The Creed of Half Japan, by Arthur Lloyd, , at sacred-texts.com
The Stage on which S’akyamuni made his Appearance
The Sūtras which are commonly received as giving an authentic account of the teachings of the S’akyamuni, 1 will also furnish us with certain geographical and other data which are necessary for us if we would form a correct picture of India in the sixth century B.C., the India in which S’akyamuni taught and laboured. 2
We need not take a very wide geographical survey. What actually concerns us is a small portion of the valley of the Ganges, comprising practically the two districts of Oudh and Behar, 3 stretching to the east as far as Patna, to the west as far as Allahabad. The Himalayas form the northern boundary of S’akyamuni's country, the Ganges is practically its southern limit; the only exception being that Bodhigaya and the district intimately connected with the Enlightenment of the Tathāgata lie to the south of
the sacred river. Later developments of the Buddhist communities may make it necessary for us to enlarge our geographical inquiries, but for the present these boundaries will suffice for our consideration. They will enable us to follow the life of the Great Master in all its principal phases.
The Buddhist Sūtras tell us a good deal about the population of the country in which the Wheel of the Law was set in motion.
The India of S’akyamuni's time was under the domination of an Aryan race, which had conquered the land and brought into it institutions not unlike those which we find in some other Aryan countries, Athens, for instance. 1 They had divided the population into four great castes, of whom the fourth, possibly also the third, may have been mixed with some of the conquered races, whilst the two higher ones certainly belonged to the nobility of the conquest. In S’akyamuni's time the Sudras, or low-caste people, and the Vaiśyas, or merchants and farmers, lived quietly, without any part or lot in the privileges of national life, contented to devote themselves to the pursuit of their several vocations; the Kshatriyas and Brahmans, having accomplished the subjugation of the other two castes, were struggling against each other for supremacy in State and Society. Chief among the Kshatriyan tribes which resisted the supremacy claimed by the Brahmans were the clans known collectively as the S’akyans, who were politically supreme in the districts actually affected by S’akyamuni's life. S’akyan was, however, only a collective name: the clans were distinguished
from one another by tribal names as well, such as Licchāvis, Vrijjis, Mallas, Andhas, etc., some of which remain to the present day. The S’akyan nobles, 1 it is said, welcomed the person of S’akyamuni, their kinsman prophet, whose teachings encouraged them in their resistance to Brahman usurpations, but they were not always equally willing to adopt his practical teachings. The Brahmans, ultimately victorious in the struggle for political and religious supremacy in India, have had their revenge on these S’akyan tribes by refusing to consider them as families of pure descent. It is hard to determine the point. All Buddhists claim that S’akyamuni's lineage came from Ikshvaku, 2 the descendant of Manu, the descendant of Brahma. Licchāvis ruled later, by virtue of Kshatriyan descent, in Nepaul, Bhutan, Ladakh, and (through marriage) in Tibet, and the Licchāvi dynasty in Nepaul was succeeded by a line of Malla kings. At the same time it must be admitted that we have from the very earliest times traces of intercourse between Nepaul, Tibet, and China, which should be considered.
China, as shown by the late Prof. Lacouperie and others, e.g. Mr. Morse (in his "Trade and Administration of the Chinese Empire"), was occupied, before the advent of the Chinese from Western Asia, by many aboriginal
tribes, whom it took the Chinese centuries to absorb successfully into themselves. Many of these original tribes, such as the Lolo, the Mantsze, and the Miao, took leading parts in Chinese history, and many of them would seem to have had dealings with nations beyond the borders of their empire. The earliest traditions of Nepaul ascribe the first draining and development of their land, in pre-Buddhistic times, to the Bodhisattva Manjuśri (Jap. Monju), whose chief temple is at Wu-tai-chan, near Pekin, who is the patron deity, par excellence, of the western and northern tribes of China, and who is considered to be perpetually reincarnated in the person of the Manchu sovereign of China. 1 It seems probable, therefore, that Manjuśri 2 was originally the deified hero of one of the tribes of Northern China, possibly the Mantsze, that he distinguished himself during his lifetime by his successful development and colonization of Nepaul, and that he was
subsequently adopted into the Buddhist pantheon by the all-embracing Mahāyāna. As M. Sylvain Levi has said, it is impossible as yet adequately to define the extent of the influence exerted on Buddhism in remote times by China and neighbouring countries.
Buddhism has always been the religion of merchants. The Sūtras tell us of many wealthy traders who supported the order by their generous donations. There must have been a great volume of trade. The S’akyan nobles, who constantly address S’akyamuni as gotama, "herdsman" (apparently a common mode of address), were of the same race as the herdsmen of the Himalayas. There is at least one Sutra which speaks of the wool merchant from across the mountains, and it is indeed to wandering S’akyan herdsmen that is attributed the opening up of the valley of Lhassa in Thibet. One of S’akyamuni's earliest disciples was a merchant's son from Benares named Yaśas. He has been identified (wrongly, as I think) with S’anavaśas, the third patriarch of the Northern succession. Now, S’anavaśas is described as having been a ship-captain. True, he may only have been the skipper of a Ganges barge; but there are two later patriarchs of whom it is expressly stated that they had penetrated as far as Turkestan in their travels.
To the lowest class, the Sudras, belonged one at least of S’akyamuni's disciples, Upali, the barber. But there are traces of lower strata of society more degraded even than the Sudras. There is a record of a mission, 1 conducted by the master in person, to a tribe of cannibals, whom he
converted to better ways; and many have seen in the Nāgas, Gandhāras, Kinnaras, and other half-mythical companies of beings, the traces of aboriginal tribes of a low order. This is especially the case with the Nāgas, who are so constantly appearing in the Sūtras. They were most probably savages whose name was given to them from their worship of serpents (still practised in India). In the Nepaulese legend they appear as the original inhabitants of the swamps opened up by the civilizing Manjuśri. Driven out by Manjuśri, they take refuge in Nāgaloka, 1 the world of the Nāgas, or serpents, which to the Nepaulese is Thibet. Strange to say, the Thibetan records also speak of Nāgas and Nāgaloka; but in their case Nāgaloka is China. This seems to me to be another instance of a very early intercourse between India and China, or at least with those districts of Central Asia which had early connections with that empire.
Hindoo philosophy, such as we now understand it, 2
did not exist. That would seem to have been the product of a later age. The Brahman religion existed, but in its infancy. The day of the Vedic gods was not yet over; men still bowed before Indra, Varuna, and the rest of the ancient deities, and the gods whom Buddhism has adopted into its pantheon, such as, e.g., the twin deities that guard the entrance to the temples of the older sects in Japan, belong exclusively to the early period. The Brahmans had doubtless begun the formation of the theological system which was to fetter the intellect as it had fettered the social liberties of the people; but the system was not yet completed, and there were many among the Kshatriyas who openly resisted the pretensions of the sacerdotal class. 1 It was, also, a period of great religious zeal and inquiry. Time and again, in reading the biographical notices connected with the proceedings of S’akyamuni, we find that his converts were men who had for years been searchers after truth; in some cases, as, e.g., that of Uruvilva Kaśyapa, they had themselves been religious teachers, and drew their own followers after them to swell the ranks of S’akyamuni's disciples. But it would seem as though before S’akyamuni's time there was but one path known for the searcher after truth to follow—the way of austerities and penance, which brought power and influence to the sacerdotal Brahmans, without always leading the searcher to the much-coveted enlightenment and peace. 2
Not all these searchers were convinced by Buddha's methods. S’akyamuni had many rivals, of whom one at least founded a system of belief which has endured to our own time. Mahāvīra, the founder of the Jain sect, was the contemporary of S’akyamuni, and died in the Kosala country, not many miles from the place where S’akyamuni went to his rest, apparently in the same year as his more celebrated rival. Jainism and Buddhism are kindred faiths, and the Jainists and Buddhists seem to have always looked upon one another as brethren, or, at least, as spiritual cousins. 1
It was in such a country and in such an age that S’akyamuni was born. The son of Suddhodhana, King of Kapilavastu, and of his wife, the Lady Māyā, his birth is said to have been accompanied with marvels which really belong to a later chapter of our book, and his boyhood was marked by a singular precocity of intellect and purity of character. The wise men summoned to the palace at the time of his birth, 2 and especially one of their number, the aged sage Asita, told the happy father that the newborn babe would be either an epoch-making emperor or a world-saving Buddha; and the father, feeling perhaps that charity should begin at home, determined that, if possible, his son should be prepared for the former of the two alternatives. The young Prince Siddhartha was brought up as became a S’akyan prince of high degree; trained in arms, literature, and science, he was surrounded
with nothing but objects pleasant for his eye to rest upon, and the most beautiful person in his harem was his wife, the carefully selected Princess Yasodhārā. 1
Many incidents, however, show that his mind was not at ease in the midst of all his luxury, and this feeling of dissatisfaction was increased by several sights which brought home to him the inherent misery of the world. A ceremonial ploughing-festival, which, as Crown Prince. it was his duty to attend, revealed to him the strife that there is in Nature, the upturned earth showing the worms cut in two by the ploughshare to become the prey of the birds that followed in the wake of the ploughman. Shortly after, he met, at short intervals, an aged person, a sick man, a corpse, and a holy monk. He learned about the sorrow and pain that there are in the world, he also learned that there was a way by which escape from the "Welt-schmerz" was possible, and he resolved to follow it. He had received his call, and he obeyed the vocation.
It was not mere selfishness that induced him to leave his home to follow after the Truth. When he bent over the sleeping forms of his beloved wife and his new-born son at the moment of his departure, he resolved that, when he had found the Way, he would come back and save his loved ones, and he kept his promise. But the Way was not easy to find, and the search was long and difficult. For six long years, by self-imposed fastings, austerities, and penance, his strained soul, dwelling in an emaciated body, constantly exposed to the temptations of Māra, the Evil One, searched patiently for the Truth, but
in vain. At last he gave up his fruitless efforts, partook of food after a long abstinence, had one last combat with the Evil One who strove to appeal to his pride and fear, and then sat down "under the fig-tree" at Bodhi-Gaya and awaited enlightenment. Had he been a Christian or a Jew, we might have said that "he listened to what the Lord God should say unto him."
What his soul heard was as follows: "(1) There is Pain in the world, and Pain is universal. (2) All pain is the result of Concupiscence (Trishna). (3) Destroy Concupiscence and you free yourself from Pain. (4) There is a path by which you can attain to the Destruction of Concupiscence, and its end is Liberation." The Liberation is what is known as Nirvana, and the "result of Concupiscence," which leads to action, is Karma.
These propositions are known as the Four Great Truths. They contained nothing new, and yet the Light which S’akyamuni threw upon them was a fresh one. Karma and Nirvana were words well known to India before S’akyamuni's discovery of them; the things themselves were known in Greece and to the Jewish people.
The great question of the retribution that waits on human actions had been brought solemnly before the Asiatic world by the impressive fall of the Babylonian Empire, before both Asia and Europe, during the lifetime almost of S’akyamuni himself, by the overthrow of Xerxes at Marathon and Salamis. The Greek theologian-poet Æschylus treated of this theme in his "Eumenides," and again in his tragedy of the "Persians." The prophet of the Captivity, Ezekiel, had been proclaiming to his countrymen (Ezek. xviii.) a new law of retribution. Each soul, said the prophet, should bear its own burdens; there should be no more reason to say in Israel, "the fathers had eaten sour grapes, and the children's teeth had been
set on edge." We shall also do well to remember that the deutero-Isaiah and Ezekiel had both insisted on the value and benefit of the sabbath day, and that a fresh impetus had been given to the moral law by the labours of Ezra, the reviser of Holy Scripture (Isa. lvi. 6, 7; Ezek. xx. 12, etc., xviii. 2, etc.; Deut. viii. 12; Ps. cxix.).
What S’akyamuni taught was this: the universal existence of Pain (and Pain must be taken in its widest sense); the root of Pain, which is the Lust that is in the human heart; the end to be attained, which is the Destruction of Desire; and the way to obtain it. Desire, Karma, the wheel of Life and Death: the quenching of Desire, the Destruction of Karma, the Peace of Nirvana. 1 Karma is no Nemesis, such as in Æschylus pursues the unjust and the slayer. Nemesis is vengeful, seems to be given to wrath, and to be guided by anger; Nemesis, to men's eyes, is fitful, irregular, and therefore unjust. Karma, as S’akyamuni saw it, is a universal law, working quietly and steadily along a twelve-fold chain of causation, and binding its victim to the ever-revolving wheel of Life and Death. It works unobtrusively, but surely; yet it can be broken. There is what S’akyamuni calls a noble Eight-fold Path, of right views, right aims, right actions, etc., which leads in time to the destruction of evil Karma by the quenching of Desire, and it seems to have been S’akyamuni's life-work to instil into his hearers the way of the Noble Path, which alone can lead to emancipation. Of philosophy he spoke but little; 2 the so-called Philosophy of Buddhism was a later product.
He did not profess to teach a new doctrine. What he taught was the "Way of the Buddhas." 1 He recognized that there had been Buddhas before him, 2 as there would be Buddhas after him. He was thus enabled freely to adopt many things that seemed good in systems other than his own, and flexibility has always been a mark of his religion. To us it will seem easy to conjecture the quarter from which he got his idea of a weekly sabbath, 3 and the fact that the Order of Monks kept their sabbath days for many centuries after the Nirvana will make it easier for us to recognize and admit the doctrine held by a large section of northern Buddhists, that Buddha also taught, personally and during his earthly life, the salvation worked out for many by another Buddha, who is Boundless in Life, Light, and Compassion, and whom Japan knows as Amitābha. 4
S’akyamuni was no atheist. He did indeed teach that the enlightened Buddha was higher than the gods of the Brahman pantheon, higher than Indra, Varuna, Agni, Emma-San or Kompira Sama, who now fill subordinate places in Buddhist temples. These gods were creatures of fancy, subject, like Venus, Juno, Neptune, to the Law of Change, and liable to that extinction which has befallen the gods of Assyria and Babylon, of Egypt, Greece, and ancient Rome. From the denial of such gods to the denial of all gods is a very long step, and I think it may be shown that S’akyamuni never took it. Rather I would say, and this I hope to make clear as I proceed, that wherever S’akyamuni's own influence reached, it served to give men higher and truer ideas of the Divine Nature, and that his teachings were thus intended to prepare the way for the acceptance of the highest of all truths.
5:1 Cf., in Japanese, "Buddha no Juseiron" (by Maeda); in English, "Buddhism in Translation" (Warren), "Gospel of Buddha" (Paul Carus); and in German, "Die Reden des Gotama Buddhas" (Neumann). The first of these is the most useful for the purposes of this book, because it has been compiled from a frankly Mahāyānistic point of view.
5:2 The importance of the sixth century B.C., which inaugurated so many movements of a religious and philosophical nature, it is hard to overestimate.
5:3 Behar is said to derive its name from Vihara, a Buddhist monastery. It was one of the last, as it was also one of the first, strongholds of Buddhism in India.
6:1 In Athens we find, e.g., the population of the autochthons divided into four classes corresponding to the four castes of India. Cf. Grote's "Hist. of Greece," chap. x. For the Aryan races, see Hunter, "Brief History of the Indian people," chap. iv. pp. 52–73.
7:1 The documents tell us how eagerly the S’akyans of Kapilavastu and Magadha welcomed the teachings of Buddha. The very name S’akyamuni implies that he was officially accepted as the "teacher of the S’akyans," and that his creed became, as it were, the national religion of the district, though Brahmanism still continued to be tolerated. There are, however, e.g. in Kern's "History of Buddhism," stories which show that S’akyamuni had to maintain his claim as a religious teacher by demonstrating to the satisfaction of the S’akyan nobles that he was as skilful in the use of arms as they were themselves.
7:2 Hewett, "Notes on Early History of India," pt. ii., in J.R.A.S, April, 1889, p. 276, has a note to show that the Ikshvakus came from Assyria and the Euphrates valley.
8:1 Prof. Pelliot, in "Bulletin de L’École Française de l’Extrēme Orient," viii. 3 and 4, has an account of a recent find of manuscripts and books which will do much to settle the question of Manjuśri. According to the Tibetan history recently published at Calcutta, with Index and Analysis, by Sarat Chandra Das, the conversion of India must be ascribed to S’akyamuni and his consort Tarā, that of Bactria and Central Asia to the labours of the Bodhisattvas, that of China to Manjuśri or Manjughosha, and that of Tibet to Avalokiteśvara. The mention of Tarā clearly shows the lateness of the tradition, but there is in Mr. Tada Kanae's lectures on the Shōshinge ("Shōshinge Kōwa," p. 289) mention)f a certain Buddhist patriarch who went from India to China because he heard that Manjuśri had been there, as though Manjuśri had once been a real person living in China. If Manjuśri may be considered as a real person, and if the Bodhisttvas of Central Asia are also historical, it may be possible to assign the place of origin of many of the Mahāyāna Sūtras according to the speakers in them, those of Central Asian origin being mainly spoken by one or other of the Bodhisattvas, and those intended, as it were, for the Chinese market bearing the Manjuśri influence, at least in later revisions. But it is impossible to dogmatize with the scanty information at hand.
8:2 Sylvain Levi, "Histoire du Nepal," vol. ii. p. 69.
9:1 This incident is of importance as showing one of the best features of the creed as taught by S’akyamuni. The Brahman religion frankly left out of consideration all those who were not of the "Twice-born," which was the name given to the privileged castes. The Kshatriyas, or Warriors (amongst whom we must include the S’akyans), whilst eager to assert the privileges of their order as against the sacerdotal caste, were p. 10 not perhaps equally eager to have emphasis laid on the universal character of the new faith. The Buddha was not fighting for the privileges of any class, but was busied with a salvation which was to be a blessing to all men alike. His mission to the cannibals must have been as distasteful to the Kshatriyas as it was to the Brahmans. See Watanabe's "Story of Kalmasapada," published by Pali Text Society, 1910.
10:1 See Sylvain Levi, l.c., and the Analytical Index to the Tibetan "History of the Rise, Progress, and Downfall of Buddhism in India," edited by Sarat Chandra Das (Calcutta, 1908). See also article on "Serpent Worshiper India," by Surgeon-Major Oldham in J.R.A.S for July, 1891. For us the question of the Nāgas will have special interest, because the Mahāyāna tradition asserts that it was a Nāga king that revealed to Nāgārjuna, in the Dragon Palace under the Sea, the holy text of the Avataṃsaka, or Kegon Scriptures.
10:2 I think it may be shown that there was very little philosophy before S’akyamuni's time, nothing like the six definite schools which appear in later centuries. The philosophy of the Hindoos arose partly from the need for definite thought brought out by the controversies between Brahmans, Buddhists, and sectaries, and partly also from p. 11 contact with extraneous thought, especially Greek. It is interesting to trace the contemporaneous development of philosophy in India and in Greece.
11:1 The order of the castes in Buddhist authors is (1) Kshatriyas, (2) Brahmans, (3) Vaiśyas, (4) Sudras. See J.R.A.S, April, 1894, pp. 341 ff.
11:2 And yet S’akyamuni's preaching was nothing new. He was appealing to truths which had been overlaid and forgotten. Nichiren speaks of a Buddhism before Buddha.
12:1 It is quite in accordance with the proper fitness of things that in Kim Rudyard Kipling should make the old Lama seek a home for himself at Benares in a Jain monastery.
12:2 A Chinese legend, undoubtedly false, says that Laotze was present on that occasion. It is perhaps also worthy of notice that later Chinese legend credits Laotze with a virgin birth from the side of his mother, which is very much like that ascribed to S’akyamuni in the Buddhist traditions. The same claim was made for Jinghis Khan and Christ.
13:1 Out of whom later Buddhist legend has developed the goddess Tarā, the spiritual consort of the glorified S’akyamuni, intended, possibly, to offset the claims of the B.V.M. as S’akyamuni in the Mahāyāna was intended to offset those of Christ.
15:1 If we remember that most Pali writers speak of the Enlightenment as the Nibbana and of the Death as Parinibbana, we shall have some light on the word Nirvana. S’akyamuni had had a vision of the Truth, and "the Truth had made him free." He had many doubts and troubles after that, but he was at peace (J.AŚ.B., Jan. 1908, p. 9, note).
15:2 Neumann, "Buddha" (Danish edit.).
16:2 There is a list given of these pre-Buddhistic Buddhas, in, e.g., Hardy's "Manual of Buddhism."
16:3 Sabbath. In the Proceedings of the Asiatic Society of Bengal, vol. iv. part 1, Jan. 1908, there is an article by Mr. H. C. Norman, showing that the question of the keeping of the Uposathas or sabbath days was one of the causes that led to the convening of As’oka's Council. The sabbath was, however, a Babylonian and Assyrian institution as well as a Jewish one. See Mahler, "Der Sabbat," in Z.D.M.G., vol. lxii. part i. p. 36, etc.
16:4 On this point the Japanese Buddhists with few exceptions are very clear. They place the Sūtras in which S’akyamuni spoke of Amitābha in that period of silence towards the end of his ministerial life when we lose our track of him, and can no longer follow him from year to year. The doctrine thus proclaimed was taken with the seceders after the Second Council beyond the Himalayas (some say to south India). It reappears after many years, in the country to which it had been taken, in the lifetime of Nāgārjuna, and when the Kushan conquests p. 17 had united North-West India and the Central Asian lands for a short while under one sceptre. The history of the Amitābha doctrine is well worked out in the "Shôshinge Kōwa," to which I have already alluded. Amitābha is the original Buddha, the First Cause, the Father, not exactly the Creator, but the originator of the Law of Cause and Effect through which the universe came into existence. He has revealed himself many times, the long list of previous Buddhas in the Sukhāvati Vyūha being recorded to give definiteness to this idea, and S’akyamuni was the latest of these manifestations. The Ophite Gnostics held exactly this idea, making Christ a still later manifestation superseding all that had gone before, just as Amitābha supersedes all other previous Buddhas. In connection with the questions thus raised, a Japanese scholar, much interested in religion, has pointed out to me that in some early forms of the Apostle's Creed there is no clause "Creator of heaven and earth." I shall have to refer to the character used for writing "Buddha" later on. Here I would point out that Buddha to the Shinshu believer is always Amitābha, whose "Divine Name" is pronounced in worship as Namu Amida Butsu. This formula is interpreted to mean, "Trust in me, I will save you," which is not a translation of the formula, but is one of the Name of Christ. The Shinshuists call this formula "the Divine Name of the Six Letters," for which see Irenæus, ii. 24.