Buddha's Life and Teaching

So far as we can ascertain the conditions of the states on the Ganges in the sixth century B.C. the population suffered under grievous oppression. To the capricious nature of the sentences pronounced by the kings and the cruelty of their punishments were added taxes and exactions, which must have been severely felt over wide circles. The sutras tell us that a king who required money received this answer from his two first ministers: "It is with the land as with grains of sesame; it produces no oil unless it is pressed, cut, burnt, or pounded."[421] The arrangement of castes now stamped in all its completeness on the population of the Ganges; the irrevocable mission apportioned to each person at his birth; the regulations for expiation and penance, which the Brahmans had introduced; the enormous amount of daily offerings and duties; the laws of purification and food, the neglect or breach of which involved the most serious consequences, unless averted by the most painful expiations, were serious burdens in addition to the oppression exercised by the state. If the expiation of offences often unavoidable was difficult, the most carefully-regulated life, the most pious fulfilment of all offerings and penances, did not protect men from evil regenerations. For time consumed the merit of good works, and man was born again to a new life, i. e. to new misery. Thus not even death brought the end of sorrow; it was not enough to bring to a close a laborious life; even if after this life a man were not tormented in hell for unexpiated transgressions, he was born again to ever new sorrows and pains. One way only was known to the Brahmans by which a man might possibly escape this fate;—flight from the world; the voluntary acceptance of the most severe unbroken torture imposed upon the body; the annihilation of the body and finally of the soul by absorption through meditation into Brahman. Did a man really arrive at the goal by this rough way?—did he by inexorable persecution of himself to the extremest limits become elevated above a new birth, and so above a new torture of life?

The conception of such endless torment must have pressed the more heavily upon the people as the hot climate in which they lived naturally awaked in them the desire for repose, a desire which increased with the increasing oppression of the state and religious duties, and was strengthened by the fact that these causes at the same time allowed the resistance which every healthy and strong nation can make to such oppressions and demands to slumber. But complaint was inadmissible. All the misfortune which a man had to bear now and expect in the future was not an unmerited disaster, but a just ordinance of the righteous arrangement of the world, the verdict and expression of divine justice itself. Whether any one was born as a man or an animal, his position and caste, and the conditions of his birth, the fortune he experienced, were consequences, the reward or punishment, of actions done in a previous state of existence; they were the sentences of a justice which none could escape, of the divine order of the world, to which a man must submit without murmurs. The Brahmans were right, the world was full of evils; life was a chain of miseries, and the earth a vale of misery. Pity and grace were nowhere to be found, only justice and punishment, only righteous retribution. In past days, indeed, the Aryas had cried to Varuna to be gracious, to pardon and blot out the offences which men had committed against the gods, intentionally or involuntarily, from an evil heart or from weakness and seduction (p. 53). But the theory which the Brahmans had subsequently elevated to be the highest duty was without sympathy or pity; it could only allot to every man, in the alternation of birth and decay, the fruits of his deeds. No doubt the people, impelled by the necessity to have above them conceivable, comprehensible, helpful spirits, elevated Vishnu and Çiva from among the faded and dishonoured forms of the ancient deities to be the protecting powers of their life in opposition to the god of the Brahmans; but though these gave rain and increase to the pastures and the fields, though they cherished kindly feelings towards men, they were powerless against the punishments after death, against regenerations, or the existing order of the world, against the merciless justice of the gods, which recompensed every one inexorably according to his works, and caused every one to be born again without end to new torments. The old healthy pleasure in life which would live for a hundred autumns, and then looked forward to an entrance into the heaven of Yama, and participation in the joys of that heaven with the company of the fathers, was past. While all other nations almost without exception regarded death as the worst of evils, and painfully sought to secure continuance after death, the Indians were now tortured by the apprehension that they could not die, that they must live for ever, they filled with terrors their conception of life after death, of the endless series of regenerations to a perpetually new life.

Was there really no mercy on earth or in heaven, no grace, no means of release from these never-ending torments? Was the long series of sacrifices with their endless prescripts for every step, the multitude of rules of purification, the performance of penance for every stain, absolutely indispensable if the Brahmans themselves allowed that this whole sanctity of works merely bestowed merits of a second rank, and that the treasure even of good works could be exhausted by time? Was this arrangement of castes and the observance of their duties absolutely irrevocable? The Brahmans required the study of the Veda not only from their own order but also from the Kshatriyas and the Vaiçyas. Did not the book of the law contain the requirement (p. 184) that every Dvija, after satisfying the duties of his order, and of the father of a family (Grihastha) should become an eremite (Vanaprastha) and penitent (Sannyasin)? Had not the Sankhya, the doctrine of Kapila, called in question the merit of the sacrifice and the customs of purification? Asceticism, it is true, again removed the distinctions of the orders; the power of penance, the mortification of the pleasures of sense and the body, carried back the members of the three upper orders in a similar way by sanctification, through a greater or less application of penance, into Brahman; the legends and the Epos showed by the example of Viçvamitra that a man could rise by the power of penance from a Kshatriya to a Brahman. Hence all Dvijas, in strictly logical sequence, could reach supreme salvation by mortification of the body; and it was easy from these premisses to draw the conclusion that little or nothing depended on descent; that the degree of asceticism and the depth of meditation was everything. If this was the case with sanctification by works; if birth in any one of the three higher orders did not prevent a man from attaining the highest sanctification by asceticism, could the castes be really different races, different emanations from Brahman, and distinct forms of his being? Was the nucleus of the system, the doctrine of the world-soul, so firmly established as the Brahmans maintained? Had not the philosophy of the Brahmans already passed from scholasticism to heterodoxy? Did it not deny, in the Sankhya doctrine, the authority of the Veda, the existence of the gods, and the Brahmanic world-soul? As we have seen, the teaching of Kapila left only two existences; nature and the individual spirit.

In the north-east of the land of the Koçalas, on the spurs of the Himalayas, by the river Rohini, which falls into the Çaravati (Rapti), a tributary of the Sarayu, in the neighbourhood of the modern Gorakhpur, lay a small principality named Kapilavastu, after the metropolis.[422] It was the kingdom of the race of the Çakyas, who are said to have migrated from Potala in the delta of the Indus into the land of the Koçalas. Like the kings of the Koçalas the race traced its descent to Ikshvaku, the son of Manu. And just as great priests of the ancient times were woven into the list of the ancestors of the kings of the Bharatas, so the Çakyas of Kapilavastu are said to have reckoned Gautama, one of the great saints (p. 28), among their forefathers; they called themselves Gautamas after the family derived from this priest. At the present time a Rajaputra family in the district, in which the Çakyas reigned, call themselves Gautamiyas.[423] To the house of the Çakyas belonged king Çuddhodana, who sat on the throne of Kapilavastu in the second half of the seventh century B.C.

Of the son born to this prince in 623 B.C. the legend tells us that he received the name Sarvathasiddha (Siddhartha), i. e. perfect in all things, and that Asita, a penitent from the Himalayas, announced to the parents that a very high vocation lay before the boy. The young prince was brought up to succeed to the throne; he was instructed in the use of arms, and in all that it became one of his rank to know. After overcoming all the youths of the family of the Çakyas in the contest in his sixteenth year, his father chose Yaçodhara as his wife, and beside her he had two other wives and a number of concubines, with whom he lived in luxury and delight in his palaces. Thus he lived till his 29th year, when he saw, while on a journey to a pleasure-garden, an old man with bald head, bent body, and trembling limbs. On a second journey he met one incurably diseased, covered with leprosy and sores, shattered by fever, without any guide or assistance; on a third he saw by the wayside a corpse eaten by worms and decaying. He asked himself what was the value of pleasure, youth, and joy if they were subject to sickness, age, and death? He fell into reflection on the evils which fill the world, and resolved to abandon his palace, his wives, and the son who had just been born to him, and retire into solitude, that he might inquire into the cause of the evils which torment mankind, and meditate on their alleviation.

The legends tell us that Çuddhodana opposed this design; he would not allow his son, the Kshatriya and successor to his throne, to depart, and commanded festivals to be held to retain him. Siddhartha is surrounded by song, dance, and play, which are to enliven and change his mood. But in the night he mounted his horse and left the palace secretly, accompanied by one servant. After riding all night towards the east, he reached the land of the Mallas (on the spurs of the Himalayas, upon the Hiranyavati); there, in the neighbourhood of Kuçinagara, the metropolis of the Mallas (some 150 miles to the north-east of Patna), he gave in the morning his attire to his servant and sent him back with the horses. He retained only the yellow garment which he was wearing (yellow is the royal colour in India), and cut his hair short, in order to live henceforth as a mendicant. After concealing himself for seven days he passed on, begging his way to Vaiçali (to the south of Kuçinagara) and from Vaiçali down the Hiranyavati to the Ganges; beyond the Ganges he turned his course to the metropolis of Magadha, Rajagriha, near which were the settlements and schools of the most famous Brahmans.[424] Here he quickly learned all that the chiefs of the schools, Arada Kalama, Rudraka, and others could teach him, and understood their doctrines; but they could not adequately explain to him the origin of the sorrows of men, nor give him any assistance.

Dissatisfied with their instruction and doctrines Siddhartha resolved to retire wholly from the world, and live in the forest without fire, in order to penetrate to the truth by the most severe penances, the most profound meditations. He now called himself Çakyamuni, i. e. anchorite of the family of the Çakyas, went to the southern Magadha, and there, near the village of Uruvilva on the Nairanjana (an affluent of the Phalgu) he devoted himself to the most severe exercises. Seated without motion he endures heat and cold, storm and rain, hunger and thirst; he eats each day no more than a grain of rice or sesame. For six years he continues these mortifications, and still the ultimate truths refuse to disclose themselves to his reflections; at length he seemed to himself to observe that hunger weakened the power of his mind, and resolved to take moderate nourishment, honey, milk, and rice, which were brought to him by the maidens of Uruvilva.[425]Then he went to Gaya in the neighbourhood of Uruvilva, and there sank under a fig-tree into the deepest meditation. About the last watch in the night, when he had once more in spirit overcome all the temptations of the world, fear, and desire, when he had found that longing could never be laid to rest, only increased with satisfaction, as thirst that is quenched by drinking salt water—when he had called to mind his earlier births, and gathered up the whole world in one survey, revelation and complete illumination were vouchsafed to him.

For forty-nine or fifty days, as the legends assure us, Siddartha considered in his own mind whether he should publish this revelation, since it was difficult to understand, and men were in the bonds of ignorance and sin. At last he determined to proclaim to the world the law of salvation. When he had explained it to two merchants, travelling with their caravans through the forest of Gaya, he took his way first to Varanasi (Benares) on the Ganges (588 B.C.). In the deer-park near this city he preached for the first time, and though several of the hearers were astonished and said, "The king's son has lost his reason," he won over the first five disciples for his doctrine.[426] From this time the 'Enlightened' (Buddha), as the legends call him after the complete revelation was vouchsafed to him,[427] wandered as a mendicant, with a jar in his hand for collecting alms, through the districts of India, from Ujjayini (Ozene) at the foot of the Western Vindhyas [428] as far as Champa on the Ganges, the metropolis of the Angas, in order to proclaim everywhere the truth and the law of salvation. "Many," so Buddha preached, "impelled by distress, seek refuge in the mountains and forests, in settlements and under sacred trees. This is not the refuge which liberates from pain. He that comes to me for refuge will learn the four highest truths: pain, the origin of pain, the annihilation of pain, and the way that leads to the annihilation of pain. Whoever knows these truths is in possession of the highest refuge."[429]

Twelve years had elapsed since Buddha left his paternal city Kapilavastu, when at his father's invitation he returned thither; and his father, his kindred, the whole family of the Çakyas and many of his countrymen became converts to his doctrine. Surrounded by the most eager of his disciples, he proceeded onward, and was among them, as the legends say, "like the bull among the cows, like the elephant among his young ones, like the moon in the lunar houses, the physician among his patients."[430] Varanasi in the land of the Kaçis, Mithila in the land of the Videhas, Çravasti (to the north of Ayodhya) in the land of the Koçalas, Mathura in the land of the Çurasenas, Kauçambi in the land of the Bharatas, were the chief scenes of his activity.

Buddha was deeply penetrated by the conviction that the earth was a vale of misery, and the world nothing but a "mass of pain."[431] The sorrows which torture mankind excited his deepest compassion; he would fain help men in their distress. Above all he was oppressed with the thought that sorrows do not end with this life; that man is ever born again to new misery, driven without rest through an eternal alternation of birth and death, in order to find new sorrows without end, but no repose. He was tortured by this "restless revolution of the wheel of the world," by the torments of resurrection from another womb to new and greater pains; more eagerly than any other, Buddha sought repose, peace, and death without any resurrection. With the utmost eagerness he plunged into the Brahmanic theory and speculation; it did not satisfy him; in it, and by it, he found no alleviation, no end of the evil; he submitted to the severest asceticism of the Brahmans; it crushed his spirit without giving him rest. He therefore turned from the orthodox systems to the heterodox doctrine of Kapila. Even that failed to satisfy him; but he followed still further the path which it pointed out, in order to discover the liberation from evil which he sought so earnestly. At last he believed himself to be possessed of the delivering truth.

With the adherents of the Sankhya doctrine Buddha believed himself to have ascertained that neither the gods nor a supreme all-pervading world-soul exists. He also, in opposition to the orthodox doctrine, makes the individual soul his starting-point, and the multitude of individual spirits, which alone have true existence and reality. But if the doctrine of Kapila found the liberation from nature and the body in the fact that the soul attains the consciousness of her independent existence in opposition to nature, discovers her own absolute position as opposed to the body, and merely contemplates the latter, Buddha struck out a far more radical way for the liberation from evil and the freedom of the soul.

Buddha first establishes the fact that evil exists; then he inquires why it exists and must always exist; he attempts to prove that it can and ought to be annihilated, and finally he occupies himself with the means of this annihilation.[432] He who will ascertain truth and acquire freedom from evil, has first to convince himself that evil exists. Evil is birth, sickness, the weakness of age, the restlessness and torment of our projects and efforts, the inability to attain what we strive for, the separation from that which we love, the contact with that which we do not love. In this world of existence all is vanity. Happiness is followed by misfortune; even the happiness and power of kings flows away more rapidly than running water.[433]Mutability is the last and worst evil; it is the fire which consumes the three worlds.[434] Birth is changeable and worthless, for it leads to death; youth, for it becomes age; health, for it is subject to sickness. All that exists, passes away. This ceaseless change is bound up with pain and sorrow. Childhood suffers the pain of weakness; youth is impelled by desires which cannot be fulfilled, and which cause pain if unfulfilled. Age suffers the pain of decay and sickness, and of death; with death begins a new life through regeneration to the same or even greater torments. To this evil of mutability, and consequently to pain, all living creatures without exception are subject. Evil and pain are universal; men are destined to lose what is dearest to them; and animals are destined to be eaten by each other. From the knowledge that evil exists, that all living creatures are subject to evil, follows the truth that men must strive to liberate themselves from evil.

After setting forth his problem in this formal and minutely systematic manner, Buddha goes still further. If man will free himself from pain, pain must be annihilated. In order to attain this end the cause of it must be discovered. This cause is desire (trishna ). Desire is the passion which man feels to attain content and satisfaction, the ever-renewed impulse to have pleasant sensations and avoid the unpleasant, which is sometimes satisfied, but more frequently the reverse.[435] If pain is to be annihilated, desire must be annihilated. The cause of desire is sensation, and if we inquire into sensation we find on reflection that it is something transitory. When we have the sensation of what is pleasant, the sensation of what is unpleasant does not exist any longer, and vice versâ; sensation therefore is subject to annihilation, and in consequence is not permanent, nor has it any real existence. Sensation is, as the Buddhists say, "empty and without substance."[436] It does not belong to the nature of the soul. As soon as we can say of sensation or of any other object, "I am not this, this is not my soul," we are free from it; and when we have attained this knowledge, no sensation whatever, nor conception, nor perception, exercises any charm over man.[437] If this knowledge is acquired, man is in a position to "unbind" himself from sensation, and as soon as he has unbound himself from sensation he has liberated himself from it; he feels neither inclination nor disinclination; neither restlessness nor pain, nor despair;[438] his heart no longer clings to the "causes of content, which were at the same time the causes of discontent, more closely than drops of rain to the leaf of the lotus."[439] If we go further in this direction and instruct ourselves by meditation that even the senses, eyes, ears, etc., are perishable,[440] that the body is subject to birth and death, and consequently that it is something transitory and without permanence, we are freed from the body and henceforth merely contemplate it. From this point of view we perceive that the body of a man is his executioner; and in the senses we recognise desolated villages, in the things of the external world, the enemies and plunderers which perpetually attack men, disquiet and ravage them.[441] Whatever a man has hitherto felt of dependence and inclination, of care and submissiveness to the body; whatever content and satisfaction he has felt through the body in the body,—is now annihilated by the knowledge that the body is nothing real, that it is not the soul. When we have reached this point, pain is removed, because the cause of it is removed; man is no longer dazzled by desire, and therefore no longer distressed; he is now lord of his senses and lord of himself. Freed from all bonds, from all inclinations to, and dependence on, the world, he feels the happiness and joy of repose.[442]

Thus far Buddha has agreed with the doctrine of Kapila that the soul must be separated and set free from the body, in his results, if the mode of development be different; he now proceeds in his speculations far beyond the Sankhya system. He was not content to have discovered the path of liberation from the torments of sensuality, of the body, and the external world; he asked further, How can man be raised above the necessity of perpetually renewing this process of the liberation of the soul from the body after new regenerations? If the Sankhya doctrine established nature and matter as an eternal potency beside the plurality of individual souls, and derived all existence from the creative power of matter, Buddha rather saw the creative power, the basis of all existence, in the individual souls, in the "breathing beings," and from this view arrived at a different, more thorough means of liberation.

According to the legends the way to this liberation was revealed to Buddha in the night under the fig-tree of Gaya, when in the deepest meditation he represented to himself the web of regenerations, how many and what dwellings he had inhabited previously, and how many had been the dwellings of other creatures; how he and the rest of the world lived through a hundred thousand millions of existences—when he called to mind the periods of destruction and the periods of regeneration. "There," he said, "was I, in that place; I bore this name; I was of this tribe and that family, and this caste; I lived so many years; I experienced this happiness and that misfortune.[443] After my death I was born again; I lived through these fortunes, and here, at last, I have again come to the light. Is there then no means of escaping this world, which is born,changes, and dies, and again grows up? Are there no limits to this accumulation of sorrows?" At last, attaining to immobility in thought about the last watch, just before the break of day, he once more collected his powers and asked himself:[444] What is the cause of age, death, and all pain? Birth. What is the cause of birth? Existence. What is the cause of existence? Attachment to existence. What is the cause of this attachment? Desire. What is the cause of desire? Sensation. Of sensation what is the cause? The contact of a man with things excites in him this or that sensation, sensation generally.[445] What is the cause of contact? The senses. What is the cause of the senses? Name and shape, i. e. the individual existence. What is the cause of this? Consciousness. And of consciousness, what? The existing not-knowledge,[446] i. e. the intellectual capacity; this is no other than the soul itself. In order to annihilate pain, birth must be annihilated; the annihilation of birth requires the annihilation of existence; this requires the destruction of attachment to existence; and to accomplish this destruction desire and sensation must be annihilated; and this again requires the annihilation of contact with the world. But as contact with the world rests on the receptivity of the senses, which in turn rests on the individual existence, this existence rests on consciousness, and consciousness on the not-knowledge, i. e. on the possibility of not-knowledge in the individual spirit, on the intellectual state; not-knowledge must in the end be annihilated. This takes place by the true knowledge, which shows that the sensations of men are only of a transitory nature, illusions, not belonging to his true being; thus it is that the individual is loosed from pain and the body, or merely contemplates it as it contemplates all existence; and thus dependence on existence and desire are softened or removed. The same result is also attained by the annihilation of not-knowledge as the basis of individual existence, by the quenching of the individual, by Nirvana, i. e. the extinction, the "blowing away" by which the individual "falls into the void," and cannot be born again. From the annihilation of the basis of existence follows the annihilation of existence; it cannot arise again when the basis is destroyed.

Though this series of causes and effects may first have received the form in which we have it in the schools of the adherents of Buddha, the nucleus belongs beyond a doubt to the founder of the doctrine. It shows sufficiently with what dialectical consistency—though proceeding like all the products of the Indian mind from fantastic hypotheses, and coloured with fantastic elements, so that sequence of time is often taken for the relation of cause and effect—Buddha attempted to penetrate to final causes and ultimate aims. Evil is existence generally. If evil is to be removed, existence must be removed, and not existence only but the roots of it. This proposition is the leading motive in his reasoning. He keeps steadily to the logical formula that all existence is the operation of a cause, and consequently existence can only be destroyed when the cause of it is destroyed. The nucleus of his argument is: Whence do men come? They arise out of their nature, which is the existing not-knowing, or, as we should say, the substratum of knowing, the intellectual capacity. Where do men go in death? This intellectual basis is compelled by its own nature to assume ever new forms, to put on a new robe from the material of nature or the elements. How can the soul, the intellectual capacity, be checked in this? By self-annihilation.

Here Buddha found himself at the most difficult problem of Indian speculation, which failed to find an internal transition from not-being to being, from being to not-being, so that in it the principles always remain the same, and cause and effect are equally eternal. Hence in order to be consistent, he must seek the solution of his problem, the cessation of the regenerations, in the annihilation of the cause of these regenerations; and this cause was in his view the intellectual capacity. As the soul is first set free from sensation, and then from the body, so man must finally be set free from the soul, the self, the Ego, by destroying the basis and possibility of this; while the adherents of the Sankhya doctrine merely separated the soul from the body, merely looked on at the revolution of the wheel of nature; and the Brahmans would plunge the soul in Brahman. At a later time a great deal of controversy arose as to what Buddha meant by Nirvana, and persons of great eminence in the Buddhist church have had recourse to the explanation that he alone knows what Nirvana is who finds himself in that state. Yet from the process and tendency of Buddha's philosophy, as well as from the most ancient definitions, it is sufficiently clear what condition, what results, were meant to be attained by Nirvana. The most ancient explanations term it, "the cessation of thought, when its causes are suppressed:" they denote it as a condition, "in which nothing remains of that which constitutes existence."[447] With the impossibility of feeling impressions, of knowing anything, and therefore of desiring anything, the being of the individual also ceases, according to Buddha's view, and it was the extinction of this at which he aimed. In Nirvana, according to the older legends, nothing remains but "emptiness;" it is frequently compared with "the exhaustion of a lamp when it goes out."[448] But how this condition is brought about we are not told; we only know that all contact, external or internal, with the world must be removed.[449] When every distinct conception, and even everything that may give rise to such a conception, had been avoided; when a man had put aside every thought, and every excitement of the spirit, he ought to succeed in destroying the thinking principle within him. The man of knowledge has discovered that all which is, is worthless; that nothing exists really and essentially; he has broken through the shells of deception and ignorance. He has diverted and liberated his feeling from these frivolities, and now passes into the condition in which he has nothing more to think of, nothing more to feel, and consequently nothing more to desire; that is, he has attained a state in which feeling and thoughts are extinguished, and continue extinguished. If any feeling or conception remains in this condition, the Ego  in Nirvana would feel peace and joy at the thought that nothing any longer existed, that itself ceased to exist. Thus it becomes clear what was the object sought in Nirvana, and we cannot have any doubt that this attempt at annihilation, if made in earnest, must practically lead to the same results as the absorption of the Brahmans in Brahman—that it caused men to become dull, stupid, and brutalised.[450]

Buddha was of opinion that through this series of thoughts he had discovered the final causes, the absolute truth as well as absolute liberation. When he has arrived at the final ground of existence, the man of meditation can say to himself, according to the legends: "The dreadful night of error is taken from the soul, the sun of knowledge has risen,[451] the gates of the false path which lead to existences filled with misery are closed.[452] I am on the further shore; the pure way to heaven is opened; I have entered upon the way of Nirvana.[453] On this way are dried up the ocean of blood and of tears, the mountains of human bones are broken through, and the army of death is annihilated, as an elephant throws down a hut of reeds.[454] He who follows this path without faltering, escapes from pain, from mutability, from the changes of the world, and the wheel of revolution, the regenerations. He can boast: 'I have done my duty; I have annihilated existence for myself. I cannot be born again; I am free; I shall see no other existence after this.'"[455] An old formula of faith, which is often found under pictures of Buddha, runs thus: "The beings which proceed from a cause, their cause he who pointed out the way (Tathagata) has explained, and what prevents their operation the great Çramana has also explained."[456]

Had Buddha contented himself with the results of his speculation, the only consequence of his doctrine would have been this; he would have added one more to the philosophical systems of the Indians; he would have founded a new philosophical system, a subdivision of the heterodox Sankhya doctrine. The question was really the same, whether the soul was destroyed when in the one case it was plunged in Brahman, and inthe other annihilated by Nirvana; whether those who sought after liberation had to become masters of their senses like the Brahmans, or to release themselves from sensation and the body and existence like Buddha. For both methods the profoundest meditation was necessary as a means; the final manipulations and results were mystical on both sides; the only difference was that the logical consistency of Buddha was more simple and acute, the dialectics of the orthodox system more varied and fantastic; the penances of the Brahmans were severe and painful, while Buddha contented himself with a moderate asceticism. From his disciples who would attain the highest liberation he demanded nothing more than that they should renounce the world, i. e. should devote themselves to a life of chastity and poverty. Then like their master they must shave head and chin, while the Brahman penitents wore a tail of hair, put on a robe of yellow colour, such as Buddha wore,—a garment of sewn rags was best—take a jar in their hands for the collection of alms, and go round the country begging, after the example of Buddha, in order to point out to people the way of salvation. Only the rainy season might be spent in retirement, in common discussion on the highest truths, or in lonely meditation on the way of Nirvana.

This new mode of asceticism would not have gone beyond the limits of the school, had not Buddha added a moral for the whole world to his philosophy for the initiated. As we have in the Sankhya system a kind of rationalistic reaction, after the Indian measure it is true, against the flighty theorems of the Brahmans, so in the practice of Buddha the prominent features are more simple, healthy, and sensible. The Sankhya system places liberation essentially in the release of the spirit from nature by the power of knowledge; according to Buddha's doctrine liberation must be sought not only in the path of knowledge but also in the will and temper. When the temper is rendered peaceful; when desire ceases, and the withering of the soul comes to an end, then knowledge can begin.[457] In this repose of the passions, which arise from egoism, there is a very definite practical and moral feature, of great importance for development and edification. Buddha allowed that every one could not attain the highest liberation by the mode of asceticism and meditation which he taught; but he did not therefore leave the people to their fate, like those who preceded him in philosophy; he did not, like these, point to the sacrifices, customs, purifications, and penances. Even for those who were not in a position to liberate themselves wholly from the misery of the earth and the torments of regenerations, by entering into the way of illumination, were to have their pains and sorrows alleviated as far as possible. The desire to do away with the passions, and with selfishness, the lively sympathy, the earnest effort to alleviate the sorrows of men, from which Buddha's philosophy starts, are also the source of his ethics, which are to be preached to the whole nation. As contact with the world is the chief cause of desire, and therefore of the pain and distress which come upon men, the main object is to come into contact with the world as little as possible, to live as far as may be in peace and quietness. The requirement of a still and quiet life is the first principle of the ethics of Buddha. Even the layman must bring repose into his senses. He must moderate his impulses and passions, his wishes and his desires, if he cannot annihilate them. He must guard against the excitement of passions, for these are the chief cause of the pains which torment mankind. He must be chaste and continent within the limits of reason; he must drink no intoxicating liquor; at the accustomed hours he must take the necessary food (otherwise the belly causes a multitude of sins [458]); he must clothe himself simply. He must not attempt to amass much silver and gold, or waste the property which he has, in order to procure enjoyment. In a word, "he must turn his back on pain, ambition, and satisfaction."[459] The evils which are unavoidable in spite of a simple, moderate, and passionless life, he must bear with patience, for in this way they become most tolerable. Injustice coming from others must also be received with patience; ill-treatment, even mutilation and death, must be borne quietly, without hatred towards those who inflict them: "mutilation liberates a man from members which are perishable, execution from this filthy body, which dies." Those who treat us in this manner are not to be hated, because all that comes upon a man is a punishment or reward for actions done in this or a previous life.[460]

Though Buddha adheres to the conception of the Brahmans, which had long been the common property of the nation, that a man's lot in this world is the consequence of actions done in an earlier existence, he could nevertheless point to further alleviations of the evils of life than those attained by moderation and patience. All men without regard to caste, birth, and nation, form in Buddha's view a great society of suffering in the earthly vale of misery; it is their duty not mutually to add other sorrows to those already imposed upon them by their existence; on the contrary, they ought mutually to alleviate the burden of unavoidable misery. As every man ought to attempt to lessen the pains of existence for himself, so it is also his duty to lessen those of his fellows. In Buddha's doctrine not our own sorrows but the sorrows of our fellow-men are a cause for distress.[461] From this principle Buddha derived the commands of regard, assistance, sympathy, mercy, love, brotherly kindness towards all men. If, according to the doctrine of the Brahmans, and of Buddha also, there was no love, no grace, and no pity in heaven, they are henceforth to exist on earth. The love which Buddha preaches is essentially sympathy; it arises from another source than the love of Christianity. It is not in Buddhism the highest commandment for its own sake alone: it is not the liberating, active, creative, ethical power, which not only removes selfishness from the negative side, but also positively transforms the natural into the moral man, and exalts the family, community, and state into moral communities. In Buddhism love wishes above all things to lament with others, and by helpful communion to make life more endurable; it is simply the means to alleviate the sorrows of the world. Hence Buddha commands us to be without selfishness towards all men, to spend nothing on ourselves that is intended for another. To speak hard words to a fellow-man is a great sin; no one is to be injured by scornful speeches.[462] What can be done must be done for the amelioration of a fellow-man and the promotion of his prosperity. A man must be liberal towards his relations and friends; gentle towards his servants; he must give alms without any intermission, and practise works of mercy;[463] he must provide nourishment for the poor; and must take care of the sick and alleviate their sorrows. He must plant wholesome herbs, trees, and groves, especially on the roads, that the poor and the pilgrims may find nourishment and shade; he must dig wells for them, receive travellers hospitably, for that is a sacred duty, and erect inns for them.[464] If the Brahmans are cautioned against the killing of animals, and the eating of flesh is restricted among them as much as possible (p. 168), Buddha is still more strict in this respect. Nothing that has life is to be put to death, neither man nor animal; pain is not to be inflicted on any living creature; a man must have sympathy with the sufferings even of animals, and tend such as are old and weak.

Consistent in his attempt to discover the alleviation of pain in the heart and mind of man, Buddha remits even the sins of commission by internal change and improvement of mind. If a man has committed a sin of thought, word, or act,[465] he must repent and acknowledge it before his co-religionists, and those who have attained a higher degree of liberation. Repentance and confession diminish or blot out the sin, according to the degree of their depth and sincerity, and not painful penances and expiations, which only increase the torments of the body, the thing which we desire to diminish.[466] No one is to make a parade of good works; these he should conceal, and publish his failings.[467]

Thus the ethics of Buddha are comprehended in the three principles of chastity, patience, and mercy, i. e. of a moderate and passionless life, of ready and willing submission to any annoyance or unavoidable evil, and finally of sympathy and active assistance for our fellow-men. An old formula tells us: "The eschewing of evil, the doing of good, the taming of our own thoughts, this is the doctrine of Buddha."[468]

The legends tell us of a great disputation held at Çravasti (the metropolis of the Koçalas), in which Buddha was victorious over six holy penitents of the Brahmans; the leading Brahman even took his own life in disgust and disappointment. As the legends relate, the Brahmans were afraid that Buddha's doctrine would diminish their honour and importance, that they would receive fewer gifts and presents; they were distressed that Buddha allowed even the lowest and impure castes to enter the order of penitents. According to the statement of the sutras the Brahmans caused the communities to inflict fines on such persons as listened to Buddha's words, and from the kings of certain districts they procured edicts forbidding his doctrine. Though the Brahmans may have succeeded in prejudicing one or two princes against Buddha and his doctrine, in other regions of India, not to mention his own home, he did not miss the effectual protection of the secular arm. From the very first year of the public appearance of Buddha, Bimbisara king of Magadha is said to have given him his protection and support, and to have assigned to his disciples the Bamboo-garden, near the metropolis Rajagriha, for their residence. The king of the Koçalas also, Prasenajit, supported Buddha, and his metropolis, Çravasti, became a favourite residence of Buddha in the rainy season, a centre of the new doctrine, to the north of the Ganges, as Rajagriha was on the south of the river. Lastly, the legends speak of Vatsa, the king of the Bharatas, who resided at Kauçambi, and Pradyota of Ujjayini, and Rudrayana of Roruka, a region which apparently lay to the east of Magadha, among the protectors of Buddha. Towards the princes Buddha's conduct was prudent and circumspect; he did not impart to any of their magistrates or servants the initiation of the beggar; he adopted none of them into the community of the initiated without the express sanction of the king.[469]

On the people his appearance and disputations with the Brahmans could hardly make any other impression than that he also was one of the philosophising penitents who wandered through the lands of the Ganges, teaching and begging, with or without disciples.[470] If the Brahmans persecuted Buddha, they called out to them: What would ye have?—he is a mendicant like yourselves! Buddha is said to have suffered the most severe persecution, when past his seventieth year, from Devadatta, a near relation. Even in youth the eager rival of Siddartha in martial exercises, Devadatta is said to have been filled with cruel envy by the success of Buddha's teaching. So he determined to appear as a teacher in Buddha's place, and for this object he united himself with Ajataçatru, the son of Bimbisara of Magadha. The latter was to murder his father, the protector of Buddha; Devadatta desired to assassinate Buddha himself, and then the two, by mutual support, would hold the first place. Devadatta assembled 500 disciples; Ajataçatru, in the year 551 B.C., dethroned his father, and according to the legends of the Buddhists caused him to die of starvation in a dungeon. After the death of his protector the Enlightened was to perish also. From the top of the vulture mountain near Rajagriha, Devadatta hurls a stone on Buddha as he passes by underneath; but he merely wounded him slightly on the toes; in vain is an elephant maddened with palm wine let loose upon Buddha, the raging animal kneels down before him. To escape these persecutions Buddha leaves Magadha and turns to Çravasti. Devadatta pursues him, in order to attack him afresh there, and destroy him by the poisoned nails of his fingers; but when he approaches Buddha he sinks into hell, while king Ajataçatru is converted, and from a persecutor of Buddha becomes a zealous protector of his doctrine.[471]

This legend is obviously told in order to glorify the victorious sanctity of Buddha, nevertheless it contains a certain nucleus of history. At a very early time there was a division among the adherents of Buddha; the author and leader of this division was called Devadatta. Even in the seventh century A.D. there were monasteries in India which followed the doctrine and rules of Devadatta. Among the eight disciples of Buddha, according to the legends, Çariputra and Maudgalyayana, young Brahmans of the village of Nalanda near Rajagriha, took the first place. After these the sutras mention Kaçyapa a Brahman, Upali a Çudra, who had been a barber, i. e. who had carried on one of the lowest, most impure, and contemptible occupations before he followed Buddha, and two nephews of Buddha of the race of Çakya, Anuruddha and Ananda. Ananda is said to have accompanied Buddha for twenty-five years without interruption; to "have heard the most, and kept the best what he heard." After these, Nanda, a step-brother of Buddha, and Buddha's own son, Rahula, are mentioned in the first rank.

It was not the favour or dislike of princes, nor the speculative power of his doctrine, nor the devotion of his nearest scholars, which procured a reception for Buddha's doctrine. On the contrary, the success of Buddha rests precisely on the fact that his teaching is not restricted to doctrine, nor to a school. He ventured to step out of the circle of the Brahmans, and the learned in the Veda, beyond the lonely life in the forest; he was bold enough to break through the limitations imposed upon instruction by tradition and law. He did not, like the Brahmanic teacher, hold sittings with his pupils, at which they alone were present; he spoke in the open market place, and addressed his words not only to the Dvijas, but to the Çudras and Chandalas also—an unheard-of event: for this purpose he speaks the language of the people, not Sanskrit, the language of the Brahmanas and the learned; he preached in a popular style, while the doctrines of the Brahmans, set forth in the formulas of the schools, must have remained unintelligible to the people, even if repeated in their language. With the people Buddha dwelt far more on his ethics than on his metaphysics, though he did not exclude the latter, and his ethical lectures in each case developed the principle in application to the particular instance.[472] In other respects his method of teaching must have been the most effective which could be applied in India, unless we are deceived by the legends. By means of the complete illumination vouchsafed to Buddha, he saw through the web of regenerations. For every man he deduced the circumstances of his present life, his good or evil fortune, from the virtues and sins of a previous existence. To a man whose eyes had been put out by the order of a king he revealed the fact that in a previous existence he had torn out the eyes of many gazelles; but as he had also done good deeds in that life he had been born again in a good family, with a handsome exterior.[473] He told another that in a previous existence he had killed an anchorite, and for this he had already suffered punishment in hell for several thousand years; he would also lose his head in this life, and would suffer the same misfortune for four hundred successive existences.[474]

However effective Buddha's method may have been, it was the tendency of his doctrine which could not fail sooner or later to open the hearts of the people. The lower castes were subject to the ill treatment and exactions of the state, to the haughty pride of the Brahmans; they were pressed into the unalterable arrangement of the castes, and thus branded by law and custom, they were exposed to the severest oppression. The doctrine of morals was resolved into the observance of the duties of caste, into the endless series of offerings and sacrifice, purifications and expiations; thus it became degraded into an artificial and painful sanctification by works, which no one could ever satisfy. Religion was lost in a confused medley of gods and magic on the one hand, and of obscure and unintelligible speculation on the other. In opposition to these circumstances, requirements, and doctrines, Buddha declared that no one, not even the lowest and most contemptible castes, were excluded from hearing and finding the truth; that alleviation of pain and rest, salvation and liberation, could be acquired by any one. Instead of the observance of the duties of caste he required the brotherly love of all men; in opposition to distorted ethics he restores its due rights to natural feeling. The sacrifice and sanctification by works of the Brahmans is replaced by the taming of the passions, and sympathy, by the fulfilment of simple duties, painful penances by easy asceticism, by the plain morality of patience and quietism; the Veda and gods of the Brahmans by a theory at any rate more intelligible, accompanied by the doctrine that even without this theory every one of his own heart and will could enter upon the way of salvation, and by such conduct alleviate his fortune in this and the following courses of life, while the initiated could at once force their way to death without regeneration. Any man could assume the yellow robe if he vowed to live in poverty and chastity, and wander through the land as a mendicant, a mode of obtaining a livelihood which is not difficult in India.

If the doctrine of the Brahmans had banished mercy out of heaven, it had reappeared on earth in the "Enlightened," the "pointer of the way," who met the pride and haughtiness of the Brahmans with gentleness and humility; who showed sympathetic pity for the lowest and poorest, for all the weary and heavy-laden;[475] who in the midst of oppressed nations taught how unavoidable evils could be borne most easily; how they could be alleviated by mutual help; who called on all to ameliorate their lot by their own power, and considered it the highest duty to obtain this amelioration for ourselves and provide it for others.

According to Buddha's view the castes must fall to the ground. There was no world-soul from which all creatures emanated, and therefore the distinctions which rested on the succession of these emanations did not exist. In the first instance, however, he attacked the castes from the point of view that the body can only have a subordinate value. "He who looks closely at the body," he said, "will find no difference between the body of the slave and the body of the prince. The best soul can dwell in the worst body." "The body must be valued or despised in respect of the spirit which is in it. The virtues do not inquire after the castes."[476] But he also applied the distinction of castes to show that in fact they give a higher or lower position to men; that the arrangement brings external advantages or disadvantages. It was the conception of the more or less favourable regenerations which caused him to assume these distinctions and bring them into the series of regenerations. He allowed that there was a gradation leading from the Chandalas to the Brahmans, that birth in a higher or lower position was a consequence of the virtues or failings of earlier existences; but the distinctions were not of such a kind that they limited the spirit; that they could in any way prevent even the least and lowest from hearing the true doctrine and understanding it, and attaining salvation and liberation. Hence while the castes do indeed form distinctions among men, these distinctions are not essential, but in reality indifferent.

If the Brahmans reproached Buddha that he preached to the impure, he replied: "My law is a law of grace for all."[477] He received Çudras and Chandalas, barbers and street-sweepers, slaves and remorseful criminals, among his disciples and initiated.[478] Nor did he exclude women; even to them he imparted the initiation of the mendicant.[479] On one occasion Ananda, the scholar of Buddha, met a Chandala maiden drawing water at a fountain, and asked to drink. She replied that she was a Chandala and might not touch him. Ananda answered: "My sister, I do not ask about your caste, nor about your family; I ask you for water if you can give it me." Buddha is then said to have received the maiden among his initiated.[480]

For twenty-four years, we are told, Buddha wandered from one place to another, to preach his doctrine, to strengthen his disciples in their faith, to arrange their condition, and in the rainy season to show to the initiated the way to the highest liberation, to death without regeneration. According to the legends of the Northern Buddhists, he saw towards the end of his days the overthrow of his ancestral city, and the defeat of his adherents. The Çakyas of Kapilavastu are said to have become odious to Virudhaka (Kshudraka in the Vishnu-Purana), the successor of king Prasenajit on the throne of the Koçalas. He marched against them with his army; obtained possession of the city of Kapilavastu, and caused the inhabitants to be massacred. Buddha is said to have heard the noise of the conquest, and the cry of the dying. When the king of the Koçalas had marched away with his army, Buddha, we are told, wandered in the night through the ruined corpse-strewn streets of his home. In the pleasure-garden of his father's palace, where he had played as a boy, lay maidens with hands and feet cut off, of whom some were still alive; Buddha gave them his sympathy and comforted them. The massacre of Kapilavastu, the slaughter of the Çakyas, if it took place at all, cannot have been complete, for at a later time the race is mentioned as existing and active.

In the eightieth year of his life Buddha is said to have visited Rajagriha and Nalanda in the land of Magadha; afterwards he crossed the Ganges, and announced to his disciples in Vaiçali, the metropolis of the tribe of the Vrijis (p. 338), that he should die in three months. He exhorted them to redoubled zeal, begged them, when he was no more, to collect his commands, and preach them to the world. Accompanied by his pupils Ananda and Anuruddha he then set out to the north, to the land of the Mallas, and Kuçinagara, where in former days he had laid aside the royal dress and assumed the condition of a mendicant. Falling sick on the way, he came exhausted into the neighbourhood of Kuçinagara, where Ananda prepared a bed for him in a grove. Here he said farewell, sank into meditation, and died with the words "Nothing continues," never to be born again. At Ananda's suggestion the Mallas buried the dead Enlightened with the burial of a king. After preparations lasting through seven days the corpse was placed in a golden coffin, carried in solemn procession before the eastern gate of Kuçinagara, and laid on a wooden pyre. The ashes were placed in a golden urn, and for seven days festivals were held in honour of the "compassionate Buddha, the man free from stain" (543 B.C.).[481]


[421]Burnouf, "Introduction," p. 146.

[422]Köppen, "Religion des Buddha," s. 84. Kapilavastu means habitation of Kapila. It was the philosophy of Kapila which lay at the base of the teaching of Buddha.

[423]The Gautamas were the most important priestly family among the Videhas. Lassen, "Ind. Alterth." 1, 557; 2, 67; Burnouf, "Introduction," p. 155; A. Weber, "Ind. Studien," 1, 180.

[424]Burnouf, loc. cit. p. 154.

[425]Burnouf, loc. cit. p. 77, 154, 157.

[426]Köppen, loc. cit. s. 94.

[427]Burnouf, loc. cit. p. 70.

[428]Köppen, on the ground that Ujjayini is not mentioned among the southern Buddhists, limits the sphere of the activity of Buddha to the triangle formed by Champa, Kanyakubja, and Çravasti.

[429]Burnouf, loc. cit. p. 186. Köppen, loc. cit. s. 220.

[430]Burnouf, loc. cit. p. 167.

[431]e. g. Burnouf, loc. cit. p. 487.

[432]These are the four sublime truths (aryani satyani ) of Buddhism; pain, the creation of pain, the annihilation of pain, and the way which leads to the annihilation of pain.

[433]Burnouf, loc. cit. p. 410, 430.

[434]Burnouf, loc. cit. p. 418, 428, 629.

[435]Burnouf, loc. cit. p. 498, 508.

[436]Burnouf, loc. cit. p. 459, 462.

[437]Burnouf, loc. cit. p. 509, 510.

[438]Burnouf, loc. cit. p. 460.

[439]Burnouf, loc. cit. p. 418.

[440]Burnouf, loc. cit. p. 405.

[441]Burnouf, loc. cit. p. 418, 420.

[442]Burnouf, loc. cit. p. 251, 327, 460.

[443]Burnouf, loc. cit. p. 389, 393, 486.

[444]Burnouf, loc. cit. p. 486 ff.

[445]Burnouf, loc. cit. p. 460.

[446]3 Burnouf, loc. cit. p. 488-509. For further information about the series of the causes of being (nidana ), which is not very intelligible, see Köppen, s. 609. My object is merely to indicate the line of argument.

[447]Burnouf, "Introduction," p. 73, 83, 589 ff.

[448]Burnouf, loc. cit. p. 252.

[449]Burnouf, loc. cit. p. 326.

[450]Schlagintweit, "Buddhism in Tibet," p. 91 ff.

[451]Burnouf, loc. cit. p. 369.

[452]Burnouf, loc. cit. p. 265.

[453]Burnouf, loc. cit. p. 271.

[454]Burnouf, loc. cit. p. 203, 342.

[455]Burnouf, loc. cit. p. 462, 510.

[456]Köppen, s. 223.

[457]Köppen, s. 125.

[458]Burnouf, "Introduction," p. 254.

[459]Burnouf, "Introduction," p. 327.

[460]Burnouf, "Introduction," p. 253, 410.

[461]Burnouf, "Introduction," p. 429.

[462]Burnouf, "Introduction," p. 274.

[463]Burnouf, "Introduction," p. 325.

[464]Lassen, "Ind. Alterth." 2, 258.

[465]Burnouf, loc. cit. p. 300.

[466]Burnouf, loc. cit. p. 299.

[467]Burnouf, loc. cit. p. 261.

[468]Burnouf, loc. cit. p. 126, 153. Köppen, s. 224.

[469]Burnouf, loc. cit. p. 163, 189, 145, 190, 211.

[470]Burnouf, loc. cit. p. 101.

[471]Köppen, s. 111.

[472]Burnouf, loc. cit. p. 126.

[473]Burnouf, loc. cit. p. 414.

[474]Burnouf, loc. cit. p. 195, 274, 381, 382.

[475]Burnouf, loc. cit. p. 174, 183.

[476]Burnouf, loc. cit. p. 375, 376.

[477]Burnouf, loc. cit. p. 198.

[478]Burnouf, loc. cit. p. 162, 197, 205, 212, 277.

[479]Burnouf, loc. cit. p. 206.

[480]Burnouf, loc. cit. p. 205 ff.

[481]Burnouf, loc. cit. p. 351; Lassen, "Ind. Alterth." 2 2 , 80.