India in Primitive Christianity - Introduction
THE first edition of this work, issued in 1893, had an unexpected success, especially abroad. In France, the eminent Sanskrit scholar, M. Léon de Rosny, reviewed it very favourably in the "XXme Siêcle" in a long article that gave a digest of the subject.
He said: "The astonishing points of contact (ressemblances étonnantes) between the popular legend of Buddha and that of Christ, the almost absolute similarity of the moral lessons given to the world, at five centuries’ interval, between these two peerless teachers of the human race, the striking affinities between the customs of the Buddhists and of the Essenes, of whom Christ must have been a disciple, suggest at once an Indian origin to Primitive Christianity."
And in Germany the eminent scientist, Ludwig Büchner, also reviewed it in one of the periodicals summing up thus: "There is no longer any question of the close relationship, in form and contents, of the two greatest and most successful religions of the world." This article has been reproduced in the volume entitled "Last Words on Materialism."
But the subject had already been ventilated on the continent.
In the "Revue des Deux Mondes," 15th July, 1888, M. Émile Burnouf has an article entitled "Le Bouddhisme en Occident." M. Burnouf holds that the Christianity of the Council of Nice was due to a conflict between the Aryan and the Semite, between Buddhism and Mosaism:
"History and comparative mythology are teaching every day more plainly that creeds grow slowly up. None come into the world ready-made, and as if by magic. The origin of events is lost in the infinite. A great Indian poet has said, 'The beginning of things evades us; their end evades us also. We see only the middle.'"
M. Burnouf asserts that the Indian origin of Christianity is no longer contested: "It has been placed in full light by the researches of scholars, and notably English scholars, and by the publication of the original texts. . . . In point of fact for a long time folks had been struck with the resemblances, or rather the identical elements, contained in Christianity and Buddhism. Writers of the firmest faith and most sincere piety have admitted them.
"In the last century these analogies were set down to the Nestorians, but since then the science of Oriental chronology has come into being, and proved that Buddha is many years anterior to Nestorius and Jesus. Thus the Nestorian theory had to be given up. But a thing may be posterior to another without proving derivation. So the problem remained unsolved until recently, when the pathway that Buddhism followed was traced step by step from India to Jerusalem."
A small work that had such a reception would by-and-by require a second edition, but intermediately an obstacle had come in the way, a very serious obstacle. Looking over the "Buddhist Records of the Western World," by the Reverend Samuel Beal, I came across a passage in which he declares that there was a complete union between Buddhism and the followers of S’iva, brought about by Nâgarjuna about A.D. 100. I had been partially on this track myself. Mr Beal asserts that Quan Yin in Chinese means Avalokitisvara (S’iva looking down), and Mr. Beal asserts that in China Quan Yin is an Hermaphrodite God.
At first I did not attach much weight to the theory. But when I thought of bringing out a second edition to my work, the "Influence of Buddhism in Primitive Christianity," I found that it complicated my task. The main postulate of my work was that the monks and mystics in Egypt and Palestine were in close touch with the Buddhist monks in India. How did S’iva-Buddhism affect them? Immensely. The task at first appeared too much for me. But I found a great difficulty in throwing over the matter altogether, and I subsequently got leisure to take it up in earnest. One flash of light quickly came to corroborate Mr. Beal.
I found that the Left-handed Tântrika rites, the devil-dancing, and the worship of S’iva as Bhairava, were in every Buddhist kingdom. This did not seem so very important at first. The worship was accounted for everywhere locally. In Tibet it was due to the Bons, in China to Dragon-Worshippers, in Ceylon to the aboriginal Nâgas. These were mere remains of local superstitions, mere barnacles outside the ship. I accepted the interpretation.
But soon many points suggested themselves to completely overthrow it. In each Buddhist kingdom was a hierarchy as strongly organised and as persistent as the hierarchy at Rome. That is the testimony of the Roman Catholic bishop, Bigandet. Now a hierarchy is an institution specially framed to resist all change instead of effecting changes. Why should all these hierarchies accept radical changes suddenly and simultaneously. One writer suggests that Buddhism desired to gain over the poorer classes of India by bringing Durgâ into their Pantheon. But Buddhism was already the religion of the poorer classes. It was the religion of the Yellow races and the low caste Sûdras. It gave to these peace, honesty, prosperity instead of Eastern slavery and interminable Indian warfare. It changed wastes into waving rice fields. It established the first hospital for healing the sick instead of handing them over to the interested sorceries of greedy devil dancers. It revealed to the Sûdra the spiritual life which the haughty Aryan had steadily kept from him. Plainly the great change called Mahâyâna could not have come from the outside.
But it might have come from a Supreme Curia like the Court of Rome. The Dalai Lâma claims to be the head of the Buddhist hierarchies. In ancient days he bore sway in the splendid monastery of Nalanda near Buddha Gaya. He was called the Âcharya (Teacher). He is alluded to in the Mahâwanso as the "High Priest of all the World." When the Buddhists were turned out of India at the revival of Brahminism, it is alleged that the great Buddhist establishment from Nalanda took refuge first in Kashmir and then in Tibet. Avalokitishvara (S’iva) guided them on their journey. And Avalokitishvara, becoming incarnate in the Dalai Lâma, still inspires Buddhism: China, Nepal, and I believe Burma, still treat him as their Pope. Such a supreme Authority coerced by a monarch so powerful as Kanis’ka, might have forced a change as revolutionary as the Mahâyâna upon the minor churches. The task was quite beyond a few ignorant devil-dancers working separately and at far distances one from the other.
Many other points tend to the same conclusion. Avalokitishvara and his wife Durgâ have the chief place in the litanies and prayers of the Viharas. The great seven days’ festival of India the Durgâ Pûjah, under various names "Perahar," the "Festival of the She-devil Devî," etc., is the chief festival of most Buddhist countries.
The healing of the sick by the casting out of devils which was the chief outside function of the Buddhist monks, has now in Buddhist countries been taken from them and handed over to the unadulterated followers of Bhairava. The vow to worship the Chaitya is the chief solemn promise exacted from the Buddhist postulant at his baptism, or Abhisheka.
This Chaitya is a sham relic-dome made purposely like S’iva's Lingam. A model of it is given to the postulant with his beads and alms bowl.
Now it must be remembered that the main subject of this book is the question of the influence of Buddhism on primitive Christianity. The first edition was directed chiefly to an attempt to show the many points of resemblance between the water-drinking vegetarian celibates of Galilee who had for their main point of attack the superstition of the bloody altar, and the water-drinking vegetarian celibates of India, who had for their main point of attack the same superstition. It was suggested that the analogy was so close between them that they must have been in close communication. This at once suggests enormous difficulties. If there was this close communication, evidences of the great change which brought back to India the reeking altar and Bacchantic intoxicants would soon find their way to Alexandria and the West. This was the difficulty that faced me when I thought of preparing a new edition of this work. I saw that I would have to make an elaborate study of the religion of Serapis and of the gnostic and early Christian sects. I saw that I must get clearer ideas of the channel by which India was in communication with the West. The result is now before the reader.
I soon found strong evidence that Ceylon was the high road along which Buddhism had come. The early Christian controversies might be said to be a battle between Persian Dualism, the philosophy of the authors of the later Jewish scriptures, and the pantheism of S’iva. In the following pages the reader may gain some knowledge of how it affected the doctrine of eternal rewards and punishments, the rite of Transubstantiation, the destruction of the Kosmos by the advent of the great Judge, the Trinity and Logos ideas. As in Ceylon the Western World in those days believed themselves to be a prey to millions and billions of evil spirits, who everywhere and at all times sought their destruction. Cures could only be effected by charms and spells and the "casting out" of these devils.
And the gods of S’iva-Buddhism seemed really to have invaded Alexandria. Serapis was a servile copy of Sakkraia, a god, half man, half stone; and Kattragam had analogies with the Logos of Philo and Abrasax, the Time-god, sacrificed at the end of the year.
But a more startling discovery was behind, which, if authenticated, would place my theory of a S’iva-Buddha union on a basis that cannot be easily shaken.
I came across a passage in the writings of the Orientalist, Horace Hayman Wilson, showing that he was much struck with the close analogy between certain gross rites amongst the Vâmâcharîs, or left-handed Tântrika rites of the followers of S’iva as detailed in the Devi Rashya and the alleged improprieties of the Agapæ, as described by Gibbon. I give these rites as described in the Indian work, and also in the Kâlî Ka Purâna.
But this discovery led to others. In Nepal, according to Mr. Brian Hodgson, and in Ceylon, according to Spence Hardy, the Buddhists are very reticent about their esoteric mysteries, as Mr. Hodgson calls them, and initiatory rites; but a Miracle Play from Tibet, entitled the "Sacrificial Body of the Dead Year," when read side by side with the Kâlî Ka Purâna, quite opened my eyes. In a word, it was quite plain that the slaughter of a victim to represent the dying year, had been part of the mysteries which the followers of S’iva had forced upon the blameless water-drinking ascetics, who hailed Buddha for a teacher. The records of Ceylon told much the same story. The initiatory rite there is called the "Inebriating Festival of the Buddha," and to bring in the Bacchantic element, a version of Buddha's descent into hell has been invented, detailing how he took part in this festival as a man named Mâga; and how he made the Nâgas drunk, and cleared hell both of its victims and its fiends. This might of course only be a Sinhalese fable, but I have discovered five bas reliefs amongst the Amarâvatî marbles on the staircase of the British Museum which tell the same story in stone. This shows that at an early date it was current in the Buddhism on the mainland of India. Brian Hodgson shows that the worship of Bhairava or S’iva in his aspect as the God of Evil was part of the baptismal initiation as detailed in the esoteric Sûtras, which were sent for safety from Magadha to Nepal. These Tântras, setting forth the worship of the Left-handed gods, the Târâ Tântra or Worship of Durgâ, the Mahâkâla Tântra or worship of S’iva as Time, the terrible Kâla Chakra Tântra, the Nâga Pûjah (Worship of Serpents), etc., amount to seventy-four in the Buddhist library of Nepal alone.0
S’iva-Buddhism reached Alexandria, and it may be asked how it affected the religion of Christ. I answer, In no way, if by Religion of Christ something distinct is understood from what is now called Christianity. The Nazarine water-drinkers of the Church founded at Jerusalem by Christ's genuine apostles to the last refused to adopt the Bacchantic Change which Tatian summed up in the terse indictment: "Ye gave the Nazarite wine to drink, and commanded the prophet, saying, 'Prophecy not.'"
The Church of Rome boasts that their sacramental rites picture in brief the life of Christ. I examine this theory and show that it certainly does not apply to the Jesus of the first three Gospels whatever it may do to the "Mystery" of the Gnostic Year God. Tertullian tells us that the followers of Valentinus called some of their rites "left-handed."
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
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