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Title: Hinduism and Buddhism, An Historical Sketch, Vol. 2
Author: Eliot, Charles, Sir, 1862-1931
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
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.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Hinduism and Buddhism, An Historical Sketch, Vol. 2" ***

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     Transcriber’s Note:

     Excerpts from the Preface to the book from Volume 1,
     regarding the method of transcription used.

     “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.”


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).

                         HINDUISM AND BUDDHISM

                         AN HISTORICAL SKETCH


                           SIR CHARLES ELIOT

                           In three volumes

                               VOLUME II

                      ROUTLEDGE & KEGAN PAUL LTD

                  Broadway House, 68-74 Carter Lane,

                            London, E.C.4.

                        _First published_ 1921
                              _Reprinted_ 1954
                              _Reprinted_ 1957
                              _Reprinted_ 1962

                     PRINTED IN GREAT BRITAIN BY

                            LUND HUMPHRIES
                           LONDON - BRADFORD














                        BOOK V








               AND THE SIKHS







The obscurest period in the history of Buddhism is that which follows
the reign of Asoka, but the enquirer cannot grope for long in these
dark ages without stumbling upon the word Mahayana. This is the name
given to a movement which in its various phases may be regarded as a
philosophical school, a sect and a church, and though it is not always
easy to define its relationship to other schools and sects it
certainly became a prominent aspect of Buddhism in India about the
beginning of our era besides achieving enduring triumphs in the Far
East. The word[1] signifies Great Vehicle or Carriage, that is a means
of conveyance to salvation, and is contrasted with Hinayana, the
Little Vehicle, a name bestowed on the more conservative party though
not willingly accepted by them. The simplest description of the two
Vehicles is that given by the Chinese traveller I-Ching (635-713 A.D.)
who saw them both as living realities in India. He says[2] "Those who
worship Bodhisattvas and read Mahayana Sutras are called Mahayanists,
while those who do not do this are called Hinayanists." In other
words, the Mahayanists have scriptures of their own, not included in
the Hinayanist Canon and adore superhuman beings in the stage of
existence immediately below Buddhahood and practically differing
little from Indian deities. Many characteristics could be added to
I-Ching's description but they might not prove universally true of the
Mahayana nor entirely absent from the Hinayana, for however divergent
the two Vehicles may have become when separated geographically, for
instance in Ceylon and Japan, it is clear that when they were in
contact, as in India and China, the distinction was not always sharp.
But in general the Mahayana was more popular, not in the sense of
being simpler, for parts of its teaching were exceedingly abstruse,
but in the sense of striving to invent or include doctrines agreeable
to the masses. It was less monastic than the older Buddhism, and more
emotional; warmer in charity, more personal in devotion, more ornate
in art, literature and ritual, more disposed to evolution and
development, whereas the Hinayana was conservative and rigid, secluded
in its cloisters and open to the plausible if unjust accusation of
selfishness. The two sections are sometimes described as northern and
southern Buddhism, but except as a rough description of their
distribution at the present day, this distinction is not accurate, for
the Mahayana penetrated to Java, while the Hinayana reached Central
Asia and China. But it is true that the development of the Mahayana
was due to influences prevalent in northern India and not equally
prevalent in the South. The terms Pali and Sanskrit Buddhism are
convenient and as accurate as can be expected of any nomenclature
covering so large a field.

Though European writers usually talk of _two_ Yânas or Vehicles--the
great and the little--and though this is clearly the important
distinction for historical purposes, yet Indian and Chinese Buddhists
frequently enumerate _three_. These are the _Śrâvakayâna_, the
vehicle of the ordinary Bhikshu who hopes to become an Arhat, the
_Pratyekabuddhayâna_ for the rare beings who are able to become
Buddhas but do not preach the law to others, and in contrast to both
of these the _Mahayana_ or vehicle of Buddhas and Bodhisattvas. As a
rule these three Vehicles are not regarded as hostile or even
incompatible. Thus the _Lotus sutra_,[3] maintains that there is
really but one vehicle though by a wise concession to human weakness
the Buddha lets it appear that there are three to suit divers tastes.
And the Mahayana is not a single vehicle but rather a train comprising
many carriages of different classes. It has an unfortunate but
distinct later phase known in Sanskrit as Mantrayâna and Vajrayâna but
generally described by Europeans as Tantrism. This phase took some of
the worst features in Hinduism, such as spells, charms, and the
worship of goddesses, and with misplaced ingenuity fitted them into
Buddhism. I shall treat of it in a subsequent chapter, for it is
chronologically late. The silence of Hsüan Chuang and I-Ching implies
that in the seventh century it was not a noticeable aspect of Indian

Although the record of the Mahayana in literature and art is clear and
even brilliant, it is not easy either to trace its rise or connect its
development with other events in India. Its annals are an interminable
list of names and doctrines, but bring before us few living
personalities and hence are dull. They are like a record of the
Christian Church's fight against Arians, Monophysites and Nestorians
with all the great figures of Byzantine history omitted or called in
question. Hence I fear that my readers (if I have any) may find these
chapters repellent, a mist of hypotheses and a catalogue of ancient
paradoxes. I can only urge that if the history of the Mahayana is
uncertain, its teaching fanciful and its scriptures tedious, yet it
has been a force of the first magnitude in the secular history and art
of China, Japan and Tibet and even to-day the most metaphysical of its
sacred books, the Diamond Cutter, has probably more readers than Kant
and Hegel.

Since the early history of the Mahayana is a matter for argument
rather than precise statement, it will perhaps be best to begin with
some account of its doctrines and literature and proceed afterwards to
chronology. I may, however, mention that general tradition connects it
with King Kanishka and asserts that the great doctors Aśvaghosha and
Nâgârjuna lived in and immediately after his reign. The attitude of
Kanishka and of the Council which he summoned towards the Mahayana is
far from clear and I shall say something about this difficult subject
below. Unfortunately his date is not beyond dispute for while a
considerable consensus of opinion fixes his accession at about 78
A.D., some scholars place it earlier and others in the second century
A.D.[4] Apart from this, it appears established that the
Sukhâvatî-vyûha which is definitely Mahayanist was translated into
Chinese between 147 and 186 A.D. We may assume that it was then
already well known and had been composed some time before, so that,
whatever Kanishka's date may have been, Mahayanist doctrines must have
been in existence about the time of the Christian era, and perhaps
considerably earlier. Naturally no one date like a reign or a council
can be selected to mark the beginning of a great school. Such a body
of doctrine must have existed piecemeal and unauthorized before it was
collected and recognized and some tenets are older than others.
Enlarging I-Ching's definition we may find in the Mahayana seven lines
of thought or practice. All are not found in all sects and some are
shared with the Hinayana but probably none are found fully developed
outside the Mahayana. Many of them have parallels in the contemporary
phases of Hinduism.

1. A belief in Bodhisattvas and in the power of human beings to become

2. A code of altruistic ethics which teaches that everyone must do
good in the interest of the whole world and make over to others any
merit he may acquire by his virtues. The aim of the religious life is
to become a Bodhisattva, not to become an Arhat.

3. A doctrine that Buddhas are supernatural beings, distributed
through infinite space and time, and innumerable. In the language of
later theology a Buddha has three bodies and still later there is a
group of five Buddhas.

4. Various systems of idealist metaphysics, which tend to regard the
Buddha essence or Nirvana much as Brahman is regarded in the Vedanta.

5. A canon composed in Sanskrit and apparently later than the Pali

6. Habitual worship of images and elaboration of ritual. There is a
dangerous tendency to rely on formulæ and charms.

7. A special doctrine of salvation by faith in a Buddha, usually
Amitâbha, and invocation of his name. Mahayanism can exist without
this doctrine but it is tolerated by most sects and considered
essential by some.


[Footnote 1: Sanskrit, _Mahâyâna_; Chinese, _Ta Ch'êng_ (pronounced
_Tai Shêng_ in many southern provinces); Japanese, _Dai-jō_; Tibetan,
_Theg-pa-chen-po_; Mongolian, _Yäkä-külgän_; Sanskrit, _Hînayâna_;
Chinese, _Hsiao-Ch'êng_; Japanese, _Shō-jō_; Tibetan, _Theg-dman_;
Mongolian _Ütśükän-külgän_. In Sanskrit the synonyms agrayâna and
uttama-yâna are also found.]

[Footnote 2: Record of Buddhist practices. Transl. Takakusu, 1896, p.
14. Hsüan Chuang seems to have thought that acceptance of the
Yogâcâryabhûmi (Nanjio, 1170) was essential for a Mahayanist. See his
life, transl. by Beal, p. 39, transl. by Julien, p. 50.]

[Footnote 3: Saddharma-Puṇḍarîka, chap. III. For brevity, I usually
cite this work by the title of The Lotus.]

[Footnote 4: The date 58 B.C. has probably few supporters among
scholars now, especially after Marshall's discoveries.]



Let us now consider these doctrines and take first the worship of
Bodhisattvas. This word means one whose essence is knowledge but is
used in the technical sense of a being who is in process of obtaining
but has not yet obtained Buddhahood. The Pali Canon shows little
interest in the personality of Bodhisattvas and regards them simply as
the preliminary or larval form of a Buddha, either Śâkyamuni[5] or
some of his predecessors. It was incredible that a being so superior
to ordinary humanity as a Buddha should be suddenly produced in a
human family nor could he be regarded as an incarnation in the strict
sense. But it was both logical and edifying to suppose that he was the
product of a long evolution of virtue, of good deeds and noble
resolutions extending through countless ages and culminating in a
being superior to the Devas. Such a being awaited in the Tushita
heaven the time fixed for his appearance on earth as a Buddha and his
birth was accompanied by marvels. But though the Pali Canon thus
recognizes the Bodhisattva as a type which, if rare, yet makes its
appearance at certain intervals, it leaves the matter there. It is not
suggested that saints should try to become Bodhisattvas and Buddhas,
or that Bodhisattvas can be helpers of mankind.[6] But both these
trains of thought are natural developments of the older ideas and soon
made themselves prominent. It is a characteristic doctrine of
Mahayanism that men can try and should try to become Bodhisattvas.

In the Pali Canon we hear of Arhats, Pacceka Buddhas, and perfect
Buddhas. For all three the ultimate goal is the same, namely Nirvana,
but a Pacceka Buddha is greater than an Arhat, because he has greater
intellectual powers though he is not omniscient, and a perfect Buddha
is greater still, partly because he is omniscient and partly because
he saves others. But if we admit that the career of the Buddha is
better and nobler, and also that it is, as the Introduction to the
Jâtaka recounts, simply the result of an earnest resolution to school
himself and help others, kept firmly through the long chain of
existences, there is nothing illogical or presumptuous in making our
goal not the quest of personal salvation, but the attainment of
Bodhisattvaship, that is the state of those who may aspire to become
Buddhas. In fact the Arhat, engrossed in his own salvation, is excused
only by his humility and is open to the charge of selfish desire,
since the passion for Nirvana is an ambition like any other and the
quest for salvation can be best followed by devoting oneself entirely
to others. But though my object here is to render intelligible the
Mahayanist point of view including its objections to Hinayanism, I
must defend the latter from the accusation of selfishness. The
vigorous and authoritative character of Gotama led him to regard all
mankind as patients requiring treatment and to emphasize the truth
that they could cure themselves if they would try. But the Buddhism of
the Pali Canon does not ignore the duties of loving and instructing
others;[7] it merely insists on man's power to save himself if
properly instructed and bids him do it at once: "sell all that thou
hast and follow me." And the Mahayana, if less self-centred, has also
less self-reliance, and self-discipline. It is more human and
charitable, but also more easygoing: it teaches the believer to lean
on external supports which if well chosen may be a help, but if
trusted without discrimination become paralyzing abuses. And if we
look at the abuses of both systems the fossilized monk of the Hinayana
will compare favourably with the tantric adept. It was to the
corruptions of the Mahayana rather than of the Hinayana that the decay
of Buddhism in India was due.

The career of the Bodhisattva was early divided into stages (bhûmi)
each marked by the acquisition of some virtue in his triumphant
course. The stages are variously reckoned as five, seven and ten. The
Mahâvastu,[8] which is the earliest work where the progress is
described, enumerates ten without distinguishing them very clearly.
Later writers commonly look at the Bodhisattva's task from the humbler
point of view of the beginner who wishes to learn the initiatory
stages. For them the Bodhisattva is primarily not a supernatural being
or even a saint but simply a religious person who wishes to perform
the duties and enjoy the privileges of the Church to the full, much
like a communicant in the language of contemporary Christianity. We
have a manual for those who would follow this path, in the
Bodhicaryâvatâra of Śântideva, which in its humility, sweetness and
fervent piety has been rightly compared with the De Imitatione
Christi. In many respects the virtues of the Bodhisattva are those of
the Arhat. His will must be strenuous and concentrated; he must
cultivate the strictest morality, patience, energy, meditation and
knowledge. But he is also a devotee, a _bhakta_: he adores all the
Buddhas of the past, present and future as well as sundry superhuman
Bodhisattvas, and he confesses his sins, not after the fashion of the
Pâtimokkha, but by accusing himself before these heavenly Protectors
and vowing to sin no more.

Śântideva lived in the seventh century[9] but tells us that he follows
the scriptures and has nothing new to say. This seems to be true for,
though his book being a manual of devotion presents its subject-matter
in a dogmatic form, its main ideas are stated and even elaborated in
the Lotus. Not only are eminent figures in the Church, such as
Sâriputra and Ânanda, there designated as future Buddhas, but the same
dignity is predicted wholesale for five hundred and again for two
thousand monks while in Chapter X is sketched the course to be
followed by "young men or young ladies of good family" who wish to
become Bodhisattvas.[10] The chief difference is that the
Bodhicaryâvatâra portrays a more spiritual life, it speaks more of
devotion, less of the million shapes that compose the heavenly host:
more of love and wisdom, less of the merits of reading particular
sûtras. While rendering to it and the faith that produced it all
honour, we must remember that it is typical of the Mahayana only in
the sense that the De Imitatione Christi is typical of Roman
Catholicism, for both faiths have other sides.

Śântideva's Bodhisattva, when conceiving the thought of Bodhi or
eventual supreme enlightenment to be obtained, it may be, only after
numberless births, feels first a sympathetic joy in the good actions
of all living beings. He addresses to the Buddhas a prayer which is
not a mere act of commemoration, but a request to preach the law and
to defer their entrance into Nirvana. He then makes over to others
whatever merit he may possess or acquire and offers himself and all
his possessions, moral and material, as a sacrifice for the salvation
of all beings. This on the one hand does not much exceed the limits of
_dânam_ or the virtue of giving as practised by Śâkyamuni in previous
births according to the Pali scriptures, but on the other it contains
in embryo the doctrine of vicarious merit and salvation through a
saviour. The older tradition admits that the future Buddha (_e.g._ in
the Vessantara birth-story) gives all that is asked from him including
life, wife and children. To consider the surrender and transfer of
merit (pattidâna in Pali) as parallel is a natural though perhaps
false analogy. But the transfer of Karma is not altogether foreign to
Brahmanic thought, for it is held that a wife may share in her
husband's Karma nor is it wholly unknown to Sinhalese Buddhism.[11]
After thus deliberately rejecting all personal success and selfish
aims, the neophyte makes a vow (praṇidhâna) to acquire enlightenment
for the good of all beings and not to swerve from the rules of life
and faith requisite for this end. He is then a "son of Buddha," a
phrase which is merely a natural metaphor for saying that he is one of
the household of faith[12] but still paves the way to later ideas
which make the celestial Bodhisattva an emanation or spiritual son of
a celestial Buddha.

Asanga gives[13] a more technical and scholastic description of the
ten _bhûmis_ or stages which mark the Bodhisattva's progress towards
complete enlightenment and culminate in a phase bearing the remarkable
but ancient name of Dharmamegha known also to the Yoga philosophy. The
other stages are called: _muditâ_ (joyful): _vimalâ_ (immaculate):
_prabhâkarî_ (light giving): _arcismatî_ (radiant): _durjaya_ (hard to
gain): _abhimukhî_ (facing, because it faces both transmigration and
Nirvana): _dûramgamâ_ (far-going): _acalâ_ (immovable): _sâdhumatî_
(good minded).

The incarnate Buddhas and Bodhisattvas of Tibet are a travesty of the
Mahayana which on Indian soil adhered to the sound doctrine that
saints are known by their achievements as men and cannot be selected
among infant prodigies.[14] It was the general though not universal
opinion that one who had entered on the career of a Bodhisattva could
not fall so low as to be reborn in any state of punishment, but the
spirit of humility and self-effacement which has always marked the
Buddhist ideal tended to represent his triumph as incalculably
distant. Meanwhile, although in the whirl of births he was on the
upward grade, he yet had his ups and downs and there is no evidence
that Indian or Far Eastern Buddhists arrogated to themselves special
claims and powers on the ground that they were well advanced in the
career of Buddhahood. The vow to suppress self and follow the light
not only in this life but in all future births contains an element of
faith or fantasy, but has any religion formed a nobler or even
equivalent picture of the soul's destiny or built a better staircase
from the world of men to the immeasurable spheres of the superhuman?

One aspect of the story of Sâkyamuni and his antecedent births thus
led to the idea that all may become Buddhas. An equally natural
development in another direction created celestial and superhuman
Bodhisattvas. The Hinayana held that Gotama, before his last birth,
dwelt in the Tushita heaven enjoying the power and splendour of an
Indian god and it looked forward to the advent of Maitreya. But it
admitted no other Bodhisattvas, a consequence apparently of the
doctrine that there can only be one Buddha at a time. But the
luxuriant fancy of India, which loves to multiply divinities, soon
broke through this restriction and fashioned for itself beautiful
images of benevolent beings who refuse the bliss of Nirvana that they
may alleviate the sufferings of others.[15] So far as we can judge,
the figures of these Bodhisattvas took shape just about the same time
that the personalities of Vishnu and Śiva were acquiring consistency.
The impulse in both cases is the same, namely the desire to express in
a form accessible to human prayer and sympathetic to human emotion the
forces which rule the universe. But in this work of portraiture the
Buddhists laid more emphasis on moral and spiritual law than did the
Brahmans: they isolated in personification qualities not found
isolated in nature. Śiva is the law of change, of death and rebirth,
with all the riot of slaughter and priapism which it entails: Vishnu
is the protector and preserver, the type of good energy warring
against evil, but the unity of the figure is smothered by mythology
and broken up into various incarnations. But Avalokita and Mañjuśrî,
though they had not such strong roots in Indian humanity as Śiva and
Vishnu, are genii of purer and brighter presence. They are the
personifications of kindness and knowledge. Though manifold in shape,
they have little to do with mythology, and are analogous to the
archangels of Christian and Jewish tradition and to the Amesha Spentas
of Zoroastrianism. With these latter they may have some historical
connection, for Persian ideas may well have influenced Buddhism about
the time of the Christian era. However difficult it may be to prove
the foreign origin of Bodhisattvas, few of them have a clear origin in
India and all of them are much better known in Central Asia and China.
But they are represented with the appearance and attributes of Indian
Devas, as is natural, since even in the Pali Canon Devas form the
Buddha's retinue. The early Buddhists considered that these spirits,
whether called Bodhisattvas or Devas, had attained their high position
in the same way as Śâkyamuni himself, that is by the practice of moral
and intellectual virtues through countless existences, but
subsequently they came to be regarded as emanations or sons of
superhuman Buddhas. Thus the Kâraṇḍa-vyûha relates how the original
Âdi-Buddha produced Avalokita by meditation and how he in his turn
produced the universe with its gods.

Millions of unnamed Bodhisattvas are freely mentioned and even in the
older books copious lists of names are found,[16] but two, Avalokita
and Mañjuśrî, tower above the rest, among whom only few have a
definite personality. The tantric school counts eight of the first
rank. Maitreya (who does not stand on the same footing as the others),
Samantabhadra, Mahâsthâna-prâpta and above all Kshitigarbha, have some
importance, especially in China and Japan.

Avalokita[17] in many forms and in many ages has been one of the
principal deities of Asia but his origin is obscure. His main
attributes are plain. He is the personification of divine mercy and
pity but even the meaning of his name is doubtful. In its full form it
is Avalokiteśvara, often rendered the Lord who looks down (from
heaven). This is an appropriate title for the God of Mercy, but the
obvious meaning of the participle _avalokita_ in Sanskrit is passive,
the Lord who is looked at. Kern[18] thinks it may mean the Lord who is
everywhere visible as a very present help in trouble, or else the Lord
of View, like the epithet Dṛishtiguru applied to Śiva. Another form
of the name is Lokeśvara or Lord of the world and this suggests that
_avalokita_ may be a synonym of _loka_, meaning the visible universe.
It has also been suggested that the name may refer to the small image
of Amitâbha which is set in his diadem and thus looks down on him. But
such small images set in the head of a larger figure are not
distinctive of Avalokita: they are found in other Buddhist statues and
paintings and also outside India, for instance at Palmyra. The Tibetan
translation of the name[19] means he who sees with bright eyes. Hsüan
Chuang's rendering Kwan-tzǔ-tsai[20] expresses the same idea, but the
more usual Chinese translation Kuan-yin or Kuan-shih-yin, the deity
who looks upon voices or the region of voices, seems to imply a verbal
misunderstanding. For the use of Yin or voice makes us suspect that
the translator identified the last part of _Avalokiteśvara_ not with
_Îśvara_ lord but with _svara_ sound.[21]

Avalokiteśvara is unknown to the Pali Canon and the Milinda Pañha. So
far as I can discover he is not mentioned in the Divyâvadâna,
Jâtakamâlâ or any work attributed to Aśvaghosha. His name does not
occur in the Lalita-vistara but a list of Bodhisattvas in its
introductory chapter includes Mahâkaruṇâcandin, suggesting
Mahâkaruna, the Great Compassionate, which is one of his epithets. In
the Lotus[22] he is placed second in the introductory list of
Bodhisattvas after Mañjuśrî. But Chapter XXIV, which is probably a
later addition, is dedicated to his praises as Samantamukha, he who
looks every way or the omnipresent. In this section his character as
the all-merciful saviour is fully developed. He saves those who call
on him from shipwreck, and execution, from robbers and all violence
and distress. He saves too from moral evils, such as passion, hatred
and folly. He grants children to women who worship him. This power,
which is commonly exercised by female deities, is worth remarking as a
hint of his subsequent transformation into a goddess. For the better
achievement of his merciful deeds, he assumes all manner of forms, and
appears in the guise of a Buddha, a Bodhisattva, a Hindu deity, a
goblin, or a Brahman and in fact in any shape. This chapter was
translated into Chinese before 417 A.D. and therefore can hardly be
later than 350. He is also mentioned in the Sukhâvatî-vyûha. The
records of the Chinese pilgrims Fa-Hsien and Hsüan Chuang[23] indicate
that his worship prevailed in India from the fourth till the seventh
century and we are perhaps justified in dating its beginnings at least
two centuries earlier. But the absence of any mention of it in the
writings of Aśvaghosha is remarkable.[24]

Avalokita is connected with a mountain called Potala or Potalaka. The
name is borne by the palace of the Grand Lama at Lhassa and by another
Lamaistic establishment at Jehol in north China. It reappears in the
sacred island of P´u-t´o near Ningpo. In all these cases the name of
Avalokita's Indian residence has been transferred to foreign shrines.
In India there were at least two places called Potala or Potalaka--one
at the mouth of the Indus and one in the south. No certain connection
has been traced between the former and the Bodhisattva but in the
seventh century the latter was regarded as his abode. Our information
about it comes mainly from Hsüan Chuang[25] who describes it when
speaking of the Malakuta country and as near the Mo-lo-ya (Malaya)
mountain. But apparently he did not visit it and this makes it
probable that it was not a religious centre but a mountain in the
south of which Buddhists in the north wrote with little precision.[26]
There is no evidence that Avalokita was first worshipped on this
Potalaka, though he is often associated with mountains such as Kapota
in Magadha and Valavatî in Katâha.[27] In fact the connection of
Potala with Avalokita remains a mystery.

Avalokita has, like most Bodhisattvas, many names. Among the principal
are Mahâkaruna, the Great Compassionate one, Lokanâtha or Lokeśvara,
the Lord of the world, and Padmapâni, or lotus-handed. This last
refers to his appearance as portrayed in statues and miniatures. In
the older works of art his figure is human, without redundant limbs,
and represents a youth in the costume of an Indian prince with a high
jewelled chignon, or sometimes a crown. The head-dress is usually
surmounted by a small figure of Amitâbha. His right hand is extended
in the position known as the gesture of charity.[28] In his left he
carries a red lotus and he often stands on a larger blossom. His
complexion is white or red. Sometimes he has four arms and in later
images a great number. He then carries besides the lotus such objects
as a book, a rosary and a jug of nectar.[29]

The images with many eyes and arms seem an attempt to represent him as
looking after the unhappy in all quarters and stretching out his hands
in help.[30] It is doubtful if the Bodhisattvas of the Gandhara
sculptures, though approaching the type of Avalokita, represent him
rather than any other, but nearly all the Buddhist sites of India
contain representations of him which date from the early centuries of
our era[31] and others are preserved in the miniatures of

He is not a mere adaptation of any one Hindu god. Some of his
attributes are also those of Brahmâ. Though in some late texts he is
said to have evolved the world from himself, his characteristic
function is not to create but, like Vishnu, to save and like Vishnu he
holds a lotus. But also he has the title of Îśvara, which is specially
applied to Śiva. Thus he does not issue from any local cult and has no
single mythological pedigree but is the idea of divine compassion
represented with such materials as the art and mythology of the day

He is often accompanied by a female figure Târâ.[33] In the tantric
period she is recognized as his spouse and her images, common in
northern India from the seventh century onwards, show that she was
adored as a female Bodhisattva. In Tibet Târâ is an important deity
who assumes many forms and even before the tantric influence had
become prominent she seems to have been associated with Avalokita. In
the Dharmasangraha she is named as one of the four Devîs, and she is
mentioned twice under the name of To-lo Pu-sa by Hsüan Chuang, who saw
a statue of her in Vaisali and another at Tiladhaka in Magadha. This
last stood on the right of a gigantic figure of Buddha, Avalokita
being on his left.[34]

Hsüan Chuang distinguishes To-lo (Târâ) and Kuan-tzǔ-tsai. The latter
under the name of Kuan-yin or Kwannon has become the most popular
goddess of China and Japan, but is apparently a form of Avalokita. The
god in his desire to help mankind assumes many shapes and, among
these, divine womanhood has by the suffrage of millions been judged
the most appropriate. But Târâ was not originally the same as
Kuan-yin, though the fact that she accompanies Avalokita and shares
his attributes may have made it easier to think of him in female

The circumstances in which Avalokita became a goddess are obscure. The
Indian images of him are not feminine, although his sex is hardly
noticed before the tantric period. He is not a male deity like
Krishna, but a strong, bright spirit and like the Christian archangels
above sexual distinctions. No female form of him is reported from
Tibet and this confirms the idea that none was known in India,[36] and
that the change was made in China. It was probably facilitated by the
worship of Târâ and of Hâritî, an ogress who was converted by the
Buddha and is frequently represented in her regenerate state caressing
a child. She is mentioned by Hsüan Chuang and by I-Ching who adds that
her image was already known in China. The Chinese also worshipped a
native goddess called T'ien-hou or T'ou-mu. Kuan-yin was also
identified with an ancient Chinese heroine called Miao-shên.[37] This
is parallel to the legend of Ti-tsang (Kshitigarbha) who, though a
male Bodhisattva, was a virtuous maiden in two of his previous
existences. Evidently Chinese religious sentiment required a Madonna
and it is not unnatural if the god of mercy, who was reputed to assume
many shapes and to give sons to the childless, came to be thought of
chiefly in a feminine form. The artists of the T'ang dynasty usually
represented Avalokita as a youth with a slight moustache and the
evidence as to early female figures does not seem to me strong,[38]
though _a priori_ I see no reason for doubting their existence. In
1102 a Chinese monk named P'u-ming published a romantic legend of
Kuan-yin's earthly life which helped to popularize her worship. In
this and many other cases the later developments of Buddhism are due
to Chinese fancy and have no connection with Indian tradition.

Târâ is a goddess of north India, Nepal and the Lamaist Church and
almost unknown in China and Japan. Her name means she who causes to
cross, that is who saves, life and its troubles being by a common
metaphor described as a sea. Târâ also means a star and in Puranic
mythology is the name given to the mother of Buddha, the planet
Mercury. Whether the name was first used by Buddhists or Brahmans is
unknown, but after the seventh century there was a decided tendency to
give Târâ the epithets bestowed on the Śaktis of Śiva and assimilate
her to those goddesses. Thus in the list of her 108 names[39] she is
described among other more amiable attributes as terrible, furious,
the slayer of evil beings, the destroyer, and Kâlî: also as carrying
skulls and being the mother of the Vedas. Here we have if not the
borrowing by Buddhists of a Śaiva deity, at least the grafting of
Śaiva conceptions on a Bodhisattva.

The second great Bodhisattva Mañjuśrî[40] has other similar names,
such as Mañjunâtha and Mañjughosha, the word Mañju meaning sweet or
pleasant. He is also Vagîśvara, the Lord of Speech, and Kumârabhûta,
the Prince, which possibly implies that he is the Buddha's eldest son,
charged with the government under his direction. He has much the same
literary history as Avalokita, not being mentioned in the Pali Canon
nor in the earlier Sanskrit works such as the Lalita-vistara and
Divyâvadâna. But his name occurs in the Sukhâvatî-vyûha: he is the
principal interlocutor in the Lankâvatâra sûtra and is extolled in the
Ratna-karaṇḍaka-vyûha-sûtra.[41] In the greater part of the Lotus he
is the principal Bodhisattva and instructs Maitreya, because, though
his youth is eternal, he has known many Buddhas through innumerable
ages. The Lotus[42] also recounts how he visited the depths of the sea
and converted the inhabitants thereof and how the Lord taught him what
are the duties of a Bodhisattva after the Buddha has entered finally
into Nirvana. As a rule he has no consort and appears as a male
Athene, all intellect and chastity, but sometimes Lakshmî or Sarasvatî
or both are described as his consorts.[43]

His worship prevailed not only in India but in Nepal, Tibet, China,
Japan and Java. Fa-Hsien states that he was honoured in Central India,
and Hsüan Chuang that there were stupas dedicated to him at
Muttra.[44] He is also said to have been incarnate in Atîsa, the
Tibetan reformer, and in Vairocana who introduced Buddhism to Khotan,
but, great as is his benevolence, he is not so much the helper of
human beings, which is Avalokita's special function, as the
personification of thought, knowledge, and meditation. It is for this
that he has in his hands the sword of knowledge and a book. A
beautiful figure from Java bearing these emblems is in the Berlin
Museum.[45] Miniatures represent him as of a yellow colour with the
hands (when they do not carry emblems) set in the position known as
teaching the law.[46] Other signs which distinguish his images are the
blue lotus and the lion on which he sits.

An interesting fact about Mañjuśrî is his association with China,[47]
not only in Chinese but in late Indian legends. The mountain
Wu-t'ai-shan in the province of Shan-si is sacred to him and is
covered with temples erected in his honour.[48] The name (mountain of
five terraces) is rendered in Sanskrit as Pancaśîrsha, or Pancaśikha,
and occurs both in the Svayambhû Purâṇa and in the text appended to
miniatures representing Mañjuśrî. The principal temple is said to have
been erected between 471 and 500 A.D. I have not seen any statement
that the locality was sacred in pre-Buddhist times, but it was
probably regarded as the haunt of deities, one of whom--perhaps some
spirit of divination--was identified with the wise Mañjuśrî. It is
possible that during the various inroads of Græco-Bactrians,
Yüeh-Chih, and other Central Asian tribes into India, Mañjuśrî was
somehow imported into the pantheon of the Mahayana from China or
Central Asia, and he has, especially in the earlier descriptions, a
certain pure and abstract quality which recalls the Amesha-Spentas of
Persia. But still his attributes are Indian, and there is little
positive evidence of a foreign origin. I-Ching is the first to tell us
that the Hindus believed he came from China.[49] Hsüan Chuang does not
mention this belief, and probably did not hear of it, for it is an
interesting detail which no one writing for a Chinese audience would
have omitted. We may therefore suppose that the idea arose in India
about 650 A.D. By that date the temples of Wu-t'ai-Shan would have had
time to become celebrated, and the visits paid to India by
distinguished Chinese Buddhists would be likely to create the
impression that China was a centre of the faith and frequented by
Bodhisattvas.[50] We hear that Vajrabodhi (about 700) and Prajña (782)
both went to China to adore Mañjuśrî. In 824 a Tibetan envoy arrived
at the Chinese Court to ask for an image of Mañjuśrî, and later the
Grand Lamas officially recognized that he was incarnate in the
Emperor.[51] Another legend relates that Mañjuśrî came from
Wu-t'ai-Shan to adore a miraculous lotus[52] that appeared on the lake
which then filled Nepal. With a blow of his sword he cleft the
mountain barrier and thus drained the valley and introduced
civilization. There may be hidden in this some tradition of the
introduction of culture into Nepal but the Nepalese legends are late
and in their collected form do not go back beyond the sixteenth

After Avalokita and Mañjuśrî the most important Bodhisattva is
Maitreya,[53] also called Ajita or unconquered, who is the only one
recognized by the Pali Canon.[54] This is because he does not stand on
the same footing as the others. They are superhuman in their origin as
well as in their career, whereas Maitreya is simply a being who like
Gotama has lived innumerable lives and ultimately made himself worthy
of Buddhahood which he awaits in heaven. There is no reason to doubt
that Gotama regarded himself as one in a series of Buddhas: the Pali
scriptures relate that he mentioned his predecessors by name, and also
spoke of unnumbered Buddhas to come.[55] Nevertheless Maitreya or
Metteyya is rarely mentioned in the Pali Canon.[56]

He is, however, frequently alluded to in the exegetical Pali
literature, in the Anâgata-vaṃsa and in the earlier Sanskrit works
such as the Lalita-vistara, the Divyâvadâna and Mahâvastu. In the
Lotus he plays a prominent part, but still is subordinate to Mañjuśrî.
Ultimately he was eclipsed by the two great Bodhisattvas but in the
early centuries of our era he received much respect. His images are
frequent in all parts of the Buddhist world: he was believed to watch
over the propagation of the Faith,[57] and to have made special
revelations to Asaṅga.[58] In paintings he is usually of a golden
colour: his statues, which are often gigantic, show him standing or
sitting in the European fashion and not cross-legged. He appears to be
represented in the earliest Gandharan sculptures and there was a
famous image of him in Udyâna of which Fa-Hsien (399-414 A.D.) speaks
as if it were already ancient.[59] Hsüan Chuang describes it as well
as a stupa erected[60] to commemorate Sâkyamuni's prediction that
Maitreya would be his successor. On attaining Buddhahood he will
become lord of a terrestrial paradise and hold three assemblies under
a dragon flower tree,[61] at which all who have been good Buddhists in
previous births will become Arhats. I-Ching speaks of meditating on
the advent of Maitreya in language like that which Christian piety
uses of the second coming of Christ and concludes a poem which is
incorporated in his work with the aspiration "Deep as the depth of a
lake be my pure and calm meditation. Let me look for the first
meeting under the Tree of the Dragon Flower when I hear the deep
rippling voice of the Buddha Maitreya."[62] But messianic ideas were
not much developed in either Buddhism or Hinduism and perhaps the
figures of both Maitreya and Kalkî owe something to Persian legends
about Saoshyant the Saviour.

The other Bodhisattvas, though lauded in special treatises, have left
little impression on Indian Buddhism and have obtained in the Far East
most of whatever importance they possess. The makers of images and
miniatures assign to each his proper shape and colour, but when we
read about them we feel that we are dealing not with the objects of
real worship or even the products of a lively imagination, but with
names and figures which have a value for picturesque but conventional

Among the best known is Samantabhadra, the all gracious,[63] who is
still a popular deity in Tibet and the patron saint of the sacred
mountain Omei in China, with which he is associated as Mañjuśrî with
Wu-t́ai-shan. He is represented as green and riding on an elephant. In
Indian Buddhism he has a moderately prominent position. He is
mentioned in the Dharmasangraha and in one chapter of the Lotus he is
charged with the special duty of protecting those who follow the law.
But the Chinese pilgrims do not mention his worship.

Mahâsthâmaprâpta[64] is a somewhat similar figure. A chapter of the
Lotus (XIX) is dedicated to him without however giving any clear idea
of his personality and he is extolled in several descriptions of
Sukhâvatî or Paradise, especially in the Amitâyurdhyâna-sûtra.
Together with Amitâbha and Avalokita he forms a triad who rule this
Happy Land and are often represented by three images in Chinese

Vajrapâṇi is mentioned in many lists of Bodhisattvas (_e.g._ in the
Dharmasangraha) but is of somewhat doubtful position as Hsüan Chuang
calls him a deva.[65] Historically his recognition as a Bodhisattva is
interesting for he is merely Indra transformed into a Buddhist. The
mysterious personages called Vajradhara and Vajrasattva, who in later
times are even identified with the original Buddha spirit, are further
developments of Vajrapâṇi. He owes his elevation to the fact that
_Vajra_, originally meaning simply thunderbolt, came to be used as a
mystical expression for the highest truth.

More important than these is Kshitigarbha, Ti-tsang or Jizō[66] who in
China and Japan ranks second only to Kuan-yin. Visser has consecrated
to him an interesting monograph[67] which shows what strange changes
and chances may attend spirits and how ideal figures may alter as
century after century they travel from land to land. We know little
about the origin of Kshitigarbha. The name seems to mean Earth-womb
and he has a shadowy counterpart in Akâśagarbha, a similar deity of
the air, who it seems never had a hold on human hearts. The Earth is
generally personified as a goddess[68] and Kshitigarbha has some
slight feminine traits, though on the whole decidedly masculine. The
stories of his previous births relate how he was twice a woman: in
Japan he was identified with the mountain goddess of Kamado, and he
helps women in labour, a boon generally accorded by goddesses. In the
pantheon of India he played an inconspicuous part,[69] though reckoned
one of the eight great Bodhisattvas, but met with more general esteem
in Turkestan, where he began to collect the attributes afterwards
defined in the Far East. It is there that his history and
transformations become clear.

He is primarily a deity of the nether world, but like Amitâbha and
Avalokita he made a vow to help all living creatures and specially to
deliver them from hell. The Taoists pictured hell as divided into ten
departments ruled over by as many kings, and Chinese fancy made
Ti-tsang the superintendent of these functionaries. He thus becomes
not so much a Saviour as the kindly superintendent of a prison who
preaches to the inmates and willingly procures their release. Then we
hear of six Ti-tsangs, corresponding to the six worlds of sentient
beings, the gracious spirit being supposed to multiply his personality
in order to minister to the wants of all. He is often represented as a
monk, staff in hand and with shaven head. The origin of this guise is
not clear and it perhaps refers to his previous births. But in the
eighth century a monk of Chiu Hua[70] was regarded as an incarnation
of Ti-tsang and after death his body was gilded and enshrined as an
object of worship. In later times the Bodhisattva was confused with
the incarnation, in the same way as the portly figure of Pu-tai,
commonly known as the laughing Buddha, has been substituted for
Maitreya in Chinese iconography.

In Japan the cult of the six Jizōs became very popular. They were
regarded as the deities of roads[71] and their effigies ultimately
superseded the ancient phallic gods of the crossways. In this martial
country the Bodhisattva assumed yet another character as Shōgun Jizō,
a militant priest riding on horseback[72] and wearing a helmet who
became the patron saint of warriors and was even identified with the
Japanese war god, Hachiman. Until the seventeenth century Jizō was
worshipped principally by soldiers and priests, but subsequently his
cult spread among all classes and in all districts. His benevolent
activities as a guide and saviour were more and more emphasized: he
heals sickness, he lengthens life, he leads to heaven, he saves from
hell: he even suffers as a substitute in hell and is the special
protector of the souls of children amid the perils of the underworld.
Though this modern figure of Jizō is wrought with ancient materials,
it is in the main a work of Japanese sentiment.


[Footnote 5: In dealing with the Mahayanists, I use the expression
Śâkyamuni in preference to Gotama. It is their own title for the
teacher and it seems incongruous to use the purely human name of
Gotama in describing doctrines which represent him as superhuman.]

[Footnote 6: But Kings Hsin-byu-shin of Burma and Śrî Sûryavaṃsa Râma
of Siam have left inscriptions recording their desire to become
Buddhas. See my chapters on Burma and Siam below. Mahayanist ideas may
easily have entered these countries from China, but even in Ceylon the
idea of becoming a Buddha or Bodhisattva is not unknown. See _Manual
of a Mystic_ (P.T.S. 1916), pp. xviii and 140.]

[Footnote 7: _E.g._ in Itivuttakam 75, there is a description of the
man who is like a drought and gives nothing, the man who is like rain
in a certain district and the man who is Sabbabhûtânukampako,
compassionate to all creatures, and like rain falling everywhere.
Similarly _Ib._ 84, and elsewhere, we have descriptions of persons
(ordinary disciples as well as Buddhas) who are born for the welfare
of gods and men bahujanahitâya, bahujanasukhâya, lokânukampâya,
atthâya, hitâya, sukhâya devamanussânam.]

[Footnote 8: Ed. Senart, vol. I. p. 142.]

[Footnote 9: The Bodhicaryâvatâra was edited by Minayeff, 1889 and
also in the _Journal of the Buddhist Text Society_ and the
_Bibliotheca Indica_. De la Vallée Poussin published parts of the text
and commentary in his _Bouddhisme_ and also a translation in 1907.]

[Footnote 10: The career of the Bodhisattva is also discussed in
detail in the Avatamsaka sûtra and in works attributed to Nâgârjuna
and Sthiramati, the Lakshaṇa-vimukta-hṛidaya-śâstra and the
Mahâyâna-dharma-dhâtvaviśeshata-śâstra. I only know of these works as
quoted by Teitaro Suzuki.]

[Footnote 11: See Childers, _Pali Dict._ s.v. Patti, Pattianuppadânam
and Puñño.]

[Footnote 12: It occurs in the Pali Canon, _e.g._ Itivuttakam 100.
Tassa me tumhe puttâ orasâ, mukhato jâtâ, dhammajâ.]

[Footnote 13: See Sylvain Lévi, _Mahâyâna-sûtrâlankâra_: introduction
and passim. For much additional information about the Bhûmis see De la
Vallée Poussin's article "Bodhisattva" in _E.R.E._]

[Footnote 14: Eminent doctors such as Nâgârjuna and Asanga are often
described as Bodhisattvas just as eminent Hindu teachers, _e.g._
Caitanya, are described as Avatâras.]

[Footnote 15: The idea that Arhats may postpone their entry into
Nirvana for the good of the world is not unknown to the Pali Canon.
According to the Maha Parin-Sutta the Buddha himself might have done
so. Legends which cannot be called definitely Mahayanist relate how
Piṇḍola and others are to tarry until Maitreya come and how Kâśyapa
in a less active role awaits him in a cave or tomb, ready to revive at
his advent. See _J.A._ 1916, II. pp. 196, 270.]

[Footnote 16: _E.g._ Lotus, chap. I.]

[Footnote 17: De la Vallée Poussin's article "Avalokita" in _E.R.E._
may be consulted.]

[Footnote 18: Lotus, _S.B.E._ XXI. p. 407.]

[Footnote 19: sPyan-ras-gzigs rendered in Mongol by Nidübär-üdzäkci.
The other common Mongol name Ariobalo appears to be a corruption of

[Footnote 20: Meaning apparently the seeing and self-existent one. Cf.
Ta-tzǔ-tsai as a name of Śiva.]

[Footnote 21: A maidservant in the drama Mâlatîmâdhava is called
Avalokita. It is not clear whether it is a feminine form of the divine
name or an adjective meaning looked-at, or admirable.]

[Footnote 22: _S.B.E._ XXI. pp. 4 and 406 ff. It was translated in
Chinese between A.D. 265 and 316 and chap. XXIV was separately
translated between A.D. 384 and 417. See Nanjio, Catalogue Nos. 136,
137, 138.]

[Footnote 23: Hsüan Chuang (Watters, II. 215, 224) relates how an
Indian sage recited the Sui-hsin dhârani before Kuan-tzǔ-tsai's image
for three years.]

[Footnote 24: As will be noticed from time to time in these pages, the
sudden appearance of new deities in Indian literature often seems
strange. The fact is that until deities are generally recognized,
standard works pay no attention to them.]

[Footnote 25: Watters, vol. II. pp. 228 ff. It is said that Potalaka
is also mentioned in the Hwa-yen-ching or Avatamsaka sûtra. Tibetan
tradition connects it with the Śâkya family. See Csoma de Körös,
Tibetan studies reprinted 1912, pp. 32-34.]

[Footnote 26: Just as the Lankâvatâra sûtra purports to have been
delivered at _Lankapura-samudra-malaya-śikhara_ rendered in the
Chinese translation as "in the city of Lanka on the summit of the
Malaya mountain on the border of the sea."]

[Footnote 27: See Foucher, _Iconographie bouddhique_, 1900, pp. 100,

[Footnote 28: Varamudra.]

[Footnote 29: These as well as the red colour are attributes of the
Hindu deity Brahmâ.]

[Footnote 30: A temple on the north side of the lake in the Imperial
City at Peking contains a gigantic image of him which has literally a
thousand heads and a thousand hands. This monstrous figure is a
warning against an attempt to represent metaphors literally.]

[Footnote 31: Waddell on the Cult of Avalokita, _J.R.A.S._ 1894, pp.
51 ff. thinks they are not earlier than the fifth century.]

[Footnote 32: See especially Foucher, _Iconographie Bouddhique_,
Paris, 1900.]

[Footnote 33: See especially de Blonay, _Études pour servir à
l'histoire de la déesse bouddhique Târâ_, Paris, 1895. Târâ continued
to be worshipped as a Hindu goddess after Buddhism had disappeared and
several works were written in her honour. See Raj. Mitra, _Search for
Sk. MSS_. IV. 168, 171, X. 67.]

[Footnote 34: About the time of Hsüan Chuang's travels Sarvajñâmitra
wrote a hymn to Târâ which has been preserved and published by de
Blonay, 1894.]

[Footnote 35: Chinese Buddhists say Târâ and Kuan-Yin are the same but
the difference between them is this. Târâ is an Indian and Lamaist
goddess _associated_ with Avalokita and in origin analogous to the
Saktis of Tantrism. Kuan-yin is a female form of Avalokita who can
assume all shapes. The original Kuan-yin was a male deity: male
Kuan-yins are not unknown in China and are said to be the rule in
Korea. But Târâ and Kuan-yin may justly be described as the same in so
far as they are attempts to embody the idea of divine pity in a

[Footnote 36: But many scholars think that the formula Om manipadme
hum, which is supposed to be addressed to Avalokita, is really an
invocation to a form of Śakti called Maṇipadmâ. A Nepalese
inscription says that "The Śâktas call him Śakti" (_E.R.E._ vol. II.
p. 260 and _J.A._ IX. 192), but this may be merely a way of saying
that he is identical with the great gods of all sects.]

[Footnote 37: Harlez, _Livre des esprits et des immortels_, p. 195,
and Doré, _Recherches sur les superstitions en Chine_, pp. 94-138.]

[Footnote 38: See Fenollosa, _Epochs of Chinese and Japanese Art_ I.
pp. 105 and 124; Johnston, _Buddhist China_, 275 ff. Several Chinese
deities appear to be of uncertain or varying sex. Thus Chun-ti is
sometimes described as a deified Chinese General and sometimes
identified with the Indian goddess Marîcî. Yü-ti, generally masculine,
is sometimes feminine. See Doré, _l.c._ 212. Still more strangely the
Patriarch Aśvaghosha (Ma Ming) is represented by a female figure. On
the other hand the monk Ta Shêng (c. 705 A.D.) is said to have been an
incarnation of the female Kuan Yin. Mañjuśrî is said to be worshipped
in Nepal sometimes as a male, sometimes as a female. See Bendall and
Haraprasad, _Nepalese MSS_. p. lxvii.]

[Footnote 39: de Blonay, _l.c._ pp. 48-57.]

[Footnote 40: Chinese, Man-chu-shih-li, or Wên-shu; Japanese, Monju;
Tibetan, hJam-pahi-dbyans (pronounced Jam-yang). Mañju is good
Sanskrit, but it must be confessed that the name has a Central-Asian

[Footnote 41: Translated into Chinese 270 A.D.]

[Footnote 42: Chaps. XI. and XIII.]

[Footnote 43: A special work Mañjuśrîvikrîḍita (Nanjio, 184, 185)
translated into Chinese 313 A.D. is quoted as describing Mañjuśrî's
transformations and exploits.]

[Footnote 44: Hsüan Chuang also relates how he assisted a philosopher
called Ch'en-na (=Diṅnâga) and bade him study Mahayanist books.]

[Footnote 45: It is reproduced in Grünwedel's _Buddhist Art in India_.
Translated by Gibson, 1901, p. 200.]

[Footnote 46: Dharmacakramudra.]

[Footnote 47: For the Nepalese legends see S. Levi, _Le Nepal_,

[Footnote 48: For an account of this sacred mountain see Edkins,
_Religion in China_, chaps. XVII to XIX.]

[Footnote 49: See I-tsing, trans. Takakusu, 1896, p. 136. For some
further remarks on the possible foreign origin of Mañjuśrî see below,
chapter on Central Asia. The verses attributed to King Harsha (Nanjio,
1071) praise the reliquaries of China but without details.]

[Footnote 50: Some of the Tantras, _e.g._ the Mahâcînakramâcâra, though
they do not connect Mañjuśrî with China, represent some of their most
surprising novelties as having been brought thence by ancient sages
like Vasishṭha.]

[Footnote 51: _J.R.A.S._ new series, XII. 522 and _J.A.S.B_. 1882, p.
41. The name Manchu perhaps contributed to this belief.]

[Footnote 52: It is described as a Svayambhû or spontaneous
manifestation of the Âdi-Buddha.]

[Footnote 53: Sanskrit, Maitreya; Pali, Metteyya; Chinese, Mi-li;
Japanese, Miroku; Mongol, Maidari; Tibetan, Byams-pa (pronounced
Jampa). For the history of the Maitreya idea see especially Péri,
_B.E.F.E.O._ 1911, pp. 439-457.]

[Footnote 54: But a Siamese inscription of about 1361, possibly
influenced by Chinese Mahayanism, speaks of the ten Bodhisattvas
headed by Metteyya. See _B.E.F.E.O._ 1917, No. 2, pp. 30, 31.]

[Footnote 55: _E.g._ in the Mahâparinibbâna Sûtra.]

[Footnote 56: Dig. Nik. XXVI. 25 and Buddhavamsa, XXVII. 19, and even
this last verse is said to be an addition.]

[Footnote 57: See _e.g._ Watters, _Yüan Chwang_, I. 239.]

[Footnote 58: See Watters and Péri in _B.E.F.E.O._ 1911, 439. A temple
of Maitreya has been found at Turfan in Central Asia with a Chinese
inscription which speaks of him as an active and benevolent deity
manifesting himself in many forms.]

[Footnote 59: He has not fared well in Chinese iconography which
represents him as an enormously fat smiling monk. In the Liang dynasty
there was a monk called Pu-tai (Jap. Hotei) who was regarded as an
incarnation of Maitreya and became a popular subject for caricature.
It would appear that the Bodhisattva himself has become superseded by
this cheerful but undignified incarnation.]

[Footnote 60: The stupa was apparently at Benares but Hsüan Chuang's
narrative is not clear and other versions make Râjagṛiha or Srâvasti
the scene of the prediction.]

[Footnote 61: Campa. This is his bodhi tree under which he will obtain
enlightenment as Sâkyamuni under the _Ficus religiosa_. Each Buddha
has his own special kind of bodhi tree.]

[Footnote 62: _Record of the Buddhist religion_, Trans. Takakusu, p.
213. See too Watters, _Yüan Chwang_, II. 57, 144, 210, 215.]

[Footnote 63: Chinese P'u-hsien. See Johnston, _From Peking to
Mandalay_, for an interesting account of Mt. Omei.]

[Footnote 64: Or Mahâsthâna. Chinese, Tai-shih-chih. He appears to be
the Arhat Maudgalyâyana deified. In China and Japan there is a marked
tendency to regard all Bodhisattvas as ancient worthies who by their
vows and virtues have risen to their present high position. But these
euhemeristic explanations are common in the Far East and the real
origin of the Bodhisattvas may be quite different.]

[Footnote 65: _E.g._ Watters, I. p. 229, II. 215.]

[Footnote 66: Kshitigarbha is translated into Chinese as Ti-tsang and
Jizō is the Japanese pronunciation of the same two characters.]

[Footnote 67: In _Ostasiat. Ztsft_. 1913-15. See too Johnston,
_Buddhist China_, chap. VIII.]

[Footnote 68: The Earth goddess is known to the earliest Buddhist
legends. The Buddha called her to witness when sitting under the Bo

[Footnote 69: Three Sûtras, analysed by Visser, treat of Kshitigarbha.
They are Nanjio, Nos. 64, 65, 67.]

[Footnote 70: A celebrated monastery in the portion of An-hui which
lies to the south of the Yang-tse. See Johnston, _Buddhist China_,
chaps, VIII, IX and X.]

[Footnote 71: There is some reason to think that even in Turkestan
Kshitigarbha was a god of roads.]

[Footnote 72: In Annam too Jizō is represented on horseback.]



This mythology did not grow up around the Buddha without affecting the
central figure. To understand the extraordinary changes of meaning
both mythological and metaphysical which the word Buddha undergoes in
Mahayanist theology we must keep in mind not the personality of Gotama
but the idea that he is one of several successive Buddhas who for
convenience may be counted as four, seven or twenty-four but who
really form an infinite series extending without limit backwards into
the past and forwards into the future.[73] This belief in a series of
Buddhas produced a plentiful crop of imaginary personalities and also
of speculations as to their connection with one another, with the
phenomena of the world and with the human soul.

In the Pali Canon the Buddhas antecedent to Gotama are introduced much
like ancient kings as part of the legendary history of this world. But
in the Lalita-vistara (Chap. XX) and the Lotus (Chap. VII) we hear of
Buddhas, usually described as Tathâgatas, who apparently do not belong
to this world at all, but rule various points of the compass, or
regions described as Buddha-fields (Buddha-kshetra). Their names are
not the same in the different accounts and we remain dazzled by an
endless panorama of an infinity of universes with an infinity of
shining Buddhas, illuminating infinite space.

Somewhat later five of these unearthly Buddhas were formed into a
pentad and described as Jinas[74] or Dhyâni Buddhas (Buddhas of
contemplation), namely, Vairocana, Akshobhya, Ratnasambhava, Amitâbha
and Amoghasiddhi. In the fully developed form of this doctrine these
five personages are produced by contemplation from the Âdi-Buddha or
original Buddha spirit and themselves produce various reflexes,
including Bodhisattvas, human Buddhas and goddesses like Târâ. The
date when these beliefs first became part of the accepted Mahayana
creed cannot be fixed but probably the symmetrical arrangement of five
Buddhas is not anterior to the tantric period[75] of Buddhism.

The most important of the five are Vairocana and Amitâbha. Akshobhya
is mentioned in both the Lotus and Smaller Sukhâvatî-vyûha as the
chief Buddha of the eastern quarter, and a work purporting to be a
description of his paradise still extant in Chinese[76] is said to
have been translated in the time of the Eastern Han dynasty. But even
in the Far East he did not find many worshippers. More enduring has
been the glory of Vairocana who is the chief deity of the Shingon sect
in Japan and is represented by the gigantic image in the temple at
Nara. In Java he seems to have been regarded as the principal and
supreme Buddha. The name occurs in the Mahâvastu as the designation of
an otherwise unknown Buddha of luminous attributes and in the Lotus we
hear of a distant Buddha-world called Vairocana-rasmi-pratimandita,
embellished by the rays of the sun.[77] Vairocana is clearly a
derivative of Virocana, a recognized title of the sun in Sanskrit, and
is rendered in Chinese by Ta-jih meaning great Sun. How this solar
deity first came to be regarded as a Buddha is not known but the
connection between a Buddha and light has always been recognized. Even
the Pali texts represent Gotama as being luminous on some occasions
and in the Mahayanist scriptures Buddhas are radiant and light-giving
beings, surrounded by halos of prodigious extent and emitting flashes
which illuminate the depths of space. The visions of innumerable
paradises in all quarters containing jewelled stupas and lighted by
refulgent Buddhas which are frequent in these works seem founded on
astronomy vaporized under the influence of the idea that there are
millions of universes all equally transitory and unsubstantial. There
is no reason, so far as I see, to regard Gotama as a mythical solar
hero, but the celestial Buddhas[78] clearly have many solar
attributes. This is natural. Solar deities are so abundant in Vedic
mythology that it is hardly possible to be a benevolent god without
having something of the character of the sun. The stream of foreign
religions which flowed into India from Bactria and Persia about the
time of the Christian era brought new aspects of sun worship such as
Mithra, Helios and Apollo and strengthened the tendency to connect
divinity and light. And this connection was peculiarly appropriate and
obvious in the case of a Buddha, for Buddhas are clearly revealers and
light-givers, conquerors of darkness and dispellers of ignorance.

Amitâbha (or the Buddha of measureless light), rising suddenly from an
obscure origin, has like Avalokita and Vishnu become one of the great
gods of Asia. He is also known as Amitâyus or measureless life, and is
therefore a god of light and immortality. According to both the Lotus
and the Smaller Sukhâvatî-vyûha he is the lord of the western quarter
but he is unknown to the Lalita-vistara. It gives the ruler of the
west a lengthy title,[79] which suggests a land of gardens. Now
Paradise, which has biblical authority as a name for the place of
departed spirits, appears to mean in Persian a park or enclosed garden
and the Avesta speaks of four heavens, the good thought Paradise, the
good word Paradise, the good deed Paradise and the Endless Lights.[80]
This last expression bears a remarkable resemblance to the name of
Amitâbha and we can understand that he should rule the west, because
it is the home to which the sun and departed spirits go. Amitâbha's
Paradise is called Sukhâvatî or Happy Land. In the Puranas the city of
Varuṇa (who is suspected of having a non-Indian origin) is said to be
situated in the west and is called Sukha (Linga P. and Vayu P.) or
Mukhya (so Vishnu P. and others). The name Amitâbha also occurs in the
Vishnu Purana as the name of a class of gods and it is curious that
they are in one place[81] associated with other deities called the
Mukhyas. The worship of Amitâbha, so far as its history can be traced,
goes back to Saraha, the teacher of Nâgârjuna. He is said to have been
a Sudra and his name seems un-Indian. This supports the theory that
this worship was foreign and imported into India.[82]

This worship and the doctrine on which it is based are an almost
complete contradiction of Gotama's teaching, for they amount to this,
that religion consists in faith in Amitâbha and prayer to him, in
return for which he will receive his followers after death in his
paradise. Yet this is not a late travesty of Buddhism but a relatively
early development which must have begun about the Christian era. The
principal works in which it is preached are the Greater
Sukhâvatî-vyûha or Description of the Happy Land, translated into
Chinese between 147 and 186 A.D., the lesser work of the same name
translated in 402 A.D. and the Sûtra of meditation on Amitâyus[83]
translated in 424. The first of these works purports to be a discourse
of Śâkyamuni himself, delivered on the Vulture's Peak in answer to the
questions of Ânanda. He relates how innumerable ages ago there was a
monk called Dharmâkara who, with the help of the Buddha of that
period, made a vow or vows[84] to become a Buddha but on conditions.
That is to say he rejected the Buddhahood to which he might become
entitled unless his merits obtained certain advantages for others, and
having obtained Buddhahood on these conditions he can now cause them
to be fulfilled. In other words he can apportion his vast store of
accumulated merit to such persons and in such manner as he chooses.
The gist of the conditions is that he should when he obtained
Buddhahood be lord of a paradise whose inhabitants live in unbroken
happiness until they obtain Nirvana. All who have thought of this
paradise ten times are to be admitted therein, unless they have
committed grievous sin, and Amitâbha will appear to them at the moment
of death so that their thoughts may not be troubled. The Buddha shows
Ânanda a miraculous vision of this paradise and its joys are described
in language recalling the account of the New Jerusalem in the book of
Revelation and, though coarser pleasures are excluded, all the
delights of the eye and ear, such as jewels, gardens, flowers, rivers
and the songs of birds await the faithful.

The smaller Sukhâvatî-vyûha, represented as preached by Śâkyamuni at
Śrâvasti, is occupied almost entirely with a description of the
paradise. It marks a new departure in definitely preaching salvation
by faith only, not by works, whereas the previous treatise, though
dwelling on the efficacy of faith, also makes merit a requisite for
life in heaven. But the shorter discourse says dogmatically "Beings
are not born in that Buddha country as a reward and result of good
works performed in this present life. No, all men or women who hear
and bear in mind for one, two, three, four, five, six or seven nights
the name of Amitâyus, when they come to die, Amitâyus will stand
before them in the hour of death, they will depart this life with
quiet minds and after death they will be born in Paradise."

The Amitâyur-dhyâna-sûtra also purports to be the teaching of
Śâkyamuni and has an historical introduction connecting it with Queen
Vaidehî and King Bimbisâra. In theology it is more advanced than the
other treatises: it is familiar with the doctrine of Dharma-kâya
(which will be discussed below) and it represents the rulers of
paradise as a triad, Amitâyus being assisted by Avalokita and
Mahasthâmaprâpta.[85] Admission to the paradise can be obtained in
various ways, but the method recommended is the practice of a series
of meditations which are described in detail. The system is
comprehensive, for salvation can be obtained by mere virtue with
little or no prayer but also by a single invocation of Amitâyus, which
suffices to free from deadly sins.

Strange as such doctrines appear when set beside the Pali texts, it is
clear that in their origin and even in the form which they assume in
the larger Sukhâvatî-vyûha they are simply an exaggeration of ordinary
Mahayanist teaching.[86] Amitâbha is merely a monk who devotes himself
to the religious life, namely seeking _bodhi_ for the good of others.
He differs from every day devotees only in the degree of sanctity and
success obtained by his exertions. The operations which he performs
are nothing but examples on a stupendous scale of pariṇâmanâ or the
assignment of one's own merits to others. His paradise, though in
popular esteem equivalent to the Persian or Christian heaven, is not
really so: strictly speaking it is not an ultimate ideal but a blessed
region in which Nirvana may be obtained without toil or care.

Though this teaching had brilliant success in China and Japan, where
it still flourishes, the worship of Amitâbha was never predominant in
India. In Nepal and Tibet he is one among many deities: the Chinese
pilgrims hardly mention him: his figure is not particularly frequent
in Indian iconography[87] and, except in the works composed specially
in his honour, he appears as an incidental rather than as a necessary
figure. The whole doctrine is hardly strenuous enough for Indians. To
pray to the Buddha at the end of a sinful life, enter his paradise and
obtain ultimate Nirvana in comfort is not only open to the same charge
of egoism as the Hinayana scheme of salvation but is much easier and
may lead to the abandonment of religious effort. And the Hindu, who
above all things likes to busy himself with his own salvation, does
not take kindly to these expedients. Numerous deities promise a long
spell of heaven as a reward for the mere utterance of their names,[88]
yet the believer continues to labour earnestly in ceremonies or
meditation. It would be interesting to know whether this doctrine of
salvation by the utterance of a single name or prayer originated among
Buddhists or Brahmans. In any case it is closely related to old ideas
about the magic power of Vedic verses.

The five Jinas and other supernatural personages are often regarded as
manifestations of a single Buddha-force and at last this force is
personified as Âdi-Buddha.[89] This admittedly theistic form of
Buddhism is late and is recorded from Nepal, Tibet (in the Kâlacakra
system) and Java, a distribution which implies that it was exported
from Bengal.[90] But another form in which the Buddha-force is
impersonal and analogous to the Parabrahma of the Vedânta is much
older. Yet when this philosophic idea is expressed in popular language
it comes very near to Theism. As Kern has pointed out, Buddha is not
called Deva or Îśvara in the Lotus simply because he is above such
beings. He declares that he has existed and will exist for
incalculable ages and has preached and will preach in innumerable
millions of worlds. His birth here and his nirvana are illusory,
kindly devices which may help weak disciples but do not mark the real
beginning and end of his activity. This implies a view of Buddha's
personality which is more precisely defined in the doctrine known as
Ṭrikâya or the three bodies[91] and expounded in the
Mahâyâna-sûtrâlankâra, the Awakening of Faith, the Suvarṇa-prabhâsa
sûtra[92] and many other works. It may be stated dogmatically as
follows, but it assumes somewhat divergent forms according as it is
treated theologically or metaphysically.

A Buddha has three bodies or forms of existence. The first is the
Dharma-kâya, which is the essence of all Buddhas. It is true knowledge
or Bodhi. It may also be described as Nirvana and also as the one
permanent reality underlying all phenomena and all individuals. The
second is the Sambhoga-kâya, or body of enjoyment, that is to say the
radiant and superhuman form in which Buddhas appear in their paradises
or when otherwise manifesting themselves in celestial splendour. The
third is the Nirmâna-kâya, or the body of transformation, that is to
say the human form worn by Śâkyamuni or any other Buddha and regarded
as a transformation of his true nature and almost a distortion,
because it is so partial and inadequate an expression of it. Later
theology regards Amitâbha, Amitâyus and Śâkyamuni as a series
corresponding to the three bodies. Amitâbha does not really express
the whole Dharma-kâya, which is incapable of personification, but when
he is accurately distinguished from Amitâyus (and frequently they are
regarded as synonyms) he is made the more remote and ethereal of the
two. Amitâyus with his rich ornaments and his flask containing the
water of eternal life is the ideal of a splendidly beneficent saviour
and represents the Sambhoga-kâya.[93] Śâkyamuni is the same beneficent
being shrunk into human form. But this is only one aspect, and not the
most important, of the doctrine of the three bodies. We can easily
understand the Sambhoga-kâya and Nirmâna-kâya: they correspond to a
deity such as Vishnu and his incarnation Krishna, and they are
puzzling in Buddhism simply because we think naturally of the older
view (not entirely discarded by the Mahayana) which makes the human
Buddha the crown and apex of a series of lives that find in him their
fulfilment. But it is less easy to understand the Dharma-kâya.

The word should perhaps be translated as body of the law and the
thought originally underlying it may have been that the essential
nature of a Buddha, that which makes him a Buddha, is the law which he
preaches. As we might say, the teacher lives in his teaching: while it
survives, he is active and not dead.

The change from metaphor to theology is illustrated by Hsüan Chuang
when he states[94] (no doubt quoting from his edition of the Pitakas)
that Gotama when dying said to those around him "Say not that the
Tathâgata is undergoing final extinction: his spiritual presence
abides for ever unchangeable." This apparently corresponds to the
passage in the Pali Canon,[95] which runs "It may be that in some of
you the thought may arise, the word of the Master is ended: we have no
more a teacher. But it is not thus that you should regard it. The
truths and the rules which I have set forth, let them, after I am
gone, be the Teacher to you." But in Buddhist writings, including the
oldest Pali texts, Dharma or Dhamma has another important meaning. It
signifies phenomenon or mental state (the two being identical for an
idealistic philosophy) and comprises both the external and the
internal world. Now the Dharma-kâya is emphatically not a phenomenon
but it may be regarded as the substratum or totality of phenomena or
as that which gives phenomena whatever reality they possess and the
double use of the word dharma rendered such divagations of meaning
easier.[96] Hindus have a tendency to identify being and knowledge.
According to the Vedânta philosophy he who knows Brahman, knows that
he himself is Brahman and therefore he actually is Brahman. In the
same way the true body of the Buddha is prajñâ or knowledge.[97] By
this is meant a knowledge which transcends the distinction between
subject and object and which sees that neither animate beings nor
inanimate things have individuality or separate existence. Thus the
Dharma-kâya being an intelligence which sees the illusory quality of
the world and also how the illusion originates[98] may be regarded as
the origin and ground of all phenomena. As such it is also called
Tathâgatagarbha and Dharma-dhâtu, the matrix or store-house of all
phenomena. On the other hand, inasmuch as it is beyond them and
implies their unreality, it may also be regarded as the annihilation
of all phenomena, in other words as Nirvana. In fact the Dharma-kâya
(or Bhûta-tathatâ) is sometimes[99] defined in words similar to those
which the Pali Canon makes the Buddha use when asked if the Perfect
Saint exists after death--"it is neither that which is existence nor
that which is non-existence, nor that which is at once existence and
non-existence nor that which is neither existence nor non-existence."
In more theological language it may be said that according to the
general opinion of the Mahayanists a Buddha attains to Nirvana by the
very act of becoming a Buddha and is therefore beyond everything which
we call existence. Yet the compassion which he feels for mankind and
the good Karma which he has accumulated cause a human image of him
(Nirmâna-kâya) to appear among men for their instruction and a
superhuman image, perceptible yet not material, to appear in Paradise.


[Footnote 73: In Mahâparinib. Sut. I. 16 the Buddha is made to speak
of all the other Buddhas who have been in the long ages of the past
and will be in the long ages of the future.]

[Footnote 74: Though Dhyâni Buddha is the title most frequently used
in European works it would appear that Jina is more usual in Sanskrit
works, and in fact Dhyâni Buddha is hardly known outside Nepalese
literature. Ratnasambhava and Amoghasiddhi are rarely mentioned apart
from the others. According to Getty (_Gods of Northern Buddhism_, pp.
26, 27) a group of six, including the Âdi-Buddha himself under the
name of Vajrasattva, is sometimes worshipped.]

[Footnote 75: About the same period Śiva and Vishnu were worshipped
in five forms. See below, Book V. chap. III. sec. 3 _ad fin._]

[Footnote 76: Nanjio, Cat. No. 28.]

[Footnote 77: Virocana also occurs in the Chândogya Up. VIII. 7 and 8
as the name of an Asura who misunderstood the teaching of Prajâpati.
Verocana is the name of an Asura in Sam. Nik. I. xi. 1. 8.]

[Footnote 78: The names of many of these Buddhas, perhaps the
majority, contain some word expressive of light such as Âditya, prabhâ
or tejas.]

[Footnote 79: Chap. XX. Pushpavalivanârajikusumitâbhijña.]

[Footnote 80: _E.g._ Yashts. XXII. and XXIV. _S.B.E._ vol. XXIII. pp.
317 and 344. The title Pure Land (Chinese Ch'ing-t'u, Japanese Jo-do)
has also a Persian ring about it. See further in the chapter on
Central Asia.]

[Footnote 81: Vishnu P., Book III. chap. II.]

[Footnote 82: See below: Section on Central Asia, and Grünwedel,
_Mythologie_, 31, 36 and notes: Taranatha (Shiefner), p. 93 and

[Footnote 83: Amitâyur-dhyâna-sûtra. All three works are translated in
_S.B.E._ vol. XLIX.]

[Footnote 84: Praṇidhâna. Not only Amitâbha but all Bodhisattvas
(especially Avalokita and Kshitigarbha) are supposed to have made such
vows. This idea is very common in China and Japan but goes back to
Indian sources. See _e.g._ Lotus, XXIV. verse 3.]

[Footnote 85: These Bodhisattvas are also mentioned but without much
emphasis in the Greater Sukhâvatî-vyûha.]

[Footnote 86: Even in Hinayanist works such as the Nidânakathâ
Sumedha's resolution to become a Buddha, formed as he lies on the
ground before Dipankara, has a resemblance to Amîda's vow. He resolves
to attain the truth, to enable mankind to cross the sea of the world
and only then to attain Nirvana.]

[Footnote 87: See Foucher, _Iconographie Bouddhique dans l'Inde._]

[Footnote 88: The Bhagavad-gîtâ states quite clearly the doctrine of
the deathbed prayer (VIII. ad init.). "He who leaves this body and
departs remembering me in his last moments comes to my essence.
Whatever form (of deity) he remembers when he finally leaves this
body, to that he goes having been used to ponder on it."]

[Footnote 89: See art. Âdi-Buddha in _E.R.E._ Asanga in the
Sûtrâlankâra (IX. 77) condemns the doctrine of Âdi-Buddha, showing
that the term was known then, even if it had not the precise dogmatic
sense which it acquired later. His argument is that no one can become
a Buddha without an equipment (Sambhâra) of merit and knowledge. Such
an equipment can only be obtained from a previous Buddha and therefore
the series of Buddhas must extend infinitely backwards.]

[Footnote 90: For the prevalence of the doctrine in mediæval Bengal
see B.K. Sarkar, _Folklore Element in Hindu Culture_, which is however
sparing of precise references. The Dharma or Nirañjana of the Śûnya
Purâna seems to be equivalent to Âdi-Buddha.

Sometimes the Âdi-Buddha is identified with Vajrasattva or
Samantabhadra, although these beings are otherwise classified as
Bodhisattvas. This appears analogous to the procedure common in
Hinduism by which a devotee declares that his special deity is all the
gods and the supreme spirit.]

[Footnote 91: It would appear that some of the Tantras treat of five
bodies, adding to the three here given others such as the Ânandakâya,
Vajrakâya and Svabhâvakâya. For this doctrine see especially De la
Vallée Poussin, _J.R.A.S._ 1906, pp. 943-997 and _Muséon_, 1913, pp.
257 ff. Jigs-med nam-mká, the historian of Tibetan Buddhism, describes
four. See Huth, _Ges. d. Bud. in d. Mongolei_, vol. II. pp. 83-89.
Hinduism also assigns to living beings three bodies, the
Kâraṇa-śarîra, lingaś. and sthûlaś.]

[Footnote 92: Translated into Chinese by Dharmaraksha between 397 and
439 A.D.]

[Footnote 93: The prototype of the Sambhoga-kâya is found in the Pali
Canon, for the Buddha says (Mahâparinib. Sut. III. 22) that when he
appears among the different classes of gods his form and voice are
similar to theirs.]

[Footnote 94: Watters, vol. II. p. 38. "Spiritual essence" is Fa-shên
in Chinese, _i.e._ Dharma-kâya. Another passage is quoted to the
effect that "henceforth the observances of all my disciples constitute
the Tathâgata's Fa-shên, eternal and imperishable."]

[Footnote 95: Mahâparinib. Sut. VI. i.]

[Footnote 96: Something similar might happen in English if think and
thing were pronounced in the same way and a thing were believed to be
that which we can think.]

[Footnote 97: See Ashtasâhasrikâ Prajñâ-pâramitâ, chap. IV, near

[Footnote 98: It is in this last point that no inferior intelligence
can follow the thought of a Buddha.]

[Footnote 99: _The Awakening of Faith_, Teitaro Suzuki, p. 59.]



Thus the theory of the three bodies, especially of the Dharma-kâya, is
bound up with a theory of ontology. Metaphysics became a passion among
the travellers of the Great Vehicle as psychology had been in earlier
times. They may indeed be reproached with being bad Buddhists since
they insisted on speculating on those questions which Gotama had
declared to be unprofitable and incapable of an answer in human
language. He refused to pronounce on the whence, the whither and the
nature of things, but bade his disciples walk in the eightfold path
and analyse the human mind, because such analysis conduces to
spiritual progress. India was the last country in the world where such
restrictions were likely to be observed. Much Mahayanist literature is
not religious at all but simply metaphysics treated in an
authoritative and ecclesiastical manner. The nature and origin of the
world are discussed as freely as in the Vedânta and with similar
results: the old ethics and psychology receive scant attention. Yet
the difference is less than might be supposed. Anyone who reads these
treatises and notices the number of apparently eternal beings and the
talk about the universal mind is likely to think the old doctrine that
nothing has an âtman or soul, has been forgotten. But this impression
is not correct; the doctrine of _Nairâtmyam_ is asserted so
uncompromisingly that from one point of view it may be said that even
Buddhas do not exist. The meaning of this doctrine is that no being or
object contains an unchangeable permanent self, which lives unaltered
in the same or in different bodies. On the contrary individual
existences consist of nothing but a collection of skandhas or a
_santâna_, a succession or series of mental phenomena. In the Pali
books this doctrine is applied chiefly to the soul and psychological
enquiries. The Mahayana applied it to the external world and proved by
ingenious arguments that nothing at all exists. Similarly the doctrine
of Karma is maintained, though it is seriously modified by the
admission that merit can be transferred from one personality to
another. The Mahayana continued to teach that an act once performed
affects a particular series of mental states until its effect is
exhausted, or in popular language that an individual enjoys or suffers
through a series of births the consequences of previous acts. Even the
instance of Amitâbha's paradise, though it strains the doctrine of
Karma to the utmost, does not repudiate it. For the believer performs
an act--to wit, the invocation of Amitâbha--to which has been attached
the wonderful result that the performer is reborn in a blessed state.
This is not essentially different from the idea found in the Pali
Canon that attentions paid to a Buddha may be rewarded by a happy
rebirth in heaven.[100]

Mahayanist metaphysics, like all other departments of this theology,
are beset by the difficulty that the authorities who treat of them are
not always in accord and do not pretend to be in accord. The idea that
variety is permissible in belief and conduct is deeply rooted in later
Buddhism: there are many vehicles, some better than others no doubt
and some very ramshackle, but all are capable of conveying their
passengers to salvation. Nominally the Mahayana was divided into only
two schools of philosophy: practically every important treatise
propounds a system with features of its own. The two schools are the
Yogâcâras and Mâdhyamikas.[101] Both are idealists and deny the
reality of the external world, but whereas the Yogâcâras (also called
Vijñânavâdins) admit that Vijñâna or consciousness and the series of
states of which it consists are real, the Mâdhyamikas refuse the title
of reality to both the subjective and the objective world and hence
gained a reputation of being complete nihilists. Probably the
Mâdhyamikas are the older school.

Both schools attach importance to the distinction between relative and
absolute knowledge. Relative knowledge is true for human beings living
in the world: that is to say it is not more false than the world of
appearance in which they live. The Hinayanist doctrines are true in
this sense. Absolute knowledge rises above the world of appearance and
is altogether true but difficult to express in words. The Yogâcâra
makes three divisions, dividing the inferior knowledge into two. It
distinguishes first illusory knowledge (_parikalpita_) such as
mistaking a piece of rope for a snake or belief in the existence of
individual souls. Secondly knowledge which depends on the relations of
things (_paratantra_) and which though not absolutely wrong is
necessarily limited, such as belief in the real existence of ropes and
snakes. And thirdly absolute knowledge (_parinishpanna_), which
understands all things as the manifestation of an underlying
principle. The Mâdhyamikas more simply divide knowledge into
_samvṛiti-satya_ and _paramârtha-satya_, that is the truth of
every-day life and transcendental truth. The world and ordinary
religion with its doctrines and injunctions about good works are real
and true as _samvṛiti_ but in absolute truth (_paramârtham_) we
attain Nirvana and then the world with its human Buddhas and its gods
exists no more. The word _śûnyam_ or _śûnyatâ_, that is _void_, is
often used as the equivalent of _paramârtham_. Void must be understood
as meaning not an abyss of nothingness but that which is found to be
devoid of all the attributes which we try to ascribe to it. The world
of ordinary experience is not void, for a great number of statements
can be made about it, but absolute truth is void, because nothing
whatever can be predicated of it. Yet even this colourless designation
is not perfectly accurate,[102] because neither being nor not-being
can be predicated of absolute truth. It is for this reason, namely
that they admit neither being nor not-being but something between the
two, that the followers of Nâgârjuna are known as the Mâdhyamikas or
school of the middle doctrine, though the European reader is tempted
to say that their theories are extreme to the point of being a
_reductio ad absurdum_ of the whole system. Yet though much of their
logic seems late and useless sophistry, its affinity to early Buddhism
cannot be denied. The fourfold proposition that the answer to certain
questions cannot be any of the statements "is," "is not," "both is and
is not," "neither is nor is not," is part of the earliest known
stratum of Buddhism. The Buddha himself is represented as saying[103]
that most people hold either to a belief in being or to a belief in
not being. But neither belief is possible for one who considers the
question with full knowledge. "That things have being is one extreme:
that things have no being is the other extreme. These extremes have
been avoided by the Tathâgata and it is a middle doctrine that he
teaches," namely, dependent origination as explained in the chain of
twelve links. The Mâdhyamika theory that objects have no absolute and
independent existence but appear to exist in virtue of their relations
is a restatement of this ancient dictum.

The Mahayanist doctors find an ethical meaning in their negations. If
things possessed _svabhâva_, real, absolute, self-determined
existence, then the four truths and especially the cessation of
suffering and attainment of sanctity would be impossible. For if
things were due not to causation but to their own self-determining
nature (and the Hindus always seem to understand real existence in
this sense) cessation of evil and attainment of the good would be
alike impossible: the four Noble Truths imply a world which is in a
state of constant becoming, that is a world which is not really

But for all that the doctrine of _śûnyatâ_ as stated in the Mâdhyamika
aphorisms ascribed to Nâgârjuna leaves an impression of audacious and
ingenious sophistry. After laying down that every object in the world
exists only in relation to every other object and has no
self-existence, the treatise proceeds to prove that rest and motion
are alike impossible. We speak about the path along which we are
passing but there is really no such thing, for if we divide the path
accurately, it always proves separable into the part which has been
passed over and the part which will be passed over. There is no part
which is being passed over. This of course amounts to a denial of the
existence of present time. Time consists of past and future separated
by an indivisible and immeasurable instant. The minimum of time which
has any meaning for us implies a change, and two elements, a former
and a subsequent. The present minute or the present hour are
fallacious expressions.[104]

Therefore no one ever _is passing_ along a path. Again you cannot
logically say that the passer is passing, for the sentence is
redundant: the verb adds nothing to the noun and _vice versa_: but on
the other hand you clearly cannot say that the non-passer is passing.
Again if you say that the passer and the passing are identical, you
overlook the distinction between the agent and the act and both become
unreal. But you cannot maintain that the passer is different from the
passing, for a passer as distinct from passing and passing as
distinct from a passer have no meaning. "But how can two entities
exist at all, if they exist neither as identical with one another nor
as different from one another?"

The above, though much abridged, gives an idea of the logic of these
sûtras. They proceed to show that all manner of things, such as the
five skandhas, the elements, contact, attachment, fire and fuel,
origination, continuation and extinction have no real existence.
Similar reasoning is then applied to religious topics: the world of
transmigration as well as bondage and liberation are declared
non-existent. In reality no soul is in bondage and none is
released.[105] Similarly Karma, the Buddha himself, the four truths,
Nirvana and the twelve links in the chain of causation are all unreal.
This is not a declaration of scepticism. It means that the Buddha as a
human or celestial being and Nirvana as a state attainable in this
world are conceivable only in connection with this world and
therefore, like the world, unreal. No religious idea can enter into
the unreal (that is the practical) life of the world unless it is
itself unreal. This sounds a topsy turvy argument but it is really the
same as the Advaita doctrine. The Vedânta is on the one hand a scheme
of salvation for liberating souls which transmigrate unceasingly in a
world ruled by a personal God. But when true knowledge is attained,
the soul sees that it is identical with the Highest Brahman and that
souls which are in bondage and God who rules the world are illusions
like the world itself. But the Advaita has at least a verbal
superiority over the Mâdhyamika philosophy, for in its terminology
Brahman is the real and the existent contrasted with the world of
illusion. The result of giving to what the Advaita calls the real and
existent the name of śûnyatâ or void is disconcerting. To say that
everything without distinction is non-existent is much the same as
saying that everything is existent. It only means that a wrong sense
is habitually given to the word exist, as if it meant to be
self-contained and without relation to other objects. Unless we can
make a verbal contrast and assert that there is something which does
exist, it seems futile to insist on the unreality of the world. Yet
this mode of thought is not confined to text-books on logic. It
invades the scriptures, and appears (for instance) in the Diamond
Cutter[106] which is still one of the most venerated books of devotion
in China and Japan. In this work the Buddha explains that a
Bodhisattva must resolve to deliver all living beings and yet must
understand that after he has thus delivered innumerable beings, no one
has been delivered. And why? Because no one is to be called a
Bodhisattva for whom there exists the idea of a being, or person.
Similarly a saint does not think that he is a saint, for if he did so
think, he would believe in a self, and a person. There occur
continually in this work phrases cast in the following form: "what was
preached as a store of merit, that was preached as no store of
merit[107] by the Tathâgata and therefore it is called a store of
merit. If there existed a store of merit, the Tathâgata would not have
preached a store of merit." That is to say, if I understand this dark
language rightly, accumulated merit is part of the world of illusion
which we live in and by speaking of it as he did the Buddha implied
that it, like everything else in the world, is really non-existent.
Did it belong to the sphere of absolute truth, he would not have
spoken of it as if it were one of the things commonly but erroneously
supposed to exist. Finally we are told of the highest knowledge "Even
the smallest thing is not known or perceived there; therefore it is
called the highest perfect knowledge." That is to say perfect
knowledge transcends all distinctions; it recognises the illusory
nature of all individuality and the truth of sameness, the
never-changing one behind the ever-changing many. In this sense it is
said to perceive nothing and know nothing.

One might expect that a philosophy thus prone to use the language of
extreme nihilism would slip into a destructive, or at least negative
system. But Mahayanism was pulled equally strongly in the opposite
direction by the popular and mythological elements which it contained
and was on the whole inclined to theism and even polytheism quite as
much as to atheism and acosmism. A modern Japanese writer[108] says
that Dharma-kâya "may be considered to be equivalent to the Christian
conception of the Godhead." This is excessive as a historical
statement of the view current in India during the early centuries of
our era, but it does seem true that Dharma-kâya was made the
equivalent of the Hindu conception of Param Brahma and also that it is
very nearly equivalent to the Chinese Tao.[109]

The work called _Awakening of Faith_[110] and ascribed to Aśvaghosha
is not extant in Sanskrit but was translated into Chinese in 553 A.D.
Its doctrine is practically that of the Yogâcâra school and this makes
the ascription doubtful, but it is a most important treatise. It is
regarded as authoritative in China and Japan at the present day and it
illustrates the triple tendency of the Mahayana towards metaphysics,
mythology, and devotional piety. It declares that faith has four
aspects. Three of these are the three Jewels, or Buddha, the Law and
the Church, and cover between them the whole field of religion and
morality as generally understood. The exposition is tinged with a fine
unselfish emotion and tells the believer that though he should strive
not for his own emancipation but for the salvation of others yet he
himself receives unselfish and supernatural assistance. He is
remembered and guarded by Buddhas and Bodhisattvas in all quarters of
the Universe who are eternally trying to liberate mankind by various
expedients (upâya). By expedient is meant a modified presentment of
the truth, which is easier of comprehension and, if not the goal, at
least on the road to it, such as the Paradise of Amitâbha.[111]

But the remaining aspect of faith, which is the one that the author
puts first in his enumeration, and treats at great length, is "to
believe in the fundamental truth, that is to think joyfully of
suchness." By suchness (in Sanskrit _bhûta-tathatâ_, in Chinese _Chên
ju_) is meant absolute truth as contrasted with the relative truth of
ordinary experience.[112] The word is not illuminating nor likely to
excite religious emotion and the most that can be said for it is that
it is less dreary than the void of Nâgârjuna. Another and more
positive synonym is _dharma-dhâtu_, the all-embracing totality of
things. It is only through our ignorance and subjectivity that things
appear distinct and individuate. Could we transcend this
subjectivity, isolated objects would cease to exist. Things in their
fundamental nature cannot be named or explained: they are beyond the
range of language and perception: they have no signs of distinction
but possess absolute sameness (samatâ). From this totality of things
nothing can be excluded and to it nothing can be added. Yet it is also
śûnyatâ, negation or the void, because it cannot be said to possess
any of the attributes of the world we live in: neither existence nor
non-existence, nor unity nor plurality can be predicted of it.
According to the celebrated formula of Nâgârjuna known as the eight
Nos there is in it "neither production (_utpâda_) nor destruction
(_uccheda_) nor annihilation (_nirodha_) nor persistence (_sasvatâ_)
nor unity (_ekârtha_) nor plurality (_nânârtha_) nor coming in
(_âgamana_) nor going out (_nirgama_)." But when we perceive that both
subject and object are unreal we also see that suchness is the one
reality and from that point of view it may be regarded as the
Dharma-kâya of all Buddhas. It is also called Tathâgatagarbha, the
womb or store-house of the Buddha, from which all individual
existences are evolved under the law of causation, but this aspect of
it is already affected by ignorance, for in Bhûta-tathatâ as known in
the light of the highest truth there is neither causation nor
production. The Yogâcâra employs the word _śûnyatâ_ (void), though not
so much as its sister school, but it makes special use of the term
_âlaya-vijñâna_, the receptacle or store of consciousness. This in so
far as it is superindividual is an aspect of suchness, but when it
affirms and particularises itself it becomes _citta_, that is the
human mind, or to be more accurate the substratum of the human mind
from which is developed _manas_, or the principle of will,
self-consciousness and self-affirmation. Similarly the Vedânta
philosophy, though it has no term corresponding to _âlaya-vijñâna_, is
familiar with the idea that Brahman is in one aspect immeasurable and
all-embracing but in another is infinitesimal and dwells in the human
heart: or that Brahman after creating the world entered into it. Again
another aspect of suchness is enlightenment (_bodhi_), that is
absolute knowledge free from the limitations of subject and object.
This "is the universal Dharma-kâya of the Tathâgatas" and on account
of this all Tathâgatas are spoken of as abiding in enlightenment _a
priori_. This enlightenment may be negative (as _śûnyata_) in the
sense that it transcends all relations but it may also be affirmative
and then "it transforms and unfolds itself, whenever conditions are
favourable, in the form of a Tathâgata or some other form in order
that all beings may be induced to bring their store of merit to

It will be seen from the above that the absolute truth of the
Mahayanists varies from a severely metaphysical conception, the
indescribable thing in itself, to something very like an all-pervading
benevolent essence which from time to time takes shape in a Buddha.
And here we see how easy is the transition from the old Buddhism to a
form of pantheism. For if we admit that the Buddha is a superhuman
intelligence appearing from time to time according to a certain law,
we add little to this statement by saying that the essence or spirit
of the cosmos manifests itself from time to time as a Buddha. Only,
such words as essence or spirit are not really correct. The world of
individuals is the same as the highest truth, the same as the
Dharma-kâya, the same as Nirvana. It is only through ignorance that it
appears to be different and particularized. Ignorance, the essence of
which consists in believing in the distinction between subject and
object, is also called defilement and the highest truth passes through
various stages of defilement ending with that where under the
influence of egoism and passion the external world of particulars is
believed to be everything. But the various stages may influence one
another[114] so that under a higher influence the mind which is
involved in subjectivity begins to long for Nirvana. Yet Nirvana is
not something different from or beyond the world of experience; it
does not really involve annihilation of the skandhas. Just as in the
Advaita he who has the true knowledge sees that he himself and
everything else is Brahman, so for the Mahayanist all things are seen
_to be_ Nirvana, _to be_ the Dharma-kâya. It is sometimes[115] said
that there are four kinds of Nirvana (_a_) absolute Nirvana, which is
a synonym of the Dharma-kâya and in that sense universally present in
all beings, (_b_) upadhiśesha-nirvâṇa, the state of enlightenment
which can be attained during life, while the body with its limitations
still remains, (_c_) anupadhiśesha-nirvâṇa, a higher degree of the
same state attained after death when the hindrances of the body are
removed, (_d_) Nirvana without abode or apratishṭhita-nirvâṇa. Those
who attain to this understand that there is no real antithesis between
Samsâra and Nirvana:[116] they do not seek for rest or emancipation
but devote themselves to beneficent activity and to leading their
fellows to salvation. Although these statements that Nirvana and
Samsâra are the same are not at all in the manner of the older
Buddhism, yet this ideal of disinterested activity combined with
Nirvana is not inconsistent with the portrait of Gotama preserved in
the Pali Canon.

The Mahayanist Buddhism of the Far East makes free use of such phrases
as the Buddha in the heart, the Buddha mind and the Buddha nature.
These seem to represent such Sanskrit terms as Buddhatva and
Bodhicitta which can receive either an ethical or a metaphysical
emphasis. The former line of thought is well shown in Śântideva[117]
who treats Bodhicitta as the initial impulse and motive power of the
religious life, combining intellectual illumination and unselfish
devotion to the good of others. Thus regarded it is a guiding and
stimulating principle somewhat analogous to the Holy Spirit in
Christianity. But the Bodhicitta is also the essential quality of a
Buddha (and the Holy Spirit too is a member of the Trinity) and in so
far as a man has the Bodhicitta he is one with all Buddhas.

This conception is perhaps secondary in Buddhism but it is also as old
as the Upanishads and only another form of the doctrine that the
spirit in every man (antaryâmin) is identical with the Supreme Spirit.
It is developed in many works still popular in the Far East[118] and
was the fundamental thesis of Bodhidharma, the founder of the Zen
school. But the practical character of the Chinese and Japanese has
led them to attach more importance to the moral and intellectual side
of this doctrine than to the metaphysical and pantheistic side.


[Footnote 100: _E.g._ in Mahâparinib. Sut. IV. 57, the Buddha says
"There has been laid up by Cunda the smith (who had given him his last
meal) a karma, redounding to length of life, to good fortune, to good
fame, _to the inheritance of heaven_, and of sovereign power."]

[Footnote 101: Strictly speaking Madhyamaka is the name of the school
Mâdhyamika of its adherents. Both forms are used, _e.g._
Madhyamakakârikâs and Mâdhyamikasûtra.]

[Footnote 102: Nâgârjuna says Śûnyam iti na vaktavyam aśûnyam iti va
bhavet Ubhayam nobhayam ceti prâjñâptyartham tu kathyate, "It cannot
be called void or not void or both or neither but in order to somehow
indicate it, it is called Śûnyatâ."]

[Footnote 103: Sam. Nik. XXII. 90. 16.]

[Footnote 104: Gotama, the founder of the Nyâya philosophy, also
admitted the force of the arguments against the existence of present
time but regarded them as a _reductio ad absurdum_. Shadworth Hodgson
in his _Philosophy of Reflection_, vol. I. p. 253 also treats of the

[Footnote 105: The Sânkhya philosophy makes a similar statement,
though for different reasons.]

[Footnote 106: Vajracchedikâ. See _S.B.E._ vol. XLIX. It was
translated into Chinese by Kumârajîva (384-417 A.D.).]

[Footnote 107: Or in other repetitions of the same formula, beings,
ideas, good things, signs, etc., etc.]

[Footnote 108: Soyen Shaku, _Sermons of a Buddhist Abbot_, p. 47.]

[Footnote 109: See for a simple and persuasive statement of these
abstruse doctrines a charming little book called _Wu-Wei_ by H.

[Footnote 110: Translated from the Chinese by Teitaro Suzuki, 1900.
The translation must be used with care, as its frequent use of the
word _soul_ may lead to misunderstanding.]

[Footnote 111: Asaṅga's work _Mahâyâna-sûtrâlankâra_ (edited and
translated by S. Lévi) which covers much of the same ground is extant
in Sanskrit as well as in Chinese and Tibetan translations. It is a
lucid and authoritative treatise but does not appear to have ever been
popular, or to be read now in the Far East. For Yogâcâra see also
_Muséon_, 1904, p. 370.]

[Footnote 112: The discussion of _tathatâ_ in Kathâvatthu, XIX. 5
seems to record an early phase of these speculations.]

[Footnote 113: _Awakening of Faith_, Teitaro Suzuki, pp. 62 and 70.]

[Footnote 114: The process is generally called Vâsana or perfuming.]

[Footnote 115: Vijñânamâtra Śâstra. Chinese version quoted by Teitaro
Suzuki, _Outlines of Mahâyâna Buddhism_, p. 343. Apparently both
upâdhi and upadhi are used in Buddhist Sanskrit. Upâdi is the Pali

[Footnote 116: So the Mâdhyamika Śâstra (XXV. 19) states that there is
no difference between Samsâra and Nirvâna. Cf. Rabindranath Tagore,
_Sadhana_, pp. 160-164.]

[Footnote 117: _E.g._ Bodhicaryâvatâra, chap. I, called praise of the

[Footnote 118: _E.g._ the Ṕu-t́i-hsin-li-hsiang-lun (Nanjio, 1304),
translated from Nâgârjuna, and the Ta-Ch'êng-fa-chieh-wu-ch́a-pieh-lun,
translated from Sthiramati (Nanjio, 1258).]



In a previous chapter I have discussed the Pali Canon and I shall
subsequently have something to say about the Chinese and Tibetan
Canons, which are libraries of religious and edifying works rather
than sacred books similar to the Vedas or the Bible. My present object
is to speak of the Sanskrit literature, chiefly sutras, which appeared
contemporaneously with the rise of Mahayanism in India.

The Mahayanist scriptures are the largest body of sacred writings
extant in the world, but it is not easy either to define the limits of
the Canon or to say when it was put together. According to a common
tradition Kanishka played for the Church of the Great Vehicle much the
same part as Asoka for the Theravâdins and summoned a Council which
wrote commentaries on the Tripitaka. This may be reasonably held to
include a recension of the text commented on but we do not know what
that text was, and the brief and perplexing accounts of the Council
which we possess indicate not that it gave its imprimatur to
Mahayanist sutras but that it was specially concerned with the
Abhidharma works of the Sarvâstivâdin school.

In any case no Canon formed in the time of Kanishka can have been
equivalent to the collections of writings accepted to-day in China and
Tibet, for they contain works later than any date which can be
assigned to his reign, as do also the nine sacred books revered in
Nepal. It was agreed among Indian Buddhists that the scriptures were
divided among the three Pitakas or baskets, but we may surmise that
there was no unanimity as to the precise contents of each basket. In
India the need for unanimity in such matters is not felt. The Brahmans
always recognized that the most holy and most jealously preserved
scriptures could exist in various recensions and the Mahabharata shows
how generations of respectful and uncritical hearers may allow
adventitious matter of all sorts to be incorporated in a work.
Something of the same kind happened with the Pitakas. We know that the
Pali recension which we possess was not the only one, for fragments of
a Sanskrit version have been discovered.

There was probably a large floating literature of sutras, often
presenting several recensions of the same document worked up in
different ways. Just as additions were made to the list of Upanishads
up to the middle ages, although the character of the later works was
different from that of the earlier, so new sutras, modern in date and
in tone, were received in the capacious basket. And just as the
Puranas were accepted as sacred books without undermining the
authority of the Vedas, so new Buddhist scriptures superseded without
condemning the old ones. Various Mahayanist schools had their own
versions of the Vinaya which apparently contain the same rules as the
Pali text but also much additional narrative, and Asanga quotes from
works corresponding to the Pali Nikâyas, though his doctrine belongs
to another age.[119] The Abhidharma section of the Pali Canon seems
however to have been peculiar to the Theravâda school. The
Sarvâstivâdin Pitaka of the same name was entirely different and,
judging from the Chinese Canon, the Mahayanists gave the title to
philosophic works by such authors as Asanga and Vasubandhu, some of
which were described as revelations from Maitreya.

Specially characteristic of Mahayanist Buddhism are the Vaipulya[120]
sutras, that is sutras of great extension or development. These works,
of which the Lotus is an example, follow the same scheme as the older
sutras but are of wider scope and on a much larger scale, for they
often consist of twenty or more chapters. They usually attempt to give
a general exposition of the whole Dharma, or at least of some aspect
of it which is extolled as sufficient for the right conduct of life.
The chief speaker is usually the Buddha, who is introduced as teaching
on the Vulture Peak, or some other well-known locality, and surrounded
by a great assemblage many of whom are superhuman beings. The occasion
of the discourse is commonly signalized by his sending forth rays of
light which illuminate the universe until the scene includes other
worlds. As early as the Anguttara Nikâya[121] we find references to
the danger of a taste for ornate and poetic sutras and these
compositions seem to be the outcome of that taste. The literary ideas
and methods which produced them are illustrated by the Sûtrâlankâra of
Aśvaghosha, a collection of edifying tales, many of which use the
materials supplied by the Pali Nikâyas and Vinaya but present them in
a more effective and artistic form. It was thought a pious task to
amplify and embellish the simple narratives handed down by tradition.

The Mahayanist scriptures are composed in Sanskrit not in Pali, but it
is only rarely--for instance in the works of Aśvaghosha--that Buddhist
Sanskrit conforms to the rules of the classical language. Usually the
words deviate from this standard both in form and meaning and often
suggest that the text as we have it is a Sanskritized version of an
older work in some popular dialect, brought into partial conformity
with literary usage. In the poetical portions, this process of
sanskritization encountered greater difficulties than in prose,
because metre and prosody often refused to admit the changes required
by grammar, so that this poetical dialect cannot be called either
Sanskrit, Pali or Magadhi but remains a mixture of learned and popular
speech. But Sanskrit did not become a sacred language for the
Mahayanists like Latin for Roman Catholics. It is rather Pali which
has assumed this position among the Hinayanists, for Burmese and
Sinhalese translations of the Pitakas acquired no authority. But in
the north the principle[122] that every man might read the Buddha's
word in his own vernacular was usually respected: and the populations
of Central Asia, the Chinese, the Tibetans, and the Mongols translated
the scriptures into their own languages without attaching any
superstitious importance to the original words, unless they were
Dhâraṇîs or spells.

About the time of the Christian era or perhaps rather earlier, greater
use began to be made of writing for religious purposes. The old
practice of reciting the scriptures was not discontinued but no
objection was made to preserving and reading them in written copies.
According to tradition, the Pali scriptures were committed to writing
in Ceylon during the reign of Vaṭṭagâmaṇi, that is according to the
most recent chronology about 20 B.C., and Kanishka caused to be
engraved on copper plates the commentaries composed by the council
which he summoned. In Aśvaghosha[123] we find the story of a Brahman
who casually taking up a book to pass the time lights on a copy of the
Sutra of the Twelve Causes and is converted. But though the Buddhists
remained on the whole true to the old view that the important thing
was to understand and disseminate the substance of the Master's
teaching and not merely to preserve the text as if it were a sacred
formula, still we see growing up in Mahayanist works ideas about the
sanctity and efficacy of scripture which are foreign to the Pali
Canon. Many sutras (for instance the Diamond Cutter) extol themselves
as all-sufficient for salvation: the Prajñâ-pâramitâ commences with a
salutation addressed not as usual to the Buddha but to the work
itself, as if it were a deity, and Hodgson states that the Buddhists
of Nepal worship their nine sacred books. Nor was the idea excluded
that certain words, especially formulæ or spells called Dhâraṇî, have
in themselves a mysterious efficacy and potency.[124] Some of these
are cited and recommended in the Lotus.[125] In so far as the
repetition of sacred words or spells is regarded as an integral part
of the religious life, the doctrine has no warrant in the earlier
teaching. It obviously becomes more and more prominent in later works.
But the idea itself is old, for it is clearly the same that produced a
belief in the Brahmanic mantras, particularly the mantras of the
Atharva Veda, and early Buddhism did not reject mantras in their
proper place. Thus[126] the deities present themselves to the Buddha
and offer to teach him a formula which will protect his disciples from
the attacks of evil spirits. Hsüan Chuang even states that the council
which sat at Râjagṛiha after the Buddha's death compiled five
Pitakas, one of which consisted of Dhâraṇîs,[127] and it may be that
the collection of such texts was begun as early as the collection of
discourses and rules. But for many centuries there is no evidence that
they were in any way confounded with the Dharma.

The Mahayanist scriptures are so voluminous that not even the clergy
were expected to master any considerable part of them.[128] Indeed
they make no claim to be a connected whole. The theory was rather that
there were many vehicles plying on the road to salvation and many
guide books. No traveller thought of taking the whole library but only
a few volumes which suited him. Most of the Chinese and Japanese sects
avowedly base themselves upon three sutras, selected according to the
taste of each school from the hundreds quoted in catalogues. Thus the
T'ien-t'ai sect has for its scriptures the Lotus, the Nirvâṇa-sûtra
and the Prajñâ-pâramitâ, while the Shin-shu sect admits only the three
Amidist sutras.

The following are the names of some of the principal Mahayanist
scriptures. Comparatively few of them have been published in Europe
and some exist only in Chinese or Japanese translations.

1. Prajñâ-pâramitâ or transcendental knowledge[129] is a generic name
given to a whole literature consisting of treatises on the doctrine of
śûnyatâ, which vary greatly in length. They are classed as sutras,
being described as discourses delivered by the Buddha on the Vulture
Peak. At least ten are known, besides excerpts which are sometimes
described as substantive works. The great collection translated into
Chinese by Hsüan Chuang is said to consist of 200,000 verses and to
comprise sixteen different sutras.[130] The earliest translation of
one of these treatises into Chinese (Nanjio, 5) was made about 170
A.D. and everything indicates that portions of the Prajñâ-pâramitâ are
among the earliest Mahayanist works and date from about the first
century of our era. Prajñâ not only means knowledge of the absolute
truth, that is to say of śûnyatâ or the void, but is regarded as an
ontological principle synonymous with Bodhi and Dharma-kâya. Thus
Buddhas not only possess this knowledge in the ordinary sense but they
_are_ the knowledge manifest in human form, and Prajñâ is often
personified as a goddess. All these works lay great stress on the
doctrine of śûnyatâ, and the non-existence of the world of experience.
The longest recension is said to contain a polemic against the

The Diamond Cutter is one of the best known of these transcendental
treatises and the two short works called Heart of the Prajñâ-pâramitâ,
which are widely read in Japan, appear to be brief abstracts of the
essence of this teaching.

2. The Saddharma-Puṇḍarîka, or Lotus of the Good Law,[131] is one of
the best known Mahayanist sutras and is highly esteemed in China and
Japan. It purports to be a discourse delivered by Śâkyamuni on the
Vulture Peak to an assemblage of Bodhisattvas. The Lotus clearly
affirms the multiplicity of vehicles, or various ways of teaching the
law, and also the eternity of the Buddha, but it does not emphasize,
although it mentions, the doctrine of śûnyatâ. The work consists of
two parts of which the second (chaps. XXI-XXVI) is a later addition.
This second part contains spells and many mythological narratives,
including one of an ancient Bodhisattva who burnt himself alive in
honour of a former Buddha. Portions of the Lotus were translated into
Chinese under the Western Tsin Dynasty 265-316 A.D. and it is quoted
in the Mahâ-prajñâ-pâramitâ-śâstra ascribed to Nâgârjuna.[132] The
first part is probably not later than the first century A.D. The Lotus
is unfortunately accessible to English readers only in a most unpoetic
translation by the late Professor Kern, but it is a great religious
poem which starting from humanity regards religion as cosmic and
universal, rather than something mainly concerned with our earth. The
discourses of Śâkyamuni are accompanied in it by stupendous miracles
culminating in a grand cosmic phantasmagoria in which is evoked the
stupa containing the body of a departed Buddha, that is a shrine
containing the eternal truth.

3. The Lalita-vistara[133] is a life of Śâkyamuni up to the
commencement of his mission. Though the setting of the story is
miraculous and Buddhas and Bodhisattvas innumerable are freely spoken
of, yet the work does not enunciate the characteristic Mahayanist
doctrines so definitely as the other treatises here enumerated. It is
said to have originally belonged to the school of the Sarvâstivâdins
and to have been subsequently accepted by the Mahayanists, and though
it is not an epic but a collection of ballads and legends, yet it
often reads as if it were a preliminary study for Aśvaghosha's
Buddhacarita. It contains Sanskrit versions of old legends, which are
almost verbal renderings of the Pali text, but also new material and
seems to be conscious of relating novelties which may arouse
scepticism for it interrupts the narrative to anathematize those who
do not believe in the miracles of the Nativity and to extol the merits
of faith (_śraddhâ_ not _bhakti_). It is probably coeval with the
earlier Gandharan art but there are no facts to fix its date.[134]

4. The Lankâvatâra[135] gives an account of the revelation of the good
Law by Śâkyamuni when visiting Lanka. It is presumably subsequent to
the period when Ceylon had become a centre of Buddhism, but the story
is pure fancy and unconnected with history or with older legends. It
relates how the Buddha alighted on Mt. Malaya in Lanka. Ravana came to
pay his respects and asked for definitions of virtue and vice which
were given. The Bodhisattva Mahâmati (apparently Mañjuśrî) proceeded
to propound a series of more abstruse questions which are answered at
considerable length. The Lankâvatâra represents a mature phase of
speculation and not only criticizes the Sânkhya, Pâsupata and other
Hindu schools, but is conscious of the growing resemblance of
Mahayanism to Brahmanic philosophy and tries to explain it. It
contains a prophecy about Nâgârjuna and another which mentions the
Guptas, and it appears to allude to the domination of the Huns. This
allusion would make its date as late as the sixth century but a
translation into Chinese which is said to correspond with the Sanskrit
text was made in 513. If so the barbarians referred to cannot be the
Huns. An earlier translation made in 443 does not agree with our
Sanskrit text and perhaps the work existed in several recensions.

5. The Suvarṇa-prabhâsa or Glitter of Gold[136] is a Vaipulya sûtra
in many ways resembling the Lotus. It insists on the supernatural
character of the Buddha. He was never really born nor entered into
Nirvana but is the Dharma-kâya. The scene is laid at Râjagṛiha and
many Brahmanic deities are among the interlocutors. It was translated
into Chinese about 420 A.D. and fragments of a translation into Uigur
have been discovered in Turkestan.[137] The contents comprise
philosophy, legends and spells.

6. Gaṇḍa-vyûha[138] or the Structure of the World, which is compared
to a bubble. The name is not found in the catalogue of the Chinese
Tripitaka but the work is said to be the same as the Avataṃsaka sûtra
which is popular in the Far East under the name of Hua-yên in China or
Ke-gon in Japan. The identity of the two books could not have been
guessed from the extracts and analyses which have been published but
is guaranteed by high authorities.[139] It is possible however that
the Gaṇḍa-vyûha is only a portion of the larger work called
Avataṃsaka. So far as can be judged from the extracts, this text
preaches in a fully developed form, the doctrines of Śûnyatâ,
Dharma-kâya, the omnipresence of the Buddha and the redemption of the
world by the exertions of Bodhisattvas. Yet it seems to be early, for
a portion of it was translated into Chinese about 170 A.D. (Nanjio,
102) and about 405 Kumârajîva translated a commentary on it ascribed
to Nâgârjuna (Nanjio, 1180).

7. Tathâgata-guhyaka. This work is known by the analysis of
Rajendralala Mitra from which it appears to be a Tantra of the worst
class and probably late. Its proper title is said to be
Śrîguhyasamaja. Watanabe states that the work catalogued by Nanjio
under No. 1027 and translated into Chinese about 1000 A.D. is an
expurgated version of it. The Śikshâsamuccaya cites the
Tathâgata-guhya-sûtra several times. The relations of these works to
one another are not quite clear.

8. Samâdhirâja[140] is a Vyâkaraṇa or narrative describing different
forms of meditation of which the Samâdhirâja is the greatest and best.
The scene is laid on the Vulture's Peak and the principal
interlocutors are Śâkyamuni and Candraprabha, a rich man of
Râjagṛiha. It appears to be the same as the Candrapradîpa-sûtra and
is a complete and copious treatise, which not only expounds the topic
from which it takes its name but incidentally enumerates the chief
principles of Mahayanism. Watanabe[141] states that it is the
Yüeh-têng-san-mei-ching (Nanjio, 191) translated about 450 and again
in 557 A.D.

9. Daśabhûmîśvara.[142] An account of the ten stages in the career of
a Bodhisattva before he can attain to Buddhahood. The scene is laid in
the paradise of Indra where Śâkyamuni was temporarily sojourning and
the principal interlocutor is a Bodhisattva named Vajragarbha. It is
said to be the same as the Daśabhûmika-sûtra first translated into
Chinese about 300 A.D. (Nanjio, 105 and 110) but this work appears to
be merely a portion of the Gaṇḍa-vyûha or Avataṃsaka mentioned

These nine works are all extant in Sanskrit and are known in Nepal as
the nine Dharmas, the word Dharma being an abbreviation for
_Dharmaparyâya_, revolution or exposition of the law, a term
frequently used in the works themselves to describe a comprehensive
discourse delivered by the Buddha. They are all quoted in the
Śikshâsamuccaya, supposed to have been written about 650 A.D. No
similar collection of nine seems to be known in Tibet or the Far East
and the origin of the selection is obscure. As however the list does
not include the Svayambhû Purâṇa, the principal indigenous scripture
of Nepal, it may go back to an Indian source and represent an old

Besides the nine Dharmas, numerous other sûtras exist in Sanskrit,
Chinese, Tibetan and the languages of Central Asia. Few have been
edited or translated and even when something is known of their
character detailed information as to their contents is usually
wanting. Among the better known are the following.

10. One of the sûtras most read in China and admired because its style
has a literary quality unusual in Buddhist works is commonly known as
the Lêng-yen-ching. The full title is Shou-lêng-yen-san-mei-ching
which is the Chinese transliteration of Śûrangama Samâdhi.[143] This
sutra is quoted by name in the Śikshâsamuccaya and fragments of the
Sanskrit text have been found in Turkestan.[144] The Śûrangama-Samâdhi
Sûtra has been conjectured to be the same as the Samâdhirâja, but the
accounts of Rajendralala Mitra and Beal do not support this theory.
Beal's translation leaves the impression that it resembles a Pali
sutta. The scene is laid in the Jetavana with few miraculous
accessories. The Buddha discusses with Ânanda the location of the soul
and after confuting his theories expounds the doctrine of the
Dharma-kâya. The fragments found in Turkestan recommend a particular
form of meditation.

11. Târanâtha informs us that among the many Mahayanist works which
appeared in the reign of Kanishka's son was the Ratnakûṭa-dharma-paryâya
in 1000 sections and the Ratnakûṭa is cited not only by the
Śikshâsamuccaya but by Asanga.[145] The Tibetan and Chinese
canons contain sections with this name comprising forty-eight
or forty-nine items among which are the three important treatises
about Amitâbha's paradise and many dialogues called Paripṛicchâ, that
is, questions put by some personage, human or superhuman, and
furnished with appropriate replies.[146] The Chinese Ratnakûṭa is
said to have been compiled by Bodhiruchi (693-713 A.D.) but of course
he is responsible only for the selection not for the composition of
the works included. Section 14 of this Ratnakûṭa is said to be
identical with chapters 11 and 12 of the Mûlasarvâstivâdin

12. The Guṇa-kâraṇḍa-vyûha and Kâraṇḍa-vyûha are said to be two
recensions of the same work, the first in verse the second in prose.
Both are devoted to the praise of Avalokita who is represented as the
presiding deity of the universe. He has refused to enter Buddhahood
himself until all living creatures attain to true knowledge and is
specially occupied in procuring the release of those who suffer in
hell. The Guṇa-kâraṇḍa-vyûha contains a remarkable account of the
origin of the world which is said to be absent from the prose version.
The primeval Buddha spirit, Âdi-Buddha or Svayambhû, produces
Avalokita by meditation, and Avalokita produces the material world and
the gods of Hinduism from his body, Śiva from his forehead, Nârâyaṇa
from his heart and so on. As such doctrines are not known to have
appeared in Indian Buddhism before the tenth century it seems probable
that the versified edition is late. But a work with the title
Ratna-kâraṇḍaka-vyûha-sûtra was translated into Chinese in 270 and
the Kâraṇḍa-vyûha is said to have been the first work translated
into Tibetan.[148]

13. The Karuṇâa-puṇḍarîka[149] or Lotus of Compassion is mainly
occupied with the description of an imaginary continent called
Padmadhâtu, its Buddha and its many splendours. It exists in Sanskrit
and was translated into Chinese about 400 A.D. (Nanjio, No. 142).

14. The Mahâvairocanâbhisambhodhi called in Chinese Ta-jih-ching or
Great Sun sutra should perhaps be mentioned as it is the principal
scripture of the Chên-yen (Japanese Shingon) school. It is a late work
of unknown origin. It was translated into Chinese in 724 A.D. but the
Sanskrit text has not been found.

There are a great number of other sutras which are important for the
history of literature, although little attention is paid to them by
Buddhists at the present day. Such are the Mahayanist version of the
Mahâparinirvâṇa recounting the death and burial of the Buddha and the
Mahâsannipâta-sûtra, which apparently includes the Sûryagarbha and
Candragarbha sutras. All these works were translated into Chinese
about 420 A.D. and must therefore be of respectable antiquity.

Besides the sutras, there are many compositions styled Avadânas or
pious legends.[150] These, though recognized by Mahayanists, do not as
a rule contain expositions of the Sûnyatâ and Dharma-kâya and are not
sharply distinguished from the more imaginative of the Hinayanist
scriptures.[151] But they introduce a multiplicity of Buddhas and
Bodhisattvas and represent Sâkyamuni as a superhuman worker of

They correspond in many respects to the Pali Vinaya but teach right
conduct not so much by precept as by edifying stories and, like most
Mahayanist works they lay less stress upon monastic discipline than on
unselfish virtue exercised throughout successive existences. There are
a dozen or more collections of Avadânas of which the most important
are the Mahâvastu and the Divyâvadâna. The former[152] is an
encyclopædic work which contains _inter alia_ a life of Sâkyamuni. It
describes itself as belonging to the Lokottaravâdins, a section of the
Âryamahâ-sanghikas. The Lokottaravâdins were an ancient sect,
precursors of the Mahayana rather than a branch of it, and much of the
Mahâvastu is parallel to the Pali Canon and may have been composed a
century or two before our era. But other parts seem to belong to the
Gandharan period and the mention of Chinese and Hunnish writing points
to a much later date.[153] If it was originally a Vinaya treatise, it
has been distended out of all recognition by the addition of legends
and anecdotes but it still retains a certain amount of matter found
also in the Pali and Tibetan Vinayas. There were probably several
recensions in which successive additions were made to the original
nucleus. One interpolation is the lengthy and important section called
Daśabhûmika, describing the career of a Bodhisattva. It is the only
part of the Mahâvastu which can be called definitely Mahayanist. The
rest of the work marks a transitional stage in doctrine, just as its
language is neither Prakrit or Sanskrit but some ancient vernacular
brought into partial conformity with Sanskrit grammar. No Chinese
translation is known.

The Divyâvadâna[154] is a collection of legends, part of which is
known as the Asokâvadâna and gives an edifying life of that pious
monarch. This portion was translated into Chinese A.D. 317-420 and the
work probably dates from the third century of our era. It is loosely
constructed: considerable portions of it seem to be identical with the
Vinaya of the Sarvâstivâdins and others with passages in the works of

The Avadânas lie on the borderland between scripture and pious
literature which uses human argument and refers to scripture for its
authority. Of this literature the Mahayanist church has a goodly
collection and the works ascribed to such doctors as Aśvaghosha,
Nâgârjuna, Asanga and Vasubandhu hold a high place in general esteem.
The Chinese Canon places many of them in the Pitakas (especially in
the Abhidharma Pitaka) and not among the works of miscellaneous

The Mahayanist scriptures are still a living force. In Nepal the nine
Dharmas receive superstitious homage rather than intelligent study,
but in Tibet and the Far East the Prajñâ-pâramitâ, the Lotus and the
sutras about Amitâbha are in daily use for public worship and private
reading. I have heard the first-named work as well as the
Lêng-yen-ching expounded, that is, read aloud with an extempore
paraphrase, to lay congregations in China, and the section of it
called the Diamond Cutter is the book which is most commonly in the
hands of religious Tibetans. The Lotus is the special scripture of the
Nichiren sect in Japan but is universally respected. The twenty-fourth
chapter which contains the praises of Avalokita is often printed
separately. The Amitâbha sûtras take the place of the New Testament
for the Jōdō and Shin sects and copies of them may also be found in
almost every monastery throughout China and Annam. The Suvarṇa-prabhâsa
is said to be specially popular among the Mongols. I know Chinese
Buddhists who read the Hua-yen (Avataṃsaka) every day. Modern Japanese
writers quote frequently from the Lankâvatâra and Kâśyapa-parivarta
but I have not met with any instance of these works being in popular

I have mentioned already the obscurity surrounding the history of the
Mahayanist Canon in India and it may seem to throw doubt on the
authenticity of these scriptures. Unauthentic they certainly are in
the sense that European criticism is not likely to accept as
historical the discourses which they attribute to the Buddha and
others, but there is no reason to doubt that they are treatises
composed in India early in our era and representing the doctrines then
prevalent. The religious public of India has never felt any difficulty
in accepting works of merit--and often only very moderate merit--as
revelations, whether called Upanishads, Puranas, Sutras or what not.
Only rarely have such works received any formal approbation, such as
recognition by a council. Indeed it is rather in Ceylon, Burma, Tibet
and China than in India itself that authoritative lists of scriptures
have been compiled. The natural instinct of the Hindus was not to
close the Canon but to leave it open for any additions which might be

Two sketches of an elastic Mahayanist Canon of this kind are
preserved, one in the Śikshâsamuccaya[155] attributed to Śântideva,
who probably flourished in the seventh century, and the other in a
little work called the Duration of the Law, reporting a discourse by
an otherwise unknown Nandimitra, said to have lived in Ceylon 800
years after the Buddha's death.[156] The former is a compendium of
doctrine illustrated by quotations from what the author regarded as
scripture. He cites about a hundred Mahayanist sutras, refers to the
Vinaya and Divyâvadâna but not apparently to the Abhidharma. He
mentions no Tantras[157] and not many Dhâraṇîs.

The second work was translated by Hsüan Chuang and was therefore
probably written before 600 A.D.[158] Otherwise there is no external
evidence for fixing its date. It represents Nandimitra as explaining
on his deathbed the steps taken by the Buddha to protect the True Law
and in what works that Law is to be found. Like the Chinese Tripitaka
it recognizes both Mahayanist and Hinayanist works, but evidently
prefers the former and styles them collectively Bodhisattva-Piṭaka.
It enumerates about fifty sutras by name, beginning with the
Prajñâ-pâramitâ, the Lotus and other well-known texts. Then comes a
list of works with titles ending in Samâdhi, followed by others called
Paripṛicchâ[159] or questions. A new category seems to be formed by
the Buddhâvataṃsaka-sûtra with which the sutras about Amitâbha's
Paradise are associated. Then comes the Mahâsannipâta-sûtra associated
with works which may correspond to the Ratnakûṭa division of the
Chinese Canon.[160] The writer adds that there are "hundreds of
myriads of similar sutras classified in groups and categories." He
mentions the Vinaya and Abhidharma without further particulars,
whereas in describing the Hinayanist versions of these two Pitakas he
gives many details.

The importance of this list lies in the fact that it is Indian rather
than in its date, for the earliest catalogue of the Chinese Tripitaka
compiled about[161] 510 is perhaps older and certainly ampler. But if
the catalogue stood alone, it might be hard to say how far the
selection of works in it was due to Chinese taste. But taking the
Indian and Chinese evidence together, it is clear that in the sixth
century Indian Mahayanists (_a_) tolerated Hinayanist scriptures while
preferring their own, (_b_) made little use of the Vinaya or
Abhidharma for argument or edification, though the former was very
important as a code, (_c_) recognized extremely numerous sutras,
grouped in various classes such as Mahâsannipâta and Buddhâvataṃsaka,
(_d_) and did not use works called Tantras. Probably much the same is
true of the fourth century and even earlier, for Asanga in one
work[162] quotes both Maha-and Hinayanist scriptures and among the
former cites by name seventeen sutras, including one called
Paripṛicchâ or questions.


[Footnote 119: In the Mahâyâna-sûtrâlankâra he quotes frequently from
the Samyukta and Ekottara Âgamas, corresponding to the Samyutta and
Anguttara Nikâyas of the Pali.]

[Footnote 120: A reading Vaitulya has also been found in some
manuscripts of the Lotus discovered at Kashgar and it is suggested
that the word may refer to the sect of Vetullas or Vetulyakas
mentioned in the Commentary on the Kathâvatthu as holding that the
Buddha really remained in the Tushita heaven and sent a phantom to
represent him in the world and that it was Ânanda, not the Buddha, who
preached the law. See Kern, _Vers. en Med. der K. Ak. v.
Wetenschappen, Letterk._, R. 4 D. VIII. pp. 312-9, Amsterdam, 1907,
and De la Vallée Poussin's notice of this article in _J.R.A.S._ 1907,
pp. 434-6. But this interpretation does not seem very probable.]

[Footnote 121: IV. 160. 5.]

[Footnote 122: See Cullavagga, V. 33. The meaning evidently is that
the Buddha's words are not to be enshrined in an artificial literary
form which will prevent them from being popular.]

[Footnote 123: Sûtrâlankâra, I. 2.]

[Footnote 124: See Waddell, "The Dhâraṇî cult" in _Ostasiat. Ztsft_.
1912, pp. 155 ff.]

[Footnote 125: Chap. XXI, which is however a later addition.]

[Footnote 126: Dig. Nik. 32.]

[Footnote 127: Watters, _Yüan Chwang_, II. p. 160.]

[Footnote 128: The Mahâvyutpatti (65) gives a list of 105 sûtras.]

[Footnote 129: The word pâram-itâ means as an adjective _gone to the
further shore_ or _transcendent_. As a feminine substantive it means a
transcendent virtue or perfection.]

[Footnote 130: See Walleser, _Prajñâ-pâramitâ_ in _Quellen der
Religionsgeschichte_, pp. 15 ff. _S.B.E._ XLIX. Nanjio, Catalogue Nos.
1-20 and Rajendralala Mitra's _Nepalese Buddhist Literature_, pp. 177
ff. Versions are mentioned consisting of 125,000 verses, 100,000
verses, 25,000 verses, 10,000 verses and 8,000 verses respectively.
(Similarly at the beginning of the Mahâbhârata we are told that the
Epic consists of 8,800 verses, of 24,000 and of 100,000.) Of these the
last or Ashṭasâhasrikâ has been published in the _Bibliotheca Indica_
and the second or Śatasâhasrikâ is in process of publication. It is in
prose, so that the expression "verses" appears not to mean that the
works are Gâthâs. A Khotanese version of the Vajracchedikâ is edited
in Hoernle's _Manuscript Remains_ by Sten Konow. The Sanskrit text was
edited by Max Müller in _Anecdota Oxoniensia._]

[Footnote 131: The Sanskrit text has been edited by Kern and Nanjio in
_Bibliotheca Buddhica_; translated by Burnouf (_Le Lotus de la bonne
Loi_), 1852 and by Kern (Saddharma-Puṇḍarîka) in _S.B.E._ vol. XXI.]

[Footnote 132: There appears to have been an earlier Chinese version
of 255 A.D. but it has been lost. See Nanjio, p. 390. One of the later
Chinese versions alludes to the existence of two recensions (Nanjio,
No. 139). See _B.E.F.E.O._ 1911, p. 453. Fragments of a shorter and
apparently earlier recension of the Lotus have been discovered in E.
Turkestan. See _J.R.A.S._ 1916, pp. 269-277.]

[Footnote 133: Edited by Rajendralala Mitra in the _Bibliotheca
Indica_ and partially translated in the same series. A later critical
edition by Lefmann, 1902-8.]

[Footnote 134: The early Chinese translations seem doubtful. One said
to have been made under the later Han has been lost. See Nanjio, No.

[Footnote 135: See Burnouf, _Introduction_, pp. 458 ff. and _J.R.A.S._
1905, pp. 831 ff. Rajendralala Mitra, _Nepalese Buddhist Literature_,
p. 113. A brief analysis is given in _J.A.S.B._ June, 1905 according
to which the sûtra professes to be the work of a human author, Jina of
the clan of Kâtyâyana born at Campâ. An edition of the Sanskrit text
published by the Buddhist Text Society is cited but I have not seen
it. Chinese translations were made in 443 and 515 but the first is
incomplete and does not correspond with our Sanskrit text.]

[Footnote 136: Abstract by Rajendralala Mitra, _Nepalese Buddhist
Lit_. p. 241.]

[Footnote 137: See Nanjio, No. 127 and F.W.K. Muller in _Abhandl. der
K. Preuss. Akad. der Wissenschaften_, 1908. The Uigur text is
published in _Bibliotheca Buddhica_, 1914. Fragments of the Sanskrit
text have also been found in Turkestan.]

[Footnote 138: Abstract by Raj. Mitra, _Nepalese Buddhist Lit._ pp. 90
ff. The Śikshâsamuccaya cites the Gaṇḍa-vyûha several times and does
not mention the Avataṃsaka.]

[Footnote 139: The statement was first made on the authority of
Takakusu quoted by Winternitz in _Ges. Ind. Lit_. II. i. p. 242.
Watanabe in _J.R.A.S._ 1911, 663 makes an equally definite statement
as to the identity of the two works. The identity is confirmed by
Pelliot in _J.A._ 1914, II. pp. 118-121.]

[Footnote 140: Abstract by Raj. Mitra, _Nepalese Buddhist Lit._ pp. 81
ff. Quoted in Śântideva's Bodhicaryâvatâra, VIII. 106.]

[Footnote 141: See _J.R.A.S._ 1911, 663.]

[Footnote 142: Abstract by Raj. Mitra, _Nepalese Buddhist Lit._ pp. 81

[Footnote 143: Translated in part by Beal, _Catena of Buddhist
Scriptures_, pp. 286-369. See also Teitaro Suzuki, _Outlines of
Mahâyâna_, p. 157. For notices of the text see Nanjio, Nos. 399, 446,
1588. Fa-Hsien, Chap. XXIX. For the equivalence of Shou-lêng-yen and
Śûrangama see Nanjio's note to No. 399 and Julien, _Méthode_, 1007 and
Vasilief, p. 175.]

[Footnote 144: See Śikshâs, ed. Bendall, pp. 8,91 and _Hoernle,
Manuscript remains_, I. pp. 125 ff.]

[Footnote 145: Mahâyâna-sûtrâlankâra, XIX. 29.]

[Footnote 146: _E.g._ the Râshtra-pâla-paripṛicchâ edited in Sanskrit
by Finot, _Biblioth. Buddhica_, 1901. The Sanskrit text seems to agree
with the Chinese version. The real number of sûtras in the Ratnakûṭa
seems to be 48, two being practically the same but represented as
uttered on different occasions.]

[Footnote 147: There is another somewhat similar collection of sûtras
in the Chinese Canon called Ta Tsi or Mahâsannipâta but unlike the
Ratnakûṭa it seems to contain few well-known or popular works.]

[Footnote 148: I know of these works only by Raj. Mitra's abstracts,
_Nepal. Bud. Lit._ pp. 95 and 101. The prose text is said to have been
published in Sanskrit at Calcutta, 1873.]

[Footnote 149: Raj. Mitra, _Nepalese Buddhist Lit_. pp. 285 ff. The
Sanskrit text was published for the Buddhist Text Society, Calcutta,

[Footnote 150: Avadâna is primarily a great and glorious act: hence an
account of such an act.]

[Footnote 151: The Avadâna-śataka (Feer, _Annales du Musée Guimet_,
XVIII) seems to be entirely Hinayanist.]

[Footnote 152: Edited by Senart, 3 vols. 1882-1897. Windisch, _Die
Komposition des Mahâvastu_, 1909. Article "Mahavâstu" in _E.R.E._]

[Footnote 153: So too do the words Horâpâthaka (astrologer),
Ujjhebhaka (? Uzbek), Peliyaksha (? Felix). The word Yogâcâra (I. 120)
may refer simply to the practice of Yoga and not to the school which
bore this name.]

[Footnote 154: Edited by Cowell and Neil, 1886. See Nanjio, 1344.]

[Footnote 155: Edited by Bendall in _Bibl. Buddhica._]

[Footnote 156: Nanjio, No. 1466. For a learned discussion of this work
see Lévi and Chavannes in _J.A._ 1916, Nos. I and II.]

[Footnote 157: It is not likely that the Tathâgata-guhya-sûtra which
it quotes is the same as the Tantra with a similar name analysed by
Rajendralal Mitra.]

[Footnote 158: Watters, _J.R.A.S._ 1898, p. 331 says there seems to
have been an earlier translation.]

[Footnote 159: Many works with this title will be found in Nanjio.]

[Footnote 160: But the Chinese title seems rather to represent

[Footnote 161: See Nanjio, pp. xiii-xvii.]

[Footnote 162: Mahâyâna-sûtrâlankâra. See Lévi's introduction, p. 14.
The "Questions" sutra is Brahma-paripṛicchâ.]



In the previous chapters I have enumerated some features of
Mahayanism, such as the worship of Bodhisattvas leading to mythology,
the deification of Buddhas, entailing a theology as complicated as the
Christian creeds, the combination of metaphysics with religion, and
the rise of new scriptures consecrating all these innovations. I will
now essay the more difficult task of arranging these phenomena in some
sort of chronological setting.

The voluminous Chinese literature concerning Buddhism offers valuable
assistance, for the Chinese, unlike the Hindus, have a natural
disposition to write simple narratives recording facts and dates. But
they are diarists and chroniclers rather than historians. The Chinese
pilgrims to India give a good account of their itinerary and
experiences, but they have little idea of investigating and arranging
past events and merely recount traditions connected with the places
which they visited. In spite of this their statements have
considerable historical value and on the whole harmonize with the
literary and archælogical data furnished by India.

The Tibetan Lama Târanâtha who completed his History of Indian
Buddhism[163] in 1608 is a less satisfactory authority. He merits
attention but also scepticism and caution. His work is a compilation
but is not to be despised on that ground, for the Tibetan translations
of Sanskrit works offer a rich mine of information about the history
of the Mahayana. Unfortunately few of these works take the historical
point of view and Târanâtha's own method is as uncritical as his
materials. Dire confusion prevails as to chronology and even as to
names,[164] so that the work is almost useless as a connected account,
though it contains many interesting details.

Two epochs are of special importance for the development of later
Indian Buddhism, that of Kanishka and that of Vasubandhu and his
brother Asanga. The reader may expect me to discuss at length the date
of Kanishka's accession, but I do not propose to do so for it may be
hoped that in the next few years archælogical research in India or
Central Asia will fix the chronology of the Kushans and meanwhile it
is waste of time to argue about probabilities or at any rate it can be
done profitably only in special articles. At present the majority of
scholars place his accession at about 78 A.D., others put it back to
58 B.C. and arrange the Kushan kings in a different order,[165] while
still others[166] think that he did not come to the throne until the
second century was well advanced. The evidence of art, particularly of
numismatics, indicates that Kanishka reigned towards the end of his
dynasty rather than at the beginning, but the use of Greek on his
coins and his traditional connection with the beginnings of the
Mahayana are arguments against a very late date. If the date 78 A.D.
is accepted, the conversion of the Yüeh-chih to Buddhism and its
diffusion in Central Asia cannot have been the work of Kanishka, for
Buddhism began to reach China by land about the time of the Christian
era.[167] There is however no reason to assume that they were his
work. Kanishka, like Constantine, probably favoured a winning cause,
and Buddhism may have been gradually making its way among the Kushans
and their neighbours for a couple of centuries before his time. In any
case, however important his reign may have been for the Buddhist
Church, I do not think that the history of the Mahayana should be made
to depend on his date. Chinese translations, supported by other
evidence, indicate that the Mahayanist movement had begun about the
time of our era. If it is proved that Kanishka lived considerably
later, we should not argue that Mahayanism is later than was supposed
but rather that his relation towards it has been misunderstood.[168]

The date of Vasubandhu has also been much discussed and scholars have
generally placed him in the fourth or fifth century but Péri[169]
appears to have proved that he lived from about 280 to 360 A.D. and I
shall adopt this view. This chronology makes a reasonable setting for
the development of Buddhism. If Kanishka reigned from about 78 to 123
A.D. or even later, there is no difficulty in supposing that
Aśvaghosha flourished in his reign and was followed by Nâgârjuna. The
collapse of the Kushan Empire was probably accompanied by raids from
Iranian tribes, for Persian influence appears to have been strong in
India during the confused interval between the Kushans and Guptas
(225-320). The latter inaugurated the revival of Hinduism but still
showed favour to individual Buddhists, and we know from Fa-Hsien that
Buddhism was fairly flourishing during his visit to India (399-415).
There is nothing improbable in supposing that Vasubandhu, who is
stated to have lived at Court, was patronized by the early Guptas. The
blank in Buddhist history which follows his career can be explained
first by the progress of Hinduism at the expense of Buddhism and
secondly by the invasions of the Huns. The Chinese pilgrim Sung-Yün
has left us an account of India in this distressful period and for the
seventh century the works of Hsüan Chuang and I-Ching give copious

In investigating the beginnings of the Mahayana we may start from the
epoch of Asoka, who is regarded by tradition as the patron and
consolidator of the Hinayanist Church. And the tradition seems on the
whole correct: the united evidence of texts and inscriptions goes to
show that the Buddhists of Asoka's time held the chief doctrines
subsequently professed by the Sinhalese Church and did not hold the
other set of doctrines known as Mahayanist. That these latter are
posterior in time is practically admitted by the books that teach
them, for they are constantly described as the crown and completion of
a progressive revelation. Thus the Lotus[170] illustrates the
evolution of doctrine by a story which curiously resembles the parable
of the prodigal son except that the returned penitent does not
recognize his father, who proceeds to reveal gradually his name and
position, keeping back the full truth to the last. Similarly it is
held in the Far East that there were five periods in Śâkyamuni's
teaching which after passing through the stage of the Hinayana
culminated in the Prajñâ-pâramitâ and Amitâbha sutras shortly before
his death. Such statements admit the historical priority of the
Hinayana: it is rudimentary (that is early) truth which needs
completion and expansion. Many critics demur to the assumption that
primitive Buddhism was a system of ethics purged of superstition and
mythology. And in a way they are right. Could we get hold of a
primitive Buddhist, we should probably find that miracles, magic, and
superhuman beings played a large part in his mind and that the Buddha
did not appear to him as what we call a human teacher. In that sense
the germs of the Mahayana existed in the life-time of Gotama. But the
difference between early and later Buddhism lies in this, that the
deities who surround the Buddha in the Pali Pitakas are mere
accessories: his teaching would not be affected if they were all
removed. But the Bodhisattvas in the Lotus or the Sutra of the Happy
Land have a doctrinal significance.

Though in India old ideas persist with unusual vitality, still even
there they can live only if they either develop or gather round them
new accretions. As one of the religions of India, Buddhism was
sensitive to the general movement of Indian thought, or rather it was
a part of that movement. We see as clearly in Buddhist as in
non-Buddhist India that there was a tendency to construct philosophic
systems and another tendency to create deities satisfying to the
emotions as well as to the intellect and yet another tendency to
compose new scriptures. But apart from this parallel development, it
becomes clear after the Christian era that Buddhism is becoming
surrounded by Hinduism. The influence is not indeed one-sided: there
is interdependence and interpenetration but the net result is that the
general Indian features of each religious period overpower the
specially Buddhist features and in the end we find that while Hinduism
has only been profoundly modified Buddhism has vanished.

If we examine the Pali Pitakas, including the heresies mentioned in
the Kathâvatthu, we find that they contain the germs of many
Mahayanist ideas. Thus side by side with the human portrait of the
Buddha there is the doctrine that he is one in a series of
supernatural teachers, each with the same life-history, and this life
is connected with the whole course of nature, as is shown by the
sympathetic earthquakes which mark its crises. His birth is
supernatural and had he willed it he could have lived until the end of
the present Kalpa.[171] So, too, the nature of a Buddha when he is
released from form, that is after death, is deep and unfathomable as
the ocean.[172] The Kathâvatthu condemns the ideas (thus showing that
they existed) that Buddhas are born in all quarters of the universe,
that the Buddha was superhuman in the ordinary affairs of life, that
he was not really born in the world of men and that he did not preach
the Law himself. These last two heresies are attributed by the
commentary to the Vetulyakas who are said to have believed that he
remained in the Tushita heaven and sent a phantom to preach on earth.
Here we have the rudiments of the doctrine afterwards systematized
under the name of the three bodies of Buddha. Similarly though Nirvana
is regarded as primarily an ethical state, the Pali Canon contains the
expression Nirvâṇadhâtu and the idea[173] that Nirvana is a sphere or
realm (_âyatanam_) which transcends the transitory world and in which
such antitheses are coming and going, birth and death, cease to exist.
This foreshadows the doctrine of Bhûta-tathatâ and we seem to hear a
prelude to the dialectic of Nâgârjuna when the Kathâvatthu discusses
whether Suññatâ or the void is predicable of the Skandhas and when it
condemns the views that anything now existing existed in the past: and
that knowledge of the present is possible (whereas the moment anything
is known it is really past). The Kathâvatthu also condemns the
proposition that a Bodhisattva can be reborn in realms of woe or fall
into error, and this proposition hints that the career of a
Bodhisattva was considered of general interest.

The Mahayana grows out of the Hinayana and in many respects the
Hinayana passes into it and is preserved unchanged. It is true that in
reading the Lotus we wonder how this marvellous cosmic vision can
represent itself as the teaching of Gotama, but the Buddhacarita of
Aśvaghosha, though embellished with literary mythology, hardly
advances in doctrine beyond the Pali sutras describing the marvels of
the Buddha's nativity[174] and the greater part of Nâgârjuna's
Friendly Epistle, which purports to contain an epitome of the faith,
is in phraseology as well as thought perfectly in harmony with the
Pali Canon. Whence comes this difference of tone in works accepted by
the same school? One difficulty of the historian who essays to account
for the later phases of Buddhism is to apportion duly the influence of
Indian and foreign elements. On the one hand, the Mahayana, whether we
call it a development or perversion, is a product of Indian thought.
To explain its trinities, its saviours, its doctrine of self sacrifice
it is not necessary to seek abroad. New schools, anxious to claim
continuity and antiquity, gladly retained as much of the old doctrine
as they could. But on the other hand, Indian Buddhism came into
contact with foreign, especially Iranian, ideas and undoubtedly
assimilated some of them. From time to time I have drawn attention to
such cases in this work, but as a rule the foreign ideas are so
thoroughly mastered and indianized that they cease to be obvious. They
merely open up to Indian thought a new path wherein it can move in its
own way.

In the period following Asoka's death Buddhism suffered a temporary
eclipse. Pushyamitra who in 184 B.C. overthrew the Mauryas and
established the Sunga dynasty was a patron of the Brahmans. Târanâtha
describes him[175] as a ferocious persecutor, and the Divyâvadâna
supports the story. But the persecution, if it really occurred, was
probably local and did not seriously check the spread of Buddhism,
which before the time of Kanishka had extended northwards to Bactria
and Kashmir. The latter territory became the special home of the
Sarvâstivâdins. It was in the reign of Pushyamitra that the
Græco-Bactrian king Menander or Milinda invaded India (155-3 B.C.) and
there were many other invasions and settlements of tribes coming from
the north-west and variously described as Sakas, Pahlavas, Parthians
and Yavanas, culminating in the conquests of the Kushans. The whole
period was disturbed and confused but some general statements can be
made with considerable confidence.

From about 300 B.C. to 100 A.D. we find inscriptions, buildings and
statues testifying to the piety of Buddhist and Jain donors but hardly
any indications of a similar liberality to Brahmans. In the second and
third centuries A.D. grants of land to Brahmans and their temples
begin to be recorded and in the fourth century (that is with the rise
of the Gupta Dynasty) such grants become frequent. These facts can
hardly be interpreted otherwise than as meaning that from 300 B.C. to
100 A.D. the upper classes of India favoured Buddhism and Jainism and
did not favour the Brahmans in the same way or to the same extent. But
it must be remembered that the religion of the Brahmans continued
throughout this period and produced a copious literature, and also
that the absence of works of art may be due to the fact that their
worship was performed in sacrificial enclosures and that they had not
yet begun to use temples and statues. After the first century A.D. we
have first a gradual and then a rapid rise in Brahmanic influence.
Inscriptions as well as books indicate that a linguistic change
occurred in the same period. At first popular dialects were regarded
as sufficiently dignified and current to be the medium for both
scripture and official records. Sanskrit remained a thing apart--the
peculiar possession of the Brahman literati. Then the popular language
was Sanskritized, the rules of Sanskrit grammar being accepted as the
standard to which it ought to conform, though perfect conformity was
impracticable. In much the same way the modern Greeks try to bring
Romaic into line with classical Greek. Finally Sanskrit was recognized
as the proper language for literature, government and religion. The
earliest inscriptions[176] in correct Sanskrit seem to date from the
second century A.D. Further, the invaders who entered India from the
north-west favoured Buddhism on the whole. Coins indicate that some of
them worshipped Śiva[177] but the number and beauty of Buddhist
monuments erected under their rule can hardly be interpreted except as
a sign of their patronage. And their conversion was natural for they
had no strong religious convictions of their own and the Brahmans
with their pride of caste shrank from foreigners. But Buddhism had no
prejudice of race or class: it was animated by a missionary spirit and
it was probably the stronger creed at this period. It not only met the
invaders on their entry into India but it sent missionaries to them in
Bactria and Afghanistan, so that to some extent they brought Buddhism
with them. But it was a Buddhism combined with the most varied
elements. Hellenic art and religion had made the figures of Apollo,
Herakles and Helios familiar in Bactria, and both Bactria and northern
India were in touch with Zoroastrians. The mixed cults of these
borderlands readily professed allegiance to the Buddha but, not
understanding Indian ideas, simply made him into a deity and having
done this were not likely to repudiate other Indian deities. Thus in
its outward form the Buddhism of the invaders tended to be a compound
of Indian, Greek and Persian ideas in which Sun worship played a large
part, for not only Indian myths, but Apollo and Helios and the Persian
Mithra all entered into it. Persian influence in art is discernible as
early as the architecture of Asoka: in doctrine it has something to do
with such figures as Vairocana and Amitâbha. Græco-Roman influence
also was powerful in art and through art affected religion. In Asoka's
time likenesses of the Buddha were unknown and the adoration of
images, if not entirely due to the art of Gandhara, was at least
encouraged by it.

But though coins and sculpture bring clearly before us a medley of
deities corresponding to a medley of human races, they do not help us
much in tracing the growth of thought, phases of which are preserved
in a literature sufficiently copious though the record sometimes fails
at the points of transition where it would be of most interest. It is
natural that sacred books should record accepted results rather than
tentative innovations and even disguise the latter. But we can fix a
few dates which enable us to judge what shape Buddhism was taking
about the time of the Christian era. The Tibetan historian Târanâtha
is not of much help, for his chronology is most confused, but still he
definitely connects the appearance of Mahayanist texts with the reign
of Kanishka and the period immediately following it[178] and regards
them as a new phenomenon. Greater assistance is furnished by the
Chinese translators, whose dates are known with some exactitude. Thus
the earliest Buddhist work rendered into Chinese is said to be the
sutra of forty-two sections, translated by Kâśyapa Mâtanga in 67 A.D.
It consists of extracts or resumés of the Buddha's teaching mostly
prefaced by the words "The Buddha said," doubtless in imitation of the
Confucian Analects where the introductory formula "The master said"
plays a similar part. Its ideas and precepts are Hinayanist:[179] the
Arhat is held up as the ideal and in a remarkable passage[180] where
the degrees of sanctity are graded and compared no mention is made of
Bodhisattvas. This first translation was followed by a long series of
others, principally from the Sûtra-Piṭaka, for very little of the
Vinaya was translated before the fifth century. A great number of
Hinayanist sutras were translated before 300 A.D. but very few after
450. On the other hand portions of the sutra about Amîda's Paradise,
of the Prajñâ-pâramitâ, and of the Avataṃsaka were translated about
150 A.D. and translations of the Lotus and Lalita-vistara appeared
about 300.

Great caution is necessary in using these data and the circumstances
of China as well as of India must be taken into account. If
translations of the Vinaya and complete collections of sutras are late
in appearing, it does not follow that the corresponding Indian texts
are late, for the need of the Vinaya was not felt until monasteries
began to spring up. Most of the translations made before the fifth
century are extracts and of indifferent workmanship. Some are retained
in the Chinese Tripitaka but are superseded by later versions. But
however inaccurate and incomplete these older translations may be, if
any of them can be identified with a part of an extant Sanskrit work
it follows that at least that part of the work and the doctrines
contained in it were current in India or Central Asia some time before
the translation was made. Applying this principle we may conclude that
the Hinayana and Mahayana were flourishing side by side in India and
Central Asia in the first century A.D. and that the Happy Land sutras
and portions of the Prajñâ-pâramitâ already existed. From that time
onwards Mahayanist literature as represented by Chinese translations
steadily increases, and after 400 A.D. Hinayanist literature declines,
with two exceptions, the Vinaya and the Abhidharma books of the
Sarvâstivâdins. The Vinaya was evidently regarded as a rule of life
independent of theology, but it is remarkable that Hsüan Chuang after
his return from India in 645 should have thought it worth while to
translate the philosophy of the Sarvâstivâdins.

Other considerations render this chronology probable. Two conspicuous
features of the Mahayana are the worship of Bodhisattvas and idealist
philosophy. These are obviously parallel to the worship of Śiva and
Vishnu, and to the rise of the Vedanta. Now the worship of these
deities was probably not prevalent before 300 B.C., for they are
almost unknown to the Pali Pitakas, and it was fully developed about
the time of the Bhagavad-gîtâ which perhaps assumed its present form a
little before the Christian era. Not only is the combination of
devotion and metaphysics found in this work similar to the tone of
many Mahayanist sutras but the manifestation of Krishna in his divine
form is like the transformation scenes of the Lotus.[181] The chief
moral principle of the Bhagavad-gîtâ is substantially the same as that
prescribed for Bodhisattvas. It teaches that action is superior to
inaction, but that action should be wholly disinterested and not
directed to any selfish object. This is precisely the attitude of the
Bodhisattva who avoids the inaction of those who are engrossed in
self-culture as much as the pursuit of wealth or pleasure. Both the
Gîtâ and Mahayanist treatises lay stress on faith. He who thinks on
Krishna when dying goes to Krishna[182] just as he who thinks on
Amitâbha goes to the Happy Land and the idea is not unknown to the
Pali texts, for it finds complete expression in the story of

The idea of a benevolent deity to be worshipped with devotion and
faith and not with ceremonies is strange to old Buddhism and old
Brahmanism alike. It was a popular idea which became so strong that
neither priests nor Bhikshus could ignore it and in its ultimate
result it is hard to say whether Buddhist or Brahmanic elements are
more prominent. Both Avalokita and Krishna are Devas. The former has
the beauty of holiness and the strength which it gives, but also the
weakness of a somewhat abstract figure: the latter is very personal
and springs from the heart of India but to those who are not Hindus
seems wanting in purity and simplicity. The divine character of both
figures is due to Brahmanism rather than Buddhism, but the new form of
worship which laid stress on a frame of mind rather than on ceremonial
and the idea of Avatâras or the periodic appearance of superhuman
saviours and teachers indicate the influence of Buddhism on

There is a similar parallel between the newer Buddhist philosophy and
the Vedantist school represented by Śankara, and Indian critics
detected it. Śankara was called a Pracchanna-bauddha or
crypto-buddhist by his theological opponents[184] and the resemblance
between the two systems in thought, if not in word, is striking. Both
distinguish relative and absolute truth: for both the relative truth
is practically theism, for both absolute truth is beyond description
and whether it is called Brahman, Dharma-kâya or Śûnyatâ is not
equivalent to God in the Christian or Mohammedan sense. Just as for
the Vedantist there exist in the light of the highest knowledge
neither a personal God nor an individual soul, so the Mâdhyamika Sûtra
can declare that the Buddha does not really exist. The Mahayanist
philosophers do not use the word Mâyâ but they state the same theory
in a more subjective form by ascribing the appearance of the
phenomenal world to ignorance, a nomenclature which is derived from
the Buddha's phrase, "From ignorance come the Sankhâras."

Here, as elsewhere, Buddhist and Brahmanic ideas acted and reacted in
such complex interrelations that it is hard to say which has borrowed
from the other. As to dates, the older Upanishads which contain the
foundations but not the complete edifice of Vedantism, seem a little
earlier than the Buddha. Now we know that within the Vedantist school
there were divergences of opinion which later received classic
expression in the hands of Śankara and Râmânuja. The latter rejected
the doctrines of Mâyâ and of the difference between relative and
absolute truth. The germs of both schools are to be found in the
Upanishads but it seems probable that the ideas of Śankara were
originally worked out among Buddhists rather than among Brahmans and
were rightly described by their opponents as disguised Buddhism. As
early as 520 A.D. Bodhidharma preached in China a doctrine which is
practically the same as the Advaita.

The earliest known work in which the theory of Mâyâ and the Advaita
philosophy are clearly formulated is the metrical treatise known as
the Kârikâ of Gauḍapâda. This name was borne by the teacher of
Śankara's teacher, who must have lived about 700 A.D., but the high
position accorded to the work, which is usually printed with the
Mâṇḍûkya Upanishad and is practically regarded as[185] a part of it,
make an earlier date probable. Both in language and thought it bears a
striking resemblance to Buddhist writings of the Mâdhyamika school and
also contains many ideas and similes which reappear in the works of
Śankara.[186] On the other hand the Lankâvatâra Sûtra which was
translated into Chinese in 513 and therefore can hardly have been
composed later than 450, is conscious that its doctrines resemble
Brahmanic philosophy, for an interlocutor objects that the language
used in it by the Buddha about the Tathâgatagarbha is very like the
Brahmanic doctrine of the Âtman. To which the Buddha replies that his
language is a concession to those who cannot stomach the doctrine of
the negation of reality in all its austerity. Some of the best known
verses of Gauḍapâda compare the world of appearance to the apparent
circle of fire produced by whirling a lighted torch. This striking
image occurs first in the Maitrâyana Upanishad (VI. 24), which shows
other indications of an acquaintance with Buddhism, and also in the
Lankâvatâra Sûtra.

A real affinity unites the doctrine of Śankara to the teaching of
Gotama himself. That teaching as presented in the Pali Pitakas is
marked by its negative and deliberately circumscribed character. Its
rule is silence when strict accuracy of expression is impossible,
whereas later philosophy does not shrink from phrases which are
suggestive, if not exact. Gotama refuses to admit that the human soul
is a fixed entity or Âtman, but he does not condemn (though he also
does not discuss) the idea that the whole world of change and
becoming, including human souls, is the expression or disguise of some
one ineffable principle. He teaches too that the human mind can grow
until it develops new faculties and powers and becomes the Buddha
mind, which sees the whole chain of births, the order of the world,
and the reality of emancipation. As the object of the whole system is
practical, Nirvana is always regarded as a _terminus ad quem_ or an
escape (nissaranam) from this transitory world, and this view is more
accurate as well as more edifying than the view which treats Brahman
or Śûnyatâ as the origin of the universe. When the Vedanta teaches
that this changing troubled world is merely the disguise of that
unchanging and untroubled state into which saints can pass, it is, I
believe, following Gotama's thought, but giving it an expression which
he would have considered imperfect.


[Footnote 163: Translated by Schiefner, 1869. Târanâtha informs us (p.
281) that his chief authorities were the history of Kshemendrabhadra,
the Buddhapurâna of Indradatta and Bhaṭaghaṭî's history of the
succession of the Âcâryas.]

[Footnote 164: The Tibetans generally translate instead of
transliterating Indian names. It is as if an English history of Greece
were to speak of Leader of the People instead of Agesilaus.]

[Footnote 165: They place Kanishka, Vâsishka, Huvishka and Vasudeva
before Kadphises I and Kadphises II.]

[Footnote 166: _E.g._ Staël Holstein who also thinks that Kanishka's
tribe should be called Kusha not Kushan. Vincent Smith in his latest
work (_Oxford History of India_, p. 130) gives 120 A.D. as the most
probable date.]

[Footnote 167: My chief difficulty in accepting 78-123 A.D. as the
reign of Kanishka is that the Chinese Annals record the doings of Pan
Ch'ao between 73 and 102 in Central Asia, with which region Kanishka
is believed to have had relations, and yet do not mention his name.
This silence makes it _primâ facie_ probable that he lived either
before or after Pan Ch'ao's career.

The catalogues of the Chinese Tripitaka state that An-Shih-Kao
(148-170 A.D.) translated the Mârgabhûmi-sûtra of Sangharaksha, who
was the chaplain of Kanishka. But this unfortunately proves nothing
except that Kanishka cannot have been very late. The work is not a
scripture for whose recognition some lapse of time must be postulated.
An-Shih-Kao, who came from the west, may very well have translated a
recent and popular treatise.]

[Footnote 168: In this connection we may remember Târanâtha's
statement that Kanishka's Council put an end to dissentions which had
lasted about a century. But he also states that it was after the
Council that Mahayanist texts began to appear. If Kanishka flourished
about 50 A.D. this would fit in with Târanâtha's statements and what
we know of the history of Buddhism.]

[Footnote 169: _B.E.F.E.O._ 1911, 339-390. Satiśchandra Vidyâbhûshana
arrived at the same conclusion in _J.A.S.B._ 1905, p. 227.]

[Footnote 170: Chap. IV.]

[Footnote 171: Mahâparinib. Sut. III.]

[Footnote 172: Majj. Nik. 72.]

[Footnote 173: Udâna. VIII. 1-4.]

[Footnote 174: Accariyabbhutasuttam. Majj. Nik. 123.]

[Footnote 175: Chap. XVI.]

[Footnote 176: That of Rudradaman at Girnar, dated 72 in the Saka Era,
has hitherto been considered the oldest, but it is now said that one
discovered at Isapur near Muttra is older. See _J.R.A.S_ 1912, p.

[Footnote 177: _E.g._ Kadphises II and Vasudeva.]

[Footnote 178: Chaps. XII, XIII.]

[Footnote 179: The last section (42) as translated by Teitaro Suzuki
in the _Sermons of a Buddhist Abbot_ may seem an exception, for it
contains such statements as "I consider the doctrine of sameness as
the absolute ground of reality." But the translation seems to me

[Footnote 180: Sec. 11.]

[Footnote 181: Just as all gods and worlds are seen within Krishna's
body, so we are told in the Kâraṇḍa-vyûha (which is however a later
work) that in the pores of Avalokita's skin are woods and mountains
where dwell saints and gods.]

[Footnote 182: Bhag. G. VIII. 5.]

[Footnote 183: _Commentary on Dhammapada_, P.T.S. edition, pp. 25 ff.
especially p. 33.]

[Footnote 184: See Râmânuja, Śrîbhâshya, II. 2, 27 and Padma-Purâṇa
uttarakanda 43 (quoted by Suhtankar in _Vienna Oriental Journ._ vol.
XXII. 1908). Mâyâvâdam asacchâstrâm pracchannam bauddham ucyate. The
Mâdhvas were specially bitter in their denunciation of Śankara.]

[Footnote 185: Or as itself forming four separate Upanishads. For
other arguments in favour of an early date see Walleser, _Älterer
Vedânta_, pp. 14 ff. He states that the Kârikâ is quoted in the
Tibetan translations of Bhavaviveka's _Tārkajvālā_. Bhavaviveka was
certainly anterior to the travels of Hsüan Chuang and perhaps was much
earlier. But if he died about 600 A.D. a work quoted by him can hardly
have been later than 550 and may be much earlier. But see also Jacobi
in _J.A.O.S._ April, 1913, p. 51.]

[Footnote 186: For the resemblances to Nâgârjuna see _J.R.A.S._ 1910,
pp. 136 ff. Especially remarkable are II. 32 na nirodho na cotpattir,
etc., and IV. 59 and the whole argument that causation is impossible.
Noticeable too is the use of Buddhist terms like upâya, nirvâṇa,
buddha and âdibuddha, though not always in the Buddhist sense.]



Tradition, as mentioned above, connects the rise of the Mahayana with
the reign of Kanishka. Materials for forming a picture of Indian life
under his rule are not plentiful but it was clearly an age of fusion.
His hereditary dominions were ample and he had no need to spend his
reign in conquests, but he probably subdued Kashmir as well as Khotan,
Yarkand and Kashgar.[187] Hostages from one of these states were sent
to reside in India and all accounts agree that they were treated with
generosity and that their sojourn improved the relations of Kanishka
with the northern tribes. His capital was Purushapura or Peshawar, and
the locality, like many other features of his reign, indicates a
tendency to amalgamate India with Persia and Central Asia. It was
embellished with masterpieces of Gandharan sculpture and its chief
ornament was a great stûpa built by the king for the reception of the
relics of the Buddha which he collected. This building is described by
several Chinese pilgrims[188] and its proportions, though variously
stated, were sufficient to render it celebrated in all the Buddhist
world. It is said to have been several times burnt, and rebuilt, but
so solid a structure can hardly have been totally destroyed by fire
and the greater part of the monument discovered in 1908 probably dates
from the time of Kanishka. The base is a square measuring 285 feet on
each side, with massive towers at the corners, and on each of the four
faces projections bearing staircases. The sides were ornamented with
stucco figures of the Buddha and according to the Chinese pilgrims the
super-structure was crowned with an iron pillar on which were set
twenty-five gilded disks. Inside was found a metal casket, still
containing the sacred bones, and bearing an inscription which presents
two points of great interest. Firstly it mentions "Agiśala the
overseer of works at Kanishka's vihâra," that is, probably Agesilaus,
a foreigner in the king's service. Secondly it states that the casket
was made "for the acceptance of the teachers of the Sarvâstivâdin
sect,"[189] and the idea that Kanishka was the special patron of the
Mahayana must be reconsidered in the light of this statement.

Legends ascribe Kanishka's fervour for the Buddhist faith not to
education but to conversion. His coinage, of which abundant specimens
have been preserved, confirms this for it presents images of Greek,
Persian, Indian and perhaps Babylonian deities showing how varied was
the mythology which may have mingled with Gandharan Buddhism. The
coins bearing figures of the Buddha are not numerous and, as he
undoubtedly left behind him the reputation of a pious Buddhist, it is
probable that they were struck late in his reign and represent his
last religious phase.[190] Hsüan Chuang[191] repeats some legends
which relate that he was originally anti-Buddhist, and that after his
conversion he summoned a council and built a stupa.

The substance of these legends is probable. Kanishka as a barbarian
but docile conqueror was likely to adopt Buddhism if he wished to keep
abreast of the thought and civilisation of his subjects, for at that
time it undoubtedly inspired the intellect and art of north-western
India. Both as a statesman and as an enquirer after truth he would
wish to promote harmony and stop sectarian squabbles. His action
resembles that of Constantine who after his conversion to Christianity
proceeded to summon the Council of Nicæa in order to stop the
dissensions of the Church and settle what were the tenets of the
religion which he had embraced, a point about which both he and
Kanishka seem to have felt some uncertainty. Our knowledge of
Kanishka's Council depends chiefly on the traditions reported by Hsüan
Chuang[192] which present many difficulties. He tells us that the
king, acting in consultation with Parśva, issued summonses to all the
learned doctors of his realm. They came in such crowds that a severe
test was imposed and only 499 Arhats were selected. There was some
discussion as to the place of meeting but finally Kashmir[193] was
selected and the king built a monastery for the Brethren. When the
Council met, there arose a question as to whether Vasumitra (who is
not further described) should be admitted seeing that he was not an
Arhat but aspired to the career of a Bodhisattva. But owing to the
interposition of spirits he was not only admitted but made president.

The texts of the Tripitaka were collected and the Council "composed
100,000 stanzas of Upadeśa Śâstras explanatory of the canonical
sûtras, 100,000 stanzas of Vinaya-vibhâshâ Śâstras explanatory of the
Vinaya and 100,000 of Abhidharma-vibhâshâ Śâstras explanatory of the
Abhidharma. For this exposition of the Tripitaka all learning from
remote antiquity was thoroughly examined; the general sense and the
terse language (of the Buddhist scriptures) was again and again made
clear and distinct, and learning was widely diffused for the
safe-guiding of disciples. King Kanishka caused the treatises when
finished to be written out on copper plates and enclosed these in
stone boxes which he deposited in a tope made for the purpose. He then
ordered spirits to keep and guard the texts and not to allow any to be
taken out of the country by heretics; those who wished to study them
could do so in the country. When leaving to return to his own country,
Kanishka renewed Asoka's gift of all Kashmir to the Buddhist

Paramârtha (499-569 A.D.) in his _Life of Vasubandhu_[195] gives an
account of a council generally considered to be the same as that
described by Hsüan Chuang, though the differences in the two versions
are considerable. He says that about five hundred years[196] after the
Buddha's death (_i.e._ between 87 B.C. and 13 A.D. if the Buddha died
487 B.C.) an Indian Arhat called Katyâyanî-putra, who was a monk of
the Sarvâstivâdin school, went to Kipin or Kashmir. There with 500
other Arhats and 500 Bodhisattvas he collected the Abhidharma of the
Sarvâstivâdins and arranged it in eight books called Ka-lan-ta
(Sanskrit _Grantha_) or Kan-tu (Pali _Gantho_). This compilation was
also called Jñâna-prasthâna. He then made a proclamation inviting all
who had heard the Buddha preach to communicate what they remembered.
Many spirits responded and contributed their reminiscences which were
examined by the Council and, when they did not contradict the sûtras
and the Vinaya, were accepted, but otherwise were rejected. The
selected pieces were grouped according to their subject-matter. Those
about wisdom formed the Prajñâ Grantha, and those about meditation the
Dhyâna Grantha and so on. After finishing the eight books they
proceeded to the composition of a commentary or Vibhâshâ and invited
the assistance of Aśvaghosha. When he came to Kashmir, Katyâyanî-putra
expounded the eight books to him and Aśvaghosha put them into literary
form. At the end of twelve years the composition of the commentary was
finished. It consisted of 1,000,000 verses.... Katyâyanî-putra set up
a stone inscribed with this proclamation. "Those who hereafter learn
this law must not go out of Kashmir. No sentence of the eight books,
or of the Vibhâshâ must pass out of the land, lest other schools or
the Mahayana should corrupt the true law." This proclamation was
reported to the king who approved it. The sages of Kashmir had power
over demons and set them to guard the entrance to the country, but we
are told that anyone desirous of learning the law could come to
Kashmir and was in no way interrupted.

There follows a story telling how, despite this prohibition, a native
of Ayodhya succeeded in learning the law in Kashmir and subsequently
teaching it in his native land. Paramârtha's account seems
exaggerated, whereas the prohibition described by Hsüan Chuang is
intelligible. It was forbidden to take the official copies of the law
out of Kashmir, lest heretics should tamper with them.

Târanâtha[197] gives a singularly confused account of the meeting,
which he expressly calls the third council, but makes some important
statements about it. He says that it put an end to the dissensions
which had been distracting the Buddhist Church _for nearly a century_
and that it recognized all the eighteen sects as holding the true
doctrine: that it put the Vinaya in writing as well as such parts of
the Sûtra-piṭaka and Abhidharma as were still unwritten and corrected
those which already existed as written texts: that all kinds of
Mahayanist writings appeared at this time but that the Śrâvakas raised
no opposition.

It is hard to say how much history can be extracted from these vague
and discrepant stories. They seem to refer to one assembly regarded
(at least in Tibet) as the third council of the Church and held under
Kanishka four or five hundred years[198] after the Buddha's death. As
to what happened at the council tradition seems to justify the
following deductions, though as the tradition is certainly jumbled it
may also be incorrect in details.

(_a_) The council is recognized only by the northern Church and is
unknown to the Churches of Ceylon, Burma and Siam. It seems to have
regarded Kashmir as sacred land outside which the true doctrine was
exposed to danger. (_b_) But it was not a specially Mahayanist meeting
but rather a conference of peace and compromise. Târanâtha says this
clearly: in Hsüan Chuang's account an assembly of Arhats (which at
this time must have meant Hinayanists) elect a president who was not
an Arhat and according to Paramârtha the assembly consisted of 500
Arhats and 500 Bodhisattvas who were convened by a leader of the
Sarvâstivâdin school and ended by requesting Aśvaghosha to revise
their work. (_c_) The literary result of the council was the
composition of commentaries on the three Pitakas. One of these, the
Abhidharma-mahâvibhâshâ-śâstra, translated into Chinese in 437-9 and
still extant, is said to be a work of encyclopædic character, hardly a
commentary in the strict sense. Paramârtha perhaps made a confusion in
saying that the Jñâna-prasthâna itself was composed at the council.
The traditions indicate that the council to some extent sifted and
revised the Tripitaka and perhaps it accepted the seven Abhidharma
books of the Sarvâstivâdins.[199] But it is not stated or implied that
it composed or sanctioned Mahayanist books. Târanâtha merely says that
such books appeared at this time and that the Hinayanists raised no
active objection.

But if the above is the gist of the traditions, the position described
is not clear. The council is recognized by Mahayanists yet it appears
to have resulted in the composition of a Sarvâstivâdin treatise, and
the tradition connecting the Sarvâstivâdins with the council is not
likely to be wrong, for they are recognized in the inscription on
Kanishka's casket, and Gandhara and Kashmir were their headquarters.
The decisions of councils are often politic rather than logical and it
may be that the doctors summoned by Kanishka, while compiling
Sarvâstivâdin treatises, admitted the principle that there is more
than one vehicle which can take mankind to salvation. Perhaps some
compromise based on geography was arranged, such as that Kashmir
should be left to the Sarvâstivâdin school which had long flourished
there, but that no opposition should be offered to the Mahayanists

The relations of the Sarvâstivâdins to Mahayanism are exceedingly
difficult to define and there are hardly sufficient materials for a
connected account of this once important sect, but I will state some
facts about it which seem certain.

It is ancient, for the Kathâvatthu alludes to its doctrines.[200] It
flourished in Gandhara, Kashmir and Central Asia, and Kanishka's
casket shows that he patronized it.[201] But it appears to have been
hardly known in Ceylon or Southern India. It was the principal
northern form of Hinayanism, just as the Theravâda was the southern
form. I-Ching however says that it prevailed in the Malay Archipelago.

Its doctrines, so far as known, were Hinayanist but it was
distinguished from cognate schools by holding that the external world
can be said to exist and is not merely a continual process of
becoming. It had its own version of the Abhidharma and of the Vinaya.
In the time of Fa-Hsien the latter was still preserved orally and was
not written. The adherents of this school were also called
Vaibhâshikas, and Vibhâshâ was a name given to their exegetical

But the association of the Sarvâstivâdins with Mahayanists is clear
from the council of Kanishka onwards. Many eminent Buddhists began by
being Sarvâstivâdins and became Mahayanists, their earlier belief
being regarded as preliminary rather than erroneous. Hsüan Chuang
translated the Sarvâstivâdin scriptures in his old age and I-Ching
belonged to the Mûlasarvâstivâdin school;[202] yet both authors write
as if they were devout Mahayanists. The Tibetan Church is generally
regarded as an extreme form of Mahayanism but its Vinaya is that of
the Sarvâstivâdins.

Though the Sarvâstivâdins can hardly have accepted idealist
metaphysics, yet the evidence of art and their own version of the
Vinaya make it probable that they tolerated a moderate amount of
mythology, and the Mahayanists, who like all philosophers were obliged
to admit the provisional validity of the external world, may also have
admitted their analysis of the same as provisionally valid. The
strength of the Hinayanist schools lay in the Vinaya. The Mahayanists
showed a tendency to replace it by legends and vague if noble
aspirations. But a code of discipline was necessary for large
monasteries and the code of the Sarvâstivâdins enjoyed general esteem
in Central Asia and China.

Three stages in the history of Indian Buddhism are marked by the names
of Aśvaghosha, Nâgârjuna and the two brothers Asanga and Vasubandhu.
It would be easier to give a precise description of its development if
we were sure which of the works ascribed to these worthies are
authentic, but it seems that Aśvaghosha represents an ornate and
transitional phase of the older schools leading to Mahayanism, whereas
Nâgârjuna is connected with the Prajñâ-pâramitâ and the nihilistic
philosophy described in the preceding chapter. Asanga was the founder
of the later and more scholastic system called Yogâcâra and is also
associated with a series of revelations said to have been made by

As mentioned above, tradition makes Aśvaghosha,[203] one of the most
brilliant among Sanskrit writers, live at the court of Kanishka[204]
and according to some accounts he was given to the Kushans as part of
a war indemnity. The tradition[205] is confirmed by the style and
contents of his poems and it has been noted by Foucher that his
treatment of legends is in remarkable accord with their artistic
presentment in the Gandharan sculptures. Also fragmentary manuscripts
of his dramas discovered in Central Asia appear to date from the
Kushan epoch. Aśvaghosha's rank as a poet depends chiefly on his
Buddhacarita, or life of the Buddha up to the time of his
enlightenment. It is the earliest example of a Kâvya, usually
translated as artificial epic, but here literary skill is subservient
to the theme and does not, as too often in later works, overwhelm it.
The Buddha is its hero, as Râma of the Râmâyana, and it sings the
events of his earlier life in a fine flow of elaborate but impassioned
language. Another of his poems,[206] discovered only a few years ago,
treats of the conversion of Nanda, the Buddha's half-brother.

Various other works are ascribed to Aśvaghosha and for the history of
Buddhism it is of great interest to decide whether he was really the
author of _The Awakening of Faith_. This skilful exposition of a
difficult theme is worthy of the writer of the Buddhacarita but other
reasons make his authorship doubtful, for the theology of the work may
be described as the full-blown flower of Mahayanism untainted by
Tantrism. It includes the doctrines of Bhûta-tathatâ, Âlaya-vijñâna,
Tathâgatagarbha and the three bodies of Buddha. It would be dangerous
to say that these ideas did not exist in the time of Kanishka, but
what is known of the development of doctrine leads us to expect their
full expression not then but a century or two later and other
circumstances raise suspicions as to Aśvaghosha's authorship. His
undoubted works were translated into Chinese about 400 A.D. but _The
Awakening of Faith_ a century and a half later.[207] Yet if this
concise and authoritative compendium had existed in 400, it is strange
that the earlier translators neglected it. It is also stated that an
old Chinese catalogue of the Tripitaka does not name Aśvaghosha as the

The undoubted works of Aśvaghosha treat the Buddha with ornate but
grave rhetoric as the hero of an epic. His progress is attended by
miracles such as Indian taste demands, but they hardly exceed the
marvels recounted in the Pali scriptures and there is no sign that the
hero is identified, as in the Ramayana of Tulsi Das or the Gospel
according to St. John, with the divine spirit. The poet clearly feels
personal devotion to a Saviour. He dwells on the duty of teaching
others and not selfishly seeking one's own salvation, but he does not
formulate dogmas.

The name most definitely connected with the early promulgation of
Mahayanism is Nâgârjuna.[209] A preponderance of Chinese tradition
makes him the second patriarch after Aśvaghosha[210] and this agrees
with the Kashmir chronicle which implies that he lived soon after
Kanishka.[211] He probably flourished in the latter half of the second
century. But his biographies extant in Chinese and Tibetan are almost
wholly mythical, even crediting him with a life of several centuries,
and the most that can be hoped is to extract a few grains of history
from them. He is said to have been by birth a Brahman of Vidarbha
(Berar) and to have had as teacher a Sudra named Saraha or
Râhulabhadra. When the legend states that he visited the Nâgas in the
depths of the sea and obtained books from them, it seems to admit that
he preached new doctrines. It is noticeable that he is represented not
only as a philosopher but as a great magician, builder, physician, and
maker of images.

Many works are attributed to him but they have not the same
authenticity as the poems of Aśvaghosha. Some schools make him the
author of the Prajñâ-pâramitâ but it is more usually regarded as a
revelation. The commentary on it known as Mahâ-prajñâ-pâramitâ-śâstra
is generally accepted as his work. A consensus of tradition makes him
the author of the Mâdhyamika[212] aphorisms of which some account has
been given above. It is the principal authority of its school and is
provided with a commentary attributed to the author himself and with a
later one by Candrakîrti.[213] There is also ascribed to him a work
called the Suhrillekha or friendly letter, a compendium of Buddhist
doctrines, addressed to an Indian king.[214] This work is old for it
was translated into Chinese in 434 A.D. and is a homily for laymen. It
says nothing of the Mâdhyamika philosophy and most of it deals with
the need of good conduct and the terrors of future punishment, quite
in the manner of the Hinayana. But it also commends the use of images
and incense in worship, it mentions Avalokita and Amitâbha and it
holds up the ideal of attaining Buddhahood. Nâgârjuna's authorship is
not beyond dispute but these ideas may well represent a type of
popular Buddhism slightly posterior to Aśvaghosha.[215]

In most lists of patriarchs Nâgârjuna is followed by Deva, also called
Âryadeva, Kâṇadeva or Nîlanetra. I-Ching mentions him among the older
teachers and a commentary on his principal work, the Śataśâstra, is
attributed to Vasubandhu.[216] Little is known of his special teaching
but he is regarded as an important doctor and his pupil Dharmatrâta is
also important if not as an author at least as a compiler, for
Sanskrit collections of verses corresponding to the Pali Dhammapada
are ascribed to him. Âryadeva was a native of southern India.[217]

The next epoch in the history of Buddhism is marked by the names of
Asanga and Vasubandhu. The interval between them and Deva produced no
teacher of importance, but Kumâralabdha, the founder of the
Sautrântika school and perhaps identical with Kumârata the eighteenth
Patriarch of the Chinese lists, may be mentioned. Hsüan Chuang
says[218] that he was carried off in captivity by a king who reigned
somewhere in the east of the Pamirs and that he, Aśvaghosha, Nâgârjuna
and Deva were styled the four shining suns.

Asanga and Vasubandhu were brothers, sons of a Brahman who lived at
Peshawar. They were both converted from the Sarvâstivâdin school to
Mahayanism, but the third brother Virincivatsa never changed his
convictions. Tradition connects their career with Ayodhya as well as
with Peshawar and Vasubandhu enjoyed the confidence of the reigning
monarch, who was probably Candragupta I. This identification depends
on the hypothesis that Vasubandhu lived from about 280 to 360 A.D.
which, as already mentioned, seems to me to have been proved by M.
Péri.[219] The earlier Gupta kings though not Buddhists were tolerant,
as is shown by the fact that the king of Ceylon[220] was allowed to
erect a magnificent monastery at Nâlanda in the reign of Samudragupta
(_c_. 330-375 A.D.).

Asanga founded the school known as Yogâcâra and many authorities
ascribe to him the introduction of magical practices and Tantrism. But
though he is a considerable figure in the history of Buddhism, I doubt
if his importance or culpability is so great as this. For if tradition
can be trusted, earlier teachers especially Nâgârjuna dealt in spells
and invocations and the works of Asanga[221] known to us are
characterized by a somewhat scholastic piety and are chiefly occupied
in defining and describing the various stages in the spiritual
development of a Bodhisattva. It is true that he admits the use of
magical formulæ[222] as an aid in this evolution but they form only a
slight part of his system and it does not appear that the Chên-yen or
Shingon sect of the Far East (the Sanskrit Mantrayâna) traced its
lineage back to him.

Our estimate of his position in the history of Buddhism must depend on
our opinion as to the authorship of _The Awakening of Faith_. If this
treatise was composed by Aśvaghosha then doctrines respecting the
three bodies of Buddha, the Tathâgatagarbha and the Âlaya-vijñâna
were not only known but scientifically formulated considerably before
Asanga. The conclusion cannot be rejected as absurd--for Aśvaghosha
might speak differently in poems and in philosophical treatises--but
it is surprising, and it is probable that the treatise is not his. If
so, Asanga may have been the first to elaborate systematically (though
not to originate) the idea that thought is the one and only reality.
Nâgârjuna's nihilism was probably the older theory. It sounds late and
elaborate but still it follows easily if the dialectic of Gotama is
applied uncompromisingly not only to our mental processes but to the
external world. Yet even in India the result was felt to be fantastic
and sophistical and it is not surprising if after the lapse of a few
generations a new system of idealism became fashionable which,
although none too intelligible, was abstruse rather than paradoxical.

Asanga was alleged to have received revelations from Maitreya and five
of his works are attributed to this Bodhisattva who enjoyed
considerable honour at this period. It may be that the veneration for
the Buddha of the future, the Messiah who would reign over his saints
in a pure land, owed something to Persian influence which was strong
in India during the decadence of the Kushans.[223] Both Mithraism and
Manichæism classified their adepts in various ranks, and the Yogâcâra
doctors who delight in grading the progress of the Bodhisattva may
have borrowed something from them.[224] Asanga's doctrine of
defilement (kleśa) and purification may also owe something to Mani, as
suggested by S. Lévi.

In spite of his literary merits Asanga remains a doctor rather than a
saint or poet.[225] His speculations have little to do with either
Gotama or Amitâbha and he was thus not in living touch with either the
old or new schools. His brother Vasubandhu had perhaps a greater
position. He is reckoned as the twentieth Patriarch and Tibetan
tradition connects him with the worship of Amitâbha.[226]

Paramârtha's life of Vasubandhu represents him as having frequented
the court of Vikramâditya (to be identified with Candragupta I), who
at first favoured the Sânkhya philosophy but accorded some patronage
to Buddhism. During this period Vasubandhu was a Sarvâstivâdin but of
liberal views[227] and while in this phase wrote the Abhidharma-kośa,
a general exposition of the Abhidharma, mainly according to the views
of the Vaibhâshikas but not without criticism. This celebrated work is
not well known in Europe[228] but is still a text-book amongst
Japanese Buddhist students. It gained the esteem of all schools and we
are given to understand that it presupposed the philosophy of the
Vibhâshâ and of the Jñâna-prasthâna. According to Paramârtha the
original work consisted of 600 aphorisms in verse which were sent by
the author to the monks of Kashmir. They approved of the composition
but, as the aphorisms were concise, asked for fuller explanations.
Vasubandhu then expanded his verses into a prose commentary, but
meanwhile his views had undergone a change and when he disapproved of
any Vaibhâshika doctrine, he criticized it. This enlarged edition by
no means pleased the brethren of Kashmir and called forth polemics. He
also wrote a controversial work against the Sânkhya philosophy.

Late in life Vasubandhu, moved by the entreaties of his brother
Asanga, became a devout Mahayanist and wrote in his old age
Mahayanist treatises and commentaries.[229]


[Footnote 187: The uncertainty as to the date of Kanishka naturally
makes it uncertain whether he was the hero of these conquests. Kashmir
was certainly included in the dominions of the Kushans and was a
favourite residence of Kanishka. About 90 A.D. a Kushan king attacked
Central Asia but was repulsed by the Chinese general Pan-Ch'ao. Later,
after the death of Pan-Ch'ao (perhaps about 103 A.D.), he renewed the
attempt and conquered Kashgar, Yarkand and Khotan. See Vincent Smith,
_Early History of India_, 3rd ed. pp. 253 ff.]

[Footnote 188: See Fa-Hsien, ed. Legge, p. 33, _B.E.F.E.O._ 1903 (Sung
Yün), pp. 420 ff. Watters, _Yüan Chwang_, I. pp. 204 ff. _J.R.A.S._
1909, p. 1056, 1912, p. 114. For the general structure of these stûpas
see Foucher, _L'art Gréco-Bouddhique du Gandhara_, pp. 45 ff.]

[Footnote 189: _J.R.A.S._ 1909, p. 1058. "Acaryanam Sarvastivadinam

[Footnote 190: Similarly Harsha became a Buddhist late in life.]

[Footnote 191: Watters, vol. I. p. 203. He places Kanishka's accession
400 years after the death of the Buddha, which is one of the arguments
for supposing Kanishka to have reigned about 50 B.C., but in another
passage (Watters, I. 222, 224) he appears to place it 500 years after
the death.]

[Footnote 192: Watters, vol. I. 270-1.]

[Footnote 193: But Târanâtha says some authorities held that it met at
Jalandhara. Some Chinese works say it was held at Kandahar.]

[Footnote 194: Walters, _l.c._]

[Footnote 195: Translated by Takakusu in _T'oung Pao_, 1904, pp. 269
ff. Paramârtha was a native of Ujjain who arrived at Nanking in 548
and made many translations, but it is quite possible that this life of
Vasubandhu is not a translation but original notes of his own.]

[Footnote 196: Chinese expressions like "in the five hundred years
after the Buddha's death" probably mean the period 400-500 of the era
commencing with the Buddha's death and not the period 500-600. The
period 1-100 is "the one hundred years," 101-200 "the two hundred
years" and so on. See _B.E.F.E.O._ 1911, 356. But it must be
remembered that the date of the Buddha's death is not yet certain. The
latest theory (Vincent Smith, 1919) places it in 554 B.C.]

[Footnote 197: Chap. XII.]

[Footnote 198: See Watters, I. pp. 222, 224 and 270. It is worth
noting that Hsüan Chuang says Asoka lived one hundred years after the
Buddha's death. See Watters, I. p. 267. See also the note of S. Lévi
in _J.R.A.S._ 1914, pp. 1016-1019, citing traditions to the effect
that there were 300 years between Upagupta, the teacher of Asoka, and
Kanishka, who is thus made to reign about 31 A.D. On the other hand
Kanishka's chaplain Sangharaksha is said to have lived 700 years after
the Buddha.]

[Footnote 199: See Takakusu in _J.P.T.S._ 1905, pp. 67 ff. For the
Sarvâstivâdin Canon, see my chapter on the Chinese Tripitaka.]

[Footnote 200: See above, vol. I. p. 262. For an account of the
doctrines see also Vasilief, 245 ff. Rockhill, _Life of the Buddha_,
pp. 190 ff.]

[Footnote 201: Its connection with Gandhara and Kashmir is plainly
indicated in its own scriptures. See Przyluski's article on "Le
Nord-Ouest de l'Inde dans le Vinaya des Mûla-sarvâstivâdins," _J.A._
1914, II. pp. 493 ft. This Vinaya must have received considerable
additions as time went on and in its present form is posterior to

[Footnote 202: The distinction between Sarvâstivâdin and
Mûlasarvâstivâdin is not clear to me. I can only suggest that when a
section of the school accepted the Mahâvibhâshâ and were known as
Vaibhâshikas others who approved of the school chiefly on account of
its excellent Vinaya called themselves Primitive Sarvâstivâdins.]

[Footnote 203: See Sylvain Lévi, _J.A._ 1908, XII. 57 ff., and
Winternitz, _Ges. Ind. Lit._ II. i. pp. 201 ff.]

[Footnote 204: The only reason for doubting it is that two stories
(Nos. 14 and 31) in the Sûtrâlankâra (which appears to be a genuine
work) refer to Kanishka as if he had reigned in the past. This may be
a poetic artifice or it may be that the stories are interpolations.
See for the traditions Watters on _Yüan Chwang_, II. 102-4 and
Takakusu in _J.R.A.S._ 1905, p. 53 who quotes the Chinese
Samyukta-ratna-piṭaka-sûtra and the Record of Indian Patriarchs. The
Chinese list of Patriarchs is compatible with the view that Aśvaghosha
was alive about 125 A.D. for he was the twelfth Patriarch and
Bodhidharma the twenty-eighth visited China in 520. This gives about
400 years for sixteen Patriarchs, which is possible, for these
worthies were long-lived. But the list has little authority.]

[Footnote 205: The traditions are conveniently collected in the
introduction to Teitaro Suzuki's translation of _The Awakening of

[Footnote 206: The Saundarânandakâvya.]

[Footnote 207: See Nanjio, Nos. 1182, 1351, 1250, 1299. It is
noticeable that the translator Paramârtha shows a special interest in
the life and works of Asanga and Vasubandhu.]

[Footnote 208: See Winternitz, _Ges. Ind. Lit._ II. i. p. 211. It is
also noticeable that _The Awakening of Faith_ appears to quote the
Lankâvatâra sûtra which is not generally regarded as an early
Mahayanist work.]

[Footnote 209: Nâgârjuna cannot have been the founder of the Mahayana
for in his Mahâ-prajñâ-pâramitâ-śâstra (Nanjio, 1169, translation by
Kumârajiva) he cites _inter alia_ the Lotus, the Vimalakirti-sûtra,
and a work called Mahâyâna-śâstra. See _B.E.F.E.O._ 1911, p. 453. For
Nâgârjuna see especially Grünwedel, _Mythologie_, pp. 29 ff. and the
bibliography given in the notes. _Jour. Budd. Text. Soc._ V. part iv.
pp. 7 ff. Watters, _Yüan Chwang_, pp. 200 ff. Târanâtha, chap. XV and
Winternitz, _Ges. Ind. Lit._ II. i. pp. 250 ff.]

[Footnote 210: He is omitted from the list of Buddhabhadra, giving the
succession according to the Sarvâstivâdins, to which school he did not
belong. I-Ching classes him with Aśvaghosha and Aryadeva as belonging
to the early period.]

[Footnote 211: Râjataranginî, i. 173, 177.]

[Footnote 212: Edited in the _Bibliotheca Buddhica_ by De la Vallée
Poussin and (in part) in the _Journal of the Buddhist Text Soc._ See
too Walleser, _Die Mittlere Lehre des Nâgârjuna nach der Tibetischen
Version übertragen_, 1911: _nach der Chinesischen Version übertragen_,

[Footnote 213: The ascription of these works to Nâgârjuna is probably
correct for they were translated by Kumârajîva who was sufficiently
near him in date to be in touch with good tradition.]

[Footnote 214: The name of this king, variously given as Udayana,
Jetaka and Śâtavâhana, has not been identified with certainty from the
various transcriptions and translations in the Chinese and Tibetan
versions. See _J. Pali Text Soc._ for 1886 and I-Ching _Records of the
Buddhist Religion_ (trans. Takakusu), pp. 158 ff. The Andhra kings who
reigned from about 240 B.C. to 225 A.D. all claimed to belong to the
Śâtavâhana dynasty. The stupa of Amarâvati in the Andhra territory is
surrounded by a stone railing ascribed to the period 160-200 A.D. and
Nâgârjuna may have addressed a pious king living about that time.]

[Footnote 215: For other works attributed to Nâgârjuna see Nanjio,
Nos. 1169, 1179, 1180, 1186 and Walleser's introduction to _Mittlere
Lehre nach der Chinesischen Version_ The Dharmasangraha, a Sanskrit
theological glossary, is also attributed to Nâgârjuna as well as the
tantric work Pancakrama. But it is not likely that the latter dates
from his epoch.]

[Footnote 216: Nanjio, No. 1188.]

[Footnote 217: The very confused legends about him suggest a
comparison with the Dravidian legend of a devotee who tore out one of
his eyes and offered it to Śiva. See Grünwedel, _Mythologie_, p. 34
and notes. Polemics against various Hinayanist sects are ascribed to
him. See Nanjio, Nos. 1259, 1260.]

[Footnote 218: Watters, _Yüan Chwang_, II. p. 286. Hsüan Chuang does
not say that the four were contemporary but that in the time of
Kumâralabdha they were called the four Suns.]

[Footnote 219: For Asanga and Vasubandhu see Péri in _B.E.F.E.O._
1911, pp. 339-390. Vincent Smith in _Early History of India_, third
edition, pp. 328-334. Winternitz, _Ges. Ind. Lit._ II. i. p. 256.
Watters, _Yüan Chwang_, I. pp. 210, 355-359. Taranâtha, chap. XXII.
Grünwedel, _Mythologie_, p. 35.]

[Footnote 220: Meghavarman. See V. Smith, _l.c._ 287.]

[Footnote 221: Two have been preserved in Sanskrit: the
Mahâyâna-sûtrâlankâra (Ed. V. Transl., S. Lévi, 1907-1911) and the
Bodhisattva-bhûmi (English summary in _Muséon_, 1905-6). A brief
analysis of the literature of the Yogâcâra school according to Tibetan
authorities is given by Stcherbatskoi in _Muséon_, 1905, pp. 144-155.]

[Footnote 222: Mahâyâna-sûtrâl. XVIII. 71-73. The ominous word
_maithuna_ also occurs in this work, XVIII. 46.]

[Footnote 223: Vincent Smith, _l.c._ p. 275.]

[Footnote 224: But there are of course abundant Indian precedents,
Brahmanical as well as Buddhist, for describing various degrees of
sanctity or knowledge.]

[Footnote 225: The wooden statues of Asanga and Vasubandhu preserved
in the Kōfukaji at Nara are masterpieces of art but can hardly claim
to be other than works of imagination. They date from about 800 A.D.
See for an excellent reproduction Tajima's _Select Relics_, II. X.]

[Footnote 226: See Eitel and Grünwedel, but I do not know in what
texts this tradition is found. It is remarkable that Paramârtha's life
(_T'oung Pao_, 1904, pp. 269-296) does not say either that he was
twentieth patriarch or that he worshipped Amida.]

[Footnote 227: On receiving a large donation he built three
monasteries, one for Hinayanists, one for Mahayanists and one for

[Footnote 228: The work consists of 600 verses (Kârikâ) with a lengthy
prose commentary (Bhâshya) by the author. The Sanskrit original is
lost but translations have been preserved in Chinese (Nanjio, Nos.
1267, 1269, 1270) and Tibetan (see Cordier, _Cat. du Fonds tibétain de
la Bib. Nat._ 1914, pp. 394, 499). But the commentary on the Bhâshya
called Abhidharma-kośa-vyâkhyâ, or Sphuṭârtha, by Yásomitra has been
preserved in Sanskrit in Nepal and frequently cites the verses as well
as the Bhâshya in the original Sanskrit. A number of European savants
are at present occupied with this literature and Sir Denison Ross (to
whom I am indebted for much information) contemplates the publication
of an Uigur text of Book I found in Central Asia. At present (1920),
so far as I know, the only portion of the Abhidharma-kośa in print is
De la Vallée Poussin's edition and translation of Book III, containing
the Tibetan and Sanskrit texts but not the Chinese (De la Vallée
Poussin--_Vasubandhu et Yaśomitra_, London, 1914-18). This chapter
deals with such topics as the structure of the universe, the manner
and place of rebirth, the chain of causation, the geography of the
world, the duration and characteristics of Kalpas, and the appearance
of Buddhas and Cakravartins.]

[Footnote 229: See Nanjio, pp. 371-2, for a list of his works
translated into Chinese. Hsüan Chuang's account differs from the above
(which is taken from Paramârtha) in details. He also tells a curious
story that Vasubandhu promised to appear to his friends after death
and ultimately did so, though he forgot his promise until people began
to say he had gone to hell.]



About the time of Vasubandhu there existed four schools of Indian
Buddhism called Vaibhâshika, Sautrântika, Mâdhyamika and Yoga or
Yogâcâra.[230] They were specially concerned with philosophy and
apparently cut across the older division into eighteen sects, which at
this period seem to have differed mainly on points of discipline.
Though not of great practical importance, they long continued to play
a certain part in controversial works both Buddhist and Brahmanic. The
first two which were the older seem to have belonged to the Hinayana
and the other two even more definitely to the Mahayana. I-Ching[231]
is quite clear as to this. "There are but two kinds of the so-called
Mahayana" he says, "first the Mâdhyamika, second the Yoga.... These
two systems are perfectly in accordance with the noble doctrine. Can
we say which of the two is right? Both equally conform to truth and
lead us to Nirvana" and so on. But he does not say that the other two
systems are also aspects of the truth. This is the more remarkable
because he himself followed the Mûla-sarvâstivâdins. Apparently
Sarvâstivâdin and Vaibhâshika were different names for the same
school, the latter being applied to them because they identified
themselves with the commentary (Vibhâshâ) already mentioned whereas
the former and older designation came to be used chiefly with
reference to their disciplinary rules. Also there were two groups of
Sarvâstivâdins, those of Gandhara and those of Kashmir. The name of
Vaibhâshika was applied chiefly to the latter who, if we may find a
kernel of truth in legends which are certainly exaggerated,
endeavoured to make Kashmir a holy land with a monopoly of the pure
doctrine. Vasubandhu and Asanga appear to have broken up this
isolation for they first preached the Vaibhâshika doctrines in a
liberal and eclectic form outside Kashmir and then by a natural
transition and development went over to the Mahayana. But the
Vaibhâshikas did not disappear and were in existence even in the
fourteenth century.[232] Their chief tenet was the real existence of
external objects. In matters of doctrine they regarded their own
Abhidharma as the highest authority.[233] They also held that Gotama
had an ordinary human body and passed first into a preliminary form of
Nirvana when he attained Buddhahood and secondly into complete Nirvana
at his death. He was superhuman only in the sense that he had
intuitive knowledge and no need to learn. Their contempt for sutras
may have been due to the fact that many of them discountenance the
Vaibhâshika views and also to a knowledge that new ones were
continually being composed.

I-Ching, who ends his work by asserting that all his statements are
according to the Ârya-mûla-sarvâstivâda-nikâya and no other, gives an
interesting summary of doctrine.

"Again I say: the most important are only one or two out of eighty
thousand doctrines of the Buddha: one should conform to the worldly
path but inwardly strive to secure true wisdom. Now what is the
worldly path? It is obeying prohibitive laws and avoiding any crime.
What is the true wisdom? _It is to obliterate the distinction between
subject and object_, to follow the excellent truth and to free oneself
from worldly attachments: to do away with the trammels of the chain of
causality: further to obtain merit by accumulating good works and
_finally to realize the excellent meaning of perfect reality_."

Such a statement enables us to understand the remark which he makes
elsewhere that the same school may belong to the Hinayana and Mahayana
in different places, for, whatever may be meant by wisdom which aims
at obliterating the difference between subject and object, it is
clearly not out of sympathy with Yogâcâra doctrines. In another place
where he describes the curriculum followed by monks he says that they
learn the Yogâcârya-śâstra first and then eight compositions of Asanga
and Vasubandhu. Among the works prescribed for logic is the
Nyâyadvâra-śâstra attributed to Nâgârjuna. The monk should learn not
only the Abhidharma of the Sarvâstivâdins but also the Âgamas,
equivalent to the Sûtra-piṭaka. So the study of the sûtras and the
works of Asanga and Vasubandhu is approved by a Sarvâstivâdin.

The Sautrântikas,[234] though accounted Hinayanists, mark a step in
the direction of the Mahayana. The founder of the school was
Kumarâlabdha, mentioned above. In their estimation of scripture they
reversed the views of the Vaibhâshikas, for they rejected the
Abhidharma and accepted only the sûtras, arguing that the Abhidharma
was practically an extract from them. As literary criticism this is
correct, if it means that the more ancient sûtras are older than the
oldest Abhidharma books. But the indiscriminate acceptance of sûtras
led to a creed in which the supernatural played a larger part. The
Sautrântikas not only ascribed superhuman powers to the Buddha, but
believed in the doctrine of three bodies. In philosophy, though they
were realists, they held that external objects are not perceived
directly but that their existence is inferred.[235]

Something has already been said of the two other schools, both of
which denied the reality of the external world. The differences
between them were concerned with metaphysics rather than theology and
led to no popular controversies.

Up to this point the history of Indian Buddhism has proved singularly
nebulous. The most important dates are a matter of argument, the chief
personages half mythical. But when the records of the Chinese pilgrims
commence we are in touch with something more solid. They record dates
and facts, though we must regret that they only repeat what they heard
and make no attempt to criticize Indian traditions or even to weave
them into a connected chronicle.

Fa-Hsien, the first of these interesting men, left China in 399 and
resided in India from 405 to 411, spending three years at Pataliputra
and two at Tamralipti. He visited the Panjab, Hindustan and Bengal and
his narrative leaves the impression that all these were in the main
Buddhist countries: of the Deccan which he did not visit he heard that
its inhabitants were barbarous and not Buddhists, though it contained
some Buddhist shrines. Of the Middle Kingdom (which according to his
reckoning begins with Muttra) he says that the people are free and
happy and neither kill any living creature nor drink intoxicating
liquor.[236] He does not hint at persecution though he once or twice
mentions that the Brahmans were jealous of the Buddhists. Neither does
he indicate that any strong animosity prevailed between Maha and
Hinayanists. But the two parties were distinct and he notes which
prevailed in each locality. He left China by land and found the
Hinayana prevalent at Shen-shen and Wu-i (apparently localities not
far from Lob-Nor) but the Mahayana at Khotan. Nearer India, in
countries apparently corresponding to parts of Kashmir and Gilgit, the
monks were numerous and all Hinayanist. The same was the case in
Udyana, and in Gandhara the Hinayanists were still in the majority. In
the Panjab both schools were prevalent but the Hinayana evidently
strong. In the district of Muttra the Law was still more flourishing,
monasteries and topes were numerous and ample alms were given to the
monks. He states that the professors of the Abhidharma and Vinaya made
offerings to those works, and the Mahayanists to the book
Prajñâ-pâramitâ, as well as to Mañjuśrî and Kwan-shih-yin. He found
the country in which are the sacred sites of Śrâvasti, Kapilavastu and
Kusinârâ sparsely inhabited and desolate, but this seems to have been
due to general causes, not specially to the decay of religion. He
mentions that ninety-six[237] varieties of erroneous views are found
among the Buddhists, which points to the existence of numerous but not
acutely hostile sects and says that there still existed, apparently in
Kośala, followers of Devadatta who recognized three previous Buddhas
but not Śâkyamuni. He visited the birth-places of these three Buddhas
which contained topes erected in their honour.

He found Magadha prosperous and pious. Of its capital, Patna, he says
"by the side of the topes of Asoka has been made a Mahayana monastery
very grand and beautiful, there is also a Hinayana one, the two
together containing 600 or 700 monks." It is probable that this was
typical of the religious condition of Magadha and Bengal. Both schools
existed but the Mahayana was the more flourishing. Many of the old
sites, such as Râjagṛiha and Gaya, were deserted but there were new
towns near them and Bodh Gaya was a place of pilgrimage with three
monasteries. In the district of Tamralipti (Tamluk) on the coast of
Bengal were 22 monasteries. As his principal object was to obtain
copies of the Vinaya, he stayed three years in Patna seeking and
copying manuscripts. In this he found some difficulty, for the various
schools of the Vinaya, which he says were divided by trivial
differences only, handed down their respective versions orally. He
found in the Mahayanist monastery one manuscript of the Mahâsânghika
rules and considered it the most complete, but also took down the
Sarvâstivâdin rules.

After the death of Vasubandhu few names of even moderate magnitude
stand out in the history of Indian Buddhism. The changes which
occurred were great but gradual and due not to the initiative of
innovators but to the assimilative power of Hinduism and to the
attractions of magical and emotional rites. But this tendency, though
it doubtless existed, did not become conspicuous until about 700 A.D.
The accounts of the Chinese pilgrims and the literature which has been
preserved suggest that in the intervening centuries the monks were
chiefly occupied with scholastic and exegetical work. The most
distinguished successors of Asanga were logicians, among whom Diṅnâga
was pre-eminent. Sthiramati[238] and Guṇamati appear to have belonged
to the same school and perhaps Bhavaviveka[239] too. The statements as
to his date are inconsistent but the interesting fact is recorded that
he utilized the terminology of the Sânkhya for the purposes of the

Throughout the middle ages the study of logic was pursued but
Buddhists and Jains rather than by Brahmans.[240] Vasubandhu composed
some treatises dealing exclusively with logic but it was his disciple
Diṅnâga who separated it definitely from philosophy and theology. As
in idealist philosophy, so in pure logic there was a parallel movement
in the Buddhist and Brahmanic schools, but if we may trust the
statements of Vâcaspatimiśra (about 1100 A.D.) Diṅnâga interpreted
the aphorisms of the Nyâya philosophy in a heterodox or Buddhist
sense. This traces the beginnings of Indian logic to a Brahmanic
source but subsequently it flourished greatly in the hands of
Buddhists, especially Diṅnâga and Dharmakîrti. The former appears to
have been a native of Conjevaram and a contemporary of Kâlidâsa. Both
the logician and the poet were probably alive in the reign of
Kumâragupta (413-455). Diṅnâga spent much time in Nâlanda, and though
the Sanskrit originals of his works are lost the Tibetan
translations[241] are preserved.

The Buddhist schools of logic continued for many centuries. One
flourished in Kashmir and another, founded by Candragomin, in Bengal.
Both lasted almost until the Mohammedan conquest of the two countries.

From about 470 to 530 A.D. northern India groaned under the tyranny of
the Huns. Their King Mihiragula is represented as a determined enemy
of Buddhism and a systematic destroyer of monasteries. He is said to
have been a worshipper of Śiva but his fury was probably inspired less
by religious animosity than by love of pillage and slaughter.

About 530 A.D. he was defeated by a coalition of Indian princes and
died ten years later amid storms and portents which were believed to
signify the descent of his wicked soul into hell. It must have been
about this time that Bodhidharma left India for he arrived in Canton
about 520. According to the Chinese he was the son of a king of a
country called Hsiang-Chih in southern India[242] and the
twenty-eighth patriarch and he became an important figure in the
religion and art of the Far East. But no allusion to him or to any of
the Patriarchs after Vasubandhu has been found in Indian literature
nor in the works of Hsüan Chuang and I-Ching. The inference is that he
was of no importance in India and that his reputation in China was not
great before the eighth century: also that the Chinese lists of
patriarchs do not represent the traditions of northern India.

Religious feeling often ran high in southern India. Buddhists, Jains
and Hindus engaged in violent disputes, and persecution was more
frequent than in the north. It is easy to suppose that Bodhidharma
being the head of some heretical sect had to fly and followed the
example of many monks in going to China. But if so, no record of his
school is forthcoming from his native land, though the possibility
that he was more than an individual thinker and represented some
movement unknown to us cannot be denied. We might suppose too that
since Nâgârjuna and Âryadeva were southerners, their peculiar
doctrines were coloured by Dravidian ideas. But our available
documents indicate that the Buddhism of southern India was almost
entirely Hinayanist, analogous to that of Ceylon and not very
sympathetic to the Tamils.

The pilgrims Sung-Yün and Hui-Shêng[243] visited Udyana and Gandhara
during the time of the Hun domination (518-521). They found the king
of the former a pious Buddhist but the latter was governed by an
Ephthalite chieftain, perhaps Mihiragula himself, who was a worshipper
of demons. Of the Yetha or Ephthalites they make the general
observation that "their rules of politeness are very defective." But
they also say that the population of Gandhara had a great respect for
Buddhism and as they took back to China 170 volumes, "all standard
works belonging to the Great Vehicle," the Ephthalite persecution
cannot have destroyed the faith in north-western India. But the evil
days of decay were beginning. Henceforward we have no more pictures of
untroubled piety and prosperity. At best Buddhism receives royal
patronage in company with other religions; sectarian conflicts
increase and sometimes we hear of persecution. About 600 A.D. a king
of Central Bengal named Saśâṅka who worshipped Śiva attempted to
extirpate Buddhism in his dominions and destroyed the Bo tree at Bodh
Gaya.[244] On the other hand we hear of the pious Pûrṇavarman, king
of Magadha, who made amends for these sacrileges, and of Śîlâditya,
king of the country called Mo-lo-po by the Chinese, who was so careful
of animal life, that he even strained the water drunk by his horses
and elephants, lest they should consume minute insects.

We know more of Indian Buddhism in the seventh century than in the
periods which precede or follow it. The epoch was marked by the reign
of the great king, or rather emperor, Harsha-Vardhana (606-648 A.D.),
and the works written by Bâṇa, Bhartrihari and others who frequented
his court have come down to us. Also we are fortunate in possessing
the copious narrative of Hsüan Chuang, the greatest of the Chinese
pilgrims, who spent sixteen years (629-645) in India as well as the
work known as the "Record of the Buddhist religion as practised in
India and the Malay Archipelago," composed by I-Ching who travelled in
those countries from 671 to 695. I-Ching also wrote the lives of sixty
Chinese pilgrims who visited India during the seventh century and
probably there were many others of whom we have no record.

The reign of Harsha is thus illustrated by a number of contemporary
dateable works unusual in India. The king himself wrote some Buddhist
hymns,[245] and three dramas are ascribed to him but were probably
composed by some of the literary men whom he patronized. For all that,
the religious ideas which they contain must have had his approval. The
Ratnâvalî and Priyadarśikâ are secular pieces and so far as they have
any religious atmosphere it is Brahmanic, but the Nàgânanda is a
Buddhist religious drama which opens with an invocation of the Buddha
and has a Jâtaka story for its plot.[246] Bâṇa was himself a devout
Brahman but his historical romance Harshacarita and his novel called
Kâdambarî both describe a mixture of religions founded on observation
of contemporary life. In an interesting passage[247] he recounts the
king's visit to a Buddhist ascetic. The influence of the holy man
causes the more intelligent animals in his neighbourhood, such as
parrots, to devote themselves to Buddhist lore, but he is surrounded
by devotees of the most diverse sects, Jains, Bhâgavatas, Pâncarâtras,
Lokâyatikas with followers of Kapila, Kaṇâda and many other teachers.
Mayûra, another literary protégé of Harsha's, was like Bâna a Brahman,
and Subandhu, who flourished a little before them, ignores Buddhism in
his romance called Vâsavadattâ. But Bhartrihari, the still popular
gnomic poet, was a Buddhist. It is true that he oscillated between the
court and the cloister no less than seven times, but this vacillation
seems to have been due to the weakness of the flesh, not to any change
of convictions. For our purpose the gist of this literature is that
Hinduism in many forms, some of them very unorthodox, was becoming the
normal religion of India but that there were still many eminent
Buddhists and that Buddhism had sufficient prestige to attract Harsha
and sufficient life to respond to his patronage.

About 600 A.D. India was exhausted by her struggle with the Huns.
After it there remained only a multitude of small states and obscure
dynasties, but there was evidently a readiness to accept any form of
unifying and tranquillizing rule and for nearly half a century this
was provided by Harsha. He conquered northern India from the Panjab to
Bengal but failed to subdue the Deccan. Though a great part of his
reign was spent in war, learning and education flourished. Hsüan
Chuang, who was his honoured guest, gives a good account of his
administration but also makes it plain that brigandage prevailed and
that travelling was dangerous.

After 643 Harsha, who was growing elderly, devoted much attention to
religion and may be said to have become a Buddhist, while allowing
himself a certain eclectic freedom. Several creeds were represented
among his immediate relatives. Devotion to Śiva was traditional in the
family: his father had been a zealous worshipper of the Sun and his
brother and sister were Buddhists of the Sammitîya sect. Harsha by no
means disowned Brahmanic worship, but in his latter years his
proclivity to Buddhism became more marked and he endeavoured to
emulate the piety of Asoka. He founded rest houses and hospitals, as
well as monasteries and thousands of stupas. He prohibited the taking
of life and the use of animal food, and of the three periods into
which his day was divided two were devoted to religion and one to
business. He also exercised a surveillance over the whole Buddhist
order and advanced meritorious members.

Hsüan Chuang has left an interesting account of the religious fêtes
and spectacles organized by Harsha. At Kanauj he attended a great
assembly during which a solemn procession took place every day. A
golden image of Buddha was borne on an elephant and Harsha, dressed as
Indra, held a canopy over it, while his ally Raja Kumara,[248] dressed
as Brahmâ, waved a fly-whisk. It was subsequently washed by the king's
own hands and in the evening his Majesty, who like Akbar had a taste
for religious discussion, listened to the arguments of his Chinese
guest. But the royal instructions that no one was to speak against the
Master of the Law were so peremptory that even his biographer admits
there was no real discussion. These edifying pageants were interrupted
by disagreeable incidents which show that Harsha's tolerance had not
produced complete harmony. A temporary monastery erected for the fêtes
caught fire and a fanatic attempted to stab the king. He confessed
under examination that he had been instigated to the crime by Brahmans
who were jealous of the favours which the Buddhists received. It was
also established that the incendiaries were Brahmans and, after the
ringleaders had been punished, five hundred were exiled. Harsha then
proceeded to Allahabad to superintend a quinquennial distribution of
alms. It was his custom to let treasure accumulate for five years and
then to divide it among holy men and the poor. The proceedings lasted
seventy-five days and the concourse which collected to gaze and
receive must have resembled the fair still held on the same spot.
Buddhists, Brahmans and Jains all partook of the royal bounty and the
images of Buddha, Sûrya and Śiva were worshipped on successive days,
though greater honour was shown to the Buddha. The king gave away
everything that he had, even his robes and jewels, and finally,
arrayed in clothes borrowed from his sister, rejoiced saying "all I
have has entered into incorruptible and imperishable treasuries."
After this, adds Hsüan Chuang, the king's vassals offered him jewels
and robes so that the treasury was replenished. This was the sixth
quinquennial distribution which Harsha had held and the last, for he
died in 648. He at first favoured the Hinayana but subsequently went
over to the Mahayana, being moved in part by the exhortations of Hsüan

Yet the substance of Hsüan Chuang's account is that though Buddhism
was prospering in the Far East it was decaying in India. Against this
can be set instances of royal piety like those described, the fame
enjoyed by the shrines and schools of Magadha and the conversion of
the king of Tibet in 638 A.D. This event was due to Chinese as well as
Indian influence, but would hardly have occurred unless in
north-eastern India Buddhism had been esteemed the religion of
civilization. Still Hsüan Chuang's long catalogue of deserted
monasteries[249] has an unmistakable significance. The decay was most
pronounced in the north-west and south. In Gandhara there were only a
few Buddhists: more than a thousand monasteries stood untenanted and
the Buddha's sacred bowl had vanished. In Takshaśîla the monasteries
were numerous but desolate: in Kashmir the people followed a mixed
faith. Only in Udyâna was Buddhism held in high esteem. In Sind the
monks were numerous but indolent.

No doubt this desolation was largely due to the depredations of
Mihiragula. In the Deccan and the extreme south there was also a
special cause, namely the prevalence of Jainism, which somewhat later
became the state religion in several kingdoms. In Kalinga, Andhra and
the kingdom of the Colas the pilgrim reports that Jains were very
numerous but counts Buddhist monasteries only by tens and twenties. In
Dravida there were also 10,000 monks of the Sthavira school but in
Malakuta among many ruined monasteries only a few were still inhabited
and here again Jains were numerous.

For all Central India and Bengal the pilgrim's statistics tell the
same tale, namely that though Buddhism was represented both by
monasteries and monks, the Deva-temples and unbelievers were also
numerous. The most favourable accounts are those given of Kanauj,
Ayodhya and Magadha where the sacred sites naturally caused the devout
to congregate.

The statistics which he gives as to sects are interesting.[250] The
total number of monks amounted to about 183,000. Of these only 32,000
belonged definitely to the Mahayana: more than 96,000 to the Hinayana,
and 54,500 studied both systems or at any rate resided in monasteries
which tolerated either course of study. Some writers speak as if
after our era Mahayanism was predominant in India and the Hinayana
banished to its extreme confines such as Ceylon and Kashmir. Yet about
A.D. 640 this zealous Mahayanist[251] states that half the monks of
India were definitely Hinayanist while less than a fifth had equally
definite Mahayanist convictions. The Mahayana laid less stress on
monasticism than the Hinayana and therefore its strength may have lain
among the laity, but even so the admitted strength of the Hinayana is
remarkable. Three Hinayanist schools are frequently mentioned, the
Sthaviras, Sarvâstivâdins and Sammitîyas. The first are the well-known
Sinhalese sect and were found chiefly in the south (Conjeevaram) and
in East Bengal, besides the monks of the Sinhalese monastery at Gaya.
The Sarvâstivâdins were found, as their history would lead us to
expect, chiefly in the north and beyond the frontiers of India proper.
But both were outnumbered by the Sammitîyas, who amounted to nearly
44,000 monks. The chief doctrine[252] of this sect is said to have
been that individuals (puggalo) exist as such in the truest sense.
This doctrine was supported by reference to the sutra known as the
Burden and the Burden bearer.[253] It does not assert that there is a
permanent and unchangeable soul (attâ) but it emphasizes the reality
and importance of that personality which all accept as true for
practical purposes. It is probable that in practice this belief
differed little from the ordinary Brahmanic doctrine of metempsychosis
and this may be one reason for the prevalence of the sect.

I-Ching, though he does not furnish statistics, gives a clear
conspectus of Buddhist sects as they existed in his time. He starts
from the ancient eighteen sects but divides them into four groups or
Nikayas. (_a_) The Ârya-Mahâsanghika-nikâya. This comprised seven
subdivisions but was apparently the least influential school as it was
not predominant anywhere, though it coexisted with other schools in
most parts. The Lokottaravâdins mentioned by Hsüan Chuang as existing
at Bamiyan belonged to it. They held that the Buddha was not subject
to the laws of nature. (_b_) Ârya-Sthavira-nikâya. This is the school
to which our Pali Canon belongs. It was predominant in southern India
and Ceylon and was also found in eastern Bengal. (_c_) The
Ârya-Mûla-sarvâstivâda-nikâya with four subdivisions. Almost all
belonged to this school in northern India and it was nourishing in
Magadha. (_d_) The Ârya-Sammitîya-nikâya with four subdivisions
flourished in Lâṭa and Sindhu. Thus the last three schools were
preponderant in southern, northern and western India respectively. All
were followed in Magadha, no doubt because the holy places and the
University of Nâlandâ attracted all shades of opinion, and Bengal
seems to have been similarly catholic. This is substantially the same
as Hsüan Chuang's statement except that I-Ching takes a more
favourable view of the position of the Sarvâstivâda, either because it
was his own school or because its position had really improved.

It would seem that in the estimation of both pilgrims the Maha-and
Hinayana are not schools but modes in which any school can be studied.
The Nikâya[254] or school appears to have been chiefly, though not
exclusively, concerned with the rule of discipline which naturally had
more importance for Buddhist monks than it has for European scholars.
The observances of each Nikâya were laid down in its own recension of
the scriptures which was sometimes oral and sometimes in writing.
Probably all the eighteen schools had separate Vinayas, and to some
extent they had different editions of the other Pitakas, for the
Sarvâstivâdins had an Abhidharma of their own. But there was no
objection to combining the study of Sarvâstivâdin literature with the
reading of treatises by Asanga and Vasubandhu[255] or sutras such as
the Lotus, which I-Ching's master read once a day for sixty years.
I-Ching himself seems to regard the two Vehicles as alternative forms
of religion, both excellent in their way, much as a Catholic
theologian might impartially explain the respective advantages of the
active and contemplative lives. "With resolutions rightly formed" he
says "we should look forward to meeting the coming Buddha Maitreya. If
we wish to gain the lesser fruition (of the Hinayana) we may pursue it
through the eight grades of sanctification. But if we learn to follow
the course of the greater fruition (of the Mahayana) we must try to
accomplish our work through long ages."[256]

I-Ching observes that both Vehicles agree in prescribing the same
discipline, in prohibiting the same offences and enjoining the
practice of the noble truths. His views, which are substantially
those of Hsüan Chuang,[257] must be those current in the seventh
century when the Hinayana was allowing the Mahayana to overgrow it
without resistance, but the relations of the two creeds are sometimes
stated differently. For instance the Angulimâliya sutra,[258] known
only in a Tibetan translation, states that whereas for the Hinayana
such formulæ as the four truths and the eightfold path are of cardinal
importance, the Mahayana does not recognize them, and it is
undoubtedly true that the Vaipulya sutras frequently ignore the
familiar doctrines of early Buddhism and hint that they belong to a
rudimentary stage of instruction.

I-Ching makes no mention of persecution but he deplores the decay of
the faith. "The teaching of the Buddha is becoming less prevalent in
the world from day to day" he says. "When I compare what I have
witnessed in my younger days and what I see to-day in my old age, the
state is altogether different and we are bearing witness to this and
it is hoped we shall be more attentive in future." Though he speaks
regretfully of lax or incorrect discipline, he does not complain of
the corruption of the faith by Tantrism and magical practices. He does
however deprecate in an exceedingly curious passage the prevalence of
religious suicide.[259]

Except for progressive decay, the condition of Indian Buddhism as
described by the two pilgrims is much the same. Meals were supplied to
monks in the monasteries and it was no longer usual to beg for food in
the streets, since the practice is mentioned by I-Ching as
exceptional. On Upavasatha days it was the custom for the pious laity
to entertain the monks and the meal was sometimes preceded by a
religious service performed before an image and accompanied by music.
I-Ching describes the musical services with devout enthusiasm. "The
priests perform the ordinary service late in the afternoon or in the
evening twilight. They come out of the monastery and walk three times
round a stupa, offering incense and flowers. Then they all kneel down
and one of them who sings well begins to chant hymns describing the
virtues of the great Teacher and continues to sing ten or twenty
ślokas. They then return to the place in the monastery where they
usually assemble and, when all have sat down, a reciter mounting the
lion-seat (which is near the head priest) reads a short sutra. Among
the scriptures for such an occasion the 'Service in three parts' is
often used. This is a selection of Aśvaghosha. The first part contains
ten ślokas of a hymn. The second part is a selection from some
scripture consisting of the Buddha's words. Then there is an
additional hymn as the third part of the service, of more than ten
ślokas, being prayers that express the wish to bring one's merits to
maturity. After the singing the assembled Bhikshus exclaim Subhâshita
or Sâdhu, that is well-said or bravo. The reader descends and the
Bhikshus in order salute the lion-seat, the seats of Bodhisattvas and
Arhats, and the superior of the monastery."[260]

I-Ching also tells us of the ceremonial bathing of images and prefaces
his description by the remark that "the meaning of the Truths is so
profound that it is a matter beyond the comprehension of vulgar minds
while the ablution of the holy images is practicable for all. Though
the Great Teacher has entered Nirvana yet his image exists and we
should worship it with zeal as though in his presence. Those who
constantly offer incense and flowers to it are enabled to purify their
thoughts and those who perpetually bathe his image are enabled to
overcome the sins that involve them in darkness."[261] He appears to
contemplate chiefly the veneration of images of Sâkyamuni but figures
of Bodhisattvas were also conspicuous features in temples, as we know
not only from archæology but from the biography of Hsüan Chuang, where
it is said that worshippers used to throw flowers and silk scarves at
the image of Avalokita and draw auguries from the way they fell.

Monasteries were liberally decorated with statues, carvings and
pictures.[262] They often comprised several courts and temples. Hsüan
Chuang says that a monastery in Magadha which he calls Ti-lo-shi-ka
had "four courts with three storeyed halls, lofty terraces and a
succession of open passages.... At the head of the road through the
middle gate were three temples with disks on the roof and hung with
small bells; the bases were surrounded by balustrades, and doors,
windows, beams, walls, and stairs were ornamented with gilt work in
relief." In the three temples were large images representing the
Buddha, Târâ and Avalokita.

The great centres of Buddhist learning and monastic life, mentioned by
both pilgrims, were Valabhî or Balabhi in Gujarat and Nalanda. The
former was a district rather than a single locality and contained 100
monasteries with 6000 monks of the Sammitîya school. Nalanda was in
Magadha not far from Gaya. The date of its foundation is unknown but a
great temple (though apparently not the first) was built about 485
A.D.[263] Fa-Hsien mentions a village called Nala but without
indicating that it was a seat of learning. Hence it is probable that
the University was not then in existence or at least not celebrated.
Hsüan Chuang describes it as containing six monasteries built by
various kings and surrounded by an enclosing wall in which there was
only one gate. I-Ching writing later says that the establishment owned
200 villages and contained eight halls with more than 3000 monks. In
the neighbourhood of the monastery were a hundred sacred spots,
several marked by temples and topes. It was a resort for Buddhists
from all countries and an educational as well as a religious centre.
I-Ching says that students spent two or three years there in learning
and disputing after which they went to the king's court in search of a
government appointment. Successful merit was rewarded not only by rank
but by grants of land. Both pilgrims mention the names of several
celebrities connected with Nalanda. But the worthies of the seventh
century did not attain to more than scholastic eminence. The most
important literary figure of the age is Śântideva of whose life
nothing is known. His writings however prove that the Buddhism of this
period was not a corrupt superstition, but could inspire and nourish
some of the most beautiful thoughts which the creed has produced.


[Footnote 230: See Vasilief, _Le Bouddhisme_, Troisième supplément,
pp. 262 ff. Köppen, _Rel. des Buddha_, I. 151. Takakusu in _J. Pali
Text Society_, 1905, pp. 67-146.]

[Footnote 231: _Records_, translated by Takakusu, p. 15.]

[Footnote 232: They are mentioned in the Sarva-darśana-saṅgraha.]

[Footnote 233: Kern (_Indian Buddhism_, p. 126) says they rejected the
authority of the Sûtras altogether but gives no reference.]

[Footnote 234: See Vasilief, pp. 301 ff. and various notices in Hsüan
Chuang and Watters. Also de la Vallée Poussin's article in E.R.E.]

[Footnote 235: Hsüan Chuang informs us that when he was in Śrughna he
studied the Vibhâshâ of the Sautrântikas, but the precise significance
of this term is not plain.]

[Footnote 236: Fa-Hsien's _Travels_, chap. XVI.]

[Footnote 237: This figure is probably deduced from some artificial
calculation of possible heresies like the 62 wrong views enumerated in
the Brahma-Jala sûtra.]

[Footnote 238: He must have lived in the fourth century as one of his
works (Nanjio, 1243) was translated between 397 and 439.]

[Footnote 239: Watters, _Yüan Chwang_, II. 221-224. Nanjio, 1237. The
works of Guṇamati also are said to show a deep knowledge of the
Sânkhya philosophy.]

[Footnote 240: For the history of logic in India, see Vidyâbhusana's
interesting work _Mediæval School of Indian Logic_, 1909. But I cannot
accept all his dates.]

[Footnote 241: Diṅnâga's principal works are the Pramâṇa-samuccaya
and the Nyâya-praveśa. Hsüan Chuang calls him Ch'en-na. See Watters,
II. 209. See Stcherbatskoi in _Muséon_, 1904, pp. 129-171 for
Diṅnâga's influence on the development of the Naiyâyika and
Vaiśeshika schools.]

[Footnote 242: His personal name is said to have been P'u-ti-to-lo and
his surname Ch'a-ti-li. The latter is probably a corruption of
Kshatriya. Hsiang-Chih possibly represents a name beginning with
Gandha, but I can neither find nor suggest any identification.]

[Footnote 243: See _B.E.F.E.O._ 1903, pp. 379 ff.]

[Footnote 244: His evil deeds are several times mentioned by Hsüan
Chuang. It required a miracle to restore the Bo tree.]

[Footnote 245: See Ettinghausen, _Harshavardhana_, Appendix III.]

[Footnote 246: The appearance of Gaurî as a _dea ex machina_ at the
end hardly shows that Harsha's Buddhism had a Śâktist tinge but it
does show that Buddhists of that period turned naturally to Śivaite

[Footnote 247: Harshacarita, chap. VII. The parrots were expounding
Vasubandhu's Abhidharma-kośa. Bâṇa frequently describes troops of
holy men apparently living in harmony but including followers of most
diverse sects. See Kâdambari, 193 and 394: Harshacar. 67.]

[Footnote 248: It is curious that Bâṇa (Harshacarita, VII.) says of
this prince that from childhood he resolved never to worship anyone
but Śiva.]

[Footnote 249: The Râshṭra-pâla-paripṛicchâ (Ed. Finot, pp. ix-xi,
28-33) inveighs against the moral degeneration of the Buddhist clergy.
This work was translated into Chinese between 589 and 618, so that
demoralisation must have begun in the sixth century.]

[Footnote 250: See Rhys Davids in _J.R.A.S._ 1891, pp. 418 ff.]

[Footnote 251: Hsüan Chuang was not disposed to underrate the numbers
of the Mahayana for he says that the monks of Ceylon were

[Footnote 252: See the beginning of the Kathâvatthu. The doctrine is
formulated in the words Puggalo upalabbhati saccikaṭṭhaparamaṭṭhenâti,
and there follows a discussion between a member of the orthodox school and
a Puggalavâdin, that is one who believes in the existence of a person, soul
or entity which transmigrates from this world to another.]

[Footnote 253: Sam. Nik. XXII. 221.]

[Footnote 254: This use of Nikâya must not be confused with its other
use to denote a division of the Sûtra-Pitaka. It means a group or
collection and hence can be used to denote either a body of men or a
collection of treatises. These Nikâyas are also not the same as the
four schools (Vaibhâshikas, etc.), mentioned above, which were
speculative. Similarly in Europe a Presbyterian may be a Calvinist,
but Presbyterianism has reference to Church government and Calvinism
to doctrine.

There were in India at this time (1) two vehicles, Maha-and Hinayana,
(2) four speculative schools, Vaibhâshikas, etc., (3) four
disciplinary schools, Mûla-sarvâstivâdins, etc. These three classes
are obviously not mutually exclusive. Thus I-Ching approved of (_a_)
the Mahayana, (_b_) the Mâdhyamika and Yogâcâra, which he did not
consider inconsistent and (_c_) the Mûla-sarvâstivâda.]

[Footnote 255: I-Ching, transl. Takakusu, p. 186.]

[Footnote 256: Three Asankhya Kalpas. I-Ching, Takakusu's transl. pp.
196-7. He seems to regard the Mahayana as the better way. He quotes
Nâgârjuna's allusions to Avalokita and Amitâyus with apparent
approval; he tells us how one of his teachers worshipped Amitâyus and
strove to prepare himself for Sukhâvatî and how the Lotus was the
favourite scripture of another. He further tells us that the
Mâdhyamika and the Yoga systems are both perfectly correct.]

[Footnote 257: Hsüan Chuang speaks of Mahayanists belonging to the
Sthavira school.]

[Footnote 258: Quoted by Rockhill, _Life of the Buddha_, pp. 196 ff.]

[Footnote 259: Chaps. XXXVIII and XXXIX. He seems to say that it is
right for the laity to make an offering of their bodies by burning but
not for Bhikshus. The practice is recognized and commended in the
Lotus, chap. XXII, which however is a later addition to the original

[Footnote 260: I-Ching, transl. Takakusu, pp. 153-4 somewhat abridged.
I-Ching (pp. 156-7) speaks of Mâtricheta as the principal hymn writer
and does not identify him with Aśvaghosha.]

[Footnote 261: I believe the golden image in the Arakan Pagoda at
Mandalay is still washed with a ceremonial resembling that described
by I-Ching.]

[Footnote 262: I-Ching says that monasteries commonly had a statue of
Mahâkâla as a guardian deity.]

[Footnote 263: By the Gupta king, Narasinha Gupta Bâlâditya. Much
information about Nâlandâ will be found in Satis Chandra
Vidyabhusana's _Mediæval School of Indian Logic_, pp. 145-147. Hsüan
Chuang (_Life_, transl. Beal, p. 111) says that it was built 700 years
before his time, that is, in the first century B.C. He dwells on the
beauty of the buildings, ponds and flowers.]



The theme of this chapter is sad for it is the decadence, degradation
and ultimate disappearance of Buddhism in India. The other great
religions offer no precise parallel to this phenomenon but they also
do not offer a parallel to the circumstances of Buddhism at the time
when it flourished in its native land. Mohammedanism has been able to
maintain itself in comparative isolation: up to the present day
Moslims and Christians share the same cities rather than the same
thoughts, especially when (as often) they belong to different races.
European Christianity after a few centuries of existence had to
contend with no rival of approximately equal strength, for the
struggle with Mohammedanism was chiefly military and hardly concerned
the merits of the faiths. But Buddhism never had a similarly paramount
and unchallenged position. It never attempted to extirpate its rivals.
It coexisted with a mass of popular superstition which it only gently
reprobated and with a powerful hereditary priesthood, both
intellectual and pliant, tenacious of their own ideas and yet ready to
countenance almost any other ideas as the price of ruling. Neither
Islam nor Christianity had such an adversary, and both of them and
even Judaism resemble Buddhism in having won greater success outside
their native lands than in them. Jerusalem is not an altogether
satisfactory spectacle to either Christians or Jews.[264]

Still all this does not completely explain the disappearance of
Buddhism from India. Before attempting to assign reasons, we shall do
well to review some facts and dates relating to the period of
decadence. If we take all India into consideration the period is long,
but in many, indeed in most, districts the process of decay was rapid.

In the preceding chapter I have mentioned the accounts of Indian
Buddhism which we owe to the Chinese travellers, Hsüan Chuang and
I-Ching. The latter frankly deplores the decay of the faith which he
had witnessed in his own life (_i.e._ about 650-700 A.D.) but his
travels in India were of relatively small extent and he gives less
local information than previous pilgrims. Hsüan Chuang describing
India in 629-645 A.D. is unwilling to admit the decay but his truthful
narrative lets it be seen. It is only of Bengal and the present United
Provinces that he can be said to give a favourable account, and the
prosperity of Buddhism there was largely due to the personal influence
of Harsha.[265] In central and southern India, he tells us of little
but deserted monasteries. It is clear that Buddhism was dying out but
it is not so clear that it had ever been the real religion of this
region. In many parts it did not conquer the population but so to
speak built fortresses and left garrisons. It is probable that the
Buddhism of Andhra, Kalinga and the south was represented by little
more than such outposts. They included Amarâvati, where portions of
the ruins seem assignable to about 150 A.D., and Ajantâ, where some of
the cave paintings are thought to be as late as the sixth century. But
of neither site can we give any continuous history. In southern India
the introduction of Buddhism took place under the auspices of Asoka
himself, though his inscriptions have as yet been found only in
northern Mysore and not in the Tamil country. The Tamil poems
Manimêgalei and Silappadigaram, especially the former, represent it as
prevalent and still preserving much of its ancient simplicity. Even in
later times when it had almost completely disappeared from southern
India, occasional Buddhist temples were founded. Rajaraja endowed one
at Negapatam about 1000 A.D. In 1055 a monastery was erected at
Belgami in Mysore and a Buddhist town named Kalavati is mentioned as
existing in that state in 1533.[266] But in spite of such survivals,
even in the sixth century Buddhism could not compete in southern India
with either Jainism or Hinduism and there are no traces of its
existence in the Deccan after 1150.

For the Konkan, Maharashtra and Gujarat, Hsüan Chuang's statistics are
fairly satisfactory. But in all this region the Sammitîya sect which
apparently was nearer to Hinduism than the others was the most
important. In Ujjain Buddhism was almost extinct but in many of the
western states it lingered on, perhaps only in isolated monasteries,
until the twelfth century. Inscriptions found at Kanheri (843 and 851
A.D.), Dambal (1095 A.D.) and in Miraj (1110 A.D.) testify that grants
were made to monasteries at these late dates.[267] But further north
the faith had to endure the violence of strangers. Sind was conquered
by the Arabs in 712; Gujarat and the surrounding country were invaded
by northern tribes and such invasions were always inimical to the
prosperity of monasteries.

This is even more true of the Panjab, the frontier provinces and
Kashmir. The older invaders such as the Yüeh-chih had been favourably
disposed to Buddhism, but those who came later, such as the Huns, were
predaceous barbarians with little religion of any sort. In Hsüan
Chuang's time it was only in Udyana that Buddhism could be said to be
the religion of the people and the torrent of Mohammedan invasion
which swept continuously through these countries during the middle
ages overwhelmed all earlier religions, and even Hinduism had to
yield. In Kashmir Buddhism soon became corrupt and according to the
Râjataranginî[268] the monks began to marry as early as the sixth
century. King Lâlitâditya (733-769) is credited with having built
monasteries as well as temples to the Sun, but his successors were

Bengal, especially western Bengal and Bihar, was the stronghold of
decadent Buddhism, though even here hostile influences were not
absent. But about 730 A.D. a pious Buddhist named Gopâla founded the
Pâla dynasty and extended his power over Magadha. The Pâlas ruled for
about 450 years and supplied a long and devout line of defenders of
the faith. But to the east of their dominions lay the principality of
Kanauj, a state of varying size and fortunes and from the eighth
century onwards a stronghold of Brahmanic learning.

The revolution in Hinduism which definitely defeated, though it did
not annihilate Buddhism, is generally connected with the names of
Kumâriḷa Bhatta (_c._ 750) and Śaṅkara (_c._ 800). We know the
doctrines of these teachers, for many of their works have come down to
us, but when we enquire what was their political importance, or the
scope and extent of the movement which they championed we are
conscious (as so often) of the extraordinary vagueness of Indian
records even when the subject might appeal to religious and
philosophic minds.[269] Kumâriḷa is said to have been a Brahman of
Bihar who abjured Buddhism for Hinduism and raged with the ardour of a
proselyte against his ancient faith. Tradition[270] represents him as
instigating King Sudhanvan to exterminate the Buddhists. But nothing
is known of this king and he cannot have had the extensive empire with
which he is credited.

Śaṅkara was a Brahman of the south who in a short life found time to
write numerous works, to wander over India, to found a monastic order
and build four monasteries. In doctrine and discipline he was more
pliant than Kumâriḷa and he assimilated many strong points of
Buddhism. Both these teachers are depicted as the successful heroes of
public disputations in which the interest at stake was considerable.
The vanquished had to become a disciple of the vanquisher or to
forfeit his life and, if he was the head of an institution, to
surrender its property. These accounts, though exaggerated, are
probably a florid version of what occurred and we may surmise that the
popular faith of the day was generally victorious. What violence the
rising tide of Hinduism may have wrought, it is hard to say. There is
no evidence of any general persecution of Buddhism in the sense in
which one Christian sect persecuted another in Europe. But at a rather
later date we hear that Jains were persecuted and tortured by Śaiva
princes both in southern India and Gujarat, and if there were any
detailed account, epigraphic or literary, of such persecutions in the
eighth and ninth centuries, there would be no reason for doubting it.
But no details are forthcoming. Without resorting to massacre, an
anti-Buddhist king had in his power many effective methods of
hostility. He might confiscate or transfer monastic property, or
forbid his subjects to support monks. Considering the state of
Buddhism as represented by Hsüan Chuang and I-Ching it is probable
that such measures would suffice to ensure the triumph of the Brahmans
in most parts of India.

After the epoch of Śaṅkara, the history of Indian Buddhism is
confined to the Pâla kingdom. Elsewhere we hear only of isolated
grants to monasteries and similar acts of piety, often striking but
hardly worthy of mention in comparison with the enormous number of
Brahmanic inscriptions. But in the Pâla kingdom[271] Buddhism, though
corrupt, was flourishing so far as the number of its adherents and
royal favour were concerned. Gopâla founded the monastery of
Odontapuri or Udandapura, which according to some authorities was in
the town of Bihar. Dharmapâla the second king of the dynasty (_c._ 800
A.D.) built on the north bank of the Ganges the even more celebrated
University of Vikramaśila,[272] where many commentaries were composed.
It was a centre not only of tantric learning but of logic and grammar,
and is interesting as showing the connection between Bengal and Tibet.
Tibetans studied there and Sanskrit books were translated into Tibetan
within its cloisters. Dharmapâla is said to have reigned sixty-four
years and to have held his court at Patna, which had fallen into decay
but now began to revive. According to Târanâtha his successor Devapâla
built Somapuri, conquered Orissa and waged war with the unbelievers
who had become numerous, no doubt as a result of the preaching of
Śaṅkara. But as a rule the Pâlas, though they favoured Buddhism, did
not actively discourage Hinduism. They even gave grants to Hindu
temples and their prime ministers were generally Brahmans who[273]
used to erect non-Buddhist images in Buddhist shrines. The dynasty
continued through the eleventh century and in this period some
information as to the condition of Indian Buddhism is afforded by the
relations between Bengal and Tibet. After the persecution of the tenth
century Tibetan Buddhism was revived by the preaching of monks from
Bengal. Mahîpâla then occupied the throne (_c._ 978-1030) and during
his reign various learned men accepted invitations to Tibet. More
celebrated is the mission of Atîsa, a monk of the Vikramaśila
monastery, which took place about 1038. That these two missions should
have been invited and despatched shows that in the eleventh century
Bengal was a centre of Buddhist learning. Probably the numerous
Sanskrit works preserved in Tibetan translations then existed in its
monasteries. But about the same time the power of the Pâla dynasty,
and with it the influence of Buddhism, were curtailed by the
establishment of the rival Sena dynasty in the eastern provinces.
Still, under Râmapâla, who reigned about 1100, the great teacher
Abhayakara was an ornament of the Mahayana. Târanâtha[274] says that
he corrected the text of the scriptures and that in his time there
were many Pandits and resident Bhikshus in the monasteries of
Vikramasîla, Bodh-Gaya and Odontapuri.

There is thus every reason to suppose that in the twelfth century
Buddhism still nourished in Bihar, that its clergy numbered several
thousands and its learning was held in esteem. The blow which
destroyed its power was struck by a Mohammedan invasion in 1193. In
that year Ikhtiyar-ud-Din Muhammad,[275] a general of Kutb-ud-Din,
invaded Bihar with a band of only two hundred men and with amazing
audacity seized the capital, which, consisting chiefly of palaces and
monasteries, collapsed without a blow. The monks were massacred to a
man, and when the victors, who appear not to have understood what
manner of place they had captured, asked the meaning of the libraries
which they saw, no one was found capable of reading the books.[276]
It was in 1193 also that Benares was conquered by the Mohammedans. I
have found no record of the sack of the monastery at Sarnath but the
ruins are said to show traces of fire and other indications that it
was overwhelmed by some sudden disaster.

The Mohammedans had no special animus against Buddhism. They were
iconoclasts who saw merit in the destruction of images and the
slaughter of idolaters. But whereas Hinduism was spread over the
country, Buddhism was concentrated in the great monasteries and when
these were destroyed there remained nothing outside them capable of
withstanding either the violence of the Moslims or the assimilative
influence of the Brahmans. Hence Buddhism suffered far more from these
invasions than Hinduism but still vestiges of it lingered long[277]
and exist even now in Orissa. Târanâtha says that the immediate result
of the Moslim conquest was the dispersal of the surviving teachers and
this may explain the sporadic occurrence of late Buddhist inscriptions
in other parts of India. He also tells us that a king named
Cangalarâja restored the ruined Buddhist temples of Bengal about 1450.
Elsewhere[278] he gives a not discouraging picture of Buddhism in the
Deccan, Gujarat and Rajputana after the Moslim conquest of Magadha but
adds that the study of magic became more and more prevalent. In the
life of Caitanya it is stated that when travelling in southern India
(about 1510 A.D.) he argued with Buddhists and confuted them,
apparently somewhere in Arcot.[279] Manuscripts preserved in Nepal
indicate that as late as the fifteenth or sixteenth century Bengali
copyists wrote out Buddhist works, and there is evidence that
Bodh-Gaya continued to be a place of pilgrimage. In 1585 it was
visited by a Nepalese named Abhaya Râjâ who on his return erected in
Patan a monastery imitated from what he had seen in Bengal, and in
1777 the Tashi Lama sent an embassy. But such instances prove little
as to the religion of the surrounding Hindu population, for at the
present day numerous Buddhist pilgrims, especially Burmese, frequent
the shrine. The control of the temple passed into the hands of the
Brahmans and for the ordinary Bengali Buddha became a member of
India's numerous pantheon. Pandit Harapraśad Sastri mentions a
singular poem called Buddhacaritra, completed in 1711 and celebrating
an incarnation of Buddha which apparently commenced in 1699 and was to
end in the reappearance of the golden age. But the being called Buddha
is a form of Vishṇu and the work is as strange a jumble of religion
as it is of languages, being written in "a curious medley of bad
Sanskrit, bad Hindi and bad Bihari."

It is chiefly in Orissa that traces of Buddhism can still be found
within the limits of India proper. The Saraks of Baramba, Tigaria and
the adjoining parts of Cuttack describe themselves as Buddhists.[280]
Their name is the modern equivalent of Śrâvaka and they apparently
represent an ancient Buddhist community which has become a sectarian
caste. They have little knowledge of their religion but meet once a
year in the cave temples of Khandagiri, to worship a deity called
Buddhadeva or Caturbhuja. All their ceremonies commence with the
formula _Ahiṃsâ parama dharma_ and they respect the temple of Puri,
which is suspected of having a Buddhist origin.

Nagendranâth Vasu has published some interesting details as to the
survival of Buddhist ideas in Orissa.[281] He traces the origin of
this hardy though degraded form of Mahayanism to Râmâi Pandit,[282] a
tantric Âcârya of Magadha who wrote a work called Śûnya Purâṇa which
became popular. Orissa was one of the regions which offered the
longest resistance to Islam, for it did not succumb until 1568. A
period of Śivaism in the tenth and eleventh centuries is indicated by
the temples of Bhuvaneshwar and other monuments. But in the twelfth
and thirteenth centuries the reigning dynasty were worshippers of
Vishnu and built the great temples at Puri and Konârak, dedicated to
Jagannâtha and Sûrya-nârâyaṇa respectively. We do not however hear
that they persecuted Buddhism and there are reasons for thinking that
Jagannâtha is a form of the Buddha[283] and that the temple at Puri
was originally a Buddhist site. It is said that it contains a gigantic
statue of the Buddha before which a wall has been built and also that
the image of Jagannâtha, which is little more than a log of wood, is
really a case enclosing a Buddhist relic. King Pratâparudra († 1529)
persecuted Buddhism, which implies that at this late date its
adherents were sufficiently numerous to attract attention. Either at
the beginning of his reign or before it there flourished a group of
six poets of whom the principal were Acyutânanda Dâsa and Caitanya
Dâsa.[284] Their works are nominally devoted to the celebration of
Kṛishṇa's praises and form the chief vernacular scripture of the
Vaishṇavas in Orissa but in them Kṛishṇa, or the highest form of
the deity by whatever name he is called, is constantly identified with
Śûnya or the Void, that favourite term of Mahayanist philosophy.
Passages from them are also quoted stating that in the Kali age the
followers of the Buddha must disguise themselves; that there are 3000
crypto-Buddhists hidden in various parts of Orissa, that Hari has been
incarnate in many Buddhas and that the Buddha will appear again on
earth. The phrase "I take refuge in the Buddha, in Mâtâ Âdiśakti (=
Dharma) and in the Sangha" is also quoted from these works and
Caitanya Dâsa describes five Vishnus, who are apparently identical
with the five Dhyâni Buddhas.[285]

Târanâtha states that the last king of Orissa, Mukunda Deva, who was
overthrown by the Mohammedans in 1568, was a Buddhist and founded some
temples and monasteries. In the seventeenth century, there flourished
a Buddhist poet named Mahâdevadâsa,[286] and the Tibetan pilgrim
Buddhagupta visited among other sites the old capital of Mayurabhanja
and saw a stupa there. It is claimed that the tribe known as Bâthuris
or Bâuris have always been crypto-Buddhists and have preserved their
ancient customs. They are however no credit to their religion, for one
of their principal ceremonies is hook-swinging.[287]

The doctrine of the Bâthuris is called Mahimâ Dharma and experienced
an interesting revival in 1875.[288] A blind man named Bhîma Bhoi had
a vision of the Buddha who restored his sight and bade him preach the
law. He attracted some thousands of adherents and led a band to Puri
proclaiming that his mission was to bring to light the statue of
Buddha concealed in the temple. The Raja resisted the attempt and the
followers of Bhîma Bhoi were worsted in a sanguinary encounter. Since
that time they have retired to the more remote districts of Orissa and
are said to hold that the Buddha will appear again in a new
incarnation. They are also called Kumbhipatias and according to the
last census of India (1911) are hostile to Brahmans and probably
number about 25,000.

Traces of Buddhism also survive in the worship of a deity called
Dharma-Râjâ or Dharma-Thakur which still prevails in western and
southern Bengal.[289] Priests of this worship are usually not Brahmans
but of low caste, and Haraprasad thinks that the laity who follow it
may number "several millions." Though Dharma has come to be associated
with the goddess of smallpox and is believed even by his adorers to be
a form of Vishnu or of Śiva, yet Dhyâna, or meditation, forms a part
of his worship and the prayers and literature of the sect retain some
traces of his origin. Thus he is said to be highly honoured in Ceylon
and receives the epithet Śûnyamûrti.

A corrupt form of Buddhism still exists in Nepal.[290] This country
when first heard of was in the hands of the Nevars who have preserved
some traditions of a migration from the north and are akin to the
Tibetans in race and language, though like many non-Aryan tribes they
have endeavoured to invent for themselves a Hindu pedigree. Buddhism
was introduced under Asoka. As Indian influence was strong and
communication with Tirhut and Bengal easy, it is probable that
Buddhism in Nepal reflected the phases which it underwent in Bengal. A
Nepalese inscription of the seventh century gives a list of shrines of
which seven are Śivaite, six Buddhist and four Vishnuite.[291] After
that date it was more successful in maintaining itself, for it did not
suffer from Mohammedan attacks and was less exposed to the
assimilative influence of Brahmanism. That influence however, though
operating in a foreign country and on people not bred among Brahmanic
traditions, was nevertheless strong. In 1324 the king of Tirhut, being
expelled thence by Mohammedans, seized the throne of Nepal and brought
with him many learned Brahmans. His dynasty was not permanent but
later in the fourteenth century a subsequent ruler, Jayasthiti,
organized society and religion in consultation with the Brahman
immigrants. The followers of the two religions were arranged in
parallel divisions, a group of Buddhists classified according to
occupation corresponding to each Hindu caste, and appropriate rules
and ceremonies were prescribed for the different sections. The code
then established is still in force in essentials and Nepal, being
intellectually the pupil of India, has continued to receive such new
ideas as appeared in the plains of Bengal. When these ascended to the
mountain valleys they were adopted, with free modification of old and
new material alike, by both Buddhists and Hindus, but as both sects
were geographically isolated, each tended to resemble the other more
than either resembled normal Buddhism or Hinduism. Naturally the new
ideas were mainly Brahmanic and Buddhism had no chance of being
fortified by an importation of even moderately orthodox doctrine. In
the fourteenth century arose the community of wandering ascetics
called Nâthas who were reverenced by Hindus and Buddhists alike. They
rejected the observances of both creeds but often combined their
doctrines and, though disavowed by the Brahmans, exercised a
considerable influence among the lower castes. Some of the peculiar
deities of Nepal, such as Matsyendranâth, have attributes traceable to
these wanderers. In 1769 Nepal was conquered by the Gurkhas. This
tribe seems related to the Tibetan stock, as are the Nevars, but it
had long been Hinduized and claimed a Rajput ancestry. Thus Gurkha
rule has favoured and accelerated the hinduizing of Nepalese Buddhism.

Since the time of Hodgson the worship of the Âdi-Buddha, or an
original divine Buddha practically equivalent to God, has been often
described as characteristic of Nepalese religion and such a worship
undoubtedly exists. But recent accounts indicate that it is not
prominent and also that it can hardly be considered a distinct type of
monotheistic Buddhism. The idea that the five Dhyâni-Buddhas are
emanations or manifestations of a single primordial Buddha-spirit is a
natural development of Mahayanist ideas, but no definite statement of
it earlier than the Kâlacakra literature is forthcoming, though many
earlier works point towards it.[292] In modern Nepal the chief temple
of the Âdi-Buddha is on the hill of Svayambhû (the self-existent) near
Katmandu. According to a legend preserved in the Svayambhû Purâṇa, a
special divine manifestation occurred in ancient times on an adjoining
lake; a miraculous lotus arose on its surface, bearing an image, over
which a Caitya was subsequently erected. The shrine is greatly
venerated but this Âdi-Buddha, or Svayambhû, does not differ
essentially from other miraculous images in India which are said not
to consist of ordinary matter but to embody in some special way the
nature of a deity. The religion of Nepal is less remarkable for new
developments of Buddhism than for the singular fusion of Buddhism with
Hinduism which it presents and which helps us to understand what must
have been the last phase in Bengal.

The Nepalese Brahmans tolerate Buddhism. The Nepâla-mâhâtmya says that
to worship Buddha is to worship Śiva, and the Svayambhû Purâna returns
the compliment by recommending the worship of Paśupati.[293] The
official itinerary of the Hindu pilgrim includes Svayambhû, where he
adores Buddha under that name. More often the two religions adore the
same image under different names: what is Avalokita to the one is
Mahâkâla to the other. Durgâ is explained as being the incarnation of
the Prajñâ-pâramitâ and she is even identified with the Âdi-Buddha.
The Nepalese pantheon like the Tibetan contains three elements, often
united in modern legends: firstly aboriginal deities, such as Nagas
and other nature spirits: secondly definitely Buddhist deities or
Bodhisattvas of whom Mañjuśrî receives the most honour: thirdly Hindu
deities such as Gaṇeśa and Kṛishṇa. The popular deity
Matsyendranath appears to combine all three elements in his own

Modern accounts of Nepal leave the impression that even corrupt
Buddhism is in a bad way, yet the number of religious establishments
is considerable. Celibacy is not observed by their inmates, who are
called banras (bandyas). On entering the order the novice takes the
ancient vows but after four days he returns to his tutor, confesses
that they are too hard for him and is absolved from his obligations.
The classes known as Bhikshus and Gubhârjus officiate as priests, the
latter being the higher order. The principal ceremony is the offering
of melted butter. The more learned Gubhârjus receive the title of
Vajrâcârya[294] and have the sole right of officiating at marriages
and funerals.

There is little learning. The oldest scriptures in use are the
so-called nine Dharmas.[295] Hodgson describes these works as much
venerated and Rajendralal Mitra has analysed them, but Sylvain Lévi
heard little of them in 1898, though he mentions the recitation of the
Prajñâ-pâramitâ. The Svayambhû Purâṇa is an account of the
manifestation of the Âdi-Buddha written in the style of those portions
of the Brahmanic Purâṇas which treat of the glories of some sacred
place. In its present form it can hardly be earlier than the sixteenth
century A.D. The Nepâla-mâhâtmya is a similar work which, though of
Brahmanic origin, puts Buddha, Vishnu and Śiva on the same footing and
identifies the first with Krishna. The Vâgvatî-mâhâtmya[296] on the
other hand is strictly Śivaite and ignores Buddha's claims to worship.
The Vâmśâvali, or Chronicle of Nepal, written in the Gurkha language
(Parbatiya) is also largely occupied with an account of sacred sites
and buildings and exists in two versions, one Buddhist, the other

But let us return to the decadence of Buddhism in India. It is plain
that persecution was not its main cause nor even very important among
the accessory causes. The available records contain clearer statements
about the persecution of Jainism than of Buddhism but no doubt the
latter came in for some rough handling, though not enough to
annihilate a vigorous sect. Great numbers of monasteries in the north
were demolished by the Huns and a similar catastrophe brought about
the collapse of the Church in Bihar. But this last incident cannot be
called religious persecution, for Muhammad did not even know what he
was destroying. Buddhism did not arouse more animosity than other
Indian religions: the significant feature is that when its temples and
monasteries were demolished it did not live on in the hearts of the
people, as did Hinduism with all its faults.

The relation between the laity and the Church in Buddhism is curious
and has had serious consequences for both good and evil. The layman
"takes refuge" in the Buddha, his law and his church but does not
swear exclusive allegiance: to follow supplementary observances is not
treasonable, provided they are not in themselves objectionable. The
Buddha prescribed no ceremonies for births, deaths and marriages and
apparently expected the laity to continue in the observance of such
rites as were in use. To-day in China and Japan the good layman is
little more than one who pays more attention to Buddhism than to other
faiths. This charitable pliancy had much to do with the victories of
Buddhism in the Far East, where it had to struggle against strong
prejudices and could hardly have made its way if it had been
intolerant of local deities. But in India we see the disadvantages of
the omission to make the laity members of a special corporation and
the survival of the Jains, who do form such a corporation, is a clear
object lesson. Social life in India tends to combine men in castes or
in communities which if not castes in the technical sense have much
the same character. Such communities have great vitality so long as
they maintain their peculiar usages, but when they cease to do so they
soon disintegrate and are reabsorbed. Buddhism from the first never
took the form of a corporation. The special community which it
instituted was the saṅgha or body of monks. Otherwise, it aimed not
at founding a sect but at including all the world as lay believers on
easy terms. This principle worked well so long as the faith was in the
ascendent but its effect was disastrous when decline began. The line
dividing Buddhist laymen from ordinary Hindus became less and less
marked: distinctive teaching was found only in the monasteries: these
became poorly recruited and as they were gradually deserted or
destroyed by Mohammedans the religion of the Buddha disappeared from
his native land.

Even in the monasteries the doctrine taught bore a closer resemblance
to Hinduism than to the preaching of Gotama and it is this absence of
the protestant spirit, this pliant adaptability to the ideas of each
age, which caused Indian Buddhism to lose its individuality and
separate existence. In some localities its disappearance and
absorption were preceded by a monstrous phase, known as Tantrism or
Śâktism, in which the worst elements of Hinduism, those which would
have been most repulsive to Gotama, made an unnatural alliance with
his church.

I treat of Tantrism and Śâktism in another chapter. The original
meaning of Tantra as applied to literary compositions is a simplified
manual.[297] Thus we hear of Vishnuite Tantras and in this sense there
is a real similarity between Buddhist and tantric teaching, for both
set aside Brahmanic tradition as needlessly complicated and both
profess to preach a simple and practical road to salvation. But in
Hinduism and Buddhism alike such words as Tantra and tantric acquire a
special sense and imply the worship of the divine energy in a female
form called by many names such as Kâlî in the former, Târâ in the
latter. This worship which in my opinion should be called Śâktism
rather than Tantrism combines many elements: ancient, savage
superstitions as well as ingenious but fanciful speculation, but its
essence is always magic. It attempts to attain by magical or
sacramental formulæ and acts not only prosperity and power but
salvation, nirvana and union with the supreme spirit. Some of its
sects practise secret immoral rites. It is sad to confess that
degenerate Buddhism did not remain uncorrupted by such abuses.

It is always a difficult and speculative task to trace the early
stages of new movements in Indian religion, but it is clear that by
the eighth century and perhaps earlier the Buddhism of Bihar and
Bengal had fallen a prey to this influence. Apparently the public
ritual in the Vihâras remained unchanged and the usual language about
_nirvâna_ and _śûnyatâ_ was not discarded, but it was taught that
those who followed a certain curriculum could obtain salvation by
magical methods. To enter this curriculum it was necessary to have a
qualified teacher and to receive from him initiation or baptism
(abhisheka). Of the subsequent rites the most important is to evoke
one of the many Buddhas or Bodhisattvas recognized by the Mahayana and
identify oneself with him.[298] He who wishes to do this is often
called a sâdhaka or magician but his achievements, like many Indian
miracles, are due to self-hypnotization. He is directed to repair to a
lonely place and offer worship there with flowers and prayers. To this
office succeed prolonged exercises in meditation which do not depart
much from the ancient canon since they include the four
Brahmâ-vihâras. Their object is to suppress thought and leave the mind
empty. Then the sâdhaka fills this void with the image of some
Bodhisattva, for instance Avalokita. This he does by uttering mystic
syllables called bîja or seed, because they are supposed to germinate
and grow into the figures which he wishes to produce. In this way he
imagines that he sees the emblems of the Bodhisattva spring up round
him one by one and finally he himself assumes the shape of Avalokita
and becomes one with him. Something similar still exists in Tibet
where every Lama chooses a tutelary deity or Yi-dam whom he summons in
visible form after meditation and fasting.[299] Though this procedure
when set forth methodically in a mediæval manual seems an absurd
travesty of Buddhism, yet it has links with the early faith. It is
admitted in the Pitakas that certain forms of meditation[300] lead to
union with Brahmâ and it is no great change to make them lead to union
with other supernatural beings. Still we are not here breathing the
atmosphere of the Pitakas. The object is not to share Brahmâ's heaven
but to become temporarily identified with a deity, and this is not a
byway of religion but the high road.

But there is a further stage of degradation. I have already mentioned
that various Bodhisattvas are represented as accompanied by a female
deity, particularly Avalokita by Târâ. The mythological and
metaphysical ideas which have grown up round Śiva and Durgâ also
attached themselves to these couples. The Buddha or Bodhisattva is
represented as enjoying nirvana because he is united to his spouse,
and to the three bodies already enumerated is added a fourth, the body
of perfect bliss.[301] Sometimes this idea merely leads to further
developments of the practices described above. Thus the devotee may
imagine that he enters into Târâ as an embryo and is born of her as a
Buddha.[302] More often the argument is that since the bliss of the
Buddha consists in union with Târâ, nirvana can be obtained by sexual
union here, and we find many of the tantric wizards represented as
accompanied by female companions. The adept should avoid all action
but he is beyond good and evil and the dangerous doctrine that he can
do evil with impunity, which the more respectable sects repudiate, is
expressly taught. The sage is not defiled by passion but conquers
passion by passion: he should commit every infamy: he should rob, lie
and kill Buddhas.[303] These crazy precepts are probably little more
than a speculative application to the moral sphere of the doctrine
that all things are non-existent and hence equivalent. But though
tantrists did not go about robbing and murdering so freely as their
principles allowed, there is some evidence that in the period of
decadence the morality of the Bhikshus had fallen into great
discredit. Thus in the allegorical Vishnuite drama called
Prabodhacandrodaya and written at Kalanjar near the end of the
eleventh century Buddhists and Jains are represented as succumbing to
the temptations of inebriety and voluptuousness.

It is necessary to mention this phase of decadence but no good purpose
would be served by dwelling further on the absurd and often disgusting
prescriptions of such works as the Tathâgata-guhyaka. If the European
reader is inclined to condemn unreservedly a religion which even in
decrepitude could find place for such monstrosities, he should
remember that the aberrations of Indian religion are due not to its
inherent depravity, but to its universality. In Europe those who
follow disreputable occupations rarely suppose that they have anything
to do with the Church. In India, robbers, murderers, gamblers,
prostitutes, and maniacs all have their appropriate gods, and had the
Marquis de Sade been a Hindu he would probably have founded a new
tantric sect. But though the details of Śâktism are an unprofitable
study, it is of some importance to ascertain when it first invaded
Buddhism and to what extent it superseded older ideas.

Some critics[304] seem to imply--for their statements are not very
explicit--that Śâktism formed part if not of the teaching of the
Buddha, at least of the medley of beliefs held by his disciples. But I
see no proof that Śâktist beliefs--that is to say erotic mysticism
founded on the worship of goddesses--were prevalent in Magadha or
Kosala before the Christian era. Although Siri, the goddess of luck,
is mentioned in the Pitakas, the popular deities whom they bring on
the scene are almost exclusively masculine.[305] And though in the
older Brahmanic books there are passages which might easily become
tantric, yet the transition is not made and the important truths of
religion are kept distinct from unclean rites and thoughts. The
Bṛihad-âraṇyaka contains a chapter which hardly admits of
translation but the object of the practices inculcated is simply to
ensure the birth of a son. The same work (not without analogies in the
ecstatic utterances of Christian saints) boldly compares union with
the Âtman to the bliss of one who is embraced by a beloved wife, but
this is a mere illustration and there is no hint of the doctrine that
the goal of the religious life is obtainable by _maithuna_. Still such
passages, though innocent in themselves, make it easy to see how
degrading superstitions found an easy entrance into the noblest
edifices of Indian thought and possibly some heresies condemned in the
Kathâvatthu[306] indicate that even at this early date the Buddhist
Church was contaminated by erotic fancies. But, if so, there is no
evidence that such malpractices were widespread. The appendices to the
Lotus[307] show that the worship of a many-named goddess, invoked as a
defender of the faith, was beginning to be a recognized feature of
Buddhism. But they contain no indications of left-handed Tantrism and
the best proof that it did not become prevalent until much later is
afforded by the narratives of the three Chinese pilgrims who all
describe the condition of religion in India and notice anything which
they thought singular or reprehensible. Fa-Hsien does not mention the
worship of any female deity,[308] nor does the Life of Vasubandhu, but
Asanga appears to allude to Śâktism in one passage.[309] Hsüan Chuang
mentions images of Târâ but without hinting at tantric ritual, nor
does I-Ching allude to it, nor does the evidence of art and
inscriptions attest its existence. It may have been known as a form of
popular superstition and even have been practised by individual
Bhikshus, but the silence of I-Ching makes it improbable that it was
then countenanced in the schools of Magadha. He complains[310] of
those who neglect the Vinaya and "devote their whole attention to the
doctrine of nothingness," but he says not a word about tantric

The change probably occurred in the next half century[312] for
Padma-Sambhava, the founder of Lamaism who is said to have resided in
Gaya and Nalanda and to have arrived in Tibet in 747 A.D., is
represented by tradition as a tantric wizard, and about the same time
translations of Tantras begin to appear in Chinese. The translations
of the sixth and seventh centuries, including those of I-Ching,
comprise a considerable though not preponderant number of Dhâraṇîs.
After the seventh century these became very numerous and several
Tantras were also translated.[313] The inference seems to be that
early in the eighth century Indian Buddhists officially recognized

Tantric Buddhism was due to the mixture of Mahayanist teaching with
aboriginal superstitions absorbed through the medium of Hinduism,
though in some cases there may have been direct contact and mutual
influence between Mahayanism and aboriginal beliefs. But as a rule
what happened was that aboriginal deities were identified with Hindu
deities and Buddhism had not sufficient independence to keep its own
pantheon distinct, so that Vairocana and Târâ received most of the
attributes, brahmanic or barbarous, given to Śiva or Kâli. The worship
of the goddesses, described in their Hinduized form as Durgâ, Kâlî,
etc., though found in most parts of India was specially prevalent in
the sub-himalayan districts both east and west. Now Padma-Sambhava was
a native of Udyâna or Swat and Târanâtha represents the chief
Tantrists[314] as coming from there or visiting it. Hsüan Chuang[315]
tells us that the inhabitants were devout Mahayanists but specially
expert in magic and exorcism. He also describes no less than four
sacred places in it where the Buddha in previous births gave his
flesh, blood or bones for the good of others. Have we here in a
Buddhist form some ancient legend of dismemberment like that told of
Satî in Assam? Of Kashmir he says that its religion was a mixture of
Buddhism with other beliefs.[316] These are precisely the conditions
most favourable to the growth of Tantrism and though the bulk of the
population are now Mohammedans, witchcraft and sorcery are still
rampant. Among the Hindu Kashmîris[317] the most prevalent religion
has always been the worship of Śiva, especially in the form
representing him as half male, half female. This cult is not far from
Śâktism and many allusions[318] in the Râjataranginî indicate that
left-hand worship was known, though the author satirizes it as a
corruption. He also several times mentions[319] Mâtri-cakras, that is
circles sacred to the Mothers or tantric goddesses. In Nepal and Tibet
tantric Buddhism is fully developed but these countries have received
so much from India that they exhibit not a parallel growth, but late
Indian Tantrism as imported ready-made from Bengal. It is here that we
come nearest to the origins of Tantrism, for though the same beliefs
may have flourished in Udyâna and Kashmir they did not spread much in
the Panjab or Hindustan, where their progress was hindered at first by
a healthy and vigorous Hinduism and subsequently by Mohammedan
invasions. But from 700 to 1197 A.D. Bengal was remote alike from the
main currents of Indian religion and from foreign raids: little Aryan
thought or learning leavened the local superstitions which were
infecting and stifling decadent Buddhism. Hsüan Chuang informs us that
Bhaskaravarma king of Kâmarûpa[320] attended the fêtes celebrated by
Harsha in 644 A.D. and inscriptions found at Tezpur indicate that
kings with Hindu names reigned in Assam about 800 A.D. This is
agreeable to the supposition that an amalgamation of Śivaism and
aboriginal religion may have been in formation about 700 A.D. and have
influenced Buddhism.

In Bihar from the eighth century onwards the influence of Tantrism was
powerful and disastrous. The best information about this epoch is
still to be found in Târanâtha, in spite of his defects.

He makes the interesting statement that in the reign of Gopâla who was
a Buddhist, although his ministers were not (730-740 A.D.), the
Buddhists wished their religious buildings to be kept separate from
Hindu temples but that, in spite of protests, life-sized images of
Hindu deities were erected in them.[321] The ritual too was affected,
for we hear several times of burnt offerings[322] and how Bodhibhadra,
one of the later professors of Vikramaśila, was learned in the mystic
lore of both Buddhists and Brahmans. Nalanda and the other viharas
continued to be seats of learning and not merely monasteries, and for
some time there was a regular succession of teachers. Târanâtha gives
us to understand that there were many students and authors but that
sorcery occupied an increasingly important position. Of most teachers
we are told that they saw some deity, such as Avalokita or Târâ. The
deity was summoned by the rites already described[323] and the object
of the performer was to obtain magical powers or siddhi. The
successful sorcerer was known as siddha, and we hear of 84
mahâsiddhas, still celebrated in Tibet, who extend from Rahulabhadra
Nâgârjuna to the thirteenth century. Many of them bear names which
appear not to be Indian.

The topics treated of in the Tantras are divided into Kriyâ (ritual),
Caryâ (apparently corresponding to Vinaya), Yoga, and Anuttara-yoga.
Sometimes the first three are contrasted with the fourth and sometimes
the first two are described as lower, the third and fourth as higher.
But the Anuttara-yoga is always considered the highest and most
mysterious.[324] Târanâtha says[325] that the Tantras began to appear
simultaneously with the Mahayana sûtras but adds that the
Anuttara-yoga tantras appeared gradually.[326] He also observes that
the Âcârya Ânanda-garbha[327] did much to spread them in Magadha. It
is not until a late period of the Pâla dynasty that he mentions the
Kâlacakra which is the most extravagant form of Buddhist Tantrism.

This accords with other statements to the effect that the Kâlacakra
tantra was introduced in 965 A.D. from Śambhala, a mysterious country
in Central Asia. This system is said to be Vishnuite rather than
Śivaite. It specially patronizes the cult of the mystic Buddhas such
as Kâlacakra and Heruka, all of whom appear to be regarded as forms of
Âdi-Buddha or the primordial Buddha essence. The Siddha named Pito is
also described as the author of this doctrine,[328] which had less
importance in India than in Tibet.

On the other hand Târanâtha gives us the names of several doctors of
the Vinaya who flourished under the Pâla dynasty. Even as late as the
reign of Râmapâla (? 1080-1120) we hear that the Hinayanists were
numerous. In the reign of Dharmapâla (_c_. 800 A.D.) some of them
broke up the great silver image of Heruka at Bodh-Gaya and burnt the
books of Mantras.[329] These instances show that the older Buddhism
was not entirely overwhelmed by Tantrism[330] though perhaps it was
kept alive more by pilgrims than by local sentiment. Thus the Chinese
inscriptions of Bodh-Gaya though they speak at length of the three
bodies of Buddha show no signs of Tantrism. It would appear that the
worship celebrated in the holy places of Magadha preserved a
respectable side until the end. In the same way although Tantrism is
strong in the literature of the Lamas, none of the many descriptions
of Tibet indicate that there is anything scandalous in the externals
of religion. Probably in Tibet, Nepal and mediæval Magadha alike the
existence of disgraceful tantric literature does not indicate such
widespread depravity as might be supposed. But of its putrefying
influence in corrupting the minds of those who ought to have preserved
the pure faith there can be no doubt. More than any other form of
mixed belief it obliterated essential differences, for Buddhist
Tantrism and Śivaite Tantrism are merely two varieties of Tantrism.

What is happening at Bodh-Gaya at present[331] illustrates how
Buddhism disappeared from India. The abbot of a neighbouring Śivaite
monastery who claims the temple and grounds does not wish, as a
Mohammedan might, to destroy the building or even to efface Buddhist
emblems. He wishes to supervise the whole establishment and the visits
of pilgrims, as well as to place on the images of Buddha Hindu
sectarian marks and other ornaments. Hindu pilgrims are still taken by
their guides to venerate the Bodhi tree and, but for the presence of
foreign pilgrims, no casual observer would suppose the spot to be
anything but a Hindu temple of unusual construction. The same process
went a step further in many shrines which had not the same celebrity
and effaced all traces and memory of Buddhism.

At the present day the Buddha is recognized by the Brahmans as an
incarnation of Vishnu,[332] though the recognition is often qualified
by the statement that Vishnu assumed this form in order to mislead the
wicked who threatened to become too powerful if they knew the true
method of attaining superhuman powers. But he is rarely worshipped _in
propriâ personâ_.[333] As a rule Buddhist images and emblems are
ascribed to Vishnu or Śiva, according to sectarian preferences, but
in spite of fusion some lingering sense of original animosity
prevents Gotama from receiving even such respect as is accorded to
incarnations like Paraśu-râma. At Bodh-Gaya I have been told that
Hindu pilgrims are taken by their guides to venerate the Bodhi-tree
but not the images of Buddha.

Yet in reviewing the disappearance of Buddhism from India we must
remember that it was absorbed not expelled. The result of the mixture
is justly called Hinduism, yet both in usages and beliefs it has taken
over much that is Buddhist and without Buddhism it would never have
assumed its present shape. To Buddhist influence are due for instance
the rejection by most sects of animal sacrifices: the doctrine of the
sanctity of animal life: monastic institutions and the ecclesiastical
discipline found in the Dravidian regions. We may trace the same
influence with more or less certainty in the philosophy of Śaṅkara
and outside the purely religious sphere in the development of Indian
logic. These and similar points are dealt with in more detail in other
parts of this work and I need not dwell on them here.


[Footnote 264: Written before the war.]

[Footnote 265: Even at Kanauj, the scene of Harsha's pious
festivities, there were 100 Buddhist monasteries but 200 Deva

[Footnote 266: Rice, _Mysore and Coorg from the Inscriptions_, p.

[Footnote 267: See the note by Bühler in _Journ. Pali Text Soc._ 1896,
p. 108.]

[Footnote 268: Râjataranginî, III. 12.]

[Footnote 269: See for the supposed persecution of Buddhism in India,
_J.P.T.S._ 1896, pp. 87-92 and 107-111 and _J.R.A.S._ 1898, pp.

[Footnote 270: As contained in the Śaṅkara-dig-vijaya ascribed to
Mâdhava and the Śaṅkara-vijaya ascribed to Ânandagiri.]

[Footnote 271: Târanâtha in his twenty-eighth and following chapters
gives an account, unfortunately very confused, of the condition of
Buddhism under the Pâla dynasty. See also B.K. Sarkar, _Folklore
Element in Hindu Culture_, chap. XII, in which there are many
interesting statements but not sufficient references.]

[Footnote 272: See Vidyabhusana's _Mediæval School of Indian Logic_,
p. 150, for an account of this monastery which was perhaps at the
modern Pârthaghâta. I have found no account of what happened to
Nalanda in this period but it seems to have disappeared as a seat of

[Footnote 273: See Târanâtha, chap. XXVIII.]

[Footnote 274: Chap. XXXVI. It is interesting to notice that even at
this late period he speaks of Hinayanists in Bengal.]

[Footnote 275: Often called Muhammad Bakhtyar but Bakhtyar seems to
have been really his father's name.]

[Footnote 276: Raverty, _Tabat-i-Nasiri_, p. 552. "It was discovered
that the whole of that fortress and city was a college and in the
Hindi tongue they call a college Bihar."]

[Footnote 277: Many of them have been collected by Pandit Haraprasad
Sastri in _Jour. As. Soc._ Bengal, 1895, pp. 55 ff. and in his
_Discovery of living Buddhism in Bengal_, Calcutta, 1897.]

[Footnote 278: Chap. XL _ad fin._ Is the Râmacandra whom he mentions
the last Yadava King (about 1314)? Târanâtha speaks of his son.]

[Footnote 279: Caitanya-caritamrita, chap. VII, transl. by Jadunath
Sarkar, p. 85. This biography was written in 1582 by Kṛishṇadas.
Caitanya died in 1533.]

[Footnote 280: _Census of India_, 1901: vol. VI. Bengal, pp. 427-430.]

[Footnote 281: _The Archæological Survey of Mayurabhanj_ (no date?
1911), vol. I. pp. cv-cclxiii. The part containing an account of
Buddhism in Orissa is also printed separately with the title _Modern
Buddhism_, 1911.]

[Footnote 282: For Râmâi Pandit see Dinesh Chandra Sen, _Hist. Bengali
Language and Lit._ pp. 30-37, and also B.K. Sarkar, _Folklore Element
in Hindu Culture_, p. 192, and elsewhere. He appears to have been born
at the end of the tenth century and though the Śûnya Purâṇa has been
re-edited and interpolated parts of it are said to be in very old

[Footnote 283: Nagendranâth Vasu quotes a couplet from the Mahâbhârata
of the poet Saraladasa: "I pay my humble respects to the incarnation
of Buddha who in the form of Buddha dwells in the Nîlâcala, _i.e._
Puri." The Imperial Gazetteer of India (s.v. Puri Town) states that in
modern representations of Vishṇu's ten avatâras, the ninth, or
Buddhâvatâra, is sometimes represented by Jagannâtha.]

[Footnote 284: I give the dates or the authority of Narandra Nâth
while thinking that they may be somewhat too early. The two authors
named wrote the Śûnya Samhitâ and Nirguṇa Mâhâtmya respectively.]

[Footnote 285: _l.c._ clxxvi ff., ccxix-ccxxiii, ccxxxi.]

[Footnote 286: Author of a poem called Dharmagîtâ.]

[Footnote 287: _l.c._ cxvi ff. and ccxxxii.]

[Footnote 288: _l.c._ ccxxxiv ff.]

[Footnote 289: See Haraprasad Sastri, _l.c._ He gives a curious
account of one of his temples in Calcutta. See also B.K. Sarkar,
_Folklore Element in Hindu Culture_ for the decadence of Buddhism in
Bengal and its survival in degenerate forms.]

[Footnote 290: See B.H. Hodgson, _Essays on the languages, literature
and religion of Nepal and Tibet_, 1874. For the religion of Nepal see
also Wright, _History of Nepal_, 1877; C. Bendall, _Journal of
Literary and Archæological Research in Nepal_, 1886; Rajendralal
Mitra, _Sanskrit Buddhist literature of Nepal_; and especially S.
Lévi, _Le Nepal_, 3 vols. 1905-8.]

[Footnote 291: S. Lévi in _J.A._ II. 1904, p. 225. He gives the date
as 627.]

[Footnote 292: The doctrine of the Âdi-Buddha is fully stated in the
metrical version of the Kâraṇḍa-vyûha which appears to be a later
paraphrase of the prose edition. See Winternitz, _Gesch. Ind. Lit_.
II. i. 238.]

[Footnote 293: Compare the fusion of Śivaism and Buddhism in Java.]

[Footnote 294: Or Vajrâcârya-arhat-bhikshu-buddha, which in itself
shows what a medley Nepalese Buddhism has become.]

[Footnote 295: See above chap. XX. for some account of these works.]

[Footnote 296: Dedicated to the sacred river Vâgvatî or Bagmati.]

[Footnote 297: Hardly any Buddhist Tantras have been edited in Europe.
See Bendall, _Subhâshita-sangraha_ for a collection of extracts (also
published in _Muséon_, 1905), and De la Vallée Poussin, _Bouddhisme,
Études el Matériaux. Id._ Pancakrama, 1896.

While this book was going through the press I received the Tibetan
Tantra called Shrichakrasambhara (Avalon's Tantric Texts, vol. VII)
with introduction by A. Avalon, but have not been able to make use of

[Footnote 298: See Foucher, _Iconographie bouddhique_, pp. 8 ff. De la
Vallée Poussin, _Bouddhisme, Études et Matériaux_, pp. 213 ff. For
Japanese tantric ceremonies see the Si-Do-In-Dzon in the _Annales du
Musée Guimet_, vol. VIII.]

[Footnote 299: In ancient Egypt also the Kher ḥeb or magician-priest
claimed the power of becoming various gods. See Budge, _Osiris_, II.
170 and Wiedemann, _Magic im alten Aegypten_, 13 ff.]

[Footnote 300: The Brahmâ-vihâras. _E.g._ Dig. Nik. XIII.]

[Footnote 301: Mahâsukhakâya or vajrakâya.]

[Footnote 302: De la Vallée Poussin, _Bouddhisme, Études et
Matériaux_, p. 153.]

[Footnote 303: See _Subhâshita-saṅgraha_ edited by Bendall. Part II. pp.
29 ff. especially p. 41. Parasvaharaṇam kâryam paradârânishevaṇam
Vaktavyam cânṛitam nityam sarvabuddhâṃśca ghâtayet. See also
Tathâgata-guhyaka in Rajendralal Mitra's _Sanskrit Literature in Nepal_,
pp. 261-264.]

[Footnote 304: For instance De la Vallée Poussin in his _Bouddhisme,
Études et Matériaux_, 1896. In his later work, _Bouddhisme, Opinions
sur l'histoire de la dogmatique_, he modifies his earlier views.]

[Footnote 305: See Dig. Nik. XX. and XXXII.]

[Footnote 306: Kathâv. XXIII. 1 and 2.]

[Footnote 307: These appendices are later additions to the original
text but they were translated into Chinese in the third century. Among
the oldest Sanskrit MSS. from Japan is the Ushṇisha-vijaya-dhâraṇî
and there is a goddess with a similar name. But the Dhâraṇî is not
Śâktist. See text in Anec. Oxon. Aryan series.]

[Footnote 308: He speaks of Kwan-shih-yin but this is probably the
male Avalokita.]

[Footnote 309: Mahâyâna-sûtrâlankâra, IX. 46. Of course there may be
many other allusions in yet unedited works of Asanga but it is
noticeable that this allusion to _maithuna_ is only made in passing
and is not connected with the essence of his teaching.]

[Footnote 310: Transl. Takakusu, p. 51.]

[Footnote 311: Târanâtha, chap. XXII seems also to assign a late
origin to the Tantras though his remarks are neither clear nor
consistent with what he says in other passages. He is doubtless right
in suggesting that tantric rites were practised surreptitiously before
they were recognized openly.]

[Footnote 312: It is about this time too that we hear of Tantrism in
Hinduism. In the drama Mâlatî and Mâdhava (_c_. 730 A.D.) the heroine
is kidnapped and is about to be sacrificed to the goddess Candâ when
she is rescued.]

[Footnote 313: See the latter part of Appendix II in Nanjio's

[Footnote 314: _E.g._ Lalitavajra, Lîlâvajra, Buddhaśânti, Ratnavajra.
Târanâtha also (tr. Schiefner, p. 264) speaks of Tantras "Welche aus
Udyana gebracht und nie in Indien gewesen sind." It is also
noticeable, as Grünwedel has pointed out, that many of the siddhas or
sorcerers bear names which have no meaning in Aryan languages:
Bir-va-pa, Na-ro-pa, Lui-pa, etc. A curious late tradition represents
Śâktism as coming from China. See a quotation from the Mahâcînatantra
in the _Archæological Survey of Mayurabhanj_, p. xiv. Either China is
here used loosely for some country north of the Himalayas or the story
is pure fancy, for with rare exceptions (for instance the Lamaism of
the Yüan dynasty) the Chinese seem to have rejected Śâktist works or
even to have expurgated them, _e.g._ the Tathâgata-guhyaka.]

[Footnote 315: His account of Udyâna and Kashmir will be found in
Watters, chapters VII and VIII.]

[Footnote 316: Traces of Buddhism still exist, for according to Bühler
the Nilamata Purâṇa orders the image of Buddha to be worshipped on
Vaisakha 15 to the accompaniment of recitations by Buddhist ascetics.]

[Footnote 317: For notices of Kashmirian religion see Stein's
translation of the Râjataranginî and Bühler, _Tour in Search of
Sanskrit manuscripts. J. Bomb. A.S._ 1877.]

[Footnote 318: VI. 11-13, VII. 278-280, 295, 523.]

[Footnote 319: I. 122, 335, 348: III. 99, V. 55.]

[Footnote 320: Also called Kumâra.]

[Footnote 321: Similarly statues of Mahâdevî are found in Jain temples
now, _i.e._ in Gujarat.]

[Footnote 322: This very unbuddhist practice seems to have penetrated
even to Japan. Burnt offerings form part of the ritual in the temple
of Narita.]

[Footnote 323: See for instance the account of how Kamalarakshita
summoned Yamâri.]

[Footnote 324: So too the Saṃhitâs of the Vaishṇavas and the Âgamas
of the Śaivas are said to consist of four quarters teaching Jñâna,
Yoga, Kriyâ and Caryâ respectively. See Schrader, _Introd. to
Pâncarâtra_, p. 22. Sometimes five classes of Tantras are enumerated
which are perhaps all subdivisions of the Anuttara-yoga, namely
Guhyasamâja, Mâyâjâla, Buddhasammâyoga, Candraguhyatilaka,
Manjuśrîkrodha. See Târanâtha (Schiefner), p. 221.]

[Footnote 325: Chap. XLIII. But this seems hardly consistent with his
other statements.]

[Footnote 326: The Lamas in Tibet have a similar theory of progressive
tantric revelation. See Waddell, _Buddhism of Tibet_, pp. 56, 57.]

[Footnote 327: In the reign of Mahîpâla, 978-1030 A.D.]

[Footnote 328: Târanâtha, p. 275. For the whole subject see Grünwedel,
_Mythologie des Buddhismus_, pp. 41-2 and my chapters on Tibet below.]

[Footnote 329: Schiefner (transl. Târanâtha, p. 221) describes these
Śrâvakas or Hinayanists as "Saindhavas welche Çrâvakas aus Simhala
u.s.w. waren." They are apparently the same as the Saindhava-çrâvakas
often mentioned by Târanâtha. Are they Hinayanists from Sindh where
the Sammitiya school was prevalent? See also Pag Sam Jon Zang, pp.
cxix, 114 and 134 where Sarat Chandra Das explains Sendha-pa as a
brahmanical sect.]

[Footnote 330: The curious story (Târanâtha, p. 206) in which a
Buddhist at first refuses on religious grounds to take part in the
evocation of a demon seems also to hint at a disapproval of magic.]

[Footnote 331: This passage was written about 1910. In the curious
temple at Gaya called Bishnupad the chief object of veneration is a
foot-like mark. Such impressions are venerated in many parts of the
world as Buddha's feet and it seems probable, considering the
locality, that this footprint was attributed to Buddha before it was
transferred to Vishnu.]

[Footnote 332: There are no very early references to this Avatâra. It
is mentioned in some of the Puranas (_e.g._ Bhâgavata and Agni) and by

[Footnote 333: But see the instances quoted above from Kashmir and



The present book deals with Hinduism and includes the period just
treated in Book IV. In many epochs the same mythological and
metaphysical ideas appear in a double form, Brahmanic and Buddhist,
and it is hard to say which form is the earlier.

Any work which like the present adopts a geographical and historical
treatment is bound to make Buddhism seem more important than Hinduism
and rightly, for the conversion and transformation of China, Japan and
many other countries are a series of exploits of great moment for the
history not merely of religion but of civilization. Yet when I think
of the antiquity, variety and vitality of Hinduism in India--no small
sphere--the nine chapters which follow seem very inadequate. I can
only urge that though it would be easy to fill an encyclopædia with
accounts of Indian beliefs and practices, yet there is often great
similarity under superficial differences: the main lines of thought
are less numerous than they seem to be at first sight and they tend to




The striking difference between the earlier and later phases of Indian
religious belief, between the Vedic hymns, Brâhmaṇas, Upanishads and
their accessory treatises on the one hand, and the epics, Purâṇas,
Tantras and later literature on the other, is due chiefly to the
predominance in the latter of the great gods Śiva and Vishṇu, with
the attendant features of sectarian worship and personal devotion to a
particular deity. The difference is not wholly chronological, for late
writers sometimes take the Vedic standpoint and ignore the worship of
these deities, but still their prominence in literature, and probably
in popular mythology, is posterior to the Vedic period. The change
created by their appearance is not merely the addition of two imposing
figures to an already ample pantheon; it is a revolution which might
be described as the introduction of a new religion, except that it
does not come as the enemy or destroyer of the old. The worship of the
new deities grows up peacefully in the midst of the ancient rites;
they receive the homage of the same population and the ministrations
of the same priests. The transition is obscured but also was
facilitated by the strength of Buddhism during the period when it
occurred. The Brahmans, confronted by this formidable adversary, were
disposed to favour any popular religious movement which they could
adapt to their interests.

When the Hindu revival sets in under the Guptas, and Buddhism begins
to decline, we find that a change has taken place which must have
begun several centuries before, though our imperfect chronology does
not permit us to date it. Whereas the Vedic sacrificers propitiated
all the gods impartially and regarded ritual as a sacred science
giving power over nature, the worshipper of the later deities is
generally sectarian and often emotional. He selects one for his
adoration, and this selected deity becomes not merely a great god
among others but a gigantic cosmical figure in whom centre the
philosophy, poetry and passion of his devotees. He is almost God in
the European sense, but still Indian deities, though they may have a
monopoly of adoration in their own sects, are never entirely similar
to Jehovah or Allah. They are at once more mythical, more human and
more philosophical, since they are conceived of not as creators and
rulers external to the world, but as forces manifesting themselves in
nature. An exuberant mythology bestows on them monstrous forms,
celestial residences, wives and offspring: they make occasional
appearances in this world as men and animals; they act under the
influence of passions which if titanic, are but human feelings
magnified. The philosopher accommodates them to his system by saying
that Vishṇu or Śiva is the form which the Supreme Spirit assumes as
Lord of the visible universe, a form which is real only in the same
sense that the visible world itself is real.

Vishṇu and Rudra are known even to the Ṛig Veda but as deities of no
special eminence. It is only after the Vedic age that they became,
each for his own worshippers, undisputed Lords of the Universe. A
limiting date to the antiquity of Śivaism and Vishnuism, as their
cults may be called, is furnished by Buddhist literature, at any rate
for north-eastern India. The Pali Piṭakas frequently[334] introduce
popular deities, but give no prominence to Vishṇu and Śiva. They are
apparently mentioned under the names of Veṇhu and Isâna, but are not
differentiated from a host of spirits now forgotten. The Piṭakas have
no prejudices in the matter of deities and their object is to
represent the most powerful of them as admitting their inferiority to
the Buddha. If Śiva and Vishṇu are not put forward in the same way as
Brahmâ and Indra, the inference seems clear: it had not occurred to
anyone that they were particularly important.

The suttas of the Dîgha Nikâya in which these lists of deities occur
were perhaps composed before 300 B.C.[335] About that date
Megasthenes, the Greek envoy at Pataliputra, describes two Indian
deities under the names of Dionysus and Herakles. They are generally
identified with Kṛishṇa and Śiva. It might be difficult to deduce
this identity from an analysis of each description and different
authorities have identified both Śiva and Kṛishṇa with Dionysus, but
the fact remains that a somewhat superficial foreign observer was
impressed with the idea that the Hindus worshipped two great gods. He
would hardly have derived this idea from the Vedic pantheon, and it is
not clear to what gods he can refer if not to Śiva and Vishṇu. It
thus seems probable that these two cults took shape about the fourth
century B.C. Their apparently sudden appearance is due to their
popular character and to the absence of any record in art. The
statuary and carving of the Asokan period and immediately succeeding
centuries is exclusively Buddhist. No temples or images remain to
illustrate the first growth of Hinduism (as the later form of Indian
religion is commonly styled) out of the earlier Brahmanism. Literature
(on which we are dependent for our information) takes little account
of the early career of popular gods before they win the recognition of
the priesthood and aristocracy, but when that recognition is once
obtained they appear in all their majesty and without any hint that
their honours are recent.

As already mentioned, we have evidence that in the fifth or sixth
century before Christ the Vedic or Brahmanic religion was not the only
form of worship and philosophy in India. There were popular deities
and rites to which the Brahmans were not opposed and which they
countenanced when it suited them. What takes place in India to-day
took place then. When some aboriginal deity becomes important owing to
the prosperity of the tribe or locality with which he is connected, he
is recognized by the Brahmans and admitted to their pantheon, perhaps
as the son or incarnation of some personage more generally accepted as
divine. The prestige of the Brahmans is sufficient to make such
recognition an honour, but it is also their interest and millennial
habit to secure control of every important religious movement and to
incorporate rather than suppress. And this incorporation is more than
mere recognition: the parvenu god borrows something from the manners
and attributes of the olympian society to which he is introduced. The
greater he grows, the more considerable is the process of fusion and
borrowing. Hindu philosophy ever seeks for the one amongst the many
and popular thought, in a more confused way, pursues the same goal. It
combines and identifies its deities, feeling dimly that taken singly
they are too partial to be truly divine, or it piles attributes upon
them striving to make each an adequate divine whole.

Among the processes which have contributed to form Vishṇu and Śiva we must
reckon the invasions which entered India from the north-west.[336] In
Bactria and Sogdiana there met and were combined the art and religious
ideas of Greece and Persia, and whatever elements were imported by the
Yüeh-chih and other tribes who came from the Chinese frontier. The
personalities of Vishṇu and Śiva need not be ascribed to foreign
influence. The ruder invaders took kindly to the worship of Śiva, but there
is no proof that they introduced it. But Persian and Græco-Bactrian
influence favoured the creation of more definite deities, more personal and
more pictorial. The gods of the Vedic hymns are vague and indistinct: the
Supreme Being of the Upanishads altogether impersonal, but Mithra and
Apollo, though divine in their majesty, are human in their persons and in
the appeal they make to humanity. The influence of these foreign
conceptions and especially of their representation in art is best seen in
Indian Buddhism. Hinduism has not so ancient an artistic record and
therefore the Græco-Bactrian influence on it is less obvious, for the
sculpture of the Gupta period does not seem due to this inspiration.
Neither in outward form nor in character do Vishṇu and Śiva show much more
resemblance to Apollo and Mithra than to the Vedic gods. Their exuberant,
fantastic shapes, their many heads and arms, are a symbol of their complex
and multiple attributes. They are not restricted by the limits of
personality but are great polymorphic forces, not to be indicated by the
limits of one human shape.[337]


Though alike in their grandeur and multiplicity, Vishṇu and Śiva are
not otherwise similar. In their completely developed forms they
represent two ways of looking at the world. The main ideas of the
Vaishṇavas are human and emotional. The deity saves and loves: he
asks for a worship of love. He appears in human incarnations and is
known as well or better by these incarnations than in his original
form. But in Śivaism the main current of thought is scientific and
philosophic rather than emotional.[338] This statement may seem
strange if one thinks of the wild rites and legends connected with
Śiva and his spouse. Nevertheless the fundamental conception of
Śivaism, the cosmic force which changes and in changing both destroys
and reproduces, is strictly scientific and contrasts with the human,
pathetic, loving sentiments of Vishnuism. And scandalous as the
worship of the generative principle may become, the potency of this
impulse in the world scheme cannot be denied. Agreeably to his
character of a force rather than an emotion Śiva does not become
incarnate[339] as a popular hero and saviour like Râma or Kṛishṇa,
but he assumes various supernatural forms for special purposes. Both
worships, despite their differences, show characteristics which are
common to most phases of Indian religion. Both seek for deliverance
from transmigration and are penetrated with a sense of the sorrow
inherent in human and animal life: both develop or adopt philosophical
doctrines which rise high above the level usually attained by popular
beliefs, and both have erotic aspects in which they fall below the
standard of morality usually professed by important sects whether in
Asia or Europe.

The name Śiva is euphemistic. It means propitious and, like Eumenides,
is used as a deprecating and complimentary title for the god of
terrors. It is not his earliest designation and does not occur as a
proper name in the Ṛig Veda where he is known as Rudra, a word of
disputed derivation, but probably meaning the roarer. Comparatively
few hymns are addressed to Rudra, but he is clearly distinguished from
the other Vedic gods. Whereas they are cheerful and benevolent
figures, he is maleficent and terrible: they are gods of the heaven
but he is a god of the earth. He is the "man-slayer" and the sender of
disease, but if he restrains these activities he can give safety and
health. "Slay us not, for thou art gracious," and so the Destroyer
comes to be the Gracious One.[340] It has been suggested that the name
Śiva is connected with the Tamil word _çivappu_ red and also that
Rudra means not the roarer but the red or shining one. These
etymologies seem to me possible but not proved. But Rudra is different
in character from the other gods of the Ṛig Veda. It would be rash to
say that the Aryan invaders of India brought with them no god of this
sort but it is probable that this element in their pantheon increased
as they gradually united in blood and ideas with the Dravidian
population. But we know nothing of the beliefs of the Dravidians at
this remote period. We only know that in later ages emotional
religion, finding expression as so-called devil-dancing in its lower
and as mystical poetry in its higher phases, was prevalent among them.

The White Yajur Veda[341] contains a celebrated prayer known as the
Śatarudrîya addressed to Rudra or the Rudras, for the power invoked
seems to be now many and now one. This deity, who is described by a
long string of epithets, receives the name of Śaṅkara (afterwards a
well-known epithet of Śiva) and is blue-necked. He is begged to be
_Śiva_ or propitious, but the word is an epithet, not a proper name.
He haunts mountains and deserted, uncanny places: he is the patron of
violent and lawless men, of soldiers and robbers (the two are
evidently considered much the same), of thieves, cheats and
pilferers,[342] but also of craftsmen and huntsmen and is himself "an
observant merchant": he is the lord of hosts of spirits, "ill-formed
and of all forms." But he is also a great cosmic force who "dwells in
flowing streams and in billows and in tranquil waters and in rivers
and on islands ... and at the roots of trees ...": who "exists in
incantations, in punishments, in prosperity, in the soil, in the
threshing-floor ... in the woods and in the bushes, in sound and in
echo ... in young grass and in foam ... in gravel and in streams ... in
green things and in dry things.... Reverence to the leaf and to him
who is in the fall of the leaf, the threatener, the slayer, the vexer
and the afflicter." Here we see how an evil and disreputable god, the
patron of low castes and violent occupations, becomes associated with
the uncanny forces of nature and is on the way to become an

Rudra is frequently mentioned in the Atharva Veda. He is conceived
much as in the Śatarudrîya, and is the lord of spirits and of animals.
"For thee the beasts of the wood, the deer, swans and various winged
birds are placed in the forest: thy living creatures exist in the
waters: for thee the celestial waters flow. Thou shootest at the
monsters of the ocean, and there is to thee nothing far or near."[344]

These passages show that the main conceptions out of which the
character of the later Śiva is built existed in Vedic times. The Rudra
of the Yajur and Atharva Vedas is not Brahmanic: he is not the god of
priests and orderly ritual, but of wild people and places. But he is
not a petty provincial demon who afflicts rustics and their cattle.
Though there is some hesitation between one Rudra and many Rudras, the
destructive forces are unified in thought and the destroyer is not
opposed to creation as a devil or as the principle of evil, but with
profounder insight is recognized as the Lord and Law of all living

But though the outline of Śiva is found in Vedic writings, later
centuries added new features to his cult. Chief among these is the
worship of a column known as the Linga, the emblem under which he is
now most commonly adored. It is a phallic symbol though usually decent
in appearance. The Vedas do not countenance this worship and it is not
clear that it was even known to them.[345] It is first enjoined in the
Mahâbhârata and there only in two passages[346] which appear to be
late additions. The inference seems to be that it was accepted as part
of Hinduism just about the time that our edition of the Mahâbhârata
was compiled.[347] The old theory that it was borrowed from aboriginal
and especially from Dravidian tribes[348] is now discredited. In the
first place the instances cited of phallic worship among aboriginal
tribes are not particularly numerous or striking. Secondly, linga
worship, though prevalent in the south, is not confined to it, but
flourishes in all parts of India, even in Assam and Nepal. Thirdly, it
is not connected with low castes, with orgies, with obscene or
bloodthirsty rites or with anything which can be called un-Aryan. It
forms part of the private devotions of the strictest Brahmans, and
despite the significance of the emblem, the worship offered to it is
perfectly decorous.[349] The evidence thus suggests that this cultus
grew up among Brahmanical Hindus in the early centuries of our era.
The idea that there was something divine in virility and generation
already existed. The choice of the symbol--the stone pillar--may have
been influenced by two circumstances. Firstly, the Buddhist veneration
of stûpas, especially miniature stûpas, must have made familiar the
idea that a cone or column is a religious emblem,[350] and secondly
the linga may be compared to the carved pillars or stone standards
erected in honour of Vishṇu. Some lingas are carved and bear one or
four faces, thus entirely losing any phallic appearance. The wide
extension of this cult, though its origin seems late, is remarkable.
Something similar may be seen in the worship of Gaṇeśa: the first
records of it are even later, but it is now universal in India.

It may seem strange that a religion whose outward ceremonies though
unassuming and modest consist chiefly of the worship of the linga,
should draw its adherents largely from the educated classes and be
under no moral or social stigma. Yet as an idea, as a philosophy,
Śivaism possesses truth and force. It gives the best picture which
humanity has drawn of the Lord of this world, not indeed of the ideal
to which the saint aspires, nor of the fancies with which hope and
emotion people the spheres behind the veil, but of the force which
rules the Universe as it is, which reproduces and destroys, and in
performing one of these acts necessarily performs the other, seeing
that both are but aspects of change. For all animal and human
existence[351] is the product of sexual desire: it is but the
temporary and transitory form of a force having neither beginning nor
end but continually manifesting itself in individuals who must have a
beginning and an end. This force, to which European taste bids us
refer with such reticence, is the true creator of the world. Not only
is it unceasingly performing the central miracle of producing new
lives but it accompanies it by unnumbered accessory miracles, which
provide the new born child with nourishment and make lowly organisms
care for their young as if they were gifted with human intelligence.
But the Creator is also the Destroyer, not in anger but by the very
nature of his activity. When the series of changes culminates in a
crisis and an individual breaks up, we see death and destruction, but
in reality they occur throughout the process of growth. The egg is
destroyed when the chicken is hatched: the embryo ceases to exist when
the child is born; when the man comes into being, the child is no
more. And for change, improvement and progress death is as necessary
as birth. A world of immortals would be a static world.

When once the figure of Śiva has taken definite shape, attributes and
epithets are lavished on it in profusion. He is the great ascetic, for
asceticism in India means power, and Śiva is the personification of
the powers of nature. He may alternate strangely between austerities
and wild debauch, but the sentimentality of some Kṛishṇaite sects is
alien to him. He is a magician, the lord of troops of spirits, and
thus draws into his circle all the old animistic worship. But he is
also identified with Time (Mahâkâla) and Death (Mṛityu) and as
presiding over procreation he is Ardhanareśvara, half man, half woman.
Stories are invented or adapted to account for his various attributes,
and he is provided with a divine family. He dwells on Mount Kailâsa:
he has three eyes: above the central one is the crescent of the moon
and the stream of the Ganges descends from his braided hair: his
throat is blue and encircled by a serpent and a necklace of skulls. In
his hands he carries a three-pronged trident and a drum. But the
effigy or description varies, for Śiva is adored under many forms. He
is Mahâdeva, the Great God, Hara the Seizer, Bhairava the terrible
one, Paśupati, the Lord of cattle, that is of human souls who are
compared to beasts. Local gods and heroes are identified with him.
Thus Gor Bâba,[352] said to be a deified ghost of the aboriginal
races, reappears as Goreśvara and is counted a form of Śiva, as is
also Khandoba or Khande Rao, a deity connected with dogs. Gaṇeśa, "the
Lord of Hosts," the God who removes obstacles and is represented with
an elephant's head and accompanied by a rat, is recognized as Śiva's
son. Another son is Skanda or Kârtikeya, the God of War, a great deity
in Ceylon and southern India. But more important both for the
absorption of aboriginal cults and for its influence on speculation
and morality is the part played by Śiva's wife or female counterpart.

The worship of goddesses, though found in many sects, is specially
connected with Śivaism. A figure analogous to the Madonna, the kind
and compassionate goddess who helps and pities all, appears in later
Buddhism but for some reason this train of thought has not been usual
in India. Lakshmî, Sarasvatî and Sîtâ are benevolent, but they hold no
great position in popular esteem,[353] and the being who attracts
millions of worshippers under such names as Kâlî, Durgâ, or Mahâdevî,
though she has many forms and aspects, is most commonly represented as
a terrible goddess who demands offerings of blood. The worship of this
goddess or goddesses, for it is hard to say if she is one or many, is
treated of in a separate chapter. Though in shrines dedicated to Śiva
his female counterpart or energy (Śakti) also receives recognition,
yet she is revered as the spouse of her lord to whom honour is
primarily due. But in Śâktist worship adoration is offered to the
Śakti as being the form in which his power is made manifest or even as
the essential Godhead.


Let us now pass on to Vishṇu. Though not one of the great gods of the
Veda, he is mentioned fairly often and with respect. Indian
commentators and comparative mythologists agree that he is a solar
deity. His chief exploit is that he took (or perhaps in the earlier
version habitually takes) three strides. This was originally a
description of the sun's progress across the firmament but grew into a
myth which relates that when the earth was conquered by demons,
Vishṇu became incarnate as a dwarf and induced the demon king to
promise him as much space as he could measure in three steps. Then,
appearing in his true form, he strode across earth and heaven and
recovered the world for mankind. His special character as the
Preserver is already outlined in the Veda. He is always benevolent: he
took his three steps for the good of men: he established and preserves
the heavens and earth. But he is not the principal solar deity of the
Ṛig Veda: Sûrya, Savitri and Pushan receive more invocations. Though
one hymn says that no one knows the limits of his greatness, other
passages show that he has no pre-eminence, and even in the Mahâbhârata
and the Vishṇu-Purâṇa itself he is numbered among the Âdityas or
sons of Aditi. In the Brâhmaṇas, he is somewhat more important than
in the Ṛig Veda,[354] though he has not yet attained to any position
like that which he afterwards occupies.

Just as for Śiva, so for Vishṇu we have no clear record of the steps
by which he advanced from a modest rank to the position of having but
one rival in the popular esteem. But the lines on which the change
took place are clear. Even in his own Church, Vishṇu himself claims
comparatively little attention. He is not a force like Śiva that makes
and mars, but a benevolent and retiring personality who keeps things
as they are. His worship, as distinguished from that of his
incarnations, is not conspicuous in modern India, especially in the
north. In the south he is less overshadowed by Kṛishṇa, and many
great temples have been erected in his honour. In Travancore, which is
formally dedicated to him as his special domain, he is adored under
the name of Padmanabha. But his real claim to reverence, his appeal to
the Indian heart, is due to the fact that certain deified human
heroes, particularly Râma and Kṛishṇa, are identified with him.

Deification is common in India.[355] It exists to the present day and
even defunct Europeans do not escape its operation. In modern times,
when the idea of reincarnation had become familiar, eminent men like
Caitanya or Vallabhâcârya were declared after their death to be
embodiments of Kṛishṇa without more ado, but in earlier ages the
process was probably double. First of all the departed hero became a
powerful ghost or deity in his own right, and then this deity was
identified with a Brahmanic god. Many examples prove that a remarkable
man receives worship after death quite apart from any idea of

The incarnations of Vishṇu are most commonly given as ten[356] but
are not all of the same character. The first five, namely, the Fish,
Tortoise, Boar, Man-Lion and Dwarf, are mythical, and due to his
identification with supernatural creatures playing a benevolent role
in legends with which he had originally no connection. The sixth,
however, Paraśu-râma or Râma with the axe, may contain historical
elements. He is represented as a militant Brahman who in the second
age of the world exterminated the Kshatriyas, and after reclaiming
Malabar from the sea, settled it with Brahmans. This legend clearly
refers to a struggle for supremacy between the two upper castes,
though we may doubt if the triumphs attributed to the priestly
champion have any foundation in fact. The Râmâyaṇa[357] contains a
singular account of a contest between this Râma and the greater hero
of the same name in which Paraśu-râma admits the other's superiority.
That is to say an epic edited under priestly supervision relates how
the hero-god of the warriors vanquishes the hero-god of the priests,
and this hero-god of the warriors is then worshipped by common
consent as the greater divinity, but under priestly patronage. The
tenacity and vitality of the Brahmans enabled them ultimately to lead
the conqueror captive, and Râmacandra became a champion of Brahmanism
as much as Paraśu-râma.

Very interesting too is the ninth avatâra (to leave for a moment the
strict numerical order) or Buddha.[358] The reason assigned in
Brahmanic literature for Vishṇu's appearance in this character is
that he wished to mislead the enemies of the gods by false teaching,
or that out of compassion for animals he preached the abolition of
Vedic sacrifices. Neither explanation is very plausible and it is
pretty clear that in the period when degenerate Buddhism offered no
objection to deification and mythology, the Brahmans sanctioned the
worship of the Buddha under their auspices. But they did so only in a
half-hearted way. The Buddha was so important a personage that he had
to be explained by the intervention, kindly or hostile, of a

In his tenth incarnation or Kalkî,[360] which has yet to take place,
Vishṇu will appear as a Messiah, a conception possibly influenced by
Persian ideas. Here, where we are in the realm of pure imagination, we
see clearly what the signs of his avatâras are supposed to be. His
mission is to sweep away the wicked and to ensure the triumph of the
pious, but he comes as a warrior and a horseman, not as a teacher, and
if he protects the good he does so by destroying evil. He has thus all
the attributes of a Kshatriya hero, and that is as a matter of fact
the real character of the two most important avatâras to which we now
turn, Râma and Kṛishṇa.

Râma, often distinguished as Râmacandra, is usually treated as the
seventh incarnation and anterior to Kṛishṇa, for he was born in the
second age of this rapidly deteriorating world, whereas Kṛishṇa did
not appear until the third. But his deification is later than that of
Kṛishṇa and probably an imitation of it. He was the son of
Daśaratha, King of Ayodhya or Oudh, but was driven into banishment by
a palace intrigue. He married Sîtâ, daughter of the King of Mithilâ.
She was carried off by Râvana, the demon tyrant of Ceylon, and Râma
re-captured her with the aid of Hanuman, King of the Monkeys, and his
hosts.[361] Is there any kernel of history in this story? An
examination of Hindu legends suggests that they usually preserve names
and genealogies correctly but distort facts, and fantastically combine
independent narratives. Râma was a semi-divine hero in the tales of
ancient Oudh, based on a real personality, and Ceylon was colonized by
Indians of Aryan speech.[362] But can we assume that a king of Oudh
really led an expedition to the far south, with the aid of ape-like
aborigines? It is doubtful, and the narrative of the Râmâyaṇa reads
like poetic invention rather than distorted history. And yet, what can
have prompted the legend except the occurrence of some such
expedition? In Râma's wife Sîtâ, seem to be combined an agricultural
goddess and a heroine of ancient romance, embodying the Hindu ideal of
the true wife.

We have no record of the steps by which Râma and Kṛishṇa were
deified, although in different parts of the epic they are presented in
very different aspects, sometimes as little more than human, sometimes
as nothing less than the Supreme Deity. But it can hardly be doubted
that this deification owes something to the example of Buddhism. It
may be said that the development of both Buddhism and Hinduism in the
centuries immediately preceding and following our era gives parallel
manifestations of the same popular tendency to deify great men. This
is true, but the non-Buddhist forms of Indian religion while not
objecting to deification did not particularly encourage it. But in
this period, Buddhism and Jainism were powerful: both of them
sanctioned the veneration of great teachers and, as they did not
recognize sacrifice or adoration of gods, this veneration became the
basis of their ceremonies and easily passed into worship. The
Buddhists are not responsible for the introduction of deification, but
the fact that it was to some extent the basis of their public
ceremonies must have gone far to make the worship of Râma and
Kṛishṇa seem natural.

It is commonly said that whereas the whole divine nature of Vishṇu
was embodied in Kṛishṇa, Râma was only a partial incarnation. Half
the god's essence took human form in him, the other half being
distributed among his brothers. Kṛishṇa is a greater figure in
popular esteem and receives the exclusive devotion of more
worshippers. The name of Râma commands the reverence of most Hindus,
and has a place in their prayers, but his figure has not been invested
with the attributes (often of dubious moral value) which most attract
sectarian devotion. His worship combines easily with the adoration of
other deities. The great temple of Ramesvaram on Adam's Bridge is
dedicated not to Râma himself but to the linga which he erected there,
and Tulsi Das, the author of the Hindi Râmâyaṇa, while invoking Râma
as the Supreme Lord and redeemer of the world, emphatically
states[363] that his worship is not antagonistic to that of Śiva.

No inscriptions nor ancient references testify to the worship of Râma
before our era and in the subsequent centuries two phases can be
distinguished. First, Râma is a great hero, an incarnation of Vishṇu
for a particular purpose and analogous to the Vâmana or any other
avatâra: deserving as such of all respect but still not the object of
any special cult. This is the view taken of Râma in the Mahâbhârata,
the Purâṇas, the Raghuvaṃsa, and those parts of the Râmâyaṇa which
go beyond it are probably late additions.[364] But secondly Râma
becomes for his worshippers the supreme deity. Râmânuja (on the
Vedânta sûtras, II. 42) mentions him and Kṛishṇa as two great
incarnations in which the supreme being became manifest, and since
Kṛishṇa was certainly worshipped at this period as identical with
the All-God, it would appear that Râma held the same position. Yet it
was not until the fourteenth or fifteenth century that he became for
many sects the central and ultimate divine figure.

In the more liberal sects the worship of Râma passes easily into
theism and it is the direct parent of the Kabirpanth and Sikhism, but
unlike Kṛishṇaism it does not lead to erotic excess. Râma
personifies the ideal of chivalry, Sîtâ of chastity. Less edifying
forms of worship may attract more attention, but it must not be
supposed that Râma is relegated to the penumbra of philosophic
thought. If anything so multiplex as Hinduism can be said to have a
watchword, it is the cry, Râm, Râm. The story of his adventures has
travelled even further than the hero himself, and is known not only
from Kashmir to Cape Comorin but from Bombay to Java and Indo-China
where it is a common subject of art. In India the Râmâyaṇa is a
favourite recitation among all classes, and dramatized versions of
various episodes are performed as religious plays. Though two late
Upanishads, the Râmapûrvatâpanîya and Râmauttaratâpaniya extol Râma as
the Supreme Being, there is no Râmapurâṇa. The fact is significant,
as showing that his worship did not possess precisely those features
of priestly sectarianism which mark the Purâṇas and perhaps that it
is later than the Purâṇas. But it has inspired a large literature,
more truly popular than anything that the Purâṇas contain. Thus we
have the Sanskrit Râmâyaṇa itself, the Hindi Râmâyaṇa, the Tamil
Râmâyaṇa of Kamban, and works like the Adhyâtma-Râmâyaṇa and
Yoga-Vasishtḥa-Râmâyaṇa.[365] Of all these, the Râmâyaṇa of Tulsi
Das is specially remarkable and I shall speak of it later at some


Kṛishṇa, the other great incarnation of Vishṇu, is one of the most
conspicuous figures in the Indian pantheon, but his historical origin
remains obscure. The word which means black or dark blue occurs in the
Ṛig Veda as the name of an otherwise unknown person. In the Chândogya
Upanishad,[366] Kṛishṇa, the son of Devakî, is mentioned as having
been instructed by the sage Ghora of the Âṅgirasa clan, and it is
probably implied that Kṛishṇa too belonged to that clan.[367] Later
sectarian writers never quote this verse, but their silence may be due
to the fact that the Upanishad does not refer to Kṛishṇa as if he
were a deity, and merely says that he received from Ghora instruction
after which he never thirsted again. The purport of it was that the
sacrifice may be performed without rites, the various parts being
typified by ordinary human actions, such as hunger, eating, laughter,
liberality, righteousness, etc. This doctrine has some resemblance to
Buddhist language[368] and if this Kṛishṇa is really the ancient
hero out of whom the later deity was evolved, there may be an allusion
to some simple form of worship which rejected ceremonial and was
practised by the tribes to whom Kṛishṇa belonged. I shall recur to
the question of these tribes and the Bhâgavata sect below, but in this
section I am concerned with the personality of Kṛishṇa.

Vâsudeva is a well-known name of Kṛishṇa and a sûtra of
Pâṇini,[369] especially if taken in conjunction with the comment of
Pataṅjali, appears to assert that it is not a clan name but the name
of a god. If so Vâsudeva must have been recognized as a god in the
fourth century B.C. He is mentioned in inscriptions which appear to
date from about the second century B.C.[370] and in the last book of
the Taittirîya Âraṇyaka,[371] which however is a later addition of
uncertain date.

The name Kṛishṇa occurs in Buddhist writings in the form Kaṇha,
phonetically equivalent to Kṛishṇa. In the Dîgha Nikâya[372] we hear
of the clan of the Kaṇhâyanas (= Kârshṇâyanas) and of one Kaṇha who
became a great sage. This person may be the Kṛishṇa of the Ṛig
Veda, but there is no proof that he is the same as our Kṛishṇa.

The Ghata-Jâtaka (No. 454) gives an account of Kṛishṇa's childhood
and subsequent exploits which in many points corresponds with the
Brahmanic legends of his life and contains several familiar incidents
and names, such as Vâsudeva, Baladeva, Kaṃsa. Yet it presents many
peculiarities and is either an independent version or a
misrepresentation of a popular story that had wandered far from its
home. Jain tradition also shows that these tales were popular and were
worked up into different forms, for the Jains have an elaborate system
of ancient patriarchs which includes Vâsudevas and Baladevas.
Kṛishṇa is the ninth of the Black Vâsudevas[373] and is connected
with Dvâravatî or Dvârakâ. He will become the twelfth tîrthankara of
the next world-period and a similar position will be attained by
Devakî, Rohinî, Baladeva and Javakumâra, all members of his family.
This is a striking proof of the popularity of the Kṛishṇa legend
outside the Brahmanic religion.

No references to Kṛishṇa except the above have been found in the
earlier Upanishads and Sûtras. He is not mentioned in Manu but in one
aspect or another he is the principal figure in the Mahâbhârata, yet
not exactly the hero. The Râmâyaṇa would have no plot without Râma,
but the story of the Mahâbhârata would not lose its unity if Kṛishṇa
were omitted. He takes the side of the Pâṇḍavas, and is sometimes a
chief sometimes a god but he is not essential to the action of the

The legend represents him as the son of Vasudeva, who belonged to the
Sâttvata sept[374] of the Yâdava tribe, and of his wife Devakî. It had
been predicted to Kaṃsa, king of Mathura (Muttra), that one of her
sons would kill him. He therefore slew her first six children: the
seventh, Balarâma, who is often counted as an incarnation of Vishṇu,
was transferred by divine intervention to the womb of Rohinî.
Kṛishṇa, the eighth, escaped by more natural methods. His father was
able to give him into the charge of Nanda, a herdsman, and his wife
Yâsodâ who brought him up at Gokula and Vrindâvana. Here his youth was
passed in sporting with the Gopîs or milk-maids, of whom he is said to
have married a thousand. He had time, however, to perform acts of
heroism, and after killing Kaṃsa, he transported the inhabitants of
Mathura to the city of Dvârakâ which he had built on the coast of
Gujarat. He became king of the Yâdavas and continued his mission of
clearing the earth of tyrants and monsters. In the struggle between
the Pâṇḍavas and the sons of Dhṛitarâshtṛa he championed the cause
of the former, and after the conclusion of the war retired to Dvârakâ.
Internecine conflict broke out among the Yâdavas and annihilated the
race. Kṛishṇa himself withdrew to the forest and was killed by a
hunter called Jaras (old age) who shot him supposing him to be a deer.

In the Mahâbhârata and several Purâṇas this bare outline is distended
with a plethora of miraculous incident remarkable even in Indian
literature, and almost all possible forms of divine and human activity
are attributed to this many-sided figure. We may indeed suspect that
his personality is dual even in the simplest form of the legend for
the scene changes from Mathurâ to Dvârakâ, and his character is not
quite the same in the two regions. It is probable that an ancient
military hero of the west has been combined with a deity or perhaps
more than one deity. The pile of story, sentiment and theology which
ages have heaped up round Kṛishṇa's name, represents him in three
principal aspects. Firstly, he is a warrior who destroys the powers of
evil. Secondly, he is associated with love in all its forms, ranging
from amorous sport to the love of God in the most spiritual and
mystical sense. Thirdly, he is not only a deity, but he actually
becomes God in the European and also in the pantheistic acceptation of
the word, and is the centre of a philosophic theology.

The first of these aspects is clearly the oldest and it is here, if
anywhere, that we may hope to find some fragments of history. But the
embellishments of poets and story-tellers have been so many that we
can only point to features which may indicate a substratum of fact.
In the legend, Kṛishṇa assists the Pâṇḍavas against the Kauravas.
Now many think that the Pâṇḍavas represent a second and later
immigration of Aryans into India, composed of tribes who had halted in
the Himalayas and perhaps acquired some of the customs of the
inhabitants, including polyandry, for the five Pâṇḍavas had one wife
in common between them. Also, the meaning of the name Kṛishṇa,
black, suggests that he was a chief of some non-Aryan tribe. It is,
therefore, possible that one source of the Kṛishṇa myth is that a
body of invading Aryans, described in the legend as the Pâṇḍavas,
who had not exactly the same laws and beliefs as those already
established in Hindustan, were aided by a powerful aboriginal chief,
just as the Sisodias in Rajputana were aided by the Bhîls. It is
possible too that Kṛishṇa's tribe may have come from Kabul or other
mountainous districts of the north west, although one of the most
definite points in the legend is his connection with the coast town of
Dvârakâ. The fortifications of this town and the fruitless efforts of
the demon king, Salva, to conquer it by seige are described in the
Mahâbhârata,[375] but the narrative is surrounded by an atmosphere of
magic and miracle rather than of history.[376]

Though it would not be reasonable to pick out the less fantastic parts
of the Kṛishṇa legend and interpret them as history, yet we may
fairly attach significance to the fact that many episodes represent
him as in conflict with Brahmanic institutions and hardly maintaining
the position of Vishṇu incarnate.[377] Thus he plunders Indra's
garden and defeats the gods who attempt to resist him. He fights with
Śiva and Skanda. He burns Benares and all its inhabitants. Yet he is
called Upendra, which, whatever other explanations sectarian ingenuity
may invent, can hardly mean anything but the Lesser Indra, and he
fills the humble post of Arjuna's charioteer. His kinsmen seem to have
been of little repute, for part of his mission was to destroy his own
clan and after presiding over its annihilation in internecine strife,
he was slain himself. In all this we see dimly the figure of some
aboriginal hero who, though ultimately canonized, represented a force
not in complete harmony with Brahmanic civilization. The figure has
also many solar attributes but these need not mean that its origin is
to be sought in a sun myth, but rather that, as many early deities
were forms of the sun, solar attributes came to be a natural part of
divinity and were ascribed to the deified Kṛishṇa just as they were
to the deified Buddha.[378]

Some authors hold that the historical Kṛishṇa was a teacher, similar
to Zarathustra, and that though of the military class he was chiefly
occupied in founding or supporting what was afterwards known as the
religion of the Bhâgavatas, a theistic system inculcating the worship
of one God, called Bhâgavat, and perhaps identical with the Sun. It is
probable that Kṛishṇa the hero was connected with the worship of a
special deity, but I see no evidence that he was primarily a
teacher.[379] In the earlier legends he is a man of arms: in the later
he is not one who devotes his life to teaching but a forceful
personage who explains the nature of God and the universe at the most
unexpected moments. Now the founders of religions such as Mahâvîra and
Buddha preserve their character as teachers even in legend and do not
accumulate miscellaneous heroic exploits. Similarly modern founders of
sects, like Caitanya, though revered as incarnations, still retain
their historical attributes. But on the other hand many men of action
have been deified not because they taught anything but because they
seemed to be more than human forces. Râma is a classical example of
such deification and many local deities can be shown to be warriors,
bandits and hunters whose powers inspired respect. It is said that
there is a disposition in the Bombay Presidency to deify the Maratha
leader Śivaji.[380]

In his second aspect, Kṛishṇa is a pastoral deity, sporting among
nymphs and cattle. It is possible that this Kṛishṇa is in his origin
distinct from the violent and tragic hero of Dvârakâ. The two
characters have little in common, except their lawlessness, and the
date and locality of the two cycles of legend are different. But the
death of Kaṃsa which is one of the oldest incidents in the story (for
it is mentioned in the Mahâbhâshya[381]) belongs to both and Kaṃsa is
consistently connected with Muttra. The Mahâbhârata is mainly
concerned with Kṛishṇa the warrior: the few allusions in it to the
freaks of the pastoral Kṛishṇa occur in passages suspected of being
late interpolations and, even if they are genuine, show that little
attention was paid to his youth. But in later works, the relative
importance is reversed and the figure of the amorous herdsman almost
banishes the warrior. We can trace the growth of this figure in the
sculptures of the sixth century, in the Vishṇu and Bhâgavata Purâṇas
and the Gîtâ-govinda (written about 1170). Even later is the worship
of Râdhâ, Kṛishṇa's mistress, as a portion of the deity, who is
supposed to have divided himself into male and female halves.[382] The
birth and adventures of the pastoral Kṛishṇa are located in the land
of Braj, the district round Muttra and among the tribe of the Âbhîras,
but the warlike Kṛishṇa is connected with the west, although his
exploits extend to the Ganges valley.[383] The Âbhîras, now called
Ahirs, were nomadic herdsmen who came from the west and their
movements between Kathiawar and Muttra may have something to do with
the double location of the Kṛishṇa legend.

Both archæology and historical notices tell us something of the
history of Muttra. It was a great Buddhist and Jain centre, as the
statues and vihâras found there attest. Ptolemy calls it the city of
the gods. Fa-Hsien (400 A.D.) describes it as Buddhist, but that faith
was declining at the time of Hsüan Chuang's visit (c. 630 A.D.). The
sculptural remains also indicate the presence of Græco-Bactrian
influence. We need not therefore feel surprise if we find in the
religious thought of Muttra elements traceable to Greece, Persia or
Central Asia. Some claim that Christianity should be reckoned among
these elements and I shall discuss the question elsewhere. Here I will
only say that such ideas as were common to Christianity and to the
religions of Greece and western Asia probably did penetrate to India
by the northern route, but of specifically Christian ideas I see no
proof. It is true that the pastoral Kṛishṇa is unlike all earlier
Indian deities, but then no close parallel to him can be adduced from
elsewhere, and, take him as a whole, he is a decidedly un-christian
figure. The resemblance to Christianity consists in the worship of a
divine child, together with his mother. But this feature is absent in
the New Testament and seems to have been borrowed from paganism by

The legends of Muttra show even clearer traces than those already
quoted of hostility between Kṛishṇa and Brahmanism. He forbids the
worship of Indra,[384] and when Indra in anger sends down a deluge of
rain, he protects the country by holding up over it the hill of
Goburdhan, which is still one of the great centres of pilgrimage.[385]
The language which the Vishṇu Purâṇa attributes to him is extremely
remarkable. He interrupts a sacrifice which his fosterfather is
offering to Indra and says, "We have neither fields nor houses: we
wander about happily wherever we list, travelling in our waggons. What
have we to do with Indra? Cattle and mountains are (our) gods.
Brahmans offer worship with prayer: cultivators of the earth adore
their landmarks but we who tend our herds in the forests and mountains
should worship them and our kine."

This passage suggests that Kṛishṇa represents a tribe of highland
nomads who worshipped mountains and cattle and came to terms with the
Brahmanic ritual only after a struggle. The worship of mountain
spirits is common in Central Asia, but I do not know of any evidence
for cattle-worship in those regions. Clemens of Alexandria,[386]
writing at the end of the second century A.D., tells us that the
Indians worshipped Herakles and Pan. The pastoral Kṛishṇa has
considerable resemblance to Pan or a Faun, but no representations of
such beings are recorded from Græco-Indian sculptures. Several Bacchic
groups have however been discovered in Gandhara and also at
Muttra[387] and Megasthenes recognized Dionysus in some Indian deity.
Though the Bacchic revels and mysteries do not explain the pastoral
element in the Kṛishṇa legend, they offer a parallel to some of its
other features, such as the dancing and the crowd of women, and I am
inclined to think that such Greek ideas may have germinated and proved
fruitful in Muttra. The Greek king Menander is said to have occupied
the city (c. 155 B.C.), and the sculptures found there indicate that
Greek artistic forms were used to express Indian ideas. There may have
been a similar fusion in religion.

In any case, Buddhism was predominant in Muttra for several centuries.
It no doubt forbade the animal sacrifices of the Brahmans and favoured
milder rites. It may even offer some explanation for the frivolous
character of much in the Kṛishṇa legend.[388] Most Brahmanic
deities, extraordinary as their conduct often is, are serious and
imposing. But Buddhism claimed for itself the serious side of religion
and while it tolerated local godlings treated them as fairies or
elves. It was perhaps while Kṛishṇa was a humble rustic deity of
this sort, with no claim to represent the Almighty, that there first
gathered round him the cycle of light love-stories which has clung to
him ever since. In the hands of the Brahmans his worship has undergone
the strangest variations which touch the highest and lowest planes of
Hinduism, but the Muttra legend still retains its special note of
pastoral romance, and exhibits Kṛishṇa in two principal characters,
as the divine child and as the divine lover. The mysteries of birth
and of sexual union are congenial topics to Hindu theology, but in
the cult of Muttra we are not concerned with reproduction as a world
force, but simply with childhood and love as emotional manifestations
of the deity. The same ideas occur in Christianity, and even in the
Gospels Christ is compared to a bridegroom, but the Kṛishṇa legend
is far more gross and naïve.

The infant Kṛishṇa is commonly adored in the form known as Makhan
Chor or the Butter Thief.[389] This represents him as a crawling child
holding out one hand full of curds or butter which he has stolen. We
speak of idolizing a child, and when Hindu women worship this image
they are unconsciously generalizing the process and worshipping
childhood, its wayward pranks as well as its loveable simplicity, and
though it is hard for a man to think of the freaks of the butter thief
as a manifestation of divinity, yet clearly there is an analogy
between these childish escapades and the caprices of mature deities,
which are respectfully described as mysteries. If one admits the
worship of the Bambino, it is not unreasonable to include in it
admiration of his rogueries, and the tender playfulness which is
permitted to enter into this cult appeals profoundly to Indian women.
Images of the Makhan Chor are sold by thousands in the streets of

Even more popular is the image known as Kanhaya, which represents the
god as a young man playing the flute as he stands in a careless
attitude, which has something of Hellenic grace. Kṛishṇa in this
form is the beloved of the Gopîs, or milk-maids, of the land of Braj,
and the spouse of Râdhâ, though she had no monopoly of him. The
stories of his frolics with these damsels and the rites instituted in
memory thereof have brought his worship into merited discredit.
Krishnaism offers the most extensive manifestation to be found in the
world of what W. James calls the theopathic condition as illustrated
by nuns like Marguérite Marie Alacoque, Saint Gertrude and the more
distinguished Saint Theresa. "To be loved by God and loved by him to
distraction (jusqu'à la folie), Margaret melted away with love at the
thought of such a thing.... She said to God, 'Hold back, my God, these
torrents which overwhelm me or else enlarge my capacity for their
reception'."[390] These are not the words of the Gîtâ-govinda or the
Prem Sagar, as might be supposed, but of a Catholic Bishop describing
the transports of Sister Marguérite Marie, and they illustrate the
temper of Kṛishṇa's worshippers. But the verses of the Marathi poet,
Tukaram, who lived about 1600 A.D. and sang the praises of Kṛishṇa,
rise above this sentimentality though he uses the language of love. In
a letter to Sivaji, who desired to see him, he wrote, "As a chaste
wife longs only to see her lord, such am I to Viṭṭhala.[391] All the
world is to me Viṭṭhala and nothing else: thee also I behold in
him." He also wrote elsewhere, "he that taketh the unprotected to his
heart and doeth to a servant the same kindness as to his own children,
is assuredly the image of God." More recently Râmakṛishṇa, whose
sayings breathe a wide intelligence as well as a wide charity, has
given this religion of love an expression which, if somewhat too
sexual to be perfectly in accordance with western taste, is nearly
related to emotional Christianity. "A true lover sees his god as his
nearest and dearest relative" he writes, "just as the shepherd women
of Vṛindâvana saw in Kṛishṇa not the Lord of the Universe but their
own beloved.... The knowledge of God may be likened to a man, while
the love of God is like a woman. Knowledge has entry only up to the
outer rooms of God, and no one can enter into the inner mysteries of
God save a lover.... Knowledge and love of God are ultimately one and
the same. There is no difference between pure knowledge and pure

These extracts show how Kṛishṇa as the object of the soul's desire
assumes the place of the Supreme Being or God. But this surprising
transformation[393] is not specially connected with the pastoral and
erotic Kṛishṇa: the best known and most thorough-going exposition of
his divinity is found in the Bhagavad-gîtâ, which represents him as
being in his human aspect, a warrior and the charioteer of Arjuna.
Probably some seventy-five millions to-day worship Kṛishṇa,
especially under the name of Hari, as God in the pantheistic sense and
naturally the more his identity with the supreme spirit is emphasized,
the dimmer grow the legendary features which mark the hero of Muttra
and Dvârakâ, and the human element in him is reduced to this very
important point that the tie uniting him to his worshippers is one of
sentiment and affection.

In the following chapters I shall treat of this worship when
describing the various sects which practise it. A question of some
importance for the history of Kṛishṇa's deification is the meaning
of the name Vâsudeva. One explanation makes it a patronymic, son of
Vasudeva, and supposes that when this prince Vâsudeva was deified his
name, like Râma, was transferred to the deity. The other regards
Vâsudeva as a name for the deity used by the Sâttvata clan and
supposes that when Kṛishṇa was deified this already well-known
divine name was bestowed on him. There is much to be said for this
latter theory. As we have seen the Jains give the title Vâsudeva to a
series of supermen, and a remarkable legend states[394] that a king
called Paundraka who pretended to be a deity used the title Vâsudeva
and ordered Kṛishṇa to cease using it, for which impertinence he was
slain. This clearly implies that the title was something which could
be detached from Kṛishṇa and not a mere patronymic. Indian writings
countenance both etymologies of the word. As the name of the deity
they derive it from _vas_ to dwell, he in whom all things abide and
who abides in all.[395]


Śiva and Vishṇu are not in their nature different from other Indian
ideas, high or low. They are the offspring of philosophic and poetic
minds playing with a luxuriant popular mythology. But even in the
epics they have already become fixed points in a flux of changing
fancies and serve as receptacles in which the most diverse notions are
collected and stored. Nearly all philosophy and superstition finds its
place in Hinduism by being connected with one or both of them. The two
worships are not characteristic of different periods: they coexist
when they first become known to us as they do at the present day and
in essential doctrines they are much alike. We have no name for this
curious double theism in which each party describes its own deity as
the supreme god or All-god, yet without denying the god of the other.
Something similar might be produced in Christianity if different
Churches were avowedly to worship different persons of the Trinity.

Śiva and Vishṇu are sometimes contrasted and occasionally their
worshippers quarrel.[396] But the general inclination is rather to
make the two figures approximate by bestowing the same attributes on
both. A deity must be able to satisfy emotional devotion: hence the
Tamil Śivaite says of Śiva the destroyer, "one should worship in
supreme love him who does kindness to the soul." But then the feature
in the world which most impresses the Hindu is the constant change and
destruction, and this must find a place in the All-god. Hence the
sportive kindly Kṛishṇa comes to be declared the destroyer of the
worlds.[397] It is as if in some vast Dravidian temple one wandered
through two corridors differently ornamented and assigned to the
priests of different rites but both leading to the same image. Hence
it is not surprising to find that there is actually a deity--if indeed
the term is suitable, but European vocabularies hardly provide one
which meets the case--called Harihara (or Śankara-Nârâyaṇa), that is
Śiva and Vishṇu combined. The Harivaṃsa contains a hymn addressed to
him: fairly ancient sculptures attest the prevalence of his worship in
the Deccan, especially at Badâmi, he was once the chief deity of
Camboja and he is still popular in south India. Here besides being
worshipped under his own name he has undergone a singular
transformation and has probably been amalgamated with some aboriginal
deity. Under the designation of Ayenâr (said to be a corruption of
Harihara) he is extensively worshipped as a village god and reputed to
be the son of Śiva and Vishṇu, the latter having kindly assumed the
form of a woman to effect his birth.

Another form of this inclination to combine and unite the various
manifestations of the Divine is the tendency to worship groups of
gods, a practice as old as the Vedas. Thus many temples are dedicated
to a group of five, namely, Śiva, Vishṇu, Durgâ, Gaṇeśa and the Sun
and it is stated that every Hindu worships these five deities in his
daily prayers.[398] The Trimûrti, or figure of Brahmâ, Śiva and
Vishṇu, illustrates the worship of groups. Its importance has
sometimes been over-estimated by Europeans from an idea that it
corresponded to the Christian Trinity, but in reality this triad is
late and has little significance. No stress is laid on the idea of
three in one and the number of persons can be increased. The
Brahma-vaivarta Purâṇa for instance adds Kṛishṇa to Brahmâ, Śiva
and Vishṇu. The union of three personalities is merely a way of
summing up the chief attributes of the All-God. Thus the Vishṇu
Purâṇa[399] extols Vishṇu as being "Hiraṇyagarbha, Hari and
Śaṅkara (_i.e._ Brahmâ, Vishṇu and Śiva), the creator, preserver and
destroyer," but in another passage as him who is "Brahma, Îśvara and
spirit (Puṁs), who with the three Guṇas (qualities of matter) is the
cause of creation, preservation and destruction...." The origin of the
triad, so far as it has any doctrinal or philosophical meaning, is
probably to be sought in the personification of the three Guṇas.[400]


[Footnote 334: See especially Dig. Nik. XX. and XXXII.]

[Footnote 335: But the lists may be pieces of folk-lore older than the
suttas in which they are incorporated.]

[Footnote 336: The Dionysus of Megasthenes is a deity who comes from
the west with an army that suffers from the heat of the plains. If we
could be certain that he meant Śiva by Dionysus this would be valuable
evidence. But he clearly misunderstood many things in Indian religion.
Greek legends connected Dionysus with India and the East.]

[Footnote 337: Macdonell seems to me correct in saying (_J.R.A.S._
1915, p. 125) that one reason why Indian deities have many arms is
that they may be able to carry the various symbols by which they are
characterized. Another reason is that worship is usually accompanied
by dhyâna, that is forming a mental image of the deity as described in
a particular text. _E.g._ the worshipper repeats a mantra which
describes a deity in language which was originally metaphorical as
having many heads and arms and at the same time he ought to make a
mental image of such a figure.]

[Footnote 338: But some forms of Śivaism in southern India come even
nearer to emotional Christianity than does Vishnuism.]

[Footnote 339: I cannot discover that any alleged avatâra of Śiva has
now or has had formerly any importance, but the Vâyu, Liṅga and Kûrma
Purâna give lists of such incarnations, as does also the Catechism of
the Shaiva religion translated by Foulkes. But Indian sects have a
strong tendency to ascribe all possible achievements and attributes to
their gods. The mere fact that Vishṇu becomes incarnate incites the
ardent Śivaite to say that his god can do the same. A curious instance
of this rivalry is found in the story that Śiva manifested himself as
Śarabha-mûrti in order to curb the ferocity of Vishṇu when incarnate
in the Man Lion (see Gopinâtha Rao, _Hindu Icon_. p. 45). Śiva often
appears in a special form, not necessarily human, for a special
purpose (_e.g._ Vîrabhadra) and some tantric Buddhas seem to be
imitations of these apparitions. There is a strong element of Śivaism
borrowed from Bengal in the mythology of Tibet and Mongolia, where
such personages as Hevajra, Saṃvara, and Mahâkâla have a considerable
importance under the strange title of Buddhas.]

[Footnote 340: The passage from one epithet to the other is very plain
in _R.V._ I. 114.]

[Footnote 341: Book XVI.]

[Footnote 342: In the play Mricchakaṭikâ or The Clay Cart (probably
of the sixth century A.D.) a burglar invokes Kârtikeya, the son of
Śiva, who is said to have taught different styles of house-breaking.]

[Footnote 343: A similarly strange collocation of attributes is found
in Daksha's hymn to Śiva. Mahâbhârata, XII. Sec. 285.]

[Footnote 344: Atharva, V. xi. 2. 24.]

[Footnote 345: It is not certain if the Śisṇadevâh whom Indra is
asked to destroy in Ṛig. V. VII. 21. 5 and X. 99. 3 are priapic
demons or worshippers of the phallus.]

[Footnote 346: VII. secs. 202, 203, and XIII. sec. 14.]

[Footnote 347: The inscriptions of Camboja and Champa seem to be the
best proof of the antiquity of Linga worship. A Cambojan inscription
of about 550 A.D. records the dedication of a linga and the worship
must have taken some time to reach Camboja from India. Some lingas
discovered in India are said to be anterior to the Christian era.]

[Footnote 348: See F. Kittel, _Ueber den Ursprung der Linga Kultus_,
and Barth, _Religions of India_, p. 261.]

[Footnote 349: As is also its appearance, as a rule. But there are
exceptions to this. Some Hindus deny that the Linga is a phallic
emblem. It is hardly possible to maintain this thesis in view of such
passages as Mahâbh. XIII. 14 and the innumerable figures in which
there are both a linga and a Yoni. But it is true that in its later
forms the worship is purged of all grossness and that in its earlier
forms the symbol adored was often a stûpa-like column or a pillar with
figures on it.]

[Footnote 350: Such scenes as the relief from Amarâvati figured in
Grünwedel, _Buddhist art in India_, p. 29, fig. 8, might easily be
supposed to represent the worship of the linga, and some of Aśoka's
pillars have been worshipped as lingas in later times.]

[Footnote 351: But not of course the soul which, according to the
general Indian idea, exists before and continues after the life of the

[Footnote 352: Crooke, _Popular Religion and Folklore of Northern
India_, I. 84; II. 219.]

[Footnote 353: They are however of some importance in Vishnuite
theology. For instance according to the school of Râmânuja it is the
Śakti (Śrî) who reveals the true doctrine to mankind. Vishṇu is often
said to have three consorts, Śrî, Bhû and Lîlâ.]

[Footnote 354: _E.g._ Śat. Brâh. I. 2. 5. See also the strange legend
_Ib._ XI. 1. 1 where Vishṇu is described as the best of the gods but
is eaten by Indra. He is frequently (_e.g._ in the Śata Brâh) stated to
be identical with the sacrifice, and this was probably one of the
reasons for his becoming prominent.]

[Footnote 355: See many modern examples in Crooke, _Popular Religion
and Folk Lore of Northern India_, chap. IV. and _Census of India_,
1901, vol. VI. _Bengal_, pp. 196-8, where are described various
deified heroes who are adored in Bengal, such as Goveiyâ (a bandit),
Sailesh, Karikh, Lárik, Amar Singh, and Gobind Raut (a slayer of
tigers). Compare too the worship of Gopi Nath and Zinda Kaliana in the
Panjâb as described in _Census of India_, 1901, vol. XVII. pp. 118-9.]

[Footnote 356: The Bhâgavata Purâna (I. iii.) and the Bhaktamâlâ (see
_J.R.A.S._ 1909, pp. 621 ff.) give longer lists of 22 and 26, and the
Pâncarâtra gives 39. See Ahirbudhnya Saṃhitâ, V. 50-55.]

[Footnote 357: Book I, cantos 74-76.]

[Footnote 358: A parallel phenomenon is the belief found in Bali, that
Buddha is Śiva's brother.]

[Footnote 359: For Brahmanic ideas about Buddha see Vishṇu Purâṇa,
III. 18. The Bhâgavata Purâṇa, I. 3. 24 seems to make the Buddha
incarnation future. It also counts Kapila and Ṛishabha, apparently
identical with the founder of the Sânkhya and the first Jain saint, as
incarnations. The Padma Purâṇa seems to ascribe not only Buddhism but
the Mâyâ doctrine of Śankara to delusions deliberately inspired by
gods. I have not been able to find the passage in the printed edition
of the Purâṇa but it is quoted in Sanskrit by Aufrecht, _Cat. Cod.
Bib. Bodl._ p. 14, and Muir, _Original Sanskrit Texts_, p. 198.]

[Footnote 360: See Norman in _Trans. Third Int. Congress of
Religions_, II. p. 85. In the _Ind. Ant._ 1918, p. 145 Jayaswal tries
to prove that Kalkî is a historical personage and identical with King
Yaśodharman of Central India (about A.D. 500) and that the idea of his
being a _future_ saviour is late. This theory offers difficulties, for
firstly there is no proof that the passages of the Mahabharata which
mention Kalkî (III. 190, 13101; III. 191, 13111: XII. 340, 12968) are
additions later than Yaśodharman and secondly if Kalkî was first a
historical figure and then projected into the future we should expect
to hear that he will _come again_, but such language is not quoted. On
the other hand it seems quite likely (1) that there was an old
tradition about a future saviour called Kalkî, (2) that Yaśodharman
after defeating the Huns assumed the rôle, (3) and that when it was
found that the golden age had not recommenced he was forgotten (as
many pseudo-Messiahs have been) and Kalkî again became a hope for the
future. Vincent Smith (_Hist. of India_, ed. III. p. 320) intimates
that Yaśodharman performed considerable exploits but was inordinately

[Footnote 361: Another version of the story which omits the expedition
to Laṅka and makes Sîtâ the sister of Râma is found in the Dasaratha
Jâtaka (641).]

[Footnote 362: But this colonization is attributed by tradition to
Vijaya, not Râma.]

[Footnote 363: See especially book VI. p. 67, in Growse's

[Footnote 364: See Muir's _Sanskrit Texts_, vol. IV. especially pp.

[Footnote 365: Ekanâtha, who lived in the sixteenth century, calls the
Adhyâtma R. a modern work. See Bhandarkar, _Vaishn. and Saivism_, page
48. The Yoga-Vasishtḥa R. purports to be instruction given by
Vasishṭha to Râma who wishes to abandon the world. Its date is
uncertain but it is quoted by authors of the fourteenth century. It is
very popular, especially in south India, where an abridgment in Tamil
called Jñâna-Vasishṭha is much read. Its doctrine appears to be
Vedântist with a good deal of Buddhist philosophy. Salvation is never
to think that pleasures and pains are "mine."]

[Footnote 366: Châṇḍ. Up. III. 17.6]

[Footnote 367: The Kaush. Brâhm. says that Kṛishṇa was an Âṅgirasa
XXX. g. The Anukramanî says that the Kṛishṇa of Ṛig Veda, VIII. 74
was an Âṅgirasa. For Ghora Âṅgirasa "the dread descendent of the
Angirases" see Macdonell and Keith, _Vedic Index_, s.v.]

[Footnote 368: _E.g._ Dig. Nik. V. The Pâncarâtra expressly states
that Yoga is worship of the heart and self-sacrifice, being thus a
counterpart of the external sacrifice (bâhyayâga).]

[Footnote 369: Pâṇ. IV. 3. 98, _Vâsudevârjunâbhyâm vun._ See
Bhandarkar, _Vaishnavism and Śaivism_, p. 3 and _J.R.A.S._ 1910, p.
168. Sûtra 95, just above, appears to point to _bhakti_, faith or
devotion, felt for this Vâsudeva.]

[Footnote 370: Especially the Besnagar column. See Rapson, _Ancient
India_, p. 156 and various articles in _J.R.A.S._ 1909-10.]

[Footnote 371: X. i, vi.]

[Footnote 372: III. i. 23, Ulâro so Kaṇho isi ahosi. But this may
refer to the Rishi mentioned in _R.V._ VIII. 74 who has not
necessarily anything to do with the god Kṛishṇa.]

[Footnote 373: See Hemacandra Abhidhânacintâmani, Ed. Boehtlingk and
Rien, p. 128, and Barnett's translation of the _Antagada Dasāo_, pp.
13-15 and 67-82.]

[Footnote 374: Apparently the same as the Vṛishṇis.]

[Footnote 375: III. XV.]

[Footnote 376: It would seem that the temple of Dvârakâ was built
between the composition of the narrative in the Mahâbhârata and of the
Vishṇu Purâṇa, for while the former says the whole town was
destroyed by the sea, the latter excepts the temple and says that
whoever visits it is freed from all his sins. See Wilson, _Vishṇu
Purâṇa_, V. p. 155.]

[Footnote 377: A most curious chapter of the Vishṇu Purâṇa (IV. 13)
contains a vindication of Kṛishṇa's character and a picture of old
tribal life.]

[Footnote 378: Neither can I agree with some scholars that Kṛishṇa
is mainly and primarily a deity of vegetation. All Indian ideas about
the Universe and God emphasize the interaction of life and death,
growth and decay, spring and winter. Kṛishṇa is undoubtedly
associated with life, growth and generation, but so is Śiva the
destroyer, or rather the transmuter. The account in the Mahâbhâshya
(on Pân. III. 1. 26) of the masque representing the slaughter of
Kaṃsa by Kṛishṇa is surely a slight foundation for the theory that
Kṛishṇa was a nature god. It might be easily argued that Christ is a
vegetation spirit, for not only is Easter a spring festival but there
are numerous allusions to sowing and harvest in the Gospels and Paul
illustrates the resurrection by the germination of corn. It is a
mistake to seek for uniformity in the history of religion. There were
in ancient times different types of mind which invented different
kinds of gods, just as now professors invent different theories about

[Footnote 379: The Kṛishṇa of the Chândogya Upanishad _receives_
instruction but it is not said that he was himself a teacher.]

[Footnote 380: Hopkins, _India Old and New_, p. 105.]

[Footnote 381: Bhandarkar. Allusions to Kṛishṇa in Mahâbhâshya,
_Ind. Ant._ 1874, p. 14. For the pastoral Kṛishṇa see Bhandarkar,
_Vaishṇavism and Śaivism_, chap. IX.]

[Footnote 382: The divinity of Râdhâ is taught specially in the
Brahma-vaivarta Purâṇa and the Nârada pâncarâtra, also called
Jñânâmṛitasâra. She is also described in the Gopâla-tâpanîya
Upanishad of unknown date.]

[Footnote 383: But Kaṃsa appears in both series of legends, _i.e._, in
the Ghata-Jâtaka which contains no hint of the pastoral legends but is
a variant of the story of the warlike Kṛishṇa.]

[Footnote 384: Vishṇu Purâṇa, V. 10, 11 from which the quotations in
the text are taken. Much of it is repeated in the Harivamsa. See for
instance H. 3808.]

[Footnote 385: The Muttra cycle of legends cannot be very late for the
inscription of Glai Lomor in Champa (811 A.D.) speaks of Nârâyana
holding up Goburdhan and a Cambojan inscription of Prea Eynkosey (970
A.D.) speaks of the banks of the Yamunâ where Kṛishṇa sported. These
legends must have been prevalent in India some time before they
travelled so far. Some of them are depicted on a pillar found at
Mandor and possibly referable to the fourth century A.D. See _Arch.
Survey Ind._ 1905-1906, p. 135.]

[Footnote 386: Strom, III. 194. See M'Crindle, _Ancient India_, p.

[Footnote 387: Vincent Smith, _Fine Art in India_, pp. 134-138.]

[Footnote 388: In the Sutta-nipâta Mâra, the Evil One is called
Kaṇha, the phonetic equivalent of Kṛishṇa in Prâkrit. Can it be
that Mâra and his daughters have anything to do with Kṛishṇa and the

[Footnote 389: Compare the Greek stories of the infant Hermes who
steals Apollo's cattle and invents the lyre. Compare too, as having a
general resemblance to fantastic Indian legends, the story of young

[Footnote 390: Mgr. Bongard, _Histoire de la Bienheureuse Marguérite
Marie_. Quoted by W. James, _Varieties of Religious Experience_, p.

[Footnote 391: Viṭṭhal or Viṭṭoba is a local deity of Pandharpur
in the Deccan (perhaps a deified Brahman of the place) now identified
with Kṛishṇa.]

[Footnote 392: _Life and Sayings of Râmakṛishṇa_. Trans. F. Max
Müller, pp. 137-8. The English poet Crashaw makes free use of
religious metaphors drawn from love and even Francis Thompson
represents God as the lover of the Soul, _e.g._ in his poem _Any

[Footnote 393: Though surprising, it can be paralleled in modern times
for Kabir (_c._ 1400) was identified by his later followers with the
supreme spirit.]

[Footnote 394: Mahâbhâr. Sabhâp. XIV. Vishṇu Pur. v. xxxiv. The name
also occurs in the Taittirîya Âraṇyaka (i. 31) a work of moderate if
not great antiquity Nâzâyanâya vidmahe Vasudevâya dhîmahi.]

[Footnote 395: See. Vishṇu Pur. VI. V. See also Wilson, _Vishṇu
Purâṇa_, I. pp. 2 and 17.]

[Footnote 396: Thus the Saura Purâṇa inveighs against the Mâdhva sect
(XXXVIII.-XL.) and calls Vishṇu the servant of Śiva: a Purâṇic legal
work called the Vriddha-Harita-Samhitâ is said to contain a polemic
against Śiva. Occasionally we hear of collisions between the followers
of Vishṇu and Śiva or the desecration of temples by hostile fanatics.
But such conflicts take place most often not between widely different
sects but between subdivisions of the same sect, _e.g._, Tengalais and
Vadagalais. It would seem too that at present most Hindus of the
higher castes avoid ostentatious membership of the modern sects, and
though they may practise special devotion to either Vishṇu or Śiva,
yet they visit the temples of both deities when they go on
pilgrimages. Jogendra Nath Bhattacharya in his _Hindu Castes and
Sects_ says (p. 364) that aristocratic Brahmans usually keep in their
private chapels both a salâgram representing Vishṇu and emblems
representing Śiva and his spouse. Hence different observers vary in
their estimates of the importance of sectarian divisions, some holding
that sect is the essence of modern Hinduism and others that most
educated Hindus do not worship a sectarian deity. The Kûrma Purâṇa,
Part I. chap. XXII. contains some curious rules as to what deities
should be worshipped by the various classes of men and spirits.]

[Footnote 397: Bhag.-gîtâ, XL. 23-34.]

[Footnote 398: See Srisa Chandra Vasu, _Daily practice of the Hindus_,
p. 118.]

[Footnote 399: II. 1 and I. 1.]

[Footnote 400: See Maitrâyaṇa Up. V. 2. It is highly probable that
the celebrated image at Elephanta is not a Trimûrti at all but a
Maheśamûrti of Śiva. See Gopinâtha Rao, _Hindu Iconog._ II. 382.]




In the last chapter I traced the growth of the great gods Śiva and
Vishṇu. The prominence of these figures is one of the marks which
distinguish the later phase of Indian religion from the earlier. But
it is also distinguished by various practices, institutions and
beliefs, which are more or less connected with the new deities. Such
are a new ritual, the elaboration of the caste system, the growth of
sects, and the tendency to make devotion to a particular deity the
essence of religion. In the present chapter I shall say something of
these phenomena.

Hinduism has often and justly been compared to a jungle. As in the
jungle every particle of soil seems to put forth its spirit in
vegetable life and plants grow on plants, creepers and parasites on
their more stalwart brethren, so in India art, commerce, warfare and
crime, every human interest and aspiration seek for a manifestation in
religion, and since men and women of all classes and occupations, all
stages of education and civilization, have contributed to Hinduism,
much of it seems low, foolish and even immoral. The jungle is not a
park or garden. Whatever can grow in it, does grow. The Brahmans are
not gardeners but forest officers. To attempt a history or description
of Indian creeds seems an enterprise as vast, hopeless and pathless as
a general account of European politics. As for many centuries the life
of Europe has expressed itself in politics, so for even longer ages
the life of India, which has more inhabitants than western
Europe,[401] has found expression in religion, speculation and
philosophy, and has left of all this thought a voluminous record,
mighty in bulk if wanting in dates and events. And why should it
chronicle them? The truly religious mind does not care for the history
of religion, just as among us the scientific mind does not dwell on
the history of science.

Yet in spite of their exuberance Hinduism and the jungle have
considerable uniformity. Here and there in a tropical forest some
well-grown tree or brilliant flower attracts attention, but the
general impression left on the traveller by the vegetation as he
passes through it mile after mile is infinite repetition as well as
infinite luxuriance. And so in Hinduism. A monograph on one god or one
teacher is an interesting study. But if we continue the experiment,
different gods and different teachers are found to be much the same.
We can write about Vishnuism and Śivaism as if they were different
religions and this, though incomplete, is not incorrect. But in their
higher phases both show much the same excellences and when degraded
both lead to much the same abuses, except that the worship of Vishṇu
does not allow animal sacrifices. This is true even of externals. In
the temples of Madura, Poona and Benares, the deities, the rites, the
doctrines, the race of the worshippers and the architecture are all
different, yet the impression of uniformity is strong. In spite of
divergences the religion is the same in all three places: it smacks of
the soil and nothing like it can be found outside India.

Hinduism is an unusual combination of animism and pantheism, which are
commonly regarded as the extremes of savage and of philosophic belief.
In India both may be found separately but frequently they are combined
in startling juxtaposition. The same person who worships Vishṇu as
identical with the universe also worships him in the form of a pebble
or plant.[402] The average Hindu, who cannot live permanently in the
altitudes of pantheistic thought, regards his gods as great natural
forces, akin to the mighty rivers which he also worships, irresistible
and often beneficent but also capricious and destructive. Whereas
Judaism, Christianity and Islam all identify the moral law with the
will and conduct of the deity, in Hinduism this is not completely
admitted in practice, though a library might be filled with the
beautiful things that have been said about man and God. The outward
forms of Indian religion are pagan after the fashion of the ancient
world, a fashion which has in most lands passed away. But whereas in
the fourth century A.D. European paganism, despite the efforts of
anti-Christian eclectics, proved inelastic and incapable of satisfying
new religious cravings, this did not happen in India. The bottles of
Hinduism have always proved capable of holding all the wine poured
into them. When a new sentiment takes possession of men's souls, such
as love, repentance, or the sense of sin, some deity of many shapes
and sympathies straightway adapts himself to the needs of his
worshippers. And yet in so doing the deity, though he enlarges
himself, does not change, and the result is that we often meet with
strange anachronisms, as if Jephthah should listen appreciatively to
the Sermon on the Mount and then sacrifice his daughter to Christ.
Many Hindu temples are served by dancing girls who are admittedly
prostitutes,[403] an institution which takes us back to the cultus of
Corinth and Babylon and is without parallel in any nation on
approximately the same level of civilization. Only British law
prevents widows from being burned with their dead husbands, though
even in the Vedic age the custom had been discontinued as
barbarous.[404] But for the same legislation, human sacrifice would
probably be common. What the gods do and what their worshippers do in
their service cannot according to Hindu opinion be judged by ordinary
laws of right and wrong. The god is supra-moral: the worshipper when
he enters the temple leaves conventionality outside.

Yet it is unfair to represent Hinduism as characterized by licence and
cruelty. Such tendencies are counterbalanced by the strength and
prevalence of ideas based on renunciation and self-effacement. All
desire, all attachment to the world is an evil; all self-assertion is
wrong. Hinduism is constantly in extremes: sometimes it exults in the
dances of Kṛishṇa or the destructive fury of Kâlî: more often it
struggles for release from the transitory and for union with the
permanent and real by self-denial or rather self-negation, which aims
at the total suppression of both pleasure and pain. This is on the
whole its dominant note.

In the records accessible to us the transition from Brahmanism--that
is, the religion of the Vedas and Brâhmaṇas--to Hinduism does not
appear as direct but as masked by Buddhism. We see Buddhism grow at
the expense of Brahmanism. We are then conscious that it becomes
profoundly modified under the influence of new ideas. We see it decay
and the religion of the Brahmans emerge victorious. But that religion
is not what it was when Buddhism first arose, and is henceforth
generally known as Hinduism. The materials for studying the period in
which the change occurred--say 400 B.C. to 400 A.D.--are not scanty,
but they do not facilitate chronological investigation. Art and
architecture are mainly Buddhist until the Gupta period (c. 320 A.D.)
and literature, though plentiful, is undated. The Mahâbhârata and
Râmâyaṇa must have been edited in the course of these 800 years, but
they consist of different strata and it is not easy to separate and
arrange them without assuming what we want to prove. From 400 B.C. (if
not from an earlier date) onwards there grew up a great volume of epic
poetry, founded on popular ballads, telling the stories of Râma and
the Pâṇḍavas.[405] It was distinct from the canonical literatures of
both Brahmans and Buddhists, but though it was not in its essential
character religious, yet so general in India is the interest in
religion that whole theological treatises were incorporated in these
stories without loss, in Indian opinion, to the interest of the
narrative. If at the present day a congregation is seen in a Hindu
temple listening to a recitation, the text which is being chanted will
often prove to be part of the Mahâbhârata. Such a ceremony is not due
to forgetfulness of the Veda but is a repetition of what happened long
before our era when rhapsodists strung together popular narratives and
popular theology. Such theology cannot be rigidly separated from
Brahmanism and Buddhism. It grew up under their influence and accepted
their simpler ideas. But it brought with it popular beliefs which did
not strictly speaking belong to either system. By attacking the main
Brahmanic doctrines the Buddhists gave the popular religion its
opportunity. For instance, they condemned animal sacrifices and
derided the idea that trained priests and complicated rites are
necessary. This did not destroy the influence of the Brahmans but it
disposed them to admit that the Vedic sacrifices are not the only
means of salvation and to authorize other rites and beliefs. It was
about this time, too, that a series of invasions began to pour into
India from the north-west. It may be hard to distinguish between the
foreign beliefs which they introduced and the Indian beliefs which
they accepted and modified. But it is clear that their general effect
was to upset traditional ideas associated with a ritual and learning
which required lifelong study.


It has been well said[406] that Buddhism did not waste away in India
until rival sects had appropriated from it everything they could make
use of. Perhaps Hinduism had an even stronger doctrinal influence on
Buddhism. The deification of the Buddha, the invention of Bodhisattvas
who are equivalent to gods and the extraordinary alliance between late
Buddhism and Śivaism, are all instances of the general Indian view
overcoming the special Buddhist view. But Buddhism is closely
connected with the theory of incarnations and the development of the
Advaita philosophy, and in the externals of religion, in rites,
ceremonies and institutions, its influence was great and lasting. We
may take first the doctrine of Ahiṃsâ, non-injury, or in other words
the sanctity of animal life. This beautiful doctrine, the glory of
India, if not invented by the Buddha at least arose in schools which
were not Brahmanic and were related to the Jain and Buddhist
movements. It formed no part of the Vedic religion in which sacrifice
often meant butchery. But in Hinduism, it meets with extensive though
not universal acceptance. With the Vaishṇavas it is an article of
faith nor do the worshippers of Śiva usually propitiate him with
animal sacrifices, though these are offered by the Śâktas and also by
the small class of Brahmans who still preserve the Vedic ritual.[407]
Hardly any Hindus habitually eat meat and most abhor it, especially
beef. Yet beef-eating seems to have been permitted in Vedic times and
even when parts of the Mahâbhârata were composed.

Apart from animal sacrifices Buddhism was the main agent in effecting
a mighty revolution in worship and ritual. One is tempted to regard
the change as total and complete, but such wide assertions are rarely
true in India: customs and institutions are not swept away by
reformers but are cut down like the grass and like the grass grow up
again. They sometimes die out but they are rarely destroyed. The Vedic
sacrifices are still occasionally offered,[408] but for many centuries
have been almost entirely superseded by another form of worship
associated with temples and the veneration of images. This must have
become the dominant form of Hindu cultus in the first few centuries of
our era and probably earlier. It is one of the ironies of fate that
the Buddha and his followers should be responsible for the growth of
image worship, but it seems to be true. He laughed at sacrifices and
left to his disciples only two forms of religious exercise, sermons
and meditation. For Indian monks, this was perhaps sufficient, but the
laity craved for some outward form of worship. This was soon found in
the respect shown to the memory of the Buddha and the relics of his
body, although Hinduism never took kindly to relic worship. We hear
too of Cetiyas. In the Piṭakas this word means a popular shrine
unconnected with either Buddhist or Brahmanic ceremonial, sometimes
perhaps merely a sacred tree or stone, probably honoured by such
simple rites as decorating it with paint or flowers. A little later,
in Buddhist times, the Cetiya became a cenotaph or reliquary,
generally located near a monastery and surrounded by a passage for
reverential circumambulation.

Allusions in the Piṭakas also indicate that then as now there were
fairs. The early Buddhists thought that though such gatherings were
not edifying they might be made so. They erected sacred buildings near
a monastery, and held festivals so that people might collect together,
visit a holy place, and hear sermons. In the earliest known
sanctuaries, the funeral monument (for we can scarcely doubt that this
is the origin of the stûpa)[409] has already assumed the conventional
form known as Dagoba, consisting of a dome and chest of relics, with a
spire at the top, the whole surrounded by railings or a colonnade, but
though the carving is lavish, no figure of the Buddha himself is to be
seen. He is represented by a symbol such as a footprint, wheel, or
tree. But in the later school of sculpture known as Gandhara or
Græco-Buddhist he is frequently shown in a full length portrait. This
difference is remarkable. It is easy to say that in the older school
the Buddha was not depicted out of reverence, but less easy to see why
such delineation should have shocked an Indian. But at any rate there
is no difficulty in understanding that Greeks or artists influenced by
Greeks would think it obvious and proper to make an effigy of their
principal hero.

In these shrines we have if not the origin of the Hindu temple, at any
rate a parallel development more nearly allied to it than anything in
the Vedic religion.[410] For the Buddhist shrine was a monument built
over a receptacle containing relics and the essential feature of Hindu
temples is a cell containing an image or emblem and generally
surmounted by a tower. The surrounding courts and corridors may assume
gigantic proportions, but the central shrine is never large. Images
had no place in the Vedic sacrifices and those now worshipped in
temples are generally small and rude, and sometimes (as at
Bhuvaneshwar and Srirangam) the deity is represented by a block or
carved stone which cannot be moved, and may have been honoured as a
sacred rock long before the name of Vishṇu or Śiva was known in those
regions.[411] The conspicuous statues often found outside the shrine
are not generally worshipped and are merely ornaments. Buddhism did
not create the type of ritual now used in Hindu temples, yet it
contributed towards it, for it attacked the old Brahmanic sacrifices,
it countenanced the idea that particular places and objects are holy,
and it encouraged the use of images. It is strange that these
widespread ideas should find no place in the Vedic religion, but even
now-a-days whenever the old Vedic sacrifices are celebrated they are
uncontaminated by the temple ceremonial. More than this, the priests
or Pujâris who officiate in temples are not always Brahmans and they
rarely enjoy much consideration.[412] This curious and marked feature
may be connected with the inveterate Indian feeling that, though it is
well to multiply rites and rules for neophytes, no great respect is
due to men occupied with mere ceremonial. But it also testifies to a
dim consciousness that modern temples and their ceremonies have little
to do with the thoughts and mode of life which made the Brahmans a
force in India. In many ways the Brahmans dissociate themselves from
popular religion. Those of good family will not perform religious
rites for Śûdras and treat the Brahmans who do so as inferiors.[413]

The simplest ceremonial in use at the present day is that employed in
some Śivaite temples. It consists in placing leaves on the linga and
pouring holy water over it. These rites, which may be descended from
prehistoric stone worship, are generally accompanied by the reading of
a Purâna. But the commonest form of temple ritual consists in treating
the image or symbol as an honoured human being.[414] It is awakened,
bathed, dressed and put to bed at the close of day. Meals are served
to it at the usual hours. The food thus offered is called _prasâd_ (or
favour) and is eaten by the devout. Once or twice a day the god holds
a levee and on festivals he is carried in procession. These ceremonies
are specially characteristic of the worship of Kṛishṇa whose images
receive all the endearments lavished on a pet child. But they are also
used in the temples of Śiva and Parvatî, and no less than twenty-two
of them are performed in the course of the day at the temple of
Bhuvaneshwar in Orissa. It is clear that the spirit of these rites is
very different from that which inspires public worship in other
civilized countries at the present day. They are not congregational or
didactic, though if any of the faithful are in the temple at the time
of the god's levee it is proper for them to enter and salute him.
Neither do they recall the magical ceremonies of the Vedic
sacrifices.[415] The waving of lights (arati) before the god and the
burning of incense are almost the only acts suggestive of
ecclesiastical ritual. The rest consists in treating a symbol or image
as if it were a living thing capable of enjoying simple physical
pleasures. Here there are two strata. We have really ancient rites,
such as the anointing or ornamenting of stones and offerings of food
in sacred places. In this class too we may reckon the sacrifice of
goats (and formerly of human beings) to Kâlî.[416] But on the other
hand the growing idea of Bhakti, that is faith or devotion, imported a
sentimental element and the worshipper endeavoured to pet, caress and
amuse the deity.

It is hard to see anything either healthy or artistic in this
emotional ritual. The low and foolish character of many temple
ceremonies disgusts even appreciative foreigners, but these services
are not the whole of Hindu worship. All Hindus perform in the course
of the day numerous acts of private devotion varying according to
sect, and a pious man is not dependent on the temple like a Catholic
on his church. Indian life is largely occupied with these private,
intimate, individual observances, hardly noticeable as ceremonies and
concerned with such things as dressing, ablution and the preparation
of food.

The monastic institutions of India seem due to Buddhism. There were
wandering monks before the Buddha's time, but the practice of founding
establishments where they could reside permanently, originated in his
order. There appears to be no record of Hindu (as opposed to Buddhist)
monasteries before the time of Śaṅkara in the ninth century, though
there must have been places where the learned congregated or where
wandering ascetics could lodge. Śaṅkara perceived the advantage of
the cenobitic life for organizing religion and founded a number of
maṭhs or colleges. Subsequent religious leaders imitated him. At the
present day these institutions are common, yet it is clear that the
wandering spirit is strong in Hindus and that they do not take to
monastic discipline and fixed residence as readily as Tibetans and
Burmese. A maṭh is not so much a convent as the abode of a teacher.
His pupils frequent it and may become semi-resident: aged pilgrims may
make it their last home, but the inmates are not a permanent body
following a fixed rule like the monks of a Vihâra. The Sattras of
Assam, however, are true monasteries (though even there vows and
monastic costume are unknown) and so are the establishments of the
Swâminârâyaṇa sect at Ahmedabad and Wartâl.


The vast and complicated organization of caste is mainly a post-Vedic
growth and in the Buddha's time was only in the making.[417] His order
was open to all classes alike, but this does not imply that he was
adverse to caste, so far as it then prevailed, or denied that men are
divided into categories determined by their deeds in other births. But
on the whole the influence of Buddhism was unfavourable to caste,
especially to the pretensions of the Brahmans, and an extant polemic
against caste is ascribed (though doubtfully) to Aśvaghosha.[418] On
the other hand, though caste is in its origin the expression of a
social rather than of a religious tendency, the whole institution and
mechanism have long been supported and exploited by the Brahmans. Few
of them would dispute the proposition that a man cannot be a Hindu
unless he belongs to a caste. The reason of this support is
undisguised, namely, that they are the first and chief caste. They
make their own position a matter of religion and claim the power of
purifying and rehabilitating those who have lost caste but they do not
usually interfere with the rules of other castes or excommunicate
those who break them.[419] That is the business of the Pancayat or
caste council.

Sometimes religion and caste are in opposition, for many modern
religious leaders have begun by declaring that among believers there
are no social distinctions. This is true not only of teachers whose
orthodoxy is dubious, such as Nânak, the founder of the Sikhs, and
Basava, the founder of the Lingâyats,[420] but also of Vallabhâcârya
and Caitanya. But in nearly all cases caste reasserts itself. The
religious teachers of the sect receive extravagant respect and form a
body apart. This phenomenon, which recurs in nearly all communities,
shows how the Brahmans established their position. At the same time
social distinctions make themselves felt among the laity, and those
who claim to be of good position dissociate themselves from those of
lower birth. The sect ends by observing caste on ordinary occasions,
and it is only in some temples (such as that of Jagannath at
Puri)[421] that the worshippers mix and eat a sacred meal together.
Sometimes, however, the sect which renounces caste becomes itself a
caste. Thus, the Sikhs have become almost a nation and other modern
castes arising out of sects are the Atiths, who are Śivaites, the
Saraks, who appear to have been originally Buddhists, and the
Baishnabs (Vaishnavas), a name commonly given in Bengal to those
followers of Caitanya who persist in the original rule of disregarding
caste regulations within the sect, and hence now form a separate
community. But as a rule sect and caste are not co-extensive and the
caste is not a religious corporation. Thus the different subdivisions
of the Baniyas belong to different sects and even in the same
subdivision there is no religious uniformity.[422]

Caste in its later developments is so complex and irregular, that it
is impossible to summarize it in a formula or explain it as the
development of one principle. In the earliest form known two
principles are already in operation. We have first racial distinction.
The three upper castes represent the invading Aryans, the fourth the
races whom they found in India. In the modern system of caste, race is
not a strong factor. Many who claim to be Brahmans and Kshatriyas have
no Aryan blood, but still the Aryan element is strongest in the
highest castes and decreases as we descend the social scale and also
decreases in the higher castes in proportion as we move from the
north-west to the east and south. But secondly in the three upper
castes the dividing principle, as reported in the earliest accounts,
is not race but occupation. We find in most Aryan countries a division
into nobles and people, but in India these two classes become three,
the priests having been able to assume a prominence unknown elsewhere
and to stamp on literature their claim to the highest rank. This claim
was probably never admitted in practice so completely as the priests
desired. It was certainly disputed in Buddhist times and I have myself
heard a young Rajput say that the Brahmans falsified the Epics so as
to give themselves the first place.

It is not necessary for our purpose to describe the details of the
modern caste system. Its effect on Indian religion has been
considerable, for it created the social atmosphere in which the
various beliefs grew up and it has furnished the Brahmans with the
means of establishing their authority. But many religious reformers
preached that in religion caste does not exist--that there is neither
Jew nor Gentile in the language of another creed--and though the
application of this theory is never complete, the imperfection is the
result not of religious opposition but of social pressure. Hindu life
is permeated by the instinct that society must be divided into
communities having some common interest and refusing to intermarry or
eat with other communities. The long list of modern castes hardly
bears even a theoretical relation to the four classes of Vedic
times.[423] Numerous subdivisions with exclusive rules as to
intermarriage and eating have arisen among the Brahmans and the
strength of this fissiparous instinct is seen among the Mohammedans
who nominally have no caste but yet are divided into groups with much
the same restrictions.

This remarkable tendency to form exclusive corporations is perhaps
correlated with the absence of political life in India. Such ideas as
nationality, citizenship, allegiance to a certain prince, patriotic
feelings for a certain territory are rarer and vaguer than elsewhere,
and yet the Hindu is dependent on his fellows and does not like to
stand alone. So finding little satisfaction in the city or state he
clings the more tenaciously to smaller corporations. These have no one
character: they are not founded on any one logical principle but
merely on the need felt by people who have something in common to
associate together. Many are based on tribal divisions; some, such as
the Marathas and Newars, may be said to be nationalities. In many the
bond of union is occupation, in a few it is sectarian religion. We can
still observe how members of a caste who migrate from their original
residence tend to form an entirely new caste, and how intertribal
marriages among the aborigines create new tribes.


Sect[424] must not be confounded with caste. Hindu sects are of many
kinds; some, if not militant, are at least exceedingly self-confident.
Others are so gentle in stating their views that they might be called
schools rather than sects, were the word not too intellectual. The
notion that any creed or code can be _quod semper, quod ubique, quod
ab omnibus_, is less prevalent than in Europe and even the Veda,
though it is the eternal word, is admitted to exist in several
recensions. Hinduism is possible as a creed only to those who select.
In its literal sense it means simply all the beliefs and rites
recognized in India, too multifarious and inconsistent for the most
hospitable and addled brain to hold. But the Hindus, who are as loth
to abolish queer beliefs and practices as they are to take animal
life, are also the most determined seekers after a satisfying form of
religion. Brahmanic ritual and Buddhist monasticism demand the
dedication of a life. Not everyone can afford that, but the sect is
open to all. It attempts to sort out of the chaos of mythology and
superstition something which all can understand and all may find
useful. It selects some aspect of Hinduism and makes the best of it.
Sects usually start by preaching theism and equality in the sight of
God, but in a few generations mythology and social distinctions creep
in. Hence though the prevalence of sect is undoubtedly a feature of
modern Hinduism it is also intelligible that some observers should
assert that most Hindus belong to the same general religion and that
only the minority are definitely sectarian. The sectarian tendency is
stronger in Vishnuism than in Śivaism. The latter has produced some
definite sects, as, for instance, Lingâyats, but is not like Vishnuism
split up into a number of Churches each founded by a human teacher and
provided by him with a special creed.

Most Indian sects are in their origin theistic, that is to say, they
take a particular deity and identify him with the Supreme Being. But
the pantheistic tendency does not disappear. Popular religion
naturally desires a personal deity. But it is significant that the
personal deity frequently assumes pantheistic attributes and is
declared to be both the world and the human soul. The best known sects
arose after Islam had entered India and some of them, such as the
Sikhs, show a blending of Hindu and Moslem ideas. But if Mohammedan
influence favoured the formation of corporations pledged to worship
one particular deity, it acted less by introducing something new than
by quickening a line of thought already existing. The Bhagavad-gîtâ is
as complete an exposition of sectarian pantheism as any utterances
posterior to Mohammedanism.

The characteristic doctrine of sectarian Hinduism is _bhakti_, faith
or devotion. The older word _śraddhâ_, which is found in the Vedas, is
less emotional for it means simply belief in the existence of a deity,
whereas _bhakti_ can often be rendered by love. It is passionate,
self-oblivious devotion to a deity who in return (though many would
say there is no bartering) bestows his grace (_prasâda_ or
_anugraha_). St. Augustine in defining faith says: "Quid est credere
in Deum? credendo amare, credendo diligere, credendo in eum ire, et
ejus membris incorporari."[425] This is an excellent paraphrase of
_bhakti_ and the words have an oriental ring which is not quite that
of the New Testament. Though the doctrine of _bhakti_ marks the
beginning of a new epoch in Hinduism it is not necessary to regard it
as an importation or due to Christianity. About the time of the
Christian era there was felt in many countries a craving for a gentler
and more emotional worship and though the history of Bhaktism is
obscure, Indian literature shows plainly how it may be a development
of native ideas. Its first great text-book is the Bhagavad-gîtâ, but
it is also mentioned in the last verse of the Śvetâśvatara Upanishad
and Pâṇini appears to allude to _bhakti_ felt for[426] Vâsudeva. The
Kaṭhâ Upanishad[427] contains the following passage:

"That Âtman cannot be gained by the Veda, nor by understanding nor by
much learning. He whom the Âtman chooses, by him the Âtman can be
gained. The Âtman chooses him as his own." Here we have not the idea
of faith or love, but we have the negative statement that the Âtman is
not won by knowledge and the positive statement that this Âtman
chooses his own. In the Ṛig Veda[428] there is a poem put into the
mouth of Vac or speech, containing such sentiments as "I give wealth
to him who gives sacrifice.... I am that through which one eats,
breathes, sees, and hears.... Him that I love I make strong, to be a
priest, a seer, a sage." This reads like an ancient preliminary study
for the Bhagavad-gîtâ. Like Kṛishṇa the deity claims to be in all
and, like him, to reward her votaries. It is true that the "Come unto
me" is not distinctly expressed, but it is surely struggling for
expression.[429] Again, in the Kaushîtaki Upanishad (III. 1 and 2)
Indra says to Pratardana, who had asked him for a boon, "Know me only:
that is, what I deem most beneficial to man, that he should know
me.... He who meditates on me as life and immortality gains his full
life in this world and in heaven immortality." Here the relation of
the devotee to the deity is purely intellectual not emotional, but the
idea that intellectual devotion directed to a particular deity will be
rewarded is clearly present. In the Ṛig Veda this same Indra is
called a deliverer and advocate; a friend, a brother and a father;
even a father and mother in one. Here the worshipper does not talk of
_bhakti_ because he does not analyze his feelings, but clearly these
phrases are inspired by affectionate devotion.

Nor is the spirit of _bhakti_ absent from Buddhism. The severe
doctrine of the older schools declares that the Buddha is simply a
teacher and that every man must save himself. But since the teacher is
the source of the knowledge which saves, it is natural to feel for him
grateful and affectionate devotion. This sentiment permeates the two
books of poems called Thera and Therîgâthâ and sometimes finds clear
expression.[430] In the commentary on the Dhammapada[431] the doctrine
of salvation by devotion is affirmed in its extreme form, namely that
a dying man who has faith in the Buddha will be reborn in heaven. But
this commentary is not of early date and the doctrine quoted is
probably an instance of the Hinayana borrowing the attractive features
of the Mahayana. The sutras about Amitâbha's paradise, which were
composed about the time of the Christian era and owe something to
Persian though not to Christian influence, preach faith in Amitâbha as
the whole of religion. They who believe in him and call on his name
will go to heaven.

When bhakti was once accepted as a part of Indian religion, it was
erected into a principle, analogous or superior to knowledge and was
defined in Sûtras[432] similar to those of the Sâṅkhya and Vedânta.
But its importance in philosophy is small, whereas its power as an
impulse in popular religion has been enormous. To estimate its moral
and intellectual value is difficult, for like so much in Hinduism it
offers the sharpest contrasts. Its obvious manifestations may seem to
be acts of devotion which cannot be commended ethically and belief in
puerile stories: yet we find that this offensive trash continually
turns into gems of religious thought unsurpassed in the annals of
Buddhism and Christianity.

The doctrine of bhakti is common to both Vishnuites and Śivaites. It
is perhaps in general estimation associated with the former more than
with the latter, but this is because the Bhagavad-gîtâ and various
forms of devotion to Kṛishṇa are well known, whereas the Tamil
literature of Dravidian Śivaism is ignored by many European scholars.
One might be inclined to suppose that the emotional faith sprang up
first in the worship of Vishṇu, for the milder god seems a natural
object for love, whereas Śiva has to undergo a certain transformation
before he can evoke such feelings. But there is no evidence that this
is the historical development of the bhakti sentiment, and if the
Bhagavad-gîtâ is emphatic in enjoining the worship of Kṛishṇa only,
the Śvetâśvatara and Maitrâyanîya Upanishads favour Śiva, and he is
abundantly extolled in many parts of the Mahâbhârata. Here, as so
often, exact chronology fails us in the early history of these sects,
but it is clear that the practice of worshipping Śiva and Vishṇu, as
being each by himself all-sufficient, cannot have begun much later
than the Christian era and may have begun considerably earlier, even
though people did not call themselves Śaivas or Vaishṇavas.

Bhakti is often associated with the doctrine of the playfulness of
God. This idea--so strange to Europe[433]--may have its roots partly
in the odd non-moral attributes of some early deities. Thus the Rudra
of the Śatarudrîya hymn is a queer character and a trickster. But it
soon takes a philosophical tinge and is used to explain the creation
and working of the universe which is regarded not as an example of
capricious, ironical, inscrutable action, but rather as manifesting
easy, joyous movement and the exuberant rhythm of a dance executed for
its own sake. The European can hardly imagine a sensible person doing
anything without an object: he thinks it almost profane to ascribe
motiveless action to the Creator: he racks his brain to discover any
purpose in creation which is morally worthy and moderately in accord
with the facts of experience. But he can find none. The Hindu, on the
contrary, argues that God being complete and perfect cannot be
actuated by aims or motives, for all such impulses imply a desire to
obtain something, whereas a perfect and complete being is one which by
its very definition needs neither change nor addition. Therefore,
whatever activity is ascribed to the creator must not be thought of as
calculating, purposeful endeavour, but as spontaneous, exultant
movement, needing and admitting no explanation, and analogous to sport
and play rather than to the proceedings of prudent people. This view
of the divine activity is expounded by so serious a writer as Śaṅkara
in his commentary on the Vedânta Sûtras, and it also finds
mythological expression in numerous popular legends. The Tamil
Purâṇas describe the sixty-four miracles of Śiva as his amusements:
his laughter and joyous movements brighten all things, and the street
minstrels sing "He sports in the world. He sports in the soul."[434]
He is supposed to dance in the Golden Hall of the temple at
Chidambaram and something of the old legends of the Śatarudrîya hangs
about such popular titles as the Deceiver and the Maniac (_Kalvar_)
and the stories of his going about disguised and visiting his
worshippers in the form of a mendicant. The idea of sport and
playfulness is also prominent in Vishnuism. It is a striking feature
in the cultus of both the infant and the youthful Kṛishṇa, but I
have not found it recorded in the severer worship of Râma.

Another feature of Hindu sects is the extravagant respect paid to
Gurus or teachers. The sanctity of the Guru is an old conviction in
India. By common consent he is entitled to absolute obedience and
offences against him are heinous crimes. But in sectarian literature
there appears a new claim, namely, that the Guru in some way is or
represents the god whose worship he teaches. If the deity is thought
of primarily as a saviour, the Guru is said to deliver from suffering
and hell: if he requires surrender and sacrifice, then person and
possessions must be dedicated to the Guru. Membership of a sect can
be attained only by initiation at the hands of a Guru who can teach a
special mantra or formula of which each sect has its own. In some of
the more modern sects the Guru need not be a Brahman, but if he cannot
be venerated for his caste, the deficiency is compensated by the
respect which he receives as a repository of oral teaching. The
scriptural basis of many sects is dubious and even when it exists,
many of the devout (especially women) have not the inclination or
ability to read and therefore take their religion from the lips of the
Guru, who thus becomes an oracle and source of truth. In Bengal, the
family Guru is a regular institution in respectable castes. In many
sects the founder or other prominent saint is described as an
incarnation and receives veneration after death.[435]

This veneration or deification of the Guru is found in most sects and
assumes as extreme a form among the Śaivas as among the Vaishṇavas.
The Śaiva Siddhânta teaches that divine instruction can be received
only from one who is both god and man, and that the true Guru is an
incarnation of Śiva. Thus the works of Mâṇikka-Vâçagar and Umâpati
speak of Śiva coming to his devotees in the form of the Guru. In the
sects that worship Kṛishṇa the Gurus are frequently called Gosain
(Goswami).[436] Sometimes they are members of a particular family, as
among the Vallabhâcâryas. In other sects there is no hereditary
principle and even a Sudra is eligible as Guru.

One other feature of Sectarian Hinduism must be mentioned. It may be
described as Tantrism or, in one of its aspects, as the later Yoga and
is a combination of practices and theories which have their roots in
the old literature and began to form a connected doctrine at least as
early as the eighth century A.D. Some of its principal ideas are as
follows: (i) Letters and syllables (and also their written forms and
diagrams) have a potent influence both for the human organism and for
the universe. This idea is found in the early Upanishads[437] and is
fully developed in the later Sectarian Upanishads. (ii) The human
organism is a miniature copy of the universe.[438] It contains many
lines or channels (nâḍî) along which the nerve force moves and also
nervous centres distributed from the hips to the head, (iii) In the
lowest centre resides a force identical with the force which creates
the universe.[439] When by processes which are partly physical it is
roused and made to ascend to the highest centre, emancipation and
bliss are obtained. (iv) There is a mysterious connection between the
process of cosmic evolution and sound, especially the sacred sound

These ideas are developed most thoroughly in Śâktist works, but are by
no means peculiar to them. They are found in the Pâncarâtra and the
later Puranas and have influenced almost all modern sects, although
those which are based on emotional devotion are naturally less
inclined to favour physical and magical means of obtaining salvation.


[Footnote 401: The population of India (about 315 millions) is larger
than that of Europe without Russia.]

[Footnote 402: But compare the English poet

    "Flower in the crannied wall,
    I pluck you out of the crannies,
    ... but if I could understand
    What you are, root and all, and all in all
    I should know what God and man is."]

[Footnote 403: Efforts are now being made by Hindus to suppress this

[Footnote 404: In the Vedic funeral ceremonies the wife lies down by
her dead husband and is called back to the world of the living which
points to an earlier form of the rite where she died with him. But
even at this period, those who did not follow the Vedic customs may
have killed widows with their husbands (see too Ath. Veda, XII. 3),
and later, the invaders from Central Asia probably reinforced the
usage. The much-abused Tantras forbid it.]

[Footnote 405: For the history of the Râmâyaṇa and Mahâbhârata and
the dates assignable to the different periods of growth, see
Winternitz, _Gesch. Ind. Lit._ vol. I. p. 403 and p. 439. Also
Hopkins' _Great Epic of India_, p. 397. The two poems had assumed
something like their present form in the second and fourth centuries
A.D. respectively. These are probably the latest dates for any
substantial additions or alterations and there is considerable
evidence that poems called Bhârata and Râmâyaṇa were well known early
in the Christian era. Thus in Aśvaghosha's Sûtrâlankâra (story XXIV)
they are mentioned as warlike poems inculcating unbuddhist views. The
Râmâyaṇa is mentioned in the Mahâvibhâshâ and was known to Vasubandhu
(_J.R.A.S._ 1907, p. 99). A Cambojan inscription dating from the first
years of the seventh century records arrangements made for the
recitation of the Râmâyaṇa, Purâṇa and complete (aśesha) Bhârata,
which implies that they were known in India considerably earlier. See
Barth, _Inscrip. Sanscrites de Cambodge_, pp. 29-31. The Mahabharata
itself admits that it is the result of gradual growth for in the
opening section it says that the Bhârata consists of 8,800 verses,
24,000 verses and 100,000 verses.]

[Footnote 406: Hardy, _Indische Religionsgeschichte_, p. 101.]

[Footnote 407: But some of these latter sacrifice images made of dough
instead of living animals.]

[Footnote 408: It is said that the Agnishtoma was performed in Benares
in 1898, and in the last few years I am told that one or two Vedic
sacrifices have been offered annually in various parts of southern
India. I have myself seen the sites where such sacrifices were offered
in 1908-9 in Mysore city and in Chidambaram, and in 1912 at Wei near
Poona. The most usual form of sacrifice now-a-days is said to be the
Vâjapeya. Much Vedic ritual is still preserved in the domestic life of
the Nambathiri and other Brahmans of southern India. See Cochin,
_Tribes and Castes_, and Thurston, _Castes and Tribes of southern

[Footnote 409: The outline of a stûpa may be due to imitation of
houses constructed with curved bamboos as Vincent Smith contends
(_History of Fine Art_, p. 17). But this is compatible with the view
that stone buildings with this curved outline had come to be used
specially as funeral monuments before Buddhism popularized in India
and all Eastern Asia the architectural form called stûpa.]

[Footnote 410: The temple of Aihole near Badami seems to be a
connecting link between a Buddhist stûpa with a pradakshiṇa path and
a Hindu shrine.]

[Footnote 411: In most temples (at least in southern India) there are
two images: the _mûla-vigraha_ which is of stone and fixed in the
sanctuary, and the _utsava-vigraha_ which is smaller, made of metal
and carried in processions.]

[Footnote 412: Thus Bhaṭṭâchârya (_Hindu Castes and Sects_, p. 127)
enumerates eleven classes of Brahmans, who "have a very low status on
account of their being connected with the great public shrines," and
adds that mere residence in a place of pilgrimage for a few
generations tends to lower the status of a Brahmanic family.]

[Footnote 413: Thus in Bengal there is a special class, the Barna
Brahmans, who perform religious rites for the lower castes, and are
divided into six classes according to the castes to whom they
minister. Other Brahmans will not eat or intermarry with them or even
take water from them.]

[Footnote 414: This is extraordinarily like the temple ritual of the
ancient Egyptians. For some account of the construction and ritual of
south Indian temples see Richards in _J. of Mythic Soc_. 1919, pp.

[Footnote 415: But Vedic mantras are used in these ceremonies. The
libations of water or other liquids are said to be accompanied by the
mantras recited at the Soma sacrifice.]

[Footnote 416: At these sacrifices there is no elaborate ritual or
suggestion of symbolism. The animal is beheaded and the inference is
that Kâlî likes it. Similarly simple is the offering of coco-nuts to
Kâlî. The worshipper gives a nut to the pujâri who splits it in two
with an axe, spills the milk and hands back half the nut to the
worshipper. This is the sort of primitive offering that might be made
to an African fetish.]

[Footnote 417: See especially the Ambaṭṭha Sûtta (Dig. Nik. 3) and
Rhys Davids's introduction.]

[Footnote 418: See Weber, _Die Vajrasuchi_ and Nanjio, Catal. No.
1303. In Ceylon at the present day only members of the higher castes
can become Bhikkhus.]

[Footnote 419: But it is said that in Southern India serious questions
of caste are reported to the abbot of the Sringeri monastery for his

[Footnote 420: The modern Lingâyats demur to the statement that their
founder rejected caste.]

[Footnote 421: So too in the cakras of the Śâktists all castes are
equal during the performance of the ceremony.]

[Footnote 422: Some (Khandelwals, Dasa Srimalis and Palliwals) include
both Jains and Vaishnavas: the Agarwals are mostly Vaishnavas but some
of them are Jains and some worship Śiva and Kâlî. Jogendra Nath
Bhattacharya, _Hindu Castes and Sects_, pp. 205 ff.]

[Footnote 423: The names used are not the same. The four Vedic castes
are called _Varṇa_: the hundreds of modern castes are called _Jâti._]

[Footnote 424: Sampradâya seems to be the ordinary Sanskrit word for
sectarian doctrine. It means traditional teaching transmitted from one
teacher to another.]

[Footnote 425: I am discussing elsewhere the possible debt which
Christianity and Hinduism may owe to one another.]

[Footnote 426: Pâṇini, IV. 3. 95-98.]

[Footnote 427: Kaṭhâ Up. I. 1. 2, 23.]

[Footnote 428: R.V. X. 125.]

[Footnote 429: Compare too the hymns of the R.V. to Varuṇa as a
rudimentary expression of Bhakti from the worshipper's point of view.]

[Footnote 430: _E.g._ Theragâthâ, 818-841 and 1231-1245.]

[Footnote 431: I. 2.]

[Footnote 432: They are called the Śândilya Sûtras and appear to be
not older than about the twelfth century A.D., but the tradition which
connects them with the School of Śândilya may be just, for the
teaching of this sage (Chândog. Up. III. 14) lays stress on will and
belief. Râmânuja (Śrîbhâshya, II. 2. 43) refers to Śândilya as the
alleged author of the Pâncarâtra. There are other Bhakti sûtras called
Nâradiya and ascribed to Nârada, published and translated in _The
Sacred Books of the Hindus_, No. 23. They consist of 84 short
aphorisms. Raj. Mitra in his notices of Sanskrit MSS. describes a
great number of modern works dealing with Bhakti.]

[Footnote 433: Yet it is found in Francis Thompson's poem called _Any

        So best
        God loves to jest
    With children small, a freak
    Of heavenly hide and seek
    For thy wayward wit.]

[Footnote 434: Pope, _The History of Manikka-Vaçagar_, p. 23. For the
64 sports of Śiva see Siddhanta Dipika, vol. IX.]

[Footnote 435: _E.g._ Râmânuja, Nammâṛvâr, Basava.]

[Footnote 436: Apparently meaning "possessor of cows," and originally
a title of the youthful Kṛishṇa. It is also interpreted as meaning
Lord of the Vedas or Lord of his own senses.]

[Footnote 437: _E.g._ the beginning of the Chând. Up. about the syllable
_Om._ See too the last section of the Aitareya Âran. The Yoga
Upanishads analyse and explain _Om_ and some Vishnuite Upanishads
(Nṛisiṃha and Râmatâ-panîya) enlarge on the subject of letters and

[Footnote 438: The same idea pervades the old literature in a slightly
different form. The parts of the sacrifice are constantly identified
with parts of the universe or of the human body.]

[Footnote 439: The cakras are mentioned in Act V of Mâlatî and Mâdhava
written early in the eighth century. The doctrine of the nâḍîs occurs
in the older Upanishads (_e.g._ Chând. and Maitrâyaṇa) in a rudimentary




India is a literary country and naturally so great a change as the
transformation of the old religion into theistic sects preaching
salvation by devotion to a particular deity found expression in a long
and copious literature. This literature supplements and supersedes the
Vedic treatises but without impairing their theoretical authority,
and, since it cannot compare with them in antiquity and has not the
same historic interest, it has received little attention from
Indianists until the present century. But in spite of its defects it
is of the highest importance for an understanding of medieval and
contemporary Hinduism. Much of it is avowedly based on the principle
that in this degenerate age the Veda is difficult to understand,[440]
and that therefore God in His mercy has revealed other texts
containing a clear compendium of doctrine. Thus the great Vishnuite
doctor Râmânuja states authoritatively "The incontrovertible fact then
is as follows: The Lord who is known from the Vedânta texts ...
recognising that the Vedas are difficult to fathom by all beings other
than himself ... with a view to enable his devotees to grasp the true
meaning of the Vedas, himself composed the Pâncarâtra-Sâstra."[441]

This later sectarian literature falls into several divisions.

A. Certain episodes of the Mahâbhârata. The most celebrated of these
is the Bhagavad-gîtâ, which is probably anterior to the Christian era.
Though it is incorporated in the Epic it is frequently spoken of as an
independent work. Later and less celebrated but greatly esteemed by
Vishnuites is the latter part of book XII, commonly known as
Nârâyaṇîya.[442] Both these episodes and others[443] are closely
analogous to metrical Upanishads. The Mahâbhârata even styles itself
(I. 261) the Veda of Kṛishṇa (Kârshṇa).

The Râmâyaṇa does not contain religious episodes comparable to those
mentioned but the story has more than once been re-written in a religious
and philosophic form. Of such versions the Adhyâtma-Râmâyaṇa[444] and
Yoga-vaśishtḥa-Râmâyaṇa are very popular.

B. Though the Purâṇas[445] are not at all alike, most of them show
clear affinity both as literature and as religious thought to the
various strata of the Mahâbhârata, and to the Law Books, especially
the metrical code of Manu. These all represent a form of orthodoxy
which while admitting much that is not found in the Veda is still
Brahmanic and traditionalist. The older Purâṇas (_e.g._ Matsya, Vâyu,
Mârkaṇḍeya, Vishṇu), or at least the older parts of them, are the
literary expression of that Hindu reaction which gained political
power with the accession of the Gupta dynasty. They are less
definitely sectarian than later works such as the Nârada and Liṅga
Purânas, yet all are more or less sectarian.

The most influential Purâṇa is the Bhâgavata, one of the great
scriptures for all sects which worship Kṛishṇa. It is said to have
been translated into every language of India and forty versions in
Bengali alone are mentioned.[446] It was probably composed in the
eighth or ninth century.[447] A free translation of the tenth book
into Hindi, called the Prem Sagar or Ocean of Love, is greatly revered
in northern India.[448] Other sectarian Purâṇas are frequently read
at temple services. Besides the eighteen great Purâṇas there are many
others, and in south India at any rate they were sometimes composed in
the vernacular, as for instance the Periya Purâṇa (_c._ 1100 A.D.).
These vernacular Purâṇas seem to be collections of strangely
fantastic fairy tales.

C. The word Tantra originally meant a manual giving the essentials of
a subject but later usage tends to restrict it to works, whether Hindu
or Buddhist, inculcating the worship of Śiva's spouse. But there are
exceptions to this restriction: the Panca-tantra is a collection of
stories and the Lakshmî-tantra is a Vishnuite work.[449]

The fact is that a whole class of Sanskrit religious literature is
described by the titles Tantra, Âgama and Saṃhitâ,[450] which taken
in a wide sense are practically synonymous, though usage is inclined
to apply the first specially to Śâktist works, the second to Śivaite
and the third to Vishnuite. The common character of all these
productions is that they do not attempt to combine Vedic rites and
ideas with sectarian worship, but boldly state that, since the
prescriptions of the Veda are too hard for this age, some generous
deity has revealed an easier teaching. This teaching naturally varies
in detail, but it usually comprises devotion to some special form of
the godhead and also a special ceremonial, which commences with
initiation and includes the use of mystic formulæ, letters and
diagrams. Tantras, Âgamas and Saṃhitâs all treat of their
subject-matter in four divisions[451] the first of which relates to
the great problems of philosophy, the second to the discipline
necessary for uniting the self and God; the third and fourth to

These works have another feature in common, namely that they are
little known except to those Hindus who use them for religious
purposes and are probably not very anxious to see them published.
Though they are numerous, few of them have been printed and those few
have not been much studied by European scholars. I shall say something
more about them below in treating of the various sects. Some are of
respectable antiquity but it is also clear that modern texts pass
under ancient names. The Pâncarâtram and Pâśupatam which are Vishnuite
and Śivaite Saṃhitâs are mentioned in the Mahâbhârata, and some
extant Vishnuite Saṃhitâs were perhaps composed in the fourth century
A.D.[452] Râmânuja as quoted above states that the Pâncarâtra-śâstra
(apparently the same as the Pâncarâtra-tantra which he also mentions)
was composed by Vâsudeva himself and also cites as scripture the
Śâttvata, Paushkara and Parama Saṃhitâs. In the same context he
speaks of the Mahâbhârata as Bhârata-Saṃhitâ and the whole passage is
interesting as being a statement by a high authority of the reasons
for accepting a non-Vedic work like the Pâncarâtra as revealed

As already indicated European usage makes the words Tantra, Tantrism
and tantric refer to the worship of goddesses. It would be better to
describe this literature and worship as Sâktism and to use Tantrism
for a tendency in doctrine and ceremonial which otherwise has no
special name. I have been informed by Tamil Pandits that at the
present day the ritual in some temples is smârta or according to
Smriti, but in the majority according to the Âgamas or tantric. The
former which is followed by many well-known shrines (for instance in
Benares and in the great temples of south India) conforms to the
precepts of the Purâṇas, especially on festival days. The officiants
require no special initiation and burnt offerings are presented. But
the Âgamic ritual can be performed only by priests who have received
initiation, burnt offerings rarely form part of the ceremony and
vernacular hymns are freely used.[453]

Such hymns however as well as processions and other forms of worship
which appeal directly to the religious emotions are certainly not
tantric. Tantrism is a species of religious magic, differing from the
Vedic sacrifices in method rather than principle.[454] For all that,
it sets aside the old rites and announces itself as the new
dispensation for this age. Among its principal features are the
following. The Tantras are a scripture for all, and lay little stress
on caste: the texts and the ritual which they teach can be understood
only after initiation and with the aid of a teacher: the ritual
consists largely in the correct use of spells, magical or sacramental
syllables and letters, diagrams and gestures: its object is less to
beseech than to compel the god to come to the worshipper: another
object is to unite the worshipper to the god and in fact transform him
into the god: man is a microcosm corresponding to the macrocosm or
universe: the spheres and currents of the universe are copied in
miniature in the human body and the same powers rule the same parts in
the greater and the lesser scheme. Such ideas are widely disseminated
in almost all modern sects,[455] though without forming their
essential doctrine, but I must repeat that to say all sects are
tantric does not mean that they are all Śâktist. But Śâktist sects
are fundamentally and thoroughly tantric in their theory and

D. Besides the Sanskrit books mentioned above numerous vernacular
works, especially collections of hymns, are accepted as authoritative
by various sects, and almost every language has scriptures of its own.
In the south two Tamil hymnals, the Devaram of the Śivaites and
Nâlâyira Prabandham of the Vishnuites, are recited in temples and are
boldly stated to be revelations equivalent to the Veda. In northern
India may be mentioned the Hindi Ramayana of Tulsi Das, which is
almost universally venerated, the Bhaktamâlâ of Nâbhâ Das,[456] the
Sur-sagar of Surdas and the Prem Sagar. In Assam the Nam Gosha of
Madhab Deb is honoured with the same homage as a sacred image. The
awkwardness of admitting direct inspiration in late times is avoided
by the theory of spiritual descent, that is to say of doctrinal
transmission from teacher to teacher, the divine revelation having
been made to the original teacher at a discreetly remote epoch.


In considering the evolution of modern Hinduism out of the old Vedic
religion, three of the many factors responsible for this huge and
complicated result deserve special attention. The first is the unusual
intensity and prevalence of the religious temperament. This has a
double effect, both conservative and alterative: ancient customs
receive an unreasonable respect: they are not abolished for their
immorality or absurdity; but since real interest implies some measure
of constructive power, there is a constant growth of new ideas and
reinterpretations resulting in inconsistent combinations. The second
is the absence of hierarchy and discipline. The guiding principle of
the Brahmans has always been not so much that they have a particular
creed to enforce, as that whatever is the creed of India they must be
its ministers. Naturally every priest is the champion of his own god
or rite, and such zeal may lead to occasional conflicts. But though
the antithesis between the ritualism of the older Brahmanism and the
faith or philosophy of Śivaism and Vishnuism may remind us of the
differences between the Catholic Church and Protestant reformers, yet
historically there is no resemblance in the development of the
antithesis. To some extent Hinduism showed a united front against
Buddhism, but the older Brahmanism had no organization which enabled
it to stand as a separate Church in opposition to movements which it
disliked. The third factor is the deeply rooted idea, which reappears
at frequent intervals from the time of the Upanishads until to-day,
that rules and rites and even creeds are somehow part of the lower and
temporal order of things which the soul should transcend and leave
behind. This idea tinges the whole of Indian philosophy and
continually crops up in practice. The founder of a strange sect who
declares that nothing is necessary but faith in a particular deity and
that all ceremonies and caste observances are superfluous is not in
the popular esteem a subverter of Hinduism.

The history of both Śivaism and Vishnuism illustrates these features.
Śiva begins as a wild deity of non-moral attributes. As the religious
sense develops he is not rejected like the less reputable deities of
the Jews and Arabs but remains and collects round himself other
strange wild ideas which in time are made philosophical but not
ethical. The rites of the new religion are, if not antagonistic, at
least alternative to the ancient sacrifices, yet far from being
forbidden they are performed by Brahmans and modern Indian writers
describe Śiva as peculiarly the Brahman's god. Finally the Śivaite
schools of the Tamil country reject in successive stages the grosser
and more formal elements until there remains nothing but an ecstatic
and mystical monotheism. Similarly among the Vishnuites Kṛishṇa is
the centre of legends which have even less of conventional morality.
Yet out of them arises a doctrine that the love of God is the one
thing needful so similar to Christian teaching that many have supposed
it must be borrowed.

The first clear accounts of the worship of Śiva and Vishṇu are
contained in the epics and indicate the existence of sectarian
religion, that is to say of exclusive devotion to one or other deity.
But there is also a tendency to find a place for both, a tendency
which culminates in the composite deity Śaṅkara Nârâyaṇa already
mentioned. Many of the Purâṇas[457] reflect this view and praise the
two deities impartially. The Mahâbhârata not unfrequently does the
same but the general impression left by this poem is that the various
parts of which it consists have been composed or revised in a
sectarian spirit. The body of the work is a narrative of exploits in
which the hero Kṛishṇa plays a great part but revised so as to make
him appear often as a deity and sometimes as the Supreme Spirit. But
much of the didactic matter which has been added, particularly books
XII and XIII, breathes an equally distinct Śivaite spirit and in the
parts where Kṛishṇa is treated as a mere hero, the principal god
appears to be not Vishṇu but Śiva.

The Mahabharata and Puranas contain legends which, though obscure,
refer to conflicts of the worshippers of Śiva with those who offered
Vedic sacrifices as well as with the votaries of Vishṇu, and to a
subsequent reconciliation and blending of the various cults. Among
these is the well-known story of Daksha's sacrifice to which Śiva was
not invited. Enraged at the omission he violently breaks up the
sacrifice either in person or through a being whom he creates for the
purpose, assaults the officiants and the gods who are present, and is
pacified by receiving a share. Similarly we hear[458] that he once
seized a victim at a sacrifice and that the gods in fear allotted to
him the choicest portion of the offerings. These stories indicate that
at one time Brahmans did not countenance his worship and he is even
represented as saying to his wife that according to rule (dharmataḥ)
he has no share in the sacrifice.[459] Possibly human victims were
immolated in his honour, as they were in Kâlî's until recently, for in
the Mahabharata[460] it is related how Kṛishṇa expostulated with
Jarâsandha who proposed to offer to Śiva a sacrifice of captive kings.
In the Vishṇu-Purâṇa, Kṛishṇa fights with Śiva and burns Benares.
But by the time that the Mahabharata was put together these quarrels
were not in an acute stage. In several passages[461] Kṛishṇa is made
to worship Śiva as the Supreme Spirit and in others[462] vice versa
Śiva celebrates the glory of Kṛishṇa. Vishnuites do not disbelieve
in Śiva but they regard him as a god of this world, whereas their own
deity is cosmic and universal. Many Vishnuite works[463] are said to
be revealed by Śiva who acts as an intermediary between us and higher


In the following sections I shall endeavour to relate the beginnings
of sectarianism. The sects which are now most important are relatively
modern and arose in the twelfth century or later, but the sectarian
spirit can be traced back several centuries before our era. By
sectarians I mean worshippers of Śiva or Vishṇu who were neither in
complete sympathy with the ancient Brahmanism nor yet excommunicated
by it and who had new texts and rites to replace or at least
supplement the Vedas and the Vedic sacrifices. It is probable that the
different types of early Indian religion had originally different
geographical spheres. Brahmanism flourished in what we call the United
Provinces: Buddhism arose in the regions to the east of this district
and both Vishnuism and Śivaism are first heard of in the west.

The earliest sect of which we have any record is that of the
Bhâgavatas, who were or became Vishnuite. At a date which it is
impossible to fix but considerably before the epoch of Pâṇini, a
tribe named the Yâdavas occupied the country between Muttra and the
shores of Gujarat. Sects of this tribe were called Vṛishṇi and
Sâttvata. The latter name has passed into theology. Kṛishṇa belonged
to this sect and it is probable that this name Vâsudeva was not
originally a patronymic but the name of a deity worshipped by it. The
hero Kṛishṇa was identified with this god and subsequently when the
Brahmans wished to bring this powerful sect within the pale of
orthodoxy both were identified with Vishṇu. In the Mahabharata[464]
the rule or ritual (vidhi) of the Sâttvatas is treated as equivalent
to that of the Bhâgavatas and a work called the Sâttvata Saṃhitâ is
still extant. Bhâgavata appears to be the most general name of the
sect or sects and means simply _of the Lord_ (Bhâgavat), that is
worshippers of the one Lord.[465] Their religion is also called
Ekântika dharma, or the religion with one object, that is

A considerable literature grew up in this school and the principal
treatise is often spoken of as Pâncarâtra because it was revealed by
Nârâyaṇa during five nights.[467] The name however appears to be
strictly speaking applicable to a system or body of doctrine and the
usual term for the books in which this system is expounded is
Saṃhitâ. All previous discussions and speculations about these works,
of which little was known until recently, are superseded by Schrader's
publication of the Ahirbudhnya Saṃhitâ, which appears to be
representative of its class.[468] The names of over two hundred are
cited and of these more than thirty are known to be extant in MS.[469]
The majority were composed in north-western India but the Pâncarâtra
doctrine spread to the Dravidian countries and new Saṃhitâs were
produced there, the chief of which, the Îśvara Saṃhitâ, can hardly be
later than 800 A.D.[470] Of the older works Schrader thinks that the
Ahirbudhnya was written in Kashmir[471] between 300 and 800 A.D. and
perhaps as early as the fourth century. It mentions the Śâttvata and
Jayâkhya, which must therefore be older.

The most remarkable feature of this literature is its elaborate
doctrine of evolution and emanation from the Deity, the world process
being conceived in the usual Hindu fashion as an alternation of
production and destruction. A distinction is drawn between pure and
gross creation. What we commonly call the Universe is bounded by the
shell of the cosmic egg and there are innumerable such eggs, each with
its own heavens and its own tutelary deities such as Brahmâ and Śiva
who are sharply distinguished from Vishṇu. But beyond this multitude
of worlds are more mysterious and spiritual spheres, the highest
heaven or Vaikuṇṭha wherein dwells God in his highest form (Para)
with his Śaktis,[472] certain archangels and liberated souls.
Evolution commences when at the end of the cosmic night the Śakti of
Vishṇu[473] is differentiated from her Lord and assumes the two forms
of Force and Matter.[474] He as differentiated from her is Vâsudeva a
personal deity with six attributes[475] and is the first emanation, or
Vyûha, of the ineffable godhead. From him proceeds Sankarshaṇa, from
Sankarshaṇa Pradyumna, and from Pradyumna Aniruddha. These three
Vyûhas take part in creation but also correspond to or preside over
certain aspects of human personality, namely Sankarshaṇa to the soul
that animates all beings, Pradyumna to intelligence and Aniruddha to
individuality. Strange to say these seem to be the names of
distinguished personages in the Śâttvata or Vṛishṇi clan.[476] Mere
deification occurs in many countries but the transformation of heroes
into metaphysical or psychological terms could hardly have happened
outside India. Next to the Vyûhas come twelve sub-Vyûhas, among whom
is Nârâyaṇa,[477] and thirty-nine Avatâras. All these beings are
outside the cosmic eggs and our gross creation. As a prelude to this
last there takes place the evolution of the aggregates or sources from
which individual souls and matter are drawn, of space and of time, and
finally of the elements, the process as described seeming to follow an
older form of the Sânkhya philosophy than that known to us. The task
of human souls is to attain liberation, but though the language of the
Saṃhitâs is not entirely consistent, the older view is that they
become like to God, not that they are absorbed in him.[478]

Thus it is not incorrect to say that the Bhâgavata religion is
monotheistic and recognizes a creator of souls. Indeed Śankara[479]
condemns it on the very ground that it makes individual souls
originate from Vâsudeva, in which case since they have an origin they
must also have an end. But Râmânuja in replying to this criticism
seems to depart from the older view, for he says that the Supreme
Being voluntarily abides in four forms which include the soul, mind
and the principle of individuality. This, if not Pantheism, is very
different from European monotheism.[480]

The history of these Bhâgavatas, Pâncarâtras or worshippers of Vishṇu
must have begun several centuries before our era, for there are
allusions to them in Pâṇini and the Niddesa.[481] The names of
Vâsudeva and Sankarshaṇa occur in old inscriptions[482] and the Greek
Heliodoros calls himself a Bhâgavata on the column found at Besnagar
and supposed to date from the first part of the second century B.C.

The Pâncarâtra was not Brahmanic in origin[483] and the form of the
Sânkhya philosophy from which it borrowed was also un-Brahmanic. It
seems to have grown up in north-western India in the centuries when
Iranian influence was strong and may owe to Zoroastrianism the
doctrine of the Vyûhas which finds a parallel in the relation of Ahura
Mazda to Spenta Mainyu, his Holy Spirit, and in the Fravashis. It is
also remarkable that God is credited with six attributes comparable
with the six Amesha Spentas. In other ways the Pâncarâtra seems to
have some connection with late Buddhism. Though it lays little stress
on the worship of goddesses, yet all the Vyûhas and Avatâras are
provided with Śaktis, like the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas of tantric
Buddhism, and in the period of quiescence which follows on the
dissolution of the Universe Vishṇu is described under the name of
Śûnya or the void. It attaches great importance to the _Cakra_, the
wheel or discus which denotes Vishṇu's will to be,[484] to evolve and
maintain the universe, and it may have contributed some ideas to the
very late form of Buddhism called Kâlacakra. This very word is used in
the Ahirbudhnya Saṃhitâ as the name of one of the many wheels engaged
in the work of evolution.

Though the Pâncarâtra is connected with Kṛishṇa in its origin, it
gives no prominence to devotion to him under that name as do modern
sects and it knows nothing of the pastoral Kṛishṇa.[485] It
recommends the worship of the four Vyûhas[486] presiding over the four
quarters in much the same way that late Buddhism adores the four Jinas
depicted in somewhat similar forms. Similarly the Śivaites say that
Śiva has five faces, namely Îśâna or Sadâśiva (the highest,
undifferentiated form of the deity) at the top and below Vâmadeva,
Aghora, Tatpurusha, and Sadyojâta, presiding respectively over the
north, south, east and west. It is thus clear that in the early
centuries of our era (or perhaps even before it) there was a tendency
in Vishnuism, Śivaism and Mahayanist Buddhism alike to represent the
ineffable godhead as manifested in four aspects somewhat more
intelligible to human minds and producing in their turn many inferior
manifestations. Possibly the theory originated among the
Vishnuites,[487] but as often happened in India it was adopted by
their opponents. None of these theories are of much importance as
living beliefs at the present day but their influence can be seen in

As a sect the Pâncarâtras seem to have been a subdivision of the
Bhâgavatas and probably at the present day many Vishnuites would
accept the second name but not the first. The Pâncarâtra is studied at
only a few places in southern India but its doctrines permeate the
popular work called Bhaktamâlâ and in view of the express approbation
of Râmânuja and other authorities it can hardly be repudiated by the
Śrî-Vaishṇavas. Bhâgavata is sometimes used in the south as a name
for Smârtas who practise Vedic rites and worship both Śiva and


In these early times there were strenuous theological struggles now
forgotten, though they have left their traces in the legends which
tell how the title of Kṛishṇa and others to divine honours was
challenged. Amalgamation was the usual method of conciliation.
Several gods grew sufficiently important to become in the eyes of
their worshippers the supreme spirit and at least four were united in
the deity of the Bhâgavatas, namely, Vâsudeva, Kṛishṇa, Vishṇu and
Nârâyaṇa. Of the first three I have spoken already. Nârâyaṇa never
became like Vishṇu and Kṛishṇa a great mythological figure, but in
the late Vedic period he is a personification of the primæval waters
from which all things sprang or of the spirit which moved in
them.[489] From this he easily became the supreme spirit who animates
all the universe and the name was probably acceptable to those who
desired a purer and simpler worship because it was connected with
comparatively few legends. But there is some confusion in its use, for
it is applied not only to the supreme being but to a double
incarnation of him called Nara-Nârâyaṇa, and images of the pair may
still be seen in Vishnuite temples. They are said to have revealed the
true doctrine to Nârada and are invoked at the beginning of each book
of the Mahâbhârata.[490] One of the main theses of the Nârâyaṇîya[491]
is the identity of Nârâyaṇa and Vâsudeva, the former being a Brahmanic,
the latter a non-Brahmanic name for the Deity.

The celebrated Bhagavad-gîtâ[492] which is still held in such respect
that, like the New Testament or Koran, it is used in law courts for
the administration of oaths, is an early scripture of the Bhâgavata
sect. In it the doctrines of Kṛishṇa's divinity, the power of faith
and the efficacy of grace are fully established. It is declared to be
too hard for flesh and blood to find by meditation their way to the
eternal imperceptible spirit, whereas Kṛishṇa comes straightway to
those who make him their sole desire. "Set thy heart on me, become my
devotee, sacrifice to me and worship thou me. Then shalt thou come to
me. Truly I declare to thee thou art dear to me. Leave all (other)
religious duties and come to me as thy sole refuge. I will deliver
thee from thy sins. Sorrow not." But the evolution of Saṅkarshaṇa,
etc., is not mentioned. The poem has perhaps been re-edited and
interpolated several times but the strata can hardly be distinguished,
for the whole work, if not exactly paradoxical, is eclectic and
continually argues that what is apparently highest is not best for a
particular person. The Hindus generally regard the contemplative life
as the highest, but the Bhagavad-gîtâ is insistent in enjoining
unselfish action: it admits that the supreme reality cannot be grasped
by the mind or expressed in speech, but it recommends the worship of a
personal deity. Even the older parts of the poem appear to be
considerably later than Buddhism. But its mythology, if not Vedic, is
also hardly Puranic and it knows nothing of the legends about the
pastoral Kṛishṇa. It presupposes the Sâṅkhya and Yoga, though in
what stage of development it is hard to say, and in many respects its
style resembles the later Upanishads. I should suppose that it assumed
its present form about the time of the Christian era, rather before
than after, and I do not think it owes anything to direct Christian
influence. In its original form it may have been considerably older.

The Bhagavad-gîtâ identifies Kṛishṇa with Vâsudeva and with Vishṇu
but does not mention Nârâyaṇa and from its general style I should
imagine the Nârâyaṇiya to be a later poem. If so, the evolution of
Bhâgavata theology will be that Kṛishṇa, a great hero in a tribe
lying outside the sphere of Brahmanism, is first identified with
Vâsudeva, the god of that tribe, and then both of them with Vishṇu.
At this stage the Bhagavad-gîtâ was composed. A later current of
speculation added Nârâyaṇa to the already complex figure, and a
still later one, not accepted by all sects, brought the pastoral and
amorous legends of Kṛishṇa. Thus the history of the Bhâgavatas
illustrates the Indian disposition to combine gods and to see in each
of them only an aspect of the one. But until a later period the types
of divinity known as Vishṇu and Śiva resisted combination. The
worshippers of Śiva have in all periods shown less inclination than
the Vishnuites to form distinct and separate bodies and the earliest
Śivaite sect of which we know anything, the Pâśupatas,[493] arose
slightly later than the Bhâgavatas.


Patañjali the grammarian (_c._ 150 B.C.) mentions devotees of
Śiva[494] and also images of Śiva and Skanda. There is thus no reason
to doubt that worshippers of Śiva were recognized as a sect from at
least 200 B.C. onwards. Further it seems probable that the founder or
an early teacher of the sect was an ascetic called Lakulin or
Lakulîśa, the club-bearer. The Vâyu Purâṇa[495] makes Śiva say that
he will enter an unowned corpse and become incarnate in this form at
Kâyârohana, which has been identified with Kârvân in Baroda. Now the
Vâyu is believed to be the oldest of the Purâṇas, and it is probable
that this Lakulin whom it mentions lived before rather than after our
era and was especially connected with the Pâśupata sect. This word is
derived from Paśupati, the Lord of cattle, an old title of Rudra
afterwards explained to mean the Lord of human souls. In the
Sâṅtiparvan[496] five systems of knowledge are mentioned. Sâṅkhya,
Yoga, the Vedas, Pâśupatam and Pâncarâtram, promulgated respectively
by Kapila, Hiraṇyagarbha, Apântaratamas, Śiva the Lord of spirits and
son of Brahmâ, and "The Lord (Bhagavân) himself." The author of these
verses, who evidently supported the Pâncarâtra, considered that these
five names represented the chief existing or permissible varieties of
religious thought. The omission of the Vedânta is remarkable but
perhaps it is included under Veda. Hence we may conclude that when
this passage was written (that is probably before 400 A.D. and perhaps
about the beginning of our era) there were two popular religions
ranking in public esteem with the philosophic and ritual doctrines of
the Brahmans. The Mahâbhârata contains a hymn[497] which praises Śiva
under 1008 names and is not without resemblance to the Bhagavad-gîtâ.
It contains a larger number of strange epithets, but Śiva is also
extolled as the All-God, who asks for devotion and grants grace. At
the close of the hymn Śiva says that he has introduced the Pâśupata
religion which partly contradicts and partly agrees with the
institutions of caste and the Âśramas, but is blamed by fools.[498]

These last words hint that the Pâśupatas laid themselves open to
criticism by their extravagant practices, such as strange sounds and
gestures.[499] But in such matters they were outdone by other sects
called Kâpâlikas or Kâlâmukhas. These carried skulls and ate the flesh
of corpses, and were the fore-runners of the filthy Aghoris, who were
frequent in northern India especially near Mount Abu and Girnar a
century ago and perhaps are not yet quite extinct. The biographers of
Śankara[500] represent him as contending with these demoniac fanatics
not merely with the weapons of controversy but as urging the princes
who favoured him to exterminate them.

Hindu authorities treat the Pâśupatas as distinct from the Śaivas, or
Śivaites, and the distinction was kept up in Camboja in the fourteenth
century. The Śaivas appear to be simply worshippers of Śiva, who
practice a sane ritual. In different parts of India they have
peculiarities of their own but whereas the Vaishṇavas have split up
into many sects each revering its own founder and his teaching, the
Śaivas, if not a united body, present few well-marked divisions. Such
as exist I shall notice below in their geographical or historical
connection.[501] Most of them accept a system of theology or
philosophy[502] which starts with three principles, all without
beginning or end. These are Pati or the Lord, that is Śiva: Paśu, or
the individual soul: Pâśa or the fetter, that is matter or Karma.[503]
The task of the soul is to get free of its fetters and attain to the
state of Śiva. But this final deliverance is not quite the same as
the identity with Brahman taught by the Vedânta: the soul becomes a
Śiva, equal to the deity in power and knowledge but still dependent on
him rather than identical with him.[504]

Peculiar to Śaiva theology is the doctrine of the five kañcukas[505]
or envelopes which limit the soul. Spirit in itself is free: it is
timeless and knows no restrictions of space, enjoyment, knowledge and
power. But when spirit is contracted to individual experience, it can
apprehend the universe only as a series of changes in time and place:
its enjoyment, knowledge and power are cramped and curtailed by the
limits of personality. The terminology of the Śaivas is original but
the theory appears to be an elaboration of the Pâncarâtra thesis that
the soul is surrounded by the sheath of Mâyâ.

The early literature of the worshippers of Śiva (corresponding to the
Saṃhitâs of the Pâncarâtras) appears to have consisted of
twenty-eight works composed in Sanskrit and called Âgamas.[506] There
is fairly good evidence for their antiquity. Tirumular, one of the
earliest Tamil poets who is believed to have lived in the first
centuries of our era, speaks of them with enthusiasm and the Buddhist
Sanskrit works called Âgamas (corresponding to the Pali Nikâyas)
cannot be later than that period. It is highly probable that the same
word was in use among both Hindus and Buddhists at the same time. And
since the Mahâbhârata mentions the Pâśupatam, there is no difficulty
in supposing that expositions of Śivaite doctrine were current in the
first century A.D. or even B.C. But unless more texts of the Âgamas
come to light the question of their age has little practical
importance, for it is said by native scholars that of the twenty-eight
primary books there survive only fragments of twenty, which treat of
ritual, besides the verses which form the text expounded at length in
the Śivañânabotham.[507] There are also said to be 120 Upâgamas of
which only two or three have been preserved entire. Of these two have
been printed in part, the Mṛigendra and Paushkara.[508] The former is
cited in the Sarva-darśana-saṅgraha (about 1330) but does not show
any signs of great antiquity. It is thus clear that the Âgamas are not
much studied by modern Śivaites but it is unhesitatingly stated that
they are a revelation direct from Śiva and equal to the Veda[509] and
this affirmation is important, even though the texts so praised are
little known, for it testifies to the general feeling that there are
other revelations than the Veda. But the Vedas, and the Vedânta Sûtras
are not ignored. The latter are read in the light of Nîlakanṭḥa's[510]
commentary which is considered by south Indian Pandits to be prior to


[Footnote 440: An attempt was made to adapt the Veda to modern ideas
by composing new Upanishads. The inspiration of such works is not
denied but they have not the same influence as the literature
mentioned below.]

[Footnote 441: Śri Bhâshya, II. 2. 43. So too the Vishṇu Purâṇa, I.
1 describes itself as equal in sanctity to the Vedas. Śankara on Brah.
Sûtras, I. 3. 33 says that the Purâṇas are authoritative.]

[Footnote 442: See Grierson in _Ind. Ant._ 1908, p. 251 and p. 373.]

[Footnote 443: _E.g._ the Sanatsujatîya and Anugîtâ (both in _S.B.E._
VIII.). See Deussen, _Vier philosophische Texte des Mahâbhâratam._]

[Footnote 444: Forming part of the Brahmâṇḍa Purâṇa.]

[Footnote 445: See for a summary of them Winternitz, _Gesch. Ind.
Lit._ I. pp. 450-483. For the dates see Pargiter Dynasties of the Kali
age. He holds that the historical portions of the older Purânas were
compiled in Prakrit about 250 A.D. and re-edited in Sanskrit about
350. See also Vincent Smith, _Early History_, p. 21 and, against
Pargiter, Keith in _J.R.A.S._ 1914, p. 1021. Alberuni (who wrote in
1030) mentions eighteen Purânas and gives two lists of them. Bâṇa (c.
620 A.D.) mentions the recitation of the Vâyu Purâṇa. The commentary
on the Śvetâśvatara Upan. ascribed to Śaṇkara quotes the Brahma P.,
Linga P. and Vishṇu P. as authorities as well as Puranic texts
described as Vishṇudharma and Śivadharmottara. But the authorship of
this commentary is doubtful. The Puranic literature as we know it
probably began with the Gupta dynasty or a century before it, but the
word Purâṇa in the sense of an ancient legend which ought to be
learnt occurs as early as the Śatapatha Brâhmaṇa (XI. 5. 6. 8) and
even in A.V. XI. 7. 24.]

[Footnote 446: See Dinesh Chandra Sen, _Hist. Bengali Language and
Lit._ pp. 220-225.]

[Footnote 447: Pargiter, _l.c._ pp. xvii, xxviii. It does not belong
to the latest class of Purâṇas for it seems to contemplate the
performance of Smârta rites not temple ceremonial, but it is not
quoted by Râmânuja (twelfth century) though he cites the Vishṇu
Purâṇa. Probably he disapproved of it.]

[Footnote 448: It was made as late as 1803 by Lallû Jî Lâl, but is a
rendering into Hindi of a version in the Braj dialect, probably made
in the sixteenth century.]

[Footnote 449: Another Vishnuite work is cited indifferently as
Padma-tantra or Padma-samhîtâ, and the Bhâgavata Purâṇa (I. 3. 8)
speaks of the Sâttvatam Tantram, which is apparently the
Sâttvata-saṃhitâ. The work edited by Schrader is described as the
_Ahirbudhnya Saṃhitâ of the Pâncarâtra Âgama._]

[Footnote 450: See for some notices of these works A. Avalon's various
publications about Tantra. Srinivasa Iyengar, _Outlines of Indian
Philosophy_, 118-191. Govïndacarya Svâmi on the Vaishnava Samhitâs,
_J.R.A.S._ 1911, pp. 935 ff. Schomerus, _Çaiva-Siddhânta_, pp. 7 ff.
and Schrader's _Introduction to the Pâncarâtra_. Whereas these works
claim to be independent of the Veda, the Sectarian Upanishads (see
vol. I. p. 76) are an attempt to connect post-Vedic sects with the

[Footnote 451: Jñâna, Yoga, Caryâ, Kriyâ. The same names are used of
Buddhist Tantras, except that Anuttara replaces Jñâna.]

[Footnote 452: See Schrader, _Introd. to the Pâncarâtra_, p. 98. In
the Raghuvaṃsa, X. 27. Âgamas are not only mentioned but said to be
extremely numerous. But in such passages it is hard to say whether
Âgama means the books now so-called or merely tradition. Alberuni
seems not to have known of this literature and a Tantra for him is
merely a minor treatise on astronomy. He evidently regards the Vedas,
Purâṇas, philosophical Darśanas and Epics as constituting the
religious literature of India.]

[Footnote 453: Râjagopala Chariar (_Vaishnavite Reformers_, p. 4) says
that in Vishnu temples two rituals are used called Pâncarâtra and
Vaikhânasa. The latter is apparently consistent with Smârta usage
whereas the Pâncarâtra is not. From Gopinâtha Rao's _Elements of Hindu
Iconography_, pp. 56, 77, 78 it appears that there is a Vaikhânasâgama
parallel to the Pâncarâtrâgama. It is frequently quoted by this
author, though as yet unpublished. It seems to be the ritual of those
Bhâgavatas who worship both Śiva and Vishṇu. It is said to exist in
two recensions, prose and metrical, of which the former is perhaps the
oldest of the Vaishṇava Âgamas. The Vaikhânasa ritual was once
followed at Śrîrangam but Râmânuja substituted the Pâncarâtra for it.]

[Footnote 454: Avalon, _Principles of Tantra_, p. xxvii describes it
as "that development of the Vaidika Karmakâṇḍa which under the name
of the Tantra Shâstra is the scripture of the Kali age." This seems
to me a correct statement of the tantric theory.]

[Footnote 455: Thus the Gautamîya Tantra which is held in high
estimation by Vishnuite householders in Bengal, though not by
ascetics, is a complete application of Śâkta worship to the cult of
Kṛishṇa. The Vârâhi Tantra is also Vishnuite. See Raj. Mitra,
_Sanskrit MSS. of Bikaner_, p. 583 and _Notices of Sk. MSS_. III.
(1876), p. 99, and I. cclxxxvii. See too the usages of the Nambuthiri
Brahmans as described in _Cochin Tribes and Castes_, II. pp. 229-233.
In many ways the Nambuthiris preserve the ancient Vedic practices.]

[Footnote 456: See Grierson's articles Gleanings from the Bhaktamâlâ
in _J.R.A.S._ 1909-1910.]

[Footnote 457: _E.g._ Mârkaṇḍeya, Vâmana and Varâha. Also the Skanda

[Footnote 458: Mahâbh. Vanaparvan, 11001 ff. The Bhâgavata Purâṇa,
Book IV. sec. 2-7 emphasizes more clearly the objections of the Rishis
to Śiva as an enemy of Vedic sacrifices and a patron of unhallowed

[Footnote 459: Mahâbh. XII. sec. 283. In the same way the worship of
Dionysus was once a novelty in Greece and not countenanced by the
more conservative and respectable party. See Eur. Bacchae, 45. The
Varâha-Purâna relates that the Śivaite scriptures were revealed for
the benefit of certain Brahmans whose sins had rendered them incapable
of performing Vedic rites. There is probably some truth in this legend
in so far as it means that Brahmans who were excommunicated for some
fault were disposed to become the ministers of non-Vedic cults.]

[Footnote 460: Mahâbh. II. secs. 16, 22 ff.]

[Footnote 461: Droṇa-p., 2862 ff. Anusâsana-p., 590 ff.]

[Footnote 462: _E.g._ Anusâsana P., 6806 ff.]

[Footnote 463: _E.g._ the Ahirbudhnya Saṃhitâ and Adhyâtma Râmâyaṇa.]

[Footnote 464: Śântipar. cccxxxvii, 12711 ff. In the Bhagavad-gîtâ
Kṛishṇa says that he is Vâsudeva of the Vṛishṇis, XI. 37.]

[Footnote 465: Cf. the title Bhâgavata Purâṇa.]

[Footnote 466: Ekâyana is mentioned several times in the Chândogya Up.
(VII. 1, 2 and afterwards) as a branch of religious or literary
knowledge and in connection with Nârada. But it is not represented as
the highest or satisfying knowledge.]

[Footnote 467: Even in the Śatapatha Br. Nârâyaṇa is mentioned in
connection with a sacrifice lasting five days, XIII. 6. 1.]

[Footnote 468: The Saṃhitâs hitherto best known to orientalists
appear to be late and spurious. The Bṛihadbrahma Saṃhitâ published
by the Anandasrama Press mentions Râmânuja. The work printed in the
_Bibliotheca Indica_ as Nârada Pâncarâtra (although its proper title
apparently is Jñânamritasâra) has been analyzed by Roussel in
_Mélanges Harlez_ and is apparently a late liturgical compilation of
little originality. Schrader's work was published by the Adyar Library
in Madras, 1916. Apparently the two forms Pâncarâtra and Pâncarâtra
are both found, but that with the long vowel is the more usual.
Govindâcârya's article in _J.R.A.S._ 1911, p. 951 may also be

[Footnote 469: The oldest are apparently the Paushkara, Vârâha,
Brahma, Sâttvata, Jaya and Ahirbudhnya Saṃhitâs, all quoted as
authoritative by either Râmânuja or Vedânta Deśika.]

[Footnote 470: It is quoted as equal to the Vedas by Yâmunâcârya, so
it must then have been in existence some centuries.]

[Footnote 471: The story of Śvetadvîpa or White Island in the
Śânti-parvan of the Mahâbhârata states definitely that Nârada received
the Pâncarâtra there.]

[Footnote 472: There is much diversity of statement as to whether
there are one or many Śaktis.]

[Footnote 473: Vishṇu is the name of God in all his aspects, but
especially God as the absolute. Vâsudeva is used both of God as the
absolute and also as the first emanation (Vyûha).]

[Footnote 474: Kriyâśakti and Bhûtiśakti.]

[Footnote 475: Jñâna, aiśvarya, śakti, bala, vîrya, tejas. These are
called guṇas but are not to be confounded with the three ordinary

[Footnote 476: The words seem to have been originally proper names.
See the articles in the _Petersburg Lexicon._]

[Footnote 477: Nârâyaṇa like Vishṇu is used to designate more than
one aspect of God. Sometimes it denotes the Absolute.]

[Footnote 478: The above brief sketch is based on Schrader's _Int. to
the Pâncarâtra_ where the reader can find full details.]

[Footnote 479: Comment on Vedânta sûtras, II. 2. 42.]

[Footnote 480: And, as Schrader observes, the evolutionary system of
the Pâncarâtra is practically concerned with only one force, the
Śakti, which under the name Bhûti is manifested as the Universe and as
Kriyâ vitalizes and governs it (p. 31).]

[Footnote 481: On Sutta-nipâta, 790, 792. The doctrine of the Vyûhas
is expounded in the Mahâbhârata Śântip. CCCXL. 36 ff., 70 ff.; CCCXLI.
26 ff.]

[Footnote 482: Lüder's List of Brahmi inscriptions, No. 6, supposed
not to be later than 200 B.C. and No. 1112 supposed to be of the first
century B.C. Sankarshaṇa is also mentioned in the Kauṭilîya
Arthaśâstra, XIII. 3.]

[Footnote 483: Some Saṃhitâs emphasize the distinction between the
followers of the Veda and the enlightened ones who worship the Lord.
See Schrader, _Pâncarâtra_, p. 97.]

[Footnote 484: Syâm iti Sankalpa, Ahirbudh. Sam. II. 7. In some late
Upanishads (_e.g._ Nâradaparivrâjaka and Bṛihatsannyâsa) Cakrî is used
as a synonym for a Pâncarâtra.]

[Footnote 485: The same is true of Râmânuja, who never quotes the
Bhâgavata Purâna.]

[Footnote 486: See the quotations from the Sâttvata Saṃhitâ in
Schrader, pp. 150-154. As in the Pâncarâtra there is the Para above
the four Vyûhas, so some late forms of Buddhism regard Vairocana as
the source of four Jinas.]

[Footnote 487: The Manicheans also had groups of five deities (see
Chavannes and Pelliot in _J.A._ 1913, I. pp. 333-338) but they are
just as likely to have borrowed from Buddhism as _vice versâ._]

[Footnote 488: See Bhattacharya, _Hindu Castes and Sects_, p. 565.]

[Footnote 489: Manu, I. 10-11, identifies him with Brahmâ and says,
"The waters are called Nârah because they are produced from Nara, and
he is called Nârâyaṇa because they were his place of movement
(ayana)." The same statement occurs in the Nârâyaṇîya.]

[Footnote 490: They are said to have been the sons of Dharma (religion
or righteousness) and Ahiṃsâ (not-injuring). This is obvious allegory
indicating that the Bhâgavata religion rejected animal sacrifices. At
the beginning of the Nârâyaṇîya (Śântip. cccxxxv.) it is said that
Nârâyaṇa the soul of the universe took birth in a quadruple form as
the offspring of Dharma, _viz._ Nara, Nârâyaṇa, Hari and Kṛishṇa.
Nara and Nârâyaṇa are often identified with Arjuna and Vâsudeva.
_e.g._ Udyogap. xxlx. 19.]

[Footnote 491: Mahâbhâr. XII.]

[Footnote 492: It is an episode in Mahâbhâr. VI. and in its present
form was doubtless elaborated apart from the rest. But we may surmise
that the incident of Kṛishṇa's removing Arjuna's scruples by a
discourse appeared in the early versions of the story and also that
the discourse was longer and profounder than would seem appropriate to
the European reader of a tale of battles. But as the Vedânta
philosophy and the doctrine of Kṛishṇa's godhead developed, the
discourse may have been amplified and made to include later
theological views. Garbe in his German translation attempts to
distinguish the different strata and his explanation of the
inconsistencies as due to successive redactions and additions may
contain some truth. But these inconsistencies in theology are common
to all sectarian writings and I think the main cause for them must be
sought not so much in the alteration and combination of documents, as
in a mixed and eclectic mode of thought. Even in European books of the
first rank inconsistencies are not unknown and they need not cause
surprise in works which were not written down but committed to memory.
A poet composing a long religious poem in this way and feeling, as
many Hindus feel, both that God is everything and also that he is a
very present personal help, may very well express himself differently
in different parts. On the other hand the editors of such poems are
undoubtedly tempted to insert in them later popular doctrines.]

[Footnote 493: The name appears not to be in common use now, but the
Pâśupata school is reviewed in the Sarva-darśana-saṅgraha (_c._

[Footnote 494: Śivabhâgavata, see his comment on Pâniṇi, V. 3. 99 and
V. 2. 76. The name is remarkable and suggests that the Śivaites may
have imitated the Bhâgavatas.]

[Footnote 495: I. xxiii. 209. The _Bibliotheca Ind._ edition reads
Nakulì. Aufrecht (_Bodl. MSS._) has Lakulî. The same story is found in
Linga P. chap. XXIV. Lakulî is said to have had four pupils who
founded four branches. Lakulin does not play an important part in
modern Śivaism but is mentioned in inscriptions from the tenth till
the thirteenth centuries. The Sarva-darśana-saṅgraha describes the
Nakulîśa-Pâśupata system and quotes Nakulîśa who is clearly the same
as Lakulin. The figures on Kushan coins representing Śiva as holding a
club may be meant for Lakulin but also may be influenced by Greek
figures of Herakles. See for Lakulin Fleet in _J.R.A.S._ 1907, pp. 419
ff. and Bhandarkar _Vaishṇavism and Śaivism_, pp. 115 ff. The coins
of Wema Kadphises bear the title Mahiśvara, apparently meaning
worshipper of the Great Lord. Temples in south India seem to have been
named after Kâyârohana in the seventh century A.D. See Gopinâtha Rao,
_Hindu Iconography_, II. p. 19.]

[Footnote 496: Mahâbhâr. XII.]

[Footnote 497: Mahâbhâr. XII. 13702 ff. It is recited by Daksha when
he recognizes the might of Śiva after the unfortunate incident of his

[Footnote 498: Śânti-parvan, section cclxxxv especially line 10, 470

[Footnote 499: See Sarva-darśana-saṅgraha, chap. VI. and the comments
of Râmânuja and Śankara on Vedânta Sûtras, II. 2. 36.]

[Footnote 500: _E.g._ Śaṅkara-dig-vijaya. The first notice of these
sects appears to be an inscription at Igatpuri in the Nâsik district
of about 620 A.D. recording a grant for the worship of Kapaleśvara and
the maintenance of Mahâvrâtins (= Kàpàlikās) in his temple. But
doubtless the sects are much older.]

[Footnote 501: The principal are, the Pâśupatas, the Śaivasiddhântam
of southern India and the Śivaism of Kashmir.]

[Footnote 502: The Sarva-darśana-saṅgraha, chap. VII. gives a summary
of it.]

[Footnote 503: The Pâśupatas seem to attach less importance to this
triad, though as they speak of Pati, Paśu and the impurities of the
soul there is not much difference. In their views of causation and
free will they differed slightly from the Śaivas, since they held that
Śiva is the universal and absolute cause, the actions of individuals
being effective only in so far as they are in conformity with the will
of Śiva. The Śaiva siddhânta however holds that Śiva's will is not
irrespective of individual Karma, although his independence is not
thereby diminished. He is like a man holding a magnet and directing
the movements of needles.]

[Footnote 504: There is some difference of language and perhaps of
doctrine on this point in various Śivaite works. Both Śivaites and
Pâncarâtrins sometimes employ the language of the Advaita. But see
Schrader, _Int. to Pâncarâtra_, pp. 91 ff.]

[Footnote 505: The five Kañcukas (or six including Mâyâ) are strictly
speaking tattvas of which the Śaivas enumerate 36 and are kâla,
niyati, râga, vidyâ and kalâ contrasted with nityatva, vyâpakatva,
pûrṇatva, sarvajnatva, sarvakartṛitva which are qualities of spirit.
See Chatterji, _Kashmir Śaivism_, 75 ff., 160, where he points out
that the Kañcukas are essentially equivalent to Kant's "forms of
perception and conception." See too Schrader, _Int. to Pâncarâtra_,
64, 90, 115.]

[Footnote 506: See for names and other details Schomerus, _Der
Śaiva-Siddhânta_, pp. 7, 23: also many articles in the

[Footnote 507: They are taken from the Âgama called Raurava. The
Śivaites of Kashmir appear to have regarded the extant Śiva-sûtras as
an Âgama.]

[Footnote 508: The Sanskrit text and translation of the Mṛigendra are
published in the _Siddhânta-Dipika_, vol. IV. 1901 ff. It is sometimes
described as an Upâgama and sometimes as the Jñânapâda of the Kâmika

[Footnote 509: So Tirumûlar. Nîlakanṭḥa in his commentary on the
Vedânta Sûtras says: "I see no difference between the Veda and the

[Footnote 510: Or Śrîkaṇṭha. The commentary is translated in
_Siddhânta-Dipika_, vol. I. ff. In spite of sectarian views as to its
early date, it seems to be influenced by the views and language of




About the sixth century A.D. the decadence of Buddhism and the
invigoration of Brahmanism were both well advanced. The Mahabharata
existed as a great collection of epic and religious poetry and the
older Puranas were already composed. Even at the present day
authorities differ as to whether Śiva or Vishṇu commands the
allegiance of the majority and naturally it is hard to describe the
distribution of sects in earlier times. The monuments of the Guptas
(for instance the ruins at Eran) suggest that they were Vishnuites but
a little later the cult of Śiva becomes more prominent. The Emperor
Harsha (612-648) and his family were eclectic, honouring Śiva, the Sun
and the Buddha, but it is not recorded that they worshipped Vishṇu.
Bâṇa who lived at his court indicates[511] that Śivaism was the
predominant form of worship, but also mentions Buddhists and
Bhâgavatas. Hsüan Chuang on the other hand holds him up as a devout
Buddhist. Great Śivaite shrines in different parts of India such as
the temple of Bhuvaneshwar in Orissa and the Kailas at Ellora were
probably constructed in the seventh century and it is likely that in
the defeat of Buddhism the worshippers of Śiva played an active part.

This conflict is connected with the names of Kumâriḷa Bhaṭṭa (c.
725 A.D.) and Śaṅkara Âcârya (c. 800 A.D.). It clearly represents
forces which cannot be restricted to the character of individuals or
the span of human lives. The elements which compose Hinduism had been
vigorous long before the eighth century and Buddhism, though decadent,
continued to exist in India later. But probably the careers of these
two men are the best record of the decisive turn of the tide. It is
often said that they revived Hinduism, but however much they insisted
on the authority of ancient tradition, the real result of their
labours was not to re-establish the order of things which prevailed
before the rise of Buddhism, but to give authority and solidity to the
mixture of Brahmanism, Buddhism and popular beliefs which had grown
up. Kumâriḷa is said to have been a Brahman of Bihar who was a
Buddhist monk but became a worshipper of Śiva and so zealous a
persecutor of his former faith that he persuaded a king of his time
named Sudhanvan to exterminate it from the Himalaya to Cape Comorin.
This is a monstrous exaggeration but he was doubtless a determined
enemy of the Buddhists, as can be seen from his philosophical
works.[512] He taught little about metaphysics or the nature of God,
but he insisted on the necessity and efficacy of Vedic rites.

More important both as a thinker and an organizer was Śankara. There
is some discrepancy in the traditions of his birth, but he was
probably born about 788 A.D.[513] in a family of Nambuthiri Brahmans
at Kaladi[514] in the Cochin state. Kaladi occupies a healthy position
at some height above the sea level and the neighbourhood is now used
as a sanatorium. The cocoanut trees and towered temples which mark
many south Indian landscapes are absent, and paddy fields alternate
with a jungle of flowering plants studded with clumps of bamboos. A
broad river broken by sandbanks winds through the district and near
the villages there are often beautiful avenues of great trees. Not far
distant is Trichur which possesses a Vedic college and a large temple,
forbidden to Europeans but like most edifices in Malabar modest in
architecture. This is not the land of giant gopurams and multitudinous
sculpture, but of lives dedicated to the acquisition of traditional
learning and the daily performance of complicated but inconspicuous

The accounts of Śankara's life are little but a collection of legends,
in which, however, the following facts stand out. He was the pupil of
Govinda, who was himself the pupil of Gauḍapâda and this connection
would be important could we be certain that this Gauḍapâda was the
author of the metrical treatise on philosophy bearing his name. He
wrote popular hymns as well as commentaries on the Upanishads, Vedânta
Sutras and Bhagavad-gîtâ, thus recognizing both Vedic and post-Vedic
literature: he resided for some time on the Narbudda and at Benares,
and in the course of the journeys in which like Paul he gave vent to
his activity, he founded four maṭhs or monasteries, at Sringeri,
Puri, Dwârakâ and Badrinath in the Himalaya. Near the latter he died
before he was an old man. On his deathbed he is said to have asked
forgiveness for going on pilgrimages and frequenting temples, because
by so doing he had seemed to forget that God is everywhere.

It is clear that his work both as an author and organizer was
considerable and permanent, and that much of his career was spent
outside Dravidian lands. His greatest achievement was his exposition
of the Vedânta, of which I treat elsewhere. He based his arguments
unreservedly on the Vedic texts and aimed at being merely
conservative, but those texts and even the ancient commentaries are
obscure and inconsistent, and it was reserved for his genius to
produce from them a system which in consistency, thoroughness and
profundity holds the first place in Indian philosophy. His work did
not consist, as he himself supposed, in harmonizing the Upanishads. In
this department of interpretation he is as uncritical as other
orthodox commentators, but he took the most profound thoughts of the
old literature and boldly constructed with them a great edifice of
speculation. Since his time the Vedânta has been regarded as the
principal philosophy of India--a position which it does not seem to
have held before--and his interpretation of it, though often contested
and not suited to popular religion, still commands the respect and to
some extent the adherence of most educated Hindus.

In practical religion he clearly felt, as every Indian reformer still
must feel, the want of discipline and a common standard, Though the
Buddhism of his day had ceased to satisfy the needs of India, he saw
that its strength lay in its morality, its relative freedom from
superstition and its ecclesiastical organization. Accordingly he
denounced extravagant sects[515] and forbade such practices as
branding. He also instituted an order of ascetics.[516] In doing this
he was not only trying to obtain for Hinduism the disciplinary
advantages of the Buddhist church but also to break through the rule
prescribing that a Brahman must first be a householder and only late
in life devote himself entirely to religion. This rule did the
Brahmans good service in insuring the continuity and respectability of
their class but it tended to drive enthusiasts to other creeds.

It does not seem that any sect can plausibly claim Śaṅkara as founder
or adherent. His real religion was Vedântism and this, though not
incompatible with sectarian worship, is predisposed to be impartial.
The legend says that when summoned to his mother's deathbed, he spoke
to her first of the Vedânta philosophy. But she bade him give her some
consolation which she could understand. So he recited a hymn to Śiva,
but when the attendants of that god appeared she was frightened.
Śaṅkara then recited a hymn to Vishṇu and when his gentler
messengers came to her bedside, she gave her son her blessing and
allowed them to take her willing soul.

This story implies that he was ready to sanction any form of reputable
worship with a slight bias towards Vishnuism.[517] At the present day
the Smârtas, who consider themselves his followers, have a preference
for the worship of Śiva. But the basis of their faith is not Śivaism
but the recognition of the great body of Indian traditions known as
Sṃriti. And that, next to Vedântism, was the essence of Śaṅkara's
teaching: he wished to regard tradition as a coherent whole, based on
the eternal Veda but including authoritative Sṃriti to be interpreted
in the light of the Veda, and thus he hoped to correct extravagant and
partial views and to lead to those heights whence it is seen that all
is one, "without difference."

The results of Śaṅkara's labours may still be seen in the
organization of southern Hinduism which is more complete than in the
north. It is even said that the head of the Śringeri monastery in
Mysore exercises an authority over Smârta Brahmans similar to that of
the Pope.[518] This is probably an exaggeration but his decision is
accepted as settling caste disputes, and even to-day the Śringeri
maṭh[519] is one of the most important religious institutions in
India. The abbot, who is known as Jagadguru, is head of the Smârta
Brahmans. The present occupant is said to be thirty-third in
succession from Śaṅkara and numbers among his predecessors
Sâyanâcârya, the celebrated Vedic commentator who lived in the
fourteenth century. The continued prosperity of this establishment and
of other religious corporations in the Dravidian country, whereas the
Mohammedans destroyed all monasteries whether Hindu or Buddhist in the
north, is one of the reasons for certain differences in northern and
southern Hinduism. For instance in northern India any Brahman,
whatever his avocation may be, is allowed to perform religious
ceremonies, whereas in the Deccan and south India Brahmans are divided
into Laukikas or secular and Bhikshus or religious. The latter are
householders, the name having lost its monastic sense, but they have
the exclusive right of officiating and acting as Gurus and thus form a
married clergy.

It is possible that the influence of Śaṅkara may have had a
puritanical side which partly accounts for the degeneration of later
Indian art. His higher teaching inculcated a spiritual creed which
needed no shrines, while for those who required rites he recommended
the old Brahmanic ritual rather than the modern temple cultus. The
result of this may have been that piety and learning were diverted
from art, so that architecture and sculpture ceased to be in touch
with the best religious intelligence.

The debt of Śaṅkara to Buddhism is an interesting question. He
indited polemics against it and contributed materially to its
downfall, but yet if the success of creeds is to be measured by the
permanence of ideas, there is some reason for thinking that the
vanquished led the conqueror captive. Śaṅkara's approval both in
theory and in practice of the monastic life is Buddhistic rather than
Brahmanical.[520] The doctrines of Mâyâ and the distinction between
higher and lower truth, which are of cardinal importance in his
philosophy, receive only dubious support from the Upanishads and from
Bâdarâyaṇa, but are practically identical with the teachings of the
Mâdhyamika School of Buddhism and it was towards this line of thought
rather than towards the theism of the Pâśupatas or Bhâgavatas that he
was drawn. The affinity was recognized in India, for Śaṅkara and his
school were stigmatized by their opponents as Buddhists in


The reader will perhaps have noticed that up to the career of Śaṅkara
we have been concerned exclusively with northern India, and even
Śaṅkara, though a native of the south, lived much in the north and it
was the traditional sacred lore of the north which he desired to
establish as orthodoxy. Not only the older literature, Brahmanic as
well as Buddhist, but most of the Purâṇas ignore the great stretch of
Dravidian country which forms the southern portion of the peninsula
and if the Râmâyaṇa sings of Râma's bridge and the conquest of Laṅka
this is clearly an excursion into the realms of fancy. Yet the
Dravidian districts are ample in extent, their monuments are
remarkable, their languages are cultivated, and Tamil literature
possesses considerable interest, antiquity and originality.
Unfortunately in dealing with these countries we experience in an
unusually acute form the difficulties which beset every attempt to
trace the history of ideas in India, namely, the absence of
chronology. Before 1000 A.D. materials for a connected history are
hardly accessible. There are, however, many inscriptions and a mass of
literature (itself of disputable date) containing historical
allusions, and from these may be put together not so much a skeleton
or framework as pictures of ancient life and thought which may be
arranged in a plausible order.

It may be said that where everything is so vague, it would be better
to dismiss the whole subject of southern India and its religion,
pending the acquisition of more certain information, and this is what
many writers have done. But such wide regions, so many centuries, such
important phases of literature and thought are involved, that it is
better to run the risk of presenting them in false sequence than to
ignore them. Briefly it may be regarded as certain that in the early
centuries of our era Buddhism, Jainism and Brahmanism all flourished
in Dravidian lands. The first two gradually decayed and made way for
the last, although Jainism remained powerful until the tenth century.
At a fairly early date there were influential Śivaite and Vishnuite
sects, each with a devotional literature in the vernacular. Somewhat
later this literature takes a more philosophic and ecclesiastical
tinge and both sects produce a succession of teachers. Tamil Śivaism,
though important for the south, has not spread much beyond its own
province, but the Vishnuism associated with such eminent names as
Râmânuja and Râmânand has influenced all India, and the latter teacher
is the spiritual ancestor of the Kabirpanthis, Sikhs and various
unorthodox sects. Political circumstances too tended to increase the
importance of the south in religion, for when nearly all the north was
in Moslim hands the kingdom of Vijayanagar was for more than two
centuries (_c._ 1330-1565) the bulwark of Hinduism. But in filling up
this outline the possibilities of error must be remembered. The poems
of Manikka-Vaçagar have such individuality of thought and style that
one would suppose them to mark a conspicuous religious movement. Yet
some authorities refer them to the third century and others to the
eleventh, nor has any standard been formulated for distinguishing
earlier and later varieties of Tamil.

I have already mentioned the view that the worship of Śiva and the
Linga is Dravidian in origin and borrowed by the Aryans. There is no
proof that this worship had its first home in the south and spread
northwards, for the Vedic and epic literature provides a sufficient
pedigree for Śiva. But this deity always collected round himself
attributes and epithets which are not those of the Vedic gods but
correspond with what we know of non-Aryan Indian mythology. It is
possible that these un-Aryan cults attained in Dravidian lands fuller
and more independent development than in the countries colonized by
the Aryans, so that the portrait of Śiva, especially as drawn by Tamil
writers, does retain the features of some old Dravidian deity, a deity
who dances, who sports among men and bewilders them by his puzzling
disguises and transformations.[522] But it is not proved that Śiva was
the chief god of the early Tamils. An ancient poem, the Purra-Poruḷ
Veṇbâ-Mâlai,[523] which contains hardly any allusions to him mentions
as the principal objects of worship the goddess Koṭṭavai
(Victorious) and her son Muruvan. Popular legends[524] clearly
indicate a former struggle between the old religion and Hinduism
ending as usual in the recognition by the Brahmans of the ancient gods
in a slightly modified form.

We have no records whatever of the introduction of Brahmanism into
southern India but it may reasonably be supposed to have made its
appearance there several centuries before our era, though in what form
or with what strength we cannot say. Tradition credits Agastya and
Paraśu-râma with having established colonies of Brahmans in the south
at undated but remote epochs. But whatever colonization occurred was
not on a large scale. An inscription found in Mysore[525] states that
Mukkaṇṇa Kadamba (who probably lived in the third century A.D.)
imported a number of Brahman families from the north, because he could
find none in the south. Though this language may be exaggerated, it is
evidence that Brahmans cannot have been numerous at that time and it
is probable that Buddhism and Jainism were better represented. Three
of Asoka's inscriptions have been found in Mysore and in his last
edict describing his missionary efforts he includes "the kings of the
Pândyas and Colas in the south" among the conquests of Buddhism.
Mahinda founded a monastery in the Tanjore district and probably
established Buddhism at various points of the Tamil country on his way
to Ceylon.[526] There is therefore no reason to be doubtful of
Buddhist activity, literary or other, if evidence for it is
forthcoming. Hsüan Chuang in 640 A.D. deplores the decay of Buddhism
and speaks of the ruins of many old monasteries.

According to Jain tradition, which some think is supported by
inscriptions at Śravana-Beḷgoḷa,[527] Bhadrabâhu accompanied by
Candra Gupta (identified with the Maurya king of that name) led a
migration of Jains from the north to Mysore about 300 B.C. The
authenticity of this tradition has been much criticized but it can
hardly be disputed that Jainism came to southern India about the same
time as Buddhism and had there an equally vigorous and even longer

Most Tamil scholars are agreed in referring the oldest Tamil
literature to the first three centuries of our era and I see nothing
improbable in this. We know that Asoka introduced Buddhism into south
India. About the time of the Christian era there are many indications
that it was a civilized country[528] which maintained commercial
relations with Rome and it is reasonable to suppose that it had a
literature. According to native tradition there were three successive
Sanghams, or Academies, at Madura. The two earlier appear to be
mythical, but the third has some historical basis, although it is
probable that poems belonging to several centuries have been
associated with it. Among those which have been plausibly referred to
the second century A.D. are the two narrative poems Śilappadhikaram
and Manimêkhalai as well as the celebrated collection of didactic
verses known as the Kural. The first two poems, especially the
Manimêkhalai, are Buddhist in tone. The Kural is ethical rather than
religious, it hardly mentions the deity,[529] shows no interest in
Brahmanic philosophy or ritual and extols a householder's life above
an ascetic's. The Nâladiyâr is an anthology of somewhat similar Jain
poems which as a collection is said to date from the eighth century,
though verses in it may be older. This Jain and Buddhist literature
does not appear to have attained any religious importance or to have
been regarded as even quasi-canonical, but the Dravidian Hindus
produced two large collections of sacred works, one Śivaite the other
Vishnuite, which in popular esteem rival the sanctity of the Vedas.
Both consist of hymns, attributed to a succession of saints and still
sung in the temple worship, and in both sects the saints are followed
by a series of teachers and philosophers. We will take the Śivaites


Their collection of hymns is known as Tirumurai, and was compiled by
Nambi-Andar-Nambi said to have lived under King Râjarâja (_c._ 1000
A.D.). The first portion of it, known as Devâram, contains the hymns
of Sambandha, Appar and Sundara. These persons are the most eminent of
the sixty-three saints[530] of the southern Śivaites and are credited
with many miracles. Tamil scholars[531] consider that Sambandha cannot
have lived later than the beginning of the seventh century. He was an
adversary of the Jains and Appar is said to have been persecuted by
the Buddhists. Of the other works comprised in the Tirumurai the most
important is the Tiruvâçagam of Mâṇikka-Vâçagar,[532] one of the
finest devotional poems which India can show. It is not, like the
Bhagavad-gîtâ, an exposition _by_ the deity, but an outpouring of the
soul _to_ the deity. It only incidentally explains the poet's views:
its main purpose is to tell of his emotions, experiences and
aspirations. This characteristic seems not to be personal but to mark
the whole school of Tamil Śaiva writers.

This school, which is often called the Siddhânta,[533] though perhaps
that term is better restricted to later philosophical writers, is
clearly akin to the Pâśupata but alike in thought, sentiment and
ritual far more refined. It is in fact one of the most powerful and
interesting forms which Hinduism has assumed and it has even attracted
the sympathetic interest of Christians. The fervour of its utterances,
the appeals to God as a loving father, seem due to the temperament of
the Tamils, since such sentiments do not find so clear an expression
in other parts of India. But still the whole system, though heated in
the furnace of Dravidian emotion, has not been recast in a new mould.
Its dogmas are those common to Śivaism in other parts and it accepts
as its ultimate authority the twenty-eight Śaiva Âgamas. This however
does not detract from the beauty of the special note and tone which
sound in its Tamil hymns and prayers.

Whatever the teaching of the little known Âgamas may be, the
Śaiva-Siddhânta is closely allied to the Yoga and theistic forms of
the Sânkhya. It accepts the three ultimates, Pati the Lord, Paśu his
flock or souls, and Pâśa the fetter or matter. So high is the first of
these three entities exalted, so earnestly supplicated, that he seems
to attain a position like that of Allah in Mohammedanism, as Creator
and Disposer. But in spite of occasional phrases, the view of the Yoga
that all three--God, souls and matter--are eternal is maintained.[534]
Between the world periods there are pauses of quiescence and at the
end of these Śiva evolves the universe and souls. That he may act in
them he also evolves from himself his energy or Paraçatti (Sk. Śakti).
But this does not prevent the god himself in a personal and often
visible form from being for his devotees the one central and living
reality. The Śakti, often called Umâ, is merely Śiva's reflex and
hardly an independent existence.

The remarkable feature of this religion, best seen in the Tiruvaçagam,
is the personal tie which connects the soul with God. In no literature
with which I am acquainted has the individual religious life--its
struggles and dejection, its hopes and fears, its confidence and its
triumph--received a delineation more frank and more profound. Despite
the strangely exotic colouring of much in the picture, not only its
outline but its details strikingly resemble the records of devout
Christian lives in Europe. Śiva is addressed not only as Lord but as
Father. He loves and desires human souls. "Hard though it is for
Brahmâ and Vishṇu to reach thee, yet thou did'st desire me." What the
soul desires is deliverance from matter and life with Śiva, and this
he grants by bestowing grace (Arul). "With mother love he came in
grace and made me his"; "O thou who art to thy true servants true";
"To thee, O Father, may I attain, may I yet dwell with thee."
Sometimes[535] the poet feels that his sins have shut him off from
communion with God. He lies "like a worm in the midst of ants, gnawed
by the senses and troubled sore" ejaculating in utter misery "Thou
hast forsaken me." But more often he seems on the point of expressing
a thought commoner in Christianity than in Indian religion, namely
that the troubles of this life are only a preparation for future
beatitude. The idea that matter and suffering are not altogether evil
is found in the later Sânkhya where Prakriti (which in some respects
corresponds to Śakti) is represented as a generous female power
working in the interests of the soul.

Among the many beauties of the Tiruvâçagam is one which reminds us of
the works of St. Francis and other Christian poetry, namely the love
of nature and animals, especially birds and insects. There are
constant allusions to plants and flowers; the refrain of one poem
calls on a dragon fly to sing the praises of God and another bids the
bird known as Kuyil call him to come. In another ode the poet says he
looks for the grace of God like a patient heron watching night and

The first perusal of these poems impresses on the reader their
resemblance to Christian literature. They seem to be a tropical
version of Hymns Ancient and Modern and to ascribe to the deity and
his worshippers precisely those sentiments which missionaries tell us
are wanting among pagans--fatherly love, yearning devotion and the
bliss of assured salvation. It is not surprising if many have seen in
this tone the result of Christian influence. Yet I do not think that
the hypothesis is probable. For striking as is the likeness the
contrast is often equally striking. The deity described in words which
almost literally render "Sun of my soul, Thou Saviour dear" is also
the spouse of Umâ with the white breasts and curled locks; he dances
in the halls of Tillai; and the line "Bid thou in grace my fears
begone" is followed by two others indicated by dots as being "not
translateable."[536] Nor can we say that emotional religion here uses
the language of a mythology which it has outgrown. The emotion itself
while charged with the love of god, the sense of sin and contrition,
has in it another strain which jars on Europeans. Śiva sports with the
world and his worshippers treat him with an affectionate intimacy
which may be paralleled in the religion of Kṛishṇa but hardly in
Christianity.[537] Thus several hymns have reference to a game, such
as tossing about a ball (hymn vii), battledore and shuttlecock (xiv)
or some form of wrestling in which the opponents place their hands on
each other's shoulders (xv). The worshipper can even scold the deity.
"If thou forsake me, I will make people smile at thee. I shall abuse
thee sore: madman clad in elephant skin: madman that ate the poison:
madman, who chose even me as thy own."[538]

Again, though in part the tone of these poems is Christian, yet they
contain little that suggests Christian doctrine. There is nothing
about redemption or a suffering god,[539] and many ideas common to
Christianity and Hinduism--such as the incarnation,[540] the Trinity,
and the divine child and his mother--are absent. It is possible that
in some of the later works of the Sittars Christian influence[541] may
have supervened but most of this Tamil poetry is explicable as the
development of the ideas expressed in the Bhagavad-gîtâ and the
Śvetâśvatara Upanishad. Chronologically Christian influence is not
impossible and there is a tradition that Mâṇikka-Vâçagar reconverted
to Hinduism some natives of Malabar who had become Christians[542] but
the uncertainty of his date makes it hard to fix his place in the
history of doctrine. Recent Hindu scholars are disposed to assign him
to the second or third century.[543] In support of this, it is
plausibly urged that he was an active adversary of the Buddhists, that
tradition is unanimous in regarding him as earlier than the writers of
the Devâram[544] who make references (not however indisputable) to his
poem, and that Perisiriyar, who commented on it, lived about 700 A.D.
I confess that the tone and sentiments of the poem seem to me what one
would expect in the eleventh rather than in the third century: it has
something of the same emotional quality as the Gîtâ-govinda and the
Bhâgavata-purâṇa, though it differs from them in doctrine and in its
more masculine devotion. But the Dravidians are not of the same race
as the northern Hindus and since this ecstatic monotheism is clearly
characteristic of their literature, it may have made its appearance in
the south earlier than elsewhere.

The Tiruvaçagam is not unorthodox but it deals direct with God and is
somewhat heedless of priests. This feature becomes more noticeable in
other authors such as Paṭṭaṇaṭṭu Piḷḷai, Kapilar and the Telugu
poet Vêmana. The first named appears to have lived in the tenth
century. The other two are legendary figures to whom anthologies of
popular gnomic verses are ascribed and some of those attributed to
Kapilar are probably ancient. In all this poetry there rings out a
note of almost defiant monotheism, iconoclasm and antisacerdotalism.
It may be partly explained by the fact that in the south Brahmanism
was preceded, or at least from early times accompanied, by Buddhism
and Jainism. These creeds did not make a conquest, for the Dravidian
temperament obviously needed a god who could receive and reward
passionate devotion, but they cleared the air and spread such ideas as
the superiority of good deeds to rites and the uselessness of priests.
Even now verses expressing these thoughts are popular in the Madras
Presidency, but the sect which produced them, known as the
Sittars,[545] is entirely extinct. Caldwell attributes its literature
to the seventeenth century, but the evidence available is small and it
is clear that this theistic anti-brahmanic school had a long life. As
in other cases, the Brahmans did not suppress so much as adapt it. The
collection which goes by the name of Śiva-vâkyam contains poems of
different ages and styles. Some are orthodox, others have no trace of
Brahmanism except the use of Śiva as the name of the deity. Yet it
would seem that the anthology as a whole has not fallen under
sacerdotal censure.[546]

The important sect of the Lingâyats should perhaps be regarded as an
offshoot of this anti-brahmanic school, but before describing it, it
may be well briefly to review the history of orthodox Śivaism in the

By this phrase is not meant the sect or school which had the support
of Śankara but that which developed out of the poems mentioned above
without parting company with Brahmanism. Śankara disapproved of their
doctrine that the Lord is the efficient cause of the world, nor would
the substitution of vernacular for Sanskrit literature and temple
ceremonies for Vedic sacrifices have found favour with him. But these
were evidently strong tendencies in popular religion. An important
portion of the Devâram and the Kanda Purâṇa of Kachiyappar, a Tamil
adaptation of the Skanda Purâṇa, were probably written between 600
and 750 A.D.[547] About 1000 A.D. the Tirumurai (including the
Devâram) was arranged as a collection in eleven parts, and about a
century later Sekkilar composed the Periya Purâṇa, a poetical
hagiology, giving the legends of Śivaite saints and shrines. Many
important temples were dedicated to Śiva during the eleventh and
twelfth centuries.

There followed a period of scholasticism in which the body of doctrine
called the Śaiva Siddhânta was elaborated by four Âcâryas, namely
Mey-Kaṇḍa-Devar[548] (1223), Aruṇandi, Maraiñâna-Sambandhar and
Umâpati (1313). It will thus be seen that the foundation of Śivaite
philosophy in Tamil is later than Râmânuja and the first Vishnuite
movements, and perhaps it was influenced by them but the methodical
exposition of the Śaiva-Siddhântam[549] does not differ materially
from the more poetic utterances of the Tiruvaçagam. It recognizes the
three entities, the Lord, the soul and matter as separate, but it
shows a tendency (doubtless due to the influence of the Vedânta) both
to explain away the existence of matter and to identify the soul with
the Lord more closely than its original formulæ allow. Matter is
described as Mâyâ and is potentially contained in the Lord who
manifests it in the creative process which begins each kalpa. The Lord
is also said to be one with our souls and yet other. The soul is by
nature ignorant, in bondage to the illusion of Mâyâ and of Karma, but
by the grace of the Lord it attains to union (not identity) with him,
in which it sees that its actions are his actions.

In modern times Śaiva theology is represented among Dravidians by the
works of Śivañânar (1785) and his disciple Kachiyappar: also by the
poems of Râma-linga. Śivaism in Madras and other parts of southern
India is still a vigorous and progressive Church which does not
neglect European methods. Its principal organ is an interesting
magazine called Siddhanta-Dipika or the Light of Truth. In northern
India the Śivaites are less distinct as a body and have less
organization, but temples to Śiva are numerous and perhaps the
majority of Brahmans and ascetics regard him as their special deity
and read Śivaite rather than Vishnuite texts. But it is probably also
true that they are not sectarian in the same sense as the worshippers
of Kṛishṇa.

It is not easy to estimate the relative numbers of Śivaites and
Vishnuites in south India, and good authorities hold opposite views.
The Śivaites are more united than the Vishnuites (whose many divisions
and conspicuous sectarian marks attract attention) and are found
chiefly among the upper classes and among ascetics, but perhaps there
is much truth in an opinion which I once heard expressed by a Tamil
Brahman, that the real division is not between the worshippers of Śiva
and of Vishṇu, but between Smârtas, those who follow more or less
strictly the ancient ritual observances and those who seek for
salvation by devotion and in practice neglect the Sanskrit scriptures.
There is little hostility. The worship of both gods is sometimes
performed in the same building as at Chidambaram or in neighbouring
shrines, as at Śrîrangam. In south Kanara and Travancore it is
generally held that the two deities are of equal greatness and in many
places are found images representing them united in one figure. But
the great temples at Madura, Tinnevelly and Tanjore are all dedicated
to Śiva or members of his family. If in the philosophical literature
of the Siddhânta the purity of the theism taught is noticeable, in
these buildings it is rather the rich symbolism surrounding the god
which attracts attention. In his company are worshipped Parvatî,
Gaṇeśa, Subrahmaṇya, the bull Nandi and minor attendants: he is
shown leaping in the ecstacy of the dance and on temple walls are
often depicted his sixty-four sports or miracles (lîlâ). For the
imagination of the Dravidians he is a great rhythmic force, throbbing
and exulting in all the works of nature and exhibiting in kindly
playfulness a thousand antics and a thousand shapes.


Another school of Śivaite philosophy flourished in Kashmir[550] from
the ninth century onwards and is not yet extinct among Pandits. It
bases itself on the Âgamas and includes among them the still extant
Śiva-sûtras said to have been discovered as revelation by Vasugupta.
He lived about 800 A.D. and abandoned Buddhism for Śivaism. The school
produced a distinguished line of literary men who flourished from the
ninth to the eleventh centuries.[551]

The most recent authorities state that the Kashmir school is one and
that there is no real opposition between the Spanda and Pratyabhijñâ
sections.[552] The word Spanda, equivalent to the godhead and ultimate
reality, is interesting for it means vibration accompanied by
consciousness or, so to speak, self-conscious ether. The term
Pratyabhijñâ or recognition is more frequent in the later writings.
Its meaning is as follows. Śiva is the only reality and the soul is
Śiva, but Mâyâ[553] forces on the soul a continuous stream of
sensations. By the practice of meditation it is possible to interrupt
the stream and in those moments light illuminates the darkness of the
soul and it recognizes that it is Śiva, which it had forgotten. Also
the world is wholly unreal apart from Śiva. It exists by his will and
in his mind. What seems to the soul to be cognition is really
recognition, for the soul (which is identical with the divine mind but
blinded and obstructed) recognizes that which exists only in the
divine mind.

It has been held that Kashmirian Śivaism is the parent of the
Dravidian Śaiva Siddhânta and spread from Kashmir southwards by way of
Kalyan in the eleventh century, and this hypothesis certainly receives
support from the mention of Kashmiri Brahmans in south Indian
inscriptions of the fourteenth century.[554] Yet I doubt if it is
necessary to assume that south Indian Śivaism was _derived_ from
Kashmir, for the worship of Śiva must have been general long before
the eleventh century[555] and Kashmiri Brahmans, far from introducing
Śivaism to the south, are more likely to have gone thither because
they were sure of a good reception, whereas they were exposed to
Moslim persecution in their own country. Also the forms which Śivaism
assumed in these two outlying provinces present differences: in
Kashmir it was chiefly philosophic, in the Dravidian countries chiefly
religious. In the south it calls on God to help the sinner out of the
mire, whereas the school of Kashmir, especially in its later
developments, resembles the doctrine of Śankara, though its
terminology is its own.

Before the advent of Islam, Kashmir was a secluded but cultured land.
Its pleasant climate and beautiful scenery, said to have been praised
by Gotama himself,[556] attracted and stimulated thinkers and it had
some importance in the history of Buddhism and of the Pâncarâtra as
well as for Śivaism. It is connected with the Buddhist sect called
Sarvâstivâdins and in this case the circumstances seem clear. The sect
did not originate in Kashmir but its adherents settled there after
attending the Council of Kanisḥka and made it into a holy land.
Subsequently, first Vishnuism and then Śivaism[557] entered the
mountain valleys and flourished there. Kashmirian thinkers may have
left an individual impress on either system but they dealt with
questions which had already been treated of by others and their
contributions, though interesting, do not seem to have touched the
foundations of belief or to have inspired popular movements. The
essential similarity of all Śivaite schools is so great that
coincidences even in details do not prove descent or borrowing and the
special terms of Kashmirian philosophy, such as _spanda_ and
_pratyabhijña_, seem not to be used in the south.

The Śiva-sûtras consist of three sections, describing three methods of
attaining _svacchanda_ or independence. One (the gist of which has
been given above) displays some though not great originality: the
second is Śâktist, the third follows the ordinary prescriptions of the
Yoga. All Śivaite philosophy is really based on this last and teaches
the existence of matter, souls and a deity, manifested in a series of
phases. The relations of these three ultimates are variously defined,
and they may be identified with one another, for the Sânkhya-Yoga
doctrine may be combined (though not very consistently) with the
teaching of the Vedânta. In Kashmirian Śivaism Vedântist influences
seem strong and it even calls itself Advaita. It is noteworthy that
Vasugupta, who _discovered_ the Śiva-sûtras, also wrote a commentary
on the Bhagavad-gîtâ.

The gist of the matter is that, since a taste for speculation is far
more prevalent in India than in Europe, there exist many systems of
popular philosophy which, being a mixture of religion and metaphysics,
involve two mental attitudes. The ordinary worshipper implores the
Lord to deliver him from the bondage of sin and matter: the
philosopher and saint wish to show that thought is one and such ideas
as sin and matter partial and illusory. The originality of the Śaiva
Siddhânta lies less in its dogmas than in its devotional character: in
the feeling that the soul is immersed in darkness and struggles
upwards by the grace of the Lord, so that the whole process of Karma
and Mâyâ is really beneficent.


As already mentioned Śivaism has an important though unorthodox
offshoot in the Lingâyats[558] or Lingavants. It appears that they
originated at Kalyan (now in the Nizam's dominions) at the time when a
usurper named Bijjala (1156-1167) had seized the throne of the
Chalukyas. Their founder was Basava (the vernacular form of Vrishabha)
assisted by his nephew Channabasava,[559] whose exploits and miracles
are recorded in two Purâṇas composed in Kanarese and bearing their
respective names. According to one story Bijjala, who was a Jain,
persecuted the Lingâyats and was assassinated by them. But there are
other versions and the early legends of the sect merit little
credence. The Lingâyats are Puritans. They reject caste, the supremacy
of the Brahmans, sacrifices and other rites, and all the later
Brahmanic literature. In theory they reverence the Vedas but
practically the two Purâṇas mentioned are their sacred books.[560]
They are strict vegetarians and teetotallers: they do not insist on
child marriages nor object to the remarriage of widows. Their only
object of worship is Śiva in the form of a lingam and they always
carry one suspended round the neck or arm. It is remarkable that an
exceptionally severe and puritanical sect should choose this emblem as
its object of worship, but, as already observed, the lingam is merely
a symbol of the creative force and its worship is not accomplished by
indecent rites.[561] They hold that true Lingâyats are not liable to
be defiled by births or deaths, that they cannot be injured by sorcery
and that when they die their souls do not transmigrate but go straight
to Śiva. No prayers for the dead are needed.

Though trustworthy details about the rise of the Lingâyats are scarce,
we can trace their spiritual ancestry. They present in an organized
form the creed which inspired Paṭṭaṇaṭṭu Piḷḷai in the tenth
century. About a hundred years later came Râmânuja who founded a great
Vishnuite Church and it is not surprising if the Śivaites followed
this example, nor if the least orthodox party became the most
definitely sectarian.

The sectarian impulse which is conspicuous after the eleventh century
was perhaps stimulated by the example of Mohammedanism. There was
little direct doctrinal influence, but a religious people like the
Hindus can hardly have failed to notice the strength possessed by an
association worshipping one god of its own and united by one
discipline. Syrian Christianity also might have helped to familiarize
the Lingâyats with the idea of a god not to be represented by images
or propitiated by sacrifices, but there is no proof that it was
prevalent in the part of the Deccan where they first appeared.

The Lingâyats spread rapidly after Basava's death.[562] They still number
about two millions and are to be found in most Kanarese-speaking districts.
They are easily recognizable for all carry the lingam, which is commonly
enclosed in a red scarf worn round the neck or among the richer classes in
a silver-box. It is made of grey soapstone and a Lingâyat must on no
account part with it for a moment. They are divided into the laity and the
Jangams or priests. Some of these marry but others are itinerant ascetics
who wander over India frequenting especially the five Simhâsanas or
Lingâyat sees.[563] They are treated with extreme respect by the laity and
sometimes wear fantastic costumes such as plates resembling armour or
little bells which announce their approach as they walk.

In doctrine the Lingâyats remain faithful to their original tenets
and do not worship any god or goddess except Śiva in the form of the
Lingam, though they show respect to Gaṇeśa, and other deities as also
to the founder of their sect. But in social matters it is agreed by
all observers that they show a tendency to reintroduce caste and to
minimize the differences separating them from more orthodox sects.
According to Basava's teaching all members of the community both men
and women are equal. But though converts from all castes are still
accepted, it was found at the last census that well-to-do Lingâyats
were anxious to be entered under the name of Vîraśaiva Brahmans,
Kshatriyas, etc., and did not admit that caste distinctions are
obliterated among them. Similarly though the remarriage of widows is
not forbidden there is a growing tendency to look at it askance.


[Footnote 511: In various allusions to be found in the Kâdambarî and

[Footnote 512: The best known of these is the Tantravârttika, a
commentary on the Pûrva-mîmâmsâ.]

[Footnote 513: This is the generally accepted date and does not appear
to conflict with anything else that is at present known of Śankara. An
alternative suggestion is some date between 590 and 650 (see Telang,
_I.A._ XIII. 1884, p. 95 and Fleet, _I.A._ XVI. 1887, p. 41). But in
this case, it is very strange that I-Ching does not mention so
conspicuous an enemy of the Buddhists. It does not seem to me that the
use of Pûṛnavarman's name by Śankara in an illustration (_Comm. on
Vedanta Sut._ II. i. 17) necessarily implies they were contemporaries,
but it does prove that he cannot have lived before Pûṛnavarman.]

[Footnote 514: Another tradition says he was born at Chidambaram, but
the temple at Badrinath in the Himalayas said to have been founded by
him has always been served by Nambuthiri Brahmans from Malabar. In
1910 a great temple erected in his honour was consecrated at Kaladi.]

[Footnote 515: His conflicts with them are described in works called
Śankara-vijaya of which at least four are extant.]

[Footnote 516: They are called Daśanâmis which merely means that each
ascetic bears one or other of ten surnames (Sarswati, Bharati, Tirtha,
etc.). See for a further account of them Jogendra Nath Bhattacharya,
_Hindu Castes and Sects_, pp. 374-379.

The order in all its branches seems to have strong pantheistic
inclinations. They mutter the formula Sivo'ham, I am Śiva.]

[Footnote 517: I have been told by south Indian Pandits that they
think Śaṅkara was bom in a Bhâgavata family and that there is some
evidence his kinsmen were trustees of a temple of Kṛishṇa. The
Śâktas also claim him, but the tradition that he opposed the Śâktas is
strong and probable. Many hymns addressed to Vishṇu, Śiva and various
forms of Durgâ are attributed to him. I have not been able to discover
what is the external evidence for their authenticity but hymns must
have been popular in south India before the time of Śaṅkara and it is
eminently probable that he did not neglect this important branch of

[Footnote 518: See Bhattacharya, _Hindu Castes and Sects_, p. 16.]

[Footnote 519: This maṭh has an endowment of about £5000 a year,
instituted by the kings of Vijayanagar. The Guru is treated with great
respect. His palankin is carried crossways to prevent anyone from
passing him and he wears a jewelled head-dress, not unlike a papal
tiara, and wooden shoes covered with silver. See an interesting
account of Śringeri in _J. Mythic Society_ (Bangalore), vol. VIII. pp.

Schrader in his catalogue of the Sanskrit MSS. in the Adyar Library,
1908, notices an Upanishad called Mahâmâyopanishad, ascribed to
Śaṅkara himself, which deals with the special qualities of the four
maṭhs. Each is described as possessing one Veda, one Mahâvâkyam, etc.
The second part deals with the three ideal maṭhs, Sumeru, Paramâtman
and Śâstrâthajnâna.]

[Footnote 520: There is some reason to suppose that the Maṭh of
Sringeri was founded on the site of a Buddhist monastery. See _Journal
of Mythic Society_, Bangalore, 1916, p. 151.]

[Footnote 521: Pracchanna-bauddha. See for further details Book IV.
chap. XXI. _ad fin._]

[Footnote 522: The old folk-lore of Bengal gives a picture of Śiva,
the peasant's god, which is neither Vedic nor Dravidian. See Dinesh
Chandra Sen, _Bengali Lang. and Lit._ pp. 68 ff. and 239 ff.]

[Footnote 523: _J.R.A.S._ 1899, p. 242.]

[Footnote 524: See some curious examples in Whitehead's _Village Gods
of South India._]

[Footnote 525: Rice, _Mysore and Coorg from the Inscriptions_, pp. 27
and 204.]

[Footnote 526: The early Brahmi inscriptions of southern India are
said to be written in a Dravidian language with an admixture not of
Sanskrit but of Pali words. See _Arch. Survey India_, 1911-12, Part I.
p. 23.]

[Footnote 527: See Rice, _Mysore and Coorg_, pp. 3-5 and Fleet's
criticisms, _I.A._. XXI. 1892, p. 287.]

[Footnote 528: The various notices in European classical authors as
well as in the Sinhalese chronicles prove this.]

[Footnote 529: Except in the first chapter.]

[Footnote 530: A complete list of them is given in Foulkes, _Catechism
of the Shaiva religion_, 1863, p. 21.]

[Footnote 531: _Tamilian Antiquary_, 3, 1909, pp. 1-65.]

[Footnote 532: Edited and translated by Pope, 1900.]

[Footnote 533: Established opinion or doctrine. Used by the Jains as a
name for their canon.]

[Footnote 534: Thus the catechism of the Śaiva religion by Sabhapati
Mudaliyar (transl. Foulkes, 1863) after stating emphatically that the
world is created also says that the soul and the world are both
eternal. Also just as in the Bhagavad-gîtâ the ideas of the Vedanta
and Sâṅkhya are incongruously combined, so in the Tiruvaçagam (_e.g._
Pope's edition, pp. 49 and 138) Śiva is occasionally pantheized. He is
the body and the soul, existence and non-existence, the false and the
true, the bond and the release.]

[Footnote 535: _E.g._ Hymn vi.]

[Footnote 536: Pope's _Tiruvaçagam_, p. 257.]

[Footnote 537: Yet I have read that American revivalists describe how
you play base ball (an American game) with Jesus.]

[Footnote 538: Pope's _Tiruvaçagam_, p. 101.]

[Footnote 539: It does not seem to me that the legend of Śiva's
drinking the hala-hala poison is really parallel to the sufferings of
the Christian redeemer. At the most it is a benevolent exploit like
many performed by Vishṇu.]

[Footnote 540: Although Śiva is said to have been many times incarnate
(see for instance _Catechism of the Shaiva religion_, p. 20) he seems
to have merely appeared in human form on special occasions and not to
have been like Christ or Kṛishṇa a god living as a man from birth to

[Footnote 541: The lines which seem most clearly to reflect Christian
influence are those quoted by Caldwell from the Nana nuru in the
introduction to his _Comparative Grammar of the Dravidian languages_,
p. 127, but neither the date of the work nor the original of the
quotation is given. This part of the introduction is omitted in the
third edition.]

[Footnote 542: _Tamilian Antiquary_, 4, 1909, pp. 57-82.]

[Footnote 543: _Ib._ pp. 1-57; Sesha Aiyer gives 275 A.D. as the
probable date, and 375 as the latest date.]

[Footnote 544: The Śaiva catechism translated by Foulkes says (p. 27)
that Śiva revealed the Tiruvaçagam twice, first to Manikka-Vaçagar and
later to Tiru-Kovaiyar.]

[Footnote 545: Sanskrit, _Siddha._]

[Footnote 546: Space forbids me to quote the Śiva-vâkyam and
Paṭṭaṇaṭṭu Piḷḷai, interesting as they are. The reader is
referred to Gover, _Folk-Songs of southern India_, 1871, a work which
is well worth reading.]

[Footnote 547: The date of the Skanda Purâṇa creates no difficulty
for Bendall considered a MS. of it found in Nepal to be anterior to
659 A.D.]

[Footnote 548: One of his maxims was _adu, adu âdal_, that is the mind
becomes that (spiritual or material) with which it identifies itself
most completely.]

[Footnote 549: It is contained in fourteen śâstras, most of which are
attributed to the four teachers mentioned above.]

[Footnote 550: For the Kashmir school see Barnett in _Muséon_, 1909,
pp. 271-277. _J.R.A.S._ 1910, pp. 707-747. Kashmir Sanskrit series,
particularly vol. II. entitled _Kashmir Śaivism_. The Śiva sûtras and
the commentary Vimar'sinî translated in _Indian Thought_, 1911-12.
Also Srinivasa Iyengar, _Outlines of Indian Philosophy_, pp. 168-175
and _Sarva-darśana-saṅgraha_, chap. VIII.]

[Footnote 551: Among them may be mentioned Kallata, author of
the _Spanda Kârikâs_ and Somânanda of the Śivadṛishti, who
both flourished about 850-900. Utpala, who composed the
Pratyabhijñâ-kârikâs, lived some fifty years later, and in the
eleventh century Abhinava Gupta and Kshemarâja composed numerous

[Footnote 552: Kashmirian Śaivism is often called Trika, that is
tripartite, because, like other varieties, it treats of three
ultimates _Śiva_, _Śakti_, _Anu_ or _Pati_, _Paśu_, _Pâśa_. But it has
a decided tendency towards monism.]

[Footnote 553: Also called the Śakti or Mâtrikâ.]

[Footnote 554: See _Epig. Carn._ VII. Sk. 114. 19, 20 and _Jour.
Mythic Society_, 1917, pp. 176, 180.]

[Footnote 555: To say nothing of Śivaite temples like the Kailas at
Ellora, the chief doctrines and even the terminology of Śivaite
philosophy are mentioned by Śankara on Ved. Sutras, II. 2. 37.]

[Footnote 556: In the Samyuktavastu, chap. XL. (transl. in _J.A._
1914, II. pp. 534, etc.) the Buddha is represented as saying that
Kashmir is the best land for meditation and leading a religious life.]

[Footnote 557: Chatterji, _Kashmir Śaivism_, p. 11, thinks that
Abhinava Gupta's _Paramârthasâra_, published by Barnett, was an
adaptation of older verses current in India and called the Âdhâra

[Footnote 558: See Thurston, _Castes and Tribes of southern India_,
s.v. vol. IV. pp. 236-291 and _Gazetteer of the Bombay Presidency_,
vol. XXIII. article Bijapur, pp. 219-1884.]

[Footnote 559: An inscription found at Ablur in Dharwar also mentions
Ramayya as a champion of Śivaite monotheism. He is perhaps the same as
Channabasava. The Lingâyats maintain that Basava merely revived the
old true religion of Śiva and founded nothing new.]

[Footnote 560: They have also a book called _Prabhuling-lila_, which
is said to teach that the deity ought to live in the believer's soul
as he lives in the lingam, and collections of early Kanarese sermons
which are said to date from the thirteenth century.]

[Footnote 561: The use of the Linga by this sect supports the view
that even in its origin the symbol is not exclusively phallic.]

[Footnote 562: Their creed is said to have been the state religion of
the Wodeyars of Mysore (1399-1600) and of the Nayaks of Keladi, Ikken
or Bednur (1550-1763).]

[Footnote 563: At Kadur, Ujjeni, Benares, Śrîsailam and Kedarnâth in
the Himalayas. In every Lingâyat village there is a monastery
affiliated to one of these five establishments. The great importance
attached to monastic institutions is perhaps due to Jain influence.]




Though Śivaism can boast of an imposing array of temples, teachers and
scriptures in the north as well as in the south, yet Vishnuism was
equally strong and after 1000 A.D. perhaps stronger. Thus Alberuni
writing about north-western India in 1030 A.D. mentions Śiva and Durgâ
several times incidentally but devotes separate chapters to Nârâyana
and Vâsudeva; he quotes copiously from Vishnuite works[564] but not
from sectarian Śivaite books. He mentions that the worshippers of
Vishṇu are called Bhâgavatas and he frequently refers to Râma. It is
clear that in giving an account of Vishnuism he considered that he had
for all practical purposes described the religion of the parts of
India which he knew.

In their main outlines the histories of Vishnuism and Śivaism are the
same. Both faiths first assumed a definite form in northern India, but
both flourished exceedingly when transplanted to the south and
produced first a school of emotional hymn writers and then in a
maturer stage a goodly array of theologians and philosophers as well
as offshoots in the form of eccentric sects which broke loose from
Brahmanism altogether. But Vishnuism having first spread from the
north to the south returned from the south to the north in great
force, whereas the history of Śivaism shows no such reflux.[565]
Śivaism remained comparatively homogeneous, but Vishnuism gave birth
from the eleventh century onwards to a series of sects or Churches
still extant and forming exclusive though not mutually hostile
associations. The chief Churches or Sampradâyas bear the names of
Sanakâdi, Śrî, Brahmâ and Rudra. The first three were founded by
Nimbâditya, Râmânuja and Madhva respectively. The Rudra-sampradâya was
rendered celebrated by Vallabha, though he was not its founder.

The belief and practice of all Vishnuite sects alike is a modified
monotheism, the worship of the Supreme Being under some such name as
Râma or Vâsudeva. But the monotheism is not perfect. On the one hand
it passes into pantheism: on the other it is not completely disengaged
from mythology and in all sects the consort and attendants of the
deity receive great respect, even if this respect is theoretically
distinguished from adoration. Nearly all sects reject sacrifice _in
toto_ and make the basis of salvation emotional--namely devotion to
the deity, and as a counterpart to this the chief characteristic of
the deity is loving condescension or grace. The theological philosophy
of each sect is nearly always, whatever name it may bear, a variety of
the system known as Viśishṭâdvaita, or qualified monism, which is not
unlike the Sâṅkhya-Yoga.[566] For Vishnuites as for Śivaites there
exist God, the soul and matter, but most sects shrink from regarding
them as entirely separate and bridge over the differences with various
theories of emanations and successive manifestations of the deity. But
for practical religion the soul is entangled in matter and, with the
help of God, struggles towards union with him. The precise nature and
intimacy of this union has given rise to as many subtle theories and
phrases as the sacraments in Europe. Vishnuite sects in all parts of
India show a tendency to recognize vernacular works as their
scriptures, but they also attach great importance to the Upanishads,
the Bhagavad-gîtâ, the Nârâyaṇîya and the Vedânta Sûtras. Each has a
special interpretation of these last which becomes to some extent its

But these books belong to the relatively older literature. Many
Vishnuite, or rather Krishnaite, works composed from the eighth
century onwards differ from them in tone and give prominence to the
god's amorous adventures with the Gopis and (still later) to the
personality of Râdhâ. This ecstatic and sentimental theology, though
found in all parts of India, is more prevalent in the north than in
the south. Its great text-book is the Bhâgavata Purâṇa. The same
spirit is found in Jayadeva's Gîtâ-govinda, apparently composed in
Bengal about 1170 A.D. and reproducing in a polished form the
religious dramas or Yâtras in which the life of Kṛishṇa is still


The sect[567] founded by Nimbârka or Nimbâditya has some connection
with this poem. Its chief doctrine is known as dvaitâdvaitamata, or
dualistic non-duality, which is explained as meaning that, though the
soul and matter are distinct from God, they are yet as intimately
connected with him as waves with water or the coils of a rope with the
rope itself. This doctrine is referred to in the religious drama
called Prabodhacandrodaya, probably composed at the end of the
eleventh century. The Nimâvats, as the adherents of the sect are
called, are found near Muttra and in Bengal. It is noticeable that
this sect, which had its origin in northern India, is said to have
been persecuted by the Jains[568] and to have been subsequently
revived by a teacher called Nivâsa. This may explain why in the
twelfth century Vishnuism flourished in the south rather than in the
north.[569] Less is known of the Nimbârkas than of the other sects.
They worship Kṛishṇa and Râdhâ and faith in Kṛishṇa is said to be
the only way to salvation. Kṛishṇa was the deity of the earliest
bhakti-sects. Then in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries there was
a reaction in favour of Râma as a more spiritual deity, but
subsequently Vallabha and Caitanya again made the worship of Kṛishṇa
popular. Nimbârka expressed his views in a short commentary on the
Vedânta Sûtras and also in ten verses containing a compendium of


As among the Śivaites, so among the Vishnuites of the south, history
begins with poet-saints. They are called the twelve Âr̤vârs.[571] For
the three earliest no historical basis has been found, but the later
ones seem to be real personalities. The most revered of them is
Namm'âr̤vâr also called Sathagopa, whose images and pictures may be
seen everywhere in south India and receive the same reverence as
figures of the gods.[572] He may have lived in the seventh or eighth
century A.D.[573]

The chronology of the Âr̤vârs is exceedingly vague but if the praises
of Śiva were sung by poet-saints in the seventh century, it is
probable that the Vishṇu worshippers were not behindhand. Two
circumstances argue a fairly early date. First Nâthamuni is said to
have arranged the hymns of the Âr̤vârs and he probably lived about
1000 A.D. Therefore the Âr̤vârs must have become classics by this
date. Secondly the Bhâgavata Purâṇa[574] says that in the Kali age
the worshippers of Nârâyaṇa will be numerous in the Dravidian
country, though in other parts found only here and there, and that
those who drink the water of the Kaveri and other southern rivers will
mostly be devotees of Vâsudeva. This passage must have been written
after a Vishnuite movement had begun in the Dravidian country.[575]

The hymns attributed to the Âr̤vârs are commonly known by the name of
Prabandham or Nâlâyiram and are accepted by the Tengalai Vishnuites as
their canonical scriptures. The whole collection contains 4000 verses
arranged in four parts[576] and an extract consisting of 602 verses
selected for use in daily worship is in part accessible.[577] This
poetry shows the same ecstatic devotion and love of nature as the
Tiruvaçagam. It contemplates the worship of images and a temple ritual
consisting in awakening the god at morning and attending on him during
the day. It quotes the Upanishads and Bhagavad-gîtâ, assumes as a
metaphysical basis a vedantized form of the Sâṅkhya philosophy, and
also accepts the legends of the pastoral Kṛishṇa but without giving
much detail. Jains, Buddhists and Śaivas are blamed and the repetition
of the name Govinda is enjoined. Though the hymns are not
anti-brahmanic they decidedly do not contemplate a life spent in
orthodox observances and their reputed authors include several Śûdras,
a king and a woman.

After the poet-saints came the doctors and theologians. Accounts of
them, which seem historical in the main though full of miraculous
details, are found in the Tamil biographies[578] illustrating the
apostolic succession of teachers. It appears fairly certain that
Râmânuja, the fourth in succession, was alive in 1118: the first,
known as Nâthamuni, may therefore have lived 100-150 years earlier.
None of his works are extant but he is said to have arranged the poems
of the Âr̤vârs for recitation in temple services. He went on a
pilgrimage to northern India and according to tradition was an adept
in Yoga, being one of the last to practise it in the south. Third in
succession was his grandson Yamunârcârya (known as Âlavandâr or
victor), who spent the first part of his life as a wealthy layman but
was converted and resided at Śrîrangam. Here he composed several
important works in Sanskrit including one written to establish the
orthodoxy of the Pâncarâtra and its ritual.[579]


He was succeeded by Râmânuja, a great name in Indian theology both as
the organizer of a most important sect and, if not the founder,[580]
at least the accepted exponent of the Viśishṭâdvaita philosophy.
Râmânuja was born at Śrîperum-budur[581] near Madras, where he is
still commemorated by a celebrated shrine. As a youth he studied
Śivaite philosophy at Conjeevaram but abandoned it for Vishnuism. He
appears to have been a good administrator. He made the definitive
collection of the hymns of the Âr̤vârs and is said to have founded 700
maṭhs and 89 hereditary abbotships, for he allowed the members of his
order to marry. He visited northern India, including Kashmir if
tradition may be believed, but his chief residence was Śrîrangam.
Towards the end of the eleventh century however, the hostility of the
Chola King Kulottunga, who was an intolerant Śivaite, forced him to
retire to Mysore. Here he was protected by King Viṭṭala Deva whom he
converted from Jainism and on the death of Kulottunga in 1118 he
returned to Śrîrangam where he ended his days. In the temple there his
tomb and a shrine where his image receives divine honours may still be
seen. His best known work[582] is the Śrî Bhâshya or commentary on the
Vedânta sûtras.

The sect which he founded is known as the Śrî Sampradâya and its
members as the Śrî Vaishṇavas. As among the Śivaites revelation is
often supposed to be made by Śiva through Śakti, so here the Lord is
said to have revealed the truth to his consort Śrî or Lakshmî, she to
a demigod called Visvaksena, and he to Namm'âr̤vâr, from whom Râmânuja
was eighth in spiritual descent. Though the members of the sect are
sometimes called Ramaites the personality of Râma plays a small part
in their faith, especially as expounded by Râmânuja. As names for the
deity he uses Nârâyaṇa and Vâsudeva and he quotes freely from the
Bhagavad-gîtâ and the Vishṇu Purâṇa. Compared with the emotional
deism of Caitanya this faith seems somewhat philosophic and reticent.

Râmânuja clearly indicates its principal points in the first words of
his Śrî Bhâshya. "May my mind be filled with devotion towards the
highest Brahman, the abode of Lakshmî; who is luminously revealed in
the Upanishads: who in sport produces, sustains and reabsorbs the
entire universe: whose only aim is to foster the manifold classes of
beings that humbly worship him."[583] He goes on to say that his
teaching is that of the Upanishads, "which was obscured by the mutual
conflict of manifold opinions," and that he follows the commentary of
Bodhâyana and other teachers who have abridged it.

That is to say, the form of Vishnuism which Râmânuja made one of the
principal religions of India claims to be the teaching of the
Upanishads, although he also affiliates himself to the Bhâgavatas. He
interprets the part of the Vedânta Sûtras which treats of this
sect[584] as meaning that the author states and ultimately disallows
the objections raised to their teaching and he definitely approves it.
"As it is thus settled that the highest Brahman or Nârâyaṇa himself
is the promulgator of the entire Pâncarâtra and that this system
teaches the nature of Nârâyaṇa and the proper way of worshipping him,
none can disestablish the view that in the Pâncarâtra all the other
doctrines are comprised."[585]

The true tradition of the Upanishads he contends has been distorted by
"manifold opinions," among which the doctrine of Śaṅkara was no doubt
the chief. That doctrine was naturally distasteful to devotional
poets, and from the time of Nâthamuni onwards a philosophic reaction
against it grew up in Śrîrangam. Râmânuja preaches the worship of a
loving God, though when we read that God produces and reabsorbs the
universe in sport, we find that we are farther from Christianity than
we at first supposed. There is a touch of mythology in the mention of
Lakshmî[586] but it is clear that Râmânuja himself had little liking
for mythology. He barely mentions Râma and Kṛishṇa in the Śri
Bhâshya nor does he pay much attention to the consort of the deity. On
the other hand he shows no sign of rejecting the ritual and
regulations of the Brahmans. He apparently wished to prove that the
doctrine of salvation by devotion to a personal god is compatible with
a system as strictly orthodox as Śaṅkara's own.

I shall treat elsewhere of his philosophy, known as the
Viśishṭâdvaita or non-duality, which yet recognizes a distinction
between God and individual souls. The line of thought is old and at
all periods is clearly a compromise, unwilling to deny that God is
everything and yet dissatisfied with the idea that a personal deity
and our individual transmigrating souls are all merely illusion.
Devotional theism was growing in Râmânuja's time. He could not break
with the Upanishads and Vedantic tradition but he adapted them to the
needs of his day. He taught firstly that the material world and human
souls are not illusion but so to speak the body of God who comprises
and pervades them: secondly this God is omniscient, omnipresent,
almighty and all-merciful, and salvation (that is mukti or deliverance
from transmigration) is obtained by those souls who, assisted by his
grace, meditate on him and know him; thirdly this salvation consists
not in absorption into God but in blissful existence near him and in
participation of his glorious qualities. He further held[587] that God
exists in five modes, namely: (_a_) Para, the entire supreme spirit,
(_b_) the fourfold manifestation as Vâsudeva, Saṅkarshaṇa, Pradyumna
and Aniruddha, (_c_) incarnations such as Râma and Kṛishṇa, (_d_)
the internal controller or Antaryâmin according to the text[588] "who
abiding in the soul rules the soul within," (_e_) duly consecrated

The followers of Râmânuja are at present divided into two schools
known as Tengalais and Vadagalais, or southern and northern.[589] The
double residence of the founder is one reason for the division, since
both Mysore and Trichinopoly could claim to have personal knowledge of
his teaching. The really important difference seems to be that the
Tengalai or southern school is inclined to break away from Sanskrit
tradition, to ignore the Vedas in practice and to regard the Tamil
Nâlâyiram as an all-sufficient scripture, whereas the Vadagalais,
though not rejecting the Nâlâyiram, insist on the authority of the
Vedas. But both divisions are scrupulous about caste observances and
the ceremonial purity of their food. They are separated by nice
questions of doctrine, especially as to the nature of prapatti,
resignation or self-surrender to the deity, a sentiment slightly
different from bhakti which is active faith or devotion. The
northerners hold that the soul lays hold of the Lord, as the young
monkey hangs on to its mother, whereas the southerners say that the
Lord picks up the helpless and passive soul as a cat picks up a
kitten.[590] According to the northerners, the consort of Vishṇu is,
like him, uncreated and equally to be worshipped as a bestower of
grace: according to the southerners she is created and, though divine,
merely a mediator or channel of the Lord's grace. Even more important
in popular esteem is the fact that the Vadagalai sectarian mark ends
between the eyebrows whereas the Tengalais prolong it to the tip of
the nose. _Odium theologicum_ is often bitterest between the sects
which are most nearly related and accordingly we find that the
Tengalais and Vadagalais frequently quarrel. They use the same temples
but in many places both claim the exclusive right to recite the hymns
of the Âr̤vârs. The chief difference in their recitation lies in the
opening verse in which each party celebrates the names of its special
teachers, and disputes as to the legality of a particular verse in a
particular shrine sometimes give rise to free fights and subsequent

The two schools reckon the apostolic succession differently and appear
to have separated in the thirteenth century, in which they were
represented by Piḷḷai Lokâcârya and Vedânta Desika[591]
respectively. The Tengalai, of which the first-named teacher was the
practical founder, must be regarded as innovators, for in their use of
Tamil as the language of religion they do not follow the example of
Râmânuja. Lokâcârya teaches that the grace of God is irresistible and
should be met not merely by active faith, but by self-surrender,[592]
and entire submission to the guidance of the spiritual teacher. He was
the author of eighteen works called Rahasyas or secrets[593] but
though he appears to have been the first to formulate the Tengalai
doctrines, Manavala Mahâmuni (1370-1443 A.D.) is regarded by the sect
as its chief saint. His images and pictures are frequent in south
India and he wrote numerous commentaries and poems. Vedânta Desika,
the founder of the Vadagalai, was a native of Conjeevaram but spent
much of his life at Śrîrangam. He was a voluminous author and
composed _inter alia_ an allegorical play in ten acts, portraying the
liberation of the soul under the auspices of King Viveka
(discrimination) and Queen Sumati (Wisdom).

At the present day the two sects recognize as their respective heads
two Âcâryas who are married, whereas all Smârta Âcâryas are
celibates.[594] The Tengalai Âcârya resides near Tinnevelly, the
Vadagalai in the district of Kurnool. They both make periodical
visitations in their districts and have considerable ecclesiastical
power. In the south Śrîrangam near Trichinopoly is their principal
shrine: in the north Melucote in the Seringapatam district is esteemed
very sacred.


It was only natural that Râmânuja's advocacy of qualified non-duality
should lead some more uncompromising spirit to affirm the doctrine of
Dvaita or duality. This step was taken by Madhva Âcârya, a Kanarese
Brahman who was probably born in 1199 A.D.[595] In the previous year
the great temple of Jagannatha at Puri had been completed and the
Vishnuite movement was at its height. Madhva though educated as a
Śaiva became a Vaishṇava. He denied absolutely the identity of the
Supreme Being with the individual soul and held that the world is not
a modification of the Lord but that he is like a father who begets a
son. Yet in practice, rigid monotheism is not more prevalent among
Madhva's followers than in other sects. They are said to tolerate the
worship of Śivaite deities and of the lingam in their temples[596] and
their ascetics dress like Śaivas.

Madhva travelled in both northern and southern India and had a
somewhat troubled life, for his doctrine, being the flat contradiction
of the Advaita, involved him in continual conflicts with the followers
of Śaṅkara who are said to have even stolen his library. At any rate
they anathematized his teaching with a violence unusual in Indian
theology.[597] In spite of such lively controversy he found time to
write thirty-seven works, including commentaries on the Upanishads,
Bhagavad-gîtâ and Vedânta Sûtras. The obvious meaning of these texts
is not that required by his system, but they are recognized by all
Vaishṇavas as the three Prasthânas or starting-points of philosophy
and he had to show that they supported his views. Hence his
interpretation often seems forced and perverse. The most extraordinary
instance of this is his explanation of the celebrated phrase in the
Chândogya Upanishad Sa âtmâ tat tvam asi. He reads Sa âtmâ atat tvam
asi and considers that it means "You are not that God. Why be so
conceited as to suppose that you are?"[598] Monotheistic texts have
often received a mystical and pantheistic interpretation. The Old
Testament and the Koran have been so treated by Kabbalists and Sufis.
But in Madhva's commentaries we see the opposite and probably rarer
method. Pantheistic texts are twisted until they are made to express
uncompromising monotheism.

The sect is often called Brahma-sampradâya, because it claims that its
doctrine was revealed by Brahmâ from whom Madhva was the sixth teacher
in spiritual descent. Its members are known as Mâdhvas but prefer to
call themselves Sad-Vaishṇavas. Its teaching seems more rigid and
less emotional than that of other Vishnuites and is based on the
Pancabheda or five eternal distinctions between (_a_) God and the
soul, (_b_) God and matter, (_c_) the soul and matter, (_d_)
individual souls, (_e_) individual atoms of matter. God is generally
called Vishṇu or Nârâyaṇa rather than Vâsudeva. Kṛishṇa is adored
but not in his pastoral aspect. Vishṇu and his spouse Lakshmî are
real though superhuman personalities and their sons are Brahmâ the
creator and Vâyu.[599] Peculiar to this sect is the doctrine that
except through Vâyu, the son of Vishṇu, salvation is impossible. Vâyu
has been three times incarnate as Hanumat, the helper of Râma, as
Bhîma and as Madhva himself.[600] Souls are separate, innumerable and
related to God as subjects to a king. They are of three classes: those
who are destined to eternal bliss in the presence of God: those who
revolve eternally in the maze of transmigration: and those who tending
ever downwards are doomed to eternal suffering.

This last doctrine, as well as the doctrine of salvation through Vâyu,
the wind or spirit, has led many to suspect that Madhva was influenced
by Christian ideas, but it is more probable that he owed something to
Islam. Such influence would no doubt be distant and indirect, for a
Brahman would not come into contact with Moslim doctors, though it is
said that Madhva could speak Persian.[601] But some Moslim ideas such
as the absolute separation of God from the world and the
predestination of souls to eternal happiness and misery may have
entered Brahman minds. Still, nearly all Madhva's views (with the
possible exception of eternal punishment) have Indian analogies. The
Yoga teaches that there are innumerable souls distinct from one
another and from God and though salvation through the spirit sounds
Christian, yet the Upanishads constantly celebrate Vâyu (wind) and
Prâṇa (breath) as the pervading principle of the world and the home
of the self. "By the wind (Vâyu) as thread, O Gautama, this world and
the other world and all creatures are bound together."[602] Thus the
idea that the wind is the universal mediator is old and it does not
seem that Madhva regarded Vâyu as a redeemer or expiation for sin like

The Mâdhvas are still an energetic and important sect. Their
headquarters are at Udipi in South Kanara and they also hold an annual
conference at Tirupati at which examinations in theology are held and
prizes given. At Udipi are eight maṭhs and a very sacred temple,
dedicated by Madhva himself to Kṛishṇa. The head of each maṭh is
charged in turn with the supervision of this temple during two years
and the change of office is celebrated by a great biennial festival in
January. The worship is more puritanical than in the temples of other
sects, dancing girls for instance not being allowed, but great
importance is attached to the practice of branding the body with the
emblems of Vishṇu. The sect, like the Śrî Vaishṇavas, is divided
into two parties, the Vyasakutas who are conservative and use Sanskrit
scriptures,[603] and the Dasakutas who have more popular tendencies
and use sacred books written in Kanarese. Neither the Śrî Vaishṇavas
nor the Mâdhvas are numerous in northern India.


[Footnote 564: Such as the Vishṇu Purâṇa, Vishṇu Dharma, said to be
a section of the Garuda Purâṇa and the Bhagavad-gîtâ.]

[Footnote 565: The Hindus are well aware that the doctrine of Bhakti
spread from the south to the north. See the allegory quoted in
_J.R.A.S._ 1911, p. 800.]

[Footnote 566: Thus Râmânuja says (Śri Bhâshya, II. 2. 43) that the
Vedânta Sûtras do not refute the Sânkhya and Yoga but merely certain
erroneous views as to Brahman not being the self.]

[Footnote 567: It has been described as the earliest of the Vishnuite
Churches and it would be so if we could be sure that the existence of
the doctrine called Dvaitâdvaita was equivalent to the existence of
the sect. But Bhandarkar has shown some reason for thinking that
Nimbâditya lived after Râmânuja. It must be admitted that the worship
of Râdhâ and the doctrine of self-surrender or prapatti, both found in
the Daśaśloki, are probably late.]

[Footnote 568: See Grierson in _E.R.E._ vol. II. p. 457.]

[Footnote 569: The Church of the Nimavats is also called
Sanakâdi-sampradâya because it professes to derive its doctrine from
Sanaka and his brethren who taught Nârada, who taught Nimbârka. At
least one sub-sect founded by Harivamsa (born 1559) adopts a doctrine
analogous to Saktism and worships Râdhâ as the manifestation of
Kṛishṇa's energy.]

[Footnote 570: Called the Daśaśloki. It is translated in Bhandarkar's
_Vaishṇ and Śaivism_, pp. 63-5.]

[Footnote 571: Also spelt Alvar and Azhvar. The Tamil pronunciation of
this difficult letter varies in different districts. The word
apparently means one who is drowned or immersed in the divine love.
Cf. _Azhi_, the deep sea; _Azhal_, being deep or being immersed.]

[Footnote 572: An educated Vaishṇava told me at Śrîrangam that devas
and saints receive the same homage.]

[Footnote 573: It is possible that the poems attributed to Namm'âr̤vâr
and other saints are really later compositions. See _Epig. Ind_. vol.
VIII. p. 294.]

[Footnote 574: XI. 5. 38-40.]

[Footnote 575: Bhandarkar (_Vaishṇ. and Śaivism_, p. 50) thinks it
probable that Kulaśekhara, one of the middle Âr̤vârs, lived about
1130. But the argument is not conclusive and it seems to me improbable
that he lived after Nâthamuni.]

[Footnote 576: The first called Mudal-Âyiram consists of nine hymns
ascribed to various saints such as Periyâr̤var and Andal. The second
and third each consist of a single work the Periya-tiru-mor̤i and the
Tiru-vay-mor̤i ascribed to Tiru-mangai and Namm'âr̤vâr respectively.
The fourth part or Iyar-pa is like the first a miscellany containing
further compositions by these two as well as by others.]

[Footnote 577: Nityânusandhânam series: edited with Telugu paraphrase
and English translation by M.B. Srinivasa Aiyangar, Madras, 1898.]

[Footnote 578: The best known is the Guru-paramparâ-prabhâvam of
Brahmatantra-svatantra-swâmi. For an English account of these doctors
see T. Râjagopala Chariar, _The Vaishṇavite Reformers of India_,
Madras, 1909.]

[Footnote 579: Âgamaprâmâṇya. He also wrote a well-known hymn called
Âlavandâr-Stotram and a philosophical treatise called Siddhi-traya.]

[Footnote 580: He states himself that he followed Boddhâyana, a
commentator on the Sûtras of unknown date but anterior to Śaṅkara. He
quotes several other commentators particularly Dramiḍa, so that his
school must have had a long line of teachers.]

[Footnote 581: See _Gazetteer of India_, vol. XXIII. s.v. There is a
Kanarese account of his life called Dibya-caritra. For his life and
teaching see also Bhandarkar in _Berichte VIIth Int. Orient.
Congress_, 1886, pp. 101 ff. Lives in English have been published at
Madras by Alkondaville Govindâcârya (1906) and Kṛishṇaswami Aiyangar
(? 1909).]

[Footnote 582: He also wrote the Vedârtha Saṅgraha, Vedârtha Pradîpa,
Vedânta Sâra and a commentary on the Bhagavad-gîtâ.]

[Footnote 583: _S.B.E._ XLVIII. p. 3.]

[Footnote 584: II. 2. 36-39.]

[Footnote 585: II. 2. 43 _ad fin._]

[Footnote 586: Râmânuja's introduction to the Bhagavad-gîtâ is more
ornate but does not go much further in doctrine than the passage here

[Footnote 587: This fivefold manifestation of the deity is a
characteristic Pâncarâtra doctrine. See Schrader, _Int._ pp. 25, 51
and _Śrî Bhâshya_, II. 242.]

[Footnote 588: See Br. Ar. Up III. 7. The Śrî Vaishṇavas attach great
importance to this chapter.]

[Footnote 589: Only relatively northern and southern. Neither flourish
in what we call northern India.]

[Footnote 590: Hence the two doctrines are called markaṭa-nyâya and
marjâra-nyâya, monkey theory and cat theory. The latter gave rise to
the dangerous doctrine of Doshabhogya, that God enjoys sin, since it
gives a larger scope for the display of His grace. Cf. Oscar Wilde in
_De Profundis_, "Christ, through some divine instinct in him, seems to
have always loved the sinner as being the nearest possible approach to
perfection in man.... In a manner not yet understood of the world, he
regarded sin and suffering as being in themselves beautiful holy
things and modes of perfection.... Christ, had he been asked, would
have said--I feel quite certain about it--that the moment the prodigal
son fell on his knees and wept, he made his having wasted his
substance with harlots, his swine herding and hungering for the husks
they ate beautiful and holy moments in his life."]

[Footnote 591: Also called Veṅkatanâtha. For some rather elaborate
studies in the history of the Śrî-Vaishṇavas see V. Rangacharis'
articles in _J. Bombay R.A.S._ 1915 and 1916 and _J. Mythic Society_,
1917, Nos. 2 ff.]

[Footnote 592: Prapatti and âcâryabhimâna.--The word _prapatti_ seems
not to occur in the Śrî Bhâshya and it is clear that Râmânuja's
temperament was inclined to active and intelligent devotion. But
_prapatti_ is said to have been taught by Nathamuni and Sathagopa
(Râjagopala Chariar, _Vaishṇavite Reformers_, p. 6). The word means
literally _approaching._]

[Footnote 593: The Artha-pañcaka and Tattva-traya are the best known.
See text and translation of the first in _J.R.A.S._ 1910, pp.

[Footnote 594: Râmânuja set less store than Śankara on asceticism and
renunciation of the world. He held the doctrine called _samucchaya_
(or combination) namely that good works as well as knowledge are
efficacious for salvation.]

[Footnote 595: Also called Ânandatîrtha and Pûrṅaprajña. According to
others he was born in 1238 A.D. See for his doctrines Grierson's
article Madhvas in _E.R.E._ and his own commentaries on the Chândogya
and Bṛihad Ar. Upanishads published in _Sacred Books of the Hindus_,
vols. III. and XIV. For his date Bhandarkar, _Vaishṇ. and Śaivism_,
pp. 58-59 and _I.A._. 1914, pp. 233 ff. and 262 ff. Accounts of his
life and teaching have been written by Padmanabha Char. and Kṛishṇa
Svami Aiyer (Madras, 1909). His followers maintain that he is not dead
but still alive at Badarî in the Himalayas.]

[Footnote 596: See Padmanabha Char. _l.c._ page 12. Madhva condemned
the worship of inanimate objects (_e.g._ com. Chând. Up. VII. 14. 2)
but not the worship of Brahman _in_ inanimate objects.]

[Footnote 597: In a work called the _Pâshanda capetikâ_ or _A Slap for
Heretics_, all the adherents of Madhva are consigned to hell and the
Saurapurâṇa, chaps. XXXVIII.-XL. contains a violent polemic against
them. See Jahn's _Analysis_, pp. 90-106 and Barth in _Mélanges
Harlez_, pp. 12-25. It is curious that the Madhvas should have been
selected for attack, for in many ways they are less opposed to
Śivaites than are other Vishnuite sects but the author was clearly
badly informed about the doctrines which he attacks and he was
probably an old-fashioned Śivaite of the north who regarded Madhvism
as a new-fangled version of objectionable doctrines.

The Madhvas are equally violent in denouncing Śankara and his
followers. They miswrite the name Saṃkara, giving it the sense of
mongrel or dirt and hold that he was an incarnation of a demon called
Maṇimat sent by evil spirits to corrupt the world.]

[Footnote 598: See his comment on Chând. Up. VI. 8. 7. Compare
Bhag.-g. XV. 7. The text appears to say that the soul (Jîva) is a part
(amsa) of the Lord. Madhva says it is so-called because it bears some
reduced similitude to the Lord, though quite distinct from him.
Madhva's exegesis is supported by a system of tantric or cabalistic
interpretation in which every letter has a special meaning. Thus in
the passage of the Chând. Up. mentioned above the simple words _sa ya
eshah_ are explained as equivalent to Sâra essence, yama the
controller, and ishta the desired one. The reading atat tvam asi is
said not to have originated with Madhva but to be found in a Bhâgavata
work called the Sâmasamhitâ.]

[Footnote 599: In his commentary on the opening of the Chând. Up.
Madhva seems to imply a Trinity consisting of Vishṇu, Ramâ (=Lakshmî)
and Vâyu.]

[Footnote 600: This is expressly stated at the end of the commentary
on the Brih. Ar. Upan.]

[Footnote 601: _Life and teachings of Śrî-Madhvacharyar_ by Padmanabha
Char. 1909, p. 159. Some have suspected a connection between Madhva's
teaching and Manicheism, because he attached much importance to an
obscure demon called Manimat (see Mahâbh. III. 11, 661) whom he
considered incarnate in Śankara. It is conceivable that in his Persian
studies he may have heard of Mani as an arch-heretic and have
identified him with this demon but this does not imply any connection
between his own system (or Śankara's either) and Manicheism.]

[Footnote 602: Brih. Ar. Upan. III. 7. 2.]

[Footnote 603: Among them are the Maṇimanjarî, the Madhvavijaya and
the Vâyustuti, all attributed to a disciple of Madhva and his son.]




With the fifteenth century Hinduism enters on a new phase. Sects arise
which show the influence of Mohammedanism, sometimes to such an extent
that it is hard to say whether they should be classed as Hindu or
Moslim, and many teachers repudiate caste. Also, whereas in the
previous centuries the centre of religious feeling lay in the south,
it now shifts to the north. Hinduism had been buffeted but not
seriously menaced there: the teachers of the south had not failed to
recognize by their pilgrimages the sanctity and authority of the
northern seats of learning: such works as the Gîtâ-govinda testify to
the existence there of fervent Vishnuism. But the country had been
harassed by Moslim invasions and unsettled by the vicissitudes of
transitory dynasties. The Jains were powerful in Gujarat and
Rajputâna. In Bengal Śâktism and moribund Buddhism were not likely to
engender new enthusiasms. But in a few centuries the movements
inaugurated in the south increased in extension and strength. Hindus
and Mohammedans began to know more of each other, and in the sixteenth
century under the tolerant rule of Akbar and his successors the new
sects which had been growing were able to consolidate themselves.

After Râmânuja and Madhva, the next great name in the history of
Vishnuism, and indeed of Hinduism, is Râmânand. His date is
uncertain.[604] He was posterior to Râmânuja, from whose sect he
detached himself, and Kabir was his disciple, apparently his immediate
disciple. Some traditions give Prayaga as his birthplace, others
Melucote, but the north was the scene of his activity. He went on a
lengthy pilgrimage, and on his return was accused of having infringed
the rules of his sect as to eating, etc., and was excommunicated, but
received permission from his Guru to found a new sect. He then settled
in Benares and taught there. He wrote no treatise but various hymns
ascribed to him are still popular.[605] Though he is not associated
with any special dogma, yet his teaching is of great importance as
marking the origin of a popular religious movement characterized by
the use of the vernacular languages instead of Sanskrit, and by a
laxity in caste rules culminating in a readiness to admit as equals
all worshippers of the true God.[606] This God is Râma rather than
Kṛishṇa. I have already pointed out that the worship of Râma as the
Supreme Being (to be distinguished from respect for him as a hero) is
not early: in fact it appears to begin in the period which we are
considering. Of the human forms of the deity Kṛishṇa was clearly the
most popular but the school of Râmânuja, while admitting both Râma and
Kṛishṇa as incarnations, preferred to adore God under less
mythological and more philosophic names such as Nârâyaṇa. Râmânand,
who addressed himself to all classes and not merely to the Brahman
aristocracy, selected as the divine name Râma. It was more human than
Nârâyaṇa, less sensuous than Kṛishṇa. Every Hindu was familiar with
the poetry which sings of Râma as a chivalrous and godlike hero. But
he was not, like Kṛishṇa, the lover of the soul, and when Râmaism
was divested of mythology by successive reformers it became a
monotheism in which Hindu and Moslim elements could blend. Râmânand
had twelve disciples, among whom were Kabir, a Raja called Pîpâ, Rai
Das, a leather-seller (and therefore an outcast according to Hindu
ideas) as well as Brahmans. The Râmats, as his followers were called,
are a numerous and respectable body in north India, using the same
sectarian mark as the Vadagalais from whom they do not differ
materially, although a Hindu might consider that their small regard
for caste is a vital distinction. They often call themselves
Avadhûtas, that is, those who have shaken off worldly restrictions,
and the more devout among them belong to an order divided into four
classes of which only the highest is reserved to Brahmans and the
others are open to all castes. They own numerous and wealthy maṭhs,
but it is said that in some of these celibacy is not required and that
monks and nuns live openly as man and wife.[607]

An important aspect of the Râmat movement is its effect on the popular
literature of Hindustan which in the fifteenth and even more in the
sixteenth century blossoms into flowers of religious poetry. Many of
these writings possess real merit and are still a moral and spiritual
force. European scholars are only beginning to pay sufficient
attention to this mighty flood of hymns which gushed forth in nearly
all the vernaculars of India[608] and appealed directly to the people.
The phenomenon was not really new. The psalms of the Buddhists and
even the hymns of the Ṛig Veda were vernacular literature in their
day, and in the south the songs of the Devaram and Nâlâyiram are of
some antiquity. But in the north, though some Prâkrit literature has
been preserved, Sanskrit was long considered the only proper language
for religion. We can hardly doubt that vernacular hymns existed, but
they did not receive the imprimatur of any teacher, and have not
survived. But about 1400 all this changes. Though Râmânand was not
much of a writer he gave his authority to the use of the vernacular:
he did not, like Râmânuja, either employ or enjoin Sanskrit and the
meagre details which we have of his circle lead us to imagine him
surrounded by men of homely speech.

One current in this sea of poetry was Krishnaite and as such not
directly connected with Râmânand. Vidyâpati[609] sang of the loves of
Kṛishṇa and Râdhâ in the Maithili dialect and also in a form of
Bengali. In the early fifteenth century (c. 1420) we have the poetess
Mirâ Bai, wife of the Raja of Chitore who gained celebrity and
domestic unhappiness by her passionate devotion to the form of
Kṛishṇa known as Ranchor. According to one legend the image came to
life in answer to her fervent prayers, and throwing his arms round her
allowed her to meet a rapturous death in his embrace. This is
precisely the sentiment which we find later in the teaching of
Vallabhâcârya and Caitanya. The hymns of the Bengali poets have been
collected in the _Padakalpataru_, one of the chief sacred books of the
Bengali Vaishṇavas. From Vallabhâcârya spring the group of poets who
adorned Braj or the Muttra district. Pre-eminent among them is the
blind Sur Das who flourished about 1550 and wrote such sweet lyrics
that Kṛishṇa himself came down and acted as his amanuensis. A
somewhat later member of the same group is Nâbhâ Das, the author of
the Bhakta Mâlâ or Legends of the Saints, which is still one of the
most popular religious works of northern India.[610] Almost
contemporary with Sur Das was the great Tulsi Das and Grierson[611]
enumerated thirteen subsequent writers who composed Râmâyaṇas in some
dialect of Hindi. A little later came the Mahratta poet Tukarâm (born
about 1600) who gave utterance to Krishnaism in another language.

Tulsi Das is too important to be merely mentioned as one in a list of
poets. He is a great figure in Indian religion, and the saying that
his Râmâyaṇa is more popular and more honoured in the North-western
Provinces than the Bible in England is no exaggeration.[612] He came
into the world in 1532 but was exposed by his parents as born under an
unlucky star and was adopted by a wandering Sâdhu. He married but his
son died and after this loss he himself became a Sâdhu. He began to
write his Râmâyaṇa in Oudh at the age of forty-three, but moved to
Benares where he completed it and died in 1623. On the Tulsi Ghat,
near the river Asi, may still be seen the rooms which he occupied.
They are at the top of a lofty building and command a beautiful view
over the river[4].

His Râmâyana which is an original composition and not a translation of
Vâlmîki's work is one of the great religious poems of the world and
not unworthy to be set beside _Paradise Lost_. The sustained majesty
of diction and exuberance of ornament are accompanied by a spontaneity
and vigour rare in any literature, especially in Asia. The poet is not
embellishing a laboured theme: he goes on and on because his emotion
bursts forth again and again, diversifying the same topic with an
inexhaustible variety of style and metaphor. As in some forest a
stream flows among flowers and trees, but pours forth a flood of pure
water uncoloured by the plants on its bank, so in the heart of Tulsi
Das the love of God welled up in a mighty fountain ornamented by the
mythology and legends with which he bedecked it, yet unaffected by
them. He founded no sect, which is one reason of his popularity, for
nearly all sects can read him with edification, and he is primarily a
poet not a theologian. But though he allows himself a poet's licence
to state great truths in various ways, he still enunciates a definite
belief. This is theism, connected with the name Râma. Since in the
north he is the author most esteemed by the Vishnuites, it would be a
paradox to refuse him that designation, but his teaching is not so
much that Vishṇu is the Supreme Being who becomes incarnate in Râma,
as that Râma, and more rarely Hari and Vâsudeva, are names of the
All-God who manifests himself in human form. Vishṇu is mentioned as a
celestial being in the company of Brahmâ,[613] and so far as any god
other than Râma receives attention it is Śiva, not indeed as Râma's
equal, but as a being at once very powerful and very devout, who acts
as a mediator or guide. "Without prayer to Śiva no one can attain to
the faith which I require."[614] "Râma is God, the totality of good,
imperishable, invisible, uncreated, incomparable, void of all change,
indivisible, whom the Veda declares that it cannot define."[615] And
yet, "He whom scripture and philosophy have sung and whom the saints
love to contemplate, even the Lord God, he is the son of Dasarath,
King of Kosala."[616] By the power of Râma exist Brahmâ, Vishṇu and
Śiva, as also Mâyâ, the illusion which brings about the world. His
"delusive power is a vast fig-tree, its clustering fruit the countless
multitude of worlds, while all things animate and inanimate are like
the insects that dwell inside and think their own particular fig the
only one in existence."[617] God has made all things: pain and
pleasure, sin and merit, saints and sinners, Brahmans and butchers,
passion and asceticism. It is the Veda that distinguishes good and
evil among them.[618] The love of God and faith are the only road to
happiness. "The worship of Hari is real and all the world is a
dream."[619] Tulsi Das often uses the language of the Advaita
philosophy and even calls God the annihilator of duality, but though
he admits the possibility of absorption and identification with the
deity, he holds that the double relation of a loving God and a loving
soul constitutes greater bliss. "The saint was not absorbed into the
divinity for this reason that he had already received the gift of
faith."[620] And in a similar spirit he says, "Let those preach in
their wisdom who contemplate Thee as the supreme spirit, the uncreate,
inseparable from the universe, recognizable only by inference and
beyond the understanding; but we, O Lord, will ever hymn the glories
of thy incarnation." Like most Hindus he is little disposed to enquire
what is the purpose of creation, but he comes very near to saying that
God has evolved the world by the power of Mâyâ because the bliss which
God and his beloved feel is greater than the bliss of impersonal
undifferentiated divinity. It will be seen that Tulsi Das is
thoroughly Hindu: neither his fundamental ideas nor his mythological
embellishments owe anything to Islam or Christianity. He accepts
unreservedly such principles as Mâyâ, transmigration, Karma and
release. But his sentiments, more than those of any other Indian
writer, bear a striking resemblance to the New Testament. Though he
holds that the whole world is of God, he none the less bids men shun
evil and choose the good, and the singular purity of his thoughts and
style contrasts strongly with other Vishnuite works. He does not
conceive of the love which may exist between the soul and God as a
form of sexual passion.


The beginning of the sixteenth century was a time of religious
upheaval in India for it witnessed the careers not only of
Vallabhâcârya and Caitanya, but also of Nânak, the founder of the
Sikhs. In the west it was the epoch of Luther and as in Europe so in
India no great religious movement has taken place since that time. The
sects then founded have swollen into extravagance and been reformed:
other sects have arisen from a mixture of Hinduism with Moslem and
Christian elements, but no new and original current of thought or
devotion has been started.

Though the two great sects associated with the names of Caitanya and
Vallabhâcârya have different geographical spheres and also present
some differences in doctrinal details, both are emotional and even
erotic and both adore Kṛishṇa as a child or young man. Their almost
simultaneous appearance in eastern and western India and their rapid
growth show that they represent an unusually potent current of ideas
and sentiments. But the worship of Kṛishṇa was, as we have seen,
nothing new in northern India. Even that relatively late phase in
which the sports of the divine herdsman are made to typify the love of
God for human souls is at least as early as the Gîtâ-govinda written
about 1170. In the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, the history of
Kṛishṇa worship is not clear,[621] but it persisted and about 1400
found speech in Bengal and in Rajputâna.

According to Vaishṇava theologians the followers of
Vallabhâcârya[622] are a section of the Rudra-sampradâya founded in
the early part of the fifteenth century by Vishṇusvâmi, an emigrant
from southern India, who preached chiefly in Gujarat. The doctrines of
the sect are supposed to have been delivered by the Almighty to Śiva
from whom Vishṇusvâmi was fifteenth in spiritual descent, and are
known by the name of _Śuddhâdvaita_ or pure non-duality. They teach
that God has three attributes--_sac-cid-ânanda_--existence,
consciousness and bliss. In the human or animal soul bliss is
suppressed and in matter consciousness is suppressed too. But when the
soul attains release it recovers bliss and becomes identical in nature
with God. For practical purposes the Vallabhâcâris may be regarded as
a sect founded by Vallabha, said to have been born in 1470. He was the
son of a Telinga Brahman, who had migrated with Vishṇusvâmi to the

Such was the pious precocity of Vallabha that at the age of twelve he
had already discovered a new religion and started on a pilgrimage to
preach it. He was well received at the Court of Vijayanagar, and was
so successful in disputation that he was recognized as chief doctor of
the Vaishṇava school. He subsequently spent nine years in travelling
twice round India and at Brindaban received a visit from Kṛishṇa in
person, who bade him promulgate his worship in the form of the divine
child known as Bâla Gopâla. Vallabha settled in Benares and is said to
have composed a number of works which are still extant.[623] He gained
further victories as a successful disputant and also married and
became the father of two sons. At the age of fifty-two he took to the
life of a Sannyâsi, but died forty-two days afterwards.

Though Vallabha died as an ascetic, his doctrines are currently known
as the Pushṭi Mârga, the road of well-being or comfort. His
philosophy was more decidedly monistic than is usual among Vishnuites,
and Indian monism has generally taught that, as the soul and God are
one in essence, the soul should realize this identity and renounce the
pleasures of the senses. But with Vallabhâcârya it may be said that
the vision which is generally directed godwards and forgets the flesh,
turned earthwards and forgot God, for his teaching is that since the
individual and the deity are one, the body should be reverenced and
indulged. Pushṭi[624] or well-being is the special grace of God and
the elect are called Pushṭi-jîva. They depend entirely on God's grace
and are contrasted with Maryâdâ-jîvas, or those who submit to moral
discipline. The highest felicity is not _mukti_ or liberation but the
eternal service of Kṛishṇa and eternal participation in his sports.

These doctrines have led to deplorable results, but so strong is the
Indian instinct towards self-denial and asceticism that it is the
priests rather than the worshippers who profit by this permission to
indulge the body, and the chief feature of the sect is the extravagant
respect paid to the descendants of Vallabhâcârya. They are known as
Maharajas or Great Kings and their followers, especially women,
dedicate to them _tan_, _dhan_, _man_: body, purse and spirit, for it
is a condition of the road of well-being that before the devotee
enjoys anything himself he must dedicate it to the deity and the
Maharaj represents the deity. The daily prayer of the sect is "Om.
Kṛishṇa is my refuge. I who suffer the infinite pain and torment of
enduring for a thousand years separation from Kṛishṇa, consecrate to
Kṛishṇa my body, senses, life, heart and faculties, my wife, house,
family, property and my own self. I am thy slave, O Kṛishṇa."[625]
This formula is recited to the Maharaj with peculiar solemnity by each
male as he comes of age and is admitted as a full member of the sect.
The words in which this dedication of self and family is made are not
in themselves open to criticism and a parallel may be found in
Christian hymns. But the literature of the Vallabhis unequivocally
states that the Guru is the same as the deity[626] and there can be
little doubt that even now the Maharajas are adored by their
followers, especially by the women, as representatives of Kṛishṇa in
his character of the lover of the Gopis and that the worship is often
licentious.[627] Many Hindus denounce the sect and in 1862 one of the
Maharajas brought an action for libel in the supreme court of Bombay
on account of the serious charges of immorality brought against him in
the native press. The trial became a _cause célèbre_. Judgment was
delivered against the Maharaj, the Judge declaring the charges to be
fully substantiated. Yet in spite of these proceedings the sect still
flourishes, apparently unchanged in doctrine and practice, and has a
large following among the mercantile castes of western India. The
Râdhâ-Vallabhis, an analogous sect founded by Harivaṃsa in the
sixteenth century, give the pre-eminence to Râdhâ, the wife of
Kṛishṇa, and in their secret ceremonies are said to dress as women.
The worship of Râdhâ is a late phase of Vishnuism and is not known
even to the Bhâgavata Purâṇa.[628]

Vallabhism owes much of its success to the family of the founder. They
had evidently a strong dynastic sentiment as well as a love of
missionary conquest--a powerful combination. Vallabhâcârya left behind
him eighty-four principal disciples whose lives are recorded in the
work called the _Stories of the Eighty-four Vaishṇavas_, and his
authority descended to his son Vithalnath. Like his father, Vithalnath
was active as a proselytizer and pilgrim and propagated his doctrines
extensively in many parts of western India such as Cutch, Malwa, and
Bijapur. His converts came chiefly from the mercantile classes but
also included some Brahmans and Mussulmans. He is said to have
abolished caste distinctions but the sect has not preserved this
feature. In his later years he resided at Muttra or the neighbouring
town of Gokul, whence he is known as Gokul Gosainji. This title of
Gosain, which is still borne by his male descendants, is derived from
Kṛishṇa's name Gosvâmin, the lord of cattle.[629] He had seven sons,
in each of whom Kṛishṇa is said to have been incarnate for five
years. They exercised spiritual authority in separate districts--as we
might say in different dioceses--but the fourth son, Gokulnathji and
his descendants claimed and still claim a special pre-eminence. The
family is at present represented by about a hundred males who are
accepted as incarnations and receive the title of Maharaja. About
twenty reside at Gokul[630] or near Muttra: there are a few in Bombay
and in all the great cities of western India, but the Maharaj of Nath
Dwara in Rajputâna is esteemed the chief. This place is not an ancient
seat of Kṛishṇa worship, but during the persecution of Aurungzeb a
peculiarly holy image was brought thither from Muttra and placed in
the shrine where it still remains.

A protest against the immorality of the Vallabhi sect was made by
Swâminârâyaṇa, a Brahman who was born in the district of Lucknow
about 1780.[631] He settled in Ahmedabad and gained so large a
following that the authorities became alarmed and imprisoned him. But
his popularity only increased: he became the centre of a great
religious movement: hymns descriptive of his virtues and sufferings
were sung by his followers and when he was released he found himself
at the head of a band which was almost an army. He erected a temple in
the village of Wartal in Baroda, which he made the centre of his sect,
and recruited followers by means of periodical tours throughout
Gujarat. His doctrines are embodied in an anthology called the
Śikshâpatrî consisting of 212 precepts, some borrowed from accepted
Hindu scriptures and some original and in a catechism called
Vacanâmritam. His teaching was summed up in the phrase "Devotion to
Kṛishṇa with observance of duty and purity of life" and in practice
took the form of a laudable polemic against the licentiousness of the
Vallabhis. As in most of the purer sects of Vishnuism, Kṛishṇa is
regarded merely as a name of the Supreme Deity. Thus the Śikshâpatrî
says "Nârâyaṇa and Śiva should be equally recognized as parts of one
and the same supreme spirit, since both have been declared in the
Vedas to be forms of Brahma. On no account let it be thought that
difference in form or name makes any difference in the identity of the
deity." The followers of Swâminârâyaṇa still number about 200,000 in
western India and are divided into the laity and a body of celibate
clergy. I have visited their religious establishments in Ahmedabad. It
consists of a temple with a large and well-kept monastery in which are
housed about 300 monks who wear costumes of reddish grey. Except in
Assam I have not seen in India any parallel to this monastery either
in size or discipline. It is provided with a library and hospital. In
the temple are images of Nara and Nârâyaṇa (explained as Kṛishṇa
and Arjuna), Kṛishṇa and Râdhâ, Gaṇeśa and Hanuman.[632]


The sect founded by Caitanya is connected with eastern India as the
Vallabhis are with the west. Bengal is perhaps the native land of the
worship of Kṛishṇa as the god of love. It was there that Jayadeva
flourished in the last days of the Sena dynasty and the lyrical poet
Chandîdâs at the end of the fourteenth century. About the same time
the still greater poet Vidyâpati was singing in Durbhanga. For these
writers, as for Caitanya, religion is the bond of love which unites
the soul and God, as typified by the passion[633] that drew together
Râdhâ and Kṛishṇa. The idea that God loves and seeks out human souls
is familiar to Christianity and receives very emotional expression in
well-known hymns, but the bold humanity of these Indian lyrics seems
to Europeans unsuitable. I will let a distinguished Indian apologize
for it in his own words:

"The paradox that has to be understood is that Kṛishṇa means God.
Yet he is represented as a youth, standing at a gate, trying to waylay
the beloved maiden, attempting to entrap the soul, as it were, into a
clandestine meeting. This, which is so inconceivable to a purely
modern mind, presents no difficulty at all to the Vaishṇava devotee.
To him God is the lover himself: the sweet flowers, the fresh grass,
the gay sound heard in the woods are direct messages and tokens of
love to his soul, bringing to his mind at every instant that loving
God whom he pictures as ever anxious to win the human heart."[634]

Caitanya[635] was born at Nadia in 1485 and came under the influence
of the Mâdhva sect. In youth he was a prodigy of learning,[636] but at
the age of about seventeen while on a pilgrimage to Gaya began to
display that emotional and even hysterical religious feeling which
marked all his teaching. He swooned at the mention of Kṛishṇa's name
and passed his time in dancing and singing hymns. At twenty-five he
became a Sannyâsî, and at the request of his mother, who did not wish
him to wander too far, settled in Puri near the temple of Jagannath.
Here he spent the rest of his life in preaching, worship and ecstatic
meditation, but found time to make a tour in southern India and
another to Brindaban and Benares. He appears to have left the
management of his sect largely to his disciples, Advaita, Nityânanda
and Haridas, and to have written nothing himself. But he evidently
possessed a gift of religious magnetism and exercised an extraordinary
influence on those who heard him preach or sing. He died or
disappeared before the age of fifty but apparently none of the stories
about his end merit credence.

Although the teaching of Caitanya is not so objectionable morally as
the doctrines of the Vallabhis, it follows the same line of making
religion easy and emotional and it is not difficult to understand how
his preaching, set forth with the eloquence which he possessed, won
converts from the lower classes by thousands. He laid no stress on
asceticism, approved of marriage and rejected all difficult rites and
ceremonies. The form of worship which he specially enjoined was the
singing of Kîrtans or hymns consisting chiefly in a repetition of the
divine names accompanied by music and dancing. Swaying the body and
repetition of the same formula or hymn are features of emotional
religion found in the most diverse regions, for instance among the
Rufais or Howling Dervishes, at Welsh revival meetings and in negro
churches in the Southern States. It is therefore unnecessary to seek
any special explanation in India but perhaps there is some connection
between the religious ecstasies of Vaishṇavas and Dervishes. Within
Caitanya's sect, caste was not observed. He is said to have admitted
many Moslims to membership and to have regarded all worshippers of
Kṛishṇa as equal. Though caste has grown up again, yet the old
regulation is still in force inside the temple of Jagannath at Puri.
Within the sacred enclosure all are treated as of one caste and eat
the same sacred food. In Caitanya's words "the mercy of God regards
neither tribe nor family."

His theology[637] shows little originality. The deity is called
Bhagavân or more frequently Hari. His majesty and omnipotence are
personified as Nârâyaṇa, his beauty and ecstasy as Kṛishṇa. The
material world is defined as _bhedâbhedaprakâśa_, a manifestation of
the deity as separate and yet not separate from him, and the soul is
_vibhinnâṁśa_ or a detached portion of him. Some souls are in
bondage to Prakṛiti or Mâyâ, others through faith and love attain
deliverance. Reason is useless in religious matters, but _ruci_ or
spiritual feeling has a quick intuition of the divine.

Salvation is obtained by Bhakti, faith or devotion, which embraces and
supersedes all other duties. This devotion means absolute
self-surrender to the deity and love for him which asks for no return
but is its own reward. "He who expects remuneration for his love acts
as a trader." In this devotion there are five degrees: (_a_) sânti,
calm meditation, (_b_) dâsya, servitude, (_c_) sâkhya, friendship,
(_d_) vâtsalya, love like that of a child for its parent, (_e_)
mâdhurya, love like that of a woman for a lover. All these sentiments
are found in God and this combined ecstasy is an eternal principle
identified with Hari himself, just as in the language of the Gospels,
God is love. Though Caitanya makes love the crown and culmination of
religion, the worship of his followers is not licentious, and it is
held that the right frame of mind is best attained by the recitation
of Kṛishṇa's names especially Hari.

The earlier centre of Caitanya's sect was his birthplace, Nadia, but
both during his life and afterwards his disciples frequented Brindaban
and sought out the old sacred sites which were at that time neglected.
At the beginning of the nineteenth century Lala Baba, a wealthy
Bengali merchant, became a mendicant and visited Muttra. Though he had
renounced the world, he still retained his business instincts and
bought up the villages which contained the most celebrated shrines and
were most frequented by pilgrims. The result was a most profitable
speculation and the establishment of Caitanya's Church in the district
of Braj, which thus became the holy land of both the great Krishnaite
sects. The followers of Caitanya at the present day are said to be
divided into Gosains, or ecclesiastics, who are the descendants of the
founder's original disciples, the Vrikats or celibates, and the laity.
Besides the celibates there are several semi-monastic orders who adopt
the dress of monks but marry. They have numerous maṭhs at Nadia and
elsewhere. Like the Vallabhis, this sect deifies its leaders.
Caitanya, Nityânanda and Advaita are called the three masters (Prabhû)
and believed to be a joint incarnation of Kṛishṇa, though according
to some only the first two shared the divine essence. Six of
Caitanya's disciples known as the six Gosains are also greatly
venerated and even ordinary religious teachers still receive an almost
idolatrous respect.

Though Caitanya was not a writer himself he exercised a great
influence on the literature of Bengal. In the opinion of so competent
a judge as Dinesh Chandra Sen, Bengali was raised to the status of a
literary language by the Vishnuite hymn-writers just as Pali was by
the Buddhists. Such hymns were written before the time of Caitanya but
after him they became extremely numerous[638] and their tone and style
are said to change. The ecstasies and visions of which they tell are
those described in his biographies and this emotional poetry has
profoundly influenced all classes in Bengal. But there was and still
is a considerable hostility between the Śâktas and Vishnuites.


A form of Vishnuism, possessing a special local flavour, is connected
with the Maratha country and with the names of Nâmdev, Tukârâm[639]
and Râmdâs, the spiritual preceptor of Śivaji. The centre of this
worship is the town of Pandharpur and I have not found it described as
a branch of any of the four Vishnuite Churches: but the facts that
Nâmdev wrote in Hindi as well as in Marathi, that many of his hymns
are included in the Granth, and that his sentiments show affinities to
the teaching of Nânak, suggest that he belonged to the school of
Râmânand. There is however a difficulty about his date. Native
tradition gives 1270 as the year of his birth but the language of his
poems both in Marathi and Hindi is said to be too modern for this
period and to indicate that he lived about 1400,[640] when he might
easily have felt the influence of Râmânand, for he travelled in the

Most of his poetry however has for its centre the temple of Pandharpur
where was worshipped a deity called Viṭṭhala, Viṭṭoba or
Pâṇḍurang. It is said that the first two names are dialectic
variations of Vishṇu, but that Pâṇḍurang is an epithet of
Śiva.[641] There is no doubt that the deity of Pandharpur has for many
centuries been identified with Kṛishṇa, who, as in Bengal, is god
the lover of the soul. But the hymns of the Marathas are less sensuous
and Kṛishṇa is coupled not with his mistress Râdhâ, but with his
wife Rukmiṇî. In fact Rukmiṇîpati or husband of Rukmiṇî is one of
his commonest titles. Nâmdev's opinions varied at different times and
perhaps in different moods: like most religious poets he cannot be
judged by logic or theology. Sometimes he inveighs against
idolatry--understood as an attempt to limit God to an image--but in
other verses he sings the praises of Pâṇḍurang, the local deity, as
the lord and creator of all. His great message is that God--by
whatever name he is called--is everywhere and accessible to all,
accessible without ceremonial or philosophy. "Vows, fasts and
austerities are not needful, nor need you go on pilgrimage. Be
watchful in your heart and always sing the name of Hari. Yoga,
sacrifices and renunciation are not needful. Love the feet of Hari.
Neither need you contemplate the absolute. Hold fast to the love of
Hari's name. Says Nâmâ, be steadfast in singing the name and then Hari
will appear to you."[642]

Tukârâm is better known than Nâmdev and his poetry which was part of
the intellectual awakening that accompanied the rise of the Maratha
power is still a living force wherever Marathi is spoken. He lived
from 1607 to 1649 and was born in a family of merchants near Poona.
But he was too generous to succeed in trade and a famine, in which one
of his two wives died, brought him to poverty. Thenceforth he devoted
himself to praying and preaching. He developed a great aptitude for
composing rhyming songs in irregular metre,[643] and like Caitanya he
held services consisting of discourses interspersed with such songs,
prepared or extempore. In spite of persecution by the Brahmans, these
meetings became very popular and were even attended by the great

His creed is the same as that of Nâmdev and finds expression in verses
such as these. "This thy nature is beyond the grasp of mind or words,
and therefore I have made love a measure. I measure the Endless by the
measure of love: he is not to be truly measured otherwise. Thou art
not to be found by Yoga, sacrifice, fasting, bodily exertions or
knowledge. O Keśava, accept the service which we render."

But if he had no use for asceticism he also feared the passions. "The
Endless is beyond; between him and me are the lofty mountains of
desire and anger. I cannot ascend them and find no pass." In poems
which are apparently later, his tone is more peaceful. He speaks much
of the death of self, of purity of heart, and of self-dedication to
God. "Dedicate all you do to God and have done with it: Tukâ says, do
not ask me again and again: nothing else is to be taught but this."

Maratha critics have discussed whether Tukârâm followed the monistic
philosophy of Śaṅkara or not and it must be confessed that his
utterances are contradictory. But the gist of the matter is that he
disliked not so much monism as philosophy. Hence he says "For me there
is no use in the Advaita. Sweet to me is the service of thy feet. The
relation between God and his devotee is a source of high joy. Make me
feel this, keeping me distinct from thee." But he can also say almost
in the language of the Upanishads. "When salt is dissolved in water,
what remains distinct? I have thus become one in joy with thee and
have lost myself in thee. When fire and camphor are brought together,
is there any black remnant? Tukâ says, thou and I were one light."


There are interesting Vishnuite sects in Assam.[644] Until the
sixteenth century Hinduism was represented in those regions by
Śâktism, which was strong among the upper classes, though the mass of
the people still adhered to their old tribal worships. The first
apostle of Vishnuism was Śaṅkar Deb in the sixteenth century. He
preached first in the Ahom kingdom but was driven out by the
opposition of Śâktist Brahmans, and found a refuge at Barpeta. He
appears to have inculcated the worship of Kṛishṇa as the sole divine
being and to have denounced idolatry, sacrifices and caste. These
views were held even more strictly by his successor, Madhab Deb, a
writer of repute whose works, such as the Nâmghosha and Ratnâvalî, are
regarded as scripture by his followers. Though the Brahmans of Assam
were opposed to the introduction of Vishnuism and a section of them
continued to instigate persecutions for two centuries or more, yet
when it became clear that the new teaching had a great popular
following another section were anxious that it should not pass out of
sacerdotal control and organized it as a legitimate branch of
Hinduism. While fully recognizing the doctrine of justification by
faith, they also made provision for due respect to caste and Brahmanic

According to the last census of India[645] the common view that
Śaṅkar Deb drew his inspiration from Caitanya meets with criticism in
Assam. His biographies say that he lived 120 years and died in 1569.
It has been generally assumed that his age has been exaggerated but
that the date of his death is correct. If it can be proved, as
contended, that he was preaching in 1505, there would be no difficulty
in admitting that he was independent of Caitanya and belonged to an
earlier phase of the Vishnuite movement which produced the activity of
Vallabha and the poetry of Vidyâpati. It is a further argument for
this independence that he taught the worship of Vishṇu only and not
of Râdhâ and discountenanced the use of images. On the other hand it
is stated that he sojourned in Bengal and it appears that soon after
his death his connection with the teaching of Caitanya was recognized
in Assam.

At present there are three sects in Assam. Firstly, the Mahâpurushias,
who follow more or less faithfully the doctrines of Śaṅkar and
Madhab. They admit Śûdras as religious teachers and abbots, and lay
little stress on caste while not entirely rejecting it. They abstain
almost entirely from the use of images in worship, the only exception
being that a small figure of Kṛishṇa in the form of Vaikuṇṭha
Nâtha is found in their temples. It is not the principal object of
veneration but stands to the left of a throne on which lies a copy of
the Nâmghosha.[646] This, together with the foot-prints of Śaṅkar and
Madhab, receives the homage of the faithful. The chief centre of the
Mahâpurushias is Barpeta, but they have also monasteries on the Majuli
Island and elsewhere. Secondly, the Bamunia monasteries, with a large
lay following, represent a brahmanized form of the Mahâpurushia faith.
This movement began in the life-time of Madhab. Many of his Brahman
disciples seceded from him and founded separate communities which
insisted on the observance of caste (especially on the necessity of
religious teachers being Brahmans) but tolerated image-worship and the
use of some kinds of flesh as food. Though this sect was persecuted by
the Ahom kings,[647] they were strong enough to maintain themselves. A
compromise was effected in the reign of Rudra Singh (1696-1714), by
which their abbots were shown all honour but were assigned the Majuli
Island in the upper Brahmaputra as their chief, if not only,
residence. This island is still studded with numerous _Sattras_ or
monasteries, the largest of which contain three or four hundred monks,
known as Bhakats (Bhaktas). They take no vows and wear no special
costume but are obliged to be celibate while they remain in the
sattra. The Mahâpurushia and Bamunia monasteries are of similar
appearance, and in externals (though not in doctrine) seem to have
been influenced by the Lamaism of the neighbouring regions of Sikhim
and Tibet. The temples are long, low, wooden buildings, covered by
roofs of corrugated iron or thatched, and containing inside a nave
with two rows of wooden pillars which leads to a sanctuary divided
from it by a screen. The third sect are the Moamarias, of political
rather than religious importance. They represent a democratic element,
recruited from non-Hindu tribes, which seceded even in the life-time
of Śaṅkar Deb. They appear to reject nearly all Hindu observances and
to worship aboriginal deities as well as Kṛishṇa. Little is known of
their religious teaching, if indeed they have anything worthy of the
name, but in the latter half of the eighteenth century they distracted
the kingdom of Assam with a series of rebellions which were suppressed
with atrocious cruelty.

Caitanya is said to have admitted some Mohammedans as members of his
sect. The precedent has not been followed among most branches of his
later adherents but a curious half-secret sect, found throughout
Bengal in considerable numbers and called Kartâbhajas,[648] appears to
represent an eccentric development of his teaching in combination with
Mohammedan elements. Both Moslims and Hindus belong to this sect. They
observe the ordinary social customs of the class to which they belong,
but it is said that those who are nominal Moslims neither circumcize
themselves nor frequent mosques. The founder, called Ram Smaran Pal,
was born in the Nadia district about 1700, and his chief doctrine is
said to have been that there is only one God who is incarnate in the
Head of the sect or Kartâ.[649] For the first few generations the
headship was invested in the founder and his descendants but
dissensions occurred and there is now no one head: the faithful can
select any male member of the founder's family as the object of their
devotion. The Kartâ claims to be the owner of every human body and is
said to exact rent for the soul's tenancy thereof. No distinction of
caste or creed is recognized and hardly any ceremonies are prescribed
but meat and wine are forbidden, the mantra of the sect is to be
repeated five times a day and Friday is held sacred. These observances
seem an imitation of Mohammedanism.[650]


[Footnote 604: See Bhandarkar, _Vaishn. and Śaivism_, pp. 66 ff.,
Grierson in _Ind. Ant._ 1893, p. 226, and also in article Ramanandi in
_E.R.E._; Farquhar, _J.R.A.S._1920, pp. 185 ff. Though Indian
tradition seems to be unanimous in giving 1299 A.D. (4400 Kali) as the
date of Râmânand's birth, all that we know about himself and his
disciples makes it more probable that he was born nearly a century
later. The history of ideas, too, becomes clear and intelligible if we
suppose that Râmânand, Kabir and Nanak flourished about 1400, 1450 and
1500 respectively. One should be cautious in allowing such arguments
to outweigh unanimous tradition, but tradition also assigns to
Râmânand an improbably long life, thus indicating a feeling that he
influenced the fifteenth century. Also the traditions as to the number
of teachers between Râmânuja and Râmânand differ greatly.]

[Footnote 605: One of them is found in the Granth of the Sikhs.]

[Footnote 606: Râmânand's maxim was "Jâti pâti puchai nahikoi: Hari-ku
bhajai so Hari-kau hoî." Let no one ask a man's caste or sect. Whoever
adores God, he is God's own.]

[Footnote 607: Bhattacharya, _Hindu Castes and Sects_, p. 445.]

[Footnote 608: Thus we have the poems of Kabir, Nânak and others
contained in the Granth of the Sikhs and tending to Mohammedanism: the
hymns wherein Mirâ Bai, Vallabha and his disciples praised Kṛishṇa
in Râjputâna and Braj: the poets inspired by Caitanya in Bengal:
Śaṅkar Deb and Madhab Deb in Assam: Namdev and Tukârâm in the Maratha

[Footnote 609: See Beames, _J.A._ 1873, pp. 37 ff., and Grierson,
_Maithili Christomathy_, pp. 34 ff., in extra No. to _Journ. As. Soc.
Bengal_, Part I. for 1882 and Coomaraswamy's illustrated translation
of Vidyâpati, 1915. It is said that a land grant proves he was a
celebrated Pandit in 1400. The Bengali Vaishṇava poet Chaṇḍî Dâs
was his contemporary.]

[Footnote 610: See Grierson, Gleanings from the Bhaktamâlâ, _J.R.A.S._
1909 and 1910.]

[Footnote 611: _Modern Vernacular Literature of Hindustan_, 1889, p.

[Footnote 612: Similarly Dinesh Chandra Sen (_Lang, and Lit. of
Bengal_, p. 170) says that Krittivâsa's translation of the Râmâyaṇa
"is the Bible of the people of the Gangetic Valley and it is for the
most part the peasants who read it." Krittivâsa was born in 1346 and
roughly contemporary with Râmânand. Thus the popular interest in Râma
was roused in different provinces at the same time.

He also wrote several other poems, among which may be mentioned the
Gîtâvalî and Kavittâvalî, dedicated respectively to the infancy and
the heroic deeds of Râma, and the Vinaya Pattrikâ or petition, a
volume of hymns and prayers.]

[Footnote 613: See Growse's _Translation_, vol. I. pp. 60, 62.]

[Footnote 614: Ib. vol. III. p. 190, cf. vol. I. p. 88 and vol. III.
pp. 66-67.]

[Footnote 615: Ib. vol. II. p. 54.]

[Footnote 616: Ib. vol. I. p. 77.]

[Footnote 617: Growse, _l.c._ vol. II. p. 200, cf. p. 204. Mâyâ who sets
the whole world dancing and whose actions no one can understand is
herself set dancing with all her troupe, like an actress on the stage,
by the play of the Lord's eyebrows. Cf. too, for the infinity of
worlds, pp. 210, 211.]

[Footnote 618: Growse aptly compares St. Paul, "I had not known evil
but by the law."]

[Footnote 619: Ib. vol. II. p. 223.]

[Footnote 620: Ib. vol. II. p. 196.]

[Footnote 621: The Vishnuite sect called Nimâvat is said to have been
exterminated by Jains (Grierson in _E.R.E._ sub. V. Bhakti-mârga, p.
545). This may point to persecution during this period.]

[Footnote 622: For Vallabhâcârya and his sect, see especially Growse,
_Mathurâ, a district memoir_, 1874; _History of the sect of the
Mahârâjas in western India_ (anonymous), 1865. Also Bhandarkar,
_Vaishṇ. and Saivism_, pp. 76-82 and Farquhar, _Outlines of Relig.
Lit. of India_, pp. 312-317.]

[Footnote 623: The principal of them are the Siddhânta-Rahasya and the
Bhâgavata-Tîka-Subodhini, a commentary on the Bhâgavata Purâṇa. This
is a short poem of only seventeen lines printed in Growse's _Mathurâ_,
p. 156. It professes to be a revelation from the deity to the
effect that sin can be done away with by union with Brahma
(Brahma-sambandha-karaṇât). Other authoritative works of the sect are
the Śuddhâdvaita mârtaṇḍa, Sakalâcâryamatasangraha and
Prameyaratnârṇava, all edited in the Chowkhamba Sanskrit series.]

[Footnote 624: Cf. the use of the word poshaṇam in the Bhâgavata
Purâṇa, II. X.]

[Footnote 625: Growse, _Mathurâ_, p. 157, says this formula is based
on the Nâradapancarâtra. It is called Samarpana, dedication, or
Brahma-sambandha, connecting oneself with the Supreme Being.]

[Footnote 626: For instance "Whoever holds his Guru and Kṛishṇa to
be distinct and different shall be born again as a bird." Harirayaji
32. Quoted in _History of the Sect of the Mahârâjas_, p. 82.]

[Footnote 627: In the ordinary ceremonial the Maharaj stands beside
the image of Kṛishṇa and acknowledges the worship offered. Sometimes
he is swung in a swing with or without the image. The hymns sung on
these occasions are frequently immoral. Even more licentious are the
meetings or dances known as Ras Mandali and Ras Lîlâ. A meal of hot
food seasoned with aphrodisiacs is also said to be provided in the
temples. The water in which the Maharaj's linen or feet have been
washed is sold for a high price and actually drunk by devotees.]

[Footnote 628: Strictly speaking the Râdhâ-Vallabhis are not an
offshoot of Vallabha's school, but of the Nimâvats or of the
Mâdhva-sampradâya. The theory underlying their strange practices seems
to be that Kṛishṇa is the only male and that all mankind should
cultivate sentiments of female love for him. See Macnicol, _Indian
Theism_, p. 134.]

[Footnote 629: But other explanations are current such as Lord of the
senses or Lord of the Vedas.]

[Footnote 630: See Growse, _Mathurâ_, p. 153. I can entirely confirm
what he says. This mean, inartistic, dirty place certainly suggests
moral depravity.]

[Footnote 631: His real name was Sahajânanda.]

[Footnote 632: Caran Das (1703-1782) founded a somewhat similar sect
which professed to abolish idolatry and laid great stress on ethics.
See Grierson's article Caran Das in _E.R.E._]

[Footnote 633: But Vishnuite writers distinguish _kâma_ desire and
_prema_ love, just as _ερως_ and _ἁγἁπη_ are distinguished in Greek.
See Dinesh Chandra Sen, _l.c._ p. 485.]

[Footnote 634: Dinesh Chandra Sen, _History of Bengali Language and
Literature_, pp. 134-5.]

[Footnote 635: For Caitanya see Dinesh Chandra Sen, _History of
Bengali Language and Lit._ chap. V. and Jadunath Sarkar, _Chaitanya's
Pilgrimages and teachings from the Caitanya-Caritâmrita_ of Kṛishṇa
Das (1590) founded on the earlier Caitanya-Caritra of Brindavan.
Several of Caitanya's followers were also voluminous writers.]

[Footnote 636: He married the daughter of a certain Vallabha who
apparently was not the founder of the Sect, as is often stated.]

[Footnote 637: The theology of the sect may be studied in Baladeva's
commentary on the Vedânta sûtras and his Prameya Ratnâvalî, both
contained in vol. V. of the _Sacred Books of the Hindus_. It would
appear that the sect regards itself as a continuation of the
Brahma-sampradâya but its tenets have more resemblance to those of

[Footnote 638: No less than 159 padakartâs or religious poets are
enumerated by Dinesh Chandra Sen. Several collections of these poems
have been published of which the principal is called Padakalpataru.]

[Footnote 639: See Bhandarkar, _Vaishṇ. and Śaivism_, pp. 87-90, and
Nicol, _Psalms of Maratha Saints_ which gives a bibliography. For
Nâmdev see also Macauliffe, _The Sikh Religion_, vol. VI. pp. 17-76.
For Ramdas see Rawlinson, _Sivaji the Maratha_, pp. 116 ff.]

[Footnote 640: Bhandarkar, _l.c._ p. 92. An earlier poet of this country
was Jñâneśvara who wrote a paraphrase of the Bhagavad-gîtâ in 1290.
His writings are said to be the first great landmark in Marathi

[Footnote 641: There is no necessary hostility between the worship of
Śiva and of Vishṇu. At Pandharpur pilgrims visit first a temple of
Śiva and then the principal shrine. This latter, like the temple of
Jagannath at Puri, is suspected of having been a Buddhist shrine. It
is called Vihâra, the principal festival is in the Buddhist Lent and
caste is not observed within its precincts.]

[Footnote 642: Quoted by Bhandarkar, p. 90. The subsequent quotations
are from the same source but I have sometimes slightly modified them
and compared them with the original, though I have no pretension to be
a Marathi scholar.]

[Footnote 643: Called Abhangs.]

[Footnote 644: See Eliot, Hinduism in Assam, _J.R.A.S._ 1910, pp.

[Footnote 645: _Census of India_, 1911, Assam, p. 41.]

[Footnote 646: Some authorities state that the sacred book thus
venerated is the Bhagavad-gîtâ, but at Kamalabari I made careful
enquiries and was assured it was the Nâmghosha.]

[Footnote 647: Especially Gadadhar Singh, 1681-96.]

[Footnote 648: See _Census of India_, 1901, Bengal, pp. 183-4 and
Bhattacharya, _Hindu Castes and Sects_, pp. 485-488.]

[Footnote 649: Karta, literally doer, is the name given to the
executive head of a joint family in Bengal. The sect prefer to call
themselves Bhabajanas or Bhagawanis.]

[Footnote 650: Another mixed sect is that of the Dhâmis in the Panna
state of Bundelkhand, founded by one Prannâth in the reign of
Aurungzeb. Their doctrine is a combination of Hinduism and Islam,
tending towards Krishnaism. See Russell, _Tribes and Castes of Central
Provinces_, p. 217.]




The Kartâbhajas mentioned at the end of the last chapter show a
mixture of Hinduism and Mohammedanism, and the mixture[651] is found
in other sects some of which are of considerable importance. A group
of these sects, including the Sikhs and followers of Kabir, arose in
the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. Their origin can be traced to
Râmânand but they cannot be called Vaishṇavas and they are clearly
distinguished from all the religious bodies that we have hitherto
passed in review. The tone of their writings is more restrained and
severe: the worshipper approaches the deity as a servant rather than a
lover: caste is rejected as useless: Hindu mythology is eschewed or
used sparingly. Yet in spite of these differences the essential
doctrines of Tulsi Das, Kabir and Nânak show a great resemblance. They
all believe in one deity whom they call by various names, but this
deity, though personal, remains of the Indian not of the Semitic type.
He somehow brings the world of transmigration into being by his power
of illusion, and the business of the soul is to free itself from the
illusion and return to him. Almost all these teachers, whether
orthodox or heterodox, had a singular facility for composing hymns,
often of high literary merit, and it is in these emotional utterances,
rather than in dogmatic treatises, that they addressed themselves to
the peoples of northern India.

The earliest of these mixed sects is that founded by Kabir.[652] He
appears to have been a Mohammedan weaver by birth, though tradition is
not unanimous on this point.[653] It is admitted, however, that he was
brought up among Moslims at Benares but became a disciple of Râmânand.
This suggests that he lived early in the fifteenth century.[654]
Another tradition says that he was summoned before Sikander Lodi
(1489-1517), but the details of his life are evidently legendary. We
only know that he was married and had a son, that he taught in
northern and perhaps central India and died at Maghar in the district
of Gorakhpur. There is significance, however, in the legend which
relates that after his decease Hindus and Mohammedans disputed as to
whether his body should be burned or buried. But when they raised the
cloth which covered the corpse, they found underneath it only a heap
of flowers. So the Hindus took part and burnt them at Benares and the
Moslims buried the rest at Maghar. His grave there is still in Moslim

In teaching Kabir stands midway between the two religions, but leaning
to the side of Hinduism. It is clear that this Hindu bias became
stronger in his followers, but it is not easy to separate his own
teaching from subsequent embellishments, for the numerous hymns and
sayings attributed to him are collected in compilations made after his
death, such as the Bijak and the Âdi-granth of the Sikhs. In hymns
which sound authentic he puts Hindus and Moslims on the same footing.

"Kabir is a child of Ram and Allah," he says, "and accepteth all Gurus
and Pirs." "O God, whether Allah or Ram, I live by thy name."

    "Make thy mind thy Kaaba, thy body its enclosing temple,
    Conscience its prime teacher.
    Then, O priest, call men to pray to that mosque
    Which hath five gates.
    The Hindus and Mussulmans have the same Lord."

But the formalities of both creeds are impartially condemned. "They
are good riders who keep aloof from the Veda and Koran."[655] Caste,
circumcision and idolatry are reprobated. The Hindu deities and their
incarnations are all dead: God was not in any of them.[656] Ram, it
would seem, should be understood not as Râmacandra but as a name of

Yet the general outlook is Hindu rather than Mohammedan. God is the
magician who brings about this illusory world in which the soul
wanders.[657] "I was in immobile and mobile creatures, in worms and in
moths; I passed through many various births. But when I assumed a
human body, I was a Yogi, a Yati, a penitent, a Brahmacâri: sometimes
an Emperor and sometimes a beggar." Unlike the Sikhs, Kabir teaches
the sanctity of life, even of plants. "Thou cuttest leaves, O flower
girl: in every leaf there is life." Release, as for all Hindus,
consists in escaping from the round of births and deaths. Of this he
speaks almost in the language of the Buddha.[658]

    "Though I have assumed many shapes, this is my last.
    The strings and wires of the musical instrument are all worn out:
    I am now in the power of God's name.
    I shall not again have to dance to the tune of birth and death.
    Nor shall my heart accompany on the drum."

This deliverance is accomplished by the union or identification of the
soul with God.

    "Remove the difference between thyself and God and thou shalt be
                                                 united with him....
    Him whom I sought without me, now I find within me....
    Know God: by knowing him thou shalt become as he.
    When the soul and God are blended no one can distinguish them."[659]

But if he sometimes writes like Śaṅkara, he also has the note of the
Psalms and Gospels. He has the sense of sin: he thinks of God in vivid
personal metaphors, as a lord, a bridegroom, a parent, both father and

    "Save me, O God, though I have offended thee....
    I forgot him who made me and did cleave unto strangers."
    "Sing, sing, the marriage song.
    The sovereign God hath come to my house as my husband....
    I obtained God as my bridegroom; so great has been my good

    "A mother beareth not in mind
    All the faults her son committeth.
    O, God, I am thy child:
    Why blottest thou not out my sins?" ...

    "My Father is the great Lord of the Earth;
    To that Father how shall I go?"[660]

The writings of Kabir's disciples such as the Sukh Nidhan attributed
to Srut Gopal (and written according to Westcott about 1729) and the
still later Amar Mul, which is said to be representative of the modern
Kabirpanth, show a greater inclination to Pantheism, though caste and
idolatry are still condemned. In these works, which relate the
conversion of Dharm Das afterwards one of Kabir's principal followers,
Kabir is identified with the Creator and then made a pantheistic deity
much as Kṛishṇa in the Bhagavad-gîtâ.[661] He is also the true Guru
whose help is necessary for salvation. Stress is further laid on the
doctrine of Śabda, or the divine word. Hindu theology was familiar
with this expression as signifying the eternal self-existent
revelation contained in the Vedas. Kabir appears to have held that
articulate sound is an expression of the Deity and that every letter,
as a constituent of such sound, has a meaning. But these letters are
due to Mâyâ: in reality there is no plurality of sound. Ram seems to
have been selected as the divine name, because its brevity is an
approach to this unity, but true knowledge is to understand the
Letterless One, that is the real name or essence of God from which all
differentiation of letters has vanished. Apart from some special
metaphors the whole doctrine set forth in the Sukh Nidhan and Amar
Mul is little more than a loose Vedantism, somewhat reminiscent of

The teaching of Kabir is known as the Kabirpanth. At present there are
both Hindus and Mohammedans among his followers and both have
monasteries at Maghar where he is buried. The sect numbers in all
about a million.[663] It is said that the two divisions have little in
common except veneration of Kabir and do not intermix, but they both
observe the practice of partaking of sacred meals, holy water,[664]
and consecrated betel nut. The Hindu section is again divided into two
branches known as Father (Bap) and Mother (Mai).

Though there is not much that is original in the doctrines of Kabir,
he is a considerable figure in Hindi literature and may justly be
called epoch-making as marking the first fusion of Hinduism and Islam
which culminates and attains political importance in the Sikhs. Other
offshoots of his teaching are the Satnâmîs, Râdhâ-swâmis and
Dâdupanthis. The first were founded or reorganized in 1750 by a
certain Jag-jivan-das. They do not observe caste and in theory adore
only the True Name of God but in practice admit ordinary Hindu
worship. The Râdhâ-swâmis, founded in 1861, profess a combination of
the Kabirpanth with Christian ideas. The Dâdupanthis show the
influence of the military spirit of Islam. They were founded by Dâdu,
a cotton weaver of Ahmedabad who flourished in Akbar's reign and died
about 1603. He insisted on the equality of mankind, vegetarianism,
abstinence from alcohol and strict celibacy. Hence the sect is
recruited by adopting boys, most of whom are trained as soldiers. In
such conditions the Dâdupanthis cannot increase greatly but they
number about nine thousand and are found chiefly in the state of
Jaipur, especially in the town of Naraina.[665]


The Sikh religion[666] is of special interest since it has created not
only a political society but also customs so distinctive that those
who profess it rank in common esteem as a separate race. The founder
Nânak lived from 1469 to 1538 and was born near Lahore. He was a Hindu
by birth but came under Mohammedan influence and conceived the idea of
reconciling the two faiths. He was attracted by the doctrines of Kabir
and did not at first claim to teach a new religion. He wished to unite
Hindus and Moslims and described himself simply as Guru or teacher and
his adherents as Sikhs or disciples.

He spent the greater part of his life wandering about India and is
said to have reached Mecca. A beautiful story relates that he fell
asleep with his feet turned towards the Kaaba. A mollah kicked him and
asked how he dared to turn his feet and not his head towards God. But
he answered, "Turn my feet in a direction where God is not." He was
attended on his wanderings by Mardâna, a lute-player, who accompanied
the hymns which he never failed to compose when a thought or adventure
occurred to him. These compositions are similar to those of Kabir, but
seem to me of inferior merit. They are diffuse and inordinately long;
the Japji for instance, which every Sikh ought to recite as his daily
prayer, fills not less than twenty octavo pages. Yet beautiful and
incisive passages are not wanting. When at the temple of Jagannath, he
was asked to take part in the evening worship at which lights were
waved before the god while flowers and incense were presented on
golden salvers studded with pearls. But he burst out into song.[667]

    "The sun and moon, O Lord, are thy lamps, the firmament
    thy salver and the orbs of the stars the pearls set therein.

    "The perfume of the sandal tree is thy incense; the wind is
    thy fan; all the forests are thy flowers, O Lord of light."

Though Nânak is full of Hindu allusions he is more Mohammedan in tone
than Kabir, and the ritual of Sikh temples is modelled on the
Mohammedan rather than on the Hindu pattern. The opening words of the
Japji are: "There is but one God, whose name is true, the
Creator"[668] and he is regarded rather as the ruler of the world than
as a spirit finding expression in it. "By his order" all things
happen. "By obeying him" man obtains happiness and salvation. "There
is no limit to his mercy and his praises." In the presence of God "man
has no power and no strength." Such sentiments have a smack of
Mohammed and Nânak sometimes uses the very words of the Koran as when
he says that God has no companion. And though the penetrating spirit
of the Vedânta infects this regal monotheism, yet the doctrine of Mâyâ
is set forth in unusual phraseology: "God himself created the world
and himself gave names to things. He made Mâyâ by his power: seated,
he beheld his work with delight."

In other compositions attributed to Nânak greater prominence is given
to Mâyâ and to the common Hindu idea that creation is a self-expansion
of the deity. Metempsychosis is taught and the divine name is Hari.
This is characteristic of the age, for Nânak was nearly a contemporary
of Caitanya and Vallabhâcârya. For Kabir, the disciple of Râmânanda,
the name was Ram.

Nânak was sufficiently conscious of his position as head of a sect to
leave a successor as Guru,[669] but there is no indication that at
this time the Sikhs differed materially from many other religious
bodies who reprobated caste and idolatry. Under the fourth Guru, Ram
Das, the beginnings of a change appear. His strong personality
collected many wealthy adherents and with their offerings he purchased
the tank of Amritsar[670] and built in its midst the celebrated Golden
Temple. He appointed his son Arjun as Guru in 1581, just before his
death: the succession was made hereditary and henceforth the Gurus
became chiefs rather than spiritual teachers. Arjun assumed some of
the insignia of royalty: a town grew up round the sacred tank and
became the centre of a community; a tax was collected from all Sikhs
and they were subjected to special and often salutary legislation.
Infanticide, for instance, was strictly forbidden. With a view of
providing a code and standard Arjun compiled the Granth or Sikh
scriptures, for though hymns and prayers composed by Nânak and others
were in use there was as yet no authorized collection of them. The
example of Mohammedanism no doubt stimulated the desire to possess a
sacred book and the veneration of the scriptures increased with time.
The Granth now receives the same kind of respect as the Koran and the
first sight of a Sikh temple with a large open volume on a
reading-desk cannot fail to recall a mosque.

Arjun's compilation is called the Âdi-granth, or original book, to
distinguish it from the later additions made by Guru Govind. It
comprises hymns and prayers by Nânak and the four Gurus who followed
him (including Arjun himself), Râmânand, Kabir and others, amounting
to thirty-five writers in all. The list is interesting as testifying
to the existence of a great body of oral poetry by various authors
ranging from Râmânand, who had not separated himself from orthodox
Vishnuism, to Arjun, the chief of the Sikh national community. It was
evidently felt that all these men had one inspiration coming from one
truth and even now unwritten poems of Nânak are current in Bihar. The
Granth is written in a special alphabet known as Gurmukhi[671] and
contains both prose and poetical pieces in several languages: most are
in old western Hindi[672] but some are in Panjabi and Marathi.

But though in compiling a sacred book and in uniting the temporal and
spiritual power Arjun was influenced by the spirit of Mohammedanism,
this is not the sort of imitation which makes for peace. The
combination of Hinduism and Islam resulted in the production of a
special type of Hindu peculiarly distasteful to Moslims and not much
loved by other Hindus. Much of Arjun's activity took place in the
later years of the Emperor Akbar. This most philosophic and tolerant
of princes abandoned Mohammedanism after 1579, remitted the special
taxes payable by non-Moslims and adopted many Hindu observances.
Towards the end of his life he promulgated a new creed known as the
Din-i-ilahi or divine faith. This eclectic and composite religion
bears testimony to his vanity as well as to his large sympathies, for
it recognized him as the viceregent or even an incarnation of God. It
would appear that the singular little work called the Allopanishad or
Allah Upanishad[673] was written in connection with this movement. It
purports to be an Upanishad of the Atharva Veda and can hardly be
described as other than a forgery. It declares that "the Allah of the
prophet Muhammad Akbar[674] is the God of Gods" and identifies him
with Mitra, Varuṇa, the sun, moon, water, Indra, etc. Akbar's
religion did not long survive his death and never flourished far from
the imperial court, but somewhat later (1656) Muhammad Dara Shukoh,
the son of Shah Jehan, caused a Persian translation of about fifty
Upanishads, known as the Oupnekhat,[675] to be prepared. The general
temper of the period was propitious to the growth and immunity of
mixed forms of belief, but the warlike and semi-political character of
the Sikh community brought trouble on it.

Arjun attracted the unfavourable attention of Akbar's successor,
Jehangir,[676] and was cast into prison where he died. The Sikhs took
up arms and henceforth regarded themselves as the enemies of the
government, but their strength was wasted by internal dissensions. The
ninth Guru, Teg-Bahadur, was executed by Aurungzeb. Desire to avenge
this martyrdom and the strenuous character of the tenth Guru, Govind
Singh (1675-1708), completed the transformation of the Sikhs into a
church militant devoted to a holy war.

Though the most aggressive and uncompromising features of Sikhism are
due to the innovations of Govind, he was so far from being a
theological bigot that he worshipped Durgâ and was even said to have
offered human sacrifices. But the aim of all his ordinances was to
make his followers an independent body of fighting men. They were to
return the salutation of no Hindu and to put to death every
Mohammedan. The community was called Khalsa:[677] within it there was
perfect equality: every man was to carry a sword and wear long hair
but short trousers. Converts, or recruits, came chiefly from the
fighting tribes of the Jats, but in theory admission was free. The
initiatory ceremony, which resembled baptism, was performed with sugar
and water stirred with a sword, and the neophyte vowed not to worship
idols, to bow to none except a Sikh Guru, and never to turn his back
on the enemy. To give these institutions better religious sanction,
Govind composed a supplement to the Granth, called Daśama Pâdshâh ka
Granth or book of the tenth prince. It consists of four parts, all in
verse, and is said to inculcate war as persistently as Nânak had
inculcated meekness and peace. To give his institutions greater
permanence and prevent future alterations Govind refused to appoint
any human successor and bade the Sikhs consider the Granth as their
Guru. "Whatsoever ye shall ask of it, it will show you" he said, and
in obedience to his command the book is still invested with a kind of
personality and known as Granth Sahib.

Govind spent most of his time in wars with Aurungzeb marked by
indomitable perseverance rather than success. Towards the end of his
life he retired into Malwa and resided at a place called Damdama. The
accounts of his latter days are somewhat divergent. According to one
story he made his peace with the Mughals and accepted a military
command under the successor of Aurungzeb but it is more commonly
asserted that he was assassinated by a private enemy. Even more
troublous were the days of his successor Banda. Since Govind had
abolished the Guruship, he could not claim to be more than a temporal
chief, but what he lacked in spiritual authority he made amends for in
fanaticism. The eight years of his leadership were spent in a war of
mutual extermination waged with the Moslims of the Panjab and
diversified only by internal dissensions. At last he was captured and
the sect was nearly annihilated by the Emperor Farukhsîyar. According
to the ordinary account this victory was followed by an orgy of
torture and Banda was barbarously executed after witnessing during
seven days the torments of his followers and kinsmen. We read with
pleasure but incredulity that one division of the Sikhs believe that
he escaped and promulgated his peculiar doctrines in Sind. Asiatics do
not relish the idea that the chosen of God can suffer violent death.

The further history of the Sikhs is political rather than religious,
and need not detain us here. Despite the efforts of the Mughals to
exterminate them, they were favoured by the disturbed state of the
country in the early decades of the eighteenth century, for the raids
of Afghans and Persians convulsed and paralyzed the empire of Delhi.
The government of the Khalsa passed into the hands of a body of
fanatics, called Akâlis, but the decision of grave matters rested with
a council of the whole community which occasionally met at Amritsar.
Every Sikh claimed to have joined the confederacy as an independent
soldier, bound to fight under his military leaders but otherwise
exempt from control, and entitled to a share of land. This absolute
independence, being unworkable in practice, was modified by the
formation of Misals or voluntary associations, of which there were at
one time twelve. From the middle of the eighteenth century onwards the
Sikhs were masters of the Panjab and their great chief Ranjit Singh
(1797-1839) succeeded in converting the confederacy into a despotic
monarchy. Their power did not last long after his death and the Panjab
was conquered by the British in the two wars of 1846 and 1849.

With the loss of political independence, the differences between the
Sikhs and other Hindus tended to decrease. This was natural, for
nearly all their strictly religious tenets can be paralleled in
Hinduism. Guru Govind waged no war against polytheism but wished to
found a religious commonwealth equally independent of Hindu castes and
Mohammedan sultans. For some time his ordinances were successful in
creating a tribe, almost a nation. With the collapse of the Sikh
state, the old hatred of Mohammedanism remained, but the Sikhs
differed from normal Hindus hardly more than such sects as the
Lingâyats, and, as happened with decadent Buddhism, the unobtrusive
pressure of Hindu beliefs and observances tended to obliterate those
differences. The Census of India,[678] 1901, enumerated three degrees
of Sikhism. The first comprises a few zealots called Akâlis who
observe all the precepts of Govind. The second class are the Guru
Govind Sikhs, who observe the Guru's main commands, especially the
prohibition to smoke and cut the hair. Lastly, there are a
considerable number who profess a respect for the Guru but follow
Hindu beliefs and usages wholly or in part. Sikhism indeed reproduces
on a small scale the changeableness and complexity of Hinduism, and
includes associations called Sabhâ, whose members aim at restoring or
maintaining what they consider to be the true faith. In 1901 there was
a tendency for Sikhs to give up their peculiarities and describe
themselves as ordinary Hindus, but in the next decade a change of
sentiment among these waverers caused the Sikh community as registered
to increase by thirty-seven per cent. and a period of religious zeal
is reported.[679]


[Footnote 651: It is exemplified by the curious word an-had
_limitless_, being the Indian negative prefix added to the arabic word
_had_ used in the Sikh Granth and by Caran Das as a name of God.]

[Footnote 652: See especially G.H. Westcott, _Kabir and the Kabir
Panth_, and Macauliffe, _Sikh Religion_, vol. vi. pp. 122-316. Also
Wilson, _Essays on the religion of the Hindus_, vol. I. pp. 68-98.
Garcin de Tassy, _Histoire de la Littérature Hindoue_, II. pp.
120-134. Bhandarkar, _Vaishṇ. and Śaivism_, pp. 67-73.]

[Footnote 653: The name Kabir seems to me decisive.]

[Footnote 654: Dadu who died about 1603 is said to have been fifth in
spiritual descent from Kabir.]

[Footnote 655: From a hymn in which the spiritual life is represented
as a ride. Macauliffe, VI. p. 156.]

[Footnote 656: But Hari is sometimes used by Kabir, especially in the
hymns incorporated in the Granth, as a name of God.]

[Footnote 657: Though Kabir writes as a poet rather than as a
philosopher he evidently leaned to the doctrine of illusion
(_vivartavâda_) rather than to the doctrine of manifestation or
development (_Pariṇâmavâda_). He regards Mâyâ as something evil, a
trick, a thief, a force which leads men captive, but which disappears
with the knowledge of God. "The illusion vanished when I recognized
him" (XXXIX.).]

[Footnote 658: He even uses the word nirvâṇa.]

[Footnote 659: From Kabir's acrostic. Macauliffe, VI. pp. 186 and 188.
It is possible that this is a later composition.]

[Footnote 660: Macauliffe, vi. pp. 230. 209, 202, 197.]

[Footnote 661: Westcott, _l.c._ p. 144, "I am the creator of this
world.... I am the seed and the tree ... all are contained in me--I live
within all and all live within me" and much to the same effect. Even
in the hymns of the Âdi Granth we find such phrases as "Now thou and I
have become one." (Macauliffe, vi. p. 180.)

This identification of Kabir with the deity is interesting as being a
modern example of what probably happened in the case of Kṛishṇa.
Similarly those who collected the hymns which form the sacred books of
the Sikhs and Kabirpanthis repeated the process which in earlier ages
produced the Ṛig Veda.]

[Footnote 662: "The Âtmâ mingles with Paramâtmâ, as the rivers flow
into the ocean. Only in this way can Paramâtmâ be found. The Âtmâ
without Śabda is blind and cannot find the path. He who sees Âtmâ-Râm
is present everywhere. All he sees is like himself. There is nought
except Brahmâ. I am he, I am the true Kabir." Westcott, p. 168.]

[Footnote 663: The Census of 1901 gives 843,171 but there is reason to
think the real numbers are larger.]

[Footnote 664: Consecrated by washing in it wooden sandals supposed to
represent the feet of Kabir. It is stated that they believe they eat
the body of Kabir at their sacred meal which perhaps points to
Christian influence. See Russell, _l.c._ pp. 239-240.]

[Footnote 665: See Russell, _Tribes and Castes of Central Provinces_,
p. 217, where it is said that some of them are householders.]

[Footnote 666: See especially Macauliffe, _The Sikh Religion_, six

[Footnote 667: Macauliffe, I. p. 82.]

[Footnote 668: The original is Kartâ purukh (=purusha), the creative
male. This phrase shows how Hindu habits of thought clung to Nânak.]

[Footnote 669: The Guru of the Sikhs are: (_a_) Nânak, 1469-1538,
(_b_) Angada, 1538-1552, (_c_) Amardas, 1552-1575, (_d_) Ramdas,
1575-1581, (_e_) Arjun, 1581-1606, (_f_) Har-Govind, 1606-1639, (_g_)
Har-Rai, 1639-1663, (_h_) Har-Kisan, 1663-1666, (_i_) Teg-Bahadur,
1666-1675, (_j_) Govind Singh, 1675-1708.]

[Footnote 670: Amritasaras the lake of nectar.]

[Footnote 671: It appears to be an arbitrary adaptation of the
Deva-nâgari characters. The shape of the letters is mostly the same
but new values are assigned to them.]

[Footnote 672: This is the description of the dialect given by
Grierson, the highest authority in such matters.]

[Footnote 673: See Rajendrala Mitra's article in _J.A.S.B._ XL. 1871,
pp. 170-176, which gives the Sanskrit text of the Upanishad. Also
Schrader, _Catalogue of Adyar Library_, 1908, pp. 136-7. Schrader
states that in the north of India the Allopanishad is recited by
Brahmans at the Vasantotsava and on other occasions: also that in
southern India it is generally believed that Moslims are skilled in
the Atharva Veda.]

[Footnote 674: _I.e._, not the Allah of the Koran.]

[Footnote 675: This Persian translation was rendered word for word
into very strange Latin by Anquetil Duperron (1801-2) and this Latin
version was used by Schopenhauer.]

[Footnote 676: He is said to have prayed for the success of the
Emperor's rebellious son.]

[Footnote 677: This Arabic word is interpreted in this context as
meaning the special portion (of God).]

[Footnote 678: _Census of India_, 1901, Panjab report, p. 122.]

[Footnote 679: _Provincial Geographies of India_, Panjab, Douie, 1916,
p. 117.]



Among the principal subdivisions of Hinduism must be reckoned the
remarkable religion known as Śâktism, that is the worship of Śakti or
Śiva's spouse under various names, of which Devî, Durgâ and Kâlî are
the best known. It differs from most sects in not being due to the
creative or reforming energy of any one human founder. It claims to be
a revelation from Śiva himself, but considered historically it appears
to be a compound of Hinduism with un-Aryan beliefs. It acquired great
influence both in the courts and among the people of north-eastern
India but without producing personalities of much eminence as teachers
or writers.

It would be convenient to distinguish Śâktism and Tantrism, as I have
already suggested. The former means the worship of a goddess or
goddesses, especially those who are regarded as forms of Śiva's
consort. Vishnuites sometimes worship female deities, but though the
worship of Lakshmî, Râdhâ and others may be coloured by imitation of
Śâktist practices, it is less conspicuous and seems to have a
different origin. Tantrism is a system of magical or sacramental
ritual, which professes to attain the highest aims of religion by such
methods as spells, diagrams, gestures and other physical exercises.
One of its bases is the assumption that man and the universe
correspond as microcosm and macrocosm and that both are subject to the
mysterious power of words and letters.

These ideas are not modern nor peculiar to any Indian sect. They are
present in the Vedic ceremonial, in the practices of the Yoga and even
in the teaching of the quasi-mussulman sect of Kabir, which attaches
great importance to the letters of the divine name. They harmonize
with the common Indian view that some form of discipline or physical
training is essential to the religious life. They are found in a
highly developed form among the Nambuthiris and other Brahmans of
southern India who try to observe the Vedic rules and in the Far East
among Buddhists of the Shingon or Chên-yen sect.[681] As a rule they
receive the name of Tantrism only when they are elaborated into a
system which claims to be a special dispensation for this age and to
supersede more arduous methods which are politely set aside as
practicable only for the hero-saints of happier times. Tantrism, like
salvation by faith, is a simplification of religion but on mechanical
rather than emotional lines, though its deficiency in emotion often
finds strange compensations.

But Tantrism is analogous not so much to justification by faith as to
sacramental ritual. The parallel may seem shocking, but most tantric
ceremonies are similar in idea to Christian sacraments and may be
called sacramental as correctly as magical. Even in the Anglican
Church baptism includes sprinkling with water (abhisheka), the sign of
the cross (nyâsa) and a formula (mantra), and if any one supposes that
a child so treated is sure of heaven whereas the future of the
unbaptized is dubious, he holds like the Tantrists that spiritual ends
can be attained by physical means. And in the Roman Church where the
rite includes exorcism and the use of salt, oil and lights, the
parallel is still closer. Christian mysticism has had much to do with
symbolism and even with alchemy,[682] and Zoroastrianism, which is
generally regarded as a reasonable religion, attaches extraordinary
importance to holy spells.[683] So Indian religions are not singular
in this respect, though the uncompromising thoroughness with which
they work out this like other ideas leads to startling results.

The worship of female deities becomes prominent somewhat late in
Indian literature and it does not represent--not to the same extent as
the Chinese cult of Kwan-yin for example--the better ideals of the
period when it appears. The goddesses of the Ṛig Veda are
insignificant: they are little more than names, and grammatically
often the feminine forms of their consorts. But this Veda is evidently
a special manual of prayer from which many departments of popular
religion were excluded. In the Atharva Veda many spirits with feminine
names are invoked and there is an inclination to personify bad
qualities and disasters as goddesses. But we do not find any goddess
who has attained a position comparable with that held by Durgâ, Cybele
or Astarte, though there are some remarkable hymns[684] addressed to
the Earth. But there is no doubt that the worship of goddesses
(especially goddesses of fertility) as great powers is both ancient
and widespread. We find it among the Egyptians and Semites, in Asia
Minor, in Greece, Italy, and among the Kelts. The goddess Anahit, who
was worshipped with immoral rites in Bactria, is figured on the coins
of the Kushans and must at one time have been known on the
north-western borders of India. At the present day Śîtalâ and in south
India Mariamman are goddesses of smallpox who require propitiation,
and one of the earliest deities known to have been worshipped by the
Tamils is the goddess Koṭṭavai.[685] Somewhat obscure but widely
worshipped are the powers known as the Mothers, a title which also
occurs in Keltic mythology. They are groups of goddesses varying in
number and often malevolent. As many as a hundred and forty are said
to be worshipped in Gujarat. The census of Bengal (1901) records the
worship of the earth, sun and rivers as females, of the snake
goddesses Manasâ and Jagat Gaurî and of numerous female demons who
send disease, such as the seven sisters, Ola Bibi, Jogini and the
Churels, or spirits of women who have died in childbirth.

The rites celebrated in honour of these deities are often of a
questionable character and include dances by naked women and offerings
of spirituous liquors and blood. Similar features are found in other
countries. Prostitution formed part of the worship of Astarte and
Anahit: the Tauric Artemis was adored with human sacrifices and Cybele
with self-inflicted mutilations. Similarly offerings of blood drawn
from the sacrificer's own body are enjoined in the Kâlikâ Purâṇa. Two
stages can be distinguished in the relations between these cults and
Hinduism. In the later stage which can be witnessed even at the
present day an aboriginal goddess or demon is identified with one of
the aspects (generally a "black" or fierce aspect) of Śiva's
spouse.[686] But such identification is facilitated by the fact that
goddesses like Kâlî, Bhairavî, Chinnamasṭakâ are not products of
purely Hindu imagination but represent earlier stages of amalgamation
in which Hindu and aboriginal ideas are already compounded. When the
smallpox goddess is identified with Kâlî, the procedure is correct,
for some popular forms of Kâlî are little more than an aboriginal
deity of pestilence draped with Hindu imagery and philosophy.

Some Hindu scholars demur to this derivation of Śâktism from lower
cults. They point to its refined and philosophic aspects; they see in
it the worship of a goddess, who can be as merciful as the Madonna,
but yet, since she is the goddess of nature, combines in one shape
life and death. May not the grosser forms of Śâktism be perversions
and corruptions of an ancient and higher faith? In support of this it
may be urged that the Buddhist goddess Târâ is as a rule a beautiful
and benevolent figure, though she can be terrible as the enemy of evil
and has clear affinities to Durgâ. Yet the history of Indian thought
does not support this view, but rather the view that Hinduism
incorporated certain ancient ideas, true and striking as ancient ideas
often are, but without purging them sufficiently to make them
acceptable to the majority of educated Indians.

The Yajur Veda[687] associates Rudra with a female deity called Ambikâ
or mother, who is however his sister, not his spouse. The earliest
forms of the latter seem to connect her with mountains. She is Umâ
Haimavatî, the daughter of the Himalayas, and Pârvatî, she of the
mountains, and was perhaps originally a sacred peak. In an interesting
but brief passage of the Kena Upanishad (III. 12 and IV. 1) Umâ
Haimavatî explains to the gods that a being whom they do not know is
Brahman. In later times we hear of a similar goddess in the Vindhyas,
Mahârânî Vindhyeśvarî, who was connected with human sacrifices and
Thugs.[688] Śiva's consort, like her Lord, has many forms classified
as white or benignant and black or terrible. Umâ belongs to the former
class but the latter (such as Kâlî, Durgâ, Câmundâ, Candâ and Karalâ)
are more important.[689] Female deities bearing names like these are
worshipped in most parts of India, literally from the Himalaya to Cape
Comorin, for the latter name is derived from Kumârî, the Virgin
goddess.[690] But the names Śâkta and Śâktism are usually restricted to
those sects in Bengal and Assam who worship the Consort of Śiva with
the rites prescribed in the Tantras.

Śâktism regards the goddess as the active manifestation of the
godhead. As such she is styled Śakti, or energy (whence the name
Śâkta), and is also identified with Mâyâ, the power which is
associated with Brahman and brings the phenomenal world into being.
Similar ideas appear in a philosophic form in the Sâṅkhya teaching.
Here the soul is masculine and passive: its task is to extricate and
isolate itself. But Prakṛiti or Nature is feminine and active: to her
is due the evolution of the universe: she involves the soul in actions
which cause pain but she also helps the work of liberation.[691] In
its fully developed form the doctrine of the Tantras teaches that
Śakti is not an emanation or aspect of the deity. There is no
distinction between Brahman and Śakti. She is Parabrahman and
_parâtparâ_, Supreme of the Supreme.

The birthplace of Śâktism as a definite sect seems to have been
north-eastern India[692] and though it is said to be extending in the
United Provinces, its present sphere of influence is still chiefly
Bengal and Assam.[693] The population of these countries is not Aryan
(though the Bengali language bears witness to the strong Aryan
influence which has prevailed there) and is largely composed of
immigrants from the north belonging to the Tibeto-Burman, Mon-Khmer
and Shan families. These tribes remain distinct in Assam but the
Bengali represents the fusion of such invaders with a Munda or
Dravidian race, leavened by a little Aryan blood in the higher castes.
In all this region we hear of no ancient Brahmanic settlements, no
ancient centres of Vedic or even Puranic learning[694] and when
Buddhism decayed no body of Brahmanic tradition such as existed in
other parts of India imposed its authority on the writers of the
Tantras. Even at the present day the worship of female spirits, only
half acknowledged by the Brahmans, prevails among these people, and in
the past the national deities of many tribes were goddesses who were
propitiated with human sacrifices. Thus the Chutiyas of Sadiya used to
adore a goddess, called Kesai Khati--the eater of raw flesh. The rites
of these deities were originally performed by tribal priests, but as
Hindu influence spread, the Brahmans gradually took charge of them
without modifying their character in essentials. Popular Bengali
poetry represents these goddesses as desiring worship and feeling
that they are slighted: they persecute those who ignore them, but
shower blessings on their worshippers, even on the obdurate who are at
last compelled to do them homage. The language of mythology could not
describe more clearly the endeavours of a plebeian cult to obtain

The Mahâbhârata contains hymns to Durgâ in which she is said to love
offerings of flesh and wine,[696] but it is not likely that Śâktism or
Tantrism--that is a system with special scriptures and doctrines--was
prevalent before the seventh century A.D. for the Tantras are not
mentioned by the Chinese pilgrims and the lexicon _Amara Kosha_
(perhaps _c_. 500 A.D.) does not recognize the word as a designation
of religious books. Bâṇa (_c_. 630) gives more than once in his
romances lists of sectaries but though he mentions Bhâgavatas and
Pâśupatas, he does not speak of Śaktas.[697] On the other hand
Tantrism infected Buddhism soon after this period. The earlier Tibetan
translations of the Tantras are attributed to the ninth century. MSS.
of the Kubjikâmata and other Tantras are said to date from the ninth
and even from the seventh century and tradition represents
Sankarâcârya as having contests with Śâktas.[698] But many Tantras
were written in the fifteenth century and even later, for the Yogini
Tantra alludes to the Koch king Bishwa Singh (1515-1540) and the Meru
Tantra mentions London and the English.

From the twelfth to the sixteenth century, when Buddhism, itself
deeply infected with Tantrism, was disappearing, Śâktism was probably
the most powerful religion in Bengal, but Vishnuism was gaining
strength and after the time of Caitanya proved a formidable rival to
it. At the beginning of the fifteenth century we hear that the king of
the Ahoms summoned Brahmans to his Court and adopted many Hindu rites
and beliefs, and from this time onward Śâktism was patronized by most
of the Assamese Rajas although after 1550 Vishnuism became the
religion of the mass of the people. Śâktism never inspired any popular
or missionary movement, but it was powerful among the aristocracy and
instigated persecutions against the Vishnuites.

The more respectable Tantras[699] show considerable resemblance to the
later Upanishads such as the Nṛisinhatâpanîya and Râmatâ-panîya,
which mention Śakti in the sense of creative energy.[700] Both classes
of works treat of magical formulæ (mantras) and the construction of
mystic diagrams or yantras. This resemblance does not give us much
assistance in chronology, for the dates of the later Upanishads are
very uncertain, but it shows how the Tantras are connected with other
branches of Hindu thought.

The distinction between Tantras and Purâṇas is not always
well-marked. The Bhâgavata Purâṇa countenances tantric rites[701] and
the Agni Purâṇa (from chapter XXI onwards) bears a strong resemblance
to a Tantra. As a rule the Tantras contain less historical and
legendary matter than the Purâṇas and more directions as to ritual.
But whereas the Purâṇas approve of both Vedic rites and others, the
Tantras insist that ceremonies other than those which they prescribe
are now useless. They maintain that each age of the world has its own
special revelation and that in this age the Tantra-śâstra is the only
scripture. Thus in the Mahânirvâṇa Tantra Śiva says:[702] "The fool
who would follow other doctrines heedless of mine is as great a sinner
as a parricide or the murderer of a Brahman or of a woman.... The
Vedic rites and mantras which were efficacious in the first age have
ceased to have power in this. They are now as powerless as snakes
whose fangs have been drawn and are like dead things." The Kulârṇava
Tantra (I. 79 ff.) inveighs against those who think they will obtain
salvation by Vedic sacrifices or asceticism or reading sacred books,
whereas it can be won only by tantric rites.

Various lists of Tantras are given and it is generally admitted that
many have been lost. The most complete, but somewhat theoretical
enumeration[703] divides India and the adjoining lands into three
regions to each of which sixty-four Tantras are assigned. The best
known names are perhaps Mahânirvâṇa,[704] Sâradâtilaka,[705] Yoginî,
Kulârṇava[706] and Rudra-Yâmala. A Tantra is generally cast in the
form of a dialogue in which Śiva instructs his consort but sometimes
_vice versâ_. It is said that the former class are correctly described
as Âgamas and the works where the Śakti addresses Śiva as
Nigamas.[707] Some are also called Yâmalas and Dâmaras but I have
found no definition of the meaning of these words. The Prapañcasâra
Tantra[708] professes to be a revelation from Nârâyaṇa.

Śâktism and the Tantras which teach it are generally condemned by
Hindus of other sects.[709] It is arguable that this condemnation is
unjust, for like other forms of Hinduism the Tantras make the
liberation of the soul their object and prescribe a life of religious
observances including asceticism and meditation, after which the adept
becomes released even in this life. But however much new tantric
literature may be made accessible in future, I doubt if impartial
criticism will come to any opinion except that Śâktism and Tantrism
collect and emphasize what is superficial, trivial and even bad in
Indian religion, omitting or neglecting its higher sides. If for
instance the Mahânirvâṇa Tantra which is a good specimen of these
works be compared with Śaṅkara's commentary on the Vedânta Sûtras, or
the poems of Tulsi Das, it will be seen that it is woefully deficient
in the excellences of either. But many tantric treatises are chiefly
concerned with charms, spells, amulets and other magical methods of
obtaining wealth, causing or averting disease and destroying enemies,
processes which even if efficacious have nothing to do with the better
side of religion.[710]

The religious life prescribed in the Tantras[711] commences with
initiation and requires the supervision of the Guru. The object of it
is _Siddhi_ or success, the highest form of which is spiritual
perfection. _Siddhi_ is produced by _Sâdhana_, or that method of
training the physical and psychic faculties which realizes their
potentialities. Tantric training assumes a certain constitution of the
universe and the repetition in miniature of this constitution in the
human body which contains various nervous centres and subtle channels
for the passage of energy unknown to vulgar anatomy. Thus the Śakti
who pervades the universe is also present in the body as Kuṇḍalinî,
a serpentine coil of energy, and it is part of Sâdhana to arouse this
energy and make it mount from the lower to the higher centres.
Kuṇḍalinî is also present in sounds and in letters. Hence if
different parts of the body are touched to the accompaniment of
appropriate mantras (which rite is called nyâsa) the various Śaktis
are made to dwell in the human frame in suitable positions.

The Tantras recognize that human beings are not equal and that codes
and rituals must vary according to temperament and capacity. Three
conditions of men, called the animal, heroic and divine,[712] are
often mentioned and are said to characterize three periods of
life--youth, manhood and age, or three classes of mankind,
non-tantrists, ordinary tantrists, and adepts. These three conditions
clearly correspond to the three Guṇas. Also men, or rather Hindus,
belong to one of seven groups, or stages, according to the religious
practices which it is best for them to follow. Śâktists apparently
demur[713] to the statement commonly made by Indians as well as by
Europeans that they are divided into two sects the Dakshiṇâcârins, or
right-hand worshippers, whose ritual is public and decent, and the
Vâmâcârins who meet to engage in secret but admittedly immoral orgies.
But for practical purposes the division is just, although it must not
be supposed that Dakshiṇâcârins necessarily condemn the secret
worship. They may consider it as good for others but not for
themselves. Śâktists apparently would prefer to state the matter thus.
There are seven stages of religion. First come Vedic, Vishnuite and
Śivaite worship, all three inferior, and then Dakshiṇâcâra,
interpreted as meaning favourable worship, that is favourable to the
accomplishment of higher purposes, because the worshipper now begins
to understand the nature of Devî, the great goddess. These four kinds
of worship are all said to belong to _pravritti_ or active life. The
other three, considered to be higher, require a special initiation and
belong to _nivritti_, the path of return in which passion and activity
are suppressed.[714] And here is propounded the doctrine that passion
can be destroyed and exhausted by passion,[715] that is to say that
the impulses of eating, drinking and sexual intercourse are best
subjugated by indulging them. The fifth stage, in which this method is
first adopted, is called Vâmâcâra.[716] In the sixth, or
Siddhântâcâra,[717] the adept becomes more and more free from passion
and prejudice and is finally able to enter Kaulâcâra, the highest
stage of all. A Kaula is one who has passed beyond all sects and
belongs to none, since he has the knowledge of Brahman. "Possessing
merely the form of man, he moves about this earth for the salvation of
the world and the instruction of men."[718]

These are aspirations common to all Indian religion. The peculiarity
of the Tantras is to suppose that a ritual which is shocking to most
Hindus is an indispensable preliminary to their attainment.[719] Its
essential feature is known as _pancatattva_, the five elements, or
_pancamakâra_ the five m's, because they all begin with that letter,
namely, _madya_, _mâṃsa_, _matsya_, _mudrâ_, and _maithuna_, wine, meat,
fish, parched grain and copulation. The celebration of this ritual
takes place at midnight, and is called _cakra_ or circle. The
proceedings begin by the devotees seating themselves in a circle and
are said to terminate in an indiscriminate orgy. It is only fair to
say that some Tantras inveigh against drunkenness and authorize only
moderate drinking.[720] In all cases it is essential that the wine,
flesh, etc., should be formally dedicated to the goddess: without this
preliminary indulgence in these pleasures is sinful. Indeed it may be
said that apart from the ceremonial which they inculcate, the general
principles of the Tantras breathe a liberal and intelligent spirit.
Caste restrictions are minimized: travelling is permitted. Women are
honoured: they can act as teachers: the burning of widows is
forbidden:[721] girl widows may remarry[722] and the murder of a woman
is peculiarly heinous. Prostitution is denounced. Whereas Christianity
is sometimes accused of restricting its higher code to Church and
Sundays, the opposite may be said of Tantrism. Outside the temple its
morality is excellent.

A work like the Mahânirvâṇa Tantra presents a refined form of Śâktism
modified, so far as may be, in conformity with ordinary Hindu
usage.[723] But other features indubitably connect it with aboriginal
cults. For instance there is a legend which relates how the body of
the Śakti was cut into pieces and scattered over Assam and Bengal.
This story has an uncouth and barbarous air and seems out of place
even in Puranic mythology. It recalls the tales told of Osiris,
Orpheus and Halfdan the Black[724] and may be ultimately traceable to
the idea that the dismemberment of a deity or a human representative
ensures fertility. Until recently the Khonds of Bengal used to hack
human victims in pieces as a sacrifice to the Earth Goddess and throw
the shreds of flesh on the fields to secure a good harvest.[725] In
Sanskrit literature I have not found any authority for the
dismemberment of Satî earlier than the Tantras or Upapurâṇas (_e.g._
Kâlikâ), but this late appearance does not mean that the legend is
late in itself but merely that it was not countenanced by Sanskrit
writers until medieval times. Various reasons for the dismemberment
are given and the incident is rather awkwardly tacked on to other
stories. One common version relates that when Satî (one of the many
forms of Śakti) died of vexation because her husband Śiva was insulted
by her father Daksha, Śiva took up her corpse and wandered
distractedly carrying it on his shoulder.[726] In order to stop this
penance Vishṇu followed him and cut off pieces from the corpse with
his quoit until the whole had fallen to earth in fifty-one pieces. The
spots where these pieces touched the ground are held sacred and called
pîths. At most of them are shown a rock supposed to represent some
portion of the goddess's body and some object called a bhairabi, left
by Śiva as a guardian to protect her and often taking the form of a
lingam. The most important of these pîths are Kâmâkhyâ near Gauhati,
Faljur in the Jaintia Parganas, and Kalighat in Calcutta.[727]

Though the Śakti of Śiva is theoretically one, yet since she assumes
many forms she becomes in practice many deities or rather she is many
deities combined in one or sometimes a sovereign attended by a retinue
of similar female spirits. Among such forms we find the ten
Mahâvidyâs, or personifications of her supernatural knowledge; the
Mahâmâtris, Mâtrikâs or the Great Mothers, allied to the aboriginal
goddesses already mentioned; the Nâyakas or mistresses; the Yoginîs or
sorceresses, and fiends called Ḍâkinîs. But the most popular of her
manifestations are Durgâ and Kâlî. The sects which revere these
goddesses are the most important religious bodies in Bengal, where
they number thirty-five million adherents. The Durgâpûja is the
greatest festival of the year in north-eastern India[728] and in the
temple of Kalighat at Calcutta may be seen the singular spectacle of
educated Hindus decapitating goats before the image of Kâlî. It is a
black female figure with gaping mouth and protruded tongue dancing on
a prostrate body,[729] and adorned with skulls and horrid emblems of
destruction. Of her four hands two carry a sword and a severed head
but the other two are extended to give blessing and protection to her
worshippers. So great is the crowd of enthusiastic suppliants that it
is often hard to approach the shrine and the nationalist party in
Bengal who clamour for parliamentary institutions are among the
goddess's devotees.

It is easy to criticize and condemn this worship. Its outward signs
are repulsive to Europeans and its inner meaning strange, for even
those who pray to the Madonna are startled by the idea that the divine
nature is essentially feminine.[730] Yet this idea has deep roots in
the heart of Bengal and with it another idea: the terrors of death,
plague and storm are half but only half revelations of the
goddess-mother who can be smiling and tender as well. Whatever may be
the origin of Kâlî and of the strange images which represent her, she
is now no she-devil who needs to be propitiated, but a reminder that
birth and death are twins, that the horrors of the world come from the
same source as its grace and beauty and that cheerful acceptance of
the deity's terrible manifestations is an essential part of the higher
spiritual life.[731] These ideas are best expressed in the songs of
Râma Prasâda Sen (1718-1775) which "still reign supreme in the
villages" of Bengal and show that this strange worship has really a
hold on millions of Indian rustics.[732] The directness and childlike
simplicity of his poems have caused an Indian critic to compare him to
Blake. "Though the mother beat the child," he sings, "the child cries
mother, mother, and clings still tighter to her garment. True, I
cannot see thee, yet I am not a lost child. I still cry mother,

"All the miseries that I have suffered and am suffering, I know, O
mother, to be your mercy alone."

I must confess that I cannot fully sympathize with this worship, even
when it is sung in the hymns of Râma Prasâda, but it is clear that he
makes it tolerable just because he throws aside all the magic and
ritual of the Tantras and deals straight with what are for him
elemental and emotional facts. He makes even sceptics feel that he has
really seen God in this strange guise.

The chief sanctuary of Śâktism is at Kâmâkhyâ (or Kâmâkshâ) on a hill
which stands on the banks of the Brahmaputra, about two miles below
Gauhati. It is mentioned in the Padma Purâṇa. The temples have been
rebuilt several times, and in the eighteenth century were munificently
endowed by an Ahom king, and placed under the management of a Brahman
from Nadia in Bengal, with reversion to his descendants who bear the
title of Parbatiya Gosains. Considerable estates are still assigned to
their upkeep. There are ten[733] shrines on the hill dedicated to
various forms of the Śakti. The situation is magnificent, commanding
an extensive prospect over the Brahmaputra and the plains on either
bank, but none of the buildings are of much architectural merit. The
largest and best is the temple dedicated to Kâmâkhyâ herself, the
goddess of sexual desire. It is of the style usual in northern India,
an unlighted shrine surmounted by a dome, and approached by a rather
ample vestibule, which is also imperfectly lighted. An inscription has
been preserved recording the restoration of the temple about 1550 but
only the present basement dates from that time, most of the
super-structure being recent. Europeans may not enter but an image of
the goddess can be seen from a side door. In the depths of the shrine
is said to be a cleft in the rock, adored as the Yoni of Śakti. In
front of the temple are two posts to which a goat is tied, and
decapitated daily at noon. Below the principal shrine is the temple of
Bhairavî. Human sacrifices were offered here in comparatively recent
times, and it is not denied that they would be offered now if the law
allowed. Also it is not denied that the rites of the "five m's"
already mentioned are frequently performed in these temples, and that
Aghoris may be found in them. The spot attracts a considerable number
of pilgrims from Bengal, and a wealthy devotee has built a villa on
the hill and pays visits to it for the purpose of taking part in the
rites. I was informed that the most esteemed scriptures of the sect
are the Yoginî Tantra, the Mahânirvâṇa Tantra, and the Kâlikâ
Purâṇa. This last work contains a section or chapter on blood,[734]
which gives rules for the performance of human sacrifices. It states
however that they should not be performed by the first three castes,
which is perhaps a way of saying that though they may be performed by
non-Aryans under Brahmanic auspices they form no part of the Aryan
religion. But they are recommended to princes and ministers and should
not be performed without the consent of princes. The ritual bears
little resemblance to the Vedic sacrifices and the essence of the
ceremony is the presentation to the goddess of the victim's severed
head in a vessel of gold, silver, copper, brass or wood but not of
iron. The axe with which the decapitation is to be performed is
solemnly consecrated to Kâlî and the victim is worshipped before
immolation. The sacrificer first thinks of Brahmâ and the other gods
as being present in the victim's body, and then prays to him directly
as being all the gods in one. "When this has been done" says Śiva, who
is represented as himself revealing these rules, "the victim is even
as myself." This identification of the human victim with the god has
many analogies elsewhere, particularly among the Khonds.[735]

It is remarkable that this barbarous and immoral worship, though
looked at askance except in its own holy places, is by no means
confined to the lower castes. A series of apologies composed in
excellent English (but sometimes anonymous) attest the sympathy of the
educated. So far as theology and metaphysics are concerned, these
defences are plausible. The Śakti is identified with Prakṛiti or with
the Mâyâ of the Advaita philosophy and defined as the energy,
coexistent with Brahman, which creates the world. But attempts to
palliate the ceremonial, such as the argument that it is a
consecration and limitation of the appetites because they may be
gratified only in the service of the goddess, are not convincing. Nor
do the Śâktas, when able to profess their faith openly, deny the
nature of their rites or the importance attached to them. An
oft-quoted tantric verse represents Śiva as saying _Maithunena
mahâyogî mama tulyo na saṁśayaḥ_. And for practical purposes that is
the gist of Śâktist teaching.

The temples of Kâmâkhyâ leave a disagreeable impression--an impression
of dark evil haunts of lust and bloodshed, akin to madness and
unrelieved by any grace or vigour of art. For there is no attempt in
them to represent the terrible or voluptuous aspects of Hinduism, such
as find expression in sculpture elsewhere. All the buildings, and
especially the modern temple of Kâlî, which was in process of
construction when I saw the place, testify to the atrophy and
paralysis produced by erotic forms of religion in the artistic and
intellectual spheres, a phenomenon which finds another sad
illustration in quite different theological surroundings among the
Vallabhâcârya sect at Gokul near Muttra.

It would be a poor service to India to palliate the evils and
extravagances of Śâktism, but still it must be made clear that it is
not a mere survival of barbaric practices. The writers of the Tantras
are good Hindus and declare that their object is to teach liberation
and union with the Supreme Spirit. The ecstasies induced by tantric
rites produce this here in a preliminary form to be made perfect in
the liberated soul. This is not the craze of a few hysterical
devotees, but the faith of millions among whom many are well educated.
In some aspects Śâktism is similar to the erotic Vishnuite sects, but
there is little real analogy in their ways of thinking. For the
essence of Vishnuism is passionate devotion and self-surrender to a
deity and this idea is not prominent in the Tantras. The strange
inconsistencies of Śâktism are of the kind which are characteristic of
Hinduism as a whole, but the contrasts are more violent and the
monstrosities more conspicuous than elsewhere; wild legends and
metaphysics are mixed together, and the peace that passes all
understanding is to be obtained by orgies and offerings of blood.


[Footnote 680: See also chap. XXIV. as to Śâktism and Tantrism in
Buddhism. Copious materials for the study of Śâktism and Tantrism are
being made available in the series of tantric texts edited in Sanskrit
and Tibetan, and in some cases translated by the author who uses the
pseudonym A. Avalon.]

[Footnote 681: See _Annales du Musée Guimet_, Tome VIII.
Si-Do-In-Dzon. Gestes de l'officiant dans les cérémonies mystiques des
sectes Tendai et Singon, 1899.]

[Footnote 682: See Underhill, _Mysticism_, chaps. VI. and VII.]

[Footnote 683: See Dhalla, _Zoroastrian Theology_, p. 116.]

[Footnote 684: Specially Ath. Veda, XII. 1.]

[Footnote 685: Village deities in south India at the present day are
usually female. See Whitehead, _Village Gods_, p. 21.]

[Footnote 686: Thus Cândî is considered as identical with the wood
goddess Bâsulî, worshipped in the jungles of Bengal and Orissa. See
_J.A._ 1873, p. 187.]

[Footnote 687: Vaj. Sanh. 3. 57 and Taittir. Br. I. 6. 10. 4.]

[Footnote 688: Crooke, _Popular Religion of Northern India_, I. 63.
Monier Williams, _Brahm. and Hinduism_, p. 57 gives an interesting
account of the shrine of Kâlî at Vindhyâcal said to have been formerly
frequented by Thugs.]

[Footnote 689: This idea that deities have different aspects in which
they practically become different persons is very prevalent in Tibetan
mythology which is borrowed from medieval Bengal.]

[Footnote 690: Though there are great temples erected to goddesses in
S. India, there are also some signs of hostility to Śâktism. See the
curious legends about an attendant of Śiva called Bhriṅgi who would
not worship Pârvatî. Hultzsch, _South Indian Inscriptions_, II. ii. p.

[Footnote 691: There is a curious tendency in India to regard the male
principle as quiescent, the female as active and stimulating. The
Chinese, who are equally fond of using these two principles in their
cosmological speculations, adopt the opposite view. The _Yang_ (male)
is positive and active. The _Yin_ (female) is negative and passive.]

[Footnote 692: The Mahânirvâṇa Tantra seems to have been composed in
Bengal since it recommends for sacrificial purposes (VI. 7) three
kinds of fish said to be characteristic of that region. On the other
hand Buddhist works called Tantras are said to have been composed in
north-western India. Udyâna had an old reputation for magic and even
in modern times Śâktism exists in western Tibet and Leh. It is highly
probable that in all these districts the practice of magic and the
worship of mountain goddesses were prevalent, but I find little
evidence that a definite Śâkta sect arose elsewhere than in Bengal and
Assam or that the Śâktist corruption of Buddhism prevailed elsewhere
than in Magadha and Bengal.]

[Footnote 693: But the Brahmans of isolated localities, like Satara in
the Bombay Presidency, are said to be Śâktas and the Kâñculiyas of S.
India are described as a Śâktist sect.]

[Footnote 694: The law-giver Baudhâyana seems to have regarded Aṅga
and Vaṅga with suspicion, I. 1.13, 14.]

[Footnote 695: See especially the story of Manasâ Devi in Dinesh
Chandra Sen (_Beng. Lang. and Lit_. 257), who says the earliest
literary version dates from the twelfth century. But doubtless the
story is much older.]

[Footnote 696: Virâtap. chap. VI. (not in all MSS.). Bhishmap. chap.
XXIII. Also in the Harivaṃsa, _vv._ 3236 ff. Pargiter considers that
the Devî-Mâhâtmya was probably composed in the fifth or sixth century.
Chap. XXI. of the Lotus Sûtra contains a spell invoking a goddess
under many names. Though this chapter is an addition to the original
work, it was translated into Chinese between 265 and 316.]

[Footnote 697: But he does mention the worship of the Divine Mothers.
Harshacar. VII. 250 and Kâdamb. 134.]

[Footnote 698: Hymns to the Devî are also attributed to him but I do
not know what evidence there is for his authorship.]

[Footnote 699: As pointed out elsewhere, though this word is most
commonly used of the Śâkta scriptures it is not restricted to them and
we hear of both Buddhist and Vaishṇava Tantras.]

[Footnote 700: The Adhyâtma Râmâyaṇa is an instance of Śâktist ideas
in another theological setting. It is a Vishnuite work but Sità is
made to say that she is _Prakṛiti_ who does all the deeds related in
the poem, whereas Râma is _Purusha_, inactive and a witness of her

[Footnote 701: XI. iii. 47-8; XI. V. 28 and 31. Probably Vishnuite not
Śâktist Tantras are meant but the Purana distinguishes between Vedic
revelation meant for previous ages and tantric revelation meant for
the present day. So too Kullûka Bhaṭṭa the commentator on Manu who
was a Bengali and probably lived in the fifteenth century says (on
Manu II. i.) that Śruti is twofold, Vedic and tantric. _Śrutisca
dvividhâ vaidikî tântrikîca._]

[Footnote 702: II. 15.]

[Footnote 703: See for full list Avalon, _Principles of Tantra_, pp.
lxv-lxvii. A collection of thirty-seven Tantras has been published at
Calcutta by Babu Rasik Mohun Chatterjee and a few have been published

[Footnote 704: Translated by Avalon, 1913, also by Manmatha Nath Dutt,

[Footnote 705: Analysed in _J.A.O.S._ XXIII. i. 1902.]

[Footnote 706: Edited by Târanâtha Vidyâratna, with introduction by A.
Avalon, 1917.]

[Footnote 707: See Avalon, _Principles of Tantra_, p. lxi. But these
are probably special meanings attached to the words by tantric
schools. _Nigama_ is found pretty frequently, _e.g._ Manu, IV. 19 and
Lalita-vistara, XII. But it is not likely that it is used there in
this special sense.]

[Footnote 708: Edited by Avalon, 1914.]

[Footnote 709: Satirical descriptions of Śâktism are fairly ancient,
_e.g._ Karpura Mañjarî, Harvard edition, pp. 25 and 233.]

[Footnote 710: Tantrism has some analogy to the Fêng-shui or geomancy
of the Chinese. Both take ancient superstitions which seem
incompatible with science and systematize them into pseudo-sciences,
remaining blind to the fact that the subject-matter is wholly

[Footnote 711: For what follows as for much else in this chapter, I am
indebted to Avalon's translation of the Mahânirvâṇa Tantra and

[Footnote 712: Paśu-, vîra-, divya-bhâva.]

[Footnote 713: Avalon, Mahân. Tan. pp. lxxix, lxxx.]

[Footnote 714: "The eternal rhythm of Divine Breath is outwards from
spirit to matter and inwards from matter to spirit. Devî as Mâyâ
evolves the world. As Mahâmâyâ she recalls it to herself.... Each of
these movements is divine. Enjoyment and liberation are each her
gifts." Avalon, Mahân. Tan. p. cxl.]

[Footnote 715: Yair eva patanam dravyaih siddhis tair eva
coditâ--Kulârṇava Tantra, V. 48. There is probably something similar
in Taoism. See Wieger, _Histoire des Croyances religieuses en Chine_,
p. 409. The Indian Tantrists were aware of the dangers of their system
and said it was as difficult as walking on the edge of a sword or
holding a tiger.]

[Footnote 716: Vâmâcâra is said not to mean left-hand worship but
woman (vâmâ) worship. This interpretation of Dakshiṇa and Vâmâcâra is
probably fanciful.]

[Footnote 717: Sometimes two extra stages Aghora and Yogâcâra are
inserted here.]

[Footnote 718: Mahân. Tan. X. 108. A Kaula may pretend to be a
Vaishṇava or a Śaiva.]

[Footnote 719: Although the Tantras occasionally say that mere ritual
is not sufficient for the highest religions, yet _indispensable
preliminary_ is often understood as meaning _sure means_. Thus the
Mahânirvâṇa Tantra (X. 202, Avalon's transl.) says "Those who worship
the Kaulas with _panca tattva_ and with heart uplifted, cause the
salvation of their ancestors and themselves attain the highest end."]

[Footnote 720: But on the other hand some Tantras or tantric treatises
recommend crazy abominations.]

[Footnote 721: Mahânir. Tant. X. 79. Bhartrâ saha kuleśâni na dahet

[Footnote 722: _Ib._ XI. 67.]

[Footnote 723: _E.g._ It does not prescribe human sacrifices and
counsels moderation in the use of wine and _maithuna._]

[Footnote 724: See Frazer's _Adonis, Attis and Osiris_, pp. 269-273
for these and other stories of dismemberment.]

[Footnote 725: See Frazer, _Golden Bough: Spirits of the Corn_, vol.
I. 245 and authorities quoted.]

[Footnote 726: Images representing this are common in Assam.]

[Footnote 727: Hsüan Chuang (Walters, vol. I. chap. VII) mentions
several sacred places in N.W. India where the Buddha in a previous
birth was dismembered or gave his flesh to feed mankind. Can these
places have been similar to the pîths of Assam and were the original
heroes of the legend deities who were dismembered like Satî and
subsequently accommodated to Buddhist theology as Bodhisattvas?]

[Footnote 728: It is an autumnal festival. A special image of the
goddess is made which is worshipped for nine days and then thrown into
the river. For an account of the festival which makes its tantric
character very clear see Durgâ Puja by Pratapachandra Ghosha,
Calcutta, 1871.]

[Footnote 729: One explanation given is that she was so elated with
her victories over giants that she began to dance which shook the
Universe. Śiva in order to save the world placed himself beneath her
feet and when she saw she was trampling on her husband, she stopped.
But there are other explanations.

Another of the strangely barbaric legends which cluster round the
Śakti is illustrated by the figure called Chinnamasṭakâ. It
represents the goddess as carrying her own head which she has just cut
off, while from the neck spout fountains of blood which are drunk by
her attendants and by the severed head itself.]

[Footnote 730: Yet the English mystic Julian, the anchoress of Norwich
(c. 1400), insists on the motherhood as well as the fatherhood of God.
"God is our mother, brother and Saviour." "As verily God is our
father, so verily God is our mother."

So too in an inscription found at Capua (C.I.N. 3580) Isis is
addressed as _una quae es omnia_.

The Power addressed in Swinburne's poems _Mater Triumphalis, Hertha,
The Pilgrims_ and _Dolores_ is really a conception very similar to

[Footnote 731: These ideas find frequent expression in the works of
Bunkim Chandra Chatterjee, Dinesh Chandra Sen and Sister Nivedita.]

[Footnote 732: See Dinesh Chandra Sen, _Hist. Beng. Lang, and Lit_.
pp. 712-721. Even the iconoclast Devendranath Tagore speaks of the
Universal Mother. See _Autobiog._ p. 240.]

[Footnote 733: So I was told, but I saw only six, when I visited the
place in 1910.]

[Footnote 734: Rudhirâdhyâya. Translated in _As. Researches_, V. 1798,
pp. 371-391.]

[Footnote 735: See Frazer, _op. cit._ p. 246.]



Philosophy is more closely connected with religion in India than in
Europe. It is not a dispassionate scientific investigation but a
practical religious quest. Even the Nyâya school, which is concerned
chiefly with formal logic, promises that by the removal of false
knowledge it can emancipate the soul and give the bliss of salvation.
Nor are the expressions system or school of philosophy, commonly used
to render _darśana_, altogether happy. The word is derived from the
root _dṛiś_, to see, and means a way of looking at things. As such a
way of looking is supposed to be both comprehensive and orderly, it is
more or less what we call philosophical, but the points of view are so
special and so various that the result is not always what we call a
philosophical system. Mádhava's[736] list of Darśanas includes
Buddhism and Jainism, which are commonly regarded as separate
religions, as well as the Pâśupata and Śaiva, which are sects of
Hinduism. The Darśana of Jaimini is merely a discussion of general
questions relating to sacrifices: the Nyâya Darśana examines logic and
rhetoric: the Pâṇiniya Darśana treats of grammar and the nature of
language, but claims that it ought to be studied "as the means for
attaining the chief end of man."[737]

Six of the Darśanas have received special prominence and are often
called the six Orthodox Schools. They are the Nyâya and Vaiśeshika,
Sâṅkhya and Yoga, Pûrva and Uttara Mîmâṃsâ, or Vedânta. The rest are
either comparatively unimportant or are more conveniently treated of
as religious sects. The six placed on the select list are sufficiently
miscellaneous and one wonders what principle of classification can
have brought them together. The first two have little connection with
religion, though they put forward the emancipation of the soul as
their object, and I have no space to discuss them. They are however
important as showing that realism has a place in Indian thought in
spite of its marked tendency to idealism.[738] They are concerned
chiefly with an examination of human faculties and the objects of
knowledge, and are related to one another. The special doctrine of the
Vaiśeshika is the theory of atoms ascribed to Kaṇâda. It teaches that
matter consists of atoms (aṇu) which are eternal in themselves though
all combinations of them are liable to decompose. The Sâṅkhya and
Yoga are also related and represent two aspects of the same system
which is of great antiquity and allied to Buddhism and Jainism. The
two Mîmâṃsâs are consecutive expositions of the teaching scattered
throughout the Vedic texts respecting ceremonial and the knowledge of
God respectively. The second Mîmâṃsâ, commonly called the Vedânta, is
by far the more interesting and important.

The common feature in these six systems which constitutes their
orthodoxy is that they all admit the authority of the Veda. This
implies more than our phrases revelation or inspiration of the Bible.
Most of the Darśanas attach importance to the _pramâṇas_, sources or
standards of knowledge. They are variously enumerated, but one of the
oldest definitions makes them three: perception (pratyaksha),
inference (anumâna) and scripture (śabda). The Veda is thus formally
acknowledged to have the same authority as the evidence of the senses.
With this is generally coupled the doctrine that it is eternal. It was
not composed by human authors, but is a body of sound existing from
eternity as part of Brahman and breathed out by him when he causes the
whole creation to evolve at the beginning of a world period. The
reputed authors are simply those who have, in Indian language, seen
portions of this self-existent teaching. This doctrine sounds more
reasonable if restated in the form that words are the expression of
thought, and that if thought is the eternal essence of both Brahman
and the soul, a similar eternity may attach to words. Some such idea
is the origin of the Christian doctrine of the Logos, and in many
religions we find such notions as that words have a creative
efficacy,[739] or that he who knows the name of a thing has power over
it. Among Mohammedans the Koran is supposed to be not merely an
inspired composition but a pre-existing book, revealed to Mohammed

It is curious that both the sacred texts--the Veda and the Koran--to
which this supernatural position is ascribed should be collections of
obviously human, incongruous, and often insignificant documents
connected with particular occasions, and in no way suggesting or
claiming that they are anterior to the ordinary life of man on earth.
It is still more extraordinary that systems of philosophy should
profess to base themselves on such works. But in reality Hindu
metaphysicians are not more bound by the past than their colleagues in
other lands. They do not take scripture and ask what it means, but
evolve their own systems and state that they are in accordance with
it. Sometimes scripture is ignored in the details of argument. More
often the metaphysician writes a commentary on it and boldly proves
that it supports his views, though its apparent meaning may be
hostile. It is clear that many philosophic commentaries have been
written not because the authors really drew their inspiration from the
Upanishads or Bhagavad-gîtâ but because they dared not neglect such
important texts. All the Vedântist schools labour to prove that they
are in harmony not only with the Upanishads but with the
Brahma-sûtras. The philosophers of the Sâṅkhya are more detached from
literature but though they ignore the existence of the deity, they
acknowledge the Veda as a source of knowledge. Their recognition,
however, has the air of a concession to Brahmanic sentiment. Isolated
theories of the Sâṅkhya can be supported by isolated passages of the
Upanishads, but no impartial critic can maintain that the general
doctrines of the two are compatible. That the Brahmans should have
been willing to admit the Sâṅkhya as a possible form of orthodoxy is
a testimony both to its importance and to their liberality.

It is remarkable that the test of orthodoxy should have been the
acceptance of the authority of the Veda and not a confession of some
sort of theism. But on this the Brahmans did not insist. The Vedânta
is truly and intensely pantheistic or theistic, but in the other
philosophies the Supreme Being is either eliminated or plays a small
part. Thus while works which seem to be merely scientific treatises
(like the Nyâya) set before themselves a religious object, other
treatises, seemingly religious in scope, ignore the deity. There is a
strong and ancient line of thought in India which, basing itself on
the doctrine of Karma, or the inevitable consequences of the deed once
done, lays stress on the efficacy of ceremonies or of asceticism or of
knowledge without reference to a Supreme Being because, if he exists,
he does not interfere with the workings of Karma, or with the power of
knowledge to release from them.

Even the Vedânta, although in a way the quintessence of Indian
orthodoxy, is not a scholastic philosophy designed to support
recognized dogma and ritual. It is rather the orthodox method of
soaring above these things. It contemplates from a higher level the
life of religious observances (which is the subject of the Pûrva
Mîmâṃsâ) and recognizes its value as a preliminary, but yet rejects
it as inadequate. The Sannyâsi or adept follows no caste observances,
performs no sacrifices, reads no scriptures. His religion is to
realize in meditation the true nature, and it may be the identity, of
the soul and God. Good works are of no more importance for him than
rites, though he does well to employ his time in teaching. But Karma
has ceased to exist for him: "the acts of a Yogi are neither black nor
white," they have no moral quality nor consequences. This is dangerous
language and the doctrine has sometimes been abused. But the point of
the teaching is not that a Sannyâsi may do what he likes but that he
is perfectly emancipated from material bondage. Most men are bound by
their deeds; every new act brings consequences which attach the doer
to the world of transmigration and create for him new existences. But
the deeds of the man who is really free have no such trammelling
effects, for they are not prompted by desire nor directed to an
object. But since to become free he must have suppressed all desire,
it is hardly conceivable that he should do anything which could be
called a sin. But this conviction that the task of the sage is not to
perfect any form of good conduct but to rise above both good and evil,
imparts to the Darśanas and even to the Upanishads a singularly
non-ethical and detached tone. The Yogi does no harm but he has less
benevolence and active sympathy than the Buddhist monk. It was a
feeling that such an attitude has its dangers and is only for the few
who have fought their way to the heights where it can safely be
adopted, that led the Brahmans in all ages to lay stress on the
householder's life as the proper preparation for a philosophic old
age. Despite utterances to the contrary, they never as a body approved
the ideal of a life entirely devoted to asceticism and not occupied
with social duties during one period. The extraordinary ease with
which the higher phases of Indian thought shake off all formalities,
social, religious and ethical, was counterbalanced by the
multitudinous regulations devised to keep the majority in a
law-abiding life.

None of the six Darśanas concern themselves with ethics. The more
important deal with the transcendental progress of sages who have
avowedly abandoned the life of works, and even those which treat of
that lower life are occupied with ritual and logic rather than with
anything which can be termed moral science. We must not infer that
Indian literature is altogether unmoral. The doctrine of Karma is
intensely ethical and ethical discussions are more prominent in the
Epics than in Homer, besides being the subject of much gnomic and
didactic poetry. But there is no mistaking the fact that the Hindu
seeks for salvation by knowledge. He feels the power of deeds, but it
is only the lower happiness which lies in doing good works and
enjoying their fruits. The higher bliss consists in being entirely
free from the bondage of deeds and Karma.

All the Darśanas have as a common principle this idea of Karma with
the attendant doctrines that rebirth is a consequence of action and
that salvation is an escape from rebirth. They all treat more or less
of the sources and standards of knowledge, and all recognize the Veda
as one of them. There is not much more that can be said of them all in
common, for the Vedânta ignores matter and the Sâṅkhya ignores God,
but they all share a conviction which presents difficulties to
Europeans. It is that the state in which the mind ceases to think
discursively and is concentrated on itself is not only desirable but
the _summum bonum_. The European is inclined to say that such a
state is distinguished from non-existence only by not being permanent.
But the Hindu will have none of this. He holds that mind and thought
are material though composed of the subtlest matter, and that when
thought ceases, the immaterial soul (purusha or âtman) far from being
practically non-existent is more truly existent than before and enjoys
untroubled its own existence and its own nature.

Of the three most important systems, the Sâṅkhya, Yoga and Vedânta,
the first and last are on most points opposed: both are ancient, but
perhaps the products of different intellectual centres. In one sense
the Yoga may be described as a theistic modification of the Sâṅkhya:
from another and perhaps juster point of view it appears rather as a
very ancient science of asceticism and contemplation, susceptible of
combination with various metaphysical theories.


We may consider first of all the Sâṅkhya.[740] Tradition ascribes its
invention to Kapila, but he is a mere name unconnected with any date
or other circumstance. It is probable that the principal ideas of the
Sâṅkhya germinated several centuries before our era but we have no
evidence whatever as to when they were first formulated in Sûtras. The
name was current as the designation of a philosophical system fairly
early[741] but the accepted text-books are all late. The most
respected is the Sâṅkhya-pravacana,[742] attributed to Kapila but
generally assigned by European critics to the fourteenth century A.D.
Considerably more ancient, but still clearly a metrical epitome of a
system already existing, is the Sâṅkhya-Kârikâ, a poem of seventy
verses which was translated into Chinese about 560 A.D. and may be a
few centuries older. Max Müller regarded the Tattva-samâsa, a short
tract consisting chiefly of an enumeration of topics, as the most
ancient Sâṅkhya formulary, but the opinion of scholars as to its age
is not unanimous. The name Sâṅkhya is best interpreted as signifying
enumeration in allusion to the predilection of the school for numbered
lists, a predilection equally noticeable in early Buddhism.

The object of the system set forth in these works is strictly
practical. In the first words of the Sâṅkhya-pravacana, the complete
cessation of suffering is the end of man, and the Sâṅkhya is devised
to enable him to attain it. Another formula divides the contents of
the Sâṅkhya into four topics--(_a_) that from which man must liberate
himself, or suffering, (_b_) liberation, or the cessation of
suffering, (_c_) the cause of suffering, or the failure to
discriminate between the soul and matter, (_d_) the means of
liberation, or discriminating knowledge. This division obviously
resembles the four Truths of Buddhism. The object proposed is the same
and the method analogous, though not identical, for Buddhism speaks as
a religion and lays greater stress on conduct.

The theory of the Sâṅkhya, briefly stated, is this. There exist,
uncreated and from all eternity, on the one side matter and on the
other individual souls. The world, as we know it, is due entirely to
the evolution of matter. Suffering is the result of souls being in
bondage to matter, but this bondage does not affect the nature of the
soul and in one sense is not real, for when souls acquire
discriminating knowledge and see that they are not matter, then the
bondage ceases and they attain to eternal peace.

The system is thus founded on dualism, the eternal antithesis between
matter and soul. Many of its details are comprised in the simple
enumeration of the twenty-five Tattvas or principles[743] as given in
the Tattva-samâsa and other works. Of these, one is Purusha, the soul
or self, which is neither produced nor productive, and the other
twenty-four are all modifications of Prakṛiti or matter, which is
unproduced but productive. Prakṛiti means the original ground form of
external existence (as distinguished from Vikṛiti, modified form). It
is uncreated and indestructible, but it has a tendency to variation or
evolution. The Sâṅkhya holds in the strictest sense that _ex nihilo
nihil fit_. Substance can only be produced from substance and properly
speaking there is no such thing as origination but only manifestation.
Causality is regarded solely from the point of view of material
causes, that is to say the cause of a pot is clay and not the action
of the potter. Thus the effect or product is nothing else than the
cause in another shape: production is only manifestation and
destruction is the resolution of a product into its cause. Instead of
holding like the Buddhists that there is no such thing as existence
but only becoming, the Sâṅkhya rather affirms that there is nothing
but successive manifestations of real existence. If clay is made into
a pot and the pot is then broken and ground into clay again, the
essential fact is not that a pot has come into existence and
disappeared but that the clay continuously existing has undergone
certain changes.

The tendency to evolution inherent in matter is due to the three
_guṇas_. They are _sattva_, explained as goodness and happiness;
_rajas_, as passion and movement; and _tamas_, as darkness, heaviness
and ignorance. The word Guṇa is not easy to translate, for it seems
to mean more than quality or mode and to signify the constituents of
matter. Hence one cannot help feeling that the whole theory is an
attempt to explain the unity and diversity of matter by a phrase, but
all Hinduism is permeated by this phrase and theory. When the three
guṇas are in equilibrium then matter--Prakṛiti--is quiescent,
undifferentiated and unmanifested. But as soon as the equilibrium is
disturbed and one of the guṇas becomes preponderant, then the process
of differentiation and manifestation begins. The disturbance of
equilibrium is due to the action of the individual Purushas or souls
on Prakṛiti, but this action is mechanical and due to proximity not
to the volition of the souls and may be compared to the attraction of
a magnet for iron.[744] Thus at the beginning of the evolutionary
process we have quiescent matter in equilibrium: over against this are
souls innumerable, equally quiescent but exerting on matter a
mechanical force. This upsets the equilibrium and creates a movement
which takes at first the form of development and later of decay and
collapse. Then matter returns to its quiescent state to be again
excited by the Purushas and commence its world-making evolution anew.
The doctrine that evolution, dissolution and quiescence succeed one
another periodically is an integral part of the Sâṅkhya.[745]

The unmodified Prakṛiti stands first on the list of twenty-five
principles. When evolution begins it produces first Buddhi or
intellect, secondly Ahaṃkâra, which is perhaps best rendered by
individuality, and next the five Tanmâtras or subtle elements.
Buddhi, though meaning intellect, is used rather in the sense of
ascertaining or perception. It is the faculty by which we distinguish
objects and perceive what they are. It differs also from our
conception of intellect in being, like Ahaṃkâra and all the
subsequent developments of Prakṛiti, material, and must not be
confused with the immaterial Purusha or soul. It is in fact the organ
of thought, not in the sense of the brain or anything tangible, but a
subtle substratum of all mental processes. But in what sense is it
possible to say that this Buddhi exists apart from individuals, who
have not come into being at this stage of cosmic evolution? This
difficulty is not met by talking, as some commentators do, of cosmic
as well as individual Buddhi, for even if all Prakṛiti is illuminated
by Buddhi at this stage it is difficult to see what result can occur.
To make the process of development coherent we must think of it not as
a series of chronologically successive stages but rather as a
logically connected series and an analysis of completely evolved
beings, just as we might say that bones are covered with flesh and
flesh with skin, without affirming that the bones have a separate and
prior existence. Ahaṃkâra, which is, like Buddhi, strictly speaking a
physical organ, means Ego-maker and denotes the sense of personality
and individuality, almost the will. In the language of Indian
philosophy it is the delusion or misconception which makes the soul
imagine itself a personal agent and think, _I_ see, _I_ hear, _I_
slay, _I_ am slain, whereas the soul is really incapable of action and
the acts are those of Prakṛiti.

The five subtle elements are the essences of sound, touch, colour,
savour and odour conceived as physical principles, imperceptible to
ordinary beings, though gods and Yogis can perceive them. The name
Tanmâtra which signifies _that only_ indicates that they are concerned
exclusively with one sense. Thus whereas the gross elements, such as
earth, appeal to more than one sense and can be seen, felt and smelt,
the subtle element of sound is restricted to the sense of hearing. It
exists in all things audible but has nothing to do with their
tangibility or visibility. There remain sixteen further modifications
to make up the full list of twenty-four. They are the five organs of
sense,[746] the five organs of action,[747] Manas or mind, regarded as
a sixth and central sense, and also as the seat of will, and the five
gross elements--earth, water, light, air and ether. The Sâṅkhya
distinguishes between the gross and the subtle body. The latter,
called lingaśarîra, is defined in more than one way, but it is
expressly stated in the Kârikâs[748] that it is composed of "Buddhi
and the rest, down to the subtle elements." It practically corresponds
to what we call the soul, though totally distinct from Purusha or soul
in the Sâṅkhya sense. It constitutes the character and essential
being of a person. It is the part which transmigrates from one gross
body to another, and is responsible for the acts committed in each
existence. Its union with a gross body constitutes birth, its
departure death. Except in the case of those who attain emancipation,
its existence and transmigration last for a whole world-period at the
end of which come quiescence and equilibrium. In it are imprinted the
Saṃskâras,[749] the predispositions which pass on from one existence
to another and are latent in the new-born mind like seeds in a field.

By following the evolution of matter we have now accounted for
intellect, individuality, the senses, the moral character, will, and a
principle which survives death and transmigrates. It might therefore
be supposed that we have exhaustively analysed the constitution of a
human being. But that is not the view of the Sâṅkhya. The evolution
of Buddhi, Ahaṃkâra, the subtle body and the gross body is a physical
process and the result is also physical, though parts of it are of so
fine a substance that ordinary senses cannot perceive them. This
physical organism becomes a living being (which term includes gods and
animals) when it is connected with a soul (purusha) and consciousness
depends on this connection, for neither is matter when isolated
conscious, nor is the soul, at least not in our sense of the word.
Though the soul is neither the life which ends at death (for that is
the gross body) nor yet the life which passes from existence to
existence (for that is the subtle body) yet it is the vitalizing
element which renders life possible.

The Sâṅkhya like Jainism regards souls as innumerable and distinct
from one another. The word Purusha must have originally referred to
the manikin supposed to inhabit the body, and there is some reason to
think that the earliest teachers of the Sâṅkhya held that it was
infinitely small. But in the existing text-books it is described as
infinitely large. It is immaterial and without beginning, end, parts,
dimensions, or qualities, incapable of change, motion, or action.
These definitions may be partly due to the influence of the Vedânta
and, though we know little about the historical development of the
Sâṅkhya, there are traces of a compromise between the old teaching of
a soul held in bondage and struggling for release and later
conceptions of a soul which, being infinite and passionless, hardly
seems capable of submitting to bondage. Though the soul cannot be said
to transmigrate, to act, or to suffer, still through consciousness it
makes the suffering of the world felt and though in its essence it
remains eternally unchanged and unaffected, yet it experiences the
reflection of the suffering which goes on. Just as a crystal (to use
the Indian simile) allows a red flower to be seen through it and
remains unchanged, although it seems to become red, so does the soul
remain unchanged by sorrow or joy, although the illusion that it
suffers or rejoices may be present in the consciousness.

The task of the soul is to free itself from illusion, and thus from
bondage. For strictly speaking the bondage does not exist: it is
caused by want of discrimination. Like the Vedânta, the Sâṅkhya
regards all this troubled life as being, so far as the soul is
concerned, mere illusion. But while the Vedânta bids the soul know its
identity with Brahman, the Sâṅkhya bids it isolate itself and know
that the acts and feelings which seem to be its own have really
nothing to do with it. They are for the soul nothing but a spectacle
or play originating in its connection with Prakṛiti, and it is
actually said,[750] "Wherefore no soul is bound, or is liberated or
transmigrates. It is Prakṛiti, which has many bodily forms, which is
bound, liberated and transmigrates." It is in Buddhi or intellect,
which is a manifestation of Prakṛiti, that the knowledge of the
difference between the soul and Prakṛiti must arise. Thus though the
Sâṅkhya reposes on a fundamental dualism, it is not the dualism of
good and evil. Soul and matter differ not because the first is good
and the second bad, but because the first is unchangeable and the
second constantly changing. Matter is often personified as a woman.
Her motives are unselfish and she works for the liberation of the
soul. "As a dancer after showing herself on the stage ceases to dance,
so does Prakṛiti cease when she has made herself manifest to the
soul." That is to say, when a soul once understands that it is
distinct from the material world, that world ceases to exist for that
particular soul, though of course the play continues for others.
"Generous Prakṛiti, endowed with Guṇas, causes by manifold means
without benefit to herself, the benefit of the soul, which is devoid
of Guṇas and makes no return."[751] The condition of the liberated
soul, corresponding to the _mokska_ and _nirvâṇa_ of other systems,
is described as Kaivalya, that is, complete separation from the
material world, but, as among Buddhists and Vedântists, he who has
learnt the truth is liberated even before death, and can teach others.
He goes on living, just as the wheel continues to revolve for some
time after the potter has ceased to turn it. After death, complete
liberation without the possibility of rebirth is attained. The
Sâṅkhya manuals do not dwell further on the character of this
liberation: we only know that the eternal soul is then completely
isolated and aloof from all suffering and material things. Liberation
is compared to profound sleep, the difference being that in dreamless
sleep there is a seed, that is, the possibility of return to ordinary
life, whereas when liberation is once attained there is no such

Both in its account of the world process and in its scheme of
salvation the Sâṅkhya ignores theism in the same way as did the
Buddha. Indeed the text-books go beyond this and practically deny the
existence of a personal supreme deity. We are told[752] that the
existence of God cannot be proved, for whatever exists must be either
bound or free and God can be neither. We cannot think of him as bound
and yet he cannot be free like an emancipated soul, for freedom
implies the absence of desire and hence of the impulse to create.
Similarly[753] the consequences of good and evil deeds are due to
Karma and not to the government of God. Such a ruler is inconceivable,
for if he governs the world according to the action of Karma his
existence is superfluous, and if he is affected by selfish motives or
desire, then he cannot be free. It is true that these passages speak
of there being no proof of God's existence and hence commentators both
Indian and European who shrink from atheism represent the Sâṅkhya as
suspending judgment. But if a republican constitution duly describes
the President and other authorities in whom the powers of government
are vested, can we argue that it is not unmonarchical because it does
not expressly say there is no king? In the Sâṅkhya there is no more
place for a deity than for a king in a republican constitution.
Moreover, the Sûtras endeavour to prove that the idea of God is
inconceivable and self-contradictory and some commentaries speak
plainly on this subject.[754] Thus the Sâṅkhya-tattva-kaumudi
commenting on Kârikâ 57 argues that the world cannot have been created
by God, whether we suppose him to have been impelled by selfishness or
kindness. For if God is perfect he can have no need to create a world.
And if his motive is kindness, is it reasonable to call into existence
beings who while non-existent had no suffering, simply in order to
show kindness in relieving them from suffering? A benevolent deity
ought to create only happy creatures, not a mixed world like the one
we see.[755]

Arguments like this were not condemned by the Brahmans so strongly as
we should expect, but they did not like them and though they did not
excommunicate the Sâṅkhya in the same way as Buddhism, they greatly
preferred a theistic variety of it called Yoga.

The Yoga and Sâṅkhya are mentioned together in the Śvetâśvatara
Upanishad,[756] and the Bhagavad-gîtâ[757] says that he sees truly who
sees them as one. The difference lies in treatment rather than in
substance. Whereas the Sâṅkhya is mainly theoretical, the principal
topic of the Yoga is the cultivation of that frame of mind which leads
to emancipation and the methods and exercises proper to this end.
Further, the Yoga recognizes a deity. This distinction may seem of
capital importance but the god of the Yoga (called Îśvara or the
Lord) is not its foundation and essence as Brahman is of the
Vedânta.[758] Devotion to God is recognized as one among other methods
for attaining emancipation and if this particular procedure, which is
mentioned in relatively few passages, were omitted, the rest of the
system would be unaffected. It is therefore probable that the theistic
portions of the Yoga are an addition made under Brahmanic influence.
But taking the existing Sûtras of the two philosophies, together with
their commentaries, it may be said that the Yoga implies most of the
Sâṅkhya theory and the Sâṅkhya most of the Yoga practice, for though
it does not go into details it prescribes meditation which is to be
perfected by regulating the breathing and by adopting certain
postures. I have already spoken of the methods and discipline
prescribed by the Yoga and need not dwell further on the topic now.

That Buddhism has some connection with the Sâṅkhya and Yoga has often
been noticed.[759] Some of the ideas found in the Sâṅkhya and some of
the practices prescribed by the Yoga are clearly anterior to Gotama
and may have contributed to his mental development, but circumspection
is necessary in the use of words like Yoga, Sâṅkhya and Vedânta. If
we take them to mean the doctrinal systems contained in certain
sûtras, they are clearly all later than Buddhism. But if we assume, as
we may safely do, that the doctrine is much older than the manuals in
which we now study it, we must also remember that when we leave the
texts we are not justified in thinking of a system but merely of a
line of thought. In this sense it is clear that many ideas of the
Sâṅkhya appear among the Jains, but the Jains know nothing of the
evolution of matter described by the Sâṅkhya manuals and think of the
relation of the soul to matter in a more materialistic way. The notion
of the separate eternal soul was the object of the Buddha's persistent
polemics and was apparently a popular doctrine when he began
preaching. The ascetic and meditative exercises prescribed by the Yoga
were also known before his time and the Piṭakas do not hide the fact
that he received instruction from two Yogîs. But though he was
acquainted with the theories and practices which grew into the Yoga
and Sâṅkhya, he did not found his religion on them for he rejected
the idea of a soul which has to be delivered and did not make
salvation dependent on the attainment of trances. If there was in his
time a systematic Sâṅkhya philosophy explaining the nature of
suffering and the way of release, it is strange that the Piṭakas
contain no criticism of it, for though to us who see these ancient
sects in perspective the resemblance of Buddhism to the Sâṅkhya is
clear, there can be little doubt that the Buddha would have regarded
it as a most erroneous heresy, because it proposes to attain the same
objects as his own teaching but by different methods.

Sâṅkhya ideas are not found in the oldest Upanishads, but they appear
(though not in a connected form) in those of the second stratum, such
as the Śvetâśvatara and Kaṭhâ. It therefore seems probable, though
not proven, that the origin of these ideas is to be sought not in the
early Brahmanic schools but in the intellectual atmosphere
non-theistic, non-sacerdotal, but audaciously speculative which
prevailed in the central and eastern part of northern India in the
sixth century B.C. The Sâṅkhya recognizes no merit in sacrifices or
indeed in good works of any kind, even as a preliminary discipline,
and in many details is un-Brahmanic. Unlike the Vedânta Sûtras, it
does not exclude Śûdras from higher studies, but states that there are
eight classes of gods and five of animals but only one of men. A
teacher must have himself attained emancipation, but there is no
provision that he must be a Brahman. Perhaps the fables and parables
which form the basis of the fourth book of the Sâṅkhya Sûtras point
to some more popular form of instruction similar to the discourses of
the Buddha. We may suppose that this ancient un-Brahmanic school took
shape in several sects, especially Jainism and Buddhism, and used the
Yoga discipline. But the value and efficacy of that discipline were
admitted almost universally and several centuries later it was
formulated in the Sûtras which bear the name of Patañjali in a shape
acceptable to Brahmans, not to Buddhists. If, as some scholars think,
the Yoga sûtras are not earlier than 450 A.D.[760] it seems probable
that it was Buddhism which stimulated the Brahmans to codify the
principles and practice of Yoga, for the Yogâcâra school of Buddhism
arose before the fifth century. The Sâṅkhya is perhaps a somewhat
similar brahmanization of the purely speculative ideas which may have
prevailed in Magadha and Kosala.[761] Though these districts were not
strongholds of Brahmanism, yet it is clear from the Piṭakas that they
contained a considerable Brahman population who must have been
influenced by the ideas current around them but also must have wished
to keep in touch with other Brahmans. The Sâṅkhya of our manuals
represents such an attempt at conciliation. It is an elaboration in a
different shape of some of the ideas out of which Buddhism sprung but
in its later history it is connected with Brahmanism rather than
Buddhism. When it is set forth in Sûtras in a succinct and isolated
form, its divergence from ordinary Brahmanic thought is striking and
in this form it does not seem to have ever been influential and now is
professed by only a few Pandits, but, when combined in a literary and
eclectic spirit with other ideas which may be incompatible with it in
strict logic, it has been a mighty influence in Indian religion,
orthodox as well as unorthodox. Such conceptions as Prakṛiti and the
Guṇas colour most of the post-Vedic religious literature. Their
working may be plainly traced in the Mahâbhârata, Manu and the
Purâṇas,[762] and the Tantras identify with Prakṛiti the goddesses
whose worship they teach. The unethical character of the Sâṅkhya
enabled it to form the strangest alliances with aboriginal beliefs.

Unlike the Sâṅkhya, the Vedânta is seen in its most influential and
perhaps most advantageous aspect when stated in its most abstract
form. We need not enquire into its place of origin for it is clearly
the final intellectual product of the schools which produced the
Upanishads and the literature which preceded them, and though it may
be difficult to say at what point we are justified in applying the
name Vedânta to growing Brahmanic thought, the growth is continuous.
The name means simply End of the Veda. In its ideas the Vedânta shows
great breadth and freedom, yet it respects the prejudices and
proprieties of Brahmanism. It teaches that God is all things, but
interdicts this knowledge to the lower castes: it treats rites as a
merely preliminary discipline, but it does not deny their value for
certain states of life.

The Vedânta is the boldest and the most characteristic form of Indian
thought. For Asia, and perhaps for the world at large, Buddhism is
more important but on Indian soil it has been vanquished by the
Vedânta, especially that form of it known as the Advaita. In all ages
the main idea of this philosophy has been the same and may be summed
up in the formula that the soul is God and that God is everything. If
this formula is not completely accurate[763]--and a sentence which
both translates and epitomizes alien metaphysics can hardly aspire to
complete accuracy--the error lies in the fact to which I have called
attention elsewhere that our words, God and soul, do not cover quite
the same ground as the Indian words which they are used to translate.

Many scholars, both Indian and European, will demur to the high place
here assigned to the Advaita philosophy. I am far from claiming that
the doctrine of Śaṅkara is either primitive or unchallenged. Other
forms of the Vedânta existed before him and became very strong after
him. But so far as a synthesis of opinions which are divergent in
details can be just, he gives a just synthesis and elaboration of the
Upanishads. It is true that his teaching as to the higher and lower
Brahman and as to Mâyâ has affinities to Mahayanist Buddhism, and that
later sects were repelled by the severe and impersonal character of
his philosophy, but the doctrine of which he is the most thorough and
eminent exponent, namely that God or spirit is the only reality and
one with the human soul, asserts itself in almost all Hindu sects,
even though their other doctrines may seem to contradict it.

This line of thought is so persistent and has so many ramifications,
that it is hard to say what is and what is not Vedânta. If we take
literature as our best guide we may distinguish four points of
importance marked by the Upanishads, the Brahma-Sûtras, Śaṅkara and

I have said something elsewhere of the Upanishads. These works do not
profess to form a systematic whole (though later Hinduism regards
them as such) and when European scholars speak of them collectively,
they generally mean the older members of the collection. These may
justly be regarded as the ancestors of the Vedânta, inasmuch as the
tone of thought prevalent in them is incipient Vedântism. It rejects
dualism and regards the universe as a unity not as plurality, as
something which has issued from Brahman or is pervaded by Brahman and
in any case depends on Brahman for its significance and existence.
Brahman is God in the pantheistic sense, totally disconnected with
mythology and in most passages impersonal. The knowledge of Brahman is
salvation: he who has it, goes to Brahman or becomes Brahman. More
rarely we find statements of absolute identity such as "Being Brahman,
he goes to Brahman."[764] But though the Upanishads say that the soul
goes to or is Brahman, that the world comes from or is Brahman, that
the soul is the whole universe and that a knowledge of these truths is
the one thing of importance, these ideas are not combined into a
system. They are simply the thoughts of the wise, not always agreeing
in detail, and presented as independent utterances, each with its own

One of the most important of these wise men is Yâjñ̃avalkya,[765] the
hero of the Bṛihad Âranyaka Upanishad and a great name, to whom are
ascribed doctrines of which he probably never heard. The Upanishad
represents him as developing and completing the views of Śâṇḍilya
and Uddâlaka Âruṇi. The former taught[766] that the Âtman or Self
within the heart, smaller than a grain of mustard seed, is also
greater than all worlds. The brief exposition of his doctrine which we
possess starts from and emphasizes the human self. This self is
Brahman. The doctrine of Uddâlaka[767] takes the other side of the
equation: he starts with Brahman and then asserts that Brahman is the
soul. But though he teaches that in the beginning there was one only
without a second, yet he seems to regard the subsequent products of
this Being as external to it and permeated by it. But to Yâjñavalkya
is ascribed an important modification of these doctrines, namely, that
the Âtman is unknowable and transcendental.[768] It is unknowable
because since it is essentially the knowing subject it can be known
only by itself: it can never become the object of knowledge and
language is inadequate to describe it. All that can be said of it is
_neti_, _neti_, that is no, no: it is not anything which we try to
predicate of it. But he who knows that the individual soul is the
Âtman, becomes Âtman; being it, he knows it and knows all the world:
he perceives that in all the world there is no plurality. Here the
later doctrine of Mâyâ is adumbrated, though not formulated. Any
system which holds that in reality there is no plurality or, like some
forms of Mahayanist Buddhism, that nothing really exists implies the
operation of this Mâyâ or illusion which makes us see the world as it
appears to us. It may be thought of as mere ignorance, as a failure to
see the universe as it really is: but no doubt the later view of Mâyâ
as a creative energy which fashions the world of phenomena is closely
connected with the half-mythological conceptions found in the
Pâncarâtra and Śaiva philosophy which regard this creative illusion as
a female force--a goddess in fact--inseparably associated with the

The philosophy of the Upanishads, like all religious thought in India,
is avowedly a quest of happiness and this happiness is found in some
form of union with Brahman. He is perfect bliss, and whatever is
distinct from him is full of suffering.[769] But this sense of the
suffering inherent in existence is less marked in the older Upanishads
and in the Vedânta than in Buddhism and the Sâṅkhya. Those systems
make it their basis and first principle: in the Vedânta the
temperament is the same but the emphasis and direction of the thought
are different. The Sâṅkhya looks at the world and says that salvation
lies in escape into something which has nothing in common with it. But
the Vedântist looks towards Brahman, and his pessimism is merely the
feeling that everything which is not wholly and really Brahman is
unsatisfactory. In the later developments of the system, pessimism
almost disappears, for the existence of suffering is not the first
Truth but an illusion: the soul, did it but know it, is Brahman and
Brahman is bliss. So far as the Vedânta has any definite practical
teaching, it does not wholly despise action. Action is indeed inferior
to knowledge and when knowledge is once obtained works are useless
accessories, but the four stages of a Brahman's career, including
household life, are approved in the Vedânta Sûtras, though there is a
disposition to say that he who has the necessary religious aptitudes
can adopt the ascetic life at any time. The occupations of this
ascetic life are meditation and absorption or samâdhi, the state in
which the meditating soul becomes so completely blended with God on
whom it meditates, that it has no consciousness of its separate

As indicated above the so-called books of Śruti or Vedic literature
are not consecutive treatises, but rather _responsa prudentium_,
utterances respecting ritual and theology ascribed to poets,
sacrificers and philosophers who were accepted as authorities. When
these works came to be regarded as an orderly revelation, even
orthodoxy could not shut its eyes to their divergences, and a
comprehensive exegesis became necessary to give a conspectus of the
whole body of truth. This investigation of the meaning of the Veda as
a connected whole is called Mîmâṃsâ, and is divided into two
branches, the earlier (pûrva) and the later (uttara). The first is
represented by the Pûrva-mîmâṃsâ-sûtras of Jaimini[771] which are
called earlier (pûrva) not in the chronological sense but because they
deal with rites which come before knowledge, as a preparatory stage.
It is interesting to find that Jaimini was accused of atheism and
defended by Kumârila Bhaṭṭa. The defence is probably just, for
Jaimini does not so much deny God as ignore him. But what is truly
extraordinary, though characteristic of much Indian literature about
ritual, is that a work dealing with the general theory of religious
worship should treat the deity as an irrelevant topic. The
Pûrva-mîmâṃsâ discusses ceremonies prescribed by an eternal
self-existing Veda. The reward of sacrifice is not given by God. When
the result of an act does not appear at once, Jaimini teaches that
there is all the same produced a supersensuous principle called
_apûrva_, which bears fruit at a later time, and thus a sacrifice
leads the offerer to heaven. This theory is really tantamount to
placing magic on a philosophic basis.

Bâdarâyaṇa's sûtras, which represent the other branch of the
Mîmâṃsâ, show a type of thought more advanced and profound than
Jaimini's. They consist of 555 aphorisms--less than a fifth of
Jaimini's voluminous work--and represent the outcome of considerable
discussion posterior to the Upanishads, for they cite the opinions of
seven other teachers and also refer to Bâdarâyaṇa himself by name.
Hence they may be a compendium of his teaching made by his pupils.
Their date is unknown but Śaṅkara evidently regards them as ancient
and there were several commentators before him.[772] Like most sûtras
these aphorisms are often obscure and are hardly intended to be more
than a mnemotechnic summary of the doctrine, to be supplemented by
oral instruction or a commentary. Hence it is difficult to define the
teaching of Bâdarâyaṇa as distinguished from that of the Upanishads
on the one hand, and that of his commentators on the other, or to say
exactly what stage he marks in the development of thought, except that
it is the stage of attempted synthesis.[773] He teaches that Brahman
is the origin of the world and that with him should all knowledge,
religion and effort be concerned. By meditation on him, the soul is
released and somehow associated with him. But it is not clear that we
have any warrant for finding in the sûtras (as does Śaṅkara) the
distinction between the higher and lower Brahman, or the doctrine of
the unreality of the world (Mâyâ) or the absolute identity of the
individual soul with Brahman. We are told that the state of the
released soul is non-separation (avibhâga) from Brahman, but this is
variously explained by the commentators according to their views.
Though the sûtras are the acknowledged text-book of Vedântism, their
utterances are in practice less important than subsequent explanations
of them. As often happens in India, the comment has overgrown and
superseded the text.

The most important of these commentators is Śankarâcarya.[774] Had he
been a European philosopher anxious that his ideas should bear his
name, or a reformer like the Buddha with little respect for antiquity,
he would doubtless have taken his place in history as one of the most
original teachers of Asia. But since his whole object was to revive
the traditions of the past and suppress his originality by attempting
to prove that his ideas are those of Bâdarâyaṇa and the Upanishads,
the magnitude of his contribution to Indian thought is often
under-rated. We need not suppose that he was the inventor of all the
ideas in his works of which we find no previous expression. He
doubtless (like the Buddha) summarized and stereotyped an existing
mode of thought but his summary bears the unmistakeable mark of his
own personality.

Śaṅkara's teaching is known as Advaita or absolute monism. Nothing
exists except the one existence called Brahman or Paramâtman, the
Highest Self. Brahman is pure being and thought (the two being
regarded as identical), without qualities. Brahman is not intelligent
but is intelligence itself. The human soul (jîva) is identical with
the Highest Self, not merely as a part of it, but as being itself the
whole universal indivisible Brahman. This must not be misunderstood as
a blasphemous assertion that man is equal to God. The soul is
identical with Brahman only in so far as it forgets its separate human
existence, and all that we call self and individuality. A man who has
any pride in himself is _ipso facto_ differentiated from Brahman as
much as is possible. Yet in the world in which we move we see not only
differentiation and multiplicity but also a plurality of individual
souls apparently distinct from one another and from Brahman. This
appearance is due to the principle of Mâyâ which is associated with
Brahman and is the cause of the phenomenal world. If Mâyâ is
translated by illusion it must be remembered that its meaning is not
so much that the world and individual existences are illusory in the
strict sense of the word, as phenomenal. The only true reality is
self-conscious thought without an object. When the mind attains to
that, it ceases to be human and individual: it _is_ Brahman. But
whenever it thinks of particular objects neither the thoughts nor the
objects of the thoughts are real in the same sense. They are
appearances, phenomena. This universe of phenomena includes not only
all our emotions and all our perceptions of the external world, but
also what might be supposed to be the deepest truths of religion, such
as the personality of the Creator and the wanderings of the soul in
the maze of transmigration. In the same sense that we suffer pain and
pleasure, it is true that there is a personal God (Îśvara) who emits
and reabsorbs the world at regular intervals, and that the soul is a
limited existence passing from body to body. In this sense the soul,
as in the Sâṅkhya philosophy, is surrounded by the _upâdhis_, certain
limiting conditions or disguises, which form a permanent psychical
equipment with which it remains invested in all its innumerable
bodies. But though these doctrines may be true for those who are in
the world, for those souls who are agents, enjoyers and sufferers,
they cease to be true for the soul which takes the path of knowledge
and sees its own identity with Brahman. It is by this means only that
emancipation is attained, for good works bring a reward in kind, and
hence inevitably lead to new embodiments, new creations of Mâyâ. And
even in knowledge we must distinguish between the knowledge of the
lower Brahman or personal Deity (Îśvara) and of the higher
indescribable Brahman.[775] For the orthodox Hindu this distinction is
of great importance, for it enables him to reconcile passages in the
scriptures which otherwise are contradictory. Worship and meditation
which make Îśvara their object do not lead directly to emancipation.
They lead to the heavenly world of Îśvara, in which the soul, though
glorified, is still a separate individual existence. But for him who
meditates on the Highest Brahman and knows that his true self is that
Brahman, Mâyâ and its works cease to exist. When he dies nothing
differentiates him from that Brahman who alone is bliss and no new
individual existence arises.

The crux of this doctrine is in the theory of Mâyâ. If Mâyâ appertains
to Brahman, if it exists by his will, then why is it an evil, why is
release to be desired? Ought not the individual souls to serve
Brahman's purpose, and would not it be better served by living gladly
in the phenomenal world than by passing beyond it? But such an idea
has rarely satisfied Indian thinkers. If, on the other hand, Mâyâ is
an evil or at least an imperfection, if it is like rust on a blade or
dimness in a mirror, if, so to speak, the edges of Brahman are weak
and break into fragments which are prevented by their own feebleness
from realizing the unity of the whole, then the mind wonders uneasily
if, in spite of all assurances to the contrary, this does not imply
that Brahman is subject to some external law, to some even more
mysterious Beyond. But Śaṅkara and the Brahma-sûtras will not
tolerate such doubts. According to them, Brahman in making the world
is not actuated by a motive in the ordinary sense, for that would
imply human action and passion, but by a sportive impulse:[776] "We
see in every-day life," says Śaṅkara, "that certain doings of
princes, who have no desires left unfulfilled, have no reference to
any extraneous purpose but proceed from mere sportfulness. We further
see that the process of inhalation and exhalation is going on without
reference to any extraneous purpose, merely following the law of its
own nature. Analogously, the activity of the Lord also may be supposed
to be mere sport, proceeding from his own nature without reference to
any purpose."[777] This is no worse than many other explanations of
the scheme of things and the origin of evil but it is not really an
explanation. It means that the Advaita is so engrossed in ecstatic
contemplation of the omnipresent Brahman that it pays no attention to
a mere by-product like the physical universe. How or why that universe
with all its imperfections comes to exist, it does not explain.

Yet the boldness and ample sweep of Śaṅkara's thought have in them
something greater than logic,[778] something recalling the grandeur of
plains and seas limited only by the horizon, nay rather those abysses
of space wherein on clear nights worlds and suns innumerable are
scattered like sparks by what he would call God's playfulness.
European thought attains to these altitudes but cannot live in them
for long: it demands and fancies for itself just what Śaṅkara will
not grant, the motive of Brahman, the idea that he is working for some
consummation, not that he was, is and will be eternally complete,
unaffected by the drama of the universe and yet identical with souls
that know him.

Even in India the austere and impersonal character of Śaṅkara's
system provoked dissent: He was accused of being a Buddhist in
disguise and the accusation raises an interesting question[779] in the
history of Indian philosophy to which I have referred in a previous
chapter. The affinity existing between the Mâdhyamika form of Buddhist
metaphysics and the earlier Vedânta can hardly be disputed and the
only question is which borrowed from the other. Such questions are
exceedingly difficult to decide, for from time to time new ideas arose
in India, permeated the common intellectual atmosphere, and were
worked up by all sects into the forms that suited each best. In the
present instance all that can be said is that certain ideas about the
unreality of the world and about absolute and relative truth appear in
several treatises both Brahmanic and Buddhist, such as the works of
Śaṅkara and Nâgârjuna and the Gauḍa-pâdakârikâs, and of these the
works attributed to Nâgârjuna seem to be the oldest. It must also be
remembered that according to Chinese accounts Bodhidharma preached at
Nanking in 520 a doctrine very similar to the _advaita_ of Śaṅkara
though expressed in Buddhist phraseology.

Of other forms of Vedântism, the best known is the system of Râmânuja
generally called Viśishṭâdvaita.[780] It is an evidence of the
position held by the Vedânta philosophy that religious leaders made a
commentary on the Sûtras of Bâdarâyaṇa the vehicle of their most
important views. Unlike Śaṅkara, Râmânuja is sectarian and identifies
his supreme deity with Vishṇu or Nârâyaṇa, but this is little more
than a matter of nomenclature. His interpretation is modern in the
sense that it pursues the line of thought which leads up to the modern
sects. But that line of thought has ancient roots. Râmânuja followed a
commentator named Bodhâyaṇa who was anterior to Śaṅkara, and in the
opinion of so competent a judge as Thibaut he gives the meaning of
Bâdarâyaṇa in many points more exactly than his great rival. On the
other hand his interpretation often strains the most important
utterances of the Upanishads.

Râmânuja admits no distinction between Brahman and Îśvara, but the
distinction is abolished at the expense of abolishing the idea of the
Higher Brahman, for his Brahman is practically the Îśvara of Śaṅkara.
Brahman is not without attributes but possessed of all imaginable good
attributes, and though nothing exists apart from him, like the
antithesis of _Purusha_ and _Prakṛiti_ in the Sâṅkhya, yet the world
is not as in Śaṅkara's system merely Mâyâ. Matter and souls (_cit_
and _acit_) form the body of Brahman who both comprises and pervades
all things, which are merely modes of his existence.[781] He is the
inner ruler (antaryâmin) who is in all elements and all human
souls.[782] The texts which speak of Brahman as being one only without
a second are explained as referring to the state of pralaya or
absorption which occurs at the end of each Kalpa. At the conclusion of
the period of pralaya he re-emits the world and individual souls by an
act of volition and the souls begin the round of transmigration.
Salvation or release from this round is obtained not by good works but
by knowledge and meditation on the Lord assisted by his grace. The
released soul is not identified with the Lord but enjoys near him a
personal existence of eternal bliss and peace. This is more like
European theism than the other doctrines which we have been
considering. The difference is that God is not regarded as the creator
of matter and souls. Matter and souls consist of his substance. But
for all that he is a personal deity who can be loved and worshipped
and whereas Śaṅkara was a religious philosopher, Râmânuja was rather
a philosophic theologian and founder of a church. I have already
spoken of his activity in this sphere.


The epics and Purâṇas contain philosophical discussions of
considerable length which make little attempt at consistency. Yet the
line of thought in them all is the same. The chief tenets of the
theistic Sâṅkhya-Yoga are assumed: matter, soul and God are separate
existences: the soul wishes to move towards God and away from matter.
Yet when Indian writers glorify the deity they rarely abstain from
identifying him with the universe. In the Bhagavad-gîtâ and other
philosophical cantos of the Mahâbhârata the contradiction is
usually left without an attempt at solution. Thus it is stated
categorically[783] that the world consists of the perishable and
imperishable, _i.e._, matter and soul, but that the supreme spirit is
distinct from both. Yet in the same poem we pass from this antithesis
to the monism which declares that the deity is all things and "the
self seated in the heart of man." We have then attained the Vedantist
point of view. Nearly all the modern sects, whether Śivaite or
Vishnuite, admit the same contradiction into their teaching, for they
reject both the atheism of the Sâṅkhya and the immaterialism of the
Advaita (since it is impossible for a practical religion to deny the
existence of either God or the world), while the irresistible tendency
of Indian thought makes them describe their deity in pantheistic
language. All strive to find some metaphysical or theological formula
which will reconcile these discrepant ideas, and nearly all Vishnuites
profess some special variety of the Vedânta called by such names as
Viśishṭâdvaita, Dvaitâdvaita, Śuddhâdvaita and so on. They differ
chiefly in their definition of the relation existing between the soul
and God. Only the Mâdhvas entirely discard monism and profess duality
(Dvaita) and even Madhva thought it necessary to write a commentary on
the Brahma-sûtras to prove that they support his doctrine and the
Śivaites too have a commentator, Nîlakanṭ̣ḥa, who interprets them in
harmony with the Śaiva Siddhânta. There is also a modern commentary
by Somanaradittyar which expounds this much twisted text agreeably to
the doctrines of the Lingâyat sect.

In most fundamental principles the Śivaite and Śâktist schools agree
with the Viśishṭâdvaita but their nomenclature is different and their
scope is theological rather than philosophical. In all of them are
felt the two tendencies, one wishing to distinguish God, soul and
matter and to adjust their relations for the purposes of practical
religion, the other holding more or less that God is all or at least
that all things come from God and return to him. But there is one
difference between the schools of sectarian philosophy and the Advaita
of Śaṅkara which goes to the root of the matter. Śaṅkara holds that
the world and individual existences are due to illusion, ignorance and
misconception: they vanish in the light of true knowledge. Other
schools, while agreeing that in some sense God is all, yet hold that
the universe is not an illusion or false presentment of him but a
process of manifestation or of evolution starting from him.[784] It is
not precisely evolution in the European sense, but rather a rhythmic
movement, of duration and extent inexpressible in figures, in which
the Supreme Spirit alternately emits and reabsorbs the universe. As a
rule the higher religious life aims at some form of union or close
association with the deity, beyond the sphere of this process. In the
evolutionary process the Vaishṇavas interpolate between the Supreme
Spirit and the phenomenal world the phases of conditioned spirit known
as Saṅkarshaṇa, etc.; in the same way the Śivaite schools increase
the twenty-four _tattvas_ of the Sânkhya to thirty-six.[785] The first
of these _tattvas_ or principles is Śiva, corresponding to the highest
Brahman. The next phase is Sadâśiva in which differentiation commences
owing to the movement of Śakti, the active or female principle. Śiva
in this phase is thought of as having a body composed of _mantras_.
Śakti, also known as Bindu or Śuddhamâyâ, is sometimes regarded as a
separate _tattva_ but more generally as inseparably united with Śiva.
The third _tattva_ is Îśvara, or Śiva in the form of a lord or
personal deity, and the fourth is Śuddhavidyâ or true knowledge,
explained as the principle of correlation between the experiencer and
that which is experienced. It is only after these that we come to
Mâyâ, meaning not so much illusion as the substratum in which Karma
inheres or the protoplasm from which all things grow. Between Mâyâ and
Purusha come five more _tattvas_, called envelopes. Their effect is to
enclose and limit, thus turning the divine spirit into a human soul.

Śâktist accounts of the evolutionary process give greater prominence
to the part played by Śakti and are usually metaphysiological, if the
word may be pardoned, inasmuch as they regard the cosmic process as
the growth of an embryo, an idea which is as old as the Vedas.[786] It
is impossible to describe even in outline these manifold cosmologies
but they generally speak of Śakti, who in one sense is identical with
Śiva and merely his active form but in another sense is identified
with Prakṛiti, coming into contact with the form of Śiva called
Prakâśa or light and then solidifying into a drop (Bindu) or germ
which divides. At some point in this process arise Nâda or sound, and
Śabda-brahman, the sound-Brahman, which manifests itself in various
energies and assumes in the human body the form of the mysterious
coiled force called Kuṇḍalinî.[787] Some of the older Vishnuite
writings use similar language of Śakti, under the name of Lakshmî, but
in the Viśishṭâdvaita of Râmânuja and subsequent teachers there is
little disposition to dwell on any feminine energy in discussing the
process of evolution.

Of all the Darśanas the most extraordinary is that called Raseśvara
or the mercurial system.[788] According to it quicksilver, if eaten or
otherwise applied, not only preserves the body from decay but delivers
from transmigration the soul which inhabits this glorified body.
Quicksilver is even asserted to be identical with the supreme self.
This curious Darśana is represented as revealed by Śiva to Śakti and
it is only an extreme example of the tantric doctrine that spiritual
results can be obtained by physical means. The practice of taking
mercury to secure health and long life must have been prevalent in
medieval India for it is mentioned by both Marco Polo and


A people among whom the Vedânta could obtain a large following must
have been prone to think little of the things which we see compared
with the unseen of which they are the manifestation. It is, therefore,
not surprising if materialism met with small sympathy or success among
them. In India the extravagances of asceticism and of mystic
sensualism alike find devotees, but the simple philosophy of Let us
eat and drink for to-morrow we die, does not commend itself.
Nevertheless it is not wholly absent and was known as the doctrine of
Brihaspati. Those who professed it were also called Cârvâkas and
Lokâyatikas.[790] Brihaspati was the preceptor of the gods and his
connection with this sensualistic philosophy goes back to a legend
found in the Upanishads[791] that he taught the demons false knowledge
whose "reward lasts only as long as the pleasure lasts" in order to
compass their destruction. This is similar to the legend found in the
Purâṇas that Vishṇu became incarnate as Buddha in order to lead
astray the Daityas. But though such words as Ćârvâka and Nâstika are
used in later literature as terms of learned abuse, the former seems
to denote a definite school, although we cannot connect its history
with dates, places or personalities. The Cârvâkas are the first system
examined in the Sarva-darśana-saṅgraha, which is written from the
Vedântist standpoint, and beginning from the worst systems of
philosophy ascends to those which are relatively correct. This account
contains most of what we know about their doctrines,[792] but is
obviously biassed: it represents them as cynical voluptuaries holding
that the only end of man is sensual enjoyment. We are told that they
admitted only one source of knowledge, namely perception, and four
elements, earth, water, fire and air, and that they held the soul to
be identical with the body. Such a phrase as _my body_ they considered
to be metaphorical, as apart from the body there was no ego who owned
it. The soul was supposed to be a physical product of the four
elements, just as sugar combined with a ferment and other ingredients
produces an intoxicating liquor. Among verses described as "said by
Brihaspati" occur the following remarkable lines:

    "There is no heaven, no liberation, nor any soul in another world,
    Nor do the acts of the âśramas or castes produce any reward.
    If the animal slain in the Jyotishtoma sacrifice will go to heaven,
    Why does not the sacrificer immolate his own father?
    While life remains let a man live happily: let him feed on butter even
                                                     if he runs into debt.
    When once the body becomes ashes, how can it ever return?"

The author of the Dabistân, who lived in the seventeenth century, also
mentions the Cârvâkas in somewhat similar terms.[793]

Brahmanical authors often couple the Cârvâkas and Buddhists. This
lumping together of offensively heretical sects may be merely
theological animus, but still it is possible that there may be a
connection between the Cârvâkas and the extreme forms of Mahayanist
nihilism. Schrader[794] in analysing a singular work, called the
Svasaṃvedyopanishad, says it is "inspired by the Mahayanist doctrine
of vacuity (_śûnya-vâda_) and proclaims a most radical agnosticism by
asserting in four chapters (_a_) that there is no reincarnation
(existence being bubble-like), no God, no world: that all traditional
literature (_Śruti_ and _Sṃriti_) is the work of conceited fools;
(_b_) that Time the destroyer and Nature the originator are the
rulers of all existence and not good and bad deeds, and that there is
neither hell nor heaven; (_c_) that people deluded by flowery speech
cling to gods, sacred places, teachers, though there is in reality no
difference at all between Vishṇu and a dog; (_d_) that though all
words are untrue and all ideas mere illusions, yet liberation is
possible by a thorough realization of _Bhâvâdvaita_." But for this
rather sudden concession to Hindu sentiment, namely that deliverance
is possible, this doctrine resembles the tenets attributed to the


[Footnote 736: In the Sarva-darśana-saṅgraha, the best known
compendium of Indian philosophy.]

[Footnote 737: J.C. Chatterji's definition of Indian philosophy (in
his _Indian Realism_, p. 1) is interesting. "By Hindu philosophy I
mean that branch of the ancient learning of the Hindus which
demonstrates by reasoning propositions with regard to (_a_) what a man
ought to do in order to gain true happiness ... or (_b_) what he ought
to realize by direct experience in order to be radically and
absolutely freed from suffering and to be absolutely independent, such
propositions being already given and lines of reasoning in their
support being established by duly qualified authorities."]

[Footnote 738: See Chatterji's work above cited.]

[Footnote 739: It is this idea which disposes educated Hindus to
believe in the magical or sacramental power of mystic syllables and
letters, though the use of such spells seems to Europeans incredible

[Footnote 740: See especially Garbe, _Die Sâṅkhya Philosophie_, 1894;
and Keith, _The Sâṅkhya System_, 1919, which however reached me too
late for me to make any use of it.]

[Footnote 741: _E.g._ in the Bhagavad-gîtâ and Śvetâśvatara Upanishads.
According to tradition Kapila taught Asuri and he, Pañcaśikha, who
made the system celebrated. Garbe thinks Pañcaśikha may be assigned to
the first century A.D.]

[Footnote 742: This appears to be the real title of the Sûtras edited
and translated by Ballantyne as "The Sâṅkhya Aphorisms of Kapila."]

[Footnote 743: Or topics. It is difficult to find any one English word
which covers the twenty-five tattvas, for they include both general
and special ideas, mind and matter on the one hand; special organs on
the other.]

[Footnote 744: Sâṅkh. Pravac. I. 96.]

[Footnote 745: Garbe, _Die Sâṅkhya Philosophie_, p. 222. He considers
that it spread thence to other schools. This involves the assumption
that the Sâṅkhya is prior to Buddhism and Jainism.]

[Footnote 746: Ears, skin, eyes, tongue and nose.]

[Footnote 747: Voice, hands, feet, organs of excretion and

[Footnote 748: Verse 40.]

[Footnote 749: Cf. the Buddhist Sankhâras.]

[Footnote 750: Sâṅkh. Kâr. 62.]

[Footnote 751: Sâṅkh. Kâr. 59-61.]

[Footnote 752: Sâṅkh. Pravac. I. 92-95.]

[Footnote 753: Sâṅkh. Pravac. V. 2-12.]

[Footnote 754: Thus Sâṅkh. Pravac. V. 46, says Tatkartuḥ
purushasyâbhâvât and the commentary explains Îśvara-pratishedhâd iti
śeshah "supply the words, because we deny that there is a supreme

[Footnote 755: Nevertheless the commentator Vijñâna-Bhikshu
(c. 1500) tries to explain away this atheism and to reconcile
the Sâṅkhya with the Vedânta. See Garbe's preface to his edition
of the Sâṅkhya-pravacana-bhâshya.]

[Footnote 756: VI. 13.]

[Footnote 757: V. 5.]

[Footnote 758: Îśvara is apparently a purusha like others but greater
in glory and untouched by human infirmities. Yoga sûtras, I. 24-26.]

[Footnote 759: It is a singular fact that both the
Sâṅkhya-kârikâ-bhâshya and a treatise on the Vaiśeshika philosophy
are included in the Chinese Tripitaka (Nanjio, Cat. Nos. 1300 and
1295). A warning is however added that they are not "the law of the

[Footnote 760: See Jacobi, _J.A.O.S._ Dec. 1910, p. 24. But if
Vasubandhu lived about 280-360, as is now generally believed,
allusions to the Yogâcâra school in the Yoga sûtras do not oblige us
to place the sûtras much later than 300 A.D. since the Yogâcâra was
founded by Asanga, the brother of Vasubandhu.]

[Footnote 761: I find it hard to accept Deussen's view (_Philosophy of
the Upanishads_, chap. X) that the Sâṅkhya has grown out of the

[Footnote 762: See _e.g._ Vishṇu Purâṇa, I. chaps. 2, 4, 5. The
Bhagavad-gîtâ, though almost the New Testament of Vedantists, uses the
words Sâṅkhya and Yoga in several passages as meaning speculative
truth and the religious life and is concerned to show that they are
the same. See II. 39; III. 3; V. 4, 5.]

[Footnote 763: It is perhaps hardly necessary to add that there has
been endless discussion as to the sense and manner in which the soul
is God.]

[Footnote 764: Bṛihad Âran. IV. 4. 6; _Ib._ I. iv. 10. "I am

[Footnote 765: See above Book II. chaps. V and VI.]

[Footnote 766: Chând. Up. III. 14.]

[Footnote 767: Chând. Up. VI.]

[Footnote 768: See Deussen, _Philosophy of the Upanishads._]

[Footnote 769: Ato'nyad ârtam. Bṛihad Âr. III. several times.]

[Footnote 770: Maitrâyaṇa. Brâh. Upanishad, VI. 20. "Having seen his
own self as The Self he becomes selfless, and because he is selfless
he is without limit, without cause, absorbed in thought."]

[Footnote 771: There is nothing to fix the date of this work except
that Kumârila in commenting on it in the eighth century treats it as
old and authoritative. It was perhaps composed in the early Gupta

[Footnote 772: Keith in _J.R.A.S._ 1907, p. 492 says it is becoming
more and more probable that Bâdarâyaṇa cannot be dated after the
Christian era. Jacobi in _J.A.O.S._ 1911, p. 29 concludes that the
Brahma-sûtras were composed between 200 and 450 A.D.]

[Footnote 773: Such attempts must have begun early. The Maitrâyana
Upanishad (II. 3) talks of Sarvopanishadvidyâ, the science of all the

[Footnote 774: See above, p. 207 ff.]

[Footnote 775: The same distinction occurs in the works of Meister
Eckhart († 1327 A.D.) who in many ways approximates to Indian thought,
both Buddhist and Vedântist. He makes a distinction between the
Godhead and God. The Godhead is the revealer but unrevealed: it is
described as "wordless" (Yâjnavalkya's _neti_, _neti_), "the nameless
nothing," "the immoveable rest." But God is the manifestation of the
Godhead, the uttered word. "All that is in the Godhead is one.
Therefore we can say nothing. He is above all names, above all nature.
God works, so doeth not the Godhead. Therein are they distinguished,
in working and in not working. The end of all things is the hidden
darkness of the eternal Godhead, unknown and never to be known."
(Quoted by Rufus Jones, _Studies in Mystical Religion_, p. 225.) It
may be doubted if Śankara's distinction between the Higher and Lower
Brahman is to be found in the Upanishads but it is probably the best
means of harmonizing the discrepancies in those works which Indian
theologians feel bound to explain away.]

[Footnote 776: Vedânta sûtras, II. 1. 32-3, and Śaṅkara's commentary,
_S.B.E._ vol. XXXIV. pp. 356-7. Râmânuja holds a similar view and it
is very common in India, _e.g._ Vishṇu Pur. I. chap. 2.]

[Footnote 777: See too a remarkable passage in his comment on
Brahma-sûtras, II. 1. 23. "As soon as the consciousness of
non-difference arises in us, the transmigratory state of the
individual soul and the creative quality of Brahman vanish at once,
the whole phenomenon of plurality which springs from wrong knowledge
being sublated by perfect knowledge and what becomes then of the
creation and the faults of not doing what is beneficial and the

[Footnote 778: Although Śaṅkara's commentary is a piece of severe
ratiocination, especially in its controversial parts, yet he holds
that the knowledge of Brahman depends not on reasoning but on
scripture and intuition. "The presentation before the mind of the
Highest Self is effected by meditation and devotion." Brah. Sut. III.
2. 24. See too his comments on I. 1. 2 and II. 1. 11.]

[Footnote 779: See Sukhtankar, _Teachings of Vedânta according to
Râmânuja_, pp. 17-19. Walleser, _Der aeltere Vedânta_, and De la
Vallée Poussin in _J.R.A.S._ 1910, p. 129.]

[Footnote 780: This term is generally rendered by qualified, that is
not absolute, Monism. But South Indian scholars give a slightly
different explanation and maintain that it is equivalent to
_Viśishṭayor advaitam_ or the identity of the two qualified
(_viśishṭa_) conditions of Brahman. Brahman is qualified by _cit_ and
_acit_, souls and matter, which stand to him in the relation of
attributes. The two conditions are _Kâryâvasthâ_ or period of cosmic
manifestation in which _cit_ and _acit_ are manifest and
_Karaṇâvasthâ_ or period of cosmic dissolution, when they exist only
in a subtle state within Brahman. These two conditions are not
different (_advaitam_). See Srinivas Iyengar, _J.R.A.S._ 1912, p. 1073
and also _Sri Râmânujâcárya: His Philosophy_ by Rajagopalacharyar.]

[Footnote 781: Compare the phrase of Keats in a letter quoted by
Bosanquet, _Gifford Lectures for 1912_, p. 66. "As various as the
lives of men are, so various become their souls and thus does God make
individual beings, souls, identical souls of the sparks of his own

[Footnote 782: This tenet is justified by Bṛihad Aran. Up. III. 3 ff.
which is a great text for Râmânuja's school. "He who dwells in the
earth (water, etc.) and within the earth (or, is different from the
earth) whom the earth knows not, whose body the earth is, who rules
the earth within, he is thyself, the ruler within, the immortal."]

[Footnote 783: Bhag.-gîtâ, XV. 16, 17.]

[Footnote 784: The two doctrines are called _Vivartavâda_ and

[Footnote 785: These are only the more subtle _tattvas_. There are
also 60 gross ones. See for the whole subject Schomerus Der
Çaiva-Siddhânta, p. 129.]

[Footnote 786: It also finds expression in myths about the division of
the deity into male and female halves, the cosmic egg, etc., which are
found in all strata of Indian literature.]

[Footnote 787: An account of tantric cosmology can be found in Avalon,
_Mahân. Tantra_, pp xix-xxxi. See also Avalon, _Prapancasâra Tantra_,
pp. 5 ff.; Srinivâsa Iyengar, _Indian Philosophy_, pp. 143 and 295
ff.; Bhandarkar, _Vaishṇ. and Śaivism_, pp. 145 ff.]

[Footnote 788: Sarva-darśana-saṇgraha, chap. IX. For this doctrine in
China see Wieger _Histoire des Croyances religieuses en Chine_, p.

[Footnote 789: See Yule's _Marco Polo_, II. pp. 365, 369.]

[Footnote 790: See Rhys Davids' note in his _Dialogues of the Buddha
on Dîgha Nikâya_, Sutta V. pp. 166 ff. He seems to show that Lokâyata
meant originally natural philosophy as a part of a Brahman's education
and only gradually acquired a bad meaning. The Arthaśâstra also
recommends the Sânkhya, Yoga and Lokâyata systems.]

[Footnote 791: Maitr. Up. VII. 8.]

[Footnote 792: See also Suali in _Muséon_, 1908, pp. 277 ff. and the
article Materialism (Indian) in _E.R.E._ For another instance of
ancient materialism see the views of Pâyâsi set forth in Dig. Nik.
XXIII. The Bṛihad Ar. Up. III. 2. 13 implies that the idea of body
and spirit being disintegrated at death was known though perhaps not

[Footnote 793: Translation by Shea and Troyer, vol. II. pp. 201-2.]

[Footnote 794: _Sanskrit Manuscripts in the Adyar Library_, 1908, pp.

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