English translation of this was published by the Rev. S. Beal in the Journal
of the Royal Asiatic Society in 1864-5.
TEACHINGS OF BUDDHISM, CONCLUDED. 105
are illusive, or, as we should say, phenomenal and
subjective that they are, in fact, of our own making,
the products of our own mind. . . . And, hence,
the Buddhist metaphysician tells us that things are
but names, and being names they are neither what
they seem to be, nor what they do not seem to be.
There are, in fact, no objects independent of us ;
hence, whoever speaks of things or persons uses names
" We may speak of a dog, but there is no such thing
as a dog. It is always either a greyhound or a span-
iel, this or that dog, but dog is only an abstraction, a
name, a concept of our mind. The same applies to
quadruped, animal and being; they are all names,
with nothing corresponding to them. This is what is
meant by the highest perfect knowledge, in ivliich noth-
ing, not even the smallest thing is known, or known to
be knoion. In that knowledge there is no difference ;
it is always the same, and, therefore, perfect. He who
has attained this knowledge believes neither in the
idea, that is, the name of a thing, nor the idea of a
no-thing, and Buddha by using this expression, the
idea or name of a thing, implies thereby that it is
not the idea of a thing. This metaphysical agnos-
ticism is represented as familiar even to children and
ignorant persons, and if it were meant to be so the
endless repetition of the same process of reasoning
may find its explanation." 1
It was clearly stated at the Congress of Keligions 2
l Sa. Bks. E. Vol. XLIX, p. xiv, Int. to the Vagrakkhedika.
a Congress of Religions held in Chicago, September, 1893.
106 PRIMITIVE BUDDHISM.
that this extreme scepticism is really the popular view
of the present followers of the- Maha-yana Buddhism.
A deputy sent by the leading sects in Japan sub-
mitted to the Congress an outline of the doctrines of
the Maha-yana Buddhists, which had been carefully
examined and approved by scholars belonging to six
of the Buddhists sects in Japan ; it was, therefore,
published with authority, and in this document the
doctrine was emphatically taught.
It is in harmony with this system of negation that
Buddhism was constructed independently of the theory
of a soul. The belief in a soul is represented as one
of the primary delusions which must be abandoned at
the very first stage of the Buddhist path. Man is
never the same for two consecutive moments, and
there is within him no abiding principle whatever.
In the Sabbasava Sutta, in speaking of the
brethren who "consider unwisely," Buddha says: "As
something true and real he gets the notion : ' I have
a self ... as something true and real he gets
the notion: 'By myself, I am conscious of myself.'
. . Or, again, he gets the notion : f This soul of
mine can be perceived, it has experienced the result
of good and evil actions committed here and there;
now, this soul of mine is permanent, lasting, eternal,
and has the quality of never changing, and will con-
tinue forever and ever ! '
"This, brethren, is called the walking in delusion,
the puppet show of delusion, the writhing of delusion,
TEACHINGS OF BUDDHISM, CONCLUDED. 107
the fetter of delusion. Bound, brethren, with this
fetter of delusion, the ignorant, unconverted man
becomes not free from birth, decay and death ; from
sorrows, lamentation, pains, griefs, and from expedi-
ents (the practice of rites and ceremonies and the
worship of gods) he does not become, I say, free
from pain/* 1
No true Buddhist, therefore, believes in the passing
of a soul from one body to another, but rather in the
passing on of the merit or demerit resulting from
one's actions. It is this act force (karma) combined
with upadana (clinging to existence) which is the
connecting link between each man's past, present and
future bodies. Buddhists appear to be entirely uncon-
scious of the inconsistency involved by claiming that
personality is transmitted when there is no conscious-
ness of any identity. Neither do they seem aware
that there is any incongruity in claiming that Buddha
could remember the experience of all his past lives,
even though there was no conscious entity which sur-
vived the death of either body.
It is entirely in harmony with this system of nega-
tions that Buddha claimed that there was no god
higher than himself. "Buddhism has no creator, no
creation, no original germ of all things, no soul of the
world, no personal, no impersonal, no supermundane,
no antemnndane principle." 2 The idea of a personal
creator is not only denied, but Buddha claimed to
find no one in the universe who was his own equal.
i Sabbasava Sutta, 10-12. 2 Williams, B., 117.
108 PRIMITIVE BUDDHISM.
An ascetic by the name of Upasaka came to him
to inquire of whom he had learned his philosophy,
whereupon Buddha replied as follows : " I have no
teacher ; there is no one who resembles me. In the
world of gods I have no equal. I am the most noble
being in the world, the irrefutable teacher, the sole
In one section of the Vinaya Pitaka a story is told
of a Brahman who ventured to inquire why it was
that Buddha did not honor the aged Brahmans by
rising in their presence and inviting them to be
seated. Buddha replied : " Brahman, I do not see
any one in the heavenly worlds, nor in that of Mara,
nor among the inhabitants of the Brahma worlds,
nor among gods or men, whom it would be proper for
me to honor, or in whose presence I ought to rise up,
or whom I ought to request to be seated. Should the
Tathagata (Buddha) thus act toward any one, that
person's head would immediately fall off." 1
But, although he did not acknowledge any being
in the universe to be superior to himself, he did
recognize the various gods of the Hindu pantheon,
and it will be remembered that it was claimed he was
born forty-three times as a tree god. "These gods or
spirits were preserved very much in the previous order
of precedence, and were all (except Mara, the Evil
One, and his personal following) supposed to be pas-
sably good Buddhists. They were not feared, but
patronized as a sort of fairies, usually beneficent,
though always more or less foolish and ignorant.
i Quoted by Max Miiller, Science of Rel., p. 171.
TEACHINGS OF BUDDHISM, CONCLUDED. 109
They were no longer worshiped, for they were con-
sidered less worthy of reverence than any good and
wise man. They were not eternal all of them, even
the highest, being liable to death. If they behaved
well, they were reborn under happy outward condi-
tions, and might even look forward to being born
sometime as men. No exception was made in the
case of Brahma. He also was evanescent, was bound
by the chain of existence, the result of ignorance, and
could only find sal^tion by walking along the eight-
fold path. It must be remembered that the Brahma
of modern times the God of the ardent theism of
some of the best of the later Hindus had not then
come into existence ; that conception was one effect of
the influence of Mohammedan and Christian thought
upon Hindu minds. But even if the idea of Brahma
were all the same as the idea of a god, a union with
him would mean merely a temporary life as an angel
in the Brahma heavens." 1
The radical atheism of Buddha, concerning the ex-
istence of any superior being, resulted hi absurd
polytheism among his followers.
He taught that man has no Father to whom he
can appeal for aid or sympathy, but the higher sen-
timents of the human heart naturally reach upward,
seeking some object of veneration, and no man can
set his affections upon a blank or an abstraction.
Hence there are now multitudes of gods in the Bud-
I Sa. Bks. E., Vol. XI, p. 163-164,
110 PRIMITIVE BUDDHISM.
We have the first or lowest class of Brahma gods
inhabiting the lowest tiers of their abodes, the second
class inhabiting the second tier, and the third class
inhabiting the highest of the three tiers. But there
are many other classes of gods besides those belonging
to the Brahma abodes. Indra was the most popular
deity of the early Buddhists, and the Dhamma-pada
mentions also Agni, the god of fire, and again Antaka,
god of death, sometimes identified with Mara or Yama,
"ruler in hell." The Buddhism of the North became
identified with 6aivism, aktism, Magic, and even with
Tantrism l with its horribly loathsome accompaniments.
In the northern countries, various forms of 6iva
and of his wife are honored, and their images are found
in the temples. Sometimes bloody sacrifices are offered
to them. Among the female deities the various forms
of Tara 2 are chiefly worshiped and regarded as Saktis
of the Buddhas. It is held by the disciples of the
more advanced Maha-yana, especially in Nepal, that
there are five Saktis or female energies (correspond-
ing to five human Buddhas), but the goddess Tara
was also worshiped by Buddhists in India proper.
Among the many shrines at Ceylon there are some
which are dedicated to a demonical goddess called
Pattini, 3 and every disease, every calamity, has its pre-
siding demon, and all such demons are the servants of
Buddha. Among other supernatural beings of Hindu
iThe worship of the female principle (Sakti).
2 The images of Tara (the wife or Sakti of one of the Buddhas) repre-
sent her as a green sedent figure, with her right hand on her knee and her
left holding a lotus.
3 A standing image of the goddess Pattini may be seen in the British
TEACHINGS OF BUDDHISM, CONCLUDED. Ill
mythology that were adopted with slight changes by
the Buddhists, we find the Pretas. These are sup-
posed to partake of the nature of ghosts and goblins
who have at one time inhabited the earth, and they
are represented as being of gigantic size and terrific
appearance ; they are constantly suffering with hunger
and thirst, yet never able to eat or drink on account
of their contracted throats. They are sometimes repre-
sented as trying to eat dead bodies or their own flesh.
The Asuras are evil demons who, like the Titans of
Greek mythology, are always at war with the gods.
Closely connected with them are the Rakshasas, with
their strongly developed man-eating propensities.
There are also very malignant demons, called Pisacas,
who are the authors of all evils.
An important feature is also found in the Nagas,
and to these constant allusion is made. They prop-
erly belong to a class of serpent demons, having
human faces and serpent-like lower extremities.
They are introduced into Buddhist sculptures as
worshipers of Buddha and friends of all Buddhists.
The Naga Mudalinda who sheltered Buddha was a real
serpent. The Naga-kanyas or female Nagas (serpents
from the waist downward) are frequently mentioned. 1
There are, too, the Mahoragas or great dragons, who
also belong to the serpent class of demons, and there
are many other classes which it would be too tedious
i An interesting image of a Naga-kanya may be found in the Museum of
the Indian Institute at Oxford University It belongs to a collection of
Buddhist antiquities, which was kindly loaned by Mr. TR. Sewall, of the
Madras Civil Service,
112 PRIMITIVE BUDDHISM.
The worship of devils and demons existed in Ceylon
before the introduction of Buddhism, but it was readily
adopted by the new system, and the hideous rites con-
nected therewith became a prominent feature.
The pandits claim there was no idolatry in India
until the Buddhists set the example of worshiping
material objects and images, and, although it seems
probable that material impersonations of the forces of
nature existed before Buddha's time, there is no evi-
dence of actual idolatry at the time the Rig-veda was
But during the reign of Buddhism, the development
of every phase of idolatrous superstition reached a
point of extravagance unparalleled in any other system
in the world. The monks of Buddhism vied with each
other in the fraud with which they constructed their
idols. They manipulated them so that they seemed to
give out light or to flash glances from their crystal
eyes; made them deliver oracular utterances, or fur-
nished them with movable limbs, so that a head would
unexpectedly nod or a hand be raised to bless the
Besides the countless images of Gautama Buddha,
there are images of the Buddhas who preceded him,
and Fa-hien records that he saw in Northern India
a wooden image of Maitreya Bodhisat, eighty cubits in
height, which on certain days emitted a brilliant light.
Offerings were continually made to it by the kings in
the surrounding countries. 1
i Legge, 23.
TEACHINGS OF BUDDHISM, CONCLUDED. 113
It was not until the introduction of the worship of
Avalokitesvara that the followers of Buddha thought
of endowing the figures of their deified saints with an
extra number of heads and arms. This deity was rep-
resented with eleven heads, and these were generally
arranged in four rows, each series of faces having a
different complexion. 1
In China this god is represented as a woman, with
a thousand arms and a thousand eyes. She has her
principal seat on the island of Poo-too, on the coast of
China, which is a place of pilgrimage. There are two
images of her in the British Museum, one with six-
teen arms and the other with eight. Idols are far
more numerous in Buddhist countries than among any
other idolatrous people, and not only this, but there
are many other sacred objects which Buddhists of all
schools hold in veneration, such as relics, footprints,
trees, utensils, bells, symbols and animals. In many
instances homage is actually offered to these things.
Tradition claims that Gautama once directed Ananda
to break off the branch of the pipal tree under which
he attained to Buddhahood, and plant it in the garden.
"He who worships it," said Gautama, "will receive
the same reward as if he worshiped me." 2 Whether
or not there be any truth in this legend, we certainly
have the best of authority from many sources that the
Bodhi tree (or pipal) is the most sacred of all the
trees of Buddhism, and for centuries actual homage
has been paid to it in Buddhist countries.
i The three faces resting on the neck are white, the three above yellow,
the next three are red, the tenth head is blue, and the eleventh, that is, the
head of his father, at the top of all, is red. Williams, p. 487.
3 Ibid, p. 517.
114 PRIMITIVE BUDDHISM.
As Buddha believed in no god except those Hindu
deities who were considered inferior to himself, he of
course taught his followers to utter no prayer in the
true sense of the word. They could not make an ap-
peal to a power in whose existence they did not
believe. He established no real church ; instead of a
priesthood or clergy, ordained for the purpose of aid-
ing men in their progress toward a glorious immor-
tality, he founded an Order of Monks pledged to
denounce human life as not worth living, and bound
to abstain from all participation in human affairs. It
is evident that there could be no place for genuine
prayer in such a system of negations, therefore the
three-refuge formula 1 was the only substitute of the
early Buddhists, and in Ceylon it is maintained to
this day that this is the only form of prayer that
should ever be used. Other formulas, however, came
into use, and it is supposed that merit may be accumu-
lated by the constant repetition of them. The most
common form used in Tibet consists of the sentence :
"Om! mani, padme Hum." (Om! the jewel in the
lotus.) 2 This is called the Mani, or Jewel prayer, and
the Tibetan believes it to be a panacea for all evil,
the treasury of all knowledge and the summary of all
religion. The oftener it is repeated the shorter will be
1 See p. 134.
2 It is thought that an occult meaning underlies the jewel lotus formula,
and that many who repeat it are ignorantly doing homage to the self-gener-
ative power supposed to inhere in the universe a power pointed at by the
popular Sankhya theory of the union of Prakriti and Purusha, and by the
universal worship of the Linga and Yoni throughout India. (See Williams,
B., p. 372; also Koeppen's note, Brahmanism and Hinduism, p. 33.)
TEACHINGS OF BUDDHISM, CONCLUDED/
the individual's course through the six forms of^
istence. Although not repeated like a prayer, in the
sense of a petition, the words are murmured every-
where, and also written upon rolls of paper and
inscribed in cylinders, 1 every revolution of which is
supposed to repeat the mystic sentence. These revolu-
tions are credited as so much "prayer merit," and a
metallic cylinder, containing the words, is carried in
the hand and whirled around like a child's toy. The
revolutions must always be in a particular direction
(with the sun), for, if by chance it revolved the other
way, its rotations would be set down to the debtor
rather than the creditor side of the owner's account.
It is said that when Baron Schilling visited a cer-
tain convent he found the Lamas occupied in prepar-
ing one hundred millions of copies of "Om! mani,
padme Hum," to be inserted in a prayer cylinder.
He also states that the inscription relating to the
foundation of the monastery of Hemis records the set-
ting up of three hundred thousand prayer cylinders
along the walls and passages of the monastery. 2
Although this is especially true of Northern Bud-
dhism, still the prayer wheel is also common in Japan,
where civilization has obtained so strong a hold, and
other methods are often used. An eye witness gives
the following description of an idol seen in Japan :
"In one shrine is a large idol spotted all over with
pellets of paper, and hundreds of these may be seen
i A complete temple of Buddha, with praying machines, bells, sacred
towels, idols, etc., has recently been brought from the Orient to Phila-
2 Dr. Schlagintweit, p. 121.
11G PRIMITIVE BUDDHISM.
sticking to the wire netting which protects him. A
worshiper writes his petition on paper, or, better still,
has it written by a priest, chews it to a pulp and
spits it at the divinity. If, having been well aimed,
it passes through the wire and sticks, it is a good
omen, but if it lodges in the netting the prayer has
probably been unheard. On the left there is a shrine
with a screen to which innumerable prayers have been
tied. On the right sits one of Buddha's original dis-
ciples. A Koolie with a swelled knee applied it to
the knee of the idol, while one with inflamed eyelids
rubbed his eyelids upon it." 1
A very important part of a monk's equipment in
Tibet is the prayer bell which is rung to accompany
the repetition of prayers. The object of ringing bells
during worship is to call the attention of the beings
who are worshiped, or to keep off evil spirits by com-
bining the noise with the waving of the handle. In
Burma bells abound everywhere. They are never
rung in peals or with a clapper; they are used to draw
the attention of the deities and spirits to the act of
worship, and thus secure the proper registration of
the prayer merit. When a man has finished his repe-
titions he strikes the bell with a piece of wood or
other sacred implement, and the more noise he makes
the more effective it is supposed to be in calling
attention to his meritorious act.
"Having thus begun," says Renan, "with pure
i Bird, " Unbeaten Tracks in Japan." (Murray, London.)
TEACHINGS OF BUDDHISM, CONCLUDED. 117
negation, Buddhism must drift into the most unre-
strained superstition. The needs of the human heart
resumed the ascendant ; the influence of Saivaism gave
access to all mythological complications. . . . At
the same time moral character disappears ; religion
consists only in turning the wheel, making statuettes
of Buddha and offering flowers to the statuettes.
Pious Buddhists spend their time in counting the
revolutions of the wheel, calculating chimerical num-
bers, and beating drums to drive away the demons.
All is pure idolatry." 1
Perhaps the great French critic is somewhat severe,
for, although their prayers may be repeated by ma-
chinery, written upon paper or inscribed on rocks,
still there is probably something of the spirit of devo-
tion connected even with idolatry and superstition.
Buddha was the prince of pessimists, and in de-
scribing the misery of life he nowhere alludes to the
happiness which may be derived from health, friends,
love, or existence in a world of beauty. But he
claims that his followers must believe his doctrine
must abandon wife and children live upon alms as
does the monk, suppress the individual self, and keep
in mind the impermanence and impurities of the
body. His "way of knowledge" was a knowledge of
the idea that life was merely one link in a chain of
existences, all of which were inseparably bound up in
suffering and misery.
i Kenan, Studies in Rel. Hist., p. 110.
118 PRIMITIVE BUDDHISM.
The common doctrine that everything was for the
worst, was freely taught by Brahmanism, and con-
tinued to be a doctrine of Hinduism long after the
disappearance of Buddhism. The great effort, there-
fore, was to find a way for deliverance from the
misery believed to result from ceaseless rebirth, as the
various schools were in harmony with each other in
relation to the following sentiment :
"Enjoyments are alloyed by fear of sickness,
High rank may have a fall, abundant wealth
Is subject to exactions, dignity
Encounters risk of insult, strength is ever
In danger of enfeeblement by foes,
A handsome form is jeoparded by women/
Scripture is open to assaults of critics,
Merit incurs the spite of wicked men,
The body lives in constant dread of death
One course alone is proof against alarms,
Renounce the world and safety may be won/' 1
Although heaven is only a temporary abode, still
the founder of Buddhism believed in the old Hindu
gods, and, while claiming that they were inferior to
men, he promised his followers that they should be
born after death in the heavens of the gods. Accord-
ing to the later Buddhistic theory, there were twenty-
six successive tiers of heavens, one rising above the
In the center of the world system, on the upper
l Vairagya-sataka, III, p. 32, 50.
TEACHINGS OF BUDDHISM, CONCLUDED. 119
portion of the great mythical mountain Meru, we
have the lowest heaven of the gods. This is above
the worlds of ghosts, of demons and of men, also
above the eight principal hells, and here abide the
four great champions who guard the earth and heavens
from the demons who are constantly assailing them
The second is the heaven of Indra, who was the
favorite god of the Hindus for centuries.
The third heavens are inhabited by beings called
Yamas. They take no part in the strife which is con-
stantly waged by the gods of the two lower heavens
against the demons, and who are unable to advance
into these higher regions.
The fourth heaven is that of the Tushitas or per-
fectly contented beings. This is a peculiarly sacred
region, and is the home of those who are destined to
The fifth region of happiness is inhabited by beings
who constantly enjoy themselves with pleasures pro-
vided by themselves.
The sixth heaven is the abode of beings called
Maras, and are "lords of sensuous desires." They are
ruled over by a chief Mara who tempts men, and is
always on the watch to enter the citadel of the body
by way of the eye or the ear. He is sometimes repre-
sented as the Buddhist Satan, and sometimes as a
superior god. One of his names is Kama (desire).
Above these, there are sixteen other and higher
heavens, which are occupied by different classes, and
high above these are worlds which are inhabited by
120 PRIMITIVE BUDDHISM.
formless entities. In the first of these " formless
worlds" are beings who are capable of conceiving
the idea of infinite space. In the second are those
who can conceive of infinite intelligence. In the
third are those who can conceive the idea of abso-
lute nonentity, or the doctrine that nothing whatever
exists anywhere. The fourth of these, and highest of
all the twenty-six, is occupied by "beings who abide
in neither consciousness or unconsciousness, and this
is considered the most sublime of all conditions in the
heavenly world, and belongs to mystical Buddhism. " l
The descriptions of hell are very graphic, and the
doctrine of the Buddhist contains no forgiveness.
"Not in the heavens," says the Dhamma-pada, "not in