페이지 이미지
PDF
ePub

that belongs to the Prince Malla, in the forest of Engicn trees, I will go to Niban. The shining light emanating from my body is the certain forerunner of this great event.

NOTES.

83. The preachings of Budha were not to be confined to the na'row limits r f man's abode, they were designed to reach much further. All beings living in the six seats of Nats were to share with men the blessings of the publication of the perfect law. It has been already stated at length in a foregoing note that the rendition of Nats was merely a state of pleasure and enjoyments, allotted to those who in a former existence had done some meritorious work. The fortunate inhabitants ol these celestial regions remained in those seats until the sum of their respective merits being, as it were, exhausted, they returned fn the abode of man, the true place of probation for all beings living therein. The condition of Nat, therefore, was not a permanent one, the Nat after his time of reward was over, had to migrate to our terrestrial abode, begin anew existence and endeavour to advance himself in the way of perfection, by the practice of virtue. He is as yet very far from the state of Niban. Like man, he has to learn the sublime law, and to become acquainted with the four high perfections. Budha who came to announce the law ot salvation to all beings, could not but go to the seats of Nats and teach the way to free themselves from the turmoil of never ending existences. The preachings of Budha during three consecutive months, were attended with a success that must have exceeded his most sanguine expectations. Millions of Nats were converted and forthwith obtained the deliverance, others, less advanced in merits, obtained the first, or second or third state of perfection.

During his stay in the other seats of Nats, Budha gave a derision on the merits of alms-giving which is certainly to the advantage of the jellow dressed Bickus, but appears somewhat opposed to all principles of justice and reason. In his opinion the inward dispositions of him who gives alms, has nothing to do with the merits resulting from such a good work. Those merits are strictly proportionate to the degree of sanctity or perfection of him who receives alms. Such doctrine—destructive of the purest and noblest motives that can actuate man to do good, is openly upheld now both in theory and practice by the Budhist Monks. When they receive alms from the admirers of their saintly mode of life, they never think of returning thanks to those who so liberally administer to all their material wants—they content themselves with raying: Tliadoo, thadoo, that is to say—well, well, and the pious offerer withdraws perfectly satisfied and happy, relying on the merits he has gained on this occasion, and longing for another opportunity of doing the like. The liberality of the laity towards the religious ia carried to an excess scarcely to be credited. Governments do not interlere in the maintenance of the perfect; and yet they are abundantly supplied with all the necessaries, nay the luxuries of life. They live on the fat of the land.

84. This short summary of Budha's life, indicating the places where he had spent 20 seasons, leaving us in the dark as to all particulars regarding the 35 other seasons, is another illustration of the assertion made in some foregoing passages, that the present compilation Is very concise ami imperfect, supplying us with but an outline of Budha's proceedings during the course of his preachings. He reached the age of eighty. According to the authority of his legend, Budha lived forty rive years after he had obtained the Budhaship. He was therefore aged thirty five years, when he began his public life and entered the career of preaching the law. It is not in my power to say something positive respecting the antiquity of the compilation of this work, but the statement of the main facts is home out by the united testimony of the Budhistic works existing in various parts and in different languages of Eastern Asia. If it be true that our Budl a lived so long we must believe that his time during the last twenty five years was employed in the same benevolent undertaking, viz:—to preach the sacred law and point out to beings the way that may lead them to the deliverance. Many volumes are full of the disputes on religious subjects between Budha and the heretics, that is to say, his opponents. We may conclude that those controversies took place during the latter part of Budha's life, as it cannot be doubted ih.it they increased in proportion to the progress the new doctrines made among the people. If, however, we are in great part kept in the dark respecting the doings of the great Reformer during the longest period of his public life, we are amply compensated by the account of many interesting circumstances that occurred during the last year of his earthly career.

The first particular related at length by the compiler of this work, is one of peculiar interest. Budha summons the Italians to his presence through the ever faithful and dutiful Ananda, and addresses to them instructions which form the basis of the duties and obligations of all true disciples. He styles them Bickus, that is to say mendicants, to remind them of the spirit of poverty and of the contempt oi worldly things which must ever be dear to them. The epithet beloved, is always prefixed to the word Bickus, as conveying an idea of the true and pure affection the master bore to his disciples, or rather his spiritual children. Budha charges them at first to be always diligent in holding assemblies where religious subjects should be discussed, controversies settled and unity of faith secured. This obligation has long been held as a binding one by the primitive Budhists, as mention is always made in their books of the three great assemblies held during the three first centuries of the Budhistic era, when the sacred writinas were carefully revised, amended and as it were purged of all spurious doctrines. It was during the last council that the canon of scriptures was adopted and has ever since been maintained by Orthodox Budhists. Nothing can be more wise than the desire l.e to strongly expresses that no one should ever presume to alter the true and genuine nature of the precepts, by making, according to his whim, light what is heavy; or obligatory what is but a matter of counsel. He expresses the strongest wish to see them always united among themselves and fervent in the observance of all the precepts of the law. He establishes as a fundamental principle, the obedience to superiors. There is no society of a religious •character among heathens, where the various steps of the Hierarchy are so well it ark. d and defined as in the Budhistic Institution. The whole body of religious has a general sui erior in each province, there is a superior having a thorough control over all the houses within the limits of the province: he may be looked upon as a regular Diocesan. In each house of the order there is a superior having power and jurisdiction over all the inmates ot the place. Under him we find the professed members of the society, then those who may be called Novices and last of all the Postulants and disciple-allowed to wear the clerical dress, or yellow garb, without any power or authority, and being looked upon merely as in the way of probation and preparation. In his charge to bis disciples, Budha lays much stress upon the necessity of destroying in themselves the principles of passions and in particular concupiscence. The general tendency of all his preachings is to teach iren the means of freeing themselves from the tyrannical yoke of passions. No one indeed can obtain the state of perfect quiescence or Niban unless he has annihilated in himself all passions and thereby qualified himself for the practice of all virtues. The character of the gnat body of ascetic Budhists is clearly set forth in the exhortations their great master directs to them, to love retreat and solitude. The noise, tumult and bustle necessarily attending the position of a man living in the world, are entirely opposed to Ihi acquirement of self knowledge, self possession and self control, so much required in a Religious. As long, concludes Budha, as you will remain faithful to your regulations, you shall p' nsper, and secure to yourselves and your order, the respect and admiration of til. He winds up his speech by exhorting them to act in a manner ever becoming their sacred calling. The greatest moralist, possessing the most consummate and perfectkrowlcdge of human nature, could not lay down wiser regulations for setting on a firm inrl lasting foundation a great and mighty institution, destined to spread itself far and wide amidst nations and trilies and subsist during an unlimited period.

85. A Dzeat is a building erected by the piety of Brdlr'sts for the purpose of affording shelter and a place of rest to travellers and strangers. These but dings are to be found at the entrance of towns, in villoges, and often in the neighbourhood of Pagodas. Those of Burmah are erected in the pluinest manner. A verandah in front eMends to the full length of the building, a spacious hall running parallel to the verandah occupies the remaining place. There is no partition between the hull and the verandah. It happcu sometimes that a space at one of the hall's corners, screened hy mats or dry leaven, oners an asylum to him who does not like to mix with the vulgxu. The carelessness of government in all that Telates to the comfort of the people, is amply supplied by the zeal of pious laymen who readily undertake the election of those works of public utility in the hope of securing to themselves the attainment of merits to be enjoyed perhaps in this but certainly in some future existences.

On this occasion Hndha preached to the crowd. We see a line of distinction well drawn between the assembly of the disciples of Bndba and those we may merely style hearers. 1 bey are addressed by the name of Darukas, meaning a layman that hears the preaching. A Daraka is yet a convert and therefore not a member of the assembly of the perfect. He has already some faith in Budha; be is under instructions but he cannot be called a professed disciple. The rewards of faith are both of a natural and supernatural order. Riches, happiness, an honorable reputation are promised to the faithful observer of the law. He is to be ever free irom doubts, since iaith makes him adhere firmly to all the instructions of Budha; and alter his deaih, he shall migrate to some of the seats of Nats. The trespassing of the law is to be attended with poverty, shame and misery, doubts in an unsettled mind, and lust punishment in hell. This place of suffering is minutely described in Budhistic works. Such a description appears, in the opinion of the writer, of no importance to those who desire to understand not the superficial portion of the Budhism, but its fundamental and constitutive parts. Hell is a place of punishment and torment as the Nats seats are places of reward and happiness. There is no eternity of sufferings: the unfortunate inhabitant of those dark regions is doomed to remain here until the sum of his offences has been fully atoned for by sufferings. When the evil influence created by fin is exhausted, punishment ceates too, and the wretched sufferer is allowed to migrate to the seat of man, in Older to acquire merits and prepare himself lor happier future existences.

In recording the account or the conversion of a courtezan named Apapalika, her liberality and gifts to Budha and his disciples, one is almost leminded of the converse n of a woman that was a sinner, mentioned in the Gospel.

80. The duties performed by Thariputra on this occasion, exhibit more fally than language can express, the profound veneration he entertained for Budha. He was with Manka'an the most distinguished member of the assembly; he occupied the first rank among the disciples; in point of intellectual and spiritual attainments and transcendent qi alifical ions he stood second to none but to Budha. Not withstanding his exalted position, he did not hesitate to render to his superior the lowest services. The high opinion he had or Budha's super-eminent excellencies prompted him to overlook his own merit, and to admire without reserve that matchless pattern of wisdom and knowledge. Hence the inward satisfaction he sweetly enjoyed, in serving as an humble disciple, him whose unutterable perfections cast in the shade, in his opinion, his far famed and much praised acquirements. The unaflecled humility of the disci] -e does the greatest credit to the sterling worth of his inward dispositions, and conveys the highest idea of the respect and veneration enterlained for the master's person.

In the houses where Budhist Monks are living, it is a fixed rule that the superior and elders of the institution should be attended in the minutest services, by the youngest members wearing the professional dress. The framer of the disciplinary regulations, intending on the one hand to confer dignity on the assembly, and on the other to oppose a strong barrier to covetousness and to all inordinate worldly affections, wisely laid down a stringent order to all the members of the society, never to touch or make use of any article of food, dress, Sec, unless it had previously been presented to them by some attendant—layman or clerical. Hence when water is needed for washing the head, hands and feet or for rinsing the mouth, when meals arc served up, when offerings are made, a young postulant holding a vessel of water on the board whereupon are placed the dishes, or the article intended to be offered, respectfully approaches the elder, kneels before him, squatting on his heels, lays before him the object to be presented, bows down with the join, d hands raised to the forehead, resumes then the article with his two hands, presents it, the upper part of the body bent in token ol respect. Before accepting it, the elder asks is it lawful' The answer, it is lawful, having been duly returned, the article is either taken from the hands of the offerer, or he is directed to place it within the reach of the elder. Any infraction of this ceremonial, is considered as n sin. In the presence of the people, the Monks never fail to submit to that somewhat annoying etiquette: their countenance on such occasions nssumes a dignified and grave appearance that has always much amused the wi iter, wheneverne had the opportunity of witnessing this ceremony which is called Akat. There is no doubt but this custom is a very ancient one. We find it blended, to a certain extent, with the manners of the nations inhabiting Eastern Asia. It is minutely described in the Winl, and carefully observed by the inmates of the Burlhistic monasteries. It agrees remarkably well with the spirit that has originated, promulgated and sanctioned the disciplinary regulations. He who in tliis instance would look at the mere skeleton of the rule, without any reference to the object aimed at by the legislator, would show himself in the light of a very superficial observer. This unfortunately is too often the case, when we scorn and laujih at customs, the demerit of which consists simply in not being similar to ours: whereas the commonest sense tells us that we ought to judge them In connection with the institutions tiny have sprung from, and the enil aimed at by him who has established them.

The narrative of Thariputra's departure for his birth place and his lost moments suggests to the mind several reflections. He is certain of the last day of his existence, he foresees with a prophetic glance, that his mother is well prepared for hearing profitably the preaching of the most perfect law: by the incomparable powers of his memory, he relates to Budha that a 100,001) revolutions ot nature ago, he was possessed with the strong desire of seeing him and hearing his instructions, &c, &c. How can these particulars be accounted for, according to Budliistic notions? The spring ail evils or demerits flow from is ignorance. A being is imperfect in proportion to his being sunk deeper in the dark bosom of Ignorance. On the contrary, a being perfects himself in proportion to the efforts he makes for dispelling the thick cloud of ignorance that encompasses his mind. The more a man grows in the knowledge of truth, the farther he removes the horizon of darkness. He who has made the greatest and most persevering efforts in fervently prosecuting the work of searching truth, by studying the law that teaches the way of reaching it, contemplates and enjoys a portion of truth, commensurate to his efforts and success. A Budha who has reached the last boundaries of knowledge has therefore triumphed over ignorance and indefinitely enlarged the sphere of truth. He possesses in fact a cloudless sight of all that exists, his science is unlimited, extending over all the countless series of worlds that, in the opinion of the Budhist, are supposed to form a system of nature. Tliariput:a though much advanced in perfection had not as vet reached its acme. His knowledge, however, was wonderfully great and extensive—it enabled him to obtain a clear insight into the darknesses of the past, and distinct foresight of the future.

87. The conduct of Thariputra on this occasion wears an appearance of rudeness towards his aged mother, which at flrtt hurts the feelings of human nature. But a close examination of all the circumstances connected with this last episode of the great disciple's life shows that he was far from being divested of filial piety. He leaves his beloved master, undertakes a long and fatiguing journey, for the sole purpose of preaching the law to his mother, and conferring upon her a boon of a greater value than that he had received from her. In return for all favors bestowed upon him by his mother, he initiates her in the knowledge of truth, and enables her to enter into the great ways that lead to the deliverance, that is to say, to the state of Niban. It cannot be denied that his language on this occasion partook of an austere tone, sounding harsh to the ears of worldly men, but it must be borne in mind that Thariputra was an old ascetic, dead to all affections of nature, looking upon truth alone in an abstractively pure form without any regard to material objects. He loved the law of truth which he had learned from budha, and afterwards preached it to others with an unparalleled zeal and fervor. The spirit of Budha lived in him: he desired to see all beings availing themselves of the means of salvation he had in his power to impart unto them, he loved them all with an equal affection ; the state of ignorance they were sunk in, deeply affected his compassionate soul and he had but one desire, that of dispelling the thick mist of ignorance by the pure light of truth.

When the instruction to his mother was over, Thariputra desired to be left alone Willi Ills disciples. His last words to them bespeak the bumble sentiments of hi# mind Though the first member of the Assembly of the perfect, he begs pardon of his inferiors for the causes of offence he may have unwillingly given them, during the long period they had lived together: regardless of all the good he had done unto them, he feels that he could not well part with them, ere he had atoned to them for any wrong, however involuntary, be might have done to some of them. To those uninitiated in Budhistic metaphysics, it is not easy to understand and distinctly to appreciate the situation of Thariputra at his last moments. It is stated that be fell into ecstacy or trance, though his soul remained as yet connected with this world by slender and almost invisible lies. This was the last and mighty smrzale of a being to disengage himself from the trammels of existence and become free from all exterior influence. Soaring above all that exist", Thariputra's soul passed succes"ivelv ti rough the four stages she had so ofien visited whilst entrrged in the arduous efforts of investigating truth, preparing to enter the fifth and last one, where she was to stay finally and perpetually, without any further change, in a state of quiescence. When i he sage during his meditation has brought his mind to bear upon some object he wishes to contemplate attentively, and thoroughly to comprehend, he at first gets hold of that object by his thought, he then examines it by means of religion: the knowledge he thus acquires, never fails to create a pleasurable sensation; this pleasure or satisfaction conveys to the soul, enjoyment and happiness, he loves ihe truih lie has discovered and he rests fixedly in it. This is the last stage he ever can or wish to reach;—what has the human mind iu'deid to do after having found truth, but to cliint to it, it remains ever attached to it. During the last trance, Thariputra with his almost immensely developed mental facullies, knew comprehensively truth, reflected on it, felt a pleasure in considering it, enjoyed it, or rather fed upon it and at last adhered so perfectly lo it that he became, as i* were, merged into it. He then had reached the state of i\'iban, where he was forever exempt from Ihe influences created and put in molioii and activity by matter and passions, in every slate of existence. Budhists, in Burmull at least, owing to their very limiled and imperfect education, are unable to give any satisfactory or even intelligible account of the state ol Niban or perfection. What is here but superficially staled, has been found in one of the last Budhistic compositions on this and other metaphysical subjects, Fuller particulars shall, hereafter, be given as to the state of Niban, when the death of one greater than Thariputra shall be related.

88. In Burmah when a person has just given up the ghost, the inmates of the house send for musicians who soon make their appearance with their respective instruments. They forthwith set to work, and keen up an incessant noise during the 24 hours that elapse before the corpse be removed to the place where it is to be burnt Relatives, friends and elders resort to the deceased's house for the ostensible purpose of condoling wilh those who have lost their kinsman, but in reality for sharing in the mirth and amusements going on, on such occasions. Strange to say, the thought of death strikes no one's mind, the fate of the deceased is scarcely pitied, nay remembered. Were it not for the presence of the corpse, and the perhaps conventional cries and lamentations of some old women at certain intervals, no one could scarcely, I imagine, a fortiori find out the motive that had induced such a crowd to assemble on that spot.

If the departed belonged to a respectable family, in tolerably good circumstances, the funeral ceremony is arranged in the following manner. Presents having been beforehand made ready, intended as offerings for the Budhist monks, they are invited for the occasion, and their presence is expected in numbers proportionate to the amount of offerings. The procession starts from the deceased's house, and directs its course towards the place of burning or the cemetery. It is headed by the yellow dressed monks, carrying their broad palm-leaf made fans on the shoulder, and attended by their disciples. Next follow the bi-arers of the offerings in two lines: they are partly men and partly women, but walking separately and apart from each other. The coffin appears next, laid on thick poles, and carried by six or eight men In front of the coffin, and sometimes at the sides are arranged the musicians who perform all the way, without an instant's interruption, behind the coffin are grouped the male relatives, friends, &c, and lastly the procession is closed by crowds of women attired in their finest dress. The burning placets generally without the prccints of the

« 이전계속 »