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Prcsenteh to 
of tlje 

P^tttUcrstty of ^oroitta 

Hume Blake, Esq.. 

Digitized by the Internet Archive 

in 2008 with funding from 

IVIicrosoft Corporation 




Sir Jobii Xubbocft's t»unJ>re5 JBoofts 














Pi.T-pose of this work : the knowledge of Buddhism enables us to 
judge some of our contemporary systems. General view of the 
Buddhist doctrine ; the absence of God and belief in annihilation. 
Authenticity of Buddhism. The works of Hodgson, Csoma of 
Kbros, Tumour, Burnouf, and Remusat. Original Sanskrit and 
Pali writings. Tibetan, Mongolian, Chinese, Burmese, and Siamese 
translations. Piyadasi's inscriptions. Evidence of the Greek his- 
torians of Alexander's expedition, &c. Division of the work • II 




Birth of the Buddha; his education ; his marriage; he chooses his 
wife Gopa. The Buddha's meditations ; his vocation encouraged 
by the gods ; the four visions ; the young prince's determination ; 
lesi^tance of his father and family ; he flies from Kapilavastu. His 
studies at Vaisali and Rajagriha; his five companions ; he renounces 
the world. His retreat of six years at Uruvela ; his austerities and 
ecstasies ; the attainment of Buddhahood ; Bodhimanda and Bodhi- 
druma ; Vajrasanam. The Buddha leaves his retreat ; he goes to 
Benares to ' turn the Wheel of the Law ' ; his teachings ; his sojourn 
in Magadha and in Kosala ; Bimbisara, Ajatasatru, Prasenajit, 
Anatha Pindika. The Buddha's interview with his father ; his dis- 
sensions with the Brahmans ; his triumph ; popular enthusiasm. 
Peatli of tlje Bviddha ^t eighty years pf age, at Kusi-nagara . .31 




The Legend of tbe Buddha. Analysis of the Lalita-vistdra. 
Prologue in the Tushita heaven. The four investigations ; the 
Buddha's address ; his departure and incarnation in Maya-Devi's 
womb. The gods pay homage. Birth of the Buddha ; his seven 
steps. The Brahman Asita's pro|)heoy. The Buddha victoriously 
resists the attacks and temptations of Mira, gi>i of love, sin, and 
death. Analysis of the Lotus of the Good La//. The Buddha's 
sermons. Parables : the children in the burning house ; the blind 
man recovering sight. Vision of the Prabhutaratna Stupa. The 
Buddha's prophecies. Effects of the supernatural powers of the 
Talhagata. Lxjilanation of the Buddha's different names , . 69 


General character of Buddhist ethics derived from the canonical 
writings of the Councils. The Three Basketfuls, and the Three 
Pearls ; the Four Noble Truths ; the Ten Precepts ; the Twelve 
Observances specially applicable to monks, on clothing, food, and 
residence; the six transcendent Virtues, and the secondary Virtues ; 
C()nfessi()n, family duties, preaching. Influence of Buddhist ethics 
on i idivid als and governments. The Buddha's ideal. Purna, 
Kunala, Vasavadatia, and Upagiipla. The kings Bimbisara, Aja- 
tasatru, and A^oka. Piyadasi's Edicts, spread all over India. 
Journeys of Chinese pilgrims in the fifth and seventh century of the 
Christian era; Fa-lliau and II iouen-Tlisang 95 


Metaphysics of Buddhism, or Abhidharma. Transmigration ; its 
unlimited compass from man to inert matter. Obscurity of the 
Buddhist doctrine on the oriL,in of transmigration. Expljyiation of 
human destiny by the Connecting Chain of the twelve reciprocal 
Causes Theory of Nirvana, or Eternal Salvation by annihilation. 
The Dh}ana 129 


Critical study of Buddhism. Its merits : practical tendency, con- 
tempt of wealth, charity, sentiment of equality, meekness, austerity, 
resignation, horror of falsehood, respect for family ties. Its faults : 
social impotence, egotism, no idea of duty, ignorance of justice and 
liberty, seep icism, incurable despair, error as regards life and 
human personality, atheism. General condemnation of Buddhism, 
ppinions of Bayle and YoHaire 011 the atheism of China . , l^^ 






Life of IHoucn-Thsang. The importance of his travels in India ; 
his monaslic education in China; his vocation as a missionary; 
his departure; first trials. The king of the Oigurs; the Turkish 
Khan. Hiouen-Thsang's arrival in India; his superstitious piety ; 
.exploration on the banks of the Ganges ; five years sojourn in 
Magadha and the convent of Nalanda; travels throughout the 
peninsula ; return to Nalanda ; Slladitya ; contest of the Master of 
the Law against the Little Vehicle. His retreat ; translation of 
the saorcd Ijuddhist books ; death of Hiouen-Thsang ; his character i8o 


Memoirs of Hiouen-Thsang. Sources from which the Si-yu-ki 
is derived. History in India and China. Descriptive method of 
Hiouen-Thsang. His general views on India; his itinerary in 
Magadha; a page fiom his Memoirs on the convent of Nalanda. 
Testimony of Hiouen-Thsang as to the Buddha, the Nirvana, the 
Councils, and the kings of his day. Hiouen-Thsang at the Court 
of Slladitya, Kmg of Kan\akubja and part of Central India. The 
great Assembly ot the Deliverance in the Field of Happiness. Dis- 
tiibulion of royal alms. Surprising tolerance of the Hindus , • aji 


Buddhist worship in India in the seventh century of the Christian 
era; its simplicity; woiship of statues ; the important part they 
play in Ikiddhism. Moving and flying statues; miraculous cures; 
relics of the Tathagata and other saintly personages. Imprints of 
the Buddha's footsteps. The Maitreya Bodhisalwa. Absence of 
organization among the Indian Buddhist monks. Relation of 
Buddhism with Brahmanism in the seventh century. Buddhism 
divided into two sects : the Little and the Great Vehicle. Relation 
of the two principal sects ; subordination of the Little Vehicle ; its 
secondary sects. Course of Buddhist studies at the time of Hiouen- 
Thsang. His intercourse with the illustrious learned men. Sum- 
jpary of Jndian Buddhjsflfj » , , , , , , . \(il 






Lord Torrington, Governor of Ceylon, and the Buddhist priests 
in 1848. Sources of the history of Ceylon. Burnouf's notes on 
the ancient names in that island. The Kamdyana. Greek and 
Roman accounts of Taprobane. Fa-Hian's journey to Ceylon; 
traditions collected by Hiouen-Thsang. Sinhalese annals ; Tur- 
nour's Mahdvansa. Sir Alexander Johnston's undertaking in 1826. 
Deception practised by the Sinhalese priests. Upham's publica- 
tion. The sacred and historical Pali books of Ceylon. Conver- 
sion of Ceylon to Buddhism. Analysis of the Mahdvansa. Sup- 
posed journey of the Buddha to Ceylon. The Three Councils. 
Relations of Dharmasoka, King of India, with Devanam-Piya- 
Tissa, King of Ceylon ; interchange of ambassadors. Mahinda, 
Buddhist apostle, and his sister go to Ceylon. Branch of the 
Bodhi-tree. Some important events in the history of Ceylon. 
The Buddha's tooth. Divers translations of the Canonical books 
and their commentaries by Buddhaghosa in the fifth century of 
the Chiistian era 287 


Actual condition of the Buddhist clergy in Ceylon, as described by 
the Rev. Spence Hardy, Wesleyan missionary. The novitiate ; the 
ordination ; letter from the Burmese high priest. Wealth of the 
Sinhalese clergy. Individual poverty of the priests; their austerity. 
The Canonical sacred writings in Ceylon. Public reading of the 
Bana (the Word). Festival at Pantura in 1839. The Updsakas ; 
the Pirit, or ceremony of e.xorcism. The Bhavana or Meditation ; 
supernatural powers conferred by it. Meritorious acts {Sacha- 
kiriyas) and their miraculous influence. Nirvana according to 
Sinhalese priests ; their ardent faith ; their spirit of tolerance ; 
care bestowed on the education of children. Medical knowledge 
of the clergy. Subordination of the clergy to the ruling powers. 
Division of the Sinhalese clergy into sects. Relations of Sinhalese 
Buddhism with Christianity. Progress of Catholicism and educa- 
tion under the English rule. Statistics of Ceylon . . . .324 


Festival of the Buddha's tooth in 1858 371 

^ The Three Councils according to the Mahdvansa . ♦ > dt7$ 



Purpose of this work : the knowledge of Buddhism enables us to Judge 
some of our contemporary systeyns. General view of the Buddhist 
doclj-ine : the absence of God and belief in annihilation. Authen- 
ticity of Btiddhism. The zvorks of B. H. Hodgson, Csoma of JCdros, 
Tumour, E. Burnouf and A. Rhnusat. Original Sanskrit and 
Pali 7vritings; Tibetan, Mongolian, Chinese, Burmese, and Siamese 
translations. Fiyadasi 's inscriptions. Evidence of the Greek his- 
torians of Alexander s expedition. Division of the work. 

In publishing this work on Buddhism, I have but one 
purpose in view : that of bringing out in striking contrast the 
beneficial truths and the greatness of our spiritualistic beliefs. 
Nurtured in an admirable philosophy and religion, we do 
not seek to know their value, and we remain ignorant of the 
great debt we owe to them. We are satisfied to possess 
them, while, at the same time, we are often indifferent and 
even ungrateful towards them. Although civilization is 
incessant in its progress, and we reap its benefits, we never 
think of inquiring whence come the welfare, the security, and 
the comparative enlightenment which civilization brings with 
it; while we see around us a multitude of other races, which, 
from the beginning of time have remained in a semi-barbarous 
condition, incapable of forming any tolerable social condi- 
tions or governments. I believe that the study of Buddhism 


in its more general outlines, will give us the secret of this 
enigma. It will show how a religion which has at the 
present day more adherents than any other on the surface 
of the globe, has contributed so little to the happiness of 
mankind ; and we shall find in the strange and deplorable 
doctrines which it professes, the explanation of its powerless- 
ness for good. By ^n easy retrospect we shall be able more 
thoroughly to appreciate the moral .inheritance which has 
been transmitted to us since the time of Socrates and Plato, 
and to guard it with all the more care and gratitude. 

Buddhism, greatly modified and altered, it is true, dates 
from the seventh century before our own era ; and prevails 
at the present day in Kashmir, Nepaul, Tibet, Tartary, 
Mongolia, Japan, a great part of China, the kingdom of 
Anam, Burmah, and the Island of Ceylon. The Buddha 
was born in the year 622 B.C., and died in 543 at eighty 
years of age, after having taught his doctrine in Magadha 
(actually Behar), a region of Central India, in the neighbour- 
hood of Benares, on the right bank of the Ganges. 
Buddhism was an attempt to reform the religion of Brahma, 
in the midst of which it arose, and by which it was finally 
expelled from India after centuries of somewhat contemptuous 
tolerance. But the doctrines which had but momentarily 
triumphed in the countries that had seen their birth, spread 
over the neighbouring countries, with a success that still con- 
tinues and seems likely to last. 

To reduce Buddhism to its essential elements, the follow- 
ing is a short summary of its aims, philosophical and 

Taking but a one-sided view of man's condition upon 
earth, looking chiefly at his miseries and suff'erings, the 
Buddha does not try to revert to his origin, and to derive it 
from a higher source. 
■ Jiis beliefs carry him wo further than to suppose that the 


present life is a conlinualion of past existences, of which 
man is now bearing the fatal penalty. He believes in trans- 
migration : herein lies his first dogma and his first error. It 
is necessary then that man should at any cost be delivered 
from the cycle of perpetual births to which he is condemned ; 
and the Buddha takes upon himself to point out the path 
which leads to deliverance and frees him from this terrible 
bondage. Filled with mercy and compassion, he gives to 
mankind that he came to redeem, a moral code, and he 
promises eternal salvation to those who follow it. What 
then is eternal salvation, according to the Buddhist faith ? 
and how can man be delivered from the law of trans- 
migration ? Only in one way — by attaining Nirvana, that is 

When man, thanks to the practice of the austerities and 
virtues that the Buddha taught, has once reached annihilation, 
he is well assured that he will never, under any form, be 
reborn into the odious cycle of successive existences ; and 
when all the elements of which he is composed, both material 
and spiritual, are completely destroyed, he need no longer 
fear transmigration; and the blind fatality which rules all 
things in the universe has power over him no more. 

This seems indeed a hideous system ; but it is a perfectly 
consistent one. In the whole of Buddhism, from beginning 
to end, there is not a trace of the idea of God. Man, com- 
pletely isolated, is thrown upon his own resources. Cast into 
a world he does not understand, without Providence and 
without support, staggering under the weight of human 
infirmity, he has but one hope — that of escaping from his 
earthly suffering. Wandering in utter darkness, he yet does 1 
not seek for light by aspirations towards something higher. ' 
His horizon limited to what his senses bear witness, and his 
knowledge of self as limited and inaccurate as the phenomena 
amid which he drags out his existence, his intelligence is not 


sufficiently developed to attain the source from which he 
himself, as well as the world, has emanated. 

Begun from nothing, it is natural that he should end in 
nothingness, and Buddhism must inevitably lead to this con- 
clusion — a conclusion so terrible for us, but so consoling for 
the Buddhist. Born without God, living without God, what 
wonder that he should not find God after death ? — that he 
returns willingly to the nothingness whence he came, which 
is the only refuge that he knows ? 

Such, in a few words, is Buddhism, and this is the system 
of faith which it presents, with the usual accompaniments of 
legend and superstition. 

The religion of the Buddha, however irrational it may be 
in principle, is not without a certain grandeur, and, more- 
over, has not been without results. In India, from whence it 
sprang, it took no root. But, strange as it may seem, this 
doctrine, which seems calculated to shock the most natural 
and the strongest instincts of humanity, led to real progress 
in the races that accepted it ; and, in submitting to it, they 
became less ignorant and less degraded. This is hardly, 
perhaps, a sufficient apology for Buddhism ; but we are com- 
pelled to render it justice, and it contains so much that is 
erroneous, that it may well be credited with this secondary 
merit, which legitimately belongs to it. 

I must unhesitatingly add, that with the sole exception of 
the Christ, there does not exist among all the founders of 
religions a purer and more touching figure than that of the 
Buddha. In his pure and spotless fife he acts up to his 
convictions; and if the theory he propounds is false, the 
personal example which he gives is irreproachable. He is 
the perfect type of all the virtues he extols ; his self-abnega- 
tion, his charity, his unalterable mildness are unfailing; at 
the. age of twenty-nine he leaves his father's court to become 
a religious mendicant; he prepares himself to preach his 


doctrine during six years of retreat and meditation; he 
propagates it by the sole po^ve^ of his word and persuasion 
for more than half a century ; and when he dies in the arms 
of his disciples it is with the serenity of a sage who has 
practised good all his life and who is certain that he has 
found truth. The nations who have received his faiih have 
not worshipped him as a God, for the idea of a God was as 
foreign to them as it was to him. But they have made 
of the Buddha an ideal they have striven to imitate; and 
Buddhism has formed, as we shall show, some great spirits 
well worthy to figure among those who are the most revered 
and admired by mankind. 

Sad as it may be, it is a study worth making, and I shall 
not regret my task if I can attain the purpose I have set 
myself. The nobler sides of Buddhism may delude us, if 
we remain satisfied with imperfect information; those I shall 
set forth will, I believe, be sufficient to prevent any serious- 
minded reader from falling into such errors. 

This work may possibly possess another advantage, for 
I regret to say it is to a certain degree jDpportune. For 
some time past the doctrines which form the basis of 
Buddhism have found favour amongst us, a favour of which 
they are most unworthy. We see systems arise in which 
metempsychosis and transmigration are lauded, and, after the 
manner of the Buddha, the world and mankind arfe explained 
without any reference to Providence or God; systems in 
which man is denied all hope of an immortal life, in which 
ihe immortality of the soul is replaced by the immortality of 
i,ood works, and God is dethroned by man— the only being, 
it is averred, through whom the Infinite develops conscious- 
ness of itself. Sometimes it is in the name of science, 
sometimes in that of history or philology, or even meta- 
physics, that these theories are propounded — theories which 
are neither novel nor original, and which are calculated to be 


extremely hurtful to any weak or vacillating mind. This i9 
not the place to examine these theories, and their authors 
are at once too sincere and too learned for them to be 
summarily discussed and condemned. But it is as well that 
they should be warned by the example of Buddhism, of 
which hitherto so little has been known, what is the fate of 
man when he relies only on self; and when his meditations, 
led astray by a pride of which he is often unconscious, lead 
him to the abyss in which the Buddha has lost himself. 

Moreover, I am well aware of the great differences that 
exist : I do not indiscriminately confound their systems with 
Buddhism, although I condemn them also. I am ready to 
recognize that their merits have some value; but philo- 
sophical systems must always be judged by their conclusions, 
whatever road may have been pursued to attain them ; and 
these conclusions, although they may have been reached by 
different paths, do not thereby become any the better. It is 
now two thousand five hundred years since the Buddha 
taught his doctrine : he proclaimed and practised it with an 
energy that has never been equalled nor surpassed; he 
displayed an ingenuous dauntlessness that will never be 
exceeded ; and it is improbable that any of the systems of 
the present day will ever exercise such a powerful influence 
over the human mind. It might, however, be somewhat 
useful for the authors of these systems to cast a glance on 
the theory and destiny of Buddhism. It is not philosophy 
in the sense we give to that great word ; neither is it religion 
as understood by ancient Paganism, or Christianity, or 
Mohammedanism ; but it is something of all this, added to 
a perfectly independent doctrine which sees only man in the 
universe, and stubbornly refuses to see anything but man, 
who is confounded with the whole of Nature. Hence the 
aberrations and errors of Buddhism, which might act as 
a warning to us if only we had wisdom to understand it. 


Unfortunately we seldom learn by our own mistakes, and 
still more rarely do we profit by those of others. 

Now as the accusations I make against Buddhism are 
serious, it may be as well to set forth in order how the 
sources of the Buddhist religion have been discovered, and 
on what authcnlic basis our knowledge of the subject is 

It is hardly thirty years' since it has been properly studied, 
but circumstances have so favoured research, that at the 
present day our knowledge of the origins of Buddhism is 
more thorough than that of most religions, including our 
own. We are acquainted with the life of the Buddha down 
to the most trifling details, and we possess all the canonical 
writings which contain his doctrine, as collected and settled 
by the three successive councils. These books, primarily 
written in Sanskrit, or in a dialect of Sanskrit, have been 
translated into the ordinary language of all the races amongst 
whom the Buddhist faith has spread: Singalese, Tibetan, 
Tartar, Mongolian, Chinese, Japanese, Burman, &c. We 
possess these translations, and they are a perfectly reliable 
check on the original authorities, several of which have 
already been reproduced in different languages. 

And besides these proofs there is other evidence no less 
unimpeachable : monuments of all kinds, the ruins of which 
still lie scattered all over India, numerous and conclusive 
inscriptions, journeyings of pious pilgrims who have at 
dififerent periods visited the places made sacred by the 
memory of the Buddha. In one word, nothing is lacking at 
the present day to confirm our opinion; fresh discoveries 
may be made, but they will not change those which we 
already possess, and to which we owe so many curious 

In order that no doubt may exist on this most important 
' This work was published in i860. 


point, I will give a rapid sketch of the unprecedented success 
of these investigations, and recall once more the names of 
those whose labours have done so much to enlighten us, 
and who in the course of a few years have taught us much 
more about Buddhism than was known to William Jones or 

The earliest and most important witness is B. H. Hodgson, 
who in 1 82 1 was appointed by the East India Company 
Political Resident in Nepaul. Hodgson soon heard that 
a number of books, supposed to contain the canonical laws 
of the Buddha, w^re piously preserved in the Buddhist 
monasteries of that country. The books were written in 
Sanskrit. Hodgson succeeded in obtaining a list of them 
through an old Buddhist priest of Pathan with whom he was 
acquainted, and by degrees he collected the books them- 
selves. He found it easier to obtain them translated into 
the Tibetan language; for books are as plentiful in Tibet 
as in our own country, multiplied as they are by printing 
on wood, a process brought to Tibet by the Chinese, and 
which is now in general use there. The Sanskrit volumes, 
copies of which were handed over to Hodgson, had been, 
such was the tradition, imported into Nepaul in the second 
century of the Christian era, and were only understood by 
the priests. They had been brought from Magadha, the 
opposite side of the Ganges ; and five or six centuries 
later, had passed from Nepaul into Tibet, where they were 
translated at the time Tibet adopted the Buddhist faith. 
B. H. Hodgson was able to announce this great discovery to 
the learned societies in 1824 and 1825. But he did more 
than this: he offered the Royal Asiatic Society of Bengal 
; sixty Buddhist volumes in Sanskrit and two hundred and 
fifty in Tibetan. A few years later, he displayed the same 
liberality towards the Royal Asiatic Society of London and 
the Asiatic Society of Paris. He either ^ave them the 


manuscript's and printed matter he had collected, or had 
transcriptions made for them of the writings they desired. 
Thanks to him the Asiatic Society of Paris became the 
possessor of eighty-eight Buddhist works in Sanskrit, which 
it would have been unable to procure had it not been for 
the generosity and kindly energy of the English Resident 
at Kalhmandu *. These labours and discoveries deserve the 
highest praise, and ihe name of B. H. Hodgson ought always 
to be remembered with gratitude. 

It is to him v/e owe the original Sanskrit writings, which 
have since been consulted and translated by illustrious philo- 
logists, and it is he who first discovered the existence of the 
Tibetan translations. 

Almost at the same time, Csoma, a young Hungarian 
doctor from Koros in Transylvania, had started on labours 
that were destined to prove hardly less interesting and fruit- 
ful than those of B. H. Hodgson. 

Csoma, animated by an heroic enthusiasm which recalls 
that of Anquetil-Duperron, left Hungary, his native land, and, 
armed only with an indomitable courage, penetrated into 
Tibet, where, after enduring privations and sufferings that 
would have daunted any other man, he learned the language 
of the country, which no European before him had mastered, 
and thus he was able to read the two great works of Tibetan 
literature, called the Kahgyur and the Bstangyur. Nosv 
these two vast encyclopedias, the first composed of a hundred, 
and the second of two hundred and twenty-five volumes, 
printed in 1731 at the monastery of Snarthong in Tibet, 
were nothing else than a lengthy translation of books brought 
fiom India, referring, for the most part, to the Buddhist 
literature. Csoma, under the auspices of H. H. Wilson, the 
distinguished Indian Hnguist, and the Asiatic Society of 

* In i860 B. H. Hodgson again made a valuable present of Buddhist 
documents to the French Institute. 

B 2 


Calcutta, gave a full analysis of these two encyclopedias; 
and they were found to contain an exact reproduction of 
most of the Sanskrit books B. H. Hodgson had discovered 
in Nepaul. Csoma died young, at the very outset of his 
labours, for the sake of which he had exhausted his strength ; 
but he died consoled, doubtless, by the publications which, 
thanks to him, have enriched the * Asiatic Researches,' and 
which will remain to perpetuate his memory. 

About the lime that B. H. Hodgson and Csoma were 
making iheir discoveries, L. J. Schmidt, of the Academy of 
St. Petersburg (1829), ascertained that the greater part of 
the Buddhist works translated from Sanskrit into Tibetan 
had also been translated from Tibetan into Mongol, and this 
under similar conditions. The Buddhisc failh had been 
brought, with the books that contained its records, from 
Tibet into Mongolia, just as it had travelled from Nepaul to 
Tibet, and from the Indian Magadha into Nepaul. This 
happily confirmed all Hodgson's information, but it was not 
the only or the most important testimony to it. 

While original Sanskrit works were being found in the 
north of India, George Tumour, whose name ought to be 
placed side by side with that of Hodgson, found in the soulh 
of the Peninsula, in Ceylon, an almost identical transcript of 
the canonical books. It is known that Buddhism had pene- 
trated to Ceylon three centuries before the Christian era. 
George Turnour, who was a civil servant in Ceylon, had 
been able to devote some of his leisure time to lilerary 
research. Pie discovered that the Sinhalese priests possessed 
an exact and complete collection of Buddhist works in Pali, 
a Sanskrit dialect, and that this collection had been taken 
over to Ceylon during the reign of an Indian king, who pro- 
fessed the Buddhist faith, in the year 316 B.C. The seven- 
teen Sinhalese Pali books reproduced almost identically the 
more important works of Magadha and Nepaul; they alstf 

AumENTiatY Of nuDDIIISM at 

contained the whole doctrine and life of the Buddha ; and in 
the same manner that in the north the Sans,krit version in 
Magadha served as text for the Tibetan translations, so in 
the south the Pali version in Ceylon served as text for the 
Burmese and Siamese translations; the island of Ceylon 
always having been in close religious communication with 
Siam and Burmah. 

But there was again another source of information in 
Ceylon. Besides the sacred books, the priests had drawn up 
chronicles, in which they had noted down from age to age, 
up to the end of the last century, all the principal facts of 
their religion and their history. Tumour obtained these 
Sinhalese annals, and published the greater part of a valuable 
work, the Mahavansa, as well as an analysis of several others. 
These historical books carry their narration back to the con- 
version of Ceylon to Buddhism, and retrace with the minuest 
details the whole life of the Buddha, just as tradition and 
religious writings had preserved them. The part of the 
Mahdvansa given by Tumour was composed in the fifth 
century of our era, by the aid of much more ancient writings 
which the author corrected and made use of. 

The Pali sacred books of Ceylon and the historical com- 
pilations must therefore rank among the most authentic of 
Buddhist documents. 

But we ought to rank China as high and even higher than 
Nepaul, Tibet, Mongolia, Ceylon, Burmah, and Siam. The 
Chinese annals, which are kept with an exactitude which no 
nation in the world has equalled, testify that Buddhism was 
introduced into China 217 b.c. by some Indian monks. 
From the year 61 b.c. Buddhism became, under the Emperor 
Ming-Ti, the state relgion of the Empire, where it seemed to 
satisfy all the religious requirements of that strange and 
little known people. It was also towards the end of the 
first century a.d. that the official translation of the Sanskrit 


Buddhist books into Chinese was made. One of the most 
noted, the Lalifa-visidra, a kind of biography of the Buddha, 
has been translated four times into Chinese ; the first of these 
translations dating from the year 76 a. d., and the last as 
much as eight centuries later. A large number of Buddhist 
works were thus reproduced from Sanskrit into Chinese ; 
a learned man, M. Stanislas Julien, has given us the titles of 
about 1000 books, taken from the catalogues drawn up by 
order of the Government of the Celestial Empire. 

As Buddhism still flourishes in that country, the transla- 
tions of the canonical books, and of the most celebrated 
works — biographies of venerated monks, dictionaries, and 
vocabularies — have been diligently continued without inter- 
ruption down to the present day. In China Buddhist litera- 
ture fills the libraries with an almost incalculable number of 

Another special source of information are the journeys of 
the Chinese pilgrims, who at different periods travelled to 
India to collect the sacred writings and bring them back to 
China, or to visit the places sanctified in former days by the 
presence of the Buddha. Two of these narratives, that of 
Fa-Hian and that of Hiouen-Th-ang, have been translated 
into French by Abel Remusat and Stanislas Julien, who 
deserve the highest praise for their studies in Buddhism. 

But I will now pass to the evidence we gather in India 
itself, which reaches us in a more direct way, and is more 
ancient than that of the other countries I have mentioned. 
Within the last twenty-five years a most important discovery 
has been made in Central India of several inscriptions 
engraved on rocks, pillars, or stones. It was virtually the 
first time that India had ever furnished to European curiosity 
any monuments of this kind, of which it had generally been 
supposed to be destitute. Mr. James Prinsep,.one of the 
secretaries of the Asiatic Society of Bengal, deciphered these 


inscriptions with a sagacity and erudition that have made 
him famous, although he likewise died young, before he had 
accomplished his career. 

These inscriptions were in the dialect of the province of 
Magadha, where, according to all traditions, Buddhism had 
its origin. They recorded the edicts of a king called Piyadasi, 
which enjoined on all his subjects morality, justice, and toler- 
ance of the new belief. Shortly after Mr. James Prinsep's 
exp)lanalions, Turnour, already well versed in the study of the 
Pall monuments in Ceylon, showed that the King Piyadasi 
was identical with Asoka, the King of Magadha, who played 
a great part in the earlier centuries of Buddhist history, and 
whose conversion is related in the Mahdvansa. Another Sin- 
halese work — the Dlpavansa — quoted by Turnour, places the 
accession of Asoka 218 years after the death of Sakya-muni, 
that is about the year 325 b.c, in the days of Alexander the 

Later on similar discoveries confirmed these dates, and in 
three places : at Girnar in Guzerat, at Dhauli in Orissa, and at 
Kapur da Giri (not to mention Delhi, Allahabad, Radhia, 
]\Iathiah, &c.), identical reproductions have been found of the 
religious edicts of Piyadasi, whose dominion extended over 
the whole of India. The dialects differ according to the 
provinces, but they are the same edicts, and the differences 
in expression are insignificant. Moreover, we know that one 
of ihe three formal councils which settled the rules of the 
Order and the doctrines of ihe Buddhist faith was held in the 
reign of Asoka, under his all-powerful protection. In 1840 
Captain Burt discovered on a mountain near Babra, between 
Delhi and Jayapura, an inscription of this same King 
Piyadasi, which seems absolutely conclusive. This inscrip- 
tion, written in the same language, is, according to Burnouf, 
a kind of epistle addressed by the King Piyadasi to the 
Buddhist monks assembled together in Magadha. The 


king points out to the Council the principal questions on 
which they must deliberate, the spirit which should guide 
them, and the results they must strive to attain. And a detail 
that gives particular value to the inscription at Babra is the 
fact that the name of the blessed Buddha, whose faith Asoka 
upheld, is repeated several times, whereas it does not exist 
in the other inscriptions. 

The grave importance of this inscription, with regard to 
the history of Buddhism and of India itself, has been accepted 
with all its consequences by Messrs. Prinsep, Tumour, 
Lassen, Burnouf, Weber, and Max Miiller, and it would be 
idle to contest the authority of such competent judges. It 
appears therefore impossible to doubt that if Piyadasi was 
not the Asoka of Magadha, as Mr. H. H. Wilson contends, 
he was certainly a Buddhist king, who imposed Sakya-muni's 
doctrine on his subjects towards the end of the fourth cen- 
tury B.C. 

We do not require any further evidence, and I would leave 
the Indian authorities and turn to the Greek authorities, if 
I did not wish to prove by a final example how the constant 
discoveries made in India confirm the great results I have 
indicated. On the walls of the fine grottoes hollowed out in 
a granite rock, near Buddha-Gaya, in Magadha, inscriptions 
have been found in the same dialect as the larger inscriptions 
at Girnar and Dhauli, relating that these grottoes were in- 
tended for a habitation and retreat for the Buddhist mendi- 
cants, by order of the King Dasaratha, second in succession 
to Asoka, and by Piyadasi himself, who is mentioned in 
several of the inscriptions, of which each contains but three 
or four lines. These inscriptions cannot be of later date 
than the year 226 b.c, and although they are far less im- 
portant than the greater edicts of which I have just spoken, it 
will be seen that they recall and confirm them in a striking 


1 shall quote only one of the facts stated by the companions 
of Alexander or their successors, which will show that the 
Greeks knew of the existence of the Buddhists, as they had 
known of that of the Brahmans. Nearchus and Aristobulus, 
who followed and survived Alexander, only mention the 
latter, and nothing demonstrates that they had heard of the 
former. Megasthenes, however, who about thirty years after 
penetrated as far as Pataliputra, the Palibothra of the Greeks, 
to the court of Chandragupta, certainly meant to designate 
the Buddhists under the name of Sarmans or Garmans ; he 
mentions them as a sect of philosophers opposed to the 
Brahmans, abstaining from wine, and living in the strictest 
celibacy. By his description and the spelling of the word, 
which is but little altered, we recognize the Buddhists, who 
called themselves more especially by the name of Sramans 
or ascetics. Another characteristic mentioned by Megasthenes 
is that ' the Sarmans,' he says, * have widi them women, 
believers in the same philosophy, and who lead the same life 
of celibacy.' He further adds that * these philosophers live 
frugally on food which none refuse to give them.' This 
description applies most clearly to the way of life of the 
Buddhists, which was never practised by the Brahmans. 
Mendicancy and celibacy were the two conditions rigidly 
imposed by the Buddha on his disciples ; and if Megasthenes 
is the only Greek historian of that period who distinctly 
alludes to the Buddhists, it is most probably because he was 
the only one who had seen any. In that part of the Panjab 
where the Macedonian expedition penetrated. Buddhism had 
not yet spread, whereas it flourished in the country of which 
Pataliputra was the capital, and where the third Council was 
held. Onesicritus, Nearchus, and Aristobulus did not find 
any Buddhists on the banks of the Indus and the Hyphasis ; 
but Megasthenes must have met with many on the banks of 
the Ganges. We must also recognize as Buddhists the 


Pramnes (a corruption of the word Sarmans), mentioned by 
Strabo as adversaries of the Brahmans, whom they derided 
and treated as charlatans. 

I will add one last proof derived from the Greeks. The 
name of the Buddha is quoted for the first time by St. Clement 
of Alexandria \ that is, in the third century a. d. ; and as 
St. Clement drew from Megasthenes all he says about Indian 
philosophers, it is probable that he borrowed also from him 
the name of the reformer, for the ambassador of Seleucus- 
Nicator would have often heard it mentioned in the course of 
his journey, and in a ciiy which from an early period has 
been the centre of reform. 

It will thus be seen that the most authentic documents, 
Greek, Indian, Chinese, and others, agree in testifying in the 
most unimpeachable manner that Buddhism existed in India 
before Alexander's expedition. We can therefore accept the 
date of the Buddha's death that we borrow from the Sin- 
halese ; and when we treat of the Buddhist doctrine we may 
feel certain that its teaching was really addressed to the 
Indian populations six centuries B.C.; that it strove to con- 
vert them to higher beliefs, and to overthrow the ancient 
teaching of the Vedas, henceforth considered insufficient 
to lead man in ihe right way of salvation. 

Two of the sacred books containing this teaching have 
already been translated into French. One is the Lohis of the 
Good Law {Saddharma-pundarikd), by Eugene Burnouf, who, 
being the first Frenchman who perused the manuscripts sent 
to Paris by ]\Ir. B. H. Hodgson, drew from it his admirable 
Introduction a Thistoire du Bouddhisme Indien. The other 
Buddhist Sutra is the Lalita-vistd7'a, to which I have just 
alluded, and of which M. Ph. Ed. Foucaux has published 
a translation into French from a translation of this work into 
Tibetan, collated with the original Sanskrit. 

' Stromates, i. p. 305, Sylburge's edition. 


Lastly the Rev. Spence Hardy, a Wesleyan missionary, who 
resided twenty years in Ceylon, published in 1869 his 
Manual 0/ Buddhism y based on various Ceylonese books. 

It will be seen that we possess a great wealth of documents 
on the life and teaching of the Buddha. From all these 
sources the following w^ork has been drawn, and every fact 
will be proved from competent aulhorilies. 

I shall take Buddhism at the three different periods of its 
existence. Beginning with its first appearance, I shall relate 
the life and legend of the Buddha, as they are told in the 
canonical works adopted by the three Councils, and I shall 
examine the doctrine taught, and judge it according to its 
merits and its defects. 

Then I shall take up Buddhism as it existed in India 
twelve hundred years after the death of the Buddha, and as it 
is set forth in the Travels and Memoirs of Hiouen-Thsang, 
a poor Chinese monk, whose journeyings through the penin- 
sula lasted sixteen years, from the year 629 to 645 a. d., and 
who carried back to China, after this wonderful pilgrimage, 
657 volumes of Buddhist writings. 

Lastly I shall study Buddhism in Ceylon, as it still exists 
under Enfrlish rule. 


There will therefore be about an equal lapse of time 
between these three epochs of the Buddhist religion. It is 
not a history of Buddh"sm that I presume to write. As 
I have shown, a general history of Buddhism would include 
a much wider range. From India and Ceylon we should 
have to follow it all over Asia, and that for a period of 
twenty-five centuries. Later on, no doubt, it will be possible 
to carry out such a stupendous undertaking, when learned 
and skilful labours have furnished a quantity of material 
which we still lack. At the present day, however, we can, 
without running the risk of premature enterprise, pass in 
review the most salient points of this vast subject. I have 

28 iNTnoDUCTlON 

already noted them in giving to the Journal des Savanis 
a summary of most of the works I refer to, and I shall 
republish in this volume the greater part of the articles 
I inserted in that important publication. It seems to me 
that by putting them together and giving them a less severe 
form, they might become interesting to readers whom 
a greater display of learning might alarm. 

But I repeat, this study of Buddhism is principally 
a philosophical one. The Buddhist system, like many of 
the systems of the present day, is deficient in the knowledge 
of mankind. On all sides, it is an incomplete psychology 
that has always been the cause of so much error. It is easy to 
understand that in India, several centuries before the Christian 
era, this faulty method was but a natural continuation of 
all the fruitless efforts which had been made by former 
philosophers. In Greece, at about the same period, Socrates 
inaugurated the true knowledge of the human soul, whereas 
Indian philosophers took a mistaken view without hope of 
ever attaining truth, which was unfitted for their times and 
for their country. On the course that Indian philosophers 
pursued, two ways only were open, each as unfortunate as 
the other : either to stand sdll for ever in the immobility of 
Brahmanism, or to pursue with Buddhism the desperate course 
of self-ignoring atheism and of utter nihilism. The Buddha 
stopped at nothing, and his blind courage is one of the most 
striking qualities of his great spirit. In the present day, 
however, and after the teaching of Descartes, it seems diffi- 
cult to understand and impossible to excuse such errors and 
such weaknesses. Philosophy has not changed its ancient 
precept. ' Know thyself is its immortal motto. Its strength 
and its glory is to put this motto into practice ; its weakness 
is to forget it. Whoever does not choose to be beguiled by 
empty words and hypotheses, as sterile as they are dan- 
gerous, must acknowledge that philosophy has one solid 


foundation, the observation of the workings of the human 
soul. If psychology does not form its basis, it runs a serious 
risk of becoming but a tissue of dreams, — dreams that will 
be bright or gloomy according to the imagination that gives 
them birth. The only method worthy of science and of our 
present lime is to begin the study of man by the light of 
conscience and to rise upwards through man to the know- 
ledge of the universe and of God. Every system that neglects 
to take this warrant, and to acquire this title to the confidence 
it claims, is ill prepared for seeking after truth, and must not 
be surprised if it falls into depths of error. 

Here two excesses are equally to be feared: either exalt- 
ing man beyond all measure as a God upon earth, or degrading 
him into a mere brute, a worshipper and victim of nihilism ; 
for if the systems of the present day were likely to become 
a religion such as Buddhism, their disastrous consequences 
would soon show that they are equally unfitted to benefit 
social progress. In the teaching of the Buddha, and in the 
wretched governments it has contributed to form, there is 
no place for liberty or for God. The true idea ot humanity 
being al)sent, all liberty has perished with it, in practice as 
well as in theory ; and the human image being defaced, man 
is unable to reassert himself or obtain the respect due to 
him. Many virtuous souls and noble hearts may yet exist 
amongst the Buddhists, but no man is free, and despotism is 
the infallible result of a doctrine that undertakes to save man 
at the cost of annihilation. It has only forged new fetters 
for him here below. I greatly fear that the present systems 
will serve the cause of liberty no better by going to the 
opposite extreme. Man, such as they conceive him, is not 
more real than as he is conceived by Buddhism. Though he 
would fain claim divinity, he is not therefore more divine, and 
his rights are none the more secure for being assimilated to 
those of a god. Liberty cannot exist in human societies 


unless it be first received and enshrined in the soul of man ; 
it is of spiritual birth. This is a consideration that should 
be particularly noted by innovators. Asia can, as it appears, 
dispense with liberty, but to us liberty is life itself, and 
philosophers must beware of furnishing arguments, even 
unintentionally, to those \\\\o contend against liberty, and 
would be glad to destroy it by invoking in defence of their 
arguments what they believe to be the teachings of science. 
But leaving these preliminary reflections, and having suffi- 
ciently indicated the object I have in view, I will turn to the 
real subject of the book and to the life of the Buddha. 



Birth of the Buddha ; his cdiicalion ; his maniage ; he chooses his 'wife 
Go/d. The Buddha s meditations ; his vocation cncouras^cd by the 
gods ; the four visions ; t/ie younj^ prince's determination ; resist- 
ance of his father and family ; he flies from Kapilavaslu. His 
studies at Vaisdli and Kdjagriha; his five companions; he re- 
nounces the world. His retreat of six years at Uruvela ; his 
austerities and ecstasies ; the attainment of Buddha hood ; Bodhi- 
vianda and Bodhidrunia ; Vajrasanam. The Buddha leaves his 
retreat; he goes to Benares to ^ turn the wheel of the Lazv' ; his 
teaching; his sojourn in Magadha and in Kosala ;- Bimbisdia, 
Ajdtasatru, Prasetinjit, Andtha Pindika. The Buddha s interview 
with his father ; his dissensions with the Brahmans ; his triumph ; 
popular enthusiasm. Death of tlie Buddha at eighty years of age 
at Kusi nagara. 

Towards the end of the seventh century B.C., in the city of 
Kapilavastu, the capital of a small kingdom of the same name 
siiuated in Central India at the foot of the mountains of Nepaul, 
north of the present kingdom of Oudh\ the Buddha was born. 
His father Suddhodana, of the tribe of the Sakyas, a descendant 
of the great solar race of the Gautamides, ruled over the 

* Towards the end of the fourth century of our era, Fa-Hian, 
a Chinese pilgiini, found Kapilavaslu in ruins; see Remusat, Foe Koue 
Ki, p. 198. Two centuries later, about the year 632 of the Christian 
era, Hiouen-Thsang also visited these ruins. He describes them as 
very considerable, the walls of the king's palace and garden, which 
were still apparent, being three miles in circumference ; see Life of 
i Hiouen-Thsang and Memoirs of Hiouen-Thsang by Julien. Among 
the ruins Hiouen-Thsang was shown tiaces of the bedroom of the 
Jiuddha's mother, and of the young prince's study. 


country. His mother, Maya Devi, was the daughter of the 
King Suprabuddha, and her beauty was so transcendent that 
the name of Maya, or the Vision, had been given to her, her 
form seeming to be — as is related in the Lalita-vistara —the 
creation of some enchanting dream. Maya Devi's virtues 
and talents surpassed even her excessive beauty, for she was 
endowed with the h'ghest and choicest gifts of intelligence 
and piety. Suddhodana was worthy of his consort, and ' King 
of the Law, he ruled according to the Law. No other prince 
among the Sakyas was more honoured and respected by all 
classes of his subjects, from his councillors and coui tiers, 
down to the householders and merchants.' 

Such was the noble family from which the Liberator was 
to arise. He thus belonged to the Kshatriya or warrior caste, 
and when he eventually embraced a religious life, he was 
called, in honour of his illustrious origin, Sakya-nmni, that 
IS to say the Sakya-sage, or the Sramana Gautama, the 
Gautamide ascetic. His father gave him the name of 
Siddhartha or Sarvarthasiddha, and he retained this name as 
long as he lived as a Royal Prince (Kumaraiaja). Later en 
he exchanged it for more glorious names. 

His mother, the queen, had retired about the time of her 
expected delivery to a pleasure garden, called after her 
grandmother, the garden of Lumbini*, and there overtaken 
by the pangs of childbirth, under the shade of ^ satin-tree 
she gave birth to Siddhartha on the third day of the month 
of Uiarasadha, or, according to another reckoning, the fifteenth 
day of the month of Vesakha. But weakened, no doubt, by 
the pious austerities she had practised during her pregnancy, 
perhaps also filled with anxiety on account of ihe predictions 
the Brahmans had uttered about the son who was to be born 

^ The Lunibini park was about twenty-four miles north-enst of Kapi- 
lavastu. Hiouen-Thsang reverently visited it. See his Memoij's, vol. i. 
p. 323. 

cii. i] LIFE OF THE BUDDHA 33 

of her, Maya Devi died seven days after his birth ' that she 
might not ' says the legend ' have her heart broken, by seeing 
her son leave her to become a holy man, and to wander in 
beggary and in want/ The orphan child was confided to 
the care of his mother's sister, PrajapatI GotamT, another of 
his father's wives, who at a later period, in the days of the 
Buddha's teaching, became one of his most fervent adherents. 

The child was as beautiful as his mother, and the Brahman 
Asita, whose duty it was in conformity with the ancient custom 
to present him in the temple of the gods, averred that he 
found on him the thirty-two principal signs, and the eighty 
secondary marks by ^^hich, according to popular belief in 
India, a great man may be recognized. Whatever may have 
been the truth of these prognostics Siddhartha quickly 
justified the high repute in which he was held. When he was 
sent to the * writing school ' he displayed more talent even 
than his masters, and one of them, Visvamitra, under whose 
care he was more especially placed, eoon declared that he had 
nothing more to teach him. In the midst of companions of 
his own age, the child took no part in their games; he 
seemed even then absorbed in higher thoughts ; often did he 
remain aloof to meditate, and one day when he had gone with 
his comrades to visit * the agricultural village,' he wandered 
away alone in a great wood, where he remained for many 
hours while no one knew what had become of him. The 
king, his father, at length filled with anxiety, went in person to 
seek him in the forest, and found him there, under the shade 
of a djambu tree, plunged in deep meditation. 

Now the time drew near, when the young prince should 
be married. The chief elders of the Sakyas remembered the 
Brahman's predictions, for they had foretold that Siddhartha 
would very probably renounce the crown in order to become 
an ascetic. They therefore implored the king to marry his 
59n as SQon as possible, so as to assure the future of his rac^, 


They hoped to bind the young man to the throne by an early 
marriage. The king, however, who doubtless was aware of 
the prince's intentions, did not dare to speak to him himself; 
he desired the elders to confer with him, and to make to him 
the proposal they deemed so important. ■ Siddharlha, who 
dreaded ' the evils of desire, more to be feared than poison, 
fire or sword/ desired to have seven days given him for 
redeciion, Afier having well considered, feeling certain that 
marriage, having been already accepted by many sages, would 
neither deprive him of the calm necessary for reflection, nor 
of the leisure for meditation, he yielded to the request made 
to him, laying down, however, one condition : ' That the wife 
chosen for him was not to be a low-minded or immodest 
woman; otherwise it mattered little to him what might be 
her caste, he would take her from among the Vesyas and the 
Sudras, as willingly as from among the Brahman women and 
the Kshatriyas, if so be that she was endowed with the 
qualities which he required in his consort/ He then gave 
the elders, to guide them in their choice, a complete list 
which he had prepared of the qualities he desired his bride 
to possess. 

The purohita or domestic priest of king Suddhodana was 
therefore instructed to go through all the houses at Kapilavas'.u, 
and after viewing the young maidens of every house, to choose 
her who best fulfilled the requirements of the prince, * whose 
heart, undazzled by rank or birth took pleasure only in true 
virtue and morality.' The list of the virtues demanded was 
successively presented to a mullilude of young maidens of 
all ranks and classes, none however seemed to fulfil the 
requirements. At last one of them told the priest that siie 
possessed all the qualities demanded by the prince, and that 
if he would accept her, she would be his wife. Summoned 
to appear before the prince with several other beautiful girls 
of her ow^n age, she was singled out by him, and the king 


gave his consent to the marriage. But the maiden's father 
DandapanT, of the Sakya tribe, was not so easily satisfied, and 
as the young prince was supposed to be given up to indolence 
and effeminacy, he demanded that before bestowing on him 
his daughter, the beautiful Gopa, he should give proofs of the 
talents of all kinds, which he possessed. ' The noble youth/ 
said DandapanT sternly, ' has lived in idleness wiihin the palace, 
and it is a law of our race only to give our daughters to men 
skilled in the arts, never to those unacquainted with them. 
This youth has never practised fencing, nor boxing, nor 
bending a bow, neither does he know the rules of fighting ; 
how can I bestow my daughter on one who is not skilful in 
these exercises ? ' 

The noble Siddhartha was therefore obliged, prince though 
he was, to display the talents his modesty had hitherto con- 
cealed. Five hundred of the most distinguished young 
Sakyas were assembled, and the beautiful Gopa was promised 
to the victor. The Royal prince easily proved himself 
superior to his rivals. But the contest was at first directed 
to different arts from those proposed by DandapanT. Sid- 
dhartha showed himself more skilful than his competitors 
or even his judges, in the art of writing, in arithmetic, in 
grammar, in syllogism, in the knowledge of the Vedas, of 
the philosophic systems, of ethics, &c. Then passing from 
mental to bodily exercises, he vanquished all his companions, 
in leaping, swimming, running, bending the bow, and a 
number of other games, in which he displayed as much 
strength as skill. Among his adversaries were his two 
cousins; Ananda, who afterwards became one of his most 
faithful disciples, and Dewadatta, who, deeply irritated by his 
defeat, became from that day his implacable enemy. The 
beautiful Gopa was the reward of Siddhariha's victory, and 
the young girl who had considered herself worthy of a king, 
>vas declared the first of his wives. From that moment she 

c 3 


insisted, notwithstanding the opposition of her family, on 
never veiling her face in their presence, nor in that of the 
palace attendants. * Those who are virtuous,' she said, 
* whether sitting, standing or walking, are always fair to look 
upon. A precious, sparkling diamond glitters more brilliantly 
from the top of a banner. Women who control their thoughts 
and subdue their senses, are satisfied with their husbands, 
and never thinking of any other man, can show themselves 
unveiled, like the sun and moon. The supreme and magr 
nanimous Rishi, as well as all the other gods, knows my 
thoughts, my behaviour, my discretion, and my modesty. 
Why therefore should I veil my face ? ' 

Notwithstanding the happiness of a union contracted under 
such auspices, it had no power to change the designs 
Siddhartha had already formed. In his splendid palace 
and surrounded by every luxury, in the midst even of the 
festivities and concerts that were perpetually going on, the 
young prince never relinquished the idea of his holy enter- 
prise; and in the heroism and bitterness of his heart, he 
would often say, — ' The three woij^ls, that of God, of the 
Asekhas, and of men, are consumed by the sufferings of 
disease and old age, they are devoured by the fire of death, 
and deprived of all guidance. The life of a human being 
is like a flash of lightning in the sky ; as the torrent rushes 
down a mountain, so life flows on with an irresistible rapidity. 
By the fact of existence, by desire, and by ignorance, the 
creatures in the abode of men and gods are on the road 
to three evils. The ignorant but turn round and round, 
even as the potter's wheel turns on its axis. The nature 
of desire, ever attended by fear and misery, is the root of 
sorrow. It is more to be dreaded than the sharp edge of 
a sword or the leaf of a poisonous tree. Like a reflected 
image, an echo, a shimmer, or the dizziness of a dance, 
like a dream, an empty and idle speech, like magic or mira.q^ 



it is full of deceit, and as empty as foam, or as a bubble 
on the water. Disease robs the human body of its beauty, 
weakens the senses, the faculties, and the strength, and puts 
an end to riches and welfare. It brings on the day of death, 
and of I migration. Every creature, the fairest, the most 
beloved, d.sappears for ever; like a leaf or fruit fallen into 
the stream it is lost for ever to our eyes. Then man, solitary 
and unaided, wanders forth with but one possession, the fruit 
of his eardily labours.' 

Then, he adds, after these melancholy but compassionate 
reflections : 

* Decay is inherent in all component things ; all that is 
composite is unstable ; like a vessel of clay which the slightest 
blow will shatter, like wealth borrowed from another, or 
a city of sand which does not hold together, or the sandy 
bank of a river. All component things are in turn effect 
and cause. One contains the other as the seed contains 
the germ, although the germ is not the seed. But substance, 
though not durable, has no interruption; no being exists 
that does not emanate from another; and therein lies the 
apparent durability of substance. The wise man, however, is 
not deceived by these appearances. For instance, the wood 
that is rubbed, the wood with which it is rubbed, and the 
action of the hands, are three things which cause fire ; but 
the fire soon dies out ; and the sage, searching in vain for it, 
bonders: Whence it came, and whither it has gone? The 
sound of words is made by the movement of the tongue 
striking on the lips or the roof of the mouth or back of 
the palate, and language is formed with the help of the mind ; 
but all speech is but an echo, and language does not exist 
in its If It is the sound of a lute, of a flute, and again the 
sage wonders : Whence it comes and whither it has gone ? 

Thence are all forms born of causes and eff'ects, and the 
yogi, or sage, on reflection perceives that forms are but 

3S THE OklGlN Ot BUDDHISM [pt. i 

nothingness, which alone is immutable. The objects re- 
vealed to us by our senses do not exist in themselves, none 
of them possess fixity, which is the true characteristic of the 

' But this Law which is to save the world, I understand it, 
and I must make it known to both gods and men. Many 
a time have I thought, when I shall have attained supreme 
wisdom (Bodhi) I will assemble together all living beings, 
and I will show them how they may enter the gates of im- 
mortality. Withdrawing them from the wide ocean of 
Creation, I will establish them in the land of patience. 
Freed from the disturbing suggestions of the senses, I will 
establish them in peace. In showing the light of the Law 
to creatures duped by the darkness of profound ignorance, 
I will give them eyes to see things clearly as they are ; I 
will endow them with the beautiful radiance of pure wisdom ; 
the eye of the Law, without blemish or corruption.' 

These grave thoughts haunted young Siddhartha even in 
his dreams; and one 'night, one of the gods, Hrideva, the 
god of modesty, descending from Tushita the abode of 
gladness, appeared to him, and by the following gentle 
words, encouraged him to set forth on the mission, for which 
he had been preparing himself for so many years. 

'The time and the hour have come,' said the god, 'for 
him who is resolved, to reveal himself to the world. He 
who is not liberated himself, cannot liberate others ; the blind 
cannot show the way ; but he who is freed, can free others ; 
he who has eyes can show the path to those who know it 
not. To those, whoever they may be, consumed by earthly 
desires, clinging to their houses, their wealth, their children, 
their wives, impart due instruction, and inspire in them a 
desire to renounce the world, and to adopt the holy life of 
wandering monks.' 

Meanwhile the king Suddhodana suspected the projects 


that agitated the heart of his son ; and his tenderness and 
care increased tenfold. He built him three new palaces ; 
one for spring, one for summer, and another for winter ; and 
fearful lest the young prince should take advantage of his 
excursions to escape from his family, he secretly gave the 
strictest orders that all his movements should be watched. 
However, all the precautions taken by his father were in 
vain. The most unforeseen and most extraordinary circum- 
stances combined to give increasing strength to the prince's 

One day, as he drove with a numerous escort through the 
eastern gate of the city, on his way to visit the garden of 
Lumbini, dear to him from the recollections of his childhood, 
he met a decrepit old man, seamed with wrinkles, and bald-, 
headed, whose veins and muscles stood out like cords, 
while his chattel ing teeth hardly permitted the utterance 
of a few harsh and inarticulate sounds. His skinny hands 
clutched a rugged staff to support his tottering steps, and 
his bent body and limbs shook with palsy. 

'Who is this man?' cried the prince to his charioteer. 
'He is small of stature and devoid of strength, his flesh and 
blood are dried up, his muscles cleave to his skin, his hair is 
white, his teeth chatter, his body is emaciated ; bent over his 
staff, he drags himself painfully along, stumbling at every 
step. Is this a condition peculiar to his family .? or is this 
the law that governs all mankind ? ' 

' Prince,' replied the charioteer, ' this man is overcome by 
age ; all his senses are weakened, suffering has destroyed his 
strength, he is cast aside by his relations; and he has no 
protec'cor ; incompetent in business, he is abandoned like 
dead wood in a forest. But his is not a condition peculiar to 
his family. In all living beings, youth is conquered by age ; 
your father and mother, all your relations and allies will end 
thus ; it is the natural and fatal issue/ 


' Since this is so,' replied the prince, * an ignorant and 
weak man, lacking in discernment, takes pride in the youth 
that intoxicates him, and does not see old age awaiting him. 
As for me, 1 will go no further. Turn back quickly, 
charioteer. For I, too, am the future abode of old age ; 
what have I to do with pleasure and joy?' And the 
young prince drove back into the town without going to 

Another day, he was going with a large retinue through 
the southern gate to the pleasure garden, when he saw in the 
road a man who was stiicken by disease, shaking with fever, 
a thin and mud-stained form, without friends or shelter, 
gasping for breath, and with all the appearance of intense 
terror at the approach of death. After interrogating his 
charioteer and receiving the expected answer : 

* Health,' said the prince, * is then like a deceptive dream, 
and the dread of evil is then an unbearable torture 1 Where 
is the wise man who, after having seen what it is, can hence- 
forth enjoy happiness or pleasure?' 

And the prince turned his chariot, and went back to the 
town, widiout going any further. 

Again another time, he was going by the western gale to 
the pleasure garden, when he spied on the road a dead man 
stretched on a bier, covered over with a cloth. A band 
of wailing relations sunounded it, filling the air with their 
lamentations, tearing their hair, covering their heads with 
dust, and striking their breasts as they uttered loud cries. 

The prince, calling again his charioteer to witness, ex- 
claimed, * Ah ! woe un:o youth that old age must destroy ; 
ah ! woe for the health so destroyed by sickness ; ah ! woe to 
life that gives man so short a time ! If there were neither 
old age, nor sickness, nor death ! Oh ! if only old age, sick- 
ness and death were for ever destroyed I ' 

Then, for the first time betraying his secret thought, the 

CM. . ^//^i^ OF THE BVDDIIA 41 

young prince added : ' Return home again, I must think over 
the accomplishment of this deliverance/ 

A last meeting decided him, and put an end to all hesita- 
tion '. He was leaving the city by the northern gate to go 
to the pleasure garden, when he saw a Bhikshu or mendicant, 
who by his calm, chastened, and reserved demeanour, seemed 
dedicated to the calling of a Brahma-chari^ ; he stood with 
lowered eyes, fixing his gaze no further than the length 
of a yoke, in a befitting manner, wearing with dignity the 
garment of a monk and carrying an alms-bowl. 

* Who is this man ? ' inquired the [irince. 

* Lord,' replied the charioteer, * this man is one of those 
called Bhikshus; he has renounced all lustful desires, and 
leads a most austere life; he stiivcs to subdue himself, and 
has become a mendicant. Without passion or envy, he 
wanders about subsisting on alms.' 

' That is right and well said,* replied Siddhartha, ' the 
choice of a religious life has ever been lauded by sages ; it 
will be my resource, and the resource of others ; it will become 
to us an efflorescence of life, happiness, and immortality.' 

Then the young prince turned his chariot, and having 
come to a determination, went home without going to 

His decision could not long be kept secret. The king 
was soon informed of it, and exercised still grea er vigilance. 
Guards were stationed at all the palace gates, and the king's 
servants anxiously watched day and night. The young 
prince would not at first make use of any stratagems as 

* These different meetings are famous in I-uddhistic legends. The 
king Asoka built stupas and vihaias at all the spots where the Buddha 
made them. Hiouen-Thsang, in the seventh century of our era, saw 
these monuments and their ruins. 

* Brahma- chari. or he who walks in the way of the Brahmans ; this is 
the name given to the young Brahman all the time he is studying the 
V<;das, that is till he is about thiity-five years old. The principal 
condition of his noviciate is absolute chastity. 


a means of escape, for ihey were repugnant to him, and he 
reserved them for cases of necessity. Gopa, his wife, was 
the first in whom he confided, and one night, when, startled 
by a dream, she asked him what such visions meant, he 
informed her of his scheme and was able to console her, for 
the time being, for the loss that threatened her. Then, in 
all respect and submission, he went the very same night to 
his father, and spoke as follows : 

* Lord, the time is come when I must reveal myself to ihe 
world, do not I pray you oppose my wish, and be not too 
much grieved by it. Grant me leave, O king, together with 
your family and people, grant me leave to depart.' 

The king, his eyes suffused with tears, replied : ' What 
can I do, my son, to make thee change ihy purpose ? Thou 
hast but to name the boon ihcu covetest and I will grant it. 
^lyself, my servants, my palace, my kingdom, take all, all is 

* Lord,' replied Siddhartha, in a gentle voice, ' I desire but 
four things, which I beg you will grant me. If you can give 
them to me I will stay near you, and you will see me alway 
in your abode, which I shall never leave. Grant, Lord, that 
old age shall never overtake me ; that I shall retain ever- 
lasting youth and freshness; grant that sickness shall have 
no power over me ; and that my life shall neither decay 
nor end.' 

On hearing these words, the king was overcome with 
grief. ' O my child,' he exclaimed, ' what thou askest is 
impossible, and 1 am helpless. The Rishis themselves, in 
the midst of Kalpa where ihey dwell, have never escaped the 
fear of old age and sickness, and death, and decay.' 

* If I can neither escape the fear of old age, nor sickness, 
nor death, nor decay,' replied the young man ; ' if you. Lord, 
cannot grant me these four chief things, bestow on me at 
least, O king, one thing that is not less important : grant 


that on disappearing from this earth I shall be for ever freed 
from the vicissitudes of transmigration.' 

The king saw that it was no use trying to oppose so 
resolute a purpose, and at dawn he summoned the Sakyas to 
acquaint them with the sad news. They resolved to oppose 
the prince's flight by force. They took i pon themselves the 
guard of the palace gates, and while the younger men were on 
sentry, the most venerable of the elders spread the alarm 
in all quarters of the city so that all the inhabitants should be 
on the alert. The king Suddhodana himself, surrounded by 
five hundred young Sakyas, kept watch at the palace gate ; 
while his three brothers, the young prince's uncles, stood at 
each of the city gates, and one of the chief Pakyas took his 
post in the centre of the city to see that all orders should be 
punctually executed. In the interior of the palace, Siddhartha's 
aunt, Maha Prajapati Gotaml, meanwhile directed the 
women's watch, and stimulated their vigilance, by saying : 
' If after leaving the kingdom and the country the prince 
wanders far away as a monk, all the palace will be filled with 
sadness, and the kingly race, which is so ancient, will come 
to an end.' 

All these efforts proved vain ; on one of the 
nights, when the sentries, worn out by long watching, were 
slumbering, the young prince ordered his charioteer Chandaka 
to saddle his horse Kanthaka, and succeeded in escapin.:; 
unseen from the city. Before obeying his request, the 
faithful follower had for the last time tried to dissuade him 
from bis purpose, and had implored him, wiih streaming 
eyes, not to sacrifice his splendid youth by going to lead the 
miserable life of a mendicant, and not to quit the magnificent 
palace, the abode of all happiness and pleasure. The prince, 
however, had not yielded to the supplications of the devoted 
servant, and had replied : 

* Earthly passions, I know too well, O Chandaka, are the 

44 TH^ ORIGIN 01^ BUDDHISM [pf. t 

destruction of all virtue ; I have known them and can no 
longer enjoy happiness ; the sages avoid them like a serpent's 
head, and quit them for ever like an impure vessel. Rather 
would I be struck by a thunderbolt, or that showers of arrows 
and red-hot darts^ like flashes of fire from the flaming heights 
of a mountain, should fall on my head, than that I should 
be born again to the cares and desires of a household/ 

It was midnight when the prince left Kapilavastu, and the 
s'ar Pushya, that had presided at his birth, was at that moment 
rising in the horizon. At the moment of quilting all that he had 
loved, the heart of the young man for an instant sank within 
him, and casting a last look at the palace and city he was 
forsaking : 

' I shall not return to the city of Kapila,' he said in a low 
voice, ' till I have obtained the cessation of birth and death ; 
I shall not return till I have attained the supreme abode 
exempt from age and death, and have found pure wisdom. 
When I return, the town of Kajnla will stand upright, no 
longer weighed down by slumber.' 

And, in fact, he did not see his father or Kapilavastu till 
twelve years later, when he converted them to the new 

Meanwhile Siddharlha rode through the night ; after 
leaving the country of the Sakyas, and that of the Kandyas, 
he passed through the country of the Mallas and the city of 
Meneya. By daybreak he had travelled a distance of six 
yodjanas, about thirty-six miles. Then he leapt from his 
horse, and handing the reins to Chandaka he gave him also 
his cap with the cla^p of pearls which adorned it, an orna- 
mei.t he deemed no longer necessary, and dismissed him. 

The Lalita-vistara, from which most of these details are 
taken, adds, that at the spot where Chandaka left him, a 
chaitya, or sacred edifice, was raised ; and ' to this day,' says 
the writer, 'this monument bears the name of Chandaka- 

cii. i] LIFE OF THE BUDDHA 45 

Nivartana, that is '' the return of Chandaka." * Hiouen- 
Thsang saw this stupa, which was, he says, built by the king 
Asoka on the edge of a great forest that Siddhartha must 
have passed through, and which was on the road to Kusi- 
nagara, where he died fifty-one years later. 

When the prince was alone he divested himself of the last 
vestiges of his caste and rank. First, he cut off his long 
hair with his sword blade, and cast it to the winds ; a monk 
could not wear the flowing locks of a warrior. Then he 
exchanged his princely robes of Benares silk (from Kasi) 
wiih a hunter, whose clothing was of worn-out yellow deer- 
skin. The hunter, though embarrassed by the exchange, 
accepted it at once, for he saw that he had to deal with 
a person of high distinction. 

No sooner was Siddhartha's flight discovered than the king 
sent in pursuit of him, but the messengers failed to overtake 
him. In their rapid chase they soon, however, met the hunter 
dressed in the prince's attire, and would probably have ill- 
treated him but for the presence of Chandaka, who was able 
to calm them. He related Siddhartha's escape, and when 
the messengers, in obedience to the king's orders, tried to 
continue the pursuit till they should reach the prince, the 
charioteer dissuaded them. 

'You would not succeed in bringing him back,' he said ; 
'the young man is firm in his courage and resolve. He 
said 'I will not return to the great city of Kapilavastu until 
I have attained perfect, complete, and supreme wisdom; 
I will not return except as the Buddha." He will not belie 
his words ; as he has said, so it will be, the young man will 
not change.* Chandaka could ofi'er the king no other con- 
solation ; he gave back to Maha PrajapatT GotamI the jewels 
Siddhartha had confided to his care, but the queen could not 
look at the ornaments that recalled such sad memories, and 
tiuew them into a pool, ihcnceforili called * The pool of the 


Jewels' (Abharanapushkari). But Gopa, Siddhartha's young 
wife, knew too well the steadfastness of his purpose, to enter- 
tain any hope of his speedy return ; and although she was to 
a certain extent prepared for the cruel separation, she re- 
mained inconsolable, notwithstanding the glorious future 
predicted by the faithful Chandaka. 

After having accepted the hospitality of several Brahmans 
in succession, the young prince reached at last the large city 
of Vaisali. He had now to prepare himself for the long 
conflict he had to undertake with the Brahmanical doctrines. 
He was too modest to believe himself sufficiently prepared for 
the contest, and wished to put himself to the test, and at il.e 
same time acquire a thorough knowledge of their doctrines. 
He sought out the Brahman Alara Kalama, who was re- 
nowned as the most learned of professors, and who had no 
less than 300 disciples, besides a throng of listeners. The 
beauty cf the young man, when he appeared for the first 
time in this assembly, filled all present with admiration, and 
above all Kalama himself; but before long he admired the 
learning of Siddhartha still more than his beauty, and he 
besought him to share with him his work of teacher. But 
the young sage thought within himself: 

* This doctrine of Alara is not truly a deliverance. The 
practice of it will not completely free humanity from misery.' 

Then he added in his heart : ' In rendering perfect this 
doctrine, which consists in poverty and the subduing of the 
senses, I shall attain true freedom, but I must still make 
further researches.' 

He remained therefore some time at Vaisali ; on leaving 
that city he advanced into the country of Magadha, and 
reached its capital Rajagriha. His reputation for beauty and 
wisdom had preceded him ; and the people, struck with 
surprise at the sight of such self-abnegation in so handsome 
and youthful a man, flocked to meet him. The crowds that 



filled that day the streets of the city ceased, says the legend, 
both buying and selling, and even abstained from drinking 
wine and all liquors, in order to contemplate the noble mendi- 
cant who came begging alms. The king Bimbisara him- 
self, descrying him from the windows of his palace, in front of 
which he passed, borne forward by the popular enthusiasm, 
had him watched to his retreat on the slope of the Pandava 
mountain, and the next morning, to do him honour, went 
there in person, accompanied by a numerous retinue. 
Bimbisara was about the same age as Siddhartha, and 
deeply impressed by the strange condition in which he found 
the young prince, charmed by his discourse, at once so 
elevated and so simple, touched by his magnanimity and 
virtue, he embraced his cause from that moment and never 
ceased to protect him during the rest of his reign. His most 
seductive offers were, however, powerless to move the new 
ascetic ; and after sojourning some time in the capital 
Siddhartha retired far from the crowd and tumult to the banks 
of the river Nairanjana, the Phalgu of modern geography. 

If we are to believe the Mahavansa^ the Sinhalese chronicle, 
written in verse in the fifth century of our era by Mahanama, 
who composed it from the most ancient Buddhist documents, 
the king Bimbisara was converted to Buddhism, or to use 
the expression of the writer, 'joined the Congregation of the 
Conqueror,' in the sixteenth year of his reign. He had 
ascended the throne at the age of fifteen, and reigned no less 
than fifiy-two years. His father was bound by the strongest 
ties of affection to Siddliariha's father, and this was no doubt 
one of the reasons that had made Bimbisara so favourable to 
him. His son Ajiitasatru, who murdered him, did not at first 
share his kindly feeling towards the Buddha, and for some 
time persecuted the innovator before accepting his doctrine, 
as we shall see later. 

Notwithstanding the enthusiastic welcome the Sramana 


Gautama received, both from kings and peoples, he did not 
consider himself sufficiently prepared for his great mission, 
lie determined to make a last and decisive test of the power 
of his arguments. 

There lived at Rajagriha a Brahman even more celebrated 
than the Brahman of Vaisali. His name was Udraka, son of 
Kama, and he enjoyed an unrivalled reputation among the 
common people and even among the learned. Siddhariha 
went humbly to him, and asked to be his disciple. After 
some conversations Udraka raised his disciple to be his equal, 
and established him in a teacher's abode, saying, ' Thou and 
I together will teach our doctrine to this multitude.' His 
disciples numbered 700. 

However, as at Vaisali, the superiority of the young ascetic 
was soon apparent, and he was compelled to separate himself 
from Udraka : ' Friend,' he said to iiim, * this path docs not 
lead to indifference to things of this world, it does not lead 
to emancipation from passion, it does not lead to the preven- 
tion of the vicissitudes of mankind, it does not lead to calm, 
nor perfect wisdom, neither does it lead to the state of 
Sramana nor to Nirvana.' Then, in the presence cf all 
Udraka's disciples, he parted from him. 

Five of the disciples, fascinated by the teaching of Sid- 
dhariha and the lucidity of his precepts, Lft their former 
master to follow the reformer. They were all five men cf 
high caste, says the legend. Siddhartha first withdrew wiih 
them 10 INIount Gay a, then he returned to the banks of the 
Nairanjana, to a village called Uruvela, where he deiermined 
to settle with his companions before going forth to teach 
mankind. Henceforth he was decided with regard to the 
learning of the Brahmans, he knew its capacity, or rather its 
insufficiency ; he felt himself stronger than they. Neverthe- 
less he still had to gain strength against his own weaknesses, 
^nd although he disapproved of the excessive Brahmanic 

ta. i] LirE OF THE BVDDHA 49 

asceticism, he determined to submit for several years to 
a life of penance and self-mortification. It was perhaps by 
way of ensuring as popular a consideration as the Brahmans 
possessed, but it was also a means of subduing the senses. 

Siddhartha was twenty-nine years of age when he left the 
palace of Kapilavastu. 

Uruvela is celebrated in the annals of Buddhism for 
this long retreat, which lasted six years, and during which 
Siddhartha gave himself up, without a moment's wavering, to 
the most severe and rigorous mortifications, *at which the 
gods themselves were filled with horror.' He withstood the 
nio^t fearful attacks of his own passions, and we shall see 
later how the legend transforms these moral struggles into 
material conflicts with the demon Papiyan (the most vicious), 
who, notwithstanding his cunning, his violence, and his 
numerous army, was at last overthrown and vanquished, 
without being able to tempt or terrify the young ascetic, who, 
by his virtue destroyed the kingdom of Mara, the Spirit of 

However, at the end of six years of privations^ sufferings, 
and excessive fastings, Siddhartha, persuaded that asceticism 
was not the path that led to perfect wisdom, determined to 
cease such excessive mortifications, and began again to take 
regular food, which a young village girl of the name of 
Sujata brought to him. In a short space of time he recovered 
the strength and beauty which had been destroyed by his 
terrible macerations. His five disciples, who had hitherto 
remained faithful, and had imitated his acts of penance, were 
scandalized at his weakness ; and losing all esteem for him, 
they forsook him and went away to Benares, to the place 
called Rishi-patana, where he eventually rejoined them. 

Alone, and abandoned by his followers, in his hermitage at 
Uruvela, Siddhartha continued his meditations, although he 
diminished his austerities. It was no doubt in this solitude 



that he worked out the principles of his system, and laid 
down the rules of discipHne for his followers. Henceforth 
he wore the garb and adopted the customs he intended to 
impose on them, and by the example he set he forestalled 
any resistance that his rigorous precepts might stir up even 
in the most ardent of his sectarians. The clothes the hunter 
had formerly ceded to him had fallen in tatters, they had 
been his only covering for the last six years — years spent in 
wandering from city to city, and jungle to jungle, often 
without shelter, with the bare soil as his only resting-place. 
It became necessary to renew those garments, and this is the 
way in which we are told that he replaced them. Sujata, 
the daughter of the chieftain of Uruvela, who had been so 
devoted to him, and who, assisted by ten of her women, 
continued to bring him food, had a slave called Radha who 
had just died. The woman had been buried in a neigh- 
bouring cemetery, and her body had been wrapped in 
a coarse linen cloth (sana). A few days after her burial 
Siddhartha opened the grave and took the shroud. Then, 
*in order to show what a- monk must do,' he washed in 
a pool the earth-stained shroud, and fashioned and sewed it 
with his own hands. The place where he sat at that time 
was afterwards called Pansukiila-Sivana, that is ' the sewing 
of the shroud.' Hence the reason of the ordinance he made 
for his monks, that they were to be habited in clothes put 
together from cast-off rags picked up in the streets, by the 
roadside, or even in graveyards. Who indeed among them 
would have dared to complain or resist when the illustrious 
scion of a great royal family, the sole heir of the Sakyas, 
had abandoned all power and riches and robed his youth 
and beauty in such woful raiment ? 

However, the end of these long and painful trials was at 
hand. Siddhartha had but one more step to take. He 
knew his future adversaries and he knew himself; he felt 


sure of their weakness and of his own strength, but his 
humility still gave him some lingering scruples. He debated 
with himself whether, entrusted with the salvation of mankind, 
he had indeed attained a sufficiently definitive and immutable 
knowledge of the truths he was to reveal. 

*In all I have done and acquired, he thought, I have far 
surpassed human law, but I have not yet reached the point 
where I shall clearly distinguish supreme wisdom. I am not 
yet in the true path of knowledge, nor in that which will 
lead to the irrevocable end of old age, disease, and death.' 

Then he would recall his childhood's memories, the 
brilliant early visions he had in his father's gardens under 
the djambu tree, and he anxiously inquired of himself 
whether his mind, matured by age and reflection, would 
indeed realize the marvellous promises that his youthful 
imagination had held out to him. Could he indeed be the 
Saviour of mankind ? At last, afier a meditation that appears 
to have lasted, without interruption, a whole week, during 
one of his frequent ecstasies, Siddhartha found he could in 
all sincerity of heart answer the question afTirmativcly. 

'Yes, he had at last found the true path of greatness. 
The path of sacrifice ; the sure path which will not fail nor 
dishearten ; the blessed path of virlue ; the spotless path 
devoid of envy, ignorance, and passion ; the path which 
leads to freedom and makes the power of evil be as no 
power ; the path which overleaps the regions of trans- 
migration and reduces them to nought; the path which 
outstrips Sakra, Brahma, IVIahesvara, and the guardians of 
the world ; the path which leads to the possession of universal 
knowledge ; the path of experience and judgement ; the path 
that sofiens old age and death ; the calm, serene path, exempt 
from all fear of evil, which leads to the city of Nirvana.' 

In one word, Siddhartha believed at this supreme moment 
that he could indeed call himself the true and perfect 

D 2 


Buddha, that is, the Wise One in all his purity and greatness, 
and in his power greater than gods or men. 

The place where Siddhartha became at last the perfect 
Buddha is as famous in the legends as Kapilavastu, the place 
of his birth ; Uruvela, the place of his six years' retreat ; or 
Kusi-nagara, the place of his death. The precise spot where 
the Buddha revealed himself is called Bodhimanda, that is to 
say the seat of wisdom, and tradition has preserved all the 
details of the solemn act. 

On his way to the banks of the Nairanjana at Bodhimanda, 
the Bodhisatwa* met, on the right-hand side of the road, 
a seller of grass, who was cutting * a soft, pliable grass such 
as mats are made of, and of a very fragrant odour.' The 
Bodhisatwa turned aside, and going up to the man, whose 
name was Svastika, asked him for some of the grass he was 
mowing; then spreading it as a carpet, with the blades 
turned in and the roots outwards, he seated himself cross- 
legged, his body upright and turned to the east, at the foot 
of a tree which is called * the tree of wisdom, Bodhidruma.' 

Then, as he sealed himself, he said, ' May my body waste 
away, my skin, bones, and flesh perish, if I raise myself 
from the grass I am seated on before I have attained 
supreme wisdom/ 

He remained through the long hours of a day and night 
without moving, and it was at the last hour of watching, at 
the moment of dawn, when sleep most overcomes the senses, 
and as the Tibetans say at beat of drum, that, having 
assumed the rank of perfect Buddhahood, and of absolute 
wisdom, he attained the threefold knowledge. 

'Yes,' he then exclaimed, *yes, it is thus that I will put an 
end to the sorrows of mankind.' And striking the ground 

* The Bodhisatwa is the future Buddha, that is, the being who has 
all the qualities requisite to become Buddha, but has not yet attained 


with his hand, * May this earth/ he added, ' be my witness ; 
it is the abode of all beings, it contains all that is moveable 
and immoveable, it is impartial, it will bear witness that I do 
not lie/ 

If the human race was not saved, as Siddhartha may at 
that moijient have persuaded himself it was, a new religion 
was at all events instituted. The Buddha was then thirty-six 
years of age. 

The tree under which he sat at Bodhimanda was a large 
fig-tree, of the species called pippala {Fuus religiosa)) and 
the veneration of the faithful soon made it an object of 
fervent worship, which lasted for centuries. In the year 632 
of our era, that is twelve hundred years after the death of the 
Buddha, Hiouen-Thsang, the Chinese pilgrim, saw the Bodhi- 
druma, or at least the tree that passed as such. We are 
told in the Lalita-vistdra that it grew about forty-five miles 
from Rajagriha, the capital of Magadha, not far from the 
Nairanjana. The tree was protected by huge walls of 
masonry, which extended to the east and west, and per- 
ceptibly narrowed towards the north and south. The prin- 
cipal gateway opened eastwards, facing the river Nairanjana. 
The southern gate was in the vicinity of a large pool, no 
doubt the one in which Siddhartha washed the siiroud. To 
the west rose a belt of steep mountains, and the northern 
side communicated with a lafrge monastery. The trunk of 
the tree was of a whitish-yellow colour, its leaves glossy 
green ; and the traveller was told they did not fall either in 
autumn or in winter. Only, it was added, on the anniversary 
of the Buddha's Nirvana they all suddenly fall off, and the 
following day grow again, finer and larger than before. Every 
year the kings, ministers, and magistrates assembled on that 
day beneath the tree, watered it with milk, lighted lamps, 
scattered flowers, and withdrew, bearino^ away the leaves that 

^a4 fallen? 


Near the * tree of wisdom ' Hiouen-Thsang saw a statue 
of the Buddha, before which he prostrated himself; its 
erection has been attributed to Maitreya; one of the Buddha's 
most famous disciples. All round the tree and the statue, 
hi a very confined space, a number of sacred monuments, 
each recalling some pious memories, were to be seen. 

The devout pilgrim tells us that he took eight or nine days 
to worship them, one after the other; there were stupas and 
viharas, or monasteries, of every size and shape. The Vajra- 
sanam or Diamond Throne was more particularly pointed 
out to the admiration of the faithful; it was the hillock on 
which the Buddha had sat, and which, according to popular 
superstition, was deslincd to disappear when men should 
become less virtuous. 

It seems certain that, aided by the very exact information 
given in the Lah'ia-vtsidra, and also by Fa-Hian and Hiouen- 
Thsang, • Bodhimanda could be found, nor would it be 
surprising if one day some intelligent and courageous British 
officer were to announce to us that he had made this dis- 
covery, which would be well worth any trouble it might 
have cost. The features of the country have not altered, 
and if the trees have perished, the ruins of so many monu- 
ments must have left recognizable traces upon the soiP. 

The retreat of the Buddha under the sacred fig-tree at 
Bodhimanda was not, however, so secluded as to prevent his 
being visited. Besides Sujata and her young companions, 
who supported the Buddha by their gifts of food, he saw at 
least two other persons, whom he converted to the new faith. 
These were two brothers, both merchants, who were passing 

' See the reports of Sir Francis Buchanan (Hamilton) quoted by 
Ml )ntgoinery Martin in his History of Eastern India, and that of Major 
Kittoe in volume xvi. of the Journal of the Bengal Asiatic Society. 
Sir Francis' exploration took place in 1810, and Major Kittoe's in 
1 847. See also the learned work of Vivien de Saint-Martin, volume ii. 
of thg Memoir? of Hiouen-Thsang, 3J'o ^nd following pageg. 


close to Bodhimanda on their journey from the south, whence 
they were bringing to the north, where they dwelt, a large 
quantity of merchandise. The caravan that followed them 
was numerous, as it was conveying several hundreds of 
waggons. Some of the vehicles having stuck fast in the 
mud, the two brothers, Trapusha and Bhallika by name, 
applied to the holy ascetic for help, and while they followed 
his advice, were touched by his virtue and superhuman 
wisdom. * The two brothers, the Lalita-vistara tells us, as 
well as all their companions, took refuge in the Law of the 

Notwithstanding this first promising token of success, the 
Buddha still hesitated. Henceforth he was assured of being 
in complete possession of the truth. But how would men 
be disposed to receive it? He brought to mankind light 
and salvation, but would men consent to open their eyes? 
Would they enter the path they were bidden to pursue? 
The Buddha once more retired into solitude, and spending 
his days in contemplation, he thus meditated in his heart : 

' The Law that emanates from me is profound, luminous, 
subtle, difficult of comprehension ; it baffles analysis, and is 
beyond the powers of reasoning; accessible only to the 
learned and the wise; it is in opposition to all worldly 
wisdom. Having abandoned all individuality, extinguished 
all ideas, interrupted existence by absolute calm, it is in- 
visible, being essentially immaterial ; having destroyed desire 
and passion, and thus having put an end to any reproduction 
of entity, it leads to Nirvana. But if I, the truly enlightened 
Buddha, teach this Law it will not be understood by others, 
and will expose me to their insults. No, I will not give way 
to my feelings of compassion.' 

Three times was the Buddha on the point of yielding to 
this weakness, and perhaps he might have renounced his 
great enterprise for ever, and have kept for himself the secret 


of eternal deliverance ; but a supreme thought decided him at 
last to put an end to his hesitation. 

'All beings, he reflected, whether high or low, whether 
they are very good, very bad, or indifferent, can be divided 
into three classes : of which one-third is in error and will so 
remain, one-third possesses the truth, and one-third lives in 
unceriainty. Thus a man from the edge of a pond sees lotus- 
flowers that have not emerged from the water, others that 
are on a level with the surface, and again others that stand 
up out of the water. Whether I teach or whether I do not 
teach the Law, those who are in error will not be the wiser ; 
whether I teach or do not teach the Law, those who possess 
the truth will still be wise; but those beings who live in 
uncertainty will, if I teach the Law, learn wisdom ; if I teach 
it not, they will not learn it.' 

The Buddha was seized ' with a great pity for the multi- 
tude of beings plunged in uncertainty,' and this thought, full 
of compassion, decided him. He was about to open the 
gates of Immortality to those who had so long been led 
astray by error, by revealing to them the four sublime truths 
that he at last comprehended, and the connecting links of 

Having once fixed the basis of his doctrine, and having 
determined to brave everything in order to scatter abroad its 
benefits, Siddhartha asked himself to whom he should first 
communicate it. At first, it is said, he intended to address 
himself to his old teachers at Rajagriha and Vaisali. Both 
had welcomed him in former days; he had found both pure, 
good, devoid of passion and envy, full of knowledge and 
sincerity. He owed it to them to share with ihem the new 
light that shone for himself, and which formerly they had 
sought together in vain. Before going to teach his doctrine 
at Varanasi, the holy city (Benares), he wished to instruct 
Udraka, the son of Rama^ and Alara K^lapia. whoip hg 

cii. i] LIFE OF THE BUDDHA 57 

gratefully remembered.' In the interval, however, they had 
both died. When the Buddha heard this, he was seized with 
regret; he would have saved them both, and they would 
certainly not have scoffed at the teaching of the Law. His 
thoughts then reverted to the five disciples who had so long 
shared his solitude, and who, while he practised his mortifica- 
tions and penances, surrounded him with tender care. It 
was true they had, in an excess of zeal, left his side; but 
* those saintly personages of high caste were nevertheless very 
good, easy to discipline, instruct, and purify; they were 
.accustomed to austere practices, evidently their faces were 
set towards the way of deliverance, and they were already 
freed from the obstacles which closed it to so many others.' 
Neither would they ccist contempt upon the Buddha, and he 
resolved to seek them. 

He therefore left Bodhimanda, and starting northwards 
crossed over the mount Gaya, which was at a short distance, 
and where he broke his fast ; then he stopped on his way at 
Rohitavastu, Uruvcla-Kalpa, Anala, and Sarathi, where the 
owners of the principal houses gave him hospitality. He 
thus reached the great river Ganga, the Ganges. At that 
reason of the year the waters were high and extremely rapid. 
The Buddha was obliged to ask a ferryman to take him 
across, but as he had not wherewithal to pay the fare, it was 
with some difficulty that he managed to cross the river. As 
soon as the king Bimbisara heard of the difficulty he had 
been placed in, he made the passage free of payment to all 

Directly he reached the great city of Benares, the Buddha 

I went straight to his former discipjes, who were then living in 
a wood, called the Deer Park (Mrigadawa), which was also 
called Rishi-patana. They saw Siddhartha coming from afar, 
and all their grievances against him were stirred up ; they 


had thought right to cease unnecessary mortification, and as 
he drew nigh they said to one another : 

' We can have nothing in common with him : let us neither 
go to meet him, nor rise up with respect in his presence ; let 
us neither take his religious garments nor his alms-bowl; let 
us neither prepare for him a beverage, nor a carpet, nor 
a place for his feet ; if he asks for a seat, we will offer him 
what extends beyond the carpet, but we will keep our 

But their coldness and ill-will could not hold out long. 
By degrees, as the IMasler approached, they felt ill at ease 
on their seats, and a secret instinct made them wish to stand 
in his presence. Soon indeed, unable to bear the majesty 
and glory of the Buddha, they rose up simultaneously, unable 
to keep to their resolution. Some showed him maiks of 
respect, others went forward to greet him, and they took 
from iTun his tunic, his religious garments, his alms-bowl ; 
they spread out a carpet and prepared water for him to 
bathe his feet, saying : 

'Ayushmat (Lord) Gautama, you are welcome; deign to 
seat yourself down on this carpet.' 

Then, after having entertained him on subjects likely to 
gladden him, they all placed themselves at one side of him 
and said : 

*The senses of Ayushmat Gautama are perfccily purified, 
his skin is perfectly pure, the oval of his face is perfectly pure. 
Ayushmat Gautama, do you possess within you the discern- 
ment of venerable wisdom', which is far above human law ? ' 

The Buddha replied : ' Do not give me the title of Ayushmat. 
Full long have I been useless to you, and have procured you 
neither help nor comfort. Yes, I now see clearly what immor- 
tality is, and the path that leads to immortality. 1 am Buddha; 
1 know all, see all, I have wiped out sin, and am master of the 
laws ; come, that I may teach you the Law, hearken to me 


and lend an attentive ear ; I will instruct you by advice, and 
your spirit delivered by the destruction of sin and the manifest 
knowledge of self, your new births will come to an end, you 
will become Brahma-charis,you will have done what is needful, 
and you will know no other existence after this — this is what 
you will learn from me.' Then he gently reminded them of 
the uncharitable manner in which they had spoken of him but 
a few minutes before. 

His five disciples were abashed, and throwing themselves 
■ at his feet, confessed their fault, and acknowledging the 
Buddha as the teacher of the world, accepted his new 
doctrine with all faith and respect. In this first conversation, 
[and until the last watch of the night, the Buddha explained 
to them the fundamental truths of his system. These were 
the first conversions of any importance that he made. 

Varanasi, or Benares, is esteemed by the Buddhists even 
lore than by the Brahmans as a most holy city. It was at 
Benares that the Buddha preached for the first time, or, as is 
said in Buddhistic mysticism, ' for the first time he turned the 
Wheel of the Law,* symbolic and sacramental language that 
has been adopted by all sects of Buddhism, north, south, and 
east, from Tibet and Nepaul to Ceylon and China\ Benares, 
if we may judge of it by the desciiptions given by Hiouen- 
Thsang in the seventh century of our era'', had not in the 
days of the Buddha the same importance that it acquired at 
a later period. It must even then, however, have been 

^ See the curious details given by Eiot on the praying wheels of the 
Tibetans, who have taken in a literal sense the figurative expre.-sion of the 
early Sutras, and who pray to the Buddha by turning large wheels on 
which sacred formulas aie inscribed. Journal des Savants, June, 184-;. 

^ llioucn-Thsang says that Tenarcs was six miles long by three 
wide; he saw among other monuments a slupa a hundred feet l.i^h, 
and a stone column seventy feet li'g'i that had been built by Asoka on 
the identical spot where the Luddh.a had for the first time turned the 
Wheel of the Law. See Histoire de la vie de Hioiien-Thsang, pp. 132, 
133, and M^nioircs dc Hiou^n-lhsan^, vol. i. p. 303, by StanisU? 


a considerable town, and one of the principal centres of 
Brahmanism. No doubt this was the reason why the Buddha 
went there. And as at Vaisali and Rajagriha the Brahman 
schools numbered respectively three and seven hundred 
disciples, it is probable that at Benares they were even more 
numerous. The Buddha could not therefore have found 
a wider or more formidable field for the manifestation of his 

Unfortunately, we have few details of his sojourn at 
Benares. The Laliia-vistdra, which up to this period has 
been our chief authority, ends with the Buddha's discourses 
to his five disciples. The other Sutras, which are not, like 
the Laliia-vistdra^ regular biographies of Sakya-muni, tell us 
little about the contests he must have sustained against the 
Brahmaris at Varanasi. At this moment of his hfe, after 
having seen the slow elaboration of his ideas, it would have 
been interesting to know his first successes and rebuffs. We 
must, however, dispense with this information, interesting as 
it would necessarily be, till the publication of some other 
Sutras may biing it to our knowledge. We do not find in 
any of those hitherto published, on the sequel of the Buddha's 
career, so complete an account as that contained in the Lalita- 
Ti'sfdra. Most of the Siitras relate only one of the acts of 
his life, one of his sermons ; not one of them gives an 
account of his life. It is, however, thanks to the materials 
they furnish, possible to reconstruct and complete it. The 
probability of its truth will be as great, the order in which 
the facts are related will alone be less certain. The principal 
events of the Buddha's life are somewhat confusedly told by 
them, and it will be difficult for us to state, ^yith desirable 
exactness, the chronological order in which the events 

It appears probable that Sakya-muni's sojourn in Varanasi 
was not of long dyr^iign^ althpugh be made tjief^ s^yera} 


i] ut^S: OP ftik mi)i)MA 61 

oilier converts. The greater part of the Sutras mention hiin 
as dwelling in ^Tagadha at Rajagriha, or at Sravasti in Kosala, 
north of the Ganges. In those two kingdoms he spent 
nearly all the remainder of his life, which lasted forty years 
longer* The kings of those two countries protected him, and 
both embraced the Buddhist faith. Bimbisara was king of 
Magadha,and we have seen what favour he showed Siddhartha, 
when the young prince was beginning his religious apostle- 
ship. This benevolence never failed during the whole of his 
long reign, and the Buddha took pleasure in residing at 
Rajagriha, which was situated nearly in the centre of the 
kingdom, and in visiting from thence the surrounding coun- 
tries. All these places must have been beloved by him, as in 
later times they became sacred to his votaries. Bodhimanda 
and Uruvela were not far off; six or seven miles off rose the 
mountain called the Vulture's Peak(Gridhrakuta parvata); one 
of its summits, if we are to believe Hiouen-Thsang, recalled 
from a distance the shape .of that bird. The Buddha 
found pleasure in wandering about this mountain, so rich 
in grand and picturesque scenery, shaded by magnificent 
trees, and fresh with sparkling springs. It was there that, 
surrounded by his disciples, he taught the Zo/us of the 
Good Law, the Mahdpradjna-Pdramitd Sulra, and many 
other Sutras. 

At the entrance of the city, on the north side, was a superb 
vihara, where the Buddha often resided; it was called 
Kalantaka or Kalanta vejuvana, that is the bamboo grove of 
Kalanta. According to Iliouen-Thsang's account, Kalanta 
was a rich merchant, who had first given his garden to the 
Brahmans, but after hearing the sublime Law regretted his 
gift, and took it away from them. He caused a magnificent 
house to be built there, and offered it to the Buddha. It was 
there that the Buddha converted several of his most distin- 
guished disciples — §ariputra, Moggallana and Katyayana ; it 

62 THE OklGW Ot BUDDHISM [pt. i 

was also at this house that the first Council was held after 
his death. 

A little further from Rajagriha there was another place, 
called Nalanda, where the Buddha appears to have made 
I)leasant and prolonged sojourns, if we may judge by the 
cosily number of monuments which have been erected there 
by the piety of Buddhist kings. Originally this place had 
been a garden of mango-trees (amras), situated near a lake, 
and belonged to a rich man. Five hundred merchants had 
purchased it as a gift for the Buddha, who, during a period 
of three months, had taught them the Law at this spot ; and 
the kings who succeeded Bimbisara also tried to adorn it by 
the most costly edifices. They built there six monasteries 
called sangharamas (places of assembly), each one larger 
than the other, and one of the kings had them enclosed by 
a new brick wall to unite them in one. 

When Hiouen-Thsang saw them, he described them as the 
largest and most handsome buildings of that kind he had met 
with in the whole of India. He mentions as a fact that ten 
thousand monks or students were kept there by the king's 
liberality, provided for out of the revenues of several cities, 
designated for that purpose in turn. A hundred professors 
taught every day in the interior of these monasteries, and the 
pupils vied with their masters in zeal. With a forbearance no 
less surprising, the sectaries of eighteen different schools of 
the Little and Great Vehicles lived there together on good 
terms; and the Vedas as well as the Buddhist Sutras were 
taught, besides physic and the occult sciences. It is just 
possible that the Chinese traveller may have given an exag- 
gerated account, but it is certainly a fact that the ancient 
abode of the Buddha remained for many centuries an object 
of deep veneration. This pious institution was 700 years old 
when Hiouen-Thsang visited it, and he remained there 
several years, enjoying a generous and cordial hospitality. 



We will not at present, however, indulge in any further 
descriptions of Nalanda ; later on we shall be able to return 
to the subject, and we will now proceed with the history of 
the Buddha. 

Bimbisara, who had ascended the throne at an early age, 
reigned for no less than thirty years after his conversion to 
Buddhism, but his son and successor Ajatasatru, who had 
put his father to death, did not show himself at first so 
favourable to the new doctrine; instigated by Dewadatla, 
Siddhartha's perfidious cousin, he laid many snares for him ; 
but touched at last by the virtues and pious counsels of the 
Buddha, he became converted, and made a confession of the 
crime by which he had acquired the throne. One whole 
Sinhalese Sutra, the Samanna-phala Sutra^ is devoted to the 
account of this conversion, which seems to have been one of 
the most difficult and important of the Reformer. Ajatasatru 
is represented as one of the eight personages who divided 
the Buddha's relics, and who, according to the Tibetan 
Dulva, had a rightful claim to them. 

However great may have been the Buddha's attachment 
to Magadha, the scene of his severe novitiate and his glorious 
victory, he seems to have resided there less than in Kosala. 
This latter country, of which Benares forms a part, lay north- 
west of Magadha; its capital was Sravasti, the residence of 
Prasenajit, the king of Kosala, and its site must have been 
near Fizabad, one of the richest cities of the kingdom of 
Oudh \ The Buddha had gone to Sravasti with the consent 
of Bimbisara, and on a formal invitation from Prasenajit. 
The famous garden of Anatha Pindika or Anaiha Pindadha, 
called Jetavana, was situated near Sravasti, and it was there 
that the Buddha delivered most of the discourses recorded 

* Sravasti has been identified by General Cunningham in his Ancient 
Geography of India with the ruins of Sahet-Mahet in Oudh (translator's 

64 TH^ OktCW OP WDbliISM [i^t. i 

in the Sutras. Hiouen-Thsang states that Anatha Pindika, 
who owed his fame to his unbounded charity to the poor and 
orphaned, had given this magnificent garden to the Buddha. 
He was a minister of King Prasenajit, and had bought this 
property for a heavy sum of gold from Jeta, the eldest son of 
the king, hence the name of Jetavana, or Jeta's Wood. 
Anatha Pindika had built a vihara in the midst of it, under 
the shade of the finest trees, and there the Buddha dwelt 
twenty-three years. Prasenajit himself, when he was converted, 
built him a lecture-hall to the east of the city, and Hiouen- 
Thsang mentions having seen the ruins surmounted by 
a stupa. At a short distance rose a tower, the remains of the 
ancient vihara of PrajapatI, the Buddha's aunt. This circum- 
stance as well as several others would lead us to suppose 
that Siddhartha's family, or at least some members of it, had 
joined him in this lovely spot, where he was so much beloved 
and in which he took so much pleasure. Maha-Prajapati 
was the first woman whom, at the urgent solicitation of his 
cousin Ananda, he permitted to adopt the religious life. 

Eighteen or nineteen miles south of the city, the spot 
where the Buddha met his father, after twelve years' absence, 
was still shown in the days of Hiouen-Thsang. Suddhodana 
had been grievously distressed at being separated from his 
son, and had made continual efforts to bring him back. He 
had despatched eight messengers one after the other; and 
all, captivated by the prince's eloquence and superiority, had 
remained with him and had joined his community. At last 
he sent one of his ministers, called Charka, who was, like the 
others, converted ; but who returned to the king and an- 
Lounced the coming of his son. It seems that his father 
forestalled this journey, and went himself to the Buddha. 
Nevertheless the Buddha returned the king's visit, and 
shortly afterwards went to Kapilavastu. If we are to be- 
lieve the Tibetan writers, the §akyas followed their king's 



example, and embraced Buddhism : most of ihem indeed 
adopted the reh'gious habit, which was also assumed by the 
Buddha's three wives, Gopa, Yasodhara, and Utpalavarna, 
as well as many oihcr women. 

Notwithstanding the protection of kings and the enthu- 
siasm of the populace, it appears that the Buddha had to 
contend with a most violent and stubborn opposition from 
the Brahmans. Their rivalry proved often dangerous to 
him. It is true that the Buddha was not sparing in his 
criticisms of his adversaries. Not only did he expose the 
ignorance and error of the very basis of their system, but he 
reproached them with being hypocrites, charlatans, and 
jugglers, censures which wounded them the more that they 
were not undeserved. His influence increased at the ex- 
pense of theirs, and they neglected no means to arrest such 
a dangerous movement, their vanity being concerned as well 
as their authority. A legend, entitled Prdiiharya Sutra, is 
almost entirely devoted to the narration of a great defeat 
the Brahmans sustained at the hands of the Buddha in the 
presence of Prasenajit : it resembled a tournament, of which 
the king and people were umpires. In another, and even 
more curious legend, the Brahmans are said to have exacted 
a promise from the citizens of Bhadramkara, whom they 
ruled at their will, that they would not admit the Buddha who 
was then approaching. When, however, the Bhagavat entered 
the ciiy, a Brahman woman of Kapilavastu, who had married 
in the country, disobeyed the order, got out at night, scaled the 
walls wiih a ladder, and threw herself at the Buddha's feet to 
be taught the Law ; her example was soon followed by one 
of the richest inhabitants of the city, named Mendhaka, who 
harangued the people, and at once gained them over to the 
Liberator, whom the Brahmans wished to humiliate and to 
exile. Matters were sometimes carried still further, and if 
we may judge by the traditions quoted by Fa-Hian and 


Hiouen-Thsang, the Buddha must often have been per- 
sonally threatened and attempts made upon his life. This 
is not in itself astonishing, and the only wonder is that the 
Buddha escaped all the ambushes that were laid for him. 

If there is a certain vagueness with regard to a part of 
his life, there is no doubt whatever as to the place of his 
death. All the legends, without exception, agree in saying 
that it took place at Kusi-nagara, in the kingdom of the 
same name, which no doubt in the days of Prasenajit formed 
part of Kosala. The Buddha, then eighty years of age, was 
returning from Rajagriha in Magadha, accompanied by 
Ananda, his cousin, and a numerous crowd of monks and 
disciples. On reaching the southern bank of the Ganges, 
and before crossing the river, he stood on a large square 
stone, gazed tenderly at his companion, and said: 

' This is the last time that I shall look from afar on the 
city of Rajagriha and the Diamond Throne (Vajiasanam).' 

After crossing the Ganges he went to the city of Vaisali, 
to which he bade the same touching farewell, and he received 
several monks into his Order, the last of whom was the men- 
dicant Subhadra. He was in the country of the Mallas, near 
the river AchiravatI, about half a mile north-west of the city 
of Kusi-nagara, when he was seized with a sudden faintness. 
He stopped in a grove of salas, under a tree of this species 
(Shorea rohusid), and there died, or, as the Buddhist legends 
say, he entered into Nirvana. Hiouen-Thsang saw the four 
sala trees, all of equal height, under which it was said the 
Buddha rested and drew his last breath. The Buddha died 
in the eighth year of the reign of Ajatasatru, if we may rely 
on Sinhalese chronology. 

The Tibetan Diilva gives a detailed account of the funeral 
rites that w^ere rendered him, which were as splendid and 
solemn as those reserved for the Chakrawarti kings (universal 
monarchs). The most illustrious of his disciples, Kasyapa^ 


author of the Abhidharma, or Collection on Metaphysics, 
and who afterwards took such an important part in the first 
Council, was at that moment at Rajogriha, but instantly 
hurried back to Kusi-nagara. The Buddh.i's body was not 
buried un'.il the eighth day after his death ; and after 
much quarrelling, which almost ended in blocdihcd, and 
was only allayed by an appeal to the concord and meek- 
ness inculcated by the Reformer, his relics were divided 
into eight portions, one of which was given to the Sakyas 
of Kapilavastu. 

Such is, in its principal outlines, the life of Sakja-muni. 
All his actions, great though they were, seem so natural that 
we cannot hesitate to accept the account as true, since so 
much concording evidence has vouched for it. We have 
given it as it is related in the documents already known, 
and new documents can but complete it. The figure of 
the Buddha is shown under the most credible conditions, 
for if they reveal the originality of his genius, they also 
explain no less clearly the immense influence he exerted 
over others. But we must in all sincerity admit that we 
have in a slight degree transformed the Buddhist legends, 
while borrowing from them the probably true narrative 
which they furnish. We have made selections from them, 
but have never altered anything; the record of events that 
has just been perused is, however, too simple to have satisfied 
the superstitious and extravagant imagination of Indian racesr 
tegends have drowned realities jn a mass jof iabulous and 
excessive details, of which v/e think it necessary to give the 
general ouiline, in order that the exact value of the Buddhist 
1 canonical laws may be understood, and to shov; how they 
were able to create such an important revolution in the 
Asiatic world. The reader may smile as he glances over 
these legends; he may more probably feel impatient of their 
folly and absurdity. However, these extravagances form 

E 2 



a part of the history of the human mind, and ought not 
to be contemptuously set aside, even when they stray into 
the wildest superstitions. Moreover, a careful study will 
enable us the better to appreciate the intelligence of the 
peoples to whom the Buddha addressed himself, and whom 
he was destined to reform. 


The legend of the Etiddha. Analysis of the Lalif avis lava Prolo ite 
in the Tushita heaven. The four investij^ations. The BiuLiha s 
address. His departure and incarnation in Mdyd-DevC s xvomb. 
The gods pay homage. Birth of the Buddha; his seven steps. 
The Brahman Asitas prophecy. The Buddha victoriously resists 
the attacks and temptations of Mara god of love, sin, and death. 
Analysis of the lotus of the Good Lazv. The Buddha s teachings. 
Paraldes: the children in the bunin^ house; the blind man 
recovering sight ; vision of the Prabhfitaratna Stiipa. The Bud Iha 
prophesies. Effects of the supernatural powers of the Tathagata. 
Explanation of the Buddha's different names. 

We will begin with an analysis of the two Buddhistic Sutras 
that have been translated into French : the Lalila-vistdra by 
M. P. Ed. Foucaux, and the Lohis of the Good Law (Lotus 
de la bonne Loi) by M. E. Burnouf. It is a very strange 
form of literature, but the doctrines they set foith are equdly 
strange, and the style agrees with the matter. 

The following is an exact analysis of the fabulous part of 
the Lalila-visldra. 

Ananda, the Buddha's cousin, is the speaker, and is sup- 
posed to have been the author of this Sutra, which is classed 
among the more developed Sutras. Ananda relates what he 
has personally heard, as is indicated by the customary open- 
ing sentence, which in the eyes of the orthodox imparts to 
the statements contained in the Sutras the authority of 
infallible witnesses : * The following discourse was one day 
heard by me.' 

Bhagavat, the Buddha, was at Jetavana, in the garden of 
Anatha Pind'.ka, near Sravasti. He was surrounded by 
twelve thousand Bhikshus, amongst whom, in the first rank, 
were his five disciples, and by thirty-two thousand Bodhi- 


salwas, * all subject to one last birth, all having really attained 
the state of Bodhisatwa, all having reached the other shore/ 
&c. At the first watch of the night, Bhagavat was plunged 
in a deep meditation, called the Arrangement of the Buddha's 
Ornaments. No sooner was he completely absorbed than 
an excrescence ^ appeared on the top of his head, which 
caused him to remember exactly all the Buddhas who had 
formerly existed ; and the light of pure knowledge being pro- 
duced in him, it revealed to him the dwellings of the gods, 
and the sons of gods, in infinite number. x\ll these divinities, 
summoned by stanzas of invitation, which emanate from the 
luminous sphere that envelops the Tathagata, approach the 
Buddha, entreating him to teach them that part of the Law 
which is called Lalita-vistara. Bhagavat, touched wilh 
compassion for the Bodhisatwas, Mahasatwas, INIabascrava- 
kas, and the gods, men, Asekhas, and the world, silently 
consents to hear their prayer, and lifts up his voice to teach 
them himself the Lalita-visidra. 

Such is the first chapter, and it will suffice to give us an 
i jea how much patience we shall require to examine these and 
similar extravagances of which we are only at the beginning. 
, We will then give the description from the Buddha's own 
narrative of his condition previous to his birth, and Lis 
incarnation on earth. 

Worshipped by those who were adored as gods, receiving 
the homage of Sakra, Brahma, Mahesvara, the guardians of 
the world and all the lesser deities, the Bodhisatwa leaves 
Tushita, the abode of joy, and goes to the great palace of 
Dharmochaya (nucleus of the Law). It is from thence that 
he has to instruct the immense multitude gathered to hear 
him, which amounts to sixty-eight kotis, that is to say six 
hundred and eighty million souls, all seated on sumptuous 

» All the Buddha's statues bear on the top of the head this charac- 
teristic excrescence. 


scats. Bhagavat first announces that twelve years must 
elapse before the Buddha will enter his mother^s womb ; and 
in order that this event may be properly accomplished with 
all the requisite conditions, it is necessary to make four 
important examinations. He has to examine, first time, 
secondly continents, thirdly countries, and fourthly fi^milies. 

Bodhisatwas, at the first development of the world, before 
the arrangement of beings in their order, do not enter 
a mother's womb. When, however, the world is entirely 
made manifest, and old age, sickness, and death have 
appeared in it, from that time the Bodhisatwas become born 
of a mother. For this reason Bhagavat makes an examination 
of time. 

He examines the continents because a Bodhisatwa cannot 
be born on a frontier; neither can he be born in eastern 
Videha, nor in western Godani, nor in northern Kuru. He 
can only be born in the southern continent in JambudvTpa 
(India). Neither can he be born in a frontier province 
* among stupid men, of dull senses, and dumb dispositions 
like sheep, incapable of distinguishing good teaching from 
bad.' Therefore only in a central province can he be born. 

Finally, the Bodhisatwa applies himself to the examination 
of families, because Bodhisatwas cannot be born in a family 
of low class, that of a chandala, a flute-player, a wheelwright, 
or a servant. They are born in two castes only, that of the 
Brahmans or the Kshatriyas, according to whichever is held 
in greatest respect at the moment. 

Nevertheless the throng of deities question among them- 
selves ' in what choicest of flimilies ' the Bodhisatwa will be 
born. They pass in review the most illustrious races of the 
time, and, unable to come to any conclusion, they ask the 
question of the Bodhisatwa himself. 

The Bodhisatwa answers them by enumerating the sixty- 
four signs with which the family he has chosen is endowed; 


he names them one by one ; they are so many virtues. The 
family is noble, of perfect descent ; it is not ambitious ; it is 
of pure morals, and is wise ; it makes a magnificent use of 
its wealth ; it is constant in friendship, knows its duties, is not 
led away by desire, passion, ignorance, or fear ; it possesses 
firm heroism ; honours the Rishis, honours the gods, the 
Chaltyas \ the Manes ; does not keep up enmity — in a word, 
the family is perfect in all things. The woman into whose 
womb the Bodhisatwa is to enter is no less perfect ; for she 
possesses thirty-two kinds of virtues, and is free from all 
feminine defects. 

The gods, whose curiosity was more excited than satisfied 
by these vague indications, wonder which can be this blessed 
family, and this still more blessed woman, and they can only 
think of the Sakya race, the king Suddhodana and the queen 
Maya-Devi, who unite so many virtues and perfections. It 
is at Kapilavastu and of these two choicely-gifted beings 
that the Bodhisatwa will be born : * for no oiher woman 
ii capable of bearing the first among mankind.' When 
he is on the point of leaving the gods in Tushita to 
descend on earth, the Bodhisatwa addresses them once 
more from his throne, and recalls to them the precepts of 
the Law. He first points out the 'Visible Gates,' which 
lumber io8, the principal ones being: faith, purity, dis- 
cretion, benevolence, pity, modesty, knowledge of self 
{dtmajnata), respect, and the acquisition of magic formulae ; 
then after a long and complete enumeration he adds, as he 
takes leave of the gods, these solemn words, which they 
listen to in respectful silence: 

* Carefully avoid immodesty. All divine and pure pleasures 
lorn of the heart and mind are the fruit of a virtuous deed. 
Remember therefore your actions. As you have failed to 

* The sacred monuments where the Buddha's relics and those of his 
principal votaries are placed. 


amass virtues in a former life, you are now bound for 
a place, far from all comfort, where you will suffer all kinds 
of misfortunes and ills. Desire is not durable nor constant ; 
it is like a dream, a mirage, an illusion, like lightning, like 
foam. Observe the practice of the Law; whosoever observes 
its holy practices will suOfer no evil. Love tradition, morality, 
and almsgiving; be perfect in patience and purity. Act 
in a s] irit of mutual benevolence, with a helpful spirit. 
Rt member the Buddha, the Law, and the Assemblies of the 
faithful. All that you behold in me, of supernatural power, 
knowledge, and authority — all this is produced by die 
exercise of virtue, which is its cause, and comes from 
tradition, morality, and modesty. You also must act widi 
the same perfect discretion. It is not by maxims, nor 
words, nor clamour that the doclrine of virtue can be 
attained. Acquire it by your deeds ; as you speak, so act ; 
strive therefore by unceasirg efTorts. There is no reward 
for all those who have done good deeds ; Lut those who do 
them not will obtain nothing. Beware of pride, haughtiness, 
and arrogance ; be ever gentle, and keep the straight road, 
dil'genly pursuing the path that leads to Nirvana. Exercise 
yourselves to find the way of salvation, and dispel with the 
lamp of wisdom the darkness of ignorance. Disentangle 
yourselves from the meshes of sin, and let repentance accom- 
pany you. But what need is there to say more ? The Law 
is full of wisdom and purity. When I shall have attained 
supreme wisdom, when the Law that leads to immortality 
shall have rained down upon spirits made perfectly pure, 
then return to hear anew the Law which I will teach you.' 

Notwithstanding this exiiortation, the gods were sorely 
distressed at the Buddha's departure; but in order to assuage 
their grief he left them as a subsJtute the Bodhisatwa Maitreya, 
whom he consecrated by placing on his head with his own 
hands his tiara and diadem. Maitreya is the Buddha who is 


to succeed him when the perversion of tl:e world will have 
wiped out all recollection of the teaching of Sakya-muni. 

The Bodhisatwa then descends from Tushila into his 
mother's womb, and to accomplish the prediction contained 
in the Brahmanas and the Mantras of the Rigveda, he assumes 
the form of a majestic elephant, armed with six tusks, covered 
with a network of gold, its superb head of a red colour, and 
its jaws wide open. Eight premonitory signs herald " its 
arrival in Suddhodana's dwelling. The palace cleanses itself; 
all the birds of Ilimavanta fly to it, showing their gladness 
by their songs ; the gardens are filled with flowers ; the ponds 
are covered with lotus ; viands of all kinds, spread upon the 
festive tables, renew themselves after being abundantly par- 
taken of; musical instruments give out, without being touched, 
the most melodious sounds ; caskets of precious jewels open 
of their own accord to display their treasures; lastly, the 
palace is illuminated by a supernatural splendour that out- 
shines the sun and moon. 

Such is the prologue, as it were, of the drama that is unfolded 
in the Lalita-vistdra; the scene is laid in heaven before 
opening on earth. The narrative would not be lacking in 
a certain grandeur if the manner and style corresponded to 
the majesty of the idea ; but it is impossible not to feel that 
it is a pure fantastical invention, and that the author of the 
legend is only playing with his subject. In the original text 
the details are so lengthy that the first conception almost 
entirely disappears, to give place to endless repetitions and 
to the most tedious improbabilities. 

All the lime the Bodhisatwa was in IMaya-Devi's womb 
he remained in her right side, sitting cross-legged. These 
are the strange details which the sacred legend deems necessary 
to mention; but they are nothing in comparison to those 
that follow. Some of the sons of the deities are astonished 
that the Bodhisatwa, ' pure and unsoiled, far above all the 


worlds, the most sacred of all beings/ should dwell in the 
womb of an earthly mother, while the ordinary kings of the 
Gandharvas, Kumbhandas, Nagas and Yakshas, inferior 
gods, always avoid the defilement of a human body. Sus- 
pecting the thought of the sons of the gods, the Buddha causes 
Ananda his cousin to quesiion him, and in reply he informs of liis occupation while in his mother's womb ; this is 
called 'the sacred exercise of the Bodhisatwa.' The Buddha 
relates with the most prolix and confused details the visit 
that Brahma, the sovereign master, comes to pay him. in 
Maya- Devi's womb. Brahma, after having bowed his head 
at Bhagavat's feet, offers him a drop of dew that, contains all 
the vital and generating essence of the- three thousand great 
thousands of worlds. After Brahma, Sakra,the master of -the 
gods, the four great kings of the inferior gods, four goddesses, 
and a multitude of divinities come to worship and serve, the 
Bodhisatwa, and receive from him instruction in the Law. 

We would not quote these absurdities were it not tliat 
they show the turn of mind cf the Buddhists, and how they 
placed their Buddha far above all the gods of the 
Pantheon. Brahma, Indra, and all those hitherto considered 
the greatest and most venerated are hardly worthy to serve 
the Bodhisatwa, and even before his biith, according to the 
Buddhists, the most respected objects of popular superstition 
prostrated themselves before him. The LaUia-vtsiara.\^,uot 
the work of the Buddha's own immediate disciples, and it is 
probable that in the days of their Master, and soon after his 
death, they did not hold such arrogant language. However, 
about three or four centuries later the new doctrine had 
made sufficient progress to permit the gods adored by the 
vulgar being treated with such insolent contempt. Sometimes 
the author himself seems conscious that he has gone too far, 
and the king Suddhodana, who is mentioned as a spectator 
of the evolutions of the gods before his unborn £on, is over- 


come by certain scruples. However much he may rejoice at 
being the father of the future Buddha, he cannot conceal his 
astonishment, and says to himself: 'This is indeed the god 
of gods whom the four guardians of the world, whom Brahma, 
Indra, and the united deities surround with such deep respect ; 
this will in truth be the Buddha. In the three worlds, not 
a g d, nor a Naga, nor Indra, nor Brahma, not a being in 
fact, would permit such worship wiihout the others crushing 
him on the head and depriving him of Hfe. But this one, 
because he is purer thin the gods, can receive this wo:sliip 
wiihout incurring any danger.' 

We will not relate the precursory signs that announced the 
birth of the Buddha, nor the care that the gods bestowed on 
his mother Maya-Devi in the Lumbini gardens, where her 
delivery took place, standing and leaning under the shade of 
a plaksa, cHnging for support to a branch of ihe tree. Indra 
the k'ng of the gods, and Brahma the lord of created beings, 
stand before her to receive the child. They bathe and waih 
it widi their own hands — a needless precaution, as he 
has lain unsoiled in his motlicr's womb, the legend says, and 
that he was already clothed in a rich robe of Kasi (Benares) 
silk\ Directly he is born he stands on the ground and 
seats himself on a large white lotus, which has spontaneously 
sprung fiom the earth on the spot which his feet have 
touched. Then without any assistance he takes seven steps 
towards the east, seven to the south, seven to the west, seven 
to the north, and seven steps towards the lower regions, 
announcing in each direction the mission he had come to 

* These details are reproduced on all the Buddhis'ic monuments that 
represent the birth of the Liberator. See the bas eli;if in the museum 
at Calcutta that M. Ed. Foucaux gives at the end of J\gya tclier rol pa. 
Another and more decent legend, the Abinishkramma, sup. ose^ that 
Indra, to spare Maya-Devi the shame of being delivered in his presence, 
assumed the form of an old woman. But in this di-gii^e the child 
n fuses his attentions, and repels him, not permitting him to touch 
him, although he recognizes him to be Indra. 


fulfil on earlh ; * I shall conquer the demon and the demon's 
army. I will pour forth rain from the clouds of the Law 
upon the beings plunged into hell and devoured by hell fire, 
and they will be filled with joy and gladness.' 

But the Buddha, who is supposed to relate all this to his 
disciples at Sravasli, interrupts his narration, and turning to 
his cousin Ananda, predicts that many will not believe these 
miraculous deeds. ' In the time to come, certain Bhikshus, 
ignorant, incompetent, proud, haughty, of unbridled and 
unstable mind, sceptics and devoid of faith, the shame of the 
Sramanas,' will refuse to believe in the power of the Buddha, 
and will wonder at his having been born of a woman. 
* They will not understand, foolish men! that if he had come 
in the condition of a god instead of coming into the world 
of man, he would not have been able to turn the Wheel of 
the Law, and all beings would have been plunged into despair. 
But those creatures who have denied the wisdom of the 
Buddha will at their death be cast into Avitchi, the great 
hell; whereas those who have believed in the Buddha will 
become the sons of the Talhagata, and will be delivered from 
the three evils ; they will eat of the food of the kingdom ; 
they will tear asunder the chains of the demon; and will have 
left behind them the desert of a transmigatory life.' 

The legend then recounts, with a multitude of details, how 
the child was brought from Lumbini to Kapilavastu at'ter 
the death of his mother, and how he was, by the consent of 
the Sakyas and their wives, who contended for the care of 
him, confided to his aunt Maha-Prajapaii. The legend 
dwells at length on the prediction of the Brahman Asita (the 
black), who comes down expressly from the Himavanla 
(Himalaya) mountains, where he dwells, to verify on the 
body of the newborn infant the thirty-two signs of a great 
man, and the eighty secondary marks, which he most carefully 
enumerates one after the other, however extraordinary some 


of them may seem. The great Rishi, on ascertaining that 
the Buddha is born, mourns that his extreme age will prevent 
his ever hearing the teaching of the pure Law. 

Then he retires, laden with presents from the king, who 
has been delighted at his prediction ; and he returns to his 
hermitage as he had come, through the air, whence he had 
magically upraised himself in company with his nephew 
Naradatta. But it would seem that Asita's prophecy, important 
as it was, did not suffice, and after him a son of the gods, 
followed by twelve hundred thousand other gods, came also 
to verify the signs and marks, and once more assured 
Suddhodana that his son was in truth the Buddha. It will 
be remembered that the child was solemnly presented by his 
father at the temple of the gods ; but the legend adds, that 
no sooner had the Bodhisatwa entered the temple than all 
the inanimate images of the gods, including Indra and 
Brahma, rose up and did obeisance to him. Then the gods, 
pointing to their own images, sang the following stanzas, or 
gathas, which we quote, as they show a poetic inspiration 
that is generally lacking in Buddhism, although at least half 
the developed Sutras are in verse. 

* The greatest of the mountains, the ^leru, king of the 
hills, bows not down to the Senev^. The ocean, the abode 
of Nagas' king, bows not down before the water contained 
in the footprints of a cow. The sun, the moon that gives 
light, bow not down before the glowworm. He who has 
issued from a wise and virtuous family, who is himself full 
of virtue, bows not down before the most powerful gods. 
The deity or the man, whoever he may be, who persists in 
pride, is like the Senevd, the water in the footprints of a cow, 
and the glowworm. But like Meru, the ocean, the sun, and 
the moon, is Svayambhu, the self-existing, who fulfils the 
first need of the world ; and whosoever reiiders him homage 
obtains heaven and Nirvana.' 


The above will show with tolerable clearness the nature 
of the legend, and how it tries lo transform and embellish — 
from its own point of view — the actual facts of Siddhartha's 
life. To complete our information on the subject, we will 
relate one last episode that takes an important place, not only 
in Laliki-vis/dra, but which figures in nearly every Sutra ; 
that is the conflict that Siddhartha, at the moment of 
becoming Buddha, sustained with the demon called ]\Iara, 
the Evil One, or Piipi} an, the god of love, of sin, and of death. 

Siddhartha was at Uruvela, in the retreat we have already 
mentioned, where for six years he had given himself up to 
the severest penance. His mother Maya-Devi, alarmed at 
her son's sufferings, and fearing lest he should die, had left 
Tushita and came to implore him to put a stop to these 
excessive mortifications. He comforted his mother, but did 
not yield to her entreaties. Mara in hi^ turn came to tempt 
him, and in a gentle voice addressed him in the following 
flattering words : ' Dear one, thou must live ; it is only by 
living that thou canst fulfil the Law. All that is done during 
life should be done without suffering. Thou art emaciated ; 
thy colour has fled, thou drawest near to death. However 
great the merit, what can be the result of such renunciation ? 
The path of renunciation is suffering, the victory over the 
mind is difficult to attain.* 

Siddhartha replied to him : ' Papi) an, friend of all folly 
and evil, art thou then come hither to ttmpt me ? Although 
my merits are but small, the aim I have in view is not less 
worthy. The inevitable end of life being death, I seek not 
to avoid death. I possess resolution, courage, and wisdom ; 
and I see no one on earth who can deter me. Demon, soon 
shall I triumph over thee. Thy first soldiers are desires, thy 
second in rank are weariness and vexation, thy third are 
hunger and thirst, passions are thy fourth, indolence and 
slumber thy fifth, fears are thy sixth, doubts are thy seventh, 


anger and hypocrisy thy eighth ; ambition, flattery, homage, 
false reputations, self-praise, and the censure of others, these 
are thy dark allies, the soldiers of the fiery demon. Thy 
roldiers subjugate gods as well as men. But I will destroy 
them by wisdom; and then, Spirit of Evil, what wilt thou do ?' 

Mara, humbled and abashed, disappeared for a time. But 
the sons of the gods came in their turn to subject the ascetic 
to a temptation which was perhaps more dangerous still. 
They suggested that he should pretend to take no nourish- 
ment, and that they hhould impart to him through the pores 
of the skin all the vigour he kicked, and that he intended to 
get by ordinary food. However, the young Siddhartha 
refused, saying : * Assuredly, I might swear that I did not 
eat ; and the neighbouring peasants who dwell in my vicinity 
would say that the Sramana Gautama did not eat, while the 
sons of the gods, respecting my weakness, would invigorate 
me through the pores of my skin ; but I should be acting 
most deceitfully.' The Bodhisatwa, to avoid such a sin, 
would not listen to the words of the sons of the deities, and 
thus again he evaded a temptation more in^id bus than that 
of Mara. 

However, before attaining Buddhaliood he was obliged 
to conquer the demon ; he therefore provoked him to the 
combat, while he was at Bodhimanda, by shooting forth 
from between his eyebrows — from the tuft of hair called 
Urna, which is one of the thirty- two signs of a great man — 
a ray of light that illuminated all the dwellings of the 
demons and made them tremble with fear. Papiyan, terrified 
by the sudden brilliancy and the thirty-two horrible dreams 
he had had, at once summoned his servants and all his 
armies. His empire was threatened, and he wished to begin 
the fight. However, he first consulted his sons, some of 
whom advised him to yield and thus avoid a severe defeat ; 
while the others urged him to engage in a strife in which 


victory appeared to them certain. The two parties, one 
black and the other white, spake in turn ; and the thousand 
sons of the demon, some on his right and others on his left- 
hand side, gave their opinions in succession, and in a contrary 
sense. When the consullation was brought to a close, 
Pap'yan decided in favour of giving battle, and his army, 
compo?ed of four divisions, advanced against the Bodhisatwa. 
The army was strong and courageous, but was hideous 
beyond description. The demons who composed it could 
at will change their fiices, and transform themselves in 
a hundred millions of ways; their hands and feet were 
encircled by a hundred thousand serpents ; they were armed 
with swords, bows and arrows, pikes, javelins, hatchets, clubs, 
chains, stones, sticks, quoits, thunderbolis ; their heads, eyes, 
and faces blazed like fire ; their stomachs, feet, and hands 
were of a repulsive appearance ; their faces glittered with 
sinister brilliancy; they had enormous teeth, terrible tusks, 
thick, big tongues that hung out of their mouths ; their eyes 
were red and glowing like those of a black serpent full of 
venom, &c., &c. We abbreviate the lengthy description, which 
fi'.ls several pages of the Lalilavis/ara, in which the Indian 
imagination revels in the invention of the most monstrous 
and uncouth creations. 

As may be supposed, all the att.'.cks of the demon were 
powerless against the Buddha. The spears, pikes, javelins, 
projectiles of every description, even mountains, which they 
hurled down on him, were changed into flowers and hung in 
garlands over his head. Papiyan, seeing that violence was 
useless, had recourse to other means; he summoned his 
daughters, the beautiful Apsaras, and sent them to tempt the 
Bodhisatwa by showing him thirty-two kinds of feminine 
magic. They sang and danced before him, they deployed 
all their charms and seductions ; they addressed to him the 
softest and most insinuating language. But their caresses 



proved as useless as their brothers* assaults, and filled -with 
shame, they found themselves compelled to sing the praises 
of him whom they could neither vanquish nor seduce, They 
then returned to their father and informed him of this second 
defeat, more disastrous even than the first. Papiyan-was 
astounded ; but the sons of the Suddhava-sakayika gods 
filled the measure of his vexation by scoffing at him with the 
most poignant insults and the bitterest sarcasms. The 
demon, however, would not give in : * I am the lord of desire,' 
he said to the Bodhisatwa, ' I am lord of the whole world ; 
the gods, the throng of Danavas, all men and beasts over- 
come by me have fallen into my power. Like them, thou 
hast come into my kingdom ; rise and speak as they do.' 

The Bodhisatwa replied : * If thou art the lord of desire, 
thou art not the lord of light. Behold me ; I am truly the 
lord of the law ; impotent as thou art, it is in thy sight that 
I shall obtain supreme wisdom/ 

Papiyan tried another last assault, and called together 
again his armies. But again he succumbed. His army is 
scattered in disorder, and he has the grief of seeing those of 
his sons who had counselled him to yield go and prostrate 
themselves at the feet of the Bodhisatwa, and respectfully 
worship him. Fallen from his splendour, pale and colour- 
less, the demon beats his breast and utters loud lamentations ; 
then he stands aside with drooping head, and, tracing some 
signs with an arrow on the earth, he says in his despair : 
' My kingdom is at an end.' 

Afier this decisive victory, the Bodhisatwa attains^ supreme 
wisdom, Buddhahood ; he becomes the perfectly enlightened 
Buddha, and goes to turn the Wheel of the Law at Benares. 
Such is the mythological side of the Lalila-vistdray without 
mentioning its other details, from which we have taken the 
life of the Buddha. Probably all this phantasmagoria was 
necessary for the people to whom it was addressed,^ but in 


our eyes it is a mere extravagance, calculated to throw dis- 
credit on the real historical facts which accompany it, and 
which it serves only to obscure. 

We will pass on to analyze the Loius of the good Law. 

The Lotus of the good Law is nothing but a fabulous 
legend, devoid of any trace of historical facts, and infinitely 
less interesting than the Laliia-visidra ; to all appearance it 
was written somewhat later. 

Bhagavat was at Rajagriha, on the mountain called the 
Vulture's Peak (Gridhrakuta, actually the Giddhar). He 
was surrounded by twelve hundred monks, all of whom 
were Arahats, or holy men, and attentive hearers {JSIahd- 
srdvakas) of Ananda, his cousin, besides two thousand other 
monks, six thousand nuns, headed by INIaha-PrajapatT, his 
aunt, and Yasodhara, one of his wives ; eighty thousand 
Bodhisatwas, sixteen virtuous men, Sakra, the Indra of the 
Devas, with twenty thousand sons of the gods ; Brahma, 
with twelve thousand sons of the gods, a crowd of other 
deities, and finally Ajatasatru, king of Magadha, son of 

Bhagavat, after having expounded the Sutra called the 
Great Demonstration, remained silent, plunged in the medi- 
tation which is called the Place of Demonstration. A shower 
of divine flowers falls on him and on those who surround 
him, when suddenly a ray of light springs from the circle of 
hair that grows between his eyebrows, and illumines the 
eighteen thousand lands of the Buddha situated in the East, 
as fixr as the great hell, Avitchi, and to the very limits of 
existence. All the spectators were struck by this miracle, 
and one of them, the Bodhisatwa I\Iahasatwa-]\Iaitreya, 
inquired of ]\Ianju-sri, Mho was next to him, the meaning of 
this marvellous appearance. Maitreya propounds his ques- 
tion in fifty-six stanzas of two verses each. Manju-sri 
answers him in the same style, prose and verse, that this 

F 2 


* beam of light foretells that the Blessed One is about to 
explain the developed Sutra, called the Lotus of the good 

This is, in fact, an introduction somewhat similar to that 
of the Lalita-vistara^ of less grandeur, and, if possible, of less 
probability, as the scene is laid on this earth instead of being 
supposed to take place in heaven. 

Bhagavat awakes from his meditation, and replying to 
Saripulra, who has not interrogated him, explains to him, 
first in prose and afterwards in verse, that are little more 
than a repetition, the difficulties which the teaching of the 
Law presents. At the same moment five thousand monks, 
who are incapable of understanding the Law, quit the meet- 
ing, and the Tathagata congratulates himself on their 
departure. Then he informs his disciple that he makes 
use of a hundred thousand different manners of teaching 
the Law, although in reality there is but one way, one 
vehicle for attaining salvation. He repeats to him in one 
hundred and forty-four stanzas what he has already said 
in sufficiently wordy prose ; and to give him an example of 
the means he employs for the instruction of human beings, 
he sets forth a parable. 

The aged father of a family coming home one day finds 
his house in flames. His young children, shut up indoors, 
are unaware and heedless of their danger. In vain does 
their father call to them ; the children, who do not see the 
conflagration, refuse to believe him, and will not listen to his 
entreaties. In order to persuade them he promises that if 
they will come out he will give them magnificent toys, and 
among others three kinds of chariots, which he assures them 
will delight and amuse them. As soon as the children have 
come out safe and sound, their father, instead of giving them 
three different kinds of chariots, presents them all three with 
the same kind of chariot. Nevertheless these chariots are 


superb and handsomely decorated. Has their father been 
guilty of a falsehood? Most certainly not. Well then, in 
the same way the Tathagata, taking pity on the puerile 
levity of man, who, in the midst of all the miseries of life 
does nothing but seek for amusement and pleasure, adapts 
himself to his foibles. He offers him, to enable him to 
escape from the slavery of the three worlds, three different 
vehicles — that of the Sravakas, that of the Pratylka Buddhas, 
and that of tlie Bodhisatwas. Man, tempted like the children 
in the burning house, quits the three worlds, and the 
Tathagata then gives him only one vehicle, the great vehicle 
of the Buddha, which leads to complete Nirvana. 

To this parable four of the Buddha's principal disciples — 
Subhuti, Katyayana, Kasyapa and Moggallana — reply by 
another, in order to excuse the miserable propensities which 
prevent men from hearing and following the Law. Man, 
they say, is like the son of a rich family who abandons his 
parents to lead a disorderly life, and who, after many errors 
and misfortunes, is restored to his father, whom he fails to 
recognize. The son, after cheerfully submitting to a long 
probation, at last returns to the right course and the posses- 
sion of his inheritance, compromised by his misconduct. 

Bhagavat propounds again several other parables, one of 
which is very remarkable. 

There was a man blind from his birth, who used to say, 
* There is neither colour nor form, whether beautiful or the 
reverse ; there is no beholder to see it ; there is neither sun, 
nor moon, nor stars, nor constellations/ In vain did those 
around him try to reason this blind man out of his gross 
incredulity. He continued to repeat his assertions until 
a skilful physician restored to him his sight. The blind 
man then passed to the other extreme, and said within 
himself: 'Assuredly I was mad, I who did not believe those 
who had eyes, and would not credit them. Now I see 


everything, I am delivered from my blindness, and nobody 
on earth can know more than I do/ But the wise Rishis, 
witnessing his present blindness, which was more to be 
feared than the first, strove to moderate his deplorable 
vanity. * Thou hast only just recovered thy sight, O man,* 
they said, ' and as yet thou knowest nothing. Whence 
therefore all this pride ? Thou hast no wisdom, and thou 
art uninstructed. When thou art seated in thy house thou 
seest not that which is outside; thou knowest not the 
thoughts of thy fellows; thou dost not hear at a distance 
of five yodjanas the sound of the coach and of the drum ; 
thou canst not convey thyself the distance of one krosa 
without the use of thy feet. Thou hast been begotten and 
developed in thy mother's womb, and of that thou remem- 
berest nothing! How therefore art thou learned? How 
canst thou say, I know all? How canst thou say, I see 
all? Recognize, O man, that light is darkness, and dark- 
ness light.* The blind man, ashamed of his presumption, 
desired the Rishis to instruct him in the mysteries of the 
Law; and soon his spiritual eyes were opened, as those of 
his body had been opened by the skilful physician, who was 
no other than the Tathagata. 

Then follow in the Lo/us of the good Law several 
chapters devoted to the Buddha's prophecies. These pro- 
phecies commit him to nothing. The Buddha foretells that 
four of h:s listeners — Kasyapa and three others — will in 
their turn become Buddhas. He tells them the names under 
which they will be reborn in the universe they are to save. 
He even takes the trouble to describe to each of them, in 
prose and in verse, the beauty of the world over which they 
will reign, and even fixes the length of their reign, in figures 
which are fabulously enormous. He does the same for 
a less illustrious hearer than these four, Piirna, who had 
formerly abandoned an immense fortune to follow the 


Buddha. These splendid prophecies awake, as may be 
believed, the desire, if not the envy, of those who hear 
Bhagavat. Twelve hundred of his auditors are seized with 
the same thought: *If only Bhagavat could predict to each 
of us our future destiny, as he has done for these great 
Sravakas ! ' Bhagavat guesses their thoughts, but he merely 
predicts that five hundred monks, all Arahats, will become 
Buddhas under the name of Samanta-Prabhasa, which will 
be common to all. Nevertheless Ananda, the Tathagata's 
cousin, Rahula his son, and two thousand monks conceive 
the same desire ; and Bhagavat is obliged to predict to each 
one the fate that awaits him ; they will all be Buddhas 
under different names and in different worlds. 

These are foolish and idle details, seeing that the explana- 
tion" of the Law promised in the Lotus is not given; but the 
following accounts are still more absurd. 

While Bhagavat 'unfolds these predictions, that fill with 
joy, satisfaction, pleasure, content and gladness' all those 
who are concerned, and even those who hear them without 
deriving any advantage from them, suddenly a marvellous 
slupa ^ rises from the ground, in the midst of the assembly ; 
it is made of seven precious substances, is five hundred 
yodjanas high and a circumference in proportion. It rises in 
the a'.r and remains suspended in th^ sky, in full view of the 
assembly which gazes with admiration upon its thousands of 
balconies strewn with flowers, its thousands of porticos, 
bannerSj flags, garlands, bells, not to mention gold and silver, 
and pearls, diamonds, crystals, emeralds, &c. A voice pro- 
ceeds from the stupa and praises the explanation Bhagavat 
has made of the Law, or rather that he has promised to 
make. It is the voice of an ancient Tathagata named 

^ Stupas are buildings in the form of cones and cupolas, erected by 
the piety of believers to enshrine and cover relics. They are found 
throughout all India, particularly in the northern and central provinces. 


Prabhutaratna, who comes to pay homage to the Buddha, 
and to take his share of the teaching. After he had called 
together hundreds of thousands, millions, myriads of kotis of 
Bodhisatwas to honour the illustrious visitor, the Buddha, 
with the forefinger of his right hand, divides the stupa in the 
middle; and the Talhagata Prabhutaratna is seen, sealed 
cross-kgged, his limbs dried up, without, however, his body 
being diminished in size. He seems plunged in deep 
meditation. He, however, rouses himself from his ecstasy 
and invites the Buddha, whom he loads with praises, to come 
and seat himself by his side in the stupa. The Buddha 
consents, and both remain in the air, speaking to the 
Assembly, which Las likewise risen into space, through the 
supernatural power of Bhagavat. 

Then the predictions begin r.gain, and this time they are 
addressed to women. The aunt cf the Buddha, Maha- 
PrajapaiT the Gautamide, will also, according to her wish, 
become a Buddha; Yasodhaia, the mother of Rahula is to 
enjoy the same happiness ; and the thousands of nuns who 
follow them will become interpreters of the Law. It seems 
probable that, to accomplish this superhuman mission, the 
women will change their sex ; for if the legend is silent in 
this case, it expressly arnourxcs it in of the daughter of 
Sng.ira, king of the Nagas, who, gifted with perfect wisdom 
from the age of c ight years, is, as a reward for her piety, 
transformed into a man so that she may become a Bodhisatwa. 

We feel somewhat unwilling to expose such absurdities, 
which are as ungraceful as they are foolish, and we would fain 
spare our readers, were it not that we wish to give them an 
exact idea of these records which, monstrous and senseless as 
they are, have been venerated by so many nations. But 
before ending we must make a last quotation which, in the 
grossness of its folly, surpasses, we think, anything to be found 
in the Buddhist Sutras. It is contained in the twentieth 


chapter of the Lotus of the Good Law, and is entitled Effects 
of the supernatural power of the Tathagata. 

Hundreds of thousands of myriads of kotis of Bcdhl atwas, 
vvho equal in number the atoms contained in a thousand 
worlds, have risen from clefts in the earth created by a ray 
of light projected from the centre of Bhagavat's eyebrows. 
With joined hands they worship the Buddha, who has called 
them together, and promise him, after his entrance into 
perfect Nirvana, to expound the Law in his stead. The 
master thanks them. Then the blessed Sakya-muni and the 
blessed Prabhfiiaratna, still seated on the throne of the stOpa, 
smile to one another. Their tongues protrude from ihtir 
mouths, and reach as far as the world of Brahma. At the 
same moment several hundreds of thousand myriads of 
koiis of rays issue from them. The innumerable Taiha- 
gatas who surround these two personages imitate them ; they 
put out their tongues in the same manner, and they continue 
lo exhib't this supernatural power during a hundred thousand 
years. At the end of the hundred thousand years they draw in 
their tongues, making a sound like ihe noise produced on forci- 
bly expelling the voice from the throat or in snapping the fingers. 

In tiuih all this absurdity is revolting; and if it were not 
that all this wretched nonsense is in a canonical bock, it 
would not be worth repealing ; fortunately, however, our 
task is not always an ungrateful one, and we shall find later 
on, when we treat of Buddhist eihics, compensations for all 
this folly and rubbish. 

The remainder of the Lotus of the Good Lmw, docs not 
deserve any particular analysis. The twenty-first and follow- 
ing chapters are almost exclusively devoted to the enumera- 
tion of the advantages the faithful will derive from reading 
this Siitra ; and among other things they are promised magic 
formulas which will preserve them from all dangers. At last, 
in the twenty-seventh chapter, Bhagavat confides the charge 


of the Law to the assembly which has just listened to its 
explanation, and dismisses his gratified hearers. > 

Before taking leave of the legend of Sakya-muni, it is 
necessary, in order to complete it, to give an explanation 
of the principal names by which, the Reformer has been 
ca41ed. They are many, and all have a certain importance, 
e'ther from a dogmatic or a philosophical point of view. 
They (may be divided into two classes : religious and secular. 
The' ^plar names are already known to us. We know that 
the oi^Uie young prince received from his father at his birih 
V as Siddhartha, and the meaning of the two names Sakya- 
muni and Sramana Gautama will also be remembered. 

The name of Buddha, which as it has given its name to 
a religion,' is the most celebrated of all, means the Learned, 
the Enlightened, or the Intelligent One. It is derived from 
BudMyio know. It seems a modest title in comparison with 
the prodigious part played by him to whom it was given ; 
but at- the same time it shows what a high opinion Indian 
genius had of knowledge, which is thus held to be capable of 
saving man and assuring to him an immortality that the gods 
themselves could not attain lo. As the word Buddha is not 
a proper name, it must never be used to designate Sakya- 
muni, without adding the article and saying : the Buddha. 
It is. merely a title added to or substituted for the name under 
which the prince of Kapilavastu was known to the world. 

Tathagata, one of the highest titles given to the Buddha, 
and which he appears to liave given to himself, signifies : 
'he who^ walks in the footsteps of his predecessors, he who 
has fulfilled his religious career in the same way as the 
Buddhas before him.' By this title Sakya-muni's mission is 
connected with that of all the sages who preceded him, and 
whose example he followed. 

Sugata, or the happy one, is a similar epithet, from an 
etymological point of view, to that of Tathagata; but the 


historical and philosophical meaning is less important. It 
simply affirms that, according to Buddhist faith, Sakya-muni 
came to save the world and bring happiness to all beings. 

Bhagavat, the blessed one or the fortunate one, is the 
Buddha's most usual name in the Nepaule-re Sutras. It was 
a title frequently applied in Brahmanical language to great 
personages; but in Buddhist language it was almost 
exclusively confined to the Buddha, or rather to the per- 
sonage who was about to become the Buddha. 

The name of Bodhisatwa is more com.plicated and contains 
more shades of meaning. Grammatically it means: *He 
who has the essence of the Bodhi,' or the supreme wisdom 
of a Buddha. Now to acquire this supreme wisdom, it is 
necessary to have triumphantly endured the hardest and 
longest trials in a multitude of successive existences. The 
being is then ripe, as is said by Buddhists, for the state of 
a perfect Buddha. But the most energetic and determined 
will is not sufficient, virtue itself is ineffectual to enable 
a being to attain to this high state of sanctity ; he must also 
gain ihe favour of one or several of the former Buddhas. 
When he has learned how to obtain it, he goes into one of 
the heavens suspended above the earth to await the moment 
of his appearance on earth. However, even after he has 
come to this world, he remains Bodhisatwa, and is not yet 
Buddha. He can only become Buddha after having shown 
by his austerities, and the practice of all virtue, by know- 
ledge and study here below, that he is worthy of teaching 
mankind and saving the world into which he has entered. 
Under these conditions only can the Bodhisatwa become 

Another name is also given sometimes to the Buddha 
which is less exalted than the preceding ones; that of 
Arahat or Venerable, which is also used for monks of 
a superior rank. When, however, it is applied to the Buddha, 


it is completed and enhanced by adding, 'The Venerable 
One of the World/ or ' The Venerable One of the Age/ 

The Buddhists are not satisfied by making the Buddha an 
ideal of virtue, knowledge, holiness, and supernatural power ; 
they have also made him an ideal of physical beauty, and 
the same vivid imagination that has produced the extravagant 
descriptions in the great Sutras has been called into play with 
as much puerile diffuseness in portraying the Tathagala. It 
seems probable that just as the legend contains real and 
historical facts, so the portrait of the Buddha has retained 
some of the particulars of the personal appearance of Sid- 
dhartha. Here again, 1 owever, it is difficult to discriminate 
between truth and falsehood. In the thir'/y-two charac- 
teiistics of a great man, and the eighty secondary marks, 
there are physical impossibilities, or rather exaggerations 
that verge on the impossible. Nevertheless these details 
cannot be thrust aside, for they show the taste of the people 
at that early date, and it forms part of their aesthetic ideas, 
and can furnish some information with regard to their 
ethnography. This exact nomenclature of thirty-two signs 
and eighty secondary marks dates from the earliest days of 
Buddhism, as it is already to be found in the Lalita-vistdra\ 
moreover it is considered of as much consequence among 
the Southern as among the Northern Buddhists. It is 
therefore an important, although external part of Buddhist 
belief; and it forms a sort of beacon visible to the meanest 
intelligence to be verified before any profession of faith. 

Burnouf has devoted to this study one of the most 
voluminous appendixes of the Lotus of the Good Law. He 
has taken the trouble to study and compare seven different 
Hsts contained in Nepaulese and Sinhalese writings. 

We will not enumerate one by one the thirty-two signs, 
still less the eighty secondary marks; but will be content 
with quoting a few gf the most remarkable, 


The first sign is a protuberance of the cranium on the lop 
of the head. There is nothing to prevent our believing that 
SiddhSrtha did possess this singular conformation. The 
second sign is to have hair curling towards the right side 
of a deep black, changing colour with the light. The hair 
turned to the right recalls doubtless the act of the young 
prince cutting off his hair wiih his sword; and the short 
curls, which have erroneously been taken for those of 
a negro, confirm this tradition, which still survived among 
the Sinhalese Buddhists when Colonel Mackenzie visited 
them in 1797. This second sign is probably as true as the 
first one. The third, which is a large smooth forehead, is no 
less likely. The fourth, on the contrary, seems a pure 
invention : that is, the famous tuft of hair, tJrna, growing 
between the eyebrows, and which must be white as snow or 
silver. Then follow the two signs relating to the eyes. 
The Buddha must have lashes like those of a heifer, and 
eyes of a deep black. His teeth must number forty, and 
must be even, close, and perfectly white. Then the descrip- 
tion passes on to the voice, which must be like Brahma's ; 
to the tongue, the jaw, the shoulders, the arms, which must 
reach down to the knees, a style of beauty we do not 
admire, but which the Indian poems never fail to give to 
their heroes; then to the figure, the hairs, each one of whicii 
must be separate and turn to the right the root; 
then to the most secret parts of the body ; thence to the legs, 
fingers, hands, and finally to the feet which, among other 
things, must have a high instep, and be perfectly straight and 
firmly set. 

The eighty secondary marks are simply supplementary 
and unimportant details added on to the thirty-two pre- 
ceding ones. There are three for the nails, three for the 
fingers, five for the lines of the hand, ten for the limbs, five 
for the gait, three for the canine teeth, one for the nose, six 


for the eyes, five for the eyebrows, three for the cheeks, nine 
for the hair, &c., «fec. 

Too much importance must not be attached to all these 
minutiae, nevertheless they must not be enth-ely set aside. 
Some of them have given rise to superstitions that hold 
a great place in Buddhism. Thus the thirty- first sign of 
a great man is the mark of a wheel on the soles of the feet. 
Hence the Buddhists of Ceylon, Nepaul, Burmah, Siam, 
Laos, &c., have fancied they recognized in several places the 
impress of the Buddha's foot. It is the famous Prabhat or 
SrTpada, the blessed foot, of which one of the most celebrated 
traces is to be found on Adam's Peak in Ceylon, where 
Sinhalese superstition alleges that sixty-five auspicious signs 
are to be found. 

We have given all the details of the real life of Sakya- 
muni and also of his legend, in order that the two sides of 
the Buddhist spirit should be clearly understood. On one 
side is a grandeur of mind seldom met with, a purity of 
morals almost perfect, a boundless charity, a life of heroism 
that never for a moment falters; and on the other hand 
an amount of superstition that shrinks at no extravagance, 
and that can only be palliated by the enthusiastic admiration 
for virtue and knowledge; on both sides the most noble 
sentiments allied with the most deplorable errors; the 
salvation of mankind sought for with indefatigable ardour 
and praiseworthy sincerity; and disastrous failures the just 
punishment of unconscious pride and a blind infatuation 
that nothing could enlighten. Such are the two general 
aspects of Buddhism. We shall find them again in its 
ethics and in its metaphysics. 


General character of Buddhist ethics (feriveJ from the canonical ivritin^s 
of the Councils, The Three Basketfils, ami the 'I hree Pearl s ; the 
four noble truths ; the ten precepts ; the tivelve ol^servances specially 
applicable to monks on clothini^, food, and residence ; the six trans- 
cendent virtues and the secondary virtues; confession, faviily duties, 
preaching. Influence of Ltiddhist ethics on individtials and govern- 
ments. The Buddha s ideal. Piirna, Kundla, I dsaiadatid and 
Upagupta. The kings Bimbisdra, AJdtasatru, and Apka. Piya- 
das€s Edicts, spread all over India. Journeys of Chinese pilgrims 
in the fifth and seventh century of the Chi istian era. Fa Hian and 

Although Sakya-muni was a philosopher, and never 
pretended to any other title, it would be an error to expect 
of him a melhodical and regular system. He preached all 
his life, but addressing himself to the people, he probably did 
not employ the rigid forms that science demands, which 
would not have been understood by his numerous hearers, 
and which the Brahmanic spirit has itself but imperfectly 
made uee of. Entrusted by his self-imposed mission with 
the salvation of mankind and of all creatures, or better still 
with that of beings and the entire universe, the ascetic had 
to assume a language accessible to all, that is to say the 
simplest and most ordinary ^ 

Thus the Buddha's ideas, although very clear and decided 
in his own mind, and all powerful in their sway over his 
disciples, were anything but precise in their form. The 

* Euinouf remarks that this necessary condition of Buddhism explains 
ils literary inferiority when compared with Brahmanism. Art, in every 
form, was almost unknown to Buddhism, and more particularly iu 
literature ; the style of the Sutras is intolerable 


Buddha himself wrote nothing, and his principal adherents, 
assembled in Council directly after his death, Settled in the 

' Sutras the words of the IMaster, and the doctrine which was 
^ about to become a dogma. Two other Councils after the 
first one made a definite code of the canonical writings, a^ 
they have been handed down to us, and as tiicy were 
received through translations by all the nations professing 
Buddhism. I'his work of successive editions was finished 
at least two centuries before the Christian era. We know 
moreover that the first Council which met at Rajagriha in 
Magadha, under the protection of Ajatasatru divided the 
canonical books into three great classes, which remained 
unchanged in the subsequent editions. These were — the 
Suu^s or discourses of the Buddha, the Vinaya or Disci- 
pline, and the AbMdhariiia or Metaphysics. Ananda was 
appointed to compile the Sutras, Ui)ali the Vinaya, and 
Kasyapa, who had regulated all the deliberations, reserved 
for himself the metaphysical part. The Sutras, Viji^aya, and 
Abhidharma formed what is called ihe Tripitaka, or Three 
Baskets, in the same way t'.iat the Buddha, the Law, and the 
Assembly formed the Triralna or the Three Pearls, the 
Three Gems. The Siitra?, which are also called Buddha- 
vachana or word of the Buddha, and Mulagranlha, the text- 
book, are with good reason considered by the Norlliern 
Buddhists to be fundamental truths. It is evident that the 
remainder has been drawn from the Buddha's discourses. 

The first theory that presents itself, and which, in due 
order must indeed precede all the others, is that of the four 
Noble Truths (aryani satyani). It was known to all Buddhists, 
and was adopted in the south and east, as well as in the north, 
in Ceylon, Burma, Pegu, Siam and China, exactly as it was 
in Nepaul and Tibet, 
'f The following are the four truths: 

^ First, the state of suffering which assails man under some 


form or another, whatever may be the condition of his birth. 
This is unfortunately an undeniable fact, although it does 
not entail all the consequences that Buddhism ascribes to it ; 
but it is given as an impregnable basis, sad but true, on which 
the whole building of the system reposes. 

Secondly, the cause of suffering, which the Buddha attributes 
to the passions, tp sinful lusts. 

The third Noble Truth, a fitting consolation for the sad 
reality of the two first, is that sorrow will cease by Nirvana, 
the supreme goal and reward of all man's efforts. 

Finally, the fourth and last Truth, which forms the principal 
belief of Buddhism, the path leading to the cessation of 
sorrow, the method of salvation, the way that leads to 
Nirvana (??iarga, in Pali magga). 

The way or method of salvation is called 'Th e Noble 
Ei ghtfold Path .' It is summed up in eight principles or 
parts, which are so many conditions that man must fulfil in 
order to ensure his eternal deliverance. 

The following are the eight divisions of the method. 

Tiie first, according to Buddhist phraseology, is Right' 
Views, that is faith and orthodoxy ; the second. Right Judg- 
tnent, which dispels all doubt and uncertainty; the third, 
I\ight_Words, that is perfect truthfulness, a horror of false- 
hood under whatever form, and a strict avoidance of it ; the 
fourth condition of salvation, Ri^it Aims, that is ever to 
pursue a pure and honest line of conduct ; the fifth, a RJ^ht 
Mode ()f^Livelihopd, seeking for maintenance in an upright 
and sinless occupation, in other words by a religious pro- 
fession; the sixth, a Ri ght Application of the Mind to all 
the Precepts of the Law ; the seventh, a Right Memory, which 
retains a clear and exact recollection of past actions ; and 
the eighth and last. Right Meditation, which leads the in- 
tellect, even here below, to a quietude bordering on that of 
the Nirvana. 



These are the Four Noble Truths that Siddhartha had 
attained to at-Bodhmmnda, under the Bodhi tree, after six 
years of meditation and penance ; these did he first teach to 
his disciples, when he ' turned the Wheel of the Law ' for the 
first time at Benares. By the comprehension of these things 
did he become Buddha ; and when he preached his doctrine 
to the world, he ever gave to these four Truths a preference 
over all other parts of his teaching In his great struggle 
against the Tirthlyas or BraiiTfians of Kosala, in the presence 
of Prasenajit, when he defeated his adversaries, and the 
Brahmans fled, crying, 'We will fly for refuge to the 
mountain, we will seek a shelter amongst trees, waters, 
and hermitages/ Bhagavat addressed them in the following 
contemptuous woids of farewell : ' Many men pursued by 
fear seek a refuge in the mountains and in the forests, in 
hermitages and under consecrated trees. But these are 
not the safest shelters, they are not the surest refuge. But 
he who seeks for a refuge in the Buddha, the Law, and 
the Assembly, when he beholds, with the eye of wisdom, the 
Four Noble Truths, which are the existence of Pain, the 
cause of Pain, the annihilation of Pain, and the way to the 
annihilation of Pain, and the Noble Eightfold Path that leads 
to Nirvana, he of a surely knows the best sheUer, the safest 
of all refuges. When he has attained this, he is freed from 
all suffering.' 

If we are to believe the Mongol and Tibet tradiiions, 
the theory of the Four Truths took up the whole of the first 
Council, and their labour was confined to drawing up the Siitras 
that explained it. It is, in a manner, the source and epitome 
of the whole BuddbisLjdoctrine. It has, for the use of the 
faithful, been summed up in a stanza composed of two verses 
that all Buddhists know by heart, and which is for them 
a true article of faith. The monks constantly repeat it, and it 
is written on the pedestal of most of the images of the Buddha; 




' Of all things proceeding from cause, the cause of their 
procession hath the Tathagata explained. The great 
Sramana has likewise declared the cause of the extinciion 
of all things \' 

The things or effects are suffering and the present life, 
caused by past sins ; the cause is the production of suffering; 
the extinction of all elTects is Nirvana; finally, the teaching 
of the Tathagata, or the great Sramana, is the path that leads 
to Nirvana. ' 

Immediately following these Four Noble Truths are a cer- 
tain number nf innpl p^pr^ptc very simple no doubt, but 
which the Buddha did not neglect any more than other re- 
formers have done. The first five of these precepts are: not*T 
to kill, not to steal, not to commit adultery, not to lie, not to ' 
get drunk. To these commandments five others, which are 
less binding but still have their importance, are added : to 
abstain from food except at the appointed time ; to abstain 
from the sight of dancing, singing, music, and stage plays ; 
to abstain from wearing garlands or using perfumes; to 
abstain from sleeping on a luxurious bed; and, finally, .net 
to accept gold or silver. 

These are the ten aversions or repugnances {vdramanls) that 
every novice must feel, or rather all men who believe in the 
Buddha. The first five commandments are binding on every 
Buddhist without exception. The others are more particu- 
larly applicable to monks, who moreover have a special code, 

^ Another stanza is sometimes added ; Csoma de Koibs found it in 
the Tibetan writings he consulted, and it is often quoted in the Sinhalese 
Sutias: 'To cease from all wrong-doing, to get virtue, to cleanse 
one's own heart, this is the religion of the liuddha.' Two other 
stanzas of a similar character are found in the Nepalese Sutras; they 
are attributed to Sakya-niuni, and were written under his portrait, sent 
by Bimbisara to Rudrayana, king of Roruka : * Begin, go out of the 
house, apply yourself to the Law of the Buddha ; annihilate the army of 
death as an elephant upsets a hut of reeds. He who shall walk with- 
out distraction under the discipline of this Law, escaping renewed births, 
will put an end to sorrow.' 

G a 



which we shall mention later. It will be easily understood 
that the most common rules assume a severity for them 
which they cannot have for the laity ; thus, the monks must 
not only abstain from committing adultery, but must remain 
rigorously chaste. 

Whole works, north and south, have been devoted to 
a methodical clapsificaiion of sins and faults; but these 
works, written somewhat later than the days of the Buddha, 
are less an exact reproduction than a development of his 
doctrine, and we will not enter upon them, although their 
study might prove interesting; at present we ^re-soldy^TTCti-- 
ied by the theories of Sakya-muni. 

It seems certain, liOweveivthar'Tt was the Buddha himself 
r / who drew up for his monks and nuns the twelvejollpwing 
observances, which the Sinhalese and Ciiinesc writings have 
handed down to us. They are extremely strict, but Siddhar- 
tha had himself practised them for many years before im- 
posing them on others, and when a young prince had given 
such an heroic example none of his believers could hesitate to 
follow it. Nor must we lose sight of the fact that these rules 
are addressed to the monks, that is men of superior piety, 
who had renounced the world, and were therefore bound to 
despise its interests and its pleasures. 

The first observance signifies ' wearing rags found in the 
dust,' and refers to an injunction to wear garments made of 
rags picked up in graveyards, on dunghills, or by the road- 

The second commands them lo have no more than three 
of these wretched garments, which must be sewn logeiher 
with iheir own hands in imitation of their Master. These 
rags are to be covered by a yellow woollen robe, procured 
by similar means. 

So much for the clothing. The food is, if possible, still 
more simple. 

cii. Ill] BUDDHIST ETHICS loi 

The fourth, and one of the strictest rules, is to live by 
begging in utter silence from house to house ; a wooden alms- 
bowl was allowed for this purpose. 

Fifihly, the ascetic is allowed but one meal a d^y ; and by 
^ the sixth observance he is not allowed any food whatever, 
{^ even sweetmeats, after noon. It will be seen by a great 
mmy of the Sutras that the Buddha, directly after he awoke, 
ured to leave the vihara or monastery to go and beg for his 
daily food, and his single meal was always made before 
neon, the remainder of the day being spent in teaching 
and meditation. 

The rules about their residence were no less severe. The 
/ monks were to live in a forest ' ; that is the seventh obser- 
vance. All the Sutras tell us that the Budvlha, and in general 
all monks, left the forests in whjch they had spent the night 
in order to beg in some neighbouring city. The eighih ob- 
^ servance is the command to take shcUer near a tree, and to 
seek no other shelter : the ninth order oblige's them to sit on the 
ground, leaning against the trunk of the tree they had chosen 
, ,- as a shelter. They must sleep sitting and not reclining, this 
is the tenth observance; the eleventh is not to change the 
position of their mat when once laid down. 

To these eleven observances is added a twelfth, of a totally 

difTerent kind, which completes them, and clearly shows ihe 

. object of all. The monks are to go from lime to time at 

night, and at least once a month, into the cemeteries, and 

there meditate on the instability of human things. 

From these details we are better able to comprehend the 
meaning of the names the Buddhists gave themselves : that of 
Bhikshu, a mendicant who subsists on the alms he receives ; 
and Sram.ina, or ascetic, who overcomes the senses. Tl e 

^ The rules prescribing a residence in the open air were applicable 
during the fine weather j iq tlje rainy sea^Qn they inhabited ih? yihlras 
or qijQnast^ifcc. 


^ Buddha did not disdain to be known by either of these 
desigRations. Sometimes he calls himself 'the great 
mendicant/ ]\Iaha Bhikshu, and at o:her times the Gauta- 
mide asce\^, Sramana Gautama. The state of mendicancy 
showed- thae^the Buddhist had renounced the vanities and 
covetousness of the world ; his chaste celibacy, which forb;.de 
him even the most innocent family affections, ensuring him, 
it is true, a control over the most formidable of human 
passions. Certainly this was not a way to make useful 
members of society, but it is thus that saints are made. 

The rules devoted to clothing deserve particular attention, 
and in the Indian world they are perhaps more strikingly 
original than any other rule of the Buddhist ascetics. The 
Brahmans allowed their sages to remain in a state of com- 
plete nudity, and rightly described them as ' beings robed 
in space ' {digambaras). The Greeks, who accompanied 
Alexander, and had seen them on the banks of the Indus, 
called them by analogy gymnosophists- ; and it was, so it 
seems, an admitted fashion for the highest caste to live, even 
in the cities, in a state of nakedness, a condition which the 
most degraded savages will hardly descend to. Though 
the Brahman ascetics doubtless took immodesty for piety, 
Indian society in general does not seem to have shown any 
want of regard for decency, for not only the women of 
a higher rank like Sumagadha, the daughter of Ana. ha 
Pindika, were dirgusted, but ll;e courtesans themselves were 
indignant, as is shown by the one who mocked the Brahman 
Puiana Kasyapa when, in his anger at being conquered by 
Bhagavat, he tied a stone to his neck and drowned himself 
in a pond. 

The religious life was an ideal that the Buddha alone 
carried out to its fullest extent; but if all men could not 
attain to it, all at least could, whatever their position in life, 
practise certain virtues that the Reformer considered, accord- 



ing to the 'precepts of his teaching,' as most important. 
These precepts were six in number : almsgiving or charity, 
purity, patience, courage, contemplation, and wisdom. | 
These are the six transcendent virtues {^paramitCis) 'which; 
enable man to pass to the other ^ore,'"as the etymology of! 
the word used for them indicates. Man does not necessarily! 
attain Nirvana by the observance of them, he is but at the 
entrance to the path which leads to it; but he is on the road 
to faith, *he has left the daik shores of the life of scif- 
ignorance.' Henceforth he knows the goal he is to reach, 
and if he misses it, it is not through ignorance of the way. 

Ajmsgjvi ng, as Buddhism understands it, is not the 
ordinary liberality which gives to others a part of the goods 
we possess. It is an unlimited charity to all creatures with- 
out exception, entailing the most painful and excessive 
sacrifices. There is, for instance, a legend in which the 
Buddha gives up his body to feed a famished tigress that 
has no longer strength to suckle its young. In another, 
a neophyte casts himself into the sea to allay a storm evoked 
by the anger of the king of the Nagas, and which threatens 
to wreck his companion's boat. The Buddha only came, 
into this world to. _§aye mankind ; all those who believe in 
him must fol'ow his example, and shrink from no ordeal that 
may ensure the happiness of his fellow creatures. Charity 
must expel egotism from the heart of man, or, according to 
t!ie Buddhist mode of expression, *it leads to the perfect 
maturity of the egotistical being.' 

Besides these six virtues, which may seem essential, are 
others of minor importance, which are also deemed bene- 
ficial, and of which the Buddha urges a strict observance. 
Thus, not only is falsehood forbidden, but in an almost equal 
degree slander, coarse language,_and even idle and frivolous 
speech^ Not to commit these faults is to acquire habits 
worthy of respect (arlya vohara) ; to give way to them is to 


contract habits which are contemptible. A monk, who 
should be regarded as an example to men, hates slander; he 
will not repeat what he has heard so as to provoke enmity ; 
on the contrary, he strives to reconcile those who have 
quarrelled; he does not separate those who are united; he 
takes pleasure in concord ; and as he desires peace above all 
things, he holds the language calculated to promote it. He 
has also an aversion for any coarse word. ' A gentle 
language, pleasant to the ear, affectionate, appealing to the 
heart, polite and gracious to others,' is that which he employs. 
Finally, as he has renounced all frivolous speech, he only 
speaks to the purpose, in a sensible manner, according to 
the Law and the Order ; his discourse is full of meaning, and 
always seemly. 

Another virtue that the Buddha also impressed on his 
hearers, and that he himself practised unceasingly, is humility. 
Sakya-muni did not certainly fiithom all the evil consequences 
of pride, but he nevertheless was too deeply impressed by the 
radical meekness and misery of mankind to let him glorify 
himself for any virtues he might acquire, and therefore he 
inculcated simplicity of heart and renunciation of all vanity. 
When the king IVasenajit, instigated by the Tirthiyas, urged 
the Buddha, whom he protected, to perform some miracles 
and zo silence his enemies, the Buddha, while consenting to 
comply wi h the king's wishes, said to him : ' Great king, 
I do not teach the Law to my hearers by saying to them. 
Go, O mendicants, and perform in the sight of the Brahmans 
and the householders miracles by the aid of supernatural 
power — miracles greater than other m.en can do; but I say 
to them in teaching them the Law : Live, O mendicants, by 
hiding your good works and exposing your sins/ 

It is evident that when the Buddha instituted confession 
among his monks, and even among all the faithful, he relied 
on this sentiment of humility. Twice a month, at ih^ new 


moon and at the full moon, the monks confessed their faults 
out loud before the Buddha and the assembled Order. It 
was only by repentance and self-humiliation before ethers 
that they could redeem themselves. Mighty kings confessed 
to the Buddha the crimes they had committed, and it was at 
the cost of this painful confession that the culprits expiated 
the most infamous crimes. Although difficult to practise, this 
institution of the Buddha continued in force long after him, 
and in the Edicts of Piyadasi that pious monarch enjoined 
upon his subjects a general and_^bl]c confession of their 
sins at least once in every five years. It appears that at 
these epochs the people were assembled together and 
reminded of the principles of the Law, and urged to make 
a confession of their sins. The ceremony could only last 
three days. 

It is rather an astonishing fact that the Buddha, although 
preaching absolute renunciation and ascetic celibacy, not 
only respected fa niilx- duties, but placed them in the very 
first rank. Personally, he always showed himself full of 
respect and tenderness for his mother's memory, although he 
had never known lier, as she had died seven days after his 
birth; but the legends represent him as constantly anxious 
about her conversion, and he is said to have gone several 
times to the heaven of the Trayastrimsats, where she dwelt, 
to teach her the Law that would save her. 

In one of the simplest and most beautiful legends, 
Bhagavat thus addresses the monks who listen to him in 
the garden of Anatha Pindika at Jctavana, near Srava ti : 
' Brahma, O mendicants, dwelli in families in which the 
father and mother are perfectly honoured, perfectly venerated, 
perfectly rerved. Wherefore is this ? It is because, according 
to the Law, a father and mother are for their ion, Brahma 

'Jhe TC'Icherj Q nn^n^ipanlSj dwells in the fmiili<;5 ^^licr8 


the father and mother are perfectly honoured, perfectly 
venerated, perfectly served. Wherefore is this ? It is because, 
according to the Law, a father and mother are for their son, 
the Teacher himself. 

* The fire of sacrifice, O mendicants, dwells in those 
families where the father and mother are peifccily honoured, 
peifectly venerated, perfectly served. Wherefore is ih's? It 
is because, according to the Law, a father r.nd mother are for 
their son, the fire of the sacrifice itself. 

* The domestic fire, O mendicants, dwells in those familic?, 
&c. The Deva (Lidra, no doubt) dwells in the families,' &c. 

In another legend Bhagavat explains the causes of filial 
piety : * They perform, O mendicants, a most difficult thing 
for their child, the father and mother who feed him, bring 
him up, nourish him with their milk, and make him see the 
varied Lights of the Jambud\ ipa.' 

There is but one way for the son to requite properly the 
kindness of his parents, and repay what they have done for 
him ; that is, to establish them in the perfection of fai.h, if 
they do not possess it; to give them the perfection of 
morality, if they are unprincipled ; the perfection of liberality 
if they are avaricious, and that of knowledge if they are 
ignorant. That is how a son who practi£:es the Law can do 
good to his father and m.other, besides all the tender care he 
i-hould bestow on them ; and this is how he can discharge 
the debt he owes to those who have given him life. 

It might be thought that Buddhism, which has such 
a horror of life, has hardly the right to extol the duties and 
ties created by life ; but this apparent contradiction does it 
honour, and may even be explained away. In order to 
attain perfection and reach Nirvana, the Buddha was oblged 
to pass through the human state, and without culpable 
ingratitude he could not but cherish and venerate the beings 
who had opened to him the way to Nirvana. 


We shall confine ourselves to the above theories as 
regards the ethics of Buddhism, as, concise though they are, 
they certainly comprise the most important and profound 
part of it. These may be attributed to the Buddha, whereas 
the other parts, more subtle and less practical, belong only to 
the school and the casuistry founded by the Buddhist system. 

We will conclude by a few observations upon the means 
employed by the Buddha to propagate his doctrine. His 
only method, which has also a moral side, was by preaching. 
It does not appear that the Reformer ever thought he could 
employ any other means. Upheld and protected by kings, 
he might have had recourse to force and persecution, means 
that proselylism seldom fails to use. But all the legends, 
without exception, are unanimous on this point. The Buddha 
f^und his only weapons in persuasion. He called to him 
men of all castes and the mass of created beings ; from the 
h'ghest gods down to the most degraded creatures he 
exhorted them to embrace the Law which he declared to 
them ; he charmed them by his discourses, astonished them 
sometimes by his supernatural power, but he never sought 
to constrain them. Often did he assist their backwardness 
by parables, of which some are most ingenious ; he gave 
them examples to imitate ; he drew from the history of his 
past existence a narration of his own faults, to instruct his 
hearers and awaken their fears by the punishments with 
which they were followed ; he even delighted in these con- 
fessions if they were useful, and he related his faults in order 
that his listeners might be spared their consequences by 
learning how to avoid them. 

To rely on the power of truth and reason alone was in- 
deed a just and noble idea of human dignity, so often disre- 
garded, and we shall see how individuals, as well as nations, 
responded to the Buddha's appeal by virtues and refinements 
little to be expected at such a remote period. 


In order to judge of the influence exercised by the moral 
teaching of Sakya-muni, it would be necessary to know in 
detail the state of public and private morality in the society 
to which it was addressed, and the exact history of the nations 
he tried to convert by preaching the new failh. Our informa- 
tion is, however, too incomplete on this point to enable us to 
gather suflicient knowledge. But in default of this, the Sutras 
give us a number of facts which clearly show the influence 
the Reformer had on the minds of men. Some of ihe traits 
given are truly admirable, and it is but right to credit them to 
Buddlii^m, as it is Buddhism which called them into existence; 
for one fact stands out strikingly from the legend.^ and that 
is, the corrupt state of Indian society at the time of the 
Buddha's appearance. He does not pretend to correct by 
criticism, but he brings the remedy it needs and the ideal 
which is to guide it by making virtue the only means of 
salvation. We will choose some examples from these legends 
to show what the Buddha elicited from the hearts he had 

Puma was the son of an enfranchised slave whom, in return 
for her most diligent devotion in nursing him, her master had 
enfranchised by admitting her to his bed (at her most press- 
ing request). Purna was brought up in the paternal house 
with his three elder brothers, and he soon distinguished him- 
self by his activity and intelligence. Not only did he make 
his fortune in lucrative commerce, but, generous as well as 
clever, he made the fortunes of his family, who moreover had 
not always trea'ed liim very well. He went to sea on 
mercantile expeditions, and foitunate speculations scon 
placed him at the head of the Merchants' Corporation. 
During one of his voyages he had for companions some 
Buddhist merchants from Sravasti, and he was profoundly 
impressed by their religious. demeanour. * These merchants, 
^\ ni^ht and at (lawn, read aloud the hymns, the prayers 

CH. Ill] 



which lead to the other shore, the texts which disclose the 
Truth, the verses of the Slhaviras and those of the heimlls.' 
Tiicse were the Sutras and words of the Buddha. 

Puma, struck by these things, of which he had never till 
now heaid, on his return went straight to Sravasti, and having 
himself presented to Bhagavat by Anatha Pindika, embraced 
the faiUi that had so touched his heart. He then received 
the investiture and tonsure from the Buddha, who remarked, 
* that the most agreeable present he could have was a man to 
convert,' and the Buddha himself instructed him in the Law. 
lie taught him in a few words that the whole Law consisted 
in renunciation; and Purna, henceforth dead to the world, 
chose as his abode the land of a neighbouring tribe, in order 
to convert them to the Buddhist faidi. This tribe was noted 
for a cruelty and ferocity well calculated to deter any one less 
courageous. Bhagavat strove to dissuade him from such 
a dangerous enterprise. 

' The men of Sronaparanta, among whom thou wishest to 
reside,' says Bhagavat, ' are violent, cruel, angry, furious, and 
insolent. When these men, O Purna, shall address thee to 
thy face in wicked, coarse, and insulting language, when they 
shall become enraged against thee and rail against thee, what 
w ilt thou think of that ? ' * If the men of Sronaparanta,' 
leplied Purna, 'address me to my face in wicked, coarse, and 
insulting language, if they become enraged against me and 
rail at me, this is what I shall think of that : They are certainly 
good men, these Sronapai antakas ; they are gentle, mild men, 
they who neither strike me with the hand nor stone me.' 

* But if the men of Sronaparanta do strike thee widi the 
hand or stone thee, what wilt thou think of that?' 

' I shall ihink them good and gentle for not striking me 
widi swords or sticks.' 

' But it' they strike thee with swords and sticks, what wilt 
thou think of that ? ' 


* I shall think them good and gentle for not depriving me 
entirely of life.' 

' But if they deprive thee of life, what wilt thou think of 
that ? ' 

' I shall think that the men of Sronaparanta are good and 
gentle, they who deliver me with so little pain from this body 
full of ordure.' 

* Good, good, Purna ! ' said the Buddha ; * thou canst, with 
the perfection of patience with which thou art endowed, yes, 
thou canst take up thy abode in the land of the Sronaparan- 
takas. Go, O Puma ! delivered thyself, deliver others ; arrived 
thyself at the other shore, cause others to arrive there ; con- 
soled thyself, console others ; having come thyself to complete 
Nirvana, cause others to arrive there/ 

Hereupon Purna took his way to the dreaded country, 
and by his imperturbable resignation he softened the cruel 
inhabitants, teaching them the precepts of the Law and the 
formulas of refuge. 

The above example shows the courageous failh of the 
apostle, braving death in his dangerous mission. The follow- 
ing legends will show a heroism as difficult but of a different 

A son of King Asoka is sent by his father to Takshasita 
(Taxile) to govern that part of his states, and Kunala (that is 
the name of the young prince) had made himself generally 
beloved there, when a royal order comes for both his eyes to 
be put out. This cruel order is sent by the queen Rishya- 
Rakshita, one of Asoka's wives, who makes a false use of the 
seal of state, in order to wreak this terrible vengeance on 
the young prince, and punish him for having disdained her 
criminal advances. The inhabitants of Takshasita refuse to 
carry out the order, which seems to them iniquitous. In 
vain is an appeal made to the Chandalas, who answer, * We 
have not the courage to be his executioners/ -^ 

cii. Ill] BUDDHIST ETHICS iii 

The young prince, uho has recognized his father's seal, 
submits to his sad fate ; and ^vhen at last a deformed leper 
presents himself to do the cruel office, Kunala, mindful of the 
lessons of his masters, the Sthaviras, says : 

* Because they foresaw this calamity, the sages who knew 
the Truth did say to me in former days : " Look, the whole 
world is perishable, no one can remain in a stable condition." 
Yes, those magnanimous sages, exempt from passions, were 
indeed virtuous friends desiring my advantage and welfare, 
who taught me this law. When I consider the fiaihy of all 
things and reflect on the advice of my masters, I no longer 
tremble at my sentence; for I know that my eyes are 
perishable things. Let them therefore be put out or 
preserved, according as the king commands. I have 
received from my eyes the best they could give me, since, 
thanks to them, I have seen that all things are perishable 
here below.' 

Then, turning to the man who had offered himself as 
executioner : * Come,' he said, ' pluck out one eye first, and 
put it into my hand.* 

Notwithstanding the lamentations and cries of the people, 
the man accomplished the hideous tasrk; and the prince, 
taking hold of the eye lying in his hand, * Wherefore dost 
thou no longer see things,' said he, 'as thou didst but a 
moment ago, vile globe cf flesh ? How self-abused and 
pitiful are the insensate beings who aitach themselves to thee 
and say, " This is myself." ' 

The second eye was plucked out like the first. At this 
moment Kunala, ' who had lost the eyes of the flesh, but in 
whom the eyes of knowledge were purified,' uttered the 
following stanza : * The eyes of the flesh have been taken 
from me ; but I have acquired the perfect and irreproachable 
eyes of wisdom. If I am abandoned by the king, I have 
become the son of the magnanimous king of the Law, and 


have been called his child. If I have fallen from supreme 
grandeur, which brings with it so much pain and grief, I have 
acquired the sovereignty of the Law, which destroys pain and 

Kunala crowns his resignation and energy by an unpre- 
cedented magnanimity ; and when he shortly afterwards hears 
that he is the victim of Risiiya-Rakshita's intrigues, he ex- 
claims, * Ah ! may the queen Rishya-Rakshita long enjoy 
happiness, life, and power, for having employed these means, 
which have brought me such great benefits.' The remainder 
of the legend is no less touching. The blind prince wanders 
from place to place with iiis young wife, who guides his steps 
while singing of his misfortunes and his consolations. He 
thus arrives at the palace of his father, who in his just anger 
wishes to put the wicked queen to death. Kunala intercedes 
for her, and declares that he alone is responsible for his 
misfortune, which he had no doubt deserved for seme sin 
committed in a former life. 

Whether this legend be true or false, it is nevertheless of 
great value to us. It matters little whether it is a true slory 
or simply the invention of the author of the Sutra. It may 
have been only a lesson instead of a history ; but the senti- 
ments are no less noble and great, and they are inspired by 
the doctrine of the Buddha. 

In another legend we find a refined and striking example 
of chaste continence and of austere charity. 

There was at Matliura a celebrated courtesan called Vasa- 
vadcilta. Her maid went one day to a young merchant of the 
name of Upagupta to buy some perfumes. Vasavadatta said 
to her on her return : 

* It seems, my dear, that this young man pleases you, as 
you always buy from him.' 

The maid answered her : ' Daughter of my master, Upa- 
gupta, the son of the merchant, who is gifted with beauty, 


with talent and with gentleness, spends his life in the obser- 
vance of the Law.' 

On hearing tiicse words, Vasavadatta conceived a passion 
for Upagu} ta, and a few days after she sent her maid to say 
to him : * I\Ty intention is to go and find thee ; I wish to 
enjoy myself with thee.' The maid delivered her message, 
but the young man told her thus to answer her mistress : 
* My sister, it is not yet time for thee to see me/ 

Now it was nccesrary in order to obtain the favours of 
Vasavadatta to give her five hundred Puranas. Thus the 
courtesan imagined that, if he refused her, it was because he 
could not give the five hundred Puranas. For this reason 
she sent her maid to him again to say : * I do not ask a single 
Karchapana from the son of my master ; I only wish to enjoy 
myself with him.* The maid again delivered this message ; 
and Upagupta answered her in the same way : ' My sister, it 
is not time yet for thee to see me.* 

However, shortly after this Vasavadatta assassinated one of 
her lovers, whose jealousy she feared, in order to sell herself 
to a very rich merchant who coveted her. The crime having 
been discovered, the king of Mathura at once gave orders to 
the executioner to go and cut off the courtesan's hands, feet, 
ears, and nose, and to leave her thus mutilated in the 

Now Upagupta heard of the punishment that had been 
inflicted on Vasavadatta, and he said to himself, * When her 
body was covered with beautiful attire, and she shone with 
ornaments of different sorts, the best thing for those who 
aspired to deliverance and who wished to escape the law of 
renewed birth, was not to go and see this woman. To-day, 
when she has lost her pride, her love, and her joy, when she 
has been mutilated by the edge of the knife, it is time to see 

Then sheltered by a parasol carried by a young mfin who 


accompanied him as a servant, Upagupta went to the ceme- 
tery with a measured step. Vasavadatta's maid had stayed 
with her mistress out of gratitude for her past kindness, and 
seeing Upagupta's approach, warned her mistress, who, 
although racked by pain, by a lingering coquetry and desire 
to please, bid her maid pick up her scattered limbs and hide 
them under a piece of linen. Then Vasavadatta, seeing 
Upagupta standing up before her, said to him : 

* Son of my master, when my body was sweet like the 
lotus-flower, when it was adorned with ornaments and rich 
clothes, when it had all that could attract the eye, I was so 
unhappy as not to see thee. To-day why dost thou come 
to this place to contemplate a bod}^ the sight of which the 
eyes cannot bear, from which amusements, pleasure, joy, and 
beauty have fled, Which inspires nothing but horror, and is 
stained with blood and dirt V 

Upagupta replied to her : ' My sister, I did not come to 
thee formerly, attracted by the love of pleasure; but I am 
now come to see the real nature of the miserable objects of 
man's pleasures.* 

Then he consoled Vasavadatta by teaching her the Law ; 
and his discourses bringing calm to the soul of the unhappy 
woman, she died professing faith in the Buddha, ' to be soon 
reborn among the gods.' 

We will now quote a few legends treating of kings, begin- 
ning with Bimbisara, the Buddha's constant protector, and the 
first prince among his contemporaries who was converted. 

Before transferring the seat of government to Rajagiilia, 
Bimbisara resided at Kusagara ; the city was densely popu- 
lated, and the houses crowded together, and, doubtless built 
of wood, had often been destroyed by fire. In order to 
prevent such disasters, the king published an edict, saying 
that whoever, through carelessness or neglect, should let his 
house catch fire, should be turned out into the cold forest ; 


the name given in that country to the loatlisome place 
where bodies were thrown — a burial ground. However, 
shortly after the palace caught fire, and the king then said : 

* I am the master of all men ; if I violate my own decrees 
I have no longer the right to repress the errors of my 
subjects.' The king therefore commanded the prince-royal 
to govern in his place, and went to dwell in the cold forcsl^ 
in the cemetery. 

Such is the tradition as related by Iliouen-Thsang, which 
he found slill existing in the seventh century of our era, when 
he visited the ruins of Rajagriha, where Bimbisara had raised 
fortifications, the remains of which lay scattered about. It 
would be difficult to alfirm the exact truth of this tradition, 
but it tallies with all the legends tell us of Bimbisara's 
character ; at all events, it shows that in the opinion of the 
Buddhist peoples, kings were bound to be the first to obey 
the laws they promulgated. 

It will be remembered that the whole of a Sinhalese Sutra, 
already quoted, is devoted to a conversation between King 
Ajatasatru, son of Bimbisara, and the Buddha, who at that 
time must have been seventy-two years old. 

The king Ajatasatru, who assassinated his father and per- 
secuted those who professed the new faith, was not yet con- 
verted. The Uposatha days had arrived ; that is the four 
days in the lunar month when the moon is full or new (every 
fortnight), when a general confession took place among the 
Buddhists. It was a beautiful night, and the king on his 
terrace, surrounded by his ministers, enjoyed the cool of the 
evening and admired the grandeur of the spectacle before 
him. Moved by the sight, and remembering his crime, he 
wished — at the moment when so many guilty men were con- 
fessing their sins — to pay his respects to some Brahman, in 
order that the holy man should calm the agony of his remorse. 
Ilis ministers proposed several Brahmans, but one of them 

II 2 


mentioned the name of Bhagavat, and .the king decided to go 
at once to him by torchlight. He found him in a wood of 
mango ti ees, surrounded by thirteen hundred and fifty monks ; 
and requested an interview, which the Buddha granted. 

The king did not at first tell him the real motive of his 
coming ; and before making the confession he intended 
asked him a question which was closely connected with it, 
although indirectly, and the answer to which he had vainly 
sought from all the Brahmans he had hitherto consulted : * Is 
it possible in this life to foretell to men, with absolute cer- 
tainly, the general and foreseen result of their conduct?' 

The king set forth the doubts which the answers of the 
most learned men had left in his mind ; and he wished to 
have the Buddha's opinion. The Buddha, in a long and 
learned demonstration, which concluded his exposition of the 
Four Noble Truths, unhesitatingly affirmed that human actions 
have a foreseen and inevitable result. The king, enlight- 
ened by this revelation of the Law, understood the enormity 
of his crime, and, filled with remorse, said to the Buddha : 

* I will take refuge in Bhagavat, in the Law, in the Order. 
Consent, O Bhagavat, to receive me as one of thy faithful, 
even this day that I have come before thee, that I have come 
to seek a shelter near thee. A crime has made me transgrers 
the Law, O my Lord, like an ignorant man, like a madman, 
like a criminal. To obtain supreme power, I was capable of 
depriving my father, that just man, that just king, of life. 
Will Bhagavat deign to receive from my lips the confession 
I now make of this crime, and impose on me for the future 
the restraints of his Order ? ' 

Bhagavat, in accordance with the Law, remitted his sin 
that he had expiated by confessing in public before a numerous 

Another king, more powerful than Ajatasatru, Asoka, 
famous firgt for hig cruelty and afterwards for his ostentatious 


en. in] BUDDHIST ETHICS 117 

piety, gives in a legend an example of humility, less difficult 
than the above, but of which few kings would be capable. 
He has just been converted, and he is possessed of all the 
fervour of a neophyte. Each time he meets any Buddlii^t 
ascetics, ' sons of Sakya,' whether in a crowd or alone, he 
touches their feet with his head, and worships them. One of 
his ministers, Yasa, allhough himself a convert, wonders at 
such condescension, and has the courage to tell his master 
that he ought not to prostrate himself before mendicants of 
a low caste. The king accepts his rebuke without demur, 
but a few days after he tells his counsellors that he wishes to 
know the value of the heads of different animals, and com- 
mands them each to sell the head of an animal. Yasa is to 
sell a human head. The other heads are sold at different 
prices ; but nobody will purchase this one ; and the minister 
is obliged to admit that, even gratuitously, he has not been 
able to get rid of it. ' Wherefore,' inquires the king, * has 
nobody chosen to buy the human head ? ' 

* Because it is a contemptible thing and valueless,' replies 
the minister. 

' Is it only this particular head that is contemptible, or are 
all human heads equally so ? ' 

* All human heads are despicable,' said Yasa. 

* What 1 ' said Asoka, * is mine also contemptible ? ' 

The minister, afraid to speak the truth, dared not reply ; 
but the king commanded him to speak according to his con- 
science, and having obtained the expected answer : 

* Yes,' he adds, * it is by a feeling of pride and elation that 
thou seekest to prevent my prostrating myself at the feet of 
the mendicants. And if my head, that wretched thing which 
nobody will accept for nothing even, meets with an oppor- 
tunity of being purified and acquires some degree of merit, 
what is there in that contrary to what is right.? Thou 
lookest at the caste of Sakya's mendicants, and thou seest 


not their hidden virtues. When a marriage or an invitation 
is in question, then can we inquire about caste ; but not 
\Yhen the Law is at stake, for virtue takes no heed of caste. 
If vice overcomes a man of high birth, it is said " He is 
a sinner," and he is despised. But the same is not said 
of a man born of poor parents, and if he is virtuous men 
will honour him by bowing down before him.* 

Then appealing more directly to his minister, the king 
said : 

* Dost thou not know the words of the compassionate hero 
of the Sakyas : " Wise men know how to find worth in 
things that have none." When I strive to obey his com- 
mandments, it is no proof of affection on thy part to try and 
dissuade me. When my body, abandoned like the fragments 
of a sugar-cane, will sleep on the earth, it will be incapable 
of rising, bowing, and joining hands as a sign of respect. 
What virtuous action shall I then be able to accomplish ? 
Suffer me therefore now to bow down before the mendi- 
cants, for he who without inquiry says, " I am the most 
noble," is shrouded in the darkness of error. But he who 
examines the body by the light of the sage of the ten forces, 
he sees no difference between the body of a prince and that 
of a slave. The skin, flesh, bones, and head are the same in 
all men; the ornaments and attire alone lend a superiority 
to one body over anolher. But the essential in this world 
can be found in a vile body, and this is what the wise men 
deservedly honour and bow down to.' 

Little can be added to such noble and stoical language, 
but whether the king Asoka really uttered these words, or 
whether he has falsely been credited with them, it is no less 
a remarkable fact that we find them recorded in writings 
dating two or three centuries before the Christian era. 

We will now leave the legends, which are always of doubt- 
ful authority, and deal with the more reliable historical facts. 


This king Asoka, whose elevated and sensible remarks on 
the equality of man we have just quoted, is the same who, 
under the name of Piyadasi, promulgated the Edicts engraved 
on stones, that we have already quoted in order to establis^.h 
the real data of Buddhism. These inscriptions, which have 
only beeu mentioned for their chronological value, are even 
more interesting from the information they impart. Incre- 
dible as it may seem, they are really official lessons of 
morality given by Piyadasi to his subjects, which he caused 
to be engraved on stone in twenty different places in India, 
west, east, and north. They are Edicts of toleration, an(| 
such generous and advanced ideas can but be attributed t( 
tl.e influence of the Buddha's doctrines, Piyadasi having beei 
his most powerful proiector. The following is a proof. Lei 
the reader judge. 

We will begin by the Edict at Girnar, the eighth, which is 
repeated, with slight variations, at Dhauli and at Kapur-di- 
Giri. In this Edict the king announces to his people his 
conversion to the faLh of the Buddha. 

* In the days gone by,' says Piyadasi, ' the kings knew the 
path of pleasure; in those days -they hunted and gave them- 
selves up to amusements of that kind. But Piyadasi, the 
kindly king, " the delight of the gods," having reached the 
tenth year since his coronation, has attained the perfect 
knowledge taught by the Buddha ; and the path of the Law 
is henceforth the only one tjiat suits him. It consists in 
visiting and giving alms to the Brahmans and the Sramanas, 
in visiting the Theras, in dislributing gold for their benefit, in 
inspecting the people and the country, in enforcing the 
execution of the Law, and inquiring into the Law. These 
are henceforth the onty pleasures that can find favour in the 
eyes of Piyadasi, the king, the delight of the Devas, in this 
period of time, so different from any which preceded it *.' 

* See Prinsep, Journal of the Asiatic Society of Bengal^ vols. vi. and 


This first declaration, which marks a new era, a change of 
system in the government of King Piyadasi, is followed by 
another that completes it, and shows more thoroughly his 
magnanimous intentions. It is revealed in the tenth Kdict, 
repeated like the former at Girnar, Dliauli, and at Kapur-di- 
Giri, in places distant several hundreds of leagues from one 

* King Piyadasi, the "delight of the gods," believes that 
neither glory nor fame are of much value. The only glory 
he wishes for is to see his people practise obedience to the 
Law, and accomplish all tlie duties imposed by the Law. 
Such is the only glory and only fame desired by Piyada';i, 
"the delight of the Devas"; for all that the king Piyadasi, 
" the delight of the Devas," can display of heroism is done 
by liim in view of another world. Who does not know that 
all glory is unprofitable, and often destructive of virtue ? The 
salvation of an ordinary man as that of a man of high rank 
is a difljcult thing, unless by a sublime merit he has aban- 
doned all, and that makes the salvation of a man of high 
rank even more difficult.' 

These solemn declarations preceded and followed the 
convocation of the third Council, which was held at Patali- 
putra, under the patronage of this same king, in the 
seventeenth year of his reign. We have already given the 
message he addressed to the monks in the Great Assembly. 
'I'he Edict referred to, that of Babra, discovered by Captain 
Curt, runs as follows: — 

' King Piyadasi of INIagadha, greeting the Order, wishes 
it heahh and happiness. 

' You know, reverend sirs, how great is my respect and 
reverence for the Buddha, the Law, and the Order. All 

vii ; Wilson, Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society of Great Britain, 
vol. xii. p. 199; Lassen, Indische Altetthuinskuiuie, vol. ii. p. 227; 
and Uuinouf, Lotus de la bonne Loi, p. 757. 

cn. in] BUDDHIST ETHICS 121 

those things, reverend sirs, ^^ hich were spoken by the Blessed 
Buddha, were well spoken. By looking upon them, reverend 
sirs, as authority, the true Law will long endure, and this 
I think needful. I honour, reverend sirs, as such, the follow- 
ing Scriptures of the Law : — The substance of the Vinaya, 
or the discipline ; the State of the Just ; the Fears of the 
Future ; the Poems of the Wise ; the Questions of Upiiissa ; 
the Exhortations to Rahula regarding Falsehood, spoken by 
the Blessed Buddha. These Sciiptures of the Law, reverend 
sirs, — ar.d it is the fame I most aspire to,— I hope that the 
honourable monks and nuns may constantly learn and reflect 
upon ; and so ako the laity of either sex. To that end, 
reverend sirs, 1 cause this to be written and have uttered 
my desire and my declaration.' 

From the time of his conversion to the end cf his life 
Asoka never ceased addressing useful exhortations to his 
people, and he was able to congratulate himself on the suc- 
cess of his efforts. The following are portions of an Edict 
dating from the twelfth year of his reign, which show that the 
restricted means then at the king's disposal had not proved 
useless: — 

* In past time, during many centuries, mankind only prac- 
tised the murder of human beings, cruelty towards the brute 
creation, disrespect towards parents, and want of reverence 
towards the Brahmans and Sramanas. Now, this day, be- 
cause Piyadasi, " the delght of the Devas," practises the Law, 
the drum has sounded, and the voice of the Law is heard. 
That which has not been seen for many centuries is happily 
seen to-day, in consequence of the order given by Piyadai:i, 
•* the delight of the Devas," to practise the Law. The cessation 
of the murder of human beings, and of acts of cruel y 
to the brute creation, respect for parents, obedience to 
fathers and mothers, reverence towards the ancients — these 
virtues, as well as other practices recommended by the Law, 


liave developed tenfold. And Piyadasi, " the delight of the 
Devas," will increase this observance of the Law; and the 
sons, grandsons, and great grandsons of King Piyadasi, " the 
delight of the Devas," will increase the observance of the Law 
till the Kalpa of destruction/ 

This is the fourth Edict inscribed on the column at Girnar ; 
and in the eleventh, which partly reproduces it, we find the 
confirmation and development of these precepts of morality. 

During a reign that lasted thirty-seven years (263-226 b.c.) 
Asoka perseveringly carried on the moral reforms he had 
undertaken, and the following is the Edict issued in the 
twenty-sixth year of his reign. It is engraved on a pillar at 
Delhi, on the side facing the north, and is also written on the 
columns at Mathiah, Radhiah, and Allahabad. Piyadasi, 
' the delight of the Devas,' speaks thus : ' In the twenty-sixth 
year since my coronation I have caused this Edict of the Law 
to be written. Happiness in this world and the next is difii- 
cult to attain except by an extreme love, an extreme attention, 
an extreme obedience, an extreme fear, and an extreme per- 
severance in the Law. Therefore do I command that the 
practice of the Law and the love of the Law shall in the future 
increase, as they have hitherto increased, in the heart of each 
of my subjects. All my people, whether the head men of the 
villages or those of inferior rank, must obey this order and 
execute it without negligence. It is also thus that the 
great ministers themselves must act, for this is my command, 
that the government shall be carried on through the 
Law, the commandment by the Law, public prosperity by 
the Law, the protection of all by the Law.' 

These moral instructions could only bear fruit by constant 
repetition, and in one of his Edicts, the second of the two 
separate ones at Dhauli, Piyadasi enjoins that they shall be 
read to the people at least every four months by the assembly 
of monks, and in the intervals by a solitary monk. It was 


cii. Ill] BUDDHIST ETHICS 123 

a kind of public sermon in which the very expressions the 
king had made use of were repeated, and it is easy to believe 
that in a short time the royal sermon, so often heard by 
the people, was pretty well known by heart. In the first 
of the two special Edicts at Dhauli the king also commands 
that a general confession of sins shall take place at least every 
five years, and he enjoins on the prince royal, who governed as 
Viceroy at Oudjdjayini, to have this important act fulfilled 
without disturbing the common people in their work. 

In the Asoka avaddna, the legend of Asoka from which we 
have already quoted a few passages, it is affirmed that King 
Asoka, overcome with grief at one of his orders having been 
misunderstood and so costing his brother his Hfe, abolished 
the penalty of death in his dominions, af:er having made a 
most excessive and barbarous use of it. It is not certain 
how far this tradition, transmitted by Nepalese Sutras, is his- 
torically true ; but the Asoka of the Edicts evinces great com 
passion towards those criminals condemned to death. lie 
allows them three days' respite between their sentences and 
execution in order to give them time to prepare for death. 
They can by repentance, by alms and fasting, make atone- 
ment for their sins, and mitigate the punishments that await 
them in the next world. 

It seems that in order to carry out all these moral and 
religious measures, so novel to Indian populations, Piyadabi 
founded a special body of officials whose duty it was to over- 
look and direct their application. These appointments were 
also recorded in the Edicts ; the royal officials were considered 
guardians of public morality, and were called the king's 
men {I'djakas). 

Here are already many marvellous revelations which ex- 
hibit the Buddhist reformation in a new light, in its action 
on governments and nations ; but the following disclosure is 
still more surprising. This king, the ardent promoter of 

124 ^^^^ ORIGIN OF BUDDHISM [rt. l 

faith, the reh'gious teacher of his subjects, so vigilant in 
forming and preserving their morals, is at the same time 
most tolerant. He believes in the Buddha with all the 
strength of a conviction that betrays itself in the most decisive 
acts, and yet he never molests beliefs that dilTer from his own; 
on the contrary he protects and defends ihcm against any 
attack. Not content with peacefully toLrating them in his 
own states, he insists that each one of his subjects, in h's own 
narrow sphere, shall follow his example and respect his neigh- 
bour's conscience, however it may dilTer from his own. In 
the seventh Edict at Girnar, reproduced, like most of the 
others, at Dhauli and at Kapur-di-Giri, Piyadasi thus ex- 
presses himself: 

' Piyadasi, " the delight of the gods," desires that the 
ascetics of all beliefs shall be permitted to dwell where they 
will. All these ascetics equally seek to gain an empire over 
self and purity of conscience. But the people hold divers 
opinions and attach themselves to divers faiths ; the ascetics 
therefore sometimes obtain all they ask for, and sometimes 
only obtain part of what they require. But even he who 
does not receive alms liberally must retain a self-control, 
purity of conscience, gratitude, and a steady and lasting 

The idea, which is not very clearly expressed in this Edict, 
is set forth in a manner that leaves no doubt about the king's 
intentions, in the twelfth Edict at Girnar : 

* King Piyadasi, " the delight of the Devas," honours every 
belief, and honours both mendicants and householders — he 
shows ihcm respect by almsgiving and divers marks of 
honour ; but the king, " the delight of the Devas," esteems 
less almsgiving and marks of respect than that which can 
essentially increase a consideration for all these beliefs and 
their good reputation; Now the increase of what is essential 
for all beliefs is of different kinds; but ^or each one the 

cii. Ill] BUDDHIST ETHICS 125 

capital point is praise. Each man must only honour his 
own belief, but he must not cast blame on that of others ; 
thus will no one be injured. There are even circumstances 
in which the belief of another should be honoured, and by 
acting in this manner our own belief is strengthened as well 
as that of otheis. Whoever acts differently lowers his per- 
sonal belief and injures that of another. The man, whoever 
he may be, who by devotion to his own belief, exalts it and 
blames the belief of others, saying, " Let us display our faith," 
only wrongs the belief he professes. Thus good under- 
standing and concord is alone useful. Moreover, let all men 
listen deferentially to one another and follow the Law ; such 
is the desire of the king, " the delight of the Devas." ^lay 
men of all beliefs abound in wisdom and prosper in virtue ! 
And those who believe in a particular religion must repeat 
this to themselves : " The king, * the delight of the Devas/ 
does not esteem almsgiving nor marks of respect as much a.« 
that which can essentially increase the good reputation and 
development of every belief." To this effect high officials, 
ministers of the Law, and ministers to supervise the women, 
and inspectors of secret things, and other agents have been 
appointed ; to the end that a speedy development of religion 
may ensue and diffuse the Law.' 

We fancy our readers will agree that these quotations suffice 
to show the immense and beneficial influence of Buddhist 
ethics on individuals and on peoples. It feemed necessary 
to establish this fact, which henceforth must rank in the 
history of humanity. 

Before quitting, however, this class of considerations, one 
fact, more undeniable than any of the preceding, must be 
mentioned. This is the ardour of proselytism and of con- 
viction that Buddhism imparted to the most distant nations. 
In the fifth and seventh century of the Christian era, Chinese 
pilgrims journeyed, ii) the midst of terrible dangers, across 


the countries that separate Northern China from Western 
India, in order to seek the holy writings and pious traditions 
at the cradle of Buddhism, and to worship the many monu- 
ments built in honour of the Buddha. 

Fa-Hian leftTchhang'an (Si-'an-Fou),in the north of China, 
in the year 399 a.d., crossed the whole of Tartary, passed 
over the mountains of Tibet — the highest in the world — 
crossed the Indus several times, followed the banks of the 
Ganges down to its mouth, embarked for Ceylon, which he 
visited, made a short stay at Java, and returned to his native 
land, after an absence of fifteen years, having travelled a dis- 
tance of three thousand six hundred miles by land, and at 
least six thousand by sea ; solely for the purpose of taking 
back more exact versions of the sacred writings than those 
then existing in China. After many trials and much suffering 
he returned home alone, having started with several com- 
panions, and Fa-Hian speaks in the following modest and 
dignified terms of his heroic self-devotion : — 

* In recapitulating all I underwent, my heart involuntarily 
fills with emotion. The sweat that ran from me in my 
dangers is not the cause of this emotion. My body was 
preserved by the sentiments that animated me. The end 
I had in view made me risk my life in countries full of dangers, 
to obtain at all costs the object of my hope\' 

Hiouen-Thsang, who travelled two hundred and twenty 
years after Fa-Hian, is much better informed than he was, 
although not more courageous. He collected a great many 
more materials, and his narrative, which we know by his 
MemoirSy and an analysis of two of his disciples, is an invalu- 
able mine of information of all kinds on Indian Buddhism of 
the seventh century. Nevertheless Hiouen-Thsang did not 
throw more energy or tenacity of purpose into his enterprise 
than did Fa-Hian. He remained absent sixteen years, takin^r 
^ Rcmnsat, Foe Kotie Ki, p. 363. 


his departure from Liang-Tcheou in the north-west of China 
in 629, and returning to Si-'an-Fou in 645. Reaching India 
by way of the country of Oigus, Jungaria, and Transoxan, 
already in possession of the Turks, and by the Hindu-Kush, 
he began his holy researches in Attok and Udyana. He 
visited the northern parts of the Panjab, Kashmir, and 
returning south-east, reached Mathura ; he travelled over all 
the kingdoms situated between the Ganges, the Gandaki, and 
the Nepaul mountains; visited Ayodhya, Prayaga, Kapilavastu, 
the birthplace of Sakya-muni, Kusi-nagara, where he died, 
Benares, where he preached his first sermons, Mngadha, 
where he spent his life, and the kingdoms situated nor;h- 
cast and east of the Ganges. Hence he returned south, 
went through the greater part of the southern peninsula 
without going as far as Ceylon ; and directing his steps west- 
wards he reached Guzerat, turned northward to ]\IuUan, 
visited Magadha, the Panjab, and the mountains of Hindu- 
Kush for the second time, and returned to the north-west of 
China, by the kingdoms of Kashgar, Yarkand, and Khokan, 
bringing back wdth him relics and images of the Buddha, as 
well as six hundred and fifty-seven works treating of all the 
dififerent parts of Buddhist doctrine. 

The work of these pilgrims did not end with their fatiguing 
journeys. Two fresh duties lay before them on their return 
home — writing a narrative of their enterprise, and translating 
the books they had secured at the price of so many dangers 
and fatigues. Thus Hiouen-Thsang devoted the last twenty 
years of his life to translating into Chinese the principal 
documents he had collected among the most eminent 
teachers of Buddhism. What noble lives ! What heroism 1 
What disinterestedness and faith ! And in their actions what 
gentleness, resignation, simplicity, and uprightness. ^lore- 
over, what admirable testimony to a doctrine which, at 
a distance of twelve hundred years, can still inspire so 


much courage, confidence, and self-abnegation. Yet the 
principles on which these ethics are based are false ; and 
the errors they contain are at least equal to the viitues they 

We will return later to the journeyings of Hiouen-Thsang, 
but will now pass on to the pietaphysical side of Budvlhism. 


M'laphysics of BudJ/iism, or Abhidharma. Transmigration, its 
uniiiniled compass from man to inert matter. Obscurity of the 
Buddhist doctrine on the origin of transmigration. Explanation of 
human destiny by tJie ( ounce ting Chain of the twelve reciprocal 
Causes. Theory of Nirvana, or Eternal Salvation by annihilation. 
The Dhydna. 

Although Sakya-muni devoted himself more to the prac- 
tical side of religion, it is impossible to doubt that he had 
also a theory. He had been a pupil of the Brahmans, and the 
reflective tendency of his own genius led him to seek for the 
essential basis of his doctrines. He did not, it is true, posi- 
tively separate metaphysics from ethics, but the latter naturally 
obliged him to seek for higher principles, and in his teaching 
he joins to the precepts he gives on the discipline of Iffe, 
axioms which explain and justify these precepts. Hence, in 
the very first Council, his disciples made, under the name of 
Abhidharma, a collection of his metaphysical axioms, one of 
the Three Baskets {Tripilaka\ in which the canonical books 
were divided. 

The work that contains more particularly Buddhist meta- 
physics is called the Pradjnd-PHramitd, that is the Perfection 
of Wisdom \ It is the first of the nine Dharmas or Nepalese 

^ The Pradjna-Paramitd y/ns probably written three or four hundred 
years after Buddha. It was the text on which the Madhyamikas, 
a school founded by the famous Nagardjuna, built Iheir doctrines 
a hundred and fifty years before the Christian era. Burnouf gives 
a specimen of this compilation in eight thousand paragraphs, which he 
has almost all translated, and which he had compared with a hundred 
thousand articles. This comparison had betrayed no difference of 


canonical books. There were three principal compilations : 
one in a hundred thousand, another in twenty-five thousand, 
and the last in eight thousand paragraphs ; the most developed 
merely add words to the more concise explanation of the 
others. In fact, if these different compilations contain fresh 
deductions, they do not offer a single new principle, and in 
order to become acquainted with the real metaphysics of 
Sakya-muni, we must have recourse to the simple Sulras, as 
they have much more affinity with his teaching. 

We must expect to find in Sakya-muni's metaphysics, as 
in his ethics, more axioms than demonstrations; more 
dogmas than systematic and exact developments. But it is 
necessary that we should bear in mind that we are treating 
of India, and not of Greece or modern Europe. The 
doctrines are no less important, but the form in which they 
are expressed is thoroughly unscientific, even when we 
endeavour to classify them. 

The first theory of Buddhist metaphysics, borrowed indeed 
from Brahmanism^, is that of transmigration. Before his 
present existence here on earth, man has already gone through 
a multitude of varied existences; if he does not make the 
most strenuous efforts, he will probably be obliged to go . 
through a still larger number of lives ; and his constant and 
anxious attention must be devoted to escaping from the fatal 
law to which his birth has subjected him. Life is but a long 
series of pain and misery; salvation consists in avoiding 
existence. Such is, in the whole of the Indian world, from 
whatever side it is viewed and at whatever epoch it is taken, 
the universal belief professed by Brahmans and Buddhists of 

doctrine. Introd. a VHist. du Bouddh. Indien, p. 465. According to 
Tibetan tradition the Pradjitd-Pdramitd was expounded by Sakya-muni 
himself sixteen years after he became Buddha, that is when he was 
fifty-one years of age. 

^ See in the Laws of Manu the complete theory of transmigration. 
Vol. xii. Slokas 39, &c. 


every sect, every shade, and every period. The Buddha 
accepts this general opinion, no one indeed raising any 
possible objection to it ; and the only originality he shows on 
this point consists in the new means of deliverance he offers 
to his adherents. But he accepts the principle itself j he 
accepts without discussion. 

Further on we will examine the value of this principle, or 
rather the terrible consequences it has produced among the 
people who adopted it. At present we will simply point out 
its all-powerful and absolutely undisputed domination. We 
have shown how this monstrous doctrine was ignored in 
the Vedas *, and seen in this silence a proof of the greater 
purity of Vedic faith. Transmigration is a doctrine 
invented by the Brahmans, and can be traced back to the 
origin of the society and religion they founded. Sakya- 
muni, therefore, merely conformed to the current idea in 
adopting it. 

How far did this idea of transmigration extend ? Can 
man, after losing his present form, take again a human form 
only ? Can he equally assume a superior form, or receive at 
a lower grade that of an animal ? Can he even descend- 
lower than the animal, and according to his actions in this 
world become one of those forms in which life disappears, 
and nothing but mere existence remains, in its most rudimen- 
tary and vague condition? It would indeed, as far as 
orthodox Brahmans are concerned, be difficult to answer 
these questions, all that is known of their literature show- 
ing no precise limit set to their conception of transmi- 
gration '^. 

As regards the Buddhists, the answer is decisive : the idea 

* Journal des Savatrfs, Feb., 1854, p. 113 ; April, 1854, p. a 12. 

^ For transmigration according to the Kapila system, see B. St. 
Hilaire, Premier Memoire sur le Sdnkhya ; Mimoires de VAcadimil 
des Scihices Morales et Folitiqties, tome viii. p. 455. 


of transmigration extends to the uttermost limits ; it embraces 
all, from the Bodhisatwa who becomes a perfect Buddha, 
from man to inert matter. 

A being can transmigrate into any form whatever without 
exception, and according to his good or bad actions 
he will pass to the highest or the lowest state. The texts 
are so numerous and so positive that there can be no 
doubt on the subject, however extravagant this idea may 
appear to us. 

It will be remembered that, according to the Lalita-vistara 
legend, the Bodhisatwa entered his mother's right side in the 
form of a young white elephant armed with six tusks ; and 
that when on the point of becoming a perfectly enlightened 
Buddha, all the innumerable births, the incalculable hundreds 
of thousands of kotis ^ of incarnations he has already gone 
through before attaining this one, which is to be his last, pass 
through his mind'^. In other legends the Buddha relates the 
transformations he has undergone, or those that have been 
undergone by the personages whose good or ill fortune he 
desires to explain. Hiouen-Thsang saw at Benares, many 
splendid stupas built on the spots where the Buddha had in 
divers existences assumed tl e form of an elephant, a bird, 
a stag, &c. " 

The Sinhalese Jalakas, which number five hundred and 
fifty, contain as many accounts of the different births of the 
Bodhisatwa. The Sinhalese have even been very reasonable 
in limiting themselves to this number; for it is a general 
belief that the Buddha went through all the existences of the 
earth, sea, and air, as well as all the conditions of human life ; 

* A koti is equivalent to 10,000,000. 

^ A great difference exists between transmigration and metempsy- 
chosis as understood by the Pythagoreans ; these latter confined it to 
the animal series. See^H. Ritter, History of Ancient Philosophy ; and 
Aristotle, Iraite de VAme, vol. i. ch. iii. of Barthelemy St. Hilaire's 


he had even been a tree and a plant *, if Chinese Buddhism 
is to be credited. 

In a legend, which is interesting by the details it gives 
about the life of the monks in tlfc viharas, that of Samgha- 
Rakshita, transmigration takes place, it is said, in the shape 
of a wall, a column, a tree, a flower, a fruit, a rope, a broom, 
a vase, a mortar, a pot, &c. 

* What actions have led to these metamorphoses ? * asks 

Bhagavat replies : 

* The beings thou hast seen under the form of a wall were 
the hearers of Kasyapa (a former Buddha) ; they defiled the 
walls of the Assembly Hall by spitting upon them, and the 
consequence of this action is that they are turned into walls. 
Those whom thou hast seen in the shape of columns have 
been transformed for the same reason. Those thou hast seen 
under the shape of trees, leaves, flowers, and fruit, have 
assumed that shape because they formerly enjoyed in 
a selfish manner the flowers and fruits of the Order. 
Another, who with equal selfishness used the rope belong- 
ing to the Order, has been changed into a rope ; another, 
because he did not make better use of the Order's 
broom, has been metamorphosed into a broom ; a novice, 
who cleaned the bowls of the Order, was hard-hearted 
enough to refuse drink to strange mendicants wearied by 
long travelling, he has been changed into a vase ; he whom 
thou sawest under the form of a mortar is a Sthavira, who 
formerly in coarse language demanded of a novice an instru- 
ment of this kind, &c.* 

Thus the Buddhists have so monstrously exaggerated the 

* See R^mnsat, Foe Koue Kt, and a curious notice of Landresse on 
the Sinhalese yifj/a^aj. Upham gives a list of them in his Sacred and 
Historual Books of Ceylon, vol. iii. p. 269. Burnouf has tianslaled 
some of tiie niost important y/f/^X-aj. 

134 ^-^^ ORIGIN OF BUDDHISM [pt. i 

idea of transmigration that the human personality is lost 
sight of and confounded with the lowest things on earth. 

These transformations are regulated solely by conduct in 
a previous state of existence; man is rewarded or punished 
according to his virtues or vices. How this long series of 
trials had begun, why man had been compelled to submit to 
them, and what was the origin of this succession of endless 
causes and effects, was, as it appears, a fundamental question 
in the Buddhist system itself; but, strangely enough, Sakya- 
muni never seems to have raised this question, nor did any 
Buddhist after him even enter upon the subject. It is 
unlikely that this was an omission ; it seems more probable 
that the Buddha considered it advisable to remain silent on 
such an obscure problem. Nevertheless, one thing is cer- 
tain, nowhere in the Sutras do we find even an attempt at 
an explanation, not a word — not a theory, not a discussion. 
All that can be inferred from a few rare passages is that the 
Buddha believed in the eternity of beings — we dare not say 
souls — and that he saw no beginning to the evils he came 
into the world to cure, namely, birlh, old age, disease, and 
death, although they might come to an end in Nirvana. 
The universe is created by the deeds of its inhabitants ; 
this is the effect, and 'if by impossibility,' as Burnouf 
says, quoting from the Buddhist Sutras, * there were none 
guilty, there would be neither hell nor any place of punish- 

The Buddha, notwithstanding the boundless knowledge he 
possesses, will not explain the things of this world by going 
back to the intricacies of their origin. He takes things as he 
finds them, without inquiring whence they come ; and as life, 
from whatever aspect he looks at it, seems to him ' but a great 
mass of evils,' he comprehends it thus. 

Twelve conditions, in turn effects and causes one of the 
other, act as connecting links in the production of life. Man 


must be born in order to grow old and die. Death is there- 
fore an eflect of which birth is the cause. 

]i\n\iXJ(iii) is itself an eflect, and could not exist without 
existence. This idea, curious as it may appear to us, is very 
consistent with the Buddhist system, which believes in the 
eternity of beings. Long before their birth they exist ; and 
birlh, under whatever form it presents itself (moisture, ova, 
matrix or metamorphosis, for Buddhists as well as Brahmans), 
is but the efl'ect of the preceding existence, for without exist- 
ence {bhava) birlh would be impossible^ However, the 
question at issue is not existence in its vague, general ac- 
ceptance, but existence with all the modifications wrought by 
previous trials — the moral state of the being according to the 
actions he has successively accumulated, virtuous or vicious,v>^ 
in the infinite duration of ages. Thus existence causes birth, 
and conformably to what man has been, he is reborn into ^ 
a difl"erent state, either higher or lower. 

Existenc e is caused by at tachmg jit {tipdddna). Without 
an attachment, a chnging to things, a being would not 
assume nor take a certain moral condition which compels 
him to a renewed birth. Attachment is a kind of falling off 
which makes him come under the fatal law of transmi- 

A ttachmen t, the cause of existence, is itself only an -^ 
effect, which has for cause desire {iris/md, thirst). Desire 
is an insatiable longing to seek for whatever is pleasant, to 
avoid whatever is disagreeable. It is caused by sensation 
{vcdand), which endows man with the perception and know- 
ledge of things, showing him their qualities, which morally . 
and physically affect him. Sensation caused by desire is 
itself caused by contact {phassa). Things must touch man 
ci-her externally or internally for him to feel them, and thus 
it. has been said that Buddhists made sensation the sole 
source of knowledge ; but as among the senses they include 


also the inner sense or mains, iheir doctiine is not so 
materialistic as it at first appears. Contact, the cause of 
sensation, is in its turn the effect of the six places or seats of 
the sensitive qualities and the senses. These seats {skan- 
dhas) are 'sight^earingr^melTTfSste, and touch, to which must 
be added the vianas or the heart, which includes all we should 
call moral sentiments. 

Here we have eight of the twelve conditions that pro- 
duce life united together by the relation of causes to 
effects. Four more remain to finish the complete evolution, 
which, according to Buddha, embraces and explains the entire 
human destiny. 

The six seats of the senses and of perceptible objects have 
for cause the name and form {nCwiartipa) expressed in one 
word, as the word jaramarana expresses old age and death. 
Without the name and form the objects would be indistinct ; 
they would be non-existent to our senses, whether external 
or internal. They come into contact wiih us first by the 
material form they assume, and then by the name that 
designates them and recalls them to the mind, manas. \ The 
name and the form which the Buddhists unite into a single 
idea are that which renders objects perceptible, and thus they 
are the cause of the senses. But the name and the form are 
not only effects ; they have also a cause, namely, knowledge 
or consciousness (vinnana), which distinguishes objects one 
from another, and altiibules to each one both the name that 
represents them and the qualities which belong to each. 
Consciousness or reason is the tenth cause. The tenden- 
cies or potentialities (literally, confcctiuns, Sankharas) are the 
eleventh ; they are the ideas composed by the imagination, 
the illusions which constitute the fictitious universe it creates 
for itself. The twelfth and last cause is ignorance {avijja) 
or delusion, which consists exclusively in looking upon what 
is transitory as lasting, ip believing that all that is passingr 


and fugitive is permanent ; in one word, in giving to this world 
a reality it does not possess. Such is the mutual connexion 
of causes, and this theory, added to that of the Four Noble 
Truths, forms the most ancient and most authentic basis of 
the Buddha's doctrine. 

We see in the Lalita-vistara all the importance Sakya-" 
muni attached to it. When he discovered it at Bodhimanda, 
he fancied he had at last discovered the secret of the world. 
He can save human beings by teaching it, and it is because 
he has understood this, after long meditations kept up by 
terrible austerities, that he believed himself to be, and that 
he became, the perfectly enlightened Buddha. As long as he 
had not grasped the mysterious chain that links this tissue of 
causes and effects, he was ignorant of the Law and the way of 
salvation. Once he had unravelled the thread, he is in pos- 
session of the truth which will enlighten and deliver all 
creatures. He knows the road to Nirvana, which he can 
henceforth reach and can make other beings attain. 

We have now gone through the series of effects and 
causes, tracing backwards the progress of the being to his 
primitive condition. From old age and death we have, 
through twelve successive degrees, reached delusion, which, 
from a certain point of view, may be confused with non- 
existence; for error itself has no existence, if it had it 
would cease to be a delusion. However, if instead of 
working backwards we take ignorance as our starting- 
point, instead of our end and goal, we then reverse 
the connexion of causes and eTects, which nevertheless 
remains closely bound together, and we begin at the point 
where we first ended. Thus from delusion, or nothingness, 
proceed the concepts, which are its effects; from the con- 
cepts come consciousness, and from consciousness name 
and form ; from name and form, the six seats of the senses; 
from the six seats of the senseg, contact ; from contact, sensa* 


tion ; from sensation, desire ; from desire, attachment ; from 
attachment, existence ; from existence, birth ; and from 
birlh, old age and death. This inverse order is the one 
adopted in the Pradjud-Pdramita, and also followed some- 
times by the Sinhalese. It is not, it is true, the -method 
recommended by the example given by the Buddha at 
Bodhimanda, but it is perhaps more in conformity wiih 
the general spirit of primitive Buddhism, which, without 
precisely denying the reality of things, as is done later in 
the Pradjnd-Pdranu'id, does not, however, believe in the 
permanence of any of their elements, and considers that 
immutability is found only in void or nothingness. 

It would be unjust to hold the Buddha responsible for 
the excess of scepticism which carried away most of his 
adherents, but to a certain degree he was responsible, for 
he himself sowed the seed of it in his principal doctrines. 

It is more than likely that he admitted axioms similar 
to those attributed to him by some of the Sutras, and that 
he may, for instance, have upheld the following: — 'Every 
phenomenon is void ; no phenomenon h*is substance in itself. 
All substance is void. Internally and externally all is void. 
Personality itself is without substance. Decay is inherent in 
all component things, and, like a flash of lightning in the 
sky, does not last long.* 

It is very probable that, wishing to condense his system in 
a single axiom, he may have said, ' It is transitory ; it is 
miserable ; it is void ' ; making this knowledge of the insta- 
bility of things, of the evils of life, and of nothingness, the 
higher knowledge which contained and replaced all others, 
the threefold science {trividyd) which suthcea to enlighten 
and save mankind. Finally, we may even believe, without 
doing the Buddha an injustice, that he made sensation the 
sole and absolute source of all information for the mind ; 
and the gross sensuality of his disciples, with its natural 


sceptical consequences, may be imputed to him without his 
having precisely taught it. 

We now reach the last and most important of the Buddhist 
theories, namely, Nirvana. Nirvana is the supreme goal the 
Buddha sought to attain. It is the deliverance to which he 
invited all creatures; it is the reward he promised to know- 
ledge and virtue — in one word, it is eternal salvation. What, 
then, is Nirvana? Is it an immortality more or less dis- 
guised ? Is it nothingness ? Is it simply a change of exist- 
ence ? Is it absolute annihilation? It is a strange and 
remarkable fiict that Sakya-muni leaves the idea of Nirvana 
in a hazy obscurity, and that we cannot quote one Sutra in 
which he has tried to define it, as he has defined so many 
other and less important ideas. The utmost he has done is 
to refute the false notions that were accepted by the Brahmans 
(Tirthakaras) ; but these negative explanations, if they do to 
a certain degree show what Nirvana is not, never say what it 
is, and that is the important point. 

If we turn to the etymology of the word, it teaches us but 
little. It is composed of nir, which expresses negation, and 
the root vd, which signifies to blow out. Nirvana is there- 
fore extinction, that is to say the condition of a thing that 
can no longer be blown out ; hence the comparison so fre- 
quent in Buddhist writings of a lamp that is extinguished and 
cannot be relit. But this analysis, exact as it is, regards 
only the surface of things, and the expression of the Nirvana 
thus understood, if sufficient to represent the image of death, 
tells us nothing of the succeeding state, according to Sakya- 
muni's system. When the Buddha dies at Kusi-nagara, his 
cousin Anuruddha, who as well as Ananda accompanied him, 
uttered the following stanza, which has remained famous : 
' With a spirit that did not fail he suffered the agony of 
death; as a lamp that goes out, even so was his intelli- 
gence set free.' 


Burnouf, who is a great authority, has no hesitation ; in 
his opinion Nirvana means complete annihilation, not only 
of the material elements of existence, but also of the thinking 
principle. He has repeatedly asserted this in his Introduction 
a thistoire du Bouddhisme Indt'en and in the Lotus de la bonne 
Lot, published eight years later. Clough, Tumour, Schmidt, 
Foucaux, Spence Hardy, Bigandet^ take the same view. 
Colebrooke, although not having the latest discoveries to guide 
him, declares, however, that Nirvana, as understood by the 
Buddhists, is the same as an eternal sleep. 

If we examine the few and imperfect definitions to be 
found in the Sutras, we arrive at the same conclusion. The 
word Nirvana is almost always followed by an epithet meaning 
* Where nothing remains of the aggregates, where nothing 
remains of existence, where absolutely nothing remains.' 
We must add that the Brahmans call the Buddhists Sar- 
vavainasikas and Nastikas, meaning those who believe in 
a complete destruction, and this they regard as a serious 
accusation, though the Buddhists themselves adopt those 
names instead of rejecting them. 

Thus etymology, the most learned contemporary philolo- 
gists, the texts themselves, and even the criticisms of the 
opponents of Buddhism, all agree in demonstrating that 
Nirvana was in reality the definite and absolute annihilation 
of all the elements that make up life. Without dwelling 
further on these considerations, there is another which we 
think conclusive, and which has not been sufficiently taken 
into account ; that is the theory of Dhyana or contemplation, 
which may be called the method and practice of Nirvana. 

In a number of passages taken from all kinds of Sutras 
there is a distinction made between complete Nirvana — the 
great complete Nirvana and simple Nirvana. Complete 

' Bishop Bigandet, author oi Life of Buddha, translated from B\irmes^ 
into tngUsh, published at Rangoon jn 1858. 



Nirvaiia is that which follows death, when man has known 
how to prepare for it by faith, virtue, and knowledge ; while 
simple Nirvana may be acquired even during this life, by 
adopting a certain line of conduct that Buddhism teaches, 
and of which the Buddha himself sets an example. Thus, in 
the Lotus of the Good Law the Sthaviras approach Bhagavat 
and submit to him their doubts, they confess their weakness 
and their vanity in the following words : *■ Worn out by age, 
we say to ourselves, we have obtained Nirvana. We fancy 
we have reached Nirvana because we are overwhelmed by 
age and disease.' In other passages, even more clear, it is 
said ; * JMen who live in the knowledge of the Law, exempt 
from imperfection, have attained Nirvana. He who makes 
use of the vehicle of the Sravakas has attained Nirvana. 
The Sravakas imagine that they have attained Nirvana ; but 
the Djina says unto them : This is only a place of rest; this 
is not the true Nirvana.' 

Nirvana is therefore to a certain degree compatible with 
life, according to Buddhist belief, and it may be obtained 
even before death, although that is not yet the true 

The process to attain this incomplete Nirvana, the fore- 
taste of the one that follows and remains eternal, is by 
Dhyana or contemplation, and, to put it clearly, by a state of 
mystic ecstasy. The Dhyana has four stages, which succeed 
each other in regular order, and it plays a great part in the 
most important circumstances of the Buddha's life. In the 
village of Agriculture, under the shade of a djambu tree, 
when his family, alarmed at his absence, seek for him in vain, 
the young Siddliartha is occupied in passing through the 
five meditations he already knows. At Bodhimanda, where 
Sakya-muni conquers the demon, he prepares himself to 
become Buddha and save the world by four meditations ; at 
Kusi-nagara, where the Buddha is dying, he passes for the 


first time through the four different stages of Dhyana, and 
expires in a fresh eiffort before attaining the fourth stage. 

We will now describe the four stages of Dhyana, as given 
in the Nepalese and Sinhalese Sutras, which completely agree 
on this fundamental theory. It is almost needless to add 
that the monk who gives himself up to Dhyana or con- 
templation lives in complete solitude, and, delivered from 
all earthly cares and troubles, thinks of nothing but eternal 
salvation. Nirvana, on which all his thoughts are henceforth 

The first stage of Dhyana is a state of joy and gladness 
born of seclusion, when the ascetic realizes that he can at 
last distinguish the nature of things. He has then divested 
himself of all desire except that of Nirvana; he is full of 
reflection and investigation, but is freed from all sensuality 
and all sin; and the contemplation of Nirvana, which he 
longs for and is approaching, throws him into an ecstasy 
which leads him to the second stage. In this second stage 
the purity of the ascetic remains the same, vice and sin no 
longer pollute him ; moreover, he has put reasoning and 
argument aside, and his mind, which dwells no longer 
on external things, is fixed solely on Nirvana, feeling only 
a deep satisfaction and tranquillity, without reflection or 
investigation of its cause. 

In the third stage the joy of this satisfaction has vanished, 
the sage has become indiff'erent even to the happiness that 
his mind felt in the former stage. The only pleasure he 
feels is a vague sensation of physical comfort that fills his 
whole being. He has not, however, lost the recollection of 
the conditions through which he has just passed, and he stilli 
retains a confused notion of self, notwithstanding the almost: 
complete indifference to which he has attained. 

Finally, in the fourth stage, the ascetic no longer possesses- 
the feeling of physical comfort, vague as it was ; he has also 


lost all recollection ; he has even lost the sensation of his 
indifference, and henceforth, without sorrow and without joy, 
whatever may be its object, either externally or internally, he 
has reached impassibility, that is a condition as near Nirvana 
as is possible in this life. Moreover, this absolute impassi- 
bility does not prevent the ascetic acquiring at this same 
moment omniscience and magic power ; but this is a fl igrant 
contradiction, which does not, however, disturb the Buddhists 
any more than many others. 

Such are the four stages of Dhy5na, as gathered from all 
Buddhist authorities. They will not astonish any one who 
has studied m.ysticism, as it is well known how, by successive 
eliminations, the mind reduces itself to that transitory vacancy 
which is called ecstasy. The mystics of Alexandria, those 
of the Middle Ages, and of the Renaissance, have known, 
like the Buddhists and the Brahman s, these workings of the 
mind, struggling against self in order to temporarily destroy 
all its mental power. Plotinus, Gerson, Saint Teresa, all 
think that they thereby unite themselves to God, and become, 
one with him. The Buddhists do not claim this, as they 
do not know of a God, and in the whole of Sakya-muni's 
system the idea of an infinite being never presents itself; but 
th ey seek and practise ec stasy, whirh for f^^"^ '« an ir"flg^? 
of t he annihilation w hich they take for eternal salvation. 

We have now seen that for~lhe Buddhists, Dhyana is the 
road and preliminary conquest of Nirvana ; but, as though the 
idea were not sufficiently clear. Buddhism has added to the 
four stages of Dhyana four other stages, superior, or rather 
corresponding; these are 'the four regions of the world 
devoid of form.' The ascetic who has courageously passed 
through the first four stages is rewarded by entering into the 
region of infinite space. Thence he goes up another degree 
to the region of infinite wisdom. Having reached this height 
he attains a third region, where nothing exists. However, 

144 ^^^ ORtGW OF BUDDHISM [ft. 1 

as in this void and this darkness it might be supposed that 
an idea could subsist and represent to the ascetic the void in 
wliich he is plunged, a last and supreme effort must be made, 
and he then enters into the fourth region of the world devoid 
of form, where there are neither ideas nor even an idea of 
their absence. The doctrine of Dh} ana may therefore be 
considered a decisive commentary on that of Nirvana ; for as 
by this transitory ecstatic state a transitory annihilation is 
already sought for, then an eternal and definite annihilation 
may be sought for in Nirvana. 

Buddhism has no God, it has not even the vague and con- 
fused notion of a Universal Spirit, in which, according to 
orthodox Brahmanism and the Sankhya, the human soul is 
absorbed. Neither does it admit nature properly so called, 
and it does not make that great distinction between the spirit 
and the material world which is the system and glory of 
KapiLi ; lastly, it confuses man with his earthly surroundings, 
even while it preaches virtue to him. It cannot, therefore, 
unite the human soul, which it never even mentions, either to 
a God whom it does not know, or to nature which it ignores. 
One course therefore remains for Buddhism, that is to an- 
nihilate the soul, and in order to be certain that it will not 
reappear under any form in this world, which it considers 
accursed as the abode of illusion and pain, all the elements 
are destroyed. This is repeated over and over again. What, 
then, is Nirvana if not total annihilation ? 

No doubt this is a most serious statement, especially 
when we reflect that Buddhism at the present day counts so 
many followers all over the surface of the globe, that it is the 
belief of one-third of humanity, and that such an explanation 
of Nirvana implies that a third of our fellow-creatures worship 
annihilation, and place in it all their hopes of the future. 

Doubtless it is a hideous faith, but it is no calumny to 
impute it to Buddhism, and history would be faithless to 



itself, if it shrunk fi om this deplorable truth, which, moreover, 
sheds such light on the destinies of the Asiatic world. 

It has therefore been shown, that Sakya-muni's ethics and 
metaphysics are summed up in a few simple but erroneous 
theories: The Four Noble Truths, Transmigration, the 
INIutual Connecting Links of Causes, and Nirvana, explained 
by Dhyana which precedes it and prepares man for it. We 
have only now to judge the value of these theories ; rendering 
justice to the partial truth they contain, and pitilessly con- 
demning the monstrous errors hidden under an apparent 


Critical study of Buddhism. Its merits: practical tendency, contempt 
ofxuealth, charity, sentimettt of equality, meekness, austerity, resig- 
nation, horror of falsehood, respect for family ties. Its faults : > 
social impotence, egotism, no idea of duty, ignorance of justice and 
liberty, scepticism, incurable despair, error as regards life and 
human personality, atheism. General condemnation of Buddhism. 
Opinions of Bayle and Voltaire on the atheism of China. 

There is so much to be said against Buddhism, that 
it may be as well to begin by the good that can be justly 
attributed to it, for, limited as our praise must be, it will at 
least mitigate in some degree the severity of the judgment 
that must follow. 

We will now, therefore, state the good points, without either 
exaggerating or unjustly curtailing them. 

The most striking feature of Buddhism, that is as founded 
by the Buddha, is its practical tendency. The Buddha sets 
himself a great problem, which is no less than that of the 
salvation of mankind and even of the whole universe ; and 
he seeks its solution by the most direct and practical method. 
It is true that, considering himself a philosopher, he might 
have indulged in speculative analysis, but the Brahmans had 
made such an abuse of this process that the Reformer 
deemed it better to abstain from it. For in seeking to 
penetrate into the origin of things, it is necessary to avoid 
sinking into needless obscurity, and speak only to a school 
instead of addressing the masses. Pliilosophy, even when it 
does not aim at founding a religion, should never lose sight 
of its first duty, which is to serve humanity; and th^ 


philosopher who is satisfied to understand and to save him- 
self alone, by the truth he has discovered, is little worthy of 
his name. If these truths were to be solely for the advantage 
of one individual, ihey would lose their value ; and as for the 
mass of humanity, the practice of morality is of more impor- 
tance than the principle on which it is grounded; it is a credit 
to philosophers that they induce men to live according to 
what is right, rather than to think according to the principles 
of philosophy. All reforms must be preceded and strengthened 
by the long study which science demands; but when the 
Reformer at last appears upon the scene, his teaching should 
be as clear and simple as possible. He speaks to the people 
and not to the learned. He must lead minds rather than 
enlighten them ; promulgate precepts rather than expound 

]\Ioreover, although his aim was to convert and guide the 
masses, Sakya-muni does not endeavour to attract them by 
gross allurements, he does not flatter their passions ; and the 
joys he promises them are neither earthly nor material. 
Contrary to most religious legislators, he does not predict to 
his followers either conquests, power, or riches ; he calls them 
to eternal salvation or rather annihilation, which he confounds 
with salvation, by the narrow path of virtue, knowledge, and 
austerity ^ It is a great deal to expect of man, but evidently 
not too much ; and it is well for us to hear such a noble 
appeal to the human heart, in times so remote and in 
countries which our civilization has been accustomed to dis- 

* We do not mention magic power and supernatural gifts, which, 
according to Buddhist doctrine, science and virtue confer on those who 
have attained the highest degree of sanctity. The legends are full of 
these superstitions, which the Brahmans indulged in long before 
Buddhism adopted them. See Memoire stir le- Sdnkhya in the 
Memoirs de VAcademie des Sciences Morales ct Folitiques, tome viii. 
pp. 198, 3S9, The Buddha himself never made any such fallacious 
promises, but left such tricks of charlatanry to the adversaries he 


dain. We too willingly fancy that these noble aspirations 
belong only to ourselves, and we are surprised at discovering 
the same in others. It was not in the Vedas or the religion 
that emanated from them that the Reformer found these lessons 
of self-renunciation. But the Brahmanic philosophy was not 
that base and selfish kind of worship, which consists in 
a mutual interchange between man and the gods — of homage 
and assistance. It had soared into the higher regions of 
thought, and the system of Kapila alone suffices to show that 
Sakya-muni has made no innovation in preaching eternal 
deliverance. The whole of Brahmanic India had the same 
solemn turn of thought, Sakya-muni shared it, but did not 
originate it. 

His true glory, which no one can dispute, is the boundless 
charity that filled his soul. The Buddha does not think of 
his own personal salvation ; he seeks above all to save others, 
and it is in order to show them the infallible road to Nirvana 
that he leaves the Abode of Joy, the Tushila, and that he 
conies back to endure the risk and ordeal of a last incarna- 
tion. He does not redeem mankind by offering himself as 
a sublime victim ; he only proposes to instruct them by his 
teaching and example. He leads them in the paih from 
which there is no straying, and he guides them to the haven 
from which there is no return. No doubt the spirit of 
Christianity has inspired more beautiful and elevated senti- 
ments, but six or seven centuiics before its appearance it is 
wonderful to find this a<!mifaulc ccixeption, associating all 
men in a common faith, and uniting them in the same esteem 
anJ the same love. 

This is how the Buddha was able to say, without presump- 
tion or error, that * his law was a law of grace for all V and 

^ These are the Buddha's own words in answer to the jeers of the 
Biahmans, who mocked him whea he converted Svajjata, the son of 
a povcrt^'-jjtiickcn merchant. Svd^ata Avaddna in the Divya Avadana, 



how, allhoiigh he did not attack the odious and degrading 
s^^ystem of caste, he destroyed thit fundamental basis of 
Brahmanic society. He never saw, it is true, the real prin- 
ciple of human equality, because he never rightly understood 
moral equality; but if he did not comprehend the real nature 
of man, he at least knew that if all men aVe equal in sufTcring, 
they ought also to be equal in deliverance. He endeavours 
to teach them to free themselves from disease, old age, and 
death; and as all beings are exposed to these necessary 
evils, they all have a right to the teaching, which by en- 
lightening them is to free them. In the presence of the same 
amount of misery, he perceives no social distinction; the 
slave is for him as great as ia king's son. He is struck, not 
so much by the abuses and die evils of the society in which 
he lives, as by those wliich are inseparable from humanity 
itself, and it is to the suppression of these that he devotes 
liimsclf, the others appearing to him very insignificant in 
compaiison. The Buddha did not limit himself to curing 
Indian society, his aim was to cure mankind. 

This great elevation and large-mlndedness is certainly to 
be admired, for although man is not entirely as the Buddha 
saw him, the victim of suffering, yet he is so more or less, 
and it was a generous enterprise to have sought to deliver 
him from its bondage. 

The means employed by the Buddha to convert and purify 
the human heart are not less noble, and they are charac- 
terized by an unfailing gentleness, both in the Master and 
the least of his disciples. He never seeks to compel, but 
only to persuade men. He even makes allowance I'or their 
weakness, varying in a thousand ways the means Oi im- 
pressing them ; and when a too inflexible and austere language 
might repel them, he has recourse to the more persuasive 

qnoted by Biirnouf in his Iniroditdlon h Chistobe du BouddhUnu 
Indieitt p. 198. 

150 The ORiGiJv OP bvddHi^m [pt. t 

teaching of parables. He chooses the most famiUar examples, 
and by the simplicity of his expressions suits his lessons to 
the capacity of his hearers. He teaches them to lighten 
the weight of their sins by confession, and to atone for 
them by repentance. 

He even goes further. As it is already a great evil to 
have to expiate sin, the essential point is therefore to iccich 
man not to commit it ; for if he never falls, he will not have 
to retrieve himself Hence, in the doctrine of Sakya-muni, 
such wise and well-defined preccpls, such just and delicate 
prohibition' of certain actions. He undertakes and advises 
an incessant struggle against the body and its passions and 
desires; the body is in his eyes the sole enemy of man, 
and although the Luddha does not use this precise expression, 
f / it is in truth the aim of his asceticism. Man must overcome 
( the body, he must extinguish the burning lusts that consume 
him. If the Buddha strenuously enforces absolute celibacy 
on his monks, he also enjoins chastity and decency on all 
the faithful, virtues that the Lrahmans constantly violated, 
but which a secret instinct reveals to all men. 

To these virtues, he adds others still more difficult and no 
less useful, namely: patience and resignation, including the 
necessary energy to suffer courageously inevitable evil ; forti- 
tude and even indifference under all adversities and suf- 
ferings ; above all humility, that other form of renunciation 
of woddly goods and greatness, which was not only practised 
by poor mendicants, 'sons of Sakya/ but also by the most 
powerful kings. From humility to forgiveness of injuries 
is but a step ; and although the Buddha does not lay this 
down as a precept, his whoie doctrine tends to this mutual 
forbearance, so indispensable to all human societies. The 
very belief in transmigration helped him ; the first sentiment 
of a Buddhist under an insult or an outrage or violence, 
is not anger ; he is not angry, because he does not believe 


in injustice. He simply thinks that in some former existence 
he has committed a sin which in this one deserves the punish- 
ment he receives. He only blames himself for the misfortune 
that befalls him, and instead of accusing his enemy or his 
oppressor, he accuses himself. Far from thinking of revenge, 
he only sees a lesson in the adversity he endures, and his 
sole idea is how he can henceforth avoid the sin that has 
rendered it necessary, and which if renewed, would also 
renew the punishment that has already followed it. When 
the young prince Kunala, whose touching history is related 
in the legends, undergoes a painful and iniquitous torture, 
he forgives the cruel stepmother who persecutes him, he 
forgives his deluded father, and he thinks only of his past 
sins, by which he must have deservedly called down upon 
himself such an affliction. 

This resignation, which may easily become fear and 
cowardice in the weak, no doubt leads to the domination 
and despotism of the strong and wicked ; doubtless it also 
encourages tyranny in those countries which have only known 
despotism. But, in intelligent hands, what an element 
of order and social peace I What a healing of all the 
passions which too often destroy concord, and lead to 
relentless wars! 

Add to this, the horror of falsehood, the respect .for tiulh, 
the sanctity of the bond that unites intelligences ; add the 
reprobation of slandering or even idle speech ; add also the 
respect for family ties, pious veneration of parents, con- 
sideration and esteem for women, who are considered equally 
with men to be worthy of all religious honours — and we must 
feel astonished, that with so many social virtues Buddhism 
was not able to found, even in Asia, a tolerable social state 
or government. First it failed in India itself where it arose ; 
and in all the countries where it was received, its influence, 
excellent as it was in some respects, never prevailed suffi- 


cienlly to reform the political morals of the people, who 
remained, in spite of it, under the most degrading and arbitrary 
yoke. The feeble germs left by the Buddhist doctrine, 
which certain kings, like Piyadasi, had developed, remained 
fruitless; and even now our civilization has no power to 
give them life in the countries it has penetrated and where 
Buddhism is still in vigour. Our most benevolent and 
liberal efforts must remain ineffectual against these deplorable 
institutions, which have been sanctioned not only by time, but 
also by the inveterate habits of the people, their indifference, 
and their incurable superstition. Certainly Buddhism ought 
not to be judged solely on this one proof, and it should not 
be condemned only because the societies that have practised 
it are badly organized : but yet, the worth of religions can 
in some degree be valued by the social institutions which 
they have inspired or tolerated, and it is one of the glories 
of Christianity, that it has produced free societies and govern- 
ments, which under the admiring eyes of history, advance 
each day to new progress and new perfection. Nothing of 
the kind is to be seen in Buddhist societies, and as regards 
politics and legislation, the religion of the Buddha has re- 
mained very inferior even to Brahmanism. It has instructed 
and sanctified certain individuals, who chose to follow the 
noble example of Sakya-muni ; but as regards nations it has 
remained even more powerless than its adversaries, and it 
has hardly done anything either to organize them or to 
govern them equitably. 

It is, therefore, probable that Buddhism contains in its 
core certain errors which have made it sterile ; and having 
now shown the good it contains, we will proceed to examine 
the evil, the share of which is much greater. 

In vain does Buddhism profess self-renunciation and self- 
sacrifice, it is in reality narrow and self-interested. It rests 
upon a single idea, which is neither the highest nor the 


truest, that of eternal salvation, understood in the sense of 
annihilation or Nirvana. This is the reward offered to the 
highest eflbrls of man ; the supreme end of his faith, the 
ineflfable prize promised to his virtues. His life is framed 
to this end, according to the precepts and examples of the 
teacher. But he never acts but in view of the reward he 
hopes for. He extinguishes all other desires, but he retains 
this one, and exalts it by all those he has sacrificed to it. 
To this egotistical pre-occupation of reward, and the idea 
of Nirvana, are attributable all the faults of Buddhism, fur 
they are sufficient to falsify all morality. 

Doubtless it is good for man to look forward to a fulure 
life ; and to meditate upon eternity, which can alone explain 
to him whence he comes and whither he returns ; face to face 
with this grand idea, he feels all his weakness and also all 
his worth ; it gives him the key of his destiny, if he knows 
how to interrogate it discreetly and wisely. But he must beware 
of lowering or destroying it, by looking to nothing but 
a reward, as the price of his good actions. The thought of 
eternal salvation becomes then no longer a virtue ; it is but 
a mercantile transaction ; and as nothing is more fluctuating 
than calculation and self-interest, man could not but find his 
upward path beset with obstacles. In a truer and more 
saintly religion, he can rely on God's justice to reward or 
punish him eternally ; but in a religion that knows no God — 
the irreparable error of Buddiiist faith — man remains his 
own judge ; it is he, who of his own authority decides that 
which merits or does not merit salvation; he is judge in 
his own case, and that is hardly the way to be equitable 
and infallible. He fancies he practises virtue, while in 
reality he only practises an unceasing egotism, which is 
hidden and strengthened by the harshest austerities and the 
haughtiest exclusiveness. 

^Tan only works out his own salvation ; he cannot save 

154 ^^^ ORIGIN OF BUDDHISM [pt. i 

others; the most he can do is, like the Buddha, to show 
others the road. But each one must walk in it himself, one 
cannot do it for another. Salvation is therefore exclusively 
individual, and places man in complete isolation. If a man 
is absorbed in this idea, he will become estranged from his 
fellow-creatures, and neglect them, if indeed he does not 
despise and avoid ihcm. Thus the monks, who are the 
strength of the new religion and its most faithful and 
enlightened champions, remain virtually strangers in the 
society which maintains them. They spend their useless 
existences living on alms gained by the work of others, and 
wear rags that their humility docs not disdain, but which their 
hands have not woven. The ascetic is taken out of the 
world where he dwells, by the world he aspires to, and 
admitting that this pretended sanctity has not become mere 
indolence, who it may be asked reaps the benefit of this 
sanctity, if not the ascetic himself? What would become of 
society, including the anchorites it liberally maintains, if every 
one chose to imitate such pious examples ? Renunciation is 
sublime no doubt, but as Sakya-muni aimed at saving the 
whole world, all mankind without exception must be con- 
sidered, and not only a few privileged persons. To abolish 
caste, and the unjust limits it prescribed, was well, but if 
another is created, wider only in appearance, and in realiiy 
narrower than the former, where is the benefit? By the very 
nature of things, the idea of salvation, unless kept within just 
limits, becomes as dangerous as it is false ; if it pervades all 
the actions of man it destroys their merit; and without 
mentioning the evil it can do to society, it corrupts the soul 
of the individual, who thinks only of self, and who, notwith- 
standing his vanity as an initiated and an adept, is profoundly 
ignorant of what ought to be the true and sole motive of his 
life here below. 

There is, indeed, no other motive to offer to conscience — 


CFpecially from a philosophical point of view — than the love 
of goodness. It is not only the most disinterested and noble 
idea, but it is also the truest and most practical. It is found 
naturally in the hearts of men, and often unconsciously directs 
their conduct. If we go back to its origin it leads us to 
God, revealing to us his true nature; if we follow it in its 
consequences, it explains and makes us comprehend the 
world. All other ideas proceed from this, the highest, which 
sheds light upon all. Now, this idea which is the essential 
part of our soul, our reason, and our intelligence, as it is the 
essential part of the Universe and of God, does not exist in 
Buddhism. Sakya-muni does not seem to know that it 
existed. In Greek philosophy, Socrates and Plato have 
won imperishable glory by giving to the conception of 
goodness its real place in the soul of man, in the world, 
and in God ; and the fire they kindled has continued to 
burn and throw more and more light among us. In 
Buddhism, on the contrary, not a gleam of this divine flame 
has shown itself; not a single spark has flashed out; and the 
sun of intelligences, as Plato calls it, has never enlightened 
those of the Buddhist world. Hearts, souls, and minds have 
remained plunged in the deepest gloom, and time, instead of 
dispelling the darkness, has only made it thicker. The idea 
of recompense, substituted for the idea of right, has per- 
verted everything. An impenetrable and dark veil is 
thrown over all things, and man henceforth can understand 
neither himself nor the nalure amid which he lives, nor God, 
who has made both. From this first and greatest error 
a mass of olhers have spread. 

One of the most certain and fatal consequences is that 
this idea of right being misunderstood, Buddhism at the 
same time ignored the idea of duty. It seems a strange 
fact that in a system where the word duly {dharnia) is 
repeated at every line of the numberless writings it pro- 


duccd, the actual notion of duty has completely escaped it. 
We see, it is true, obedience to the law of the Buddha, 
a blind submission to his teaching, and a sincere venera- 
tion for his virtues, which each tries to imitate. But an 
order, a word of advice, does not morally constrain ; all it 
can do is to exercise an external compulsion, and as long as 
conscience and reason do not speak, duty does not make 
itself felt. Man is not bound because he obeys, nor is he 
compelled because he bends under a yoke, be that yoke as 
reasonable and beneficial as possible. It is therefore to 
the conscience and its decrees that the legislator of morality 
must address himself, more especially when he has elected, 
like Sakya-muni, to do without God, the supreme source of 
all good and all duty. Oiherwlse he will perhaps make 
fervent adepts, and even very faithful subjects, but he will 
not make men. He neither teaches nor inspires virtue ; 
at mo t docs he inculcate prudence. When the young 
Upagupta resisted the allurements of a beautiful, wealthy 
courtesan, it was not by saying to himself that continence 
is a duty and that he does well to struggle against culpable 
desires ; it was because he thought, * that it is better for one 
who aspires after freedom and wishes to avoid re-incarnation 
not to go and see this woman.' Thus he calculates his 
salvation ; and as he fears to risk it by giving way, he 
a bstains, not from virtue, bu t from interest. He has there- 
fore misunderstood duty, even while performing a praise- 
worthy action, and he is not morally virtuous, although he 
has conquered in this inward struggle. Doubtless it is 
a gain that what is right should be done, whatever the 
motive; but the moral merit is real and complete only on 
condition that the agent is guided solely by the idea of duty, 
which in reality is the same as the idea of right. Both of 
these are totally wanting in the Buddha's doctrine. 

Another consequence, no less disastrous, is scepticism. 


This is not, indeed, carried so far in the Sutras which con- 
lain Sakya-muni's sermons, as it is later on in the Pradjna- 
Paramiia, which ends by denying boih the known object 
and tlie conscious subject, the reality of things and the reality 
even of conscience. However, without falling into this excess, 
Sakya-muni nevertheless proclaims the vanity and emptiness 
of all things in the presence of Nirvana, which alone in his 
eyes is immutable. 'AH is void' is one of his favourite 
axioms, and on this he rests the renunciation he preaches 
to men. Assuredly among the phenomena amidst which 
we live, many are transitory and fleeting; few of them are 
permanent and bear * the character of stability, true sign of 
the Law,' as the young Siddharlha said in his first medita- 
tions. All beings are not, however, ' void externally, void 
internally,' as he thought, and if he had carried out his self- 
examination more attentively and accurately, he would have 
found a firmer standing. Man can deny all that surrounds 
him, he can doubt all external phenomena, and even a part 
of the phenomena he bears within himself. But do what he 
will, he cannot doubt his own conscience when it reproaches 
him for sins he has committed, or approves his good deeds, 
lie does not perhaps ask himself — as a doctrine more subtle 
than true alleges — whether the precept which guides him 
can become a universal law; but he assuredly tells himself 
that he must act as he does, and that no reasonable being 
could act otherwise. When man thus recognizes duty in hi.s 
own heart, it is easy for him to transfer it to the outside world ; 
the good which he perceives in himself he will but see enlarged 
in the world around him, which goodness alone animates and 
governs. He therefore no longer believes in its being a void, 
and beings become substantial in his eyes in proportion as 
they participate in goodness ; he doubts their reality only in 
proportion as they deviate from it, and on the firm basis 
on which he has placed himself all the conceptions of 


his intellect are strengthened and regulated. If some of 
these still waver, it is that they are scarcely worthy of being 

Scepticism is therefore banished from the soul by the idea 
of goodness ; not only does this idea enlighten man, but it 
also strengthens him. His conscience speaks so clearly to 
him, especially when it has to bear witness against him, that 
he is no longer tempted to believe, like Sakya-muni, in the 
sole testimony of his senses ; and though he will not com- 
pletely reject these, he knows the exact degree of confidence 
he must place in them. When the material universe alone 
is considered, it can no doubt be denied that good or evil 
exist, but when man considers himself he cannot sincerely 
reject the distinction of good and evil, unless in his per- 
versity he is interested in so doing. 

This seems to explain the most characteristic and painful 
point of Buddhism, that is, its deep and miserable melan- 
choly. When man finds goodness neiiher in himself nor in 
the world, it is natural that he should hate both, and seek- 
refuge only in annihilation. Hence the despairing view of 
life which under every form pervades all parts of this doc- 
trine, surrounding it with gloom. It is like a seplilchre from 
which Buddhism would fain deliver us by Nirvana, which it 
describes as definitely destroying what is for man * only 
a great mass of evil.' With such an opinion it would seem 
that nothing remains but to be freed from a terrible burden, 
and suicide should logically be the resource left to man in 
his dire extremity. Many legends seem to show that adepts 
of Buddhism have drawn this conclusion, which is logical 
though absurd. But Sakya-muni, by an inconsistency which 
does him honour, insisted that man should employ his life in 
redeeming himself from that life by virtue. He wished man 
to live according to all the laws of reason, as he understood 
them, so as to attain cessation of life, and conquer an eternal 


death by the purest and most saintly existence. The high 
ideal he made of virtue, sole pledge of eternal salvation, 
should, it ^vould seem, have enlightened the philosopher. 
Life is not then after all so poor a thing as he represents it, 
since it allows man such an admirable use of his faculties. 
But this light, bright as it is, does not suffice to dispel the 
darkness, and Sakya-muni sees in existence nothing but 
pain. In his compassion for his fellow-creatures he devotes 
all the efforts of his genius to deliver them from the fatal law 
of renewed birth. . 

According to the Buddha, life is a long tissue of grief an4 
suffering. We must, no doubt, recognize the numerous evils 
inherent to it which disfigure it ; indeed, it would be folly to 
deny them. But to say nothing of the salutary lessons that 
man can derive from the ills he endures, and which are chiefly 
caused by his own misguided will, is it so true that there is 
nothing but evil in life ? Shall we not take into account the 
joys that life affords us, the simple joys of ignorant child- 
hood, the austere joys of meditation matured by experience, 
and of conscience strengthened by wisdom, the pleasures of 
the senses, as well as those of the intellect, the incessant and 
resplendent spectacle of nature, and that of the soul sacrificing 
itself to duty, the joys of family ties, and those of the heroic 
passion of patriotism, which India itself has not ignored? 
Will anyone venture to deny these.? And if tuch importance 
is given to the ills of Hfe is it fair to disdain its unquestion- 
able benefits .? Is it an equitable view of things to consider 
ihcm only under one of the two contrary aspects they pre- 
sent ? It would not indeed be any wiser to deny the ills of 
life as energetically as the Buddha asserts them. But if 
optimism is not essentially true, it is incomparably more 
so than despair. It has at least the advantage of sustaining 
courage, and if it slightly warps the mind it does not dis- 
hearten it ; it elevates instead of degrading ; it sheds more 


light than its opposite, for in human life and in the world the 
sum of good, in the eyes of impartial judges and of manly 
heaits, is greater than the sum of evil. 

There is, moreover, a certain pusillanimity in dwelling so 
much upon outward evils, such as old age, disease, and 
death ; and in forgetting the much greater and more formida- 
ble evils which attack the soul and are called vices. Buddhism 
h IS been at much pains to classify, with the most studied and 
refined casuistry all the differences of the Klesa, it is by 
hundreds that it has distinguished them; and why all this 
labour? In truth it is not vice that Buddhism detests and 
would avoid ; it is Nirvana which it ever seeks and must 
attain ; and it only fears and rejects vice, because vice is an 
obstacle to salvation and deliverance. The one thing dreaded 
above all, is pain from which an effete sensibility makes man 
shrink ; decay which fades the bright carnation of youth ; old 
age which destroys vigour, death at last, which is only a 
passage from this life of pain to another more painful still. 
The thing to be avoided at any price, even at the cost of 
virtue, is not moral degradation consequent on vice, but the 
bodily degradation which, far from saddening the sage, should 
on the contrary strengthen him by the experience it affords. 
It would be unjust to pretend that Sakya-muni took no heed 
whatever of moral evil, but in reality he made it a secondary 
consideration, ancj jphy sical evil was the principal object of 
4iis dread. 

And here a strange contradiction is shown ; while the 
Buddha apprehends beyond measure the ills of life, and 
seeks eternal deliverance from them in annihilation, the only 
means, or at least the most efficacious he finds to suppress 
existence, is to make it here below a torment to those who 
have to endure it, while loathing it. What a code Sakya- 
muni imposes upon his most faithful and beloved disciples ! 
What observances he practises himself and prescribe? to his 


monks ! Rags and shrouds for clothing, forests for shelter, 
graveyards for meditation, to live by alms, to observe the 
most rigid abstinence, to abstain from all pleasures even the 
most innocent, to keep habitual silence, and refrain from al! 
friendly intercourse ! It is a living death. The very austerity of 
this doctrine, which is not limited to the cloister, but preache«l 
to the world, proves the ardent sincerity of the fliilh which 
commends it. It needs a truly energetic conviction to con- 
demn oneself to such a life of sacrifice. But if life is so 
great an evil, why make it worse; why voluntarily add to 
inevitable suffering, mortifications under which the body must 
succumb? Would it not be more consistent with the 
Buddha's doctrine to make life a continual source of enjoy- 
ment, and pleasure the sole occupation of man ; should not 
pain be alleviated instead of being increased ? It is true 
that no one can reach the hearts of men by preaching 
pleasure to them : this base doctrine, which can only attract 
corrupt minds, does not appeal to the masses, however 
ignorant and sensual they may be. Sakya-muni was right 
not to preach a doctrine which his great soul could only 
reject with scorn ; but ascetism was not the practice which 
his theories could logically prescribe. 

Thus we find ignorance of the idea of right, blind 
egotism, entire misapprehension of duty, almost absolute 
scepticism, a fanatical hatred of life which is thus mis- 
conceived, a cowardly dread of its suftcrings, inconsol- 
able despondency in a world that is not understood. A 
long list this of errors ; but more yet may be attributed 
to Buddhism. 

It is sufficiently proved that Buddhism has not grasped 
man's true nature, and that while it prescribes an incessant 
and implacable warfare against the body it does not tend to 
the advantage of the soul. It distinguishes neither the body 
from the soul, nor the spirit from matter. Reducing all 



intelligence to external sensation, it does not appear to 
have suspected the existence in man of the two principles of 
which he is composed, and which explain his whole destiny. 
The Sankhya system at least had made this essential distinc- 
tion, and though it was mistaken as to its consequences it 
had conceded a large part to the spirit, although not as great 
a part as is due to it. In this respect Sakya-muni was far 
behind Kapila. Like him he remained an atheist ; but he 
substituted for the decided, though spurious, spiritualism of 
Kapila a blind materialism, which he coupled with the most 
mystical asceticism. 

Not only does the Buddha confuse the two opposing prin- 
ciples of which man is formed, but he confuses man himself 
with all that surrounds him. He first confuses him with the 
animals he makes use of, which often rend or fly from him ; 
with the plants he nourishes liimself with, which sometimes 
poison him ; and, finally, with the inert matter in which there 
is no trace of organism or Hfe, which man can fashion at 
will, when he chooses to employ his skilful hands upon it. 
Sakya-muni carries the idea of transmigration to this extreme, 
that is to a flagrant absurdity. It is true that we possess doc- 
trines that degrade man to the level of a beast, and which 
refuse to recognize in him anything but a superior kind of 
animal ; but what is this error — serious as it is — beside the 
one in which Buddhism has lost itself? Man, according to 
its doctrines, has nothing to distinguish him from ordinary 
matter. In the successive and infinite existences he passes 
through man can become all things without any exception, 
from the most exalted being down to the very lowest : from 
the most marvellous and complicated organization down to 
a state of complete absence of organization. If the texts 
were not so precise and so numerous, if lliis belief were not in 
perfect harmony with all the remainder of the system which 
infers it, and cannot be explained without it, we might really' 

doubt that such a paradox could ever have deluded human 

Unfortunately it is impossible to doubt this. It is the idea 
of unity of substance pushed as far as possible, to the fullest 
and most absurd conclusions. Spinosa and modern pan- 
theists, who believe themselves to be terribly audacious and 
thoroughly consistent, are far less so than Sakya-muni. He 
works out his ideas to their end, whereas they see but a part 
of theirs and stop half-way. By a kind of instinct that makes 
them feel the abyss before them they unwittingly draw back ; 
and although they do not give man his rightful share in their 
systems, in which all beings are effaced and confounded in an 
obscure identity, they dare not avow the degrading blas- 
phemies in which Buddhism delights. It is true, that in 
another respect they have done like it, by refusing to recognize 
any other God than man himself. But in our day such 
impious extravagances are less easy ; the platonic philosophy 
and Descartes* method have taught us much about the soul 
of man, and moreover we live in the midst of Christian civili- 
zation. It is still possible to disregard all the teachings of 
psychology, and to strive if not to refute, at least to elude 
them by feigning to ignore them. But, however much one 
may try to follow out such deplorable reasoning, common 
sense will resist; the philosopher who thus goes astray 
vaguely feels the error into which he is falling ; his own con- 
science, protesting against him, deprives his system of part 
of its strength, and his wavering conviction hardly sufTices to 
dominate him, much less to influence others. But in the 
Indian world, where real science was unknown, and where 
pyschology was completely ignored, even by the Brahmans 
— speculative as they were — all aberrations, all follies became 
possible, and it only required an energetic and resolute spirit 
to carry them out. The Buddha went ahead— nothing 
Stopping him — as far as logic would take him; and as 


i6i fHE OkiciN QF BVbbHISM tpT. i 

ps}'chological observation was more a closed book to him 
even than to his adversaries, he saw none of the errors, 
or rather follies, into which he was falling. The grandeur of 
his convictions is only surpassed by his blindness* 

It will now be easily understood why Buddhism was 
necessarily atheistical. When the personality of man is so 
completely ignored it is absohuely impossible to have any 
idea of God. This last aspect of Sakya-muni's doctrine 
demands a few more reflections, for it is without comparison 
the most unfavourable of all. 

We have already shown, as an undeniable fact, that in 
the whole Buddhist system there is not a vestige of the idea 
of God. It does not precisely deny, nor did it contest the 
idea of God ; but it seems not to have known that such 
an idea existed in the human soul, nor that it was indis- 
pensable; in fact, it completely ignored it. 

Brahmanism, at least from this point of view, was more " 
elevated and more learned. If it did not understand the 
unity of God, it nevertheless constantly sought for it in the 
universal intelligence of Kosmos ; and through this idea, which 
it never loses, it sometimes has a gleam of the true light. 
In certain hymns of the Vcdas, and also of the Upanishads, 
this great discovery is very nearly being made by the genius 
of Brahmanism. It draws very near to it, and if one were 
to judge by the language alone, it would seem as though the 
truth had been really found. In any case, if it is not found, 
it may be hoped that with the light already acquired, the 
truth will not long remain hidden. 

In Buddhism, on the contrary, even these gleams of li^ht 
are extinguibhed, and not a spark remains to show that they 
could be revived. All is daik, and man, reduced to his own 
entity, finds himself so weak and abandoned that he throws 
himself with a sort of frenzy into death and annihilation, out 
of which he came and into which he longs to return. 


Sad and depressing spectacle I We were accustomed to 
suppose that the notion of God is never completely wanting 
to human intelligence. * This notion might be confused and 
obscure/ we thought, * but cannot be totally absent/ and we 
imagined we should find it even amid the gross brutality of 
the lowest savages. Well, here is a great doctrine, the result 
of the deepest and most sincere meditations — a system of 
philosophy which, if not profound, is at least very consistent 
and extensive; a religion accepted and practised by innu- 
merable nations, in which this essential idea, which seems 
to us indispensable, is utterly wanting ; where man is so 
absorbed in his own selfishness and his puerile terrors that 
he can see absolutely nothing outside of himself. He believes 
in his misery with all the strength of a mind warped by fear, 
and he looks to no deliverer but himself, weak and miserable 
though he knows he is. It would be a marvel, indeed, if 
Buddhism were to reach the haven by such a road, and it 
suflices to remember its origin to be no longer surprised 
that it should have fallen into such depths. 

Human personality has been misconceived by it in its 
exterior and manifest signs, and more outrageously still 
in its essence and inmost nature '. Free will, which is 
its pre-eminent characteristic, with all its accompaniment 
of faculties and consequences, is forgo. ten, suppressed, 

Man acls during the whole of this life under the weight, 
not precisely of fatality, but of an incalculable series of former 
existences. He is not punished or rewarded for the actions 
he commits during life, but he pays the penally of his past 
lives, which he cannot reform, of which he has to endure the 

* In a Pali Sutra especially devoted to an explanation of the theory 
of causes, MahiJ A'tWdfra Suifa, it is said, * It is the name of the 
individual that makes him know hjmself.' ^i^tus d(^ la bonne Lgi^ 
^, Burnopf, p. ^^^9. 


necessary consequences, and which he cannot remember, 
although he can recognize their fatal results. Transmigration 
has placed him in his present life, and if he does not take 
heed it will again lay hold of him and throw him back ipto 
the cycle he has already passed, from which he has no power 
to escape. It is true that it seems to depend upon himself 
whether he will hear the Buddha and be saved, or turn a deaf 
ear and be lost. But even this option, the only point on 
which man seems to have any liberty, is barely granted him ; 
his liberty is not complete in this decisive choice; it is clogged 
by a past of which he is not the master ; and his rejection of 
the liberating law that is preached to him may be the punish- 
ment of faults committed in another existence, now followed 
by this new fault. Man is not then free in this life. Was 
he ever free ? Was he free in the origin of all things 
to begin or not to begin this chain of successive existences.? 
What was the first cause of his bondage to this terrible 
law? - - 

All these questions Buddhism pretends to solve by its 
well-known but puerile theory of the Connective Chain of 
Converse Causes. Step by step it traces back from death, 
to which we are all doomed on earth, to nothingness out of 
which it believes all beings — or rather the shadows it recogr 
nizes in this world— to have originated. No doubt birth 
engenders old age and death, and ingenuous as the axiom 
must appear, it must be granted that if man was not born 
he would not be exposed to death. But it, is a mere play 
upon words to say that life is the cause of death; it is but 
the occasion of it. If there was no birth, we repeat, there 
could be no death ; but life is so liule the cause of death, 
that death is in its turn recognized as the cause of life. 
Cause becomes effect, and the effect becomes its own cause; 
in reality it is a contradiction, and the true notion of cause 
escapes Buddhism as well as that of liberty. Buddhism 


seems here to acknowledge its own impotence, and in the 
chain which it follows it begins by nothingness or ignorance, 
and ends by the same. But if ignorance is the starting-point 
of its researches, and if it is also its term, we are at liberty 
to doubt its pretended knowledge. For to begin by nothing- 
ness, to finish by nothingness, is equivalent to acknowledging 
that it knows nothing and bel'eves in nothing. This is the 
conclusion of the school of the Pradjnd-Paramita, more 
daring in iis nihilism and also more consistent than the 
founder of Buddhism himself. Sakya-muni dared not admit 
this, or raiher he deceives himself in deceiving others. 

To sum up : absence of all idea of human personality, 
of liberty, of cause — such are the elements that Buddhism 
employs, and which it fancies it has deducted from an exact 
and attentive observation of reality. It is no wonder that 
with such materials Buddhism should not have attempted to 
construct a regular system of theology. When humanity is 
so imperfectly understood, it is natural also that the world and 
God should be equally misunderstood; for man has no other 
means of attaining to the idea of God than through himself 
and the surrounding world. 

Moreover, the most surprising thing of all is that Buddhism 
should not have deified the Buddha. Destitute of the true 
idea of God, it might have attempted to impose upon that 
secret instinct in man — which reason never gets rid of — an 
idol in the place of the deity. Far from this, the Buddha 
remains man, and never seeks to overstep the limits of 
humanity, outside of which he conceives nothing. The 
enthusiasm of his disciples did not exceed the reserve of 
their master ; for in the innocent worship they rendered him 
they bore witness only to the s'.renglhening and consoling 
power of his example; never did they appeal to his power 
oti their behalf. The Buddha had placed man, and himself 
personally, far above the absurd and cruel gods of the 


Brahmanic pantheon; his followers maintained him in this 
supreme position, but they went no further. Neither the 
pride of Sakya-muni, nor the fanaticism of his votaries, ever 
conceived a sacrilege; and the Buddha, great as he thought 
himself, sought not the halo of apotheosis, nor did tradition 
in its piety and veneration ever attempt it. Temples and 
statues were raised to him ; thousands of writings have 
related his life and celebrated his supernatural power ; but 
no one ever dreamed of making him a god. 

This reserve is not, however, a proof of the good sense 
of the Buddhists. Their moderation on this delicate point 
is dictated by motives which agree only too well with their 
general ignorance. According to their belief the Buddha, 
far from being God, had been preceded by other Buddhas as 
saintly as himself, and will have as successors still other 
Buddhas no less perfect and worthy of veneration. He 
saved the world by his doctrine, that world in which he 
appeared, as others had saved or will save the worlds of 
which they have been or are destined to be the saviours. 
The Tathagata himself predicted to a number of his 
liearers destinies no less brilliant than his own ; he assured 
them they would be Buddhas like himself. He described 
to them the glorious worlds in which they should reign ; he 
even fixed the duration of their reign. Every man can 
therefore attain, like the Buddha himself, to this high dignity 
by the practice of virtue and holiness ; and the least of his 
disciples can attain and equal the adorable and ineffable 
beauties of his master's nature. If Buddha were a god, then 
there would be as many gods possible as there are men 
capable of understanding * the Four Noble Truths or the 
Connective Chain of Converse Causes, and of following the 
Noble Eight-fold Path that leads to Nirvana.' 

This is the first motive which prevented the Buddhists, 
Tiotwi^hst(\nding; their most constant find rnpst sincere ^§vq- 


tion, from making a god of ihe Buddha. There is a second 
one which, though as powerful, is not more creditable to 
their intelligence. 

During the whole course of the Buddha's life, after his great 
triumph at Bodhimanda, he did not cease to perform 
miracles, and the most extraordinary and supernatural 
powers are ascribed to him. But the Brahmans, his adver- 
saries, contended with him and vied with him in their 
miracles. It was therefore not a privilege exclusively be- 
longing to Sakya-muni. He was more powerful than those 
he contended with, because his knowledge was greater than 
theirs. His powers surpassed theirs because he surpassed 
them in virtue. ^Toreovcr, it is well known that knowledge 
gives man superhuman powers. We know that the Yogi, 
when he has passed through all the slages of initiation, 
infallibly attains magic power, and is henceforth above all 
the ordinary conditions of nature. The most enlightened 
Brahmans have always held this belief; it has been prop^a- 
gated by the wisest systems of philosophy ; all mankind in 
India has believed it; and Buddhism, had it repudiated this 
belief, would by that alone have placed itself far beneath its 
antagonists. The Buddha's miracles do not therefore speci- 
ally distinguish him. All men can succeed in performing 
similar ones. On that account he is no more of a god than 
on any other. 

It is therefore a mingled feeling of pride and senseless 
superstition that led Buddhism not to deify the Buddha, to 
say nothing of its absolute incapacity to conceive any idea of 
an infinite being. 

From all that precedes it will be easy to understand the 
general enierpiise of Buddhism. Through a radical incapa- 
city of higher aspirations, or by a perversity of reason, it 
believed that only man himself was capable of understanding 
ancj saving map. It mad? hym the greatest pf beings. wiiic|^ 


in regard to this world was no error ; but it made him a being 
subsisting by his own power, having no superior either for his 
origin or his end, placed alone in this universe which is yet 
filled with his personality, vague and scattered as it is, under 
an endless variety of forms; exclusively occupied with scif, 
and without a thought either of nature — witli which he is 
blended by his numerous metamorphoses — nor of God, whom 
he knows not. We admit that this idea has a certain appear- 
ance of grandeur; but it lacks truth, for man thus conceived 
is but a monster, who, notwithstanding his pretensions, would 
soon have a horror of himself, because he would be unable 
to understand himself. 

However, it is scarcely fair to attack Buddhism with the 
weapons of Plato or Descartes — that is to say, to use against 
it the enlightenment of more favoured times and races. We 
will employ only its own weapons in opposing it ; and since 
it sees in man only a suffering being, we must examine what 
part pain plays in his life and what it implies. By this road, 
as by every other, it is possible for man to reach God. 
The way is more laborious for our weakness, but it is no less 
sure, and God shines forth no less in the ills than in the 
benefits of humanity. 

We have reproached Sakya muni wiih having given too 
much importance to physical pain, but he also gave a certain 
part to moral sufferings. He wished to deliver man for ever 
from disease, old age, and death, by freeing him from the law 
of renewed birth, but he wished also to preserve him from 
vice. He does not therefore deny that if man suffers bodily 
he may not, and that still more keenly, sulTer in another part 
of his being. Klesa includes boh physical and moral evil ; 
and when Ajatasatru conferses to the Buddha his parricidal 
crime, it is remorse that has urged him on. He confides 
his secret torment to the wi:e man who can comfort and 
heal him. Thus Buddhism recognizes suffering in its most 


poignant and real form, even when the most concealed. 
But he dwells too little on this great observation, which 
might have rievealed to him the whole nature of man, and 
which at the same time would have raised him far above 

We might inquire of Buddhism whether there is any other 
being except man who can experience the pangs that con- 
science sometimes inflicts on him and which the Buddhist 
system recognizes, as it undertakes to assuage them by its 
advice and by the solemn expiations it recommends. Does 
it believe that the creatures that surround man feel, like him, 
the inward anguish which the most powerful kings, assured 
as they are of impunity, cannot escape ? We may concede, 
as the Buddhists claim, that man before assuming his actual 
form has passed by all the different stages of matter, from the 
most inert to the most highly organized ; but in the present 
disposition of things can it be denied that man alone endures 
these torments — the consequences of his faults and of his 
crimes ? Can it be believed that animals feel like man ? 
Can inorganic matter, which the Buddhists themselves place 
lower than the beasts, can it feel remorse ^ This is indeed 
impossible, and notwithstanding its blindness Buddhism has 
not fallen into quite so deep an error. !Man has therefore 
the privilege of this pain, which is exclusively his. This is 
an incontestable fact, and may be deplored as old age and 
death are deplored, but it cannot be said not to exist. 

Whence does this suffering come to man, and what is its 
cause, when it agitates his whole being, embitters all his joy.", 
and racks him with anguish in the midst of all the intoxications 
of power.? Buddhism itself has answered the question. Man 
only experiences this terrible pain because he feels he is 
guilty in having transgressed the Law. If Ajatasatru had not 
known that he could have acted otherwise than he did, he 
would not have felt the remorse which brought him humbled 


and submissive to the feet of the Buddha, in spite of all his 
pride and power. But the Law he had violated and which 
punishes him had not been made for him ; for this great 
criminal when he began to repent knew nothing of Bud- 
dhism, and was not aware that murder was forbidden. Still 
K ss was it the criminal himself who made the law against 
himself that chastised him. On the contrary, he would 
destroy it, abolish it if it were in his power. He would wipe 
out, if it rested with him, the very recollection of his sin, and 
heal at the same time the wounds this recollection constantly 
caused him. But ih's law is superior to man ; it is not 
amenable to him ; and notwithstanding his perversity, which 
sometimes defies it, he cannot silence in his own heart that 
persistent voice which will perhaps soon find echoes no less 
terrible in the heart of his fellow-creatures. 

We know well that Buddhism would reply to all this, if 
not through Sakya-muni, at any rate through Nagardjuna, 
author of the Pradjiid-Pdrainitd, that if man experiences 
moral sufferings of this nature it is only because he is thus 
made ; that it is his nature {Svabhdva) ; that it is not neces- 
sary to seek any other explanation; that beings are what 
they are by virtue of their own nature ; that man has his, 
as animals, plants, and minerals have theirs ; and, in short, it 
is useless to go beyond this. In reality this argument 
explains nothing, precisely because it refuses to explain any- 
thing whatever; it is a universal objection. Facts ought 
simply to be observed without ever stri\ing to know their 
causes. Buddhism admits that the moral pain that follows 
crime is a fact, and through the medium of its greatest 
metaphysical school it declares that it is content with this, 
and has no mission to inquire whence this fact ari es, nor 
what is its origin. But Buddhism cannot make use of this 
easy argument, which is forbidden to it by its own teaching. 
I^ may, indeed, be possible to the scepticism cf thos^ 


discipks who have but half learned their master's lessons, 
and who are satisfied with the driest logic ; but the master 
cannot accept it. He did not pass with haughty indifference 
before moral suffeiing, and far from considering it a conse* 
quence of man's own nature, that is to say immutable, he 
gave his most attentive care and his noblest hope to the 
healing of those evils which he did not believe incurable. 
He therefore recognized not only that man violates a law 
superior to himself when he commits a fault, but also that he 
can, lo a certain extent, repair the evil committed, and 
re-establish between himself and the law he has violated 
the affinity that his crime had destroyed. The Buddha 
had only one step more to take: this was to ascribe this 
law — which his virtue considered just— to a being more 
powerful than man, to a being propitious to order and 
goodness, who knows how to reveal and to uphold them 
by these secret and energetic means. 

It would seem even that the Buddha might have gone 
still further on this track. He had but to question his 
heroic and virtuous soul, and compare the profound and 
unalterable peace of his own conscience with the tempest- 
torn souls of the guilty. This peace which the good enjoy 
in view of the law they fulfil, is a fact no less certain than 
the agitation of the wicked. Personally the Buddha offered 
an admirable example. He might therefore suppose that 
if the author of the moral law punishes evil, he also 
rewards good, and that his forbearance at least equals his 

1'hese simple reflections upon moral suffering were cer- 
tainly within the scope of 8akya-muni"s intelligence, and had 
lie made them they were of a nature to modify the whole 
course of his thoughts and to change all his system. By 
this means, not to mention others w hich the sight of external 
nature afforded him, he would have been able to understand 

1)4 THE Origin of WddHiSM [pt. i 

men and calm the terror that bhndcd them and cast them 
into despair. In the presence of the all-powerful Being, who 
is just and who can at the same time be merciful, his spirit 
would have been reassured. Far from considering life 
a torture, he would have recognized it as a trial which it 
depends on ourselves to render less painful. 

]\Ian need not deplore his condition on cath, since he 
can improve and beautify it. He is not lost in this world, 
since he is under the yoke of reasonable and beneficent laws. 
It has been given to him to submit and to understand them. 
If he cannot overthrow them, he can, by obeying them, take 
a share in them ; he can even, in a certain measure, unite 
himself to him who has made them, and who reveals them 
equally by virtue and by crime. It is not, therefore, a ruler 
or a tyrant that his heart appeals to — it is rather a father ; 
and he can say to himself that far from being an orphan 
or a waif in this world, he may live in it, like one of a large 
family, where, since he has the second place, he occupies 
a noble position. 

But this side of the question, which is not only the 
greatest, but also the truest, did not touch 8akya-muni. 
He looked only at the miserable side of man, and abandoned 
himself without measure to the painful sympathy this lament- 
able spectacle excited within him. Because man died here 
on earth after having lived more or less well, he condemned 
him to eternal death. The hope of annihilation seemed to 
Lim sudicient for this being, solely pre-occupied with the 
anxiety of avoiding pain. The moment man exists he 
suft'ers, and the only way not to suffer is not to exist. 
Nirvana is the only safe refuge, and man is sure never to 
return on earth from the moment that he no longer exists. 

But it is time to close these lengthy considerations on 
Buddhism. We will now summarize these criticisms by 
applying them to some fundamental theories. 



Transmigration, which is the starting-point of all this 
doctrine, is but an indefensible hypothesis, which the Buddha 
doubtless did not invent, but which he accepted, and from 
which he drew the most deplorable conclusions. 

His ethics are incomplete and fruitless, inasmuch as they 
repose on a thoroughly false idea of the nature of man, and 
of the life he leads here below. 

Nirvana, or annihilation, is a monstrous conceplion, repug- 
nant to all the instincts of human nature, revolting to reason, 
and implying atheism. 

Reduced to these terms. Buddhism ought to inspire more 
pity than contempt; yet it has reigned for many centuries, 
and it still reigns over a multitude of races, offering to their 
credulity the melancholy doctrines we have just reviewed as 
sole nourishment of their faith, which is all the more ardent the 
more absurd it is. By the idea of transmigration it plunges 
them into a fantastic world which prevents their understand- 
ing the real conditions of the one they live in. Moreover, 
his ethics, which were unable to save men, were even less 
fitted to constitute any equitable or in'clllgent societies. His 
doctrine of Nirvana degraded man lower than the brutes, 
which have at least this advantage over him, that they do not 
deify annihilation, which they do not dream of. In one word, 
he has totally failed to recognize eiiher nature, duty, or 
personal dignity. He aimed at delivering humanity, but 
only destroyed it; he wished to enlighten it, and has cast it 
into the deepest gloom. His intentions may have been 
noble, but his general action, with some few exceptions, 
has been fatal ; and it may be justly doubted if the nations 
he has lost will ever find, or even accept, any remedy for 
the evil he has done them, and will continue to do for 
many a day. 

At the close of the seventeenth and following centuries, 
when China began to be better known, a question was raised 

i7§ tiiE orIgM dP' buddMIsM tpt. t 

among some eminent thinkers. It had been wondered 
whether it were possible that a society of atheists could 
exist, and whether the accusation of atheism brought against 
that vast empire was reasonable or probable. Bayle made 
the discussion famous by pronouncing himself in the affirma- 
tive, and Voltaire contested the fact. Public opinion was 
divided, and the question, in the absence of any well- 
established facts, remained undecided. At the present day, 
and in view of the complete and clear revelations made in 
the Buddliist writings which have since then been discovered 
and explained, no doubt can exist. Buddhist nations may, 
without injustice, be considered nations of atheists. This 
does not imply that they profess atheism, and glory in their 
incredulity, in the boastful manner of those who profess it 
among ourselves; but it simply means that these nations 
have not attained, even in their highest meditations, to the idea 
of God, and that the societies formed by them have, to the 
great detriment of their organization, dignity, and happiness, 
lived without this idea. 

However, these societies do exist, very numerous although 
powerless, very backward although very ancient, corrupt yet 
refined, and profoundly miserable, through the ignorance and 
vice that time has increased instead of amending. Bayle 
was therefore right in maintaining that such a social state 
was possible; we now know that it really exists. Perhaps, 
however, we ought to add with Voltaire, * These nations 
neither deny nor affirm God; they have never heard of Him. 
I'o assert that they are atheists is the same as asserting that 
they are Anti-Cartesians; they are neither for nor against 
Descartes. They are, in fact, children, and a child is neither 
an atheist nor a deist ; he is nothing \' 

Voltaire's opinion is the most correct and the most con- 
soling. Sakya-muni is no more an atheist than Kapila, only 
* Voltaire, Dictionnaire philosophiqtie, article on Aihiistne. 


he had the weakness and misfortune to be ignorant of 
God ; if he had fought against him, then it would have been 
just to accuse him of atheism. The nations whom his doc- 
trine suited were as blind as he was, and it has been proved 
by the learned men of our day that they did not know God 
even by name. Rdmusat testifies that the Chinese, Tartars, 
and IMongolians, to whom might be added, we believe, the 
Tibetans, do not possess a word in their language to express 
the idea of God*. In presence of such a curious and 
deplorable phenomenon, confirmed moreover by their reli- 
gion, it may be doubted if the intelligence of these nations is 
made of the same order as our own ; and if in those 
climates, where life is held in abhorrence and where nothing- 
ness takes the place of God, human nature is the same as 
with us. INIoreover, the faith of these peoples, senseless as 
it seems to us^ has been so exclusive that they have devoted 
their whole thoughts to it ; they have no other books than 
their sacred books ; they have not permitted their imagina- 
tion, disordered as it was, to be diverted to other subjects; 
and most of the Buddhist nations have no other literature 
than that of the Sutras ^ 

If we have dwelt at such length on the errors of Bud- 
dhism, it is, first, on account of its historical importance in 
the past, and even in the present state of humanity ; but it 
is also in order to caution certain minds as much as possible 
against the illusions it may present. Doubtless it is little to 
be feared that its frightful asceticism should make proselytes 
amongst us ; transmigration, annihilation, and atheism are 
little likely, we imagine, to attract many adherents. Never- 
theless, Buddhism has its attractive side. The Reformer 
himself is a grand figure, we may even say a perfect one. 

' A. Remnsat, Foe A'otie A7, p. 138. ^ •• - ^~- 

* No doubt this is the reason why the Sutras are so numerous and so 
extravagant, as they had to satisfy all the wants of Buddhist believers. 


In his life there is not a fault, not a stain. The virtues, he 
inspired were true and often splendid, even if his principles 
were false. A hero himself, he inspired heroism in others. 
His code of morality, erroneous as it is, redeems its errors by 
an austerity that nothing can discourage ; its vices are neither 
low nor common. Self-renunciation carried to such a degree, 
even when it is misguided, is still worthy of esteem, for the 
folly of the ascetic may excite pity but never contempt. It 
is not, therefore, surprising that Buddhism, especially when it 
was less known, should have called forth admiration. Even 
its resemblance to Christianity has not failed to deceive 
believers as well as those hostile to the Christian faith. 
The latter chose to consider it the rival of the religion they 
opposed, w hile the former saw in it a reflection of the doctrines 
they venerated. Now, however, it would seem that all these 
misapprehensions, equally untenable, ought to be dispelled. 
Buddhism is perfectly original, in the sense that it has not 
borrowed from strange nations or higher civilizations precepts 
and theories that it has corrupted ; it is exclusively Indian, 
and is an integral outcome of ancient India ; without Brah- 
manism, which it pretended to reform, or the philosophical 
systems it perhaps unwittingly propagated, it could not have 
been possible, nor could it have been accounted for. 

However, if Buddhism has learnt nothing from Christianity, 
it would be a still greater error to suppose that Christianity 
has taken lessons from Buddhism. The study of Buddhism 
is extremely interesting, and the works of Hodgson, Schmidt, 
Csoma, Tumour, Burnouf, Stanislas Julien, Lassen, Foucaux, 
&c., deserve all our gratitude. They reveal to us a page of 
the annals of humanity hitherto unknown or misunderstood ; 
they make us fathom the moral and intellectual life of these 
nations, who after all are our brothers, little as they perhaps 
resemble us. But besides this, Buddhism can teach us 
nothing, and to follow its teaching would be disastrous to 


us. Notwithstanding its specious appearance, it is but 
a tissue of contradictions, and it is no calumny to say that, 
looked at closely, it is spiritualism without soul, virtue 
without duty, morality without liberty, charity without love, 
a world without nature and without God. What lesson can 
we draw from such teachings ? And how much we should 
have to forget to become its disciples I How much lower 
we should have to descend in the scale of civilization I 

ir « 




Life of Hiouen Thsang. The iviportauce of his travels in India; his 
monastic education in China ; his vocation as a missionary ; his 
departure ; first trials. The Kins; of the Oigurs, the Ttirkish Khan. 
Hiouen-'l'hsangs aj rival in India; his superstitious piety ; ex- 
ploration on the banks of the Ganges ; five years' sojourn in Magadha 
and the convent of Ndlanda ; travels throughout the peninsula ; 
leluni to Ndlanda; SJldditya; contest of the Master of the law 
against the Little Vehicle. His return to China after sixteen 
years'' absence; IIiouen-7'hsa7ig's retreat; translation of the sacred 
Buddhist books ; death of Iliouen-Thsang ; his character. 

After having studied the origin of Buddhism, we pass over 
a space of twelve centuries, and from the year 543 b c, the 
date of the Buddha's death, we reach the 630th year of the 
Christian era, the date at which a Chinese monk, named 
Hiouen-Thsang [the Master of the Lazv)—2. barbaric name 
which henceforth becomes familiar and even venerated — 
travelled through India. Ilioucn-Thsang's travels are known 
by two works, which that excellent sinologist Stanislas Julicn 
has translated from the Chinese into French : one is the 
Histoire de sa vie ei de ses voyages, by two of his disciples, 
Hoei'-Li and Yen-Thsong ; the oiher is a collection of Hiouen- 


Thsang's own Memoirs on the western countries {Si:j'u-h') 
he travelled over for sixteen consecutive years. By western 
countries India is more especially understood, as it is in 
fact situated to the west of China. 

By the help of these two authentic documents, we will 
study Buddhism as it existed in the Indian peninsula twelve 
hundred years after the Nirvana of the Tathagata, and about 
four hundred years before the invasion of the Moslem. 

However, in order thoroughly to appreciate Hiouen- 
Thsang we must consider his position, not only among the 
five or six heads of missions whom he imitated and sur- 
passed, or who followed him, but in the general effect of 
that great movement which, for so many centuries, incited all 
Buddhist China towards India. Facts and records of all 
kinds attest uninterruptedly and wiih undeniable authenticity 
that this movement, which still exists, was of national 
importance. Hiouen-Thsang, in the seventh century of 
the Christian era, assisted it as much as lay in his power; 
but he only followed it and took his part, after or before 
many others. 

It appears certain that two hundred and seventeen years 
before Christ, a Sramana had first penetrated into the 
Chinese Empire, and had brought thither the germ of the 
new religion. This event, recorded in the Chinese Annals \ 
proves that Buddhism, as might be supposed, had its apostles, 
and that the missionary spirit, of which the Buddha himself 
had given the example, was not wanting to this religion more 
than to any other. Proselytism is a duty when it is believed 
that men can be saved by a truth already in our possession ; 
and this is one of the most noble if not the most justifiable 
pretentions of Buddhism. 

However, China was not destined to receive Buddhism nor 

* Rdmusat, Foe Koue Ki, p^ 41, and Landresae, preface to Foe Koue 
Kij p. 38. 


to see it propagated by the apostles who came from India. 
This nation, which seems to do everything in an inverted 
order, far from waiting for the rehgious faith to be brought 
to it, went to seek for it in foreign lands. It was as it were 
proselytism reversed. The Chinese pilgrims, for they cannot 
be called missionaries, went to India, some thousand 
miles from their own country, to imbibe a'purer dogma or 
to revive a failing faiih. It was necessary to do this several 
times, and during six centuries there were constant pilgrim- 
ages carried on, with more or less success. 

This is certainly a unique fact in the history of religions, 
and it would seem that no other example can be quoted in 
the annals of humanity ; for if we take two of the best 
known, Christianity and Mohammedanism, we find that 
both have been propagated in the opposite manner. 
Christianity, which sprang from an obscure corner of Judea, 
was spread by missions and preaching over the Greco- 
Roman world, which it soon subjugated. Through its 
apostles it conquered by degrees the barbarians in different 
parts of Europe, and at- the present day it is still through its 
missionaries that it seeks to carry its benefits to the utter- 
most parts of the globe, and more especially to China. But 
the nations were never converted, nor was their Christianity 
strengthened by returning to the spot from whence Christi- 
anity had issued; even the crusades, admirable as they were, 
did not attempt this object; and Europe did not free the 
Holy Sepulchre fiom the Saracens in order to learn more 
about the faith it professed. As for Mohammedanism, it was 
propagated like the Christian faith, far from the place of its 
birth. It spread rapidly and extensively, but the nations 
converted by force and by the sword never came, to receive 
its tenets, to the place where the prophet was born. The 
pilgrimage to Mecca was always an act of piety, never 
a religious teaching. 

CM. i] LIFE OP HlOVEN'tnsANG 183 

The Chinese, therefore, retain this kind of privilege, and 
the manner in which they appropriated Buddhism to them- 
selves is not the least of their peculiarities. 

The first Chinese pilgrim who wrote down his travels in 
India was Chi-tao-'an. He travelled at the beginning of the 
fourth century, that is about eighty years before Fa-Hian. 
His book, entitled Description of the Western Countries, is 
probably lost, or at least it has not yet been discovered in 
the convents, where it possibly remains concealed. It is 
only known by the very brief mention of it made in 
encyclopedias or biographies published some centuries later. 
The extent of the work is unknown, but Stanislas Julien 
seems to think its loss is much to be regretted. 

The second journey recorded is that of Fa-Hian. His 
harrative, which has reached us, is famous under th^ name 
of Foe Koue Ki, or Recollections of the Kingdoms of the 
Buddha, It was a real revelation when, some fifty years 
ago, Abel Rdmusat, aided by Klaproth and Landresse, brought 
out a translation which gave the first idea of this narrative. 
However limited this was, it threw a ray of light, and, thanks 
to the details it contained, it was at once seen, notwith- 
standing its omissions and defects, what resources such 
documents afforded. Fa-Hian had travelled fifteen years in 
India, from the year 399 to the year 414. But he had only 
travelled over thirty kingdoms, and his intelligence did not 
equal his courage. His short narrative is obscure by reason 
cf its conciseness. The notes that Abel R^musat, Klaproth, 
and Landresse added were not sufficient to render it peifectly 
intelligible. However, it was already a great work to have 
taken this glorious initiative, and this first discovery promised 
many others more fruitful and more complete. 

About a hundred years after Fa-Hian, two pilgrims, HoeV- 
Seng and Sung-Yun, sent to India by order of an empress, 
wrote a description of their journey, but with even fewer 

184 BUDDHISM IN INDIA [pt. 11 

details than Fa-Hian. Ch. Fred. Neumann has translated 
this account into German in his Recollections of the Pilgrimages 
0/ the Buddhist Monks ^. HoeV-Seng and Sung-Yun seem 
more especially to have travelled through the northern parts 
of India, and they remained two whole years in the Udyana 

After these two narratives we come to Hiouen-Thsang's, 
which is of much greater compass, and in every point 
infinitely more instructive. This work is entitled Si-yu-h\ 
or Memoirs on the Western Countries. It consists of about 
600 pages in quarto in the Chinese text, that is to say it is 
ten or twelve times longer than that of Fa-Hian. It was 
honoured by passing through several imperial editions. 

To complete the Memoirs of Hiouen-Thsang must be 
mentioned the History of his life by his two disciples, who add 
a quantity of curious facts to the dry statistics of the Me7i\oirs. 

Between Hiouen-Thsang's journey and that of fifiy-six 
monks a hundred years elapse, or at least it was in 730 
that a learned man called I-tsing drew up, by virtue o3f an 
imperial decree, * The History and itinerary of the monks of 
the dynasty of the Thangs, who travelled to the west of 
China in search of the Law.' This work is rather less 
extensive than that of Fa-Hian. 

Finally, to complete the series of Chinese pilgrimages in 
India, there is the Itinerary 0/ Khi-Nies journey through 
the Western Countries. By the emperor's orders Khi-Nie had 
left China in 964 at the head of three hundred Samaneans, 
and remained absent from his country twelve years. It 
seems that there only exists a few memoranda of this long 
journey, not more that eight quarto pages, which a learned 
man has included in one of his works. 

Such is the substance of the narratives by the Chinese 

' Sung-Yun's short account will be found translated in Beallj 
Fa-Hian, pp. 1 74-208. (Translator's note.) 

CH. i] Lif£ oP niOUEN-THSANG 1^5 

pilgrims; and in translating llic BiograpJ.y and ]\Ii?uoirs 
of Hioiicn-Thsang, Stanislas Julien has given the most 
interesting portions of these narrations. These two works 
are far superior to all the others, and in comparing Iliouen- 
Thsang to his predecessors and his £Ucccs^o^s, his great 
superiority over them, both in the extent and in the exactness 
of his information, is strikingly shown. Iliouen-Thsang was 
gifted with a real aptitude for this kind of investigation, and 
had he lived at a difTerent time, and amongst ourselves, he 
would certainly have been classed among the most learned 
and illustrious geographers and travellers. 

It is true that the days in which he lived were pccullaily 
favourable to studies of this kind. From political and com- 
mercial, as much as fiom religious reasons, the Chinese 
emperors cf the seventh century, either of the SouV or the 
Thang dynasties, appear to have taken great interest in the 
western countries, and more cspeci.dly in India. Besides 
the missions of the Buddhist monks, there weie a great 
number of missions composed of generals and magistrates, 
who all brought back from their travels very useful docu- 
ments. The Chinese government, which in those days had, 
it would seem, much more intercourse with India than at 
present, did not fail to utilize all these documents and place 
them within reach of the public. • Julien mentions 
no less than eiglit large works of this kind which were 
pul)lished in the course of the seventh century. 

With regard to pilgiims and famous men of learning 
their number was considerable, and the services they rendered 
were brilliant enough to excite public admiration — even in 
the most remote times — and to induce the ancients to preserve 
their history in special writings. The St. Petersburg library 
possesses eight Chinese miscellanies, some of which have 
twenty or Iwo-and-twenly volumes in quarto on the biogra- 
phies of the most celebrated Buddhists. The first of these 


biographies was composed from the year 502 to the year 556; 
and the last is almost of modern times, having been compiled 
in 1777. The others belong to the seventh, tenth, eleventh, 
thirteenth, fifteenth, and seventeenth centuries; for China, 
although often invaded by foreign nations, has .known neither 
the intellectual cataclysm, called in western history the inva- 
sion of the barbarians, nor the darkness of the Middle Ages. 

Even from the beginning of the eighth century, in 713, 
that is after six or seven hundred years of almost unin- 
terrupted communication, the multitude of works brought 
back from India was sufiicisnlly cumbersome to necessitate 
voluminous catalogues, in wiiich the titles of the books were 
classed according to their dites, followed by the names 
of the translators and editors, with more or less detailed 
notices. One cf tlicse catalogues, printed in 1306 under 
the Yucns, comprised fourteen hundred and forty works, 
and was itself but the epitome of four others, successively 
published in 730, 788, ion, and 1037. It was the collective 
work of twenty-nine learned men ' versed in the languages,' 
who were associated together for this long work, and 
of a Samanean cspecial'y appointed to verify the accuracy 
of the Indian words. Besides these catalogues, the Chinese 
had other collections that contained analyses of Buddhist 
wrilings, intended to take the place of this mass of unwieldy 
books. The 7\hin-i-iicn^ which exists in the Public Library 
in Paris, and whence Stanislas Julien drew the most in- 
structive informaiion, is a compilation of this kind *. 

* One of the most eminent services Stanislas Jul en rendered to 
Ijiiddhistical learning is having established methodical and unquestion- 
able rules for the restitution ot Sanskrit names mutilated by the Chinese 
transcripts. As there is no alphabet in the Chinese language, and 
several articulations are lacking, the foreign words of which it tried to 
represent the sound were often so altered as to be absolutely unrecogniz- 
able. To return to them their original form was a most difficult 
problem, which both Remusat and Burnouf had, for lack of information, 
failed to solve. 

cii. i] LIFE OF HtOUEN-TllSANG 1C7 

With regard to the translation itself of the sacred books, 
it was the object of the most minute care, and surrounded 
with every possible guarantee. Colleges of translators, 
authorized by imperial decrees, were odicially appointed. 
Th's work of translation necessitated the employment of 
whole convents ; emperors themselves did not disdain to 
write prefaces for these books, intended for the religious and 
moral instruction of their subjects. Out of piety and respect 
for the traditions of their ancestors, the dynasty reigning 
at the present moment in China has had reprinted, in an 
oblong folio size, all the ancient Chinese, Tibetan, 
Manchou and Mongolian translations, and this immense 
collection fills no less than thirteen hundred and ninety-two 

We will now study Hiouen-Tlisang's share in this vast 
enterprise. When he followed 'his vocation as missionary, 
the Buddhist faith had been publicly adopted in his country 
for about five hundred years (the year 61 or 65 of our era) 
It had reaped great triumphs, and had sustained di.-mal 
eclipses. Hiouen-Th^ang strove, many others, to revive 
it during one of its periods cf decline ; but if he was one of 
its most useful and enlightened apostles, he was not the 
only one, and it would be showing little appreciation of his 
worth if a glory that he shares with many of his co- 
religionists were exclusively attributed to him. This point 
must not be lost sight of in studying his biography, which is 
calculated to excite the greatest curiosity ; for it may be 
doubted whether in our western countries, in the midst 
of the seventh century, it would be possible to find a literary 
and religious personage more interesting than Iliouen- 
Thsang, notwithstanding his prejudices and his incred ble 

A native of Tchin-Lieou, in the district of Keou-Chi, 
Hiouen-Thsang belonged to an honourable family, who had 


held important posts in his province. His father, Hoei*, 
had refused, out of discretion and love of study, to follow the 
career of his ancestor, and had avoided public duties in times 
of civil disturbances. Having undertaken himself the 
education of his four sons, he soon noticed the precocious 
intelligence and earnestness of the youngest, Hioucn-Thsang, 
and he devoted himself to the culture of these remarkable 
dispositions. The child repaid him for his care, and at 
a tender age was confided to the management of his second 
brother, who had embraced a religious life in one "of the 
monasteries of Lo-Yang, the eastern capital. He displayed 
the same diligence and prodigious aptitude at the convent 
as under his paternal roof, and by an exception, which 
the elevation and steadiness of his character more even than 
his knowledge justified, he was admitted without examination 
dt the age of thirteen among the monks. The fact is that 
even at this early period his vocation had revealed itself, and 
*his sole desire was to become a monk in order to propagate 
afar the glorious Law of the Buddha.' The books he 
studied most particularly, and with which he was thoroughly 
acquainted, were the sacred book of the Nie-pan (Nirvana) 
and the Che-la-ching-lun (MaMj'dna Samparigraha ^dslra, 
the complete summary of the Great Vehicle). 

For seven years the youthful novice went with his brother 
to all the most renowned schools to finish his education, and 
in the midst of the sanguinary revolutions that were then 
agitating the empire, he underwent trials that prepared him 
for those he had to undergo in his future travels. He 
remained a few years in the Chou district, which was less 
disturbed than the others, and he there diligently followed 
the lectures of the best qualified masters. The two brothers 
vied with one another in learning and virtue, and in the 
Kong-hoei'-sse convent of the town of Tching-To'u they 
were both noticed for *the brilliancy of their talents, the 


purity of their morals, and the nobility of their hearts.' 
At the age of twenty Hiouen-Thsang finished his novitiate 
and received full monastic orders ; this took place in the 
fifth year of the Wou-te period, that is in 622. During the 
summer retreat that follo;i'ed, he studied discipline, the 
Vinaya, and continued investigating the Sutras and Sastras. 
He still had some doubts about different points of doctrine 
that neither he nor his brother had been able to solve, and 
in order to decide these, he went from town to town during 
six years, to consult the professors who were considered the 
most learned. But even at that time he was himself a con- 
summate master, and in the convents where he sojourned he 
was often requested to explain some of the most important 
works. Thus, in the convent of Thien-hoang-sse, at King- 
Tcheou, he expounded three times during the autumn season 
the tw^o books of the Mdhaydna Sampari^raha Sasira and 
XhQ Abhidhanna Sds/ra. Such was the fame of his teaching, 
that the king, Han-yang, accompanied by his oflTicers and 
a muliitude of monks, came to hear him, and were the 
admiring spectators of a brilliant victory the Master of the 
Law gained over those who had come to interrogate and 
discuss with him. At Tch'-ang'na his success was no less 
brilliant, and the oldest and most scholarly masters admitted 
that this young man's knowledge surpassed theirs. Neverthe- 
less, Iliouen-Thsang felt that he still lacked many things, 
and far from being blinded by the praise that was lavished 
on him, he resolved to travel in the countries of the west, 
in order to consult wise men as to certain points of the Law 
on which his mind was still disturbed. Moreover, he recalled 
to mind the travels of Fa-Hian and of Tchi-Yun, the first 
scholars of their day, and ' the glory of seeking the Law 
which was to guide men and procure their happiness' 
seemed to him worthy of imitation. 

In concert with several other monks, he presented a 

190 BUDDHISM IN INDIA [pt. ii 

petition for leave to travel in India ; but having been refused 
by an imperial decree, he decided to start alone, notwith- 
standing the difiiculties and perils which awaited him. He 
was still hesitating when the recollection of a dream of his 
molher's and one of his own settled his mind, together with 
the predictions of a skilful astrologer who had drawn his 
horoscope, and whose prophecy came true. Hiouen-Thsang 
was at this time twenty-six years of age. 

He at once repaired to Liang-Tcheou, the general resort 
of inhabitants of the west bank of the Yellow River and 
of all the merchants of the neighbouring countries. He was 
preparing to leave this city, after having delivered there, as 
elsewhere, several well-attended lectures on the Law, when 
a first obstacle nearly overthrew all his plans. The governor 
of the city had received the strictest orders from the 
imperial administration to prevent anybody leaving the 
country. But, thanks to the secret assistance of some 
professors who approved his purpose, Hiouen-Thsang 
succeeded in escaping from the city, remaining hidden 
during the day and travelling all night. A little further 
on, at Koua-Tcheou, he would have been arrested on the 
denunciation of spies sent in pursuit of him, if the governor, 
touched by the frankness of the pilgrim, who confessed who 
he was, and by his magnanimous courage, had not saved 
him by destroying the official document containing his 

Two novices who had followed him so far took fright 
at these first obstacles and abandoned him. Left alone and 
without a guide, Hiouen-Thsang bethought him that the 
best May to procure one was to go and prostrate himself at 
the feet of the Mi-les (IMaitreya Eodhisatwa) ^ statue and 
olTer up fervent prayers. The next day he rcpea'ed ihem 

' Maitreya was the future Euddlia, whom Sakya-muni consecrated a^ 
his successor when he quitted the'Tushita. 


with equal faith, when he suddenly saw near him a man from 
the barbarian countries come in, who declared his wish to 
become a monk and receive his instructions, and who 
willingly consented to be his guide. 

The flight was not easy. At the extreme frontier, about 
fifteen miles from the city, it was necessary to pass unper- 
ceived through a barrier, ' which was the key to the western 
frontier.' It was situated near the widest part of an ex- 
tremely rapid river, and beyond this barrier five signal 
towers, guarded by vigilant sentinels, had also to be avoided. 
The barrier was cleverly evaded, thanks to the youthful 
guide ; but he declined to go any further, and he left 
the Master of the Law to continue his perilous journey 
alone. The twenty-four long miles that separated the 
barrier and the towers was a desert of arid sand, where the 
road was only marked by heaps of bones and the marks of 
horses' feet. No sooner had Hiouen-Thsang entered it 
than he was assailed by visions caused by the mirage; 
he supposed them to be delusions, created by the demons 
who wished to oppose his undertaking; but he heard in 
the air a voice that cried to him to sustain his courage: 
* Fear not ! Fear not T 

Reaching by night the first tower, which he was obliged 
to approach in order to get water, he ran the risk of being 
killed by the arrows of the sentinels. Fortunately the com- 
mander of the guard-house, who was a zealous Buddhist, 
consented to let him pass, and moreover gave him letters 
of recommendation to the chief of another station, to whom 
he was nearly related. The traveller was obliged to make 
a long circuit to avoid the last station, where he would have 
found obdurate and violent men ; but he lost his way in the 
second desert he had to cross. To crown his misfortunes, 
the goat-skin that contained his supply of water was empty. 
In uiter despair he was about to retrace his steps and return 

192 BUDDHISM IN INDIA [pt. ii 

eastwards. But no sooner had he gone three miles in this 
new direction than, seized by remorse, he said to himself, 
* Originally I swore if I did not reach Thien-tchou (India) 
I would never take one step to return to China. Why have 
I come here ? I prefer to die going west than to return to 
the east and live.' He therefore resumed his way, and 
fervently praying to Kouan-in (Avalokitcsvara), he again 
directed his steps towards the north-west. Four nighls 
and five days he wandered in the desert without a diop 
of fiesh water to refie h his parched throat. He kept up 
Lis drooping courage by reafling in the midst of his prayers 
the Pradjnd-Pdramita and Avalokitcsvaia's Siitra. However, 
overcome by thirst, fatigue, and want of sleep, he was about 
to perish when a breeze that rose in the night revived him, 
as well as his horse, which was almost equally exhausted. 
They therefore managed to struggle on, and in a few 
moments they reached the bank of a pond surrounded 
by fresh pasture-land, towards which the animal's infallible 
instinct had led him. 

Aficr two more days of painful journeying he at last 
reached a convent in I-goit (ilic country of the Oigurs), where 
he found some Chinese monks. 

These first details, wliieh bear an evident impress of truth, 
nctwillistanding some exaggerations on the part of his 
biographers, give us an insight into the character of Hiouen- 
Thsang, as well as the terrible obstacles he had to overcome. 
Besides the knowledge which had already made him famous, 
he possessed an imperturbable faith, boundless courage, and 
an energy that nothing could dishearten ; he was, in fact 
a perfect missionary. 

Other tiials of a different nature, but no less formidable, 
still awaited him. No sooner had lie rested a few days at 
I-gou than the powerful king cf Kao-Tch'ang, one of the 
tributaries of Cliina, cent messengers to invite him to come 


to his kingdom. This was a command the poor pilgrim 
could not disobey. The reception which the king Khio-win- 
ta'i gave him was no less cordial than it was magnificent, 
but when, ten days later, the Master of the Law wished 
to leave, the king declared his firm intention of keeping 
him to the end of his life, as teacher of his subjects and 
chief of the monks appointed to instruct them. In vain 
did Hiouen-Thsang protest, alleging the sacred purpose 
of his journey, the king remained inflexible. But the 
INIasler of the Law took on his side a no less extreme 
resolution, and knowing that ' the king, notwithstanding his 
great power, had no contiol over his mind and will/ he 
refused to eat, determining to die of hunger sooner than 
abandon his deugn. Three long days had already elapsed, 
when the king, ashamed and afraid of the consequences 
of his obduracy, respectfully offered him his apologies and 
set him at liberty. Feeling but litde reassured afier so much 
cruelty, Hiouen-Thsang made the king swear he would keep 
his word, first by taking to witness the sun, and then the 
Buddha, before whose statue they worshipped together. 
The king swore, in the presence of Lis mother the princess 
TcHang, that he would always treat the Master of the Law as 
a brother, on condition that on his return from India, he 
would come back to the country o{ Kao-Tch'a7ig, and spend 
three years there. Hiouen-Thsang consented to this, and 
sixteen years after fulfilled his promise. Moreover he con- 
sented to remain another month in the Kao TcKang country, 
and he devoted all that time to the religious instruction 
of the court, which, with the king at its head, came every 
evening to listen to his pious lessons. 

When the month had expired, the Master of the Law 
departed, loaded with rich presents and accompanied by 
a numerous escort he had himself chosen ; he was provided 
with a quantity of provisions, besides twenty-four letters of 

194 BUDDHISM IN INDIA [pt. ii 

recommendation to the sovereigns of the different countries 
he had to pass through. In an elegantly expressed letter, 
which his biographers have carefully given at full length and 
which was indeed worth preserving, he thanked the king for 
his great generosity. 

The remainder of the journey, thanks to all these supplies, 
was somewhat less fatiguing, although interspersed with many 
hardships. On leaving the kingdom of Kutch, the first in 
which the pilgrim found Buddhism the established religion, 
the caravan had to crocs a high mountain, Ling-Chan 
{Musuraola) covered with perpetual snows, which took seven 
days, and where they lost fourteen men and a quantity 
of oxen and horses. Afler having skirted the lake of 
Issikul and gone fifty miles beyond it, Hiouen-Thsang 
met, in the c'ty of Sou-che, the Turkish Khan {Tou-Kie), 
who received him sumptuously in his tents of felt, and who, 
after a banquet, surrounded by his horde, listened to his 
pious instructions on the Ten Virtues and the Six Paramitas 
{Po-lo-me), dismissed him, loaded with magnificent presents, 
and gave him an interpreter to conduct him to Kapisa, in India. 
At Samarkand, Hiouen-Thsang tried to convert the king and 
the people, who were fire-worshippers, and by appointing 
monks, he was able to hope that he had re-established 
Buddhism, which had in former days been brought there, 
as the presence of two deserted convents attested. At Baktra 
(Balk, Fo-ko-lo), he first found Buddhism flourishing, with 
its monuments, relics, and legends of all sorts. There 
were no less than a hundred convents and three thousand 
monks, — all devoted to the study of the Little Vehicle. In 
a convent called the New Convent, an imposing edifice, richly 
decorated, situated north-west of the city, they showed the 
Buddha*s water-jug, his broom, and one of his front teeth. 
Qn festivals, the three relics were exhibited, and the pcoph 
and the monks worshipped them. It was said, in the city 


of Poli\ situated about thirty miles from Baktra (Balk) that 
the Talhagata had come to these places, and two stupas had 
been raised as memorials of his presence and his benevolence. 

In the kingdom of Bamian (Faji-yen-nd) Hiouen-Thsang 
found no less ardent faith, with convents, stupas, magnificent 
statues of the Buddha, and monks belonging to divers 
schools, devoted to the study of the Law. After having 
twice crossed the Black Mountains (Hindu Kush) and the 
kingdoms of Kapisa {Kia-pi-che) and Lampa {Lan-po) he 
entered the kingdom of Nagarahara, where he saw the first 
monuments of the great monarch Asoka {Wou-yeou) whose 
dominion seems to have extended to these distant countries. 
A stupa three hundred feet high, erected at the gates of the 
city, was attributed to him. 

From this moment the pilgrim found everywhere traces 
of this potentate, whose empire appears to have comprised 
the greater part of the peninsula. 

We have shown Hiouen-Thsang's courage and the know- 
ledge he had acquired about the most difficult religious 
subjects ; but his character would not be complete if we did 
not also mention some of his superstitions. 

In the kingdom of Nagarahara, he visited a city wh'ch 
bore the unknown name of City of the Top of Fo's Cranium. 
The following account gives the reason of this singular 
name. On the second story of a pavilion, in a small tower 
'formed of seven precious things,' a famous relic called 
Usnibha was enshrined. This bone, enclosed in a casket, 
was m.ore than a foot in circumference. It was of a yellowish- 
white colour, and the minute holes where the hair had grown 
were still distinctly visible. Those who wished to know the 
extent of their sins and their virtues used to pound perfumes, 
and with the powder make a soft paste which they deposited, 
well wrapped up in silk, on the sacred bone. The box was 
then closed, and according to the state of the paste when it 

N 2 

195 BUDDHISM IN INDIA [rr. ii 

was taken out again, each of the ccnsulling parties knew 
what amount of happiness or misfortune they might expect. 
Hiouen-Thsang received for his share a moulded figure of 
the Tree of Wisdom (Bodhidruma), while a young Sramana 
who accompanied him only obtained the figure of a lotus. 
The custodian of the sacred bone, seeing this miracle, was 
delighted ; he snapped his fingers and, scalleiing flowers, he 
said to Hiouen-Thsang : ' Master, what you have obtained 
is exceedingly rare, and clearly shows that you already 
possess a portion of the Pou-!i (Dodhi, Wisdom of the 
Buddha).' They also showed the pilgrim, who on his side 
was most generous, other relics no less saintly, and among 
others, the eyeball of the Buddha, which was so brilliant, the 
biographers say, that it was seen to shine through the box. 
They also showed him the Buddha's raiment {sanghdti) and 
his staff. 

It might be supposed that in this first adventure Hiouen- 
Thsang was the dupe of some cunning trick; but the 
following is still more complicated and more extraordinary. 

He heard that six miles distant from the city of Teng- 
Kouang-tch'ing (Pradlparasmipura) there was a cave where 
the Tathagata, having conquered the king of Dragons who 
inhabited it, had left his shadow. He resolved to go and 
render him homage * not wishing/ he said, ' to have come so 
near without worshipping him, and well aware that if he 
lived for a thousand kalpas, it would be difficult to find, even 
once, the real shadow of the Buddha.' In vain was it 
represented to him that the roads were dangerous and 
infested with robbers ; in vain was it urged that for the last 
two or three years hardly any of those rare visitors who were 
so imprudent as to face this peril had returned; nothing 
could shake his purpose. After a great deal of difficulty he 
found, on a farm belonging to a convent, an old man who 
consented to act as his guide, No sooner had he started. 


Cti. i] UfK of mOt/£N-THSANG 197 

than he was attacked by five ruffians, who rushed upon him 
sword in hand. Iliouen-Thsang cahnly showed his religious 
habit and disarmed them by firm and kindly words. 

The grotto he was bound for was situated near a river 
between two mountains, and the entrance was through 
a kind of door in a stone wall. On looking into it Hiouen- 
Thsang could discern nothing, but following the instructions 
of the old man, he found his way in the darkness and reached 
the spot where the shadow rested. Then, filled with deep 
faith, he made the hundred salutations prescribed; but still 
he saw nothing. He bitterly reproached himself for his sins, 
wept with loud sobs and gave way to his grief, devoutly 
reciting the Chmg-man-King (the Sri-mdlddevi Sinhandda 
Sidra) and the Gathas of the Buddhas, prostrating himself 
at each strophe. He had scarcely finished the first hundred 
salutations, than he saw on the eastern wall of the grotto 
a slight glimmer which immediately vanished ; it was as wide 
as a monk's jug. He recommenced his salutations, and 
a second light as wide as a bowl appeared and disappeared 
as rapidly. Filled with enthusiasm, he declared he would 
not leave the grotto till he had seen the shadow of the 
Venerable of the Century. At last, after two hundred more 
salutations, the cavern was suddenly flooded with light, and 
the shadow of the Tathagata, of dazzling whiteness, stood 
out upon the wall, ' like when the clouds part, and suddenly 
reveal the marvellous image of the Golden Mountain.' 
A dazzling brilliancy lighted up the outline of his noble 
countenan-e, and his raiment was of a yellow-red colour. 
From his knees upwards, the beauty of his person shone in 
the full light. To the left, and to the right, and behind the 
Buddha, could b^ seen all the shadows of the Bodhisatwas 
and venerable Sramanas who form his retinue. Hiouen- 
Thsang, in an ecstasy of delight, gazed intently on the 
sublime and peerless object of his admiration. When he had 

198 BUDDHISM IN INDIA [pt. ii 

sufficiently contemplated this miracle, he commanded from 
afar six men who waited outside, to bring fire and burn 
perfumes. As soon as the fire blazed, the shadow of the 
Buddha disappeared; and directly the fire went out, the 
image reappeared again. Five of the men saw it ; but one 
of them did not see anything whatever. Hiouen-Thsang 
respectfully prostrated himself, proclaimed the praises of 
the Buddha, and scattered flowers and perfumes. The 
divine apparition having ceased, he took his leave and 

To all appearance, the pilgrim was once more deceived 
by some charlatan's trick ; perhaps, however, he was his own 
dupe, and the old man who accompanied him gave him the 
true explanation : * Master,' he said, ' without the sincerity 
of your faith, and the energy of your prayers, you would not 
have obtained such a miracle.' The history of superstitions 
is full of such hallucinations ; and over-excited imaginations, 
like that of Hiouen-Thsang, are too ready to receive them, 
if circumstances permit. The countries the pilgrim travelled 
through have at all times been given up to the wildest 
dreams, and when he sees the traces of the Buddha's footsteps, 
on a large stone on the north bank of the Subhavastu that 
he crosses, he does not hesitate to say ingenuously: *that 
these traces appear long or short, according to the degree 
of virtue possessed by those who look at them, and according 
to the energy of their prayers.' 

It will at once be understood that being so easily satisfied 
with what he sees himself, he is still more so with what is 
related to him ; for he is as credulous with regard to tradi- 
tions as he is about his own supernatural visions. Near to 
the mountain Hi-lo, he visited the spot where Jou-lai (the 
Tathagata), filled with gratitude towards the Yakshas, gave 
them his own body as alms ; the place, not far from Moung- 
Kie-U (probably Manghelli or Manikiala), marked by a stupa, 


M-hcre Jou-lai pierced his body with a knife ; the spot near 
Takshasila where, as chief of a great kingdom, he made an 
offering of a thousand heads ; in the same way as near 
Purushapura (actually Peshawar) he saw the spot, marked by 
one of Asoka's slupas, where during a thousand successive 
existences Jou-lai gave his eyes as alms ; and not far distant 
from the river Sin-iou (the Indus) the spot where Siddhartha, 
while only prince royal, gave his body lo appease the hunger 
of seven tiger-cUbs. Henceforth Hiouen-Thsang will for 
the remainder of his journey live in the midst of this world 
of marvels and delusions ; and he mentions hundreds of such 
miracles \\\^ the most imperturbable composure. 

After various journeyings in Udyana, and the valley of 
upper Sindh and the Panjab, he entered by the north-west 
into the kingdom of Kashmir [Kia-chi-mi-lo, Kasmira). In 
its capital he found no less than a hundred convents, in- 
habited by five thousand monks. There also he saw four 
enormous stupas, that had been built in former days by the 
king Wou-yeou (Asoka); each of these stupas containing 
Che lis (sanras), that is personal relics of the Tathagata. 

As the report of Hioucn-Thsang's fame had preceded him 
in Kashmir, the king, to do him honour, sent one of his 
uncles to meet him, as far as the Stone Gale, on the western 
frontier of the country, and himself went to receive him at 
some distance from the capital. This res-peclful greeting 
was but the prelude to more substantial favours. The king, 
not satisfied with admitting at his table the foreign monk 
who came from Great China {Mo-Jio-tchi-na, Maha Tchlna), 
gave him twenty scribes to copy for him all the Sutras and 
Saslras he wished to have, and he moreover appointed five 
persons as his personal attendants, instructing them to furnish 
him, at the expense of the treasury, with all he might require. 
For centuries past, learning had been held in great honour 
in this kingdom, and the knowledge of the Law had been 

200 wpdh/sm in India [pt. n 

carried so far that in the four hundredth year after the 
Nie-pan of Jou-lai (the Tatliagata's Nirvana) the king 
Kanishka [Kia-ni-sse-kid) held a council of five hundred 
learned monks, under the presidency of Vasubandhu, which 
drew up three Commentaries on the Pitakas. In the convent 
where llie pilgrim resided, he followed the learned lessons 
of a professor of the Law, who explained to him all the 
diflTicult points of the principal Sastras ; and the lectures, at 
which the Chinese monk displayed the most lively and acu:e 
intelligence, became so interesting, that learned men came 
from all parts of the kingdom to hear them. The success 
and favour sliown to a stranger soon excited the jealousy 
of the monks of Kashmir, but owing to the superiority 
of Hiouen-Thsang's intelligence, and his kindness of heart, 
he was able to overcome all enmity, and he spent two whole 
years in this kingdom in order to make a thorough study 
of the sacred books. 

Wherever he found teachers capable of improving his 
knowledge he would slop to hear them and submissively 
follow their instructions. Thus in the kingdom of Chi- 
napali, he spent fourteen months under Vinitaprabha ; in 
that of Djalandhara he passed fouf months under Chandra- 
varma ; in the kingdom of Srughna, he spent one winter and 
spring under Djayagupta ; and in Matipura, half the spring 
and the whole summer under Mitrasena, all renowned 
professors, thoroughly acquainted with the Three Com- 

After having crossed the Ganges several times, in the 
course of his various wanderings, he reached the kingdom 
of Kanyakubja, governed at that time by a generous and 
devout prince called Slladitya, with whom he was destined to 
become more intimately connected. 

On going down the Ganges from Ayodhya to the kingdom 
of Hayamukha, the pilgrim, who might have supposed 

Cii. i] LIFE OP niOUKN-msANG 20t 

himself secure from any further danger, nearly perished in 
a strange manner, and was saved only by a miracle. The 
boat that conveyed him and eighty other persons was 
surprised by a band of pirates. I'hcsc robbers worshipped 
the goddess To-hia (Durga), and every autumn they offered 
up in sacrifice to this divinity, ' to obtain good fortune,' the 
finest and handsomest man they could lay hands on. The 
Master of the Law was chosen as the victim, but not in the 
least dismayed he thus epokc to the rufTians: * If this 
contemptible body were worthy of your sacrifice, I would 
certainly not grudge it to you. But as I have come from 
distant lands to honour the image of the Bodhi and tiie 
Vulture's Peak, to procure sacred writings, and to be 
instructed in the Law, my vow is not yet accomplished ; 
and I fear, most generous men, that in taking my life you 
will call down upon yourselves the greatest calamities.' Jt 
could hardly be expected that robbers would be influenced 
by such pious arguments, and the chief pirate having ordered 
his men to prepare the altar, which was to be made of eaith 
kneaded with water from the river, two of the robbers, 
drawing their swords, drnggcd off the poor monk to sacrifice 
him on tlic spot. Ilioucn-Thsang betrayed no fear or 
emotion, but only asked for a few moments' respite, to 
prepare to enter Nirvana with the necessary joy and 
tranquillity of soul. 

* Then,' his biographers add, 'the Master of the Law thought 
tenderly of Ts'e-chi (Mailreya) and turned all his thoughts to 
the palace of the Tushitas, offering up ardent prayer that he 
might be reborn there, so that he could pay his respects 
and do homage to that Bodliisatwa, and receive the 
Vu-kia-sse-fi-Iun (l^ogachard Bhumi Sdsira\ and hear the • 
explanation of the Good Law {Saddharfud), and attain 
enlightened Intelligence, and then be reborn on earth to 
instruct and convert these men, to make them practise 


acts of superior virtue, and abandon their infamous profession, 
and finally to spread abroad the benefits of the Law, and 
give peace and happiness to all beings. Then he worshipped 
the Buddhas of the ten countries of the world, and seating 
himself in the attitude of meditation, energetically fixed his 
thoughts on Tse-chi (Maitreya Bodhisatwa), without allowing 
any other idea to distract him. Suddenly, it seemed to his 
enraptured mind that he was rising up to IMount Sumeru, 
and that after having passed through one, two, and three 
heavens, he saw the Venerable Maitreya in the palace of the 
Tushitas, seated on a bright throne, surrounded by a 
multitude of Devas. At this moment his body and soul 
were bathed in joy, unconscious that he was near the altar, 
unmindful of the pirates thirsting for his blood. Cut his 
companions burst out in tears and lamentations, when 
suddenly a hurricane arose on all sides, breaking down 
trees, scatteiing clouds of sand, raising great waves upon 
the river and sinking all the boats.' 

The pirates, terror-struck and deprived of all means of 
retreat, exhorted one another to repentance, and threw 
themselves down at the knees of Hiouen-Thsang, who told 
them that those who give themselves up to murder, pUage, 
and impious sacrifices, suffer eternally in the future world. 

* How dare you,' he said to them, ' for the satisfaction 
of this contemptible body, which vanishes in an instant, like 
a flash of lightning or the morning dew, bring upon your- 
selves tortures which will last throughout an infiniie number 
of centuries ? ' 

The robbers, touched by his courage, threw their weapons 
inLo the river, restored to each traveller his stolen goods, 
and respectfully listened to the Five Commandments.' 

When he had reached the banks of the Ganges and the 

^ The Five Commandments are those presciibcd by the Tathagata: 
Not to kill, not to steal, &c. 


Jumna, the pilgrim remained for several years in the places 
made famous by the presence and preaching of the Buddha, 
and he piously visited Sravasti [Chi-lo-fa-siii) the former 
residence of the king Prasenajit [Po-lo-sse-nd) and the 
famous Anatha Pindika; Kapilavastu, the cily where the 
Luddha was born, amongst the ruins of which still lingered 
so many memories of his childhood and youih ; Kusinagara, 
where the Buddha, resting mider the shade of four salas, 
entered for ever into Nirvana; Benares (VaranasT, in 
Chinese Po-lo-m-sse), where he had ' for the first time turned 
the Wheel of the Law' in fiwour of his five disciples; 
Vaisali {Fei-che-Ji), where he had studied under Arata Kalfima 
before appearing in the world, &c. 

In IMagadha {JMo-kie-id) Hioucn-Thsang had still to vi.-it 
places yet more sacred, if it were possible. After having 
spent seven days in visiting the monuments of Pataliputra, 
and before going on to Rajagriha, he travelled thirty miles 
further south to worship the Bodhidruma, the Tree of Wisdom^ 
si ill carefully tended, the Vajrasanam, the Diamond Throne, 
scat of the Buddhas, contemporary it is said of heaven and 
earth, and a number of other monuments almost as venerable. 
It can be imagined with what ardour the devout pilgrim 
pa'd his homage. On beholding the Tree of Wisdom and the 
statue of the Tadiagata, which the Bodhisatwa ?.Iaitrcya 
had erected near it, he contemplated them with an ardent 
faiih, and prostrating himself before them, he gave vent to 
his grief in lamentations. 

* Alas,' he said w iih a sigh, ' I know not what was the 
condition of my miserable existence at t'.:e lime the Budiiha 
attained perfect wisdom : and now that 1 have reached ihis 
spot, I can only meditate with shame on the immensity and 
depth of my sins.' 

At these words, a flood of tears bathed his face, and 
all those who saw the Master of the Law in this afihcted 

204 BUDDHISM IN INDIA [pt. li 

condition, could not refrain from shedding tears like- 

These places were full of monuments of nil kinds: 
viharas, sanghaiamas, pillars, and especially slupas, most 
of them attributed to the great king Asoka, who, accorilinj^ 
to tradition, had caused eighty-four tiiousand to be built all 
over India. Most of these were in ruins when Iliouen- 
'J'hsang vi: ited them, as they had been already two hundred 
years before in the days of Fa-Hian ; nnd this dilapidation 
made them doubtless still more venerable in the eyes of the 
courageous pilgrims who had come so far to worship them. 

Ilioucn-Thcang resided no less than five wliole years in 
IMiigadlia, not to sper.k of the second journey he took there, 
afier having travelled over all the southern and western 
parts of the peninsuli. But this first sojourn, which he 
spent entirely in the great monastery of Nalanda, inhabited 
at that time by ten thousand monks, is so full of interest 
that some details must be given about it. It is interesting 
to know something of the domestic life of one of these vast 
communities which, in the seventh century of our era, were 
fo numerous in India. The sanghilrama of Nalanda, the 
l.irgcst of all, affords this opportunity ; and the descriptions 
of this immense establishment, protected by kings and 
venerated by the faithful, will give us a very fair idea of the 
labours and customs of the Buddhist monks. It was in this 
sanctuary of knowledge and virtue that Hiouen-Thsang 
learnt the Sanskrit language, and acquired the higher know- 
ledge which was to make his fortune among princes, and his 
fame among his fellow-countrymen. 

The immense convent of Nalanda was situated in one 
of the most holy parts of Magadha, about thirty miles from 
the Bodhimanda, the renowned and sacred retreat, where 
after six years of continual austerities Sakya-muni had at last 
attained perfect Buddhahood. Tradition relates that the 


spot on which the convent was eventually built, was originally 
a wood of mango-trees, which rich merchants converted 
by the Tathagata had offered to him. He had resided 
there some time, and in memory of his inexhaustible charity 
towards orphans and the poor, the place had been called 
Nalanda.^ The piety of the kings of that country had not 
failed to strengthen popular belief by embellishing Nalanda 
with magnificent edifices. They had successively built six 
convents, at first separated from each other; but the last 
king had enclosed all these buildings by a single wall. He 
had divided the extensive space between the six convents 
into eight courts, and the monks' habitations were no less 
than four stories high. Towers, pavilions, and domes ro^e 
on all sides, and running streams and shady groves kept all 
cool and fresh. 

In this splendid abode ten thousand monks and novices 
resided, maintained at the expense of the king and the 
neighbouring cities. Devoted to study, they were generally 
followers of the doctrine of the Great Vehicle. The votaries 
of eighteen schools gathered together there, and all the 
sciences were cultivated, from the vernacular writings and 
the Vedas, down to medicine and arithmetic. INIoreover, 
there were halls assigned to lectures, where a hundred 
different professors discoursed every day to the students, who 
had nothing to disturb them from their pious tasks, and 
who, thanks to the generosity with which tjiey were treated, 
could, without appealing to extraneous assistance, obtain 
from the convent the Four necessary things (that is to say, 
raiment, food, lodging and medicines). In fact their pro- 
gress in knowledge was assured, and Nalanda was not only 
the finest vihara in India, but it was the most learned and 

^ Nalanda, composeil of three words, Na alam da, means in Sanskrit : 
He who is never zaeary of giving. The etymology of the word has 
certainly greatly assisted the legend. 

2o6 BUDDHISM IN INDIA [pt. ii 

the most famous for the zeal of its pupils and the talents 
of its masters. It reckoned about a thousand monks who 
could explain twenty works on the Sutras and Sastras ; 
five hundred who knew thirty, and only ten v/ho understood 
but M^\ The Master of the Law, Hiouen-Thsang, was in 
the last class, already deemed eminent. But the Superior 
of the convent, Sllabhadra, had read and fathomed all the 
Sutras and Sastras without exception ; and the high rank 
he occupied was due to his eminent virtue, his learning, and 
his venerable age. 

Such was the holy sanctuary to which the Chinese pilgrim 
had been solemnly invited. Four monks, chosen from among 
the most distinguished, had come to Bodhimanda to bring 
him the invitation. He had accepted it, and when he went 
to Nalanda, two hundred monks, followed by a crowd of the 
faithful, came to meet him with parasols, banners, perfumes, 
and flowers ; they walked round him singing his praises, and 
then led hini to the convent. There, they made him sit on 
an armchair placed on the same platform as the president, 
and the sub-director (Kannadand) striking a gong (ghantCi), 
in a loud voice invited the Master of the Law to stay in the 
vihara, and to make use of all the implements and goods 
belonging to the monks. He was then presented to the Superior 
by twenty men of mature age and dignified appearance, well 
versed in the knowledge of the Sulras and Sastras. When 
Hiouen-Thsang stood before Sllabhadra, he did him homage 
as a disciple. In conformance with the rules of respect, 
established among them, he advanced on his knees, and lean- 
ing on his elbows, beat his feet together, and struck the 
ground with his forehead. Sllabhadra received this homage 
with kindness, and had seats brought for the Master of the 
Law and the monks who accompanied him ; then after having 
questioned and highly praised him, he made his nephew, a 
very capable speaker, relate the history of a long illness froni 


\\liicli he hnd suffered, and ^vhich had been miraculously 
cured, three years before, by a dream, in which three divine 
personages had come and announced to him the future 
arrival of Hiouen-Thsang. 

* Since my journey is in acTcordance with your former 
dream,' replied the pilgrim, much affected, ' be kind enough 
to instruct and enlighten me, and complete my happiness, by 
allowing me to pay you the respect of an obedient and 
devoted disciple.' 

On leaving the Superior, ITiouen-Thsang was established 
with his retinue, consisting of ten persons, in one of the best 
houses of the convent; every day, the necessary provisions 
were sent to him by the king, and two monks, one a Sramana 
and the other a Brahman, who served him, took him out i.i 
a chariot, or on an elephant, or in a palanquin. 

When Hiouen-Thsang was settled at Nalanda, lie only 
went out to visit the sacred places of the neighbourhood : 
Kusagarapura, the ancient capital of IMagadha; the Vulture's 
Peak; the Bamboo grove at Kalanta; the places where the 
fust orthodox Council, under the presidency of Kasyapa, and 
the dissident Council of the General Order had been held ; 
Rajagrihapura ; the slupas and viharas in the vicinity, &c. 
While he remained in tlie convent he diligently followed 
SUabhadra's instructions, making him explain several times 
the books he did not yet know, re-examining those he had 
formerly read, in order to dispel any doubts he might still 
relain ; even perusing the books of the Brahmans, which were 
indispensable for his acquiring a perfect knowledge of 
Sanskrit grammar, among oihers the work of Panini, a sum- 
mary of all the previous works on the same subject. 

The IMaster of the Law thus spent the five years of his 
residence at Nalanda, absorbed in these serious studies. At 
the Qwd of that time he knew the language, and had so 
thoroughly sifted all the books of the Three Commentaries and 

2o3 BUDDHISM IN INDIA [rx. ii 

those of the Crahmans that he no longer required the instruc- 
tions of Sllabhadra and his monks. He therefore gratefully 
took leave of his hosts, and continued the course of his 
pilgrimage. At this period, he had scarcely accomplished 
half his mission, as he had taken three years to get from 
China to IMagadha, where he had resided five years, lie 
had still to travel through the whole of the eastern side of 
the peninsula, the centre, the western part, and to return again 
to IMagadha before retracing his steps homewards. He subse- 
quently devoted eight years to these long peregrinations. 

We will only men'aon the principal incidents of his 

On leaving IMagadha, he travelled through the kingdoms of 
Hiranyaparvata, Champa, Kadjugira, Karnasuvarna, Samatata 
and Tamralipti. There for the first time he heard of the 
Island of Ceylon (Seng-kia-lo, Sinhala), where Buddhism was 
said to be perhaps even more flourishing than in India itself. 
He intended going there by sea, although the passage was no less 
than seven hundred yodjanas, when a southern monk advised 
him to avoid the dangers of such a long voyage by going 
down to the point of land at the extremity of the peninsula, 
whence, after a three days' voyage, he would reach the kingdom 
of the Lion (Sinhala) : Iliouen-Thsang resolved to follow Uiis 
prudent advice. He was not, however, destined to visit Ceylon: 
for when he reached the port of KanchTpura, at the souihern 
extremity of India, and was on the point of embarking, he 
heard that the island was a prey to civil war and famine. He 
therefore merely collected all the information he could obtain 
on the ancient history of Sinhala, on the introduction of 
LuddhiLin, which it was sa:d had been imported there a 
hundred years after the Nirvana of the Buddha by IMahindn, 
biodier of king Asoka,^ and on the chief monuments of the 

* See Rhys Davids* Buddhism, p. 229, ' JNIahinda was A^uka's 
own son.' (^Translator's note.) 

eti. i] LIFE OF HIOUEN-ttlSANG 26c) 

island, &c. But he did not cross the straits, and in company 
with seventy monks of Sinhala he continued exploring the 
continent. Leaving the kingdom of Dravida he went on to 
that of Kongkanapura, where the cap Siddhartha had worn 
when prince royal was piously preserved. In Mahrualtha (the 
country of the Mahrattas) he found the most martial and best 
disciplined population of these countries. The king was of 
the Kshatriya race ; and when a general was defeated, he was 
punished by having a woman's dress sent to him. The 
Buddha's law was held in as high honour in this kingdom 
as in any of the others, and Hiouen-Thsang saw a number of 
monuments that tradition attributed to the great king Asoka. 

Going up to the north-west he reached the kingdom of 
Malwah, which vied with Magadha itself for the gentleness and 
politeness of its inhabitants, the culture of IcLtcrs, the esteem 
in which virlue was held, and the harmony of its language. 
Thence, passing through many extensive kingdoms, sometimes 
following the coast line, sometimes plunging across country, 
he reached the frontiers of Persia ; but he did not penetrate 
any further, although he might, from what he had heard, have 
found there several Buddhist monuments. He therefore 
turned eastwards, and after many a long march he got back 
to the banks of the Indus that he had formerly crossed on 
his arrival from China, but this time he was much nearer its 
source. On the eastern bank of the river he passed through 
Multan, where the idolatrous inhabitants worshipped the Sun- 
god ; and from the kingdom of Parvata he returned to 
Magadha, whence he had started on diis flitiguing journey. 

On his return to Nalanda he found fresh studies awaiting 
him, but this time he met with full compensation in the shape 
of divers brilliant successes. The aged Sllabhadra still 
ruled over the convent, and Hiouen-Thsang was henceforth 
capable under his guidance of communicating to others the 
deep learning he had acquired. Silabhadra, who appreciated 


his worth, appointed him several times to expound the most 
difficult books to the multitude of monks; and Hiouen-Thsang 
acquitted himself of this duty to the general satisfaction of 
the community. He was, moreover, capable of writing San- 
skrit, and he wrote several books, which excited the admiration 
of the whole Order, and in which he refuted the errors of the 
Sankhya and the Vaiseshika systems, while striving to reconcile 
the different doctrines which at that lime divided Buddhism. 
These studies pointed him out as a fit person for an impor- 
tant mission, which he fulfilled with great credit to himself. 

Magadha was at that time ruled by King Slladitya, whose 
dominions, it appears, extended over a considerable part of 
India. Full of piety and veneration for the convent of 
Nalanda, he had built near it a magnificent vihara, which 
excited the jealousy of the neighbouring states. The king, 
returning from a military expedition, w^ passing through the 
kingdom of Orissa, when the monks of the countries that 
followed the doctrine of the Little Vehicle came to complain 
to him of the advantages he had given their adversaries (the 
convent of Nalanda followed the doctrine of the Great Vehicle) 
by bestowing such a benefit upon them. In order to further 
their cause, they presented him with a book in which their 
principles, they said, were explained, and they defied the 
partisans of the Great Vehicle to refute a single word. 

*I have heard,' replied the king, who belonged to the 
latter school, ' that a fox, finding himself one day in the 
midst of a troop of rats and mice, boasted that he was 
stronger than a lion. But no sooner did he see a lion than 
his heart failed him, and he disappeared in the twinkhng of 
an eye. You have not yet, venerable masters, seen the 
eminent monks of the Great Vehicle ; that is the reason 
why you so obstinately assert your foolish tenets. I greatly 
fear that when you perceive them you will resemble the fox 
I have just spoken of.' 

Cii. i] LIFH of HIOUEN-THSANG 211 

* If you doubt our superiority,* they replied to the king, 
* why not assemble the adherents of the two doctrines, and 
bring them face to face to decide on which side lies truth 
or error?' 

The king gave his consent to this religious combat, and 
wrote at once, to Silabhadra to send to the kingdom of 
Orissa four of the most eloquent of his monks, in order 
that they might solemnly confute the heretics. Silabhadra, 
who knew Hiouen-Thsang's abilities, and did not share ihe 
jealousy he had excited around him, appointed him as the 
fourth champion. 

The four vindicators of the Great Vehicle and of the 
honour of Nalanda were getting ready to start, and only 
awaiiing a fresh order from the king, when an unexpected 
circumstance gave a still greater audiority to Hiouen-Thsang, 
and dispelled all die doubts that certain persons had of his 

A heretic of the Lokayata sect came to Nalanda to argue 
on the most difficult questions with which the professors 
were at that time occupied. He wrote a summary of his 
system in forty articles, and hung up this document on the 
convent gates. 

* If any one,' he said, ' can refute a single article, he may 
cut off my head to proclaim his victory.* 

This was, it appears, the ordinary and somewhat danger- 
ous formula employed for this sftrt of challenge. Some 
days elapsed before any one answered this insolent pro- 
vocation, and the Lokayata had already flattered himself 
that he had at least won a tacit triumph, when the Master of 
the Law sent from the interior of the convent *a man 
without sin,' a monk, with the order to take down this writing. 
Then Hiouen-Thsang tore it to pieces and trampled it 
under foot. When the Brahman heard whom he had to 
deal with, he declined to contend with the Master of the 


2J:2 WdMISM M tMblA trt. it 

Law ; but Hiouen-Thsang compelled him to Jlppear before 
Sllabhadra and the chief monks, and in their presence he 
refuted the opinions of all the heretical schools^— i3huta!5, 
Nirgranthas, Kapalikas, Sankhyikas, VaiseshikaSj &c. — with 
such force and irohy that the Brahman remained speechless, 
without power to utter a word. At last he arose and said : 

'I am conquered; you are free to avail yourself of my 
first condition.' 

* We, the children of Sakya,* replied the IMasler of the 
Law, ' never injure men. To-day I will do nothing more 
than take you into my service as the obedient slave of 
my will.' 

The Brahman, delighted at getting off so easily, respect- 
fully followed him, and enthusiastically praised all he had 
just heard. Hiouen-Thsang kept him some time with hiiii, 
and then set him free, without uttering a word which could 
wound the pride that had beem so painfully humiliated. 

However, all was being prepared for the great contest at 
which Slladitya was to preside in person. Hiouen-Thsang 
had prepared himself for his part by contesting point by 
point in a work called 'A Treatise in Refutation of Erroneous 
Doctrines' the book which had been presented to the king 
by the adherents of the Little Vehicle. 

The appointed place of meeting was Siladitya's capital, 
Kanyakubja, situated at the confluence of the Ganges and 
the Kalini. The Master of the Law accompanied thither 
the king, who overwhelmed him with attentions. It was the 
last month of the year. Shortly after, eighteen kings of 
central Lidia (all tributaries of Slladitya) arrived, at the same 
time as three thousand monks, learned in both the Great and 
Little Vehicles, two thousand Brahmans and heretics, and 
about a thousand monks from the convent of Nalanda. 
Two enormous thatched buildings had been constructed at 
the place of convocation to receive the statue of the 


Buddha and contain this multitude of people. On the 
appointed day the sacred ceremonies began at dawn. Y'wsi 
Mas carried round with great pomp a golden statue of the 
Buddha, which had been expressly cast for the occasion ; it 
was carried under a splendid canopy placed on a great 
elephant. S laditya, holding a white fly-fan and dressed as 
Indra, walked on the right; on the left walked a tributary 
king, Kumara, another of Hiouen-Thsang's admirers, dressed 
to represent Brahma. Two elephants, loaded with choice 
(lowers that were scattered at each step, followed the Buddha. 
The Master of the Law and oflicers of the palace, riding 
large elephants, had been invited to take their places behind 
the king ; and lastly the tributary kings, the ministers, and 
most celebrated monks advanced on both sides of the road, 
singing praises — they were borne on three hundred elephants. 
The procession had about two miles to go after leaving the 
king's travelling tent. At the door of the enclosure every 
one alighted, and the statue was placed on a costly throne in 
the palace designed for it. Siladitya, together with Hiouen- 
Thsang, fust did homage, and then the assembly was 
brought in. It must have been composed, besides the 
eighteen kings, of a thousand of the most illustrious and 
learned monks, of five hundred Brahmans and heretics, and 
fmally of two hundred of the ministers and chief officers of 
slate. The remainder of the crowd, who could not enter, 
were obliged to place themselves silently outside the en- 
closure. Afier a magnificent repast, served indiscriminately 
to everybody, and after rich presents had been distributed 
to Iliouen-Thsang and the monks, the king requested the 
Master of the Law to preside at the conference, to make 
a eulogy of the Great Vehicle, and to state the subject of 
the discussion. 

Hiouen-Thsang first ordered a monk of the convent of 
Nal^nda to mak^ knpwn his prolegomena to the multitude, 

214 BUDDHISM IN INDIA [pt. ii 

and he had a copy written out that Mas hung at the door of 
the enclosure, in order that they might be examined by all 
the spectators. He added at the end, as the Brahman he 
vanquished had done : 

*lf any one finds a single erroneous word in this, and is 
capable of refuting it, I will let him cut off my head to show 
him my gratitude/ 

Akhough this solemn challenge excited them, not one of 
the adversaries dared to address the meeting to contest the 
argunents of the Master of the Law. The next, and 
following days the pomps and ceremonies of the previous 
day were repeated. Hiouen-Thsang vindicated and developed 
the theses he had laid down, which were again received in 
silence by the heretics. The fifth day, seeing that he had 
confuted the principles of the Little Vehicle, they conceived 
a deadly hatred for him, and, unable to attack him by fair 
means, they made a plot to assassinate him. Slladitya, 
discovering this, undertook his defence, and threatened the 
malcontents with severe punishment. Thenceforth the 
partisans of error slunk away and disappeared, and the 
contest announced with so much pomp did not take place. 
Eighteen days were spent in waiting, but no one dared to 
utter a woid of discussion. The evening of the day the 
Assembly was to disperse, the IMasler of the Law once 
more recommended the doctrine of the Great Vehicle, and 
extolled the virtues of the Buddha with so much enthusiasm, 
that a multitude renounced the narrow views of the Little 
Vehicle and embiaced the sublime principles of the Great 

Hiouen-Thsang had gained the victory; Slladitya and the 
olher kings wished to reward him by enormous gifts of 
gold and silver. He refused to receive them, and, modest 
as he was disinterested, he only accepted the triumph 
4Wc^rde4 to the vjctor in conforpiarice with j^ncient custom. 


IMountcd on an elephant richly caparisoned, and escorted 
by the highest dignitaries, he rode through the mullilude, 
while the king himself, holding up his vestment, proclaimed 
with a loud voice : 

* The Chinese Master of the Law has brilliantly established • 
the doctrine of the Great Vehicle, and has reduced to 
nought all the errors of the sectaries. In eighteen days no 
one has been found who dare discuss with him. This 
great triumph shall be known to all men.' 

The people in their joy bestowed on him the title of God 
of the Great Vehicle (Jllahaydna-Deva), and the partisans of 
the Little Vehicle, humiliated by his greatness, gave him 
out of respect the name of the God of Deliverance {JMohsha- 
Deva). In memory of this victory Slladitya had the golden 
slalue of the Buddha placed in the convent of Nalanda, 
with a great quantity of vestments and precious coins, which 
he confided to the care of the monks. At the zenith of 
favour, glory, and learning, Hiouen-Thsang had now nothing 
fuithcr to do than to leave India and return to China, with 
all the sacred spoils he had collected in his long researches. 
He therefore took leave of the monks of Nalanda, and 
taking with him the books and statues he had gathered 
together, he closed the series of his lectures. Before his 
departure he was obliged, at the urgent request of Siladitya, 
to accompany him to the kingdom of Prayaga {Po-lo-ye-Kia\ 
to be present at the great distribution of alms which the 
king made every five years, in the vast plains situated at 
the confluence of the Ganges and the Jumna. Here, as 
the biographers of Hiouen-Thsang tell us, were gathered 
together no less than five hundred thousand persons, who 
received the royal alms. We shall give later a description 
of this solemn festivity. 

At last Slladitya allowed Hiouen-Thsang to set out on his 
return journey to China. One of the kings of Northern 

2i6 BUDDHISM IN INDIA [pt. ii 

India undertook to have his books and statues conveyed 
as far as the Indus. After having revisited Takshasila, the 
pilgrim crossed the river, where, by a vexatious accident, he 
lost about fifty manuscripts and a quantity of curious seeds 
he was taking back to pkmt in China. He was able, how- 
ever, to have the works he had lost recopied in the kingdom 
of Udyana ; and the collection of sacred writings, which was 
the real object of his travels, was neither diminished nor 
injured. Hioucn-Thsang did not return through Kashmir; 
he went by the kingdom of Kapisa, and crossed for the 
second time the enow-clad mountains (Hindu Kush), braving 
the same dangers he had so happily escaped from fifteen 
years before. This time he again extricated himself from 
all perils, but his caravan had gradually diminished, and 
was now reduced to seven monks, twenty servants, one 
elephant, ten asses, and four horses. At the foot of the 
mountains he reached the kingdoms of Antarava (Anderab) 
and Kustana, which in former days had formed part of the 
kingdom of Tukhara. Thence he continued his march to 
the north-west, crossed the Oxus, and then, directing his 
steps to the east, he advanced in a straight line to the 
Chinese frontier, passing through the kingdoms of Munkan, 
Sighnak, the valley of the Pamirs {Po-ini-lo) across the 
Tsong-hing mountains, the kingdom of Khasgar and that of 
Tchakuka. In Kustana (actually Khotan) he found a popu- 
lation whose honest and gentle behaviour strongly contrasted 
with that of the neighbouring tribes. They were full of respect 
for the Law of the Buddha, which, it was said, had been 
brought there at an early date from Kashmir by the arhan 
Vairochana. The inhabitants of Kustana held learning in 
high esteem, and delighted in music ; the characters they 
used in writing were very similar to those of India, although 
the language was a different one; they were also most 
industrious, and the stuffs they made were exported f^r ^ncj 


wide. Hiouen-Thsang remained several months in this 
country, awaiting an answer to a letter he had written to the 
king of Kao-TcHang, who at the outset of his travels had 
tried to detain him against his will, and who had only given 
way on extracting from him the promise of a visit on his 
return journey. 

After having passed through the former kingdom of 
Tukhara {Tou-ho-Io) and made several circuits, he at last 
reached the Chinese frontier, and saw once more his native 

No sooner had he arrived at Clia-Tchcou than he hastened 
to forward a letter to the emperor, who resided at Lo-Yang, 
fearing he might have excited his anger by proceeding on 
liis journey without his permission. But the emperor, who 
had kept himself informed of Hiouen-Thsang's success, dis- 
played great friendliness, and sent an order to Si-*an-fo, chief 
of the kingdom of Liang and governor of tlie western capital, 
to receive him with the honours due to his piety and merit. 

The pilgrim's journey was ended, but the missionary's 
work still remained. He still had to bring to the knowledge 
of his countrymen the sacred books he had brought back 
from India, and this task, to all appearance much easier, 
was nevertheless extremely laborious. IJiouen-Thsang, in 
a journey that he himself estimated at fifteen thousand miles, 
and which had lasted seventeen years, had collected the 
most abundant and valuable materials. He had now to 
work them up, and he devoted the remainder of his strength 
and life to this labour. 

When the commander of Liang heard that Hiouen- 
Thsang was approaching Tchang-'an, he despatched tlie 
general commanding the cavalry and the chief oflicial of 
the district to greet him. The two functionaries were ordered 
to go forward to meet and conduct him from the great canal 
tp the capital^ and to install }jip> in the mansion assigned tp 

2i8 BUDDHISM IN INDIA [pt. ii 

ambassadors. At the same time the city magistrates invited 
the monks of all the convents to prepare hangings, sedan- 
chairs, flowers, banners, &c., for the procession of the 
morrow, when the sacred books and the statues were to 
be oflicially placed in the Convent of the Great Happiness 
{Hong-fosse). The next day they all assembled in groups, 
marshalled in due order, and the convent treasury received 
all that the IMastcr of the Law had brought back from ths 
western countries. 

The following is ils curious enumeration : 

First, one hundred and fifty particles of che-Ii (sarlras) or 
relics proceeding from Joti-la'is (die Tathagata) body. 

Secondly, a golden statue of the Buddha, whose shadow 
had remained in the Dragon's GroUo, on the Piagbuddha- 
giri mountain, in the kingdom of IMagadha, with a pedestal 
of a transparent substance three feet three inches high, 
similar to the statue of the Buddha that is seen in the king- 
dom of Varanasi (Benares), which represents him turning 
for the first time the Wheel of the Law in the Deer Park 

Thirdly, a sandal-wood statue of the Buddha three feet 
five inches high, exactly like the one the king of Kos^mbi, 
Udayana, had caused to be modelled from life. 

Fourlhly, a sandal-wood statue two feet nine inches high, 
similar to the one in the kingdom of Kapilha, representing 
the Ta'hagata at the moment when he descends from the 
palace of the Dcvas. 

Fifthly, a silver statue four feet high, similar to the one 
representing the Buddha explaining The Lotus of the Good 
Law, and other sacred books, on the Vulture's Peak. 

Sixthly, a golden statue of the Buddha three feet five 
inches in height, similar to his shadow that he left in the 
kingdom of Nagarahara, and \\h;ch represents him over- 
coming a venomous dragoon, 


Seventhly, a carved statue in sandal-wood one foot three 
inches high, similar to the one in the kingdom of Vaisali, 
which represents the Buddha going round the city to convert 

After the statues came the books, deemed even more 
precious. They were divided into ten classes, of which the 
first included the sacred books (Sutras) of the Great Vehicle, 
and numbered 124; and the other classes, the sacred books 
and special treatises of several schools, both of the Little and 
Great Vehicle, of the Sarvastivadas, the Sammitiyas, the MahT- 
sasakas, the Kasyapiyas, the Dharmaguptas, &c. This 
collection, which consisted of no less than 657 works divided 
into 525 parts, was carried by twenty-two horses. 

Having fulfilled this first duty, Hiouen-Thsang went in 
all haste to rejoin the emperor in the palace of the Phoenix 
at Lo-Yang. The sovereign received him with much con- 
sideration and kindness ; he questioned him at length about 
the climate, produce, and customs of the different countries 
in India, and the sacred monuments he had worshipped 
there. He urged him to v. rile the history of his travels; 
and, dcl'ghted at all the virtues he discovered in him, he offered 
him an important office under government. But Hiouen- 
Thsang was wise enough to refuse this brilliant ofier. He 
only knew the Law of the Buddha, and understood nothing 
about the doctrine of Confucius, 'which is the soul of the 
administration.' The emperor wanted to take him with his 
retinue on a military expedition to punish some rebels in the 
east. But the monk again refused, urging that his principles, 
founded on the love of mankind, did not permit of his 
being present at bailies and scenes of bloodshed, and the 
sole favour he craved was to be assisted in translating into 
the Fan language the six hundred books which he had 
brought back from the western countries, and of which not 
gne word was yet known in the Chinese language. The 

220 BUDDHISM IN INDIA [pt. ii 

emperor indicated the Convent of the Great Happiness at 
Tchang-'an, and Hiouen-Thsang hastened thither to complete 
his pious mission. 

Twelve monks were allotted to him, well versed in the 
explanations of the holy books and the treatises of the 
Great and Little Vehicle, to revise the translations, correct 
the style, and write out f.iir copies under his dictation ; these 
monks had been carefully chosen from amongst the mo^t 
talented in the principal convents of the neighbourhood. 
Nine others of high merit were especially employed to revise 
and polibh tl:c translated texts, and among them was 
Iloci-li, the author of the first drawing up of Hiouen- 
Thsang's biography. Then two Samaneans, men learned 
in the study of the characters and revision of Indian texts, 
were added to this learned society, not to mention a number 
of subordinate copyists. 

With this assistance Hiouen-Thsang was able in less 
than three months to offer the emperor, with the abridged 
narrative of his travels which he had been asked for, the 
translation of five books. In presenting these works, Hiouen- 
Thsang begged the emperor ' to deign to take up his 
august brush and write, in praise of the Buddha, a preface, 
in wiiich his sublime thoughts would shine like the sun 
and moon, and the writing, precious as silver and jade, 
would last as long as heaven and earth, and become for 
future generations an object of inexhaustible admiration.' 
The emperor, af:er making some objections, consented to 
write this preface, which contained seven hundred and eighty- 
one characters. The biographers carefully reproduce the 
whole of it, as well as the correspondence that took place 
on the subject between the sovereign and Hiouen-Thsang. 
Soon after the prince royal followed his father's example, 
and wrote, like him, an introduction to the newly-translated 
§^icicc| texts. At the request of the superior of the Conv<?rit 

tit i] LIFE OP iWuPN-fllSAMO ^^i 

of the Great Happiness, the emperor allowed the two pre- 
faces to be engraved on metal and stone slabs, which were 
desposited ih the convent. 

'I'he favour HioUen-Thsan^ enjoyed soon brought forth 
tnost important results. Following his advice, the emperor 
decreed that ih every convent of the different districts 
five monks should be ordained, and fifty in the Convent of 
the Great Happiness. As at that time there were three 
thousand seven hundred and sixteen convents scattered all 
over the empire, over eighteen thousand and six hundred 
monks or nuns were ordained. It seems that before this 
epoch, and under the last years of the Soui dynasty (581-6 1 8), 
most of the convents and temples had been plundered, and 
almost all the monks ex'crminatcd. This immense increase 
to their numbers re-established them in a flourishing condi- 
tion. Thus Hiouen-Thsang might flatter himself that he had 
not only revived Buddhist fliilh by his travels, but that he 
had restored it toils ancient splendour. Moreover, the reign- 
ing sovereign, Thien-wou-ching-hoang-ti, was himself a very 
fervent adept ; he frequently argued on the sacred texts with 
the Master of the Law, whom he admitted into his intimacy, 
and whom he more than once disturbed in his pious labours 
in order to have him near him. This emperor died in 650 ; 
but his son who succeeded him was equally the friend of the 
Master of the Law. 

INIorcover, Hiouen-Thsang gained this extraordinary favour 
by shunning it ns much as lay in his power. Living secluded 
in the Convent of the Great Benevolence that the prince 
royal had built, near the palace at Lo-Yang, to honour the 
memory of his mother, ' his sole occupation was translating 
the sacred books without wasting a moment.' Every morn- 
ing he set himself a fresh task, and if any business had 
prevented his finishing this task in the daytime, he never 
failed to continue his work during the night. If he met 

2.11 BUDDFltSM IN tNbIA [pt. it 

with any difllculty, he would lay down his brush and book; 
then, after having worshipped the Buddha and continued 
his reh'gious exercises till the third watch, he would snatch 
a litUe rest, and at the fifth watch he would rise, read out 
loud the Indian text, and note down in red ink the passages 
he had to translate at daybreak. Every day for four hours 
he explained a fresh Sutra or Sastra to the monks of his 
convent, or to those of the different provinces who thronged 
to him in order to consult him as to the meaning of some 
doubtful or difficult passage. The disciples who came to 
take his instructions about the interior management of the 
convent, with which he was entrusted, filled the galleries and 
hills adjoining his cell. To all he replied clearly, omitting 
nothing. He expounded aloud and spoke with animation, 
without appearing to feel fiitigue, such was the strength of 
his body and the vigour of his mind. ' Often did princes 
and ministers come to pay him their respects. When they 
had heard his counsels, all opened their hearts to the faith ; 
and, abjuring their natural pride, they never left him without 
giving him sincere proofs of admiration and respect.' 

The Master of the Law was still to spend fourteen years 
at this laborious work. In 659 he obtained the emperor 
Kao-Tsong's permission to wididraw with his assistant 
translators and disciples to the palace of Yu-hoa-Kong, 
where he hoped to lead a more secluded life. There he 
undertook the difficult and lengthy translation of the Pradjnd- 
Pdramiia^ the Indian manuscript of which contained no less 
than two hundred thousand slokas\ The book of the 
Pradjna-Paramild, or Perfection of Wisdom, which the 
Chinese called Pan-jo^ was the Siilra at that time held in 

* We do not possess this lonir transciiplion, but only three others: of 
100,000, 25,000, and 8,000 slokas, the shorter ones beinjT abridgements 
of the longer. See Burnouf, Introduction a I'histoire du Bouddhisme 
Indien, p. 662, &c., and iht Journal des Savants, January, 1855, P* 44* 


greatest repute. It had in former centuries been translated, 
but it was far from complete, and from all sides the Master 
of the Law was strongly urged to undertake a new transla- 
tion. The Sutra of the Pradjnd-Pdramita^ it was said, liad 
been expounded four times by the Buddha himself in sixteen 
solemn conferences — on the Vulture's Peak, in Anaiha 
Findika's garden, in the palace of the king of the Devas, 
and in the Convent of the Bamboos at Rajagriha. As the 
text was very lengthy, all Hiouen-Thsang's disci])les begged 
him to abridge it, and, following the example of preceding 
translators, he might have curtailed the tedious passages and 
suppressed repetitions. But he had a terrible dream that 
deterred him from this sacrilegious project, and he resolved 
to translate the whole work conformably wiih the Indian text, 
as it was taken down from the very lips of the Tathagata. 
He had obtained three copies in India, but when he began 
his translation he found many passages of doubtful authen- 
ticity. By dint of care and zeal he was able to re-esiablish 
the text in all its genuineness. * When he had fluhomcd 
a deep thought, thrown light on an obscure point, or re- 
established a vitiated passage, it was as if a god had brought 
him the solution he sought for. Then his spirit was gladdened 
like that of a man plunged in darkness, who sees the sun 
break through the clouds and shine forth in all its splendour. 
But ever mistrustful of his own wisdom, he attributed the 
merits to the mysterious inspiration of the Buddhas and the 

Nevertheless these varied and lengthy labours had exhausted 
Iliouen-Thsang's strength, and he hurried on- as much as 
possible the translation of the Pradjnd-Pdramikl, lest death 
should overtake him. When he had finished it he said to 
his disciples : 

'I came, you know, to the palace of Yu-hoa-Kong hy 
reason of the book of the Pradjud-Pdramiid ; now that this 

224 hVbbiiiSM tM iNbiA tft. a 

work is finished, I feel that my life is coming to an end. 
When, after my death, yOu carry me to tny last abode, let it 
be done in a simple Jlnd humble manner. You \vill wrap my 
body in a rhat, and lay it down in the midst of a valley, in 
a peaceful and lonely spot. Avoid ihe vicinity of a palace or 
convent, for a body as»impure as mine must be placed far 
from such buildings.* 

His disciples tearfully promised to obey him, and tried to 
encourage him by the hope that his death was not so near at 
hand. But the Master of the Law was not mistaken in his 
presentiments. AfLer the Pradjna he tried to translate 
another compi\ation almost as voluminous, the Raianakuta 
Sutra, which the monks of his convent were most desirous of 
knowing. He made a great effort to comply with their 
wishes; but he had scarcely translated" a few lines when he 
was obliged to close the Indian book, his strength proving 
unequal to his courage. He went out, therefore, with his 
disciples to offer up his last homage to the statues of the 
Buddhas, in the Lou-tcJii valley, in the vicinity of the convent. 
From that day he ceased translating and gave himself up to 
religious exercises. 

A short time after this, as he was crossing the bridge of 
a canal situated at the back of his house, he fell and grazed 
his leg. In consequence of this accident he was unable to 
lise from his bed. Feeling his forces failing and the supreme 
moment drawing near, he commanded one of his monks to 
write down the titles of the sacred books and treatises he had 
translated, numbering all together seven hundred and forty 
works and thirteen hundred and thirty-five volumes. He 
noted down also the ten millions (a koti) of paintings of the 
Buddha and the thousand images of Maitreya Bodhisatwa that 
he had caused to be made. Besides, he had had an immense 
number of untinted statuettes cast, and a thousand copies 
written of various sacred books. He had provided food and 

cii. i] Life 6P itioVkN-tHsANO ^c^ 

jhown compassion to over twenty thousand believers an.l 
heretics. He had lighted a hundred thousand lamps and 
ransomed several tens of thousands of beings. When the 
monk had finished writing down the list of his good works, 
Iliouen-Thsang ordered him to read it aloud; then he said 
to thofe presentj wlio overwhelmed him with praises : 

* The moment of my death is approaching * I feel already 
as though my mind were giving way and leaving me. You 
must immediately distribute my garments and riches to the 
poor, have statues made, and desire the monks to recite 

In order to comply widi his wishes, a feast was spread for 
the poor and alms were distributed. The same day the 
Master of the Law directed that a moulder should cast 
a statue of Wisdom (Bodhi) for the palace of Kia-chcou-fien, 
and after that he invited the whole of the convent, his fellow- 
workers, and disciples, * to come and joyfully bid farewell to 
the impure body of Hiouen-Thsang, who, having accom- 
plished his work, deserved to live no longer. I wish,' he 
added, ' that any merit I have acquired by my good works may 
revert to other men, tl at I may be born with them in the 
heaven of the Tushitas, be admitted into the Mi-les (Maitreya) 
family, and serve that Buddha full of tenderness and love. 
When I shall return on earth to pass through other existences, 
1 desire, with each new birth, to fulfil with boundless zeal my 
duties towards the Buddha, and at last attain superlative and ' 
perfectly enlightened Wisdom {Aniittara samyak samhodhi)! 
Then he repeated, with his dying breath, two Gathas in 
honour of Maitreya, which he made the persons around him 
repeat after him. He then raised his right hand to his chin, 
and placed the left on his breast, stretched out his logs, crossed 
them, and turned on his right side. He remained motionless 
in this position till the fifth day of the second moon. In the 
middle of the night, his disciples inquired of him : 

^26 BUDDHISM IN INDIA [pt. ti 

* Master, have you at last obtained leave to be born in 
the midst of Maitreya's Assembly ? * 

' Yes,' he replied in a failing voice, and a few moments 
later his soul had passed away. This took place on the fifth 
day of the second moon in the year 664. 

The Emperor, distressed at such a loss, commanded 
a general mourning, and resolved to give the IMasler of the 
Law a magnificent funeral. But his disciples, faiihful to his 
last wishes, had brought back his body on coarse mats into 
the capital, and had deposited it to await its burial, in the 
Convent of the Great Benevolence, in the centre of the hall 
appropriated to the translation of the books. It was in these 
coarse wrappings that the body of Hiouen-Thsang was 
brought to the funereal ceremony, which was celebrated with 
the greatest pomp. The IVIaster of the Law's grave was 
chosen, according to his wishes, in a plain north of the 
Fan-tchouen valley, where a tower was built in his honour. 

It would be unjust to Hiouen-Thsang's memory if, before 
taking leave of him, we did not record all the feelings 
of reverence and esteem which his memory ought to inspire. 
However, much as we may differ from this poor pilgrim, he is 
not less worthy of our consideration and remembrance. 

What first strikes us in Hiouen-Thsang's character, and 
wins all our sympathy, is the ardour and sincerity of his 
faith. It might doubtless have been more enlightened and 
more rational, but it could never have been more living, more 
thoughtful, and more persevering. Superstition obscures the 
mind, but it does not corrupt the heart, and it may be allied 
to the most sterling virtues. According to the sphere in 
which a man is born, the education he receives, the habits 
and customs he conforms to, he may have the most ignorant, 
indeed absurd, beliefs, without his soul being any the less 
pure. He may worship the most insensate idols, and accept 
the most extravagant traditions, without losing any of his 


moral worth. A hero may be as credulous as the lowest of 
men ; in truth it is impossible to be more credulous than the 
good Chinese pilgrim, but this can be overlooked; and in 
the seventh century of our era, we need not look far to find 
in Christian customs, slill imbued with the habits of barbarians, 
equally foolish beliefs and tradiiions. We must not be too 
severe on others, when our own history contains such re- 
collections and dark memories. 

But with this single exception, we can find nothing but 
what is admirable in the life of Hiouen-Thsang, from which 
ever side it is viewed. 

The singleness of purpose that directs it is never de- 
parted from, and during fifty consecutive years one invincible 
idea inspires and guides it. At the age of thirteen, perhaps 
even earlier, his vocation revealed itself, and up to the 
moment of his death, that is to say, till he was sixty-eight 
years old, his whole exertions were devoted to following, 
strengthening, enlarging, and fulfilling it. His only desire, 
from childhood, had been to propagate afar the glorious Law 
bequeathed by the Buddha; and during more than half 
a century his life was spent in serving this Law, without 
permitting any obstacle to dismay or discourage him. F irst 
and as an introduction to this rough career, he went through 
the arduous studies that disciplined his youth, and led him, 
in spite of civil wars, into the various provinces of the Empire ; 
then, when his harvest of knowledge was gathered, and when 
at the age of thirty he felt capable of putting into execution 
the resolve he had patiently trained himself for, he undertook 
this formidable journey, which kept him sixteen years far 
from his own country, and exposed him to endless perils 
of all kinds, unknown barbarous countries, deserts where his 
only guides were the bones of the travellers who had vainly 
striven to cross them before him, inaccessible mountains 
where for whole weeks he had to march through perpetual 

p 2 

428 BUDDHISM IN INDIA [pt. 11 

snow, over precipices, across impetuous rivers ; then, besides 
the dangers of nature, dangers still more certain created by 
men, attacks of covetous and pitiless robbers, a thousand 
pitfalls laid for a stranger, amid races of whose language he 
was yet ignorant ; and, above all, the allurements of riches 
and power, so often exercised on the pilgrim, and always 
victoriously repelled. Nothing could make him lose sight, 
even for a day, of the object of his pursuit ; and at the 
beginning and end of his journey we see him resisting the 
offers of the kings of Kao-Tch'ang and of Kanyakubja, as he 
had resisted the pirates of thp Ganges, the hospitable monks 
of Nalanda, and later still the yet more seductive proposals 
of the Chinese Emperor. He gathered information, travelled, 
and translated in order to propagate the Law of the Buddha ; 
this was his whole life, simple and grand, humble and pains- 
taking, disinterested as well as energetic. 

In no other civilization, at no other period, even among 
the nations enlightened by the purer light of Christianity, can 
a more thorough example of zeal, courage, and self-abnegation 
be met with. It would be easy to find greater intellect, but 
difficult indeed to find a more magnanimous spirit. 

One trait is particularly striking in the inner life of this 
soul, such as his disciples and biographers describe it, and 
this is the total absence of that veiled egotism, of which the 
Buddhist faith may with good reason be accused. Hiouen- 
Thsang is not occupied with the thought of his own personal 
salvation; and he only dimly intimates once or twice, that 
he counts on the eternal reward of his labours. He never 
thinks of self; he thinks of the Buddha, whom he worships 
wiih all the strength of his mind and heart; above all he 
thinks of other men, whom he strives to enlighten and save ; 
his life is a perpetual though apparently unconscious sacrifice ; 
and in this absolute self-renunciation he does not seem 
aware that his actions are as sublime as they are ingenuous. 


He never reflects on his own conduct. To disdain riches, 
honours, power, and all ihe enjoyments of life, is already 
a very rare merit ; but not to think even about the eternal 
salvation which he firmly believed in, while doing all that was 
needful to be worthy of it, is a merit still more rare and re- 
fined; and there are very few, even amongst the most pious, who 
have carried self-denial to this extreme limit, where nothing 
remains but the unalloyed idea of right. Hioucn-Thsang 
was one of these choice beings, and it is only right and just 
to recognize it. The singular ideal he made for himself may 
provoke a smile, but the irreproachable conduct this ideal 
inspired ought to be reverenced. It is not only in his 
external actions that he ought to be admired, but also in 
the motives that dictated those actions, and impart to them 
their true value. 

Studied from this point of view, Hiouen-Thsang's char- 
acter is one of the most curious of problems. We are 
too ready to believe that the virtues we possess under our 
temperate climates, and which, thanks to our civilization, 
are the growth of three thousand years, are an exclusive right 
that belongs only to us ; we too easily believe that other 
times, other races, and especially other religions have no 
share in them. We shall not be suspected of any partiality 
for Buddhism, for we have severely criticized the vices and 
errors that disgrace it. But it must be admitted that in the 
presence of such examples, we feel more indulgent towards 
it, and while detesting its dogmas, we cannot deny that its 
influence has sometimes been excellent, if not on races, at least 
on individuals. In the seventh century of our era, about 
twelve hundred years after the Buddha, amid a people for 
whom we have little esteem, we find one of these noble 
personages, one of these beautiful lives that may be held up 
as an example to humanity. Without holding anything in 
commoii with the strange belief that inspires it, we mi^ht 


earnestly desire that the majority of men who live under 
a better faith, should have this purity of heart, straight- 
forwardness of intentions, gentleness, charity, unalterable 
faith, boundless generosity, and elevation of sentiments which 
never relax under the most perilous trials. 

We have hitherto only studied the personality of Hiouen- 
Thsang and the principal incidents of his life. We have 
now to see all he can tell us about the countries he travelled 
through, the history of those remote limes, and the condition 
of Buddhism in India in the seventh century of the Christian 
era. Of course, his testimony, sincere as it is, must be 
received with the greatest caution; the good pilgrim was 
exceedingly credulous, and it is extremely probable that he 
more than once played the part of a dupe. However, we 
may be certain of one thing, he never seeks to deceive, and 
when he speaks of what he has himself seen, he must be 
attentively listened to, only we must, if reason demands it, 
somewhat modify the narrative. In general, however, we 
may trust and be grateful to him for the valuable information 
he hands dow^n to us. At the moment he visited India, 
before the Mussulman conquest, it was still exclusively 
Brahmanist and Buddhist. It is a very obscure period 
of its history, and Hiouen-Thsang is almost the only eye- 
witness who has given us any information about it. 

We will now see what he has to say on that subject. 


Mejnoirs of Himen-Thsang. Sources from which the Siyii-ki is 
(derived. History in India and China. Descriptive method of 
Hiouen-Thsang. His general views on India; his itinerary in. 
A'agadha ; a page fi oni his Memoirs on the Convent of Ndlanda. 
Testimony of Hioicen- Thsang as to the Buddha, the Nirvana, the 
Councils, and the kings of his day. Hiouen-Thsang at the Court of 
Sildditya, king of Kanyakiibja and part of Central India. The great 
Council of the Deliverance in the Field of Happiness. Distribution 
of royal alms. Surprising tolerance of the Hindus. 

It is not for the purpose of verifying the exact geographical 
position of the places Hiouen-Thsang describes, that we 
purpose to follow him in his long and perilous pilgrimages. 
This would be too special and lengiliy a task for us to under- 
take, and we must leave it to those better fitted and more 
familiar with such studies *. 

We bhall now limit ourselves to the composition of the 

In the large catalogue in the library belonging to the 
Emperor Kien-Long, the authentic and complete title of 
Hiouen-Thsang's work reads as follows: 'Memoirs on 
the Western Countries (Si-yu-ki) published under the great 
Thangs, translated from the Sanskrit, by Imperial decree, by 
Hiouen-Thsang, Master of the Law of the Three Com- 
mentaries, and edited by Picn-ki, a monk of the convent of 
Ta-tsong-lchi.' We are to understand by translated from the 
Sanskrit, not a translation in the ordinary acceptation of the 

* See the excellent Mimoire of Vivien de Saint-Marfin, following 
Hiouen-Thsang's Memoirs, vol. ii. p. 254, &c., and Nouvellgs Affftq/ff 
dfs Foyages, 5« Series, 18^3. 


word, but a co ordination of the Sanskrit works which Hiouen- 
Thsang made use of to compose his own book. 

The most important point would be to know the real 
nature of the Sanskrit works that Hiouen-Thsang consulted, 
and of which he has transmitted the substance. But it is 
rather diflicult to form any exact idea of these works, and it 
is worth much even to know of their existence. The Sanskiit 
literature, as far as it is known to us, shows us nothing like 
them, and judging from the frequent quotations that Hiouen- 
Thsang makes from the Sanskiit ]\Iemoirs he made use of 
and had under Lis eyes — for he often translates them word 
for word — it seems certain that these Memoirs bore little 
resemblance to \\\t JMahavansawnXavi in Pali, which Tumour 
has given us, nor to the Rajalarangim, which we owe to 
7>oyer. We must therefore conclude, that in the seventh 
century after Chiist, at the time when the Chinese pilgrim 
travelled over India, there were to be found in Sanskrit 
literature works which dcsciibcd more or less fai^hfully the 
history, statistics, and geography of the country ; none of 
which have come down to us. This is doubtless a very 
unexpected and curious discovery, but it is no less a fact. 
As Hiouen-Thsang found writings of this kintl all over India, 
from the northern kingdom of Kutch down to IMagadha, 
where he remained many year?, in order thoroughly to study 
them, it is evident that these works were very numerous and 
well known. The names Hiouen-Thsang gives them are 
various; sometimes he calls them Ancient Descriptions^ 
sometimes Historical dIenioirSj sometimes Collections oj 
Annals and Royal Edicts ; at other times Secular Histories, or 
simply Indian Books on such or such a country, or Memoirs 
of India, &c. Hiouen-Thsang did not confine himself to 
these indications, already very exact ; he docs not even confine 
himself to the quotations he gives from the Sanskrit books; 
\i^ also tells us the source of these valuablp books an4 their 



oflicial origin. In a general description of India, which fills 
the best part of the second book of the Si-yu-ki\ and ^vhich 
may be considered an excellent introduction to all that 
follows, Hiouen-Thsang is careful to tell us, in a chapter 
devoted to literature, that ' special functionaries were generally 
appointed in India to take down in writing any remarkable 
speech ; and that others had the mission of writing down an 
account of any events that took place.' Then he adds : 
'The collection of annals and royal edicts is called Nilafiia. 
Good and evil are both recorded, as well as calamities or 
happy omens/ 

It is therefore certain that India possessed in the days 
of Hiouen-Thsang, and even long before his time, a large 
number of historical works, full of details, analogous in 
a certain measure to those which, since the famous days of 
Greece, have continued to be drawn up by all the nations of 
civilized Europe. It must be admitted, while recognizing the 
value of these annals, that judging even from Hiouen-Thsang's 
quotations, the natives of India had a peculiar method rf 
understanding and writing history. India has never had a 
Herodotus, a Thucydides, a Polybius, a Titus-Livy, a Tacitus, 
or a Machiavelli. It had, however, its original historians, who- 
ever they may have been ; and this fact can no longer ha 
denied. It would therefore seem that it is a hasty assertion 
to say that Indian genius had no knowledge of history ; and 
that in its constant preoccupation about the absolute and 
infinite, it had never thought of noting the lapse of lime, nor 
of recording in any lasting manner the events that were 
taking place. India felt this need like the rest of humanity, 
and tried to satisfy it in the best way it could ; and Ilioucn- 
Thsang's testimony, although it stands almost alone, is 
perfectly undeniable on this subject. His proofs are loo 
constantly repeated, and he relies on loo many dilTerciU 
authorities, fpr his credibility to be doubted for an instant. 

234 BUDDHISM IN INDIA [pt. ii 

After trying to make allowance for the parts Hiouen-Thsang 
borrowed from Sanskrit historians, it is necessary to see, in 
order to know his personal historical value, what he added of 
himself. But first and foremost, great forbearance for his 
superstition must be exercised ; for it is often carried to the 
verge of the ridiculous, although it is allied, in his person, 
to the most noble quali:ies; and had he not possessed an 
enthusiasm that blinded him and made him accept the most 
foolish legends and believe the most absurd miracles, he 
would never have undertaken and accomplished his difificult 
and most useful journey. 

The following opinion of the editor of the catalogue of the 
Emperor Kien-Long's library ought to be our guide : * The 
Si-yii-ki'l he says, ' constantly quotes supernatural facts and 
miracles that do not deserve any serious attention ; but all 
that relates to mountains, rivers, and distances to travel may 
be strictly relied on. For this reason,' adds the librarian 
very sensibly, * we have i)laced the book in our catalogue, and 
we retain it there in the hope that it may be of use to com- 
plete the comparative studies of learned men '.' We have 
no reason to be more severe than a Chinese writer of the 
eighteenth century, and as Hioucn-Thsang's countrymen find 
excuses for his credulity, we can also be lenient on the subject. 
The strange stories of the Buddhist pilgrim may be put aside, 
without affecting the very exact and varied information he 
gives when he speaks as an ordinary traveller '^. 

* Stanislas Julien, Mimoires sur les Co7itr4es Ocddenfales, by Iliouen- 
Tlisang, preface, p. xxvii. 

^ It must be admitted that the singular assertions of Hiouen-Thsang 
are justified by the unquestionable evidence of travellers of our day. 
Thus in mentioning the Buddha's statues, Hiouen-Thsang states them 
to be of such enormous dimensions, that they would indeed seem 
imaginary. In many cases he does not exaggerate, ior in a recent 
account given by Mr. Robert Fortune, this traveller mentions statues of 
the liuddha that are 165 feet long. The statues Mr. Fortune actually 
saw represented him lying down, like the one mentioned by the 
Buddhist pilgrim. However strange this kjnd pf statue may be, Hiovien- 


The following was Hiouen-Thsang's usual method, and 
the strict and dry manner in which he carries it out, shows 
that he followed, and to a certain degree copied, the works of 
his predecessors. 

The narrative is carefully divided according to the diflferent 
kingdoms ; moreover it only concerns India and the north- 
western frontier countries. 

Hiouen-Thsang begins by giving the length and breadih of 
each of the kingdoms he visited ; and, whenever he is able, 
he makes special mention of the dimensions and circumference 
of the capitals. 

The pilgrim seems to have obtained the information — 
which he carefully transmits — not so much from his own 
personal investigations, as from local tradiiions and Sanskrit 
works, to which he had access. 

After giving the general dimensions of the kingdom and 
the capital, and mentioning the frontier countries, the author 
proceeds to describe the soil and its principal products, as 
well as the climate and its characteristic qualities. He 
ncilhcr forgets the fruits that are cultivated, nor the dif- 
ferent kinds of minerals which the land contains. Tliis 
more or less concise description of the country is followed' 
by an account of the inhabitants ; their habits are described, 
their garments are depicted, their customs are noted down, 
and he never omits mentioning the style of writing they 
made use of, or the money that was current in their com- 

Thsang's veracity on this point cannot be called in question. See 
Revue Briianm'que, June, 1857, p. 328. 

* Thus Hiouen-Thsang, in remarking that the inhabitants of the Soiili 
country in the kingdom of Baluka, in the north-west of India, have few 
Historical Records, adds that they read from top to bottom of the page, 
and that the alphabet of these people is composed of thirty-two letters 
{Mimoires stir les Contr^es Occidentaks, p. 13). Further on (ibid. p. 24), 
it is said that the inhabitants of the kingdom of Kosanna have an alpha- 
bet of twenty-five letters, which are combined together to express every- 
thing — a system that was quite new to a Chinaman — and that their 
books, written across, are read from right to left, &c., &c. It is certain 

236 BUDDHISM IN INDIA [pt. 11 

mercial transactions. Then from the inhabitants, he passes 
on to the governments; and even pronounces an opinion 
on the merit of the kings they obey, who do not always 
possess the talents requisite for the high position they 
occupy. He carefully notes down the countries that possess 
and those that do not possess a code of laws; as well as 
those in which the law is all-powerful, and those where it is 

After all these preliminary details, which are never omitted, 
he comes to the religious part of the narrative. First, the 
precise number of convents are mentioned, as well as the 
number of monks who frequent and live in them. The sect 
to which these monks belong is carefully recorded ; for in- 
stance, if they belong to the school of the Great Vehicle or 
the Little Vehicle. Their customs and habits are even more 
minutely described than those of the inhabitants ; and he also 
states the sources from which the monks have drawn the 
sacred instructions and the discipline which direct them. He 
mentions with admiration their austere charity and their 
meritorious exercises ; if their conduct is disorderly, he does 
not hesitate to point out and blame their errors; and he even 
goes so far as to note the kind of food they live on, for this is 
an important point in Buddhist discipline, which only recognizes 
three kinds of food as pure, and strictly forbids all other. 

After the convents and monks, he notices the works which 
have formed the different sects ; he recalls the more or 
less famous titles of these works, and sometimes analyzes in 
a few words the doctrine they contain, approving or contest- 
ing it. With regard to these literary observations, Hiouen- 
Thsang's Memoirs are naturally less abundant than the bio- 
graphy edited by his two disciples ; but the two works complete 

that these two alphabets of twenty-five and thirty-two letters, and this 
writing which is read from top to bottom or from Hght to Jeft, dp npt 
belong tQ Indi^, 


eii. ii] WoUEN-TkSJNG'S MEMOlk^ 237 

cncli other, and togelLer contain [ Icnty of information of iliis 
nature, no less instructive than the rest. 

But the part of his narrative in which the traveller has 
given most details, is that concerning the Buddha, the recollcc* 
lions of his personal presence — more or less authentic — the 
monuments of all kinds raised in his honour or for his worship, 
the relics treasured up of his blessed body, the legends collected 
or invented about him by the more or less intelligent piety of 
his followers, the marvellous traditions about his principal 
disciples, about the most important events, the most illustrious 
princes, the most authorized learned men, &c., &c. This is 
the weak side of the excellent pilgrim's work. In order to have 
a thorough knowledge of Hiouen-Thsang's Memoirs^ and 
a specimen of his style, we will deal more particularly with his 
g(^neral description of India. 

Hiouen-Thsang, after having described thirty-four kingdoms 
in his first Memoirs, from the kingdom of Agni or Akni, to 
that of Kapisa, reaches at last the kingdom of Lampa, now 
Laghman. With the kingdom of Lampa — that is, beyond 
the Black Mountains or the Hindu Kush— India, properly 
speaking, begins. The pilgrim has now, after many accidents, 
entered the country he has come such a distance to visit : the 
land of the Holy Faith. It would seem as though the Master 
of the Law pauses before beginning the detailed narrative of 
his exploration, in order to take a general view of his subject, 
which he approaches with the greatest respect. Hence in the 
Memoirs his interesting notice on India, full of curious details 
^\hich certainly make it the most valuable part of his work. 
It gives a very exact picture of India in the seventh century 
as it presented itself to the observation of pious travellers, 
and a very precise description of its general features. 

Hiouen-Thsang first studies the name of the country, and 
discovers, after having discussed the various and confused forms 
given to its name, that the true one is that given by the natives 

238 BUDDHISM IN INDIA [pt. ii 

themselves — Inlu (Indu). Twelve hundred years before 
Hiouen-Thsang, the country was called by this name, and 
Herodotus, the first historian who mentions it, always refers to 
it under this denomination. As the word Indu in Sanskrit 
also signifies the moon, Hiouen-Thsang endeavours to find 
out by the local traditions what analogy could exist between 
India and the moon. 

After an explanation, half philological and half historical, 
which we must take for what it is worth, Hiouen-Thsang 
next turns his attention to the approximative dimensions of 
India, or as he calls it the Five Indias. He makes out the 
whole circumference to be ninety thousand //. Now, as a // 
is about a quarter of a mile, by this account the total cir- 
cumference ^vould be about twenty-two thousand miles. 
This estimate deserves attention, coming from a man who for 
years had travelled over the greater part of India, and who on 
th!s point was in a position to obtain reliable information. 
However, from recent investigations, it is certain that 
Hiouen-Thsang's figures are exaggerated. But it would be 
important to know what he precisely meant by the Five Indias, 
and what countries he included in this vast circle. Even at 
the present day, the boundaries are somewhat uncertain, for 
India this side of the Ganges and India beyond the Ganges 
are terms still in use. Moreover Hiouen-Thsang is well 
acquainted with the geographical configuration of India. 
' On three sides,' he says, * India is bounded by a great sea; on 
the north it is protected by snowy mountains (Himalayas). 
It is broad at the north and narrow in the south ; its shape 
is like that of a half- moon/ It woiild have been more correct 
had he said : ' the shape of a triangle/ All these indications, 
vague as they necessarily are, are nevertheless exact in the 
main, and the Chinese traveller speaks like a man who, having 
under his eyes a somewhat faithful geographical map, wishes to 
give a general idea of what it represents. 


Hiouen-Thsang asserts positively that India was, in his 
day, divided into seventy kingdoms. It isdidicult to know if 
this number is really exact, although the traveller visited and 
describes the greater part of the Indian kingdoms. 
^ It seems, however, certain that in the seventh century of 
our era India must have been divided into a number of small 
dominions, more or less independent of one another. These 
territorial divisions necessarily varied a great deal according 
to ihe rapacity of the petty sovereigns. However, at the 
death of the conqueror, all the local sovereignties reappeared 
wiih the dissolution of the transient empire which had for 
a brief space absorbed them. The country then returned 
to a political partition, which would seem to have been as 
natural to it as it was to Greece. 

At the present time, and notwithstanding the uniformity 
of a common submission to the English rule, the peninsula is 
hardly less divided. Races, languages, religions, sects, and 
customs are siill very varied ; small states remain still very 
numerous and very different one from another, even under the 
rower they are all equally bound to obey. It would not be 
difficult to make out, in the vast possessions of the English 
Crown, and in the native states it has thought fit to preserve, the 
elements of the seventy states Hiouen-Thsang speaks of, which 
probably existed long before as well as long after his time. 

In order to make what he has said of the size of India 
better understood, the author tries to give the names of the 
principal measures used in the country, and as a logical con- 
sequence he goes on to the divisions of time, the names of 
the seasons and months, which he carefully compares with 
the analogous divisions current in China. 

After these general remarks, Hiouen-Thsang explains the 
constructions of the cities and villages, the public buildings, 
convents and private houses. Then he mentions the 
interior arrangements of the houses, the beds, seats, orna- 

:240 WDDHISM tM INDIA [pt. 11 

mcnts, &c. He attaches great importance to the clothing 
of the different classes in India; and after having mentioned 
in a cursory manner the garments worn by the heretics or 
Brahmans, he dwells with a certain complacency on all the 
details of those worn by the Sramanas, or Buddhists. He in- 
sists on the extreme cleanliness of the natives, and this trait 
of their national character which strikes him, is in reality so 
marked that no observer could fail to notice it. At the 
present time the Hindus are in this respect just as particular 
as Hiouen-Thsang and Alexander's companions found them; 
and in the last mutiny the motive or rather pretext of the 
mutineers was a personal defilement imposed on them, they 
said, by discipline, and which they refused to submit to. 

These purely material details are followed by a description 
of the morals and literature of India; and the Chinese 
pilgrim, himself a learned man, gives to this part of his 
narrative all the impoitance it deserves. One remarkable 
fact is that, notwithstanding his Buddhisiical fervour, he does 
thorough justice to the intelligence and labours of the 
Brahmans, and he begins by first mentioning them. He 
describes the admirable writing they make use of, taught 
them by the god Fan (Brahma) himself; the qualilies of 
their harmonious language ; the principal books they sludy, 
at the head of which he mentions the Vedas; the length of 
their studies, which they carry on till the age of thirty ; the 
honours and fame which surround the learned and the 
sages, &c. If the Master of the Law mentions wiih such 
esteem the Brahmans, whom he considers as heretics, he is 
still less sparing in his eulogies of his brethren, the Buddhists. 
He recalls the eighteen sects which divide Buddhism and by 
their continual discussions keep up its vitality; the severe 
discipline the monks bind themselves down to; the sacred 
books of the Buddha, which are distributed in twelve different 
collections; the proportional honours bestowed on tho^e 



v'hose knowledge of these books is more or less profound, 
and above all en those who eloquently defend the Law 
during the solemn discussions, as well as the shame attending 
the learned men who are vanquished in the controversy; 
and finally the excommunication that pitilessly falls on those 
whom neither remonstrance nor reproof have brought back 
to the right path. 

Iliouen-Thsang devotes but a few lines to the dilTcrcnce 
of castes, and only describes the four principal ones, as it 
would take too long, he adds, to notice all the others. He 
briefly analyzes the marriage laws of the Indians, and 
particularly mentions the horror they have of a second 
marriage for women; their laws expressly forbidding a 
woman to have a second husband. 

It is well known that this law, which is sanctioned by 
relentless custom, continues to the present day; and that 
recently an English newspaper in India gave as an un- 
precedented fact, and as a great victory of civilization over 
inveterate prejudice, the case of a young Hindu woman 
who had just married a second time. This immense pri>- 
grcss was obtained by the English authorities after ceaseless 
efforts, and it may well be considered as great as the 
abolition of suttccism. 

Hiouen-Thsang then turns his attention to the royal 
Lmilies, which belong for the most part to the Kshatriya 
class ; to the soldiers, who are divided into the four different 
forces of the army — infantry, cavalry, chariots, and elephants; 
to the generals commanding them ; and the weapons which 
they have made use of from time immemorial, &c. After the 
war department, the author passes on to the administration 
of justice ; he mentions the principal penalties, and describes 
with many details the judicial ordeals, which were practised 
in India long before they were renewed by our Middle Ages. 
The poor Buddhist pilgrim seems filled with admiration at 


242 BUDDHISM IN INDIA . [pt. ii 

this simple and infallible manner *of closing the way to 
all crime/ 

After some details on the nine ways of showing respect, 
from simple politeness of speech to the prostration of the 
whole body, Hiouen-Thsang treats of the funeral rites, and 
the different ways of paying respect to the dead. He does 
not forget the strange custom of suicide by immersion in 
the Ganges; and he considers that nine out of every ten 
old men end their days in this manner, by which superstition 
eternal life is said to be assured. 

Finally, Hiouen-Thsang devotes the last three chapters of 
his book to some general but disconnected considerations 
on public administration, on agriculture, and on the precious 
metals of all kinds that India possesses in abundance. From 
the above analysis of his notice on India, the process of the 
Chinese author, and its merits, will be clearly seen. In 
reality, his way of understanding and presenting things is 
exactly the same as ours ; and a traveller of the present day 
who would explore India in order to describe all its different 
aspects would not adopt a different line of conduct. Many 
doubtless might lack the clear and sure method of Hiouen- 
Thsang; and few would show so just and upright a spirit. 
It is true that the investigations of the Chinese pilgrim do 
not go very deep, but everything is noted, and all is classed 
in proper order. This in itself is a great deal, and although 
modern science may find much to criticize, the peculiar 
talent of exposition possessed by Chinese authors is a very 
curious phenomenon in the seventh century of our era. At 
this epoch no one in Europe would have been capable of 
writing such books, and it is well to call attention again to 
this singular quality of Chinese writers, which has hitherto 
generally been ignored. 

Leaving aside Hiouen-Thsang's itinerary from his arrival 
in the north-west of India till his entry in Magadha, WQ 


will pause lit ih's latter country, which may be called the 
Judea of Buddhism. 

The devout pilgrim has thought it necessary to devote two 
whole books of the Si-yu-ki, that is, one-sixth of his work, 
to the description of this Holy Land. There is no need to 
complain of this, for the details he gives are so precis e and 
comprehensive that they may prove extremely useful for any 
future exploration of the localities he has so well described. 
The following are the principal points of Hiouen-Thsang's 
itinerary in^Magadha, and he can be followed step by step 
on a special map that has been drawn up by Mr. Vivien de 

On leaving Nepaul and the kingdom of Vaislli, Iliouen- 

Thsang crossed the Ganges at Patalipulra\ the Paliboihra 

of the Greeks, actually Patnn, and directed his s'.cps to the 

south. He went across the Nairanjana, and vis'.tcd ihe ruins 

of the convents of Tilasakya, Gunamati and Sll.ibhadra, &c. 

He then returned for the second time to the Nairanjana, and 

crossing it in a south-westerly direction, reached the city of 

Gaya, inhabited, at the moment of his visit, almost exclusively 

by Brahmans. It was in the neighbourhood of Gaya and 

the mountains near it that two of the most venerated 

monuments of the Buddhist religion are to be found : the tree 

under which the young Siddharlha attained, after six years 

of terrible austerities, the state of perfect Buddha (Bodhi- 

druma) and the Diamond Throne, the Platform of Wisdom 

(V^ijrasanam, Bodhimanda) so called, from- the hillock on 

' lliouen-Thsang heard, and quotes at length, a popular legend which 
explains the oris^in of the name Patalipntiapura. Palali in Sanskiit ii 
the name of a swtel-scented flowering tree {Bignonia suavcolcns, Wilson's 
Dictionary). Tiie legend relates that under a tree of this species, a ) oung 
I'rahman was married and lived for a long time. The tree was after- 
wards miraculously changed into a sumptuous building that the king 
inhabited with all his court. As the city had been built by the spirits 
in favour ot the son born to the Brahman under tliis tree, the place was 
called 'The city of the son of the Patali? I'ataliputra acquired fresh 
impoitance when the great Asoka made it his capital instead of Kajagriha, 

Q 2 

24 f BUDDHISM IN INDIA [pt. ii 

which the Tathagata sat when he entered into the ecstasy 
called the Diamond Ecstasy (Vajrasamadhi). These places 
are so full of monuments that the pious traveller, after 
mentioning several of them, relinquishes the task in despair. 
Wherever the Buddha had passed, stupas had been raised 
to perpetuate his great and precious memory. 

From Gay a he resumed his road towards the north-east, 
again crossing the Nairanjana, and reaching the mountain 
called Kukkutapada, or Gurupada. He then went round to 
the eastern side of the high mountain, from which the 
Buddha gazed for the last time on Magadha, before going 
on to Kusi-nagara to die. lie crossed another mountain 
called Buddhavana, and the great forest of Yashlivana, near 
which are two springs of mineral waters, and reached the 
city of Kusagarapura, situated in the midst of high mountains 
in the very centre of Magadha. Continuing in a north- 
easterly direction he visited the city of Rajagriha, famous 
by the first Council held there under the great Kasyapa, 
after the death of the Buddha. 

About ten miles further north he reached the celebrated 
convent of Nalanda, where he eventually sojourned for five 
years. Leaving Nalanda, the pilgrim continued to travel 
northwards in the direction of the Garges, and quilting 
Magadha, he arrived at the kingdom of Hiranyaparvata. 

Such is briefly Iliouen-Thsang's itinerary in Magadha, 
and it is certain that, aided by his Biography and McmoirSy 
any intelligent traveller, attracted to these places by a legiti- 
mate curiosity, would find all the landmarks noted by the 
Chinese pilgrim, and the ruins of most of the monuments he 
mentions as havin": seen himself^ 

^ Most interesting explorations have already been made in Magadha 
by Sir Francis Buchanan (Hamilton) in 1810, at the expense of the liast 
India Company, and by Major Kittoe in 1847 ; but, for several reasons, 
these expeditious failed to produce the desired result^. 


As might be expected, the Memoirs do not give the 
minute details conlained in the Biograjhy concornirg the 
magnificent retreat of Nahmda, the most ficquenud 13uclc!hist 
seminary of the peninsula; for the latter was edited by ihe 
talented and loving disciples of the iNlasicr of the Law. 
In mentioning Nalanda, the JSIenioirs retain their oflkial 
laconism ; however, the picture they give of this great 
school is striking, and the following passage may be de^ mc d 
interesting. It is one of the most remarkable pages of the 
Memoirs, and confirms all the previous information. 

'The monks, who were several thousands in number,' 
says Iliouen-Thsang, or the editor of the Si-yu-h\ whoever 
he may have been, ' were all men of distinguished talents 
and deep learning. Several hundreds of ihem were esteemed 
by their contemporaries for tlicir virtue, and their fame had 
spread to other countiics. Their conduct was pure, and 
they faithfully followed the precepts of their discipline. 'Jhe 
rule of this convent was extremely severe ; moreover the 
multitude of monks conducted themselves with irreproachable 
discretion. The kingdoms of the Five Indias admired them 
and took them as models. Those who followed their teaching 
and discussed profound questions with them thought the 
days too short. From morning to night they mutually 
admonii hed one anolher, oU and young striving to improve 
one anolher. Those among them who were incapable of 
treating the abstract matters of the Three Commentaries 
were held of no account, and were covered with shame. 
For tlus reason, foreign students desirous of acquiring fame 
came to this convent to dispel their doubts, and soon 
obtained the fame they sought. Even those who in travelling 
usurped their name received high honours. If a man of 
anolher country wished to enter and take part in the con- 
ferences, the cuslodian would first put him some diflicult 
questions. The majority were reduced to silence and 


went away ; for it was necessary to have a thorough know- 
ledge of ancient and modern writings in order to obtain 
admittance. Consequently students who travelled in search 
of information had to debate at length to show their capacity; 
and seven or eight in every ten of the candidates were 
generally eliminated. If the remaining two or three seemed 
to be well informed, they were interrogated in turn by the 
whole Order, and their learning was put to the severest test. 
Only those who possessed real talent and vast erudition, 
a powerful memory, great capacity, high virtue and superior 
intelligence, might associate their glory with that of their 
predecessors, and follow in their footsteps.' 

Here the Memoirs mention the names of some of the most 
learned monks of Nalanda, and add : — 

' These men of eminent merit were known to all; by their 
virtue they surpassed their predecessors, and their knowledge 
comprised all the rules of the ancients. Each one of them 
had written about ten treatises and commentaries which were 
universally made use of, and which in their day were held 
in the highest esteem. Around the convents, a hundred 
sacred edifices might be counted. To be brief, we will only 
mention two or three.' 

We will not follow Hiouen-Thsang in this description, 
which he makes much more lengthy than he had intended : 
we will not even follow him during the remainder of his 
travels throughout the peninsula. In the last three books, 
from the Tenth to the Twelfth, the traveller continues his 
journey down the banks of the Ganges, till he reaches the 
mouth of the river; he follows, more or less, the coast- line 
till he arrives at KanchTpura ; he then crosses the peninsula 
from east to west, and goes up again north-west to the Indus, 
returning through Hindu Kush and the northern kingdoms 
to the Chinese frontiers, at the extremity of the kingdom of 
Kustana. This immense round from IVIagadha comprises 


no less than sixty kingdoms which are fully described in the 

The following passage shows the simple and touching 
style in which, after furnishing so many curious details, these 
Memoirs are brought to a conclusion. 

* We have made known,' they say, 'the mountains and rivers; 
described the lands, and portrayed the gentle or barbaric 
customs of the inhabitants, connecting them with the nature 
of the climate and soil. The behaviour of man is not every- 
where uniform ; his tastes and antipathies are not always the 
same. It has been a difficult matter to investigate thoroughly 
many of these facts, and it is impossible to write exactly 
about them from mere recollection. As the traveller went 
through the diflferent countries he wrote down a summary ; 
he cellected evidence furnished by his ears and eyes ; and he 
faithfully noted down the people who wished to come under 
the rule of the Emperor of China. 

* In the countries that witnessed his noble conduct every- 
one admired his perfect virtue. Can he therefore be com- 
pared to those men who start on missions with a single 
chariot and who post over a distance of a thousand ItV 
Such is the ending of the Si'-yu-kt, or Memoirs on the Western 

It is evident, by this last passage, that Hiouen-Thsang 
cannot have written in this manner about himself. Such an 
eulogy of his own virtue does not come from his own pen, 
and his modesty, which is revealed in so many ways, would 
never have permitted his indulging in such an ingenuous 

It has been seen that the Memoirs are richer than the 
Biography with regard to statistics, to history and geography. 
But, M'hat is still more astonishing, they are also much 
richer in all kinds of legends. It is indeed difficult to imagine 
such blind, or rather foolish, credulity, as that shown by the 


Buddhists. As a general rule, in popular legends the ex- 
travagance of the matter is redeemed by a certain elegance 
of form and detail. Sometimes a delicate intention, vaguely 
hinted, atones for much that is trivial and foolish. But it is 
a peculiar and deplorable fact that in most of the Buddhist 
legends it seems impossible to discover any meaning ; they 
appear to be mere aberrations of the mind, with nothing to 
compensate for their incomparable folly. It would be easy 
to quote a large number of these from Hiouen-Thsang's 
Memoirs ; indeed they can be counted by hundreds. 

The following specimens are taken at haphazard, or rather 
from among the first-mentioned at the beginning of his book. 
The grave historian had reached the kingdom of Kutch, not 
far from the mountains now called Musur-Dabaghan, and 
near the Lake Temurtu, or Issikul. He has given, with 
Chinese exactitude, the dimensions both of this kingdom and 
its capital. He has described the climate and the produce 
of the soil ; fertile in fruit, wheat, and minerals of all kinds. 
He has depicted the customs of the inhabitants, who are 
neither lacking in gentleness nor virtue, and who have even 
a certain taste for the fine arts. He recalls a curious custom 
which exists to the present day among these people — that 
of flattening the heads of the new-born children by pressing 
them under a board. The historian even goes further, and 
severely criticizes the king of that country, who is deficient m 
prudence as well as capacity, and is ruled by powerful 
ministers. Finally, he praises the convents, which are about 
one hundred in number, and in which he finds the monks 
subjected to a most strict discipline, and absorbed in the 
exercise of meritorious works. 

It wouLl seem that a narrative written in such a serious 
manner, and treating of actual facts, would hardly lead to 
Buddhist reveries. Suddenly, however, history gives place to 
the following legend : — 

CH. ii] hioV£:N'Ti!sang's M^Mom^ 249 

• To the north of a town situated on the eastern frontiers 
of the kingdom, there was in former days a great lake of 
dragons (Nagahrada) in front of a temple to the gods. The 
dragons metamorphosed themselves and united themselves 
with mares. These brought forth foals which partook of the 
nature of the dragon. They were vicious, violent, and 
difllcult to tame; but the offspring of these foal-dragons 
became gentle and docile. This is the reason why this 
kingdom produces such a large number of excellent horses.' 

It is easy lo perceive, even in this absurd legend, a trace 
of some real fact ; and it would seem probably that the 
Kutch country, famed for its breed of horses, had been at 
some recent period ravaged by a horde of Tartars. But 
what an absurd interpretation ! Where is the charm of so 
foolish a story? What is its hidden meaning? Wiiat ex- 
planation does it give of a very simple and intelligible fact, 
which it pretends to supersede and embellish ? 

After this historical and national legend, we will quote 
a religious one. 

Hiouen-Thsang finds a stupa on the banks of a river. 
This stupa had been built to commemorate a meritorious 
action of the Venerable of the Century. * Formerly, in the 
days of the Buddha,' says Hiouen-Thsang, * five hundred 
fishermen having formed an association, devoted themselves 
to netting the denizens of the river. One day, in the middle 
of the stream, they caught a large fish that had eighteen 
heads, each one of which had two eyes. As the fishermen 
were about to kill it, the Tathagata, who was then in the 
kingdom of Vaisali, with his divine sight perceived them. 
Filled with pity, he seized the opportunity to convert them, 
and open their hearts to the true belief. He therefore 
addressed the great multitude and said : * In the kingdom 
of Vriji there is a large fish; I will lead it into the right 
path, in order to open the minds of the fishermen; you 

250 BUDDHISM IN INDIA [pt. ii 

must learn all the circumstances/ Then the Tathagata left 
ihe multitude at Vaisali, raised himself into the air, and went 
to Vriji to the fishermen, whom he had seen from a distance 
of ninety miles. When he reached the banks of the river he 
urged the fishermen not to kill the fish, to whom he wished, 
he said, to open the path of happiness by revealing to it its 
former existence. The Buddha then interrogated the fish, 
giving it the power to reply in human speech, and inquired 
what crime it had committed in its former existence to have 
fallen so low and received such an ignoble body. The fish 
confessed his crimes with deep repentance. He had been 
a proud and insolent Brahman and had not respected the 
law of the Buddhas. But now he recognized his sin, and to 
reward him the Buddha caused him to be reborn in the 
palace of the gods. The fish, under this divine form, came 
to thank the Tathagata, and, throwing himself at his feet, 
moved respectfully round him, offering him celestial flowers 
of a delicious perfume. * The Venerable of the Century,* 
continues Hiouen-Thsang, the faithful echo of tradition, * the 
Venerable of the Century, gave this example as a warning to 
the fishermen, and explained the Good Law to them. Then, 
their hearts being opened, they showed him sincere respect 
and deep repentance. They tore up their nets, burnt their 
boats, returned to truth, and received the faith. After having 
clothed themselves in coloured garments and heard the noble 
doctrine, they renounced the corruption of the world, and 
obtained all the fruits of sanctity.' 

It would be easy to quote any number of similar stories, 
but we must add that many other legends of a very different 
character may be found in Hiouen-Thsang's Memoirs, some 
cf which are not only more rational, but also convey an 
exact idea of the facts they perpetuate. 

In quoting Hiouen-Thsang as an historian it will be 
necessary to make a distinction between the facts he himself 


observed, and those he derives from more or less authentic 

Of all these, the most important relates to the date of the 
Buddha's death, or the Nirvana. What date does the 
Chinese pilgrim give, whether derived from the populations 
amongst whom he dwelt, or from the monuments he visited, 
or from the teachers of the Law who instructed him, and 
whose lessons he followed for more than fifteen years? It 
is well known that almost all Indian philologists agree in 
placing the date of the Buddha's death at 543 years before 
the Christian era. Thus the Nirvana took place about 
twelve hundred years before Hiouen-Thsang's time, as he 
travelled from the years 629 to 645 of our era. But what 
was Hiouen-Thsang's own opinion, or rather what traditions 
did he find still subsisting in the places where the Buddha 
had lived, and where he died ? 

Hiouen-Thsang touches on the subject of the Nirvana 
on two occasions. The first time, he was in the kingdom 
of Kusi-nagara : he had crossed the Ajilavati river, at some 
distance from the capital, and on his way through a forest 
had come upon the four sala trees of equal height, under 
which, it was said, the Tathagata had drawn his last breath. 
In a neighbouring vihara was a statue, representing Joii-lai 
at the moment he entered Nirvana ; he was represented 
lying down, wi.h his head turned to the north. Near this 
ro?e a stupa two hundred feet high, and a stone column 
attributed to King Asoka. But Hiouen-Thsang sought in 
vain for any record of the year or month in which this great 
event had taken place. The two monuments were silent 
on this point, and in his pious solicitude he strives to supple- 
ment their silence. Afier stating that the Buddha remained 
on earth till the age of eighty, and that he quitted it, ac- 
cording to some statements, on the fifteenth day of the 
second half of the month of Vaisakha (April-May), and, 

252 WDDHISM W INDIA [pt. n 

according- to others, in the second half of the month of 
Karlika (October-November), he adds : — 

* From the Nirvana to the present day some people reckon 
twelve hundred years ; others fifteen hundred ; while others 
again affirm that more than nine hundred years have elapsed, 
but that certainly one thousand years have not yet been 

Hiouen-Thsang does not deem it his duty to decide 
between these different opinions; he merely quotes them, 
and it would seem that he took the average estimation. 
This at least is the one he appears to adopt on a less solemn 
occasion, when he mentions for the second time the date 
of the Nirvana. He was then in one of the kingdoms of 
Southern India (T'o-na-kie-ise-kia, Dhanakacheka ?), and on 
the western side of the capital he visited a convent built on 
a mountain, by one of the" former kings of the country, in 
honour of the Buddha. This convent, although a magnifi- 
cent edifice, was deserted, and had remained uninhabited for 
a very long time. * For a thousand years after the Nirvana 
it had received a numerous throng of monks and laymen, 
but for the last hundred years (if we are to believe popular 
report) the spirits of the mountains had changed in their 
sentiments, and displayed ?o much violence and anger, that 
travellers, justly alarmed, no longer ventured near the 
convent, and this is the reason it no longer possesses 
either monks or novices.' Thus at the time Hiouen-Thsang 
visited this country, it was commonly believed that the Nir- 
vana had taken place eleven or twelve hundred years before. 

It may therefore be considered that Hiouen-Thsang 
ascribes the same dale as we do to the Buddha's death. 
This is an important fact, and if we recall all the uncertainty 
that still remains on this capital question, the information 
collected by Hiouen-Thsang is all the more valuable, as it 
concords with our own version. 


Other evidence, no less important, is also forlhcoming. 
There is not a detail in the well-known life of the Buddha 
that Hiouen-Thsang does not mention. From the most 
famous incidents of his childhood and youth, to the most 
decisive actions of his life, and to his death, the pious 
missionary has omitted nothing; for he found everywhere 
traces of these recollections in the stupas and viharas, on 
the columns and in the ruins of the cities, on the stones, 
on the hill-tops, and the trees of the forest. The birth and 
education of the Buddha at Kapilavaslu, his visions at 
Lumbini, his flight from the paternal palace, his intimacy 
with Bimbisara, his austerities at Bodhimanda, his first 
sermon at Benares, his long sojourns in Magadha, Rajagriha, 
on the Vulture's Peak, and in the fertile domain of Anaiha 
Pindika ; the contests he sustained, the dangers he incurred, 
the conversions he made, the charily he exercised, the influence 
he wielded, his endless journeyings in neighbouring provinces, 
the circumstances of his death and funeral, the division of 
his relics among eight kings — all this striking and simple 
story is brought back again before the traveller by the monu- 
ments he visits to pay liim his homage. 

For the learned world, the primitive history of Buddhism 
did not require this confirmation, but it may be said even 
now, without taking into account the discoveiies which the 
future probably reserves, that there does not exist in the 
world another religion of which the origin has been better 
attested by undeniable evidence. 

After the life of the Buddha and the date of the Nirv3na, 
the most impoitant fact in the history of Buddhism is tl;e 
meeting of the three Councils, who successively settled the 
canonical writings, and determined the orthodoxy of the 
official contents of the Three Commentaries, the Trift'iaka 
(Three Baskets), which comprised the Sutras, or the Discourses; 
the Vmq)-(z, or tjje Discipline; q,nd the 4^bhidharma^ or the 

254 BUDDHISM IN INDIA [pt. ii 

Metaphysics. These three Councils have been brought to 
our knowledge, first by the Sinhalese Mahdvansa, of ^vhich 
Tumour has given both the text and a translation, and then 
by the Tibetan Diilva, of which Csoma Korosi made a 
learned analysis. Nepalese tradition agrees with that of 
Ceylon (which is much more ancient) in placing the three 
Councils under the same princes. The only serious dilTer- 
ences are about the reign of Asoka and the date of the third 
Council, which the Sinhalese place one hundred and fifty 
years earlier. This point has not been cleared up, and the 
history of the Assemblies of the Law and the Buddhist 
Councils has yet to be written. However that may be, 
the following information has been transmitted to us by 

He knew of three Councils — one that was held immediately 
after the death of Sakya-muni ; a second one under Asoka ; 
and a third under Kanishka, king of Kashmir. On the first 
one he dwells at great length. According to tradiJon, 
which he repeats, it was not far from Rajagriha, two miles 
from the bamboo grove at Kalania, in a large house situated 
in the midst of another wood, that the Arahats of the first 
Council assembled. Kasyapa, who had chosen them — they 
numbered nine hundred and ninety-nine-— directed all the 
labours from which sprung the Tripitaka, and he presided 
over the learned assembly. Hiouen-Thsang shows him as 
exercising a kind of supervision, admitting some, excluding 
others as unworthy, and only receiving Ananda himself on 
the condition of his performing a long penance. They had 
been in retreat for fifiecn days, when Kasyapa made Ananda 
take the chair, inviting him to read the Su/ra-Pilaka, or 
Commentary on the Sutras. The assembly, who respected 
the profound knowledge of Ananda, which had been recog- 
nized by the Tathagata himself, received the Sutras from 
his lips, and wrote them down under his dictation. Then 



Kasyapa ordered Upali lo read the Vinaya-Ptlaka, or Com- 
mentary on the Discipline ; after which he himself read the 
Abhidharma-Pilaka, or Commentary on Metaphysics. At 
the end of three months the work of the Council was finished. 
The writings of the three Commentaries were collected ; 
Kasyapa had them transcribed on palm-leaves, and sent 
them out all over India. As he had presided over the 
monks, his school was called the School of the President 
{Sthavlra-Niko) 'a). 

Those, however, who had been excluded from the Council 
by Kasyapa's severity, assembled at a place near there. They 
numbered several thousands, laymen as well as monks, and, 
basing themselves on the principle of equality that had always 
been inculcated by the Tathagala among his disciples, they 
deemed themselves in a fit state to make their own Collection 
of Sacred Writings. This they composed of Five Com- 
mentaries, first the three first, then a collection of miscellanies, 
and a collection of Magic Formulas. This second school 
was called the School of the Great Council {]\fahd-Samgha- 
Nikdja), and its partisans became celebrated under the 
name of Maliasamghikas. 

Hiouen-Thsang is much briefer about the second Council, 
which he only mentions in a cursory manner. It would 
seem from the somewhat confused details given, that it was 
not at Pataliputra precisely, as is generally believed, that 
it was held, but near that city, in the convent of the Cock 
(Kukkutarama). It is all the more regrettable that Hiouen- 
Thsang should i:ot give more particulars about this assembly, 
that he seems to have taken from some Historical Memoirs on 
Asoka the facts he does mention. This king, who probably 
ruled over the whole peninsula, had divided the Jambudvlpa 
into thi-ce parts and had given them to the Buddha, to the 
Law and the Order. He had also divided his riches in ihe 
^ame manner between the Three Gems. The Historical 

256 BUDDHISM IN INDIA [pt. ii 

Memoirs Hiouen-Thsang consulted vouch for this. Did 
they also mention the Council convoked by Asoka? I'his 
would seem probable, but Iliouen-Thsang does not mention 
it. ]\Ioreover, his statement agrees with the Nepalese tradition 
in placing Asoka's reign, and therefore the date of the second 
Council, about one hundred years after the Nirvana ; and he 
states that Asoka was the grandnephew of King Bimbisara. 

He is a little more explicit about the third Council. 
Agreeing again with Nepalese tradiiion, he dates the assembly 
as taking place in the four hundredth year after the Nirvana 
of the Tathagata. According to his verj^ion, it is also the 
king of Kashmir, Kanishka, who convoked it, at the request 
of the acharyya, Parsvika. The assembly was composed 
of all the learned personages who had studied the Three 
Commentaries, besides the Yiwa Luminous Treatises. They 
numbered five hundred, and were presided over by the famous 
Vasubandhu, the commentator of the Ahhidharmahosa, the 
Treasure of Metaphysics. First, they collated the writings 
of the Three Commentaries, of which the canon had re- 
mained unaltered, and they proposed elucidating the real 
meaning of these works, which had apparently become 
obscure. They therefore composed a work in one hundred 
thousand slokas called the Upadesa-Sdstra, to explain the 
Commentary on the Sutras; then they composed one of 
a hundred thousand slokas, called the Vinaya-vibasha Sasira^ 
to explain the Commentary on Discipline ; and finally they 
composed a third work of another hundred thousand slokas 
called the Abhidharma-vihashd-Sastra^ to explain the Com- 
mentary on Metaphysics. These three hundred thousand 
slokas contained nine hundred and sixty thousand words. 
The king Kanishka had these three works engraven on plates 
of copper, and sealed up in a stone box, over which he built 
a stiipa : * If their deep meaning has been again brought to 
light,' adds iHiouen-Thsang, or rather his biographer, ' we 


owe it solely to the labours of this Council/ As Hiouen- 
Thsang remained two whole years in Kashmir, engaged in 
the most serious studies, and as * for centuries learning had 
been held in high honour in this kingdom,' these traditions, 
which are moreover so precise, deserve particular attention. 

As we have mentioned Asoka it may be as well to quote 
all the information Hiouen-Thsang gives us about him. 
Asoka, it would seem, was not born in the Buddhist faith, 
but as soon as his mind was opened to the belief, he 
resolved to build stupas all over India, to display, at the 
same time as his power, the fervour of his munificent 
piety. It is difficult to believe, notwithstanding tradition, 
that these stupas numbered eighty-eight thousand, but 
Hiouen-Thsang asserts that he saw with his own eyes 
monuments attributed to this potentate from the capital of 
Nagahara, at the foot of the Black Mountains of the Hindu 
Kush, down to the kingdom of Malakuta, at the southern 
extremity of the peninsula ; and from east to west, from 
the kingdom of Tamralipti to the borders of Sindh and 
even the Persian frontiers. It is therefore extremely probable 
that Asoka, who convoked the second Council, reigned over 
almost the whole of India, and that his authority was 
recognized by the multitude of small States which before his 
time and after him were divided into separate kingdoms. 
This is an historical fact that has a certain importance 
in the annals of India, and which therefore admits of no 

In another respect, this would lead us to believe that 
the Piyadasi of the religious and moral Inscriptions is, as 
Turnour maintains, one and the same as the great king 
Asoka. These pious Edicts, which commended to the people 
the observance of the Law of the Buddha, have been dis- 
covered, repeated in identical terms, on columns and rocks, 
in countries far distant from each other, and this circumstance 


258 BUDDHISM IN INDIA [pt. ii 

alone would prove that the devout monarch who promulgated 
them ruled over almost all India. This is another point 
of resemblance between Hiouen-Thsang's Asoka, and the 
Asoka of the Inscriptions. Chronology, according to our 
present knowledge, opposes insurmountable difficulties in 
the identification of these two ; but it is very possible that 
with fresh discoveries these difficulties will disappear. 

It has therefore been seen, that in the days of Hiouen- 
Thsang the whole of India was divided into a multitude 
of small principalities, each distinct and independent of 
one another. 

Nothing in the traveller's narrative reveals the cause of 
this political partition, which seems to have existed from 
a remote period. Sometimes it might be explained by 
differences of race, or natural obstacles that impose definite 
limits to provinces. But, generally, there is no such reason, 
and States are isolated from each other, although nothing 
exists in the nature of the soil, customs, language, beliefs, 
or races to divide them. Doubtless all these small local 
administrations had their reason for existence, but history 
does not give the reason, though it was powerful enough 
to have created agglomerations, if not nationalities, which 
time has not destroyed, and which have preserved their 
autonomy, notwithstanding all the convulsions that have 
agitated the peninsula. 

The most powerful prince whom Hiouen-Thsang met 
with was Siladitya, the king of Kanyakubja. He had no 
less than eighteen tributary kings under his rule; and on 
solemn occasions, as, for instance, the contest between the 
Great and Little Vehicle, he made them accompany him. 
However, in spite of all his power, Siladitya, even with 
the help of his vassals, had not been able to conquer 
Maharattha, that is, the country of the Mahrattas, situated 
in the centre of India. Even at that remote period, this 


warlike race, which was the last to submit to the English 
rule, knew how to defend its liberty, and protect its frontiers 
from all invaders. The picture Hiouen-Thsang gives of 
them conveys a high idea of the qualities of this people. 
' Siladitya led his victorious armies from east to west,' says 
Hiouen-Thsang, ' and the most distant nations tremblingly 
obeyed him. But the men of this kingdom never submitted 
to his laws. Although he had placed himself at the head 
of all the troops of the five Indias, and called under his 
standard the bravest generals of the States he led into 
combat, he had not yet succeeded in overcoming their 
resistance ; this will show their unyielding character and 
indomitable valour.' 

A still more remarkable fact was that, notwithstanding 
their warlike temperament, the Mahrattas were passionately 
devoted to study; and this testimony the traveller readily 
gives them, although he is not lavish of it ; in fact, he only 
bestows it upon three or four races : those of Kashmir, 
Magadha and Malwah. The Great and Litde Vehicle were 
both followed in Maharattha, where several hundreds of 
convents existed, containing about five thousand monks. 
The two sects lived there in harmony, and the heretical 
Brahmans were almost as numerous as the Buddhists. 
This happy country was particularly favoured: its ferdle 
soil produced corn in immense quantities, the climate was 
mild and the heat moderate. The inhabitants were simple 
and gentle in their habits, lived in comfort, and were in 
general tall of stature and possessed of singular strength. 

Siladitya, king of Kanyakubja (Central India), had suc- 
ceeded his elder brother, who had perished a victim to the 
treachery of a neighbouring prince jealous of his military 

He devoted himself to the happiness of his people ; like 
his ancestors he belonged to the caste of the Vaisyas; and 

R 2 

26o BUDDHISM IN INDIA . [pt. ii 

doubtless this humble origin inspired him with greater 
sympathy towards the inferior classes. He forbade through- 
out his dominions the slaying of a single living being, and 
allowed no meat to be consumed. Full of zeal for the 
Buddhist faith, which his family had professed for many 
generations, he had founded convents at all the places where 
the saints had left traces of their passage ; and had magnifi- 
cently endowed the great vihara of Nalanda. 

Siladitya's generosity was as great as his piety, and once 
a year he fed this multitude of monks during three or seven 
days. Besides this, every five years he assembled the Great 
Order of the Deliverance [Moksha mahd panshad), and dis- 
tributed in alms all the riches of the royal treasury. Hiouen- 
Thsang does not hesitate to compare his beneficence to that 
of the famous Sudana (Sudatta), the Anatha Pindika of the 
legends. This distribution of alms, not only to the monks 
but also to all the poorer classes of the population, is 
a characteristic institution of Buddhism, and one that has 
been retained. 

The Buddha had not made this an absolute law for 
princes; but in recommending almsgiving as the chief 
virtue, he had strongly urged it upon them ; and this singular 
custom partly replaced, in those remote days, the benefits 
of the poor-laws in the present time. As Hiouen-Thsang 
personally assisted at one of these solemn distributions, and 
as, his biographers have retained his account of it, we are 
able to know how it was carried out, and it is certainly one 
of the most curious spectacles afforded by Buddhism at 
that period. 

It will be remembered that the Buddha had instituted 
public confession as an atonement for sin, and that the 
monks were obliged to make these painful and salutary 
confessions twice a month; at the new moon and at the 
full moon. From the monks this pious custom had extended 


to the whole body of believers; but, as such frequent 
gatherings would have been prejudicial to the working-classes 
and the multitude who had to gain their daily subsistence, the 
force of circumstances had somewhat modified the primitive 
institution. The people were assembled every three years, 
or at least every five years, in order that all might confess, 
and settle, as it were, all their past offences. Piyadasi's 
religious edicts leave no doubt on this point, and Hiouen- 
Thsang's testimony, relating what he himself witnessed, 
thoroughly confirms them. These assemblies were the 
natural opportunity for royal liberalities ; but, litde by little, 
the real meaning of the institution died out, confession was 
first neglected, then forgotten; and the gathering became 
but the occasion for giving and receiving sumptuous alms. 
This was what the Chinese pilgrim saw, and what he relates. 

He was at that time in the kingdom of Prayaga, in Central 
India, one of the principalities that acknowledged the 
suzerainty of Siladitya. Near the capital two rivers, the 
Ganges and the Jumna, united; to the west of their con- 
fluence rose a plateau, about four miles in circumference. 
From the days of antiquity, kings and high personages ' gifted 
with humane feelings' went to this place to bestow alms. 
It had therefore been called the Great Plain of the Alms- 
giving. According to tradition, it was more meritorious to 
give one coin at this place, than to give a hundred thousand 
coins elsewhere. At all times it had been held in singular 
esteem ; and the king Siladitya, in this a scrupulous imitator 
of his predecessors, had gone thither to perform the generous 
and sacred ceremony. 

He first had a square space enclosed by a hedge of reeds, 
measuring a thousand feet on each side. In the middle 
several thatched halls were erected, containing an abundance 
of precious things, ingots of gold and silver, pearls, red glass, 
and rare gems of every kind. Other houses contained also 

262 BUDDHISM IN INDIA [pt. ii 

a quantity of silk and cotton garments, gold and silver coins, 
&c. Outside the hedge an immense refectory was built ; 
and as the distribution was to last a long time, a hundred 
houses, each capable of sheltering a thousand individuals, had 
been built in a straight row, like stalls in a market. Some 
time previous to the event, the king had summoned by decree 
all the Sramanas and heretic Brahmans, orphans and men 
without families, and the poor, in order that they might have 
their share in the distributions. Since the beginning of his 
reign he had already held five similar assemblies, this one 
was the sixth ; and Siladitya specially invited Hiouen-Thsang 
to this festival in order that he might witness the happiness it 
promoted. The king arrived in great state, followed by his 
eighteen tributary kings, amongst whom were his son-in-law 
Dhruvasena, king of Vallabhi in Southern India, and Kumara, 
king of Eastern India. Each of these kings had pitched his 
tent in different places, one to the north of the Ganges, the 
other to the west of the confluence, and the third to the 
south of the Jumna, by the side of a flowering grove. The 
men who had come to receive the alms numbered several 
hundred thousands, and were placed at the west of Dhruva- 
sena's tents. Military forces accompanied the kings, and 
took up the positions assigned to them, ready if necessary to 
maintain order. Moreover, everything was carried out in 
a methodical manner. 

Religion necessarily presided over these acts of great 
beneficence. The first day a statue of the Buddha was 
installed in one of the thatched temples erected on the Place 
of the Almsgiving, and precious things and rich garments 
were distributed. Exquisite viands were served, and flowers 
were scattered around to the sound of sweet music. In the 
evening all retired to their tents. Thus the whole ceremony 
was placed under the protection of the Buddha, in whose 
name it was held. As at that epoch the people were as 


tolerant as they were pious, the second day they installed 
in another temple the statue of the Sun-god (Aditya) adored 
by the idolaters; but this time the distributions were only 
half of what they had been on the previous day. The third 
day the statue of the Supreme God (Isvara) was installed, 
and the same amount of alms were distributed as at the 
installation of the Sun-god. All the different religions 
practised by these nations were treated — except as to pre- 
cedence — with the same respect ; and as in ordinary life 
they co-existed without contest or persecution, the kings did 
not set them apart in their beneficence any more than they 
did in their protection. 

On the fourth day the general distributions began, and 
they were first made to the monks, the fervent apostles of the 
Buddha's faith. 

Then the distribution was extended to the Brahmans, and 
as they were much more numerous, it lasted twenty days. 
After them came the turn of the heretics, which took up ten 
days, and that of the naked mendicants {nirgranihas) from 
distant countries, which lasted another ten days, lastly alms 
were given to the orphans, the poor, and men without 
families, which distribution took up no less than a month. 

The seventy-five days assigned to the distribution had now 
come to an end. All the wealth stored up during five years 
in the royal treasury was exhausted. The king had nothing 
left him but the elephants, horses, and weapons of war 
indispensable for the protection of his kingdom and 
the punishment of those who might cause disturbance. 
Personally, he had given away in alms all he wore, the best 
part of his garments, his necklaces, earrings, bracelets, the 
wreath round his diadem, the pearls that adorned his neck, 
and the carbuncle that glittered in the middle of his tuft 
of hair, in fact he had divested himself of everything he 
possessed. After having exhausted all his riches, he begged 

264 BUDDHISM IN INDIA [pt. ii 

his sister to give him a common worn-out garment, and 
having clothed himself with it, he worshipped the Buddhas 
of the ten regions, and in a transport of ecstasy he joined 
his hands, exclaiming : * In collecting all these riches and 
costly things, I constantly feared that I should not be able 
to conceal them in a safe and impenetrable place. Now 
that I have been able to deposit them in the Field of 
Happiness^ I consider them safe for ever. I wish in all my 
future existences thus to collect wealth in order to give alms 
to men, and obtain the ten divine faculties in all their 
plenitude.' Some time after this, the eighteen tributary 
kings collected large sums of money from the people of their 
States and bought back the magnificent necklace, the 
carbuncle of his head-dress, the regal vestments, &c., that the 
king Siladitya had given in alms, and brought them -back 
to him as an offering. But in a few days the king's raiment 
and the jewels of greater value were again bestowed in alms, 
like the first time. 

This is Hiouen-Thsang's account ; and he did not merely 
repeat what he had heard ; he had seen what he relates, and 
it would be difficult to refute his assertions. He may have 
exaggerated certain details, and the distributions of alms 
may have been somewhat less abundant than he says, but 
the principal points of his narrative must be true ; he most 
formally attests the existence of a custom created by religion, 
and maintained by the social condition of these enslaved and 
unhappy people not only in one part but over the whole 
of India. The Law of the Buddha enjoined almsgiving, and 
political reasons no less urgently dictated it. It would have 
been dangerous for the sovereigns not to have returned in 
gifts a part of the riches they extorted by taxation from 
their subjects, and it would have inevitably roused to despair 
and rebellion the impoverished masses who readily submitted 
to their rulers provided they were given a bare subsistence. 


Prudence therefore came to the aid of piety, and the kings, 
while deeming that by almsgiving they were securing a place 
in the Tushita heaven, secured also for themselves a peaceful 
and durable authority. 

What is still more astonishing is the general tolerance 
of both princes and people. Hiouen-Thsang only mentions 
one or two kings who had tried lo overthrow Buddhism in 
their States. If Sasangka, king of Karnasuvarna in Eastern 
India, ' abolished the Law, and destroyed the Tree of 
Wisdom,' the majority of the sovereigns display on the 
contrary great forbearance, and it would not seem that any 
of them had ever thought of coercing their subjects in the 
matter of their religious beliefs. 

This spirit of toleration cannot be ascribed either to reason 
or to indifference, for the Buddhist nations were too ignorant 
of justice and devoid of intelligence ; while on the other 
hand it cannot be ascribed to indifference, as their religious 
fervour is shown by the quantity of monuments they have 
raised in honour of their faith. Cities lay in ruins, iheir walls 
crumbled to pieces, while the stiipas and viharas still re- 
mained standing; nothing, indeed, seemed to foreshadow 
the downfall of this religion, for new sacred edifices were 
constantly being built. They fervently believed the ancient 
dogmas ; they sincerely respected tradition, however strange 
it might be ; their hearts were warm, and nevertheless they 
remained tolerant towards other and even antagonistical 
beliefs. We can therefore only state this fact without 
explaining it ; and the Indian mind in general, even more 
than the Buddhist, deserves all credit, for it must be re- 
membered that the Brahmans were as kindly towards their 
adversaries as the latter were to them. In all the ancient 
history of Brahmanism there is not a single record of 
a religious persecution. The Buddha, although a reformer, 
had in this faithfully imitated Brahmanism, and he never, 


in the whole course of his long career, dreamt of turning 
the influence of the princes who protected him against his 
religious antagonists. He was satisfied with contending 
against them by doctrines which he considered superior to 
theirs; but he never tried to use compulsion, and the 
whole spirit of the new faith held violence in abhorrence. 

In Hiouen-Thsang's time this happy state of things 
remained unaltered, and the struggle that was to lead to 
the expulsion of Buddhism had not yet begun. What was 
the condition of Buddhism in India in the middle of the 
seventh century of the Christian era, and what does the 
precise and devout pilgrim tell us on this subject.? He will 
doubtless not give us all the information we should wish ; 
but on the religious worship and the different sects he will 
furnish us with many details that will greatly interest us, 
although their ingenuous puerility may sometimes excite 
a feehng of contempt. 


Buddhist worship in India in the seventh century of the Christian era : 
its simplicity, worship of statues, the important part they play in 
Buddhism. Moving or flying statues, miraculous cures ; relics of 
the Tathdgata and other saintly personages. Imprints of the Buddha s 
footsteps. The Maitreya Bodhisatwa. Absence of organization 
among the hidian Buddhist monks. Relation of Buddhism with 
Brahmanism in the seventh century. Buddhism divided into two 
sects: the little and the Great Vehicle. Relation of the two 
principal sects ; subordination of the Little Vehicle; its secondary 
sects. Course of Buddhist studies at the time of Hiouen- Thsang. 
His intercourse with illustrious learned men. Summary of Indian 

At the time of Hiouen-Thsang's travels in India Buddhism 
had already existed for twelve hundred years, and during that 
long period the form of worship had not varied ; for it had 
retained its simplicity, although superstition had increased 
with the legends. The images of the Buddha and his relics 
were still worshipped, as well as the monuments which con- 
tained them, or which had been erected on the spots sanctified 
by the presence of the Reformer. Flowers were scattered 
and perfumes burnt before the statues, offerings of silver and 
precious things were made to them, the stupas were piously 
visited, and prayers, either mental or improvised for the 
occasion, were recited ; prostrations and clasping of hands as 
tokens of respect were still made use of; and on solemn 
occasions, public worship was accompanied by music. The 
ceremonial, however, remained the same as at the outset, 
simple and inexpensive. Buddhism addressed itself exclu- 
sively to the hearts and minds of the faithful, and disdained 

268 BUDDHISM IN INDIA [pt. ii 

external pomp ; and sacrifices, which by all the minutiae of 
its exercises held such an important place in the Brahmanic 
religion, had completely disappeared in the religion of the 

As the Buddha had never claimed to be a god, it is evident 
that he never prescribed the form of v^^orship that was to be 
rendered to him, A legend, however, attributes to him the 
institution of this form of worship, which it relates in the 
following manner. 

' Rudrayana, king of Roruka, had sent Bimbisara, king 
of Rajagriha, a magnificent suit of armour endowed with 
miraculous virtues. Bimbisara, not knowing how to requite 
such a valuable gift, consulted the Buddha, who at that time 
was at his court : " Let the image of the Tathagata be drawn 
on a piece of cloth," replied Bhagavat, " and send it as 
a present to Rudrayana." ' It will be seen that this advice 
shows little humility on the part of the Buddha, and nothing 
in Sakya-muni's life authorizes a belief of such conceit. But 
the legend quietly ignores this ; the Tathagata therefore casts 
his shadow upon a cloth, and orders the painters to fill in the 
outline with colours, and to inscribe under the portrait the 
Formulas of Refuge and the Precepts of his teaching, not 
omitting to trace, both in its direct and inverse order, 
the Connective Chain of Converse Causes of existence. 
Rudrayana respectfully receives this inestimable gift, and 
worships it with deep veneration, as Bimbisara had instructed 
him to do in a previous letter announcing his present. 

Such is, according to the legend, the origin of the form of 
worship. Only, in course of time, and by the very force of 
circumstances, statues were substituted for the less durable 
pictures, and they play an important part in Buddhism. 
They are extremely numerous, and often of an enormous size. 
The statues generally represent the Tathagata in the attitude 
of meditation or rather of teaching : the right arm is uplifted 


and the gesture of the hand is that of a master speaking to 
his disciples. They bear all the marks that are visible of 
the thirty-two signs pertaining to a great man, and which 
tradition ascribed to the Buddha. These statues figured in 
great pomp on all occasions to which a solemn or religious 
character was attached. 

This did not, however, constitute idolatry ; but the merits 
these statues possessed, by preserving the image of the 
Buddha, and recalling his holy presence, were not the only 
qualities they were endowed with; superstidon attributed to 
them many others better calculated to strike the imagination. 
Nothing is more common in the legends than statues that move 
or fly through space from far distant places. Near Purushapura 
in Gandhara (Peshawar) Hiouen-Thsang saw a stupa which, 
although in ruins, still measured 150 feet high, it had been 
built by King Kanishka. A hundred paces south-west of 
this stupa, was a white stone statue of the Buddha, eighteen 
feet in height, with its face turned to the north. ' At this 
spot,' says Hiouen-Thsang, ' a great number of miracles take 
place ; and the statue is often seen to move, during the night, 
round the great stupa.' 

Thus the pilgrim speaks of this prodigy, as if it could still 
be seen in his day. He does not, indeed, boast of having 
seen it himself, but it is probable that with a little more 
fanaticism he would have witnessed it, like so many other 

The miraculous appearance of two statues of the Buddha 
had formerly converted the kingdom of Kustana. One 
statue had come to Kashmir through the air, in answer to 
the prayers of a former king, who had gone to meet it at the 
head of his army. The statue had followed the monarch for 
some time, but when it reached the city of Po-Ki'a-I {Vo^2J\ ?), 
it had stopped. In vain did the king unite his efforts to 
those of his soldiers to move it ; no human power was able 

270 BUDDHISM IN INDIA [pt. ii 

to dislodge it. They therefore erected a small chapel over 
the statue. The king had given his cap, enriched with 
precious stones, to adorn the head of the Buddha ; and 
Hiouen-Thsang gazed at the ex-voto with an admiration that 
was shared by all those who were admitted to see it. The 
story of the second statue was no less extraordinary ; it had 
come at the prayer of another king, and had placed itself in 
a convent, on a throne prepared to receive it ; and it was— 
so the Chinese pilgrim was informed — the very same image 
that the Buddha had left to his disciples with the sacred 

Some of the Tathagata's statues were endowed with 
miraculous powers. In the city of Pi-mo (Bhima .?) about 
sixty miles east of the capital of Khotan, Hiouen-Thsang saw 
a statue thirty feet high, representing the Buddha standing ; 
it was remarkable for the beauty of its shape, and its serious 
and stern attitude. It was supposed to effect infallible cures 
in favour of those who invoked Bhagavat. When a man was 
ill, a leaf of gold was stuck on the statue at the spot corre- 
sponding to the seat of pain in the man, and he was im- 
mediately cured. Moreover, the vows and petitions made to 
this statue were nearly always crowned with success. 

As the statues of the principal Buddhist personages also 
received the homage of the faithful, Hiouen-Thsang relates 
the visit he devoutly paid to Avalokitesvara's statue in the 
kingdom of Hiranyaparvata. It was placed in a vihara on 
the summit of a mountain, and was made of sandal-wood. 
It was also the object of pious pilgrimages ; at all times 
a numerous throng gathered around it to worship it, after 
severely fasting for a week or two. A balustrade kept the 
faithful at a proper distance, and as the statue could not be 
touched, the flowers offered it were thrown from afar. If the 
garlands that were respectfully thrown at it settled on the 
hands or arms of the statue it was considered a good omen. 


'The Master of the Law bought therefore all kinds of 
flowers and wove them into garlands, then, when he got near 
the statue, he worshipped the Bodhisatwa in all the sincerity 
of his heart and celebrated his praise. After which, turning 
to his image, he bowed low before it, and addressed to it the 
three following petitions : ' After having studied in India 
I wish to return to my native land, and live there in perfect 
tranquillity, far from all danger. As an omen of success I ask 
that these flowers may settle on your venerable hands. 
Secondly, as a consequence of the virtue I cultivate and the 
wisdom I aspire to, I desire to be born one day in the heaven 
of the Tushitas and serve Bodhisatwa Maitreya. If this be 
granted, I pray that these flowers may settle on your vener- 
able arms. Thirdly, the holy doctrine teaches us that in the 
multitude of men of this world, some are in no ways gifted 
with the nature of the Buddha; I, Hiouen-Thsang, have 
doubts about myself, and I do not know if I am one of these. 
If therefore I possess within me the nature of the Buddha, 
and if, by the practise of virtue, I can in my turn become 
Buddha, I beg that these garlands of flowers may settle on 
your venerable neck/ Saying this, he threw the garlands 
of flowers, and each one settled according to his wishes. 
Then, having obtained all he desired, he gave way to 
a transport of joy. At this sight, the persons near him, who 
like him had come to worship the statue, and the guardians 
of the vihara, clapped their hands and beat the ground with 
their feet in token of their admiration. * If at a future time,' 
they said, * you attain the state of a Buddha, we ardently hope 
that you will remember this event, and make us pass among 
the first (to the other shore, that is to say, to Nirvana ) \' 

The worship of relics was as widespread and almost as 
fervent as that of the statues. It will be remembered that 

* See Stanislas Julien, Histoire de la vie et des voyages de Hiotun- 
Thsang, p. 172. 

272 BUDDHISM IN INDIA [pt. ii 

after the death of the Buddha, his relics had been divided in 
eight parts, amongst as many kings, who contended for 
them. As the body had been burnt, these relics could hardly 
consist of anything but ashes. But popular superstition 
easily transformed and multiplied them. In the days of 
Hiouen-Thsang, the che-H, as he calls them in Chinese 
{sarJras, body, in Sanskrit), were very numerous, and he found 
some in almost every part of India. He was able even to 
take back a collection of them to China, as well as statues. 

It is easy to comprehend that sariras^ that is, fragments of 
the actual body of Sakya-muni, were the most holy relics ; but 
they were not the only ones. In the kingdom of Nagarahara, 
besides the eyeball of the Buddha, and the bone of his 
cranium {usnisha), his garment and staff were preserved; 
at Baktra, besides one of his teeth, his water-jug and broom 
were shown; at Kongkanapura, at the other extremity of 
the peninsula, the statue of Siddhartha, prince royal {Kumd- 
ra raja), and his cap were treasured up ; doubtless it was the 
one he gave Chandaka, when he left the paternal palace ; 
this cap was about two feet high. At each festival it was 
taken from the box where it was carefully locked up and 
placed on a high pedestal, ' Many of those who contem- 
plate it,' adds Hiouen-TJisang, ' and worship it in perfect faith, 
have seen it surrounded by an extraordinary light.' It is 
the same with those who, gazing at the imprints which the 
Buddha's steps have left in many places, see these traces 
either long or short according to the virtue they themselves 
possess, and especially according to the fervour that animates 
them. At this rate miracles are easy, and the excited im- 
aginations of believers can produce as many as they wish. 

Amongst the personal relics, the teeth play the most 
important part. Hiouen-Thsang saw a dozen of them in 
the different parts of India he travelled over, and he asserts 
that his protector. King Siladitya, was on the point of under- 

ctt. ml BVt>t)Htst Worship in india 273 

taking a war against the king of Kashmir because he had 
refused to give him one of the Buddha's teeth. This one, 
although much shorter than many others, was an inch and 
a half long, it was of a yellowish white colour, * and at all 
times emitted a bright light,' if we are to believe the devout 
missionary, who was allowed to contemplate it in the con- 
vent where the pious king had deposited it. There was 
another no less famous in the king's palace in Ceylon. 
We shall revert to this later, when treating of Singalese 

The footprints of the Buddha are almost innumerable ; 
as the Tathagata, according to tradition, visited the greater 
part of the peninsula ; and the credulity of the faithful as 
well as the trickery of the monks greatly assisted in making 
them visible. These marks were usually imprinted on stones, 
and the most famous were those on Adam's Peak in the 
island of Ceylon, where the Buddha had certainly never 
gone. It was called Sripada, or Prabhat, that is, th6 
Blessed foot. 

The king Asoka was said to have raised stupas at all the 
places where the Buddha had left traces of his footsteps, 
and it will therefore be carsily understood how tradition had 
made these stupas attain the number of eighiy-fcur thousand; 
they were also called the eighty-four thousand Edicts of the 

At the side of the worship of the Buddha, by a deviation 
easy to understand, the worship of his principal disciples, 
and even that of personages famous by their virtue and 
knowledge, had followed that of the Buddha himself. Thus 
at Maihura, in Central India, Hiouen-Thsang found stupas 
in which had been deposited the relics of Rahula, the son 
of Sakya-muni and of Ananda, his cousin and faithful ad- 
herent, who compiled the Sutras of the first Council ; and 
those of Upali, who compiled the Vinaya at the same 

274 WdD^Bm in INDIA [¥t. 11 

Assembly, of Moggallana, of Saripulra, of Purnamaitra- 
yamputra, the first disciples of Tathagata, and of Manjusri, 
a no less celebrated ascetic, though he lived some centuries 
later. Every year, on feast days, the monks assembled in 
great number, and each one made offerings to the saint 
who was more particularly the object of his devotion. The 
votaries of the Abhidharma made offerings to Sariputra, and 
those who gave themselves up to meditation (the Dhyana 
ecstasy) made them to Moggallana. The partisans of the 
Sutras paid homage to PurnamaitrayanTputra ; and those who 
studied the Vinaya honoured Upali. The nuns, the Bhik- 
slmnis, specially honoured Ananda. The faithful who had 
not yet received all the rules of discipline honoured Rahula. 
Lastly, those who studied the Great Vehicle honoured all the 
Bodhisatwas without distinction. 

As for Hiouen-Thsang, he appears to have felt a special 
reverence for the Maitreya Bodhisatwa. When the boat 
in which he w^as descending the Ganges was surprised by 
])iratep, and his life threatened by the ruffians, who dragged 
him to the altar on which they were about to sacrifice him, 
he addressed his prayers to Maitreya and not to the Buddha ; 
on him alone does he energetically concentrate his thoughts ; 
it is this Bodhisatwa whom he sees appear in the ecstasy 
into which his spirit is plunged at this supreme moment, and 
it is to the all-powerful intervention of this saint, that he 
attributes his deliverance. At the end of his career, when, 
at the point of death, he recalls to mind all the good 
deeds he has accomplished, and dictates a list of them to 
his sorrow-stricken disciples, he boasts that he has had 
a thousand images of the IMaitreya Bodhisatwa painted ; 
and his most ardent wish, at this moment when he is 
quitting life, ' is to be admitted into the family of Maitreya 
in Tushita, in order to serve this Buddha, so full of tender- 
ness and affection.' The Gathas he recites when dying are 


addcessed to Maitreya; and at the very instant when his 
spirit is vanishing, he tells his disciples * that he has at last 
obtained his wish to be born in the midst of Maitreya's 
Assembly/ Thus the simple Bodhisatwa Maitreya seems 
to hold as high a place as the Buddha himself in the 
W'Orship of the learned missionary. 

All these details clearly show the condition of Buddhist 
worship in the days of Hiouen-Thsang : it was a spiritual 
homage rendered in the first place to the holiness and virtue 
of the Tathagata, and in the second to all those who had 
best followed his incomparable example. The worship 
was full of meekness and devoid of all costly state ; it was 
accessible to the very humblest, since it only required prayers 
and flowers, and the fiiith that accomj)anied these modest 
offerings was deemed more precious than the offerings 

No privileged class was entrusted with the pious exercises 
and ceremonies. The monks in holy orders, for this ex- 
pression is applicable to them, did not form part of a regular 
or general corporation, they were respected by the faithful, 
because they were thought to possess more knowledge and 
virtue than the common herd ; but they did not exercise any 
official power. They appear to have been subject, in the rich 
convents and viharas they inhabited, to a uniform discipline 
which dated from ancient times, but, numerous as they were, 
they were neither organized nor united under one common 
direction. Each vihara or sangharama kept apart and had 
its own administration, just as each province retained its own 
government. Religion had not overcome the spirit of 
division, and there was no more spiritual than political unity. 
The separate and unstable supremacies that sometimes 
existed with regard to the land, had never been attempted 
with respect to religion. The common faith rested on the 
identity of the writings which were univerrally venerated ; it 

s 2 

276 BUDDHISM IN INDIA [pt. if 

was maintained by its own power and by tradition; but 
it did not require that vast hierarchy which has proved 
indispensable to other nations. This singular fact is borne 
out by Hiouen-Thsang's testimony, and the evidence from 
a different point of view — contained in the Sutras. Pious 
foundations were flourishing everywhere, from Kashmir 
down to the extreme point of the peninsula. Created by 
the munificence of kings and the piety of believers, they were 
kept up by them and existed by their beneficence ; they 
were as opulent as they were numerous, but it would not 
seem that the monks ever thought of uniting under one rule 
all these scattered elements, in order to constiiute a power 
which would probably have proved irresistible. 

This usurpation took place in the neighbouring states^ 
notably in Thibet, where the supremacy of the Grand Lama 
had established itself; but in India it was not even attempted, 
and the idea never seems to have occurred to any one. 

Hiouen-Thsang gives us very few details about the altitude 
of Brahmanism in the presence of its rival, which seems in 
general to have enjoyed an easy triumph. 

The Brahmans with whom Siddhartha formerly di£cussed 
discuss no longer, they are called heretics ; the Vedas are 
classed amongst secular books, and they are henceforth so 
little feared, that they are studied in the convents on the 
same footing as philosophy, grammar, logic and medicine. 
This was doubtless a painful position for the old Brahmanic 
orthodoxy, but no symptom of revolt or persecution can be ' 
traced. History does not precisely state when Buddhism 
began ; but, thanks to the evidence of the Chinese pilgrim, 
it may be considered certain that towards the middle of the 
seventh century Buddhism still enjoyed complete tranquillity 
in India. 

It considered itself very superior to the ancient faith ; in 
its eyes Brahmanism was but the gross worship of spirits 


and Devas. The Brahmanic Pantheon was completely 
discredited, and a belief in those strange and impotent 
divinities was regarded as a kind of shame. The Brahmans 
did not know how to create an ideal accessible to the masses, 
and their metaphysical speculations, which were perhaps 
excellent for ascetics and men of learning, were not addressed 
to the vulgar herd, and could not appeal to them. The 
ideal that Buddhism created was, on the contrar}', intensely 
human ; and if the virtue of the Tathagata was infinitely 
superior to that of other men, it nevertheless served as 
a pattern and guide for them. This is shown by the example 
of Hiouen-Thsang and many others; he takes the Buddiia 
as his model, and the recollection of his heroic and saintly 
life assists him to become, in a certain measure, a hero and 
a saint. From this point of view Buddhism might well 
disdain Brahmanism, which was less moral and above all less 
practical; and it is evident that it loses no opportunity 
of manifesting a contempt, which its adversaries seem often 
to accept. The missionary saw Brahmans filling the meanest 
functions in the Buddhist temples. 

Thus the religion of the Buddha does not appear to have 
been on its decline in India, when the pious Hiouen-Thsang 
went thither to seek the enlightenment which was fading in 
China. He found tradition alive everywhere, religious estab- 
lishments flourishing and spread all over the country, which 
liberally maintained them; the most studious and learned 
teachers, a throng of disciples who diligently follow their 
lessons, in order to perpetuate them ; in one word, a pros- 
perous condition that seemed likely to continue for many 

And what more particularly proves the power which at 
this epoch animated Buddhism, were the energetic con- 
troversies in which it was constantly engaged, both against 
its adversaries and in its own circle. 

278 BUDDHISM IN INDIA [pt. ii 

Buddhism was divided into two sects : that of the Great 
Vehicle, and that of the Little Vehicle, both of which could 
be traced back to the earliest days. Two hundred and 
twenty years before Hiouen-Thsnng's journey, Fa-Hian had 
found them in the same situation. What differences separated 
them ? And in what did their discussions exactly consist ? This 
is a difficult question to solve ; and hitherto it has remained 
obscure, although the Buddhist documents we possess quote 
at each instant the names of these two sects. 

In the first place, the Great and Little Vehicle {Mahlyana 
and Hmayand) were exactly alike in the boundless faiih they 
had in the worship of the Buddha. They had only a different 
manner of honouring the Tathagata according as they studied 
his merits and doctrines in different works; but in reality 
they both believed only in him, and both sects possess the 
same fervour. 

From a Chinese catalogue quoted by Stanislas Julien,* it 
appears that the two Vehicles did not hold the same books 
as canonical and orthodox. The Great Vehicle had five 
scries of sacred writings, while the Liiile Vehicle had nine. 

The result of a comparison of these two lists of works 
is that the doctrine of the L'ttle Vehicle is much less elevated 
than that of the Great Vehicle, as its name implies. And 
indeed Chinese authors generally admit, that the partisans 
of the Little Vehicle cannot attain Nirvana, and are still 
subject to transmigration. They do not attain true meta- 
physics, but are content with the code of morals and dis- 
cipline, to which they add the legends. This is evidently an 
inferiority which adherents of the Little Vehicle strive in vain 
to hide. 

Moreover we see with what contempt Hiouen-Thsang — 
who belonged to the Great Vehicle — like nearly all the 

^ San-tchang'Ching, in some unpublished documents that Stanjslaj 
Juliep cppamunicated to ^b? author. 


Chinese Buddhists, spoke of them. How often he extols 
the sublime precepts of the Great Vehicle, comparing them 
with scornful complacency to the narrow, mean views of the 
Little Vehicle, which to him seem incapable of ensuring 
eternal salvation. He purposely relates the legends that 
depreciate it, and never loses an opportunity of quoting any 
facts that may be prejudicial to it. 

Notwithstanding this apparent inferioiity of the Little 
Vehicle, that sect was as numerous as its rival in the 
peninsula in the days of Hiouen-Thsang. It existed in the 
kingdoms of Bamian and Kapisa in the north; in that 
of Kapilavastu, and even at Benares; in the kingdoms of 
Hiranyaparvata and Champa in the east ; in the kingdom 
of Malwah, which was considered the most enlightened after 
Magadha; in that of Valiabhi in the south; at Va'sali 
in Central India; in Gurjara (Guzerai) in the west, in 
Sindh and in many other places. It is true that the Gre..t 
Vehicle generally predominated, and had in its favour 
number of its adherents as well as the purity of its doctrines. 
But this does not make it less tolerant ; and in many king- 
doms the two sects co-exist without excluding one or the 
other, and even without any great contest. Thus in 
Slladitya's dominions at Kanyakubja, the partisans of the 
Little Vehicle exercise their form of worship in complete 
liberty, as indeed the contest in which the Chinese pilgrim was 
triumphant would prove. And it was the same in the king- 
doms of Pundravarddhana, Kongkanapura, Mahara^tha (the 
country of the Mahrattas), Atali, Ayodhya (Oudh), Maihura, 
Udjdjayana (Udjein), &c. In all these countries the Little 
Vehicle is followed as much as the Great, and Hiouen- 
Thsang does not quote a single act of violence inspired by 

The most learned and pious monks mutually reiuted one 
?^nplhpr wjth unwearying ?eal; Vi;t thgij: apirngsity did not 

28o BUDDHISM IN INDIA [pt. ii 

extend beyond their arguments, and when the dialectic tourna- 
ment was ended, the two sects resumed their good under- 
standing, which lasted till the next contest, where self-love was 
alone at stake. Nevertheless, as the two Vehicles have their 
own particular convents the sects do not mix in ordinary life, 
and do not willingly avail themselves of each other's hospitality. 
When Hiouen-Thsang reached the capital of the kingdom of 
Kapisa, one of his companions, who belonged to the Little 
Vehicle, showed a certain repugnance at staying in a convent 
of the Great Vehicle. The Master of the Law yielded to 
this susceptibility, by going himself to reside in a convent of 
the Little Vehicle, which had in former days been the residence 
of the son of a Chinese emperor, retained there as a hostage. 
The fact was that the two Vehicles had diflferent rules with 
regard to the food of the monks. The Little Vehicle only 
permitted three kinds of food, which were called the three 
pure foods \ and it forbade all other. The prohibition mi^ht, 
however, under certain circumstances be disregarded ; and 
the monks of the kingdom of A-ki-ni (Agni), who were 
renowned for the severity and purity of their lives and their 
submission to the laws of discipline, added some ordinary 
foods to the three pire foods. This excessive sobriety of the 
Little Vehicle was considered an error, perhaps because it 
recalled the dangerous austerities prohibited by the Buddha ; 
and Hiouen-Thsang boasted to the king of Kutch, who 
received him in his palace, that he ate indiscriminately of 
every kind of food, leaving to the Gradual Doctrine, that is 
to say, the Little Vehicle, a practice which seemed to him 
both puerile and culpable. As the Little Vehicle was less 
esteemed, it frequently happened that it was abandoned for 
the superior doctrine ; Hiouen-Thsang gives several such 
examples. It was thus that the famous Vasubandhu of 
Gandhara, imitating his master Asamgha, had passed from 
the schools of the Little Vehicle to those of the Great Vehicle, 


where he had become one of the greatest authorities. A w hole 
convent in Magadha had been converted by the miraculous 
gift of a wild goose, which fell from the skies at the feet of the 
bursar, who on that day had found himself in great diflficuliies 
to provide for the monks' repast, as they could only eat the 
three pure foods. 

Sometimes the change was made in the opposite direction ; 
and as it was possible to be very learned although a partisan 
of the Little Vehicle, the Great Vehicle was abandoned, on 
account of its somewhat obscure theories, which appealed less 
vividly to the imagination. At the gates of the capital of the 
kingdom of Matipura, Hiouen-Thsang saw a stiipa con- 
secrated to the memory of Gunaprabha,lhe author of numerous 
works, who, after having studied the Great Vehicle had left 
it and joined the Little Veliicle. It is probable, however, that 
such cases were rare. No disgrace was, however, attached to 
the practice of the Little Vehicle, for those who prided 
themselves on possessing thorough knowledge, while giving 
the preference to ihe Great Vehicle, studied indiscriminately 
both of them. 

Not far fiom the learned convent of Nalanda, Hiouen- 
Thsang found on a mountain, called the Forest of Staffs, an 
ascetic renowned for his learning, whose teaching he diligently 
followed for two years. He was a Kshatriya who in his 
youth had displayed a great taste for study, and who, re- 
nouncing his caste, had become a Buddhist. He possessed 
a thorough knowledge of secular works, or books from 
outside as they were called ; of the four Vedas, of works on 
astronomy, geography, medicine, magic, and arithmetic : but 
besides these he knew the Great and Little Vehicles, although 
he was a disciple of Silabhadra, the venerable superior of 
the Convent of Nalanda. 

Hiouen-Thsang himself, in a letter of thanks which he 
wrote to the king of Kao-Tch'ang, after obtaining his release, 

282 BUDDHISM IN INDIA [pt. ii 

boasts that he is acquainted with the two Vehicles, and ex- 
presses himself in the following manner : * Hiouen-Thsang, 
thanks to his happy destiny, entered at an early date through 
the Black Gate (into a convent), and followed the master's 
teachings till he was about twenty years of age. All the 
illustrious sages and friends of a superior merit were con- 
sulted and interrogated by him. He studied thoroughly the 
precepts of the Great and LitJe Vehicle.' Later, when 
Ilioucn-Thsang, who had written a treatise expressly to refute 
the errors of the Little Vehicle, returned to China, laden with 
the sacred treasures he had gone to seek in India, he took 
back with him the works of the Little Vehicle, which, although 
less precious, were almost as numerous as those of the Great 
Vehicle ; and in his long retreat he translated both of them 
with equal care, if not with equal respect. During all his 
sojourn in India he had impartially studied the two Vehicles, 
under the guidance of the most authorized masters. 

It would not seem, however, that the ancient doctrines of 
Brahmanic philosophy were quite extinct at the time when 
the Chinese pilgrim travelled through India. As he had an 
utter contempt for Brahmanism, he hardly notices it, never- 
theless he was acquainted with it, and, when duty required it, 
he was able to refute it. It was thus that, before the great 
conflict with the partisans of the Little Vehicle at Kanyakubjd, 
he engaged in a regular discussion with a Brahman upon 
different systems, and among others on that of the Sankhya 
and the Vaiseshika. He analyzed them in order to demon- 
strate their absurdity. The arguments by which he thinks to 
overcome them may not appear very conclusive, but they at 
least prove that he had studied these theories, and that they 
were sufficiently prevalent for Buddhism to have to contend 
against them, even if it had no cause to fear them. The 
ancient philosophy therefore was not dead, and the Brahmans 
still cultivate^ it, ?Jihoi]gh \\ possessed little life or influence, 


Buddhism, on the contrary, was full of activity and energy. 
It would be difficult without the ample details furnished by 
Hiouen-Thsang, to have an idea of the important mental 
movement and enormous labour of which it continued to be 
the object. The monks, in all the viharas and samgharamas, 
zealously applied themselves to the writing of books, when 
they possessed sufficient talent and authority to speak in their 
own name, or else they applied themselves to the study of 
the works sanctioned by orthodoxy. Throughout all India, 
Hiouen-Thsang, learned as he was, found personages worthy 
to discuss wiih him on the most delicate points of the Law, and 
even capable of enlightening him. These personages were 
deeply venerated for their intelligence by all who came near 
them, from the kings who aspired to converse with them, 
down to the people who worshipped them as saints. Thry 
gloried in the number of books they had read; and the 
professors of the Law who could quote and comment on 
the largest number were considered the most illustrious and 
were the most revered. They mutually questioned each 
other on the meaning of obscure passages, and woe to him 
who could not answer; false science was unmasked, and 
vanity pitilessly punished by richly deserved humiliation. Not 
only did the monks in their studious retreats distinguish 
themselves by these pious labours, but whole populations 
kept up and honoured the culture of letters, as for instance 
in Magadha and Malwah. 

The Buddhist mind, which had no other food than the 
sacred writings, was exclusively given up to studying and 
explaining them; and these serious occupations sufficed to 
satisfy all the cravings of the heart and imagination. Some- 
times indeed they might indulge in some momentary relaxation 
by the study of logic, astronomy, medicine, arithmetic or 
magic ; but those profane pursuits were soon laid aside for the 
?ple research nepdful, th^t of eternal solvation, w|iiph could 

284 BUDDHISM IN INDIA [pt. ii 

only be acquired by meditating the Law of the Buddha and 
its boundless perfections. 

In Hiouen-Thsang's time, that is about twelve hundred 
years after the death of the Buddha, the fervour of religious 
study and discussions had not slackened. The neighbouring 
countries, particularly those in the north, sought from India, 
the revered birthplace of the Buddha, the instruction it could 
alone impart, and whxh it liberally gave them. Hioucn- 
Thsang mentions over forty monks of his day whom he met, 
and whose teachings he followed or refuted in all the countries 
he travelled through. 

Another course of stud"es about which Iliouen-Thsang 
also gives some curious and most precise information, are the 
translations of the Buddhisms' writings made in China, by 
monks who came from India. Under the reign of Fou- 
Kien, prince of Thsin from the year 358 to 383 of the 
Christian era, a certain Sramana called Dharmanandi trans- 
lated the sacred books, and one of the Emperor's chamber- 
lain's held the brush. From 397 to 415, another Indian 
Buddhist ramed Kumarajlva was the translator; and under 
the Second Wei dynasty, from 471 to 477, the translator was 
Bodhiruchi. Shortly before Iliouen-Thsang, in 627, an 
Indian professor, Prabharatna, was entrusted with the trans- 
lations, which one of the Emperor's nunistcrs revised in 
order to ensure their lucidity and elegance. Thus, during 
many centuries, did China apply to Buddhistic India for iis 
interpreters of the Law, and India was always able to furnish 

Iliouen-Thsang not only gives these details as to individuals, 
but he also furnishes details upon the works themselves. 

Besides the Sutras, he mentions a quantity of Sastras, 
Karikas and Tikas, all secondary books, but still very impor- 
tant, as they develop, complete, and comment on the original 
documents of the fliith. If we were not afraid of wearying 


our readers, we cculd name fully one hundred. Such was 
the learned and devout society amid which Hiouen-Thsang; 
lived during sixteen consecutive years, in order to acquire the 
orthodox knowledge that he was desirous of carrying back to 
his own less enlightened country. We may indeed smile at the 
ingenuousness of the missionary, who took so much trouble to 
collect absurd legends and extravagant beliefs, but this docs 
not diminish his merit. We must, however, admit that oi:r 
astonishment surpasses our contempt, for we had no idva 
that, in the seventh century of the Christian era, India 
possessed convents as numerous as those of our Middle Ages ; 
schools and monks as learned and as laborious as our own; 
vivid religious preoccupations, and a complete collection of 
sacred writings; documents of all descriptions, which attest 
and keep up the dogmas of its faith ; and princes and nations 
so pious and at the sime time so tolerant. We do not seek 
to compare the fertile chaos of our Western Continent — at 
that period — with Indian Buddhism such as Hiouen-Thsang 
reveals it to us ; but we may well doubt whether any 
intelligent and courageous missionar}', who might have come 
from distant countries to our own, would have received 
so cordial a reception, and, more especially, if he would have 
been able to make such an abundant harvest. He would 
have been strangely puzzled to find on the Christian religion 
the 657 works the Chinese pilgrim was able to collect on 
the Buddhist faith; and when we see how small was the 
literary store in our most renowned schools, we may well 
consider that the Buddhist world studied its religion better than 
the Christian world did its own. It is true that it had already 
accumulated the labours of twelve hundred years, and that it 
had the whole Brahmanic system behind it; but western 
civilization had had equal advantages, which it had neglected. 
Later, its destinies were to be much higher; but at that 
moment the Christian world was in a state of inferiority 


which its pride little suspected; and which even fio\v it is 
reluctant to admit. However, in face of precise and un- 
deniable documents like those of Hiouen-Thsang's travels, 
our civilization must recognize. that if it has no rivals it has had 
at least equals, which deserve all its consideration and even 
sympathy, notwithstanding their deficiencies and mistakes. 
Buddhism has, like our own civilization, stirred up the greatest 
problems that the human intelligence can evoke. It has not, 
it is true, found the solution, but it is no small honour to 
have made the attempt, and this noble effort, sterile as it 
was, it well calculated to disarm severity and compensate for 
many faults. 




Lord Torringtoit, Governor of Cey/on and the Buddhist priests in 184R. 
Sources of the history of Ceylon; Bwnovfs notes on the ancient 
names in that Island. The J\ dm ay ana. Greek and Roman accounts 
of Taprohane. Fa-Hians journey to Ceylon; traditions collected hy 
Jliotien-lhsang ; Sinhalese annals. 'Jurnour's Mahavansa. Sir 
Alexander Johnston's undertaking in 1826. Deception practised by 
Sinhalese priests. Upham^ s publication. The sacred and historical 
Tali books of Ceylon. Conversion of Ceylon to Buddhism. Analysis 
of the Mahavansa. Supposed journey of the Buddha to Ceylon. 
The three Councils. Beta lions of JJharmasoka^ king of India with 
Devanam-Tiya-Tissa king of Ceylon; interchange of atubassadors. 
Mahinda, Buddhist apostle, and his sister go to ( eylon. Branch of 
the Bodhi tree. Some important events in the history of Ceylon. 
The Btuldha's tooth. Divers translations of the Canonical books and 
their Commentaries by Buddhaghosa in the fifth cetUury of the 
Christian era. 

When in 1848 Lord Torrington, Governor of Ceylon, 
established a highway tax, the Buddhist priests protested, and 
demanded to be exempted from the lax. By this law, every 
inhabitant, without exception, was bound either to perform 
six days' labour on the highways, or in default to pay a 
certain sum of money. The Buddhist priests presented to the 
Governor a humble but at the same time dignified petition, 
in which they set forth how impossible it was for them to 
submit to this general rule ; and the motives they gave were 
very forcible. 

They represented that during four months of the year their 

2S3 BUDDHISM IN CDyLON [pt. ttt 

subsistence depended entirely on the alms given by the popu- 
lation, from \vhom they received their daily food, without even 
being permitted to ask for it ; that, during the other eight 
months, when their subsistence was no less precarious, they 
were constantly travelling about ; that they could neither work 
nor even take oIT their clothes for a moment without forfeiiing 
their title and ceasing to be priests ; and therefore they could 
not personally contribute to the construction of the roads. 
Moreover, that as they fasted, according to rule, eighteen hours 
out of every twenty-four, and never ate except between six 
o'clock in the morning and noon, they were incapable of 
executing any manual labour without falHng ill ; on the 
other hand, they could not replace an impossible labour by 
a pecuniary compensation, for according to their rules they 
could possess neither money nor property in any shape 
whatever; and that they could no more exact money from 
the faithful, than they could bread. 

They added that, since the establishment of Buddhism in 
Ceylon, 316 years before the Christian era, they had never 
been compelled either to work or to pay any tax ; that the 
convention of 181 5, by which the inhabitants of Ceylon had 
freely surrendered to the English crown, stipulated, amongst 
other guarantees, the maintenance and independence of the 
Buddhist religion ; and finally, that by compelling them to 
work, they would be violating their most sacred duties in this 
world and forfeit all hopes of a world to come. In conse- 
quence, they petitioned that the tax, in both its alternatives, 
should not be applied to them. 

The Governor listened to this just claim, and acceded to 
their request, but this was not done, however, without a good 
deal of trouble. The Buddhist priests' protestation was fol- 
lowed by others. The Bishop of Colombo protested and 
alleged that it would give Pagan Buddhism an immense 
advantage over Christianity if their request was granted. If 


the Buddhist priests were exempted, why should not all other 
priests be also exempted ? Would not Sinhalese fanaticism 
take advantage of this preference ? Might it not be feared 
that it would raise a fresh obstacle to the progress of Christi- 
anity among the natives? On the other hand, the fiscal 
administration protested like the clergy, and while ready to 
recognize that the Buddhist priests could not be compelled 
eiiher to perform the labour themselves or to pay the tax in 
money, it suggested a rather ingenious expedient, and pro- 
posed that they should be obliged to find substitutes. 

Lord Torrington deserves great credit for having discerned 
what was just and right in such a conflict of different pre- 
tensions. By a special privilege he exempted the Buddhist 
priests, not, however, by virtue of their priesthood, but as 
mendicants. The facts stated by the petitioners were but too 
true : their vows, their traditional rules, their daily habits, their 
style of hfe, and their beliefs were all insurmountable obstacles ; 
and the statesman recognized the force of a protest so well 
justified, and gave them full satisfaction ^ 

The tolerance of the English administration was the more 

* This petition can be seen in the Blue Book published in 1849 'inder 
tlie headinj; of Papers Relative to the Affairs of Ceylon. This document, 
which consists of 300 pages in folio, relates all the facts about the 
insurrection which' occurred in 1848, and which, although unimportant, 
lasted several months. Lord Torrington's energetic measuies soon 
suppressed it ; the highway tax and other administrative measures had 
been the pretext, but in reality the Kandyans rose in 184S as they had 
risen in 1818, 1827, 1834, and 1843, and as they may possibly again rise 
in rebellion. They resented a foreign yoke, and were always striving for 
the restoration of an Indian monarchy. The Kandyans must not be 
confused with the remainder of the Sinhalese population; they are more 
restless and warlike. They are of a different race, being genetally 
descendants of the Tamils. Lord Torrington's adminisliation was 
attacked by one of his successors, Sir II. G. Ward, but the former 
easily refuted these undeserved criticisms, and his reply, dated January 17, 
1S57, was published in the parliamentary reports, from the time of 
Lord Torrington's administration (May, iS47-November, 1850) dates the 
prosperity of Ceylon. Thanks to the impulsion he gave to all great works 
of public utility, the island already possessed, in 1S51, i,Soo niiles of 
admirable roads, besides a large number of other financial ameliora'.ions. 

290 BUDDHISM IN CEYLON [rr. iii 

praiseworthy that it was perfectly aware of the bad influence 
exercised on the people by the Buddhist priests. They had 
aided and abetted all the insurrections which had broken out 
since 1815, as indeed they again did in that of 1848, which 
was caused by the false rumour spread throughout the island 
that France and l^.ngland were at war, and that French troops 
were about to land in the port of Trincomalee. In the trial 
after the insurrection, when the principal offenders were 
punished, a Buddhist priest was implicated, found guilty, and 
condemned to death by court-martial, with eighteen other 
insurgents, and was executed in his priestly vestments and all 
the insignia of his office. This example, which had only 
had one precedent, was considered necessary in order to deter 
future imitators. The Sinhalese are extremely fanatical; if 
they fancy their relics run any danger, more especially the 
Buddha's famous tooth, which endows its proprietor with 
sovereign rights, they are at once roused and ready to take 
up arms, if only they can find a leader ^ 

Throughout the whole country, and particularly in the 
northern and central provinces, there are a large number of 
temples, assiduously frequented and richly endowed by the 
magnificence of the faithful. The most important — to which 
convents are attached — are found in the Dombera district, 
north-west of Kandy; and in 1841 the pretender, Gongala- 
godda Banda, had himself crowned in the Temple of Dombula, 
one of the most venerated and ancient temples, said to have 
been built one century before Christ. 

These facts would in themselves prove the power that 

Buddhism still possesses in Ceylon, and it is an interesting 

^ See the Blue Book already quoted : Papers Relative, &c., &c., p. 171. 
In 1818 the removal of the Buddha's tooth, transferred from one city to 
another, had been the signal for rebellion. In 1848 the English 
Resident at Kandy deemed it advisable to lock up the precious relic, 
in order to prevent its falling into the hands of ihe rebels. Later, when 
all danger was over, he restoied jt to the priests for the worship of ttje 


study to see what its actual condition is after a rule of more 
than two thousand years. This work has been performed by 
Turnour in a masterly manner ; he has brought to our know- 
ledge one of the most important documents of Pali-Sinhalese 
literature, and the Mahdvansa^ in the form he has given it to 
us, is certainly one of the most valuable sources for researches 
into the ancient history of Ceylon. We shall refer to it later, 
but we will first rapidly pass in review what is known of Bud- 
diiism in Ceylon within historical times. 

Eugene Burnouf had intended, at the out;^et of his studies 
in Pali, to compose a special wo;k on this subject. The 
Journal Asiatique of Paris gave an important fragment of his 
woik on the ancient names in the isiland of Ceylon \ 
Burnoufs studies would have chiefly been directed to the 
ancient geography of the island in its relations to history; but 
he was deterred from this undertaking by Hodgson's impor- 
tant discovery, and he therefore preferred to keep to the 
original Sanskrit works of Nepaul rather than the Sinhalese 
traditions and documents. Moreover, he intended taking up 
southern Buddhism later, after having thoroughly investigated 
northern Buddhism, and the appendixes of the Lotus de la 
bonne Loi show how far he had already carried his laborious 

One of the principal sources, and certainly the oldest, ©f the 
history cf Ceylon is the Rdmayana. Rama undertook the con- 
quest of the island in order to recover the beautiful Slta, who 
had be(2n carried off to Lanka (the ancient name for Ceylon) by 
the traitor Ravana. But the well-known confusedness of this 
strange poem makes it difficult to extricate any reliable facts 
from the mass of extravagant fictions, in which monkeys and 

"^Journal Asiatique of Taris, Jnnuary, 1S51, p. i and following. 
Burnoufs men^.oranda had been read — we are told by a notice of 
M. Mohl, member of the Institute and Secretary of the French Asi.itij 
Society— at two sittings of the Academic des Inscriptions et Belles-lettres, 
in March, 1834. 

T 2 


genii take a much more important place than heroes and men. 
It would, however, be a mistake to set the Rdmayana aside, for 
it is almost the only evidence that can furnish us with some 
account of the state of the island before the introduction of 
Buddhism. The Hindus, as the Rdmayana itself shows, had 
the strangest ideas about this country, although it was £0 
near the peninsula, and the obscurity of their legends betrays 
little acquaintance with it \ 

With the introduction of Buddhism into Ceylon, this 
ignorance began to give way. But the evidence that attests 
this important fact is of a much later date than the fact itself, 
and the Buddha's religion had been established for six 
hundred years or more when the historians, if the author of 
the Mahdvansa and his successors can be so called, thought 
of recording traditions which were about to disappear. 

The Greeks first knew Ceylon under the name of Tapro- 
bane^ in the days of Onesicritus and Megasthenes, shortly 
after Alexander's expedition. But the Greeks never knew what 
religion the inhabitants of Taprobane professed, and more- 
over cared little for this kind of information. In their opinion 
Taprobane was only famous for its wealth, its pearls, and the 
cinnamon it produced. Later they knew more, without really 
knowing much, and the famous embassy of the King of 
Taprobane to the Emperor of China furnished a few niore 
precise details, which Pliny has recorded. However, the 
Roman naturalist simply snys, in mentioning the religion of 
Taprobane, that Hercules was v.'orshippcd there. It is cer- 
tainly a very unexpected similitude if under the features of 
Hercules we are to recognize the Buddha. 

The Chinese pilgrim Fa-Hian (395-416 a. d.) is the 

* Kilinayana, Canto I, chap. iv. slokas :;5, 77, 102, 103, and Cantos 
V and VI. 

^ Burnouf has shown the identity of the word Taprobane with the 
SniisUiiL Tainrapania, one of the names by which the Indians dtsij^naled 
the ibland of Ceylon, where the leaves of certain tiecs are copper colour. 


first personal witness we have about Ceylon. It cannot 
be averred that he was a very exact or very intelligible 
historian; but as he speaks of vhat he has seen, his narra- 
tive deserves particular attention. After sojourning two years 
in ihe kingdom of Tamralipti, souih-west of the Ganges, lie 
embarked on board a merchant ship going lo Sinhala, or 
the kingdom of the Lion. The voyage laited fourteen days 
before the small islands on the coast of Sinhala were 
reached; these, Fa-Hian tells us, numbered a hundred \ 
He found the Buddhist religion in full prosperity, and 
practised with more fervour than in any country he had 
visited in India. Fa-Hian accepts without hesitation the 
statement that Fo the Buddha had been to Sinhala, and 
left two imprints of his saintly feet, one to the north of the 
royal city, and the other on a high mountain (the famous 
Adam's Peak, which is the highest in the island, and over 
7,000 feet high). Fa-Hian also heard the Sinhalese traditions 
about the branch of the Bodhi or Bo-tree miraculously 
conveyed from India to Sinhala, as well as the legend* about 
the Buddha's tooth. This inestimable relic was publicly 
exhibited every year for the adoration of the inhabitants. 
The solemn procession took place at the time of the third 
noon. A herald announced it throrghout the country several 
days before, and tlie people thronged to the ceremony. 
During the procession, pictures representing the five hundred 
different births or manifestations of the Buddha were ex- 
hibited, to revive the pious recollection of his merits and his 

To perform the services of this flourishing religion, llie 
kingdom of the Lion, Sinhala, possessed a numerous and 
wealthy clergy. Fa-Hian found five thousand monks at 
the Convent of the Fearless Mountain (Abhayagiii). In 
another convent, called the Great Convent, there were 
* The islands of the Straits of Manaar. 


three thousand, and at the chapel of the Bodhi there were 
two thousand. In the capital, which was very magnificent, 
but of which Fa-Hian forgets to give the name, the king 
alone fed five to six thousand. The Chinese pilgrim 
estimates from what he saw that the whole island must 
contain from fifty to sixty thousand monks ; at least this 
was the approximate figure that the people of the country 
gave him. All these monks were individually as poor as 
the law of Fo demanded ; every morning they went out 
with their alms-bowl in their hands, and silently waited 
till charity or the commiseration of the laity had filled it. 
If, however, the individuals were so completely destitute, the 
temples were extremely wcalihy; the kings look pleasure 
in making them sj)lendid donations ; these had accumulated 
for centuries past, and the communities therefore ended by 
possessing an enormous amount of property \ 

The people were no less pious than the kings, and the 
four castes assembled regularly three times a month — the 
eighth, fourteenth, and eighteenth day of each moon — to 
listen to the sacred preaching. These sermons were de- 
livered from a pulpit, from which a monk appointed for 
the purpose addressed himself to the attentive multitude. 
Fa-Hian assisted at several of these salutary instructions, 
and in one, amongst others, he heard the whole narrative 
of the admirable story of the Budtiha's vase. The devout 
pilgrim would have wished very much to retain this adorable 
legend, but unfortunately it had never been written down. 
However, as the clergy wTre very well informed, Pa-Hian was 
able to make an ample provision of works and books 
written in the Fan language (or language of the Brahmans, 
Sanskrit, or Pali). 

* The donations to the convents are still very considerable, and as they 
are generally free from all legal duties and all dues, they give rise to 
rather serious difficulties for the English administration. 


All this information, given by Fa-Hian, is of great value, 
and shows Buddhism in all ils splendour and power in the 
fifdi cenlury of our era, and more deeply rooted in Ceylon 
than in India, alihough it had been transmitted from India. 
Doubtless Fa-Hian, after sojourning there two years, might 
— if the object of his journey had been less special and 
his mind less preoccupied— have related much more about 
the curious country he was visiting. Although the Chinese 
people had not very frequent intercourse with the kingdom of 
the Lion (Sse-tseu-Koiie\ it is certain that commerce had 
attracted them thither long before Fa-Hian went there, indeed 
Pliny gives irrefutable proof of this. All that Fa-Hian tells 
us independently of religious matters is that the capital of 
the country was very fine, a fact that tallies with the account 
given by the Chinese ambassadors, and that the kingdom 
enjoyed perpetual peace. This probably means that peace 
was not disturbed during the whole lime the Chinese pilgrim 
lived there; for this tranquillity hardly agrees with what 
is known of the character and history of the inhabitants 
of the island, from Ravana, the fabulous ravisher of Rama's 
spouse, down to the insurrection of our own time. With Fa- 
Ilian's narrative the uninterrupted scries of authentic docu- 
ments begin, although it must be added that these native 
documents are neither as exact nor intelligible as could be 
desired. The Mahdvaiisa was composed, at least its first 
part, spme years after Fa-Hian's journey. 

As for Hiouen-Thsang, he had not the privilege of visiting 
Ceylon as he had intended. When he reached the kingdom 
of Dravida in southern India, and arrived at its capital, 
KanchTpura, which was a seaport, he purposed crossing 
over to the island of Sinhala, which was only three days' 
distant by sea. But he was dissuaded from this voyage 
by two monks, who had precipitately left that country, and 
urged him not to go there. The king had just died, and 


the whole island was a prey to civil war as well as famine. 
This terrible news was confirmed by other fugitives, and 
Hiouen-Thsang prudently decided not to attempt such a 
dangerous, and probably useless, journey. But he gathered 
as much information as he could about the country which he 
regretted not having seen, as the learning of its monks was 
in high renown, and the Master of the Law had intended 
to stud}', with their assistance, certain canonical works that 
he had not yet sufficiently fathomed. 

He learnt, however, that the kingdom of Sinhala, formerly 
called llie Island of Precious Things, the Pearl Isle [Raina- 
dv'ipa\ was a vast country of aboijt 7,000 // in circumference 
(1,740 miles) \ The capital, which was large, was forty // 
in circumference (nine miles). It was densely populated, 
but the land was exceedingly fertile. The inhabitants were 
of a dark complexion, generally short of stature, and violent 
and fierce in their habits. The worship of the Buddha, which 
had been introduced there one hundred years after the 
Nirvana, was held in great honour. There were no less 
than a thousand convents or sangharamas, and ten thousand 
monks in the island ; these were men of great learning and 
piety, but instead of wearing the yellow robe of the Indian 
Sramanas they were robed in black. They belonged for 
the most part to the sect of the Great Vehicle, and more 
especially that of the Sarvastivadas. The vihara of the 
Buddha's tooth was situated near the king's palace ^ 

Hiouen-Thsang then relates two legends on the oiigin 

' This estimation is about 450 miles above the mark. 

* This is in perfect conformity w ith the present belief of the Sinhalese. 
It has been seen above that the Buddha's tooth always played a great 
part in the popular disturbnnces, becaure it was supposed that whoever 
possessed it had sovereign rights. The mention Iliouen-Thsang 
makes of the violent and ferocious character of the inhabitants of 
Sinhala applies to that part of the population which have remained 
almost savages even to our day, and which lie concealed in the most 
central and thickly wooded parts of the country; they are called Ueddas, 
and, as the Chinese pilgrim stated, are wild and ferocious in their habits. 


of the name of Sinhala, the kingdom of the Lion. One 
of these legends is absurd ; for it says that a lion, uniting 
with the daughter of a king, was the progenitor of the 
inhabitants of the island. The son of the Lion, having 
killed his father, was cast adrift on the seas as the puni.-h- 
ment of his parricide, and the wind drove his ship on to the 
coasts of the island of Precious Things. His sister, who, 
it appears, was as culpable as her brother, was also sent to sea 
on a vessel that was cast on the Persian {Fo-la-sse) shores, 
which since that time was called the kingdom of the Western 
Daughters. The sister peopled Persia by uniting herself 
with demons, and the brother peopled RatnadvTpa, thanks 10 
the women brought there by merchants, from whom he 
abducted them^ The second legend is much simpler: the 
sen of an Indian merchant called Sinhala is said to have 
taken possession of the island on landing and given it Iks 

It is regrettable that Hiouen-Thsang was not able to go to 
Ceylon as he had intended. Exact and observant as he was, 
he would have left much more valuable information than is 
contained in the meagre narrative of Fa-Hian. 

But these more or less reliable testimonies given by the 
Rainayana, the Greeks, or the Chinese pilgrims, all emanate 
from strangers, and must be thrown into the shade by 
ii.digenous evidence, which is far more authentic and volu- 
minous. By a rare and unique privilege in the Indian world, 
the island of Ceylon possesses exact and incontestable annals, 
which date back to at least the fourth century of our era, and 
even, it is almost certain, to a much earlier period. These 
annals have been kept and recorded from century to century 
down to our own time, and arc preserved with such care as to 

' The first legend is repealed under every form in all the Indian and 
Chinese books, and his been readily r.ccepted ; while the second, which 
is much more probable, had passed unnoticed. In the Last the 
imagination of the people requires su| e: natural stories. 

298 BUDDHISM IN CEYLON [f^r. ill 

endow them with a kind of ofiicial character. The style 
of writing may appear very strange, and shock all our western 
habits of thought, for it is very different to any of our methods, 
from the Greek down to our own historians; but these 
annals, singular as they may seem, have nevertheless recorded 
the principal flicts which make up the history of Ceylon. 

Tumour has given in the Mahdvansa an exact idea of 
what these annals were, whether written in Pali or in 
S.nhalesc, under the direct authority of the kings who in 
succession governed the island. The following .is a list 
of the principal works which still exist in Ceylon, and 
which it is to be hoped European philology will be able to 
publish at some early period. 

First, the Mahdvansa^ written in Pali between the years 
459 and 477 of our era, by Mahanama, the uncle of King 
DasenkellTya. ]\Iahanama states that he drew the principal 
elements of his work from the Sinhalese documents existing 
in his time. He composed it at Anuradhapura, at that time 
the capital of Ceylon, and of which a considerable amount 
of ruins can still be seen. The Mahdvansa comprises the 
history of Ceylon from the Buddha's Nirvana, 543 years B.C., 
down to the year 301 of our era ; the author, in order to 
give clearness to his narrative, adds a commentary called 
the Mahdvansa Uka^ and Tumour was able to obtain 
a copy of this very scarce commentary, taken from the 
one kept by the priests in the vihara of JMulgirigalla. 

The Mahdvansa properly so called, or rather the personal 
work of Mahanama, stops at the end of chapter xxxvii, 
that is to say at the end of Mahasena's reign in 301. The 
continuation of the Mahdvansa^ known under the name of 

* Pali, even in Mahanama's time, was only known by the priests. It 
is therefore possible that Mahanama brought the history of his country 
down to the moment when he was writing his work; but, as his 
commentary stops at the year 301, Tumour believes that the author also 
stopped writing the Mahdvansa at that date. 


Suluvansa, giving an account from the year 30 1 to the year 
1266, was composed by Dharmakini at Dambedeniya, 
under the reign of Prakrama Bahu ; and from 1266 to 1758 
by Tibottuvena, under the reign of Kirli SiT, who reigned 
from 1747 to 1781 in the city of Kandy. The Mahavansa, 
including the Suhivansa, is composed of a hundred chapters, 
and a hltle over nine thousand slokas of sixteen syllables, or 
eighteen thousand verses. 

The other annals of Ceylon, less famous than the Mahd- 
vausa, are written in Sinhalese ; these are the Pud,'ava//i, 
composed by Mairupada, under the reign of Prakrama Bahu; 
the Nikdya-Samgraha, by Daivarakshila Djaya Bahu, under 
the reign of Bhuvaneka in 1347; the JRajarafndkan', com- 
posed towards the close of the fifiecnth century by Abhaya- 
raja; and lastly the Rajavalli, written by several different 
individuals at different periods, and of which certain portions 
are probably more ancient even than the Mahavansa. All 
these annals begin their narrations at the time of the 
Buddha's birth, and even at an earlier date. 

Such is the historical wealth possessed by the island of 

The discovery of such treasures in any part of the Indian 
world was a most fortunate occurrence, and these were all 
the more valuable that they are exceedingly scarce in India. 
The attention of the English Resident was therefore drawn 
to these curious documents, and in 1826 Sir Alexander 
Johnston, Chief Justice and President of the Royal Council 
of Ceylon, took measures to have them published. He had 
lived a long time in the island, and by his functions as well 
as his literary tastes, had been in relation with the most 
learned priests and the most distinguished natives. In 
a praiseworthy desire to give the colony a code of laws 
better suited to its customs and relgious beliefs and all its 
past history, he resolved to have a translation made of the 


principal works on the Buddhist faith, in order to enlighten 
the English administration and further its object. The 
Sinhalese population was no less interested in this judicious 
enterprise than was the English government itself. 

At Sir Alexander Johnston's request the Buddhist priests 
furnished authentic, or rather what they alleged were authentic, 
copies of the Mahdvansa, Rajavalh\ and the Rajaratndkari. 
* These formed, according to what they told the Chief Justice, 
the most complete summary that existed of the origin of the 
Buddhist religion, its doctrines, its introduction into Ceylon, 
and the moral and political influence that these doctrines 
had exercised from the most remote epochs on the conduct 
of the national government and the customs of tiic natives.' 
Sir Alexander Johnston therefore accepted these valuable 
copies, which the Buddhist priests guaranteed as being 
authentic and scrupulously exact. In order to be more 
certain, he ordered that they should be compared, by two 
of the most learned priests, with the other copies that were 
kept in the temples. Having taken all these precautions, 
he handed the books to the official translators, and they 
worked under the supervision of a native functionary, who 
was supposed to be the best-informed man in both the Pa.i 
and the Sinhalese languages. This translation, made with 
so much care, was revised by the Rev. IM. Fox, a Wesleyan 
missionary, who had resided a long time in the island, and 
was afterwards confided to Mr. Edward Upham for publication. 

Sir Alexander Johnston has himself given all these details 
in a letter in which he asked the officers of the East India 
Company to take under their patronage an enterprise which 
was likely to prove so useful, and had been inspired by such 
generous sentiments. After seven more years of labour, the 
translation appeared in 1833 in London, and King William 
graciously accepted its dedication. 

Unfortunately the Buddhist piiests had deceived Sir Alex- 


andcr Johnston, and. cither throngh ignorance or purposely, had 
given him incomplete or falsified copies of iheir books. As 
Tumour remarked with good reason, either the priests were 
incompetent for the task they had undertaken — that is, of 
translating the Pali Mahdvansa into Sinhalese — or they had 
completely misunderstoo 1 what was demanded of them. 
Instead of translating the Pali into Sinhalese so that the 
official translator might translate the Sinhalese version into 
English, they had made a work of their own, either by 
lengthening out the original works with extracts from the 
commentaries, or by shortening them in the most unintelli- 
gent manner. 

When Upham's translation appeared in Europe the un- 
fortunate omissions it revealed were soon noticed; and, 
wivhout being aware of the peculiarities that we have just 
menlioncd, Burnouf immediately drew attention to the 
serious diderenccs that existed between the manuscripts he 
possessed of the Ceylon books and the new version made 
under the auspices of Sir Alexander Johnston by the Sin- 
halese priests. Later, Turnour divulged the mistake, not to 
say fraud, and showed that amongst all those who had co- 
operated at this work, from the priests who had recommended 
and rexised the copies down to the official translators and 
the Rev. ]\I. P^ox, not one possessed sufficient knowle('ge to 
accomplish it. The work had therefore all to be done over 
again, and the learned societies were obliged to admit that, 
far from being acquainted with the sacred and historical 
books of Ceylon, they had only obtained a very imperfect 
knowledge of the contents of the Sinhalese chronicles. Not- 
withstanding the discredit this vexatious incident cast upon 
these studies, they were not to be discouraged ; and as the 
documents really existed, and were accessible in their 
original form, it was to be hoped that, with a little more 
circumspcclion and cii'.icism, other painstakhig and skihul 


students would resume the undertaking and retrieve this first 

This Tumour did, with a talent that has classed him 
among the most distinguished Orientalists, and twenty years 
ago he published the first volume o{ i\\Q 3Iahdvatisa} Tumour, 
who began his labours long before Upham's publication, had 
suspended them on hearing of the approaching translation 
of the works he had been studying. But this publication 
was not calculated to damp his ardour, and while he con- 
tinued to fill the public office assigned to him, he went on 
wiih his work which he had laid aside for a moment, but 
which he now resumed wi:h more zeal than before. Tumour 
felt himself under the obligation of rehabilitating Sinhalese 
literature after the undeserved and involuntary check it had 
received. If such was his object he has fully attained it, 
for his Mahavansa has shown, even incomplete as it is, •^vhat 
an abundance of information the Sinhalese chronicles contain, 
and the true nature of this information. In presence of the 
original text, doubt is no longer possible, and the translation 
which accompanies it reveals all its importance as well as its 
thorough authenticity. 

This fortunate experiment shows, therefore, thit the 
Sinhalese annals are worthy of notice and of publication. 
Although Buddhism was not a growth of Ceylon, as has been 
thought and is still sometimes asserted, it is certain that it 
was transplanted there at an early date, with an edition of the 
sacred writings in Pali. This was unquestionably the greatest 
event in the history of the kingdom of the Lion, and, taking the 
Mahavansa for our guide, we will now turn our attention to it. 

It will be seen from the above the valuable information 
that is to be derived from this document, and also from 
similar ones. The date generally given as that of the 

^ We must remind our readers that Baitlielemy St. HiUiire's bcpkwas 
published in 1 860. 


Buddha's death is entirely of Sinhalese origin ; but all the 
Chinese, Tibetan, Burmese, &c. works agree in demonstrating 
that the date of the year 543 before the Christian era is 
almost a certitude, and till now no serious objection has 
been raised on this point. Moreover, it must not be for- 
gotten that this chronology, so essential to the history of 
India, and even all Asia, is due to the Sinhalese annals. It 
will be shown how it is set forth in the Mahdvansa^ and 
further study only confirms this. 

The ]\lahavansa also relates some of the events subsequent 
to the Buddha's death, entering into many important details; 
amongst others it mentions the three Councils which settled 
the Buddhist canonical writings. They were all three held 
at different periods, according to the necessities of the new 
faith, in that part of India which is watered by the Ganges. 
The Sinhalese can therefore have only known them through 
tradition ; but the tradition they have retained is one that 
deserves thorough confidence, for it followed immediately the 
facts it recorded. Mahanama, the author of the Mahdvansa^ 
works upon indigenous materials, collected and prepared by 
the historians and annalists who preceded him. These 
annalists go back by degrees to the period when Buddhism 
came from Magadha and reached Sinhala, and their state- 
ments, which we only know by Mahanama's work, were 
almost contemporary narratives of the events they relate. 

After the Nirvana of the Tathagata and the history of the 
Councils, the Mahdvansa continues, century by century and 
year by year, to give an account of events, which it brings 
down to the end of the eighteenth century. The interest 
offered by this part of the Mahdvansa cannot be denied, but 
we do not intend to consider it at the present moment. 

It must not be lost sight of that Ceylon, besides these 
instructive local chronicles, holds an important place in 
Buddhism by the particular collection of orthodox works it 


received at the lime of ihe conversion of the island, and 
which it has carefully treasured up till now. It is well known 
that there are two editions of the canonical books of Sakya- 
muni's religion — one in Sanskrit, discovered by Hodgson in 
the Nepalese monasteries ; and the other in Pali or Magadhi, in 
the possession of the Sinhalese priests. These two collections, 
ahhough written in somewhat different languages, since 
Pali is the popular and Sanskrit the cultivated and even 
sacred dialect, thoroughly agree as to the substance. The 
doctrine and legends are identical, the works are often 
exactly alike, the language alone differs. Which therefore 
of these two collections must be considered the original .? 
Which of them is only a copy ? This is indeed an important 
question, that can only be solved by a comparative examina- 
tion of the two collections, and which, to be "thoroughly 
cleared up, would demand more labour than philologists have 
yet been able to bestow upon it. But whatever may be the 
solution in the future, it is to Sinhalese Buddhism that we 
must turn to get the works of the Pali collection ; for it is 
only in Ceylon that the intelligence and piety of the faithful 
have known how to keep this pledge of their faith unsullied, 
and they only have cultivated the language in which it is 
revealed. It is probable that the Pali collection, brought 
frcm Magadha to Sinhala, was at a later period taken from 
Sinhala to Burmah and the countries east of India. At the 
present day, on the. contrary, Ceylon receives from Burmah 
its religious inspirations and its chief priests; but there was 
a time when, in an inverse ratio, the island propagated and 
communicated the new fliith to the neighbouring countries. 

It is therefore clear that Ceylon played an immense part 
in the history of Indian Buddhism. The primitive language 
is still understood there, and the island is in possession 
of the most reliable annals. For ihesQ t>vo reasons the 
]\Iahdvansa can be thoroughly trusted. 


I'he author of the Mahavaiisa first points out in a few 
words the object of his work. The compositions of his 
predecessors are either too concise or too diffuse ; they are 
full of repetitions : ' he wishes to avoid these faults, by a work 
which shall be easy to comprehend and remember, and which 
will give the reader pleasure or pain, according to the nature 
of the deeds it relates/ 

After this preamble, which only takes up two si kas, 
Mahanama immediately enters into his subject. 

Following the example of the twenty- four preceding 
Buddhas, and more especially that of Dipankara, Gautama 
Bi'ddha resolves to redeem the world and save it from evil. 
He undergoes all the requisite ordeals : and * Our Conqueror,* 
as the pious Sinhalese says, ' attains the state of supreme and 
perfect Buddha, under the Bodhi tree at Uruvela,' in the 
kingdom of INTagadha. It was at the full moon, in the month 
of Vaisakha. After remaining seven times seven days under 
the Bodhi-tree, he went to Benares, and there made his first 
converts. He then sent abroad his sixty disciples, bidding 
them promulgate his doctrines throughout the world ; and 
nine months afier the Bodhi, he himself goes to Lanka, to 
sanctify ii^by his admirable teaching. The island was at that 
time a prey to the evil genii, the Yakshas. The Yakshas 
were gathered together in the centre of Lanka, on the banks 
of a charming river, in the gardens of Mahanaga, and the 
leaders were holding counsel, when suddenly the Buddha, 
coming through space into the midst of the assembly, 
struck them with terror by the rain, tempest and darkness 
that accompanied his appearance. Then hearkening to the 
entreaties of the Yakshas he had recourse to gentler measures, 
and preached a sermon which touched their hearts, and 
thousands of beings received the words of salvation. Eight 
years after this first visit, the Buddha returned to Lanka, 
doubtless to complete his mission of mercy : he again 



returned thilher a third time, and since this memorable epoch 
* Lanka, now made holy, has been revered by all good men, 
and has become a fit dwelling for mankind/ 

Wherever the Buddha had sojourned in the island, his 
memory had been consecrated by a quantity of monuments, 
which had been successively raided and adorned by the pious 
monarchs who ruled over the country. 

It will be seen, by this first chapter of the Mahdvausa, that 
if the author is, according to his promise, more concise than 
lis predecessors, he is no less supersiilious. Indeed, he 
would not be a Buddhist if he had not an imperturbable 
belief in all these legends, which he never criticizes, and 
which at the time he relates them date from a thousand years 
back. He even deserves ll:anks for having made such 
a moderate use of them. He leaves most of these traditions 
to the canonical books they are recorded in, and which may 
be perused by the faidiful; and he only admits them into 
his narration with the most praiseworthy reserve. IMahanama 
seems in reality only to mention the Tathagata's visits to 
Ceylon in order to conform with popular opinion, and he 
does not give them more importance than they deserve, for 
later he relates with much more ample and exact details the 
real conversion of the island to Buddhism, about two centuries 
after the death of the Buddha. 

However, he is not satisfied with the slight mention he made 
of the ' Cojiquerorl and in the second chapter he reverts to his 
fami'y and genealogy. He makcB him descend in direct line 
from the illustrious Mahasammata, and mentions all the 
kings, successors of this prince, who had reigned at Kaufa- 
vatti, Rajagriha, IMlthila, down to the great race of the 
Sakyas of Kapilavastu. At the age of nineteen the young 
Bodhisatwa left the world in order to fulfil his mission ; he 
remained six years in solitude, meditation, and penance, and 
was thirty-five years of age when he again met the king 


Bimbisnia, the friend of his childhood, whom he converted to 
the new faith. After forty-five years of preaching throughout 
JambudvTpa, the Budtlha died at Kusinaia, under the shade 
of two sala trees. This was in the eighth year of the cruel 
Ajatiisatru's reign, who had murdered his father liimbisara 
and usurped the throne. 

The MahCivaiisa does not reveal anything fresh, as all 
these events were already well known, but it is an important 
fact that it should so clearly and exactly confirm them. 
Its testimony is added to that of Nepaul and of the Pali books, 
and to that of Fa-Ilian and Hiouen-Thsang. The concordance 
of these proofs is as strong evidence as history can demand. 

However, when the Mahavansa treats of the three- Buddhist 
Councils it is still more interesting; for nowhere do we find 
an account given so consecutively and with such details, nor, 
to all appearance, with such truth. Mahanama has deemed 
it necessary to devote a whole chapter to each of these Assem- 
blii's 0/ /he Law, as he calls them (in Pali, Dhavima Satiglti). 

He gives the following account of the first Council. 
Seven days had scarcely elapsed since the Buddha had 
entered Nirvana, when the great Kasyapa {Mahd Kassapas) 
summoned five hundred monks, whom he had chosen from 
amongst the most virtuous and learned. They met at 
Rajagriha, in the month Asala, in tlie first quarter of the 
moon. At the request of the monks, Ajaiasatru, who had 
amended his ways and been converted, had had a large hall 
built for them at the opening of the Sattapanni cave, which 
still exists in the Vaihara hill, and the Order at once began 
their deliberations. On a throne placed to the north, and 
looking ^outh, the president sat to direct the proceedings. 
A pulpit, placed in the centre of the hall fi\cing the east, 
was prepared for the orators whom the president interrogated. 
The remainder of the Arahals, without having any particular 
seats, took their places en benches prepared for that 

u 2 


purpose, according to their seniority. The first discussion 
was held on the second day of the second month of the 
Varsha (in Pali, vassa, rainy season). The best beloved 
and most eminent disciples of the Buddha were there. 
Ananda, his cousin, and inseparable companion for so many 
years, and Upali, one of his most illustrious adherents, first 
entered the pulpit. Upali was then interrogated by the high 
priest Kasyapa on the discipline or the Vinaya. The 
Sthaviras, that is the Elders {Theros in Pali), chanted together 
Upali's replies, and thus they learnt by heart the Vinaya. 
After Upali, Ananda, directed in the same way by the 
president, explained the Dharma or the Law. The assembly 
again chanted the words of Ananda, and the Dharma was 
learned in the same way as the Vinaya. 

These pious exercises lasted no less than seven months; 
and at the end of that time, these lenef actors of humanity 
separated, persuaded that they had ensured for a period 
of five thousand years the power and splendour of the 
Buddhist faith. The first Assembly of the Laiv (Pathama 
Dhamma Sangiti) was called the Assembly of the Sthaviras 
{Therlya in Pali), because it had been exclusively composed 
of Arahats, and that the ' earth, rejoicing at having received 
such wonderful enlightenment swung itself six times,' says 
Mahanama, * over the deepest abysses of the Ocean.' 

The fourth chapter of the Mahavansa is devoted to the 
second Council. This one was held at Vaisali, in the tenth 
year of Kalasoka's reign, a hundred years after the Nirvana. 
A heresy had sprung up at Waji (Odjein) and from there had 
spread over a great part of the northern provinces. The 
conventual rules had become relaxed, and discipline had lost 
much of its severity. The heretics had gained the king 
Kalasoka over to their side, and were on the point of carrying 
the day, when three monks, Yasa, Sambhutta and Revata, 
united to contest their evil doctrines. Through the 


mediation of the priestess Anandi, Kalasoka's sister, they 
succeeded in changing the king's resolution, and he consented 
to declare himself in favour of the true faith before the 
Assembly at Vais.-ili. Revata, who would seem to have 
played in this new Council the same part that Kasyapa did 
in the first, skilfully confided the debates to eight monks 
whom he had himself chosen; four from the province of 
Pachina and four from the province of Patheya. They 
retired to the Valukarama Vihara, where they prepared the 
decisions of the assembly which met at the neighbouring 
Vihara of Mahavana. On their propositions it consolidated 
the unsettled rules of discipline, and ten thousand priests, 
who had lent a willing ear to the heresy, were degraded. 
Revata was the soul of this reforming assembly, which 
numbered seven hundred members, and its labours, which 
were conducted on the same plan as the former one, lasted 
eight months. Among the eight principal personages, were 
several who had heard Ananda, and who had learned from 
him how the first Council had carried on its pious work. 

JMahanama's narrative is much less clear upon the third 
Council than upon the two others; and he falls into the 
same cj-ror with which he reproached the former historians, 
namely diffuscness. He enters into lengthy and useless 
details about the reign of the famous Asoka, who had become 
sovereign ruler of all Jambudvlpa, two hundred and eighteen 
years afier the death of the Buddha (b.c. 325). 

The Mahdvansa gives the exact date. There had been 
only one schism in the first century, that of the Maha- 
Sanghikas, but in the succeeding century there were no less 
than eighteen, which Mabanama carefully enumerates. The 
faith, mutilated by these internal divisions and neglected by 
the people, in the midst of their civil wars, rtin great risk 
of perishing. The lower castes had even gone so far as to 
have usurped the yellow robe of the monks; all public 

310 BUDDHISM IN CEYlON [i^t. in 

worship had been abandoned for the last seven years ; it was 
therefore urgent that something should be done, to remedy 
these serious evils. 

The powerful monarch, who had reached the throne by 
murdering all his brothers, numbering about one hundred, 
had been converted to Buddhism. His ostentatious piety 
was displayed in the most splendid monuments. In honour 
of each of the Precepts of the Law, eighty-four thousand 
edifices of all kinds were erected under his reign, in the space 
of three years ; built ciiher by himself, or by his vassals, the 
Rajas. The alms he bestowed on the monks were inex- 
haustible; and after he had embraced the Buddha's faith, 
and repudiated thatof tb.e Brahmans, he called himself Dharma- 
soka, that is Asoka, the Protector of the Faith. Touched 
by the complaints of the orthodox Buddhists, he appointed 
one of his ministers to root out the schism ; but the incom- 
petent minister failed to carry out his master's commands. 
His blind cruelty made many victims, but the discord still 
continued. At last the king himself was obliged to undertake 
the suppression of the heresy. He summoned to Pataliputra 
(Patna) an assembly of priests called by his orders from all 
parts of Jambudvipa, and a monk called Tissa presided with 
the same authority as Kasyapa and Yasa, aided by Revata, 
had exercised at the first and second Councils. Sixty 
thousand priests were degraded throughout India, and the 
ceremonies of the orthodox worship were everywhere re- 
established. This third Assembly of the Law, composed of 
a thousand monks, lasted nine months. This important event 
took place in the seventeenth year of Dharmasoka's reign.^ 

* The MaJidvansa states that the three Councils lasted seven, eight, 
and nine months. The regularity of this increasing length of the 
Councils seems somewhat suspicious; it may be due to chance, or it 
may be factitious. The result is that the third Council was held in 
the year B.C. 308, The Northern traditions, more reliable on this 
point than the Singalese, place it at an earlier date, to 400 years after 
the Nirvana. This divergence has not yet been explained. 


Mahanama says very little, it will be noticed, about the 
third Council ; but Dharmasoka's rule opened a new era for 
the island of Ceylon, and it was due to the sovereign monarch 
of India that Lanka was definitively converted. It woul 1 
appear that the miraculous visits of the BudcMia had not 
sudiced, for two centuries after the Nirvana his teaching 
seems forgotten ; and if the traces of his divine footsteps 
were still imprinted on the mountains of Sinhala, h'.s doctrines 
were obliterated from men's hearts. 

However, before relating with all proper details such 
a decisive event, IMahanama thinks it necessary to revert to 
an earlier period; and he relates the legend of the union 
of the lion and a princess of Magadha. Vijaya, grandson 
of the lion, was banished from India on account of his crimes, 
and put 0:1 board a ship with his seven hundred accomplices; 
he landed in Lanka, in the province of Tambapanni ( Tamra- 
parna), the very day that the Tathagata entered into Nirvana, 
after having saved the world. IMahanama, oblivious of the 
fact that he had previously asserted that the Buddha himself 
had destroyed the Yakshas, represents them as being still all- 
fowerfuh in Lanka when Vijaya reaches the island.' But 
Vijaya soon conquers them ; he subjugates the petty princes 
who rule over the country, and to strengthen his power, he 
marries the daughter of a king of Madhura (Madras). After 
thirty-eight years of a prosperous reign, he dies at Tamba- 
panni, a city he had founded on the spot where he had 

After an interregnum of one year, Pandurasadeva, Vijaya's 
nephew, whom his uncle had summoned from Magadha, 
inherited the throne and settled at Upatissa, where he resided 

' Here, Mahanama cxplnins the origin of the names Tambapanni 
(Taiuraparna, Taprobane) and Sinhala, given to Lanka. See liurnoufs 
notes on the ancient names of Ceylon. Journal Asiatiqtie de Paiis, 
January 1857, P^S^-^ 54 ^ '^ following. 

3i2 wddhism in Ceylon [pt. m 

thirty years. The whole island of Lanka obeyed his com- 
mands, but he had divided it amongst several subordinate 
chieftains, one of whom was Anuiadha, the founder of the 
celebrated city that bears his name, which was for a long 
time the capital of Ceylon, and was situated north-west 
of Kandy, the present native capital. After Pandurasadeva, 
with long intervals of civil war and anarchy, four other 
princes reigned in succession, till the great reign of Devanam- 
Plya-Tissa, under whom the Tathagata's religion was 
introduced and definitively established in Lanka. 

Devanam-Piya-Tissa, the most illustrious of the kings 
of Ceylon, was the second son of Mutaslva, his predecessor. 
Renowned for his piety and wisdom, even before he became 
king, he reigned peacefully forty years, from 307 to 267 
before the Christian era, and from 236 to 276 of the Buddha's 
era ; and he devoted himself during the whole of his reign 
to the development of the Tathagata's law among his &ubjcc'.s. 
The most marvellous phenomena, reward of his rare virtue, 
had marked his coronation. On that propitious day, precious 
gems and rich metals sprang spontaneously from the soil 
and were scattered on the surface. Pearls and treasures 
buried in the depths of the sea came forth and l.iy in 
abundance on the shores of the island, happy at possessing 
such a master. A bamboo tree threw out three miraculous 
branches, one of silver, another laden with the most wonderful 
and choice flowers, and the third covered with paintings 
of the rarest animals and birds. The king, who was too 
modest to accept all these treasures for himself, determined 
to offer them to the great king Dharmasoka, whose fame 
had reached him. He therefore confided these magnificent 
gifts to four ambassadors, at whose head he placed his own 
nephew, and a Brahman known for his science. The am- 
bassadors, accompanied by a numerous retinue, embarked 
at Jambukola. They sailed seven days before reaching the 


Indian coast, and took seven more days to get to Patali- 
putra, the capital of the great Asoka. The Indian monarch 
received the marvellous gifts with the greatest joy, and not 
choosing that his gratitude should be less than his ally's 
generosity, he sent Devanam-Plya-Tissa a profusion of regal 
ornaments for his new coronation^; and after detaining the 
ambassadors five months, he sent them back to Lanka, with 
the following message to their king : ' I have found refuge 
in the Buddha, the Law, and the Order; I have piously 
devoted myself to the religion of the son of the Sakyas. 
Tliou, O master of men, recognize also in thy heart these 
incomparable refuges, and ask sincerely of them thy 
salvation/ The Sinhalese ambassadors, overwhelmed with 
honours and charged with this noble message, embarked 
at Tamralipli (in Pali, Tamalettiya), and after navigating 
ten days, landed at Jambiikola, whence they had started six 
months previously. They transmitted to Devanam-Piya- 
Tifsa the pious exhortation of Dharmasoka ; but it appears 
that this vexhortation was not sufficiently powerful, for the 
heart of the Sinhalese king remained unmoved. 

However, after the third Council, the great Asoka, 
Protector of the faith, determined to ensure the triumph of 
the Buddhic faith by sending numerous emissaries to tlie 
neighbouring countries. Proselytism had spread from the 
noi th of the peninsula, from Kashmir and Gandhara, down 
to the Central Provinces, into the inaccessible country of 
the IMahrattas (Maharattha) and to the foreign countries 
of \'onaloka and Aparantaka. Dharmasoka sent his own 
son Mahinda, who had been admitted into the Order twelve 

* Althnrgh Mahanama's national pride strives to hide the truth, it 
seems proI>al.Ie that at this epoch the king: of Ceylon was a tributr.ry 
of the Indian monarch, who was master of all Jambudvlpa. This is 
still more probable, from the fact that Asoka recommends the Sinhalese 
ambassadors to have their king crowned again ; this was evidently 
a kind of investiture. 


years before, with his sister Sanghamitta, to carry the word 
of the Tatliagata to the fortunate island of Lanka. Maha 
Mahinda joyfully obeyed his father's commands, and started 
with four other monks, whose names deserve to be recorded 
with his own : these were Itthiya, Utliya, Sambala, and 
Bhaddasala. When he arrived in Lanka with his com- 
panions, Mahinda presented himself at once to the king 
Devanam-Piya-Tissa, as the son and envoy of his powerful 
ally Dharmasoka. Devanam-Plya-Tissa then remembered 
the pious advice his ambassadors had brought him, and 
lending a favourable ear to the discourse of the Buddhist 
apostle he was soon converted. As he set an example of 
profound veneration for the foreign monks, and personally 
waited upon them in the presence of his whole court during 
their meagre repast, the public enihusiasm rapidly increased. 
The king's step-sister, the princess Anula, was converted, with 
five hundred women. The population of the capital thronged 
to the king's palace, where Mahinda was residing, to hear 
his teaching, and each day thousands were converted. 
Mahinda spoke the language of the country, and as the 
Mahavansa says, * thus he became the torch that lighted up 
all the island of Lanka.' 

The number of monks rapidly increased, and viharas 
were soon built for them, among others the Maha-Vihara, 
the most ancient and largest of all. These magnificent 
buildings, where the monks took up their abode during the 
rainy season, did not suffice. The king, in his munificence, 
added large donations, and in ofTering the Mahamegha to 
Mahinda, he poured the consecrating water on the hands 
of the apostle, who gave him the plans for the construction 
of thirty-two stupas. On another occasion, the king himself 
traced with his own hands the furrow that was to enclose 
a vast territory given to a convent. He himself drove the 
two royal elephants that drew the golden plough through 


the consecrated soiP. A crowd of buildings rose on all sides ; 
and stupas were erected wherever popular superstition fancied 
it found traces of the Tathagata or of any former Buddhas. 

The stupas however required relics, for without these 
they would not be sufficiently holy ; so Devanani-P.'ya-Tissa, 
having begged his pious ally to give him some, Dharmasoka" 
sent him one of the Buddha's collar-bones. The author of 
the Mahavaiisa describes the public ceremonies with which 
the holy relic was received. It was deposited on the top 
of the Missaka hill, which henceforth took the name of 
Chcliya, and on this occasion the king's youngest brother, 
Matlabhaya, received holy orders, at the same time as several 
thousand persons. 

All these ceremonies, however magnificent they might be, 
were, however, nothing in comparison to those which greeted 
the sacred branch of the Bodhi tree, under \\hich the 
Tathagata had become the supreme and perfect Buddha. 
The king Dharmasoka insisted on cutting it with his own 
hand at Bodhimanda ; he himself placed it on the ship that 
was to take it down the Ganges, and he accompanied it as 
far as the place of embarkation at Tamralipti. He shed 
copious tears on parting with it, and confided it to the care 
of his daughter Sangliamitla, who was going to Sinliala 
with eleven nuns ; for though IMahinda could ordain priests, 
the law only permitted a woman to ordain priestesses or nuns. 

IMahanama, in relating the miraculous voyage of the 
bianeh of the Bodhidrumn, changes the usually simple style 
of his narrative and becomes almost lyric. 

'The vessel on which the branch of the Bodhi was 
feliippcd, rapidly cleft the billows, and at the distance of 

' The ruthor of the Ji/ahavausa indicates with the greatest precision, 
as a man well acquainted with the country, all the different places 
through which the royal furrow passed. These details, as well as 
many others given by Mahanama, are very valuable with regard to the 
ancient geography of Ceylon. Burnouf intended making use of them. 


a yojana, the waves of the great Ocean smoothed down before 
it. Flowers of five different colours blossomed around it, 
and the sweetest strains of music filled the air with melody. 
Innumerable offerings were brought by innumerable deities, 
while the Nagas in vain had recourse to their magic power, 
to steal the divine tree/ 

Sanghamitta, the High Priestess, frustrated their evil designs 
by the power of her sanctity, and the ship bearing this 
incomparable relic soon arrived at Jambukola. Everything 
had been got ready on the shores to receive it with all the 
veneration it deserved. When the vessel came in sight, 
the king dashed into the sea, and, advancing till the water 
was up to his neck, he began a joyful and pious chant in 
honour of the Buddha. He then had the case in which the 
tree was put carried by sixteen persons of sixteen different 
castes, who deposited it in a magnificent hall prepared for 
it. He invested the sacred branch with the sovereignty of 
Lanka, and himself, for three days and three nights, stood as 
sentinel at the door of the hall offering it rich presents. 

Imagination can follow the triumphal march of the 
branch from the Vihara of Pachina, where it had first been 
handed over to the priests, to Anuiadhapura the capital, 
where it only arrived on the fourteenth day; *at the hour 
when the shadows are longest.' At sunrise, it was carried 
in by the northern gates of the city, through which it was 
borne in procession, and it was taken out by the southern 
gate to be conveyed to the beautiful garden of IMahamegha, 
where it was to be planted. Sixteen princes clad in the moot 
brilliant garments stood ready to receive it ; but the branch, 
breaking loose from the hands of men, suddenly rose in the 
air, where it remained before the astonished gaze of the 
crowd, lighted up by a halo of six luminous rays. It 
came down again at sunset, and planted itself in the soil, 
and for seven days a protecting cloud shaded it and watered 


it with salutary rain. Fruit grew on it in an instant, and 
the king was able to propagate throughout the island the 
marvellous tree, the Bodhi, the promise of eternal salvation. 

IMahanama, relates all these miracles and many others 
besides, without the slightest hesitation or criticism, and he 
gives them as occurring in the eighteenth year of DharmS- 
Boka's reign. 

What is more real is the piety of Devanam-Plya-Tissa, 
which is shown by the vast and numerous monuments which 
he erected in all the parts of the island which were under 
his rule, and like him converted to the true faith. Mahanama 
mentions these edifices one after the other; and it is pro- 
bable that if researches were made, traces would still be 
found, for this historian's indications are suflicienlly precise 
to ensure a favourable result. The Sinhalese monarch began 
these constructions with his reign, and for forty years he 
unceasingly continued them. 

As this king died without children, one of his younger 
brothers, called Uttiya, succeeded him. The great Mahinda 
Hved eight years under the new reign, and was able to 
consolidate the work of conversion he had so auspiciously 
undertaken. Living in retreat on the Hill of the relics 
(Chefiya pahhatd), he was the spiritual governor of the 
kingdom, 'ruling over numerous disciples, directing the 
Church he had founded, fortifying the people by his teaching, 
which was similar to that of the Tathagata himself, and 
delivering Lanka from the ignorance of sin.' At his death, 
he was given a splendid funeral; the king, overcome wiih 
grief, went himself to fetch the body, and bringing it back in 
the midst of the lamentations of the people, deposited it in 
the Maha-Vihaia, consecrating there a chapel to his memory 
which was henceforth called Ambanialaka. After seven 
days of mourning and oflerings, the body was burned ; and 
the relics of the High Priest were divided, some of them 


being placed in a stupa raised on the very spot, and the 
remainder being sent to the principal convents of Sinhala. 
As for the High Priestess SanghamitLa, she only survived her 
brother Mahinda one year, and at her death she received 
the same honours as had been bestowed on him. Such is, 
according to the Mahdvatisa, the account of the conversion 
of Ceylon to Buddhism. Putting aside the fables created by 
superstition, there is nothing in this narrative that cannot be 
accepted. Whatever may have been the relations between 
Buddhic India and Sinhala before the reign of Devanam- 
Plya-Tissa, it is evident that before that epoch Buddhism 
was not established in the island. It was the great Asoka, 
Protector of the faith, the powerful monarch who ruled over 
the whole of India, who converted Ceylon to the new faith. 
He introduced it by the peaceful means of preaching, and 
it was from Magadha that the apostles from whom Lanka 
received the Word had come. Relics of the Buddha were 
sent to Sinhala ; and the ambassadors who conveyed them 
were at the same time propagators of the faith. These 
important events took place, according to the native chrono- 
logy, about the year 300 b.c. 

The introduction of Buddhism into Sinhala, did not how- 
ever ensure peace, for during the reigns that followed that of 
Uttiya, the country was a constant prey to the invasions of 
tiie Tamils "who came from the neighbouring coasts of India, 
or to civil wars among the different parties who contended 
for supremacy. One of the most celebrated kings of that 
time was Dushta-Gamini, who reigned from the year 161 to 
the year 137 before Christ. He drove out the Tamils, with 
the help of five hundred priests who were incorporated in 
his army, and restored to the worship of the Buddha the 
same magnificence as in the days of Devanam-Plya-Tissa 
and Uttiya. He built the INIaha-Stupa, the largest of all the 
stupas in Ceylon, as its n.ime indicates. It was an enormous 


brick building, the ruins of which can slill be seen near 
Anuradhapura; and at the solemn inauguration that took 
place in the year 157 b.c, admirable paintings were ex- 
hibited to the public gaze on which the Jatakas or successive 
births of the Buddha were represented. The Maha-Siupa 
was only finished under the reign of Saddha-Tissa, a bro'.her 
cf Dushta-Gamini ; his own son, Sali, having preferred to 
renounce his rights to the throne, sooner than give up a 
Chandali woman, whom he had made his wife. 

Besides external and intestine wars, there were at times 
religious dissensions. The Maha-Vihara of Anuradhapura, 
which should have been the centre of orthodoxy, had seen 
its authority weakened by many schisms; and the convent 
of Abhayagiri became almost its equal. A monarch of the 
name of Watta-Gamini protected the schismatics, and it was 
to them he entrusted all the alms he distributed to his people. 
Under this prince's reign, in the year 89 b.c. the sacred texts 
of the Pitakatlaya (Pali, the three Baskets), which till then 
had been orally preserved by the priests, as well as the 
orthodox commentary on the Atthahalhj, were for the 
first time put into writing. This precaution appeared in- 
dispensable, in order that false doctrines should not, by 
the perversity of the people, stifle the true religion. Never- 
theless, heresies continued to harass the fiiih, just as the 
invasions of the Tamils devastated the country, and three 
centuries elapsed before a king reigned who restored peace 
in Sinhala. This was the king Tissa, surnamed Voharaka- 
raja, because to him belongs the honour of abolishing torture, 
which cruel practice had existed in Ceylon from time im- 
memorial. Full of generosity towards the priests, he paid 
off the debts due by the convents, which were heavily 
involved; he even did more, for he actively supported 
the orthodoxy of the Maha-Vihara, against the Veiulliya 
heresy professed in the convent of Abhayagiri. 


Under the reign of one of his successors, called Mahasena, 
from 275 to 302 of the Christian era, it was, on the contrary, 
heresy that prevailed, and the monks of Abhaj agiri, gaining 
the king to their cause, had the Maha-Vihara, the home of 
their adversaries, destroyed. The cast out priests took 
refuge at INIalaya, in the province of Rohana, and remained 
there in banishment for nine years. The IMaha-Vihara was 
completely destroyed, and its most valuable contents taken 
to Abhayagiii, which seemed to have gained a definitive 
victory. However, one of the king's ministers rose up in 
favour of the exiles, and the principal agent of the persecution, 
Sanghamitta, ha\ing been assassinated by a woman, the 
priests of the l\Iaha-Vihara were recalled;, their convent 
was rebuilt, and alihough they were not certain of enjoying 
lasting protection, they were able to re-establish religious 
worship according to their own rules. Moreover, IMahasena, 
notwithstanding the mobility of his religious sentiments, 
seems to have been an enlightened and benevolent king; 
history has kept a record of his great works of public utility : 
sixteen fountains and a great canal called Pabbata which he 
had opened. 

With ]\Iahasena*s reign, the year 302 of the Chiislian era, 
the Mahdvansa ends. The work was continued, as we have 
already mentioned, under the name of Suluvansa, down to 
the middle of the last century. The son of Mahasena, 
Sirimeghavarma, strove to retrieve his father's impiety, and 
in the ninth year of his reign (310 B.C.) the famous tooth 
of the Buddha {Ddi/iddliaiu\ hitherto kept at Dantapura, was 
brought to Ceylon by a Brahman princess. The relic was 
deposited in the temple of Dhammachakka, and soon became 
the object of popular enthusiasm and veneration.^ 

' The history of the Buddha's tooth is certainly one of the most 
cuiious among all the Buddhist suiierstitions. It has been the subject of 
a special work, the Ddthddhdtvansa, which still exists, and which, writteo 


It is not necessary to allude further to the history of 
Ceylon, nevertheless we must just mention, to the honour 
of the Buddhist faith, the reign of Buddhadasa, from the 
year 339 to 368 of the Christian era, Avho was also a great 
doctor, and who wrote in the Sanskrit language books that 
are still referred to at the present day. This benevolent 
king also founded a number of hospitals, and established 
a doctor for each district of ten villages. To this period 
must be attributed the translation of the Pali Sutras into 

Finally, it must be remembered that in the year 420 the 
Sinhalese Atthakatha was retranslated into Pali by the cele- 
brated Brahman Buddhaghosa. The Atthakatha, or com- 
mentary on the sacred books, had been translated from Pali 
into Sinhalese by IMahinda ; but in course of time the original 
Pali had disappeared, and the unity of the orthodox texts 
suffered from this serious omission. Buddhaghosa was 
appointed to repair it. But the priests of the Maha-Vihara 
of Anuradhapura, to whom he applied, took the wisest 
precautions to be assured against any deception on his part. 
They fust gave him to translate, as a test, two Galhas, of which 
they had the authentic text in Pali, and which Buddhaghosa 
was to translate from Sinhalese into Pali. This translation 
was examined three times by the college of priests, and as 
Buddhaghosa honourably sustained this minute scrutiny, the 
priests no longer hesitated to confide to him the Pitakattaya 
and the Atthakatha. He thereupon retired to the vihara of 
Ganihakara at Anuradhapura, and translated the whole of 
the Sinhalese Atthakatha into Pali, * according to the gram- 
matical rules of the Magadha language, the root of all 
languages.' Buddhaghosa's version is still in use at the 

century after century, was continued down to the middle of the last 
century. The tooth, after many peregrinations, wns deposited in the 
Temple of Maligawa at Kandy, and in 1847 Tumour had it in hi§ owa 
keeping as ^-epi^s^ptative of the English government. 


present time. As for him, after having finished this difficult 
work to the great satisfaction of the priests, he returned to 
Magadha, whence he had come, and Hved there to a very 
advanced age. 

It will be seen that the Buddhist priests of the fifih 
century were more fortunate, or rather more prudent, than 
Sir Alexander Johnston was in our day. 

Such is the series of events related in the first volume of 
the Mahdvansa^ which has been given to us by Tumour. 
The end of the work would be, in other respects, no less 
interesting; but although twenty years have elapsed since 
the first volume was published, it has not yet made its 
appearance. The style of this singular history is what 
might be expected : extremely simple, devoid of affectation, 
and generally sufficiently clear. The use of verse is not 
surprising in annals that aim at preserving an edifying 
recollection of the past. The verses of the Mahdvansa 
are more like rhymed prose than what is generally con- 
sidered poetry. The Pali language is as supple as Sanskrit, 
and in these flexible idioms everything can be written in 
verse, from grammars and dictionaries down to philosophical 
systems. The metre, with its precise and strict rules, is but 
a means of assisting the memory and ensuring the authentic 
preservation of the texts. 

As to the talent of the historian, properly called, it may be 
judged by the preceding analysis. IMahanama was an 
annalist, and nothing more. History, exact, austere, and 
searching, such as we understand it, did not suit these 
races ; and the Mahdvansa^ important as it is — although a 
masterpiece of Indian talent — is no exception to the rule. 
Sometimes the author tries to rise above his subject and 
draw some nobler lessons from the facts he relates. But 
the trivial and uniform reflexions on the instability of human 
things and the imperturbable power of the faith that recur 


at the end of each chapter, do not endow MahSnJima with 
the characteristics of a true historian. They merely show 
most excellent intentions ; but he does not succeed in 
making his history a teaching, whatever pains he may have 
taken to do so. It is a recapitulation of absurd legends 
which he never criticizes, and an injudicious compendium 
of real events which are neither sufficiently understood nor 
sufficiently explained. 

The extensive chronology contained in the Mahavansa 
imparts to it its special value. Chronology is valuaLb 
everywhere, but infinitely more in India than elsewhere, as 
it is most scarce in that country. ]\Iahanama's system was 
very simple. He begins from the death of the Buddha, just 
as we begin from the birth of Christ. Nothing could be 
clearer than this mode of reckoning ; and as the Mahavansa, 
through subsequent writings, is continued and carried on till 
the middle of the last century, it is easy, with all the indica- 
tions that are to be found in it, to trace back the course of 
time, and to attain, for the history of Ceylon, a preciseness 
that the history of India has never had. In this manner 
Tumour was able to re-establish, from the date of the 
Nirvana and the landing of Vijaya at Tambapanni, the 
whole chronology of the Sinhalese kings down to the year 
1798, when the last native king, Sri Vikrama Rajasingh, 
was dethroned by the English and died in captivity. Tur- 
nour was able to write this most useful work by referring 
entirely to reliable documents, without admitting conjectures ; 
he had only consulted the native annals, and had found all 
the necessary materials in abundance. 

X 3 


Actual condition of the Buddhist clergy in Ceylon, as described by the 
J\ev Spence Hardy, IVesleyan missionary. The novitiate ; the 
ordination; letter from the Burmese high priest. Wealth of the 
Sinhalese clergy. Jndividnnl poverty of the priests ; their austerity. 
The Canonical sacred writings in Ceylon. Public reading of the 
Bana {the Word). Festival at Pant lira in 1839. '^^'^ Lpdsakas ; 
the Pirit or reiemony of exorcism. The Bhdvand or meditation ; 
supernatural powers conjerred by it. Meritorious acts {Sachakii iyas) 
and their miraculous influence. Nirvana according to Sinhalese 
priests; their ardent faith ; their spirit of tolerance ; care bestowed 
on the education of children. Medical knowledge of the clergy ; 
subordination of the clergy to the ruling powers. Division of 
Sinhalese clergy into sects. Relations of Sinhalese Buddhism with 
Christianity. Progress of Catholicism and education under the 
English rule. Statistics of Ceylon. 

We will now leave the past in order to study the actual 
condition of Buddhism in Ceylon, and we shall take our 
information more particularly from the writings of the 
Rev. Spence Hardy, aided by a few details gathered from 
other sources. Spence Hardy resided twenty years in Ceylon 
as a Wesleyan missionary (1825-1845). In the exercise of 
his sacred ministry he was thrown into constant intercourse 
with the natives, whom he strove to instruct and console. 
Full of zeal for his calling, he fulfilled his duties with a fervour 
that is testified by the two works he has published on 
Buddhism. As soon as he reached Ceylon he began the 
study of the language, in order to acquaint himself thoroughly 
with a religion which it was his ambilion to supplant by 
a better one, and he never ceased the pursuing of the studies 
he had so energetically begun. He wished more particularly 
to be of use to the missionaries w^o sh.ould succeed him, a^d 



it was with this practical object in view that he wrote his two 
books, Eastern Monachisni and The Maminl of I^uddh:sm. 

The English missionaries must decide if Spcncc Hardy 
succeeded in carrying out his purpose, and if these two works 
have really assisted them in their struggle a:;r.inj-t the deplor- 
able superstitions which they are striving to replace by ihe 
Ciirisiian faith. But it would perhaps have been preferable 
had Spence Hardy confined his labours to the present con- 
dition of Buddhism in Ceylon, and not undertaken such a very 
extensive work. 

The history of Eastern Monachism is an extensive subject, 
and we have not at present sufficient materials to treat it 
properly. Spence Hardy only saw the monks, or rather 
Buddhist priests, in Ceylon. Buddhism, however, has spread 
to many other countries; it extends from Kashmir to the 
eastern frontiers of China, and from Ceylon to the north 
of Tibet. What a variety of countries, races, climates, 
languages, and beliefs! And who can pertinently say, in 
the present state of information, what Buddhism really 
consists in for each of these people ? It is not granted to 
every one to reside twenty years in Ceylon, and Spence 
Hardy might have seized the opportunity of giving a mono- 
graphy, every detail of which would have been valuable, 
becouse each one would have been unimpeachably exact. 
A study limited to Sinhalese Buddhism in its present con- 
dition would have been of the greatest value and utility ; for 
southern Buddhism has been concentrate. 1 in Ceylon, just 
as northern Buddhism was concentrated in Nepaul. 

It is all the more to be regretted that Spence Hardy did 
not adopt this method, inasmuch that he seems to have 
thought of it himself, and to have been aware of the great 
value such a work would have possessed ; for he says in his 
preface that in the present state of our knowledge on Buddhism, 
the authentic translations drawn from contemporary dialects 

326 BUDDHISM IN CEYLON [pt. ill 

may be very useful, as they reveal the sentiments and habits 
of the priests of the present time. He adds that the writings 
of the Sinhalese authors abound in Pali quotations, of which 
language they possessed a thorough knowledge ; and as in 
their eyes the books they translated or paraphrased are 
sacred writings, it may be supposed that their works give an 
exact idea of the original ones. 

It appears that in Ceylon the novitiate of the priests is 
more strict than in other Buddhist countries. The novices, 
who in Sinhalese are called Gamnnanses or associates, are 
compelled to reside in the convent in which they receive 
their instruction. In other countries the rule is less exacting, 
and the novice may remain with his family, provided he goes 
as often as possible to receive the lessons of his spiritual 
teacher. In Ceylon, on the contrary, residence in the convent 
is an imperative condition, for the novice is considered a priest, 
and as such is subject to the same rules. Nevertheless the 
novice is free to choose the monastery or vihara he desires to 
be attached to, and Sinhalese books have been expressly 
written to guide the young priest in his choice. 

When he has decided, after long and minute self-examination, 
he states his intentions to a priest, taking with him a robe, 
which he must receive back from his hands, in order to begin 
his novitiate under this new garb. He then humbly asks 
his superior to pronounce over him the threefold Buddhist 
formulas [tunsarand), that is the threefold Refuges : * I go for 
refuge to the Buddha, I go for refuge to the Law, I go for 
refuge to the Order,' the novice repealing the sacred formula 
after the priest; he then recites the Dasa-sil or Ten Precepts, 
which may be called the Novice's Decalogue : 

' I take the vow not to destrO}' life ; I take the vow not to 
steal ; I take the vow to abstain from impurity ; I take the 
vow not to lie ; I take the vow to abstain from intoxicating 
drinks, which hinder progress and virtue ; I take the vow 

ett. 11] BUbt)HtSt CLERGY tN CEYLON 3^7 

not to eat at forbidden times ; I take the vow to abstain from 
dancing, singing, music, and stage plays ; I take the vow not 
to use garlands, scents, unguents or ornaments ; I take the 
vow not to use a high or broad bed ; I take the vow not to 
receive gold or silver.* 

After pronouncing these vows, the novice enters the convent 
and daily fulfils his humble and laborious tasks. A manual, 
called the Di'na chariyawa, Daily Occupations of the Priest, 
minutely establishes the rules, from which he must not deviate. 
He must rise before daylight and wash (his first duty is to 
wash his teeth); then sweep the yard of the vihara and 
round the Bo-tree; fetch the drinking water for the day, 
filter it, and place it ready for use. These first duties ful- 
filled, he is to retire to a solitary place and meditate for an 
hour on the rules he has obeyed and those that are to follow. 

When the vihara bell rings to announce the moment of 
the sacrifice, he must approach the stupa in which the relics 
are enshrined, or the Bo-tree, and offer whatever flowers he 
has been able to procure, as though the Buddha were present 
in person. He must especially meditate on the great virtues 
of the Tathagata, and beg the holy relics to absolve him of 
all the negligences and faults he may have committed. He 
must remain some moments prostrate worshipping, with his 
forehead, knees, and elbows touching the ground. He will 
consult his Lita or calendar, in order to know by the length 
of the shadows what hour it is, the age of the moon, and the 
number of years elapsed since the death of the Buddha. He 
must again meditate for a short time on the beneficial results 
of obedience to the regulations, and the unappreciable ad- 
vantages of wearing the yellow robe. Soon after, taking the 
begging-bowl he must follow his superior in his daily round 
for food, taking care to remain at a proper distance from 
him, and hand him the bowl when they approach a village. 
On reaching it, the novice must cast down his eyes with the 

328 BUDDHISM W C^yLoN . [pt. in 

greatest care so as to avoid the sight of women, men, 
elephants, horses, chariots and soldiers. When the alms-bowl 
has been filled by the charity of the faithful, the novice takes 
back the bowl from his superior, who hands him also his 
upper garment, and both return to the vihara. 

The young man must then offer a seat to his master, wash 
his feet, and place the food before him ; he can only partake 
of it himself after him, and must repeat certain sacramental 
stanzas before and after eating. He must then wash the 
alms-bowl and place it in the sun to dry before putting it 
away. After the meal is over he washes his face, and putting 
on his robe, silently worships the Buddha and his superior. 
He may then retire to a solitary place and again search his 
heart and give himself up to the exercise of the Meila-bhdvand, 
or the Meditation on Kindness and Affection. About an hour 
afterwards he is to begin his studies from the sacred books, 
or copy one of them, asking his superior's assistance for any 
passages he does not understand. He then lights a fire and 
a lamp, and prepares everything for the reading of the Bana, 
or the Canon ; he calls the priest who is to recite it, washes 
his feet, and sits down in the attitude prescribed for listening 
to the sacred readings, which finish by a recitation of the 
Pt'rtt or exorcism used by priests. If after all these duties 
he still has a few moments' leisure before sunset, the novice 
is again to sweep the sacred places as he did in the early 

Such are the vows and regular occupations of the Sinhalese 

The layman who wishes for entrance to the Order must be at 
least eight years old before obtaining the novitiate, and at least 
twenty before receiving full initiation (ordination, tipasampada). 
The novitiate lasts about ten years ; the parents' consent is 
absolutely necessary ; and it would not seem that the spirit of 
proselytism leads the Ceylon priest to infringe this rule. The 


vocation declares itself in the schools which are kept by 
priests, and at a very early age the children who will be dis- 
posed to take orders show th-eir inclination. Moreover, the 
vows are not irrevocable ; and abjuration, although rare, is 
not impossible, nor is it considered a dishonour. It is simply 
regarded as a confession of weakness, which in its sincerity 
is creditable. The holy life is renounced because the monk 
feels himself incapable of loyally fulfilling its severe regulations. 
But in the majority of cases the novice steadfastly believes in 
the advantages of a religious life, and does not think of 
deserting it. He is taught that it delivers him from many 
evils, and ensures him the following benefits : he is delivered 
from the desire for riches and pleasure {vastukama^ klesakama)\ 
he is sure of having food ; he learns to be satisfied with what- 
ever he is given ; he fears neither the oppression of the wicked 
nor of kings ; he is saved from all the anxiety entailed by 
the possession of land, horses, cattle, &c. ; he need not fear 
robbers nor officials ; he need not even rise at their approach ; 
in one word, he is delivered from every sort of fear. 

Doubtless these benefits are of a negative kind, but they 
are sufficient, with the hope of Nirvana, to attract novices; 
and hitherto the Buddhist clergy of Ceylon has been easily 
recruited, although it is at present less numerous than in former 
days, when Hiouen-Thsang states the number of monks to 
have been si.K thousand. Discipline, moreover, is vigilantly 
maintained, and we will quote a document that proves how 
well the Ceylon priests understand the importance of the 
novitiate; this is a letter from the Burmese high priest 
{Sanghanija) in answer to the appeal of the Sinhalese priests 
for advice. It is dated in the year 1802. 

' As it is erroneously believed,' the high priest writes, 
* that certain regulations were not made for novices, and were 
only obligatory for priests who have received ordination, I will 
recall to you the following passage of the Commentary on 

33^ WDDtiiSM IN CilYLON tpT. lit 

the 3fahd-Vagga, in order to show you what little ground 
there is for such an opinion. " As long as a monk," says this 
Commentary, " is ignorant of the details of the discipline he 
should follow, as long as he does not know how to put on his 
robes, or present the alms-bowl, or when to stand and when 
to s't down, or how to eat or drink according to the pre- 
scribed rules, he must not be sent into the houses where food 
is indiscriminately given to the priests, nor to places where it 
is distributed each day to some chosen priests. He must not 
either be sent into the forest or to any public assembly. 
But he must remain with some older priests, who shall instruct 
him like a child ; he must be carefully taught what is and 
what is not permitted ; each day he must be shown how to 
arrange his robe and wear it ; and he should have explained 
to him all the parts of the discipline that he must observe." ' 

This instruction {sandesa) given by the Burmese high 
priest proves that the discipline of the novices in Ceylon had 
been relaxed at the beginning of this century, and that the 
need to re-establish it had been felt. 

When the novice is sufficiently instructed, and he has 
attained the proper age, he then receives the ordination which 
is to make him a priest for the remainder of his life. The 
rules of ordination are very simple, and are contained in 
a little work called Kammavacham, which has been translated 
into Sinhalese ; the following are the chief points. On the day 
appointed a chapter {sanghd) is held of not less than four 
priests. The candidate is introduced, and is asked if the 
special things pertaining to a monk — the alms-bowl, robes, 
&c., which have been placed before the assembly — are his. 
On his reply in the alTirmative he is shown the place where 
he must stand during his examination. lie is first asked if 
he is free from any of the disqualifying diseases — leprosy, 
epilepsy, «fec. Secondly, if he is a human being, a man, and 
a free man — a slave not being able to take orders without 


the consent of his master ; if he has any debts; if he is exempt 
from the king's service ; if he has the consent of his parents ; 
if he is twenty years of age ; — in one word, if he has all the 
conditions requisite for piiesthood. 

When these points have been settled, the president bids the 
novice advance in front of the assembled monks, and the 
novice, coming forward, says three times in a respectful voice, 
'I ask the chapter for ordination' {upasampada). The 
president declares that the novice is free from all that might 
hinder his admission, that he possesses all that a priest should 
possess, and that he asks for upasa?jipadU. Then he repeats 
three times, ' Let those who are of opinion to grant this 
request remain silent, and he who opposes it declare so at 
once/ If the chapter silently consents to the candidate's 
admission, the president reminds the novice of some of the 
rules that he will henceforth have to submit to till the end of 
his life, such as the food he may receive, the clothes he may 
wear, the medicines he is permitted to use in case of ill- 
ness, and the crimes which would cause his exclusion from 
the community. After this consecration, the newly-elected 
member declares that he submits to this law, without however 
taking a vow of obedience or making any kind of promise. 
From this moment the novice becomes a priest, and the 
Buddhist confraternity counts another member. 

It often happens that a novice, presenting himself before 
the chapter for his examination, puts off the robes and 
resumes a layman's clothes, in order to put on with more 
solemnity the new robe, which shows the people his sacred 
calling. Sometimes he is accompanied to the place of 
ordination by his family, his friends, and by a crowd who 
carry banners in honour of the festivity. Sometimes, indeed, 
kings have mingled with the procession through the streets 
of Kandy, when the candidate was deemed worthy of such 
honour, either by his parentage or his virtues. At the present 

332 BUDDHISM IN C^YlON [pt. hi 

day the ordinations are only made in the capital by the 
hands of the Maha-Nayaka or the Anu-Nayaka, that is 
the Director-General or the Assistant Director. But it 
appears that this is an innovation, and Spence Hardy rcmiiks 
that this is a change simi'ar to that which formerly transferred 
from the clerical community to the bishops alone the right 
of ordination. 

Although the upasavipadd does not confer an indelible 
cliaracter, it is extremely rare in Ceylon that the yellow robe 
is abandoned for a return to the world. This is sure evidence 
of the ardour of the Sinhalese faith. There are, however, 
Buddhist countries in which it is almost a sport to take or 
leave holy orders. In those countries there is hardly a single 
person who has not, at least once in his life, been a monk 
for a longer or shorter period ; it is like a pious retreat taken 
on trial, but in which there is no wish to remain permanently. 
In Siam it is the custom every year, in the month of Asarha, 
for the king to cast aside his royal garments, shave his head, 
and assume the yellow robe of the novice, in order to do 
penance, with his whole court, in one of the most celebrated 
viharas. The most devout monarchs carry their piety even 
a step further, for they bring in their retinue slaves they are 
supposed to have converted, whom they cause to be shaved 
and ordained as priests. It appears that in the kingdom of 
Ava the same practices are allowed. Doubtless they fancy they 
are performing an act of sincere piety, but at the same time 
they lower the respect which ought to be felt for the clerical 
character ; and in Burmah it is a frequent thing for married 
peo[)le who wish to be divorced to become priests for a few 
months, in order afterwards to be able to marry again. 

In Ceylon, ordination is a solemn act, and no one takes 
orders unless he has the firm intention of remaining faithful 
to them. This fact is an honour to Sinhalese piety, and 
Spence Hardy ascertained that such was really the case. 



Another point which was easy to verify, and on which the 
author was able to obtain thorough information, is the great 
wealth possessed by the Sinhalese clergy. The vow of 
poverty is generally strictly observed, and, like in the first 
centuries of Buddhism, the monks only possess the eight 
following articles : three robes of different shapes, a girdle for 
the loins, an alms-bowl in clay or iron {paidra\ a razor — 
complete tonsure being obligatory — a needle to mend their 
cloihes, and a water-strainer through which they have to 
strain all they drink (perahatikada). No individual monk is 
permitted to possess anything beyond these indispensable 
articles. But the community may be wealthy without dis- 
obeying the law, and in Ceylon they are extremely rich. 
In an inscription engraved on a rock at Mihintale, near 
Anuradhapura, which dates from the year 262 of our era, 
it is specified that the lands given to the vihara are to rema'n 
the undivided property of the priests; that regular accounts 
are to be kept by special officers of the revenues of the 
temple, and that these accounts are to be made up at the 
end of every month, and must at the end of each year be 
presented to a chapter of priests appointed to verify and 
audit them, &c., &c. 

It has always been held a principle in Ceylon, as well as in 
India, that the whole territory belongs to the monarch ; but 
in practice this principle has had very numerous exceptions, 
and from the earliest times the temples and even individuals 
have possessed land. It is very probable that at first the 
royal donations were the reward of signal services rendered 
to the person of the king or to the state, and that in course 
of time these" properties, which had become hereditary, were 
given to the viharas to avoid taxation, and held on leases by 
the former landlords. When the kings made these generous 
donations to the temples, they were careful to impose on the 
cultivators of the §oil pertain obli^atigns to^^aj-ds 'Iw piests. 


A multitude of inscriptions attest this, besides the one at 
Mihintale. The lands thus granted ceased to be liable for 
any service to the king, and the services originally due 
to him were transferred to the temple. The Sinhalese 
clergy had thus become extremely wealthy, and as the per- 
sonal maintenance of the monks, reduced to the strict limits 
above mentioned, cost very little, the community was 
benefited by all the favours and all the savings. 

'When I passed,' Spence Hardy says, *in travelling through 
the interior of Ceylon, before landscapes that would justify the 
legend which makes out this island to be the earthly paradise, 
and I noticed lands that were exceptionally fertile, I almost 
always found on inquiry that they were the property of the 

Robert Knox, in the interesting narrative of his long 
captivity in Ceylon, made the same remark.* The enormous 
extent of the sacerdotal lands and the wealth of the convents 
had also struck him. The farmers of the viharas were the 
most prosperous in the island ; the priests demanded moderate 
rental?, and their estates were admirably cultivated by men 
who made good profits. The revenues were used to keep 
up the viharas, temples, and slupas, as well as to provide 
for the expenses of the worship and the pay of the numerous 
officials attached to each community. 

In an official report made by Lieutenant-Colonel Colebrooke, 
one of the commissioners appointed in 1831, we find the 
following passage : ' The estates belonging to the temples 
consist of the largest tracts of cultivated land in the provinces 
of Kandy. In several of the temples and colleges, registers 
are kept of the land that belongs to them; but as these 
registers have not been examined, it has not been possible 

' Robert Knox's curious narrative has been republished several times, 
and shows the internal condition of Ceylon in the last half of the 
seventeenth century ; he was a prisoner there from 1659 to 16S0. 


to ascertain exactly what they contain. At my request the 
registers of the principal temples of Kandy have been trans- 
lated, and it has been proved that the tenants and possessors 
of what are called the temple estates are in many provinces 
subject to different kinds of servitudes and contributions, 
whenever they may be demanded by the priests. These 
stipulations are minutely detailed in the registers, and the 
tenant farmer of each allotment has either a particular duty 
to fulfil, or he is bound to pay a particular tax, either for the 
repairs of the temple, or the maintenance of the chiefs and the 
priests and their officials, or for the great festivals of the year.* 

It may with good reason be thought that there is a vast 
difference between the wealth and prosperity of these temples 
and the primitive institution of the Buddha, so simple and so 
scrupulously attached to poverty. 

Nevertheless, the Sinhalese priesthood has remained faithful 
to its vows of poverty, and observed all the rules, precise even 
to puerility, with a perseverance which for twenty centuries 
has never been relaxed. The Buddhist priest absolutely 
declines to be fed except by the alms he receives. He goes 
from house to house in the neighbouring town or village to 
present his alms-bowl. He may not utter a word to express 
a wish, or point out any food he may by chance have seen ; 
and he must always keep his eyes downcast, gazing fixedly 
before him * at the distance of a yoke.' 

The canonical books prescribe wiih the greatest care all 
the details regarding mendicity, the Viiiyapti. The monk on 
approaching a house, begging-bowl in hand, must not make 
any sign or sound that might warn the inhabitants of his 
presence. If he is not seen, or if nothing is given him, he 
must pass on in silence without a gesture or word of reproach, 
otherwise he would commit a grievous sin. Some houses, 
where his virtue or reputation might be endangered, the prieit 
is ordered to avoid ; but he is on no account to pass by any 


on the pretext of its poverty. He must not remain a long 
time before a house so as to become importunate, nor must 
he present himself more tlian three times in a place where 
nothing has been given him. When the bowl is full, the 
monk retires home and eats in solitude the food he has been 
given, whatever it may be. 

According to Spence Hardy, the Sinhalese monks still 
observe all these practices, which have lost none of their 
severity ; the only difference they make is that they avoid 
begging at the houses and in the districts of the poorer castes, 
such as the washermen and the mat-makers. 

It cannot be denied that the founder of Bi.ddhism showed 
great wisdom in imposing upon his monks absolute silence 
and perfect resignation during the collection of the alms, 
which he made their only source cf supply, for he thereby 
ensured a long existence to this singular institution. Other 
founders pf mendicant orders have not had the same fore- 
sight, or perhaps had less ascendency over their adepts, and 
the result has been that Fociety soon became weary of the 
intolerable importunity cf the monks. INIoreover, the Buddha 
made alms-giving one of the principal virtues he commended 
to the faithful, and none other holds such a place in the 
Buddhist legends, by the self-denial it demands, and especially 
by the incomparable results it produced on those who practised 
it. Alms, when taken from personal gains, are particularly 
meritorious, and it is related that a devout king of Ceylon 
used to work in the fields, like a common labourer, in order 
to give the portion of rice he received as salary to a venerable 
priest. It is even added that he remained three consecutive 
years on a sugar-cane plantation so as to offer to the 
priests all the sugar he received as wages. He thus gave 
alms by the sweat of his brow instead of simply drawing it 
from his royal treasury. It is also related that the parents 
of the'fa^ious king Dush^a-G^mini had rriad^ him take ai^ 


oath in his childhood, that he would never eat a repast 
M-ithout. first putting aside, from his own food, a share for 
the priests.^ The king faithfully kept his word, but in a 
moment of absent-mindedness, having neglected this duly, 
he performed penance, and built a stupa and a vihara, in 
expiation of his involuntary fault. 

If by some unfortunate misadventure the priest received 
no food at all, what was he to do? Was he bound to die of 
hunger ? This question has not been laid down in such 
precise terms by Buddhic law, but everything goes to prove 
that it would unhesitatingly enforce this extreme measure. On 
no pretext must the mendicant speak; on no pretext must he 
break the rule which enjoins on him to live solely on what 
is given him. If death be the consequence of this submission 
to the Law, it matters not, and Buddhism generally fears 
death too litile to be stopped by such a consideration, which 
in such a case would only be regarded as a merit'. The 
minutiae of the discipline as regards diet are as strict as on 
any other point, and when so many precautions are taken in 
order that food may not become the occasion of sin, it is 
tantamount to a prohibition of all food that does not exactly 
conform with the unchangeable presciiptions of the Law. 

These prescriptions are no less numerous or imperative as 
regards the monks' clothing. The monk has three robes, 
formed of two undergarments — the antdra-vdsaka and the 
sanghciti — and one loose robe which covers the whole of his 
body, except the right shoulder, called the uttardsanga. He 

* The legends quote a good many exnmples calculated to stimulate 
the piety of the monks. One of the Kuddha's disciples refuses a remedy 
that will cure him, because the medicine had been prepared from 
directions he had given with another intention, and that he might have 
seemed to have asked for. Another monk, sooner than eat fruit fallen 
from a tree, which the proprietor had not given him, runs the risk 
of dying of hunger. During a famine, the Buddha's disciples are 
reduced to feeding on horses' oats, and the Talhagata docs not -allow 
them to use their supernatural powers to procure more suitable food. 

338 BUDDHISM IN CEYlON fpt. lit 

can never dispose of them, and if in any pressing circum- 
stance — a danger for instance — he has been obliged to leave 
one of his robes in the village, it must not be left there more 
than six days, unless by special permissioh. When a robe 
has been lost or stolen, or is worn out, the monk has not 
the right to demand another. If the king or any high 
personage gives money to buy a robe, the priest cannot 
take the money, which must be handed over to a third 
person for the purchase of the robe. If the intermediate 
agent is dishonest, and does not give the robe, the priest 
must not exact it ; all he can do is to warn the pious giver 
who has advanced the money. The proper time for offering 
new robes is at the end of the rainy season, and the monk 
cannot accept them earlier than ten days before the end of 
the Varsha (the retreat in the viharas during the rainy 
season). If, by chance, a monk should have received a robe 
outside of the prescribed time, he must bring it back to the 
chapter, who dispose of it in favour of another priest. The 
robes must be of common cotton cloth, for nothing can be 
too simple for the mendicant ; if the garments are new, they 
must be soiled with mud and dust before being worn ; the 
more strict monks only wear rags picked up in the grave- 
yards. • 

In Ceylon, the month that follows the Varsha, or rainy 
season, is called the robing month {ChJvaramasa). At this 
epoch the faithful offer the priests pieces of cotton cloth 
called hatina. The chapter receive the gifts ; and a robe is 
granted to the monk who seems to have the most urgent 
need of it, or rather to the priest who, during the Varsha, has 
read and commented on the canonical books to his brethren. 
The chapter, assisted by a few laymen, sew the robe together, 
and dye it a dull orange colour ; these preparations must be 
done in a day, or sixty hours, according to the way the 
natives reckon time. 


On certain occasions, the cotton material is itself woven 
under the eyes of the chapter. The hall in which the Bana 
has been read is filled with wbmen seated on the floor, who 
bring cotton, just as they have taken it from the tree ; other 
women draw it from its capsules, and prepare it for ihp 
spinners, who convert it into thread. The thread is given 
to weavers, who await out of doors with their hand-looms, 
and who hurriedly weave a cloth. The same evening, the 
priests receive it, and sew it into a robe, which they dye 
the desired colour; this is always a dull orange colour. 
However, in spite of this uniformity, there are still slight 
differences, according to the taste of the monks; and Spence 
Hardy knew an old priest who wore, with a certain degree 
of pride, a handsome silk robe that had been sent him by 
a Siamese king. Moreover the monks never change their 
robes for any ceremonial; they are taken off only when 
they leave the community; and this was the reason why 
a priest, who in 18 18 was executed as a rebel, underwent his 
sentence clothed in his sacerdotal garments. He could only 
be depiived of ihem if he had demanded it, otherwise it 
would have been a dreadful outrage which foreigners had no 
right to inflict on him ; they could kill him, but not degrade 

Although the law of the Buddha did not make it an 
absolute rule for monks to live in solitude, or, as is said, * in 
the forest,' yet there are many priests who build themselves 
a shelter far from towns and villages, in which they habitually 
reside. In Ceylon, the vihara, which was at first intended 
to receive the monks during the rainy seasons, became by 
degrees a regular temple, and ceased to be a convent. 
Generally the huts of the Sinhalese priests are made of light 
partitions, filled in with mud, the roofs being thatched with 
straw or coconut leaves. There are rules describing the 
dimensions of these pitiable shelters, the length of which 

Y 2 

340 BUDDHISM W CEYLON ' {^t. hi 

must not exceed twelve em pans, and the width seven. The 
anchorite may only take possession of it when the chapter 
has ascertained if the hut is not larger than is deemed 
necessary. The priest has, however, been free to choose the 
spot ; and if he has chosen well, he will have little cause to 
fear either insects, or serpents, or wild beasts. If he wishes 
strictly to observe the rule he will never leave the forest, 
except to beg his food from some neighbouring town, from 
which his hut must be distant at least 500 bows, or within 
range of a stone thrown by a strong arm. The priest who 
is a less rigid observer of the Law, resides during the four 
months of the Varsha in a village; some still less strict 
spend the four hot months as well as the Varsha in a town. 
Moreover there are as minute directions, in the Buddhic code 
of discipline, about the residence of the monks, as there are 
about mendicity and clothing. Certain priests live only in 
graveyards, or rather they spend their nights there, and only 
leave them before sunrise to go and beg their daily bread. 
In Ceylon, these austerities do not, it would seem, add to 
their reputation ; Spence Hardy saw in 1835, near Nigombo, 
a priest who professed never to have inhabited a house, and 
who lived exclusively on fruit. His singular appearance 
and mysterious existence made him a terror to children, 
and sensible people looked upon him as a madman. 

The Sinhalese priests are never seen without an alms-bowl 
or a fan in their hands ; this latter they hold before their eyes, 
to avoid seeing anything that might offend theirsight. They 
are generally followed by a servant, who, in the language of 
the country, is called ahitiaya. 

At the present day there are no priestesses in Ceylon, as 
there are in Burmah, Siam, in the kingdom of Arrakan, and 
even in China. The Buddha had most reluctantly consented 
to ordain nuns ; and this institution, of which in his prudence 
he had foreseen all the objections, had never prospered. In 


Ceylon, Sanghamitta's and Anula's example had not been 
followed; and it is probable that, from the earliest period, 
the Sinhalese women gave up all idea of becoming nuns. 
Robert Knox mentions a custom that existed in his day, and 
which has since fallen into disuse : at certain times of the 
year, the women went out to beg for the Buddha, and on 
these occasions they carried in their hands his image covered 
by a white veil. They were given one of the three following 
articles : oil for the Buddha's lamp, rice for a sacrifice to him, 
or cloth to make him a robe ; money, it seems, was also given. 
This begging was an act of piety, and when the higher class 
of women did not go, they had themselves represented by 
their maids, whom they sent in their place. At the present 
day this custom, of which Robert Knox was an eye-witness, 
no longer exists. 

The Canonical sacred books of Ceylon, like those of all the 
Buddhist races, comprise three classes and forms, which are 
called in liturgic style * The Three Baskets ' {Ptiakaiayam in 
Pali, Tiin-Pilaka in Sinhalese). Turnour has already given 
a complete list of the Canonical books of Ceylon. Spence 
Hardy confirms this list, and adds some interesting details 
wo 1 thy of notice. 

The Sinhalese Three Baskets comprise, as usual, the 
Vinaya^ the Suiras, and the Abhidharma^ that is, the books 
on discipline, on the legends, and on metaphysics. We place 
the Three Baskets in the same order as Spence Hardy, who 
probably followed the indications of the Sinhalese priests. 
Generally the Sulras are placed in the first rank, secondly 
the Vinaya^ and then the Abhidharma ; but their order of 
classification is of little consequence, the number, tides, and 
size of the books remaining the same. 

The Sinhalese Vinaya is composed of five works. The 
first two are a kind of criminal code ; the next two a relgious 
gpfl civil codp, The fifth is only a commentary and an 


explanation of the other four, in the shape of a catechism, 
which facilitates their study. The whole Vinaya is, for the 
convenience of the faithful, divided into 169 lectures 
(banavaras), each consisting of 250 stanzas, a stanza being 
composed of 4 pddas of 8 syllables, or 32 syllables in all. 
There are thus 42,250 stanzas in the whole of the Vinaya, 
without reckoning the Samantapasadikd, which has 27,000. 

The 'Basket' of Su/raSj or discourses of the Buddha, forms 
the most considerable part of the Tun-Pitaka, The Sutta- 
Pi'iaka also comprises five works ; of which the last is divided 
into several others. The Sutras, if we are to rely on the 
Saddharmdiankare, contain no less than 200,000 stanzas 
independently of the commentary, which has even more. 

The Abhidhar?na, or Metaphysics, is composed of seven 
works; and the texts comprise 96,250 stanzas, while the 
commentaries contain only a third at the most. 

If we are to believe tradition, Mahinda brought these 
works when he came, under the reign of the great Asoka 
and by his orders, to convert Sinhala to Buddhism. These 
works were accompanied by a commentary, the Atthakathd, 
which was held in almost the same veneration as the text 
itself, and which was translated by Mahinda, from the original 
Pali, brought from Magadha, into Sinhalese. The Sinhalese 
^translation of the Atthakathd sufficed for many centuries, and 
gradually replaced the authentic and primitive text, which 
fell into disuse and was lost. Hence, in the year 430 of the 
Christian era, the famous work of the Brahman Buddhaghosa, 
who, as we have already mentioned, re-translated into Pali 
Mahinda's Sinhalese translation. The Pali version of the 
Atthakathd made by Buddhaghosa is the only one that exists 
at the present time, and the priests know no other. But it 
would seem that this commentary has for some time lost 
most of its authority with the priests, who, having carefully 
compared it with the text, have discovered that it misrepre- 


sented it, by the addition of absurd stories ; and in disgust 
they have returned to the original Sii/ras, though these are 
often not more reasonable than the Atthakathd. 

It is needless to insist on the extreme importance of all 
these works, which to this day are understood by the most 
intelligent among the native priests. Spence Hardy states 
that he saw a complete and correct collection of them in the 
possession of the Rev. D. J. Gogerly, head of the Wesleyan 
missions in Ceylon. Gogerly was residing at Pondra in 
1835, ^nd had become acquainted wiih the most enlightened 
priests in the maritime provinces of the island ; in the space 
of a, few years, he had been able to collect all the sacred 
works, which formed no less than seven or eight of our 
ordinary 8vos. Tumour, who possessed a no less valuable 
collection, had intended making a general analysis of the 
Sinhalese Tripitaka, with the aid of the priests, whom 
he enjoyed gathering round him; but he had to renounce 
this lengthy undertaking, finding that he had not sufficient 
leisure. Spence Hardy, probably for similar reasons, had 
equally to give up this work, although he admitted its utility. 
'As long as an exact analysis of the Pitahas has not been 
made,* he writes, ' and that the most interesting parts have not 
been translated at full length, we cannot flatter ourselves that 
we possess a complete and thoroughly authentic statement of 
the Buddhist doctrines. This work would not e.xceed the 
powers of any single individual ; but, to be carried out to 
perfection, it would demand a thorough knowledge of the 
languages, literature, and metaphysics ; unwearying persever- 
ance, easy and constant intercourse with the most learned of 
the native priests, besides a longer residence in the country 
than can be generally made by those who devote themselves 
to these studies/ 

These observations are rery sensible, but they only augment 
Qur regrets. Spencp Hardy possessed n^ost of the requisite 


conditions, and it is a pity that, during his long residence in 
Ceylon, he was not able to collect the materials for the work 
he so well desciibes, and of which he felt the need was so 
great. He did, however, undertake drawing up a list of all 
the native works actually in use in the island. He counted 
465 of these, half of them in Pali, 80 in Sanskrit, and 150 
in Sinhalese or in Elu, the ancient form of the Sinhalese 
language. As the author took the trouble to make these re- 
searches, he ought at least to have given us the nomenclature 
of these 465 works ; for the titles alone would have taught us 
a good deal about the present state of literature in Ceylon. 

However that may be, such are the sacred books studied 
by the Buddhist priests of the island, which they use for the 
instruction of the people. At certain periods of the year 
the people are called together, to listen to the reading of the 
Sufras or the Bana. 'I'hese ed fying lectures mostly take place 
in the rainy season ; at other times, the priests are generally 
scattered about, and it would be more difficult for them to 
address the throng of the fai hful. The place where the lecture 
is held, banamaduva, is usually a raised stand of several steps in 
the shape of a stupi. These temporary edifices are built in the 
enclosures of the viharas, but they mny be constructed else- 
where, the choice of the place being left to the person who 
undertakes the expense of this meritorious action. At the 
summit of the stand is a platform, on which the priest who 
officiates stands ; and the people listen to him, seated on mats 
scattered about on the ground. The stand is covered with 
bright cloths — so that the stones and woodwork are hidden — 
and decked out with flowers, moss, and fresh boughs of trees. 
As these readings generally take place at night, the enclosure 
is lighted up by lamps and lanterns suspended to the wall, or 
held in the hands or even fastened on to the heads of the most 
pious of the believers. Banners, flags, sha\vls, flutter in the 
^ir ; t})e l^'9m?n df?s§ed in their be^t clpthes^ with their 


hair carefully drawn back from the forehead, and twisted into 
a knot, held up by silver pins and Utile metal combs tastefully 
arranged. The men are dressed in cotion garments of 
dazzling whiteness. From time to time, the loud beat of the 
tamtam, or music, or even rounds of musketry are heard ; it 
is, in fact, as much a festivity as a religious ceremony. Some- 
times trunks of trees covered with silver paper, with boughs 
laden with artificial gems or leaflets of the books to be read 
on that holy occasion, are distributed among the crowd. 
According to popular belief, these trees ensured to those who 
touched them the fulfilment of all their wishes ; meanwhile 
they are used to distribute the text of the prayer that the 
priest is about to recite. In the most conspicuous place a large 
copper bowl is placed, in which the people deposit alms for 
the maintenance of the worship. 

At a reading of the Bana which was held at Pantura in 1839, 
Spence Hardy saw a hundred priests gathered together to 
ofllciate at it. The pulpit from which the reading was 
delivered turned on a pivot, doubtless in order that each 
listener might in turn hear the Bana without changing his 
place. In the night- time fireworks were let off; and a kind 
of representation, half dramatic, half mysiic, was performed, 
in which a personage acting the part of a messenger from the 
world of the gods appeared, splendidly robed, and escorted by 
two personages dressed as kings, with crowns on their heads 
and swords in their hand. Other allegorical personages went 
about the enclosure, riding elephants or horses. Fifty native 
soldiers, dressed in English uniforms, unceasingly fired off 
their guns, while the priests marshalled round the pulpit con- 
tinued to chant the Pali verses. The state swords of eight of 
the principal chiefs of the island {Adikars) were hung round 
the pulpit. 

The festival at Pantura was an extraordinary one, and on less 
^plei^i^ occasions things were dpi^e more simply. The p'at- 


form of the stand is often occupied by several priests, who 
read in turn passages from the sacred books, from copies 
written in big letters on magnificent palm-leaves. The 
officiating priest reads the text in a kind of intoning voice, 
something between chanting and reading. Generally the 
Pali text is alone recited, and then the people do not under- 
stand a word; sometimes, however, after the Pali text has 
been recited, a priest gives an interpretation in Sinhalese, for 
the benefit of the people. Each time that, in the course of 
reading, the name of the Buddha is pronounced, the whole 
crowd unanimously responds ' Sdd/iu,' a Sanskrit word 
equivalent to our ' Amen, So be it.' The tone in which the 
reading is done is very calm and very monotonous, the voice 
never being raised and no emphasis ever indulged in. 
However, some priests by the softness of their tone of voice 
or the lucidity of their explanations become favourites with 
the masses, as is the case with our own preachers. 

Every month there are four periods in which the Bana is 
regularly read ; these are at the four changes of the moon — the 
day of the new moon, the eighth day after it, the fifteenth day 
of the moon, or the day of the full moon, and the eighth day 
after the full moon. These days, chosen by Buddhism for the 
religious exercises, are precisely those prohibited by Brah- 
manic law. Manu recommends, very clearly, that the Vedas 
shall not be read on the days when the moon is about to 
change \ It seems probable that the natural antagonism of the 
two religions influenced the Buddhists in their choice, in order 
to distinguish themselves from their adversaries. Perhaps 
even this easy way of reckoning tempted them, nothing being 
easier than to observe and follow the changes of the moon. 

^ Laws of Manu, Book IV. sloka 114: 'The day of the new moon 
kills the master ; the fourteenth lunar day kills the disciple; the eighth 
day and that of the full moon destroy the recollection of the sacred 
writings. It is therefore riegessary^ to abstain fro^^ alj readings dviriii|^ 
tt^Qse dayi .' 


On the eve of each of the four sacramental days, which arc 
called poyas or changing, the devout layman concentrates his 
thoughts ; he must think of what he will do on the morrow, 
and meditate on his firm resolution to remain faithful to the 
precepts given by the Buddha to the laity. On the morning 
of the poya day, he eats the frugal repast he has prepared on 
the preceding evening, and goes at an early hour to a priest, 
or even simply a devout man {updsaka) like himself, well versed 
in the knowledge of the Ba7ta. He respectfully approaches 
this person, and says to him, ' It is my intention to keep the 
precepts.' Then he recites the formula for the Threefold 
Refuge, * I go for refuge to the Buddha, &c.,' adding the 
principal precepts of the Law. If the believer has no eminent 
person to whom he can address this act of faith he may recite 
it to himself, without anybody's assistance. Having thus 
prepared himself, he goes to the priest, to receive from him the 
instruction of the Bana. During the whole of the poya day 
he must carefully avoid doing anything that can harm others, 
nor must he incite any one to commit any such act. It is better 
even to avoid all business transactions, and all the calculations 
that business entails. These mundane interests would dis- 
tract and sully the mind, which must be kept perfectly pure, as 
well as the clothes that are worn. If the devotee should 
happen to be sick unto death, and could not personally attend 
the Bana, he can request the priest to come to him to read 
the sacred books ; the book is then brought in great pomp, 
the priest reads it with unction, and he continues reading 
till the sick person has given up his spirit or feels relieved. 

All these practices are very praiseworthy, and can only 
be commended, as they encourage piety, disinterestedness, 
benevolence, and virtue. Superstition has, however, claimed 
its share, and turned to its own ends the reading of the Batia. 
Extracts have been made of certain passages in the sacred 
writings which are specially read at the ceremony called the 


Pint, and these form a kind of manual of exorcisms. The 
Sinhalese, who are as credulous as the Indians, the Chinese, 
and most of the Asiatic races, fancy that all the ills that befall 
humanity proceed from the maliciousness of the demons, the 
Yakshas. Means must therefore be found to combat their 
hostility or appease their wrath. The perusal of the Pirit can 
destroy their power, and the Buddha himself pointed out this 
marvellous and beneficial secret to mankind. Spence Hardy 
was present in 1828 at a reading of the Pirit, and, aided by 
the recollection of a few other persons who, like him, witnessed 
the ceremony, he gives the following description of it: 

*At sunset, numerous groups of believers arrived from all 
sides ; the women, who were the majority, brought with them 
coconuts and oil as offerings. When it grew dark the coco- 
nuts were placed in niches, expressly arranged in the walls of 
the court of the vihara, and by the aid of cotton wicks lamps 
were soon provided. The wall that surrounded the Bo- 
tree was lighted up in the same way, and, as many of the 
people had also brought torches made of cotton and resin, the 
whole enclosure was in a moment bathed in light. The gaiety 
and manners of all the groups moving about showed full well 
that, if the object of the gathering was a religious one, it was 
also looked upon as a time of festivity and rest. Another 
reason why these assemblies were so popular and so much 
the fashion, is that they were the only occasions on which the 
young people of both sexes could see and be seen by each 
other, without being obliged to maintain the reserve and con- 
straint which were the rule of everyday life. 

* The service lasted seven days, and the first evening was in 
a way only preparatory. The building where the people met 
was the one in which the habitual reading of the Bana took 
place. A relic of the Buddha, enshrined in a casket, was 
placed on a platform designed for that special purpose ; and 
^hp presenpe of thjs rplic was supposed to lend to tips cerS" 


mony all the efTicacy that it would have possessed if the 
Buddha himself had performed it. The priests were assembled 
on another platform. At the close of the preliminary service 
a consecrated rope, called Pin'/ nula, was fastened to the in- 
terior walls of the edifice, reaching from the priests' platform 
to that of the relic ; and as the priests in chorus intoned 
the religious chants, they each took hold of the cord, 
establishing in this manner a communication between each 
of the officiating priests, the relic, and the interior walls of 
the building. 

*From the morning of the second day till the evening 
of the seventh, the platform on which the reading took 
place was unceasingly filled with priests, both by day and night. 
When two priests had to be replaced by two others, one 
remained seated reading, while the other gave his seat to 
his substitute, and the second priest only made his exchange 
w^hen the first substitute had begun reading. Thus for the 
whole of the six days, the reading of the Fin'/ was continued 
without a moment's interruption. There were never less than 
twelve priests in attendance, generally indeed there were 
tweniy-four, and two were always officiating. As they were 
relieved every two hours, each priest officiated two hours 
out of twenty-four. In addition, all the priests who took 
part in the ceremony met together three times a day, at 
sunrise, at noon, and at sunset, to chant together the three 
principal passages of the Pin'/, called mafigala, ra/ana, 
karamya, which were accompanied by some verses drawn 
from other sources. Then the reading of the Piri/ was 
resumed, and the same formulas were gone through till the 
seventh day, when a new series had to be started. 

* On the morning of the seventh day, a large procession 
was organized, in which the armed and unarmed men were 
marshalled. A special personage represented the DevadU/aya^ 
or Messenger of the Gods. The procession, headed by 

3S0 WDDHI3M IN CEYLON t^t. in 

priests, went to certain places where the gods were supposed 
to reside, and solemnly invited them to attend the service 
before it was finished, in order to share its benefits. Until 
the messenger and those who followed him had returned, 
the priests who had remained on the platform stopped 
reading and remained seated. 

*At the festival I witnessed,' adds Spence Hardy, 'the 
messenger was introduced in great pomp, and to make 
his apparition appear more supernatural, sulphur was burnt 
before him. One of the priests having proclaimed in a loud 
voice the names of the different gods and demons who were 
invited to the ceremony, the messenger replied that he was 
sent by those very divinities, and, repeating their names, 
he declared that they would come to the service. The 
formula of the Threefold Refuge, which formed part of the 
recitation, was then chanted by all the persons present. In 
the midst of all these superstitious and absurd ideas, much 
excellent advice was given ; but, as it was all in a language 
that the people did not understand, the ceremony could 
hardly be expected to produce any really useful results.' 

We are not told what became of the crowd of believers 
during those seven days and nights. It is probable that they 
relieved each other like the priests did, although doubtless 
with less regularity. 

It would moreover appear that the Sinhalese priests, by 
limiting their public ministrations to reading the ^ana, and 
to the somewhat unintelligible explanations they give of it, 
take little heed of maintaining their authority. They have 
become estranged from the people, and a class of devout 
laymen has arisen, which has by degrees replaced and 
supplanted them. These benevolent and pious substitutes 
go from house to house to read the sacred writings in the 
Sinhalese language, and condescend to impart the most 
homely instructions. Spence Hardy found many of these 


lay-priests working with great success in several districts, 
especially in the neighbourhood of Matura. 

Besides the regular worship and authorized superstitions, 
there were a quantity of individual superstitions, which had 
their own particular rules and code. The Buddhists had 
inherited from the Brahmans the deplorable idea that science 
and virtue conferred supernatural powers on men. There 
does not exist in India a single school of philosophy which 
has not held out to its adepts these absurd and deceptive 
promises. Buddhism would have made a most excellent 
reform had it been able to eradicate these insensate ideas; 
unfortunately, however, it adopted all the Brahmanic follies, 
and only strengthened them by doing so. No miracle seemed 
too great for the Buddha to perform, and any one of his 
disciples, by following his example, was deemed capable 
of attaining the same power. 

Spence Hardy has drawn from several Sinhalese works 
very curious and novel details upon meditation, and the 
supernatural power it confers on those who practise it 
according to the prescribed rules. There are five different 
kinds of meditation, or Bhdvand. : first, the meditation on 
love, in which the monk thinks of all beings— including 
his enemies — and longs for happiness for each ; the second 
meditation is on pity, in which the mendicant is to think 
of all beings in distress; the third meditation is on joy, 
in which he is to think of the gladness and prosperity 
of others, and to rejoice in their joy; the fourth meditation 
is on impurity, in which the mendicant thinks of the vileness 
of the body, and the horrors of disease and corruption ; and, 
lastly, the fifth meditation is on serenity, the source of un- 
alterable tranquillity. The ascetic is minutely instructed 
in all the different processes his mind must follow in order 
that each meditation may be concentrated on the special 
object it has in view. Amid these strictly psychological 


rules, we often find the highest and most elevated sentiments. 
The forgiveness of injuries, aYid contempt for the body, are 
in truth excellent and useful recommendations, and it is good 
for man to meditate on the instability of earthly things, 
so that he may not attach more importance to them than 
they deserve. But the Buddhist Bhdvand is not satisfied 
with this, and aims at a very different result; it is only 
so carefully practised in order to obtain supernatural powers. 
We will not dwell further on this paltry side of devotion 
and asceticism, but we recommend to our readers the chapter 
in which Spence Hardy treats of the ten kinds of Kasina^ 
without, however, informing us if these practices — which are 
intended to throw the mind into a state of ecstasy — are still 
in force among the Sinhalese priests, or whether they have 
remained a dead letter, in the obscure works which describe 

All these follies, so much admired by the vulgar, are the 
special prerogative of the monks. The laity may also, however, 
aspire to supernatural powers, and to obtain these a kindly 
thought is often as efficient as prolonged meditation. A meri- 
torious action performed in this life, or even in a former one, 
endows the being who has performed it with miraculous 
power. This special power receives the name of Sachakiriya 
(meritorious action), and is acquired not only in virtue of the 
deed itself, but also by the mere recollection of this deed. 
The following two examples are taken from the Visuddhi- 
margga Sajine : — 

The mother of a Sinhalese devotee having falling danger- 
ously ill, the doctor ordered her to eat some hare.. Her son 
thereupon goes out and snares a hare; but as the animal 
cries out, the young man reflects, and says to himself: ' How 
can a life be saved by the destruction of another life ? ' 
And he sets the poor animal free. When on his return home 
he relates what he has done, his father and his family only 



jeer at him ; but he goes up to his mother, and says to her : 
' From infancy down to the present day, I have never to my 
knowledge destroyed life in any creature. By the power of 
this meritorious action (Sachah'riya), may you be cured.' 
And the illness*immediately ceased. 

The mother of a priest called IMahamitta fell ill of an 
ulcer. She begged him through his sister .to tell her (.f 
a remedy. The priest answered : * I ignore the healing pro- 
perties of plants ; but I possess a much greater power. 
Since I have taken holy orders, I have never violated any 
of the precepts of the law ; and by virtue of this Sachakiriya 
let my mother be healed/ And the ulcer instantly dried up 
and disappeared. 

Spence Hardy quotes two other legends, showing the 
magic efTcct of the Sachakiriya, taken from the life of the 
Buddha himself. These two legends are recorded in the 
Cariyd-Pilaka, the last book of the Sutta-Pitaka ; but they do 
not present much interest. In one of these, the Buddha, who 
at that time lived under the form of a king, bestows his eyes 
upon a poor b'ind Brahman ; in the other, he saves the lives 
of the fishes in a dried up pond. By the virtue of a Sacha- 
kiriya, he recovers his eyes, and rain falls into the lake where 
the fish were dying for lack of water. These miracles, 
performed by the Buddha, are not surprising; but that the 
least of the faithful should be able to produce them by 
a single act of faith was a fact well calculated to excite 
the fervour of all Buddhists; and to credulous minds it 
furnishes a very powerful though fallacious stimulant to faith. 
It is also the cause of the most deplorable superstitions, 
which are as frequent in orthodox Brahmanism, as in Buddhic 

On the most essential point of doctrine, the Nirvana, 
Spence Hardy fails to give us the precise information we 
should have desired. 

354 BUDDHISM IN CEYLON [pt. itt 

In the innumerable passages concerning Nirvana, the 
doctrine of the Buddhists leaves us in impenetrable obscurity ; 
it is never clearly defined, for the Buddhist authors only tell 
us what Nirvana is not, but never exactly what it is. They 
define it by comparisons and epithets, but are not concerned 
to make it well understood nor indeed to understand it 
themselves. It is impossible to pierce the veil in which they 
purposely envelop it; and we can only obtain the vaguest 
glimpses of light on the subject. 

We have therefore drawn the conclusion that Nirvana was 
annihilation, and we have not feared to maintain this opinion, 
however extraordinary it may appear. 

This is also Spence Hardy's opinion ; and his long inter- 
course with the Sinhalese Buddhists, whom he endeavoured 
to convert, lends great weight to his judgment. He expresses 
his opinion in the following manner : — 

'Nirvana is the destruction of all the elements of existence 
. . . when the principles of existence are annihilated; this 
annihilation is Nirvana. . . , The Buddhist who does not 
believe in the substantial existence of human personality, nor 
in the existence of a supreme Being, does not look for 
absorption, but only absolute annihilation. This system is 
perfectly logical, for materialism, atheism, and complete 
cessation of all existence, are ideas which hold together, and 
likewise disappear together ; if the first two ideas are proved, 
the third follows as a natural consequence.' 

Spence Hardy ends his chapter on Nirvana, as follows: 
* Thus Nirvana is neither a state of sensual enjoyment nor 
a state of intellectual enjoyment ; it is neither a slate of the 
body, nor a state of consciousness. It is neither consciousness 
nor absence of consciousness. Nirvana must therefore be 
annihilation, and the being who enters into it must cease 
to exist.' 

We believe, for our part, that this is the true interpretation of 

ta. Ill BubbHist clergy in ckvLON 355 

Nirvana, and it is also that of the majority of those who have 
studied Buddhism \ All the texts hitherto known, notwith- 
standing a few trifling contradictions, seem lo point to the 
same conclusion; whereas the objections, being mostly of 
a general character, are for this reason of little value. In 
the history of the human mind, nothing is more surprising 
and depressing than the belief in annihilation ; but if it is an 
averred fiict, affirmed by the Buddhist writings themselves, we 
must perforce accept though we deplore it. 

This is why we should have wished that the Wesleyan 
missionary had questioned the Sinhalese priests on this 
capital point of doctrine, and had sought to obtain a clear 
understanding of what it really was in their mind. He 
represents himself as 'having spent thousands of hours 
during the twenty years he resided in Ceylon, palm-leaf in 
hand and a converted Buddhist priest at his side, ready to 
assist him in any difficulties of the text they perused together.' 
These were very favourable circumstances for the study of 
the impressions left in the minds of his neophytes by the 
Buddhic doctrine ; for it was more particularly the Christian 
belief in immortality which he endeavoured to teach them. 
Spence Hardy would surely have had more than one oppor- 
tunity of discovering the real meaning of Nirvana from these 
newly converted Buddhists ; and though he does not explicitly 
say that he had attempted this delicate investigation, yet we 
may conclude that he had done so, and that his conviction 
as to the meaning of Nirvana was drawn from the knowledge 
he thus obtained. If the Buddhist priests of Ceylon had 
indeed held the views on immortality which are gratuitously 
attributed to them, he would evidently have been aware of it, 


^ Amongst others,. Burnouf, who had thoroughly studied this question, 
never varied in his opinion. His authority on such a subject is all the 
greater from the fact that he was as deeply versed in philosophy at in 
philology, two studies which rarely go together. 

2 2 

^5^ WbDHI^M IN C^VLOM V^t. Ill 

for it would have greatly facilitated his task as a missionary. 
Moreover, his opinion of the Sinhalese priests amongst whom 
he lived was in general a favourable one, for he renders 
justice to their qualities, while pointing out their faults. He 
finds them faiilifully fulfilh'ng the irksome duties imposed 
upon them by the law of the Buddha which, though so 
ancient, had lost none of its authority over them ; and they 
have remained to this day very nearly what their predecessors 
were twenty centuries ago. They go the same rounds 
through the native villages with their alms-bowls ; they walk 
silently along the roads with measured steps and downcast 
eyes, head uncovered and naked feet, their alms-bowl hung 
round their neck and hidden under their robe when not in 
use. They generally hold a fan, which they keep before 
their faces to avoid the sight of women, lest impure thoughts 
should be awakened in their minds ; this constraint and the 
austerities they practice are doubtless the cause of the singular 
appearance of these priests who, with few exceptions, seem 
less intelligent than the common people ; for the expression 
of their countenance is unhappy, though they often bear the 
impress of the serenity and sweetness peculiar to the Buddhist 

In his intercourse with them, Spence Hardy always found 
them benevolent and hospitable, and, when treated with 
courtesy, they sought the society of Europeans. In his 
frequent excursions into the interior of the island, the 
Wesley an missionary had often occasion to appeal to their 
hospitality, either for a shelter at night, or from the excessive 
heat of the day; and it was hardly ever refused. The 
anchorite would often bring him the remains of his own 
meal, and would choose what was best in his alms bowl 
to offer to his guest. He would even provide him with 
tobacco or some other delicacy to show his pleasure at the 
visit he was receiving; but his pleasure was mingled with 


curiosrty, for all that belonged to his visitor was examined 
with interest, from his Bible down to his watch. It is true 
that Spence Hardy spoke the native language, and this 
doubtlessly greatly facilitated his access to these holy men. 

Moreover, it does not appear that the Buddhist priests ever 
betrayed any rivality or intolerance towards the apostle of 
a different faith. Spence Hardy attributes this disposition to 
tlieir indolence and indifference, as well as to their unmoveable 
belief in the truth of their own syj;tem. These different 
motives doubdess exist; but we must also add that the 
habit of tolerance is common to all Sinhalese priests. 
Spence Hardy notices that by the side of most of the 
Buddhist viharas, there exist dcvalas, in which Sanskrit 
prayers are recited in honour of the Brahma^iic divinities. 
As the Sinhalese priests sanction the close proximity of 
a worship they reprobate, and may have good reason to fear, 
it is quite natural that they should not display any fanaticism 
against the Christian faith. In the early days of Wesleyan 
INIissions in Ceylon, the Buddhist priests asked ihemissionarics 
to lend them their school rooms for ihe reading of the Bana\ 
and it was difficult to make them understand the motives of 
their refusal. They never felt any such scruples, and it is 
probable that they would willingly have lent their vihara for 
the celebration of Christian worship. 

It has been already remarked, to the credit of Buddhism, 
that it has always retained a most sincere and unvarying 
spirit of tolerance. The Buddha never used any odier 
weapons than persuasion and gentleness; he never had 
recourse to \iolence, and his adepts have remained faidiful 
to his noble and rare example. Buddhism had at divers 
epochs and in divers countries undergone violent persecution; 
but it never seems to have thought of retaliation. Even the 
divisions of the Great and Little Vehicles did not ?niail 


A school is attached to every hermitage, and a Buddhist 
monk teaches the children reading and writing. In return 
the children assist him in his daily work, carry water to the 
vil.ara, or sweep the yard in their leisure hours. The 
discipline of the schools is extremely lenient, although the 
tasks are dilficult, for the alphabet contains no less than fifty 
letters \ The masters devote much time and labour on their 
scholars, who on their side are dutifully submissive to their 
teaching. The instruction of children is therefore one of the 
chief occupations of the Sinhalese priests, who accomplish 
this duty with much self-abnegation, and, in rendering this 
service to society, partially compensate for what they cease to 
contribute to it by their celibate and apparently useless lives. 

Moreover there are priests who study and practice medicine 
with more or less success ; and their medical skill is all the 
more appreciated by the people that it is gratuitously bestowed. 
It merely consists in astrological observations and exorcisms. 
Their remedies are generally composed of a quantity of 
ingredients, and, as they sometimes happen to cure, they 
enjoy, as doctors, great authority and reputation. In 1827 
a priest who, at IMatura, was appointed Maha-nayaka, or 

* Spence Hardy gives some curious details about the books used in the 
Sinhalese schools and the instruction given to the children. The 
Sinhalese alphabet is copied from the Devanagari alphabet ; the number 
of letters and their classification are similar, but their form is different. 
Although this alphabet has twice as many letters as ours, it is not as 
difficult to learn, as Spence Hardy seems to think. The regular and 
symmetrical disposition of the vowels and consonants is a great help, and 
it is easy to pass from single letters to letters united into syllables. 
The Sinhalese children soon learn to repeat their alphabet by writing the 
letters on the sand with their finger. The whole course of instruction 
in a Sinhalese school is comprised in fourteen works, written in the 
four languages : Modern J^inhalese, Ancient Sinhale?e or Elu, Pa'i and 
Sanskrit. Spence Hardy gives the titles and a short analysis of each 
of these fourteen works. The last is Amara-Singh's Sanskrit Dictionary, 
the Ainara-Kosha, which has been reprinted several times. Spence 
Hardy remarks that the Sinhalese children are precocious and in- 
telligent, but that their development is arrested at the age of puberty. 
This phenomenon is not peculiar to the Sinhalese race ; \\ exists in 
almost every Oriental country, p;trticu}a|"lj^ jn Kgypt, 


director-general of the district, owed his nomination to this 
office entirely to his fame as a doctor '. 

Other priests spend their time in copying books, but their zeal 
in this respect is not very great ; their collections of books are 
fery incomplete; and when perchance they are more numerous 
they generally consist of works that have been handed down 
from earlier times. In .the present day, literary work is 
neglected, and the Sinhalese priests are the more to be 
blamed, that they have at hand all the necessary materials 
for their work ; as they have only to gather a few palm-leaves 
to make up the necessary volume *. 

As a corporation the priests are held in little respect by 
the people ; the state of mendicity to which they are con- 
demned is doubtless the cause. They are in too dependent 
a posiiion to obtain due consideration; this was evidently 
a danger for the Buddhist institution, and was only averted 
by the solitude enforced on the priests during the greater part 
of the year. In Ceylon the priests seem to have observed 
the difficult rule of continence with an austerity which 
rehabilitates them. Spence Hardy had heard their avidity 
often criiicized, but never their licentiousness ; and this is all 
the more meritorious that the native population is extremely 
licentious, not respecting even the most sacred family ties *. 

It would seem that at a certain period and under certain 
more devout or weaker princes, the Sinhalese priests obtained 

' We have already mentioned a king of Ceylon, BucUlhadasa (a. d. 
339-. ^68) who was a great doctor, and whose works still exist. It is 
probable that the study of medicine in Ceylon owes its oiigin to 
Sanskrit works on this subject. 

^ Doubtless this material facility has greatly contributed to prescnre 
these kind of intellectual documents in India, where they have been so 
much better preserved than in the days of antiquity or our middle age*. 
In these climates the paper taken from tlie trees was never lacking for 
those who wished to make use of it 

' Spence Hardy nevertheless quotes a case of which he was witness, 
when an incontinent priest was pursued by the women and expelled from 
the village, for having tried to seduce a young giil who bad bfopght 
him crakes as an offpripg to the Buddha. 



many privileges, and among others, that of impunity. The 
yellow robe protected the culprits; and more than one 
criminal became a monk in order to escape the punishment 
he deserved. Under Udaga III, towards the end of the tenth 
century, a rebellion having broken out, the chief rebels 
assumed the priestly garb to elude the vengeance of the king ; 
but notwithstanding their sacred robes, the king had them 
seized and beheaded. It is true that the popular fanaticism 
was aroused by this sacrilege, and the populace, rising again, 
inflicted the same punishment on many of the king's courtiers. 
Alarmed at this exorbitant power, which the priests too 
often abused, the king resolved to restrict it, and under the 
reign of Raja Singh, about two centuries and a half ago, the 
privilege of the personal inviolability of the priests was 
abolished. We have already mentioned that the English 
rulers have been obliged to execute several priests who, 
during the last forty years, have been the instigators or leaders 
in various rebellions. 

In the last century, the authority of the kings was so wtII 
established that they were able to regulate at their will the 
monastical institutions. The King Kirtisri, who reigned from 
1747 to 1 781, decreed that ordination could only be con- 
ferred on the agricultural class, the Govi caste, the most 
numerous and powerful in the island. This was an important 
innovation, as it was distinctly opposed to the primitive law 
of the Buddha, who admitted no distinction of caste, and 
through Nirvana called all men equally to eternal salvation. 
Kiitisri, by another provision of his decree, commanded that, 
in future, ordination should only be conferred in Kandy, the 
residence of the kings ; and he divided all the monks into 
two communities, under the rule of the two great convents of 
Malvata and Asgiri. The heads of these communities were 
always to reside in Kandy, near the king, and were granted 
^(^ual authority. The doctrine of the two communities waj 


essentially the same ; the only difference between them was, 
that the corporation of Malvata possessed a larger number of 
viharas, and ruled over the southern part of the island; 
while the corporation of Asgiri ruled over the temples of the 
north. All the priests of Ceylon belong to either one or the 
other of these two corporatic-ns. 

The exact motives that innuenccd King Kirtisri are not 
known, but it seems probable that, in dividing the monks into 
two bodies, he aimed at diminishing their power by breaking 
up their unity. This was a clever stroke of policy, but the 
reform met with great diflicultics. The castes excluded from 
holy orders, and more particularly the lower castes, were 
extremely dissatisfied. One of them indeed, that of the 
Chaliyas, resolved to escape from the consequences of the 
king's decree still in force after his death. The Chaliyas 
assert themselves to be the original inhabitants of the island, 
and are as a rule more intelligent and active th^n the other 
natives. From the earliest period they had special charge of 
the cultivation and sale of cinnamon, and had realized large 
profits from this business, which tliey have always carried on 
to the satisfaction of the various governments who employed 

The Chaliyas were not only rich and powerful, but they 
were also remarkable for their religious fervour. Towards 
the close of the last century they sent a member of their 
caste, called Ambagahapitya, wiih five others, as novices to 
the countries in which the Buddhist faith had retained its 
greatest purity. Ambagahapitya was to be solemnly ordained 
there, in order to be able to ordain the people of his caste on 
his return to Ceylon. After a long journey he settled in 
Burmah, the faith seeming purer ilicre than elsewhere. He 
was graciously received by the king and the priests, and 
remained there the necessary time to receive holy orders ; and 
in 1802 Jie retur?ied tp Ceylop with five Burmese priests ^^ 


the novices who had accompanied him and had, like him, been 
ordained. It was on this occasion that the Burmese high 
priest wrote the letter or monitory we have already quoted. 

As soon as the mission reached Ceylon, it eagerly made 
use of the powers it had received, and ordained several priests ; 
and a third community was soon formed in opposition to 
those of Malvata and Apgiri. At first it was recruited 
exclusively among the Chaliyas, but its influence gradually 
spread, and monks from other castes were admitted. This 
was a return to the spirit and letter of primitive Buddhism. 
The new corporation was called the corporation of Amarapura, 
the name of a Burmese city, in order to recall its origin ; and 
it became the rival of the two others, who seem to have 
united against the common enemy. A native writer, the 
descendant of an old Portuguese family, gave, some ten years 
ago, the following description of this rivalry. 

* The two- parties,' said Adam de Silva, ' indulge in ardent 
controversies, and mutually deny each other the right to 
Nirvana. Their reciprocal animosity equals that of the most 
bigoted sects of any other religion ; it is so violent that they 
absolutely refuse to bow to one another when they happen to 
meet. They mutually gratify each other with such epithets 
as "impure monk" {duksilaya). The object of the Amara- 
pura corporation is to bring back Buddhism to its primitive 
[)urity by freeing it from polytheism, caste prejudice, and all 
the corrupt practices which in course of time have sullied it. 
However difficult the task, the priests of Amarapura seem to 
have succeeded, for they made numerous proselytes in 
different provinces, especially in that of Saffragan, which may 
now be considered the centre of reform.' 

The differences of doctrines betVveen the Amarapura and 
Siamese sect, as the other corporations were called, are in 
reality somewhat important; the following^ are the principal 
points of digsensioii, 


The Amarapura sect openly preaches against the super- 
stitions brought from India, and never invoke the Hindu 
Gods during the recitation of the Pirit. It confers holy 
orders on all castes, without distinction, as the Buddha did. 
It reprobates the mundane occupations of the Siamese priests, 
who practise medicine and astrology, and prohibits, under pain 
of excommunication, these deviat.ons from the primitive rule. 
It refuses to recognize the authority of the royal decrees in 
respect of religion, particularly with regard to the privileges 
conferred by Kirtisri on the Malvata and Asgiri estnblibli- 
ments. Ordination, it declares, can be conferred anywhere, 
and always possesses the same value, provided it is conducted 
according to the prescribed rules. The Amarapura sect does 
not admit the precepts of former Buddhas, unless they have 
been sanctioned by Gautama Buddha. It does not therefore 
allow a blessing to be recited, or thanks to be uttered when 
food or any other gift is received. It does not either permit 
the use of two seats, or the presence of two priests at the 
reading of the Ba^ia. It also forbids that this reading should 
be done in a tremulous voice. And what is much more 
important : the reforming sect expounds and preaches the 
Vinaya to tlie laity, whereas the Siamese priests only read it 
to the monks, and that with closed doors. It only allows 
confirmation several yeaxs after ordination, whereas the 
opposite sect unreservedly permit it immediately after. ]i 
celebrates the feast of lamps, without preaching or reading, 
whereas the Siamese read the Bana all through the night. 
Finally the Amarapuras differ from the Siamese in their 
costume, or rather in the manner in which they wear their 
robes ; both shoulders are covered by a fold that reaches 
from under one arm to the other. They refrain from shaving 
their eyebrows as is the custom of the Siamese. The Amara- 
puras study Pali literature with great assiduity in order to find 
^rgupients against the errors ^n(J corruptions of their ad- 


versaries. And, as Spence Hardy remarks, it is certain that 
these studies and discussions only increased and widened the 
distance which already separated the two sects. 

In 1835 a new sect arose against which the Amarapuras 
and the Siamese were for a time united. The subject of 
contention was the precise time of the year at which the 
Varsha retreat should begin. The priest who raised this 
controversy was more learned in astronomy than his ad- 
versaries, but he had few partisans, and the motive of the 
heresy was not serious enough for it to assume much 
importance. It died out in the course of a few years, and 
never spread beyond the Bentoste district where it had 
arisen. The priest who promoted it was called Attadassa, 
and may still be living. 

All these facts tend to prove that the Buddhist faith has 
remained deeply rooted in the hearts of the natives of Ceylon, 
for heresies are proof of life ; indiiTerence alone shows decay. 

Buddhism, however, is in a diilerent position now that 
Christianity has made ils way in Ceylon ; more especially 
since the watchful and powerful administration of the English 
Government has introduced a higher order of civilization. 
It maybe said that, judging by all that has taken place in the 
last fifty years, Christianity is likely to supplant Buddhism. 
This is a question no less interesting to study than those we 
have already treated ; and we will try to complete all we have 
said about the past and the present condition of Sinhalese 
Budilhism by a few words as to the future ^ 

Spence Hardy says that there are only 2,500 Buddhist 
priests at the present day in Ceylon. If we compare these 
figures not only with those given by Fa-Hian, but also with 
those mentioned by Hiouen-Thsang, we find that they are 

' We have taken most of our information from the official documents 
published by Parliament : The Report we have already mentioned on 
the insurrection in 1848 ; the Report in 1852; and Viscount 'fc)rringtop'§ 
(^Qrrespqndence, nth gf May, i8p^. 

eti. til ^VDMlst cL^ncv W CkYLoM 3^5 

singularly diminished. In the official reports of 1856 the 
total population of the inland is set down as 1,691,924 
inhabitants ' ; but the priests have not been numbered apart, 
and we must therefore rely on Spence Hardy's estimation. 

The influence of Buddhism is gradually decreasing with 
the increasing success of Christianity. The English Govern- 
ment bestows agrant upon three Protestant sects: the Anglican, 
the Scotch Presbyterian, and Dutch Presbyterian Churches. 
Tfiis grant, of which the Anglican Church receives four- 
fifths, attains an annual sum of £13,000; but in 1850 it 
was proposed to reduce it, and to leave the maintenance of 
the worship, to the fervour and generosity of the faithful. 
The Catholic Church has no grant; and this anomaly is 
explained, not by a rivalry of sects, but by the wealth of ih:ii 
Church which requires no assistance, and to which moreover 
full liberty is accorded *. 

* The following official estimates are contained in the Report made 
by the financial committee of the Executive Council of Ceylon published 
on the 1st of July, 1852, by order of the House of Commons : folio, 
268 pages. It was upon this report, drawn up by Lord Torrington, 
December 13, 1849, that the whole administration of the island 
was reorganized. The condition of the population in the different 
provinces may be found at pnge 55, appendix U. The Western province 
contained 499,678 inhabitants; the Southern 265,289; the Eastern 
114,274, the Northern 255,415, and the Central 32.^,043. Total 
1,458,359. In 1832 the population did not exceed a million of souls; 
but, as the administration improved, it rapidly increased. It must now 
numl)er at least 1,800,000 souls. The census of 1850 gave i,57i.743 
inhabitants, and that of 1856, 1,691,924. 

' In this respect the Executive Council of 1849 di«;played the most 
liberal and judicious feeling. It expressed surprise at the establi hment 
of an Ant^lican Hishopric at Colombo, as there were in Ceylon so few 
members of the English Church ; and it recalled the fact that, in 1844, 
there had only been an Archdeacon under the jurisdiction of the Hislop 
of Madras. The Council did not explicitly propose to abolish the 
Bishopiic of Colombo ; but it pointed this out as a desirable rclorm. 
The Council maintained the small grant allotted to the Dutch Presby- 
terian Church out of respect for its past history, as that Church 
long been the only one available for the Christian population of the 
maritime provinces. Finally, the Council pointed out that the ofHcial 
neglect of the Catholic Church was a cause of jealousy and discord 
which it would be good policy to avoid. It is evident that the 

366 BUDDHISM IN CEYLON [pt. lii 

The Anglican faith meets with little success among the 
native population of Ceylon, and in 1852 an intell'gent 
observer* stated that it did not number more than 1,500 
adherents. The Wesleyan has spread a great deal more, 
although not protected by the Colonial government; and 
a return made in 1851 states that it had, at that lime, 
4,792 proselytes. 

All these Protestant sects, however, sink into insignificance 
by the side of Catholicism, which daily increases in power. 
The monopoly of Catholicism belongs to the Portuguese, 
who first introduced Christianity into the island at the be- 
ginning of the sixteenth century *. At the present lime there 
are two Cathohc vicarages; one at Colombo, under the 
authority of the Bishop of Cochin and Goa ; the other at 
Jafna, created in 1836 by pope Gregory XVI under the 
direct sway of the Roman See. The Mission for the pro- 
pagation of the faith is composed of fifty priests, mostly 
Spaniards, Portuguese, and Italians. In 1852, six French 
priests resided at Kandy, where a Church had been built and 
was maintained by the native converts. 

At the beginning of the eighteenth century Catholicism 
had only 70,000 adherents. In ico years this number has 
more than doubled; in 1848 it counted 113,000, and in 
1852 155,000 members. This marvellous increase is easify 
explained. Every year, especially since 1840, a very large 
immigration of Hindus lakes place, and it is more especially 
among this Hindu-Sinhalese population that Catholicism 
succeeds. These Hindus, Parsees, and Malabars, are more 

Council would have suppressed all the subventions had it been free 
to do so. 

^ The traveller to whom we allude, and to whom we are indebted for 
part of this information is Mr. Anthony Rey, Chancellor of the French 
Consulate in the Mauritius. 

^ In 1836 the tomb of Don Juan Monteiio de Setuelo, Portuguese 
Bishop of the island, who died in 1530, was discovered at Colombo. 
Catholicism in Ceylon thus dates back to more than three centuries ago. 


docile and laborious than the natives. They come gver 
twice a year for the coffee harvest, crossing the Straits 
in donies, small boats of about fifty tons; and many of 
them remain and settle in the island. In 1852, the number 
of this floating population amounted to 40,000. Hence 
the increase of the inhabitants of Ceylon, and at the same 
time that of the Catholic neophytes. By a secret but 
strong afiinity, the Hindus are more inclined to accept 
Catholicism than any other Christian form of worshij). 
The Sinhalese, especially the Kandyans, remain faithful to 
Buddhism, just as they remain, like their ancestors, labourers 
and warriors. 

By the side of the Christian propaganda of the churches 
is that of the schools, which is perhaps more powerful and 
penetrates deeper. In 1841 a central committee of the 
schools for the instruction of the Sinhalese population was 
established, and it unremittingly continues its functions. 
With a creditable spirit of tolerance the committee admitted 
Anglicans, Wesleyans and Catholics on the board, and tlicir 
united efforts were directed, without distinction of sects, to 
the enlightenment and instruction of all the children received 
in the schools; from the academy at Colombo, and the 
native normal school, down to the mixed schools in which 
English and Sinhalese are taught, and even to the ordinary 
Sinhalese schools. In 1850 there were no less than 
128 schools of all kinds for boys and girls, most of them 
under the supervision of Portuguese masters. The grant 
given them by government was about the same as that 
accorded to the clergy.* 

* The Report of the committee on the reforming of the schools 
throughout the island is dated 9th August, 1848. The committee 
divided all the educational establishments into five classes: (1) the 
Academy of Colombo, and the normal school for the instruction of 
native masters; (2) the Central schools in Colombo and Kandy ; (3) the 
elementary schools, where instruction was exclusively given in English; 

^uch are the forces of Christian propaganda against 
which Sinhalese Buddhism has to defend itself, besides those 
of civilization which do not cease to extend. Ceylon is one 
of the most beautiful colonies, if not one of the most powerful 
of England, and for the last ten years its prosperity has 
marvellously increased. The native religion must therefore 
necessarily lose ground in the face of a religion which brings 
wiih it such great advantages and welfare.* 

We are far from saying that Sinhalese Buddhism is 
bound to destruction or even to decay ; but it is certain that 
Christianity, particularly under the Catholic form, has already 
made great progress. The Buddhist clergy does not seem 
to prepare itself for the struggle by renewed zeal; at the 
most does the fanaticism of certain priests endeavour at 
times to rouse the population to rebellion, thereby only 
betraying their weakness. It is only by serious study and 
a return to the purity of the primitive faith that the Buddhist 

(4) the mixed schools, in which the tcachinj^ was carried on pnrtly in 
English and partly in Sinhalese: (5) the schools that were exclusively 
indigenous, in which the native language only was used. In all these 
schools the scholars paid for their schooling; from twelve pounds at 
Colombo down to three shillings a year in the Sinhalese schools. In 
1849 the Government grant amounted to £io,S68 sterling. In 
1856 the schools contained 23,348 cliildren. 

^ In Lord Torrington's delence of his administration against the 
attacks of one of his successors, Sir H. G. Ward, he furnished on this 
point some impoitant and exact information. In his letter of 17th 
January, 1857, to the Right Hon. Mr. Labouchere, he stated tliat 
the imports, which in 1846 only reached the sum of ^^998,859 steiling, 
had successively increased, and in 1855 had attained ^1,457,770. 
Tlie exports had increased in a still greater proportion from ^^407, 809 
to /Ti, 350,410 sterling. The revenues had risen from ^^416, 407 to 
^(^476,273, while the expenditure had diminished from ^498,205 to 
^405,609 sterling. In 1856 the revenues were ^.^04,175, and the 
expenditure ^457,137 sterling. The imports had risen to £2,714,565 
and the cxpoits to £1,663,612 sterling. Labour was paid at the 
rate of £2 to £3 a month. Cattle was represented by 840,000 
animals. In the island 771,170 acres were in cultivation, 345,932 in 
pasture land, and 5,037,303 acres were uncultivated. In all there 
were 560,025 agriculturists; 49,367 workmen in the factories, and 
70,886 employed in trade. 


clergy would have some chance of saving their religion. 
But we doubt that their vitality would be equal to the eflbrt ; 
nor indeed is it to be desired, for although it cannot be 
denied that the law of the Buddha has rendered great services 
to these races, yet it could not be regretted if, in the natural 
course of things, and through a pacific and beneficent pro- 
paganda, it should be replaced by Christianity. 

That day is doubtless still far off, but as it may even now 
be foreseen, philologists should lose no lime in collecting 
and publishing the documents of Sinhalese history and 
religion, thus following in the steps of George Turnour, who 
has so admirably succeeded in revealing the ]\Iahdvansa. 

A a 



The following letter, published by the Presse, December 6, 1858, 
gives some interesting information concerning the worship of the 
Buddha's tooth in Ceylon in the present day. 

Kandy, Oct. 12, 1858. 

The somewhat monotonous calm of our delightful country has 
been broicen by one of the great festivities that Ceylon offers to 
the public once or twice in the course of a century : the solemn 
exhibition of the Buddha's tcoth. The vast and beautiful pagoda 
of Mahiyangana, where this relic is preserved with the greatest 
veneration, is one of the most famous sanctuaries of the Buddhist 
uorld, and is the resort of considerable numbers of devotees, who 
go there every year as a pilgriiraje, on the occasion of certain 
religious solemnities. The Buddha's tooth is seldom taken out 
cf the mysterious kind of tabernacle in which it is enshrined in 
nine conccntrical gold boxes, set with diamonds, rubies, and pearls ; 
and the bonzes consent to display the relic only on such occasions 
as the visit of some great personage, come from afar for the express 
purpose of a pilgrimage to Mahiyangana. 

This circumstance presented itself on the ninth of this month, 
Mhen two Burmese high priests brought special letters of recom- 
mendation to the English Governor, without whose authorization, 
the bonzes cannot open the tabernacle. We must not forget 
that at the beginning of the occupation, the English Government 
had taken the precious tooth into its own keeping, lest, on the 
pretext of a public exhibition, the Sinhalese should gather together 
with a view to rebellion. Within the last few years it has been 
restored to the Temple of Mahiyangana, but on the express 
condition that it should not be shown without the permission of 
|.he Governor of Kandy. 

A a 3 


The motive wliich determined the visit of the two illustrious 
pilgrims is curious enough to be worth relating. Buddhism in 
Ceylon has two sects of bonzes : the Siamese and the Burmese sect 
of Atnarapura. The first one is the most numerous and the most 
wealthy; it possesses the finest pagodas and the largest convents 
in the island, and magnificently entertains the Siamese faithful 
who come there in pilgrimage. In its turn it sends its novices to 
Siam, to perfect themselves in the study of the Pali language, and 
the mysterious transformations of the Buddha ; hence the inter- 
course between the bonzjs of the two countries is frequent. 

The second sect has, on the contrary, few adepts ; but they 
are renarkable for an austerity of behaviour and a fervour of 
devotion, which inspire the deepest respect. 

These latter seldom return to their fountain-head, having no 
m:ans of travelling. Nevertheless, two of them visited Burmih 
a few years ago, and during their stay in Ava, where the emperor 
received them with great honour, they learned, to their exti erne 
surprise, that a tooth of the Buddha, eight inches long, was pre- 
served in that city, and was the object of the greatest veneration 
on the part of the Burmese Buddhists. 

The two pilgrims having conceived doubts as to the authenticity 
of this relic, declared them to their host ; and the emperor 
thereupon commanded that all the bonzes of the capital and the 
neighbourhood should assemble in council to discuss this grave 
question, in the presence of the strangers who had raised it. 

The principal argument used by the Sinhalese before the 
council, was founded on the inordinate length of the Burmese 
tooth, which was more than double that of Ceylon, the latter 
being recognized as undeniably authentic by all true Buddhists. 
They declared that not one of the sacred books contained the 
smallest proof that the Buddha had predestined one of his teeth 
to be preserved in Burmali, and they ended their demonstration 
by quoting a passage from the sacred book Datha'vansa, in which 
it is positively asserted that Gautama T^uddha had left no other 
relic on earth but the one in Dalada, now in Kandy. 

In the presence of a fact so serious for the orthodoxy of the 
worship, the Burmese emperor decided that two of the most 
learned among the bonzes should go to Ceylon to examine the 
rival relic, and make a report on its authentic characteristics. 

^t was to settle this vested question that the Burmese bonze!> 

Appendix 3^3 

liad come to Ceylon, and as they were furnished with crcdenlials 
from their sovereign, the English Government could not refuse to 
allow them to examine the relic. 

Sir John Braybrooke appointed the 9th of October as the day 
for the exhibition. When the news spread throughout the island, 
the enraptured population rose en masse, and flocked to Kandy 
like a swarm of locusts, cooking their food in the fields and 
sleeping in the open air while the ceremony was pending. 

The English police had taken all the necessary precautions to 
guard against disorder, and although (he crowd was enormous, 
not a single untoward incident occurred. 

Externally, the Mahiyangana pagoda was decked out with flags, 
banners, streamers, garlands, and inscriptions, which on the dark 
green background of the banian trees produced a magnificent 
efl'ect of colour. Internally, the temple was hung with draperies 
of the seven colours of the rainbow, bordered with gold braid and 
fringe ; hundreds of lamps and chandeliers shed floods of light ovt r 
the scene, although it was midday ; and, lastly, on a platform, 
raised in the centre of the building, rose an altar, resplendent with 
gold and precious gems, and surmounted by a wide canopy, wliich 
was adorned with waving plumes. 

At twelve o'clock the Governor, accompanied by the two 
Burmese pilgrims, his retinue, and a certain number of English 
ladies attracted by curiosity, entered the pagoda and seated 
himself on a platforwi near the altar. The preliminary ceremonies, 
however, took up no less than two hours, and excited a general 
feeling of impatience. 

At last the shrill .^oimd of a trumpet was heard, the door of the 
sanctuary opened and a long procession of bonzes issued forth, 
slowly followed by the high priest of Mahiyangana bearing the 
tooth of the Buddha in a crystal casket, resting on a water-lily of 
ma sive gold. 

At this sight loud acclamations of Sadhu! Sodhu! burst from the 
enthusiastic throng, who fell prostrate on the ground, while 
the tamtams, trumpets, and flutes filled the immense dome of 
the pagoda with a medley of indescribable sounds. 

The relic was placed on the altar under the daTs, and the 
Burmese were then permitted to examine it at leisure. After 
them the crowd passed in the greatest order round the platform 
till nightfall, and, thanks to the excellent measures taken by the 


police, the whole population was enabled to satisfy their .curiosity 
without a single accident taking place. 

The piece of ivory which is supposed to have graced the 
Buddha's jaw is about the size of the little finger ; it is of a fine 
tawny yellow colour, slightly curved in the middle and thicker 
at one end. In the centre of the big end, which is supposed to 
be the crown of the tooth, is a small hole, about the size of 
a pin's-head ; at the opposite extremity, which would answer to 
the root of the tooth, an irregular mark seems to indicate that 
a fragment of the relic has been taken off. 

On looking at the transversal veining of the ivory, it is easy to 
see that it is only a piece of a tooth, and not a complete one ; but 
it would not be advisable in this country to throw a doubt on the 
perfect authenticity of an object held in veneration, and 
even regarded as miraculous. 

It is doubtful whether the Burmese envoys were convinced by 
their examination of the relic, or that it is likely to dethrone 
the tooth worshipped in Ava. But if we may judge from the 
paltry sum they offered to the temple, two hundred rupees, 
we should hardly fancy so. However, their visit will doubtless 
attract other visits, and when the Government has ascertained by 
repeated experience that it can, without inconvenience or danger, 
allow a more frequent public exhibition of the divin3 tooth, the 
prestige attached to this worship will gradually disappear, and 
the Buddhists will at last be convinced de 'visu of the foolishness 
of their belief. 

Mahavansa, Chap. XXXVII, page 241 ; Tumour's edition. 

*In the ninth year of the reign of Sirimeghavanna (a. D. 310), 
a certain Brahman princess brought the Dathadhatu, or tooth 
relic of the Buddha, hither from Kalinga, under the circumstances 
set forth in the Dathadhatuwansa. The monarch receiving 
charge of it himself, and rendering thereto, in the most re- 
verential manner, the highest honours, deposited it in a casket of 
great purity, made of "phalika "stone, and lodged it in the edifice, 
called the Dhammachakko, built by Devanam-Piya-Tissa. 

* In the first place, the raja, expending a lac, in the height of his 
felicity, celebrated a Dathadhatu festival, and then he ordained 
that a similar festival should be annually celebrated, transferring 
the relic in procession to the Abhayagiri wihara.' 




The First Council. 

Maha'vansa^ Chap. Ill, page ii, Tumour* s edition. 

* The supreme incomparable, the vanquisher of the five deadly 
sins, who was gilted with five means of perception, having so- 
journed for forty-five years (as Buddha), and fulfilled in the utmost 
perfection every object of his mission to this world, in the city 
of Kusinara, in the sacred arbour formed by two " Sal " trees, on 
the fall-moon day of the month of (ivesakha, this luminary of the 
world was extinguished. On that spot innumerable priests, 
princes, Brahmans, traders, and suddras, as well as devas, 
assembled. There were a'so seven hundred thousand priests, of 
whom the thera^ Maha-Kasyapa was at that tim3 the chief. 

* This high priest, having performed the funeral obsequies over 
the body and sacred relics of the divine Teacher, and being 
desirous of perpetuating his doctrines for ever, on the seventh 
day after the Lord of the Universe, gifted with the ten powers, 
had demised ; recollecting the silly declaration of the priest 
Subadda, who had been ordained in his dotage, and moreover 
recollecting the footing of cqu.ility on which he had been pl.iccd 
by the divine Sage, by conferring on him his own sacred robe^, 
as well as the injunctions given by him for the propagation of 
his doctrines; this all-accomplished disciple of the Bu idha, for 
the purpose of holding a convocation on religion, convened five 
hundred priests, who had overcome the dominion of the passions, 
of great celebrity, versed in the nine departments of doctrinal 
knowledge, and perfect in every religious attribute. On account 
of a disqualification (however) attending the thera Ananda, there 
was one deficient of that number. Subsequently the thera 
Ananda, also having been ^itreated by the other pries' s to take 
part in the convocation, was likewise included. That convoca- 
tion could not have taken place without him. 

' These Universe-compassionating (disciples) having passed half 

* Thera, elder. Theravatla, doctrines of the Elders, believed by 
orthodox Buddhists to be identical with the Three Pitakas as now 
existing in Ceylon ; see Rhys Davids. 


a month — in celebrating the funeral obsequies seven days, and ifl 
the festival of relics seven days— and knowing what was proper 
to be done, thus resolved : " Keeping ivassa in the city of 
Rajagriha, let us there hold the convocation on religion ; it can- 
not be permitted to other (priests) to be present." 

* These disciples making their pilgrimage over JambudTpa as 
mendicants, administering consolation in their affliction (at the 
demise of the Buddha) to the vast population spread over the 
various portions thereof in the month of asala^ during the 
increase of the moon, being the appropriate bright season, these 
supports of the people in their faith reached Rajagriha, a city 
perfect in every sacerdotal requisite. These theras, with 
Kasyapa for their chief, steadfast in their design, and perfect 
masters of the doctrines of the Supreme Buddha, having arrived 
at the place aforesa'd to hold their tuassa, caused, by an appli- 
cation to King Ajatasatru, repairs to te made to all the 
sacred buildings during the first month of nvnssa. On the 
completion of the repairs of the sacred edifices they thus 
addressed the monarch : " Now we will hold the convocation on 
religion." To him (the king) who inquired "What is requisite ?" 
they replied, "A session hall." The monarch inquiring 
"Where?" in the place named by them — by the side of the 
Webhara mountain, at the entrance of the Saltapani cave— he 
speedily caused to be built a splendid hall, like un'o that of the 
devas. Having in all rcFpects perfected this hall, he had in- 
valuable carpets spread there, corresponding with the number cf 
the priests. In order that, being seated on the north side, the 
south might be faced, the inestimable, pre-eminent throne of the 
high priest was placed there. In the centre of that hall, facing 
the east, the exalted preaching pulpit, fit for the deity himself of 
felicitous advent, was erected. 

'The king thus reported to the theras : "Our task is performed." 
Those theias then addressed Ananda, the delight (of an audience): 
" Ananda, to-morrow is the convocation ; on account of thy 
being still under the dominion of human passions, thy presence 
there is inadmissible ; exert thyself without intermission, and 
attain the requisite qualifications." The thera, who had been 
thus enjoined, having exerted a supernatural effort and extricated 
himself from the dominion of human passions, attained the 
S2inc\.\^c^i\onoi arakat. 


* On the second day of the second month of qvcusa, those 
disciples assembled in that splendid hall. 

* Reserving for the thera Ananda the seat appropriate to him 
alone, the (other) sanctified priests took their places according to 
their seniority. While some among them were in the act of 
inquiring '• Where is the thera Ananda? " in order that he might 
manifest to the (assembled) disciples that he had attained the 
sanctification of arabat, (at that instant) the s;iid thera made his 
appearance — emerging from the earth, and passing through the 
air (without touching the floor)— and took his seat in the pulpit 
specially reserved for him. 

'All these theras, accomplished supporters of the faith, aroltcd 
to the thera Upali (the elucidation of the) Finaya, and to the 
thera Ananda the whole of the other branches of 
The high priest reserved to himself (the part) of interrogating on 
Vinoya; and the ascetic thera Uj uli that of dscoursing thereon. 
The one, seated in the high priest's pulpit, interrogated him on 
Vinayay the Other, seated in the preaching pulpit, expatiated 
thereon. From the manner in which the Vinaya was propounded 
by this master of that branch of religion, all these theras, by 
repeating (the discourse) in chants, became perfect masters in 
the knowledge of Vinaya. 

* The said high priest (Maha-Kasyapa), imposing on himself 
(that task), interrogated on Dhamma him (Ananda) who, from 
among those who had been his auditor?, was the selected guardian 
of the doctrines of the Supreme Ruler. In the same manner 
the thera Ananda, allotting to himself that (task), exalted in the 
preaching pulpit, expatiated without the slightest omission on 
Dhamma, From the manner in which that sage (Ananda), accom- 
plished in the Wedeha, propounded the Dhamma^ all these priests, 
repeating his discourse in chants, became perfect in Dhamma. 

' Thus this convocation, held by these benefactors of mankind 
for the benefit of the whole world, was brought to a close in 
seven months, and the religion of the deity of felicitous advent 
was rendered eflfective for enduring five thousand years by the 
high priest Maha-Kasyapa. At the close of this convocation, in 
the excess of its exultation, the self-balanced great earth quaked 
six times from the lowest abyss of the ocean. 

'By various means in this world divers miracles have been 
performed. Because this convocation was held exclusively by 


the theras, (it is called) from generation to generation the thenya 
ccnvocatlon. Having held this first convocation, and having con- 
ferred many benefits on the world, and lived the full measure of 
human existence (of that period), all these disciples (in due 
course of nature) died. In dispelling the darkness of the world 
these disciples became, by their supernatural gifts, the luminaries 
who overcame that darkness. By (the ravages of) death, 1 ke 
unto the desolation of a tempest, these great luminaries were 
extinguished. From this example, therefore, by a piously wise 
man, (the desire for) this life should be overcome. 

*The third chapter in the Mabavansa, entitled * The First 
Convocation on Religion, composed equally to delight and afflict 
righteous men.' 

The Second Council. 

Mabavama, Chap, ir, paje 15, Turnour^s edition. 

' Udayibhaddaka, the perfidiously impious son of Ajatasatru, 
having put (his parent) to death, reigned sixteen years. Anurud- 
dhaka, the son of Udayibhaddaka, having put him to death ; and 
the son of Aniiruddhaka, named IMunda, having put him to death ; 
these perfidious, unwise (princes i;i succession) ruled. In the 
reigns of these two (monarchs) eight years elapsed. The impious 
Nagadasaka, son of Munda, having put Ins father to death, reigned 
twenty-four years. The populace of the capital, infuriated (at 
such conduct), des'gnating this "a parricidal race," assembled 
and formally deposed Nagadasaka; and desirous of gratifying the 
whole nation, they unanimously installed in the sovereignty the 
eminently wise minister bearing the (historically) distinguished 
appellation of Susunaga. He reigned eighteen years. His son 
Kalasoka reigned twenty years. Thus in the tenth year of the 
reign of King Kalasoka a century had elapsed from the death 
of the Buddha. 

'At that time a numerous community of priests, resident in the 
city of Vaisali, natives of Wajji— shameless ministers of religion 
— pronounced the (following) ten indulgences to be allowable (to 
the priesthood) : viz. " salt meats," " two inches," " also in villages," 
"fiaternity," "proxy," "example," "milk whey," "beverage," 
" covers of seats," gold and other coined metals *. The thera Yasa, 

* These are the opening words of the sentences descriptive of the ten 
new indulgences attempted to be introduced into the discipline of the 


having heard of this heresy, proceeded on a pilgrimage over the 
Wajji country. This Yasa, son of Kakandaka, the Brahman 
versed in the six branches of doctrinal knowledge, and powerful 
in his calling, repaired to that place (Vaisali), devoting himself at 
the Mahavansa Wihara to the suppression of this heresy. They 
(the schismatic priests), having placed a golden dish filled with 
\vater in the apartment in which the uposatha ceremony was 
performed, said (to the attendant congregation of laymen), 
"Devotees, bestow on the priesthood at least a Kahaprman." 
The thera forbade (the proceeding), exclaiming " Bestow it not ; 
it is not allowable." They awarded to the thera Yasa (for this 
interference) the sentence oi palesaraniyan. Having by entreaty 
procured (from them) a messenger, he proceeded with him to the 
capital, and propounded to the inhabitants of the city the tenets 
of his own faith. The (schismatic) priests, having learned these 
circumstances from the messenger, proceeded thither to award 
to the thera the penalty of ukkipetan^ and took up their station 
surrounding his dwelling. The thera (however) raising himself 
aloft, proceeded through the air to the city of Kosambiya; from 
thence, speedily dispatching messengers to the priests resident 
in Patheya and Avanti, and himself repairing to the AhSgan^^a 
mountain (mountain beyond the Ganges), reported all these 
particulars to the thera Sambhuta of Sana. 

* Sixty priests of Patheya and ei^jhty of Avanti, all sanctified 
characters who had overcome the dominion of sin, descended at 
Ahoganga. The whole number of priests who hail assembled 
there from various quarters amounted to ninety thousand. These 
sanctified personages having deliberated together, and acknow- 
ledged that the thera Revata of Soreya, in profundity of knowledge 
and sanctity of character, was at that period the most illustrious, 
they departed thither for the purpose of appearing before him. 
Tiie said thera having attended to their statement and, being 
desirous (on account of his great age) of performing the journey 
by easy stages, departed at that instant from thence for the purpose 
of repairing to Vaisali. On account of the importance of that 
mission, departing each morning at dawn, on reaching the places 
adapted for their accommodation, they met together again (for 
consultation) in the evenings. At a place (where they had so 

Buddhiitical priesthood, an explanation of which would lead to details 

inconvenient in this place. 

336 APPKNbtX 

assembled) the thera Ya?a, under the directions of the chief 
priest Sambhuta, at the close of a sermon, addressing himself to 
the celebrated thera Revata, inquired what the ten (unorthodox) 
indulgences were. Having examined those rules, the thera pro- 
nounced them inadmissible, and said, " Let us suppress this 

'These sinners, with the view to seducing the renowned thera 
Revata to iheir party, collecting a vast quantity of priestly 
ofFerings, and quickly embarking in a vessel, arrived at the place 
where the principal priests were assembled, and at the hour 
of refection set forth the chant of refection. The thera Salhfi, 
who was resident at that selected place, and had overcome the 
dominion of sin, reflecting whether the doctrine of the Patheya 
priests was orthodox, it appeared to him to be so. The Mahji- 
Brahma (of the world, Sudhawasa), descending unto him (Saiha), 
addressed him thus : " Adhere to that doctrine." He replied that 
his adherence to that faith would be steadfast. Those who had 
brought the priestly oflTerings presented themselves to the eminent 
thera Revata. The thera declined accepting the offerings, and 
dismissed the pupil of the sinful fraternity (who presented them). 

'These shameful characters, departing thence for Vaisfili, and 
from thence repairing to the capital, Pupphapura, thus addressed 
their sovereign Kalasoka: " We, the guardians of the dwelling of 
our divine Instructor, reside there in the land of Wajji, in the 
Mahjivana Wihara. The priests resident in the provincial villages 
are hastening hither, saying ' Let us take possession of the Wihara! ' 
O Maharaja, prevent them." They having (thus) deceived the 
king, returned to Vaisali. 

* In the (aforesaid) selected place where the (orthodox) priests 
had halted unto the thera Revata, for the purpose of suppressing 
the schismatic indulgences, eleven hundred and ninety thousand 
priests congregated. He had decided (however) not to suppress 
the heresy at any place but that at which it had originated. 
Consequently the theras and all these priests repaired to Vaisali. 
The deluded monarch despatched his ministers thither. Mis- 
guided, however, by the interposition of the gods, they proceeded 
in a different direction. The sovereign having (thus) deputed 
these ministers (to the priesthood) in the night, by a dream he 
saw that his soul was cast into the Lokakumbiya hell. The king 
was in the greatest consternation. To allay that (terror) his 


younger sister, the priestess Anandi, a sanctified character, who 
had overcome the dominion of sin, arrived, travelling through 
the air : " The act thou hast committed is of the most weighty 
import ; make atonement lo the orthodox ministers of the faith ; 
uniting thyself with their cause, uphold true religion. By adopting 
this course peace of mind will be restored unto thee." Having 
thus addressed him she departed. At the very dawn of day the 
monarch departed to Vaisa!i. Having reached the Mahavana 
Wihara he assembled the priesthood, and having examined the 
controversy by listening to both parties, he decided in favour of 
the cause of true religion. The sovereign having made atonement 
to all the ministers of true religion, and having avowed his ad- 
herence to its cause, he said, " Do ye according to your judgment, 
provide for the due maintenance of religion ; " aiKl having extended 
his protection to them he departed for his capital (Pupphapura). 

* Thereupon the priesthood assembled to inquire into these 
indulgences; there in that convocation (however) endless and 
frivolous discussions arose. The thera Revata himself then ad- 
vancing into the midst of the assembly, and causing to be pro- 
claimed the Vbhahikaya rules, he made the requisite arrangements 
for the purpose of suppressing this heresy. By the Vbbahikaya 
rules he selected for the suppression of the sacerdotal heresy four 
priests of Pachlna and four of Patheya, These were the four 
Pachlna priests : Sabbakami, Salha, Kujjasobhita, and Wasabhnga- 
mika. These were the four Patheya priests: Revata, Sambhfita 
of Sana, Yasa the son of Kiikandaka, and Sumana. For the 
purpose of examining into these (controverted) indulgences, these 
eight sanctified personages repaired to Walukarama Wihara, 
a situation so secluded (that not even the note of a bird was 
heard), and free from the .strife of men. The high priest 
Revata, the chief of the interrogating party, questioned the thera 
S ibbakami in due order on these indulgences one by one. The 
principal thera Sabbakami, who had been thus interrogated by 
him (Revata), declared, "By the orthodox ordin mces, all these 
indulgences are inadnu'ssible." 

'There (at the Walukarama Wihara) having in due form rejected 
this heresy, in the same manner in the midst of the convocation 
at Mahavana Wihara, (to which they returned), they again went 
through the interrogations and replies. To the ten thousand 
sinful priests who had put forth the ten indulgences, these 


principal orthodox priests awarded the penalty of degradation. 
Sabbakami was at that time high priest of the world, and had 
already attained a standing of 120 years in the ordination of 
upasampada. Sabbakami, Salha, Revata, Kujjasobhita, Yasa the 
son of Kakandaka, and Sambhuta a native of Sana— these six 
thei as were the disciples of the thera Ananda. Wasabhagamika 
and Sumana, these two iheras were the disciples of the thera 
Anurudha. These eight pious priests in aforetimes had seen the 
deity who was the successor of the former Buddhas. 

* The priests who had assembled were twelve hundred thous-^nd; 
of all these priests, the thera Revata was at that time a leader. 
1 hereupon, for the purpose of securing the permanency of the 
true faith, this Revata thera, the leader of these priests, selected 
from those wlio were gifted with the qualifications for sanctifica- 
tion, and were the depositaries of the doctrines contained in the 
Three (Pitakas), seven hundred sanctified disciples (of the Buddha, 
for the purpose of holding the convocation on religion). All these 
theras, having Revata for their chief, protected by King Kalasoka, 
held the convocation on religion at the Walukarama Wihara. 
According to the form observed in interrogation and illustration 
on the former occasion, conducting this meeting precisely in the 
same manner, it was terminated in eight months. Thus these 
theras, who were indefatigable in their calling, and absolved from 
all human afflictions, having held the second convocation on 
religion, in due course attained Nibbuti (Nirvana). 

* Hence bearing in mind the subjection to death of the disciples 
of the Saviour of the Universe, who were endowed with the 
sanctification of arahat—\\\\o had attained the state of ultimate 
beatitude — and had conferred blessings on the beings of the three 
bhaivaSf recollecting also the liability of the rest of mankind to an 
interminable transmigration, let (the reader) steadfastly devote 
himself (to a life of righteousness). 

* The fourth chapter in the MahaTansa, entitled The Second 
Convocation on Religion, composed to delight and afflict righteous 

The Third Council. 

Mahavansa, Chap. F, page 41, ^iirnciir's editicn. 

The Makavansa first relates at great length some of the prin- 
cipal events of the reign of Asoka, the grandson of Chandra^ 


giipta (the Sandracottus of the Greeks) ; then it proceeds to relate 
the conversion of this king, who, after he had embraced Buddhism, 
took the surname of Dharmasoka, that is Asoka, Protector of the 
Faith. Finally,it mentions the third Council, convened to put down 
a number of heresies ; and the Mahd'vansa continues as follows : — 

* The king within seven days, having sent two yakkhos, caused all 
the priests in Jambudlpa to be assembled. On the seventh day, 
going to the splendid temple built by himself, he directed the 
whole priesthood, without any omission, to assemble. Seated 
together with the thera within the curtain, and calling up to him 
one by one the heretic priests, "Lord," inquired the Sovereign, 
" of what religion was the deity of felicitous advent ? " Each, 
according to his own faith, propounded the Sassata and other 
creeds (as the religion of the Buddha). The king caused all those 
heretic priests to be expelled from the priesthood. The whole 
of the priests thus degraded was sixty thous:ind. He then asked 
the orthodox priests, "■ Of what religion is the deity of happy 
advent?" They replied, "The religion of investigated (truth)." 
The sovereign then addressed the thera : " Lord, is the Supreme 
Buddha himself of that -vibhajja faith ? " The thera having replied 
" Yes," and the king having heard that answer, overjoyed, "Lord," 
he exclaimed, "if by any act the priesthood can recover their own 
purity, by that act let the priesthood (now) perform the uposatta** 

* Having thus addressed the thera, and conferring the royal 
protection on the priesthood, he re-entered the celebrated 
capital. The priesthood, restored to unanimity of communion, 
then held the uposathn. 

* But the thera from many asankya of priests selected a thousand 
priests of sanctified character — possessing the six perfections of 
religious knowledge, and versed in the Trlpitika and perfect in the 
four sacerdotal qualifications — for the purpose of holding a con- 
vocation. By them the convocation on religion was held ; ac- 
cording as the theras INIaha-Kasyapa and Yasa had performed 
the convocations (in their time), in like manner the thera Tissa 
(performed) this one. In that hall of convocation the thera 
Tissa preached a discourse ilkistiativc of the means of suppressing 
doubts on points of faith. 

* Thus, under the auspices of King A§oka, this convocation on 
religion was brought to a close in nine months by these priests. 
In the seventh year of the reign of this king, this all-perfect 


minister of religion, aged seventy years, conducted in the utmost 
perfection this grcit convocation on religion and the paim^-anan. 
At the conclusion of the convocation, on account of the re-estab- 
lishment of religion, the great earth, as if shouting its Saaku,(\y\?i\iQ(\. 

*The instrument of this mission having left his supreme residence 
in the Brahma-loka world, and descended to this impure human 
world, for the advancement of religion ; — who, Ci.pable of ad- 
V incing the cause of rclig on, would demur ? 

* The fifth chapter in the Maha'vansa, entitled The Third Con- 
vocation on Religion, composed alike to delight and afflict religious 

Ti.e Jtthakntha, a Sinhalese work much older than the Maha- 
frt//j«,and which is a very extensive commentary on the Pitakattaya, 
the Three Baskets of the Buddhiot writings in Ceylon, has also 
preserved the history of the I'hree Councils, as far as regards 
the parts relating to the Vin:iya, the Samantapa.-.adika. The 
Atikakatba returns to the subject a second time in another of 
its articles called Sumangala Vilasini, a commentary on the 
D'tgha-nikaya, one of the five works which compose the Siitra- 
Pitaka of Ceylon. George Turnour has translated from the 
Sumangala Vilasini all that treats of the first Council {Journal 
cfthe Bengal Jiiatlc Society, vol. vi, part ii, page 510 and following). 
We do not reproduce the lengthy details of the Sumangala Vilasini, 
because they would not add anything to what we already know. 
This account had moreover a special purpose, and was evidently 
written to prove the authenticity of the Sinhalese Pitakaitnya and 
the Jtthakatha, which it asserts was written at the time of the 
first Council, directly after the death of the Euddlia. This origin 
is highly improbable. It seems more likely that the Tnpltaka 
and the Aithakatha were brought by Mahinda, son of Dharmasoka, 
when he came to convert Sinhala to the Tathagata's faith. The 
Aiihakatha in its present form was translated from Sinhalese into 
Pali by Buddhaghosa from the year 410 to 432 of the Christian era. 









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