India in Primitive Christianity - Buddha
Born of a Virgin—Genealogies—The "Flower Star" in the East—Asita and Simeon—The four presaging tokens—The Prince leaves the Palace—The Bo Tree—Buddha preaches—Early biography altered—Mâyâ Devi is Durgâ—Dasasatanayana (S’iva the "thousand eyed") blesses him when he leaves the palace—Other changes.
Buddha was born at Kapilavastu, in the Lumbini Garden, B.C. 550.
Kapilavastu—the City of Kapila. This is the translation of the word. Much has been made by some Orientalists of this. The City of Kapila, the author of the Nirîśwara, or Atheistic Sankhya philosophy, is evidently, it has been urged, a non-existent place, and Buddha a non-existent person. He is a myth invented to shadow forth the dissemination of Kapila's atheism. But nothing is certain except the unexpected. The non-existing city has suddenly turned up, covering miles of jungle.
Sir Alexander Cunningham, the great Indian archæologist, was of opinion that the site of Kapilavastu was Bhuila, in the Basti district. But the real site is now no matter of doubt. It is between Gorukhpore and the Himalayas.
In 1893, a pillar was discovered in the Nepal Terai, the mighty forest that surrounds the great Himalayan range. Deciphered, it proved to be one of the columns of King Asoka, who covered India with his stone inscriptions, B.C. 257. It announced that on this particular spot was the stûpa of Kanaka Muni, one of the seven great mortal Buddhas. In the year 1896 Major Waddell pointed out, in the "Journal of the Asiatic Society of Bengal" that according to the testimony of Hwen Thsang, the celebrated Chinese traveller, this stûpa was only seven miles off from Buddha's birthplace, the traveller having paid it a visit.
This brought Dr. Führer into the field, and he was soon rewarded with the discovery of an inscription identifying the celebrated Lumbini Garden where Queen Mâyâ gave birth to her distinguished son. Then came a second triumph. Choked up in the luxurious jungle by colossal ferns and creepers, emerged a dead city of stûpas, and monasteries, and villages and buildings. More important still was another column set up by King Asoka. This is the translation of it:
"King Piyadasi (Asoka) the beloved of the gods, having been anointed twenty years, himself came and worshipped, saying, 'Here, Buddha, Sakya Muni, was born!' And he caused a stone pillar to be erected, which declares, 'Here the Venerable was born.'"
I propose now to give a short life of Buddha. It has points of contact with that of Jesus, whose great importance will be dwelt on by and by.
PRE-EXISTENCE IN HEAVEN.
The early Buddhists, following the example of the Vedic Brahmins, divided space into Nirvritti, the dark portion of the heavens, and Pravritti, the starry systems. Over this last, the luminous portion, Buddha figures as ruler when the legendary life opens. The Christian Gnostics took over this idea and gave to Christ a similar function. He ruled the Pleroma.
"BEHOLD A VIRGIN SHALL CONCEIVE."
Exactly 550 years before Christ there dwelt in Kapilavastu a king called Śuddhodana. This monarch was informed by angels that a mighty teacher of men would be born miraculously in the womb of his wife. "By the consent of the king," says the "Lalita Vistara," "the queen was permitted to lead the life of a virgin for thirty-two months." Joseph is made, a little awkwardly, to give a similar privilege to his wife (Matt. i. 25).
Some writers have called in question the statement that Buddha was born of a virgin, but in the southern scriptures, as given by Mr. Turnour, it is announced that a womb in which a Buddha elect has reposed is like the sanctuary of a temple. On that account, that her womb may be sacred, the mother of a Buddha always dies in seven days. The name of the queen was borrowed from S’ivism. She was Mâyâ Devi, the Queen of Heaven.
Queen Mâyâ was chosen for her mighty privilege because the Buddhist scriptures announce that the mother of a Buddha must be of royal line.
Long genealogies, very like those of the New Testament, are given also to prove the blue blood of King Śuddhodana, who, like Joseph, had nothing to do with the paternity of the child. "King Mahasammata had a son named Roja, whose son was Varaoja, whose son was Kalyana, whose son was Varakalyana," and so on, and so on.*
How does a Buddha come down to earth? The sign of Capricorn in the old Indian Zodiac is an elephant issuing from a Makara (leviathan), and S’iva's son had an elephant's head. It symbolizes the active god issuing from the quiescent god in his home on the face of the waters. In consequence, Buddha comes down as a white elephant, and enters the right side of the queen without piercing it or in any way injuring it. Childers sees a great analogy in all this to the Catholic theory of the perpetual virginity of Mary. Catholic doctors quote this passage from Ezekiel (xliv. 2):
"Then said the Lord unto me: This gate shall be shut, it shall not be opened, and no man shall enter by it; because the Lord, the God of Israel, hath entered in by it, therefore shall it be shut."
A DOUBLE ANNUNCIATION.
It is recorded that when Queen Mâyâ received the supernal Buddha in her womb, in the form of a beautiful white elephant, she said to her husband: "Like snow and silver outshining the sun and the moon, a white elephant of six tusks, with unrivalled trunk and feet, has entered my womb. Listen, I saw the three regions (earth, heaven, hell), with a great light shining in the darkness, and myriads of spirits sang my praises in the sky."
A similar miraculous communication was made to King Śuddhodana:
"The spirits of the Pure Abode flying in the air, showed half of their forms, and hymned King Śuddhodana thus:—
Guerdoned with righteousness and gentle pity,
Adored on earth and in the shining sky,
The coming Buddha quits the glorious spheres
And hies to earth to gentle Maya's womb."
In the Christian Scriptures there is also a double annunciation. In Luke (i. 28) the Angel Gabriel is said to have appeared to the Virgin Mary before her conception, and to have foretold to her the miraculous birth of Christ. But in spite of this astounding miracle, Joseph seems to have required a second personal one before he ceased to question the chastity of his wife (Matt. i. 19). Plainly, two evangelists have been working the same mine independently, and a want of consistency is the result.
When Buddha was in his mother's womb, that womb was transparent. The Virgin Mary was thus represented in mediaeval frescoes.*
"WE HAVE SEEN HIS STAR IN THE EAST."
In the Buddhist legend the devas in heaven announce that Buddha will be born when the Flower star in seen in the East."†
In the "Lalita Vistara" two serpents, Nanda and Uponanda, show their forms in the sky, and rain down baptismal water on the young infant. "Nanda," says Colonel Tod, "is a favourite title of S’iva in Saurasthra."
Amongst the thirty-two signs that indicate the mother of a Buddha, the fifth is that, like Mary, the mother of Jesus, she should be "on a journey"‡ at the moment of parturition: this happened. A tree (palasa, the scarlet butea) bent down its branches and overshadowed her, and Buddha came forth. Voltaire says that in the library of Berne there is a copy of the first gospel of the Infancy, which records that a palm-tree bent down in a similar manner to Mary.§ The Koran calls it a "withered date-tree."
In the First "Gospel of the Infancy" it is stated that, when Christ was in His cradle, He said to His mother: "I am Jesus, the Son of God, the Word whom thou didst bring forth according to the declaration of the angel Gabriel to thee, and my Father hath sent Me for the salvation of the world."
In the Buddhist scriptures it is announced that Buddha, on seeing the light, said: "I am in my last birth. None is my equal. I have come to conquer death, sickness, old age. I have come to subdue the spirit of evil, and give peace and joy to the souls tormented in hell."
In the same scriptures* it is announced that at the birth of the Divine child, the devas (angels) sang thus:—"O Purusha, the equal to thee exists not here; where will a superior be found?"
"Five days after the birth of Buddha," says Bishop Bigandet, in the "Burmese Life," "was performed the ceremony of head ablution and naming the child" (p. 49)
We see from this where the ceremony of head ablution and naming the child may have come from. In the "Lalita Vistara," Buddha is carried to the temple. Plainly, we have the same ceremony. There the idols bow down to him as in the First Gospel of the Infancy the idol in Egypt bows down to Jesus.
HEROD AND THE WISE MEN.
It is recorded in the Chinese life† that King Bimbisâra, the monarch of Râjâgriha was told by his ministers that a boy was alive for whom the stars predicted a mighty destiny. They advised him to raise an army and go and destroy this child, lest he should one day subvert the king's throne. Bimbisâra refused.
At the birth of Buddha the four Maharajas, the great kings, who in Hindoo astronomy guard each a cardinal point, received him. These may throw light on the traditional Persian kings that greeted Christ.
In some quarters these analogies are admitted, but it is said that the Buddhists copied from the Christian scriptures. But this question is a little complicated by the fact that many of the most noticeable similarities are in apocryphal gospels, those that were abandoned by the Church at an early date. In the Protevangelion, at Christ's birth, certain marvels are visible. The clouds are "astonished," and the birds of the air stop in their flight. The dispersed sheep of some shepherds near cease to gambol, and the shepherds to beat them. The kids near a river are arrested with their mouths close to the water. All nature seems to pause for a mighty effort. In the "Lalita Vistara" the birds also pause in their flight when Buddha comes to the womb of Queen Mâyâ. Fires go out, and rivers are suddenly arrested in their flow.
More noticeable is the story of Asita, the Indian Simeon.
Asita dwells on Himavat, the holy mount of the Hindoos, as Simeon dwells on Mount Zion. The "Holy Ghost is upon" Simeon. That means that he has obtained the faculties of the prophet by mystical training. He "comes by the Spirit" into the temple. Asita is an ascetic, who has acquired the eight magical faculties, one of which is the faculty of visiting the Tawatinsa heavens. Happening to soar up into those pure regions one day, he is told by a host of devatas or heavenly spirits, that a mighty Buddha was born in the world, "who will establish the supremacy of the Buddhist Dharma." The "Lalita Vistara" announces that, "looking abroad with his divine eye, and considering the kingdoms of India, he saw in the great city of Kapilavastu, in the palace of King Śuddhodana, the child shining with the glitter of pure deeds, and adored by all the worlds." Afar through the skies the spirits of heaven in crowds recited the "hymn of Buddha."
This is the description of Simeon in the First Gospel of the Infancy, ii, 6: "At that time old Simeon saw him (Christ) shining as a pillar of light when St. Mary the Virgin, His mother, carried Him in her arms, and was filled with the greatest pleasure at the sight. And the angels stood around Him, adoring Him as a king; guards stood around Him."
Asita pays a visit to the king. Asita takes the little child in his arms. Asita weeps.
"Wherefore those tears, O holy man?"
"I weep because this child will be the great Buddha, and I shall not be alive to witness the fact."
The points of contact between Simeon and Asita are very close. Both are men of God, "full of the Holy Ghost." Both are brought "by the Spirit" into the presence of the Holy Child, for the express purpose of foretelling His destiny as the Anointed One.
DISPUTATION WITH THE DOCTORS.
More remarkable still is the incident of the disputation with the doctors.
A little Brahmin was "initiated," girt with the holy thread, etc., at eight, and put under the tuition of a holy man. When Viśvâmitra, Buddha's teacher, proposed to teach him the alphabet, the young prince went off:
"In sounding 'A,' pronounce it as in the sound of the word 'anitya.'"
"In sounding 'I,' pronounce it as in the word 'indriya.'"
"In sounding 'U,' pronounce it as in the word, 'upagupta.'"
And so on through the whole Sanskrit alphabet.
In the first Gospel of the Infancy, chap. xx., it is recorded that when taken to the schoolmaster Zaccheus
"The Lord Jesus explained to him the meaning of the letters Aleph and Beth.
"(8) Also, which were the straight figures of the letters, which were the oblique, and what letters had double figures; which had points and which had none; why one letter went before another; and many other things He began to tell him and explain, of which the master himself had never heard, nor read in any book.
"(9) The Lord Jesus further said to the master, 'Take notice how I say to thee.' Then He began clearly and distinctly to say Aleph, Beth, Gimel, Daleth, and so on to the end of the alphabet.
"(10) At this the master was so surprised that he said, I believe this boy was born before Noah."
In the "Lalita Vistara" there are two separate accounts of Buddha showing his marvellous knowledge. His great display is when he competes for his wife. He then exhibits his familiarity with all lore, sacred and profane, "astronomy," the "syllogism," medicine, mystic rites.
The disputation with the doctors is considerably amplified in the twenty-first chapter of the First Gospel of the Infancy:
"(5) Then a certain principal rabbi asked Him, hast thou read books?
"(6) Jesus answered that He had read both books and the things which were contained in books.
"(7) And he explained to them the books of the law and precepts and statutes, and the mysteries which are contained in the books of the prophets—things which the mind of no creature could reach.
"(8) Then said that rabbi, I have never yet seen or heard of such knowledge! What do you think that boy will be?
"(9) Then a certain astronomer who was present asked the Lord Jesus whether He had studied astronomy.
"(10) The Lord Jesus replied, and told him the number of the spheres and heavenly bodies, as also their triangular, square, and sextile aspects, their progressive and retrograde motions, their size and several prognostications, and other things which the reason of man had never discovered.
"(11) There was also among them a philosopher, well skilled in physics and natural philosophy, who asked the Lord Jesus whether He had studied physics.
"(12) He replied, and explained to him physics and metaphysics.
"(13) Also those things which were above and below the power of nature.
"(14) The powers also of the body, its humours and their effects.
"(15) Also the number of its bones, veins, arteries, and nerves.
"(16) The several constitutions of body, hot and dry, cold and moist, and the tendencies of them.
"(17) How the soul operated on the body.
"(18) What its various sensations and faculties were.
"(19) The faculty of speaking, anger, desire.
"(20) And lastly, the manner of its composition and dissolution, and other things which the understanding of no creature had ever reached.
"(21) Then that philosopher worshipped the Lord Jesus, and said, 'O Lord Jesus, from henceforth I will be Thy disciple and servant.'"
Viśvâmitra in like manner worshipped Buddha by falling at his feet.
Soothsayers were consulted by King Śuddhodana. They pronounced the following:—
"The young boy, will, without doubt, be either a king of kings or a great Buddha. If he is destined to
be a great Buddha, four presaging tokens will make his mission plain. He will see—
"(1) An old man.
"(2) A sick man.
"(3) A corpse.
"(4) A holy recluse.
"If he fails to see these four presaging tokens of an avatara, he will simply be a Chakravartin" (king of earthly kings).
King Śuddhodana, who was a trifle worldly, was very much comforted by the last prediction of the soothsayers. He thought in his heart, "It will be an easy thing to keep these four presaging tokens from the young prince." So he gave orders that three magnificent palaces should at once be built—the Palace of Spring, the Palace of Summer, the Palace of Winter. These palaces, as we learn from the "Lalita Vistara," were the most beautiful palaces ever conceived on earth. Indeed, they were quite able to cope in splendour with Vaijayanta, the immortal palace of Indra himself. Costly pavilions were built out in all directions, with ornamental porticoes and burnished doors. Turrets and pinnacles soared into the sky. Dainty little windows gave light to the rich apartments. Galleries, balustrades, and delicate trellis-work were abundant everywhere. A thousand bells tinkled on each roof. We seem to have the lacquered Chinese edifices of the pattern which architects believe to have flourished in early India. The gardens of these fine palaces rivalled the chess-board in the rectangular exactitude of their parterres and trellis-work bowers. Cool lakes nursed on their calm bosoms storks and cranes, wild geese and tame swans; ducks, also, as parti-coloured as the white red and blue lotuses, amongst which they swam. Bending to these lakes were bowery trees—the champak, the acacia serisha, and the beautiful asoka tree, with its orange-scarlet flowers. Above rustled the mimosa, the fanpalm, and the feathery pippala, Buddha's tree. The air was heavy with the strong scent of the tuberose and the Arabian jasmine.
It must be mentioned that strong ramparts were prepared round the palaces of Kapilavastu, to keep out all old men, sick men, and recluses, and, I must add, to keep in the prince.
And a more potent safeguard still was designed. When the prince was old enough to marry, his palace was deluged with beautiful women. He revelled in the "five dusts," as the Chinese version puts it. But a shock was preparing for King Śuddhodana.
This is how the matter came about. The king had prepared a garden even more beautiful than the garden of the Palace of Summer. A soothsayer had told him that if he could succeed in showing the prince this garden, the prince would be content to remain in it with his wives for ever. No task seemed easier than this, so it was arranged that on a certain day the prince should be driven thither in his chariot. But, of course, immense precautions had to be taken to keep all old men and sick men and corpses from his sight. Quite an army of soldiers were told off for this duty, and the city was decked with flags. The path of the prince was strewn with flowers and scents, and adorned with vases of the rich kadali plant. Above were costly hangings and garlands, and pagodas of bells.
But, lo and behold! as the prince was driving along, plump under the wheels of his chariot, and before the very noses of the silken nobles and the warriors with javelins and shields, he saw an unusual sight. This was an old man, very decrepit and very broken. The veins and nerves of his body were swollen and prominent; his teeth chattered; he was wrinkled, bald, and his few remaining hairs were of dazzling whiteness; he was bent very nearly double, and tottered feebly along, supported by a stick.
"What is this, O coachman?" said the prince. "A man with his blood all dried up, and his muscles glued to his body! His head is white; his teeth knock together; he is scarcely able to move along, even with the aid of that stick!"
"Prince," said the coachman, "this is Old Age. This man's senses are dulled; suffering has destroyed his spirit; he is contemned by his neighbours. Unable to help himself, he has been abandoned in this forest."
"Is this a peculiarity of his family?" demanded the prince, "or is it the law of the world? Tell me quickly."
"Prince," said the coachman, "it is neither a law of his family, nor a law of the kingdom. In every being youth is conquered by age. Your own father and mother and all your relations will end in old age. There is no other issue to humanity."
"Then youth is blind and ignorant," said the prince, "and sees not the future. If this body is to be the abode of old age, what have I to do with pleasure and its intoxications? Turn round the chariot, and drive me back to the palace!"
Consternation was in the minds of all the courtiers at this untoward occurrence; but the odd circumstance of all was that no one was ever able to bring to condign punishment the miserable author of the mischief. The old man could never be found.
King Śuddhodana was at first quite beside himself with tribulation. Soldiers were summoned from the distant provinces, and a cordon of detachments thrown out to a distance of four miles in each direction, to keep the other presaging tokens from the prince. By-and-bye the king became a little more quieted. A ridiculous accident had interfered with his plans: "If my son could see the Garden of Happiness he never would become a hermit." The king determined that another attempt should be made. But this time the precautions were doubled.
On the first occasion the prince left the Palace of Summer by the eastern gate. The second expedition went through the southern gate.
But another untoward event occurred. As the prince was driving along in his chariot, suddenly he saw close to him a man emaciated, ill, loathsome, burning with fever. Companionless, uncared for, he tottered along, breathing with extreme difficulty.
"Coachman," said the prince, "what is this man, livid and loathsome in body, whose senses are dulled, and whose limbs are withered? His stomach is oppressing him; he is covered with filth. Scarcely can he draw the breath of life!"
"Prince," said the coachman, "this is Sickness. This poor man is attacked with a grievous malady. Strength and Comfort have shunned him. He is friendless, hopeless, without a country, without an asylum. The fear of death is before his eyes."
"If the health of man," said Buddha, "is but the sport of a dream, and the fear of coming evils can put on so loathsome a shape, how can the wise man, who has seen what life really means, indulge in its vain delights? Turn back, coachman, and drive me to the palace!"
The angry king, when he heard what had occurred, gave orders that the sick man should be seized and punished, but although a price was placed on his head, and he was searched for far and wide, he could never be caught. A clue to this is furnished by a passage in the "Lalita Vistara." The sick man was in reality one of the Spirits of the Pure Abode, masquerading in sores and spasms. These Spirits of the Pure Abode are also called the Buddhas of the Past in many passages, as I shall shortly show.
In the Southern scriptures it is explained that the Spirits of the Pure Abode dwell in the heaven of Brahma.* I may mention, too, that in a valuable inscription, copied from an old column in the island of Ceylon by Dr. Rhys Davids, it is announced that in the reign of the king who erected it, the Buddha devatas "talked with men"† in the great temple. Here we have plainly the Buddhas of the past, of the "Lalita Vistara." The disciples of the "Carriage which drives to the Great Nowhere" have senselessly, interlarded this book with certain "Bodhisatwas of the Ten Regions," which, figuring side by side with the "Buddhas of the Ten Regions," confess the cheat. When the "Great Vehicle" movement dethroned the Buddhas of the past, it substituted Bodhisatwas (mortals who have reached the last stage of the metempsychosis) and transferred the old saint-worship, the sacrifices, processions, relic expositions, etc., to them.
For another valuable fact we are indebted to the Southern scriptures. They announce that the answers of the charioteer were given under inspiration from the unseen world.‡ On the surface this is plausible, for we shall see that the speeches of the charioteer were not always pitched in so high a key.
And it would almost seem as if some influence, malefic or otherwise, was stirring the good King Śuddhodana. Unmoved by failure, he urged the prince to a third effort. The chariot this time was to set out by the western gate. Greater precautions than ever were adopted. The chain of guards was posted at least twelve miles off from the Palace of Summer. But the Buddhas of the Ten Horizons again arrested the prince. His chariot was suddenly crossed by a phantom funeral procession. A phantom corpse, smeared with the orthodox mud, and spread with a sheet, was carried on a bier. Phantom women wailed, and phantom musicians played on the drum and the Indian flute. No doubt, also, phantom Brahmins chanted hymns to Jâtavedas, to bear away the immortal part of the dead man to the home of the Pitris.
"What is this?" said the prince. "Why do these women beat their breasts and tear their hair? Why do these good folk cover their heads with the dust of the ground. And that strange form upon its litter, wherefore is it so rigid?"
"Prince," said the charioteer, "this is Death! Yon form, pale and stiffened, can never again walk and move. Its owner has gone to the unknown caverns of Yama. His father, his mother, his child, his wife cry out to him, but he cannot hear."
Buddha was sad.
"Woe be to youth, which is the sport of age! Woe be to health, which is the sport of many maladies! Woe be to life, which is as a breath! Woe be to the idle pleasures which debauch humanity! But for the five 'aggregations’ there would be no age, sickness, nor death. Go back to the city, I must compass the deliverance."
A fourth time the prince was urged by his father to visit the Garden of Happiness. The chain of guards this time was sixteen miles away. The exit was by the northern gate. But suddenly a calm man of gentle mien, wearing an ochre-red cowl, was seen in the roadway.
"Who is this," said the prince, "rapt, gentle, peaceful in mien? He looks as if his mind were far away elsewhere. He carries a bowl in his hand."
"Prince, this is the New Life," said the charioteer. "That man is of those whose thoughts are fixed on the eternal Brahma (Brahmacharin). He seeks the divine voice. He seeks the divine vision. He carries the alms-bowl of the holy beggar (bhikshu). His mind is calm because the gross lures of the lower life can vex it no more."
"Such a life I covet," said the prince. "The lusts of man are like the sea-water—they mock man's thirst instead of quenching it. I will seek the divine vision, and give immortality (the Amrita) to man."
In the "Lalita Vistara" the remedy for age, sickness, and death is immortality.* In Dr. Rhys Davids’ "Buddhism," the remedy for death is death. If the apologue was composed outside of Bedlam, it is plain that the "Lalita Vistara" gives us the correct version. If a prick with a dagger is the amrita, why go through all the tortures of yoga to gain it?
King Śuddhodana was beside himself. He placed five hundred corseleted Sakyas at every gate of the Palace of Summer. Chains of sentries were round the walls, which were raised and strengthened. A phalanx of loving wives, armed with javelins, was posted round the prince's bed to "narrowly watch" him. The king ordered also all the allurements of sense to be constantly presented to the prince.
"Let the women of the zenana cease not for an instant their concerts and mirth and sports. Let them shine in silks and sparkle in diamonds and emeralds."
Mahâ Prajâpatî, the aunt who, since Queen Mâyâ's death has acted as foster-mother, has charge of these pretty young women, and she incites them to encircle the prince in a "cage of gold."
But the heavenly legions have not forgotten their son. One day, when the prince reclined on a silken couch listening to the sweet crooning of four or five brown-skinned, large-eyed Indian girls, his eyes suddenly assumed a dazed and absorbed look, and the rich hangings and garlands and intricate trelliswork of the golden apartment were still present, but dim to his mind. And music and voices, more sweet than he had ever listened to, seemed faintly to reach him. I will write down some of the verses he heard.
Mighty prop of humanity
March in the pathway of the Rishis of old,
Go forth from this city!
Upon this desolate earth,
When thou hast acquired the priceless knowledge of the Jinas,
When thou hast become a perfect Buddha,
Give to all flesh the baptism (river) of the Kingdom of Rightness.
Thou who once didst sacrifice thy feet, thy hands, thy precious body, and all thy riches for the world,
Thou whose life is pure, save flesh from its miseries!
In the presence of reviling be patient, O conqueror of self!
Lord of those who possess two feet, go forth on thy mission?
Conquer the evil one and his army."
Thus run some more of these gâthâs:—
Light of the world!*
In former kalpas this vow was made by thee;
"For the worlds that are a prey to death and sickness I will be a refuge!"
Lion of men, master of those that walk on two feet, the time for thy mission has come!
Under the sacred Bo-tree acquire immortal dignity, and give Amrita (immortality) to all!
When thou wert a king (in a former existence), and a subject insolently said to thee: "These lands and cities, give them to me!"
Thou wert rejoiced and not troubled.
Once when thou wert a virtuous Rishi, and a cruel king in anger hacked off thy limbs, in thy death agony milk flowed from thy feet and thy hands.
When thou didst dwell on a mountain as the Rishi Syama, a king having transfixed thee with poisoned arrows, didst thou not forgive this king?
When thou wert the king of antelopes, didst thou not save thine enemy the hunter from a torrent?
When thou wert an elephant and a hunter pierced thee, thou forgavest him, and didst reward him with thy beautiful tusks!
Once when thou wert a she-bear thou didst save a man from a torrent swollen with snow. Thou didst feed him on roots and fruit until he grew strong;
And when he went away and brought back men to kill thee, thou forgavest him!
Once when thou wert the white horse,*
In pity for the suffering of man,
Thou didst fly across heaven to the region of the evil demons,
To secure the happiness of mankind,
Persecutions without end,
Revilings and many prisons
Death and murder,
These hast thou suffered with love and patience,
Forgiving thine executioners.
Kingless, men seek thee for a king!
Stablish them in the way of Brahma and of the ten virtues,
That when they pass away from amongst their fellow-men, they may all go to the abode of Brahma.
"By these gâthâs the prince is exhorted," says the narrative. And whilst the Jinas sing, beautiful women, with flowers and perfumes, and jewels and rich dresses, try to incite him to mortal love.
But to bring about their plans more quickly, the Spirits of the Pure Abode have conceived a new project. The beautiful women of the zenana are the main seductions of Mara, the tempter, whom philologists prove to be closely connected with Kama, the god of love. The Spirits of the Pure Abode determine that the prince shall see these women in a new light. By a subtle influence they induce him to visit the apartments of the women at the moment that they, the Jinas, have put all these women into a sound sleep.
Everything is in disorder—the clothes of the women, their hair, their trinkets. Some are lolling ungracefully on couches, some have hideous faces, some cough, some laugh sillily in their dreams, some rave. Also deformities and blemishes that female art had been careful to conceal are now made prominent by the superior magic of the spirits. This one has a discoloured neck, this one an ill-formed leg, this one a clumsy fat arm. Smiles have become grins, and fascinations a naked hideousness. Sprawling on couches in ungainly attitudes, all lie amidst their tawdry finery, their silent tambourines and lutes.
"Of a verity I am in a graveyard!" said the prince, in great disgust.
And now comes an incident which is odd in the life of a professed atheist. Buddha has determined to leave the palace altogether. "Then he (Buddha) uncrossed his legs, and turning his eyes towards the eastern horizon, he put aside the precious trellis-work and repaired to the roof of the palace. Then joining the ten fingers of his hands, he thought of all the Buddhas and rendered homage to all the Buddhas, and, looking across the skies, he saw the god of the ten hundred eyes (Dasasata Nayana)."
This is S’iva as the thousand-headed serpent, Sesh. Of this more hereafter.
At the moment that Buddha joined his hands in homage towards the eastern horizon, the star Pushya, which had presided at his birth, was rising. The prince on seeing it said to Chandaka:—
"The benedication that is on me has attained its perfection this very night. Give me at once the king of horses covered with jewels!"
The highest spiritual philosophers in Buddhism, in Brahmanism, in Christendom, in Islam, announce two kingdoms distinct from one another. They are called in India the Domain of Appetite (Kâmaloca) and the Domain of Spirit (Brahmaloca). The "Lalita Vistara" throughout describes a conflict between these two great camps. Buddha is offered a crown by his father. He has wives, palaces, jewels, but he leaves all for the thorny jungle where the Brahmacharin dreamt his dreams of God. This is called pessimism by some writers, who urge that we should enjoy life as we find it, but modern Europe having tried, denies that life is so enjoyable. Its motto is Tout lasse, tout casse, tout passe. Yes, say the optimists, but we need not all live a life like Jay Gould. A good son, a good father, a good husband, a good citizen, is happy enough. True, reply the pessimists, in so far as a mortal enters the domain of spirit he may be happy, for that is not a region but a state of the mind. But mundane accidents seem, almost by rule, to mar even that happiness. The husband loses his loved one, the artist his eyesight. Philosophers and statesmen find their great dreams and schemes baffled by the infirmities of age.
Age, disease, death! These are the evils for which the great Indian allegory proposes to find a remedy.
The Buddhas of the Past win the victory in spite of the fact that King Śuddhodana offers to resign the crown to his son if he will abandon the idea of a religious life. Buddha steals away one night on his horse Kantaka, and enlists as a disciple of a Brahmin named Arâta Kâlâma.
But, by-and-bye, becoming dissatisfied with his teacher, he retires to the silences of Buddha Gayâ and the famous Bo-tree. There occurs his celebrated conflict with Mâra, the Buddhist Satan, who comes in person to tempt him. Two of the temptations are precisely similar to those of Jesus. Buddha is said to have gone through a forty-nine days’ fast, and the first temptation appeals to his hunger. For the second he is transported to the neighbourhood of the splendid city of Kapilavastu, which is made to revolve, like the "wheel of a potter," and display its magnificence. The third temptation introduces a prominent feature in a fasting ascetic's visions. Beautiful females, the daughters of Mârâ, come round him. But Buddha triumphs over them, and triumphs over their father, and by-and-bye baptises both.
It is announced that after the great battle with Mâra the devatas came from the sky and ministered to Buddha. But besides the "Fasting" and "Temptation" there is a third close resemblance to the story of Jesus, Buddha's Abhisheka or "Baptism." He plunges into the Nairanjana, the Jordan of India, and tries to get to the "other bank" (the Indian simile for Heaven). Mâra, the Spirit of Evil, prevents him for a time, and then the mystic Sophia, under the similitude of a tree, bends down her branches and helps him up.
This lady, the Divine Mother, figures constantly. She appears about the same time as a young peasant, and relieves the fasting Buddha by giving him in a gold pot the concentrated essence of the milk of one thousand cows, rice milk being at once by an obvious simile the food of the Buddhist monk and the immortal food. The Buddhists prettily call Buddha's advent the "Epoch when the Rice Milk came into the world."
And the work of Sophia or Dharma (whose symbol is the Tree as well as the Lotus) is not over. Buddha has reached the Tree of Knowledge, the great Bo-Tree, and a coruscation like that on the Jordan, as recorded in the "Gospel according to the Hebrews" when the heavenly dove reached Christ, took place, and the dazzling Heavens of the Buddhas were seen afar with their rim of matchless lapis lazuli. And from the sky came voices:—
He hath overthrown the Banner of Pride.
He hath won the Triple Knowledge.
The aggregations of the seen world give place to the aggregations of the unseen world.
The King of Physicians with his heavenly amrita will dull all human pain and lead all flesh to Nirvana.
Having entered the City of Omniscience and become one with all the Buddhas.
He is now indivisible.
The Brahma in person appeared to the ascetic and commissioned him to preach the "glad tidings" (suba shita),* and to turn the wheel of the law.
Suggestions for Further Reading
- Hinduism and Christianity, Jesus in India
- The Advaita Vedanta - Non Duality
- Introduction to Hinduism - Prakriti
- The Kapila And The Pâtañjala Samkhya Yoga
- Brahman According to Advaita and Dvaita in Hinduism
- Atheism and Materialism in Ancient India
- Solving the Hindu Caste System
- Emptiness or Sunyavada in Buddhism
- Buddhism - A Discourse on Ignorance
- The Working of Maya or Illusion - A Buddhist Perspective
- Buddhism - The Middle Way or the Middle Path
- What Samsara Means in Buddhism
- The Chaos Theory and Nirvana in Buddhism
- Hinduism and Caste System
- Dealing with Chance, Fate and Acts of God
- Death and Afterlife in Hinduism
- What is Hinduism?
- Hinduism and Diversity
- Hinduism and Judaism
- Hinduism and Same-sex Marriage
- Significance of Happiness in Hinduism
- Redirect - Symbolism Hinduism
- The Meaning and Purpose of Yoga
48:* Dipawanso, see "Jour. As. Soc.," Bengal, Vol. VIII., p. 925.
50:* See illustration.
50:† Lefman, XXI., 124; Wassiljew, p. 95.
50:‡ Beal, "Roman History," p. 32.
50:§ "Oeuvres," Vol. XL.
51:* See Turnour's "Pali Legendary Life."
51:† Beal, "Romantic History," p. 103.
60:* Turnour, "Journ. Beng. As. Soc.," Vol. VII., p. 798.
60:† "Journ. As. Soc.," Vol. VII., p. 364.
60:‡ Spence Hardy, "Manual," p. 157.
62:* "Un fruit de vie, de bien être, et d’immortalité," Foucaux, p. 185.
63:* "Lampe du Monde," Foucaux's translation.
64:* Yearly the sun-god as the zodiacal horse (Aries) was supposed by the Vedic Aryans to die to save all flesh. Hence the horse-sacrifice.
68:* See Rajendra Lala Mitra, "Northern Buddhist Literature," p. 29.
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