THE religious systems of all ages--paganism in its rudest form perhaps excepted--have undergone changes and modifications which, if not materially affecting their principles, have at least exercised a certain influence upon their development. Buddhism may be considered a remarkable illustration of this; for not only have the rites suffered notable changes, but even the dogmas themselves have, in the course of time, become much altered. Although plain and simple in the earlier stages of its existence, it was in time greatly modified by the successive introduction of new doctrines, laws, and rites; so-called reformers arose, who assembled around them a greater or less number of followers; and these by degrees formed schools, which by-and-by developed into sects. The shifting of its original seat also exercised a considerable influence: the difference between a tropical and a cold and desert region, and between the physical character of tribes separated by the distinctive
marks of the Arian and Turanian races, had to be smoothed over, partly at least, and obliterated by the influence of time.
The present work has for its object the description of Buddhism as we now find it in Tibet, after an existence in this country of upwards of twelve centuries.
The information obtained by my brothers Hermann, Adolphe, and Robert de Schlagintweit, when on the scientific mission undertaken between the years 1854-58, which gave them the opportunity of visiting various parts of Tibet and of the Buddhist countries in the Himálaya, has been the chief source on which I have drawn for my, remarks and descriptions. The reports of former travellers have also been consulted and compared with the contributions received from my brothers. Not less important for my subject, as enabling one to judge of the fundamental laws of Buddhism, and their subsequent modifications, were the researches of the oriental philologists and intelligent writers on Buddhist doctrines, amongst whom Hodgson and Burnouf have so successfully led the way to the analysis of the original native works.
For the greater part of the objects here treated of and for most of the native explanatory remarks, I am indebted to my brother Hermann. He had engaged in Síkkim the services of Chibu Lama, a very intelligent Lepcha, then a political agent of the Râja of Síkkim at Darjíling. Through this personage he was enabled to
obtain numerous objects which had come from Lhássa, the centre of the Buddhist faith in Tibet. Mr. Hodgson and Dr. Campbell, besides giving him much valuable information, were also so kind as to present him with various articles of interest for this subject. In Western Tibet, it was particularly at the monastery of Hímis and in Leh, the capital of Ladák, that Hermann's wishes were the most readily accomplished. In Gnári Khórsum Adolphe, who was at that time accompanied by Robert, succeeded in persuading the Lamas of Gyúngul and Mángnang to sell him even objects which he had seen treated with the greatest respect and awe.
The folio atlas of twenty plates, two feet high and one and a half broad, contains facsimiles of representations of deities and of objects used for keeping off evil spirits. The originals were reproduced by means of transfer-paper, a method which has the great advantage that the alterations are entirely avoided which the artists are but too willing to make. The drawings being mechanically copied, retain entirely the stamp of foreign art. The details in reference to the method employed for the reproduction are given in the introduction to the atlas. The plates have been printed in the lithographic establishment of Dr. C. Wolf and Son at Munich.
For the illustrations accompanying the text I selected those of a more scientific nature in preference to those of a descriptive character. They consist of copies taken
from original woodcuts, and of prints in Tibetan characters of the texts translated. These tables have been executed in the imperial printing office at Vienna. Their correct execution was kindly undertaken by Mr. de Auer, the director of this institution, so well known for its excellence in typographical and artistical reproductions.
In my studies of Tibetan I have been greatly assisted by Mr. A. Schiefner at St. Petersburg, to whose publications I shall often have occasion to allude. This gentleman also afforded me the welcome opportunity of laying the verbal explanatory details of the priests in loco a second time before a Lama, the Buriat Galsang Gombojew, who is engaged at St. Petersburg as teacher of Mongolian; he made for me, besides, various abstracts from books contained in the imperial oriental libraries having a bearing upon these objects.
I may be allowed to mention that I had the honour of presenting to the Royal Academy of Munich the Address to the Buddhas of Confession (contained in Chapter XI.); a sacred imploration, of which a translation in German was inserted in the Proceedings of this Institution (February, 1863).