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SÂKYAMUNI, although the founder of Buddhism, is, at the present day, no longer considered to have been the first Buddha. Many most perfect Buddhas preceded him (so it is now believed), and many more shall appear hereafter; but they all teach the same law.[1]

The original religious system, as taught by Sâkyamuni himself, is plain in its principles, but characterized by bold, philosophical speculation; its fundamental dogma is the following:--[2]

All existence is an evil; for birth originates sorrow,

[1. This theory seems to have been introduced into Buddhist mythology already by the Sautrântika school. See Wassiljew, "Der Buddhismus," p. 314. To this dogma also the name of Tathâgata refers (see p. 4); for the philosophical explanation of this term with "thus gone," quoted by Hodgson from original works, see Burnouf, "Introduction," p. 75.

2. See the valuable exposition of Köppen, "Die Religion des Buddha," pp. 213-26. Notices on the earliest dogma of Buddhism occur in numerous passages of Burnouf's "Introduction dans le Buddhisme Indien," and "Lotus de la Bonne Loi;" in Hardy's "Eastern Monachism," and "Manual of Buddhism."]

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pain, decay, and death. The present life is not the first one; innumerable births have preceded it in previous ages. The reproduction of a new existence is the consequence of the desire for existing objects, and of the works which have been aggregated in an unbroken succession from the commencement of existence. Proneness to the pleasures, of life produces the new being; the works of the former existences fix the condition in which this new being is to be born. If these works have been good the being will come to existence in a state of happiness and distinction; if, on the contrary, they have been bad, the being will be born into a state of misery and degradation. The absolute annihilation of the conditions and pains of existence--Nirvâna--is attained by the most perfect dominion over passion, evil desire, and natural sensation.

Sâkyamuni has explained this fundamental doctrine in the theory of the four excellent truths: THE PAIN, THE PRODUCTION, THE CESSATION, THE PATH; they are called in Sanskrit Âryâni Satyâni, and in Tibetan Phagpai denpa zhi. Their meaning may be defined as follows:

1. Pain cannot be separated from existence.

2. Existence is produced by passions and evil desires.

3. Existence is brought to an end by the cessation of evil desires.

4. Revelation of the path to this cessation.

In detailing the moral precepts of the fourtth {sic} truth he has indicated eight good paths:

1. The right opinion or orthodoxy.

2. The right judgment, which dissipates every doubt and incertitude.

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To Face p. 16. Plate I.


1. In Sanskrit, written with Tibetan characters.


2. A Tibetan translation of the same.


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3. The right words, or perfect meditation.

4. The right mode of acting, or of keeping in view in every action a pure and honest aim.

5. The right way of supporting life, or of gaining a subsistence by an honest profession unstained by sins.

6. The rightly directed intelligence, which leads to final salvation ("to the other side of the river").

7. The right memory, which enables man to impress strongly in his mind what should not be forgotten.

8. The right meditation, or tranquil mind, by which alone steadiness in meditation can be attained, undisturbed by any event whatever.

It has been doubted with much reason, whether Sâkyamuni taught the four truths in this form; but as he must have spoken about the means of arriving at final liberation, or salvation, I have added here these eight classes of the path, which are suggested to him already in very early Sûtras.[1]

The theory of the four truths has been formulated in a short sentence, which has been discovered on many ancient Buddhist images, and which is besides actually recited as a kind of confession of faith, and added to religious treatises. It runs thus: "Of all things proceeding from cause, the cause of their procession hath the Tathâgata explained. The great Sramana has likewise declared the cause of the extinction of all things."[2] Tathâgata and

[1. Concerning the four truths see: Csoma. "Notices," in As. Res., Vol. XX., pp. 294, 303; Burnouf's "Introduction," pp. 290, 629, and "Le Lotus de la Bonne Loi," App. V. Another series of eight classes, which is decidedly the produce of the later schools, will be noticed in the next chapter.

2. This sentence is also the conclusion in the address to the Buddhas of {footnote p. 18} confession, for which see Chapter XI.--In the translation. of this sentence I have followed Hodgson; see his "Illustrations," p. 158. Other translations of various readings have been published by Prinsep, Csoma, Mill, and recently compared by Colonel Sykes. See his "Miniature Chaityas and inscriptions of the Buddhist religious dogma," in R. As. Soc., Vol. XVI., p. 37. The Sanskrit text written with Tibetan characters, and the Tibetan version is given in Plate I.]

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Sramana are two epithets of Sâkyamuni, as explained before.

The ancient religious works apply to Sâkyamuni's followers the title of Srâvakas "hearers," a name also having reference to their spiritual perfection. The Buddhists of this period seem to have called themselves Sramanas, "those who restrain their thoughts, the purely acting," in allusion to their moral virtues as well as their general conduct.[1]

[1. Wassiljew, "Der Buddhismus," p. 69.]

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Next: Chapter IV. The Hinayana System