Robert Spence Hardy.

The legends and theories of the Buddhists, compared with history and science : with introductory notices of the life and system of Gotama Buddha online

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L I B R A^ T'. Y 1

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logical Seminary, [







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AUTHOR or "eastern (bxjddhist) monachism," "a manual of buddhism," etc.









The system attributed to Gotama Buddlia is one of
the oldest beliefs in the world. It demands, therefore, a
place among the records of religious opinion, if for its
antiquity alone. But it has other claims upon our
attention. There is in it the germ of many of the specu-
lations that are the most prominent in the shifting philo-
sophies of the present day ; and it is now professed, at the
lowest computation, by three hundred millions of the
human race. The information presented in these pages
has a further importance, as the Dharmma is compara-
tivelv unknown in Enorland. Of this we have evidence in
the singular fact, that the name of Gotama Buddha is not
found in any work in our language that is exclusively
biographical,* although no uninspired man has exercised
a greater influence than he upon the social and religious
interests of the world.

* In the last edition of the Encyclopaedia Britannica there is an article
Tinder the head of " Gotama Buddha," derived from the same sources as the
present work.




Tlie first edition of this \roik was publisliecl in the
island of Ceylon. Its principal aim was, to reveal to
the adherents of the system the errors it contains ; but
the original form is retained, as the doctrines here attri-
buted to Buddha have not been controverted, so far as I
can learn, by any of the priests ; though, of course, they
repudiate the inferences I have drawn from them. We
are thus warranted in concluding, that they may be
received as a faithful and trustworthy exposition of this
wide-spread creed ; and it is the more necessary to notice
this fact, as there are many things in them that are con-
trary to the teachings on this subject of several authors
of great name in western literature. The supporters of
Protestant missions will also learn in what manner and
Bjjirit their agents are conducting the great controversy,
that must increase in magnitude and moment, until the
truth has imiversally prevailed throughout the realm
of India ; and a lesson may be learnt, of no small signi-
ficance, as to the acquirements, the mental furnishing,
re<piisite in the men who are chosen to do battle, in this
onslaught ii])f)n the most formidable of all the superstitions
that oppose the spread of the Gospel of the Son of God.

There are some things here inserted that would justly
be regarded as puerile or unnecessary^, if I were writing
exclusively for European readers; and in the sections
on native geography and astronomy many things appear
that would have assumed an ent irelv different form, if


the appeal were made to persons acquainted with the
higher departments of science. I was only a visitor in
Ceylon when the work was written, and laboured under
some disadvantages, as my library was in England. But
the pages for which I have to make this apology are few,
as a great part of the volume consists of statements
taken from the original Pali, that have not previously
appeared in any European language. I have since pub-
lished a similar work in Singhalese,* more adapted to the
comprehension of the priests and others who know no
tongue but their own, and whose information is confined
to the limited circle of their own books.

I have to return thanks to the E,ev. John Scott, my
successor as the General Superintendent of the Wesleyan
Mission in South Ceylon, for many valuable suggestions.
I am also under a debt of obligation, that I can never
repay, to the Rev. David de Silva, a native minister of the
same mission. His attainments in general knowledge are
of a high order, he is well acquainted with Pali, and he is
the foremost and most able among the controversialists
of the island who have come forward in the defence of
Christianity. It was at one time my intention, with his aid,
to make an abridgment, or complete index, of the whole of
the sacred Pitakas. For this purpose I employed a learned
ex-priest, Don Johannes Panditatilaka, of Koggala, who
began to read witli us the section containing the Sutras,

* Suddharmma-niliasbaya.


which he orally translated into Singhalese, sentence by
sentence ; but he was unwilling to proceed further than
the third or fourth Nikaya, probably deterred by the
supporters of Buddhism ; and as no one of competent in-
formation could be induced to continue the task, even for
high reward, I was reluctantly obliged to abandon my
design. I had, however, previously secured his aid, in
culling from the Pitakas the extracts I required in pre-
paring the present work.

A controversy, of great interest, has recently com-
menced in Ceylon, between the Christians and the
Buddhists. The priests have purchased presses and type,
and possess printing establishments of their own. They
now refuse to render any assistance to the missionaries,
as before, in explaining the native books, or lending those
that are in their libraries for transcription. Haj^plly,
there is a copy of nearly all the sections of the canonical
text and commentaries in the Wesleyan mission library
at Colombo, bequeathed to it by the late Bev. D. J.
Gogcrly. Tracts, pamphlets, and serials issue in large
numbers from the IJuddhist presses. The king of Slam,
and one of the native chiefs in Kandy, have contributed
largely towards their publication. They present some
arguments that are new and ingenious ; but the defiant
and blasj)]icmous expressions they contain, against the
eacrcd name of "Jehovah," are probably the most awful
ever framed in human language. I left Ceylon on my


return to England, for the third time, in June last, with
thankfulness for the evidences I had been permitted to
witness, on the part of many of the more intelligent
of the Singhalese, of a sincere desire to attain to the
possession of the light and truth. I have formed bright
anticipations as to the future. There can be no doubt as to
the result of the contest now carried on ; for although
it may be prolonged and severe, it must end in the total
discomfiture of those who have arisen against the Lord
and his Christ, and in the renunciation of the atheist
creed that now mars the happiness, and stays the en-
lightenment, of so many of the dwellers in Lanka;
beautiful, from the waters that lave its shores to the
storm-tried trees that crown the summits of its highest
mountains, and rich in historic associations, throughout
more than two thousand j^ears.

Headingley, Leeds,
January 1, 1866.


There are few names among tlie men of tlie west, tliat
fitand forth as saliently as that of Gotama Buddha, in the
annals of the east. In little more than two centuries
from his decease the system he established had spread
throughout the whole of India, overcoming opposition
the most formidable, and binding together the most dis-
cordant elements ; and at the present moment Buddhism
is the prevailing religion, under various modifications,
in Tibet, ISTepal, Siam, Burma, Japan, and South Ceylon ;
and in China it has a position of at least equal prominence
with its two great rivals, Confucianism and Tauism. At
one time its influence extended throughout nearly three-
fourths of Asia ; from the steppes of Tartary to the palm-
groves of Ceylon, and from the vale of Cashmere to the
isles of Japan.

In the following pages I have endeavoured to expose
eome of its most notable defects and errors : but although
it was for this purpose that they were originally written,
there is a further lesson that its history loudly teaches,
of wider range and still greater consequence. With all
earnestness and sincerity, the prince Gotama set himself


to search out the truth ; and if he failed in his attempt to
discover it, those who may follow him in the same path,
and use only the same means, will have much to accomplish,
if they intend to be more successful in its pursuit. In
those who woidd surpass, or even equal, the so-called
Tathiigato, if we accept as true the records of his life,
there must be the exercise of a severe penance ; and their
search for tlie inner illumination must be continued, with
firm resolve and singleness of purpose, throughout many
weary years. They who set themselves to this task, must
possess an insight into the vanities of the world equally
clear, from a lengthened residence amidst the splendours
of the palace ; they must at once forsake all that men
regard as pleasant, for a life of extreme self-denial amidst
the solitudes of the wilderness ; they must struggle with
the powers of evil until demon spirits seem to become
visible, with foul gibe and fearful menace ; they must add
to this an intense hatred of all that is low and mean,
in those with whom they come in contact, and a life-long
passion to resolve the great problems of existence ; they
must possess a calnmcss of thought, " like a w^aveless sea,'*
tliat no opposition can ruffle, the result of a discipline that
has the acquirement of this serene state as its principal
object ; they must scrutinize all the powers and possessions
of man, witli an exactness like that with which the skilful
anatomist seeks to learn the manner and use of every
nerve and articulation of the bodily frame ; and when
they luivc suffered, thought out, and accomplished, in this
higli service, as much as the old man of ^lagadha, before
he expired under the sal-tree near Kusinara, they will be


entitled to speak of tlie majesty of intuition, and we will
listen heedfully to tlieir words. The system elaborated
with so mucli travail of spirit, and under circumstances sa
impressive, is one of the most wonderful emanations that
ever proceeded from man's intellect, unaided by the
outward revelation of God: but, as we look at it as it
is, calmly and without prejudice, we see, that although
it presents so many evidences of deep thought, and
possesses so many claims to our regard, it manifests,
throughout the most palpable ignorance, not only as to
the facts of science, but also as to the great and essential
principles of morality ; and that after all its promise, it
tends only to increase man's perplexity as to the present,.
and his uncertainty as to the future, leaving him at last
in hopelessness and desolation.

But before some of my readers can see the force and
verity of this conclusion, it will be necessary that they
become better acquainted with the sage of whom I thus
write ; and it is to furnish those who may be uninformed
of the history of Buddhism, with a rapid sketch of the
doings and doctrines of its founder, that this Introduction
has been penned.

Neither the age, nor even the individual existence,.
of Buddha, is established beyond all controversy ; but
the system is a reality, and stands before us in imposing
magnitude ; forcing itself upon our attention, by its own
inner power, as well as by the consequences it has pro-
duced, widely and in so many ages. We must try, if we
would know rightly the circumstances under which Gotama
is said to have lived, to transport ourselves to the time


of the prophet Daniel ; but to forget all about Babylon and
its stately monarchs, and imagine ourselves in an appanage
of Ptajagaha, the capital of Magadha, where the lord para-
mount of the Aryan race holds his court. We have before
us a state of intellectual culture resembling that of Athens,
in the age of its earlier philosophers ; a splendour and
magnificence like that of Bagdad, in the days of its most
famous caliphs ; a commercial activity like that presented
along the course of the Tyrian caravan, when Tadmor
appeared in the desert, beautiful as its mirage, but no
mockery, as its majestic temples rose in A'iew before the
merchant from some distant land ; and a freedom of
manners and constancy of intercourse between the different
grades of society, like that seen now among the nations
of Europe. The stor}^ of a people migrating from beyond
the snow-clad hills, where the gods are thought to hold
their seat, has long since been forgotten ; numerous
sectaries live together, in ceaseless antagonism, but
without any overt acts of persecution ; and a general
opinion seems to prevail, that some great personage is about
to appear, who will make all one, from being gifted Avith
uneri-ing intelligence and unbounded power. It is an era
of great importance in the history of the east ; and men
are waiting for some event that will decide whether future
acres are to be ruled bv a Chakrawartti, a univei'sal
monarch, or guided by a Buddha, an all-wise sage.

The most successful candidate for supremacy who tlien
arose was a prince of the race of Sakya, said to have been
"born at Kapilawastu, a city supposed to be on the borders
of Nepal ; on Tuesday, the day of the full moon, the lunar


mansion being Wisa, in the month of May, in the year
answering to b.c. 623 ; thus exact are the chroniclers
of this auspicious event. Five days afterwards he received
the name of Siddhartta. He was also called Gotama,
Sakya Singha, and Sakya Muni ; and for all these names
fanciful reasons are given. On the following day his
mother Maya died. At an early age his preceptors
foretold that he w^ould become a recluse, which led his
father, Suddhodana, to take means by which he hoped
that the prince would be induced to pursue a different
course ; and in the pursuit of pleasure, or the excitement
of war, seek glory in a manner more consistent with his
position and prospects, as the scion of a house so illustrious
that it could trace its descent throucfh the race of the sun,
to Sammata, the first monarch of the world. The anxiety
of his father increased as he grew older ; and even w^hen
he was married, at the age of sixteen, to the princess
Yasodhara, peerless in excellence as in grace, there
were reasons why former precautions should be continued.
The sight of a decrepit old man, supported by a staff, his
form bending in weakness tow^ard the ground, taught
Siddhartta a memorable lesson on the infirmities to which
man is subject. Not long afterwards he accidentally met
a loathsome leper, with attenuated limbs, and sores cover-
ing his entire bod}^, w^hich added to the impressiveness of
his former reflections. And wdien he saw, after the lapse
of another period, a dead bod}^, green with putridity,
offensive, and the prey of creeping worms, he learnt, with
a force that the witchery of music and the wiles of woman
could not overcome, the vanity of all that is existent, at


its best estate. Here was the discovery of tlic evil, tlia
danger ; but where was the remedy, the way of escape ?
This was presented to him, after months of further thought
and anxiet}^ He saw a recluse, gravely clad, gentle in
manner, and of placid countenance, walking quietly along
the road. His determination to follow the example he
had seen was formed at once, and it was a sturdy and
indomitable resolve. To increase our estimate of his self-
denial, it is said of him that on the very day when ho
heard of the birth of his firstborn, whilst the festivities
of the palace were conducted with unusual splendour, he
determined to carry his resolution into effect ; and that
though he saw the sleeping mother and his new-born
babe, lovely as a lotus flower, from the threshold of the
room in which they lay, he forsook them, without any
expression of regret, and rushed into the forest, far away
from all that could bind by affection or attract by smile,,
accompanied by only one attendant, whom he soon after-
wards dismissed. The vigilance of his father was on this
day relaxed, as it was a thing not to be thought of, that
at such a time, when the whole city was as one great
festive-hall, he could cast away the royal diadem, with all
its attendant attractions, for the alms-bowl of the mendi-
cant and its privations.

The garment of the recluse was adopted, but it was im-
possible to conceal the superiority of his birth ; and when
he went to the city of Hajagaha, to seek alms from door
to door, as was then the custom of those who had aban-
doned the world, the beauty of his person, and the grace*
fulness of his manner, attracted general attention, and

lJ^TRODl;cTlo^^ xvii

made many suppose that some celestial personage had
visited their land. The food he received was different in
kind from that to which he had been accustomed in the
palace ; but he retired to the shade of a tree, and thought-
fully ate it, the sight of its uncleanness reminding him of
the vileness and impurit}^ of man's body, though tended
with so much care, and pampered by so many indulgences.
Five other persons, brahmans, were j^artakers in his
exercises of asceticism, and remained with him in the
wilderness, until, by his excessive austerities, life itself
appeared to be extinct. From this state of extreme weak-
ness he recovered ; but when, after six years of penance,
and the endurance of a mental agony intense beyond
utterance, in his attempts to acquire a mastery over all
attachment, and a clear understanding of all truth, he
returned to the carrying of the alms-bowl, without having
succeeded in his aim, the patience of his five companions
was exhausted, and they left him to pursue his painful
course alone. But the time of deliverance, the hour of
triumph, was at hand. Taking with him as much food as
would support him during forty-nine days of additional
trial, he retired to the spot that was afterwards to become
of world-wide renown. There, under a bo-tree, he was
assaulted by innumerable demons, and the contest was
fierce and prolonged ; but he resisted, with like success,
the menaces of frightful fiends, and the allurements of
beauty, under all the forms that licentiousness could
devise, until, before the setting of the sun, he was the
acknowledged victor ; and before the light had again
dawned, the great end of his toils was accomplished, and


he stood forth before all worlds a supreme Buddha, " wiser
than the wisest, and higher than the highest."

As he was twenty-nine years of ao:e when he left the
palace, and remained six years in the wilderness, this
eyent must have occurred about his thirtj^-fifth year.
From this time the monastery was his residence, and he
was soon surrounded by numerous disciples, as he claimed
to be the only teacher of men free from all error. At first,
from seeing the difficidty attending the establishment of a
new and strino:ent system! he resolved that he would con-
fine to his own breast the discovery he had made ; but at
the intercession of others he was induced to change his
resolution, and commence the preaching of the Dharmma.
It was to his old friends, the five brahmans, that he first
imfolded the principles of his religion. They were at that
time resident near the city of Benares. The discourse he
then deKvered is called the Dhamma-chakkapj^awattana-
suttan. In it he declares that there is sorrow connected
with every mode of existence ; that the cause of sorrow is
desire, or attachment (to sensuous objects) ; that the
destruction of sorrow is to be efiected by being set free
from attachment to existing objects (which secures the
possession of nirvrana) ; and that to be set free from this
attachment there must be right conduct, mental tran-
quillity, and other similar virtues. These truths were
previously unknown ; they were revealed by former
Buddhas, but had long been entirely forgotten. Gotama
now received them by intuition, and he proclaimed them
once more to the world, authoritatively, from having
attained to the most perfect wisdom.


The king of Magadlia, Bimsara, was converted to the
faith of his former friend, no^y become Bitddha. His two
principal disciples were Seriyut and Mugulan. The first
was convinced of the truth of the Dharmma by hearing the
stanza so often found upon monuments now existing in
India : вАФ

" Ye dhamma lietuppabliawa
Yesan hetun Tathagato,
Aha yesan chayo nirodho
Ewan wadi Maha Samauo."

" All things proceed from some cause ; this cause has
been declared by the Tathagato ; all things will cease to
exist ; this is that which is declared by the great Sramana

On a visit to his native city, his father, Suddhodana,
embraced his faith, and his half-brother, Nanda, and his
son Hahula, entered the order of the priesthood that he
established. The same course was followed by Anurudha
his cousin, Ananda his nephew, who became his personal
attendant, and Dewadatta, his wife's brother. The second
wife of his father, who was also his own foster-mother,
Maha Prajapati, was the first female admitted to profession.

The authority of Buddha was not undisputed, nor his
high position maintained without opposition and trial.
At one time a low female was suborned by his enemies to
accuse him with breaking the law of continence, but her
artifice ended only in her own confusion. The son of
Bimsara, Ajiisat, supported the cause of the brahmans,
and was joined in his enmity to Buddha by Dewadatta, at
whose instance he caused the death of his royal fathei*.
These sectarists attempted to take the life of Buddha on


three several occasions ; first, by means of 500 archers,
then by a stone hurled from a machine, which struck his
foot, and caused it slightly to bleed, and lastly by the
attack of a wild and infuriated elephant ; but on all these
occasions their wicked designs were frustrated. The king
afterwards repented of his crimes, and embraced the faith
of the Dharmma ; and Dewadatta was also led to see the
foll}^ of the course he had pursued ; but though he sought
forgiveness, his offences were too great to go unpunished,
and he died a hopeless death. The same reckless course
was followed by his father-in-law. Supra Buddha, whose
end was equally sad. The days of Buddha were spent in
carrying the alms-bowl, and in other acts required by
the disciplinary code of his order, to all of which he was
as submissive as any member of the novitiate ; in con-
versing with his friends and opponents on the principles
of his religion ; in visiting distant places, even the heavens,
that he might preach the bana to men and gods ; and in
performing more astounding miracles than were ever even
thought of by any wonder-worker among the western
nations, llis death, when eighty years of age, was caused
by partaking of pork given to him in alms by the smith
Ohunda, which produced diarrhoea. In great pain he
travelled from Pawa, a distance of twelve miles, during
which time he had frequently to rest ; and as he had been
born under a tree, and under a tree attained to the
wisdom of a Buddlia, it was under a tree that he died,
near the city of Kusinara.

In these legends there may b(^ a portion of trutli, but


tiiey liave been intermixed with, so many events of im-
possible occurrence, tliat we are necessitated to regard the
wliole with distrust. The easterns are great adepts at
dovetailing a number of stories, taken from widel}'' different
sources, into one even and unbroken narrative. We can
sometimes detect the traces of this method of manipula-
tion, in Buddhist authors, and discover in what way it has
been brought about ; but there are other instances in which
the keenest critic must confess himself at fault. There
are some events, such as his extreme asceticism in the
wilderness, his hesitation about declaring to others the
truths he had learnt, the opposition of certain of his
relatives, the attempts upon his life, the circumstances
attendant on the admission of women into his community,
the powers he acknowledged in his adversaries, and, above
all, the cause to which his death is attributed, for the in-
vention of which we can see no reason, and so conclude
that they may have been real occurrences. Of the ex-
aggerations and myths contained in the Buddhist records,
I have spoken elsewhere. It may suffice, therefore, to
state here, that the sage is regarded by his followers

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Online LibraryRobert Spence HardyThe legends and theories of the Buddhists, compared with history and science : with introductory notices of the life and system of Gotama Buddha → online text (page 1 of 21)