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   IT is not easy to put ourselves in the mental position suitable for appreciating the kind of idea that underlies the argument in this Suttanta. The social view against which it is directed lies too remote from the social views universally admitted now in the West. But in the sixth century B.C., in the Eastern valley of the Ganges, the question as to the ethics of teachers and teaching was one of wide interest and of great importance.

   Sankara quotes with approval the rules of the priestly law books which lay down that the ears of a Sûdra who hears the Veda (including of course the theosophy of the Upanishads) are to be filled with molten lead and lac. His tongue is to be split if he recites it; his body is to be cut through if he preserves it in his memory{1}. God himself has bestowed the exclusive right of teaching upon the hereditary priests{2}; who indeed claim to be, each of them, great divinities{3}, even to the gods{4}. And it would be a danger to social order if they taught women, or any males not twice-born, or any twice-born males who would not share their views as to the ethics of teaching, and as to the privileges and prerogatives of the priest as teacher.

   These passages are much later than the Pitakas. But they, and the many others like them, give a fair idea of the spirit animating one section at least of the priests, and of a trend of opinion that doubtless had its supporters also in Pitaka times. When Asoka thought he had brought about such a change in public opinion that those who had been very gods upon the earth had come to be gods no longer, he was very far from thinking right. That is a battle that is not so easily won, But the expression of his belief is sufficient to show that the striking idea he thought he had killed was far older than our existing text of Manu.

   On the other hand one may be permitted to doubt whether the gentle measures approved by Sankara for keeping people in that state of life into which their evil deeds in a previous birth had brought them, were ever actually, in practice, carried

{1. Commentary on the Vedanta-Sûtras I, 3, 38.

2. Manu I, 88.

3. Ibid. IX, 317, 319.

4. Ibid. XI, 85.}

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out. The Pitakas themselves give ample proof that, in spite of the priests, there were not a few base-born people who succeeded, in that time at least, not only in getting taught, but in becoming teachers. And this was not the case only among the despised Buddhists. The numerous passages collected by Dr. Muir in his article in the 'Indian Antiquary' for 1877 show that the priestly literature itself--the law books and the epics--has preserved evidence of the lax way in which the strict rules as to exclusion from teaching or being taught were really carried out. And that is especially the case, according to the priestly tradition, in ancient times, as old, or older, than the rise of Buddhism.

   The fact doubtless is that, though there were bigots among the Brahmans, and though they were strong enough to establish, before the time to which our present Sutta refers, rules as to restriction of teaching which no one in priestly circles could venture formally to dispute--yet that there was also always a strong party in India, to which many of the more liberal minded of the Brahmans themselves belonged, who looked with sympathy on relaxations of these rules. The general practice must have been that the hereditary priests kept the magic of the sacrifice, and the emoluments and privileges that went with the knowledge of it, in their own hands. Even the higher teaching of the mysteries of theosophy was to be handed down only from priest--father to son, or from priestly teacher to pupil. But there were many exceptions. The numerous Brahmans who were not priests were wont, of course, to emphasise the importance rather of birth than of knowledge. We have enough evidence, even in the pre-Buddhistic Upanishads, of others, besides the priests, being teachers of the higher wisdom. The four powerful kings, and the still important free clans, though they gave support to the Brahmans, gave also equal support to other teachers--just as, in later times, Hindu and Buddhist sovereigns are found supporting Buddhists and Hindus alike.

   Our knowledge of Indian views of life having been hitherto derived almost exclusively from the priestly books, scholars have inevitably tended to attach too great a degree of importance to what the priests describe as the proper state of things. As a matter of fact it never really prevailed. Even now the Brahmans, or those who in the census returns claim to be such, form only about five per cent. of the population. And of these the vast majority are not priests at all; they are engaged in all sorts of worldly occupations{1}. We

{1. Baines, 'General Report on the Census of 1891,' pp. 190, 202. The census shows that out of 261 millions only fifteen millions could read or write. On this striking fact Mr. Baines comments (p. 211): 'The second influence antagonistic to a more general spread of literacy is the long continued existence of a hereditary class whose object it has been to maintain their own monopoly of book. learning as the chief buttress of their social supremacy. The opposition of the Brahmins to the rise of the writer class has been already mentioned; and the repugnance of both, in the present day, to the diffusion of learning amongst the masses, can only be appreciated after long experience.'}

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must not judge India at any time, much less in the time of the Buddha, through the yellow spectacles of Sankara, or even of the priestly compilers of Manu. As M. Barth said, already in 1873, in protesting against Lassen for falling into this mistake{1}: 'We must distinguish, more than Lassen does, between different epochs, as well as between the pretensions of a caste and the real state of things. The Brahmans had not yet monopolised the intellectual life. Certain testimonies of the epics, applicable to this very period, as also the very nature of the Vedic books, show for example that there existed alongside of them an entire profane literature of great extent . . . which was certainly, at first, in other hands. . . . Their teaching (that of the Brahmans), it is true, appears to have been in a high degree esoteric and exclusive.'

   The position taken up by the Buddha on this question, as appears from our present Sutta (and such other passages as M. I, 513-524; A. I, 277; III, 123-127; M. P. S. II, 32 = A. III, 69 = V, 56 = Mil. 144), is that everyone should be allowed to learn; that everyone, having certain abilities, should be allowed to teach; and that, if he does teach, he should teach all and to all; keeping nothing back, shutting no one out. But no man should take upon himself to teach others unless and until he have first taught himself, and have also acquired the faculty of imparting to others the truth he has gained himself.

   There can, I think, be very little doubt but that the great teacher is here voicing the opinion of many others of liberal views, his contemporaries and predecessors. He lays no claim, either in our Sutta or elsewhere, to any special peculiarity in this respect. It is taken for granted that the arguments put into his mouth in our Sutta will appeal to the Brahman to whom they are addressed. And they are based not on any distinctively Buddhist doctrine but on general ethical principles accepted, or rather acceptable, by all.

{1. 'Revue Critique,' June, 1873, translated by Dr. Muir in the 'Indian Antiquary,' 1874.}

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