Buddha, Buddhism

Buddha, Buddhism

Buddha, the "sage," the "enlightened" (from the Sanscrit buddh, to know), is the title of honor given to the hermit Gotama (Gautama) or Sakyamuni (the "hermit of Sakya"), the founder of Buddhism, the prevailing form of religion in Eastern Asia.

I. His life, the system of his doctrines, and the history of their diffusion are still involved in great obscurity. Until recently the sources of information respecting both Buddha and the early history of Buddhism were almost exclusively of secondary rank, the original authentic documents which are written in Sanscrit not having been fully examined. Another cause of difficulty lies in the apparently insoluble differences between the statements of various Buddhist nations. A thorough investigation of some of the most important authentic documents has of late corrected many errors and shed much new light on the subject. Still greater results are expected from the future, especially respecting the evolution of the historic truth from the religious myths of a number of conflicting traditions. In India, Buddha was regarded as the ninth incorporation of Vishnu as a sage, or the continuation of his incarnation as Krishna. According to others, he was an emanation from Brahma, for the reformation of Brahmanism and the abolition of the differences of caste. He is regarded as the supreme ruler of the present period of the world, and receives as such divine honors under different names in India, Tibet, China, Japan, Burmah. Some Buddhas appeared before him; others will appear after him; the total number of Buddhas, until the dissolution of the world into nothing, being assumed by some as one thousand, by others as only twenty two. The founder of Buddhism is counted as the fourth. According to the traditions of the Tibetans, he left the divine residence Damba Togar, and came into the kingdom of Magadha, in Southern Behar, where, in the following year, he entered as a five-colored ray the womb of Maha-Maya, the virgin wife of Ssodadani, and was born in the grove of Lomba, through the right armpit of his mother. According to others he was from Ceylon, according to others from an unknown country. From his seventh (according to others, tenth) year he received instruction in all sorts of knowledge; at the age of sixteen (others say twenty) he married a noble virgin, by whom he had two children, a son, Raholi, and a daughter. In the twenty-ninth year of his life the four great spirit kings carried him off to the most holy temple, where he consecrated himself to a clerical life. Then he lived six years as a penitent hermit, and obtained, under the name of Sakyamuni (i.e. the devotee of the house of Sakya), as a full Buddha, the highest degree of sanctity. Henceforth he worked without interruption for the propagation of his doctrines. The name of the disciple who principally assisted him was Mahakadja. Buddha died in the eighty-fifth year of his age. The time of his life falls, according to the chronology of the Tibetans and Mongols, in the years B.C. 2214 to 2134; according to the Japanese, he was born B.C. 1027; according to other statements, he died B.C. 543. The last statement is the one now generally adopted.

The main facts which the recent investigations, after comparing the discrepant traditions, have established as highly probable, are the following: Sakyamuni was the son of an Indian king, in the 6th century B.C., educated in the luxury of an Oriental court. Yet he ignored the pleasures of life, and preferred to wander about as a beggar, in order to get the instruction of the Brahmins. He assumed the preaching of a new religion as the great task of his life, and carried it through with great perseverance, notwithstanding the incessant persecution of the Brahmins. He combated principally against the hierarchy and the dogmatic formulas of Brahmaism, in the place of which he made a simple ethical principle the central doctrine of his system, while at the same time he recognised the equal rights of all men, without distinction of birth, rank, and sex. He addressed the people in the language of the people, and taught that the suppression of passion was the only road to a union with the world soul. The aim of life, according to him, is to remove from one's own life, as well as from the lives of others, the obstacles to a suppression of passions, and by love and meekness to assist others in the work of self-deliverance. When he died his bones were scattered all over India, and a religious worship rendered to them. His teachings and rules of wisdom were collected in writing at first in India (Nepaul), in Sanscrit, and afterward in Ceylon, in the Pali language. His disciples and successors have given to his teachings more and more of a dogmatic shape, in which the original simplicity is lost. Gotama, or the Buddha, is generally represented in statues as seated, with his legs crossed, as if in contemplation, as contemplative thought is one of the highest virtues in the system, and is one of the best means of obtaining nirvana (see below), the Buddhist heaven.

II. System of Buddhism.

(a) Theology. — Buddhism rejected Brahma as the ruling spirit of the world, and admits no Almighty creator. "It admits no beings with greater supernatural power than man can reach by virtue and knowledge; in fact, several of the Buddhist nations have no word in their languages to express the idea of God." Buddha takes the place of God, for all practical purposes, in the worship and life of the people. "In India, Buddhism is so mixed with Brahmaism that it is hard to discern the truth, but wherever it is pure it recognizes no God, no Supreme Intelligence — the primary idea of Gotama being that to predicate any Self, any Ego, is an absurdity — no soul, no future life, except as one among a myriad stages of terminable existence. It is not revealed, but discovered by man, any human being who can so far conquer his natural self — his affections, desires, fears, and wants — as to attain to perfect calm, being capable of 'intuitions' which are absolute truth; wherefore Gotama, though he argued against other creeds, never proved his own by argument, simply asserting 'I know.' Its sole motors are upadan, the 'attachment to sensuous objects,' as Mr. Hardy calls it; or, as we should describe it, nature, and karmma, literally, work, the aggregate action which everything in existence must by virtue of its existence produce, and which ex rerum natura cannot die. For example: fruit comes because there is a tree; not because the tree wills it, but because its karmma, its inherent aggregate of qualities, necessitates fruit, and its fruit another tree in infinite continuity. There is a final cause, but it is not sentient. All existences are the result of some cause, but in no instance is this formative cause the working of a power inherent in any being that can be exercised at will. All beings are produced from the upadana, attachment to existence, of some previous being; the manner of its exercise, the character of its consequences, being controlled, directed, or apportioned by karmma; and all sentient existences are produced from the same causes, or from some cause dependent on the results of these causes; so that upadana and karmma, mediately or immediately, are the cause of all causes, and the source whence all beings have originated in their present form." Buddhism recognizes most of the lower gods of the Indian religions, especially the incarnation of Vishnu, without, however, rendering them a particular worship.

(b) Cosmology, Pneumatology, and Anthropology. — The world-mass, Loga, has arisen from the empty space according to unchangeable natural laws. The precipitate of it forms matter, an evil, from which springs a constant change of birth, according to unalterable laws grounded in that evil. Thus the germs of good and evil were developed. Each found its reward or punishment in a circular course of innumerable births, which, according to the present state of development, are divided into six realms or degrees of birth, viz., those of the pure spirits (whose head is Khormoorda), of impure (the greatest of which is Beematchee Dahree), of men, animals, limbo-monsters, and hellish creatures. Each of these six divisions has again subdivisions, through which all beings have to wander until their reunion with the divine essence (migration of souls). The seventh highest degree is the dignity of a Buddha, who is above all change of birth. The aim of the appearance of Buddha is to restore the unity of the empty space which has been disturbed by this development, and gradually to raise the beings of all classes to the Buddha degree. Then all that is now separate will be united, and even Buddha be dissolved in the great unity, which, however, will only take place after many millions of years. Those who are elevated above the earth are called Nat, in three divisions: 1. Jama, who have coarse bodies, with sexual distinction and propagation; 2. Rupa, with finer bodies, without sexual distinction and propagation; and, 3. Arupa, bodiless beings. Above the earth are twenty-six heavens, corresponding to the orb of the earth and of equal size. Six of these heavens belong to Jama. The lowest of them is inhabited by the Nat Zatamaharit, the duration of whose lives is nine millions of years. Their heaven is divided into four realms, each of which has a king. These four kings are the tutelary gods of the world. The life of the inhabitants of each of the succeeding heavens is as long again and as happy again as that of the preceding. The Rupa have sixteen, the Arupa four heavens. Men who observe the moral law are received into the lowest heaven, and can continue to ascend until they attain the final goal of Buddhistic salvation, i.e. until they pass into nirvana. The signification of this term became early a source of hot controversy among the various schools of Buddhists. It comes from the Sanscrit root vi' (to blow), and nir (out, away from); and all agree that it means the highest enfranchisement from evil; but the schools disagree whether this liberation of the soul takes place by absorption into God or into naught. The prevalent view seems to be that nirvana is not only an emancipation from suffering, but also cessation of existence. "'Penetrated with the idea that existence, though a natural consequence of a natural law, is mere misery — that the natural man is wretched as well as evil — Gotama declared that if man, by subduing all the natural affections, could, as it were, break the chain, kill the upadana, or attachment to sensuous things, he would, as a reward, pass out of existence — would either cease to be, or — for this is doubtful — cease to be conscious of being. The popular notion that nirvana is absorption is incorrect, for there is nothing to be absorbed into, no supreme spirit, no supreme universe, nothing,, and into this nothing the man who has attained nirvana necessarily passes. To attain it he may have to pass through a myriad states or forms, each less attached to sense than the last, hence transmigration; but when it is reached the perfect result is simply annihilation, or, rather, the loss of being, for the components of being, if we understand Buddha, could not die. A drearier system of thought was never devised, and we can account for its rapid spread only by assuming what we believe to be the fact, that the Asiatic who was below philosophy understood by nirvana not annihilation, but that state of suspended being in which one exists, but neither hopes, fears, thinks, nor feels" (Spectator, March 10, 1866).

(c) Ethics. — The prominent characteristic which distinguished primitive Buddhism from Brahmaism was the importance attributed to morality. The main object of a Buddhist was to acquire merit. For the great germinating power (karmma), which determines whether the new being to be produced shall be an insect or a worm, a fowl, a beast, a man, or a deva (the highest of sentient beings), is the sum of merit and demerit. Each soul inherits the fruits of the karmma, and the office of liberating and purifying its predecessors. As evil was considered to be connected with all passing phenomena, asceticism (celibacy, poverty, mortification of the senses) was inculcated as indispensable for salvation. The Five Commandments of Buddhism are, not to kill any living being; not to steal; not to commit adultery; not to lie, slander, or swear; to avoid drunkenness. These five commandments are obligatory upon all men; there: are other five, specially binding upon sramanas (i.e. upon persons who give themselves up to a religious life in order to a direct attainment of nirvana), viz., "to abstain from food out of season — that is, after midday; to abstain from dances, theatrical representations, songs, and music; to abstain from personal ornaments and perfumes; to abstain from a lofty and luxurious couch; to abstain from taking gold and silver. For the regular ascetics or monks there are a number of special observances of a very severe kind. They are to dress only in rags, sewed together with their own hands, and to have a yellow cloak thrown over the rags. They are to eat only the simplest food, and to possess nothing except what they get by collecting alms from door to door in their wooden bowl. They are allowed only one meal, and that must be eaten before midday. For a part of the year they are to live in forests, with no other shelter except the shadow of a tree, and there they must sit on their carpet even during sleep, to lie down being forbidden. They are allowed to enter the nearest village or town to beg food, but they must return to their forests before night." (Chambers's Encyclopaedia, s.v.) As to the nature and tendency of the Buddhist system of ethics, the Spectator (March 10,1866) has the following just remarks: "Strictly speaking, the Buddhist creed, by reducing every thing to the natural law of cause and effect, should kill morals, but it does not. Of sin, in the sense in which the Scriptures speak of it, the Buddhist knows nothing. There is no authoritative lawgiver, nor can there possibly be one; so that the transgression of the precepts is not an iniquity, and brings no guilt. It is right that we should try to get free from its consequences, in the same way in which it is right for us to appease hunger or overcome disease, but no repentance is required; and if we are taught the necessity of being tranquil, subdued, and humble, it is that our minds may go out with the less eagerness after those things that unsettle their tranquillity. If we injure no one by our acts, no wrong has been done; and if they are an inconvenience to ourselves only, no one else has any right to regard us as transgressors. Nevertheless self-denial is the sum of practical ethics, and Gotama, having set up the killing of attachment to sense as the object, and self-denial as the means, has produced a noble theoretic system of ethics. No act is in the Buddhist system sin — the very idea is unknown — but then a bad act produces a bad consequence, just as a rotten substance will produce stench, and bad acts are therefore to be avoided. As to what is good, everything is good, because in se everything is indifferent; but, nevertheless, that is bad relatively to its consequence which produces injury to another. If it produces injury to one's self, no matter, because each existence is its own irresponsible lord; but if to another, then nirvana is by that injurious act postponed, and he who commits it is lower than he who does not. There is no sin, but there is unkindness, and unkindness produces fruit just as a tamarind produces fruit. It would be a crime to hurt any living thing, and strict Buddhists still refuse to swallow animalculae; but it would not be a crime to commit adultery if the husband consented, a deduction formally drawn and acted on in Ceylon, because no one is injured. In practice the idea works in two ways: the really devout pass lives of the monastic kind, absorbed in themselves, and apart from the world; and the worldly follow their own inclinations, thinking the reward of virtue a great deal too distant and too shadowy — a hunt after nothing. So keenly, indeed, is this felt, that in most Buddhist countries there is a sub-

creed, not supposed to be at variance with the Established Church, but to work in a less refined but quicker way. When a Singhalese, for example, feels the need of supernatural help, he worships a devil to get it, not as disbelieving Buddhism, but as supposing that devils may exist as well as any thing else, and may, if kindly treated, be as useful as any other allies. Of course the race which holds such a system has, as a race, rather a better chance of being decent than a really pagan one, for it only half understands its own creed, and the stock texts being all very benevolent and philosophical, it takes them for a theoretic rule of life, and, though it does not fully obey the rule, it is decidedly better than if the rule were a bad one. The Burmese, for example, are on the whole distinctly a better people than the Hindoos, more especially because, as human affairs must go on, they make rules for holding society together, which are quite independent of any divine rule at all, and which happen in Burmah to be decently wise." The commandments enjoin upon man to refrain from ten deadly sins, which are again divided into three classes. Five deadly sins (patricide, matricide, the murder of an arhat ["venerable priest"], wounding the person of Buddha, and causing a schism among the priesthood) shut a man forever out of nirvana. Charity or self-sacrifice for the good of others is specially inculcated.

III. Worship. — The Buddhists retain many of the ceremonies, of Brahmaism, but do not recognize the precepts of the Vedas. The sanctuary in their tem. pies, which contains the relic of a saint, is called dagop. Prayers are directed to Buddha, to the hermit Gotama, and, in general, to those who have attained the dignity of a Buddha. Sacrifices, consisting of flowers, fruits, and slaughtered animals, are offered to the Buddhas and the, lower gods. "The adoration of the statues of the Buddha and of his relics is the chief external ceremony of the religion. The centres of the worship are the temples containing statues, and the topes or tumuli erected over the relics of the Buddha or of his distinguished apostles, or on spots consecrated as the scenes of the Buddha's acts. The central object in a Buddhist temple, corresponding to the altar in a Roman Catholic church, is an image of the Buddha, or a dagoba or shrine containing his relics." Sacred is the mystic word Om. The priests are called lamas among the Mongols, bonzes in China and Japan, rahans in Burmah, talapoins in Siam. They wear the tonsure, live in celibacy, and frequently in monastic communities. The visible head of Buddhism lived formerly in China, but since the fourteenth century in Tibet, where he is called Dalai Lama (see LAMAISM). The sacred books of Buddhism treat of cosmogony, dogmatics, ethics, asceticism, and liturgy, and are very numerous. Buddha is said to have preached 84,000 sermons. The Ganjour (tradition) consists of 116 volumes, and with the commentaries (Dandsour), of 238 volumes. They were originally composed in Sanscrit, but were later translated into the languages of the other Buddhist nations. The form of religious worship contains many points (veneration of relics, auricular confession, beads, processions, etc.) which bear a striking resemblance to practices of the Roman Church, acknowledged by all, but explained differently. The fullest information on these points will be found in Hardy, Eastern Monachism (London, 1850).

IV. History. — St. Hilaire (Du Bouddhisme, Paris, 1855, 8vo), following principally M. Eugene Burnouf, fixes a minimum date for the birth of the Buddha in the 7th century B.C. It is true that the contents of the Buddhist works themselves supply no dates, and the inferences are uncertain by which any date of the lifetime of Sakyamuni himself can be deduced. If the indications of the Singhalese documents be followed, the death of the Buddha is placed in B.C. 543. According to deductions from Chinese authorities, it might have taken place much earlier; and if the Buddhist character of the rock inscriptions at Guirnar, Delhi, and Bhabra be acknowledged, the spread of the religion in those countries from 200 to 400 years before the Christian era is established. Megasthenes met with Buddhists on the banks of the Ganges; and time must be allowed for the rise of Buddhism in its original seat in Central India, for its expulsion as a heresy from the bosom of Brahmaism, its development as a specific religion, and its distribution, not in a line, but on an immense are of countries conterminous with India proper. The creed of Buddhism was fixed and developed by oecumenical councils, the first of which was held by Casyapa, a disciple of Buddha, and largely attended. "The Buddha had written nothing himself; but his chief followers, assembled in council immediately after his death, proceeded to reduce his teaching to writing. These canonical writings are divided into three classes, forming the Tripitaka, or 'triple basket.' The first class consist of the Soutras, or discourses of the Buddha; the second contains the Vinaya, or discipline; and the third the Abhidharma, or metaphysics. The first is evidently the fundamental text out of which all the subsequent writings have been elaborated. The other two councils probably revised and expanded the writings agreed upon at the first, adding voluminous commentaries. As to the dates of the other two councils there are irreconcilable discrepancies in the accounts; but, at all events, the third was not later than 240 B.C., so that the Buddhist canonical Scriptures, as they now exist, were fixed two centuries and a half before the Christian era. The Buddhist religion early manifested a zealous missionary spirit, and princes and even princesses became devoted propagandists." It also established foreign missions, most of which were highly successful. In consequence of its great extension, Buddhism split into a northern and a southern branch, the former of which, embracing the Buddhist churches of Nepaul; China, Corea, Japan, Tartary, Mongolia, and Tibet, admitted much of the former mythologies of these countries into their creed; the southern Church extended from Ceylon over the whole of Farther India. In the land of its birth, India, Buddhism had to endure a long-continued persecution, and was at last entirely driven out, after it had flourished there about twelve hundred years. The time of its introduction into the other countries is as uncertain as its early history in general. It is said to have made its first appearance in China about B.C. 217, but it was not actually established before about A.D. 60. It suffered several persecutions, in the third of which, in 845, 4600 monasteries were destroyed, together with 40,000 smaller edifices. A census, taken in the thirteenth century, stated the number of temples at 42,318, of priests and monks at 213,418. In Japan it spread in the fifth or sixth century after Christ. Into Tibet it was introduced in the fifth century, and, after several persecutions, re-established in the tenth. Among the Mongols it gained a firm footing in the thirteenth century. It was also adopted by several tribes in Asiatic Russia. It has for many centuries become stationary in most countries, only in Russia it is visibly on the decline. It still counts about 300,000,000 of adherents.

V. Monuments and Remains. — Scattered through India are numerous remains of caves, funereal monuments, and Topes, or religious edifices, none of which last are believed to be of later date than the third century B.C. The cave temples were probably constructed during the persecutions of the first eight centuries of our era. These remains are found in Afghanistan, near the Indus and the Ganges, and around Bhilsa, in Central India. These last are described in The Bhilsa Topes, or Buddhist Monuments of Central India, by Major Cunningham (Lond. 1853).

A general idea of one of these singular monuments may be gained from the following extract from Cunningham: "The great Sanchi Tope is situated on the western edge of the hill. The ground has once been carefully leveled by cutting away the surface rock on the east, and by building up a retaining wall on the west. The court (as it now exists) averages one hundred and fifty yards in length, and is exactly one hundred yards in breadth. In the midst stands the Great Chaitya, surrounded by a massive colonnade. The bald appearance of the solid dome is relieved by the lightness and elegance of the highly picturesque gateways. On all sides are ruined temples, fallen columns, and broken sculptures; and even the tope itself, which had withstood the destructive rancor of the fiery Saivas and the bigoted Mussulmans, has been half ruined by the blundering excavations of amateur antiquaries... The great tope itself is a solid dome of stone and brick, 106 feet in diameter, and 42 feet in height, springing from a plinth of 14 feet, with a projection of 5.5 feet from the base of the building, and a slope of 2.5 feet. The plinth or basement formed a terrace for the perambulation of worshippers of the enshrined relic; for, on the right pillar of the north gateway there is a representation of a tope and of two worshippers walking round it, with garlands in their hands. The terrace was reached by a double flight of steps to the south, connected by a landing 10 feet square. The apex of the dome was flattened into a terrace 34 feet in diameter, surrounded by a stone railing of that style so peculiar to Buddha monuments that I will venture to call it the 'Buddhist Railing'... Many of the pillars of this colonnade are now lying at the base of the monument, and several portions of the coping or architrave prove that the enclosure was a circular one.... Within the upper enclosure there was a square altar or pedestal, surrounded by pillars of the same description, but much taller, some of which are still lying on the top of the dome... The total height of the building, including the cupolas, must have been upward of 100 feet. The base of the tope is surrounded by a massive colonnade, 144.5 feet in diameter from west to east, and 151.5 feet in diameter from north to south. This enclosure is therefore elliptical, the greater diameter exceeding the lesser by 7 feet. By this arrangement a free passage is obtained round the southern staircase, and a greater breadth at the foot of the ascent. The breadth of the cloister on the north-west and north-east sides averages 9 feet 7 inches, the several measurements only differing by a few inches. From east to south the cloister increases rapidly in width; the breadth at the east being only 9 feet 11 inches, and at the foot of the staircase 13 feet 8 inches."

VI. Sources of Information. — From reasons stated above, the former works on Buddhism have lost much of their worth by the more thorough and comprehensive study of the Buddhist literature during the last few years. The best among the older works are Bohlen (Professor at Konigsberg), De Buddaismi origine et aetate (1827); Hodgson, Sketch of Buddhism (in the Trans. of the Royal Asiatic Society, 2:1); E. Burnouf, Introduction a l'histoire du Buddhisme Indien (Paris, 1844). The fullest account of the doctrines and worship of Buddhism, in the English language, is given by the Rev. R. Spence Hardy (for more than 20 years Wesleyan missionary in Ceylon) in his Eastern Monachism (London, 1850), his A Manual of Buddhism (Lond. 1853), and his Legends and Theories of the Buddhists (Lond. 1865). Among the recent works, based on a more comprehensive knowledge of the sources, are Neve, Le Boudhisme, son Fonduteur et ses Ecritures (Paris, 1854); Koppen, Die Religion des Buddha (1st vol. Berlin, 1857, 2d vol. [on Lamaism] 1859); Barthelemy St. Hilaire, Le Bouddah et sa Religion (Paris, 1859); and a Russian work by Wassiljew, on Buddhism: its Doctrines, History, end Literature (St. Petersburg, 1859 sq.; German transl. Der Buddhismus, etc., Leipz. 1860 sq.). A copious list of books on Buddhist literature is given by Schlagintweit, Buddhism in Tibet (Leips. and Lond. 1863). See also Mercersburg Review, 10:294; Edinburgh Review, April, 1862; Pierer, Universal-Lexikon, s.v.; Chambers, Encyclopaedia, s.v.; and the articles SEE GOTAMA; SEE INDIA; SEE CHINA; SEE JAPAN.

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