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CONTROVERSIES ABOUT SÂKYAMUNI'S LAWS.-THE HÎNAYÂNA DOCTRINES. The twelve Nidânas; character of the precepts; incitation to abstract meditation: gradations of perfection.

AT the time of Sâkyamuni's death the inhabitants of India were not yet so advanced in civilisation as to have a literature, and the claims of the Buddhist to scriptural documents of his law written down during his life (as the Nepalese believe), or immediately after his death (which is the opinion of the Chinese), are decidedly groundless. New researches have made it very probable that the alphabets in which the earliest historical records we know, the inscriptions of king Asoka (about 250 B.C.), are written, were imitated from the PhÅ“nician alphabet, communicated to the Indians by merchants of that nation as early perhaps as the fifth century B.C., at which period already Greek letters became known in the ancient districts of Gandhâra and Sindhu, the countries at the foot of the

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Himálaya drained by the Indus.[1] We are now able to assert that the words and doctrines attributed to Sâkyamuni were transmitted orally down to the first century before the Christian era. The scriptural record was undertaken by the southern and the northern Buddhists independently of each other. In Ceylon the priests wrote them down during the reign of king Vartagâmani, 88-76 B.C.; their northern brethern brought them into a written form at an assembly of the priests, or synod, arranged by the Turuschka king Kanishka, 10-40 A.D. The Singhalese chose the vernacular language, from which the books were translated into the sacred Pâli dialect at the beginning of the fifth century A.D.; the northern branch used the Sanskrit.[2] Up to this periods, the religion had been preserved orally, and although, according to Buddhist history, Sâkyamuni's words were brought into a well-defined and precise form already in the year of his death, yet it is very doubtful whether the natural changes to which oral tradition is subject allowed his original law to remain unaltered. Moreover, we have a positive proof that arbitrary alterations and additions have been purposely-made, especially with reference to the historical details given in the earlier compilations.

[1. A. Weber, Zschr. d. d. Morgenl. Ges., Vol. X., p, 396. Westergaard, "Ueber den ältesten Zeitraum der Indischen Geschichte," pp. 35. seq. 80. Wassiljew, "Der Buddhismus," p. 30, is, however, of opinion that Buddhist missionaries had become acquainted with Greek letters in the third century B.C. in Bactria, and induced Asoka to model after them the alphabets used in his inscriptions.

2. Turnour, "Mahâvanso," p. 207. Lassen, "Indische Alt.," Vol. II., pp. 435, 490. Westergaard, 1. c., p. 41.]

{p. 21} Such changes soon became numerous and assumed an importance not properly belonging to them, owing to the claim set forth by each new sect, that its peculiar dogmas had been revealed by Sâkyamuni. The orthodoxy of each new and dogmatic school is maintained on the supposition, that the word of the Buddha is to be taken in a double sense, as he had often been compelled, in consideration of the mental capabilities of his hearers to give explanations about certain subjects quite at variance with his real opinion, and the new sects do not base their existence upon the rejection of previous works as spurious, but claim to have discovered the true meaning.[1]

During the first century after Sâkyamuni's death there was no controversy about his laws, but after this period a numerous fraternity of monks (12,000 it is said) asserted the validity of ten indulgences. Their doctrine was rejected by the assembled priests at the synod of Vaisâli, a place north of Pátna (Pâtaliputra), on the eastern bank of the Gándak river, and as they would not submit to the judgment, the first schism took place.[2] At this new

[1. Burnouf, "Introduction," p. 219; Wassiljew, "Der Buddhismus," pp. 7, 329.

2. See Turnour, Pâli Buddhistical Annals. Journ. As. Soc. Beng. Vol. VI., p. 729. It was at this synod that the following dogma was propounded: "That can only pass as the true doctrine of the Buddha which is not in contradiction to sound reason". The formation of various schools was the immediate consequence of the acceptance of such a doctrine, and these schools, in their frequent attacks on each other, essayed to prove the correctness of their dogmas in solemn disputation before a great assembly of priests and laymen. In the earlier stage of Buddhism, only the leaders of the antagonistic schools were allowed to engage in disputation, and the vanquished controversialist was compelled either to put an end to his existence, to become the slave of his more successful opponent, to adopt the other's creed, or, if in possession of wealth, {footnote p. 22} to relinquish the same in favour of the victor. But in later periods entire monasteries took part in such disputations, and the establishments of the. defeated party were destroyed--a circumstance which propably {sic} explains in many instances the radical disappearance of monasteries in India. Wassiljew, "Der Buddhismus," p. 72. Further particulars about the ancient schools may be found in the work of Vasumitra, a translation of which is added as an appendix to Wassiljew's work, pp. 244-84.--About the geographical position of Pâtaliputra and Vaisâli, see Foe koue ki, English translation, p. 2591 where an interesting note is added to the French original; compare also Burnouf, "Introduction," p. 86.]

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stage of Buddhism, in which the fundamental dogmas of Sâkyamuni began to be interpreted from various points of view, the ancient sects are called the Hînayâna system.[1] The name means "little vehicle," and has originated with the later Buddhists. The epithet was given because the adherents of this system restrict themselves to morality and to external observance only, without making use of such an abstruse, refined, and highly mystical theology, as did, at a later period, the Mahâyâna schools, or those of the "great vehicle." Yâna, vehicle, is a mystical expression, indicating, that man may escape the troubles attendant upon birth and death by practising the virtues inculcated by the Buddhas, and finally attain salvation.

The following details may be quoted as particularly characteristic of the Hînayâna system.'

I. It distinguishes itself from the Srâvakas in the mode of explaining the principle of Buddhism: that the world must be abandoned because it entails upon man existence, pain and death. The source of existence is no longer demonstrated from the four truths only, but

[1. See Foe koue ki, p. 9. Köppen, "Die Religion des Buddha." Vol. I., p. 417.

2. Concerning its dogmas see Wassiljew, pp. 97-128, 149.]

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also from the twelve Nidânas (in Tibetan Tenbrel chugnyi), which are based upon the four truths.

The Nidânas, the theory of the causal connection, or concatenation of the causes of existence, are formulated as follows: "On account of ignorance, merit and demerit are produced; on account of merit and demerit, consciousness; on account of consciousness, body and mind; on account of body and mind, the six organs of sense; on account of the six organs of sense, touch (or contact); on account of contact, desire; on account of desire, sensation (of pleasure or pain); on account of sensation, cleaving (or clinging) to existing objects; on account of clinging to existing objects, renewed existence (or reproduction after death); on account of reproduction of existence, birth; on account of birth, decay, death, sorrow, pain, disgust, and passionate discontent. Thus is produced the complete body of sorrow. From the complete separation from and cessation of ignorance, is the cessation of merit and demerit; from the cessation of merit and demerit is the cessation of consciousness; from the cessation of consciousness is the cessation of (the existence of) body and mind; from the cessation of (the existence of) body and mind is the cessation of (the production of) the six organs; from the cessation of (the production of) the six organs is the cessation of touch; from the cessation of touch is the cessation of desire; from the cessation of desire is the cessation of (pleasurable or painful) sensation; from the cessation of sensation is the cessation of the cleaving to existing objects; from the cessation of cleaving to existing objects is the cessation

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of a reproduction of existence; from the cessation of a reproduction of existence is the cessation of birth; from the cessation of birth is the cessation of decay. Thus the whole body of sorrow ceases to exist."[1]

II. In the books of discipline attached to this system we also meet with a vast accumulation of precepts and rules intended to release its followers from the ties binding them to the present and future states of existence, and to strengthen them in moral virtues. One curious feature predominating throughout is worthy of mention. The whole of the precepts (which are comprised in 250 articles) display a negative character; thus, charity is inculcated, not by the command "to give," but by the prohibition "to take," save when the gift be offered as alms.

Already this school had put forth the doctrine, that perfection in abstract meditation is indispensable for final salvation; this perfection guarantees an energy not to be derived from the more practice of simple virtues. Nevertheless the idea is not carried so far as to assign to mental speculation a higher value, than to virtues. Assiduity in undisturbed reflection was, however, found under any circumstances to be a most difficult task; certain preparatory exercises are, therefore, recommended, in order to finally lead the mind to abstraction from outward (worldly) objects; but here already we meet in Buddhism with decided extravagances in moral considerations. The counting of inhalations and exhalations is named as an

[1. Hardy's "Manual of Buddhism," p. 391. Burnouf, "Le Lotus de la Bonne Loi," Appendix No. VI., "Introduction," p. 623. Foe koue ki, p. 291.]

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excellent means for obtaining tranquillity of mind. Detestation of the world is said to result from meditating upon the attributes of the body: if, therefore, one begins with regarding his body as an abscess, he will be convinced that the body contains nothing but misery and decay, and he will then easily cast off all affection for it, and will. even end by considering food also as a mass of putridity, with which he will become disgusted.[1]

III. As regards the degree of perfection which man has attained in virtues and science, this system acknowledges several gradations, which are based upon the., following philosophical considerations. The comprehension of the doctrines as taught by Sâkyamuni is different with different men. There are several degrees of comprehension. Those who have succeeded in arriving. at the highest degree are superior to those of a lower one. There are four paths to comprehension, and in order to arrive at final emancipation from re-birth, at Nirvâna, it is indispensable to have entered one of them at least. Emancipation takes place either instantaneously, on account of the merit accumulated in previous existences, or by assiduous attention to the various exercises prescribed. To each of the four paths to comprehension are assigned particular faculties arising from its pursuit. Those who have not yet entered any of the paths, are designated in the sacred books by the name of "unwise

[1. Such moral fanaticism does not seem, however, to have had its exclusive origin in Buddhism, for the Buddhists themselves state, that these practices were known also to the Tîrthikas, the Brahmanical ascetics, or the "unbelievers." See Hardy, "Eastern Monachism," p. 250. Burnouf, "Introduction," p. 280.]

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men," or those who live in the meshes of the cleaving to existence, of evil desire, ignorance, and impurity. These unwise men have not availed themselves of the means revealed by the Buddha to obtain freedom from metempsychosis; "their minds are still obscure, slow, incapable of clear comprehension; such beings are not in the path securing final liberation, which is only accorded to one of the paths of wisdom."

The gradually increasing importance of the four paths is defined by the Buddhists as follows:--[1]

First path. This is attained by the Srôtâpatti, or "the man who have entered the stream" leading to Nirvâna, and have thus advanced one step towards salvation. Nirvâna is reached by rejecting the error which teaches "I am," or "this is mine," by not doubting the real existence of the Buddhas, and by perceiving that the practises and exercises ordained by them must be carefully attended to. From the time of entering this path up to the attainment of Nirvâna itself, there remain only seven more births, but none can take place in any of the four hells; such a saint constantly wanders about, and according to Chinese notions, his migrations last 80,000 kalpas, or periods of a mundane revolution.

Second path. The graduate is here called Sakridâgâmin, "he who will receive birth once more." Such a graduate's mind is enlightened upon the subject of the three doctrines understood by the Srôtâpatti, and is,

[1. See Foe koue ki, Engl. transl., p. 94. Burnouf, "Introduction," pp. 2 -98. Hardy, "Eastern Monachism," Chapter XXII. Each path is subdivided into two classes, and thus we get the other system of eight paths, to which I have already alluded. See p. 17.]

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moreover, freed from the desire of cleaving to sensuous objects, and of wishing evil to others. He may either enter this path in the world of men and afterwards be born in a world appropriated to gods, or he may enter it in a world of gods, and afterwards be born in the world of men. He has still to wait 60,000 kalpas, before he arrives at Nirvâna.

Third path. Here the graduate, Anâgâmin, "he who will not be born again," is free from the five errors already cast off by the Sakridâgâmin, and also from evil desire, ignorance, doubt of the precepts of the sceptics, and hatred. He may enter, by the apparitional birth, a world of gods, and from that world attain Nirvâna, for which, however, he has still to wait 40,000 kalpas.

Fourth path. This, the highest path to perfection, is attained by the Arhats, Arhants, or Archats, a title meaning that they deserve to become members of the assembly of the faithfuls (samgha). In the earliest period of Buddhism the name Arhat was given to every one who had arrived at the comprehension of the four truths. But such a steadiness of the mind, the Hînayâna followers say, can only be attained by those who have renounced the world, viz. by the priests; and these alone consequently enjoy the advantages of entering the fourth path, which consists in nothing less than the emancipation from re-birth, and the possession of five supernatural faculties, or the Abhijnâs. To allege of any one that he has "seen Nirvâna," is the same as saying, that he has become Arhat. The restriction of Nirvâna to the clergy cannot be imputed to Sâkyamuni, who,

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on the contrary, admits all his followers to the full blessings of his law.[1]

At the early period of the Hînayâna system the list of the different gradations must have been closed with the Arhats, the Buddha even not being originally called by another name; but in the progressive developement of this system the Arhat was superseded by the Pratyêka Buddhas, the Bôdhisattvas, and the most perfect Buddhas.,

Pratyêka Buddhas are those men who, though attaining by their own unaided exertions the Bôdhi of the supreme Buddhas, remain limited in their powers as well as their intellects. They are unable to release any one from the repetition of existence, as they only care for their own salvation, without contributing in the least towards that of other men. Pratyêka Buddhas are accordingly never said in the legends to have accomplished miraculous works similar to those of the supreme Buddhas, and are further considered never to appear when a real Buddha is living upon earth.[2]

Bôdhisattvas are the candidates for the Buddhaship, or those men who, by assiduity in the practice of virtues and meditation, have finally arrived at the intelligence, or Bôdhi, of the supreme Buddha. Whoever Strives to attain this sublime rank, has to pass through countless phases of existence, during which he gradually accumulates

[1. I shall have occasion, in the chapter on Tibetan priesthood, to resume the admittance or non-admittance of this dogma by the various schools. About the Abhijnâs, see Burnouf, "Le Lotus de Is Bonne Loi," p. 820.

2. See Foe koue ki, English translation, pp. 10, 95, 158; Burnouf's "Introduction," p. 297; Hardy's "Monachism," and "Manual," Index, voce Pase Buddha.]

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a greater degree of merit; he gains thereby the favour of a Buddha of contemporaneous existence on earth, and by his assistance he rises to one of the celestial regions above the earth, where he awaits his next birth as Saviour. Such candidates are not enumerated in the sacred Hînayâna books amongst the companions of the Buddha Sâkyamuni, with whom indeed no Bôdhisattva could be contemporaneous; nor are they believed to take an active part in the general welfare of man. The title simply denotes the condition of those who shall attain the Buddhaship at their following birth.[1]

The most perfect Buddhas (whose plurality has been promulgated by the Santrântika-Hînayâna) are those Bôdhisattvas who, at their last birth, have arrived at the sublime wisdom which enables them to direct man to the path leading to the cessation of existence. From the moment of departure from earth they have left behind them every kind of personality and form, and all connection with the world; they interfere with nothing and leave it to man to seek salvation by his own energy. This dogma was still further enlarged. by some of the Hînayâna sects, the Mahâsâmghika School even going so far as to discuss the infinity, eternity, and omnipotence of the Buddha.

[1. Burnouf's "Introduction," p. 110; Hardy, l. c., Index, voce Bôdhisattva.]

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Next: Chapter V. The Mahayana System