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according to tradition, visited India in the first century of the Christian era, and whose followers were probably provided with copies of the earlier Gospels. The traditions of the Cingalese, or inhabitants of Ceylon, concerning Buddha are the earliest, but are quite as absurd as those of the Burmese or Siamese. He is represented as determining upon his incarnation while in the fourth heaven; as coming to earth in the form of a white elephant, effecting his miraculous conception by a virgin ; as a five colored ray of light, being born, amid wonderful convulsions of nature, from the right side of his mother, and at the instant of birth proclaiming his divine mission; as losing his mother on the seventh day after his birth, and being adopted by®her sister, by whom he was named Gautama or Gaudama, (wise master of the world ;) as having, without exertion acquired all human wisdom, and become the victor in all athletic games, and after his marriage as having become an ascetic, and resisted the numerous and extraordinary temptations of Mara, the god of love, sin, and death; as having taken his place on the throne of intelligence at Gaya, where were made present to his mental vision all the events of his past existence, as well as those of all other beings, past, present, and to come; that he then became a teacher or founder of a sect, and performed the most wonderful miracles, healing the sick, raising the dead, restoring sight and hearing, and relieving the wants of the poor ; that in the forty-five years of his life as a teacher he underwent five hundred and fifty transformations, and performed innumerable acts of the highest merit, such as, while personating a prince, giving himself to be devoured by a starving tigress and her young; using his own skin for parchment, his blood for ink, and splinters of his bones for a stylus, to record a lost portion of the sacred books, etc., etc. They also narrate some wonderful miracles and convulsions of nature as having occurred at his death, and declare that his body could not be burned until reverence had been done to his feet, and that then fire burst forth spontaneously from his breast and consumed the sacred corpse. Relics of the prophet, reputed to be genuine, are preserved in several of the cities of Ceylon, Burmah, and Siam.
The sacred books (Yatus) are divided into three sections. They are, I. The DHARMMA, which comprises the cosmology
and cosmography, the revelations, dogmas, and precepts of the Buddhist faith. II. The VINAYA, which contains the ceremonial law or ritual of the priests, and has also some religious instruction in regard to the conduct of laymen. III. The ABHIDHARMMA, or system of Buddhist metaphysics. The last, which in its subtle distinctions, and its false, though ingenious logical principles, bears a strong resemblance to the Hindoo metaphysical systems from which it sprung, would not interest our readers, and we shall therefore content ourselves with a brief account of the two former.
The DHARMMA recognizes no Supreme Being. There was no beginning, there will be no end; and from the not-beginning there has ever been and will ever be a ceaseless round of arising and perishing worlds. Of the vast number or duration of these worlds, the intellect can have no knowledge and can form no idea. “Four things," says the DHARMMA, “are unmeasurable: the science of Buddha, space, the number of breathing beings, and the number of worlds.” The Buddhist writers frequently speak of three thousand great chiliocosms, by which they mean three thousand billions of worlds, a number, one would think, sufficiently large to satisfy even the most ambitious cosmogonist; but this vast number bears so small a proportion to the whole, that according to those writers, its loss from the system of the universe would not be observable.
In the number of their places of reward and punishment they are less profuse. There are four chief heavens, which, in all the convulsions which affect the other worlds or heavens, remain undisturbed. These are occupied by Buddhas and the highest order of saints. Below these are twenty-eight inferior heavens, the abodes of those who have attained merit; at the end of a kulpu or kalpa (an æon of incalculable duration, these will be destroyed and replaced by others. These are all above the earth. To the earth, or some other of the innumerable worlds on the same plane, will return after death in human shape, or in the form of some animal, the great bulk of those who die, for transmigration has been retained from the Hindoo theology in their system. Below the earth are, first, the world of snakes, for the punishment of those whose offenses, though not the most aggravated, are too great to permit their immediate transmigration even in animal form. Next in order of downward progression are one hundred and twenty hells of comparatively mild torments, and twelve, or according to the Burmese version, sixteen chief hells in which the tortures are the severest which an oriental imagination can describe.
Klesa, or the commission of sin in a former existence, is the fountain of all evil. This sin can only be extinguished by deeds of merit, and one or several lives of good deeds may not be sufficient to atone for a previous life of crime. Hence the individual is bound to live a pure life, not only from the dread of hell and the suffering he must endure, but from the fear of inflicting upon a future self, in another state of existence, the penalty of his sinfulness in this life.
But there is, besides this Klesa, another source of evil and suffering. Mundane existence, (sansara,) far from being a boon and a blessing, is a curse, a fundamental evil, from which flow out four poisonous streams, birth, age, disease, and death. To be freed from this condition of woe, and also from the sinfulness of a former life, is the highest of aims. To attain to this freedom is nirvāna, or more properly nirvvāna, a state in which the original sin is conquered, the desires subdued, the passions tamed, pain, emotion, disease, age, death, and transmigration banished, and, in its highest degree, the consciousness of existence swallowed up in a profound repose. Many writers have represented this condition of nirvvāna as annihilation; but the Buddhists themselves will not admit that the idea of physical annihilation is included in it.
To attain to this beatific state meritorious deeds are requisite, but above all, profound and long-continued meditation. This opens the gates of heaven, and if persisted in will lead to omniscience and omnipotence.
The Buddhist doctrine is often called in the DHARMMA the way of the four truths, in allusion to the four propositions of Buddha, which are posted in the pagodas, and widely scattered among the people. They are as follows:
1. Pain is truth, age, disease, death, the meeting with what one dislikes, the separation from what one loves, the failure to obtain what one strives for.
2. The causes of pain are desires, lusts, passions. 3. These can be overcome. 4. The way of overcoming (nirvvāna) has eight parts : right
Buddha, which is
They are as follow the meeting with
view, right sense, right speech, right action, right position, right energy, right memory, and right meditation.
Caste was abolished by Buddha himself, and the right of the lower classes, as well as woman, to instruction, admitted. He was not an idolater, and the sacred books, while they encourage the erection of shrines to his memory and the offering of flowers upon these shrines, yet admit no worship of idols. The priests at the present day will profess that they do not worship the idol or idols found in their temples, but the self-existent Buddha, of whom these are only mementos; but it is certain that the masses make no such distinction.
The VINAYA, or ritual of priestly and religious observance, prescribes two hundred and fifty ordinances, which the priests (scavanas, sense tamers) must observe. Of these ten are essential, viz.: not to kill, not to steal, to be chaste, not to lie, not to get drunk, not to eat after mid-day, not to sing or dance, to abstain from ornamental dresses, not to use a large bed, and not to receive the precious metals.
The first five of these are incumbent upon all the followers of Buddha, and, under the name of the five commands, are repeated by the priests to the people morning and evening, and responded to by their hearers. Five of the two hundred and fifty ordinances refer to the respect to be paid to Buddha, the laws, and the priests; the remainder comprise ritual observances. The garments of the priest are prescribed ; in Ceylon and Farther India they are yellow, in Thibet crimson or violet. The priests are forbidden to marry, and if they have married before becoming priests, they must separate from their wives.
The Vinaya also recognizes different orders of monks and nuns, and prescribes rules for their conduct, dress, mode of life, etc. There are also directions in regard to the conduct and duties of the upasakus and upasakis, the religious servants of the priesthood, who lead a semi-monastic life, without the vows which are required from the monks and nuns. It also enjoins toleration of other religious systems, and forbids persecution.
The remaining volumes of the Vinaya are occupied with an account of the different orders of saints, of which there are eight or nine, from the teachers of theology to the embryonic
ning prieden to me
Buddhas; and with litanies, forms of worship, mode of presenting offerings, donations of rice, betel-nuts, etc., for the priests, and other like matters. The priest is required to take the vow of poverty, to possess but three garments, and only such furniture, utensils, etc., as are absolutely necessary for his subsistence. He must recite the requisite prayers, and make the required repetition of the names of Buddha before the shrine for the worshiper; must punctually, morning and evening, rehearse the five commands to the people, and if he would acquire merit, must instruct the youth without reward, and exercise his kindness toward animals, particularly those that are lame, infirm, or decrepid. To feed these with his own flesh is the highest work of merit. We have spoken of the Buddhistic legends as giving presumptive evidence that their compilers had read or heard one of the Gospels. The Vinaya gives similar indications of familiarity with the Mosaic ritual, probably obtained through some copy of the LXX, which, in the frequent intercourse between Egypt and India in the first and second centuries of our era, was not a rare book in India. On the other hand, the school of Alexandria, whose influence upon the early Church was so powerful for evil, undoubtedly acquired the first idea of the monasticism they introduced in the third century, from the Buddhists, and it is not impossible that Gregory the Great drew his notion of the celibacy of the clergy from a similar source.
The practical effects of this religious system upon the natives who profess it remain to be considered. It is not so degrading and licentious, so utterly devoid of morality as Brahminism. Woman occupies a much higher social position, and vice is not so open and unblushing; but a cold, dead atheism has nothing in it to inspire holy living, or high and noble action. There are those among its professors who seek to attain to a high degree of merit; but it is rather by ritual observance, asceticism, repetition of the names of Buddha, or kindness to animals, than by a pure and holy life. There is nothing in the system to inspire elevated thought, noble acts, or generous endeavors. No omniscient eye watches human conduct, no unerring and holy judge punishes wrong doing. Unconsciousness of existence is the highest reward for the most meritorious life, or succession of lives, and the chance of obtaining this is so much