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ground, that Sakya cried out to Ananda : “Who are these who make as much of a racket as fishermen would when drawing their
When Ananda informed him, he ordered the visitors to be ejected, with an injunction never again to show themselves where he might be, and it required an express intervention of Brahma to appease his ire. Can even an agnostic fancy Jesus Christ acting in this manner? No; the life of Jesus, as narrated in the Gospel, is an ideal life, even though agnostics may not acknowledge it as a superhuman one. And this ideal cannot be the work of human imagination, exercising itself on a gross and inferior reality. It requires no acquaintance with the science of criticism to be convinced of this, for a very ordinary mind must grasp the fact that the authors of the Gospels were utterly incapable, as far as their mere intellects could aid them, of giving such an appearance of probability to a work of imagination. And how is it that the four Evangelists are in such accord when they present the ideal Christ? Must they not have had the real, historic Christ before their minds ? Listen to Rousseau on this matter: "Shall we call the gospelhistory an invention ? My friend, inventions are not made in that manner, and the facts of the life of Socrates, concerning which no one doubts, are not attested as well as those of the life of Jesus Christ. After all, to call the gospel-history an invention, would be an avoidance rather than a solution of the difficulty. It is much more probable that one and the same person was the subject of these books, than that four men agreed in their fabrication. Jewish writers could never have excogitated such a tone and such a morality; and the Gospel presents characteristics of truth so striking and inimitable, that its inventor would be more astound. ing than its hero.”! History and our own experience convince us that a union of the real and the ideal is impossible in the natural order; therefore, in Jesus Christ, uniting these so different elements in His visible nature, we recognize the Messenger of God, nay, the Divinity, with its most sublime attributes. The life of the Buddha, even as it is traced by his most impassioned votaries, is
1 Émile, 1. IV.–We avail ourselves of the opportunity furnished by this quotation, to draw the reader's attention to Le Noir's appreciation of Rousseau: "Every one is familiar with the vagaries of this democratic character, this adventurer and misan. thrope, influenced for evil, in matters of practical morality, by the depravity of his times; every one is acquainted with his impassioned style, the reflection of his very soul, as well as of his paradoxical genius. Let us admit that he deserves consideration for having expressed, in his age of ice, an ardent admiration for the Gospel, and for having been, throughout his life, a Christian in sentiment. Let us also admit that he deserves, as one of the greatest writers who ever lived, and as a profoundly theistic democrat, a place alongside of Fénelon in the temple of art. Rousseau is one of those who, compared with the atheists of our day, lead all just minds to apply to them the saying of Jesus to His disciples: · He who is not against you is with you.""
far removed from the ideal, a search for which, in union with the real, is the object of every religion.
"Believe in My works," said Jesus Christ. Moral proofs may influence individuals, here and there; but miracles impress all persons, and if they were of no value in determining the truth of a religion, atheists would not be so anxious to disprove them. A monotheist religion naturally relies upon miracles as a presumption in its favor, for such a religion presents God the Creator as the master of nature-as One who can work miracles; and were God to withhold a sanction, through His miraculous interposition, of the presented system, man would prefer to rely on the light of his own reason. Now in all the alleged miracles outside of Christianity, it is at least difficult to decide what is illusion or imposture, and what preternatural ; and if we are ever forced to acknowledge the preternatural in any such adduced facts, it may be ascribed to a demon. As to the miracles of Sakya Muni, let us ignore the suspicious fact that they were first mentioned several centuries after his death, and accept them as phenomena. But even the Buddhists do not attribute them to divine power, but to magic, one of the Buddha's natural acquisitions; and it is evident that a man may be a powerful magician, and yet a teacher of error. In the Gospel, we find a series of miracles performed in designated places, at definite times, in the presence of many, and of such a description that a natural explanation of them is impossible.
Christian polemics have always adduced the marvellously rapid propagation of their religion in proof of its divine origin. They all felt like saying with Richard of St. Victor : “If, O Lord, my faith be an error—which is an impossibility-Thou art the deceiver; for Thou hast permitted Christianity to be marked with signs which plainly show the imprint of Thy omnipotent hand.” Our modern atheists are fond of rebutting this argument by instancing the rapid diffusion of Buddhism ; but they fail to remark the immense difference between the natures of the two religions—a difference which would have augured, if considered from a merely human point of view, success for Buddhism and failure for Christianity. Christianity called on the proud Quirites to abandon a religious system which permeated every fibre of their social and political fabric; to forsake deities to whose care they ascribed the advance of Rome from the humble state of a petty hamlet to the position of mistress of the world; to hurl these deities from Olympus, and cast them into the realm of nothingness, or perhaps into the shades of hell. But Buddhism called for no change of dogmatic belief. Christianity asked Rome to acknowledge as teachers men of a hated race, poor and ignorant fishermen, plebeian foreigners; to adopt a moral system, diametrically opposed to all the vices which
paganism sanctioned and encouraged; to adore as God a citizen of despised Judæa, only lately crucified as an impostor by a Roman governor. Buddhism did not pretend to speak in the name of God; it made no radical changes in social life,' and especially none in regard to the relation of the sexes; it imposed no new mysteries, and the Buddhists of Japan even flatter themselves that they need not admit a God-Creator. Christianity first manifested itself without any paraphernalia of glory or social standing; the Buddha was the son of a king, and his first disciples and converts were men of the superior classes. The persecutions of Christianity were terrible, and endured for three centuries. Dodwell, Voltaire, and Gibbon may try to belittle them, but they are authenticated by contemporary and trustworthy writers. As Lactantius (260–325) says of the Roman persecutors : “They tortured the Christians with the most exquisite kinds of punishments; they used all the powers of their slaughter-house, as though they thirsted for blood. What Caucasus or India ever raised such ruthless and sanguinary beasts ? That person is a beast, by whose single wish the purple gore everywhere flows. Everywhere are cruel tears, panic, and the multiplied image of death. No one can rightly describe the ferocity of this animal, which, though it crouches in one spot, nevertheless grinds its iron teeth throughout the universe, and not only devours the entrails of men, but crunches their very bones, and even rages against their ashes, lest they should find a burial-place.” Even the most clement of the pagan Roman emperors were persecutors of Christianity. Antoninus Pius, often lauded for goodness, was one, as is shown by inscriptions in the catacombs,' and by Justin Martyr? That even Marcus Aurelius, whose " Meditations " seem to breathe a Christian spirit, was a persecutor, is proved by the martyrdom of St. Polycarp, and by the contemporary“ Apologies“ of Apollinaris, Athenagoras, and Miltiades. That Trajan, one of the “good princes,” also persecuted the Christians, is evinced by the martyrdoms of Popes Clement (Romanus), Evarist, and Alexander; of St. Ignatius of Antioch and of St. Simeon (son of Cleophas); and of Sts. Nereus, Achilleus, Sulpitius, Severianus, and Cæsareus—all well authenticated; and by the “ Acts of St. Ignatius,” the genuineness of which is defended by the Protestants, Usher and Pearson. But how different from all this is the picture furnished by the infancy of Buddhism. Everywhere this system was established with the aid of the civil power. Sakya Muni was protected by King Bimbisara, and when the reformer died, the Princes of Malava presided at the funeral. The first foreign missions of Buddhism were inaugurated by the great conqueror, Asoka Pyiadasi ; before his reign, the new system was professed only by some obscure ascetics of Magadha. It was Mahendra, son of Asoka, who carried Buddhism into Ceylon. Kanishka, an Indo-Scythian, King of Cashmere, first developed it in Tartary Chubilai, successor of Genghis Khan, established it among the Mongols. Finally, the doctrinal feebleness of Buddhism was greatly favorable to its propagation, whereas the pure monotheism and precision of doctrine presented by Christianity ought, humanly speaking, to have prevented its success.
i It has been asserted that Buddhism condemned and destroyed the system of castes wherever it prevailed. Now we know a priori that it could not have done this, for it furnished the human conscience with no new conception of justice which would serve as a basis of such condemnation. Buddhism recognized the transmigration of souls as forming its fundamental dogma, and the system of castes was ils fatal consequence. Eugene Burnouf (loc. cit., p. 210), who devoted more study to this matter than any other orientalist, says that “ Sakia Muni admitted a hierarchy of castes, and explained it just as the Brahmins did, by the theory of rewards and punishments. Whenever he instructed a man of inferior condition, he taught him that his lowliness of origin was the consequence of the crimes committed in his previous existences. The conversion of a man, according to Sakia, was tantamount to giving him a means of escape from the law of transmigration; it was an absolute and relative liberation from a vitiated birth-absolute, by putting him in the way of attaining definite annihilation (this we cannot admit); relative, by making him a religious like Sakia himself. Therefore, Sakia opened the way of Heaven to all castes, whereas before his advent, that way had been closed to many; and he made them equal to himself and to each other by granting them the religious investiture. .... We perceive how we must understand that famous axiom of Oriental history, according to which Buddhism effaced all distinction of castes. The writers who have repeated this assertion have fancied that it is verified by the condition of such people as profess Buddhism in our day. But there is a noteworthy exception which has not received sufficient attention. If caste distinctions are unknown to the Buddhist nations of Thibet, Burmah, and Siam, they are very firmly established among that people who first adopted Buddhism, the Singhalese,
. . The instance of Ceylon allows us to suppose that the phenomenon of a coexistence of Buddhism and castes was also seen in India in the olden time, and a study of the Sutras fully confirms the supposition.” Nevertheless, Buddhism did directly oppose the Brahmanic caste, denying its mission and social function, and transferring these to religions taken from all cas
Buddhist missionaries would have found no difficulty, as did the Holy See in the famous question of the Chinese ceremonies. They were ever willing to adopt all superstitions.
But while the arguments above adduced forbid our admitting in Buddhism the transcendent qualities which place Christianity above every religion, we must avow that it has exercised a beneficent influence over the minds and hearts of the people who have accepted it. Especially in Mongolia, Thibet, and Ceylon, it has effected much in the way of social pacification, by mollifying the dispositions of men. Benevolence, at least to some extent, is now known where once destructive passions held sway. We can scarcely realize the possibility of a Genghis Khan or a Tamerlane reappearing in these regions. It is generally admitted that rapine and
1 ARRINGHI, Subterranean Rome, b. iii., ch, 22. 3 Apologia, num. i.
murder are now no more rampant in Buddhist lands than in the civilized West, and to Buddhism must be accorded much of the credit for the great change. “At the time of Genghis Khan," " says Abel Rémusat, “the ferocity of the Turkish race was equalled by that of the Mongol, which the former had temporarily subjugated. The Turkish race has persevered in its attachment to Islamism, and the fanaticism of an intolerant system has served to confirm its turbulent habits and its disposition to carnage and rapine. But the Mongolian races have successively embraced Buddhism, and to it is due the change in their characters. As pacific now as they formerly were savage and indocile, they are devoted exclusively to the care of their flocks."
The same may be said of the Thibetans who, now that they are Buddhists, are a lettered and a comparatively refined people ; whereas, in their ante-Buddhistic days, they were wont to eat their dead. Of course, Christian influence has contributed not a little to this amelioration, and Taine errs when he ignores it; but there is much truth in his remark that, “if, like so many drops of water in a vessel, all the benevolence and humanity in the civil and domestic life of Asia could be collected, it would be found that the good Buddhist river has furnished the greater part.” Another trait of Buddhist people is a spirit of religious tolerance. Even Asoka, the Constantine of Buddhism, zealous propagandist as he was, always commanded the various sects in his dominions to observe mutual respect and concord. Barthélemy-Saint-Hilaire cannot account for this characteristic; it cannot come, he thinks, from the superior reason of the Buddhists, for it is not to be believed that these people developed so delicate a matter, when they were so profoundly ignorant concerning some of more easy acquisition; it cannot come from indifference, for they show intense religious fervor in the great number of monuments which they have consecrated to their belief. Pillon finds a key to the mystery in the pantheistic character of Buddhism, which excludes any “divine monarchism." ” We
agree with Le Noir, who thinks there is no need of seeking an explanation of this tolerance outside of the Buddhist system of morality—that part of religion to which Sakya Muni attached the greatest importance, and which is exceedingly mild and tolerant, for it commands its adepts to bear everything with patience, and it will not allow even animals to be unnecessarily hurt.
| Mélanges Critiques, vol. i.
Nouveaux Essais de Critique et d'Histoire.