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Name: Mue8812__Mueller_SelectedEssays_2.pdf
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Date: 3.9.2008
Author: Müller, Friedrich Max
Title: Selected Essays on Language, Mythology and Religion. Vol. II.
Publ.: London : Longmans, Green, and Co.
Description: vi, 588 p.
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F. M A X M Ü L L E R , K . M .
Foreign Member of the French Institute
L O N G M A N S , G R E E N , A N D C O .
All rights reserved
T H E S E C O N D V O L U M E .
XL OPENING ADDRESS , delivered by the President of the
Aryan Section at the International Congress of
Orientalists, held in London, September 14-21,
1874 1
Note A. Influence of the study of the Science of
Language on public opinion in India . . 41
Note B. Influence of the study of the Veda in
Europe on Religious Reform in India . 42
XII. WESTMINSTER LECTURE on Missions, delivered in
the nave of Westminster Abbey, December 3,
1873 46
Note A. Passages illustrating the missionary character of Buddhism. . . . 7 6
Note B. Schism in the Brahma-Samâj . . 78
Note C. Keshub Chunder Sen, on ' Christ and Christianity' . . . . . . 8 2
XIII. O N T H E V I T A L I T Y OF B R A H M A N I S M (Fortnightly
Review, July 1874). . . . . 8 7
XIV. LECTURE ON T H E VEDAS or the Sacred Books of the
Brahmans (March 1865) . . . . 109
XV. BUDDHISM (Edinburgh Review, 1862) . , 160
Note. Religious statistics of Buddhism (1880) . 224
XVI. BUDDHIST PILGRIMS (Times, 1857) . . . 234
XVII. T H E M E A N I N G OF N I R V A N A (1857) . . . 280
XVIII. BUDDHIST NIHILISM , Lecture delivered at the
Congress of German Philologists, Kiel, September
28,1869 292
XX. POPOL V U H (1862) 372
XXI. SEMITIC MONOTHEISM (Times, 1860) . . 402
XXII. F A L S E ANALOGIES (Contemporary Review, 1870) . 442
XXIH. O N FREEDOM (Presidential Address at the Midland
Institute, Birmingham, 1879) . . . 479
INDEX . . . . . . . 535
Sanskrit text of Sukhavatîvyûha, discovered in
Japan . . . . . to face p. 342
Delivered by the President of the Aryan Section at the International
Congress of Orientalists, held in London, September 14-21, 1874.
No one likes to be asked what business he has to
exist, and yet, whatever we do, whether singly or in
concert with others, the first question which the
world never fails to address to us is Die cur hie?
Why are you here ? or to put it into French, What is
your raison â?être ? We have had to submit to this
examination even before we existed, and many a
time have I been asked the question, both by friend
and foe. What is the good of an International Congress of Orientalists ?
I shall endeavour, as shortly as possible, to answer
that question, and show that our Congress is not a
mere fortuitous congeries of barren atoms or molecules, but that we are at least Leibnizian monads,
each with his own self, and force, and will, and each
determined, within the limits of some pre-established
harmony, to help in working out some common purpose, and to achieve some real and lasting good.
2 a d d r e s s a t t h e i n t e r n a t i o n a l
It is generally thought that the chief object of a
scientific Congress is social, and I am not one of
those who are incapable of appreciating the delights
and benefits of social intercourse with hard-working
and honest-thinking men. Much as I detest what
is commonly called society, I willingly give up glaciers and waterfalls, cathedrals and picture-galleries,
for one half hour of real society, of free, frank,
fresh, and friendly intercourse, face to face, and mind
to mind, with a great, and noble, and loving soul,
such as was Bunsen ; with a man intrepid in his
thoughts, his words, and his deeds, such as was
John Stuart Mi l l ; or with a scholar who, whether
he had been quarrying heavy blocks, or chiselling
the most brittle filigree work, poured out all his
treasures before you with the pride and pleasure
of a child, such as was Eugène Burnouf. A Congress, therefore, and particularly an International
Congress, would certainly seem to answer some
worthy purpose, were it only by bringing together
fellow-workers of all countries and ages, by changing
what were to us merely great names into pleasant
companions, and by satisfying that very right and
rational curiosity which we all feel, after having
read a really good book, of seeing what the man
looks like who could achieve such triumphs.
A l l this is perfectly true ; yet, however pleasant
to ourselves this social intercourse may appear, in
the eyes of the world at large it will hardly be
considered a sufficient excuse for our existence. In
order, therefore, to satisfy that outer world that we
are really doing something, we point of course to
the papers which are read at our public meetings,
and to the discussions which they elicit. Much as
I value that feature also in a scientific congress,
I confess I doubt, and I know that many share that
doubt, whether the same result might not be obtained with much less trouble. A paper that contains something really new and valuable, the result,
it may be, of years of toil and thought, requires to
be read with care in a quiet corner of our own
study, before the expression of our assent or dissent
can be of any weight or value. There is too much
hollow praise, and occasionally too much wrangling
and ill-natured abuse at our scientific tournaments,
and the world at large, which is never without a
tinge of malice and a vein of quiet humour, has
frequently expressed its concern at the waste of ‘ oil
and vinegar’ which is occasioned by the frequent
meetings of our British and Foreign Associations.
What then is the real use of a Congress, such as
that which has brought us together this week from
all parts of the world ? What is the real excuse for
our existence 9 Why are we here, and not in our
workshops ?
It seems to me that the real and permanent use
of these scientific gatherings is twofold :—
(1) They enable us to take stock, to compare
notes, to see where we are, and to find out where we
ought to be going.
(2) They give us an opportunity, from time to
time, to tell the world where we are, what we have
been doing for the world, and what, in return, we
expect the world to do for us.
The danger of all scientific work at present, not
only among Oriental scholars, but, as far as I can see,
everywhere, is the tendency to extreme specialisationOur age shows in that respect a decided reaction
against the spirit of a former age, which those with
grey heads among us can still remember—an age
represented in Germany by such names as Humboldt,
Ritter, Böckh, Johannes Müller, Bopp, Bunsen, and
others ; men who look to us like giants, carrying a
weight of knowledge far too heavy for the shoulders
of such mortals as now be; ay, men who were
giants, but whose chief strength consisted in this,
that they were never entirely absorbed or bewildered
by special researches, but kept their eye steadily on
the highest objects of all human knowledge; who
could trace the vast outlines of the kosmos of nature
or the kosmos of the mind with an unwavering hand,
and to whose maps and guide books we must still
turn whenever we are in danger of losing our way
in the mazes of minute research. At the present
moment such works as Humboldt5 s 'Kosmos,5 or
Bopp's ' Comparative Grammar,’ or Bunsen's 6 Christianity and Mankind,’ would be impossible. No one
would dare to write them, for fear of not knowing
the exact depth at which the Protogenes Haec7celii
has lately been discovered or the lengthening of a
vowel in the Samhitapâ tha of the Rig-Veda. It is
quite right that this should be so, at least, for a time;
but all rivers, all brooks, all rills, are meant to flow
into the ocean, and all special knowledge, to keep
it from stagnation, must have an outlet into the
general knowledge of the world. Knowledge for its
own sake, as it is sometimes called, is the most
dangerous idol that a student can worship. We
despise the miser who amasses money for the sake
of money, but still more contemptible is the intellectual miser who hoards up knowledge instead of
spending it, though, with regard to most of our
knowledge, we may be well assured and satisfied
that, as we brought nothing into the world, so we
may carry nothing out.
Against this danger of mistaking the means for
the end, of making bricks without making mortar, of
working for ourselves instead of working for others,
meetings such as our own, bringing together so large
a number of the first Oriental scholars of Europe, seem
to me a most excellent safeguard. They draw us out
of our shell, away from our common routine, away
from that small orbit of thought in which each of us
moves day after day, and make us realise more fully
that there are other stars moving all around us in
our little universe, that we all belong to one celestial
system, or to one terrestrial commonwealth, and that,
if we want to see real progress in that work with
which we are more especially entrusted, the re-conquest of the Eastern world, we must work with one
another, for one another, like members of one body,
like soldiers of one army, guided by common principles, striving after common purposes, and sustained
by common sympathies. Oriental literature is of
Buch enormous dimensions that our small army of
scholars can occupy certain prominent positions only;
but those points, like the stations of a trigonometrical
survey, ought to be carefully chosen, so that we
should be able to work in harmony together. I hope
that in that respect our Congress may prove of
special benefit. We shall hear, each of us, from
others, what they wish us to do. ‘ Why don't you
finish this 9 5 ‘ Why don't you publish that ? * are
questions which we have already heard asked by many
of our friends. We shall be able to avoid what
happens so often, that two men collect materials for
exactly the same work, and we may possibly hear of
some combined effort to carry out great works, which
can only be carried out virions unitis, and of which
I may at least mention one, a translation of the
- Sacred Books of Mankind.’ Important progress has
already been made for setting on foot this great
undertaking, an undertaking which I think the
world has a right to demand from Oriental scholars,
but which can only be carried out by joint actionThis Congress has helped us to lay the foundationstone, and I trust that at our next Congress we shall
be able to produce some tangible results.
I now come to the second point. A Congress
enables us to tell the world what we have been
doing. This, it seems to me, is particularly needful
with regard to Oriental studies which, with the exception of Hebrew, still stand outside the pale of our
schools and universities, and are cultivated by the
very smallest number of students. And yet I make
bold to say that during the last hundred, and still
more during the last fifty years, Oriental studies
have contributed more than any other branch of
scientific research to change, to purify, to clear, and
intensify the intellectual atmosphere of Europe, and
to widen our horizon in all that pertains to the
Science of Man, in history, philology, theology, and
philosophy. We have not only conquered and annexed new worlds to the ancient empire of learnings
but we have leavened the old world with ideas that
are already fermenting even in the daily bread of
our schools and universities. Most of those here
present know that I am not exaggerating; but as
the world is sceptical while listening to orations pro
domo, I shall attempt to make good my assertions.
At first, the study of Oriental literature was a
matter of curiosity only, and it is so still to a great
extent, particularly in England. Sir William Jones,,
whose naine is the only one among Oriental scholars
that has ever obtained a real popularity in England,
represents most worthily that phase of Oriental
studies. Read only the two volumes of his Life, and
they wiU certainly leave on your mind the distinct
impression that Sir William Jones was not only a
man of extensive learning and refined taste, but undoubtedly a very great man—one in a million. He
was a good classical scholar of the old school, a wellread historian, a thoughtful lawyer, a clear-headed
politician, and a true gentleman, in the old sense of
the word. He moved in the best—I mean the most
cultivated—society, the great writers and thinkers of
the day listened to him with respect, and, say what
you like, we still live by his grace, we still draw on
that stock of general interest which he excited in
the English mind for Eastern subjects.
Yet the interest which Sir William Jones took in
Oriental literature was purely æsthetic. He chose
what was beautiful in Persian and translated it, as
he would translate an ode of Horace. He was
charmed with Kâlidâsa's play of ‘ Sakuntala '—and
who is not ? and he left us his classical reproduction
of one of the finest of Eastern gems. Being a judge
in India, he thought it his duty to acquaint himself
with the native law-books in their original language,
and he gave us his masterly translation of the
* Laws of Manu.’ Sir William Jones was fully
aware of the startling similarity between Sanskrit,
Latin, and Greek. More than a hundred years ago,
i n a letter written to Prince Adam Czartoryski‚
in the year 1770, he says: ‘Many learned investigators of antiquity are fully persuaded that a very
old and almost primeval language was in use among
the northern nations, from which not only the Celtic
dialect, but even Greek and Latin are derived; in
fact, we find 7raT97p and prJTrjp in Persian, nor is
6v and nomen from Persian narn, as to make it ridiculous
to suppose that they sprang from the same root. We
must confess,5 he adds, ‘ that these researches are
very obscure and uncertain, and, you will allow, not
so agreeable as an ode of Hafez, or an elegy of
Amr'alkeis.’ In a letter, dated 1787, he says : ‘You
will be surprised at the resemblance between Sanskrit
and both Greek and Latin.’
Colebrooke also, the great successor of Sir William
Jones, was fully aware of the relationship between
Sanskrit, Greek, Latin, German, and even Slavonic.
I possess some curious MS. notes of his, of the year
1801 or 1802, containing long lists of words, expressive of the most essential ideas of primitive life, and
which he proved to be identical in Sanskrit, Greek,
Latin, German, and Slavonic.’
1 These lists of common Aryan words were published in the
Academy, October 10, 1874, and are reprinted at the end of an article
4 On the Life of Colebrooke’ (Chips from a German Works7iop,
vol. iv. p. 418).
Yet neither Colebrooke nor Sir William Jones
perceived the full import of these facts. Sir William
Jones died young ; Colebrooke's energies, marvellous
as they were, were partly absorbed by official work,
so that it was left to German and French scholars to
bring to light the full wealth of the mine which
those great English scholars had been the first to
open. We know now that in language, and in all
that is implied by language, India and Europe are
one, but to prove this, against the incredulity of all
the greatest scholars of the day, was no easy matter.
It could be done effectually in one way only, viz. by
giving to Oriental studies a strictly scientific character, by requiring from Oriental students not only
the devotion of an amateur, but the same thoroughness, minuteness, and critical accuracy which were
long considered the exclusive property of Greek and
Latin scholars. I could not think of giving here a
history of the work done during the last fifty years.
It has been admirably described in Benfey's 6 History
of the Science of Language.’1 Even i f I attempted
to give merely the names of those who have been
most distinguished by really original discoveries—
the names of Bopp, Pott, Grimm, Burnouf, Ravvlinson,
Miklosich, Benfey, Kuhn, Zeuss, Whitley Stokes—I
am afraid my list would be considered very incomplete.
But let us look at what has been achieved by
these men, and many others who followed their
banners ! The East, formerly a land of dreams, of
fables, and fairies, has become to us a land of unmis1 Geschichte der Sprachwissenschaft und Orientalischen Philologie
in Deutschland, von Theodor Benfey. München, 1869.
takeable reality ; the curtain between the West and
the East has been lifted, and our old forgotten home
stands before us again in bright colours and definite
outlines. Two worlds, separated for thousands of
years, have been reunited as by a magic spell, and
we feel rich in a past that may well be the pride of
our noble Aryan family. We say no longer vaguely
and poetically Ex Oriente Lux, but we know that
all the most vital elements of our knowledge and
civilisation — our languages, our alphabets, our
figures, our weights and measures, our art, our religion, our traditions, our very nursery stories, come
to us from the East ; and we must confess that but
for the rays of Eastern light, whether Aryan or
Semitic or Hamitic, that called forth the hidden
germs of the dark and dreary West, Europe, now the
very light of the world, might have remained for
ever a barren and forgotten promontory of the primeval Asiatic continent. We live, indeed, in a new
world ; the barrier between the West and the East,
that seemed insurmountable, has vanished. The
East is ours, we are its heirs, and claim by right our
share in its inheritance.
We know what it was for the Northern nations,
the old barbarians of Europe, to be brought into,
spiritual contact with Rome and Greece, and to learn
that beyond the small, poor world in which they had
moved, there was an older, richer, brighter world,,
the ancient world of Rome and Athens, with its arts
and laws, its poetry and philosophy, all of which
they might call their own and make their own by
claiming the heritage of the past. We know how,
from that time, the Classical and Teutonic spirits
mingled together and formed that stream of modern
thought on whose shores we ourselves live and move.
A new stream is now being brought into the same
bed, the stream of Oriental thought, and already the
colours of the old stream show very clearly the influence of that new tributary. Look at any of the
important works published during the last twenty
years, not only on language, but on literature, mythology, law, religion, and philosophy, and you will
see on every page the working of a new spirit. I do
not say that the East can ever teach us new things,
but it can place before us old things, and leave us to
draw from them lessons more strange and startling
than anything dreamt of in our philosophy.
Before all, a study of the East has taught us the
same lesson which the Northern nations once learnt
in Rome and Athens, that there are other worlds
beside our own, that there are other religions, other
mythologies, other laws, and that the history of
philosophy from Thales to Hegel is not the whole
history of human thought. In all these subjects the
East has supplied us with parallels, and with all that
is implied in parallels, viz. the possibility of comparing, measuring, and understanding. The comparative spirit is the truly scientific spirit of our age*
nay of all ages. A n empirical acquaintance with
single facts does not constitute knowledge in the true
sense of the word. A l l human knowledge begins with
the Two or the Dyad, the comprehension of two
single things as one. If in these days we may still
quote Aristotle, we may boldly say that ' there is no
science of that which is unique.’ A single event
may be purely accidental, it comes and goes, it is i n 12 ADDRESS AT THE INTERNATIONAL
explicable, it does not call for an explanation. But
as soon as the same fact is repeated, the work of
comparison begins, and the first step is made in that
wonderful process which we call generalisation, and
which is at the root of all intellectual knowledge
and of all intellectual language. This primitive process of comparison is repeated again and again, and
when we now give the title of Comparative to the
highest kind of knowledge in every branch of science,
we have only replaced the old word intelligent (i.e
interligent) or inter-twining, by a new and more
expressive term, comparative. I shall say nothing
about the complete revolution of the study of languages by means of the comparative method, for here
1 can appeal to such names as Mommsen and Curtius,
to show that the best among classical scholars are
themselves the most ready to acknowledge the importance of the results obtained by the intertwining of
Eastern and Western philology.
But take mythology. As long as we had only
the mythology of the classical nations to deal with,
we looked upon it simply as strange, anomalous, and
irrational. When, however, the same strange stories,
the same * hallucinations, turned up in the most
ancient mythology of India, when not only the character and achievements, but the very names of some
of the gods and heroes were found to be the same,
then every thoughtful observer saw that there must
be a system in that ancient madness, that there
must be some order in that strange mob of gods and
heroes, and that it must be the task of comparative
mythology to find out what reason there is in a l l
that mass of unreason.
The same comparative method has been applied
to the study of religion also. AU religions are
Oriental, and, with the exception of the Christian,
their sacred books are all written in Oriental languages. The materials, therefore, for a comparative
study of the religious systems of the world had
all to be supplied by Oriental scholars. But far
more important than those materials is the spirit in
which they have been treated. The sacred books of
the principal religions of mankind had to be placed
side by side with perfect impartiality, in order to
discern the points which they share in common as
well as those that are peculiar to each. The results
already obtained by this simple juxtaposition are full
of important lessons, and the fact that the truths on
which all religions agree far exceed those on which
they differ, has hardly, as yet, been sufficiently appreciated. I feel convinced, however, that the time will
come when those who at present profess to be most
disquieted by our studies will be the most grateful for
our support—for having shown by evidence which
cannot be controverted, that all religions spring from
the same sacred soil, the human heart ; that all are
quickened by the same divine spirit, the still small
voice ; and that, though the outward forms of religion may change, may wither and decay, yet, as long
as man is what he is and what he has been, he will
postulate again and again the Infinite as the very
condition of the Finite, he will yearn for something
which the world cannot give, he will feel his weakness
and dependence, and in that weakness and dependence discover the deepest sources of his hope, and
trust, and strength.
A patient study of the sacred scriptures of the
world is what is wanted at present more than anything else in order to clear our own ideas of the
origin, the nature, the purposes of religion. There
can be no science of one religion, but there can be a
science of many. We have learnt already one lesson,
that behind the helpless expressions which language
has devised, whether in the East or in the West, for
uttering the unutterable, be it Dyaushpi ta or
Ahuramazda, be it Jehovah or A l l a h , be it the
A l l or the Nothing, be it the First Cause or Our
Father in heaven, there is the same intention, the
same striving, the same stammering, the same faith.
Other lessons will follow, t i l l in the end we shall be
able to restore that ancient bond which unites, not
only the East with the West, but all the members of
the human family, and may learn to understand what
a Persian poet meant when he wrote many centuries
ago (I quote from Mr. Conway's Sacred Anthology),
‘ Diversity of worship has divided the human race
into seventy-two nations. From among all their
dogmas I have selected one—the Love of God.’
Nor is this comparative spirit restricted to the
treatment of language, mythology, and religion.
While hitherto we knew the origin and spreading of
most of the ancient arts and sciences in one channel
only, and had to be satisfied with tracing their sources
to Greece and Rome, and thence down the main stream
of European civilisation, we have now for many of
them one or two parallel histories in India and in
China. The history of geometry, for instance—the
first formation of geometrical conceptions or technical terms--was hitherto known to us from Greece
only : now we can compare the gradual elaboration
of geometrical principles both in Greece and India,
und thus arrive at some idea of what is natural or
inevitable, and what is accidental or purely personal
in each. It was known, for instance, that in Greece
the calculation of solid figures began with the building of altars, and you will hear to-day from Dr.
Thibaut, that in India also the first impulse to geometric science was given, not by the measuring of
fields, as the name implies, but by the minute observances in building altars.
Similar coincidences and divergences have been
brought to light by a comparative study of the history of astronomy, of music, of grammar, but, most
of all, by a comparative study of philosophic thought.
There are, indeed, fe"w problems in philosophy which
have not occupied the Indian mind, and nothing can
exceed the interest of watching the Hindu and the
Greek, working on the same problems, each in his
own way, yet both in the end arriving at much the
same results. Such are the coincidences between the
two that but lately an eminent German professor1
published a treatise to show that the Greeks had
borrowed their philosophy from India, while others
lean to the opinion that in philosophy the Hindus are
the pupils of the Greeks. This is the same feeling
which impelled Dugald Stewart, when he saw the
striking similarity between Greek and Sanskrit, to
maintain that Sanskrit must have been put together
after the model of Greek and Latin by those archforgers and liars, the Brahmans, and that the whole
1 Aristoteles' Metaphysik, eine Tochter der Sânhhya~ Lehre des
Kapila, von Dr. C. B. Schlüter. 1874.
of Sanskrit literature was an imposition. The comparative method has put an end to such violent
theories. It teaches us that what is possible in one
country is possible also in another; it shows us that,
as there are antecedents for Plato and Aristotle in
Greece, there are antecedents for the Vedânta and
Sânkhya philosophies in India, and that each had its
own independent growth. It is true, that when we
first meet in Indian philosophy with our old friends,
the four or five elements, the atoms, our metaphysics,
our logic, our syllogism, we are startled ; but we soon
discover that, given the human mind and human
language, and the world by which we are surrounded,
the different systems of philosophy of Thales and
Hegel, of Vyâsa and Kapila, are inevitable solutions.
They all come and go, they are maintained and refuted, t i l l at last all philosophy ends where it ought
to begin, with an inquiry into the necessary conditions and the inevitable forms of knowledge, represented by a criticism of Pure Reason, and, what is
more important still, by a criticism of Language.
Much has been done of late for Indian philosophy,
particularly by Ballantyne and Hall , by Cowell and
Gough, by the editors of the ' Bibliotheca Indica,’
and the ' Pandit.’ Yet it is much to be desired that
some young scholars, well versed in the history of
European philosophy, should devote themselves more
ardently to this promising branch of Indian literature. No doubt, they would find it a great help i f
they were able to spend some years in India, in order
to learn from the last and fast-disappearing representatives of some of the old schools of Indian
philosophy what they alone can teach. What can be
done by such a combination of Eastern and Western
knowledge has lately been shown by the excellent
work done by Dr. Kielhorn, the Professor of Sanskrit
at the Deccan College in Punah. But there is now
SO much of published materials, and Sanskrit MSS.
also are so easily obtained from India, that much
might be done in England, or in France, or in Germany
—much that would be of interest not only to Oriental
scholars, but to all philosophers whose powers of independent appreciation are not entirely blunted by
their study of Plato and Aristotle, of Berkeley, Hume,
and Kant.
I have so far dwelt chiefly on the powerful in fluence which the East, and more particularly India,
has exercised on the intellectual life and work of
the West. But the progress of Oriental scholarship
in Europe, and the discovery of that spiritual relationship which binds India and England together,
have likewise produced practical effects of the greatest
moment in the East. The Hindus in their first intercourse with English scholars, placed before them
the treasures of their native literature with all the
natural pride of a nation that considered itself the
oldest, the wisest, the most enlightened nation in the
world. For a time, but for a short time only, the
claims of their literature to a fabulous antiquity were
admitted, and, dazzled by the unexpected discovery
of a new classical literature, people raved about the
beauty of Sanskrit poetry in truly Oriental strains.
Then followed a sudden reaction, and the natives
themselves, on becoming more and more acquainted
with European history and literature, began to feel
the childishness of their claims, and to be almost
ashamed of their own classics. This was a national
misfortune. A people that can feel no pride in the
past, in its history and literature, loses the mainstay
of its national character. When Germany was in
the very depth of its political degradation, it turned
to its ancient literature, and drew hope for the
future from the study of the past. Something of
the same kind is now passing in India. A new
taste, not without some political ingredients, has
sprung up for the ancient literature of the country ;
a more intelligent appreciation of their real merits
has taken the place of the extravagant admiration
for the masterworks of their old poets ; there is a
revival in the study of Sanskrit, a surprising activity
in the republication of Sanskrit texts, and there are
traces among the Hindus of a growing feeling, not
very different from that which Tacitus described
when he said of the Germans : ' Who would go to
Germany, a country without natural beauty, with
a wretched climate, miserable to cultivate or to look
at—unless it be his fatherland ? 9
Even the discovery that Sanskrit, English, Greek,
and Latin are cognate languages has not been
without its influence on the scholars and thinkers,
on the leaders of public opinion, in India. They
more than others had felt for a time most keenly
the intellectual superiority of the West, and they
rose again in their own estimation by learning that,
physically or, what is better still, intellectually, they
had been and might be again the peers of Greeks and
Romans and Saxons. These silent influences often
escape the eye of the politician and the historian,
but at critical moments they decide the fate of whole
nations and empires.’
The intellectual life of India at the present moment is full of interesting problems. It is too much
the fashion to look only at its darker sides, and to
forget that such intellectual regenerations as we are
witnessing in India, are impossible without convulsions and failures. A new race of men is growing up
in India, who have stepped, as it were, over a thousand
years, and have entered at once on the intellectual
inheritance of Europe. They carry off prizes at
English schools, take their degrees in English Universities, and are in every respect our equals. They
have temptations which we have not, and now and
then they succumb: but we too have temptations of
our own, and we do not always resist them. One can
hardly trust one's eyes in reading their writings,
whether in English or Bengali, many of which would
reflect credit on our own Quarterlies. With regard
to what is of the greatest interest to us, their scholarship, it is true that the old school of Sanskrit scholars
is dying out, and much will die with it which we
shall never recover ; but a new and most promising
school of Sanskrit students, educated by European
professors, is springing up, and they will, nay, to
judge from recent controversies, they have already
become most formidable rivals to our own scholars.
The essays of Dr. Bhao Daji, whom, I regret to say,
we have lately lost by death, on disputed points in
Indian archaeology and literature, are most valuable.
The indefatigable Rajendralal Mitra is rendering
1 See Note A‚ p. 4L
most excellent service in the publications of the
Asiatic Society at Calcutta, and he discusses the
theories of European Orientalists with all the ease
and grace of an English reviewer. The Rajah of Besmah, Giriprasâda–sinha, has just finished his magnificent edition of the ' White Yajur-veda.’ The Sanskrit
books published at Calcutta by Târânâtha and others
form a complete library, and Târânâtha's new 6 Dictionary of the Sanskrit Language 5 will prove most
useful and valuable. The editions of Sanskrit texts
published at Bombay by Professor Bbândârkar, by
Shankar Pandurang Pandit, and others, need not
fear comparison with the best work of European
scholars. There is a school of native students at
Benares whose publications, under the auspices of*
Mr. Griffith, have made their journal, the ' Pandit,*
indispensable to every Sanskrit scholar. Râjârâmasastrî's and Bâlasâstrî’s edition of the 6 Mahabhashya'
has received the highest praise from European
students. In the ' Antiquary,’ a paper very ably
conducted by Mr. Burgess, we meet with contributions from several learned natives, among them from
his Highness the Prince of Travancore, from Ram
Dass Sen, the Zemindar of Berhampore, from Kâshi–
nâth Trimbak Telang, from Sashagirisastri, and
others, which are read with the greatest interest
and advantage by European scholars. The collected
essays of Ram Dass Sen well deserve a translation
into English, and Rajanîkanta's ' Life of the poet
Jajadeva,’ just published, bears witness to the same
revival of literary tastes and patriotic feelings.
Besides this purely literary movement, there is a
religious movement going on in India, the BrahmoCONGRESS OF ORIENTALISTS. 21
samâj‚ which, both in its origin and its later development, is mainly the result of European influences.
It began with an attempt to bring the modern
corrupt forms of worship back to the purity and
simplicity of the Vedas; and by ascribing to the
Veda the authority of a Divine Revelation, it was
hoped to secure that infallible authority without
which no religion was supposed to be possible. How
was that movement stopped, and turned into a new
channel? Simply by the publication of the Veda,
and by the works of European scholars, such as
Stevenson, Mi l l , Rosen, Wilson, and others, who
showed to the natives what the Veda really was, and
made them see the folly of their way.’ Thus the
religion, the literature, the whole character of the
people of India are becoming more and more IndoEuropean. They work for us, as we work for them.
Many a letter have I received from native scholars
in which they express their admiration for the wonderful achievements of European ingenuity, for railways, and telegraphs, and all the rest : and yet what,
according to their own confession, has startled them
and delighted them most, is the interest we have
taken in their literature, and the new life which we
have imparted to their ancient history. I know
these matters seem small, when we are near to them,
when we are in the very midst of them. Like the
tangled threads hanging on a loom, they look worthless, purposeless. But history weaves her woof out
of all of them, and after a time, when we see the full
and finished design, we perceive that no colour,
however quiet, could have been dropped, no shade,
1 See note B‚ p. 42.
however slight, could have been missed, without
spoiling the whole.
And now, after having given this account of our
stewardship, let me say in conclusion a few words on
the claims which Oriental studies have on public
sympathy and support.
Let me begin with the Universities—I mean of
course the English Universities—and more particularly that University which has been to me for many
years an Alma Mater, Oxford. While we have there,
or are founding there, professorships for every branch
of Theology, Jurisprudence, and Physical Science,
we have hardly any provision for the study of Oriental languages. We have a Chair of Hebrew, rendered illustrious by the greatest living theologian of
England, and we have a Chair of Sanskrit, which
has left its mark in the history of Sanskrit literature; but for the modern languages of India, whether
Aryan or Dravidian, for the language and literature
of Persia, both ancient and modern, for the language
and antiquities of Egypt and Babylon, for Chinese,1
for Turkish, nay even for Arabic, there is nothing
deserving the name of a Chair. When, in a Report
on University Reform, I ventured to point out these
gaps, and to remark that in the smallest of German
Universities most of these subjects were represented
by professors, I was asked whether I was in earnest
in maintaining that Oxford, the first University in
what has rightly been called the greatest Oriental
Empire, ought really to support the study of Oriental
1 A Chair of Chinese has since been founded, and is now worthily
occupied by Professor Legge.
The second claim we prefer is on the Missionary
Societies. I have lately incurred very severe obloquy for my supposed hostility to missionary enterprise. A l l I can say is, I wish that there were ten
missionaries for every one we have now. I have always counted missionaries among my best friends ;
I have again and again acknowledged how much
Oriental studies and linguistic studies in general
owe to them, and I am proud to say that, even now,
while missionaries at home have abused me in unmeasured terms, missionaries abroad—devoted, hardworking missionaries—have thanked me for what I
said of them and their work in my lay-sermon in
Westminster Abbey last December.
Now, it seems to me that, first of all, our Universities, and I think again chiefly of Oxford, might do
much more for missions than they do at present.
If we had a sufficient staff of professors for Eastern
languages, we could prepare young missionaries for
their work, and should be able to send out from time
to time such men as Patteson, the Bishop of Melanesia, who was every inch an Oxford man. And in
these missionaries we might have, not only apostles
of religion and civilisation, but at the same time
the most valuable pioneers of scientific research. I
know there are some authorities at home who declare
that such a combination is impossible, or at least
undesirable ; that a man cannot serve two masters,
and that a missionary must do his own work and
nothing else. Nothing, I believe, can be more mistaken. First of all, some of our most efficient missionaries have been those who have done also the
most excellent work as scholars, and whenever I have
conversed on this subject with missionaries who have
seen active service, they all agree that they cannot
be converting all day long, and that nothing is more
refreshing and invigorating to them than some literary or scientific work. Now, what I should like to
see is this : I should like to see ten or twenty of our
non-resident fellowships, which at present are doing
more harm than good, assigned to missionary work,
to be given to young men who have taken their degree, and who, whether laymen or clergymen, are
willing to work as assistant missionaries on distant
stations, with the distinct understanding that they
should devote some of their time to scientific work,
whether the study of languages, or flowers, or stars,
and that they should send home every year some
account of their labours. These men would be like
scientific consuls, to whom students at home might
apply for information and help. They would have
opportunities of distinguishing themselves by really
useful work, far more than in London, and after ten
years they might either return to Europe with a
well-established reputation, or if they find that they
have a real call for missionary work, devote all their
life to it. Though to my own mind there is no nobler
work than that done by missionaries, yet I believe that
some such connection with the Universities and men
of science would raise their position, would call out
more general interest, and secure to the missionary
cause the good-will of those whose will is apt to become law.
Thirdly, I think that Oriental studies have a claim
on the colonies and the colonial Governments. The
English colonies are scattered all over the globe, and
many of them in localities where an immense deal
of useful scientific work might be done, and would
be done with tne slightest encouragement from the
local authorities, and something like a systematic
supervision on the part of the Colonial Office at home.
Some years ago I ventured to address the Colonial
Secretary of State on this subject, and a letter was
sent out in consequence to all the English colonies,
inviting information on the languages, monuments,
customs and traditions of the native races. Some
most valuable reports have been sent home during
the last five or six years, but when it was suggested
that these reports should be published in a permanent form, the expense that would have been required
for printing every year a volume of Colonial Reports,
and which would not have amounted to more than
a few hundred pounds for all the colonies of the
British Empire, part of it to be recovered by the sale
of the book, was considered too large.
Now, we should bear in mind that at the present
moment some of the tribes living in or near the
English colonies in Australia, Polynesia, Africa, and
America are actually dying out, their languages are
disappearing, their customs, traditions, and religions,
will soon be completely swept away. To the student
of language the dialect of a savage tribe is as valuable
as Sanskrit or Hebrew, nay, for the solution of certain problems, more so ; everyone of these languages
is the growth of thousands and thousands of years,
the workmanship of millions and millions of human
beings. If they were now preserved, they might
hereafter fill the most critical gaps in the history of
the human race. At Rome at the time of the Scipios,
hundreds of people might have written down a grammar and dictionary of the Etruscan language, of
Oscan, or Umbrian ; but there were men then, as
there are now, who shrugged their shoulders and
said, What can be the use of preserving these barbarous, uncouth idioms ?—What would we not give
now for some such records ?
And this is not all. The study of savage tribes
has assumed a new interest of late, when the question
of the exact relation of man to the rest of the animal
kingdom has again roused the passions not only of
scientific inquirers, but also of the public at large.
Now, what is wanted for the solution of this question
are more facts and fewer theories, and these facts
can only be gained by a patient study of the lowest
races of mankind. When religion was held to be
the specific character of man, it was asserted by
many travellers that they had seen races without any
religious ideas ; when language was seen to be the
real frontier line between man and beast, it was
maintained that there were human beings without
language. Now, all we want to know are facts, let
the conclusions be whatever they may. It is by no
means easy to decide whether savage tribes have a
religion or not; at all events it requires the same discernment, and the same honesty of purpose as to find
out whether men of the highest intellect among us
have a religion or not. I call the Introduction to
Spencer's First Principles deeply religious, but I can
well understand that a missionary reporting on a
tribe of Spencerian savages might declare that they
had no idea whatsoever of religion. Looking at a
report sent home lately by the indefatigable Governor
of New South Wales, Sir Hercules Robinson, I find
the following description of the religious ideas of the
Kamilarois, one of the most degraded tribes in the
North-western district of the colony :—
6 Bhaiami is regarded by them as the maker of ail
things. The name signifies “maker,’’ or "cutterout,’’ from the verb bhai , b a i a l l i , baia. He is regarded as the rewarder and punisher of men according to their conduct. He sees all, and knows all, if
not directly, through the subordinate deity Turramulan, who presides at the Bora. Bhaiami is said
to have been once on the earth. Turramulan is
mediator in all operations of Bhaiami upon man, and
in all man's transactions with Bhaiami. Turramulan
means " leg on one side only,’’ “ one-legged.’’ ’
This description is given by the Rev. C. Greenway,
and if there is any theological bias in it, let us make
allowance for it. But there remains the fact that
Bhaiami, their name for deity, comes from a root
bhai, to ‘ make,’ to ' cut out,’ and if we remember
that hardly any of the names for deity, either among
the Aryan or Semitic nations, comes from a root with
so abstract a meaning, we shall admit, I think, that
such reports as these should not be allowed to lie forgotten in the pigeon-holes of the Colonial Office, or
in the pages of a monthly journal.
What applies to religion applies to language.
We have been told again and again that the Veddahs
in Ceylon have no language. Sir Emerson Tennent
wrote ' that they mutually make themselves understood by signs, grimaces, and guttural sounds, which
have little resemblance to definite words or language
in general.’ When these statements were repeated,
I tried to induce the Government of Ceylon to send a
competent man to settle the question. I did not receive all I wanted, and therefore postponed the publication of what was sent me. But I may say so
much, that more than half of the words used by the
Veddahs are, like Singhalese itself, mere corruptions
of Sanskrit ; their very name is the Sanskrit word
for hunter, veddhâ‚ or as Mr. Childers supposes,
vyâdha . There is a remnant of words in their language of which I can make nothing as yet. But so
much is certain : either the Veddahs started with the
common inheritance of Aryan words and ideas ; or,
at all events, they lived for a long time in contact
with Aryan people, and adopted from them such words
as were wanting in their language. If they now
stand low in the scale of humanity, they once stood
higher, nay they may possibly prove, in language,
if not in blood, the distant cousins of Plato, and
Newton, and Goethe.
It is most essential to keep la carrière ouverte for
facts, even more than for theories, and for the supply
of such facts the Colonial Government might render
most useful service.
It is but right to state that whenever I have applied to the Governors of any of the Colonies I have
invariably met with the greatest kindness and readiness to help. Some of them take the warmest
interest in these researches. Sir George Grey's services to the science of language have hardly been
sufficiently appreciated as yet, and the Linguistic
Library which he founded at the Cape, places him
of right by the side of Sir Thomas Bodley. Sir
Hercules Robinson, Mr. Musgrave in South Australia, Sir Henry Barkley at the Cape, and several
others, are quite aware of the importance of linguistic
and ethnological researches. What is wanted is
encouragement from home, and some systematic
guidance. Dr. Bleek, the excellent librarian of Sir
George Grey's Library at the Cape, who has devoted
the whole of his life to the study of savage dialects
and whose Comparative Grammar of the South
African languages will hold its place by the side
of Bopp’s, Diez’s, and Caldwell’s Comparative Grammars, is most anxious that there should be a permanent linguistic and ethnological station established
at the Cape ; in fact, that there should be a linguist
attached to every zoological station. At the Cape
there are not only the Zulu dialects to be studied,
but two most important languages, that of the Hottentots and that of the Bushmen. Dr. Bleek has
lately been enabled to write down several volumes of
traditional literature from the mouths of some Bushman prisoners, but he says, ‘my powers and my life are
drawing to an end, and unless I have some young men
to assist me, and carry on my work, much of what I
have done will be lost.’ There is no time to be lost,
and I trust, therefore, that my appeal will not be considered importunate by the present Colonial Minister.’
Last of all, we turn to India, the very cradle of
Oriental scholarship, and here, instead of being importunate and urging new claims for assistance, I
think I am expressing the feelings of all Oriental
scholars in publicly acknowledging the readiness with
which the Indian Government, whether at home or
in India, whether during the days of the old East
1 Dr. Bleek has since died (1875), and though there has been much
delay, there is reason to hope that a competent successor wil l soon be
India Company, or now under the auspices of the
Secretary of State, has always assisted every enterprise tending to throw light on the literature, the
religion, the laws and customs, the arts and manufactures of that ancient Oriental Empire.
Only last night I received the first volume of a
work which will mark a new era in the history of
Oriental typography. Three valuable MSS. of the
Mahabhashya have been photolithographed at the
expense of the Indian Government, and under the
supervision of one whom many of us will miss here
to-day, the late Professor Goldstücker. It is a magnificent publication, and as there are only fifty copies
printed, it will soon become more valuable than a
real MS.
There are two surveys carried on at the present
moment in India, a literary, and an archæological
survey. Many years ago, when Lord Elgin went to
India as Governor-General, I suggested to him the
necessity of taking measures in order to rescue from
destruction whatever could still be rescued of the
ancient literature of the country. Lord Elgin died
before any active measures could be taken, but the
plan found a more powerful advocate in Mr. Whitley
Stokes, who urged the Government to appoint some
Sanskrit scholars to visit all places containing collections of Sanskrit MSS., and to publish lists of their
titles, so that we might know, at all events, how
much of a literature that had been preserved for
thousands of years was still in existence at the
present moment. This work was confided to Dr.
Biihler, Dr. Kielhorn, Mr.Burnell, Rajendralal Mitra,
and others. Several of their catalogues have been
published, and there is but one feeling among all
Sanskrit scholars as to the value of their work. But
they also feel that the time has come for doing more.
The mere titles of the MSS. whet our appetite, but
do not satisfy it. There are, of course, hundreds of
books where the title, the name of the author, the
locus et annus are all we care to know. But of books
which are scarce, and hitherto not known out of
India, we want to know more. We want some information of the subject and its treatment, and, if
possible, of the date of the author, and of the writers
quoted by him. We want extracts, intelligently
chosen: in fact, we want something like the excellent
catalogue which Dr. Aufrecht has made for the
Bodleian Library. In Mr. Burneil, Dr. Bühler, Dr.
Kielhorn, the Government possesses scholars who
could do that work admirably ; what they want is
more leisure, more funds, more assistance.
Contemporaneously with the Literary Survey,
there is the Archæological Survey, carried on by that
gallant and indefatigable scholar, General Cunningham. His published reports show the systematic
progress of his work, and his occasional communications in the Journal of the Asiatic Society of Bengal
tell us of his newest discoveries. The very last
number of that journal brought us the news of the
discovery of the wonderful ruins of the Buddhist
temple of Bharahut,1 which, with their representations
of scenes from the early Buddhist literature, with
their inscriptions and architectural style, may enable
us to find a terminus a quo for the literary and religious history of India. Nor should we forget the
1 Academy, August 1, 1874.
services which Mr. Fergusson has rendered to the
history of Indian architecture, both by awakening
an interest in the subject, and by the magnificent
publication of the drawings of the sculptures of
Sanchi and Amravati, carried on under the authority
of the Secretary of State for India. Let us hope
that these new discoveries may supply him with
materials for another volume, worthy of its companion.
It was supposed for a time that there was a third
survey carried on in India, ethnological and l inguistic, and the volume published by Colonel Dalton,
‘Descriptive Ethnology of Bengal.’ with portraits
from photographs, was a most excellent beginning.
But the other Indian Governments have not hitherto
followed the example of the Bengal Government, and
nothing has of late come to my knowledge in this
important line of research. Would not Dr. Hunter,
who has done so much for a scientific study of the
non-Aryan languages and races of India, take up this
important branch of research, and give us, not only
photographs and graphic description, but also, what
is most wanted, scholarlike grammars of the principal
races of India t> Lists of words, i f carefully chosen^
like those in Colonel Dalton’s work and in Sir George
Campbell's ‘ Specimens.’ are, no doubt, most valuable
for preliminary researches, but without grammars
none of the great questions which are still pending
in Indian Ethnology will ever be satisfactorily and
definitely settled. No real advance has been made
in the classification of Indian dialects since the time
when I endeavoured, some twenty years ago, to sum
up what was then known on that subject, in my
letter to Bunsen ‘On the Turanian Languages.’ What
I then for the first time ventured to maintain against
the highest authorities in Indian linguistic ethnology,
viz. that the dialects of the Mundas or the Koles
constituted a third and totally independent class of
languages in India, related neither to the Aryan nor
to the Dravidian families, has since been fully confirmed by later researches, and is now, I believe,
generally accepted. The fact, also, on which I then
strongly insisted, that the Uraon Koles, and Rajmahal
Koles, might be Koles in blood, but certainly not in
language—their language being, like that of the
Gonds, Dravidian—is now no longer disputed. But
beyond this, all is still as hypothetical as it was
twenty years ago, simply because we can get no
grammars of the Munda dialects. Why do not the
German missionaries at Ranchi, who have done such
excellent work among the Koles, publish a grammatical analysis ofthat interesting cluster of dialects?
Only a week ago, one of them, Mr. Jellinghaus, gave
me a grammatical sketch of the Mundári language,
and even this, short as it is, was quite sufficient to
show that the supposed relationship between the
Munda dialects and the Khasia language, of which
we have a grammar, is untenable. The similarities
pointed out by Mason between the Munda dialects
and the Talaing of Pegu are certainly startling, but
equally startling are the divergences ; and here again
no real result will be obtained without a comparison
of the grammatical structure of the two languages.
The other classes of Indian languages, the Taic, the
Gangetic, subdivided into Trans-Himalayan and SubHimalayan, the Lohitic, and Tamulic, are still retained, though some of their names have been
changed. Without wishing to defend the names
which I had chosen for these classes, I must say that I
look upon the constant introduction of new technical
terms as an unmixed evil. Every elassificatory term
is imperfect. Aryan, Semitic, Hamitic, Turanian, all
are imperfect, but, if they are but rightly defined,
they can do no harm, whereas a new term, however
superior at first sight, always makes confusion worse
confounded. The chemists do not hesitate to call
sugar an acid rather than part with an old-established
term ; why should not we in the science of language
follow their good example ?
Dr. Leitner’s labours in Dardistan should here
be mentioned. They date from the year 1866. Considering the shortness of the time allotted to him for
exploring that country, he has been most successful
in collecting his linguistic materials. We owe him
a vocabulary of two Shinâ dialects (the Ghilghiti and
Astori), and of the Arnyia, the Khayuna, and the
Kalâsha-Mânder. These vocabularies are so arranged
as to give us a fair idea of the systems of conjugation
and declension. Other vocabularies, arranged according to subjects, allow us an insight into the intellectual life of the Shinas, and we also receive most
interesting information on the customs, legends,
superstitions, and religion of the Dardus. Some of
the important results obtained by the same enterprising scholar in his excavations on theTakht-i-bahai
hills will be laid before the Archaeological Section
of this Congress. It is impossible to look at the
Buddhist sculptures which he has brought home
without perceiving that there is in them a foreign
element. They are Buddhist sculptures, but they
differ both in treatment and expression from what
was hitherto known of Buddhist art in various parts
of the world. Dr. Leitner thinks that the foreign
element came from Greece, from Greek or Macedonian workmen, the descendants of Alexander's companions ; others think that local and individual
influences are sufficient to account for apparent deviations from the common Buddhist type. On this
point I feel totally incompetent to express an opinion,
but whatever the judgment of our archaeological colleagues may be, neither they nor we ourselves can
have any doubt that Dr. Leitner deserves our sincere gratitude as an indefatigable explorer and successful discoverer.
Many of the most valuable treasures of every kind
and sort, collected during these official surveys, and
by private enterprise, are now deposited in the
Indian Museum in London, a real mine of literary
and archaeological wealth, opened with the greatest
liberality to all who are willing to work in it.
It is unfortunate, no doubt, that this meeting of
Oriental scholars should have taken place at a time
when the treasures of the Indian Museum are still
in their temporary exile ; yet, if they share in the
regret, felt by every friend of India, at the delay in
the building of a new museum worthy both of
England and of India, they will also carry away
the conviction that such delay is simply due to a
desire to do the best that can be done in order to
carry out in the end something little short of that
magnificent scheme of an Indian Institute drawn by
the experienced hand of Mr. Forbes Watson.
And now, in conclusion, I have to express my own
gratitude for the liberality both of the Directors of
the old East India Company and of the present
Secretary of State for India in Council, for having
enabled me to publish that work the last sheet of
which I am able to present to this Meeting to-day,
the ‘Rig-Veda, with the Commentary of Sâyanâkârya.’
It is the oldest book of the Aryan world, but it is
also one of the largest, and its publication would
have been simply impossible without the enlightened
liberality of the Indian Government. For twentyfive years I find that, taking the large and small
editions of the Rig-Veda together, I have printed
every year what would make a volume of about six
hundred pages octavo. Such a publication would
have ruined any bookseller, for it must be confessed
that there is little that is attractive in the Veda,
nothing that could excite general interest. From an
aesthetic point of view, no one would care for the
hymns of the Rig-Veda, and I can well understand
how, in the beginning of our century, even so discriminating a scholar as Colebrooke could express
his opinion that, ‘ The Vedas are too voluminous for
a complete translation, and what they contain would
hardly reward the labour of the reader, much less
that of the translator. The ancient dialect in which
they are composed, and specially that of the three
first Vedas, is extremely difficult and obscure ; and
though curious, as the parent of a more polished and
refined language, its difficulties must long continue
to prevent such an examination of the whole Vedas
as would be requisite for extracting all that is remarkable and important in those voluminous works.
But they well deserve to be occasionally consulted
by the Oriental scholar.’ Nothing shows the change
from the purely æsthetic to the purely scientific
interest in the language and literature of India more
clearly than the fact that for the last twenty-five
years the work of nearly all Sanskrit scholars has
been concentrated on the Veda. When some thirty
years ago I received my first lessons in Sanskrit
from Professor Brockhaus, whom I am happy and
proud to see to-day among us, there were but few
students who ventured to dive into the depths of
Vedic literature. To-day among the Sanskrit scholars
whom Germany has sent to us—Professors Stenzler,
Spiegel, Weber, Haug, Pertsch, Windisch—there is
not one who has not won his laurels on the field of
Vedic scholarship. In France also a new school of
Sanskrit students has sprung up who have done
most excellent work for the interpretation of the
Veda, and who bid fair to rival the glorious school of
French Orientalists at the beginning of this century, both by their persevering industry and by that
‘sweetness and light ’ which seems to be the birthright
of their nation. But, I say again, there is little that
is beautiful, in our sense of the word, to be found in
the hymns of the Rig-Veda, and what little there is
has been so often dwelt on that quite an erroneous
impression as to the real nature of Vedic poetry has
been produced in the mind of the public. My old
friend, the Dean of St. Paul's, for instance, in some
thoughtful lectures which he delivered this year on
the ‘Sacred Poetry of Early Religions,’ has instituted
a comparison between the Psalms and the hymns of
the Veda, and he arrives at the conclusion that the
Psalms are superior to the Vedic hymns. No doubt
they are, from the point of view which he has chosen,
but the chief value of these hymns lies in the fact
that they are so different from the Psalms, or, if you
like, that they are so inferior to the Psalms. They
are Aryan, the Psalms, Semitic; they belong to a.
primitive and rude state of society, the Psalms, at
least most of them, are contemporaneous with or
even later than the heydays of the Jewish monarchy.
This strange misconception of the true character of
the Vedic hymns seemed to me to become so general
that when some years ago I had to publish the first
volume of my translation, I intentionally selected a
class of hymns which should in no way encourage
such erroneous opinions. It was interesting to watch
the disappointment. What ! it was said, are these
strange, savage, grotesque invocations of the Stormgods, the inspired strains of the ancient sages of
India ? Is this the wisdom of the East ? Is this
the primeval revelation ? Even scholars of high reputation joined in the outcry, and my friends hinted
to me that they would not have wasted their life on
such a book.
Now, suppose a geologist had brought to light the
bones of a fossil animal, dating from a period anterior to any in which traces of animal life had been
discovered before, would any young lady venture to
say by way of criticism, ‘ Yes, these bones are very
curious, but they are not pretty ’ ? Or suppose a new
Egyptian statue had been discovered, belonging to a
dynasty hitherto unrepresented by any statues, would
even a schoolboy dare to say, ‘ Yes, it is very nice,
but the Venus of Milo is nicer ' ? Or suppose an old
MS. is brought to Europe, do we find fault with i t
because it is not neatly printed ? If a chemist disCONGRESS OF ORIENTALISTS. 39
covers a new element, is he pitied because it is not
gold? If a botanist writes on germs, has he to
defend himself because he does not write on flowers ?
Why, it is simply because the Veda is so different
from what it was expected to be, because it is not
like the Psalms, not like Pindar, not like the Bhagavadgîtâ ; it is because it stands alone by itself, and
reveals to us the earliest germs of religious thought,
such as they really were ; it is because it places before us a language more primitive than any we knew
before ; it is because its poetry is what you may call
savage, uncouth, rude, horrible—it is for that very
reason that it was worth while to dig and dig t i l l the
old buried city was recovered, showing us what man
was, what we were, before we had reached the level
of David, the level of Homer, the level of Zoroaster,
showing us the very cradle of our thoughts, our
words, and our deeds. I am not disappointed with
the Veda, and I shall conclude my address with the
last verses of the last hymn, which you have now in
your hands—verses which thousands of years ago
may have been addressed to a similar meeting of
Aryan fellow-men, and which are not inappropriate
to our own :—
Sam gakkhadhvam sám vadadhvam sám vah mánâmsi
Deväh bhâgám yáthâ purve1 samgânânâ'h upasate.
Samânáh mántrah sámitih samâní samânám mánah
sah a kittám eshâm,
Samânám mántram abhí mantraye vah samânéna vah
havísbâ guhomi.
Samâní vah âíkûtih samânâ! hmdayâni vah,
1 I read y a t h â p û r v e as one word.
Samânám astu val& mana7i, yathâ vah susalia asati.
‘ Come together ! Speak together ! Let your
minds be concordant—the gods by being concordant
receive their share, one after the other. Their word
is the same, their counsel is the same, their mind is
the same, their thoughts are at one; I address to
you the same word, I worship you with the same
sacrifice. Let your endeavour be the same ! Let
your hearts be the same ! Let your mind be the
same, that it may go well with you.’
N O T E S .
I N the ' Indian Mirror,' published at Calcutta, September
20, 1874, a native writer gave utterance almost at the
same time to the same feelings :—
' When the dominion passed from the Mogul to the hands
of Englishmen, the latter regarded the natives as little
better than niggers, having a civilisation perhaps a shade
better than that of the barbarians. . . . The gulf was wide
between the conquerors and the conquered. ‚ . . There was
no affection to lessen the distance between the two races.
. . . The discovery of Sanskrit entirely revolutionised the
course of thought and speculations. It served as the " open
sesame" to many hidden treasures. It was then that the
position of India in the scale of civilisation was distinctly
apprehended. It was then that our relations with the
advanced nations of the world were fully realised. We were
niggers at one time. We now become brethren. . . . The
advent of the English found us a nation low sunk in the
mire of superstitions, ignorance, and political servitude.
The advent of scholars like Sir Wil l iam Jones found us
fully established in a rank above that of every nation, as
that from which modern civilisation could be distinctly
traced. It would be interesting to contemplate what would
have been our position i f the science of philology had not
been discovered. . . . It was only when the labour of
scholars brought to light the treasures of our antiquity that
they perceived how near we were to their races in almost
all things that they held dear in their life. It was then
that our claims on their affection and regard were first
established. As Hindus we ought never to forget the
labour of scholars. We owe them our life as a nation, our
freedom as a recognised society, and our position in the
scale of races. It is the fashion with many to decry the
labours of those men as dry, unprofitable, and dreamy. W e
should know that it is to the study of the roots and inflections of the Sanskrit language that we owe our national
salvation. . . . Wi th in a very few years after the discovery
of Sanskrit, a revolution took place in the history of comparative science. Never were so many discoveries made
at once, and from the speculations of learned scholars l ike
the dawnings of many truths are even now visible to
the world. . . . Comparative mythology and comparative
religion are new terms altogether in the world. . . . We
say again that India has no reason to forget the services of
T H E following letter addressed by me to the ' Academy,'"
Oct. 17, 1874, p. 433, gives the reasons for this statement :—
' I was aware of the mission of the four young Brahman s sent to Benares in 1845, to copy out and study the
four Vedas respectively. I had read of it last in the
"Historical Sketch of the Brahmo Samaj," which Miss
Collet had the kindness to send me. But what I said in
my address before the Oriental Congress referred to earlier
times. That mission in 1845 was, in fact, the last result
of much previous discussion, which gradually weakened
and destroyed in the mind of Ram Mohun Roy and his
followers their traditional faith in the Divine origin of
the Vedas. A t first Ram Mohun Roy met the arguments
of his English friends by simply saying, " I f you claim a
Divine origin for your sacred books, so do we ; " and when
he was pressed by the argument derived from internal evidence, he appealed to a few hymns, such as the Gáyatrî,
and to the Upanishads, as by no means inferior to passages
in the Bible, and not unworthy of a divine author. The
Veda with him was chiefly in the Upanishads, and he had
hardly any knowledge of the hymns of the Rig-Veda. I
state this on the authority of a conversation that passed
between him and young Rosen, who was then working a i
the M S S . of the Rig–Veda-Sarnhita in the British Museum,
and to whom Ram Mohun Roy expressed his regret at not
being able to read his own sacred books.
' There were other channels, too, through which, afterRam Mohun Roy's death in 1833, a knowledge of the
studies of European scholars may have reached the still
hesitating reformers of the Brahma Sabhá. Dvarka Náth
Tagore paid a visit to Europe in the year 1845. I write
from memory. Though not a man of deep religious feelings,
he was an enlightened and shrewd observer of all that
passed before his eyes. He was not a Sanskrit scholar ; and
I well recollect, when we paid a visit together to Eugène
Burnouf, Dvarka Náth Tagore putting his dark delicatehand on one side of Burnouf's edition of the " Bhagavat
Purâna," containing the French translation, and saying
he could understand that, but not the Sanskrit original on
the opposite page. I saw him frequently at Paris, where
I was then engaged in collecting materials for a completeedition of the vedas and the commentary of Sâyanâkârya.
Many a morning did I pass in his rooms, smoking, accompanying him on the pianoforte, and discussing questions in
which we took a common interest. I remember one morning, after he had been singing some Italian, French, and
German music, I asked him to sing an Indian song. He
declined at first, saying that he knew I should not like it ;
but at last he yielded, and sang, not one of the modern
Persian songs, which commonly go by the name of Indian,
but a genuine native piece of music. I listened quietly,
but when it was over, I told him that it seemed strange to
me how one who could appreciate Italian and German
music could find any pleasure in what sounded to me like
mere noise, without melody, rhythm, or harmony. " Oh," he
said, "that is exactly like you Europeans! When I first
heard your Italian and German music I disliked it : it was
no music to me at all. But 1 persevered, I became accustomed to it, I found out what was good in it, and now I
am able to enjoy it. But you despise whatever is strange
to you, whether in music, or philosophy, or religion ; you
wi l l not listen and learn, and we shall understand you much
sooner than you wil l understand us."
' In our conversations on the Vedas he never, as far as
I recollect, defended the divine origin of his own sacred
writings in the abstract, but he displayed great casuistic
cleverness in maintaining that every argument that had
ever been adduced in support of a supernatural origin of the
Bible could be used with equal force in favour of a divine
authorship of the Veda. His own ideas of the Veda were
chiefly derived from the Upanishads, and he frequently assured me that there was much more of Vedic literature in
India than we imagined. This Dvarka Náth Tagore was
the father of Debendra Náth Tagore, the true founder of
the Brahmo Samaj‚ who in 1845, sent the four young
Brahmans to Benares to copy out and study the four Vedas.
Though Dvarka Náth Tagore was so far orthodox that he
maintained a number of Brahmans, yet it was he also who
continued the grant for the support of the Church founded
at Calcutta by Ram Mohun Roy. One letter written by
Dvarka Náth Tagore from Paris to Calcutta in 1845 would
supply the missing link between what was passing at
that time in a room of an hotel on the Place Vendôme
and thé resolution taken at Calcutta to find out, once for
all , what the Vedas really are.
' In India itself the idea of a critical and historical study
of the veda originated certainly with English scholars.
Dr. M i l l once showed me the first attempt at printing the
sacred Gâyatrî in Calcutta ; and, if I am not mistaken, he
added that unfortunately the gentleman who had printed
it died soon after, thus confirming the prophecies of the
Brahmans that such a sacrilege would not remain unavenged by the gods. Dr. M i l l , Stephen son, Wilson, and
others were the first to show to the educated natives in
India that the Upanishads belonged to a later age than the
hymns of the Rig-veda, and likewise the first to exhibit to
Ram Mohun Roy and his friends the real character of these
ancient hymns. On a mind like Ram Mohun Roy's the
effect was probably much more immediate than on his
followers, so that it took several years before they decided
on sending their commissioners to Benares to report on the
veda and its real character. Yet that mission was, I
believe, the result of a slow process of attrition produced
by the contact between native and European minds, and
as such I wished to present it in my address at the Oriental
Delivered in the Nave of Westminster Abbey, on the Evening of
December 3, 1873.
T H E number of religions which have attained stability
und permanence in the history of the world is very
small. If we leave out of consideration those vague
und varying forms of faith and worship which we
1 Westminster Abbey. Day of Intercession for Missions, Wednesday, December 3,1873. Lecture in the Nave, at eight o'clock, p.m.
Hymn 25 (Bp. Heber) Wittenberg (p. 50).
From Greenland's icy mountains,
From India's coral strands,
Where Afric's sunny fountains
Rol l down their golden sands ;
From many an ancient river,
From many a palmy plain,
They call us to deliver
Their land from error's chain.
What though the spicy breezes
Blow soft o'er Ceylon's isle ;
Though every prospect pleases,
And only man is vile J
In vain with lavish kindness
The gifts of God are strown ;
The heathen in his blindness
Bows down to wood and stone.
Can we whose souls are lighted
With wisdom from on high,
Can we to men benighted
The lamp of life deny ?
Salvation, 0 salvation I
The joyful sound proclaim,
T i l l earth's remotest nation
Has learnt Messiah's name.
Waft, waft, ye winds, his story ;
And you, ye waters, rol l ;
T i l l , like a sea of glory,
It spreads from pole to pole ;
T i l l o'er our ransom'd nature,
The Lamb for sinners slain,
Redeemer, King , Creator,
In bliss returns to reign. Amen.
There wil l be a Lecture delivered in the Nave on Missions by
Professor Max Müller, M.A.
find among uncivilised andj unsettled races, among
races ignorant of reading and writing, who have
neither a literature, nor laws, nor even hymns and
prayers handed down by oral teaching from father to
son, from mother to daughter, we see that the number
of the real historical religions of mankind amounts
to no more than eight. The Semitic races have produced three—the Jewish, the Christian, the Mohammedan ; the Aryan, or Indo-European races, an equal
number—the Brahman, the Buddhist, and the Parsi.
Add to these the two religious systems of China, that
of Confucius and Lao-tse, and you have before you
what may be called the eight distinct languages or
utterances of the faith of mankind from the beginning of the world to the present day ; you have before
you in broad outlines the religious map of the whole
A l l these religions, however, have a history, a
history more deeply interesting than the history of
language, or literature, or art, or politics. Religions
are not unchangeable : on the contrary, they are
always growing and changing ; and if they cease to
grow and cease to change, they cease to live. Some
of these religions stand by themselves, totally independent of all the rest ; others are closely united, or
have influenced each other during various stages of
their growth and decay. They must therefore be
Ps. 100 (New Version)
With one consent let all the earth
To God their cheerful voices raise ;
Glad homage pay with awful mirth,
And sing before him songs of praise.
Convinced that He is God alone,
From Whom both we and all proceed ;
We whom He chooses for H i s own.
The flock that He vouchsafes to feed.
. Old Hundredth (p. 21).
0 enter then His temple gate,
Thence to His courts devoutly press ;
And still your grateful hymns repeat.
And still His Name with praises bless.
For He's the Lord supremely good.
His mercy is for ever sure ;
His truth, which all times firmly stood,
To endless ages shall endure. Amen.'
studied together, if we wish to understand their real
character, their growth, their decay, and their resuscitations. Thus, Mohammedanism would be unintelligible without Christianity ; Christianity without
Judaism; and there are similar bonds that hold
together the great religions of India and Persia—the
faith of the Brahman, the Buddhist, and the Parsi.
After a careful study of the origin and growth of
these religions, and after a critical examination of
the sacred books on which all of them profess to be
founded, it has become possible to subject them all
to a scientific classification, in the same manner as
languages, apparently unconnected and mutually unintelligible, have been scientifically arranged and
classified ; and by a comparison of such points as all
or some of them share in common, as well as by a
determination of others which are peculiar to each, a
new science has been called into life, a science which
concerns us all, and in which all who truly care for
religion must sooner or later take their part—the
Science of Religion.
Among the various classifications1 which have
been applied to the religions of the world, there is
one that interests us more immediately to-night—I
mean the division into Non-Missionary and Missionary
religions. This is by no means, as might be supposed,,
a classification based on an unimportant or merely
accidental characteristic ; on the contrary, it rests
on what is the very heart-blood in every system of
human faith. Among the six religions of the Aryan
1 Different systems of classification applied to the religions of the
world are discussed in my Introduction to the Science of Religion,
pp. 122-143.
and Semitic world, there are three that are opposed
to all missionary enterprise—Judaism, Brahmanism,
and Zoroastrianism ; and three that have a missionary
character from their very beginning—Buddhism,
Mohammedanism, and Christianity.
The Jews, particularly in ancient times, never
thought of spreading their religion. Their religion
was to them a treasure, a privilege, a blessing, something to distinguish them, as the chosen people of
God, from all the rest of the world. A Jew must be
of the seed of Abraham : and when in later times,
owing chiefly to political circumstances, the Jews
had to admit strangers to some of the privileges of
their theocracy, they looked upon them, not as souls
that had been gained, saved, born again into a new
brotherhood, but as strangers ( D ^ à ) , as Proselytes
{irpoarjkvroi)—which means men who have come to
them as aliens, not to be trusted, as their saying was,
until the twenty-fourth generation.’
A very similar feeling prevented the Brahmans
from ever attempting to proselytise those who did
not by birth belong to the spiritual aristocracy of
their country. Their wish was rather to keep the
light to themselves, to repel intruders ; and they went
so far as to punish those who happened to be near
enough to hear even the sound of their prayers, or to
witness their sacrifices.2
1 'Proselyto ne fidas usque ad vigesimam quartamgenerationem.*
Jalkut Ruth, f. 163, d ; Danz, in Meuschen, Nov. Test, ex Talm.
ilhi8tr. p. 651.
2 India, Progress and Condition, Blue Book presented to Parliament, 1873, p. 99 : 'It is asserted (but the assertion must be taken
with reserve) that it is a mistake to suppose that the Hindu religion
is not proselytising. Any number of outsiders, so long as they do
The Parsi, too, does not wish for converts to his
religion ; he is proud of his faith, as of his blood ;
and though he believes in the final victory of truth
and light, though he says to every man, ‘ Be bright
as the sun, pure as the moon,’ he himself does very
little to drive away spiritual darkness from the face
of the earth, by letting the light that is within him
•shine before the world.
But now let us look at the other cluster of religions—at Buddhism, Mohammedanism, and Christianity. However they may differ from each other
in some of their most essential doctrines, this they
share in common—they all have faith in themselves,
they all have life and vigour, they want to convince,
they mean to conquer. From the very earliest dawn
of their existence these three religions were missionary : their very founders, or their [first apostles,
recognised the new duty of spreading the truth, of
refuting error, of bringing the whole world to acknowledge the paramount, if not the divine, authority
of their doctrines. This is what gives to them all a
common expression, and lifts them high above the
level of the other religions of the world.
Let us begin with Buddhism. We know, indeed,
very little of its origin and earliest growth, for the
^earliest beginnings of all religions withdraw themselves by necessity from the eye of the historian.
But we have something like contemporary evidence
of the Great Council, held at Pâtaliputra, 242 B.C.,
in which the sacred canon of the Buddhist scriptures
not interfere with established castes, can form a new caste, and call
themselves Hindus, and the Brahmans are always ready to receive
&11 who submit to and pay them.' Can this be called proselytising Ì
was settled, and at the end of which missionaries
were chosen and sent forth to preach the new doctrine, not only in India, but far beyond the frontiers
of that vast country.’ We possess inscriptions containing the edicts of the King who was to Buddhism
what Constantine was to Christianity, who broke
with the traditions of the old religion of the Brahmans, and recognised the doctrines of Buddha as the
state religion of India. We possess the description
of the Council of Pâtaliputra, which was to India
what the Council of Nicæa, 570 years later, was to
Europe; and we can still read there2 the simple
story, how the chief Elder who had presided over the
Council, an old man, too weak to travel by land, and
carried from his hermitage to the Council in a boat
—how that man, when the Council was over, began
to reflect on the future, and found that the time had
come to establish the religion of Buddha in foreign
countries. He therefore despatched some of the
most eminent priests to Cashmere, Cabul, and farther
west, to the colonies founded by the Greeks in Bactria, to Alexandria on the Caucasus, and other cities.
He sent others northward to Nepal, and to the
inhabited portions of the Himalayan mountains.
Another mission proceeded to the Dekhan, to the
people of Mysore, to the Mahrattas, perhaps to Goa ;
nay, even Birma and Ceylon are mentioned as among
the .earliest missionary stations of Buddhist priests.
We still possess accounts of their manner of preaching. When threatened by infuriated crowds, one of
those Buddhist missionaries said calmly, ‘ I f the whole
world, including the Deva heavens, were to come
1 Cf. Mahavanso, cap. 5. 2 Cf. Mahavanso, cap. 12.
and terrify me, they would not be able to create in
me fear and terror.’ And when he had brought the
people to listen, he dismissed them with the simple
prayer, ‘ Do not hereafter give way to anger, as before : do not destroy the crops, for all men love happiness. Show mercy to all living beings, and let men
dwell in peace.’
No doubt, the accounts of the successes achieved
by those early missionaries are exaggerated, and
their fights with snakes and dragons and evil spirits
remind us sometimes of the legendary accounts of
the achievements of such men as St. Patrick in Ireland, or St. Boniface in Germany. But the fact
that missionaries were sent out to convert the world
seems beyond the reach of reasonable doubt ; 1 and
this fact represents to us at that time a new thought
—new, not only in the history of India, but in the
history of the whole world. The recognition of a
duty to preach the truth to every man, woman, and
child, was an idea opposed to the deepest instincts of
Brahmanism ; and when, at the end of the chapter on
the first missions, we read the simple words of the
old chronicler, ‘ Who would demur, if the salvation
of the world is at stake ? ’ we feel at once that we
move in a new world, we see the dawn of a new day,
the opening of vaster horizons—we feel, for the first
time in the history of the world, the beating of the
great heart of humanity.’
The Koran breathes a different spirit; it does
1 In some of the places mentioned by the Chronicle as among the
earliest stations of Buddhist missions, relics have been discovered
containing the names of the very missionaries mentioned by the
Chronicle. See Koeppen, Die Religion des Buddha, p. 188.
1 Note A, p. 76.
not invite, it rather compels the world to come in.
Yet there are passages, particularly in the earlier
portions, which show that Mohammed, too, had
realised the idea of humanity, and of a religion of
humanity ; nay, that at (first he wished to unite his
own religion with that of the Jews and Christians,
comprehending all under the common name of Islam.
Islam meant originally humility or devotion; and all
who humbled themselves before God, and were filled
with real reverence, were called Moslim. ‘The Islam,’
says Mohammed, ‘is the true worship of God. When
men dispute with you, say, “ I am a Moslim." Ask
those who have sacred books, and ask the heathen :
‘ ‘ Are you a Moslim ? ’’ I f they are, they are on the
right path ; but if they turn away, then you have no
other task but to deliver the message, to preach to
them the Islam.’ 1
As to our own religion, its very soul is missionary,
progressive, world-embracing ; it would cease to exist
if it ceased to be missionary—if it disregarded the
parting words of its Founder : ‘ Go ye therefore and
teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of
the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost ;
teaching them to observe all things I have commanded ; and, lo‚ I am with you alway, even unto
the end of the world.’
It is this missionary character, peculiar to these
three religions, Buddhism, Mohammedanism, and
1 ' I s l am is the verbal noun, and Mos l im the participle of the
same root which also yields Sa lâm, peace, and s a l i m and salym,
whole, honest. Islam means, therefore, to satisfy or pacify by forbearance ; it also means simply subjection.' Sprenger, Mohammad,
i . p. 69 ; i i i . 486.
Christianity, which binds them together, and lifts
them to a higher sphere. Their differences, no doubt,
are great ; on some points they are opposed to each
other like day and night. But they could not be
what they are, they could not have achieved what
they have achieved, unless the spirit of truth and
the spirit of love had been alive in the hearts of their
founders, their first messengers, and missionaries.
The spirit of truth is the life-spring of all religion,
and where it exists it must manifest itself, it must
plead, it must persuade, it must convince and convert. Missionary work, however, in the usual sense
of the word, is only one manifestation of that spirit;
for the same spirit which fills the heart of the missionary with daring abroad gives courage also to the
preacher at home, bearing witness to the truth that
is within him. The religions which can boast of
missionaries who left the old home of their childhood, and parted with parents and friends—never to
meet again in this life—who went into the wilderness, willing to spend a life of toil among strangers,
ready, if need be, to lay down their life as witnesses
to the truth, as martyrs for the glory of God—the
same religions are rich also in those honest and intrepid inquirers who, at the bidding of the same
spirit of truth, were ready to leave behind them the
cherished creed of their childhood, to separate from
the friends they loved best, to stand alone among
men that shrug their shoulders, and ask, ‘ What is
truth ? ’ and to bear in silence a martyrdom more
galling often than death itself There are men who
say that, if they held the whole truth in their hand,
they would not open one finger. Such men know
little of the working of the spirit of truth, of the
true missionary spirit. As long as there are doubt
and darkness and anxiety in the soul of an inquirer,
reticence may be his natural attitude. But when
once doubt has yielded to certainty, darkness to light,,
anxiety to joy, the rays of truth will burst forth ;
and to close our hand or to shut our lips would
be as impossible as for the petals of a flower to
shut themselves against the summons of the sun of
What is there in this short life that should seal
our lips ? What should we wait for, if we are not
to speak here and now ? There is missionary work
at home as much as abroad; there are thousands
waiting to listen, if one man will but speak the truth,
and nothing but the truth; there are thousands
starving, because they cannot find that food which
is convenient for them.
And even if the spirit of truth might be chained
down by fear or prudence, the spirit of love would
never yield. Once recognise the common brotherhood of mankind, not as a name or a theory, but as
a real bond, as a bond more binding, more lasting
than the bonds of family, caste, and race, and the
questions. Why should I open my hand ? why should
I open my heart ? why should I speak to my brother ?
will never be asked again. Is it not far better to
speak than to walk through life silent, unknown, unknowing ? Has any one of us ever spoken to a friend
and opened to him his inmost soul, and been answered
with harshness or repelled with scorn ? Has any one
of us, be he priest or layman, ever listened to the
honest questionings of a truth-loving soul without,
feeling his own soul filled with love ? aye, without
feeling humbled by the very honesty of a brother's
confession ?
If we would but confess, friend to friend, if we
would be but honest, man to man, we should not
want confessors or confessionals.
If our doubts and difficulties are self-made, if they
can be removed by wiser and better men, why not
give to our brother the opportunity of helping us ?
But if our difficulties are not self-made, if they are
not due either to ignorance or presumption, is it not
even then better for us to know that we are all carrying the same burden, the common burden of humanity, if haply we may find that for the heavy-laden
there is but one who can give them rest ?
There may be times when silence is gold and
speech silver : but there are times also when silence
is death, and speech is life—the very life of Pentecost.
How can man be afraid of man ? How can we be
afraid of those whom we love ?
Are the young afraid of the old ? But nothing
delights the older man more than to see that he is
trusted by the young, and that they believe he will
tell them the truth.
Are the old afraid of the young ? But nothing
sustains the young more than to know that they do
not stand alone in their troubles, and that in many
trials of the soul the father is as helpless as the
Are women afraid of men? But men are not
wiser in the things appertaining to God than women,
and real love of God is theirs far more than ours.
Are men afraid of women ? But though women
may hide their troubles more carefully, their heart
aches as much as ours, when they whisper to themselves, ‘ Lord, I believe, help thou my unbelief.’
Are the laity afraid of the clergy ? But where is
the clergyman who would not respect honest doubt
more than unquestioning faith ?
Are the clergy afraid of the laity ? But surely
we know, in this place at least, that the clear voice
of honesty and humility draws more hearts than the
harsh accents of dogmatic assurance or ecclesiastic
' There lives more faith in honest doubt.
Believe me, than in half the creeds.'
A missionary must know no fear ; his heart must
overflow with love—love of man, love of truth, love
of God; and in this, the highest and truest sense of
the word, every Christian is, or ought to be, a missionary.
And now, let us look again at the religions in
which the missionary spirit has been at work, and
compare them with those in which any attempt to
convince others by argument, to save souls, to bear
witness to the truth, is treated with pity or scorn.
The former are alive, the latter are dying or dead.
The religion of Zoroaster—the religion of Cyrus,
of Darius and Xerxes—which, but for the battles
of Marathon and Salamis, might have become the
religion of the civilised world, is now professed by
only 100,000 souls1—that is, by about a ten-thousandth part of the inhabitants of the world. During
1 The last Indian census gives 150,000.
the last two centuries their number has steadily decreased from four to one hundred thousand, and
another century will probably exhaust what is still left
of the worshippers of the Wise Spirit, Ahuramazda.
The Jews are about thirty times the number of
the Par sis, and they therefore represent a more appreciable portion of mankind. Though it is not likely
that they will ever increase in number, yet such is
their physical vigour and their intellectual tenacity,,
such also their pride of race and their faith in
Jehovah, that we can hardly imagine that their
patriarchal religion and their ancient customs will
soon vanish from the face of the earth.
But though the religion of the Parsis and Jews
might justly seem to have paid the penalty of their
anti-missionary spirit, how, it will be said, can the
same be maintained with regard to the religion of the
Brahmans? That religion is still professed by at
least 110,000,000 of human souls, and, to judge
from the last census, even that enormous number
falls much short of the real truth. And yet I do not
shrink from saying that their religion is dying or
dead. And why ? Because it cannot stand the light
of day. The worship of Siva, Vishnu, and the other
popular deities, is of the same, nay in many cases of
a more degraded and savage character than the worship of Jupiter, Apollo, and Minerva ; it belongs to a
stratum of thought which is long buried beneath
our feet : it may live on, like the lion and the tiger,
but the mere air of free thought and civilised life will
extinguish it. A religion may linger on for a long
time, it may be accepted by the large masses of the
people, because it is there, and there is nothing
better. But when a religion has ceased to produce
defenders of the faith, prophets, champions, martyrs,
it has ceased to live, in the true sense of the word ;
and in that sense the old, orthodox Brahmanism has
ceased to live for more than a thousand years.
It is true there are millions of children, women,
and men in India who fall down before the stone
image of Vishnu, with his four arms, riding on a
creature half bird, half man, or sleeping on the
serpent; who worship Siva, a monster with three
eyes, riding naked on a bull, with a necklace of skulls
for his ornament. There are human beings who still
believe in a god of war, Kârtikêya, with six faces,
riding on a peacock, and holding bow and arrow in
his hands ; and who invoke a god of success, Ganesa,
with four hands and an elephant's head, sitting on a
rat. Nay, it is true that, in the broad daylight of
the nineteenth century, the figure of the goddess
Ka l i is carried through the streets of her own city,
Calcutta,1 her wild dishevelled hair reaching to her
feet, with a necklace of human heads, her tongue protruded from her mouth, her girdle stained with blood.
A l l this is true ! But ask any Hindu who can read
and write and think, whether these are the gods he
believes in, and he will smile at your credulity. How
long this living death of national religion in India
may last, no one can tell : for our purposes, however,
for gaining an idea of the issue of the great religious
struggle of the future, that religion, too, is dead and
The three religions which are alive, and between
1 Lassen, Indische Alterthumshunde, vol. iv. p. 635. Cf. Indian
Antiquary y 1873, p. 370. Academy, 1874, p. 61.
which the decisive battle for the dominion of the
world will have to be fought, are the three missionary religions, Buddhism, Mohammedanism, and Christianity. Though religious statistics are perhaps the
most uncertain of all, yet it is well to have a general conception of the forces of our enemies; and
it is well to know that, though the number of
Christians is double the number of Mohammedans,
the Buddhist religion still occupies the first place in
the religious census of mankind.’
Buddhism rules supreme in Central, Northern,
Eastern, and Southern Asia, and it gradually absorbs
whatever there is left of aboriginal heathenism in
that vast and populous area.
Mohammedanism claims as its own Arabia, Persia,
great parts of India, Asia Minor, Turkey, and Egypt;
and its greatest conquests by missionary efforts are
made among the heathen population of Africa.
Christianity reigns in Europe and America, and it
is conquering the native races of Polynesia and Melanesia, while its missionary outposts are scattered all
over the world.
Between these three powers, then, the religious
battle of the future, the Holy War of mankind, will
have to be fought, and is being fought at the present
moment, though apparently with little effect. To
convert a Mohammedan is difficult ; to convert a
Buddhist, more difficult still ; to convert a Christian,
let US hope, well nigh impossible.
What then, it may be asked, is the use of missionaries ? Why should we spend millions on foreign
missions, when there are children in our cities who
1 See Religious Statistics of Buddhism, infra, p. 223.
are allowed to grow up in ignorance ? Why should
we deprive ourselves of some of the noblest, boldest,
most ardent and devoted spirits and send them into
the wilderness, while so many labourers are wanted
in the vineyard at home ?
It is right to ask these questions ; and we ought
not to blame those political economists who tell us
that every convert costs us 200l., and that at the
present rate of progress it would take more than
200,000 years to evangelise the world. There is
nothing at all startling in these figures. Every child
born in Europe is as much a heathen as the child of a
Melanesian cannibal ; and it costs us more than 200l.
to turn a child into a Christian man. The other calculation is totally erroneous ; for an intellectual harvest
must not be calculated by adding simply grain to
grain, but by counting each grain as a living seed,
that will bring forth fruit a hundred and a thousand
If we want to know what work there is for the
missionary to do, what results we may expect from it,
we must distinguish between two kinds of work : the
one is parental, the other controversial. Among uncivilised races the work of the missionary is the work
of a parent. Whether his pupils are young in years
or old, he has to treat them with a parent's love, to
teach them with a parent's authority ; he has to win
them, not to argue with them. I know this kind of
missionary work is often despised ; i t is called mere
religious kidnapping ; and it is said that missionary
success obtained by such means proves nothing for
the truth of Christianity; that the child handed
over to a Mohammedan would grow up a Moham62 LECTURE ON MISSIONS.
meda,n, as much as a child taken by a Christian
missionary becomes a Christian. A l l this is true ;
missionary success obtained by such means proves
nothing for the truth of our Creeds : but it proves
what is far more important—it proves Christian
love. Read only the ‘ Life of Patteson,’ the Bishop
of Melanesia ; follow him in his vessel, sailing from
island to island, begging for children, carrying them
off as a mother her new-born child, nursing them,
washing and combing them, clothing them, feeding
them, teaching them in his Episcopal Palace, in
which he himself is everything, nurse, and housemaid, and cook, schoolmaster, physician, and bishop
—read there, how that man who tore himself away
from his aged father, from his friends, from his
favourite studies and pursuits, had the most loving
of hearts for these children, how indignantly he
repelled for them the name of savages, how he
trusted them, respected them, honoured them, and
when they were formed and stablished, took them
back to their island homes, there to be a leaven for
future ages. Yes, read the life, the work, the death
of that man—a death in very truth, a ransom for the
sins of others—and then say whether you would like
to suppress a profession that can call forth such selfdenial, such heroism, such sanctity, such love. It has
been my privilege to have known some of the finest
and noblest spirits which England has produced
during this century, but there is none to whose
memory I look up with greater reverence, none by
whose friendship I feel more deeply humbled than
by that of that true saint, that true martyr, that
truly parental missionary.
The work of the parental missionary is clear, and
its success undeniable, not only in Polynesia and
Melanesia, but in many parts of India—think only
of the bright light of Tinnevelly—in Africa, in
China, in America, in Syria, in Turkey, aye, in the
very heart of London.
The case is different with the controversial missionary, who has to attack the faith of men brought
up in other religions, in religions which contain
much truth, though mixed up with much error.
Here the difficulties are immense, the results very
discouraging. Nor need we wonder at this. We
know, each of us, but too well, how little argument
avails in theological discussion; how often it produces the very opposite result of what we expected;
confirming rather than shaking opinions no less
erroneous, no less indefensible, than many articles of
the Mohammedan or Buddhist faith.
And even when argument proves successful, when
it forces a verdict from an unwilling judge, how often
has the result been disappointing ; because in tearing
up the rotten stem on which the tree rested, the
tenderest fibres of the tree itself have been injured,
its roots unsettled, its life destroyed.
We have little ground to expect that these controversial weapons will carry the day in the struggle
between the three great religions of the world.
But there is a third kind of missionary activity,
which has produced the most important results, and
through which alone, I believe, the final victory will
be gained. Whenever two religions are brought
into contact, when members of each live together in
peace, abstaining from all direct attempts at conver64 LECTURE ON MISSIONS.
sion, whether by force or by argument, though conscious all the time of the fact that they and their
religion are on their trial, that they are being
watched, that they are responsible for all they say
and do—the effect has always been the greatest
blessing to both. It calls out all the best elements
in each, and at the same time keeps under all that
is felt to be of doubtful value, of uncertain truth.
Whenever this has happened in the history of the
world, it has generally led either to the reform of
both systems, or to the foundation of a new religion.
When after the conquest of India the violent
measures for the conversion of the Hindus to Mohammedanism had ceased, and Mohammedans and
Brahmans lived together in the enjoyment of perfect
equality, the result was a purified Mohammedanism,
and a purified Brahmanism.’ The worshippers of
Vishnu, Siva, and other deities, became ashamed of
these mythological gods, and were led to admit that
there was, either over and above these individual
deities, or instead of them, a higher divine power
(the Para-Brahma), the true source of all being, the
only and almighty ruler of the world. That religious
movement assumed its most important development
at the beginning of the twelfth century, when Ramanuga founded the reformed sect of the worshippers
of Vishnu; and again, in the fourteenth century,
when his fifth successor, Râmânanda, imparted a
still more liberal character to that powerful sect.
Not only did he abolish many of the restrictions of
caste, many of the minute ceremonial observances in
1 Lassen, Indische Alterthumshunde, vol. iv. p. 606 ; Wilson,
Asiatic Researches, xvi. p. 21.
eating, drinking, and bathing, but he replaced the
classical Sanskrit—which was unintelligible to the
large masses of the people—by the living vernaculars, in which he preached a purer worship of God.
The most remarkable man of that time was a
weaver, the pupil of Râmânanda, known by the name
of Kabir. 1 He, indeed, deserved the name which the
members of the reformed sect claimed for themselves,
Avadhûta, which means one who has shaken off the
dust of superstition. He broke entirely with the
popular mythology and the customs of the ceremonial law, and addressed himself alike to Hindu
and Mohammedan. According to him, there is but
one God, the creator of the world, without beginning and end, of inconceivable purity, and irresistible
strength. The pure man is the image of God, and
after death attains community with God. The commandments of Kabir are few : Not to injure anything that has life, for life is of God ; to speak the
truth ; to keep aloof from the world ; to obey the
teacher. His poetry is most beautiful, hardly surpassed in any other language.
Still more important in the history of India was
the reform of Nânak (1469-1588), the founder of the
Sikh religion. He, too, worked entirely in the spirit
of Kabir. Both laboured to persuade the Hindus and
Mohammedans that the truly essential parts of their
creeds were the same, that they ought to discard
the varieties of practical detail, and the corruptions
of their teachers, for the worship of the One Only
Supreme, whether he was termed Allah or Vishnu.
1 Lived under Sikander Shah Lodi, 1488-1512 ; see Trumpp,
The effect of these religious reforms has been
highly beneficial ; it has cut into the very roots of
idolatry, and has spread throughout India an intelligent and spiritual worship, which may at any time
develop into a higher national creed.
The same effect which Mohammedanism produced
on Hinduism is now being produced, in a much higher
degree, on the religious mind of India by the mere
presence of Christianity. That silent influence began
to tell many years ago, even at a time when no missionaries were allowed within the territory of the old
East India Company. Its first representative was
Ram Mohun Roy, born just one hundred years ago,
in 1772, who died at Bristol in 1833, the founder of
the Brahma-Samaj. A man so highly cultivated and
so highly religious as he was could not but feel
humiliated at the spectacle which the popular religion
of his country presented to his English friends. He
drew their attention to the fact that there was a
purer religion to be found in the old sacred writings
of his people, the Vedas. He went so far as to claim
for the Vedas a divine origin, and to attempt the
foundation of a reformed faith on their authority.
In this attempt he failed.
No doubt the Vedas and other works of the ancient
poets and prophets of India contain treasures of truth
which ought never to be forgotten, least of all by the
sons of India. The late good Bishop Cotton, in his
address to the students of a missionary institution at
Calcutta, advised them to use a certain hymn of the
Rig-Veda in their daily prayers.1 Nowhere do we
1 See Brethnic Questions of the Day, 1869, p. 16.
find stronger arguments against idolatry, nowhere
has the unity of the Deity been upheld more strenuously against the errors of polytheism than by some
of the ancient sages of India. Even in the oldest of
their sacred books, the Rig-Veda, composed three or
four thousand years ago—where we find hymns
addressed to the different deities of the sky, the air,
the earth, the rivers—the protest of the human heart
against many gods breaks forth from time to time
with no uncertain sound. One poet, after he has
asked to whom sacrifice is due, answers, ‘to Him who
is God above all gods.’ 1 Another poet, after enumerating the names of many deities, affirms, without
hesitation, that ‘ these are all but names of Him who
is One.’ And even when single deities are invoked,
it is not difficult to see that, in the mind of the poet,
each one of the names is meant to express the highest
conception of deity of which the human mind was
then capable. The god of the sky is called Father
and Mother and Friend ; he is the Creator, the Upholder of the Universe ; he rewards virtue and
punishes sin ; he listens to the prayers of those who
love him.
But granting all this, we may well understand why
an attempt to claim for these books a divine origin,
and thus to make them an artificial foundation for a
new religion, failed. The successor of Ram Mohun
Roy, the present head of the Brahma–Samâj, the wise
and excellent Debendra Nâth Tagore, was for a time
even more decided in holding to the Vedas as the sole
foundation of the new faith. But this could not last.
1 History of Ancient Sanskrit Literature, by M. M. (2nd ed.),
p. 569.
As soon as the true character of the Vedas,1 which
but few people in India can understand, became
known, partly through the efforts of native, partly of
European scholars, the Indian reformers relinquished
the claim of divine inspiration in favour of their
Vedas, and were satisfied with a selection of passages
from the works of the ancient sages of India, to express and embody the creed which the members of
the Brahma-Sainâj hold in common.’
The work which these religious reformers have
been doing in India is excellent, and those only who
know what it is, in religious matters, to break with
the past, to forsake the established custom of a nation,
to oppose the rush of public opinion, to brave adverse
criticism, to submit to social persecution, can form
any idea of what those men have suffered in bearing
witness to the truth that was within them.
They could not reckon on any sympathy on the
part of Christian missionaries ; nor did their work
attract much attention in Europe t i l l very lately,
when a schism broke out in the Brahma-Samaj
between the old conservative party and a new party,
led by Keshub Chunder Sen. The former, though
willing to surrender all that was clearly idolatrous in
the ancient religion and customs of India, wished to
retain all that might safely be retained : it did not
wish to see the religion of India denationalised. The
other party, inspired and led by Keshub Chunder
Sen, went further in their zeal for religious purity.
A l l that smacked of the old leaven was to be sur1 The Adi Brahma-Sarnâj, its Views and P?*inciples, Calcutta,
1870, p. 10.
2 A Brief History of the Calcutta Brahma-Sa LECTURE ON MISSIONS. 69
rendered : not only caste, but even that sacred cord
—the religious riband which makes and marks the
Brahman, which is to remind him at every moment
of his life, and whatever work he may be engaged in,
of his God, of his ancestors, and of his children—
even that was to be abandoned ; and instead of
founding their creed exclusively on the utterances of
the ancient sages of their own country, all that was
best in the sacred books of the whole world was
to be selected and formed into a new sacred Code.’
The schism between these two parties is deeply to
be deplored ; but it is nevertheless a sign of life. It
augurs success rather than failure for the future. It
is the same schism which St. Paul had to heal in the
Church of Corinth, and he healed it with the words,
so often misunderstood, ‘ Knowledge puffeth up, but
charity edifieth.’
In the eyes of our missionaries this religious reform in India has not found much favour : nor need
we wonder at this. Their object is to transplant, i f
possible, Christianity in its full integrity from England to India, as we might wish to transplant a fullgrown tree. They do not deny the moral worth, the
noble aspirations, the self-sacrificing zeal of these
native reformers ; but they fear that all this will but
increase their dangerous influence, and retard the
progress of Christianity, by drawing some of the best
minds of India, that might have been gained over to
our religion, into a different current. They feel
towards Keshub Chunder Sen 2 as Athanasius might
have felt towards Ulfilas, the Arian Bishop of the
1 See Note B, p. 78. 2 See Note C, p. 82.
Goths : and yet what would have become of Christianity in Europe but for those Gothic races, but for
those Arian heretics, who were considered more dangerous than downright pagans ?
If we think of the future of India, and of the influence which that country has always exercised on
the East, the movement of religious reform which
is now going on appears to my mind the most momentous in this momentous century. If our missionaries feel constrained to repudiate it as their
own work, history will be more just to them than
they themselves.1 And i f not as the work of Christian missionaries, it will be recognised hereafter as
the work of those missionary Christians who have
lived in India as examples of a true Christian life,
who have approached the natives in a truly missionary spirit, in the spirit of truth and in the spirit of
love ; whose bright presence has thawed the ice,
and brought out beneath it the old soil, ready to
blossom into new life. These Indian puritans are not
against us ; for all the highest purposes of life they
are with us, and we, I trust, with them. What
would the early Christians have said to men, outside
the pale of Christianity, who spoke of Christ and his
1 The Indian Mirror (Sept. 10, 1869) constantly treats of missionary efforts of various kinds in a spirit which is not only friendly,
but even desirous of reciprocal sympathy ; and hopeful that whatever differences may exist between them (the missionaries) and the
Brahmos, the two parties will heartily combine as brethren to exterminate idolatry, and promote true morality in India.
Many of our own ministers and leading men, says the Indian
Mirror, are recruited from missionary schools, which, by affording
religious education, prove more favourable to the growth and spread
of Brahmoism than Government schools with Comte and Secularism*
(Indian Theism, by S. D. Collet, 1870, p. 22).
doctrine as some of these Indian reformers ? Would
they have said to them, ‘ Unless you speak our language and think our thoughts, unless you accept
our Creed and sign our Articles, we can have nothing
in common with you.’
O that Christians, and particularly missionaries,
would lay to heart the words of a missionary Bishop ! 1
‘ I have for years thought,’ writes Bishop Patteson,
‘ that we seek in our Missions a great deal too much
to make English Christians. . . . Evidently the
heathen man is not treated fairly, if we encumber
our message with unnecessary requirements. The
ancient Church had its “ selection of fundamentals."
. . . Anyone can see what mistakes we have made
in India. . . . Few men think themselves into the
state of the Eastern mind. . . . We seek to denationalise these races as far as I can see ; whereas we
ought surely to change as little as possible—only
what is clearly incompatible with the simplest form
of Christian teaching and practice. I do not mean
that we are to compromise truth . . . but do we not
overlay it a good deal with human traditions ! ’
If we had many such missionaries as Bishop
Patteson and Bishop Cotton, if Christianity were not
only preached, but lived in that spirit, it would then
prove itself what it is—the religion of humanity at
large, large enough itself to take in all shades and
diversities of character and race.
And more than that—if this true missionary
spirit, this spirit of truth and love, of forbearance, of
trust, of toleration, of humility, were once to kindle
1 IAfe of John Coleridge Patteson, by C. M. Yonge, i i . p. 167.
the hearts of all those chivalrous ambassadors of
Christ, the message of the Gospel which they have
to deliver would then become as great a blessing to
the giver as to the receiver. Even now, missionary
work unites, both at home and abroad, those who are
widely separated by the barriers of theological sects.’
It might do so far more still. When we stand
before a common enemy, we soon forget our own small
feuds. But why? Often, I fear, from motives of
prudence only and selfishness. Can we not, then,
i f we stand in spirit before a common friend—can
we not, before the face of God, forget our small
1 ' The large body of European and American missionaries settled
in India bring their various moral influences to bear upon the
country with the greater force, because they act together with a
compactness which is but little understood. Though belonging
to various denominations of Christians, yet from the nature of their
work, their isolated position, and their long experience, they have
been led to think rather of the numerous questions on which they
agree than of those on which they differ, and they co-operate
heartily together. Localities are divided among them by friendly
arrangements, and, with a few exceptions, it is a fixed rule among
them that they wil l not ' interfere with each other's converts and
each other's spheres of duty. School -books, translations of the
Scriptures and religious works, prepared by various missions, are
used in common ; and help and improvements secured by one mission are freely placed at the command of all. The large body
of missionaries resident in each of the presidency towns form
missionary conferences, hold periodic meetings, and act together
on public matters. They have frequently addressed the Indian
Government on important social questions involving the welfare of
the native community, and have suggested valuable improvements
in existing laws. During the past twenty years, on five occasions,
general conferences have been held for mutual consultation respecting their missionary work ; and in January last, at the latest
of these gatherings, at Allahabad, 121 missionaries met together
belonging to twenty different societies, and including several men
of long experience who have been twenty years in India.'—India,
Progress and Condition, 1873, p. 124.
feuds, for very shame? If missionaries admit to
their fold converts who can hardly understand the
equivocal abstractions of our creeds and formulas,
is it necessary to exclude those who understand them
but too well to submit the wings of their free spirit
to such galling chains ? When we try to think of
the majesty of God, what are all those formulas but
the stammerings of children, which only a loving
father can interpret and understand! The fundamentals of our religion are not in these poor Creeds ;
true Christianity lives, not in our belief, but in our
love—in our love of God, and in our love of man,
founded on our love of God,
That is the whole Law and the Prophets ; that is
the religion to be preached to the whole world ; that
is the Gospel which will conquer all other religions
—even Buddhism and Mohammedanism—which will
win the hearts of all men.
There can never be too much love, though there
may be too much faith—particularly when it leads
to the requirement of exactly the same measure of
faith in others. Let those who wish for the true
success of missionary work learn to throw in of the
abundance of their faith ; let them learn to demand
less from others than from themselves. That is the
best offering, the most valuable contribution which
they can make to-day to the missionary cause.
Let missionaries preach the Gospel again as it
was preached when it began the conquest of the
Roman Empire and the Gothic nations; when it
had to struggle with powers and principalities, with
time-honoured religions and triumphant philosophies,
with pride of civilisation and savagery of life—and
yet came out victorious. At that time conversion
was not a question to be settled by the acceptance
or rejection of certain formulas or articles ; a simple
prayer was often enough : ‘ God be merciful to me a
There is one kind of faith that revels in words,
there is another that can hardly find utterance : the
former is like riches that come to us by inheritance,
the latter is like the daily bread which each of us
has to win in the sweat of his brow. We cannot
expect the former from new converts ; we ought not
to expect it or to exact it, for fear that it might lead
to hypocrisy or superstition. The mere believing of
miracles, the mere repeating of formulas requires no
effort in converts brought up to believe in the
Purânas of the Brahmans or the Buddhist Gâtakas.
They find it much easier to accept a legend than to
love God, to repeat a creed than to forgive their
enemies. In this respect they are exactly like ourselves. Let missionaries remember that the Christian
faith at home is no longer what it was, and that it
is impossible to have one creed to preach abroad,
another to preach at home« Much that was formerly
considered as essential is now neglected ; much that
was formerly neglected is now considered as essential. I think of the laity more than of the clergy :
but what would the clergy be without the laity?
There are many of our best men, men of the greatest
power and influence in literature, science, art, politics,
ay, even in the Church itself, who are no longer
Christian in the old sense of the word. Some imagine they have ceased to be Christians altogether,
because they feel that they cannot believe as much
as others profess to believe. We cannot afford to
lose these men, nor shall we lose them if we learn
to be satisfied with what satisfied Christ and the
Apostles, with what satisfies many a hard-working
missionary. If Christianity is to retain its hold on
Europe and America, if it is to conquer in the Holy
War of the future, it must throw off its heavy
armour, the helmet of brass and the coat of mail, and
face the world like David, with his staff, his stones,
and his sling. We want less of creeds, but more of
trust ; less of ceremony, but more of work ; less of
solemnity, but more of genial honesty ; less of doctrine, but more of love. There is a faith, as small
as a grain of mustard-seed, but that grain alone can
move mountains, and more than that, it can move
hearts. Whatever the world may say of us, of us of
little faith, let us remember that there was one who
accepted the offering of the poor widow. She threw
in but two mites, but that was all she had, even all
her living.
N O T E S .
N O T E A .
Mahâdayasśâpi ginassa kaddhanam,
vihâya pattam amatam sukham pi te
Karimsu lokassa hitam tahim tahim,
Bhaveyya ko lokahite pamâdavâ ?
The first line is elliptical.
(Imitating) the resignation of the all­merciful Conqueror,
They also, resigning the deathless bliss within their reach.
Worked the welfare of mankind in various lands.
What man is there who would be remiss in doing good to
mankind ?
Hardy, in his 'Manual of Buddhism' F(p. 187), relates
how fifty­four princes and a thousand fire­worshippers be­
came the disciples of Buddha. ' Whilst Buddha remained
at Isipatana, Yasa, the son of Sujatá, who had been brought
up in all delicacy, one night went secretly to him, was re­
ceived with affection, became a priest, and entered the first
path. The father on discovering that he had fled, was dis­
consolate ; but Buddha delivered to him a discourse, by
which he became a rah at. The fifty­four companions of
Yasa went to the monastery to induce him to return and
play with them as usual ; but when they saw him, they
were so struck with his manner and appearance, that they
also resolved on becoming priests. When they went to
Buddha, they were admitted, by the power o f i r d h i received the p i r i k a r a requisites of the priesthood, and
became rahats. Buddha had now sixty disciples who were
rahats, and he commanded them to go by different ways,
and proclaim to all that a supreme Buddha had appeared
in the world.'
Mr . Childers has kindly sent me the following extract
from Fausböll's ' Dhammapada ' (p. 119), where the same
story is told :—
. . . Yasakulaputtassa upanissayasampattim disvâ tarn
rattibhâge nibbiggitvâ geh am pahâya nikkhantam ' ehi
Yasâti ' pakkositvâ, tasmiñ ñeva rattibhâge sotâpattiphalam
punadivase arahattam pâpesi. Apare pi tassa sahâyake
katupanwâsagane ehibhikkhupabbaggâya pabbâgetvâ arahattam pâpesi. Evarn loke ekasatthiyâ arahantesu gâtesu vut
thavasso pavâretvâ 'karatha bhikkhave kârikan ' t i satthirn bhikkhû disâsu pesetvâ. . . . ' Seeing that the young
nobleman Yasa was ripe for conversion, in the night, when
weary with the vanities of the world he had left his home and
embraced the ascetic life, he called him, saying, " Follow
me, Yasa," and that very night he caused him to obtain the
fruition of the first path, and on the following day arhatship.
And fifty-four other persons, who were friends of Yasa's,
he ordained with the formula, "Follow me, priest," and
caused them to attain arhatship. Thus when there were
sixty-one arhats in the world, having passed the period of
seclusion during the rains and resumed active duties, he
sent forth the sixty priests in all directions, saying, " Go
forth, priests, on your rounds (or travels)." '
Another passage, too, showing Buddha's desire to see
his doctrine preached i n the whole world, was pointed out
to me by M r . Childers from the 'Mahâparinibbâna Sutta,'
which has since been published by this indefatigable scholar
in the ' Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society,' vol. v i i . p 77 :
' Three months before his death, when Gautama's health
and strength is fast failing, he is tempted by Mâra, who
comes to him and urges him to bring his life and mission at
once to a close by attaining N i r v a n a (dying). Buddha
replies that he wi l l not die until his disciples are perfect on
al l points, and able to maintain the Truth with power
against all unbelievers. Mara replies that this is already the
case, whereupon Buddha uses these striking words :—Na
tâvâham pâpima parinibbâyissâmi yâva me imam brahmakariyam na iddhan k' eva bhavissati phîtan ka vitthârikam bâhujañnarn puthubhûtarn, yâvad eva rnanussehi
snppakâsitan t i . " 0 wicked one, I wil l not die until this
my holy religion thrives and prospers, until it is widely
spread, known to many peoples, and grown great, until it is
completely published among men." Mâra again asserts
that this is already the case, and Buddha replies, " Strive no
more, wicked one, the death of the Tathâgata is at hand : at
the end of three months from this time, the Tathâgata wi l l
attain Nirvana." '
T H E S C H I S M I N T H E B R A H M A - S A M Â J . 1
T H E present position of the two parties in the BrahmaSamâj is well described by Rajnarain Bose (the ' A d i
Brahmo Samaj,' Calcutta, 1873, p. 11). ' The particular
opinions above referred to can be divided into two comprehensive classes—conservative and progressive. The conservative Brahmos are those who are unwilling to push
religious and social reformation to any great extreme. They
are of opinion that reformation should be gradual, the law
of gradual progress being universally prevalent in nature.
1 Brahma-Samâj‚ the Church of Brahma, is the general title.
When the schism took place, the original Samâj was called Adi
Brahma-Samâj, i.e. the First Church of Brahma, while the progressive party under Keshub Chunder Sen was distinguished by the name
of the Brahma-Samâj of India. The vowels u and o are often the
same in Bengali, and are sometimes used for a.
They also say that the principle of Brahmic harmony requires a harmonious discharge of all our duties, and that,
as it is a duty to take a part in reformation, so there are
other duties to perform—namely, those towards parents and
society—and that we should harmonise all these duties as
much as we can. However unsatisfactory such arguments
may appear to a progressive Brahmo, they are such as could
not be slighted at first sight. They are certainly such as
to make the conservative Brahmo think sincerely that he is
justified in not pushing religious and social reformation to
any great extreme. The progressive Brahmo cannot, therefore, call him a hypocrite. A union of both the conservative and the progressive elements in the Brahmo Church is
necessary for its stability. The conservative element wi l l
prevent the progressive from spoiling the cause of reformation by taking premature and abortive measures for advancing that cause ; the progressive element wil l prevent
the conservative from proving a stolid obstruction to it.
The conservative element wi l l serve as a link between the
progressive element and the orthodox community, and
prevent the progressive Brahmo from being completely
-estranged from that community, as the native Christians
are ; while the progressive element wil l prevent the conservative from remaining inert and being absorbed by the
orthodox community. The common interests of Brahmo
Dharma should lead both classes to respect and be on
amicable terms with each other. It is true the progressive
-of the present half century wil l prove the conservative
of the next ; but there could never come a time when the
two classes would cease to exist in the bosom of the Church.
She should, like a wise mother, make them live in peace
with each other, and work harmoniously together for her
' As idolatry is intimately interwoven with our social
fabric, conservative Brahmos, though discarding it i n other
respects, find it very difficult to do so on the occasion of
such very important domestic ceremonies as marriage,,
s h r a d h (ancestral sacrifices), and u p a n a y a n a (spiritual
apprenticing) ; but they should consider that Brahmoism
is not so imperative on any other point as on the renunciation of idolatry. It can allow conservatism in other
respects, but not on the point of idolatry. It can consider a man a Brahmo, i f he be conservative in other
respects than idolatry; but it can never consider an
idolater to be a Brahmo. The conservative Brahmo can
do one thing—that is, observe the old ritual, leaving out
only the idolatrous portion of it, if he do not choose to
follow the positive Brahmo ritual laid down in the
" Anushthana Paddhati." Liberty should be given by the
progressive Brahmo to the conservative Brahmo in judging
of the idolatrous character of the portions of the old ritual
rejected by him. If a progressive Brahmo requires a conservative one to reject those portions which the former
considers to be idolatrous, but the latter does not, he denies
liberty of conscience to a fellow-Brahmo.
' The A d i Brahmo-Samâj is the national Hindu Theistic
Church, whose principles of Church reformation we have
been describing above. Its demeanour towards the old
religion of the country is friendly, but corrective and
reformative. It is this circumstance which pre-eminently
distinguishes it from the Brahmo-Samâj of India, whose
attitude to that religion is antagonistic and offensive. The
mission of the A d i Samâj is to fulfil the old religion, and
not to destroy it. The attitude of the A d i Samâj to the old
religion is friendly, but it is not at the same time opposed
to progress. It is a mistake to call i t a conservative Church.
It is rather a conservative-progressive Church, or, more
correctly, simply a Church or religious body, leaving matters
of social reformation to the judgments of individual members or bodies of such members. It contains both progressive and conservative members. As the ultra-progressive
Brahmos, who wanted to eliminate the conservative element
from it, were obliged to secede from it, so i f a high conservative party arise in its bosom which would attempt to do
violence to the progressive element and convert the Church
into a partly conservative one, that party also would be
obliged to secede from it. Only men who can be tolerant
of each other's opinions, and can respect each other's earnest
convictions, progressive and conservative, can remain its
The strong national feeling of the Indian reformers finds
expression in the following passage from ' Brahmic Questions,' p. 9 :—
' A Samâj is accessible to all. The minds of the majority of our countrymen are not deeply saturated with
Christian sentiments. What would they think of a Brahmo
minister who would quote on the Vedi (altar) sayings from
the Bible ? Would they not from that time conceive
an intolerable hatred towards Brahmoism and everything
Brahmo ? If quoting a sentence from the Bible or Koran
offend our countrymen, we shall not do so. Truth is as
catholic when taken from the Sâstras as from the Koran
or the Bible. True liberality consists, not in quoting texts
from the religious Scriptures of other nations, but in bringing up, as we advance, the rear who are grovelling in ignorance and superstition. We certainly do not act against
the dictates of conscience, i f we quote texts from the Hindu
Sâstras only, and not from all the religious Scriptures of
all the countries on the face of the globe. Moreover, there
is not a single saying in the Scriptures of other nations
which has not its counterpart in the Sâstras.'
And again in ' The A d i Brahma-Samâj, its Views and
Principles,' p. 1 :—
' The members of the A d i Samâj, aiming to diffuse the
truths of Theism among their own nation, the Hindus,
have naturally adopted a Hindu mode of propagation, just
as an Arab Theist would adopt an Arabian mode of propagation, and a Chinese Theist a Chinese one. Such dif82 NOTES.
ferences in the aspect of Theism in different countries must
naturally arise from the usual course of things, but they
are adventitious, not essential, national, not sectarian. A l though Brahmoism is a universal religion, it is impossible
to communicate a universal form to it. It must wear a
particular form in a particular country. A so-called universal form would make it appear grotesque and ridiculous
to the nation or religious denomination among whom it is
intended to be propagated, and would not command their
veneration. In conformity with such views, the A d i Samâj
has adopted a Hindu form to propagate Theism among
Hindus. It has therefore retained many innocent Hindu
usages and customs, and has adopted a form of divine service containing passages extracted from the Hindu Sâstras
only, a book of Theistic texts containing selections from
those sacred books only, and a ritual containing as much
of the ancient form as could be kept consistently with the
dictates of conscience.'
N O T E C.
' W H Y have I cherished respect and reverence for Christ ?
. . Why is it that, though I do not take the name
of "Christian," I still persevere in offering my hearty
thanksgivings to Jesus Christ ? There must be something
in the life and death of Christ—there must be something
in his great gospel which tends to bring comfort and light
and strength to a heart heavy-laden with iniquity and
wickedness. . . . I studied Christ ethically, nay spiritually
—and I studied the Bible also in the same spirit, and I
must acknowledge candidly and sincerely that I owe a
great deal to Christ and to the gospel of Christ. . . .
' M y first inquiry was. What is the creed taught in the
Bible ? . . . Must I go through all the dogmas and doctrines which constitute Christianity in the eye of the various
sects, or is there something simple which I can at once
grasp and turn to account ?
' I found Christ spoke one language and Christianity
another. I went to him prepared to hear what he had to
say, and was immensely gratified when he told me : " Love
the Lord thy God with all thy heart, with al l thy mind,
with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and love thy
neighbour as thyself; " and then he added, " This is the
whole law and the prophets " — i n other words, the whole
philosophy, theology, and ethics of the law and the prophets
are concentrated in these two great doctrines of love to God
and love to man ; and then elsewhere he said, " This do
and ye shall inherit everlasting life." . . . I f we love God
and love man we become Christ-like, and so attain everlasting life.
' Christ never demanded from me worship or adoration
that is due to God, the Creator of the Universe. . . . He
places himself before me as the spirit I must imbibe i n
order to approach the Divine Father, as the great Teacher,
and guide who wil l lead me to God.
' There are some persons who believe that if we pass
through the ceremony of baptism and sacrament, we shall
be accepted by God ; but i f you accept baptism as an outward rite, you cannot thereby render your life acceptable to
God, for Christ wants something internal, a complete conversion of the heart, a giving up the yoke of mammon and
accepting the yoke of religion, and truth, and God. He
wants us to baptize our hearts, not with cold water, but
with the fire of religious and spiritual enthusiasm; he calls
upon us not to go through any outward rite, but to make
baptism a ceremony of the heart, a spiritual enkindling of
all our energies, of all our loftiest and most heavenly aspi84 NOTES.
rations and activities. That is true baptism. So with
regard to the doctrine of the Sacrament. There are many
who eat the bread and drink the wine at the Sacramental
table, and go through the ceremony in the most pious and
fervent spirit ; but, after all, what does the real Sacrament
mean. If men simply adopt it as a tribute of respect and
honour to Christ, shall he be satisfied ? Shall they themselves be satisfied ? Can we look upon them as Christians
simply because they have gone through this rite regularly
for twenty or fifty years of their lives ? I think not.
Christ demands of us absolute sanctification and purification of the heart. In this matter, also, I see Christ on
one side, and Christian sects on the other.
' What is that bread which Christ asked his disciples to
eat ? what that wine which he asked them to taste ? Any
man who has simple intelligence in him would at once
come to the conclusion that all this was metaphorical, and
highly and eminently spiritual. Now, are you prepared to
accept Christ simply as an outward Christ, an outward
teacher, an external atonement and propitiation, or wil l you
prove true to Christ by accepting his solemn injunctions in
their spiritual importance and weight ? He distinctly says,
every follower of his must eat his flesh and drink his blood.
I f we eat, bread is converted into strength and health, and
becomes the means of prolonging our life ; so, spiritually,
i f we take truth into our heart, i f we put Christ into the
soul, we assimilate the spirit of Christ to our spiritual
being, and then we find Christ incorporated into our existence and converted into spiritual strength, and health, and
joy, and blessedness. Christ wants something that w i l l
amount to self-sacrifice, a casting away of the old man and
a new growth in the heart. I thus draw a line of demarcation between the visible and outward Christ and the
invisible and inward Christ, between bodily Christ and
spiritual Christ, between the Christ of images and pictures
and the Christ that grows in the heart, between dead Christ
and living Christ, between Christ that lived and that was
and Christ that does live and that is. . . .
' T o be a Christian, then, is to be Christ-like. Christianity* means becoming like Christ, not acceptance of Christ
as a proposition or as an outward representation, but
spiritual conformity with the life and character of Christ.
And what is Christ ? B y Christ I understand one who
said, “ Thy wil l be done; " and when I talk of Christ, I
talk of that spirit of loyalty to God, that spirit of absolute
determinedness and preparedness to say at all times and in
all circumstances, “ Thy wil l be done, not mine." . . .
' This prayer about forgiving an enemy, and loving an
enemy, this transcendental doctrine of love of man, is really
sweet to me, and when I think of that blessed Man of God
crucified on the cross, and uttering those blessed words,
" Father, forgive them, they know not what they do ; " oh !
I feel that I must love that being, I feel that there is something within me which is touched by these sweet and
heavenly utterances, I feel that I must love Christ, let
Christians say what they like against me ; that Christ I
must love, for he preached love for an enemy. . . .
' When every individual man becomes Christian in spirit
—repudiate the name, if you like—when every individual
man becomes as prayerful as Christ was, as loving and forgiving towards enemies as Christ was, as self-sacrificing as
Christ was, then these little units, these little individualities,
wil l coalesce and combine together by the natural affinity
of their hearts ; and these new creatures, reformed, regenerated, in the child-like and Christ-like spirit of devotion
and faith, wi l l feel drawn towards each other, and they
shall constitute a real Christian Church, a real Christian
nation. Allow me, friends, to say, England is not yet a
Christian nation.'
86 N O T E S .
A D I B R À H M O - S A M Â J .
Q. Who is the deity of the Brahmos ?
A. The One True God, one only without a second, whom
all Hindu Sâstras proclaim.
Q. What is the divine worship of the Brahmos ?
A. Loving God, and doing the works He loveth.
Q. What is the temple of the Brahmos ?
A. The pure heart.
Q. What are the ceremonial observances of the Brahmos ?
A. Good works.
Q. What is the sacrifice of the Brahmos ?
A. Renunciation of selfishness.
Q. What are the austerities of the Brahmos ?
A. Not committing sin. The Mahábhárata says. He
who does not commit sin in mind, speech, action, or understanding, performs austerities ; not he who drieth up his
Q. What is the place of pilgrimage of the Brahmos ?
A. The company of the good.
Q. What is the Veda of the Brahmos ?
A. Divine knowledge. It is superior to all Vedas. The
Veda itself says : ' The inferior knowledge is the R i g Veda,
the Yajur Veda, the Sama Veda, the Atharva Veda, etc. ;
the superior knowledge is that which treats of God.
Q. What is the most sacred formula of the Brahmos ?
A. Be good and do good.
Q. Who is the true Brahman ?
A. He who knows Brahma. The Brihadâranyaka-Upanishad says: He who departs from this world knowing
God, is a Brahman. (See ' Brahmic Questions of the Day.’
X I I I .
T H E delivery of a lecture on Missions in Westminster
Abbey by a layman, and that layman a German, caused
great excitement at the time. While some persons of
great experience and authority in Church and State
expressed their full approval of the bold step which
the Dean of Westminster had taken, and while some
of the most devoted missionaries conveyed to me their
hearty thanks for what I had said in my lecture,
others could not find terms sufficiently violent to
vent their displeasure against the Dean, and to proclaim their horror at the heretical opinions embodied
in my address. I was publicly threatened with legal
proceedings, and an eminent lawyer informed me in
the ‘ Times ’ of the exact length of imprisonment I
should have to undergo.
I did not reply. I had lived long enough in
England to know that no good cause can ever be served
by a breach of the law, and neither the Dean nor I
myself would have acted as we did, unless it had
been ascertained beforehand by the highest legal
authorities that, with the sanction of the Dean, there
was nothing illegal in a layman delivering such a
lecture within the precincts of his Abbey. As to the
opinions which I expressed on that occasion, I had
expressed them before in my published ‘ Lectures on
the Science of Religion.’ Whether they are orthodox
or heretical, others are more competent to determine
than I am. I simply hold them to be true, and at
my time of life, mere contradictions, abuse, or even
threats are not likely to keep me from expressing
opinions which, whether rightly or wrongly, seem to
me founded in truth.
But while I refrained from replying to mere
outbursts of anger, I gladly avail myself of the
opportunity offered by an article published in the
‘Fortnightly Review’ (July 1874) by Mr. Lyall, a
highly distinguished Indian civilian, in order to explain more fully some of the views expressed in
my lecture which seemed liable to misapprehension.
Unfortunately the writer of the article ' On Missionary Religions 9 had not the whole of my lecture before
him when writing his criticisms, but had to form his
opinion of it from a condensed report which appeared
in the ‘ Times ’ of December 5,1873. The limits of a
lecture are in themselves very narrow, and when so
large a subject as that of which I had to treat in
Westminster Abbey had to be condensed within sixty
minutes, not only those who wish to misunderstand,,
but those also who try to judge fairly, may discover in
what has been said, or what has not been said, a very
different meaning from that which the lecturer wished
to convey. And if a closely packed lecture is compressed once more into one column of the ‘ Times,’ it is
hardly possible to avoid what has happened in this case.
Mr. Lyall has blamed me for not quoting facts or statements which, as he will have seen by this time, I had
quoted in my lecture. I am reminded by him, for in OF BRAHMANISM. 8*
stance, of the remarks made by Sir George Campbell in
his Report upon the Government of Bengal in 1871-72,
when he wrote, ' It is a great mistake to suppose that
the Hindu religion is not proselytising ; the system
of castes gives room for the introduction of any number of outsiders ; so long as people do not interfere
with existing castes, they may form a new caste and
call themselves Hindus ; and the Brahmans are always
ready to receive all who will submit to them and pay
them. The process of manufacturing Rajputs from
ambitious aborigines goes on before our eyes.’ ‘ This,’
Mr. Lyall observes, ‘ is one recently recorded observation out of many that might be quoted.’
It is this very passage which I had quoted in my
third note, only that in quoting it from the ‘ Report
on the Progress and Condition of India,’ laid before
Parliament in 1873, I had added the caution of
the reporter, that ‘ this assertion must be taken with
With such small exceptions, however, I have
really nothing to complain of in the line of argument
adopted by Mr. Lyall. I believe that, after having
read my paper, he would have modified some portions
of what he has written, but I feel equally certain that
it is well that what he has written should have been
written, and should be carefully pondered both by
those who have the interests of the natives and by
those who have the interests of Christian missions at
heart. The few remarks which I take the liberty of
making are made by way of explanation only ; on all
truly essential points I believe there is not much
difference of opinion between Mr. Lyall and myself.
As my lecture in Westminster Abbey was de90 ON THE VITALITY
livered shortly after the publication of my ‘Introduction to the Science of Religion,’ I ventured to
take certain points which I had fully treated there
as generally known. One of them is the exact value
to be ascribed to canonical books in a scientific treatment of religion. When Mr. Lyall observes in limine,
that inferences as to the nature and tendency of
various existing religions which are drawn from study
and exegetic comparison of their scriptures must be
qualified by actual observation of these religions and
their popular form and working effects, he expresses
an opinion which I hold as strongly as he holds it
himself. After enumerating the books which are
recognised as sacred or authoritative by large religious
communities in India—books of such bulk and such
difficulty that it seems almost impossible for any
single scholar to master them in their entirety—I
added, ‘ A n d even then our eyes would not have
reached many of the sacred recesses in which the
Hindu mind has taken refuge, either to meditate
on the great problems of life, or to free itself from
the temptations and fetters of worldly existence by
penances and mortifications of the most exquisite
-cruelty. India has always been teeming with religious sects, and its religious life has been broken up
into countless local centres which it required all the
ingenuity and perseverance of a priestly caste to hold
together with a semblance of dogmatic uniformity.’
We must take care, however, in all scientific
studies, not to render a task impossible by attaching to it conditions which, humanly speaking, cannot be fulfilled. It is desirable, no doubt, to study
some of the local varieties of faith and worship in
every religion, but it is impossible to do this with
anything like completeness. Were we to wait t i l l we
had examined every Christian sect before trusting
ourselves to form a general judgment of Christianity,
not one of us could honestly say that he knew his
own religion. It seems to me that in studying religions we must expect to meet with the same difficulties
which we have to encounter in the comparative study
of languages. It may, no doubt, be argued with
great force that no one knows English who is ignorant of the spoken dialects, of the jargon of sailors
and miners, or of the slang of public-houses and
prisons. It is perfectly true that what we call the
literary and classical language is never the really
living language of a people, and that a foreigner may
know Shakspeare, Milton, and Byron, and yet fail to
understand, i f not the debates in Parliament, at all
events the wrangling of sellers and buyers in the
markets of the city. Nevertheless, when we learn
English, or German, or French, or any of the dead
languages, such as Latin and Greek, we must depend
on grammars, which grammars are founded on a few
classical writers ; and when we speak of these languages in general, when we subject them to a scientific treatment, analyse them, and attempt to classify
them, we avail ourselves for all such purposes almost
exclusively of classical works, of literary productions
of recognised authority. It is the same, and it can
hardly be otherwise, when we approach the study
of religions, whether for practical or for scientific
purposes. Suppose a Hindu wished to know what
the Christian religion really was, should we tell
him to go first to Rome, then to Paris, then to St.
Petersburg, then to Athens, then to Oxford, then
to Berlin, that he might hear the sermons of Roman
Catholics, Greeks, and Protestants, or read their
so-called religious papers, in order to form out of
these scattered impressions an idea of the real nature
of the working effects of Christianity ? Or should
we not rather tell him to take the Bible, and the
hymns of Christian Churches, and from them to
form his ideal of true Christianity ? A religion is,
much more likely to become ‘ a mysterious thing '
when it is sought for in the heart of each individual
believer, where alone, no doubt, it truly lives, or in the
endless shibboleths of parties, or in the often contradictory tenets of sects, than when it is studied in those
sacred books which are recognised as authoritative
by all believers, however much they may vary in their
interpretations of certain passages, and still more
in the practical application of the doctrines contained in their sacred codes to the ordering of their
daily life. Let the dialects of languages or religions
be studied by all means, let even the peculiarities
in the utterances of each town, village, or family, be
carefully noted ; but let it be recognised at the same
time that, for practical purposes, the immense variety
of individual expression has to be merged in one
general type, and that this alone supplies the chance
of a truly scientific treatment.
So much in justification of the principle which I
have followed throughout in my treatment of the socalled Book-religions, holding that they must be
judged, first of all, out of their own mouths—i.e. out
of their sacred writings. Although each individual
believer is responsible for his religion, no religion
can be made responsible for each individual believer.
Even if we adopt the theory of development in religion, and grant to every thinking man his right of
private interpretation, there remains, and there must
always remain, to the historian of religion, an appeal
to the statutes of the original code with which each
religion stands and falls, and by which alone it can
justly be judged.
It may be, as Mr. Lyall says, an inveterate modern
habit to assume all great historic names to represent
something definite, symmetrical, and organised. It
may be that Asiatic institutions, as he asserts, are
incapable of being circumscribed by rules and formal
definitions. But Mr. Lyall, if he directed his attention to European institutions, would meet with
much the same difficulties there. Christianity, in
the largest sense of the word, is as difficult to define
as Brahmanisrn : the English constitution is as unsymmetrical as the system of caste. Yet, if we mean
to speak and argue about them, we must attempt to
define them, and with regard to any religion, whether
Asiatic or European, no definition, it seems to me,
can be fairer than that which we gain from its
canonical books.
I now come to a more important point. I had
•divided the six great religions of the world into
Missionary and non-Missionary, including Judaism,
Brahmanism, and Zoroastrianism, under the latter ;
Buddhism, Christianity, and Mohammedanism, under
the former category. If I had followed the good old
rule of always giving a definition of technical terms,
the objections raised by Mr. Lyall and others would
probably never have been urged. I thought, how94 ON THE VITALITY
ever, that from the whole tenor of my lecture it
would have been clear that by missionary religions
I meant those in which the spreading of the truth and
the conversion of unbelievers are raised to the rank
of a sacred duty by the founder or his immediate
successors. In explaining the meaning of the word
proselyte, or 7rpoarjX,vTos, I had shown that literally it
means those who come to us, not those to whom we
go, so that even a religion so exclusive as Judaism
might admit proselytes, might possibly, if we insisted
only on the etymological meaning of the word, be
called proselytising, without having any right to the
name of a missionary religion. But I imagined that
I had said enough to make such a misunderstanding
impossible. We may say that the English nobility
grows, but we should never say that it proselytises,
and it would be a mere playing with words if, because Brahmanism admits new comers, we were to
claim for it the title of a proselytising religion. The
Brahmanic Scriptures have not a word of welcome for
converts—quite the contrary ; and as long as those
Scriptures are recognised as the highest authority by
the Hindus themselves, we have no right to ascribe
to Brahmanism what is in direct contradiction with
their teaching. The burning of widows was not enjoined in the Vedas, and hence, in order to gain a
sanction for it, a passage in the Veda was falsified. No such necessity was ever felt with regard to
gaining converts for the Brahmanic faith. And this
shows that, though admission to certain Brahmanic
privileges may be easier at present than it was in
the days of Visvâmitra, conversion by persuasion has
never become an integral portion of the Brahmanic
However, as Mr. Lyall does not stand alone in his
opinions, and as others have claimed for Judaism and
Zoroastrianism the same missionary character which
he claims in the name of Brahmanism, a few explanations may not be out of place.
Ti l l very lately, an orthodox Jew was rather proud
of the fact that he and his people had never condescended to spread their religion among Christians
by such means as Christians use for the conversion
of Jews. The Parsi community, too, seemed to share
with the Quakers a prudent reluctance in admitting
outsiders to the advantages conferred by membership of so respectable and influential a community ;
while the Brahmans certainly were the very last to
compass heaven and earth for the conversion of
Mlekkhas or outcasts. Suddenly, however, all this
is changed. The Chief Rabbi in London, stung to
the quick by the reproach of the absence of the
missionary spirit in Judaism, has delivered a sermon
to show that I had maligned his people, and that,,
though they never had missionaries, they had been
the most proselytising people in the world. Some
strong arguments in support of the same view have
been brought forward by the Rev. Charles Voysey,
whose conception of Judaism, however, is founded
rather on what the great prophets wished it should
have been than on what history teaches us it was.
As the facts and arguments advanced by the Jewish
advocates could not modify my judgment of the historical character of Judaism, I did not think it
necessary to reply, particularly as another eminent
Rabbi, the editor of the ‘ Jewish World,’ fully endorsed my views of Judaism, and expressed his sur96 ON THE VITALITY
prise at the unorthodox theories advanced by so
high an authority as Dr. Adler. I am informed,
however, that the discussion thus originated will not
remain without practical results, and that something
like a Jewish Missionary Society is actually forming
in London, to prove that, if missionary zeal is a test
of life, the Jewish religion will not shrink from such
a test. ‘ We have done something,’ the Rev. Charles
Voysey remarks, ‘to stir them up; but let us not
forget that our reminder was answered, not by a
repulse or expression of surprise, but by an assurance
that many earnest Jews had already been thinking
of this very work, and planning among themselves
how they could revive some kind of missionary
enterprise. Before long, I feel sure, they will give
practical evidence that the missionary spirit is still
alive and striving in their religion.’ And again:
‘ The Jews will soon show whether their religion
is alive or dead, will soon meet the rival religions
of the world on more than equal terms, and will
once more take the lead in these days of enlightened
belief, and in search after conceptions worthy of a
God, just as of old Judaism stood on a lofty height,
far above all the religions of mankind.’
What has happened in London seems to have
happened in Bombay also. The Zoroastrians, too,
did not like to be told that their religion was dying,
and that their gradual decay was due to the absence
of the missionary spirit among them. We read in
the ‘Oriental’ of April, 1874, ‘ There is a discussion as
to whether it is contrary to the creed of Zoroaster to
seek converts to the faith. While conceding that
Zoroaster was himself opposed to proselytising heaOF BRAHMANISM. 97
thens, most of the Parsis hold that the great decrease
in the number of his followers renders it absolutely
necessary to augment the sect.’
Lastly, Mr. Lyall stands up for Brahmanism, and
maintains that in India Brahmanism has spread out
during the last hundred years, while Islam and
Christianity have contracted. ‘ More persons in
India,’ he says, ‘ become every year Brahmanists,
than all the converts to all the other religions in
India put together.’ ' The number of converts,' he
maintains, ‘ added to Brahmanism in the last few
generations, especially in this country, must be immense ; and if the word proselyte may be used in
the sense of one that has come, not necessarily being
one that has been invited or persuaded to come, then
Brahmanism may lay claim to be by far the most
successful proselytising religion of modern times in
The words which I have ventured to put in
italics, will show at once how little difference of
opinion there is between Mr. Lyall and myself, as
long as we use the same words in the same sense.
If proselytising could be used in the etymological
sense here assigned to it by Mr. Lyall, then, no
doubt, Brahmanism would be a proselytising or missionary religion. But this is mere playing with
words. In English, proselytising is never used in
that sense. If I meant by missionary religions
nothing more than religions which are capable of
increase by admitting those that wish to be admitted,
religions which say to the world at large, ‘Knock
and it shall be opened unto you,' but no more, then,
no doubt, Brahmanism, or at least some phases of it,
might be called by that name. But what, according
to my explanation, constitutes a missionary religion
is something totally different. It is the spirit of
truth in the hearts of believers which cannot rest,
unless it manifests itself in thought, word, and deed,
which is not satisfied t i l l it has carried its message
to every human soul, t i l l what it believes to be the
truth is accepted as the truth by all members of the
human family.
That spirit imparts to certain religions a character
of their own, a character which, if I am not mistaken,
constitutes the vital principle of our own religion,
and of the other two which, in that respect, stand
nearest to Christianity—Buddhism and Mohammedanism. This is not a mere outward difference,
depending on the willingness of others to join or not
to join; it is an inward difference which stamped
Christianity as a missionary religion when as yet it
counted no more than twelve apostles, and which
lays on everyone that calls himself a Christian the
duty of avowing his convictions, whatever they may
be, and gaining others to embrace the truth. In
that sense every true Christian is a missionary. Mr.
Lyall is evidently aware of all this, if we may judge
by the expressions which he uses when speaking of
the increase of Brahmanism. He speaks of the clans
and races which inhabit the hill-tracts, the outlying
uplands, and the uncleared jungle districts of India,
as melting into Hinduism. He represents the ethnical
frontier, described by Mr. Hunter in the ‘ Annals of
Rural Bengal,’ as an ever-breaking shore of primitive
beliefs, which tumble constantly into the ocean of
Brahmanism. And even when he dwells on the fact
that non-Aryans are invited by the Brahmans to
enter in, he adds that this is done for the sake of
profit and repute, not from a wish to eradicate error,
to save souls, or to spread the truth. Such instances
occurred even in the ancient history of India ; and
I had myself, in my ‘History of Ancient Sanskrit
Literature,’ pointed out the case of the Rathakaras
or carpenters who were admitted to the Vedic sacrifices, and who, probably from a mere similarity of
name—their leader being called Bribu—had the old
Vedic Ribhus assigned to them as their peculiar
deities. But these were exceptions, they were concessions aux nègres, deviations from traditional rules,
entirely owing to the pressure of circumstances ; not
manifestations springing from religious impulses. If
Mr. Lyall remarks himself that a religion which
thus, half involuntarily, enlarges its borders is not, in
the strict sense of the word, a missionary religion,
he shows that he is fully aware of the profound
difference between a religion that grows by mere
agglomeration and a religion that grows by its own
strength, by its irrepressible missionary zeal. In
answer to his concluding remark, that this ground
was not taken in my lecture, I can only say that it
was—nay, that it formed the very foundation on
which the whole argument of my lecture was meant
to rest.’
There is more force in the objections which Mr.
Lyall raises against my calling Brahmanism already
1 Mr. G. A. Grierson, in his ‘ Notes on the Rangpur Dialect '
(Journal of the Asiat. Soc. of Bengal, 1877, p. 186), remarks with
great truth : ' The Hindu, while probably the most receptive, is the
least missionary religion in the world.'
dead. The word was too strong; at all events, it
was liable to be misunderstood. What I meant to
say was that the popular worship of Siva and Vishnu
belongs to the same intellectual stratum as the worship of Jupiter and Apollo, that it is an anachronism
in the nineteenth century, and that, for our purposes,
for prognosticating the issues of the religious struggles of the future, it may simply be set aside. For
settling any of the questions that may be said to be
pending between Christianity, Mohammedanism, and
Buddhism, Brahmanism is dead. For converting any
number of Christians, Mohammedans, and Buddhists
back to idol-worship, Brahmanism is dead. It may
absorb Sonthals, and Gonds, and Bhils, and other
half-savage races, with their rough-hewn jungle
deities, it may even raise them to a higher stage of
civilisation, and imbue them with the first principles
of a truer faith and a purer worship, but for carrying
any of the strong positions of Buddhism, Mohammedanism, and Christianity, Brahmanism is powerless and dead. In India itself, where it clings to the
soil with a thousand roots, it was beaten by Buddhism, and, if it afterwards recovered its position, that
was due to physical force, not to persuasion and conversion. The struggle between Mohammedanism and
Brahmanism in India was on both sides a political
rather than a religious struggle : still, when a change
of religion arose from conviction, we see Brahmanism
yielding to the purer light of Islam, not Islam to
I did not undervalue the actual power of Brahmanism, particularly its power of resistance; nor
did I prophesy its speedy extinction. I said, on the
contrary, that ‘ a religion may linger on for a long
time, and be accepted by the large masses of the
people, because it is there, and there is nothing
better.’ ‘ It is true,’ I added, ‘ there are millions of
children, women, and men in India who fall down
before the stone image of Vishnu, with his four arms,
riding on a creature, half-bird, half-man, or sleeping
on the serpent ; who worship Siva, a monster with
three eyes, riding naked on a bull, with a necklace of
skulls for his ornament. There are human beings
who still believe in a god of war, Kârtikeya, with
six faces, riding on a peacock, and holding bow and
arrow in his hands; and who invoke a God of
success, Ganesa, with four hands and an elephant's
head, sitting on a rat. Nay, it is true that, in the
broad daylight of the nineteenth century, the figure
of the goddess Kal i is carried through the streets of
her own city, Calcutta, her wild dishevelled hair
reaching to her feet, with a necklace of human heads,
her tongue protruded from her mouth, her girdle
stained with blood. A l l this is true ; but ask any
Hindu who can read and write and think, whether
these are the gods he believes in, and he will smile
.at your credulity. How long this living death of
national religion in India may last, no one can tell :
for our purposes, however, for gaining an idea of the
issue of the great religious struggle of the future,
that religion is dead and gone.’
I ask Mr. Lyall, is this true or is it not ? He says
himself, ‘ that Brahmanism may possibly melt away
.of a heap and break up, I would not absolutely deny.’
Would Mr. Lyall say the same of Buddhism, Mohammedanism^ or Christianity? He points himself to
the description which Gibbon gives of the ancient
Roman religion in the second century of the Christian
era, and shows how closely applicable it is to the
present state of Brahmanism in India. ‘ The tolerant
superstition of the people, “ not confined by the claims
of any speculative system ; ’’ the ‘‘ devout polytheist,
whom fear, gratitude, and curiosity, a dream, or an
omen, a singular disorder, or a distant journey, perpetually disposed to multiply the articles of his belief
and to enlarge the list of his protectors ; ’’ the ‘‘ ingenuous youth alike instructed in every school to
reject and despise the religion of the multitude ; 9 9
the philosophic class who ‘‘ look with indulgence on
the errors of the vulgar, diligently practice the ceremonies of their fathers, and devoutly frequent the
temples of their gods ; ’’ the “ magistrates who know
and value the advantages of religion as it is connected with civil government ’’—all these scenes and
feelings are represented in India at this moment,
though by no means in all parts of India.’ If, then,
in the second century a student of religious pathology had expressed his conviction that in spite of the
number of its professors, in spite of its antiquity, in
spite of its indigenous character, in spite of its
political, civil, and social influences, in spite of its
temples and priests, in spite of its schools and philosophers, the ancient religion of Jupiter had lost its
vitality, was sick unto death, nay, for all real purposes was dead, would he have been far wrong ? It
may be replied, no doubt, that similar corruptions
have crept into other religions also : that gaudy dollsare carried about in Christian cathedrals ; that people
are invited to see tears roiling down from the eyes of
images, or to worship wine changed into blood, to
say nothing of even more terrible hallucinations on
the Eucharist propounded from so-called Protestant
pulpits ; and that, in spite of all this, we should not
call the Christian religion dying or dead. This m
true, and I thought that, by my remarks on the different revivals of Hinduism from the twelfth to the
nineteenth century, I had sufficiently indicated that
new life may spring even from such apparently hopeless corruption. If it is Brahmanism that lives in the
sects of Râmânuga and Râmânanda, in the poetry of
Kabir and the wisdom of Nânak, in the honest purposes of Ram Mohun Roy and in the high aspirations
of Keshub Chunder Sen, then I quite agree with Mr.
Lyall that Brahmanism is not dead, but lives more
intensely than ever.
But here, for some reason or other, Mr. Lyal l
seems to demur to my hopeful estimate of Brahmoism. He had expressed his own conviction that
Brahmanism, though it might suddenly collapse and
vanish, was more likely gradually to spiritualise and
centralise its pantheon, reduce its theology to a compact system, soften down its morals by symbolisms
and interpolations, discard ‘ dogmatic extremes,*
and generally to bring itself into accordance with
improved standards of science and intelligence. He
had also quoted with implied approval the remark
of qualified observers, ‘that we might at any time
witness a great Brahmanic reforming revival in
India, if some really gifted and singularly powerful
prophet were to arise among the Hindus.’ But when
I hinted that this prophet had actually arisen, and
that in Brahmoism, as preached by Ram Mohun Roy,
Debendra Nath Tagore, and Keshub Chunder Sen,
we ought to recognise a transition from Brahmanism
to a purer faith ; when I pointed out that, though
Christian missionaries might not wish to recognise
Brahmoism as their work, it was the work of those
missionary Christians who have lived in India, as
examples of a true Christian life, who have approached the natives in a truly missionary spirit, in
the spirit of truth and in the spirit of love, Mr. Lyall
replies that ‘ Brahmoism, as propagated by Keshub
Chunder Sen, seems to be Unitarianism of a European type, and, so far as one can understand its
argument, appears to have no logical stability or
locus standi between revelation and pure rationalism :
that it propounds either too much or too little to its
hearers.’ ‘ A faith,’ he continues, ‘ which contains
mere fervent sentiments, and high conceptions of
morality, does not partake of the complexion or
nature of those religions which have encompassed
the heart of great nations, nor is it generally supposed in India that Brahmoism is perceptibly on the
Mutatis mutandis, this is very much what an
orthodox Rabbi might have said of Christianity. Let
us wait. I am not given to prophesy, but though I
am no longer young, I still hold to a belief tliat a
cause upheld with such honesty of purpose, purity,
and unselfishness as Brahmoism has been, must and
will meet with ultimate success. Does Mr. Lyall
think that Unitarian Christianity is no Christianity?
Does he find logical stability in Trinitarianism ?
Does he consider pure rationalism incompatible with
revelation ? Does he know of any teacher who might
O F B R A H M A N I S M . 105
not be accused of saying either too little or too
much ? In A . D . 800 the Double Procession was as
much a burning question as the Homoousia in 324—
are, therefore, both Channing and Dr. Döllinger to
be anathematised now? Brahmoism may not be
like the religions of old, but must the religions of the
future be like the religions of the past ? However,
I do not wish to draw Mr. Lyall into a theological
argument. His estimate of the real value and
vitality of Brahmoism may be right—mine may be
wrong. His presence in India, and his personal
intercourse with the Brahmos, may have given him
opportunities of judging which I have not. Only let
us not forget that for watching the movements of a
great struggle, and for judging of its successful
issue, a certain distance from the field of battle has
its advantages also, and that judges in India have
not always proved the best judges of India.
One point, however, I am quite willing to concede.
If Brahmoism and similar movements may be considered as reforms and resuscitations of Brahmanism,
then I withdraw my expression that Brahmanism is
dead. Only let us remember that we are thus using
Brahmanism in two very different senses—that we
are again playing with words. In the one sense it
is stark idolatry : in the other, the loftiest spiritual
worship. The former asserts the existence of many
personal gods : the latter shrinks even from the attribute of personality as too human a conception of
the Highest Spirit. The former makes the priest
a kind of god on earth, the latter proclaims the
priesthood of all men; the former is guided by
scriptures which man calls sacred, the latter knows
of no sacred oracles but the still small voice in the
heart of every man. The two are like two opposite
poles. What is negative on one side is positive on
the other ; what is regarded by the one as the most
sacred truth is anathematised by the other as deadly
Mr. Lyall tell us of Ghasi Das, an inspired prophet, who sojourned in the wilderness for six months,
and then issued forth preaching to the poor and
ignorant the creed of the True Name (Satnám), He
gathered about half a million people together before
he died in 1850. He borrowed his doctrines from the
well-known Hindu sect of the Satnâmis, and though
he denounced Brahmanic abuses, he instituted caste
rules of his own, and his successor was murdered,
not for heresy, but because he aped Brahmanic insignia and privileges. Mr. Lyall thinks that this
community, if left alone, will relapse into a modified
Brahmanism. This may be so, but it can hardly be
said, that a reform the followers of which are murdered for aping Brahmanic insignia and privileges
represents Brahmanism, which Mr. Lyall defines as
' the broad denomination of what is recognised by
all Hindus as the supreme theological faculty and
the comprehensive scheme of authoritative tradition
to which all minor beliefs are referred for sanction.’
When I spoke of Brahmanism as dead, I meant
the popular orthodox Brahmanism, which is openly
patronised by the Brahmans, though scorned by them
in secret. I did not, and could not, mean the worship
of Brahma as the Supreme Spirit, which has existed
in India from the time of the Upanishads to the
present day, and has lately assumed the name of
Brahmoism—a worship so pure, so exalted, so deeply
human, so truly divine, that every man can join in
it without apostasy, whether he be born a Jew, a
Gentile, or a Christian.
That many antagonistic forms of religious faith,
some the most degraded, others the most exalted,
should live on the same soil, among the same people,
is indeed a disheartening truth, enough almost to
shake one's belief in the common origin and the
common destinies of the human race. And yet we
must not shut our eyes to the fact that amongst
ourselves, too, men who call themselves Christians
are almost as widely separated from each other in
their conceptions of the Divine and the Human, in
their grounds of belief and in their sense of duty,
as, in India, the worshippers of Ganesa—the god of
success, with four hands and an elephant's head,
sitting on a rat—on one side, and the believers in
the true Brahma, on the other. There is a Christianity that is dead, though it may be professed by
millions of people ; but there is also, let us trust, a
Christianity that is alive, though it may count but
twelve apostles. As in India, so in Europe, many
would call death what we call life : many would call
life what we call death. Here, as elsewhere, it is
high time that men should define the exact meaning
of their words, trusting that definiteness, frankness,
and honesty may offer a better chance of mutual
understanding, and serve as a stronger bond of union
between man and man, than vague formulas, fainthearted reticence, and what is at the root of it al l ,
want of true love of Man, and of true faith in God.
If Mr. Lyall imagined that the object of my Lec108 ON THE VITALITY OF BRAHMANISM.
ture was to discourage missionary efforts, he must
have found out his mistake when he came to read it
as I delivered it in Westminster Abbey. I know of
no nobler life than that of a true missionary. I
tried to defend the labours of the paternal missionary
against disparaging criticisms. I tried to account
for the small success of controversial missions, by
showing how little is gained by mere argument and
casuistry at home. And I pointed to the indirect
missionary influence exercised by every man who
leads a Christian life in India or elsewhere, as the
most encouraging sign of the final triumph of a
pure and living Christianity. It is very possible, as
Mr. Lyall says somewhat sarcastically, that ‘ missionaries will even yet hardly agree that the essentials
of their religion are not in the creeds, but in love ;
because they are sent forth to propound scriptures
which say clearly that what we believe or disbelieve
is literally a burning question.’ But those who, with
Mr. Lyall, consider love of man founded on love of
God nothing but ‘flat morality,’ must have forgotten that a Higher One than they declared that
on these two hang all the law and the commandments. By placing abstruse tenets, the handiwork
of Popes and Councils, in the place of Christ's teaching, and by making a belief in these positive articles
a burning question, weak mortals have driven weak
mortals to ask, ‘Are we Christians still?’ Let
them for once ‘ by observation and experience ’ try
the oldest and simplest and most positive article of
Christianity, real love of man founded on real love
of God, and I believe they will soon ask themselves,
' When shall we be Christians at last ? ’
Delivered at the Philosophical Institution, Leeds, March, 1865.
I H A V E brought with me one volume of my edition
of the Veda, and I should not wonder if it were the
first copy of the work which has ever reached this
busy town of Leeds. Nay, I confess I have some misgivings that I may have undertaken a hopeless task,
and I begin to doubt whether I shall succeed in explaining to you the interest which I feel for this
ancient collection of sacred hymns—an interest which
has never failed me while devoting to the publication
of this voluminous work the best twenty years of my
life. Many times have I been asked. But what is the
Veda? Why should it be published? What are
we likely to learn from a book composed nearly four
thousand years ago, and intended from the beginning
for an uncultivated race of mere heathens and savages,,
—a book which the natives of India have never published themselves, although, to the present day, they
profess to regard it as the highest authority for their
1 Some of the points touched upon in this Lecture have been
more fully treated in my History of Ancient SanskHt Literature.
As the second edition of this work has been out of print for several
years, I have here quoted a few passages from it in full.
religion, morals, and philosophy? Are we, the
people of England or of Europe, in the nineteenth
century, likely to gain any new light on religious,
moral, or philosophical questions from the old songs
of the Brahmans ? And is it so very certain that the
whole book is not a modern forgery, without any
substantial claims to that high antiquity which is
ascribed to it by the Hindus, so that all the labour
bestowed upon it would not only be labour lost, but
throw discredit on our powers of discrimination, and
make us a laughing-stock among the shrewd natives
of India ?
These and similar questions I have had to answer
many times when asked by others, and some of them
when asked by myself, before embarking on so
hazardous an undertaking as the publication of the
Rig-Veda and its ancient commentary. And I believe I am not mistaken in supposing that many of
those who to-night have honoured me with their
presence may have entertained similar doubts and
misgivings when invited to listen to a Lecture ‘ On
the Vedas or the Sacred Books of the Brahmans.’
I shall endeavour, therefore, as far as this is possible within the limits of one Lecture, to answer some
of these questions, and to remove some of these doubts,
by explaining to you, first, what the Veda really is,
and, secondly, what importance it possesses, not only
to the people of India, but to ourselves in Europe—
and here again, not only to the student of Oriental
languages, but to every student of history, religion,
or philosophy ; to every man who has once felt the
charm of tracing that mighty stream of human
thought on which we ourselves are floating onward,
back to its distant mountain-sources ; to every one
who has a heart for whatever has once filled the hearts
of millions of human beings with their noblest hopes,
and fears, and aspirations—to every student of mankind in the fullest sense of that full and weightyword. Whoever claims that noble title must not forget, whether he examines the highest achievements of
mankind in our own age, or the miserable failures of
former ages, what man is, and in whose image and
after whose likeness man was made. Whether listening
to the shrieks of the Shaman sorcerers of Tatary, or
to the odes of Pindar, or to the sacred songs of Paul
Gerhard ; whether looking at the Pagodas of China,
or the Parthenon of Athens, or the cathedral of
Cologne ; whether reading the sacred books of the
Buddhists, or of the Jews, or of those who worship
God in spirit and in truth, we ought to be able to
say, like the Emperor Maximilian, ‘Homo sum, humani n i h i l a me alienum puto,’or, translating his
words somewhat freely, ‘ I am a man, nothing pertaining to man I deem foreign to myself.’ Yes, we
must learn to read in the history of the whole human
race something of our own history ; and as in looking
back on the story of our own life we all dwell with
a peculiar delight on the earliest chapters of our
childhood, and try to find there the key to many of
the riddles of our later life, it is but natural that
the historian, too, should ponder with most intense
interest over the few relics that have been preserved
to him of the childhood of the human race. These
relics are few indeed, and therefore very precious, and
this I may venture to say, at the outset and without
fear of contradiction, that there exists no literary relic
that carries us back to a more primitive, or, i f you
like, more childlike state in the history of man 1 than
the Veda. As the language of the Veda, the Sanskrit,
is the most ancient type of the English of the present day (Sanskrit and English are but varieties of
one and the same language), so its thoughts and feelings contain in reality the first roots and germs of
that intellectual growth which by an unbroken chain
connects our own generation with the ancestors of
the Aryan race—with those very people who at the
rising and setting of the sun listened with trembling
hearts to the songs of the Veda that told them of
bright powers above, and of a life to come after the
sun of their own lives had set in the clouds of the
evening. These men were the true ancestors of our
race ; and the Veda is the oldest book we have in
which to study the first beginnings of our' language
and of all that is embodied in language. We are by
nature Aryan, Indo-European, not Semitic : our spiritual kith and kin are to be found in India, Persia,
Greece, Italy, Germany ; not in Mesopotamia, Egypt,
or Palestine. This is a fact that ought to be clearly
perceived and constantly kept in view, in order to
understand the importance which the Veda still has
for us, after the lapse of more than three thousand
years and after ever so many changes in our language,
thought, and religion.
Whatever the intrinsic value of the Veda, if it
1 ' In the sciences of law and society, old means not old in chronology, but in structure : that is most archaic which lies nearest
to the beginning of human progress considered as a development,
and that is most modern which is farthest removed from that
beginning.'—J. F. McLennan, Primitive 3lartiage, p. 8.
simply contained the names of kings, the description
of battles, the dates of famines, it would still be, by
its age alone, the most venerable of books. Do we
everfindmuch beyond such matters in Egyptian hieroglyphics, or in cuneiform inscriptions6? In fact,
what does the ancient history of the world before
Cyrus, before 500 B.c., consist of but meagre
lists of Egyptian, Babylonian, Assyrian dynasties ?
What do the tablets of Karnak, the palaces of
Nineveh, and the cylinders of Babylon tell us about
the thoughts of men ? A l l is dead and barren, nowhere a sigh, nowhere a jest, nowhere a glimpse of
humanity.’ There has been but one oasis in that
vast desert of ancient Asiatic history, the history of
the Jews. Another such oasis is the Veda. Here, too,
we come to a stratum of ancient thought, of ancient
feelings, hopes, joys and fears—of ancient religion.
There is perhaps too little of kings and battles in the
Veda, and scarcely anything of the chronological
framework of history. But poets surely are better
than kings, hymns and prayers are more worth listening to than the agonies of butchered armies, and
guesses at truth more valuable than unmeaning titles
of Egyptian or Babylonian despots. It will be difficult
to settle whether the Veda is ‘the oldest of books,’ and
whether some of the portions of the Old Testament
may not be traced back to the same or even an earlier
date than the oldest hymns of the Veda. But, in
the Aryan world, the Veda is certainly the oldest book,
and its preservation amounts almost to a miracle.
1 After the progress made of late years in the decipherment of
Egyptian and Babylonian inscriptions this statement requires some
It is nearly twenty years ago since my attention
was first drawn to the Veda, while attending, in the
years 1846 and 1847, the lectures of Eugène Burnouf
at the Collège de France. I was then looking out,
like most young men at that time of life, for some
great work, and without weighing long the difficulties
which had hitherto prevented the publication of the
Veda, I determined to devote all my time to a collec­
tion of the materials necessary for such an undertak­
ing. I had read the principal works of the later
Sanskrit literature, but had found little there that
seemed to be more than curious. But to publish
the Veda, a work that had never before been pub­
lished in India or in Europe, that occupied in the
history of Sanskrit literature the same position
which the Old Testament occupies in the history of
the Jews, the New Testament in the history of
modern Europe, the Koran in the history of Moham­
medanism ; a work which fills a gap in the history
of the human mind, and promises to bring us nearer
than any other work to the first beginnings of Aryan
language and Aryan thought—this seemed to me
an undertaking not altogether unworthy a man's life.
What added to the charm of it was that it had once
before been undertaken by Frederick Rosen, a young
German scholar, who died in England before he had
finished the first book, and that after his death no
one seemed willing to carry on his work. What
I had to do, first of all, was to copy not only the
text, but the commentary of the Rig­Veda, a work
which when finished will fill six of these large
volumes. The author or rather the compiler of this
commentary, Sâyana Ākârya‚ lived about 1400 after
Christ—that is to say, about as many centuries after
as the poets of the Veda lived before the beginning
of our era. Yet through the 3,000 years which separate the original poetry of the Veda from the latest
commentary, there runs an almost continuous stream
of tradition, and it is from it, rather than from his
own brain, that Sâyana draws his explanations of
the sacred texts. Numerous MSS., more or less complete, more or less inaccurate, of Sâyana’s classical
work, existed in the then Royal Library at Paris,
in the Library of the East-India House, then in
Leadenhall Street, and in the Bodleian Library at
Oxford. But to copy and collate these MSS. was by
no means all. A number of other works were constantly quoted in Sâyana’s commentary, and these
quotations had all to be verified. It was necessary
first to copy these books, and to make indexes to all
of them, in order to be able to find any passage that
might be referred to in the larger commentary.
Many of them have since been published in Germany and France, but they were not to be procured
twenty years ago. The work, of course, proceeded
but slowly, and many times I doubted whether I
should be able to carry it through. Lastly came the
difficulty—and by no means the smallest—who was
to publish a work that would occupy about six thousand pages in quarto, all in Sanskrit, and of which
probably not a hundred copies would ever be sold ?
Well, I came to England in order to collect more
materials at the East India House and at the Bodleian
Library, and thanks to the exertions of my generous
friend Baron Bunsen, and of the late Professor
Wilson, the Board of Directors of the East India
Company decided to defray the expenses of a work
which, as they stated in their letter, ‘ is in a peculiar
manner deserving of the patronage of the East India
Company, connected as it is with the early religion,
history, and language of the great body of their
Indian subjects.’ It thus became necessary for me
to take up my abode in England, which has since
become my second home. The first volume was pub­
lished in 1849, the second in 1853, the third in 1856,
the fourth in 1862. The materials for the remaining
volumes are ready, so that, i f I can but make leisure,
there is little doubt that before long the whole work
will be complete.’
Now, first, as to the name. Veda means origi­
nally knowing or knowledge, and this name is given
by the Brahmans, not to one work, but to the whole
body of their most ancient sacred literature. Veda
is the same word which appears in the Greek olSa,
I know, and in the English wise, wisdom, to wit.2
The name of Veda is commonly given to four collec­
tions of hymns, which are respectively known by the
names of Rig­Veda, Yagur­Veda, Sâma­Veda, and
Atharva­Veda, each of these collections having cer­
tain prose works, Brâhmanas ‚ Āranyakas and
1 The fifth appeared in 1872 ; the sixth and last in 1874.
3 Sanskrit
ol oīBe
ich weiss
du weisst
er weiss
wir wissen
ihr wisset
sie wissen
•Sutras attached to them. For our own purposes,
however— namely, for tracing the earliest growth of
religious ideas in India—the only important, the only
real Veda, is the Rig-Veda.
The other so-calledVedas—which deserve the name
of Veda no more than the Talmud deserves the name
of Bible—contain chiefly extracts from the Rig-Veda,
together with sacrificial formulas, charms, and incantations, many of them, no doubt, extremely curious,
but never likely to interest anyone except the Sanskrit scholar by profession.
The Samhitâs, or collections of hymns, of the
Yagur-Veda and Sârna-Veda may be described as
prayer-books, arranged according to the order of
certain sacrifices, and intended to be used by certain
classes of priests.
Four classes of priests were required in India at
the most solemn sacrifices :—
1. The officiating priests, manual labourers, and
acolytes ; who have chiefly to prepare the
sacrificial ground, to dress the altar, slay
the victims, and pour out the libations.
2. The choristers, who chant the sacred hymns.
3. The reciters or readers, who repeat certain
4. The overseers or bishops, who watch and superintend the proceedings of the other priests,
and ought to be familiar with ail the Vedas.
The formulas and verses to be muttered by the
first class are contained in the Yagur–Veda–Samhitâ.
The hymns to be sung by the second class are in
the Sâma-Veda-Samhitâ.
The Atharva-Veda is said to be intended for the
Brahman or overseer, who is to watch the proceedings of the sacrifice, and to remedy any mistake that
may occur.’
Fortunately, the hymns to be recited by the third
class were not arranged in a sacrificial prayer-book,
but were preserved in an old collection of hymns,
containing all that had been saved of ancient, sacred,
and popular poetry, more like the Psalms than like
a ritual ; a collection made for its own sake, and not
for the sake of any sacrificial performances.
I shall, therefore, confine my remarks to the RigVeda, which in the eyes of the historical student is
the Veda par excellence. Rig-Veda means the Veda
of hymns of praise, for Rich—which before the initial
soft letter of Veda is changed to Rig—is derived from
a root which in Sanskrit means to celebrate.
In the Rig-Veda we must distinguish again between the original collection of the hymns or Mantras,
called the Samhitâ or the collection, being entirely
metrical and poetical, and a number of works, called
Brâhmanas and Sutras, written in prose,and giving
information on the proper use of the hymns at sacrifices, on their sacred meaning, on their supposed
authors, and similar topics. These works, too, go
by the name of Rig-Veda : but, though very curious
in themselves, they are evidently of a much later
period, and of little help to us in tracing the beginnings of religious life in India. For that purpose
we must depend entirely on the hymns, such as we
find them in the Samhitâ or the collection of the
Now, this collection consists of ten books, and
1 History of Ancient Sanskrit Literatwe, p. 449.
L E C T U R E O N T H E V E D A S . 119
contains altogether 1,028 hymns. As early as about
600 B . C . we find that in the theological schools of
India every verse, every word, every syllable of the
Veda had been carefully counted. The number of
verses as computed in treatises of that date, varies
from 10,402 to 10,622 ; that of the words is 153,826,
that of the syllables 432,000.1 With these numbers,
and with the description given in these early treatises
of each hymn, of its metre, its deity, its number of
verses, our modern MSS. of the Veda correspond as
closely as could be expected.
I say, our modern MSS., for all our MSS. are
modern, and very modern. Not many Sanskrit MSS.
are more than four or five hundred years old, the
fact being that in the damp climate of India no paper
will last for more than a few centuries, though a few
are known that are supposed to date from the tenth
or ninth century, A . D .
How, then, you will naturally ask, can it be proved
that the original hymns were composed between 1200
and 1500 before the Christian era if our MSS. only
carry us back to about the same date after the Christian era? It is not very easy to bridge over this
gulf of nearly three thousand years, but all I can say
is that, after carefully examining every possible objection that can be made against the date of the
Vedic hymns, their claim to that high antiquity
which is ascribed to them has not, as far as I can
judge, been shaken. I shall try to explain on what
kind of evidence these claims rest.
You know that we possess no MS. of the Old
Testament in Hebrew older than about the tenth or
1 History of Ancient Sanskrit Liter atwe, second edition, p. 219
ninth century of the Christian era ; 1 yet the Septuagint translation by itself would be sufficient to prove
that the Old Testament, such on the whole as we
now read it, existed in MS. previous at least to the
third century before our era. By a similar train of
argument, the works to which I referred before, in
which we find every hymn, every verse, every word
and syllable of the Veda accurately counted by native
scholars about five or six hundred years before
Christ, guarantee the existence of the Veda, such on
the whole as we now read it, as far back at least as
five or six hundred years before Christ. Now, in
the works of that period, the Veda is already considered, not only as an ancient, but as a sacred book ;
and, more than this, its language had ceased to be
generally intelligible. The language of India had
changed since the Veda was composed, and learned
commentaries were necessary in order to explain
to the people then living the true purport, nay,
the proper pronunciation, of their sacred hymns.
But more than this. In certain exegetical compositions, which are generally comprised under the
name of Sutras, and which are contemporary with,
or even anterior to, the treatises on the theological
statistics just mentioned, not only are the ancient
hymns represented as invested with sacred authority,
but that other class of writings, the B r â h m an as,
standing half-way between the hymns and the S û t r a s ,
have likewise been raised to the dignity of a revealed
1 Dr. Ginsburg (Times, March 2,1877) assigns the earliest known
MS. of the whole O.T. (University Library, Cambridge) to the
middle of the ninth century, and a fragment in the Library of St.
Petersburg to the beginning of the ninth century.
literature. These Brâhmanas, you will remember,
are prose treatises, written in illustration of the ancient sacrifices and of the hymns employed at them.
Such treatises would only spring up when some kind
of explanation began to be wanted both for the ceremonial and for the hymns to be recited at certain
sacrifices, and we find, in consequence, that in many
eases the authors of the Brâhmanas had already lost
the power of understanding the text of the ancient
hymns in its natural and grammatical meaning, and
that they suggested the most absurd explanations of
the various sacrificial acts, most of which we may
charitably suppose had originally some rational purpose.
Thus it becomes evident that the period during
which the hymns were composed must have been
separated by some centuries, at least, from the period
that gave birth to the Brâhmanas, in order to allow
time for the hymns growing unintelligible and becoming invested with a sacred character.
Secondly, the period during which the Brâhmanas were composed must be separated by some
centuries from the authors of the Sûtras, in order to
allow time for further changes in the language, and
more particularly for the growth of a new theology,
which ascribed to the Brâhinanas the same exceptional and revealed character which the Brâhmanas themselves ascribed to the hymns. So that we
want previously to 600 B . c . , when every syllable of
the Veda was counted, at least two strata of intellectual and literary growth, of two or three centuries
each ; and are thus brought to 1100 or 1200 B . c . as
the earliest time when we may suppose the collecL E C T U R E O N T H E V E D A S .
tion of the Vedic hymns to have been finished. This
collection of hymns again contains, by its own
showing, ancient and modern hymns, the hymns of
the sons, together with the hymns of their fathers
and earlier ancestors ; so that we cannot well assign
a date more recent than 1200 to 1500 before our era
for the original composition of those simple hymns
which up to the present day are regarded by the
Brahmans with the same feelings with which a
Mohammedan regards the Koran, a Jew the Old
Testament, a Christian his Gospel.
That the Veda is not quite a modern forgery
can be proved, however, by more tangible evidence.
Hiouen-thsang, a Buddhist pilgrim, who travelled
from China to India in the years 629-645, and who,
in his diary translated from Chinese into French by
M . Stanislas Julien, gives the names of the four
Vedas, mentions some grammatical forms peculiar to
the Vedic Sanskrit, and states that at his time young
Brahmans spent all their time, from the seventh to
the thirtieth year of their age, in learning these
sacred texts. At the time when Hiouen-thsang was
travelling in India, Buddhism was clearly on the
decline. But Buddhism was originally a reaction
against Brahmanism, and chiefly against the exclusive
privileges which the Brahmans claimed, and which
from the beginning were represented by them as
ba*sed on their revealed writings, the Vedas, and
hence beyond the reach of human attacks. Buddhism,.
whatever the date of its founder, became the state
religion of India under Asoka, the Constantine of
India, in the middle of the third century B . C . This
Asoka was the third king of a new dynasty founded
by Kandragupta, the well-known contemporary of
Alexander and Seleucus, about 315 B.C. The preceding dynasty was that of the Nandas, and it
is under this dynasty that the traditions of the
Brahmans place a number of distinguished scholars
whose treatises on the Veda we still possess, such
as Saunaka, Kâtyâyana, Âsvalâyana, and others.
Their works, and others written with a similar object
and in the same style, carry us back to about 600
B.C. This period of literature, which is called the
Sutra period, was preceded, as we saw, by another
class of writings, the Brâhmanas, composed in a
very prolix and tedious style, and containing lengthy
lucubrations on the sacrifices and on the duties of
the different classes of priests. Each of the three
or four Vedas, or each of the three or four classes of
priests, has its own Brâhmanas and its own Sutras ;
and as the Brâhmanas are presupposed by the Sutras,
while no Sutra is ever quoted by the Brâhmanas, it
is clear that the period of the Brâhmana literature
must have preceded the period of the Sutra literature.
There are, however, old and new Brâhmanas, and
there are in the Brâhmanas themselves long lists of
teachers who handed down old Brâhmanas or composed new ones, so that it seems impossible to accommodate the whole of that literature in less than two
centuries, from about 800 to 600 B.C. Before, however, a single Brâhmana could have been composed,
it was not only necessary that there should have been
one collection of ancient hymns, like that contained
in the ten books of the Rig-Veda, but the three or
four classes of priests must have been established,
the officiating priests and the choristers must have
had their special prayer-books, nay, these prayerbooks must have undergone certain changes, because
the Brâhmanas presuppose different texts, called
sâkhâs, of each of these prayer-books, which are
called the Yagur-Veda-Sanhitâ, the Sâma-Veda-San–
hitâ, and the Atharva-Veda-Sanhitâ. The work of collecting the prayers for the different classes of priests,
and of adding new hymns and formulas for purely
sacrificial purposes, belonged probably to the tenth
•century B.c., and three generations more would, at
least, be required to account for the various readings
adopted in the prayer-books by different sects, and
invested with a kind of sacred authority, long before
the composition of even the earliest among the Brâhmanas. If, therefore, the years from about 1000 to
800 B.c. are assigned to this collecting age, the time
before 1000 B.c. must be set apart for the free and
natural growth of what was then national and religious, but not yet sacred and sacrificial poetry. How
far back this period extends it is impossible to tell ;
it is enough i f the hymns of the Rig-Veda can be
traced to a period anterior to 1000 B.c.
Much in the chronological arrangement of the
three periods of Vedic literature that are supposed to
have followed the period of the original growth of
the hymns must of necesssity be hypothetical, and
has been put forward rather to invite than to silence
criticism. In order to discover truth, we must be
truthful ourselves, and must welcome those who point
out our errors as heartily as those who approve and
confirm our discoveries. What seems, however, to
speak strongly in favour of the historical character
of the three periods of Vedic literature is the uniLECTURE ON THE VEDAS. 125
formity of style which marks the productions of each.
In modern literature we find, at one and the same
time, different styles of prose and poetry cultivated
by one and the same author. A Goethe writes tragedy,
comedy, satire, lyrical poetry, and scientific prose ;
but we find nothing like this in primitive literature.
The individual is there much less prominent, and the
poetr's character disappears in the general character
of the layer of literature to which he belongs. It is
the discovery of such large layers of literature following each other in regular succession which inspires
the critical historian with confidence in the truly
historical character of the successive literary productions of ancient India. As in Greece there is an
epic age of literature, where we should look in vain
for prose or dramatic poetry ; as in that country we
never meet with real elegiac poetry before the end
of the eighth century, nor with iambics before the
same date ; as even in more modern times rhymed
heroic poetry appears in England with the Norman
conquest, and in Germany the Minnesänger rise and
set with the Swabian dynasty—so, only in a much
more decided manner, we see in the ancient and
spontaneous literature of India, an age of poets followed by an age of collectors and imitators, that age
to be succeeded by an age of theological prose writers,
and this last by an age of writers of scientific
manuals. New wants produced new supplies, and
nothing sprang up or was allowed to live, in prose or
poetry, except what was really wanted. If the works
of poets, collectors, imitators, theologians, and teachers
were all mixed up together—if the Brâhmanas quoted
the Sûtras, and the hymns alluded to the Brâhmanas
—an historical restoration of the Vedic literature of
India would be almost an impossibility. We should
suspect artificial influences, and look with small confidence on the historical character of such a literary
agglomerate. But he who would question the antiquity of the Veda must explain how the layers of
literature were formed that are superimposed over
the original stratum of the poetry of the Rishis ; he
who would suspect a literary forgery must show how,
when, and for what purpose the 1000 hymns of the
Rig-Veda could have been forged, and have become
the basis of the religious, moral, political, and literary
life of the ancient inhabitants of India.
The idea of revelation, and I mean more particularly book-revelation, is not a modern idea, nor is it
an idea peculiar to Christianity. Though we look
for it in vain in the literature of Greece and Rome,
we find the literature of India saturated with this
idea from beginning to end. In no country, I believe,
has the theory of revelation been so minutely elaborated as in India. The name for revelation in Sanskrit is Sruti, which means hearing; and this title
distinguishes the Vedic hymns and, at a later time,
the Brâhmanas also, from all other works, which,
however sacred and authoritative to the Hindu mind,
are admitted to have been composed by human
authors. The Laws of Manu, for instance, according
to the Brahmanic theology, are not revelation ; they
ure not Sruti, but only S m r i t i , which means recollection or tradition. If these laws or any other
work of authority can be proved on any point to be
at variance with a single passage of the Veda, their
authority is at once overruled. According to the
orthodox views of Indian theologians, not a single
line of the Veda was the work of human authors.
The whole Veda is in some way or other the work of
the Deity ; and even those who received the revelation, or, as they express it, those who saw it, were
not supposed to be ordinary mortals, but beings raised
above the level of common humanity, and less liable
therefore to error in the reception of revealed truth.
The views entertained of revelation by the orthodox
theologians of India are far more minute and elaborate than those of the most extreme advocates of
verbal inspiration in Europe. The human element,
called paurusheyatva in Sanskrit, is driven out of
every corner or hiding-place, and as the Veda is held
to have existed in the mind of the Deity before the
beginning of time, every allusion to historical events,
of which there are not a few, is explained away with
a zeal and ingenuity worthy of a better cause.
But let me state at once that there is nothing in
the hymns themselves to warrant such extravagant
theories. In many a hymn the author says plainly
that he or his friends made it to please the gods ;
that he made it, as a carpenter makes a chariot
(Rv. I. 130, 6 ; V . 2, 11), or like a beautiful vesture
(Rv. V . 29, 15) ; that he fashioned it in his heart
and kept it in his mind (Rv. I. 171, 2) ; that he
expects, as his reward, the favour of the god whom
he celebrates (Rv. I. 1, 9). But though the poets
of the Veda know nothing of the artificial theories
of verbal inspiration, they were not altogether unconscious of higher influences : nay, they speak of
their hymns as god-given (‘ devattam,’ Rv. I. 37,
4). One poet says (Rv. V I . 47, 10) : ' O god (Indra),
have mercy, give me my daily bread ! Sharpen my
mind, like the edge of iron. Whatever I now may
utter, longing for thee, do thou accept it ; make me
possessed of God ! ’ Another utters for the first time
the famous hymn, the Gâya t r î ‚ which now for more
than three thousand years has been the daily prayer
of every Brahman, and is still repeated every morning by millions of pious worshippers : ‘ Let us meditate on the adorable light of the divine Creator : may
he rouse our minds.’1 This consciousness of higher
influences, or of divine help in those who uttered for
the first time the simple words of prayer, praise, and
thanksgiving, is very different, however, from the
artificial theories of verbal inspiration which we find
in the later theological writings ; it is, indeed, but
another expression of that deep-felt dependence on
the Deity; of that surrender and denial of all that
seems to be self, which was felt more or less by
every nation, but by none, I believe, more strongly,
more constantly, than by the Indian. ‘ I t is He
that has made i t '—viz. the prayer in which the
soul of the poet has thrown off her burden—is but
a variation of, ‘ It is He that has made us,’ which is
the key-note of all religion, whether ancient or
modern, whether natural or revealed.
I must say no more to-night of what the Veda is,
for I am very anxious to explain to you, as far it is
possible, what I consider to be the real importance
of the Veda to the student of history, to the student
of religion, to the student of mankind.
1 ' Tat Savitur varenyam bhargo devasya dhîmahi, dhiyo yo nah
prahodayât.'—Colebrooke, Miscellaneous Essays, i . 30. Many passages bearing on this subject have been collected by Dr. Muir in the
third volume of his Sanskrit Texts, p. 114 se^.
In the study of mankind there can hardly be a
subject more deeply interesting than the study of
the different forms of religion; and much as I
value the Science of Language for the aid which it
lends us in unravelling some of the most complicated
tissues of the human intellect, I confess that to my
mind there is no study more absorbing than that of
the Religions of the World—the study, if I may so
call it, of the various languages in which man has
spoken to his Maker, and of that language in which
his Maker ‘ at sundry times and in divers manners *
spake to man.
To my mind the great epochs in the world's
history are marked, not by the foundation or the
destruction of empires, by the migrations of races,
or by French revolutions. A l l this is outward
history, made up of events that seem gigantic and
overpowering to those only who cannot see beyond
and beneath. The real history of man is the history
of religion : the wonderful ways by which the different families of the human race advanced towards
a truer knowledge and a deeper love to God. This
is the foundation that underlies all profane history :
it is the light, the soul, and life of history, and without it, all history would indeed be profane.
On this subject there are some excellent works in
English, such as Mr. Maurice's ‘ Lectures on the
Religions of the World,' or Mr. Hardwick's ‘ Christ
and other Masters ; ' in German I need only mention Hegel's ‘ Philosophy of Religion,' out of many
other learned treatises on the different systems of
religion in the East and the West. But in all these
works religions are treated very much as languages
were treated during the last century. They are
rudely classed, either according to the different
localities in which they prevailed, just as in Adelnng’s
‘ Mithridates ’ you find the languages of the world
classified as European, African, American, Asiatic,
<&c. ; or according to their age, as formerly languages
used to be divided into ancient and modern; or
according to their respective dignity, as languages
used to be treated as sacred or profane, as classical
or illiterate. Now, you know that the Science of
Language has sanctioned a totally different system
of classification ; and that the Comparative Philologist ignores altogether the division of languages
according to their real locality, or according to their
age, or according to their classical or illiterate character. Languages are now classified genealogically,
-i.e. according to their real relationship ; and the most
important languages of Asia, Europe, and Africa—
that is to say, of that part of the world on which what
we call the history of man has been acted—have been
grouped together into three great divisions, the
A r y a n or Indo-European Family, the Semit ic
Family, and a non-descript so-called Turanian Class.
According to that division you are aware that English
together with all the Teutonic languages of the
Continent, Cel t ic , Slavonic, Greek, L a t i n , with
its modern offshoots, such as French and Italian,
Pe r s i an , and Sanskr i t , are so many varieties of
one common type of speech : that Sanskrit, the
ancient language of the Veda, is no more distinct
from the Greek of Homer, or from the Gothic of
Ulfilas, or from the Anglo-Saxon of Alfred, than
French is from Italian. A l l these languages together
form one family, one whole, in which every member
shares certain features in common with all the rest,
and is at the same time distinguished from the rest
by certain features peculiarly its own. The same
applies to the Semitic Family, which comprises, as
its most important members, the Hebrew of the Old
Testament, the Arabic of the Koran, and the ancient
languages on the monuments of Phenicia and Carthage, of Babylon and Assyria. These languages,
again, form a compact family, and differ entirely
from the other family, which we called Aryan or
Indo-European. The third group of languages, for
we cannot call it a family, comprises most of the
remaining languages of Asia, and counts among its
principal members the Tungusic, Mongolie, Turkic,
Samoyedic, and Finnic, and—if we are satisfied with
a purely formal similarity—the languages also of
Siam, the Malay Islands, Tibet, and Southern India.
Lastly, the Chinese language stands by itself, as
monosyllabic, the only remnant of the earliest formation of human speech.
Now, I believe that the same division which has
introduced a new and natural order into the history
of languages, and has enabled us to understand the
growth of human speech in a manner never dreamt
of in former days, will be found applicable to a
scientific study of religions. I shall say nothing
to-night of the Semitic or Turanian or Chinese
religions, but confine my remarks to the religions
of the Aryan family. These religions, though more
important in the ancient history of the world, as
the religions of the Greeks and Romans, of our
own Teutonic ancestors, and of the Celtic and
Slavonic races, are nevertheless of great importance
even at the present day. For although there are
no longer any worshippers of Zeus, or Jupiter, of
Wodan, Esus.’ or Perkunas,2 the two religions of
Aryan origin which still survive, Brahmanism and
Buddhism, claim together a decided majority among
the inhabitants of the globe. Out of the whole
population of the world,
31*2 per cent, are Buddhists,
13*4 per cent, are Brahmanists,
which together give us 44 per cent, for what may
De called living Aryan religions. Of the remaining
56 per cent. 15*7 are Mohammedans, 8*7 per cent,
non-descript Heathens, 3O'7 percent. Christians,and
0'3 per cent. Jews.
Now, as a scientific study of the Aryan languages
became possible only after the discovery of Sanskrit,
a scientific study of the Aryan religion dates really
from the discovery of the Veda. The study of Sanskrit brought to light the original documents of three
religions, the Sacred Books of the Brahmans,
the Sacred Books of the M agi ans, the followers of
Zoroaster, and the Sacred Books of the Buddhis ts . Fifty years ago, these three collections of
1 Mommsen, Inscriptiones Helveticae, 40. Becker, ' Die inschriftlichen Überreste der Keltischen Sprache,' in Beiträge zur
vergleichenden Sprachforschung, vol. i i i . p. 341. Lucan, Phars.
i . 445, ' horrensque feris altaribus Hesus.'
2 Cf. G. Bühler, ' Über Parjanya,' in Benfey's Orient und
Occident, vol. i . p. 214. In the old Irish, arg, a drop, has been
pointed out as derived from the same root as parganya.
L E C T U R E O N T H E V E D A S . 133
sacred writings were all but unknown, their very
existence was doubted, and there was not a single
scholar who could have correctly translated a line of
the Veda, a line of the Avesta,or a line of the Buddhist
Tripitaka. At present large portions of these, the
canonical writings of the most ancient and most
important religions of the Aryan race, are published
and deciphered, and we begin to see a natural progress, and almost a logical necessity, in the growth
of these three systems of worship. The oldest, most
primitive, most simple form of Aryan faith finds its
expression in the Veda. The Zend-Avesta represents
in its language, as well as in its thoughts, a branching off from that more primitive stem ; a more or
less conscious opposition to the worship of the gods of
nature, as adored in the Veda, and a striving after a
more spiritual, supreme, moral deity, such as Zoroaster proclaimed under the name of Ahura mazda, or
Ormuzd. Buddhism, lastly, marks a decided schism,
a decided antagonism against the established religion
of the Brahmans, a denial of the true divinity of the
Vedic gods, and a proclamation of new philosophical
and social doctrines.
Without the Veda, therefore, neither the reforms
of Zoroaster nor the new teaching of Buddha would
have been intelligible : we should not know what was
behind them, or what forces impelled Zoroaster and
Buddha to the founding of new religions—how much
they received, how much they destroyed, how much
they created. Take but one word in the religious
phraseology of these three systems. In the Veda the
gods are called De va. This word in Sanskrit means
bright—brightness or light being one of the most
general attributes shared by the various manifestations of the Deity, invoked in the Veda, as Sun, or
Sky, or Fire, or Dawn, or Storm. We can see, in
fact, how in the minds of the poets of the Veda, de va,,
from meaning bright, came gradually to mean divine.
In the Zend-Avesta the same word daêva means
evil spirit. Many of the Vedic gods, with Indra at
their head, have been degraded to the position of
daêvas , in order to make room for Ahura-mazda,
the Wise Spirit, as the supreme deity of the Zoroastrians. In his confession of faith the follower of
Zoroaster declares : ‘ I cease to be a worshipper of the
daevas.’ In Buddhism, again, we find these ancient
Devas, Indra and the rest, as merely legendary beings,,
often carried about at shows, as servants of Buddha,,
as goblins or fabulous heroes ; but no longer either
worshipped or even feared by those with whom the
name of Deva had lost every trace of its original
meaning. Thus this one word Deva marks the
mutual relations of these three religions. But more
than this. The same word deva is the Latin deus‚.
thus pointing to that common source of language
and religion, far beyond the heights of the Vedic
Olympus, from which the Romans, as well as the
Hindus, draw the names of their deities, and the elements of their language as well as of their religion.
The Veda, by its language and its thoughts, supplies that distant background in the history of all the
religions of the Aryan race, which was missed, indeed,,
by every careful observer, but which formerly could
be supplied by guess-work only. How the Persians
came to worship Ormuzd, how the Buddhists came to
protest against temples and sacrifices, how Zeus and
the Olympian gods came to be what they are in the
mind of Homer, or how such beings as Jupiter and
Mars came to be worshipped by the Italian peasant—
all these questions, which used to yield material for
endless and baseless speculations, can now be answered by a simple reference to the hymns of the Veda.
The religion of the Veda is not the source of all
the other religions of the Aryan world, nor is Sanskrit
the mother of all the Aryan languages. Sanskrit, as
compared to Greek and Latin, is an elder sister, not
a parent : Sanskrit is the earliest deposit of Aryan
speech, as the Veda is the earliest deposit of Aryan
faith. But the religion and incipient mythology of
the Veda possess the same simplicity and transparency which distinguish the grammar of Sanskrit
from Greek, Latin, or German grammar. We can
watch in the Veda ideas and their names growing,
which in Persia, Greece, and Rome we meet with only
as full-grown or as fast decaying. We get one step
nearer to that distant source of religious thought and
language which has fed the different national streams
of Persia, Greece, Rome, and Germany ; and we begin
to see clearly, what ought never to have been doubted,
that there is no religion without God, or, as St.
Augustine expressed it, that ‘ there is no false religion
which does not contain some elements of truth.’
I do not wish by what I have said to raise any
exaggerated expectations as to the worth of these
ancient hymns of the Veda, and the character of
that religion which they indicate rather than fully
describe. The historical importance of the Veda can
hardly be exaggerated, but its intrinsic merit, and
particularly the beauty or elevation of its sentiments,
have by many been rated far too high. Large numbers of the Vedic hymns are childish in the extreme :
tedious, low, commonplace. The gods are constantly
invoked to protect their worshippers, to grant them
food, large flocks, large families, and a long life ; for
all which benefits they are to be rewarded by the
praises and sacrifices offered day after day, or at certain seasons of the year. But hidden in this rubbish
there are precious stones. Only in order to appreciate them justly, we must try to divest ourselves
entirely of the common notions about polytheism and
idolatry, so repugnant not only to our feelings, but
to our understanding. No doubt, if we must employ
technical terms, the religion of the Veda is polytheism, not monotheism. Deities are invoked by
different names, some clear and intelligible, such as
A g n i , fire ; Sûrya‚ the sun; Ushas, dawn;Maruts,
the storms; P r i t h i v î , the earth; Âp, the waters;
Nadî , the rivers : others, mere proper names, such
as Varuna, M i t r a , Indra or Adi t i ‚ which disclose but dimly their original application to the great
aspects of nature, the sky, the sun, the day. But
whenever one of these individual gods is invoked,
they are not conceived as limited by the powers of
others, as superior or inferior in rank. Each god is
to the mind of the supplicant as good as all gods.
He is felt, at the time, as a real divinity- -as supreme
and absolute—without a suspicion of those limitations which, to our mind, a plurality of gods must
entail on every single god. A i l the rest disappear
for a moment from the vision of the poet, and he
only who is to fulfil their desires stands in full light
before the eyes of the worshippers. In one hymn,
ascribed to Manu, the poet says : ‘ Among you, O gods,
there is none that is small, none that is young ; you
are all great indeed,’ And this is, indeed, the keynote of the ancient Aryan worship. Yet it would be
easy to find in the numerous hymns of the Veda
passages in which almost every important deity is
represented as supreme and absolute. Thus in one
hymn, A g n i (fire) is called ‘ the ruler of the
universe,’ ‘the lord of men,’ ‘the wise king, the
father, the brother, the son, the friend of man ; ’
nay, all the powers and names of the other gods are
distinctly ascribed to Agni. But though Agni is
thus highly exalted, nothing is said to disparage the
divine character of the other gods. In another hymn
another god, Indra, is said to be greater than a l l :
* The gods,’ it is said, ‘ do not reach thee, Indra, nor
men; thou overcomest all creatures in strength.’
Another god, Sorna, is called the king of the world,
the king of heaven and earth, the conqueror of all.
And what more could human language achieve, in
trying to express the idea of a divine and supreme
power, than what another poet says of another god,
Varuna: ‘ Thou art lord of all, of heaven and earth ;
thou art the king of all, of those who are gods, and
of those who are men ’ ?
This surely is not what is commonly understood
by polytheism. Yet it would be equally wrong to
call it monotheism. If we must have a name for
it, I should call it Eathenotheism, or simply Henotheism—i.e. a belief in single gods. The consciousness that all the deities are but different names of one
and the same godhead breaks forth, indeed, here and
there in the Veda. But it is far from being general.
One poet, for instance, says (Rv. I. 164, 46) : ‘ They
call him Indra, Mitra, Varuna, Agni ; then he is the
beautifully-winged heavenly Garutmat: that which
is One the wise call it in divers manners : they call it
Agni‚ Yaina‚ Mâtarisvan.’ And again, Rv. X . 114,
5 : ‘ Wise poets make the beautifully-winged, though
he is one, manifold by words.’
I shall read you a few Vedic verses in which the
religious sentiment predominates, and in which we
perceive a yearning after truth, and after the true
God, untrammeled as yet by any names or any traditions (Rv. X . 121)1:
1. In the beginning there arose Hiraṇyagarbha
(the golden child). He was the one born lord of al l
that is. He stablished the earth and this sky ;—
Who is the God to whom we shall offer our sacrifice ?
2. He who gives breath. He who gives strength ;
whose command all the bright gods revere ; whose
shadow is immortality, whose shadow is death ;—
Who is the God to whom we shall offer our sacrifice ?
3. He who through his power became the sole
king of the breathing and slumbering world ;—He
who governs all, man and beast ;—Who is the God
to whom we shall offer our sacrifice ?
4. He through whose greatness these snowy
mountains are, and the sea, they say, with the distant
river (the Rasa)—He of whom these regions are the
two arms ;—Who is the God to whom we shall offer
our sacrifice ?
5. He through whom the sky is bright and the
earth firm—He through whom the heaven was*
1 History of Ancient Sanskrit Literature, p. 569.
stablished—nay, the highest heaven—He who measured out the space in the sky ;—Who is the God to
whom we shall offer our sacrifice ?
6. He to whom heaven, and earth,1 standing firm
by His will, look up, trembling in their mind—He
over whom the rising sun shines forth ;—Who is the
God to whom we shall offer our sacrifice ?
7. When the great waters went everywhere, holding the seed and generating the fire, thence arose He
who is the sole life of the bright gods ;—Who is the
God to whom we shall offer our sacrifice ?
8. He who by His might looked even over the
waters which held power and generated the sacrificial
fire, He who alone is God above all gods ; 2—Who is
the God to whom we shall offer our sacrifice ?
9. May He not hurt us—He who is the creator of
the earth; or He, the righteous, who created the
heaven ; He who also created the bright and mighty
waters ;—Who is the God to whom we shall offer our
sacrifice ? 3
The following may serve as specimens of hymns
addressed to individual deities whose names have become the centres of religious thought and legendary
traditions ; deities, in fact, like Jupiter, Apollo, Mars,
or Minerva, no longer mere germs, but fully developed
forms of early religious thought and language :
1 Read rodas î for k r a n d a s î .
2 rov ènì ita p. 131.
8 A last verse is added, which entirely spoils the poetical beauty
and the whole character of the hymn. Its later origin seems to have
struck even native critics, for the author of the Pada.text did not
receive it. ' 0 Pragâpati, no other than thou hast embraced all these
created things ; may what we desired when we called on thee be
granted to us, may we be lords of riches.'
HYMN TO INDRA (Rv. I. 53)1.
1. Keep silence wel l 2 ! we offer praises to the
great Indra in the house of the sacrificer. Does he
1 I subjoin for some of the hymns here translated, the translation
of the late Professor Wilson, in order to show what kind of difference
there is between the traditional rendering of the Vedic hymns, as
adopted by him, and their interpretation according to the rules of
modem scholarship :—
1. We ever offer fitting praise to the mighty Indra, in the
dwelling of the worshipper, by which he (the deity) has quickly
acquired riches, as (a thief) hastily carries (off the property) of the
sleeping. Praise i l l expressed is not valued among the munificent.
2. Thou, Indra, art the giver of horses, of cattle, of barley, the
master and protector of wealth, the foremost in liberality, (the being)
of many days ; thou disappointest not desires (addressed to thee) ;
thou art a friend to our friends : such an Indra we praise.
3. wise and resplendent Indra, the achiever of great deeds, the
riches that are spread around are known to be thine : having collected them, victor (over thy enemies), bring them to us : disappoint
not the expectation of the worshipper who trusts in thee.
4. Propitiated by these offerings, by these libations, dispel poverty
with cattle and horses : may we, subduing our adversary, and relieved
from enemies by Indra, (pleased) by our libations, enjoy together
abundant food.
5. Indra, may we become possessed of riches, and of food ; and
with energies agreeable to many, and shining around, may we
prosper through thy divine favour, the source of prowess, of cattle,
.and of horses.
6. Those who were thy allies, (the Maruts,) brought thee joy :
protector of the pious, those libations and oblations (that were
offered thee on slaying Vritra) yielded thee delight, when thou,
unimpeded by foes, didst destroy the ten thousand obstacles opposed
to him who praised thee and offered thee libations.
7. Humiliator (of adversaries), thou goest from battle to battle,
and destroyest by thy might city after city : with thy foe-prostrating associate (the thunderbolt), thou, Indra, didst slay afar off
the deceiver named Namuhf.
8. Thou hast slain Karanga and Parnaya with thy bright gleaming
spear, in the cause of Atithigva : unaided, thou didst demolish the
hundred cities of vangrida, when besieged by Rigisvan.
2 Favete linguis.
find treasure for those who are like sleepers P Mean
praise is not valued among the munificent.
2. Thou art the giver of horses, Indra, thou art
the giver of cows, the giver of corn, the strong lord
of wealth : the old guide of man, disappointing no
desires, a friend to friends: —to him we address this
3. O powerful Indra‚ achiever of many works,
most brilliant god—all this wealth around here is
known to be thine alone : take from it, conqueror,
bring it hither. Do not stint the desire of the
worshipper who longs for thee !
4. On these days thou art gracious, and on these
nights 1, keeping off the enemy from our cows and
from our stud. Tearing 2 the fiend night after night
with the help of Indra, let us rejoice in food, freed
from haters.
5. Let us rejoice, Indra, in treasure and food, in
wealth of manifold delight and splendour. Let us
rejoice in the blessing of the gods, which gives us the
strength of offspring, gives us cows first and horses.
6. These draughts inspired thee, O lord of the
9. Thou, renowned Indra, overthrewest by thy not-to-be-overtaken
chariot-wheel, the twenty kings of men, who had come against
Susravas, unaided, and their sixty thousand and ninety and nine
10. Thou, Indra, hast preserved Susravas by thy succour, Tûrvayâna by thy assistance : thou hast made Kutsa, Atithigva and Ayu
subject to the mighty, though youthful Susravas.
11. Protected by the gods, we remain, Indra, at the close of the
sacrifice, thy most fortunate friends : we praise thee, as enjoying
through thee excellent offspring, and a long and prosperous life.
1 Cf. Rv. I. 112, 25, 'dyúbhir aktúbhih; by day and by night;
also Rv. IH. 31, 16. M . M., Todtenbestattvng, p. v.
2 Professor Benfey reads durayantah, but all MSS. that I know,
without exception, read darayantah.
brave ! these were vigour, these libations, in battles,
when for the sake of the poet, the sacrificer, thou
7. From battle to battle 1 thou advancest bravely,
from town to town thou destroyest all this with might,
when thou, Indra, with Nâmî as thy friend, struckest
down from afar the deceiver Namuki.
8. Thou hast slain Karañga and Parnaya with the
brightest spear of Atithigva. Without a helper thou
didst demolish the hundred cities of Vangrida, which
were besieged by Rigisvan.
9. Thou hast felled down with the heavy chariotwheel these twenty kings of men, who had attacked
the friendless Susravas 2, and gloriously the sixty thousand and ninety-nine forts.
10. Thou, Indra, hast succoured Susravas with thy
succours, Tûrvayâna with thy protections. Thou hast
made Kutsa, Atithigva, and Âyu subject to this
mighty youthful king.
11. We who in future, protected by the gods, wish
i o be thy most blessed friends, we shall praise thee,
blessed by thee with offspring, and enjoying henceforth a longer life.
The next hymn is one of many addressed to Agni
as the god of fire, not only the fire as a powerful
element, but likewise the fire of the hearth and the
altar, the guardian of the house, the minister of the
sacrifice, the messenger between gods and men : —
1 For a different translation see Roth, in I>eutsc7ie Monatsschrift,
p. 89.
2 See Spiegel, "i¾*dn,p. 269, on Khai Khosru = Susravas ; Grass mann, in Kuhn's Zeitschrift, xvi. p. 106. ;
1. Agni, accept this log which I offer to thee, accept this my service ; listen well to these my songs.
2. With this log, O Agni, may we worship thee,
thou son of strength, conqueror of horses ! and with
this hymn, thou high-born !
3. May we, thy servants, serve thee with songs, O
granter of riches, thou who lovest songs and delightest
in riches.
4. Thou lord of wealth and giver of wealth, be
thou wise and powerful ; drive away from us the
enemies !
5. He gives us rain from heaven, he gives us inviolable strength, he gives us food a thousandfold.
6. Youngest of the gods, their messenger, their
invoker, most deserving of worship, come, at our
praise, to him who worships thee and longs for thy
7. For thou, O sage, goest wisely between these
two creations (heaven and earth, gods and men), like
a friendly messenger between two hamlets.
8. Thou art wise, and thou hast been pleased:
perform thou, intelligent Agni, the sacrifice without
interruption, sit down on this sacred grass !
The following hymn, partly laudatory, partly deprecatory, is addressed to the Maruts or Rudras, the
Storm-gods :
1. When you thus from afar cast forward your
1 Professor Wilson translates as follows : —
1. When, Maruts, who make (all things) tremble, you direct your
awful (vigour) downwards from afar, as light (descends from heaven)
measure, like a blast of fire, through whose wisdom is
it, through whose design ? To whom do you go, to
whom, ye shakers (of the earth) ?
2. May your weapons be firm to attack, strong
also to withstand ! May yours be the more glorious
strength, not that of the deceitful mortal !
3. When you overthrow what is firm, O ye men,
and whirl about what is heavy, ye pass through the
trees of the earth, through the clefts of the rocks.
4. No real foe of yours is known in heaven, nor
in earth, ye devourers of enemies ! May strength be
yours, together with your race, O Rudras, to defy
even now.
by whose worship, by whose praise (are you attracted) ? To what
(place of sacrifice), to whom, indeed, do you repair ?|
2. Strong be your weapons for driving away (your) foes, firm in
resisting them : yours be the strength that merits praise, not (the
strength) of a treacherous mortal.
3. Directing Maruts, when you demolish what is stable, when
you scatter what is ponderous, then you make your way through
the forest (trees) of the earth and the defiles of the mountains.
4. Destroyers of foes, no adversary of yours is known above the
heavens, nor (is any) upon earth : may your collective strength be
quickly exerted, sons of Rudra, to humble (your enemies).
5. They make the mountains tremble, they drive apart the forest
trees. Go, divine Maruts, whither you will, with all your progeny,
like those intoxicated.
6. You have harnessed the spotted deer to your chariot ; the red
deer yoked between them, (aids to) drag the car : the firmament
listens for your coming, and men are alarmed.
7. Rudras, we have recourse to your assistance for the sake of
our progeny : come quickly to the timid Kanva, as you formerly
came, for our protection.
8. Should any adversary, instigated by you, or by man, assail us,
withhold from him food and strength and your assistance.
9. Praketasas, who are to be unreservedly worshipped, uphold
(the sacrificer) Kanva : come to us, Maruts, with undivided protective assistances, as the lightnings (bring) the rain.
10. Bounteous givers, you enjoy unimpaired vigour : shakers (of
the earth), you possess undiminished strength : Maruts, let loose
your anger, like an arrow, upon the wrathful enemy of the Rishis.
5. They make the rocks to tremble, they tear
asunder the kings of the forest. Come on, Maruts,
like madmen, ye gods, with your whole tribe.
6. You have harnessed the spotted deer to your
chariots, a red deer draws as leader. Even the earth
listened at your approach, and men were frightened.
7. O Rudras, we quickly desire your help for our
race. Come now to us with help, as of yore, thus for
the sake of the frightened Kanva.
8. Whatever fiend, roused by you or roused by
mortals, attacks us, tear him (from us) by your power,
by your strength, by your aid.
9. For you, worshipful and wise, have wholly protected Kanva. Come to us, Maruts, with your whole
help, as quickly as lightnings come after the rain.
10. Bounteous givers, ye possess whole strength,
whole power, ye shakers (of the earth). Send, O
Maruts, against the proud enemy of the poets an
enemy, like an arrow.
The following is a simple prayer addressed to the
Dawn :—
HYMN TO USHAS (Rv. V I I . 77).
1. She shines upon us, like a young wife, rousing
every living being to go to his work. When the fire
had to be kindled by men, she made the light by
striking down darkness.
2. She rose up, spreading far and wide, and
moving everywhere. She grew in brightness, wearing
her brilliant garment. The mother of the cows (the
mornings), the leader of the days, she shone goldcoloured, lovely to behold.
3. She, the fortunate, who brings the eye of the
gods, who leads the white and lovely steed (of the
sun), the Dawn was seen revealed by her rays, with
brilliant treasures, following every one.
4. Thou who art a blessing where thou art near,
drive far away the unfriendly ; make the pasture
wide, give us safety ! Scatter the enemy, bring
riches ! Raise up wealth to the worshipper, thou
mighty Dawn.
5. Shine for us with thy best rays, thou bright
Dawn, thou who lengthenest our life, thou the love
of all, who givest us food, who givest us wealth in
cows, horses, and chariots.
6. Thou daughter of the sky, thou high-born
Dawn, whom the Vasishthas magnify with songs,
give us riches high and wide : all ye gods protect us
always with your blessings.
I must confine myself to shorter extracts in order
to be able to show to you that all the principal elements of real religion are present in the Veda. I
remind you again that the Veda contains a great deal
of what is childish and foolish, though very little of
what is bad and objectionable. Some of its poets
ascribe to the gods sentiments and passions unworthy
of the deity, such as anger, revenge, delight in material sacrifices ; they likewise represent human nature
on a low level of selfishness and worldliness. Many
hymns are utterly unmeaning and insipid, and we
must search patiently before we meet, here and there,
with sentiments that come from the depth of the
soul, and with prayers in which we could join ourselves. Yet there are such passages, and they are
the really important passages, as marking the highest
points to which the religious life of the ancient poets
of India had reached ; and it is to these that I shall
now call your attention.
First of all, the religion of the Veda knows of no
idols. The worship of idols in India is a secondary
formation, a later degradation of the more primitive
worship of ideal gods.
The gods of the Veda are conceived as immortal.
Passages in which the birth of certain gods is mentioned have a physical meaning : they refer to the
birth of the day, the rising of the sun, the return of
the year.
The gods are supposed to dwell in heaven, though
several of them, as, for instance, Agni, the god of fire,
are represented as living among men, or as approaching the sacrifice, and listening to the praises of their
Heaven and earth are believed to have been made
or to have been established by certain gods. Elaborate theories of creation, which abound in the later
works, the Brâhmanas, are not to be found as yet in
the hymns. What do we find are such passages as—
‘ Agni held the earth, he stablished the heaven by
truthful words ’ (Rv. I. 67, 3).
‘ Varuna stemmed asunder the wide firmaments ;
he lifted on high the bright and glorious heaven; he
stretched out apart the starry sky and the earth’
(Rv. VII . 86, 1).
More frequently, however, the poets confess their
ignorance of the beginning of all things, and one of
them exclaims :—
‘ Who has seen the first-born ? Where was the
life, the blood, the soul of the world ? Who went to
ask this from any that knew i t ? ’ (Rv. I. 164, 4).’
Or again, Rv. X . 81, 4 : ‘ What was the forest,
what was the tree {vkrj) out of which they shaped
heaven and earth ? Wise men, ask this indeed in
your mind, on what he stood when he held the
worlds ? ’
I now come to a more important subject. We
find in the Veda, what few would have expected to
find there, the two ideas, so contradictory to the
human understanding, and yet so easily reconciled
in every human heart : God has established the eternal laws of right and wrong, he punishes sin and
rewards virtue, and yet the same God is willing to
forgive ; just, yet merciful; a judge, and yet a father.
Consider, for instance, the following lines, Rv. I. 41,
4 : ‘ His path is easy and without thorns, who does
what is right.’
And again, Rv. I. 41, 9 : ‘ Let man fear Him who
holds the four (dice), before he throws them down
(i.e. God who holds the destinies of men in his hand) ;
let no man delight in evil words ! ’
And then consider the following hymns, and
imagine the feelings which alone could have prompted
them :—
H Y M N TO VARUNA (Rv. VI I . 89).
1. Let me not yet, O Varuna, enter into the house
of earth ; have mercy, almighty, have mercy !
2. If I move along trembling, like a cloud driven
by the wind ; have mercy, almighty, have mercy !
3. Through want of strength, thou strong and
1 History of Ancient Sanskrit Literature, p. 20, note.
bright god, have I gone astray; have mercy, almighty,
have mercy !
4. Thirst came upon the worshipper, though he
stood in the midst of the waters; have mercy,
almighty, have mercy !
5. Whenever we men, O Varuna, commit an
offence before the heavenly host, whenever we break
the lawT through thoughtlessness ; punish us not, O
god, for that offence.
And again, Rv. VII . 86: 1—
1. Wise and mighty are the works of him who
stemmed asunder the wide firmaments (heaven and
earth). He lifted on high the bright and glorious
heaven ; he stretched out apart the starry sky and
the earth.
2. Do I say this to my own self? How can I get
near unto Varuna ? Wi l l he accept my offering without displeasure ? When shall I, with a quiet mind,
see him propitiated ?
3. I ask, O Varuna, wishing to know this my sin.
I go to ask the wise. The sages all tell me the same :
Varuna it is who is angry with thee.
4. Was it an old sin, O Varuna, that thou wishest
to destroy thy friend, who always praises thee ? Tell
me, thou unconquerable Lord, and I will quickly
turn to thee with praise, freed from sin.
5. Absolve us from the sins of our fathers, and
from those which we committed with our own bodies.
Release Vasishtha, O king, like a thief who has feasted
on stolen oxen ; release him like a calf from the rope.
6. It was not our own doing, O Varuna, it was a
slip, an intoxicating draught, passion, dice, thought1 See Introduction to the Science of Religion, p. 233.
lessness. The old is there to mislead the young ;
even sleep is not free from mischief.
7. Let me, freed from sin, do service to the angry
god, like a slave to his lord.’ The lord god enlightened the foolish ; he, the wisest, leads his worshipper
to wealth.
8. O lord Varuna, may this song go well to thy
heart ! May we prosper in acquiring and keeping !
Protect us, O gods, always with your blessings !
The consciousness of sin is a prominent feature
in the religion of the Veda ; so is likewise the belief
that the gods are able to take away from man the
heavy burden of his sins. And when we read such
passages as ‘ Varuna is merciful even to him who has
committed sin ’ (Rv. VII . 87, 7), we should surely not
allow the strange name of Varuna to jar on our ears^
but should remember that it is but one of the many
names which men invented in their helplessness to
express their ideas of the Deity, however partial and
The next hymn, which is taken from the AtharvaVeda (IV. 16), will show how near the language of
the ancient poets of India may approach to the language of the Bible : 2 —
1. The great lord of these worlds sees as if he
were near. If a man thinks he is walking by stealth,
the gods know it all.
2. I f a man stands or walks or hides, if he goes
1 Benfey, Nachrichten, 1874, p. 370.
2 This hymn was first pointed out by Professor Roth in a dissertation on the Atharva-veda (Tübingen, 1856), and it has since
been translated and annotated by Dr. Muir, in his article on the
"Vedic Theogony and Cosmogony, p. 31.
to lie down or to get up, what two people sitting
together whisper. King Varuna knows it, he is there
as the third.
3. This earth, too, belongs to Varuna, the king,
and this wide sky with its ends far apart. The two
seas (the sky and the ocean) are Varuna’s loins ; he
is also contained in this small drop of water.
4. He who should flee far beyond the sky, even
he would not be rid of Varuna, the king. His spies
proceed from heaven towards this world ; with thousand eyes they overlook this earth.
5. King Varuna sees all this, what is between
heaven and earth, and what is beyond. He has
counted the twinklings of the eyes of men. As a
player throws the dice, he settles all things.
6. May all thy fatal nooses, which stand spread
out seven by seven and threefold, catch the man who
tells a lie ; may they pass by him who speaks the truth.
Another idea which we find in the Veda is that of
faith : not only in the sense of trust in the gods, in
their power, their protection, their kindness, but in
that of belief in their existence. The Latin word
credo, I believe, is the same as the Sanskrit sraddhâ, and this sraddhâ occurs in the Veda:—
Rv. I. 102, 2. ‘ Sun and moon go on in regular
succession, that we may see, Indra, and believe.’
Rv. I. 104, 6. ‘ Destroy not our future offspring,
O Indra, for we have believed in thy great power.’
Rv. I. 55, 5. ‘When Indra hurls again and again
his thunderbolt, then they believe in the brilliant god.’1
1 During violent thunderstorms the natives of New Holland are
so afraid of war-ru-gu-ra, the evil spirit, that they seek shelter
even in eaves haunted by Ingnas, subordinate demons, which at
A similar sentiment—namely, that men only believe in the gods when they see their signs and
wonders in the sky—is expressed by another poet
(Rv. VII I . 21, 14) :—
‘ Thou, Indra, never findest a rich man to be thy
friend ; wine-swillers despise thee. But when thou
thunderest, when thou gatherest (the clouds), then
thou art called like a father.’
And with this belief in god, there is also coupled
that doubt, that true disbelief, if we may so call
it, which is meant to give to faith its real strength.
We find passages even in these early hymns where
the poet asks himself whether there is really such
a god as Indra—a question immediately succeeded
by an answer, as if given to the poet by Indra himself. Thus we read Rv. VIII . 100, 3 :—
‘ If you wish for strength, offer to Indra a hymn
of praise: a true hymn, i f Indra truly exist; for
some one says, Indra does not exist ! Who has
seen him ? Whom shall we praise ? ’
Then Indra answers through the poet :—
' Here I am, O worshipper, behold me here ! in
might I surpass all things.’
Similar visions occur elsewhere, where the poet,
after inviting a god to a sacrifice, or imploring his
pardon for his offences, suddenly exclaims that he
has seen the god, and that he feels that his prayer is
granted. For instance :—
other times they would enter on no account. There, in silent terror,
they prostrate themselves with their faces to the ground, waiting
until the spirit, having expended his fury, shall retire to Uta (hell)
without having discovered their hiding-place.—Transactions of
Ethnological Society, vol. in. p. 229. Oldfield, Tlie Aborigines of
H Y M N TO VARUNA (Rv. I. 25).
1. However we break thy laws from day to day,
men as we are, O god, Varuna,
2. Do not deliver us unto death, nor to the blow
of the furious ; nor to the wrath of the spiteful !
3. To propitiate thee, O Varuna, we unbend thy
mind with songs, as the charioteer (unties) a weary
4. Away from me they flee dispirited, intent only
on gaining wealth ; as birds to their nests.
5. When shall we bring hither the man, who is
victory to the warriors ; when shall we bring Varuna,
the wide-seeing, to be propitiated ?
[6. They (Mitra and Varuna) take this in common; gracious, they never fail the faithful giver.]
7. He who knows the place of the birds that fly
through the sky, who on the waters knows the ships;—
8. He, the upholder of order, who knows the
twelve months with the offspring of each, and knows
the month that is engendered afterwards;—
9. He who knows the track of the wind, of the
wide, the bright, the mighty ; and knows those who
reside on high;—
10. He, the upholder of order, Varuna, sits down
among his people ; he, the wise, sits there to govern.
11. From thence perceiving all wondrous things,
he sees what has been and what will be done.
12. May he, the wise Âditya, make our paths
straight all our days; may he prolong our lives !
13. Varuna, wearing golden mail, has put on his
shining cloak ; the spies sat down around him.
14. The god whom the scoffers do not provoke,
nor the tormentors of men, nor the plotters of mischief ;—
15. He, who gives to men glory, and not half
glory, who gives it even to our own selves ;—
16. Yearning for him, the far-seeing, my thoughts
move onwards, as kine move to their pastures.
17. Let us speak together again, because my
honey has been brought : that thou mayst eat what
thou likest, like a friend.’
18. Did I see the god who is to be seen by all,
did I see the chariot above the earth? He must have
accepted my prayers.
19. O hear this my calling, Varuna, be gracious
now ; longing for help, I have called upon thee.
20. Thou, O wise god, art lord of all, of heaven
and earth : listen on thy way.
21. That I may live, take from me the upper rope,
loose the middle, and remove the lowest !
In conclusion, let me tell you that there is in
the Vedic hymns no trace of metempsychosis or that
transmigration of souls from human to animal bodies
which is generally supposed to be a distinguishing
feature of Indian religion. Instead of this, we find
what is really the sine qua non of all real religion,
a belief in immortality, and in personal immortality.2
1 See Bollensen, in Orient und Occident, i i . p. 147. One might
read h o t r â - i v a , 'because honey has been brought by me, as by
a priest, sweet to taste.'
2 Acts xxii. 30 ; xxiii. 6. Lessing (vol. xi . p. 63, ed. Lachmann)
says : ' Without faith in a future life, a future reward and punishment,
no religion could exist ; ' and he adds : ' We must either deny the
Gentiles all religion, or admit that they, too, had that faith.' Schopenhauer, Paral. i . p. 137, says : ' The real religion of the Jews, as it is
represented and taught in Genesis and in all the historical books to
Without a belief in personal immortality, religion
surely is like an arch resting on one pillar, like a
bridge ending in an abyss. We cannot wonder at
the great difficulties felt and expressed by Bishop
Warburton and other eminent divines with regard
to the supposed total absence of the doctrine of immortality or personal immortality in the Old Testament ; and it is equally startling that the Sadducees,
who sat in the same council with the high-priest,
openly denied the resurrection.’ However, though
not expressly asserted anywhere, a belief in personal
immortality is taken for granted in several passages
of the Old Testament, and we can hardly think of
Abraham or Moses as without a belief in life and
immortality. But while this difficulty, so keenly
felt with regard to the Jewish religion, ought to
make us careful in the judgments which we form of
other religions, and teach us the wisdom of charitable
interpretation, it is all the more important to mark
that in the Veda passages occur where immortality
of the soul, personal immortality and personal responsibility after death, are clearly proclaimed. Thus we
read :—
‘ He who gives alms goes to the highest place in
heaven ; he goes to the gods’ (Rv. I. 125, 56).
Another poet, after rebuking those who are rich
and do not communicate, says :—
‘The kind mortal is greater than the great in
heaven ! '
the end of Chronicles, is the rudest of all religions, because the only
one which has no doctrine of immortality at all, nor any trace
of it.'
1 Acts xxii. 30, xxni. tí.
Even the idea, so frequent in the later literature of
the Brahmans, that immortality is secured by a son,
seems implied, unless our translation deceives us,
in one passage of the Veda, VII . 56, 24 :
‘ Asme (íti) vîrah marutah sushmi astu
Ganânâm yah asurah vi dhartâ',
Apah yena su­kshitaye tarema,
Ādha svam ókah abhi vah syâma.’
‘ O Maruts, may there be to us a strong son, who
is a living ruler of men : through whom we may
cross the waters on our way to the happy abode;
then may we come to your own house ! ’
One poet prays that he may see again his father
and mother after death (Rv. I. 24,1) ; and the fathers
(Pitris) are invoked almost like gods, oblations are
offered to them, and they are believed to enjoy, in
company with the gods, a life of never­ending felicity
(Rv. X . 15, 16).
We find this prayer addressed to Sorna (Rv. I X .
113, 7 ) : ­
‘ Where there is eternal light, in the world where
the sun is placed, in that immortal imperishable
world place me, O Sorna !
‘ Where king Vaivasvata reigns, where the secret
place of heaven is, where these mighty waters are,
there make me immortal !
‘ Where life is free, in the third heaven of heavens,
where the worlds are radiant, there make me im­
mortal !
‘ Where wishes and desires are, where the bowl
of the bright Sorna is, where there is food and re­
joicing, there make me immortal !
' Where there is happiness and delight, where joy
and pleasure reside, where the desires of our desire
are attained, there make me immortal ! 9 1
Whether the old Rishis believed likewise in a
place of punishment for the wicked is more doubtful,
though vague allusions to it occur in the Rig­Veda,
and more distinct descriptions are found in the
Atharva­Veda. In one verse it is said that the dead
iś rewarded for his good deeds, that he leaves or casts
off all evil, and glorified takes his new body (Rv. X .
14, 8).’ The dogs of Yama, the king of the departed,
present some terrible aspects, and Yama is asked to
protect the departed from them (Rv. X . 14, 11).
Again, a pit (karta) is mentioned into which the
lawless are said to be hurled down (Rv. I X . 73, 8),
and into which Indra casts those who offer no sacri­
fices (Rv. I. 121, 13). One poet prays that the Ādi–
tyas may preserve him from the destroying wolf, and
from falling into the pit (Rv. II. 29, 6). In one
passage we read that ‘those who break the com­
mandments of Varuna and who speak lies are born
for that deep place 9 (Rv. IV. 5, 5).’
1 Professor Roth, after quoting several passages from the veda
in which a belief in immortality is expressed, remarks with great
truth : ' we here find, not without astonishment, beautiful concep­
tions on immortality expressed in unadorned language with child­
like conviction. If it were necessary, we might here find the most
powerful weapons against the view which has lately been revived,
and proclaimed as new, that Persia was the only birthplace of the
idea of immortality, and that even the nations of Europe had de­
rived it from that quarter. As if the religious spirit of every gifted
race was not able to arrive at it by its own strength.'—(Journal of
the German Oriental Society, vol. iv. p. 427). See Dr. Muir's article
on Yama, in the Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society, p. 10.
2 M. M., ‘Die Todtenbestattung bei den Brahmanen,' Zeitschrift
der Deutschen Morgenländischen Gesellschaft, vol. ix. p. xii.
8 Dr. Muir, article on Yama, p. 18.
Surely the discovery of a religion like this, as
unexpected as the discovery of the jaw-bone of Abbeville, deserves to arrest our thoughts for a moment,
even in the haste and hurry of this busy life. No
doubt, for the daily wants of life the old division of
religions into true and false is quite sufficient ; as for
practical purposes we distinguish only between our
own mother-tongue on the one side and all other
foreign languages on the other. But from a higher
point of view it would not be right to ignore the new
evidence that has come to light ; and as the study of
geology has given us a truer insight into the stratification of the earth, it is but natural to expect that
a thoughtful study of the original works of three of
the most important religions of the* world, Brahmanism, Magism, and Buddhism, will modify our
views as to the growth or history of religion, and as
to the hidden layers of religious thought beneath the
soil on which we stand. Such inquiries should be
undertaken without prejudice and without fear : the
evidence is placed before us ; our duty is to sift it
critically, to weigh it honestly, and to wait for the
Three of these results, to which, I believe, a comparative study of religions is sure to lead, I may
state before I conclude this Lecture :—
1. We shall learn that religions in their most
ancient form, or in the minds of their authors, are
generally free from many of the blemishes that attach
to them in later times.
2. We shall learn that there is hardly one religion
which does not contain some truth, some important
truth ; truth sufficient to enable those who seek the
Lord and feel after Him to find Him in their hour of
3. We shall learn to appreciate better than ever
what we have in our own religion. No one who has
not examined patiently and honestly the other religions of the world can know what Christianity really
is, or can join with such truth and sincerity in the
words of St. Paul : ‘ I am not ashamed of the Gospel
of Christ.’
x v .
IF the words of St. Paul, ‘ Prove all things, hold
fast that which is good,’ may be supposed to refer
to spiritual things, and, more especially, to religious
doctrines, it must be confessed that few only, whether
theologians or laymen, have ever taken to heart the
apostle’s command. How many candidates for holy
orders are there who could give a straightforward
answer if asked to enumerate the principal religions
of the world, or to state the names of their founders,
and the titles of the works which are still considered
by millions of human beings as the sacred authorities for their religious belief? To study such books
as the Koran of the Mohammedans, the Zend-Avesta
of the Parsis, the Kings of the Confucians, the Taote-King of the Taoists, the Vedas of the Brahmans,
the Tripitaka of the Buddhists, the Sutras of the
Jains, or the Granth of the Sikhs, would be considered by many mere waste of time. Yet St. Paul's
command is very clear and simple ; and to maintain
that it referred to the heresies of his own time only,
or to the philosophical systems of the Greeks and
1 Le Bouddha et sa Religion. Par J . Barthélémy Saint-Hilaire,
Membre de l'Institut. Paris, I860.
Romans, would be to narrow the horizon of the
apostle's mind, and to destroy the general applicability of his teaching to all times and to all countries. Many will ask what possible good could be
derived from the works of men who must have been
either deceived or deceivers ; nor would it be difficult
to quote passages from every one of the sacred books
of the world showing their utter absurdity and worthlessness. But this was not the spirit in which the
apostle of the Gentiles addressed himself to the
Epicureans and Stoics, nor is this the feeling with
which a thoughtful Christian and a sincere believer
in a divine government of the world is likely to rise
from a perusal of any of the books which he knows
to be or to have been the only source of spiritual
light and comfort to thousands and thousands among
the dwellers on earth.
Many are the advantages to be derived from a
careful study of other religions, but the greatest of
all is that it teaches us to appreciate more truly
what we possess in our own. When do we feel the
blessings of our own country more warmly and more
truly than when we return from abroad ? It is the
same with regard to religion. Let us see what other
nations have had and still have in the place of religion ; let us examine the prayers, the worship, the
theology even of the most highly civilised races—
the Greeks, the Romans, the Hindus, the Persians—
and we shall then understand more thoroughly what
blessings are vouchsafed to us in being allowed to
breathe from the first breath of life the pure air of
a land of Christian light and knowledge. We are
too apt to take the greatest blessings as matters of
course, and even religion forms no exception. We
have done so little to gain our religion, we have
suffered so little in the cause of truth, that, however
highly we prize our own Christianity, we never prize
it highly enough until we have compared it with the
religions of the rest of the world.
This, however, is not the only advantage ; and we
think that M . Barthélémy Saint-Hilaire has formed
too low an estimate of the benefits to be derived from
a thoughtful study of the religions of mankind when
he writes of Buddhism : ‘ Le seul, mais immense
service que le Bouddhisme puisse nous rendre, c'est
par son triste contraste de nous faire apprécier
mieux encore la valeur inestimable de nos croyances,
en nous montrant tout ce qu'il en coûte à l'humanité
qui ne les partage point.’ This is not all. If a
knowledge of other countries and a study of the
manners and customs of foreign nations teach us
to appreciate what we have at home, they likewise
form the best cure of that national conceit and want
of sympathy with which we are too apt to look on
al l that is strange and foreign. The feeling which
led the Hellenic races to divide the whole world into
Greeks and Barbarians is so deeply engrained in
human nature that not even Christianity has been
able altogether to remove it. Thus when we east
our first glance into the labyrinth of the religions
of the world all seems to us darkness, self-deceit,
and vanity. It sounds like a degradation of the
very name of religion to apply it to the wild ravings
of Hindu Yogins or the blank blasphemies of
Chinese Buddhists. But as we slowly and patiently
wend our way through the dreary prisons, our own
eyes seem to expand, and we perceive a glimmer of
light where all was darkness at first. We learn to
understand the saying of one who more than anybody had a right to speak with authority on this
subject, that ‘ there is no religion which does not
contain a spark of truth.’ Those who would limit the
riches of God's goodness and forbearance and longsuffering, and would hand over the largest portion of
the human race to inevitable perdition, have never
adduced a tittle of evidence from the Gospel or from
any other trustworthy source in support of so unhallowed a belief. They have generally appealed to
the devilries and orgies of heathen worship ; they
have quoted the blasphemies of Oriental Sufis and
the immoralities sanctioned by the successors of
Mohammed ; but they have seldom, i f ever, endeavoured to discover the true and original character
of the strange forms of faith and worship which
they call the work of the devil. If the Indians had
formed their notions of Christianity from the soldiers
of Cortez and Pizarro, or if the Hindus had studied
the principles of Christian morality in the lives of
Clive and Warren Hastings ; or, to take a less extreme case, i f a Mohammedan, settled in England,
were to test the practical working of Christian
charity by the spirit displayed in the journals of
our religious parties, their notions of Christianity
would be about as correct as the ideas which
thousands of educated Christians entertain of the
diabolical character of heathen religions. Even Christianity has been depraved into Jesuitism and Mormonism, and i f we, as Protestants, claim the right to
appeal to the Gospel as the only test by which our
faith is to be judged, we must grant a similar privilege to Mohammedans and Buddhists, and to all who
possess a written and, as they believe, revealed
authority for thç articles of their faith.
But though no one is likely to deny the necessity
of studying each religion in its most ancient form
and from its original documents before we venture
to pronounce our verdict, the difficulties of this
task are such that in them more than in anything
else must be sought the cause why so few of our
best thinkers and writers have devoted themselves
to a critical and historical study of the religions
of the world. A l l important religions have sprung
up in the East. Their sacred books are written
in Eastern tongues, and some of them are of such
ancient date that those even who profess to believe in them admit that they are unable to
understand them without the help of translations
and commentaries. Until very lately the sacred
books of three of the most important religions, those
of the Brahmans, the Buddhists, and the Parsis,
were totally unknown in Europe. It was one of the
most important results of the study of Sanskrit, or
the ancient language of India, that through it the key,
not only to the sacred books of the Brahmans, the
Vedas, but likewise to those of the Buddhists and
Zoroastrians, was recovered. And nothing shows more
strikingly the rapid progress of Sanskrit scholarship
than that even Sir William Jones, whose name has
still, with many, a more familiar sound than the
names of Oolebrooke, Burnouf, and Lassen, should
have known nothing of the Vedas; that he should
never have read a line of the canonical books of the
Buddhists, and that he actually expressed his belief
that Buddha was the same as the Teutonic deity
Wodan or Odin, and Sâkya‚ another name of Buddha,
the same as Shishac, king of Egypt. The same distinguished scholar never perceived the intimate relationship between the language of the Zend-Avesta
and Sanskrit, and he declared the whole of the Zoroastrian writings to be modern forgeries.
Even at present we are not yet in possession of a
complete edition, much less of any trustworthy translation, of all the Vedas ; we only possess the originals
of a few books of the Buddhist canon ; and though
the text of the Zend-Avesta has been edited in its
entirety, its interpretation is beset with greater difficulties than that of the Vedas or the Tripitaka. A
study of the ancient religions of China, those of Confucius and Laotse, presupposes an acquaintance with
Chinese, a language which it takes a life to learn
thoroughly ; and even the religion of Mohammed,
though more accessible than any other Eastern religion, cannot be fully examined except by a master of
Arabic. It is less surprising, therefore, thaṅ it
might at first appear, that a comprehensive and
scholarlike treatment of the religions of the world
.should still be a desideratum. Scholars who have
gained a knowledge of the language, and thereby
free access to original documents, find so much work
at hand which none but themselves can do, that they
grudge the time for collecting and arranging, for the
benefit of the public at large, the results which they
have obtained. Nor need we wonder that critical
historians should rather abstain from the study of
the religions of antiquity than trust to free translations and second-hand authorities.
Under these circumstances we feel all the more
grateful if we meet with a writer like M . Barthélémy
Saint-Hilaire, who has acquired a knowledge of
Eastern languages sufficient to enable him to consult
original texts and to control the researches of other
scholars, and who at the same time commands that
wide view of the history of human thought which
enables him to assign to each system its proper place,
to perceive its most salient features, and to distinguish between what is really important and what is
not, in the lengthy lucubrations of ancient poets and
prophets. M . Barthélémy Saint-Hilaire is one of the
most accomplished scholars of France ; and his reputation as the translator of Aristotle has made us
almost forget that the Professor of Greek philosophy
at the Collège de France 1 is the same as the active
writer in the ‘ Globe ’ of 1827, and the ‘ National 9 of
1830 ; the same who signed the protest against the
July ‘ ordonnances,' and who in 1848 was Chief
Secretary of the Provisional Government. If such a
man takes the trouble to acquire a knowledge of
Sanskrit, and to attend in the same College where
he was professor the lectures of his colleague, the
late Eugene Burnouf, his publications on Hindu
philosophy and religion will naturally attract a large
amount of public interest. The Sanskrit scholar by
profession works and publishes chiefly for the benefit
1 M . Barthélémy St.-Hilaire resigned the Chair of Greek Literature at the Collège de France after the coup cÛétat of 1851, declining
to take the oath of allegiance to the Imperial Government.
of other Sanskrit scholars. He is satisfied with
bringing to light the ore which he has extracted by
patient labour from among the dusty MSS. of the
East-India House. He seldom takes the trouble to
separate the metal from the ore, to purify or to strike
it into current coin. He is but too often apt to forget
that no lasting addition is ever made to the treasury
of human knowledge unless the results of special research are translated into the universal language of
science, and rendered available to every person of
intellect and education. A division of labour seems
most conducive to this end. We want a class of
interpreters, men such as M . Barthélémy SaintHilaire, who are fully competent to follow and to
control the researches of professional students, and
who at the same time have not forgotten the language of the world.
In his work on Buddhism, of which a second
edition has just appeared, M . Barthélémy SaintHilaire has undertaken to give to the world at large
the really trustworthy and important results which
have been obtained by the laborious researches of
Oriental scholars, from the original documents of
that interesting and still mysterious religion. It was
a task of no ordinary difficulty, for although these
researches are of very recent date, and belong to a
period of Sanskrit scholarship posterior to Sir W .
Jones and Colebrooke, yet such is the amount of
evidence brought together by the combined industry
of Hodgson, Turnour, Csoma de Körös, Stanislas
Julien, Foucaux, Fausböll, Spence Hardy, but above
all, of the late Eugène Burnouf, that it required no
common patience and discrimination to compose
from such materials so accurate, and at the same
time so lucid and readable a book on Buddhism as
that which we owe to M . Barthélémy Saint-Hilaire.
The greater part of it appeared originally in the
‘Journal des Savants,’ the time-honoured organ of
the French Academy, which counts on its staff the
names of Cousin, Flourens, Villemain, Biot, Mignet,
Littré, &c., and admits as contributors sixteen only
of the most illustrious members of that illustrious
body, la creme de la creme.
Though much had been said and written about
Buddhism—enough to frighten priests by seeing
themselves anticipated in auricular confession, beads,
and tonsure by the Lamas of Tibet,1 and to disconcert
philosophers by finding themselves outbid in positivism and nihilism by the inmates of Chinese monasteries—the real beginning of an historical and critical
study of the doctrines of Buddha dates from the year
1824. In that year Mr. Hodgson announced the
faet that the original documents of the Buddhist
canon had been preserved in Sanskrit in the monasteries of Nepal. Before that time our informa1 The late Abbé Hue pointed out the similarities between the
Buddhist and Roman Catholic ceremonials with such naivete that,
to his surprise, he found his delightful Travels in Tibet placed on
the Index. ' On ne peut s'smpêcher d'être frappé; he writes, ' de
leur rapport avec le Catholicisme. La crosse, la mitre, la dalmatique, la chape ou le pluvial, que les grands Lamas portent en voyage,
ou lorsqu'ils font quelque cérémonie hors du temple ; l'office à deux
chœurs, la psalmodie, les exorcismes, l'encensoir soutenu par cinq
chaines, et pouvant s'ouvrir et se fermer à volonté ; les bénédictions
données par les Lamas en étendant la main droite sur la tête des
fidèles ; le chapelet, le célibat ecclésiastique, les retraites spirituelles,
le culte des saints, les jeûnes, les processions, les litanies, Peau
bénite ; voilà autant de rapports que les Bouddhistes ont avec nous.'
He might have added tonsure, relics, and confession.
tion on Buddhism had been derived at random
from China, Japan, Burmah, Tibet, Mongolia, and
Tatary; and though it was known that the Buddhist literature in all these countries professed itself
to be derived, directly or indirectly, from India, and
that the technical terms of that religion, not excepting
the very name of Buddha, had their etymology in
Sanskrit only, no hope was entertained that the
originals of these various translations could ever be
recovered. Mr. Hodgson, who settled in Nepal in
1821, as political resident of the East-India Company,
and whose eyes were always open, not only to the
natural history of that little-explored country, but
likewise to its antiquities, its languages, and traditions, was not long before he discovered that his
friends the priests of Nepal possessed a complete
literature of their own. That literature was not
written in the spoken dialects of the country, but in
Sanskrit. Mr . Hodgson procured a catalogue of all
the works, still in existence, which formed the Buddhist canon. He afterwards succeeded in acquiring
copies of many of these works, and he was able in
1824 to send about sixty volumes to the Asiatic
Society of Bengal. As no member of that society
seemed inclined to devote himself to the study of
these MSS., Mr. Hodgson sent two complete collections of the same MSS. to the Asiatic Society of
London and the Société Asiatique of Paris. Before
alluding to the brilliant results which the last-named
collection produced in the hands of Eugène Burnouf
we must mention the labours of other students, which
preceded the publication of Burnoufs researches.
Mr. Hodgson him¾elf gave to the world a number
of valuable essays written on the spot, and afterwards
collected under the title of ‘ Illustrations of the Literature and Religion of the Buddhists’ (Serampore, 1841).’
He established the important fact, in accordance with
the traditions of the priests of Nepal, that some of the
Sanskrit documents which he recovered had existed
in the monasteries of Nepal ever since the second
century of our era,
The Buddhists of Nepal assert that the original
body of the scriptures amounted to 84,000 volumes.
The same tradition exists in the south, but was meant
originally for 84,000 topics or paragraphs, not books*
They are called Dhammakkandha in Pâli, of which
82,000 are ascribed to Buddha himself, and 2,000
to the Bhikshus. What corresponds among the
Northern to the Tripitaka of the Southern Buddhists are the nine Dharmas, though it is difficult to
understand why those nine works should have been
selected from the bulk of the Buddhist literature of
Nepal, and why divine worship should have been
offered to them.2
Mr. Hodgson showed that the whole of that collection had, five or six hundred years later, when
Buddhism became definitely established in Tibet,
been translated into the language of that country.
As the art of printing had been introduced from
China into Tibet, there was less difficulty in procuring complete copies of the Tibetan translation
of the Buddhist canon. The real difficulty was tofind a person acquainted with the language. By a
fortunate concurrence of circumstances, however, i t
1 Essays on the Languages, Literature, and ReUgion of Nepal and
Tibet, by B. H . Hodgson (London, 1874),
2 Hodgson, Essays, pp. 13, 49 ; and infra, p. 183.
so happened that about the same time when Mr*
Hodgson's discoveries began to attract the attention
of Oriental scholars at Calcutta, a Hungarian, of the
name of Alexander Csoma de Körös, arrived there.
He had made his*way from Hungary to Tibet on foot,
without any means of his own, and with the sole
object of discovering somewhere in Central Asia the
native home of the Hungarians. Arrived in Tibet,,
his enthusiasm found a new vent in acquiring a language which no European before his time had
mastered, and in exploring the vast collection of the
canonical books of the Buddhists, preserved in that
language. Though he arrived at Calcutta almost
without a penny, he met with a hearty welcome from
the members of the Asiatic Society, and was enabled
with their assistance to publish the results of his extraordinary researches. People have complained of
the length of the sacred books of other nations, but
there are none that approach in bulk to the sacred
canon of the Tibetans. It consists of two collections^
commonly called the Kanjur and Tanjur. The proper
spelling of these names is Bkah-hgyur, pronounced
Kan-gyur, and Bstan-hgyur, pronounced Tan-gyur.
The Kanjur consists, in its different editions, of 100,
102, or 108 volumes folio. It comprises 1,083 distinct
works.’ The Tanjur consists of 225 volumes folio,
each weighing from four to five pounds in the edition
of Peking. The Kanjur—i.e. translation of the words
(of Buddha)—is sometimes called Denotsum—i.e. ‘the
three great divisions.’ evidently in imitation of the
three baskets or Pitakas of the Southern Buddhists.
The translation dates from the eighth century, and
was finished during the ninth, though in its present
1 Köppen, Religion des Buddha, i i . p. 279.
form the whole collection may not be older than the
beginning of the last century.’ It consists of seven
parts :—
1. Dulva : that is, Vinaya or discipline.
2. Sher chin : that is, Pragñâ pâramitâ.
3. Phal chen : that is, association of Buddhas (?).
4. Kontsegs : that is, Ratnakûta.
5. Dode : that is, Sûtras.
6. Nyangde : that is. Nirvana.
7. Jud : that is, Tantras.2
The Tanjur, corresponding to the Atthakathâs
or commentaries of the Southern Buddhists, consists
of miscellaneous works serving to illustrate the doc­
trines of Buddha. It consists of two divisions :—
1. Gyud, 2,640 works in 88 volumes.
2. Do, Sûtras, in 137 volumes, containing treatises on
theology, philosophy, logic, grammar, rhetoric, poetry,
prosody, medicine, ethics, &c. Even translations of
such works as the Meghadûta and Amara Kosha were
admitted into this collection.
Editions of the Kanjur were printed at Peking,
Lhassa, and other places. The edition of the Kanjur
published at Peking, by command of the Emperor
Khian­Lung, sold for 63Ol. A copy of the Kanjur
was bartered for 7000 oxen by the Buriates, and the
same tribe paid 12,000 silver roubles for a complete
copy of the Kanjur and Tanjur together.3 The
Tanjur is said to have been published for the first
time in 1728 to 1746. Both the Kanjur and Tanjur
1 Schlagintweit, Buddhismus in Tibet, p. 79.
2 Koppen, Religion des Buddha, ü. p. 280.
8 Ibid. i i . p. 282. SchlagintweiI. l.c., p. 81, mentions 2000ī as
the sum paid by Buriates and Kalmuks for a copy of the Kanjur and
have been translated into Chinese, Mongolian, and
Such a jungle of religious literature—the most
excellent hiding-place, we should think, for Lamas
and Dalai-Lamas—was too much even for a man who
could travel on foot from Hungary to Tibet. The
Hungarian enthusiast, however, • though he did not
translate the whole, gave a most valuable analysis of
this immense bible, in the twentieth volume of the
‘Asiatic Researches,’ sufficient to establish the fact
that the principal portion of it was a translation from
the same Sanskrit originals which had been discovered
in Nepal by Mr. Hodgson. Csoma de Körös died in
1842, soon after he had given to the world the first
fruits of his labours—a victim to his heroic devotion
to the study of ancient languages and religions.
It was another fortunate coincidence that, contemporaneously with the discoveries of Hodgson and
Csoma de Körös, another scholar, Schmidt of St.
Petersburg, had so far advanced in the study of the
Mongolian language as to be able to translate
portions of the Mongolian version of the Buddhist
canon, and thus forward the elucidation of some of
the problems connected with the religion of Buddha.
It never rains but it pours. Whereas for years?
nay, for centuries, not a single original document
of the Buddhist religion had been accessible to the
scholars of Europe, we witness in the small space
of ten years, the recovery of four complete Buddhist
literatures. In addition to the discoveries of Hodgson in Nepal, of Csoma de Körös in Tibet, and of
Schmidt in Mongolia, the Honourable George Turnour suddenly presented to the world the Buddhist
literature of Ceylon, composed in the sacred language of that island, the ancient Pâli. The existence
of that literature had been known before. Since
1826 Sir Alexander Johnston had been engaged in
collecting authentic copies of the Mahâvansa‚ the
Râgâvalî‚ and the Râgaratnâkarî. These copies
were translated at his suggestion from Pâli into
modern Singhalese and thence into English. The
publication was entrusted to Mr. Edward Upham,
and the work appeared in 1833, under the title of
Sacred and Historical Works of Ceylon,’ dedicated
to William IV. Unfortunately, whether through
fraud or through misunderstanding, the priests who
were to have procured an authentic copy of the
Pâli originals and translated them into the vernacular language, appear to have formed a compilation
of their own from various sources. The official translators by whom this mutilated Singhalese abridgment
was to have been rendered into English, took still
greater liberties ; and the ‘ Sacred and Historical
Books of Ceylon ’ had hardly been published before
Burnouf, then a mere beginner in the study of
Pâli, was able to prove the utter uselessness of that
translation. Mr. Turnour, however, soon made up
for this disappointment. He set to work in a more
scholarlike spirit, and, after acquiring himself some
knowledge of the Pâli language, he published several
important essays on the Buddhist canon, as preserved
in Ceylon. These were followed by an edition
and translation of the Mahâvansa, or the history of
Ceylon, written by Mahânâma in the fifth century
after Christ, and giving an account of the island from
the earliest times to the beginning of the fourth cenBUDDHISM. 175
tury A . D . 1 Several continuations of that history are
in existence, but Mr. Turnour was prevented by an
early death from continuing his edition beyond the
thirty-eighth chapter of that chronicle.2 The exploration of the Ceylonese literature has since been
taken up again by the Rev. D. J . Gogerly (died 1862),
whose essays are unfortunately scattered about in
Singhalese periodicals and little known in Europe; and
by the Rev. Spence Hardy, for twenty years Wesleyan
Missionary in Ceylon. His two works, ‘Eastern
Monachism9 and ‘ Manual of Buddhism,’ are full of
interesting matter, but as they are chiefly derived
from Singhalese, and even more modern, sources, they
require to be used with caution.’
In the same manner as the Sanskrit originals of
Nepal were translated by Buddhist missionaries into
Tibetan, Mongolian, and, as we shall soon see, into
Chinese and Mandshu,4 the Pâli originals of Ceylon
were carried to Burmah and Siam, and translated
there into the languages of those countries. Hardly
anything has as yet been done for exploring the
language and literature of these two countries, which
open a promising field for any one ambitious to follow
in the footsteps of Hodgson, Csoma, and Tumour.
1 The original text seems to have broken off with the death of
Mahâsena in 302 A.D. , or with the forty-eighth verse of the thirtyseventh chapter. Whether the end of that chapter, and the next, the
thirty-eighth chapter, carrying on the history to 477 A.D. , can be ascribed to Mahânâma is doubtful.
2 From the thirty-seventh chapter the text*has been edited with a
Singhalese translation and glossary by H . Sumangala,'High-priest of
Adam's Peak, and Don Andris de Silva Batuwantudawa (Colombo,
1877, two vols.).
8 The same author has lately published another valuable work,
The Legends and Theories of the Buddhists (London, 1866). He
died in'l868.
4 Mélanges Asiatiques, vol. i i . p. 373.
A very important collection of Buddhist MSS. has
lately been brought from Ceylon to Europe by M .
Grimblot, and is now deposited in the Imperial
Library at Paris. This collection, to judge from a
report published in 1866 in the ‘ Journal des Savants *
by M . Barthélémy Saint-Hilaire, consists of no less
than eighty-seven works ; and, as some of them are
represented by more than one copy, the total number of MSS. amounts to one hundred and twenty-one.
They fill altogether 14,000 palm leaves, and are written partly in Singhalese, partly in Burmese characters. Next to Ceylon, Burmah and Siam would seem
to be the two countries most likely to yield large
collections of Pâli MSS., and the MSS. which now
exist in Ceylon may, to a considerable extent, be
traced back to these two countries. A t the beginning
of the sixteenth century, the Tamil conquerors of
Ceylon are reported to have burnt every Buddhist
book they could discover, in the hope of thus destroying the vitality of that detested religion. Buddhism,
however, though persecuted—or, more probably, because persecuted—remained the national religion of
the island, and in the eighteenth century it had
recovered its former ascendency. Missions were then
sent to Siam to procure authentic copies of the sacred
documents ; priests properly ordained were imported
from Burmah ; and several libraries, which contain
both the canonical and the profane literature of
Buddhism, were founded at Dadala, Ambagapitya,
and other places.
The sacred canon of the Southern Buddhists is
called the T r i p i t a k a , i.e. the three baskets. The
first basket contains all that has reference to morBUDDHISM. 177
ality, more particularly the duties of the priesthood,
or V i n a y a ; the second contains the Sut ta s or
S û t r a s , i.e. the discourses of Buddha; the third
includes all works treating of Abhidhamma or
Abhidharma, dogmatic philosophy or metaphysics.
The second and third baskets were originally com­
prehended under the general name of D h arm a, or
law; and before the title of T r i p i t a k a was intro­
duced the usual names for the doctrine of Buddha
were Dhamma, Dhammavinaya, or Sutta and
Vinaya.’ The first and second pi takas contain each
five separate works ; the third contains seven.
I. V i n a y a p i t a k a :
1. P â r â g i k â , sins involving expulsion,
2. P â k i t t i y â , sins involving penance,
3. M a h â v a g g a , the large chapter,
4. Kûlavagga‚ the small chapter,
5. P a r i v â r a p â t h a , the appendix or resume.
Vibhaṅga .’
Khandhaka. 3
II. Sut ta­p i taka :
1. D î g h a ­ n i k â y a , collection of long Suttas (34),4
2. M a g g h i m a ­ n i k â y a ‚ collection of middle Suttas (152),
3. S a r n y u t t a ­ n i k â y a , collection of joined Suttas (7762),
4. A ṅ g u t t a r a ­ n i k â y a , miscellaneous Suttas (9550 or
5. K h u d d a k a ­ n i k a y a , collection of short Suttas, con­
sisting of—
(1) K h u d d a k a ­ p a t h a , the small text,5
1 Mahâparinibbâna­sutta, ed. by Childers, J.R.A.S., 1876,
pp. 348, 1. 21, 25 ; p. 229, 1. 7. Feer, Journ. Asiat., 1870, p. 359.
2 See Ohlenberg, vinaya, i . p. xvi., who shows that it is an ex­
tended reading of Pâtimokkha. 8 Edited by Ohlenberg.
4 The Mahâparinibbâna­sutta, ed. by Childers, J.R.A.S., 1876 ;
translated by Rhys Davids, S.B.E. Sept Suttas^Palis, par Grimblot,
Paris, 1876.
* Published by Childers, J.R.A.S., 1869.
(2) D h a m m a p a d a , Law­verses,1
(3) U d â n a , praise (82),
(4) I t i v u t t a k a , stories,
(5) S u t t a n i p â t a ‚ 70 Suttas,2
(6) V i m â n a v a t t h u , stories of celestial palaces,
(7) P e t a v a t t h u , stories of departed spirits,
(8) T h e r a g â t h â , stanzas of priests,
(9) T h er î g â t h â, stanzas oí nuns,
(10) Câtaka, former births (550 tales),3
(11) N i d d e s a , explanations by Sâriputta of thirty­
three slokas of the last two vaggas of the
Suttanipâta—viz. Kâmasut ta (iv. 1) and Khag­
gavisana­sutta (i . 3).
(12) P a t i s a m b h i d â magga , the road of intuitive
(13) A p a d â n a , legends,4
(14) B u d d h a v a m s a . ’ story of the twenty­four pre­
ceding Buddhas and of Gotama,
(15) Kariyâpitaka,4 Buddha's meritorious actions. 5
The first four Nikâyas are sometimes quoted together
as the Four Nikâyas, the five as the Five Nikâyas. They
represent the Dhamma as settled at the first and second
Councils, described in the Kullavagga (Oldenberg, i . p. xi.).
III. Abhidhammapi taka :
1. D h a m m a s a ṅ g a n i (or saṅgaha) , enumeration of
conditions of life, 6
2. V i b h a ṅ g a , disquisitions,
3. K a t h â v a t t h u p a k a r a n a , book of subjects for dis­
cussion (1000 suttas),
1 Published by Fausböll ; translated by M. M. in S.B.E.
2 Thirty translated by Coomara Svamy ; the whole by Fausböll.
8 Published by Fausböll, translated by Rhys Davids.
4 Buddhaghosha leaves it uncertain whether these were recited
at the first Council.
5 Partly translated by Gogerly, J.A.S., Ceylon, 1852.
8 Gogerly, J.A.S., Ceylon, 1848, p. 7.
4. P u g g a l a p a n ñ a t i or p a ñ ñ a t i , declaration for followers of Buddha,
5. D h â t u k a t h â , account of dhâtus or elements,
6. Y a m a k a , pairs, (ten divisions),
7. P a t t h â n a p a k a r a n a , book of causes.’
M . Grimblot has secured MSS. of nearly every
one of these works, and he has likewise brought
home copies of the famous commentaries of Buddhaghosha. These commentaries are of great importance ; for although Buddhaghosha lived as late as
430 A.D . , he is supposed to have been the translator
of more ancient commentaries, brought in 241
(307) B.o. to Ceylon from Magadha by Mahinda, the
son of Asoka, translated by him from Pâli into Singhalese, and retranslated by Buddhaghosha into Pâli,
the original language both of the canonical books and
of their commentaries. Whether historical criticism
will allow to the commentaries of Buddhaghosha the
authority due to documents of the third or even
fourth century before Christ is a question that has
1 Mr. Rhys Davids, though he does not wish to exaggerate the
bulk of the Buddhist canon in Pâli, estimates it as twice as large as
the Bible, adding that a translation of it would probably be four times
as long (Buddhism, i . p. 20). Spence Hardy (Eastern Monachism,
p. 172) states that the Pâli canon consists of 275,250 stanzas ; its commentary of 361,550 stanzas : each stanza reckoned at thirty-two
syllables. The vinaya-pičaka is said to contain 42,250 stanzas ; the
Sutta­pitaka, 142,250 (or 150,750) stanzas; the Abhidhamma­pitaka,
96,250 stanzas. This would give a total of 280,750 or 289,250, and
not, as according to the first estimate, 275,250 stanzas. The au­
thorised commentary is said to comprise 361,550 stanzas. But the
separate items—27,000 for vinaya, 254,250 for Sutta, 30,000 for
Abhidhamma—­would only give in all 207,750 stanzas. Toumour's
copy of the whole canon consisted of 4,500 leaves. Spence Hardy,
Eastern Monachism, p. 167. In Siam the translation of the Tripičaka
is said to consist of 3,683 volumes, forming 402 distinct works.
(Léon de Rosny, Variétés Orientales, p. 127.)
yet to be settled. But even as a collector of earlier
traditions and as a writer of the fifth century after
Christ, his authority would be considerable with re­
gard to the solution of some of the most important
problems of Indian history and chronology. Some
scholars who have written on the history of Buddh­
ism have clearly shown too strong an inclination to
treat the statements contained in the commentaries
of Buddhaghosha as purely historical, forgetting the
great interval of time by which he is separated from
the events which he relates. No doubt if it could
be proved that Buddhaghosha’s works were literal
translations of the so­called Atthakathâs or commen­
taries brought by Mahinda to Ceylon, and translated
by him into Singhalese, this would considerably
enhance their historical value. But the whole ac­
count of these translations rests on tradition,1 and
1 The precautions taken to secure a literal translation of the
Atthakathâ by Buddhaghosha remind us somewhat of the legend
connected with the work of the Seventy translators. ' Thereupon
Buddhaghosha, paying reverential respect to the priesthood, thus
petitioned : I am desirous of translating the Atthakathâ ; give me
access to all your books. The priesthood, for the purpose of testing
his qualifications, gave only two gâthâs, saying : Hence prove thy
qualification ; having satisfied ourselves on this point, we will then
let thee have all our books. From thence (taking these gâthâs for
his text), and consulting the Pirākattaya, together with the Attha­
kathâ, and condensing them into an abridged form, he composed
the commentary called the visuddhimagga. Thereupon, having
assembled the priesthood, who had acquired a thorough knowledge
of the doctrines of Buddha, at the Bo tree, he commenced to read
out (the work he had composed). The devatâs, in order that they
might make his (Buddaghosha's) gifts of wisdom celebrated among
men, rendered the book invisible. He, however, for a second and
third time recomposed it. When he was in the act of producing his
book for the third time, for the,, purpose of propounding it, the devatâs
restored the other two copies also. The assembled priests then read
out the three books simultaneously. In these three versions,
i f we consider the extraordinary precautions taken,
according to tradition, by the L X X translators of the
Old Testament, and then observe the discrepancies
between the chronology of the Septuagint and that of
the Hebrew text, we shall be better able to appreciate the risk of trusting to Oriental translations, even
to those that pretend to be literal. The idea of a
faithful literal translation seems altogether foreign
to Oriental minds. Granted that Mahinda translated
the original Pâli commentaries into Singhalese, there
was nothing to restrain him from inserting anything
that he thought likely to be useful to his new converts. Granted that Buddhaghosha translated these
translations back into Pâli, why should he not have
incorporated any facts that were then believed and
had been handed down by tradition from generation
to generation P Was he not at liberty—nay, would
he not have felt it his duty, to explain apparent
difficulties, to remove contradictions, and to correct
palpable mistakes ? In our time, when even the contemporaneous evidence of Herodotus, Thucydides,
Livy, or Jornandes is sifted by the most uncompromising scepticism, we must not expect a more merciful treatment for the annals of Buddhism. Scholars
engaged in special researches are too willing to
acquiesce in evidence, particularly if that evidence
has been discovered by their own efforts and comes
before them with all the charms of novelty. But, in
the broad daylight of historical criticism, the prestige
neither in signification, nor in a single misplacement by transposition, nay even in the thera controversies, and in the text (of the
Pitakattaya), was there in the measure of a verse, or in the letter
of a word, the slightest variation.
of such a witness as Buddhaghosha soon dwindles
away, and his statements as to kings and councils,
eight hundred years before his time, are in truth
worth no more than the stories told of Arthur by
Geoffrey of Monmouth, or the accounts we read in
Livy of the early history of Rome.
One of the most important works of M . Grimblot’s
collection, and one that we hope will soon be published, is a history of Buddhism in Ceylon, called the
Dîpavamsa.’ The only work of the same character
which has hitherto been known is the Mahâvamsa,
published by George Turnour. But this is professedly
based on the Dîpavamsa, and is probably of a later
date. Mahânâma, the compiler of the Mahâvamsa,
lived about 500 A.D. His work was continued by
later chroniclers to the middle of the eighteenth
century. Though Mahânâma wrote towards the end
of the fifth century after Christ, his own share of the
chronicle is supposed to have ended with the history
of the year 302 A.D. The commentary on his chronicle
breaks off likewise at that period. The exact date of
the Dîpavamsa is not yet known ; but as it also breaks
off with the death of Mâhasena in 302 A . D . , we cannot
ascribe to it, for the present, any higher authority
than could be commanded by a writer of the fourth
century after Christ.’
We now return to Mr. Hodgson. His collections
of Sanskrit MSS. had been sent, as we saw, to the
Asiatic Society of Calcutta from 1824 to 1839, to
1 The ' Dîpavamsa ' has since been published by Dr. Ohlenberg,,
with a translation (London, Williams and Norgate, 1879).
2 The fact that both chronicles were founded on the traditions of
the great Ceylonese monasteries, as shown by Dr. Ohlenberg, gives,
greater historical value to these works than was formerly supposed.
the Royal Asiatic Society in London in 1835, and
to the Société Asiatique of Paris in 1837. It is
more difficult to determine which of these works
should be treated as canonical, as the Northern
Buddhists themselves do not distinguish with the
same carefulness as the Southern Buddhists between
canonical and apocryphal books. Nine books are
often mentioned as the Nine Dharmas or the Nine
Purânas ; but there are other works of equal, i f not
of greater, authority, which cannot be excluded from
the Northern canon. The Nine Dharmas are :—
1. Pragñâpârarnitâ, in three editions, in 100,000, or
25,000, or 8,000 verses.
2‚ Gandavyûha, 12,000 slokas.
3. Dasabhûrnîsvara, 2,000 slokas, on the ten degrees of
perfection of a Buddha.
4. Samâdhirâga, 3‚000 slokas, on different kinds of
5. Lankâvatâra, 3,000 slokas, the good law as taught
i n Laṅkâ.
6. Suddharṃa­pundarîka, on the three vehicles being
really one. Translated by BurnouI.
7. Tathâgata­guhyaka, treatises on esoteric doctrines.
8. Lalita­vistara, 7,000 slokas ; life of Buddha. Pub­
lished by Râjendralal Mitra.
9. Suvarnaprabhâsa, 1,500 slokas ; two translations in
Tibetan—one from Chinese, another from Sanskrit.
Sanskrit text at Paris. See Burnouf's Introduction,
p, 529 seq.
Another account of the recognised literature of the
Mahâyâna school is found in the Guna­kârandavyûha
(MS. E. I .H . 22 E , p. 95, b). Here the sacred litera­
ture of the Northern Buddhists is arranged under
twelve different heads:—(1) Sutra, (2) Geya, (3)
Vyâkarana, (4) Gâthâ, (5) Udâna‚ (6) Nidâna‚ (7)
Avadâna, (8) Itivrittaka‚ or Ityukta‚ (9) Gâtaka‚ (10)
Vaipulya, (11) Adbhutadharma‚ (12) Upadesa.
This division according to subjects is all the
more important because it corresponds in the main
to the nine Aṅgas of the canon adopted by the
Southern Buddhists, viz. :—
1. Sntta, comprehending the two Vibhaṅgas, Niddesa,
Khandhaka, Parivâra, Mangala, Ratana, Nâlaka‚
Tuvataka (these four from Suttanipâta) , and all that
is called Sutta.
2. Geyya, i.e. prose suttas mixed with verse—as, for
instance, in the Samyuttaka the whole of the Sagâ–
thaka vagga.
3. veyyâkarana‚ i.e. the whole Abhidhamma, except tho
gâthâ­suttas, and all that is not comprehended under
the other eight divisions.
4. Gâthâ, i.e. Dhammapada, Theragâthâ, Therîgâthâ,
all that is not called su t t a i n the Sutta–nipâta, and
also single g â t h â s . A g â t h â may contain geyas ,
5. Udâna, i.e. 82 suttas, containing hymns of joy, etc.
6. Itivuttaka, i.e. 110 suttas, beginning with an appeal
to Buddha's words, saying: vuttamh' etaniBhagāvatâ.
7. Gâtaka, 550 stories of the former births of Buddha.
8. Adbhutadhamma, miraculous stories.
9. vedalla, suttas, such as Kûlavedalla, Mahâvedalla,
Sammâditthi, Sakkapamha, Samkhâra­bhâganîya,
Mahâpuññatâ, and others, bringing knowledge,
happiness, etc.’
But though Mr. Hodgson sent these and many
more books which he had discovered in Nepal to
Europe, his treasures remained dormant at Calcutta
1 Cf. Spence Hardy, Eastern Monachism, p. 166 se^. ; S. Beal,
Wong Puh, p. 45 ; Hodgson, Essays, p. 14. Academy, Aug. 28 1880.
B U D D H I S M . 185
and in London. At Paris, however, these Buddhist
MSS. fell into the hands of Burnouf. Unappalled by
their size and tediousness, he set to work, and was
not long before he discovered their extreme importance. After seven years of careful study, Burnouf
published, in 1844, his ‘ Introduction à l'Histoire du
Buddhisme.’ It is this work which laid the foundation for a systematic study of the religion of Buddha.
Though acknowledging the great value of the researches made in the Buddhist literatures of Tibet,
Mongolia, China, and Ceylon, Burnouf showed that
Buddhism, being of Indian origin, ought to be studied
first of all in the original Sanskrit documents, preserved in Nepal. Though he modestly called his
work an Introduction to the History of Buddhism,
there are few points of importance on which his
industry has not brought together the most valuable
evidence, and his genius shed a novel and brilliant
light. The death of Burnouf in 1851 put an end to
a work which, if finished according to the plan
sketched out by the author in the preface, would have
been the most perfect monument of Oriental scholarship. A volume published after his death, in 1852,
contains a translation of one of the canonical books
of Nepal, with notes and appendices, the latter full
of the most valuable information on some of the more
intricate questions of Buddhism. Though much remained to be done, and though a very small breach
only had been made in the vast pile of Sanskrit MSS.
presented by Mr. Hodgson to the Asiatic Societies of
Paris and London, no one has been bold enough to
continue what Bumouf left unfinished. The only
important additions to our knowledge of Buddhism
since his death are an edition of the Lalita-Vistara,
or the Life of Buddha, prepared by a native, the
learned Babu Rajendralal Mitra ; an edition of the
Pâli original of the Dhammapada, by Dr. Fausböll,
a Dane ; 1 and last, not least, the excellent translation
by M . Stanislas Julien, of the life and travels of
Hiouen-Thsang. This Chinese pilgrim had visited
India from 629 to 645 A.D. for the purpose of learning • Sanskrit, and translating from Sanskrit into
Chinese some important works on the religion and
philosophy of the Buddhists ; and his account of the
geography, the social, religious, and political state
of India at the beginning of the seventh century is
invaluable for studying the practical working of that
religion at a time when its influence began to decline,
and when it was soon to be supplanted by modern
Brahmanism and Mohammedanism.
It was no easy task for M . Barthélémy SaintHilaire to make himself acquainted with all these
works. The study of Buddhism would almost seem
to be beyond the power of any single individual, i f i t
required a practical acquaintance with all the languages in which the doctrines of Buddha have been
written down. Burnouf was probably the only man
who, in addition to his knowledge of Sanskrit, did
not shrink from acquiring a practical knowledge of
Tibetan, Pâli, Singhalese, and Burmese, in order to
prepare himself for such a task. The same scholar
had shown, however, that though it was impossible
1 In the Annual Report of the Philological Society for 1875 Mr.
Rhys Davids has given a full account of the work accomplished to
that date in the publication of Pâli texts, and of dictionaries or
grammars of the Pâli language.
for a Tibetan, Mongolian, or Chinese scholar to
arrive, without a knowledge of Sanskrit, at a correct
understanding of the doctrines of Buddha, a knowledge of Sanskrit or Pâli was sufficient for entering
into their spirit, for comprehending their origin and
growth in India, and their modification in the different countries where they took root in later times.
Assisted by his familiarity with Sanskrit, and bringing into the field, as a new and valuable auxiliary,
his intimate acquaintance with nearly all the systems
of philosophy and religion of both the ancient and
modern worlds, M . Barthélémy Saint-Hilaire has
succeeded in drawing a picture, both lively and correct, of the origin, the character, the strong as well
as weak points, of the religion of Buddha. He has
become the first historian of Buddhism. He has not
been carried away by a temptation which must have
been great for one who is able to read in the past the
lessons for the present or the future. He has not
used Buddhism either as a bugbear or as a beau
idéal. He is satisfied with stating in his preface
that many lessons might be learned by modern
philosophers from a study of Buddhism, but in the
body of the work he never perverts the chair of the
historian into the pulpit of the preacher.
‘ This book may offer one other advantage,’ he
writes, ‘ and I regret to say that at present it may
seem to come opportunely. It is the misfortune
of our times that the same doctrines which form
the foundation of Buddhism meet at the hands of
some of our philosophers with a favour which they
i l l deserve. For some years we have seen systems
arising in which metempsychosis and transmigration
are highly spoken of, and attempts are made to
explain the world and man without either a God
or a Providence, exactly as Buddha did. A future
life is refused to the yearnings of mankind, and the
immortality of the soul is replaced by the immortality of works. God is dethroned, and in His
place they substitute man, the only being, we are
told, in which the Infinite becomes conscious of
itself. These theories are recommended to us sometimes in the name of science, or of history, or philosophy, or even of metaphysics ; and though they are
neither new nor very original, yet they can do much
injury to feeble hearts. This is not the place to
examine these theories, and their authors are both
too learned and too sincere to deserve to be condemned summarily and without discussion. But
it is well that they should know by the example,
too little known, of Buddhism, what becomes of
man if he depends on himself alone, and if his
meditations, misled by a pride of which he is hardly
conscious, bring him to the precipice where Buddha
was lost. I am well aware of all the differences, and
I am not going to insult our contemporary philosophers by confounding them indiscriminately with
Buddha, although addressing to both the same reproof. I acknowledge willingly all their additional
merits, which are considerable. But systems of philosophy must always be judged by the conclusions to
which they lead, whatever road they may follow in
reaching them; and their conclusions, though obtained by different means, are not therefore less objectionable. Buddha arrived at his conclusions 2,400
years ago. He proclaimed and practised them with
an energy which is not likely to be surpassed, even if
it be equalled. He displayed a childlike intrepidity
which no one can exceed, nor can it be supposed that
any system in our days could again acquire so powerful an ascendency over the souls of men. It would
be useful, however, i f the authors of these modern
systems would just cast a glance at the theories
and destinies of Buddhism. It is not philosophy
in the sense in which we understand this great
name, nor is it religion in the sense of ancient paganism, of Christianity, or of Mohammedanism ; but
it contains elements of all worked up into a perfectly
independent doctrine which acknowledges nothing
in the universe but man, and obstinately refuses
to recognise anything else, though confounding man
with nature in the midst of which he lives. Hence
all those aberrations of Buddhism which ought to be
a warning to others. Unfortunately, if people rarely
profit by their own faults, they profit yet more rarely
by the faults of others.’ (Introduction, p. vii.)
But though M . Barthélémy Saint-Hilaire does not
write history merely for the sake of those masked
batteries which French writers have used with so
much skill at all times, but more particularly during
the late years of Imperial sway, it is clear, from the
remarks just quoted, that our author is not satisfied
with simply chronicling the dry facts of Buddhism,
or turning into French the tedious discourses of its
founder. His work is an animated sketch, giving
too little rather than too much. It is just the book
which was wanted to dispel the erroneous notions
about Buddhism which are still current among educated men, and to excite an interest which may lead
190 B U D D H I S M .
those who are naturally frightened by the appalling
proportions of Buddhist literature, and the uncouth
sounds of Buddhist terminology, to a study of the
quartos of Burnouf, Turnour, and others. To those
who may wish for more detailed information on
Buddhism than could be given by M . Barthélémy
Saint-Hilaire consistently with the plan of his work,
we can strongly recommend the work of a German
writer, ‘Die Religion des Buddha,’ von Koppen
(Berlin, 1857). It is founded on the same materials
as the French work, but being written by a scholar
and for scholars, it enters on a more minute examination of all that has been said or written on Buddha
and Buddhism. In a second volume the same learned
and industrious student has lately published a history
of Buddhism in Tibet.
M . Barthélémy Saint-Hilaire’s work is divided into
three portions. The first contains an account of the
origin of Buddhism, a life of Buddha, and an examination of Buddhist ethics and metaphysics. In the
second he describes the state of Buddhism in India
in the seventh century of our era, from the materials
supplied by the travels of Hiouen-Thsang. The
third gives a description of Buddhism as actually
existing in Ceylon, and as lately described by an
eye-witness, the Rev. Spence Hardy. We shall
confine ourselves chiefly to the first part, which
treats of the life and teaching of Buddha.
M . Barthélémy Saint-Hilaire, following the example of Burnouf, Lassen, and Wilson, accepts the
date of the Ceylonese era 543 B . C . as the date of
Buddha’s death. Though we cannot enter here
into long chronological discussions, we must remark,
B U D D H I S M . 191
that this date was clearly obtained by the Bud­
dhists of Ceylon by calculation, not by historical
tradition, and that it is easy to point out in that
calculation a mistake of sixty­six years. The more
plausible date of Buddha’s death is 477 B . C . For
the purposes, however, which M . Barthélémy Saint­
Hilaire had in view, this difference is of small im­
portance. We know so little of the history of India
during the sixth and fifth centuries B . C . , that the
stage on which he represents Buddha as preaching
and teaching would have had very much the same
background, the same costume and accessories, for
the sixth as for the fifth century B . C .
In the life of Buddha, which extends from p. 1
to p. 79, M . Barthélémy Saint­Hilaire follows almost
exclusively the Lalita­Vistara. This is one of the
most popular works of the Buddhists. It forms
part of the Northern Buddhist canon; and as we
know of a translation into Chinese, which M . Stan­
islas Julien ascribes to the year 76 A . D . , 1 we may
safely refer its original composition to an ante­Chris­
tian date. It has been published in Sanskrit by
Babu Rajendralal Mitra, and we owe to M . Foucaux
an edition of the same work in its Tibetan translation,
one of the first Tibetan texts printed in Europe. From
1 The first translation of the Life of Buddha, ascribed to Kâsyapa
Mâtanga and Kiifalan, is lost, and we cannot tell, therefore, how
far it was really a translation of our text of the Lalita­vistara. The
title, Fo­pen­King, Sutra of the acts of Buddha, seems to belong to
Asvaghosha's Buddhaharita, a work in verse, while Fang­teng means
' expanded copy,' or vaipulya text. A Life of Buddha, as given in
the vinaya­Pičaka, was translated into Chinese under the Sang dyn­
asty, 420­470. The earliest translation of a Life of Buddha now
known to exist is the Sian­hing­pen­k'i­king by two Shamans of the
After­Han dynasty, about 190 A . D . (Beal).
specimens that we have seen, we should think it
would be highly desirable to have an accurate translation of the Chinese text, such as M . Stanislas
Julien alone is able to give us.’ Few people, however, except scholars, would have the patience to
read this work either in its English or French translation, as may be seen from the following specimen, containing the beginning of Babu Rajendralal
Mitra’s version2 :—
‘ Om ! Salutation to all Buddhas, Bodhisattvas‚
Âryas, Srâvakas, and Pratyeka-Buddhas of all times,
past, present, and future, who are adored throughout
1 The advantage to be derived from these Chinese translations
has been pointed out by M . Stanislas Julien. The analytical
structure of that language imparts to Chinese translations the
character almost of a gloss ; and though we need not follow implicitly the interpretations of the Sanskrit originals adopted by the
Chinese translators, still their antiquity would naturally impart to
them a considerable value and interest. The following specimens
were kindly communicated to me by M. Stanislas Julien :
'Je ne sais si je vous ai communiqué autrefois les curieux
passages qui suivent : on lit dans le Lotus français, p. 271, I. 14,
C'est que c'est une chose difficile à rencontrer que la naissance d'un
bouddha, aussi difficile à rencontrer que la fleur de l'Udumbara,
que l'introduction du col d'une tortue dans l'ouverture d'un joug
formé par le grand océan.
' I l y a en chinois : un bouddha est difficile à rencontrer, comme
les fleurs Udumbara et Palâça; et en outre comme si une tortue
borgne voulait rencontrer un trou dans un bois flottant (litt, le trou
d'un bois flottant).
'Lotus français, p. 39, I. 110: (les créatures) enchaînées parla
concupiscence comme par la queue du Yak, perpétuellement
aveuglées en ce monde par les désirs, elles ne cherchent pas le
' I l y a en chinois : Profondément attachées aux cinq désirs—
Elles les aiment comme le Yak aime sa queue. Par la concupiscence et l'amour, elles s'aveuglent elles-mêmes, etc.'
2 This version is far from correct, but as the text itself requires
critical treatment, I have left it unaltered, adding only a few notes,
to prevent serious misapprehensions.
the farthest limits of the ten quarters of the globe.
Thus hath it been heard by me, that once on a time
Bhagavat sojourned in the garden of Anâthapindada,
at Getavana, in Srâvastî, accompanied by a venerable
body of 12,000 Bhikshukas. There likewise accompanied him 32,000 Bodhisattvas, all linked together
by unity of caste,1 and perfect in the virtues of pârami tâ ; who had made their command over Bodhisattva knowledge a pastime, were illumined with the
light of Bodhisattva dhâranîs, and were masters of
the dhâranîs themselves ; who were profound in their
meditations, all submissive to the lord of Bodhisattvas,2 and possessed absolute control over samâdhi;
great in self-command, refulgent in Bodhisattva forbearance, and replete with the Bodhisattva element
of perfection.3 Now then, Bhagavat, arriving in the
great city of Srâvastî, sojourned therein, respected,
venerated, revered, and adored by the fourfold congregations, by kings, princes, their counsellers, prime
ministers, and followers ; by retinues of kshatriyas,
brâhmanas, householders, and ministers ; by citizens, foreigners, srâmanas, brâhmanas, recluses, and
ascetics ; and although regaled with all sorts of
edibles and sauces, the best that could be prepared
by purveyors, and supplied with cleanly mendicant
apparel, begging pots, couches, and pain-assuaging
medicaments, the benevolent lord, on whom had
been 'showered the prime of gifts and applauses,
remained unattached to them all, like water on a
1 A l l restricted to one birth only.
2 Having approached all the high knowledge (p r a t i s a m v i d) of
8 Having completed all the steps of a Bodhisattva.
lotus leaf; and the report of his greatness as the
venerable, the absolute Buddha, the learned and
well-behaved, the god of happy exit, the great
knower of worlds, the valiant,1 the all-controlling
charioteer.’ the teacher of gods and men, the quinocular lord Buddha fully manifest spread far and
wide in the world. And Bhagavat, having by his
own power acquired all knowledge regarding this
world and the next, comprising devas, mâras, brâhmyas (followers of Brahmâ), srâmanas, and brâhmanas,
as subjects, that is both gods and men, sojourned
here, imparting instructions in the true religion, and
expounding the principles of a brahmakarya, full
and complete in its nature, holy in its import, pure
and immaculate in its character, auspicious in its
beginning, auspicious its middle, auspicious its end.’
The whole work is written in a similar style, and
where fact and legend, prose and poetry, sense and
nonsense, are so mixed together, the plan adopted
by M . Barthélémy Saint-Hilaire‚ of making two lives
out of one, the one containing all that seems possible,
the other what seems impossible, would naturally
recommend itself. It is not a safe process, however,
to distil history out of legend by simply straining
the legendary through the sieve of physical possibility. Many things are possible, and may yet be
the mere inventions of later writers, and many
things which sound impossible have been reclaimed
as historical, after removing from them the thin film
1 Anut ta rah, without a superior, unrivalled.
2 P u r u s h a d a m y a s â r a t h i = p u r i s a d a m m a s â r a t h i , leader
or driver of men who have to be broken in or tamed. See Childers, s.v.
of mythological phraseology. We believe that the
only use which the historian can safely make of the
Lalita-Vistara is to employ it, not as evidence of
facts which actually happened, but in illustration of
the popular belief prevalent at the time when it was
composed or committed to writing. Without, therefore, adopting the division of fact and fiction in the
life of Buddha, as attempted by M . Barthélémy
Saint-Hilaire, we yet believe that in order to avoid a
repetition of childish absurdities, we shall best consult the interest of our readers i f we follow his
example, and give a short and rational abstract of
the life of Buddha as handed down by tradition, and
probably committed to writing not later than the
first century B . C .
Buddha, or more correctly, the Buddha—for
Buddha is an appellative meaning Enlightened—
was born at Kapilavastu, the capital of a kingdom
of the same name, situated at the foot of the mountains of Nepal, north of the present Oude. His
father, the king of Kapilavastu, was of the family
of the Sâkyas, and belonged to the elan of the Gautamas. His mother was Mâyâdêvî, daughter of king
Suprabuddha, and need we say that she was as
beautiful as he was powerful and just ? Buddha was
therefore by birth of the Kshatriya, or warrior caste,
and he took the name of Sâkya from his family, and
that of Gautama from his clan, claiming a kind of
spiritual relationship with the honoured race of Gautama. The name of Buddha, or the Buddha, dates
from a later period of his life, and so probably does
the name Siddhârtha (he whose objects have been
accomplished), though we are told that it was given
him in his childhood. His mother died seven days
after his birth, and the father confided the child to
the care of his deceased wife's sister, who, however,
had been his wife even before the mother's death.
The child grew up a most beautiful and most accomplished boy, who soon knew more than his masters
could teach him. He refused to take part in the
games of his playmates, and never felt so happy as
when he could sit alone, lost in meditation in the
deep shadows of the forest. It was there that his
father found him when he had thought him lost,
and in order to prevent the young prince from
becoming a dreamer, the king determined to marry
him at once. When the subject was mentioned
by the aged ministers to the future heir to the
throne, he demanded seven days for reflection, and
convinced at last that not even marriage could disturb the calm of his mind, he allowed the ministers
to look out for a princess. The princess selected
was the beautiful Gopâ, the daughter of Dandapâni.
Though her father objected at first to her marrying
a young prince who was represented to him as deficient in manliness and intellect, he gladly gave his
consent when he saw the royal suitor distancing all
his rivals both in feats of arms and power of mind.
Their marriage proved one of the happiest, but the
prince remained, as he had been before, absorbed in
meditation on the problems of life and death. ‘ Nothing is stable on earth,' he used to say, ‘ nothing is
real. Life is like the spark produced by the friction
of wood. It is lighted and is extinguished—we
know not whence it came or whither it goes. It is
like the sound of a lyre, and the wise man asks in
vain from whence it came and whither it goes. There
must be some supreme intelligence where we could
find rest. If I attained it, I could bring light to
man ; if I were free myself, I could deliver the world.’
The king, who perceived the melancholy mood of
the young prince, tried everything to divert him
from his speculations : but all was in vain. Three
of the most ordinary events that could happen to any
man proved of the utmost importance in the career
of Buddha. We quote the description of these occurrences from M . Barthélémy Saint-Hilaire :—
‘ One day when the prince with a large retinue was
driving through the eastern gate of the city on the
way to one of his parks, he met on the road an old
man, broken and decrepit. One could see the veins
and muscles over the whole of his body; his teeth
chattered, he was covered with wrinkles, bald, and
hardly able to utter hollow and unmelodious sounds.
He was bent on his stick, and all his limbs and joints
trembled. ‘‘ Who is that man ? ’’ said the prince to
his coachman. ‘‘ He is small and weak, his flesh
and his blood are dried up, his muscles stick to his
skin, his head is white, his teeth chatter, his body is
wasted away ; leaning on his stick he is hardly able
to walk, stumbling at every step. Is there something peculiar in his family, or is this the common
lot of all created beings ? ’’
‘ ‘‘ Sir,’’ replied the coachman, ‘ ‘ that man is sinking under old age, his senses have become obtuse,
suffering has destroyed his strength, and he is despised by his relations. He is without support and
useless, and people have abandoned him like a dead
tree in a forest. But this is not peculiar to his
198 B U D D H I S M .
family. In every creature youth is defeated by old
age. Your father, your mother, all your relations,
all your friends, will come to the same state ; this is
the appointed end of all creatures.’’
‘ ‘ ‘ Alas ! '’ replied the prince, ‘ ‘ are creatures so
ignorant, so weak and foolish, as to be proud of the
youth by which they are intoxicated, not seeing the
old age which awaits them ! As for me, I go away.
Coachman, turn my chariot quickly. What have I‚
the future prey of old age—what have I to do with
pleasure ? ’’ And the young prince returned to the
city without going to his park.
‘ Another time the prince was driving through the
southern gate to his pleasure garden, when he perceived on the road a man suffering from illness,,
parched with fever, his body wasted, covered with
mud, without a friend, without a home, hardly able
to breathe, and frightened at the sight of himself
and the approach of death. Having questioned his
coachman, and received from him the answer which
he expected, the young prince said, ‘‘ Alas ! health
is but the sport of a dream, and the fear of suffering
must take this frightful form. Where is the wise
man who, after having seen what he is, could any
longer think of joy and pleasure P ’’ The prince
turned his chariot and returned to the city.
‘ A third time he was driving to his pleasure garden
through the western gate, when he saw a dead body
on the road, lying on a bier, and covered with a cloth.
The friends stood about crying, sobbing, tearing their
hair, covering their heads with dust, striking their
breasts and uttering wild cries. The prince, again,
calling his coachman to witness this painful scene,.
exclaimed, ‘ ‘ Oh ! woe to youth, which must be
destroyed by old age ! Woe to health, which must
be destroyed by so many diseases ! Woe to this life,
where a man remains so short a time! If there were
no old age, no disease, no death ; if these could be
made captive for ever ! ’’ Then, betraying for the
first time his intentions, the young prince said, ‘‘Let
us turn back : I must think how to accomplish deliverance.’’
‘ A last meeting put an end to his hesitation. He
was driving through the northern gate on the way to
his pleasure gardens, when he saw a mendicant who
appeared outwardly calm, subdued, looking downwards, wearing with an air of dignity his religious
vestment, and carrying an alms-bowl.
‘ ‘‘ Who is this man ? ’’ asked the prince.
‘ ‘‘ Sir,5’ replied the coachman, ‘ ‘ this man is one
of those who are called bhikshus, or mendicants. He
has renounced all pleasures, all desires, and leads a
life of austerity. He tries to conquer himself. He
has become a devotee. Without passion, without
envy, he walks about asking for alms.’’
‘ ‘‘This is good and well said,’’ replied the prince.
‘‘ The life of a devotee has always been praised by
the wise. It will be my refuge, and the refuge of
other creatures ; it will lead us to a real life, to happiness and immortality.’’
‘ Wi th these words the young prince turned his
chariot and returned to the city.’
After having declared to his father and his wife
his intention of retiring from the world, Buddha, in
spite of their remonstrances, left his palace one night
when all the guards that were to have watched him
were asleep. After travelling the whole night, he
gave his horse and his ornaments to his groom, and
sent him back to Kapilavastu. ‘ A monument,’ remarks the author of the Lalita-Vistara (p. 270), ‘ i s
still to be seen on the spot where the coachman
turned back.’ Hiouen-Thsang (ii. 330) saw the
same monument at the edge of a large forest, on his
road to Kusinâgara, a city now in ruins, and situated
about fifty miles E.S.E. from Gorakpur.’
Buddha first went to Vaisâlî, and became the pupil
of a famous Brahman, who had gathered round him
300 disciples. Having learnt all that the Brahman
could teach him, Buddha went away disappointed.
He had not found the road to salvation. He then
tried another Brahman at Râgagriha, the capital of
Magadha or Behar, who had 700 disciples, and there
too he looked in vain for the means of deliverance.
He left him, followed by five of his fellow-students,
and for six years retired into solitude, near a village
named Uruvilva, subjecting himself to the most severe
penances, previous to his appearing in the world as
a teacher. A t the end of this period, however, he
arrived at the conviction that asceticism, far from
giving peace of mind and preparing the way to salvation, was a snare and a stumbling-block in the way
of truth. He gave up his exercises, and was at once
deserted as an apostate by his five disciples. Left to
himself, he now began to elaborate his own system.
He had learnt that neither the doctrines nor the
1 The geography of India at the time of Buddha, and later at
the time of Fahian and Hiouen-Thsang, has been admirably treated
by M . L . Vivien de Saint-Martin, in his ' Mémoire Analytique sur la
Carte de l'Asie Centrale et de l'Inde; in the third volume of M .
Stanislas Julien's Pèlerins Bouddhistes.
austerities of the Brahmans were of any avail for
accomplishing the deliverance of man, and freeing
him from the fear of old age, disease, and death.
After long meditations, and ecstatic visions, he at
last imagined that he had arrived at that true knowledge which discloses the cause, and thereby destroys
the fear, of all the changes inherent in life. It was
from the moment when he arrived at this knowledge,
that he claimed the name of Buddha, the Enlightened.
At that moment we may truly say that the fate of
millions of millions of human beings trembled in the
balance. Buddha hesitated for a time whether he
should keep his knowledge to himself—remain,in fact,
a Pratyeka–buddha—or communicate it to the
world. Compassion for the sufferings of man prevailed, and the young prince became the founder of a
religion which, after more than 2,000 years, is still
professed by a larger number of human beings than
any other religion.’
The further history of the new teacher is very
simple. He proceeded to Benares, which at all times
was the principal seat of learning in India, and the
first converts he made were the five f ellow-students
who had left him when he threw off the yoke of the
Brahmanical observances. Many others followed;
but as the Lalita-Vistara breaks off at Buddha's
arrival at Benares, we have no further consecutive
account of the rapid progress of his doctrine. From
what we can gather from scattered notices in the
Buddhist canon, he was invited by the king of
Magadha, Bimbisâra, to his capital, Râgagriha. Many
of his lectures are represented as having been deli1 See Note on the Religious Statistics of Buddhism, infra, p. 223.
vered at the monastery of Kalantaka, with which the
king or some rich merchant had presented him;
others on the Vulture Peak, one of the five hills that
surrounded the ancient capital.
Three of his most famous disciples, Sâriputra,
Kâtyâyana‚ and Maudgalyâyana, joined him during
his stay in Magadha, where he enjoyed for many
years the friendship of the king. That king was afterwards assassinated by his son, Agâtasatru, and then
we hear of Buddha as settled for a time at Srâvastî,
north of the Ganges, where Anâthapindada, a rich
merchant, had offered him and his disciples a magnificent building for their residence. Most of Buddha’s
lectures or sermons were delivered at Srâvastî, the
capital of Kosala ; and the king of Kosala himself,
Prasenagit, became a convert to his doctrine. After
an absence of twelve years we are told that Buddha
visited his father at Kapilavastu, on which occasion
he is said to have performed several miracles, and
converted all the Sâkyas to his faith. His own wife
became one of his followers, and, with his aunt, offers
the first instance of female Buddhist devotees in India.
We have fuller particulars again of the last days of
Buddha’s life. He had attained the good age of
three score and ten, and had been on a visit to
Râgagriha, where the king, Agâtasatru, the former
enemy of Buddha, and the assassin of his own father,
had joined the congregation, after making a public
confession of his crimes. On his return he was followed by a large number of disciples, and when on
the point of crossing the Ganges, he stood on a square
stone, and turning his eyes back towards Râgagriha,
he said, full of emotion, ‘ This is the last time that I
B U D D H I S M . 203
see that city.’ He likewise visited Vaisâlî, and after
taking leave of it, he had nearly reached the city of
Kusinâgara, when his vital strength began to fail.
He halted in a forest, and while sitting under a sâl
tree, he gave up the ghost, or, as a Buddhist would
say, attained Nirvana.
This is the simple story of Buddha's life. It reads
much better in the eloquent pages of M . Barthélémy
Saint-Hilaire than in the turgid language of the
Buddhists. If a critical historian, with the materials
we possess, entered at ail on the process of separating
truth from falsehood, he would probably cut off much
of what our biographer has left. Professor Wilson,
in his Essay on Buddha and Buddhism, considers it
doubtful whether any such person as Buddha ever
actually existed. He dweils on the fact that there
are at least twenty different dates assigned to his
birth, varying from 2420 to 453 B . C . He points out
that the clan of the Sâkyas is never mentioned by
early Hindu writers, and he lays much stress on the
fact that most of the proper names of the persons
connected with Buddha suggest an allegorical signification. The name of his father, Suddhodana,2 means,
1 This name Suddhodana is generally explained as meaning
'possessed of pure food or rice.' M . Senart, however, in his Légende
du Bíiddha, p. 368, points out the incongruity of such a name, and
proposes to explain Suddhodana by suddha and udana, udana
standing for u day an a, as suggested by M. Garrez, like astamana
for a s t a m a y a n a. Thus Suddhodana would mean ' the bright rising
of the sun.' This would certainly be a far more appropriate name,
though it must be admitted that udaya would perhaps be more in
its place than u da y an a. It is curious, however, that the Chinese
often translate Suddhodana by ' pure and white ' (Beal, Catalogue,
p. 116), and that they sometimes render avadâna—which we translate by parable—by dawn (Beal, Z.c. 85, 113). Now a v a d â n a , if
connected with a v a d â t a , white, brilliant, may have meant the
he whose food is pure ; that of his mother signifies
illusion ; his own secular appellation, Siddhârtha, he
by whom the end is accomplished. Buddha itself
means, the Enlightened, or, as Professor Wilson
translates it less accurately, he by whom all is known.
The same distinguished scholar goes even further, and
maintaining that Kapilavastu, the birthplace of
Buddha, has no place in the geography of the Hindus,
suggests that it may be rendered, the substance of
Kapila : intimating, in fact, the Sânkhya philosophy,
the doctrine of Kapila Muni, upon which the fundamental elements of Buddhism, the eternity of matter,
the principles of things, and the final extinction, are
supposed to be planned. ‘ It seems not impossible.’
he continues, ‘ that Sâkya Muni is an unreal being,
and that all that is related of him is as much a fiction,
as is that of his preceding migrations, and the miracles
that attended his birth, his life, and his departure.’
This is going far beyond Niebuhr, far even beyond
Strauss. If an allegorical name had been invented
for the father of Buddha, one more appropriate than
‘ Clean-food ’ might surely have been found. His
mother is not the only queen known by the name of
Mâyâ, Mâyâdêvî, Mâyâvatî. Why, if these names
were invented, should his wife have been allowed to
keep the prosaic name of Gopâ (cowherdess), and his
father-in-law, that of Dandapâni, ‘ Stick-hand ’ ? As
to his own name, Siddhârtha, the Tibetans maintain
that it was given him by his parent, whose wish
dawn, and Suddhodana would then have signified originally the
Pure Dawn, what seems strange, however, is that this meaning,
unknown both in Sanskrit and Pâli, should have been familiar to
Chinese translators and their assistants.
(artha) had been fulfilled (siddha), as we hear of
Désirés and Dieu-donnés in French. One of the
ministers of Dasaratha had the same name. It is
possible also that Buddha himself assumed it in after
life, as was the case with many of the Roman surnames. As to the name of Buddha, no one ever
maintained that it was more than a title, the En lightened, changed from an appellative into a proper
name, just like the name of Christos, the Anointed,
or Mohammed, the Expected.’ Kapilavastu would
be a most extraordinary compound to express ‘ the
substance of the Sânkhya philosophy.’ But al l
doubt on the subject is removed by the fact that both
Fahian in the fifth and Hiouen-Thsang in the seventh
centuries visited the real ruins of that city.
Making every possible allowance for the accumulation of fiction2 which is sure to gather round the
life of the founder of every great religion, we may be
satisfied that Buddhism, which changed the aspect
not only of India, but of nearly the whole of Asia,
had a real founder ; that he was not a Brahman by
birth, but belonged to the second or royal caste ; that
being of a meditative turn of mind, and deeply impressed with the frailty of all created things, he became a recluse, and sought for light and comfort in
the different systems of Brahman philosophy and
theology. Dissatisfied with the artificial systems of
their priests and philosophers ; convinced of the uselessness, nay of the pernicious influence, of their
ceremonial practices and bodily penances ; shocked,
1 See Sprenger, Das Leben des Mohanimed, 1861, vol. i . p. 155.
2 This subject has since been fully and carefully treated by M .
Senart, in his Essai sur la Légende du Buddha, Paris, 1876.
too, by their worldliness and pharisaical conceit,
which made the priesthood the exclusive property of
one caste and rendered every pious act impossible
without their intervention, Buddha must have produced at once a powerful impression on the people at
large, when, breaking through all the established
rules of caste, he assumed the privileges of a Brahman,
and, throwing away the splendour of his royal position, travelled about as a beggar, not shrinking from
the defiling contact of sinners and publicans. Though
when we now speak of Buddhism we think chiefly of
its doctrines, the reform of Buddha had originally
much more of a social than of a religious character.
Buddha swept away the web with which the
Brahmans had encircled the whole of India. Beginning as the reformer of an old, he became the
founder of a new religion. We can hardly understand
how any nation could have lived under a system like
that of the Brahmanic hierarchy, which coiled itself
round every public and private act, and would have
rendered life intolerable to any who had forfeited
the favour of their priests. That system was attacked
by Buddha. Buddha might have taught whatever
philosophy he pleased, and we should hardly have
heard his name. The people would not have minded
him, and his system would only have been a drop in
the. ocean of philosophical speculation by which
India was deluged at all times. But when a young
prince assembled round him people of all castes, of
all ranks ; when he defeated the Brahmans in public
disputations ; when he declared the sacrifices by which
they made their living not only useless but sinful ;
when instead of severe penance or excommunications
inflicted by the Brahmans sometimes for the most
trifling offences, he only required public confession of
sin and a promise to sin no more ; when the charitable gifts hitherto monopolised by the Brahmans
began to flow into new channels, supporting hundreds
and thousands of Buddhist mendicants, more had
been achieved than probably Buddha himself had
ever dreamt of ; and he whose meditations had been
how to deliver the soul of man from misery and the
fear of death, had delivered the people of India from
a degrading thraldom and from priestly tyranny.
The most important element of the Buddhist reform has always been its social and moral code, not
its metaphysical theories. That moral code, taken
by itself, is one of the most perfect which the world'
has ever known. On this point all testimonies from
hostile and from friendly quarters agree.
Let us begin with a Bishop of the Roman Catholic
Church. Bishop Bigandet in his ‘ Life of Gaudama ’
(Rangoon, 1866) says (p. vii.) : — ‘ Though based upon
capital and revolting errors, Buddhism teaches a surprising number of the finest precepts and purest
moral truths. From the abyss of its almost unfathomable darkness it sends forth rays of the
brightest hue.’ And again (p. 348), ‘When Gaudama
unfolds his precepts and maxims for guiding man in
the acquisition of science, and the destruction of his
passions, he elicits the admiration, nay the astonishment, of the reader, at the sight of the profound
knowledge of human nature which he displays. But
his feeling soon gives place to another of pity, sadness and horror, when one sees that he has been led
to the brink of Neibban.’ On p. 495, he writes :
‘ In reading the particulars of the life of the last
Buddha Gaudama, it is impossible not to feel reminded of many circumstances relating to our Saviour's life, such as it has been sketched out by the
Evangelists.’ And on p. 494 we read what is perhaps
the strongest testimony which a Christian bishop
could give : ‘ It will not be deemed rash to assert
that most of the moral truths prescribed by the
Gospel are to be met with in the Buddhistic Scriptures.’
Spence Hardy, a Wesleyan Missionary, speaking of the Dhammapada, or the ‘ Footsteps of the
Law,’ admits that a collection might be made from
the precepts of this work, which in the purity of its
ethics could hardly be equalled from any other
heathen author.
M . Laboulaye, one of the most distinguished
members of the French Academy, remarks in the
‘ Débats' of Apri l 4, 1853: ‘ It is difficult to comprehend how men, not assisted by revelation, could have
soared so high, and approached so near to the truth.’
‘ Besides the five great commandments not to k i l l ,
not to steal, not to commit adultery, not to lie, not
to get drunk, every shade of vice, hypocrisy, anger,
pride, suspicion, greediness, gossiping, cruelty to
animals, is guarded against by special precepts.
Among the virtues recommended, we find not only
reverence of parents, care for children, submission to
authority, gratitude, moderation in time of prosperity, submission in time of trial, equanimity at all
times, but virtues unknown in any heathen system of
morality, such as the duty of forgiving insults and
not rewarding evil with evil. A l l virtues, we are
told, spring from Maitrî, and this Maitri can only be
translated by charity and love.’
We add one more testimony from the work of M .
Barthélémy Saint<­Hilaire :—
‘ Je n'hésite pas à ajouter,' he writes, ‘ que, sauf
le Christ tout seul, i l n'est point, parmi les fondateurs
de religion, de figure plus pure ni plus touchante que
celle du Bouddha. Sa vie n'a point de tâche. Son
constant héroisme égale sa conviction ; et si la théorie
qu'il préconise est fausse, les exemples personnels
qu'il donne sont irréprochables. I l est le modèle
achevé de toutes les vertus qu'il prêche ; son abnéga­
tion, sa charité, son inaltérable douceur, ne se
démentent point un seul instant; i l abandonne à
vingt­neuf ans la cour du roi son père pour se faire
religieux et mendiant ; i l prépare silencieusement sa
doctrine par six années de retraite et de méditation;
i l la propage par la seule puissance de la parole et de
la persuasion, pendant plus d'un demi­siècle, et
quand i l meurt entre les bras de ses disciples, c'est
avec la sérénité d'un sage qui ā pratiqué le bien toute
sa vie, et qui est assuré d'avoir trouvé le vrai '
(p. V.) .
There still remain, no doubt, some blurred and
doubtful pages in the history of the prince of Kapila­
vastu ; but we have only to look at the works on
ancient philosophy and religion published some
thirty years ago, in order to perceive the immense
1 Burnouf, Lotus de la bonne Loi, p. 300. ' I do not hesitate;
says Burnouf, ' to translate by charity the word Maitrî ; it does not
express friendship or the feeling of particular affection which a man
has for one or more of his fellow creatures, but that universal feel­
ing which inspires us with good­will towards all men and constant
willingness to help them.'
progress that has been made in establishing the true
historical character of the founder of Buddhism.
There was a time when Buddha was identified with
Christ. The Manichæans were actually forced to
abjure their belief that Buddha, Christ, and Mani
were one and the same person.’ But we are thinking rather of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, when elaborate books were written in order
to prove that Buddha had been in reality the Thoth
of the Egyptians, that he was Mercury, or Wodan,
or Zoroaster, or Pythagoras. Even Sir W . Jones, as
we saw, identified Buddha, first with Odin, and afterwards with Shishat‚ ‘ who either in person or by a
colony from Egypt imported into India the mild
heresy of the ancient Bauddhas.’ Now, we know
1 Neander, History of the Church, vol. i . p. 817 : Tbv Zapa5ai>
Kai Bovtiàv Kai rbv Xpi As I found that some false theories had been built on this formula,
I consulted my friend, the Rev. E. Hatch, on its probable age.
I was informed by him that it was first printed by Goar, in his
Euchologium, from a Barberini MS. It was next printed by Cotelerius, Notes ad Pair. Apost. ed. 1672, p. 368, from a MS. in the
Royal Library at Paris, and afterwards by Tollius, in Insignia
Itinerarii Italici, ed. 1696, p. 126, from a Vienna MS. (described in
Lambeccius, Bibliotheca Ccesar. Vindob. ed. Kollarius, lib. v. p. 253).
Cotelerius and Tollius agree in giving the clause as : 'Avadefxarify
robs rbv Zapa^v Kai BovSàv Kai rbv Xpt 9jXiov eva Kai rbv abrbv ehai X4yovras. But Goar's MS. has only :
' I anathematize Zarada and Budda and Scythianus, predecessors of
Manichæus.' Goar also attributes it to Methodius of Constantinople
(died circa 842) ; and Migne, Patrol. Græc. vol. c. p. 1322, following Goar, prints it among the works of Methodius. The formula
seems to belong to the later Manichæan or Paulinian controversies
which were in full vigour in the European part of the Eastern*
Empire about the middle of the ninth century. It is therefore of
next to no value as to the early relations of either Manichæism or
Christianity to Buddhism, unless further researches should enable
us to trace it back to earlier times and to higher authorities in the
Christian Church.
that neither Egypt nor the Walhalla of Germany,
neither Greece nor Persia, could have produced either
the man himself or his doctrine. He is the offspring
of India in body and soul. His doctrine, by the
very antagonism in which i t stands to the old system
of Brahmanism, shows that it could not have sprung
up in any country except India. The ancient history of Brahmanism leads on to Buddhism, with the
same necessity with which mediæval Romanism led
to Protestantism. Though the date of Buddha is
still liable to small chronological oscillations, his
place in the intellectual annals of India is henceforth
definitely marked. Buddhism became the state religion of India at the time of Asoka ; and Asoka,
the Buddhist Constantine, was the grandson of
Kandragupta, and Kandragupta was the contemporary of Seleucus Nicator. The system of the
Brahmans had run its course. Their ascendency, at
first purely intellectual and religious, had gradually
assumed a political character. By means of the
system of caste this influence pervaded the whole
social fabric, not as a vivifying leaven, but as a
deadly poison. Their increasing power and selfconfidence are clearly exhibited in the successive
periods of their ancient literature. It begins with
the simple hymns of the Veda. These are followed
by the tracts known by the name of Brâhmanas,
in which a complete system of theology is elaborated
and claims advanced in favour of the Brahmans such
as were seldom conceded to any hierarchy. The
third period in the history of their ancient literature
is marked by their Sutras or Aphorisms, short and
dry formularies, showing the Brahmans in secure
possession of all their claims. Such privileges asthey then enjoyed are never enjoyed for any length
of time. It was impossible for anybody to move or
to assert his freedom of thought and action without
finding himself impeded on all sides by the web
of the Brahmanic law ; nor was there anything in
their religion to satisfy the natural yearnings of the
human heart after spiritual comfort. What was felt
by Buddha had been felt more or less intensely by
thousands ; and this was the secret of his success.
That success, however, was probably accelerated by
political events. Kandragupta had conquered the
throne of Magadha, and acquired his supremacy in
India in defiance of the Brahmanic law. He was of
low orgin, a mere adventurer, and by his accession
to the throne an important mesh had been broken in
the intricate system of caste. Neither he nor his
successors could count on the hearty support of the
Brahmans, and it is but natural that his grandson,
Asoka, should have been driven to seek support from
the new sect founded by Buddha. Buddha, by giving
up his royal station, had broken the law of caste as
much as Kandragupta by usurping it. His school,
though it had probably escaped open persecution
until it rose to political importance, could never have
been on friendly terms with the Brahmans of the old
school. The parvenu on the throne saw his natural
allies in the followers of Buddha, and the mendicants, who by their unostentatious behaviour had
won golden opinions among the lower and middle
classes, were suddenly raised to an importance little
dreamt of by their founder. Those who see in
Buddhism not a social but chiefly a religious and
philosophical reform, have been deceived by the later
Buddhist literature, and particularly by the controversies between Buddhists and Brahmans, which in
later times led to the total expulsion of the former
from India, and to the political re-establishment of
Brahmanism. These, no doubt, turn chiefly on
philosophical problems, and are of the most abstruse
and intricate character. But such was not the
teaching of Buddha. If we may judge from ‘the
four verities,’ which Buddha inculcated from the first
day that he entered on his career as a teacher, his
philosophy of life was very simple. He proclaims
that there was nothing but sorrow in life ; that
sorrow is produced by our affections, that our affections must be destroyed in order to destroy the root
of sorrow, and that he could teach mankind how to
eradicate all the affections, all passions, ail desires.
Such doctrines were intelligible ; and considering
that Buddha received people of all castes, who after
renouncing the world and assuming their yellow
robes were sure of finding a livelihood from the
charitable gifts of the people, it is not surprising
that the number of his followers should have grown
so rapidly. If Buddha really taught the metaphysical
doctrines which are ascribed to him by subsequent
writers—and this is a point which it is impossible as
yet to settle—not one in a thousand among his followers would have been capable of appreciating those
speculations. They must have been reserved for a
few of his disciples, and they would never have
formed the nucleus for a popular religion.
Nearly all who have written on Buddhism, and
M. Barthélémy Saint-Hilaire among the rest, have
endeavoured to show that these metaphysical doc­
trines of Buddha were borrowed from the eariier
systems of Brahmanic philosophy, and more particu­
larly from the Sânkhya system. The reputed founder
of that system is Kapila, and we saw before how
Professor Wilson actually changed the name of Kapi­
lavastu, the birthplace of Buddha, into a mere alle­
gory, Kapilavastu meaning, according to him, the
substance of Kapila or of the Sânkhya philosophy.
This is not all. Mr. Spence Hardy (p. 132) quotes
a legend in which it is said that Buddha was in a
former existence an ascetic, called Kapila, that the
Sâkya princes came to his hermitage, and that he
pointed out to them the proper place for founding a
new city,which city was named after him Kapilavastu.
But we have looked in vain for any definite simi­
larities between the system of Kapila, as known to us
in the Sânkhya–sûtras‚ and the Abhidharma, or the
metaphysics of the Buddhists. Such similarities
would be invaluable. They would probably enable
us to decide whether Buddha borrowed from Kapila
or Kapila from Buddha, and thus determine the real
chronology of the philosophical literature of India,
as either prior or subsequent to the Buddhist era.
But as yet all that has been written on this subject
is purely assertive. There are no doubt certain
notions which Buddha shares in common, not only
with Kapila, but with every Hindu philosopher. The
idea of transmigration, the belief in the continuing
effects of our good and bad actions, extending from
our former to our present and from our preseṅt to
our future lives, the sense that life is a dream or a
burden, the admission of the uselessness of religious
observances after the attainment of the highest
knowledge—all these belong, so to say, to the na­
tional philosophy of India. We meet with these
ideas everywhere, in the poetry, the philosophy, the
religion of the Hindus. They cannot be claimed as
the exclusive property of any system in particular.
But if we look for more special coincidences between
Buddha's doctrines and those of Kapila or other
Indian philosophers, we look in vain. At first it
might seem as if the very first aphorism of Kapila—
namely, ‘ the complete cessation of pain, which is of
three kinds, is the highest aim of man '—was merely a
philosophical paraphrase of the events which, as we
saw, determined Buddha to renounce the world in
search of the true road to salvation. But though
the starting­point of Kapila and Buddha is the same,
a keen sense of human misery and a yearning after a
better state, their roads from the very first diverge
so completely and their goals are so far apart, that
it is difficult to understand how, almost by common
consent, Buddha is supposed either to have followed
in the footsteps of Kapila, or to have changed
Kapila's philosophy into a religion. Some scholars
imagine that there was a more simple and primitive
philosophy which was taught by Kapila, and that
the Sûtras which are now ascribed to him are of
later date. It is as easy to make as it is impossible
either to prove or to disprove such an assertion. At
present we know Kapila's philosophy from his Sûtrās
only,1 and these Sutras seem to us posterior, not
1 Of Kapila's Sûtras, together with the commentary of vignâna
Bhikshu, a new edition was published in 1856, by Dr. Fitz­Edward
Hall , in the Bibliotheca Indioa. An excellent translation of the
anterior, to Buddha. Though the name of Buddha
is not mentioned in the Sutras, his doctrines, I believe, are clearly alluded to and controverted in
several parts of them.
It has been said that Buddha and Kapila were
both atheists, and that Buddha borrowed his atheism
from Kapila. But atheism is an indefinite term, and
may mean very different things. In one sense every
Indian philosopher was an atheist, for they all perceived that the gods of the populace could not claim
the attributes that belong to a Supreme Being. But
all the important philosophical systems of the Brahmans admit, in some form or other, the existence of
an Absolute and Supreme Being, the source of all
that exists, or seems to exist. Kapila, when accused
of atheism, is not accused of denying the existence of
an Absolute Being. He is accused of denying the
existence of an îsvara‚ which in general means the
Lord, but which, in the passage where it occurs, refers
to the îsvara of the Yogins, or mystic philosophers.
These Yogins maintained that in an ecstatic state
man possesses the power of seeing God face to face,
and they wished to have this ecstatic intuition included under the head of sensuous perceptions. To this
Kapila demurred. You have not proved the existence of your Lord, he says, and therefore I see no
reason why I should alter my definition of sensuous
perception in order to accommodate your ecstatic
visions. The commentator narrates that this strong
language was used by Kapila in order to silence the
wild talk of the Mystics, and that, though he taunted
Aphorisms, with illustrative extracts from the commentaries, was
printed for the use of the Benares College, by Dr. Ballantyne.
his adversaries with having failed to prove the existence of their Lord, he himself was far from denying
the existence of a Supreme Being. Kapila, however, went further. He endeavoured to show that
ail the attributes which the Mystics ascribed to their
Lord are inappropriate. He used arguments very
similar to those which have lately been used with
such ability by a distinguished Bampton Lecturer.
The supreme Lord of the Mystics, Kapila argued, is
either absolute and unconditioned (mukta), or he is
bound and conditioned (baddha). If he is absolute
‚and unconditioned, he cannot enter into the condition of a Creator ; he would have no desires which
could instigate him to create. If, on the contrary,
he is represented as active, and entering on the work
of creation, he would no longer be the absolute and
unchangeable Being which we are asked to believe
in. Kapila, like the preacher of our own days, was
accused of paving the road to atheism, but his
philosophy was nevertheless admitted as orthodox,
because, in addition to sensuous perception and inductive reasoning, Kapila professed emphatically his
belief in revelation—i.e. in the Veda—and allowed to
it a place among the recognised instruments of knowledge. Buddha refused to allow to the Vedas any
independent authority whatever, and this constituted the fundamental difference between the two
Whether Kapila's philosophy was really in accordance with the spirit of the Veda, is quite a different
question. No philosophy, at least nothing like a
definite system, is to be found in the sacred hymns
of the Brahmans; and though the Vedânta philo218 BUDDHISM.
sophy does less violence than the Sânkhya to what i t
quotes from the Veda, the authors of the Veda would
have been as much surprised at the consequences
deduced from their words by the Vedântin as by
the strange meaning attributed to them by Kapila.
The Vedânta philosopher would deny the existence
of a Creator in the usual sense of the word quite as
much as the follower of the Sânkhya philosophy of
Kapila. He explained the universe as an emanation
from Brahman, which is all in all, not as the creation of a God. Kapila admitted two principles, an
absolute Spirit and Nature, and he looked upon the
universe as produced by a reflection of Nature thrown
on the mirror of the absolute Spirit. Both systems
seem to regard creation, or the created world, as
an unfortunate accident. But they maintain that its
effects can be neutralised, and that emancipation
from the bonds of earthly existence is possible by
means of philosophy. The Vedânta philosopher
imagined that he was free when he had arrived at
the knowledge that nothing exists but Brahman;
that all phenomena are merely the result of ignorance ;
that after the destruction of that ignorance, and of its
effects, all is merged again in Brahman, the true
source of being, thought, and happiness. Kapila
taught that the spirit became free from all mundane
fetters as soon as it perceived that all phenomena
were only passing reflections produced by nattire
upon the spirit, and as soon as it was able to shut its
eyes to those illusory visions. Both systems, therefore—
and the same applies to all the other philosophical
systems of the Brahmans—admitted an absolute or
self-existing Being, as the cause of all that exists or
seems to exist. And here lies the specific difference
between Kapila and Buddha. Buddha, like Kapila,
maintained that this world had no absolute reality,
that it was a snare and an illusion. The words, ‘ A l l
is perishable, all is miserable, all is void,’ must
frequently have passed his lips. But we cannot call
things unreal unless we have a conception of something that is real. Where, then, did Buddha find a
reality in comparison with which this world might be
called unreal ? What remedy did he propose as an
emancipation from the sufferings of this Iffe ? Difficult as it seems to us to conceive it, Buddha admits
of no real cause of this unreal world. He denies the
existence not only of a Creator, but of any Absolute
Being. According to the metaphysical tenets, i f not of
Buddha himself, at least of his sect, there is no reality
anywhere, neither in the past nor in the future. True
wisdom consists in perceiving the nothingness of all
things, and in a desire to become nothing, to be blown
out, to enter into the state of Nirvana. Emancipation
is obtained by total extinction, not by absorption in
Brahman, or by a recovery of the sou?s true estate.
If to be is misery, not to be must be felicity ; and this
felicity is the highest reward which Buddha promised
to his disciples. In reading the Aphorisms of Kapila,
it is difficult not to see in his remarks on those who
maintain that all is void, covered attacks on Buddha
and his followers. In one place (I. 43) Kapila argues
that i f people believed in the reality of thought only,
and denied the reality of external objects, they would
soon be driven to admit that nothing at all exists*
because we perceive our thoughts in the same manner
as we perceive external objects. This naturally leads
him to an examination of that extreme doctrine according to which all that we perceive is void, and all
is supposed to perish, because it is the nature of things
that they should perish. Kapila remarks in reference
to this view (I. 45), that it is a mere assertion of
persons who are ‘not enlightened’—in Sanskrit
a-buddha,asarcastic expression in which it is difficult
not to see an allusion to Buddha, or to those who
claimed for him the title of the Enlightened.’ Kapila
then proceeds to give the best answer that could be
given to those who taught that complete annihilation
must be the highest aim of man, as the only means of
a complete cessation of suffering. ‘ It is not so,’ he
says, ‘ for if people wish to be free from suffering, it
is they themselves who wish to be free, just as in this
life it is they themselves who wish to enjoy happiness.
There must be a permanent soul in order to satisfy
the yearnings of the human heart, and if you deny
that soul, you have no right to speak of the highest
aim of man.’
Whether the belief in this kind of Nirvana—i.e. in
a total extinction of being, personality, and consciousness—was at any time shared by the large masses
of the people, is difficult either to assert or deny.
We know nothing in ancient times of the religious
convictions of the millions. We only know what a
few leading spirits believed, or professed to believe.
That certain people in modern and ancient times have
spoken and written of total extinction as the highest
aim of man cannot be denied. Job cursed the day
on which he was born, and Solomon praised the
X dead which are already dead, more than the living
1 For a similar play on the word Buddha, see Mahâbhâr‚, xv. 567.
which are yet alive.’ 'Yea , better is he than both
they,’ he said, ‘ which hath not yet been, who hath
not seen the evil work that is done under the sun.’
Voltaire said in his own flippant way, ‘ On aime la
vie, mais le néant ne laisse pas d'avoir du bon ; ’ and
a modern German philosopher, who has found much
favour with those who profess to despise Kant,
Schelling, and Hegel, writes, ‘ Considered in its objective value, it is more than doubtful that life is
preferable to the Nothing. I should say even, that i f
experience and reflection could lift up their voices
they would recommend to us the Nothing. We are
what ought not to be, and we shall therefore cease to
be.’ Under peculiar circumstances, in the agonies of
despair, or under the gathering clouds of madness,
such language is intelligible : but to believe, as we
are asked to believe, that one half of mankind had
yearned for total annihilation would be tantamount
to a belief that there is a difference in kind between
man and man. Buddhist philosophers, no doubt,
held this doctrine, and it cannot be denied that it
found a place in the Buddhist canon. But even among
the different schools of Buddhist philosophers, very
different views are adopted as to the true meaning of
Nirvâna‚ and with the modern Buddhists of Burnmh,,
for instance, Nigban, as they call it, is defined simply as
freedom from old age, disease, and death. We do not
find fault with M . Barthélémy Saint-Hilaire for having
so emphatically pressed the charge of nihilism against
Buddha himself. In one portion of the Buddhist
canon the most extreme views of nihilism are put
into his mouth. A l l we can say is that that canon is
later than Buddha, and that in the canonical books of
the Northern Buddhists, such as the ‘Lotus of the
Good Law,’ 1 the founder of Buddhism, after having
entered into Nirvana, is still spoken of as living,
nay, as showing himself to those who believe in him.
Buddha, who denied the existence, or at least the
divine nature, of the gods worshipped by the Brahmans, was raised himself to the rank of a deity by
some of his followers2 (the Aisvarikas), and we need
not wonder, therefore, i f his Nirvana too was gradually
changed into an Elysian field.
And finally, i f we may argue from human nature*
such as we find it at all times and in all countries, we
confess that we cannot bring ourselves to believe that
the reformer of India, the teacher of so perfect a code
of morality, the young prince who gave up all he had
in order to help those whom he saw afflicted in mind,
body, or estate, should have cared much about speculations which he knew would either be misunderstood,
or not understood at all, by those whom he wished to
1 This statement has been fiercely attacked by Mr. D'Alwis, in his
Buddhist Nirvana, p. 50. ' " But;'says Max Müller, " i n the legends
Buddha appears to his disciples even after his death." we confess
we are utterly ignorant of the legend here referred to ; but we are
not a little surprised that a writer, who insists upon the Buddhist
Canon alone as being our true guide in all matters, should refer to,
or derive aid from, legendary tales in favour of this new doctrine of
nihilism.' My answer is that in one of the canonical books of the
Northern Buddhists, the Saddharma-pundarika, we read : ' when I
(Bhagavat) shall have entered into complete Nirvana, I shall send
numerous miracles ; ' and again, ' I shall then show my luminous
form; etc. See Lotus de la bonne Loi, p. 144.
2 How early this took place, we see from Clemens of Alexandria,
Strom, i. p. 305, A . B . (ed. Colon. 1688) ; Megasthenis Indica, ed.
Schwanbeck, p. 139, elo-l 8e rwv *JvdS)p ol roîs Bovrra {sive Bovra)
irçidóiiçvoi irapayyeXfMO'iVy hv 5t' imcpßoK^v T6Ttfdjfca(rt.
benefit ; that he should have thrown away one of the
most powerful weapons in the hands of every religious
teacher, the belief in a future life, and should not
have seen that, i f this life was sooner or later to end
in nothing, it was hardly worth the trouble which
he took himself, or the sacrifices which he imposed
on his disciples.
N O T E S .
R E L I G I O U S S T A T I S T I C S O F B U D D H I S M .
I T would, no doubt, be a great mistake to imagine that the
truth or value of any religion could be settled by majorities.
In the present state of the world the contrary is more
likely to be true. Nevertheless, attempts have not been
wanting to prove the excellency of certain religions on the
ground of the number of their adherents. It was long the
custom to say that Christianity counted more believers than
any other faith. Even so late as 1870, a distinguished
scholar did not hesitate to say ' that the earth contained
700 millions of human beings, one half of them being
Christians.' 1 In the present state of statistical science
the one statement is as valueless as the other. The earth
now counts at least 1,400 millions of inhabitants, and the
number of Christians has never been proved to be more
than 390 millions, though in no religion are there greater
opportunities for ascertaining the exact number of its adherents than in Christianity.
Religious statistics are always extremely vague, yet
their very vagueness seems to prove attractive. When
entering upon them we should always remember the honest
confession of Malte Brun, ' Si Von veut être de bonne foi, il
faut avouer, que Von n'a pas plus de raison pour donner à
1 Petermann's MiUheiluìigen, vol. vin. p. 4.
NOTES. 225
VAsie 500 millions, que pour lui en donner 250.’ Even in a
country like England, where every man, woman, and child
has been numbered, we know how uncertain all denominational returns have proved. What can we expect, then,
from countries in which the exact number of the population varies, in different accounts, not by hundreds and
thousands, but by millions ! No doubt statistical science
has made of late immense progress, but it is sure to make
greater progress still. In 1812 China was credited with
362,000,000, in 1842 with 414,700,000 inhabitants, while
in the last century 50,000,000 only were assigned to the
Celestial Empire. 1 The Jews, not long ago estimated at
3,600,000, now claim between 6,000,000 and 7,000,000, the
same as in the days of David. 2 In the estimates of 1861 the
population of India was given as 135,500,000, by the census
of 1871 at 191,000,000 for British India alone, and we may
trust to Dr. Hunter's perseverance that the census of 1881
wil l again considerably modify the figures now quoted in
all statistical hand-books.
What distinguishes modern statistics is a greater readiness to confess our ignorance, instead of fixing on some
average number which, i f once thrown out, is repeated by
everybody. Thus the religious census given by Berghaus
in his ' Physical Atlas,' has been repeated again and again.
—I myself have often quoted it—though at present it is certainly antiquated. He gave the following table :—
1. Buddhists. . 31 '2 per cent. 4. Brahmanists . 13*4 per cent.
2. Christians . 30*7 „ 5. Heathen . . 8*7 ‚,
3. Mohammedans 15*7 ,, 6. Jews . . . . 0*3 ‚,
According to this calculation, it was assumed that the
Buddhists could claim a majority above all the other religions of the world. But though this is perfectly true, i t
cannot certainly be proved by Berghaus's figures. Berghaus
does not distinguish the Buddhists in China from the followers of Confucius and Lao-tse in that country, and
1 Petermann's Mittheiliingen, vol. viii. p. 8.
2 See Times, September 13, 1879.
226 NOTES.
their numbers are so considerable as entirely to vitiate his
calculations. It is very difficult, no doubt, to find out in
China to what religion a man belongs, because the same
person may profess two or even three religions. The
Emperor of China himself, after sacrificing according to
the ritual of Confucius, visits a Tao-tse shrine, and afterwards bows before an image of Fo in a Buddhist temple.1
But, for all that, it would be impossible to claim the whole
population of China for Buddhism. Dr . Gutzlaff (' Journal
of Royal Asiatic Society,' xvi . p. 89) thought that the Buddhist religious establishments in China might be estimated
at two-thirds of the whole of the religious edifices throughout China; while Professor Schott (' Buddhaismus,' I844)
considered the Buddhists as only forming a minority in
China. However that may be, i t is quite clear that, i f
we deduct from the sum total of the inhabitants of
China—all of whom Berghaus puts down as Buddhists —
those who are decidedly not Buddhists, but followers of
Confucius or Lao-tse, the balance between Buddhism and
Christianity would be considerably altered, and instead of
occupying the second place with 30*7 per cent., as against
Buddhism with 31*2 per cent., Christianity would no doubt
have a right to claim the first place, always supposing that
Berghaus's numbers are still to be depended on. This,
however, is no longer the case, as we shall see presently.
As a specimen of what a religious census ought to be—
though its authors would be the last to claim any perfection
or finality for i t—I subjoin here that of Brit ish India,
taken in 1871, with several important corrections and improvements which I have been enabled to make, thanks to
the valuable assistance of Dr . W . W . Hunter.
It should be borne in mind, however, that this census
dealt with 191 millions of British India only, and necessarily leaves out of account the 50 millions or so in the
1 See wassiliew, in Mélanges Asiatiques de St. Pétershourg, vol.
i i . p. 374.
228 NOTES.
feudatory states. Thus the Christian population is given
at 898,174, but to these must be added about 700,000
native Christians in native territory. Dr . W . W . Hunter,
the Director-General of Statistics, gives the number in two
feudatory states alone. Cochin and Travancore, at 609,935
in 1875, and he states that the Roman Catholic Missions
claim about 1^ million of souls. There is besides a large
balance of Protestant Christians in India.
The number of Buddhists, including Jains—who ought
to have been separated—is not very large in India, and it
would dwindle away to almost nothing but for the two and
a half millions in Brit ish Burmah.
The question then is, how are we to fix the sum total
of Buddhists in the world ? It is easy to say, as Bishop
Bigandet does,1 that nearly one-fourth of the human race
is under the sway of Buddhism. This teaches us no more
than when Sprenger tells us that the Mohammedans form
one-tenth of the whole of humanity.
The first question that has to be answered is. What is
the number of humanity ?
According to the latest and most trustworthy figures,
published by the ' Geographical Institute of Justus Perthes,' 2
the sum total of human beings, now ascertained, is—
Europe . . . . . 312,398,480
Asia . . . . . 831,000,000
Africa . . . . . 205,219,500
Australia and Polynesia . . . 4,411,300
America . . . . . 86,116,000
Total . 1,439,145,280
Out of that number one of the latest writers on Buddhism—Mr. Rhys Davids—claims 600,000,000, or more
1 Life of Gaudama, p. vii.
2 Mittheilungen aus Justus Perthes' Geographischer Anstalt,
von Dr. Petermann, Gotha, 1878 : 'Die Bevölkerung der Erde; von
Behm und wagner.
NOTES. 229
than one-third, for Buddhism, which may be right ; while
he assigns to Christianity only 327,000,000, which is too
low a figure. Taking the latest statements with regard to
the number of followers of each religion, we get the following table : —
1. Buddhists . . . . 500,000,000
2. Christians . . . . 390,000,000
3. Mohammedans . . . . 170,000,000
4. Hindus (in British India) . . 139,350,000
(in Native States) . . 20,000,000
5. Sikhs . . . . . . 1,200,000
6. Jews . . . . . 7,000,000
7. Parsees (in India) . . . 150,000
„ (in Yezd, Kirman, etc.) . 8,000
8. Nondescript . . . . 100,000,000
Total . . 1,327,708,000
But when wre ask how the number of 500,000,000 for
the religion of Buddha has been arrived at, we shall see at
once how uncertain the ground is on which we stand.
Mr . Rhys Davids has been at great pains to compute this
number, and I shall give his list in order to show how, while
I differ from him on several important points, we still
arrive on the whole at the same result.
In Ceylon . . . 1,520,575
„ British Burmah . 2,447,831
, Burmah . . . 3,000,000
„ Siam . . . 10,000,000
„ Annam . . . 12,000,000
„Ja ins . . . 485,020
(Number of inhabitants
2,405,287, including
500,000 Mohammedans.)
(ìnd. Cens. 1871)
(Conjectured on military
(Ind. Cens. 1871).'
Total . . 29,453,426
1 The census for British India gives 2,832,851 Buddhists and
Jains. If we deduct 2,447,831 for British Burmah there remain only
385,020, not 485,020. There is, however, a considerable Buddhistic,
Jain, or Semi-Buddhistic population in the native territories and
along the frontier Himalayan States.
230 NOTES.
Dutch Possessions
and Ba l i .
British Possessions,
chiefly in Spiti,
Assam, Further India, Hong Kong .
Russian Possessions,
Kirgis, Kalmuks on
Volga, Buriates in
South Siberia
Lieu cheu Islands
Bhutan and Sikhim
Kashmir (Ladak)
Mongolia .
China proper (18
provinces) .
Southern and Northern Buddhists
together .
50,000 (Friedrich 'J.R.A.S. ' 1876,
p. 196)
600,000 (¾biagintweit, ' Buddh. in
Tibet; p. 12)
1,000,000 j(Sch-agintweit, I.e., gives
L H million)
8‚000‚000 '
1,000,000 !( S c û -agii i tweit , l.c., U
1. million)
Testing these figures by a reference to the latest statistics published by the ' Geographical Institute of Gotha,'
I find that, beginning with Ceylon, its population is now
(v. 43) given as 2,459,542, instead of 2‚405‚287. It is
safer, however, to leave the number of Buddhists in
Ceylon as given in the census of 1872.
Ceylon . . . 1,520,575 inhabitants,
now contains
British Burmah (iv. 35) 2,747,148
Burmah (ii. 44) . . 4,000,000
Siam(ii1.106) . . 5,750,000
Annam (iv. 49) . . 21,000,000
Buddhists or Jains"
in India
instead of
NOTES. 231
From the above sum of inhabitants must be deducted,
of course, in all countries except Ceylon, the unknown
quantity of people who are not Buddhists ; and here we are
often left entirely in the dark. There ought to be added
the Buddhist inhabitants that may be found in South
Assam (130,000), French Cochinchina (1,600,000), and
Cambodja (890,000).
N O R T H E R N B U D D H I S T S .
The number of Buddhists in the Dutch Possessions and
Bali is fixed by Friedrich as 50,000. This seems a small
number, considering the number of inhabitants.
The British Possessions are explained to mean Spiti,
Assam, Further India, and Hong Kong. Here the number
of Buddhists can be conjectural only.
The Russian Possessions are said to include about
200,000 Kirghis or Kalmnk Tatars on the lower bank of
the Volga in Europe, and an increasing number of Buriates
and others in Southern Siberia, as computed by Schlagintweit ( 'Buddhism in Tibet,' p. 12). Schlagintweit, however C Buddhism in Tibet,' p. 121) says that the Russian
Empire contains some 400,000 Buddhists—viz., 82,000
Kirghises, 119,162 Kalmuks, and about 190,000 Buriates,
which would give a total of 391,162.
The Lieu cheu islands, according to the census of 1874,
contained only 167,073 inhabitants. Sometimes, however,
other islands are included under that name.
Korea now returns 8,500,000 inhabitant« (v. 32).
Bhutan and Sikhim.—Bhutan, according to Hughes
(Schlagintweit, I.e.), counts l½ million of inhabitants.
Schlagintweit gives only 145,200 as Buddhists in Bhutan,
and in the ' Mittheilungen' (iv. 48) the sum total of inhabitants is 200,000. The population of Sikhim, with the Buddhists of Nepal, Schlagintweit estimates as between
500,000 and 550,000.
232 NOTES.
Kashmir has but few Buddhist inhabitants. Ladak,
now a province of Kashmir, having 178,000 inhabitants,
is mostly Buddhist.
Tibet (v. 32) has now 6,000,000 inhabitants, mostly
Mongolia (v. 32) has 2,000,000 inhabitants.
Man6shuria (v. 32) has 12,000,000 inhabitants.
Japan (v. 32) has 33,623,373 inhabitants, including,
however, the Lieu cheu islands.
Nepal (iv. 48) has 3,000,000 inhabitants, the majority
being Hindus.
China ( i i . 40) has 405,000,000. The number comprises the three religions, and, for reasons pointed out
before, cannot possibly be assigned to Buddhism alone.
As matter for consideration the student of Buddhism
may be reminded that the countries supposed to be tributary to China—some of which have been comprehended
in the above list—are now credited with a number of
29,580,000 inhabitants, viz. (v. 32) :—
Eastern Turkestan . . . . 580,000
Dsungaria . . . . . 500,000
Mongolia . . . . . . 2,000,000
Mandshuria . . . . . 12,000,000
Korea . . . . . . 8,500,000
Neutral country between Mandshuria and Korea
Tibet . . . . . . 6‚000‚000
Though the number of Buddhists in Brit ish India is
very small, some addition wi l l probably have to be made
to i t from the Independent States, which are set down
(v. 37) with 48,110,200 inhabitants. Of the Himalayan
States, Nepal and Bhutan only have contributed their
quota to the Buddhist census. A few more Buddhists
would probably come from Manipur (126,000 inhabitants)
and from the tribes north and south of Assam (iv. 48).
Taking it therefore all in all, I doubt whether, even
NOTES. 233
after deducting the many millions which ought to be
deducted from the number of Buddhists returned in China,
the sum total of the followers of the Buddhist religion, or
of those who belong to that religion rather than to any
other, should be placed below 500,000,000. This would
give us about one-third of the whole human race as more
or less under the sway of the teaching of one man—
Buddha Sakya-rnuni.
A new issue of Benin and Wagner's ' Die Bevölkerung
der Erde ' has just been published, of which the Time*
(Sept. 21, 1880) gives a short abstract from an early copy.
The population of the whole earth is now given as —
Europe . . . . . 315,929,000
Asia 834,707,000
Africa 205,679,000
America . . . . . 95,495,500
Australia and Polynesia . . . 4,031,000
Polar Regions . . . . 82,000
Total . . . . 1455,923,500
showing an increase since the last publication, nineteen
months ago, of 16,778,200.
Other changes which are of interest, but could not be
inserted in the foregoing tables, are, that China with al l its
dependencies now claims 434,626,500 inhabitants ; Ceylon,
2,755,557. The Indo-Chinese Peninsula is tabulated :—
British Burmah. . „ , . 2 747148
Manipur 'l2ô'‚000
Tribes East and South of Assam . . 200,000
Independent Burmah . 4,000,000
^iam 5J50‚000
Annam . . . . . . 21,000,000
French Cochin China . . . . 1,600,000
Cambodia . . . . . *89O,OOO
Independent Malacca . . . . 300,000
Strait Settlements • . . . , 350,000
Total . . . . 36,963,I4S
M . S T A N I S L A S J U L I E N has commenced the publication of a work entitled, ‘ Voyages des Pèlerins Bouddhistes.' The first volume, published in the year
1853, contains the biography of Hiouen-thsang, who,
in the middle of the seventh century A . D . , travelled
from China through Central Asia to India. The
second, which has just reached us, gives us the first
portion of Hiouen-thsang's own diary.
There are not many books of travel which can be
compared to these volumes. Hiouen-thsang passed
through countries which few had visited before him.
He describes parts of the world which no one has explored since, and where even our modern maps contain
hardly more than the ingenious conjectures of Alexander von Humboldt. His observations are minute ;
his geographical, statistical, and historical remarks
most accurate and trustworthy. The chief object of
his travels was to study the religion of Buddha, the
1 Voyages des Pèlerins Bouddhistes. vol . I, Histoire de la v ie
de Hiouen-thsang, et de ses voyages dans l'Inde, depuis l'an 629
jusqu'en 645, par Hoeili et Yen-thsong.; traduite du Chinois par
Stanislas Julien.
vol . II. Mémoires sur les Contrées occidentales, traduits du
Sanscrit en Chinois, en l'an 648, par Hiouen-thsang, et du Chinois
en Français, par Stanislas Julien. Paris, 1853-1857: B. Duprat.
London and Edinburgh : Williams and Norgate.
great reformer of India. Some Chinese pilgrims
visited India before, several after, his time. Hiouenthsang, however, is considered by the Chinese themselves as the most distinguished of these pilgrims,
and M . Stanislas Julien has rightly assigned to him
the first place in his collection.
In order to understand what Hiouen-thsang was,
and to appreciate his life and his labours, we must
first cast a glance at the history of a religion which,
however unattractive and even mischievous it may
appear to ourselves, inspired her votary with the
true spirit of devotion and self-sacrifice. That religion has now existed for 2,400 years. To millions
and millions of human beings it has been the only
preparation for a higher life placed within their reach.
And even at the present day it counts in Asia a more
numerous array of believers than any other faith, not
excluding Mohammedanism or Christianity. The
religion of Buddha took its origin in India about the
middle of the sixth century B.c., but it did not
assume its political importance t i l l about the time of
Alexander's invasion. We know little, therefore, of
its first origin and spreading, because the canonical
works on which we must chiefly rely for information
belong to a later period, and are strongly tinged
with a legendary character. The very existence of
such a being as Buddha, the son of Suddhodana, king
of Kapilavastu, has been doubted. But what can
never be doubted is this, that Buddhism, such as we
find it in Russia 1 and Sweden2 on the very threshold
1 See w. Spottiswoode's Tar anfasse Journey, p. 220, Visit to the
Buddhist Temple.
2 The only trace of the influence of Buddhism among the Eitdic
of European civilisation, in the north of Asia, in Mongolia, Tatary, China, Tibet, Nepal, Siam, Burmah,
and Ceylon, had its origin in India.’ Doctrines
similar to those of Buddha existed in that country
long before his time. We can trace them like
meandering roots below the surface long before we
reach the point where the roots strike up into a stem,
and the stem branches off again into fruit-bearing
branches. What was original and new in Buddha
was his changing a philosophical system into a practical doctrine ; his taking the wisdom of the few, and
coining as much of it as he thought genuine for the
benefit of the many ; his breaking with the traditional
formalities of the past, and proclaiming for the first
time, in spite of castes and creeds, the equality of the
rich and the poor, the foolish and the wise, the
‘ twice-born ’ and the outcast. Buddhism, as a religion and as a political event, was a reaction against
races, the Fins, Laps, &c, is found in the name of their priests and
sorcerers, the Shamans. Shaman, whatever has been said to the
contrary, is a corruption of Sramana, a name applied to Buddha,
and to Buddhist priests in general.. The ancient mythological religion of the Kudic races has nothing in common with Buddhism.
See Castrèn's Lectures on Finnish Mythology, 1853. Finland was
ceded by Sweden to Russia in 1809. See the Author's Survey of
Languages, second edition, p. 116. Shamanism found its way from
India to Siberia via Tibet, China, and Mongolia. Rules on the formation of magic figures, on the treatment of diseases by charms, on
the worship of evil spirits, on the acquisition of supernatural
powers, on charms, incantations, and other branches of Shaman
witchcraft, are found in the Stan-gyour, or the second part of the
Tibetan canon, and in some of the late Tantras of the Nepalese
1 The area of Buddhism includes vast territories, from Ceylon
and the Indian Archipelago in the south to the Baikal Lake in
Central Asia, and from the Caucasus eastward to Japan (Schlagintweit, Buddhism in Tibet, p. 10).
Brahmanism, though it retained much of that more
primitive form of faith and worship. Buddhism, in
its historical growth, presupposes Brahmanism, and,
however hostile the mutual relation of these two
religions may have been at different periods of Indian
history, it can be shown, without much difficulty,
that the latter was but a natural consequence of the
The ancient religion of the Aryan inhabitants of
India had started, like the religion of the Greeks, the
Romans, the Germans, Slaves, and Celts, with a simple
and intelligible mythological phraseology. In the
Veda—for there is but one real Veda—the names of
all the so-called gods or Devas betray their original
physical character and meaning without disguise.
The fire was praised and invoked by the name of
Agni (ignis) ; the earth by the name of Prithvî (the
broad) ; the sky by the name of Dyu (Jupiter), and
afterwards of Indra ; the firmament and the waters
by the name of Varuna or Ovpav6s. The sun was
invoked bymanynames, such as Sûrya, Savitri,Vishnu
or Mitra ; and the dawn rejoiced in such titles as
Ushas, Urvasî, Ahanâ, and Sûryâ. Nor was the
moon forgotten. For though it is mentioned but
rarely under its usual name of Kandra, it is alluded
to under the more sacred appellation of Sorna ; and
each of its four phases had received its own denomination. There is hardly any part of nature, if i t
could impress the human mind in any way with the
ideas of a higher power, of order, eternity, or beneficence—whether the winds, or the rivers, or the
trees, or the mountains—without a name and representative in the early Hindu Pantheon. No doubt
there existed in the human mind, from the very
beginning, something, whether we call it a suspicion,
an innate idea, an intuition, or a sense of the Divine.
What distinguishes man from the rest of the animal
creation is chiefly that ineradicable feeling of dependence and reliance upon some higher power, a consciousness of bondage from which the very name of
‘ religion ’ was derived. ‘ It is He that hath made us,
and not we ourselves.’ The presence of that power
was felt everywhere, and nowhere more clearly and
strongly than in the rising and setting of the sun, in
the change of day and night, of spring and winter, of
birth and death. But, although the Divine presence
was felt everywhere, it was impossible in that early
period of thought, and with a language incapable
as yet of expressing anything but material objects,
to conceive the idea of God in its purity and fullness,
or to assign to it an adequate and worthy expression.
Children cannot think the thoughts of men, and the
poets of the Veda could not speak the language
of Aristotle. It was by a slow process that the
human mind elaborated the idea of one absolute
and supreme Godhead ; and by a still slower process
that the human language matured a word to express
that idea. A period of growth was inevitable, and
those who, from a mere guess of their own, do
not hesitate to speak authoritatively of a primeval
revelation which imparted to the Pagan world the
idea of the Godhead in all its purity, forget that,
however pure and sublime and spiritual that revelation might have been, there was no language
capable as yet of expressing the high and immaterial
conceptions of that Heaven-sent message. The real
history of religion, during the earliest mythological
period, represents to us a slow process of fermentation in thought and language, with its various interruptions, its overflowings, its coolings, its deposits,
and its gradual clearing from all extraneous and
foreign admixture. This is not only the case among
the Indo-European or Aryan races in India, in Greece,
and in Germany. In Peru, and wherever the primitive formations of the intellectual world crop out,
the process is exactly the same. ‘ The religion of the
sun,’ as it has been boldly said by the author of the
‘ Spanish Conquest in America,’ ‘ was inevitable.’ It
was like a deep furrow which that heavenly luminary
drew, in its silent procession from east to west, over
the virgin mind of the gazing multitude ; and in the
impression left there by the first rising and setting of
the sun there lay the dark seed of a faith in a more
than human being, the first intimation of a life without beginning, of a world without end. Manifold
seed fell afterwards into the soil once broken. Something divine was discovered in everything that moved
and lived. Names were stammered forth in anxious
haste, and no single name could fully express what
lay hidden in the human mind and wanted expression
—the idea of an absolute, and perfect, and supreme,
and immortal Being. Thus a countless host of
nominal gods was called into existence, and for a time
seemed to satisfy the wants of a thoughtless multitude. But there weî e thoughtful men at all times,
and their reason protested against the contradictions
of a mythological phraseology, though it had been
hallowed by sacred customs and traditions. That
rebellious reason had been at work from the very
first, always ready to break the yoke of names and
formulas which no longer expressed what they were
intended to express. The idea which had yearned
for utterance was the idea of a supreme and absolute
Power, and that yearning was not satisfied by such
names as Kronos, Zeus, and Apollon. The very sound
of such a word as ‘ God ’ used in the plural jarred on
the ear, as if we were to speak of two universes, or
of a single twin. There are many words, as Greek
and Latin grammarians tell us, which if used in the
plural, have a different meaning from what they have
in the singular. The Latin cedes means a temple ;
if used in the plural it means a house. Dens and
®sÓ9 ought to be added to the same class of words.
The idea of supreme perfection excluded limitation,
and the idea of God excluded the possibility of
many gods. This may seem language too abstract
and metaphysical for tlie early times of which we
are speaking. But the ancient poets of the Vedic
hymns have expressed the same thought with perfect
clearness and simplicity. In the Rig-Veda 1.164, 46,
we read :—
‘ That which is one the sages speak of in many
ways—they call it Agni, Yama, Mâtarisvan.’
Besides the plurality of gods, which was sure to
lead to their destruction, there was a taint of mortality
which they could not throw off. They all derived
their being from the life of nature. The god who
represented the sun was liable, in the mythological
language of antiquity, to all the accidents which
threatened the solar luminary. Though he might rise
in immortal youth in the morning, he was conquered
by the shadows of the night, and the powers of winter
seemed to overthrow his heavenly throne. There is
nothing in nature free from change, and the gods of
nature fell under the thraldom of nature's laws. The
sun must set, and the solar gods and heroes must
die. There must be one God, there must be one unchanging Deity ; this was the silent conviction of the
human mind. There are many gods, liable to all the
vicissitudes of life ; this was everywhere the answer of
mythological religion.
It is curious to observe in how various ways these
two opposite principles were kept for a time from
open conflict, and how long the heathen temples resisted the enemy which was slowly and imperceptibly
undermining their very foundations. In Greece this
mortal element, inherent in all gods, was eliminated
to a great extent by the conception of heroes. Whatever was too human in the ancient legends told of
Zeus and Apollon was transferred to so-called halfgods or heroes, who were represented as the sons or
favourites of the gods, and who bore their fate under
a slightly altered name. The twofold character of
Herakles as a god and as a hero is acknowledged
even by Herodotus, and some of his epithets would
have been sufficient to indicate his solar and originally divine character. But, in order to make
some of the legends told of the solar deity possible
or conceivable, it was necessary to represent Herakles
as a more human being, and to make him rise to the
seat of the Immortals only after he had endured
toils and sufferings incompatible with the dignity
of an Olympian god. We find the same idea in
Peru, only that there it led to different results. A
thinking—or, as he was called, a free-thinking—
Inca 1 remarked that this perpetual travelling of
the sun was a sign of servitude,2 and he threw
doubts upon the divine nature of such an unquiet
thing as that great luminary appeared to him to be.
And this misgiving led to a tradition which, even
should it be unfounded in history, had some truth
in itself, that there was in Peru an earlier worship,
that of an invisible Deity, the Creator of the world,
Pachacamac. In Greece, also, there are signs of a
similar craving after the ‘ Unknown God.’ A
supreme God was wanted, and Zeus, the stripling
of Creta, was raised to that rank. He became God
above all gods—àirámtùv tcvpc09, as Pindar calls him.
Yet more was wanted than a mere Zeus ; and thus a
supreme Fate or Spell was imagined before which
all the gods, and even Zeus, had to bow. And even
this Fate was not allowed to remain supreme, and
there was something in the destinies of man which
was called virepfiopov or ‘beyond Fate.’ The most
awful solution, however, of the problem belongs to
Teutonic mythology. Here, also, some heroes were
introduced ; but their death was only the beginning
of the final catastrophe. ‘ A l l gods must die.’ Such
is the last word of that religion which had grown up
in the forests of Germany, and found a last refuge
among the glaciers and volcanoes of Iceland. The
death of Sigurd, the descendant of Odin, could not
avert the death of Balder, the son of Odin ; and the
death of Balder was soon to be followed by the
death of Odin himself, and of all the immortal gods.
1 Helps, The Spanish Conquest, vol. i i i . p. 503 : ‘ Que cosa tarn
inquiéta non le parescia ser Dios.'
2 on the servitude of the gods, see the Essay on Comparative
Mythology, Oxford Essays, 1856, p. 69.
A l l this was inevitable, and Prometheus, the man
of forethought, could safely predict the fall of Zeus.
The struggles by which reason and faith overthrow
tradition and superstition vary in different countries
and at different times ; but the final victory is always
on their side. In India the same antagonism manifested itself, but what there seemed a victory of
reason threatened to become the destruction of all
religious faith. A t first there was hardly a struggle.
On the primitive mythological stratum of thought
two new formations arose—the Brahmanical philosophy and the Brahmanical ceremonial; the one
opening the widest avenues of philosophical thought,
the other fencing all religious feeling within the
narrowest barriers. Both derived their authority
from the same source. Both professed to carry out
the meaning and purpose of the Veda. Thus we see
on the one side, the growth of a numerous and
powerful priesthood, and the establishment of a
ceremonial which embraced every moment of a man's
life from his birth to his death. There was no
event which might have moved the heart to a spontaneous outpouring of praise or thanksgiving which
was not regulated by priestly formulas. Every
prayer was prescribed, every sacrifice determined.
Every god had his share, and the claims of each
deity on the adoration of the faithful were set down
with such punctiliousness, the danger of offending
their pride was represented in such vivid colours,
that no one would venture to approach their presence
without the assistance of a well-paid staff of masters
of divine ceremonies. It was impossible to avoid
sin without the help of the Brahmans. They alone
knew the food that might properly be eaten, the air
which might properly be breathed, the dress which
might properly be worn. They alone could tell what
god should be invoked, what sacrifice be offered;
and the slightest mistake of pronunciation, the
slightest neglect about clarified butter, or the length
of the ladle in which it was to be offered, might
bring destruction upon the head of the unassisted
worshipper. No nation was ever so completely
priestridden as the Hindus were under the sway of
the Brahmanic law. Yet, on the other side, the
same people were allowed to indulge in the most
unrestrained freedom of thought, and in the schools
of their philosophy the very names of their gods
were never mentioned. Their existence was neither
denied nor asserted ; they were of no greater importance in the system of the world of thought than
trees or mountains, men or animals ; and to offer
sacrifices to them with a hope of rewards, so far
from being meritorious, was considered as an impediment in the attainment of that emancipation
to which a clear perception of philosophical truth
was to lead the patient student. There was one
system which taught that there existed but one
Being, without a second ; that everything else which
seemed to exist was but a dream and illusion, and
that this illusion might be removed by a true knowledge of the one Being. There was another system
which admitted two principles—one a subjective and
self-existent mind, the other matter, endowed with
qualities. Here the world, with its joys and sorrows,
was explained as the result of the subjective Self,
reflecting itself in the mirror of matter; and final
emancipation was obtained by turning away the eyes
from the play of nature, and being absorbed in the
knowledge of the true and absolute Self. A third
system started with the admission of atoms, and ex­
plained every effect, including the elements and the
mind, animals, men, and gods, from the concurrence
of these atoms. In fact, as M . Cousin remarked
many years ago, the history of the philosophy of
India is ‘ un abrégé de l'histoire de la philosophie.'
The germs of all these systems are traced back to the
Vedas, Brâhmanas, and the Upanishads, and the
man who believed in any of them was considered as
orthodox as the devout worshipper of the gods—the
one was saved by knowledge and faith, the other by
works and faith.
Such was the state of the Hindu mind when Bud­
dhism arose ; or, rather, such was the state of the
Hindu mind which gave rise to Buddhism. Buddha
himself went through the school of the Brahmans.
He performed their penances, he studied their philo­
sophy, and he at last claimed the name of the Buddha,
or the Enlightened, when he threw away the whole
ceremonial, with its sacrifices, superstitions, penances,
and castes, as worthless, and changed the complicated
systems of philosophy into a short doctrine of salva­
tion. This doctrine of salvation has been called pure
Atheism and Nihilism, and it no doubt was liable to
both charges in its metaphysical character, and in
that form in which we chiefly know it. It was
atheistic, not because it denied the existence of such
gods aś Indra and Brahma. Buddha did not even
condescend to deny their existence. But it was
called atheistic, like the Sânkhya philosophy, which
admitted but one subjective Self, and considered
creation as an illusion of that Self, imagining itself
for a while in the mirror of nature. As there was no
reality in creation, there could be no real Creator.
A l l that seemed to exist was the result of ignorance.
To remove that ignorance was to remove the cause
of all that seemed to exist. How a religion which
taught the annihilation of ail existence, of all thought,
of ail individuality and personality, as the highest
object of all endeavours, could have laid hold of the
minds of millions of human beings, and how at the
same time, by enforcing the duties of morality, justice,
kindness, and self-sacrifice, it could have exercised a
decidedly beneficial influence, not only on the natives
of India, but on the lowest barbarians of Central Asia,
is a riddle which no one has as yet been able to solve.
We must distinguish, it seems, between Buddhism
as a religion and Buddhism as a philosophy. The
former addressed itself to millions, the latter to a few
isolated thinkers. It is from these isolated thinkers,
however, and from their literary compositions, that we
are apt to form our notions of what Buddhism was,
while, as a matter of fact, not one in a thousand
would have been capable of following these metaphysical speculations. To the people at large Buddhism was a moral and religious, not a philosophical
reform. Yet even its morality has a metaphysical
tinge. The morality which it teaches is not a
morality of expediency and rewards. Virtue is not
enjoined because it necessarily leads to happiness.
No ; virtue is to be practised, but happiness is to be
shunned, and the only reward for virtue is that it
subdues the passions, and thus prepares the human
mind for that knowledge which is to end in complete
annihilation. There are ten commandments which
JBuddha imposes on his disciples.’ They are—
1. Not to ki l l .
2. Not to steal.
3. Not to commit adultery.
4. Not to lie.
5. Not to get intoxicated.
6. To abstain from unseasonable meals.
7. To abstain from public spectacles.
8. To abstain from expensive dresses.
9. Not to have a large bed.
10. Not to receive silver or gold.
The duties of those who embraced a religious life
were more severe. They were not allowed to wear
.any dress except rags collected in cemeteries, and
these rags they had to sew together with their own
hands. A yellow cloak was to be thrown over these
rags. Their food was to be extremely simple, and
they were not to possess anything except what they
could get by collecting alms from door to door in
their wooden bowls. They had but one meal in the
morning, and were not allowed to touch any food
after midday. They were to live in forests, not in
cities, and their only shelter was to be the shadow of
a tree. There they were to sit, to spread their carpet,
but not to lie down, even during sleep. They were
allowed to enter the nearest city or village in order
to beg, but they had to return to their forest before
Jtiight, and the only change which was allowed, or
1 See Burnouf, Lotus de la bonne Loi, p. 444. Barthélémy SaintHilaire, Du Bouddhisme, p. 132. Ch. F. Neumann, Catechism of the
B U D D H I S T P I L G R I M S .
rather prescribed, was when they had to spend somenights in the cemeteries, there to meditate on the
vanity of all things. And what was the object of all
this asceticism? Simply to guide each individual
towards that path which would finally bring him to
Nirvana, it may be, to utter extinction or annihilation. The very definition of virtue was that it helped
man to cross over to the other shore, and that other
shore was not death, but cessation of all being. Thus
charity was considered a virtue ; modesty, patience,,
courage, contemplation, and science, all were virtues,,
but they were practised only as a means of arriving
at deliverance. Buddha himself exhibited the perfection of all these virtues. His charity knew no
bounds. When he saw a tigress starved, and unable
to feed her cubs, he is said to have made a charitable
oblation of his body to be devoured by them. Hiouenthsang visited the place on the banks of the Indus
where this miracle was supposed to have happened,,
and he remarks that the soil is still red there from
the blood of Buddha, and that the trees and flowers
have the same colour.’ As to the modesty of
Buddha, nothing could exceed it. One day, k ing
Prasenagit, the protector of Buddha, called on him
to perform miracles, in order to silence his adversaries, the Brahmans. Buddha consented. He performed the required miracles, but he exclaimed t
- Great king, I do not teach the law to my pupils,
telling them, Go, ye saints, and before the eyes of
the Brahmans and householders perform, by means
of your supernatural powers, miracles greater than
any man can perform. I tell them, when I teach.
1 Vol. i . p. 89, vol. i i . p. 167.
them the law, Live, ye saints, hiding your good,
works and showing your sins.’ And yet, all this,
self-sacrificing charity, all this self-sacrificing humility, by which the life of Buddha was distinguished
throughout, and which he preached to the multitudes»
that came to listen to him, had, we are told, but one
object, and that object was final annihilation. It is
impossible almost to believe it, and yet when we turn
away our eyes from the pleasing picture of that high
morality which Buddha preached for the first time to
all classes of men, and look into the dark pages of
his code of religious metaphysics, we can hardly find
another explanation. Fortunately, the millions who
embraced the doctrines of Buddha, and were saved
by it from the depths of barbarism, brutality, and
selfishness, were unable to fathom the meaning of"
his metaphysical doctrines. Wi th them the Nirvana
to which they aspired, became only a relative deliverance from the miseries of human life ; nay, it soon
took the bright colours of a paradise to be regained
by the pious worshipper of Buddha. But was this
the meaning of Buddha himself? In his ‘Four
Verities ’ he does not, indeed, define Nirvâna, except
by cessation of all pain ; but when he traces the cause
of pain, and teaches the means of destroying, not only
pain itself, but the cause of pain, we shall see that
his Nirvâna assumes a very different meaning. His
‘ Four Verities ’ are very simple. The first asserts the
existence of pain ; the second asserts that the cause
of pain lies in sin ; the third asserts that pain may
cease by Nirvâna; the fourth shows the way that
leads to Nirvâna. This way to Nirvâna consists in
eight things—right faith (orthodoxy), right judgment
250 B U D D H I S T P I L G R I M S .
(logic), right language (veracity), right purpose
(honesty), right practice (religious life), right obedience (lawful life), right remembrance, and right
n¾editation. A i l these precepts might be understood
as part of a simply moral code, closing with a kind of
mystic meditation on the highest object of thought,
and with a yearning after deliverance from all worldly
ties. Similar systems have prevailed in many parts of
the world, without a denial of the existence of an absolute Being, or of a something towards which the
human mind tends, in which it is absorbed or even
annihilated. Awful as such a mysticism may appear,
yet it leaves still something that exists, it acknowledges a feeling of dependence in man. It knows of
a first cause, though it may have nothing to predicate of it except that it is T O KIVOVV dfCLvrjTov. A return is possible from that desert. The first cause
may be called to life again. It may take the names
of Creator, Preserver, Ruler ; and when the simplicity
and helplessness of the child have re-entered the
heart of man, the name of father wil l come back to
the lips which had uttered in vain all the names of a
philosophical despair. But from the Nirvâna of the
Buddhist metaphysician there is no return. He starts
from the idea that the highest object is to escape pain.
Life in his eyes is nothing but misery; birth the cause
of all evil, from which even death cannot deliver him,
because he believes in an eternal cycle of existence,
or in transmigration. There is no deliverance from
evil, except by breaking through the prison wails, not
only of life, but of existence, and by extirpating the
last cause of existence. What, then, is the cause of
-existence? The cause of existence, says the BudBUDDHIST PILGRIMS. 251
towards something ; and this attachment arises from
thirst or desire. Desire presupposes perception of
the object desired; perception presupposes contact;
contact, at least a sentient contact, presupposes the
senses; and, as the senses can only perceive what
has form and name, or what is distinct, distinction is
the real cause of all the effects which end in existence,
birth, and pain. Now, this distinction is itself the
result of conceptions or ideas ; but these ideas, so far
from being, as in Greek philosophy, f he true and everlasting forms of the Absolute, are here represented
as mere illusions, the effects of ignorance (avidyâ).
Ignorance, therefore, is really the primary cause of all
that seems to exist. To know that ignorance, as the
root of all evil, is the same as to destroy it, and with
it all effects that flowed from it. In order to see how
this doctrine affects the individual, let us watch the
last moments of Buddha as described by his disciples.
He enters into the first stage of meditation when he
feels freedom from sin, acquires a knowledge of the
nature of all things, and has no desire except that of
Nirvâna. But he still feels pleasure ; he even uses
his reasoning and discriminating powers. The use of
these powers ceases in the second stage of meditation,
when nothing remains but a desire after Nirvâna,
and a general feeling of satisfaction, arising from
his intellectual perfection. That satisfaction, also,
is extinguished in the third stage. Indifference succeeds ; yet there is still self-consciousness, and a certain amount of physical pleasure. These last remnants are destroyed in the fourth stage ; memory
fades away, all pleasure and pain are gone, and the
doors of Nirvana now open before him. After having~
passed these four stages once, Buddha went through
them a second time, but he died before he attained
again to the fourth stage. We must soar still higher,
and though we may feel giddy and disgusted, we must
sit out the tragedy t i l l the curtain falls. After thefour stages of meditation 1 are passed, the Buddha
(and every being is to become a Buddha) enters into*
the infinity of space ; then into the infinity of intelligence; and thence he passes into the region o f
nothing. But even here there is no rest. There is
still something left—the idea of the nothing in which,
he rejoices. That also must be destroyed, and it is
destroyed in the fourth and last region, where there
is not even the idea of a nothing left, and where thereis complete rest, undisturbed by nothing, or what is
not nothing.’ There are few persons who will take
the trouble of reasoning out such hallucinations ;,
least of all, persons who are accustomed to the sober
language of Greek philosophy; and it is the more
interesting to hear the opinion which one of the best
Aristotelian scholars of the present day, after a patient examination of the authentic documents o f
Buddhism, has formed of its system of metaphysics.
M . Barthélémy Saint-Hilaire, in areview on Buddhism,
published in the ' Journal des Savants,’ says :—
‘ Buddhism has no God ; it has not even the confused and vague notion of a Universal Spirit in which
1 These ' four stages ' are described in the same manner in the
canonical books of Ceylon and Nepal, and may therefore safely be
ascribed to that original form of Buddhism from which the Southern
and Northern schools branched off at a later period. See Burnouf,
JOotus de la bonne Loi, p. 800.
2 See Burnouf, ibid., p. 814.
B U D D H I S T P I L G R I M S . 253
the human soul, according to the orthodox doctrine of
.Brahmanism, and the Sânkhya philosophy, may be
-absorbed. Nor does it admit nature, in the proper
¾ense of the word, and it ignores that profound
division between spirit and matter which forms the
-system and the glory of Kapila. It confounds man
with all that surrounds him, all the while preaching
to him the laws of virtue. Buddhism, therefore, cannot unite the human soul, which it does not even
mention, with a God, whom it ignores ; nor with
nature, which it does not know better. Nothing
remained but to annihilate the soul ; and in order to
be quite sure that the soul may not re-appear under
some new form in this world, which has been cursed
.as the abode of illusion and misery, Buddhism
destroys its very elements, and never gets tired of
glorying in this achievement. What more is wanted?
If this is not the absolute nothing, what is Nirvâna ?>
Such religion, we should say, was made for a mad‚house. But Buddhism was an advance, i f compared
with Brahmanism ; it has stood its ground for centuries, and i f truth could be decided by majorities,
the show of hands, even at the present day, would be
in favour of Buddha. The metaphysics of Buddhism,
like the metaphysics of most religions, not excluding
our own Gnosticism and Mysticism, were beyond the
reach of all except a few hardened philosophers or
ecstatic dreamers. Human nature could not be
vchanged. Out of the very nothing it made a new
paradise ; and he who had left no place in the whole
universe for a Divine Being, was deified himself by
the multitudes who wanted a person whom they
could worship, a king whose help they might invoke,,
a friend before whom they could pour out their most
secret griefs. And there remained the code of a pure
morality, proclaimed by Buddha. There remained
the spirit of charity, kindness, and universal pity
with which he had inspired his disciples.’ There
remained the simplicity of the ceremonial he had
taught, the equality of all men which he had declared,
the religious toleration which he had preached from
the beginning. There remained much, therefore, to
account for the rapid strides which his doctrine made
from the mountain peaks of Ceylon to the Tundras*
of the Samoyedes, and we shall see in the simple
story of the life of Hiouen-thsang that Buddhism,
with all its defects, has had its heroes, its martyrs,
and its saints.
Hiouen-thsang, born in China more than a thousand years after the death of Buddha, was a believer
in Buddhism. He dedicated his whole life to the
study of that religion ; travelling from his native
country to India, visiting every place mentioned in
Buddhist history or tradition, acquiring the ancient
language in which the canonical books of the Budhists were written, studying commentaries, discussing
points of difficulty, and defending the orthodox faith
1 See the ' Dhammapada; a Pâli work on Buddhist ethics
lately edited by V. FausböH, a distinguished pupil of Professor
Westergaard, at Copenhagen. The Rev. Spence Hardy (Eastern
Monachism, p. 169) writes: ' A collection might be made from the
precepts of this work, that in the purity of its ethics could scarcely
be equalled from any other heathen author.' Mr. Knighton, when
speaking of the same work in his History of Ceylon (p. 77), remarks :
' In it we have exemplified a code of moralit}^, and a list of precepts,
which, for pureness, excellence, and wisdom, is only second to that
of the Divine Lawgiver himself.'
B U D D H I S T P I L G R I M S . 255
at public councils against disbelievers and schismatics.
Buddhism had grown and changed since the death
of its founder, but it had lost nothing of its vitality.
At a very early period a proselytising spirit awoke
among the disciples of the Indian reformer,an element
entirely new in the history of ancient religions. No
Jew, no Greek, no Roman, no Brahman ever thought
of converting people to his own national form of
worship. Religion was looked upon as private or
national property. It was to be guarded against
strangers. The most sacred names of the gods, the
prayers by which their favour could be gained, were
kept secret. No religion, however, was more exclusive than that of the Brahmans. A Brahman was
born, nay, twice-born. He could not be made. Not
even the lowest caste—that of the Sudras—would
open its ranks to a stranger. Here lay the secret of
Buddha’s success. He addressed himself to castes
and outcasts. He promised salvation to all ; and he
commanded his disciples to preach his doctrine in a l l
places and to all men. A sense of duty, extending
from the narrow limits of the house, the village, and
the country to the widest circle of mankind, a feeling
of sympathy and brotherhood towards all men—the
idea, in fact, of humanity—was in India first pronounced by Buddha. In the third Buddhist Council y
the acts of which have been preserved to us in the
‘ Mahavansa,’1 we hear of missionaries being sent to
the chief countries beyond India. This Council, we
are told, took place 235 years after the death of
Buddha, in the 17th year of the reign of the famous
king Asoka, 242;'308 B . C . whose edicts have beenpre1 Mahavansa, ed. G. Tumour, Ceylon, 1837, p. 7I.
.served to us on rock inscriptions in various parts of
India. There are sentences in these inscriptions of
Asoka which might be read with advantage by our
own missionaries, though they are now more than
2000 years old. Thus it is written on the rocks of
<3irnar, Dhauli, and Kapurdigiri 1—
‘ Piyadasi, the king beloved of the gods, desires
that the ascetics of all creeds might reside in all
places. A l l these ascetics profess alike the command
which people should exercise over themselves, and
the purity of the soul. But people have different
opinions, and different inclinations.’
And again 2 :—
‘ Now, intrinsic worth can grow greater in many
ways, but the foundation thereof, in all its compass,
is discretion in speaking, so that no man may praise
his own sect, or contemn another sect, or despise it
on unsuitable occasions. On all occasions let respect
be shown. Whatever of good, indeed, a man, from
any motive, confers on any one of a different persuasion, tends to the advantage of his own sect and to
the benefit of a different persuasion. By acting in an
opposite manner, a man injures his own sect and
offends a different sect Therefore, concord is
best, so that all may know and willingly listen to
each other's religion.’
Those who have no time to read the voluminous
works of the late E . Burnouf on Buddhism, his ‘Intro1 Burgess, Archœological Survey of Wester>i India, 1874-75, p.
110, tablet vii. Cunningham, Corpus Inscriptionum Indicarum, 1877,
p. 121. Burnout", Lotus, Appendice, p. 755.
2 Twelfth Tablet, Burgess, l.c. p. 122 ; Cuningham, l.c. p. 124.
Translation by Kern.
duction à l'Histoire du Buddhisme,’ and his translation of ‘ Le Lotus de la bonne Loi,’ will find a very
interesting and lucid account of these councils, and
edicts and missions, and the history of Buddhism in
general, in a work lately published by Mrs. Speir,
‘Li fe in Ancient India.’ 1 Buddhism spread in the
south to Ceylon, in the north to Kashmir, the Himalayan countries, Tibet, and China. One Buddhist
missionary is supposed to be mentioned in the
Chinese annals as early as 217 B.c. ; 2 and about the
120 B.c. a Chinese general, after defeating the barbarous tribes north of the Desert of Gobi, brought
back as a trophy a golden statue, the statue of
Buddha.3 It was not, however, t i l l the year 65 A . D .
that Buddhism was officially recognised by the Emperor Ming-ti 4 as a third state-religion in China.
Ever since it has shared equal honours in the Celestial
Empire, with the doctrines of Confucius and Lao-tse,
and it is but lately that these three established religions have had to fear the encroachments of a new
rival in the creed of the ‘ Chief of the Rebels.’
After Buddhism had been introduced into China,
the first care of its teachers was to translate the
sacred works from Sanskrit, in which they were
originally written, into Chinese. We read of the
Emperor Ming-ti, of the dynasty of Han, sending
Tsaî-in and other high officials to India, in order to
study there the doctrine of Buddha. They engaged
the services of two learned Buddhists, Matânga and
1 Also in a volume published by the Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, Buddhism, by T. w. Rhys Davids, 1878.
2 See Foe Kone Ki, p. 41, and xxxviii, preface.
8 See ibid., p. 41.
4 Laiita- Vistara, ed. Foucaux, p. xvii, note.
Chu-fa-lan, and some of the most important Buddhist works were translated by them into Chinese.
‘The Life of Buddha,’ the 4 Lalita-Vistara,’1 a Sanskrit work which, on account of its style and language,
had been referred by Oriental scholars to a much
more modern period of Indian literature, can now
safely be ascribed to an ante-Christian era, if, as we
are told by Chinese scholars, it was translated from
Sanskrit into Chinese, as one of the canonical books
of Buddhism, as early as the year 76 A . D . 2 The
same work was translated also into Tibetan ; and an
edition of it, published in Paris by M . E . Foucaux, reflects high credit on that distinguished scholar, and
on the Government which supports these studies in the
most liberal and enlightened spirit. The intellectual
intercourse between the Indian Peninsula and the
northern continent of Asia remained uninterrupted
for many centuries. Missions were sent from China
to India, to report on the political and geographical
state of the country, but the chief object of interest
which attracted public embassies and private pilgrims
across the Himalayan mountains was the religion of
Buddha. About three hundred years after the public
recognition of Buddhism by the Emperor Ming-ti,
the great stream of Buddhist pilgrims began to flow
from China to India. The first account which we
possess of these pilgrimages refers to the travels of
Fa-hian, who visited India towards the end of the
1 This Sanskrit text has been published in the Bibliotheca
2 This no longer holds good. Some Life of Buddha may have been
translated at that early time, but there is no proof that it was the
Lalita-vistara, as we now possess it in Sanskrit.
fourth century. His travels have been translated by
Rémusat, and M . Julien promises a new and more
correct translation. After Fa-Hian‚ we have the travels
of Hoei–seng and Sung-yun.’ who were sent to India,
in 518, by command of the Empress, with a view of
collecting sacred books and relics. Of Hiouen-thsang,
who follows next in time, we possess, at present,
eight out of twelve books ; and there is reason to
hope that the last four books of his Journal will soon
follow in M . Julien's translation.’ After Hiouenthsang, the chief works of Chinese pilgrims are the
4 Itineraries’ of the fifty-six monks, published in 730,
and the travels of Khi-nie, who visited India in 964,
at the head of three hundred pilgrims. India was
for a time the Holy Land of China. There lay the
scene of the life and death of the great teacher ;
there were the monuments commemorating the chief
events of his life ; there the shrines where his relics
might be worshipped ; there the monasteries where
tradition had preserved his sayings and his doings ;
there the books where his doctrine might be studied in
its original purity ; there the schools where the tenets
of different sects which had sprung up in the course
of time might best be acquired.
Some of the pilgrims and envoys have left us
accounts of their travels, and, in the absence of anything like an historical literature in India itself, these
Chinese works are of the utmost importance for gaining an insight into the social, political, and religious
history of that country from the beginning of our
1 The Rev. S. Beal has published an English translation of FahHian and Sung-yun, 1869.
2 They have since been published.
era to the time of the Mohammedan conquest. The
importance of Mohammedan writers, so far as they
treat on the history of India during the Middle Ages,,
was soon recognised, and in a memoir lately published
by the most eminent Arabic scholar of France, M .
Reinaud, new and valuable historical materials have
been collected—materials doubly valuable in India,
where no native historian has ever noted down the
passing events of the day. But, although the existence of similar documents in Chinese was known,
and although men of the highest literary eminence—
such as Humboldt, Biot, and others—had repeatedly
urged the necessity of having a translation of the early
travels of the Chinese Pilgrims, it seemed almost as
i f our curiosity was never to be satisfied. France has
been the only country where Chinese scholarship has
ever flourished, and it was a French scholar, Abel
Rémusat, who undertook at last the translation of one
of the Chinese Pilgrims. Rémusat died before his
work was published, and his translation of the travels
of Fahian, edited by M . Landresse, remained for a
long time without being followed up by any other.
Nor did the work of that eminent scholar answer all
expectations. Most of the proper names, the names
of countries, towns, mountains, and rivers, the titles
of books, and the whole Buddhistic phraseology, were
so disguised in their Chinese dress that it was frequently impossible to discover their original form.
The Chinese alphabet was never intended to represent the sound of words. It was in its origin
a hieroglyphic system, each word having its own
graphic representative. Nor would it have been
possible to write Chinese in any other way. Chinese
is a monosyllabic language. No word is allowed
more than one consonant and one vowel—the vowels
including diphthongs and nasal vowels. Hence the
possible number of words is extremely small, and the
number of significative sounds in the Chinese language
is said to be no more than 450. No language, however, could be satisfied with so small a vocabulary^
and in Chinese, as in other monosyllabic dialects,
each word, as it was pronounced with various accents
and intonations, was made to convey a large number
of meanings ; so that the total number of words, or
rather of ideas, expressed in Chinese, is said to amount
to 43,496. Hence a graphic representation of the
mere sound of words would have been perfectly useless, and itwas absolutely necessary to resort to hieroglyphical writing, enlarged by the introduction of
determinative signs. Nearly the whole immense
dictionary of Chinese—at least twenty-nine thirtieths
—consists of combined signs, one part indicating the
general sound, the other determining its special meaning. Wi th such a system of writing it was possible
to represent Chinese, but impossible to convey either
the sound or the meaning of any other language.
Besides, some of the most common sounds—such as r,
h, d, and the short a—are unknown in Chinese.
How, then, were the translators to render Sanskrit
names in Chinese? The most rational plan would have
been to select as many Chinese signs as there were
Sanskrit letters, and to express one and the same letter
in Sanskrit always by one and the same sign in
Chinese ; or, if the conception of a consonant without
a vowel, and of a vowel without a consonant, was too
much for a Chinese understanding, to express at least
the same syllabic sound in Sanskrit by one and the
same syllabic sign in Chinese. A similar system is
adopted at the present day, when the Chinese find
themselves under the necessity of writing the names
of Lord Palmerstonor Sir John Bowring; but, instead
of adopting any definite system of transcribing, each
translator seems to have chosen his own signs for
rendering the sounds of Sanskrit words, and to have
chosen them at random. The result is that every
Sanskrit word, as transcribed by the Chinese Bud­
dhists, is a riddle which no ingenuity is able to solve.
Who could have guessed that ‘ Fo­to,’ or more fre­
quently ‘ Fo,’ was meant for Buddha ? ‘ Ko­lo­keou­lo9
for Râhula‚ the son of Buddha ? ‘ Po­lo­naī 9 for
Benares P ‘ Heng­ho 9 for Ganges ? ‘ Niepan 9 for Nir­
vana P ‘ Chamen9 for Sramana ? ‘ Feito 9 for Veda ?
‘ Tcha­li 9 for Kshattriya ? ‘ Siu­to­lo ’ for Sûdra P
‘ Fan ’ or ‘ Fan­lon­mo’ for Brahma ? Sometimes, it is
true, the Chinese endeavoured to give, besides the
sounds, a translation of the meaning of the Sanskrit
words. But the translation of proper names is always
very precarious, and it required an intimate know­
ledge of Sanskrit and Buddhist literature to recognise
from these awkward translations the exact form of
the proper names for which they were intended. If,
in a Chinese translation of Thukydides, we read of
a person called ‘Leader of the people,’ we might
guess his name to have been Demagogos, or L a ­
egos, as well as Ages i laos . And when the name
of the town of Srâvastî was written Che­wei, which
means in Chinese ‘ where one hears,’ it required no
ordinary power of combination to find that the name
of Srâvastî was derived from a Sanskrit noun, sravas
(Greek tcksos, Lat. cluo), which means ‘ hearing * or
‘ fame,’ and that the etymological meaning of the
name of Srâvastî was intended by the Chinese ‘ Chewei.’ Besides these names of places and rivers, of
kings and saints, there was the whole strange phraseology of Buddhism, of which no dictionary gives any
satisfactory explanation. How was even the best
Chinese scholar to know that the words which usually
mean ‘ dark shadow ’ must be taken in the technical
sense of Nirvana, or becoming absorbed in the Absolute, that ‘ return-purity9 had the same sense, and
that a third synonymous expression was to be recognised in a phrase which, in ordinary Chinese, would
have the sense of ‘ transport-figure-crossing-age ? ' A
monastery is called ‘ origin-door,’ instead of ‘ blackdoor.’ The voice of Buddha is called ‘the voice of
the dragon ; 9 and his doctrine goes by the name of
‘ the door of expedients.’
Tedious as these details may seem, it was almost
a duty to state them, in order to give an idea of the
difficulties which M . Stanislas Julien had to grapple
with. Oriental scholars labour under great disadvantages. Few people take an interest in their
works, or, i f they do, they simply accept the results,
but they are unable to appreciate the difficulty with
which these results were obtained. Many persons
who have read the translation of the cuneiform inscriptions are glad, no doubt, to have the authentic
and contemporaneous records of Darius and Xerxes.
But if they followed the process by which scholars
such as Grotefend, Burnouf, Lassen, and Rawlinson
arrived at their results, they would see that the discovery of the alphabet, the language, the grammar,
and the meaning of the inscriptions of the Achæmenian dynasty deserves to be classed with the
discoveries of a Kepler, a Newton, or a Faraday. In
a similar manner, the mere translation of a Chinese
work into French seems a very ordinary performance ;
but M . Stanislas Julien, who has long been acknowledged as the first Chinese scholar in Europe, had to
spend twenty years of incessant labour in order to
prepare himself for the task of translating the
‘ Travels of Hiouen-thsang.’ He had to learn Sanskrit, no very easy language ; he had to study the
Buddhist literature written in Sanskrit, Pâli, Tibetan,
Mongolian and Chinese. He had to make vast indices of every proper name connected with Buddhism. Thus only could he shape his own tools, and
accomplish what at last he did accomplish. Most
persons will remember the interest with which the
travels of M M . Hue and Gäbet were read a few years
ago, though these two adventurous missionaries were
obliged to renounce their original intention of entering India by way of China and Tibet, and were not
allowed to proceed beyond the famous capital of
Lhassa. If, then, it be considered that there was a
traveller who had made a similar journey twelve
hundred years earlier ; who had succeeded in crossing
the deserts and mountain passes which separate China
from India ; who had visited the principal cities of
the Indian Peninsula, at a time of which we have no
information, from native or foreign sources, as to the
state of that country ; who had learned Sanskrit, and
made a large collection of Buddhist works ; who had
carried on public disputations with the most eminent
philosophers and theologians of the day ; who had
translated the most important works on Buddhism
from Sanskrit into Chinese, and left an account of his
travels, which still existed in the libraries of China—
nay, which had been actually printed and published
—we may well imagine the impatience with which
all scholars interested in the ancient history of India,
and in the subject of Buddhism, looked forward to
the publication of so important a work. Hiouenthsang's name had first been mentioned in Europe by
Abel Rémusat and Klaproth. They had discovered
some fragments of his travels in a Chinese work on
foreign countries and foreign nations. Rémusat wrote
to China to procure, if possible, a complete copy of
Hiouen-thsang's works. He was informed by Morrison that they were out of print. Still, the few
specimens which he had given at the end of his translation of the ‘ Foe Koue K i ’ had whetted the appetite
-of Oriental scholars. M . Stanislas Julien succeeded
in procuring a copy of Hiouen-thsang in 1838 ; and
after nearly twenty years spent in preparing a translation of the Chinese traveller, his version is now
before us. If there are but few who know the difficulty of a work like that of M . Stanislas Julien, it
becomes their duty to speak out, though, after all,
perhaps the most intelligible eulogium would be that,
i n a branch of study where there are no monopolies
and no patents, M . Stanislas Julien is acknowledged
to be the only man in Europe who could produce
the article which he has produced in the work
before us.
We shall devote the rest of our space to a short
account of the life and travels of Hiouen-thsang.
Hiouen-thsang was born in a provincial town of China,
at a time when the empire was in a chronic state o f
revolution. His father had left the public service,
and had given most of his time to the education of
his four children. Two of them distinguished themselves at a very early age—one of them was Hiouenthsang, the future traveller and theologian. The boy
was sent to school at a Buddhist monastery, and,
after receiving there the necessary instruction, partly
from his elder brother, he was himself admitted as a
monk at the early age of thirteen. During the next
seven years, the young monk travelled about with
his brother from place to place, in order to follow the
lectures of some of the most distinguished professorsThe horrors of war frequently broke in upon hi&
quiet studies, and forced him to seek refuge in the
more distant provinces of the empire. At the age of
twenty he took priest's orders, and had then already
become famous by his vast knowledge. He had
studied the chief canonical books of the Buddhist
faith, the records of Buddha's life and teaching, the
system of ethics and metaphysics ; and he was versed
in the works of Confucius and Lao-tse. But still
his own mind was agitated by doubts. Six years he
continued his studies in the chief places of learning
in China, and where he came to learn he was frequently asked to teach. At last, when he saw that
none, even the most eminent theologians, were able
to give him the information he wanted, he formed his
resolve of travelling to India. The works of earlier
pilgrims, such as Fahian and others, were known to
him. He knew that in India he should find the
originals of the works which in their Chinese translation left so many things doubtful in his mind ; and
though he knew from the same sources the dangers of
his journey, yet ‘ the glory,’ as he says, ‘ of recovering the Law, which was to be a guide to all men and
the means of their salvation, seemed to him worthy
of imitation.’ In common with several other priests,
he addressed a memorial to the Emperor to ask leave
for their journey. Leave was refused, and the courage
of his companions failed. Not that of Hiouen-thsang.
His own mother had told him that, soon before she
gave birth to him, she had seen her child travelling
to the Far West in search of the Law. He was himself haunted by similar visions, and having long surrendered worldly desires, he resolved to brave all
dangers and to risk his life for the only object for
which he thought it worth while to live. He proceeded to the Yellow River, the Hoang-ho, and to the
place where the caravans bound for India used to
meet, and though the Governor had sent strict orders
not to allow anyone to cross the frontier, the young
priest, with the assistance of his co-religionists, succeeded in escaping the vigilance of the Chinese
‘ douaniers.' Spies were sent after him. But so frank
was his avowal, and so firm his resolution, which he
expressed in the presence of the authorities, that the
Governor himself tore his hue-and-cry to pieces, and
allowed him to proceed. Hitherto he had been accompanied by two friends. They now left him, and
Hiouen-thsang found himself alone, without a friend
and without a guide. He sought for strength in fervent prayer. The next morning a person presented
himself, offering his services as a guide. This guide
conducted him safely for some distance, but left him
when they approached the desert. There were stilt
five watch-towers to be passed, and there was nothing
to indicate the road through the desert, except the
hoof-marks of horses, and skeletons. The traveller
followed this melancholy track, and, though misled by
the ‘ mirage ’ of the desert, he reached the first tower.
Here the arrows of the watchmen would have put an
end to his existence and his cherished expedition.
But the officer in command, himself a zealous Buddhist, allowed the courageous pilgrim to proceed, and
gave him letters of recommendation to the officers of
the next towers. The last tower, however, was
guarded by men inaccessible to bribes, and deaf to
reasoning. In order to escape their notice, Hiouen*thsang had to make a long détour. He passed
through another desert, and lost his way. The bag
in which he carried his water burst, and then even
the courage of Hiouen-thsang failed. He began to
retrace his steps. But suddenly he stopped. ‘ I
took an oath,’ he said, ‘ never to make a step backward t i l l I had reached India. Why, then, have I
eome here ? It is better I should die proceeding to
the West than return to the East and live.’ Four
nights and five days he travelled through the desert
without a drop of water. He had nothing to refresh
himself except his prayers—and what were they?
Texts from a work which taught that there was no
god, no Creator, no creation—nothing but mind,
minding itself. It is incredible in how exhausted an
atmosphere the divine spark within us will glimmer
on, and even warm the dark chambers of the human
heart. Comforted by his prayers, Hiouen-thsang
proceeded, and arrived after some time at a large
Take. He was in the country of the Oigour Tatars.
They received him well, nay, too well. One of the
Tatar Khans, himself a Buddhist, sent for the Buddhist pilgrim, and insisted on his staying with him
to instruct his people. Remonstrances proved of no
avail. But Hiouen-thsang was not to be conquered.
‘ I know,’ he said, ‘that the king, in spite of his
power, has no power over my mind and my will ; ’"
and he refused all nourishment in order to put an
end to his life. Qavovficu teal *Xsv9sprfaofjLaL, Three
days he persevered, and at last the Khan, afraid of
the consequences, was obliged to yield to the poor
monk. He made him promise to visit him on his
return to China, and then to stay three years with
him. A t last, after a delay of one month, during
which the Khan and his Court came daily to hear the
lessons of their pious guest, the traveller continued
his journey with a numerous escort, and with letters
of introduction from the Khan to twenty-four Princes
whose territories the little caravan had to passTheir way lay through what is now called Dsungaria,
across the Musur-dabaghan mountains, the northern
portion of the Belur-tag, the Yaxartes valley, Bactria,
and Kabulistân. We cannot follow them through
all the places they passed, though the accounts which
he gives of their adventures are most interesting,
and the description of the people most important.
Here is a description of the Musur-dabaghan mountains :—
‘ The top of the mountain rises to the sky. Since
the beginning of the world the snow has been accumulating, and is now transformed into vast masses
of ice, which never melt, either in spring or summer.
Hard and brilliant sheets of snow are spread out t i l l
they are lost in the infinite, and mingle with the
clouds. I f one looks at them, the eyes are dazzled
by the splendour. Frozen peaks hang down over
both sides of the road, some hundred feet high, and
twenty feet or thirty feet thick. It is not without
difficulty and danger that the traveller can clear them
or climb over them. Besides, there are squalls of
wind and tornadoes of snow which attack the pilgrims. Even with double shoes, and in thick furs,
one cannot help trembling and shivering.’
During the seven days that Hiouen-thsang was
-crossing these Alpine passes he lost fourteen of his
What is most important, however, in this early
portion of the Chinese traveller is the account which
he gives of the high degree of civilisation among the
tribes of Central Asia. We had gradually accustomed
ourselves to believe in an early civilisation of Egypt,
of Babylon, of China, of India ; but now that we find
the hordes of Tatary possessing in the seventh century the chief arts and institutions of an advanced
society, we shall soon have to drop the name of barbarians altogether. The theory of M . Oppert, who
-ascribes the original invention of the cuneiform letters
4ind a civilisation anterior to that of Babylon and
Nineveh to a Turanian or Scythian race, will lose
much of its apparent improbability ; for no new wave
of civilisation had reached these countries between
the cuneiform period of their literature and history
and the time of Hiouen–thsang’s visit. In the kingdom of Okini, on the western frontier of China,
Hiouen-thsang found an active commerce, gold, silver,
and copper coinage; monasteries, where the chief
works of Buddhism were studied, and an alphabet,
derived from Sanskrit. As he travelled on he met
with mines, with agriculture, including pears, plums,
peaches, almonds, grapes, pomegranates, rice, and
wheat. The inhabitants were dressed in silk and
woollen materials. There were musicians in the chief
cities who played on the flute and the guitar. Buddhism was the prevailing religion, but there were
traces of an earlier worship, the Bactrian fire-worship.
The country was everywhere studded with hails,
monasteries, monuments, and statues. Samarkand
formed at that early time a kind of Athens, and its
manners were copied by all the tribes in the neighbourhood. Balkh, the old capital of Bactria, was
still an important place on the Oxus, well fortified,
and full of sacred buildings. And the details which
our traveller gives of the exact circumference of the
cities, the number of their inhabitants, the products of
the soil, the articles of trade, can leave no doubt in
our minds that he relates what he had seen and heard
himself. A new page in the history of the world is
here opened, and new ruins pointed out, which would
reward the pickaxe of a Layard.
But we must not linger. Our traveller, as we said,
had entered India by way of Kabul. Shortly before
he arrived at Pou–lou–cha–pou–lo, i.e. the Sanskrit
Purushapura, the modern Peshawer, Hiouen-thsang
heard of an extraordinary cave where Buddha had
formerly converted a dragon, and had promised his
new pupil to leave him his shadow, in order that,
whenever the evil passions of his dragon-nature
should revive, the aspect of his master's shadowy
features might remind him of his former vows. This
promise was fulfilled, and the dragon-cave became a
famous place of pilgrimage. Our traveller was told'
that the roads leading to the cave were extremely
dangerous, and infested by robbers—that for three
years none of the pilgrims had ever returned from
the cave. But he replied, ‘ I t would be difficult
during a hundred thousand Kalpas to meet one single
time with the true shadow of Buddha ; how could I,
having come so near, pass on without going to
adore it?’ He left his companions behind, and afterasking in vain for a guide, he met at last with a boy
who showed him to a farm belonging to a convents
Here he found an old man who undertook to act as his
guide. They had hardly proceeded a few miles when
they were attacked by five robbers. The monk took
off his cap and displayed his ecclesiastical robes*
‘Master,’ said one of the robbers, ‘where are you
going ? ’ Hiouen-thsang replied, ‘ I desire to adore
the shadow of Buddha.’ ‘ Master,’ said the robber,,
‘have you not heard that these roads are full of
bandits?’ ‘Robbers are men,’ Hiouen-thsang exclaimed, ‘ and at present, when I am going to adore
the shadow of Buddha, even though the roads were
full of wild beasts, I should walk on without fear.
Surely, then, I ought not to fear you, as you are men
whose heart is possessed of pity.’ The robbers were
moved by these words, and opened their hearts to the
true faith. After this little incident, Hiouen-thsang
proceeded with his guide. He passed a stream rushing down between two precipitous walls of rock. In
the rock itself there was a door which opened. A l l
was dark. But Hiouen-thsang entered, advanced
towards the east, then moved fifty steps backwards,.
and began his devotions. He made one hundred
salutations, but he saw nothing. He reproached himself bitterly with his former sins, he cried, and abandoned himself to utter despair, because the shadow of
Buddha would not appear before him. A t last, after
many prayers and invocations, he saw on the eastern
wall a dim light, of the size of a saucepan, such as
the Buddhist monks carry in their t hands. But i t
disappeared. He continued praying full of joy and
pain, and again he saw a light, which vanished like
lightning. Then he vowed, full of devotion and love,
that he would never leave the place t i l l he had seen
the shadow of the ‘ Venerable of the age.’ After two
hundred prayers, the cave was suddenly bathed i n
light, and the shadow of Buddha, of a brilliant white
colour, rose majestically on the wall, as when the
clouds suddenly open and all at once display the
marvellous image of the ‘Mountain of Light.’ A
dazzling splendour lighted up the features of the
divine countenance. Hiouen-thsang was lost in contemplation and wonder, and would not turn his eyes
away from the sublime and incomparable object. . . »
After he awoke from his trance, he called in six men,
and commanded them to light a fire in the cave, in
order to burn incense ; but, as the approach of the
light made the shadow of Buddha disappear, the fire
was extinguished. Then five of the men saw the
shadow, but the sixth saw nothing. The old man
who had acted as guide was astounded when Hiouenthsang told him the vision. ‘ Master,’ he said, ‘without the sincerity of your faith, and the energy of your
vows, you could not have seen such a miracle.’
This is the account given by Hiouen-thsang’s
biographers. But we must say, to the credit of
Hiouen-thsang himself, that in the ‘ Si-yu-ki,’ which
contains his own diary, the story is told in a different
way. The cave is described with almost the same
words. But afterwards the writer continues : ‘ Formerly, the shadow of Buddha was seen in the cave,
bright like his natural appearance, and with all the
marks of his divine beauty. One might have said
i t was Buddha himself. For some centuries, however,
it can no longer be seen completely. Though one
does see something, it is only a feeble and doubtful
resemblance. If a man prays with sincere faith, and
if he has received from above a hidden impression,
he sees the shadow clearly, but he cannot enjoy the
sight for any length of time.’
From Peshawer, the scene of this extraordinary
miracle, Hiouen-thsang proceeded to Kashmir, visited
the chief towns of Central India, and arrived at last
in Magadha, the Holy Land of the Buddhists. Here
he remained five years, devoting all his time to the
study of Sanskrit and Buddhist literature, and inspecting every place hallowed by the recollections of
the past. He then passed through Bengal, and proceeded to the south, with a view of visiting Ceylon,
the chief seat of Buddhism. Baffled in that wish, he
crossed the peninsula from east to west, ascended the
Malabar coast, reached the Indus, and after numerous excursions to the chief places of North-Western
India, returned to Magadha, to spend there, with his
old friends, some of the happiest years of his life.
The route of his journeyings is laid down in a map
drawn with exquisite skill by M . Vivien de SaintMartin. At last Hiouen-thsang was obliged to return
to China, and, passing through the Penjab, Kabulistân,
and Bactria, he reached the Oxus, followed its course
nearly to its sources on the plateau of Pamir, and,
after staying some time in the three chief towns of
Turkistan, Khasgar, Yarkand, and Khoten, he found
himself again, after sixteen years of travels, dangers,
and studies, in his own native country. His fame had
spread far and wide, and the poor pilgrim, who had
once been hunted by imperial spies and armed policemen, was now received with public honours by the
Emperor himself. His entry into the capital was like
a triumph. The streets were covered with carpets,
flowers were scattered, and banners flying. Soldiers
were drawn up, the magistrates went out to meet
him, and all the monks of the neighbourhood marched
along in solemn procession. The trophies that
adorned this triumph, carried by a large number of
horses, were of a peculiar kind. First, 150 grains of
the dust of Buddha ; secondly, a golden statue of the
the great Teacher; thirdly, a similar statue of sandalwood ; fourthly, a statue of sandal-wood, representing
Buddha as descending from heaven ; fifthly, a statue
of silver; sixthly, a golden statue of Buddha conquering the dragons; seventhly, a statue of sandal-wood,
representing Buddha as a preacher; lastly, a collection
of 657 works in 520 volumes. The Emperor received
the traveller in the Phoenix Palace, and, full of admiration for his talents and wisdom, invited him to
accept a high office in the Government. This Hiouenthsang declined. ‘ The soul of the administration,5
he said, ‘ is still the doctrine of Confucius ; ’ and he
would dedicate the rest of his life to the Law of
Buddha. The Emperor thereupon asked him to
write an account of his travels, and assigned him a
monastery where he might employ his leisure in translating the works he had brought back from India.
His travels were soon written and published, but the
translation of the Sanskrit MSS. occupied all the remaining years of his life. It is said that the number of
works translated by him, with the assistance of a large
staff of monks, amounted to 740, in 1,335 volumes.
Frequently he might be seen meditating on a difficult
passage, when suddenly it seemed as if a higher spirit
had enlightened his mind. His soul was cheered, as
when a man walking in darkness sees all at once the
sun piercing the clouds and shining in its full brightness ; and, unwilling to trust to his own understanding, he used to attribute his knowledge to a secret
inspiration of Buddha and the Bodhisattvas. When
he found that the hour of death approached, he had
all his property divided among the poor. He invited
his friends to come and see him, and to take a cheerful leave of that impure body of Hiouen-thsang. ‘ I
desire,’ he said, ‘ that whatever rewards I may have
merited by good works may fall upon other people.
May I be born again with them in the heaven of the
blessed, be admitted to the family of Mi-le‚ and serve
the Buddha of the future, who is full of kindness and
affection. When I descend again upon earth to pass
through other forms of existence, I desire at every
new birth to fulfil my duties towards Buddha, and
arrive at the last at the highest and most perfect intelligence.’ He died in the year 664—about the same
time that Mohammedanism was pursuing its bloody
conquests in the East, and Christianity began to shed
its pure light over the dark forests of Germany.
It is impossible to do justice to the character of
so extraordinary a man as Hiouen-thsang in so short
a sketch as we have been able to give. If we knew
only his own account of his life and travels—the
volume which has just been published at Paris—we
should be ignorant of the motives which guided him
and of the sufferings which he underwent. Happily,
two of his friends and pupils have left an account of
their teacher, and M . Stanislas Julien has acted wisely
in beginning his collection of the Buddhist Pilgrims
with the translation of that biography. There we
learn something of the man himself and of that silent
enthusiasm which supported him in his arduous work.
There we see him braving the dangers of the desert,
scrambling along glaciers, crossing over torrents,
and quietly submitting to the brutal violence of
Indian Thugs. There we see him rejecting the
tempting invitations of Khans, Kings, and Emperors, and quietly pursuing among strangers, within
the bleak walls of the cell of a Buddhist college, the
study of a foreign language, the key to the sacred
literature of his faith. There we see him rising to
eminence, acknowledged as an equal by his former
teachers, as a superior by the most distinguished
scholars of India; the champion of the orthodox
faith, an arbiter at councils, the favourite of Indian
kings. In his own work there is hardly a word about
all this. We do not wish to disguise his weaknesses,
such as they appear in the same biography. He was
a credulous man, easily imposed upon by crafty
priests, still more easily carried away by his own
superstitions ; but he deserved to have lived in better
times, and we almost grudge so high and noble a
character to a country not our own, and to a religion
unworthy of such a man. Of selfishness we find no
trace in him. His whole life belonged to the faith
in which he was born, and the object of his labour
was not so much to perfect himself as to benefit
others. He was an honest man. And strange, and
stiff, and absurd, and outlandish as his outward appearance may seem, there is something in the face of
that poor Chinese monk, with his yellow skin and his
small oblique eyes, that appeals to our sympathy—
something in his life, and the work of his life, that
places him by right among the heroes of Greece, the
martyrs of Rome, the knights of the crusades, the
explorers of the Arctic regions—something that
makes us feel it a duty to inscribe his name on the
roll of the ‘ forgotten worthies ’ of the human race.
There is a higher consanguinity than that of the
blood which runs through our veins—that of the
blood which makes our hearts beat with the same
indignation and the same joy. And there is a higher
nationality than that of being governed by the same
imperial dynasty—that of our common allegiance to
the Father and Ruler of all mankind.
It is but right to state that we owe the publication,
at least of the second volume of M . Julien’s work, to
the liberality of the Court of Directors of the EastIndia Company. We have had several opportunities
of pointing out the creditable manner in which that
body has patronised literary and scientific works connected with the East, and we congratulate the Chairman, Colonel Sykes, and the President of the Board
of Control, Mr. Vernon Smith, on the excellent choice
they have made in this instance. Nothing can be
more satisfactory than that nearly the whole edition
of a work which would have remained unpublished
without their liberal assistance, has been sold in little
more than a month.
X v l l .
To the Editor of T H E TIMES.
S I R , — M r . Francis Barham, of Bath, has protested in
a letter, printed in the Times of April 24, against my
interpretations of Nirvâna‚ or the summum bonum
of the Buddhists. He maintains that the Nirvana
in which the Buddhists believe, and which they represent as the highest goal of their religion and
philosophy, means union and communion with God,
or absorption of the individual soul by the divine
essence, and not, as I tried to show in my articles on
the ‘ Buddhist Pilgrims,’ utter annihilation.
I must not take up much more of your space with
so abstruse a subject as Buddhist metaphysics ; but
at the same time I cannot allow Mr. Barham’s protest
to pass unnoticed. The authorities which he brings
forward against my account of Buddhism, and particularly against my interpretation of Nirvana, seem
formidable enough. There are Neander, the great
Church historian, Creuzer, the famous scholar, and
Hue, the well-known traveller and missionary—all
interpreting, as Mr. Barham says, the Nirvana of the
Buddhists in the sense of an apotheosis of the human
soul, as it was taught in the Vedânta philosophy of
THE M E A N I N G OF N I R V l i v A . 281
the Brahmans, the Sufiism of the Persians, and the
Christian mysticism of Eckhart and Tauler, and not
in the sense of absolute annihilation.
Now, with regard to Neander and Creuzer, I must
observe that their works were written before the
canonical books of the Buddhists composed in Sanskrit had been discovered, or at least before they
had been sent to Europe and been analysed by
European scholars. Besides, neither Neander nor
Creuzer was an Oriental scholar, and their knowledge
of the subject could only be second-hand. It was in
1824 that Mr. Brian Houghton Hodgson, then resident at the Court of Nepal, gave the first intimation
of the existence of a large religious literature written
in Sanskrit, and preserved by the Buddhists of Nepal
as the canonical books of their faith. It was in 1830
and 1835 that the same eminent scholar and naturalist presented the first set of these books to the
Royal Asiatic Society in London. In 1837 he made
a similar gift to the Société Asiatique of Paris, and
some of the most important works were transmitted
by him to the Bodleian Library at Oxford. It was
in 1844 that the late Eugène Burnouf published,
after a careful study of these documents, his classical
work, ‘Introduction à l’Histoire du Buddhisme Indien,’
and it is from this book that our knowledge of Buddhism may be said to date. Several works have since
been published, which have added considerably to
the stock of authentic information on the doctrine
of the great Indian reformer. There is Burnoufs
translation of ‘ Le Lotus de la bonne Loi,’ published
after the death of that lamented scholar, together
with numerous essays, in 1852. There are two in282 THE MEANING OF NIRVANA.
teresting works by the Rev. Spence Hardy—‘ Eastern
Monachism,’ London, 1850, and ‘ A Manual of Buddhism,’ London, 1853 ; and there are the publications
of M . Stanislas Julien, E . Foucaux, the Honourable
George Turnour, Professor H . H . Wilson, and othersy
alluded to in my article on the ‘ Buddhist Pilgrims.’
It is from these works alone that we can derive
correct and authentic information on Buddhism, and
not from Neander’s ‘ History of the Christian Church 9
or from Creuzer's ‘ Symbolik.’
I f anyone will consult these works, he will find
that the discussions on the true meaning of Nirvana
are not of modern date, and that at a very early
period different philosophical schools among the
Buddhists of India, and different teachers who spread
the doctrine of Buddhism abroad, propounded every
conceivable opinion as to the orthodox explanation
of this term. Even in one and the same school we
find different parties maintaining different views on
the meaning of Nirvana. There is the school of the
Svâbhâvikas, which still exists in Nepal. The Svâbhâvikas maintain that nothing exists but nature, or
rather substance, and that this substance exists by
itself (svabhâvât) , without a Creator or a Ruler. It
exists, however, under two forms: in the state of
Pravritti, as active, or in the state of Nirw i t t i , as
passive. Human beings, who, like everything else,
exist svabhâvâ t , ‘ by themselves,’ are supposed to be
capable of arriving at Nirvritti, or passiveness, which
is nearly synonymous with Nirvana. But here the
Svâbhâvikas branch off into two sects. Some believe
that Nirvritti is repose, others that it is annihilation ; and the former add, ‘ were it even annihilation
THE MEANING OF N I R V i i V A . 283
(sunyatâ), it would still be good, man being otherwise doomed to an eternal migration through ail the
forms of nature; the more desirable of which are
little to be wished for ; and the less so, at any price
to be shunned.’ 1
What was the original meaning of Nirvâna may
perhaps best be seen from the etymology of this
technical term. Every Sanskrit scholar knows that
Nirvâna means originally the blowing out, the extinction of light, and not absorption. The human
soul, when it arrives at its perfection, is blown out,2
i f we use the phraseology of the Buddhists, like a
lamp ; it is not absorbed, as the Brahmans say, like
a drop in the ocean. Neither in the system of Buddhist philosophy, nor in the philosophy from which
Buddha is supposed to have borrowed, was there any
place left for a Divine Being ; and if there is no
Divine Being, into what can the human soul be absorbed ? Sânkhya philosophy, in its original form,
claims the name of an-îsvara, ‘lordless’ or ‘atheistic.’
as its distinctive title. Its final object is not absorption
in God, whether personal or impersonal, but Moksha,
deliverance of the soul from all pain and illusion, and
recovery by the soul of its true nature—possibly, a
return to the true self. It is doubtful whether the
term Nirvâna was coined by Buddha. It occurs in the
literature of the Brahmans as a synonym of Moksha,
deliverance; Nirvritti , cessation; Apavarga, release ; Nihsreyas, summum bonum. It is used in this
1 See Burnouf, Introduction, p. 441 ; Hodgson, Asiatic Researches, vol. xvi.
2 ' Calm; ' without wind; as Nirvâna is sometimes explained, is
expressed in Sanskrit by Nirvâta. See Amara-Kosha, sub voce.
sense in the Mahâbhârata, and it is explained in the
Amara-Kosha as having the meaning of ‘blowing out,
applied to a fire and to a sage.’ 1 Unless, however,
we succeed in tracing this term in works which can
be proved to be anterior to Buddha, we may admit
that it was invented by him in order to express that
meaning of the summum bonum which he was the
first to preach, and which some of his disciples explained in the sense of absolute annihilation.
The earliest authority to which we can go back, if
we want to know the original character of Buddhism,
is the Buddhist Canon, as settled after the death of
Buddha at the first Council. It is called Tripitaka,
or the Three Baskets, the first containing the Sûtras,
or the discourses of Buddha ; the second, the Vinaya,
or his code of morality ; the third, the Abhidharma,
or the system of metaphysics. The first was compiled by Ânanda, the second by Upâli, the third by
Kâsyapa—all of them the pupils and friends of
Buddha. It may be that these collections, as we
now possess them, were finally arranged, not at the
first, but at the third Council. Yet, even then, we
have no earlier, no more authentic, documents from
which we could form an opinion as to the original
teaching of Buddha ; and the Nirvana, as taught both
in the metaphysics of Kâsyapa and in the Pragnâ–
pâramitâ of the Northern Buddhists, is annihilation,
not absorption. Buddhism, therefore, if tested by
its own canonical books, cannot be freed from the
charge of Nihilism, whatever may have been its
1 Different views of the Nirvana, as conceived by the Tîrthakas,
or the Brahmans, may be seen in an extract from the Lankâvâtara,
translated by Burnouf, p. 514.
character in the mind of its founder, and whatever
changes it may have undergone in later times, and
among races less inured to metaphysical discussions
than the Hindus.
The ineradicable feeling of dependence on something else, which is the life-spring of all religion, was
completely numbed in the early Buddhist metaphysicians, and it was only after several generations had
passed away, and after Buddhism had become the
creed of millions, that this feeling returned with increased warmth, changing, as I said in my article,
the very Nothing into a paradise, and deifying the
very Buddha who had denied the existence of a
Deity. That this has been the case in China we
know from the interesting works of the Abbé Hue,
and from other sources, such as the ‘ Catechism of
the Shamans, or the Laws and Regulations of the
Priesthood of Buddha in China,’ translated by Ch. F .
Neumann, London, 1831. In India, also, Buddhism,
as soon as it became a popular religion, had to speak
a more human language than that of metaphysical
Pyrrhonism. But, if it did so, it was because it
was shamed into it. This we may see from the very
nicknames which the Brahmans apply to their opponents, the Bauddhas. They call them Nâstikas
—those who maintain that there is nothing ; Sunyavadins—those who maintain that there is a univeral
The only ground, therefore, on which we may
stand, i f we wish to defend the founder of Buddhism
against the charges of Nihilism and Atheism, is this,
that, as some of the Buddhists admit, the ‘ Basket
of Metaphysics ’ was rather the work of his pupils,
not of Buddha himself.’ This distinction between
the authentic words of Buddha and the canonical
books in general is mentioned more than once. The
priesthood of Ceylon, when the manifest errors with
which their canonical commentaries abound were
brought to their notice, retreated from their former
position, and now assert that it is only the express
words of Buddha that they receive as undoubted
truth.2 There is a passage in a Buddhist work
which reminds us somewhat of the last page of Dean
Milman’s 6 History of Christianity,’ and where we
read :—
‘ The words of the priesthood are good ; those of
the Rahats (saints) are better ; but those of the A l l knowing are the best of all.’
This is an argument which-Mr. Francis Barham
might have used with more success, and by which he
might have justified, if not the first disciples, at
least the original founder of Buddhism. Nay, there
is a saying of Buddha's which tends to show that all
metaphysical discussion was regarded by him as vain
and useless. It is a saying mentioned in one of the
MSS. belonging to the Bodleian Library. As it has
never been published before, I may be allowed to
quote it in the original : Sadasad vikâram na sahate
— ‘ The ideas of being and not being do not admit of
discussion ’—a tenet which, if we consider that it
was enunciated before the time of the Eleatic philosophers of Greece, and long before Hegel's Logic,
1 See Burnouf, Introduction, p. 41. Abuddhoktam abhidharmasâstram. Ibid. p. 454. According to the Tibetan Buddhists, however, Buddha propounded the Abhidharma when he was fifty-one
years old. Asiatic Researches, vol. xx. p. 339.
2 Eastern Mo?iachism, p. 171.
might certainly have saved us many an intricate and
indigestible argument.
A few passages from the Buddhist writings of
Nepal and Ceylon will best show that the horror
nihili was not felt by the metaphysicians of former
ages in the same degree as it is felt by ourselves.
The famous hymn which resounds in heaven when
the luminous rays of the smile of Buddha penetrate
through the clouds, is ‘ A l l is transitory, all is misery,
all is void, all is without substance.’ Again, it is
said in the Pragnâ-pâramitâ1 that Buddha began to
think that he ought to conduct all creatures to perfect Nirvana. But he reflected that there are really
no creatures which ought to be conducted, nor creatures that conduct ; and, nevertheless, he did conduct
all creatures to perfect Nirvana. Then, continues
the text, why is it said that there are neither creatures which arrive at complete Nirvana, nor creatures
which conduct there ? Because it is illusion which
makes creatures what they are. It is as i f a clever
juggler, or his pupil, made an immense number of
people to appear on the high road, and after having
made them to appear, made them to disappear again.
Would there be anybody who had killed, or murdered,
or annihilated, or caused them to vanish ? No. And
it is the same with Buddha. He conducts an immense, innumerable, infinite number of creatures to
complete Nirvana, and yet there are neither creatures
which are conducted, nor creatures that conduct. I f
a Bodhisattva, on hearing this explanation of the
Law, is not frightened, then it may be said that he
has put on the great armour.’
1 Burnouf, Introduction, p. 462. 2 Ibid, p. 478.
288 T H E M E A N I N G O F N I R V Â i v A .
Soon after, we read : ‘ The name of Buddha is
nothing but a word. The name of Bodhisattva is
nothing but a word. The name of Perfect Wisdom
(Pragnâ-pâramitâ) is nothing but a word. The name
is indefinite, as if one says ‘‘ I,’’ for ‘ ‘ I ’’ is something
indefinite, because it has no limits.’
Burnouf gives the gist of the whole Pragnâ-pâramitâ in the following words : ‘ The highest Wisdom,
or what is to be known, has no more real existence
than he who has to know, or the Bodhisattva ; no
more than he who does know, or the Buddha.’ But
Burnouf remarks that nothing of this kind is to be
found in the Sutras, and that Gautama Sâkya-muni,
the son of Suddhodana, would never have become
the founder of a popular religion i f he had started
with similar absurdities. In the Sutras the reality
of the objective world is denied ; the reality of form
is denied ; the reality of the individual, or the 61.’
is equally denied. But the existence of a subject,
of something like the Purusha, the thinking substance of the Sânkhya philosophy, is spared. Something at least exists with respect to which everything
else may be said not to exist. The germs of the
ideas, developed in the Pragnâ-pâramitâ, may indeed
be discovered here and there in the Sutras also.’
But they had not yet ripened into that poisonous
plant which soon became an indispensable narcotic
in the schools of the later Buddhists. Buddha himself, however, though, perhaps, not a Nihilist, was
certainly an Atheist. He does not deny distinctly
either the existence of gods, or that of God ; but he
ignores the former, and he is ignorant of the latter.
* Bumouf, Introduction, p. 520.
Therefore, if Nirvana in his mind was not yet complete annihilation, still less could it have been absorption into a Divine essence. It was nothing but
self-ness, in the metaphysical sense of the word—a
relapse into that being which is nothing but itself.
This is the most charitable view which we can take
of the Nirvana, even as conceived by Buddha himself, and it is this view which Burnouf derived from
the canonical books of the Northern Buddhists.
Mr. Spence Hardy, who in his works follows exclusively the authority of the Southern Buddhists, the
Pâli and Singhalese works of Ceylon, arrives at the
same result. We read in his work : ‘ The Rahat
(Arhat), who has reached Nirvâna, but is not yet a
Pratyeka-buddha, or a Supreme Budda, says: ‘ ‘ I
await the appointed time for the cessation of existence. I have no wish to live ; I have no wish to die.
Desire is extinct.’’ ’
In a very interesting dialogue between Milinda
and Nâgasena, communicated by Mr. Spence Hardy,
Nirvâna is represented as something which has no
antecedent cause, no qualities, no locality. It is
something of which the utmost we may assert is,
that it is.
Nâgasena. Can a man, by his natural strength,
go from the city of Sâgal to the forest of Himâla ?
Milinda. Yes.
Nâgasena. But could any man, by his natural
strength, bring the forest of Himâla to this city of
Milinda. No.
Nâgasena. In like manner, though the fruition'
of the paths may cause the accomplishment of
Nirvana, no cause by which Nirvâna is produced can
be declared. The path that leads to Nirvâna may
be pointed out, but not any cause for its production.
Why ? because that which constitutes Nirvana is beyond all computation—a mystery, not to be understood. . . . It cannot be said that it is produced,
nor that it is not produced ; that it is past or future
or present. Nor can it be said that it is the seeing
of the eye, or the hearing of the ear, or the smelling
of the nose, or the tasting of the tongue, or the feeling
of the body.
Milinda. Then you speak of a thing that is not ;
you merely say that Nirvâna is Nirvâna ;—therefore
there is no Nirvâna.
Nâgasena. Great king, Nirvâna is.
Another question also, whether Nirvana is something different from the beings that enter into it ,
has been asked by the Buddhists themselves :—
Milinda. Does the being who acquires it, attain
something that has previously existed?—or is it his
own product, a formation peculiar to himself ?
Nâgasena. Nirvâna does not exist previously to
its reception ; nor is it that which was brought into
existence. Still to the being who attains it, there is
In opposition, therefore, to the more advanced
views of the Nihilistic philosophers of the North,
Nâgasena maintains the existence of Nirvâna, and of
the being that has entered Nirvâna. He does not
say that Buddha is a mere word. When asked by
king Milinda, whether the all-wise Buddha exists,
he replies :—
Nâgasena. He who is the most meritorious
(Bhagavat) does exist.
Milinda. Then can you point out to me the place
in which he exists ?
Nâgasena. Our Bhagavat has attained Nirvana,
where there is no repetition of birth. We cannot say
that he is here or that he is there. When a fire is
extinguished, can it be said that it is here or that it
is there ? Even so our Buddha has attained extinction (Nirvâna). He is like the sun that has set behind
the Astagiri mountain. It cannot be said that he is
here or that he is there : but we can point him out
by the discourses he delivered. In them he lives.
A t the present moment, the great majority of
Buddhists would probably be quite incapable of understanding the abstract speculation of their ancient
masters, and the view taken of Nirvâna in Chin a, Mongolia, and Tatary may hardly be less gross than that
which most of the Mohammedans form of their paradise. But in the history of religion, the historian
must go back to the earliest and most original documents that are to be obtained. Thus only may he
hope to understand the later developments which,
whether for good or evil, every form of faith has had
to undergo.
Delivered before the General Meeting of the Association of German
Philologists, at Kiel, the 28th of September, 1869.
I M A Y be mistaken, but my belief is that the subject which I have chosen for my discourse cannot be
regarded as alien to the general interests of this
Buddhism, in its numerous varieties, still continues the religion of the majority of mankind, and
will therefore always occupy a very prominent place
in a comparative study of the religions of the world.
And comparative theology, although the youngest
branch on the tree of human knowledge, will, for an
accurate and fruitful study of antiquity, soon become
as indispensable as comparative philology. For how
can we truly understand and properly appreciate a
people, its literature, art, politics, morals and philosophy, its entire conception of life, without having
comprehended its religion, not only in its outer
aspect, but in its innermost being, in its deepest farreaching roots ?
What our great poet once said almost prophetiBUDDHIST NIHILISM.
cally of languages, may also be said of religions—
‘He who knows only one, knows none.9 As the true
knowledge of a language requires a knowledge of
languages, a true knowledge of religion requires a
knowledge of religions. And though the assertion
that all the languages of mankind are Oriental may
sound too bold, true it is that all religions, like the
sun, have risen from the East.
Here, therefore, in treating religions scientifically
(those of the Aryan as well as those of the Semitic
races) the Oriental scholar lawfully enters into what
you call the ‘ plenum ’ of philology, i f philology still
is, as our President told us yesterday, what it once
intended and wished to be, viz. the true Huraanitas,
which, like an Emperor of yore, could say of itself,
‘ humani nihil a me alienum puto.’
Now, it has been the peculiar fate of the religion
of Buddha that among all the so-called false or
heathenish religions, it almost alone has been praised
by all and everybody for its elevated, pure, and
humanising character. One hardly trusts one's eyes
on seeing Catholic and Protestant missionaries vie
with each other in their praises of the Buddha ; and
even the attention of those who are indifferent to all
that concerns religion must be arrested for a moment
when they learn from statistical accounts that no
religion, not even the Christian, has exercised so
powerful an influence on the diminution of crime as
the old simple doctrine of the Ascetic of Kapilavastu.
Indeed, no better authority can be brought forward
in this respect than that of a still living Bishop of
the Roman Catholic Church. In his interesting
work on the life of Buddha, the anthor, the Bishop
of Ramatha, the Vicar Apostolic of Ava and Pegu,
speaks with so much candour of the merits of the
Buddhist religion that we are often at a loss which
most to admire, his courage or his learning. Thus
he says in one place (page 494) : — ‘ There are many
moral precepts equally commanded and enforced in
common by both creeds. It will not be deemed rash
to assert that most of the moral truths prescribed
by the Gospel, are to be met with in the Buddhistic
scriptures.’ In another place Bishop Bigandet says
(p. 495) : — ‘ In reading the particulars of the life of
the last Budha Gaudama, it is impossible not to feel
reminded of many circumstances relating to our
Saviour's life, such as it has been sketched out by
the Evangelists.’
I might produce many even stronger testimonies
in honour of Buddha and Buddhism, but the above
suffice for my purpose.
But then, on the other hand, it seems as i f people
had only permitted themselves to be so liberal in
their praises of Buddha and Buddhism because they
could, in the end, condemn a religion which, in spite
of all its merits, culminated in Atheism and Nihilism.
Thus we are told by Bishop Bigandet (p. viii.) : — ‘ It
may be said in favour of Buddhism that no philosophico-religious system has ever upheld, to an equal
degree, the notions of a saviour and deliverer, and
the necessity of his mission for procuring the salvation of man, in a Buddhist sense. The role of
Buddha, from beginning to end, is that of a deliverer,
who preaches a law designed to secure to man the
deliverance from all the miseries he is labouring
under. But by an inexplicable and deplorable eccenBUDDHIST NIHILISM. 295
tricity, the pretended saviour, after having taught
man the way to deliver himself from the tyranny of
his passions, leads him, after all, into the bottomless
gulf of a total annihilation.’
This language may have a slightly episcopal
tinge, yet we find the same judgment, in almost
identical words, pronounced by the most eminent
scholars who have written on Buddhism. The warm
discussions on this subject which have recently
taken place at the Académie des Inscriptions et BellesLettres of Paris are probably known to many of
those who are here present; but better still, the
work of the man whose place has not yet been filled,
either in the French Academy, or at the Council
Board of German Science—the work of Eugène Burnouf, the true founder of a scientific study of Buddhism. Burnouf, too, in his researches arrives at the
same result, viz. :—that Buddhism, as known to us
from its canonical books, in spite of its great qualities, ends in Atheism and Nihilism.
Now, as to Atheism, it cannot be denied that, if
we call the old gods of the Veda—Indra, and Agni,
and Yama—gods, Buddha was an Atheist. He does
not believe in the divinity of these deities. What is
noteworthy is that he does not by any means deny
their bare existence, just as little as St. Augustine
and other fathers of the Church endeavoured to sublimise or entirely to explain away the existence of the
Olympian deities. The founder of Buddhism treats
the old gods as superhuman beings, and promises
the believers that they shall after death be reborn
into the world of the gods, and shall enjoy divine
bliss with the blessed gods. Similarly he threatens
the wicked that after death they shall meet with
their punishment in the subterranean abodes and
hells, where the Asuras‚ Sarpas, Nâgas‚ and other
evil spirits dwell, beings whose existence was more
firmly rooted in the popular belief and language
than that even the founder of a new religion could
have dared to reason them away. But, although
Buddha assigned to these mediatised gods and devils,
palaces, gardens, and a court, not second to their
former ones, he yet deprived them of all their sovereign rights. Although, according to Buddha, the
worlds of the gods last for millions of years, they
must perish, at the end of every kalpa, with the
gods and with the spirits who in the circle of births
have raised themselves to the world of the gods.
Indeed, the reorganisation of the spirit-world goes
further still. Already, before Buddha, the Brahmans
had surmounted the low standpoint of mythological
polytheism, and supplanted it by the idea of the
Brahman, as the absolute divine or super-divine
power. What, then, does Buddha decree ? To this
Brahman also he assigns a place in his universe.
Over and above the world of the gods with its six
paradises he heaps up sixteen Brahma-worlds, not
to be attained through virtue and piety only, but
through inner contemplation, through knowledge
and enlightenment. The dwellers in these worlds
are already purely spiritualised beings, without body,
without weight, without desire, far above men and
gods. Indeed, the Buddhist architect rises to a still
more towering height, heaping upon the Brahmaworld four still higher worlds, which he calls the
world of the formless. A l l these worlds are open to
man, and the beings ascend and descend in the circle
of time, according to the works they have performed,
according to the truths they have recognised. But
in all these worlds the law of change obtains; in
none is there exemption from birth, age, and death.
The world of the gods will perish like that of men,
even the world of the formless will not last for ever ;
but the Buddha, the Enlightened and truly Free,
stands higher, and will not be affected or disturbed
by the collapse of the Universe : ‘ Si fractus illabatur
orbis, impavidum ferient ruinæ.’
Now, however, we meet with a vein of irony,,
which one would hardly have expected in Buddha.
Gods and devils he had located ; to all mythological
and philosophical acquisitions of the past he had
done justice as far as possible. Even fabulous
beings, such as Nâgas, Gandharvas, and Garudas,
had escaped the process of dissolution which was to
reach them later only at the hands of comparative
mythology. There is only one idea, the idea of a
personal creator, in regard to which Buddha is relentless.
It is not only denied, but even its origin, like
that of an ancient myth, is carefully explained in its
minutest details. This is done in the Brahmagâlasûtra. Let us bear in mind that a destruction of the
worlds occurs at the end of every kalpa, a destruction
which not only annihilates earth and hell, but also all
the worlds of the gods, and even the three lowest of
the Brahma-worlds. A description of the duration
of a kalpa can only be given in the language of
Buddhism. Take a rock forming a cube of about
fourteen miles, touch it once in a hundred years with
.a piece of fine cloth, and the rock will sooner be reduced to dust than a kalpa will have attained its end.
It is said that at the end of the kalpa, after all the
lower stories of the universe had been destroyed and
a new world had again been slowly formed, the spirits
dwelling in the higher Brahma-worlds had remained
inviolate. Then one of these Spirits, a being without body, without weight, omnipresent and blessed
within himself, descended, when his time had arrived,
from the higher Brahma-world to the new-formed
nether Brahma-world. There he first dwelt alone ;
but, by-and-by, the desire arose in him not to remain alone any longer. A t the moment of the
awakening of this desire within him, a second being
accidentally descended from the higher into the
lower Brahma-world. Then and there the thought
originated in the first being, ‘ I am the Brahma, the
great Brahma, the Highest, the Unconquerable, the
Omniscient, the Lord and King of AU. I am the
Creator of all things, the Father of AU. This being
has also been created by me ; for as soon as I desired
not to remain alone, my desire brought forth this
second being.’ The other beings as they gradually
descended from the higher words likewise believed
that the first comer had been their Creator, for was
he not older and mightier and handsomer than
But this is not all ; for although it would explain
how one spirit could consider himself the creator of
other spirits, it would leave unexplained the circumstances of men on earth believing in such a creator.
This is explained in the following manner: ‘ I n the
course of time one of these higher beings sank lower
and lower, and was finally bom as a man on earth.
There, by penances and deep meditations, he attained
a state of inner enlightenment, which gives to man
the faculty of remembering his former existences.
He remembered the above-narrated occurrences in
the newly-originated Brahma-world, and announced
to mankind that there was a Creator, a Brahman,
who had been prior to all other beings; that this
Creator was eternal and immutable, while all beings
created by him were mutable and mortal.
There is in this explanation, I believe, an unmistakeable note of animosity, otherwise so alien to the
character of Buddha, and the question naturally
arises whether this can have been the doctrine of the
founder of Buddhism himself. And herewith we at
once approach our principal problem—‘ Is it possible
to distinguish between Buddhism and the personal
teaching of Buddha?' We possess the Buddhist
canon and have a right to consider all that we find
in this canon as orthodox Buddhist doctrine. But
as there has been no lack of efforts in Christian
theology to distinguish between the doctrine of the
founder of our religion and that of the writers of
the Gospels, to go beyond the canon of the New
Testament, and to make the Xáyia of the Master the
only valid rule of our faith, so a similar want was
felt at a very early period among the followers of
Buddha. King Asoka, the Indian Constantine, had
to remind the assembled priests at the great Council
which had to settle the Buddhist canon, that what
had been said by Buddha, that alone was well said.1
Works attributed to Buddha, but declared as apocry1 See Selected Essays, vol. i . p. 17.
phal, or even as heterodox, already existed at that
Thus we are not by any means without an authority for distinguishing between Buddhism and the
teaching of Buddha; the question is only whether
such a separation is still practicable for us ?
My belief is that all honest enquirers must oppose
a No to this question. Burnouf never ventured to
cast a glance beyond the boundaries of the Buddhist
canon. What he finds in the canonical books, in
the so-called ‘ Three Baskets.’ is to him the doctrine
of Buddha, similarly as we must accept, as the doctrine of Christ, what is contained in the four Gospels.
Still the question ought to be asked again and
again, whether, at least with regard to certain
doctrines or facts, it may not be possible to make
a step further in advance, even with the conviction
that it cannot lead us to results of apodictic certainty.
For if, as happens frequently, we find in the different
parts of the canon, views, not only differing from,
but even contradictory to each other, it follows, I
think, that one only of them can belong to Buddha
personally, and I believe that in such a case we have
the right to choose, and the liberty to accept that
view as the original one, the one peculiar to Buddha,
which least harmonises with the later system of
orthodox Buddhism.
As regards the denial of a Creator, or Atheism in
the ordinary acceptation of the term, I do not think
that any one passage from the books of the canon
known to us can be quoted which contradicts it, or
which in any way presupposes the belief in a personal
God or a Creator. A l l that may be urged are the
words said to have been spoken by Buddha at the
moment when he became the Enlightened, the Buddha. They are as follows : — ‘ Looking for the maker
of this tabernacle, I shall have to run through a
course of many births, as long as I do not find
(him) ;—and painful is birth again and again. But
now, maker of the tabernacle, thou hast been seen ;
thou shalt not make up this tabernacle again. A l l
thy rafters are broken, thy ridge-pole is sundered ;
the mind, approaching the Eternal (Nirvâna), has
attained to the extinction of all desires.’ 1
Here in the maker of the tabernacle—i.e. of the
body—one might be tempted to see a creator. But
he who is acquainted with the general direction of
thought in Buddhism, soon finds that this architect of
the house is only a poetical expression, and that whatever meaning may underlie it, it evidently signifies a
force subordinated to the Buddha, the Enlightened.
Buddha had conquered Mara, the representative of
'worldly temptations, the father of all worldly desires;
and as desire is indirectly the cause of birth, the
destruction of desire and the conquest of Mâra are
nearly the same thing.
But whilst we have no ground for exonerating the Buddha personally from the accusation of
Atheism, the matter stands very differently as regards the charge of Nihilism. Buddhist Nihilism
has always been much more incomprehensible than
mere Atheism. A kind of religion is still conceivable, when there is something firm somewhere, when
a something, eternal and self-dependent, is recognised,
if not without and above man, at least within him.
1 Dhammapada, v. 153.
But if, as Buddhism teaches, the soul after having
passed through all the phases of existence, through
all the worlds of the gods and of the higher spirits,
attains finally Nirvâna as its highest aim and last
reward, i.e. becomes quite extinct, then religion is
not any more what it ought to be—a bridge from
the finite to the infinite, but a trap-bridge hurling
man into the abyss at the very moment when he
thought he had arrived at the stronghold of the
Eternal. According to the metaphysical doctrine of
Buddhism, the soul cannot dissolve itself in a higher
being, or be absorbed in an absolute substance, as
was taught by the Brahmans and other mystics of
ancient and modern times. For Buddhism knew not
the Divine, the Eternal, the Absolute, and the soul,
even as the I, or as the mere Self, the Âtman, as
called by the Brahmans, was represented in the orthodox metaphysics of Buddhism as transient, as
futile, as a mere phantom.
No person who reads with attention the metaphysical speculations on the Nirvana contained in
the Buddhist canon, can arrive at any conviction
different from that expressed by Burnouf, viz. : That
Nirvana, the highest aim, the summum bonum of
Buddhism, is the absolute nothing.
Buraouf adds, however, that this doctrine, in its
crude form, appears only in the third part of the
canon, the so-called Abhidharma, but not in the first
and second parts, in the Sûtras, the sermons, and the
Vinaya, the ethics, which together bear the name of
Dharma or Law. He next points out that, according to some ancient authorities, this entire part of
the canon was designated as ‘not pronounced by
Buddha.’ 1 These are, at once, two important limitations. I add a third, and maintain that sayings
of the Buddha occur in the first and second parts
of the canon, which are in open contradiction ta
this metaphysical Nihilism.
Now, as regards the soul, or the self, the existence
of which, according to the orthodox metaphysics, is
purely phenomenal, a sentence attributed to the
Buddha says (Dhammapada, v. 160), ‘ Self is the
Lord of Self ; who else could be the Lord ? * And
again (ibid. v. 323), ‘ A man who controls himself
enters the untrodden land through his own self-controlled self.’ And this untrodden land is the Nirvâna»
Nirvâna certainly means extinction, whatever its
later arbitrary interpretations may have been, and
seems, therefore, to imply, even etymologically, a real
blowing out or passing away. But Nîrvâna occurs
also in the Brahmanic writings, as synonymous with
Moksha, Nirvritti , and other words, all designating
the highest stage of spiritual liberty and bliss, but
not annihilation. Nirvâna may mean the extinction
of many things—of selfishness, desire, and sin, without going so far as the extinction of being and selfconsciousness. Further, i f we consider that Buddha
himself, after he had already seen Nirvâna, still remains on earth until his body falls a prey to death ;
that Buddha appears, in the legends, to his disciples
even after his death,2 it seems to me that all these
circumstances are hardlyreconcileable with the orthodox metaphysical doctrine of Nirvâna.
What does it mean when Buddha (Dhammapada,
1 M . M.'s Selected Essays, supra, p. 286. The later origin of the
Abhidharma was denied by D'Alwis in his Essay on Nirvâna, and
defended by oldenberg, Vinaya, vol. i . p. xi .
2 See supra, p. 222, note.
iv. 21) calls earnestness the path of immortality, and
thoughtlessness the path of death ? Buddhaghosha,
a learned man of the fifth century, here explains
immortality by Nirvâna, and that this was also
Buddha's thought is clearly established by a passage
following immediately after (ibid. v. 23): ‘These
wise people, meditative, steady, always possessed of
strong powers, attain to Nirvâna, the highest happiness.’ Can this be annihilation? and would such
expressions have been used by the founder of this
new religion, i f what he called immortality had, in
his own idea, been annihilation ?
I could quote many more such passages did I not
fear to tire you. Nirvana occurs even in the purely
moral sense of quietness and absence of passion.
‘ When a man can bear everything without uttering
a sound,’ says Buddha (ibid. v. 134), ‘he has attained Nirvana.’ Quiet long-suffering he calls the
highest Nirvana (v. 184) ; he who has conquered
passion and hatred is said to enter into Nirvâna
(v. 369).
In other passages, Nirvâna is described as the
result of just knowledge. Thus we read (v. 203) :
4 Hunger or desire is the worst of diseases, the body
the greatest of pains ; i f one knows this truly, that
is Nirvâna, the highest happiness.’
When it is said in one passage that rest (Sânti)
is the highest bliss (v. 285), it is said in another that
Nirvâna is the highest bliss.
Buddha says (v. 225):—‘The sages who injure
nobody, and who always control their body, they
will go to the unchangeable place (Nirvana), where,
if they have gone, they will suffer no more.’5
Nirvâna is called the quiet place (vv. 368, 381),
the immortal place (v. 114), even simply that which
is immortal (v. 374) ; and the expression occurs
(v. 411), that the wise dive into this immortal. As,
according to Buddha, everything that was made,
everything that was put together, passes away again,
and resolves itself into its component parts, he calls
in contradistinction that which is not made, i.e.,
the uncreated and eternal, Nirvâna (ibid. v. 97). He
says (v. 383) : — ‘ When you have understood the
destruction of all that was made, you will understand that which was not made.’ Whence it appears
that even for him a certain something exists, which
is not made, which is eternal and imperishable.
On considering such sayings, to which many
more might be added, one recognises in them a conception of Nirvana, altogether irreconcileable with
the Nihilism of the third part of the Buddhist
Canon. The question in such matters is not a more
or less, but an aut-aut. If these sayings have maintained themselves, in spite of their contradiction
to orthodox metaphysics, the only explanation, in
my opinion, is, that they were too firmly fixed in the
tradition which went back to Buddha and his disciples. What Bishop Bigandet and others represent
as the popular view of the Nirvâna, in contradistinction to that of the Buddhist divines, was, i f
I am not mistaken, the conception of Buddha and
his disciples. It represented the entrance of the
soul into rest, a subduing of all wishes and desires,
indifference to joy and pain, to good and evil, an
absorption of the soul in itself, and a freedom from
the circle of existences from birth to death, and from
death to a new birth. This is still the meaning which
educated people attach to it, whilst to the minds of
the larger masses 1 Nirvâna suggests rather the idea
of a Mohammedan paradise or of blissful Elysian
Only in the hands of the philosophers, to whom
Buddhism owes its metaphysics, the Nirvana, through
constant negations, carried to an indefinite degree,
through the excluding and abstracting of all that is
not Nirvâna, at last became an empty Nothing, a
philosophical myth. There is no lack of such philosophical myths either in the East or in the West.
What has been fabled by philosophers of a Nothing,
and of the terrors of a Nothing, is as much a myth
as the myth of Eos and Tithonus. There is no more
a Nothing than there is an Eos or a Chaos. A l l
these are sickly, dying, or dead words, which, like
shadows and ghosts, continue to haunt language, and
succeed in deceiving for a while even the healthiest
Even modern philosophy is not afraid to say that
there is a Nothing. We find passages in the German
mystics, such as Eckhart and Tauler, where the abyss
of the Nothing is spoken of quite in a Buddhist
style.’ If Buddha had said, like St. Paul, ‘ that what
1 Bigandet.—The Life or Legend of Gandama, the Bndd7ta of the
Burmese, with Annotations. The Ways to Neibban, and Notice on
the Phongyies, or Burmese Monks. Pp. xi. 538. Bastian, Die Völker
des östlichen Asien, vol. i i i . p. 353.
2 About the same time when this deeply religious Nihilism found
expression in Germany in the works of Eckhart and Tauler, it shows
itself in wales also. In a letter which I received from the author
of the Literature of the Kymry, Mr. Thomas Stephens sends me the
following specimen, taken from the Myvyrian Archaeology, vol. i i i .
p. 34 •—
no eye hath seen, nor ear heard, neither has it entered
into the heart of man.’ was prepared in the Nirvâna
for those who had advanced to the highest degree of
spiritual perfection, such expressions would have been
quite sufficient to serve as a proof to the philosophers
by profession that this Nirvana, which could not become an object of perception by the senses, nor of
conception by the categories of the understanding,
the a n â k h â t a , the ineffable, as Buddha calls it
(v. 218), could be nothing more or less than the
Nothing. Could we dare with Hegel to distin guish
between a Nothing (Nichts) and a Not (Nicht), we
might say that the Nirvâna had, through a false dialectical process, become from a relative Nothing an
absolute Not. This was the work of the theologians
and of the orthodox philosophers. But a religion has
never been founded by such teaching, and a man like
No Secret but No-thing,
No-thing but the Infinite,
No Infinite but God,
No God but No-thing,
No-thing but (the) Secret,
No Secret but God.
The thought evidently is, that al l things are perishable, but that
the Infinite, Eternal, and Imperishable is No-thing. The negation
of the welsh poets was not atheism, not annihilation, not a denial of
being, but simply a denial of all accidental and perishable attributes
or qualities. Catwg or Cadog, the wise, is made to say :—
No Living but God, No Endless but God,
No Good but God, No Judgment but God,
No wise but God, No Lord but God,
No Knowing but God, No Eternal but God,
No Power but God, No Infinite but God,
No Love but God, No whole but God,
No Just but God, No Enough but God
No Omniscient but God, No-thing but God
No Strong but God,
Buddha, who knew mankind, must have known that
he could not with such weapons overturn the tyranny
of the Brahmans. Either we must bring ourselves
to believe that Buddha taught his disciples two diametrically opposed doctrines on Nirvâna, say an
exoteric and esoteric one, or we must allow that view
of Nirvana to have been the original view of the
founder of this marvellous religion, which corresponds
best with the simple, clear, and practical character
of Buddha.
I have now said all that can be said in vindication
of Buddha within the brief time allowed to these discourses. But I should be sorry if you carried away
the impression that Buddhism contained nothing but
empty, useless speculations ; permit me, therefore, to
read to you, in conclusion, a short Buddhist Parable,
which will show you Buddhism in a more human
form. It is borrowed from a work which will soon
appear, and which contains the translation of the
Parables used by the Buddhists to obtain acceptance
for their doctrines amongst the people. I shall only
omit some technical expressions and minor details
which are of no importance.’
1 This parable was given at the time, September 1869, from a
Burmese text, translated by Captain H . T. Rogers, and printed in
1870, in " Buddhaghosha1 s Parables, translated from the Burmese by
Captain H . T. Rogers, R.E. ; with an Introduction containing Buddha's
Dhammapada, or the Path of Virtue, translated from Pâli by F .
Max Müller.' The Pâli text was at that time not accessible, but i t
has lately been published by Dr. J . H . Thiessen (Die Legende von
Eisa Gosamî, Kiel , 1880), from a MS. in the Royal Library of
Copenhagen. It forms part of Buddhagosa's commentary on the
Dhammapada, and occurs twice—once in illustration of verse 114,
where it is given complete, and again in illustration of verse 287.
Fausböll had omitted it in his extracts from Buddhaghosa, in his
edition of Dhammapada, Copenhagen, 1855.
K I S Â G O T a m î .
A Buddhist Parable, translated from Pâli.
W H E N Kisâ Gotamî had been married one year she
gave birth to a son, but when hé had just begun to
walk, he died. The young mother, who had never
seen anyone die before, sent away the men who came
to burn the dead body.
‘ I shall ask for medicine for my boy,’ she cried,
and, taking the dead child in her arms, she went
from house to house, asking the people, ‘ Do you not
know any medicine for my boy ? ’
Then the people answered : ‘ Surely, thou art
mad to go about asking for medicine for a dead
But she said : ‘ I shall surely find some one who
will tell me what I can do for my boy.’
Now, there was a wise man who saw her and
thought, ‘ It may be that the poor girl has had her
first child. She does not know what death is. I
ought to comfort her.’ And he said to her: ‘ M y
daughter, I myself know of no medicine ; but I know
one who knows the right medicine for thee.’
‘ O father,’ she said, ‘ who is he ? ’
‘ The Master,’ he replied. ‘ Go and ask him.’
‘ I shall go, father,7 she said. And she went to
the Master, and bowed down before him, and, standing by his side, she said : ‘ Master, do you indeed
know some medicine for my son ? ’
‘ Daughter, I do.’ he replied.
‘What should I get for him? ’ she said.
‘ Get only a few mustard seeds,’ he replied.
‘ I shall get them. Master,’ she said ; ‘but in whose
house shall I get them ? ’
‘ In any house,’ he replied, ‘ where neither a son,
nor a daughter, nor anyone else has yet died.’
‘ Well , Master,’ she said, and bowed before him,
and took her dead child in her arms, and went to the
nearest village.
Standing at the door of the first house, she cried t
‘ Have you, perhaps, in your house a few mustard
seeds ? I want them as medicine for my boy.’
‘ We have,’ the people answered.
‘ Then give them to me,’ she said.
And when they had brought the mustard seeds
and given them to her, she asked : ‘ Friends, surely
no son, or daughter, or anyone else has yet died in
this house ? ’
They answered : 4 Friend, what dost thou say ?
The living are few, the dead are many.’
‘ Then take your mustard-seeds,’ she said, and
threw them down ; ‘ they will not do as medicine for
my boy.’
And walking away from the first house she went
on in the same manner, asking at every door. But
when she could not get the mustard seeds at any
house, and evening was now drawing near, she
thought: ‘This is a heavy task; I know now, my
boy is dead. Ih every village the dead are more
than the living.’
While she was thinking thus, her heart, which
had been breaking for love to her child, grew strong*
She took the child to the forest, and left him there.
Then she went back to the Master, bowed down
before him, and stood silent by his side. And the
B U D D H I S T N I H I L I S M . 311
Master spake to her, saying : ' Hast thou got the
few mustard seeds ? ’
‘ No, Master,’ she said : ‘ in every village the dead
are more than the living.’
Then the Master said to her : ‘ Thou thoughtest
that thy son alone had died, but there is the eternal
law for all living beings. The King of Death, like a
rushing stream, carries away all beings into the
ocean of destruction, long before their wishes are
Then, in order to teach the Law, the Master
spoke the following verse :—
‘ Death comes and carries off the thoughtless man,
Proud of his sons and flocks that none can number,
AS floods arise and carry off by night
A happy village bound in deepest slumber.’
(Dhammapada, v. 287.)
When he had finished this verse, Kisâ Gotamî had
made the first step towards the truth.
And afterwards she asked the Master to admit
her into the order, and the Master sent her to the
nuns, and allowed her to take the vow. When she
had been admitted, she received the name of Kisâ
Gotamî, the elder lady.
One day she came to the door of the chapel, and
having lighted a lamp, she sat down. When she saw
the rows of lamps going out and reviving, she was
comforted, thinking, ‘ L i k e these lamps, all living
beings, too, go out and revive ; but those who have
reached Nibbâna are seen no more.’
The Master was seated at that time in his chamber,
and sending forth a radiant image of himself, he sat
down before her, as i f preaching, and said : ‘ So it
is, indeed, O Gotamî ; like lamps, all living beings go
out and revive ; but those who have reached Nibbâna
are seen no more.’
He then said : ‘ One moment's life of a man who
sees Nibbâna is better than a hundred years of those
who do not see Nibbâna ; ' and after showing her the
connection between this and what she had just seen, he
pronounced the following song, by way of teaching
the Law :—
‘ If man should live one hundred years on earth,
And never see the place which knows no dying,
One day of life would better be by far,
That made him see the place which knows no dying.’
(Dhammapada, v. 114.)
At the end of the lesson, Kisâ Gotamî, where she
was sitting, obtained saintship together with all
Gentlemen, this is a specimen of true Buddhism ;
this is the language, intelligible to the poor and the
suffering, which has endeared Buddhism to the hearts
of millions—not the silly metaphysical phantasmagorias of worlds of gods and worlds of Brahma, or
final dissolution of the soul in Nirvâna—no, the
beautiful, the tender, the humanly true, which, like
pure gold, lies buried in all religions, even in the
sandy desert of the Buddhist canon.
I N J A P A N .
Read at the Meeting of the Royal Asiatic Society,
February 16, 1880.
IT is probably in the recollection of some of the
senior members of this Society how wide and deep
an interest was excited in the year 1853 by the publication of Stanislas Julien’s translation of the ‘ L i f e
and Travels of Hiouen-thsang.’ The account given
by an eye-witness of the religious, social, political,
and literary state of India at the beginning of the
seventh century of our era was like a rocket, carrying
a rope to a whole crew of struggling scholars, on the
point of being drowned in the sea of Indian chronology; and the rope was eagerly grasped by all,
whether their special object was the history of Indian
religion, or the history of Indian literature, architecture, or politics. While many books on Indian
literature, published five-and-twenty years ago, are
now put aside and forgotten, Julien’s three volumes
of Hiouen-thsang still maintain a fresh interest, and
supply new subjects for discussion, as maybe seen even
i n the last number of the Journal of your Society.
I had the honour and pleasure of working with
Stanislas Julien, when he was compiling those large
lists of Sanskrit and Chinese words which formed
the foundation of his translation of Hiouen-thsang,,
and enabled him in his classical work, the Méthode
pour déchiffrer et transcrire les noms Sanskrits (1861),
to solve a riddle which had puzzled Oriental scholars
for a long time—viz. how it happened that the original Sanskrit names had been so completely disguised and rendered almost unrecognisable in the
Chinese translations of Sanskrit texts, and how they
could be restored to their original form.
I had likewise the honour and pleasure of working with your late President, Professor H . H . Wilson,
when, after reading Julien’s works, he conceived
the idea that some of the original Sanskrit texts of
which the Chinese translations had been recovered
might still be found in the monasteries of China.
His influential position as President of your Society,
and his personal relations with Sir John Bowring,
then English Resident in China, enabled him to set
in motion a powerful machinery for attaining his
object ; and if you look back some five–and–twenty
years, you will find in your Journal a full account of
the correspondence that passed between Professor
Wilson, Sir J . Bowring, and Dr. Edkins, on the
search after Sanskrit MSS. in the temples or monasteries of China.
On February 15, 1854, Professor Wilson writes
from Oxford to Sir John Bowring :—
‘ I send you herewith a list of the Sanskrit works
carried to China by Hwen Tsang in the middle of
the seventh century, and in great part translated by
him, or under his supervision, into Chinese. If any
of them, especially the originals, should be still in
existence, you would do good service to Sanskrit
literature and to the history of Buddhism by procuring copies.’
Chinese Translators of Sanskrit Texts.
It is a well-known fact that, even long before the
time of Hiouen-thsang—that is, long before the
seventh century of our era—large numbers of Sanskrit
MSS. had been exported to China. These literary
exportations began as early as the first century A . D .
When we read for the first time of commissioners
being sent to India by Ming-ti, the Emperor of
China, the second sovereign of the Eastern Han
dynasty, about 62 or 65 A .D . , we are told that they
returned to China with a white horse, carrying books
and images.’ And the account proceeds to state that
‘these books still remain, and are reverenced and
From that time, when Buddhism was first officially
recognised in China, 2 there is an almost unbroken
succession of importers and translators of Buddhist,
• in some cases of Brahmanic texts also, t i l l we come
to the two famous expeditions, the one undertaken
by Fa-hian in 400-415, the other by Hiouen-thsang,
629-645 A . D . Fa-hian’s Travels were translated into
French by Abel Rémusat (1836), into English by Mr.
Beal (1869). Hiouen-thsang’s Travels are well
known through Stanislas Julien’s admirable transla1 Beal, Travels of Buddhist Pilgrims, Introd. p. x x i ; Chinese
Repository, vol. x. No. 3, March, 1841.
2 See an account of the Introduction of Buddhism into China, in
Journal Asiatique, 1856, August, p. 105. Recherches sur Vorigine des
ordres religieux dans Vempire chinois, par Bazin.
tion. Of Hiouen-thsang we are told that he brought
back from India no less than 520 fasciculi, or 657
separate works, which had to be carried by twentytwo horses.’ He translated, or had translated, 740
works, forming 1,335 fasciculi.
I say nothing of earlier traces of Buddhism which
are supposed to occur in Chinese books. Whatever
they may amount to, we look in vain in them for
evidence of any Chinese translations of Buddhist
books before the time of the Emperor Ming-ti; and
what concerns us at present is, not the existence or
the spreading of Buddhism towards the north and
east long before the beginning of the Christian era,
but the existence of Buddhist books, so far as it can
be proved at that time by the existence of Chinese
translations the date of which can be fixed with sufficient certainty.
In the following remarks on the history of these
translations I have had the great advantage of being
able to use the Annals of the Sui Dynasty (589-618),
kindly translated for me by Professor Legge. In
China the history of each dynasty was written
under the succeeding dynasty from documents which
may be supposed to be contemporaneous with the
events they relate. The account given in the Sui
Chronicles of the introduction of Buddhism and Buddhist works into China is said to be the best general
accountto be found in early Chinese literature, and the
facts here stated maybe looked upon as far more trustworthy than the notices hitherto relied upon, and collected from Chinese writers of different dates and
different localities. I have also had the assistance
1 Stan. Julien, Pèlerins Bouddhistes, vol. i . p. 296
of Mr . Bunyiu Nanjio, who compared the names of
the translators mentioned in the Sui Annals with
the names as given in the K'ai-yuen-shih-kiao-mu-lu
(Catalogue of the Buddhist books compiled in the
period K’ai-yuen [A.D. 713-741]) ; and though there
still remain some doubtful points, we may rest assured that the dates assigned to the principal Chinese
translators and their works can be depended on as
historically trustworthy.
With regard to the period anterior to Ming-ti , the
Sui Chronicles tell us that, after an investigation of
the records, it was known that Buddhism had not
been brought to China previously to the Han dynasty
(began 206 B.C.) , though some say that it had long
been spread abroad, but had disappeared again in the
time of the Khin1 (221-206 B.c.), Afterwards, however, when Kang-khien was sent on a mission to the
regions of the West (about 130 B.c.), he is supposed to have become acquainted with the religion
of Buddha. He was made prisoner by the Hiungnu (Huns),2 and, being kept by them for ten years,
he may well have acquired during his captivity some
knowledge of Buddhism, which at a very early time
had spread from Cabul 3 towards the north and the east.
In the time of the Emperor Âi (B.C. 6-2) we read
1 Dr. Edkins in his Notices of Buddhism in China (which unfortunately are not paged) says that Indians arrived at the capital
of China in Shensi in 217 B.c . to propagate their religion.
2 Dr. Edkins, I.e., states that Kang-khien, on his return from the
country of the Getæ, informed the Emperor Wu-ti that he had seen
articles of traffic from Shindo. The commentator adds that the name
is pronounced Kando and Tindo, and that it is the country of the
barbarians caned Buddha (sic).
8 Kabul or Ko-f u is, in the Eastern Han annals, called a state
of the Yüeh-ki.
that Khin-king caused I-tsun to teach the Buddhist
Sutras orally, but that the people gave no credence
to them. A l l this seems to rest on semi-historical
evidence only.
The first official recognition of Buddhism in
China dates from the reign of the Emperor Ming-ti ,
and the following account, though not altogether
free from a legendary colouring, is generally accepted
as authentic by Chinese scholars:—‘The Emperor
Ming-ti, of the After Han dynasty (58-75 A.D.),
dreamt that a man of metal (or golden colour) was
flying and walking in a courtyard of the palace.
When he told his dream in the Court, Fu-î said that
the figure was that of Buddha. On this the Emperor
sent the gentleman-usher Tsâi-yin andKhin-king(who
must then have been growing old) both to the country
of the great Yueh-ki 1 and to India, in order to seek
for such an image.’
A n earlier account of the same event is to be
found in the Annals of the After (or Eastern) Han
dynasty (25-120 A .D . ) . These annals were compiled
by Fan-yeh, who was afterwards condemned to death
as a rebel (445 A.D . ) . Here we read2 (vol. 88, fol. 8 a
seq.):—‘There is a tradition that the Emperor Mingt i (58-75 A.D.) dreamt that there was a giant-like
man of golden colour,3 whose head was refulgent.
The Emperor wanted his retainers to interpret it.
Then some said, ‘ ‘ There is a god (or spirit) in the
1 Generally identified with.the Getæ, but without sufficient
2 Translated by Mr. Bunyiu Nanjio.
<8 The golden colour or suvarnavarnatâ is one of the thirty
two marks of a Buddha, recognised both in the Southern and Northern
schools (Burnouf, Lotus, p. 579).
West who is called Fo, whose height is sixteen feet,
and of golden colour.’’ Having heard this, the Em­
peror at once sent messengers to Tien-ku (i.e. India),
to inquire after the doctrine of Buddha. Subse­
quently, copies of the image of Buddha were drawn
in the middle country (i.e. China).’
The emissaries whom the Emperor Ming­ti had
sent to India obtained a Buddhist Sutra in forty­two
sections, and an image of Buddha, with which and
the Shâmans Kâsyapa Mâtaṅga and Ku­fa­lan, they
returned to the East. When Tsâi­yin approached
(the capital), he caused the book to be borne on a
white horse, and on this account the monastery of
the White Horse was built on the west of the Yung
gate of the city of Lo to lodge it. The classic was
tied up and placed in the stone house of the Lan
tower, and, moreover, pictures of the image were
drawn and kept in the Khing­yiian tower, and at the
top of the Hsien-kieh hil l .
Here we seem to be on terra firma, for some of the
literary works by Kâsyapa Mâtaṅga, and Kû­fa­lan,
are still in existence. Kâsyapa Mâtaṅga (or, it
may be, Kâsya Mâtaṅga1) is clearly a Sanskrit
name. Mâtaṅga, though the name of a Kandâla or
1 This name is written in various ways, Ka­shio­ma­tô­giya,
Ka­shio­ma­tô, Shio­ma­tô, Ka­tô‚ Ma­tô. In the Fan­i­ming­i­tsi (vol.
i i i . fol. 4 a), it is said ' that K . was a native of Central India, and a
Brahman by caste. Having been invited by the Chinese envoy.
Tsâi­yin, he came to China, saw the Emperor, and died in Lo­yang,
the capital.' Of Kû­fa­lan it is said (l.c. vol. i i i . foh 4) that he was
a native of Central India, well versed in Vinaya. when invited to
go to China, the King would not let him depart. He left secretly,
and arrived in China after Kâsyapa. They translated the Sûtra in
forty­two sections together. After Kâsyapa died, Kû­fa­lan translated
five Sutras.
low-caste man, might well be borne by a Buddhist
priest.’ The name of Kû-fa-lan, however, is more
difficult. Chinese scholars declare that it can only
be a Chinese name,2 yet if Ku-f a-lan came from India
with Kâsyapa, we should expect that he too bore a
Sanskrit name. In that case, Ku might be taken as
the last character of Tien-kû, India, which character
is prefixed to the names of other Indian priests living
in China. His name would be Fâ-lan‚ i.e. Dharma + x,
whatever l an may signify, perhaps pad m a, lotus.’
M . Feer4 calls him Gobharana, without, however,
giving his authority for such a name. The Sutra of
the forty-two sections exists in Chinese, but neither in
Sanskrit nor in Pâli, and many difficulties would be
removed i f we admitted, with M . Feer, that this socalled Sûtra of the forty-two sections was really
the work of Kâsyapa and Kû-fa-lan, who considered
such an epitome of Buddhist doctrines, based chiefly
on original texts, useful for their new converts in
It is curious that the Sui Annals speak here of no
other literary work due to Kâsyapa and Kû-fa-lan,
though they afterwards mention the Shih-ku Sutra
by Kû-fa-lan as a work almost unintelligible. In the
Fan-i-ming-i-tsi (vol. i i i . fol. 4b), mention is made of
five Sutras, translated by Kû-fa-lan alone, after
Kâsyapa’s death. In the K’ai-yuen-shih-kiao-mu-lu
1 See Vasala-sutta (in Nipâta-sutta), v. 22.
* Fa is the Buddhist equivalent for friar.
8 Mr. B. Nanjio informs me that both in China and Japan Buddhist priests adopt either Kû‚ the last character of Tien-M, India, or
Shih, the first character of Shih-kia—i.e. Sâkya—as their surname.
4 L . Feer, Sutra en 42 articles, p. xxvii. Le Dhammapada par
F. Hü, suivi du Sutra en 42 articles, par Léon Feer, 1878, p. xxiv.
catalogue of the Buddhist books, compiled in the
period K’ai-yuen (713-741, A . D.), vol. I. foI. 6, four
Sutras only are ascribed to Kû–fa–lan :—
1. The Dasabhumi, called the Sutra on the destruction of the causes of perplexity in the ten stations ; 70 A . D . This is the Shi-ku Sutra.
2. The Sutra of the treasure of the sea of the
law (Dharma-samudra-kosha ?),
3. The Sutra of the original conduct of Buddha
(Fo-pen-hing-king) ; 68 A . D . (taken by Julien for a
translation of the Lalita-vistara).
4. The Sutra of the original birth of Buddha
The compiler of the catalogue adds that these
translations have long been lost.
The next patron of Buddhism was Ying, the K ing
of Khu, at the time of the Emperor Kang, his father
(76-88). Many Shâmans, it is said, came to China
then from the Western regions, bringing Buddhist
Sutras. Some of these translations, however, proved
During the reign of the Emperor Hwan (147-167),
An-shi-kao (usually called An-shing), a Shâman of
An-hsi, 1 brought classical books to Lo‚ and translated
them. This is evidently the same translator of whom
Mr. Beal (‘ J.R.A.S.’ 1856, pp. 327, 332) speaks as a
native of Eastern Persia or Parthia, and whose name
Mr . Wylie wished to identify with Arsak. As A n shi-kao is reported to have been a royal prince, who
made himself a mendicant and travelled as far as
China, Mr. Wylie supposes that he was tḥe son of one
1 Tn Beal's Catalogue this name is spelt An-shi-ko, An-shi-kao,
-and Ngan-shai-ko.
of the Arsacidæ, Kings of Persia. Mr. Beal, on the
contrary, takes the name to be a corruption of Asvaka
or Assaka—i.e. *lwira(iioi.1
Under the Emperor Ling, 168-189 A . D . , Kikhan (or Ki-tsin), a Shaman from the Yueh-ki (called
Ki-lau-kia-kuai by Beal), Kû-fo-soh (Ta-fo-sa), an
Indian Shaman, and others, worked together to
produce a translation of the Nirvâna-sûtra, in two
sections. The K’ai-yuen-lu ascribes twenty-three
works to Ki-khan, and two Sûtras to Kû-fo-soh.
Towards the end of the Han dynasty, Ku-yung,
the grand guardian, was a follower of Buddha.
In the time of the Three Kingdoms (220-264)
Khang-sang-hui, a Shâman of the Western regions,,
came to W û 2 with Sutras and translated them.
Sun-khüan, the sovereign, believed in Buddhism.
About the same time Khang-sang-khai translated the
longer text of the Sukhavatîvyûha.
In Wei , 3 during the period Hwang-khu (220-226)
the Chinese first observed the Buddhist precepts,
shaved their heads, and became Sang—i.e. monks.
Even before this, a Shâman of the Western regions
had come here and translated the Hsiâo-pin Sûtra—
i.e. the Sûtra of Smaller Matters (Khuddaka-nikâya ?)
—but the head and tail of it were contradictory, so
that it could not be understood.
1 His translations occur in Beal's Catalogue, pp. 31, 35, 37, 38,
40 (bis), 41 (bis), 42 (bis), 43, 45, 46, 47, 49, 50, 51 (ter), 52 (Us), 54,
70, 88, 95- (bis). In the K'ai-yuen-lu it is stated that he translated
99 works in 115 fascicles.
2 w û , comprising Keh-kiang and other parts, with its capital in
what is now Sû-kau, was the southern one of the Three Kingdoms«
Sun-khüan was its first sovereign.
• The northern of the Three Kingdoms, with its capital latterly
in Lo-yang.
In the period Kan-lu (256-259), Ku-shi-hsing
(Chu-shuh-lan, in Beal’s Catalogue) went to the West
as far as Khoten, and obtained a Sutra in ninety
sections, with which he came back to Yéh, in the
Tsin period of Yüen-khang (291-299), and translated
it (with Dharmaraksha) under the title of ‘ Lightemitting Pragnâ-pâramitâ Sutra.’ 1
In the period Thai-shi (265-274), under the
Western Tsin (265-316), Kû-fa-hu- (Dharmaraksha),
a Shâman of the Yiieh-ki, travelled through the
various kingdoms of the West, and brought a large
collection of books home to Lo, where he translated
them. It is stated in the Catalogue of the Great
Kau, an interlude in the dynasty of Thang (690705 A.D), that in the seventh year of the period Thaikhang (286) he translated King-fa-hwa—i.e. the
Saddharma-pundarîka (Beal, ‘ Catalogue.’ p. 14).’
About 300 A . D . Ki-kung-ming translated the
Wei-ma (Vimala-kîrtti) and Fa-hwa (Saddharmapundarîka).4
In 335 the prince of the Khau kingdom (during
the Tsin dynasty) permitted his subjects to become
Shâmans, influenced chiefly by Buddhasimha.’
1 See Beal, Catalogue, p. 5.
2 This narne‚Kû-fâ-hu‚is generally re-translated as Dharmaraksha.
KÛ is the second character in Tien-kû, the name of India, and
this character was used as their surname by many Indian priests
while living in China. In that case their Sanskrit names were
mostly translated into two Chinese characters: as Fâ (law=–
dharma), hu (protection = raksha).—B.N.
3 According to Mr. Beal (Fahian, p. xxiii), this Kû-fá-liu, with
the help of other Shamans, translated no less than 165 texts, and
among them the Lalita-vistara (Pou-yao-king), the Nirvana Sûtra,
and the Suvarna-prabhâsa-Sûtra (265-308). The K'ai-yuen-lu assigns to him 275 works, in 354 fascicles.
4 Edkins, l.c. Beal, Catalogue, p 17 ; 14. 5 Edkins, I.e.
In the time of the rebel Shih-leh, 330-333,
during the Tsin dynasty, a Shâman Wei-tao-an, or
Tao-an, of Khang-shan, studied Buddhist literature
under Buddhasimha. He produced a more correct
translation of the Vimala-kîrtti-sutra (and Saddharma-pundarika), and taught it widely ; but as he
was not an original translator, his name is not mentioned in the K’ai-yuen-lu. On account of political
troubles, Tâo-an led his disciples southward, to Hsinye, and despatched them to different quarters—Fâ–
shang to Yang-kâu, Fâ-hwa to Shu—while he himself,
with Wei-yuan, went to Hsiang-yang and Khang-an.
Here Fu-khien, the sovereign of the Fus, who about
350 had got possession of Khang-an, resisting the
authority of the Tsin, and establishing the dynasty
of the Former Khin, received him with distinction.
It was at the wish of Tâo-an that Fu-khien invited
Kumâragîva to Khang-an; but when, after a long
delay, Kumâragîva arrived there, in the second
year of the period Hung-shi (400 A.D.) , under Yâohsing, who, in 394, had succeeded Yâo-khang.’ the
founder of the After Khin dynasty, Tâo-an had been
dead already twenty years. His corrected translations, however, were approved by Kumâragîva.
This Kumâragîva marks a new period of great
activity in the translation of Buddhist texts. He is
said to have come from Ku-tsi, in Tibet, where the
Emperor Yâo-hsing (397-415) sent for him. Among
his translations are mentioned the Wei-ma or Vimala-kîrtti-sûtra (BeaFs ‘ Catalogue,’ p. 17); the Saddharma-pundarika (Beal's ‘ Catalogue,’ p. 15) 5 the
1 The Yâos subdued the Ff-s, and ruled as the dynasty of the
After Khin.
Satyasiddha­vyâkarana sâstra (Beal’s 4 Catalogue,’ p.
80). He was a contemporary of the great traveller,
Fâ­hian‚ who went from Khang­an to India, tra­
velled through more than thirty states, and came
back to Nanking in 414, to find the Emperor Yâo–
hsing overturned by the Eastern Tsin dynasty. He
was accompanied by the Indian contemplationist,
Buddhabhadra.’ Buddhabhadra translated the Fa­
yan­kin g, the Buddhâvat amsaka­vaipulya­sutra ( Beal’s
‘Catalogue,’ p. 9), and he and Fa­hian together, the
Mo­ho­sang-ki­liu—i.e. the Vinaya of the Mahâsaṅ­
ghika school (Beal, ‘ Catalogue,’ p. 68).
Another Shâman who travelled to India about
the same time was Ki­mang, of Hsin­fang, a district
city of Kâo-khang. In 419, in the period Yüan­hsi,
he went as far as Pâtali­putra, where he obtained the
Nirvana–sûtra, and the Saṅghika‚ a book of disci­
pline.2 After his return to Kâo-khang he translated
the Nirvâna­sûtra in twenty sections.
Afterwards the Indian Shâman Dharmarakshall.’
1 See p. 341. He is sometimes called Balasan, or, according to
Edkins, Palat'sanga, Baddala, or Dabadara. In the Fan­i­ming­i­tsi
(vol. i i i . fol. 6) the following account of Buddhabhadra is given :—
« Buddhabhadra met Kumâragîva in China, and whenever the latter
found any doubts, the former was always asked for an explanation.
In the fourteenth year of î­hsi (418 A.D. ) Buddhabhadra translated
the Fa­yan­king in sixty volumes. ' This Sûtra is the Ta­f ang­kwang­
fo­fa­yan­king, Buddhâvatamsaka­vaipulya­sûtra (Beal’s Catalogue,
p. 9). This translation was brought to Japan in 736.
* The Sang-hi­liu, rules of priesthood—i.e. the vinaya of the
Mahâsañghika school.
• I call him Dharmaraksha II., in order to prevent a confusion
which has been produced by identifying two Shamans who lived at
a distance of nearly 200 years—the one 250 A,D. , the other 420 A.D.
The first is called Kû­f â­hu‚ which can be rendered Dharmaraksha ;
the second is called Fâ–fāng (law­prosperity), but, if transliterated,
he is best known by the names T'on­mo­la­tsin, T'an­mo­tsin, or
brought other copies of the foreign MSS. to the West
of the Ho. And Tsti-khü Mung-sun, the king of
North Liang, sent messengers to Kâo-khang for the
copy which Ki-mang had brought, wishing to compare the two.’
When Ki-mang's copy arrived,2 a translation was
made of it in thirty sections. Dharmaraksha II .
translated the Suvarna-prabhâsa and the Nirvânasûtra, 416-423 A.D. The K’ai-yuen-lu ascribes nineteen works to Dharmalatsin in 131 fascicles.
Buddhism from that time spread very rapidly in
China, and the translations became too numerous to
be all mentioned.
The Mahâyâna school was represented at that
time chiefly by the following translations :—
The vimalakîr t t i -sût ra (Beal,
' Catalogue,' p. 17)
The Saddharmapundarîka- sûtra
(Beal, ' Catalogue,' p. 15)
The Satyasiddhavyâkarana--"âstra (Beal, 'Catalogue,' p. 80)
The Suvarnaprabhâsa- sûtra (Beal,
' Catalogue,' p. 15)
The Nirvâna-sûtra (Beal, ' Catalogue,' p. 12)
Translated by Kumâragîva.
Translated by Dharmalatsin, or Dharmaraksha II .
Dharmalatsin. He was a native of Central India, and arrived in
China in the first year of the period Hiouen-shi of the Tsü-¾M
family of the Northern Liang, 414 A . D . He was the contemporary
of Ki-mang, whom Mr. Beal places about 250 A.D. , in order to make
him a contemporary of Dharmaraksha I.
1 Mung-sun died 432, and was succeeded by his heir, who lost
his kingdom in 439. Yao-hhang's kingdom, however, was destroyed
by the Eastern Tsin, at the time of his second successor, 417, not by
2 It is said in the tenth year of the period Hung-shi of YâoON SANSKRIT TEXTS DISCOVERED IN JAPAN. 327
The Hînayâna school was represented by—
The Sarvâstivâda­vinaya by Kumâragîva (BeaI. ' Cata­
logue,' pp. 67, 68).
The Dîrghâgama­sûtra, by Buddhayasas, 410 A . D . (Beal,
* Catalogue,' p. 36).
The Vinaya of the four Parts, by Buddhayasas.’
The Ekottarâgama­sûtra (Aṅgnttara), translated by
Dharmanandin, of Tukhara (Fa­hsi).
The Abhidharma disquisitions, by Dharmayasas,2 of
During the period of Lung­an (397­401) the
Ekottarâgama (Anguttara) and Madhyamâgama­
Sutras 3 were translated by Saṅghadeva of Kophene.
This is probably the Magghima Nikâya‚ translated
by Gotarna Sanghadeva, under the Eastern Tsin
dynasty, 317­419.
In the period î­hsi (405­418) the Shâman Ki­
fâ­ling brought from Khoten to Nanking, the
southern capital, the Hwâ­yen Sûtra in 36,000
gâthâs, and translated it. This may be the Buddhâ­
vatamsaka­sûtra, called the Ta–fang–kwang–fo–fa–
yan­king (Beal’s ‘ Catalogue,’ pp. 9,10). This trans­
lator is not mentioned in the K’ai­yuen­lu.
In 420 the Tsin dynasty came to an end.
The Emperor Thai­wu (424­452), of the N . Wei
dynasty, persecuted the Buddhists, 446 ; but from the
year 452 they were tolerated. This dynasty lasted
from 386 to 535, when it was divided into two.
.Mang (better hsing), the copy arrived at Khang­an. But this cannot
‡>e, if Ki­rnang went to India in 419. There must be something
wrong in these dates.
1 The four Nikâyas or Agamas ; cf. Vinayapitaka, vol, 1. p. XI.
2 Sâriputrâbhidharma-sâstra ; cf, Beal, Catalogue, p. 80,
* Beal, Catalogue, p. 36.
In 458 there was a conspiracy under Buddhist
influences, and more stringent laws were enforced
against them.
In 460 five Buddhists arrived in China from
Ceylon, via Tibet. Two of them, Yashaita, and
Vudanandi, brought images.’ In 502 a Hindu
translated Mahâyâna books, called Fixed Positions
and Ten Positions.2
During the dynasties of Khi (479-502), Liang
(502-557), and Khin (557-589), many famous
Shâmans came to China, and translated books.
The Emperor W u of Liang (502-549) paid great
honour to Buddhism. He made a large collection of
the Buddhist canonical books, amounting to 5,400
volumes, in the Hwâ-lin garden. The Shâman Paokhang compiled the catalogue in fifty-four fascicles.
In the period Yung-ping, 508-511, there was an
Indian Shâman Bodhiruki, who translated many
books, as Kumâragîva had done. Among them were
the Earth-holding sâstra (bhûmîdhara sâstra*?) and
the Shi-ti-king-lun, the Dasabhûmika sâstra‚ greatly
valued by the followers of the Mahâyâna. 3
In 516, during the period Hsî-phing, the Chinese
Shâman Wei-shang was sent to the West to collect
Sûtras and Vinayas, and brought back a collection
of 170 books. He is not, however, mentioned as a
translator in the K’ai-yuen-lu.
In 518 Sung-yun, sent by the queen of the W e i
country from Lo-yang to India, returned after three
years, with 175 volumes. He lived to see Bodhidharma
1 Edkins, l.c. 2 Ibid.
1 Bearl, Catalogue, p. 77 ; on p. 20 a translation of the Lan-kâvatâra is mentioned.
in his coffin. This Bodhidharma, the twenty-eighth
patriarch, had arrived in Canton by sea in 528, in the
time of Wu-ti, the first Emperor of the Liang
dynasty. Some Sanskrit MSS. that had belonged to
him, and other relics, are still preserved in Japan.’
In the time of the Emperor Wû, of the Northern
Kâu dynasty (561-577), a Shâman, Wei-yiian-sung,
accused the Buddhist priests, and the Emperor persecuted them. But in the first year of Kao-tsu, the
founder of the Sui dynasty, in 589, toleration was again
proclaimed. He ordered the people to pay a certain
sum of money, according to the number of the members of each family, for the purpose of preparing Sutras
(the Buddhist canon) and images. And the Government caused copies of the whole Buddhist canon to
be made, and placed them in certain temples or
monasteries in the capital, and in several other large
cities, in such provinces as Ping–kâu, Hsiang-kâu‚.
Lo-kâu, etc. And the Government caused also
another copy to be made and to be deposited in the
Imperial Library. The Buddhist sacred books among
the people were found to be several hundred times
more numerous than those on the six Kings of
Confucius. There were 1,950 distinct Buddhist books
In the period Tâ-yelr (605-616) the Emperor
ordered the Shâman Ki-kwo tó compose a catalogue
of the Buddhist books at the Imperial Buddhist
chapel within the gate of the palace. He then made
some divisions and classifications, which were aa
follows :—
1 See Atlienœum, August 7, 1880; and infra, p. 370.
The Sûtras which contained what Buddha had
spoken were arranged under three divisions :—
1. The Mahâyâna.
2. The Hînayâna.
3. The Mixed Sûtras.
Other books, that seemed to be the productions of
later men, who falsely ascribed their works to greater
names, were classed as Doubtful Books.
There were other works in which Bodhisattvas and
others went deeply into the explanation of the meaning, and illustrated the principles of Buddha. These
were called Disquisitions, or Sâstras. Then there
were Vinaya, or compilations of precepts, under each
division, as before, Mahâyâna, Hînayâna, Mixed.
There were also Records, or accounts of the doings
in their times of those who had been students of the
system. Altogether there were eleven classes under
which the books were arranged :—
1. Sûtra. Mahâyâna . 617 in 2,076 chapters.
Hînayâna. . 487 „ 852 „
Mixed . . 380 „ 716
Mixed and doubtful 172 ,‚ 336
2. vinaya. Mahâyâna. . 52 „ 91 „
Hînayâna. . 80 „ 472
Mixed . . 27 „ 46 „
3. Sâstra. Mahâyâna . 35 „ 141 „
Hînayâna . 41 „ 567
Mixed . 51 „ 437
Records . 20 „ 464 „
1,962 6,198
Search for Sanskrit MSS. in China.
It was the publication of Hiouen-thsang’s Travels
which roused the hopes of Professor Wilson that
some of the old Sanskrit MSS. which had been carried
away from India might still be discovered in China.’
But though no pains were spared by Sir John
Bowring to carry out Professor Wilson's wishes,
though he had catalogues sent to him from Buddhist
libraries, and from cities where Buddhist compositions might be expected to exist, the results were
disappointing, at least so far as Sanskrit texts were
concerned. A number of interesting Chinese books,
translated from Sanskrit by Hiouen-thsang and
others, works also by native Chinese Buddhists, were
sent to the library of the East India House ; but
what Professor Wilson and all Sanskrit scholars with
him most desired, Sanskrit MSS., or copies of Sanskrit MSS., were not forthcoming. Professor Wilson
showed me, indeed, one copy of a Sanskrit MS. that
was sent to him from China, and, so far as I remember, it was the Kâla-Kakra, 2 which we know as one
of the books translated from Sanskrit into Chinese.
That MS., however, is no longer to be found in the
India Office Library, though it certainly existed in
the old East India House.
1 A long list of Sanskrit texts translated into Chinese may be
found in the Journal Asiatique, 1849, p. 353 sc^., s.t. ' Concordance
Sinico-Samskrite d'un nombre considérable de titres d'ouvrages
Bouddhiques, recueillie dans un Catalogue Chinois de l'an 1306, par
M . Stanislas Julien.'
2 Csoma Körösi, As. Mes. vol. xx. p. 418. Journal Asiatique,
1849, p. 356.
The disappointment at the failure of Professor
Wilson's and Sir J . Bowring's united efforts was felt
all the more keenly because neither Sanskrit nor
Chinese scholars could surrender the conviction that,
until a very short time ago, Indian MSS. had existed in China. They had been seen by Europeans,
such as Dr. Gutzlaff, the hard-working missionary in
China, who in a paper, written shortly before his
death, and addressed to Colonel Sykes (‘Journal
R.A.S.’ 1856, p. 73), stated that he himself had seen
Pâli MSS. preserved by Buddhist priests in China.
Whether these MSS. were in Pâli or Sanskrit would
matter little, supposing even that Dr. Gutzlaff could
not distinguish between the two. He speaks with
great contempt of the whole Buddhist literature.
There was not a single priest, he says, capable of explaining the meaning of the Pâli texts, though some
were interlined with Chinese. ‘ A few works,’ he
writes, ‘ are found in a character originally used for
writing the Pâli ; and may be considered as faithful
transcripts of the earliest writings of Buddhism.
They are looked upon as very sacred, full of mysteries, and deep significations ; and therefore as the
most precious relics of the founder of their creed.
Wi th the letters of this alphabet the priests perform
incantations 1 to expel demons, rescue souls from
hell, bring down rain on the earth, remove calamities,
etc. They turn and twist them in every shape, and
maintain that the very demons tremble at the recitation of them.’
Another clear proof of the existence of Sanskrit
MSS. in China is found in the account of a ‘ Trip to
1 Cf. Beal, Catalogue, p. 66.
Ning-po and T’heen-t’hae,’ by Dr. Edkins. After he
had arrived at Fang-kwang, he ascended the Hwaling hi l l , and at the top of the hi l l he describes a
small temple with a priest residing in it. ‘ Scattered
over the hill,’ he adds, ‘ there are various little
temples where priests reside, but the one at the top
is the most celebrated, as being the place where
Che-k’hae spent a portion of his time, worshipping
a Sanskrit manuscript of a Buddhist classic.’ On
his return he arrived at the pagoda erected to the
memory of Che-k’hae, the founder of the Thëen-t'hae
system of Buddhism, in the Chin dynasty (about 580
A . D . ) . And a little further on, situated in a deep
dell on the left, was the monastery of Kaon-ming-sze.
This is particularly celebrated for its possession of a
Sanskrit MS. , written on the palm leaf, once read
and explained by Che-k’hae, but now unintelligible
to any of the followers of Buddhism in these parts.
The priests seemed to pay uncommon reverence to
this MS. , which is the only one of the kind to be
found in the East of China, and thus of great importance in a literary point of view. It is more than
1300 years old, but is in a state of perfect preservation,
in consequence of the palm leaves, which are written
on both sides, having been carefully let into slips of
wood, which are fitted on the same central pin, and
the whole, amounting to fifty leaves, enclosed in a
rosewood box.
This may account for the unwillingness of the
priests to part with their old MSS., whether Sanskrit
or Pâli, but it proves at the same time that they still
exist, and naturally keeps up the hope that some day
or other we may still get a sight of them.
Materials on which Sanskrit MSS. were written.
Of course, it might be said that if MSS. did not
last very long in India, neither would they do so in
China. But even then, we might expect at least
that as in India the old MSS. were copied whenever
they showed signs of decay, so they would have been
in China. Besides, the climate of China is not so
destructive as the heat and moisture of the climate
of India. In India, MSS. seldom last over a thousand years. Long before that time paper made of
vegetable substances decays, palm leaves and birch
bark become brittle, and white ants often destroy
what might have escaped the ravages of the climate.
It was the duty, therefore, of Indian Rajahs to keep
a staff of librarians, who had to copy the old M S S .
whenever they began to seem unsafe, a fact which
accounts both for the modern date of most of our
Sanskrit MSS. and for the large number of copies of
the same text often met with in the same library.
The MSS. carried off to China were in all likelihood not written on paper, or whatever we like to
call the material which Nearchus describes ‘ as cotton
well beaten together.’1 but on the bark of the birch
tree or on palm leaves. The bark of trees is mentioned as a writing material used in India by Curtius ; 2
and in Buddhist Sûtras, such as the Karandavyuha
(p. 69), we actually read of bhûrga , birch, m as ¾ ink,
and karama (kalam), as the common requisites for
writing. MSS. written on that material have long
been known in Europe, chiefly as curiosities (I had
to write many years ago about one of them, preserved
1 The modern paper in Nepal is said to date from 500 years ago
(Hodgson, Essays).
2 M.M. , History of Ancient Sanskrit Idterature, p. 516.
in the Library at A l l Souls’ College), Of late,1 however, they have attracted more serious attention, particularly since Dr. Bühler discovered in Kashmir old
MSS. containing independent recensions of Vedic
texts, written on birch bark. One of these, containing the whole text of the Rig-Veda Samhitâ2 with
accents, was sent to me, and though it had suffered
a good deal, particularly on the margins, it shows that
there was no difficulty in producing from the bark
of the birch tree thousands and thousands of pages
of the largest quarto or even folio size, perfectly
smooth and pure, except for the small dark lines
peculiar to the bark of that tree.’
At the time of Hiouen-thsang, in the seventh
1 Burnell, South Indian Palœography, 2nd ed. p. 84 se^.
2 See Sacred Books of the East, vol. i . , Upanishads, Introduction,
p. lxxviii .
* Dr. Bühler (Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society ‚Bombay, 1877,
p. 29) has the following interesting remarks :—' The Bhûrga MSS.
are written on specially-prepared thin sheets of the inner bark of the
Himalayan birch (Bcetula Bhojpatr, wallich), and invariably in
Sâradâ characters. The lines run always parallel to the narrow side
of the leaf, and the MSS. present, therefore, the appearance of
European books, not of Indian MSS., which owe their form to an
imitation of the Tâlapatras. The Himalaya seems to contain an inexhaustible supply of birch bark, which in Kasmîr and other hil l
countries is used both instead of paper by the shopkeepers in the
bazaars, and for lining the roofs of houses in order to make them
watertight. It is also exported to India, where in many places it is
likewise used for wrapping up parcels, and plays an important part
in the manufacture of the flexible pipe-stems used by hukâ smokers.
To give an idea of the quantities which are brought into Srînagar‚
I may mention that on one single day I counted fourteen large barges
with birch bark on the river. . . . The use of birch bark for literary
purposes is attested by the earliest classical Sanskrit writers. Kalidâsa mentions it in his dramas and epics; Sustuta‚ varâhamihira
(circa 500-550 A.D . ) know it likewise. As is the case with nearly
all old customs, the use of birch bark for writing still survives in
India, though the fact is little known. Mantras, which are worn as
century, palm leaves seem to have been the chief
material for writing. He mentions a forest of palm
trees (Borassus flabelliformis) near Konkanapura (the
Western coast of the Dekhan),1 which was much
prized on account of its supplying material for writ­
ing (vol. i . p. 202, and vol. in. p. 148). At a later
time, too, in 965, we read of Buddhist priests return­
ing to China with Sanskrit copies of Buddhist books
written on palm leaves (peito). 2 If we could believe
Hiouen­thsang, the palm leaf would have been used
even so early as the first Buddhist Council,3 for he says
that Kâsyapa then wrote the Pitakas on palm leaves
(tâla), and spread them over the whole of India. In the
Pâli Gâtakas, panna is used in the sense of letter,
but originally parna meant a wing, then a leaf of a
tree, then a leaf for writing. Pa t ta, also, which is
used in the sense of a sheet, was originally pattra,
a wing, a leaf of a tree. Suvannapatta, a golden
leaf to write on, still shows that the original writing
material had been the leaves of trees, most likely of
amulets, are written on pieces of BMrga with ashtau gandhâh‚ a
mixture of eight odoriferous substances—e.g. camphor, sandal, tur­
meric—which vary according to the deity to which the writing is
dedicated. The custom prevails in Bengal as well as in Gujarat.
Birch­bark MSS. occur in Orissa. The Petersburg Dictionary refers
to a passage in the Kathaka, the redaction of the Yajurveda formerly
current in Kasmir, where the word Bhûrga occurs, though it is not
clear if it is mentioned there too as material for writing on. The
Kasmirian Pandits assert, and apparently with good reason, that in
Kasmir all books were written on bhûrgapattras from the earliest
times until after the conquest of the Valley by Akbar, about 200­250
years ago. Akbar introduced the manufacture of paper, and thus
created an industry for which Kasmir is now famous in India.'
1 Dr. BurneU, Indian Antiquary, 1880, p. 234, shows that Koṅ–
kanapura is Koñkanahlli in the Mysore territory.
2 Beal’s Travels of Buddhist Pilgrims, Introd. p. xlvi.
9 Pèlerins Bouddhistes, vol. i . p. 158.
palm­trees.’ Pot thaka, i.e. pustaka, book, like­
wise occurs in the Pâli Gâtakas.2
Such MSS., written on palm leaves, if preserved
carefully and almost worshipped, as they seem to
have been in China, might well have survived to the
present day, and they would certainly prove of im­
mense value to the students of Buddhism, if they
could still be recovered, whether in the original or
even in later copies.
It is true, no doubt, that, like all other religions,
Buddhism too had its periods of trial and persecution
in China. We know that during such periods—as,
for instance, in 845, under the Emperor Wu­tsung—
monasteries were destroyed, images broken, and
books burnt. But these persecutions seem never to
have lasted long, and when they were over, mo­
nasteries, temples and pagodas soon sprang up again,
images were restored, and books collected in greater
abundance than ever. Dr. Edkins tells us that ‘ in
an account of the Ko­t’sing monastery in the His­
tory of T’ian­t’ai­shan it is said that a single work
was saved from a fire there several centuries ago,
which was written on the Pe i ­ to (Pe­ta) or palm
leaf of India.’ He also states that great pagodas
were built on purpose as safe repositories of Sanskrit
MSS., one being erected by the Emperor for the
preservation of the newly arrived Sanskrit books at
the request of Hiouen­thsang, lest they should be
injured for want of care. It was 180 feet high, had
five stories with grains of She­ l i (relics) in the
1 Fausböll, Dasaratha-jātaka, p. 25.
2 See also Albiruni, as quoted by Reinaud, Mémoire sur VIndcy
p. 305.
centre of each, and contained monuments inscribed
with the prefaces written by the Emperor or Prince
Royal to Hiouen-thsang’s translations.
Search for Sanskrit MSS. in Japan.
Being myself convinced of the existence of old
Indian MSS. in China, I lost no opportunity, during
the last five-and-twenty years, of asking any friends
of mine who went to China to look out for these
treasures, but—with no result !
Some years ago, however, Dr. Edkins, who had
taken an active part in the search instituted by
Professor Wilson and Sir J . Bowring, showed me
a book which he had brought from Japan, and
which contained a Chinese vocabulary with Sanskrit
equivalents and a transliteration in Japanese. The
Sanskrit is written in that peculiar alphabet which
we find in the old MSS. of Nepâl‚ and which in
China has been further modified, so as to give it an
almost Chinese appearance.
That MS. revived my hopes. If such a book was
published in Japan, I concluded that there must have
been a time when such a book was useful there—that
is to say, when the Buddhists in Japan studied
Sanskrit. Dr. Edkins kindly left the book with me,
and though the Sanskrit portion was full of blunders,
yet it enabled me to become accustomed to that peculiar alphabet in which the Sanskrit words are
While I was looking forward to more information
from Japan, good luck would have it that a young
Buddhist priest, Mr. Bunyiu Nanjio, came to me from
Japan, in order to learn Sanskrit and Pâli, and thus
to be able in time to read the sacred writings of the
Buddhists in their original language, and to compare
them with the Chinese and Japanese translations
now current in his country. After a time, another
Buddhist priest, Mr. Kasawara, came to me for the
same purpose, and both are now working very hard
at learning Sanskrit. Japan is supposed to contain
34,388,504 inhabitants, all of whom, with the exception of about 1 or 200,000 followers of the Shinto religion, 1 are Buddhists, divided into ten principal sects,
the sect to which Mr. Bunyiu Nanjio belongs being
that of the Shinshiu. One of the first questions which
I asked Mr. Bunyiu Nanjio, when he came to read
Sanskrit with me, was about Sanskrit MSS. in Japan.
I showed him the Chinese-Sanskrit-Japanese Vocabulary which Dr. Edkins had left with me, and he
soon admitted that Sanskrit texts in the same alphabet might be found in Japan, or at all events in
China. He wrote home to his friends, and after
waiting for some time, he brought me in December
last a book which a Japanese scholar, Shuntai
Ishikawa, had sent to me, and which he wished me
to correct, and then to send back to him to Japan.
I did not see at once the importance of the book.
But when I came to read the introductory formula,
E v a m mayâ srutam, ‘Thus by me it has been
heard.’ the typical beginning of the Buddhist Sûtras,
my eyes were opened. Here, then, was what I had
so long been looking forward to—a Sanskrit text,
carried from India to China, from China to Japan,
written in the peculiar Nepalese alphabet, with a
'Chinese translation, and a transliteration in Japanese.
1 See Letter to the Times, ' On the Religions of Japan; Oct. 20,1880
Of course, it is a copy only, not an original MS. ;.
but copies presuppose originals at some time or other,
and, such as it is, it is a first instalment, which tells
us that we ought not to despair, for where one of
the long-sought-for literary treasures that were taken
from India to China, and afterwards from China to
Japan, has been discovered, others are sure to come
to light.
We do not possess yet very authentic information
on the ancient history of Japan, and on the introduction of Buddhism into that island. M . Léon de
Rosny1 and the Marquis D’Hervey de Saint-Denys 2
have given us some information on the subject, and
I hope that Mr. Bunyra Nanjio wil l soon give us a
trustworthy account of the ancient history of his
country, drawn from native authorities. What is
told us about the conversion of Japan to Buddhism
has a somewhat legendary aspect, and I shall only
select a few of the more important facts, as they
have been communicated to me by my Sanskrit pupil.
Buddhism first reached Japan, not directly from
China, but from Corea, which had been converted to
Buddhism in the fourth century A . D . In the year
200 A.D. , Corea had been conquered by the Japanese
Empress Zingu, and the intercourse thus established
between the two countries led to the importation of
Buddhist doctrines from Corea to Japan. In the
year 552 A . D . one of the Corean kings sent a bronze
statue of Buddha and many sacred books to the
Court of Japan, and, after various vicissitudes,
1 ' Le Bouddhisme dans l'extrême orient; Reime Scientifique,.
Décembre, 1879.
2 Journal Asiatique, 187I. p. 386 se^.
Buddhism became the established religion of the
island about 600 A.D. Japanese students were sent
to China to study Buddhism, and they brought back
with them large numbers of Buddhist books, chiefly
translations from Sanskrit. In the year 640 A.D.
we hear of a translation of the Sukhavatîvyûhamahâyâna-sûtra being read in Japan. This is the
title of the Sanskrit text now sent to me from Japan.
The translation had been made by Kô-sô-gai (in
Chinese, Khang-sang-khai), a native of Tibet, though
living in India, 252 A.D. , and we are told that thtere
had been eleven other translations of the same text.’
Among the teachers of these Japanese students
we find our old friend Hiouen-thsang, whom the
Japanese call Genziô. In the year 653 a Japanese
priest, Dosho by name, studied under Genziô,
adopted the views of the sect founded by him—the
Hossô sect—and brought back with him to Japan a
compilation of commentaries on the thirty verses of
Vasubandhu, written by Dharmapâla, and translated
by Genziô. Two other priests, Chitsû and Chitatsn,
likewise became his pupils, and introduced the
famous Abhidharma-kosha-sâstra into Japan, which
had been composed by Vasubandhu, and translated
by Genziô. They seem to have favoured the Hînayâna, or the views of the Small Vehicle (Kushashiu).
In the year 736 we hear of a translation of the
Buddhâvatamsaka-vaipulya-sûtra, by Buddhabhadra
and others2 (317-419 A .D. ) , being received in Japan,
1 Five of these translations were introduced into Japan;
the others seem to have been lost in China. The translations are
spoken of as ' the five in existence and the seven missing.'
2 See p. 325.
likewise of a translation of the Saddharmapundarîkæ.
by Kumâragîva.1
And, what is more important still, in the ninth
century we are told that Kukai (died 835)‚the founder
of the Shingon sect in Japan, was not only a good
Chinese, but a good Sanskrit scholar also. Nay, one
of his disciples, Shinnyo, in order to perfect his
knowledge of Buddhist literature, undertook a journey,
not only to China, but to India, but died before he
reached that country.
These short notices, which I owe chiefly to M r .
Bunyiu Nanjio, make it quite clear that we have
every right to expect Sanskrit MSS., or, at all events,
Sanskrit texts, in Japan, and the specimen which I
have received encourages me to hope that some of
these Sanskrit texts may be older than any which
exist at present in any part of India.
The Sukhavatî-vyûha.
The text which was sent to me bears the title of
Sukhâvatî-vyuha-mahâyâna-sûtra. 2
This is a title well known to all students of
Buddhist literature. Burnouf, in his ‘ Introduction
à l'Histoire du Buddhisme ' (pp. 99-102).’ gave a
short account of this Sûtra, which enables us to see
that the scene of the dialogue was laid at Râgagriha‚
and that the two speakers were Bhagavat and Ânanda.
We saw before, in the historical account of Buddhism in Japan, that no less than twelve Chinese
translations of a work bearing the same title were
1 See p. 319.
2 The MSS. vary between Sukhavatî and Sukhâvatî.
8 See also Lotus de la bonne Loi, p. 267.
( M A X M Ü L L E R ' S S E L E C T E D E S S A Y S , V O L . II.)
mentioned. The Chinese tell us at least of five translations which are still in existence.’
Those of the Han and W u dynasties (25-280
A . D . ) , we are told, were too diffuse, and those of the
later periods, the T‘ang and Sung dynasties, too
literal. The best is said to be that by Kô-sô-gai, a
priest of Tibetan descent, which was made during
the early Wei dynasty, about 252 A . D . This may be
the same which was read in Japan in 640 A . D .
The same Sûtra exists also in a Tibetan translation, for there can be little doubt that the Sutra
quoted by Csoma Körösi (‘As. Res.’ vol. xx. p. 408)
under the name of Amitâbha-vyûha is the same work.
It occupies, as M . Léon Feer informs me, fifty-four
leaves, places the scene of the dialogue at Râgagriha,
on the mountain Gridhra-kûta, and introduces Bhagavat and Ânanda as the principal speakers.
There are Sanskrit MSS. of the Sukhavatî–vyûha
in your own Library, in Paris, at Cambridge, and at
The following is a list of the MSS. of the Sukhavatî-vyûha, hitherto known :—
1. MS. of the Royal Asiatic Society, London
(Hodgson Collection), No. 20. Sukhavativyuhamahâyânasutra, sixty-five leaves. Dated Samvat 934
= A .D . 1814. It begins : Namo dasadiganantâparyantalokadhâtupratishtitebhyah, etc. Evam mayâ srutam ekasmim sarnaye Bhagavân Râgagrihe viharati
sma. It ends :' Sukhâvatîvyûha-mahâyânasûtram
samâptam. Samvat 934, kârttikasudi 4, sampûrnarn
abhût. Srisuvarnapanârirnahânagare Maitrîpûrirna1 Journal of the R.A.S., 1856, p. 319.
hâvihâre Srîvâkvagradâsa vagrâkâryasya Gayânandasya ka sarvârthasiddbeh. (Nepalese alphabet.)
2. MS. of the Bibliothèque Nationale, Paris
(Collection Burnouf), No. 85; sixty-four leaves. It
begins, after a preamble of five lines, Evam rnayâ
srutamrnekasrni samaya Bhagavân Râgagrihe viharati
sma Gridhrakute parvvate mahatâ Bhikshusanghena
sârddham. Dvâtrimsratâ Bhikshusahasraih. It ends:
Bhagavato rnitâbhasya gunaparikîrttanam Bodhisattvârnavaivartyabhûrnipravesah. Arnitâbhavyuhaparivarttah. Sukhâvatîvyûhah sarnpurnah. Iti Sri
Arnitâbhasya Sukhâvatîvyuha nârna rnahâyânasûtrarn
sarnâptam.1 (Devanâgarî alphabet.)
3. MS. of the Société Asiatique at Paris (Collection Hodgson), No. 17 ; eighty-two leaves. (Nepalese
4. MS. of the University Library at Cambridge,
No. 1368 ; thirty-five leaves. It begins with some lines
of prose and verse in praise of Amitâbha and Sukhavatî, and then proceeds : Evam rnayâ srutarn ekasrnim
sarnaye Bhagavân Râgagrihe nagare viharati sma,
Gridhrakûtaparvate mahatâ Bhikshusanghena sârddha‚ etc. It ends : i t i srîmad amitâbhasya tathâgatasya Sukhâvatívyûha-mahâyânasûtram sarnâptam.
(Nepalese alphabet, modern.)
5. MS. given by Mr. Hodgson to the Bodleian
Library, Oxford (Hodgson 3). It begins with: Om
narno ratnatrayâya. Om namah sarvabuddhabodhisattvebhyah, etc. Then Evam mayâ srutam, etc. It
1 I owe this information to the kindness of M . Léon Feer at
2 See Journal Asiatique, 3rd series, vol. in . p. 316 ; vol. iv. p.
ends with sukhâvatîvyuhamahâyânasutram samâptam.
(Nepalese alphabet, modern.)
But when I came to compare these Sanskrit MSS.
with the text sent to me from Japan, though the
title was the same, I soon perceived that their contents were different. While the text, as given in the
ordinary Devanâgari or Nepalese MSS., fills about
fifty to sixty leaves, the text of the Sûtra that reached
me from Japan would hardly occupy more than eight
or ten leaves.
I soon convinced myself that this MS. was not
a text abbreviated in Japan, for this shorter text,
sent to me from Japan, corresponds in every respect
with the Chinese Sutra translated by Mr. Beal in
his ‘Catena.’ pp. 378-383, and published in your
Journal, 1866, p. 136. No doubt the Chinese translation, on which Mr. Beal’s translation is based, is
not only free,.but displays the misapprehensions
peculiar to many Chinese renderings of Sanskrit
texts, due to a deficient knowledge either of Sanskrit
or of Chinese on the part of the translators, perhaps
also to the different genius of those two languages.
Yet, such as it is, there can be no doubt that it
was meant to be a translation of the text now in my
possession. Mr. Beal tells us that the translation
he followed is that by Kumâragîva, the contemporary
of Fa-hian (400 A . D . ) , and that this translator
omitted repetitions and superfluities in the text.’
Mr . Edkins knows a translation, s.t. Wou-liang-sheuking, made under the Han dynasty.’ What is important is that in the Chinese translation of the
shorter text the scene is laid, as in the Japanese
1 X R. A. Ä, 1866, p. l36. 2 Ibid.
Sanskrit text, at Srâvastî, and the principal speakers
are Bhagavat and Sâriputra.
There is also a Tibetan translation of the short
text, described by CsomaKörösil (‘As. Res.’ vol. xx.p.
439). Here, though the name of the scene is not
mentioned, the speakers are Bhagavat and Sâriputra.
The whole work occupies seven leaves only, and the
names of the sixteen principal disciples agree with
the Japanese text. The translators were Pragnâvarman, Sûrendra, and the Tibetan Lotsava Ya-shes-sde.
M . Feer informs me that there is at the National
Library a Chinese text called O-mi-to-king‚ i.e.
Amitâbha-sûtra. The scene is at Srâvastî; thespeakers are Bhagavat and Sâriputra.
Another text at the National Library is called
Ta-o-mi-to-king, i.e. Mahâ Amitâbha-sûtra‚ and here
the scene is at Râgagriha.
There is, besides, a third work, called Kwan~
wou-liang-sheu-kmg, by Kiang-ling-ye-she, i.e. Kâlayasas, a foreigner of the West, who lived in China
about 424 A . D .
We have, therefore, historical evidence of the
existence of three Sûtras, describing Sukhavatî, or
1 Bea1. Catalogue, p. 23. J. R. A. S. 1856, p. 319. Beal, Catalogue,
p. 77, mentions also an Amitâbha-sûtra-upadesa-sâstra, by Vasubandhu, translated by Bodhiruki (wou-liang–sheu–king-yeou-po–ti–
she). There is an Amitâbha sûtra‚ translated by Chi-hien of the w u
period—i.e. 222-280 A.D.—mentioned in Mr. Beal’s Catalogue of the
Buddhist Triyitaha, p. 6. The next Sutra, which he calls the Sûtra
of measureless years, is no doubt the Amitâyus-Sûtra, Amitâyus being
another name for Amitâbha (Fu-shwo-wou-liang-sheu-king, p. 6).
See also Catalogue, pp. 99, 102. Dr. Edkins also, in his ; Notices of
Buddhism in China, speaks of a translation of ' the Sûtra ©f boundless age; by Fa-t'ian-pun, a native of Magadha,who was assisted in
his translation by a native of China familiar with Sanskrit, about
1000 A . D .
the Paradise of Amitâbha. We know two of them
in Sanskrit, Chinese, and Tibetan—one long, the
other short. The third is known as yet in Chinese
Of the two Sanskrit texts, the one from Nepal,
the other from Japan, the latter seems certainly the
earlier. But even the fuller text must have existed
at a very early time, because it was translated by
Ki-lau-kia-khai, under the Eastern Han dynasty
(25-220 A.D.)—i.e. at all events before 220 A.D.
The shorter text is first authenticated through
the translation of Kumâragîva, about 400 A.D. ; but
if the views generally entertained as to the relative
position of the longer and shorter Sûtras be correct,,
we may safely claim for our short Sûtra a date within
the second century of our era.
What Japan has sent US is, therefore, a Sanskrit
text, of which we had no trace before, which must
have left India at least before 400 A.D., but probably
before 200 A.D., and which gives us the original of
that description of Amitâbha’s Paradise, which formerly we knew in a Chinese translation only, which
was neither complete nor correct.
The book sent to me was first published in Japan
in 1773, by Ziômiô‚ a Buddhist priest. The Sanskrit
text is intelligible, but full of inaccuracies, showing
clearly that the editor did not understand Sanskrit,
but simply copied what he saw before him. The
same words occurring in the same line are written
differently, and the Japanese transliteration simply
repeats the blunders of the Sanskrit transcript.
There are two other editions of the same text,
published in 1794 A.D. by another Japanese priest,
named Hogö. These are in the possession of Mr.
Bunyiu Nanjio, and offered some help in correcting
the text. One of them contains the text and three
Chinese translations, one being merely a literal rendering, while the other two have more of a literary
character and are ascribed to Kumâragîva (400 A .D. ) ,
and Hiouen-thsang (648 A.D. ) .
Lastly, there is another book by the same Hôgo,
in four volumes, in which an attempt is made to give
a grammatical analysis of the text. This, however,
as Mr. Bunyiu Nanjio informs me, is very imperfect.
I have to-day brought with me the Japanese
Sanskrit text, critically restored, and a literal translation into English, to which I have added a few notes.
Adoration to the Omniscient
This is what I have heard. At one time the
Blessed (Bhagavat, i.e. Buddha) dwelt at Srâvastî,1 in
the Geta-grove, in the garden of Anâthapindaka,
together with 2 a large company of Bhikshus (mendicant friars), viz. with thirteen hundred Bhikshus, all
of them acquainted with the five kinds of knowledge,3
1 Srâvastî, capital of the Northern Kosalas, residence of King
Prasenayit. It was in ruins when visited by Fa-hian (init. V.
Sæc) ; not far from the modern Fizabad. Cf. Burnouf, Introduction, p. 22.
2 Sârdha, with, the Pâli saddhim. Did not the frequent mention
of 1,200 and a half (i.e. 1,250), 1,300 and a half (i.e. 1,350), persons
accompanying Buddha arise from a misunderstanding of sârdha,
meaning originaHy ' with a half ' ?
3 Abhignânâbhignâtaih. The Japanese text reads abhignâtâbhâgñâtaih-~i.e. abhignâtâbhignâtaih. If this were known to be the
correct reading, we should translate it by ' known by known people;
notus a viris notis—i.e. well-known, famous. Abhignâta in the sense
elders, great disciples.’ and Arhats, 2 such as Sâri–
putra, the elder, Mahâmaudgalyâyana, Mahâkâsyapa,
Mahâkapphina, Mahâkâtyâyana‚ Mahâkaushthila‚ Re–
vata‚ Suddhipanthaka‚ Nanda‚ Ananda‚ Râhula‚
Gavâmpati‚ Bharadvâga‚ Kâlodayin‚ Vakkula‚ and Ani–
of known, famous, occurs in Lalita-Vistara, p. 25, and the Chinese
translators adopted that meaning here. Again, if we preferred the
reading abhignânâbhigwâtail*., this, too, would admit of an intelligible
rendering—viz. known or distinguished by 'the marks or characteristics, the good qualities, that ought to belong to a Bhikshu. But
the technical meaning is ' possessed of a knowledge of the five
ahhigñâs.' It would be better in that case to write abhignâtâbhignânaih‚, but no MSS. seem to support that reading. The five
abhigñâs or abhignânas which an Arhat ought to possess are the
divine sight, the divine hearing, the knowledge of the thoughts of
others, the remembrance of former existences, and magic power.
See Burnouf, Lotus, Appendice, No. xiv. The larger text of the
Sukhavatîvyûha has 'abhigñânâbhigwai7 ,̂ and afterwards abhigñâtâbhig??aih. The position of the participle as the uttara-pada in such
compounds as abhig?mnâbhigwâtai7i. is common in Buddhist Sanskrit
Mr. Bendall has called my attention to the Pâli abhmwâta-abhiwnâta,
(Vinaya-pitaka, ed. oldenberg, vol. i . p. 43), which favours the
Chinese acceptation of the term.
1 Mahâsrâvaka, the great disciples ; sometimes the eighty principal
2 Arhadbhih. I have left the correct Sanskrit form, because the
Japanese text gives the termination adbhih. Hôgo's text has the
more usual form arhantaih. The change of the old classical arhat
into the Pâli arahan, and then back into Sanskrit arhanta, arahanta,
and at last arihanta, with the meaning of ' destroyer of the enemies '
—i.e. the passions—shows very clearly the different stages through
which Sanskrit words passed in the different phases of Buddhist
literature. In Tibet, in Mongolia, and in China, Arhat is translated
by ' destroyer of the enemy.' See Burnouf, Lotus, p. 287, Introduction, p. 295. Arhat is the title of the Bhikshu on reaching the
fourth degree of perfection. Cf. Sûtra of the 42 Sections, cap. 2
Clemens of Alexandria (d. 220) speaks of the Zepvoi who worshipped
a pyramid erected over the relics of a god. Is this a translation of
Arhat, as Lassen ( ' De nom. Ind. philosoph.' in Rhein. Museum, vol. i .
p. 187) and Burnouf (Introduction, p. 295) supposed, or a transliteration of Samana ? Clemens also speaks of 2efxvai (Stromat.
p. 539, Potter).
ruddha.’ He dwelt together with these and many
other great disciples, and together with many nobleminded Bodhisattvas, such as Mangusrî, the prince,
the Bodhisattva Agita, the Bodhisattva Gandhahastin,
the Bodhisattva Nityodyukta, the Bodhisattva Anikshiptadhura. He dwelt together with them and
many other noble-minded Bodhisattvas, and with
Sakra, the Indra or K i n g 2 of the De vas, and with
Brahman Sahâmpati. With these and many other
hundred thousands of Nayutas 3 of sons of the gods,
Bhagavat dwelt at Srâvastî.
1 Names of Disciples in Sanskrit, Pâli, Chinese, Tibetan, and
Japanese MSS. Beal, J.R.A.S. 1866, p. 140 :—
1 sâr ipu t ra
2 Mahâmaudgalyâyana
3 Mahâkâsyapa
4 Mahâkapphiwa
5 Mahâkâtyâyana
6 MahâkaushíAila
7 Revata
8 suddhipanthaka
(sudi, Ms.)
9 IJanda
10 Ananda
11 Râhula
12 Gavâmpati
13 Bharadvâgra
14 Kâlodayin
15 vakkula
16 Aniruddha
(Burnouf, Lotus,
pp. 1 and 126.)
Sunanda ?
(Beal, Catena,
p. 378.)
Kapphina (?)
(Piwdoda ;
Mahâpanthaka ¾3"anda
2 Indra, the old Vedic god, has come to mean simply lord, and
in the Kanda Paritta (Journal Asiatique, 1871, p. 220) we actually
find Asurinda, the Indra or Lord of the Asuras.
8 The numbers in Buddhist Literature, if they once exceed a Koti
or Kotî—i.e. ten millions—become very vague, nor is their, value
always the same. Ayuta, i.e. a hundred Kotis ; Niyuta, i.e. a hundred Ayutas ; and Nayuta, i.e. 1 with 22 zeros, are often confounded ;
Then Bhagavat addressed the honoured Sâriputra
and said : O Sâriputra, after you have passed from
here over a hundred thousand Kotis of Buddha­
countries there is in the Western part a Buddha­
country, a world called Sukhavatî (the happy country).
And there a Tathâgata, called Amitâyus, an Arhat,
fully enlightened, dwells now, and remains, and
supports himself, and teaches the Law.’
Now what do you think, Sâriputra, for what
reason is that world ^called Sukhavatî (the happy) ?
In that world Sukhavatî, O Sâriputra, there is neither
bodily nor mental pain for living beings. The sources
of happiness are innumerable there. For that reason
is that world called Sukhavatî (the happy).
And again, O Sâriputra, that world Sukhavatî is
adorned with seven terraces, with seven rows of
palm­trees, and with strings of bells.2 It is enclosed
nor does it matter much so far as any definite idea is concerned
which such numerals convey to our mind.
1 Tishthati dhriyate yâpayati dharmam ha desayati. This is
evidently an idiomatic phrase, for it occurs again and again in the
Nepalese text of the Sukhavatîvyûha (MS. 26b, 1. I. 2 ; 55a, 1. 2,
etc.). It seems to mean, he stands there, holds himself, supports
himself, and teaches the law. Burnouf translates the same phrase
by, ' ils se trouvent, vivent, existent ' (Lotus, p. 354). On yâpeti in
Pâli, see Fausböll, Dasaratha­jâtaka, pp. 26, 28 ; and yâpana in
2 Kiṅkinîgâla. The texts read kaṅkanagalais ha and kaṅkanîgalais
ha, and again later kaṅkanîgalunâm (also lû) and kañkanîgalânâm.
Mr. Beal translates from Chinese ' seven rows of exquisite curtains;
and again ' gemmous curtains.' First of all, it seems clear that we
must read gala, net, web, instead of gala. Secondly, kaṅkana,
bracelet, gives no sense, for what could be the meaning of nets or
strings of bracelets ? I prefer to read kiṅkinîgâla, nets or strings or
rows of bells. Such rows of bells served for ornamenting a garden,
and it may be said of them that, if moved by the wind, they give
forth certain sounds. In the commentary on Dhammapada 30, p.
191, we meet with kiṅkinikagâla, from which likewise the music
on every side.’ beautiful, brilliant with the four
gems, viz. gold, silver, beryl, and crystal.’ With
proceeds; see Childers, s.v. gala. In the MSS. of the Nepalese
Sukhavatîvyûha (B.JL.S.), p. 39a, 1. 4,1 likewise find svarnaratna­
kiṅkinîgâlâni, which settles the matter, and shows how little confi­
dence we can place in the Japanese texts.
1 Anuparikshipta, inclosed ; see parikkhepo in Childers' Diet.
2 The four and seven precious things in Pâli are (according ta
Childers) :—
1. suvannam, gold.
2. ragatam, silver.
3. mutta, pearls.
4. mani, gems (as sapphire, ruby).
5. veZuriyam, cat's eye.
6. vagiram, diamond.
7. pavâlam, coral.
Here Childers translates cat's eye ; but s.v. veluriyam, he says, »
precious stone, perhaps lapis lazuli.
In Sanskrit (Burnouf, Zotus, p. 320) :
1. suvarn,a, gold.
2. rûpya, silver.
3. vaidûrya, lapis lazuli.
4. sphatika, crystal.
5. lohitamukti, red pearls.
6. asmagarbha, diamond.
7. musâragalva, coral.
Julien (Pèlerins Buddhistes, vol. i i . p. 482) gives the following
1. sphatika, rock crystal.
2. vaidûrya‚ lapis lazuli.
3. asmagarbha, cornaline.
4. musâragalva, amber.
5. padmarâga, ruby.
Vaidûrya (or Vaidûrya) is mentioned in the Tathâgatagunagnâ­
nakintyavishayâvatâranirdesa (Wassilief, p. 161) as a precious stone
which, if placed on green cloth, looks green, if placed on red cloth,
red. The fact that vaidûrya is often compared with the colour of
the eyes of a cat would seem to point to the cat's eye (see Borooah's
Engl. Sanskrit Dictionary, vol. i i . preface, p. ix), certainly not to
lapis lazuli. Cat's eye is a kind of chalcedony. I see, however,
that vaidûrya has been recognised as the original of the Greek
ß4ipvMos, a very ingenious conjecture, either of Weber's or of Pott's,
considering that lingual d has a sound akin to r, and ry may be
such arrays of excellences peculiar to a Buddhacountry is that Buddha-country adorned.
And again, O Sâriputra, in that world Sukhavatî
there are lotus lakes, adorned with the seven gems,
viz. gold, silver, beryl, crystal, red pearls, diamonds,
and corals as the seventh. They are full of water
which possesses the eight good qualities,1 their waters
rise as high as the fords and bathing-places, so that
even crows2 may drink there; they are full of
changed to ly and 11 (w eher, Omina, p. 326). The Persian billaur
or ballur, which Skeat gives as the etymon of ß'f)pvWos, is of Arabic
origin, means crystal, and could hardly have found its way into
Greek at so early a time.
1 The eight good qualities of water are limpidity and purity, refreshing coolness, sweetness, softness, fertilising qualities, calmness,
power of preventing famine, productiveness. See Beal, Catena,
p. 379.
2 Kâkâpeya. One text reads Kâkapeya, the other Kâkâpeya.
It is difficult to choose. The more usual word is kâkapeya, which
is explained by Pânini, i i . 1, 33. It is uncertain, however, whether
kâkapeya is meant as a laudatory or as a depreciatory term.
Boehtlingk takes it in the latter sense, and translates nadî kâkapeya,
by a shallow river that could be drunk up by a crow. Târânâtha
takes it in the former sense, and translates nadî kâkapeya, as a river
so full of water that a crow can drink it without bending its neck
(kâkair anatakandharaih pîyate ; pûrnodakatvena prasasye kâkaih
peye nadyâdau). In our passage kâkapeya must be a term of
praise, and we therefore could only render it by 'ponds so full of
water that crows could drink from them.' But why should so
well known a word as kâkapeya have been spelt kâkâpeya, unless it
was done intentionally ? And if intentionally, what was it intended
for ? we must remember that Pânini, i i . 1,42 schol., teaches us how
to form the word tîrthakâka, a crow at a tîrtha, which means a
person in a wrong place. It would seem therefore that crows were
considered out of place at a tîrtha or bathing-place, either because
they were birds of i l l omen, or because they defiled the water. From
that point of view, kâkâpeya would mean a pond not visited by
crows, free from crows. Professor Pischel has called my attention to
Mahâparinibbâna Sutta (J.R.A.S. 1875, p. 67, p. 21), where kâkapeya
clearly refers to a full river. Samatiṭṭḥika, if this is the right
reading, occurs in the same place as an epithet of a river, by the
golden sand, and of vast extent. And in these lotus
lakes there are all around on the four sides four stairs,
beautiful and brilliant with the four gems, viz. gold,
silver, beryl, crystal. And on every side of these
lotus lakes gem trees are growing, beautiful and
brilliant with the seven gems, viz. gold, silver, beryl,
crystal, red pearls, diamonds, and corals as the
seventh. And in those lotus lakes lotus flowers are
growing, blue, blue-coloured, of blue splendour, blue
to behold ; yellow, yellow-coloured, of yellow splendour, yellow to behold ; red, red-coloured, of red
splendour, red to behold ; Avhite, white-coloured, of
white splendour, white to behold; beautiful, beautifully-coloured, of beautiful splendour, beautiful to
behold, and in circumference as large as the wheel
of a chariot.
And again, O Sâriputra, in that Buddha-country
there are heavenly musical instruments always played
on and the earth is lovely and of golden colour. And
in that Buddha-country a flower-rain of heavenly
Mândârava blossoms pours down three times every
day, and three times every night. And the beings
who are born there worship before their morning
meal 1 a hundred thousand Kotis of Buddhas by
going to other worlds; and having showered a
side of kâkapeya, and I think it most likely that it means rising to
a level with the tîrthas, the fords or bathing-places. Mr. Rhys
Davids informs me that the commentary explains the two words
by samatittikâ t i samaharitâ, kâkapeyyâ t i yatthatatthahi tîre thitena
kâkena sakkâ patum ti .
1 Purobhaktena. The text is difficult to read, but it can hardly
be doubtful that purobhaktena corresponds to Pâli purebhattam
(i.e. before the morning meal), opposed to pakkhâbhattam, after the
noonday meal (i.e. in the afternoon). See Childers, s. v. Pûrva–
bhaktikâ would be the first repast, as Prof. Cowell informs me.
hundred thousand of Kotis of flowers upon each Ta­
thâgata, they return to their own world in time for
the afternoon rest.’ With such arrays of excel­
lences peculiar to a Buddha­country is that Buddha­
country adorned.
And again, O Sâriputra, there are in that Buddha­
country swans, curlews,2 and peacocks. Three times
every night, and three times every day, they come
together and perform a concert, each uttering his
own note. And from them thus uttering proceeds a
sound proclaiming the five virtues, the five powers,
and the seven steps leading towards the highest
knowledge.’ When the men there hear that sound,
1 Diva vihârâya, for the noonday rest, the siesta. See Childers,
s.v. vihâra.
2 Kraunkâh. Snipe, curlew. Is it meant for Kuravîka, or
Karavîka, a fine­voiced bird (according to Kern, the Sk. karâyikâ), or
for Kalaviṅka, Pâli Kalavîka ? See Childers, s.v. opapâtiko ; Burnouf,
Lotus, p. 566. I see, however, the same birds mentioned together
elsewhere, as hamsakraunkamayûrasukasâlikakokila, etc. On mayûra
see Mahâv. Introd. p. xxxix. ; Rv. I. 191, 14.
3 Indriyabalabodhyañgasabda. These are technical terms, but
their meaning is not quite clear. Spence Hardy, in his Manual,
p. 498, enumerates the five indrayas, viz. 1) sardhâwa, purity (pro­
bably sraddhâ, faith), 2) wiraya, persevering exertion (vîrya), 3)sati
orsmirti, the ascertainment of truth (smriti), 4) samâdhi, tranquillity.,
5) pragnâwa, wisdom (praynâ).
The five balayas (bala), he adds, are the same as the five
The seven bowdyânga (bodhyaṅga)) are according to him : 1)
sihi or smirti, the ascertainment of the truth by mental application,
2) dharmmawicha, the investigation of causes, 3) wiraya, persevering
exertion, 4) prîti‚ joy, 5) passadhi, or prasrabdhi, tranquillity, 6)
samâdhi, tranquillity in a higher degree, including freedom from al l
that disturbs either body or mind, 7) upekshâ, equanimity.
It will be seen from this that some of these qualities or excel­
lences occur both as indriyas and bodhyangas, while balas are
throughout identical with indriyas.
remembrance of Buddha, remembrance of the Law,
remembrance of the Assembly, rises in their mind.
Now, do you think, O Sâriputra, that these are
beings who have entered into the nature of animals
(birds, etc.)? This is not to be thought of. The
very name of hells is unknown in that Buddha­
country, and likewise that of (descent into) animal
natures and of the realm of Yama (the four apâyas).’
No, these tribes of birds have been made on purpose
by the Tathâgata Amitâyus, and they utter the sound
of the Law. With such arrays of excellences, etc.
And again, O Sâriputra, when those rows of
palm­trees and strings of bells in that Buddha­country
are moved by the wind, a sweet and enrapturing
sound proceeds from them. Yes, O Sâriputra, as
from a heavenly musical instrument consisting of a
hundred thousand Kotis of sounds, when played by
Âryas, a sweet and enrapturing sound proceeds, a
sweet and enrapturing sound proceeds from those
rows of palm­trees and strings of bells moved by
Burnouf, however, in his Lotus, gives a list of five balas (from
the Vocabulaire Pentaglotte) which correspond with the five indriyas
of Spence Hardy : viz. sraddhâ­bala, power of faith, vîrya­bala, power
of vigour, smriti­bala, power of memory, samâdhi­bala, power of medi­
tation, pragwâ­bala, power of knowledge. They precede the seven
bodhyaṅgas both in the Lotus, the Vocabulaire Pentaglotte, and the
To these seven bodhyaṅgas Burnouf has assigned a special
treatise (Appendice xii‚ p. 796). They occur both in Sanskrit and
1 Niraya, the hells, also called Naraka. Yamaloka, the realm of
Yama, the judge of the dead, is explained as the four Apâyas—i.e.
Naraka, hell, Tiryagyoni, birth as animals, Pretaloka, realm of the
dead, Asuraloka, realm of evil spirits. The three terms which are
here used together occur likewise in a passage translated by Bur­
nouf, Introduction, p. 544.
the wind. And when the men hear that sound,
reflection on Buddha arises in their body, reflection
on the Law, reflection on the Assembly. With such
arrays of excellences, etc.
Now what do you think, O Sâriputra, for what
reason is that Tathâgata called Amitâyus? The
length of life (âyus), O Sâriputra, of that Tathâgata
and of those men there is immeasurable (amita).
Therefore is that Tathâgata called Amitâyus. And
ten Kalpas have passed, O Sâriputra, since that
Tathâgata awoke to perfect knowledge.
And what do you think, O Sâriputra, for what
reason is that Tathâgata called Amitâbhâs? The
splendour (âbhâs), O Sâriputra, of that Tathâgata is
unimpeded over all Buddha-countries. Therefore is
that Tathâgata called Amitâbhâs.
And there is, O Sâriputra, an innumerable assembly of disciples with that Tathâgata, purified and
venerable persons, whose number it is not easy to
count. With such arrays of excellences, etc.
And again, O Sâriputra, of those beings also who
are born in the Buddha-country of the Tathâgata
Amitâyus as purified Bodhisattvas, never to return
again and bound by one birth only, of those Bodhisattvas also, O Sâriputra, the number is not easy to
count, except they are reckoned as infinite in number.’
Then again all beings, O Sâriputra, ought to
make fervent prayer for that Buddha-country. And
why ? Because they come together there with such
1 Iti sankhyâm gakkhanti, they are called; cf. Childers, s„*.
sankhyâ. Asankhyeya, even more than aprameya, is the recognised
term for infinity. Burnouf, Lotus, p. 852.
excellent men. Beings are not born in that Buddhacountry of the Tathâgata Amitâyus as a reward and
result of good works performed in this present life.’
No, whatever son or daughter of a family shall hear
the name of the blessed Amitâyus, the Tathâgata,
and having heard it, shall keep it in mind, and with
thoughts undisturbed shall keep it in mind for one,
two, three, four, five, six or seven nights, that son or
daughter of a family, when he or she comes to die,
then that Amitâyus, the Tathâgata, surrounded by an
assembly of disciples and followed by a host of Bodhisattvas, will stand before them at their hour of death,
and they will depart this life with tranquil minds.
After their death they will be born in the world
Sukhavatî, in the Buddha-country of the same
Amitâyus, the Tathâgata. Therefore, then, O Sâriputra, having perceived this cause and effect,2 I with
reverence say thus, Every son and every daughter of
. 1 Avaramâtraka. This is the Pâli oramattako, ' belonging merely
to the present life,' and the intention of the writer seems to be to
inculcate the doctrine of the Mahâyâna, that salvation can be obtained by mere repetitions of the name of Amitâbha, in direct
opposition to the original doctrine of Buddha, that as a man soweth,
so he reapeth. Buddha would have taught that the kusalamûla,
the root or the stock of good works performed in this world
(avaramâtraka), will bear fruit in the next, while here ' vain repetitions ' seems all that is enjoyed. The Chinese translators take a
different view of this passage, and I am not myself quite certain that
I have understood it rightly. But from the end of this section,
where we read kulaputrena va kuladuhitrâ vâ tatra buddhakshetre
kittaprânidhânam kartavyarn, it seems clear that the locative
(buddhakshetre) forms the object of the pranidhâna, the fervent
prayer or longing. The Satpurushas already in the Buddhakshetra
would be the innumerable men (manushyâs) and Boddhisattvas mentioned before.
2 Arthavasa, lit. the power of the thing ; of Dhammapada, p. 388*
«% 289.
a family ought to make with their whole mind fervent
prayer for that Buddha-country.
And now, O Sâriputra, as I here at present glorify
that world, thus in the East, O Sâriputra, other blessed Buddhas, led by the Tathâgata Akshobhya, the
Tathâgata Merudhvaga, the Tathâgata Mahâmeru,
the Tathâgata Meruprabhâsa, and the Tathâgata
Mangudhvaga, equal in number to the sand of the
river Gangâ, comprehend their own Buddha-countries
in their speech, and then reveal them.’ Accept this
repetition of the Law, called the ‘ Favour of all Buddhas,’ which magnifies their inconceivable excellences.
Thus also in the South, do other blessed Buddhas,
led by the Tathâgata Kandrasûryapradîpa, the Tathâgata Yasahprabha, the Tathâgata Mahârkiskandha,
the Tathâgata Merupradîpa, the Tathâgata Anan–
tavîrya, equal in number to the sand of the river
Gangâ, comprehend their own Buddha-countries in
their speech, and then reveal them. Accept, etc.
Thus also in the West do other blessed Buddhas,
led by the Tathâgata Amitâyus, the Tathâgata Amitaskandha, the Tathâgata Amitadhvaga, the Tathâgata
Mahâprabha, the Tathâgata Mahâratnaketu‚ the Tathâgata Suddharasmiprabha‚ equal in number to the
sand of the river Gangâ‚ comprehend, etc.
Thus also in the North do other blessed Buddhas,
1 I am not quite certain as to the meaning of this passage, but if
we enter into the bold metaphor of the text, viz. that the Buddhas
cover the Buddha-countries with the organ of their tongue and then
unrol it, what is intended can hardly be anything but that they first
try to find words for the excellences of those countries, and then reveal or proclaim them. Burnouf, however (Lotus, p. 417), takes the
expression in a literal sense, though he is shocked by its grotesque-ness. on these Buddhas and their countries, see Burnouf, Lotus, p.
led by the Tathâgata Mahârkiskandha, the Tathâgata
Vaisvânaranirghosha, the Tathâgata Dundubhisvaranirghosha‚ the Tathâgata Dushpradharsha‚ the Tathâgata Âdityasambhava, the Tathâgata Galeniprabha
(GvalanaprabhaP), the Tathâgata Prabhâkara, equal
in number to the sand, etc.
Thus also in the Nadir do other blessed Buddhas,
led by the Tathâgata Simha, the Tathâgata Yasas, the
Tathâgata Yasahprabhâva, the Tathâgata Dharrna,
the Tathâgata Dharrnadhara, the Tathâgata Dharmadhvaga, equal in number to the sand, etc.
Thus also in the Zenith do other blessed Buddhas,
led by the Tathâgata Brahmaghosha, the Tathâgata
Nakshatrarâga, the Tathâgata Indraketudhvagarâga,
the Tathâgata Gandhottama, the Tathâgata Gandhaprabhâsa, the Tathâgata Mahârkiskandha, the
Tathâgata Ratnakusumasampushpitagâtra, the Tathâgata Sâlendrarâga, the Tathâgata Ratnotpalasri,
the Tathâgata Sarvâdarsa, the Tathâgata Surnerukalpa, equal in number to the sand, etc.’
Now what do you think, O Sâriputra, for what
reason is that repetition of the Law called the Favour
of all Buddhas ? Every son or daughter of a family
who shall hear the name of that repetition of the Law
and retain in their memory the names of those blessed
Buddhas, will all be favoured by the Buddhas, and
will never return again, being once in possession of
the transcendent true knowledge. Therefore, then,
O Sâriputra, believe,2 accept, and long for me and
those blessed Buddhas !
1 It should be remarked that the Tathâgatas here assigned to the
ten quarters differ entirely from those assigned to them in the
JLalita-vistara, book xx. Not even Amitâbha is mentioned there.
2 Pratîyatha. The texts give again and again pattîyatha, eviON SANSKRIT TEXTS DISCOVERED IN J A P A N . 361
Whatever sons or daughters of a family shall
make mental prayer for the Buddha­country of that
blessed Amitâyus, the Tathâgata, or are making it
now or have made it formerly, all these will never
return again, being once in possession of the tran­
scendent true knowledge. They will be born in that
Buddha­country, have been born, or are being born
now. Therefore, then, O Sâriputra, mental prayer
is to be made for that Buddha­country by faithful
sons and daughters of a family.
And as I at present magnify here the inconceivable
excellences of those blessed Buddhas, thus, O Sâri­
putra, do those blessed Buddhas magnify my own
inconceivable excellences.
A very difficult work has been done by Sâkya­
muni, the sovereign of the Sâkyas. Having obtained
the transcendent true knowledge in this world Saha,
he taught the Law which all the world is reluctant
to accept, during this corruption of the present
Kalpa, during this corruption of mankind, during
this corruption of belief, during this corruption of
life, during this corruption of passions.
This is even for me, O Sâriputra, an extremely
difficult work that, having obtained the transcendent
dently the Pali form, instead of pratîyata. I have left tha, the Pali
termination of the 2 p. pi. in the imperative, instead of ta, because
that form was clearly intended, while pa for pr a may be an accident.
Yet I have little doubt that patîyatha was in the original text. That
i t is meant for the imperative, we see from sraddadhâdhvam, etc.,
further on. other traces of the influence of Pâli or Prakrit on the
Sanskrit of our Sûtra appear in arhantaih, the various reading for
arhadbhih, which I preferred; sambahula for bahula; dhriyate
yâpayati ; purobhaktena ; anyatra ; saṅkhyâm gaMhanti ; avara­
mâtraka ; vethana instead of veshtana, in nirvethana ; dharmaparyâya
.Corp. Imcript. plate xv,), etc.
true knowledge in this world Saha, I taught the Law
which all the world is reluctant to accept, during
this corruption of mankind, of belief, of passion, of
life, and of this present Kalpa.
Thus spoke Bhagavat joyful in his mind. And
the honourable Sâriputra, and the Bhikshus and
Bodhisattvas, and the whole world with the gods,
men, evil spirits and genii, applauded the speech of
This is the Mahâyânasûtra
called Sukhavatîvyûha.
1 The Sukhavatîvyûha, even in its shortest text, is called a
Mahâyâna-sûtra, nor is there any reason why a Mahâyâna-sûtra
should not be short. The meaning of Mahâyâna-sûtra is simply a
Sûtra belonging to the Mahâyâna school, the school of the Great
Boat. It was Burnouf who, in his Introduction to the History of
Buddhism, tried very hard to establish a distinction between the
Vaipulya or developed Sûtras, and what he calls the simple Sûtras.
Now, the Vaipulya Sûtras may all belong to the Mahâyâna school,
but that would not prove that all the Sûtras of the Mahâyâna school
are vaipulya or developed Sûtras. The name of simple Sûtra, in opposition to the;Vaipu_ya or developed Sûtras, is not recognised by the
Buddhists | themselves ; it is really an invention of Burnouf's. No doubt
there is a great difference between a vaipulya Sûtra, such as the
Lotus of the Good Law, translated by Burnouf, and the Sûtras which
Burnouf translated from the Divyâvadâna. But what Burnouf considers as the distinguishing mark of a vaipulya Sûtra, viz. the occurrence of Bodhisattvas, as followers of the Buddha Sâkyamuni,
would no longer seem to be tenable,* unless we classed our short
Sukhavatî-vyûha as a vaipulya or developed Sûtra. For this there*
is no authority. Our Sûtra is called a Mahâyâna Sûtra, never a
vaipulya Sûtra, and yet among the followers of Buddha, the Bodhisattvas constitute a very considerable portion. But more than
that, Amitâbha, the Buddha of Sukhavatî, another personage whom
Burnouf looks upon as peculiar to the vaipulya Sûtras, who is, in fact.
* L a présence des Bodhisattvas ou leur absence intéresse donc le fonds même dea
livres où on la remarque, et i l est bien évident que ce seul point trace une ligne dedémarcation prof onde entre les sû t ras ordinaires et les sû t ras développés.'—Burnouf,.
Introduction, p. 112.
This Sûtra sounds to us, no doubt, very different
from the original teaching of Buddha. And so it is.
Nevertheless it is the most popular and most widely
read Sûtra in Japan, and the whole religion of the
great mass of the people may be said to be founded
on it. ‘ Repeat the name of Amitâbha as often as
you can, repeat it particularly in the hour of death,
and you will go straight to Sukhavatî and be happy
for ever ; ’ this is what Japanese Buddhists are asked
to believe : this is what they are told was the teaching
of Buddha. There is one passage in our Sûtra which
seems even to be pointedly directed against the
original teaching of Buddha. Buddha taught that
as a man soweth so shall he reap, and that by a stock
of good works accumulated on earth the way is
opened to higher knowledge and higher bliss. Our
Sutra says No ; not by good works done on earth,
but by a mere repetition of the name of Amitâbha is
an entrance gained into the land of bliss. This is
no better than what later Brahmanism teaches, viz.
‘ Repeat the name of Hari or of Krishna, and you
wil l be saved.’ It is no better than what even some
Christian teachers are reported to teach. It may be
that in a lower stage of civilisation even such teachone of the Dhyâni-buddhas, though not called by that name in our
Sûtra, forms the chief object of its teaching, and is represented
as coeval with Buddha Sâkyamum* The larger text of the
Sukhavatîvyûha would certainly, according to Burnouf's definition,
seem to fall into the category of the vaipulya Sûtras. But it is not
so called in the MSS. which I have seen, and Burnouf himself gives
an analysis of that Sûtra (Introduction, p. 99) as a specimen of a
Mahâyâna, but not of a vaipulya Sûtra.
* ' L'idée d'un ou de plusieurs Buddhas surhumains, celle de Bodhisattvas créés
par eux, sont des conceptions aussi étrangères à ces livres (les Sûtras simples) que
ceUe d'un Adibuddha ou d'un Dieu.—Burnouf, Introduction, p. 120.
ing has produced some kind of good.’ But Japan is
surely ripe for better things. What the worship of
Amitâbha may lead to we can learn from a description
given by Dr. Edkins in his ‘Tr ip to Ning-po and
T’heen-t’hae. ‘ The next thing.’ he writes, ‘ shown
to us was the prison, in which about a dozen priests
had allowed themselves to be shut up for a number
of months or years, during which they were to occupy
themselves in repeating the name of Amida Buddha,2
day and night, without intermission. During the
day the whole number were to be thus engaged;
and during the night they took it by turns, and
divided themselves into watches, so as to ensure the
keeping up of the work t i l l morning. We asked
when they were to be let out. To which it was replied, that they might be liberated at their own
request, but not before they had spent several months
in seclusion. We inquired what could be the use of
such an endless repetition of the name of Buddha.
To which it was answered, that the constant repetition of the sacred name had a tendency to purify
the heart, to deaden the affections towards the
present world, and to prepare them for the state of
Nirvâna. It was further asked whether Buddha was
likely to be pleased with such an endless repetition
of his name. To which it was answered, that in the
Western world it was considered a mark of respect to
repeat the name of anyone whom we delighted to
1 See H. Yule, Marco Polo, 2nd ed. vol. i . pp. 441-443.
2 In China, as Dr. Edkins states, the doctrine of Amitâbha is represented by the so-called Lotus school (Lian-tsung) or Pure Land
(Tsing-tu). The founder of this school in China was Hwei-yuan of
the Tsin dynasty (fourth century). The second patriarch (tsu) of
this school was Kwang-ming (seventh century).
honour. The recluses seemed most of them young
men ; some of whom came out to the bars of their
cage to look at the strangers, but kept on repeating
the name of Buddha as they stood there. It appeared
to us that nothing was more calculated to produce
idiocy than such a perpetual repetition of a single
name, and the stupid appearance of many of the
priests whom we have seen seems to have been induced by some such process.’
Is it not high time that the millions who live in
Japan, and profess a faith in Buddha, should be told
that this doctrine of Amitâbha and all the Mahâyâna
doctrine is a secondaryform of Buddhism, a corruption
of the pure doctrine of the Royal Prince, and that, i f
they really mean to be Buddhists, they should return
to the words of Buddha, as they are preserved to us in
the old Sûtras ? Instead of depending, as they now
do, on Chinese translations, not always accurate, of
degraded and degrading Mahâyâna tracts, why should
they not have Japanese translations of the best
portions of Buddha's real doctrine, which would
elevate their character, and give them a religion of
which they need not be ashamed ? There are Chinese
translations of some of the better portions of the
Sacred Writings of Buddhism. They exist in Japan
too, as may be seen in that magnificent collection of
the Buddhist Tripitaka which was sent from Japan
as a present to the English Government, and of
which Mr. Beal has given us a very useful Catalogue.
But they are evidently far less considered in Japan
than the silly and mischievous stories of Amitâbha
and his Paradise, and those which I know from
translations are far from correct.
I hope that Mr. Bunyiu Nanjio and Mr. Kasawara, i f they diligently continue their study of
Sanskrit and Pâli, will be able to do a really great
and good work, after their return to Japan. And i f
more young Buddhist priests are coming over, I
shall always, so far as my other occupations allow it,
be glad to teach them, and to help them in their
unselfish work. There is a great future in store, I
believe, for those Eastern Islands, which have been
called prophetically ‘ the England of the East,’ and
to purify and reform their religion—that is, to bring it
back to its original form—is a work that must be done
before anything else can be attempted.
In return, I hope that they and their friends in
Japan, and in Corea and China too, will do all they
can to discover, if possible, some more of the ancient
Sanskrit texts, and send them over to us. A beginning, at all events, has been made, and i f the members of this Society who have friends in China or in
Japan will help, i f H . E . the Japanese Minister,
Mori Arinori, who has honoured us by his presence
to-day, will lend us his powerful assistance, I have
little doubt that the dream which passed before the
mind of your late President may still become a
reality, and that some of the MSS. which, beginning
with the beginning of our era, were carried from
India to China, Corea, and Japan, may return to us,
whether in the original or in copies, like the one sent
to me by Mr. Shuntai Ishikawa.
Wi th the help of such MSS. we shall be able all
the better to show to those devoted students who
from the extreme East have come to the extreme
West in order to learn to read their sacred writings
in the original Sanskrit or Pâli, what difference there
is between the simple teaching of Buddha and the
later developments and corruptions of Buddhism.
Buddha himself, I feel convinced, never knew even
the names of Amitâbha, Avalokitesvara, or Sukhavati.
Then, how can a nation call itself Buddhist whose
religion consists chiefly in a belief in a divine
Amitâbha and his son Avalokitesvara, and in a hope
of eternal life in the paradise of Sukhavati ?
POSTSCRIPT : Oxford, March 10, 1880.
The hope which I expressed in my paper on
4 Sanskrit Texts discovered in Japan,’ viz. that other
Sanskrit texts might still come to light in Japan or
China, has been fulfilled sooner than I expected.
Mr. A . Wylie wrote to me on March 3 that he had
brought a number of Sanskrit-Chinese books from
Japan, and he afterwards kindly sent them to me
to examine. They were of the same appearance and
character as the dictionary which Dr. Edkins had
lent me, and the Sukhavatî–vyûha which I had received from Japan. But with the exception of a
collection of invocations, called the Vagra-sutra, and
the short Pragnâ-hridaya-sûtra, they contained no
continuous texts. The books were intended to teach
the Sanskrit alphabet, and every possible and impossible combination of the Devanâgarî letters, and
that was all. Still, so large a number of books
written to teach the Sanskrit alphabet augurs well
for the existence of Sanskrit texts. There was among
Mr. Wylie’s books a second Chinese-Sanskrit-Ja
panese vocabulary, of which Mr. Kasawara has
given me the following account : ‘ This vocabulary
is called ‘ ‘ A Thousand Sanskrit and Chinese Words,’*
and it is said to have been arranged by 1-tsing, who
left China for India in 671, about twenty-seven
years after Hiouen-thsang’s return to China, and
who is best known as the author of a book called
Nanhae-ki-kwei-kou’en, on the manners and customs of the Indian Buddhists at that time.
‘ This vocabulary was brought from China to
Japan by Zikaku, a Japanese priest, who went to
China in 8S8 and returned in 847. It is stated at
the end of the book, that in the year 884 a Japanese
priest of the name of Rioyiu copied that vocabulary
from a text belonging to another priest, Yûikai.
The edition brought from Japan by Mr. Wylie was
published there in the year 1727 by a priest called
The following curious passage occurs in the
preface of Jakumio’s edition : ‘ This vocabulary
is generally called ‘‘one thousand Sanskrit and
Chinese words.’’ It is stated in Annen’s work, that
this was first brought (from China) by Zikaku. I
have corrected several mistakes in this vocabulary,
comparing many copies ; yet the present edition is
not free from blunders; I hope the readers will
correct them, if they have better copies.
‘ I n the temple Horiuji, in Yamato, there are
treasured Pragnâpâramitâhridayasûtrana, and Sonshio-dhârani, written on two palm leaves, handed
down from Central India ; and, at the end of these,
fourteen letters of the ‘ ' siddha " are written. In the
present edition of the vocabulary the alphabet is in
imitation of that of the palm leaves, except such
forms of letters as cannot be distinguished from those
prevalent among the scriveners at the present day.
‘ Hôriuji is one of eleven temples founded by the
prince Umayado (who died A.D. 6 2 1 ) , This temple
is at a town named Tatsuta, in the province Yamato,
near Kioto, the western capital.’
Here, then, we have clear evidence that in the
year 1 7 2 7 palm leaves containing the text of Sanskrit Sûtras were still preserved in the temple of
Hôriuji. If that temple is still in existence, might
not some Buddhist priest of Kioto, the western
capital of Japan, be induced to go there to see
whether the palm leaves are still there, and, if they
are, to make a copy and send it to Oxford ?
F . M . M .
SECOND POSTSCRIPT: Oxford, August 2 ‚ 1 8 8 0 .
At the end of my paper on ‘ Sanskrit Texts in
Japan ’ I mentioned in a postscript (March 1 0 ) that
I had received from Mr. Wylie a copy of a vocabulary
called ‘ A Thousand Sanskrit and Chinese Words,’
compiled bj I-tsing, about 7 0 0 A.D., and brought to
Japan by Zikaku, a Japanese priest, in 8 4 7 A.D. The
edition of this vocabulary which Mr. Wylie bought
i n Japan was published by Jakumio in 1 7 2 7 , and
in the preface the editor says : ‘ In the temple
Hôriuji, in Yamato, there are treasured Pragnâpâra–
mitâhridaya-sûtram and Sonshio-dhâranî, written on
two palm leaves, handed down from Central India.’
Hôriuji is one of eleven temples founded by
Prince Umayado, who died in A.D. 6 2 1 . This temple
is in a town named Tatsuba, in the province Yamato,
near Kioto, the western capital. I ended my article
with the following sentence : ‘ Here, then, we have
clear evidence that in the year 1727 palm leaves
containing the text of Sanskrit Sûtras were still preserved in the temple of Hôriuji. If that temple is
still in existence, might not some Buddhist priest of
Kioto, the western capital of Japan, be induced to
go there to see whether the palm leaves are still
there, and, if they are, to make a copy and send it
to Oxford ? ’
Sooner than expected this wish of mine has been
fulfilled. On April 28 Mr. Shigefuyu Kurihara, of
Kioto, a friend of one of my Sanskrit pupils, Mr.
Bunyiu Nanjio, who for some years had himself
taken an interest in Sanskrit, went to the temple or
monastery of Hôriuji to inquire whether any old
Sanskrit MSS. were still preserved there. He was
told that the priests of the monastery had recently
surrendered their valuables to the Imperial Government, and that the ancient palm leaves had been
presented to the emperor.
In a chronicle kept at the monastery of Hôriuji
it is stated that these palm leaves and other valuables were brought by Ono Imoko, a retainer of the
Mikado (the Empress Suiko), from China (during
the Sui dynasty, 589-618) to Japan, in the thirtyseventh year of the age of Prince Umayado—i.e.,
A.D. 609. The other valuable articles were :
1. Niô, i.e., a cymbal used in Buddhist temples ;
2. Midzu-game, a water vessel;
3. Shaku-jio, a staff, the top of which is armed
with metal rings, as carried by Buddhist priests;
4. K e s a (Kashâya) , a scarf, worn by Buddhist
priests across the shoulder, which belonged to
the famous Bodhidharma ;
5. H a k i , a bowl, given by the same Bodhidharma.
These things and the Sanskrit MSS. are said to
have belonged to some Chinese priests, named Hwuisz’ (Yeshi) and Nien-shan (Nenzen),and to four others
successively, who lived in a monastery on the mountain called Nan-yo (Nangak), in the province of
Hang (Ko) in China. These palm-leaf MSS. may,
therefore, be supposed to date from at least the
sixth century A.D . , and be, in fact, the oldest Sanskrit
MSS. now in existence.1
May we not hope that His Excellency Mori
Arinori, who expressed so warm an interest in this
matter when he was present at, the meeting of the
Royal Asiatic Society, will now lend us his powerful
aid, and request the Minister of the Department of
the Imperial Household to allow these MSS. to be
carefully copied or photographed ?
1 See page 324.
A B O O K called ‘ Popol Vuh,’ 1 and pretending to be
the original text of the sacred writings of the Indians
of Central America, will be received by most people
with a sceptical smile. The Aztec children who
were shown all over Europe as descendants of a
race to whom, before the Spanish conquest, divine
honours were paid by the natives of Mexico, and who
turned out to be unfortunate creatures that had been
tampered with by heartless speculators, are still
fresh in the memory of most people ; and the ‘ Livre
des *Sauvages,’2 lately published by the Abbé Domenech, under the auspices of Count Walewsky, has
somewhat lowered the dignity of American studies
in general. Still, those who laugh at the ‘ Manuscrit Pictographique Américain ’ discovered by the
French Abbé in the library of the French Arsenal,
and edited by him with so much care as a precious
relic of the old Red-skins of North America, ought
not to forget that there would be nothing at all sur1 Popol Vuh : le Livre Sacré et les Mythes de l'Antiquité Américaine, avec les Livres Héroîques et Historiques des Quiches. Par
l'Abbé Brasseur de Bourbourg. Paris: Durand, 1861.
2 Manuscrit Pictographique Américain, précédé d'une Notice
sur l'Idéographie des Peaux-Rouges. Par l'Abbé Em. Domenech.
Ouvrage publié sous les auspices de M. le Ministre d'Etat et de la
Maison de l'Empereur. Paris, 1860.
P O P O L V U H . 373
prising in the existence of such a MS., containing genuine pictographic writing of the Red Indians. The
German critic of the Abbé Domenech, M . Petzholdt,1
assumes much too triumphant an air in announcing
his discovery that the ‘ Manuscrit Pictographique ’
was the work of a German boy in the backwoods of
America. He ought to have acknowledged that the
Abbé himself had pointed out the German scrawls
on some of the pages of his MS. ; that he had read
the names of Anna and Maria ; and that he never
claimed any great antiquity for the book in question.
Indeed, though M . Petzholdt tells us very confidently
that the whole book is the work of a naughty, nasty,
and profane little boy, the son of German settlers in
the backwoods of America, we doubt whether anybody who takes the trouble to look through all the
pages will consider this view as at all satisfactory, or
even as more probable than tlhat of the French Abbé.
We know what boys are capable of in pictographic
art from the occasional defacements of our walls and
railings ; but we still feel a little sceptical when
M . Petzholdt assures us that there is nothing extraordinary in a boy filling a whole volume with these
elaborate scrawls. I f M . Petzholdt had taken the
trouble to look at some of the barbarous hieroglyphics
that have been collected in North America, he would
have understood more readily how the Abbé Domejiech, who had spent many years among the Red
Indians, and had himself copied several of their
1 Das Bac¾ der Wilden im Lichte Franzosischer Civilisation.
Mit Proben aus dem in Paris als Manuscrit Pictographique Américain, veröffentlichten Schmierbuche eines Deutsch-Amerikanischen
Hinterwälder Jungen, von J. Petzholdt. Dresden, 1861.
374 POPOL v U H .
inscriptions, should have taken the pages preserved
in the library of the Arsenal at Paris as genuine
specimens of American pictography. There is a
certain similarity between these scrawls and the
figures scratched on rocks, tombstones, and trees by
the wandering tribes of North America ; and though
we should be very sorry to endorse the opinion of
the enthusiastic Abbé, or to start any conjecture of
our own as to the real authorship of the 6 Livre des
Sauvages,’ we cannot but think that M . Petzholdt
would have written less confidently, and certainly
less scornfully, if he had been more familiar than he
seems to be with the little that is known of the
picture-writing of the Indian tribes.
A S a preliminary, therefore, to the question of
the authenticity of the ‘ Popol Vuh,’ a few words on
the pictorial literature of the' Red Indians of North
America will not be considered out of place. The
‘ Popol Vuh ’ is not, indeed, a ‘ Livre des Sauvages,’
but a 1iterary composition in the true sense of the
word. It contains the mythology and history of the
civilised races of Central America, and comes before
U S with credentials that will bear the test of critical
inquiry. But we shall be better able to appreciate
the higher achievements of the South, after we have
examined, however cursorily, the rude beginnings in
literature among the savage races of the North.
Colden, in his ‘ History of the Five Nations,’ informs us that when, in 1696, the Count de Frontenac
marched a well-appointed army into the Iroquois
country, with artillery and all other means of regular
military offence, he found, on the hanks of the Onondaga, now called Oswego River, a tree, on the trunk
POPOL vUH. 375
of which the Indians had depicted the French army,
and deposited two bundles of cut rushes at its foot,
consisting of 1,434 pieces ; an act of symbolical defiance on their part, which was intended to warn their
Gallic invaders that they would have to encounter
this number of warriors.
This warlike message is a specimen of Indian
picture-writing. It belongs to the lowest stage of
graphic representation, and hardly differs from the
primitive way in which the Persian ambassadors
communicated with the Greeks, or the Romans with
the Carthaginians. Instead of the lance and the
staff of peace between which the Carthaginians were
asked to choose, the Red Indians would have sent an
arrow and a pipe, and the message would have been
equally understood. This, though not yet peindre la
parole, is nevertheless a first attempt at parler aux
yeux. It is a first beginning which may lead to
something more perfect in the end.. We find similar
attempts at pictorial communication among other
savage tribes, and they seem to answer every purpose. In Freycinet and Arago’s ‘Voyage to the
Eastern Ocean’ we are told of a native of the Carolina
Islands, a Tamor of Sathoual, who wished to avail
himself of the presence of a ship to send to a trader
at Botta, M . Martinez, some shells which he had
promised to collect in exchange for a few axes and
some other articles. He expressed his wishes to the
captain, who gave him a piece of paper to make the
drawing, and satisfactorily executed the commission.
The figure of a man at the top denoted the ship's
captain, who by his outstretched hands represented
his office as a messenger between the parties. The
376 POPOL V U H .
rays or ornaments on his head denote rank or
authority. The vine beneath him is a type of friendship. In the left column are depicted the number
and kinds of shells sent; in the right column the
things wished for in exchange—namely, seven fishhooks, three large and four small, two axes, and two
pieces of iron.
The inscriptions which are found on the Indian
graveboards mark a step in advance. Every warrior
has his crest, which is called his totem, and is
painted on his tombstone. A celebrated war-chief,
the Adjetatig of Wabojeeg, died on Lake Superior,
about 1793. He was of the clan of the Addik, or
American reindeer. The fact is symbolised by the
figure of the deer. The reversed position denotes
death. His own personal name, which was White
Fisher, is not noticed. But there are seven transverse strokes on the left, and these have a meaning
—namely, that he had led seven war parties. Then
there are three perpendicular lines below his crest,
and these again are readily understood by every
Indian. They represent the wounds received in
battle. The figure of a moose's head is said to relate
to a desperate conflict with an enraged animal of this
kind; and the symbols of the arrow and the pipe
are drawn to indicate the chief's influence in war
and peace.
There is another graveboard of the ruling chief
of Sandy Lake on the Upper Mississippi. Here the
reversed bird denotes his family name or clan, the
Crane. Four transverse lines above it denote that
he had killed four of his enemies in battle. An
-analogous custom is mentioned by Aristotle (' PoliPOPOL V U H . 377
tica,’ vii. 2, p. 220, ed. Göttling). Speaking of the
Iberians, he states that they placed as many obelisks
round the grave of a warrior as he had killed enemies
in battle.
But the Indians went further ; and though they
never arrived at the perfection of the Egyptian
hieroglyphics, they had a number of symbolic emblems which were perfectly understood by all their
tribes. Eating is represented by a man's hand lifted
to his mouth. Power over man is symbolised by
a line drawn in the figure from the mouth to the
heart ; power in general by a head with two horns.
A circle drawn around the body at the abdomen
denotes full means of subsistence. A boy drawn with
waved lines from each ear and lines leading to the
heart represents a pupil. A figure with a plant as
head, and two wings, denotes a doctor skilled in
medicine, and endowed with the power of ubiquity.
A tree with human legs, a herbalist or professor of
botany. Night is represented by a finely crossed or
barred sun, or a circle with human legs. Rain is
figured by a dot or semicircle filled with water and
placed on the head. The heaven with three disks of
the sun is understood to mean three days’ journey ;
and a landing after a voyage is represented by a tortoise. Short sentences, too, can be pictured in this
manner. A prescription ordering abstinence from
food for two, and rest for four, days is written by
drawing a man with two bars on the stomach and four
across the legs. We are told even of war-songs and
love-songs composed in this primitive alphabet,
though it would seem as if, in these cases, the reader
required even greater poetical imagination than the
378 POPOL V U H .
writer. There is one war-song consisting of four
1. The sun rising.
2. A figure pointing with one hand to the earth
and the other extended to the sky.
3. The moon with two human legs.
4. A figure personifying the Eastern woman—i.e.
the evening star.
These four symbols are said to convey to the
Indian the following meaning :
I am rising to seek the war path ;
The earth and the sky are before me ;
I walk by day and by night ;
A n d the evening star is my guide.
The following is a specimen of a love-song :
1. Figure representing a god (monedo) endowed
with magic power.
2. Figure beating the drum and singing; lines
from his mouth.
3. Figure surrounded by a secret lodge.
4. Two bodies joined with one continuous arm.
5. A woman on an island.
6. A woman asleep ; lines from his ear towards
7. A red heart in a circle.
This poem is intended to express these sentiments :
1. It is my form and person that make me great—
2. Hear the voice of my song, it is my voice.
3. I shield myself with secret coverings.
P O P O L V U H . 379
4. AU your thoughts are known to me, blush !
5. I could draw you hence were you ever so far—
6. Though you were on the other hemisphere—
7. I speak to your naked heart.
A l l we can say is that if the Indians can read
this writing they are greater adepts in the mysteries
of love than the judges of the old Cours d'amour.
But it is much more likely that these war-songs and
love-songs are known to the people beforehand, and
that their writings are only meant to revive what
exists already in the memory of the reader. It is a
kind of mnemonic writing, which has sometimes
been used by missionaries for similar purposes, and
with considerable success. Thus, in a translation of
the Bible in the Massachusetts language by Eliot,
the verses from 25 to 32 in the thirtieth chapter of
Proverbs,1 are expressed by ‘an ant, a coney, a
locust, a spider, a river (symbol of motion), a lion, a
greyhound, a he-goat and a king, a man foolishly lifting himself to take hold of the heavens.’ No doubt
such symbols would help the reader to remember the
1 Proverbs xxx. 25-32. 'The ants are a people not strong, yet
they prepare their meat in the summer ;
' The conies are but a feeble folk, yet make they their houses in
the rocks ;
' The locusts have no king, yet go they forth all of them by bands ;
' The spider taketh hold with her hands, and is in king's palaces.
' There be three things which go well, yea, four are comely in
going ;
' A lion, which is strongest among beasts, and turneth not away
for any ;
' A greyhound ; an he-goat also ; and a king, against whom the:re
is no rising up,
« If thou hast done foolishly in lifting up thyself or if thou hast
thought evil, lay thine hand upon thy mouth.'
380 POPOL V U H .
proper order of the verses, but they would be perfectly useless without a commentary or without a
previous knowledge of the text.
We are told that the famous Testera, brother of
the chamberlain of François I., who came to America
eight or nine years after the taking of Mexico, finding it impossible to learn the language of the natives,
taught them the Bible history and the principal
doctrines of the Christian religion by means of
pictures, and that these diagrams produced a greater
effect on the minds of the people, who were accustomed to this style of representation, than all other
means employed by the missionaries. But here
again, unless these pictures were explained by interpreters, they could by themselves convey mo meaning
to the gazing crowds of the natives. The fullest
information on this subject is to be found in a work
by T. Baptiste, ‘ Hiéroglyphes de la conversion, où
par des estampes et des figures on apprend aux
naturels à désirer le ciel.’
There is no evidence to show that the Indians of
the North ever advanced beyond the rude attempts
which we have thus described, and of which numerous specimens may be found in the voluminous
work of Schoolcraft, published by authority of Congress, ‘ Historical and Statistical Information respecting the History, Condition, and Prospects of
the Indian Tribes of the United States,’ Philadelphia,
1851-1855. There is, in fact, no trace of anything
like literature among the wandering tribes of the
North, and until a real ‘ Livre des Sauvages ’ turns
up to fill this gap, they must continue to be classed
among the illiterate races.’
1 Manuscrit Pictographique, pp. 26, 29.
POPOL V U H . 381
It is very different i f we turn .our eyes to the
people of Central and South America, to the races
who formed the population of Mexico, Guatemala,
and Peru, when conquered by the Spaniards. The
Mexican hieroglyphics published by Lord Kingsborough are not to be placed in the same category
with the totems and the pictorial scratches of the
Red-skins. They are, first of all, of a much more
artistic character, more conventional in their structure, and hence more definite in their meaning. They
are coloured, written on paper, and in many respect«
quite on a level with the hieroglyphic inscriptions
and hieratic papyri of Egypt. Even the conception
of speaking to the ear through the eye, of expressing sound by means of outlines, was familiar to the
Mexicans, though they seem to have applied their
phonetic signs to the writing of the names of places
and persons only. The principal object, indeed, of
the Mexican hieroglyphic manuscripts was, not to
convey new information, but rather to remind the
reader by means of mnemonic artifices of what he
had learnt beforehand. This is acknowledged by
the best authorities, by men who knew the Indians
shortly after their first intercourse with Europeans,
and whom we may safely trust in what they tell us
of the oral literature and hieroglyphic writings of
the natives. Acosta, in his ‘Historia natural y moral.’
vi. 7, tells us that the Indians were still in the habit
of reciting from memory the addresses and speeches
of their ancient orators, and numerous songs composed by their national poets. As it was impossible
to acquire these by means of hieroglyphics or written
characters such as were used by the Mexicans, care
was taken that those speeches and poems should be
learnt by heart. There were colleges and schools
for that purpose, where these and other things were
taught to the young by the aged, in whose memory
they seemed to be engraved. The young men who
were brought up to be orators themselves had to
learn the ancient compositions word by word; and
when the Spaniards came and taught them to read
and write the Spanish language, the Indians soon
began to write for themselves, a fact attested by
many eye-witnesses.
Las Casas, the devoted friend of the Indians,
writes as follows :—
‘ I t ought to be known that in all the republics of
this country, in the kingdoms of New Spain and
elsewhere, there was amongst other professions, that
of the chroniclers and historians. They possessed a
knowledge of the earliest times, and of all things
concerning religion, the gods, and their worship. They
knew the founders of cities, and the early history of
their kings and kingdoms. They knew the modes of
election and the rights of succession ; they could tell
the number and characters of their ancient kings,
their works, and memorable achievements whether
good or bad, and whether they had governed well or
i l l . They knew the men renowned for virtue and
heroism in former days, what wars they had waged,
and how they had distinguished themselves; who
had been the earliest settlers, what had been their
ancient customs, their triumphs and defeats. They
knew, in fact, whatever belonged to history; and
were able to give an account of all the events of the
past. . . . These chroniclers had likewise to calculate
the days, months, and years ; and though they had
no writing like our own, they had their symbols and
characters through which they understood everything ; they had their great books, which were composed with such ingenuity and art that our alphabet
was really of no great assistance to them. . . . Our
priests have seen those books, and I myself have
seen them likewise, though many were burnt at the
instigation of the monks, who were afraid that they
might impede the work of conversion. Sometimes
when the Indians who had been converted had forgotten certain words, or particular points of the
Christian doctrine, they began—as they were unable
to read our books—to write very ingeniously with
their own symbols and characters, drawing the figures
which corresponded either to the ideas or to the
sounds of our words. I have myself seen a large
portion of the Christian doctrine written in figures
and images, which they read as we read the characters
of a letter ; and this is a very extraordinary proof of
their genius. . . . There never was a lack of those
chroniclers. It was a profession which passed from
father to son, highly respected in the whole republic.
Each historian instructed two or three of his relatives.
He made them practise constantly, and they had
recourse to him whenever a doubt arose on a point
of history. . . . But not these young historians only
went to consult him; kings, princes, and priests came
to ask his advice. Whenever there was a doubt as
to ceremonies, precepts of religion, religious festivals
or anything of importance in the history of the ancient
kingdoms, everyone went to the chroniclers to ask for
In spite of the religious zeal of Dominican and
384 POPOL V U H .
Franciscan friars, a few of these hieroglyphic MSS.
escaped the flames, and may now be seen in some
of our public libraries, as curious relics of a nearly
extinct and forgotten literature. The first collection
of these MSS. and other American antiquities was
due to the zeal of the Milanese antiquarian, Boturini,
who had been sent by the Pope in 1736 to regulate
some ecclesiastical matters, and who devoted the
eight years of his stay in the New World to rescuing
whatever could be rescued from the scattered ruins
of ancient America. Before, however, he could bring
these treasures safe to Europe, he was despoiled of
his valuables by the Spanish Viceroy ; and when at
last he made his escape with the remnants of his
collection, he was taken prisoner by an English
cruiser, and lost everything. The collection, which
remained at Mexico, became the subject of several
lawsuits, and after passing through the hands of
Veytia and Gama, who both added to it considerably,
it was sold at last by public auction. Humboldt,
who was at that time passing through Mexico,
acquired some of the MSS., which he gave to the
Royal Museum at Berlin. Others found their way
into private hands, and after many vicissitudes they
have mostly been secured by the public libraries or
private collectors of Europe. The most valuable part
of that unfortunate shipwreck is now in the hands
of M . Aubin, who was sent to Mexico in 1830 by
the French Government, and who devoted nearly
twenty years to the same work which Boturini had
commenced a hundred years before. He either bought
the dispersed fragments of the collections of Boturini,
Gama, and Pichardo, or procured accurate copies;
POPOL V U H . 385
and he has brought to Europe what is, i f not the
most complete, at least the most valuable and most
judiciously arranged collection of American antiquities. We likewise owe to M . Aubin the first accurate
knowledge of the real nature of the ancient Mexican
writing; and we look forward with confident hope
to his still achieving in his own field as great a
triumph as that of Champollion, the decipherer of
the hieroglyphics of Egypt.
One of the most important helps towards the
deciphering of the hieroglyphic MSS. of the Americans is to be found in certain books which, soon
after the conquest of Mexico, were written down by
natives who had learnt the art of alphabetic writing
from their conquerors, the Spaniards. Ixtlilxochitl,
descended from the royal family of Tetzcuco, and
employed as interpreter by the Spanish Government,
wrote the history of his own country from the earliest
time to the arrival of Cortez. In writing this history
he followed the hieroglyphic paintings as they had
been explained to him by the old chroniclers. Some
of these very paintings, which formed the text-book
of the Mexican historian, have been recovered by
M . Aubin ; and as they once helped the historian in
writing his history, that history now helps the scholar
in deciphering their meaning.
It is with the study of works like that of Ixtlilxochitl
that American philology ought to begin. They are
to the student of American antiquities what Manetho
is to the student of Egyptian hieroglyphics, or Berosus to the decipherer of the cuneiform inscriptions.
They are written in dialects not more than three
hundred years old, and still spoken by large numbers
386* POPOL V U H .
of natives, with such modifications as three centuries
are certain to produce. They give us whatever wa&
known of history, mythology, and religion among
the people whom the Spaniards found in Central
and South America in the possession of most of the
advantages of a long-established civilisation. Though
we must not expect to find in them what we are
accustomed to call history, they are nevertheless of
great historical interest, as supplying the vague outlines of a distant past, filled with migrations, wars,,
dynasties, and revolutions, such as were cherished in
the memory of the Greeks at the time of Solon, and
believed in by the Romans at the time of Cato. They
teach us that the New World which was opened to
Europe a few centuries ago was in its own eyes an
old world, not so different in character and feelings
from ourselves as we are apt to imagine when we
speak of the Red-skins of America, or when we read
the accounts of the Spanish conquerors, who denied
that the natives of America possessed human souls,,
in order to establish their own right of treating them
like wild beasts.
The ‘ Popol Vuh,’ or the sacred book of the people
of Guatemala, of which the Abbé Brasseur de Bourbourg has just published the original text, together
with a literal French Translation, holds a very prominent rank among the works composed by natives
in their own native dialects, and written down by
them with the letters of the Roman alphabet. There
are but two works that can be compared to it in
their importance to the student of American antiquities and American languages—namely, the ‘Codex
Chimalpopoca ’ in Nahuatl, the ancient written lanPOPOL VUH. 387
guage of Mexico, and the ‘ Codex Cakchiquel ’ in the
dialect of Guatemala. These, together with the work
published by the Abbé Brasseur de Bourbourg under
the title of ‘ Popol Vuh,’ must form the starting-point
of all critical inquiries into the antiquities of the
American people.
The first point which has to be determined with
regard to books of this kind is whether they are genuine or not ; whether they are what they pretend to
be—compositions about three centuries old, founded
on the oral traditions and the pictographic documents
of the ancient inhabitants of America, and written
in the dialects which were spoken at the time of
Columbus, Cortez, and Pizarro. What the Abbé
Brasseur de Bourbourg has to say on this point
amounts to this :—The manuscript was first discovered by Father Francisco Ximenes towards the end
of the seventeenth century. He was curé of SantoTomas Chichicastenango, situated about three leagues
south of Santa-Cruz del Quiche and twenty-two leagues
north-east of Guatemala. He was well acquainted
with the languages of the natives of Guatemala, and
has left a dictionary of their three principal dialects,
his ‘Tesoro de las Lenguas Quiche, Cakchiquel y
Tzutohil.’ This work, which has never been printed,
fills two volumes, the second of which contains the
copy of the MS. discovered by Ximenes. Ximenes
likewise wrote a history of the province of the
preachers of San-Vincente de Chiapas y Guatemala,
in four volumes. Of this he left two copies. But
three volumes only were still in existence when the
Abbé Brasseur de Bourbourg visited Guatemala, and
they are said to contain valuable information on the
388 POPOL V U H .
history and traditions of the country. The first
volume contains the Spanish translation of the manuscript which occupies us at present. The Abbé
Brasseur de Bourbourg copied that translation in
1855. About the same time a German traveller, Dr.
Scherzer, happened to be at Guatemala, and had
copies made of the works of Ximenes. These were
published at Vienna, in 1856.’ The French Abbé,
however, was not satisfied with a mere reprint of the
text and its Spanish translation by Ximenes, a translation which he characterises as untrustworthy and
frequently unintelligible. During his travels in America he acquired a practical knowledge of several of
the native dialects, particularly of the Quiche, which
is still spoken in various dialects by about six hundred
thousand people. As a priest he was in daily intercourse with these people ; and it was while residing
among them and able to consult them like living
dictionaries, that, with the help of the MSS. of
Ximenes, he undertook his own translation of the
ancient chronicles of the Quiches. From the time
of the discovery of Ximenes, therefore, to the time
of the publication of the Abbé Brasseur de Bourbourg, all seems clear and satisfactory. But there is
still a century to be accounted for, from the end of
the sixteenth century, when the original is supposed
to have been written, to the end of the seventeenth,
when it was first discovered by Ximenes at Chichicastenango. These years are not yet bridged over.
We may appeal, however, to the authority of the MS.
itself, which carries the royal dynasties down to the
1 Mr. A. Helps was the first to point out the importance of this
work, in his excellent History of the Spanish Conquest in Amei*ica.
Spanish Conquest, and ends with the names of the
two princes, Don Juan de Rojas and Don Juan
Cortes, the sons of Tecum and Tepepul. These
princes, though entirely subject to the Spaniards,
were allowed to retain the insignia of royalty to the
year 1558, and it is shortly after their time that the
MS. is supposed to have been written. The author
himself says in the beginning that he wrote ‘ after
the word of God (chabal Dios) had been preached, in
the midst of Christianity ; and that he did so because
people could no longer see the ‘‘Popol Vuh.’’ wherein
it was clearly shown that they came from the other
side of the sea, the account of our living in the land
of shadow, and how we saw light and life.’
There is, therefore, no attempt at claiming for
his work any extravagant age or mysterious authority. It is acknowledged to have been written
when the Castilians were the rulers of the land ;
when bishops were preaching the word of Dios, the
new God ; when the ancient traditions of the people
were gradually dying out. Even the title of ‘ Popol
Vuh.’ which the Abbé Brasseur de Bourbourg has
given to this work, is not claimed for it by its author.
He says that he wrote when the ‘ Popol Vuh ’ was
no longer to be seen. É Popol Vuh ' means the book
of the people, and referred to the traditional literature in which all that was known about the early
history of the nation, their religion and ceremonies,
was handed down from age to age.
It is to be regretted that the Abbé Brasseur de
Bourbourg should have sanctioned the application of
this name to the Quiche MS. discovered by Father
Ximenes, and that he should apparently have trans390 POPOL VUH.
lated it by ‘ Livre sacré ’ instead of ‘ Livre national,'
or ‘ Libro del comun,’ as proposed by Ximenes. Such
small inaccuracies are sure to produce great confusion.
Nothing but a desire to have a fine-sounding title
could have led the editor to commit this mistake,
for he himself confesses that the work published by
him has no right to the title ‘ Popol Vuh.’ and that
‘ Popol Vuh ’ does not mean ‘ Livre sacré. 5 Nor is
there any more reason to suppose, with the learned
Abbé, that the first two books of the Quiche MS.
contain an almost literal transcript of the ‘Popol
Vuh, 5 or that the ‘ Popol Vuh 5 was the original of
the ‘ Teo-Amoxtli,5 or the sacred book of the Toltecs.
A l l we know is, that the author wrote his anonymous
work because the ‘ Popol Vuh 5—the national book,
or the national tradition—was dying out, and that
he comprehended in the first two sections the ancient
traditions common to the whole race, while he devoted the last two to the historical annals of the
Quiches, the ruling nation at the time of the Conquest in what is now the republic of Guatemala. If
we look at the MS. in this light, there is nothing at
all suspicious in its character and its contents. The
author wished to save from destruction the stories
which he had heard as a child of his gods and his
ancestors. Though the general outline of these stories
may have been preserved partly in the schools, partly
in the pictographic MSS., the Spanish Conquest had
thrown everything into confusion, and the writer had
probably to depend chiefly on his own recollections.
To extract consecutive history from these recollections is simply impossible. A l l is vague, contradictory, miraculous, absurd. Consecutive history is
POPOL V U H . 391
altogether a modern idea, of which few only of the
ancient nations had any conception. If we had the
exact words of the ‘ Popol Vuh.’ we should probably
find no more history there than we find in the Quiche
MS. as it now stands. Now and then, it is true, one
imagines one sees certain periods and landmarks,
but in the next page all is chaos again. It may be
difficult to confess that with all the traditions of the
early migrations of Cecrops and Danaus into Greece,
with the Homeric poems of the Trojan war, and the
genealogies of the ancient dynasties of Greece, we
know nothing of Greek history before the Olympiads,
and very little even then. Yet the true historian
does not allow himself to indulge in any illusions on
this subject, and he shuts his eyes even to the most
plausible reconstructions.
The same applies with a force increased a hundredfold to the ancient history of the aboriginal
races of America, and the sooner this is acknowledged, the better for the credit of American scholars.
Even the traditions of the migrations of the Chichimecs, Colhuas, and Nahuas, which form the staple
of all American antiquarians, are no better than the
Greek traditions about Pelasgians, iEolians, and
Ionians ; and it would be a mere waste of time to
construct out of such elements a systematic history,
only to be destroyed again sooner or later by some
Niebuhr, Grote, or Lewis.
But if we do not find history in the stories of the
ancient races of Guatemala, we do find materials for
studying their character, for analysing their religion
and mythology, for comparing their principles of
morality, their views of virtue, beauty, and heroism,
392 P O P O L V U H .
with those of other races of mankind. This is the
charm, the real and lasting charm, of such works
as that presented to us for the first time in a trustworthy translation by the Abbé Brasseur de Bourbourg. Unfortunately, there is one circumstance
which may destroy even this charm. It is just
possible that the writers of this and other American
MSS. may have felt more or less consciously the
influence of European and Christian ideas, and i f so,
we have no sufficient guarantee that the stories they
tell represent to us the American mind in its pristine
and genuine form. There are some coincidences between the Old Testament and the Quiche MS. which
are certainly startling. Yet even if a Christian influence has to be admitted, much remains in these
American traditions which is so different from anything else in the national literatures of other countries,
that we may safely treat it as the genuine growth
of the intellectual soil of America. We shall give,
in conclusion, some extracts to bear out our remarks;
but we ought not to part with Abbé Brasseur de
Bourbourg without expressing to him our gratitude
for the excellent work he has done, and without
adding a hope that he may be able to realise his
plan of publishing a ‘ Collection of documents written
in the indigenous languages, to assist the student of
the history and philology of ancient America.’ a
collection of which the work now published is to
form the first volume.
Extracts from the ‘ Popol Vuh.’
The Quiche MS. begins with an account of the
creation. If we read it in the literal translation.
of the Abbé Brasseur de Bourbourg, with all the
uncouth names of divine and other beings that have
to act their parts in it, it does not leave any very
clear impression on our minds. Yet after reading it
again and again, some salient features stand out
more distinctly, and make us feel that there was a
groundwork of noble conceptions which has been
covered and distorted by an aftergrowth of fantastic
nonsense. We shall do best for the present to leave
out all proper names, which only bewilder the memory
and which convey no distinct meaning even to the
scholar. It will require long-continued research
before it can be determined whether the names so
profusely applied to the Deity were intended as the
names of so many distinct personalities, or as the
names of the various manifestations of one and the
same Power. At all events, they are of no importance
to us t i l l we can connect more distinct ideas than it
is possible to gather from the materials now at hand,
with such inharmonious sounds as Tzakol,Bitol, Alom,
Qaholom, Hun-Ahpu-Vuch, Gucumatz, Quaz-Cho,&c.
Their supposed meanings are in some cases very
appropriate, such as the Creator, the Fashioner, the
Begetter, the Vivifier, the Ruler, the Lord of the
green planisphere, the Lord of the azure surface, the
Heart of heaven. In other cases, however, we cannot fathom the original intention of names such as
the feathered serpent, the white boar, le tireur de sarbacane au sarigue, and others; and they therefore
sound to our ears simply absurd.
Well , the Quiches believed that there was a time
when all that exists in heaven and earth was made.
A U was then in suspense, all was calm and silent
394 POPOL V U H .
nil was immovable, all peaceful, and the vast space
of the heavens was empty. There was no man, no
animal, no shore, no trees; heaven alone existed.
The face of the earth was not to be seen; there was
only the still expanse of the sea and the heaven
above. Divine Beings were on the waters like a
growing light. Their voice was heard as they meditated and consulted, and when the dawn rose, man
appeared. Then the waters were commanded to retire, the earth was established that she might bear
fruit and that the light of day might shine on heaven
and earth.
‘ For,’ they said, ‘ we shall receive neither glory
nor honour from all we have created until there is
a human being—a being endowed with reason.
" Earth,’’ they said, and in a moment the earth was
formed. Like a vapour it rose into being, mountains appeared from the waters like lobsters, and the
great mountains were made. Thus was the creation
of the earth, when it was fashioned by those who are
the Heart of heaven, the Heart of the earth ; for
thus were they called who first gave fertility to them,
heaven and earth being still inert and suspended in
the midst of the waters.’
Then follows the creation of the brute world, and
the disappointment of the gods when they command
the animals to tell their names and to honour those
who had created them. Then the gods said to the
animals :—
‘ You will be changed, because you cannot speak.
We have changed your speech. You shall have your
food and your dens in the woods and crags ; for our
glory is not perfect, and you do not invoke us. There
P O P O L vüH. 395
w i l l be beings still that can salute us ; we shall make
them capable of obeying. Do your task ; as to your
flesh, it will be broken by the tooth.’
Then follows the creation of man. His flesh was
made of earth (terre glaise). But man was without
cohesion or power, inert and aqueous ; he could not
turn his head, his sight was dim, and though he had
the gift of speech, he had no intellect. He was soon
consumed again in the water.
And the gods consulted a second time how to
create beings that should adore them, and after some
magic ceremonies, men were made of wood, and they
multiplied. But they had no heart, no intellect, no
recollection of their Creator; they did not lift up
their heads to their Maker, and they withered away
and were swallowed up by the waters.
Then follows a third creation, man being made of
a tree called tzité, woman of the marrow of a reed
called sibac. They, too, did neither think nor speak
before him who had made them, and they were likewise swept away by the waters and destroyed. The
whole nature—animals, trees, and stones—turned
against men to revenge the wrongs they had suffered
at their hands, and the only remnant of that early
race is to be found in small monkeys which still live
i n the forests.
Then follows a story of a very different character,
.and which completely interrupts the progress of
events. It has nothing to do with the creation,
though it ends with two of its heroes being changed
into sun and moon. It is a story very much like the
fables of the Brahmans or the German Mährchen.
Some of the principal actors in it are clearly divine
396 POPOL V U H .
beings who have been brought down to the level of
human nature, and who perform feats and tricks so
strange and incredible that in reading them we
imagine ourselves in the midst of the Arabian Nights.
In the struggles of the two favourite heroes against
the cruel princes of Xibalba, there may be reminiscences of historical events; but it would be perfectly
hopeless to attempt to extricate these from the mass
of fable by which they are surrounded. The chief
interest of the American tale consists in the points
of similarity which it exhibits with the tales of the
Old World. We shall mention two only—the repeated resuscitation of the chief heroes, who, even
when burnt and ground to powder and scattered on
the water, are born again as fish and changed into
men ; and the introduction of animals endowed with
reason and speech. As in the German and other
tales, certain peculiarities in the appearance and
natural habits of animals are frequently accounted
for by events that happened ‘once upon a time’—for
instance, the stumpy tail of the bear, by his misfortune when he went out fishing on the ice—so we find
in the American tales, ‘ that it was when the two
principal heroes (Hun-Ahpu and Xbalanqué) had
caught the rat and were going to strangle it over the
fire, that le rat commença a porter une queue sans poil.
Thus, because a certain serpent swallowed a frog who
was sent as a messenger, therefore aujourd'hui encore
les serpents engloutissent les crapauds.
The story, which well deserves the attention of
those who are interested in the origin and spreading
of popular tales, is carried on to the end of the second
P O P O L V U H . 397
book, and it is only in the third that we hear once
more of the creation of man.
Three attempts, as we saw, had been made and
had failed. We now hear again that before the beginning of dawn, and before the sun and moon had
risen, man had been made, and that nourishment
was provided for him which was to supply his blood
—namely, yellow and white maize. Four men are
mentioned as the real ancestors of the human race,
or rather of the race of the Quiches. They were
neither begotten by the gods nor born of woman, but
their creation was a wonder wrought by the Creator.
They could reason and speak, their sight was unlimited, and they knew all things at once. When
they had rendered thanks to their Creator for their
existence, the gods were frightened and they breathed
a cloud over the eyes of men that they might see a
certain distance only, and not be like the gods themselves. Then while the four men were asleep, the
gods gave them beautiful wives, and these became
the mothers of all tribes, great and small. These
tribes, both black and white, lived and spread in
the East. They did not yet worship the gods, but
only turned their faces up to heaven, hardly knowing
what they were meant to do here below. Their
features were sweet, so was their language, and their
intellect was strong.
We now come to a most interesting passage, which
is intended to explain the confusion of tongues. No
nation, except the Jews, has dwelt much on the problem why there should be many languages instead of
one. Grimm, in his ‘ Essay on the Origin of Language.’
398 POPOL V U H .
remarks : ‘ It may seem surprising that neither the
ancient Greeks nor the ancient Indians attempted to
propose or to solve the question as to the origin and
the multiplicity of human speech. Holy Wri t strove
to solve at least one of these riddles, that of the multiplicity of languages, by means of the tower of BabeI.
I know only one other poor Esthonian legend which
might be placed by the side of this Biblical solution.
‘‘ The old god.’’ they say, ‘‘ when men found their
first seats too narrow, resolved to spread them over
the whole earth, and to give to each nation its own
language. For this purpose he placed a caldron of
water on the fire, and commanded the different races
to approach it in order, and to select for themselves
the sounds which were uttered by the singing of the
water in its confinement and torture.’’ ’
Grimm might have added another legend which
is current among the Thlinkithians, and was clearly
framed in order to account for the existence of different languages. The Thlinkithians are one of the
four principal races inhabiting Russian America.
They are called Kaljush, Koljush, or Kolosh by the
Russians, and inhabit the coast from about 60° to 45 a
N . L . , reaching, therefore, across the Russian frontier
as far as the Columbia River, and they likewise hold
many of the neighbouring islands. Weniaminow
estimates their number, both in the Russian and
English colonies, at 20,000 to 25,000. They are evidently a decreasing race, and their legends, which
seem to be numerous and full of original ideas, would
well deserve the careful attention of American ethnologists. Wrangel suspected a relationship between
them and the Aztecs of Mexico. These Thlinkithians
P O P O L v U H . 399k
believe in a general flood or deluge, and that men
saved themselves in a large floating building. When
the waters fell, the building was wrecked on a rock,
and by its own weight burst into two pieces. Hence,,
they say, arose the difference of languages. The
Thlinkithians with their language remained on one
side ; on the other side were all the other races of
the earth.’
Neither the Esthonian nor the Thlinkithian
legend, however, offers any striking points of coincidence with the Mosaic accounts. The analogies,
therefore, as well as the discrepancies, between the
ninth chapter of Genesis and the chapter here translated from the Quiche MS. require special attention:
‘ A l l had but one language, and they did not i n voke as yet either wood or stones ; they only remembered the word of the Creator, the Heart of heaven
and earth.
‘ And they spoke while meditating on what was
hidden by the spring of day ; and full of the sacred
word, full of love, obedience, and fear, they made
their prayers, and lifting their eyes up to heaven,
they asked for sons and daughters :—
‘ ‘ ‘ Hai l ! O Creator and Fashioner, thou who seest
and hearest us! do not forsake us, O God, who art
in heaven and earth, Heart of the sky, Heart of the
earth ! Give us offspring and descendants as long as
the sun and dawn shall advance. Let there be seed
and light. Let us always walk on open paths, on
roads where there is no ambush. Let us always bé
quiet and in peace with those who are ours. May
1 Holrnberg, Ethnographische Skizzen über die Voilier des Russischen Amerika. Helsingfors, 1855.
4 0 0 POPOL V U H .
our lives run on happily. Give us a life secure from
reproach. Let there be seed for harvest, and let
there be light.’’
‘ They then proceeded to the town of Tulan, where
they received their gods.
‘And when all the tribes were there gathered
together, their speech was changed, and they did not
understand each other after they arrived at Tulan.
It was there that they separated, and some went to
the East, others came here. Even the language of
the four ancestors of the human race became different.
•" Alas.’’ they said, ‘‘ we have left our language. How
has this happened ? We are ruined ! How could we
have been led into error ? We had but one language
when we came to Tulan ; our form of worship was
but one. What we have done is not good.’’ replied
all the tribes in the woods, and under the lianas.’
The rest of the work, which consists altogether
of four books, is taken up with an account of the
migrations of the tribes from the East, and their
various settlements. The four ancestors of the race
seem to have had a long life, and when at last they
came to die, they disappeared in a mysterious manner,
and left to their sons what is called the Hidden
Majesty, which was never to be opened by human
hands. What this Hidden Majesty was we do not
There are many subjects of interest in the chapters which follow, only we must not look there for
history, though the author evidently accepts as truly
historical what he tells us about the successive generations of kings. But when he brings us down at
last, after sundry migrations, wars, and rebellions,
POPOL vUH. 401
to the arrival of the Castilians, we find that between
the first four ancestors of the human or of the Quiche
race and the last of their royal dynasties, there intervene only fourteen generations, and the author, whoever he was, ends with the confession :—
‘ This is all that remains of the existence of
Quiche; for it is impossible to see the book in which
formerly the kings could read everything, as it has
disappeared. It is over with all those of Quiche ! It
is now called Santa Cruz ! 9
X X I .
A W O R K such as M . Renan’s ‘ Histoire Générale et
Système Comparé des Langues Sémitiques 9 can only
be reviewed chapter by chapter. It contains a survey, not only, as its title would lead us to suppose, of
the Semitic languages, but of the Semitic languages
and nations ; and considering that the whole history
of the civilised world has hitherto been acted by
two races only, the Semitic and the Aryan, with
occasional interruptions produced by the inroads of
the Turanian races, M . Renan’s work comprehends in
reality half of the history of the ancient world. We
have received as yet the first volume only of this
important work, and before the author had time to
finish the second, he was called upon to publish a
second edition of the first, which appeared in 1858,
with important additions and alterations.
In writing the history of the Semitic race it is
necessary to lay down certain general characteristics
common to all the members of that race, before
we can speak of nations so widely separated from
1 Histoire Générale et Systerne Comparé des Langues Sémitiques.
Par Ernest Renan, Membre de l'Institut. Seconde édition. Paris,
Nouvelles Considérations sur le Caractère Général des Peuples
Sémitiques, et en particulier sur leur Tendance au Monothéisme. Par
Ernest Renan. Paris, 1859.
»each other as the Jews, the Babylonians, Phoenicians,
Carthaginians, and Arabs, as one race or family.
The most important bond which binds these scattered
tribes together into one ideal whole is to be found
i n their language. There can be as little doubt
that the dialects of all the Semitic nations are derived from one common type as there is about the
derivation of French, Spanish, and Italian from
Latin, or of Latin, Greek, German, Celtic, Slavonic,
and Sanskrit from the primitive idiom of the ancestors of the Aryan race. The evidence of language
would by itself be quite sufficient to establish the
fact that the Semitic nations descended from common ancestors, and constitute, what, in the science
of language, may be called a distinct race. But M .
Renan was not satisfied with this single criterion of the
relationship of the Semitic tribes, and he has endeavoured to draw, partly from his own observations,
partly from the suggestions of other scholars, such
as Ewald and Lassen, a more complete portrait of
the Semitic man. This was no easy task. It was
like drawing the portrait of a whole family, omitting
all that is peculiar to each individual member, and yet
preserving the features which constitute the general
family likeness. The result has been what might
be expected. Critics most familiar with one or the
other branch of the Semitic family, have each and
all protested that they can see no likeness in the portrait. It seems to some to contain features which
i t ought not to contain ; whereas others miss the very
expression which appears to them most striking.’
1 -Cf. Francis Galton, ' Composite Portraits; Journal of the Anthropological Institute, 1879, p. 132.
The following is a short abstract of what M .
Renan considers the salient points in the Semitic
character :—
‘ Their character.’ he says, ‘ is religious rather
than political, and the mainspring of their religion
is the conception of the unity of God. Their religious
phraseology is simple, and free from mythological
elements. Their religious feelings are strong, exclusive, intolerant, and sustained by a fervour which
finds its peculiar expression in prophetic visions.
Compared to the Aryan nations, they are found
deficient in scientific and philosophical originality.
Their poetry is chiefly subjective or lyrical, and we
look in vain among their poets for excellence in epic
and dramatic compositions. Painting and the plastic
arts have never arrived at a higher than the decorative stage. Their political life has remained patriarchal and despotic, and their inability to organise
on a large scale has deprived them of the means of
military success. Perhaps the most general feature
of their character is a negative one—their inability
to perceive the general and the abstract, whether in
thought, language, religion, poetry, or politics ; and,
on the other hand, a strong attraction towards the
individual and personal, which makes them monotheistic in religion, lyrical in poetry, monarchical
in politics, abrupt in style, and useless for speculation.’
One cannot look at this bold and rapid outline of
the Semitic character without perceiving how many
points it contains which are open to doubt and discussion. We shall confine our remarks to one point,
which, in our mind, and, as far we can see, in
M . Renan’s mind likewise, is the most important of
all—namely, the supposed monotheistic tendency of
the Semitic race. M . Renan asserts that this tendency belongs to the race by instinct — that it
forms the rule, not the exception; and he seems
to imply that without it the human race would never
have arrived at the knowledge or worship of the
One God.
If such a remark had been made fifty years ago, it
would have roused little or no opposition. ‘ Semitic ’
was then used in a more restricted sense, and hardly
comprehended more than the Jews and Arabs. Of
this small group of people it might well have been
said, with such limitations as are tacitly implied in
every general proposition on the character of individuals or nations, that the work set apart for them
by a Divine Providence in the history of the world
was the preaching of a belief in one God. Three
religions have been founded by members of that
more circumscribed Semitic family--~the Jewish, the
Christian, the Mohammedan; and all three proclaim,
with the strongest accent, the doctrine that there is
but one God.
Of late, however, not only have the limits of the
Semitic family been considerably extended, so as to
embrace several nations notorious for their idolatrous
worship, but the history of the Jewish and Arab
tribes has been explored so much more fully that
even there traces of a widespread tendency to polytheism have come to light.
The Semitic family is divided by M . Renan into
two great branches, differing from each other in the
form of their monotheistic belief, yet both, according
406 S E M I T I C M O N O T H E I S M .
to their historian, imbued from the beginning witb
the instinctive faith in one God :—
1. The nomad branch, consisting of Arabs, Hebrews,,
and the neighbouring tribes of Palestine, commonly
called the descendants of Terah ; and
2. The political branch, including the nations of"
Phoenicia, of Syria, Mesopotamia, and Yemen.
Can it be said that all these nations, comprising
the worshippers of Elohim, Jehovah, Moloch, Nisroch, Rimmon, Nebo, Dagon, Ashtaroth, Baal or Be l r
Baal-peor‚ Baal-zebub, Chemosh, Milcom‚ Adrammelech, Annamelech, Nibhaz and Tartak, Ashima,
Nergal, Succoth-benoth, the Sun, Moon, planets, and
all the host of heaven, were endowed with a monotheistic instinct ? M . Renan admits that monotheism
has always had its principal bulwark in the nomadic
branch, but he maintains that it has by no means
been so unknown among the members of the political
branch as is commonly supposed. But where are
the criteria by which, in the same manner as their
dialects, the religions of the Semitic races could be
distinguished from the religions of the Aryan and
Turanian races? We can recognise any Semitic*
dialect by the triliteral character of its roots. Is it
possible to discover similar radical elements in alí
the forms of faith, primary or secondary, primitive or
derivative, of the Semitic tribes? M . Renan thinks
that it is. He imagines that he hears the key-note
of a pure monotheism through ail the wild shoutings
of the priests of Baal and other Semitic idols, and he
denies the presence of that key-note in any of the
religious systems of the Aryan nations, whether
Greeks or Romans, Germans or Celts, Hindus O F
Persians. Such an assertion could not but rouse
considerable opposition, and so strong seems to have
been the remonstraṇces addressed to M . Renan by
several of his colleagues in the French Institute
that, without awaiting the publication of the second
volume of his great work, he has thought it right to
publish part of it as a separate pamphlet. In his
‘ Nouvelles Considérations sur le Caractère Général
des Peuples Sémitiques, et en particulier sur leur
Tendance au Monothéisme,5 he endeavours to silence
the objections raised against the leading idea of his
history of the Semitic race. It is an essay which
exhibits, not only the comprehensive knowledge of
the scholar, but the warmth and alacrity of the
advocate. With M . Renan the monotheistic cha­
racter of the descendants of Shem is not only a
scientific tenet, but a moral conviction. He wishes
that his whole work should stand or fail with this
thesis, and it becomes, therefore, all the more the
duty of the critic to inquire whether the arguments
which he brings forward in support of his favourite
idea are valid or not. .
It is but fair to M . Renan that, in examining his
statements, we should pay particular attention to
any slight modifications which he may himself have
adopted in his last memoir. In his history he as­
serts with great confidence, and somewhat broadly,
that ‘ le monothéisme résume et explique tous les
caractères de la race Sémitique. 5 In his later pam­
phlet he is more cautious. As an experienced pleader,
he is ready to make many concessions in order to
gain all the more readily our assent to his general
proposition. He points out himself with great can­
408 S E M I T I C M O N O T H E I S M .
dour the weaker points of his argument, though, of
course, only in order to return with unabated courage
to his first position—that of all the races of mankind
the Semitic race alone was endowed with the instinct
of monotheism. As it is impossible to deny the fact
that the Semitic nations, in spite of this supposed
monotheistic instinct, were frequently addicted to
the most degraded forms of a polytheistic idolatry,
and that even the Jews, the most monotheistic of all,
frequently provoked the anger of the Lord by burning incense to other gods, M . Renan remarks that
when he speaks of a nation in general he only speaks
of the intellectual aristocracy of that nation. He
appeals in self-defence to the manner in which
historians lay down the character of modern nations.
‘ The French,’ he says, ‘ are repeatedly called ‘ ‘ une
nation spirituelle" and yet no one would wish to
assert either that every Frenchman is spirituel, or
that no one could be spirituel who is not a Frenchman.’ Now, here we may grant to M . Renan that i f
we speak of ‘ esprit ’ we naturally think of the intellectual minority only, and not of the whole bulk of a
nation; but if we speak of religion, the case is different. If we say that the French believe in one
God only, or that they are Christians, we speak not
only of the intellectual aristocracy of France but of
every man, woman, and child born and bred in
France. Even if we say that the French are Roman
Catholics, we do so only because we know that there
is a decided majority in France in favour of that
unreformed system of Christianity. But if, because
some of the most distinguished writers of France
have paraded their contempt for all religious dogmas,
we were to say broadly that the French are a nation
without religion, we should justly be called to order
for abusing the legitimate privilege of generalisation.
The fact that Abraham, Moses, Elijah, and Jeremiah
were firm believers in one God could not be considered sufficient to support the general proposition
that the Jewish nation was monotheistic by instinct.
And if we remember that among the other Semitic
races we should look in vain for even four such
names, the case would seem to be desperate to any
one but M . Renan.
We cannot believe that M . Renan would be satisfied with the admission that there had been among
the Jews a few leading men who believed in one God,
or that the existence of but one God was an article
of faith not quite unknown among the other Semitic
races ; yet he has hardly proved more. He has
collected, with great learning and ingenuity, all
traces of monotheism in the annals of the Semitic
nations ; but he has taken no pains to discover the
traces of polytheism, whether faint or distinct, which
are disclosed in the same annals. In acting the part
of an advocate he has.for a time divested himself of
the nobler character of the historian.
If M . Renan had looked with equal zeal for the
scattered vestiges both of a monotheistic and of a
polytheistic worship, he would have drawn, perhaps,
a less striking, but we believe a more faithful,
portrait of the Semitic man. We may accept all the
facts of M . Renan, for his facts are almost always to
be trusted ; but we cannot accept his conclusions,
because they would be in contradiction to other facts
which M . Renan places too much in the background,
or ignores altogether. Besides, there is somethingin the very conclusions to which he is driven by
his too partial evidence which jars on our ears, and
betrays a want of harmony in the premisses on which
he builds. Taking his stand on the fact that the
Jewish race was the first of all the nations of the
world to arrive at the knowledge of one God, M .
Renan proceeds to argue that, i f their monotheism
had been the result of a persevering mental effort
— i f it had been a discovery like the philosophical
or scientific discoveries of the Greeks, it would be
necessary to admit that the Jews surpassed all other
nations of the world in intellect and vigour of speculation. This, he admits, is contrary to fact :—
‘ Apart la supériorité de son culte, le peuple juif
n’en a aucune autre ; c'est un des peuples les moins
doués pour la science et la philosophie parmi les
peuples de l'antiquité ; i l n’a une grande position ni
politique ni militaire. Ses institutions sont purement conservatrices ; les prophètes qui représentent
excellemment son génie, sont des hommes essentiellement réactionnaires, se reportant toujours vers un
idéal antérieur. Comment expliquer, au sein d’une
société aussi étroite et aussi peu développée, une
révolution d’idées qu'Athènes et Alexandrie n'ont
pas réussi à accomplir ? ’
M . Renan then defines the monotheism of the
Jews, and of the Semitic nations in general, as the
result of a low rather than of a high state of intellectual cultivation: ‘ II s'en faut,’ he writes (p. 40),
‘ que le monothéisme soit le produit d'une race qui a
des idées exaltées en fait de religion ; c'est en réalite*
le fruit d'une race qui a peu de besoins religieux.
C'est comme minimum de religion, en fait de dogmeset en fait de pratiques extérieures, que le monothéisme
est surtout accommodé aux besoins des populations
But even this minimum of religious reflection,
which is required, according to M . Renan, for the
perception of the unity of God, he grudges to the
Semitic nations, and he is driven in the end (p. 73)
to explain the Semitic Monotheism as the result of a
religious instinct, analogous to the instinct which
led each race to the formation of its own language.
Here we miss the clearness and precision which
distinguish most of M . Renan’s works. It is always
dangerous to transfer expressions from one branch of
knowledge to another. The word ‘ instinct 9 has its
legitimate application in natural history, where it is
used of the unconscious acts of unconscious beings.
We say that birds build their nests by instinct, that
fishes swim by instinct, that cats catch mice by instinct ; and, though no natural philosopher has yet
explained what instinct is, yet we accept the term a&
a conventional expression for an unknown power
working in the animal world.
If we transfer this word to the unconscious acts
of conscious beings, we must necessarily alter its definition. We may speak of an instinctive motion of
the arm, but we only mean a motion which has become so habitual as to require no longer any special
effort of the wil l .
If, however, we transfer the word to the conscious
thoughts of conscious beings, we strain the word
beyond its natural capacities, and use it in order to
avoid other terms which would commit us to the
admission either of innate ideas or inspired truths.
We use a word in order to avoid a definition. It
may sound more scientific to speak of a monotheistic
instinct rather than of the inborn image or the revealed truth of the One living God ; but is instinct
less mysterious than revelation? Can there be an
instinct without an instigation or an instigator ? And
whose hand was it that instigated the Semitic mind
to the worship of one God ? Could the same hand
have instigated the Aryan mind to the worship of
many gods ? Could the monotheistic instinct of the
Semitic race, if an instinct, have been so frequently
obscured, or the polytheistic instinct of the Aryan
race, if an instinct, so completely annihilated, as to
allow the Jews to worship on all the high places
round Jerusalem, and the Greeks and Romans to become believers in Christ ? Fishes never fly, and cats
never catch frogs. These are the difficulties into
which we are led ; and they arise simply and solely
from our using words for their sound rather than for
their meaning. We begin by playing with words,
but in the end the words will play with us.
There are, in fact, various kinds of monotheism,
and it becomes our duty to examine more carefully
what they mean and how they arise. There is one
kind of monotheism, though it would more properly
be called theism, or henotheism, which forms the
birthright of every human being. What distinguishes
man from all other creatures, and not only raises him
above the animal world, but removes him altogether
from the confines of a merely natural existence, is the
feeling of sonship inherent in and inseparable from
human nature. That feeling may find expression in
a thousand ways, but there breathes through all of
them the inextinguishable conviction, ‘ It is He that
hath made us, and not we ourselves.’ That feeling
of sonship may with some races manifest itself in fear
and trembling, and it may drive whole generations
into religious madness and devil-worship. In other
countries it may tempt the creature into a fatal
familiarity with the Creator, and end in an apotheosis
of man, or a headlong plunging of the human into
the divine. It may take, as with the Jews, the form
of a simple assertion that ‘ Adam was the son of
God,’ 1 or it may be clothed in the mythological
phraseology of the Hindus, that Manu, or man, was
the descendant of Svayambhû, the Self-existing. But,,
in some form or other, the feeling of dependence on
a higher Power breaks through in all the religions of
the world, and explains to us the meaning of St.
Paul, ‘ that God, though intimes past He suffered all
nations to walk in their own ways, nevertheless He
left not Himself without witness, in that He did good
and gave us rain from heaven, and fruitful seasons,
tilling our hearts with food and gladness.’
This primitive intuition of God and the ineradicable feeling of dependence on God, could only have
been the result of a primitive revelation, if only we
take that word in its simplest and truest sense. Man r
who owed his existence to an unknown power which
he called God, saw and felt that God as the only
source of his own and of all other existence. By the act
of creation, God had revealed Himself. There He
was, manifested in His works, in all His majesty and
power, before the face of those to whom He had
1 Genesis, v. I. 2 ; Luke in. 38.
given eyes to see and ears to hear, and into whose
nostrils He had breathed the breath of life, even the
Spirit of God.
This primitive intuition of God, however, was in
itself neither monotheistic nor polytheistic, though
i t might become either, according to the expression
which it took in the languages of man. It was this
primitive intuition which supplied either the subject
or the predicate in all the religions of the world, and
without it no religion, whether true or false, whether
revealed or natural, could have had even its first
beginning. It is too often forgotten by those who
believe that a polytheistic worship was the most
natural unfolding of religious life, that polytheism
must everywhere have been preceded by a more or
less conscious theism. In no language does the plural
exist before the singular. No human mind could
have conceived the idea of gods without having previously conceived the idea of a god. It would be,
however, quite as great a mistake to imagine, because
the idea of a god must exist previously to that of
gods, that therefore a belief in One God preceded
everywhere the belief in many gods. A belief in
God as exclusively One, involves a distinct negation
of more than one God, and that negation is possible
only after the conception, whether real or imaginary,
of many gods.
The primitive intuition of the Godhead is neither
monotheistic nor polytheistic, and it finds its most
natural expression in the simplest and yet the most
important article of faith—that God is God. This
must have been the faith of the ancestors of mankind
previously to any division of race or confusion of
tongues. It might seem, indeed, as i f in such a faith
the oneness of God, though not expressly asserted,
was implied, and that it existed, though latent,
i n the first revelation of God. History, however,
proves that the question of oneness was yet undecided in that primitive faith, and that the intuition
of God was not yet secured against the illusions of
a, double vision. There are, in reality, two kinds
of oneness which, when we enter into metaphysical discussions, must be carefully distinguished, and
which for practical purposes are well kept separate
by the definite and indefinite articles. There is one
kind of oneness which does not exclude the idea of
plurality ; there is another which does. When we
say that Cromwell was a Protector of England, we
do not assert that he was the only protector. But i f
we say that he was the Protector of England, it is
understood that he was the only man who enjoyed
that title. If, therefore, an expression had been
given to that primitive intuition of the Deity which
is the mainspring of all later religion, it would have
been—‘ There is a God.’ but not yet ‘ There is but
" One God.’’ ’ The latter form of faith, the belief in
One God, is properly called monotheism, whereas the
term of henotheism would best express the faith in
a single god.
We must bear in mind that we are here speaking
of a period in the history of mankind when, together
with the awakening of ideas, the first attempts only
were being made at expressing the simplest conceptions by means of a language most simple, most
sensuous, and most unwieldy. There was as yet no
word sufficiently reduced by the wear and tear of
thought to serve as an adequate expression for the
abstract idea of an immaterial and supernatural
Being. There were words for walking and shouting,
for cutting and burning, for dog and cow, for house
and wall, for sun and moon, for day and night.
Every object was called by some quality which had
struck the eye as most peculiar and characteristic.
But what quality should be predicated of that Being
of which man knew as yet nothing but its existence ?
Language possessed as yet no auxiliary verbs. The
very idea of being without the attributes of quality
or action had never entered into the human mind.
How then was that Being to be called which had
revealed its existence, and continued to make itself
felt by everything that most powerfully impressed
the awakening mind, but which as yet was known
only like a subterraneous spring by the waters
which it poured forth with inexhaustible strength ?
When storm and lightning drove a father with
his helpless family to seek refuge in the forests,
and the fall of mighty trees crushed at his side
those who were most dear to him, there were, no
doubt, feelings of terror and awe, of helplessness
and dependence, in the human heart which burst
forth in a shriek for pity or help from the only
Being that could command the storm. But there
was no name by which He could be called. There
might be names for the storm-wind and the thunderbolt, but these were not the names applicable
to Him that rideth upon the heaven of heavens,
which were of old. Again, when after a wild and
tearful night the sun dawned in the morning,
smiling on man—when after a dreary and deathlike winter, spring came again with its sunshine
und flowers, there were feelings of joy and gratitude, of love and adoration in the heart of every
human being ;—but though there were names for
the sun and the spring, for the bright sky and the
brilliant dawn, there was no word by which to call
the source of all this gladness, the giver of light and
At the time when we may suppose that the first
attempts at finding a name for God were made, the
divergence of the languages of mankind had commenced. We cannot dwell here on the causes which
led to the multiplicity of human speech; but whether
we look on the confusion of tongues as a natural
or supernatural event, it was an event which the
science of language has proved to have been inevitable. The ancestors of the Semitic and the
Aryan nations had long become unintelligible to each
other in their conversations on the most ordinary
topics, when they each in their own way began to
look for a proper name for God. Now, one of the
most striking differences between the Aryan and the
Semitic forms of speech was this :—In the Semitic
languages the roots expressive of the predicates
which were to serve as the proper names of any
subjects, remained so distinct within the body of a
word, that those who used the word were unable to
forget its predicative meaning, and retained in most
cases a distinct consciousness of its appellative power.
In the Aryan languages, on the contrary, the significative element, or the root of a word, was apt to
become so completely absorbed by the derivative
elements, whether prefixes or suffixes, that most substantives ceased almost immediately to be appella418 SEMITIC MONOTHEISM.
tive, and were changed into mere names or proper
names. What we mean can best be illustrated by
the fact that the dictionaries of Semitic languages
are mostly arranged according to their roots. When
we wish to find the meaning of a word in Hebrew or
Arabic, we first try to discover its root, whether
triliteral or biliteral, and then look in the dictionary
for that root and its derivatives. In the Aryan
languages, on the contrary, such an arrangement
would be extremely inconvenient. In many words
it is impossible to detect the radical element. In
others, after the root is discovered, we find that it has
not given birth to any other derivatives which would
throw their converging rays of light on its radical
meaning. In other eases, again, such seems to have
been the boldness of the original name-giver that we
can hardly enter into the idiosyncrasy which assigned
such a name to such an object.
This peculiarity of the Semitic and Aryan languages must have had the greatest influence on the
formation of their religious phraseology. The Semitic
man would call on God in adjectives only, or in words
which always conveyed a predicative meaning. Every
one of his words was more or less predicative, and he
was therefore restricted in his choice to such words
as expressed some one or other of the abstract
qualities of the Deity. The Aryan man was less
fettered in his choice. Let us take an instance.
Being startled by the sound of thunder, he would at
first express his impression by the single phrase. It
thunders—ßpovra. Here the idea of God is understood rather than expressed, very much in the same
manner as the Semitic proper names Zabd (present),
A b d (servant). Aus (present), are habitually used
for Abd-al lah, Zabd-allah, Aus-al lah,—the
servant of God, the gift of God. It would be more
in accordance with the feelings and thoughts of
those who first used these so-called impersonal verbs
to translate them by He thunders, He rains, He
snows. Afterwards, instead of the simple impersonal verb He thunders, another expression naturally suggested itself. The thunder came from
the sky, the sky was frequently called Dyaus (the
bright one), in Greek Zevs; and though it was not
the bright sky which thundered, but the dark,
yet Dyaus had already ceased to be an expressive predicate, it had become a traditional name,
and hence there was nothing to prevent an Aryan
man from saying Dyaus, or the sky, thunders,
in Greek Zsvs ßpovra. Let us here mark the almost
irresistible influence of language on the mind. The
word Dyaus, which at first meant bright, had
lost its radical meaning, and now meant simply
skg. It then entered into a new stage. The idea
which had first been expressed by the pronoun or
the termination of the third person, He thunders,
was taken up into the word Dyaus, or shy. He
thunders, and Dyaus thunders, became synonymous expressions, and by the mere habit of speech
He became Dyaus, and Dyaus became He. Henceforth Dyaus remained as an appellative of that
unseen though ever present Power, which had revealed its existence to man from the beginning, but
which remained without a name long after every
beast of the field and every fowl of the air had been
named by Adam.
Now, what happened in this instance with the
name of Dyaus, happened again and again with
other names. When men felt the presence of God
in the great and strong wind, in the earthquake, or
the fire, they said at first. He storms, He shakes, He
burns. But they likewise said, the storm (Marut)
blows, the fire (Agni) burns, the subterraneous fire
(Vulcanus) upheaves the earth. And after a time
the result was the same as before, and the words
meaning originally wind or fire were used, under
certain restrictions, as names of the unknown God.
As long as all these names were remembered as mere
names or attributes of one and the same Divine
Power, there was as yet no polytheism, though, no
doubt, every new name threatened to obscure more
and more the primitive intuition of God. A t first,
the names of God, like fetishes or statues, were
honest attempts at expressing or representing an
idea which could never find an adequate expression
or representation. But as soon as they were drawn
away from their original intention, the eidolon, or
likeness, became an idol ; the nomen, or name,
lapsed into a numen, or demon. If the Greeks had
remembered that Zeus was but a name or symbol of
the Deity, there would have been no more harm in
calling God by that name than by any other. I f
they had remembered that Kronos, and Uranos, and
Apollon were all but so many attempts at naming
the various sides, or manifestations, or aspects, or
persons of the Deity, they might have used these
names in the hours of their various needs, just as
the Jews called on Jehovah Elohim, or on Jehovah
Sabaoth,1 or as Roman Catholics implore the help of
Nunziata, Dolores, and Notre-Dame-de-Grace.
What, then, is the difference between the Aryan
and Semitic nomenclature for the Deity ? Why are
we told that the pious invocations of the Aryan
world turned into a blasphemous mocking of the
Deity, whereas the Semitic nations are supposed to
have found from the first the true name of God?
Before we look anywhere else for an answer to the
question, we must look to language itself, and here
we see that the Semitic dialects could never, by any
possibility, have produced such names as the Sanskrit Dyaus (Zeus), V ar un a (Uranos), M ar u t (Storm,
Mars), or Us has (Eos). They had no doubt names
for the bright sky, for the tent of heaven, and for
the dawn. But these names were so distinctly felt
as appellatives, that they could never be thought of
as proper names, whether as names of the Deity, or
as names of deities. This peculiarity has been illustrated with great skill by M . Renan. We differ from
him when he tries to explain the difference between
the mythological phraseology of the Aryan and the
theological phraseology of the Semitic races, by assigning to each a peculiar theological instinct. We
cannot, in fact, see how the admission of such , an
instinct—i.e. of an unknown and incomprehensible
Power—helps us in any way whatsoever to comprehend this curious mental process. His problem, however, is exactly the same as ours, and it would be
impossible to state that problem in a more telling
manner than he has done.
1 See Cheyne, on Isaiah, cap. 1., 'Appendix on Jehovah Sabâoth‚*
‘The rain.’ he says (p. 79), ‘ is represented, in al l
the primitive mythologies of the Aryan race, as the
fruit of the embraces of Heaven and Earth.’ ‘ The
bright sky.’ says iEschylus, in a passage which one
might suppose was taken from the Vedas, ‘ loves to
penetrate the earth ; the earth on her part aspires
to the heavenly marriage. Rain falling from the
loving sky impregnates the earth, and she produces
for mortals pastures of the flocks and the gifts of
Ceres.’ In the Book of Job,1 on the contrary, it is
God who tears open the waterskins of Heaven
(xxxviii. 37), who opens the courses for the floods
(ibid. 25), who engenders the drops of dew (ibid. 28) ;
‘He draws towards Him the mists from the waters,
Which pour down as rain, and form their vapours.
Afterwards the clouds spread them out,
They fall as drops on the crowds of men.’ (Job
xxxvI. 27, 28.)
' He charges the night with damp vapours,
He drives before Him the thunder-bearing cloud.
It is driven to one side or the other by His command,
To execute all that He ordains
On the face of the universe,
Whether it be to punish His creatures
Or to make thereof a proof of His mercy.’ (Job
xxxvn. 11-13.)
Or, again, Proverbs xxx. 4 :
‘ Who hath gathered the wind in His fists ? Who
1 We give the extracts according to M . Renan's translation of the
Book of Job (Paris, 1859, Michel Levy).
hath bound the waters in a garment ? Who hath
established all the ends of the earth ? What is His
name, and what is His Son's name, if thou canst
te l l?’
It has been shown by ample evidence from the
Rig-Veda how many myths were suggested to the
Aryan world by various names of the dawn, the dayspring of life. The language of the ancient Aryans
of India had thrown out many names for that
heavenly apparition, and every name, as it ceased to
be understood, became, like a decaying seed, the
germ of an abundant growth of myth and legend.
Why should not the same have happened to the
Semitic names for the dawn ? Simply and solely because the Semitic words had no tendency to phonetic
corruption ; simply and solely because they continued
to be felt as appellatives, and would inevitably have
defeated every attempt at mythological phraseology
such as we find in India and Greece. When the
dawn is mentioned in the book of Job (ix. 7), it is
God ‘ who commandeth the sun and it riseth not, and
sealethup the stars.’ It is His power which causeth
the day-spring to know its place, that it might take
hold of the ends of the earth, that the wicked might
be shaken out of it (Job xxxviiI. 12, 13; Renan,
‘ Livre de Job.’ pref. 71). Shahar, the dawn, never
becomes an independent agent ; she is never spoken
of as Eos rising from the bed of her husband T¾«->
thonos (the setting sun), solely and simply because
the word retained its power as an appellative, and
thus could not enter into any mythological metamorphosis.
Even in Greece there are certain words which have
remained so pellucid as to prove unfit for mythological refraction. Selene in Greek is so clearly the
moon that her name would pierce through the darkest
clouds of myth and fable. Call her Hecate, and
she will bear any disguise, however fanciful. It is
the same with the Latin Luna. She is too clearly
the moon to be mistaken for anything else, but call
her Lucina, and she will readily enter into various
mythological phases. If, then, the names of sun and
moon, of thunder and lightning, of light and day, of
night and dawn could not yield to the Semitic races
fit appellatives for the Deity, where were they to be
found? If the names of Heaven or Earth jarred on
their ears as names unfit for the Creator, where could
they find more appropriate terms ? They would not
have objected to real names such as Jupiter Optimus Maximus, or Zsvs fcuhiorros fjueyiaros, i f such
words could have been framed in their dialects, and
the names of Jupiter and Zeus could have been so
ground down as to become synonymous with the
general term for ‘ God.’ Not even the Jews could
have given a more exalted definition of the Deity
than that of Optimus Maximus—the Best and the
Greatest ; and their very name of God, Jehovah, is
generally supposed to mean no more than what the
Peleiades of Dodona said of Zeus, Zsvs ?]v, Zsvs e Zsvs so-a-srai' & fisyáXs Zev, ‘ He was, He is, He will be,
Oh great Zeus ! ’ Not being able to form such substantives as Dyaus,- or Varuna, or Indra, the descendants of Shem fixed on the predicates which in
the Aryan prayers follow the name of the Deity, and
called Him the Best and the Greatest, the Lord and
King . If we examine the numerous names of the
Deity in the Semitic dialects we find that they are
all adjectives, expressive of moral qualities. There
is E l , strong; B e l or B a a l , Lord; Beel-samin,
Lord of Heaven; A d o n i s (in Phoenicia), Lord;
Marnas (at Gaza), our L o r d ; Shet, Master, afterwards a demon; Moloch, M i l c o m , M a l i k a , K i n g ;
El iun, the Highest (the God of Melchisedek) ; R a m
and R i m m on, the Exalted ; and many more names,
all originally adjectives and expressive of certain
general qualities of the Deity, but all raised by one
or other of the Semitic tribes to be the names of
God or of that idea which the first breath of life, the
first sight of this world, the first consciousness of
existence, had for ever impressed and implanted in
the human mind.
But do these names prove that the people who
invented them had a clear and settled idea of the
unity of the Deity? Do we not find among the
Aryan nations that the same superlatives, the same
names of Lord and King, of Master and Father, are
used when the human mind is brought face to face
with the Divine, and the human heart pours out in
prayer and thanksgiving the feelings inspired by the
presence of God? Brahman , in Sanskrit, meant
originally Power, the same as E l . It resisted for a
long time the mythological contagion, but at last i t
yielded like all other names of God, and became the
name of one God. By the first man who formed or
fixed these names. B rahman , like E l , and like
every name of God, was meant, no doubt, as the
best expression that could be found for the image
reflected from the Creator upon the mind of the
creature. But in none of these words can we see
any decided proof that those who framed them had
arrived at the clear perception of One God, and
were thus secured against the danger of polytheism*
Like Dyaus, like Indra, like Brahman, Baal and E l
and Moloch were names of God, but not yet of the
One God.
And we have only to follow the history of these
Semitic names in order to see that, in spite of their
superlative meaning, they proved no stronger bulwarks against polytheism than the Latin Ojptimus
Maximus. The very names which we saw explained
before as meaning the Highest, the Lord, the
Master, are represented in the Phoenician mythology
as standing to each other in the relation of Father
and Son. (Renan, p. 60.) There is hardly one single
Semitic tribe which did not at times forget the
original meaning of the names by which they called
on God. If the Jews had remembered the meaning
of E l , the Omnipotent, they could not have worshipped Baal, the Lord, as different from E l . But
as the Aryan tribes bartered the names of their gods,
and were glad to add the worship of Zeus to that of
Uranos, the worship of Apollon to that of Zeus, the
worship of Hermes to that of Apollon, the Semitic
nations likewise were ready to try the gods of their
neighbours. If there had been in the Semitic race a
truly monotheistic instinct, the history of those nations
would become perfectly unintelligible. Nothing is
more difficult to overcome than an instinct : naturam
expellasfurcâ, tarnen usque recurret. But the history
even of the Jewish race is made up of an almost un-interrupted series of relapses from monotheism into
polytheism and of repentant returns from polytheism
to monotheism.
Let us admit, on the contrary, that God had in
the beginning revealed Himself in the same manner
to the ancestors of the whole human race. Let us
then observe the natural divergence of the languages
of man, and consider the peculiar difficulties that
had to be overcome in framing names for God, and
the peculiar manner in which they were overcome
in the Semitic and Aryan languages, and everything
that follows will be intelligible. If we consider the
abundance of synonyms into which all ancient
languages burst out at their first starting—if we
remember that there were hundreds of names for
the earth and the sky, the sun and the moon, we
shall not be surprised at meeting with more than
one name for God both among the Semitic and the
Aryan nations. I f we consider how easily the radical or significative elements of words were absorbed
and obscured in the Aryan, and how they stood out
in bold relief in the Semitic languages, we shall
appreciate the difficulty which the Shemites experienced in framing any name that should not seem
to take too one-sided a view of the Deity by predicating but one.quality, whether strength, dominion,
or majesty ; and we shall equally perceive the snare
which their very language laid for the Aryan nations,
by supplying them with a number of words which,
though they seemed harmless as meaning nothing
except what by tradition or definition they were
made to mean, yet were full of mischief owing to
the recollections which, at any time, they might
revive. Dyaus in itself was as good a name as any
for God, and in some respects more appropriate than
its derivative deva, the Latin deus, which the
Romance nations still use without meaning any
harm. But Dyaus had meant sky for too long a
time to become entirely divested of all the old myths
or sayings which were true of Dyaus, the sky, but
could only be retained as fables, if transferred to
Dyaus, God. Dyaus, the Bright, might be called
the husband of the earth ; but when the same myth
was repeated of Zeus, the god, then Zeus became
the husband of Demeter, Demeter became a goddess, a daughter sprang from their union, and all
the sluices of mythological madness were opened.
There were a few men, no doubt, at all times, who
saw through this mythological phraseology, who
called on God, though they called him Zeus, or
Dyaus, or Jupiter. Xenophanes, one of the earliest
Greek heretics, boldly maintained that there was
but ‘ one God, and that he was not like unto men,
either in body or in mind.’1 A poet in the Veda
asserts distinctly, ‘ They call him Indra, Mitra,
Varuna, Agni ; then he is the well-winged heavenly Garutmat; that which is One the wise call i t
many ways—they call it Agni, Yama, Mâtarisvan.’2
But, on the whole, the charm of mythology prevailed among the Aryan nations, and a return to the
primitive intuition of God, and a total negation of all
gods, were rendered more difficult to the Aryan than
to the Semitic man. The Semitic man had hardly
ever to resist the allurements of mythology. The
1 Xenophanes, about contemporary with Cyrus, as quoted by
Clemens Alex., Strom, v. p. 601 :—eîs 0ebs %v re 0co«n K fi4yi(rros, öftre b*4fxas Qvr)roî(Tiv ófioítos oû5e v6j]}xa.
2 History of Ancient Sanskrit literature, by M. M. , p. 567.
names with which he invoked the Deity did not trick
him by their equivocal character. Nevertheless, these
Semitic names, too, though predicative in the beginning, became subjective, and, from being the various
names of One Being, lapsed into names of various
beings. Hence arose a danger which threatened
well-nigh to bar to the Semitic race the approach to
the conception and worship of the One God.
Nowhere can we see this danger more clearly than
in the history of the Jews. The Jews had, no doubt,
preserved from the beginning the idea of God, and
their names of God contained nothing but what
might by right be ascribed to Him. They worshipped a single God, and, whenever they fell into
idolatry, they felt that they had fallen away from
God. But that God, under whatever name they
invoked Him, was especially their God, their own
national God, and His existence did not exclude the
existence of other gods or demons. Of the ancestors of Abraham and Nachor, even of their father
Terah, we know that in old time, when they dwelt on
the other side of the flood, they served other gods
(Joshua xxiv. 2). At the time of Joshua these gods
were not yet forgotten, and, instead of denying their
existence altogether, Joshua only exhorts the people
to put away the gods which their fathers served on
the other side of the flood and in Egypt, and to serve
the Lord : ‘ Choose ye this day.’ he says, ‘ whom you
will serve; whether the gods which your fathers
served that were on the other side of the flood, or
the gods of the Amorites, in whose land ye dwell ;
but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.’
Such a speech, exhorting the people to make their
choice between various gods, would have been unmeaning if addressed to a nation which had once
conceived the unity of the Godhead, Even images
of the gods were not unknown to the family of Abraham, for, though we know nothing of the exact form
of the teraphim, which Rachel carried away from
her father, certain it is that Laban calls them his gods
(Genesis xxxi. 19, 30). But what is much more significant than these traces of polytheism and idolatry is the
hesitating tone in which some of the early patriarchs
speak of their God. When Jacob flees before Esau
into Padan-Aram and awakes from his vision at
Bethel, he does not profess his faith in the One God,
but he bargains, and says, ‘ I f God will be with me,
and will keep me in this way that I go, and will give
me bread to eat, and raiment to put on, so that I
come again to my father's house in peace, then shall
the Lord be my God : and this stone, which I have
set for a pillar, shall be God's house : and of all that
thou shalt give me, I will surely give the tenth unto
thee' (Genesis xxviii. 20-22). Language of this
kind evinces not only a temporary want of faith in
God, but it shows that the conception of God
had not yet acquired that complete universality
which alone deserves to be called monotheism, or
belief in the One God. To him who has seen God
face to face there is no longer any escape or doubt as
to who is to be his god; God is his god, whatever
befall. But this Jacob did not learn until he had
struggled and wrestled with God, and committed
himself to His care at the very time when no one
else could have saved him. In that struggle Jacob
asked for the true name of God, and he learnt from
God that His name was secret (Genesis xxxü. 29).
After that, his God was no longer one of many gods.
His faith was not like the faith of Jethro (Exodus
xxvii. 11), the priest of Midian, the father-in-law of
Moses, who when he heard of all that God had
done for Moses acknowledged that God (Jehovah)
was greater than all gods (Elohim). This is not
yet faith in the One God. It is a faith hardly above
the faith of the people who were halting between
Jehovah and Baal, and who only when they saw
what the Lord did foi Elijah, fell on their faces and
said, ‘ The Lord He is the God.’
And yet this limited faith in Jehovah as the God
of the Jews, as a God more powerful than the gods
of the heathen, as a God above all gods, betrays itself
again and again in the history of the Jews. The idea
of many gods is there, and wherever that idea exists,
wherever the plural of god is used in earnest, there is
polytheism. It is not so much the names of Zeus,
Hermes, &c., which constitute the polytheism of the
Greeks ; it is the plural 0eoL, gods, which contains
the fatal spell. We do not know what M . Renan
means when he says that Jehovah with the Jews
‘ n'est pas le plus grand entre plusieurs dieux ; c'est
le Dieu unique.’ It was so with Abraham ; it was so
after Jacob had been changed into Israel ; it was so
with Moses, Elijah, and Jeremiah. But what is the
meaning of the very first commandment, ‘ Thou shalt
have no other gods before me ’ ? Could this command have been addressed to a nation to whom the
plural of God was a nonentity? It might be
answered that the plural of God was to the Jews as
revolting as it is to us, that it was revolting to their
faith, i f not to their reason. But how was it thai
their language tolerated the plural of a word which
excludes plurality as much as the word for the centre
of a sphere 9 No man who had clearly perceived the
unity of God, could say with the Psalmist (lxxxvi. 8),
‘ Among the gods there is none like unto Thee, O
Lord, neither are there any works like unto Thy works.’
Though the same poet says, ‘ Thou art God alone.’
he could not have compared God with other gods, i f
his idea of God had really reached that all-embracing
character which it had with Abraham, Moses, Elijah,
and Jeremiah. Nor would God have been praised as
the ‘ great king above all gods ’ by a poet in whose
eyes the gods of the heathen had been recognised as
what they were—mighty shadows, thrown by the
mighty works of God, and intercepting for a time the
pure light of the Godhead.
We thus arrive at a different conviction from that
which M . Renan has made the basis of the history of
the Semitic race. We can see nothing that would
justify the admission of a monotheistic instinct,
granted to the Semitic, and withheld from the Aryan
race. They both share in the primitive intuition of
God, they are both exposed to dangers in framing
names for God, and they both fall into polytheism.
What is peculiar to the Aryan race is their mythological phraseology, superadded to their polytheism ;
what is peculiar to the Semitic race is their belief in
a national god—in a god chosen by his people as his
people had been chosen by him.
No doubt, M . Renan might say that we ignored
his problem, and that we have not removed the difficulties which drove him to the admission of a monoSEMITIC MONOTHEISM. 433
theistic instinct. How is the fact to be explained, he
might ask, that the three great religions of the world
in which the unity of the Deity forms the key-note
are of Semitic origin, and that the Aryan nations,
wherever they have been brought to a worship of the
One God, invoke Him with names borrowed from the
Semitic languages ?
But let us look more closely at the facts before we
venture on theories. Mohammedanism, no doubt, is
a Semitic religion, and its very core is monotheism.
But did Mohammed invent monotheism ? Did he invent even a new name of God ? (Renan, p. 23.) Not
at all. His object was to destroy the idolatry of the
Semitic tribes of Arabia, to dethrone the angels, the
Jin, the sons and daughters who had been assigned
to Allah, and to restore the faith of Abraham in one
God. (Renan, p . 37.)
And how is it with Christianity? Did Christ
come to preach a faith in a new God ? Did He or
His disciples invent a new name of God? No,
Christ came not to destroy, but to fulfil ; and the
God whom He preached was the God of Abraham.
And who is the God of Jeremiah, of Elijah, and
of Moses ? We answer again, the God of Abraham.
Thus the faith in the One living God, which
seemed to require the admission of a monotheistic
instinct grafted in every member of the Semitic
family, is traced back to one man, to him ‘ in whom
all families of the earth shall be blessed ’ (Genesis
x i i . 3, Acts i i l . 25, Galatians i i i . 8). If from our
earliest childhood we have looked upon Abraham,
the friend of God, with love and veneration ; if our
first impressions of a truly god-fearing life were taken
from him, who left the land of his fathers to live a
stranger in the land whither God had called him,
who always listened to the voice of God, whether it
conveyed to him the promise of a son in his old age,
or the command to sacrifice that son, his only son
Isaac, his venerable figure will assume still more
majestic proportions when we see in him the lifespring of that faith which was to unite all the nations
of the earth, and the author of that blessing which
was to come on the Gentiles through Jesus Christ.
And if we are asked how this one Abraham possessed not only the primitive intuition of God as He
had revealed Himself to all mankind, but passed
through the denial of all other gods to the knowledge of the one God, we are content to answer that
it was by a special Divine Revelation. We do not
indulge in theological phraseology, but we mean every
word to its fullest extent. The Father of Truth
chooses His own prophets, and He speaks to them in
a voice stronger than the voice of thunder. It is the
same inner voice through which God speaks to all of
us. That voice may dwindle away, and become hardly
audible ; it may lose its Divine accent, and sink into
the language of worldly prudence ; but it may also,
from time to time, assume its real nature with the
chosen of God, and sound into their ears as a voice
from Heaven. A ‘ divine instinct ’ may sound more
scientific, and less theological ; but in truth it would
neither be an appropriate name for what is a gift or
grace accorded to but few, nor would it be a more
scientific, i.e. a more intelligible, word than 6 special
The important point, however, is not whether the
faith of Abraham should be called a divine instinct
or a revelation ; what we wish here to insist on is tfiat
that instinct, or that revelation, was special, granted
to one man, and handed down from him to Jews,
Christians, and Mohammedans, to all who believe in
the God of Abraham. Nor was i t granted to Abraham entirely as a free gift. Abraham was tried and
tempted before he was trusted by God. He had to
break with the faith of his fathers ; he had to deny
the gods who were worshipped by his friends and
neighbours. Like all the friends of God, he had to
hear himself called an infidel and atheist, and in our
own days he would have been looked upon as a madman for attempting to slay his son. It was through
special faith that Abraham received his special revelation, not through instinct, not through abstract
meditation, not through ecstatic visions. We want
to know more of that man than we do ; but, even
with the little we know of him, he stands before us
as a figure second only to one in the whole history of
the world. We see his zeal for God, but we never see
him contentious. Though Melchizedek worshipped
God under a different name, invoking H i m as Eliun,
the Most High, Abraham at once acknowledged
in Melchizedek a worshipper and priest of the true
God, or Elohim, and paid him tithes. In the very
name of Elohim we seem to trace the conciliatory
spirit of Abraham. Elohim is a plural, though it is
followed by the verb in the singular. It is generally
said that the genius of the Semitic languages countenances the use of plurals for abstract conceptions,
and that when Jehovah is called Elohim, the
plural should be translated by ‘the Deity.’ We
do not deny the fact, but we wish for an explanation, and an explanation is suggested by
the various phases through which, as we saw, the
conception of God passed in the ancient history of the Semitic mind. Eloah was at first the
name for God, and as it is found in all the dialects
of the Semitic family except the Phoenician (Renan,
p. 61), it may probably be considered as the most
ancient name of the Deity, sanctioned at a time when
the original Semitic speech had not yet branched off
into national dialects. When this name was first used
in the plural, it could only have signified, like every
plural, many Eloahs, and such a plural could only
have been formed after the various names of God had
become the names of independent deities—i.e. during
a polytheistic stage. The transition from this into
the monotheistic stage could be effected in two ways
—either by denying altogether the existence of the
Elohim, and changing them into devils, as the Zoroastrians did with the Devas of their Brahmanic
ancestors ; or by taking a higher view, and looking
upon the Elohim as so many names, invented with
the honest purpose of expressing the various aspects
of the Deity, though in time diverted from their
original purpose. This is the view taken by St. Paul
of ne religion of the Greeks when he came to declare
unto them ‘ Him whom they ignorantly worshipped,’
and the same view was taken by Abraham. Whatever the names of the Elohim worshipped by the
numerous clans of his race, Abraham saw that all the
Elohim were meant for God, and thus Elohim, comprehending by one name everything that ever had
been or could be called divine, became the name with
which the monotheistic age was rightly inaugurated
—a plural, conceived and construed as a singular.
Jehovah was all the Elohim, and therefore there could
be no other God. From this point of view the Semitic
name of the Deity, Elohim, which seemed at first not
only ungrammatical but irrational, becomes perfectly
clear and intelligible, and it proves better than anything else that the true monotheism could not have
risen except on the ruins of a polytheistic faith. It
is easy to scoff at the gods of the heathen, but a
cold-hearted negation of the gods of the ancient
world is more likely to lead to Deism or Atheism
than to a belief in the One living God, the Father of
all mankind, ‘who hath made of one blood all nations
of men, for to dwell on all the face of the earth ; and
hath determined the times before appointed, and the
bounds of their habitation; that they should seek
the Lord, if haply they might feel after Him, and
find Him, though He be not far from every one of us :
for in Him we live, and move, and have our being ;
as certain also of your own poets have said, For we
are also His offspring.’
Taking this view of the historical growth of the
idea of God, many of the difficulties which M . Renan
has to overcome by most elaborate and sometimes
hair-splitting arguments, disappear at once. M .
Renan, for instance, dwells much on Semitic proper
names in which the names of the Deity occur, and
he thinks that, like the Greek names Theodoros or
Theodotos, instead of Zenodotos, they prove the existence of a faith in one God. We should say they
may or may not. As Devadat ta , in Sanskrit, may
mean either ‘ given by God,’ or ‘ given by the gods.’
so every proper name which M . Renan quotes, whether of Jews, or Edomites, Ishmaelites, Ammonites,
Moabites, and Themanites, whether from the Bible,
or from Arab historians, from Greek authors, Greek
inscriptions, the Egyptian papyri, the Himyaritic and
Sinaitic inscriptions and ancient coins, are all open to
two interpretations. ‘ The servant of Baal ’ may mean
the servant of the Lord, but it may also mean the
servant of Baal, as one of many lords, or even the
servant of the Baalim or the Lords. The same applies
to all other names. ‘ The gift of E l ’ may mean ‘ the
gift of the only strong God ; ’ but it may likewise
mean 6 the gift of the El,’ as one of many gods, or
even ‘ the gift of the El’s,’ in the sense of the strong
gods. Nor do we see why M . Renan should take
such pains to prove that the name of Orota l or
Orotula t , mentioned by Herodotos (III. 8), may be
interpreted as the name of a supreme deity; and
that A l i l a t , mentioned by the same traveller, should
be taken, not as the name of a goddess, but as a
feminine noun expressive of the abstract sense of the
deity. Herodotos says distinctly that Orota l was a
deity like Bacchus ; and A l i l a t , as he translates her
name by Oùpauín, must have appeared to him as a
goddess, and not as the Supreme Deity. One verse
of the Koran is sufficient to show that the Semitic
inhabitants of Arabia worshipped not only gods, but
goddesses also. ‘ What think ye of A l l â t , a l Uzza ,
and M a nah, that other third goddess ? 9
If our view of the development of the idea of God
be correct, we can perfectly understand how, in spite
of this polytheistic phraseology, the primitive intuition of God should make itself felt from time to timey
long before Mohammed restored the belief of Abraham
in one God. The old Arabic prayer mentioned by
Abulfarag may be perfectly genuine : ' I dedicate
myself to thy service, O God ! Thou hast no companion, except thy companion, of whom thou art absolute
master, and of whatever is his.’ The verse pointed
out to M . Renan by M . Caussin de Perceval from the
Moallaka of Zoheyr, was certainly anterior to Mohammed : ‘ Try not to hide your secret feelings from the
sight of Allah ; Allah knows all that is hidden.’ But
these quotations serve no more to establish the universality of the monotheistic instinct in the Semitic
race than similar quotations from the Veda would
prove the existence of a conscious monotheism among
the ancestors of the Aryan race. There too we read,
‘Agn i knows what is secret among mortals’ (Rig-Veda
VI I I . 39,6) : and again, ‘ He, the upholder of order,
Varuna, sits down among his people ; he, the wise,
sits there to govern. From thence perceiving all
wondrous things, he sees what has been and what
will be done.’1 But in these very hymns, better than
anywhere else, we learn that the idea of supremacy
and omnipotence ascribed to one god did by no means
exclude the admission of other gods, ornâmes of God.
A l l the other gods disappear from the vision of the
poet while he addresses his own God, and he only
who is to fulfil his desires stands in full light before
the eyes of the worshipper as the supreme and only
The Science of Religion is only just beginning,
and we must take care how we impede its progress
by preconceived notions or too hasty generalisations.
1 History of Ancient Sanskrit Literatwre, by M. M., p. 536.
During the last fifty years the authentic documents
of the most important religions of the world have been
recovered in a most unexpected and almost miraculous manner. We have now before us the canonical
books of Buddhism ; the Zend-Avesta of Zoroaster is
no longer a sealed book ; and the hymns of the RigVeda have revealed a state of religion anterior to the
first beginnings of that mythology which in Homer
and Hesiod stands before us as a mouldering ruin.
The soil of Mesopotamia has given back the very
images once worshipped by the most powerful of
the Semitic tribes, and the cuneiform inscriptions of
Babylon and Nineveh have disclosed the very prayers
addressed to Baal or Nisroch. With the discovery of
these documents a new era begins in the study of
religion. We begin to see more clearly every day
what St. Paul meant in his sermon at Athens. But
as the excavator at Babylon or Nineveh, before he
ventures to reconstruct the palaces of these ancient
kingdoms, sinks his shafts into the ground slowly and
circumspectly lest he should injure the walls of the
ancient palaces which he is disinterring ; as he watches
every corner-stone lest he mistake their dark passages
and galleries , and as he removes with awe and trembling the dust and clay from the brittle monuments
lest he destroy their outlines, and obliterate their
inscriptions, so it behoves the student of the history
of religion to set to work carefully, lest he should
miss the track, and lose himself in an inextricable
maze. The relics which he handles are more precious than the ruins of Babylon; the problems he
has to solve are more important than the questions
of ancient chronology ; and the substructions which
S E M I T I C M O N O T H E I S M . 441
he hopes one day to lay bare are the world-wide
foundations of the eternal city of God.
We look forward with the highest expectations to
the completion of M . Renan’s work, and though
English readers will differ from many of the author's
views, and feel offended now and then at his blunt
and unguarded language, we doubt not that they
will find his volumes both instructive and suggestive.
They are written in that clear and brilliant style
which has secured to M . Renan the rank of one of
the best writers of French, and which throws its
charm even over the dry and abstruse inquiries into
the grammatical forms and radical elements of the
Semitic languages.
V E R Y different from the real similarities that can be
discovered in nearly all the religions of the world,
and which, owing to their deeply human character,
in no way necessitate the admission that one religion
borrowed from the other, are those minute coincidences between the Jewish and the Pagan religions
which have so often been discussed by learned theologians, and which were intended by them as proof
positive, either that the Pagans borrowed their
religious ideas direct from the Old Testament, or
that some fragments of a primeval revelation, granted
to the ancestors of the whole race of mankind, had
been preserved in the temples of Greece and Italy.
Bochart, in his ‘ Geographia Sacra,’ considered
the identity of Noah and Saturn so firmly established
as hardly to admit of the possibility of a doubt. The
three sons of Saturn—Jupiter, Neptune, and Pluto
—he represented as having been originally the three
sons of Noah: Jupiter being Ham; Neptune, Japhetj
and Shem, Pluto. Even in the third generation
the two families were proved to have been one, for
Phut, the son of Ham, or of Jupiter Hammon, could
be no other than Apollo Pythius ; Canaan no other
than Mercury ; and Nimrod no other than Bacchus,
whose original name was supposed to have been
Bar-chus, the son of Cush. G. J . Vossius, in his
learned work, ‘ De Origine et Progressu Idolatriæ *
(1688), identified Saturn with Adam, Janus with
Noah, Pluto with Ham, Neptune with Japhet, M i nerva with Naamah, Vulcan with Tubal Cain, Typhon with Og. Huet, the friend of Bochart, and the
colleague of Bossuet, went still further ; and in his
classical work, the ‘ Demonstratio Evangelica.’ he
attempted to prove that the whole theology of the
heathen nations was borrowed from Moses, whom he
identified not only with ancient law-givers, like
Zoroaster and Orpheus, but with gods and demigods,
such as Apollo, Vulcan, Faunus, and Priapus.
A l l this happened not more than two hundred
years ago; and even a hundred years ago, nay,
even after the discovery of Sanskrit and the rise of
Comparative Philology, the troublesome ghost of
Huet was by no means laid at once. On the contrary, as soon as the ancient language and religion
of India became known in Europe, they were received
by many people in the same spirit. Sanskrit, like
all other languages, was to be derived from Hebrew,
the ancient religion of the Brahmans from the Old
There was at that time an enthusiasm among
Oriental scholars, particularly at Calcutta, and an
interest for Oriental antiquities in the public at large r
of which we in these days of apathy for Eastern
literature can hardly form an adequate idea. Every444 ON FALSE ANALOGIES
body wished to be first in the field, and to bring to
light some of the treasures which were supposed to
be hidden in the sacred literature of the Brahmans.
Sir William Jones, the founder of the Asiatic Society
at Calcutta, published in the first volume of the
‘ Asiatic Researches 9 his famous essay ‘ On the Gods
of Greece, Italy, and India ; ’ and he took particular
care to state that his essay, though published only
in 1788, had been written in 1784. In that essay
he endeavoured to show that there existed an intimate connection, not only between the mythology of
India and that of Greece and Italy, but likewise
between the legendary stories of the Brahmans and
the accounts of certain historical events as recorded
in the Old Testament. No doubt, the temptation
was great. No one could look down for a moment
into the rich mine of religious and mythological lore
that was suddenly opened before the eyes of scholars
and theologians, without being struck by a host of
similarities, not only in the languages, but also in
the ancient traditions of the Hindus, the Greeks,
and the Romans; and i f at that time the Greeks
and Romans were still supposed to have borrowed
their language and their religion from Jewish quarters,
the same conclusion could hardly be avoided with
regard to the language and the religion of the Brahmans of India.
The first impulse to look in the ancient religion
of India for reminiscences of revealed truth seems to
have come from missionaries rather than from scholars. It arose from a motive, in itself most excellent,
of finding some common ground for those who wished
to convert and those who were to be converted. Only,
instead of looking for that common ground where it
really was to be found—namely, in the broad foundations on which all religions are built up : the belief
in a divine power, the acknowledgment of sin, the
habit of prayer, the desire to offer sacrifice, and the
hope of a future life—the students of Pagan religion
as well as Christian missionaries were bent on discovering more striking and more startling coincidences, in order to use them in confirmation of their
favourite theory that some rays of a primeval revelation, or soine reflection of the Jewish religion, had
reached the uttermost ends of the world. This was
a dangerous proceeding—dangerous because superficial, dangerous because undertaken with a foregone
conclusion ; and very soon the same arguments that
had been used on one side in order to prove that all
religious truth had been derived from the Old Testament were turned against Christian scholars and
Christian missionaries, in order to show that it was
not Brahmanism and Buddhism which had borrowed
from the Old and New Testament, but that the Old
and the New Testament had borrowed from the more
ancient religions of the Brahmans and Buddhists.
This argument was carried out, for instance,
in HolweH’s ‘Original Principles of the Ancient
Brahmans.’ published in London as early as 1779, i n
which the author maintains that ‘the Brahmanic
religion is the first and purest product of supernatural revelation,’ and ‘ that the Hindu scriptures
contain to a moral certainty the original doctrines
and terms of restoration delivered from God himself,
by the mouth of his first-created Birmah, to mankind, at his first creation in the form of man.’
Sir William Jones 1 tells us that one or two
missionaries in India had been absurd enough, in
their zeal for the conversion of the Gentiles, to urge
* that the Hindus were even now almost Christians,
because their Brahma, Vishnu, and Mahesa were no
other than the Christian Tr in i ty ; ’ a sentence in
which, he adds, we can only doubt whether folly,
ignorance, or impiety predominates.
Sir William Jones himself was not likely to fall
into that error. He speaks against it most emphatically. ‘ Either.’ he says, ‘ the first eleven chapters of Genesis—all due allowance being made for a
figurative Eastern style—are true, or the whole
fabric of our national religion is false ; a conclusion
which none of us, I trust, would wish to be drawn.
But it is not the truth of our national religion as
such that I have at heart ; it is truth itself ; and if
any cool, unbiassed reasoner will clearly convince me
that Moses drew his narrative through Egyptian
conduits from the primeval fountains of Indian literature, I shall esteem him as a friend for having
weeded my mind from a capital error, and promise
to stand amongst the foremost in assisting to circulate the truth which he has ascertained.’
But though he speaks so strongly against the
uncritical proceedings of those who would derive
anything that is found in the Old Testament from
Indian sources, Sir William Jones himself was really
guilty of the same want of critical caution in his
own attempts to identify the gods and heroes of
Greece and Rome with the gods and heroes of India.
1 Asiatic Researches, i . p. 272 ; Life of Sir W. Jones, vol. i i . p,
240 seq.
He begins his essay,1 ‘ On the Gods of Greece, Italy,
and India’ with the following remarks :—
‘ We cannot justly conclude, by arguments preceding the proof of facts, that one idolatrous people
must have borrowed their deities, rites, and tenets
from another, since gods of all shapes and dimensions may be framed by the boundless powers of
imagination, or by the frauds and follies of men, in
countries never connected; but when features of
resemblance, too strong to have been accidental, are
observable in different systems of polytheism, without fancy or prejudice to colour them and improve
the likeness, we can scarce help believing that some
connection has immemorially subsisted between the
several nations who have adopted them. It is my
design in this essay to point out such a resemblance
between the popular worship of the old Greeks and
Italians and that of the Hindus ; nor can there be
any room to doubt of a great similarity between
their strange religions and that of Egypt, China,
Persia, Phrygia, Phœnice, and Syria ; to which, perhaps, we may safely add some of the southern kingdoms, and even islands of America; while the
Gothic system which prevailed in the northern regions of Europe was not merely similar to those of
Greece and Italy, but almost the same in another
dress, with an embroidery of images apparently
Asiatic. From all this, if it be satisfactorily
proved, we may infer a general union or affinity
between the most distinguished inhabitants of the
primitive world at the time when they deviated, as
1 Asiatic Researches, i. p. 221.
they did too early deviate, from the rational adoration of the only true God.’
Here, then, in an essay written nearly a hundred
years ago by Sir W . Jones, one of the most celebrated
Oriental scholars in England, it might seem as if we
should find the first outlines of that science which is
looked upon as but of to-day or yesterday—the outlines of Comparative Mythology. But in such an
expectation we are disappointed. What we find is
merely a superficial comparison of the mythology of
India and that of other nations, both Aryan and
Semitic, without any scientific value, because carried
out without any of those critical tests which alone
keep Comparative Mythology from running riot.
This is not intended as casting a slur on Sir W .
Jones. At his time the principles which have now
been established by the students of the science of
language were not yet known, and as with words, so
with the names of deities, similarity of sound, the
most treacherous of ail sirens, was the only guide in
such researches.
It is not pleasant to have to find fault with a
man possessed of such genius, taste, and learning as
Sir W . Jones, but no one who is acquainted with
the history of these researches will be surprised at
my words. It is the fate of all pioneers, not only to
be left behind in the assault which they had planned,
but to find that many of their approaches were made
in a false direction, and had to be abandoned. But
as the authority of their names continues to sway
the public at large, and is apt to mislead even painstaking students and to entail upon them repeated
disappointments, it is necessary that those who know
I N C O M P A R A T I V E T H E O L O G Y . 449
-should speak out, even at the risk of being considered harsh or presumptuous.
A few instances will suffice to show how utterly
baseless the comparisons are which Sir W . Jones
instituted between the gods of India, Greece, and
Italy. He compares the Latin Janus with the Sanskrit deity Ganesa. It is well-known that Janus is
connected with the same root that has yielded the
names of Jupiter, Zeus, and Dyaus, while Ganesa is a
compound, meaning lord of hosts, lord of the companies of gods.
Saturnus is supposed to have been the same as
Noah, and is then identified by Sir W . Jones with
the Indian Manu Satyavrata, who escaped from the
flood. Ceres is compared with the goddess Sri,
Jupiter or Diespiter with Indra or Divaspati ; and,
though etymology is called a weak basis for historical inquiries, the three syllables Jov in Jovis, Zeu
i n Zeus, and Siv in Siva are placed side by side, as
possibly containing the same root, only differently
pronounced. Now the s of Siva is a palatal s, and
no scholar who has once looked into a book on Comparative Philology need be told that such an s could
never correspond to a Greek Zeta or a Latin J .
In Krishna, the lovely shepherd-god, Sir W .
Jones recognises the features of Apollo Nomius,
who fed the herds of Admetus, and slew the dragon
Python ; and he leaves it to etymologists to determine whether Gopâla—i.e. the cow-herd—may not be
the same word as Apollo. We are also assured, on
the authority of Colonel Vallancey, that Krishna in
Irish means the sun, and that the goddess Kâlî, to
whom human sacrifices were offered, as enjoined in
the Vedas (?), was the same as Hekate. In conclusion, Sir W . Jones remarks, ‘ I strongly incline to
believe that Egyptian priests have actually come
from the Nile to the Gangâ and Yamunâ, and that
they visited the Sarmans of India, as the sages of
Greece visited them, rather to acquire than to impart knowledge.’
The interest that had been excited by Sir W i l liam Jones's researches did not subside, though he
himself did not return to the subject, but devoted
his great powers to more useful labours. Scholars,
both in India and in Europe, wanted to know more
of the ancient religion of India. If Jupiter, Apollo,,
and Janus had once been found in the ancient pantheon of the Brahmans ; if the account of Noah and
the deluge could be traced back to the story of
Mann Satyavrata, who escaped from the flood, more
discoveries might be expected in this newly-opened
mine, and people rushed to it with all the eagerness
of gold-diggers. The idea that everything in India
was of extreme antiquity had at that time taken a
firm hold on the minds of all students of Sanskrit ;
and, as there was no one to check their enthusiasm,
everything that came to light in Sanskrit literature
was readily accepted as more ancient than Homer,
or even than the Old Testament.
It was under these influences that Lieutenant
Wilford, a contemporary of Sir William Jones at
Calcutta, took up the thread which Sir William
Jones had dropped, and determined at all hazards to
solve the question which at that time had^ excited a
world-wide interest. Convinced that the Brahmans
possessed in their ancient literature the originals,
not only of Greek and Roman mythology, but likewise of the Old Testament history, he tried every
possible means to overcome their reserve and reticence. He related to them, as well as he could, the
principal stories of classical mythology, and the
leading events in the history of the Old Testament ;
he assured them that they would find the same
things in their ancient books, i f they would but look
for them ; he held out the hopes of ample rewards
for any extracts from their sacred literature containing the histories of Adam and Eve, of Deukalion
and Prometheus ; and at last he succeeded. The
coyness of the Pandits yielded; the incessant demand created a supply ; and for several years essay
after essay appeared in the ‘ Asiatic Researches,’ with
extracts from Sanskrit MSS., containing not only
the names of Deukalion, Prometheus, and other
heroes and deities of Greece, but likewise the names
of Adam and Eve, of Abraham and Sarah, and all
the rest.
Great was the surprise, still greater the joy, not
only in Calcutta, but in London, at Paris, and all
the universities of Germany. The Sanskrit MSS.
from which Lieutenant Wilford quoted, and on
which his theories were based, had been submitted
to Sir W . Jones and other scholars ; and though
many persons were surprised and for a time even
incredulous, yet the fact could not be denied that
all was found in these Sanskritt MSS. as stated by
Lieutenant Wilford. Sir W . Jones, then President
of the Asiatic Society, printed the following declaration at the end of the third volume of the ‘ Asiatic
Researches ’ : —
‘ Since I am persuaded that the learned essay on
Egypt and the Nile has afforded you equal delight
with that which I have myself received from it, I
cannot refrain from endeavouring to increase your
satisfaction by confessing openly that I have at
length abandoned the greatest part of the natural
distrust and incredulity which had taken possession
of my mind before I had examined the sources from
which our excellent associate, Lieutenant Wilford,
has drawn so great a variety of new and interesting
opinions. Having lately read again and again, both
alone and with a Pandit, the numerous original
passages in the Purânas, and other Sanskrit books,
which the writer of the dissertation adduces in support of his assertions, I am happy in bearing testimony to his perfect good faith and general accuracy,
both in his extracts and in the translation of them.’
Sir W . Jones then proceeds himself to give a
translation of some of these passages. ' The following translation.’ he writes, ' of an extract from the
Padma-purâna is minutely exact : ’—
‘ 1 . To Satyavarman, the sovereign of the
whole earth, were born three sons ; the eldest Sherma; then Charma ; and thirdly, Jyape t i .
‘ 2. They were all men of good morals, excellent
i n virtue and virtuous deeds, skilled in the use of
weapons to strike with, or to be thrown, brave men,
eager for victory in battle.
‘ 3 . But Satyavarman, being continually delighted with devout meditation, and seeing his sons
fit for dominion, laid upon them the burden of
‘ 4. Whilst he remained honouring and satisfyIN COMPARATIVE THEOLOGY. 453
ing the gods, and priests, and kine. One day, by
the act of destiny, the king, having drunk mead,
‘ 5 . Became senseless, and lay asleep naked;
then was he seen by Charma, and by him were his
two brothers called.
‘ 6. To whom he said : What now has befallen?
In what state is this our sire ? By those two was
he hidden with clothes, and called to his senses
again and again.
‘ 7. Having recovered his intellect, and perfectly
knowing what had passed, he cursed Charma, saying. Thou shalt be the servant of servants :
‘ 8. And since thou wast a laugher in their presence, from laughter shalt thou acquire a name.
Then he gave to S her m a the wide domain on the
south of the snowy mountains.
‘ 9 . And to Jyape t i he gave all on the north
of the snowy mountains ; but he, by the power of
religious contemplation, obtained supreme bliss.’
After this testimony from Sir W . Jones—wrung
from him, as it would seem, against his own wish and
will—Lieutenant Wilford’s essays became more nnnierous and more startling every year.
A t last, however, the coincidences became too
great. The MSS. were again carefully examined;
and then it was found that a clever forgery had
been committed, that leaves had been inserted in
ancient MSS., and that on these leaves the Pandits,
urged by Lieutenant Wilford to disclose their ancient mysteries and traditions, had rendered in correct Sanskrit verse all that they had beard about
Adam and Abraham from their inquisitive master*
Lieutenant (then Colonel) Wilford did not hesitate
for one moment to confess publicly that he had
been imposed upon ; but in the meantime the mischief had been done, his essays had been read all
over Europe, they retained their place in the volumes
of the ‘ Asiatic Researches,’ and to the present day
some of his statements and theories continue to be
quoted authoritatively by writers on ancient religion.
Such accidents, and, one might almost say, such
misfortunes, will happen, and it would be extremely
unfair were we to use unnecessarily harsh language
with regard to those to whom they have happened.
It is perfectly true that at present, after the progress that has been made in an accurate and critical
study of Sanskrit, it would be unpardonable i f any
Sanskrit scholar accepted such passages as those
translated by Sir W . Jones as genuine. Yet it is by
no means certain that a further study of Sanskrit
will not lead to similar disenchantments, and deprive
many a book in Sanskrit literature which now is
considered as very ancient of its claims to any high
antiquity. Certain portions of the Veda even, which,
as far as our knowledge goes at present, we are perfectly justified in referring to the tenth or twelfth
century before our era, may some day or other dwindle
down from their high estate, and those who have
believed in their extreme antiquity will then be held
up to blame or ridicule, like Sir W . Jones or Colonel
Wilford. This cannot be avoided, for science is
progressive, and does not acknowledge, even in the
most distinguished scholars, any claims to infallibility. One lesson only may we learn from thç
disappointment that befell Colonel Wilford, and that
is to be on our guard against anything which in
ordinary language would be called ‘ too good to be
Comparative Philology has taught us again and
again that when we find a word exactly the same in
Greek and Sanskrit, we may be certain that it can­
not be the same word; and the same applies to
Comparative Mythology. The same god or the same
hero cannot have exactly the same name in Sanskrit
and Greek, for the simple reason that Sanskrit and
Greek have deviated froiṇ each other, have both
followed their own way, have both suffered their own
phonetic corruptions ; and hence, i f they do possess
the same word, they can only possess it either in
its Greek or its Sanskrit disguise. And i f that
caution applies to Sanskrit and Greek, members of
the same family of language, how much more
strongly must it apply to Sanskrit and Hebrew ! I f
the first man were called in Sanskrit Âdima, and in
Hebrew Adam, and if the two were really the same
word, then Hebrew and Sanskrit could not be mem­
bers of two different families of speech, or we should
be driven to admit that Adam was borrowed by the
Jews from the Hindus, for it is in Sanskrit only that
âdima means the first, whereas in Hebrew it has no
such meaning.
The same remark applies to a curious coincidence
pointed out many years ago by Mr. Ellis in his
4Polynesian Researches’ (London, 1829, vol. i i . p.
38). We there read :—
‘ A very generally­received Tahitian tradition is
that the first human pair were made by Taaroa, the
principal deity formerly acknowledged by the nation.
On more than one occasion I have listened to the
details of the people respecting his work of creation*
They say that, after Taaroa had formed the world,,
he created man out of araea, red earth, which was
also the food of man until bread first was made. In
connection with this some relate that Taaroa one
day called for the man by name. When he came,
he caused him to fall asleep, and, while he slept, he
took out one of his ivi, or bones, and with it made
a woman, whom he gave to the man as his wife, and
they became the progenitors of mankind. This.’
Mr. Ellis continues, ‘ always appeared to me a mere
recital of the Mosaic account of creation, which they
had heard from some European, and I never placed
any reliance on it, although they have repeatedly
told me it was a tradition among them before any
foreigners arrived. Some have also stated that the
woman's name was Ivi, which would be by them
pronounced as i f written Eve. Ivi is an aboriginal
word, and not only signifies a bone, but also a
widow, and a victim slain in war. Notwithstanding
the assertion of the natives, I am disposed to think
that Ivi, or Kve, is the only aboriginal part of the
story, as far as it respects the mother of the human
race. Should more careful and minute inquiry confirm the truth of this declaration, and prove that
their account was in existence among them prior to
their intercourse with Europeans, it will be the most
remarkable and valuable oral tradition of the origin
of the human race yet known.’
In this case, I believe the probability is that the
story of the creation of the first woman from the
bone of a man 1 existed among the Tahitians before
1 See Introduction to the Science of Religion, p. 48.
their intercourse with Christians, but I need hardly
add that the similarity between the Polynesian name
for bone, ivi, even when it was used as the name of
the first woman, and the English corruption of the
Hebrew n5n, Chāvah‚ Eve, could be the result of
accident only. Whatever Chāvah meant in Hebrew,
whether life or living or anything else, it never meant
bone, while the Tahitian ivi, the Maori wheva,1
meant bone, and bone only.
These principles and these cautions were hardly
thought of in the days of Sir William Jones and
Colonel Wilford, but they ought to be thought of at
present. Thus, before Bopp had laid down his code
of phonetic laws, and before Burnouf had written
his works on Buddhism, one cannot be very much
surprised that Buddha should have been identified
with Minos and Lamech ; nay, that even the Baby­
lonian deity Belus, and the Teutonic deity Wodan or
Odin, should have been supposed to be connected
with the founder of Buddhism in India. As Burnouf
said in his ‘ Introduction à l'Histoire du Buddhisme.’
p. 70 : ‘ On avait même fait du Buddha une planète ;
et je ne sais pas si quelques savants ne se plaisent
pas encore aujourd'hui à retrouver ce sage paisible
sous les traits du belliqueux Odin.’ But we did not
expect that we should have to read again, in a book
published in 1869, such statements as these:2—
1 The Rev. w. w. Gil l tells me that the Maori word for bone is
iwi, but he suspects a foreign origin for the fable founded on it.
2 Tree and Serpent Worship, by James Fergusson. London, 1868.
very similar opinions had been advocated by Rajendralal Mitra, i n
a paper published in 1858 in the Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society ,
'Buddhism and Odinism, inustrated by extracts from Professor
Holmboe's Memoir on the Traces du Buddhisme en Norvège.1 How
‘ There is certainly a much greater similarity between the Buddhism of the Topes and the Scandinavian mythology than between it and the Buddhism
of the books.; but still the gulf between the two is
immense ; and if any traces of the doctrines of the
gentle ascetic (Buddha) ever existed in the bosom of
Odin or his followers, while dwelling near the roots
of the Caucasus, all that can be said is, that they
suffered fearful shipwreck among the rocks of the
savage superstitions of the North, and sank, never
again to appear on the surface of Scandinavian
mythology. If the two religions come anywhere in
contact, it is at their base, for underlying both there
existed a strange substratum of Tree and Serpent
Worship ; on this the two structures seem to have
been raised, though they afterwards diverged into
forms so strangely dissimilar’ (p. 34).
much mischief is done by opinions of this kind when they once find
their way into the general public, and are supported by names
which carry weight, may be seen by the following extracts from the
Pioneer (July 30, 1878), a native paper published in India. Here
we read that the views of Holmboe, Rajendralal Mitra, and Fergusson, as to a possible connection between Buddha and Wodan, between Buddhism and wodenism, have been adopted and preached
by an English bishop, in order to convince his hearers, who were
chiefly Buddhists, that the religion of the gentle ascetic came originnally, if not from the North-East of Scotland, at all events from the
Saxons. 'Gotama Buddha,'he maintained, ' was a Saxon; coming
from ' a Saxon family which had penetrated into India.' And again :
' The most com incing proof to us Anglo-Indians lies in the fact that
the Purânas named varada and Matsy distinctly assert that the
white Island in the west—meaning England—was known in India
as Sacana, having been conquered at a very early period by the
Sacas or Saks.' After this the bishop takes courage, and says : ' Let
me call your attention to the Pâli word N i b ban, called in Sanskrit
Ni rvana . In the Anglo-Saxon you have the identical word—Nabban‚ meaning " not to have;’ or " to be without a thing." ’
Or again (p. 32) :—
‘ We shall probably not err far if we regard these
traces of serpent worship as indicating the presence
i n the North­East of Scotland of the head of that
column of migration, or of propagandism, which
under the myth of Wodenism, we endeavoured in
a previous chapter to trace from the Caucasus to
‘The arbors under which two of the couples are
seated are curious instances of that sort of summer­
house which may be found adorning tea­gardens in
the neighbourhood of London to the present day.
It is scenes like these that make us hesitate before
asserting that there could not possibly be any con­
nection between Buddhism and Wodenism ’ (p. 140).
‘ One of the most tempting nominal similarities
connected with this subject is suggested by the name
of Mâyâ. The mother of Buddha was called Mâyâ.
The mother of Mercury was also Maia, the daughter
of Atlas. The Romans always called Wodin, Mer­
cury, and dies Mercurii and Wodensday alike desig­
nated the fourth day of the week. . . . These and
other similarities have been frequently pointed out
and insisted upon, and they are too numerous and
too distinct not to have some foundation in reality ’
{p. 186, note).
Statements like these cannot be allowed to pass
unnoticed or uncontradicted, particularly i f supported
by the authority of a great name ; and after having
spoken so freely of the unscientific character of the
mythological comparisons instituted by scholars like
'Sir William Jones and Lieutenant Wilford, who caṇ
no longer defend themselves, it would be mere
cowardice to shrink from performing the same un­
pleasant duty in the case of a living writer, who has
shown that he knows how to wield the weapons both
of defence and attack.
It is perfectly true that the mother of Buddha
was called Mâyâ‚ but it is equally true that the San­
skrit Mâyâ cannot be the Greek Maiā. It is quite
true also that the fourth day of the week is called
dies Mercurii in Latin, and Wednesday in English ;
nay, that in Sanskrit the same day is called B u d h a ­
d ina or B u d h a ­ v â r a . But the origin of all these
names falls within perfectly historical times, and can
throw no light whatever on the early growth of
mythology and religion.
First of all, we have to distinguish between
B u d h a and Buddha . The two names, though so like
each other, and therefore constantly mistaken one for
the other, have nothing in common but their root.
B u d d h a with two d's, is the participle of budh, and
means awakened, enlightened.’ It is the name given
to those who have reached the highest stage of human
wisdom, and it is known most generally as the title
of Gotama, Sâkya­muni, the founder of Buddhism,
whose traditional era dates from 543 B.C. B u d h a , on
the contrary, with one d, means simply knowing, and
it became in later times, when the Hindus received
from the Greeks a knowledge of the planets, the
name of the planet Mercury.
It is well known that the names of the seven
days of the week are derived from the names of the
1 See Buddhaghosha'8 Parables, translated by Captain Rogers,,
with an Introduction containing Buddha’s Dhammapada, translated
from Pâli, by M . M., 1870, p. l lO, note.
planets,1 and it is equally well known that in Europe
the system of weeks and week-days is comparatively
of very modern origin. It was not a Greek, nor a
Roman, nor a Hindu, but a Jewish or Babylonian invention. The Sabbath (Sabbata) was known and
kept at Rome in the first century B.C. with naany
superstitious practices. It is mentioned by Horace,
Ovid, Tibullus (dies Batumi), Persius, Juvenal. Ovid
calls it a day ‘ rebus minus apta gerendis.’ Augustus
(Suet. ‘Aug.’ c. 76) evidently imagined that the Jews
fasted on their Sabbath, for he said, ‘ Not even a Jew
keeps the fast of the Sabbath so strictly as I have
kept this day.’ In fact, Josephus (‘ Contra Apion.’ i i .
39) was able to say that there was no town, Greek
or not Greek, where the custom of observing the
seventh day had not spread.’ It is curious that we
1 Hare, ' on the Names of the Days of the week (Philol. Museum,
Nov. 1831) ; Ideler, Handbuch der Chronologie, p. 177 ; Grimm,
Deutsche Mythologie, p. 111.
2 A writer in the Index objects to my representation of what
Josephus said with regard to the observance of the seventh day in
Washington, Nov. 9, 1872.
* The article by Max Müller in the Index of this week contains,
I think, one error, caused doubtless by his taking a false translation
of a passage from Josephus instead of the original. " In fact;' says
Professor Müller, "Josephus (Contra Apion. i i . 39) was able to say
that there was no town, Greek or not Greek, where the custom of
observing the seventh day had not spread." Mr. wm. B. Taylor, in
a discussion of the Sabbath question with the Rev. Dr. Brown of
Philadelphia, in 1853 (Obligation of the Sabbath, p. 120), gives this
rendering of the passage :—" Nor is there anywhere any city of the
Greeks, nor a single barbarian nation, whither the institution of the
Hebdomade (?vhich we mark by resting) has not travelled ; " then in
a, note Mr. Taylor gives the original Greek of part of the passage,
and adds : " Josephus does not say that the Greek and barbarian
rested, but that we [the Jews] observe it by rest."
' The corrected translation only adds strength to Max Müller's
find the seventh day, the Sabbath, even under its new
Pagan name, as dies Batumi or Kronike, mentioned by
Roman and Greek writers, before the names of the
other days of the week made their appearance.
Tibullus speaks of the day of Saturn, dies 8aturni ;
Julius Frontinus (under Nerva, 96-98) says that
Vespasian attacked the Jews on the day of Saturn,,
dies Saturni; and Justin Martyr (died 165) states
that Christ was crucified the day before the day of
Kronos, and appeared to his disciples the day after
the day of Kronos. He does not use the names of
position in regard to the very limited extent of Sabbath observance
in ancient times ; and Mr. Taylor brings very strong historical proof
to maintain the assertion (p. 24) that ‘' throughout all history we discover no trace of a Sabbath among the nations of antiquity." '
It seems to me that if we read the whole of Josephus' work,
On the Antiquity of the Jews, we cannot fail to perceive that what
Josephus wished to show towards the end of the second book was that
other nations had copied or were trying to copy the Jewish customs.
He says : 'T' 7)fjLwv re dirjvéxQyvaj' oi v6(xoi Kai roîs &Wois äirao"ur
àvOpéirois, àel KOX (ÁCÌWOV abroov Cr}Kov afxirenovi)Ka(ri. He then saysthat
the early Greek philosophers, though apparently original in their
theoretic speculations, followed the Jewish laws with regard to
practical and moral precepts. Then follows this sentence : Ob (xfr
aXXa Kcà itXi]Qeaiv ^Srç TTOXVS ÇrjXos yiyovev ÌK fiaKpov rrjs 7)fÀ€répas euo'eßeias, ob S' ícrrw ob iróXis "EXX'fìvwv obb*nricrovv où5è ßapßapos, ot>5e ev
šdvos‚ evßa ju¾ rb T ¾ S cßh*otxal>os, %v apyovfiw tifieis, l0os- ob hiairecpolrrìKe,
Kai aî pr)orre7ai Kai X X J X v ( u v àvaKaóo'eis Kai rroÁXà TSÌV els ßpucriv r}fiiv
ob vevofxKrfJLevoûP trapareri]p'^rai. Mifxelcrdai 8e treipwurat Kal T^]V trpbs
aXXfiXous 7)ficoy a^16v01av, K.T.X. Standing where it stands, the sentence about the eßSofids can only mean that 'there is no town of
Greeks nor of barbarians, nor one single people, where the custom of
the seventh day, on which we rest, has not spread, and where
fastings, and lighting of lamps, and much of what is forbidden to us
with regard to food are not observed. They try to imitate our mutual
concord also, &c ' Hebdomas, which originally meant the week, is
here clearly used in the sense of the seventh day, and though Josephus
may exaggerate, what he says is certainly ' that there was no town,
Greek or not Greek, where the custom of observing the seventh day
had not spread.'
Friday and Sunday. Sunday, as dies Solis, is men­
tioned by Justin Martyr (‘ Apolog.’ i . 67), and by
Tertullian (died 220), the usual name of that day
amongst Christians being the Lord's­day, Kvptafcrjy
dominica or dominicus. Clemens of Alexandria (died
220) seems to have been the first who used the names
of Wednesday and Friday, *Epp,ov fcal 'Apo8iTW9
It is generally stated, on the authority of Cassius
Dio, that the system of counting by weeks and week­
days was first introduced in Egypt, and that at his
time, early in the third century, the Romans had
adopted it, though but recently. Be this as it may,,
it would seem that, if Tibullus could use the name
of dies Saturni for Saturday, the whole system of
week­days must have been settled and known at
Rome in his time. Cassius Dio tells us that the
names were assigned to each day 8cà rso-crápcov, by
fours ; or by giving the first hour of the week to
Saturn, then giving one hour to each planet in suc­
cession, t i l l the twenty­fifth hour became again the
first of the next day. Both systems lead to the same
result, as will be seen from the following table :—
Dies Saturni
,, Lunæ
,, Martis
„ Mercurii
„ Jovis
„ veneris
(dies sabbati)
1 Saturn 1
2 Jupiter 6
3 Mars 4
4 Sun 2
5 venus 7
6 Mercury 5
7 Moon 3
1 Saturn 1
2 Jupiter 6
3 Mars 4
4 Sun 2
5 venus 7
6 Mercury 5
7 Moon 3
1 Saturn 1
2 Jupiter 6
3 Mars 4
4 Sun 2
5 venus 7
6 Mercury 5
7 Moon 3
Old Norse.
(washing day)
(sunnûn âband)
sunnûn dag
mânin tac (?)
ziuwes tac
(cies dac)
wuotanes tac (?)
donares tac
f ria dag
sätres däg
sunnan däg
monan däg
tives däg
vôdenes däg
thunores däg
frige däg
(sunnen âbent)
sunnen tac
mân tac
zies tac
donres tac
i English.
After the names of the week-days had once been
settled, we have no difficulty in tracing their migration towards the East and towards the West. The
Hindus had their own peculiar system of reckoning
days and months, but they adopted at a later time
the foreign system of counting by weeks of seven days,
and assigning a presiding planetary deity to each of the
seven days, according to the system described above.
As the Indian name of the planet Mercury was Budha,
the dies Mercurii was naturally called B u d h a - v â r a
but never B u d d h a - v â r a ; and the fact that the
mother of Mercury was called Maia, and the mother
of Buddha Mâyâ, could, therefore, have had no bearing
whatever on the name assigned to the Indian Wednesday.’ The very Buddhists, in Ceylon, distinguish
between buddha, the enlightened, and budha, wise,
and call Wednesday the day of Budha, not of
1 Grimm, Deutsehe Mythologie, p. 118, note.
Buddha.’ Whether the names of the planets were
formed in India independently, or after Greek models,
is difficult to settle. The name of Budha, the knowing or the clever, given to the planet Mercury,
seems, however, inexplicable except on the latter hypothesis.
Having traced the origin of the Sanskrit name of
the dies Mercurii, Budha-vâra, let us now see why
the Teutonic nations, though perfectly ignorant of
Buddhism, called the same day the day of Wodam
That the Teutonic nations received the names of
the week-days from their Greek and Roman neighbours admits of no doubt. For commercial and military arrangements between Romans and Germans
some kind of lingua franca must soon have sprung up,
and in it the names of the week-days must have found
their place. There would have been little difficulty
in explaining the meaning of Sun-day and Mon-day
to the Germans, but in order to make them understand the meaning of the other names, some explanations must have been given on the nature of the
different deities, in order to enable the Germans to
find corresponding names in their own language. A
Roman would tell his German friend that dies Veneris
meant the day of a goddess who represented beauty
and love, and on hearing this the German would at
once have thought of his own goddess of love, Kreyja,
and have called the dies Veneris the day of Freyja or
Friday. 2
If Jupiter was described as the god who wields
1 In Singalese Wednesday is Badâ, in Tamil Budau. See Kennet,
in Indian Antiquary, 1874, p. 90; D'Alwis, Journal of Ceylon Branch
4)f the Royal Asiatic Society, 1870, p. 17.
2 Grimm, Deutsche Mythologie, p. 276.
the thunderbolt, his natural representative in German would be Donar,1 the Anglo-Saxon Thunar, the
Old Norse Thor ; and hence the dies Jovis would be
called the day of Thor, or Thursday. If the fact that
Jupiter was the king of the gods had been mentioned,
his proper representative in German would, no doubt r
have been JVuotan or Odin.’ As it was, TVuotan or
Odin was chosen as the nearest approach to Mercury,
the character which they share in common, and
which led to their identification, being most likely
their love of travelling through the air,3 also their
granting wealth and fulfilling the wishes of their
worshippers, in which capacity Wuotan is known
by the name of Wunsch* or Wish. We can thus
understand how it happened that father and son
changed places, for while Mercurius is the son of
Jupiter, Wuotan is the father of Donar. Mars, the
god of war, was identified with the German Tiu or
Ziu, a name which, though originally the same as Zeus
in Greek or Dyaus in Sanskrit, took a peculiarly
national character among the Germans, and became
their god of war.’
There remained thus only the dies Saturni, the
day of Saturn, and whether this was called so in
imitation of the Latin name, or after an old German
deity of a similar name and character, is a point
which for the present we must leave unsettled.
1 Grimm, Deutsche Mythologie, p. 151.
2 Ibid. p. 120.
3 Ibid. pp. 137-148.
4 Ibid. p. 126. oski in Icelandic, the god wish, one of the
names of the highest god.
5 Tacit. Hist. iv. 64 : ' Communibus Dus et præcipuo Deorum
Marti grates agimus.'
What, however, is not unsettled is this, that if
the Germans, in interpreting these names of Roman
deities as well as they could, called the dies Mercurii,
the same day which the Hindus had called the day
of Budha (with one d),their day of Wuotan, this was
not because ‘ the doctrines of the gentle ascetic existed in the bosom of Odin or his followers, while
dwelling near the roots of the Caucasus,’ but for
very different and much more tangible reasons.
But, apart from all this, by what possible process
could Buddha and Odin have ever been brought together in the flesh? In the history of ancient
religions, Odin belongs to the same stratum of mythological thought as Dyaus in India, Zeus in Greece,
Jupiter in Italy. He was worshipped as the supreme
deity during a period long anterior to the age of the
Veda and of Homer. His travels in Greece, and
even in Tyrkland.’ and his half-historical character
as a mere hero and a leader of his people, are the
result of the latest Euhemerism. Buddha, on the
contrary, is not a mythological, but a personal and
historical character, and to think of a meeting of
Buddha and Odin, or even of their respective descendants, at the roots of Mount Caucasus, would be
like imagining an interview between Cyrus and Odin,
between Mohammed and Aphrodite.
A comparative study of ancient religions and
mythologies, as will be seen from these instances,
is not a subject to be taken up lightly. It requires
not only an accurate acquaintance with the minutest
details of comparative philology, but a knowledge of
the history of religions which can hardly be gained
1 Grimm, I.e. p. 148.
without a study of original documents. As long,
however, as researches of this kind are carried on
for their own sake, and from a mere desire of discovering truth, without any ulterior objects, they
deserve no blame, though, for a time, they may lead
to erroneous results. But when coincidences between
different religions and mythologies are searched out
simply in support of preconceived theories, whether
by the friends or enemies of religion, the sense of
truth, the very life of all science, is sacrificed, and
serious mischief will follow without fail. Here we
have a right, not only to protest, but to blame. There
is on this account a great difference between the
books we have hitherto examined, and a work latelypublished in Paris by M . Jacolliot, under the sensational title of ‘ L a Bible dans l'Inde, Vie de Jeseus
Christna.’ If this book had been written with the
pure enthusiasm of Lieutenant Wilford, it might
have been passed by as a mere anachronism. But
when one sees how its author shuts his eyes against
all evidence that would tell against him, and brings
together, without any critical scruples, whatever
seems to support his theory that Christianity is a
mere copy of the ancient religion of India, mere
silence would not be a sufficient answer. Besides,
the book has lately been translated into English, and
will be read, no doubt, by many people who cannot
test the evidence on which it professes to be founded.
We learn that M . Jacolliot was some years ago
appointed President of the Court of Justice at Chandernagore, and that he devoted the leisure left him
from the duties of his position to studying Sanskrit
and the holy books of the Hindus. He is said to
have put himself in communication with the Brahmans, who had obtained access to a great number of
MSS. carefully stored up in the depths of the pagodas.
‘ The purport of his book is ’ (I quote from a friendly
critic), ‘that our civilisation, our religion, our legends,
our gods, have come to us from India, after passing
in succession through Egypt, Persia, Judæa, Greece,
and Italy.’ This statement, we are told, is not confined to M . Jacolliot, but has been admitted by almost
all Oriental scholars. The Old and New Testaments
are found again in the Vedas, and the texts quoted
by M . Jacolliot in support of his theory are said to
leave it without doubt. Brahma created Adima (in
Sanskrit, the first man) and gave him for companion
He va (in Sanskrit, that which completes life). He
appointed the island of Ceylon for their residence.
What follows afterwards is so beautifully described
that I may be pardoned for quoting it. Only I must
warn my readers, lest the extract should leave too
deep an impression on their memory, that what M .
Jacolliot calls a simple translation from Sanskrit is,
as far as I can judge, a simple invention of some
slightly mischievous Brahman, who, like the Pandits
of Lieutenant Wilford, took advantage of the zeal
and credulity of a French judge :—
‘ Having created the Man and the Woman (simultaneously, not one after the other), and animated
them with the divine afflatus—the Lord said unto
them : ‘‘ Behold, your mission is to people this beautiful Island [Ceylon], where I have gathered together
everything pleasant and needful for your subsistence
—the rest of the Earth is as yet uninhabitable, but
should your progeny so increase as to render the
bounds of paradise too narrow a habitation, let them
inquire of me by sacrifice and I will make known my
‘ A n d thus saying, the Lord disappeared. . . .
‘ Then Adam and Eve dwelt together for a time
in perfect happiness; but ere long a vague disquietude
began to creep upon them. . . . The Spirit of Evil ,
jealous of their felicity and of the work of Brahma,
inspired them with disturbing thoughts ; — ‘ ‘ Let us
wander through the Island,’’ said Adam to his companion, ‘‘ and see if we may not find some part even
more beautiful than this.’’ . . .
‘ A n d Eve followed her husband . ^ wandering
for days and for months ; . . . but as they advanced
the woman was seized with strange and inexplicable
terrors : ‘‘Adam,’’ said she, ‘‘let us go no farther: it
seems to me that we are disobeying the Lord ; have
we not already quitted the place which he assigned
us for a dwelling and forbade us to leave ? ’’
‘ ‘‘ Fear not,’’ replied Adam ; ‘‘ this is not that
fearful wilderness of which he spake to us." . . .
‘ And they wandered on. . . .
‘ Arriving at last at the extremity of the Island,
they beheld a smooth and narrow arm of the sea, and
beyond it a vast and apparently boundless country,
connected with their Island only by a narrow and
rocky pathway arising from the bosom of the
‘ The two wanderers stood amazed : the country
before them was covered with stately trees, birds of
a thousand colours flitting amidst their foliage.
‘ . . . ‘ ‘ Behold, what beautiful things ! ’’ cried
Adam, ‘‘andwhat good fruit such trees must produce ;
* . let us go and taste them, and if that country is
better than this, we will dwell there.’’
‘ Eve, trembling, besought Adam to do nothing
that might irritate the Lord against them. ‘ ‘Are
we not well here ? Have we not pure water and
delicious fruits ? Wherefore seek other things ? ’’
‘ “ True,’’ replied Adam, ‘‘ but we will return ;
what harm can it be to visit this unknown country
that presents itself to our view ? " . . . And as he
approached the rocks, Eve, trembling, followed.
‘Placing his wife upon his shoulders, he proceeded to cross the space that separated him from
the object of his desires, but no sooner did he touch
the shore than trees, flowers, fruits, birds, all that
they had perceived from the opposite side, in an instant vanished amidst terrific clamour; . . . the
rocks by which they had crossed sunk beneath the
waters, a few sharp peaks alone remaining above the
surface, to indicate the place of the bridge which had
been destroyed by Divine displeasure.
‘ The vegetation which they had seen from the
opposite shore was but a delusive mirage raised by
the Spirit of Evi l to tempt them to disobedience.
‘ Adam fell, weeping, upon the naked sands, . . .
but Eve throwing herself into his arms, besought
him not to despair; . . . ‘‘ let us rather pray to the
Author of all things to pardon us.’’ . . .
‘ And as she spake there came a voice from the
clouds, saying,
‘ ‘‘ Woman ! thou hast only sinned from love to
thy husband, whom I commanded thee to love, and
thou hast hoped in me.
i ‘‘ I therefore pardon thee—and I pardon him alsa
for thy sake : . . . but ye may no more return to.
paradise, which I had created for your happiness r
. . . through your disobedience to my commands the
Spirit of Evi l has obtained possession of the Earth.
. . . Your children reduced to labour and to suffer
by your fault will become corrupt and forget me. . .
‘ ‘‘ But I will send Vishnu, who will be born of a
woman, and who will bring to all the hope of a
reward in another life, and the means by prayer of
softening their sufferings.’’ ’
The translator from whom I have quoted exclaims
at the end, as well he might :—
‘What grandeur and what simplicity is this
Hindu legend ! and at the same time how simply
logical! . . . Behold here the veritable Eve—the
true woman.’
But much more extraordinary things are quoted
by M . Jacolliot, from the Vedas and the commentaries.
On p. 63 we read that Manu, Minos, and Manes,,
had the same name as Moses ; on p. 73, the Brahmans who invaded India are represented as the
successors of a great reformer called Christna. The
name of Zoroaster is derived from the Sanskrit Sûryastara (p. 110), meaning ‘ he who spreads the
worship of the Sun.’ After it has been laid down
(p. 116) that Hebrew was derived from Sanskrit, we
are assured that there is little difficulty in deriving
Jehovah from Zeus.’ Zeus, Jezeus, Jesus, and Isis
are all declared to be the same name, and later on
(p. 130) we learn that ‘ at present the Brahmans who
1 P. 125. ' Pour quiconque s'est occupé d'études philologiques»,
Jéhova dérivé de Zeus est facile à admettre.'
officiate in the pagodas and temples give this title of
Jeseus—i.e. the pure essence, the divine emanation—to Christna only, who alone is recognised as
the Word, the truly incarnated, by the worshippers
of Vishnu and the freethinkers among the Brahmans.’
We are assured that the Apostles, the poor fishermen of Galilee, were able to read the Veda (p. 356) ;
and it was their greatest merit that they did not
reject the miraculous accounts of the Vedic period,
because the world was not yet ripe for freedom of
thought. Kristna, or Christna, we read on p. 360 r
signified in Sanskrit, sent by God, promised by God,,
holy ; and as the name of Christ or Christos is not
Hebrew, whence could it have been taken except
from Krishna, the son of Devakî‚ or, as M . Jacolliot
writes, Devanaguy?
It is difficult, nay, almost impossible, to criticise
or refute such statements, and yet it is necessary to
do so ; for such is the interest, or I should rather
say the feverish curiosity, excited by anything that
bears on ancient religion, that M . Jacolliot’s book
has produced a very wide and very deep impression.
It has been remarked with some surprise that Vedic
scholars in Europe had failed to discover these important passages in the Veda which he has pointed
out, or, still worse, that they had never brought
them to the knowledge of the public. In fact, i f
anything was wanting- to show that a general knowledge of the history of ancient religion ought to
form part of our education, it was the panic created
by M . Jacolliot’s book. It is simply the story of
Lieutenant Wilford over again, only far less excusable
now than a hundred years ago. Many of the words
which M . Jacolliot quotes as Sanskrit are not Sanskrit at all ; others never have the meaning which
he assigns to them ; and as to the passages from the
Vedas (including our old friend the Bhagaveda-gîta),
they are not from the Veda, they are not from any
old Sanskrit writer—they simply belong to the second
half of the nineteenth century. What happened to
Lieutenant Wilford has happened again to M . Jacolliot. He tells us the secret himself :—
‘ One day,’ he says (p. 280), ‘ when we were reading the translation of Manu, by Sir W . Jones, a note
led us to consult the Indian commentator, Kullûka
Bhatta, when we found an allusion to the sacrifice of
a son by his father prevented by God himself after
he had commanded it. We then had only one idée
ßxe—namely, to find again in the dark mass of the
religious books of the Hindu, the original account
of that event. We should never have succeeded but
for ‘ ‘ the complaisance ’’ of a Brahman with whom
we were reading Sanskrit, and who, yielding to our
request, brought us from the library of his pagoda
the works of the theologian Ramatsariar, which
have yielded us such precious assistance in this
As to the story of the son offered as a sacrifice
by his father, and released at the command of the
gods, M . Jacolliot might have found the original
-account of it from the Veda, both text and translation, in my ‘ History of Ancient Sanskrit Literature.’
He would soon have seen that the story of Sunahsepa
being gold by his father in order to be sacrificed in the
place of an Indian prince, has very little in common
with the intended sacrifice of Isaac by Abraham.
M . Jacolliot has, no doubt, found out by this time
that he has been imposed upon ; and i f so, he ought to
follow the example of Colonel Wilford, and publicly
state what has happened. Even then, I doubt not
that his statements will continue to be quoted for a
long time, and that A d im a and H e va, thus brought
to life again, will make their appearance in many a
book and many a lecture-room.
Lest it be supposed that such accidents happen
to Sanskrit scholars only, or that this fever is bred
only in the jungles of Indian mythology, I shall
mention at least one other case which will show
that this disease is of a more general character, and
that want of caution will produce it in every climate.
Before the discovery of Sanskrit, China had stood
for a long time in the place which was afterwards
occupied by India. When the ancient literature and
-civilisation of China became first known to the
scholars of Europe, the Celestial Empire had its
admirers and prophets as full of enthusiasm as Sir
W . Jones and Lieutenant Wilford, and there was
nothing, whether Greek philosophy or Christian morality, that was not supposed to have had its first
origin among the sages of China. The proceedings
of the Jesuit missionaries in China were most extraordinary. They had themselves admitted the
antiquity of the writings of Confucius and Lao-tse,
both of whom lived in the sixth century B.c.’ But
in their zeal to show that the sacred books of the
Chinese contained numerous passages borrowed from
1 Stanislas Julien, Le Livre de la Voie et de la Vertu. Paris,
1842, p. iv.
the Bible, nay, even some of the dogmas of the later
Church, they hardly perceived that, taking into ac­
count the respective dates of these books, they were
really proving that a kind of anticipated Christi­
anity had been accorded to the ancient Sages of the
Celestial Empire. The most learned advocate of
this school was Father Prémare. Another supporter
of the same view, Montucci, 1 speaking of Lao­tse’s
Tao­te­king, says :—
‘ We find in it so many sayings clearly referring
to the triune God, that no one who has read this
book can doubt that the mystery of the most holy
Trinity was revealed to the Chinese more than five
centuries before the advent of Christ. Everybody,
therefore, who knows the strong feeling of the
Chinese for their own teachers, will admit that
nothing more efficient could be found in order to fix
the dogmas of the Christian religion in the mind
of the Chinese than the demonstration that these
dogmas agree with their own books. The study,
therefore, and the translation of this singular book
(the Tao­te­king) would prove most useful to the
missionaries, in order to bring to a happy issue the
desired gathering in of the Apostolic harvest.’
What followed is so extraordinary that, though
it has often been related, it deserves to be related
again, more particularly as the whole problem which
was supposed to have been solved once for all by M .
Stanislas Julien, has of late been opened again by
Dr. von Strauss, in the ‘Journal of the German Orien­
tal Society.’ 1869..
There is a passage at the beginning of the
1 Montuoci, De *tuāiis simcìs. Berolini, 1808.
fourteenth chapter of the Tao-te-king in which
Father Amyot felt certain that the three Persons of
the Trinity could be recognised. He translated it :—
‘ He who is as it were visible but cannot be seen
is called K h i .
‘ He whom we cannot hear, and who does not
speak to our ear, is called H i .
‘ He who is as it were tangible, but cannot be
touched, is called Wei.’
Few readers, I believe, would have been much
startled by this passage, or would have seen in it
what Father Amyot saw. But more startling revelations were in store. The most celebrated Chinese
scholar of his time, Abel Rémusat, took up the subject; and after showing that the first of the three
names had to be pronounced, not K h i , but I‚ he
maintained that the three syllables I H i Wei , were
meant for Je–ho–vah. According to him, the three
characters employed in this name have no meaning
i n Chinese ; they are only signs of sounds foreign to
the Chinese language; and they were intended to
render the Greek ’law‚ the name which, according
to Diodorus Siculus, the Jews gave to their God.
Rémusat goes on to remark that Lao-tse had really
rendered this Hebrew name more accurately than the
Greeks, because he had preserved the aspiration of
the second syllable, which was lost in Greek. In
fact, he entertained no doubt that this word, occurring in the work of Lao-tse, proves an intellectual
communication between the West and China, in the
sixth century B.C.
Fortunately, the panic created by this discovery
did not last long. M . Stanislas Julien published in
1842 a complete translation of this difficult book ;.
and here all traces of the name of Jehovah have
‘ The three syllables.’ he writes, ‘ which Abel
Rémusat considered as purely phonetic and foreign
to the Chinese language, have a very clear and intelligible meaning, and have been fully explained by
Chinese commentators. The first syllable, I, means
without colour; the second, H i , without sound or
voice; the third, Wei, without body. The proper
translation therefore is :—
‘ You look (for the Tao, the law) and you see it
not : it is colourless.
‘ You listen and you hear it not : it is voiceless.
6 You wish to touch it and you reach it not : it is
without body.’
Until, therefore, some other traces can be discovered in Chinese literature, proving an intercourse
between China and Judæa in the sixth century B.c. ,
we can hardly be called upon to believe that the
Jews should have communicated this one name,
which they hardly trusted themselves to pronounce
at home, to a Chinese philosopher ; and we must
treat the apparent similarity between I-Hi-Wei and
Jehovah as an accident, which ought to serve as a
useful warning, though it need in no way discourage
a careful and honest study of Comparative Theology.
Presidential Address Delivered before the Birmingham Midland
Institute, October 20, 1879.
N O T more than twenty years have passed since John
Stuart M i l l sent forth his plea for Liberty.’
If there is one among the leaders of thought in
England who, by the elevation of his character and
the calm composure of his mind, deserved the so often
1 M i l l tells us that his Essay On liberty was planned and written
down in 1854. It was in mounting the steps of the Capitol in
January, 1855, that the thought first arose of converting it into a
volume, and it was not published ti l l 1859. The author, who in his
Autobiography speaks with exquisite modesty of all his literary performances, allows himself one single exception when speaking of his
Essay On Liberty. ' None of my writings; he says, ' have been either
so carefully composed or so sedulously corrected as this.' Its final
revision was to have been the work of the winter of 1858 to 1859,
which he and his wife had arranged to pass in the South of Europe,
a hope which was frustrated by his wife's death. ' The Liberty] he
writes, ' is likely to survive longer than anything else that I have
written (with the possible exception of the Logic), because the conjunction of her mind with mine has rendered it a kind of philosophic
textbook of a single truth, which the changes progressively taking
place in modern society tend to bring out into stronger relief : the
importance, to man and society, of a large variety of character, and
of giving full freedom to human nature to expand itself in innumerable and conflicting directions.'
misplaced title of Serene Highness, it was, I think,
John Stuart M i l l .
But in his Essay ‘ On Liberty,’ M i l l for once becomes passionate. In presenting his B i l l of Rights,
in stepping forward as the champion of individual
liberty, he seems to be possessed by a new spirit. He
speaks like a martyr, or the defender of martyrs.
The individual human soul, with its unfathomable
endowments, and its capacity of growing to something undreamt of in our philosophy, becomes in his
eyes a sacred thing, and every encroachment on its
world-wide domain is treated as sacrilege. Society,
the arch-enemy of the rights of individuality, is represented like an evil spirit, whom it behoves every
true man to resist with might and main, and whose
demands, as they cannot be altogether ignored, must
be reduced at all hazards to the lowest level.
I doubt whether any of the principles for which
M i l l pleaded so warmly and strenuously in his Essay
‘ On Liberty ' would at the present day be challenged
or resisted, even by the most illiberal of philosqphers,
or the most conservative of politicians. Mill 's demands sound very humble to our ears. They amount
to no more than this, ‘ that the individual is not
accountable to society for his actions so far as they
concern the interests of no person but himself, and
that he may be subjected to social or legal punishments for such actions only as are prejudicial to the
interests of others.’
Is there any one here present who doubts the
justice of that principle, or who would wish to reduce
the freedom of the individual to a smaller measure ?
Whatever social tyranny may have existed twenty
years ago, when it wrung that fiery protest from the
lips of John Stuart Mi l l , can we imagine a state of
society, not totally Utopian, in which the individual
man need be less ashamed of his social fetters, in
which he could more freely utter all his honest convictions, more boldly propound all his theories, more
fearlessly agitate for their speedy realisation; in
which, in fact, each man can be so entirely himself
as the society of England, such as it now is, such as
generations of hard-thinking and hard-working Englishmen have made it, and left it as the most sacred
inheritance to their sons and daughters ?
Look through the whole of history, not excepting
the brightest days of republican freedom at Athens
and Rome, and you will not find one single period in
which the measure of liberty accorded to each individual was larger than it is at present, at least in
England. And if you wish to realise the full blessings
of the time in which we live, compare Mill 's plea for
Liberty with another written not much more than
two hundred years ago, and by a thinker not inferior
either in power or boldness to M i l l himself. According to Hobbes, the only freedom which an individual
in his ideal state has a right to claim is what he calls
6 freedom of thought.’ and that freedom of thought
consists in our being able to think what we like—so
long as we keep it to ourselves. Surely, such freedom of thought existed even in the days of the Inquisition, and we should never call thought free, if i t
had to be kept a prisoner in solitary and silent confinement. By freedom of thought we mean freedom
of speech, freedom of the press, freedom of action,
whether individual or associated, and of that freedom
the present generation, as compared with all former
generations, the English nation, as compared with
al l other nations, enjoys, there can be no doubt, a
good measure, pressed down, and shaken together,
and sometimes running over.
It may be said that some dogmas still remain in
politics, in religion, and in morality ; but those who
defend them claim no longer any infallibility, and
those who attack them, however small their minority,
need fear no violence, nay, may reckon on an impartial and even sympathetic hearing, as soon as people
discover in their pleadings the true ring of honest
conviction and the warmth inspired by an unselfish
love of truth.
It has seemed strange therefore to many readers of
M i l l , particularly on the Continent, that this plea for
liberty, this demand for freedom for every individual
to be what he is, and to develop ail the germs of his
nature, should have come from what is known as the
freest of all countries, England. We might well
understand such a cry of indignation if it had reached
us from Russia ; but why should English philosophers,
of all others, have to protest against the tyranny of
society ? It is true, nevertheless, that in countries
governed despotically, the individual, unless he is
obnoxious to the Government, enjoys far greater
freedom, or rather licence, than in a country like
England, which governs itself. Russian society, for
instance, is extremely indulgent. It tolerates in its
rulers and statesmen a haughty defiance of the
simplest rules of social propriety, and it seems
amused rather than astonished or indignant at the
vagaries, the frenzies, and outrages, of those who i n
brilliant drawing-rooms or lecture-rooms preach the
doctrines of what is called Nihilism or Individualism,1
—viz., ‘that society must be regenerated by a struggle
for existence and the survival of the strongest, processes which Nature has sanctioned, and which have
proved successful among wild animals.’ If there is
danger in these doctrines the Government is expected
to see to it. It may place watchmen at the doors of
every house and at the corner of every street, but it
must not count on the better classes coming forward
to enrol themselves as special constables, or even on
the co-operation of public opinion which in England
would annihilate that kind of Nihilism with one
glance of scorn and pity.
In a self-governed country like England, the
resistance which society, if it likes, can oppose to
the individual in the assertion of his rights, is far
more compact and powerful than in Russia, or even
in Germany. Even where it does not employ the
arm of the law, society knows how to use that
quieter, but more crushing pressure, that calm,
Gorgon-like look which only the bravest and stoutest
hearts know how to resist.
It is against that indirect repression which a
well-organised society exercises, both through its
male and female representatives, that Mill's demand
for liberty seems directed. He does not stand up for
unlimited individualism ; on the contrary, he would
have been the most strenuous defender of that balance
of power between the weak and the strong on which
1 Herzen defined Nihilism as ' the most perfect freedom from all
settled concepts, from all inherited restraints and impediments
which hamper the progress of the Occidental intellect with the
historical drag tied to its foot,'
all social life depends. But he resents those smaller
penalties which society will always inflict on those
who disturb its dignified peace and comfort:—avoidance, exclusion, a cold look, a stinging remark. Had
M i l l any right to complain of these social penalties ?
Would it not rather amount to an interference with
individual liberty to deprive any individual or any
number of individuals of those weapons of selfdefence P Those who themselves think and speak
freely, have hardly a right to complain, i f others
claim the same privilege. M i l l himself called the
Conservative party the stupid party par excellence,
and he took great pains to explain that it was so,
not by accident, but by necessity. Need he wonder
if those whom he whipped and scourged used their
own whips and scourges against so merciless a
critic 9
Freethinkers—and I use that name as a title of
honour for all who, like Mi l l , claim for every individual the fullest freedom in thought, word, or deed,
compatible with the freedom of others—are apt to
make one mistake. Conscious of their own honest
intentions, they cannot bear to be misjudged or
slighted. They expect society to submit to their
often very painful operations as a patient submits
to the knife of the surgeon. This is not in human
nature. The enemy of abuses is always abused by
his enemies. Society will never yield one inch without resistance, and few reformers live long enough
to receive the thanks of those whom they have reformed. Mill 's unsolicited election to Parliament
was a triumph not often shared by social reformers ;
it was as exceptional as Bright’s admission to a seat in
the Cabinet, or Stanley's appointment as Dean of
Westminster. Such anomalies will happen in a
country fortunately so full of anomalies as England ;
but, as a rule, a political reformer must not be angry
if he passes through life without the title of Right
Honourable ; nor should a man, i f he will always
speak the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but
the truth, be disappointed i f he dies a martyr rather
than a Bishop.
But even granting that in Mill 's time there
existed some traces of social tyranny, where are
they now? Look at the newspapers and the
journals. Is there any theory too wild, any reform
too violent, to be openly defended? Look at the
drawing-rooms or the meetings of learned societies.
Are not the most eccentric talkers the spoiled
children of the fashionable world? When young
lords begin to discuss the propriety of limiting the
rights of inheritance, and young tutors are not
afraid to propose curtailing the long vacation, surely
we need not complain of the intolerance of English
Whenever I state these facts to my German and
French and Italian friends, who from reading Mill 's
Essay On Liberty have derived the impression that,
however large an amount of political liberty England
may enjoy, it enjoys but little of intellectual freedom,
they are generally willing to be converted so far as
London, or other great cities, are concerned. But
look at your Universities, they say, the nurseries of
English thought ! Compare their mediæval spirit,
their monastic institutions, their scholastic philosophy, with the freshness and freedom of the Con486 ON FREEDOM.
tinental Universities ! Strong as these prejudices
about Oxford and Cambridge have long been, they
have become still more intense since Professor
Helmholtz, in an inaugural address which he delivered at his installation as Rector of the University
of Berlin, lent to them the authority of his great
name. ‘The tutors,’ he says,1 ‘ i n the English
Universities cannot deviate by a hair’s-breadth from
the dogmatic system of the English Church, without
exposing themselves to the censure of their Archbishops and losing their pupils.’ In German Uni versities, on the contrary, we are told that the
extreme conclusions of materialistic metaphysics,
the boldest speculations within the sphere of Darwin's theory of evolution, may be propounded without let or hindrance, quite as much as the highest
apotheosis of Papal infallibility.
Here the facts on which Professor Helmholtz
relies are entirely wrong, and the writings of some
of our most eminent tutors supply a more than
sufficient refutation of his statements. Archbishops
have no official position whatsoever in English Universities, and their censure of an Oxford tutor would
be resented as impertinent by the whole University.
Nor does the University, as such, exercise any very
strict control over the tutors, even when they lecture
not to their own College only. Each Master of Arts
at Oxford claims now the right to lecture {venia
docendi), and I doubt whether they would submit to
1 Ueber die Akademische Freiheit der Deutschen Universitäten,
Rede beim Antritt des Rectorats an der Friedrich-Wilhelms-Universität in Berlin, am October 15, 1877, gehalten von Dr. H .
those restrictions which, in Germany, the Faculty
imposes on every PVivat-docent. Privat-docents in
German Universities have been rejected by the
Faculty for incompetence, and silenced for insubordination. I know of no such eases at Oxford during
my residence of more than thirty years, nor can I
think it likely that they should ever occur.
As to the extreme conclusions of materialistic
metaphysics, there are Oxford tutors who have
grappled with the systems of such giants as Hobbes,
Locke, or Hume, and who are not likely to be
frightened by Büchner and Vogt.
I know comparisons are odious, and I should be
the last man to draw comparisons between English
and German Universities unfavourable to the latter.
But with regard to freedom of thought, of speech,
and action, Professor Helmholtz, if he would spend
but a few weeks at Oxford, would find that we enjoy
it in fuller measure here than the Professors and
Privat-docents in any Continental University. The
publications of some of our professors and tutors
ought at least to have convinced him that if there
is less of brave words and turbulent talk in their
writings, they display throughout a determination
to speak the truth, which may be matched, but could
not easily be excelled, by the leaders of thought in
France, Germany, or Italy.
The real difference between English and Continental Universities is that the former govern themselves, the latter are governed. Self-government
entails responsibilities, sometimes restraints and reticences. I may here be allowed to quote the words
of another eminent Professor of the University of
Berlin, Du Bois Reymond, who, in addressing his
colleagues, ventured to tell them,1 ‘ We have still to
learn from the English how the greatest independence of the individual is compatible with willing
submission to salutary, though irksome, statutes.’
That is particularly true when the statutes are selfimposed. In Germany, as Professor Helmholtz tells
us himself, the last decision in almost all the more
important affairs of the Universities rests with the
Government, and he does not deny that in times of
political and ecclesiastical tension, a most ill-advised
use has been made of that power. There are, besides, the less important matters, such as raising of
salaries, leave of absence, scientific missions, even
titles and decorations, all of which enable a clever
Minister of Instruction to assert his personal influence among the less independent members of the
University. In Oxford the University does not know
the Ministry, nor the Ministry the University. The
acts of the Government, be it Liberal or Conservative,
are freely discussed, and often powerfully resisted by
the academic constituencies, and the personal dislike
of a Minister or Ministerial Councillor could as little
injure a professor or tutor as his favour could add
one penny to his salary.
But these are minor matters. What gives their
own peculiar character to the English Universities
is a sense of power and responsibility : power, because
they are the most respected among the numerous
1 Ueber eine Akademie der Deutschen Sprache, p. 34. Another
keen observer of English life, Dr. K . Hillebrand, in an article in the
October number of the Nineteenth Century, remarks : ' Nowhere is
there greater individual liberty than in England, and nowhere do
people renounce it more readily of their own accord;
corporations in the 'country ; responsibility, because
the higher education of the whole country has been
committed to their charge. Their only master is
public opinion as represented in Parliament, their
only incentive their own sense of duty. There is
no country in Europe where Universities hold so
exalted a position, and where those who have the
honour to belong to them may say with greater
truth, Noblesse oblige.
I know the dangers of self-government, particularly where higher and more ideal interests are
concerned, and there are probably few who wish for
a real reform in schools and Universities who have
not occasionally yielded to the desire for a Dictator, of
a Bismarck or a Falk. But such a desire springs only
from a momentary weakness and despondency ; and
no one who knows the difference between being
governed and governing oneself, would ever wish to
descend from that higher though dangerous position
to a lower one, however safe and comfortable it
might seem. No one who has tasted the old wine
of freedom would ever really wish to exchange it for
the new wine of external rule. Public opinion is
sometimes a hard master, and majorities can be
great tyrants to those who want to be honest to
their own convictions. But in the struggle of all
against all, each individual feels that he has his
rightful place, and that he may exercise his rightful
influence. If he is beaten, he is beaten in fair fight ;
if he conquers, he has no one else to thank. No
doubt, despotic Governments have often exercised the
most beneficial patronage in encouraging and rewarding poets, artists, and men of science. But
men of genius who have conquered the love and
admiration of a whole nation are greater than those
who have gained the favour of the most brilliant
Courts; and we know how some of the fairest reputations have been wrecked on the patronage which they
had to accept at the hands of powerful Ministers or
ambitious Sovereigns.
But to return to M i l l and his plea for Liberty..
Though I can hardly believe that, were he still among
us, he would claim a larger measure of freedom for
the individual than is now accorded to every one of
us in the society in which we move, yet the chief
cause on which he founded his plea for Liberty, the
chief evil which he thought could be remedied only if
society would allow more elbow-room to individual
genius, exists in the same degree as in his time—aye,
even in a higher degree. The principle of individuality has suffered more at present than perhaps at
any former period of history. The world is becoming
more and more gregarious, and what the French call
our nature moutonnière, our tendency to leap where
the sheep in front of us has leapt, becomes more and
more prevalent in politics, in religion, in art, and
even in science. M . de Tocqueville expressed his
surprise how much more Frenchmen of the present
day resemble one another than did those of the last
generation. The same remark, adds John Stuart
M i l l , might be made of England in a greater degree.
‘ The modern régime of public opinion.’ he writes, ‘ is
in an unorganised form what the Chinese educational
and political systems are in an organised ; and unless
individuality shall be able successfully to assert itself
against this yoke, Europe, notwithstanding its noble
antecedents and its professed Christianity, will tend
to become another China.’
I fully agree with M i l l in recognising the dangers
of uniformity, but I doubt whether what he calls the
régime of public opinion is alone, or even chiefly,
answerable for it. No doubt there are some people
in whose eyes uniformity seems an advantage rather
than a disadvantage. I f all were equally strong,
equally educated, equally honest, equally rich, equally
tall, or equally small, society would seem to them
to have reached the highest ideal. The same people
admire an old French garden, with its clipped yewtrees, forming artificial walls and towers and pyramids, far more than the giant yews which, like large
serpents, clasp the soil with their coiling roots, and
overshadow with their dark green branches the white
chalk cliffs of the Thames. But those French gardens,
unless they are constantly clipped and prevented from
growing, soon fall into decay. As in nature, so in
society, uniformity means but too often stagnation,
while variety is the surest sign of health and vigour.
The deepest secret of nature is its love of continued
novelty. Its tendency, i f unrestrained, is towards
constantly creating new varieties, which, if they fulfil
their purpose, become fixed for a time, or, it may be,
for ever ; while others, after they have fulfilled their
purpose, vanish to make room for new and stronger
The same is the secret of human society. It consists and lives in individuals, each meant to be different from all the others, and to contribute his own
peculiar share to the common wealth. As no tree is
like any other tree, and no leaf on the same tree like
any other leaf, no human being is, or is meant to be,
exactly like any other human being. It is in this
endless, and to us inconceivable, variety of human
souls that the deepest purpose of human life is to be
realised ; and the more society fulfils that purpose,
the more it allows free scope for the development of
every individual germ, the richer will be the harvest
in no distant future. Such is the mystery of individuality that I do not wonder i f even those
philosophers who, like M i l l , confine the use of the word
sacred within the very smallest compass, see in each
individual soul something sacred, something to be revered, even where we cannot understand it, something
to be protected against all vulgar violence.
Where I differ from M i l l and his school is on the
question as to the quarter from whence the epidemic
of uniformity springs which threatens the free development of modern society. M i l l points to the
society in which we move ; to those who are in front
of us, to our contemporaries. I feel convinced that
our real enemies are at our back, and that the heaviest
chains which are fastened on us are those made, not
by the present, but by past generations—by our ancestors, not by our contemporaries.
It is on this point, on the trammels of individual
freedom with which we may almost be said to be born
into the world, and on the means by which we may
shake off these old chains, or at all events learn to
carry them more lightly and gracefully, that I wish
to speak to you this evening.
You need not be afraid that I am going to enter
upon the much discussed subject of heredity, whether
i n its physiological or psychological aspects. It is a
favourite subject just now, and the most curious facts
have been brought together of late to illustrate the
working of what is called heredity. But the more
we know of these facts, the less we seem able to
comprehend the underlying principle. Inheritance
is one of those numerous words which by their very
simplicity and clearness are so apt to darken our
counsel. If a father has blue eyes and the son has
blue eyes, what can be clearer than that he inherited
them ? If the father stammers and the son stammers,
who can doubt but that it came by inheritance ? I f
the father is a musician and the son a musician, we
say very glibly that the talent was inherited. But
what does inherited mean? In no case does it mean
what inherited usually means—something external,
like money, collected by a father, and, after his death,
secured by law to his son. Whatever else inherited
may mean, it does not mean that. But unfortunately
the word is there, it seems almost pedantic to challenge its meaning, and people are always grateful i f
an easy word saves them the trouble of hard thought.
Another apparent advantage of the theory of
heredity is that it never fails. If the son has blue,
and the father black, eyes, all is right again, for
either the mother, or the grandmother, or some
historic or prehistoric ancestor, may have had blue
eyes, and atavism, we know, will assert itself after
hundreds and thousands of years.
Do not suppose that I deny the broad facts of
what is called by the name of heredity. What I
deny is that the name of heredity offers any scientific
solution of a most difficult problem. It is a name, a
metaphor, quite as bad as the old metaphor of innate
ideas ; for there is hardly a single point of similarity
between the process by which a son may share the
black eyes, the stammering, or the musical talent
of his father, and that by which, after his father's
death, the law secures to the son the possession of
the pounds, shillings, and pence which his father
held in the Funds.
But whatever the true meaning of heredity may
be, certain it is that every individual comes into the
world heavy-laden. Nowhere has the consciousness
of the burden which rests on each generation as i t
enters on its journey through life found stronger
expression than among the Buddhists. What other
people call by various names, ‘ fate or providence,'
‘ tradition or inheritance,' ‘ circumstances or environment.’ they call Karman, deed—what has been done,
whether by ourselves or by others, the accumulated
work of all who have come before us, the consequences of which we have to bear, both for good and
for evil. Originally this Karman seems to have
been conceived as personal, as the work which we
ourselves have done in our former existences. But,
as personally we are not conscious of having done
such work in former ages, that kind of Karman, too,
might be said to be impersonal. To the question
how Karman began, what was the nucleus of that
accumulation which forms the condition of present
existence, Buddhism has no answer to give, any
more than any other system of religion or philosophy. The Buddhists say it began with avidyâ,
and avidyâ means ignorance.’ They are much more
deeply interested in the question how Karman may
1 Spencer Hardy, Manual of Buddhism, p. 391.
¾e annihilated, how each man may free himself from
the influence of Karman, and Nirvâna, the highest
object of all their dreams, is often defined by Buddhist philosophers as ‘freedom from Karman.’ 1
What the Buddhists call by the general name of
Karman, comprehends all influences which the past
exercises on the present, whether physical or mental.2
It is not my object to examine or even to name all
these influences, though I confess nothing is more
interesting than to look upon the surface of our modern
life as we look on a geological map, and to see the
most ancient formations cropping out everywhere
under our feet. Difficult as it is to colour a geological map of England, it would be still more difficult
to find a sufficient variety of colours to mark the
different ingredients of the intellectual condition of
her people.
That all of us, whether we speak English or
German, or French or Russian, are really speaking
an ancient Oriental tongue, incredible as it would
have sounded a hundred years ago, is now recognised
by everybody. Though the various dialects now
spoken in Europe have been separated many thousands of years from the Sanskrit, the ancient classical
language of India, yet so close is the bond that holds
the West and East together, that in many cases an
intelligent Englishman might still guess the mean1 Spencer Hardy, Manual of Buddhism, p. 39.
2 ' As one generation dies and gives way to another, the heir of the
consequences of all its virtues and all its vices, the exact result of
pre-existent causes, so each individual, in the long chain of life, inherits all, of good or evil, which aU its predecessors have done or been,
and takes up the struggle towards enlightenment precisely where
they left it.'—Rhys Davids, Buddhism, p. 104.
496 O N F R E E D O M .
ing of a Sanskrit word. How little difference is there
between Sanskrit sunu and English son, between
Sanskrit duh i t a r and English daughter, between,
Sanskrit v id , to know, and English to wit, between
Sanskrit vaksh, to grow, and English to wax !
Think how we value a Saxon urn, or a Roman coin,
or a Celtic weapon ! how we dig for them, clean
them, label them, and carefully deposit them in our
museums ! Yet what is their antiquity compared
with the antiquity of such words as son or daughter,
father and mother ? There are no monuments older
than those collected in the handy volumes which we
call Dictionaries, and those who know how to interpret those English antiquities—as you may see them
interpreted, for instance, in Grimm's Dictionary of
the German, in Littré's Dictionary of the French, or
in Professor Skeats’ Etymological Dictionary of the
English Language — will learn more of the real
growth of the human mind than by studying many
volumes on logic and psychology.
And as by our language we belong to the Aryan
stratum, we belong through our letters to the Hamitic. We still write English in hieroglyphics ; and
in spite of all the vicissitudes through which the
ancient hieroglyphics have passed in their journey
from Egypt to Phoenicia, from Phoenicia to Greece,
from Greece to Italy, and from Italy to England,
when we write a capital F when we draw the
top line and the smaller line through the middle of
the letter, we really draw the two horns of the
cerastes, the horned serpent, which the ancient
Egyptians used for representing the sound of f. They
write the name of the king whom the Greeks called
Cheops, and they themselves Chu-fu, like this : 1
fu u Here the first sign, the sieve, is to be pronounced
chu ; the second, the horned serpent, fu, and the
little bird, again, u. In the more cursive or Hieratic
writing the horned serpent appears as ; in the
later Demotic as 7 a n d V» The Phoenicians, who
borrowed their letters from the Hieratic Egyptian, wrote and V. The Greeks, who took their
letters from the Phoenicians, wrote --I. When the
Greeks, instead of writing, like the Phoenicians, from
right to left, began to write from left to right, they
turned each letter, and as >| became K 9 our k, so –1,
vau, became F, the Greek so-called Digamma, F, the
Latin F.
The first letter in Chu-fu, too, still exists in our
alphabet, and in the transverse line of our H we may
recognise the last remnant of the lines which divide
the sieve. The sieve appears in Hieratic as 0, in
Phoenician as ¾ in ancient Greek as B, which
occurs on an inscription found at Mycenæ and elsewhere as the sign of the spiritus asper, while in Latin
it is known to us as the letter H . 2 In the same
manner the undulating line of our capital still
recalls very strikingly the bent back of the crouching
1 Bunsen, L’gypt, i i . pp. 77, 150.
2 Mémoire sur V Origine Egyptienne de VAlphabet Phénicien, par
E. de Rougé, Paris, 1874.
lion, }j^, which in the later hieroglyphic inscriptions
represents the sound of L .
If thus in our language we are Aryan, in our
letters Egyptian, we have only to look at our watches
to see that we are Babylonian. Why is our hour
divided into sixty minutes, our minute into sixty
seconds ? Would not a division of the hour into ten,
or fifty, or a hundred minutes have been more
natural? We have sixty divisions on the dials of
our watches simply because the Greek astronomer
Hipparchus, who lived in the second century B.c.,
accepted the Babylonian system of reckoning time,
that system being sexagesimal. The Babylonians
knew the decimal system, but for practical purposes
they counted by sossi and sari, the sossos representing
60, the saros 60 x 60, or 3,600. From Hipparchus
that system found its way into the works of Ptolemy,
about 150 A.D. , and thence it was carried down the
stream of civilisation, finding its last resting-place
on the dial-plates of our clocks.
And why are there twenty shillings to our sovereign ? Again the real reason lies in Babylon. The
Greeks learnt from the Babylonians the art of dividing
gold and silver for the purpose of trade. It has been
proved that the current gold piece of Western Asia
was exactly the sixtieth part of a Babylonian mnd, or
mina. It was nearly equal to our sovereign. The
difficult problem of the relative value of gold and
silver in a bi-metallic currency had been solved to a
certain extent in the ancient Mesopotamian kingdom,
the proportion between gold and silver being fixed at 1
to 13^. The silver shekel currrent in Babylon was
heavier than the gold shekel in the proportion of 13½
to 10, and had therefore the value of one-tenth of a
gold shekel; and the half silver shekel, called by the
Greeks a drachma, was worth one-twentieth of a
gold shekel. The drachma, or half silver shekel, may
therefore be looked upon as the most ancient type of
our own silver shilling in its relation of one-twentieth
of our gold sovereign.’
I shall mention only one more of the most essential tools of our mental life—namely, our figures,
which we call Arabic, because we received them from
the Arabs, but which the Arabs called Indian, because
they received them from the Indians—in order to
show you how this nineteenth century of ours is
under the sway of centuries long past and forgotten ;
how we are what we are, not by ourselves, but by
those who came before us, and how the intellectual
ground on which we stand is made up of the detritus
of thoughts which were first- thought, n.ot on these
isles nor in Europe, but on the shores of the Oxus,
the Nile, the Euphrates, and the Indus.
Now you may well ask Quorsum hœc omnia ?—
What has all this to do with freedom and with the
free development of individuality? Because a man
is born the heir of all the ages, can it be said that he
is not free to grow and to expand, and to develop all
the faculties of his mind ? Are those who came before him, and who left him this goodly inheritance,
to be called his enemies ? Is that chain of tradition
which connects him with the past really a galling
fetter, and not rather the leading-strings without
which he would never learn to walk straight ?
Let us look at the matter more closely. No one
1 See Brandis, Das Miinzmsm.
500 O N F R E E D O M .
would venture to say that every individual should
begin life as a young savage, and be left to form his
own language, and invent his own letters, numerals,
and coins. On the contrary, if we comprehend all
this and a great deal more, such as religion, morality,
and secular knowledge, under the general name of
education, even the most advanced defenders of individualism would hold that no child should enter
society without submitting, or rather without being
submitted, to education. Most of us would even go
further, and make it criminal for parents or even for
communities to allow children to grow up uneducated.
The excuse of worthless parents that they are at
liberty to do with their children as they like, has at
last been blown to the winds, and among the principal advocates of compulsory education, and of the
necessity of curtailing the freedom of savage parents
of savage children, have been M i l l and his friends,
the apostles of liberty and individualism.’ I remember the time when pseudo-Liberals were not ashamed
to say that, whatever other nations, such as the
Germans, might do, England would never submit to
compulsory education; but that faint-hearted and
mischievous cry has at last been silenced. A new
era may be said to date in the history of every nation
from the day on which ‘ compulsory education ’ becomes part of its statute-book ; and I may congratulate the most Liberal town in England on having
proved itself the most inexorable tyrant in carrying
it into effect.
1 ' Is it not almost a self-evident axiom, that the State should
require and compel the education, up to a certain standard, of every
human being who is born its citizen ? Yet who is there that is not
afraid to recognise and assert this truth ? '—On Liberty, p. 188.
But do not let us imagine that compulsory education is without its dangers. Like a powerful engine,
it must be carefully watched, i f it is not to produce,
what all compulsion will produce, a slavish receptivity, and, what all machines do produce, monotonous
We know that all education must in the beginning be purely dogmatic. Children are taught language, religion, morality, patriotism, and afterwards
at school, history, literature, mathematics, and all
the rest, long before they are able to question, to
judge, or choose for themselves, and there is hardly
anything that a child will not believe, if it comes
from those in whom the child believes.
Reading, writing, and arithmetic, no doubt, must
be taught dogmatically, and they take up an enormous amount of time, particularly in English schools.
English spelling is a national misfortune, and in the
keen international race among all the countries of
Europe, it handicaps the English child to a degree
that seems incredible t i l l we look at statistics. I
know the difficulties of a Spelling Reform, I know
what people mean when they call it impossible ; but
I also know that personal and national virtue consists in doing so-called impossible things, and that
no nation has done, and has still to do, so many impossible things as the English.
But, granted that reading, writing, and arithmetic
occupy nearly the whole school time and absorb the
best powers of the pupils, cannot something be done
in play-hours ? Is there not some work that can be
turned into play, and some play that can be turned
into work? Cannot the powers of observation be
called out in a child while collecting flowers, or
stones, or butterflies? Cannot his judgment be
strengthened either in gymnastic exercises, or in
measuring the area of a field or the height of a
tower ? Might not all this be done without a view
to examinations or payment by results, simply for
the sake of filling the little dull minds with one sunbeam of joy, such sunbeams being more likely hereafter to call hidden precious germs into life than the
deadening weight of such lessons as, for instance,
that th-ough is though, thr-ough is through, en-ough
is enough. A child who believes that will hereafter
believe anything. Those who wish to see Natural
Science introduced into elementary schools frighten
schoolmasters by the very name of Natural Science.
But surely every schoolmaster who is worth his salt
should be able to teach children a love of Nature, a
wondering at Nature, a curiosity to pry into the
secrets of Nature, an acquisitiveness for some of the
treasures of Nature, and all this acquired in the fresh
air of the field and the forest, where, better than in
frouzy lecture-rooms, the edge of the senses can be
sharpened, the chest widened, and that freedom of
thought fostered which made England what it was
even before the days of compulsory education.
But in addressing you here to-night it was my
intention to speak of higher rather than of elementary education.
A l l education—as it now exists in most countries
of Europe—may be divided into three stages—elementary, scholastic, and academical ; or call it primary,
secondary, and tertiary.
Elementary education has at last been made comO N F R E E D O M . 503
pulsory in most civilised countries. Unfortunately,
however, it seems impossible to include under compulsory education anything beyond the very elements
of knowledge—at least for the present; though I
know from experience that, with proper management,
a well-conducted elementary school can afford to provide instruction in extra subjects—such as natural
science, modern languages, and political economy—
and yet, with the present system of Government
grants, be self-supporting.’
The next stage above the elementary is scholastic
education, as it is supplied in grammar schools,
whether public or private. According as the pupils
are intended either to go on to a university, or to
enter at once on leaving school on the practical work
of life, these schools are divided into two classes. In
the one class, which in Germany are called Realschulen, less Latin is taught, and no Greek, but more
of mathematics, modern languages, and physical
science ; in the other, called Gymnasia on the Continent, classics form the chief staple of instruction.
It is during this stage that education, whether
at private or public schools, exercises its strongest
levelling influence. Little attention can be paid at
large schools to individual tastes or talents. In
Germany—even more, perhaps, than in England
—it is the chief object of a good and conscientious
master to have his class as uniform as possible at the
end of the year ; and he receives far more credit from
the official examiner if his whole class marches well
and keeps pace together, than i f he can parade a few
1 Times, January 25, 1879.
brilliant and forward boys, followed by a number of
straggling laggards.
And as to the character of the teaching at school,
how can it be otherwise than authoritative or dogmatic ? The Socratic method is very good if we can
find the viri Socratici and leisure for discussion.
But at school, which now may seem to be called
almost in mockery is, after all, that patronised by the great educators
of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Boys
at school must turn their mind into a row of pigeonholes, filling as many as they can with useful notes,
and never forgetting how many are empty. There
is an immense amount of positive knowledge to be
acquired between the ages of ten and eighteen—
rules of grammar, strings of vocables, dates, names
of towns, rivers, and mountains, mathematical formulas, etc. A l l depends here on the receptive and
retentive powers of the mind. The memory has to
be strengthened, without being overtaxed, t i l l it acts
almost mechanically. Learning by heart, I believe,
cannot be too assiduously practised during the years
spent at school. There may have been too much of it
when, as the Rev. H . C. Adams informs us in his
‘ Wykehainiea’ (p. 357), boys used to say by heart
13,000 and 14,000 lines, when one repeated the whole
of Virgi l , nay, when another was able to say the
whole of the English Bible by rote : — ‘ Put him on
where you would, he would go fluently on, as long as
anyone would listen.’
No intellectual investment, I feel certain, bears
such ample and such regular interest as gems of
English, Latin, or Greek literature deposited in the
memory during childhood and youth, and taken up
from time to time in the happy hours of solitude.
One fault I have to find with most schools, both
in England and on the Continent. Boys do not read
enough of the Greek and Roman classics. The majority of our masters are scholars by profession, and
they are apt to lay undue stress on what they call
accurate and minute scholarship, and to neglect wide
and cursory reading. I know the arguments for
minute accuracy, but I also know the mischief that
is done by an exclusive devotion to critical scholarship
before we have acquired a real familiarity with the
principal works of classical literature. The time
spent in our schools in learning the rules of grammar
and syntax, writing exercises, and composing verses,
is too large. Look only at our Greek and Latin
grammars, with all their rules and exceptions, and
exceptions on exceptions ! It is too heavy a weight
for any boy to carry ; and no wonder that when one
of the thousand small rules which they have learnt
by heart is really wanted, it is seldom forthcoming.
The end of classical teaching at school should be to
make our boys acquainted, not only with the language,
but with the literature and history, the ancient
thought of the ancient world. Rules of grammar,
syntax, or metre, are but means towards that end ;
they must never be mistaken for the end itself. A
young man of eighteen, who has probably spent on
an average ten years in learning Greek and Latin,
ought to be able to read any of the ordinary Greek
or Latin classics without much difficulty ; nay, with
a certain amount of pleasure. He might have
to consult his dictionary now and then, or guess the
meaning of certain words ; he might also feel doubtful sometime whether certain forms came from irjfju,
I send, or eîfu‚ I go, or slfií, I am, particularly if
preceded by prepositions. In these matters the best
scholars are least inclined to be pharisaical; and
whenever I meet in the controversies of classical
scholars the favourite phrase, ‘ Every schoolboy knows,
or ought to know, this,’ I generally say to myself,
‘ No, he ought not.’ Anyhow, those who wish to see
the study of Greek and Latin retained in our public
schools ought to feel convinced that it will certainly
not be retained much longer, if it can be said with
any truth that young men who leave school at
eighteen are in many cases unable to read or to enjoy
a classical text, unless they have seen it before.
Classical teaching, and all purely scholastic
teaching, ought to be finished at school. When a
young man goes to a University, unless he means to
make scholarship his profession, he ought to be free
to enter upon a new career. If he has not learnt by
that time so much of Greek and Latin as is absolutely
necessary in after-life for a lawyer, or a student of
physical science, or even a clergyman, either he or
his school is to blame. I do not mean to say that it
would not be most desirable for everyone during his
University career to attend some lectures on classical
literature, on ancient history, philosophy, or art.
What is to be deprecated is, that the University
should have to do the work which belongs properly
to the school.
The best colleges at Oxford and Cambridge have
shown by their matriculation examinations what the
standard of classical knowledge ought to be at
eighteen or nineteen. That standard can be reached
by boys while still at school, as has been proved both
by the so-called local examinations, and by the examinations of schools held under the Delegates appointed by the Universities. If, therefore, the University would reassert her old right, and make the
first examination, called at Oxford Responsions, a
general matriculation examination for admission to
the University, not only would the public schools be
stimulated to greater efforts, but the teaching of the
University might assume, from the very beginning,
that academic character which ought to distinguish
it from mere schoolboy work.
Academic teaching ought to be not merely a continuation, but in one sense a correction of scholastic
teaching. While at school instruction must be
chiefly dogmatic, at the University is it to be Socratic ?
for I find no better name for that method which is
to set a man free from the burden of purely traditional knowledge ; to make him feel that the words
which he uses are often empty, that the concepts he
employs are, for the most part, mere bundles picked
up at random ; that even where he knows facts, he
does not know the evidence for them ; and where he
expresses opinions, they are mostly mere dogmas,
adopted by him without examination.
But for the Universities, I should indeed fear
that Mill 's prophecies might come true, and that the
intellect of Europe might drift into dreary monotony.
The Universities always have been, and, unless they
are diverted from their original purpose, always will
be, the guardians of the freedom of thought, the
protectors of individual spontaneity; and it was
owing, I believe, to Mill 's want of acquaintance with
true academic teaching that he took so desponding
a view of the generation growing up under his eyes.
When we leave school, our heads are naturally
brimful of dogma—that is, of knowledge and opinions
at second-hand. Such dead knowledge is extremely
dangerous, unless it is sooner or later revived by the
spirit of free inquiry. It does not matter whether
our scholastic dogmas be true or false. The danger
is the same. And why? Because to place either
truth or error above the reach of argument is certain
to weaken truth and to strengthen error. Secondly,
because to hold as true on the authority of others
anything which concerns us deeply, and which we
could prove ourselves, produces feebleness, if not
dishonesty. And, thirdly, because to feel unwilling
or unable to meet objections by argument is generally
the first step towards violence and persecution.
I do not think of religious dogmas only. They
are generally the first to rouse inquiry, even during
our schoolboy days, and they are by no means the
most difficult to deal with. Dogma often rages
where we least expect it. Among scientific men the
theory of evolution is at present becoming, or has
become, a dogma. What is the result ? No objections are listened to, no difficulties recognised, and a
man like Virchow, himself the strongest supporter of
evolution, who has the moral courage to say that the
descent of man from any ape whatsoever is, as yet,
before the tribunal of scientific zoology, ‘ not proven,'
is howled down in Germany in a manner worthy of
Ephesians and Galatians. But at present I am
thinking not so much of any special dogmas, but
rather of that dogmatic state of mind which is the
almost inevitable result of the teaching at school. I
think of the whole intellect, what has been called
the intellectus sibi permissus, and I maintain it is the
object of academic teaching to rouse that intellect
out of its slumber by questions not less startling than
when Galileo asked the world whether the sun was
really moving and the earth stood still ; or when
Kant asked whether time and space were objects, or
necessary forms of our sensuous intuition. Ti l l our
opinions have thus been tested and stood the test,
we can hardly call them our own.
How true this is with regard to religion has been
boldly expressed by Bishop Beveridge.
‘ Being conscious to myself, he writes in his
‘ Private Thoughts on Religion.’ ‘ how great an ascendant Christianity holds over me beyond the rest,
as being that religion whereinto I was born and baptised ; that which the supreme authority has enjoined
and my parents educated me in ; that which every
one I meet withal highly approves of, and' which I
myself have, by a long-continued profession, made
almost natural to me : I am resolved to be more
jealous and suspicious of this religion than of the rest,
and be sure not to entertain it any longer without
being convinced, by solid and substantial arguments,
of the truth and certainty of it.’
This is bold and manly language from a Bishops
nearly two hundred years ago, and I certainly think
that the time has come when some of the divinity
lecturers at Oxford and Cambridge might well be
employed in placing a knowledge of the sacred books
of other religions within the reach of undergraduates.
Many of the difficulties—most of them of our own
making—with regard to the origin, the handing
down, the later corruptions and misinterpretations
of sacred texts, would find their natural solution, i f
it was shown how exactly the same difficulties arose
and had to be dealt with by theologians of other
creeds. If some—aye, if many—of the doctrines of
Christianity were met with in other religions also,
surely that would not affect their value, or diminish
their truth; while nothing, I feel certain, would
more effectually secure to the pure and simple teaching of Christ its true place in the historical development of the human mind than to place it side by side
with the other religions of the world. In the series
of translations of the ‘ Sacred Books of the East,' of
which the first three volumes have just appeared,1 I
wished myself to include a new translation of the
Old and New Testaments ; and when that series is
finished it will, I believe, be admitted that nowhere
would these two books have had a grander setting,
or have shone with a brighter light, than surrounded
by the Veda, the Zendavesta, the Buddhist Tripitaka,
and the Qur'ân.
But as I said before, I was not thinking of religious dogmas only,- or even chiefly, when I maintained that the character of academic teaching
must be Socratic, not dogmatic. The evil of dogmatic teaching lies much deeper, and spreads much
Think only of language, the work of other people,
not of ourselves, which we pick up at random in our
1 Sacred Books of the East, edited by M . M., vols. i . to ix. ;
Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1879 and 1880.
race through life. Does not every word we use require careful examination and revision ? It is not
enough to say that language assists our thoughts
or colours them, or possibly obscures them. No,
language and thought are indivisible. It was not
from poverty of expression that the Greeks called
reason and language by the same word, X6yos. It
was because they knew that, though we may distinguish between thought and speech, as we distinguish between force and function, it is as impossible to
tear the one by violence away from the other as it is
to separate the concave side of a lens from its convex
side. This is something to learn and to understand,
for, i f properly understood, it will supply the key to
most of our intellectual puzzles, and serve as the safest
thread through the whole labyrinth of philosophy.
‘ I t is evident,’ as Hobbes remarks,1 ‘that truth
and falsity have no place but amongst such living
creatures as use speech. For though some brute
creatures, looking upon the image of a man in a
glass, may be affected with it, as if it were the man
himself, and for this reason fear it or fawn upon it in
vain ; yet they do not apprehend it as true or false,
but only as like ; and in this they are not deceived.
Wherefore, as men owe all their true ratiocination
to the right understanding of speech, so also they
owe their errors to the misunderstanding of the same ;
and as all the ornaments of philosophy proceed only
from man, so from man also is derived the ugly absurdity of false opinion. For speech has something
in it like to a spider's web (as it was said of old of
Solon's laws), for by contexture of words tender and
1 Computation or Logic, t. in., viii., p 36,
delicate wits are ensnared or stopped, but strong
wits break easily through them.’
Let me illustrate my meaning by at least one
Among the words which have proved spider's
webs, ensnaring even the greatest intellects of the
world from Aristotle down to Leibniz, the terms
genus, species, and individual occupy a very prominent
place. The opposition of Aristotle to Plato, of the
Nominalists to the Realists, of Leibniz to Locke, cf
Herbart to Hegel, turns on the true meaning of these
words. A t school, of course, all we can do is to teach
the received meaning of genus and species ; and if a boy
can trace these terms back to Aristotle's yhos and
el8os, and show in what sense that philosopher used
them, every examiner would be satisfied.
But the time comes when we have to act as our
own examiners, and when we have to give an account
to ourselves of such words as genus and species.
Some people write, indeed, as if they had seen a
species and a genus walking about in broad daylight ;
but a little consideration will show us that these
words express subjective concepts, and that, if the
whole world were silent, there would never have
been a thought of a genus or a species. There are
languages in which we look in vain for corresponding
words ; and if we had been born in the atmosphere of
such a language, these terms and thoughts would not
exist for us. They came to us, directly or indirectly,
from Aristotle. But Aristotle did not invent them, he
only defined them in his own way, so that, for instance,
according to him, ail living beings would constitute a
genus, men a species, and Socrates an individual.
No one would say that Aristotle had not a perfect
right to define these terms, if those who use them in
his sense would only always remember that they are
thinking the thoughts of Aristotle, and not their
own. The true way to shake off the fetters of old
words, and to learn to think our own thoughts, is to
follow them up from century to century, to watch
their development, and in the end to bring ourselves
face to face with those who first found and framed
both words and thoughts. If we do this with genus
and species, we shall find that the words which
Aristotle defined—viz., than that which he gave to them. TsVo?, genus,
meant generation, and comprehended such living
beings only as were believed to have a common origin,
however they might differ in outward appearance,
as, for instance, the spaniel and the bloodhound, or,
according to Darwin, the ape and the man. lE2Bos
or species, on the contrary, meant appearance, and
comprehended all such things as had the same form
or appearance, whether they had a common origin or
not, as i f we were to speak of a species of fourfooted, two-footed, horned, winged, or blue animals.
That two such concepts, as we have here explained,
had a natural justification we may best learn from
the fact that exactly the same thoughts found
expression in Sanskrit. There, too, we find gâti‚
generation, used in the sense of genus, and opposed to â k r i t i ‚ appearance, used in the sense of
So long as these two words or thoughts were used
independently (much as we now speak of a genea514 ON FREEDOM.
logical as independent of a morphological classifica­
tion) no harm could accrue. A family, for instance,
might be called a yévos, the gens or clan was a ykvos,
the nation {gnatio) was a yevos, the whole human
kith and kin was a yèvos ; in fact, all that was de­
scended from common ancestors was a true ykvos.
There is no obscurity of thought in this.
On the other side, taking eihos or species in its
original sense, one man might be said to be like
another in his slBos or appearance. An ape, too, might
quite truly be said to have the same eî8os or species
or appearance as aman, without any prejudice as to
their common origin. People might also speak of
different sthrj or forms or classes of things, such as
different kinds of metals, or tools, or armour, with­
out committing themselves in the least to any opinion
as to their common descent.
Often it would happen that things belonging to
the same yśvos‚ such as the white man and the
negro, differed in their el8os or appearance; often
also that things belonging to the same el8o,s‚ such as
eatables, differed in their ykvos, as, for instance,
meat and vegetables.
A l l this is clear and simple. The confusion began
when these two terms, instead of being co­ordinate,
were subordinated to each other by the philosophers
of Greece, so that what from one point of view was
called a genus, might from another be called a species,
and vice versa. Human beings, for instance, were
now called a species, all living beings a genus, which
may be true in logic, but is utterly false in what is
older than logic—viz., language, thought, or fact.
According to language, according to reason, and
according to nature, all human beings constitute a
yéios, or generation, so long as they are supposed to
have common ancestors ; but with regard to all living
beings we can only say that they form an sc8os—that
is, agree in certain appearances, until it has been
proved that even Mr. Darwin was too modest in
admitting at least four or five different ancestors for
the whole animal world.’
In tracing the history of these two words, yivos
and sîB09‚ you may see passing before your eyes
almost the whole panorama of philosophy, from
Plato's ‘ ideas ’ down to Hegel's Idee. The question
of genera, their origin and subdivision, occupied
chiefly the attention of natural philosophers, who,
after long controversies about the origin and classification of genera and species, seem at last, thanks to
the clear sight of Darwin, to have arrived at the
old truth which was prefigured in language—namely,
that Nature knows nothing but genera, or generations, to be traced back to a limited number of
ancestors, and that the so-called species are only
genera, whose genealogical descent is as yet more or
less obscure.
But the question as to the nature of the siBo?
became a vital question in every system of philosophy. Granting, for instance, that women in every
clime and country formed one species, it was soon
asked what constituted a species ? If all women
shared a common form, what was that form? Where
was it ? So long as it was supposed that all women
descended from Eve, the difficulty might be slurred
1 Lectures on Mr. Darwin's ' Philosophy of Language,' Eraser's
Magazine, June 1873, p. 26.
over by the name of heredity. But the more thoughtful would ask even then how it was that, while all
individual women came and went and vanished, the
form in which they were cast remained the same ?
Here you see how philosophical mythology springs
up. The very question what sl8os or species or form
was, and where these things were kept, changed
those words from predicates into subjects. EÎ809
was conceived as something independent and substantial, something within or above the individuals
participating i n it, something unchangeable and
eternal. Soon there arose as many ecS types as there were general concepts. They were
considered the only true realities of which the phenomenal world is only as a shadow that soon passeth
away. Here we have, in fact, the origin of Plato's
ideas, and of the various systems of idealism which
followed his lead, while the opposite opinion that
ideas have no independent existence, and that the
one is nowhere found except in the many ( T O lu 7rapa
Ta woWd)y was strenuously defended by Aristotle
and his followers.’
The same red thread runs through the whole
philosophy of the Middle Ages. Men were cited
before councils and condemned as heretics because
they declared that animal, man, or woman were mere
names, and that they could not bring themselves to
believe in an ideal animal, an ideal man, an ideal
woman as the invisible, supernatural, or metaphysical
types of the ordinary animal, the individual man, the
single woman. Those philosophers, called Nominalists, in opposition to the Realists, declared that
1 Prantl, Geschichte der Logik, vol. i . p. 12 I.
all general terms were names only, and that nothing
could claim reality but the individuals
We cannot follow this controversy further, as it
turns up again between Locke and Leibniz, between
Herbart and Hegel. Suffice it to say that the knot,
as it was tied by language, can be untied by the
science of language alone, which teaches us that
there is and ean be no such thing as ‘ a name only.’
That phrase ought to be banished from all works on
philosophy. A name is and always has been the
subjective side of our knowledge, but that subjective
side is as impossible without an objective side as a
key is without a lock. It is useless to ask which of
the two is the more real, for they are real only by
being, not two, but one. Realism is as one-sided as
Nominalism. But there is a higher Nominalism,
which might better be called the Science of Language, and which teaches us that, apart from sensuous perception, all human knowledge is by names
and by names only, and that the object of names is
always the general.
This* is but one out of hundreds- and thousands of
cases to show how names and concepts which come
to us by tradition must be submitted to very careful
snuffing before they will yield a pure light. What
I mean by academic teaching and academic study is
exactly this process of snuffing, this changing of
traditional words into living words, this tracing of
modern thought back to ancient primitive thought,
this living, as it were, once more, so far as it concerns
us, the whole history of human thought ourselves,
t i l l we are as little afraid to differ from Plato or
Aristotle as from Comte or Darwin.
Plato and Aristotle are, no doubt, great names ;
every schoolboy is awed by them, even though he
may have read very little of their writings. This,
too, is a kind of dogmatism that requires correction.
Now, at his University, a young student might chance
to hear the following, by* no means respectful, remarks about Aristotle, which I copy from one of the
greatest English scholars and philosophers :—‘There
is nothing so absurd that the old philosophers, as
Cicero saith, who was one of them, have not some of
them maintained ; and I believe that scarce anything can be more absurdly said in natural philosophy than that which now is called Aristotle's
Metaphysics ; or more repugnant to government
than much of that he hath said in his Politics ; nor
more ignorantly than a great part of his Ethics.’ I
am far from approving this judgment, but I think
that the shock which a young scholar receives on
seeing his idols so mercilessly broken is salutary. It
throws him back on his own resources ; it makes
him honest to himself. If he thinks the criticism
thus passed on Aristotle unfair, he will begin to
read his works with new eyes. He will not only
construe his words, but try to reconstruct in his own
mind the thoughts so carefully elaborated by that
ancient philosopher. He wil l judge of their truth
without being swayed by the authority of a great
name, and probably in the end value what is valuable
in Aristotle, or Plato, or any other great philosopher
far more highly and honestly than if he had never
seen them trodden under foot.
Do not suppose that I look upon the Universities
as purely iconoclastic, as chiefly intended to teach us
how to break the idols of the schools. Far from it !
But I do look upon them as meant to supply a fresher
atmosphere than we breathed at school, and to shake
our mind to its very roots, as a storm shakes the
young oaks, not to throw them down, but to make
them grasp all the more firmly the hard soil of fact
and truth ! ‘ Stand upright on thy feet ' ought to be
written over the gate of every college, i f the epidemic of uniformity and sequacity which M i l l saw approaching from China, and which since his time has
made such rapid progress Westward, is ever to be
Academic freedom is not without its dangers ; but
there are dangers which it is safer to face than to
avoid. In Germany—so far as my own experience
goes—students are often left too much to themselves, and it is only the cleverest among them, or
those who are personally recommended, who receive
from the professors that individual guidance and
encouragement which should and could be easily
extended to all.
There is too much time spent in the German
Universities in mere lecturing, and often in simply
retailing to a class what each student might read in
books in a far more perfect form. Lectures are
useful i f they teach us how to teach ourselves ; i f
they stimulate; if they excite sympathy and curiosity; i f they give advice that springs from personal
experience ; i f they warn against wrong roads ; if, in
fact, they have less the character of a show-window
than of a workshop. Half an hour's conversation
with a tutor or a professor often does more than a
whole course of lectures in giving the right direction
and the right spirit to a young man's studies. Here
I may quote the words of Professor Helmholtz, in full
agreement with him. ‘ When I recall the memory
of my own University life,' he writes, ‘ and the impression which a man like Johannes Müller, the
professor of physiology, made on us, I must set the
highest value on the personal intercourse with
teachers from whom one learns how thought works
in independent heads. Whoever has come in contact but once with one or several first-class men wil l
find his intellectual standard changed for life.’
In English Universities, on the contrary, there is
too little of academic freedom. There is not only
guidance, but far too much of constant personal
control. It is often thought that English undergraduates could not be trusted with that amount of
academic freedom which is granted to German
•students, and that most of them, if left to choose
their own work, their own time, their own books,
and their own teachers, would simply do nothing.
This seems to me unfair and untrue. Most horses,
i f you take them to the water, will drink ; and the
best way to make them drink is to leave them alone.
I have lived long enough in English and in German
Universities to know that the intellectual fibre is as
strong and sound in the English as in the German
youth. But if you supply a man, who wishes to learn
swimming, with bladders—nay, if you insist on his
using them—he will use them, but he will probably
never learn to swim. Take them away, on the contrary, and depend on it, after a few aimless strokes
and a few painful gulps, he will use his arms and his
legs, and he will swim. If young men do not learn
to use their arms, their legs, their muscles, their
senses, their brain, and their heart too, during the
bright years of their University life, when are they
to learn it ? True, there are thousands who never
learn it, and who float happily on through life buoyed
up on mere bladders. The worst that can happen to
them is that some day the bladders may burst, and
they may be left stranded or drowned. But these
are not the men whom England wants to fight her
battles. It has often been pointed out of late that
many of those who, during this century, have borne
the brunt of the battle in the intellectual warfare in
England, have not been trained at our Universities,
while others who have been at Oxford and Cambridge, and have distinguished themselves in afterlife, have openly declared that they attended hardly
any lectures in college, or that they derived no
benefit from them. What can be the ground of that ?
Not that there is less work done at Oxford than at
Leipzig, but that the work is done in a different
spirit. It is free in Germany ; it has now become
almost compulsory in England. Though an old professor myself, I like to attend, when I can, some of
the professorial lectures in Germany ; for it is a real
pleasure to see hundreds of young faces listening to a
teacher on the history of art, on modern history, on
the science of language, or on philosophy, without
any view to examinations, simply from love of the
subject or of the teacher. No one who knows what
the real joy of learning is, how it lightens all
drudgery and draws away the mind from mean pur-A
suits, can see without indignation that what ought
to be the freest and happiest years in a man's life
should often be spent between cramming and examinations.
And here I have at last mentioned the word,
which to many friends of academic freedom, to many
who dread the baneful increase of uniformity, may
seem the cause of all mischief, the most powerful
engine for intellectual levelling—Examination.
There is a strong feeling springing up everywhere
against the tyranny of examinations, against the
cramping and withering influence which they are
supposed to exercise on the youth of England. I
cannot join in that outcry. I well remember that
the first letters which I ventured to address to the
Times, in very imperfect English, were in favour of
examinations. They were signed La Carrière ouverte,
and were written before the days of the Civil Service
Commission ! I well remember, too, that the first
time I ventured to speak, or rather to stammer, in
public, was in favour of examinations. That was in
1857, at Exeter, when the first experiment was made,
under the auspices of Sir T. Acland, in the direction
of what has since developed into the Oxford and
Cambridge Local Examinations. I have been an
examiner myself for many years, I have watched the
growth of that system in England from year to year,
and, in spite of all that has been said and written of
late against it, I confess I do not see how it would
be possible to abolish it, and return to the old system
of appointment by patronage.
But though I have not lost my faith in examinations, I cannot conceal the fact that I am frightened
by the manner in which they are conducted, and by
the results which they produce. As you are interested
yourselves at this Midland Institute in the successful
working of examinations, you will perhaps allow me
in conclusion to add a few remarks on the safeguards
necessary for the efficient working of examinations.
A l l examinations are a means to ascertain how
pupils have been taught ; they ought never to be
allowed to become the end for which pupils are
taught. Teaching with a view to them lowers the
teacher in the eyes of his pupils ; learning with a
view to them is apt to produce shallowness and dishonesty.
Whatever attractions learning possesses in itself,
and whatever efforts were formerly made by boys at
school from a sense of duty, all this is lost if they
once imagine that the highest object of all learning
is to gain marks in a competition.
In order to maintain the proper relation between
teacher and pupil, all pupils should be made to look
to their teachers as their natural examiners and
fairest judges, and therefore in every examination
the report of the teacher ought to carry the greatest
weight. This is the principle followed abroad in examining candidates at public schools ; and even in
their examination on leaving school, which gives
them the right to enter the University, they know
that their success depends far more on the work
which they have done during the years at school,
than on the work done on the few days of their
examination. There are outside examiners appointed
by Government to check the work done at schools
and during the examinations ; but the cases in which
they have to modify or reverse the award of the
master are extremely rare, and they are felt to reflect
seriously on the competency or impartiality of the
school authorities.
To leave examinations entirely to strangers reduces them to the level of lotteries, and fosters a
cleverness in teachers and taught often akin to dishonesty. An examiner may find out what a candidate knows not, he can hardly ever find out all he
knows ; and even if he succeeds in finding out hotv
much a candidate knows, he can seldom find out how he
knows it. On these points the opinion of the masters
who have watched their pupils for years is indispensable for the sake of the examiner, for the sake of
the pnpils, and for the sake of their teachers.
I know I shall be told that it would be impossible
to trust the masters, and to be guided by their
opinion, because they are interested parties. Now,
first of all, there are far more honest men in the
world than dishonest, and it does not answer to
legislate as if all schoolmasters were rogues. It is
enough that they should know that their reports
would be scrutinised, to keep even the most reprobate of teachers from bearing false witness in favour
of their pupils.
Secondly, I believe that unnecessary temptation
is now being placed before all parties concerned in
examinations. The proper reward for a good examination should be honour, not pounds, shillings, and
pence. The mischief done by pecuniary rewards
offered in the shape of scholarships and exhibitions
at school and University, begins to be recognised
very widely. To train a boy of twelve for a race
against all England is generally to overstrain his
faculties, and often to impair his usefulness in later
life ; but to make him feel that by his failure he will
entail on his father the loss of a hundred a year, and
on his teacher the loss of pupils, is simply cruel at
that early age.
It is said that these scholarships and exhibitions
enable the sons of poor parents to enjoy the privilege
of the best education in England, from which they
would otherwise be debarred by the excessive costliness of our public schools. But even this argument,
strong as it seems, can hardly stand, for I believe it
could be shown that the majority of those who are
successful in obtaining scholarships and exhibitions
at school or at the University are boys whose parents
have been able to pay the highest price for their
children's previous education. If all these prizes
were abolished, and the funds thus set free used to
lessen the price of education at school and in college,
I believe that the sons of poor parents would be far
more benefited than by the present system. It might
also be desirable to lower the sehool fees in the case
of the sons of poor parents, who were doing well at
school from year to year ; and, in order to guard
against favouritism, an examination, particularly
vivâ voce, before all the masters of a school, possibly
even with some outside examiner, might be useful.
But the present system bids fair to degenerate into
mere horse- racing, and I shall not wonder if, sooner
or later, the two-year olds entered for the race have
to be watched by their trainer that they may not be
overfed or drugged against the day of the race. It
has come to this, that schools are bidding for clever
boys in order to run them in the races, and in
France, I read, that parents actually extort money
from schools by threatening to take away the young
racers that are likely to win the Derby.’
If we turn from the schools to the Universities
we find here, too, the same complaints against overexamination. Now it seems to me that every University, in order to maintain its position, has a perfect
right to demand two examinations, but no more : one
for admission, the other for a degree. Various attempts
have been made in Germany, in Russia, in France,
and in England to change and improve the old academic tradition, but in the end the original, and, as
it would seem, the natural system, has generally
proved its wisdom and reasserted its right.
If a University surrenders the right of examining
those who wish to be admitted, the tutors will often
have to do the work of schoolmasters, and the professors can never know how high or how low they
should aim in their public lectures ; and the result
will be a lowering of the standard at the Universities,
and consequently at the public schools. Some Universities, on the contrary, like over-anxious mothers,
have multiplied examinations so as to make quite
sure, at the end of each term or each year, that the
pupils confided to them have done at least some
work. This kind of forced labour may do some good
to the incorrigibly idle, but it does the greatest harm
to all the rest. If there is an examination at the
end of each year, there can be no freedom left for
any independent work. Both teachers and taught
will be guided by the same pole-star—examinations ;
no deviation from the beaten track will be considered
safe, and all the pleasure derived from work done for
1 L. Noire, Pädagogisches Shizzenbuch, p. 157 ; ' Todtes wissen.'
its own sake, and all the just pride and joy, which those
only know who have ever ventured out by themselves
on the open sea of knowledge, must be lost.
We must not allow ourselves to be deceived by
the brilliant show of examination papers.
It is certainly marvellous what an amount of
knowledge candidates will produce before their examiners ; but those who have been both examined
and examiners know best how fleeting that knowledge often is, and how different from that other
knowledge which has been acquired slowly and
quietly, for its own sake, for our own sake, without
a thought as to whether it would ever pay at examinations or not. A candidate, after giving most glibly
the dates and the titles of the principal works of
Cobbett, Gibbon, Burke, Adam Smith, and David
Hume, was asked whether he had ever seen any of
their writings, and he had to answer, No. Another
who was asked which of the works of Pheidias he
had seen, replied that he had only read the first two
books. That is the kind of dishonest knowledge
which is fostered by too frequent examinations.
There are two kinds of knowledge, the one that
enters into our very blood, the other which we carry
about in our pockets. Those who read for examinations have generally their pockets cram full ; those
who work on quietly and have their whole heart in
their work are often discouraged at the small amount
of their knowledge, at the little life-blood they have
made. But what they have learnt has really become
their own, has invigorated their whole frame, and in
the end they have often proved the strongest and
happiest men in the battle of life.
Omniscience is at present the bane of all our
knowledge. From the day he leaves school and
enters the University a man ought to make up his
mind that in many things he must either remain
altogether ignorant, or be satisfied with knowledge
at second-hand. Thus only can he clear the decks
for action. And the sooner he finds out what his
own work is to be, the more useful and delightful
will be his life at the University and later. There
are few men who have a passion for all knowledge ;
there is hardly one who has not a hobby of his own.
Those so-called hobbies ought to be utilised, and not,
as they are now, discouraged, if we wish our Universities to produce more men like Faraday, Carlyle,
Grote, or Darwin. I do not say that in an examination for a University degree a minimum of what is
now called general culture should not be insisted on ;
but in addition to that, far more freedom ought to
be given to the examiner to let each candidate produce his own individual work. This is done to a far
greater extent in Continental than in English Universities, and the examinations are therefore mostly
confided to the members of the Senatus Academicus,
consisting of the most experienced teachers, and the
most eminent representatives of the different branches
of knowledge in the University. Their object is not
to find out how many marks each candidate may
gain by answering a larger or smaller number of
questions, and then to place them in order before
the world like so many organ pipes. They want to
find out whether a man, by the work he has done
during his three or four University years, has acquired that vigour of thought, .that maturity of judgON FREEDOM. 529
ment, and that special knowledge, which fairly entitle
him to an academic degree, with or without special
honours. Such a degree confers no material advantages;1 it does not entitle its holder to any
employment in Church or State ; it does not vouch
even for his being a fit person to be made an Archbishop or Prime Minister. A l l this is left to the
later struggle for life ; and in that struggle it seems
as if those who, after having surveyed the vast field
of human knowledge, have settled on a few acres of
their own and cultivated them as they were never
cultivated before,J who have worked hard and have
tasted the true joy and happiness of hard work, who
have gladly listened to others, but always depended
on-themselves, were, after all, the men whom great
nations delighted to follow as their royal leaders in
the onward march towards greater enlightenment,
greater happiness, and greater freedom.
To sum up, no one can read Mill 's Essay ‘ On
Liberty ' at the present moment without feeling that
even during the short period of the last twenty years
the cause which he advocated so strongly and passionately, the cause of individual freedom, has made
rapid progress—aye, has carried the day. In no
country may a man be so entirely himself, so true to
himself, and yet loyal to society, as in England.
But, although the enemy whose encroachments
M i l l feared most and resented most has been driven
back and forced to keep within his own bounds—
though such names as Dissenter and Nonconformist,
which were formerly used in society as fatal darts,
seem to have lost all the poison which they once con1 Mi l l , On Liberty, p. 193.
tained—Mill's principal fears have nevertheless not
been belied, and the blight of uniformity which he
saw approaching with its attendant evils of feebleness, indifference, and sequacity, has been spreading
more widely than ever.
It has even been maintained that the very freedom which every individual now enjoys has been
detrimental to the growth of individuality ; that you
must have an Inquisition if you want to see martyrs,
that you must have despotism and tyranny to call
forth heroes. The very measures which the friends
of individual development advocated so warmly, compulsory education and competitive examinations, are
pointed out as having chiefly contributed to produce that large array of pass-men, that dead level
of uninteresting excellence, which is the beau idéal
of a Chinese Mandarin, while it frightened and disheartened such men as Humboldt, Tocqueville, and
John Stuart Mi l l himself.
There may be some truth in all this, but it is certainly not the whole truth. Education, as it has to
be carried on, whether in elementary or in public
schools, is no doubt a heavy weight which might
well press down the most independent spirit; it is,
in fact, neither more nor less than placing, in a systematised form, on the shoulders of every generation
the ever-increasing mass of knowledge, experience,
custom, and tradition that has been accumulated by
former generations. We need not wonder, therefore,
if in some schools all spring, all vigour, all joyousness of work is crushed out under that load of names
and dates, of anomalous verbs and syntactic rules,
of mathematical formulas and geometrical theories
which boys are expected to bring up for competitive
But a remedy has been provided, and we are
ourselves to blame if we do not avail ourselves of it
to the fullest extent. Europe erected its Universities, and called them the homes of the Liberal
Arts, and determined that between the mental
slavery of the school and the physical slavery of busy
life every man should have at least three years of
freedom. What Socrates and his great pupil Plato
had done for the youth of Greece,1 these new academies were to do for the youth of Italy, France,
England, Spain, and Germany; and, though with
varying success, they have done it. The mediæval
and modern Universities have been from century to
century the homes of free thought. Here the most
eminent men have spent their lives, not in retailing
traditional knowledge, as at school, but in extending
the frontiers of science in all directions. Here, in
close intercourse with their teachers, or under their
immediate guidance, generation after generation of
boys, fresh from school, have grown up into men
during the three years of their academic life. Here,
for the first time, each man has been encouraged to
dare to be himself, to follow his own tastes, to depend on his own judgment, to try the wings of his
mind, and, lo, like young eagles thrown out of their
nest, they could fly. Here the old knowledge accumulated at school was tested, and new knowledge
acquired straight from the fountain-head. Here
knowledge ceased to be a mere burden, and became
1 Zeller, Ueber den wissenschaftlichen Unterricht bei den Griechen, 1878, p. 9.
a power invigorating the whole mind, like snow
which during winter lies cold and heavy on the
meadows, but when it is touched by the sun of spring
melts away, and fertilises the ground for a rich
That was the original purpose of the Universities ;
and the more they continue to fulfil that purpose, the
more will they secure to us that real freedom from
tradition, from custom, from mere opinion and
superstition, which can be gained by independent
study only ; the more will they foster that ‘ human
development in its richest diversity ’ which Mi l l , like
Humboldt, considered as the highest object of all
Such academic teaching need not be confined to
the old Universities. There is many a great University that sprang from smaller beginnings than
your Midland Institute. Nor is it necessary, in order
to secure the real benefits of academic teaching, to
have all the paraphernalia of a University, its colleges
and fellowships, its caps and gowns. What is really
wanted is the presence of men who, having done
good work in their life, are willing to teach others
how to work for themselves, how to think for themselves, how to judge for themselves. That is the
true academic stage in every man's life, when he
learns to work, not to please others, be they schoolmasters or examiners, but to please himself, when
he works from sheer love of work, and for the highest
of all purposes, the quest of truth. Those only
who have passed through that stage know the real
blessings of work. To the world at large they may
seem mere drudges—but the world does not know
the triumphant joy with which the true mountaineer,
high above clouds and mountain walls that once
seemed unsurpassable, drinks in the fresh air of the
High Alps, and away from the fumes, the dust, and
the noises of the city, revels alone, in freedom of
thought, in freedom of feeling, and in the freedom
of the highest faith.
I N D E X .
The numerals i . and ii. refer to the volumes, the figures to the pages.
A , pronunciation of, i . 295.
Abd, servant, ii . 419.
Abd-allah, servant of God, i i . 419.
Abdallah ibn Almokaffa, author of
Kalilah and Dimnah, i . 514,5 50,
55 6, 557..
Abderrhaman‚ 1. 519.
Abeillard‚ i‚ 56.
Abhidharma‚ by-law, i i . 177‚ 178‚
214‚ 284, 286 n.j 302 ; metaphysics of the Buddhists, 214,
284; compiled by Kâsyapa, 284;
propounded by Buddha, when
he was fifty-one years old, 286 n.
— in China, ii . 327.
— in Japan, ii . 341.
Abhig?7as, the five, i i . 348 n.
Ablative as a general locat. case, i .
-35. , ^
— in as, as infinitive, 1. 161.
— in d, i . 201.
— in toh, as infinitive, i . 167.
Ablatives in d, with meaning of locative, i . 228.
— origin of d in, i . 230.
— in ê, ei, i , ë, i . 232.
— identical with datives, i . 233.
— in od, i . 246.
— as accusatives, i . 248.
Abraham, Abram, i . 5, 6, 21 ; i i . 155,
409, 429, 436, 439.
— faith of, i i . 433, 434.
— friend of God, ii . 433.
Absolute, if. 249, 263.
— forms of the, i i . 249.
A-buddha, not enlightened, i i . 220.
Abulfarâg, old Arabic prayer mentioned by, i i . 439.
Accusative in am, as infinitive, i . 161.
— in turn, as infinitive, i . 167.
— with the infinitive, i . 147.
Achæmenian dynasty, if. 262.
— inscriptions, ii . 262. <
Acheron, i . 375 n.
Achilles, i . 414, 415, 580.
Acosta, Historia natural v moral, i i .
. 381.
Ad, â in Latin, i 239.
Adam, ü. 413, 419.
— and Adima, i i . 455.
'A5eA^)os, a8eA<^, i . 323.
Adelung's Mithridates,ii. 130.
Adi Brahmo Somaj, i i . 80, 86.
Adima and Heva, ii . 469-472.
Aditi, the sun called face of, i . 391.
Âditya, if. 153, 157.
— the sun, i . 441.
— class of gods, ii . 57.
Adjetatig of Wabqjeeg, i i . 376.
Adonis (Lord), Deity in Phenicia, i i .
Adrammelech, i i . 406.
Ad-venire, - l'avenir, i . 146.
Adverb, the infinitive as an, i . 140.
— emßßrifia, i . 139.
Adverbs in d as ablatives, i . 242.
— previous to Aryan separation, i .
AE, for æs, i . 234.
A_des, temple, and house, ii . 238.
'AéXioi, i . 330.
jEmilius Paulus, i . 245.
536 INDEX.
A_oiic, i. 354.
^quo^, i . 350, 385.
ASs‚ æris, i . 348.
Æ S O P U S alter, i . 525.
Aëthlios, king of Elis, i . 384.
Aëtms, i . 418.
Affixing languages, i . 50.
African dialect, Betshuana, i . 389.
After (eastern) Han dynasty, 11. 318.
— Khin dynasty, i i . 324.
Agâ, she-goat, i . 344.
Agamemnon, i . 580.
Agâtasatru, murderer of his father,
the king of Magadha, ii . 202.
Agathon, i . 313.
Ager, i . 345.
Agesilaos, Leader of the people, i i .
'AyyêXXaj‚ = avayapicu, i . 57 n.
Agglutinative languages, i . 44.
Agneh, for agre, i . 336.
Agni, fire, i . 408, 44r, 442, 443, 445 ;
ii. 136» 157» 158, 147, 237> -4°>
420, 428.
— hymn to, i i . T42.
— horses of. i . 443.
— god of fire, i . 157.
Agra, field, ager, i . 345.
Agricola, not agrum-cola, i . 102.
'Aypós, i . 345.
xihan, day, i . 396.
Ahanâ‚ name for dawn, i . 397, 607 ;
i i . 237.
— same as Daphne, i . 510.
Aheneus (ahes), i . 348.
Am, serpent, i . 343, 479.
Ahmi (Zend), I am, i , 317.
Ahrens, De Dialecto Dorica, i . 477 n.
Ahriman, the evil power, i . 479.
— Azhi dahâka‚ offspring of, i . 479.
Ahtau (Gothic), i . 354.
Ahura mazda, i i . 133, 134.
— the supreme Deity of Zoroaster,
if. 134.
A', emperor, ii. 317.
Aida, the son of Ida, i. 408.
Aighe (Irish), i . 344.
Ain–lif. i . 354.
Ains, i . 354.
Airgiod, i . 348.
Airya, i . 214.
Ais, i . 348.
Aisvarikas, followers of Buddha, Ü.
A¾, i . 344.
Ak, the root, i . 135.
Akrisios, i . 476.
Âknti, species, ii. 513.
Akr-s, i . 345.
Akshan, or ak-an, i . 133.
Akshi, eyc,i. I33~156.
Akudunnia, i . 498 n.
A lam, with infinitive, i . 158.
"AXei‡a, i . 498 n.
Alexander the Great, i . 338 n. ; ii.
123, 233-
— conquest and invasion of India, i i .
Alexander's conquest, brings Greek
stories to India, i . 51 r.
Alexandria, Clemens of. i . 21, 22 ; i i .
222 n.
— ad Caucasum, Buddhist priests
sent to, i i . 51.
'AXÇÇÍKCLKOS, nameof Apollo and Zeus,
i . 394.
Alfonso the wise, i. 525.
Alfred, Anglo-Saxon of. ii. 130.
Ali , the son of Alshah Fares-i, i . 516.
Alilat, translated by Herodotos by
Ovpav'nj, i i . 438.
Alkimenes, i . 482.
Alkinoos, palace of, i. 308.
Allah, i i . 433, 439.
Allahabad, i . 422, 433.
Allât, i i . 438.
Alpha privativum, i . 189.
Alphabet, Pitman's, i . 267, 268, 295.
Altaic languages, i . 205.
Al Uzza, i i . 438.
Ama-ad, i . 346.
Amalaberg, niece of Theodoric,i.4l8.
Ambagapitya, i i . 176.
America, Central, ii . 374, 381, 386.
— North, i i . 373, 374— Russian, ii. 398.
— South, ii. 381, 386.
— ancient inhabitants, natives, aboriginal races of. i i . 386, 387,
39 1.
— Popul vuh (history of the civilise«
races in C. A.), i i . 372, 401.
INDEX. 537
America, hieroglyphics in N . A„ i i .
373. 384.
— scrawls of the wandering tribes
of N . A., if. 374.
American antiquities, i i . 384, 385.
— hieroglyphic manuscripts of the,
i i . 384, 385.
— Manuscrit Pictographique Américain, ii . 372 n.
— Mythes of A. antiquity, see Popul
— traditions, i i . 392.
American, polysynthetic dialects, i .
Amitâbha vyûha, i i . 343.
— repetition of the word, ii. 363.
— sûtra, i i . 346, 346 n., 347, 365.
— doctrine of, 11. 364 n„ 367.
Amitâbhâs, ii . 357, 362 n., 363.
Amitâyus, ii. 357.
Amorite, gods of the, if. 429.
Amphitryo, i . 419.
Amravati, sculptures at, ii. 32.
'AJJÍVICÓS, ì. 499.
Amulius, i . 476.
An, a suffix, i . 142.
Ananda, compiler of the first Basket
(the Sûtras) of the Tripiiaka, i i .
-84> 342- 343-
Anâthapindada, i i . 193, 202.
'AvaroXai, i . 385.
Anaxagoras, i . 5 Ko.
Anaximenes, i . 580.
Ancient India, life in, i i . 257.
Andanemja, Gothic, to be accepted,
i . 61.
'AvSpa8cA Andvari, the dwarf, i. 415.
Ane, dative in, i . 143.
*A-v^t6s, i . 331.
Angenehm, agreeable, to be accepted,
f. 61.
Angi-s, i . 343.
xinglo-Saxon, i . 344; if. 130.
—- of Alfred, if. 130.
— chair of, i . 120.
— MSS. collected, i . 120.
Anglo-Saxons, Aryan by language, i i .
— Hamitic by letters, 11. 490.
Anguilla, i . 343.
Anguis, i . 343.
Angury-s, i . 343.
Anguttara, i i . 327.
Animals, names of domestic, i . 343,.
Anira, i . 211.
Aniruddha, i . 446.
An-îsvara‚ lord-less, atheistic, ii . 283.
Annamelech‚ i i . 406.
Anser, i . 344.
An-shi-ko, An-i-lii-kao, and Nganshai-ko, ii. 321 ri.
Antarikshaprâ, • 407.
An-tf. those and h , i . 81.
Antiquary, the, if. 20.
Anvari-Suhaili, by Husain ben Ali ,
f. 524.
Anxious, i . 275.
Anyatahplaksha, lake, i . 409.
Ap, âpas, i i . 136.
'Airap€fA‡aTov (prjim), i . 139.
Apatê‚ or fraud, or Nyx, i . 369 382.
Apayarga, release, ii. 283.
Aphorisms, Kapila's, ii. 216 n.
Aphrodite, i . 407, 446.
Apollo, Apollon, f. 371, 373, 378,
379. 389» 394« 4°6 n., 467, 473,
606; if. 139, 240, 241, 420,426,
— A77Atos, i . 378.
— Delphian, i . 419.
— Etymology of A. not yet found,
i . 467
— AvKr}jht]s, son of Light, i . 378 ;
oracle of A. at Pytho, i . 373.
— mythe of A. and Daphne, i . 398r
399» 467<
Apollodorus, i . 388.
Apollonic theology, i . 456.
Apophasis, daughter of Epimetheus,
1. 375–.
Aquilonia, i . 498 n.
Ar (Sansk.), earth, i 210, 212.
Ar, root (for ploughing), i . 345.
Ar (Gaelic), i . 345.
Arab, i . 403, 406.
— branch of the Semitic family, i i .
Arabia, i i . 433, 438.
idolatry of the Semitic tribes of.
433» 438–
538 INDEX.
Arabia, Premohammedan ideas of the
Nomads of the Arabian penin­
sula, i . 6.
Arabic, lectureship of. i . 119.
— not aided by Henry vllI. i . 119.
— supported by Archbishop Laud,
i. 119.
— MSS. collected by Laud, i . 119.
— translation of fables, i . 516, 556,
— Old A. prayer, i i . 439.
'ApáXvri, i . 347.
Arad, arad}r, i . 345.
Aradar, i . 345.
Arago, Freycmet and Arago's voyage
to the Eastern Ocean, i i . 375.
Aranea, i . 347.
Arāre‚ i . 213, 345.
Aratrum, i . 345.
Arbhu, i . 435.
Arbuda, i . 491.
Ardhr, i . 345.
Arg, i i . 132 n.
Argentum, i . 348.
Argonauts, i , 473.
Argos, i . 419.
— worship of Here in, i . 420.
"Apyvpos, i . 348.
Arhat (rahat), i i , 289, ?49, 349 n.
Ariana, i . 214.
Aristotle, i . 303, 376, 512, 513, 516,
518,579, 587; i i . I I , 238.
— his knowledge of language, i . 29. ‚
— Metaphysics of. i . 382 n.
— St.­Hiiaire, translator of. i i . 166.
Arjan, i . 345.
Arkla­s, i . 345.
"ApKTos, i . 345.
Armenia from Arya, i . 214.
Arnyia dialects, i i . 34.
"Aporpov, i . 345.
'Apovv, i . 345.
"Apovpa, i . 345.
Arsak, i i . 321.
Art, i . 343.
Artha, i i . 205.
Arti (Lith.), i. 213, 345.
Aruna, i . 443 n. !
Arus, i . 443 n. |
Arusha (the young sun, the child of
Dyaus), i. 441, 447. * I
Arushî (cow), i . 441,447.
Arvas (N. arvān), Fern, árushî, i .
Arvat (N. arvâ), Fern, arvatî, i . 440,
441, 446, 447 n.
Arvum,Ai. 345.
Arya, Ārya‚ i i . 192.
— opposed to Sûdra, i . 209.
— title of the three upper castes, i .
— spread of name westward, i . 213,
Arya­avarta, i . 206.
Aryan, the term, i . 204.
— ancestors of the, race, i . 349.
— and non­Aryan myths, likeness
between, i . 614, 615.
— and Semitic languages, common
origin of. i . 63.
— civilisation, i . 329.
— conquerors of India, i . 484.
— dialects, i . 318, 321, 322, 342 ; i i .
— inflectional, i . 44.
— family, i . 34, 35, 205, 320, 322,
459 ; ». 49 6.
— language, seven periods of. i . 86.
— first period, i . 87.
— second period, i . 92.
— third period, i . 92.
— fourth period, i . 97.
— fifth period, i . 100.
— sixth period, i , 104.
— seventh period, i . 104.
— no word for law in, i . 197.
— life, i. 332, 355.
— mythology, I 389, 400, 449,450.
— nations, Benfey's protest against
their Eastern origin, f. 188.
— numerals, i. 352, 353.
— origin of word, i . 205.
—• religions, three historical, i i . 47.
— separation (dispersion) of the,
tribes, i . 460, 492.
— suffixes, i . 142.
— the veda, the theogony of the,
races, i . 381.
— three strata only, i . 105.
— words, i . 357, 440.
— words found in Zend and not in
Sanskrit, i . 225.
INDEX. 539
Aryans, Southern division of. i . i8S.
Aryas, i . 206.
A s to be, i . 318.
Asail, i . 344.
Asaukumâryam, i . 485.
Ascolf. i . 602 n.
— on gutturals, i . 70.
Ashima, i i . 406.
Ashtaroth, i i . 406.
Asi, sword, i . 348.
­a<7* for –avTi‚ i . 80.
Asia, Central, i i . 202 n., 232.
— barbarians of C. A., ii. 246.
— civilisation among the tribes of
C. A., if. 270.
— intellectual intercourse between
the Indian peninsula and the
northern continent of. i i . 258.
— languages of. i i . 131.
Asiatic Society of Bengal, i i . if 9.
— Calcutta, i . 121 ; ii. 182.
— London, i i . 169, 182, 343.
— Paris, if. 169, 183, 344.
Asila­s, i . 344.
Asilu, i . 344.
Asinus, i , 344.
Asita's prophecy about Buddha, i .
Asmi, i . 317, 366.
Asoka, i . 17; i i . 22, 179, 211, 212,
— the Constantine of India, i . 17 ;
if. 122, 299.
— the Buddhist Constantine, i i . 2 1 1 .
— Edicts of A. preserved 011 the rocks
of Dhauli, Girnar and Kapurdi­
giri, i i . 256.
Aspa, f. 344.
A«ru, i . 396.
Assyrian, i i . 113.
— dynasties, i i . 113.
Astagiri mountain, ii. 291.
Asterodia, name of Selene, i . 384.
*AcT(p6*is, i . 371.
Astf. f. 617.
— with infinitive, i . 158.
Astori dialects of Shinâ‚ i i . 34.
"ÄffTV, i. 341.
Astyages (corruption of Azhi dahâka),
i . 476, 479, 480.
Asu, breath, i . 366.
Āsu (asva), i . 344.
Asuras, ii. 296.
Asurya, i . 488.
As va (irnros), f. 344.
Âsvâ, the mare, name for Dawn, i .
Asvaghosha's Buddhakarita, i i . 191 n.
Asvais, « equis, i . 50.
Asvaka or Àssaka, ii. 322.
Âsvalâyana, i i . 123
Asvebhis, = equobus i. 50.
Asvins, the two, i . 398.
Asyn, i . 344.
Aszua, fern., i . 344.
Ate. i . 376.
Athair (Irish), i . 320.
Atharva­veda, i i . 117, 124, 15011,
— the Ath. intended for the Brah­
man, or overseer of the sacrifice,
if. 118.
— Hymn taken from the Ath., i i .
Atheism, Buddhism ends in, ii. 294,
295, 300.
Athene, i . 400 n., 5P0.
'A9T]VĪ], i . 492.
Athenodoros, i . 37S 11.
Athens, i i . i l l , 271.
Atithigva, i i . 142.
Atli, f. 417, 418.
Atrnan (self), i i . 302.
Atropos, f. 463.
Att7^akathâs, commentaries brought
by Mahinda to Ceylon, ii. 172,
Attic future, i . 60 n.
Attila, i . 418, 419.
Aubin, collection of American anti­
quities, i i . 384.
Augâ, O.H.G. , f. 134.
AU7­?> f. 133.
Augment, in Greek and Sanskrit, i , 82.
Auhsan, i . 344.
Ava), i . 447 ­–*•
Avpiov, i . 447 n.
Aurnavâbha, i . 486.
Aurora (Ushâsâ), i . 348, 438, 447 n.
Aurum, i . 348, 447 n.
Aurusha, i . 443 n.
Aus (present), i i . 419.
540 INDEX.
Aus-alla, i i . 419.
Australia, i . 329; ii . 151.
Austrasian, the Nibelunge derived by
some from the A. history, i . 418.
AvTÓxOoves, i . 374.
Auxiliary verbs, i . 316, 317, 365.
Avadhûta, sect of the, i i . 65.
Avalokitesvara, i i . 367.
Avenir, the future, ad-venire, i. 146.
Avi, i . 344Avidyâ (ignorance), i i . 251, 494.
Avi-str, i . 344.
Avranches, Bishop of. on Barlaam
and Josaphat, i. 545.
Avunculus, i . 331.
Avus, i . 332.
Axe, i . 348.
Ayas, i . 348.
Ayase, to go, i . 145.
Ayu, ii. 142.
Âyus, i . 433.
Ayuta, i i . 350
Azdehak, i . 480.
Azhi dahâka, i . 479, 480.
— Astyages corruption of, i . 479.
Aztec, i i . 3; 2, 392.
B A A L (Bel), Lord, ii . 406, 425,
426, 431, 438, 440.
— servants of. i i . 438.
Baal-peor, i i . 406.
Baal-zebub, ii . 406.
Babel, Tower of. i i . 398.
Babylon, i . 6; i i . 113‚ 131‚ 270‚ 440.
— cuneiform inscriptions of, i i . 440.
Babylonia, i i . 113.
Bacchus, i i . 438.
Bacon, observations on the disposition of men for phi o&< phy and
science, i . 63.
Bactria, ii . 269, 271, 275.
— Buddhist priests sent to, i i . 51.
Bactrian fire-wo;ship, ii . 271.
Baddha (conditioned), . . 217.
Balas, the five, i i . 355 n.
Balasan, i i . 325.
Balbutire, i . 484.
Balder, Baldr, i . 414, 415 ; i i . 242.
Baldo, his translation of Kalila and
Dimnah, i . 525.
Balkh, i i . 271.
Ballantyne, Dr., i i . 216 n.
Bantu family of language, i . 34.
Barahut, Buddhist remains at, ii . 31.
Barbara, i . 484, 485.
Barbaratâ, i . 485.
Barbarians, i . 21, 303, 346 ; i i . 162.
Bapßapos, i . 484, 485.
Bapßap6†(*)voi, Kâpes, i . 485.
Barbarossa, Emperor, i . 480.
Barbarottha (Sandal–wood), i . 484.
Barbarous, i . 275.
Barbati filius, inscription of. i . 240.
Barham, Francis, i i . 280, 286.
Barlaam and Joasaph, i . 533.
Barlaam and Josaphat, i . 543.
— changed into Christian saints, i .
— Laboulaye, Liebrecht, Beal, on, i ,
542, 543.
— Leo Allatius on, i . 5 44.
— Billius and Bellarminus on, i . 544.
.— Bishop of Avranches on, i . 545.
Barzuyeh or Barzôî, author of Peh–
levi translation of fables, i . 515,
551. 557.
Ba Bcur(A€U€í, 77Aios, i . 380.
Basilius, i . 12.
Basilius and Gregorius Nazianzenus,
quoted by author of Barlaam
and Josaphat, i . 534.
Bask, derivative adjectives in, i . 61 n.
Ba0os, i . 35o n.
Bauddha, (Buddha), i i . 211, 285.
Bayard, i . 56.
Beal, on the story of Barlaam and
Josaphat, i . 542.
Bears translation of Fabian's travels,
ii. 315, 3 2 1 .
— catalogue of Buddhist Tripitaka,
i i . 365.
Bear, i . 343.
Beasts, different names of the wild,
i . 343» 344–
Becker, die inschriftlichen Ueberreste
der Keltischen Sprache, i i . 132 n.
Beel-samin (Lord of Heaven), i i . 425.
Behar or Magadha, i i . 200.
Beieinander, Das, in the development of language, i . 142.
INDEX. 541
Being, Absolute, i i . 216, 219, 251.
— Divine, i i . 253, 283.
— Immaterial supernatural, i i . 416.
Beiträge zur vergleichenden Sprachforschung, if. 132 n.
Bekker, on the Digamma in Homer,
i . 201, 229.
Bei (Baal), image of. i . 6.
— worshippers of, i i . 406.
Belial, son of. i . 460.
Belle au Bois, f. 566.
Bellerophon, i . 482-499.
Bellerophontes, i, 482.
Belleros, i . 482, 489, 491.
Benares, f. io, 18 ; if. 201, 262.
Benfey, his discovery of the old
Syriac translation of the fables,
f. 548, 55v
— his history of the Science of Language, i i . 9.
— his protest against the eastern
origin of the Aryan nation, i .
Bengal, i . 11 n.
— Asiatic Society of, if. 169.
Bengali, plural in, i . 38.
Bev9os, i . 350.
Berghaus, Physical Atlas, religious
statistics, if. 225.
Bern (Verona), Dietrich von, i . 418.
Bernard, derivation of the word, i .
Bernhard, bearminded, f. 54.
Berosus, if. 385.
Besmah, Rajah of. Giriprasâdasinha,
if. 2O.
Bethel, i i . 480.
Betshuana, i . 389.
Bhadrâs, f. 439.
Bhagavat, i i . 192, 194, 291, 342,
343» 346, 348.
Bhaginf. sister, in Sanskrit, i . 78 n.
Bhaiami, maker or cutter out, if. 27.
Bhandarkar, Prof., i i . 20.
Bhao Daji, Dr., i i . 19.
Bharadvâga, i . 436.
Bhava, i . 378.
Bhikshu (mendicant), if. 170, 199,
348, 349 »•
Bhikshuka, ii . 193.
Bhrâtar‚ i . 320, 323.
Bhû, to be, i . 366.
Bhûmidhara sâstra‚ ii . 328.
Bible dans l'Inde, ii. 468.
— translation of the B. into the Massachusetts language, ii . 379.
Bickelf. Prof., f. 551‚ 555–.
Bidpai‚ mentioned by Ali, i . 516.
— or Sindebar, f. 522.
Bigandet, Life of Gaudama, i i . 207,
Billius, on Barlaam and Josaphat, i .
Bimbisâra, king of Magadha, ii . 201.
Biot, i i . 168, 260.
Birch-bark, Sanskrit MSS. on‚ ii. 334,
335» 335 n -
Birma, Buddhist priests sent to, if.
5 1 .
Bitto, epigram on, f. 309.
Bkah-hgyur (Kanjur), i i . 171.
Blackie, Prof., on Comparative
Mythology, f. 618, 622.
Bleda, i . 418.
Bleek, Dr., ii . 29.
Blödelin, f. 418.
Bo, f. 344.
Bochart's Geographia Sacra, ii. 442.
Bodhidharma, if. 328, 329, 370.
Bodhiruki, ii . 328.
Bodhisattva, if. 192, 193, 276, 287,
288, 330, 350, 357, 362 n.
— corrupted to Youdasf and Youasaf. i . 542.
Bodhisattva dhâranî, ii . 193.
Bodhyanga, the seven, ii . 355 n.
Bodleian Library, ii . 344.
Boeckh, on Comparative Grammar,
i . 184.
Bohemian, f. 340, 344, 346.
Boliinî, Bengali, for sister, f. 78 n.
Bologna, University of. i . 118.
Bombay, Parsis of. ii. 96.
Bonaventura des Periers, his Contes
et Nouvelles, i . 530.
Book of Sindbad, f. 531.
Book–religions, ii. 92.
Bopp, i . 342, 392, 396.
— his derivation of Arya, i . 208.
— his Comparative Grammar, i . 124,
318; ii. 4.
— Glossarium, i . 351.
542 INDEX.
Boreas, i . 299, 300