and a translation of them into English would be
1 Fa Hian, Ch. 36, q. by Rhys Davids, B., p. 240.
a See the early Assyrian tablets and also those of Egypt. In the winter of
1887 a very remarkable discovery was made among the mounds of Tel-el-
A mania In Upper Egypt. It was here that clay tablets were found bearing
inscriptions In the Babylonian language, and when deciphered and trans-
lated, they proved to be copies of letters and dispatches from the kings and
governors of Babylonia and Assyria, of Syria, Mesopotamia and Eastern
Capadocla, of Phoenicia and Palestine. These Imperishable documents
prove that all over the civilized East, in the century before the Exodus, active
literary intercourse was carried on through the medium of a common
It is evident, therefore, that throughout Western Asia, schools and
libraries must have existed, in which clay tablets inscribed with cuneiform
characters were stored up, and where the language and syllabary of Baby-
lonia were taught and learned.
Such a library must have existed in tho Canaanite city of Kirjath-Sepher,
or ' Book Town " of Judges i, 12, and if its site can ever be recovered and
excavated, we may expect to find there its collection of books, written upon
the imperishable clay.
Many dispatches from Palestine, which have been assigned to about the
fifteenth century before Christ, have been recovered, translated and pub-
lished. (See " Records of the Past," edited by Prof. A. H. Sayce, Vol. II, pp.
58-63.) The authenticity of the cuneiform dispatches found at Tel-el-
Amarna, In Egypt, has lately received an unexpected confirmation from
tablets found at Tel-el-Hesy, probably the Biblical Lachish.
154 PRIMITIVE BUDDHISM.
about four times as long. Such a literature is by no
means unmanageable." 1
"These repetitions are so numerous that without
them the Buddhist Bible would probably be shorter
than ours. Thus, the whole of the Dhamma-pada and
the Sutta-nipata are believed to have been taken from
other books ; and even in the Nikayas whole para-
graphs and chapters are repeated under different
heads; the Subha-Sutta, for instance, contains almost
the whole of the Samana-phala Sutta and a great part
of the Brahmajala Sutta." 2 The bulky Kanjur and
Tanjur of the Tibetans has been sufficiently translated
to establish the fact that the principal portion of the
matter was a translation from the same Sanskrit orig-
inals which had been discovered in Nepal by Mr.
THE DATE OF THE CANON.
The Buddhist canon has only been traced back to
the first century before Christ, when (as the Bud-
dhists claim) it was reduced to writing in Ceylon
under king Vattagamani, but the books undoubtedly
contain much older matter. The Buddhists suppose
that the canon was settled at the first Council, 3 or soon
after the death of Buddha, being then handed down
by oral tradition until it was committed to writing.
1 Rhys Davids, B., p. 19.
2 Burnouf , Lotus, 448, 465. note 5.
3 This assemblage can scarcely with any fitness be called a Council. Nor
can the fact of its meeting together in any formal manner be established on
any trustworthy historical basis. . . . There, in all likelihood, they (the
monks who were gathered together) made the first step toward a methodical
arrangement, but it Is doubtful whether any systematic collections were
composed. William*, p. 55.
EARLY BUDDHIST LITERATURE. 155
But there are many difficulties here, and the chro-
nological evidence is far from satisfactory.
"The evidence on which we have to rely," says
F. Max Miiller, "is such that we must not be sur-
prised if those who are accustomed to test historical
and chronological evidence in Greece and Rome de-
cline to be convinced by it. As a general rule I quite
agree that we cannot be too sceptical in assigning a
date to ancient books. . . . We have the com-
mentaries on the Pali canon translated or composed
by Buddha-ghosha, who confessedly consulted various
manuscripts. This was in the beginning of the fifth
century of the Christian era, and there is nothing
improbable, though I would say no more, in supposing
that some of the manuscripts consulted by Buddha-
ghosha dated from the first century before Christ." 1
The sacred canon of the Buddhists is called the
Tri-pitaka, or the "Three Baskets," and these are
composed of smaller works. The first basket, or
Vinaya, contains all that has reference to morality.
The second contains the Sutras, 2 or the discourses of
Buddha. The third includes works treating on a vari-
ety of subjects philosophy, metaphysics, discipline and
THE VINAYA TEXTS, OR FIRST BASKET.
These texts compose the "first basket," and they
are divided into three sets of rules :
) Int. Dhamma-pada, pp. 12-14.
a Sutras In Sanskrit; the Pali word is Sutta, and the words are, therefore,
sometimes used interchangeably.
156 PRIMITIVE BUDDHISM.
1st. The Khandhaka in two collections, called the
Maha-vagga, or great section, and the TTulla-vagga, or
2d. The Vibhanga, or systematic arrangement, and
explanation of the Patimokkha, or release precepts.
These are the rules for setting free, through penances,
those who had offended against the order.
3d. The Parivara-patha, which is a comparatively
modern summary of the other two divisions.
Extracts have already been freely given from im-
portant portions of the Law, and these early texts also
devote hundreds of pages to the most trivial acts in
the daily life of the monks. For instance, much space
is devoted to the proper care of the bowls in which
they begged their daily bread.
CARE OF THE BOWLS.
"Now at that time the Bhikkhus put away water
in their bowls, and the bowls were split. They told
this thing to the Blessed One. 'You are not, O Bhik-
khus, to put away your bowls with water in them.
Whosoever does so is guilty of a dukkata offense. I
enjoin upon you, Bhikkhus, to dry your bowls in
the sunshine before you put them away/
"Now at that time the Bhikkhus dried their bowls
in the sunshine with water in them ; and the bowls
became evil smelling. They told this thing to the
Blessed One. 'You are not, O Bhikkhus, to dry your
bowls in the sunshine with water in them. Whosoever
does so is guilty of a dukkata. I allow you, Bhik-
khus, to empty out the water, and then warm the
bowls before you put them away/
EARLY BUDDHIST LITERATURE. 157
"Now at that time the Bhikkhus put their bowls
away in a warm place, and the color of their bowls
was spoilt. They told this thing to the Blessed One.
'You are not, Bhikkhus, to put your bowls away
in a warm place. Whosoever does so is guilty of a
dukkata. I allow you, Bhikkhus, to dry your bowls
in a warm place, and then put them away.
"Now at that time a number of bowls were left in
the open air without supports, and the bowls were
turned over by a whirlwind and broken. They told
this thing to the Blessed One. 'I allow you, Bhik-
khus, the use of supports for your bowls when they
are left out.'
"Now at that time the Bhikkhus put their bowls
away at the edge of the sleeping benches in the
verandahs, and the bowls fell down and were broken."
When they told this to the Buddha he reproved them
in the same formula as before.
"Now at that time the Bhikkhus hung up their
bowls on pins in the walls or on hooks. The pins or
hooks falling down the bowls were broken." In this
case Buddha reproved them as before.
"Now at that time the Bhikkhus put their bowls
down on a bed or a chair, and sitting down thought-
lessly the bowls were broken." And again they were
"Now at that time the Bhikkhus kept their bowls
in their laps, and rising up thoughtlessly they upset
them and the bowls were broken." 1 The same
formula is repeated hundreds of times in relation to
the most trivial matters.
158 PRIMITIVE BUDDHISM.
Again in the matter of tooth sticks, as well as
other trifles, long instructions are given ; for instance,
"Now at that time the Bhikkhus did not use tooth
sticks, and their mouths got a bad odor. They told
this matter to the Blessed One. 'There are five dis-
advantages, Bhikkhus, in not using tooth sticks; it
is bad for the eyes 1 the mouth becomes bad smell-
ing the passages by which the flavors of the food
pass are not pure bile and phlegm get into the food
and the food does not taste well. These are the
five disadvantages in not using tooth sticks. I allow
you, Bhikkhus, tooth sticks.'
"Now at that time they used long sticks, and even
struck people with them. They told this thing to the
Blessed One. ' You are not, Bhikkhus, to use long
tooth sticks. Whosoever does so shall be guilty of a
dukkata. I allow you, Bhikkhus, tooth sticks up
to eight finger breadths in length. . . .
" Now at that time a certain Bhikkhu when using
too short a tooth stick got it stuck in his throat.
They told this matter to the Blessed One. 'You are
not, Bhikkhus, to use too short a tooth stick.
Whosoever does so shall be guilty of a dukkata. I
allow you, Bhikkhus, tooth sticks of four finger
breadths long at the least/ "*
i It appears that Buddha actually believed that the use of tooth picks was
good for the eyes. (See note 1, A'ulla-vagga, v, 81.)
ajSTulla-vagga, V, 31, 1-2.
EARLY BUDDHIST LITERATURE. 159
THE WONDERS OF BUDDHA.
These early Pali texts also give many of the
" wonders " which are said to have been performed by
Buddha. It is said of him that at one time he asked
Kassapa to allow him to spend the night in the room
where the sacred fire was kept. But the host ob-
jected, saying there was a venomous serpent, or Naga
king, having great supernatural powers, which occupied
the room. When Buddha persisted, however, Kassapa
gave his consent. When the Blessed One entered the
room the snake was annoyed, and sent forth a cloud of
Then the "chief of men" 1 sent forth a cloud of
Then the Naga sent forth flames, and the Blessed
One sent forth flames, and he conquered the Naga,
and "leaving intact the skin and flesh and bones of
the Naga, he threw him into his alms bowl (from
which he took his daily food) and showed him to
Kassapa, saying : ' Here you see the Naga, his fire
has been conquered by my fire.'" 2
Another wonder was told by Buddha himself to
Kassapa, which is given as follows: "I had rags,
Kassapa, taken from a dust heap [with which he was
going to make himself a robe], and I thought:
'Where shall I wash these rags?' Then Sakka, the
king of the devas, understanding the thought which
had arisen in my mind, dug a tank with his hand,
iThe "chief of men," as a term applied to Buddha, is more literally
rendered " the snake among men. See Maha-vagga, n. 1. 15, 6.
a This account has been greatly condensed. See Maha-vagga, 1, 15, 3.
160 PRIMITIVE BUDDHISM.
and said : ' Lord, might the Blessed One wash the
rags here ? '
"And I thought: < What shall I rub the rags
upon ? ' Then Sakka put a great stone there and said :
' Lord, might the Blessed One rub the rags upon this
stone ? '
"And I thought: 'What shall I take hold of
when going up out of the tank ? '
"Then a deity which resided in a tree bent down
a branch, and said : ' Lord, might not the Blessed One
take hold of this branch when going up ? '
"And I thought: ( Where shall I lay the rags (in
order to dry them)? 7
"Then Sakka, the king of the devas, put a great
stone there, and said : ' Lord, might the Blessed One
lay the rags on this stone ?'
"Then Kassapa thought: 'Truly the great Saman
possesses high magical powers and facilities, since
Sakka, the king of the devas, does service to him.'" 1
GREAT EFFICACY OF RECITATION.
These early texts were repeated over and over again;
indeed, the daily life of the monks began with a reci-
tation of the Law, and it was supposed that a talis-
manic virtue attended the sound of the words.
To illustrate the great meritorious efficacy of the
constant intoning of the words, a story is told of five
hundred bats that lived together in a cave where two
monks performed their daily recitations. These bats
gained such merit, by simply hearing the sound, that
iMaha-vagga, 1,20, 1-7.
EARLY BUDDHIST LITERATURE. 161
when they died they were all reborn as men and
ultimately as gods. 1
It is also stated that a certain frog, being fortunate
enough to hear Buddha's voice while he was reciting
the Law, acquired so much merit thereby that he was
born in one of the heavens. 2
It is faith in the wonderful efficacy of constant
repetition which has given birth to the prayer wheels,
which are supposed to repeat certain formulas with
every revolution of the wheel.
INTEGRITY OF. THE TEXT.
In relation to the integrity of the early Pali texts
from which the foregoing quotations are made, the
translators express their opinion in the following
"Though we must believe that the Vinaya, before
it was reduced to writing, was handed down for about
three hundred years solely by memory, and that it
lived only in the minds of the Bhikkhus, 'who were
versed in the Vinaya/ we do not think it is at
all necessary, or even possible, to impugn the sub-
stantial accuracy of the texts handed down in a man-
ner that seems to moderns so unsafe. The text, as
it lies before us, stands so well against all proofs,
whether we compare its different parts one with
another, or with the little that is yet known of its
northern counterparts, that we are justified in regard-
ing these Pali books, as in fact the authentic mirror
of the old Magadhi text, as fixed in the central schools
I Williams, B,, p. 557. 2 Hardy, p. 392.
162 PRIMITIVE BUDDHISM.
of the most ancient Buddhist Church." 1 This being
true, we must have in these early works the most
authentic teachings of Buddha.
"We also have in the Vinaya-pitaka an invaluable
and indisputable record of the mental characteristics
and capabilities of these earliest followers of the Bud-
1 Sa. Bks. E., Vol. XIII, p. xxxvi. (Int.)
EARLY BUDDHIST LITERATURE, CONTINUED.
THE SECOND PITAKA THE MAHA-PARINIBBANA SUT-
TANA THE PROXIMATE CAUSES OF EARTHQUAKES
THE DHAMMA-PADA PUNISHMENT THE SUTTA-
NIPATA THE THIRD PITAKA THE MAHA-YANA, OR
NORTHERN SCHOOL THE BUDDHA-&ARITA-KAVYA
THE SUTRAS OF JAPAN THE AMITAYUR-DHYANA
THE VAGRAK-KHEDIKA THE DOCTRINAL TEACHING
OF THE SUTRA THE PRAGNA-PARAMITA THE
TANTRA LITERATURE STRIKING CONTRASTS.
THE Second Pitaka contains the ethical doctrines
which first constituted the whole Buddhist law.
It is a collection of Sutras, many of which are them-
selves composed of smaller works.
The most important of these books are the Maha-
parinibbana Sutta, or Book of the Great Decease; the
Dhamma-pada, or Precepts of the Law ; the Jatakas,
with their commentaries; the Sutta-nipata, or collec-
tion of discourses; the Khuddaka-patha, or short
readings, verses by the elder monks, and verses by the
elder nuns. We have also the Majjhima, the Sawyutta,
the Anguttara, and there are others which contain the
joyous utterances of Buddha at different crises of his
life or treat of his sayings.
164 PRIMITIVE BUDDHISM.
One of these minor Suttas treats of the mansions
of the gods which move about at will and sometimes
descend upon the earth, and another gives informa-
tion concerning departed spirits.
The Niddesa is a commentary on the Sutta-nipata ;
another Sutta treats of the supernatural knowledge of
the Arhats, and we have also the Buddha-vansa, or his-
tory of the twenty-four Buddhas who preceded Gau-
tama, and of Gautama himself. Another contains stories
which are based upon the Jatakas describing Gau-
tama's acquisition of the ten virtues in former births.
This is one of the longest as well as the most
valuable of the Suttas, and it is considered one of the
oldest parts of the canon except the Patimokkha. It
treats of the death of Buddha and of the events
which shortly preceded it, and has, therefore, been
considered in connection with that subject. 1 It con-
tains several discourses which he delivered to his
followers, some of which have been given in the
foregoing pages. As might be supposed, his teachings
here were often a repetition of the doctrines which
he had previously taught, but his instructions per-
tained to many subjects. For instance, a short time
before his death he explained to Ananda the cause of
earthquakes. The following is his solution of the
THE PROXIMATE CAUSES OF EARTHQUAKES.
"Then the venerable Ananda went up to the place
where the Blessed One was, and did obeisance to the
i See pp. 77, 80,
EAKLY BUDDHIST LITERATURE, CONTINUED. 165
Blessed One, and seated himself respectfully at one
side and said: "Wonderful, indeed, and marvelous is
it, that this mighty earthquake should arise. . .
What may be the proximate, what the remote cause
of the appearance of this earthquake ? '
^ " Eight are the prox^ate, eight the remote causes,
Ananda, for the appearance^ of the mighty earthquake.
This great earth, Ananda, is established on water ; the
water on wind, and the wind rests upon space. And
at such a time, Ananda, as the mighty winds blow,
the waters are shaken by the mighty winds as they
blow, and by the moving water the earth is shaken.
These are the first causes, proximate and remote, of
the appearance of the mighty earthquake.
" Again, Ananda, a Samana, or a Brahman of great
intellectual power who has the feelings of his heart
well under his control, or a god, or a fairy 1 of great
or mighty power when such an one by intense medi-
tation has succeeded in realizing the comparative
value of things, he can make this earth move and
tremble and be shaken violently. 2 These are the
second causes, proximate and remote, of the appear-
ance of a mighty earthquake.
"Again, Ananda, when a Bodhisat (or future Bud-
dha) consciously and deliberately leaves his temporary
iThe word here rendered fairy is devata, and the term includes gods of
all sorts, tree and river nymphs, the kindly fairies, or ghosts who haunt
houses, spirits in the ground, etc.Oldenbergand Davids.
2 Buddha-ghosha, the Buddhist commentator, tells a long story in rela-
tion to this subject, to the effect that the nephew of Naga Thera attained
Aratship on the day of his admission to the order. He then proceeded to
heaven, and standing on the pinnacle of the palace of the king of the gods
he shook the whole place with his great toe, much to the annoyance and
consternation of the exalted dwellers therein.-Sa. Bkt. K, Vol. XI, n, p. 46
166 PRIMITIVE BUDDHISM.
form in the heaven of delight and descends into his
mother's womb, then is this earth made to shake and
tremble violently. These are the third causes, proxi-
mate or remote, of a mighty earthquake.
"Again, Ananda, when a Bodhisat deliberately and
consciously quits his mother's womb, then the earth
quakes and is shaken violently. This is the fourth
cause, proximate and remote, of the appearance of a
"Again, Ananda, when a Tathagata (or Buddha)
arrives at the supreme and perfect enlightenment, then
this earth quakes and is shaken violently. This is the
fifth cause, proximate and remote, of a mighty earth-
"When a Tathagata founds a sublime kingdom of
righteousness, then this earth ... is shaken vio-
lently. This is the sixth cause, proximate and remote,
of a mighty earthquake.
" Again, Ananda, when a Tathagata consciously
and deliberately rejects the remainder of this life
. . . this is the seventh cause ... of the
appearance of a mighty earthquake.
"Again, Ananda, when a Tathagata passes entirely
away (or dies) with that utter passing away in which
nothing whatever is left behind, then this earth . . .
is shaken violently. This is the eighth cause of the
appearance of a mighty earthquake." 1
There are several short Suttas of minor import-
ance, some of which have been quoted in the preced-
ing pages, but a much finer literary style, as well as a
higher grade of morality, is found in the
i Maha-pariuibbana Sutta, chap, iii, 2.
EARLY BUDDHIST LITERATURE, CONTINUED. 167
It is thought that we now possess this work in
very much the same form as it existed in the fifth
century of the Christian era, and that the original
may have been one of the books which was reduced
to writing in the first century before our era, having
previously existed in the language of Magadha. And
although all Indian manuscripts are comparatively
modern, 1 and the chronological evidence concerning
them quite uncertain, still these verses may be treated
as those which the early Buddhists believed to be the
utterances of their founder.
The following extracts will give a good general
idea of the teaching which is found in this valuable
"All men tremble at punishment, all men fear
death ; remember you are like unto them, and do not
kill, do not cause slaughter.
"All men tremble at punishment, all men love
life; remember thou art like unto them, and do not
"He who seeking his own happiness, punishes or
kills beings who also long for happiness, will not find
happiness after death.
"He who seeking his own happiness, does not
i Mr. A. Burnell, who has probably handled more Indian manuscripts
than anybody else, has expressed his conviction that no manuscript written
one thousand years ago is now existent in India, and that it is almost impos-
sible to find one written five hundred years ago, for most manuscripts which
claim to be of that date are merely copies of old manuscripts, the dates of
which are repeated by the copyists. Indian Antiquary, 1880, p. 233.
168 PRIMITIVE BUDDHISM.
punish or kill beings who also long for happiness,
will find happiness after death.
"Do not speak harshly to anybody; those who are
spoken to harshly, will answer thee in the same way.
Angry speech is painful, blows for blows will touch thee.
"A fool does not know when he commits evil
deeds ; but the wicked burns by his own deeds as if
burnt by fire.
" He who inflicts pain on innocent and harmless
persons, will soon come to one of these ten states. He
will have cruel suffering, loss, injury of the body,
heavy affliction, or loss of mind, or a misfortune com-
ing from the king, or a fearful accusation, or loss of
relations, or destruction of treasures, or lightning fire
will burn his houses, and when the body is destroyed
the fool will go to hell.
"Not nakedness, not platted (or matted) hair, or
lying on the earth ; not rubbing with dust, nor sitting
motionless, c~n purify a mortal who has not overcome
desires/' 1 '
The Jataka and their commentaries have been con-
sidered in the foregoing pages and copious extracts
have been given. 2
The Buddha-vansa gives a history of the twenty-
four Buddhas who preceded Gautama, and these have
been briefly examined. 3
This collection of discourses is an important contri-
bution to the correct understanding of Primitive Bud-
i Dhamma-pada, X, 129-141. 3 Twenty-four Buddhas. See chap. ii.
a See pp. 45, 85, 104.
EARLY BUDDHIST LITERATURE, CONTINUED. 169
dhism, for we have here a picture of the lives of
hermits before monasteries were built.
Buddha here teaches that all family life and all as-
sociation with others should be avoided.
"As a beast unbound in the forest goes feeding at
pleasure, so let the wise man, considering only his own
will, wander alone like the rhinoceros." 1 Each of the
forty-one verses of one of the Suttas 2 ends with the
words: "Let one wander alone like a rhinoceros."
In the Nipata, Buddha teaches that no one is puri-
fied by philosophy or by virtuous works, 3 only by
believing in Buddha and in the Dhamma. 4 He must
become what Buddha is, and what then is he ? Bud-
dha is a visionary in the good sense of the word, that
is, his knowledge is intuitive. 5 He is also an ascetic,
one who forsakes the home and wanders from house
to the houseless state. 6 An ascetic has no prejudiced
views, 7 he has shaken off every philosophical view, 8
he is not pleased nor displeased with anything, 9 he is
indifferent to learning, 10 he does not cling to good and
evil, 11 he has cut off all passion and all desire. 12 He
has reached peace, he has gone to the unchangeable
state of Nibbana. 13 This state has been brought about
by the destruction of consciousness, 14 by the cessation
of sensation, 15 by being without breathing. 16
Sin, according to this Sutta, is desire in all its
i Sutta-nipata, verse 38. v. 813.
a The Khaggavisana. 10 v . 911.
3 Nipata, v. 839. n W. 520, 547.