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of Chrishna, said that he was born in prison, and that: “In the presence of the heavenly babe the fetters that bound the prison broke; the cell began to dazzle, and joy overwhelmed the parents. A heavenly voice whispered to the father to fly with the child beyond the Jumna, which was done. The tyrant who sought to destroy the child sent messengers to kill the children in neighboring places.” The similarity between this and other like traditions, and the New Testament narrative of Christ's lowly birth, and Herod's slaughter of the innocents, is noteworthy.
The remarkable extracts from the Bhagvat Geeta need no comment or illustration.
Buddha is a title, meaning "The Enlightened.” Buddhists teach that there have been several Buddhas, and may be more; men who become such by pure and true lives and high effort and endowment. Buddha, the great reformer, from whose influence Buddhism grew, was the son of a Prince, and was born at Kapilwarta, capital of his father's kingdom, at the foot of the Nepaul mountains, near the end of the Seventh Century before Christ.
A Siamese Life of Buddha says: “The Great, the Holy Lord, the Being who was about to become Buddha, passed the first twenty-nine years of his life as a layman by the name of Prince Sidharta (one who has attained his aim). He then became a religious mendicant, and for six years subjected himself to self-denials of a nature that other men could not endure. Thereafter he became the Lord Buddha, and gave to men and angels the draught of Immortality, which is the savor of the True Law. Forty-five years after this he entered the Holy Nirwana.” He was also called Gautama, from the clan or tribe to which the family belonged. M. Barthelemy St. Hilaire gives 543 B. C. as the date of his death, and he lived about eighty years. Renouncing his princely station and wealth, he went out as a preacher of The Word for more than forty years, and by his singular beauty and purity of life, and his spiritual insight and large abilities, wrought a vast change amidst the great power of Brahminism. Buddhism to-day counts some 300,000,000 disciples (or more than Christianity), spread over Hindostan, Ceylon, Thibet, Burmah and China, and it is a proof of the power of this form of religion that it abolished caste wherever it spread in Brahminical countries.
With the Brahmins the Infinite was everything, and man, and this life, nothing in comparison. Buddhism reacted against this, and elevates righteousness in this life, and makes much of man and Nature.
Buddha reached to Atheism in his purely metaphysical statements, and sometimes towards nihilism or extinction of soul and being; yet in some of his writings, immortality, reward and punishment therein, and of course, eternal law, were clearly taught.
Nirwana, or Nirvana, of which frequent mention is made in Buddhist works, strictly translated, means annihilation, yet he did not teach that, and as Max Muller says: “If we consider that Buddha himself, after he had already seen Nirwana, still remains on earth and is a prey to death, that in the legends Buddha appears to his disciples after his death, it seems to me that all these circumstances are hardly reconcilable with the orthodox metaphysical doctrine of Nirwana.”
Nirwana would seem an elevated state, only possible to the pure and true, above all perturbation of passion or fear or anxiety.
The extracts from the “Dammaphada," said to be the teachings of Buddha himself, and certainly full of spiritual insight and power, must speak for themselves. This work was recognized by the great Council of Asoka, 243 B. C., as being by Buddha. We have made use of three works for information and quotation : “A Catena of Buddhist Scriptures, from the Chinese," by S. Beal; “The Wheel of the Law," by Henry Alabaster; "Buddhagosha's Parables," by Capt. T. Rogers, with a translation of the Dammaphada therein by Max Muller. The original language from which these ancient Buddhist writings are translated is called the Pali.
All these works are by English gentlemen, officers of the Government, and residents in Asia, and are published by Trubner & Co., London, England.
* The Modern Buddhist,” I find in “The Wheel of the Law," and also a Life of Buddha translated from the Siamese. To give some idea of the narrations of wonderful events connected with his appearance on earth, I extract the incidents of his birth. The story of the marriage of his mother, Queen Maia, to the Prince Suddhodana, is told in glowing and beautiful Oriental language. The Queen, in a dream, was told of the immaculate conception of her child, and informed her husband, when, the Life continues :
“The king rejoiced exceedingly, and gave orders that all care might be taken of his queen; that wherever she might be, sleeping or waking, she might be surrounded by that which was pure, melodious, harmonious, refined, elegant, and simple.
"And the forty thousand guardian angels of the ten thousand worlds watched around her with perfect delicacy. Never were they seen when she desired privacy, but at all other times she saw them guarding her day and night, and she saw them without fear.
"From this time no sensual desire ever disturbed her thoughts. She steadfastly obeyed, as she had done from her youth up, the Five Great Commandments, and abstained from all impurity, as the mothers of Buddhas ever have done. Going to visit her parents, the king had the road cleared and levelled, and made gay with flags and flowers, and jars of water were placed along it. A golden litter was provided for the queen, and an escort of a thousand noble ladies attended her.
“Between the cities of Kapila and Dewadaha, there was a forest of most beautiful trees, named Simwaliwana. Interlacing branches sheltered the traveler, as if with a canopy. The sun's scorching rays could not penetrate the delicious shade. From the trunks to the very tops of the trees flowers budded, bloomed, and shed their fragrant leaves, ever again budding and blooming. Attracted by their sweet pollen, flights of shining beetles buzzed around them, filling the air with melodious humming like the music of the heavens. Lotuses of all colors grew in the pools, their sweet scent wafted by gentle breezes. When the Queen Maia entered this forest the trees bowed before her, as if they would say, “Enjoy yourself, 0, Queen among us, ere you proceed on your journey!' And the queen, looking on the forest lovely as the garden of the angels, ordered her litter to be stayed, that she might descend and walk.
“Then, standing under one of the majestic trees, she desired to pluck a twig from the branches, and they bent themselves down that she might reach what she desired ; and at that moment her labor came upon her. Her attendants held curtains around her; the angels brought garments of the most exquisite softness; and standing there, holding the branch, she brought forth her son, without pain or any of the circumstances which usually attend that event.”
This gives a glimpse of the wonderful stories told of Buddha, which he never sanctioned or authorized, but which have clustered around his memory.
In the Notes to this Life is the Pali narration of his death, at the close of forty-five years of meditation, penance, travel and preaching.
“Hastening, as much as his malady permitted, to the city of Kusinagaru, attended by Anunda and his disciples, he gave some further instruction on various points, including the ceremonials of cremation. Reclining between two lofty sala trees, in the garden of the Malla Princes, close to Kusinagaru, he spoke his last words: “Transitory things are perishable; qualify yourselves (for the imperishable)!' Absorbed in ecstatic meditation (Dhyana) he remained until the third watch of the night and then expired.
“Then was there a great earthquake, and the pious who had not yet the perfection of saints wept aloud with uplifted arms; they sunki on the earth, they reeled about, exclaiming: "Too soon has the blessed one expired, too soon has the eye closed on the world.' But those more advanced in religion calmly submitted themselves, saying: “Transitory things are perishable; in this world there is no permanence.'”
Confucius was born 551 B. C., at Shang-ping, near the town of Tseuse, in the little kingdom of Lu. His name was Kong, called Kong-fu-tse by his disciples, which the Jesuits Latinized into Confucius. Kong is master or teacher. His father died when he was three years old, and he was carefully brought up by his mother, Yan she, at whose death he passed three years in mourning and solitary study, thereby no doubt prepared for his great work. He taught pure ethics, was a Theist, believed in immortality, and his aim in life was perfect virtue. His “Seven Steps" are simple : the investigation of things; the completion of knowledge; the sincerity of thought; the rectifying of the heart; the cultivation of the person; the regulation of the family; the government of the State. His system of education was superior to that of any nation in his day. He held important public offices, and had many followers among the thoughtful and influential, but his eminent purity was too far above the realm of public life, and his last days were passed in retirement and comparative poverty.
He passed away at the age of seventy-three years, and his ideas bear sway to-day among a large number of the more cultivated Chinese.
Mencius was born 371 B. C. He was learned, noble, and pure in life, was the child of a mother of remarkable character, who is held up to-day as a model of motherhood, and his education was under her care, owing to the early death of his father.