Abbildungen der Seite

fundamental institutions of Brahminism; and like the other Hindoos, they wear the fetters of caste to this day.

Mr. Upham's splendid book has not been devoted to inquiries as to the opinions on this subject, which have so long agitated the learned world. But we shall thankfully avail ourselves of his assistance, in offering a sketch of some of the leading doctrines and legends of Buddhism. It is necessary only to premise, that these, it is probable, are variously modified in the different countries which profess the religion; although the fundamental principles no doubt are the same in all.

The Universe, say the Buddhists, is eternal, and exists in a perpetual succession of rise, change, and decay. At a periodical renewal, it is first peopled by beings from the heavens, who descend upon the earth, attracted by the glorious appearance of the spring of nature. Here they exist for a time in splendor and happiness. They have no power to return; but they still walk in the light of their lost heaven, which lingers around them. Exempted from labour, they live upon the spontaneous productions of the earth ; till the original sin inherent in their nature, begins to manifest itself. Glorying in the length of their years, they become unmindful of their origin, and careless of their fate. Above the infirmities of life and the miseries of the world, they deride the very deities--they are as gods to themselves. At this epoch their self-emitted light becomes dim and more dim, and darkness is seen rushing upon them through the moral twilight. The very earth is blighted by the sin of pride ; its productive bosom slowly dries up; its spontaneous banquet becomes scantier and scantier; and men at last are obliged to support nature by the sweat of their brow. In the ages of happiness the lower animals have their kings; and when wickedness makes this advance among the human race, they also feel the want of a sovereign power to control them. But the time of the first king is comparatively an age of purity and happiness. Mankind still retain a large portion of their beauty (virtue), and their age is still prolonged to an immense duration. In the time of the second king, the beauty has diminished, and the span of life is contracted; the strides of crime are more rapid; falsehood, murder, and other deadly sins, enter one by one into the world ; and so on through an incalculable series of ages, till luxury, anger, and ignorance, have.

* Ward, vol. iii. p. 437. How lightly these fetters are now worn this is not the proper place to show ; but to the struggles of the Buddhists

may in great part be attributed the gradual dissolution of the system, which is beyond all question going on.

reduced the stature of men to a pigmy size, and the days of their lives to the space of ten years. Then “ the windows of heaven are opened, and the fountains of the great deep broken up;” the rain falls in drops as large as a Palmeira tree, and the outcasts of sin seek for refuge in the rocks and caves of the earth. The evil passions spend the last moments of their power in fiendish revelry, and, like the devils of Scripture, rend their victims before leaving them for ever. Cruel in their terror, and furious in their despair, the brethren of mankind rush like tigers and bears on one another. Whatever they can grasp is turned into a weapon of destruction, and thus they fight till nearly the whole human race perishes. The few who had succeeded in hiding themselves from the poisonous elements, now come forth from their dens, and, struck with dismay at the spectacle of devastation before them, all depraved as they are, renounce one of the sins forbidden in the commandments of Buddha. Their children renounce two sins, and their grandchildren, and remoter posterity, advance step by step, in amendment, till happiness again takes up her abode in the world. The earth, as formerly, produces her spontaneous fruits; and the human denizens of the earth, waxing daily in size, power, and longevity, forget all that has passed, and look upon themselves as immortal. Then the retrograde motion recommences; men sink as before into sin and misery; and when the measure of their iniquity is full, a new mandate of destruction is issued against the world. Six additional suns appear in the heavens, and these rise and set alternately, without making any distinction of day or night. So mighty is their heat that the whole universe is consumed to ashes. An inundation follows, and the elements of the world expand into a new creation. The beings who had been saved in one of the temporary abodes of felicity, forsaking in their turn a heaven for an earth, descend to people the world. The same happiness endures, the same change takes place, and the same descent into sin and misery and despair. *

If the period of the grand cataclysm has arrived, brought on by the increasing guilt of the world, men are warned of their fate by signs and portents. A Nat god descends upon the earth, his hair dishevelled, his countenance mournful, and his garments black ; he passes every where through the public ways and streets, with doleful voice announcing the approaching disaster. In the same manner as the fowls of heaven, and the fish of the sea, by a certain natural instinct, have a fore

* The above is the substance of the systems at page 5,and pages 80-81, collated, reconciled, and blended together. VOL. XII.-Westminster Review.


boding of storms, so the Nat perceives the approach of a world's destruction. Having finished his warning, a fine rain falls, but it is the last rain during that world. The wind begins to blow, and gradually increases ; at first it only raises sand and small stones, but at length it whirls about immense rocks and the summits of mountains; then shaking the whole earth, it dissipates this and the others, with all the habitations of the Nat gods, Rupa and Arupa, and scatters them through the immense extent of the skies. *

These dogmas, at once fantastic and sublime, present a very striking analogy to those of both the sacred and profane writers of antiquity. The description of the virtue and happiness which prevailed in the world in its early years, the rationality of animals, the longevity of mankind, their rebellious pride, the introduction of sin, the curse of the fruitful earth, the shortening of the span of human life, the destruction of the world, and the preservation of a small part of mankind-all appear as if actual transcripts from Scripture. The demons, and the pre-existence of the soul of the Pythagoreans, in their exoteric doctrine, may also be perceived in the Buddhist system; and the ideas of Plato are still more clearly developed. This philosopher, we know, ascribed a divine origin to the soul, of which the stars were the first habitation. After their fall they were condemned to dwell in human bodies, where they still retained some faint recollections of their former existence. To this reasonable soul another was united, which was the seat of the senses, the desires and the passions, which had power to betray into sin, and was fated to perish with the body; while the spirit par excellence, might be rendered worthy to return to its primitive state. - This singular doctrine of the destinies of the universe is placed by the Buddhists in a more singular frame. An infinite number of deities are set over the different parts of the system, as if to rule ard direct them ; but these, without power to hasten, avert, or retard calamity, are apparently nothing more than gilded trappings to catch the gaze of the vulgar. As this part of Mr. Upham's work is of necessity both the dullest and the most incomprehensible, we shall refrain for the present from doing more than allude to it. In Buddhism there is no hell, as the majority of Christians understand the word ; the places of torment are purgatories, from which the very devils may escape. The subordinate heavens-the “many mansions"

• Asiat. Researches, vi. 242-4. The general analogy of this system with that of the stoics is very striking.



of bliss--are also of a temporary nature; and the soul which has been rewarded for its virtues with millions of years of happiness, may at last be returned to the earth, and then to the hells, to undergo a further trial and purgation.

The object of this complicated system of trial is the final attainment of Nirwanama word which some writers maintain to mean annihilation, and others supreme felicity. Nirwana is at once the deity and the abode of the deity ; it is the womb of forms and the mother of spirit; it is the centre from which every thing radiates, and the focus to which every thing returns; it is, we should think, the very antipodes of nothing

In the exoteric system, as Mr. Upham justly observes, it means any thing but annihilation; for the Buddhas who have already attained Nirwana, are represented as consenting to the accession of a new Buddha. In the esoteric doctrine, which in fact represents the soul of man as eternal and indestructible, annihilation is out of the question. “Nirwana,” says Dr. Buchanan, “implies (among the Burmans), exemption from all the miseries incident to humanity, but by no means annihila

Nirwana can only be attained by obedience to the commandments of the Buddha, and the Buddhaship is open only to the sons of men. The five principal commandments, by the strict observation of which a man may obtain Nirwana, and the human race even avert, or delay, the execution of the decrees of fate with regard to the destruction of the world, are as follows :

1. Thou shalt not kill.
II. Thou shalt not steal.
III. Thou shalt not commit adultery.
IV. Thou shalt not say any manner of falsehood.
V. Thou shalt not drink any intoxicating liquor.

There are five other commandments, the purport of which is to repress luxury and avarice in their various forms. But in case the transgression of any of these ten precepts should arise from ignorance or accident, a table is given specifying the graduations of guilt.

The reader will have been struck in the course of this article, not only with the resemblance of some of the doctrines of Buddhism to the patriarchal traditions, but with the analogy the whole system bears to Christianity. The world is described

[ocr errors]

180. † “ Nihil esse interficiendum quod exfuxoy sit.” —Brucker, Hist. Philosoph. v, 5. p. 818.

* Asiat. Researches, vi. p.

in both systems as a scene of turmoil and anxiety, and the Nirwana of the Buddhists, and the heaven of the Christians, are both essentially places where “the weary are at rest.” Buddha arose like the divine Founder of Christianity, to “call the nations to repentance;" he opened the arms of his religion to the Gentiles; he rebuked the Scribes and Pharisees of Hindostan for the hollowness of their observances and the falsity of their pretensions, and called to the standard of his faith the poor, the humble, the ignorant, and the obscure. To “mortify the flesh” was the injunction of both. To subdue nature, as Pythagoras taught, in order to approach the divinity-to practise virtue (the đpern of Plato, which implies true wisdom), moderation (ow pooúvn), or the subjection of the desires under the empire of reason—courage (dvdpeia), or the constancy to shun moral and endure physical evil-justice (dikalooúvn) or the fulfilment of our duty towards our neighbour-these were alike the fundamental doctrines of Buddhism and Christianity.* It is not our province, nor, in a Christian country and in the nineteenth century, is it necessary, to show in what the difference between the two religions consists.

So remarkable was this analogy, even in the outward forms and in the doctrines which lie most on the surface, that the early missionaries to Thibet considered Lamaism as merely a degenerated Christianity; and this opinion was supported by Thévenot, Renaudot, the Andradas, Horace de la Pena, and Georgi; and more recently by Deguignes, Lacroze, and others.

We have no room to pursue Mr. Upham through the other departments of his book, in which he presents a popular picture of the Kapooism or Demon worship, and the Bali or planetary incantations of Ceylon. We return him our thanks for calling in so attractive a manner the attention of the British literati to subjects on which the French and Germans are far outstripping us; and, in the meantime, we shall wait with some inpatience for the translations of the Cingalese sacred and historical books which we understand may soon be expected illustrated with his notes.

to The earlier school of Lao-tseu, as Remusat tells us, exhibits a striking conformity with those of Pythagoras and Plato. There is no greater sin,' says the Chinese, 'than ill-regulated desires, and no greater misfortune than the torment which is their just punishment.' We have already hinted at the supposed derivation of this philosopher's doctrine from the west.

« ZurückWeiter »