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Futh, is that of Bud'h, in the precise shape which that superstition has assumed throughout Thibet, Siam, CochinChina, Ava, Tartary, and Japan. The extensive dissemination of Budhism in countries foreign to India, its original birthplace, must necessarily be ascribed in a great measure to the rancorous persecution it experienced from the Brahmins, whose hatred towards this heresy gave rise, as soon as they became the predominant sect, to the most cruel treatment of the reformers, for such the Budhists appear at first to have been. About one thousand years before the Christian era an extraordinary man appeared in India, who laboured with unceasing assiduity, and not without success, to reform the popular superstitions, and destroy the influence of the Brahmins. This was Budha, whom the Brahmins themselves regard as an avatar of Vishnu. The efforts of Budha were exerted to bring back the religion of his country to its original purity. He was of royal descent, but chose an ascetic life, and embraced the most abstruse system of philosophy prevalent in India. Many princes, among others the celebrated Vikramâditya, who reigned in the century that preceded the commencement of our era, adopted the faith of Budha, and, as far as their influence extended, obliterated the influence of the Brahmins and the system of castes. It is certain, however, that the learned adherents of the Brahminical religion did not remain silent spectators of what they deemed (or at least called) the triumph of atheism. They contended with their equally learned opponents, and this dispute, as is manifest by the tendency of many of the works still read by the Hindoos, called forth all the talents of both sides; but here, as in innumerable other instances, the arm of power prevailed, and, as long as the reigning monarchs were Budhists, the Brahmins were obliged to confine themselves to verbal contentions. At length, about the beginning of the sixth century of our era, an exterminating persecution of the Budhists began, which was instigated chiefly by Cumavila Bhatta, a fierce antagonist of their doctrine, and a reputed writer on Brahminical theology. This persecution terminated in almost entirely expelling the followers of the Budhist religion from Hindoostan; but it has doubtless contributed to its propagation in those neighbouring countries into which it had previously been introduced through the intercourse of commerce and travel.*
The above is the Indian history of Budhism. According to the Chinese, it was introduced into their empire about sixty-five years after the commencement of our era, during the reign of Ming-ty, of the Hân dynasty. That monarch, considering a certain saying of Confucius to be prophetic of some saint to be discovered in the west, sent emissaries to seek him out. On reaching India, they discovered the sect of Budhists, and brought back some of them with their idols and books to China. The tradition is, that Budha was both king and priest in a country of the west, with a queen whom he made a divinity: that he was obliged to abdicate his power and seek a secluded retreat for twelve years, after which he taught the dogma of the metempsychosis, or transmigration of souls, making that the vehicle of a system of rewards and punishments hereafter. He is said ultimately to have regained his power, and to have departed this life at an advanced age, being transformed at once into the god Fò, or Budha. It is a common saying of his disciples, that “ Fo is one person, but has three forms,” which are represented by three distinct gilded images, called the “ Three precious or pure Budhas.” The mother of the god is said to have dreamed that she had swallowed an elephant, whence the venera
* The Hindoos, vol. i. p. 175.
tion for elephants in Siam and Pegu. Budha's character as a reformer is indicated by the Chinese legend, that he aimed at instructing men “to amend their conduct and practise virtue.”
The five principal precepts, or rather interdicts, of Budhism must be understood as being addressed to the priests alone, or to those who devote themselves to the
god. They are the following:-1. Do not kill living creatures. 2. Do not steal. 3. Do not marry. 4. Speak not falsely. 5. Drink no wine. The Shamans, Hoshấngs, or priests, are associated together in monasteries attached to the temples of Fo. They are in China precisely a society of mendicants, and go about like the monks of that description in the Romish church, asking alms for the support of their establishments. How
much their costume reMendicant Priest of Budha. sembles that of the Ro
mish priesthood, may be seen by the annexed cut, from original Chinese drawings done at Canton.
Their tonsure extends to the hair of the whole head. There is a regular gradation among the priesthood, and, according to his reputation for sanctity, his length of service, and other claims, each priest may rise from the lowest rank of servitor, whose duty it is to perform the menial offices of the temple, to that of officiating priest, and ultimately of Tae Hoshầng, abbot or head of the establishment. The curious resemblance that exists between the observances of the Budhist priests of China and Tartary, and those of the Romish church, has excited the surprise of the missionaries from the latter; and the observations and surmises of Père Gerbillon, who was intimately acquainted with the subject, may by some be considered as worthy of attention. He questioned a wellinformed Mongol as to the time when his countrymen had first become devoted to the Lama of Thibet, who is a spiritual sovereign closely resembling the pope. The reply was, that priests first came into Mongol Tartary in the time of Koblai Khân, but that these were really persons of holy and irreproachable lives, unlike the present. The father supposes that they might have been religious Christians from Syria and Armenia, the communication with which countries being subsequenty cut off by the dismemberment of the Mongol empire, the Budhist priests mixed up their superstitions with the Romish observances. Certain it is (and the observation may be daily made even at Canton) that they now practise the ordinances of celibacy, fasting, and prayers for the dead; they have holy water, rosaries of beads which they count with their prayers, the worship of relics, and a monastic habit resembling that of the Franciscans. They likewise kneel before an idol called Tien-how, queen of heaven. These strange coincidences led some of the Romish fathers to conjecture that the Chinese had received a glimpse of Romish Christianity, by the way of Tartary, from the Nestorians; others supposed that St. Thomas himself had been among them ; but Père Prémare was driven to conclude that the devil had practised a trick to perplex his friends the Jesuits. To those who admit that most of the Romish ceremonies and rites are borrowed directly from paganism* there is less difficulty in accounting for the resemblance.
Chinese history relates that, about the middle of the tenth century, the emperor Kien-tě, who founded the Soong dynasty, sent three hundred Shaman or Budhist priests into India, on purpose to procure the books and relics of the god. After passing the river Heng-ho (Gunga, or Ganges) they saw a large image of Fě in the south. In the homilies of the priests there often occurs this sentence :
-“Oh Fo, existing in forms as numerous as the sands of the Heng-ho.” Their books mention a country called Sy-lân (Ceylon), in which, near the sea, there is on a certain mountain (Adam's Peak) the print of a foot three cubits in length. At the base of the hill is a temple, in which the real body of Fo is said to repose on its side; and near it are teeth and other relics of Budha, called by the priests Shay-ly. It is but justice to the Chinese to say that, in importing some of the Indian deities and their superstitions, they have wisely left behind all the indecencies and fanatic madness of Indian worship, and that such horrors as those enacted at Juggernath and elsewhere could never in the slightest degree be practised under a government like that of China.
One of the principal objects of curiosity at Canton is a temple and monastery of Fo, or Budha, on a very considerable scale, situated upon the southern side of the river, just opposite to the European quarter. It is said that towards the close of the last Chinese dynasty, and about A.D. 1600, a priest of great sanctity raised the reputation of the temple which had been for some time before established in that place; and a century afterwards, when the Manchows had taken possession of Peking, the
* See Dr. Conyers Middleton's Letter from Rome.