In the previous article on Brahmanism we saw the repressive domination of the Indian Prieshood and their enforcement of a caste system upon the entire population where they, the Priesthood, had the privledged positions and benefits of such a structiure. Revolt to this Brahmanic doctrine was inevitable. It was scarcely possible that a large mass of humanity should submit forever to galling and artificial restraints, to irremediable inferiority and frustration. However, since the ruling classes were so thoroughly intrenched, no revolt could be successful unless based upon established doctrine. As it happened, the desired foundation existed in the Upanishads and in the asceticism already tolerated. Powerful movements, therefore, took shape in the sixth century B.C.E. to emancipate the disinherited. Both Gainaism and Buddhism grew out of Brahmanism and derived from it such concepts as:
Mahavira, the founder of Gainaism, and Gautama, of Buddhism, were contemporaries; but the break of Mahavira with Brahmanism was less complete. We find, for example that Gaina ascetics, like the Brahmanic, were strict individualists, practicing self-mortification; they regarded filth as almost synonymous with holiness; among them, we hear nothing of Samghas, monasteries, or brotherhoods. Gaina teachers were even called Gurus.
The revolt of the Gainas and the Buddhists centered upon revolutionary ideas which were everywhere rampant:
Here was something new; for here were religious teachers who did not aspire to control anyone except their own voluntary disciples. They had no interest in worldly affairs, which they simply abandoned and repudiated. This was the great difference between Buddhism and Brahmanism: Brahmanism insisted on totalitarian dominion over all; Buddhism accepted only those who would submit to its code; the punishment for violation of discipline was expulsion only, with the consequent return to civil society.
Throughout the Buddhist scriptures as well as the teachings of Jesus, we find this ideal of universal human brotherhood, which expresses the profound yearning of the oppressed and the despised, the poor, and the ignorant for equality with their more successful brethren. Since the Sudras and the outcasts of India could not hope for priority, they sought first of all to escape the bitter exploitation under which they groaned. Through holy beggary, they might even achieve a humble parasitism of their own. But man cannot live by bread alone; he must have food also for his spirit, that is, he must have inspiration for his ego: he must believe that he is significant. The disinherited of India, therefore, seized eagerly upon a doctrine by which they might escape unrequited toil and social degradation and at the same time attain stature as elect saints.
Because it enabled the toiling masses to strike a blow against frustration and exploitation, Buddhism grew into a great and mighty force: less than three hundred years after its origin, it probably numbered more adherents than any other religious discipline in the world. The new preachers proclaimed the gospel: "Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest." All were welcome: slaves, Sudras, outcasts, women, harlots, thieves, murderers, on the same terms, all to be emancipated from the control of the Brahmanas. The way was revealed by which men might escape work: even if subjected to unlimited abuse, nakedness, and starvation, they would, whatever the cost, withhold their labor. They would renounce life, but they would not submit to involuntary servitude. Even if they should be beaten to death or compelled to subsist like beasts of the jungle, they would perform no service under the old conditions. This was the world's first great organized strike.
The revolutionaries capitalized upon Brahmanic teachings and so made it impossible for the authorities to abolish them. They extended to everyone the privileges which the Brahmanas had already conferred upon aged, twice-born ascetics. The nub of the heresy consisted in its demand for independence from Brahmanic authority and in its declaration of universal equality by which it invited the poor, the downtrodden, the criminals, the outcasts, from the byways and the hedges to come and receive salvation freely and without price. Other cults chose their saints with the most meticulous care; Buddhism and Christianity opened their arms in welcome to all the disinherited miscreants of the earth.
The American I.W.W., which flourished at the turn of this century, believed that workers could never free themselves from exploitation as long as they were involved in family relationships; it was a fervent portion of their faith that they must never marry or accept any social responsibility. This very doctrine (the repudiation of family and home) was the foundation of the heresies of India. Unless we understand this simple fact, we can never comprehend such movements as Buddhism and Christianity: wife, children, home, all these, they believed, are the instruments by which the exploiters fasten slavery forever upon the necks of the poor; and thus the bondage is gilded over with a veneer of moral sanctity. For in every conservative society, such as in ours and in the Brahmanic, a man who abandons wife, children, parents, and home is regarded as the most despicable of all moral monsters. The Buddhists and the I. W. W. agreed that men are born into slavery, destined and condemned to a treadmill of useless and meaningless toil, not only to keep their economic lords in luxury, but also to feed, clothe, and house a domestic brood who give them nothing of value in return.
With such an attitude toward family, along with such ideas conected with it such as procreation and sex, it was only a short step to the the promotion of celibacy. In addition to this, India was heavily overpopulated and workers exceedingly numerous. For this, there was only one practical remedy: a sharp reduction in the available labor force. The poor must withdraw from the labor market and must cease to multiply. The core of the new religion (Buddhism) which was a reaction against the oppressiveness of the Brahmains therefore consisted in the repudiation of work and marriage and in the glorification of celibacy and idleness. Sex and sexconsummation became therefore the greatest and the most shameful evils which afflict mankind. Anything even distantly related to human generation became repulsive, unclean, and degrading in the sight of Buddhism; and even the most furtive reference to the organs of life was viewed with extreme abhorrence and disgust. Brahmanism had degraded women to the level of beasts, but it never belittled or rejected motherhood; these Buddhist revolutionaries, on the contrary, honored women as human beings, but repudiated them as wives, sweethearts, or mothers. Women could become Arhats (saints); but if one of them aroused the smallest erotic disturbance in a man, she was a creature of Mara. Women were dreadfully dangerous, because they seduced men into a relationship which made endless labor inescapable.
Erotic desire became, therefore, the most fearful of all sins: it was not so much the sexual act itself that must be avoided as the wish to commit it: whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her bath committed adultery with her already in his heart. This became the basic article of the Buddhist faith.
Even a cursory examination of Gaina and Buddhist scripture reveals that Woman was the grand renunciation which Man must achieve: "So long as the love of man toward woman, even the smallest, is not destroyed, so long is he in bondage" (Dhammapada, XX, 18). The Buddhist monks imagined themselves constantly tempted by seductive females, ready to smother them with affection and gifts; the pathway to Nirvana was forever beset by fragrant and voluptuous maidens who wished only to enjoy their masculinity; even the gods, forever jealous of the Arhat's superiority, appeared to them in the form of transcendently beautiful women to arouse in them that fatal desire. We are not to "desire women, those female demons . . . who continually change their mind, who entice men, and then make sport of them as slaves" (Uttaradhyana, II:VIII, 18). It is better to "fall into the' fierce tiger's mouth, or under the sharp knife of the executioner, than to . . . dwell with a woman . . . Better far with red-hot pins bore out both your eyes, than look upon a woman's form with desire" (Fo-Sho-Hing-Tsan-King, 1754-1765).
Jesus proclaimed the same philosophy as we find in the sermon on the mount:
You have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not commit adultrey; But I say to you, That whosoever looked on a woman to lust after her halt already committed adultery with her in his heart
But it was not sufficient for the Buddhist to renounce sex and marriage. He must also abhor and summarily reject all those things which accompany family life and require labor for their acquisition. He must thrust aside gold, money, clothing, comforts, land, cattle, houses. Since such impedimenta cannot be obtained without toil or wickedness, they must be renounced and all desire for them must be eradicated from the soul. Only those who abandoned father, mother, sister, brother, wife, children, lands, and house without regret could be disciples of Buddha or Mahavira.
Again, we find Jesus teaching the same things:
Mark 10:29 29
And Jesus answered and said, Verily I say unto you, There is no man that hath left house, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my sake, and the gospel's, (KJV) In return for such renunciation, they would gain knowledge, peace of mind, cessation of desire, many brethren and sisters in the faith, the kingdom of righteousness, and, beyond all this, eternal salvation. This is precisely the reward promised also in Mark 10:29-30.
We are told that all the Bodhisattvas abandoned their wives and gave away their children, or sold them into slavery (Questions of Melinda, IV, 8:1). The devout wept at the heartrending tale of King Vessantara, who consigned his beloved children into slavery under an ogre-like Brahmana: "It is because what he did . . . was so difficult that the fame of this Bohisat was spread abroad among gods and men . . and that the gods exalt him in heaven" (Ibid., IV, 8:6). Such was the Buddhist reward for acts which, under our social-economy, bring infamy and imprisonment.
And so we see that the revolutionary religions of India actually began as a strike by poor and weary men against the economic burdens imposed by masters, parents, sisters, wives, and children.
These Buddhist revolutionaries denounced the Brahmanas as hypocrites and deceivers. Not by forms, ceremonies, or the accident of birth does one become a Brahmana or an outcast, but by deeds which bring their own reward or punishments We can well imagine the denunciations which the new ascetic heaped upon the corrupt and pleasure-loving Brahmanas, who, in their Upanishads, had taught an ethical system which they ignored, but which the Gainas and the Buddhists appropriated.
The Brahmanas, like the Pharisees, were painted sepulchres "within whom there is ravening desire" although "the outside they make clean."
Answer for yourself: Where have you heard this before? Well before you say Jesus understand it was said hundreds of years earlier about represive religous authorities as found in Dhammapada, XXVI, 394.
"These ignorant priests pretend to know the sacrifice.... they shroud themselves in study and penances, being like fire covered with ashes'' (Uttaradhyana, II:XXV, 18). Their sacrifices of animals and their recitations of the Vedas can never remove their evil kharma (Ibid., 32). They possess wealth and wives, lands and houses, are full of anger, malice, depravity, and passion; therefore, they will not escape the wrath to come (Tevigga-Sutta, I: 33-36).
Contrast the above statements with these:
Luke 3:7 7 Then said he to the multitude that came forth to be baptized of him, O generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come? (KJV)
Matt 3:7 7 But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees come to his baptism, he said unto them, O generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come? (KJV)
They are vile creatures wallowing, like swine, in the filthy delights of the senses. Among all criminals, they are the worst: for they are hypocrites as well as exploiters. To robbers, harlots, and thieves, Gainas and Buddhists extended an easy forgiveness; for the impecunious are rarely injured by such as these.
We are told that since not even one of the ancient rishis had ever seen Brahman (the Creator)face to face (Ibid., 14), all this talk of Vedas composed by the god was nothing but nonsense; and to intone these verses precisely as handed down was sheer folly.
The Brahmanas had threatened all who violated their codes with torture after death. But the Buddhist revolutionaries turned the tables, and made hell the inevitable portion of the rich, the comfortable, the powerfulin short, of all those who enjoyed the good things which the underprivileged could not obtain. Thus, for the first time, hell became the means of compensating for social injustice. The Buddhist told the Brahmana: "Verily, ye have had your reward"; and hereafter for them there would "be weeping and gnashing of teeth."
Again contrast with these passages from the teachings of Jesus:
Matt 6:2 2 Therefore when thou doest thine alms, do not sound a trumpet before thee, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets [referring to some of the Pharisee religious leaders], that they may have glory of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. (KJV)
Matt 6:5 5 And when thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites are: [referring to some of the Pharisee religious leaders]for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. (KJV)
Matt 6:16 16 Moreover when ye fast, be not, as the hypocrites [referring to some of the Pharisee religious leaders], of a sad countenance: for they disfigure their faces, that they may appear unto men to fast. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. (KJV)
`It is significant that the founders of the heretical communions were reported to be Kshatriyas or Kings, who were considered far less tyrannical than the priests. The Gainas and the Buddhists sought to make allies of the secular rulers by offering to transfer the civil authority to them. These Buddhists desired, in effect, to separate religion from politics, to remove the priesthood from control over temporal life, and to abolish the Brahmanic codes together with the caste system. They demanded the right to worship as they pleased. Buddhism was an attempt to establish a free conscience.
Buddhism emphasized the rights and the virtues of the poor. Buddhism also considered poverty and sainthood synonymous; and proclaimed that, since wealth is wicked, the rich must give all they have to the indigent on pain of excruciating torture in hell. The Buddhists taught that one is not to bestow gifts on those who will reciprocate! We must give only to those who can return nothing, and such must we entertain at our tables. This was also the ethic of Jesus, as declared in Luke 6:32-35:
32 For if ye love them which love you, what thank have ye? for sinners also love those that love them. 33 And if ye do good to them which do good to you, what thank have ye? for sinners also do even the same. 34 And if ye lend to them of whom ye hope to receive, what thank have ye? for sinners also lend to sinners, to receive as much again. 35 But love ye your enemies, and do good, and lend, hoping for nothing again; and your reward shall be great, and ye shall be the children of the Highest: for he is kind unto the unthankful and to the evil. (KJV)
This is a moral system dear to the hearts of all the penniless. Neither Buddhism nor the Jesus has one word of commendation for industry, thrift, self-reliance, domestic responsibility, or the hard-working man who produces the food, clothing, and shelter by which the world subsists. For religions are, like political creeds, instruments to attain the social and economic objectives of those who embrace them. It would indeed be unnatural for grossly underpaid toilers to glorify labor.
The following sketch of Mahavira (Kalpa-Sutra) indicates that the tradition concerning Mahavira mingled fact with myth, as is the case with so many outstanding personalities. Like all the Gainas who inherited his authority, he was said to have been conceived in an extraordinary virgin birth. He was a pre-existing god who at the proper moment assumed a human form for the purpose of saving humanity. First, he entered the body of Devananda, wife of a Brahmana; but, while still in embryonic state, he was transferred to that of Trisala, wife of a Kshatriya. The prophet was thus a member of both upper castes.
Many wonderful portents accompanied his birth: the whole universe was resplendent with gods and goddesses descending from and ascending to heaven; the king increased all weights and measures; customs, taxes, and confiscations were remitted; police officers were prohibited fom entering and searching houses; fines and debts were canceled. We are reminded of the American Bill of Rights.
At the usual age of thirty, Mahavira began his active ministry; and when he entered upon his great work, the gods sang a song in which they hailed him as the savior of mankind.
Of Mahavira, we read that he "gave up forever his claims in any property, just as a snake casts off its slough. His power and wealth, his friends, wives, sons, and relations, he gave up as he shook the dust from his feet. More than four months many sorts of living beings gathered on his body, crawled about it, and caused pain there. For a time, the Venerable One, giving up his robe, was a naked, world-relinquishing, houseless sage. Renouncing the female sex, ... he meditated .... Giving up the company of all householders whomsoever, he meditated . . . he, to whom women were known as the causes of all sinful acts, saw the true state of the world'' (Uttaradhyana, II:XIX, 86-87; Akaranga-Sutra, I, viii, 1:2-16).
Like a Brahmana ascetic, but repudiating Brahmana control, he wandered from village to village, houseless and homeless, renouncing all human fellowship, naked and forlorn, indifferent to every hardship and misery, making converts, and teaching the pathway to Nirvana (Kalpa-Sutra, 119) which he declared could be attained by any individual, regardless of age, caste, or Vedic knowledge, provided only he embraced the Gaina discipline.
The core of the Gaina teaching, as in the Bhagavad-Gita, was that men are divided into two classes, the wise and the fools. The doctrine was extreme renuncation of property and any form of materialism. The wise renounce everything, but the fools heap up an evil kharma, which will plague them into hell, and which compels them to believe that they must "provide for a mother, for a father, for a sister, for a wife, for sons, for daughters" and must possess "different kinds of property . . . Longing for these objects, people work day and night . . . commit injuries and violent acts'' (Akaranga-Sutra, I, ii, 1:1-4).
While the wise ascetic who begged at his door goes to heaven, the rich fool goes to the torments of hell; "thus a fool doing evil deeds which benefit another will ignorantly thereby come to grief'' (Ibid., I, ii, 3-5). Again and again we are told that only fools lay by stores, where fire destroys and where thieves break in and steal.
Again we find in the mouth of Jesus the same teachings:
Matt 6:19-20 19
Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: 20 But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal: (KJV)
The Buddhists taught than no one was to hoard anything, not even so much as a speck of grease in a begging bowl (Uttaradhyana, II:VI, 15). We are to take no thought for the morrow, where we shall lodge, what we shall eat, or wherewithal we shall be clothed.
Again we find the same things in the mouth of Jesus:
Matt 6:25 25
Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment? (KJV)
In short, gifts to the official priesthood (Brahamanas) would never reduce the giver's evil kharma; but alms to Gaina saints would bear fruit an hundredfold. Those who cast their bread upon the waters would receive it again after many days.
Among Max Muller's Sacred Books of the East are the Fo-Sho-Hing-Tsan-King and the BuddhaKarita, which are purported biographies of Gautama and in which we find, as we might expect, a skeleton of fact heavily encrusted with myth. The fabulous founder of Buddhism was known by a variety of names: the Tathagata, the Bodhisattva, the Master, Lord, or Teacher, the Eye or the Light of the World, the Blessed or the Awakened One.
The Bodhisattva had for ages been a heavenly spirit until in the fullness of time he entered the womb of Queen Maya, wife of the great King Sakya of the Gotama family in northern India. At his birth, the Devas, or angels, as in Luke 2:14, raised their voices in heavenly song (Fo-Sho-Hing, 21). But the Queen, his mother, overcome by the supernatural birth she had given, departed this life and ascended to heaven in a miraculous assumption very much like that later accorded to Mary. A venerable rishi came to the palace and foretold the destiny of the newborn savior. The prophet declared that this child "will rule the world," and that he "shall give up his royal estate from the domain of the five senses, with resolution and with diligence practice austerities, and, thus awakening, grasp the truth" (Fo-Sho-Hing, 95-96).
Notice the parallel with Luke 2:25-26:
Luke 2:25-26 25
And, behold, there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon; and the same man was just and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel: and the Holy Ghost was upon him. 26 And it was revealed unto him by the Holy Ghost, that he should not see death, before he had seen the Lord's Christ. (KJV)
We are told that the child's foot was marked with the Wheel of the Law (Buddha-Karita, I, 65). The prophet-seer declares that "having forsaken his kingdom . . . He will proclaim the way of deliverance to those afflicted with sorrow . . . now overcome by misery, destitute of every refuge" (Ibid., 74, 77, 80). The fond father, revolving in his mind these disturbing prophecies, sealed his heir away from the world, surrounded him with every luxury, and in due time married him to the unblemished princess Yasodhara, who bore him a splendid son Rahula (Ibid., II, 26, 46). As you can see he was not celibate.
Gautama, however, yearned to observe life outside the royal gardens; and the king was at last constrained to give consent. In spite of every precaution, the young man witnessed old age, disease, and death; and learned that these are inevitable for all. Upon his return, the saddened prince was not beguiled by the bevies of beautiful women with whom the king had surrounded him. All he could think of was that "youthful beauty soon fades, destroyed by old age, disease, and death . . . This is the great distress" (Fo-Sho-Hing, 95-96).
When approaching the well-established thirtieth year, the prince decided he must become a ascetic to seek escape from the Wheel of Life. And so he abandoned father, foster-mother, wife, son, relatives, houses, lands, and riches to seek the Kingdom of Righteousness.
First, he came to the Wood of Austerities, the Painful Forest, in which six Brahmana ascetics practiced rigorous self-mortification. Gautama, however, found that all this hardship could, at best, lead only to a temporary sojourn in heaven; it could never lead to Nirvana, because it did not guarantee any radical transformation of the moral nature. Turning his back, therefore, upon these men, he declared that he sought a higher law. All the religious teachers he had so far met were, he said, "like the man born blind, leading the blind man as a guide (Fo-Sho-Hing, 765) as in Matthew 15:14.
14 Let them alone: they be blind leaders of the blind. And if the blind lead the blind, both shall fall into the ditch. 15 Then answered Peter and said unto him, Declare unto us this parable. (KJV)
Arriving at the hermitage of the great Gaina sage Arada, Gautama listened intently while the renowned ascetic expounded his system, which, of course, rejected Brahmanism, here described as the way "of ignorance and doubt" (Fo-Sho-Hing, 947-948). We must achieve that "inward rest and peace" by which "the idea of 'I' departs, and the objects of 'I'; clearly comprehending the non-existence of matter is the condition of immaterial life" (Ibid., 975-977).
But the metaphysical idealism, as well as the Upanishad theory of the universal soul, which lay at the base of the Gaina philosophy, left Gautama unconvinced. For he never believed that finite souls are mere particles of the Supreme Self which can subsist as isolated atoms. He sought instead a doctrine which would remold and reweld the bond of human fellowship shattered by Brahmanic divisiveness; and he sought, not the mastery over desire, but the complete emancipation from it, and from all objects of sense. And so the young saint rejected Arada's doctrines with respect, but with finality (Fo-Sho-Hing, 997).
With the celebrated, independent sage Gaya, Gautama then practiced abstinence for six years until his body was emaciated into skin and bones. He perceived, however, at last that ultimate happiness can never be attained by mortification, by isolation, or by self denial. He concluded that true sinlessness has meaning only when it exists in one enjoying his full strength and in complete possession of his organs and his faculties (Buddha-Karita, XII, 87-101). The real saint would renounce only the duties and the obligations of the world, but none of its comforts or security. And so the great sage bathed, took food, and, thus refreshed, seated himself under the celebrated Bodhi tree; he resolved never to go thence until he comprehended fully the pathway to salvations.
Later, when the ascetics of other breeds, like the disciples of the Baptist beholding Jesus, saw how the Tathagate conducted himself, "They said to one another, 'This is Gautama who has come hither, the ascetic who has abandoned self-control,' " who " ' wanders about now, greedy, of impure will and unstable.' ' 4a
And now, in his still weakened condition, he was compelled to endure his great temptation. Mara, the god of this world and the Lord of desire, rebuked the Tathagata for rejecting the religion of his fathers; offered empire and wordly power; told the sage that he should perform his political duties when young, and become saintly in his old age. Mara's three daughters, Lust, Thirst, and Delight, lavished their wiles upon him in vain. They upbraided him for abandoning his duties toward parents, wife, children, home, as only the Evil One would do; they painted the life of the prosperous householder and virtuous king in the most glowing colors (Ibid., XV, 17-18). , But the saint saw through all the stratagems of Mara, who, cowering in fear (Ibid., XIV, 70-71), slunk at last ignominiously away, and left the Bodhisatva in triumphal peace (Fo-Sho-Hing, 1106-1108).
And now a great light burst upon Gautama: for he comprehended the Four Noble Truths and the Eight-Fold Path which lead to salvation. Sitting under the Bodhitree in ecstatic contemplation, Gautama, the sage, became the Buddha, the Enlightened One, "the Bhagavat, the Arhat, the King of the Law, the Tathagata . . . the Lord of all science" (Buddha-Karita, XIV, 67-68).
The six Brahmanic Bhikkshus whom Gautama had met in the Painful Forest became his first convert-disciples. Next, he converted fifty-four Yasas, noble companions of his former days. He gave these sixty perfect Arhats their charge, exactly as another religious teacher was to do some six centuries later in Palestine. We read: "Go ye then through every country, convert those not yet converted (Fo-Sho-Hing, 1299).
King Bimbasara, the first royal disciple, was followed by many others, who, renouncing everything, and equipped with orange robe and begging bowl, assumed the houseless state. It must have been a great inspiration to Sudras and Parasavas to know that, in becoming ascetics, they were members of so glorious a fellowship.
And now the Buddha made a revolutionary innovation at about the same time that a parallel development was taking place in southern Italy under Pythagoras. Rejecting the Existentialism of the Gainas, Gautama founded holy brotherhoods and sisterhoods; and he provided communal homes, donated by wealthy converts, for their comfort and protection. Thus he restored the bond of human fellowship: men and women were no longer to be isolated atoms, living unto themselves alone. They became organized societies, sharing their property as well as their ministrations and aspirations. They forsook the world, but they no longer forsook each other; they rejected marriage, family, home, and labor, but they did not reject humanity. These Bhikkhus and Bhikkhunis were the prototypes of the monks and nuns who appeared some eight centuries later in Catholic Europe, Egypt, and Asia Minor.
The Buddha returned to his home, where his father was anguished to see his royal son begging for food. The Tathagata, like Jesus, was "moved with pity for the multitude" (Ibid., 1551, 1553), and performed miracles, which prompted the conversion of the king, together with all his household, including Yasodhara and Rahula: "the people all were filled with faith" (Ibid., 1671). His aunt and foster-mother Gopiti became the head of a convent.
And so for forty-five years Gautama trod the highways and the byways of India, making "millions of ascetics, disciples, Arhats, sages, mendicants, and festersand delivering from their ills the blind, the humpbacked, the lame, the insane, the maimed, as well as the destituteand establishing many persons of the fourth caste in the true inactivity and inaction" (Buddha-Karita, XVII, 25, 30).
And so the great prophet converted harlots, robbers, and other criminals; he called unto himself the poor and the ignorant, women, children, slaves, Sudras, and outcastes. And in this religion all were glorified.
The Buddha declared: "I shall not die until this pure religion of mine shall have . . . been well proclaimed among all men!" At the age of eighty, he decided to leave this world, and enter his well-earned rest. When his soul passed, "the great earth quaked throughout" and "up to the heavenly mansions flames burst forth; the crash of thunder shook the heavens and earth, rolling along the mountains and valleys . . . The sun and moon withdrew their shining" (Fo-Sho-Hing, 2104-2108). After all, an incarnate god, the savior of the world, could scarcely depart without some strange disturbances of nature. The example from the Gospel of Matthew is especially striking:
51 And, behold, the veil of the temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom; and the earth did quake, and the rocks rent; 52 And the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints which slept arose, 53 And came out of the graves after his resurrection, and went into the holy city, and appeared unto many. (KJV)
Scholars believe that Gautama was born in or about 557 and died in 477 B.C.E. There is no doubt that the principal features of his religionsuch as the Four Noble Truths, the Eight-Fold Path, and the organization of celibate orderswere established by the founder himself. Buddhism in time produced a large number of sacred books and, as is the case with all ancient religions, no one knows by whom or just when these were written. As there was no writing in India in the fifth century, B.C., such scriptures must have been transmitted orally from one Tathagata to another. We know that by the end of Gautama's life, his teaching had spread far and wide and he had a multitude of followers. In the year of his death, the First Council was held at Ragagriha under the leadership of Buddha's most important disciples, Kasyapa, Ananda, and Upali. Just a century later, the Second Council was held at Vesali.
During the subsequent period, Buddhism made enormous progress; and in 256 B. C. occurred the greatest single external event in its history, when King Asoka, ruler of the territory which now approximately comprises modern India, Afghanistan, and Baluchistan, was converted; he made Buddhism the state religion; he erected temples, shrines, altars, and monuments throughout his realm; and he issued many edicts to establish the faith. In Ale, he presided at the great Third Council held at Pataliputra, his capital, at which the Buddhist canonthereafter accepted as divinely revealedwas established and closed; and various questions dealing with doctrine and discipline were resolved. The basic documents of Buddhism, therefore, derive from the third century, B. C.
Immediately after the great council at Pataliputra, an immense proselyting campaign was undertaken. Buddhist missionaries penetrated every portion of the then known world, including Greece, Egypt, Baktria, Asia Minor, and the Second Persian Empire. Palestine must have been permeated by Buddhist ideology during the first century. It would have been impossible for anyone to remain unaffected by its doctrine. However, the new faith won its most signal victories in the Far East. In ,4~, Mahendra went to Ceylon, and converted its political leaders. That country remains Buddhist to this day, and the faith is still widespread in Burma, Siam, Bangkok, Japan, China, and Tibet.
The golden age of Buddhism, therefore, came in the third century, B. C. But its strength was also its weakness; it won adherents by revolutionary renunciation, but by the same token it cut off the source of wealth and, even worse, threatened the continuity of the race. Slowly, gradually, Brahmanism won back India; for, even though it was an onerous system, it demanded labor, and encouraged human propagation. It absorbed a good deal of the Buddhist philosophy, including toleration, and became Hinduism. Buddhism itself, however, expelled from India, was constrained to modify its pristine doctrines in order to survive.
The Four Noble Truths of Buddhism are those about sorrow; the cause of sorrow; the cessation of sorrow; and the path which leads to its cessation:
"When these noble truths are grasped and known, the craving for existence is rooted out . . . and there is no more birth" (Great Decease, II, 7). The Eight-Fold Path consists of "Right Views; Right Aspirations; Right Speech; Right Conduct; Right Livelihood; Right Effort; Right Mindfulness; and Right Contemplation" (Foundation of the Kingdom of Righteousness, 4). Buddha declared that these Noble Truths and this Eight-Fold Path constitute the Middle Way to salvation, avoiding alike the worldliness of the Brahmanas and the harsh asceticism of the Gainas. "I, then," he said, "reject both these extremes; my heart keeps in the middle way" (Fo-Sho-Hing, 1243). The victorious 13hikkhu could even wear fine clothing, enjoy comfortable living quarters, and eat nourishing food without sin, so long as he did not crave these material things or perform any labor to obtain them (Dhammapada, X, 141-142). His body must never be subjected to abuse, torture, or starvation. And so Buddhism became, in its maturity, the creed of idle and indigent voluptuaries.
The six-spoked Wheel of the Law remains to this day the symbol of Buddhism, as the Cross is that of Christianty; and it represents the victory of the Arhat over the six deadly sins, all of which originate in the body; any craving arising from sight, taste, smell, touch, hearing, or in the mind itself can only lead to pain, torture, and misery. The Wheel of the Law must therefore be implanted in the heart of man to stop forever the motion of the Wheel of Life.
Buddhism made salvation an internal, not an external, process. Again and again in history similar developments have taken place: any religion which, like Brahmanism, long enjoys exclusive power, creates a privileged priesthood and establishes forms, rituals, and ceremonies which have nothing to do with man's moral regeneration or the ethical inter-relationships of society. Buddhism declared: as man thinketh in his heart, so is he. "All that we are is the result of what we have thought: it is founded on our thoughts, it is made up of our thoughts" (Ibid., I, 1). Hatred and anger, resentment and hostility, must be replaced by tranquil love. A true conversion is the sine qua non: that is, the whole of life must be directed by new aspirations into new channels. In this, outward acts or religious rituals are without efficacy: "Neither the flesh of fish, nor fasting, nor nakedness, nor tonsure, nor matted hair, nor dirt, nor rough skins, nor the worshiping of the fire, nor the many immortal penances in the world, nor hymns, nor oblations, nor sacrifices, nor observances of the seasons, purify a mortal" (Kullavagga, 248). Thus the sacraments and ceremonials so dear to every priesthood were repudialed. The great battle must be fought out within the mind; the victory must be over the self: "If one man conquers only himself, he is the greatest of conquerors" (Dhammapada, VIII, 103).
The gospel of Buddha, like that of Jesus (Matt. 28:19) was offered to every one: "As the rays of the sun and moon descend alike on all men, good and bad . . . so the wisdom of the Tathagata shines like the sun . . . upon all" (Saddharma-Pundarika, V, 45-46). Jesus repeated the very same idea in Matt. 5:45.
As we have noted, Gautama organized his disciples into a new kind of community, intended at a single stroke to dissolve the bonds of tribe, clan, nation, city, village, and family, replace all these by voluntary associations of male and female celibates, dwelling together solely for meditation and spiritual edification.
Instead of using persuasion to recruit membership, the Samgha erected barriers against admission; it established a rigorous discipline; and it expelled those who proved indocile. One can easily see why members would fear expulsion: for in addition to shipwreck in the life to come, this involved no small deprivation in the present. For many of the monks and nunsoften former Sudras, slaves, outcastes, and harlotslived comfortably and with little or no effort in monasteries and convents which had formerly been the palaces of nobles, kings, or wealthy courtesans. Such gifts were a reasonable price from Kshatriyas to pay for political victory over the Brahmanas. The only exertion on the part of monks, we read, consisted in walkinga very healthy and, we take it, necessary exercise for these quiescent saints. No wonder that the poor, the despised, the downtrodden, the disinherited of the earth came flocking to the Buddhist order by the thousands, where they could live, not only in comfort, but also in security and idleness.
Those considered worthy were admitted to the sacred circle. Taking the vow of poverty, chastity, and obedience, as Brahmana students had done since time immemorial, they assumed the yellow robe, and, turning their backs upon the world, entered the holy life of communist celibacy and equality (Great Decrease, I, 11).
We read that any "Bhikkhu who is angry, and who bears enmity in his heart . . . remains without reverence for, and without delight in, the Teacher, the Dhamma [Doctrine], and the Samgha [Brotherhood], and does not fulfill the duties of the disciple." Such an evil person must be put away, removed, expelled. The same peremptory treatment must be applied to any one who is hypocritical, envious, jealous, crafty, treacherous, or who has "sinful desires and false beliefs; who is tarnished by love of worldly gain, devoted to getting and taking, for whom to renounce a thing is hard" (Kullavagga, IV, xiv, 3).
As time went on, codes almost as elaborate as the Brahmanic, accredited to Gautama himself, were developed to regulate offenses for which a Bhikkhu must be expelled: first, for having carnal knowledge of woman or beast; second, for committing theft; third, for inciting to suicide; and, fourth, for claiming knowledge which he does not possess" (Patimokkha, Paragika Dhamma 1-4).
The ethical system of Buddhism is its most important feature; and especially so to us, since it reappears substantially unaltered in the Gospel Jesus. We must never be proud, nor harbor anger or resentment against any one. Whosoever exalts himself shall be degraded (Sutra-Nipata, I, 7:131); harsh language must never be used to anyone (Dhammapada, X, 133). Let a man overcome anger by love ...evil by good . . .; the greedy by liberality, the liar by truthl'' (Ibid., XVII, 223). "Let us live happily, then, not hating those who hate us . . . among men who are greedy, let us dwell free from greed" (Ibid., XV, 197, 199). We must not scrutinize the mote in another's eye, and fail to see the beam in our own.73 No matter how unjustly one is attacked or abused, one must never strike back at an aggressor (Ibid., XXVI, 389). This was the Buddhist commandment to turn the other cheek.
We are to live happily, calling nothing our own (Ibid., XV, 200); if we possess two garments, we must give one to a needy Bhikkhu who is less fortunate (Makavagga, VIII, 13:7). This was the same ideal which Jesus expressed when He said that if any one demands our coats, we should surrender our cloaks also.
The Wickedness and Foolishness of Wealth. The story of the rich man who goes to hell occurs in Buddhist as well as in Gaina literature. The man who is enslaved by wife, children, lands, and stores declares: "'Here shall I dwell . . . in winter and summer,' . . . and does not think of his death. Death comes and carries off that man praised for his children, and flocks . . . as a flood carries off a sleeping village" (Dhammapada, XX, 286-287). The cravings of ignorant and sensual men are insatiable; no quantity of wealth is ever sufficient. We read: "If the whole world and all treasures were yours, you would still not be satisfied, nor would all this be able to save you'' (Uttaradhyana, II:XIV, 39); which is also the message of Jesus (Matt. 16:26; Mark 8:36).
Although the Buddhist Arhat despised the world, he was in no hurry to depart, nor did he scorn the good things therein. Alms or gifts to the saints are, therefore, always represented as of incomparable virtue (Mahavagga, 490). The greatest virtue of laymen consisted in supplying Arhats with their every need (Saddharma-Pundarika, XVI, 17-22). And, inost of all, they should provide them with monasteries or rest homes, complete with pleasant walks and gardens. It seems that the idle saints wished to live like royalty. We are told that anyone who gives a monastery to the Arhats will himself at death attain Nirvana (Questions of Melinda, IV, 5:3); and again, that even though the Blessed One could be attacked with impunity, had Mara attempted to prevent the giving of alms to Arhats, his head would instantly have been split into a thousand pieces (Ibid., IV, 2:26). One of the principal objectives of Gautama was to divert the gifts of householders and Kshatriyas from the Brahmanas to his own disciples. And so he made asceticism comfortable and attractive.
And now we come upon the same contradiction which is implicit throughout the New Testament. For in this Buddha-teaching, which purports to radiate so much gentleness, mercy, non-violence, forgiveness, brotherhood, humanity, non-aggression, universal love, and benignity toward enemies, there blazes up suddenly a fierce and implacable hatred toward all those who abuse the brethren or reject the doctrines of the Master. For all these, the fires of hell blaze hot and long, and its tortures are elaborated with excruciating refinement (Saddharma-Pundarika, III, 113-130).
The step between condemning an opponent to hell and laying violent hands upon him in the here and now has, unfortunately, proved very short in the bloody history of religious persecution. If every heretic is possessed by the devil and must, at all events, burn in hell, why not give him a slight foretaste without delay? Buddha and Jesus inculcated love among the brethren and non-resistance to superior force; but there was little love or toleration for skeptics, Brahmanas, or Pharisees; that is, for religious opponents or for anyone who doubted the truth of their revelations.
In time, the Buddhist monksalthough they never sought to control civil society as suchbegan to claim almost as many privileges and immunities as had once been the lot of the Brahmanas: "Those who scoff and hoot at monks . . . shall have their teeth broken and separated . . . disgusting lips, a flat nose, contorted hands and feet, squinting eyes, a putrid body covered with stinking boils, eruptions, scabs, and itch. If anyone speaks an unkind word concerning them, true or not true, . . . it must be considered a most heinous sin" (Ibid., XXVI). Even the most wicked monks must therefore be immune from criticism.
Buddhism borrowed generously from Brahmanic supernaturalism and elaborated upon it. Various charms and spells were to be used by Buddhist missionaries; and when these were hurled against the creatures of darkness, "No one shall overpower or hurt such preachers: no goblin, giant, ghost, devil, imp, sorcerer, spectre, gnome" (Ibid., XXI). If a person is bound in fetters, he has but to think of these mighty spells, "and the bonds shall be speedily loosened" (Ibid., XXIV, 11). The pious monk was assured that "his body can never be hurt by weapons, fire, poison, sticks, or clods" (Ibid., XIII, 58). Buddhist propagandists were provided with ample protection: "I shall rouse, excite, and stimulate them, and give them spells whereby those preachers shall become inviolable, so that no being, either human or not human, shall be able to surprise them, and no woman able to beguile them. I will protect them . . . avert blows, and destroy poison" (Ibid., XXVI). This is also the promise of Mark 16: 17-18.
There is a twofold meaning to the Buddhist teaching on the Kingdom of Righeteousness. The Kingdom of Righteousness runs like a red thread through all the Buddhist scriptures, as does the Kingdom of Heaven in the Gospel Jesus; and in both evangels, it has a two-fold meaning: first, it is a moral entity, to be set up in the heart and the mind of the saint; and, second, a physical reality to be established one day on earth. In that glorious kingdom, in which the saints shall have achieved final victory, the renovated earth "will be filled with high edifices . . . monks will be exempt from . . . punishment and from womankind; . . . they will lead a spiritual life, have ideal bodies, be self-lighting, magical, moving in the firmament, strenuous, of good memory, wise, and possessed of gold-colored bodies" (Saddharma-Pundarika, VIII).
As the Buddhists became socially and politically dominant, they cast off even the mild renunciation of their founder, and were no longer content with the prospect of Nirvana. Instead, they anticipated personal immortality after death and residence in a great city of sensuous delight which was to have seven ramparts, made of gold, silver, crystal, beryl, agate, coral, and "one of all kinds of gems."ge And in this wondrous city, the Great King of Glory will maintain the faithful in perpetual luxury (Maha-Sadassana Gotaka).
And so once again the essential contradiction of Buddhism lies starkly revealed: in heaven, the righteous will luxuriate precisely in those very things which it is the greatest infamy to possess in this life. As the rulers were rich and idle, and as the laborers were poor and weary, the mere possession of wealth and ease was the ineradicable badge of iniquity. In heaven, however, by a divine poetic justice, all things will be reversed: the Great King will give every material blessing to the poor of the earth, who become righteous because they renounce what they cannot obtain. And in heaven there need be no injustice or exploitation, because food, clothing, gold, palaces, jewels, etc., will all be produced by divine fiat, and there all will live eternally in blissful repose.
We have already cited The Questions of Melinda, written in Ceylon about l00 B.C.E., where Buddhism had become the dominant faith. The hero of the piece is the sage Nagasena, who, like so many other religious teachers, came into the world through a virgin birthed As a child, we are told, he learned the three canonical Fedas in one moment "by heart, could intone them correctly, understood their meaning . . . and grasped their mysteries;" but "he found no value in them;" they were worthless, "empty as chaff" (Ibid., 23).
We find in The Questions certain accretions to doctrine and practice, absent from the original Buddhist canon: for example, purgatory has now become an established eschatological feature, and bathing to purify from sin an essential ritual (Ibid., IV, 6:24).
The most significant portions of the work deal with the problems which arose with the triumph of Buddhism. Since it was devised to escape the oppression of a ruthless and impregnably intrenched ruling class, its strength lay in its power to withdraw the labor on which the whole social superstructure rested; its weakness lay in the fact that, should its ideals be victorious, these must be remade or ignored, since they called for the extinction of the race. Many contradictions, therefore, had arisen which critics were quick to emphasize; and when King Melinda of Ceylon (called Menandrasa by Plutarch) was converted to Buddhism, no one but Nagasena could resolve his doubts, which he struggled valiantly to do, in a series of mythical conversations. For example, the king notes that "the Blessed One said: 'Doing no injury to anyone, dwell full of love and kindness in this world.' And on the other hand he said: 'Punish him who deserves punishment' . . . if the first injunction is right . . . the second must be wrong'' (Ibid., IV, 3:55).
To which the Venerable Nagasena replies: "The Blessed One . . . gave both commands you quote . . . But as to the second command . . . that is a special use of terms . . . The proud heart, great king, is to be subdued, and the lowly heart cultivated" (Ibid., IV, 3:36).
In due course, the king inquires whether Nirvana can be attained otherwise than by living as a recluse and a celibate (Ibid., VI). At great length, Nagasena explains that many millions of laymen who do not renounce the world are nevertheless Arhats; the puzzled king wonders "what purpose . . . these extra vows serve . . . if laymen, living at home and enjoying the pleasures of sense, can see Nirvana (Ibid., VI, 5).
There was a good question! And the prolixity of the reply indicates the incompatibility of Buddhism with life itself. The sage, however, finally devises a solution: anyone who, in his last incarnation, has rigidly observed the thirteen vows, achieves Arhatship in the present life (Ibid., VI, 22). No longer do the saints pass immediately into Nirvana upon death; for they "will be reborn only once more on earth''(Ibid., V, 8). And so the celibate of a former incarnation receives a double reward; for he appears once again on earth as a Vaisya- or Kshatriya-Arhat, enjoying once more the pleasure of sensel07 before eternal oblivion.
This novel doctrine opened the door wide to almost everything that the founder of Buddhism had condemned so virulently. Now there could be millions of comfortable or wealthy laymen who, merely by giving verbal assent to the Buddhist philosophy and by persuading themselves that they had been ascetics in their previous existence, could marry, rear children, produce goods, own houses and stores, engage in business, manufacture, or agriculture, employ laborers at small wages, and still imagine themselves to be Arhats because of virtue acquired in a former incarnation. And so, in spite of all doctrine and discipline, men and women went on with their immemorial task of reproduction and of earning their livelihood. An almost precisely parallel development took place in Christianity once it took root. As it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be, world without end. Amen! Amen!
The Brahmanas became the models for the official Catholic clergy and that the Buddhist movement was incorporated into Christianity in the fourth century as monachism; and thus the Church took to its bosom both of the great and antagonistic religions of India.
Buddhism, however, exercised another and even greater influence upon Christianity: for much of Buddhism and its ethical system passed almost intact into the New Testament and the Gospels, probably as an independent influence upon Jesus himself, although much of this philosophy was almost identical to that held by the Pythagorean Essenes.
In this Buddhist/Pythagorean/Essene morality, the following principles are dominant:
There must be a cataclysmic moral transformation called conversion, by which we conquer the evil indwelling self, and create the kingdom of righteousness within ourselves.
Jesus also agreed with Buddha that religion should be separate from the civil government and that religious men should obey the established secular laws which, in turn, should never dictate to the conscience. Buddhism made this ideology the common possession of the ancient world.
We said at the beginning that four basic elements constitute the basic teachings of the New Testament:
Arthur Lillie, in The Influence of Buddhism on Primitive Christianity, 1893, says:
My research has shown him to be true. The "Jesus" of the Synoptics and the "Jesus" of the Gospel of John are diamterially opposite. As if this was not enough, we have observed also that the doctrines as taught in the New Testament are a synthesis of major tenants of world religions dating all the way back to Egypt and beyond. Again as if that was not enough, the doctrine of the Virgin Birth, without which no prophet or savior-god could be a divine incarnation, was so common among ancient cults that it was impossible for any religious founder to achieve acceptance without it. It was, indeed, unknown in Brahmanism or Judaism; but these exercised little or no influence on Jesus or his teachings. In the mystery-cult, in Zoroastrianism, and in Buddhism, all saviors, past, present, and future, were incarnate gods, born of human virgins; this was an idea which came so easily and so naturally to primitive priests in order to establish their own authority that it sprang up independently in many places; Jesus was simply accorded the same honor by universal demand after his cult began making converts in the pagan world.