Chinese Buddhism, by Joseph Edkins, , at sacred-texts.com
Foĕ kouĕ ki, by Remusat—Works of Julien—Interesting passage from Fa-hien—Translations by Beal—Schott, Über den Buddhaismus in Hoch Asien und in China—Writings of Palladius—Eitel's Hand-book for the Student of Chinese Buddhism—Watters’ account of Chinese Buddhism—Eitel's Three Lectures, and article on Nirvâna.
AMONG these works may be mentioned the translation of Foĕ kouĕ ki, or "Relation of the Buddhist Kingdoms," by Abel Remusat 1. This work is very fully annotated by Remusat, Klaproth, and Landresse.
The same interesting book of Chinese travels has been rendered into English by the Rev. S. Beal, 2 and also by Mr. H. A. Giles. 3 These two translations have not the advantage of abundant annotations.
The works of Professor Stanislas Julien on Chinese Buddhism are—(1) Histoire de la Vie de Hiouen-thsang et de ses Voyages dans l’Inde, depuis l’an 629 jusqu’en 645; (2) Mémoires sur les Contrées Occidentales, Traduits du Sanscrit en Chinois, en l’an 648, par Hiouen-thsang, et du Chinois en Français par S. Julien, 2 vols., royal 8vo; (3) Les Avadanas, Contes, et Apologues Indiens, &c.
These works are characterised by the thorough and exact
scholarship of the author. They form a most valuable addition to our knowledge of India and other Asiatic countries in the seventh century, and in the Sung period before that time, during which Buddhism had still the vigour of its youth.
Both Fa-hien and Hiuen-tsang will be admitted by every candid reader to deserve the reputation for patience in observation, perseverance in travel, and earnestness in religious faith which they have gained by the journals and translations they left behind them.
Fa-hien says, near the end of his narrative, that he sailed from Java in a ship on board of which were about two hundred men. They had provisions for fifty days, and were bound for Canton. After a month, a tempest and violent rain almost overwhelmed them. The passengers were all in alarm. Fa-hien prayed to Kwan-yin, and all the believers in China, to implore of the gods to give them aid and quell the storm. When it became calm, the Brahmans on board said that this Samanean, meaning Fa-hien, ought to be put ashore on an island, because it was he that had brought on them this hurricane. "Why should we all be exposed to danger for the sake of one man?"
A friend of Fa-hien said, "If you put this Samanean on shore, put me ashore also, or else kill me. If you put this Samanean ashore, on arriving at the land of Han I will denounce you to the king. The king of the land of Han is very much attached to the doctrine of Buddha and honours the monks."
The merchants were in doubt what to do, and did not venture on severe measures. The sky continued thickly overcast, and the embarrassment of the mariners increased.
They were seventy days on the voyage. Provisions and water began to fail. The cooks took sea water to use in cooking food, the good water they kept for drinking. Two pints were assigned to each. As the water came near its
end, the merchants consulted together, and said that the voyage to Canton ought not to have been more than fifty days. They were long past this time, and ought now to change their course to the north-west, and make for the coast.
In twelve days and nights they reached Lau-shan, 1 on the south shore of the Shan-tung promontory, and found there good water and beans. After so dangerous a voyage, with such fatigues and so many fears, they arrived at last at this unknown shore. On seeing a plant called Li-ho-ts‘ai, they were convinced that they were indeed in China. This plant was a proof of it, although they met no men nor any traces of men. Some thought they were all near Canton. Others thought Canton was long passed. No one knew what part of the coast they had reached.
Going ashore in a boat they met two hunters, and Fa-hien was employed to interpret. From them they found that they were in Ts’ing-cheu in the province now known as Shan-tung, and on the north side of the promontory in the Gulf of Pe-chi-li. From this point the merchants found their way to Yang-cheu, and Fa-hien to the capital, Ch‘ang-an. This was in the year A.D. 414.
The student has also at his command—A Catena of Buddhist Scriptures front the Chinese, by Samuel Beal; and The Romantic Legend of Sâkya Buddha, by the same.
The work of Schott, Über den Buddhaismus in Hoch Asien und in China, contains much valuable information on the contents of Chinese Buddhist books. Written in 1846, it was anterior to the clear drawing of the boundary between Northern and Southern Buddhism by Burnouf, and also preceded by several years the publication of Spence Hardy's works on Singhalese Buddhism, viz., Eastern Monachism (1840), and Manual of Buddhism (1843).
He says of Nirvâna that it is the emptiness which every intellectual object will include in itself when liberated.
In so far the Nirvâna is like the original being, before each creative act; but it differs from the original essence in this, that all forms of life and matter come out of the original essence, but cannot come from the Nirvâna; because nothing can come from it, and it is incapable of having in it any individuality, mental or material.
To the genuine disciple of the Buddhist teaching, to put himself under the mystic and heaven-sent guide to the Nirvâna, is the alpha and omega of his efforts. Just so to the genuine follower of Confucius, to hold office, to serve the emperor, and become a cabinet minister or censor, constitute his great earthly aim.
Our author points out, with great correctness, the relation of Tauism to Buddhism. Buddhism has borrowed nothing from Tauism, while Tauism has borrowed much from Buddhism.
After his description of Chinese Buddhism, Schott has added a translation of a work of the school of the Tsing-tu or "Peaceful land." This work is also illustrated fully with notes by the translator. It is a well-selected example of current Buddhist teaching in China.
The reader of the Tsing-tu-wen (that is the name of the book translated) is informed by the native author, that he is not to expect advantage only in the future life from his study of the books of the school of the Peaceful land. They are adapted to benefit him in the present life by transforming him into what the book represents as a good Buddhist.
The late learned archimandrite Palladius, resident for many years in Peking as a member of the Russian Ecclesiastical Mission, was a profound student of Chinese Buddhism. The result of his very extensive reading was embodied in two papers printed in the "Researches of the Members of the Russian Mission in Peking." One is a "Life of Buddha;" the other describes the subsequent philosophical development of Buddhism. These "Researches" have been translated into German.
The Hand-book for the Student of Chinese Buddhism, by Dr. E. J. Eitel, 1 is a dictionary of proper names, dogmas, and Buddhist terms generally, arranged alphabetically. The student of Buddhism obtains in this work an important help to his studies. The author has devoted great attention to this subject, and has, in addition to his own investigations, here placed within reach of his readers, many contributions from the immense learning in this department, of Julien, Burnouf, and Koeppen.
Buddhism is not so powerful in China as to cause alarm to the Christian missionary, in view of the coming struggle which he anticipates. But the history of its introduction, and the nature and extent of the influence it has produced on the Chinese mind and literature, are extremely interesting subjects. The Hindoo missionaries tried hard to bring the Chinese to accept the mythology and religious doctrines of their country at the time when it was Buddhist. Their translations abound in Sanscrit words, which it was hoped the Chinese would learn, but this they failed to do. Names of things as well as names of persons, words expressive of doctrines, abstract names, classes of mythological beings, adjectives, arithmetical and astronomical expressions, and many long compound terms are imported in full into the Chinese text. To explain them glossaries were prepared. But they expected more zeal and perseverance in their Chinese neophytes than they have shown, and the consequence is that the glossaries are not looked at, and the Sanscrit names are passed over by the reader of the Chinese texts as an abracadabra which he is glad to miss.
Buddha's heart is, for example, spoken of as Anuttara samyak sambôdhi, pronounced in the era of the Hindoo translations, A-no-ta-la sam-mo sam-bo-di. An is the negative, uttara is "superior;" sam means "perfect," "good," "same;" samyak is given in the Sanscrit dictionary, "all," "wholly," "fitly." Bôdhi is "intelligence,"
[paragraph continues] "the intellect," "the holy fig-tree," "knowledge of God," and as an adjective, "wise;" etymologically it is "that which distinguishes;" that is, "the intellect," and hence "that which is distinguished," "doctrine," "the object of the highest study." From this has come the title Buddha the "perceiver," "the sage."
Whoever will study Buddhism, must know what these and other such words mean; and Dr. Eitel's object has been to provide a handbook in which a mass of information has been collected, adapted to aid the inquirer. In this instance he must look under the words Anuttara and Bôdhi. If he is reading a Chinese Buddhist production, he must first consult the Chinese index at the end of the volume. This mode of using the Sanscrit-Chinese Dictionary is a little cumbrous, but perhaps it is preferable to the perpetuation in a work of this kind of the Mandarin pronunciation, as given in Morrison, Wade, and other authors. Sanscrit books having been translated fourteen centuries ago, the powers of the Chinese characters which represented Hindoo words have changed in the meantime. As Dr. Eitel justly remarks: "To the language then spoken in China no modern Chinese dialect comes nearer in sound than the very Sanskrit or Pali forms themselves."
The difficulty might be met, if we had a dictionary of Chinese words with the ancient and modern pronunciations arranged in succession, as in K‘ang-hi, but in a more complete form than in that work. For example, if in Morrison's Syllabic Dictionary, under the syllable Fuh, between the character and the meanings were inserted "old sound, But; Amoy, Put; Nanking, Fuh; Peking, Fo;" every one would thus be in a position to know what the old sounds of the characters are. It would then be feasible to compile a Chinese-Sanscrit, instead of a Sanscrit-Chinese, dictionary.
But as the student of Chinese must also learn to consult works arranged according to the radicals, like Kang-hi
itself, Dr. Eitel's arrangement of the dictionary forms no bar to its usefulness.
Among the longer and more valuable articles in this work are those on Kwan-yin or "Avalakitês‘vara," Buddha or "S‘âkyamuni," "Samâdhi," "Sanskrita," "Nâga," "Mañdjus‘rî," "Amitâbha," "Dhyâna," "Nâgârdjuna," "Naraka," "Triratna," "Nirvâna," and "Trikâya." The spelling here given is that of an author who, somewhat oddly, has followed the French orthography in writing the Sanscrit sounds ch, sh, and j.
The best key to the understanding of Buddhism is to be found in the study of the life of its founder. In Shakyamuni himself humanity is first seen, then divinity. A young prince, handsome, strong, heroic, surrounded by pleasures, and tempted by the most brilliant worldly prospects, is deeply affected by observing the miseries of human life. He becomes a changed man, forsakes his father's palace for a hermit's cell, practises and then teaches a rigid asceticism, and dies at eighty, after a long career occupied partly with the instruction of a numerous band of disciples, and partly with extatic contemplation. He is deified at the moment of death; that is, his disciples elevate him to the summit of humanity, honour him as the best of teachers, and announce that he is for ever rescued from the revolutions of life and death. He has entered the Nirvâna, and when his body has been burned, the sharira, or small reddish residuum, is honoured as a sacred relic possessing marvellous powers, and over it a pagoda must be erected.
Such a phenomenon—a great and disinterested mind, founding the monastic institute, and teaching multitudes of both sexes and every caste the escape from sorrow to the eternal rest of the Nirvâna—was sufficient in the condition of Hindoo society, as it was two centuries before the expedition of Alexander, to account for the early history of Buddhism. In his account of Kwan-yin (Avalôkitêsh‘vara) our author has gone too far, when he
supposes there was a Chinese divinity of this name before the introduction of the Mahayana into China. Nothing is easier than to attach to the imaginary former lives of the great Bodhisattwas, any incidents of old biography in any age or country, of a marvellous kind, and adapted to be, in the Buddhist sense, edifying. Such incidents were ascribed by the Chinese Buddhists to the presence of Kwan-yin, nearly as in the Earl of Beaconsfield's Lothair the opportune arrival of a Roman shopkeeper's wife, who shows a benevolent interest in the welfare of that hero, is believed by the pope and his cardinal to be an appearance of the Virgin Mary. Hence the author of that romance sarcastically describes Lothair as being for a time, in the opinion of every one in Rome, high and low, "the most favoured man in this century;" yet the net failed to entrap him through his want of faith.
Kwan-yin "looks on" (kwan) "the region" (shi) of sufferers whose "voices" (yin) of many tones, all acknowledging misery and asking salvation, touch the heart or the pitiful Bodhisattwa. She looks with a thousand eyes that she may see them all, and stretches out a thousand arms that she may save them all.
Kumarajiva himself adopted the name Kwan-shï-yin. The translators of the T‘ang period, two centuries later, brought to view the true etymology as given by our author, but they did not succeed in changing the course of the legend or the name of the divinity. Kumarajiva preferred the more popular and edifying designation. The two meanings, Kwan-tsï-tsai and Kwan-shi-yin, doubtless existed together in Kumarajiva's country, Cashmere, just as afterwards in China. The Mahayana doctrine had prevailed there already for nearly two hundred years, from the time of Nagarjuna, given in the Hand-book, A.D. 194
The remarkable extension of the Mahayana literature (Hwa-yen-king, Fa-hwa-king, &c.) in Cashmere, Kashgar, Balkh, and what is now Cabul, aided by the conversion
to Buddhism of the Indian Getæ, the Yue-ti of Chinese history, renders the dialects there spoken early in the Christian era important for the determination of the language employed by the first Hindoo missionaries in China.
Our author says the Pali was first used, and afterwards the Sanscrit. It would be more correct to say that the Magadha dialect was first used, then the dialect of Northern India, such as was spoken in Cashmere, and afterwards the Sanscrit. In the Han dynasty, under Ming-ti, Kashiapmadanga, who came from Magadha, the modern Bahar, used the dialect of that country, which differed from the Pali among other things in retaining from Sanscrit the letter sh. 1 If Kashiapmadanga, the most ancient of the translators, had chosen Chinese words whose initial was s to write the Sanscrit Shramana and Kashiapa, it might be said that he used the Pali. 2 In the "Sutra of Forty-two Sections" he used Sha-men, and thus originated that name, to be used ever after as the designation of the members of the Buddhist community in China. For Kashiapa he wrote Ka-shiap.
The second era of translators, A.D. 400, was that of Kumarajiva of Cashmere. There can be no doubt that he made use of sh and s as separate letters, for he never confounds them in his choice of Chinese characters. The Chinese words already introduced by his predecessors he did not alter, and in introducing new terms required in the translation of the Mahayana literature (Ta-ch‘eng), or "Greater Development," he uses sh for sh, and usually b for v. Thus the city "Shravasti" was in Pali Savatthi, and in Chinese Sha-ba-ti. Probably Kumarajiva himself, speaking in the Cashmere dialect of Sanscrit, called it Shabati.
Two centuries later, the fashion of close adherence to Sanscrit came into use under the leadership of Hiuen-tsang.
[paragraph continues] For example, instead of Bi-k‘u, which is like the Pali Bhikkhu (probably also found in the Magadha language), Bit-ch‘u, was written, evidently with the intention of restoring the Sanscrit sh. Our author gives a different reason.
The great value of such a guide as this Hand-book in the study of Chinese Buddhism will be understood by the student, when he finds that almost all the important words in doctrine and biography are here traced to their Sanscrit originals, and explained with the aid of recent European criticism. Thus Ho-shang, the most popular term for "Priest," is Upadhyâya, the president of an "assembly," or sangha. The "Three Precious Ones" are Buddha, the personal teacher; Dharma, the Law or body of doctrine; and Sangha, the Priesthood. The term sam-mei is explained as the "samâdhi" of the original Sanscrit. "Samâdhi signifies the highest pitch of abstract ecstatic meditation, a state of absolute indifference to all influences from within or without, a state of torpor of both the material and spiritual forces of vitality, a sort of terrestrial Nirvâna consistently culminating in total destruction of life. 'He consumed his body by Agni (the fire of) Samâdhi' is a common phrase."
The expression Tau-pi-an, "Arrival at that shore," is explained as the Chinese equivalent of Paramita, embracing the six means of passing to the Nirvâna. These are—1. "Charity" (or giving), Dâna; 2. "Morality," Shîla (good conduct); 3. "Patience," Kshânti; 4. "Energy," Virya; 5. "Contemplation," Dhyâna; 6. "Wisdom," Prajna.
In the account of Nirvâna, Dr. Eitel touches on a subject of great interest, namely, the expectation of immortality asserting itself in Buddhism, in spite of the overwhelming influence of a metaphysical system adverse alike to the belief in God and to that in immortality. Shakyamuni said in his last moments, "The spiritual body is immortal." But he said just before, "All you Bikshus, do
not be sad. If I lived in the world for a kalpa, on arriving at the time I must still be annihilated. Not to leave you when the hour has arrived is impossible. In gaining benefit one's-self, others are benefited. The system of doctrine is already perfect. Should I live longer, it would be of no benefit to you. All that were to be saved, whether in the paradises of the Devas, or in the world of mankind, have already been saved. As to those who have not been saved, the causes which will ultimately lead to their salvation have already been put in operation. From this time forward I exhort you, my disciples, to expand, explain, and propagate my doctrine, and thus" (here follows our author's quotation) "the 'spiritual body' (fa-shen) of Ju-lai will be constantly present, and will not be annihilated at all."
Much cannot be built on this passage from the "Sutra of the dying instructions of Buddha," but Dr. Eitel is quite right in arguing the continued existence of the Buddhas from their occasional reappearance after death for the salvation of living beings, and also from the dogma of the "Western Paradise."
Why, in his article on Dhyâna, the author has omitted any reference to the Ch‘an-men does not appear. He has, however, given an account of the twenty-eight patriarchs, the last of whom, Bodhidharma, introduced into China the Buddhist sect called the Ch‘an-men, which has played in some respects the same part in China that the Jainas did in India. It has almost supplanted the original Buddhism, and has always made much of the esoteric deposit of doctrine and its transmission along with the robe and rice bowl from patriarch to patriarch. The meaning of the names, however, differs. Jaina means "the conqueror," while dhyâna, the Indian prototype of the Chinese dan, later ch‘an, signifies "meditation."
In the notice of the nagas there are some interesting references to "serpent" worship, that very widespread
and ancient superstition, which seems to have originated in the first ages, and to have spread from the Babylonian region to the most widely separated countries. The stones of Avebury in Wiltshire, not far from Stonehenge, retain the serpentine shape in which the Druids, or the predecessors of the Druids, arranged them. The Hebrew nahash, Gaelic narar, and English "snake," are word-forms which preserve the old idea; and the account of the temptation in Genesis furnishes us with a probable origin for the traditions of serpent worship among various nations.
In Eastern Asia the nagas were looked on as well disposed. Hence the Birmese confound them with the devans, while the Chinese regard them as good and powerful and call them lung, the Greek drakōn, and the German schlange.
On the six paths of transmigration the reader will find information under the heads Gâti, Prêtas, Asura, Amôgha, &c.
But it is time to stop. Buddhism is a subject which easily ramifies into so many directions, that it is necessary to limit these remarks.
Mr. Watters' papers on Chinese Buddhism have been already referred to, in the sketch of the history of Chinese Buddhism in an early part of this volume. They contain a historical summary of Chinese Buddhism, an account of the Buddhas, and a sketch of the Confucianist opposition.
Dr. Eitel's valuable Three Lectures on Buddhism, and an article by him on the "Nirvâna of Chinese Buddhism," in the Chinese Recorder, June 1870, should be consulted by the student.
In "Buddhism in China," by Rev. S. Beal, the reader will find much to interest. Mr. Beal believed in the Persian influence which produced the legend of Amitabha, and in the Sabean origin of Sukhavati (Socotra), the island of the blessed. In this he is right.
The works of Sir Monier Williams and Dr. Rhys Davids on Buddhism generally are the productions of writers of
great erudition and long experience. They naturally throw valuable light on Chinese Buddhism from the Indian side. Sir Edwin Arnold's "Light of Asia" is a charming poem, which has made Buddhist thought familiar to many readers who knew nothing of it before. Some works from Pali have been translated in the "Sacred Books of the East." Such is the number of new publications on the subject of Buddhism, that it is evident the reader has it in his power to obtain a thorough knowledge of this religion. He can test for himself how far it softens manners and teaches kindness, encourages faith in the supernatural, and testifies to the vanity of the world; at the same time he will learn that for the revelation of moral evil and its remedy, of God and of immortality, Buddhism makes no effort that can for a moment compare with the work which Christianity has done for mankind.
408:1 Foĕ kouĕ ki, ou Relation des Royaumes Bouddhiques; par Chy Fa-hian.
408:2 Travels of Fa-hian and Sung-yun, Buddhist Pilgrims, from China to India.
408:3 Records of Buddhistic Kingdoms.
410:1 Lau-shan is near Kiau-cheu, latitude 36°, east longitude 5° 25´. The port of Kiau-cheu exports felt hats, umbrellas, fruit, and cabbages to Shanghai.
412:1 This account of Dr. Eitel's book is reprinted from the Chinese Recorder, where it appeared in 1871 as a review.
416:1 See Burnouf and Lassen's Essai sur le Pali.
416:2 The Pali forms are Samana, Kassapa.