Ven. Anagarika Dharmapala
This paper was read to a crowded session of the Parliament of Religions, Chicago, on 18th of September, 1893, and so great was the impression created by it that be received congratulations from every quarter. The following is a pen-picture of his personality as recorded in St. Louis Observer, Sept. 21, 18 93
“With his black curly locks thrown from his broad brow, his keen clear eyes fixed upon the audience, his long brown fingers emphasizing the utterances of his vibrant voice, he looked the very image of a propagandist, and one trembled to know that such a figure stood at the head of the movement to consolidate all the disciples of Buddha and to spread the ‘Light of Asia’ throughout the civilized world.”
Ancient India, twenty-five centuries ago, was the scene of a religious revolution n, the greatest the world has ever seen. Indian society at this s time had two large and distinguished religious foundations -the Sramanas and the Brahmanas. Famous teachers arose and with their disciples went among the people preaching and converting them to their respective views. The air was full of a coming spiritual struggle, hundreds of the most scholarly young men of noble families (Kulaputta) leaving their homes in quest of truth, ascetics undergoing the severest mortifications to discover a panacea for the evils of suffering, young dialecticians wandering from place to place engaged in disputations, some advocating skepticism as the best weapon to fight against the realistic doctrines of the day, some a life of pessimism as the nearest way to get rid of existence, some denying a future life. It was a time of deep and many-sided intellectual movements, which extended from the circles of Brahaminical thinkers far into the people at large. The sacrificial priest was powerful then as he is now. He was the mediator between god and man. Monotheism of the most crude type, from fetishism and animism and anthropomorphic deism to transcendental dualism, was rampant. So was materialism, from sexual epicureanism to transcendental nihilism. In the words of Dr. Oldenburg,” when dialectic skepticism began to attack moral ideas, when a painful longing for deliverance from the burden of being was met by the first signs of moral decay, Buddha appeared.”
” …. The Saviour of the World, Prince Siddhartha styled on earth, In Earth and Heavens and Hells incomparable, All honoured, Wisest, Best, most Pitiful The Teacher of Nirvana and the Law.”
-Sir Edwin Arnold’s Light of Asia.
The Dawn of a New Era
Oriental scholars, who had begun their researches in the domain of Indian literature, in the beginning of this century, were put to great perplexity of thought at the discovery made of the existence of a religion called after Buddha, in the Indian philosophical l books. Sir William Jones, H. H. Wilson, and Colebrooke were embanassed in being unable to identify him. Dr. Marshman, in 1824, said that Buddha was the Egyptian Apis, and Sir William Jones solved the problem by saying that he was no other than the Scandinavian Woden. But in June, 1837 the whole of the obscure history of India and Buddhism was made clear by the deciphering of the rock-cut edicts of Asoka the Great, in Girnar and Kapur-dagiri, by that lamented archaeologist, James Prinsep; by the translation of the Pali Ceylon History into English, by Tumor; by the discovery of Buddhist manuscripts. in the temples of Nepal, Ceylon, and other Buddhist countries. In 1844, the “first rational, scientific and comprehensive account of the Buddhist religion” was published by the eminent scholar Eugene Burnouf. The key to the hidden archives of this great religion was presented to the people of Europe by this great scholar, and the inquiry since begun is being carried on by the most thoughtful men of the day.
Infinite is the wisdom of Buddha; boundless is the love of Buddha to all that lives, say the Buddhist scriptures. Buddha is called the Mahakarunika, which means the “All Merciful Lord who has compassion on all that lives.”To the human mind Buddha’s wisdom and mercy is incomprehensible. The foremost and greatest of his disciples, the blessed Sariputta, even he has acknowledged that he could not gauge the Buddha’s wisdom and mercy. Professor Huxley, in his recent memorable lecture on “Evolution and Ethics”, delivered at Oxford, speaking of Buddha says, “Gautama got rid of even that shade of a shadow of permanent existence by a metaphysical tour de force of great interest to the student of philosophy, seeing that it supplies the wanting half of Bishop Berkeley’s well-known idealist argument. It is a remarkable indication of the subtlety of Indian speculation that Gautama should have seen deeper than the greatest of modem idealists. “The tendency of enlightened thought of the day all the world over is not towards theology, but philosophy and psychology. The bark of theological dualism is drifting into danger. The fundamental principles of evolution and monism are being accepted by the thoughtful.
History is repeating itself. Twenty-five centuries ago India witnessed an intellectual and religious revolution which culminated in the overthrow of monotheism, priestly’ selfishness, and the establishment of a synthetic religion, a system of light and thought which was appropriately called Dhamma- Philosophical Religion. All that was good was collected from every source and embodied therein, and all that was bad discarded. The grand personality who promulgated the Synthetic Religion is known as Buddha. For forty-five years He lived a life of absolute purity and taught a system of life and thought, practical, simple, yet philosophical which, makes man active, intelligent, compassionate and unselfish-to realize the fruits of holiness in this life on this earth. The dream of the visionary, the hope of the theologian, was brought in to objective, reality. Speculation in the domain of false philosophy and theology ceased, and active altruism reigned supreme.
Five hundred and forty-three years before the birth of Christ, the great being was born in the Royal Lumbini Garden, near the city of Kapilavastu. His mother was Maya, the queen of Raja Suddhodana of the Solar Race of India. The story of his conception and birth, and the details of his life up to the twenty-ninth year of his age, his great renunciation, his ascetic life, his enlightenment under the great Bo Tree at Buddha Gaya in Middle India, are embodied in that incomparable epic, “The Light of Asia” by Sir Edwin Arnold. I recommend that beautiful poem to all who appreciate a life of holiness and purity.
Six centuries before Jesus of Nazareth walked over the plains of Galilee preaching a life of holiness and purity, the Tathagata Buddha, the enlightened Messiah of the World, with his retinue of Arahants, or holy men, traversed the whole peninsula of India with the message of peace and holiness to the sin -burdened world. Heart-stirring were the words he spoke to the first five disciples at the Deer Park, the Hermitage of Saints at Benares.
His First Message
“Open ye your ears, O Bhikkhus, deliverance from death is found, I teach you, I preach the Law. If ye walk according to my teaching, ye shall be partakers in a short time of that for which sons of noble families leave their homes and go to homelessness-the highest end of religious effort : ye shall even in this present life apprehend the truth itself and see it face to face.” And then the exalted Buddha spoke thus: “There are two extremes, 0 Bhikkhus, which the truth seekers ought not to follow: the one a life of sensualism which is low, ignoble, vulgar, unworthy and unprofitable; the other the pessimistic life of extreme asceticism, which is painful, unworthy and unprofitable. There is a Middle Path, discovered by the Tathagata, the Messiah-a path which opens the eyes and bestows understanding, which leads to peace of mind, to the higher wisdom, to full enlightenment, to eternal peace. This Middle Path, which the Tathagata has discovered, is the noble Eight-fold Path, viz., Right Knowledge-the perception of the Law of Cause and Effect, Right Thinking, Right Speech, Right Action, Right Profession, Right Exertion, Right Mindfulness, Right Contemplation. This is the Middle Path which the Tathagata has discovered, and it is the path which opens the eyes, bestows understanding, which leads to peace of mind, to the higher wisdom, to perfect enlightenment, to eternal peace.”
Continuing his discourse, he said: “Birth is attended with pain, old age is painful, disease is painful, death is painful, association with the unpleasant is painful, separation from the pleasant is painful, the non-satisfaction of one’s desires is painful, in short, the coming into existence is painful. This is the Noble Truth of suffering. Verily it is that clinging to life which causes the renewal of existence, accompanied by several delights, seeking satisfaction now here, now there-that is to say, the craving for the gratification of the passions, or the craving for a continuity of individual existences, or the craving for annihilation. This is the Noble Truth of the origin of suffering. And the Noble Truth of the cessation of suffering consists in the destruction of passions, the destruction of all desires, the laying aside of, the getting rid of, the being free from, the harbouring no longer of this thirst. And the Noble Truth which points the way is the Noble Eightfold Path.” This is the foundation of the Kingdom of Righteousness, and from that centre at Benares, this message of peace and love was sent abroad to all humanity: “Go ye, O Bhikkhus, and wander forth for the gain of the many, in compassion for the world, for the good, for the gain, for the welfare of gods and men. Proclaim, 0 Bhikkhus, the doctrine glorious. Preach ye a life of holiness perfect and pure. Go then through every country, convert those not converted. Go therefore, each one travelling alone filled with compassion. Go, rescue and receive. Proclaim that a blessed Buddha has appeared in the world, and that he is preaching the Law of Holiness.
The essence of the vast teachings of the Buddha is: The entire obliteration of all that is evil, •
The perfect consummation of all that is good and pure. The complete purification of the mind.”
The wisdom of the ages embodied in the three Pitakas-the Sutta, Vinaya, Abhidhamma, comprising 84,000 discourses, were all delivered by Buddha during his ministry of forty-five years. To give an elaborate account of this great system within an hour is not in the power of man. Buddha, in a discourse called the “Brahmajala sutta”, enumerates sixty-two different religious views held by the sectarians. After having categorically explained these different systems Buddha continues: Brethren, these believers hold doctrines respecting the past or respecting the future, and meditating on previous events or on those which are in futurity, declare a variety of opinions respecting the past and future in sixty-two modes.
“These doctrines are fully understood by the Tathagata Buddha, he knows the causes of their being held and the experiences upon which they are founded, he also knows other things far more excellent than these; but that knowledge has not been derived from sensual impressions. He with knowledge, not derived from the impression on the senses, is fully acquainted with that by which both the impressions and their causes become extinct, and distinctly perceiving the production, the cessation, the advantages, the evils, and the extinctions of the sensations, he is perfectly free having no attachments. Brethren, these doctrines of Buddha are profound, difficult to be perceived, hard to be comprehended, tranquillizing, excellent, not attainable by reason, subtle and worthy of being known by the wise. These the Tathagata (Buddha) has ascertained by his own wisdom and publicly makes them known. But the teachings of the other believers are founded on ignorance, their want of perception, their personal experience, and on the fluctuating emotions of those who are under the influence of their passions.
” Brethren, all these modes of teaching respecting the past or the future originate in the sensations experienced by repeated impressions made on the six organs of sensitiveness, on account of these sensations desire is produced, in consequence of desire and attachment to the desired objects, on account of this attachment,’ reproduction in an existence state, in consequence of this reproduction of existence, birth; in consequence of birth are produced disease, death, sorrow, weeping, pain, grief and discontent. “
A systematic study of Buddha’s doctrine has not yet been made by Western scholars, hence the conflicting opinions expressed by them at various times. The notion once held by the scholars that it is a system of materialism has been exploded. The positivists of France found it a Positivism; Buchner and his school of materialists thought it was a materialistic system; agnostics found in Buddha an agnostic, and Dr. Rhys Davids, the eminent Pali scholar, used to call him the agnostic philosopher of India; some scholars have found and expressed monotheism therein; Arthur Lillie, another student of Buddhism, thinks it a theistic system; pessimists identify it with Schoepenhauer’s pessimism, the late Mr. Buckle identified it with pantheism of Fichte; some have found in it a monism; and the latest dictum of Prof. Huxley is that it is an idealism supplying the wanting half of Bi shop Berkely’s well-known idealist argument.
In the religion of Buddha is found a comprehensive system of ethics, and a transcendental metaphysics embracing a sublime psychology. To the simple minded it offers a code of morality, to the earnest student a system of pure thought. But the basic doctrine is the self-purification of man. Spiritual progress is impossible for him who does not lead a life of purity and compassion.
The rays of the sunlight of truth enter the mind of him who is fearless to examine truth, who is free from prejudice, who is not tied by the sensual passions and who has reasoning faculties to think. One has to be an at heist in the sense employed by Max Muller: “There is an atheism which is unto death, there is another which is the very life-blood of all truth and faith. It is the power of giving up what, in our best, our most honest moments, we know to be no longer true; it is the readiness to replace the less perfect, however dear, however sacred it may have been to us, by the more perfect, however much it may be detested, as yet by the world. It is the true self surrender, the true self-sacrifice, the truest trust in truth, truest faith. Without that atheism, no new religion, no reform, no reformation, no resuscitation would ever have been possible; without that atheism, no new life is possible for any one of us.”
The strongest emphasis has been put by Buddha on the supreme importance of having an unprejudiced mind before we start on the road of investigation of truth. Prejudice, passion, fear of expression of one’s convictions and ignorance are the four biases that have to be sacrificed at the threshold.
To be born as a human being is a glorious privilege. Man’s dignity consists in his capability to reason and think and to live up to the highest ideal of pure life, of calm thought, of wisdom without extraneous intervention. In the Samannaphala Sutta, Buddha says that man can enjoy in this life a glorious existence, a life of undivided freedom, or fearlessness and compassionateness. This dignified ideal of manhood may be attained by the humblest, and this consummation raises him above wealth and royalty. “He that is compassionate and observes the Jaw is my disciple”, says Buddha.
This forms the fundamental teaching of Buddha; universal love and sympathy with all mankind and with animal life. Every one is enjoined to love all beings as a mother loves her only child and takes care of it, even at the risk of her life. The realization of the idea of brotherhood is obtained when the first stage of holiness is reached; the idea of separateness is destroyed and the oneness of life is recognized. There is no pessimism in the teaching of Buddha, for he strictly enjoins on his holy disciples not even to suggest to others that life is not worth living. On the contrary, the usefulness of life is emphasized for the sake of doing good to self and to humanity.
Religion characteristic of Humanity
From the first worshipping savage to the highest type of humanity, man naturally yearns after something higher, and it is for this reason that Buddha inculcated the necessity of self reliance and independent thought. To guide humanity in the right path a Tathagata (Messiah) appears from time to time.
The theism of Buddhism
Speaking of deity in the sense of a Supreme Creator, Buddha says that there is no such being. Accepting the doctrine of evolution as the only true one, with its corollary, the law of cause and effect, he condemns the idea of creator and strictly forbids inquiry into it as being useless. But a supreme god of the Brahmans and minor gods are accepted; but they are subject to the law of cause and effect.
Evolution as Taught by Buddha
The teachings of Buddha on this great subject are clear and expansive. We are asked to look upon the cosmos “as a continuous process unfolding itself in regular order in obedience to natural laws. We see in it all, not a warring chaos restrained by the constant interference from without of a wise and beneficent external power, but a vast aggregate of original elements, perpetually working out their own fresh redistribution in accordance with their own inherent energies. He regards the cosmos as an almost infinite collection of material atoms animated by an infinite sum total of energy”- which is called Akasa. We do not postulate that man’s evolution began from the protoplasmic stage; but we are asked not to speculate on the origin of life, on the origin of the law of cause and effect etc. So far as this great law is concerned we say that it controls the phenomena of human life as well as those of external nature. The whole knowable universe forms one undivided whole, a “monon” (see Haeckel :Evolution of Men , Vol II, page 4s 5).
Importance of a serious study of all systems of Religion
Buddha promulgated his system of Philosophy after having studied all religions; and in the Brahmajala Sutta sixty-two creeds are discussed. In the Kalama Sutta, Buddha says: “Do not believe in what ye have heard; do not believe in traditions, because they have been handed down for many generations; do not believe in anything because it is rumoured and spoken of by many; do not believe merely because the written statement of some old sage is produced; do not believe in conjectures; do not believe in that as truth to which you have become attached by habit; do not believe merely on the authority of your teachers and elders; after observation and analysis, when it agrees with reason and is conducive to the good and gain of one and all, then accept it and live up to it” (Anguttara Nikaya).
Moral Teachings of Buddha
To the ordinary householder whose highest happiness consists in being wealthy here and going to heaven hereafter, Buddha inculcated a simple code of morality. The student of Buddha’s relgion abstains from destroying life, he lays aside the club and the weapon, he is modest and full of pity, he is compassionate and kind to all creatures that have life. He abstains from theft, and he passes his life in honesty and purity of heart. He lives a life of chastity and purity. He abstains from falsehood and injures not his fellow-men by deceit. Putting away slander he abstains from calumny. He is a peacemaker, a speaker of words that make for peace. Whatever word is humane, pleasant to the ear, lovely, reaching to the heart-such are the words he speaks. He abstains from harsh language. He abstains from foolish talk. He abstains from intoxicants and stupefying drugs.
The Higher Morality
The advanced student of the religion of Buddha when he has faith in him thinks: ” full of hindrances is household life, a path defiled by passion: free as the air is the life of him who has renounced all worldly things. How difficult it is for the man who dwells at home to live the higher life in all its fullness, in all its purity, in all its perfection! Let me then cut of my hair and beard, let me clothe myself in orange-coloured robes, and let me go forth from a household life into the homeless state.
“Then, before long, forsaking his portion of wealth, forsaking his circle of relatives, he cuts off his hair and beard, he clothes himself in the orange coloured robes and he goes into the homeless state. Then he passes a life self -restrained according to the rules of the order of the Blessed One; uprightness is his delight, and he sees danger in the least of those things he should avoid, he encompasses himself with holiness in word and deed, he sustains his life by means that are quite pure: good is his conduct, guarded the door of his senses, mindful and self-possessed, he is altogether happy.”
The Low and Lying Arts
The student of pure religion abstains from earning a livelihood by the practice of low and lying arts, viz. all divination, interpretation of dreams, palmistry, astrology, crystal-gazing, prophesying, charms of all sorts.
Buddha says: “Just as a mighty trumpeter makes himself heard in all the four directions without difficulty; even so of all things that have life, there is not one that the student passes by or leaves aside, but regards them all with mind set free, and deep-felt pity, sympathy, and equanimity. He lets his mind pervade the whole world with thoughts of Love.”
The Realization of the Unseen
To realise the unseen is the goal of the student of Buddha’s teachings, and such a one has to lead an absolutely pure life. Buddha says: “Let him fulfil all righteousness, let him be devoted to that quietude of heart which springs from within, let him not drive back the ecstacy of contemplation, let him look through things, let him be much alone, fulfil all righteousness for the sake of the living and for the sake of the beloved ones that are dead and gone.
Thought transference, thought reading, clair-audience, clairvoyance, projection of the sub conscious self, and all the higher branches of psychical science that just now engage the thoughtful attention of the psychical researches, are with in the reach of him who fulfills all righteousness, who is devoted to solitude and contemplation.
The Common Appanage of all good Men
Charity, observance of moral rules, purifying the mind, making others participate in the good work that one is doing, co-operating with others in doing good, nursing the sick, giving gifts to the deserving ones, hearing all that is good and beautiful, making others learn the rules of morality, accepting the law of cause and effect.
Slave dealing, sale of weapons of warfare, sale of poisons, sale of in toxicants, sale of flesh
These are the lowest of all low professions.
Five kinds of wealth
Faith, pure life, receptivity of the mind to all that is good and beautiful, liberality, wisdom those who possessed these five kinds of weal thin their past incamations are influenced by the teaching of Buddha.
Universalism of Buddha’s teachings
Buddha says: “He who is faithful and leads the life of a house holder and possesses the following four (Dhammas) virtues: truth, justice, firmness, and liberality – such a one does not grieve when passing away, pray ask other teachers and philosophers far and wide whether there is found any thing greater than truth, self-restraint, liberality, and forbearance.”
The Pupil and Teacher
The pupil should minister to his teacher. He should rise up in his presence, wait upon him, listen to all that he says with respectful attention, perform the duties necessary for his personal comfort, and carefully attend to his instruction. The teacher should show affection to his pupil, he trains him in virtue and good manners, carefully instructs him, imparts unto him a knowledge of the science and wisdom of the ancients, speaks well of him to friends and relations and guards him from danger.
The Honourable Man
The honourable man ministers to his friends and relatives by presenting gifts, by courteous language, by promoting them as his equals and by sharing with them his prosperity. They should watch over him when he has negligently exposed himself and guard his property when he is careless, assist him in difficulties, stand by him and help to provide for his family.
The Master and Servant
The master should minister to the wants of his servants and dependents. He assigns them labour suitable to their strength, provides for their comfortable support; he attends to them in sickness, causes them to partake of any extraordinary delicacy he may obtain and makes them occasional presents. And the servants should manifest their attachment to the master. They rise before him in the morning and retire later to rest, they do not purloin his property; do their work cheerfully and actively, and are respectful in their behaviour towards him.
Religious teachers and laymen
The religious teachers should manifest their kind feelings towards them; they should dissuade them for vice, excite them to virtuous acts; being desirous of promoting the welfare of all, they should instruct them in the things they had not previously learned; confirm them in the truths they had received and point out to them the way to heaven.
The laymen should minister to the teachers by respectful attention manifested in their words, actions and thoughts; and by supplying them their temporal wants and by allowing them constant access to themselves.
“In this world, generosity, mildness of speech, public spirit and courteous behaviour are worthy of respect in all circumstances and will be valuable in all places.”
If these be not possessed, the mother will receive neither honour nor support from the son, neither will the father receive respect or honour.
The Mission of the Buddha
Buddha says: “Know that from time to time a Tathagata is born into the world, fully enlightened, blessed and worthy, abounding in wisdom and goodness, happy with knowledge of the world, unsurpassed as a guide to erring mortals, a teacher of Gods and men, a blessed Buddha. He by himself thoroughly understands and sees, as it were face to face, this universe, the world below with all its spirits, and the worlds above and all creatures, all religious teachers, gods and men, and he then makes his knowledge known to others, the Truth doth he proclaim both in its letter and its spirit, lovely in its origin, lovely in its progress, lovely in its consummation; the, higher life doth he proclaim, in all its purity and in all its perfectness.”
The Attributes of Buddha
(i) He is absolutely free from all passions, commits no evil, even in secrecy, and is the embodiment of perfection; he is above doing anything wrong.
(2) Without a teacher by self -introspection he has reached the state of supreme enlightenment.
(3) By means of his divine eye he looks back to the remotest past and future, knows the way of emancipation, is accomplished in the three great branches of divine knowledge and has gained perfect wisdom. He is in possession of all psychic powers, is always willing to listen, full of energy, wisdom and dhyana.
(4)He has realised eternal peace of Nirvana and walks in the perfect Path of Virtue.
(5) He knows the three states of existences.
(6)He is incomparable in purity and holiness.
(7)He is teacher of gods and men.
(8)He exhorts gods and men at the proper time according to their individul temperaments.
(9)He is the supremely enlightened teacher and the perfect embodiment of all the virtues he preaches.
(l0)The two characteristics of the Buddha are wisdom and compassion.
Buddha says: “He who is not generous, who is fond of sensuality, who is distressed at heart, who is of uneven mind, who is not reflective, who is not of calm mind, who is discontented at heart, who has no control over his senses- such a disciple is far from me though he is in body near me.”
The compassionateness shown by Buddhist missionaries
Actuated by the spirit of compassion, the disciples of Buddha have ever been in the forefront of missionary propaganda. The whole of Asia was brought under the influence of the Buddha’s Jaw. Never was the religion propagated by force, not a drop of blood has ever been spilt in the name of Buddha. The shrines of Sakyamuni are stainless. The following story is interesting as it shows the nature of the Buddhist missionaries. Punna, the Bhikkhu, before he was sent in his mission to preach to the people of Sunaparanta was warned by Buddha in the following manner:
“The people of Sunaparanta are exceedingly violent. If they revile, what will you do?”
“I will make no reply.”
“And if they strike you?” “I will not strike in return.” “And if they try to kill you?”
“Death is no evil in itself, many even desire it, to escape from the vanities of life; but I shall take no step either to hasten or to delay the time of my departure.”
The ultimate goal of man
The ultimate goal of the perfected man is eternal peace. To show humanity the path on which to realise this state of eternal peace, Buddha promulgated the Noble Eightfold Path. The Nirvana of Buddha is beyond the conception of the ordinary mind. Only the perfected man realizes it. It transcends all human thought. Caught in the vortex of evolution man undergoes changes and is constantly subject to birth and death. The happiness in the highest heaven comes some day to an end. This change, Buddha declared is sorrowful. And untiI you realize Nirvana you are subject to birth and death. Eternal changefulness in evolution becomes eternal rest. The constantly dissipating energy is concentrated in Nirvanic life. There is no more birth, no more death. It is eternal peace. On earth the purified, perfected man enjoys Nirvana and after the dissolution of the physical body there is no birth in an objective world. The gods see him not, nor does man.
The attainment of Salvation
It is by the perfection of self through charity, purity, self-sacrifice, self – knowledge,dauntless energy, patience, truth, resolution, love, and equanimity, that the goal is realised. The final consummation is Nirvana.
The glorious freedom of self- the last words of Buddha “Be ye lamps unto yourselves. Be ye a refuge to yourselves. Betake yourself to no external refuge. Hold fast to the Truth as a l amp. Hold fast as a refuge to the truth. Look not for refuge to any one besides yourselves. Learn ye then, 0 Bhikkhus, that know l edge have I attained and have declared unto you, and walk ye in it, practice and increase, in order that this path of holiness may last and long endure, for the blessing of many people, to the relief of the world, to the welfare, the blessing, the joy of gods and men. 0 Bhikkhus, everything that cometh into being is changeth. Strive on unceasingly for the consummation of the highest ideal.”
The spread of the Religion of Humanity
Two thousand one hundred years ago the whole of Asia came under the influences of the sceptre of one emperor and he was truly called Asoka, the delight of the gods. His glory was to spread the teachings of the Buddha throughout the world by the force of love, and indeed nobody could say that he had failed. His only son and daughter were made apostles of the gentle creed, and, clad in the orange-coloured robes, they went to Ceylon, converted the king and established Buddhism there. For the first time in the history of civilization the brotherhood of Humanity is recognised, different nations accept one living truth, virtue is enthroned. It was a proud achievement, unprecedented in history since the dawn of civilization. Pure religion recognizing no Deity finds welcome everywhere. There is a grandeur inherent in it, for it does not want to appeal to the selfishness of man. When the human mind reaches a higher state of development, the conception of a Deity becomes less grand. Nearly three hundred millions of people of the great empire of Asoka embrace a system of pure ethics; a social polity is for the first time enunciated. The king sees much that is sinful in the destruction of animals, and therefore “one must not kill any living animal”. He declares that at the time when the edict is engraved “three animals only are killed for the royal table, two peafowls and a gazelle. Even these three animals will not be killed in future.”Everywhere in his empire, and in the neighbouring kingdoms such as Greece, etc., the king has provided medicines of two sorts, medicine for men and medicine for animals. Wherever useful plants, either for men or for animals were wanting, they have been imported and planted. And along public roads wells have been dug for the use of animals and men. “It is good and proper to render dutiful service to one’s father and mother, to friends, to acquaintances and relations; it is good and proper to bestow alms on religious teachers and students of religion, to respect the life of living beings, to a oidprodigality and violent language.”
“Thanks to the instructions of the religion spread by the king, there exist today a respect for living creatures, a tenderness towards them, a regard for relations and for teachers, a dutiful obedience to father and mother and obeisance to aged men, such as have not existed for centuries. The teaching of religion is the most meritorious of acts and there is no practice of religion without virtue.”
“The practice of virtue is difficult, and those who practice virtue perform what is difficult. Thus in the past there were no ministers of religion, but I have created ministers of religion. They mix with all sects. They bting comfort to him who is in fetters.”
“The king ardently desires that all sects may live in all places. All of them equally purpose the subjection of the senses and the purification of the soul; but man is fickle in his attachments. Those who do not bestow ample gifts may yet possess a control over the senses, purity of soul and gratitude and fidelity in their affections, and this is commendable.”
“In past times the kings went out for pastimes. These are my pastimes- visits and gifts to teachers, visits to aged men, the distribution of money, visits to the people of the empire, etc.”
“There is no gift comparable with the gift of religion.”
“The king honours all sects, he propitiates them by alms. But the beloved of the gods attaches Jess importance to such gifts and honours than to the endeavour to promote their essential moral virtues. It is true the prevalence of essential virtues differs in different sects. But there is a common basis and that is gentleness and moderation in language. Thus one should not exalt one’s own sect and decry the others; one should not deprecate them without cause but should render them on every occasion the honour which they deserve. Striving thus, one promotes the welfare of his own sect while serving the others. Whoever from attachment to his own sect, and with a view to promote it, exalts it and decries others, only deals rude blows to his own sect.”
“Hence concord alone is meritorious, so that all bear and Jove to bear the beliefs of each other. All people, whatever their faith may be, should say that the beloved of the gods attaches Jess importance to gifts and external observances than to the desire to promote essential moral doctrines and mutual respects for all sects. The result of this is the promotion of my own faith and its advancement in the light of religion.”
“The beloved of the gods ardently desires security for all creatures, respect for life, peace and kindliness in behaviour. This is what the beloved of the gods considers as the conquest of religion…. I have felt an intense Joy-such is the happiness which the conquests of religion procure. It is with this object that this religious inscription has been engraved, in order that our sons and grandsons may not think that a new conquest is necessary; that they may not think that conquest by the sword deserves the name of conquest; that they may see in it nothing but destruction and violence; that they may consider nothing as true conquest as the conquest of religion.”
In the Eighth Edict the great Emperor says: “I have also appointed ministers of religion in order that they may exert themselves among all sects, monks as well as wordly men. I have also had in view the interest of the clergy, of Brahmans, of religious mendicants, of religious Nirganthas and of Yarious sects among whom my officers work. The ministers exert themselves, each in his corporation, and the ministers of religion work generally among all sects. In this way acts of religion are promoted in the world as well as the practice of religion, viz., mercy and charity, truth and purity, kindness and goodness. The progress of religion among men is secured in two ways, by positive rules and by religious sentiments. Of these two methods that of positive rules is of poor value, it is the inspiration in the heart which best prevails. It is solely by a change in the sentiments of the heart that religion makes a real advance in inspiring a respect for life, and in the anxiety not to kill living-beings. Who shall say that the religion of this humane emperor has not endured,
and within the two thousand years which have succeeded, mankind has discovered no nobler religion than to promote in this earth” mercy and charity, truth and purity, kindness and goodness.”
To what degree has each religion helped the historic evolution of the Race? When Buddhism flourished in India, the arts, sciences and civilization reached their zenith, as witnessed in the edicts and monuments of Asoka’s reign. Hospitals were first founded for man and beast. Missionaries were sent to all parts of the world. Literature was encouraged. Wherever Buddhism has gone, the nations have imbibed its spirit, and the people have become gentler and milder. The slaughter of animals and drunkenness ceased, and wars were almost abolished
What the Buddhist Literature has wrought for mankind
With the advent of Buddhism into Ceylon, and other Buddhist countries, literature flourished, and wherever it went it helped the development of arts and letters. The monasteries became the seats of learning, and the monks in obedience to their Master’s will disseminated knowledge among the people.
Religion and the Family
The Domestic Education of Children, The Marriage Bond- The Sigalovada Sutta lays down the relations of the members of the household to one another.
Parents should: (i) Restrain their children from vice; (2) Train them in virtue; (3) Have them taught arts and sciences (4) Provide them with suitable wives and husbands ; (5) Endow them with an inheritance.
Children should: (i ) Support their parents; (2) Perform the proper family duties; (3) Guard their property ; (4) Make themselves worthy to be heirs (5) Honour their memory; The gift of the whole world with all its wealth would be no adequate return to parents for all that they have done.
The Husband should: (i) Treat his wife with respect; (2) Treat his wife with kindness; (3) Be faithful to her; (4) Cause her to be honoured by others; (5) Give her suitable ornaments and clothes.
The Wife should: (1) Order her household aright; (2) Be hospitable to kinsmen and friends; (3) Be chaste; (4) Be a thrifty house-keeper; (5) Show diligence and skill.
Buddha was the first to establish the brotherhood without distinction of caste and race. Twenty-four centuries ago he declared, “As the great streams, 0 disciples, however many they may be, the Ganges, Yamuna, Achiravati, Sarabhu, when they reach the great ocean, lose their old name and their old descent, and bear only one name-the great ocean, so also do the Brahmans, Kshatriyas, Vaishyas, and Sudras, Jose their distinctions when they join the brotherhood.” The outcaste as well as the prince was admitted to this order. Virtue was the passport, not wealth and rank.
Buddha’s Exalted Tolerance
“Bhikkhus, if others speak against me, or speak against my doctrine, or speak against the order, that is no reason why you should be angry, discontented or displeased with them. . .
. If you, in consequence thereof, become angry and dissatisfied, you bring yourself into danger…. If you become angry and dissatisfied, will you be able to judge whether they speak correctly or incorrectly? “We shall not, 0 Lord, be able….” If others speak against me you should repudiate the falsehood as being a falsehood, saying, these things are not so, they are not true, these things are not existing amongst us, they are not in us.”
“Bhikkhus, if others speak in praise of me, speak in praise of my doctrine, or speak in praise of the order, that is no reason why you should be pleased, gratified, or elated in mind…. If you in consequence thereof, be pleased, gratified, or elated in mind, you bring yourselves thereby into danger. The truth should be received by you as being the truth, knowing that these things exist, that they are true, that they exist among you and are seen in you.
Buddhism and Modern Science
Sir Edwin Arnold says: “I have often said, and I shall say again and again, that between Buddhism and modern Science there exists a close intellectual bond. When Tyndall tells us of sounds we cannot hear, and Norman Lockyer of colours we cannot see, when Sir William Thompson and Prof. Sylvester push mathematical investigation to regions almost beyond the calculus, and others, still bolder, imagine and try to grapple a space of four dimensions, what is all these except the Buddhist Maya? And when Darwin shows us life passing onward and upward through a series of constantly improving forms towards the Better and the Best, each individual starting in new existence with the records of bygone good and evil stamped deep and ineffaceably from the old ones, what is this again but Buddhist Doctrine of Karma and Dharma?”Finally, if we gather up all the results of modern research, and look away from the best literature to the largest discovery in physics and the latest word in biology, what is the conclusion-the high and joyous conclusion- forced upon the mind, if not that which renders true Buddhism so glad and so hopeful?
Can the knowledge of the Religion be Scientific?
Buddhism is a scientific religion, in as much as it earnestly enjoins that nothing whatever be accepted on faith. Buddha has said that nothing should be believed merely because it is said. Buddhism is tantamount to a knowledge of other sciences.
Religion in its Relation to Morals
The highest morality is inculcated in the system of Buddha since it permits freedom of thought and opinion, sets its face against persecution and cruelty, and recognises the rights of animals. Drink, opium, and all that tend to destroy the composure of the mind are discotintenanced.
Different schemes for the Restoration of Fallen Man
It is the duty of the Bhikkhus and of the religious men (Upasakas) not only to be an example of holy life, but continually to exhort their weaker brethren by pointing out the pernicious effects of an evil life, and the gloriousness of a virtuous life, and urge them to a life of purity. The fallen should on no account be neglected; they are to be treated with sympathy.
Religion and Social Problems
The basic doctrine of Buddhism is to relieve human suffering. A life of sensual pleasure is condemned, and the conflicts of labour and capital and other problems which confront Europe are not to be met with in Buddhistic countries. In the Vasala Sutta he who does not look after the poor is called a vasala or low-born man. In the Sigalovada Sutta, Buddha enjoins on men to devote one-fourth of their wealth in the cause of the relief of the needy. In the Maha dhamma Samadana Sutta, Buddha says the poverty of a man is no excuse for his neglect of religion. As the dropsy patient must take bitter medicine, so the poor, notwithstanding their poverty, must lead the religious life which is hard.
Religion and Temperance
Buddha said: “Man already drunk with ignorance should not add thereto by the inhibition of alcoholic drinks.” One of the vows taken by the Buddhist monks and laity runs thus: “I take the vow to abstain from intoxicating drinks because they hinder progress and virtue.” Dhammika Sutta says: “The householder that delights in the Law should not indulge in intoxicating drinks, should not cause others to drink, and should not sanction the acts of those who drink, knowing that it results in insanity. The ignorant commit sins in consequence of drunkenness and also make others drink. You should avoid this. It is the ca use of demerit, insanity and ignorance-though it be pleasing to the ignorant.”
The dangers of modern life originate chiefly from drink and brutality, and in Buddhist countries the law of Karma, based upon the teaching of Buddhism, prohibits the manufacture, sale and use of liquor, and prevents the slaughter of animals for food.
Benefits conferred on Women by Buddhism
The same rights are given to woman as to man. Not the least difference is shown, and perfect equality has been proclaimed. “Woman”, Buddha says in the Chulavedalla Sutta and in the Mahavagga,” may attain the highest path of holiness, Arahatship which is open to man.”
The inscriptions of Asoka and the histories of Ceylon, Burma and other Buddhist countries prove this.
Love of Country and Observance of Law
In the Mahaparinibbana Sutta Buddha enjoined love for one’s country. ” So long as a people meet together in concord and rise in concord and carry out their undertakings in concord, so long as they enact nothing not already established, abrogate nothing that has been already enacted, and act in accordance with the ancient institutions as established in former days, so long as they esteem and honour and revere the elders, so long as no women or girls are detained among them by force or abduction, so long as they honour and revere the shrines in town and country , so long will they be expected not to decline, but to prosper.”
The Fraternity of People
As Buddhism acknowledges no caste system, and admits the perfect equality of all men, it proclaims the universal brotherhood. But peoples should agree in the acceptance of the universal virtues. Buddhism advocates universal peace amongst nations, and deplore war and bloodshed. The rights of smaller tribes and nations for a separate existence should be protected from aggressive warfare. In the Anguttara Nikaya, Tika Nipata, Brahm anavagga, Buddha advocates arbitration instead of war. Buddhism strongly condemns war on the ground of the great losses it brings on humanity. It says that devastation, famine and other such evils have been brought on by war.
Works Treating on Buddhism:-
THE Idea of Rebirth: by F. Arundale; The Wheel of the Law, by Alabaster; The Light of Asia, by Sir Edwin Arnold; Religions of India, by A. Barth; Imitation of Buddha, by Earnest M. Bowden; Catena of Buddhist Scriptures, by S. Beal; Buddhism in China, by S. Beal; Buddhist Records of the Western World, by S. Beal, z v ols,; Life of Hiouen Thsang, by S. Beal; Dhammapada, by S. Beal; Sutta Nipata, by Sir M. Coomaraswamy; Sarva Darsana Sangraha, by Cowell; Pali Dictionary, by R. C. Childers; History of Ancient Civilization of India, by Romesh Ch. Dutta; Indian Empire by Sir W. W. Hunter; Buddhist Birth Stories, Buddhism, Hibbert Lectures, by Prof. T. W. Rhys Davids; Buddhism by Dr. Eitel; Handbook for the Student of Chinese Buddhism, by Dr. Eitel; Legend of Gautama, by Bishop Bigandet, z v ols.; The Unknown God, by Loring Brace; Chinese Buddhism, Religions in China, by Dr. Ch. Edkins; Philosophy of the Upanishads, by Gough; Oriental Religions, by S. Johnson, z vols.; Mannual of Hindu Pantheism , by Col. Jacob ; Vicissitudes of Aryan Civilization, by M. M. Kunte; His Life and Works, by Korosi ; Sacred Books of the East, vols. VIII., X., XI., XIII, XVII., XIX.,. XX., XXI., XXII., XXXV., by Max Muller; Buddhist Catechism, by H. S. Olcott; Golden Rules of Buddhism, by H. S. Olcott; Theosophy, Religion and Occult Science, by H. S. Olcott; Buddha, His Life, Law and Order, by Dr. Hermann Oldenberg; Udana Varga, Life of Buddha, by W. W. Rockhill ; Tibetan Tales, by Ralston; Budd haghosha’s Parables, by Captain Rogers; Manual of Buddhism, Eastern Monachism, by R. Spence Hardy; Buddhist Catechism, by Subhadra Bhikshu; Buddhism in China, by Schlagintweit; Ceylon Mahavansa, by Wijesinha.