Pagan Christs, by John M. Robertson, , at sacred-texts.com
Looking, then, for a foothold among the shifting sands of Buddhist tradition, we note the following clashing records:
1. The Buddha is represented alike in ostensibly early and in
late tradition as speaking of "the Gods" with full belief in their existence. 1
2. He is represented on the one hand as discouraging sacrifices, 2 and on the other hand as prescribing for a whole tribe a strict adherence to ancient rites. 3
3. King Asoka, who figured as a good Buddhist in the early vigour of the movement (about 250 B.C.), habitually called himself "the delight of the Gods," as did his contemporary the "pious Buddhist king of Ceylon." 4
4. The Buddha is represented as throwing his Order open to all classes, and at the same time as making the name "Brahman" a term of honour for his Arahats or saints. Brahmans, too, are said to have been among his most distinguished disciples; and the Dialogues represent his conversations with them.
5. Much teaching that certainly did not come from Buddha is admittedly ascribed to him, the principle being that he delivered the whole canon.
6. Much philosophic matter set forth as his teaching is nearly identical with much of the Sankhya system, of which at least the germs are admittedly pre-Buddhistic. 5
The last two circumstances are fully acknowledged by our Buddhist scholars. Oldenberg writes: "I have essentially modified my previous scepticism in regard to the connection of the two systems, and seen reason to place Buddhism considerably closer to the Sankhya than my former researches suggested." 6 And Professor Rhys Davids, enumerating the long list of advantages claimed by the Buddha in one of the Dialogues for the life of a recluse, concedes that "it is perfectly true that of these thirteen consecutive propositions, or groups of propositions, it is only the last, No. 13, which is exclusively Buddhist," 7 the exception being "the realisation of the Four Truths, the destruction of the Asavas [lusts, errors, and ignorance], and attainment of Arahatship." Professor Davids goes
on to make the claim: "But the things omitted, the union of the whole of those included into one system, the order in which the ideas are arranged ......all this is also distinctively Buddhist." This claim, however, does not affect the significance of the admission, and is itself provocative of a new pressure of criticism. For if the exclusively Buddhist section be the last of all, is not the fair presumption this, that the Buddhist formula here has merely been added to an existing doctrine, appropriated by Buddhists? Among the specified rules of conduct admitted to be not exclusively Buddhist are many that go far to constitute the content of the "Eightfold Path," which is thus obviously but a separate classification of precepts or ideals common to other schools.
The same question arises again over the admission 1 that "the Eightfold path is not mentioned in our Sutta" (the Sâmmana-Phala); and that, as regards three of the four lines of ethical precept to be traced in the teaching under notice, Buddhism in the first "goes very little beyond the current ethics of the day"; in the second and third proceeds mainly on the practice of pre-Buddhistic recluses and Orders; and only in the fourthspecifying the Buddhistic program for Arahatshiptakes up a special stand. 2 But on analysis it is found that this excepted doctrine is at most only verbally special to Buddhism, since the other schools also certainly professed to put down lust of life and physical pleasure, error, and ignorance; and it is not pretended that the word "Arahat" was a Buddhist monopoly. The further we go, the stronger becomes the stress of doubt. Where we are not certainly dealing with pre-Buddhistic doctrine under the form of dialogues held by the Buddha, we are reading, as in so many passages of the Dhamma-pada, sayings of a literary construction, often in verse, which in their present form come from Buddhistic writers long after the alleged period of Gotama, though they too may derive from remote antiquity. Among these, even as happens in the later sections of the Christian gospels, are some of the noblest ethical teachings of Buddhist literature.
What doctrines, then, were special to Buddhism? Not Karma: that was common property, shared-in by Buddhism. 3 Wherein did it ethically innovate? Not in asserting the superiority of a right mind to sacrifice: that was a primary doctrine of the Jainas, and admittedly pre-Buddhistic both within and without the pale of Brahmanism. 4 Not in seeking a way of Salvation independently of the Vedas: that had been done by many teachers, in various
sects. 1 Not in the doctrine that defilement comes not from unclean meats, but from evil deeds and words and thoughts: that is given by the Buddhist writers as pre-Buddhistic, "being one of the few passages in which sayings of previous Buddhas are recorded." 2 Not in the search for peace through self-control and renunciation: that was the quest of a myriad recluses, the goal of all previous Buddhas. Not in the view that there is a wisdom higher than that attained by mere austerities: that too is pre-Buddhistic. 3 Not in the doctrine that non-Brahmans could join an order and attain religious blessedness: the other Orders were equally open to men of low social status or even slaves; 4 and indeed the rigid ideal of caste separateness was not yet established in the days or in the sphere of early Buddhism; 5 for though Brahman claims had long been exorbitantly high, it appears that there were many Brahmans who rationally waived them, and as regards ascetics they were not raised, or at least not pressed. 6 In Buddhist practice, too, as in that of the early Christians, runaway slaves were not received into the Order. 7 As little was the admission of women to the Order a Buddhist innovation: that too was practised by the Jainas; and even the tradition makes the Buddha accept it reluctantly, in the twenty-fifth year of his preaching. 8 There seems, in short, to be nothing on the face of the doctrine to account for the special expansion of the Buddhist movement. 9
247:1 Rhys Davids, Buddhism, 18th ed. pp. 35, 55-56, 79, 99, 149, 154; American Lectures on Buddhism, 1896, pp. 121, 138, 165; Dialogues of the Buddha, tr. 1899, p. 79, etc.
247:2 Davids, Buddhism, p. 61; Dialogues, Sutta v.
247:3 Yet Oldenberg goes so far as to see (wir dürfen sagen) a true utterance of Buddha in the dialogue on sacrifices, when the other dialogue, giving the contrary view, has equal authority (Der Buddha, 3te Aufl. p. 196).
247:4 Davids, Buddhism, p. 84. So, among the later princes of the Andhras, who were great patrons of the Buddhists, we have one called Vedisiri, "he whose glory is the Veda," and another Yanasiri, "he whose glory is the sacrifice" (Bühler, Introd. to the Apastamba in "Sacred Laws of the Aryas" (S.B.E. II, Pt. i, 2nd ed. p, xxxix). On the other hand, however, the Andhras are spoken of in the Aitareya-brâhmana as degraded and barbarous. As to the laxity of the Buddhism of early kings, cp. Bloch, Zeitschr. d. deutsch. morgenländ. Gesellsch. lxiii (1909), Heft ii, note "Zur Asoka-Inschrift von Bairat," pp. 325-7.
247:5 Davids, American Lectures, pp. 24-29.
247:6 Der Buddha, sein Leben, seine Lehre, seine Gemeinde, 3te Aufl., 1897, Excurs, p. 441.
247:7 Dialogues of the Buddha, as cited, p. 59.
248:1 Id. p. 62.
248:2 Id. p. 63.
248:3 Id. pp. 72, 105; Buddhism, pp. 99-100.
248:4 Dialogues, pp. 164-5.
249:1 Oldenberg, Der Buddha, 3te Aufl. p. 76.
249:2 Dialogues, p. 104.
249:3 Id. p. 211.
249:4 Id. pp. 77, 103.
249:5 Id. pp. 101, 103, 107, 285-7. Prof. Davids cites Fick, Sociale Gliederung im nordöstlichen Indien, pp. 50, 51.
249:6 Oldenberg, Der Buddha, pp. 71, 175.
249:7 Davids, Dialogues, p, 103. citing Vinaya Texts, S.B.E. i. 199.
249:8 Koeppen, Die Religion des Buddha and ihre Entstehung, 1857, i, 104; Rhys Davids, Buddhism, p. 66.
249:9 Cp. Senart, Essai, pp. 447-451.