Theosophical Universneeity Press Online Edition
Vol. I., No. 1 - OCTOBER, 1879
Brahma, Iswara and Maya
Pandit Bala Sastri's Views
The Inner God
Persian Zoroastianism and Russian Vandalism
The Light of Asia
Return to Section 1
Go to Section 3
By Pramada Dasa Mittra.
Late Officiating Professor of Anglo-Sanskrit, Government College, Benares.
In a paper printed in the "Pandit," [January 1st, 1879] the impropriety was pointed out of comparing the Perfect and Supreme Brahma of the Upanishads to undeveloped thought, such as the Idea of the modern transcendentalist is represented [Pioneer, October l4th, 1878. Reprinted in Pandit, December 1st, 1878] by Mr. Archibald E. Gough to be. Excluding, however, the notion of progressive unfolding, Mr. Gough continues to regard Brahma as a foreshadowing of the Idea, and accounts for the absence of that notion in the Vedantic conception merely by the fact that 'the structures of positive and ideal science had not been then reared.' [Pioneer, June 21st 1879] Thus it is insinuated that the difference between Brahma and the Idea is only accidental, not essential. Now such a view is altogether opposed to the spirit of the Vedanta. Not only is the notion of progress or modification entirely unconnected with the conception of Brahma, but it is absolutely incompatible therewith. According to the Vedanta, Brahma is precisely the being which does not undergo any development or change, and that which developed is precisely what is not Brahma, viz., Maya. The Brahmavadin, again, places his highest end, his supreme bliss in being one with Brahma. The transcendentalist. on the other hand, according to Mr. Gough, already believes himself to be a higher form of being than the primeval obscure idea out of which he is developed, and considers the chief end of man to be in the progressive development of social life. The former looks upon the phenomenal world, within and without, as a mere appearance, as a mere veil but dimly showing the Eternal Light which lies behind it. The latter regards the world as the ever progressive unfolding of a thought whose brightness or clearness shall never be perfected but ever be in the progress towards perfection. Mr. Gough writes of the idea that this 'obscure thought is a thought to become clearly and distinctly hereafter, and that it is obscurely and indistinctly now.' It is difficult to perceive the force of the adverbs used here instead of adjectives, unless it be to disguise, in some degree, the grossness of such a conception of the origin of things. It is evident that the Idea is meant to lie imperfect in its own undeveloped nature, though by a half-intelligible metaphor, it is said to be 'the locus for the eternal verities of reason.' It is not declared to be the Supreme Reality itself. Moreover it is to be noted that this idea is distinguished from God who is its perfection. In answer to the question I put — 'How has this idea, this imperfect intelligence suddenly helped itself to perfection in the case of God?' — Mr. Gough says that "the statement of the transcendentalist is no more than this, that God is already in essence all that he shall be in manifestation." Is this 'God' then, as I suspected, really in the course of development, like the idea of which it is the perfect yet imperfect development? Is it then meant, in earnest, that God is in the course of creation? Is this then the being for which the designation of 'God' is carefully reserved, whilst the Omniscient Ruler of Nature (Sarvajna Iswara) is held deserving of no higher name than Demiurgus? The distinction between essence and manifestation would not, as Mr. Gough but faintly hopes, save him from the aforesaid astounding conclusion; for, as we shall presently see, the world was likewise essentially in the idea all that it shall be in manifestation. Mr. Gough writes: 'The idea of modern philosophy already contains implicitly in itself all the forms that are to be progressively explicated out of it, in the universal fieri. . . All is in it implicitly which shall be manifested out of it at any time explicitly. Essence has to be unfolded into notion.' We thus see that there are two distinct series of developments going on — viz., the progressive unfolding of the idea in the shape of the world, and the subordinate unfolding of God into his progressive nature. I say 'subordinate' for God himself is an unfolding of the idea. Has God then no share in the creation of the world or is he the Cosmos or a portion thereof? The reader will note with astonishment that such a being is held deserving of the appellation of God which is denied to Iswara.
I wrote: 'The idea in God with obvious inconsistency is said to be perfect and proceeding towards the perfect. Process or progress pre-supposes imperfection. How then can the perfect proceed towards the perfect.' Mr. Gough in reply tells me to 'remember that we are dealing with the concrete notions of the reason, not with the abstract notions of the understanding. The law of identity is a logical, not a metaphysical, principle. It applies to abstractions of thought, not to concretions of the reason. A concrete notion, a metaphysical idea is a synthesis of two contradictory factors, and, as such, holds position and negation in solution. There is a higher logic than that of the logicians. Try to define the origin of things how you will, try to define God how you will, you will find your expression contradictory; and so it ought to be, for it will be a definition of the undefinable, an expression of the inexpressible. . .'
I confess that I am not gifted with this metaphysical sense which enables one to perceive the black white, the luminous darkness, the perfect imperfect and per chance the undivine God. But let me express my confusion and astonishment, for a third time, at the idea that a half-created being may be called 'God,' and Iswara only Demiurgus!
It may be well to remark here that, were it not that Mr. Gough speaks of the Idea as an obscure thought developing itself into higher and higher concretions, were it not for his remark that 'it is only at a certain height that thought rises into the thought of this or that thinker,' I might admit its comparison to Brahma, comparing, at the same time, the 'implicit forms' of the world contained in the idea, to the 'undeveloped name and form' (anyakrite nama-rupe) of the Vedanta, designated, Maya, Sakti (power), and Prakriti (nature). As Mr. Gough, however, has represented the theory, the idea itself corresponds to the Maya or Prakriti of the Vedanta, for Brahma, is the Absolute Thought, perfect and immutable. Mr. Gough says I had "no right to replace the term idea by 'thought in its lowest and crudest form, an embryo-intelligence.'" I am glad to find that Mr. Gough seems to have somewhat modified his conceptions, but in justification of myself, I have only to say that my expressions were precise equivalents to his own. Where is the difference between an embryo-intelligence, of course metaphorically speaking, and an undeveloped or obscure thought? The embryo is nothing but the undeveloped animal. Again, if thought must rise to some height, to be the thought of this or that thinker, it follows clearly that the primeval obscure thought, before it had developed itself, was thought that had not risen to any height whatever, or it was thought in its lowest form. The reader will readily perceive that the Idea can no more be said to exist now, than the seed which has sprouted into a plant.
Mr. Gough wishes me 'to remember that Brahma is said to permeate and animate all things from a clump of grass up to Brahma,' but this permeation or animation of all things by Brahma is altogether different from the progressive development of the Idea. To put matters in a clear light, I would ask — are these forms contained implicitly in the idea, that are to be progressively explicated out of it in the universal fieri,' a part of the essential nature of the idea? If so, as Mr. Gough's language clearly intimates, such a theory is expressly condemned by the Vedantin as parinamavada, the doctrine of modification. To avoid the position that Brahma is modified, (for development implies modification or change) the vinartavada, or the doctrine of manifestation, is taught by the Vedanta, which is another name for the doctrine of maya. Parinana is illustrated by the development of a germ into a tree or the transformation of milk into curd, in each case the entire nature of the original thing undergoing a change. Vinarta is exemplified by the appearance of the mirage in the refracted rays of the sun, or by the reflection of the sun itself in the waters. Here the fundamental substance remains unchanged, though it seems to wear a different aspect. This aspect is unreal in itself, but evidences a reality sustaining it. The universe, in all its progressive development, is thus an appearance of the Absolute which is ever the same. Such is the broad distinction between the vinarta-vada and the parinama-vada. It may not be out of place to mention here that there are sects among Indian thinkers too, who would reconcile the latter with the Upanishads, but the Vedanta under discussion, namely, the philosophy as expounded by Sankara, is expressly opposed to it.
Mr. Gough writes: "I continue to regard Iswara not as God but as Demiurgus. (1) We are expressly told that Iswara is retracted into Brahma at each dissolution of things, projected at each polingenesia. (2) There moreover co-exist with him, from time without beginning, innumerable personal selves or jivas, similarly protracted and retracted. (3) Iswara makes the world out of pre-existing materials, out of Maya; and (4) distributes to the jivas their several lots of pleasure and pain, only subject to the inexorable law of retributive fatality, adrishta. (5) Iswara is expressly declared to be part of the unreal order of things, the first figment of the cosmical illusion. (6) The sage passes beyond all fear of Iswara, as soon as he gets real knowledge. Such a being is not God, as will be pretty clear to the reader."
We reply, in order, and as briefly as possible. (1) Iswara is essentially Brahma, therefore what is protracted out of, and retracted into Brahma, at the beginning and end of each cosmic cycle, is Maya, not Iswara. (2) The personal selves, or jivas do not co-exist with Iswara in Brahma. It is Iswara, or Brahma as Creator and Lord, that protracts out of himself the jivas and retracts them again into himself. (3) Iswara is said to create the world out of Maya, or, in other words, to evolve it out of his power, since to say that the world is evolved out of his absolute self would be grossly derogatory, and involve contradictions far more palpable than what is implied in denying the conceivability of Maya, as either existent or non-existent, as being one with or distinct from Iswara. It will be evident to the reader that such a Maya can hardly be spoken of as pre-existent materials? (4) Adrishta is not adequately rendered by 'retributive fatality'. There is no such thing in the Vedanta as fatality, i.e., an agency independent of God. Adrishta is convertible with prarabdha, prior deed. Ishwara regards prior deeds, or acts of merit and demerit done by creatures in previous births, in dispensing happiness and misery and in disposing of the causes thereof in this world, in the shape of moral dispositions, and external circumstances. A cruel and unjust caprice making creatures unhappy, and morally and physically unequal, without any reason whatever, is not regarded as compatible with God-head. (5) Iswara is never literally represented as being 'part of the unreal order of things,' as he is the Absolute itself seeming to be conditioned as Creator. The unreality or illusiveness attaches to the appearance of the Unconditioned as if were conditioned by the creative energy — Maya . Brahma is compared to unlimited space, and Iswara to the same unlimited space seeming to be limited by clouds. Now it is this limitation of space which is unreal, and not the space itself which seems limited. Mr. Gough himself says that Iswara created the world out of Maya. Is it not then a palpable contradiction to speak of Iswara the Creator, as being the first figment of the cosmical illusion — which implies that he is a part of the cosmos, i.e., the world which he has created? The very fact that in Sankara's Commentary on the Vedanta Sutras, the words Brahma, Paramatma, Parameswara and Iswara are interchangeably used, shows that there is but a technical difference between Brahma and Iswara. (6) As a matter of course, a man passes beyond all fear of Iswara, i.e., of retributive justice, as soon as he gets real knowledge, i.e., knowledge by which he loses his personality and is absorbed into the Deity.
The real fact is that the conception formed by Mr. Gough of Brahma being so low, that of Iswara cannot but be proportionally unworthy. As the Light of Lights itself () is regarded only as an obscure thought gradually gaining in clearness, Iswara is naturally viewed as Demiurgus. But the chief source of the misconception seems to be the unreality that is ascribed to everything but Brahma — the Absolute. Moreover, in some modern books such as the Panchadasi, in a stern regard to absolute non-duality, Iswara, by a trope, is said to have been created by Maya, somewhat in the manner that a person is said to be created a lord. The One Unconditioned Beatific Thought, says the Vedantist, only exists. There is neither Creator nor created, neither virtue nor vice, heaven nor hell, I nor thou. Passages of such import are very apt to be understood. It is supposed that the Creator as well as the present and the future world are held to be unreal, even while I speak and write, and you read and hear. This unreality however is not meant in its ordinary sense so as to refer to our concerns in life. The Supreme Being, regarded in his own nature and not putting forth his creative power, is the Absolute, and the fact of the Absolute coming into relation, as Creator, of course belongs to the province of the relative (vyavahara) and, judged by the absolute standard, is false. It is never to be forgotten that this unreality is predicated from the supreme stand-point of the Absolute, and has no practical bearing whatever. This unreality cannot and ought not to be acted up to, unless and until a person ceases to be a personality, until all possibility of action and thinking ceases — which brings us back to saying that this tenet has no practical bearings except that a man may earnestly endeavour to get rid of quality by subjugation of the passions, abstract meditation, and above all, devotion to Iswara. So Iswara in the person of Krishna is represented to have taught: —
"Divine is My Maya, composed of qualities, hard to be surmounted. They only do pass beyond this Maya, who fly to Me for refuge."
If Mr. Gough is bent upon regarding Iswara or the Lord of all, as essentially distinct from the Absolute, then, however high he may raise his conceptions of a Personal Deity, he should be prepared to abolish the name of 'God' altogether, and universally use the term Demiurgus instead. But here, I see, the metaphysical reason is sure to be lighted up, and by its aid, will be beheld in the Absolute, both the Unconditioned and the Conditioned, being and not-being, the one and the many, the immutable and the changeable, the perfect and the imperfect, the creator and the created, and perhaps many other condradictories all equally true — 'held in solution.' And this is the only alternative. Hold a host of contradictions as truly forming the nature of the Absolute, or assert the Absolute alone to be true, and every thing else as untrue, true only relatively. The Vedantin preferred the latter position and saved his conception of Brahma from being a bundle of contradictions.
"The omniscient, omnipotent Brahma whose nature is Pure Thought, Eternal and Absolute, who is superior to, and distinct from, the Embodied Soul — Him, we declare the Creator of the world . . . When by the teaching of such texts as 'That thou art,' &c., the identity of the human and the Divine Soul is realized, off goes the character of the animal Soul by which he is subject to worldly evil, as well as the character of Brahma by which He is Creator."
Sankara's Com. on Brahma Sutras, Bib. Ind. Edn. Vol. I., p. 472.
Thus, if we consider Mr. Gough's position from the relative point of view, the name Demiurgus applied to Iswara, in fact, attaches to Brahma as creator, and is therefore absurd. Considering the application from the absolute point of view, it is still more absurd. For in absolute reality, there is neither the function of the creator nor the fact of the creation — One Unconditioned Being alone existing. In relative reality, the embodied Souls are distinct from Brahma, because they are subject to ignorance. If Iswara too were likewise subject to ignorance, he might be regarded as Demiurgus, but ignorance in animals is the effect of that power by which Brahma manifests the cosmos in itself, as the Creator.
Mr. Gough misunderstands me when he thinks that I 'view Brahma as God, and as God conscious.' These were my words: — "Neither of the epithets 'conscious' and 'unconscious' can properly be applied to Brahma. The latter epithet is, however, liable to a gross misinterpretation, more especially than the former. It might lead one to suppose that Brahma is something like 'unthinking matter,' and so forth. I view Brahma as God, not in the sense of a personal deity, but in that of the Supreme Being, or Highest Reality, and I view Iswara as the Personal Brahma, his personality, of course, being understood as true in a relative sense, and not as essential to his absolute character. It was my object to point out that Brahma is not a being, as Mr. Gough expressly said, inferior to personality but superior to it.
I wrote: "The ultimate inconceivability of all things which the Vedantins, thousands of years ago, and the profound British thinker (Herbert Spencer) so late in the nineteenth century, have illustrated is what is meant by Maya." On this Mr. Gough remarks: — "Has he thus failed to understand his profound thinker? The ultimate inconceivability or inexplicability of things, he should learn in Herbert Spencer's philosophy, attaches not to phenomena but to the reality that underlies phenomena, not to the fluxional world, but to the Idea, not to Maya, so to speak, but to Brahma."
Now what does Mr. Gough mean by these remarks? Does he mean to say that phenomena are ultimately conceivable? It is to be observed that the inconceivability that attaches to phenomena is different from the inconceivability that attaches to the noumena. Phenomena cannot be conceived as existent per se, as independent of something which forms their basis, adhishthana, or, in other words, without postulating an Absolute Being of which they are manifestations. Whilst the Absolute, far from being inconceivable as an independent existence, cannot but be conceived as positively existing. Though its nature is superior to definite conception, an 'indefinite consciousness' of it forms, according to Mr. Spencer as well as the Vedantin, the very basis of our intelligence, of science, of philosophy, of Religion. Incapability of being known, coupled with positive presentation, is what is meant by the epithet 'self-luminous' ()  as applied to Brahma. Mr. Herbert Spencer shows that Space and Time, matter, motion, force, the mode of its exercise, the law of its variation, the transition of motion to rest and of rest to motion, the beginning and end of consciousness, are all inconceivable. He concludes his elaborate argument by remarking that "he (the man of science) realizes with a special vividness the utter incomprehensibleness of the simplest fact, considered in itself." His reasonings indeed serve as a complement to those of Sri Harsha contained in his celebrated Vedantic work, the Khandana-khanda-khadya wherein the author shows that all our conceptions of the four varieties of proof, viz., Perception, Inference, Comparison and Testimony, of Causation and even the notions we attach to pronouns, are untenable. Spencer thus remarks on the ultimate incomprehensibility of phenomena; — "When, again, he (the man of science) turns from the succession of phenomena, external or internal, to their intrinsic nature, he is just as much at fault." It need hardly be pointed out that 'the intrinsic nature of phenomena' is not, any more than their succession, the Absolute which underlies phenomena. It is because "objective and subjective things" are "alike inscrutable in their substance and genesis," and yet are clearly manifested, that an Unknowable yet positively presented Reality is postulated as their basis. This inconceivable Reality is not identical, as Mr. Gough supposes, with the inconceivable ultimate natures of matter and motion, which are present to us as relative realities. Such identifications would make matter and motion themselves absolute. Let us hear Mr. Spencer himself: "Matter then in its ultimate nature is as absolutely incomprehensible as Space and Time [these are shown to be inconceivable either as entities or non entities]. Frame what suppositions we may, we find on tracing out their implications that they leave us nothing but a choice between opposite absurdities." Again: "And however verbally intelligible may be the proposition that pressure and tension every where co-exist, yet we cannot truly represent to ourselves one ultimate unit of matter as drawing another while resisting it. Nevertheless this last belief we are compelled to entertain. Matter cannot be conceived except as manifesting forces of attraction and repulsion." These forces are spoken of as "ultimate units through the instrumentality of which, phenomena are interpreted." Further on we read: "Centres of force attracting and repelling each other in all directions are simply insensible portions of matter having the endowments common to sensible portions of matter — endowments of which we cannot by any mental effort divest them." These remarks are thus concluded: — "After all that has been before shown, and after the hint given above, it needs scarcely be said that these universally co-existent forces of attraction and repulsion must not be taken as realities, but as our symbols of the reality [the italics are ours]. They are the forms under which the workings of the Unknowable are cognizable by us — modes* of the Unconditioned as presented under the conditions of our consciousness" (First Principles, pp. 223-225). Is it possible to read these lines and to assert that ultimate incomprensibility, in Mr. Spencer's philosophy, does not attach to phenomena? Are not the ultimate units of simultaneously attractive and repulsive forces, into which external phenomena are analysed, spoken of only as inconceivable symbols of reality? Yet Mr. Gough peremptorily teaches me the reverse. I have quoted the above lines the more, because there cannot be a clearer and more convincing elucidation of the Vedantic doctrine of the ultimate inconceivability of the world, either as an entity or as a non-entity.** How, asks the Vedantin, does this world, which cannot be conceived as an entity, seem to be an entity? And he answers: Because there is a Reality underneath, which lends its presentation to the world, — through whose sole presence the world is presented. Sir William Hamilton and Mr. Mansel regard the Absolute as the negation of thought. The Vedantin, quite in accordance with Mr. Spencer's elucidations, reverses their tenet, and holds the conception of Brahma the position, and that of the world as the negation, of thought; since our notions of the ultimate nature of the latter are found to destroy each other and necessitate the postulating of an unknown Reality. This conflict of notions and their consequent negation, which an analysis of phenomena brings us to, is called by the Vedatan — ajnana or avidya (ignorance or nescience) in contradistinction to true knowledge which is one with the absolute. We have thus the antithesis of Knowledge and Ignorance, Reality and Unreality, Brahma and Maya. What is science speaking relatively, is nescience speaking absolutely, true knowledge being knowledge beyond the antithesis of subject and object. The greatest end of the Vedantist lies in the full realization of this Unconditioned Consciousness, identical with Unconditioned bliss in which the conditioned states of pleasure and pain are annihilated.
*Mode here exactly corresponds to vicara in Sanskrit.
**"This world appears clearly, yet its explication is impossible. Do thou therefore, without partiality, view the world as Maya. When the entire body of wise men attempt to explain phenomena, nescience presents itself before them in some quarter or other." — Panchadasi, Chap. 6.
"Regarding Science as a gradually increasing sphere, we may say that every addition to its surface does but bring it into wider contact with surrounding nescience." — Spencer's First Principles, p. 16.
"England's thinkers are again beginning to see, what they had only temporarily forgotten, that the difficulties of metaphysics lie at the root of all Science; that the difficulties can only be quieted by being resolved, and that until they are resolved, positively whenever possible, but at any rate negatively, we are never assured that any knowledge, even physical, stands on solid foundations." — Stuart Mill.
It will have been clear that, in theory, the Vedantic doctrine of Brahma and Maya have an exact correspondence with Mr. Spencer's doctrine of an Absolute Reality and a relative reality. In practice, however, their systems are as much divergent as any two systems can be, for this simple reason that the possibility of the human soul merging into the Absolute does not enter into the creed of Mr. Spencer, nor does the doctrine of the transmigration of souls the belief in the survival of consciousness after death. Moreover while the Vedantist devotes his thoughts solely to the Absolute, Mr. Spencer devotes them chiefly to the Relative. While holding with the former the inscrutableness of the connection between the conditioned forms of being and the Unconditioned form of being (p. 658) , the latter nevertheless differs from the former in declaring that their connection is indissoluble. He says — "Though reality under the forms of our consciousness is but a Conditioned effect of the absolute reality, yet this conditioned effect, standing in indissoluble relation with its Unconditioned cause and being equally persistent with it, so long as the conditions persist, is to the consciousness supplying those conditions, equally real. The persistent impressions, being the persistent results of a persistent cause, are for practical purposes, the same to us as the cause itself and may be habitually dealt with as its equivalents."
Excepting the indissoluble character of the relation between each 'conditioned effect' and 'its unconditioned causes,' even the above remarks, apparently so antagonistic to the doctrine of Maya, can be perfectly reconciled with Sankara's views. For in precisely the same spirit Sankara proves, in opposition to the Bouddhas, or absolute idealists, the reality of external objects — a procedure which has been misconstrued into self-contradiction in some quarters.
Mr. Gough, however, makes the unqualified assertion that "any such notion as that of Maya is, of course, absent from his (Spencer's) philosophy." Though the passages I have already quoted clearly contradict such an assertion, I would cite a few more to show that the doctrine of Maya is unmistakeably contained in his philosophy.
"Thus by the persistence of force we really mean the persistence of some power which transcends our knowledge and conception. The manifestations as occurring either in ourselves or outside of us, do not persist, but that which persists is the unknown cause of these manifestations," p. 189: — and "unless we postulate Absolute Being or being which persists, we cannot construct a theory of external phenomena." p. 190.
Here Absolute Being is clearly defined to be persistent being and is contradistinguished from phenomenal being, and the following words throw greater light upon the question — "for persistence is nothing more than continued existence and existence cannot be thought of as other than continued."
Now if phenomenal existence is different from absolute or persistent existence, and if existence cannot be thought of as other than continued or persistent, it clearly follows the phenomenal existence cannot be thought of as existence at all. That which is real in, or rather beneath ["All things abide in Me and I abide not in them." — Bhagavad Gita], phenomena is the Absolute, and abstracted from the Absolute, phenomena cannot be thought of as real. This is the clearest possible enunciation of the doctrine of Maya. It needs hardly be said that what in a former passage quoted here is spoken of the persistence of phenomena is evidently meant in a relative sense. Such persistence being "so long as the conditions persist," it exactly corresponds to the Vyavaharika satta (existence to be dealt with) of the Vedantin.
Mr. Gough asks "Is it necessary to remind the Baboo that Herbert Spencer is a transcendentalist, that he holds the theory characterised by the Baboo as more grovelling than that of the materialists?" On this no other comment is needed than the following words of the philosopher, referring to the Schools of Schelling, Fichte and Hegel: "Retaliating on their critics, the English may, and most of them do, reject as absurd the imagined philosophy of the German Schools." p. 129.
Mr. Gough further remarks: "To Herbert Spencer the absolute is nothing else than the unshaped material of thought that is shaped afresh in every thought, and its progressive development is traced in his works through the animal series to man and in man to the super-organic products of the social consciousness."
With reference to the first portion of this remark, I have only to remind the writer of Mr. Spencer's interrogation: "Is it not just possible that there is a mode of being as much transcending Intelligence and Will, as these transcend mechanical motion?" Though these words are sufficient to intimate that, according to the author, the Absolute is above development or progressive modification, I quote another passage which expressly bears upon the question.
"On tracing up from its low and vague beginnings the intelligence which becomes so marvellous in the highest beings, we find that under whatever aspect contemplated, it presents a progressive transformation of like nature with the progressive transformation we trace in the universe as a whole, no less than in each of its parts." Principles of Psychology I, 627.
It is evident that this 'low and vague beginning of intelligence,' corresponding, as it does, with Mr. Gough's obscure thought, which 'only at a certain height rises into the thought of this or that thinker,' is mistaken by him for the Absolute of Mr. Spencer's philosophy. Thus to that great thinker is imputed the absurd tenet that the Absolute is not the same at any two moments, that there is an endless succession of an infinite number of absolutes; that it is the lowest beginning of intelligence; though he expressly declares that it transcends Intelligence and Will!
It may be remarked here that the intelligence which is progressively developed with the nervous system, may readily be identified by the Vedantin with his buddhi which is characterized as modificable (parinamini) and is the germ of the inner world of phenomena, but it is not the Absolute Thought which underlies them and which Mr. Spencer calls the Substance of the Mind or the Unconditioned Consciousness. Would Mr. Gough say that the Absolute is not modified in its essence? Then call this immutable essence the Absolute. The nature of the Absolute is One which is not divisible into the essential and non-essential. The non-essential element which seems to reside in Brahma is Maya, the undeveloped germ, as it were, of the phenomenal — out of which are progressively developed the conditioned forms of intelligence in the inner, and the conditioned forms of force in the outer, world. The undeveloped germ of the phenomenal is not to be mistaken for the immutable Reality which sustains it, nor is it to be forgotten that this germ cannot be conceived either as an entity or a nonentity — a circumstance which is far from being ascribable to the Absolute, to doubt whose existence is to doubt the most certain of all things — one's own Persistent Self — the self, mind you, which is apart from the fluxional consciousness. This latter consists of a succession of cognitions, each of which ceases to exist before the next comes into existence. Who then bears witness to their births and deaths? He who abides amidst these births and deaths, who is variously called the sakshin (Witness), Pratyagatma (the presented self), Kutasthachit (the Immutable Consciousness). The theory of absolute Idealism involves the absurdity that something can testify to its own annihilation.
The abstract noun 'self-luminousness' and the verbal noun the 'imparting of light to all the cognitions of personal intelligences,' used to define Brahma, were supposed by me to have been due to a misprint or inadvertency, but when Mr. Gough repeats the same phrases, the question naturally arises — Is Brahma a mere abstraction, the mere state or attribute of something, to wit, of something self-luminous, or, stranger still, is it a mere act of illumination? These phrases, unfortunately, do not, as is alleged, answer to Vedantic expressions, and the latter, rendered into Sanskrit, would hardly convey any meaning to a Vedantic pandit.
On grounds of personal esteem, I regret having had to join issue with a scholar of Mr. Gough's learning and accomplishments, but I felt that I had a duty to perform to the ancient and sacred philosophy of India in clearing it from misconceptions and misinterpretations which appeared serious not only to myself, but to some of the most learned Pandits of Benares, among whom it would suffice to mention the distinguished Pandit Bala Sastri. Annexed are the Pandit's short answer, in brief to questions put to him with reference to Mr. Gough's views.
- - - - - - - - - - - -
By Peary Chand Mittra.
The Arya teaching is that God is light and wisdom. The mission of man is to know God as far as he can know. The classes of worshippers are innumerable. The more external man is, the more external God is. As long as we are worshippers of the external God, we are idolators and creedmongers. The fertility of the mind is called forth, and we have no end of forms, organizations, ritualism and ceremonies, without which we think we have no salvation. Spiritualism, or the development of the soul, brings us before God, the source of spiritual light and wisdom, and revealing to our internal vision the boundless spiritual world frees us from mundane thoughts calculated to keep the soul in subjection to the senses. If we realize what soul is, we realize what Theosophy is. There are inspired writings where ideas of Theosophy may be gained, but the infinitude of God cannot be made known to us in words or in evanescent ideas. It must be acquired in the infinite region — the region of soul. The end of spiritualism is Theosophy. Spiritualists and Theosophists should, therefore, be united and bring their thoughts to bear on this great end. As we progress in developing our souls, and bring ourselves nearer and nearer to God, our thoughts and acts will be purer, and our lives, domestic and social, will be in unison with the light within. We should think more of the substance and less of the shadow.
By H. P. Blavatsky.
Few persons are capable of appreciating the truly beautiful and esthetic; fewer still of revering those monumental relics of bygone ages, which prove that even in the remotest epochs mankind worshipped a Supreme Power, and people were moved to express their abstract conceptions in works which should defy the ravages of Time. The Vandals — whether Slavic Wends, or some barbarous nation of Germanic race — came at all events from the North. A recent occurrence is calculated to make us regret that Justinian did not destroy them all; for it appears that there are still in the North worthy scions left of those terrible destroyers of monuments of arts and sciences, in the persons of certain Russian merchants who have just perpetrated an act of inexcusable vandalism. According to the late Russian papers, the Moscow arch-millionaire, Kokoref, with his Tiflis partner the American Croesus, Mirzoef, is desecrating and apparently about to totally destroy perhaps the oldest relic in the world of Zoroastrianism — the "Attesh-Gag" of Baku. [Attesh-Kudda also].
Few foreigners, and perhaps as few Russians, know anything of this venerable sanctuary of the worshippers around the Caspian Sea. About twenty versts from the small town of Baku in the valley of Absharon in Russian Georgia, and among the barren, desolated steppes of the shores of the Caspian, there stands — alas! rather stood, but a few months ago — a strange structure, something between a mediaeval Cathedral and a fortified castle. It was built in unknown ages, and by builders as unknown. Over an area of somewhat more than a square mile, a tract known as the "Fiery Field," upon which the structure stands, if one but digs from two to three inches into the sandy earth, and applies a lighted match, a jet of fire will stream up, as if from a spout [A bluish flame is seen to arise there, but this fire does not consume, "and if a person finds himself in the middle of it, he is not sensible of any warmth." — See Kinneir's Persia, page 35]. The "Guebre Temple," as the buiiding is sometimes termed, is carved out of one solid rock. It comprises an enormous square enclosed by crenelated walls, and at the centre of the square, a high tower also rectangular resting upon four gigantic pillars. The latter were pierced vertically down to the bed-rock and the cavities were continued up to the battlements where they opened out into the atmosphere; thus forming continuous tubes through which the inflammable gas stored up in the heart of the mother rock were conducted to the top of the tower. This tower has been for centuries a shrine of the fire-worshippers and bears the symbolical representation of the trident — called teersoot. All around the interior face of the external wall, are excavated the cells, about twenty in number, which served as habitations for past generations of Zoroastrian recluses. Under the supervision of a High Mobed, here, in the silence of their isolated cloisters, they studied the Avesta, the Vendidad, the Yacna — especially the latter, it seems, as the rocky walls of the cells are inscribed with a greater number of quotations from the sacred songs. Under the tower-altar, three huge bells were hung. A legend says that they were miraculously produced by a holy traveller, in the tenth century during the Mussulman persecution, to warn the faithful of the approach of the enemy. But a few weeks ago, and the tall tower-altar was yet ablaze with the same flame that local tradition affirms had been kindled thirty centuries ago. At the horizontal orifices in the four hollow pillars burned four perpetual fires, fed uninterruptedly from the inexhaustible subterranean reservoir. From every merlon on the walls, as well as from every embrasure flashed forth a radiant light, like so many tongues of fire; and even the large porch overhanging the main entrance was encircled by a garland of fiery stars, the lambent lights shooting forth from smaller and narrower orifices. It was amid these impressive surroundings, that the Guebre recluses used to send up their daily prayers, meeting under the open tower-altar; every face reverentially turned toward the setting sun, as they united their voices in a parting evening hymn. And as the luminary — the "Eye of Ahura-mazda" — sank lower and lower down the horizon, their voices grew lower and softer, until the chant sounded like a plaintive and subdued murmur. . . A last flash — and the sun is gone; and, as darkness follows daylight almost suddenly in these regions, the departure of the Deity's symbol was the signal for a general illumination, unrivalled even by the greatest fire-works at regal festivals. The whole field seemed nightly like one blazing prairie. . . . . .
Till about 1840, "Attesh-Gag" was the chief rendezvous for all the Fire-worshippers of Persia. Thousands of pilgrims came and went; for no true Guebre could die happy unless he had performed the sacred pilgrimage at least once during his life-time. A traveller — Koch — who visited the cloister about that time, found in it but five Zoroastrians, with their pupils. In 1878, about fourteen months ago, a lady of Tiflis, who visited the Attesh-Gag, mentioned in a private letter that she found there but one solitary hermit, who emerges from his cell but to meet the rising and salute the departing sun. And now, hardly a year later, we find in the papers that Messrs. Kokoref and Co., are busy erecting on the Fiery Field enormous buildings for the refining of petroleum! All the cells but the one occupied by the poor old hermit, half ruined and dirty beyond all expression, are inhabited by the firm's workmen; the altar over which blazed the sacred flame, is now piled high with rubbish, mortar and mud, and the flame itself turned off in another direction. The bells are now, during the periodical visits of a Russian priest, taken down and suspended in the porch of the superintendent's house; heathen relics being as usual used — though abused — by the religion which supplants the previous worship. And, all looks like the abomination of desolation. . . . "It is a matter of surprise to me," writes a Baku correspondent in the St. Petersburg Vjedomosti, who was the first to send the unwelcome news, "that the trident, the sacred teersoot itself, has not as yet been put to some appropriate use in the new firm's kitchen. . .! Is it then so absolutely necessary that the millionaire Kokoref should desecrate the Zoroastrian cloister, which occupies such a trifling compound in comparison to the space allotted to his manufactories and stores? And shall such a remarkable relic of antiquity be sacrificed to commercial greediness which can after all neither lose nor gain one single rouble by destroying it?"
It must apparently, since Messrs. Kokoref and Co. have leased the whole field from the Government, and the latter seems to feel quite indifferent over this idiotic and useless Vandalism. It is now more than twenty years since the writer visited for the last time Attesh-Gag. In those days besides a small group of recluses it had the visits of many pilgrims. And since it is more than likely that ten years hence, people will hear no more of it, I may just as well give a few more details of its history. Our Parsee friends will, I am sure, feel an interest in a few legends gathered by me on the spot.
There seems to be indeed a veil drawn over the origin of Attesh-Gag. Historical data are scarce and contradictory. With the exception of some old Armenian Chronicles which mention it incidentally as having existed before Christianity was brought into the country by Saint Nina during the third century,* there is no other mention of it anywhere else so far as I know.
*Though St. Nina appeared in Georgia in the third, it is not before the fifth century that the idolatrous Grouzines were converted to Christianity by the thirteen Syrian Fathers. They came under the leadership of both St. Antony and St. John of Zedadzene, — so called, because he is alleged to have travelled to the Caucasian regions on purpose to fight and conquer the chief idol Zeda! And thus, while, — as incontrovertible proof of the existence of both, — the opulent tresses of the black hair of St. Nina are being preserved to this day as relics, in Zion Cathedral at Tiflis — the thaumaturgic John has immortalized his name still more. Zeda, who was the Baal of the Trans-Caucasus, had children sacrificed to him, as the legend tells us, on the top of the Zedadzene mount, about 18 versts from Tiflis. It is there that the Saint defied the idol, or rather Satan under the guise of a stone statute — to single combat, and miraculously conquered him; i.e., threw down, and trampled upon the idol. But he did not stop there in the exhibition of his powers. The mountain peak is of an immense height, and being only a barren rock at its top, spring water is nowhere to be found on its summit. But in commemoration of his triumph, the Saint had a spring appear at the very bottom of the deep, and — as people assert — a fathomless well, dug down into the very bowels of the mountain, and the gaping mouth of which was situated near the altar of the god Zeda, just in the centre of his temple. It was into this opening that the limbs of the murdered infants were cast down after the sacrifice. The miraculous spring, however, was soon dried up, and for many centuries there appeared no water. But, when Christianity was firmly established, the water began re-appearing on the 7th day of every May, and continues to do so till the present time. Strange to say, this fact does not pertain to the domain of legend, but is one that has provoked an intense curiosity even among men of science, such as the eminent geologist, Dr. Abich, who resided for years at Tiflis. Thousands upon thousands proceed yearly upon pilgrimage to Zedadzene on the seventh of May; and all witness the "miracle." From early morning, water is heard bubbling down at the rocky bottom of the well; and, as noon approaches, the parched-up walls of the mouth become moist, and clear cold sparkling water seems to come out from every porosity of the rock; it rises higher and higher, bubbles, increases, until at last having reached to the very brim, it suddenly stops, and a prolonged shout of triumphant joy bursts from the fanatical crowd. This cry seems to shake like a sudden discharge of artillery the very depths of the mountain and awaken the echo for miles around. Every one hurries to fill a vessel with the miraculous water. There are necks wrung and heads broken on that day at Zedadzene, but every one who survives carries home a provision of the crystal fluid. Toward evening the water begins decreasing as mysteriously as it had appeared, and at midnight the well is again perfectly dry. Not a drop of water, nor a trace of any spring, could be found by the engineers and geologists bent upon discovering the "trick." For a whole year, the sanctuary remains deserted, and there is not even a janitor to watch the poor shrine. The geologists have declared that the soil of the mountain precludes the possibility of having springs concealed in it. Who will explain the puzzle?
Tradition informs us, — how far correctly is not for me to decide — that long before Zarathustra, the people, who now are called in contempt, by the Mussulmans and Christians, "Guebres," and, who term themselves "Behedin" (followers of the true faith) recognized Mithra, the Mediator, as their sole and highest God, — who included within himself all the good as well as the bad gods. Mithra representing the two natures of Ormazd and Ahriman combined, the people feared him, whereas, they would have had no need of fearing, but only of loving and reverencing him as Ahura-Mazda, were Mithra without the Ahriman element in him. One day as the god, disguised as a shepherd, was wandering about the earth, he came to Baku, then a dreary, deserted sea-shore, and found an old devotee of his quarrelling with his wife. Upon this barren spot wood was scarce, and she would not give up a certain portion of her stock of cooking fuel to be burned upon the altar. So the Ahriman element was aroused in the god and, striking the stingy old woman, he changed her into a gigantic rock. Then, the Ahura-Mazda element prevailing, he, to console the bereaved widower, promised that neither he, nor his descendants, should ever need fuel any more, for he would provide such a supply as should last till the end of time. So he struck the rock again and then struck the ground for miles around, and the earth and the calcareous soil of the Caspian shores were filled up to the brim with naphtha. To commemorate the happy event, the old devotee assembled all the youths of the neighbourhood and set himself to excavating the rock — which was all that remained of his ex-wife. He cut the battlemented walls, and fashioned the altar and the four pillars, hollowing them all to allow the gases to rise up and escape through the top of the merlons. The god Mithra upon seeing the work ended, sent a lightning flash, which set ablaze the fire upon the altar, and lit up every merlon upon the walls. Then, in order that it should burn the brighter, he called forth the four winds and ordered them to blow the flame in every direction. To this day, Baku is known, under its primitive name of "Baadey-ku-ba," which means literally the gathering of winds.
The other legend, which is but a continuation of the above, runs thus: For countless ages, the devotees of Mithra worshipped at his shrines, until Zarathustra, descending from heaven in the shape of a "Golden Star," transformed himself into a man, and began teaching a new doctrine. He sung the praises of the One but Triple god, — the supreme Eternal, the incomprehensible essence "Zervana-Akerene," which emanating from itself "Primeval Light," the latter in its turn produced Ahura-Mazda. But this process required that the "Primeval One" should previously absorb in itself all the light from the fiery Mithra, and thus left the poor god despoiled of all his brightness. Losing his right of undivided supremacy, Mithra, in despair, and instigated by his Ahrimanian nature, annihilated himself for the time being, leaving Ahriman alone, to fight out his quarrel with Ormazd, the best way he could. Hence, the prevailing Duality in nature since that time until Mithra returns; for he promised to his faithful devotees to come back some day. Only since then, a series of calamities fell upon the Fire-worshippers. The last of these was the invasion of their country by the Moslems in the 7th century, when these fanatics commenced most cruel persecutions against the Behedin. Driven away from every quarter, the Guebres found refuge but in the province of Kerman, and in the city of Yezd. Then followed heresies. Many of the Zoroastrians abandoning the faith of their forefathers, became Moslems; others, in their unquenchable hatred for the new rulers, joined the ferocious Koords and became devil, as well as fire-worshippers. These are the Yezids. The whole religion of these strange sectarians, — with the exception of a few who have more weird rites, which are a secret to all but to themselves — consists in the following. As soon as the morning sun appears, they place their two thumbs crosswise one upon the other, kiss the symbol, and touch with them their brow in reverential silence. Then they salute the sun and turn back into their tents. They believe in the power of the Devil, dread it, and propitiate the "fallen angel" by every means; getting very angry whenever they hear him spoken of disrespectfully by either a Mussulman or a Christian. Murders have been committed by them on account of such irreverent talk, but people have become more prudent of late.
With the exception of the Bombay community of Parsees, Fire-worshippers are, then, to be found but in the two places before mentioned, and scattered around Baku. In Persia some years ago, according to statistics they numbered about 100,000 men;* I doubt, though, whether their religion has been preserved as pure as even that of the Gujarathi Parsees, adulterated as is the latter by the errors and carelessness of generations of uneducated Mobeds. And yet, as is the case of their Bombay brethren, who are considered by all the travellers its well as Anglo-Indians, as the most intelligent, industrious and well-behaved community of the native races, the fire-worshippers of Kerman and Yezd bear a very high character among the Persians, as well as among the Russians of Baku. Uncouth and crafty some of them have become, owing to long centuries of persecution and spoliation; but the unanimous testimony is in their favour and they are spoken of as a virtuous, highly moral, and industrious population. "As good as the word of a Guebre" is a common saying among the Koords, who repeat it without being in the least conscious of the self-condemnation contained in it.
*Mr. Grattan Geary in his recent highly valuable and interesting work "Through Asiatic Turkey" (London, Sampson Law & Co.) remarks of the Guebres of Yezd — "it is said that there are only 5,000 of them all told." But as his information was gleaned while travelling rapidly through the country, he was apparently misinformed in this instance. Perhaps, it was meant to convey the idea to him that there were but 5,000 in and about Yezd at the time of his visit. It is the habit of this people to scatter themselves all over the country in the commencement of the surnmer season in search of work.
I cannot close without expressing my astonishment at the utter ignorance as to their religions, which seems to prevail in Russia even among the journalists. One of them speaks of the Guebres, in the article of the St. Petersburg Vjedemosti above referred to, as of a sect of Hindu idolaters, in whose prayers the name of Brahma is constantly invoked. To add to the importance of this historical item Alexandre Dumas (senior) is quoted, as mentioning in his work Travels in the Caucasus that during his visit to Attesh-Gag, he found in one of the cells of the Zoroastrian cloister "two Hindu idols"!! Without forgetting the charitable dictum: De mortuus nil nisi bonum, we cannot refrain from reminding the correspondent of our esteemed contemporary of a fact which no reader of the novels of the brilliant French writer ought to be ignorant of ; namely, that for the variety and inexhaustible stock of historical facts, evolved out of the abysmal depths of his own consciousness, even the immortal Baron Munchausen was hardly his equal. The sensational narrative of his tiger-hunting in Mingrelia, where, since the days of Noah, there never was a tiger, is yet fresh in the memory of his readers.
A timely work in poetical form, and one whose subject — perfect though the outward clothing be — is sure to provoke discussion and bitter criticisms, has just made its appearance. It is inscribed to "The Sovereign Grand Master and Companions of the Star of India," and the author, Mr. Edwin Arnold, C. S. I., late Principal of the Deccan College at Poona, having passed some years in India, has evidently studied his theme con amore. In his Preface he expresses a hope that the present work and his "Indian Song of Songs will preserve the memory of one who loved India and the Indian peoples." The hope is well grounded, for if any Western poet has earned the right to grateful remembrance by Asiatic nations and is destined to live in their memory, it is the author of the "Light of Asia."
*The Light of Asia: or the Great Renunciation (Mahabhinishkramana.) The Life and Teaching of Gautama, Prince of Indian and Founder of Buddhism. As told in verse by an Indian Buddhist. By Edwin Arnold, M. A., F. R. G. S., C. S. I. Formerly Principal of the Deccan College, Poona, and Fellow of the University of Bombay," London, Tribner & Co.
The novelty, and, from a Christian standpoint, the distastefulness of the mode of treatment of the subject, seems to have already taken one reviewer's breath away. Describing the volume as "gorgeous in yellow and gold," he thinks the book "chiefly valuable as . . . coming from one who during a long residence in India imbued his mind with Buddhistic philosophy." This, he adds, "is no criticism of a religion supposed to be false, but the sympathetic presentment of a religion so much of which is true as from the mouth of a votary (sic)." By many, Mr. Arnold's "imaginary Buddhist votary" of the Preface, is identified with the author himself; who now — to quote again his critic — "carries out in his true colours," We are glad of it; it is a rare compliment to pay to any writer of this generation, whose peremptory instincts lead but too many to sail under any colours but their own. For our part, we regard the poem as a really remarkable specimen of literary talent, replete with philosophical thought and religious feeling — just the book, in short, we needed in our period of Science of Religion — and the general toppling of ancient gods.
The Miltonic verse of the poem is rich, simple, yet powerful, without any of those metaphysical inuendoes at the expense of clear meaning which the subject might seem to beg, and which is so much favored by some of our modern English poets. There is a singular beauty and a force in the whole narrative, that hardly characterizes other recent poems — Mr. Browning's idyl, the "Pheidippides," for one, which in its uncouth hero, the Arcadian goat-god, offers such a sad contrast to the gentle Hindu Saviour. Jar as it may on Christian ears, the theme chosen by Mr. Arnold is one of the grandest possible. It is as worthy of his pen, as the poet has showed himself worthy of the subject. There is a unity of Oriental colouring in the descriptive portion of the work, a truthfulness of motive evinced in the masterly handling of Buddha's character, which are as precious as unique; inasmuach as they present this character for the first time in the history of Western literature, in the totality of its unadulterated beauty. The moral grandour of the hero, that Prince of royal blood, who might have been the "Lord of Lords," yet
"......................... let the rich world slip
Out of his grasp, to hold a beggar's bowl —"
and the development of his philosophy, the fruit of years of solitary meditation and struggle with the mortal "Self," are exquisitively portrayed. Toward the end the poem culminates in a triumphant cry of all nature; a universal hymn at the sight of the World-liberating soul
"............... of the Saviour of the World,
Lord Buddha — prince Siddhartha styled on earth,
In Earth, and Heaven and Hell incomparable,
All-honoured, Wisest, Best, and most Pitiful;
The Teacher of Nirvana and the Law."
Whatever the subsequent fate of all the world's religions and their founders, the name of Gautama Buddha, or Sakya Muni [he belonged to the family of the Sakyas, who were descendants of Iksakvaku and formed one of the numerous branches of the Solar dynasty; the race which entered India about 2,300 years, B, C. "according to the epic poems of India." Muni means a saint or ascetic, hence — Sakyamuni] can never be forgotten; it must always live in the hearts of millions of votaries. His touching history — that of a daily and hourly self abnegation during a period of nearly eighty years, has found favour with every one who has studied his history. When one searches the world's records for the purest, the highest ideal of a religious reformer, he seeks no further after reading this Buddha's life. In wisdom, zeal, humility, purity of life and thought; in ardor for the good of mankind; in provocation to do good deeds, to toleration, charity and gentlenesss, Buddha excels other men as the Himalayas excel other peaks in height. Alone among the founders of religions, he had no word of malediction nor even reproach for those who differed with his views. His doctrines are the embodiment of universal love. Not only our philologists — cold anatomists of time-honoured creeds who scientifically dissect the victims of their critical analysis — but even those who are prepossessed against his faith, have ever found but words of praise for Gautama. Nothing can be higher or purer than his social and moral code. "That moral code," says Max Muller, ("Buddhism") [Chips from a German Workshop, vol, I. page 217] "taken by itself is one of the most perfect which the world has ever known." In his work "Le Bouddha et sa Religion" (p. 5) Barthelemy St. Hilaire reaches the climax of reverential praise. He does not "hesitate to say" that "among the founders of religions there is no figure more pure or more touching than that of Buddha. His life has not a stain upon it. His constant heroism equals his convictions . . . He is the perfect model of all the virtues he preaches; his abnegation and charity, his inalterable gentleness, never forsake him for an instant". . . And, when his end approaches, it is in the arms of his disciples that he dies, "with the serenity of a sage who practised good during his whole life and who is sure to have found — the truth." So true is it, that even the early Roman Catholic saint-makers, with a flippant unconcern for detection by posterity, characteristic of the early periods of Christianity, claimed him as one of their converts, and, under the pseudonym of St. Josaphat, registered him in their "Golden Legend" and "Martyrology" as an orthodox, beatified Catholic saint. At this very day, there stands in Palermo, a church dedicated to Buddha under the name of Divo Josaphat. [See Spaculum Historiale, by Vincent de Beauvais, XIII century. Max Muller affirms the story of this transformation of the great founder of Buddhism into one of the numberless Popish Saints. See Roman Martyrology, p. 348 — Colonel Yule tells us (Contemporary Review, p. 588, July, 1870,) that this story of Balaam and Josaphat was set forth by the command of Pope Gregory XIII., revised by that of Pope Urban VIII., and translated from Latin into English by G. K. of the Society of Jesus.] It is to the discovery of the Buddhist canon, and the Sacred Historical Books of Ceylon — partially translated from the ancient Pali by the Hon. J. Turnour — and especially to the able translation of "Lalita Vistara" by the learned Babu Rajendralal Mitra, that we owe nearly all we know of the true life of this wonderful being, so aptly named by our present author, "The Light of Asia," and now poetry wreaths his grave with asphodels.
Mr. Arnold, as he tells us himself in the Preface, has taken his citations from Spence Hardy's work, and has also modified more than one passage in the received narrative. He has sought, he says, "to depict the life and character, and indicate the philosophy of that noble hero and reformer, Prince Gautama of India," and reminds his readers that a generation ago "little or nothing was known in Europe of this great faith of Asia, which had nevertheless existed during 24 centuries, and at this day surpasses, in the number of its followers and the area of its prevalence, any other form of creed. Four hundred and seventy millions of our race live and die in the tenets of Gautama . . . "whose "sublime-teaching is stamped ineffaceably" even "upon modern Brahmanism. More than a third of mankind, therefore, owe their moral and religious ideas to this illustrious prince, whose personality . . . . . . cannot but appear the highest, gentlest, holiest and most beneficent in the history of Thought . . . No single actor word mars the perfect purity and tenderness of this Indian teacher. . ." We will now explain some of the sacred legends under review as we proceed to quote them.
Gautama, also called Savartha-Siddha — abbreviated to Siddhartha according to the Thibetans by his father, whose wish (artha) had been at last fulfilled (siddha) — was born in 624 B. C. at Kapilavastu. [The learned Dr. J. Gerson da Cunha, Member of the Royal Asiatic Society, Bombay, tells as in a "Memoir of the Tooth-Relic of Ceylon" that Kapila, of a part of which the father of Buddha was king and tributary to that of Kosala, was built by the departed sons of Ilkshvaku by the permission of the sage Kapila, whence the name." He also gives another version "to the effect that Kapilavashtu means, yellow dwelling, and yellow . . . . . . is the distinctive colour of the principality; and hence it may have been adopted as the badge of the Buddhists, who are sometimes spoken of as of the yellow religion."] It was on the very spot on which now stands the town of Nagara, near the river Ghoghra, at the foot of the mountains of Nepaul, and about a hundred miles north of Benares, that he passed his early boyhood, and youth. His birth, like that of all founders, is claimed to have been miraculous. Buddha — the highest Wisdom — waits "thrice ten thousand years," then lives again, having determined to help the world, descended from on high, and went down —
"...............among the Sakyas
Under the southward snows of Himalaya
Where pious people live and a just king
That night the wife of king Suddhodana,
Maya the queen, asleep beside her Lord,
Dreamed a strange dream; dreamed that a star from heaven —
Splendid, six-rayed, in colour rosy pearl,
Shot through the void and, shining into her,
Entered her womb upon the right ................."
The Avatar is born among a thousand wonders. Asita the gray-haired saint, comes, — significantly like old Simeon,— to bless the Divine Babe, and exclaims,
O Babe! I worship! Thou art He!
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Thou art Buddh,
And thou wilt preach the Law and save all flesh
Who learn the Law, though I shall never hear,
Dying too soon, who lately longed to die;
Howbeit I have seen Thee . . . . . . .*
*Compare Luke ii. v. 25-30. "Lord now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, for mine eyes have seen thy salvation," exclaims old Simeon.
The child grows; and his future taste for an ascetic life appears clearly in the contemplative mood which he exhibits from his very boyhood. According to the prophesy of Asita, who tells the "sweet Queen" that henceforth she has "grown too sacred for more woe". . . the mother dies "on the seventh evening" after the birth of Gautama, a painless death. . .
Queen Maya smiling slept, and walked no more,
Passing content to Trayastrinshas Heaven,
Where countless Devas worship her and wait
Attendant on that radiant MOTHERHOOD. . .
At eight years of age, the young Gautama conquers in learned disputations all the Guras and Acharyas. He knows without ever having learned the Scriptures, every sacred script and all the sciences. When he is eighteen, the king, his father, frightened at the prophecy that his only son is to become the destroyer of all the old gods, tries to find a remedy for it in a bride. Indifferent to the hosts of beauties invited to the palace, the Prince "to the surprise of all, takes fire at first glance" of a radiant Sakya girl, his own cousin, Yasodhara, also called "Gopa," the daughter of the king of Kali, Dandapani; because, as it is ultimately discovered by himself, they knew, and loved each other in a previous incarnation.
". . . . . . . . . We were not strangers, as to us
And all it seemed; in ages long gone by
A hunter's son, playing with forest girls
By Yumun's springs, where Nandadevi stands,
Sate umpire while they raced beneath the firs —
Like hares . . . . . . . . . . .
. . . . . . . . . . . but who ran the last
came first for him, and unto her the boy
Gave a tame fawn and his heart's love beside.
And in the wood they lived many glad years,
And in the wood they undivided died.
Thus I was he and she Yasodhara;
And while the wheel of birth and death turns round,
That which hath been must be between us two."
But Gautama has to win his Sakya bride, for, we are told that.
". . . . . . . . . . . . It was law
With Sakyas, when any asked a maid
Of noble house, fair and desirable,
He must make good his skill in martial arts
Against all suitors who would challenge it."
The Prince conquers them all and the lovely Indian girl drawing
"The veil of black and gold across her brow
Proud pacing past the youths . . . . . . —"
hangs on his neck the fragrant wreath, and is proclaimed the Prince's bride. "This veil of black and gold" has a symbolic significance, which no one knows at the time; and which he learns himself but long after when enlightenment comes to him. And then, when questioned, he unriddles the mystery. The lesson contained in this narrative of a Prince having every reason to be proud of his birth, is as suggestive as the verse is picturesque. It relates to the metempsychosis — the evolution of modern science!
And the World-honoured answered . . . . . . . . . . .
I now remember, myriad rains ago,
What time I roamed Himala's hanging woods,
A tiger, with my striped and hungry kind;
I, who am Buddh, couched in the Kusa grass
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Amid the beasts that were my fellows then,
Met in deep jungle or by reedy jheel,
A tigress, comeliest of the forest, set
The males at war; her hide was lit with gold,
Black-broidered like the veil Yasodbara
Wore for me; hot the strife waxed in that wood
With tooth and claw, while underneath a neem
The fair beast watched us bleed, thus fiercely wooed.
And I remember, at the end she came
Snarling past this and that torn forest lord
Which I had conquered, and with fawning jaws
Licked my quick-heaving flank, and with me went
Into the wild with proud steps, amorously
The wheel of birth and death turns low and high.'
And further on, we find again the following lines upon the same question, lines to which neither a Kabalist, Pythagorean, a Shakespeare's Hamlet, nor yet Mr. Darwin could take exception. They describe the mental state of the Prince when, finding nothing stable, nothing real upon earth, and ever pondering upon the dreary problems of life and death, he determines upon sacrificing himself for mankind; none of whom, whether Vishnu, Shiva, Surya or any other god, can ever save from
"The aches of life, the stings of love and loss,
The fiery fever and the ague shake,
The slow, dull, sinking into withered age,
The horrible dark death — and what beyond
Waits — till the whirling wheel comes up again,
And new lives bring new sorrows to be borne,
New generations for the now desires
Which have their end in the old mockeries?
.....Our Scriptures truly seem to teach
That — once, and wheresoo'er and whence begun —
Life runs its rounds of living, climbing up
From mote, and gnat, and worm, reptile and fish,
Bird and shagged beast, man, demon, deva, god,
To clod and mote again; so are we kin
To all that is . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Dreading the consequences of such a train of thought, Suddhodana builds three luxurious palaces, one within the other, and confines the princely couple in it;
The king commanded that within those walls
No mention should be made of death or age,
Sorrow, or pain, or sickness . . . . . . . . .
And every dawn the dying rose was plucked,
The dead leaves hid, all evil sights removed:
For said the King, "If he shall pass his youth
Far from such things as move to wistfulness,
And brooding on the empty eggs of thought,
The shadow of this fate, too vast for man,
May fade, belike, and I shall see him grow
To that great stature of fair sovereignty
When he shall rule all lands — if he will rule —
The King of kings and glory of his time."
Wherefore, around that pleasant prison-house —
Where love was gaoler and delights its bars,
But far removed from sight — the King bade build
A massive wall, and in the wall a gate
With brazen folding-doors, which but to roll
Back on their hinges asked a hundred arms;
Also the noise of that prodigious gate
Opening, was heard full half a yojana,
And inside this another gate be made,
And yet within another — through the three
Must one pass if he quit that Pleasure-house.
Three mighty gates there were, bolted and barred,
And over each was set a faithful watch;
And the King's order said, "Suffer no man
To pass the gates, though he should be the Prince;
This on your lives — even though it be my son."
But alas, for human precaution, Gautama's destiny was in the power of the Devas. When the King's vigilance was relaxed, and the Prince permitted to go outside the palaces for a drive,
"Yea" spake the careful King, " 'tis time he see!"
But let the criers go about and bid
My city deck itself, so there be met
No noisome sight; and let none blind or maimed
None that is sick or stricken deep in years,
No leper, and no feeble folk come forth."
And yet, the first thing that met the eye of Gautama, was: —
An old, old man, whose shrivelled skin, sun-tanned,
Clung like a beast's hide to his fleshless bones.
Bent was his back with load of many days,
Wagging with palsy
. . . . . . . . . One skinny hand
Clutched a worn staff to prop his quavering limbs,
'Alms! moaned he, 'give, good people! for I die
To-morrow or the next day' . . . . . . . .
It was a Deva, who had assumed that form of suffering humanity. Horrified at the sight, the Prince rode back, and gave himself entirely to his sad reflexions. And that night,
Lulled on the dark breasts of Yasodhara,
Her fond hands fanning slow his sleeping lids,
He would start up and cry, 'My world! Oh, world!
I hear! I know! I come! And she would ask,
"What ails my Lord?" with large eyes terror-struck;
For at such times the pity in his look
Was awful and his visage like a god's. . . . . . .
"The voices of the spirits," the "wandering winds," and the Devas ever sung to him, murmuring softly in his ears of the sorrows of mortal life, which is —
"A moan, a sigh, a sob, a storm, a strife."
Yea! "who shall shut out Fate."
Gautama is again moved to see the world beyond the gates of his palaces, and meets with a poor wretch stricken by a deadly plague; and finally, with a bamboo bier, on which lay stretched —
". . . . . . Stark and stiff, feet foremost, lean,
Chapfallen, sightless, hollow-flanked, a-grin,
Sprinkled with red and yellow dust — the Dead . . . . . ."
whom the mourners carried to where a pile was built near a stream, and immediately set —
"The red flame to the corners four, which crept,
And licked, and flickered, finding out his flesh
And feeding on it with swift hissing tongues,
And crackle of parched skin, and snap of joint;
Till the fat smoke thinned and the ashes sank
scarlet and grey, with here and there a bone
White midst the grey — THE TOTAL OF THE MAN.
Then spake the Prince: 'Is this the and which comes
To all who live?'
'This is the end that comes
To all,' quoth Channa;
. . . . . . . . . Oh suffering world,
. . . . . . . I would not let one cry
Whom I could save! How can it be that Brahm
Would make a world and keep it miserable,
Since, it all-powerful, he leaves it so,
He is not good, and if not powerful,
He is not God! — Channa! lead home again!
It is enough! mine eyes have seen enough!" . . . . . . .
During that night, the Princess Yasodhara has a fearful dream —
"In slumber I beheld three sights of dread,
. . . . . . With thought whereof my heart is throbbing yet,". . . . . .
She tells her lord she heard a
" . . . . . . . . . voice of fear
Crying 'The time is nigh! the time is nigh!'
Thereat the third dream came; for when I sought
Thy side, sweet Lord! ah on our bed there lay
An unpressed pillow and an empty robe —
Nothing of thee but those! . . . . . . ."
The time was come indeed. That very night, the Prince is represented as giving up for mankind more than his throne and glory — more than his mortal life, for he sacrifices his very heart's blood, the mother of his unborn babe. The scene of the departure is one of the most masterly of the whole poem. Siddhartha has quieted his young wife and watches over, but
. . . . . . . . "with the whispers of the gloom
Came to his ears again that warning song,
As when the Devas spoke upon the wind:
And sorely Gods were round about the place
Watching our Lord, who watched the shining stars,
'I will depart,' he spake 'the hour is come! . . . . . .
My Chariot shall not roll with bloody wheels
From victory to victory, till earth
Wears the red record of my name. I choose
To tread its paths with patient, stainless feet,
Making its dust my bed, its loneliest wastes
My dwelling, and its meanest things my mates:
Clad in no prouder garb than outcasts wear,
Fed with no meats save what the charitable
Give of their will, sheltered by no more pomp
Than the dim cave lends or the jungle-bush.
This will I do because the woful cry
Of life and all flesh living cometh up
Into my ears, and all my soul is full
Of pity for the sickness of this world;
Which I will heal, if healing may be found
By uttermost renouncing and strong strife.
". . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Oh, summoning stars! I come! Oh, mournful earth!
For thee and thine I lay aside my youth,
My throne, my joys, my golden days, my nights,
My happy palace — and thine arms, sweet Queen!
Harder to put aside than all the rest!
Yet thee, too, I shall save, saving this earth. . .
My child, the hidden blossom of our loves,
Whom if I wait to bless my mind will fail.
Wife! child! father! and people! ye must share
A little while the anguish of this hour
That light may break and all flesh learn the Law!"
Then to the saddle lightly leaping, he
Touched the arched crest, and Kantaka sprang forth
With armed hoofs sparkling on the stones and ring
Of champing bit; but none did hear that sound,
For that the Suddha Devas, gathering near,
Plucked the red mohra-flowers and strewed them thick
Under big tread, while hands invisible
Muffled the ringing bit and bridle chains. . . . . .
But when they reached the gate
Of tripled brass — which hardly fivescore men
Served to unbar and open — lo! the doors
Rolled back all silently, though one might hear
In daytime two koss off the thunderous roar
Of those grim hinges and unwieldy plates.
Also the middle and outer gates
Unfolded each their monstrous portals thus
In silence as Siddartha and his steed
Drew near; while underneath their shadow lay
Silent as dead men, all those chosen guards —:
The lattice and sword let fall, the shields unbraced,
Captains and soldiers — for there came a wind,
Drowsier than blows o'er Malwa's fields of sleep,
Before the Prince's path, which, being breathed,
Lolled every sense aswoon; and so he passed
Free from the palace."
A sacred legend is interwoven in the poem, which does not belong properly to the life of Gautama Buddha but pertains to the legendary myths of the monastic poetry of Buddhism — the Jatakas, or the previous transmigrations of the Prince Siddhartha. It is so touching, and Indian drought so masterfully described that we quote a few lines from it. A spot is yet shown at Attock, near Benares, where the Prince moved to an inexpressible pity by the hunger of a tigress and her cubs and, having nothing else to give — gave her his own body to devour!. . .
Drought withered all the land: the young rice died
Ere it could hide a quail; in forest glades
A fierce sun sucked the pools; grasses and herbs
Sickened, and all the woodland creatures fled
Scattering for sustenance. At such a time,
Between the hot walls of a nullah, stretched
On naked stones, our Lord spied, as he passed,
A starving tigress. Hunger in her orbs
Glared with green flame, her dry tongue lolled a span
Beyond the gasping jaws and shrivelled jowl:
Her painted hide hung wrinkled on her ribs,
As when between the rafters sinks a thatch
Rotten with rains; and at the poor lean dugs
Two cubs, whining with famine, tugged and sucked.
Mumbling those milkless teats which rendered naught,
While she, their gaunt dam, licked full motherly
The clamorous twins, yielding her flank to them
With moaning throat, and love stronger than want,
Softening the first of that wild cry wherewith
She laid her famished muzzle to the sand
And roared a savage thunder peal of woe.
Seeing which bitter strait, and heeding nought
Save the immense compassion of a Buddh,
Our Lord bethought, "There is no other way
To help this murderess of the woods but one.
By sunset these will die, having no meat:
There is no living heart will pity her,
Bloody with ravin, lean for lack of blood.
Lo! if I feed her, who shall lose but I,
And how can love lose doing of its kind
Even to the uttermost?" So saying, Buddh
Silently laid aside sandals and staff,
His sacred thread, turban, and cloth, and came
Forth from behind the milk-bush on the sand,
Saying, "Ho! mother, here is meat for thee!"
Whereat, the perishing beast yelped hoarse and shrill,
Sprang from her cubs, and hurling to the earth
That willing victim, had her feast of him
With all the crooked daggers of her claws
Rending his flesh, and all her yellow fangs
Bathed in his blood: the great cat's burning breath
Mixed with the last sigh of such fearless love. . . . . .
"Purify the mind; abstain from vice; and practice virtue, is the essence of Buddhism." Gautama preached his first sermon in the Gazell-grove, near Benares. Like all other founders, he is tempted and comes out victorious. The snare of Mara (the deity of sin, love, and death) are unavailing — He comes off a conqueror.
The ten chief Sins came — Mara's mighty ones,
Angels of evil — Attavada first,
The Sin of Self, who in the Universe
As in a mirror sees her fond face shown
And crying "I" would have the world say "I,"
And all things perish so if she endure.
But quoth our Lord "Thou hast no part with me,
False Visikitcha, subtlest of man's foes."
And third came she who gives dark creeds their power,
Draped fair in many lands as lowly Faith,
But ever juggling souls with rites and prayers;
The keeper of those keys which lock up Hells
And open Heavens. "Wilt thou dare," she said,
"Put by our sacred books, dethrone our gods,
Unpeople all the temples, shaking down
That law which feeds the priests and props the realms?"
But Buddha answered "What thou bidd'st me keep
Is form which passes, but the free truth stands;
Get thee unto thy darkness." Next there drew
Gallantly nigh a braver Tempter, he,
Kama, the King of passions, . . .
But even Kama-dhatu (the love principle, has no hold upon the holy ascetic. Rested for seven years, by the river Nairanjana, entirely abstracted in meditation under his Bodhi-tree, in the forest of Uruwela, he had already half-raised himself to the true condition of a Buddha. He has long ceased paying attention to the mere form — the Rupa. . . . . . . And, though the "Lords of Hell" had descended. themselves
"To tempt the Master.
But Buddh heeded not,
Sitting serene, with perfect virtue walled. . .
for, on this very night
"In the third watch,
The earth being still, the hellish legions fled,
A soft air breathing from the sinking moon,
Our Lord attained Samma-Sambuddh; he saw
By light which shines beyond our mortal ken
The line of all his lives in all the worlds,
Far back and farther back and farthest yet,
Five hundred lives and fifty . . . . . . .
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . Also Buddha saw
How new life reaps what the old life did sow
And in the middle watch
Our Lord attained Abhidjna — insight vast
But when the fourth watch came the secret came
Of sorrow, which with evil bears the law . . . . . . .
And then follows the magnificent enumeration of all the evils of life, of birth, growth, decay, and selfishness; of Avidya — or Delusion; Sankhara — perverse tendencies; Namarupa or the local form of the being born, and so on, till karma or the sum total of the soul, its deeds, its thoughts . . . . . . It was on that night that the Reformed though alive and yet of this world reached the last Path to Nirvana, which leads to that supreme state of mind when . . . . . . .
"The aching craze to live ends, and life glides —
Lifeless — to nameless quiet, nameless joy,
Blessed NIRVANA — sinless, stirless rest —
That change which never changes!"
Lo! the Dawn
Sprang with Buddh's Victory. . .
So glad the World was — though it wist not why —
That over desolate wastes went swooning songs
Of mirth, the voice of bodiless Prets and Bhuts
Foreseeing Buddh; and Devas in the air
Cried "It is finished, finished!" and the priests
Stood with the wondering people in the streets
Watching those golden splendours flood the sky
And saying "There hath happed some mighty thing."
Also in Ran and Jungle grew that day
Friendship amongst the creatures; spotted deer
Browsed fearless where the tigress fed her cubs,
And cheetahs lapped the pool beside the bucks;
Under the eagle's rock the brown hares scoured
While his fierce beak but preened an idle wing;
The snake sunned all his jewels in the beam
With deadly fangs in sheath; the shrike let pass
The nestling finch; the emerald halcyons
Sate dreaming while the fishes played beneath,
Nor hawked the merops, though the butterflies —
Crimson and blue and amber — fitted thick
Around his perch; the Spirit of our Lord
Lay potent upon man and bird and beast,
Even while he mused under that Bodhi-tree,
Glorified with the Conquest carried for all
And lightened by a Light greater than Day's.
Then he arose — radiant, rejoicing, strong —
Beneath the Tree, and lifting high his voice
Spake this, in hearing of all Times and Worlds. . .
"Many a house of Life
Hath held me — seeking ever him who wrought
These prisons of the senses, sorrow-fraught;
Sore was my ceaseless strife!
Thou Builder of this Tabernacle — Thou!
I know Thee! Never shalt thou build again
These walls of pain,
Broken thy house is, and the ridge-pole split!
Delusion fashioned it!
Safe pass I thence — Deliverance to obtain."
"It is difficult to be rich and learn the Way" . . . used to say the master. But "my law is one of grace for all, . . . for rich and poor . . . come to me, and I will raise Arhats above the gods". . . Obedient to his call, millions upon millions have followed the Lord expecting their reward through no other mediator than a course of undeviating virtue, an unwavering observance of the path of duty. We must bear in mind that Buddhism from its beginning has changed the moral aspect of not only India but of nearly the whole of Asia; and that, breaking up its most cruel customs, it became a blessing to the countless millions of the East — of our brothers. It was at the ripe age of three score and ten, that Buddha felt his end approaching. He was then close to Kusinagara (Kasia) near one of the branches of the Ganges, called Atehiravati, when feeling tired he seated himself under a canopy of sal trees. Turning his eyes in the direction of Rajagriha, the capital of Magadha, he had murmured prophetically the day before: "This is the last time that I see this city and the throne of diamonds," and, his prophecy became accomplished at the following dawn. His vital strength failed, and — he was no more. He had indeed reached Nirvana.
"The Buddha died, the great Tathagato,
Even as man 'mongst men, fulfilling all:
And how a thousand thousand crores since then
Have trod the Path which leads whither he went
Unto NIRVANA where the Silence Lives."
No need of remarking that Mr. Arnold's views are those of most of the Orientalists of to-day, who have, at last, arrived at the conclusion that Nirvana — whatever it may mean philologically — philosophically and logically is anything but annihilation. The views taken in the poem — says the author — of "Nirvana," "Dharma," "Karma" and the other chief features of Buddhism, "are . . . the fruits of considerable study, and also of a firm conviction that a third of mankind would never have been brought to believe in blank abstraction, or in Nothingness as the issue and crown of Being." The poem, therefore, comes to a close with the following fervent appeal: —
"Ah! Blessed Lord! Oh, High Deliverer!
Forgive this feeble script, which doth thee wrong,
Measuring with little wit thy lofty Love.
Ah! Lover! Brother! Guide! Lamp of the Law!
I take my refuge in Thy name and Thee!
I take my refuge in thy Law of Good;
I take my refuge in thy Order! OM!
The dew is on the lotas! — Rise Great Sun!
And lift my leaf and mix me with the wave.
OM MANI PADME HUM, the Sunrise comes!
The Dewdrop slips into the Shining Sea!"