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Pagan Christs, by John M. Robertson, [1911], at

§ 11. Sociological Clues.

Seeking for sociological explanations, we first turn to the economic conditions. As was to be expected, there are clear traces of an economic pressure that drove men into the Order. In the Milinda Prashnaya ("Questions of Menander"), Nagasena, the founder of the Madhyamika school of northern Buddhism, in answer to a question from Milinda, the Greek King of Sagala in the Punjaub, 10 as to whether all members join the Order for the high end of renunciation, is represented as answering: "Certainly not, sire. Some for these reasons; but some have left the world in

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terror at the tyranny of kings. Some have joined us to be safe from being robbed; some harassed by debt; and some perhaps to gain a livelihood." 1 Nagasena himself, again, is made to say that he joined as a mere boy, seeking to be taught. 2 This account would in all likelihood hold good of the social conditions before the Greek invasion; and on the face of the case there is no difficulty in understanding that any Order which secured men a measure of peace and security would find adherents, even as did the monasteries and monkish orders of the Middle Ages in Europe. But the same pressure would send applicants to other Orders as well as the Buddhist; and we have still to ask why it was that the Buddhist was specially sought, and became specially powerful, as well as how it began.

To begin with, there are strong reasons for regarding the Jainas and Buddhists alike as having been originally either simple sects, or sections of one sect, of Brahmanism; and as this view is held by two leading authorities, Weber and Jacobi, and is, as we have seen, now partially yielded to by Oldenberg, we may reasonably try it as a working hypothesis. Weber goes so far as to assert categorically (1) that Brahmanic speculation anciently sundered on two main lines, one finding the First Cause in indiscrete matter, the other finding it in spirit; (2) that the latter theory gradually became the orthodox one; and (3) that "from among the adherents of the former view, which came by degrees to be regarded as heterodox, there arose, as thought developed, enemies still more dangerous to orthodoxy, who......before long threw themselves into practical questions also, and eventually became the founders of the form of belief known to us as Buddhism." 3 On this view (which, it will be seen, implicitly modifies all the ordinary assumptions as to the origin of Buddhism in one man's teaching), the quasi-atheistic element in Buddhism is primordial; and the popular development is a mere sequel of a movement originally, as it were, academic. In Weber's opinion, the Jainas in turn are only one of the oldest sects 4 of Buddhism; Buddha being for him a real personage who propounded to the people without distinction of caste a teaching in which there was "absolutely nothing new," but which had previously "been the possession of a few anchorites" and had "never before been freely and publicly proclaimed to all." Hence "the enormous

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success that attended his doctrine: the oppressed all turned to him as their redeemer." 1

Jacobi on the other hand, pointing to the ancient protest of the Brahmanic writer Vasishtha 2 against the neglect of the Veda by ascetics, concludes that "the germ of dissenting sects like those of the Buddhists and the Jainas was contained in the institute of the fourth Asrama (grade), and that the latter was the model of the heretical sects; therefore Buddhism and Jainism may be regarded as religions developed out of Brahmanism, not by a sudden reformation, but prepared by a religious movement going on for a long time." 3 For this view of the two sects as merely cognate there are various grounds—for instance this, that while both Buddhists and Jainas have adopted the five vows of the Brahmanic ascetics, the Buddhists opposed the Brahmanic doctrine of the Atman or personal soul, and the Jainas accepted it with modifications, holding that all parts of the elements as well as animals and plants have souls. This and various other details suggest rather an original independence than a splitting-off. And Jacobi confidently claims 4 that "we know for certain that Buddha at least addressed himself chiefly to the members of the aristocracy, and that the Jainas originally preferred the Kshatriyas [the warrior caste] to the Brahmans." 5

Thus far, it will be seen, both forms of the theory accept broadly the tradition as to Buddha's preaching, though that tradition, as apart from the incidental revelations in the documents, says nothing of an acceptance of a Brahmanic basis by Buddha for his Order; and Weber leaves his conception far from clear, inasmuch as he speaks at one time of a body of heretics as "the founders" of Buddhism, and at another of Buddha as "one of its representatives," and as the first to publish broadcast doctrines previously confined to "a few anchorites." And when we come to compare the legend of Buddha with the Jaina legend of Mahâvîra ["the great hero"], our difficulty deepens. The Jaina legends refer the preaching of Mahâvîra "exclusively to the same district which Buddhism also recognises as its holy land"; and in Weber's opinion they "display so close an affinity to the accounts of Buddha's ministry that we cannot but recognise in the two groups of narratives merely varying forms of common reminiscences." 6 But, if reminiscences, why are they to be held as being primarily Buddhistic? And why, above all, are

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they to be certificated as reminiscences? Mahâvîra is actually described as son of "Siddartha"—a name of Buddha—and husband of "Yasoda," the name of the mythic nurse of Krishna. 1 The Jainas, says Jacobi, "have reproduced the whole history of Krishna, with small variations, in relating the life of the twenty-second Tirthakara, Arishtanemi, who was a famous Yadava." 2 In the same way the Buddhists have put much of the history of Krishna into their stories of Buddha. Such adaptation is, in fact, a normal religious practice, common to many races and cults. 3

A somewhat better reason than any Weber gives for regarding the Jaina legends as the later is that according to them Mahâvîra did twelve years’ penances as against Buddha's six, was convinced of their necessity, and persevered in some of them after becoming a Tīrthakara or prophet. 4 Such a comparison is avowedly post-Buddhistic. But such a detail might be added to an established Jaina legend just as the Buddhists undoubtedly added to theirs. Granting, however, that the Jainas may represent a secession from the Buddhist movement—their greater asceticism (involving a measure of uncleanliness 5) being on the lines of the schism said by the Buddhist tradition to have been set up by Gotama's cousin Dewadatta, 6 identified by Jacobi with Mahâvîra—we have really no sound ground for believing that on either side we are dealing with facts in the life of any sect-founder. The Buddhist legend runs that Ajâtasatru, son of the Buddhist rajah Bimbisâra, was induced by Dewadatta to kill his father, Dewadatta at the same time causing three attempts to be made on the life of Buddha. Such a tale is on all fours with the efforts of the early Christians to make out that certain rival cults, such as that of "Simon Magus," were set up by way of schism from Christianity, when in reality those cults were the elder 7 Jacobi puts it that Ajâtasatru killed his father and warred on his grandfather, who was uncle of Mahâvîra and patron of the Jainas, thereafter siding with their rivals the Buddhists, whom he had formerly persecuted as friends of his father's. 8 Here we have apparently one more attempt to draw a truth of history from a bare tradition; and on the principles followed in this inquiry

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there is no scientific warrant for such extraction. But there is on the other hand a clear scientific value in the suggestion that monarchic or other political forces may have determined the success of a particular Order at a particular time. 1


249:10 Professor Davids admits (Introd. to vol. cited, p. xx) that it is told alike of Milinda and of Buddha that many cities sought their ashes, and agreed finally to divide their relics and raise to them monuments—another light on the Buddha legend. As to the identification of Menander, whose coins are extant, with Milinda, see Weber, History of Indian Literature, Eng. tr. p. 306, note.

250:1 The Questions of King Milinda (S.B.E. xxxv), ii, 1, § 5. Trans. i, 50. Cp. Kern, as cited by Kuenen, Hibbert Lect. pp. 277-8.

250:2 There would be others, seeking light rather than shelter. Cp. Oldenberg, Buddha, p. 74.

250:3 History of Indian Literature, Eng. tr. p. 27. Cp. pp. 284-5.

250:4 Indische Studien, xvi, 210; History of Indian Literature, pp. 296-7, note.

251:1 History, pp. 289-290.

251:2 [Ch. x, 4, Bühler's trans.]

251:3 Hermann Jacobi, Introd. to Jaina Sutras (S.B.E. xxii), Pt. i, p. xxxiii. Cp. Senart, Essai. p. 453.

251:4 Here following Oldenberg, Der Buddha, Ste Aufl. pp. 176-9.

251:5 Jacobi, as cited, p. xiii.

251:6 Weber, History, p. 296, note. Cp. Wilson, Essays, ii, 10-11.

252:1 Guerinot, Essai de Bibliographie Jaina, 1906, p. v-vi. On this fact no comment is made by M. Guerinot, who insists on the historicity of both Buddha and Mahâvîra.

252:2 Jacobi, as cited, p. xxxi, note. Cp. Senart, p. 453.

252:3 Senart notes (Essai, Introd. pp. xxi-xxii) that the numerous sects of Buddhists follow the same myth types in their legends, despite their other differences, many of which date very far back.

252:4 Jacobi, as cited, pp. xvii-xviii.

252:5 Jacobi, as cited, p. xxvi.

252:6 Rhys Davids, Buddhism, pp. 75-6.

252:7 Cp. the author's Christianity and Mythology, 2nd ed. pp. 369, 435, and Short History of Christianity, pp. 33-4.

252:8 As cited, p. xiv.

253:1 Jacobi's view to this effect was accepted by Max Müller: "Take away the previous growth of Brahmanism, and Buddha's work would have been impossible. Buddhism might in fact have remained a mere sect of Brahmanism, unless political circumstances had given it an importance and separate existence which other rival sects did not attain" (Natural Religion, p. 555, citing Jacobi as above).

Next: § 12. Buddhism and Asoka