
human nature as well as in ignoring tradition and sacerdotalism. We may
argue that Buddhism is merely Vaishnavism or Śaivism in travelling
dress, but its rejection of Brahmanic authority is of capital
importance. It is one of the reasons for its success outside India and
its disappearance in India meant that it could not maintain this
attitude. Yet many features of Buddhism are due to the fact that
Hinduism, and not Islam or Christianity, was the national expression of
religion in India and also many features of Hinduism may be explained by
the existence of this once vigorous antagonist.

Hinduism[124] has striking peculiarities which distinguish it from
Christianity, Islam and even from Buddhism. It recognizes no one master
and all unifying principles known to other creeds seem here to be
absent. Yet its unity and vitality are clear and depend chiefly on its
association with the Brahman caste. We cannot here consider the complex
details of the modern caste system but this seems the place to examine
the position of the Brahmans, for, from the dawn of Sanskrit literature
until now, they have claimed to be the guides of India in all matters
intellectual and religious and this persistent claim, though often
disputed, has had a great measure of success.

The institution of caste is social rather than religious and has grown
gradually: we know for instance that in the time of the Buddha it had
not attained to anything like its present complexity and rigidity. Its
origin is explicable if we imagine that the Indo-Aryans were an invading
people with an unusual interest in religion. The Kshatriyas and Vaiśyas
mark the distinction between the warriors or nobles and the plebs which
is found in other Aryan communities, and the natives whom the Aryans
conquered formed a separate class, recognized as inferior to all the
conquerors. This might have happened in any country. The special feature
of India is the numerical, social and intellectual strength of the
priestly caste. It is true that in reading Sanskrit literature we must
remember that most of it is the work of Brahmans and discount their
proclivity to glorify the priesthood, but still it is clear that in
India the sacerdotal families acquired a position without parallel
elsewhere and influenced its whole social and political history. In most
countries powerful priesthoods are closely connected with the Government
under which they flourish and support the secular authority. As a result
of this alliance, kings and the upper classes generally profess and
protect orthodoxy, and revolutionary movements in religion generally
come from below. But in ancient India though the priests were glad
enough to side with the kings, the nobles during many centuries were not
ready to give up thinking for themselves. The Hindu's capacity for
veneration and the small inclination of the Brahmans to exercise direct
government prevented revolts against sacerdotal tyranny from assuming
the proportions we should expect, but whereas in many countries history
records the attempts of priests to become kings, the position is here
reversed. The national proclivity towards all that is religious,
metaphysical, intellectual and speculative made all agree in regarding
the man of knowledge who has the secret of intercourse with the other
world as the highest type. The priests tended to become a hereditary
guild possessed of a secret professional knowledge. The warrior caste
disputed this monopoly and sought with less learning but not inferior
vigour to obtain the same powers. They had some success during a
considerable period, for Buddhism, Jainism and other sects all had their
origin in the military aristocracy and had it remained purely Hindu, it
would perhaps have continued the contest. But it was partly destroyed by
Turanian invaders and partly amalgamated with them, so that in 500 A.D.
whereas the Brahmans were in race and temperament very much what they
were in 500 B.C. the Kshatriyas were different. It is interesting to see
how this continuity of race brought triumph to the Brahmans in the
theological sphere. At one time the Buddhists and even the Jains seemed
to be competitors for the first place, but there are now hardly any
Indian Buddhists in India[125] and less than a million and a half of
Jains, whereas Hinduism has more than 217 million adherents. The power
of persistence and resistance displayed by the priestly caste is largely
due to the fact that they were householders not collected in temples or
monasteries but distributed over the country in villages, intensely
occupied with the things of the mind and soul, but living a simple
family life. The long succession of invasions which swept over northern
India destroyed temples, broke up monasteries and annihilated dynasties,
but their destructive force had less effect on these communities of
theologians whose influence depended not on institutions or organization
but on their hereditary aptitudes. Though the modern Brahmans are not
pure in race, still the continuity of blood and tradition is greater
among them than in the royal families of India. Many of these belong to
districts which were formerly without the pale of Hinduism: many more
are the descendants of the northern hordes who century after century
invaded India: few can bring forward any good evidence of Kshatriya
descent. Hence in India kings have never attained a national and
representative position like the Emperors of China and Japan or even the
Sultans of Turkey. They were never considered as the high priests of the
land or a quasi-divine epitome of the national qualities: the people
tended to regard them as powerful and almost superhuman beings, but
somewhat divorced from the moral standard and ideals of their subjects.
In early times there was indeed the idea of a universal Emperor, the
Cakravartin, analogous to the Messiah but, by a characteristic turn of
thought, he was thought of less as a deliverer than as a type of
superman, recurring at intervals. But monarchs who even approximated to
this type were rare, and some of the greatest of them were in early ages
Buddhists and in later Mohammedans, so that they had not the support of
the priesthood and as time went on it became less and less possible to
imagine all India rendering sympathetic homage to one sovereign.

In the midst of a perturbed flux of dynasties, usually short lived,
often alien, only occasionally commanding the affection and respect of
the population, the Brahmans have maintained for at least two
millenniums and a half their predominant position as an intellectual
aristocracy. They are an aristocracy, for they boldly profess to be by
birth better than other men. Although it is probable that many clans
have entered the privileged order without genealogical warrant, yet in
all cases birth is claimed[126]. And though the Brahmans have
aristocratic faults, such as unreasonable pride of birth, still
throughout their long history they have produced in every age men of
intelligence, learning and true piety, in numbers sufficient to make
their claims to superiority seem reasonable. In all ages they have been
sensual, ambitious and avaricious, but in all ages penetrated by the
conviction that desire is a plague and gratification unsatisfying. It is
the intelligent sensualist and politician who are bound to learn that
passion and office are vanity.

A Brahman is not necessarily a priest. Although they have continually
and on the whole successfully claimed a monopoly of sacred science, yet
at the present day many follow secular callings and probably this was so
in early periods. And though many rites can be performed by Brahmans
only, yet by a distinction which it is difficult for Europeans to grasp,
the priests of temples are not necessarily and, in many places, not
usually Brahmans. The reason perhaps is that the easy and superstitious
worship offered in temples is considered trivial and almost degrading in
comparison with the elaborate ceremonial and subtle speculation which
ought to occupy a Brahman's life.

In Europe we are accustomed to associate the ideas of sacerdotalism,
hierarchy and dogma, mainly because they are united in the greatest
religious organization familiar to us, the Roman Catholic Church. But
the combination is not necessary. Hinduism is intensely sacerdotal but
neither hierarchical nor dogmatic: Mohammedanism is dogmatic but neither
sacerdotal nor hierarchical: Buddhism is dogmatic and also somewhat
hierarchical, since it has to deal with bodies of men collected in
monasteries where discipline is necessary, but except in its most
corrupt forms it is not sacerdotal. The absence of the hierarchical idea
in Hinduism is striking. Not only is there no Pope, but there is hardly
any office comparable with a Bishopric[127]. The relationships
recognized in the priesthood are those springing from birth and the
equally sacred ties uniting teacher and pupil. Hence there is little to
remind us of the organization of Christian Churches. We have simply
teachers expounding their sacred books to their scholars, with such
combination of tradition and originality as their idiosyncrasies may
suggest, somewhat after the theory of congregational churches. But that
resemblance is almost destroyed by the fact that both teachers and
pupils belong to clans, connected by descent and accepted by the people
as a superior order of mankind. Even in the most modern sects the
descendants of the founder often receive special reverence.

Though the Brahmans have no ecclesiastical discipline, they do not
tolerate the interference of kings. Buddhist sovereigns have summoned
councils, but not so Hindu monarchs. They have built temples, paid
priests to perform sacrifices and often been jealous of them but for the
last two thousand years they have not attempted to control them within
their own sphere or to create a State Church. And the Brahmans on their
side have kept within their own province. It is true that they have
succeeded in imposing—or in identifying themselves with—a most exacting
code of social, legal and religious prescriptions, but they have rarely
aimed at temporal power or attempted to be more than viziers. They have
of course supported pious kings and received support—especially
donations—from them, and they have enjoyed political influence as
domestic chaplains to royal families, but they have not consented to any
such relations between religion and the state as exist (or existed) in
England, Russia, Mohammedan countries or China. At the ancient
coronation ceremony the priest who presented the new ruler to his
subjects said, "This is your King, O people: The King of us Brahmans is


These facts go far to explain some peculiar features of Hinduism.
Compared with Islam or Christianity its doctrines are extraordinarily
fluid, multiform and even inconsistent: its practice, though rarely lax,
is also very various in different castes and districts. The strangeness
of the phenomenon is diminished if one considers that the uniformity and
rigidity of western creeds are due to their political more than to their
religious character. Like the wind, the spirit bloweth where it listeth:
it is governed by no laws but those which its own reverence imposes: it
lives in changing speculation. But in Europe it has been in double
bondage to the logic of Greece and the law of Rome. India deals in
images and metaphor: Greece in dialectic. The original thought of
Christianity had something of this Indian quality, though more sober and
less fantastic, with more limitation and less imagination. On this
substratum the Greeks reared their edifices of dialectic and when the
quarrels of theologians began to disturb politics, the state treated the
whole question from a legal point of view. It was assumed that there
must be a right doctrine which the state should protect or even enforce,
and a wrong doctrine which it should discourage or even forbid. Hence
councils, creeds and persecutions. The whole position is logical and
legal. The truth has been defined: those who do not accept it harm not
only themselves but others: therefore they should be restrained and

But in religious matters Hindus have not proceeded in this way as a
rule. They have adopted the attitude not of a judge who decides, but of
the humane observer who sees that neither side is completely right or
completely wrong and avoids expressing his opinion in a legal form.
Hindu teachers have never hesitated to proclaim their views as the whole
and perfect truth. In that indeed they do not yield to Christian
theologians but their pronouncements are professorial rather than
judicial and so diverse and yet all so influential that the state,
though bound to protect sound doctrine, dare not champion one more than
the other. Religious persecution is rare. It is not absent but the
student has to search for instances, whereas in Christian Europe they
are among the most conspicuous facts of history.

Restless, subtle and argumentative as Hindu thought is, it is less prone
than European theology to the vice of distorting transcendental ideas by
too stringent definition. It adumbrates the indescribable by metaphors
and figures. It is not afraid of inconsistencies which may illustrate
different aspects of the infinite, but it rarely tries to cramp the
divine within the limits of a logical phrase. Attempts to explain how
the divine and human nature were combined in Christ convulsed the
Byzantine Empire and have fettered succeeding generations with their
stiff formulae. It would be rash to say that the ocean of Hindu
theological literature contains no speculations about the incarnations
of Vishnu similar to the views of the Nestorians, Monophysites and
Catholics, but if such exist they have never attracted much interest or
been embodied in well-known phrases[129]. The process by which a god can
be born as a man, while continuing to exist as a god, is not described
in quasi-legal language. Similarly the Soma offered in sacrifices is a
god as well as a drink. But though the ritual of this sacrifice has
produced an infinity of discussion and exegesis, no doctrine like
transubstantiation or consubstantiation has assumed any prominence.

The Hindu has an extraordinary power of combining dogma and free
thought, uniformity and variety. For instance it is held that the Vedas
are a self-existent, eternal revelation made manifest to ancient sages
and that their correct recitation ensures superhuman results. Yet each
Veda exists in several recensions handed down by oral tradition in
separate schools, and though the exact text and pronunciation are
matters of the utmost importance, diversities of opinion respecting them
are tolerated and honoured. Further, though the early scriptures were
preserved with scrupulous care the canon was never closed. It is
impossible to say how many Upanishads there are, nor does a Hindu think
the less of an Upanishad because it is not found in a certain list. And
in mediaeval and modern times these ancient sacred books have been
replaced for all except Brahmans by more recent Sanskrit works, or by a
vernacular literature which, though having no particular imprimatur,
claims the same authority as the Vedas[130].

The only essential tenets of Hinduism are recognition of the Brahman
caste and divine authority of the Vedas. Those who publicly deny these
doctrines as the Buddhists, Jains and Sikhs have done, put themselves
outside the pale, but the recognition required to ensure orthodoxy or at
least to avoid excommunication must not be compared with that implied by
such phrases as recognizing the authority of the Bible, or the supremacy
of the Pope. The utmost latitude of interpretation is allowed and the
supposed followers of the Veda comprise sects whose beliefs seem to have
no relation to one another or to the Veda, philosophic atheists and
demonolaters whose religious ideas hardly rise above those of African

One explanation may be, that every nation insists on liberty at the
expense of logic in the matters which interest it most. We do this in
politics. It might be difficult to make an untravelled oriental
understand how parliamentary institutions can continue for a day, how
socialists and republicans can take part in the government of a
monarchical country, and why the majority do not muzzle the opposition.
Yet Englishmen prefer to let this curious illogical muddle continue
rather than tolerate some symmetrical and authoritative system which
would check free speech and individuality. It is the same in Indian
religion. In all ages the Hindu has been passionately devoted to
speculation. He will bear heavy burdens in the way of priestly exaction,
social restrictions, and elaborate ceremonies, but he will not allow
secular or even ecclesiastical authority to cramp and school his
religious fancy, nor will he be deterred from sampling an attractive
form of speculation merely because it is pronounced unorthodox by the
priesthood, and the priesthood, being themselves Hindus, are discreet in
the use of anathemas. They insist not so much on particular doctrines
and rites as on the principle that whatever the doctrine, whatever the
rite, they must be the teachers and officiants. In critical and
revolutionary times the Brahmans have often assured their pre-eminence
by the judicious recognition of heresies. In all ages there has been a
conservative clique which restricted religion to ceremonial observances.
Again and again some intellectual or emotional outburst has swept away
such narrow limits and proclaimed doctrines which seemed subversive of
the orthodoxy of the day. But they have simply become the orthodoxy of
the morrow, under the protection of the same Brahman caste. The
assailants are turned into champions, and in time the bold reformers
stiffen into antiquated saints.

Hinduism has not been made but has grown. It is a jungle not a building.
It is a living example of a great national paganism such as might have
existed in Europe if Christianity had not become the state religion of
the Roman Empire, if there had remained an incongruous jumble of old
local superstitions, Greek philosophy and oriental cults such as the
worship of Mithra or Serapis. Yet the parallel is not exact, for in Rome
many of the discordant religious elements remained exotic, whereas in
India they all, whatever their origin, became Indian and smack of the
soil. There was wanting in European paganism the bond of union supplied
by the Brahmans who by sometimes originating, sometimes tolerating and
adapting, have managed to set their seal upon all Indian beliefs.


Thus the dominance of the Brahmans and their readiness to countenance
every cult and doctrine which can attract worshippers explains the
diversity of Indian religion, but are there no general characteristics
which mark all its multiple forms? There are, and they apply to Buddhism
as well as Hinduism, but in attempting to formulate them it is well to
say that Indian religion is as wilful and unexpected in its variations
as human nature itself and that all generalizations about it are subject
to exceptions. If we say that it preaches asceticism and the subjection
of the flesh, we may be confronted with the Vallabhâcâryas who inculcate
self-indulgence; if we say that it teaches reincarnation and successive
lives, we may be told that the Lingâyats[131] do not hold that doctrine.
And though we might logically maintain that these sects are unorthodox,
yet it does not appear that Hindus excommunicate them. Still, it is just
to say that the doctrines mentioned are characteristic of Hinduism and
are repudiated only by eccentric sects.

Perhaps the idea which has had the widest and most penetrating influence
on Indian thought is that conception of the Universe which is known as
Saṃsâra, the world of change and transmigration. The idea of rebirth and
the wandering of souls from one body to another exists in a fragmentary
form among savage tribes in many countries, but in India it makes its
appearance as a product of ripening metaphysics rather than as a
survival. It plays no part in the Vedic hymns: it first acquires
importance in the older Upanishads but more as a mystery to be
communicated to the elect than as a popular belief and to some extent as
the special doctrine of the military class rather than of the Brahmans.
At the time of the Buddha, however, it had passed beyond this stage and
was as integral a part of popular theology as is the immortality of the
soul in Europe.

Such expressions as the transmigration of souls or metempsychosis
imperfectly represent Indian ideas. They are incorrect as descriptions
of Buddhist dogmas, which start by denying the existence of a soul, and
they are not entirely suitable to those Vedantic schools which regard
transmigration as part of the illusory phenomenal world. The thought
underlying the doctrine is rather that as a child grows into youth and
age, so the soul passes from life to life in continuity if not in
identity. Whatever the origin of the idea may have been, its root in
post-Vedic times is a sense of the transitoriness but continuity of
everything. Nothing is eternal or even permanent: not even the gods, for
they must die, not even death, for it must turn into new life.

This view of life is ingrained in Indian nature. It is not merely a
scientific or philosophical speculation, but it summarizes the outlook
of ordinary humanity. In Europe the average religious man thanks or at
least remembers his Creator. But in India the Creator has less place in
popular thought. There is a disinclination to make him responsible for
the sufferings of the world, and speculation, though continually
occupied with the origins of things, rarely adopts the idea familiar to
Christians and Mohammedans alike, that something was produced out of
nothing by the divine fiat. Hindu cosmogonies are various and discordant
in details, but usually start with the evolution or emanation of living
beings from the Divinity and often a reproductive act forms part of the
process, such as the hatching of an egg or the division of a Divinity
into male and female halves. In many accounts the Deity brings into
being personages who continue the work of world-making and such entities
as mind, time and desire are produced before the material world. But
everything in these creation stories is figurative. The faithful are not
perplexed by the discrepancies in the inspired narratives, and one can
hardly imagine an Indian sect agitated by the question whether God made
the world in six literal days.

All religious doctrines, especially theories about the soul, are matters
of temperament. A race with more power of will and more delight in life
might have held that the soul is the one agent that can stand firm and
unshaken midst the flux of circumstance. The intelligent but passive
Hindu sees clearly that whatever illusions the soul may have, it really
passes on like everything else and continueth not in one stay. He is
disposed to think of it not as created with the birth of the body, but
as a drop drawn from some ocean to which it is destined to return. As a
rule he considers it to be immortal but he does not emphasize or value
personality in our sense. In previous births he has already been a great
many persons and he will be a great many more. Whatever may be the
thread between these existences it is not individuality. And what he
craves is not eternal personal activity, but unbroken rest in which
personality, even if supposed to continue, can have little meaning.

The character of the successive appearances or tenements of the soul is
determined by the law of Karma, which even more than metempsychosis is
the basis of Indian ideas about the universe. Karma is best known as a
term of the Buddhists, who are largely responsible both for the
definition and wide diffusion of the doctrine. But the idea is Brahmanic
as well as Buddhist and occurs in well-known passages of the Upanishads,
where it is laid down that as a man acts so shall he be in the next
life[132]. The word (which means simply _deed_) is the accepted
abbreviation for the doctrine that all deeds bring upon the doer an
accurately proportionate consequence either in this existence, or, more
often, in a future birth. At the end of a man's life his character or
personality is practically the sum of his acts, and when extraneous
circumstances such as worldly position disappear, the soul is left with
nothing but these acts and the character they have formed as, in Indian
language, the fruit of life and it is these acts and this character
which determine its next tenement. That tenement is simply the home
which it is able to occupy in virtue of the configuration and qualities
which it has induced in itself. It cannot complain.

One aspect of the theory of Saṃsâra which is important for the whole
history of Indian thought is its tendency towards pessimism. This
tendency is specially definite and dogmatic in Buddhism, but it is a
marked characteristic of the Indian temperament and appears in almost
every form of devotion and speculation. What salvation or the desire to
be saved is to the ordinary Protestant, Mukti or Moksha, deliverance, is
to the ordinary Hindu. In Buddhism this desire is given a dogmatic basis
for it is declared that all existence in all possible worlds necessarily
involves dukkha or suffering[133] and this view seems to have met with
popular as well as philosophic assent. But the desire for release and
deliverance is based less on a contemplation of the woes of life than on
a profound sense of its impermanence and instability[134]. Life is not
the preface to eternity, as religious Europeans think: the Hindu justly
rejects the notion that the conduct of the soul during a few score years
can fix its everlasting destiny. Every action is important for it helps
to determine the character of the next life, but this next life, even if
it should be passed in some temporary heaven, will not be essentially
different from the present. Before and behind there stretches a vista of
lives, past, present and to come, impermanent and unsatisfying, so that
future existences are spoken of not as immortality but as repeated


This sense of weary reiteration is increased by two other doctrines,
which are prevalent in Hinduism, though not universal or uncontested.
The first of them identifies the human soul with the supreme and only
Being. The doctrine of Saṃsâra holds that different forms of existence
may be phases of the same soul and thus prepares the way for the
doctrine that all forms of existence are the same and all souls parts
of, or even identical with the Âtman or Self, the divine soul which not
only pervades the world but _is_ the world. Connected with this doctrine
is another, namely, that the whole world of phenomena is Mâyâ or
illusion. Nothing really exists except the supreme Âtman: all perception
of plurality and difference is illusion and error: the reality is unity,
identity and rest. The development of these ideas leads to some of the
principal systems of philosophy and will claim our attention later. At
present I merely give their outlines as indicative of Hindu thought and
temperament. The Indian thinks of this world as a circular and unending
journey, an ocean without shore, a shadow play without even a plot. He
feels more strongly than the European that change is in itself an evil
and he finds small satisfaction in action for its own sake. All his
higher aspirations bid him extricate himself from this labyrinth of
repeated births, this phantasmagoria of fleeting, unsubstantial visions
and he has generally the conviction that this can be done by knowledge,
for since the whole Saṃsâra is illusion, it collapses and ceases so soon
as the soul knows its own real nature and its independence of phenomena.
This conviction that the soul in itself is capable of happiness and in
order to enjoy needs only the courage to know itself and be itself goes
far to correct the apathy which is the great danger of Indian thought.
It is also just to point out that from the Upanishads down to the
writings of Rabindranath Tagore in the present day Indian literature
from time to time enunciates the idea that the whole universe is the
manifestation of some exuberant force giving expression to itself in
joyous movement. Thus the Taittirîya Upanishad (III. 6) says: "Bliss is
Brahman, for from bliss all these beings are born, by bliss when born
they live, into bliss they enter at their death."

It is remarkable that Indian thought, restless and speculative as it is,
hardly ever concerns itself with the design, object or end of the world.
The notion of [Greek: Telos] plays little part in its cosmogony or
ethics[135]. The Universe is often regarded as a sport, a passing whim
of the divine Being, almost a mistake. Those legends which describe it
as the outcome of a creative act, generally represent the creator as
moved by some impulse to multiply himself rather than as executing some
deliberate if mysterious plan. Legends about the end of the world and
the establishment of a better order are rare. Hindu chronology revels in
periods, whose enormous length though expressed in figures leaves no
real impression on the mind, days and nights of Brahma, Kalpas,
Manvantaras and Yugas, in which gods and worlds are absorbed into the
supreme essence and born again. But there is no finality about these
catastrophes: the destruction of the whole universe is as certain as the
death of a mouse and to the philosopher not more important[136].
Everything is periodic: Buddhas, Jinas and incarnations of all sorts are
all members of a series. They all deserve great respect and are of great
importance in their own day, but they are none of them final, still less
are they able to create a new heaven and earth or to rise above the
perpetual flux of Saṃsâra. The Buddhists look forward to the advent of
Maitreya, the future Buddha, and the Hindus to the reappearance of
Vishnu as Kalkî, who, sword in hand and mounted on a white horse, will
purge India of barbarians, but these future apparitions excite only a
feeble interest in the popular conscience and cannot be compared in
intensity with such ideas as the Jewish Messiah.

It may seem that Indian religion is dreamy, hopeless, and unpractical,
but another point of view will show that all Indian systems are
intensely practical and hopeful. They promise happiness and point out
the way. A mode of life is always prescribed, not merely by works on law
and ceremony but by theological and metaphysical treatises. These are
not analogous to the writings of Kant or Schopenhauer and to study them
as if they were, is like trying to learn riding or cricket by reading
handbooks. The aphorisms of the Sânkhya and Vednâta are meant to be read
under the direction of a teacher who will see that the pupil's mind is
duly prepared not only by explanation but by abstinence and other
physical training. Hindu religions are unpractical only in so far that
they decline to subordinate themselves to human life. It is assumed that
the religious man who is striving towards a goal beyond this world is
ready to sacrifice the world without regret and in India the assumption
is justified surprisingly often.

As mentioned already the word god has more than one meaning. In India we
have at least two different classes of divinities, distinguished in the
native languages. First there is Brahman the one self-existent,
omnipresent, superpersonal spirit from whom all things emanate and to
whom all things return. The elaboration of this conception is the most
original feature of Indian theology, which tends to regard Brahman as
not merely immanent in all things, but as being all things, so that the
soul liberated from illusion can see that it is one with him and that
nothing else exists. Very different is the meaning of Deva: this
signifies a god (which is not the same as God, though our language
insufficiently distinguishes the two) roughly comparable with the gods
of classical mythology[137]. How little sense of divinity it carries
with it is seen by the fact that it became the common form of address to
kings and simply equivalent to Your Majesty. In later times, though Siva
is styled Mahâdeva, it was felt that the great sectarian gods, who are
for their respective worshippers the personal manifestations in which
Brahman makes himself intelligible, required some name distinguishing
them from the hosts of minor deities. They are commonly spoken of by
some title signifying the Lord: thus Siva is Îśvara, Vishnu and his
incarnations are more often styled Bhagavad.

From the Vedic hymns onwards the gods of India have been polymorphic
figures not restricted by the limitations of human personality. If a Jew
or a Moslim hears new views about God, he is disposed to condemn them as
wrong. The Hindu's inclination is to appropriate them and ascribe to his
own deity the novel attributes, whether they are consistent with the
existing figure or not. All Indian gods are really everything. As the
thought of the worshipper wanders among them they turn into one another.
Even so sturdy a personality as Indra is declared to be the same as Agni
and as Varuna, and probably every deity in the Vedic pantheon is at some
time identified with another deity. But though in one way the gods seem
vague and impersonal, in another the distinction between gods and men is
slight. The Brâhmaṇas tell us that the gods were originally mortal and
obtained immortality by offering sacrifices: the man who sacrifices like
them makes for himself an immortal body in the abode of the gods and
practically becomes a Deva and the bliss of great sages is declared
equal to the bliss of the gods[138]. The human and divine worlds are not
really distinct, and as in China and Japan, distinguished men are
deified. The deification of Buddha takes place before our eyes as we
follow the course of history: the origin of Krishna's godhead is more
obscure but it is probable that he was a deified local hero. After the
period of the Brâhmaṇas the theory that deities manifest themselves to
the world in avatâras or descents, that is in our idiom incarnations,
becomes part of popular theology.

There are other general characteristics of Indian religion which will be
best made clear by more detailed treatment in succeeding chapters. Such
are, firstly, a special theory of sacrifice or ritual which, though
totally rejected by Buddhism, has survived to modern times. Secondly, a
belief in the efficacy of self-mortification as a means of obtaining
super-human powers or final salvation. Thirdly, an even more deeply
rooted conviction that salvation can be obtained by knowledge. Fourthly,
there is the doctrine that faith or devotion to a particular deity is
the best way to salvation, but this teaching, though it seems natural to
our minds, does not make its appearance in India until relatively late.
It is not so peculiarly Indian as the other ideas mentioned, but even at
the outset it is well to insist on its prevalence during the last two
thousand years because a very false impression may be produced by
ignoring it.

There also runs through Indian religion a persistent though
inconspicuous current of non-theistic thought. It does not deny the
existence of spirits but it treats them as being, like men, subject to
natural laws, though able, like men, to influence events. The ultimate
truth for it is not pantheism but fixed natural laws of which no
explanation is offered. The religion of the Jains and the Sânkhya
philosophy belong to this current. So did the teaching of several
ancient sects, such as the Âjîvìkas, and strictly speaking Buddhism
itself. For the Buddha is not an Avatâra or a messenger but a superman
whose exceptional intelligence sees that the Wheel of Causation and the
Four Truths are part of the very nature of things. It is strange too
that asceticism, sacrifices and modern tantric rites which seem to us
concerned with the relations between man and God are in India penetrated
by a non-theistic theory, namely that there are certain laws which can
be studied and applied, much like electricity, and that then spirits can
be coerced to grant what the ascetic or sacrificer desires. At the same
time such views are more often implied than formulated. The Dharma is
spoken of as the teaching of the Buddha rather than as Cosmic Order like
the Tao of the Chinese and though tantric theory assumes the existence
of certain forces which can be used scientifically, the general
impression produced by tantric works is that they expound an intricate
mythology and ritual.




Our knowledge of early Indian religion is derived almost entirely from
literature. After the rise of Buddhism this is supplemented to some
extent by buildings, statues and inscriptions, but unlike Egypt and
Babylonia, pre-Buddhist India has yielded no temples, images or other
religious antiquities, nor is it probable that such will be discovered.
Certainly the material for study is not scanty. The theological
literature of India is enormous: the difficulty is to grasp it and
select what is important. The enquirer is confronted with a series of
encyclopædic works of great bulk and considerable antiquity, treating of
every aspect of religion which interested the Brahmans. But he
continually feels the want of independent testimony to check their
statements. They set forth the views of their authors but whether those
views met with general acceptance outside the Brahmanic caste and
influenced Indian life as a whole or whether classes, such as the
military caste, or regions, such as western India and Dravidian India,
had different views, it is often hard to say. Even more serious is the
difficulty of chronology which affects secular as well as religious
literature. The feats of Hindus in the matter of computing time show in
the most extravagant form the peculiarities of their mental temperament,
for while in their cosmogonies æons whose length the mind can hardly
grasp are tabulated with the names of their superhuman rulers there are
few[139] dates in the pre-Mohammedan history which can be determined
from purely Indian sources. The fragments of obscure Greek writers and
the notes of a travelling Chinaman furnish more trustworthy data about
important epochs in the history of the Hindus than the whole of their
gigantic literature, in which there has been found no mention of
Alexander's invasion and only scattered allusions to the conquests of
the Sakas, Kushans and Hûnas. We can hardly imagine doubt as to the
century in which Shakespeare or Virgil lived, yet when I first studied
Sanskrit the greatest of Indian dramatists, Kalidasa, was supposed to
have lived about 50 B.C. His date is not yet fixed with unanimity but it
is now generally placed in the fifth or sixth century A.D.

This chronological chaos naturally affects the value of literature as a
record of the development of thought. We are in danger of moving in a
vicious circle: of assigning ideas to an epoch because they occur in a
certain book, while at the same time we fix the date of the book in
virtue of the ideas which it contains. Still we may feel some security
as to the sequence, if not the exact dates, of the great divisions in
Indian religious literature such as the period of the Vedic hymns, the
period of the Brâhmaṇas, the rise of Buddhism, the composition of the
two great epics, and the Puranas. If we follow the opinion of most
authorities and accept the picture of Indian life and thought contained
in the Pali Tripitaka as in the main historical, it seems to follow that
both the ritual system of the Brâhmaṇas and the philosophic speculations
of the Upanishads were in existence by 500 B.C.[140] and sufficiently
developed to impress the public mind with a sense of their futility.
Some interval of mental growth seems to separate the Upanishads from the
Brâhmaṇas and a more decided interval separates the Brâhmaṇas from the
earlier hymns of the Rig Veda, if not from the compilation of the whole
collection[141]. We may hence say that the older Upanishads and
Brahmaṇas must have been composed between 800 and 500 B.C. and the hymns
of the Rig Veda hardly later than 1000 B.C. Many authorities think the
earlier hymns must date from 2000 rather than 1000 B.C. but the
resemblance of the Rig Veda to the Zoroastrian Gathas (which are
generally regarded as considerably later than 1000 B.C.) is plain, and
it will be strange if the two collections prove to be separated by an
interval of many centuries. But the stage of social and religious
culture indicated in the Vedic hymns may have begun long before they
were composed, and rites and deities common to Indians and Iranians
existed before the reforms of Zoroaster[142].

It may seem that everything is uncertain in this literature without
dates or authors and that the growth of religion in India cannot be
scientifically studied. The difficulties are indeed considerable but
they are materially reduced by the veneration in which the ancient
scriptures were held, and by the retentiveness of memory and devotion to
grammar, if not to history, which have characterized the Brahmans for at
least twenty-five centuries. The authenticity of certain Vedic texts is
guaranteed not only by the quotations found in later works, but by
treatises on phonetics, grammar and versification as well as by indices
which give the number of words in every book, chapter and verse. We may
be sure that we possess not perhaps the exact words of the Vedic poets,
but what were believed about 600 B.C. to be their exact words, and there
is no reason to doubt that this is a substantially correct version of
the hymns as recited several centuries earlier[143].

In drawing any deductions from the hymns of the Rig Veda it must be
remembered that it is the manual of the Hotri priests[144]. This does
not affect the age or character of the single pieces: they may have been
composed at very different dates and they are not arranged in the order
in which the priest recites them. But the liturgical character of the
compilation does somewhat qualify its title to give a complete picture
of religion. One could not throw doubt on a ceremony of the Church,
still less on a popular custom, because it was not mentioned in the
missal, and we cannot assume that ideas or usages not mentioned in the
Rig Veda did not exist at the time when it was composed.

We have no other Sanskrit writings contemporary with the older parts of
the Rig Veda, but the roots of epic poetry stretch far back and ballads
may be as old as hymns, though they neither sought nor obtained the
official sanction of the priesthood. Side by side with Vedic tradition,
unrecorded Epic tradition built up the figures of Siva, Râma and Krishna
which astonish us by their sudden appearance in later literature only
because their earlier phases have not been preserved.

The Vedic hymns were probably collected and arranged between 1000 and
500 B.C. At that period rites and ceremonies multiplied and absorbed
man's mind to a degree unparalleled in the history of the world and
literature occupied itself with the description or discussion of this
dreary ceremonial. Buddhism was a protest against the necessity of
sacrifices and, though Buddhism decayed in India, the sacrificial system
never recovered from the attack and assumed comparatively modest
proportions. But in an earlier period, after the composition of the
Vedic hymns and before the predominance of speculation, skill in
ceremonial was regarded as the highest and indeed only science and the
ancient prayers and poems of the race were arranged in three collections
to suit the ritual. These were the Rig Veda, containing metrical
prayers: the Yajur Veda (in an old and new recension known as the Black
and the White) containing formulæ mainly in prose to be muttered during
the course of the sacrifice: and the Sâma Veda, a book of chants,
consisting almost entirely of verses taken from the Rig Veda and
arranged for singing. The Rig Veda is clearly older than the others: its
elements are anterior to the Brahmanic liturgy and are arranged in less
complete subservience to it than in the Yajur and Sâma Vedas.

The restriction of the words Veda and Vedic to the collection of hymns,
though convenient, is not in accordance with Indian usage, which applies
the name to a much larger body of religious literature. What we call the
Rig Veda is strictly speaking the mantras of the Rig Veda or the
Rig-Veda-Saṃhitâ: besides this, there are the Brâhmaṇas or ceremonial
treatises, the Âraṇyakas and Upanishads containing philosophy and
speculation, the Sûtras or aphoristic rules, all comprised in the Veda
or Śruti (hearing), that is the revelation heard directly by saints as
opposed to Smṛiti (remembering) or tradition starting from human
teachers. Modern Hindus when not influenced by the language of European
scholars apply the word Veda especially to the Upanishads.

For some time only three[145] Vedas were accepted. But the Epics and the
Puranas know of the fourfold Veda and place the Atharva Veda on a level
with the other three. It was the manual of two ancient priestly
families, the Atharvans and Angirasas, whose speciality was charms and
prophylactics rather than the performance of the regular sacrifices. The
hymns and magic songs which it contains were probably collected
subsequently to the composition of the Brâhmaṇas, but the separate poems
are older and, so far as can be judged from their language, are
intermediate between the Rig Veda and the Brâhmaṇas. But the substance
of many of the spells must be older still, since the incantations
prescribed show a remarkable similarity to old German, Russian and
Lettish charms. The Atharva also contains speculative poems and, if it
has not the freshness of the Rig Veda, is most valuable for the history
of Indian thought and civilization.

I will not here enquire what was the original home of the Aryans or
whether the resemblances shown by Aryan languages justify us in
believing that the ancestors of the Hindus, Greeks, Kelts, Slavs, etc.,
belonged to a single race and physical type. The grounds for such a
belief seem to me doubtful. But a comparison of language, religion and
customs makes it probable that the ancestors of the Iranians and Hindus
dwelt together in some region lying to the north of India and then, in
descending southwards, parted company and wandered, one band westwards
to Persia and the other to the Panjab and south-east[146]. These latter
produced the poets of the Rig Veda. Their home is indicated by their
acquaintance with the Himalayas, the Kabul river, the Indus and rivers
of the Panjab, and the Jamna. The Ganges, though known, apparently lay
beyond their sphere, but the geography of the Atharva extends as far as
Benares and implies a practical knowledge of the sea, which is spoken of
somewhat vaguely in the Rig Veda. It is probable that the oldest hymns
were composed among the rivers of the Panjab, but the majority somewhat
further to the east, in the district of Kurukshetra or Thanesar. At some
period subsequent to the Aryan immigration there was a great struggle
between two branches of the same stock, related in a legendary form as
the contest between the Kauravas and Pâṇḍavas. Some have thought that we
have here an indication of a second invasion composed of Aryans who
remained in the mountainous districts north of the Hindu Kush when the
first detachment moved south and who developed there somewhat different
customs. It is also possible that the Atharva Veda may represent the
religious ideas of these second invaders. In several passages the
Mahâbhârata speaks of the Atharva as the highest Veda and represents the
Pâṇḍavas as practising polyandry, a custom which still prevails among
many Himalayan tribes.

The Rig Veda depicts a life not far advanced in material arts but,
considering the date, humane and civilized. There were no towns but
merely villages and fortified enclosures to be used as refuges in case
of necessity. The general tone of the hymns is kindly and healthy; many
of them indeed have more robust piety than interest. There are few
indications of barbarous customs. The general impression is of a free
and joyous life in which the principal actors are chiefs and priests,
though neither have become tyrannical.

The composition of this anthology probably extended over several
centuries and comprised a period of lively mental growth. It is
therefore natural that it should represent stages of religious
development which are not contemporaneous. But though thought is active
and exuberant in these poems they are not altogether an intellectual
outburst excited by the successful advance into India. The calm of
settlement as well as the fire of conquest have left their mark on them
and during the period of composition religion grew more boldly
speculative but also more sedentary, formal and meticulous. The earliest
hymns bear traces of quasi-nomadic life, but the writers are no longer
nomads. They follow agriculture as well as pasturage, but they are still
contending with the aborigines: still expanding and moving on. They
mention no states or capitals: they revere rivers and mountains but have
no shrines to serve as religious centres, as repositories and factories
of tradition. Legends and precepts have of course come down from earlier
generations, but are not very definite or cogent: the stories of ancient
sages and warriors are vague and wanting in individual colour.


The absence of sculpture and painting explains much in the character of
the Vedic deities. The hymn-writers were devout and imaginative, not
content to revere some undescribed being in the sky, but full of
mythology, metaphor and poetry and continually singling out new powers
for worship. Among many races the conceptions thus evolved acquire
solidity and permanence by the aid of art. An image stereotypes a deity,
worshippers from other districts can see it and it remains from
generation to generation as a conservative and unifying force. Even a
stone may have something of the same effect, for it connects the deity
with the events, rites and ideas of a locality. But the earliest stratum
of Vedic religion is worship of the powers of nature—such as the Sun,
the Sky, the Dawn, the Fire—which are personified but not localized or
depicted. Their attributes do not depend at all on art, not much on
local or tribal custom but chiefly on imagination and poetry, and as
this poetry was not united in one collection until a later period, a
bard was under no obligation to conform to the standards of his fellows
and probably many bards sang without knowing of one another's existence.

Such a figure as Agni or Fire—if one can call him a figure—illustrates
the fluid and intangible character of Vedic divinities. He is one of the
greatest in the Pantheon, and in some ways his godhead is strongly
marked. He blesses, protects, preserves, and inspires: he is a divine
priest and messenger between gods and men: he "knows all generations."
Yet we cannot give any definite account of him such as could be drawn up
for a Greek deity. He is not a god of fire, like Vulcan, but the Fire
itself regarded as divine. The descriptions of his appearance are not
really anthropomorphic but metaphorical imagery depicting shining,
streaming flames. The hymns tell us that he has a tawny beard and hair:
a flaming head or three heads: three tongues or seven: four eyes or a
thousand. One poem says that he faces in all directions: another that he
is footless and headless. He is called the son of Heaven and Earth, of
Tvashṭri and the Waters, of the Dawn, of Indra-Vishnu. One singer says
that the gods generated him to be a light for the Aryans, another that
he is the father of the gods. This multiple origin becomes more definite
in the theory of Agni's three births: he is born on earth from the
friction of fire sticks, in the clouds as lightning, and in the highest
heavens as the Sun or celestial light. In virtue of this triple birth he
assumes a triune character: his heads, tongues, bodies and dwellings are
three, and this threefold nature has perhaps something to do with the
triads of deities which become frequent later and finally develop into
the Trimûrti or Brahmâ, Vishnu, and Siva. But there is nothing fixed or
dogmatic in this idea of Agni's three births. In other texts he is said
to have two, one in Heaven and one on Earth, and yet another turn of
fancy ascribes to him births innumerable because he is kindled on many
hearths. Some of the epithets applied to him become quasi-independent.
For instance, Agni Vaiśvânara—All men's fire—and Agni Tanunapat, which
seems to mean son of himself, or fire spontaneously generated, are in a
later period treated almost as separate deities. Mâtariśvan is sometimes
a name of Agni and sometimes a separate deity who brings Agni to

In the same way the Rig Veda has not one but many solar deities. Mitra,
Sûrya, Savitri, and perhaps Puśan, Bhaga, Vivasvat and Vishnu, are all
loose personifications of certain functions or epithets of the sun.
Deities are often thought of in classes. Thus we have the Maruts, Rudras
and Vasus. We hear of Prajâpati in the singular, but also of the
Prajâpatis or creative forces.

Not only does Agni tend to be regarded as more than one: he is
identified with other gods. We are told he is Varuṇa and Mitra, Savitri
and Indra. "Thou art Varuṇa when born," says one hymn, "thou becomest
Mitra when kindled. In thee, O son of strength, are all the gods[147]."
Such identifications are common in the Vedas. Philosophically, they are
an early manifestation of the mental bias which leads to pantheism,
metempsychosis, and the feeling that all things and persons are
transitory and partial aspects of the one reality. But evidently the
mutability of the Vedic gods is also due to their nature: they are
bundles of epithets and functions without much personal or local centre.
And these epithets and functions are to a large extent, the same. All
the gods are bright and swift and helpful: all love sacrifices and
bestow wealth, sons and cows. A figure like Agni enables us to
understand the many-sided, inconsistent presentment of Siva and Vishnu
in later times. A richer mythology surrounds them but in the fluidity of
their outline, their mutability and their readiness to absorb or become
all other deities they follow the old lines. Even a deity like Gaṇeśa
who seems at first sight modern and definite illustrates these ancient
characteristics. He has one or five heads and from four to sixteen arms:
there are half a dozen strange stories of his birth and wonderful
allegories describing his adventures. Yet he is also identified with all
the Gods and declared to be the creator, preserver and destroyer of the
Universe, nay the Supreme Spirit itself[148].

In Soma, the sacred plant whose juice was offered in the most solemn
sacrifices, we again find the combination of natural phenomena and
divinity with hardly any personification. Soma is not a sacred tree
inhabited by some spirit of the woods but the Lord of immortality who
can place his worshippers in the land of eternal life and light. Some of
the finest and most spiritual of the Vedic hymns are addressed to him
and yet it is hard to say whether they are addressed to a person or a
beverage. The personification is not much more than when French writers
call absinthe "La fée aux yeux verts." Later, Soma was identified with
the moon, perhaps because the juice was bright and shining. On the other
hand Soma worship is connected with a very ancient but persistent form
of animism, for the Vedic poets celebrate as immortal the stones under
which the plant is pressed and beg them to bestow wealth and children.
Just so at the present day agricultural and other implements receive the
salutations and prayers of those who use them. They are not gods in any
ordinary sense but they are potent forces.

But some Vedic deities are drawn more distinctly, particularly Indra,
who having more character has also lasted longer than most of his
fellows, partly because he was taken over by Buddhism and enrolled in
the retinue of the Buddha. He appears to have been originally a god of
thunder, a phenomenon which lends itself to anthropomorphic treatment.
As an atmospheric deity, he conquers various powers of evil,
particularly Vritra, the demon of drought. The Vedas know of evil
spirits against whom the gods wage successful war but they have no
single personification of evil in general, like our devil, and few
malevolent deities. Of these latter Rudra, the prototype of Siva, is the
most important but he is not wholly malevolent for he is the god of
healing and can take away sickness as well as cause it. Indian thought
is not inclined to dualism, which is perhaps the outcome of a practical
mind desiring a certain course and seeing everywhere the difficulties
which the Evil One puts in the way of it, but rather to that pantheism
which tends to subsume both good and evil under a higher unity.

Indra was the tutelary deity of the invading Aryans. His principles
would delight a European settler in Africa. He protects the Aryan colour
and subjects the black skin: he gave land to the Aryans and made the
Dâsyus (aborigines) subject to them: he dispersed fifty thousand of the
black race and rent their citadels[149]. Some of the events with which
he is connected, such as the battles of King Sudas, may have a
historical basis. He is represented as a gigantic being of enormous size
and vigour and of gross passions. He feasts on the flesh of bulls and
buffaloes roasted by hundreds, his potations are counted in terms of
lakes, and not only nerve him for the fray but also intoxicate him[150].
Under the name of Sakka, Indra figures largely in the Buddhist sûtras,
and seems to have been the chief popular deity in the Buddha's lifetime.
He was adopted into the new creed as a sort of archangel and heavenly
defender of the faith. In the epics he is still a mighty deity and the
lord of paradise. Happiness in his heaven is the reward of the pious
warrior after death. The Mahâbhârata and the Puranas, influenced perhaps
by Buddhism, speak of a series of Indras, each lasting for a cycle, but
superseded when a new heaven and earth appear. In modern Hinduism his
name is familiar though he does not receive much worship. Yet in spite
of his long pre-eminence there is no disposition to regard him as the
supreme and only god. Though the Rig Veda calls him the creator and
destroyer of all things[151], he is not God in our sense any more than
other deities are. He is the personification of strength and success,
but he is not sufficiently spiritual or mystical to hold and satisfy the
enquiring mind.


One of the most interesting and impressive of Vedic deities is Varuṇa,
often invoked with a more shadowy double called Mitra. No myths or
exploits are related of him but he is the omnipotent and omniscient
upholder of moral and physical law. He established earth and sky: he set
the sun in heaven and ordained the movements of the moon and stars: the
wind is his breath and by his law the heavens and earth are kept apart.
He perceives all that exists in heaven and earth or beyond, nor could a
man escape him though he fled beyond the sky. The winkings of men's eyes
are all numbered by him[152]: he knows all that man does or thinks. Sin
is the infringement of his ordinances and he binds sinners in fetters.
Hence they pray to him for release from sin and he is gracious to the
penitent. Whereas the other deities are mainly asked to bestow material
boons, the hymns addressed to Varuṇa contain petitions for forgiveness.
He dwells in heaven in a golden mansion. His throne is great and lofty
with a thousand columns and his abode has a thousand doors. From it he
looks down on the doings of men and the all-seeing sun comes to his
courts to report.

There is much in these descriptions which is unlike the attributes
ascribed to any other member of the Vedic pantheon and recalls Ahura
Mazda of the Avesta or Semitic deities. No proof of foreign influence is
forthcoming, but the opinion of some scholars that the figure of Varuṇa
somehow reflects Semitic ideas is plausible. It has been suggested that
he was originally a lunar deity, which explains his association with
Mitra (the Persian Mithra) who was a sun god, and that the group of
deities called Âdityas and including Mitra and Varuṇa were the sun, moon
and the five planets known to the ancients. This resembles the
Babylonian worship of the heavenly bodies and, though there is no record
whatever of how such ideas reached the Aryans, it is not difficult to
imagine that they may have come from Babylonia either to India[153] or
to the country where Indians and Iranians dwelt together. There is a
Semitic flavour too in the Indian legend of the Churning of the
Ocean[154]. The Gods and Asuras effect this by using a huge serpent as a
rope to whirl round a mountain and from the turmoil there arise various
marvellous personages and substances including the moon. This resembles
in tone if not in detail the Babylonian creation myths, telling of a
primæval abyss of waters and a great serpent which is slain by the Gods
who use its body as the material for making the heavens and the

Yet Varuṇa is not the centre of a monotheistic religion any more than
Indra, and in later times he becomes a water god of no marked
importance. The Aryans and Semites, while both dissatisfied with
polytheism and seeking the one among the many, moved along different
paths and did not reach exactly the same goal. Semitic deities were
representations of the forces of nature in human form but their
character was stereotyped by images, at any rate in Assyria and
Babylonia, and by the ritual of particular places with which they were
identified. Semitic polytheism is mainly due to the number of tribes and
localities possessing separate deities, not to the number of deities
worshipped by each place and tribe. As villages and small towns were
subordinate to great towns, so the deities of minor localities were
subordinate to those of the greater. Hence the Semitic god was often
thought of as a king who might be surrounded by a court and then became
the head of a pantheon of inferior deities, but also might be thought of
as tolerating no rivals. This latter conception when combined with moral
earnestness gives us Jehovah, who resembles Varuṇa, except that Varuṇa
is neither jealous nor national. Indian polytheism also originated in
the personification of various phenomena, the sun, thunder, fire,
rivers, and so forth, but these deities unlike the Semitic gods had
little to do with special tribes or localities and the philosophic
Indian easily traced a connection between them. It is not difficult to
see that sun, fire and lightning have something in common. The gods are
frequently thought of as joined in couples, triads or larger companies
and early worship probably showed the beginnings of a feature which is
prominent in the later ritual, namely, that a sacrifice is not an
isolated oblation offered to one particular god but a series of
oblations presented to a series of deities. There was thus little
disposition to exalt one god and annihilate the others, but every
disposition to identify the gods with one another and all of them with
something else. Just as rivers, mountains and plains are dimly seen to
be parts of a whole which later ages call nature, so are the gods seen
to be parts of some divine whole which is greater than any of them. Even
in the Rig Veda we find such sentiments as "The priests speak of the One
Being in many ways: they call it Agni, Yama, Mâtariśvan[156]." Hence it
is not surprising that when in the later Vedic period a tendency towards
monotheism (but monotheism of a pantheistic type) appears, the supreme
position is given to none of the old deities but to a new figure,
Prajâpati. This word, meaning Lord of living creatures, occurs in the
Rig Veda as an epithet of the sun and is also occasionally used as the
name of the Being by whom all gods and worlds were generated and by
whose power they continue to exist. In the Brâhmaṇas and later ritual
literature he is definitely recognized as the supreme deity, the
Creator, the first sacrificer and the sacrifice itself. It is perhaps
owing to his close connection with ceremonial that enquiring and
speculative minds felt Prajâpati not to be a final or satisfactory
explanation of the universe. He is identified with Brahmâ, the active
personal creator, and this later name gradually ousts the other but he
does not, any more than Indra or Varuṇa, become the Âtman or supreme
universal Being of the Upanishads.

The principal Vedic deities are male and the few goddesses that are
mentioned such as Ushas. the Dawn, seem to owe their sex to purely
dramatic reasons. Greece and Rome as well as India felt it appropriate
to represent the daybreak as a radiant nymph. But though in later times
such goddesses as Durgâ assumed in some sects a paramount position, and
though the Veda is familiar with the idea of the world being born, there
are few traces in it of a goddess corresponding to the Great Mother,
Cybele or Astarte.

In an earlier period of Vedic studies many deities were identified with
figures in the classical or Teutonic mythology chiefly on philological
grounds but most of these identifications have now been abandoned. But a
few names and figures seem to be found among both the Asiatic and
European Aryans and to point to a common stock of ideas. Dyaus, the Sky
God, is admittedly the same as Zeus and Jupiter. The Aśvins agree in
character, though not in name, with the Dioscuri and other parallels are
quoted from Lettish mythology. Bhaga, the bountiful giver, a somewhat
obscure deity, is the same word as the Slavonic Bog, used in the general
sense of God, and we find _deva_ in Sanskrit, _deus_ in Latin, and
_devas_ in Lithuanian. Ushas, the Dawn, is phonetically related to
[Greek: 'Êhôs] and Aurora who, however, are only half deities. Indra, if
he cannot be scientifically identified with Thor, is a similar personage
who must have grown out of the same stock of ideas. By a curious
transference the Prophet Elias has in south-eastern Europe inherited the
attributes of the thunder god and is even now in the imagination of the
peasantry a jovial and riotous being who, like Indra, drives a noisy
chariot across the sky.

The connection with ancient Persian mythology is closer. The Avestan
religion was a reformation due to the genius of Zoroaster and therefore
comparable with Buddhism rather than Hinduism, but the less systematic
polytheism which preceded it contained much which reminds us of the
Vedic hymns. It can hardly be doubted that the ancestors of the Indians
and Iranians once practised almost identical forms of religion and had
even a common ritual. The chief features of the fire cult and of the
Soma or Haoma sacrifice appear in both. The sacrifice is called Yajña in
the Veda, Yasna in the Avesta: the Hotri priest is Zaotar, Atharvan is
Athravan, Mitra is Mithra. Vâyu and Âpaḥ (the divine waters) meet us in
the Avesta in almost the same forms and Indra's epithet of Vritrahan
(the slayer of Vritra) appears as Verethragna. Ahura Mazda seems to be a
development of the deity who appears as Varuṇa in India though he has
not the same name, and the main difference between Indian and Iranian
religion lies in this, that the latter was systematized by a theistic
reformer who exalted one deity above the others, whereas in India, where
there was more religious vitality, polytheistic and pantheistic fancies
flourished uncurbed and the greatest reformer, the Buddha, was not a

One peculiarity of Indians in all ages is that they put more into
religion than other races. It received most of the energy and talent
which, elsewhere, went into art, politics and philosophy. Hence it
became both intense and manifold, for deities and creeds were wanted for
every stage of intelligence and variety of taste, and also very
tolerant, for sects in India, though multitudinous, are not so sharply
divided or mutually hostile as in Europe. Connected with the general
interest which religion inspired is its strongly marked speculative
character. The Rig Veda asks whether in the beginning there was being or
not being, and the later Vedas and Brâhmaṇas are filled with discussions
as to the meaning of ceremonies, which show that the most dreary
formalism could not extinguish the innate propensity to seek for a
reason. In the Upanishads we have the same spirit dealing with more
promising material. And throughout the long history of Hinduism religion
and philosophy are seldom separated: we rarely find detached
metaphysicians: philosophers found new sects or support old ones:
religion absorbs philosophy and translates it into theology or myths.


To the age of the Vedas succeeds that of the Brâhmaṇas or sacrificial
treatises. The two periods are distinct and have each a well-marked
tone, but they pass into one another, for the Yajur and Sâma Vedas
pre-suppose the ritual of the Brâhmaṇas. These treatises introduce us to
one feature of Indian religion mentioned above, namely the extraordinary
elaboration of its ritual. To read them one would suppose that the one
occupation of all India was the offering of sacrifices. The accounts are
no doubt exaggerated and must often be treated as specimens of
sacerdotal imagination, like the Biblical descriptions of the rites
performed in the Tabernacle during the wanderings of the Israelites. But
making all allowance for priestly enthusiasm, it still remains true that
the intellect of India, so far as it is preserved in literature, was
occupied during two centuries or so with the sacrificial art and that
philosophy had difficulty in disentangling itself from ceremonies. One
has only to compare Greek and Sanskrit literature to see how vast are
the proportions assumed by ritual in India. Our information about the
political institutions, the wars and chronology of ancient Greece is
full, but of the details of Greek worship we hear little and probably
there was not much to tell. But in India, where there are no histories
and no dates, we know every prayer and gesture of the officiants
throughout complicated sacrifices and possess a whole library describing
their correct performance.

In most respects these sacrifices which absorbed so much intellect and
energy belong to ancient history. They must not be confounded with the
ceremonies performed in modern temples, which have a different origin
and character. A great blow was struck at the sacrificial system by
Buddhism. Not only did it withdraw the support of many kings and nobles
(and the greater ceremonies being very costly depended largely on the
patronage of the wealthy), but it popularized the idea that animal
sacrifices are shocking and that attempts to win salvation by offerings
are crude and unphilosophic. But though, after Buddhism had leavened
India for a few centuries, we no longer find the religious world given
over to sacrificing as it had been about 600 B.C., these rites did not
die out. Even now they are occasionally performed in South India and the
Deccan. There are still many Brahmans in these regions who, if they have
not the means or learning to perform the greater Vedic ceremonies, at
any rate sympathize with the mental attitude which they imply, and this
attitude has many curious features.

The rite of sacrifice, which in the simple form of an offering supposed
to be agreeable to the deity is the principal ceremony in the early
stages of most religions, persists in their later stages but gives rise
to clouds of theory and mystical interpretations. Thus in Christianity,
the Jewish sacrifices are regarded as prototypes of the death of Christ
and that death itself as a sacrifice to the Almighty, an offering of
himself to himself, which in some way acts as an expiation for the sins
of the world. And by a further development the sacrifice of the mass,
that is, the offering of portions of bread and wine which are held to be
miraculously transformed into the body and blood of Christ by the
manipulations of a qualified priest, is believed to repeat every day the
tragedy of Calvary. The prevalence of this view in Europe should make us
chary of stigmatizing Hindu ideas about sacrifice as mental aberrations.
They represent the fancies of acute intellects dealing with ancient
ceremonies which they cannot abandon but which they transform into
something more congenial to their own transitional mode of thought.

Though the Brâhmaṇas and Upanishads mix up ritual with physical and
metaphysical theories in the most extraordinary fashion, their main
motive deserves sympathy and respect. Their weakness lies in their
inability to detach themselves (as the Buddha succeeded in doing) from a
ritual which though elaborate was neither edifying nor artistic: they
seem unable to see the great problems of existence except through the
mists of altar smoke. Their merit is their evident conviction that this
formalism is inadequate. Their wish is not to distort and cramp nature
by bringing it within the limits of the ritual, but to enlarge and
expand the ritual until it becomes cosmic. If they regard the whole
universe as one long act of prayer and sacrifice, the idea is grandiose
rather than pedantic, though the details may not always be to our
taste[157]. And the Upanishads pass from ritual and theology to real
speculation in a way unknown to Christian thought. To imagine a
parallel, we must picture Spinoza beginning with an exposition of the
Trinity and transubstantiation and proceeding to develop his own system
without becoming unorthodox.

The conception of the sacrifice set forth in the Brâhmaṇas is that it is
a scientific method of acquiring immortality as well as temporal
blessings. Though originally a mere offering in the _do ut des_
principle, it has assumed a higher and more mysterious position[158]. We
are told that the gods obtained immortality and heaven by sacrifice,
that they created the universe by sacrifice, that Prajâpati, the
creator, _is_ the sacrifice. Although some writers are disposed to
distinguish magic sharply from religion, the two are not separated in
the Vedas. Sacrifice is not merely a means of pleasing the gods: it is a
system of authorized magic or sacred science controlling all worlds, if
properly understood. It is a mysterious cosmic force like electricity
which can be utilized by a properly trained priest but is dangerous in
unskilful hands, for the rites, if wrongly performed, bring disaster or
even death on bunglers. Though the Vedic sacrifices fell more and more
out of general use, this notion of the power of rites and formulae did
not fade with them but has deeply infected modern Hinduism and even
Buddhism, in both of which the lore of spells and gestures assumes
monstrous proportions. The Vedic and modern tantric rituals are
different but they are based on the same supposition that the universe
(including the gods which are part of it) is regulated by some
permeating principle, and that this principle can be apprehended by
sacred science and controlled by the use of proper methods[159]. So far
as these systems express the idea that the human mind can grasp the
universe by knowledge, they offer an example of the bold sweep of the
Hindu intellect, but the methods prescribed are often fatuous.

The belief in the potency of words and formulae, though amplified and
embellished by the Hindus, is not an Indian invention but a common
aspect of early thought which was less emphasized in other countries. It
is found in Persia and among the tribes of Central and Northern Asia and
of Northern Europe, and attained a high development in Finland where
_runot_ or magical songs are credited with very practical efficacy. Thus
the Kalevala relates how Wäinämöinen was building a boat by means of
songs when the process came to a sudden stop because he had forgotten
three words. This is exactly the sort of thing that might happen in the
legends of a Vedic sacrifice if the priest had forgotten the texts he
ought to recite.

The external features of Vedic rites are remarkable and unlike what we
know of those performed by other nations of antiquity. The sacrifice is
not as a rule a gift presented to a single god to win his favour.
Oblations are made to most members of the pantheon in the course of a
prolonged ceremony, but the time, manner and recipients of these
oblations are fixed rather by the mysteries of sacrificial science, than
by the sacrificer's need to propitiate a particular deity. Also the
sacrifice is not offered in a temple and it would appear that in
pre-Buddhist times there were no religious edifices. It is not even
associated with sacred spots, such as groves or fountains haunted by a
deity. The scene of operations requires long and careful preparation,
but it is merely an enclosure with certain sheds, fireplaces and mounds.
It has no architectural pretensions and is not a centre round which
shrines can grow for it requires reconsecration for each ceremony, and
in many cases must not be used twice. There is little that is national,
tribal or communal about these rites. Some of them, such as the
Aśvamedha or horse sacrifice and the Râjasaya, or consecration of a
king, may be attended by games and sports, but that is because they are
connected with secular events. In their essence sacrifices are not
popular festivals or holidays but private services, performed for the
benefit of the sacrificer, that is, the person who pays the fees of the
priests. Usually they have a definite object and, though ceremonies for
the attainment of material blessings are not wanting, this object is
most frequently supramundane, such as the fabrication of a body in the
heavenly world. It is in keeping with these characteristics that there
should be no pomp or spectacular effect: the rites resemble some
complicated culinary operation or scientific experiment, and the
sacrificial enclosure has the appearance of a laboratory rather than a
place of worship.

Vedic ritual includes the sacrifice of animals, and there are
indications of the former prevalence of human sacrifice. At the time
when the Brâhmaṇas were composed the human victims were released alive,
but afterwards the practice of real sacrifice was revived, probably
owing to the continual incorporation into the Hindu community of
semi-barbarous tribes and their savage deities. Human victims were
offered to Mahâdevî the spouse of Siva until the last century, and would
doubtless be offered now, were legal restrictions removed. But though
the sporadic survival of an old custom in its most primitive and
barbarous form is characteristic of Hinduism, the whole tendency of
thought and practice since the rise of Buddhism has been adverse to
religious bloodshed, even of animals. The doctrine of substitution and
atonement, of offering the victim on behalf of the sacrificer, though
not absent, plays a smaller part than in the religions of Western Asia.

Evidently it was not congenial: the Hindu has always been inclined to
think that the individual earns his future in another world by his own
thoughts and acts. Even the value of the victim is less important than
the correct performance of the ceremony. The teaching of the Brâhmaṇas
is not so much that a good heart is better than lavish alms as that the
ritually correct sacrifice of a cake is better than a hecatomb not
offered according to rule.

The offerings required by the Vedic ritual are very varied. The simplest
are cakes and libations of melted butter poured on the fire from two
wooden spoons held one over the other while Vedic verses are recited.
Besides these there was the animal sacrifice, and still more important
the Soma[160] sacrifice. This ceremony is very ancient and goes back to
the time when the Hindus and Iranians were not divided. In India the
sacrifice lasted at least five days and, even in its simpler forms, was
far more complicated than any ceremony known to the Greeks, Romans or
Jews. Only professional priests could perform it and as a rule a priest
did not attempt to master more than one branch and to be for instance
either a reciter (Hotri) or singer (Udgâtri). But the five-day
sacrifices are little more than the rudiments of the sacrificial art and
lead on to the Ahînas or sacrifices comprising from two to twelve days
of Soma pressing which last not more than a month. The Ahinas again can
be combined into sacrificial sessions lasting a year or more[161], and
it would seem that rites of this length were really performed, though
when we read of such sessions extending over a hundred years, we may
hope that they are creations of a fancy like that of the hymn-writer who
celebrated the state

Where congregations ne'er break up And Sabbaths never end.

The ritual literature of India is enormous and much of it has been
edited and translated by European scholars with a care that merited a
better object. It is a mine of information respecting curious beliefs
and practices of considerable historical interest, but it does not
represent the main current of religious ideas in post-Buddhist times.
The Brahmans indeed never ceased to give the sacrificial system their
theoretical and, when possible, their practical approval, for it
embodies a principle most dear to them, namely, that the other castes
can obtain success and heaven only under the guidance of Brahmans and by
rites which only Brahmans can perform. But for this very reason it
incurred the hostility not only of philosophers and morally earnest men,
but of the military caste and it never really recovered from the blow
dealt it by Buddhism, the religion of that caste. But with every
Brahmanic revival it came to the front and the performance of the
Aśvamedha or horse sacrifice[162] was long the culminating glory of an
orthodox king.




As sacrifice and ceremonial are the material accompaniments of prayer,
so are asceticism and discipline those of thought. This is less
conspicuous in other countries, but in India it is habitually assumed
that the study of what we call metaphysics or theology needs some kind
of physical discipline and it will be well to elucidate this point
before describing the beginnings of speculation.

Tapas, that is asceticism or self-mortification, holds in the religious
thought and practice of India as large a place as sacrifice. We hear of
it as early, for it is mentioned in the Rig Veda[163], and it lasts
longer, for it is a part of contemporary Hinduism just as much as prayer
or worship. It appears even in creeds which disavow it theoretically,
_e.g._ in Buddhism, and evidently has its root in a deep-seated and
persistent instinct.

Tapas is often translated penance but the idea of mortification as an
expiation for sins committed, though not unknown in India, is certainly
not that which underlies the austerities of most ascetics. The word
means literally heat, hence pain or toil, and some think that its origin
should be sought in practices which produced fever, or tended to
concentrate heat in the body. One object of Tapas is to obtain abnormal
powers by the suppression of desires or the endurance of voluntary
tortures. There is an element of truth in this aspiration. Temperance,
chastity and mental concentration are great aids for increasing the
force of thought and will. The Hindu believes that intensity and
perseverance in this road of abstinence and rapture will yield
correspondingly increased results. The many singular phenomena connected
with Indian asceticism have been imperfectly investigated but a
psychological examination would probably find that subjective results
(such as visions and the feeling of flying through the air) are really
produced by the discipline recommended and there may be elements of much
greater value in the various systems of meditation. But this is only the
beginning of Tapas. To the idea that the soul when freed from earthly
desires is best able to comprehend the divine is superadded another
idea, namely that self-mortification is a process of productive labour
akin to intellectual toil. Just as the whole world is supposed to be
permeated by a mysterious principle which can be known and subdued by
the science of the sacrificing priests, so the ascetic is able to
control gods and nature by the force of his austerities. The creative
deities are said to have produced the world by Tapas, just as they are
said to have produced it by sacrifice and Hindu mythology abounds in
stories of ascetics who became so mighty that the very gods were
alarmed. For instance Râvaṇa, the Demon ruler of Lanka who carried off
Sîtâ, had acquired his power by austerities which enabled him to extort
a boon from Brahmâ. Thus there need be nothing moral in the object of
asceticism or in the use of the power obtained. The epics and dramas
frequently portray ascetics as choleric and unamiable characters and
modern Yogis maintain the tradition.

Though asceticism resembles the sacrifice in being a means by which man
can obtain his wishes whether religious or profane, it differs in being
comparatively easy. Irksome as it may be, it demands merely strength of
will and not a scientific training in ritual and Vedic texts. Hence in
this sphere the supremacy of the Brahman could be challenged by other
castes and an instructive legend relates how Râma slew a Śûdra whom he
surprised in the act of performing austerities. The lowest castes can by
this process acquire a position which makes them equal to the

Of the non-Brahmanic sects, the Jains set the highest value on Tapas,
but chiefly as a purification of the soul and a means of obtaining an
unearthly state of pure knowledge[165]. In theory the Buddha rejected
it; he taught a middle way, rejecting alike self-indulgence and
self-mortification. But even Pali Buddhism admits such practices as the
Dhûtângas and the more extravagant sects, for instance in Tibet, allow
monks to entomb themselves in dark cells. According to our standards
even the ordinary religious life of both Hindus and Buddhists is
severely ascetic. It is assumed as a _sine qua non_ that strict chastity
must be observed, nourishment be taken only to support life and not for
pleasure, that all gratification coming from the senses must be avoided
and the mind kept under rigid discipline. This discipline receives
systematic treatment in the Yoga school of philosophy but it is really
common to all varieties of Hinduism and Buddhism; all agree that the
body must be subdued by physical training before the mind can apprehend
the higher truths. The only question is how far asceticism is directly
instrumental in giving higher knowledge. If some texts speak slightingly
of it, we must remember that the life of a hermit dwelling in the woods
without possessions or desires might not be regarded by a Hindu as
_tapas_ though we should certainly regard it as asceticism. It is also
agreed that supernatural powers can be acquired by special forms of
asceticism. These powers are sometimes treated as mere magic and
spiritually worthless but their reality is not questioned.


We have now said something of two aspects of Indian religion—ritual and
asceticism—and must pass on to the third, namely, knowledge or
philosophy. Its importance was recognized by the severest ritualists.
They admitted it as a supplement and crown to the life of ceremonial
observances and in the public estimation it came to be reputed an
alternative or superior road to salvation. Respect and desire for
knowledge are even more intimately a part of Hindu mentality than a
proclivity to asceticism or ritual. The sacrifice itself must be
understood as well as offered. He who _knows_ the meaning of this or
that observance obtains his desires[166].

Nor did the Brahmans resent criticism and discussion. India has always
loved theological argument: it is the national passion. The early
Upanishads relate without disapproval how kings such as Ajâtaśatru of
Kâśi, Pravâhaṇa Jaivali and Aśvapati Kaikeya imparted to learned
Brahmans philosophical and theological knowledge previously unknown to
them[167] and even women like Gârgî and Maitreyî took part in
theological discussions. Obviously knowledge in the sense of
philosophical speculation commended itself to religiously disposed
persons in the non-sacerdotal castes for the same reason as asceticism.
Whatever difficulties it might offer, it was more accessible than the
learning which could be acquired only under a Brahman teacher, although
the Brahmans in the interests of the sacerdotal caste maintained that
philosophy like ritual was a secret to be imparted, not a result to be
won by independent thought.

Again and again the Upanishads insist that the more profound doctrines
must not be communicated to any but a son or an accredited pupil and
also that no one can think them out for himself[168], yet the older ones
admit in such stories as those mentioned that the impulse towards
speculation came in early periods, as it did in the time of the Buddha,
largely from outside the priestly clans and was adopted rather than
initiated by them. But in justice to the Brahmans we must admit that
they have rarely—or at any rate much less frequently than other
sacerdotal corporations—shown hostility to new ideas and then chiefly
when such ideas (like those of Buddhism) implied that the rites by which
they gained their living were worthless. Otherwise they showed great
pliancy and receptivity, for they combined Vedic rites and mythology
with such systems as the Sânkhya and Advaita philosophies, both of which
really render superfluous everything which is usually called religion
since, though their language is decorous, they teach that he who _knows_
the truth about the universe is thereby saved.

The best opinion of India has always felt that the way of knowledge or
Jñâna was the true way. The favourite thesis of the Brahmans was that a
man should devote his youth to study, his maturity to the duties and
ceremonies of a householder, and his age to more sublime speculations.
But at all periods the idea that it was possible to know God and the
universe was allied to the idea that all ceremonies as well as all
worldly effort and indeed all active morality are superfluous[169]. All
alike are unessential and trivial, and merit the attention only of those
who know nothing higher. Human feelings and interests qualified and
contradicted this negative and unearthly view of religion, but still
popular sentiment as well as philosophic thought during the whole period
of which we know something of them in India tended to regard the highest
life as consisting in rapt contemplation or insight accompanied by the
suppression of desire and by disengagement from mundane ties and
interests. But knowledge in Indian theology implies more intensity than
we attach to the word and even some admixture of volition. The knowledge
of Brahman is not an understanding of pantheistic doctrines such as may
be obtained by reading _The Sacred Books of the East_ in an easy chair
but a realization (in all senses) of personal identity with the
universal spirit, in the light of which all material attachments and
fetters fall away.

The earlier philosophical speculations of the Brahmans are chiefly found
in the treatises called Upanishads. The teaching contained in these
works is habitually presented as something secret[170] or esoteric and
does not, like Buddhism or Jainism, profess to be a gospel for all. Also
the teaching is not systematized and has never been unified by a
personality like the Buddha. It grew up in the various _parishads_, or
communities of learned Brahmans, and perhaps flourished most in north
western India[171]. There is of course a common substratum of ideas but
they appear in different versions: we have the teaching of Yâjñavalkya,
of Uddâlaka Âruṇi and other masters and each teaching has some
individuality. They are merely reported as words of the wise without an
attempt to harmonize them. There are many apparent inconsistencies due
to the use of divergent metaphors to indicate different aspects of the
indescribable, and some real inconsistencies due to the existence of
different schools. Hence, attempts whether Indian or European to give a
harmonious summary of this ancient doctrine are likely to be erroneous.

There are a great number of Upanishads, composed at various dates and
not all equally revered. They represent different orders of ideas and
some of the later are distinctly sectarian. Collections of 45, 52 and 60
are mentioned, and the Muktikâ Upanishad gives a list of 108. This is
the number currently accepted in India at the present day. But
Schrader[172] describes many Upanishads existing in MS. in addition to
this list and points out that though they may be modern there is no
ground for calling them spurious. According to Indian ideas there is no
_a priori_ objection to the appearance now or in the future of new
Upanishads[173]. All revelation is eternal and self-existent but it can
manifest itself at its own good time.

Many of the more modern Upanishads appear to be the compositions of
single authors and may be called tracts or poems in the ordinary
European sense. But the older ones, unless they are very short, are
clearly not the attempts of an individual to express his creed but
collections of such philosophical sayings and narratives as a particular
school thought fit to include in its version of the scriptures. There
was so to speak a body of philosophic folk-lore portions of which each
school selected and elaborated as it thought best. Thus an apologue
proving that the breath is the essential vital constituent of a human
being is found in five ancient Upanishads[174]. The Chândogya and
Bṛihad-Âraṇyaka both contain an almost identical narrative of how the
priest Âruṇi was puzzled and instructed by a king and a similar story is
found at the beginning of the Kausîhtaki[175]. The two Upanishads last
mentioned also contain two dialogues in which king Ajâtaśatru explains
the fate of the soul after death and which differ in little except that
one is rather fuller than the other[176]. So too several well-known
stanzas and also quotations from the Veda used with special applications
are found in more than one Upanishad[177].

The older Upanishads[178] are connected with the other parts of the
Vedic canon and sometimes form an appendix to a Brâhmaṇa so that the
topics discussed change gradually from ritual to philosophy[179]. It
would be excessive to say that this arrangement gives the genesis of
speculation in ancient India, for some hymns of the Rig Veda are purely
philosophic, but it illustrates a lengthy phase of Brahmanic thought in
which speculation could not disengage itself from ritual and was also
hampered by physical ideas. The Upanishads often receive such epithets
as transcendental and idealistic but in many passages—perhaps in the
majority—they labour with imperfect success to separate the spiritual
and material. The self or spirit is sometimes identified in man with the
breath, in nature with air, ether or space. At other times it is
described as dwelling in the heart and about the size of the thumb but
capable of becoming smaller, travelling through the veins and showing
itself in the pupil: capable also of becoming infinitely large and one
with the world soul. But when thought finds its wings and soars above
these material fancies, the teaching of the Upanishads shares with
Buddhism the glory of being the finest product of the Indian intellect.

In India the religious life has always been regarded as a journey and a
search after truth. Even the most orthodox and priestly programme admits
this. There comes a time when observances are felt to be vain and the
soul demands knowledge of the essence of things. And though later
dogmatism asserts that this knowledge is given by revelation, yet a note
of genuine enquiry and speculation is struck in the Vedas and is never
entirely silenced throughout the long procession of Indian writers. In
well-known words the Vedas ask[180] "Who is the God to whom we shall
offer our sacrifice? ... Who is he who is the Creator and sustainer of
the Universe ... whose shadow is immortality, whose shadow is death?"
or, in even more daring phrases[181], "The Gods were subsequent to the
creation of this universe. Who then knows whence it sprang? He who in
the highest heaven is the overseer of this universe, he knows or even he
does not know." These profound enquiries, which have probably no
parallel in the contemporary literature of other nations, are as time
goes on supplemented though perhaps not enlarged by many others, nor
does confidence fail that there is an answer—the Truth, which when known
is the goal of life. A European is inclined to ask what use can be made
of the truth, but for the Hindus divine knowledge is an end and a state,
not a means. It is not thought of as something which may be used to
improve the world or for any other purpose whatever. For use and purpose
imply that the thing utilized is subservient and inferior to an end,
whereas divine knowledge is the culmination and meaning of the universe,
or, from another point of view, the annihilation of both the external
world and individuality. Hence the Hindu does not expect of his saints
philanthropy or activity of any sort.

As already indicated, the characteristic (though not the only) answer of
India to these questionings is that nothing really exists except God or,
better, except Brahman. The soul is identical with Brahman. The external
world which we perceive is not real in the same sense: it is in some way
or other an evolution of Brahman or even mere illusion. This doctrine is
not universal: it is for instance severely criticized and rejected by
the older forms of Buddhism but its hold on the Indian temperament is
seen by its reappearance in later Buddhism where by an astounding
transformation the Buddha is identified with the universal spirit.
Though the form in which I have quoted the doctrine above is an epitome
of the Vedânta, it is hardly correct historically to give it as an
epitome of the older Upanishads. Their teaching is less complete and
uncompromising, more veiled, tentative and allusive, and sometimes
cumbered by material notions. But it is obviously the precursor of the
Vedânta and the devout Vedântist can justify his system from it.


Instead of attempting to summarize the Upanishads it may be well to
quote one or two celebrated passages. One is from the
Bṛihad-Âraṇyaka[182] and relates how Yâjñavalkya, when about to retire
to the forest as an ascetic, wished to divide his property between his
two wives, Kâtyâyanî "who possessed only such knowledge as women
possess" and Maitreyî "who was conversant with Brahman." The latter
asked her husband whether she would be immortal if she owned the whole
world. "No," he replied, "like the life of the rich would be thy life
but there is no hope of immortality." Maitreyî said that she had no need
of what would not make her immortal. Yâjñavalkya proceeded to explain to
her his doctrine of the Âtman, the self or essence, the spirit present
in man as well as in the universe. "Not for the husband's sake is the
husband dear but for the sake of the Âtman. Not for the wife's sake is
the wife dear but for the sake of the Âtman. Not for their own sake are
sons, wealth, Brahmans, warriors, worlds, gods, Vedas and all things
dear, but for the sake of the Âtman. The Âtman is to be seen, to be
heard, to be perceived, to be marked: by him who has seen and known the
Âtman all the universe is known.... He who looks for Brahmans, warriors,
worlds, gods or Vedas anywhere but in the Âtman, loses them all...."

"As all waters have their meeting place in the sea, all touch in the
skin, all tastes in the tongue, all odours in the nose, all colours in
the eye, all sounds in the ear, all percepts in the mind, all knowledge
in the heart, all actions in the hands....As a lump of salt has no
inside nor outside and is nothing but taste, so has this Âtman neither
inside nor outside and is nothing but knowledge. Having risen from out
these elements it (the human soul) vanishes with them. When it has
departed (after death) there is no more consciousness." Here Maitreyî
professes herself bewildered but Yâjñavalkya continues "I say nothing
bewildering. Verily, beloved, that Âtman is imperishable and
indestructible. When there is as it were duality, then one sees the
other, one tastes the other, one salutes the other, one hears the other,
one touches the other, one knows the other. But when the Âtman only is
all this, how should we see, taste, hear, touch or know another? How can
we know him by whose power we know all this? That Âtman is to be
described by no, no (neti, neti). He is incomprehensible for he cannot
be comprehended, indestructible for he cannot be destroyed, unattached
for he does not attach himself: he knows no bonds, no suffering, no
decay. How, O beloved, can one know the knower?" And having so spoken,
Yâjñavalkya went away into the forest. In another verse of the same work
it is declared that "This great unborn Âtman (or Self) undecaying,
undying, immortal, fearless, is indeed Brahman."

It is interesting that this doctrine, evidently regarded as the
quintessence of Yâjñavalkya's knowledge, should be imparted to a woman.
It is not easy to translate. Âtman, of course, means self and is so
rendered by Max Müller in this passage, but it seems to me that this
rendering jars on the English ear for it inevitably suggests the
individual self and selfishness, whereas Âtman means the universal
spirit which is Self, because it is the highest (or only) Reality and
Being, not definable in terms of anything else. Nothing, says
Yâjñavalkya, has any value, meaning, or indeed reality except in
relation to this Self[183]. The whole world including the Vedas and
religion is an emanation from him. The passage at which Maitreyî
expresses her bewilderment is obscure, but the reply is more definite.
The Self is indestructible but still it is incorrect to speak of the
soul having knowledge and perception after death, for knowledge and
perception imply duality, a subject and an object. But when the human
soul and the universal Âtman are one, there is no duality and no human
expression can be correctly used about the Âtman. Whatever you say of
it, the answer must be _neti, neti_, it is not like that[184]; that is
to say, the ordinary language used about the individual soul is not
applicable to the Âtman or to the human soul when regarded as identical
with it.

This identity is stated more precisely in another passage[185] where
first occurs the celebrated formula Tat tvam asi, That art Thou, or Thou
art It[186], _i.e._ the human soul is the Âtman and hence there is no
real distinction between souls. Like Yâjñiavalkya's teaching, the
statement of this doctrine takes the form of an intimate conversation,
this time between a Brahman, Uddâlaka Âruṇi, and his son Śvetaketu who
is twenty-four years of age and having just finished his studentship is
very well satisfied with himself. His father remarks on his conceit and
says "Have you ever asked your teachers for that instruction by which
the unheard becomes heard, the unperceived perceived and the unknown
known?" Śvetaketu enquires what this instruction is and his father
replies, "As by one lump of clay all that is made of clay is known, and
the change[187] is a mere matter of words, nothing but a name, the truth
being that all is clay, and as by one piece of copper or by one pair of
nail-scissors all that is made of copper or iron can be known, so is
that instruction." That is to say, it would seem, the reality is One:
all diversity and multiplicity is secondary and superficial, merely a
matter of words. "In the beginning," continues the father, "there was
only that which is, one without a second. Others say in the beginning
there was that only which is not (non-existence), one without a second,
and from that which is not, that which is was born. But how could that
which is be born of that which is not[188]? No, only that which is was
in the beginning, one only without a second. It thought, may I be many:
may I have offspring. It sent forth fire." Here follows a cosmogony and
an explanation of the constitution of animate beings, and then the
father continues--"All creatures have their root in the Real, dwell in
the Real and rest in the Real. That subtle being by which this universe
subsists, it is the Real, it is the Âtman, and thou, Śvetaketu, art It."
Many illustrations of the relations of the Âtman and the universe
follow. For instance, if the life (sap) leaves a tree, it withers and
dies. So "this body withers and dies when the life has left it: the life
dies not." In the fruit of the Banyan (fig-tree) are minute seeds
innumerable. But the imperceptible subtle essence in each seed is the
whole Banyan. Each example adduced concludes with the same formula, Thou
art that subtle essence, and as in the Bṛihad-Âraṇyaka salt is used as a
metaphor. "'Place this salt in water and then come to me in the
morning.' The son did so and in the morning the father said 'Bring me
the salt.' The son looked for it but found it not, for of course it was
melted. The father said, 'Taste from the surface of the water. How is
it?' The son replied, 'It is salt.' 'Taste from the middle. How is it?'
'It is salt.' 'Taste from the bottom, how is it?' 'It is salt.' ... The
father said, 'Here also in this body you do not perceive the Real, but
there it is. That subtle being by which this universe subsists, it is
the Real, it is the Âtman and thou, Svetaketu, art It.'"

The writers of these passages have not quite reached Śankara's point of
view, that the Âtman is all and the whole universe mere illusion or
Mâyâ. Their thought still tends to regard the universe as something
drawn forth from the Âtman and then pervaded by it. But still the main
features of the later Advaita, or philosophy of no duality, are there.
All the universe has grown forth from the Âtman: there is no real
difference in things, just as all gold is gold whatever it is made into.
The soul is identical with this Âtman and after death may be one with it
in a union excluding all duality even of perceiver and perceived.

A similar union occurs in sleep. This idea is important for it is
closely connected with another belief which has had far-reaching
consequences on thought and practice in India, the belief namely that
the soul can attain without death and as the result of mental discipline
to union[189] with Brahman. This idea is common in Hinduism and though
Buddhism rejects the notion of union with the supreme spirit yet it
attaches importance to meditation and makes Samâdhi or rapture the crown
of the perfect life. In this, as in other matters, the teaching of the
Upanishads is manifold and unsystematic compared with later doctrines.
The older passages ascribe to the soul three states corresponding to the
bodily conditions of waking, dream-sleep, and deep dreamless sleep, and
the Bṛihad-Âraṇyaka affirms of the last (IV. 3. 32): "This is the Brahma
world. This is his highest world, this is his highest bliss. All other
creatures live on a small portion of that bliss." But even in some
Upanishads of the second stratum (Mâṇḍukya, Maitrâyaṇa) we find added a
fourth state, Caturtha or more commonly Turîya, in which the bliss
attainable in deep sleep is accompanied by consciousness[190]. This
theory and various practices founded on it develop rapidly.


The explanation of dreamless sleep as supreme bliss and Yâjñavalkya's
statement that the soul after death cannot be said to know or feel, may
suggest that union with Brahman is another name for annihilation. But
that is not the doctrine of the Upanishads though a European perhaps
might say that the consciousness contemplated is so different from
ordinary human consciousness that it should not bear the same name. In
another passage[191] Yâjñavalkya himself explains "when he does not
know, yet he is knowing though he does not know. For knowing is
inseparable from the knower, because it cannot perish. But there is no
second, nothing else different from him that he could know." A common
formula for Brahman in the later philosophy is Saccidânanda, Being,
Thought and Joy[192]. This is a just summary of the earlier teaching. We
have already seen how the Âtman is recognized as the only Reality. Its
intellectual character is equally clearly affirmed. Thus the
Bṛihad-Âraṇyaka (III. 7. 23) says: "There is no seer beside him, no
hearer beside him, no perceiver beside him, no knower beside him. This
is thy Self, the ruler within, the immortal. Everything distinct from
him is subject to pain." This idea that pain and fear exist only as far
as a man makes a distinction between his own self and the real Self is
eloquently developed in the division of the Taittirîya Upanishad called
the Chapter of Bliss. "He who knows Brahman" it declares, "which exists,
which is conscious, which is without end, as hidden in the depth of the
heart, and in farthest space, he enjoys all blessings, in communion with
the omniscient Brahman.... He who knows the bliss (ânandam) of that
Brahman from which all speech and mind turn away unable to reach it, he
never fears[193]."

Bliss is obtainable by union with Brahman, and the road to such union is
knowledge of Brahman. That knowledge is often represented as acquired by
tapas or asceticism, but this, though repeatedly enjoined as necessary,
seems to be regarded (in the nobler expositions at least) as an
indispensable schooling rather than as efficacious by its own virtue.
Sometimes the topic is treated in an almost Buddhist spirit of
reasonableness and depreciation of self-mortification for its own sake.
Thus Yâjñavalkya says to Gârgî[194]: "Whoever without knowing the
imperishable one offers oblations in this world, sacrifices, and
practises asceticism even for a thousand years, his work will perish."
And in a remarkable scene described in the Chândogya Upanishad, the
three sacred fires decide to instruct a student who is exhausted by
austerities, and tell him that Brahman is life, bliss and space[195].

Analogous to the conception of Brahman as bliss, is the description of
him as light or "light of lights." A beautiful passage[196] says: "To
the wise who perceive him (Brahman) within their own self, belongs
eternal peace, not to others. They feel that highest, unspeakable bliss
saying, this is that. How then can I understand it? Has it its own light
or does it reflect light? No sun shines there, nor moon nor stars, nor
these lightnings, much less this fire. When he shines everything shines
after him: by his light all the world is lighted."

In most of the texts which we have examined the words Brahman and Âtman
are so impersonal that they cannot be replaced by God. In other passages
the conception of the deity is more personal. The universe is often said
to have been emitted or breathed forth by Brahman. By emphasizing the
origin and result of this process separately, we reach the idea of the
Maker and Master of the Universe, commonly expressed by the word Îśvara,
Lord. But even when using this expression, Hindu thought tends in its
subtler moments to regard both the creator and the creature as
illusions. In the same sense as the world exists there also exists its
creator who is an aspect of Brahman, but the deeper truth is that
neither is real: there is but One who neither makes nor is made[197]. In
a land of such multiform theology it would be hazardous to say that
Monotheism has always arisen out of Pantheism, but in the speculative
schools where the Upanishads were composed, this was often its genesis.
The older idea is that a subtle essence pervades all nature and the
deities who rule nature: this is spiritualized into the doctrine of
Brahman attributed to Yâjñavalkya and it is only by a secondary process
that this Brahman is personified and sometimes identified with a
particular god such as Siva. The doctrine of the personal Îśvara is
elaborated in the Śvetâśvatara Upanishad of uncertain date[198]. It
celebrates him in hymns of almost Mohammedan monotheism. "Let us know
that great Lord of Lords, the highest God of Gods, the Master of
Masters, the highest above, as God, as Lord of the world, who is to be
glorified[199]." But this monotheistic fervour does not last long
without relapsing into the familiar pantheistic strain. "Thou art
woman," says the same Upanishad[200], "and Thou art man: Thou art youth
and maiden: Thou as an old man totterest along on thy staff: Thou art
born with thy face turned everywhere. Thou art the dark-blue bee: Thou
the green parrot with the red eyes. Thou art the thunder cloud, the
seasons and the seas. Thou art without beginning because Thou art
infinite, Thou, from whom all worlds are born."



In reading the Brâhmaṅas and older Upanishads we often wish we knew more
of the writers and their lives. Rarely can so many representative men
have bequeathed so much literature and yet left so dim a sketch of their
times. Thought was their real life: of that they have given a full
record, imperfect only in chronology, for though their speculations are
often set forth in a narrative form, we hear surprisingly little about
contemporary events.

The territory familiar to these works is the western part of the modern
United Provinces with the neighbouring districts of the Panjab, the
lands of the Kurus, Pancâlas, and Matsyas, all in the region of Agra and
Delhi, and further east Kâśi (Benares) with Videha or Tirhut. Gândhâra
was known[201] but Magadha and Bengal are not mentioned. Even in the
Buddha's lifetime they were still imperfectly brahmanized.

What we know of the period 800 to 600 B.C. is mostly due to the
Brahmans, and many Indianists have accepted their view, that they were
then socially the highest class and the repository of religion and
culture. But it is clear from Buddhist writings (which, however, are
somewhat later) that this pre-eminence was not unchallenged[202], and
many admissions in the Brâhmaṅas and Upanishads indicate that some
centuries before the Buddha the Kshatriyas held socially the first rank
and shared intellectual honours with the Brahmans. Janaka, king of
Videha[203], and Yâjñavalkya, the Brahman, meet on terms of mutual
respect and other Kshatriyas, such as Ajâtaśatru of Kâśi and Pravâhaṅa
Jaivali are represented as instructing Brahmans, and the latter in doing
so says "this knowledge did not go to any Brahman before but belonged to
the Kshatriyas alone[204]." But as a profession theology, both practical
and speculative, was left to the Brahmans.

The proper relation between the nobles and Brahmans finds expression in
the office of Purohita[205] or domestic chaplain, which is as old as the
Vedas and has lasted to the present day. In early times he was not
merely a spiritual guide but also a councillor expected to advise the
king as to his enterprises and secure their success by appropriate
rites. By king we should understand a tribal chief, entrusted with
considerable powers in the not infrequent times of war, but in peace
obliged to consult the clan, or at least the aristocratic part of it, on
all matters of importance. A Purohita might attain a very high position,
like Devabhaga, priest of both the Kurus and Srinjayas[206]. The
Brahmans did not attempt to become kings, but the sacred books insist
that though a Brahman can do without a king, yet a king cannot do
without a Brahman. The two castes are compared to the deities Mitra and
Varuṅa, typifying intelligence and will. When they are united deeds can
be done[207]. But "the Gods do not eat the food of a king who is without
a Purohita." Other castes can offer sacrifices only by the mediation of
Brahmans, and it does not appear that kings disputed this, though they
claimed the right to think for themselves and may have denied the
utility of sacrifice[208]. Apart from kings the duties and claims of the
Brahman extend to the people at large. He has four virtues, "birth,
deportment, fame and the perfecting of the people," and in return the
people owe him respect, liberality, security against oppression and
against capital punishment.

Towns in this period must have been few and those few essentially forts,
not collections of palaces and temples. We hear of Kâśi (Benares) but
the name may signify a district. People are said to go to the Kurus or
Pancâlas, not to Mithilâ or any other city. It was in village life—which
is still the life of the greater part of India—that Brahmanism grew up.
Probably then as now Brahman families occupied separate villages, or at
least quarters, and were allowed to hold the land rent free as a reward
for rendering religious services to the king. They followed various
professions but the life which was most respected, and also most
lucrative, was that devoted to the study and practice of sacred science,
that is the learning and recitation of sacred texts, performance of
ceremonies, and theological discussion. The later law books divide a
Brahman's life into four stages or âśramas in which he was successively
a student, a householder, a hermit and an ascetic[209]. The third and
fourth stages are not very clearly distinguished. A hermit is supposed
to renounce family life and live in the forest, but still to perform
sacrifices, whereas the Sannyâsi or perfect ascetic, in many ways the
ideal of India, subsists on alms, freed alike from duties and passions
and absorbed in meditation. In the older Upanishads three stages are
indicated as part of contemporary practice[210]. For a period of from
nine to thirty-six years, a Brahman dwelt with a teacher. While his
state of pupilage lasted he lived on alms and was bound by the severest
vows of obedience and chastity. The instruction given consisted in
imparting sacred texts which could be acquired only by hearing them
recited, for writing, though it may have been known in India as early as
the seventh century B.C., was not used for literature. The Śatapatha
Brâhmaṇa recommends the study not only of the four Vedas but of the
precepts (perhaps grammar, etymology, etc.), the sciences (perhaps
philosophy), dialogues (no doubt such as those found in the Upanishads),
traditions and ancient legends, stanzas and tales of heroes[211],
showing that, besides the scriptures, more popular compositions which
doubtless contained the germs of the later Epics and Puranas were held
in esteem.

On terminating his apprenticeship the young Brahman became a householder
and married, moderate polygamy being usual. To some extent he followed
the occupations of an ordinary man of business and father of a family,
but the most important point in establishing a home of his own was the
kindling of his own sacred fire[212], and the householder's life was
regarded as a series of rites, such as the daily offering of milk, the
new and full moon ceremonies, seasonal sacrifices every four months and
the Soma sacrifice once a year, besides oblations to ancestors and other
domestic observances. The third stage of life should begin when a
householder sees that his hair is turning grey and a grandson has been
born. He should then abandon his home and live in the forest. The
tradition that it is justifiable and even commendable for men and women
to abandon their families and take to the religious life has at all
times been strong in India and public opinion has never considered that
the deserted party had a grievance. No doubt comfortable householders
were in no hurry to take to the woods and many must always have shirked
the duty. But on the other hand, the very pious, of whom India has
always produced a superabundance, were not willing to bear the cares of
domestic life and renounced the world before the prescribed time. On the
whole Brahmanic (as opposed to Buddhist) literature is occupied in
insisting not so much that the devout should abandon the world as that
they must perform the ritual observances prescribed for householders
before doing so.

The Brahman's existence as drawn in the law-books is a description of
what the writers thought ought to be done rather than of the general
practice. Still it cannot be dismissed as imaginary, for the
Nambutiri[213] Brahmans of Travancore have not yet abandoned a mode of
life which is in essentials that prescribed by Manu and probably that
led by Brahmans in the seventh century B.C. or earlier[214].

They are for the most part landowners dwelling in large houses built to
accommodate a patriarchal family and erected in spacious compounds. In
youth they spend about eight years in learning the Veda, and in mature
life religious ceremonies, including such observances as bathing and the
preparation of meals, occupy about six hours of the day. As a
profession, the performance of religious rites for others is most
esteemed. In food, drink and pleasures, the Nambutiris are almost
ascetics: their rectitude, punctiliousness and dignity still command
exaggerated respect. But they seem unproductive and petrified, even in
such matters as literature and scholarship, and their inability to adapt
themselves to changing conditions threatens them with impoverishment and

Yet the ideal Brahmanic life, which by no means excludes intellectual
activity, is laid out in severe and noble lines and though on its good
side somewhat beyond the reach of human endeavour and on its bad side
overloaded with pedantry and superstition, it combines in a rare degree
self-abnegation and independence. It differs from the ideal set up by
Buddhism and by many forms of Hinduism which preach the renunciation of
family ties, for it clearly lays down that it is a man's duty to
continue his family and help his fellow men just as much as to engage in
religious exercises. Thus, the Śatapatha Brâhmaṇa[215] teaches that man
is born owing four debts, one to the gods, one to the Rishis or the
sages to whom the Vedic hymns were revealed, one to his ancestors and
one to men. To discharge these obligations he must offer sacrifices,
study the Veda, beget a son and practise hospitality.

The tranquil isolation of village life in ancient India has left its
mark on literature. Though the names of teachers are handed down and
their opinions cited with pious care, yet for many centuries after the
Vedic age we find no books attributed to human authors. There was an
indifference to literary fame among these early philosophers and a
curious selflessness. Doctors disputed as elsewhere, yet they were at no
pains to couple their names with theories or sects. Like the Jewish
Rabbis they were content to go down to posterity as the authors of a few
sayings, and these are mostly contributions to a common stock with no
pretension to be systems of philosophy. The Upanishads leave an
impression of a society which, if reposeful, was also mentally alert and
tolerant to an unusual degree. Much was absent that occupied the
intelligence of other countries. Painting, sculpture and architecture
can have attained but modest proportions and the purview of religion
included neither temples nor images. India was untroubled by foreign
invasions and all classes seem to have been content to let the
Kshatriyas look after such internal politics as there were. Trade too
was on a small scale. Doubtless the Indian was then, as now, a good man
of business and the western coast may have been affected by its
relations with the Persian Gulf, but Brahmanic civilization was a thing
of the Midland and drew no inspiration from abroad. The best minds were
occupied with the leisurely elaboration and discussion of speculative
ideas and self-effacement was both practised and preached.

But movement and circulation prevented this calm rustic world from
becoming stagnant. Though roads were few and dangerous, a habit of
travel was conspicuous among the religious and intellectual classes. The
Indian is by nature a pilgrim rather than a stationary monk, and we
often hear of Brahmans travelling in quest of knowledge alone or in
companies, and stopping in rest houses[216]. In the Śatapatha
Brâhmaṇa[217], Uddâlaka Âruṇi is represented as driving about and
offering a piece of gold as a prize to those who could defeat him in
argument. Great sacrifices were often made the occasion of these
discussions. We must not think of them as mere religious ceremonies, as
a sort of high mass extending over several days. The fact that they
lasted so long and involved operations like building sheds and altars
made them unlike our church services and gave opportunities for debate
and criticism of what was done. Such competition and publicity were good
for the wits. The man who cut the best figure in argument was in
greatest demand as a sacrificer and obtained the highest fees. But these
stories of prizes and fees emphasize a feature which has characterized
the Brahmans from Vedic times to the present day, namely, their
shameless love of money. The severest critic cannot deny them a
disinterested taste for intellectual, religious and spiritual things,
but their own books often use language which shows them as professional
men merely anxious to make a fortune by the altar. "The sacrifice is
twofold," says the Śatapatha Brâhmaṇa, "oblations to the gods and gifts
to the priests. With oblations men gratify the gods and with gifts the
human gods. These two kinds of gods when gratified convey the worshipper
to the heavenly world[218]." Without a fee the sacrifice is as dead as
the victim. It is the fee which makes it living and successful[219].

Tradition has preserved the names of many of these acute, argumentative,
fee-loving priests, but of few can we form any clear picture. The most
distinguished is Yâjñavalkya who, though seen through a mist of myths
and trivial stories about the minutiae of ritual, appears as a
personality with certain traits that are probably historical. Many
remarks attributed to him are abrupt and scornful and the legend
indicates dimly that he was once thought a dangerous innovator. But, as
has happened so often since, this early heretic became the corner stone
of later orthodoxy. He belonged to the school of the Yajur Veda and was
apparently the main author of the new or White recension in which the
prayers and directions are more or less separate, whereas in the old or
Black recension they are mixed together. According to the legend he
vomited forth the texts which he had learnt, calling his fellow pupils
"miserable and inefficient Brahmans," and then received a new revelation
from the Sun[220]. The quarrel was probably violent for the Śatapatha
Brâhmaṇa mentions that he was cursed by priests of the other party. Nor
does this work, while recognizing him as the principal teacher, endorse
all his sayings. Thus it forbids the eating of beef but adds the curious
remark "Nevertheless Yâjñavalkya said, I for one eat it, provided it is
tender[221]." Remarkable, too, is his answer to the question what would
happen if all the ordinary materials for sacrifices were absent, "Then
indeed nothing would be offered here, but there would be offered the
truth in faith[222]." It is probable that the Black Yajur Veda
represents the more western schools and that the native land of the
White recension and of Yâjñavalkya lay further east, perhaps in Videha.
But his chief interest for us is not the reforms in text and ritual
which he may have made, but his philosophic doctrines of which I have
already spoken. Our principal authority for them is the Bṛihad-Âraṇyaka
Upanishad of which he is the protagonist, much as Socrates is of the
Platonic dialogues. Unfortunately the striking picture which it gives of
Yâjñavalkya cannot be accepted as historical. He is a prominent figure
in the Śatapatha Brâhmaṇa which is older than the Upanishad and
represents an earlier stage of speculation. The sketch of his doctrines
which it contains is clearly a preliminary study elaborated and
amplified in the Upanishad. But if a personage is introduced in early
works as expounding a rudimentary form of certain doctrines and in later
works is credited with a matured philosophy, there can be little doubt
that he has become a great name whose authority is invoked by later
thought, much as Solomon was made the author of the Proverbs and
Ecclesiastes and the Song which bears his name.

Yâjñavalkya appears in the Bṛihad-Âraṇyaka as the respected friend but
apparently not the chaplain of King Janaka. This monarch celebrated a
great sacrifice and offered a thousand cows with a present of money to
him who should prove himself wisest. Yâjñavalkya rather arrogantly bade
his pupil drive off the beasts. But his claim was challenged: seven
Brahmans and one woman, Gârgî Vâcaknavî, disputed with him at length but
had to admit his superiority. A point of special interest is raised by
the question what happens after death. Yâjñavalkya said to his
questioner, "'Take my hand, my friend. We two alone shall know of this.
Let this question of ours not be discussed in public.' Then these two
went out and argued, and what they said was Karma and what they praised
was Karma[223]." The doctrine that a man's deeds cause his future
existence and determine its character was apparently not popular among
the priesthood who claimed that by their rites they could manufacture
heavenly bodies for their clients.


This imperfect and sketchy picture of religious life in India so far as
it can be gathered from the older Brahmanic books has reference mainly
to the kingdoms of the Kuru-Pancâlas and Videha in 800-600 B.C. Another
picture, somewhat fuller, is found in the ancient literature of the
Buddhists and Jains, which depicts the kingdoms of Magadha (Bihar) and
Kosala (Oudh) in the time of the Buddha and Mahâvîra, the founder of
Jainism, that is, about 500 B.C. or rather earlier. It is probable that
the picture is substantially true for this period or even for a period
considerably earlier, for Mahâvîra was supposed to have revived with
modifications the doctrines of Parśvanâtha and some of the Buddhas
mentioned as preceding Gotama were probably historical personages. But
the Brahmanic and Buddhist accounts do not give two successive phases of
thought in the same people, for the locality is not quite the same. Both
pictures include the territory of Kâśi and Videha, but the Brahmanic
landscape lies mainly to the west and the Buddhist mainly to the east of
this region. In the Buddhist sphere it is clear that in the youth of
Gotama Brahmanic doctrines and ritual were well known but not
predominant. It is hardly demonstrable from literature, but still
probable, that the ideas and usages which found expression in Jainism
and Buddhism existed in the western districts, though less powerful
there than in the east[224].

A striking feature of the world in which Jainism and Buddhism arose was
the prevalence of confraternities or religious orders. They were the
recognized form of expression not only for piety but for the germs of
theology, metaphysics and science. The ordinary man of the world kept on
good terms with such gods as came his way, but those who craved for some
higher interest often separated themselves from the body of citizens and
followed some special rule of life. In one sense the Brahmans were the
greatest of such communities, but they were a hereditary corporation and
though they were not averse to new ideas, their special stock in trade
was an acquaintance with traditional formulæ and rites. They were also,
in the main, sedentary and householders. Somewhat opposed to them were
other companies, described collectively as Paribbâjakas or Samanas[225].
These, though offering many differences among themselves, were clearly
distinguished from the Brahmans, and it is probable that they usually
belonged to the warrior caste. But they did not maintain that religious
knowledge was the exclusive privilege of any caste: they were not
householders but wanderers and celibates. Often they were ascetics and
addicted to extreme forms of self-mortification. They did not study the
Vedas or perform sacrifices, and their speculations were often
revolutionary, and as a rule not theistic. It is not easy to find any
English word which describes these people or the Buddhist Bhikkhus. Monk
is perhaps the best, though inadequate. Pilgrim and friar give the idea
of wandering, but otherwise suggest wrong associations. But in calling
them monks, we must remember that though celibates, and to some extent
recluses (for they mixed with the world only in a limited degree), they
were not confined in cloisters. The more stationary lived in woods,
either in huts or the open air, but many spent the greater part of the
year in wandering.

The practice of adopting a wandering religious life was frequent among
the upper classes, and must have been a characteristic feature of
society. No blame attached to the man who abruptly left his family,
though well-to-do people are represented as dissuading their children
from the step. The interest in philosophical and theological questions
was perhaps even greater than among the Brahmans, and they were
recognized not as parerga to a life of business or amusement, but as
occupations in themselves. Material civilization had not kept pace with
the growth of thought and speculation. Thus restless and inquisitive
minds found little to satisfy them in villages or small towns, and the
wanderer, instead of being a useless rolling stone, was likely not only
to have a more interesting life but to meet with sympathy and respect.
Ideas and discussion were plentiful but there were no books and hardly
any centres of learning. Yet there was even more movement than among the
travelling priests of the Kurus and Pancâlas, a coming and going, a
trafficking in ideas. Knowledge was to be picked up in the market-places
and highways. Up and down the main roads circulated crowds of highly
intelligent men. They lived upon alms, that is to say, they were fed by
the citizens who favoured their opinions or by those good souls who gave
indiscriminately to all holy men—and in the larger places rest houses
were erected for their comfort. It was natural that the more commanding
and original spirits should collect others round them and form bands,
for though there was public discussion, writing was not used for
religious purposes and he who would study any doctrine had to become the
pupil of a master. The doctrine too involved a discipline, or mode of
life best led in common. Hence these bands easily grew into communities
which we may call orders or sects, if we recognize that their
constitution was more fluid and less formal than is implied by those
words. It is not easy to say how much organization such communities
possessed before the time of the Buddha. His Sangha was the most
successful of them all and doubtless surpassed the others in this as in
other respects. Yet it was modelled on existing institutions and the
Vinaya Pitaka[226] itself represents him as prescribing the observance
of times and seasons, not so much because he thought it necessary as
because the laity suggested that he would do well to follow the practice
of the Titthiya schools. By this phrase we are to understand the
adherents of Makkhali Gosâla, Sâñjaya Belaṭṭhiputta and others. We know
less about these sects than we could wish, but two lists of schools or
theories are preserved, one in the Brahmajâla Sutta[227] where the
Buddha himself criticises 62 erroneous views and another in Jain
literature[228], which enumerates no fewer than 363.

Both catalogues are somewhat artificial, and it is clear that many views
are mentioned not because they represent the tenets of real schools but
from a desire to condemn all possible errors. But the list of topics
discussed is interesting. From the Brahmajâla Sutta we learn that the
problems which agitated ancient Magadha were such as the following:--is
the world eternal or not: is it infinite or finite: is there a cause for
the origin of things or is it without cause: does the soul exist after
death: if so, is its existence conscious or unconscious: is it eternal
or does it cease to exist, not necessarily at the end of its present
life but after a certain number of lives: can it enjoy perfect bliss
here or elsewhere? Theories on these and other points are commonly
called vâda or talk, and those who hold them vâdins. Thus there is the
Kâla-vâda[229] which makes Time the origin and principle of the
universe, and the Svabhâva-vada which teaches that things come into
being of their own accord. This seems crude when stated with archaic
frankness but becomes plausible if paraphrased in modern language as
"discontinuous variation and the spontaneous origin of definite
species." There were also the Niyati-vâdins, or fatalists, who believed
that all that happens is the result of Niyati or fixed order, and the
Yadricchâ-vâdins who, on the contrary, ascribed everything to chance and
apparently denied causation, because the same result follows from
different antecedents. It is noticeable that none of these views imply
theism or pantheism but the Buddha directed so persistent a polemic
against the doctrine of the Âtman that it must have been known in
Magadha. The fundamental principles of the Sânkhya were also known,
though perhaps not by that name. It is probably correct to say not that
the Buddha borrowed from the Sânkhya but that both he and the Sânkhya
accepted and elaborated in different ways certain current views.

The Pali Suttas[230] mention six agnostic or materialist teachers and
give a brief but perhaps not very just compendium of their doctrines.
One of them was the founder of the Jains who, as a sect that has lasted
to the present day with a considerable record in art and literature,
merit a separate chapter. Of the remaining five, one, Sâñjaya of the
Belaṭṭha clan, was an agnostic, similar to the people described
elsewhere[231] as eel-wrigglers, who in answer to such questions as, is
there a result of good and bad actions, decline to say either _(a)_
there is, _(b)_ there is not, _(c)_ there both is and is not, _(d)_
there neither is nor is not. This form of argument has been adopted by
Buddhism for some important questions but Sâñjaya and his disciples
appear to have applied it indiscriminately and to have concluded that
positive assertion is impossible.

The other four were in many respects what we should call fatalists and
materialists[232], or in the language of their time Akriya-vâdins,
denying, that is, free will, responsibility and the merit or demerit of
good or bad actions. They nevertheless believed in metempsychosis and
practised asceticism. Apparently they held that beings are born again
and again according to a natural law, but not according to their deeds:
and that though asceticism cannot accelerate the soul's journey, yet at
a certain stage it is a fore-ordained and indispensable preliminary to
emancipation. The doctrines attributed to all four are crude and
startling. Perhaps they are exaggerated by the Buddhist narrator, but
they also reflect the irreverent exuberance of young thought. Pûraṇa
Kassapa denies that there is any merit in virtue or harm in murder.
Another ascetic called Ajita of the garment of hair teaches that nothing
exists but the four elements, and that "fools and wise alike are
annihilated on the dissolution of the body and after death they are
not." Then why, one asks, was he an ascetic? Similarly Pakudha Kaccâyana
states that "when a sharp sword cleaves a head in twain" the soul and
pain play a part similar to that played by the component elements of the
sword and head. The most important of these teachers was Makkhali
Gosâla. His doctrine comprises a denial of causation and free will and
an assertion that fools and wise alike will make an end of pain after
wandering through eighty-four hundred thousand births. The followers of
this teacher were called ÂjÎvikas: they were a distinct body in the time
of Asoka, and the name[233] occurs as late as the thirteenth century in
South Indian inscriptions. Several accounts[234] of the founder are
extant, but all were compiled by bitter opponents, for he was hated by
Jains and Buddhists alike. His doctrine was closely allied to Jainism,
especially the Digambara sect, but was probably more extravagant and
anti-social. He appears to have objected to confraternities[235], to
have enjoined a solitary life, absolute nudity and extreme forms of
self-mortification, such as eating filth. The Jains accused his
followers of immorality and perhaps they were ancient prototypes of the
lower class of religious mendicants who have brought discredit on


None of the phases of religious life described above can be called
popular. The religion of the Brahmans was the thought and science of a
class. The various un-Brahmanic confraternities usually required their
members to be wandering ascetics. They had little to say to village
householders who must have constituted the great majority of the
population. Also there are signs that priests and nobles, however much
they quarrelled, combined to keep the lower castes in subjection[236].
Yet we can hardly doubt that then as now all classes were profoundly
religious, and that just as to-day village deities unknown to the Vedas,
or even to the Puranas, receive the worship of millions, so then there
were gods and rites that did not lack popular attention though unnoticed
in the scriptures of Brahmans and Buddhists.

We know little of this popular religion by direct description before or
even during the Buddhist period, but we have fragmentary indications of
its character. Firstly several incongruous observances have obtruded
themselves into the Brahmanic ritual. Thus in the course of the
Mahâvrata ceremony[237] the Hotri priest sits in a swing and maidens,
carrying pitchers of water on their heads and singing, dance round an
altar while drums are beaten. Parallels to this may be found to-day. The
image of Krishna, or even a priest who represents Krishna, is swung to
and fro in many temples, the use of drums in worship is distressingly
common, and during the Pongol festivities in southern India young people
dance round or leap over a fire. Other remarkable features in the
Mahâvrata are the shooting of arrows into a target of skin, the use of
obscene language (such as is still used at the Holi festival) and even
obscene acts[238]. We must not assume that popular religion in ancient
India was specially indecent, but it probably included ceremonies
analogous to the Lupercalia and Thesmophoria, in which licence in words
and deeds was supposed to promote fertility and prosperity.

We are also justified in supposing that offerings to ancestors and many
ceremonies mentioned in the Gṛihya-sûtras or handbooks of domestic
ritual were performed by far larger classes of the population than the
greater sacrifices, but we have no safe criteria for distinguishing
between priestly injunctions and the real practice of ancient times.

Secondly, in the spells and charms of the Atharva[239], which received
the Brahmanic imprimatur later than the other three Vedas, we find an
outlook differing from that of the other Vedas and resembling the
popular religion of China. Mankind are persecuted by a host of evil
spirits and protect themselves by charms addressed directly to their
tormentors or by invoking the aid of beneficent powers. All nature is
animated by good and evil spirits, to be dealt with like other natural
advantages or difficulties, but not thought of as moral or spiritual
guides. It is true that the Atharva often rises above this phase, for it
consists not of simple folk-lore, but of folk-lore modified
under-sacerdotal influence. The protecting powers invoked are often the
gods of the Rig Veda[240], but prayers and incantations are also
addressed directly to diseases[241] and demons[242] or, on the other
hand, to healing plants and amulets[243]. We can hardly be wrong in
supposing that in such invocations the Atharva reflects the popular
practice of its time, but it prefers the invocation of counteracting
forces, whether Vedic deities or magical plants, to the propitiation of
malignant spirits, such as the worship of the goddesses presiding over
smallpox and cholera which is still prevalent in India. In this there is
probably a contrast between the ideas of the Aryan and non-Aryan races.
The latter propitiate the demon or disease; the Aryans invoke a
beneficent and healing power. But though on the whole the Atharva is
inclined to banish the black spectres of popular demonology with the
help of luminous Aryan gods, still we find invoked in it and in its
subsidiary literature a multitude of spirits, good and bad, known by
little except their names which, however, often suffice to indicate
their functions. Such are Âśâpati (Lord of the region), Kshetrapati
(Lord of the field), both invoked in ceremonies for destroying locusts
and other noxious insects, Śakambhara and Apvâ, deities of diarrhoea,
and Arâti, the goddess of avarice and grudge. In one hymn[244] the poet
invokes, together with many Vedic deities, all manner of nature spirits,
demons, animals, healing plants, seasons and ghosts. A similar
collection of queer and vague personalities is found in the popular
pantheon of China to-day[245].

Thirdly, various deities who are evidently considered to be well known,
play some part in the Pali Pitakas. Those most frequently mentioned are
Mahâbrahmâ or Brahmâ Sahampati, and Sakka or Indra, but not quite the
same as the Vedic Indra and less in need of libations of Soma. In two
curious suttas[246] deputations of deities, clearly intended to include
all the important gods worshipped at the time, are represented as
visiting the Buddha. In both lists a prominent position is given to the
Four Great Kings, or Ruling Spirits of the Four Quarters, accompanied by
retinues called Gandhabbas, Kumbhandas, Nâgas, and Yakkhas respectively,
and similar to the Nats of Burma. The Gandhabbas (or Gandharvas) are
heavenly musicians and mostly benevolent, but are mentioned in the
Brâhmaṇas as taking possession of women who then deliver oracles. The
Nâgas are serpents, sometimes represented as cobras with one or more
heads and sometimes as half human: sometimes they live in palaces under
the water or in the depths of the earth and sometimes they are the
tutelary deities of trees. Serpent worship has undoubtedly been
prevalent in India in all ages: indications of it are found in the
earliest Buddhist sculptures and it still survives[247]. The Yakkhas (or
Yakshas) though hardly demons (as their name is often rendered) are
mostly ill disposed to the human race, sometimes man-eaters and often of
unedifying conduct. The Mahâsamaya-sutta also mentions mountain spirits
from the Himalaya, Satagiri, and Mount Vepulla. Of the Devas or chiefs
of the Yakkhas in this catalogue only a few are known to Brahmanic
works, such as Soma, Varuṇa, Veṇhu (Vishnu), the Yamas, Pajâpati, Inda
(Indra), Sanan-kumâra. All these deities are enumerated together with
little regard to the positions they occupy in the sacerdotal pantheon.
The enquirer finds a similar difficulty when he tries in the twentieth
century to identify rural deities, or even the tutelaries of many great
temples, with any personages recognized by the canonical literature.

In several discourses attributed to the Buddha[248] is incorporated a
tract called the Sîla-vagga, giving a list of practices of which he
disapproved, such as divination and the use of spells and drugs. Among
special observances censured, the following are of interest. (_a_) Burnt
offerings, and offerings of blood drawn from the right knee. (_b_) The
worship of the Sun, of Siri, the goddess of Luck, and of the Great One,
meaning perhaps the Earth. (_c_) Oracles obtained from a mirror, or from
a girl possessed by a spirit or from a god.

We also find allusions in Buddhist and Jain works as well as in the
inscriptions of Asoka to popular festivals or fairs called Samajjas[249]
which were held on the tops of hills and seem to have included music,
recitations, dancing and perhaps dramatic performances. These meetings
were probably like the modern _mela_, half religion and half
entertainment, and it was in such surroundings that the legends and
mythology which the great Epics show in full bloom first grew and

Thus we have evidence of the existence in pre-Buddhist India of rites
and beliefs—the latter chiefly of the kind called animistic—disowned for
the most part by the Buddhists and only tolerated by the Brahmans. No
elaborate explanation of this popular religion or of its relation to
more intellectual and sacerdotal cults is necessary, for the same thing
exists at the present day and the best commentary on the Sîla-vagga is
Crooke's _Popular Religion and Folk-lore of Northern India_.

In themselves such popular superstitions may seem despicable and
repulsive (as the Buddha found them), but when they are numerous and
vigorous, as in India, they have a real importance for they provide a
matrix and nursery in which the beginnings of great religions may be
reared. Sâktism and the worship of Râma and Krishna, together with many
less conspicuous cults, all entered Brahmanism in this way. Whenever a
popular cult grew important or whenever Brahmanic influence spread to a
new district possessing such a cult, the popular cult was recognized and
brahmanized. This policy can be abundantly illustrated for the last four
or five centuries (for instance in Assam), and it was in operation two
and a half millenniums ago or earlier. It explains the low and magical
character of the residue of popular religion, every ceremony and deity
of importance being put under Brahmanic patronage, and it also explains
the sudden appearance of new deities. We can safely assert that in the
time of the Buddha, and _a fortiori_ in the time of the older
Upanishads[250] and Brâhmaṇas, Krishna and Râma were not prominent as
deities in Hindustan, but it may well be that they had a considerable
position as heroes whose exploits were recited at popular festivals and
that Krishna was growing into a god in other regions which have left no




Before leaving pre-Buddhist India, it may be well to say something of
the Jains. Many of their doctrines, especially their disregard not only
of priests but of gods, which seems to us so strange in any system which
can be called a religion, are closely analogous to Buddhism and from one
point of view Jainism is part of the Buddhist movement. But more
accurately it may be called an early specialized form of the general
movement which culminated in Buddhism. Its founder, Mahâvîra, was an
earlier contemporary of the Buddha and not a pupil or imitator[252].
Even had its independent appearance been later, we might still say that
it represents an earlier stage of thought. Its kinship to the theories
mentioned in the last chapter is clear. It does not indeed deny
responsibility and free will, but its advocacy of extreme asceticism and
death by starvation has a touch of the same extravagance and its list of
elements in which physical substances and ideas are mixed together is
curiously crude.

Jainism is atheistic, and this atheism is as a rule neither apologetic
nor polemical but is accepted as a natural religious attitude. By
atheism, of course, a denial of the existence of Devas is not meant; the
Jains surpass, if possible, the exuberant fancy of the Brahmans and
Buddhists in designing imaginary worlds and peopling them with angelic
or diabolical inhabitants, but, as in Buddhism, these beings are like
mankind subject to transmigration and decay and are not the masters,
still less the creators, of the universe. There were two principal world
theories in ancient India. One, which was systematized as the Vedânta,
teaches in its extreme form that the soul and the universal spirit are
identical and the external world an illusion. The other, systematized as
the Sânkhya, is dualistic and teaches that primordial matter and
separate individual souls are both of them uncreated and indestructible.
Both lines of thought look for salvation in the liberation of the soul
to be attained by the suppression of the passions and the acquisition of
true knowledge.

Jainism belongs to the second of these classes. It teaches that the
world is eternal, self-existent and composed of six constituent
substances: souls, dharma, adharma, space, time, and particles of
matter[253]. Dharma and adharma are defined by modern Jains as subtle
substances analogous to space which make it possible for things to move
or rest, but Jacobi is probably right in supposing that in primitive
speculation the words had their natural meaning and denoted subtle
fluids which cause merit and demerit. In any case the enumeration places
in singular juxtaposition substances and activities, the material and
the immaterial. The process of salvation and liberation is not
distinguished from physical processes and we see how other sects may
have drawn the conclusion, which apparently the Jains did not draw, that
human action is necessitated and that there is no such thing as free
will. For Jainism individual souls are free, separate existences, whose
essence is pure intelligence. But they have a tendency towards action
and passion and are misled by false beliefs. For this reason, in the
existence which we know they are chained to bodies and are found not
only in Devas and in human beings but in animals, plants and inanimate
matter. The habitation of the soul depends on the merit or demerit which
it acquires and merit and demerit have respectively greater or less
influence during immensely long periods called Utsarpinî and Avasarpinî,
ascending and descending, in which human stature and the duration of
life increase or decrease by a regular law. Merit secures birth among
the gods or good men. Sin sends the soul to baser births, even in
inanimate substances. On this downward path, the intelligence is
gradually dimmed till at last motion and consciousness are lost, which
is not however regarded as equivalent to annihilation.

Another dogmatic exposition of the Jain creed is based on seven
principles, called soul, non-soul, influx, imprisonment, exclusion,
dissipation, release[254]. Karma, which in the ordinary language of
Indian philosophy means deeds and their effect on the soul, is here
regarded as a peculiarly subtle form of matter[255] which enters the
soul and by this influx (or âsrava, a term well-known in Buddhism)
defiles and weighs it down. As food is transformed into flesh, so the
Karma forms a subtle body which invests the soul and prevents it from
being wholly isolated from matter at death. The upward path and
liberation of the soul are effected by stopping the entrance of Karma,
that is by not performing actions which give occasion to the influx, and
by expelling it. The most effective means to this end is
self-mortification, which not only prevents the entrance of new Karma
but annihilates what has accumulated.

Like most Indian sects, Jainism considers the world of transmigration as
a bondage or journey which the wise long to terminate. But joyless as is
its immediate outlook, its ultimate ideas are not pessimistic. Even in
the body the soul can attain a beatific state of perfect knowledge[256]
and above the highest heaven (where the greatest gods live in bliss for
immense periods though ultimately subject to transmigration) is the
paradise of blessed souls, freed from transmigration. They have no
visible form but consist of life throughout, and enjoy happiness beyond
compare. With a materialism characteristic of Jain theology, the
treatise from which this account is taken[257] adds that the dimensions
of a perfected soul are two-thirds of the height possessed in its last

How is this paradise to be reached? By right faith, right knowledge and
right conduct, called the three jewels, a phrase familiar to Buddhism.
The right faith is complete confidence in Mahâvîra and his teaching.
Right knowledge is correct theology as outlined above. Knowledge is of
five degrees of which the highest is called Kevalam or omniscience. This
sounds ambitious, but the special method of reasoning favoured by the
Jains is the modest Syâdvâda[258] or doctrine of may-be, which holds
that you can (1) affirm the existence of a thing from one point of view,
(2) deny it from another, and (3) affirm both existence and
non-existence with reference to it at different times. If (4) you should
think of affirming existence and non-existence at the same time and from
the same point of view, you must say that the thing cannot be spoken of.
The essence of the doctrine, so far as one can disentangle it from
scholastic terminology, seems just, for it amounts to this, that as to
matters of experience it is impossible to formulate the whole and
complete truth, and as to matters which transcend experience language is
inadequate: also that Being is associated with production, continuation
and destruction. This doctrine is called _anekânta-vâda_, meaning that
Being is not one and absolute as the Upanishads assert: matter is
permanent, but changes its shape, and its other accidents. Thus in many
points the Jains adopt the common sense and _primâ facie_ point of view.
But the doctrines of metempsychosis and Karma are also admitted as
obvious propositions, and though the fortunes and struggles of the
embodied soul are described in materialistic terms, happiness is never
placed in material well-being but in liberation from the material

We cannot be sure that the existing Jain scriptures present these
doctrines in their original form, but the full acceptance of
metempsychosis, the animistic belief that plants, particles of earth and
water have souls and the materialistic phraseology (from which the
widely different speculations of the Upanishads are by no means free)
agree with what we know of Indian thought about 550 B.C. Jainism like
Buddhism ignores the efficacy of ceremonies and the powers of priests,
but it bears even fewer signs than Buddhism of being in its origin a
protestant or hostile movement. The intellectual atmosphere seems other
than that of the Upanishads, but it is very nearly that of the Sânkhya
philosophy, which also recognizes an infinity of individual souls
radically distinct from matter and capable of attaining bliss only by
isolation from matter. Of the origin of that important school we know
nothing, but it differs from Jainism chiefly in the greater elaboration
of its psychological and evolutionary theories and in the elimination of
some materialistic ideas. Possibly the same region and climate of
opinion gave birth to two doctrines, one simple and practical, inasmuch
as it found its principal expression in a religious order, the other
more intellectual and scholastic and, at least in the form in which we
read it, later[259].

Right conduct is based on the five vows taken by every Jain ascetic, (1)
not to kill, (2) not to speak untruth, (3) to take nothing that is not
given, (4) to observe chastity, (5) to renounce all pleasure in external
objects. These vows receive an extensive and strict interpretation by
means of five explanatory clauses applicable to each and to be construed
with reference to deed, word, and thought, to acting, commanding and
consenting. Thus the vow not to kill forbids not only the destruction of
the smallest insect but also all speech or thought which could bring
about a quarrel, and the doing, causing or permitting of any action
which could even inadvertently injure living beings, such as
carelessness in walking. Naturally such rules can be kept only by an
ascetic, and in addition to them asceticism is expressly enjoined. It is
either internal or external. The former takes such forms as repentance,
humility, meditation and the suppression of all desires: the latter
comprises various forms of self-denial, culminating in death by
starvation. This form of religious suicide is prescribed for those who
have undergone twelve years' penance and are ripe for Nirvana[260] but
it is wrong if adopted as a means of shortening austerities. Numerous
inscriptions record such deaths and the head-teachers of the Digambaras
are said still to leave the world in this way.

Important but not peculiar to Jainism is the doctrine of the periodical
appearance of great teachers who from time to time restore the true
faith[261]. The same idea meets us in the fourteen Manus, the
incarnations of Vishnu, and the series of Buddhas who preceded Gotama.
The Jain saints are sometimes designated as Buddha, Kevalin, Siddha,
Tathâgata and Arhat (all Buddhist titles) but their special appellation
is Jina or conqueror which is, however, also used by Buddhists[262]. It
was clearly a common notion in India that great teachers appear at
regular intervals and that one might reasonably be expected in the sixth
century B.C. The Jains gave preference or prominence to the titles Jina
or Tîrthankara: the Buddhists to Buddha or Tathâgata.


According to the Jain scriptures all Jinas are born in the warrior
caste, never among Brahmans. The first called Rishabha, who was born an
almost inexpressibly[263] long time ago and lived 8,400,000 years, was
the son of a king of Ayodhyâ. But as ages elapsed, the lives of his
successors and the intervals which separated them became shorter.
Parśva, the twenty-third Jina, must have some historical basis[264]. We
are told that he lived 250 years before Mahâvîra, that his followers
still existed in the time of the latter: that he permitted the use of
clothes and taught that four and not five vows were necessary[265]. Both
Jain and Buddhist scriptures support the idea that Mahâvîra was a
reviver and reformer rather than an originator. The former do not
emphasize the novelty of his revelation and the latter treat Jainism as
a well-known form of error without indicating that it was either new or
attributable to one individual.

Mahâvîra, or the great hero, is the common designation of the
twenty-fourth Jina but his personal name was Vardhamâna. He was a
contemporary of the Buddha but somewhat older and belonged to a
Kshatriya clan, variously called Jñâta, Ñâta, or Ñâya. His parents lived
in a suburb of Vaiśâlî and were followers of Parśva. When he was in his
thirty-first year they decided to die by voluntary starvation and after
their death he renounced the world and started to wander naked in
western Bengal, enduring some persecution as well as self-inflicted
penances. After thirteen years of this life, he believed that he had
attained enlightenment and appeared as the Jina, the head of a religious
order called Nirgaṇṭhas (or Nigaṇṭhas). This word, which means
unfettered or free from bonds, is the name by which the Jains are
generally known in Buddhist literature and it occurs in their own
scriptures, though it gradually fell out of use. Possibly it was the
designation of an order claiming to have been founded by Parśva and
accepted by Mahâvîra.

The meagre accounts of his life relate that he continued to travel for
nearly thirty years and had eleven principal disciples. He apparently
influenced much the same region as the Buddha and came in contact with
the same personalities, such as kings Bimbisâra and Ajâtasattu. He had
relations with Makkhali Gosâla and his disciples disputed with the
Buddhists[266] but it does not appear that he himself ever met Gotama.
He died at the age of seventy-two at Pâvâ near Râjagaha. Only one of his
principal disciples, Sudharman, survived him and a schism broke out
immediately after his death. There had already been one in the fifteenth
year of his teaching brought about by his son-in-law.


We have no information about the differences on which these schisms
turned, but Jainism is still split into two sects which, though
following in most respects identical doctrines and customs, refuse to
intermarry or eat together. Their sacred literature is not the same and
the evidence of inscriptions indicates that they were distinct at the
beginning of the Christian era and perhaps much earlier.

The Digambara sect, or those who are clothed in air, maintain that
absolute nudity is a necessary condition of saintship: the other
division or Śvetâmbaras, those who are dressed in white, admit that
Mahâvîra went about naked, but hold that the use of clothes does not
impede the highest sanctity, and also that such sanctity can be attained
by women, which the Digambaras deny. Nudity as a part of asceticism was
practised by several sects in the time of Mahâvîra[267] but it was also
reprobated by others (including all Buddhists) who felt it to be
barbarous and unedifying. It is therefore probable that both Digambaras
and Śvetâmbaras existed in the infancy of Jainism, and the latter may
represent the older sect reformed or exaggerated by Mahâvîra. Thus we
are told[268] that "the law taught by Vardhamâna forbids clothes but
that of the great sage Parśva allows an under and an upper garment." But
it was not until considerably later that the schism was completed by the
constitution of two different canons[269]. At the present day most
Digambaras wear the ordinary costume of their district and only the
higher ascetics attempt to observe the rule of nudity. When they go
about they wrap themselves in a large cloth, but lay it aside when
eating. The Digambaras are divided into four principal sects and the
Śvetâmbaras into no less than eighty-four, which are said to date from
the tenth century A.D.

Apart from these divisions, all Jain communities are differentiated into
laymen and members of the order or Yatis, literally strivers. It is
recognized that laymen cannot observe the five vows. Killing, lying, and
stealing are forbidden to them only in their obvious and gross forms:
chastity is replaced by conjugal fidelity and self-denial by the
prohibition of covetousness. They can also acquire merit by observing
seven other miscellaneous vows (whence we hear of the twelvefold law)
comprising rules as to residence, trade, etc. Agriculture is forbidden
since it involves tearing up the ground and the death of insects.

Mahâvîra was succeeded by a long line of teachers sometimes called
Patriarchs and it would seem that their names have been correctly
preserved though the accounts of their doings are meagre. Various
notices in Buddhist literature confirm the idea that the Jains were
active in the districts corresponding to Oudh, Tirhut and Bihar in the
period following Mahâvîra's death, and we hear of them in Ceylon before
our era. Further historical evidence is afforded by inscriptions[270].
The earliest in which the Jains are mentioned are the edicts of Asoka.
He directed the officials called "superintendents of religion" to
concern themselves with the Niganṭḥas[271]: and when [272] he describes
how he has provided medicine, useful plants and wells for both men and
animals, we are reminded of the hospitals for animals which are still
maintained by the Jains. According to Jain tradition (which however has
not yet been verified by other evidence) Samprati, the grandson of
Asoka, was a devout patron of the faith. More certain is the patronage
accorded to it by King Khâravela of Orissa about 157 B.C. which is
attested by inscriptions. Many dedicatory inscriptions prove that the
Jains were a flourishing community at Muttra in the reigns of Kanishka,
Huvishka and Vasudeva and one inscription from the same locality seems
as old as 150 B.C. We learn from these records that the sect comprised a
great number of schools and subdivisions. We need not suppose that the
different teachers were necessarily hostile to one another but their
existence testifies to an activity and freedom of interpretation which
have left traces in the multitude of modern subsects.

Jainism also spread in the south of India and before our era it had a
strong hold in Tamil lands, but our knowledge of its early progress is
defective. According to Jain tradition there was a severe famine in
northern India about 200 years after Mahâvîra's death and the patriarch
Bhadrabâhu led a band of the faithful to the south[273]. In the seventh
century A.D. we know from various records of the reign of Harsha and
from the Chinese pilgrim Hsüan Chuang that it was nourishing in Vaiśâlî
and Bengal and also as far south as Conjeevaram. It also made
considerable progress in the southern Maratha country under the Câlukya
dynasty of Vatapi, in the modern district of Bijapur (500-750) and under
the Râshṭrakûta sovereigns of the Deccan. Amoghavarsha of this line
(815-877) patronized the Digambaras and in his old age abdicated and
became an ascetic. The names of notable Digambara leaders like Jinasena
and Guṇabhadra dating from this period are preserved and Jainism must in
some districts have become the dominant religion. Bijjala who usurped
the Câlukya throne (1156-1167) was a Jain and the Hoysala kings of
Mysore, though themselves Vaishnavas, protected the religion.
Inscriptions[274] appear to attest the presence of Jainism at Girnar in
the first century A.D. and subsequently Gujarat became a model Jain
state after the conversion of King Kumarapala about 1160.

Such success naturally incurred the enmity of the Brahmans and there is
more evidence of systematic persecution directed against the Jains than
against the Buddhists. The Cola kings who ruled in the south-east of the
Madras Presidency were jealous worshippers of Siva and the Jains
suffered severely at their hands in the eleventh century and also under
the Pândya kings of the extreme south. King Sundara of the latter
dynasty is said to have impaled 8000 of them and pictures on the walls
of the great temple at Madura represent their tortures. A little later
(1174) Ajayadeva, a Saiva king of Gujarat, is said to have raged against
them with equal fury. The rise of the Lingâyats in the Deccan must also
have had an unfavourable effect on their numbers. But in the fourteenth
century greater tolerance prevailed, perhaps in consequence of the
common danger from Islam. Inscriptions found at Sravana Belgola and
other places[275] narrate an interesting event which occurred in 1368.
The Jains appealed to the king of Vijayanagar for protection from
persecution and he effected a public reconciliation between them and the
Vaishnavas, holding the hands of both leaders in his own and declaring
that equal protection would be given to both sects. Another inscription
records an amicable agreement regulating the worship of a lingam in a
Jain temple at Halebid. Many others, chiefly recording grants of land,
testify to the prosperity of Jainism in the Hindu kingdom of Vijayanagar
and in the region of Mt Abu in the sixteenth and seventeenth
centuries[276]. The great Emperor Akbar himself came under the influence
of Jainism and received instruction from three Jain teachers from 1578
to 1597.

Persecution and still more the steady pressure and absorptive power of
Hinduism have reduced the proportions of the sect, and the last census
estimated it at one million and a third. It is probable, however, that
many Jains returned themselves as Hindus, and that their numbers are
really greater. More than two-fifths of them are found in Bombay,
Rajputana, and Central India. Elsewhere they are generally distributed
but only in small numbers. They observe caste, at least in some
districts, and generally belong to the Baniyas. They include many
wealthy merchants who expend large sums on the construction and
maintenance of temples, houses for wandering ascetics and homes for
cattle. Their respect and care for animal life are remarkable. Wherever
Jains gain influence beasts are not slaughtered or sacrificed, and when
old or injured are often kept in hospitals or asylums, as, for instance,
at Ahmadabad[277]. Their ascetics take stringent precautions to avoid
killing the smallest creature: they strain their drinking water, sweep
the ground before them with a broom as they walk and wear a veil over
their mouths. Even in the shops of the laity lamps are carefully
screened to prevent insects from burning themselves.

The principal divisions are the Digambara and Śvetâmbara as above
described and an offshoot of the latter called Dhundia[278] who refuse
to use images in worship and are remarkable even among Jains for their
aversion to taking life. In Central India the Digambaras are about half
the total number; in Baroda and Bombay the Śvetâmbaras are stronger. In
Central India the Jains are said to be sharply distinguished from Hindus
but in other parts they intermarry with Vaishnavas and while respecting
their own ascetics as religious teachers, employ the services of
Brahmans in their ceremonies.


The Jains have a copious and in part ancient literature. The oldest
works are found in the canon (or Siddhânta) of the Śvetâmbaras, which is
not accepted by the Digambaras. In this canon the highest rank is given
to eleven works[279] called Angas or limbs of the law but it also
comprises many other esteemed treatises such as the Kalpasûtra ascribed
to Bhadrabâhu. Fourteen older books called Puvvas (Sk. Pûrvas) and now
lost are said to have together formed a twelfth anga. The language of
the canon is a variety of Prakrit[280], fairly ancient though more
modern than Pali, and remarkable for its habit of omitting or softening
consonants coming between two vowels, _e.g._ sûyam for sûtram, loo for
loko[281]. We cannot, however, conclude that it is the language in which
the books were composed, for it is probable that the early Jains,
rejecting Brahmanical notions of a revealed text, handed down their
religious teaching in the vernacular and allowed its grammar and
phonetics to follow the changes brought about by time. According to a
tradition which probably contains elements of truth the first collection
of sacred works was made about 200 years after Mahâvîra's death by a
council which sat at Pataliputra. Just about the same time came the
famine already mentioned and many Jains migrated to the south. When they
returned they found that their co-religionists had abandoned the
obligation of nakedness and they consequently refused to recognize their
sacred books. The Śvetâmbara canon was subsequently revised and written
down by a council held at Valabhi in Gujarat in the middle of the fifth
century A.D. This is the edition which is still extant. The canon of the
Digambaras, which is less well known, is said to be chiefly in Sanskrit
and according to tradition was codified by Pushpadanta in the second
century A.D. but appears to be really posterior to the Śvetâmbara
scriptures[282]. It is divided into four sections called Vedas and
treating respectively of history, cosmology, philosophy and rules of

Though the books of the Jain canon contain ancient matter, yet they
seem, as compositions, considerably later than the older parts of the
Buddhist Tripitaka. They do not claim to record recent events and
teaching but are attempts at synthesis which assume that Jainism is well
known and respected. In style they offer some resemblance to the
Pitakas: there is the same inordinate love of repetition and in the more
emotional passages great similarity of tone and metaphor[284].

Besides the two canons, the Jains have a considerable literature
consisting both of commentaries and secular works. The most eminent of
their authors is Hemacandra, born in 1088, who though a monk was an
ornament of the court and rendered an important service to his sect by
converting Kumârapâla, King of Gujarat. He composed numerous and
valuable works on grammar, lexicography, poetics and ecclesiastical
biography. Such subjects were congenial to the later Jain writers and
they not only cultivated both Sanskrit and Prakrit but also had a
vivifying effect on the vernaculars of southern India. Kanarese, Tamil,
and Telugu in their literary form owe much to the labours of Jain monks,
and the Jain works composed in these languages, such as the
Jîvakacintâmaṇi in Tamil, if not of world-wide importance, at least
greatly influenced Dravidian civilization.

Though the Jains thus occupy an honourable, and even distinguished place
in the history of letters it must be confessed that it is hard to praise
their older religious books. This literature is of considerable
scientific interest for it contains many data about ancient India as yet
unsifted but it is tedious in style and rarely elevated in sentiment. It
has an arid extravagance, which merely piles one above the other
interminable lists of names and computations of immensity in time and
space. Even more than in the Buddhist suttas there is a tendency to
repetition which offends our sense of proportion and though the main
idea, to free the soul from the trammels of passion and matter, is not
inferior to any of the religious themes of India, the treatment is not
adequate to the subject and the counsels of perfection are smothered
under a mass of minute precepts about the most unsavoury details of life
and culminate in the recommendation of death by voluntary starvation.


But observation of Jainism as it exists to-day produces a quite
different impression. The Jains are well-to-do, industrious and
practical: their schools and religious establishments are well ordered:
their temples have a beauty, cleanliness, and cheerfulness unusual in
India and due to the large use made of white marble and brilliant
colours. The tenderness for animal life may degenerate into superstition
(though surely it is a fault on the right side) and some observances of
the ascetics (such as pulling out the hair instead of shaving the head)
are severe, but as a community the Jains lead sane and serious lives,
hardly practising and certainly not parading the extravagances of
self-torture which they theoretically commend. Mahâvîra is said to have
taught that place, time and occasion should be taken into consideration
and his successors adapted their precepts to the age in which they
lived. Such monks as I have met[285] maintained that extreme forms of
_tapas_ were good for the nerves of ancient saints but not for the
weaker natures of to-day. But in avoiding rigorous severity, they have
not fallen into sloth or luxury.

The beauty of Jainism finds its best expression in architecture. This
reached its zenith both in style and quantity during the eleventh and
twelfth centuries which accords with what we know of the growth of the
sect. After this period the Mohammedan invasions were unfavourable to
all forms of Hindu architecture. But the taste for building remained and
somewhat later pious Jains again began to construct large edifices which
are generally less degenerate than modern Hindu temples, though they
often show traces of Mohammedan influence. Hathi Singh's temple at
Ahmadabad completed in 1848 is a fine example of this modern style.

There is a considerable difference between Jain and Buddhist
architecture both in intention and effect. Jain monks did not live
together in large communities and there was no worship of relics. Hence
the vihâra and the stûpa—the two principal types of Buddhist
buildings—are both absent. Yet there is some resemblance between Jain
temples (for instance those at Palitâna) and the larger Burmese
sanctuaries, such as the Shwe Dagon Pagoda. It is partly due to the same
conviction, namely that the most meritorious work which a layman can
perform is to multiply shrines and images. In both localities the
general plan is similar. On the top of a hill or mound is a central
building round which are grouped a multitude of other shrines. The
repetition of chapels and images is very remarkable: in Burma they all
represent Gotama, in Jain temples the figures of Tîrthankaras are
nominally different personalities but so alike in presentment that the
laity rarely know them apart. In both styles of art white and jewelled
images are common as well as groups of four sitting figures set back to
back and facing the four quarters[286]: in both we meet with veritable
cities of temples, on the hill tops of Gujarat and in the plain of Pagan
on the banks of the Irawaddy. As some features of Burmese art are
undoubtedly borrowed from India[287], the above characteristics may be
due to imitation of Jain methods. It might be argued that the
architectural style of late Indian Buddhism survives among the Jains but
there is no proof that the multiplication of temples and images was a
feature of this style. But in some points it is clear that the Jains
have followed the artistic conventions of the Buddhists. Thus
Pârśvanâtha is sheltered by a cobra's hood, like Gotama, and though the
Bo-tree plays no part in the legend of the Tîrthankaras, they are
represented as sitting under such trees and a living tree is venerated
at Palitâna.

As single edifices illustrating the beauty of Jain art both in grace of
design and patient elaboration of workmanship may be mentioned the
Towers of Fame and Victory at Chitore, and the temples of Mt Abu. Some
differences of style are visible in north and south India. In the former
the essential features are a shrine with a portico attached and
surmounted by a conical tower, the whole placed in a quadrangular court
round which are a series of cells or chapels containing images seated on
thrones. These are the Tîrthankaras, almost exactly alike and of white
marble, though some of the later saints are represented as black. The
Śvetâmbaras represent their Tîrthankaras as clothed but in the temples
of the Digambaras the images are naked.

In the south are found religious monuments of two kinds known as Bastis
and Bettus. The Bastis consist of pillared vestibules leading to a
shrine over which rises a dome constructed in three or four stages. The
Bettus are not temples in the ordinary sense but courtyards surrounding
gigantic images of a saint named Gommateśvara who is said to have been
the son of the first Tîrthankara[288]. The largest of these colossi is
at Sravana Belgola. It is seventy feet in height and carved out of a
mass of granite standing on the top of a hill and represents a sage so
sunk in meditation that anthills and creepers have grown round his feet
without breaking his trance. An inscription states that it was erected
about 983 A.D. by the minister of a king of the Ganga dynasty[289].

But even more remarkable than these gigantic statues are the collections
of temples found on several eminences, such as Girnar and
Satrunjaya[290], mountain masses which rise abruptly to a height of
three or four thousand feet out of level plains. On the summit of
Satrunjaya are innumerable shrines, arranged in marble courts or along
well-paved streets. In each enclosure is a central temple surrounded by
others at the sides, and all are dominated by one which in the
proportions of its spire and courtyard surpasses the rest. Only a few
Yatis are allowed to pass the night in the sacred precincts and it is a
strange experience to enter the gates at dawn and wander through the
interminable succession of white marble courts tenanted only by flocks
of sacred pigeons. On every side sculptured chapels gorgeous in gold and
colour stand silent and open: within are saints sitting grave and
passionless behind the lights that burn on their altars. The multitude
of calm stone faces, the strange silence and emptiness, unaccompanied by
any sign of neglect or decay, the bewildering repetition of shrines and
deities in this aerial castle, suggest nothing built with human purpose
but some petrified spirit world.

Soon after dawn a string of devotees daily ascends the hill. Most are
laymen, but there is a considerable sprinkling of ascetics, especially
nuns. After joining the order both sexes wear yellowish white robes and
carry long sticks. They spend much of their time in visiting holy places
and usually do not stop at one rest house for more than two months. The
worship performed in the temples consists of simple offerings of
flowers, incense and lights made with little ceremony. Pilgrims go their
rounds in small bands and kneeling together before the images sing the
praises of the Jinas.


It is remarkable that Jainism is still a living sect, whereas the
Buddhists have disappeared from India. Its strength and persistence are
centred in its power of enlisting the interest of the laity and of
forming them into a corporation. In theory the position of the Jain and
Buddhist layman is the same. Both revere and support a religious order
for which they have not a vocation, and are bound by minor vows less
stringent than those of the monks. But among the Buddhists the members
of the order came to be regarded more and more as the true church[291]
and the laity tended to become (what they actually have become in China
and Japan) pious persons who revere that order as something extraneous
to themselves and very often only as one among several religious
organizations. Hence when in India monasteries decayed or were
destroyed, little active Buddhism was left outside them. But the
wandering ascetics of the Jains never concentrated the strength of the
religion in themselves to the same extent; the severity of their rule
limited their numbers: the laity were wealthy and practically formed a
caste; persecution acted as a tonic. As a result we have a sect
analogous in some ways to the Jews, Parsis, and Quakers[292], among all
of whom we find the same features, namely a wealthy laity, little or no
sacerdotalism and endurance of persecution.

Another question of some interest is how far Jainism should be regarded
as separate from Buddhism. Historically the position seems clear. Both
are offshoots of a movement which was active in India in the sixth
century B.C. in certain districts and especially among the aristocracy.
Of these offshoots—the survivors among many which hardly outlived their
birth—Jainism was a trifle the earlier, but Buddhism was superior and
more satisfying to the intellect and moral sense alike. Out of the
theory and practice of religious life current in their time Gotama
fashioned a beautiful vase, Mahâvîra a homely but still durable pot. The
resemblances between the two systems are not merely obvious but
fundamental. Both had their origin outside the priestly class and owed
much of their success to the protection of princes. Both preach a road
to salvation open to man's unaided strength and needing neither
sacrifice nor revealed lore. Both are universal, for though Buddhism set
about its world mission with more knowledge and grasp of the task, the
Jain sûtras are addressed "to Aryans and non-Aryans" and it is said that
in modern times Mohammedans have been received into the Jain Church.
Neither is theistic. Both believe in some form of reincarnation, in
karma and in the periodical appearance of beings possessed of superhuman
knowledge and called indifferently Jinas or Buddhas. The historian may
therefore be disposed to regard the two religions as not differing much
more than the varieties of Protestant Dissenters to be found in Great
Britain. But the theologian will perceive real differences. One of the
most important doctrines of Buddhism---perhaps in the Buddha's own
esteem the central doctrine—is the non-existence of the soul as a
permanent entity: in Jainism on the contrary not only the human body but
the whole world including inanimate matter is inhabited by individual
souls who can also exist apart from matter in individual blessedness.
The Jain theory of fivefold knowledge is unknown to the Buddhists, as is
their theory of the Skandhas to the Jains. Secondly as to practice
Jainism teaches (with some concessions in modern times) that salvation
is obtainable by self-mortification but this is the method which the
Buddha condemned after prolonged trial. It is clear that in his own
opinion and that of his contemporaries the rule and ideal of life which
he prescribed differed widely from those of the Jains, Âjîvikas and
other wandering ascetics.




In the previous book I have treated chiefly the general characteristics
of Indian religion. They persist in its later phases but great changes
and additions are made. In the present book I propose to speak about the
life and teaching of the Buddha which even hostile critics must admit to
be a turning point in the history of Indian thought and institutions,
and about the earliest forms of Buddhism. For twelve centuries or more
after the death of this great genius Indian religion flows in two
parallel streams, Buddhist and Brahmanic, which subsequently unite,
Buddhism colouring the whole river but ceasing within India itself to
have any important manifestations distinct from Brahmanism.

In a general survey it is hardly possible to follow the order of strict
chronology until comparatively modern times. We cannot, for instance,
give a sketch of Indian thought in the first century B.C., simply
because our data do not permit us to assign certain sects and books to
that period rather than to the hundred years which preceded or followed
it. But we can follow with moderate accuracy the two streams of thought
in their respective courses. I have wondered if I should not take
Hinduism first. Its development from ancient Brahmanism is continuous
and Buddhism is merely an episode in it, though a lengthy one. But many
as are the lacunæ in the history of Buddhism, it offers more data and
documents than the history of Hinduism. We know more about the views of
Asoka for instance than about those of Candragupta Maurya. I shall
therefore deal first with Buddhism and then with Hinduism, while
regretting that a parallel and synoptic treatment is impracticable.

The eight chapters of this book deal mainly with Pali Buddhism[293]--a
convenient and non-controversial term—and not with the Mahayana, though
they note the tendencies which found expression in it. In the first
chapter I treat of the Buddha's life: in the second I venture to compare
him with other great religious teachers: in the third I consider his
doctrine as expounded in the Pali Tripitaka and in the fourth the order
of mendicants which he founded. The nature and value of the Pali Canon
form the subject of the fifth chapter and the sixth is occupied with the
great Emperor Asoka whose name is the clearest landmark in the early
history of Buddhism, and indeed of India.

The seventh and eighth chapters discuss topics which belong to Hinduism
as well as to Buddhism, namely, meditation and mythology. The latter is
anterior to Buddhism and it is only in a special sense that it can be
called an addition or accretion. Indian thought makes clearings in the
jungle of mythology, which become obliterated or diminished as the
jungle grows over them again. Buddhism was the most thorough of such
clearings, yet it was invaded more rapidly and completely than any
other. The Vedânta and Sânkhya are really, if less obviously, similar
clearings. They raise no objection to popular divinities but such
divinities do not come within the scope of religious philosophy as they
understand it.




We have hitherto been occupied with obscure and shadowy personalities.
The authors of the Upanishads are nameless and even MahâvÎra is unknown
outside India. But we now come to the career of one who must be ranked
among the greatest leaders of thought that the world has seen, the
Indian prince generally known as Gotama or the Buddha. His historical
character has been called in question, but at the present day probably
few, if any, competent judges doubt that he was a real person whose date
can be fixed and whose life can be sketched at least in outline.

We have seen that apart from the personality of Gotama, ancient India
was familiar with the idea of a Buddha and had even classified the
attributes he should possess. Two styles of biography are therefore
possible: an account of what Gotama actually was and did and an account
of what a Buddha is expected to be and do. This second style prevails in
later Buddhist works: they contain descriptions of the deeds and
teaching of a Buddha, adapted to such facts in Gotama's life as seemed
suitable for such treatment or could not be ignored. Rhys Davids has
well compared them to _Paradise Regained_, but the supernatural element
is, after the Indian fashion, more ornate.

The reader will perhaps ask what are the documents describing Gotama's
sayings and doings and what warrant we have for trusting them. I will
treat of this question in more detail in a later chapter and here will
merely say that the Pali works called Vinaya or monastic rules and
Suttas[294] or sermons recount the circumstances in which each rule was
laid down and each sermon preached. Some narrative passages, such as the
Sutta which relates the close of the Buddha's life and the portion of
the Vinaya which tells how he obtained enlightenment and made his first
converts, are of considerable length. Though these narratives are
compilations which accepted new matter during several centuries, I see
no reason to doubt that the oldest stratum contains the recollections of
those who had seen and heard the master.

In basing the following account on the Pali Canon, I do not mean to
discredit Sanskrit texts merely because they are written in that
language or to deny that many Pali texts contain miraculous and
unhistorical narratives[295]. But the principal Sanskrit Sûtras such as
the Lotus and the Diamond Cutter are purely doctrinal and those texts
which profess to contain historical matter, such as the Vinayas
translated from Sanskrit into Chinese, are as yet hardly accessible to
European scholars. So far as they are known, they add incidents to the
career of the Buddha without altering its main lines, and when the
accounts of such incidents are not in themselves improbable they merit
consideration. On the whole these Sanskrit texts are later and more
embellished than their Pali counterparts, but it is necessary not to
forget the existence of this vast store-house of traditions, which may
contain many surprises[296].

Though the Pali texts do not give the story of the Buddha's life in a
connected form, they do give us details about many important events in
it and they offer a picture of the world in which he moved. The idea of
biography was unknown to the older Indian literature. The Brâhmaṇas and
Upanishads tell us of the beliefs and practices of their sages, the
doctrines they taught and the sacrifices they offered, but they rarely
give even an outline of their lives. And whenever the Hindus write about
a man of religion or a philosopher, their weak historical sense and
their strong feeling for the importance of the teaching lead them to
neglect the figure of the teacher and present a portrait which seems to
us dim and impersonal. Indian saints are distinguished by what they
said, not by what they did and it is a strong testimony to Gotama's
individuality and force of character, that in spite of the centuries
which separate us from him and the misty unreal atmosphere which in
later times hangs round his name, his personality is more distinct and
lifelike than that of many later teachers.

Most of the stories of his youth and childhood have a mythical air and
make their first appearance in works composed long after his death, but
there is no reason to distrust the traditional accounts of his lineage.
He was the son of Suddhodana of the Kshatriya clan known as Sâkya or
Sâkiya[297]. In later literature his father is usually described as a
king but this statement needs qualification. The Sâkyas were a small
aristocratic republic. At the time of the Buddha's birth they recognized
the suzerainty of the neighbouring kingdom of Kosala or Oudh and they
were subsequently annexed by it, but, so long as they were independent,
all that we know of their government leads us to suppose that they were
not a monarchy like Kosala and Magadha. The political and administrative
business of the clan was transacted by an assembly which met in a
council hall[298] at Kapilavatthu. Its president was styled Râjâ but we
do not know how he was selected nor for how long he held office. The
Buddha's father is sometimes spoken of as Râjâ, sometimes as if he were
a simple citizen. Some scholars think the position was temporary and
elective[299]. But in any case it seems clear that he was not a Mahârâjâ
like Ajâtasattu and other monarchs of the period. He was a prominent
member of a wealthy and aristocratic family rather than a despot. In
some passages[300] Brahmans are represented as discussing the Buddha's
claims to respect. It is said that he is of a noble and wealthy family
but not that he is the son of a king or heir to the throne, though the
statement, if true, would be so obvious and appropriate that its
omission is sufficient to disprove it. The point is of psychological
importance, for the later literature in its desire to emphasize the
sacrifice made by the Buddha exaggerates the splendour and luxury by
which he was surrounded in youth and produces the impression that his
temperament was something like that reflected in the book of
Ecclesiastes, the weary calm, bred of satiety and disenchantment, of one
who has possessed everything and found everything to be but vanity. But
this is not the dominant note of the Buddha's discourses as we have
them. He condemns the pleasures and ambitions of the world as
unsatisfying, but he stands before us as one who has resisted and
vanquished temptation rather than as a disillusioned pleasure-seeker.
The tone of these sermons accords perfectly with the supposition,
supported by whatever historical data we possess, that he belonged to a
fighting aristocracy, active in war and debate, wealthy according to the
standard of the times and yielding imperfect obedience to the authority
of kings and priests. The Pitakas allude several times to the pride of
the Sâkyas, and in spite of the gentleness and courtesy of the Buddha
this family trait is often apparent in his attitude, in the independence
of his views, his calm disregard of Brahmanic pretensions and the
authority that marks his utterances.

The territory of the Sâkyas lay about the frontier which now divides
Nepal from the United Provinces, between the upper Rapti and the Gandak
rivers, a hundred miles or so to the north of Benares. The capital was
called Kapilavatthu[301], and the mention of several other towns in the
oldest texts indicates that the country was populous. Its wealth was
derived chiefly from rice-fields and cattle. The uncultivated parts were
covered with forest and often infested by robbers. The spot where the
Buddha was born was known as the Lumbini Park and the site, or at least
what was supposed to be the site in Asoka's time, is marked by a pillar
erected by that monarch at a place now called Rummindei[302]. His mother
was named Mâyâ and was also of the Sâkya clan. Tradition states that she
died seven days after his birth and that he was brought up by her
sister, Mahâprajâpatî, who was also a wife of Suddhodana. The names of
other relatives are preserved, but otherwise the older documents tell us
nothing of his childhood and the copious legends of the later church
seem to be poetical embellishments. The Sutta-Nipâta contains the story
of an aged seer named Asita who came to see the child and, much like
Simeon, prophesied his future greatness but wept that he himself must
die before hearing the new gospel.

The personal name of the Buddha was Siddhârtha in Sanskrit or Siddhattha
in Pali, meaning he who has achieved his object, but it is rarely used.
Persons who are introduced in the Pitakas as addressing him directly
either employ a title or call him Gotama (Sanskrit Gautama). This was
the name of his _gotra_ or gens and roughly corresponds to a surname,
being less comprehensive than the clan name Sâkya. The name Gotama is
applied in the Pitakas to other Sâkyas such as the Buddha's father and
his cousin Ânanda. It is said to be still in use in India and has been
borne by many distinguished Hindus. But since it seemed somewhat
irreverent to speak of the Buddha merely by his surname, it became the
custom to describe him by titles. The most celebrated of these is the
word Buddha[303] itself, the awakened or wise one. But in Pali works he
is described just as frequently by the name of Bhagavâ or the Lord. The
titles of Śâkya-Muni and Śâkya-Siṃha have also passed into common use
and the former is his usual designation in the Sanskrit sûtras. The word
Tathâgata, of somewhat obscure signification[304], is frequently found
as an equivalent of Buddha and is put into the mouth of Gotama himself
as a substitute for the first personal pronoun.

We can only guess what was the religious and moral atmosphere in which
the child grew up. There were certainly Brahmans in the Sâkya territory:
everyone had heard of their Vedic lore, their ceremonies and their
claims to superiority. But it is probable that their influence was less
complete here than further west[305] and that even before this time they
encountered a good deal of scepticism and independent religious
sentiment. This may have been in part military impatience of priestly
pedantry, but if the Sâkyas were not submissive sheep, their waywardness
was not due to want of interest in religion. A frequent phrase in the
Buddha's discourses speaks of the "highest goal of the holy life for the
sake of which clansmen leave their homes and go forth into
homelessness." The religious mendicant seemed the proper incarnation of
this ideal to which Kshatriyas as well as Brahmans aspired, and we are
justified in supposing that the future Buddha's thoughts would naturally
turn towards the wandering life. The legend represents him as carefully
secluded from all disquieting sights and as learning the existence of
old age, sickness and death only by chance encounters which left a
profound impression. The older texts do not emphasize this view of his
mental development, though they do not preclude it. It is stated
incidentally that his parents regretted his abandonment of worldly life
and it is natural to suppose that they may have tried to turn his mind
to secular interests and pleasures[306]. His son, Râhula, is mentioned
several times in the Pitakas but his wife only once and then not by name
but as "the princess who was the mother of Râhula[307]." His separation
from her becomes in the later legend the theme of an affecting tale but
the scanty allusions to his family found in the Pitakas are devoid of
sentimental touches. A remarkable passage is preserved in the Anguttara
Nikâya[308] describing his feelings as a young man and may be the origin
of the story[309] about the four visions of old age, sickness, death and
of peace in the religious life. After describing the wealth and comfort
in which he lived[310], he says that he reflected how people feel
repulsion and disgust at the sight of old age, sickness and death. But
is this right? "I also" he thought "am subject to decay and am not free
from the power of old age, sickness and death. Is it right that I should
feel horror, repulsion and disgust when I see another in such plight?
And when I reflected thus, my disciples, all the joy of life which there
is in life died within me."

No connected account of his renunciation of the world has been found in
the Pitakas but[311] people are represented as saying that in spite of
his parents' grief he "went out from the household life into the
homeless state" while still a young man. Accepted tradition, confirmed
by the Mahâparinibbâna Sutta, says that he retired from worldly life
when he was twenty-nine years old. The event is also commemorated in a
poem of the Sutta-Nipâta[312] which reads like a very ancient ballad.

It relates how Bimbisâra, King of Magadha, looking out from his palace,
saw an unknown ascetic, and feeling he was no ordinary person went
himself to visit him. It would appear from this that Gotama on leaving
his family went down to the plains and visited Râjagaha, the capital of
Magadha, now Rajgîr to the south of Patna. The teachers of the Ganges
valley had probably a greater reputation for learning and sanctity than
the rough wits of the Sâkya land and this may have attracted Gotama. At
any rate he applied himself diligently to acquire what knowledge could
be learned from contemporary teachers of religion. We have an account
put into his own mouth[313] of his experiences as the pupil of Alâra
Kâlâma and Uddaka Râmaputta but it gives few details of his studies. It
would appear however that they both had a fixed system (dhamma) to
impart and that their students lived in religious discipline (vinaya) as
members of an Order. They were therefore doing exactly what the Buddha
himself did later on a larger scale and with more conspicuous success.
The instruction, we gather, was oral. Gotama assimilated it thoroughly
and rapidly but was dissatisfied because he found that it did not
conduce to perfect knowledge and salvation[314]. He evidently accepted
his teachers' general ideas about belief and conduct—a dhamma, a vinaya,
and the practice of meditation—but rejected the content of their
teaching as inadequate. So he went away.

The European mystic knows the dangers of Quietism[315]. When Molinos and
other quietists praise the Interior Silence in which the soul neither
speaks nor desires nor thinks, they suggest that the suspension of all
mental activity is good in itself. But more robust seekers hold that
this "orison of quiet" is merely a state of preparation, not the end of
the quest, and valuable merely because the soul recuperates therein and
is ready for further action. Some doctrine akin to that of the quietists
seems to underlie the mysterious old phrases in which the Buddha's two
teachers tried to explain their trances, and he left them for much the
same reasons as led the Church to condemn Quietism. He did not say that
the trances are bad; indeed he represented them as productive of
happiness[316] in a sense which Europeans can hardly follow. But he
clearly refused to admit that they were the proper end of the religious
life. He felt there was something better and he set out to find it.

The interval between his abandonment of the world and his enlightenment
is traditionally estimated at seven years and this accords with our
other data. But we are not told how long he remained with his two
teachers nor where they lived. He says however that after leaving them
he wandered up and down the land of Magadha, so that their residence was
probably in or near that district[317]. He settled at a place called
Uruvelâ. "There" he says "I thought to myself, truly this is a pleasant
spot and a beautiful forest. Clear flows the river and pleasant are the
bathing places: all around are meadows and villages." Here he determined
to devote himself to the severest forms of asceticism. The place is in
the neighbourhood of Bodh-Gaya, near the river now called Phalgu or
Lilañja but formerly Nerañjara. The fertile fields and gardens, the
flights of steps and temples are modern additions but the trees and the
river still give the sense of repose and inspiration which Gotama felt,
an influence alike calming to the senses and stimulating to the mind.
Buddhism, though in theory setting no value on the pleasures of the eye,
is not in practice disdainful of beauty, as witness the many allusions
to the Buddha's personal appearance, the persistent love of art, and the
equally persistent love of nature which is found in such early poems as
the Theragâthâ and still inspires those who select the sites of
monasteries throughout the Buddhist world from Burma to Japan. The
example of the Buddha, if we may believe the story, shows that he felt
the importance of scenery and climate in the struggle before him and his
followers still hold that a holy life is led most easily in beautiful
and peaceful landscapes.


Hitherto we have found allusions to the events of the Buddha's life
rather than consecutive statements and narratives but for the next
period, comprising his struggle for enlightenment, its attainment and
the commencement of his career as a teacher, we have several accounts,
both discourses put into his own mouth and narratives in the third
person like the beginning of the Mahâvagga. It evidently was felt that
this was the most interesting and critical period of his life and for
it, as for the period immediately preceding his death, the Pitakas
provide the elements of a biography. The accounts vary as to the amount
of detail and supernatural events which they contain, but though the
simplest is perhaps the oldest, it does not follow that events
consistent with it but only found in other versions are untrue. One
cannot argue that anyone recounting his spiritual experiences is bound
to give a biographically complete picture. He may recount only what is
relevant to the purpose of his discourse.

Gotama's ascetic life at Uruvelâ is known as the wrestling or struggle
for truth. The story, as he tells it in the Pitakas, gives no dates, but
is impressive in its intensity and insistent iteration[318]. Fire, he
thought to himself, cannot be produced from damp wood by friction, but
it can from dry wood. Even so must the body be purged of its humours to
make it a fit receptacle for illumination and knowledge. So he began a
series of terrible fasts and sat "with set teeth and tongue pressed
against the palate" until in this spiritual wrestling the sweat poured
down from his arm pits. Then he applied himself to meditation
accompanied by complete cessation of breathing, and, as he persevered
and went from stage to stage of this painful exercise, he heard the
blood rushing in his head and felt as if his skull was being split, as
if his belly were being cut open with a butcher's knife, and finally as
if he were thrown into a pit of burning coals. Elsewhere[319] he gives
further details of the horrible penances which he inflicted on himself.
He gradually reduced his food to a grain of rice each day. He lived on
seeds and grass, and for one period literally on dung. He wore haircloth
or other irritating clothes: he plucked out his hair and beard: he stood
continuously: he lay upon thorns. He let the dust and dirt accumulate
till his body looked like an old tree. He frequented a cemetery—that is
a place where corpses were thrown to decay or be eaten by birds and
beasts—and lay among the rotting bodies.

But no enlightenment, no glimpse into the riddle of the world came of
all this, so, although he was nearly at death's door, he determined to
abstain from food altogether. But spirits appeared and dissuaded him,
saying that if he attempted thus to kill himself they would nourish him
by infusing a celestial elixir through his skin and he reflected that he
might as well take a little food[320]. So he took a palmful or two of
bean soup. He was worn almost to a shadow, he says. "When I touched my
belly, I felt my backbone through it and when I touched my back, I felt
my belly—so near had my back and my belly come together through this
fasting. And when I rubbed my limbs to refresh them the hair fell
off[321]." Then he reflected that he had reached the limit of
self-mortification and yet attained no enlightenment. There must be
another way to knowledge. And he remembered how once in his youth he had
sat in the shade of a rose apple tree and entered into the stage of
contemplation known as the first rapture. That, he now thought, must be
the way to enlightenment: why be afraid of such bliss? But to attain it,
he must have more strength and to get strength he must eat. So he ate
some rice porridge. There were five monks living near him, hoping that
when he found the Truth he would tell it to them. But when they saw that
he had begun to take food, their faith failed and they went away.

The Buddha then relates how, having taken food, he began to meditate and
passed through four stages of contemplation, culminating in pure
self-possession and equanimity, free alike from all feeling of pain or
ease. Such meditation was nothing miraculous but supposed to be within
the power of any trained ascetic. Then there arose before him a vision
of his previous births, the hundreds of thousands of existences with all
their details of name, family and caste through which he had passed.
This was succeeded by a second and wider vision in which he saw the
whole universe as a system of karma and reincarnation, composed of
beings noble or mean, happy or unhappy, continually "passing away
according to their deeds," leaving one form of existence and taking
shape in another. Finally, he understood the nature of error[322] and of
suffering, the cessation of suffering and the path that leads to the
cessation of suffering. "In me thus set free the knowledge of freedom
arose and I knew 'Rebirth has been destroyed, the higher life has been
led; what had to be done has been done, I have no more to do with this
world[323].' This third knowledge came to me in the last watch of the
night: ignorance was destroyed, knowledge had arisen, darkness was
destroyed, light had arisen, as I sat there earnest, strenuous,

On attaining enlightenment he at first despaired of preaching the truth
to others. He reflected that his doctrine was abstruse and that mankind
are given over to their desires. How can such men understand the chain
of cause and effect or teaching about Nirvana and the annihilation of
desire? So he determined to remain quiet and not to preach. Then the
deity Brahmâ Sahampati appeared before him and besought him to preach
the Truth, pleading that some men could understand. The Buddha surveyed
the world with his mind's eye and saw the different natures of mankind.
"As in a pool of lotuses, blue, red or white, some lotuses born in the
water, grown up in the water, do not rise above the water but thrive
hidden under the water and other lotuses, blue, red or white, born in
the water, grown up in the water, reach to the surface: and other
lotuses, blue, red or white, born in the water, grown up in the water,
stand up out of the water and the water does not touch them." Thus did
he perceive the world to be and he said to Brahmâ "The doors of
immortality are open. Let them that have ears to hear, show faith."

Then he began to wonder to whom he should first preach his doctrine, and
he thought of his former teachers. But a spirit warned him that they had
recently died. Then he thought of the five monks who had tended him
during his austerities but left him when he ceased to fast. By his
superhuman power of vision he perceived that they were living at Benares
in the deer park, Isipatana. So, after remaining awhile at Uruvelâ he
started to find them and on the way met a naked ascetic, in answer to
whose enquiries he proclaimed himself as the Buddha; "I am the Holy One
in this world, I am the highest teacher, I alone am the perfect supreme
Buddha, I have gained calm and nirvana, I go to Benares to set moving
the wheels of righteousness[325]. I will beat the drum of immortality in
the darkness of this world." But the ascetic replied. "It may be so,
friend," shook his head, took another road and went away, with the
honour of being the first sceptic.

When the Buddha reached the deer park[326], a wood where ascetics were
allowed to dwell and animals might not be killed, the five monks saw him
coming and determined not to salute him since he had given up his
exertions, and turned to a luxurious life. But as he drew near they were
overawed and in spite of their resolution advanced to meet him, and
brought water to wash his feet. While showing him this honour they
called him Friend Gotama but he replied that it was not proper to
address the Tathâgata[327] thus. He had become a Buddha and was ready to
teach them the Truth but the monks demurred saying that if he had been
unable to win enlightenment while practising austerities, he was not
likely to have found it now that he was living a life of ease. But he
overcame their doubts and proceeded to instruct them, apparently during
some days, for we are told that they went out to beg alms.

Can this account be regarded as in any sense historical, as being not
perhaps the Buddha's own words but the reminiscences of some one who had
heard him describe the crisis of his life? Like so much of the Pitakas
the narrative has an air of patchwork. Many striking passages, such as
the descriptions of the raptures through which he passed, occur in other
connections but the formulæ are ancient and their use here may be as
early and legitimate as elsewhere. In its main outlines the account is
simple, unpretentious and human. Gotama seeks to obtain enlightenment by
self-mortification: finds that this is the wrong way: tries a more
natural method and succeeds: debates whether he shall become a teacher
and at first hesitates. These are not features which the average Indian
hagiographer, anxious to prove his hero omnipotent and omniscient, would
invent or emphasize. Towards the end of the narrative the language is
more majestic and the compiler introduces several stanzas, but though it
is hardly likely that Gotama would have used these stanzas in telling
his own story, they may be ancient and in substance authentic. The
supernatural intervention recorded is not really great. It amounts to
this, that in mental crises the Buddha received warnings somewhat
similar to those delivered by the dæmon of Socrates[328]. The appearance
of Brahmâ Sahampati is related with more detail and largely in verse,
which suggests that the compiler may have inserted some legend which he
found ready to hand, but on the whole I am inclined to believe that in
this narrative we have a tradition not separated from the Buddha by many
generations and going back to those who had themselves heard him
describe his wrestling to obtain the Truth and his victory.

Other versions of the enlightenment give other incidents which are not
rendered less credible by their omission from the narrative quoted, for
it is clearly an epitome put together for a special didactic purpose.
But still the story as related at the beginning of the Mahâvagga of the
Vinaya has a stronger smack of mythology than the passages quoted from
the Sutta-Pitaka. In these last the Bodhi-tree[329] is mentioned only
incidentally, which is natural, for it is a detail which would impress
later piety rather than the Buddha himself. But there is no reason to be
sceptical as to the part it has played in Buddhist history. Even if we
had not been told that he sat under a tree, we might surmise that he did
so, for to sit under a tree or in a cave was the only alternative for a
homeless ascetic. The Mahâvagga states that after attaining Buddhahood
he sat crosslegged at the foot of the tree for seven days
uninterruptedly, enjoying the bliss of emancipation, and while there
thought out the chain of causation which is only alluded to in the
suttas quoted above. He also sat under three other trees, seven days
under each. Heavy rain came on but Mucalinda, the king of the serpents,
"came out of his abode and seven times encircled the body of the Lord
with his windings and spread his great hood over the Lord's head." Here
we are in the domain of mythology: this is not a vignette from the old
religious life on the banks of the Nerañjara but a work of sacred art:
the Holy Supreme Buddha sitting immovable and imperturbable in the midst
of a storm sheltered by the folds of some pious monster that the
artist's fancy has created.

The narrative quoted from the Majjhima-Nikâya does not mention that the
Buddha during his struggle for enlightenment was assailed or tempted by
Mâra, the personification of evil and of transitory pleasures but also
of death. But that such an encounter—in some respects analogous to the
temptation of Christ by the Devil—formed part of the old tradition is
indicated by several passages in the Pitakas[330] and not merely by the
later literature where it assumes a prominent and picturesque form. This
struggle is psychologically probable enough but the origin of the story,
which is exhaustively discussed in Windisch's _Buddha und Mâra_, seems
to lie not so much in any account which the Buddha may have given of his
mental struggles as in amplifications of old legends and in
dramatizations of metaphors which he may have used about conquering

The Bodhi-tree is still shown at Bodh-Gaya. It stands on a low terrace
behind the temple, the whole lying in a hollow, below the level of the
surrounding modern buildings, and still attracts many pilgrims from all
Buddhist lands though perhaps not so many as the tree at Anuradhapura in
Ceylon, which is said to be sprung from one of its branches transplanted
thither. Whatever title it may have to the reverence of the faithful
rests on lineage rather than identity, for the growth which we see at
Bodh-Gaya now cannot claim to be the branches under which the Buddha sat
or even the trunk which Asoka tended. At best it is a modern stem sprung
from the seeds of the old tree, and this descent is rendered disputable
by legends of its destruction and miraculous restoration. Even during
the time that Sir A. Cunningham knew the locality from 1862 to 1880 it
would seem that the old trunk decayed and was replaced by scions grown
from seed.

The texts quoted above leave the Buddha occupied in teaching the five
monks in the Deer Park and the Mahâvagga gives us the text of the
sermon[331] with which he opened his instruction. It is entitled Turning
the Wheel of Righteousness, and is also known as The Sermon at Benares.
It is a very early statement of the main doctrines of primitive Buddhism
and I see no reason to doubt that it contains the ideas and phrases of
the Buddha. The gist of the sermon is extremely simple. He first says
that those who wish to lead a religious life should avoid the two
extremes of self-indulgence and self-torture and follow a middle way.
Then he enunciates what he calls the four truths[332] about evil or
suffering and the way to make an end of it. He opens very practically,
and it may be noticed that abstruse as are many of his discourses they
generally go straight to the heart of some contemporary interest. Here
he says that self-indulgence is low and self-mortification crazy: that
both are profitless and neither is the religious life. That consists in
walking in the middle path, or noble eightfold path defined in a
celebrated formula as right views, right aspirations, right speech,
right conduct, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness, right
rapture. He then enunciates the four truths. The first declares that all
clinging to existence involves suffering. I shall have occasion to
examine later the pessimism which is often said to characterize Buddhism
and Indian thought generally. Here let it suffice to say that the first
truth must be taken in conjunction with the others. The teaching of the
Buddha is a teaching not so much of pessimism as of emancipation: but
emancipation implies the existence of evil from which men must be freed:
a happy world would not need it. Buddhism recognizes the evil of the
world but it is not on that account a religion of despair: the essence
of it is that it provides a remedy and an escape.

The second and third truths must be taken together and in connection
with the formula known as the chain of causation (paṭiccasamuppâda).
Everything has a cause and produces an effect. If this is, that is: if
this is not, then that is not. This simple principle of uniform
causation is applied to the whole universe, gods and men, heaven, earth
and hell. Indian thought has always loved wide applications of
fundamental principles and here a law of the universe is propounded in a
form both simple and abstract. Everything exists in virtue of a cause
and does not exist if that cause is absent. Suffering has a cause and if
that cause can be detected and eliminated, suffering itself will be
eliminated. This cause of evil is Tanhâ, the thirst or craving for
existence, pleasure and success. And the cure is to remove it. It may
seem to the European that this is a proposal to cure the evils of life
by removing life itself but when in the fourth truth we come to the
course to be followed by the seeker after salvation—the eightfold
path—we find it neither extravagant nor morbid. We may imagine that an
Indian of that time asking different schools of thinkers for the way to
salvation would have been told by Brahmans (if indeed they had been
willing to impart knowledge to any but an accredited pupil) that he who
performs a certain ceremony goes to the abode of the gods: other
teachers would have insisted on a course of fasting and self-torture:
others again like Sâñjaya and Makkhali would have given argumentative
and unpractical answers. The Buddha's answer is simple and practical:
seven-eighths of it would be accepted in every civilized country as a
description of the good life. It is not merely external, for it insists
on right thought and right aspiration: the motive and temper are as
important as the act. It does not neglect will-power and activity, for
right action, right livelihood and right effort are necessary—a point to
be remembered when Buddhism is called a dreamy unpractical religion. But
no doubt the last stage of the path, right rapture or right meditation,
is meant to be its crown and fulfilment. It takes the place of prayer
and communion with the deity and the Buddha promises the beatific vision
in this life to those who persevere. The negative features of the Path
are also important. It contains no mention of ceremonial, austerities,
gods, many or one, nor of the Buddha himself. He is the discoverer and
teacher of the truth; beyond that his personality plays no part.

But we are here treating of his life rather than of his doctrine and
must now return to the events which are said to have followed the first

The first converts had, even before embracing the Buddha's teaching,
been followers of a religious life but the next batch of recruits came
from the wealthy mercantile families of Benares. The first was a youth
named Yasa who joined the order, while his father, mother and former
wife became lay believers. Then came first four and subsequently fifty
friends of Yasa and joined the order. "At that time" says the
Mahâvagga. "there were sixty-one Arhats[333] in the world," so that at
first arhatship seems to have followed immediately on ordination. Arhat,
it may be mentioned, is the commonest word in early Buddhist literature
(more common than any phrase about nirvana) for describing sanctity and
spiritual perfection. The arhat is one who has broken the fetters of the
senses and passions, for whom there will be no new birth or death, and
who lives in this world like the Buddha, detached but happy and

The Buddha then addressed his followers and said--"Monks, I am delivered
from all fetters, human and divine, and so are you. Go now and wander
for the gain of many, for the welfare of many, out of compassion for the
world, for the good, for the gain and for the welfare of gods and men.
Let not two of you go the same way. Preach the doctrine which is
glorious in the beginning, glorious in the middle and glorious in the
end, in the spirit and in the letter; proclaim a consummate, perfect and
pure life of holiness." The monks then went forth and returned bringing
candidates to be formally ordained by the Buddha. But seeing that these
journeys caused fatigue and trouble, he authorized the ordained monks to
confer ordination without reference to himself. He then returned to
Uruvelâ, where he had dwelt before attaining Buddhahood, and converted a
thousand Jaṭilas, that is to say Brahmans living the life of hermits,
which involved the abandonment of household life but not of sacrifices.
The admission of these hermits to the order is probably historical and
explains the presence among the Buddha's disciples of a tendency towards
self-mortification of which he himself did not wholly approve. The
Mahâvagga[334] contains a series of short legends about these
occurrences, one of them in two versions. The narratives are miraculous
but have an ancient tone and probably represent the type of popular
story current about the Buddha shortly after or even during his life.
One of them is a not uncommon subject in Buddhist art. It relates how
the chamber in which a Brahman called Kassapa kept his sacred fire was
haunted by a fire-breathing magical serpent. The Buddha however spent
the night in this chamber and after a contest in which both emitted
flames succeeded in conquering the beast. After converting the Jaṭilas
he preached to them the celebrated Fire Sermon, said to have been
delivered on the eminence now called Brahma Yoen[335] near Gaya and
possibly inspired by the spectacle of grass fires which at some seasons
may be seen creeping over every hill-side in an Indian night,
"Everything, Monks, is burning and how is it burning? The eye is
burning: what the eye sees is burning: thoughts based on the eye are
burning: the contact of the eye (with visible things) is burning and the
sensation produced by that contact, whether pleasant, painful or
indifferent is also burning. With what fire is it burning? It is burning
with the fire of lust, the fire of anger, with the fire of ignorance; it
is burning with the sorrows of birth, decay, death, grief, lamentation,
suffering, dejection and despair."

The Buddha now went on with his converts to Râjagaha. He stopped in a
bamboo grove outside the town and here the king, Bimbisâra, waited on
him and with every sign of respect asked him to take food in his palace.
It was on this occasion that we first hear of him accepting an
invitation to dinner[336], which he did frequently during the rest of
his career. After the repast the king presented a pleasure garden just
outside the town "to the fraternity of monks with the Buddha at their
head." At that time another celebrated teacher named Sâñjaya was
stopping at Râjagaha with a train of two hundred and fifty disciples.
Two of them, Sâriputta and Moggallâna, joined the Buddha's order and
took with them the whole body of their companions.

The Mahâvagga proceeds to relate that many of the young nobility joined
the order and that the people began to murmur saying "The Monk Gotama
causes fathers to beget no sons and families to become extinct." And
again "The Great Monk has come to Giribbaja of the Magadha people,
leading with him all the followers of Sâñjaya. Whom will he lead off
next?" When this was told to the Buddha he replied that the excitement
would only last seven days and bade his followers answer with the
following verse "It is by the true doctrine that the great heroes, the
Buddhas, lead men. Who will murmur at the wise who lead men by the power
of truth?" It is possible, as Oldenburg suggests, that we have here two
popular couplets which were really bandied between the friends and
enemies of the Buddha.


It now becomes difficult to give dates but the Mahâvagga[337] relates
that the Buddha stopped some time at Râjagaha and then revisited his
native town, Kapilavatthu. That he should have done so is natural enough
but there is little trace of sentiment in the narrative of the Vinaya.
Its object is to state the occasion on which the Buddha laid down the
rules of the order. Irrelevant incidents are ignored and those which are
noticed are regarded simply as the circumstances which led to the
formulation of certain regulations. "The Lord dwelt in the Sakka country
near Kapilavatthu in the Banyan Grove. And in the forenoon having put on
his robes and taken his alms bowl he went to the home of the Sakka
Suddhodana[338] and sat down on a seat prepared for him. Then the
princess who was the mother of Râhula[339] said to him 'This is your
father, Râhula, go and ask him for your inheritance.' Then young Râhula
went to the place where the Lord was, and standing before him said 'Your
shadow, Monk, is a place of bliss.' Then the Lord rose from his seat and
went away but Râhula followed him saying 'Give me my inheritance, Monk.'
Then the Lord said to Sâriputta (who had already become his chief
disciple) 'Well, Sâriputta, confer the preliminary ordination on young
Râhula.' Sâriputta asked how he should do so and the Buddha explained
the forms.

"Then the Sakka Suddhodana went to the place where the Lord was and
after respectfully saluting him asked for a boon. 'Lord, when the
Blessed One gave up the world, it was great pain to me and so it was
when Nanda[340] did the same. Great too was my pain when Râhula did it.
The love for a son, Lord, cuts into the skin, the flesh, the bones, and
reaches the marrow. Let not the preliminary ordination be conferred on a
son without his parents' permission.' The Buddha assented. Three or four
years later Suddhodana died."

From Kapilavatthu the Buddha is said to have gone to Sâvatthî, the
capital of Kosala where Pasenadi was king, but now we lose the
chronological thread and do not find it again until the last years of
his life. Few of the numerous incidents recorded in the Pitakas can be
dated. The narrators resemble those Indian artists who when carving a
story in relief place all the principal figures in one panel without
attempting to mark the sequence of the incidents which are represented
simultaneously. For the connection of events with the Buddha's teaching
the compilers of the Pitakas had an eye; for their connection with his
life none at all. And though this attitude is disquieting to the
historic sense it is not unjustifiable. The object and the achievement
of the Buddha was to preach a certain doctrine and to found an order.
All the rest—years and countries, pains and pleasures—was of no
importance. And it would appear that we have not lost much: we should
have a greater sense of security if we had an orderly account of his
wanderings and his relations with the kings of his time, but after he
had once entered on his ministry the events which broke the peaceful
tenour of his long life were few and we probably know most of them
though we cannot date them. For about forty-five years he moved about
Kosala, Magadha and Anga visiting the two capitals Sâvatthî and Râjagaha
and going as far west as the country of the Kurus. He took little part
in politics or worldly life, though a hazy but not improbable story[341]
represents him as pacifying the Sâkyas and Koliyas, who were on the
point of fighting about the water of the Rohini which irrigated the
lands of both clans. He uniformly enjoyed the respect and attention of
kings and the wealthy classes. Doubtless he was not popular with the
Brahmans or with those good people who disliked seeing fine young men
made into monks. But it does not appear that his teaching provoked any
serious tumults or that he was troubled by anything but schism within
the order. We have, if not a history, at least a picture of a life which
though peaceful was active and benevolent but aloof, majestic and

We are told[342] that at first his disciples wandered about at all
seasons but it was not long before he bade them observe the already
established routine for itinerant monks of travelling on foot during the
greater part of the year but of resting for three months during the
rainy season known as Vassa and beginning some time in June. When moving
about he appears to have walked from five to ten miles a day, regulating
his movements so as to reach inhabited places in time to collect food
for the midday meal. The afternoon he devoted to meditation and in the
evening gave instruction. He usually halted in woods or gardens on the
outskirts of villages and cities, and often on the bank of a river or
tank, for shade and water would be the first requisites for a wandering
monk. On these journeys he was accompanied by a considerable following
of disciples: five hundred or twelve hundred and fifty are often
mentioned and though the numbers may be exaggerated there is no reason
to doubt that the band was large. The suttas generally commence with a
picture of the surroundings in which the discourse recorded was
delivered. The Buddha is walking along the high road from Râjagaha to
Nâlanda with a great company of disciples. Or he is journeying through
Kosala and halting in a mango-grove on the banks of the Aciravatî river.
Or he is stopping in a wood outside a Brahman village and the people go
out to him. The principal Brahmans, taking their siesta on the upper
terraces of their houses, see the crowd and ask their doorkeepers what
it means. On hearing the cause they debate whether they or the Buddha
should pay the first call and ultimately visit him. Or he is halting on
the shore of the Gaggarâ Lake at Campâ in Western Bengal, sitting under
the fragrant white flowers of a campaka tree. Or he visits the hills
overlooking Râjagaha haunted by peacocks and by wandering monks. Often
he stops in buildings described as halls, which were sometimes merely
rest houses for travellers. But it became more and more the custom for
the devout to erect such buildings for his special use and even in his
lifetime they assumed the proportions of monasteries[343]. The people of
Vesâlî built one in a wood to the north of their city known as the
Gabled Hall. It was a storied house having on the ground floor a large
room surrounded by pillars and above it the private apartments of the
Buddha. Such private rooms (especially those which he occupied at
Sâvatthî), were called Gandhakûṭî or the perfumed chamber. At
Kapilavatthu[344] the Sâkyas erected a new building known as Santhagâra.
The Buddha was asked to inaugurate it and did so by a discourse lasting
late into the night which he delivered sitting with his back against a
pillar. At last he said his back was tired and lay down, leaving Ânanda
to continue the edification of the congregation who were apparently less
exhausted than the preacher.

But perhaps the residence most frequently mentioned is that in the
garden called Jetavana at Sâvatthî. Anâthapiṇḍika, a rich merchant of
that town, was converted by the Buddha when staying at Râjagaha and
invited him to spend the next rainy season at Sâvatthî[345]. On
returning to his native town to look for a suitable place, he decided
that the garden of the Prince Jeta best satisfied his requirements. He
obtained it only after much negotiation for a sum sufficient to cover
the whole ground with coins. When all except a small space close to the
gateway had been thus covered Jeta asked to be allowed to share in the
gift and on receiving permission erected on the vacant spot a gateway
with a room over it. "And Anâthapiṇḍika the householder built dwelling
rooms and retiring rooms and storerooms and halls with fireplaces, and
outside storehouses and closets and cloisters and halls attached to the
bath rooms and ponds and roofed open sheds[346]."

Buddhaghosa has given an account[347] of the way in which the Buddha was
wont to spend his days when stopping in some such resting-place, and his
description is confirmed by the numerous details given in the Pitakas.
He rose before dawn and would often retire and meditate until it was
time to set out on the round for alms but not unfrequently he is
represented as thinking that it was too early to start and that he might
first visit some monk of the neighbourhood. Then he went round the town
or village with his disciples, carrying his almsbowl and accepting
everything put into it. Sometimes he talked to his disciples while
walking[348]. Frequently, instead of begging for alms, he accepted an
invitation to dine with some pious person who asked the whole band of
disciples and made strenuous culinary efforts. Such invitations were
given at the conclusion of a visit paid to the Buddha on the previous
day and were accepted by him with silence which signified consent. On
the morning of the next day the host announced in person or through a
messenger that the meal was ready and the Buddha taking his mantle and
bowl went to the house. The host waited on the guests with his own
hands, putting the food which he had prepared into their bowls. After
the repast the Buddha delivered a discourse or catechized the company.
He did the same with his own disciples when he collected food himself
and returned home to eat it. He took but one meal a day[349], between
eleven and twelve, and did not refuse meat when given to him, provided
that he did not know the animals had been slaughtered expressly for his
food. When he had given instruction after the meal he usually retired to
his chamber or to a quiet spot under trees for repose and meditation. On
one occasion[350] he took his son Râhula with him into a wood at this
hour to impart some of the deepest truths to him, but as a rule he gave
no further instruction until the late afternoon.

The Pitakas represent all believers as treating the Buddha with the
greatest respect but the salutations and titles which they employ hardly
exceed those ordinarily used in speaking to eminent persons[351]. Kings
were at this time addressed as Deva, whereas the Buddha's usual title is
Bhagavâ or Bhante, Lord. A religious solemnity and deliberation prevails
in the interviews which he grants but no extravagance of adoration is
recorded. Visitors salute him by bowing with joined hands, sit
respectfully on one side while he instructs them and in departing are
careful to leave him on their right hand. He accepts such gifts as food,
clothes, gardens and houses but rejects all ceremonial honours. Thus
Prince Bodhi[352] when receiving him carpeted his mansion with white
cloths but the Buddha would not walk on them and remained standing at
the entrance till they were taken up.

The introduction to the Ariyapariyesana-Sutta gives a fairly complete
picture of a day in his life at Sâvatthî. It relates how in the morning
he took his bowl and mantle and went to the town to collect food. While
he was away, some monks told his personal attendant Ânanda that they
wished to hear a discourse from him, as it was long since they had had
the privilege. Ânanda suggested that they had better go to the hermitage
of the Brahman Rammaka near the town. The Buddha returned, ate his meal
and then said "Come, Ânanda, let us go to the terrace of Migâra's
mother[353] and stay there till evening." They went there and spent the
day in meditation. Towards evening the Buddha rose and said "Let us go
to the old bath to refresh our limbs." After they had bathed, Ânanda
suggested that they should go to Rammaka's hermitage: the Buddha
assented by his silence and they went together. Within the hermitage
were many monks engaged in instructive conversation, so the Buddha
waited at the door till there was a pause in the talk. Then he coughed
and knocked. The monks opened the door, and offered him a seat. After a
short conversation, he recounted to them how he had striven for and
obtained Buddhahood.

These congregations were often prolonged late into the night. We hear
for instance how he sat on the terrace belonging to Migâra's mother[354]
in the midst of an assembly of monks waiting for his words, still and
silent in the light of the full moon; how a monk would rise, adjusting
his robe so as to leave one shoulder bare, bow with his hands joined and
raised to his forehead and ask permission to put a question and the Lord
would reply, Be seated, monk, ask what you will. But sometimes in these
nightly congregations the silence was unbroken. When King Ajâtasattu
went to visit him[355] in the mango grove of Jîvaka he was seized with
sudden fear at the unearthly stillness of the place and suspected an
ambush. "Fear not, O King," said Jîvaka, "I am playing you no tricks. Go
straight on. There in the pavilion hall the lamps are burning ... and
there is the Blessed One sitting against the middle pillar, facing the
east with the brethren round him." And when the king beheld the assembly
seated in perfect silence, calm as a clear lake, he exclaimed "Would
that my son might have such calm as this assembly now has."

The major part of the Buddha's activity was concerned with the
instruction of his disciples and the organization of the Sangha or
order. Though he was ready to hear and teach all, the portrait presented
to us is not that of a popular preacher who collects and frequents
crowds but rather that of a master, occupied with the instruction of his
pupils, a large band indeed but well prepared and able to appreciate and
learn by heart teaching which, though freely offered to the whole world,
was somewhat hard to untrained ears. In one passage[356] an enquirer
asks him why he shows more zeal in teaching some than others. The answer
is, if a landowner had three fields, one excellent, one middling and one
of poor soil, would he not first sow the good field, then the middling
field, and last of all the bad field, thinking to himself; it will just
produce fodder for the cattle? So the Buddha preaches first to his own
monks, then to lay-believers, and then, like the landowner who sows the
bad field last, to Brahmans, ascetics and wandering monks of other
sects, thinking if they only understand one word, it will do them good
for a long while. It was to such congregations of disciples or to
enquirers belonging to other religious orders that he addressed his most
important discourses, iterating in grave numbered periods the truths
concerning the reality of sorrow and the equal reality of salvation, as
he sat under a clump of bamboos or in the shade of a banyan, in sight
perhaps of a tank where the lotuses red, white and blue, submerged or
rising from the water, typified the various classes of mankind.

He did not start by laying down any constitution for his order. Its
rules were formed entirely by case law. Each incident and difficulty was
referred to him as it arose and his decision was accepted as the law on
that point. During his last illness he showed a noble anxiety not to
hamper his followers by the prestige of his name but to leave behind him
a body of free men, able to be a light and a help to themselves. But a
curious passage[357] represents an old monk as saying immediately after
his death "Weep not, brethren; we are well rid of the Great Monk. We
used to be annoyed by being told, 'This beseems you and this does not
beseem you. But now we shall be able to do what we like and not have to
do what we don't like.'" Clearly the laxer disciples felt the Master's
hand to be somewhat heavy and we might have guessed as much. For though
Gotama had a breadth of view rare in that or in any age, though he
refused to multiply observances or to dogmatize, every sutta indicates
that he was a man of exceptional authority and decision; what he has
laid down he has laid down; there is no compulsion or punishment, no vow
of obedience or _sacrificium intellectus_; but it is equally clear that
there is no place in the order for those who in great or small think
differently from the master.

In shepherding his flock he had the assistance of his senior disciples.
Of these the most important were Sâriputta and Moggallâna, both of them
Brahmans who left their original teacher Sâñjaya to join him at the
outset of his ministry. Sâriputta[358] enjoyed his confidence so fully
that he acted as his representative and gave authoritative expositions
of doctrine. The Buddha even compared him to the eldest son of an
Emperor who assists his father in the government. But both he and
Moggallâna died before their master and thus did not labour
independently. Another important disciple Upâli survived him and
probably contributed materially to the codification of the Vinaya.
Anuruddha and Ânanda, both of them Sâkyas, are also frequently
mentioned, especially the latter who became his personal attendant[359]
and figures in the account of his illness and death as the beloved
disciple to whom his last instructions were committed. These two
together with four other young Sâkya nobles and Upâli joined the order
twenty-five years before Gotama's death and perhaps formed an inner
circle of trusted relatives, though we have no reason to think there was
any friction between them and Brahmans like Sâriputta. Upâli is said to
have been barber of the Sâkyas. It is not easy to say what his social
status may have been, but it probably did not preclude intimacy.

The Buddha was frequently occupied with maintaining peace and order
among his disciples. Though the profession of a monk excluded worldly
advancement, it was held in great esteem and was hence adopted by
ambitious and quarrelsome men who had no true vocation. The troubles
which arose in the Sangha are often ascribed in the Vinaya to the
Chabbaggiyas, six brethren who became celebrated in tradition as spirits
of mischief and who are evidently made the peg on which these old
monkish anecdotes are hung. As a rule the intervention of the Buddha was
sufficient to restore peace, but one passage[360] indicates resistance
to his authority. The brethren quarrelled so often that the people said
it was a public scandal. The Buddha endeavoured to calm the disputants,
but one of them replied, "Lord, let the Blessed One quietly enjoy the
bliss which he has obtained in this life. The responsibility for these
quarrels will rest with us alone." This seems a clear hint that the
Blessed One had better mind his own business. Renewed injunctions and
parables met with no better result. "And the Blessed One thought" says
the narrative "'truly these fools are infatuated,' and he rose from his
seat and went away."

Other troubles are mentioned but by far the most serious was the schism
of Devadatta, represented as occurring in the old age of Gotama when he
was about seventy-two. The story as told in the Cullavagga[361] is
embellished with supernatural incidents and seems not to observe the
natural sequence of events but perhaps three features are historical:
namely that Devadatta wished to supersede the Buddha as head of the
order, that he was the friend of Ajâtasattu, Crown Prince and afterwards
King of Magadha[362], and that he advocated a stricter rule of life than
the Buddha chose to enforce. This combination of piety and ambition is
perhaps not unnatural. He was a cousin of the Buddha and entered the
order at the same time as Ânanda and other young Sâkya nobles. Sprung
from that quarrelsome breed he possessed in a distorted form some of
Gotama's own ability. He is represented as publicly urging the Master to
retire and dwell at ease but met with an absolute refusal. Sâriputta was
directed to "proclaim" him in Râjagaha, the proclamation being to the
effect that his nature had changed and that all his words and deeds were
disowned by the order. Then Devadatta incited the Crown Prince to murder
his father, Bimbisâra. The plot was prevented by the ministers but the
king told Ajâtasattu that if he wanted the kingdom he could have it and
abdicated. But his unnatural son put him to death all the same[363] by
starving him slowly in confinement. With the assistance of Ajâtasattu,
Devadatta then tried to compass the death of the Buddha. First he hired
assassins, but they were converted as soon as they approached the sacred
presence. Then he rolled down a rock from the Vulture's peak with the
intention of crushing the Buddha, but the mountain itself interfered to
stop the sacrilege and only a splinter scratched the Lord's foot. Then
he arranged for a mad elephant to be let loose in the road at the time
of collecting alms, but the Buddha calmed the furious beast. It is
perhaps by some error of arrangement that after committing such
unpardonable crimes Devadatta is represented as still a member of the
order and endeavouring to provoke a schism by asking for stricter rules.
The attempt failed and according to later legends he died on the spot,
but the Vinaya merely says that hot blood gushed from his mouth.

That there are historical elements in this story is shown by the
narrative of Fa Hsien, the Chinese pilgrim who travelled in India about
400 A.D. He tells us that the followers of Devadatta still existed in
Kosala and revered the three previous Buddhas but refused to recognize
Gotama. This is interesting, for it seems to show that it was possible
to accept Gotama's doctrine, or the greater part of it, as something
independent of his personality and an inheritance from earlier teachers.

The Udâna and Jâtaka relate another plot without specifying the year.
Some heretics induced a nun called Sundarî to pretend she was the
Buddha's concubine and hired assassins to murder her. They then accused
the Bhikkhus of killing her to conceal their master's sin, but the real
assassins got drunk with the money they had received and revealed the
conspiracy in their cups.

But these are isolated cases. As a whole the Buddha's long career was
marked by a peace and friendliness which are surprising if we consider
what innovations his teaching contained. Though in contending that
priestly ceremonies were useless he refrained from neither direct
condemnation nor satire, yet he is not represented as actively
attacking[364] them and we may doubt if he forbade his lay disciples to
take part in rites and sacrifices as a modern missionary might do. We
find him sitting by the sacred fire of a Brahman[365] and discoursing,
but not denouncing the worship carried on in the place. When he
converted Siha[366], the general of the Licchavis, who had been a Jain,
he bade him continue to give food and gifts as before to the Jain monks
who frequented his house—an instance of toleration in a proselytizing
teacher which is perhaps without parallel. Similarly in the
Sîgâlovâda-sutta it is laid down that a good man ministers to monks and
to Brahmans. If it is true that Ajâtasattu countenanced Devadatta's
attempts to murder him, he ignored such disagreeable details with a
sublime indifference, for he continued to frequent Râjagaha, received
the king, and preached to him one of his finest sermons without alluding
to the past. He stands before us in the suttas as a man of amazing power
of will, inaccessible to fear, promises and, one may add, to argument
but yet in comparison with other religious leaders singularly gentle in
taking the offensive against error. Often he simply ignored it as
irrelevant: "Never mind" he said on his deathbed to his last convert
"Never mind, whether other teachers are right or wrong. Listen to me, I
will teach you the truth." And when he is controversial his method is
often to retain old words in honourable use with new meanings. The
Brahmans are not denounced like the Pharisees in the New Testament but
the real Brahman is a man of uprightness and wisdom: the real sacrifice
is to abstain from sin and follow the Truth.

Women played a considerable part in the entourage of Gotama. They were
not secluded in India at that time and he admitted that they were
capable of attaining saintship. The work of ministering to the order, of
supplying it with food and raiment, naturally fell largely to pious
matrons, and their attentive forethought delighted to provide for the
monks those comforts which might be accepted but not asked for.
Prominent among such donors was Visâkhâ, who married the son of a
wealthy merchant at Sâvatthî and converted her husband's family from
Jainism to the true doctrine. The Vinaya recounts how after entertaining
the Buddha and his disciples she asked eight boons which proved to be
the privileges of supplying various classes of monks with food, clothing
and medicine and of providing the nuns with bathing dresses, for, said
she, it shocked her sense of propriety to see them bathing naked. But
the anecdotes respecting the Buddha and women, whether his wife or
others, are not touched with sentiment, not even so much as is found in
the conversation between Yâjñavalkya and Maitreyî in the Upanishad. To
women as a class he gave their due and perhaps in his own opinion more
than their due, but if he felt any interest in them as individuals, the
sacred texts have obliterated the record. In the last year of his life
he dined with the courtezan Ambapâlî and the incident has attracted
attention on account of its supposed analogy to the narrative about
Christ and "the woman which was a sinner." But the resemblance is small.
There is no sign that the Buddha, then eighty years of age, felt any
personal interest in Ambapâlî. Whatever her morals may have been, she
was a benefactress of the order and he simply gave her the same
opportunity as others of receiving instruction. When the Licchavi
princes tried to induce him to dine with them instead of with her, he
refused to break his promise. The invitations of princes had no
attraction for him, and he was a prince himself. A fragment of
conversation introduced irrelevantly into his deathbed discourses[367]
is significant--"How, Lord, are we to conduct ourselves with regard to
womankind? Don't see them, Ânanda. But if we see them, what are we to
do? Abstain from speech. But if they should speak to us what are we to
do? Keep wide awake."

This spirit is even more evident in the account of the admission of Nuns
to the order. When the Buddha was visiting his native town his aunt and
foster mother, Mahâprajâpatî, thrice begged him to grant this privilege
to women but was thrice refused and went away in tears. Then she
followed him to Vesâlî and stood in the entrance of the Kûṭagâra Hall
"with swollen feet and covered with dust, and sorrowful." Ânanda, who
had a tender heart, interviewed her and, going in to the Buddha,
submitted her request but received a triple refusal. But he was not to
be denied and urged that the Buddha admitted women to be capable of
attaining saintship and that it was unjust to refuse the blessings of
religion to one who had suckled him. At last Gotama yielded—perhaps the
only instance in which he is represented as convinced by argument—but he
added "If, Ânanda, women had not received permission to enter the Order,
the pure religion would have lasted long, the good law would have stood
fast a thousand years. But since they had received that permission, it
will now stand fast for only five hundred years[368]."

He maintained and approved the same hard detached attitude in other
domestic relations. His son Râhula received special instruction but is
not represented as enjoying his confidence like Ânanda. A remarkable
narrative relates how, when the monk Sangâmaji was sitting beneath a
tree absorbed in meditation, his former wife (whom he had left on
abandoning the world) laid his child before him and said "Here, monk, is
your little son, nourish me and nourish him." But Sangâmaji took no
notice and the woman went away. The Buddha who observed what happened
said "He feels no pleasure when she comes, no sorrow when she goes: him
I call a true Brahman released from passion[369]." This narrative is
repulsive to European sentiment, particularly as the chronicler cannot
spare the easy charity of a miracle to provide for the wife and child,
but in taking it as an index of the character of Gotama, we must bear in
mind such sayings of Christ as "If any man come to me and hate not his
father and mother and wife and children and brethren and sisters, yea
and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple[370]."


Political changes, in which however he took no part, occurred in the
last years of the Buddha's life. In Magadha Ajâtasattu had come to the
throne. If, as the Vinaya represents, he at first supported the schism
of Devadatta, he subsequently became a patron of the Buddha. He was an
ambitious prince and fortified Pâṭaligâma (afterwards Pâṭaliputra)
against the Vajjian confederation, which he destroyed a few years after
the Buddha's death. This confederation was an alliance of small
oligarchies like the Licchavis and Videhans. It would appear that this
form of constitution was on the wane in northern India and that the
monarchical states were annexing the decaying commonwealths. In Kosala,
Viḍûḍabha conquered Kapilavatthu a year or two before the Buddha's
death, and is said to have perpetrated a great massacre of the Sâkya
clan[371]. Possibly in consequence of these events the Buddha avoided
Kosala and the former Sâkya territory. At any rate the record of his
last days opens at Râjagaha, the capital of Magadha.

This record is contained in the Mahâparinibbâna Sutta, the longest of
the suttas and evidently a compilation. The style is provokingly uneven.
It often promises to give a simple and natural narrative but such
passages are interrupted by more recent and less relevant matter. No
general estimate of its historical value can be given but each incident
must be apprized separately. Nearly all the events and discourses
recorded in it are found elsewhere in the canon in the same words[372]
and it contains explanatory matter of a suspiciously apologetic nature.
Also the supernatural element is freely introduced. But together with
all this it contains plain pathetic pictures of an old man's fatigue and
sufferings which would not have been inserted by a later hand, had they
not been found ready in tradition. And though events and sermonettes are
strung together in a way which is not artistic, there is nothing
improbable in the idea that the Buddha when he felt his end approaching
should have admonished his disciples about all that he thought most

The story opens at Râjagaha about six months before the Buddha's death.
The King sends his minister to ask whether he will be successful in
attacking the Vajjians. The Buddha replies that as long as they act in
concord, behave honourably, and respect the Faith, so long may they be
expected not to decline but prosper. The compiler may perhaps have felt
this narrative to be an appropriate parallel to the Buddha's advice to
his disciples to live in peace and order. He summoned and addressed the
brethren living in Râjagaha and visited various spots in the
neighbourhood. In these last utterances one phrase occurs with special
frequency, "Great is the fruit, great the advantage of meditation
accompanied by upright conduct: great is the advantage of intelligence
accompanied by meditation. The mind which has such intelligence is freed
from intoxications, from the desires of the senses, from love of life,
from delusion and from ignorance."

He then set forth accompanied by Ânanda and several disciples. Judging
from the route adopted his intention was to go ultimately to Sâvatthî.
This was one of the towns where he resided from time to time, but we
cannot tell what may have been his special motives for visiting it on
the present occasion, for if the King of Kosala had recently massacred
the Sâkyas his presence there would have been strange. The road was not
direct but ran up northwards and then followed the base of the
mountains, thus enabling travellers to cross rivers near their sources
where they were still easy to ford. The stopping-places from Râjagaha
onwards were Nâlanda, Pâṭaliputra, Vesâlî, Bhandagâma, Pâvâ, Kusinârâ,
Kapilavatthu, Setavya, Sâvatthî. On his last journey the Buddha is
represented as following this route but he died at the seventh
stopping-place, Kusinârâ. When at Pâṭaligâma, he prophesied that it
would become a great emporium[373]. He was honourably entertained by the
officers of the King who decided that the gate and ferry by which he
left should be called Gotama's gate and Gotama's ferry. The gate
received the name, but when he came to the Ganges he vanished
miraculously and appeared standing on the further bank. He then went on
to Vesâlî, passing with indifference and immunity from the dominions of
the King of Magadha into those of his enemies, and halted in the grove
of the courtezan Ambapâlî[374]. She came to salute him and he accepted
her invitation to dine with her on the morrow, in spite of the protests
of the Licchavi princes.

The rainy season was now commencing and the Buddha remained near Vesâlî
in the village of Beluva, where he fell seriously ill. One day after his
recovery he was sitting in the shade with Ânanda, who said that during
the illness his comfort had been the thought that the Buddha would not
pass away without leaving final instructions to the Order. The reply was
a remarkable address which is surely, at least, in parts the Buddha's
own words.

"What does the order expect of me, Ânanda? I have preached the truth
without any distinction of esoteric or exoteric, for in respect of the
truth, there is no clenched hand in the teaching of the Tathâgata. If
there is anyone who thinks 'it is I who will lead the brotherhood' or
'the order is dependent on me,' it is he who should give instructions.
But the Tathâgata does not think that he should lead the order or that
the order is dependent on him. Why then should he leave instructions? I
am an old man now, and full of years, my pilgrimage is finished, I have
reached my sum of days, I am turning eighty years; and just as a
worn-out cart can only be made to move along with much additional care,
so can the body of the Tathagâta be kept going only with much additional
care. It is only when the Tathagâta, ceasing to attend to any outward
thing becomes plunged in meditation, it is only then that the body of
the Tathagâta is at ease. Therefore, Ânanda, be a lamp and a refuge to
yourselves. Seek no other refuge. Let the Truth be your lamp and refuge;
seek no refuge elsewhere.

"And they, Ânanda, who now or when I am dead shall be a lamp and a
refuge to themselves, seeking no other refuge but taking the Truth as
their lamp and refuge, these shall be my foremost disciples—these who
are anxious to learn."

This discourse is succeeded by a less convincing episode, in which the
Buddha tells Ânanda that he can prolong his life to the end of a
world-period if he desires it. But though the hint was thrice repeated,
the heedless disciple did not ask the Master to remain in the world.
When he had gone, Mâra, the Evil one, appeared and urged on the Buddha
that it was time for him to pass away. He replied that he would die in
three months but not before he had completely established the true
religion. Thus he deliberately rejected his allotted span of life and an
earthquake occurred. He explained the cause of it to Ânanda, who saw his
mistake too late. "Enough, Ânanda, the time for making such a request is

The narrative becomes more human when it relates how one afternoon he
looked at the town and said, "This will be the last time that the
Tathâgata will behold Vesâlî. Come, Ânanda, let us go to Bhandagâma."
After three halts he arrived at Pâvâ and stopped in the mango grove of
Cunda, a smith, who invited him to dinner and served sweet rice, cakes,
and a dish which has been variously interpreted as dried boar's flesh or
a kind of truffle. The Buddha asked to be served with this dish and bade
him give the sweet rice and cakes to the brethren. After eating some of
it he ordered the rest to be buried, saying that no one in heaven or
earth except a Buddha could digest it, a strange remark to chronicle
since it was this meal which killed him[376]. But before he died he sent
word to Cunda that he had no need to feel remorse and that the two most
meritorious offerings in the world are the first meal given to a Buddha
after he has obtained enlightenment and the last one given him before
his death. On leaving Cunda's house he was attacked by dysentery and
violent pains but bore them patiently and started for Kusinârâ with his
disciples. In going thither he crossed the river Kakutthâ[377], and some
verses inserted into the text, which sound like a very old ballad,
relate how he bathed in it and then, weary and worn out, lay down on his
cloak. A curious incident occurs here. A young Mallian, named Pukkuisa,
after some conversation with the Buddha, presents him with a robe of
cloth of gold, but when it is put on it seems to lose its splendour, so
exceedingly clear and bright is his skin. Gotama explains that there are
two occasions when the skin of a Buddha glows like this—the night of his
enlightenment and the night before his death. The transfiguration of
Christ suggests itself as a parallel and is also associated with an
allusion to his coming death. Most people have seen a face so light up
under the influence of emotion that this popular metaphor seemed to
express physical truth and it is perhaps not excessive to suppose that
in men of exceptional gifts this illumination may have been so bright as
to leave traces in tradition.

Then they went on[378] to a grove at Kusinârâ, and he lay down on a
couch spread between two Sâla trees. These trees were in full bloom,
though it was not the season for their flowering; heavenly strains and
odours filled the air and spirits unseen crowded round the bed. But
Ânanda, we are told, went into the Vihâra, which was apparently also in
the grove, and stood leaning against the lintel weeping at the thought
that he was to lose so kind a master. The Buddha sent for him and said,
"Do not weep. Have I not told you before that it is the very nature of
things most near and dear to us that we must part from them, leave them,
sever ourselves from them? All that is born, brought into being and put
together carries within itself the necessity of dissolution. How then is
it possible that such a being should not be dissolved? No such condition
is possible. For a long time, Ânanda, you have been very near me by
words of love, kind and good, that never varies and is beyond all
measure. You have done well, Ânanda. Be earnest in effort and you too
shall soon be free from the great evils—from sensuality, from
individuality, from delusion and from ignorance."

The Indians have a strong feeling that persons of distinction should die
in a suitable place[379], and now comes a passage in which Ânanda begs
the Buddha not to die "in this little wattle and daub town in the midst
of the jungle" but rather in some great city. The Buddha told him that
Kusinârâ had once been the capital of King Mahâsudassana and a scene of
great splendour in former ages. This narrative is repeated in an
amplified form in the Sutta and Jâtaka[380] called Mahâsudassana, in
which the Buddha is said to have been that king in a previous birth.

Kusinârâ was at that time one of the capitals of the Mallas, who were an
aristocratic republic like the Sâkyas and Vajjians. At the Buddha's
command Ânanda went to the Council hall and summoned the people. "Give
no occasion to reproach yourself hereafter saying, The Tathâgata died in
our own village and we neglected to visit him in his last hours." So the
Mallas came and Ânanda presented them by families to the dying Buddha as
he lay between the flowering trees, saying "Lord, a Malla of such and
such a name with his children, his wives, his retinue and his friends
humbly bows down at the feet of the Blessed One."

A monk called Subhadda, who was not a believer, also came and Ânanda
tried to turn him away but the Buddha overhearing said "Do not keep out
Subhadda. Whatever he may ask of me he will ask from a desire for
knowledge and not to annoy me and he will quickly understand my
replies." He was the last disciple whom the Buddha converted, and he
straightway became an Arhat.

Now comes the last watch of the night. "It may be, Ânanda," said the
Buddha, "that some of you may think, the word of the Master is ended. We
have no more a teacher. But you should not think thus. The truths and
the rules which I have declared and laid down for you all, let them be
the teacher for you after I am gone.

"When I am gone address not one another as hitherto, saying 'Friend.' An
elder brother may address a younger brother by his name or family-name
or as friend, but a younger brother should say to an elder, Sir, or

"When I am gone let the order, if it should so wish, abolish all the
lesser and minor precepts."

Thus in his last address the dying Buddha disclaims, as he had
disclaimed before in talking to Ânanda, all idea of dictating to the
order: his memory is not to become a paralyzing tradition. What he had
to teach, he has taught freely, holding back nothing in "a clenched
fist." The truths are indeed essential and immutable. But they must
become a living part of the believer, until he is no longer a follower
but a light unto himself. The rest does not matter: the order can change
all the minor rules if expedient. But in everyday life discipline and
forms must be observed: hitherto all have been equal compared with the
teacher, but now the young must show more respect for the older. And in
the same spirit of solicitude for the order he continues:

"When I am gone, the highest penalty should be imposed on Channa." "What
is that, Lord?" "Let him say what he likes, but the brethren should not
speak to him or exhort him or admonish him[381]."

The end approaches. "It may be, that there is some doubt or misgiving in
the mind of some as to the Buddha, or the truth, or the path, or the
way. Enquire freely. Do not have to reproach yourselves afterwards with
the thought, 'Our teacher was face to face with us and we could not
bring ourselves to enquire when we were face to face with him.'" All
were silent. A second and third time he put the same question and there
was silence still. "It may be, that you put no questions out of awe for
the teacher. Let one friend communicate to another." There was still
silence, till Ânanda said "How wonderful, Lord, and how marvellous. In
this whole assembly there is no one who has any doubt or misgiving as to
the Buddha, the truth, the path and the way." "Out of the fulness of
faith hast thou spoken Ânanda, but the Tathâgata knows for certain that
it is so. Even the most backward of all these five hundred brethren has
become converted and is no longer liable to be born in a state of
suffering and is assured of final salvation."

"Behold, I exhort you saying, The elements of being are transitory[382].
Strive earnestly. These were the last words of the Tathâgata." Then he
passed through a series of trances (no less than twenty stages are
enumerated) and expired.

An earthquake and thunder, as one might have predicted, occurred at the
moment of his death but comparatively little stress is laid on these
prodigies. Anuruddha seems to have taken the lead among the brethren and
bade Ânanda announce the death to the Mallas. They heard it with cries
of grief: "Too soon has the Blessed One passed away. Too soon has the
light gone out of the world."

No less than six days were passed in preparation for the obsequies[383].
On the seventh they decided to carry the body to the south of the city
and there burn it. But when they endeavoured to lift it, they found it
immoveable. Anuruddha explained that spirits who were watching the
ceremony wished it to be carried not outside the city but through it.
When this was done the corpse moved easily and the heaven rained
flowers. The meaning of this legend is that the Mallas considered a
corpse would have defiled the city and therefore proposed to carry it
outside. By letting it pass through the city they showed that it was not
the ordinary relics of impure humanity.

Again, when they tried to light the funeral pile it would not catch
fire. Anuruddha explained that this delay also was due to the
intervention of spirits who wished that Mahâkassapa, the same whom the
Buddha had converted at Uruvelâ and then on his way to pay his last
respects, should arrive before the cremation. When he came attended by
five hundred monks the pile caught fire of itself and the body was
consumed completely, leaving only the bones. Streams of rain
extinguished the flames and the Mallas took the bones to their council
hall. There they set round them a hedge of spears and a fence of bows
and honoured them with dance and song and offerings of garlands and

Whatever may be thought of this story, the veneration of the Buddha's
relics, which is attested by the Piprava vase, is a proof that we have
to do with a man rather than a legend. The relics may all be false, but
the fact that they were venerated some 250 years after his death shows
that the people of India thought of him not as an ancient semi-divine
figure like Rama or Krishna but as something human and concrete.

Seven persons or communities sent requests for a portion of the relics,
saying that they would erect a stupa over them and hold a feast. They
were King Ajâtasattu of Magadha, the Licchavis of Vesâlî, the Sâkyas of
Kapilavatthu, the Bulis of Allakappa, the Koṭiyas of Râmagâma, the
Mallas of Pâvâ[384] and the Brahman of Veṭhadîpa. All except the last
were Kshatriyas and based their claim on the ground that they like the
Buddha belonged to the warrior caste. The Mallas at first refused, but a
Brahman called Doṇa bade them not quarrel over the remains of him who
taught forbearance. So he divided the relics into eight parts, one for
Kusinârâ and one for each of the other seven claimants. At this juncture
the Moriyas of Pipphalivana sent in a claim for a share but had to be
content with the embers of the pyre since all the bones had been
distributed. Then eight stupas were built for the relics in the towns
mentioned and one over the embers and one by Doṇa the Brahman over the
iron vessel in which the body had been burnt.


Thus ended the career of a man who was undoubtedly one of the greatest
intellectual and moral forces that the world has yet seen, but it is
hard to arrive at any certain opinion as to the details of his character
and abilities, for in the later accounts he is deified and in the
Pitakas though veneration has not gone so far as this, he is
ecclesiasticized and the human side is neglected. The narrative moves
like some stately ceremonial in which emotion and incident would be out
of place until it reaches the strange deathbed, spread between the
flowering trees, and Ânanda introduces with the formality of a court
chamberlain the Malla householders who have come to pay their last
respects and bow down at the feet of the dying teacher. The scenes
described are like stained glass windows; the Lord preaching in the
centre, sinners repenting and saints listening, all in harmonious
colours and studied postures. But the central figure remains somewhat
aloof; when once he had begun his ministry he laboured uninterruptedly
and with continual success, but the foundation of the kingdom of
Righteousness seems less like the triumphant issue of a struggle than
the passage through the world of some compassionate angel. This is in
great part due to the fact that the Pitakas are works of edification.
True, they set before us the teacher as well as his teaching but they
speak of his doings and historical surroundings only in order to provide
a proper frame for the law which he preached. A less devout and more
observant historian would have arranged the picture differently and even
in the narratives that have come down to us there are touches of human
interest which seem authentic.

When the Buddha was dying Ânanda wept because he was about to lose so
kind a master and the Buddha's own language to him is even more
affectionate. He cared not only for the organization of the order but
for its individual members. He is frequently represented as feeling that
some disciple needed a particular form of instruction and giving it. Nor
did he fail to provide for the comfort of the sick and weary. For
instance a ballad[385] relates how Panthaka driven from his home took
refuge at the door of the monastery garden. "Then came the Lord and
stroked my head and taking me by the arm led me into the garden of the
monastery and out of kindness he gave me a towel for my feet." A
striking anecdote[386] relates how he once found a monk who suffered
from a disagreeable disease lying on the ground in a filthy state. So
with Ânanda's assistance he washed him and lifting him up with his own
hands laid him on his bed. Then he summoned the brethren and told them
that if a sick brother had no special attendant the whole order should
wait on him. "You, monks, have no mothers or fathers to care for you. If
you do not wait one on the other, who is there who will wait on you?
Whosoever would wait on me, he should wait on the sick." This last
recalls Christ's words, "Inasmuch as ye have done it unto the least of
these brethren, ye have done it unto me." And, if his approval of monks
being deaf to the claims of family affection seems unfeeling, it should
also be mentioned that in the book called _Songs of the Nuns_[387] women
relate how they were crazy at the loss of their children but found
complete comfort and peace in his teaching. Sometimes we are told that
when persons whom he wished to convert proved refractory he "suffused
them with the feeling of his love" until they yielded to his
influence[388]. We can hardly doubt that this somewhat cumbrous phrase
preserves a tradition of his personal charm and power.

The beauty of his appearance and the pleasant quality of his voice are
often mentioned but in somewhat conventional terms which inspire no
confidence that they are based on personal reminiscence, nor have the
most ancient images which we possess any claim to represent his
features, for the earliest of them are based on Greek models and it was
not the custom to represent him by a figure until some centuries after
his death. I can imagine that the truest idea of his person is to be
obtained not from the abundant effigies which show him as a somewhat
sanctimonious ascetic, but from statues of him as a young man, such as
that found at Sarnath, which may possibly preserve not indeed the
physiognomy of Gotama but the general physique of a young Nepalese
prince, with powerful limbs and features and a determined mouth. For
there is truth at the bottom of the saying that Gotama was born to be
either a Buddha or a universal monarch: he would have made a good
general, if he had not become a monk.

We are perhaps on firmer ground when we find speakers in the
Pitakas[389] commenting on his calm and bright expression and his
unruffled courtesy in discussion. Of his eloquence it is hard to judge.
The Suttas may preserve his teaching and some of his words but they are
probably rearrangements made for recitation. Still it is impossible to
prove that he did not himself adopt this style, particularly when age
and iteration had made the use of certain formulæ familiar to him. But
though these repetitions and subdivisions of arrangement are often
wearisome, there are not wanting traces of another manner, which suggest
a terse and racy preacher going straight to the point and driving home
his meaning with homely instances.

Humour often peeps through the Buddha's preaching. It pervades the
Jâtaka stories, and more than once he is said to have smiled when
remembering some previous birth. Some suttas, such as the tales of the
Great King of Glory, and of King Mahâ Vijita's sacrifice[390], are
simply Jâtakas in another form—interesting stories full of edification
for those who can understand but not to be taken as a narrative of
facts. At other times he simply states the ultimate facts of a case and
leaves them in their droll incongruity. Thus when King Ajâtasattu was
moved and illuminated by his teaching, he observed to his disciples that
His Majesty had all the makings of a saint in him, if only he had not
killed that excellent man his own father. Somewhat similar is his
judgment[391] on two naked ascetics, who imitated in all things the ways
of a dog and a cow respectively, in the hope of thus obtaining
salvation. When pressed to say what their next birth would be, he opined
that if their penance was successful they would be reborn as dogs and
cows, if unsuccessful, in hell. Irony and modesty are combined in his
rejection of extravagant praise. "Such faith have I, Lord[392]" said
Sâriputta, "that methinks there never has been nor will be nor is now
any other greater or wiser than the Blessed One." "Of course, Sâriputta"
is the reply, "you have known all the Buddhas of the past." "No, Lord."
"Well then, you know those of the future." "No, Lord." "Then at least
you know me and have penetrated my mind thoroughly." "Not even that,
Lord." "Then why, Sâriputta, are your words so grand and bold."

There is much that is human in these passages yet we should be making a
fancy portrait did we allow ourselves to emphasize them too much and
neglect the general tone of the Pitakas. These scriptures are the
product of a school; but that school grew up under the Buddha's personal
influence and more than that is rooted in the very influences and
tendencies which produced the Buddha himself. The passionless,
intellectual aloofness; the elemental simplicity with which the facts of
life are stated and explained without any concession to sentiment, the
rigour of the prescription for salvation, that all sensual desire and
attachment must be cut off, are too marked and consistent for us to
suppose them due merely to monkish inability to understand the more
human side of his character. The Buddha began his career as an Indian
Muni, one supposed to be free from all emotions and intent only on
seeking deliverance from every tie connecting him with the world. This
was expected of him and had he done no more it would have secured him
universal respect. The fact that he did a great deal more, that he
devoted his life to active preaching, that he offered to all happiness
and escape from sorrow, that he personally aided with advice and
encouragement all who came to him, caused both his contemporaries and
future generations to regard him as a saviour. His character and the
substance of his teaching were admirably suited to the needs of the
religious world of India in his day. Judged by the needs of other
temperaments, which are entitled to neither more nor less consideration,
they seem too severe, too philosophic and the later varieties of
Buddhism have endeavoured to make them congenial to less strenuous

Before leaving the personality of the Buddha, we must say a word about
the more legendary portions of his biography, for though of little
importance for history they have furnished the chief subjects of
Buddhist art and influenced the minds of his followers as much as or
more than the authentic incidents of his career[393]. The later legend
has not distorted the old narrative. It is possible that all its
incidents may be founded on stories known to the compilers of the
Pitakas, though this is not at present demonstrable, but they are
embellished by an unstinted use of the supernatural and of the hyperbole
usual in Indian poetry. The youthful Buddha moves through showers of
flowers and an atmosphere crowded with attendant deities. He cannot even
go to school without an escort of ten thousand children and a hundred
thousand maidens and astonishes the good man who proposes to teach him
the alphabet by suggesting sixty-four systems of writing.

The principal scenes in this legend are as follows. The Bodhisattva,
that is the Buddha to-be, resides in the Tusita Heaven and selects his
birth-place and parentage. He then enters the womb of his mother Mâyâ in
the shape of a white elephant, which event she sees in a dream. Brahmans
are summoned and interpret the vision to mean that her son will be a
Universal Monarch or a Buddha. When near her confinement Mâyâ goes to
visit her parents but on the way brings forth her son in the Lumbini
grove. As she stands upright holding the bough of a tree, he issues from
her side without pain to her and is received by deities, but on touching
the ground, takes seven steps and says, "I am the foremost in the
world." On the same day are born several persons who play a part in his
life—his wife, his horse, Ânanda, Bimbisâra and others. Asita does
homage to him, as does also his father, and it is predicted that he will
become a Buddha and renounce the world. His father in his desire to
prevent this secludes him in the enjoyment of all luxury. At the
ploughing festival he falls into a trance under a tree and the shadow
stands still to protect him and does not change. Again his father does
him homage. He is of herculean strength and surpasses all as an archer.
He marries his cousin Yasodharâ, when sixteen years old. Then come the
four visions, which are among the scenes most frequently depicted in
modern sacred art. As he is driving in the palace grounds the gods show
him an old man, a sick man, a corpse and a monk of happy countenance.
His charioteer explains what they are and he determines to abandon the
world. It was at this time that his son was born and on hearing the news
he said that a new fetter now bound him to worldly life but still
decided to execute his resolve. That night he could take no pleasure in
the music of the singing women who were wont to play to him and they
fell asleep. As he looked at their sleeping forms he felt disgust and
ordered Channa, his charioteer, to saddle Kaṇṭhaka, a gigantic white
horse, eighteen cubits long from head to tail. Meanwhile he went to his
wife's room and took a last but silent look as she lay sleeping with her

Then he started on horseback attended by Channa and a host of heavenly
beings who opened the city gates. Here he was assailed by Mâra the
Tempter who offered him universal empire but in vain. After jumping the
river Anomâ on his steed, he cut off his long hair with his sword and
flinging it up into the air wished it might stay there if he was really
to become a Buddha. It remained suspended; admiring gods placed it in a
heavenly shrine and presented Gotama with the robes of a monk.

Not much is added to the account of his wanderings and austerities as
given in the Pitakas, but the attainment of Buddhahood naturally
stimulates the devout imagination. At daybreak Gotama sits at the foot
of a tree, lighting up the landscape with the golden rays which issue
from his person. Sujârâ a noble maiden and her servant Pûrṇâ offer him
rice and milk in a golden vessel and he takes no more food for seven
weeks. He throws the vessel into the river, wishing that if he is to
become a Buddha it may ascend the stream against the current. It does so
and then sinks to the abode of the Nâgas. Towards evening he walks to
the Bodhi-tree and meets a grass-cutter who offers him grass to make a
seat. This he accepts and taking his seat vows that rather than rise
before attaining Buddhahood, he will let his blood dry up and his body
decay. Then comes the great assault of the Tempter. Mâra attacks him in
vain both with an army of terrible demons and with bands of seductive
nymphs. During the conflict Mâra asked him who is witness to his ever
having performed good deeds or bestowed alms? He called on the earth to
bear witness. Earthquakes and thunders responded to the appeal and the
goddess of the Earth herself rose and bore testimony. The rout of Mâra
is supposed to have taken place in the late evening. The full moon[394]
came out and in the three watches of the night he attained

The Pali and early Sanskrit texts place the most striking legendary
scenes in the first part of the Buddha's life just as scribes give
freest rein to their artistic imagination in tracing the first letter
and word of a chapter. In the later version, the whole text is coloured
and gilded with a splendour that exceeds the hues of ordinary life but
no incidents of capital importance are added after the
Enlightenment[395]. Historical names still occur and the Buddha is still
a wandering teacher with a band of disciples, but his miracles
continually convulse the universe: he preaches to mankind from the sky
and retires for three months to the Tusita Heaven in order to instruct
his mother, who had died before she could hear the truth from her son's
lips, and often the whole scene passes into a vision where the ordinary
limits of space, time and number cease to have any meaning.



The personality of the Buddha invites comparison with the founders of
the other world-religions, Christ and Mohammed. We are tempted to ask
too if there is any resemblance between him and Confucius, a
contemporary Asiatic whose influence has been equally lasting, but here
there is little common ground. For Confucius's interest was mainly in
social and ethical problems, not in religion. He laid stress on those
ties of kinship and society, respecting which the Indian monk (like
Christ) sometimes spoke harshly, although there is a strong likeness
between the moral code of the Buddhist layman and Confucianism: he was
full of humility and respect for antiquity, whereas Gotama had a good
share of that self-confidence which is necessary for all who propound to
the world a new religion.[396]

But with Mohammed comparison, or rather contrast, is easier. Both were
seekers after truth: both found what they believed to be the truth only
when of mature years, Gotama when about thirty-six, Mohammed when forty
or more: both lived to be elderly men and possessed great authority. But
there the analogy ends. Perhaps no single human being has had so great
an effect on the world as Mohammed. His achievements are personal and,
had he never lived, it is not clear that the circumstances of the age
would have caused some one else to play approximately the same part. He
more than Cæsar or Alexander was individually the author of a movement
which transformed part of three continents. No one else has been able to
fuse the two noble instincts of religion and empire in so perfect a
manner, perfect because the two do not conflict or jar, as do the
teachings of Christ and the pretensions of his Church to temporal power.
But it is precisely this fusion of religion and politics which
disqualifies Islam as a universal religion and prevents it from
satisfying the intellectual and spiritual wants of that part of humanity
which is most intellectual and most spiritual. Law and religion are
inextricably mixed in it and a Moslim, more than the most superstitious
of Buddhists or Christians, is bound by a vast number of ties and
observances which have nothing to do with religion. It is in avoiding
these trammels that the superior religious instinct of Gotama shows
itself. He was aided in this by the temper of his times. Though he was
of the warrior caste and naturally brought into association with
princes, he was not on that account tempted to play a part in politics,
for to the Hindus, then as now, renunciation of the world was
indispensable for serious religion and there is no instance of a teacher
obtaining a hearing among them without such renunciation as a
preliminary. According to Indian popular ideas a genius might become
either an Emperor or a Buddha but not like Mohammed a mixture of the
two. But the danger which beset Gotama, and which he consistently and
consciously avoided, though Mohammed could not, was to give
authoritative decisions on unessential points as to both doctrine and
practice. There was clearly a party which wished to make the rule of his
order more severe and, had he consented, the religious world of his day
would have approved. But by so doing he would have made Buddhism an
Indian sect like Jainism, incapable of flourishing in lands with other
institutions. If Buddhism has had little influence outside Asia, that is
because there are differences of temperament in the world, not because
it sanctions anachronisms or prescribes observances of a purely local
and temporary value. In all his teaching Gotama insists on what is
essential only and will not lend his name and authority to what is
merely accessory. He will not for instance direct or even recommend his
disciples to be hermits. "Whoever wishes may dwell in a wood and whoever
wishes may dwell near a village." And in his last days he bade them be a
light unto themselves and gave them authority to change all the lesser
precepts. It is true that the order decided to make no use of this
permission, but the spirit which dictated it has shaped the destinies of
the faith.

Akin to this contrast is another—that between the tolerance of Gotama
and the persecuting spirit of Islam. Mohammed and his followers never
got rid of the idea that any other form of religion is an insult to the
Almighty: that infidels should if possible be converted by compulsion,
or, if that were impossible, allowed to exist only on sufferance and in
an inferior position. Such ideas were unknown to Gotama. He laboured not
for his own or his Creator's glory but simply and solely to benefit
mankind. Conversion by force had no meaning for him, for what he desired
was not a profession of allegiance but a change of disposition and amid
many transformations his Church has not lost this temper.

When we come to compare Gotama and Christ we are struck by many
resemblances of thought but also by great differences of circumstances
and career. Both were truly spiritual teachers who rose above forms and
codes: both accepted the current ideals of their time and strove to
become the one a Buddha, the other Messiah. But at the age when Christ
was executed Gotama was still in quest of truth and still on the wrong
track. He lived nearly fifty years longer and had ample opportunity of
putting his ideas into practice. So far as our meagre traditions allow
us to trace the development of the two, the differences are even more
fundamental. Peaceful as was the latter part of Gotama's life, the
beginning was a period of struggle and disillusion. He broke away from
worldly life to study philosophy: he broke away from philosophy to wear
out his body with the severest mortification; that again he found to be
vanity and only then did he attain to enlightenment. And though he
offers salvation to all without distinction, he repeatedly says that it
is difficult: with hard wrestling has he won the truth and it is hard
for ordinary men to understand.

Troubled as was the life of Christ, it contains no struggle of this
sort. As a youth he grew up in a poor family where the disenchantment of
satiety was unknown: his genius first found expression in sermons
delivered in the synagogue—the ordinary routine of Jewish ritual: his
appearance as a public teacher and his ultimate conviction that he was
the Messiah were a natural enlargement of his sphere, not a change of
method: the temptation, though it offers analogies to Gotama's mental
struggle and particularly to the legends about Mâra, was not an internal
revolution in which old beliefs were seen to be false and new knowledge
arose from their ashes. So far as we know, his inner life was continuous
and undisturbed, and its final expression is emotional rather than
intellectual. He gives no explanations and leaves no feeling that they
are necessary. He is free in his use of metaphor and chary of
definition. The teaching of the Buddha on the other hand is essentially
intellectual. The nature and tastes of his audience were a sufficient
justification for his style, but it indicates a temper far removed from
the unquestioning and childlike faith of Christ. We can hardly conceive
him using such a phrase as Our Father, but we may be sure that if he had
done so he would have explained why and how and to what extent such
words can be properly used of the Deity.

The most sceptical critics of the miracles recorded in the Gospels can
hardly doubt that Christ possessed some special power of calming and
healing nervous maladies and perhaps others. Sick people naturally
turned to him: they were brought to him when he arrived in a town.
Though the Buddha was occasionally kind to the sick, no such picture is
drawn of the company about him and persons afflicted with certain
diseases could not enter the order. When the merchant Anâthapiṇḍika is
seriously ill, he sends a messenger with instructions to inform the
Buddha and Sâriputta of his illness and to add in speaking to Sâriputta
that he begs him to visit him out of compassion[397]. He does not
presume to address the same request to the Buddha. Christ teaches that
the world is evil or, perhaps we should say, spoiled, but wishes to
remove the evil and found the Kingdom of Heaven: the Buddha teaches that
birth, sickness and death are necessary conditions of existence and that
disease, which like everything else has its origin in Karma, can be
destroyed only when the cause is destroyed[398]. Nor do we find ascribed
to him that love of children and tenderness towards the weak and erring
which are beautiful features in the portrait of Christ[399]. He had no
prejudices: he turned robust villains like Angulimâla, the brigand, into
saints and dined with prostitutes but one cannot associate him with
simple friendly intercourse. When he accepted invitations he did not so
much join in the life of the family which he visited as convert the
entertainment offered to him into an edifying religious service. Yet in
propaganda and controversy he was gracious and humane beyond the measure
of all other teachers. He did not call the priests of his time a
generation of vipers, though he laughed at their ceremonies and their
pretensions to superior birth.

Though the Buddha passed through intellectual crises such as the
biographies of Christ do not hint at, yet in other matters it is he
rather than Christ who offers a picture and example of peace. Christ
enjoyed with a little band of friends an intimacy which the Hindu gave
to none, but from the very commencement of his mission he is at enmity
with what he calls the world. The world is evil and a great event is
coming of double import, for it will bring disaster on the wicked as
well as happiness for the good. "Repent ye, for the Kingdom of Heaven is
at hand." He is angry with the world because it will not hear him. He
declares that it hates him and the gospel according to St John even
makes him say, "I pray not for the world, but for them which thou hast
given me[400]." The little towns of Galilee are worse in his eyes than
the wicked cities of antiquity because they are not impressed by his
miracles and Jerusalem which has slighted all the prophets and finally
himself is to receive signal punishment. The shadow of impending death
fell over the last period of his ministry and he felt that he was to be
offered as a sacrifice. The Jews even seem to have thought at one time
that he was unreasonably alarmed[401].

But the Buddha was not angry with the world. He thought of it as
unsatisfactory and transitory rather than wicked, as ignorant rather
than rebellious. He troubled little about people who would not listen.
The calm and confidence which so many narratives attribute to him rarely
failed to meet with the respect which they anticipated. In his life
there is no idea of sacrifice, no element of the tragic, no nervous
irritability. When Devadatta meditated his assassination, he is
represented as telling his disciples that they need not be uneasy
because it was physically impossible to kill a Buddha. The saying is
perhaps not historical but it illustrates Indian sentiment. In his
previous existences, when preparing for Buddhahood, he had frequently
given his life for others, not because it was any particular good to
them but in order to perfect his character for his own great career and
bring about the selflessness which is essential to a Buddha. When once
he had attained enlightenment any idea of sacrifice, such as the
shepherd laying down his life for the sheep, had no meaning. It would be
simply the destruction of the more valuable for the less valuable. Even
the modern developments of Buddhism which represent the Buddha Amida as
a saviour do not contain the idea that he gives up his life for his

Gotama instituted a religious order and lived long enough to see it grow
out of infancy, but its organization was gradual and for a year or two
it was simply a band of disciples not more bound by rules than the
seventy whom Christ sent forth to preach. Would Christ, had he lived
longer, have created something analogous to the Buddhist _sangha_, a
community not conflicting with national and social institutions but
independent of them? The question is vain and to Europeans Christ's
sketch of the Christian life will appear more satisfactory than the
finished portrait of the Bhikkhu. But though his maxims are the perfect
expression of courtesy and good feeling with an occasional spice of
paradox, such as the command to love one's enemies, yet the experience
of nearly twenty centuries has shown that this morality is not for the
citizens of the world. The churches which give themselves his name
preach with rare exceptions that soldiering, financing and the business
of government—things about which he cared as little as do the birds and
the lilies of the field—are the proper concern of Christian men and one
wonders whether he would not, had his life been prolonged, have seen
that many of his precepts, such as turning the other cheek and not
resisting evil, are incompatible with ordinary institutions and have
followed the example of the great Indian by founding a society in which
they could be kept. The monastic orders of the Roman and Eastern
Churches show that such a need was felt.

There are many resemblances between the Gospels and the teaching of the
Buddha but the bases of the two doctrines are different and, if the
results are sometimes similar, this shows that the same destination can
be reached by more than one road. It is perhaps the privilege of genius
to see the goal by intuition: the road and the vehicle are subsidiary
and may be varied to suit the minds of different nations. Christ, being
a Jew, took for his basis a refined form of the old Jewish theism. He
purged Jehovah of his jealousy and prejudices and made him a spirit of
pure benevolence who behaves to men as a loving father and bids them
behave to one another as loving brethren. Such ideas lie outside the
sphere of Gotama's thought and he would probably have asked why on this
hypothesis there is any evil in the world. That is a question which the
Gospels are chary of discussing but they seem to indicate that the
disobedience and sinfulness of mankind are the root of evil. A godly
world would be a happy world. But the Buddha would have said that though
the world would be very much happier if all its inhabitants were moral
and religious, yet the evils inherent in individual existence would
still remain; it would still be impermanent and unsatisfactory.

Yet the Buddha and Christ are alike in points which are of considerable
human interest, though they are not those emphasized by the Churches.
Neither appears to have had much taste for theology or metaphysics.
Christ ignored them: the Buddha said categorically that such
speculations are vain. Indeed it is probably a general law in religions
that the theological phase does not begin until the second generation,
when the successors of the founder try to interpret and harmonize his
words. He himself sees clearly and says plainly what mankind ought to
do. Neither the Buddha, nor Christ, nor Mohammed cared for much beyond
this, and such of their sayings as have reference to the whence, the
whither and the why of the universe are obscure precisely because these
questions do not fall within the field of religious genius and receive
no illumination from its light. Argumentative as the Buddhist suttas
are, their aim is strictly practical, even when their language appears
scholastic, and the burden of all their ratiocination is the same and
very simple. Men are unhappy because of their foolish desires: to become
happy they must make themselves a new heart and will and, perhaps the
Buddha would have added, new eyes.

Neither the Buddha nor Christ thought it worth while to write anything
and both of them ignored ceremonial and sacerdotal codes in a way which
must have astounded their contemporaries. The law-books and sacrifices
to which Brahmans and Pharisees devoted time and study are simply left
on one side. The former are replaced by injunctions to cultivate a good
habit of mind, such as is exemplified in the Eightfold Path and the
Beatitudes, the latter by some observances of extreme simplicity, such
as the Pâtimokkha and the Lord's Prayer. In both cases subsequent
generations felt that the provision made by the Founders was inadequate
and the Buddhist and Christian Churches have multiplied ceremonies
which, though not altogether unedifying, would certainly have astonished
Gotama and Christ.

For Christ the greatest commandments were that a man should love God and
his neighbours. This summary is not in the manner of Gotama and though
love (mettâ) has an important place in his teaching, it is rather an
inseparable adjunct of a holy life than the force which creates and
animates it. In other words the Buddha teaches that a saint must love
his fellow men rather than that he who loves his fellow men is a saint.
But the passages extolling _mettâ_ are numerous and striking, and
European writers have, I think, shown too great a disposition to
maintain that _mettâ_ is something less than Christian love and little
more than benevolent equanimity. The love of the New Testament is not
eros but agape, a new word first used by Jewish and Christian writers
and nearly the exact equivalent of _mettâ_. For both words love is
rather too strong a rendering and charity too weak. Nor is it just to
say that the Buddha as compared with Christ preaches inaction. The
Christian nations of Europe are more inclined to action than the
Buddhist nations of Asia, yet the Beatitudes do not indicate that the
strenuous life is the road to happiness. Those declared blessed are the
poor, the mourners, the meek, the hungry, the pure and the persecuted.
Such men have just the virtues of the patient Bhikkhu and like Christ
the Buddha praised the merciful and the peacemakers. And similarly
Christ's phrase about rendering unto Cæsar the things that are Caesar's
seems to dissociate his true followers (like the Bhikkhus) from
political life. Money and taxes are the affair of those who put their
heads on coins; God and the things which concern him have quite another




When the Buddha preached his first sermon[402] to the five monks at
Benares the topics he selected were the following. First comes an
introduction about avoiding extremes of either self-indulgence or
self-mortification. This was specially appropriate to his hearers who
were ascetics and disposed to over-rate the value of austerities. Next
he defines the middle way or eightfold path. Then he enunciates the four
truths of the nature of suffering, its origin, its cessation, and the
method of bringing about that cessation. This method is no other than
the eightfold path. Then his hearers understood that whatever has a
beginning must have an end. This knowledge is described as the pure and
spotless Eye of Truth. The Buddha then formally admitted them as the
first members of the Sangha. He then explained to them that there is no
such thing as self. We are not told that they received any further
instruction before they were sent forth to be teachers and missionaries:
they were, it would seem, sufficiently equipped. When the Buddha
instructs his sixth convert, Yasa, the introduction is slightly
different, doubtless because he was a layman. It treats of "almsgiving,
of moral duties, of heaven, of the evil, vanity and sinfulness of
desires, of the blessings which come from abandoning desires." Then when
his catechumen's mind was prepared, he preached to him "the chief
doctrine of the Buddhas, namely suffering, its cause, its cessation and
the Path." And when Yasa understood this he obtained the Eye of Truth.

It is clear, therefore, that the Buddha regarded practice as the
foundation of his system. He wished to create a temper and a habit of
life. Mere acquiescence in dogma, such as a Christian creed, is not
sufficient as a basis of religion and test of membership. It is only in
the second stage that he enunciates the four great theorems of his
system (of which one, the Path, is a matter of practice rather than
doctrine) and only later still that he expounds conceptions which are
logically fundamental, such as his view of personality. "Just as the
great ocean has only one taste, the taste of salt, so has this doctrine
and discipline only one taste, the taste of emancipation[403]." This
practical aim has affected the form given to much of the Buddha's
teaching, for instance the theory of the Skandhas and the chain of
causation. When examined at leisure by a student of to-day, the dogmas
seem formulated with imperfect logic and the results trite and obvious.
But such doctrines as that evil must have a cause which can be
discovered and removed by natural methods: that a bad unhappy mind can
be turned into a good, happy mind by suppressing evil thoughts and
cultivating good thoughts, are not commonplaces even now, if they
receive a practical application, and in 500 B.C. they were not
commonplaces in any sense.

And yet no one can read Buddhist books or associate with Buddhist monks
without feeling that the intellectual element is preponderant, not the
emotional. The ultimate cause of suffering is ignorance. The Buddha has
won the truth by understanding the universe. Conversion is usually
described by some such phrase as acquiring the Eye of Truth, rather than
by words expressing belief or devotion. The major part of the ideal
life, set forth in a recurring passage of the Dîgha Nikâya, consists in
the creation of intellectual states, and though the Buddha disavowed all
speculative philosophy his discourses are full, if not of metaphysics,
at least of psychology. And this knowledge is essential. It is not
sufficient to affirm one's belief in it; it must be assimilated and
taken into the life of every true Buddhist. All cannot do this: most of
the unconverted are blinded by lust and passion, but some are
incapacitated by want of mental power. They must practise virtue and in
a happier birth their minds will be enlarged.

The reader who has perused the previous chapters will have some idea of
the tone and subject matter of the Buddha's preaching. We will now
examine his doctrine as a system and will begin with the theory of
existence, premising that it disclaims all idea of doing more than
analyze our experience. With speculations or assertions as to the
origin, significance and purpose of the Universe, the Buddha has nothing
to do. Such questions do not affect his scheme of salvation. What
views—if any—he may have held or implied about them we shall gather as
we go on. But it is dangerous to formulate what he did not formulate
himself, and not always easy to understand what he did formulate. For
his words, though often plain and striking, are, like the utterances of
other great teachers, apt to provoke discordant explanations. They meet
our thoughts half way, but no interpretation exhausts their meaning.
When we read into them the ideas of modern philosophy and combine them
into a system logical and plausible after the standard of this age, we
often feel that the result is an anachronism: but if we treat them as
ancient simple discourses by one who wished to make men live an austere
and moral life, we still find that there are uncomfortably profound
sayings which will not harmonize with this theory.

The Buddha's aversion to speculation did not prevent him from insisting
on the importance of a correct knowledge of our mental constitution, the
chain of causation and other abstruse matters; nor does it really take
the form of neglecting metaphysics: rather of defining them in a manner
so authoritative as to imply a reserve of unimparted knowledge. Again
and again questions about the fundamental mysteries of existence are put
to him and he will not give an answer. It would not conduce to
knowledge, peace, or freedom from passion, we are told, and, therefore,
the Lord has not declared it. _Therefore_: not, it would seem, because
he did not know, but because the discussion was not profitable. And the
modern investigator, who is not so submissive as the Buddha's disciples,
asks why not? Can it be that the teacher knew of things transcendental
not to be formulated in words? Once[404] he compared the truths he had
taught his disciples to a bunch of leaves which he held in his hand and
the other truths which he knew but had not taught to the leaves of the
whole forest in which they were walking. And the story of the blind men
and the elephant[405] seems to hint that Buddhas, those rare beings who
are not blind, can see the constitution of the universe. May we then in
chance phrases get a glimpse of ideas which he would not develop? It may
be so, but the quest is temerarious. "What I have revealed[406] hold as
revealed, and what I have not revealed, hold as not revealed." The
gracious but authoritative figure of the Master gives no further reply
when we endeavour to restate his teaching in some completer form which
admits of comparison with the ancient and modern philosophies of Europe.

The best introduction to his theory of existence is perhaps the
instruction given to the five monks after his first sermon. The
body[407] is not the self, he says, for if it were, it would not be
subject to disease and we should be able to say, let my body be or not
be such and such. As the denial of the existence of the self or ego
(Attâ in Pali, Âtman in Sanskrit) is one of the fundamental and original
tenets of Gotama, we must remember that this self whose existence is
denied is something not subject to decay, and possessing perfect free
will with power to exercise it. The Brahmanic Âtman is such a self but
it is found nowhere in the world of our experience[408]. For the body or
form is not the self, neither is sensation or feeling (_vedanâ_) for
they are not free and eternal. Neither is perception (_saññâ_)[409] the
self. Neither, the Buddha goes on to say, are the _Sankhâras_ the self,
and for the same reason.

Here we find ourselves sailing on the high seas of dogmatic terminology
and must investigate the meaning of this important and untranslateable
word. It is equivalent to the Sanskrit _saṃskâra_, which is akin to the
word Sanskrit itself, and means compounding, making anything artificial
and elaborate. It may be literally translated as synthesis or
confection, and is often used in the general sense of phenomena since
all phenomena are compound[410]. Occasionally[411] we hear of three
Sankhâras, body or deed, word and thought. But in later literature the
Sankhâras become a category with fifty-two divisions and these are
mostly mental or at least subjective states. The list opens with contact
(phasso) and then follow sensation, perception, thought, reflection,
memory and a series of dispositions or states such as attention, effort,
joy, torpor, stupidity, fear, doubt, lightness of body or mind, pity,
envy, worry, pride. As European thought does not class all these items
under one heading or, in other words, has no idea equivalent to
Sankhâra, it is not surprising that no adequate rendering has been
found, especially as Buddhism regards everything as mere becoming, not
fixed existence, and hence does not distinguish sharply between a
process and a result—between the act of preparing and a preparation.
Conformations, confections, syntheses, co-efficients, tendencies,
potentialities have all been used as equivalents but I propose to use
the Pali word as a rule. In some passages the word phenomena is an
adequate literary equivalent, if it is remembered that phenomena are not
thought of apart from a perceiving subject: in others some word like
predispositions or tendencies is a more luminous rendering, because the
Sankhâras are the potentialities for good and evil action existing in
the mind as a result of Karma[412].

The Buddha has now enumerated four categories which are not the self.
The fifth and last is Viññâṇa, frequently rendered by consciousness. But
this word is unsuitable in so far as it suggests in English some unified
and continuous mental state. Viññâṇa sometimes corresponds to thought
and sometimes is hardly distinguished from perception, for it means
awareness[413] of what is pleasant or painful, sweet or sour and so on.
But the Pitakas continually insist[414] that it is not a unity and that
its varieties come into being only when they receive proper nourishment
or, as we should say, an adequate stimulus. Thus visual consciousness
depends on the sight and on visible objects, auditory consciousness on
the hearing and on sounds. Viññâṇa is divided into eighty-nine classes
according as it is good, bad or indifferent, but none of these classes,
nor all of them together, can be called the self.

These five groups—body, feeling, perception, the sankhâras, thought—are
generally known as the Skandhas[415] signifying in Sanskrit collections
or aggregates. The classification adopted is not completely logical, for
feeling and perception are both included in the Sankhâras and also
counted separately. But the object of the Buddha was not so much to
analyze the physical and mental constitution of a human being as to show
that this constitution contains no element which can be justly called
self or soul. For this reason all possible states of mind are
catalogued, sometimes under more than one head. They are none of them
the self and no self, ego, or soul in the sense defined above is
discernible, only aggregates of states and properties which come
together and fall apart again. When we investigate ourselves we find
nothing but psychical states: we do not find a psyche. The mind is even
less permanent than the body[416], for the body may last a hundred years
or so "but that which is called mind, thought or consciousness, day and
night keeps perishing as one thing and springing up as another." So in
the Saṃyutta-Nikâya, Mara the Tempter asks the nun Vajirâ by whom this
being, that is the human body, is made. Her answer is "Here is a mere
heap of _sankhâras_: there is no 'being.' As when various parts are
united, the word 'chariot[417]' is used (to describe the whole), so when
the _skandhas_ are present, the word 'being' is commonly used. But it is
suffering only that comes into existence and passes away." And

 "Misery only doth exist, none miserable;
  No doer is there, naught but the deed is found;
  Nirvana is, but not the man that seeks it;
  The path exists but not the traveller on it."

Thus the Buddha and his disciples rejected such ideas as soul, being and
personality. But their language does not always conform to this ideal of
negative precision, for the vocabulary of Pali (and still more of
English) is inadequate for the task of discussing what form conduct and
belief should take unless such words are used. Also the Attâ (Âtman),
which the Buddha denies, means more than is implied by our words self
and personality. The word commonly used to signify an individual is
puggalo. Thus in one sutta[419] the Buddha preaches of the burden, the
bearer of the burden, taking it up and laying it down. The burden is the
five skandhas and the bearer is the individual or puggalo. This, if
pressed, implies that there is a personality apart from the skandhas
which has to bear them. But probably it should not be pressed and we
should regard the utterance as merely a popular sermon using language
which is, strictly speaking, metaphorical.


The doctrine of Anattâ—the doctrine that there is no such thing as a
soul or self—is justly emphasized as a most important part of the
Buddha's teaching and Buddhist ethics might be summarized as the
selfless life. Yet there is a danger that Europeans may exaggerate and
misunderstand the doctrine by taking it as equivalent to a denial of the
soul's immortality or of free will or to an affirmation that mind is a
function of the body. The universality of the proposition really
diminishes its apparent violence and nihilism. To say that some beings
have a soul and others have not is a formidable proposition, but to say
that absolutely no existing person or thing contains anything which can
be called a self or soul is less revolutionary than it sounds. It
clearly does not deny that men exist for decades and mountains for
millenniums: neither does it deny that before birth or after death there
may be other existences similar to human life. It merely states that in
all the world, organic and inorganic, there is nothing which is simple,
self-existent, self-determined, and permanent: everything is compound,
relative and transitory. The obvious fact that infancy, youth and age
form a series is not denied: the series may be called a personality and
death need not end it. The error to be avoided is the doctrine of the
Brahmans that through this series there runs a changeless self, which
assumes new phases like one who puts on new garments.

The co-ordination and apparent unity observable in our mental
constitution is due to _mano_ which is commonly translated mind but is
really for Buddhism, as for the Upanishads, a _sensus communis_. Whereas
the five senses have different spheres or fields which are independent
and do not overlap, _mano_ has a share in all these spheres. It receives
and cognizes all sense impressions.

The philosophy of early Buddhism deals with psychology rather than with
metaphysics. It holds it profitable to analyze and discuss man's mental
constitution, because such knowledge leads to the destruction of false
ideals and the pursuit of peace and insight. Enquiry into the origin and
nature of the external world is not equally profitable: in fact it is a
vain intellectual pastime. Still in treating of such matters as
sensation, perception and consciousness, it is impossible to ignore the
question of external objects or to avoid propounding, at least by
implication, some theory about them. In this connection we often come
upon the important word Dhamma (Sanskrit, Dharma). It means a law, and
more especially the law of the Buddha, or, in a wider sense, justice,
righteousness or religion[420]. But outside the moral and religious
sphere it is commonly used in the plural as equivalent to phenomena,
considered as involving states of consciousness. The Dhamma-sangaṇi[421]
divides phenomena into those which exist for the subject and those which
exist for other individuals and ignores the possibility of things
existing apart from a knowing subject. This hints at idealism and other
statements seem more precise. Thus the Saṃyutta-Nikâya declares:
"Verily, within this mortal body, some six feet high, but conscious and
endowed with mind, is the world, and its origin, and its passing
away[422]." And similarly[423] the problem is posed, "Where do the four
elements pass away and leave no trace behind." Neither gods nor men can
answer it, and when it is referred to the Buddha, his decision is that
the question is wrongly put and therefore admits of no solution.
"Instead of asking where the four elements pass away without trace, you
should have asked:

  Where do earth, water, fire and wind,
  And long and short and fine and coarse,
  Pure and impure no footing find?
  Where is it that both name and form[424]
  Die out and leave no trace behind?"

To that the answer is: In the mind of the Saint.

Yet it is certain that such passages should not be interpreted as
equivalent to the later Yogâcâra doctrine that only thought really
exists or to any form of the doctrine that the world is Mâyâ or
illusion. The Pitakas leave no doubt on this point, for they elaborate
with clearness and consistency the theory that sensation and
consciousness depend on contact, that is contact between sense organs
and sense objects. "Man is conceived as a compound of instruments,
receptive and reacting[425]" and the Saṃyutta-Nikâya puts into the
Buddha's mouth the following dogmatic statement[426]. "Consciousness
arises because of duality. What is that duality? Visual[427]
consciousness arises because of sight and because of visible objects.
Sight is transitory and mutable: it is its very nature to change.
Visible objects are the same. So this duality is both in movement and

The question of the reality of the external world did not present itself
to the early Buddhists. Had it been posed we may surmise that the Buddha
would have replied, as in similar cases, that the question was not
properly put. He would not, we may imagine, have admitted that the human
mind has the creative power which idealism postulates, for such power
seems to imply the existence of something like a self or âtman. But
still though the Pitakas emphasize the empirical duality of sense-organs
and sense-objects, they also supply a basis for the doctrines of
Nâgârjuna and Asanga, which like much late Buddhist metaphysics insist
on using logic in regions where the master would not use it. When it is
said that the genesis of the world and its passing away are within this
mortal frame, the meaning probably is that the world as we experience it
with its pains and pleasures depends on the senses and that with the
modification or cessation of the senses it is changed or comes to an
end. In other words (for this doctrine like most of the Buddha's
doctrines is at bottom ethical rather than metaphysical) the saint can
make or unmake his own world and triumph over pain. But the theory of
sensation may be treated not ethically but metaphysically. Sensation
implies a duality and on the one side the Buddha's teaching argues that
there is no permanent sentient self but merely different kinds of
consciousness arising in response to different stimuli. It is admitted
too that visible objects are changing and transitory like sight itself
and thus there is no reason to regard the external world, which is one
half of the duality, as more permanent, self-existent and continuous
than the other half. When we apply to it the destructive analysis which
the Buddha applied only to mental states, we easily arrive at the
nihilism or idealism of the later Buddhists. Of this I will treat later.
For the present we have only to note that early Buddhism holds that
sensation depends on contact, that is on a duality. It does not
investigate the external part of this duality and it is clear that such
investigation leads to the very speculations which the Buddha declared
to be unprofitable, such as arguments about the eternity and infinity of
the universe.

The doctrine of Anattâ is counterbalanced by the doctrine of causation.
Without this latter the Buddha might seem to teach that life is a chaos
of shadows. But on the contrary he teaches the universality of law, in
this life and in all lives. For Hindus of most schools of thought,
metempsychosis means the doctrine that the immortal soul passes from one
bodily tenement to another, and is reborn again and again: karma is the
law which determines the occurrence and the character of these births.
In Buddhism, though the Pitakas speak continually of rebirth,
metempsychosis is an incorrect expression since there is no soul to
transmigrate and there is strictly speaking nothing but karma. This
word, signifying literally action or act, is the name of the force which
finds expression in the fact that every event is the result of causes
and also is itself a cause which produces effects; further in the fact
(for Indians regard it as one) that when a life, whether of a god, man
or lower creature, comes to an end, the sum of its actions (which is in
many connections equivalent to personal character) takes effect as a
whole and determines the character of another aggregation of skandhas—in
popular language, another being—representing the net result of the life
which has come to an end. Karma is also used in the more concrete sense
of the merit or demerit acquired by various acts. Thus we hear of karma
which manifests itself in this life, and of karma which only manifests
itself in another. No explanation whatever is given of the origin of
karma, of its reason, method or aims and it would not be consistent with
the principles of the Buddha to give such an explanation. Indeed, though
it is justifiable to speak of karma as a force which calls into being
the world as we know it, such a phrase goes beyond the habitual language
of early Buddhism which merely states that everything has a cause and
that every one's nature and circumstances are the result of previous
actions in this or other existences. Karma is not so much invoked as a
metaphysical explanation of the universe as accorded the consideration
which it merits as an ultimate moral fact.

It has often been pointed out that the Buddha did not originate or even
first popularize the ideas of reincarnation and karma: they are Indian,
not specifically Buddhist. In fact, of all Indian systems of thought,
Buddhism is the one which has the greatest difficulty in expressing
these ideas in intelligible and consistent language, because it denies
the existence of the ego. Some writers have gone so far as to suggest
that the whole doctrine formed no part of the Buddha's original teaching
and was an accretion, or at most a concession of the master to the
beliefs of his time. But I cannot think this view is correct. The idea
is woven into the texture of the Buddha's discourses. When in words
which have as strong a claim as any in the Pitakas to be regarded as old
and genuine he describes the stages by which he acquired enlightenment
and promises the same experiences to those who observe his
discipline[428], he says that he first followed the thread of his own
previous existences through past æons, plumbing the unfathomed depths of
time: next, the whole of existence was spread out before him, like a
view-seen from above, and he saw beings passing away from one body and
taking shape in another, according to their deeds. Only when he
understood both the perpetual transformation of the universe and also
the line and sequence in which that transformation occurs, only then did
he see the four truths as they really are.

It is unfortunate for us that the doctrine of reincarnation met with
almost universal assent in India[429]. If some one were to found a new
Christian sect, he would probably not be asked to prove the immortality
of the soul: it is assumed as part of the common religious belief.
Similarly, no one asked the Buddha to prove the doctrine of rebirth. If
we permit our fancy to picture an interview between him and someone
holding the ordinary ideas of an educated European about the soul, we
may imagine that he would have some difficulty in understanding what is
the alternative to rebirth. His interlocutor might reply that there are
two types of theory among Europeans. Some think that the soul comes into
existence with the body at birth but continues to exist everlasting and
immortal after the death of the body. Others, commonly called
materialists, while agreeing that the soul comes into existence with the
birth of the body, hold that it ceases to exist with the death of the
body. To the first theory the Buddha would probably have replied that
there is one law without exception, namely that whatever has a beginning
has also an end. The whole universe offers no analogy or parallel to the
soul which has a beginning but no end, and not the smallest logical need
is shown for believing a doctrine so contrary to the nature of things.
And as for materialism he would probably say that it is a statement of
the processes of the world as perceived but no explanation of the mental
or even of the physical world. The materialists forget that objects as
known cannot be isolated from the knowing subject. Sensation implies
contact and duality but it is no real explanation to say that mental
phenomena are caused by physical phenomena. The Buddha reckoned among
vain speculations not only such problems as the eternity and infinity of
the world but also the question, Is the principle of life (Jîva)
identical with the body or not identical. That question, he said, is not
properly put, which is tantamount to condemning as inadequate all
theories which derive life and thought from purely material
antecedents[430]. Other ideas of modern Europe, such as that the body is
an instrument on which the soul works, or the expression of the soul,
seem to imply, or at least to be compatible with, the pre-existence of
the soul.

It is probable too that the Buddha would have said, and a modern
Buddhist would certainly say, that the fact of rebirth can easily be
proved by testimony and experience, because those who will make the
effort can recall their previous births. For his hearers the difficulty
must have been not to explain why they believed in rebirth but to
harmonize the belief with the rest of the master's system, for what is
reborn and how? We detect a tendency to say that it is Viññâṇa, or
consciousness, and the expression paṭisandhiviññâṇam or
rebirth-consciousness occurs[431]. The question is treated in an
important dialogue in the Majjhima-Nikâya[432], where a monk called Sâti
maintains that, according to the Buddha's teaching, consciousness
transmigrates unchanged. The Buddha summoned Sâti and rebuked his error
in language of unusual severity, for it was evidently capital and fatal
if persisted in. The Buddha does not state what transmigrates, as the
European reader would wish him to do, and would no doubt have replied to
that question that it is improperly framed and does not admit of an

His argument is directed not so much against the idea that consciousness
in one existence can have some connection with consciousness in the
next, as against the idea that this consciousness is a unity and
permanent. He maintains that it is a complex process due to many causes,
each producing its own effect. Yet the Pitakas seem to admit that the
processes which constitute consciousness in one life, can also produce
their effect in another life, for the character of future lives may be
determined by the wishes which we form in this life. Existence is really
a succession of states of consciousness following one another
irrespective of bodies. If _ABC_ and _abc_ are two successive lives,
_ABC_ is not more of a reality or unity than _BCa_. No personality
passes over at death from _ABC_ to _abc_ but then _ABC_ is itself not a
unity: it is merely a continuous process of change[433].

The discourse seems to say that taṇhâ, the thirst for life, is the
connecting link between different births, but it does not use this
expression. In one part of his address the Buddha exhorts his disciples
not to enquire what they were or what they will be or what is the nature
of their present existence, but rather to master and think out for
themselves the universal law of causation, that every state has a cause
for coming into being and a cause for passing away. No doubt his main
object is as usual practical, to incite to self-control rather than to
speculation. But may he not also have been under the influence of the
idea that time is merely a form of human thought? For the ordinary mind
which cannot conceive of events except as following one another in time,
the succession of births is as true as everything else. The higher kinds
of knowledge, such as are repeatedly indicated in the Buddha's
discourse, though they are not described because language is incapable
of describing them, may not be bound in this way by the idea of time and
may see that the essential truth is not so much a series of births in
which something persists and passes from existence to existence, as the
timeless fact that life depends upon taṇhâ, the desire for life. Death,
that is the breaking up of such constituents of human life as the body,
states of consciousness, etc., does not affect taṇhâ. If taṇhâ has not
been deliberately suppressed, it collects skandhas again. The result is
called a new individual. But the essential truth is the persistence of
the taṇhâ until it is destroyed.

Still there is no doubt that the earliest Buddhist texts and the
discourse ascribed to the Buddha himself speak, when using ordinary
untechnical language, of rebirth and of a man dying and being born[434]
in such and such a state. Only we must not suppose that the man's self
is continued or transferred in this operation. There is no entity that
can be called soul and strictly speaking no entity that can be called
body, only a variable aggregation of skandhas, constantly changing. At
death this collocation disperses but a new one reassembles under the
influence of taṇhâ, the desire of life, and by the law of karma which
prescribes that every act must have its result. The illustration that
comes most naturally is that of water. Waves pass across the surface of
the sea and successive waves are not the same, nor is what we call the
same wave really the same at two different points in its progress, and
yet one wave causes another wave and transmits its form and movement. So
are beings travelling through the world (saṃsâra) not the same at any
two points in a single life and still less the same in two consecutive
lives: yet it is the impetus and form of the previous lives, the desire
that urges them and the form that it takes, which determine the
character of the succeeding lives.

But Buddhist writers more commonly illustrate rebirth by fire than by
water and this simile is used with others in the Questions of Milinda.
We cannot assume that this book reflects the views of the Buddha or his
immediate followers, but it is the work of an Indian in touch with good
tradition who lived a few centuries later and expressed his opinions
with lucidity. It denies the existence of transmigration and of the soul
and then proceeds to illustrate by metaphors and analogies how two
successive lives can be the same and yet not the same. For instance,
suppose a man carelessly allows his lamp to set his thatch on fire with
the result that a whole village is burnt down. He is held responsible
for the loss but when brought before the judge argues that the flame of
his lamp was not the same as the flame that burnt down the village. Will
such a plea be allowed? Certainly not. Or to take another metaphor.
Suppose a man were to choose a young girl in marriage and after making a
contract with her parents were to go away, waiting for her to grow up.
Meanwhile another man comes and marries her. If the two men appeal to
the King and the later suitor says to the earlier, The little child whom
you chose and paid for is one and the full grown girl whom I paid for
and married is another, no one would listen to his argument, for clearly
the young woman has grown out of the girl and in ordinary language they
are the same person. Or again suppose that one man left a jar of milk
with another and the milk turned to curds. Would it be reasonable for
the first man to accuse the second of theft because the milk has

The caterpillar and butterfly might supply another illustration. It is
unfortunate that the higher intelligences offer no example of such
metamorphosis in which consciousness is apparently interrupted between
the two stages. Would an intelligent caterpillar take an interest in his
future welfare as a butterfly and stigmatize as vices indulgences
pleasant to his caterpillar senses and harmful only to the coming
butterfly, between whom and the caterpillar there is perhaps no
continuity of consciousness? We can imagine how strongly butterflies
would insist that the foundation of morality is that caterpillars should
realize that the butterflies' interests and their own are the same.


When the Buddha contemplated the saṃsâra, the world of change and
transmigration in which there is nothing permanent, nothing satisfying,
nothing that can be called a self, he formulated his chief conclusions,
theoretical and practical, in four propositions known as the four
noble[435] truths, concerning suffering, the cause of suffering, the
extinction of suffering, and the path to the extinction of
suffering[436]. These truths are always represented as the essential and
indispensable part of Buddhism. Without them, says the Buddha more than
once, there can be no emancipation, and agreeably to this we find them
represented as having formed part of the teaching of previous
Buddhas[437] and consequently as being rediscovered rather than invented
by Gotama. He even compares himself to one who has found in the jungle
the site of an ancient city and caused it to be restored. It would
therefore not be surprising if they were found in pre-Buddhist writings,
and it has been pointed out that they are practically identical with the
four divisions of the Hindu science of medicine: roga, disease;
rogahetu, the cause of disease; arogya, absence of disease; bhaisajya,
medicine. A similar parallel between the language of medicine and moral
science can be found in the Yoga philosophy, and if the fourfold
division of medicine can be shown to be anterior to Buddhism[438], it
may well have suggested the mould in which the four truths were cast.
The comparison of life and passion to disease is frequent in Buddhist
writings and the Buddha is sometimes hailed as the King of Physicians.
It is a just compendium of his doctrine—so far as an illustration can be
a compendium—to say that human life is like a diseased body which
requires to be cured by a proper regimen. But the Buddha's claim to
originality is not thereby affected, for it rests upon just this, that
he was able to regard life and religion in this spirit and to put aside
the systems of ritual, speculation and self-mortification which were
being preached all round him.

The first truth is that existence involves suffering. It receives
emotional expression in a discourse in the Saṃyutta-Nikâya[439]. "The
world of transmigration, my disciples, has its beginning in eternity. No
origin can be perceived, from which beings start, and hampered by
ignorance, fettered by craving, stray and wander. Which think you are
more—the tears which you have shed as you strayed and wandered on this
long journey, grieving and weeping because you were bound to what you
hated and separated from what you loved—which are more, these tears, or
the waters in the four oceans? A mother's death, a son's death, a
daughter's death, loss of kinsmen, loss of property, sickness, all these
have you endured through long ages—and while you felt these losses and
strayed and wandered on this long journey, grieving and weeping because
you were bound to what you hated and separated from what you loved, the
tears that you shed are more than the water in the four oceans."

It is remarkable that such statements aroused no contradiction. The
Buddha was not an isolated and discontented philosopher, like
Schopenhauer in his hotel, but the leader of an exceptionally successful
religious movement in touch and sympathy with popular ideas. On many
points his assertions called forth discussion and contradiction but when
he said that all existence involves suffering no one disputed the
dictum: no one talked of the pleasures of life or used those arguments
which come so copiously to the healthy-minded modern essayist when he
devotes a page or two to disproving pessimism[440]. On this point the
views and temperament of the Buddha were clearly those of educated
India. The existence of this conviction and temperament in a large body
of intellectual men is as important as the belief in the value of life
and the love of activity for its own sake which is common among
Europeans. Both tempers must be taken into account by every theory which
is not merely personal but endeavours to ascertain what the human race
think and feel about existence.

The sombre and meditative cast of Indian thought is not due to physical
degeneration or a depressing climate. Many authors speak as if the
Hindus lived in a damp relaxing heat in which physical and moral stamina
alike decay. I myself think that as to climate India is preferable to
Europe, and without arguing about what must be largely a question of
personal taste, one may point to the long record of physical and
intellectual labour performed even by Europeans in India. Neither can it
be maintained that in practice Buddhism destroys the joy and vigour of
life. The Burmese are among the most cheerful people in the world and
the Japanese among the most vigorous, and the latter are at least as
much Buddhists as Europeans are Christians. It might be plausibly
maintained that Europeans' love of activity is mainly due to the
intolerable climate and uncomfortable institutions of their continent,
which involve a continual struggle with the weather and continual
discussion forbidding any calm and comprehensive view of things. The
Indian being less troubled by these evils is able to judge what is the
value of life in itself, as an experience for the individual, not as
part of a universal struggle, which is the common view of seriously
minded Europeans, though as to this struggle they have but hazy ideas of
the antagonists, the cause and the result.

The Buddhist doctrine does not mean that life is something trifling and
unimportant, to be lived anyhow. On the contrary, birth as a human being
is an opportunity of inestimable value. He who is so born has at least a
chance of hearing the truth and acquiring merit. "Hard is it to be born
as a man, hard to come to hear the true law" and when the chance comes,
the good fortune of the being who has attained to human form and the
critical issues which depend on his using it rightly are dwelt on with
an earnestness not surpassed in Christian homiletics. He who acts ill as
a man may fall back into the dreary cycles of inferior births, among
beasts and blind aimless beings who cannot understand the truth, even if
they hear it. From this point of view human life is happiness, only like
every form of existence it is not satisfying or permanent.

Dukkha is commonly rendered in English by pain or suffering, but an
adequate literary equivalent which can be used consistently in
translating is not forthcoming. The opposite state, sukha, is fairly
rendered by well-being, satisfaction and happiness. Dukkha is the
contrary of this: uneasiness, discomfort, difficulty. Pain or suffering
are too strong as renderings, but no better are to hand. When the Buddha
enlarges on the evils of the world it will be found that the point most
emphasized as vitiating life is its transitoriness.

"Is that which is impermanent sorrow or joy?" he asks of his disciples.
"Sorrow, Lord," is the answer, and this oft-repeated proposition is
always accepted as self-evident. The evils most frequently mentioned are
the great incurable weaknesses of humanity, old age, sickness and death,
and also the weariness of being tied to what we hate, the sadness of
parting from what we love. Another obvious evil is that we cannot get
what we want or achieve our ambitions. Thus the temper which prompts the
Buddha's utterances is not that of Ecclesiastes—the melancholy of
satiety which, having enjoyed all, finds that all is vanity—but rather
the regretful verdict of one who while sympathizing with the nobler
passions—love, ambition, the quest of knowledge—is forced to pronounce
them unsatisfactory. The human mind craves after something which is
permanent, something of which it can say This is mine. It longs to be
something or to produce something which is not transitory and which has
an absolute value in and for itself. But neither in this world nor in
any other world are such states and actions possible. Only in Nirvana do
we find a state which rises above the transitory because it rises above
desire. Not merely human life but all possible existences in all
imaginable heavens must be unsatisfactory, for such existences are
merely human life under favourable conditions. Some great evils, such as
sickness, may be absent but life in heaven must come to an end: it is
not eternal, it is not even permanent, it does not, any more than this
life, contain anything that god or man can call his own. And it may be
observed that when Christian writers attempt to describe the joys of a
heaven which is eternally satisfying, they have mostly to fall back on
negative phrases such as "Eye hath not seen nor ear heard."

The European view of life differs from the Asiatic chiefly in
attributing a value to actions in themselves, and in not being disturbed
by the fact that their results are impermanent. It is, in fact, the
theoretical side of the will to live, which can find expression in a
treatise on metaphysics as well as in an act of procreation. An
Englishman according to his capacity and mental culture is satisfied
with some such rule of existence as having a good time, or playing the
game, or doing his duty, or working for some cause. The majority of
intelligent men are prepared to devote their lives to the service of the
British Empire: the fact that it must pass away as certainly as the
Empire of Babylon and that they are labouring for what is impermanent
does not disturb them and is hardly ever present to their minds. Those
Europeans who share with Asiatics some feeling of dissatisfaction with
the impermanent try to escape it by an unselfish morality and by holding
that life, which is unsatisfactory if regarded as a pursuit of
happiness, acquires a new and real value if lived for others. And from
this point of view the European moralist is apt to criticize the
Buddhist truths of suffering and the release from suffering as selfish.
But Buddhism is as full as or fuller than Christianity of love,
self-sacrifice and thought for others. It says that it is a fine thing
to be a man and have the power of helping others: that the best life is
that which is entirely unselfish and a continual sacrifice. But looking
at existence as a whole, and accepting the theory that the happiest and
best life is a life of self-sacrifice, it declines to consider as
satisfactory the world in which this principle holds good. Many of the
best Europeans would probably say that their ideal is not continual
personal enjoyment but activity which makes the world better. But this
ideal implies a background of evil just as much as does the Buddha's
teaching. If evil vanished, the ideal would vanish too.

There is one important negative aspect of the truth of suffering and
indeed of all the four truths. A view of human life which is common in
Christian and Mohammedan countries represents man as put in the world by
God, and human life as a service to be rendered to God. Whether it is
pleasant, worth living or not are hardly questions for God's servants.
There is no trace of such a view in the Buddha's teaching. It is
throughout assumed that man in judging human life by human standards is
not presumptuous or blind to higher issues. Life involves unhappiness:
that is a fact, a cardinal truth. That this unhappiness may be ordered
for disciplinary or other mysterious motives by what is vaguely called
One above, that it would disappear or be explained if we could
contemplate our world as forming part of a larger universe, that "there
is some far off divine event," some unexpected solution in the fifth act
of this complicated tragedy, which could justify the creator of this
_dukkhakkhandha_, this mass of unhappiness—for all such ideas the
doctrine of the Blessed One has nothing but silence, the courteous and
charitable silence which will not speak contemptuously. The world of
transmigration has neither beginning nor end nor meaning: to those who
wish to escape from it the Buddha can show the way: of obligation to
stop in it there can be no question[441].

Buddhism is often described as pessimistic, but is the epithet just?
What does it mean? The dictionary defines pessimism as the doctrine
which teaches that the world is as bad as it can be and that everything
naturally tends towards evil. That is emphatically not Buddhist
teaching. The higher forms of religion have their basis and origin in
the existence of evil, but their justification and value depend on their
power to remove it. A religion, therefore, can never be pessimistic,
just as a doctor who should simply pronounce diseases to be incurable
would never be successful as a practitioner. The Buddha states with the
utmost frankness that religion is dependent on the existence of evil.
"If three things did not exist, the Buddha would not appear in the world
and his law and doctrine would not shine. What are the three? Birth, old
age and death." This is true. If there were people leading perfectly
happy, untroubled lives, it is not likely that any thought of religion
would enter their minds, and their irreligious attitude would be
reasonable, for the most that any deity is asked to give is perfect
happiness, and that these imaginary folk are supposed to have already.
But according to Buddhism no form of existence can be perfectly happy or
permanent. Gods and angels may be happier than men but they are not free
from the tyranny of desire and ultimately they must fall from their high
estate and pass away.


The second Truth declares the origin of suffering. "It is," says the
Buddha, "the thirst which causes rebirth, which is accompanied by
pleasure and lust and takes delight now here, now there; namely, the
thirst for pleasure, the thirst for another life, the thirst for
success." This Thirst (Taṇhâ) is the craving for life in the widest
sense: the craving for pleasure which propagates life, the craving for
existence in the dying man which brings about another birth, the craving
for wealth, for power, for pre-eminence within the limits of the present
life. What is the nature of this craving and of its action? Before
attempting to answer we must consider what is known as the chain of
causation[442], one of the oldest, most celebrated, and most obscure
formulæ of Buddhism. It is stated that the Buddha knew it before
attaining enlightenment[443], but it is second in importance only to the
four truths, and in the opening sections of the Mahâvagga, he is
represented as meditating on it under the Bo-tree, both in its positive
and negative form. It runs as follows: "From ignorance come the
sankhâras, from the sankhâras comes consciousness, from consciousness
come name-and-form, from name-and-form come the six provinces (of the
senses), from the six provinces comes contact, from contact comes
sensation, from sensation comes craving, from craving comes clinging,
from clinging comes existence, from existence comes birth, from birth
come old age and death, pain and lamentation, suffering, sorrow, and
despair. This is the origin of this whole mass of suffering. But by the
destruction of ignorance, effected by the complete absence of lust, the
sankhâras are destroyed, by the destruction of the sankhâras,
consciousness is destroyed" and so on through the whole chain backwards.

The chain is also known as the twelve Nidânas or causes. It is clearly
in its positive and negative forms an amplification of the second and
third truths respectively, or perhaps they are a luminous compendium of

Besides the full form quoted above there are shorter versions. Sometimes
there are only nine links[444] or there are five links combined in an
endless chain[445]. So we must not attach too much importance to the
number or order of links. The chain is not a genealogy but a statement
respecting the interdependence of certain stages and aspects of human
nature. And though the importance of cause (hetu) is often emphasized,
the causal relation is understood in a wider sense than is usual in our
idiom. If there were no birth, there would be no death, but though birth
and death are interdependent we should hardly say that birth is the
cause of death.

In whatever way we take the Chain of Causation, it seems to bring a
being into existence twice, and this is the view of Buddhaghosa who says
that the first two links (ignorance and the sankhâras) belong to past
time and explain the present existence: the next eight (consciousness to
existence) analyse the present existence: and the last two (birth and
old age) belong to future time, representing the results in another
existence of desire felt in this existence. And that is perhaps what the
constructor of the formula meant. It is clearest if taken backwards.
Suppose, the Buddha once said to Ânanda[446], there were no birth, would
there then be any old age or death? Clearly not. That is the meaning of
saying that old age and death depend on birth: if birth were
annihilated, they too would be annihilated. Similarly birth depends on
Bhava which means becoming and does not imply anything self-existent and
stationary: all the world is a continual process of coming into
existence and passing away. It is on the universality of this process
that birth (jâti) depends. But on what does the endless becoming itself
depend? We seem here on the threshold of the deepest problems but the
answer, though of wide consequences, brings us back to the strictly
human and didactic sphere. Existence depends on Upâdâna. This word means
literally grasping or clinging to and should be so translated here but
it also means fuel and its use is coloured by this meaning, since
Buddhist metaphor is fond of describing life as a flame. Existence
cannot continue without the clinging to life, just as fire cannot
continue without fuel[447].

The clinging in its turn depends on Taṇhâ, the thirst or craving for
existence. The distinction between taṇhâ and upâdâna is not always
observed, and it is often said taṇhâ is the cause of karma or of sorrow.
But, strictly speaking, upâdâna is the grasping at life or pleasure:
taṇhâ is the incessant, unsatisfied craving which causes it. It is
compared to the birana, a weed which infests rice fields and sends its
roots deep into the ground. So long as the smallest piece of root is
left the weed springs up again and propagates itself with surprising
rapidity, though the cultivator thought he had exterminated it. This
metaphor is also used to illustrate how taṇhâ leads to a new birth.
Death is like cutting down the plant: the root remains and sends up
another growth.

We now seem to have reached an ultimate principle and basis, namely, the
craving for life which transcends the limits of one existence and finds
expression in birth after birth. Many passages in the Pitakas justify
the idea that the force which constructs the universe of our experience
is an impersonal appetite, analogous to the Will of Schopenhauer. The
shorter formula quoted above in which it is said that the sankhâras come
from taṇhâ also admits of such an interpretation. But the longer chain
does not, or at least it considers taṇhâ not as a cosmic force but
simply as a state of the human mind. Suffering can be traced back to the
fact that men have desire. To what is desire due? To sensation. With
this reply we leave the great mysteries at which the previous links
seemed to hint and begin one of those enquiries into the origin and
meaning of human sensation which are dear to early Buddhism. Just as
there could be no birth if there were no existence, so there could be no
desire if there were no sensation. What then is the cause of sensation?
Contact (phasso). This word plays a considerable part in Buddhist
psychology and is described as producing not only sensation but
perception and volition (cetanâ)[448]. Contact in its turn depends on
the senses (that is the five senses as we know them, and mind as a
sixth) and these depend on name-and-form. This expression, which occurs
in the Upanishads as well as in Buddhist writings, denotes mental and
corporeal life. In explaining it the commentators say that form means
the four elements and shape derived from them and that name means the
three skandhas of sensation, perception and the sankhâras. This use of
the word nâma probably goes back to ancient superstitions which regarded
a man's name as containing his true being but in Buddhist terminology it
is merely a technical expression for mental states collectively.
Buddhaghosa observes that name-and-form are like the playing of a lute
which does not come from any store of sound and when it ceases does not
go to form a store of sound elsewhere.

On what do name-and-form depend? On consciousness. This point is so
important that in teaching Ânanda the Buddha adds further explanations.
"Suppose," he says, "consciousness were not to descend into the womb,
would name-and-form consolidate in the womb? No, Lord. Therefore,
Ânanda, consciousness is the cause, the occasion, the origin of
name-and-form." But consciousness according to the Buddha's
teaching[449] is not a unity, a thinking soul, but mental activity
produced by various appropriate causes. Hence it cannot be regarded as
independent of name-and-form and as their generator. So the Buddha goes
on to say that though name-and-form depend on consciousness it is
equally true that consciousness depends on name-and-form. The two
together make human life: everything that is born, and dies or is reborn
in another existence[450], is name-and-form plus consciousness.

What we have learnt hitherto is that suffering depends on desire and
desire on the senses. For didactic purposes this is much, but as
philosophy the result is small: we have merely discovered that the world
depends on name-and-form plus consciousness, that is on human beings.
The first two links of the chain (the last in our examination) do not
leave the previous point of view—the history of individual life and not
an account of the world process—but they have at least that interest
which attaches to the mysterious.

"Consciousness depends on the sankhâras." Here the sankhâras seem to
mean the predispositions anterior to consciousness which accompany birth
and hence are equivalent to one meaning of Karma, that is the good and
bad qualities and tendencies which appear when rebirth takes place.
Perhaps the best commentary on the statement that consciousness depends
on the sankhâras is furnished by a Sutta called Rebirth according to the
sankhâras[451]. The Buddha there says that if a monk possessed of the
necessary good qualities cherishes a wish to be born after death as a
noble, or in one of the many heavens, "then those predispositions
(sankhâra) and mental conditions (vihâro) if repeated[452] conduce to
rebirth" in the place he desires. Similarly when Citta is dying, the
spirits of the wood come round his death-bed and bid him wish to be an
Emperor in his next life. Thus a personality with certain
predispositions and aptitudes may be due to the thought and wishes of a
previous personality[453], and these predispositions, asserts the last
article of the formula, depend upon ignorance. We might be tempted to
identify this ignorance with some cosmic creative force such as the
Unconscious of Hartmann or the Mâyâ of Śankara. But though the idea that
the world of phenomena is a delusion bred of ignorance is common in
India, it does not enter into the formula which we are considering. Two
explanations of the first link are given in the Pitakas, which are
practically the same. One[454] states categorically that the ignorance
which produces the sankhâras is not to know the four Truths.
Elsewhere[455] the Buddha himself when asked what ignorance means
replies that it is not to know that everything must have an origin and a
cessation. The formula means that it is ignorance of the true nature of
the world and the true interests of mankind that brings about the
suffering which we see and feel. We were born into the world because of
our ignorance in our last birth and of the desire for re-existence which
was in us when we died.

Of the supreme importance attached to this doctrine of causation there
can be no doubt. Perhaps the best instance is the story of Sâriputta's
conversion. In the early days of the Buddha's mission he asked for a
brief summary of the new teaching and in reply the essential points were
formulated in the well-known verses which declare that all things have a
cause and an end[456]. Such utterances sound like a scientific dictum
about the uniformity of nature or cosmic law. But though the Pitakas
imply some such idea, they seem to shrink from stating it clearly. They
do not emphasize the orderly course of nature or exhort men to live in
harmony with it. We are given to understand that the intelligence of
those supermen who are called Buddhas sees that the four Truths are a
consequence of the nature of the universe but subsequent instruction
bids us attend to the truths themselves and not to their connection with
the universal scheme. One reason for this is that Indians were little
inclined to think of impersonal laws and forces[457]. The law of karma
and the periodic rhythm of growth and decay which the universe obeys are
ideas common to Hinduism and Buddhism and not incompatible with the
mythology and ritual to which the Buddha objected. And though the
Pitakas insist on the universality of causation, they have no notion of
the uniformity of nature in our sense[458]. The Buddhist doctrine of
causation states that we cannot obtain emancipation and happiness unless
we understand and remove the cause of our distress, but it does not
discuss cosmic forces like karma and Mâyâ. Such discussion the Buddha
considered unprofitable[459] and perhaps he may have felt that
insistence on cosmic law came dangerously near to fatalism[460].

Though the number of the links may be varied the Buddha attached
importance to the method of concatenation and the impersonal formulation
of the whole and in one passage[461] he objects to the questions, what
are old age and death and who is it that has old age and death. Though
the chain of causation treats of a human life, it never speaks of a
person being born or growing old and Buddhaghosa[462] observes that the
Wheel of existence is without known beginning, without a personal cause
or passive recipient and empty with a twelvefold emptiness. It has no
external cause such as Brahma or any deity "and is also wanting in any
ego passively recipient of happiness and misery."

The twelve Nidânas have passed into Buddhist art as the Wheel of Life.
An ancient example of this has been discovered in the frescoes of Ajanta
and modern diagrams, which represent the explanations current in
mediæval India, are still to be found in Tibet and Japan[463]. In the
nave of the wheel are three female figures signifying passion, hatred
and folly and in the spaces between the spokes are scenes depicting the
phases of human life: round the felly runs a series of pictures
representing the twelve links of the chain. The first two links are
represented by a blind man or blind camel and by a potter making pots.
The third, or consciousness, is an ape. Some have thought that this
figure represents the evolution of mind, which begins to show itself in
animals and is perfected in man. It may however refer to a simile found
in the Pitakas[464] where the restless, changeable mind is compared to a
monkey jumping about in a tree.


We have now examined three of the four Truths, for the Chain of
Causation in its positive form gives us the origin of suffering and in
its negative form the facts as to the extinction of suffering: it
teaches that as its links are broken suffering disappears. The fourth
truth, or the way which leads to the extinction of suffering, gives
practical directions to this effect. The way is the Noble Eightfold Path
consisting of: right views, right aspirations, right speech, right
conduct, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness, right
rapture. This formula is comparable not with the Decalogue, to which
correspond the precepts for monks and laymen, but rather with the
Beatitudes. It contains no commands or prohibitions but in the simplest
language indicates the spirit that leads to emancipation. It breathes an
air of noble freedom. It says nothing about laws and rites: it simply
states that the way to be happy is to have a good heart and mind, taking
shape in good deeds and at last finding expression and fulfilment in the
rapture of ecstasy. We may think the numerical subdivisions of the Path
pedantic and find fault with its want of definition, for it does not
define the word right (sammâ) which it uses so often, but in thus
ignoring ceremonialism and legalism and making simple goodness in spirit
and deed the basis of religion. Gotama rises above all his
contemporaries and above all subsequent teachers except Christ. In
detaching the perfect life from all connection with a deity or outside
forces and in teaching man that the worst and best that can happen to
him lie within his own power, he holds a unique position.

Indian thought has little sympathy with the question whether morality is
utilitarian or intuitionist, whether we do good to benefit ourselves or
whether certain acts and states are intrinsically good. The Buddha is a
physician who prescribes a cure for a disease—the disease of
suffering—and that cure is not a quack medicine which pretends to heal
rapidly but a regime and treatment. If we ask whether the reason for
following the regime is that it is good for us or that it is
scientifically correct; or why we want to be well or whether health is
really good: both the Buddha and the physician would reply that such
questions are tiresome and irrelevant. With an appearance of profundity,
they ask nothing worth answering. The eightfold path is the way and the
only way of salvation. Its form depends on the fact that the knowledge
of the Buddha, which embraces the whole universe, sees that it is a
consequence of the nature of things. In that sense it may be described
as an eternal law, but this is not the way in which the Pitakas usually
speak of it and it is not represented as a divine revelation dictated by
other than human motives. "Come, disciples," the Buddha was wont to say,
"lead a holy life for the complete extinction of suffering." Holiness is
simply the way out of misery into happiness. To ask why we should take
that way, would seem to an Indian an unnecessary question, as it might
seem to a Christian if he were asked why he wants to save his soul, but
if the question is pressed, the answer must be at every point, for the
Christian as much as for the Buddhist, to gain happiness[465].
Incidentally the happiness of others is fully cared for, since both
religions make unselfishness the basis of morality and hold that the
conscious and selfish pursuit of happiness is not the way to gain it,
but if we choose to apply European methods of analysis to the Buddha's
preaching, it is utilitarian. But the fact that he and his first
disciples did not think such analysis and discussion necessary goes far
to show that the temper created in his Order was not religiously
utilitarian. It never occurred to them to look at things that way.

The eightfold path is the road to happiness but it is the way, not the
destination, and the action of the Buddha and his disciples is something
beyond it. They had obtained the goal, for they were all Arhats, and
they might, if they had been inspired by that selfishness which some
European authors find prominent in Buddhism, have entered into their
rest. Yet the Buddha bade them go among men and preach "for the gain and
welfare of many" and they continued their benevolent activity although
it could add nothing to the reward which they had already won.

The Buddha often commented on the eightfold path, and we may follow one
of the expositions attributed to him[466]. What, he asks, is meant by
right views (_Sammâdiṭṭhi_)? Simply a knowledge of the four truths, and
of such doctrines about personality and karma as are implied in them.
But the negative aspects of this _Sammâdiṭṭhi_ are more striking than
the positive. It does not imply any philosophical or metaphysical
system: the Buddha has shaken off all philosophical theories[467].
Secondly, it does not imply that any knowledge or belief is of efficacy
in itself, as the lore of the Brahmans is supposed to be or those
Christian creeds which save by faith. The Buddha has not a position such
as the Church attributes to Christ, or later Buddhism to Amida. All that
is required under the head of right belief is a knowledge of the general
principles and programme of Buddhism.

The Buddha continues, What is right resolve? It is the resolve to
renounce pleasures, to bear no malice and do no harm. What is right
speech? To abstain from lying and slandering, harsh words and foolish
chatter. What is right conduct? To abstain from taking life, from
stealing, from immorality. What is right livelihood? To abandon wrong
occupations and get one's living by a right occupation. This is
elsewhere defined as one that does not bring hurt or danger to any
living thing, and five bad occupations are enumerated, namely, those of
a caravan-trader, slave-dealer, butcher, publican and poison seller.
European critics of Buddhism have often found fault with its ethics as
being a morality of renunciation, and in the explanation epitomized
above each section of the path is interpreted in this way. But this
negative form is not a peculiarity of Buddhism. Only two of the
commandments in our Decalogue are positive precepts; the rest are
prohibitions. The same is true of most early codes. The negative form is
at once easier and more practical for it requires a mental effort to
formulate any ideal of human life; it is comparatively easy to note the
bad things people do, and say, don't. The pruning of the feelings, the
cutting off of every tendril which can cling to the pleasures of sense,
is an essential part of that mental cultivation in which the higher
Buddhism consists. But the Pitakas say clearly that what is to be
eliminated is only bad mental states. Desire for pleasure and striving
after wealth are bad, but it does not follow that desire and striving
are bad in themselves. Desire for what is good (Dhammachando as opposed
to Kâmachando) is itself good, and the effort to obtain nirvana is often
described as a struggle or wrestling[468]. Similarly though absolute
indifference to pains and pleasures is the ideal for a Bhikkhu, this by
no means implies, as is often assumed, a general insensibility and
indifference, the harmless oyster-like life of one who hurts nobody and
remains in his own shell. European criticisms on the selfishness and
pessimism of Buddhism forget the cheerfulness and buoyancy which are the
chief marks of its holy men. The Buddhist saint is essentially one who
has freed himself. His first impulse is to rejoice in his freedom and
share it with others, not to abuse the fetters he has cut away. Active
benevolence and love[469] are enjoined as a duty and praised in language
of no little beauty and earnestness. In the Itivuttaka[470] the
following is put into the mouth of Buddha. "All good works whatever[471]
are not worth one sixteenth part of love which sets free the heart. Love
which sets free the heart comprises them: it shines, gives light and
radiance. Just as the light of all the stars is not worth one sixteenth
of the light of the moon: as in the last month of the rains in the
season of autumn, when the sky is clear and cloudless the sun mounts up
on high and overcomes darkness in the firmament: as in the last hour of
the night when the dawn is breaking, the morning star shines and gives
light and radiance: even so does love which sets free the soul and
comprises all good works, shine and give light and radiance." So, too,
the Sutta-Nipâta bids a man love not only his neighbour but all the
world. "As a mother at the risk of her life watches over her own child,
her only child, so let every one cultivate a boundless love towards all
beings[472]." Nor are such precepts left vague and universal. If some of
his acts and words seem wanting in family affection, the Buddha enjoined
filial piety as emphatically as Moses or Confucius. There are two
beings, he says, namely Father and Mother, who can never be adequately
repaid[473]. If a man were to carry his parents about on his shoulders
for a hundred years or could give them all the kingdoms and treasures of
the earth, he still would not discharge his debt of gratitude[474]. But
whereas Confucius said that the good son does not deviate from the way
of his father, the Buddha, who was by no means conservative in religious
matters, said that the only way in which a son could repay his parents
was by teaching them the True Law.

The Buddha defines the sixth section of the path more fully than those
which precede. Right effort, he says, is when a monk makes an effort,
and strives to prevent evil states of mind from arising: to suppress
them if they have arisen: to produce good states of mind, and develop
and perfect them. Hitherto we have been considering morality,
indispensable but elementary. This section is the beginning of the
specially Buddhist discipline of mental cultivation. The process is apt
to seem too self-conscious: we wonder if a freer growth would not yield
better fruits. But in a comparison with the similar programmes of other
religions Buddhism has little to fear. Its methods are not morbid or
introspective: it does not fetter the intellect with the bonds of
authority. The disciple has simply to discriminate between good and bad
thoughts, to develop the one and suppress the other. It is noticeable
that under this heading of right effort, or right wrestling as it is
sometimes called, both desire and striving for good ends are
consecrated. Sloth and torpor are as harmful to spiritual progress as
evil desires and as often reprimanded. Also the aim is not merely
negative: it is partly creative. The disciple is not to suppress will
and feeling, but he is to make all the good in him grow; he should
foster, increase and perfect it.

What is right-mindfulness[475], the seventh section of the path? It is
"When a monk lives as regards the body, observant of the body,
strenuous, conscious, mindful and has rid himself of covetousness and
melancholy": and similarly as regards the sensations, the mind and
phenomena. The importance of this mindfulness is often insisted on. It
amounts to complete self-mastery by means of self-knowledge which allows
nothing to be done heedlessly and mechanically and controls not merely
recognized acts of volition but also those sense-impressions in which we
are apt to regard the mind as merely receptive. "Self is the lord of
self: who else should be the lord? With self well subdued, a man finds a
lord such as few can find[476]."

Although the Buddha denies that there is any soul or self (attâ) apart
from the skandhas, yet here his ethical system seems to assume that a
ruling principle which may be called self does exist. Nor is the
discrepancy fully explained by saying that the non-existence of self or
soul is the correct dogma and that expressions like self being the lord
of self are concessions to the exigencies of exposition. The evolution
of the self-controlled saint out of the confused mental states of the
ordinary man is a psychological difficulty. As we shall see, when the
eightfold path has been followed to the end new powers arise in the
mind, new lights stream into it. Yet if there is no self or soul, where
do they arise, into what do they stream?

The doctrine of Gotama as expressed in his earliest utterance on the
subject to the five monks at Benares is that neither the body, nor any
mental faculty to which a name can be given, is what was called in
Brahmanic theology âtman, that is to say an entity which is absolutely
free, imperishable, changeless and not subject to pain. This of course
does not exclude the possibility that there may be something which does
not come under any of the above categories and which may be such an
entity as described. Indeed Brahmanic works which teach the existence of
the âtman often use language curiously like that of Buddhism. Thus the
Bhagavad-gîtâ[477] says that actions are performed by the Guṇas and only
he who is deluded by egoism thinks "I am the doer." And the Vishnu
Purana objects to the use of personal pronouns. "When one soul is
dispersed in all bodies, it is idle to ask who are you, who am I[478]?"
The accounts of the Buddhist higher life would be easier to understand
if we could suppose that there is such a self: that the pilgrim who is
walking in the paths gradually emancipates, develops and builds it up:
that it becomes partly free in nirvana before death and wholly free
after death. Schrader[479] has pointed out texts in the Pitakas which
seem to imply that there is something which is absolute and therefore
not touched by the doctrine of anattâ. In a remarkable passage[480] the
Buddha says: Therefore my disciples get rid of what is not yours. To get
rid of it will mean your health and happiness for a long time. Form,
sensation, perception, etc., are not yours; get rid of them. If a man
were to take away, or burn, or use for his needs, all the grass, and
boughs, and branches and leaves in this Jeta wood, would it ever occur
to you to say, the man is taking _us_ away, burning _us_, or using _us_
for his needs? Certainly not, Lord. And why not? Because, Lord, it is
not our self or anything belonging to our self. Just in the same way,
replies the Buddha, get rid of the skandhas. The natural sense of this
seems to be that the skandhas have no more to do with the real being of
man than have the trees of the forest where he happens to be[481]. This
suggests that there is in man something real and permanent, to be
contrasted with the transitory skandhas and when the Buddha asks whether
anything which is perishable and changeable can be called the self, he
seems to imply that there is somewhere such a self. But this point
cannot be pressed, for it is perfectly logical to define first of all
what you mean by a ghost and then to prove that such a thing does not
exist. If we take the passages at present collected as a whole, and
admit that they are somewhat inconsistent or imperfectly understood, the
net result is hardly that the name of self can be given to some part of
human nature which remains when the skandhas are set on one side.

But though the Buddha denied that there is in man anything permanent
which can be called the self, this does not imply a denial that human
nature can by mental training be changed into something different,
something infinitely superior to the nature of the ordinary man, perhaps
something other than the skandhas[482]. One of his principal objections
to the doctrine of the permanent self was that, if it were true,
emancipation and sanctity would be impossible[483], because human nature
could not be changed. In India the doctrine of the âtman was really
dangerous, because it led a religious man to suppose that to ensure
happiness and emancipation it is only necessary to isolate the âtman by
self-mortification and by suppressing discursive thought as well as
passion. But this, the Buddha teaches, is a capital error. That which
can make an end of suffering is not something lurking ready-made in
human nature but something that must be built up: man must be reborn,
not flayed and stripped of everything except some core of unchanging
soul. As to the nature of this new being the Pitakas are reticent, but
not absolutely silent, as we shall see below. Our loose use of language
might possibly lead us to call the new being a soul, but it is decidedly
not an âtman, for it is something which has been brought into being by
deliberate effort. The collective name for these higher states of mind
is _paññâ_[484], wisdom or knowledge. This word is the Pali equivalent
of the Sanskrit _prajñâ_ and is interesting as connecting early and
later Buddhism, for _prajñâ_ in the sense of transcendental or absolute
knowledge plays a great part in Mahayanism and is even personified.

The Pitakas imply that Buddhas and Arhats can understand things which
the ordinary human mind cannot grasp and human words cannot utter. Later
Indian Buddhists had no scruples in formulating what the master left
unformulated. They did not venture to use the words âtman or attâ, but
they said that the saint can rise above all difference and plurality,
transcend the distinction between subject and object and that nirvana is
the absolute (Bhûtatathatâ). The Buddha would doubtless have objected to
this terminology as he objected to all attempts to express the ineffable
but perhaps the thought which struggles for expression in such language
is not far removed from his own thought.

One of the common Buddhist similes for human life is fire and it is the
best simile for illuminating all Buddhist psychology. To insist on
finding a soul is like describing flames as substances. Fire is often
spoken of as an element but it is really a process which cannot be
isolated or interrupted. A flame is not the same as its fuel and it can
be distinguished from other flames. But though you can individualize it
and propagate it indefinitely, you cannot isolate it from its fuel and
keep it by itself. Even so in the human being there is not any soul
which can be isolated and go on living eternally but the analogy of the
flame still holds good. Unseizable though a flame may be, and
undefinable as substance, it is not unreasonable to trim a fire and make
a flame rise above its fuel, free from smoke, clear and pure. If it were
a conscious flame, such might be its own ideal.

The eighth and last section of the path is sammâ-samâdhi, right
concentration or rapture. Mental concentration is essential to samâdhi,
which is the opposite of those wandering desires often blamed as seeking
for pleasure here and there. But samâdhi is more than mere concentration
or even meditation and may be rendered by rapture or ecstasy, though
like so many technical Buddhist terms it does not correspond exactly to
any European word. It takes in Buddhism the place occupied in other
religions by prayer—prayer, that is, in the sense of ecstatic communion
with the divine being. The sermon[485] which the Buddha preached to King
Ajâtasattu on the fruits of the life of a recluse gives an eloquent
account of the joys of samâdhi. He describes how a monk[486] seats
himself in the shade of a tree or in some mountain glen and then
"keeping his body erect and his intelligence alert and intent" purifies
his mind from all lust, ill-temper, sloth, fretfulness and perplexity.
When these are gone, he is like a man freed from jail or debt, gladness
rises in his heart and he passes successively through four stages of
meditation[487]. Then his whole mind and even his body is permeated with
a feeling of purity and peace. He concentrates his thoughts and is able
to apply them to such great matters as he may select. He may revel in
the enjoyment of supernatural powers, for we cannot deny that the oldest
documents which we possess credit the sage with miraculous gifts, though
they attach little importance to them, or he may follow the train of
thought which led the Buddha himself to enlightenment. He thinks of his
previous births and remembers them as clearly as a man who has been a
long walk remembers at the end of the day the villages through which he
has passed. He thinks of the birth and deaths of other beings and sees
them as plainly as a man on the top of a house sees the people moving in
the streets below. He realizes the full significance of the four truths
and he understands the origin and cessation of the three great evils,
love of pleasure, love of existence and ignorance. And when he thus sees
and knows, his heart is set free. "And in him thus set free there arises
the knowledge of his freedom and he knows that rebirth has been
destroyed, the higher life has been led, what had to be done has been
done. He has no more to do with this life. Just as if in a mountain
fastness there were a pool of water, clear, translucent and serene and a
man standing on the bank and with eyes to see should perceive the
mussels and the shells, the gravel and pebbles and the shoals of fish as
they move about or lie within it."

Similar accounts occur in many other passages with variations in the
number of stages described. We must not therefore insist on the details
as essential. But in all cases the process is marked by mental activity.
The meditations of Indian recluses are often described as
self-hypnotism, and I shall say something on this point elsewhere, but
it is clear that in giving the above account the Buddha did not
contemplate any mental condition in which the mind ceases to be active
or master of itself. When, at the beginning, the monk sits down to
meditate it is "with intelligence alert and intent": in the last stage
he has the sense of freedom, of duty done, and of knowledge immediate
and unbounded, which sees the whole world spread below like a clear pool
in which every fish and pebble is visible.


With this stage he attains Nirvâṇa[488], the best known word and the
most difficult to explain in all the vocabulary of Buddhism.

It is perhaps used more by western students than by oriental believers
and it belongs to the same department of religious language as the word
saint. For most Christians there is something presumptuous in trying to
be a saint or in defining the precise form of bliss enjoyed by saints in
heaven and it is the same with nirvana. Yet no one denies that sanctity
and nirvana are religious ideals. In a passage already quoted[489],
Gotama described how in attaining Buddhahood he sought and arrived at
the incomparable security of nirvana in which there is no birth, age,
sickness, death, pain or defilement. This, confirmed by many other
statements, shows that nirvana is a state attainable in this existence
and compatible with a life of intellectual and physical exertion such as
he himself led. The original meaning is the state of peace and happiness
in which the fires of lust, hatred and stupidity are extinguished and
the participle _nibbuto_ apparently derived from the same root had
passed into popular language in the sense of happy[490]. Two forms of
nirvana are distinguished. The first is upâdi-sesa-nibbânam[491] or
nirvana in which the skandhas remain, although passion is destroyed.
This state is also called arhatship, the condition of an arhat, meaning
originally a worthy or venerable man, and the person enjoying it is
alive. The idea that the emancipated saint who has attained the goal
still lingers in the world, though no longer of the world, and teaches
others, is common to all Indian religions. With the death of an arhat
comes the state known as an-upâdi-sesa-nibbânam in which no skandhas
remain. It is also called Parinibbânam and this word and the participle
parinibbuto are frequently used with special reference to the death of
the Buddha[492]. The difference between the two forms of nirvana is
important though the second is only the continuation of the first.
Nirvana in this life admits of approximate definition: it is the goal of
the religious life, though only the elect can even enter the struggle.
Nirvana after death is not a goal in the same sense. The correct
doctrine is rather that death is indifferent to one who has obtained
nirvana and the difficulty of defining his nature after death does not
mean that he has been striving for something inexplicable and illusory.

Arhatship is the aim and sum of the Buddha's teaching: it is associated
in many passages with love for others, with wisdom, and happiness and is
a condition of perfection attainable in this life. The passages in the
Pitakas which seem to be the oldest and the most historical suggest that
the success of the Buddha was due to the fact that he substituted for
the chilly ideal of the Indian Munis something more inspiring and more
visibly fruitful, something akin to what Christ called the Kingdom of
Heaven. Thus we are told in the Vinaya that Bhaddiya was found sitting
at the foot of a tree and exclaiming ecstatically, O happiness,
happiness. When asked the reason of these ejaculations, he replied that
formerly when he was a raja he was anxious and full of fear but that
now, even when alone in the forest, he had become tranquil and calm,
"with mind as peaceful as an antelope's."

Nirvana is frequently described by such adjectives as deathless, endless
and changeless. These epithets seem to apply to the quality, not to the
duration of the arhat's existence (for they refer to the time before the
death of the body) and to signify that in the state which he has
attained death and change have no power over him. He may suffer in body
but he does not suffer in mind, for he does not identify himself with
the body or its feelings[493].

Numerous passages could be quoted from the poetical books of the Pali
Canon to the effect that nirvana is happiness and the same is stated in
the more dogmatic and logical portions. Thus we hear of the bliss of
emancipation and of the happiness which is based on the religious
life[494] and the words "Nirvana is the greatest happiness" are put into
Gotama's own mouth[495]. The middle way preached by him is declared to
be free from all distress, and those who walk in it make an end of pain
even in this life[496]. In one passage[497] Gotama is found meditating
in a wood one winter night and is asked if he feels well and happy. The
night is cold, his seat is hard, his clothes are light and the wind
bitter. He replies emphatically that he is happy. Those who live in
comfortable houses suffer from the evils of lust, hatred and stupidity
but he has made an end of those evils and therefore is happy. Thus
nirvana is freedom and joy: it is not extinction in the sense we give
the word but light to them that sit in darkness, release to those in
prison and torture. But though it is legitimately described in terms
which imply positive happiness it transcends all human standards of good
and evil, pleasure and pain. In describing the progress to it we
all—whether Indians or Europeans—necessarily use such words as better,
higher, happier, but in truth it is not to be expressed in terms of such
values. In an interesting sutta[498] a Jain argues that happiness is the
goal of life. But the Buddha states categorically first that perfect
happiness is only attainable by abandoning the conscious pursuit of
happiness and secondly that even absolute happiness when attained is not
the highest goal: there is a better state beyond, and that state is
certainly not annihilation or extinction of feeling, for it is described
in terms of freedom and knowledge.

The Dhamma-sangaṇi speaks of Nirvana as the Uncompounded Element[499]
and as a state not productive of good or evil. Numerous assertions[500]
are made about it incidentally but, though we hear that it is perfected
and supramundane, most of the epithets are negative and amount to little
more than that it transcends, or is absolutely detached from, all human
experience. Uncompounded (asankhato) may refer to the passing away of
all sankhâras but what may be the meaning of dhâtu or element in this
context, I do not presume to conjecture. But whatever else the word may
mean, it clearly does not signify annihilation. Both here and in the
Questions of Milinda an impression is produced in the mind of the
reader, and perhaps was not absent in the mind of the writer, that
nirvana is a sphere or plane of existence resembling though excelling
space or ether. It is true that the language when carefully examined
proves to be cautious and to exclude material interpretations but
clearly the expositor when trying to make plain the inexplicable leaned
to that side of error rather than towards annihilation[501].

Somewhat similar is the language attributed to the Buddha in the
Udâna[502]. "There is a state (âyatanam) where there is neither earth
nor water, fire nor air, nor infinity either of space or of
consciousness, nor nothingness, nor the absence of perception or
non-perception[503], neither this world nor another, neither sun nor
moon. That I call neither coming, going, nor standing, neither death nor
birth. It is without stability, without movement, without basis: it is
the end of sorrow, unborn, unoriginated, uncreated, uncompounded[504]."
The statements about nirvana in the Questions of Milinda are definite
and interesting. In this work[505], Nâgasena tells King Milinda that
there are two things which are not the result of a cause, to wit space
and Nirvana. Nirvana is unproduceable (which does not mean unattainable)
without origin, not made of anything and uncompounded. He who orders his
life aright passes beyond the transitory, and gains the Real, the
highest fruit. And when he has gained that, he has realized

The parts of the Pitakas which seem oldest leave the impression that
those who heard and understood the Buddha's teaching at once attained
this blissful state, just as the Church regards the disciples of Christ
as saints. But already in the Pitakas[507] we find the idea that the
struggle to obtain nirvana extends over several births and that there
are four routes leading to sanctification. These routes are described by
the names of those who use them and are commonly defined in terms of
release from the ten fetters binding man to the world[508]. The first is
the Sotâpanno, he who has entered into the stream and is on his way to
salvation. He has broken the first three fetters called belief in the
existence of self, doubt, and trust in ceremonies or good works. He will
be born again on earth or in some heaven but not more than seven times
before he attains nirvana. He who enters on the next stage is called
Sakadâgâmin or coming once, because he will be born once more in this
world[509] and in that birth attain nirvana. He has broken the fetters
mentioned and also reduced to a minimum the next two, lust and hate. The
Anâgâmin, or he who does not return, has freed himself entirely from
these five fetters and will not be reborn on earth or any sensuous
heaven but in a Brahmâ world once only. The fourth route is that of the
Arhat who has completed his release by breaking the bonds called love of
life, pride, self-righteousness and ignorance and has made an end of all
evil and impurity. He attains nirvana here and is no more subject to
rebirth. This simple and direct route is the one contemplated in the
older discourses but later doctrine and popular feeling came to regard
it as more and more unusual, just as saints grow fewer as the centuries
advance further from the Apostolic age. In the dearth of visible Arhats
it was consoling to think that nirvana could be won in other worlds.

The nirvana hitherto considered is that attained by a being living in
this or some other world. But all states of existence whatever come to
an end. When one who has not attained nirvana dies, he is born again.
But what happens when an Arhat or a Buddha dies? This question did not
fail to arouse interest during the Buddha's lifetime yet in the Pitakas
the discussion, though it could not be stifled, is relegated to the
background and brought forward only to be put aside as unpractical. The
greatest teachers of religion—Christ as well as Buddha—have shown little
disposition to speak of what follows on death. For them the centre of
gravity is on this side of the grave not on the other: the all important
thing is to live a religious life, at the end of which death is met
fearlessly as an incident of little moment. The Kingdom of Heaven, of
which Christ speaks, begins on earth though it may end elsewhere. In the
Gospels we hear something of the second coming of Christ and the
Judgment: hardly anything of the place and character of the soul's
eternal life. We only gather that a child of God who has done his best
need have no apprehension in this or another world. Though expressed in
very different phraseology, something like that is the gist of what the
Buddha teaches about the dying Saint. But this reticent attitude did not
satisfy ancient India any more than it satisfies modern Europe and we
have the record of how he was questioned and what he said in reply.
Within certain limits that reply is quite definite. The question, does
the Tathâgata, that is the Buddha or perfected saint, exist after death,
which is the phraseology usually employed by the Pitakas in formulating
the problem, belongs to the class of questions called not declared or
undetermined[510], because they do not admit of either an affirmative or
a negative answer. Other problems belonging to this class are: Is the
world eternal or not: Is the world infinite or not: Is the soul[511] the
same as the body or different from it? It is categorically asserted that
none of these questions admit of a reply: thus it is not right to say
that _(a)_ the saint exists after death, _(b)_ or that he does not
exist, _(c)_ or that he both does and does not exist, _(d)_ or that he
neither exists nor does not exist. The Buddha's teaching about these
problems is stated with great clearness in a Sutta named after
Mâlunkyaputta[512], an enquirer who visits him and after enumerating
them says frankly that he is dissatisfied because the Buddha will not
answer them. "If the Lord answers them, I will lead a religious life
under him, but if he does not answer them, I will give up religion and
return to the world. But if the Lord does not know, then the
straightforward thing is to say, I do not know." This is plain speaking,
almost discourtesy. The Buddha's reply is equally plain, but unyielding.
"Have I said to you, come and be my disciple and I will teach you
whether the world is eternal or not, infinite or not: whether the soul
is identical with the body, or separate, whether the saint exists after
death or not?" "No, Lord." "Now suppose a man were wounded by a poisoned
arrow and his friends called in a physician to dress his wound. What if
the man were to say, I shall not have my wound treated until I know what
was the caste, the family, the dwelling-place, the complexion and
stature of the man who wounded me; nor shall I let the arrow be drawn
out until I know what is the exact shape of the arrow and bow, and what
were the animals and plants which supplied the feathers, leather, shaft
and string. The man would never learn all that, because he would die
first." "Therefore" is the conclusion, "hold what I have determined as
determined and what I have not determined, as not determined."

This sutta may be taken in connection with passages asserting that the
Buddha knows more than he tells his disciples. The result seems to be
that there are certain questions which the human mind and human language
had better leave alone because we are incapable of taking or expressing
a view sufficiently large to be correct, but that the Buddha has a more
than human knowledge which he does not impart because it is not
profitable and overstrains the faculties, just as it is no part of a
cure that the patient should make an exhaustive study of his disease.

With reference to the special question of the existence of the saint
after death, the story of Yamaka[513] is important. He maintained that a
monk in whom evil is destroyed (khînâsavo) is annihilated when he dies,
and does not exist. This was considered a grave heresy and refuted by
Sâriputta who argues that even in this life the nature of a saint passes
understanding because he is neither all the skandhas taken together nor
yet one or more of them.

Yet it would seem that according to the psychology of the Pitakas an
ordinary human being is an aggregate of the skandhas and nothing more.
When such a being dies and in popular language is born again, the
skandhas reconstitute themselves but it is expressly stated that when
the saint dies this does not happen. The Chain of Causation says that
consciousness and the sankhâras are interdependent. If there is no
rebirth, it is because (as it would seem) there are in the dying saint
no sankhâras. His nature cannot be formulated in the same terms as the
nature of an ordinary man. It may be noted that karma is not equivalent
to the effect produced on the world by a man's words and deeds, for if
that were so, no one would have died leaving more karma behind him than
the Buddha himself, yet according to Hindu doctrine, whether Buddhist or
Brahmanic, no karma attaches to the deeds of a saint. His acts may
affect others but there is nothing in them which tends to create a new

In another dialogue[514] the Buddha replies to a wandering monk called
Vaccha who questioned him about the undetermined problems and in answer
to every solution suggested says that he does not hold that view. Vaccha
asks what objection he has to these theories that he has not adopted any
of them?

"Vaccha, the theory that the saint exists (or does not exist and so on)
after death is a jungle, a desert, a puppet show, a writhing, an
entanglement and brings with it sorrow, anger, wrangling and agony. It
does not conduce to distaste for the world, to the absence of passion,
to the cessation of evil, to peace, to knowledge, to perfect
enlightenment, to nirvana. Perceiving this objection, I have not adopted
any of these theories." "Then has Gotama any theory of his own?"
"Vaccha, the Tathâgata has nothing to do with theories, but this is what
he knows: the nature of form, how form arises, how form perishes: the
nature of perception, how it arises and how it perishes (and so on with
the other skandhas). Therefore I say that the Tathâgata is emancipated
because he has completely and entirely abandoned all imaginations,
agitations and false notions about the Ego and anything pertaining to
the Ego." But, asks Vaccha, when one who has attained this emancipation
of mind dies where is he reborn? "Vaccha, the word 'reborn' does not fit
the case." "Then, Gotama, he is not reborn." "To say he is not reborn
does not fit the case, nor is it any better to say he is both reborn and
not reborn or that he is neither reborn nor not reborn." "Really,
Gotama, I am completely bewildered and my faith in you is gone."

"Never mind your bewilderment. This doctrine is profound and difficult.
Suppose there was a fire in front of you. You would see it burning and
know that its burning depended on fuel. And if it went out (nibbâyeyya)
you would know that it had gone out. But if some one were to ask you, to
which quarter has it gone, East, West, North or South, what would you

"The expression does not fit the case, Gotama. For the fire depended on
fuel and when the fuel is gone it is said to be extinguished, being
without nourishment."

"In just the same way, all form by which one could predicate the
existence of the saint is abandoned and uprooted like a fan palm[515],
so that it will never grow up in future. The saint who is released from
what is styled form is deep, immeasurable, hard to fathom, like the
great ocean. It does not fit the case to say either that he is reborn,
not reborn, both reborn and not reborn, or neither reborn nor not
reborn." Exactly the same statement is then repeated four times the
words sensation, perception, sankhâras and consciousness being
substituted successively for the word form. Vaccha, we are told, was

To appreciate properly the Buddha's simile we must concentrate our
attention on the fire. When we apply this metaphor to annihilation, we
usually think of the fuel or receptacle and our mind dwells sadly on the
heap of ashes or the extinguished lamp. But what has become of the fire?
It is hardly correct to say that it has been destroyed. If a particular
fire may be said to be annihilated in the sense that it is impossible to
reconstitute it by repeating the same process of burning, the reason is
not so much that we cannot get the same flames as that we cannot burn
the same fuel twice. But so long as there is continuous combustion in
the same fireplace or pile of fuel, we speak of the same fire although
neither the flame nor the fuel remains the same. When combustion ceases,
the fire goes out in popular language. To what quarter does it go? That
question clearly does not "fit the case." But neither does it fit the
case to say that the fire is annihilated[516].

Nirvana is the cessation of a process not the annihilation of an
existence. If I take a walk, nothing is annihilated when the walk comes
to an end: a particular form of action has ceased. Strictly speaking the
case of a fire is the same: when it goes out a process ceases. For the
ordinary man nirvana is annihilation in the sense that it is the absence
of all the activities which he considers desirable. But for the arhat
(who is the only person able to judge) nirvana after death, as compared
with nirvana in life, may be quiescence and suspension of activity, only
that such phrases seem to imply that activity is the right and normal
condition, quiescence being negative and unnatural, whereas for an arhat
these values are reversed.

We may use too the parallel metaphor of water. A wave cannot become an
immortal personality. It may have an indefinitely long existence as it
moves across the ocean, although both its shape and substance are
constantly changing, and when it breaks against an obstacle the
resultant motion may form new waves. And if a wave ceases to struggle
for individual existence and differentiation from the surrounding sea,
it cannot be said to exist any more as a wave. Yet neither the water
which was its substance nor the motion which impelled it have been
annihilated. It is not even quite correct to say that it has been merged
in the sea. A drop of water added to a larger liquid mass is merged. The
wave simply ceases to be active and differentiated.

In the Saṃyutta-Nikâya[517] the Buddha's statement that the saint after
death is deep and immeasurable like the ocean is expanded by significant
illustration of the mathematician's inability to number the sand or
express the sea in terms of liquid measure. It is in fact implied that
if we cannot say _he is_, this is only because that word cannot properly
be applied to the infinite, innumerable and immeasurable.

The point which is clearest in the Buddha's treatment of this question
is that whatever his disciples may have thought, he did not himself
consider it of importance for true religion. Speculation on such points
may be interesting to the intellect but is not edifying. It is a jungle
where the traveller wanders without advancing, and a puppet-show, a vain
worldly amusement which wears a false appearance of religion because it
is diverting itself with quasi-religious problems. What is the state of
the saint after death, is not as people vainly suppose a question
parallel to, am I going to heaven or hell, what shall I do to be saved?
To those questions the Buddha gives but one answer in terms of human
language and human thought, namely, attain to nirvana and arhatship on
this side of death, if possible in your present existence; if not now,
then in the future good existences which you can fashion for yourself.
What lies beyond is impracticable as a goal, unprofitable as a subject
of speculation. We shall probably not be transgressing the limits of
Gotama's thought if we add that those who are not arhats are bound to
approach the question with misconception and it is a necessary part of
an Arhat's training to get rid of the idea "I am[518]." The state of a
Saint after death cannot be legitimately described in language which
suggests that it is a fuller and deeper mode of life[519]. Yet it is
clear that nearly all who dispute about it wish to make out that it is a
state they could somehow regard with active satisfaction. In technical
language they are infected with arûparâgo, or desire for life in a
formless world, and this is the seventh of the ten fetters, all of which
must be broken before arhatship is attained. I imagine that those modern
sects, such as the Zen in Japan, which hold that the deepest mysteries
of the faith cannot be communicated in words but somehow grow clear in
meditation are not far from the master's teaching, though to the best of
my belief no passage has been produced from the Pitakas stating that an
arahat has special knowledge about the avyâkatâni or undetermined

Almost all who treat of nirvana after death try to make the Buddha say,
is or is not. That is what he refused to do. We still want a plain
answer to a plain question and insist that he really means either that
the saint is annihilated or enters on an infinite existence. But the
true analogues to this question are the other insoluble questions, for
instance, is the world infinite or finite in space? This is in form a
simple physical problem, yet it is impossible for the mind to conceive
either an infinite world or a world stopping abruptly with not even
space beyond. A common answer to this antinomy is that the mind is
attempting to deal with a subject with which it is incompetent to deal,
that the question is wrongly formulated and that every answer to it thus
formulated must be wrong. The way of truth lies in first finding the
true question. The real difficulty of the Buddha's teaching, though it
does not stimulate curiosity so much as the question of life after
death, is the nature and being of the saint in this life before death,
raised in the argument with Yamaka[520].

Another reason for not pressing the Buddha's language in either
direction is that, if he had wished to preach in the subtlest form
either infinite life or annihilation, he would have found minds
accustomed to the ideas and a vocabulary ready for his use. If he had
wished to indicate any form of absorption into a universal soul, or the
acquisition by the individual self of the knowledge that it is identical
with the universal self, he could easily have done so. But he studiously
avoided saying anything of the kind. He teaches that all existence
involves suffering and he preaches escape from it. After that escape the
words being and not being no longer apply, and the reason why some
people adopt the false idea of annihilation is because they have
commenced by adopting the false alternative of either annihilation or an
eternal prolongation of this life. A man makes[521] himself miserable
because he thinks he has lost something or that there is something which
he cannot get. But if he does not think he has lost something or is
deprived of something he might have, then he does not feel miserable.
Similarly, a man holds the erroneous opinion, "This world is the self,
or soul and I shall become it after death and be eternal, and
unchanging." Then he hears the preaching of a Buddha and he thinks "I
shall be annihilated, I shall not exist any more," and he feels
miserable. But if a man does not hold this doctrine that the soul is
identical with the universe and will exist eternally—which is just
complete full-blown folly[522]--and then hears the preaching of a Buddha
it does not occur to him to think that he will be annihilated and he is
not miserable. Here the Buddha emphasizes the fact that his teaching is
not a variety of the Brahmanic doctrine about the Âtman. Shortly
afterwards in the same sutta he even more emphatically says that he does
not teach annihilation. He teaches that the saint is already in this
life inconceivable (_ananuvejjo_): "And when I teach and explain this
some accuse me falsely and without the smallest ground[523] saying
'Gotama is an unbeliever; he preaches the annihilation, the destruction,
the dying out of real being.' When they talk like this they accuse me of
being what I am not, of saying what I do not say."

Though the Buddha seems to condemn by anticipation the form of the
Vedanta known as the Advaita, this philosophy illustrates the difficulty
of making any statement about the saint after his death. For it teaches
that the saint knows that there is but one reality, namely Brahman, and
that all individual existences are illusion: he is aware that he is
Brahman and that he is not differentiated from the world around him. And
when he dies, what happens? Metaphors about drops and rivers are not
really to the point. It would be more correct to say that nothing at all
has happened. His physical life, an illusion which did not exist for
himself, has ceased to exist for others.

Perhaps he will be nearest to the Buddha's train of thought who attempts
to consider, by reflection rather than by discussion in words, what is
meant by annihilation. By thinking of the mystery of existence and
realizing how difficult it is to explain how and why anything exists, we
are apt to slip into thinking that it would be quite natural and
intelligible if nothing existed or if existing things became nothing.
Yet as a matter of fact our minds have no experience of this nothing of
which we talk and it is inconceivable. When we try to think of
nothingness we really think of space from which we try to remove all
content, yet could we create an absolute vacuum within a vessel, the
interior of the vessel would not be annihilated. The man who has
attained nirvana cannot be adequately defined or grasped even in this
life: what binds him to being is cut[524] but it is inappropriate and
inadequate to say that he has become nothing[525].




The great practical achievement of the Buddha was to found a religious
order which has lasted to the present day. It is known as the Sangha and
its members are called Bhikkhus[526]. It is chiefly to this institution
that the permanence of his religion is due.

Corporations or confraternities formed for the purpose of leading a
particular form of life are among the most widespread manifestations, if
not of primitive worship, at any rate of that stage in which it passes
into something which can be called personal religion and at least three
causes contribute to their formation. First, early institutions were
narrower and more personal than those of to-day. In politics as well as
religion such relatively broad designations as Englishman or Frenchman,
Buddhist or Christian, imply a slowly widening horizon gained by
centuries of cooperation and thought. In the time of the Buddha such
national and religious names did not exist. People belonged to a clan or
served some local prince. Similarly in religious matters they followed
some teacher or worshipped some god, and in either case if they were in
earnest they tended to become members of a society. Societies such as
the Pythagorean and Orphic brotherhoods were also common in Greece from
the sixth century B.C. onwards but the result was small, for the genius
of the Greeks turned towards politics and philosophy. But in India,
where politics had strangely little attraction for the cultured classes,
energy and intelligence found an outlet in the religious life and
created a multitude of religious societies. Even to-day Hinduism has no
one creed or code and those who take a serious interest in religion are
not merely Hindus but follow some sect which, without damning what it
does not adopt, selects its own dogmas and observances. This is not
sectarianism in the sense of schism. It is merely the desire to have for
oneself some personal, intimate religious life. Even in so
uncompromising and levelling a creed as Islam the devout often follow
special _tariqs_, that is, roads or methods of the devotional life, and
these _tariqs_, though differing more than the various orders of the
Roman Catholic Church, are not regarded as sects distinct from ordinary
orthodoxy. When Christ died, Christianity was not much more than such a
_tariq_. It was an incipient religious order which had not yet broken
with Judaism.

This idea of the private, even secret religious body is closely allied
to another, namely, that family life and worldly business are
incompatible with the quest for higher things. In early ages only
priests and consecrated persons are expected to fast and practise
chastity but when once the impression prevails that such observances not
only achieve particular ends but produce wiser, happier, or more
powerful lives, then they are likely to be followed by considerable
numbers of the more intelligent, emotional and credulous sections of the
population. The early Christian Church was influenced by the idea that
the world is given over to Satan and that he who would save himself must
disown it. The gentler Hindus were actuated by two motives. First, more
than other races, they felt the worry and futility of worldly life.
Secondly, they had a deep-rooted belief that miraculous powers could be
acquired by self-mortification and the sensations experienced by those
who practised fasting and trances confirmed this belief.

The third cause for the foundation and increase of religious orders is a
perception of the influence which they can exercise. The disciples of a
master or the priests of a god, if numerous and organized, clearly
possess a power analogous to that of an army. To use such institutions
for the service and protection of the true faith is an obvious expedient
of the zealot: ecclesiastical statecraft and ambition soon make their
appearance in most orders founded for the assistance of the Church
militant. But of this spirit Buddhism has little to show; except in
Tibet and Japan it is almost absent. The ideal of the Buddha lay within
his order and was to be realized in the life of the members. They had no
need to strive after any extraneous goal.

The Sangha, as this order was called, arose naturally out of the social
conditions of India in the time of Gotama. It was considered proper that
an earnest-minded man should renounce the world and become a wanderer.
In doing this and in collecting round him a band of disciples who had a
common mode of life Gotama created nothing new. He merely did with
conspicuous success what every contemporary teacher was doing. The
confraternity which he founded differed from others chiefly in being
broader and more human, less prone to extravagances and better
organized. As we read the accounts in the Pitakas, its growth seems so
simple and spontaneous that no explanation is necessary. Disciples
gather round the master and as their numbers increase he makes a few
salutary regulations. It is almost with surprise that we find the result
to be an organization which became one of the great forces of the world.

The Buddha said that he taught a middle path equally distant from luxury
and from self-mortification, but Europeans are apt to be struck by his
condemnation of pleasure and to be repelled by a system which suppresses
so many harmless activities. But contemporary opinion in India
criticized his discipline as easy-going and lax. We frequently hear in
the Vinaya that the people murmured and said his disciples behaved like
those who still enjoy the good things of the world. Some, we are told,
tried to enter the order merely to secure a comfortable existence[527].
It is clear that he went to the extreme limits which public opinion
allowed in dispensing with the rigours considered necessary to the
religious life, and we shall best understand his spirit if we fix our
attention not so much on the regime, to our way of thinking austere,
which he prescribed—the single meal a day and so on—as on his insistence
that what is necessary is emancipation of heart and mind and the
cultivation of love and knowledge, all else being a matter of
indifference. Thus he says to the ascetic Kassapa[528] that though a man
perform all manner of penances, yet if he has not attained the bliss
which comes of good conduct, a good heart and good mind, he is far from
being a true monk. But when he has the heart of love that knows no anger
nor ill-will, when he has destroyed lust and become emancipated even
before death, then he deserves the name of monk. It is a common thing to
say, he goes on, that it is hard to lead the life of a monk. But
asceticism is comparatively easy; what is really hard is the conversion
and emancipation of the heart.

In India, where the proclivity to asceticism and self-torture is
endemic, it was only natural that penance should in very truth seem
easier and more satisfactory than this spiritual discipline. It won more
respect and doubtless seemed more tangible and definite, more like what
the world expected from a holy man. Accordingly we find that efforts
were made by Devadatta and others to induce the Buddha to increase the
severity of his discipline. But he refused[529]. The more ascetic form
of life, which he declined to make obligatory, is described in the rules
known as Dhutângas, of which twelve or thirteen are enumerated. They are
partly a stricter form of the ordinary rules about food and dress and
partly refer to the life of a hermit who lives in the woods or in a

In the Pitakas[530] Kassapa's disciples are described as _dhutavâdâ_ and
the advantages arising from the observance of the Dhutângas are
enumerated in the Questions of Milinda. It is probable that the Buddha
himself had little sympathy with them. He was at any rate anxious that
they should not degenerate into excesses. Thus he forbade[531] his
disciples to spend the season of the rains in a hollow tree, or in a
place where dead bodies are kept, or to use an alms bowl made out of a
skull. Now Kassapa had been a Brahman ascetic and it is probable that in
tolerating the Dhutângas the Buddha merely intended to allow him and his
followers to continue the practices to which they were accustomed. They
were an influential body and he doubtless desired their adhesion, for he
was sensitive to public opinion[532] and anxious to conform to it when
conformity involved no sacrifice of principle. We hear repeatedly that
the laity complained of some practice of his Bhikkhus and that when the
complaint was brought to his ears he ordered the objectionable practice
to cease. Once the king of Magadha asked the congregation to postpone
the period of retreat during the rains until the next full moon day.
They referred the matter to the Buddha: "I prescribe that you obey
kings," was his reply.

One obvious distinction between the Buddha's disciples and other
confraternities was that they were completely clad, whereas the
Âjîvikas, Jains and others went about naked. The motive for this rule
was no doubt decency and a similar thought made Gotama insist on the use
of a begging bowl, whereas some sectaries collected scraps of food in
their hands. Such extravagances led to abuses resembling the degradation
of some modern fakirs. Even the Jain scriptures admit that pious
householders were disgusted by the ascetics who asked for a lodging in
their houses—naked, unwashed men, foul to smell and loathsome to
behold[533]. This was the sort of life which the Buddha called anariyam,
ignoble or barbaric. With such degradation of humanity he would have
nothing to do. He forbade nakedness, as well as garments of hair and
other uncomfortable costumes. The raiment which he prescribed consisted
of three pieces of cloth of the colour called kâsâva. This was probably
dull orange, selected as being unornamental. It would appear that in
mediæval India the colour in use was reddish: at present a rather bright
and not unpleasing yellow is worn in Burma, Ceylon, Siam and Camboja.
Originally the robes were made of rags collected and sewed together but
it soon became the practice for pious laymen to supply the Order with


In the Mahâ and Culla-vaggas of the Vinaya Pitaka we possess a large
collection of regulations purporting to be issued by the Buddha for the
guidance of the Order on such subjects as ceremonial, discipline,
clothes, food, furniture and medicine. The arrangement is roughly
chronological. Gotama starts as a new teacher, without either followers
or a code. As disciples multiply the need for regulations and uniformity
of life is felt. Each incident and difficulty that arises is reported to
him and he defines the correct practice. One may suspect that many
usages represented as originating in the injunctions of the master
really grew up gradually. But the documents are ancient; they date from
the generations immediately following the Buddha's death, and their
account of his activity as an organizer is probably correct in
substance. One of the first reasons which rendered regulations necessary
was the popularity of the order and the respect which it enjoyed. King
Bimbisâra of Magadha is represented as proclaiming that "It is not
permitted to do anything to those who join the order of the
Sakyaputtiya[534]." Hence robbers[535], debtors, slaves, soldiers
anxious to escape service and others who wished for protection against
the law or merely to lead an idle life, desired to avail themselves of
these immunities. This resulted in the gradual elaboration of a code of
discipline which did much to secure that only those actuated by proper
motives could enter the order and only those who conducted themselves
properly could stay within it.

We find traces of a distinction between those Bhikkhus who were hermits
and lived solitary lives in the woods and those who moved about in
bands, frequenting rest houses. In the time of the Buddha the wandering
life was a reality but later most monks became residents in monasteries.
Already in the Vinaya we seem to breathe the atmosphere of large
conventual establishments where busy superintendents see to the lodging
and discipline of crowds of monks, and to the distribution of the gifts
made by pious laymen. But the Buddha himself knew the value of forests
and plant life for calming and quickening the mind. "Here are trees," he
would say to his disciples at the end of a lecture, "go and think it

In the poetical books of the Tripitaka, especially the collections known
as the Songs of the Monks and Nuns, this feeling is still stronger: we
are among anchorites who pass their time in solitary meditation in the
depths of forests or on mountain tops and have a sense of freedom and a
joy in the life of wild things not found in cloisters. These old monkish
poems are somewhat wearisome as continuous reading, but their monotonous
enthusiasm about the conquest of desire is leavened by a sincere and
observant love of nature. They sing of the scenes in which meditation is
pleasant, the flowery banks of streams that flow through reeds and
grasses of many colours as well as the mysterious midnight forest when
the dew falls and wild beasts howl; they note the plumage of the blue
peacock, the flight of the yellow crane and the gliding movements of the
water snake. It does not appear that these amiable hermits arrogated any
superiority to themselves or that there was any opposition between them
and the rest of the brethren. They preferred a form of the religious
life which the Buddha would not make compulsory, but it is older than
Buddhism and not yet dead in India. The Sangha exercised no hierarchical
authority over them and they accepted such simple symbols of union as
the observance of Uposatha days.

The character of the Sangha has not materially changed since its
constitution took definite shape towards the end of the master's life.
It was and is simply a body of people who believe that the higher life
cannot be lived in any existing form of society and therefore combine to
form a confraternity where they are relieved of care for food and
raiment, where they can really take no thought for the morrow and turn
the cheek to the smiter. They were not a corporation of priests and they
had no political aims. Any free man, unless his parents or the state had
a claim on him and unless he suffered from certain diseases, was
admitted; he took no vows of obedience and was at any time at liberty to
return to the world.

Though the Sangha as founded by the Buddha did not claim, still less
exact, anything from the laity, yet it was their duty, their most
obvious and easy method of acquiring merit, to honour and support monks,
to provide them with food, clothes and lodging and with everything which
they might lawfully possess. Strictly speaking a monk does not beg for
food nor thank for what he receives. He gives the layman a chance of
doing a good deed and the donor, not the recipient, should be thankful.

At first the Buddha admitted converts to the order himself, but he
subsequently prescribed two simple ceremonies for admission to the
novitiate and to full privileges respectively. They are often described
as ordinations but are rather applications from postulants which are
granted by a Chapter consisting of at least ten members. The first,
called pabbajjâ or going forth—that is leaving the world—is effected
when the would-be novice, duly shorn and robed in yellow, recites the
three refuges and the ten precepts[537]. Full membership is obtained by
the further ceremony called upasampadâ. The postulant, who must be at
least twenty years old, is examined in order to ascertain that he is
_sui juris_ and has no disqualifying disease or other impediment. Then
he is introduced to the Chapter by "a learned and competent monk" who
asks those who are in favour of his admission to signify the same by
their silence and those who are not, to speak. If this formula is
repeated three times without calling forth objection, the upasampadâ is
complete. The newly admitted Bhikkhu must have an Upajjhâya or preceptor
on whom he waits as a servant, seeing to his clothes, bath, bed, etc. In
return the preceptor gives him spiritual instruction, supervises his
conduct and tends him when sick.

The Chapter which had power to accept new monks and regulate discipline
consisted of the monks inhabiting a parish or district, whose extent was
fixed by the Sangha itself. Its reality as a corporate body was secured
by stringent regulations that under no excuse must the Bhikkhus resident
in a parish omit to assemble on Uposatha days[538]. The Vinaya[539]
represents the initiative for these simple observances as coming not
from the Buddha but from King Bimbisâra, who pointed out that the
adherents of other schools met on fixed days and that it would be well
if his disciples did the same. He assented and ordered that when they
met they should recite a formula called Pâtimokkha which is still in
use. It is a confessional service, in which a list of offences is read
out and the brethren are asked three times after each item "Are you pure
in this matter?" Silence indicates a good conscience. Only if a monk has
anything to confess does he speak. It is then in the power of the
assembly to prescribe some form of expiation. The offender may be
rebuked, suspended or even expelled. But he must admit his guilt.
Otherwise disciplinary measures are forbidden.

What has been said above[540] about the daily life of the Buddha applies
equally to the life of his disciples. Like him they rose early,
journeyed or went to beg their only meal until about half-past eleven
and spent the heat of the day in retirement and meditation. In the
evening followed discussion and instruction. It was forbidden to accept
gold and silver but the order might possess parks and monasteries and
receive offerings of food and clothes. The personal possessions allowed
to a monk were only the three robes, a girdle, an alms bowl, a razor, a
needle and a water strainer[541]. Everything else which might be given
to an individual had to be handed over to the confraternity and held in
common and the Vinaya shows clearly how a band of wandering monks
following their teacher from place to place speedily grew into an
influential corporation possessing parks and monasteries near the
principal cities. The life in these establishments attained a high level
of comfort according to the standard of the times and the number of
restrictive precepts suggests a tendency towards luxury. This was
natural, for the laity were taught that their duty was to give and the
Order had to decide how much it could properly receive from those pious
souls who were only too happy to acquire merit. In the larger Vihâras,
for instance at Sâvatthî, there were halls for exercise (that is walking
up and down), halls with fires in them, warm baths and store rooms.

The year of the Bhikkhus was divided into two parts. During nine months
they might wander about, live in the woods or reside in a monastery.
During the remaining three months, known as Vassa[542] or rainy season,
residence in a monastery was obligatory. This custom, as mentioned,
existed in India before the Buddha's time and the Pitakas represent him
as adopting it, chiefly out of deference to public opinion. He did not
prescribe any special observances for the period of Vassa, but this was
the time when people had most leisure, since it was hard to move about,
and also when the monks were brought into continual contact with the
inhabitants of a special locality. So it naturally became regarded as
the appropriate season for giving instruction to the laity. The end of
the rainy season was marked by a ceremony called Pavâraṇâ, at which the
monks asked one another to pardon any offences that might have been
committed, and immediately after it came the Kathiṇa ceremony or
distribution of robes. Kathiṇa signifies the store of raw cotton cloth
presented by the laity and held as common property until distributed to

It would be tedious to give even an abstract of the regulations
contained in the Vinaya. They are almost exclusively concerned with
matters of daily life, dwellings, furniture, medicine and so forth, and
if we compare them with the statutes of other religious orders, we are
struck by the fact that the Buddha makes no provision for work,
obedience or worship. In the western branches of the Christian
Church—and to some extent, though less markedly, in the eastern—the
theory prevails that "Satan finds some mischief still for idle hands to
do" and manual labour is a recognized part of the monastic life. But in
India conditions and ideals were different. The resident monk grew out
of the wandering teacher or disputant, who was not likely to practise
any trade; it was a maxim that religious persons lived on alms, and
occupations which we consider harmless, such as agriculture, were held
to be unsuitable because such acts as ploughing may destroy animal life.
Probably the Buddha would not have admitted the value of manual labour
as a distraction and defence against evil thoughts. No one was more
earnestly bent on the conquest of such thoughts, but he wished to
extirpate them, not merely to crowd them out. Energy and activity are
insisted on again and again, and there is no attempt to discourage
mental activity. Reading formed no part of the culture of the time, but
a life of travel and new impressions, continual discussion and the war
of wits, must have given the Bhikkhus a more stimulating training than
was to be had in the contemporary Brahmanic schools.

The Buddha's regulations contain no vow of obedience or recognition of
rank other than simple seniority or the relation of teacher to pupil. As
time went on various hierarchical expedients were invented in different
countries, since the management of large bodies of men necessitates
authority in some form, but except in Lamaism this authority has rarely
taken the form familiar to us in the Roman and Oriental Churches, where
the Bishops and higher clergy assume the right to direct both the belief
and conduct of others. In the Sangha, no monk could give orders to
another: he who disobeyed the precepts of the order ceased to be a
member of it either _ipso facto_, or if he refused to comply with the
expiation prescribed. Also there was no compulsion, no suppression of
discussion, no delegated power to explain or supplement the truth. Hence
differences of opinion in the Buddhist Church have largely taken the
shape of schools of thought rather than of separate and polemical sects.
Dissension indeed has not been absent but of persecution, such as stains
the annals of the Christian Church, there is hardly any record. The fact
that the Sangha, though nearly five hundred years older than any
Christian institution, is still vigorous shows that this noble freedom
is not unsuccessful as a practical policy.

The absence of anything that can be called worship or cultus in Gotama's
regulations is remarkable. He not merely sets aside the older religious
rites, such as prayer and sacrifice; he does not prescribe anything
whatever which is in ordinary language a religious act. For the
Pâtimokkha, Pavâraṇâ, etc., are not religious ceremonies, but chapters
of the order held with an ethical object, and the procedure (the
proposal of a resolution and the request for an expression of opinion)
is that adopted in modern public meetings, except that assent is
signified by silence. It is true that the ceremonial of a religion is
not likely to develop during the life of the founder, for pious
recollection and recitation of his utterances in the form of scripture
are as yet impossible. Still, if the Buddha had had any belief whatever
in the edifying effect of ritual, he would not have failed to institute
some ceremony, appealing if not to supernatural beings at least to human
emotions. Even the few observances which he did prescribe seem to be the
result of suggestion from others and the only inference to be drawn is
that he regarded every form of religious observance as entirely

At first the Sangha consisted exclusively of men. It was not until about
five years after its establishment that the entreaties of the Buddha's
fostermother, who had become a widow, and of Ânanda prevailed on him to
throw it open to women as well[543] but it would seem that the
permission was wrung from him against his judgment. His reluctance was
not due to a low estimate of female ability, for he recognized and made
use of the influence of women in social and domestic life and he
admitted that they were as capable as men of attaining the highest
stages of spiritual and intellectual progress. This is also attested by
the Pitakas, for some of the most important and subtle arguments and
expositions are put into the mouths of nuns[544]. Indeed the objections
raised by the Buddha, though emphatic, are as arguments singularly vague
and the eight rules for nuns which he laid down and compared to an
embankment built to prevent a flood seem dictated not by the danger of
immorality but by the fear that women might aspire to the management of
the order and to be the equals or superiors of monks.

So far as we can tell, his fears were not realized. The female branch of
the order showed little vigour after its first institution but it does
not appear that it was a cause of weakness or corruption. Women were
influential in the infancy of Buddhism, but we hear little of the nuns
when this first ardour was over. We may surmise that it was partly due
to personal devotion to Gotama and also that there was a growing
tendency to curtail the independence allowed to women by earlier Aryan
usage. The daughters of Asoka play some part in the narratives of the
conversion of Ceylon and Nepal but after the early days of the Church
female names are not prominent: subsequently the succession became
interrupted and, as nuns can receive ordination only from other nuns and
not from monks, it could not be restored. The so-called nuns of the
present day are merely religious women corresponding to the sisters of
Protestant Churches, but are not ordained members of an order. But the
right of women to enjoy the same spiritual privileges as men is not
denied in theory and in practice Buddhism has done nothing to support or
commend the system of the harem or zenana. In some Buddhist countries
such as Burma and Siam women enjoy almost the same independence as in
Europe. In China and Japan their status is not so high, but one period
when Buddhism was powerful in Japan (800-1100 A.D.) was marked by the
number of female writers and among the Manchus and Tibetans women enjoy
considerable freedom and authority.

Those who follow the law of the Buddha but are not members of the Sangha
are called Upâsakas[545], that is worshippers or adherents. The word may
be conveniently rendered by laymen although the distinction between
clergy and laity, as understood in most parts of Europe, does not quite
correspond to the distinction between Bhikkhus and Upâsakas. European
clergy are often thought of as interpreters of the Deity, and whenever
they have had the power they have usually claimed the right to supervise
and control the moral or even the political administration of their
country. Something similar may be found in Lamaism, but it forms no part
of Gotama's original institution nor of the Buddhist Church as seen
to-day in Burma, Siam and Ceylon. The members of the Sangha are not
priests or mediators. They have joined a confraternity in order to lead
a higher life for which ordinary society has no place. They will teach
others, not as those whose duty it is to make the laity conform to their
standard but as those who desire to make known the truth. And easy as is
the transition from this attitude to the other, it must be admitted that
Buddhism has rarely laid itself open to the charge of interfering in
politics or of seeking temporal authority. Rather may it be accused of a
tendency to indolence. In some cases elementary education is in the
hands of the monks and their monasteries serve the purpose of village
schools. Elsewhere they are harmless recluses whom the unsympathetic
critic may pity as useless but can hardly condemn as ambitious or
interfering. This is not however altogether true of Tibet and the Far

It is sometimes said that the only real Buddhists are the members of the
Sangha and there is some truth in this, particularly in China, where one
cannot count as a Buddhist every one who occasionally attends a Buddhist
service. But on the other hand Gotama accorded to the laity a definite
and honourable position and in the Pitakas they notify their conversion
by a special formula. They cannot indeed lead the perfect life but they
can ensure birth in happy states and a good layman may even attain
nirvana on his death-bed. But though the pious householder "takes his
refuge in the law and in the order of monks" from whom he learns the
law, yet these monks make no attempt to supervise or even to judge his
life. The only punishment which the Order inflicts, to turn down the
bowl and refuse to accept alms from guilty hands, is reserved for those
who have tried to injure it and is not inflicted on notorious evil
livers. It is the business of a monk to spread true knowledge and good
feeling around him without enquiring into the thoughts and deeds of
those who do not spontaneously seek his counsel. Indeed it may be said
that in Burma it is the laity who supervise the monks rather than _vice
versa_. Those Bhikkhus who fall short of the accepted standard,
especially in chastity, are compelled by popular opinion to leave the
monastery or village where they have misbehaved. This reminds us of the
criticisms of laymen reported in the Vinaya and the deference which the
Buddha paid to them.

The ethical character of Buddhism and its superiority to other Indian
systems are shown in the precepts which it lays down for laymen.
Ceremony and doctrine have hardly any place in this code, but it enjoins
good conduct and morality: moderation in pleasures and consideration for
others. Only five commandments are essential for a good life but they
are perhaps more comprehensive and harder to keep than the Decalogue,
for they prescribe abstinence from the five sins of taking life,
drinking intoxicants, lying, stealing and unchastity. It is meritorious
to observe in addition three other precepts, namely, to use no garlands
or perfumes: to sleep on a mat spread on the ground and not to eat after
midday. Pious laymen keep all these eight precepts, at least on Uposatha
days, and often make a vow to observe them for some special period. The
nearer a layman can approximate to the life of a monk the better for his
spiritual health, but still the aims and ideals, and consequently the
methods, of the lay and religious life are different. The Bhikkhu is not
of this world, he has cut himself loose from its ties, pleasures and
passions; he strives not for heaven but for arhatship. But the layman,
though he may profitably think of nirvana and final happiness, may also
rightly aspire to be born in some temporary heaven. The law merely bids
him be a kind, temperate, prudent man of the world. It is only when he
speaks to the monks that the Buddha really speaks to his own and gives
his own thoughts: only for them are the high selfless aspirations, the
austere counsels of perfection and the promises of bliss and something
beyond bliss. But the lay morality is excellent in its own sphere—the
good respectable life—and its teaching is most earnest and natural in
those departments where the hard unsentimental precepts of the higher
code jar on western minds. Whereas the monk severs all family ties and
is fettered by no domestic affection, this is the field which the layman
can cultivate with most profit. It was against his judgment that the
Buddha admitted women to his order and in bidding his monks beware of
them he said many hard things. But for women in the household life the
Pitakas show an appreciation and respect which is illustrated by the
position held by women in Buddhist countries from the devout and capable
matron Visâkhâ down to the women of Burma in the present day. The Buddha
even praised the ancients because they married for love and did not buy
their wives[546].

The right life of a layman is described in several suttas[547] and in
all of them, though almsgiving, religious conversation and hearing the
law are commended, the main emphasis is on such social virtues as
pleasant speech, kindness, temperance, consideration for others and
affection. The most complete of these discourses, the
Sigâlovâda-sutta[548], relates how the Buddha when starting one morning
to beg alms in Râjagaha saw the householder Sigâla bowing down with
clasped hands and saluting the four quarters, the nadir and the zenith.
The object of the ceremony was to avert any evil which might come from
these six points. The Buddha told him that this was not the right way to
protect oneself: a man should regard his parents as the east, his
teachers as the south, his wife and children as the west, his friends as
the north, his servants as the nadir and monks and Brahmans as the
zenith. By fulfilling his duty to these six classes a man protects
himself from all evil which may come from the six points. Then he
expounded in order the mutual duties of (1) parents and children, (2)
pupils and teachers, (3) husband and wife, (4) friends, (5) master and
servant, (6) laity and clergy. The precepts which follow show how much
common sense and good feeling Gotama could bring to bear on the affairs
of every-day life when he gave them his attention and the whole
classification of reciprocal obligations recalls the five relationships
of Chinese morality, three of which are identical with Gotama's
divisions, namely parents and children, husband and wife, and friends.
But national characteristics make themselves obvious in the differences.
Gotama says nothing about politics or loyalty; the Chinese list, which
opens with the mutual duties of sovereigns and subjects, is silent
respecting the church and clergy.

The Sangha is an Indian institution and invites comparison with that
remarkable feature of Indian social life, the Brahman caste. At first
sight the two seem mutually opposed, for the one is a hereditary though
intellectual aristocracy, claiming the possession of incommunicable
knowledge and power, the other a corporation open to all who choose to
renounce the world and lead a good life. And this antithesis contains
historical truth: the Sangha, like the similar orders of the Jains and
other Kshatriya sects, was in its origin a protest against the
exclusiveness and ritualism of the Brahmans. Yet compared with anything
to be found in other countries the two bodies have something in common.
For instance it is a meritorious act to feed either Brahmans or
Bhikkhus. Europeans are inclined to call both of them priests, but this
is inaccurate for a Bhikkhu rarely deserves the title [549] and nowadays
Brahmans are not necessarily priests nor priests Brahmans. But in India
there is an old and widespread idea that he who devotes himself to a
religious and intellectual life (and the two spheres, though they do not
coincide, overlap more than in Europe) should be not only respected but
supported by the rest of the world. He is not a professional man in the
sense that lawyers, doctors and clergymen are, but rather an aristocrat.
Though from the earliest times the nobles of India have had a full share
of pride and self-confidence, the average Hindu has always believed in
another kind of upper class, entered in some sects by birth, in others
by merit, but in general a well-defined body, the conduct of whose
members does not fail to command respect. The _do ut des_ principle is
certainly not wanting, but the holy man is honoured not so much because
he will make an immediate return by imparting some instruction or
performing some ceremony but because to honour him is a good act which,
like other good acts, will sooner or later find its reward. The Buddha
is not represented as blaming the respect paid to Brahmans but as saying
that Brahmans must deserve it. Birth and plaited hair do not make a true
Brahman any more than a shaven head makes a Bhikkhu, but he who has
renounced the world, who is pure in thought, word and deed, who follows
the eight-fold path, and perfects himself in knowledge, he is the true
Brahman[550]. Men of such aspirations are commoner in India than
elsewhere and more than elsewhere they form a class, which is defined by
each sect for itself. But in all sects it is an essential part of piety
to offer respect and gifts to this religious aristocracy.




The first period in the history of Buddhism extends from the death of
the founder to the death of Asoka, that is to about 232 B.C. It had then
not only become a great Indian religion but had begun to send forth
missionaries to foreign countries. But this growth had not yet brought
about the internal changes which are inevitable when a creed expands far
beyond the boundaries within which it was a natural expression of local
thought. An intellectual movement and growth is visible within the
limits of the Pali Canon and is confirmed by what we hear of the
existence of sects or schools, but it does not appear that in the time
of Asoka the workings of speculation had led to any point of view
materially different from that of Gotama.

Our knowledge of general Indian history before the reign of Asoka is
scanty and the data which can be regarded as facts for Buddhist
ecclesiastical history are scantier still. We hear of two (or including
the Mahâsangîti three) meetings sometimes called Councils; scriptures,
obviously containing various strata, were compiled, and eighteen sects
or schools had time to arise and some of them to decay. Much doubt has
been cast upon the councils[551] but to my mind this suspicion is
unmerited, provided that too ecclesiastical a meaning is not given to
the word. We must not suppose that the meetings held at Râjagaha and
Vesâlî were similar to the Council of Nicaea or that they produced the
works edited by the Pali Text Society. Such terms as canon, dogma and
council, though indispensable, are misleading at this period. We want
less formal equivalents for the same ideas. A number of men who were
strangers to those conceptions of a hierarchy and a Bible[552] which are
so familiar to us met together to fix and record the opinions and
injunctions of the Master or to remove misapprehensions and abuses. It
would be better if we could avoid using even the word Buddhist at this
period, for it implies a difference sharper than the divisions existing
between the followers of Gotama and others. They were in the position of
the followers of Christ before they received at Antioch the name of
Christians and the meeting at Râjagaha was analogous to the conferences
recorded in the first chapter of the Acts of the Apostles.

The record of this meeting and of the subsequent meeting at Vesâlî is
contained in Chapters XI. and XII. of the Cullavagga, which must
therefore be later than the second meeting and perhaps considerably
later. Other accounts are found in the Dîpavaṃsa, Mahâ-Bodhi-Vaṃsa and
Buddhaghosa's commentaries. The version given in the Cullavagga is
abrupt and does not entirely agree with other narratives of what
followed on the death of the Buddha[553]. It seems to be a combination
of two documents, for it opens as a narrative by Kassapa, but it soon
turns into a narrative about him. But the clumsiness in compilation and
the errors of detail are hardly sufficient to discredit an event which
is probable in itself and left an impression on tradition. The Buddha
combined great personal authority with equally great liberality. While
he was alive he decided all questions of dogma and discipline himself,
but he left to the Order authority to abolish all the minor precepts. It
seems inevitable that some sort of meeting should have been held to
consider the position created by this wide permission. Brief and
confused as the story in the Cullavagga is, there is nothing improbable
in its outline—namely that a resolution was taken at Kusinârâ where he
died to hold a synod during the next rains at Râjagaha, a more central
place where alms and lodgings were plentiful, and there come to an
agreement as to what should be accepted as the true doctrine and
discipline. Accordingly five hundred monks met near this town and
enquired into the authenticity of the various rules and suttas. They
then went on to ask what the Buddha had meant by the lesser and minor
precepts which might be abolished. Ânanda (who came in for a good deal
of blame in the course of the proceedings) confessed that he had
forgotten to ask the Master for an explanation and divergent opinions
were expressed as to the extent of the discretion allowed. Kassapa
finally proposed that the Sangha should adopt without alteration or
addition the rules made by the Buddha. This was approved and the Dhamma
and Vinaya as chanted by the assembled Bhikkhus were accepted. The
Abhidhamma is not mentioned. The name usually given to these councils is
Sangîti, which means singing or chanting together. An elder is said to
have recited the text sentence by sentence and each phrase was intoned
after him by the assembly as a sign of acceptance. Upâli was the
principal authority for the Vinaya and Ânanda for the Dhamma but the
limits of the authority claimed by the meeting are illustrated by an
anecdote[554] which relates that after the chanting of the law had been
completed Pûraṇa and his disciples arrived from the Southern Hills. The
elders asked him to accept the version rehearsed by them. He replied,
"The Dhamma and Vinaya have been well sung by the Theras, nevertheless
as they have been received and heard by me from the mouth of the Lord,
so will I hold them." In other words the council has put together a very
good account of the Buddha's teaching but has no claim to impose it on
those who have personal reminiscences of their own.

This want of a central authority, though less complete than in
Brahmanism, marks the early life of the Buddhist community. We read in
later works[555] of a succession of Elders who are sometimes called
Patriarchs[556] but it would be erroneous to think of them as possessing
episcopal authority. They were at most the chief teachers of the order.
From the death of the Buddha to Asoka only five names are mentioned. But
five names can fill the interval only if their bearers were unusually
long-lived. It is therefore probable that the list merely contains the
names of prominent Theras who exercised little authority in virtue of
any office, though their personal qualities assured them respect. Upâli,
who comes first, is called chief of the Vinaya but, so far as there was
one head of the order, it seems to have been Kassapa. He is the Brahman
ascetic of Uruvelâ whose conversion is recorded in the first book of the
Mahâvagga and is said to have exchanged robes with the Buddha[557]. He
observed the Dhutângas and we may conjecture that his influence tended
to promote asceticism. Dasaka and Sonaka are also designated as chiefs
of the Vinaya and there was perhaps a distinction between those who
studied (to use modern phrases) ecclesiastical law and dogmatic

The accounts[558] of the second Council are as abrupt as those of the
first and do not connect it with previous events. The circumstances said
to have led to its meeting are, however, probable. According to the
Cullavagga, a hundred years after the death of the Buddha certain
Bhikkhus of Vajjian lineage resident at Vesâlî upheld ten theses
involving relaxations of the older discipline. The most important of
these was that monks were permitted to receive gold and silver, but all
of them, trivial as they may seem, had a dangerous bearing for they
encouraged not only luxury but the formation of independent schools. For
instance they allowed pupils to cite the practice of their preceptors as
a justification for their conduct and authorized monks resident in one
parish to hold Uposatha in separate companies and not as one united
body. The story of the condemnation of these new doctrines contains
miraculous incidents but seems to have a historical basis. It relates
how a monk called Yasa, when a guest of the monks of Vesâlî, quarrelled
with them because they accepted money from the laity and, departing
thence, sought for support among the Theras or elders of the south and
west. The result was a conference at Vesâlî in which the principal
figures are Revata and Sabbakâmi, a pupil of Ânanda, expressly said to
have been ordained one hundred and twenty years earlier[559]. The ten
theses were referred to a committee, which rejected them all, and this
rejection was confirmed by the whole Sangha, who proceeded to rehearse
the Vinaya. We are not however told that they revised the Sutta or

Here ends the account of the Cullavagga but the Dîpavaṃsa adds that the
wicked Vajjian monks, to whom it ascribes wrong doctrines as well as
errors in discipline, collected a strong faction and held a schismatic
council called the Mahâsangîti. This meeting recited or compiled a new
version of the Dhamma and Vinaya[560]. It is not easy to establish any
facts about the origin and tenets of this Mahâsangîtika or Mahâsanghika
sect, though it seems to have been important. The Chinese pilgrims Fa
Hsien and Hsüan Chuang, writing on the basis of information obtained in
the fifth and seventh centuries of our era, represent it as arising in
connection with the first council, which was either that of Râjagaha or
some earlier meeting supposed to have been held during the Buddha's
lifetime, and Hsüan Chuang[561] intimates that it was formed of laymen
as well as monks and that it accepted additional matter including
dhâraṇîs or spells rejected by the monkish council. Its name (admitted
by its opponents) seems to imply that it represented at one time the
opinions of the majority or at least a great number of the faithful. But
it was not the sect which flourished in Ceylon and the writer of the
Dîpavaṃsa is prejudiced against it. It may be a result of this animus
that he connects it with the discreditable Vajjian schism and the
Chinese tradition may be more correct. On the other hand the adherents
of the school would naturally be disposed to assign it an early origin.
Fa Hsien says[562] that the Vinaya of the Mahâsanghikas was considered
"the most complete with the fullest explanations." A translation of this
text is contained in the Chinese Tripitaka[563].

Early Indian Buddhism is said to have been divided into eighteen sects
or schools, which have long ceased to exist and must not be confounded
with any existing denominations. Fa Hsien observes that they agree in
essentials and differ only in details and this seems to have been true
not only when he wrote (about 420 A.D.) but throughout their history. In
different epochs and countries Buddhism presents a series of surprising
metamorphoses, but the divergences between the sects existing in India
at any given time are less profound in character and less violent in
expression than the divisions of Christianity. Similarly the so-called
sects[564] in modern China, Burma and Siam are better described as
schools, in some ways analogous to such parties as the High and Low
Church in England. On the other hand some of the eighteen schools
exceeded the variations permitted in Christianity and Islam by having
different collections of the scriptures. But at the time of which we are
treating these collections had not been reduced to writing: they were of
considerable extent compared with the Bible or Koran and they admitted
later explanatory matter. The record of the Buddha's words did not
profess to be a miraculous revelation but merely a recollection of what
had been said. It is therefore natural that each school should maintain
that the memory of its own scholars had transmitted the most accurate
and complete account and that tradition should represent the successive
councils as chiefly occupied in reciting and sifting these accounts.

It is generally agreed that the eighteen[565] schools were in existence
during or shortly before the reign of Asoka, and that six others[566]
arose about the same period, but subsequently to them. The best
materials for a study of their opinions are afforded by the text and
commentary[567] of the Kathâ-vatthu, a treatise attributed to Tissa
Moggaliputta, who is said to have been President of the Third Council
held under Asoka. It is an examination and refutation of heretical views
rather than a description of the bodies that held them but we can judge
from it what was the religious atmosphere at the time and the commentary
gives some information about various sects. Many centuries later I-ching
tells us that during his visit to India (671-695 A.D.) the principal
schools were four in number, with eighteen subdivisions. These four[568]
are the Mahâsanghika, the Sthavira (equivalent to the old Theravâda),
the Mûlasarvâstivâda and the Sammitiya, and from the time of Asoka
onwards they throw the remaining divisions into the shade[569]. He adds
that it is not determined which of the four should be grouped with the
Mâhâyana and which with the Hînayâna, that distinction being probably
later in origin. The differences between the eighteen schools in
I-ching's time were not vital but concerned the composition of the canon
and details of discipline. It was a creditable thing to be versed in the
scriptures of them all[570]. It is curious that though the Kathâvatthu
pays more attention to the opinions of the six new sects than to those
held by most of the eighteen, yet this latter number continued to be
quoted nearly a thousand years later, whereas the additional six seem
forgotten. It may be that they were more unorthodox than the others and
hence required fuller criticism. Five of their names are geographical
designations, but we hear no more of them after the age of Asoka.

The religious horizon of the heretics confuted in the Kâthavatthu does
not differ materially from that of the Pitakas. There are many questions
about arhatship, its nature, the method of obtaining it and the
possibility of losing it. Also we find registered divergent views
respecting the nature of knowledge and sensation. Of these the most
important is the doctrine attributed to the Sammitiyas, that a soul
exists in the highest and truest sense. They are also credited with
holding that an arhat can fall from arhatship, that a god can enter the
paths or the Order, and that even an unconverted man can get rid of all
lust and ill-will[571]. This collection of beliefs is possibly
explicable as a result of the view that the condition of the soul, which
is continuous from birth to birth, is stronger for good or evil than its
surroundings. The germs of the Mahâyâna may be detected in the opinions
of some sects on the nature of the Buddha and the career of a
Bodhisattva. Thus the Andhakas thought that the Buddha was superhuman in
the ordinary affairs of life and the Vetulyakas[572] held that he was
not really born in the world of men but sent a phantom to represent him,
remaining himself in the Tusita heaven. The doctrines attributed to the
Uttarâpathakas and Andhakas respectively that an unconverted man, if
good, is capable of entering on the career of a Bodhisattva and that a
Bodhisattva can in the course of his career fall into error and be
reborn in state of woe, show an interest in the development of a
Bodhisattva and a desire to bring it nearer to human life which are
foreign to the Pitakas. An inclination to think of other states of
existence in a manner half mythological half metaphysical is indicated
by other heresies, such as that there is an intermediate realm where
beings await rebirth, that the dead benefit by gifts given in the
world[573], that there are animals in heaven, that the Four Truths, the
Chain of Causation, and the Eightfold Path, are self-existent

The point of view of the Kathâ-vatthu, and indeed of the whole Pali
Tripitaka, is that of the Vibhajjavâdins, which seems to mean those who
proceed by analysis and do not make vague generalizations. This was the
school to which Tissa Moggaliputta belonged and was identical with the
Theravâda (teaching of the elders) or a section of it. The prominence of
this sect in the history of Buddhism has caused its own view, namely
that it represents primitive Buddhism, to be widely accepted. And this
view deserves respect for it rests on a solid historical basis, namely
that about two and a half centuries after the Buddha's death and in the
country where he preached, the Vibhajjavâdins claimed to get back to his
real teaching by an examination of the existing traditions[574]. This is
a very early starting-point. But the Sarvâstivâdins[575] were also an
early school which attained to widespread influence and had a similar
desire to preserve the simple and comparatively human presentment of the
Buddha's teaching as opposed to later embellishments. Only three
questions in the Kathâ-vatthu are directed against them but this
probably means not that they were unimportant but that they did not
differ much from the Vibhajjavâdins. The special views attributed to
them are that everything really exists, that an arhat can fall from
arhatship, and that continuity of thought constitutes Samâdhi or
meditation. These theses may perhaps be interpreted as indicative of an
aversion to metaphysics and the supernatural. A saint has not undergone
any supernatural transformation but has merely reached a level from
which he can fall: meditation is simply fixity of attention, not a
mystic trance. In virtue of the first doctrine European writers often
speak of the Sarvâstivâdins as realists but their peculiar view
concerned not so much the question of objective reality as the
difference between being and becoming. They said that the world _is_
whereas other schools maintained that it was a continual process of
becoming[576]. It is not necessary at present to follow further the
history of this important school. It had a long career and flourished in
Kashmir and Central Asia.

Confused as are the notices of these ancient sects, we see with some
clearness that in opposition to the Theravâda there was another body
alluded to in terms which, though hostile, still imply an admission of
size and learning, such as Mahâsanghika or Mahâsangîtika, the people of
the great assembly, and Âcâryavâda or the doctrine of the Teachers. It
appears to have originated in connection with some council and to embody
a popular protest against the severity of the doctrine there laid down.
This is natural, for it is pretty obvious that many found the
argumentative psychology of the Theravâdins arid and wearisome. The
Dîpavamsa accuses the Mahâsanghikas of garbling the canon but the
Chinese pilgrims testify that in later times their books were regarded
as specially complete. One well-known work, the Mahâvastu, perhaps
composed in the first century B.C., describes itself as belonging to the
Lokuttara branch of the Mahâsanghikas. The Mahâsanghikas probably
represent the elements which developed into the Mahâyâna. It is not
possible to formulate their views precisely but, whereas the Theravâda
was essentially teaching for the Bhikkhu, they represented those
concessions to popular taste from which Buddhism has never been quite
dissociated even in its earliest period.


For some two centuries after Gotama's death we have little information
as to the geographical extension of his doctrine, but some of the
Sanskrit versions of the Vinaya[577] represent him as visiting Muttra,
North-west India and Kashmir. So far as is known, the story of this
journey is not supported by more ancient documents or other arguments:
it contains a prediction about Kanishka, and may have been composed in
or after his reign when the flourishing condition of Buddhism in
Gândhâra made it seem appropriate to gild the past. But the narratives
about Muttra and Kashmir contain several predictions relating to the
progress of the faith 100 years after the Buddha's death and these can
hardly be explained except as references to a tradition that those
regions were converted at the epoch mentioned. There is no doubt of the
connection between Kashmir and the Sarvâstivâdins nor anything
improbable in the supposition that the first missionary activity was in
the direction of Muttra and Kashmir.

But the great landmark in the earlier history of Buddhism is the reign
of Asoka. He came to the throne about 270 B.C. and inherited the vast
dominions of his father and grandfather. Almost all that we know of the
political events of his reign is that his coronation did not take place
until four years later, which may indicate a disputed succession, and
that he rounded off his possessions by the conquest of Kalinga, that is
the country between the Mahanadi and the Godavari, about 261 B.C. This
was the end of his military career. Nothing could be gained by further
conquests, for his empire already exceeded the limits set to effective
government by the imperfect communications of the epoch, seeing that it
extended from Afghanistan to the mouths of the Ganges and southwards
almost to Madras. No evidence substantiates the later stories which
represent him as a monster of wickedness before his conversion, but
according to the Dîpavaṃsa he at first favoured heretics.

The general effect of Asoka's rule on the history of Buddhism and indeed
of Asia is clear, but there is still some difference of opinion as to
the date of his conversion. The most important document for the
chronology of his reign is the inscription known as the first Minor Rock
Edict[578]. It is now generally admitted that it does not state the time
which has elapsed since the death of the Buddha, as was once supposed,
and that the King relates in it how for more than two and a half years
after his conversion to Buddhism he was a lay-believer and did not exert
himself strenuously, but subsequently joined the Sangha[579] and began
to devote his energies to religion rather more than a year before the
publication of the edict. This proclamation has been regarded by some as
the first, by others as the last of his edicts. On the latter
supposition we must imagine that he published a long series of ethical
but not definitely Buddhist ordinances and that late in life he became
first a lay-believer and then a monk, probably abdicating at the same
time. But the King is exceedingly candid as to his changes of life and
mind: he tells us how the horrors of the war with Kalinga affected him,
how he was an easygoing layman and then a zealous monk. Had there been a
stage between the war and his acceptance of Buddhism as a layman, a
period of many years in which he devoted himself to the moral progress
of his people without being himself a Buddhist, he would surely have
explained it. Moreover in the Bhâbrû edict, which is distinctly
ecclesiastical and deals with the Buddhist scriptures, he employs his
favourite word Dhamma in the strict Buddhist sense, without indicating
that he is giving it an unusual or new meaning. I therefore think it
probable that he became a lay Buddhist soon after the conquest of
Kalinga, that is in the ninth or tenth year after his accession, and a
member of the Sangha two and a half years later. On this hypothesis all
his edicts are the utterances of a Buddhist.

It may be objected that no one could be a monk and at the same time
govern a great empire: it is more natural and more in accordance with
Indian usage that towards the end of his life an aged king should
abdicate and renounce the world. But Wu Ti, the Buddhist Emperor of
China, retired to a monastery twice in the course of his long reign and
the cloistered Emperors of Japan in the eleventh and twelfth centuries
continued to direct the policy of their country, although they abdicated
in name and set a child on the throne as titular ruler. The Buddhist
Church was not likely to criticize Asoka's method of keeping his
monastic vows and indeed it may be said that his activity was not so
much that of a pious emperor as of an archbishop possessed of
exceptional temporal power. He definitely renounced conquest and
military ambitions and appears to have paid no attention to ordinary
civil administration which he perhaps entrusted to Commissioners; he
devoted himself to philanthropic and moral projects "for the welfare of
man and beast," such as lecturing his subjects on their duties towards
all living creatures, governing the Church, building hospitals and
stûpas, supervising charities and despatching missions. In all his
varied activity there is nothing unsuitable to an ecclesiastical
statesman: in fact he is distinguished from most popes and prelates by
his real indifference to secular aspirations and by the unusual
facilities which he enjoyed for immediately putting his ideals into

Asoka has won immortality by the Edicts which he caused to be engraved
on stone[580]. They have survived to the present day and are the most
important monuments which we possess for the early history of India and
of Buddhism. They have a character of their own. A French writer has
said "On ne bavarde pas sur la pierre," and for most inscriptions the
saying holds good, but Asoka wrote on the rocks of India as if he were
dictating to a stenographer. He was no stylist and he was somewhat vain
although, considering his imperial position and the excellence of his
motives, this obvious side of his character is excusable. His
inscriptions give us a unique series of sermons on stones and a record,
if not of what the people of India thought, at least of what an
exceptionally devout and powerful Hindu thought they ought to think.

Between thirty and forty of these inscriptions have been discovered,
scattered over nearly the whole of India, and composed in vernacular
dialects allied to Pali[581]. Many of them are dated by the year of the
King's reign and all announce themselves as the enactments of Piyadassi,
the name Asoka being rarely used[582]. They comprise, besides some
fourteen single edicts[583], two series, namely:

(1) Fourteen Rock Edicts, dating from the thirteenth and fourteenth
years of Asoka's reign[584] and found inscribed in seven places but the
recensions differ and some do not include all fourteen edicts.

(2) Seven Pillar Edicts dating from the 27th and 28th years, and found
in six recensions.

The fourteen Rock Edicts are mostly sermons. Their style often recalls
the Pitakas verbally, particularly in the application of secular words
to religious matters. Thus we hear that righteousness is the best of
lucky ceremonies and that whereas former kings went on tours of pleasure
and hunting, Asoka prefers tours of piety and has set out on the road
leading to true knowledge. In this series he does not mention the Buddha
and in the twelfth edict he declares that he reverences all sects. But
what he wished to preach and enforce was the _Dhamma_. It is difficult
to find an English equivalent for this word[585] but there is no doubt
of the meaning. It is the law, in the sense of the righteous life which
a Buddhist layman ought to live, and perhaps religion is the simplest
translation, provided that word is understood to include conduct and its
consequences in another world but not theism. Asoka burns with zeal to
propagate this Dhamma and his language recalls[586] the utterances of
the Dhammapada. He formulates the law under four heads[587]: "Parents
must be obeyed: respect for living creatures must be enforced: truth
must be spoken ... the teacher must be reverenced by the pupil and
proper courtesy must be shown to relations." In many ways the Sacred
Edict of the Chinese Emperor K'ang Hsi resembles these proclamations for
it consists of imperial maxims on public morality addressed by a
Confucian Emperor to a population partly Buddhist and Taoist, just as
Asoka addressed Brahmans, Jains and other sects as well as Buddhists.
But when we find in the thirteenth Rock Edict the incidental statement
that the King thinks nothing of much importance except what concerns the
next world, we feel the great difference between Indian and Chinese
ideas whether ancient or modern.

The Rock Edicts also deal with the sanctity of animal life. Asoka's
strong dislike of killing or hurting animals cannot be ascribed to
policy, for it must have brought him into collision with the Brahmans
who offered animals in sacrifice, but was the offspring of a naturally
gentle and civilized mind. We may conjecture that the humanity of
Buddhism was a feature which attracted him to it. In Rock Edict I. he
forbids animal sacrifices and informs us that whereas formerly many
thousand animals were killed daily for the royal kitchens now only three
are killed, namely two peacocks and a deer, and the deer not always. But
in future even these three creatures will not be slaughtered. In Rock
Edict II. he describes how he has cared for the comfort of man and
beast. Wells have been dug; trees, roots and healing herbs have been
planted and remedies—possibly hospitals—have been provided, all for
animals as well as for men, and this not only in his own dominions but
in neighbouring realms. In the fourteenth year of his reign he appointed
officers called Dhamma-mahâmâtâ, Ministers or Censors of the Dhamma.
Their duty was to promote the observance of the Dhamma and they also
acted as Charity Commissioners and superintendents of the households of
the King's relatives. We hear that "they attend to charitable
institutions, ascetics, householders and all the sects: I have also
arranged that they shall attend to the affairs of the Buddhist clergy,
as well as the Brahmans, the Jains, the Âjîvikas and in fact all the
various sects." Further he tells us that the local authorities[588] are
to hold quinquennial assemblies at which the Dhamma is to be proclaimed
and that religious processions with elephants, cars, and illuminations
have been arranged to please and instruct the people. Similar
processions can still be seen at the Perahera festival in Kandy.

The last Rock Edict is of special interest for the light which it sheds
both on history and on the King's character. He expresses remorse for
the bloodshed which accompanied the conquest of Kalinga and declares
that he will henceforth devote his attention to conquest by the Dhamma,
which he has effected "both in his own dominions and in all the
neighbouring realms as far as six hundred leagues (?), even to where the
Greek King named Antiochus dwells and beyond that Antiochus to where
dwell the four kings named Ptolemy, Antigonus, Magas and Alexander[589],
and in the south the kings of the Colas and Pandyas[590] and of Ceylon
and likewise here in the King's dominions, among the Yonas[591] and
Kâmbojas[592] in Nâbhaka of the Nâbhitis[593] among the Bhojas and
Pitinikas, among the Ândhras and Pulindas[594]. Asoka thus appears to
state that he has sent missionaries to (1) the outlying parts of India,
on the borders of his own dominions, (2) to Ceylon, (3) to the
Hellenistic Kingdoms of Asia, Africa and Europe.

This last statement is of the greatest importance, but no record has
hitherto been found of the arrival of these missionaries in the west.
The language of the Edict about them is not precise and in fact their
despatch is only an inference from it. Of the success of the Indian
missions there is no doubt. Buddhism was introduced into southern India,
where it flourished to some extent though it had to maintain a double
struggle against Jains as well as Brahmans. The statement of the Dîpa
and Mahâ-vaṃsas that missionaries were also sent to Pegu (Suvaṇṇabhûmi)
is not supported by the inscriptions, though not in itself improbable,
but the missions to the north and to Ceylon were remarkably successful.

The Sinhalese Chronicles[595] give the names of the principal
missionaries despatched and their statements have received confirmation
in the discoveries made at Sanchi and Sonari where urns have been found
inscribed with the names of Majjhima, Kassapa, and Gotiputta the
successor of Dundhubhissara, who are called teachers of the Himalaya
region. The statement in the Mahâ and Dîpa-vaṃsas is that Majjhima was
sent to preach in the Himalaya accompanied by four assistants Kassapa,
Mâlikâdeva, Dundhâbhinossa and Sahassadeva.

About the twenty-first year of his reign Asoka made a religious tour and
under the guidance of his preceptor Upagupta, visited the Lumbini Park
(now Rummindei) in the Terâi, where the Buddha was born, and other spots
connected with his life and preaching. A pillar has been discovered at
Rummindei bearing an inscription which records the visit and the
privileges granted to the village where "the Lord was born." At Niglîva
a few miles off he erected another inscribed pillar stating that he had
done reverence to the stûpa of the earlier Buddha Konâgamana and for the
second time repaired it.

During this tour he visited Nepal and Lalitpur, the capital, founding
there five stûpas. His daughter Cârumatî is said to have accompanied him
and to have remained in Nepal when he returned. She built a convent
which still bears her name and lived there as a nun. It does not appear
that Asoka visited Kashmir, but he caused a new capital (Srînagar) to be
built there, and introduced Buddhism.

In the 27th and 28th year of his reign he composed another series of
Edicts and this time had them carved in pillars not on rocks. They are
even more didactic than the Rock Edicts and contain an increasing number
of references to the next world, as well as stricter regulations
forbidding cruelty to animals, but the King remains tolerant and
says[596] that the chief thing is that each man should live up to his
own creed. It is probable that at this time he had partially abdicated
or at least abandoned some of the work of administration, for in Edict
IV. he states that he has appointed Commissioners with discretion to
award honours and penalties and that he feels secure like a man who has
handed over his child to a skilful nurse.

In the two series of Rock and Pillar Edicts there is little dogmatic
Buddhism. It is true that the King's anxiety as to the hereafter of his
subjects and his solicitude for animals indicate thoughts busy with
religious ideas, but still his Dhamma is generally defined in terms
which do not go beyond morality, kindness and sympathy. But in the
Bhâbrû (less correctly Bhâbrâ) Edict he recommends for study a series of
scriptural passage which can be identified more or less certainly with
portions of the Pali Pitakas. In the Sarnath Edict he speaks not only as
a Buddhist but as head of the Church. He orders that monks or nuns who
endeavour to create a schism shall put on lay costume and live outside
their former monastery or convent. He thus assumes the right to expel
schismatics from the Sangha. He goes on to say that a similar edict
(i.e. an edict against schism) is to be inscribed for the benefit of the
laity who are to come and see it on Uposatha days. "And on the Uposatha
days in all months every officer is to come for the Uposatha service to
be inspired with confidence in this Edict and to learn it." Thus the
King's officers are to be Buddhists at least to the extent of attending
the Uposatha ceremony, and the edict about schismatics is to be brought
to the notice of the laity, which doubtless means that the laity are not
to give alms to them.

It is probable that many more inscriptions remain to be discovered but
none of those known allude to the convening of a Council and our
information as to this meeting comes from the two Sinhalese Chronicles
and the works of Buddhaghosa. It is said to have been held two hundred
and thirty-six years after the death of the Buddha[597] and to have been
necessitated by the fact that the favour shown to the Sangha induced
heretics to become members of it without abandoning their errors. This
occasioned disturbances and the King was advised to summon a sage called
Tissa Moggaliputta (or Upagupta) then living in retirement and to place
the affairs of the church in his hands. He did so. Tissa then composed
the Kathâ-vatthu and presided over a council composed of one thousand
arhats which established the true doctrine and fixed the present Pali

Even so severe a critic of Sinhalese tradition as Vincent Smith admits
that the evidence for the council is too strong to be set aside, but it
must be confessed that it would be reassuring to find some allusion to
it in Asoka's inscriptions. He did not however always say what we should
expect. In reviewing his efforts in the cause of religion he mentions
neither a council nor foreign missions, although we know from other
inscriptions that such missions were despatched. The sessions of the
council may be equally true and are in no way improbable, for in later
times kings of Burma, Ceylon and Siam held conventions to revise the
text of the Tripitaka. It appeared natural that a pious King should see
that the sacred law was observed, and begin by ascertaining what that
law was.

According to tradition Asoka died after reigning thirty-eight or forty
years but we have no authentic account of his death and the stories of
his last days seem to be pure legends. The most celebrated are the
pathetic tale of Kunâla which closely resembles a Jâtaka[598], and the
account of how Asoka vowed to present a hundred million gold pieces to
the Sangha and not being able to raise the whole sum made a gift of his
dominions instead.


Asoka had a decisive effect on the history of Buddhism, especially in
making it a world religion. This was not the accidental result of his
action in establishing it in north-west India and Ceylon, for he was
clearly dominated by the thought that the Dhamma must spread over the
whole world and, so far as we know, he was the first to have that
thought in a practical form. But we could estimate his work better if we
knew more about the religious condition of the country when he came to
the throne. As it is, the periods immediately before and after him are
plunged in obscurity and to illuminate his reign we have little
information except his own edicts which, though copious, do not aim at
giving a description of his subjects. Megasthenes who resided at
Pataliputra about 300 B.C. does not appear to have been aware of the
existence of Buddhism as a separate religion, but perhaps a foreign
minister in China at the present day might not notice that the Chinese
have more than one religion. On the other hand in Asoka's time Buddhism,
by whatever name it was called, was well known and there was evidently
no necessity for the King to explain what he meant by Dhamma and Sangha.
The Buddha had belonged to a noble family and was esteemed by the
aristocracy of Magadha; the code of morality which he prescribed for the
laity was excellent and sensible. It is therefore not surprising if the
Kshatriyas and others recognized it as their ideal nor if Asoka found it
a sound basis of legislation. This legislation may be called Buddhist in
the sense that in his edicts the King enjoins and to some extent
enforces _sîlam_ or morality, which is the indispensable beginning for
all spiritual progress, and that his enactments about animals go beyond
what is usual in secular law. But he expressly refrains from requiring
adherence to any particular sect. On the other hand there is no lack of
definite patronage of Buddhism. He institutes edifying processions, he
goes on pilgrimages to sacred sites, he addresses the Sangha as to the
most important parts of the scriptures, and we may infer that he did his
best to spread the knowledge of those scriptures. Though he says nothing
about it in the Edicts which have been discovered, he erected numerous
religious buildings including the Sanchi tope and the original temple at
Bodh-Gaya. Their effect in turning men's attention to Buddhism must have
been greatly enhanced by the fact that so far as we know no other sect
had stone temples at this time. To such influences, we must add the
human element. The example and well-known wishes of a great king,
supported by a numerous and learned clergy, could not fail to attract
crowds to the faith, and the faith itself—for let us not forget Gotama
while we give credit to his follower—was satisfying. Thus Asoka probably
found Buddhism in the form of a numerous order of monks, respected
locally and exercising a considerable power over the minds and conduct
of laymen. He left it a great church spread from the north to the south
of India and even beyond, with an army of officials to assist its
progress, with sacred buildings and monasteries, sermons and ceremonies.
How long his special institutions lasted we do not know, but no one
acquainted with India can help feeling that his system of inspection was
liable to grave abuse. Black-mailing and misuse of authority are ancient
faults of the Indian police and we may surmise that the generations
which followed him were not long in getting rid of his censors and

Christian critics of Buddhism are apt to say that it has a paralyzing
effect on the nations who adopt it, but Asoka's edicts teem with words
like energy and strenuousness. "It is most necessary to make an effort
in this world," so he recounts the efforts which he has himself made and
wants everybody else to make an effort. "Work I must for the public
benefit—and the root of the matter is in exertion and despatch of
business than which nothing is more efficacious for the general
welfare." These sound like the words of a British utilitarian rather
than of a dreamy oriental emperor. He is far from pessimistic: indeed,
he almost ignores the Truth of Suffering. In describing the conquest of
Kalinga he speaks almost in the Buddha's words of the sorrow of death
and separation, but instead of saying that such things are inevitable he
wishes his subjects to be told that he regrets what has happened and
desires to give them security, peace and joy.

Asoka has been compared with Constantine but it has been justly observed
that the comparison is superficial, for Constantine (more like Kanishka
than Asoka) merely recognized and regulated a religion which had already
won its way in his empire. He has also been compared with St Paul and in
so far as both men transformed a provincial sect into a religion for all
mankind the parallel is just, but it ends there. St Paul was a
constructive theologian. For good or evil he greatly developed and
complicated the teaching of Christ, but the Edicts of Asoka if compared
with the Pitakas seem to curtail and simplify their doctrines. No
inscription has yet been found mentioning the four truths, the chain of
causation and other familiar formulæ. Doubtless Asoka duly studied these
questions, but it was not theology nor metaphysics which drew him
towards religion. In the gallery of pious Emperors—a collection of
dubious moral and intellectual value—he stands isolated as perhaps the
one man whose only passion was for a sane, kindly and humane life,
neither too curious of great mysteries nor preoccupied with his own soul
but simply the friend of man and beast.

For the history of doctrine the inscription at Rummindei is particularly
important. It merely states that the King did honour or reverence to the
birthplace of the Buddha, who receives no titles except Sakyamuni and
Bhagavan here or elsewhere in the inscriptions. It is a simple record of
respect paid to a great human teacher who is not in any way deified nor
does Asoka's language show any trace of the doctrines afterwards known
under the name of Mahayana. He does not mention nirvana or even
transmigration, though doubtless what he says about paradise and rewards
hereafter should be read in the light of Indian doctrines about karma
and samsâra.




There are extant in several languages large collections of Buddhist
scriptures described by some European writers as the Canon. The name is
convenient and not incorrect, but the various canons are not altogether
similar and the standard for the inclusion or exclusion of particular
works is not always clear. We know something of four or five canons.

(1) The Pali Canon, accepted by the Buddhists of Ceylon, Burma and Siam,
and rendered accessible to European students by the Pali Text Society.
It professes to contain the works recognized as canonical by the Council
of Asoka and it is reasonably homogeneous, that is to say, although some
ingenuity may be needed to harmonize the different strata of which it
consists, it does not include works composed by several schools.

(2) The Sanskrit Canon or Canons.

_(a)_ Nepalese scriptures. These do not correspond with any Pali texts
and all belong to the Mahayana. There appears to be no standard for
fixing the canonical character of Mahayanist works. Like the Upanishads
they are held to be revealed from time to time.

_(b)_ Buddhist texts discovered in Central Asia. Hitherto these have
been merely fragments, but the number of manuscripts found and not yet
published permits the hope that longer texts may be forthcoming. Those
already made known are partly Mahayanist and partly similar to the Pali
Canon though not a literal translation of it. It is not clear to what
extent the Buddhists of Central Asia regarded the Hina and Mahayanist
scriptures as separate and distinct. Probably each school selected for
itself a small collection of texts as authoritative[599].

_(3)_ The Chinese Canon. This is a gigantic collection of Buddhist works
made and revised by order of various Emperors. The imperial imprimatur
is the only standard of canonicity. The contents include translations of
works belonging to all schools made from the first to the thirteenth
century A.D. The originals were apparently all in Sanskrit and were
probably the texts of which fragments have been found in Central Asia.
This canon also includes some original Chinese works.

(4) There is a somewhat similar collection of translations into Tibetan.
But whereas the Chinese Canon contains translations dated from 67 A.D.
onwards, the Tibetan translations were made mainly in the ninth and
eleventh centuries and represent the literature esteemed by the mediæval
Buddhism of Bengal. Part at least of this Tibetan Canon has been
translated into Mongol.

Renderings of various books into Uigur, Sogdian, Kuchanese, "Nordarisch"
and other languages of Central Asia have been discovered by recent
explorers. It is probable that they are all derived from the Sanskrit
Canon and do not represent any independent tradition. The scriptures
used in Japan and Korea are simply special editions of the Chinese
Canon, not translations.

In the following pages I propose to consider the Pali Canon, postponing
until later an account of the others. It will be necessary, however, to
touch on the relations of Pali and Sanskrit texts.

The scriptures published by the Pali Text Society represent the canon of
the ancient sect called Vibhajjavâdins and the particular recension of
it used at the monastery in Anuradhapura called Mahâvihâra. It is
therefore not incorrect to apply to this recension such epithets as
southern or Sinhalese, provided we remember that in its origin it was
neither one nor the other, for the major part of it was certainly
composed in India[600]. It was probably introduced into Ceylon in the
third century B.C. and it is also accepted in Burma, Siam and
Camboja[601]. Thus in a considerable area it is the sole and undisputed
version of the scriptures.

The canon is often known by the name of Tripiṭaka[602] or Three Baskets.
When an excavation was made in ancient India it was the custom to pass
up the earth in baskets along a line of workmen[603] and the
metaphorical use of the word seems to be taken from this practice and to
signify transmission by tradition.

The three Pitakas are known as Vinaya, Sutta, and Abhidhamma. Vinaya
means discipline and the works included in this division treat chiefly
of the rules to be observed by the members of the Sangha. The basis of
these rules is the Pâtimokkha, the ancient confessional formula
enumerating the offences which a monk can commit. It was read
periodically to a congregation of the order and those guilty of any sin
had to confess it. The text of the Pâtimokkha is in the Vinaya combined
with a very ancient commentary called the Sutta-vibhanga. The Vinaya
also contains two treatises known collectively as the Khandakas but more
frequently cited by their separate names as Mahâvagga and Cullavagga.
The first deals with such topics as the rules for admission to the
order, and observance of fast days, and in treating of each rule it
describes the occasion on which the Buddha made it and to some extent
follows the order of chronology. For some parts of the master's life it
is almost a biography. The Cullavagga is similar in construction but
less connected in style[604]. The Vinaya contains several important and
curious narratives and is a mine of information about the social
conditions of ancient India, but much of it has the same literary value
as the book of Leviticus. Of greater general interest is the Sutta
Pitaka, in which the sermons and discourses of the Buddha are collected.
Sutta is equivalent to the Sanskrit word Sûtra, literally a thread,
which signifies among the Brahmans a brief rule or aphorism but in Pali
a relatively short poem or narrative dealing with a single object. This
Sutta Pitaka is divided into five collections called Nikâyas. The first
four are mainly in prose and contain discourses attributed to Gotama or
his disciples. The fifth is mostly in verse and more miscellaneous.

The four collections of discourses bear the names of Dîgha, Majjhima,
Saṃyutta and Anguttara. The first, meaning long, consists of thirty-four
narratives. They are not all sermons and are of varying character,
antiquity and interest, the reason why they are grouped together being
simply their length[605]. In some of them we may fancy that we catch an
echo of Gotama's own words, but in others the legendary character is
very marked. Thus the Mahâsamaya and Aṭânâṭiya suttas are epitomes of
popular mythology tacked on to the history of the Buddha. But for all
that they are interesting and ancient.

Many of the suttas, especially the first thirteen, are rearrangements of
old materials put together by a considerable literary artist who lived
many generations after the Buddha. The account of the Buddha's last days
is an example of such a compilation which attains the proportions of a
Gospel and shows some dramatic power though it is marred by the
juxtaposition of passages composed in very different styles.

The Majjhima-Nikâya is a collection of 152 discourses of moderate
(majjhima) length. Taken as a whole it is perhaps the most profound and
impassioned of all the Nikâyas and also the oldest. The sermons which it
contains, if not verbatim reports of Gotama's eloquence, have caught the
spirit of one who urged with insistent earnestness the importance of
certain difficult truths and the tremendous issues dependent on right
conduct and right knowledge. The remaining collections, the Saṃyutta and
Anguttara, classify the Buddha's utterances under various headings and
presuppose older documents which they sometimes quote[606]. The Saṃyutta
consists of a great number of suttas, mostly short, combined in groups
treating of a single subject which may be either a person or a topic.
The Anguttara, which is a still longer collection, is arranged in
numerical groups, a method of classification dear to the Hindus who
delight in such computations as the four meditations, the eightfold
path, the ten fetters. It takes such religious topics as can be counted
in this way and arranges them under the numbers from one to eleven. Thus
under three, it treats of thought, word and deed and the applications of
this division to morality; of the three messengers of the gods, old-age,
sickness and death; of the three great evils, lust, ill-will and
stupidity and so on.

The fifth or Khuddaka-Nikâya is perhaps the portion of the Pali
scriptures which has found most favour with Europeans, for the treatises
composing it are short and some of them of remarkable beauty. They are
in great part composed of verses, sometimes disconnected couplets,
sometimes short poems. The stanzas are only imperfectly intelligible
without an explanation of the occasion to which they refer. This is
generally forthcoming, but is sometimes a part of the accepted text and
sometimes regarded as merely a commentary. To this division of the
Pitaka belong the Dhammapada, a justly celebrated anthology of
devotional verses, and the Sutta-Nipâta, a very ancient collection of
suttas chiefly in metre. Other important works included in it are the
Thera and Therî-gâthâ or poems written by monks and nuns respectively,
and the Jâtaka or stories about the Buddha's previous births[607]. Some
of the rather miscellaneous contents of this Nikâya are late and do not
belong to the same epoch of thought as the discourses attributed to
Gotama. Such are the Buddha-vaṃsa, or lives of Gotama and his
twenty-four predecessors, the Cariyâ-Piṭaka, a selection of Jâtaka
stories about Gotama's previous births and the Vimâna and Peta-vatthus,
accounts of celestial mansions and of the distressful existence led by
those who are condemned to be ghosts[608].

Though some works comprised in this Nikâya (e.g. the Suttanipâta) are
very ancient, the collection, as it stands, is late and probably known
only to the southern Church. The contents of it are not quite the same
in Ceylon, Burma and Siam, and only a small portion of them has been
identified in the Chinese Tripitaka. Nevertheless the word
_pañcanekâyika_, one who knows the five Nikâyas, is found in the
inscriptions of Sanchi and five Nikâyas are mentioned in the last books
of the Cullavagga. Thus a fifth Nikâya of some kind must have been known
fairly early.

The third Pitaka is known by the name of Abhidhamma. Dhamma is the usual
designation for the doctrine of the Buddha and Buddhaghosa[609] explains
the prefix abhi as signifying excess and distinction, so that this
Pitaka is considered pre-eminent because it surpasses the others. This
pre-eminence consists solely in method and scope, not in novelty of
matter or charm of diction. The point of view of the Abhidhamma is
certainly later than that of the Sutta Pitaka and in some ways marks an
advance, for instead of professing to report the discourses of Gotama it
takes the various topics on which he touched, especially psychological
ethics, and treats them in a connected and systematic manner. The style
shows some resemblance to Sanskrit sûtras for it is so technical both in
vocabulary and arrangement that it can hardly be understood without a
commentary[610]. According to tradition the Buddha recited the
Abhidhamma when he went to heaven to preach to the gods, and this seems
a polite way of hinting that it was more than any human congregation
could tolerate or understand. Still throughout the long history of
Buddhism it has always been respected as the most profound portion of
the scriptures and has not failed to find students. This Pitaka includes
the Kathâ-vatthu, attributed to Tissa Moggaliputta who is said to have
composed it about 250 B.C. in Asoka's reign[611].

There is another division of the Buddhist scriptures into nine _angas_
or members, namely: 1. Suttas. 2. Geyya: mixed prose and verse. 3.
Gâthâ: verse. 4. Udâna: ecstatic utterances. 5. Veyyâkaraṇa:
explanation. 6. Itivuttaka: sayings beginning with the phrase "Thus said
the Buddha." 7. Jâtaka: stories of former births. 8. Abbhutadhamma:
stories of wonders. 9. Vedalla: a word of doubtful meaning, but perhaps
questions and answers. This enumeration is not to be understood as a
statement of the sections into which the whole body of scripture was
divided but as a description of the various styles of composition
recognized as being religious, just as the Old Testament might be said
to contain historical books, prophecies, canticles and so on.
Compositions in these various styles must have been current before the
work of collection began, as is proved by the fact that all the _angas_
are enumerated in the Majjhima-Nikâya[612].


This Tripitaka is written in Pali[613] which is regarded by Buddhist
tradition as the language spoken by the Master. In the time of Asoka the
dialect of Magadha must have been understood over the greater part of
India, like Hindustani in modern times, but in some details of grammar
and phonetics Pali differs from Mâgadhî Prakrit and seems to have been
influenced by Sanskrit and by western dialects. Being a literary rather
than a popular language it was probably a mixed form of speech and it
has been conjectured that it was elaborated in Avanti or in Gândhâra
where was the great Buddhist University of Takshaśîlâ. Subsequently it
died out as a literary language in India[614] but in Ceylon, Burma, Siam
and Camboja it became the vehicle of a considerable religious and
scholastic literature. The language of Asoka's inscriptions in the third
century B.C. is a parallel dialect, but only half stereotyped. The
language of the Mahâvastu and some Mahayanist texts, often called the
language of the Gâthâs, seems to be another vernacular brought more or
less into conformity with Sanskrit. It is probable that in preaching the
Buddha used not Pali in the strict sense but the spoken dialect of
Magadha[615], and that this dialect did not differ from Pali more than
Scotch or Yorkshire from standard English, and if for other reasons we
are satisfied that some of the suttas have preserved the phrases which
he employed, we may consider that apart from possible deviations in
pronunciation or inflexion they are his _ipsissima verba_. Even as we
have it, the text of the canon contains some anomalous forms which are
generally considered to be Magadhisms[616].

The Cullavagga relates how two monks who were Brahmans represented to
the Buddha that "monks of different lineage ... corrupt the word of the
Buddha by repeating it in their own dialect. Let us put the word of the
Buddhas into _chandas_[617]." No doubt Sanskrit verse is meant,
_chandas_ being a name applied to the language of the Vedic verses.
Gotama refused: "You are not to put the word of the Buddhas into
_chandas_. Whoever does so shall be guilty of an offence. I allow you to
learn the word of the Buddhas each in his own dialect." Subsequent
generations forgot this prohibition, but it probably has a historical
basis and it indicates the Buddha's desire to make his teaching popular.
It is not likely that he contemplated the composition of a body of
scriptures. He would have been afraid that it might resemble the hymns
of the Brahmans which he valued so little and he wished all men to hear
his teaching in the language they understood best. But when after his
death his disciples collected his sayings it was natural that they
should make at least one version of them in the dialect most widely
spoken and that this version should be gradually elaborated in what was
considered the best literary form of that dialect[618]. It is probable
that the text underwent several linguistic revisions before it reached
its present state.

Pali is a sonorous and harmonious language which avoids combinations of
consonants and several difficult sounds found in Sanskrit. Its
excellence lies chiefly in its vocabulary and its weakness in its
syntax. Its inflexions are heavy and monotonous and the sentences lack
concentration and variety. Compound words do not assume such monstrous
proportions as in later Sanskrit, but there is the same tendency to make
the process of composition do duty for syntax. These faults have been
intensified by the fact that the language has been used chiefly for
theological discussion. The vocabulary on the other hand is copious and
for special purposes admirable. The translator has to struggle
continually with the difficulty of finding equivalents for words which,
though apparently synonymous, really involve nice distinctions and much
misunderstanding has arisen from the impossibility of adequately
rendering philosophical terms, which, though their European equivalents
sound vague, have themselves a precise significance. On the other hand
some words (e.g. _dhamma_ and _attho_) show an inconveniently wide range
of meaning. But the force of the language is best seen in its power of
gathering up in a single word, generally a short compound, an idea which
though possessing a real unity requires in European languages a whole
phrase for its expression. Thus the Buddha bids his disciples be
_attadîpâ atta-saraṇâ, anañña-saraṇâ: dhammadîpâ dhammasaraṇâ_[619]. "Be
ye lamps unto yourselves. Be ye a refuge unto yourselves. Betake
yourselves to no external refuge. Hold fast to the truth as a lamp. Hold
fast to the truth as a refuge." This is Rhys Davids' translation and
excellent both as English and as giving the meaning. But the five Pali
words compel attention and inscribe themselves on the memory in virtue
of a monumental simplicity which the five English sentences do not

But the feature in the Pali scriptures which is most prominent and most
tiresome to the unsympathetic reader is the repetition of words,
sentences and whole paragraphs. This is partly the result of grammar or
at least of style. The simplicity of Pali syntax and the small use made
of dependent sentences, lead to the regular alignment of similar phrases
side by side like boards in a floor. When anything is predicated of
several subjects, for instance the five Skandhas, it is rare to find a
single sentence containing a combined statement. As a rule what has to
be said is predicated first of the first Skandha and then repeated
_totidem verbis_ of the others. But there is another cause for this
tedious peculiarity, namely that for a long period the Pitakas were
handed down by oral tradition only. They were first reduced to writing
in Ceylon about 20 B.C. in the reign of Vaṭṭagâmani, more than a century
and a half after their first importation in an oral form. This
circumstance need not throw doubt on the authenticity of the text, for
the whole ancient literature of India, prose as well as verse, was
handed down by word of mouth and even in the present day most of it
could be recovered if all manuscripts and books were lost. The Buddhists
did not, like the Brahmans, make minute regulations for preserving and
memorizing their sacred texts, and in the early ages of the faith were
impressed with the idea that their teaching was not a charm to be learnt
by heart but something to be understood and practised. They nevertheless
endeavoured, and probably with success, to learn by heart the words of
the Buddha, converting them into the dialect most widely understood. It
was then a common thing (and the phenomenon may still be seen in India)
for a man of learning to commit to memory a whole Veda together with
subsidiary treatises on ritual, metre, grammar and genealogy. For such
memories it was not difficult to retain the principal points in a series
of sermons. The Buddha had preached day by day for about forty-five
years. Though he sometimes spoke with reference to special events he no
doubt had a set of discourses which he regularly repeated. There was the
less objection to such repetition because he was continually moving
about and addressing new audiences. There were trained Brahman students
among his disciples, and at his death many persons, probably hundreds,
must have had by heart summaries of his principal sermons.

But a sermon is less easy to remember than a poem or matter arranged by
some method of _memoria technica_. An obvious aid to recollection is to
divide the discourse into numbered heads and attach to each certain
striking phrases. If the phrases can be made to recur, so much the
better, for there is a guarantee of correctness when an expected formula
appears at appropriate points.

It may be too that the wearisome and mechanical iteration of the Pali
Canon is partly due to the desire of the Sinhalese to lose nothing of
the sacred word imparted to them by missionaries from a foreign country,
for repetition to this extent is not characteristic of Indian
compositions. It is less noticeable in Sanskrit Buddhist sûtras than in
the Pali but is very marked in Jain literature. A moderate use of it is
a feature of the Upanishads. In these we find recurring formulæ and also
successive phrases constructed on one plan and varying only in a few

But still I suspect that repetition characterized not only the reports
of the discourses but the discourses themselves. No doubt the versions
which we have are the result of compressing a free discourse into
numbered paragraphs and repetitions: the living word of the Buddha was
surely more vivacious and plastic than these stiff tabulations. But the
peculiarities of scholars can often be traced to the master and the
Buddha had much the same need of mnemonics as his hearers. For he had
excogitated complicated doctrines and he imparted them without the aid
of notes and though his natural wit enabled him to adapt his words to
the capacity of his hearers and to meet argument, still his wish was to
formulate a consistent statement of his thoughts. In the earliest
discourse ascribed to him, the sermon at Benares, we see these habits of
numbering and repetition already fully developed. The next discourse, on
the absence of a soul, consists in enumerating the five words, form,
sensation, perception, sankhâras, and consciousness three times, and
applying to each of them consecutively three statements or arguments,
the whole concluding with a phrase which is used as a finale in many
other places. Artificial as this arrangement sounds when analyzed, it is
a natural procedure for one who wished to impress on his hearers a
series of philosophic propositions without the aid of writing, and I can
imagine that these rhythmical formulæ uttered in that grave and pleasant
voice which the Buddha is said to have possessed, seemed to the
leisurely yet eager groups who sat round him under some wayside banyan
or in the monastery park, to be not tedious iteration but a gradual
revelation of truth growing clearer with each repetition.

We gather from the Pitakas that writing was well known in the Buddha's
time[621]. But though it was used for inscriptions, accounts and even
letters, it was not used for books, partly because the Brahmans were
prejudiced against it, and partly because no suitable material for
inditing long compositions had been discovered. There were religious
objections to parchment and leaves were not employed till later. The
minute account of monastic life given in the Vinaya makes it certain
that the monks did not use writing for religious purposes. Equally
conclusive, though also negative, is the fact that in the accounts of
the assemblies at Râjagaha and Vesâlî[622] when there is a dispute as to
the correct ruling on a point, there is no appeal to writing but merely
to the memory of the oldest and most authoritative monks. In the Vinaya
we hear of people who know special books: of monks who are preachers of
the Dhamma and others who know the Sutta: of laymen who have learnt a
particular suttanta and are afraid it will fall into oblivion unless
others learn it from them. Apprehensions are expressed that suttas will
be lost if monks neglect to learn them by heart[623]. From inscriptions
of the third century B.C.[624] are quoted words like Petakî, a reciter
of the Pitakas or perhaps of one Pitaka: Suttântika and Suttântakinî, a
man or woman who recites the suttantas: Pancanekâyika, one who recites
the five Nikâyas. All this shows that from the early days of Buddhism
onwards a succession of persons made it their business to learn and
recite the doctrine and disciplinary rules and, considering the
retentiveness of trained memories, we have no reason to doubt that the
doctrine and rules have been preserved without much loss[625].

Not, however, without additions. The disadvantage of oral tradition is
not that it forgets but that it proceeds snowball fashion, adding with
every generation new edifying matter. The text of the Vedic hymns was
preserved with such jealous care that every verse and syllable was
counted. But in works of lesser sanctity interpolations and additions
were made according to the reciters' taste. We cannot assign to the
Mahâbhârata one date or author, and the title of Upanishad is no
guarantee for the age or authenticity of the treatises that bear it.
Already in the Anguttara-Nikâya[626], we hear of tables of contents and
the expression is important, for though we cannot give any more precise
explanation of it, it shows that care was taken to check the contents of
the works accepted as scripture. But still there is little doubt that
during the two or three centuries following the Buddha's death, there
went on a process not only of collection and recension but also of

An account of the formation of the canon is given in the last two
chapters of the Cullavagga[627]. After the death of the Buddha his
disciples met to decide what should be regarded as the correct doctrine
and discipline. The only way to do that was to agree what had been the
utterances of the master and this, in a country where the oral
transmission of teaching was so well understood, amounted to laying the
foundations of a canon. Kassapa cross-examined experts as to the
Buddha's precepts. For the rules of discipline Upâli was the chief
authority and we read how he was asked where such and such a rule—for
instance, the commandment against stealing—was promulgated.

"At Râjagaha, sir."

"Concerning whom was it spoken?"

"Dhaniya, the potter's son."

"In regard to what matter?"

"The taking of that which had not been given."

For collecting the suttas they relied on the testimony of Ânanda and
asked him where the Brahmajâla[628] was spoken. He replied "between
Râjagaha and Nâlanda at the royal rest-house at Ambalatthika."
"Concerning whom was it spoken?" "Suppiya, the wandering ascetic and
Brahmadatta the young Brahman."

Then follows a similar account of the Sâmaññaphala sutta and we are told
that Ânanda was "questioned through the five Nikâyas." That is no doubt
an exaggeration as applied to the time immediately after the Buddha's
death, but it is evidence that five Nikâyas were in existence when this
chapter was written[629].


Lines of growth are clearly discernible in the Vinaya and Sutta Pitakas.
As already mentioned, the Khuddaka-Nikâya is, as a collection, later
than the others although separate books of it, such as the Sutta-nipâta
(especially the fourth and fifth books), are among the earliest
documents which we possess. But other books such as the Peta-[630] and
Vimâna-vatthu show a distinct difference in tone and are probably
separated from the Buddha by several centuries. Of the other four
Nikâyas the Saṃyutta and Anguttara are the more modern and the Anguttara
mentions Munda, King of Magadha who began to reign about forty years
after the Buddha's death. But even in the two older collections, the
Dîgha and the Majjhima, we have not reached the lowest stratum. The
first thirteen suttantas of the Dîgha all contain a very ancient
tractate on morality, and the Sâmaññaphala and following sections of the
Dîgha and also some suttas of the Majjhima contain either in whole or in
part a treatise on progress in the holy life. These treatises were
probably current as separate portions for recitation before the suttas
in which they are now set were composed.

Similarly, the Vinaya clearly presupposes an old code in the form of a
list of offences called the Pâtimokkha. The Mahâvagga contains a portion
of an ancient word-for-word explanation of this code[631] and most of
the Sutta-vibhanga is an amplification and exposition of it. The
Pâtimokkha was already in existence when these books were composed, for
we hear[632] that if in a company of Bhikkhus no one knows the
Pâtimokkha, one of the younger brethren should be sent to some better
instructed monastery to learn it. And further we hear[633] that a
learned Bhikkhu was expected to know not merely the precepts of the
Pâtimokkha but also the occasion when each was formulated. The place,
the circumstances and the people concerned had been in each case handed
down. There is here all the material for a narrative. The reciter of a
sutta simply adopts the style of a village story-teller. "Thus have I
heard. Once upon a time the Lord was dwelling at Râjagaha," or wherever
it was, and such and such people came to see him. And then, after a more
or less dramatic introduction, comes the Lord's discourse and at the end
an epilogue saying how the hearers were edified and, if previously
unconverted, took refuge in the true doctrine.

The Cullavagga states that the Vinaya (but not the other Pitakas) was
recited and verified at the Council of Vesâlî. As I have mentioned
elsewhere, Sinhalese and Chinese accounts speak of another Council, the
Mahâsangha or Mahâsangîti. Though its date is uncertain, there is a
consensus of tradition to the effect that it recognized a canon of its
own, different from our Pali Canon and containing a larger amount of
popular matter.

Sinhalese tradition states that the canon as we now have it was fixed at
the third Council held at Pataliputra in the reign of Asoka (about
272-232 B.C.). The most precise statements about this Council are those
of Buddhaghosa who says that an assembly of monks who knew the three
Pitakas by heart recited the Vinaya and the Dhamma.

But the most important and interesting evidence as to the existence of
Buddhist scriptures in the third century B.C. is afforded by the Bhâbrû
(or Bhâbrâ) edict of Asoka. He recommends the clergy to study seven
passages, of which nearly all can be identified in our present edition
of the Pitakas[634]. This edict does not prove that Asoka had before him
in the form which we know the Dîgha and other works cited. But the most
cautious logic must admit that there was a collection of the Buddha's
sayings to which he could appeal and that if most of his references to
this collection can be identified in our Pitakas, then the major part of
these Pitakas is probably identical in substance (not necessarily
verbally) with the collection of sayings known to Asoka.

Neither Asoka nor the author of the Kathâ-vatthu cites books by name.
The latter for instance quotes the well-known lines "anupubbena medhavi"
not as coming from the Dhammapada but as "spoken by the Lord." But the
author of the Questions of Milinda, who knew the canonical books by the
names they bear now, also often adopts a similar method of citation.
Although this author's probable date is not earlier than our era his
evidence is important. He mentions all five Nikâyas by name, the titles
of many suttas and also the Vibhanga, Dhâtu-kathâ, Puggala-Paññatti,
Kathâ-vatthu, Yamaka and Paṭṭhâna.

Everything indicates and nothing discredits the conclusion that this
canon of the Vibhajjavâdins was substantially fixed in the time of
Asoka, so far as the Vinaya and Sutta Pitakas are concerned. Some works
of minor importance may have had an uncertain position and subsequent
revisions may have been made but the principal scriptures were already
recognized and contained passages which occur in our versions. On the
other hand this recension of the scriptures was not the only one in
existence. If the patronage of Asoka gave it a special prestige in his
lifetime, it may have lost it in India after his death and for many
centuries the Buddhist Canon, like the list of the Upanishads, must have
been susceptible of alteration. The Sarvâstivâdins compiled an
Abhidhamma Pitaka of their own, apparently in the time of Kanishka, and
the Dharmagupta school also seems to have had its own version of this
Pitaka[635]. The date of the Pali Abhidhamma is very doubtful and I do
not reject the hypothesis that it was composed in Ceylon, for the
Sinhalese seem to have a special taste for such literature. But there is
no proof of this Sinhalese origin.

According to Sinhalese tradition all three Pitakas were introduced into
Ceylon by Mahinda in the reign of Asoka, but only as oral tradition and
not in a written form. They received this latter about 20 B.C., as the
result of a dispute between two monasteries[636]. The controversy is
obscure but it appears that the ancient foundation called Mahâvihâra
accepted as canonical the fifth book of the Vinaya called Parivâra,
whereas it was rejected by the new monastery called Abhayagiri. The
Sinhalese chronicle (Mahâvamsa XXXIII. 100-104) says somewhat abruptly
"The wise monks had hitherto handed down the text of the three Pitakas
(Piṭakattayapâlim) as well as the commentary by word of mouth. But
seeing that mankind was becoming lost, they assembled together and wrote
them in books in order that the faith might long endure." This brief
account seems to mean that a council was held not by the whole clergy of
Ceylon but by the monks of the Mahâvihâra at which they committed to
writing their own version of the canon including the Parivâra. This book
forms an appendix to the Vinaya Pitaka and in some verses printed at the
conclusion is said to be the work of one Dîpa. It is generally accepted
as a relatively late production, composed in Ceylon. If such a work was
included in the canon of the Mahâvihâra, we must admit the possibility
that other portions of it may be Sinhalese and not Indian.

But still the _onus probandi_ lies with those who maintain the Sinhalese
origin of any part of the Pali Canon and two strong arguments support
the Indian origin of the major part. First, many suttas not only show an
intimate knowledge of ancient Indian customs but discuss topics such as
caste, sacrifice, ancient heresies, and the value of the Veda which
would be of no interest to Sinhalese. Secondly, there is no Sinhalese
local colour and no Sinhalese legends have been introduced. Contrast
with this the Dîpa-and Mahâ-vaṃsa both of which open with accounts of
mythical visits paid by the Buddha to Ceylon[637].

In Ceylon versions of the scriptures other than that of the Mahâvihâra
were current until the twelfth century when uniformity was enforced by
Parâkrama Bâhu. Some of these, for instance the Pitaka of the
Vetulyakas, were decidedly heretical according to the standard of local
orthodoxy but others probably presented variations of reading and
arrangement rather than of doctrine. Anesaki[638] has compared with the
received Pali text a portion of the Saṃyuktâgama translated by
Guṇabhadra into Chinese. He thinks that the original was the text used
by the Abhayagiri monastery and brought to China by Fa Hsien.

The Sinhalese ecclesiastical history, Nikâya-Sangrahawa, relates[639]
that 235 years after the Buddha's death nine heretical fraternities were
formed who proceeded to compose scriptures of their own such as the
Varṇapiṭaka and Angulimâla-Piṭaka. Though this treatise is late (_c_.
1400 A.D.) its statements merit attention as showing that even in
orthodox Ceylon tradition regarded the authorized Pitaka as one of
several versions. But many of the works mentioned sound like late
tantric texts rather than compositions of the early heretics to whom
they are attributed.

Ecclesiastical opinion in Ceylon after centuries of discussion ended by
accepting the edition of the Mahâvihâra as the best, and we have no
grounds for rejecting or suspecting this opinion. According to tradition
Buddhaghosa was well versed in Sanskrit but deliberately preferred the
southern canon. The Mahayanist doctor Asanga cites texts found in the
Pali version, but not in the Sanskrit[640]. The monks of the Mahâvihâra
were probably too indulgent in admitting late scholastic treatises, such
as the Parivâra. On the other hand they often showed a critical instinct
in rejecting legendary matter. Thus the Sanskrit Vinayas contain many
more miraculous narratives than the Pali Vinaya.


European critics have rarely occasion to discuss the credibility of
Sanskrit literature, for most of it is so poetic or so speculative that
no such question arises. But the Pitakas raise this question as directly
as the Gospels, for they give the portrait of a man and the story of a
life, in which an overgrowth of the miraculous has not hidden or
destroyed the human substratum. How far can we accept them as a true
picture of what Gotama was and taught?

Their credibility must be judged by the standard of Indian oral
tradition. Its greatest fault comes from that deficiency in historic
sense which we have repeatedly noticed. Hindu chroniclers ignore
important events and what they record drifts by in a haze in which
proportion, connection, and dates are lost. They frequently raise a
structure of fiction on a slight basis of fact or on no basis at all.
But the fiction is generally so obvious that the danger of historians in
the past has been not to be misled by it but to ignore the elements of
truth which it may contain. For the Hindus have a good verbal memory;
their genealogies, lists of kings and places generally prove to be
correct and they have a passion for catalogues of names. Also they take
a real interest in describing doctrine. If the Buddha has been
misrepresented, it is not for want of acumen or power of transmitting
abstruse ideas. The danger rather is that he who takes an interest in
theology is prone to interpret a master's teaching in the light of his
own pet views.

The Pitakas illustrate the strong and weak points of Hindu tradition.
The feebleness of the historical sense may be seen in the account of
Devadatta's doings in the Cullavagga[641] where the compiler seems
unable to give a clear account of what he must have regarded as
momentous incidents. Yet the same treatise is copious and lucid in
dealing with monastic rules, and the sayings recorded have an air of
authenticity. In the suttas the strong side of Hindu memory is brought
into play. Of consecutive history there is no question. We have only an
introduction giving the names of some characters and localities followed
by a discourse. We know from the Vinaya that the monks were expected to
exercise themselves in remembering these things, and they are precisely
the things that they would get rightly by heart. I see no reason to
doubt that such discourses as the sermon preached at Benares[642] and
the recurring passages in the first book of the Dîgha-Nikâya are a Pali
version of what was accepted as the words of the Buddha soon after his
death. And the change of dialect is not of great importance. Asoka's
Bhâbrû Edict contains the saying: _Thus the good law shall long endure_,
which is believed to be a quotation and certainly corresponds pretty
closely with a passage in the Anguttara-Nikâya[643]. The King's version
is _Saddhamma cilathitike hasati_: the Pali is _Saddhammo cîratthitiko
hoti_. Somewhat similar may have been the differences between the
Buddha's speech and the text which we possess. The importance of the
change in language is diminished and the facility of transmission is
increased by the fact that in Pali, Sanskrit and kindred Indian
languages ideas are concentrated in single words rather than spread over
sentences. Thus the principal words of the sermon at Benares give its
purport with perfect clearness, if they are taken as a mere list without
grammatical connection. Similarly I should imagine that the recurring
paragraphs about progress in the holy life found in the early Suttas of
the Dîgha-Nikâya are an echo of the Buddha's own words, for they bear an
impress not only of antiquity but of eloquence and elevation. This does
not mean that we have any sermon in the exact form in which Gotama
uttered it. Such documents as the Sâmaññaphala-sutta and Ambaṭṭha-sutta
probably give a good idea of his method and style in consecutive
discourse and argument. But it would not be safe to regard them as more
than the work of compilers who were acquainted with the surroundings in
which he lived, the phrases he used, and the names and business of those
who conversed with him. With these they made a picture of a day in his
life, culminating in a sermon[644].

Like the historical value of the Pitakas, their literary value can be
justly estimated only if we remember that they are not books in our
sense but treatises handed down by memory and that their form is
determined primarily by the convenience of the memory. We must not
compare them with Plato and find them wanting, for often, especially in
the Abhidhamma, there is no intention of producing a work of art, but
merely of subdividing a subject and supplying explanations. Frequently
the exposition is thrown into the form of a catechism with questions and
answers arranged so as to correspond to numbered categories. Thus a
topic may be divided into twenty heads and six propositions may be
applied to each with positive or negative results. The strong point of
these Abhidhamma works---and of Buddhist philosophy generally—lies in
careful division and acute analysis but the power of definition is weak.
Rarely is a definition more than a collection of synonyms and very often
the word to be defined is repeated in the definition. Thus in the
Dhamma-sangaṇi the questions, what are good or bad states of mind?
receive answers cast in the form: when a good or bad thought has arisen
with certain accompaniments enumerated at length, then these are the
states that are good or bad. No definition of good is given.

This mnemonic literature attains its highest excellence in poetry. The
art of composing short poems in which a thought, emotion or spiritual
experience is expressed with a few simple but pregnant words in the
compass of a single couplet or short hymn, was carried by the early
Buddhists to a perfection which has never been excelled. The
Dhammapada[645] is the best known specimen of this literature. Being an
anthology it is naturally more suited for quotation or recitation in
sections than for continuous reading. But its twenty-five chapters are
consecrated each to some special topic which receives fairly consecutive
treatment, though each chapter is a mosaic of short poems consisting of
one or more verses supposed to have been uttered by the Buddha or by
arhats on various occasions. The whole work combines literary beauty,
depth of thought and human feeling in a rare degree. Not only is it
irradiated with the calm light of peace, faith and happiness but it
glows with sympathy, with the desire to do good and help those who are
struggling in the mire of passion and delusion. For this reason it has
found more favour with European readers than the detached and
philosophic texts which simply preach self-conquest and aloofness.
Inferior in beauty but probably older is the Sutta-nipâta, a collection
of short discourses or conversations with the Buddha mostly in verse.
The rugged and popular language of these stanzas which reject
speculation as much as luxury, takes us back to the life of the
wanderers who followed the Buddha on his tours and we may imagine that
poems like the Dhaniya sutta would be recited when they met together in
a rest-house or grove set apart for their use on the outskirts of a

The Buddhist suttas, are interesting as being a special result of
Gotama's activity; they are not analogous to the Brahmanic works called
sûtras, and they have no close parallel in later Indian literature.
There is little personal background in the Upanishads, none at all in
the Sânkhya and Vedânta sûtras. But the Sutta Pitaka is an attempt to
delineate a personality as well as to record a doctrine. Though the idea
of writing biography has not yet been clearly conceived, yet almost
every discourse brings before us the figure of the Lord: though the
doctrine can be detached from the preacher, yet one feels that the
hearers of the Pitaka hungered not merely for a knowledge of the four
truths but for the very words of the great voice: did he really say
this, and if so when, where and why? Most suttas begin by answering
these questions. They describe a scene and report a discourse and in so
doing they create a type of literature with an interest and
individuality of its own. It is no exaggeration to say that the Buddha
is the most living figure in Hindu literature. He stands before us more
distinctly not only than Yâjñavalkya and Śankara, but than modern
teachers like Nanak and Râmânuja and the reason of this distinctness can
I think be nothing but the personal impression which he made on his age.
The later Buddhists compose nothing in the style of the Nikâyas: they
write about Gotama in new and fanciful ways, but no Acts of the Apostles
succeed the Gospels.

Though the Buddhist suttas are _sui generis_ and mark a new epoch in
Indian literature, yet in style they are a natural development of the
Upanishads. The Upanishads are less dogmatic and show much less interest
in the personality of their sages, but they contain dialogues closely
analogous to suttas. Thus about half of the Bṛihad-Âraṇyaka is a
philosophic treatise unconnected with any particular name, but in this
are set five dialogues in which Yâjñavalkya appears and two others in
which Ajâtaśatru and Pravâhaṇa Jaivali are the protagonists.

Though many suttas are little more than an exposition of some doctrine
arranged in mnemonic form, others show eloquence and dramatic skill.
Thus the Sâmaññaphala-sutta opens with a vivid description of the visit
paid one night by Ajâtasattu to the Buddha[646]. We see the royal
procession of elephants and share the alarm of the suspicious king at
the unearthly stillness of the monastery park, until he saw the Buddha
sitting in a lighted pavilion surrounded by an assembly of twelve
hundred and fifty brethren, calm and silent as a clear lake. The king's
long account of his fruitless quest for truth would be tiresome if it
were not of such great historic interest and the same may be said of the
Buddha's enumeration of superstitious and reprehensible practices, but
from this point onwards his discourse is a magnificent crescendo of
thought and language, never halting and illustrated by metaphors of
great effect and beauty. Equally forcible and surely resting on some
tradition of the Buddha's own words is the solemn fervour which often
marks the suttas of the Majjhima such as the descriptions of his
struggle for truth, the admonitions to Râhula and the reproof
administered to Sâti.


As mentioned above, our Pali Canon is the recension of the
Vibhajjavâdins. We know from the records of the Chinese pilgrims that
other schools also had recensions of their own, and several of these
recensions—such as those of the Sarvâstivâdins, Mahâsanghikas,
Mahisâsakas, Dhammaguttikas, and Sammitîyas—are still partly extant in
Chinese and Tibetan translations. These appear to have been made from
the Sanskrit and fragments of what was probably the original have been
preserved in Central Asia. A recension of the text in Sanskrit probably
implies less than what we understand by a translation. It may mean that
texts handed down in some Indian dialect which was neither Sanskrit nor
Pali were rewritten with Sanskrit orthography and inflexions while
preserving much of the original vocabulary. The Buddha allowed all men
to learn his teaching in their own language, and different schools are
said to have written the scriptures in different dialects, e.g. the
Mahâsanghikas in a kind of Prakrit not further specified and the
Mahâsammatîyas in Apabhramsa. When Sanskrit became the recognized
vehicle for literary composition there would naturally be in India
(though not in Ceylon) a tendency to rewrite books composed in other
dialects[647]. The idea that when any important matter is committed to
writing it should be expressed in a literary dialect not too
intelligible to the vulgar is prevalent from Morocco to China. The
language of Bengal illustrates what may have happened to the Buddhist
scriptures. It is said that at the beginning of the nineteenth century
ninety per cent, of the vocabulary of Bengali was Sanskrit, and the
grammatical construction sanskritized as well. Though the literary
language now-a-days is less artificial, it still differs widely from the
vernacular. Similarly the spoken word of the Buddha was forced into
conformity with one literary standard or another and ecclesiastical Pali
became as artificial as Sanskrit. The same incidents may be found worked
up in both languages. Thus the Sanskrit version of the story of Pûrṇâ in
the Divyâva-dâna repeats what is found in Pali in the
Saṃyutta-Nikâya[648] and reappears in Sanskrit in the Vinaya of the
Mûlasarvâstivâdin school.

The Chinese Tripitaka has been catalogued and we possess some
information respecting the books which it contains, though none of them
have been edited in Europe. Thus we know something[649] of the
Sarvâstivâdin recension of the Abhidhamma. Like the Pali version it
consists of seven books of which one, the Jñâna-prasthâna by
Kâtyâyanîputra, is regarded as the principal, the rest being
supplementary. All the books are attributed to human authors, and though
some of these bear the names of the Buddha's immediate disciples,
tradition connects Kâtyâyanîputra with Kanishka's council. This is not a
very certain date, but still the inference is that about the time of the
Christian era the contents of the Abhidhamma-Pitaka were not rigidly
defined and a new recension was possible.

The Sanskrit manuscripts discovered in Central Asia include Sûtras from
the Saṃyukta and Ekottara Âgamas (equivalent to the Saṃyutta and
Anguttara Nikâyas), a considerable part of the Dharmapada, fragments of
the Sutta-Nipâta and the Prâtimoksha of the Sarvâstivâdin school. These
correspond fairly well with the Pali text but represent another
recension and a somewhat different arrangement. We have therefore here
fragments of a Sanskrit version which must have been imported to Central
Asia from northern India and covers, so far as the fragments permit us
to judge, the same ground as the Vinaya and Suttas of the Pali Canon.
Far from displaying the diffuse and inflated style which characterizes
the Mahâyâna texts it is sometimes shorter and simpler than our Pali

When was this version composed and what is its relation to the Pali? A
definite reply would be premature, for other Sanskrit texts may be
discovered in Central Asia, but two circumstances connect this early
Buddhist literature in Sanskrit with the epoch of Kanishka. Firstly the
Sanskrit Abhidharma of the Sarvâstivâdins seems to date from his council
and secondly a Buddhist drama by Aśvaghosha[651] of about the same time
represents the Buddha as speaking in Sanskrit whereas the inferior
characters speak Prakrit. But these facts do not prove that Sanskrit was
not the language of the canon at an earlier date[652] and it is not safe
to conclude that because Asoka did not employ it for writing edicts it
was not the sacred language of any section of Indian Buddhists. On the
other hand some of the Sanskrit texts contain indications that they are
a translation from Pali or some vernacular[653]. In others are found
historical allusions which suggest that they must have received
additions after our era[654].

I have already raised the question of the relative value attaching to
Pali and Sanskrit texts as authorities for early history. Two instances
will perhaps illustrate this better than a general discussion. As
already mentioned, the Vinaya of the Mûlasarvâstivâdins makes the Buddha
visit north-western India and Kashmir, whereas the Pali texts do not
represent him as travelling further west than the country of the Kurus.
The Sanskrit account is not known to be confirmed by more ancient
evidence, but there is nothing impossible in it, particularly as there
are periods in the Buddha's long life filled by no incidents. The
narrative however contains a prediction about Kanishka and therefore
cannot be earlier than his reign. Now there is no reason why the Pali
texts should be silent about this journey, if the Buddha really made it,
but one can easily imagine reasons for inventing it in the period of the
Kushan kings. North-western India was then full of monasteries and
sacred sites and the same spirit which makes uncritical Buddhists in
Ceylon and Siam assert to-day that the master visited their country
impelled the monks of Peshawar and Kashmir to imagine a not improbable
extension of his wanderings[655].

On the other hand this same Vinaya of the Mûlasarvâstivâdins probably
gives us a fragment of history when it tells us that the Buddha had
three wives, perhaps too when it relates how Râhula's paternity was
called in question and how Devadatta wanted to marry Yaśodharâ after the
Buddha had abandoned worldly life[656]. The Pali Vinaya and also some
Sanskrit Vinayas[657] mention only one wife or none at all. They do not
attempt to describe Gotama's domestic life and if they make no allusion
to it except to mention the mother of Râhula, this is not equivalent to
an assertion that he had no other wife. But when one Vinaya composed in
the north of India essays to give a biography of the Buddha and states
that he had three wives, there is no reason for doubting that the
compiler was in touch with good local tradition.



Indian religions lay stress on meditation. It is not merely commended as
a useful exercise but by common consent it takes rank with sacrifice and
prayer, or above them, as one of the great activities of the religious
life, or even as its only true activity. It has the full approval of
philosophy as well as of theology. In early Buddhism it takes the place
of prayer and worship and though in later times ceremonies multiply, it
still remains the main occupation of a monk. The Jains differ from the
Buddhists chiefly in emphasizing the importance of self-mortification,
which is put on a par with meditation. In Hinduism, as might be expected
in a fluctuating compound of superstition and philosophy, the schools
differ as to the relative efficacy of meditation and ceremonial, but
there is a strong tendency to give meditation the higher place. In all
ages a common characteristic appears in the most divergent Indian
creeds—the belief that by a course of mental and physical training the
soul can attain to a state of bliss which is the prelude to the final
deliverance attained after death.


We may begin by examining Brahmanic ideas as to meditation. Many of them
are connected with the word Yoga, which has become familiar to Europe.
It has two meanings. It is applied first to a definite form of Indian
philosophy which is a theistic modification of the Sânkhya and secondly
to much older practices sanctioned by that philosophy but anterior to

The idea which inspires these theories and practices is that the
immaterial soul can by various exercises free itself from the fetters of
matter. The soul is distinguished from the mind which, though composed
of the subtlest matter, is still material. This presupposes the duality
of matter and spirit taught by Jainism and the Sânkhya philosophy, but
it does not necessarily presuppose the special doctrines of either nor
do Vedântists object to the practice of the Yoga. The systematic
prosecution of mental concentration and the idea that supernatural
powers can be acquired thereby are very old—certainly older than
Buddhism. Such methods had at first only a slight philosophic substratum
and were independent of Sânkhya doctrines, though these, being a
speculative elaboration of the same fundamental principles, naturally
commended themselves to those who practised Yoga. The two teachers of
the Buddha, Âlâra and Uddaka, were Yogis, and held that beatitude or
emancipation consisted in the attainment of certain trances. Gotama,
while regarding their doctrine as insufficient, did not reject their

Our present Yoga Sûtras are certainly much later than this date. They
are ascribed to one Patañjali identified by Hindu tradition with the
author of the Mahâbhâshya who lived about 150 B.C. Jacobi[658] however
is of opinion that they are the work of an entirely different person who
lived after the rise of the philosophy ascribed to Asanga sometimes
called Yogâcâra. Jacobi's arguments seem to me suggestive rather than
conclusive but, if they are confirmed, they lead to an interesting
deduction. There is some reason for thinking that Śankara's doctrine of
illusion was derived from the Buddhist Śûnyavâda. If Patañjali's sûtras
are posterior to Asanga, it also seems probable that the codification of
the Yoga by the Brahmans was connected with the rise of the Yogâcâra
among the Buddhists[659].

The Sûtras describe themselves as an exposition of Yoga, which has here
the meaning not of union with God, but rather of effort. The opening
aphorisms state that "Yoga is the suppression of the activities of the
mind, for then the spectator abides in his own form: at other times
there is identity of form with the activities." This dark language means
that the soul in its true nature is merely the spectator of the mind's
activity, consciousness being due, as in the Sânkhya, to the union of
the soul with the mind[660] which is its organ. When the mind is active,
the soul appears to experience various emotions, and it is only when the
mind ceases to feel emotions and becomes calm in meditation, that the
soul abides in its own true form. The object of the Yoga, as of the
Sânkhya, is Kaivalya or isolation, in which the soul ceases to be united
with the mind and is dissociated from all qualities (guṇas) so that the
shadow of the thinking principle no longer falls upon it. This isolation
is produced by performing certain exercises, physical as well as mental,
and, as a prelude to final and complete emancipation, superhuman powers
are acquired. These two ideas, the efficacy of physical discipline and
the acquisition of superhuman powers, have powerfully affected all
schools of religious thought in India, including Buddhism. They are not
peculiar to the Yoga, but still it is in the Yoga Sûtras that they find
their most authoritative and methodical exposition.

The practice of Yoga has its roots in the fact that fasting and other
physical mortifications induce a mental state in which the subject
thinks that he has supernatural experiences[661]. Among many savage
tribes, especially in America, such fasts are practised by those who
desire communication with spirits. In the Yoga philosophy these ideas
appear in a refined form and offer many parallels to European mysticism.
The ultimate object is to dissociate the soul from its material
envelopes but in the means prescribed we can trace two orders of ideas.
One is to mortify the body and suppress not only appetite and passion
but also discursive thought: the other is to keep the body in perfect
health and ease, so that the intelligence and ultimately the soul may be
untroubled by physical influences. These two ideas are less incongruous
than they seem. Many examples show that extreme forms of asceticism are
not unhealthy but rather conducive to long life and the Yoga in
endeavouring to secure physical well-being does not aim at pleasure but
at such a purification of the physical part of man that it shall be the
obedient and unnoticed servant of the other parts. The branch of the
system which deals with method and discipline is called Kriyâ-yoga and
in later works we also find the expression Haṭha-yoga, which is
specially used to designate mechanical means (such as postures,
purification, etc.) prescribed for the attainment of various mental
states. In contrast to it is Râja-yoga, which signifies ecstasy and the
method of obtaining it by mental processes. The immediate object of the
Kriyâ-yoga is to destroy the five evils[662], namely ignorance, egoism,
desire, aversion and love of life: it consists of asceticism,
recitations and resignation to God, explained as meaning that the
devotee fasts, repeats mantras and surrenders to God the fruit of all
his works and, feeling no more concern for them, is at peace. Though the
Yoga Sûtras are theistic, theism is accessory rather than essential to
their teaching. They are not a theological treatise but the manual of an
ancient discipline which recognizes devotional feelings as one means to
its end. The method would remain almost intact if the part relating to
the deity were omitted, as in the Sânkhya. God is not for the Yoga
Sûtras, as he is for many Indian and European mystics, the one reality,
the whence and whither of the soul and world.

Eight branches of practice[663] are enumerated, namely:--

1. Yama or restraint, that is abstinence from killing, lying, stealing,
incontinence, and from receiving gifts. It is almost equivalent to the
five great precepts of Buddhism.

2. Niyama or observance, defined as purification, contentment,
mortification, recitation and devotion to the Lord.

Purification is treated at great length in the later treatises on
Haṭha-yoga under the name of Shaṭ-karma or sixfold work. It comprises
not only ordinary ablutions but cleansing of the internal organs by such
methods as taking in water by the nostrils and discharging it by the
mouth. The object of these practices which, though they assume queer
forms, rest on sound therapeutic principles, is to remove adventitious
matter from the system and to reduce the gross elements of the

3. Âsanam or posture is defined as a continuous and pleasant attitude.
It is difficult to see how the latter adjective applies to many of the
postures recommended, for considerable training is necessary to make
them even tolerable. But the object clearly is to prescribe an attitude
which can be maintained continuously without creating the distracting
feeling of physical discomfort and in this matter European and oriental
limbs feel differently. All the postures contemplated are different ways
of sitting cross-legged. Later works revel in enumerations of them and
also recognize others called Mudrâ. This word is specially applied to a
gesture of the hand but is sometimes used in a less restricted sense.
Thus there is a celebrated Mudra called Khecharî, in which the tongue is
reversed and pressed into the throat while the sight is directed to a
point between the eyebrows. This is said to induce the cataleptic trance
in which Yogis can be buried alive.

4. Prâṇayama or regulation of the breath. When the Yogi has learnt to
assume a permanent posture, he accustoms himself to regulate the acts of
inspiration and expiration so as to prolong the period of quiescence
between the two. He will thus remove the veils which cover the light
within him. This practice probably depends on the idea which constantly
crops up in the Upanishads that the breath is the life and the soul.
Consequently he who can control and hold his breath keeps his soul at
home, and is better able to concentrate his mind. Apart from such ideas,
the fixing of the attention on the rhythmical succession of inspirations
and expirations conduces to that peaceful and detached frame of mind on
which most Indian sects set great store. The practice was greatly
esteemed by the Brahmans, and is also enjoined among the Taoists in
China and among Buddhists in all countries, but I have found no mention
of its use among European mystics.

5. Pratyâhâra, the retraction or withdrawing of the senses. They are
naturally directed outwards towards their objects. The Yogi endeavours
to bring them into quiescence by diverting them from those objects and
directing them inwards. From this, say the Sûtras, comes complete
subjugation of the senses[665].

6-8. The five kinds of discipline hitherto mentioned constitute the
physical preparation for meditation comprising in succession _(a)_ a
morality of renunciation, _(b)_ mortification and purification, _(c)_
suitable postures, _(d)_ regulation of the breathing, _(e)_ diversion of
the senses from their external objects. Now comes the intellectual part
of the process, consisting of three stages called Dhâraṇâ, Dhyâna and
Samâdhi. Dhâraṇâ means fixing the mind on a particular object, either a
part of the body such as the crown of the head or something external
such as the sky. Dhyâna[666] is the continuous intellectual state
arising out of this concentration. It is defined as an even current of
thought undisturbed by other thoughts. Samâdhi is a further stage of
Dhyâna in which the mind becomes so identified with the thing thought of
that consciousness of its separate existence ceases. The thinking power
is merged in the single thought and ultimately a state of trance is
induced. Several stages are distinguished in this Samâdhi. It is divided
into conscious and unconscious[667] and of the conscious kind there are
four grades[668], analogous, though not entirely corresponding to the
four Jhânas of Buddhism. When the feeling of joy passes away and is lost
in a higher sense of equanimity, there comes the state known by the
remarkable name of Dharma-megha[669] in which the isolation of the soul
and its absolute distinctness from matter (which includes what we call
mind) is realized, and Karma is no more. After the state of Dharma-megha
comes that of unconscious Samâdhi, in which the Yogi falls into a trance
and attains emancipation which is made permanent by death.

The methods of the Kriyâ-yoga can be employed for the attainment not
only of salvation but of miraculous powers[670]. This subject is
discussed in the third book of the Yoga Sûtras where it is said that
such powers are obstructions in the contemplative and spiritual life,
though they may lead to success in waking or worldly life. This is the
same point of view as we meet in Buddhism, viz. that though the
miraculous powers resulting from meditation are real, they are not
essential to salvation and may become dangerous hindrances[671].

They are attained according to the Yoga Sûtras by the exercise of
saṃyama which is the name given conjointly to the three states of
dhâraṇâ, dhyâna and samâdhi when they are applied simultaneously or in
immediate succession to one object of thought[672]. The reader will
remember that this state of contemplation is to be preceded by
pratyâhâra, or direction of the senses inwards, in which ordinary
external stimuli are not felt. It is analogous to the hypnotic state in
which suggestions made by the hypnotizer have for the subject the
character of reality although he is not conscious of his surroundings,
and auto-suggestions—that is the expectations with which the Yogi begins
his meditation—apparently have the same effect. The trained Yogi is able
to exercise saṃyama with regard to any idea—that is to say his mind
becomes identified with that idea to the exclusion of all others.
Sometimes this saṃyama implies simply a thorough comprehension of the
object of meditation. Thus by making saṃyama on the saṃskâras or
predispositions existing in the mind, a knowledge of one's previous
births is obtained; by making saṃyama on sound, the language of animals
is understood. But in other cases a result is considered to be obtained
because the Yogi in his trance thinks it is obtained. Thus if saṃyama is
made on the throat, hunger and thirst are subdued; if on the strength of
an elephant, that strength is obtained: if on the sun, the knowledge of
all worlds is acquired. Other miraculous attainments are such that they
should be visible to others, but are probably explicable as subjective
fancies. Such are the powers of becoming heavy or light, infinitely
large or infinitely small and of emitting flames. This last phenomenon
is perhaps akin to the luminous visions, called photisms by
psychologists, which not infrequently accompany conversion and other
religious experiences and take the form of flashes or rays proceeding
from material objects[673]. The Yogi can even become many persons
instead of one by calling into existence other bodies by an effort of
his will and animating them all by his own mind[674].

Europeans are unfavourably impressed by the fact that the Yoga devotes
much time to the cultivation of hypnotic states of doubtful value both
for morality and sanity. But the meditation which it teaches is also
akin to aesthetic contemplation, when the mind forgets itself and is
conscious only of the beauty of what is contemplated. Schopenhauer[675]
has well expressed the Indian idea in European language. "When some
sudden cause or inward disposition lifts us out of the endless stream of
willing, the attention is no longer directed to the motives of willing
but comprehends things free from their relation to the will and thus
observes them without subjectivity purely objectively, gives itself
entirely up to them so far as they are ideas, but not in so far as they
are motives. Then all at once the peace which we were always seeking,
but which always fled from us on the former path of the desires, comes
to us of its own accord and it is well with us." And though the Yoga
Sûtras represent superhuman faculties as depending chiefly on the
hypnotic condition of saṃyama, they also say that they are obtainable—at
any rate such of them as consist in superhuman knowledge—by pratibhâ or
illumination. By this term is meant a state of enlightenment which
suddenly floods the mind prepared by the Yoga discipline. It precedes
emancipation as the morning star precedes the dawn. When this light has
once come, the Yogi possesses all knowledge without the process of
saṃyama. It may be compared to the Dibba-cakkhu or divine eye and the
knowledge of the truths which according to the Pitakas[676] precede
arhatship. Similar instances of sudden intellectual enlightenment are
recorded in the experiences of mystics in other countries. We may
compare the haplosis or ekstasis of Plotinus and the visions of St
Theresa or St Ignatius in which such mysteries as the Trinity became
clear, as well as the raptures in which various Christian mystics[677]
experienced the feeling of levitation and thought that they were being
literally carried off their feet.

The practices and theories which are systematized in the Yoga Sûtras are
known to the Upanishads, particularly those of the Atharva Veda. But
even the earlier Upanishads allude to the special physical and mental
discipline necessary to produce concentration of mind. The Maitrâyana
Upanishad says that the sixfold Yoga consists of restraint of the
breath, restraint of the senses, meditation, fixed attention,
investigation, absorption. The Śvetâśvatara Upanishad speaks of the
proper places and postures for meditation, and the Chândogya[678] of
concentrating all the senses on the self, a process which is much the
same as the pratyâhâra of the Yoga.

A later and mysterious but most important method of Yoga is known to the
Tantras[679] as Shaṭcakrabheda or piercing of the six cakras. These are
dynamic or nervous centres distributed through the human body from the
base of the spinal cord to the eyebrows. In the lowest of them resides
the Devî Kuṇḍalinî, a force identical with Śakti, who is the motive
power of the universe. In ordinary conditions this Kuṇḍalinî is pictured
as lying asleep and coiled like a serpent. But appropriate exercises
cause her to awake and ascend until she reaches the highest cakra when
she unites with Śiva and ineffable bliss and emancipation are attained.
The process, which is said to be painful and even dangerous to health,
is admittedly unintelligible without oral instruction from a Guru and,
as I have not had this advantage, I will say no more on the topic except
this, that strange and fanciful as the descriptions of Shaṭcakrabheda
may seem, they can hardly be pure inventions but must have a real
counterpart in nervous phenomena which apparently have not been studied
by European physiologists or psychologists[680].


When we turn to the treatment of meditation and ecstasy in the earlier
Buddhist writings we are struck by its general resemblance to the
programme laid down in the Yoga Sûtras, and by many coincidences of
detail. The exercises, rules of conduct, and the powers to be
incidentally obtained are all similar. The final goal of both systems
also seems similar to the outsider, although a Buddhist and a Yogi might
have much to say about the differences, for the Yoga wishes to isolate a
soul which is complete and happy in its own nature if it can be
disentangled from its trammels, whereas Buddhism teaches that there is
no such soul awaiting release and that religious discipline should
create and foster good mental states. Just as the atmosphere of the
Pitakas is not that of the Brâhmanas or Sûtras, so are their ideas about
Jhâna and Samâdhi somewhat different. Though hypnotic and even
cataleptic phases are not wanting, the journey of the religious life, as
described in the Pitakas, is a progress of increasing peace, but also of
increasing intellectual power and activity. Gotama did not hold Jhâna or
regulated meditation to be essential to nirvana or arhatship, for that
state was attainable by laymen and apparently through sudden
illumination. But such cases were the exception. His own mental
evolution which culminated in enlightenment comprised the four
Jhânas[681]. Also in the eightfold path which is essential to arhatship
and nirvana the last and highest stage is sammâsaṃâdhi, right rapture or

Jhâna is difficult for laymen, but it was the rule of the order to
devote at least the afternoon to it. We might compare this with the
solitary prayer of Christians, and there is real similarity in the
process and the result. It brought peace and strength to the mind and we
hear of the bright clear faces and the radiantly happy expression of
those who returned to their duties after such contemplation. But
Christian prayer involves the idea of self-surrender and throwing open
the doors and windows of the soul to an influence which streams into it.
Buddhist meditation is rather the upsoaring of the mind which rises from
ecstasy to ecstasy until it attains not some sphere where it can live
_in_ bliss but a state which is in itself satisfying and all-comprising.

All mental states to which such names as ecstasy, trance, and vision can
be applied involve a dangerous element which, if not actually
pathological, can easily become so. But the account of meditation put in
the Buddha's own mouth does not suggest either morbid dejection or
hysterical excitement[682] and it is stated expressly that the exercise
should be begun after the midday meal so that any visions which may come
cannot be laid to the charge of an empty stomach. Jhâna is not the same
as Samâdhi or concentration, though the Jhânas may be an instance of
Samâdhi. This latter is capable of marvellous extension and development,
but essentially it is a mental quality like Sammâsati or right
mindfulness, whereas Jhâna is a mental exercise or progressive rapture
passing through defined stages.

Any system which analyzes and tabulates stages of contemplation and
ecstasy may be suspected of being late and of having lost something of
the glow and impetus which its cold formulæ try to explain. But the
impulse to catalogue is old in Buddhism[683] and one important
distinction in the various mental states lumped together under the name
of meditation deserves attention, namely that according to the oldest
documents some of them are indispensable preliminaries to nirvana and
some are not. Buddhaghosa reviewing the whole matter in scholastic
fashion in his Way of Purity divides the higher life into three
sections, firstly conduct or morality as necessary foundation, secondly
_adhicitta_, higher consciousness or concentration which leads to
_samatho_ or peace and thirdly _adhipaññâ_ or the higher wisdom which
leads to _vipassanâ_ or insight. Of these _adhipaññâ_ and _vipassanâ_
are superior inasmuch as nirvana cannot be obtained without them but the
methods of _adhicitta_, though admirable and followed by the Buddha
himself, are not equally indispensable: they lead to peace and happiness
but not necessarily to nirvana. It is probably unwise (at any rate for
Europeans) to make too precise statements, for we do not really know the
nature of the psychical states discussed. _Adhipaññâ_ assuredly includes
the eightfold path ending with _samâdhi_ which is defined by the Buddha
himself in this connection in terms of the four _Jhânas_[684]. On the
other hand the doctrine that nirvana is attainable merely by practising
the _Jhânas_ is expressly reprobated as a heresy[685]. The teaching of
the Pitakas seems to be that nirvana is attainable by living the higher
life in which meditation and insight both have a place. In normal saints
both sides are developed: raptures and trances are their delight and
luxury. But in some cases nirvana may be attained by insight only: in
others meditation may lead to ecstasy and more than human powers of mind
but yet stop short of nirvana. The distinction is not without importance
for it means that knowledge and insight are indispensable for nirvana:
it cannot be obtained by hypnotic trances or magical powers.

The Buddha is represented as saying that in his boyhood when sitting
under a tree he once fell into a state of contemplation which he calls
the first Jhâna. It is akin to a sensation which comes to Europeans most
frequently in childhood, but sometimes persists in mature life, when the
mind, usually under the influence of pleasant summer scenery, seems to
identify itself with nature, and on returning to its normal state asks
with surprise, can it be that what seems a small distant personality is
really I? The usual form of Jhâna comprises four stages[686]. The first
is a state of joy and ease born of detachment, which means physical calm
as well as the absence of worldly desires and irrelevant thoughts. It is
distinguished from the subsequent stages by the existence of reasoning
and investigation, and while it lasts the mind is compared to water
agitated by waves. In the second Jhâna reasoning and investigation
cease: the water becomes still and the mind set free rises slowly above
the thoughts which had encumbered it and grows calm and sure, dwelling
on high[687]. In this Jhâna the sense of joy and ease remains, but in
the third stage joy disappears, though ease remains. This ease (sukham)
is the opposite of dukkham, the discomfort which characterizes all
ordinary states of existence. It is in part a physical feeling, for the
text says that he who meditates has this sense of ease in his body. But
this feeling passes away in the fourth Jhâna, in which there is only a
sense of equanimity. This word, though perhaps the best rendering which
can be found for the Pali upekkhâ, is inadequate for it suggests merely
the absence of inclination, whereas upekkhâ represents a state of mind
which, though rising above hedonistic views, is yet positive and not
merely the negation of interest and desire.

In the passage quoted the Buddha speaks as if only an effort of will
were needed to enter into the first Jhâna, but tradition, supported by
the Pitakas[688], sanctions the use of expedients to facilitate the
process. Some are topics on which attention should be concentrated,
others are external objects known as Kasina. This word (equivalent to
the Sanskrit kṛitsna) means entire or total, and hence something which
engrosses the attention. Thus in the procedure known as the earth
Kasina[689] the Bhikkhu who wishes to enter into the Jhâna makes a small
circle of reddish clay, and then gazes at it fixedly. After a time he
can see it as plainly when his eyes are closed as when they are
open[690]. This is followed by entry into Jhâna and he should not
continue looking at the circle. There are ten kinds of Kasina differing
from that described merely in substituting for the earthen circle some
other object, such as water, light, gold or silver. The whole procedure
is clearly a means of inducing a hypnotic trance[691].

The practice of tranquillizing the mind by regulating the breathing is
recommended repeatedly in Suttas which seem ancient and authentic; for
instance, in the instruction given by the Buddha to his son Râhula[692].
On the other hand, his account of his fruitless self-mortification shows
that the exercise even in its extreme forms is not sufficient to secure
enlightenment. It appears to be a method of collecting and concentrating
the mind, not necessarily hypnotic. All Indian precepts and directions
for mental training attach far more importance to concentration of
thought and the power of applying the mind at will to one subject
exclusively than is usual in Europe.

Buddhaghosa at the beginning of his discussion of _adhicitta_ enumerates
forty subjects of meditation namely, "the ten Kasinas, ten impurities,
ten reflections, four sublime states (Brahmâ-vihâra), the four formless
states, one perception and one analysis[693]." The Kasinas have been
already described. The ten impurities are a similar means of inducing
meditation. The monk fixes his attention on a corpse in some horrible
stage of decay and thus concentrates his mind on the impermanence of all
things. The ten recollections are a less gloomy exercise but similar in
principle, as the attention is fixed on some religious subject such as
the Buddha, his law, his order, etc.

The Brahmâ-vihâras[694] are states of emotional meditation which lead to
rebirth in the heavens of Brahmâ. They are attained by letting love or
some other good emotion dominate the mind, and by "pervading the whole
world" with it. This language about pervading the world with kindly
emotion is common in Buddhist books though alien to European idiom. The
mind must harbour no uncharitable thought and then its benevolence
becomes a psychic force which spreads in all directions, just as the
sound of a trumpet can be heard in all four quarters.

These Brahmâ-vihâras are sometimes represented as coming after the four
Jhânas[695], sometimes as replacing them[696]. But the object of the two
exercises is not the same, for the Brahmâ-vihâras aim at rebirth in a
better world. They are based on the theory common to Buddhism and
Hinduism that the predominant thoughts of a man's life, and especially
his thoughts when near death, determine the character of his next

The trances known as the four formless states are analogous to the
Brahmâ-vihâras, their object being to ensure rebirth not in the heaven
of Brahmâ but in one of the heavens known as Formless Worlds where the
inhabitants have no material form[697]. They are sometimes combined with
other states into a series of eight, known as the eight
deliverances[698]. The more advanced of these stages seem to be hypnotic
and even cataleptic. In the first formless state the monk who is
meditating rises above all idea of form and multiplicity and reaches the
sphere in which the infinity of space is the only idea present to his
mind. He then passes to the sphere where the infinity of thought only is
present and thence to the sphere in which he thinks "nothing at all
exists[699]," though it would seem that the consciousness of his own
mental processes is undiminished. The teaching of Alâra Kâlâma, the
Buddha's first teacher, made the attainment of this state its goal. It
is succeeded by the state in which neither any idea nor the absence of
any idea is specially present to the mind[700]. This was the goal of
Uddaka Râmaputta, his second teacher, and is illustrated by the simile
of a bowl which has been smeared with oil inside. That is to say,
consciousness is reduced to a minimum. Beyond these four stages is yet
another[701], in which a complete cessation of perception and feeling is
attained[702]. This state differs from death only in the fact that heat
and physical life are not extinct and while it lasts there is no
consciousness. It is stated that it could continue during seven days but
not longer. Such hypnotic trances have always inspired respect in India
but the Buddha rejected as unsatisfying the teaching of his masters
which made them the final goal.

But let us return to his account of Jhâna and its results. The first of
these is a correct knowledge of the body and of the connection of
consciousness with the body. Next comes the power to call up out of the
body a mental image which is apparently the earliest form of what has
become known in later times as the astral body. In the account of the
conversion of Angulimâla the brigand[703] it is related that the Buddha
caused to appear an image of himself which Angulimâla could not overtake
although he ran with all his might and the Buddha was walking quietly.

The five states or faculties which follow in the enumeration are often
called (though not in the earliest texts) abhiññâ, or transcendental
knowledge. They are _iddhi_, or the wondrous gift: the heavenly ear
which hears heavenly music[704]: the knowledge of others' thoughts: the
power of remembering one's own previous births: the divine eye, which
sees the previous births of others[705]. It would appear that the order
of these states is not important and that they do not depend on one
another. Iddhi, like the power of evoking a mental image, seems to be
connected with hypnotic phenomena. It means literally power, but is used
in the special sense of magical or supernatural gifts such as ability to
walk on water, fly in the air, or pass through a wall[706]. Some of
these sensations are familiar in dreams and are probably easily
attainable as subjective results in trances. I am inclined to attribute
accounts implying their objective reality to the practice of hypnotism
and to suppose that a disciple in a hypnotic state would on the
assurance of his teacher believe that he saw the teacher himself, or
some person pointed out by the teacher, actually performing such feats.
Of iddhi we are told that a monk can practise it, just as a potter can
make anything he likes out of prepared clay, which is a way of saying
that he who has his mind perfectly controlled can treat himself to any
mental pleasure he chooses. Although the Buddha and others are
represented as performing such feats as floating in the air whenever it
suits them, yet the instruction given as to how the powers may be
acquired starts by bidding the neophyte pass through the four stages of
Jhâna or meditation in which ordinary external perception ceases. Then
he will be able to have the experiences described. And it is probable
that the description gives a correct account of the sensations which
arise in the course of a trance, particularly if the trance has been
entered upon with the object of experiencing them. In other words they
are hypnotic states and often the result of suggestion, since he who
meditates knows what the result of his meditation should be. Sometimes,
as mentioned, Jhâna is induced by methods familiar to mesmerists, such
as gazing at a circle or some bright object but such expedients are not
essential and with this European authorities agree. Thus Bernheim states
that even when a subject is hypnotized for the first time, no gestures
or passes are necessary, provided he is calm. It suffices to bid him
look at the operator and go to sleep. He adds that those who are most
susceptible to the hypnotic influence are not nervous and hysterical
subjects but docile and receptive natures who can concentrate their
attention[707]. Now it is hardly possible to imagine better hypnotic
subjects than the pupils of an Indian religious teacher. They are taught
to regard him with deep respect and complete confidence: they are
continually in a state of expectant receptivity, assimilating not only
the texts and doctrines which he imparts, but his way of life: their
training leads them to believe in the reality of mental and physical
powers exceeding those of ordinary mankind and indeed to think that if
they do not have such experiences it is through some fault of their own.
The teachers, though ignorant of hypnotism as such, would not hesitate
to use any procedure which seemed to favour progress in meditation and
the acquisition of supernatural powers. Now a large number of Indian
marvels fall under two heads. In the first case Buddha, Krishna, or any
personage raised above the ordinary human level points out to his
disciples that wonders are occurring or will occur: he causes people to
appear or disappear: he appears himself in an amazing form which he
explains. In the other case the possessor of marvellous powers has
experience which he subsequently relates: he goes up to heaven or flies
to the uttermost parts of the earth and returns. Both of these cases are
covered by the phenomena of hypnotism. I do not mean to say that any
given Indian legend can be explained by analyzing it as if it were a
report of a hypnotic operation, but merely that the general character of
these legends is largely due to the prevalence of hypnotic experiences
among their composers and hearers[708]. Two obscure branches of
hypnotism are probably of great importance in the religious history of
the human race, namely self-hypnotization without external suggestion
and the hypnotization of crowds. India affords plentiful materials for
the study of both.

There is no reason to doubt that the Buddha believed in the existence of
these powers and countenanced the practices supposed to lead to them.
Thus Moggallâna, second only to Sâriputta among his disciples, was
called the master of iddhi[709], and it is mentioned as a creditable and
enjoyable accomplishment[710]. But it is made equally plain that such
magical or hypnotic practices are not essential to the attainment of the
Buddha's ideal. When lists of attainments are given, iddhi does not
receive the first place and it may be possessed by bad men: Devadatta
for instance was proficient in it. It is even denounced in the story of
Pindola Bhâradvâja[711] and in the Kevaddha sutta[712]. In this curious
dialogue the Buddha is asked to authorize the performance of miracles as
an advertisement of the true faith. He refuses categorically, saying
there are three sorts of wonders namely iddhi, that is flying through
the air, etc. the wonder of manifestation which is thought-reading: and
the wonder of education. Of the first two he says "I see danger in their
practice and therefore I loathe, abhor and am ashamed of them." Then by
one of those characteristic turns of language by which he uses old words
in new senses he adds that the true miracle is the education of the

Neither are the other transcendental powers necessary for emancipation.
Sâriputta had not the heavenly eye, yet he was the chief disciple and an
eminent arhat. This heavenly eye (dib-ba-cakkhu) is not the same as the
eye of truth (dhamma-cakkhu). It means perfect knowledge of the
operation of Karma and hence a panoramic view of the universe, whereas
the eye of truth is a technical phrase for the opening of the eyes, the
mental revolution which accompanies conversion. But though
transcendental knowledge is not indispensable for attaining nirvana, it
is an attribute of the Buddha and in most of its forms amounts to an
exceptional insight into human nature and the laws of the universe,
which, though after the Indian manner exaggerated and pedantically
defined, does not differ essentially from what we call genius.

The power of recollecting one's previous births, often mentioned in the
Pitakas, has been described in detail by Buddhist writers and
Buddhaghosa[713] distinguishes between the powers possessed by various
persons. The lowest form of recollection merely passes from one mental
state to a previous mental state and so on backwards through successive
lives, not however understanding each life as a whole. But even ordinary
disciples can not only recollect previous mental states but can also
travel backwards along the sequence of births and deaths and bring up
before their minds the succession of existences. A Buddha's intelligence
dispenses with the necessity of moving backwards from birth to birth but
can select any point of time and see at once the whole series of births
extending from it in both directions, backwards and forwards.
Buddhaghosa then goes on to prescribe the method to be followed by a
monk who tries for the first time to recollect previous births. After
taking his midday meal he should choose a quiet place and sitting down
pass through the four Jhânas in succession. On rising from the fourth
trance he should consider the event which last took place, namely his
sitting down; and then in retrograde order all that he did the day and
night before and so backwards month after month and year after year. A
clever monk (so says Buddhaghosa) is able at the first trial to pass
beyond the moment of his conception in the present existence and to take
as the object of his thought his individuality at the moment of his last
death. But since the individuality of the previous existence ceased and
another one came into being, therefore that point of time is like thick
darkness. Buddhaghosa goes on to explain, if I apprehend his meaning
rightly, that the proper recollection of previous births involves the
element of form and the mind sharpened by the practice of the four
trances does not merely reproduce feelings and impressions but knows the
name and events of the previous existence, whereas ordinary persons are
apt to reproduce feelings and impressions without having any clear idea
of the past existence as a whole. This, I believe, corresponds with the
experience of modern Buddhists. It is beyond doubt that those who
attempt to carry their memory back in the way described are convinced
that they remember existences before the present life. As a rule it
takes from a fortnight to a month to obtain such a remembrance clearly,
and every day the aspirant to a knowledge of previous births must carry
his memory further and further back, dwelling less and less on the
details of recent events. When he reaches the time of his birth, he
feels as if there were a curtain of black darkness before him, but if
the attention is concentrated, this curtain is rent and the end of the
previous life is recovered behind it. The process is painful for it
involves the recollection of death and the even greater pains of birth
and many have not courage to go beyond this point. It is not uncommon in
Ceylon, Burma, Siam and probably in all parts of the Far East, to find
people who are persuaded they can remember previous births in this way,
but I have never met anyone who professed to recall more than two or
three. There is no room in these modest modern visions for the long
vistas of previous lives seen by the earlier Buddhists.

Meditation also plays a considerable part in the Buddhism of the Far
East under the name of Ch'an or Zen of which we shall have something to
say when we treat of China and Japan.

As already indicated the methods and results of meditation as practised
by Brahmanic Hindus and by Buddhists show considerable resemblance to
the experiences of Christian mystics. The coincidences do not concern
mere matters of detail, although theology has done its best to make the
content and explanation of the experiences as divergent as possible. But
the essential similarity of form remains and there is clearly no
question of borrowing or direct influence. It is certain that what is
sometimes called the Mystic Way is not only true as a succession of
psychic states but is, for those who can walk in it, the road to a
happiness which in reality and power to satisfy exceeds all pleasures of
the senses and intellect, so that when once known it makes all other
joys and pains seem negligible. Yet despite the intense reality of this
happy state, despite the illumination which floods the soul and the wide
visions of a universal plan, there is no agreement as to the cause of
the experience nor, strange to say, as to its meaning as opposed to its
form. For many both in the east and west the one essential and
indubitable fact throughout the experience is God, yet Buddhists are
equally decided in holding that the experience has nothing to do with
any deity. This is not a mere question of interpretation. It means that
views as to theism and pantheism are indifferent for the attainment of
this happy state.

The mystics of India are sometimes contrasted with their fellows in
Europe as being more passive and more self-centred: they are supposed to
desire self-annihilation and to have no thought for others. But I doubt
if the contrast is just. If Indian mysticism sometimes appears at a
disadvantage, I think it is because it is popular and in danger of being
stereotyped and sometimes vulgarized. Nowadays in Europe we have
students of mysticism rather than mystics, and the mystics of the
Christian Church were independent and distinguished spirits who, instead
of following the signposts of the beaten track, found out a path for
themselves. But in India mysticism was and is as common as prayer and as
popular as science. It was taught in manuals and parodied by charlatans.
When mysticism is the staple crop of a religion and not a rare wild
flower, the percentage of imperfect specimens is bound to be high. The
Buddha, Śankara and a host of less well-known teachers were as strenuous
and influential as Francis of Assisi or Ignatius Loyola. Neither in
Europe nor in Asia has mysticism contributed much directly to political
and social reform. That is not its sphere, but within the religious
sphere, in preaching, teaching and organization, the mystic is intensely
practical and the number of successes (as of failures) is greater in
Asia than in Europe. Even in theory Indian mysticism does not repudiate
energy. No one enjoyed more than the Buddha himself what Ruysbroeck
calls "the mysterious peace dwelling in activity," for before he began
his mission he had attained nirvana and such of his disciples as were
arhats were in the same case. Later Buddhism recognizes a special form
of nirvana called apratishṭhita: those who attain it see that there is
no real difference between mundane existence and nirvana and therefore
devote themselves to a life of beneficent activity.

The period of transition and trial known to European mystics as the Dark
Night of the Soul, is not mentioned in Indian manuals as an episode of
the spiritual life, for such an interruption would hardly harmonize with
their curriculum of regular progress towards enlightenment. But mystic
poetry testifies that in Asia as in Europe this feeling of desertion and
loneliness is a frequent experience in the struggles and adventures of
the soul. It is apparently not necessary, just as the incidental joys
and triumphs of the soul—strains of heavenly music, aerial flights, and
visions of the universal scheme—are also not essential. The essential
features of the mystic way, as well as its usual incidents, are common
to Asia and Europe, and in both continents are expressed in two forms.
One view contrasts the surface life and a deeper life: when the
intellect ceases to plague and puzzle, something else arises from the
depth and makes its unity with some greater Force to be felt as a
reality. This idea finds ample expression in the many Brahmanic systems
which regarded the centre and core of the human being as an _âtman_ or
_purusha_, happy when in the undisturbed peace of its own nature but
distracted by the senses and intellect. The other view of mystic
experiences regards them as a remaking of character, the evolution of a
new personality and in fact a new birth. This of course need not be a
denial of the other view: the emergence of the latent self may effect a
transformation of the whole being. But Buddhism, at any rate early
Buddhism, formulates its theory in a polemical form. There is no
ready-made latent self, awaiting manifestation when its fetters and
veils are removed: man's inner life is capable of superhuman extension
but the extension is the result of enlargement and training, not of




The later phases of Buddhism, described as Mahâyâna, show this feature
among many others, that the supernatural and mythological side of
religion becomes prominent. Gods or angels play an increasingly
important part, the Buddha himself becomes a being superior to all gods,
and Buddhas, gods and saints perform at every turn feats for which
miracle seems too modest a name. The object of the present chapter is to
trace the early stages of these beliefs, for they are found in the Pali
Canon, although it is not until later that they overgrow and hide the
temple in whose walls they are rooted.

It may be fairly said that Buddhism is not a miraculous religion in the
sense that none of its essential doctrines depend on miracles. It would
seem that such a religion as Mormonism must collapse if it were admitted
that the Book of Mormon is not a revelation delivered to Joseph Smith.
But the content of the Buddha's teaching is not miraculous and, though
he is alleged to have possessed insight exceeding ordinary human
knowledge, yet this is not exactly a miracle and it is a question
whether an unusual intelligence disciplined by meditation might not
attain to such knowledge. Still, though the essence of the doctrine may
be detachable from miracles and even be scientific, one cannot read very
far in the Vinaya or the Sutta Pitaka without coming upon unearthly
beings or supernatural occurrences.

The credibility of miracles is to my mind simply a question of evidence.
Any extraordinary event, such as a person doing a thing totally foreign
to his character, is improbable _a priori_. But the law does not allow
that the best of men is incapable of committing the worst of crimes, if
the evidence proves he did. Nor can the most extraordinary violation of
nature's laws be pronounced impossible if supported by sufficient
evidence, only the evidence must be strong in proportion to the
strangeness of the circumstances. But I cannot see that the uniformity
of nature is any objection to the occurrence of miracles, for as a rule
a miracle is regarded not as an event without a cause, but as due to a
new cause, namely the intervention of a superhuman person. Many of the
best known miracles are such that one may imagine this person to effect
them by understanding and controlling some unknown natural force, just
as we control electricity. Only evidence is required to show that he can
do so. But on the other hand the weakness of every religion which
depends on miracles is that their truth is contested and not
unreasonably. If they are true, why are they not certain? Of all the
phenomena described as miracles, ghosts, fortune telling, magic,
clairvoyance, prophesying, and so on, none command unchallenged
acceptance. In every age miracles, portents and apparitions have been
recorded, yet none of them with a certainty that carries universal
conviction and in many ages contemporary scepticism was possible. Even
in Vedic times there were people who did not believe in the existence of

It is clear that some miracles require more evidence than others and
many old stories are so fantastic that they may justly be put aside
because those who reported them did not see, as we can, what
difficulties they involve and hence felt no need for caution in belief.
Among ancient Indians or Hebrews tales of seven headed snakes or of
stopping the sun did not arouse the critical spirit, for the phenomena
did not seem much more extraordinary than centipedes or eclipses. Only
those who understand that such stories upset all we know of anatomy and
astronomy can realize their improbability and the weight of evidence
necessary to make them credible. The most important distinction in
miracles (I use the word as a popular description of extraordinary
events which is readily understood though hard to define) is whether
they are in any way subjective, that is to say that they depend in the
last resort on an impression produced in certain, but not all, human
minds or whether they are objective, that is to say that all witnesses
would have seen them like any other event. A man rising into the air
would be an objective miracle if it were admitted that this levitation
was as real as the flight of a bird, and very strong evidence would be
necessary to make us believe that such a movement had really been
executed. But the case is different if we are dealing with the
conviction of an enthusiast that he rose aloft or even with the
conviction of his disciples, that they, being in an ecstasy, saw him do
so. There is no reason to doubt the subjective reality of
well-authenticated visions and as motives and stimuli to action they may
have real objective importance. Miracles of healing are not dissimilar.
A man's mind can affect his body, either directly through his conviction
that certain physical changes are about to take place or indirectly as
conveying the influence of some powerful external mind which may be
either calming or stimulating. That some persons have a special power of
healing nervous or mental diseases can hardly be doubted and I am not
disposed to reject any well-authenticated miraculous cure, believing
that sudden mental relief or acute joy can so affect the whole frame
that in the improved physical conditions thus caused even diseases not
usually considered as nervous may pass away. But though there is no
reason to discredit miracles of healing, it is clear that they are not
only exaggerated but also distorted by reporters who do not understand
their nature. Those who chronicle the cures supposed to be effected at
Lourdes at the present day keep within the bounds of what is explicable,
but a Hindu who had seen a cripple recover some power of movement might
be equally ready to believe that when a man's leg had been cut off the
stump could grow into a complete limb.

The miraculous events recorded in the Pitakas differ from those of later
works, whether Mahayanist literature or the Hindu Puranas and Epics,
chiefly in their moderation. They may be classified under several heads.
Many of them are mere embroidery or embellishment due to poetical
exuberance, esteemed appropriate in those generous climates though
repugnant to our chilly tastes. In every country poetry is allowed to
overstep the prosaic borders of fact without criticism. When an English
poet says that—

  The red rose cries She is near, she is near:
  And the white rose weeps She is late:
  The larkspur listens, I hear, I hear:
  And the lily whispers, I wait--

no one thinks of criticizing the lines as absurd because flowers cannot
talk or of trying to prove that they can. Poetry can take liberties with
facts provided it follows the lines of metaphors which the reader finds
natural. The same latitude cannot be allowed in unfamiliar directions.
Thus though a shower of flowers from heaven is not more extraordinary
than talking flowers and is quite natural in Indian poetry, it would
probably disconcert the English reader[715]. An Indian poet would not
represent flowers as talking, but would give the same idea by saying
that the spirits inhabiting trees and plants recited stanzas. Similarly
when a painter draws a picture of an angel with wings rising from the
shoulder blades, even the very scientific do not think it needful to
point out that no such anatomical arrangement is known or probable, nor
do the very pious maintain that such creatures exist. The whole question
is allowed to rest happily in some realm of acquiescence untroubled by
discussions. And it is in this spirit that Indian books relate how when
the Buddha went abroad showers of flowers fell from the sky and the air
resounded with heavenly music, or diversify their theological
discussions with interludes of demons, nymphs and magic serpents. And
although this riot of the imagination offends our ideas of good sense
and proportion, the Buddhists do not often lose the distinction between
what Matthew Arnold called Literature and Dogma. The Buddha's visits to
various heavens are not presented as articles of faith: they are simply
a pleasant setting for his discourses.

Some miracles of course have a more serious character and can be less
easily separated from the essentials of the faith. Thus the Pitakas
represent the Buddha as able to see all that happens in the world and to
transport himself anywhere at will. But even in such cases we may
remember that when we say of a well-informed and active person that he
is omniscient and ubiquitous, we are not misunderstood. The hyperbole of
Indian legends finds its compensation in the small importance attached
to them. No miraculous circumstance recorded of the Buddha has anything
like the significance attributed by Christians to the virgin birth or
the resurrection of Christ. His superhuman powers are in keeping with
the picture drawn of his character. They are mostly the result of an
attempt to describe a mind and will of more than human strength, but the
superman thus idealized rarely works miracles of healing. He saves
mankind by teaching the way of salvation, not by alleviating a few
chance cases of physical distress. In later works he is represented as
performing plentiful and extraordinary miracles, but these are just the
instances in which we can most clearly trace the addition of


The elaboration of marvellous episodes is regarded in India as a
legitimate form of literary art, no more blameable than dramatization,
and in sacred writings it flourishes unchecked. In Hinduism, as in
Buddhism, there is not wanting a feeling that the soul is weary of the
crowd of deities who demand sacrifices and promise happiness, and on the
serener heights of philosophy gods have little place. Still most forms
of Hinduism cannot like Buddhism be detached from the gods, and no
extravagance is too improbable to be included in the legends about them.
The extravagance is the more startling because their exploits form part
of quasi-historical narratives. Râma and Krishna seem to be idealized
and deified portraits of ancient heroes, who came to be regarded as
incarnations of the Almighty. This is understood by Indians to mean not
that the Almighty submitted consistently to human limitations, but that
he, though incarnate, exercised whenever it pleased him and often most
capriciously his full divine force. With this idea before them and no
historical scruples to restrain them, Indian writers tell how Krishna
held up a mountain on his finger, Indian readers accept the statement,
and crowds of pilgrims visit the scene of the exploit.

The later Buddhist writings are perhaps not less extravagant than the
Puranas, but the Pitakas are relatively sober, though not quite
consistent in their account of the Buddha's attitude to the miraculous.
Thus he encourages Sâgata[716] to give a display of miracles, such as
walking in the air, in order to prepare the mind of a congregation to
whom he is going to preach, but in other narratives[717] which seem
ancient and authentic, he expresses his disapproval of such performances
(just as Christ refused to give signs), and says that they do not
"conduce to the conversion of the unconverted or to the increase of the
converted." Those who know India will easily call up a picture of how
the Bhikkhus strove to impress the crowd by exhibitions not unlike a
modern juggler's tricks and how the master stopped them. His motives are
clear: these performances had nothing to do with the essence of his
teaching. If it be true that he ever countenanced them, he soon saw his
error. He did not want people to say that he was a conjurer who knew the
Gândhâra charm or any other trick. And though we have no warrant for
doubting that he believed in the reality of the powers known as iddhi,
it is equally certain that he did not consider them essential or even
important for religion.

Somewhat similar is the attitude of early Buddhism to the spirit
world—the hosts of deities and demons who people this and other spheres.
Their existence is assumed, but the truths of religion are not dependent
on them, and attempts to use their influence by sacrifices and oracles
are deprecated as vulgar practices similar to juggling. Later Buddhism
became infected with mythology and the critical change occurs when
deities, instead of being merely protectors of the church, take an
active part in the work of salvation. When the Hindu gods developed into
personalities who could appeal to religious and philosophic minds as
cosmic forces, as revealers of the truth and guides to bliss, the
example was too attractive to be neglected and a pantheon of
Bodhisattvas arose. But it is clear that when the Buddha preached in
Kosala and Magadha, the local deities had not attained any such
position. The systems of philosophy then in vogue were mostly not
theistic, and, strange as the words may sound, religion had little to do
with the gods. If this be thought to rest on a mistranslation, it is
certainly true that the _dhamma_ had very little to do with _devas_. The
example of Rome under the Empire or of modern China makes the position
clearer. In neither would a serious enquirer turn to the ancient
national gods for spiritual help.

Often as the Devas figure in early Buddhist stories, the significance of
their appearance nearly always lies in their relations with the Buddha
or his disciples. Of mere mythology, such as the dealings of Brahmâ and
Indra with other gods, there is little. In fact the gods, though freely
invoked as accessories, are not taken seriously[718], and there are some
extremely curious passages in which Gotama seems to laugh at them, much
as the sceptics of the eighteenth century laughed at Jehovah. Thus in
the Kevaddha sutta[719] he relates how a monk who was puzzled by a
metaphysical problem applied to various gods and finally accosted Brahmâ
himself in the presence of all his retinue. After hearing the question,
which was Where do the elements cease and leave no trace behind? Brahmâ
replies, "I am the Great Brahmâ, the Supreme, the Mighty, the
All-seeing, the Ruler, the Lord of all, the Controller, the Creator, the
Chief of all, appointing to each his place, the Ancient of days, the
Father of all that are and are to be." "But," said the monk, "I did not
ask you, friend, whether you were indeed all you now say, but I ask you
where the four elements cease and leave no trace." Then the Great Brahmâ
took him by the arm and led him aside and said, "These gods think I know
and understand everything. Therefore I gave no answer in their presence.
But I do not know the answer to your question and you had better go and
ask the Buddha." Even more curiously ironical is the account given of
the origin of Brahmâ[720]. There comes a time when this world system
passes away and then certain beings are reborn in the World of Radiance
and remain there a long time. Sooner or later, the world system begins
to evolve again and the palace of Brahmâ appears, but it is empty. Then
some being whose time is up falls from the World of Radiance and comes
to life in the palace and remains there alone. At last he wishes for
company, and it so happens that other beings whose time is up fall from
the World of Radiance and join him. And the first being thinks that he
is Great Brahmâ, the Creator, because when he felt lonely and wished for
companions other beings appeared. And the other beings accept this view.
And at last one of Brahmâ's retinue falls from that state and is born in
the human world and, if he can remember his previous birth, he reflects
that he is transitory but that Brahmâ still remains and from this he
draws the erroneous conclusion that Brahmâ is eternal.

He who dared to represent Brahmâ (for which name we might substitute
Allah or Jehovah) as a pompous deluded individual worried by the
difficulty of keeping up his position had more than the usual share of
scepticism and irony. The compilers of such discourses regarded the gods
as mere embellishments, as gargoyles and quaint figures in the cathedral
porch, not as saints above the altar. The mythology and cosmology
associated with early Buddhism are really extraneous. The Buddha's
teaching is simply the four truths and some kindred ethical and
psychological matter. It grew up in an atmosphere of animism which
peopled the trees and streams and mountains with spirits. It accepted
and played with the idea, just as it might have accepted and played with
the idea of radio-activity. But such notions do not affect the essence
of the Dharma and it might be preached in severe isolation. Yet in Asia
it hardly ever has been so isolated. It is true that Indian mythology
has not always accompanied the spread of Buddhism. There is much of it
in Tibet and Mongolia but less in China and Japan and still less in
Burma. But probably in every part of Asia the Buddhist missionaries
found existing a worship of nature spirits and accepted it, sometimes
even augmenting and modifying it. In every age the elect may have risen
superior to all ideas of gods and heavens and hells, but for any just
historical perspective, for any sympathetic understanding of the faith
as it exists as a living force to-day, it is essential to remember this
background and frame of fantastic but graceful mythology.

Many later Mahayanist books are full of dhâraṇîs or spells. Dhâraṇîs are
not essentially different from mantras, especially tantric mantras
containing magical syllables, but whereas mantras are more or less
connected with worship, dhâraṇîs are rather for personal use, spells to
ward off evil and bring good luck. The Chinese pilgrim Hsüan Chuang[721]
states that the sect of the Mahâsanghikas, which in his opinion arose in
connection with the first council, compiled a Pitaka of dhâraṇîs. The
tradition cannot be dismissed as incredible for even the Dîgha-Nikâya
relates how a host of spirits visited the Buddha in order to impart a
formula which would keep his disciples safe from harm. Buddhist and
Brahmanic mythology represent two methods of working up popular legends.
The Mahâbhârata and Puranas introduce us to a moderately harmonious if
miscellaneous society of supernatural personages decently affiliated to
one another and to Brahmanic teaching. The same personages reappear in
Buddhism but are analogous to Christian angels or to fairies rather than
to minor deities. They are not so much the heroes of legends, as
protectors: they are interesting not for their past exploits but for
their readiness to help believers or to testify to the true doctrine.
Still there was a great body of Buddhist and Jain legend in ancient
India which handled the same stories as Brahmanic legend—e.g. the tale
of Krishna—but in a slightly different manner. The characteristic form
of Buddhist legend is the Jâtaka, or birth story. Folk-lore and sagas,
ancient jokes and tragedies, the whole stock in trade of rhapsodists and
minstrels are made an edifying and interesting branch of scripture by
simply identifying the principal characters with the Buddha, his friends
and his enemies in their previous births[722]. But in Hinayanist
Buddhism legend and mythology are ornamental, and edifying, nothing
more. Spirits may set a good example or send good luck: they have
nothing to do with emancipation or nirvana. The same distinction of
spheres is not wholly lost in Hinduism, for though the great philosophic
works treat of God under various names they mostly ignore minor deities,
and though the language of the Bhagavad-gîtâ is exuberant and
mythological, yet only Krishna is God: all other spirits are part of

The deities most frequently mentioned in Buddhist works are Indra,
generally under the name of Sakka (Śakra) and Brahmâ. The former is no
longer the demon-slaying soma-drinking deity of the Vedas, but the
heavenly counterpart of a pious Buddhist king. He frequently appears in
the Jâtaka stories as the protector of true religion and virtue, and
when a good man is in trouble, his throne grows hot and attracts his
attention. His transformation is analogous to the process by which
heathen deities, especially in the Eastern Church, have been accepted as
Christian saints[723]. Brahmâ rules in a much higher heaven than Sakka.
His appearances on earth are rarer and more weighty, and sometimes he
seems to be a personification of whatever intelligence and desire for
good there is in the world[724]. But in no case do the Pitakas concede
to him the position of supreme ruler of the Universe. In one singular
narrative the Buddha tells his disciples how he once ascertained that
Brahmâ Baka was under the delusion that his heaven was eternal and cured
him of it[725].


All Indian religions have a passion for describing in bold imaginative
outline the history and geography of the universe. Their ideas are
juster than those of Europeans and Semites in so far as they imply a
sense of the distribution of life throughout immensities of time and
space. The Hindu perceived more clearly than the Jew and Greek that his
own age and country were merely parts of a much longer series and of a
far larger structure or growth. He wished to keep this whole continually
before the mind, but in attempting to describe it he fell into that
besetting intellectual sin of India, the systematizing of the imaginary.
Ages, continents and worlds are described in detailed statements which
bear no relation to facts. Thus, Brahmanic cosmogony usually deals with
a period of time called Kalpa. This is a day in the life of Brahmâ, who
lives one hundred years of such days, and it marks the duration of a
world which comes into being at its commencement and is annihilated at
its end. It consists of 4320 times a million years and is divided into
fourteen smaller periods called manvantaras each presided over by a
superhuman being called Manu[726]. A manvantara contains about
seventy-one mahâyugas and each mahâyuga is what men call the four ages
of the world[727]. Geography and astronomy show similar precision. The
Earth is the lowest of seven spheres or worlds, and beneath it are a
series of hells[728]. The three upper spheres last for a hundred Kalpas
but are still material, though less gross than those below. The whole
system of worlds is encompassed above and below by the shell of the egg
of Brahmâ. Round this again are envelopes of water, fire, air, ether,
mind and finally the infinite Pradhâna or cause of all existing things.
The earth consists of seven land-masses, divided and surrounded by seven
seas. In the centre of the central land-mass rises Mount Meru, nearly a
million miles high and bearing on its peaks the cities of Brahmâ and
other gods.

The cosmography of the Buddhists is even more luxuriant, for it regards
the universe as consisting of innumerable spheres (cakkavâlas), each of
which might seem to a narrower imagination a universe in itself, since
it has its own earth, heavenly bodies, paradises and hells. A sphere is
divided into three regions, the lowest of which is the region of desire.
This consists of eleven divisions which, beginning from the lowest, are
the hells, and the worlds of animals, Pretas (hungry ghosts), Asuras
(Titans)[729] and men. This last, which we inhabit, consists of a vast
circular plain largely covered with water. In the centre of it is Mount
Meru, and it is surrounded by a wall. Above it rise six devalokas, or
heavens of the inferior gods. Above the realms of desire there follow
sixteen worlds in which there is form but no desire. All are states of
bliss one higher than the other and all are attained by the exercise of
meditation. Above these again come four formless worlds, in which there
is neither desire nor form. They correspond to the four stages of Arûpa
trances and in them the gross and evil elements of existence are reduced
to a minimum, but still they are not permanent and cannot be regarded as
final salvation. We naturally think of this series of worlds as so many
storeys rising one above the other and they are so depicted[730] but it
will be observed that the animal kingdom is placed between the hells and
humanity, obviously not as having its local habitation there but as
better off than the one, though inferior to the other, and perhaps if we
pointed this out to the Hindu artist he would smile and say that his
many storeyed picture must not be taken so literally: all states of
being are merely states of mind, hellish, brutish, human and divine.

Grotesque as Hindu notions of the world may seem, they include two great
ideas of modern science. The universe is infinite or at least
immeasurable[731]. The vision of the astronomer who sees a solar system
in every star of the milky way is not wider than the thought that
devised these Cakkavâlas or spheres, each with a vista of heavens and a
procession of Buddhas, to look after its salvation. Yet compared with
the sum of being a sphere is an atom. Space is filled by aggregates of
them, considered by some as groups of three, by others as clusters of a
thousand. And secondly these world systems, with the living beings and
plants in them, are regarded as growing and developing by natural
processes, and, equally in virtue of natural processes, as decaying and
disintegrating when the time comes. In the Aggañña-Sutta[732] we have a
curious account of the evolution of man which, though not the same as
Darwin's, shows the same idea of development or perhaps degeneration and
differentiation. Human beings were originally immaterial, aerial and
self-luminous, but as the world gradually assumed its present form they
took to eating first of all a fragrant kind of earth and then plants
with the result that their bodies became gross and differences of sex
and colour were produced.

No sect of Hinduism personifies the powers of evil in one figure
corresponding to Satan, or the Ahriman of Persia. In proportion as a
nation thinks pantheistically it is disinclined to regard the world as
being mainly a contest between good and evil. It is true there are
innumerable demons and innumerable good spirits who withstand them. But
just as there is no finality in the exploits of Râma and Krishna, so
Râvaṇa and other monsters do not attain to the dignity of the Devil. In
a sense the destructive forces are evil, but when they destroy the world
at the end of a Kalpa the result is not the triumph of evil. It is
simply winter after autumn, leading to spring and another summer.

Buddhism having a stronger ethical bias than Hinduism was more conscious
of the existence of a Tempter, or a power that makes men sin. This power
is personified, but somewhat indistinctly, as Mâra, originally and
etymologically a god of death. He is commonly called Mâra the Evil
One[733], which corresponds to the Mrityuh pâpmâ of the Vedas, but as a
personality he seems to have developed entirely within the Buddhist
circle and to be unknown to general Indian mythology. In the thought of
the Pitakas the connection between death and desire is clear. The great
evils and great characteristics of the world are that everything in it
decays and dies and that existence depends on desire. Therefore the
ruler of the world may be represented as the god of desire and death.
Buddha and his saints struggle with evil and overcome it by overcoming
desire and this triumphant struggle is regarded as a duel with Mâra, who
is driven off and defeated[734].

Even in his most mythological aspects, Mâra is not a deity of Hell. He
presides over desire and temptation, not over judgment and punishment.
This is the function of Yama, the god of the dead, and one of the
Brahmanic deities who have migrated to the Far East. He has been adopted
by Buddhism, though no explanation is given of his status. But he is
introduced as a vague but effective figure—and yet hardly more than a
metaphor—whenever it is desired to personify the inflexible powers that
summon the living to the other world and there make them undergo, with
awful accuracy, the retribution due for their deeds. In a remarkable
passage[735] called Death's Messengers, it is related that when a sinner
dies he is led before King Yama who asks him if he never saw the three
messengers of the gods sent as warnings to mortals, namely an old man, a
sick man and a corpse. The sinner under judgment admits that he saw but
did not reflect and Yama sentences him to punishment, until suffering
commensurate to his sins has been inflicted.

Buddhism tells of many hells, of which Avîci is the most terrible. They
are of course all temporary and therefore purgatories rather than places
of eternal punishment, and the beings who inhabit them have the power of
struggling upwards and acquiring merit[736], but the task is difficult
and one may be born repeatedly in hell. The phraseology of Buddhism
calls existences in heavens and hells new births. To us it seems more
natural to say that certain people are born again as men and that others
go to heaven or hell. But the three destinies are really parallel[737].

The desire to accommodate influential ideas, though they might be
incompatible with the strict teaching of the Buddha, is well seen in the
position accorded to spirits of the dead. The Buddha was untiring in his
denunciation of every idea which implied that some kind of soul or
double escapes from the body at death and continues to exist. But the
belief in the existence of departed ancestors and the presentation of
offerings to them have always formed a part of Hindu domestic religion.
To gratify this persistent belief, Buddhism recognized the world of
Petas, that is ghosts or spirits. Many varieties of these are described
in later literature. Some are as thin as withered leaves and suffer from
continual hunger, for their mouths are so small that they can take no
solid food. According to strict theology, the Petas are a category of
beings just above animals and certain forms of bad conduct entail birth
among them. But in popular estimation, they are merely the spirits of
the dead who can receive nourishment and other benefits from the living.
The veneration of the dead and the offering of sacrifices to or for
them, which form a conspicuous feature in Far Eastern Buddhism, are
often regarded as a perversion of the older faith, and so, indeed, they
are. Yet in the Khuddaka-pâṭha[738], which if not a very early work is
still part of the Sutta Pitaka, are found some curious and pathetic
verses describing how the spirits of the departed wait by walls and
crossways and at the doors, hoping to receive offerings of food. When
they receive it their hearts are gladdened and they wish their relatives
prosperity. As many streams fill the ocean, so does what is given here
help the dead. Above all, gifts given to monks will redound to the good
of the dead for a long time. This last point is totally opposed to the
spirit of Gotama's doctrine, but it contains the germ of the elaborate
system of funeral masses which has assumed vast proportions in the Far


What then is the position of the Buddha himself in this universe of many
worlds and multitudinous deities? European writers sometimes fail to
understand how the popular thought of India combines the human and
superhuman: they divorce the two aspects and unduly emphasize one or the
other. If they are impressed by the historical character of Gotama, they
conclude that all legends with a supernatural tinge must be late and
adventitious. If, on the other hand, they feel that the extent and
importance of the legendary element entitles it to consideration, they
minimize the historical kernel. But in India, reality and fancy, prosaic
fact and extravagant imagination are found not as successive stages in
the development of religious ideas, but simultaneously and side by side.
Keshub Chunder Sen was a Babu of liberal views who probably looked as
prosaic a product of the nineteenth century as any radical politician.
Yet his followers were said to regard him as a God, and whether this is
a correct statement or not, it is certain that he was credited with
superhuman power and received a homage which seemed even to Indians
excessive[739]. It is in the light of such incidents and such
temperaments that we should read the story of the Buddha. Could we be
transported to India in the days of his preaching, we should probably
see a figure very like the portrait given in the more sober parts of the
Pitakas, a teacher of great intelligence and personal charm, yet
distinctly human. But had we talked about him in the villages which lay
along his route, or even in the circle of his disciples, I think we
should have heard tales of how Devas visited him and how he was wont to
vanish and betake himself to some heaven. The Hindu attributes such
feats to a religious leader, as naturally as Europeans would ascribe to
him a magnetic personality and a flashing eye.

The Pitakas emphasize the omniscience and sinlessness of the Buddha but
contain no trace of the idea that he is God in the Christian or
Mahommedan sense. They are consistently non-theistic and it is only
later that Buddhas and Bodhisattvas become transformed into beings about
whom theistic language can be used. But in those parts of the Pitakas
which may be reasonably supposed to contain the ideas of the first
century after the Buddha's death, he is constantly represented as
instructing Devas and receiving their homage[740]. In the Khuddaka-pâṭha
the spirits are invited to come and do him reverence. He is described as
the Chief of the World with all its gods[741], and is made to deny that
he is a man. If a Buddha cannot be called a Deva rather than a man, it
is only because he is higher than both. It is this train of thought
which leads later Buddhists[742] to call him Devâtideva, or the Deva who
is above all other Devas, and thus make him ultimately a being
comparable with Siva or Vishnu.

The idea that great teachers of mankind appear in a regular series and
at stated intervals is certainly older than Gotama, but it is hard to
say how far it was systematized before his time. The greatness of the
position which he won and the importance of the institutions which he
founded naturally caused his disciples to formulate the vague traditions
about his predecessors. They were called indifferently Buddha, Jina,
Arhat, etc., and it was only after the constitution of the Buddhist
church that these titles received fixed meanings.

Closely connected with the idea of the Buddha or Jina is that of the
Mahâpurusha or great man. It was supposed that there are born from time
to time supermen distinguished by physical marks who become either
universal monarchs (cakra-vartin) or teachers of the truth. Such a
prediction is said to have been made respecting the infant Gotama and
all previous Buddhas. The marks are duly catalogued, as thirty-two
greater and eighty[743] smaller signs. Many of them are very curious.
The hair is glossy black: the tongue is so long that it can lick the
ears: the arms reach to the knees in an ordinary upright position: the
skin has a golden tinge: there is a protuberance on the skull and a
smaller one, like a ball, between the eyebrows. The long arms may be
compared with the Persian title rendered in Latin by Longimanus[744] and
it is conceivable that the protuberances on the head may have been
personal peculiarities of Gotama. For though the thirty-two marks are
mentioned in the Pitakas as well-known signs establishing his claims to
eminence, no description of them has been found in any pre-Buddhist
work[745], and they may have been modified to suit his personal
appearance. At any rate it is clear that the early generations of
Buddhists considered that the Master conformed to the type of the
Mahâpurusha and attached importance to the fact[746]. The Pitakas
repeatedly allude to the knowledge of these marks as forming a part of
Brahmanic training and in the account of the previous Buddha Vipassî
they are duly enumerated. These ideas about a Great Man and his
characteristics were probably current among the people at the time of
the Buddha's birth. They do not harmonize completely with later
definitions of a Buddha's nature, but they show how Gotama's
contemporaries may have regarded his career.

In the older books of the Pitakas six Buddhas are mentioned as preceding
Gotama[747], namely Vipassî, Sikhî, Vessabhû, Kakusandha, Konâgamana and
Kassapa. The last three at least may have some historical character. The
Chinese pilgrim Fa Hsien, who visited India from 405 to 411 A.D., saw
their reputed birthplaces and says that there still existed followers of
Devadatta (apparently in Kosala) who recognized these three Buddhas but
not Gotama. Asoka erected a monument in honour of Konâgamana in Nepal
with a dedicatory inscription which has been preserved. In the
Majjhima-Nikâya[748] we find a story about Kakusandha and his disciples
and Gotama once gave[749] an extended account of Vipassî, whose teaching
and career are represented as almost identical with his own. Different
explanations have been given of this common element. There is clearly a
wish to emphasize the continuity of the Dhamma and the similarity of its
exponents in all ages. But are we to believe that the stories, true or
romantic, originally told of Gotama were transferred to his mythical
forerunners or that before his birth there was a Buddha legend to which
the account of his career was accommodated? Probably both processes went
on simultaneously. The notices of the Jain saints show that there must
have been such legends and traditions independent of Gotama. To them we
may refer things like the miracles attending birth. But the general
outline of the Buddha's career, the departure from home, struggle for
enlightenment and hesitation before preaching, seem to be a reminiscence
of Gotama's actual life rather than an earlier legend.

There is an interesting discourse describing the wonders that attend the
birth of a Buddha[750], such as that he passes from the Tusita heaven to
his mother's womb; that she must die seven days after his birth: that
she stands when he is born: and so on. We may imagine that the death of
the mother is due to the historical fact that Gotama's mother did so
die, while the other circumstances are embellishments of the old Buddha
and Mahâpurusha legend. But the construction of this sutta is curious.
The monks in the Jetavana are talking of the wondrous powers possessed
by Buddhas. Gotama enters and asks what is the subject of their
discourse. They tell him and he bids Ânanda describe more fully the
wondrous attributes of a Buddha. Ânanda gives a long list of marvels and
at the end Gotama observes, "Take note of this too as one of the
wondrous attributes of a Buddha, that he has his feelings, perceptions
and thoughts under complete control[751]."

No passage has yet been adduced from the suttas mentioning more than
seven Buddhas but later books, such as the Buddha-vaṃsa and the
introduction to the Jâtaka, describe twenty-five[752]. There are
twenty-four Jain Tîrthankaras and according to some accounts twenty-four
incarnations of Vishnu. Probably all these lists are based on some
calculation as to the proper allowance of saints for an aeon. The
biographies of these Buddhas are brief and monotonous. For each sage
they record the number of his followers, the name of his city, parents,
and chief disciples, the tree under which he attained enlightenment, his
height and his age, both in extravagant figures. They also record how
each met Gotama in one of his previous births and prophesied his future
glory. The object of these biographies is less to give information about
previous Buddhas than to trace the career of Gotama as a Bodhisattva.
This career began in the time of Dîpankara, the first of the twenty-five
Buddhas, incalculable ages ago, when Gotama was a hermit called Sumedha.
Seeing that the road over which Dîpankara had to pass was dirty, he
threw himself down in the mire in order that the Buddha might tread on
him and not soil his feet. At the same time he made a resolution to
become a Buddha and received from Dîpankara the assurance that ages
afterwards his wish would be fulfilled. This incident, called praṇidhâna
or the vow to become a Buddha, is frequently represented in the frescoes
found in Central Asia.

The history of this career is given in the introduction to the Jâtaka
and in the late Pali work called the Cariyâ-piṭaka, but the suttas make
little reference to the topic. They refer incidentally to Gotama's
previous births[753] but their interest clearly centres in his last
existence. They not infrequently use the word Bodhisattva to describe
the youthful Gotama or some other Buddha before the attainment of
Buddhahood, but in later literature it commonly designates a being now
existing who will be a Buddha in the future. In the older phase of
Buddhism attention is concentrated on a human figure which fills the
stage, but before the canon closes we are conscious of a change which
paves the way for the Mahâyâna. Our sympathetic respect is invited not
only for Gotama the Buddha, but for the struggling Bodhisattva who,
battling towards the goal with incredible endurance and self-sacrifice
through lives innumerable, at last became Gotama.

It is only natural that the line of Buddhas should extend after as well
as before Gotama. In the Pitakas there are allusions to such a posterior
series, as when for instance we hear[754] that all Buddhas past and to
come have had and will have attendants like Ânanda, but Metteya the
Buddha of the future has not yet become an important figure. He is just
mentioned in the Dîgha Nikâya and Buddha-Vaṃsa and the Milinda Pañha
quotes an utterance of Gotama to the effect that "He will be the leader
of thousands as I am of hundreds," but the quotation has not been

The Buddhas enumerated are supreme Buddhas (Sammâ-sam-buddha) but there
is another order called Pacceka (Sanskrit Pratyeka) or private Buddhas.
Both classes attain by their own exertions to a knowledge of the four
truths but the Pacceka Buddhas are not, like the supreme Buddhas,
teachers of mankind and omniscient[755]. Their knowledge is confined to
what is necessary for their own salvation and perfection. They are
mentioned in the Nikâyas as worthy of all respect[756] but are not
prominent in either the earlier or later works, which is only natural,
seeing that by their very definition they are self-centred and of little
importance for mankind. The idea of the private Buddha however is
interesting, inasmuch as it implies that even when the four truths are
not preached they still exist and can be discovered by anyone who makes
the necessary mental and moral effort. It is also noticeable that the
superiority of a supreme Buddha lies in his power to teach and help
others. A passionless and self-centred sage falls short of the ideal.

[Footnote 1: The frontier seems to be about Long. 65° E.]

[Footnote 2: See Coedes's views about Śrîvijaya in _B.E.F.E.O._ 1918, 6.
The inscriptions of Rajendracola I (1012-1042 A.D.) show that Hindus in
India were not wholly ignorant of Indian conquests abroad.]

[Footnote 3: But the Japanese syllabaries were probably formed under
Indian influence.]

[Footnote 4: Probably the Christian doctrine of the atonement or
salvation by the death of a deity is an exception. I do not know of any
Indian sect which holds a similar view. The obscure verse Rig Veda x.
13. 4 seems to hint at the self-sacrifice of a deity but the hymn about
the sacrifice of Purusha (x. 90) has nothing to do with redemption or

[Footnote 5: It is possible (though not, I think, certain) that the
Buddha called his principal doctrines _ariya_ in the sense of Aryan not
of noble. But even the Blessed One may not have been infallible in
ethnography. When we call a thing British we do not mean to refer it to
the ancient Britons more than to the Saxons or Normans. And was the
Buddha an Aryan? See V. Smith, _Oxford History of India_, p. 47 for

[Footnote 6: This is not altogether true of the modern temple ritual.]

[Footnote 7: It is very unfortunate that English usage should make this
word appear the same as Brahman, the name of a caste, and there is much
to be said for using the old-fashioned word Brahmin to denote the caste,
for it is clear, though not correct. In Sanskrit there are several
similar words which are liable to be confused in English. In the
nominative case they are:

  (1) Brâhmanah, a man of the highest caste.

  (2) Brâhmanam, an ancient liturgical treatise.

  (3) Brahma, the Godhead, stem Brahman, neuter.

  (4) Brahmâ, a masculine nominative also formed from the stem Brahman and
used as the name of a personal deity.

For (3) the stem Brahman is commonly used, as being distinct from
Brahmâ, though liable to be confounded with the name of the caste.]

[Footnote 8: For some years most scholars accepted the opinion that the
Buddha died in 487 B.C. but the most recent researches into the history
of the Saisunâga dynasty suggest that the date should be put back to 554
B.C. See Vincent Smith, _Oxford History of India_, p. 52.]

[Footnote 9: This is sometimes rendered simply by desire but _desire_ in
English is a vague word and may include feelings which do not come
within the Pali _tanhâ_. The Buddha did not reprobate good desires. See
Mrs Rhys David's _Buddhism_, p. 222 and _E.R.E._ s.v. Desire.]

[Footnote 10: It is practically correct to say that Buddhism was the
first universal and missionary religion, but Mahâvira, the founder of
the Jains and probably somewhat slightly his senior, is credited with
the same wide view.]

[Footnote 11: It may be conveniently and correctly called Pali Buddhism.
This is better than Southern Buddhism or Hînayâna, for the Buddhism of
Java which lies even farther to the south is not the same and there were
formerly Hînayânists in Central Asia and China.]

[Footnote 12: See Finot, _J.A._ 1912, n. 121-136.]

[Footnote 13: There is no Indian record of Bodhidharma's doctrine and
its origin is obscure, but it seems to have been a compound of Buddhism
and Vedantism.]

[Footnote 14: This is proved by coins and also by the Besnagar

[Footnote 15: I do not think that this view is disproved by the fact
that Patañjali and the scholiasts on Pânini allude to images for they
also allude to Greeks. For the contrary view see Sten Konow in _I.A._
1909, p. 145. The facts are (_a_) The ancient Brahmanic ritual used no
images. (_b_) They were used by Buddhism and popular Hinduism about the
fourth century B.C. (_c_) Alexander conquered Bactria in 329 B.C. But
allowance must be made for the usages of popular and especially of
Dravidian worship of which at this period we know nothing.]

[Footnote 16: Few now advocate an earlier date such as 58 B.C.]

[Footnote 17: His authorship of _The Awakening of Faith_ must be
regarded as doubtful.]

[Footnote 18: Much of the Ramayana and Mahabharata must have been
composed during this period, both poems (especially the latter)
consisting of several strata.]

[Footnote 19: _E.g._ the Vyûhas of the Pâncarâtras, the five Jinas of
the Mahayanists and the five Sadâśiva tattvas. See Gopinâtha Rao,
_Elements of Indian Iconography_, vol. III p. 363.]

[Footnote 20: I draw a distinction between Śâktism and Tantrism. The
essence of Śâktism is the worship of a goddess with certain rites.
Tantrism means rather the use of spells, gestures, diagrams and various
magical or sacramental rites, which accompanies Śâktism but may exist
without it.]

[Footnote 21: According to _Census of India_, 1911, _Assam_, p. 47,
about 80,000 animists were converted to Hinduism in Goalpara between
1901 and 1911 by a Brahman called Sib Narayan Swami.]

[Footnote 22: It is said that in Burma Hindu settlers become absorbed in
the surrounding Buddhists. _Census of India_, 1911, I. p. 120.]

[Footnote 23: The life and writings of Vasubandhu illustrate the
transition from the Hina-to the Mahayana. In the earlier part of his
life he wrote the Abhidharmakośa which is still used by Mahayanists in
Japan as a text-book, though it does not go beyond Hinayanism. Later he
became a Mahayanist and wrote Mahayanist works.]

[Footnote 24: As already mentioned, I think Śâktism is the more
appropriate word but Tantrism is in common use by the best authorities.]

[Footnote 25: In India proper there are hardly any Buddhists now. The
Kumbhipathias, an anti-Brahmanic sect in Orissa, are said to be based on
Buddhist doctrines and a Buddhist mission in Mysore, called the Sakya
Buddhist Society, has met with some success. See _Census of India_,
1911, i. pp. 122 and 126.]

[Footnote 26: See the quotation in Schomerus, _Der Śaiva Siddhânta_, p.
20 where a Saiva Hindu says that he would rather see India embrace
Christianity than the doctrine of Śankara.]

[Footnote 27: Some think that the sect called Nimávats was earlier.]

[Footnote 28: The determination of his precise date offers some
difficulties. See for further discussion Book v.]

[Footnote 29: The Kadianis and Chet Ramis in the N.W. Provinces are
mentioned but even here the fusion seems to be chiefly between Islam and
Christianity. See also the article Râdhâ Soârai in _E.R.E._]

[Footnote 30: According to the Census of 1911.]

[Footnote 31: There are curious survivals of paganism in out of the way
forms of Christianity. Thus animal sacrifices are not extinct among
Armenians and Nestorians. See _E.R.E._ article "Prayer for the Dead" at
the end.]

[Footnote 32: The Buddhism of Siam and Burma is similar but in Siam it
is a mediæval importation and the early religious history of Burma is
still obscure.]

[Footnote 33: Although stability is characteristic of the Hinayana its
later literature shows a certain movement of thought phases of which are
marked by the Questions of Milinda, Buddhaghosa's works and the
Abhidhammattha Sangaha.]

[Footnote 34: _E.g._ the way a monastic robe should be worn and the

[Footnote 35: I believe this to be the orthodox explanation but it is
open to many objections.

(1) It is a mere phrase. If to create means to produce something out of
nothing, then we have never seen such an act and to ascribe a sudden
appearance to such an act is really no explanation. Perhaps an act of
imagination or a dream may justly be called a creation, but the relation
between a soul and its Creator is not usually regarded as similar to the
relation between a mind and its fancies.

(2) The responsibility of God for the evil of the world seems to be
greatly increased, if he is directly responsible for every birth of a
child in unhappy conditions.

(3) Animals are not supposed to have souls. Therefore the production of
an animal's mind is not explained by this theory and it seems to be
assumed that such a complex mind ag a dog's can be explained as a
function of matter, whereas there is something in a child which cannot
be so explained.

(4) If a new immortal soul is created every time a birth takes place,
the universe must be receiving incalculably large additions. For some
philosophies such an idea is impossible. (See Bradley, _Appearance and
Reality_, p. 502. "The universe is incapable of increase. And to suppose
a constant supply of new souls, none of which ever perished, would
clearly land us in the end in an insuperable difficulty.") But even if
we do not admit that it is impossible, it at least destroys all analogy
between the material and spiritual worlds. If all the bodies that ever
lived continued to exist separately after death, the congestion would be
unthinkable. Is a corresponding congestion in the spiritual world really

[Footnote 36: This seems to be the view of the Chândogya Up. VI. 12. As
the whole world is a manifestation ol Brahman, so is the great banyan
tree a manifestation of the subtle essence which is also present in its
minute seeds.]

[Footnote 37: The Brihad Ar. Up. knows of samsâra and karma but as
matters of deep philosophy and not for the vulgar: but in the Buddhist
Pitakas they are assumed as universally accepted. The doctrine must
therefore have been popularized after the composition of the Upanishad.
But some allowance must be made for the fact that the Upanishads and the
earliest versions of the Buddhist Suttas were produced in different
parts of India.]

[Footnote 38: Yet many instances are quoted from Celtic and Teutonic
folklore to the effect that birds and butterflies are human souls, and
Caesar's remarks about the Druids may not be wholly wrong.]

[Footnote 39: Several other Europeans of eminence have let their minds
play with the ideas of metempsychosis, pre-existence and karma, as for
instance Giordano Bruno, Swedenborg, Goethe, Lessing, Lavater, Herder,
Schopenhauer, Ibsen, von Helmont, Lichtenberg and in England such
different spirits as Hume and Wordsworth. It would appear that towards
the end of the eighteenth century these ideas were popular in some
literary circles on the continent. See Bertholet, _The Transmigration of
Souls_, pp. 111 ff. Recently Professor McTaggart has argued in favour of
the doctrine with great lucidity and persuasiveness. Huxley too did not
think it absurd. See his _Romanes Lecture, Evolution and Ethics,
Collected Essays_, vol. IX. p. 61. As Deussen observes, Kant's argument
which bases immortality on the realization of the moral law, attainable
only by an infinite process of approximation, points to transmigration
rather than immortality in the usual sense.]

[Footnote 40: The chemical elements are hardly an exception. Apparently
they have no beginning and no end but there is reason to suspect that
they have both.]

[Footnote 41: I know well-authenticated cases of Burmese and Indians
thinking that the soul of a dead child had passed into an animal.]

[Footnote 42: Or again, when I wake up in the morning I am conscious of
my identity because innumerable circumstances remind me of the previous
day. But if I wake up suddenly in the night with a toothache which
leaves room for no thought or feeling except the feeling of pain, is the
fact that I experience the pain in any way lessened if for the moment I
do not know who or where I am?]

[Footnote 43: I believe that a French savant, Colonel Rochas, has
investigated in a scientific spirit cases in which hypnotized subjects
profess to remember their former births and found that these
recollections are as clear and coherent as any revelations about another
world which have been made by Mrs Piper or other mediums. But I have not
been able to obtain any of Col. Rochas's writings.]

[Footnote 44: I use the word _soul_ merely for simplicity, but Buddhists
and others might demur to this phraseology.]

[Footnote 45: But for a contrary view see _Reincarnation, the Hope of
the World_ by Irving S. Cooper. Even the Brihad Aran. Upan. (IV. 4. 3.
4) speaks of new births as new and more beautiful shapes which the soul
fashions for itself as a goldsmith works a piece of gold.]

[Footnote 46: The increase of the human population of this planet does
not seem to me a serious argument against the doctrine of rebirth for
animals, and the denizens of other worlds may be supplying an increasing
number of souls competent to live as human beings.]

[Footnote 47: Perhaps Russians in this as in many other matters think
somewhat differently from other Europeans.]

[Footnote 48: _Varieties of Religious Experience_, p. 427. The chapter
contains many striking instances of these experiences, collected mostly
in the west.]

[Footnote 49: Compare _St Teresa's Orison of Union_, W. James, _l.c._ p.

[Footnote 50: Indian devotees understand how either Śiva or Krishna is
all in all, and thus too St Teresa understood the mystery of the
Trinity. See W. James, _l.c._ p. 411.]

[Footnote 51: Turîya or caturtha.]

[Footnote 52: Indians were well aware even in early times that such a
state might be regarded as equivalent to annihilation. Br. Ar. Up. II.
4. 13; Chând. Up. VIII. ii. 1.]

[Footnote 53: The idea is not wholly strange to European philosophy. See
the passage from the _Phaedo_ quoted by Sir Alfred Lyall. "Thought is
best when the mind is gathered into herself and none of these things
trouble her—neither sounds nor sights nor pain nor any pleasure—when she
has as little as possible to do with the body and has no bodily sense or
feeling, but is aspiring after being."]

[Footnote 54: Mr Bradley _(Appearance and Reality_, p. 498) says "Spirit
is a unity of the manifold in which the externality of the manifold has
utterly ceased." This seems to me one of the cases in which Mr Bradley's
thought shows an interesting affinity to Indian thought.]

[Footnote 55: But also sometimes _purusha_.]

[Footnote 56: Even when low class yogis display the tortures which they
inflict on their bodies, their object I think is not to show what
penances they undergo but simply that pleasure and pain are alike to

[Footnote 57: The sense of human dignity was strongest among the early
Buddhists. They (or some sects of them) held that an arhat is superior
to a god (or as we should say to an angel) and that a god cannot enter
the path of salvation and become an arhat.]

[Footnote 58: Cf. Bosanquet, _Gifford Lectures_, 1912, p. 78. "History
is a hybrid form of experience incapable of any considerable degree of
being or trueness. The doubtful story of successive events cannot
amalgamate with the complete interpretation of the social mind, of art,
or of religion. The great things which are necessary in themselves,
become within the narrative contingent or ascribed by most doubtful
assumptions of insight to this actor or that on the historical stage.
The study of Christianity is the study of a great world experience: the
assignment to individuals of a share in its development is a problem for
scholars whose conclusions, though of considerable human interest, can
never be of supreme importance."]

[Footnote 59: The Chinese critic Hsieh Ho who lived in the sixth century
of our era said: "In Art the terms ancient and modern have no place."
This is exactly the Indian view of religion.]

[Footnote 60: _The Varieties of Religious Experience_, pp. 525-527 and
_A Pluralistic Universe_, p. 310.]

[Footnote 61: And in Russia there are sects which prescribe castration
and suicide.]

[Footnote 62: This, of course, does not apply to Buddhism in China,
Japan and Tibet.]

[Footnote 63: This is not true of the more modern Upanishads which are
often short treatises specially written to extol a particular deity or

[Footnote 64: Mahâparinibbâna sutta. See the table of parallel passages
prefixed to Rhys Davids's translation, _Dialogues of the Buddha_, II.

[Footnote 65: Much the same is true of the various editions of the
Vinaya and the Mahâvastu. These texts were produced by a process first
of collection and then of amplification.]

[Footnote 66: The latter part of Mahâbhârata XII.]

[Footnote 67: Though European religions emphasize man's duty to God,
they do not exclude the pursuit of happiness: e.g. Westminster Shorter
Catechism (1647). Question 1, "What is the chief end of man? _A._ Man's
chief end is to glorify God and to enjoy him for ever."]

[Footnote 68: Mrs Rhys Davids has brought out the importance of the will
for Buddhist ethics in several works. See _J.R.A.S._ 1898, p. 47 and
_Buddhism_, pp. 221 ff. See also Maj. Nik. 19 for a good example of
Buddhist views as to the necessity and method of cultivating the will.]

[Footnote 69: Kaush. Up. III. 8.]

[Footnote 70: The words are kâmacâra and akâmacâra. Chand. Up. 8. 1-6.]

[Footnote 71: Mahâvag. I. 6. _E.g._ Ajâtasattu (Dig. Nik. 2, _ad fin._)
would have obtained the eye of truth, had he not been a parricide. The
consequent distortion of mind made higher states impossible.]

[Footnote 72: But all general statements about Hinduism are liable to
exceptions. The evil spirit Duḥsaha described in the Mârkandeya Purâna
(chaps. L and LI) comes very near the Devil.]

[Footnote 73: I can understand that the immediate reality is a duality
or plurality and that the one spirit may appear in many shapes.]

[Footnote 74: _E.g._ Chand. Up. V. 1. 2. Bri. Ar. Up. I. 3. In the
Pâñcarâtra we do hear of a jñânabhraṃsa or a fall from knowledge
analogous to the fall of man in Christian theology. Souls have naturally
unlimited knowledge but this from some reason becomes limited and
obscured, so that religion is necessary to show the soul the right way.
Here the ground idea seems to be not that any devil has spoilt the world
but that ignorance is necessary for the world process, for otherwise
mankind would be one with God and there would be no world. See Schrader,
_Introd. to the Pâncarâtra_, pp. 78 and 83.]

[Footnote 75: The Śatapatha Brâhmana has a curious legend (XI. 1. 6. 8
ff.) in which the Creator admits that he made evil spirits by mistake
and smites them. In the Kârikâ of Gauḍapâda, 2. 19 it is actually said:
Mayaishâ tasya devasya yayâ sammohitaḥ svayam.]

[Footnote 76: He does not say this expressly and it requires careful
statement in India where it is held strongly that God being perfect
cannot add to his bliss or perfection by creating anything. Compare
Dante, _Paradiso_, xxix. 13-18:

  Non per aver a sè di bene acquisto,
  ch' esser non può, ma perchè suo splendore
  potesse risplendendo dir: subsisto.
  In sua eternità di tempo fuore,
  fuor d' ogni altro comprender, come i piacque,
  s'aperse in nuovi amor l' eterno amore.]

[Footnote 77: The history of Japan and Tibet offers some exceptions.]

[Footnote 78: There are some exceptions, _e.g._ ancient Camboja, the
Sikhs and the Marathas.]

[Footnote 79: But there are other kinds of worship, such as the old
Vedic sacrifices which are still occasionally performed, and the burnt
offerings (homa) still made in some temples. There are also tantric
ceremonies and in Assam the public worship of the Vishnuites has
probably been influenced by the ritual of Lamas in neighbouring Buddhist

[Footnote 80: This position is of great importance as tending to produce
a similar arrangement of religious paraphernalia. The similarity
disappears when Buddhist ceremonies are performed round Stûpas out of

[Footnote 81: As explained elsewhere, I draw a distinction between
Tantrism and Śâktism.]

[Footnote 82: It does not seem to me to have given much inspiration to
Rossetti in his _Aatarte Syriaca_.]

[Footnote 83: But in justice to the Tantras it should be mentioned that
the Mahâ-nirvâṇa Tantra, x. 79, prohibits the burning of widows.]

[Footnote 84: See _Asiatic Review_, July, 1916, p. 33.]

[Footnote 85: _E.g._ Vijayanagar, the Marathas and the states of

[Footnote 86: According to the census of 1911 no less than 72 per cent.
of the population live by agriculture.]

[Footnote 87: The chief exceptions are: (_a_) the Tibetan church has
acquired and holds power by political methods. It is an exact parallel
to the Papacy, but it has never burnt people. (_b_) In mediæval Japan
the great monasteries became fortified castles with lands and troops of
their own. They fought one another and were a menace to the state. Later
the Tokugawa sovereigns had the assistance of the Buddhist clergy in
driving out Christianity but I do not think that their action can be
compared either in extent or cruelty with the Inquisition. (_c_) In
China Buddhism was in many reigns associated with a dissolute court and
palace intrigues. This led to many scandals and great waste of money.]

[Footnote 88: See for instance Huxley's striking definition of Buddhism
in his _Romanes Lecture_, 1893. "A system which knows no God in the
western sense; which denies a soul to man: which counts the belief in
immortality a blunder and the hope of it a sin: which refuses any
efficacy to prayer and sacrifice: which bids men look to nothing but
their own efforts for salvation: which in its original purity knew
nothing of vows of obedience and never sought the aid of the secular
arm: yet spread over a considerable moiety of the old world with
marvellous rapidity and is still with whatever base admixture of foreign
superstitions the dominant creed of a large fraction of mankind." But
some of this is too strongly phrased. Early Buddhism counted the desire
for heaven as a hindrance to the highest spiritual life, but if a man
had not attained to that plane and was bound to be reborn somewhere, it
did not question that his natural desire to be reborn in heaven was
right and proper.]

[Footnote 89: It may of course be denied that Buddhism is a religion. In
this connection some remarks of Mr Bradley are interesting. "The
doctrine that there cannot be a religion without a personal God is to my
mind entirely false" (_Essays on Truth and Reality_, p. 432). "I cannot
accept a personal God as the ultimate truth" (ib. 449). "There are few
greater responsibilities which a man can take on himself than to have
proclaimed or even hinted that without immortality all religion is a
cheat, all morality a self-deception" (_Appearance and Reality_, p.

[Footnote 90: Mahâvaṃsa, xii. 29, xiv. 58 and 64. Dîpavaṃsa, xn. 84 and
85, xiii. 7 and 8.]

[Footnote 91: _Essays in Criticism_, Second Series, Amiel.]

[Footnote 92: This definition of orthodoxy is due to St Vincent of
Lerins. _Quod ubique, quod semper, quod ab omnibus creditum est._]

[Footnote 93: I know that this statement may encounter objections, but I
believe that few Indians would be surprised at the proposition that God
is all things. Some might deny it, but as a familiar error.]

[Footnote 94: But orthodox Christianity really falls into the same
difficulty. For if God planned the redemption of the world and we are
saved by the death of Christ, then the Chief Priests, Judas, Pilate and
the soldiers who crucified Christ are at least the instruments of

[Footnote 95: Wm James, _Psychology_, pp. 203 and 216.]

[Footnote 96: I quote this epitome from Wildon Carr's Henri Bergson,
_The Philosophy of Change_, because the phraseology is thoroughly
Buddhist and appears to have the approval of M. Bergson himself.]

[Footnote 97: _Romanes Lecture_, 1893.]

[Footnote 98: _Appearance_, p. 298.]

[Footnote 99: Thus the Śvetâśvatara Up. says that the whole world is
filled with the parts or limbs of God and metaphors like sparks from a
fire or threads from a spider seem an attempt to express the same idea.
Br. Ar. Up. 2. 1. 20; Mund. Up. 2. 1. 1.]

[Footnote 100: _Appearance_, p. 244; _Essays on Truth_, p. 409;
_Appearance_, p. 413. Though the above quotations are all from Mr
Bradley I might have added others from Mr Bosanquet's _Gifford Lectures_
and from Mr McTaggart.]

[Footnote 101: "The plurality of souls in the Absolute is therefore
appearance and their existence not genuine ... souls like their bodies,
are as such nothing more than appearance—Neither (body and soul) is real
in the end: each is merely phenomenal." _Appearance_, pp. 305-307.]

[Footnote 102: Since I wrote this I have read Mr Wells' book _God the
Invisible King_. Mr Wells knows that he is indebted to oriental thought
and thinks that European religion in the future may be so too, but I do
not know if he realizes how nearly his God coincides with the Mahayanist
conception of a Bodhisattva such as Avalokita or Mañjuśri. These great
beings have, as Bodhisattvas, a beginning: they are not the creators of
the world but masters and conquerors of it and helpers of mankind: they
have courage and eternal youth and Mañjuśri "bears a sword, that clean
discriminating weapon." Like most Asiatics, Mr Wells cannot allow his
God to be crucified and he draws a distinction between God and the
Veiled Being, very like that made by Indians between Îśvara and

[Footnote 103: The Malay countries are the only exception.]

[Footnote 104: Thus Motoori (quoted in Aston's _Shintō_, p. 9) says
"Birds, beasts, plants and trees, seas and mountains and all other
things whatsoever which deserve to be dreaded and revered for the
extraordinary and pre-eminent powers which they possess are called

[Footnote 105: This impersonality is perhaps a later characteristic. The
original form of the Chinese character for T'ien Heaven represented a
man. The old Finnish and Samoyede names for God—Ukko and Num—perhaps
belong to this stage of thought.]

[Footnote 106: See the account of the Faunus message in this book.]

[Footnote 107: The chief exception in Sanskrit is the Râjataranginî, a
chronicle of Kashmir composed in 1148 A.D. There are also a few
panegyrics of contemporary monarchs, such as the Harshacarita of Bâṇa,
and some of the Puranas (especially the Matsya and Vâyu) contain
historical material. See Vincent Smith, _Early History of India_, chap.
I, sect. II, and _Pargiter Dynasties of the Kali Age_. The Greek and
Roman accounts of Ancient India have been collected by McCrindle in six
volumes 1877-1901.]

[Footnote 108: The inscriptions of the Chola Kings however (c. 1000
A.D.) seem to boast of conquests to the East of India. See Coedès "Le
royaume de Çrîvijaya" in _B.E.F.E.O._ 1918]

[Footnote 109: Very different opinions have been held as to whether this
date should be approximately 1500 B.C. or 3000 B.C. The strong
resemblance of the hymns of the Ṛig Veda to those of the Avesta is in
favour of the less ancient date, but the date of the Gathas can hardly
be regarded as certain.]

[Footnote 110: Linguistically there seems to be two distinct divisions,
the Dravidians and the Munda (Kolarian).]

[Footnote 111: The affinity between the Dravidian and Ural-Altaic groups
of languages has often been suggested but has met with scepticism. Any
adequate treatment of this question demands a comparison of the earliest
forms known in both groups and as to this I have no pretension to speak.
But circumstances have led me to acquire at different times some
practical acquaintance with Turkish and Finnish as well as a slight
literary knowledge of Tamil and having these data I cannot help being
struck by the general similarity shown in the structure both of words
and of sentences (particularly the use of gerunds and the constructions
which replace relative sentences) and by some resemblances in
vocabulary. On the other hand the pronouns and consequently the
conjugation of verbs show remarkable differences. But the curious Brahui
language, which is classed as Dravidian, has negative forms in which
_pa_ is inserted into the verb, as in Yakut Turkish, e.g. Yakut
_bis-pa-ppin_, I do not cut; Brahui _khan-pa-ra_, I do not see. The
plural of nouns in Brahui uses the suffixes _k_ and _t_ which are found
in the Finnish group and in Hungarian.]

[Footnote 112: See the legend in the Śat. Brâh. I. 4. 1. 14 ff.]

[Footnote 113: This much seems sure but whereas European scholars were
till recently agreed that he died about 487 B.C. it is now suggested
that 543 may be nearer the true date. See Vincent Smith in _Oxford
History of India_, 1920, p. 48.]

[Footnote 114: Pali Takkasila. Greek Taxila. It was near the modern
Rawal Pindi and is frequently mentioned in the Jâtakas as an ancient and
well-known place.]

[Footnote 115: Most of them are known by the title of Śâtakarṇi.]

[Footnote 116: But perhaps not in language. Recent research makes it
probable that the Kushans or Yüeh-chih used an Iranian idiom.]

[Footnote 117: Fleet and Franke consider that Kanishka preceded the two
Kadphises and began to reign about 58 B.C.]

[Footnote 118: He appears to have been defeated in these regions by the
Chinese general Pan-Chao about 90 A.D. but to have been more successful
about fifteen years later.]

[Footnote 119: Or Hephthalites. The original name seems to have been
something like Haptal.]

[Footnote 120: Strabo XV. 4. 73.]

[Footnote 121: _Hist. Nat_. VI. 23. (26).]

[Footnote 122: For authorities see Vincent Smith, _Early History of
India_, 1908, p. 401.]

[Footnote 123: The inscriptions of Asoka mention four kingdoms, Pândya,
Keralaputra, Cola and Satiyaputra.]

[Footnote 124: Hinduism is often used as a name for the mediaeval and
modern religion of India, and Brahmanism for the older pre-Buddhist
religion. But one word is needed as a general designation for Indian
religion and Hinduism seems the better of the two for this purpose.]

[Footnote 125: Excluding Burma the last Census gives over 300,000. These
are partly inhabitants of frontier districts, which are Indian only in
the political sense, and partly foreigners residing in India.]

[Footnote 126: Only tradition preserves the memory of an older and freer
system, when warriors like Viśvâmitra were able by their religious
austerities to become Brahmans. See Muir's _Sanskrit texts_, vol. I. pp.
296-479 on the early contests between Warriors and Brahmans. We hear of
Kings like Janaka of Videha and Ajâtaśatru of Kâśi who were admitted to
be more learned than Brahmans but also of Kings like Vena and Nahusha
who withstood the priesthood "and perished through want of
submissiveness." The legend of Paraśurâma, an incarnation of Vishnu as a
Brahman who destroyed the Kshatriya race, must surely have some
historical foundation, though no other evidence is forthcoming of the
events which it relates.]

[Footnote 127: In southern India and in Assam the superiors of
monasteries sometimes exercise a quasi-episcopal authority.]

[Footnote 128: Śat. Brâhm. v. 3. 3. 12 and v. 4. 2. 3.]

[Footnote 129: The Mârkaṇḍeya Purâṇa discusses the question how Kṛishṇa
could become a man.]

[Footnote 130: See for instance _The Holy Lives of the Azhvars_ by
Alkondavilli Govindâcârya. Mysore, 1902, pp. 215-216. "The Dravida Vedas
have thus as high a sanction and authority as the Girvana (i.e.
Sanskrit) Vedas."]

[Footnote 131: I am inclined to believe that the Lingâyat doctrine
really is that Lingâyats dying in the true faith do not transmigrate any

[Footnote 132: E.g. Brih.-Âr. III. 2. 13 and IV. 4. 2-6.]

[Footnote 133: This is the accepted translation of _dukkha_ but perhaps
it is too strong, and _uneasiness_, though inconvenient for literary
reasons, gives the meaning better.]

[Footnote 134: The old Scandinavian literature with its gods who must
die is equally full of this sense of impermanence, but the Viking
temperament bade a man fight and face his fate.]

[Footnote 135: But see Rabindrannath Tagore: Sadhana, especially the
Chapter on Realization.]

[Footnote 136: Cf. Shelley's lines in Hellas:—

 "Worlds on worlds are rolling ever
  From creation to decay,
  Like the bubbles on a river
  Sparkling, bursting, borne away."]

[Footnote 137: Nevertheless _deva_ is sometimes used in the Upanishads
as a designation of the supreme spirit.]

[Footnote 138: E.g. Brih.-Âr. Up. IV. 3. 33 and the parallel passages in
the Taittirîya and other Upanishads.]

[Footnote 139: The principal one is the date of Asoka, deducible from an
inscription in which he names contemporary Seleucid monarchs.]

[Footnote 140: _E.g._ a learned Brahman is often described in the Sutta
Pitaka as "a repeater (of the sacred words) knowing the mystic verses by
heart, one who had mastered the three Vedas, with the indices, the
ritual, the phonology, the exegesis and the legends as a fifth."]

[Footnote 141: There had been time for misunderstandings to arise. Thus
the S^{.}atapatha Brâhmana sees in the well-known verse "who is the God
to whom we shall offer our sacrifices" an address to a deity named Ka
(Sanskrit for _who_) and it would seem that an old word, _uloka_, has
been separated in several passages into two words, _u_ (a meaningless
particle) and _loka_.]

[Footnote 142: Recent scholars are disposed to fix the appearance of
Zoroaster between the middle of the seventh century and the earlier half
of the sixth century B.C. But this date offers many difficulties. It
makes it hard to explain the resemblances between the Gathas and the Rig
Veda and how is it that respectable classical authorities of the fourth
century B.C. quoted by Pliny attribute a high antiquity to Zoroaster?]

[Footnote 143: This applies chiefly to the three Samhitâs or collections
of hymns and prayers. On the other hand there was no feeling against the
composition of new Upanishads or the interpolation and amplification of
the Epics.]

[Footnote 144: The Hotri recites prayers while other priests perform the
act of sacrifice. But there are several poems in the Rig Veda for which
even Indian ingenuity has not been able to find a liturgical use.]

[Footnote 145: Thus the Pali Pitakas speak of the Tevijjâ or threefold
knowledge of the Brahmans.]

[Footnote 146: Or it may be that the ancestors of the Persians were also
in the Panjab and retired westwards.]

[Footnote 147: R.V. v. 3. 1.]

[Footnote 148: See the Gaṇeśâtharvaśîrsha Upan. and Gopinatha Rao.
_Hindu Iconography_, vol. I. pp. 35-67.]

[Footnote 149: See R.V. III. 34. 9. i. 130. 8; iv. 26. 2. vi. 18. 3; iv.
16. 13.]

[Footnote 150: In one singular hymn (R.V. x. 119) Indra describes his
sensations after drinking freely, and in the Satapatha Brahmana (V. 5.
4. 9 and XII. 7. 1. 11) he seems to be represented as suffering from his
excesses and having to be cured by a special ceremony.]

[Footnote 151: In some passages of the Upanishads he is identified with
the âtman _(e.g._ Kaushitaki Up. III. 8), but then all persons, whether
divine or human, are really the âtman if they only knew it.]

[Footnote 152: A.V. IV. 16. 2.]

[Footnote 153: The Indian alphabets are admittedly Semitic in origin.]

[Footnote 154: See Mahâbhâr. I. xvii-xviii and other accounts in the
Râmâyaṇa and Purâṇas.]

[Footnote 155: It has also been conjectured that Sk. Asura=Ashur, the
God of Assyria, and that Sumeru or Sineru (Meru)=Sumer or Shinar, see
_J.R.A.S._ 1916, pp. 364-5.]

[Footnote 156: Ṛig V. I. 164. 46.]

[Footnote 157: For instance chap. III. of the Chândogya Upanishad, which
compares the solar system to a beehive in which the bees are Vedic
hymns, is little less than stupendous, though singular and hard for
European thought to follow.]

[Footnote 158: I presume that the strong opinion expressed in Caland and
Henri's _Agnishloma_ p. 484 that the sacrifice is merely a _do ut des_
operation refers only to the earliest Vedic period and not to the time
of the Brâhmaṇas.]

[Footnote 159: Thus both the Vedas and the Tantras devote considerable
space to rites which have for object the formation of a new body for the
sacrificer. Compare for instance the Aitareya Brâhmaṇa (I. 18-21: II.
35-38: III. 2 and VI. 27-31) with Avalon's account of Nyâsa, in his
introduction to the Mahânirvâṇa Tantra pages cvii-cxi.]

[Footnote 160: There is considerable doubt as to what was the plant
originally known as Soma. That described in the Vedas and Brâhmanas is
said to grow on the mountains and to have a yellow juice of a strong
smell, fiery taste and intoxicating properties. The plants used as Haom
(Hum) by the modern Parsis of Yezd and Kerman are said to be members of
the family Asclepiadaceae (perhaps of the genus Sarcostemma) with fleshy
stalks and milky juice, and the Soma tested by Dr Haug at Poona was
probably made from another species of the same or an allied genus. He
found it extremely nasty, though it had some intoxicating effect. (See
his _Aitareya Brdh-mana_ n. p. 489.)]

[Footnote 161: An ordinary sacrifice was offered for a private person
who had to be initiated and the priests were merely officiants acting on
his behalf. In a Sattra the priests were regarded as the sacrificers and
were initiated. It had some analogy to Buddhist and Christian monastic
foundations for reading sûtras and saying masses.]

[Footnote 162: The political importance of the Aśvamedha lay in the fact
that the victim had to be let loose to roam freely for a year, so that
only a king whose territories were sufficiently extensive to allow of
its being followed and guarded during its wanderings could hope to
sacrifice it at the end.]

[Footnote 163: R.V. x. 136 and x. 190.]

[Footnote 164: Even the Upanishads (_e.g._ Chând. III. 17, Mahânâr. 64)
admit that a good life which includes _tapas_ is the equivalent of
sacrifice. But this of course is teaching for the elect only. The
Brih.-Âran. Up. (V. ii) contains the remarkable doctrine that sickness
and pain, if regarded by the sufferer as _tapas_, bring the same

[Footnote 165: So too in the Taittirîya Upanishad _tapas_ is described
as the means of attaining the knowledge of Brahman (III. 1-5).]

[Footnote 166: Any ritual without knowledge may be worse than useless.
See Chând. Up. I. 10. 11.]

[Footnote 167: See the various narratives in the Chândogya, Br.-Âran.
and Kaushîtaki Upanishads. The seventh chapter of the Chândogya relating
how Nârada, the learned sage, was instructed by Sanatkumâra or Skanda,
the god of war, seems to hint that the active military class may know
the great truths of religion better than deeply read priests who may be
hampered and blinded by their learning. For Skanda and Nârada in this
connection see Bhagavad-gitâ x. 24, 26.]

[Footnote 168: For the necessity of a teacher see Kâth. Up. II. 8.]

[Footnote 169: See especially the bold passage at the end of Taitt.
Upan. II. "He who knows the bliss of Brahman ... fears nothing. He does
not torment himself by asking what good have I left undone, what evil
have I done?"]

[Footnote 170: The word Upanishad probably means sitting down at the
feet of a teacher to receive secret instruction: hence a secret
conversation or doctrine.]

[Footnote 171: Some allusions in the older Upanishads point to this
district rather than the Ganges Valley as the centre of Brahmanic
philosophy. Thus the Brịhad-Âraṇyaka speaks familiarly of Gândhâra.]

[Footnote 172: Cat. Adyar Library. The Ṛig and Sâma Vedas have two
Upanishads each, the Yajur Veda seven. All the others are described as
belonging to the Atharva Veda. They have no real connection with it, but
it was possible to add to the literature of the Atharva whereas it was
hardly possible to make similar additions to the older Vedas.]

[Footnote 173: Debendranath Tagore composed a work which he called the
Brâhmî Upanishad in 1848. See Autobiography, p. 170. The sectarian
Upanishads are of doubtful date, but many were written between 400 and
1200 A.D. and were due to the desire of new sects to connect their
worship with the Veda. Several are Śaktist (e.g. Kaula, Tripurâ, Devî)
and many others show Śaktist influence. They usually advocate the
worship of a special deity such as Gaṇeśa, Sûrya, Râma, Nṛi Siṃha.]

[Footnote 174: Br.-Âran. VI. 1, Ait. Âran. II. 4, Kaush. III. 3, Praśna,
II. 3, Chând. V. 1. The apologue is curiously like in form to the
classical fable of the belly and members.]

[Footnote 175: Br.-Âran. VI. 2, Chând. V. 3]

[Footnote 176: Br.-Âran. II. 1, Kaush. IV. 2.]

[Footnote 177: The composite structure of these works is illustrated
very clearly by the Bṛihad-Âraṇyaka. It consists of three sections each
concluding with a list of teachers, namely (_a_) adhyâyas 1 and 2, (_b_)
adh. 3 and 4, (_c_) adh. 5 and 6. The lists are not quite the same,
which indicates some slight difference between the sub-schools which
composed the three parts, and a lengthy passage occurs twice in an
almost identical form. The Upanishad is clearly composed of two separate
collections with the addition of a third which still bears the title of
_Khila_ or supplement. The whole work exists in two recensions.]

[Footnote 178: The Eleven translated in the _Sacred Books of the East_,
vols. I and XV, include the oldest and most important.]

[Footnote 179: Thus the Aitareya Brâhmana is followed by the Aitareya
Âraṇyaka and that by the Aitareya-Âraṇyaka-Upanishad.]

[Footnote 180: R.V. X. 121. The verses are also found in the Atharva
Veda, the Vâjasaneyi, Taittirîya, Maitrâyaṇi, and Kâṭhaka Saṃhitâs and

[Footnote 181: R.V. X. 129.]

[Footnote 182: IV. 5. 5 and repeated almost verbally II. 4. 5 with some
omissions. My quotation is somewhat abbreviated and repetitions are

[Footnote 183: The sentiment is perhaps the same as that underlying the
words attributed to Florence Nightingale: "I must strive to see only God
in my friends and God in my cats."]

[Footnote 184: It will be observed that he had said previously that the
Âtman must be seen, heard, perceived and known. This is an inconsistent
use of language.]

[Footnote 185: Chândogya Upanishad VI.]

[Footnote 186: In the language of the Upanishads the Âtman is often
called simply Tat or it.]

[Footnote 187: _I.e._ the difference between clay and pots, etc. made of

[Footnote 188: Yet the contrary proposition is maintained in this same
Upanishad (III. 19. 1), in the Taittirîya Upanishad (II. 8) and
elsewhere. The reason of these divergent statements is of course the
difficulty of distinguishing pure Being without attributes from not

[Footnote 189: The word union is a convenient but not wholly accurate
term which covers several theories. The Upanishads sometimes speak of
the union of the soul with Brahman or its absorption in Brahman (_e.g._
Maitr. Up. VI. 22, _Sâyujyatvam_ and _aśabde nidhanam eti_) but the soul
is more frequently stated to be Brahman or a part of Brahman and its
task is not to effect any act of union but simply to _know_ its own
nature. This knowledge is in itself emancipation. The well-known simile
which compares the soul to a river flowing into the sea is found in the
Upanishads (Chând. VI. 10. 1, Mund. III. 2, Praśna, VI. 5) but Śankara
(on Brahma S. I. iv. 21-22) evidently feels uneasy about it. From his
point of view the soul is not so much a river as a bay which _is_ the
sea, if the landscape can be seen properly.]

[Footnote 190: The Mâṇḍukya Up. calls the fourth state
_ekâtmapratyayasâra_, founded solely on the certainty of its own self
and Gauḍapâda says that in it there awakes the eternal which neither
dreams nor sleeps. (Kâr. I. 15. See also III. 34 and 36.)]

[Footnote 191: Bṛ.-Âraṇyaka, IV. 3. 33.]

[Footnote 192: Cf. Bradley, _Appearance and Reality_, p. 244. "The
perfect ... means the identity of idea and existence, attended also by

[Footnote 193: Tait. Up. II. 1-9. See too ib. III. 6.]

[Footnote 194: Bṛ.-Âran. III. 8. 10. See too VI. 2.15, speaking of those
who in the forest worship the truth with faith.]

[Footnote 195: Chândog. Up. IV. 10. 5.]

[Footnote 196: It occurs Katha. Up. II. v. 13, 15, also in the
Śvetâśvatara and Muṇḍaka Upanishads and there are similar words in the
Bhagavad-gîtâ. "This is that" means that the individual soul is the same
as Brahman.]

[Footnote 197: The Nṙisiṁhottaratapanîya Up. I. says that Îśvara is
swallowed up in the Turîya.]

[Footnote 198: But still ancient and perhaps anterior to the Christian

[Footnote 199: Śvet. Up. VI. 7.]

[Footnote 200: Śvet. Up. IV. 3. Max Müller's translation. The commentary
attributed to Śankara explains nîlaḣ pataṅgaḣ as bhramaraḣ but Deussen
seems to think it means a bird.]

[Footnote 201: Chând. Up. vi. 14. 1. Śat. Brâh. viii. 1. 4. 10.]

[Footnote 202: The Brahmans are even called low-born as compared with
Kshatriyas and in the Ambattha Sutta (Dig. Nik. iii.) the Buddha
demonstrates to a Brahman who boasts of his caste that the usages of
Hindu society prove that "the Kshatriyas are higher and the Brahmans
lower," seeing that the child of a mixed union between the castes is
accepted by the Brahmans as one of themselves but not by the Kshatriyas,
because he is not of pure descent.]

[Footnote 203: He had learnt the Veda and Upanishads. Brih.-Âr. iv. 2.

[Footnote 204: Chând. Up. v. 3. 7, Kaush. Up. iv., Brih.-Âr. Up. ii. 1.
The Kshatriyas seem to have regarded the doctrine of the two paths which
can be taken by the soul after death (_devayâna_ and _pitriyâna_, the
latter involving return to earth and transmigration) as their special

[Footnote 205: Literally set in front, præfectus.]

[Footnote 206: Śat. Brâh. ii. 4. 4. 5.]

[Footnote 207: Śat. Brâh. iv. 1. 4. 1-6.]

[Footnote 208: The legends of Vena, Paraśurâma and others indicate the
prevalence of considerable hostility between Brahmans and Kshatriyas at
some period.]

[Footnote 209: Brahmacârin, Grihastha, Vanaprastha, Sannyâsin.]

[Footnote 210: Thus in the Bṛih.-Âraṇ. Yajñavalkya retires to the
forest. But even the theory of three stages was at this time only in the
making, for the last section of the Chândogya Up. expressly authorizes a
religious man to spend all his life as a householder after completing
his studentship and the account given of the stages in Chând. ii. 21 is
not very clear.]

[Footnote 211: Śat. Brâh. xi. 5. 6. 8. Cf. the lists in the Chândogya
Upanishad vii. secs. 1, 2 and 7.]

[Footnote 212: In southern India at the present day it is the custom for
Brahmans to live as Agnihotris and maintain the sacred fire for a few
days after their marriage.]

[Footnote 213: See Thurston, _Castes and Tribes of Southern India_, vol.
v. s.v.]

[Footnote 214: The Emperor Jehangir writing about 1616 implies that the
Aśramas, which he describes, were observed by the Brahmans of that time.
See his _Memoirs_, edited by Beveridge, pp. 357-359.]

[Footnote 215: Śat. Brâh. I. 7. 2. 1. Cf. Tait. Brâh. VI. 3. 10. 5.]

[Footnote 216: Such as those built by Jânaśruti Pautrâyaṇa. See Chând.
Up. IV. 1.]

[Footnote 217: Śat. Brâh. XI. 4. 1. 1.]

[Footnote 218: Śat. Brâh. ii. 2. 2. 6 and iv. 3. 4. 4.]

[Footnote 219: Śat. Brâh. iv. 3. 4. 2.]

[Footnote 220: Vishnu Pur. iii. 5.]

[Footnote 221: Śat. Brâh. iii. 8. 2. 24. Yâjñavalkya is the principal
authority cited in books i-v and x-xiv of this Brâhmaṇa, but not in
books vi-ix, which perhaps represent an earlier treatise incorporated in
the text.]

[Footnote 222: Or "in confidence." Śat. Brâh. xi. 3. 1. 4.]

[Footnote 223: Brih.-Âr. iii. 2. 13.]

[Footnote 224: In the Pali Pitaka the Buddha is represented as preaching
in the land of the Kurus.]

[Footnote 225: These are the Pali forms. The Sanskrit equivalents are
Parivrâjaka and Śramaṇa.]

[Footnote 226: See for instance Mahâv. II. 1 and III. 1.]

[Footnote 227: Dig. Nik. 1.]

[Footnote 228: See O. Schrader, _Stand der indischen Philosophie zur
Zeit Mahâvîras und Buddhas_, 1902.

See also Ang. Nik. vol. III. p. 276 and Rhys Davids' _Dialogues of the
Buddha_, I. pp. 220 ff. But these passages give one an impression of the
multitude of ascetic confraternities rather than a clear idea of their
different views.]

[Footnote 229: It finds expression in two hymns of the Atharva Veda,
XIX. 53 and 54. Cf. too Gauḍap. Kâr. 8. Kâlât prasûtim bhutânâm manyante

[Footnote 230: Dîgha Nikâya II. The opinions of the six teachers are
quoted as being answers to a question put to them by King Ajâtasattu,
namely, What is gained by renouncing the world? Judged as such, they are
irrelevant but they probably represent current statements as to the
doctrine of each sect. The six teachers are also mentioned in several
other passages of the Dîgha and Maj. Nikâyas and also in the
Sutta-Nipâta. It is clear that at a very early period the list of their
names had become the usual formula for summarizing the teaching
prevalent in the time of Gotama which was neither Brahmanic nor

[Footnote 231: Dig. Nik. I. 23-28.]

[Footnote 232: A rather defiant materialism preaching, "Let us eat and
drink for to-morrow we die," crops up in India in various ages though
never very prominent.]

[Footnote 233: But possibly the ascetics described by it were only
Digambara Jains.]

[Footnote 234: See especially the article Âjîvikas by Hoernle, in
Hastings' _Dictionary of Religion_. Also Hoernle, _Uvâsagadasao_,
appendix, pp. 1-29. Rockhill, _Life of the Buddha_, pp. 249 ff.
Schrader, _Stand der indischen Philosophie zur Zeit Mahâvíras und
Buddhas_, p. 32. Sûtrakritânga II. 6.]

[Footnote 235: Makkhali lived some time with Mahâvira, but they
quarrelled. But his followers, though they may not have been a united
body so much as other sects, had definite characteristics.]

[Footnote 236: _E.g._ Śat. Brâh. v. 4. 4. 13. "He thus encloses the
Vaiśya and Śûdra on both sides by the priesthood and nobility and makes
them submissive."]

[Footnote 237: See Śânkhâyana Âraṇyaka. Trans. Keith, pp. viii-xi, 78
85. Also Aitareya Âraṇ. book v.]

[Footnote 238: Cf. the ritual for the Horse sacrifice. ['Sat]. Brâh,
xiii. 2. 8, and Hillebrandt, _Vedische Opfer_., p. 152.]

[Footnote 239: Supplemented by the Kauśika Sûtra, which, whatever its
age may be, has preserved a record of very ancient usages.]

[Footnote 240: _E.g._ I. 10. This hymn, like many others, seems to
combine several moral and intellectual stages, the level at which the
combination was possible not being very high. On the one hand Varuṇa is
the Lord of Law and of Truth who punishes moral offences with dropsy. On
the other, the sorcerer "releases" the patient from Varuṇa by charms,
without imposing any moral penance, and offers the god a thousand other
men, provided that this particular victim is released.]

[Footnote 241: _E.g._ VII. 116, VI. 105, VI. 83.]

[Footnote 242: _E.g._ V. 7, XI. 9.]

[Footnote 243: _E.g._ V. 4, XIX. 39, IV. 37, II. 8, XIX. 34, VIII. 7.]

[Footnote 244: A. V XI. 6.]

[Footnote 245: See, for instance, Du Bose, _The Dragon, Image and
Demon_, 1887, pp. 320-344.]

[Footnote 246: Aṭânâṭiya and Mahâsamaya. Dig. Nik. XX. and XXXII.]

[Footnote 247: See Crooke's _Popular Religion of Northern India_, vol.
II. chap. ii.]

[Footnote 248: In the Brahma-Jala and subsequent suttas of the Dîgha

[Footnote 249: See Rhys Davids' _Dialogues of the Buddha_, vol. I. p. 7,
note 4, and authorities there quoted.]

[Footnote 250: Krishna is perhaps mentioned in the Chând. Up. III. 17.
6, but in any case not as a deity.]

[Footnote 251: See, besides the translations mentioned below, Bühler,
_Ueber die indische Secte der Jainas_ 1887; Hoernle, _Metaphysics and
Ethics of the Jainas_ 1908; and Guérinot, _Essai de Bibliographie Jaina_
and _Répertoire d'Épigraphie Jaina_; Jagmanderlal Jaini, _Outlines of
Jainism_; Jacobi's article Jainism in _E.R.E._. Much information may
also be found in Mrs Stevenson's _Heart of Jainism_. Winternitz,
_Geschichte d. Indischen Literatur_, vol. II. part II. (1920) treats of
Jain literature but I have not been able to see it.]

[Footnote 252: In _J.R.A.S._ 1917, pp. 122-130 s.v. Venkateśvara argues
that Vardhamâna died about 437 B.C. and that the Nigaṇṭhas of the
Pitakas were followers of Parśva. His arguments deserve consideration
but he seems not to lay sufficient emphasis on the facts that _(a)_
according to the Buddhist scriptures the Buddha and Gosâla were
contemporaries, while according to the Jain scriptures Gosâla and
Vardhamâna were contemporaries, _(b)_ in the Buddhist scriptures
Nâtaputta is the representative of the Nigaṇṭhas, while according to the
Jain scriptures Vardhamâna was of the Ñata clan.]

[Footnote 253: The atoms are either simple or compound and from their
combinations are produced the four elements, earth, wind, fire and
water, and the whole material universe. For a clear statement of the
modern Jain doctrine about _dharma_ and _adharma_, see Jagmanderlal
Jaini, l.c. pp. 22 ff.]

[Footnote 254: Jîva, ajîva, âsrava, bandha, saṃvara, nirjarâ, moksha.
The principles are sometimes made nine by the addition of _punya_,
merit, and _pâpa_, sin.]

[Footnote 255: Paudgalikam karma. It would seem that all these ideas
about Karma should be taken in a literal and material sense. Karma,
which is a specially subtle form of matter able to enter, stain and
weigh down the soul, is of eight kinds (1 and 2) jñâna- and
darśana-varanîya impede knowledge and faith, which the soul naturally
possesses; (3) mohanîya causes delusion; (4) vedanîya brings pleasure
and pain; (5) ayushka fixes the length of life; (6) nâma furnishes
individual characteristics, and (7) gotra generic; (8) antarâya hinders
the development of good qualities.]

[Footnote 256: Kevalam also called Jñâna, moksha, nirvâṇa. The nirvâṇa
of the Jains is clearly not incompatible with the continuance of
intelligence and knowledge.]

[Footnote 257: Uttarâdhyâyana XXXVI. 64-68 in _S.B.E._ XLV. pp.

[Footnote 258: _S.B.E._ XLV. p. xxvii. Bhandarkar Report for 1883-4, pp.
95 ff.]

[Footnote 259: Somewhat similar seems to be the relation of Jainism to
the Vaiśeshika philosophy. It accepted an early form of the atomic
theory and this theory was subsequently elaborated in the philosophy
whose founder Kaṇâda was according to the Jains a pupil of a Jain

[Footnote 260: _E.g._ see Acarânga S. I. 7. 6.]

[Footnote 261: They seem to have authority to formulate it in a form
suitable to the needs of the age. Thus we are told that Parśva enjoined
four vows but Mahâvîra five.]

[Footnote 262: When Gotama after attaining Buddhahood was on his way to
Benares he met Upaka, a naked ascetic, to whom he declared that he was
the Supreme Buddha. Then, said Upaka, you profess to be the Jina, and
Gotama replied that he did, "Tasmâ 'ham Upakâ jinoti." (Mahâvag. I. 6.

[Footnote 263: The exact period is 100 billion sâgaras of years. A
sâgara is 100,000,000,000 palyas. A palya is the period in which a well
a mile deep filled with fine hairs can be emptied if one hair is
withdrawn every hundred years.]

[Footnote 264: See M. Bloomfield, _Life and Stories of Pârçvanâtha_

[Footnote 265: See the discussions between followers of Parśva and
Mahâvîra given in Uttarâdhyâyana XXIV. and Sûtrakritânga II. 7.]

[Footnote 266: There are many references to the Nigaṇṭhas in the
Buddhist scriptures and the Buddha, while by no means accepting their
views, treats them with tolerance. Thus he bade Siha, General of the
Licchavis, who became his disciple after being an adherent of Nâtaputta
to continue to give alms as before to Nigaṇṭha ascetics (Mahâvag. VI.

[Footnote 267: Especially among the Âjîvikas. Their leader Gosâla had a
personal quarrel with Mahâvîra but his teaching was almost identical
except that he was a fatalist.]

[Footnote 268: Uttarâdhyâyana. XXIII. 29.]

[Footnote 269: According to Śvetâmbara tradition there was a great
schism 609 years after Mahâvîra's death. The canon was not fixed until
904 (? 454 A.D.) of the same era. The Digambara traditions are different
but appear to be later.]

[Footnote 270: See especially Guérinot, _Répertoire d'Éipigraphie

[Footnote 271: So Bühler, Pillar Edict no. VIII. Senart Inscrip. de
Piyadasi II. 97 translates somewhat differently, but the reference to
the Jains is not disputed.]

[Footnote 272: Rock Edict VI.]

[Footnote 273: Rice _(Mysore and Coorg from the Inscriptions_, 1909, p.
310) thinks that certain inscriptions at Sravana Belgola in Mysore
establish that this tradition is true and also that the expedition was
accompanied by King Candragupta who had abdicated and become a Jain
ascetic. But this interpretation has been much criticised. It is
probably true that a migration occurred and increased the differences
which ultimately led to the division into Śvetâmbaras and Digambaras.]

[Footnote 274: Guérinot, _Épig. Jaina_, no. 11.]

[Footnote 275: Rice, _Mysore and Coorg from the Inscriptions_, 1909, pp.
113-114, 207-208.]

[Footnote 276: Similar tolerance is attested by inscriptions (_e.g._
Guérinot, nos. 522 and 5776) recording donations to both Jain and Saiva

[Footnote 277: They also make a regular practice of collecting and
rearing young animals which the owners throw away or wish to kill.]

[Footnote 278: Or Sthânakavâsi. See for them _Census of India_, 1911, 1.
p. 127 and _Baroda_, p. 93. The sect waa founded about A.D. 1653.]

[Footnote 279: Their names are as follows in Jain Prakrit, the Sanskrit
equivalent being given in bracketa:

  1. *Âyârângasuttam (Âcârânga).
  2. *Sûyagadangam (Sûtrakṛitângam).
  3. Thânangam (Sthâ.).
  4. Samavâyangam.
  5. Viyâhapaññatti (Vyâkhyâprajnâpti). This work is commonly known
     as the Bhagavatî.
  6. Ñâyâdhammakahâo (Jñâtadharmakathâ).
  7. *Uvâsagadasao (Upâsakadasâh).
  8. *Antagadadasao (Antakritad.).
  9. *Anuttarovavâidasâo (Anuttaraupapâtikad.).
  10. Panhâvâgaranâim (Prasnavyakaraṇâni).
  11. Vivâgasuyam (Vipâkasrutam).

The books marked with an asterisk have been translated by Jacobi
(_S.B.E._ vols. XXII. and XIV.), Hoernle and Barnett. See too Weber,
_Indischie Studien_, Bd. XVI. pp. 211-479 and Bd. XVIII. pp. 1-90.]

[Footnote 280: It is called Ârsha or Ardha-Mâgadhi and is the literary
form of the vernacular of Berar in the early centuries of the Christian
era. See H. Jacobi, Ausgewählte Erzählungen in _Maharashtri_, and
introduction to edition of _Ayarânga-sutta_.]

[Footnote 281: The titles given in note 2 illustrate aome of its

[Footnote 282: When I visited Sravana Belgola in 1910, the head of the
Jains there, who professed to be a Digambara, though dressed in purple
raiment, informed me that their sacred works were partly in Sanskrit and
partly in Prakrit. He showed me a book called Trilokasâra.]

[Footnote 283: But see Jagmanderlal Jaini, l.c. appendix V.]

[Footnote 284: Compare for instance Uttarâdyayana X., XXIII. and XXV.
with the Sutta-Nipâta and Dhammapada.]

[Footnote 285: I have only visited establishments in towns. Possibly
Yatis who follow a severer rule may be found in the country, especially
among Digambaras.]

[Footnote 286: In Gujarat they are called Cho-mukhji and it is said that
when a Tîrthankara preached in the midst of his audience each side saw
him facing them. In Burma the four figures are generally said to be the
last four Buddhas.]

[Footnote 287: This seems clear from the presence in Burma of the
curvilinear sikra and even of copies of Indian temples, _e.g._ of
Bodh-Gaya at Pagan. Burmese pilgrims to Gaya might easily have visited
Mt Parasnath on their way.]

[Footnote 288: I have this information from the Jain Guru at Sravana
Belgola. He said that Gomateśvara (who seems unknown to the Śvetâmbaras)
waa a Kevalin but not a Tîrthankara.]

[Footnote 289: Two others, rather smaller, are known, one at Karkâl
(dated 1431) and one at Yannur. These images are honoured at occasional
festivals (one was held at Sravana Belgola in 1910) attended by a
considerable concourse of Jains. The type of the statues is not
Buddhist. They are nude and represent sages meditating in a standing
position whereas Buddhists prescribe a sitting posture for meditation.]

[Footnote 290: The mountain of Satrunjaya rises above Palitâna, the
capital of a native state in Gujarat. Other collections of temples are
found on the hill of Parasnath in Bengal, at Sonâgir near Datiâ, and
Muktagiri near Gâwîlgarh. There are also a good many on the hills above

[Footnote 291: The strength of Buddhism in Burma and Siam is no doubt
largely due to the fact that custom obliges every one to spend part of
his life—if only a few days—as a member of the order.]

[Footnote 292: One might perhaps add to this list the Skoptsy of Russia
and the Armenian colonies in many European and Asiatic towns.]

[Footnote 293: Throughout this book I have not hesitated to make use of
the many excellent translations of Pali works which have been published.
Students of Indian religion need hardly be reminded how much our
knowledge of Pali writings and of early Buddhism owes to the labours of
Professor and Mrs Rhys Davids.]

[Footnote 294: Sanskrit Sûtra, Pali Sutta. But the use of the words is
not quite the same in Buddhist and Brahmanic literature. A Buddhist
sutta or sûtra is a discourse, whether in Pali or in Sanskrit; a
Brahmanic sûtra is an aphorism. But the 227 divisions of the Pâtimokkha
are called Suttas, so that the word may have been originally used in
Pali to denote short statements of a single point. The longer Suttas are
often called Suttanta.]

[Footnote 295: _E.g._ Maj. Nik. 123 about the marvels attending the
birth of a Buddha.]

[Footnote 296: See some further remarks on this subject at the end of
chap. XIII. (on the Canon).]

[Footnote 297: Also Sakya or Sakka. The Sanskrit form is Śâkya.]

[Footnote 298: See among other passages the Ambaṭṭha Sutta of the Dîgha
Nikâya in which Ambattha relates how he saw the Sâkyas, old and young,
sitting on grand seats in this hall.]

[Footnote 299: But in Cullavagga VII. 1 Bhaddiya, a cousin of the Buddha
who is described as being the Râjâ at that time, says when thinking of
renouncing the world "Wait whilst I hand over the kingdom to my sons and
my brothers," which seems to imply that the kingdom was a family
possession. Rajja perhaps means Consulship in the Roman sense rather
than kingdom.]

[Footnote 300: E.g. the Sonadaṇḍa and Kûṭadanta Suttas of the Dîgha

[Footnote 301: Sanskrit Kapilavastu: red place or red earth.]

[Footnote 302: Tradition is unanimous that he died in his eightieth year
and hitherto it has been generally supposed that this was about 487
B.C., so that he would have been born a little before 560. But Vincent
Smith now thinks that he died about 543 B.C. See _J.R.A.S._ 1918, p.
547. He was certainly contemporary with kings Bimbisâra and Ajâtasattu,
dying in the reign of the latter. His date therefore depends on the
chronology of the Śaisunâga and Nanda dynasties, for which new data are
now available.]

[Footnote 303: It was some time before the word came to mean definitely
the Buddha. In Udâna 1.5, which is not a very early work, a number of
disciples including Devadatta are described as being all _Buddhâ_.]

[Footnote 304: The Chinese translators render this word by Ju-lai (he
who has come thus). As they were in touch with the best Indian
tradition, this translation seems to prove that Tathâgata is equivalent
to Tathâ-âgata not to Tâtha-gata and the meaning must be, he who has
come in the proper manner; a holy man who conforms to a type and is one
in a series of Buddhas or Jinas.]

[Footnote 305: See the article on the neighbouring country of Magadha in
Macdonell and Keith's _Vedic Index_.]

[Footnote 306: Cf. the Ratthapâla-sutta.]

[Footnote 307: Mahâv. I. 54. 1.]

[Footnote 308: Devadûtavagga. Ang. Nik. III. 35.]

[Footnote 309: But the story is found in the Mahâpadâna-sutta. See also
Winternitz, _J.R.A.S._ 1911, p. 1146.]

[Footnote 310: He mentions that he had three palaces or houses, for the
hot, cold and rainy seasons respectively, but this is not necessarily
regal for the same words are used of Yasa, the son of a Treasurer
(Mahâv. 1. 7. 1) and Anuruddha, a Sâkyan noble (Cullav. VII. 1. 1).]

[Footnote 311: In the Sonadaṇḍa-sutta and elsewhere.]

[Footnote 312: The Pabbajjâ-sutta.]

[Footnote 313: Maj. Nik. Ariyapariyesana-sutta. It is found in
substantially the same form in the Mahâsaccaka-sutta and the

[Footnote 314: The teaching of Alâra Kâlâma led to rebirth in the sphere
called akiñcañ-ñâyatanam or the sphere in which nothing at all is
specially present to the mind and that of Uddaka Râmaputta to rebirth in
the sphere where neither any idea nor the absence of any idea is
specially present to the mind. These expressions occur elsewhere (_e.g._
in the Mahâparinibbâna-sutta) as names of stages in meditation or of
incorporeal worlds (arûpabrahmâloka) where those states prevail. Some
mysterious utterances of Uddaka are preserved in Sam. Nik. XXXV. 103.]

[Footnote 315: Underhill, _Introd. to Mysticism_, p. 387.]

[Footnote 316: Sam. Nik. XXXVI. 19.]

[Footnote 317: The Lalita Vistara says Alâra lived at Vesâlî and Uddaka
in Magadha.]

[Footnote 318: The following account is based on Maj. Nik. suttas 85 and
26. Compare the beginning of the Mahâvagga of the Vinaya.]

[Footnote 319: Maj. Nik. 12. See too Dig. Nik. 8.]

[Footnote 320: If this discourse is regarded as giving in substance
Gotama's own version of his experiences, it need not be supposed to mean
much more than that his good angel (in European language) bade him not
take his own life. But the argument represented as appealing to him was
that if spirits sustained him with supernatural nourishment, entire
abstinence from food would be a useless pretence.]

[Footnote 321: The remarkable figures known as "fasting Buddhas" in
Lahore Museum and elsewhere represent Gotama in this condition and show
very plainly the falling in of the belly.]

[Footnote 322: Âsava. The word appears to mean literally an intoxicating
essence. See _e.g._ Vinaya, vol. IV. p. 110 (Rhys Davids and Oldenburg's
ed.). Cf. the use of the word in Sanskrit.]

[Footnote 323: Nâparam itthattâyâti. Itthattam is a substantive formed
from ittham thus. It was at this time too that he thought out the chain
of causation.]

[Footnote 324: Tradition states that it was on this occasion that he
uttered the well-known stanzas now found in the Dhammapada 154-5 (cf.
Theragâthâ 183) in which he exults in having, after long search in
repeated births, found the maker of the house. "Now, O maker of the
house thou art seen: no more shalt thou make a house." The lines which
follow are hard to translate. The ridge-pole of the house has been
destroyed (visankhitaṃ more literally de-com-posed) and so the mind
passes beyond the sankhâras (visankhâragataṃ). The play of words in
visankhitaṃ and visankhâra can hardly be rendered in English.]

[Footnote 325: As Rhys Davids observes, this expression means "to found
the Kingdom of Righteousness" but the metaphor is to make the wheels of
the chariot of righteousness move unopposed over all the Earth.]

[Footnote 326: At the modern Sarnath.]

[Footnote 327: It is from this point that he begins to use this title in
speaking of himself.]

[Footnote 328: Similar heavenly messages were often received by
Christian mystics and were probably true as subjective experiences. Thus
Suso was visited one Whitsunday by a heavenly messenger who bade him
cease his mortifications.]

[Footnote 329: It is the Pipal tree or Ficus religiosa, as is mentioned
in the Dîgha Nikâya, XIV. 30, not the Banyan. Its leaves have long
points and tremble continually. Popular fancy says this is in memory of
the tremendous struggle which they witnessed.]

[Footnote 330: Such are the Padhâna-sutta of the Sutta-Nipâta which has
an air of antiquity and the tales in the Mahâvagga of the
Saṃyutta-Nikâya. The Mahâvagga of the Vinaya (I. 11 and 13) mentions
such an encounter but places it considerably later after the conversion
of the five monks and of Yasa.]

[Footnote 331: The text is also found in the Saṃyutta-Nikâya.]

[Footnote 332: Concisely stated as suffering, the cause of suffering,
the suppression of suffering and the method of effecting that

[Footnote 333: Writers on Buddhism use this word in various forms,
arhat, arahat and arahant. Perhaps it is best to use the Sanskrit form
arhat just as karma and nirvana are commonly used instead of the Pali

[Footnote 334: I.15-20.]

[Footnote 335: Brahmayoni. I make this suggestion about grass fires
because I have myself watched them from this point.]

[Footnote 336: This meal, the only solid one in the day, was taken a
little before midday.]

[Footnote 337: I. 53-54.]

[Footnote 338: His father.]

[Footnote 339: _I.e._ the Buddha's former wife.]

[Footnote 340: Half brother of the Buddha and Suddhodana'a son by

[Footnote 341: Jâtaka, 356.]

[Footnote 342: Mahâvag. III. 1.]

[Footnote 343: Thus we hear how Dasama of Atthakam (Maj. Nik. 52) built
one for fifteen hundred monks, and Ghotamukha another in Pataliputta,
which bore his name.]

[Footnote 344: Maj. Nik. 53.]

[Footnote 345: Cullavag. VI. 4.]

[Footnote 346: Probably sheds consisting of a roof set on posts, but
without walls.]

[Footnote 347: Translated by Rhys Davids, _American Lectures_, pp. 108

[Footnote 348: _E.g._ Maj. Nik. 62.]

[Footnote 349: But in Maj. Nik. II. 5 he says he is not bound by rules
as to eating.]

[Footnote 350: Maj. Nik. 147.]

[Footnote 351: In an exceedingly curious passage (Dig. Nik. IV.) the
Brahman Sonadaṇḍa, while accepting the Buddha's teaching, asks to be
excused from showing the Buddha such extreme marks of respect as rising
from his seat or dismounting from his chariot, on the ground that his
reputation would suffer. He proposes and apparently is allowed to
substitute less demonstrative salutations.]

[Footnote 352: Cullavagga V. 21 and Maj. Nik. 85.]

[Footnote 353: Visâkhâ, a lady of noted piety. It was probably a raised
garden planted with trees.]

[Footnote 354: Maj. Nik. 110.]

[Footnote 355: Dig. Nik. No. 2. Compare Jâtaka 150, which shows how much
variation was permitted in the words ascribed to the Buddha.]

[Footnote 356: Sam. Nik. XLII. 7.]

[Footnote 357: Mahâparinib-sutta, 6. 20. The monk Subhadda, in whose
mouth these words are put, was apparently not the person of the same
name who was the last convert made by the Buddha when dying.]

[Footnote 358: His personal name was Upatissa.]

[Footnote 359: This position was also held, previously no doubt, by

[Footnote 360: Mahavâg. X. 2. Compare the singular anecdote in VI. 22
where the Buddha quite unjustifiably suspects a Doctor of making an
indelicate joke. The story seems to admit that the Buddha might be wrong
and also that he was sometimes treated with want of respect.]

[Footnote 361: VII. 2 ff.]

[Footnote 362: The introductions to Jâtakas 26 and 150 say that
Ajâtasattu built a great monastery for him at Gayâsîsa.]

[Footnote 363: The Buddha says so himself (Dig. Nik. II.) but does not
mention the method.]

[Footnote 364: The Dhamma-sangaṇī defines courtesy as being of two
kinds: hospitality and considerateness in matters of doctrine.]

[Footnote 365: Maj. Nik. 75.]

[Footnote 366: Mahāv. vi. 31. 11.]

[Footnote 367: Cullavag. x. 1. 3.]

[Footnote 368: Mahâparinib. V. 23. Perhaps the Buddha was supposed to be
giving Ânanda last warnings about his besetting weakness.]

[Footnote 369: Udâna 1. 8.]

[Footnote 370: Compare too the language of Angela of Foligno (1248-1309)
"By God's will there died my mother who was a great hindrance unto me in
following the way of God: my husband died likewise and all my children.
And because I had commenced to follow the aforesaid way and had prayed
God that he would rid me of them, I had great consolation of their
deaths, although I did also feel some grief." Beatae Angelae de Fulginio
Visionum et Instructionum Liber. Cap. ix.]

[Footnote 371: No account of this event has yet been found in the
earliest texts but it is no doubt historical. The versions found in the
Jâtaka and Commentaries trace it back to a quarrel about a marriage, but
the story is not very clear or consistent and the real motive was
probably that indicated above.]

[Footnote 372: See Rhys Davids, _Dialogues_, II. p. 70 and Przyluski's
articles (in _J.A_. 1918 ff.) Le Parinirvana et les funérailles du
Bouddha where the Pali texts are compared with the Mûlasarvâstivâdin
Vinaya and with other accounts.]

[Footnote 373: This was probably written after Pâṭaliputra had become a
great city but we do not know when its rise commenced.]

[Footnote 374: She was a noted character in Vesâlî. In Mahâvag. viii. 1,
people are represented as saying that it was through her the place was
so flourishing and that it would be a good thing if there were some one
like her in Râjagaha.]

[Footnote 375: The whole passage is interesting as displaying even in
the Pali Canon the germs of the idea that the Buddha is an eternal
spirit only partially manifested in the limits of human life. In the
Mahâparinib.-sutta Gotama is only voluntarily subject to natural death.]

[Footnote 376: The phrase occurs again in the Sutta-Nipâta. Its meaning
is not clear to me.]

[Footnote 377: The text seems to represent him as crossing first a
streamlet and then the river.]

[Footnote 378: It is not said how much time elapsed between the meal at
Cunda's and the arrival at Kusinârâ but since it was his last meal, he
probably arrived the same afternoon.]

[Footnote 379: Cf. Lyall's poem, on a Rajput Chief of the Old School,
who when nearing his end has to leave his pleasure garden in order that
he may die in the ancestral castle.]

[Footnote 380: Dig. Nik. 17 and Jâtaka 95.]

[Footnote 381: It is said that this discipline was efficacious and that
Channa became an Arhat.]

[Footnote 382: It is difficult to find a translation of these words
which is both accurate and natural in the mouth of a dying man. The Pali
text _vayadhammâ saṅkhârâ_ (transitory-by-nature are the Saṅkhâras) is
brief and simple but any correct and adequate rendering sounds
metaphysical and is dramatically inappropriate. Perhaps the rendering
"All compound things must decompose" expresses the Buddha's meaning
best. But the verbal antithesis between compound and decomposing is not
in the original and though saṅkhâra is etymologically the equivalent of
confection or synthesis it hardly means what we call a compound thing as
opposed to a simple thing.]

[Footnote 383: The Buddha before his death had explained that the corpse
of a Buddha should be treated like the corpse of a universal monarch. It
should be wrapped in layers of new cloth and laid in an iron vessel of
oil. Then it should be burnt and a Dagoba should be erected at four
cross roads.]

[Footnote 384: The Mallas had two capitals, Kusinârâ and Pâvâ,
corresponding to two subdivisions of the tribe.]

[Footnote 385: Theragâthâ 557 ff. Water to refresh tired and dusty feet
is commonly offered to anyone who comes from a distance.]

[Footnote 386: Mahâvag. VIII. 26.]

[Footnote 387: _E.g._ Therîgâthâ 133 ff. It should also be remembered
that orientals, particularly Chinese and Japanese, find Christ's
behaviour to his mother as related in the gospels very strange.]

[Footnote 388: _E.g._ Roja, the Malta, in Mahâvag. VI. 36 and the
account of the interview with the Five Monks in the Nidânakathâ (Rhys
Davids, _Budd. Birth Stories_, p. 112).]

[Footnote 389: _E.g._ Maj. Nik. 36.]

[Footnote 390: Dig. Nik. XVII. and V.]

[Footnote 391: Maj. Nik. 57.]

[Footnote 392: Mahâparib. Sutta, I. 61.]

[Footnote 393: The earliest sources for these legends are the Mahâvastu,
the Sanskrit Vinayas (preserved in Chinese translations), the Lalita
Vistara, the Introduction to the Jâtaka and the Buddha-carita. For
Burmese, Sinhalese, Tibetan and Chinese lives of the Buddha, see the
works of Bigandet, Hardy, Rockhill and Schiefner, Wieger and Beal. See
also Foucher, _Liste indienne des actes du Buddha_ and Hackin, _Scènes
de la Vie du Buddha d'après des peintures tibétaines_.]

[Footnote 394: It was the full moon of the month Vaiśâkha.]

[Footnote 395: The best known of the later biographies of the Buddha,
such as the Lalita Vistara and the Buddha-carita of Aśvaghosha stop
short after the Enlightenment.]

[Footnote 396: There are some curious coincidences of detail between the
Buddha and Confucius. Both disliked talking about prodigies (Analects.
V11. 20) Confucius concealed nothing from his disciples (ib. 23), just
as the Buddha had no "closed fist," but he would not discuss the
condition of the dead (Anal. xi. 11), just as the Buddha held it
unprofitable to discuss the fate of the saint after death. Neither had
any great opinion of the spirits worshipped in their respective

[Footnote 397: Maj. Nik. 143.]

[Footnote 398: The miraculous cure of Suppiyâ (Mahâvag. VI. 23) is no
exception. She was ill not because of the effects of Karma but because,
according to the legend, she had cut off a piece of her flesh to cure a
sick monk who required meat broth. The Buddha healed her.]

[Footnote 399: The most human and kindly portrait of the Buddha is that
furnished by the Commentary on the Thera- and Therî-gâthâ. See
Thera-gâthâ xxx, xxxi and Mrs Rhys Davids' trans. of _Therî-gâthâ_, pp.
71, 79.]

[Footnote 400: John xvii. 9. But he prayed for his executioners.]

[Footnote 401: John vii. 19-20.]

[Footnote 402: See chap. VIII. of this book.]

[Footnote 403: Cullavag, IX, I. IV.]

[Footnote 404: Sam. Nik. LVI. 31.]

[Footnote 405: Udâna VI. 4. The story is that a king bade a number of
blind men examine an elephant and describe its shape. Some touched the
legs, some the tusks, some the tail and so on and gave descriptions
accordingly, but none had any idea of the general shape.]

[Footnote 406: Or "determined."]

[Footnote 407: Or form: _rûpa_.]

[Footnote 408: The word Jiva, sometimes translated _soul_, is not
equivalent to _âtman_. It seems to be a general expression for all the
immaterial side of a human being. It is laid down (Dig. Nik. VI. and
VII.) that it is fruitless to speculate whether the Jiva is distinct
from the body or not.]

[Footnote 409: Saññâ like many technical Buddhist terms is difficult to
render adequately, because it does not cover the same ground as any one
English word. Its essential meaning is recognition by a mark. When we
perceive a blue thing we recognize it as blue and as like other blue
things that we have marked. See Mrs Rhys Davids, Dhamma-Sangaṇi, p. 8.]

[Footnote 410: The Saṃyutta-Nikâya XXII. 79. 8 states that the Sankhâras
are so-called because they compose what is compound (sankhatam).]

[Footnote 411: Maj. Nik. 44.]

[Footnote 412: In this sense Sankhâra has also some affinity to the
Sanskrit use of Saṃskâra to mean a sacramental rite. It is the essential
nature of such a rite to produce a special effect. So too the Sankhâras
present in one existence inevitably produce their effect in the next
existence. For Sankhâra see also the long note by S.Z. Aung at the end
of the _Compendium of Philosophy_ (P.T.S. 1910).]

[Footnote 413: The use of this word for Viññâṇa is, I believe, due to
Mrs Rhys Davids.]

[Footnote 414: See especially Maj. Nik. 38.]

[Footnote 415: Pali, Khanda. But it has become the custom to use the
Sanskrit term. Cf. Karma, nirvâna.]

[Footnote 416: See Sam. Nik. XII. 62. For parallels to this view in
modern times see William James, _Text Book of Psychology_, especially
pp. 203, 215, 216.]

[Footnote 417: Cf. Milinda Panha II. 1. 1 and also the dialogue between
the king of Sauvîra and the Brahman in Vishnu Pur. II. XIII.]

[Footnote 418: Vis. Mag. chap. XVI. quoted by Warren, _Buddhism in
Translations_, p. 146. Also it is admitted that viññâṇa cannot be
disentangled and sharply distinguished from feeling and sensation. See
passages quoted in Mrs Rhys Davids, _Buddhist Psychology,_ pp. 52-54.]

[Footnote 419: Sam. Nik. XXII. 22. 1.]

[Footnote 420: With reference to a teacher dhamma is the doctrine which
he preaches. With reference to a disciple, it may often be equivalent to
duty. Cf. the Sanskrit expressions: sva-dharma, one's own duty;
para-dharma, the duty of another person or caste.]

[Footnote 421: Dhamma-s. 1044-5.]

[Footnote 422: II. 3. 8.]

[Footnote 423: Dig. Nik. XI. 85.]

[Footnote 424: Name and form is the Buddhist equivalent for subject and
object or mind and body.]

[Footnote 425: Mrs Rhys Davids, _Buddhist Psychology_, p. 39.]

[Footnote 426: Sam. Nik. xxxv. 93.]

[Footnote 427: The same formula is repeated for the other senses.]

[Footnote 428: See Maj. Nik. 36 for his own experiences and Dig. Nik. 2.

[Footnote 429: In Dig. Nik. xxiii. Pâyâsi maintains the thesis, regarded
as most unusual (sec. 5), that there is no world but this and no such
things as rebirth and karma. He is confuted not by the Buddha but by
Kassapa. His arguments are that dead friends whom he has asked to bring
him news of the next world have not done so and that experiments
performed on criminals do not support the idea that a soul leaves the
body at death. Kassapa's reply is chiefly based on analogies of doubtful
value but also on the affirmation that those who have cultivated their
spiritual faculties have intuitive knowledge of rebirth and other
worlds. But Pâyâsi did not draw any distinction between rebirth and
immortality as understood in Europe. He was a simple materialist.]

[Footnote 430: The more mythological parts of the Pitakas make it plain
that the early Buddhists were not materialists in the modern sense. It
is also said that there are formless worlds in which there is thought,
but no form or matter.]

[Footnote 431: See too the story of Godhika's death. Sam. Nik. I. iv. 3
and Buddhaghosa on Dhammap. 57.]

[Footnote 432: No. 38 called the Mahâtaṇhâsankhaya-suttam.]

[Footnote 433: See too Dig. Nik. n. 63, "If Viññâṇa did not descend into
the womb, would body and mind be constituted there?" and Sam. Nik. xii.
12. 3, "Viññâṇa food is the condition for bringing about rebirth in the

[Footnote 434: Uppajjati is the usual word.]

[Footnote 435: Ariyasaccâni. Rhys Davids translates the phrase as Aryan
truths and the word Ariya in old Pali appears not to have lost its
national or tribal sense, _e.g._ Dig. Nik. n. 87 Ariyam âyatanam the
Aryan sphere (of influence). But was a religious teacher preaching a
doctrine of salvation open to all men likely to describe its most
fundamental and universal truths by an adjective implying pride of

[Footnote 436: In Maj. Nik. 44 the word dukkha is replaced by sakkâya,
individuality, which is apparently regarded as equivalent in meaning. So
for instance the Noble Eightfold path is described as
sakkâya-nirodha-gâminî patipadâ.]

[Footnote 437: Theragâthâ 487-493, and Puggala Pañ. iv. 1.]

[Footnote 438: But it has not been proved so far as I know.]

[Footnote 439: Sam. Nik. XV. 3.]

[Footnote 440: Buddhist works sometimes insist on the impurity of human
physical life in a way which seems morbid and disagreeable. But this
view is not exclusively Buddhist or Asiatic. It is found in Marcus
Aurelius and perhaps finds its strongest expression in the De Contemptu
Mundi of Pope Innocent III (in Pat. Lat. ccxvii. cols. 701-746).]

[Footnote 441: As a general rule suicide is strictly forbidden (see the
third Pârâjika and Milinda, iv. 13 and 14) for in most cases it is not a
passionless renunciation of the world but rather a passionate and
irritable protest against difficulties which simply lays up bad karma in
the next life. Yet cases such as that of Godhika (see Buddhaghosa on the
Dhammapada, 57) seem to imply that it is unobjectionable if performed
not out of irritation but by one who having already obtained mental
release is troubled by disease.]

[Footnote 442: Pali Paticca-samuppâda. Sanskrit Pratîtya-samutpâda.]

[Footnote 443: Sam. Nik. xii. 10.]

[Footnote 444: Dig. Nik. XV.]

[Footnote 445: "Contact comes from consciousness: sensation from
contact: craving from sensation: the sankhâras from craving:
consciousness from the sankhâras: contact from consciousness" and so on
_ad infinitum_. See Mil. Pan. 51.]

[Footnote 446: Dig. Nik. XV.]

[Footnote 447: Sam. Nik. XII. 53. Cf. too the previous sutta 51. In the
Abhidhamma Pitaka and later scholastic works we find as a development of
the law of causation the theory of relations (paccaya) or system of
correlation (paṭṭhâna-nayo). According to this theory phenomena are not
thought of merely in the simple relation of cause and effect. One
phenomenon can be the assistant agency (upakâraka) of another phenomenon
in 24 modes. See Mrs Rhys Davids' article Relations in _E.R.E._]

[Footnote 448: Mrs Rhys Davids, Dhamma-sangaṇi, pref. p. lii. "The
sensory process is analysed in each case into (_a_) an apparatus capable
of reaching to an impact not itself: (_b_) an impinging form (rûpam):
(_c_) contact between (_a_) and (_b_): (_d_) resultant modification of
the mental continuum, viz. first, contact of a specific sort, then
hedonistic result or intellectual result or presumably both."]

[Footnote 449: See _e.g._ Maj. Nik. 38.]

[Footnote 450: This does not mean that the same name-and-form plus
consciousness which dies in one existence reappears in another.]

[Footnote 451: Maj. Nik. 120 Sankhâruppatti sutta.]

[Footnote 452: He should make it a continual mental exercise to think of
the rebirth which he desires.]

[Footnote 453: So too in the Sânkhya philosophy the samskâras are said
to pass from one human existence to another. They may also remain
dormant for several existences and then become active.]

[Footnote 454: Maj. Nik. 9 Sammâdiṭṭhi sutta.]

[Footnote 455: Sam. Nik. xxii. 126.]

[Footnote 456: Mahâvag. i. 23. 4 and 5:]

Ye dhammâ hetuppabhavâ tesam hetum Tathâgato Âha tesañca yo nirodho
evamvâdi Mahâsamano ti.

The passage is remarkable because it insists that this is the principal
and essential doctrine of Gotama. Compare too the definition of the
Dhamma put in the Buddha's own mouth in Majjhima, 79: Dhammam te
desessâmi: imasmim sati, idam hoti: imass' uppâdâ idaṃ upajjhati, etc.]

[Footnote 457: The Sânkhya might be described as teaching a law of
evolution, but that is not the way it is described in its own manuals.]

[Footnote 458: Take among hundreds of instances the account of the
Buddha's funeral.]

[Footnote 459: The Anguttara Nikâya, book iv. chap. 77, forbids
speculation on four subjects as likely to bring madness and trouble. Two
of the four are kamma-vipâko and loka-cintâ. An attempt to make the
chain of causation into a cosmic law would involve just this sort of

[Footnote 460: The Pitakas insist that causation applies to mental as
well as physical phenomena.]

[Footnote 461: Sam. Nik. xii. 35.]

[Footnote 462: Vis. Mag. xvii. Warren, p. 175.]

[Footnote 463: See Waddell, _J.R.A.S._ 1894, pp. 367-384: Rhys Davids,
_Amer. Lectures,_ pp. 155-160.]

[Footnote 464: Sam. Nik. XII. 61. See too Theragâthâ, verses 125 and
1111, and for other illustrative quotations Mrs Rhys Davids, _Buddhist
Psychology_, pp. 34, 35.]

[Footnote 465: But see Maj. Nik. 79, for the idea that there is
something beyond happiness.]

[Footnote 466: Dig. Nik. 22.]

[Footnote 467: Sutta-Nipâta, 787.]

[Footnote 468: Padhânam. But in later Buddhism we also find the idea
that nirvana is something which comes only when we do not struggle for

[Footnote 469: Mettâ, corresponding exactly to the Greek [Greek: agapei]
of the New Testament.]

[Footnote 470: III. 7. The translation is abbreviated.]

[Footnote 471: More literally, "All the occasions which can be used for
doing good works."]

[Footnote 472: Sutta-Nipâta, 1-8, _S.B.E._ vol. X. p. 25 and see also
Ang. Nik. IV. 190 which says that love leads to rebirth in the higher
heavens and Sam. Nik. XX. 4 to the effect that a little love is better
than great gifts. Also _Questions of Milinda_, 4. 4. 16.]

[Footnote 473: Ang. Nik. 1. 2. 4.]

[Footnote 474: Cf. too Mahâvag. VIII. 22 where a monk is not blamed for
giving the property of the order to his parents.]

[Footnote 475: Sati is the Sanskrit Smriti.]

[Footnote 476: Dhammap. 160.]

[Footnote 477: Bhag-gîtâ, 3. 27.]

[Footnote 478: Vishnu Pur. II. 13. The ancient Egyptians also, though
for quite different reasons, did not accept our ideas of personality.
For them man was not an individual unity but a compound consisting of
the body and of several immaterial parts called for want of a better
word souls, the _ka_, the _ba_, the _sekhem_, etc., which after death
continue to exist independently.]

[Footnote 479: _Ueber den Stand der indischen Philosophie zur Zeit
Mahâvîras und Buddhas_, 1902. And On the problem of Nirvana in _Journal
of Pali Text Society_, 1905. See too Sam. Nik. XXII. 15-17.]

[Footnote 480: Maj. Nik. 22.]

[Footnote 481: Compare also the sermon on the burden and the bearer and
Sam Nik. XXII. 15-17. It is admitted that Nirvana is not dukkha and not
aniccam and it seems to be implied it is not anattam.]

[Footnote 482: See the argument with Yamaka in Sam. Nik. XXII. 85.]

[Footnote 483: See Sam. Nik. III., XXII. 97.]

[Footnote 484: Also paññâkkhandha or vijjâ.]

[Footnote 485: Dig. Nik. II.]

[Footnote 486: These exercises are hardly possible for the laity.]

[Footnote 487: See chap. XIV. for details.]

[Footnote 488: Sanskrit Nirvâṇa: Pali Nibbâna.]

[Footnote 489: Maj. Nik. 26.]

[Footnote 490: _E.g_. the words addressed to Buddha, nibbutâ nûna sâ
narî yassâyam îdiso pati. Happy is the woman who has such a husband. In
the Anguttara Nikâya, III. 55 the Brahman Jâṇussoṇi asks Buddha what is
meant by Sanditthikam nibbâṇam, that is nirvâṇa which is visible or
belongs to this world. The reply is that it is effected by the
destruction of lust, hatred and stupidity and it is described as
_akâlikam, ehipassikam opanayikam, paccattam veditabbam
viññûhi_--difficult words which occur elsewhere as epithets of Dhamma
and apparently mean immediate, inviting (it says "come and see"),
leading to salvation, to be known by all who can understand. For some
views as to the derivation of nibbana, nibbuto, etc. see _J.P.T.S._
1919, pp. 53 ff. But the word nirvâṇa occurs frequently in the
Mahâbhârata and was probably borrowed by the Buddhists from the

[Footnote 491: Or sa-upâdi.]

[Footnote 492: But parinirvâṇa is not always rigidly distinguished from
nirvâṇa, _e.g._ Sutta Nipâta, 358. And in Cullavag. VI. 4. 4 the Buddha
describes himself as Brâhmaṇo parinibbuto. Parinibbuto is even used of a
horse in Maj. Nik. 65 _ad fin_.]

[Footnote 493: Sam. Nik. XXII. 1. 18.]

[Footnote 494: Vimuttisukham and brahmacariyogadham sukham.]

[Footnote 495: Maj. Nik. 139, cf. also Ang. Nik. II. 7 where various
kinds of sukham or happiness are enumerated, and we hear of
nekkhammasukham nirupadhis, upekkhâs, arûparamanam sukham, etc.]

[Footnote 496: _E.g._ Maj. Nik. 9 Ditthe dhamme dukkhass' antakaro

[Footnote 497: Ang. Nik. V. xxxii.]

[Footnote 498: Maj. Nik. 79.]

[Footnote 499: Asankhatadhâtu, cf. the expression asankhâraparinibbâyî.
Pugg. Pan. l. 44.]

[Footnote 500: Tabulated in Mrs Rhys Davids' translation, pp. 367-9.]

[Footnote 501: Such a phrase as _Nibbâṇassa sacchikiriyâya_ "for the
attainment or realization of Nirvana" would be hardly possible if
Nirvana were annihilation.]

[Footnote 502: Udâna VII. near beginning.]

[Footnote 503: These are the formless stages of meditation. In Nirvana
there is neither any ordinary form of existence nor even the forms of
existence with which we become acquainted in trances.]

[Footnote 504: This negative form of expression is very congenial to
Hindus. Thus many centuries later Kabir sung "With God is no rainy
season, no ocean, no sunshine, no shade: no creation and no destruction:
no life nor death: no sorrow nor joy is felt .... There is no water,
wind, nor fire. The True Guru is there contained."]

[Footnote 505: IV. 7. 13 ff.]

[Footnote 506: See also Book VII. of the Milinda containing a long list
of similes illustrating the qualities necessary for the attainment of
arhatship. Thirty qualities of arhatship are mentioned in Book VI. of
the same work. See also Mahâparinib. Sut. III. 65-60 and Rhys Davids'

[Footnote 507: _E.g._ Dig. Nik. xvi. ii. 7, Cullavag. ix. 1. 4.]

[Footnote 508: _E.g._ Pugg. Pan. 1. 39. The ten fetters are (1)
sakkâyadiṭṭhi, belief in the existence of the self, (2) vicikicchâ,
doubt, (3) silabbataparamâso, trust in ceremonies of good works, (4)
kâmarâgo, lust, (5) paṭigho, anger, (6) rûparâgo, desire for rebirth in
worlds of form, (7) arûparâgo, desire for rebirth in formless worlds,
(8) mano, pride, (9) uddhaccam, self-righteousness, (10) avijjâ,

[Footnote 509: There is some diversity of doctrine about the
Sakadâgâmin. Some hold that he has two births, because he _comes back_
to the world of men after having been born once meanwhile in a heaven,
others that he has only one birth either on earth or in a devaloka.]

[Footnote 510: Avyâkatani. The Buddha, being omniscient, _sabaññu_, must
have known the answer but did not declare it, perhaps because language
was incapable of expressing it]

[Footnote 511: Jiva not attâ. ]

[Footnote 512: Maj. Nik. 63.]

[Footnote 513: Sam. Nik. xvii. 85.]

[Footnote 514: Maj. Nik. 72.]

[Footnote 515: Which is said not to grow up again.]

[Footnote 516: It may be that the Buddha had in his mind the idea that a
flame which goes out returns to the primitive invisible state of fire.
This view is advocated by Schrader (_Jour. Pali Text Soc_. 1905, p.
167). The passages which he cites seem to me to show that there was
supposed to be such an invisible store from which fire is born but to be
less conclusive as proving that fire which goes out is supposed to
return to that store, though the quotation from the Maitreyi Up. points
in this direction. For the metaphor of the flame see also Sutta-Nipâta,
verses 1074-6.]

[Footnote 517: XLIV. 1.]

[Footnote 518: Maj. Nik. 9, ad init. Asmîti diṭṭhim ânânusayam

[Footnote 519: See especially Sutta-Nipâta, 1076 Atthan gatassa na
pamâṇam atthi, etc.]

[Footnote 520: Sam. Nik. XXII. 85.]

[Footnote 521: Maj. Nik. 22, Alagaddûpama-suttam.]

[Footnote 522: Later in the same Sutta: Kevalo paripûro bâladhammo.]

[Footnote 523: Four emphatic synonyms in the original.]

[Footnote 524: Dig. Nik. I. 73 uccinna-bhava-nettiko.]

[Footnote 525: I recommend the reader to consider carefully the passage
at the end of Book IV. of Schopenhauer's _Die Welt als Wille und
Vorstellung_ (Haldane and Kemp's translation, vol. I. pp. 529-530).
Though he evidently misunderstood what he calls "the Nirvana of the
Buddhists" yet his own thought throws much light on it.]

[Footnote 526: Sk. _Bhikshu_, beggar or mendicant, because they live on
alms. _Bhikshâcaryam_ occurs in Brihad-Âr. Up. III. 5. I.]

[Footnote 527: Mahâvag. I. 49, cf. ib. I. 39.]

[Footnote 528: Dig. Nik. VIII.]

[Footnote 529: Cullavag. I. 1. 3.]

[Footnote 530: Sam. Nik. XIV. 15. 12, Ang. Nik. I. xiv.]

[Footnote 531: Mahâvag. III. 12.]

[Footnote 532: Or the opinion of single persons, e.g. Visâkhâ in
Mahâvag. III. 13.]

[Footnote 533: Acârângasut, II. 2. 2.]

[Footnote 534: Mahâv. I. 42.]

[Footnote 535: But converted robbers were occasionally admitted, e.g.

[Footnote 536: Sam. Nik. IV. XXXV., Maj. Nik. 8 ad fin. On the value
attached by mystics in all countries to trees and flowers, see
Underhill, _Mysticism_, p. 231.]

[Footnote 537: They are abstinence from (1) destroying life, (2)
stealing, (3) impurity, (4) lying, (5) intoxicants, (6) eating at
forbidden times, (7) dancing, music and theatres, (8) garlands,
perfumes, ornaments, (9) high or large beds, (10) accepting gold or

[Footnote 538: These are practically equivalent to Sundays, being the
new moon, full moon and the eighth days from the new and full moon. In
Tibet however the 14th, 15th, 29th and 30th of each month are observed.]

[Footnote 539: Mahâvag. II. 1-2.]

[Footnote 540: Chap. VIII. Sec. 3.]

[Footnote 541: Required not so much to purify water as to prevent the
accidental destruction of insects.]

[Footnote 542: It might begin either the day after the full moon of
Asâlha (June-July) or a month later. In either case the period was three
months. Mahâvag. III. 2.]

[Footnote 543: Cullavag. X. 1.]

[Footnote 544: See the papers by Mrs Bode in _J.R.A.S._ 1893, pp. 517-66
and 763-98, and Mrs Rhys Davids in _Ninth Congress of Orientalists_,
vol. I. p. 344.]

[Footnote 545: Feminine Upâsikâ.]

[Footnote 546: Sutta-Nipâta, 289.]

[Footnote 547: _E.g._ Mahâmangala and Dhammika-Sutta in Sut. Nip. II. 4
and 14.]

[Footnote 548: Dig. Nik. 31.]

[Footnote 549: It may seem superfluous to insist on this, yet Warren in
his _Buddhism in Translations_ uniformly renders Bhikkhu by priest.]

[Footnote 550: The same idea occurs in the Upanishads, _e.g._ Brih.-Âr.
Up. IV. 4. 23, "he becomes a true Brahman."]

[Footnote 551: Especially in R.O. Franke's article in the _J.P.T.S._
1908. To demonstrate the "literary dependence" of chapters XI., XII. of
the Cullavagga does not seem to me equivalent to demonstrating that the
narratives contained in those chapters are "air-bubbles."]

[Footnote 552: The mantras of the Brahmans were hardly a sacred book
analogous to the Bible or Koran and, besides, the early Buddhists would
not have wished to imitate them.]

[Footnote 553: _E.g._ Dig. Nik. XVI.]

[Footnote 554: Cullav. XI. i. 11.]

[Footnote 555: Especially in Chinese works.]

[Footnote 556: Upâli, Dasaka, Sonaka, Siggava (with whom the name of
Candravajji is sometimes coupled) and Tissa Moggaliputta. This is the
list given in the Dîpavaṃsa.]

[Footnote 557: Sam. Nik. XVI. 11. The whole section is called Kassapa

[Footnote 558: They are to be found chiefly in Cullavagga, XII.,
Dîpavaṃsa, IV. and V. and Mahâvaṃsa, IV.]

[Footnote 559: The Dîpavaṃsa adds that all the principal monks present
had seen the Buddha. They must therefore all have been considerably over
a hundred years old so that the chronology is open to grave doubt. It
would be easier if we could suppose the meeting was held a hundred years
after the enlightenment.]

[Footnote 560: They are said to have rejected the Parivâra, the
Paṭisambhidâ, the Niddesa and parts of the Jâtaka. These are all later
parts of the Canon and if the word rejection were taken literally it
would imply that the Mahâsangîti was late too. But perhaps all that is
meant is that the books were not found in their Canon. Chinese sources
(_e.g._ Fa Hsien, tr. Legge, p. 99) state that they had an Abhidhamma of
their own.]

[Footnote 561: _Buddhist Records of the Western World_, vol. II. pp.
164-5; Watters, _Yüan Chwang_, pp. 159-161.]

[Footnote 562: Cap. XXXVI. Legge, p. 98.]

[Footnote 563: See I-tsing's _Records of the Buddhist Religion_, trans.
by Takakusu, p. XX. and Nanjio's _Catalogue of the Buddhist Tripitaka_,
nos. 1199, 1105 and 1159.]

[Footnote 564: An exception ought perhaps to be made for the Japanese

[Footnote 565: The names are not quite the same in the various lists and
it seems useless to discuss them in detail. See Dîpavaṃsa, V. 39-48,
Mahâvaṃsa, V. ad in., Rhys Davids, _J.R.A.S._ 1891, p. 411, Rockhill,
_Life of the Buddha_, chap, VI., Geiger, _Trans. of Mahâvaṃsa_, App. B.]

[Footnote 566: The Hemavatikas, Râjagirikas, Siddhattas, Pubbaselikas,
Aparaselikas and Apararâjagirikas.]

[Footnote 567: Published in the _J.P.T.S._ 1889. Trans, by S.Z. Aung and
Mrs Rhys Davids, 1915. The text mentions doctrines only. The names of
the sects supposed to hold them are supplied by the commentary.]

[Footnote 568: They must not be confused with the four philosophic
schools Vaibhâshika, Sautrântika, Yogâcâra and Mâdhyamika. These came
into existence later.]

[Footnote 569: But the Vetulyakas were important in Ceylon.]

[Footnote 57